Chuck’s Place: The Three Vexations

[Here is Chuck’s blog for this week. We are dealing with some computer issues and thus no pictures accompany this post. Look for a blog from Jan later in the week. In the meantime, here is some good stuff to ponder as you take your own deepening journey. And don’t forget to check in each morning for our daily Soulbytes!]

In his 1477 poem, the Ordinal of Alchemy, Thomas Norton, the English alchemist, warns any seeker of this Sacred Art of three major trials: haste, despair, and deception. These three devils are the gargoyles that all would-be adepts must pass by if they are to find the path to achieve the Opus, the Grail Cup.

In modern terms, seekers of individuation through the path of psychotherapy and recapitulation will meet these same vexations cast upon their conscious intent.

Norton states: “He who is in a hurry will complete his work neither in a month, nor yet in a year, and in this Art it will always be true that the man [or woman] who is in a hurry will never be without matter of complaint…” (Anatomy of the Psyche, Edinger, p. 5)

We enter psychotherapy because life circumstances have mobilized our ego intent to find resolution to the conflicts that thwart our fulfillment. Our mobilized ego is frustrated or in great pain and is highly pressured to achieve freedom from these constraints. These are the conditions that set the stage for haste. We want to move on quickly, move deeper into life. We do not want to suffer a moment longer.

The rationalistic psychologies of the modern world promise just such results with well-laid out plans and programs promising great success. Would that the problems that befront us were all of the world of reason! Unfortunately, to solve our deepest issues we must sink into the depths of nature, far beyond the purview of reason. And for this healing adventure the ego’s demand for results in a timely fashion will only be met with disappointment and complaint. To enter the depths of the psyche we enter a world outside our familiar space and time where we must acquiesce to the healing tides of nature.

“If the enemy does not prevail against you with hurry, he will assualt you with despondency, and will be constantly putting into your minds discouraging thoughts, how those who seek this Art are many, while they are few who find it, and how those who fail are often wiser…than yourself.” (Ibid., p. 5)

Deflation of the ego, diminished self-worth and self-esteem, negative thinking, doubt that things will ever get better—these are the many faces of despair that seek to derail the concerted effort needed to prevail through the long, arduous, and often physically painful and emotionally terrifying journey into the inferno of recapitulation. A willingness to keep the candle of intent lit within the self, even though one feels utterly alone and abandoned as one takes the journey into the abyss, is critical if one is to prevail through this trial of despair.

“The third enemy whom you must guard against is deceit, and this is perhaps more dangerous than the other two…” (Ibid., p. 5)

By deceit, I believe Norton is referring to the helpers who come to serve the journey. Many of these so called “helpers” are the characters of the shadow self, entities that offer insights or respites in the form of inflations and addictions in exchange for allowing them to act out or take possession of our lives as we traverse our journey.

There are many tricksters within the self promising treasures in exchange for habits that subtlely drain our energy and resolve as we struggle to keep our course set on our goal of wholeness. Many an oasis offered can be a tricky resting place, claiming decades of our lives while we wait to awaken from our slumbers in a poppy field of a needed break.

Know that the vexations of haste, despair, and deception are the guardians of all paths of heart. They cannot be avoided. Better to see them as worthy opponents that forge us into the Grail Cup that can fully contain our wholeness, the goal of the opus.

We are all taking the journey in one form or another,

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