A young child dreams of seven white geese marching down a street. All the people the geese walk past fall down dead. Surprisingly, C. G. Jung suggests that this is a favorable dream, that this is nature, via the dream, introducing the young child to the world of time. Everything passes. To the child’s world of timelessness, still bathed in the myths and depths of the collective unconscious, life and death are introduced, including her own awareness of herself as a mortal being in this world.
Life in this world is a bipolar affair. We all grapple with it. At one pole we feel our link to the timeless, as we often live as if we have forever! Though we may negatively judge this ‘slothful’ attitude, it nonetheless is a link to infinite life in timelessness, as an energy body or spirit. At the other pole is the truth of aging and mortality in a physical body, observed and experienced in fading life within and all around us.
At the beginning of every day the Shamans of Ancient Mexico say: “We are beings who are going to die.” This is their intent to keep their awareness fully present to their limited time and opportunity for life in this world. We are all beings saddled with the bipolar conundrum of life and death.
What Jung highlighted in this young child’s fall from innocence was the introduction of change, which happens when we enter life in time. Everything passes in time. Accepting this basic truth helps us to feel and release a wave of sadness. The pain of loss will eventually pass. In the world of time things mature and change and new possibilities for life will arise.
If we are gripped by a craving or passion, we know, if we hold on, that the compulsion will eventually pass. We may not be ready yet, we may still be too attached to the timeless pole of our being that accepts no limitations, but eventually we may be ready to inhabit our corporeal reality and accept the limitations of life in the body.
The great advantage of life in time, in a physical body, is that we are freed to complete our unique experience of life, what Jung called individuation. In time we unfold into the discovery and fulfillment of all that we are. We begin new things, be they careers, relationships, gardens, or books. We can nurture and live the course of these engagements to completion because in time, for better of worse, everything passes.
In time we can answer the questions of our ancestors and pose new ones for ourselves. To fully individuate in our life in time we must recapitulate. If we leave fragments of our lives unknown to ourselves we will not be able to integrate the full knowledge of our journey and we will leave behind questions that must be answered before completion. Perhaps this is the basis for reincarnation, bardo life, or time in purgatory.
My wife Jan lived in Sweden for several years during her twenties. She always felt she went there to fulfill something unfinished in a past life, to connect with and live out unfinished business with people who had once been very important to her. She was welcomed there with open arms, loved unconditionally, and she loved fully and unconditionally in return. She fully embraced being Swedish, learned the language quickly and fluidly, and did all things Swedish like a true Swede. When it was done, it was done. Time to move on and return to life in present time.
My first wife, Jeanne, also completed unfinished business, though she did it in spirit form, after her physical death, reconnecting with the birth mother she never knew in her life as Jeanne Ketchel. It was the completion of her lives on earth, her final chapter in space and time, described in the final chapter of The Book of Us, channeled through Jan.
For although everything does pass in time, that which is not fully realized must be completed somewhere, somehow before we are fully freed to move on in timelessness. As everything passes, as we complete our many paths of individuation, we enter infinity, enriched by our lives and ready to explore new paths of heart, in and out of time.
We are animals who know that we are going to die. Our animal compatriots who share the planet with us have no thoughts about life beyond life. Life beyond death, or infinity, is a human obsession.
Infinity is what the word says: the absence of finiteness, life beyond the limits of space and time. Though in today’s world this kind of “spiritual focus” is often downplayed as simply wishful thinking, certainly beyond reason, experiences with infinity appear everywhere in everyday life.
Take for instance the simple act of going to sleep at night. All animals that live in a body, and for whom night is the natural time of rest and rejuvenation, go to sleep at essentially the same hour every night. Human beings, however, often suspend time and live in consciousness into the wee hours of the night, whether it be in reading, interacting with screens, thinking, playing music, creating, or fearfully refusing the dread of dying to the day and facing the darkness of the night. As the night progresses and one remains awake, one enters the altered state of timelessness, impervious to the needs of the finite body that must somehow function the next day.
Others make their forays into infinity through massive accumulations. This can take the form of hoarding where the limits of space are suspended and one lives with unlimited stuff. This can take the form of vast accumulations of wealth, wealth way beyond the realistic needs of many lifetimes. Such insatiability, an active pursuit to continuously possess more, touches the limitlessness of infinity.
Falling or being in love is a powerful suspension of space where lovers meet in the experience of oneness, a timeless union that touches the wholeness of infinity. So powerful is the nectar of this infinite experience that many simply cannot commit to a finite relationship because once limitation sets in, the sparkle of infinity dulls and one is prompted to go in search of it elsewhere.
The myriad of addictions of our time are actually spiritual attempts to reach infinity in material form. Take food. The pleasure of food intake without restriction, without boundary, gives entree into the limitless joy of infinity. To drink without limit, to suspend time, drinking through the night without limit, is to enter countless worlds of dreaming possibilities within the confines of a world that is still limited by the 24 hour cycle of day and night.
The preponderance of drug addictions in our time is directly proportional to the hegemony of reason over our lives, which so shuts down an active connection to explorative spirituality. Drugs in their many forms offer experiences beyond the limits of the body, in forms that range from euphoric stupor to access to superhuman abilities of physical prowess, from transcendent communication and creativity to energetic travel and experience unrestricted by bodily inhabitation.
Obviously, these many attempts to experience infinity in human form stress and can kill the human animal that contains the consciousness that seeks to experience MORE. They do demonstrate, however, the human spirit’s quest to experience its infinite potential no matter how spiritually impoverished our lives may be.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico, appreciating this instinctual human need to realize spiritual potential while in human form, squarely call out to and embrace their intent to experience their full potential. That spiritual intent naturally appears in dreaming and in magical experiences in everyday life.
If we can merely suspend judgment and open to what happens to us everyday, as synchronistically magical, we will indeed find our way to human infinity, safely, soberly, and fully.
This year, a bunny has set up refuge in our backyard sanctuary, affectionately called Camp Ketchel.
As we descend the hill and go into our screened abode Bunny sits totally still in the grass save for its mouth, which always seems to be munching, food or not. Bunny lets us pass within a couple of feet, clearly relaxed with our energy; we are not the danger.
The danger is all around, however, be it the fox family that lives very near, or an owl, or perhaps even the occasional eagle that makes its rounds. Death is but an instant away. This is nature. This is nature’s deepest truth: we are all stalked by the greatest predator of all: death. No one escapes.
In the meantime, Bunny eats, ears perked, always alert as it forages food for survival. Bunny has a friend, perhaps its mother who no longer accepts the role; all must take responsibility for their own lives.
Bunny engages friend in play. They pause in their eating and spring several feet into the air, jumping over one another in pure abandon, their customary alertness to danger momentarily relaxed. Play is part of nature, as important as eating and protecting. The bunny’s playful moment might indeed be the predator’s opportunity but that doesn’t matter, nature’s imperative to play must be enacted, regardless of cost.
Humans are animals as well. Though we hide behind a mote of reason and civilization, the truth is that the predator is always stalking. Despite all our medical genius no one and nothing can change our ultimate appointment with death.
At a primal level, the animal within us is well aware of this truth. On a primal level we are no different than the bunny, always watching, waiting, listening for the predator’s knock. Hence, anxiety is, at least on some level, a normal primal feeling in everyday human life. To think this shouldn’t be would be to deny our human animal reality. We may indeed be spirit beings who will live in infinity, but our animal selves will most assuredly die.
But let us learn from Bunny as well. As important as it is to be on our guard, it is equally important for us to completely release our guard and relax into pure play. Nature absolutely demands this of us. We must play with abandon to fulfill our animal nature.
We must allow ourselves to breathe deeply into the abdomen and break the constriction of rigid fear. We must completely relax our muscles, going deeper into calm and utter joy in our animal being. And when we are called back to alertness and fear, we must acquiesce and be present to it.
This opposition within our primal selves, of fear and play, can only be resolved by allowing ourselves to oscillate between each pole, flowing in accord with the true nature of each moment.
Cardinals derive their name from the red garments worn by Catholic priests. Ironically, cardinals are birds that mate for life, who celebrate the equality of the male and the female, one of the few bird species that sing together. The Christian world, on the other hand, has no such model in its pantheon of God to honor the feminine so equally and fully as the cardinal pair who so deeply honor each other.
Early one recent morning I was reading to Jan the sentence: “We kill while we live, …” At that exact moment we heard a loud SMACK upon our window. Stunned, we looked up to see a burst of feathers floating in the air. We approached and saw a female cardinal lying stunned upon the ground, slowly and laboriously arching her wings, trying to catch her breath.
I was immediately reminded of the grackle that had similarly crashed into our deck door a couple of years ago, and after a few hours of rest sat up and flew off. Confident of the cardinal’s recovery too, I went for the camera and took a few pictures.
Jan said that she was dying. Then the cardinal pulled in her wings and gave one last violent shudder. The last thing we saw was a fluttering of the crest at her crown. She was dead.
Deeply saddened, I touched her soft feathers, thinking to bury her. Jan suggested that I instead put her out front atop a rotting pumpkin that the crows and squirrels peck at. I moved her there and within a minute a crow came and cautiously circled around the pumpkin. It made its way closer and closer and finally grabbed the still warm carcass and took off, a rich, fresh feast to feed upon, nourishment for the day.
We were both deeply emotionally affected by this death, especially as we watched the male cardinal perched upon a branch searching listlessly for his lost bride. I was compelled to write this blog, as the synchronistic sacrifice of the cardinal’s life, coupled with the words I’d read, carried a message I felt obligated to deliver.
We had been reading from a book by Marie-Louise von Franz, The Puer Aeternus. She’d been quoting from a novel by a German writer whose main character suffered from a severe inner split. He refused a true relationship with life and love in this world, honoring instead his rational mind, with its order and principles that obstructed a life truly embodied and lived. Such an attitude avoids the true crucifixion that engagement in life requires: emotional attachment with all its ecstasies and deep disappointments that are the hallmark of a life truly lived.
The line I had been reading as Mrs. Cardinal crashed to her death reflected a very rational truth, to live is to kill. For life to be sustained, as the crow amply demonstrated, it must feed upon the vitality of life. And though this is indeed a rational truth that must be accepted, it must also not be allowed to be a license to kill feeling and love.
To love, to feel, to attach, to connect, these are the hallmarks of the feminine. If we allow ourselves only the cool detachment of the rational we refuse to suffer the emotional reality of life, in fact, we cut ourselves off from life itself, as we remain frozen and sterile, focused instead on our own power, gain, and advantage.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love. This is the feminine, resident not just in women but equally in men, that is so neglected, disregarded, and disdained that we find ourselves steeped in bloodbaths of mass proportion, rationally iced in numbers and strategies for killing, neglecting not only our emotional attachment to fellow humans but to all of nature as well.
Our dear cardinal assumed her place on the cross, the little Goddess who sacrificed herself to deliver the message: Yes, life is consumed to support life in this world, a cruel but true paradox. But this is no excuse to refuse to engage in life with deep emotion, which for us in that moment was love for Mrs. Cardinal and her powerful gift, and sadness for Mr. Cardinal as he mourned her passing.
The only thing that matters now is the ascension of the Goddess in all our lives, in all our actions. Only love can redeem the world now. The feminine principle of love is the redeemer. Let the death of the female cardinal not be in vain.
Our little visitor arrived on Sunday February 1, 2015. We called her Fifi, a little ring-necked pheasant with an injured foot. We wondered how long she’d stay. Day after day she’d arrive from wherever she was hiding out to eat at the bird feeders we have hanging in our yard, joining the other birds on the ground, those too big to cling on the feeders and those who just couldn’t get a spot on the crowded perches.
Occasionally, she’d sit in the sun, either on the front porch or close to the house. One day I found her hideaway, a basement window well, tucked up close to the warm chimney and out of sight. I saw her sitting there when I happened to be in the basement. It seemed like a good spot, well-chosen.
After that I noticed she spent most of her time there, only venturing out to eat bird seed for about an hour a day. We wondered how she was surviving on so little, but then I noticed her feasting on dried grasses, pecking at the frozen soil. I read that pheasants, with their long sharp beaks, can dig down about 3 inches, even through frozen ground to find nourishment.
“She’s just a sitting duck,” Chuck said one day, “it’s only a matter of time.” We agreed that she was nonetheless a plucky little bird and we watched her with concern, every day that she appeared another sign of her tenacity. Her foot, though, never seemed to heal. She could barely stand on it.
One day, I had a vision of looking out the window to find her being mauled by a hawk. She was vulnerable, both night and day, to the extremely sensitive smell and sight of the predator birds. We heard there was a bobcat in the neighborhood too, and we worried about a cat attack as well. She seemed to do well when faced with the neighborhood cats, some of them real hunters. The most frequent cat visitor is an inept novice, but a bobcat was another matter. Her wings worked just fine, though her takeoff was a little clumsy, especially in deep snow.
Wednesday February 18th arrived. It was Ash Wednesday, a New Moon phase was about to begin and it was the eve of the Chinese New Year, by all accounts a most auspicious day. I channeled a Soulbyte early in the morning, before sunrise, part of which read: “…nature has an unusual way of delivering its messages! So be aware of its gifts, that they may arrive in strange packages.” You can read the whole Soulbyte here.
As the sun rose I went to peak out the window at Fifi, as was my usual habit. I’d come to enjoy her presence and each day I marveled at her surviving yet another cold night, some of the coldest we’ve had in a long time, dipping down into below zero temperatures for several days in a row. It was still not quite light, but I could see destruction as soon as I looked out the window. Her headless carcass lay mauled in the snow drift behind which she had found safety and protection. She was surrounded by an explosion of feathers.
“She’s gone, something got her!” I yelled, my vision of the hawk coming to mind. We both felt immediately sad, our Fifi was no more. “But what does it mean?” Chuck said in his usual inquisitive manner. Yes, what does it mean indeed!
It was then that I remembered the hawk that had been visiting lately too. For three days it had come and perched in the trees in the yard, scaring the other birds. I realized that it had been smelling death, that Fifi was growing weaker. I had actually noticed her sitting the day before with her face to the wall, her back in the sun, rather than alert in her nest in the window well, and I sensed she was growing sickly. Last Sunday we had actually written about the hawk, after receiving an ominous sounding channeled Soulbyte. The hawk figured quite prominently in our process that day. You can read about it here: Waiting.
It became my job to take care of Fifi’s remains. We couldn’t leave her by the house. Chuck had early sessions and I am usually writing on Wednesday mornings. Around eight I got a shovel and went out. Climbing through the deep snow I made my way over to where she lay. No animal tracks disturbed the overlay of light fluffy snow. I saw that her decapitated head lay among a profusion of feathers, the rest of her lay on top of the snowdrift, gutted and bloody. Something had ripped her open and eaten its fill. It did not look like a cat or bobcat got her, as there were no tracks in the snow and I doubt a house cat could have done such damage. A bobcat, I suspect, would have carried her off. The hawk? Did hawks feed at night? It was then that I saw the imprints in the snow of a wide wingspan. A predatory bird had gotten her. Perhaps it was the hawk, or even an owl. We will never know for sure.
Like a forensic scientist I took pictures. I am more curious than disturbed by guts and gore. Then I had to decide what to do with her. The feathers would stay covering the ground next to the house. Let the wind take them. Let the earth take them. But Fifi was dead now and she needed a fitting animal rite of passage.
I shoveled up her remains, putting her severed head on top, and moved her out to the front yard, not too far from where she had pecked at seed for the 18 days she had spent in our presence. I would give her a burial that was similar to that which was common in old Tibet, the corpse left on the mountainside, too cold and rocky to dig into, to be picked at by vultures. In this way Fifi’s remains would feed others and eventually be deposited into the earth, a most fitting and natural burial.
Soon the scavengers arrived, first the crows and then the hawk. I bid her farewell, sending her off on the next leg of her journey with thanks and gratitude for having come and been a part of our lives, showing us not only the tenacity of life to live to the fullest, but also the inevitability of death.
The day progressed, Chuck and I talking occasionally about our process regarding what we had experienced with Fifi and our sadness at her end, inevitable though it was. Death comes to us all. And we noted the significance of the day, a day of transition, shift, and new beginnings as well.
In the afternoon I received a phone call from my daughter in New Orleans. I had written about our strong connection in my blogpost last week, Living An Energetic Life, in which I also wrote about Fifi. Earlier that morning, after I had taken care of Fifi I thought of my daughter. “Your daughter is okay,” I heard, “she’s fine.”
The first thing she said to me was, “Where were you at 8:30 this morning? I was calling you. I got hit by a car!” I was stunned. Concern for her immediately welled up, my first thought being that I had not been available for her when she needed me. She had been walking to work, the day after Fat Tuesday, the last and biggest day of Mardi Gras revelry in New Orleans, when a presumedly drunk driver jumped the curb and onto the street corner where she was standing, sideswiping her body with his car. She said he didn’t stop, but looked out his window at her as he sped off.
Two women, who witnessed the accident, came to her rescue. They sat with her on a bench and made sure she was okay. Did she want to go to the hospital? Did she want to call the police? No, she was just shook up. They sat with her until she felt calm enough to get up and continue on her way.
When I told her what I had been doing at 8:30, taking care of Fifi, she immediately blurted out, “I knew you were doing something important, something so that you knew about me. The pheasant died but I lived!” We agreed that Fifi gave her life so that my daughter might live. It was as fitting a meaning as we could find at that moment.
Had the car been just a few inches further onto the sidewalk, my daughter said, she would either be dead or severely injured. “I never really knew what it meant to be happy to be alive until now,” she said. “I am so happy to be alive!”
Although death stalked her that day, came very near, my daughter did not flinch. Like a shaman she looked right back at death and yelled at him. She was not overcome. She’s not a victim. She’s a warrior. And like a warrior she got up and continued on to work!
I look to the day itself, a day of transition, transformation, and shift for deeper meaning for all of us. Something was bound to happen, that’s what the energy of the day was all about. On that same day, Chuck published a blog about death as an advisor, written long before any of this happened. You can read that here.
How can death possibly be an advisor? Death stalks us all—all the time. Nobody is special. We all die. It was Fifi’s time, but it was not my daughter’s time. Death, however, took a look out his window at her as he sped off, challenging her. “I didn’t get you this time,” Death said, “but I’m real. So what are you going to do now?” This is an important wake up call for all of us, delivered on a day of transition. It’s time to break the routines, to leave the old world behind, to move on without regret into new life, a life of meaning, compassion, and spirit.
My daughter was not in the wrong place at the wrong time, she was in the right place at the right time to receive some important personal messages. In fact, we are all being delivered the same core message: We are all mortal beings who are going to die one day. Will we face death as courageously as Fifi and my daughter did?
Death is all around us. Lately, it seems to be here in abundance. Are we finally ready to hear what death is telling us? The message now is very clear. Things have to change if the world is going to progress in the right direction. Can we use that knowledge? Death challenges us to break our complacent routines and move on to what matters most. It’s never too late.
With love and gratitude to Fifi and my daughter Maggie for sharing their experiences with us, Jan
These are the events that guided us through the grand time of transition, through both departures and new beginnings.
As I wrote this blog, I remembered that hawk is a messenger and, when hawk comes, often a message is to follow. Hawk stayed around for several days and we did get several messages, which I have tried to elaborate on in this blogpost. Like death it stalked Fifi and also brought messages of new life to my daughter. In our moments of awakening and transformation we realize there really is no death, no end, there is always new life. Our ultimate challenge: Can we find it in us to thank our antagonists, our messengers, death in this case, for guiding us to new life? I could go on and on, but this post is already very long, so I will stop here.
Here is an essay by Oliver Sacks as he makes decisions about what is most important in his own life now, as he faces his own death: Oliver Sacks.