— “Why not become fire?” (c) Cat Charissage, 2015
In the early Christian church, men and women went out into the deserts of Egypt and Sinai, fleeing the materialism and secularism of the cities. This was in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries. We have many stories of them, and this is one:
“Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditations and contemplative silence; and according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts; now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?”
Why not become fired, indeed? The intention for this painting is “Show me my Tree of Life, burning but unconsumed.” The story of Moses seeing the bush burning, but not being consumed, is deeply meaningful for me, because if we had the eyes to see, I believe that we could see all of the world that way.
As quantum physics is to classical physics, the imaginal realm is to material reality. The regular rules just don’t apply anymore, and everything is filled with wonder and paradox. What we observe seems to be impossible, yet here it is. Although not ordinary, this, too, is a legitimate way to view reality. Truly, everything is so much more than what we see at first glance. Everyone is so much more than who we know at first meeting.
Let’s just start with the fact that there is something rather than nothing. Awe-full enough! Then there are Black Holes and Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” Schroedinger’s cat, rainbows in every raindrop, and love. I want to know this reality in every moment, and let go of the overintellectualization and oversophistication of the cynical. I want to let the lamps of my fingers, the light of who I am, illumine what is invisible and dream of what might be possible.
May my mantra become, as Jacob exclaimed about the place where he had his dream of angels moving up and down the staircase to heaven, “How filled with awe is this place, and I, I did not know it!”
I leave tomorrow for my fifth year of training at Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Mysterium. It will be a few days of travel, and five very full days illuminating what is usually invisible. Dr. E. is a poet and curandera, as well as a Jungian psychotherapist. She speaks in metaphor and story, more clearly than anyone else I’ve learned from. There is music in her language, imaging up incantations and prayers of old women. I call the Mysterium my yearly pilgrimage, because I always come home deeper and more open to wonder and possibility. I will carry all of you, my friends, with me in my heart.
Why not become fire?