Make Life a Mythic Journey
Not the animal world, not the plant world, not the miracle of the spheres, but man himself is now the crucial mystery. Man is that alien presence with whom the forces of egoism must come to terms…for the ideals and temporal institutions of no tribe, race, continent, social class or century can be the measure of the inexhaustible and multifariously wonderful divine existence that is the life in all of us.
—-Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, p. 357
Late last semester I was reading about “active imagination” in Robert A. Johnson’s book, Living Your Unlived Life. Active imagination is an alternate method to dreams devised by Jung to access one’s unconscious. Since many people do not remember their dreams, it is an important way to reach the unconscious. According to Johnson, “In active imagination you observe the images and voices that rise up from your unconscious and create a dialogue with them (p. 107).” He claims it is a form of “talking back to ourselves” by having a conversation with a figure that we can talk with. Johnson suggested that, like Jung, we try contacting “an inner spirit guide” to facilitate the process.
While Johnson had a patron saint to conduct such an inner dialogue with, I wondered who that might be for me. Then I remembered that I was named after a Polish rabbi, and I decided that I should contact Aaron, the brother of Moses, one of the earliest Hebrew religious figures. What follows is the active imagination I had with Aaron.
“What is it?” I asked.
He said, “Do you think the story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt is just some dusty, ancient tale of a successful fight for liberation by the Jewish people?”
I replied, “I did think of it that way.”
“Then the message I have is the right one,” he answered.
“Please tell me what it is,” I urged.
“Well, although you summoned me, this is a message for all men, all women—both Jews and non-Jew.”
“That makes it all the more meaningful,” I said.
“This then is the story for you and your brethren,” he continued. “But first, you must understand the true meaning of the Pharaoh. Do you know what it is?”
“I know he was the king or emperor of ancient Egypt, but he could represent a father figure,” I responded.
“Yes, but even more than that. Pharaoh is the patriarch of a male-dominated society—a society that sets boundaries that stifle your spiritual growth,” Aaron answered. “That is the key that I and my brother bring you. You must free yourself not only from your own personal father, but also the fathers of your own patriarchal society. You must risk all to cross the Red Sea of your unconscious and find your own spiritual Sinai.”
“I have spent the last decade working with the help of Jung trying to do just that,” I replied.
“I know,” he said. “That’s why I was willing to respond to your call. And you must be brave enough to throw off the yoke of spiritual oppression. Like Pharaoh and his minions, the avarice and greed of the few have enslaved you and your people and crushed their spirits.”
“What must I do? It seems like such a momentous task,” I replied.
“Do what you do best. Continue your struggle against the father and write, speak, teach that all may hear of your own exodus and search to the innermost reaches of your heart for that divine spirit so others, too, may embark on their own journey,” he advised.
“But,” I said, “Who am I, a non-observant Jew, to speak on behalf of God?”
“You are no one, but dust. But through that dust, the dust of the cosmos, you are One with the Lord,” he proclaimed. “Remember the true meaning of what the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ [Exod: 3:6]. Do you understand?” he asked.
“Please explain that to me,” I implored.
And Aaron said, “The search for God is the journey we all must make. Like Pharaoh, it is not simply the God of your father, the God of your community, or the God of society that is handed to you. It is your duty to find the God within you. And that is the message I bring you and that you must share with others. But the journey is not without risk.”
“What are the risks?” I asked.
“Remember Jacob [Gen. 32:23] and remember my bother, Moses [Exod. 4:24], both attacked at night by angels of God as they began their spiritual quest. When one enters the spiritual realm there is danger in the darkness before one finds the light. And you will suffer a wound—the disapproval of your parents and your peers–as a sacrifice and test of your resolve,” he said.
“Yes,” I responded. “I know. I already bear the wounds of abandonment, rejection, and scorn by my own father. But these wounds have carried me on this journey toward that cosmic golden world of inner spirituality and universal compassion.”
“Then,” Aaron concluded, “bring forth the message in the new year that the inner light of spirituality awaits all who have the courage to risk the journey and confront their own inner Pharaohs.”
And with that, my active imagination ended. May this message help us all to find the spirit of Oneness and compassion in the coming year.
Paul Marshall Wortman