Nawab’s reply to my last blog has really shown the difficulty of the descent into the ashes and the hardship endured for spiritual purposes.
He wrote:- ‘Another way of seeing the death of Zezolla’s mother is: the birth of the independence of the soul, no longer tied to the Source from which we come. Then the descent into the ashes is a perfectly clear picture of every soul’s descent into the world of hard labour and limitation. What makes Zezolla remarkable is that her exile becomes her apprenticeship, and she becomes able to reclaim her royal nature. The ancient Hindus called hardship endured for spiritual purposes ‘tapasya’, meaning purification by fire, and it was the practice of some yogis to go and sit among the cinders of the cremation grounds as a way of mastering themselves.’
The apprenticeship is difficult, and it is a long one. It is not something that can or should be done quickly – it needs patience and Perseverance. The purification by fire is also painful – we see this in the fairy tales we are studying.
The longing for the Divine Sophia or Source which we have ‘lost’ is both painful and yet drives us on the do the Inner Work. The longing that we have for the Divine Source, points us to the Goal of our journey.
When Petru returns from the Fairy of the dawn with the magical water of life, the Goddess warns him:
‘Beware of your life; make friends with no man, do not ride fast, or let the water go out of your hand, believe no one; and flee flattering tongues. Go, take care, for the way is long, the world is bad, and you hold something very precious.’
Having achieved some level of insight or enlightenment, we begin to see the world and the people in it acting and reacting from ego. It reminds me of the old Indian legend where a young man asks his Teacher to show him a clear vision of the world as it is. When the cover was lifted from his eyes, he saw every human being with the face of some animal, except one, the Teacher himself. All these animals are within us, so we recognise them in others. This can cause us to react to these aspects of ourselves in others in a very harsh way. Our task is to master these ‘animals’ by the practices we are given by our Teacher; but it can make the spiritual life a very lonely one. Who can we trust?
The animals which Prince Ivan meets in the story of the Frog Princess, are aspects of himself which he does not like and immediately wants to kill them. We repress the parts of ourselves we do not like or want. Often they are not negative but powerful and fierce, like the ferocious bear. Girls especially, are not encouraged to nurture this in themselves. I certainly repressed this side of myself. Similarly the speedy and tricky hare, although an aspect of the Great Mother, is not honoured. So it is with all the animals that Prince Ivan encounters. But the all animals beg him to spare them, as they will be useful in his journey later. When we have mastered our inner animals, we no longer fear them and can use them appropriately. We can also have compassion for others who are held captive, or in thrall to them. These aspects are in control rather than the person. We see this in the addictions and in the violence, which beset us.
We need a Teacher for this work – a Being who knows and understand the path, who has fought his or her own demons, and who can mirror back to us, these ’animal’ aspects of ourselves, and guide us towards mastery. We are given practices, just as Cenerentola was given by the Dove of the fairies, so that slowly, over the years, we can re-claim our royal nature.