Friday, July 18, 2014

I Guess I Will Always be a Tourist

This was our fifth trip we've made to Ireland. I've spent more than a month here on each of four trips. I have another month trip planned for 2015. Still, I feel somehow I'll always be a tourist. The people of Ireland are very hospitable. Most everyone is willing to chat. I’ve some of my best conversions while riding in taxis and at the pubs. Of course I get the obligatory question, "Where are you from?" I used to answer, "America," but then I got tired of the, as the Irish say, 'You taken me for an ejjiot' look, translated, "Yes, Yank I can tell your from America." Kindly, though, they ask, "What part?" One night in Ennis I told the woman asking, “Arizona.” "Aye," she said, "You're used to the dead heat." Arizona, does indeed have dead heat. Though, I am not used to it—in fact, I despise it. Then, she, like most curious folks, asked how was our stay. Telling people we're staying for a month always receives a pleasant response. They seem to appreciate we're taking the time to really see the country. Then, when I told her we've been here five times, the next question is typically, "So what keeps drawing you back?" That question gets to the heart of the matter.

Why do I keep coming back to Ireland? For one, both sides of my family has identifiable roots in Ireland. One side of both my mother's paternal and maternal families have Irish roots. My father's family, the Staffords, also has its roots in Ireland. I just haven't gotten all the family research completed, but I am making progress. When I give my name along the eastern coast and down into the southeastern counties, especially Wexford and Waterford, I usually get the response, "I know some Staffords, are you related?" The English drove the Staffords off the British isle in the late 17th century. Most all of them settled in Ireland. Maybe I'll find a distant cousin someday?

I've also made continued trips to Ireland for a paradoxical reason; to get away from the "dead heat," of Arizona. While at the same time, to place myself into the alchemical heat of transformation, a "dead heat," which I find readily available to me in Ireland. Four times, I have been here on pilgrimage, the last three, walking. The experience of trekking through the ancient forests of Erie moves me into deep psychological reflection—the work necessary for alchemy of the soul.

The alchemical process has four stages; blackening, the red, the yellowing (or multi-colors), and the white stage. The goal is to create psychic gold, or the philosopher's stone. In Jung's term's, individuation or the complete integration of the personhood into their Self (the center point of the psychic circle). This long and complex process requires "dead heat." A heat that is managed and well tended. Hot enough to bring about psychological transformation. Not so hot as to totally incinerate the psyche.

Blackening brings the dross to the surface where it can be scraped away. Those things in our life that have been suppressed and need to come to the surface for us to deal with and then let go. The reddening turns up the heat every so slightly. What remains, begins to congeal, now in a more healthy way. Much like having a jigsaw puzzle where we had forced some pieces to fit in order just to move on—now we are able to go back and slowly rework the puzzle so that the pieces fit nicely in their appropriate places. It feels and looks better. Next, in yellowing (or multicolor like the peacocks tail), more heat is added in order for something beautiful, which has been hidden deep within, to now emerge. This is the stage where the work of individuation could possibly become visible to others. The person going through the alchemy of the soul is allowing the Self to be the center and not the ego. These stages take careful, intentional, risky, and time committed work—a lifetime. The white stage, well, is as difficult as making gold. Maybe such is the reason I still feel like a tourist in life, no matter where I am—just not quite home.

Obviously I've over simplified the alchemy of the soul. Jung has written at length about the work. I'm working on these ideas in more detail as they relate to the book I'm writing, Pilgrimage: A Way of Life. Any feedback and questions would be greatly appreciated.


M. Kate Allen said...

My exposure to these stages is limited, but I've recently edited a book called _Persephone and Me_ that captures these four stages in poetic movements.

I'm looking forward to reading your book, and I suppose the main thing I'll be looking for is a way to enter into the journey of these stages. What are some examples of what the markers of each stage look like? What questions might I ask myself to figure out where I am, where I've been, and where I'm headed? What does Jung have to say to the journey of the Christian pilgrim seeking her true self?

Matt Baker said...

I just finished your first book. I enjoyed it immensely and think it important that you write the second one.

Two notes on the above question.

Take a look at "The Tower of Alchemy" by David Goddard if you have not seen it. It is an esoteric deep look at the entire alchemical process. Each chapter of the book describes each stage in great detail. Reading the book helped me identify where I was at the time and what was happening and why. This is good when one is being burt to a crisp.

I would read the last chapter first, "The Soror Mystica" and the quote beneath the chapter heading is this,

"I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I within mine, we shall be as one." Crazy Horse.

The second note-poem-idea is about the quote above, about Ireland, being a perpetual tourist and finding home in the pilgrimage of life. Which is a lot to comment on....and the answer is for me. Maybe it will have value for you too.

I am home
when I come to the center, Ireland
is in the center, the green heart
where we are complete, have never left,
and yet...
some places, like Ireland
make is easier to enter into this
unconditioned open spaciousness that is our
natural condition,
and so,
why am I here?

That the dead heat may purify the dross
and we can learn to love what we hated
because if we can really do it,
enter into the state, and love where we are
and find the same home in any place we go,
then we have indeed managed to develop
mastery of the manifold world
and mastery of love, of holding to the center amidst the heat storm, is the bar that we are set to reach,
is the bar he set for us,
so that me might not only spread the good news
but be the good news itself
which is far better than talking about it.

I am here to learn to love my enemy and
look forward to the dead heat, until I love it
until I stop arguing with God about it
and embrace it.

But I will still go to Ireland
to the North
to the place where I can take my boots off
and sometimes.
when I get there,
I will weep.