"Salvation begins when you consider the possiblity that there might be another way." -- A Course in Miracles
When in the black, dark stage of the Alchemical Journey, you are called upon a new way of seeing. The nigredo stage can last for many years. Often, early in life, after a traumatic emotional event, such as the realisation of loss of innocence or unconditional love, one enters the dark cocoon of the cave. The awakening only comes when you realise that you have chosen this and that, indeed, you are still choosing to remain in the safety of the cave.
The dark state within and seemingly without, serves to make you aware of the incredible split in yourself. Through closing off against pain you have created a strong and powerful separate self. Embedded in this self is the first injunction : thou shalt judge. Secondly, thou shalt not feel pain ever again. In order to keep loyal and true to these sacred orders of the false self, an entire life of habits, habitual thinking and patterning develops. Depending on the environment and the consciuosness of those around you, and your own level of receptivity and sensitivity, these patterns will create a thick coat around the Self.
One enters the cave with the understanding or the belief 'that I cannot do this any longer', thereby implying that you cannot deal with the way the world is. What you do not realise is that the world is a projection of your own mind. Your perception colours your world and interprets the actions of others and your own reactions.
Whilst in the cave one makes decisions that promises to keep you safe and separate. However, no-one is safeguarded against the pain of the heart. You may make your mind feel safe through your choices and decisions, but at some point your heart will start to grieve for the loss of Soul. And this is when you realise that you no longer want to be in the cave!
In the myth of Persephone, her mother, Demeter, Queen of the Earth, suffers deeply. I extract the following :
Early one day, a tragic event occurred in the fields of Eleusis that disrupted the Mistress of Earth, Demeter. Demeter is reliving that fateful day when her daughter, Persephone, was lost to her. Demeter herself searches, laments, calls for help. No one comes to her aid, her demands for help goes unanswered. Then comes the horrendous revelation from Hecate, the Queen of Crossroads. The contemptible Hades, Lord of hell, dragged Persephone down to the Underworld in his saturnian chariot driven by seven frothing, seething stallions. He abducted her to coerce her into being his consort in the domain of the Underworld. In her mother-fury and anguish, Demeter unleashes all her powers to pull back her daughter from the ghastly fate of living for eternity in the lifeless Underworld. Then it comes to light that Zeus, the all-powerful Lord of All has permitted his brother Hades to commit this unspeakably evil act.
Demeter, Mother Goddess of the Sacred Earth, is paralyzed. From her swollen eyes, she regards her listless and exhausted body. She finds herself trapped and helpless in her fleshly garb, unable to move or navigate out of the icy debris surrounding her. The fallen deity observes her feet stuck in frozen sludge, her leaden thighs are immobilized, and her slumped-down torso is unable to move her defenseless arms.
In this place that she inhabits, all is dark, void of life and sound - a deep darkness, not the darkness of the night where your eyes finally adjust enough to make out some semblance of form. This is a place of formless matter, of thick and heavy obscurity where nothing moves. She feels like she is buried alive in a bloodless tomb where shadows do not exist.
Demeter finds herself in this wasteland of immobility where her agony is so deep that emotion is dried up, her consciousness anesthetized, her will destroyed. But wait, there is a dim realisation that she chooses to be in this state. That it is necessary to be here, to engage in profound soulwork. In fact, there is a knowingness that she must go even deeper to find her way out.
As Demeter's soul dries up, so does the fecundity of the earth. The vacuum of life-giving energy which she, the Great Mother, projects on to the world causes the landscape to become withered and frozen. Soon Zeus, the Lord of all, notices the diminishing abundance of the earth and offers a compromise to Demeter - he will allow mother and daughter to reunite, but only for part of the year. Persephone must return yearly back to the Underworld as queen and consort to Hades. Demeter rises up out of the cold, dark place and embraces her daughter. She glances back at her cocoon-like cave where she was stuck in devastation, all the while giving thanks for the gift of solitude and timelessness that helped her find her soul and a way out, back to her daughter.
In this myth, the nature of Persephone is two fold : before she enters the underworld she is Kore, the maid and after her return, she is Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. All the characters in the myth represents the various forms of consciousness that you know as yourself and your Divinity. Zeus represents the 'sun-god', the higher authority or God in religious terms; Persephone is your daughter, the life of your soul, your 'creature' or that soul-life that you are responsible for; Demeter is the body, the earth, the physical and the mind attached to the body; Hades is your shadow, that which you have suppressed and hidden in your dark underworld and the seven horses are the seven chakras of the physical body. All of these are also represented in the collective and the cosmic; so they are personal and transpersonal.
Kore, the maiden, is the life of the soul as created by the young and innocent; Persephone is the soul life as created by Wisdom! Wisdom is only gained through contemplation, reflection, suffering, sacrifice and dedicated inner soul work. Through the time spent in the cave or the underworld, the ego is softened, cracked and eventually dissolved. Only when you change the way that you look at the losses experienced as your passage and initiation into a fuller soul life and as a necessary journey to a higher consciousness, will Zeus come to your aid and assist you.
Loss is the initiation into nigredo. Loss of expectations; loss of a relationship; loss of yourself and access to your inner world; loss of purpose; loss of joy; loss of employment and more. The loss in the outer world is a reflection of the loss in the inner world.
The realisation that Demeter made, and thus setting Persephone (her younger self) free was : I am powerful, I am not weak. I am a survivor, not a victim; I am a wo/man, not a child. I have the key within myself; I am ENOUGH!
Nigredo is never a life-sentence; only a stage. The profound grief that one suffers has to be faced head on and there is a deep psychological and spiritual need in all human beings to connect with their own inner life; to tell their stories; to make sense of themselves .
Jung said the treasure lies in the darkness. The gift of the spirit is found imbedded in the wound. As my vision so clearly stated : You have swallowed the poison, now go and find the cure. And finding the cure is a journey that will last a lifetime.
There is a famous saying : 'Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water'.