Updated: Jun 20, 2019
“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.
Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.
The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center.
You find the jewel, and it draws you off.
In loving the spiritual, you cannot despise the earthly.”
~ Joseph Campbell, from Reflections on the Art of Living
Up until this point in the journey the hero has had it pretty rough. He has left his ordinary world, crossed a point of no return, been borne to a strange realm of unfamiliar creatures and experiences, contended with monsters, and suffered the brunt of Nature’s fury, both literal and abstract. There is only so much that any person can handle, so at some point, the hero MUST find some sort of rest and rejuvenation, lest he simply collapse from the weight of it all. To ensure the hero progresses further, there comes to his aid the goddess, which Campbell explained represents the benevolent forces of Nature itself. Because nature is expressed through the feminine, it is most commonly symbolized in story as a divine female, an idea which was expounded upon quite masterfully in David Deida’s book, The Way of the Superior Man.
In the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, it is while fleeing a horde of orcs in the mines of Morea that the Fellowship draws the attention of the mighty Balrog. Shortly afterwards, they lose Gandalf the Grey in battle with the fearsome beast. After they escape the mines they meet Galadriel, the wise Elf witch, who gives them shelter, comfort, rest, and an array of magically imbued items. Once they left her company, they suffered more tests and trials, but they did so from a place of greater strength and stability than they would have if they had not had their much-needed respite. What’s more, the magical items with which Galadriel gifted them, served to aid each of them in significant ways later on in the story.
This struggle with the natural forces of existence is a common theme that repeats throughout story, both fictional and non-fictional, because humans have had to contend with such forces since our very beginning. This great nation was built by the men that challenged Nature herself, expanding westward into the pitiless wilderness, finding only small parcels of rest as they carved an empire out of hostile dirt. It wasn’t until humans were comfortably at rest, tucked behind concrete walls and asphalt moats that we dared to ask ourselves what the cost of it all was. In early 2017 Dr. Jordan Peterson did a guest lecture at the Ontario Psychological Association, during which he addressed the belief held by many that human beings are a cancer on the planet. To that notion he responded, “Human beings are pretty hard on the planet, but it’s pretty damn hard on us in return, ya know. We’re just sort of trying not to die too miserably, and we make a bit of a mess while doing it … Most people are trying to do their best, and so we should have a little compassion – a little sympathy for human beings, instead of considering ourselves raping, patriarchal, oppressive destroyers of the world.” I bring this up because, as David Deida mentioned, the male is the representation of consciousness, the essence of thought itself, and that essence has a LOT of learning to do.
Looking at humanity, we can easily be likened to a baby, clumsily bungling around our planet, breaking everything we touch because we just didn’t know any better. We’ve scoured the planet digging for resources, and wasted much of what we’ve extracted, much the same way an unsupervised baby (and by that, I mean one left alone for more than 20 seconds) rips open the cupboard and eats every last cracker and cookie he can find without any thought to the fact that he’s going to want more later. We’ve destabilized many regional ecosystems around the globe to the point of near ruin, setting off a chain reaction of socio-economic calamities that start with riots, wars, and genocide, and devolve into mass migrations which bring totally incompatible cultures into direct conflict with each other, and that’s just the START of it. We have created a hell for ourselves of our own design, but we do NOT have to stay there, and we ARE learning that fact as a society, but more importantly I think that we can apply that education at a personal level, and I think James Cameron displayed this quite flawlessly in his landmark film, Avatar.
Set in the not-too-distant future, the film tells the story of Jake Sully, a crippled ex-Marine (although everyone knows there’s really no such thing as an “ex” Marine) who is offered the chance to get off a heavily polluted, dystopian Earth, and earn enough money to fix his broken body by serving a tour on the planet Pandora. Once there, he transmitted his consciousness into an avatar – a synthetically grown body that’s a copy of the planet’s inhabitants, the Na’vi. The Na’vi are a Neolithic race with the ability to link their minds to the animals, and even certain plants through a queue that emanates from the back of their heads. All life on Pandora is linked together this way in a kind of biological internet that the Na’vi believe is overseen by a consciousness they worship called Eywa.
On his first expedition from the base he’s separated from the rest of the team by one of Pandora’s apex predators, and in the process, is stripped of his human effects including his machine gun and backpack. He narrowly escapes the fanged monster by plunging off a cliff into a river. He fashions for himself a crude spear from a stick and, as night falls, wraps his jacket around it and turns it into a torch with the aid of some flammable tree sap. Moving clumsily through the thick jungle with the light he forged from a combination of his cunning and the planet’s resources, he is eventually surrounded by a pack of wolf-like creatures that set upon him. Moments away from death, he is rescued at the last moment by Neytiri, the princess of the local tribe. After killing some of the pack and driving the others away, she throws his torch into the river, his eyes soon adjust to the environment, and he discovers that every plant in the forest, from the moss, to the flowers, to the trees, is bioluminescent, bathing the forest in a soft, beautiful glow. After being shown the light of the world around him, he asks Neytiri for help, and although she at first refuses, she is quickly swayed by what she believes to be a “sign from Eywa” and takes him back to the tribe. Once there, her father, the chief, and her mother, the shaman, task Neytiri with teaching Jake Sully of their ways to see if his “insanity can be cured”.
Once his mind is back in his human body, which stayed at the human base called “Hell’s Gate”, Jake is tasked with attempting to negotiate with the Na’vi to relocate them before the humans’ bulldozers come and knockdown their village, located in a massive tree that sits atop a precious, super-conductive mineral, which is humanity’s entire reason for being there. Throughout the next three months, Jake undergoes grueling training under Neytiri’s tutelage where he learns to speak Na’vi, track, hunt, and link his mind with the local flora and fauna, among other things. At first, he did so duplicitously, while he secretly funneled tactical information to his superiors, but eventually, he decides to switch sides, and fights to drive the humans off Pandora in what was arguably one of the most amazing battle scenes in recent cinema history. I was immediately enamored with the film, but its parallels to my life would not become apparent to me until many years later.
When my daughter was about two years old I was walking with her through the village near our house when she wandered into a mystic shop that had just opened. At that moment, all I could picture in my mind was my toddler destroying expensive statuary that I didn’t have the money to replace, so I tried to pull her out, but the proprietor assured me everything would be fine, and for some strange reason, I relaxed a bit. He was a short Indian man, with a bright, beaming smile, and the most disarming demeanor I had ever encountered. As I struggled to keep tiny hands from breaking delicate items, he spoke with me. Lauren and I had recently made our decision to informally separate, so I was just about at the lowest point I would get in my personal hell, and it was written all over my pudgy face. He wanted to know my story, and I gave him the cliff notes version. I then told him that despite it all, I hadn’t completely given up on doing something of value with my life, and was even trying to start a non-profit, but I was understandably tired. Finally, he looked at me and said, “You know what you need to do?” Feeling like I had nothing left to lose, and that he was a deeply spiritual man, I thought it might be worth entertaining his advice, so I let him go on, but when he spoke I almost fell over. He told me, “You need to pursue money.”
It was not what I was expecting a spiritual Indian guru to say.” Pursue money?” I thought, “Isn’t the love of money the root of all ills?” He then spoke about the need for balance, and to understand that the material world comes from the spiritual, and he warned me not to despise the material world, just because my focus is on the spiritual, which is in harmony with Campbell’s words that I quoted at the outset of this blog. He also told me that while my pursuit of a non-profit to help others is noble, it wouldn’t be effective, especially if I’m financially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually spent. He added, “You cannot pour from an empty vessel.”
I then told him that I wasn’t so concerned that he was wrong about me having the ability to become wealthy, but that he was right. I worried that I could lose myself to money, and find myself on the inside of a mansion, hording my wealth and “giving to charity” mostly as a show. He actually laughed when I said that. At first I thought it was because he saw something in my “sterling character” that made the idea absurd, but I later discovered that it was because of the nature of wealth generation itself that made him chuckle. It’s not that people haven’t amassed wealth at the expense of others and put on an appearance of generosity, but there’s a whole dimension to the process that I was ignorant of. So, in light of my newfound ignorance, and because everything that I had done up to that point was clearly NOT working, I decided that I might as well try and apply his insight; I had nothing to lose. Of course, I was completely clueless about material wealth, so to learn I knew that I would need an experienced teacher, and since I didn’t know anyone who could personally teach me, I turned to the greatest tool for learning humans have at their disposal; The World Wide Web.
Because my ADHD makes reading and absorbing written material difficult, I went on YouTube and started listening to masters of business and personal development, beginning with Tai Lopez, and eventually moving on to London Real, where I discovered Peter Sage, who was not only incredibly successful in business, but a VERY spiritual man. Throughout the next year or so I spent every available moment listening to lectures of, and interviews with, some of the most successful people on earth, looking for the common threads that connected all of their stories and advice. That habit would help to reshape my mind from that of a drunk, loser nerd on his ex-wife’s couch, to the sober, effectual hero of my own story that I am today. I had previously bungled my way through life, breaking things as I went, until I was offered the most contrary piece of guidance I had ever received. And while in many ways that shopkeeper was a mentor to me, the very TIMING of our meeting, and his naturally SPIRITUAL nature places him in a unique position in my story.
I revisited that shop a few months later for the second time to thank the proprietor. By that point I was in a slightly better place, and although I wasn’t entirely sure as to how I would do it, I knew that I would leave the hell I created for myself. He was always so kind to me, as well as to everyone who came to his store, and he was always thrilled to see my daughter. His beaming smile, warm essence, and profound spiritual guidance offered me just the rejuvenation, and supernatural aid I needed when I was at my lowest point. However, much like Jake Sully, I had a long road of grueling work ahead of me, and much like Fellowship, I would endure more battles with ever-darker and more dangerous characters, and the stakes would only get higher from that point forward. Still, the time I would spend with my guru never failed to give me the direction and the refreshment I needed to progress further on my journey.
Is there a person who serves to offer you such refreshment and spiritual insight in your life? Maybe it’s a friend or relative, or even, Heaven forbid, a religious servant like a priest or rabbi. Do you have someone that offers you counsel and solace when you need it most? Are they physically present in your life or are you getting what you need from them via the Internet? Remember that the “goddess” serves more than a simply functional role in your life, and exists as the living embodiment of the abstract things in reality that are there to help you, right when you need it MOST. Examine your life closely and look beyond the obvious.
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