The Original Lie (The Wolf & The Goddess)
By Jim Wert
The Context: A decade ago, I spent a weekend in Chicago with a group of about 25 men and women, African-American and White, from around the United States, doing intense work on the issue of race with the intention of discovering and healing the attitudes and beliefs we all carry about race. It was not an easy weekend as uncomfortable truths were stirred and anger sometime erupted within groups of the same race or gender as well as across the lines between groups. For several years after that, we carried on equally intense discussions of these issues on-line even as some of us were continuing to participate in further training and workshops on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other foci of oppression.
About 16 months after our original weekend, a Black woman remerged on our discussion list with a lot of anger. “I have stepped through the blanket of lies and illusions, which brings me to these questions. How far have you and I gone back? What is the original lie? ….How far back can we go to recapture what was so subtly taken/dishonored?” There was more and the cumulative affect was to move me beyond words in my own office and I had to sit with it for a while. I remembered well the energy she brought to the weekend and I could feel it even in pixels on a screen.
How far have we gone back and what is the original lie? The questions dropped me right back into one of the most powerful processes I’ve ever experienced (which occurred 6 or 8 months before that weekend in Chicago). It had given me a glimpse of the earliest days of the Patriarchy. As memories of that process welled up and began to haunt me, I put them down on paper for my friend, for myself, and now for you.
The Story: The experience I relate here occurred the second time I attended a weekend intensive designed to uncover and eliminate core limiting beliefs we subconsciously carry in our bodies. Hypnosis and bodywork techniques are tools used to access the source of these core beliefs in the body. Then various methods, both modern and ancient, are brought to bear in a powerful group process in order to transform the belief. At least that is the idea.
The facilitator for this experience is a “wizard”, in my judgment. With graduate degrees from a prestigious American university in comparative religion, shamanism, and Jungian psychology, he had at the time of this weekend at least 25 years of training and experience in theatre, group process, Gestalt therapy, hypnosis, psychosynthesis, and NLP. And he had been conducting these weekends as well as similar work full-time at his school for at least 15 years. It was a setting in which magic would and did happen.
Each intensive consists of a maximum of 11 participants and 1 or 2 apprentice facilitators who assist the facilitator in the work. The 1st day of the weekend is spent in a variety of exercises to help the group bond with each other and create the container, get in touch with our wounds and our inner children, and resolve any conflicts or discomfort between or among members. The next two days are spent with each person having a 2-hour process under hypnosis with the active participation of all the group members. In my process at the 1st weekend intensive I had attended, I went back while in the trance state to a point when I was about 10 and re-experienced my father as the minister in the little church in which I grew up. It involved deep work around my father, had a powerful impact, and was a deeply transforming process.
It begins: I began my process on the 2nd intensive on the floor on my back, with music playing softly, and the facilitator lying beside me on the floor inviting me to bring my consciousness down into my body, follow my breath, and allow the music to take me back wherever it was I needed to go. I had not identified any specific issue I wanted to work on. We were 4 or 5 men and 6 women participants with a high degree of trust and willingness to share, so anything was possible.
As I lay with my eyes closed, going deeper into a trance state, following the facilitator’s voice and the music as they invited me to go back, and to keep going deeper, I began to see flashes of pictures from earlier in my life occasionally, not continuously. It was a bit like watching a blank TV screen while a VCR is rewinding only occasionally a picture would flash on the screen momentarily [pre-DVD days by and large]. I saw the picture of myself in the church as a 10 year old, which is where I had stopped in my previous weekend intensive but not today. Then I had a few glimpses of me at even earlier ages in the house and yard where I grew up. Then there seemed to be a long period where there was nothing to see, everything was black and I was going back, much farther back.
Suddenly a whole fully developed panoramic scene presented itself, and I was on the deck of an old wooden sailing vessel far at sea on a bright sunny day. I had a vivid sense of the smell of the salty air, and I could feel the wind rushing through my hair, and my body immediately began responding to the rolling of the ship on the sea. As I rocked and rolled on the floor with the pitch of the ship, I could see other members of the crew of the ship of which I was a part. It seemed to be a pirate ship as there were fighting implements all around but it was not a warship.
As I lay there enjoying the scene and wondering what I was to do with this, suddenly the sounds, the smell, the vision of the ship, the rolling waves, the feel of the wind vanished and everything went pitch black. As I followed the music and related to the facilitator that the scene I had been describing had vanished and it seemed I was to go back even further, it remained black and I seemed to be going back, further and further, surely further than I had ever consciously imagined myself to be.
Then it seemed, somehow, that I had stopped; but everything was still black and my senses went on very heightened alert all on their own. I sensed I was somewhere now, no longer in a black void. I couldn’t see or hear anything, although I was starting to get the sense of the smell of earth, a damp earth, a woodsy smell. As I waited and watched, I began to hear the sound of drums, and as I peered ever more intently into the darkness I saw in the middle distance ahead a slight unsteady spot of light and as I drew closer, I began to see that it was maybe a fire; yes, I could see a little more clearly. It is a fire. And I am in the woods. It is night; so that’s why I can’t see very well.
It is a very black night, with no moon, not even any stars are visible. And I can now see mists swirling through the air as I approach the fire and then the smoke of the fire mixes with the mist. The drumming grows louder and more intense. It is a large fire and around the fire are men dancing, in trance, invoking the gods, with paint on their faces, and I am with them. We are dressed in skins and I feel the roughness of the hide rubbing my body as I dance. The frenzy and the drumming builds as the ritual we are clearly embodying proceeds. The fire is hot and sparks snap and crackle as they rise in the clearing and disappear into the blackness. I feel sweat running down my face, and I breath the smoke that permeates the clearing.
Around the edges the shadows dance as the fire roars. It is hard to see how we are painted as the flickering fire and the shadows seem to paint multicolored designs on us as we dance. Now I realize we are brandishing crude weapons, spears, maybe an axe or 2, it is all a bit vague but it is clearly strong, male warrior energy.
Then some men, with shouts, with a kind of chant really, rush to the fire and grab burning sticks and run in a circle around the fire and then head off into the woods. The drumming stops abruptly. We all grab sticks, and holding them high, now run silently through the dark woods, holding our torches, intent on our mission. I sense the rocks and ground under my bare feet as I run, sometimes a root or a low branch reaches out and snags a foot as I run. I quickly recover and plunge on through the darkness seeing the lights of sticks bobbing into, and just as quickly out of, view in front of me and I hear the panting and the running feet of the men behind me as I run, wondering in the observer part of me where we are going and what the sense of mission and urgency is about that I feel from all the men. It is the darkest part of the night/early morning and it is hard to see even with the smoking flickering torch.
Just as suddenly, we are out of the woods and here in a clearing are some rude huts, built with some few stones, some branches, and skins on the walls and roofs, and laid out in a kind of pattern that I don’t as yet understand. With ferocity we attack, now screaming and filling the air with our anger and our determination. Some of us thrust our torches into the wood of the buildings and set them on fire; others of us strike down, with our spears and axes, the people stumbling out of the buildings. With a fury we continue to strike, as they scream, some dumbly, most groggily and in a panic. Now the screams of the dying fill the air as well and the air becomes choked with the stench of burning buildings, burning hair, and burning flesh. The clearing brightens as the fires build up.
We approach a building in the center of the settlement. It is the primary object of our attack and we pull it apart and as another person comes out, a woman, I strike her with my spear and suddenly I realize: the inhabitants have all been women, with the exception of a few children whose high-pitched screams were quickly silenced. We redouble our efforts to slay the women coming out of this central building and I realize at last, yes, this is a site sacred to a Goddess and these are Her priestesses. We are in a demented and determined frame of mind as we seek to obliterate this place from our world, as if its very existence was an offense to us.
Just as quickly, it is all over, and we stop. The moans of the dying can be heard, the fires are dying down and the smoke becomes denser and soon the darkness and the smoke obliterate the picture and we begin to straggle off into the woods.
At this point, the facilitator helps me up off the floor, my eyes are opening up for the first time, and I see women (fellow participants) scattered around the floor in various postures. Some are silent, others moan and writhe in pain, and a few sob inconsolably. He leads me to one lying in the center and I get down on my knees in front of her, still in a trance state. She is a priestess, I can sense that, and she is the woman I struck with my spear. As she lies dying, silently bearing her pain with stoicism, she looks up at me with uncomprehending eyes and the eyes bore through me as though they have an unlimited intensity, even as the life force is clearly ebbing from her. She opens her mouth and tries to speak, but no sound comes. She tries again and this time I hear a faint “Why?” that kicks through my consciousness as though it were an explosive force. “Why have you done this to us?”
I watch her mutely, not knowing what to say as I suffer the horror, the horror of the growing awareness that this is what I have done. This is what my anger and ignorance has brought forth. I have no answer. I close my eyes and go back inside, drawing my breath down into my body, go even deeper, as the music softly swirls through me, and from deep in my body a bubble rises up through me and out through my mouth and now the bubble spews words and the words say “We want the power. You have the power, we see that, and we men want it and we slew you to get it”.
Now I open my eyes and watch her as she hears the words and her eyes continue to show incomprehension, even as she hears my words. She watches me as she grows weaker, and then she tells me: “But this isn’t power you can take, even though you are welcome to it. You can claim it for yourself. Don’t you see? You can be powerful. Be powerful. But you can’t take power from us. It’s not like that at all.”
And I then began to comprehend at a primal level what I really only had a notion of before: the lie of the patriarchy, the lie of dominance. How diminished I now felt. Fresh from my seeming triumph, I felt sick to the core.
What followed then was a process of integration and I don’t remember now just exactly what that looked like. I recollect that it involved claiming my authentic masculine power as a man and beginning to reconnect with my feminine energy—the nurturing, creative, and cooperative energy. It involved recognizing and realizing that the power of domination is not a true power and that I can only come into my power when I release the illusion of domination.
The intensity of the work is hard to describe. All the participants support each others process and facilitator’s tool bag is awesome. For example, I learned after my process, as we de-roled and spent 10 or 15 minutes debriefing, that as I described the drumming, someone was given a drum to beat at the tempo I described (which I didn’t remember describing). As I described the fire and the dancing, they lit candles and carefully held the flame near my face so I could feel the heat and smell the flame. As I described the dancing and the shouting, the men began to yell and chant in conformity with my description and someone slapped a small branch against my face as I ran. When we attacked the village the women began to scream as I described it, and a few people quickly snipped a few locks of hair to burn in the candle near my nose so that as I described the smell of burning hair, the room soon began to smell like burning hair, although I was unaware of all of this. From start to finish, my process took the full 2 hours.
Now I don’t hold any particular belief about what my process involved. Today, it feels like a Remembering. In my 2 weekends, my sense is that about 2/3 of the participants go back to an incident early in their own life and about 1/3 go somewhere else. Whether you consider that a past life regression, a connection to a parallel universe, a connection with one’s dreaming body, a visualization drawn from the subconscious based on an inner unresolved conflict, or something else altogether, doesn’t really concern me. I will say that of those processes I have participated in that seem to involve what could be called a past life, the situation experienced in the process involves a conflict (conscious or subconscious) in the person’s life today. And I consider it totally possible that we carry in our bodies the actual spirits and emotions of our ancestors just as we carry their genes. Who am I, really? And if we do, why shouldn’t we be able to access that?
It seems strange to me that I didn’t recollect this experience directly as I read the Daniel Quinn books or A Language Older Than Words with the on-line group a year after the Chicago weekend. I certainly carried some consciousness of the learning and the experience of that weekend at all times. The intensive occurred just about 6 months before the weekend in Chicago so in some synchronicitous way, perhaps the Universe and the ancestors were preparing me for the multicultural awareness work to follow. Now it seems very possible to see my process as connected in some way with what Quinn calls the “Great Forgetting” and what the sister who spoke to me so powerfully calls the “original lie”. As I said, her e-mail floored me and I read it through a number of times. After the 1st reading, I went right back to Ishmael and its progeny, and as I reread it and reread it again, I flipped right back into the deepest recollection I have had of my intensive process since that weekend. I think it was all the female energy, the female hurting, and not being heard as a woman or as a black person that I felt from the woman who sent the e-mail. I heard and felt her anger and her pain and her search to “recapture parts of [her] that had been repressed, denied and dishonored”. I heard that she “had stepped thru the blanket of lies and illusions,…”. And I heard her asked to be heard and respected as a woman, and have her anger heard and honored. That’s when I wrote down the recollection of the regression experience for the 1st time.
Postscript: What was/is the significance of the regression experience for me? The horror of it is still real and yet is not real. I can’t imagine myself doing anything like this. I just can’t imagine it! And yet here I had a whole process around it that came out of me! Out of ME?!?! The privileges of being a male in a patriarchy-based culture had been largely invisible to me, until I began this inner exploration and multicultural awareness work. Now there is at least some part of me that understands what those invisible parts are based on and how they affect my relationship to women and my view of myself as I, too, struggle to step through the blanket of lies and illusions my friend described.
In the 9 years that has passed, since I first wrote down the original account it has become increasingly clear that my process represented a dichotomy and healing at multiple levels. Dale Allen has described this far more succinctly than I could: “In our left-brain dominant culture, we define humanity according to left-brain characteristics, and we have relegated right-brain ‘feminine’ characteristics to secondary status. We call war human nature, and peace an impractical ideal. We sing praises of women’s traditional work of nurturing. Yet those who do the work of caring for children or the infirm and elderly are relegated to the lower economical, social and political rungs. Nurturing is denigrated as ‘non work’. We cannot easily view sexuality and sensuality as holy expressions, for we have come to perceive sexuality through the lens of the left-brain with its themes of dominance, power and ownership.”
To sum up, at the cultural level I was shown graphically that aggression and dominance is not power. It intensified my willingness to explore how the creation of an Other, in a dominance-centered culture, be it the foreigner, nature, women, or another race, is a differentiation that is simply an ego-enhancement mechanism for permitting individuals and groups of the Other to be dismissed or oppressed. But most significant for me, I believe, was the way I was shown how a split within my own psyche resulted from this dominance-centered culture. How many of my own feelings have I been required, totally unconsciously, to repress or deny, because “real men” are only men by virtue of having repressed or denied them? How much and how many of my own abilities and capacities were smothered by the attitudes and beliefs I caught from the dominant culture or were channeled into narrow, regimented forms of “acceptable” behavior? The construct that I was “whole and complete” in my separated state and that dominance is the natural order, I believe, was the Original Lie.
There are many today, including myself, who are energized about reincorporating feminine and masculine energies in balance together: groups and individuals envisioning the return of balance and harmony to the world, protecting our natural environment, and welcoming the return of the Divine Feminine. To this point, I return to Dale Allen: For her a “feminine voice, She Who Dwells Within every human psyche at our deepest collective level [emphasis added], broke free of Her suppression and confirmed in a brilliant instant, my gut level ‘knowing’: power hierarchies, war, environmental destruction, a world in which children suffer and grow to repeat the same patterns of pain –this is not the only reality for humans. A world of peaceful co-existence, harmony with the natural world, honoring of the human body and all life forms as sacred in the here and now – a world in which children are safe and can thrive in the expression of their own unique beauty and divinity – this is our birthright. Our history and contemporary matriarchal cultures show us pieces of what is possible.”
“Many people on the planet are opening up to higher levels of consciousness, but the journey will be flimsy and without foundation if we do not simultaneously go deep into our psychic core[emphasis added]. ‘The Mother has left memory in us all.’.” Our lack of awareness of the existence of the Mother within us is, in my judgment, what Daniel Quinn has referred to as the “Great Forgetting”.
At the risk of sounding presumptuous and at the risk of offending any individual member of a group that has been oppressed by the culture of dominance (which is not my intent), I believe I was led into an experience at my psychic core by the Mother to give me a glimpse of the depth and breadth of her oppression and impel me to begin to participate in the hard work, and the Joyful Play, of opening myself and the planet to higher levels of consciousness. Ashe’.
Quotes from Dale Allen, author and playwright, on her “In Our Right Minds” website: http://www.inourrightminds.com
More information on Lori Karels artwork on her website: http://lorikarels.com/