THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE: EMPTYING OF THE UNCONSCIOUS

For some time now I’ve been absolutely fixated on the “perfection” of a sphere. This shape exists everywhere in the cosmos… planets, comets, mercury droplets, some fruits, air bubbles in water, soap bubbles in air, and so on. Absolutely amazing….

Like the sphere, the spiral shape is also “popular” in life. In fact, some ancient cultures (e.g. in Māoridom, prehistoric Columbian cultures, early Polynesian cultures, etc.) considered the spiral as a SACRED depiction. As of late, many connections regarding the spiral shape have become more evident: it didn’t take me long to see that the Fibonacci spiral, the understandings of shamanic consciousness, the formation of elemental table, natural spirals in nature, expansion of galaxies, and the levels of human consciousness ― all show how integral the spherically-generated spiral is to truly sacred geometry (see diagrams outlined below)

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In some cultures, the double spiral is a symbol of eternal life. The symbol spirals out infinitely, thus reinforcing the concept of life, death, and rebirth. The whorls represent the continuous creation and destruction of the universe, or the relationship of the finite to the infinite; the never ending spiral of life to death, and back again. The double spiral is related to the yin-yang symbol, which depicts the balance and the interwoven nature of the worldly realm and the spiritual realm.

The labyrinth is also a complex spiral. The spiral has been in use since ancient times and speaks of movement, of waxing and waning, of death and rebirth (Biedermann, 1994; Cooper, 1978; Purce, 1974; Streep, 1994; West, 2000). A labyrinth is unicursal; which means there is only one way into the center and back out (Curry, 2000; Kern, 2000; La Torre, 2004; Peel, 2004). Since one cannot get lost in a labyrinth, the walker is free to enter deeply into a meditative state, to still the mind and pay attention “to the body, the wisdom of the heart, and the graces of being rather than doing” (West, 2000, p. 5). Walking a labyrinth, then, can be a spiritual exercise used to help open our hearts and to follow our individual life paths (Artress, 1995; Griswold, 2001). Indeed, West (2000) describes the labyrinth this way:

The labyrinth is a powerful spiritual symbol that speaks to our souls in a way that transcends all. All spiritual traditions speak of life as a path, a spiritual journey, with its own twists and unexpected turns, to the heart of the Spirit. Walking the labyrinth can help people step foot once again on their own paths, helping them to remember their own lives as spiritual journeys (p. 9).

Artress (1995) adds that the “labyrinth is a spiritual tool meant to awaken us to the deep rhythm that unites us to ourselves and to the Light that calls from within. In surrendering to the winding path, the soul finds healing and wholeness” (p. xii). Sometimes the lessons of the labyrinth are powerful, sometimes subtle (Curry, 2000), but by symbolically surrendering to the challenges we face on our life’s journey, we make space for “the healing energy of Spirit” to enter (West, 2000). Thomas Keating (1997) mentions the spiral staircase; where the bottom of the staircase corresponds to our first conversion, the time when we first commit ourselves to follow Jesus. Soon afterwards, we usually have to deal with some particular set of temptations, failures, addictions, or compulsions.

The movement into the real work of the spiritual journey takes place not on our initiative, because we probably would stay in our first fervour forever, if we could. The Spirit as our loving therapist invites us to look at the next level of our life and to see if that, too, can be rescued from its limitations.  My enthusiasm for various devotional practices and activities seem to disappear periodically… God, too, seems to withdraw, to my great distress or consternation. Instead of being present during our time of prayer, God seems not to show up anymore; it feels as if He couldn’t care less about me or my prayers. The thought arises, “God has abandoned me!”

When the dryness is extreme, I suspect my tendency is to project onto God the way we would feel in a similar deteriorating relationship with another human being; namely, hopeless. At this point a lot of people, including myself, often feel like throwing in the towel and say things like, “The spiritual journey is not for me.” At this juncture, it seems like impossibility that one can even understand the journey, let alone partake in it! The real question here is: “What does one do next”? I think it was at this point that I began to re-experience the Men’s Rights-of-Passage, which spoke to me deeply of the transformation required by these men and myself. I realized also the truth that “You can’t go back” once the descent journey is begun… like the Abrahamic Journey, there is no going back to what was…

 

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