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The Centre of All – The Yellow River in Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram

Gold Chisel in his battle with the god of the Yellow River.

The story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram, is an ancient Han Chinese fairy tale in which the Yellow River is the source of the sacred water of Life, it is a sacred river, just as the Ganges is the sacred river of India.

In our prayer Pir (to our Teacher) we say:

 Inspirer of my mind, consoler of my heart, healer of my spirit,
Thy presence lifteth me from earth to heaven,
Thy words flow as a sacred river,
Thy thought riseth as a divine spring, —-

The Yellow River as a sacred source can be seen in the words of ‘Pir’, ‘Thy words flow as the sacred river.’ The teachings flow as from a sacred river. This is the water of life.

In the story of Golden Chisel, the hero, is questing for the sacred water, which tradition teaches, will one-day flow from the lips of a stone ram. Golden Chisel did not have a Teacher as in other stories, – there was only the remnant of a tradition or prophecy in the village to guide him. Golden Chisel, our hero, finds a brilliant shining stone, in the dried-up village pond, roughly in the shape of a ram. From this, he chiselled the stone ram of the prophesy. Golden Chisel made an Ideal of God, or in other words, a structure of a belief for himself. This stone ram, when completed, comes alive and speaks to Golden Chisel. Following this the ram agrees to fetch the sacred water from the Yellow River, each night, so that the village has fresh spring water for its spiritual nourishment.

Golden Chisel does not go with the ram, as in other stories, where the steed, usually a horse, guides and carries the hero on his journey. In European fairy tales, the hero, having won his ‘horse’ after a great battle, rides the horse or psychopomp through the inner realms to the Centre, to find the sacred water. The psychopomp can be understood as the internalised teachings and teacher which carried him from one realm to the next, and who guides and teaches him on his journey.

As we have already said, Golden Chisel, does not have a teacher. All that was left for him in the village was an old tradition. He had to chisel the teachings for himself, out of the hard stone of this tradition, until he had created his  ram. He created his own structure of belief –  his own system. So, it was that the stone ram went to fetch the water for the village each and every night, from the Yellow River.

But after a long time, one night, the little stone ram, does not return, from fetching the water. Golden Chisel goes in search of him and finds him lying by the path – his forehoof broken. The jealous God of the Yellow River had attacked and grievously wounded him.

This wounding or loss of self, can be seen as a psychosis or a Spiritual emergency. This can happen when the Kundalini is awakened without preparation and knowledge, or when we venture deep into the Centre without being taught and prepared.

If we understand that we are all One, we are simply drops in the Ocean of Consciousness – we are part of the Divine One. When we dive into this ocean, we need to hold onto our sense of ourselves, our sense of ‘dropness’. If we do not do this, we can lose ourselves, lose our minds.

Without a teacher, Golden Chisel did not know or understand how to approach this sacred territory. There is a way of approaching this task, which must be understood. It is a dangerous quest, as we see in the story of the fairy of the dawn. In that story, the hero is given a tiny flute which he must play, while he is in the sacred realm of the spring, to subdue the beings which reside there. The Centre is guarded by the Fairy of the Dawn, who could be considered as one of the Archangels surrounding the Throne of God – the Centre in that story.  In this story, it is the God of the Yellow River, who guards the Centre, and who has grievously wounded the stone ram. We too can become seriously wounded, when we are not prepared properly for the quest.

Golden Chisel carried the wounded stone ram home and made for him a golden fore-hoof. So, we see that this terrible wounding can he healed – healed with the gold of Divine Light, with the knowledge of the teachings experienced directly. This also is a long process.

But now Golden Chisel is angry and wants to avenge the injury to his ram.

Golden Chisel took the Sun-and-Moon talisman that had been passed down through his family, and confronted the God of the Yellow River. Ancestor worship was prevalent in China, and still is, so this talisman, is a powerful symbol of his spirituality which he has from his family, even in his DNA.

The God of the Yellow River, attacked with various weapons such as cold and the turtle demons. It seems to me that the turtle demons may reflect the problem of the flooding of the Yellow river (see history below). But I also think that he – the ram, is attacked with cold reason and logic, with the head, rather than the heart. It could have represented a great conflict between a new belief system as rediscovered by Colden Chisel, and an older established religion.

The God had no answer when Golden Chisel told him that the sacred water flows for everybody and does not belong to any one God. The jealous God, thus was defeated by the power of the Sun-and-moon talisman, where the sun represents the masculine principle, and the moon the feminine, united together they represent the Divine Light – Nur. It is this Divine Light, which defeated the jealous god. Begging for mercy, the God of the Yellow River asked Golden Chisel what he wanted, and Golden Chisel and the ram answered with one voice that they wanted fresh water for the village. The God then took from his mouth, a pearl, saying that when the stone ram would hold it in his mouth, fresh water would flow from it forever.

However, the ending of this tale seems to be paradoxical. In returning to the village, the stone ram was ‘seen’ by a young cowherd, as a light shooting towards him. He cried out for everyone to look at Golden Chisel riding a stone ram. But when the ram heard this he immediately transformed into a heap of rocks, out of which flowed a limpid, sweet spring, so fulfilling the prophecy.

When we chisel out our Ideal of God, and indeed mend this from time to time, when it gets damaged,  we have constructed an inner structure of understanding the Truth of the world. Once the Light is perceived by the people or parts of ourselves, who are able to see it, like the young cow-herd, then the water constantly flows from the spring pure and sweet without any intermediary.

This water constantly flows from the sacred Centre of All, when we know how to access it.

Some background history:

The Yellow River is known as the “Mother River of China” and “the Cradle of Chinese Civilization”:  its basin is the birthplace of the northern Chinese civilizations and the most prosperous region in early Chinese history.

The Great Flood of China, also known as the “Gun-Yu myth” (Yang:74), was a major flood event that continued for at least two generations, and which resulted in great population displacements among other disasters, such as storms and famine: according to mythological and historical sources. Treated either historically or mythologically, the story of the Great Flood and the heroic attempts of the various human and other characters to control it and to abate the disaster is a narrative fundamental to Chinese culture. It is also one of the main flood motifs in Chinese mythology, and it is a major source of allusion in Classical Chinese poetry. Various divine or heroic persons or beings contributed to control or in some cases worsen the flooding, including the mysterious bird-turtles of the Heavenly Questions of the Chuci. The main river involved according to tradition, was the Yellow River, and one of the keys to the eventual successful efforts to control the flood waters is traditionally the Yellow River Map.

Fu Xi, also known as Paoxi, is still actively worshipped in modern China. Fu Xi was a culture hero credited with his sister Nüwa with repopulating the world in the aftermath of a great flood, as well as with establishing civilization afterwards. Among his inventions was the Yellow River Map, from which he derived the first trigrams which later composed the I Ching. It is interesting that C G Jung wrote the Forward to the I Ching.

Bagua is a main concept in Chinese philosophical thought: eight figures of mythical origin and emblematic significance that are specifically said to be related to the Yellow River Map and the Luoshu Square. The origin of these concepts is prehistorical, and these have evolved into a complex body of literature, some of it more esoteric, and some less so. Derivation of the bagua has been conceived philosophically according to the taiji or other system in which original unity, symbolized by the bottom circle first differentiates into yin and yang symbolized by solid versus dashed lines. Eight possible unique groupings of these lines into three-line sets are possible. These sets of 3 are known as “trigrams”. Each trigram has its own proper name, in Chinese, and is also considered to possess or to symbolize various qualities of the natural, human, or heavenly worlds. Certain traditions suppose that the Yellow River Map and the Luo River Writing reveal all of these things to one who knows how to read them.

Wolfram Eberhard (sub “Square”, 276) says that the River Plan is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be a magic square. He connects it to the mingtang halls of worship, saying that they share a division into 9 fields: these in turn are correlated with the 9 “planets” (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Rahu, and Ketu), introduced from and according to Indian astronomy. Other sources emphasize these points for the Luo River Writing. Another interpretation of the River Diagram has to do with the 5 “elements” (wuxing) and the 5 cardinal directions.[1]

 

 

 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_River_Map  July 2017

The Centre of ‘All’ – in the Frog Princess

The Centre of All – that most sacred of places and spaces, has a completely different look and feel, in the Frog Princess story, to that Centre we talked about in The Fairy of the Dawn, in the previous blog.

After Prince Ivan has burned his wife’s frog-skin, she has ‘flown away’ to the realm of Kashchey the deathless, which incredibly is described much like the shining white palace in the Fairy of the Dawn. At least at the end of the story.

He comes to this central place where he meets his Teacher and enacts his final task to release his soul (wife) from Kashchey the Deathless.

Prince Ivan sees a little hut standing on a chicken leg at the edge of the forest. This is the abode of the Baba Yaga, the witch of Slavic fairy tales. The hut is standing on a chicken leg and turning round and round. There are no windows or doors. The spindly chicken leg makes me think of a Qutub or ‘pillar’ that is at the centre of the mystical realm. When doing Zikar the participants turn around this inner centre or ‘pole’, like the whirling dervish turning around his own centre. It could also be the Kundalini. It is the pole of the internal microcosm and the centre of the world. It is here that the visionary can meet his personal Holy Spirit. Communication with the ‘Alam al-mithal’ or Creative Imagination is possible only at the ‘centre of the world.’

 

We are told that the Baba Yaga’s hut contains a stove on which lies the Baba Yaga. The stove (a Russian stove)  symbolises the great Heart and centre of all, and I find it most astonishing that it seems to be the ‘altar’ on which lies the Baba Yaga with her nose pressed up against the ceiling.

In other words, there is no room above the stove (heart) for anything else except the Baba Yaga. The Baba Yaga represents the great Teacher, or Guide of Souls, for those who know how to face her and request her help. The house of the Baba Yaga is constantly turning but Prince Ivan has been taught enough to know what to do in this situation. He says his incantation, ‘Turn your back to the forest and your face to me’.

 

In other words, face me so I can enter the deep forest or mysterious realm. Of course, Baba Yaga knew everything that was happening and explains how difficult and dangerous it would be to get the Princess away from Kashchey the Deathless.

 

She tells him that to kill Kashchey, the prince must realise that Kashchey’s ‘death’ is right at the point of a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg in a duck, the duck in the hare and the hare is sitting in a stone chest which is in a lofty oak and Kashchey guards the oak, as he would the apple of his eye. This is mysterious and seriously long and difficult work – to the point literally, the place where his disjunction with his soul originated.

 

This Centre is the place of the Divine Presence, the place where we can be guided by the ‘Great Teacher and Guide of souls. It is only here that we can defeat Kashchey the deathless. All the lessons we have learned on our own journey, now help us. Often there are ‘traits’ or aspects of ourselves which we have perhaps wanted to ‘kill’ or reject. Every part of us, is part of the One – we should not judge our traits, only master them. The ferocious strength of the bear, is needed to uproot the giant oak for instance. We need the speed and trickiness of the hare, the duck whose realm is water and air – who can fly, and which carries the cosmic egg within it. The aggressive but wise pike, which can find this egg which has been dropped into the depths of the sea, of the unconsciousness. In the story of the Little Humpbacked Horse, it is the feisty perch who is the only one who can find the Tsar-Maid’s signet ring, in the mud at the bottom of the ocean. We have to discover these aspects of ourselves within us and use them on our journey.

 

But it is the hero or we ourselves, who must crack the cosmic egg and find that point of the needle, the point at the centre of All, where the disjunction with his soul originated. We must find that point for ourselves – perhaps go back to a memory, within a memory, and again to a previous memory, a long long time! until we get back to the first time it happened. The first time we lost contact with our soul. When we find this point, we are released and the soul is free.

That small point of the needle also represents that Centre of All, in the Centre of All. A dot is only a very small circle after all.

 

 

The Centre of ‘All’ – in the Fairy of the Dawn

In almost all of the fairy tales I have worked with, there is a central ‘place’, where the hero or heroine is in the Divine Presence – is in unity with the Divine, and here can achieve his or her purpose. It is always a journey to the Centre. I used to imagine that I was journeying ‘down’ into myself when in meditation or contemplation: then I heard that in some religions, the spiritual is upwards. But in understanding that the journey is towards the Centre, makes perfect sense. One can be going down or up depending on where we are on the Circle.

The structure of the inner realm is beautifully described in the story of the Fairy of the dawn. The ‘world’ can be seen as an onion, with the realm of consciousness and the material manifestation being the outer layer of the onion. From here, the hero Petru, must f journey to the very edge of his father, the Emperor’s realm. This is the realm of the Heart in Sufism and it is vast. This is surrounded by a deep abyss over which there is only one bridge, guarded by a fearsome dragon. Only by overcoming the dragon, can Petru enter into the deeper, strange and mysterious realm of the ‘creative imagination’ or collective unconscious.

Here the hero journeys through the copper, silver, and finally the golden woods, fighting monster Welwas, along the way, and releasing them from enchantment, so that they can now help him.

Having survived the woods, and come this far, Petru enters the realm of the great goddesses, first Mercury (Mittwoch, German for Wednesday) – who is the communicator between the realms, then Thunder (Donnerstag, German for Thursday) and finally Freya (Freitag, German for Friday), the great goddess of Love and the Guide of souls in the ‘Otherworld’. That the Goddesses are given names of the week indicate, a progression of time on the journey –  that the soul spends a long time in each of these realms, is a very  long time in human terms.  That they are given Norse names shows that this Fairy Tale has Norse roots and is in fact ancient and pre-Christian, even though the story is said to be Rumanian.

The goddess Freya teaches Petru how to make his way to the Fairy of the Dawn, so that he can achieve his task in taking some of the water from the sacred well at the Centre. She gives him a tiny flute, so that when he plays on it, all the creatures, in the fairy realm, including the great Fairy of the Dawn herself, are asleep, so he can achieve his precious quest and so rejuvenate and revitalise the world – the realm of the Feminine.

Once the hero journeys from the human realm, ever deeper towards the Centre, he finds himself in inner space – outside of time and space. These realms have been described as the Astral plane, the realm of the Jinns, the Angelic realms (from Cherubim to Seraphim), and the Archangels, with at its Centre, the Throne of God, which is surrounded by Archangels. Perhaps the great fairy of the Dawn is an Archangel. The Throne of God could well be the Divine Presence.

Our inner journey replicates this hero’s quest through the realms and back again.

Morality in a Time of Untruth

SYMPOSIUM: MORALITY IN A TIME OF UNTRUTH

by ZEE CHENG KHOR MORAL UPLIFTING SOCIETY INC & THE INTERFAITH CENTRE MELBOURNE.

From a Sufi perspective:

Since the dawn of humanity, there have been teachers, or messengers, who have come on earth, usually at a time of great need – when there is social chaos, or a breakdown in society. Perhaps even in a time of untruth. The message is the same, but because of the culture, geography, and the time when it is given, it has a different flavour. We honour these teachers, whether known or unknown to the world. Sufis have some special prayers which we say for our teacher or prophet. One of those is the prayer Rasul:

Warner of coming dangers,
Wakener of the world from sleep,
Deliverer of the Message of God,
Thou art our Saviour.
The sun at the dawn of creation,
The light of the whole universe,
The fulfilment of God’s purpose,
Thou the life eternal, we seek refuge in thy loving enfoldment.
Spirit of Guidance, Source of all beauty, and Creator of harmony,
Love, Lover, and Beloved Lord,
Thou art our divine ideal.

This prayer portrays in very beautiful terms the response of the seeker to the levels of guidance found in the teacher, the prophet, and the messenger.  Rasul begins with these words: ‘Warner of coming dangers, wakener of the world from sleep’ and sometimes the question comes, asked rather nervously, ‘What dangers? Is there some calamity for which we should be preparing?
We can suppose that our teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan, foresaw a great deal of which he did not speak, but he made it very clear that the fundamental danger that lies before us today is the consequence of sleeping when we should be awake.  One might think of a sleepwalker approaching a cliff, or a driver sleeping at the wheel. For lack of a spiritual ideal, the world has fallen into a dense and snoring slumber, a drugged or intoxicated state one could say, filled with seductive dreams of the material consumerism, with the consequent fixation on possession and accumulation, on status and display. (Why do we take so many ‘selfies’?)  Even something as pure and simple as friendship is often perverted, when we cultivate an acquaintance for the sake of gain, rather than because we feel something in our heart for that person.

As Hazrat Inayat said, the Message or teachings are given as a lullaby to those who are sleeping, and a call to those who are beginning to awaken.  For the sleepers, they should rest until it is their time to rouse, that is natural, but at least they may have better dreams, dreams of gentleness, kindness, harmony, and beauty.  And for those who are struggling to wake up, the Message is there to stir us, to help pull us onto our feet and take responsibility for ourselves.  Though we seldom consider it, our every deed and impulse is in the service of something. It may be serving an ideal or a selfish desire or a preconceived notion we have picked up along the way, but our every thought, word and deed serves to advance something, and the more conscious we are, the more responsible we become for our service.  As an exercise, therefore, we could ask ourselves, as often as we remember to do so, ‘What does this serve?’  And we can be sure that the answer matters.  As it says in our Gayan,
Whichever path you choose, the right or the wrong, know that there is at the back always a powerful hand to help you along it.

The best we can do is to look inside ourselves, to find the Untruth within us, so that we can recognise it in others. We thus gain in wisdom, so that we can serve our community.

My thanks to Nawab for allowing me to use much of this material from his wonderful blog.

 

Leaders of the five religions or philosophies below took part in this symposium.

Precepts of the five religions or philosophies which took part in the symposium.

Christianity

Moral Codes for Christianity

The 10 Commandments List

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honour your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
  10. You shall not covet.

Also: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and Love your neighbour as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-40)

Confucianism

Confucian principles are expressed in the goals of:

  • helping members of society to build a happy life;
  • popularizing traditional cultural education;
  • promoting the application of traditional culture in daily life;
  • preserving the wisdom of the teachings of the sages; and
  • enlightening people to implement moral education, by applying wisdom from sages’ teaching to lead a happy life, hence to have a complete and happy family and a harmonised society.

Dejiao

Ten virtues of Dejiao:

Filial piety

Brotherly love

Loyalty

Sincerity

Courtesy

Justice

Honesty

Sense of honour/shame

Humanity

Wisdom

 Eight precepts of Dejiao:

Do not cheat

Do not be untruthful

Do not be greedy

Do not be unreasonable

Do not be arrogant

Do not be lazy

Do not hate others

Do not be resentful

Sufism

Ten principal thoughts of all importance in Sufism for the inner human life:

1) There is one God, the Eternal, the Only Being; none else exists save God.

2) The one Master is the Guiding Spirit of all souls, who constantly leads followers toward the light. 3) There is one Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature, which truly enlightens all readers.

4) There is one Religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction towards the ideal, which fulfils the life’s purpose of every soul.

5) There is one Law, the law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience together with a sense of awakened justice.

6) There is one human Brotherhood, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the Fatherhood of God.

7) The one Moral Principle is the love that springs from self-denial & blooms in deeds of beneficence. 8) There is one Object of Praise, the beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.

9) The one Truth is true knowledge of our being within & without, which is the essence of all wisdom

10) There is one Path, the annihilation of the false ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality and in which resides all perfection.

Taoism

Taoist Moral Code:

Philosophical Taoism seeks to realign humanity with nature and natural principles. As such, morality is seen in terms of excess and deficiency – too much or too little – rather than good and bad. The transformation of opposites (yin and yang) leads to an understanding of the appropriate action at the appropriate moment in time (alignment with the Tao). This idea allows for a fluid morality that can deal with constant change – the common, shared challenge of existence that we all must deal with.

Cenerentola and the Little Date Tree

The little date tree which the Dove of the Fairies gives Cenerentola is a powerful symbol of the sacred. There are stories of  wish fulfilling trees which reveal much of their meaning.

For Instance:-

There was a man crossing the desert, on a long journey, in the heat of the day;  seeing a tree in the distance, he made his way to it so that he could enjoy its cool shade. He fell asleep under the tree and awoke refreshed but very thirsty. He wished for something to quench his thirst. Immediately he saw wonderful ripe mangoes in the tree and reaching upward, was able to pick and eat the juicy mangos. When he had eaten his fill, he was very happy and this made him think about happier t times and the beautiful roses that used to grow around his parents’ house. He thought that if he could smell the fragrance of these roses once again, he would indeed be happy and content. Immediately he had this thought, the man saw in the tree above him, the exact same roses that he remembered from his parent’s garden – the same colour, and shape, the same fragrance. But then he thought that it was really impossible for the tree to have both mangoes and roses growing on it. As soon as he doubted, the tree and all its goodness vanished.

This was the Wish Fulfilling Tree, which exists in the realm of Creative Imagination – it is very real, but when we doubt it, it is no longer available to us. While under its branches, we can achieve anything we wish for.

So, the little date tree which Cenerentola was given by the Dove of the Fairies, could well be a Wish Fulfilling tree. The Dove of the Fairies gave her this tree so that she could learn by her practices to have access to the inner realm whenever she wished, where she could with practice, live in this realm and evolve into the  Queen she really was.

 

There is another great tradition in which a date tree is held as sacred:

In the Koran it is said that Mary gave birth to Jesus under a date tree – verse 19:22-26

And it came to pass on the third day of their journey, while they were walking, that the blessed Mary was fatigued by the excessive heat of the sun in the desert; and seeing a palm tree, she said to Joseph: Let me rest a little under the shade of this tree. Joseph therefore made haste, and led her to the palm, and made her come down from her beast. And as the blessed Mary was sitting there, she looked up to the foliage of the palm, and saw it full of fruit, and said to Joseph: I wish it were possible to get some of the fruit of this palm. And Joseph said to her: I wonder that thou sayest this, when thou seest how high the palm tree is; and that thou thinkest of eating of its fruit. I am thinking more of the want of water, because the skins are now empty, and we have none wherewith to refresh ourselves and our cattle. Then the child Jesus, with a joyful countenance, reposing in the bosom of His mother, said to the palm: O tree, bend thy branches, and refresh my mother with thy fruit. And immediately at these words the palm bent its top down to the very feet of the blessed Mary; and they gathered from it fruit, with which they were all refreshed. And after they had gathered all its fruit, it remained bent down, waiting the order to rise from Him who bad commanded it to stoop. Then Jesus said to it: Raise thyself, O palm tree, and be strong, and be the companion of my trees, which are in the paradise of my Father; and open from thy roots a vein of water which has been hid in the earth, and let the waters flow, so that we may be satisfied from thee. And it rose up immediately, and at its root there began to come forth a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling. And when they saw the spring of water, they rejoiced with great joy, and were satisfied, themselves and all their cattle and their beasts. Wherefore they gave thanks to God.”

This means that the date tree is considered a very sacred place, a place under which the spirit (the Divine Child) can be brought forth and nourished. The dates and the water beneath the tree nourished and sustained both Mary and her baby.

There is a clear parallel to this Koranic verse in the account found in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew which is included in the apocrypha. In other words, this story of Mary giving birth to Jesus under a date tree, was known well before the Koran.

‘Then she conceived him; and withdrew with him to a remote place. ‏And the throes of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this, and had been a thing quite forgotten! ‏So a voice came to her from beneath her: Grieve not, surely thy Lord has provided a stream beneath thee. ‏ And shake towards thee the trunk of the palm-tree, it will drop on thee fresh ripe dates. ‏So eat and drink and cool the eye. Then if thou seest any mortal, say: Surely I have vowed a fast to the Beneficent, so I will not speak to any man to-day’.

 

It is interesting to note that some palm trees bearing dates, grow in rivers, or close to springs in the Middle East. Symbolically the spring beneath the date tree, bearing dates, is of the greatest significance. As we have seen in the fairy tales, the spring of fresh water, relates to the water of life and the quest for unity with the Divine. The date and the palm are sacred in Christianity.  The palm branches carried on Palm Sunday originate in the triumphal entry of Christ into Jeruslaem, so it seems that the palm tree was also there at his birth. As we have seen in a previous blog post,  the ash which is used on Ash Wednesday, is the ash from burning the palms on the Palm Sunday of the year before.

In other fairy tales,  the hero (the masculine) on his inner journey, is given Teachings and practices, they manifest as a flying horse or steed, as we have seen – the beautiful brown horse in the fairy of the Dawn, the little humpbacked horse, and even the stone ram. But it appears that when the feminine is on her journey, a different process occurs – she is given a ‘date tree’, through which she gains access to the sacred  inner realm of the creative imagination. Her practice in this realm manifests and supports her evolution. This is a powerful process, which is explored in Cenerentola. Her journey is quite different. As Robert Johnston has said, men must find the grail castle and ask the ‘grail question’, which is ‘Whom does the Grail serve?’ Only if he answers correctly can he gain access to the holy grail.  But women live in the grail castle and their journey is different. Cenerentola is the only one of the fairy tales which I have come across, which actually shows this process and we do well to examine it deeply.

 

Cenerentola – Ashes and Cinders. What has been burned?

I am very grateful to Nawab’s comment below, as it leads us into an exploration of the question – What has been burned?

‘Thank you, dear Nuria. Yes, it is a very good question, ‘what has been burnt?’ Zezolla has become a ‘cinder’ on the hearth, which could remind us of a sacrifice, the burnt offering upon the sacred altar.
Regarding the urging of Zezolla that her Father should marry her Guardian, in metaphysical terms it is indeed the energy of the ‘soul’ that brings us into physical manifestation–a complete disaster in one way, but also the only gateway to illumination, the Divine homecoming.’

The ashes themselves are a powerful symbol of the sacred, the residue or remains of something – the result of transformation. The sacred ash on Ash Wednesday comes from the burned Palms of the previous Palm Sunday, mixed with olive oil, are applied in a cross-form on the forehead of the believer. This reminds the devout; ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’. Indeed, the wearing of ashes is a sign of surrender and devotion.

In the Hindu tradition, the sacred ash is made of burned dried wood and symbolises the incarnation of power, and the struggle toward divine achievement, the power of God in man. Devotees apply this sacred ash as three horizontal lines across the forehead and other parts of the body.

What Zezolla has sacrificed is her life in the outer world. From the ‘royal chamber, the canopy of state, splendid apparel of silks and gold’, as it says in the story. This is the gateway to illumination, as Nawab has said – the Divine homecoming. Through her practice and guidance from the Dove of the Fairies, she has achieved this exalted state of ‘nothingness’.

In the Frog Princess story, Vassilisa’s frog-skin is burned by her husband, the Prince, perhaps, as we discussed earlier, because she was not ready or able to do it herself. Her frog-skin represented the ugly skin she was forced to wear by the dictates of outer life. She had to flee to the land of Kashchey the deathless and wait for her redemption. Kashchey is a character which is mysterious but seems to be related to the colour white, like the ashes. The name seems to mean old bones, which also implies death of course. Perhaps he is deathless because he is death. Thus, the Princess Vassilisa must endure the transformation into nothingness, so that she can be reborn. Sufis too must die before we die.

When Zezolla becomes Cenerentola she begins the next part of her journey to become Queen.

Cenerentola – Who does the stepmother really represent?

Cenerentola is a story which works on many levels. It is about the evolution of the feminine, without the aid of a ‘hero’. All the characters in the tale are part of the one being – Zezolla’s father the Prince represents the Heart in Sufi terms, while Zezolla herself is Soul. She is very young and unevolved; there is no mature ‘Mother’ in this story; her Mother is said to be dead. This leaves us with the question of who is the stepmother with her many daughters?

At first I felt that Zezolla’s ‘nurse’, who became the stepmother, was a manifestation of our real or natural mother; the one who cares for us as best she can but who cannot really meet our inner needs as the Great Mother. On pondering this further, I now believe that the nurse / stepmother represents the outer world more generally, and that this story is about the Inner and Outer Realms and the transition and movement between the two. Then the story makes more sense. The outer world is so seductive – when things are difficult, we go shopping, or redecorate the house, buy a new car, but this can only satisfy us for a short time. We look for appreciation, love and happiness in the outer world, but from where do we get the love and nurturing that we really need. It is from the inner realm, as we shall see.

So why does Zezolla encourage the marriage of her nurse to her father, when she already knows that this will be troublesome for her? At the wedding feast a dove comes to her from the Dove of the Fairies in Sardinia, giving her advice as to what she should do when things go wrong. It is much like in some other stories, where the hero does something which is perhaps ‘wrong’ but it turns out to be right. Like when the little humpbacked horse, tells Ivan not to pick up the firebird’s feather as it will bring him much trouble and strife. But he picks it up anyway. Zezolla too knows what she is doing when she persuades her father the Prince to marry her nurse. This will become a great battle for her.

In many ways, the Cenerentola tale is the back story of the Frog Princess and the burning of the frog-skin, as well as showing the evolution of the feminine as ‘One in Herself’. This is a powerful insight into the feminine. Paradoxically, it reflects both the before and the after, while being wholly in the present.

When the Prince marries the nurse, he has taken on the outer world with its many pleasures and seduction. His wife brings with her many daughters who belong to this outer world. We get a picture of this realm from the story – the delicious food, beautiful clothes, and trinkets. He becomes so taken up in this world that he forgets his Soul, his own beautiful daughter – his inner life which he once knew so well, lived, and loved. This is a scenario we are all familiar with – we are seduced by the outer life, by technology, by the speed of our interactions and communications. The sacred, the Soul is forgotten.

So what is it that has been burned?  What do the cinders and ashes come from? What has been burnt?  Cenerentola place is now among the ashes.  Zezolla has gone, she has become Cenerentola. A great transformation has taken place.

 

Trust No-One

 Petru's beautiful horse

This essay is in response to Murshid Nawab’s comment regarding Petru’s destruction of the magical communication device, in the story ‘Fairy of the Dawn’. As Nawab says – its takes time and preparation to rise to a state where we are able to bear or endure seeing the fates of loved ones, be they family or friends, but the most important aspect, as Nawab mentioned, is for us to see our own blind spots, especially the ones we really love! We so often don’t want to see them, even if we can. These rejected parts of ourselves, of our egos, are represented by Petru’s brothers, in the story of the Fairy of the Dawn. They are fearful, cowardly and have not got the discipline, tools, or strength to fight the fiery dragon at the edge of the realm. But they are also greedy and want the sacred water for themselves – without doing any of the inner ‘work’ of course. On his journey Petru sees how his brothers are trying to influence their father the emperor for their own purpose, and how the Emperor himself is becoming increasingly blind. When our small self or ego gains in power then the Higher Self loses its insight and its ability to hear the Voice within, even while another part of ourselves is on the inner journey. It is extremely difficult for us to ‘see’ and recognise when it is a part of yourself, who is sabotaging you.  Our inner and outer life, do influence one-another and it is in contemplation and meditation that we come to realise what is really happening – both inner and outer.

But it is on Petru’s return journey, carrying the sacred water of life from the Fairy of the dawn, that the Goddess Mercury warns him, to ‘Trust No-one’. When he returns to his own land – back into the world again, he is so happy to see his brothers and does not realise that they would do anything to harm him, even kill him, in order to steal this precious water of life.

There is a saying ‘After Enlightenment, the laundry’, but I wonder if there really is any ‘after the enlightenment’. Enlightenment is a gradual process and I do not think that many would feel truly enlightened on their deathbed. Sufis prefer to talk about evolution – about the process of perfecting ourselves. This is never finished in our lifetime – only the One is perfect. Jung has said that evolution is not linear, but is a circumambulating around the higher Self (the Divine part of ourselves).

Just as Christ, experienced temptation after his baptism, it seems to me that when there is a transition to a higher level of evolution or consciousness, there is a temptation to use the newfound wisdom and insight we have learned, for the purposes of the ego.

The ultimate Ideals for a Christian are Truth, Beauty, and goodness (spirituality), which are related to Faith, Hope and Love. So it is also with Sufism. The ‘Devil’ who tempts Christ, tempts him with Hedonism (hunger and satisfaction), egoism (might and power) and materialism (wealth). When Christ refused each temptation, the Devil departed.

Petru was protected from everything except the element of water, which is what he was carrying on his return. So his brothers realised that water would be the only element which could kill him. When we carry within us the sacred water we have won, the ego or small self wants to use that to its own advantage. We can see this sometimes in people, teachers or Gurus who give in to this. Their very spirituality is used by their ego to promote themselves. Spiritual ego is really the worst kind of ego as it is so deluded. So the truth is that we can trust no-one!

The Frogskin in the Frog Princess Resonance

The Frog Princess

 

Dear Nuria

You asked me what it was about “The Frog Princess” that captured my attention.  You asked, in particular, about the frogskins.

The first thing that captured me was that the princess is transformed into a frog by a king who was jealous of her power.  In some versions this is her father.  To me this symbolises the fear that the patriarchy have of the power of women, but, more than that, it also shows how the feminine can be forced to assume another guise (disguise) to survive.  Although the princess is transformed into a frog, she is far from powerless.  This intrigues me.  She catches the prince’s arrow in her mouth.  We speak of the arrow of desire.  But here we see how the desire for union manifests in both the princess and princess.

As you point out in your book, the princess frog is found in the marsh, and the marsh is a crossing place.  Her frogskin enables her to move between both the active realm and the inner realm.  She takes up her place in the outer realm, in court.  Her inner feminine is filled with the deep knowing that you have spoken about in your talks at different times.  This is what guides her hand when she makes the beautiful shirt for the tsar and bakes the bread.  You have spoken about the rich symbolism of the embroidered shirt and the bread, so need for any further comment here from me.

Although the princess appears as a frog, she knows who she really is.  At some deeper level, the prince hears her with his inner ear, because he accepts all that she says and does as she bids him to do.  The princess is not perturbed in anyway by the malice of her sisters in law.  She knows what it is right and fitting to do.  She does not suffer from doubt, but is filled with confidence.  Confidence means “with faith” and it seems to me that all that she does, when in this captured state has a certain sure footedness, because she is connected to the deep inner realm.  Our own doubt and misgivings can come from accepting the guise of the frogskins, from taking on the guise that the patriarchy, directly or indirectly, makes us wear, as being who and what we are.  The frog princess has no such misgivings.  She never loses sight of who she is really is – no matter that others do not see this.  She does not need the regard of others.  She does not dignify the folly and malice of the sisters in law by responding to them by taking taking them seriously, but instead just responds calmly and with good humour.

When she appears at court as a beautiful queen, the white swans that appear symbolise divine harmony.  The swan is a symbol of discrimination and union.  Her gracefulness and discrimination at the ball – taking a sip of the ceremonial wine, putting the bones in her sleeve – these are the outer signs of her inner grace, of knowing what it is right and fitting.

When she appears arrayed as a queen, the imagery reminds us of Mary as the Queen of Heaven.  I think this reminds us that all women have this connection to the wise and powerful feminine, whose beauty is the manifestation of grace.

The burning of the frogskins is a difficult aspect of the story.  You mention that you felt a sort of horror.  I felt a sense of shock, but unlike in many tales where some irrevocable action takes place – I am thinking of Orpheus looking back and losing Euryidce – in this story the burning of the frogskins is ambiguous.  When would she would have been ready to leave her frogskins behind?  Three days is a long time in a fairy tale.

First the princess is transformed into a frog by the patriarchy, which can be seen to represent all the harmful aspects of power, the denial and oppression of the other, which in this case is the inner feminine.

The second time, the princess transforms herself into a swan (I think everything in the tale points to her transformation into a swan, rather than a cuckoo).  Here, it is as if the next stage in her transformation must be via the outer masculine, the force of acting in the world.  So, it seems to me, that the feminine can be harmed by the patriarchy and must learn to deal with the world in a different guise, going about her work without attracting unwanted attention until the time is right.  The ripeness is all, as Hamlet says.

When the prince burns her frogskins, but she is not ready, I think that this is just how life is.  The masculine principle, by its nature acts in the world, with imperfect understanding, and makes mistakes, and yet it is by this mistake that the frog princess flies into the inner realm for the next stage in her evolution, separate from the masculine.  It is by this seeming “mistake” that the prince commences his inner journey.  It is the rightness of our desire that transforms our actions.

So, in this story, after I write this, I realise that what shines through is the desire of all of us as seekers, for love and for union with the divine.  Whatever the harm that is done to us, as the princess is caught up in the spell of the jealous king, we have to discover our inner, deep knowing and trust in the process, as the frog princess trusts that her beautiful shirt and bread will be known as the work of a princess.  Then, when, the prince burns her frogskins, this is like when we find ourselves thrust out without protection, without being prepared, and yet must see and recognise this as a time for reflection and inner growth, just as the frog princess does.  Only then can both the masculine and the feminine be united in divine harmony.

Christine

 

 

 

The Witch and the Angel do not discriminate

Petru's beautiful horse

 

It has puzzled me for a long time as to why the witch Birscha (in The Fairy of the Dawn story) seems to have aided, not only Petru (our hero) but also his brothers, who wished to steal the ‘water of life’ which had been so hard won. They were prepared to kill him for the power this water would give them over the Emperor their father and the whole land.

Many years ago, an elderly Sufi teacher told me that the Angels do not discriminate; this was why anyone (even the mafia) could pray to Angels and expect their help. Angels are beyond the so-called rights and wrongs of humanity – for them there is no heaven and there is no hell. Thus, the angelic beings must come to earth, to learn about evil – so as to discriminate between good and evil. The angelic beings on earth are therefore faced with great evil, so that they can learn. I found this very comforting as it gave meaning to my own encounter with Evil. Evil is Live spelt backwards so that it is indeed about death, death of body and soul.

The witch Birscha taught Petru so that he could manifest his beautiful and magical horse to guide and advise him on his journey. It was with his horse that he was able to find the sacred water from the well of the Fairy of the Dawn. On his return, he is advised by the Goddess Mercury, to trust no one. This Goddess had previously given Petru a magic device so that he could see and hear what was happening back home with his father, the Emperor. He knew but did not want to believe that his brothers were trying to overthrow their father. He was so upset by this that he smashed the magic device. It was Birscha who told Petru’s brothers that he was returning home with the Water of life. Why did she do that? In pondering this I realised that Petru’s denial of what he had been shown was his last weakness, the last lesson that he had to learn; to distrust even the brothers whom he loved. To heed the warning of the Goddess and his intuition and not be lead astray at the very last minute of his journey.

It was only when he heard the neigh of his beautiful horse, his inner teacher, that he came to his senses and so managed to avoid his own death and destruction, and the loss of his prize, the sacred water. With this he returned to heal his Father and the whole Kingdom.

There is a higher and greater purpose which the Witch and the Angel serve.