“The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the ‘Living Infinite’…” –Jules Verne, [Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea p.58]
“If the grace of God miraculously operates, it probably operates through the subliminal door, then. But just how anything operates in this region is still unexplained…” -William James [The Varieties of Religious Experiences p. 265]
“I don’t want to go to hell
But if I do it’ll be ’cause of you
And a young man’s gonna make mistakes
‘Til he hits the brakes.
My heart’s on fire
With a strange desire.”
-The Black Keys, Strange Desire
The nights during the apex of my recurring dreams were quite odd. It was not a fear of any kind, it was a frustration. It sometimes felt like I was listening to one part of a bumpy record, over and over and over. Not only had a grown a distaste for the song now, but I wanted to snap the whole record in half and toss it out.
On one of these nights, hitting a bong until I was too sedated to do anything but sleep, I found myself yet again in the same dream as before. Once again, I was adrift on a raft made of tied logs in the middle of the hot ocean. I found myself laying down, waking up from a midday nap.
The sun beat me down steadily, I could feel the pulse of the heat and my throat was parched. I pushed myself up onto my elbows, still laying down, and looked around the raft.
Here again, I thought to myself. What the hell is it gonna take to get out here?
There was nothing but a lawn chair and a mast—the usual.
But then I saw Ramona, the mermaid, yet again. This time I tried to ignore her and her songs. They were alluring, haunting, and the desire they stirred within me did not seem to hypnotize me effortlessly—it enraged me. I felt the desire but somehow, instead of losing myself within it, I fought against it. I noticed the foreign nature, the ambiguity of such a hypnosis, and I resisted as best I could. But this, in and of itself, seemed to create its own locked, hypnotic state that I couldn’t break.
Eventually I stood up on the raft and shouted obscenities at her. “Why don’t you just kill me now and spare me these stupid games, ya fishy whore! I can smell you from here!” I didn’t want to hurt her, but I genuinely wanted her to hurt me and put me out of my misery.
Eventually, she swam up to the raft and rested her elbows on the corner opposite me. I watched patiently, cautiously.
I asked her, after a pause, “What’s your game, Ramona?”
“Since you first came from the ocean, I am glad to see that you continue to sail. But you wouldn’t believe the things I have seen, sailor.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed half of a joint on the armrest of the lawn chair. I picked it up and lit it with a lighter from my pocket, inhaling deeply. “I can only imagine the darkness at a depth at like,” I said with the exhale. “How can you see anything?”
“There’s a lot more to see than the two eyes show us,” she replied to me, giggling. “Do you trust me?”
I mulled the question over for a moment and leaned up against the mast of my raft. “Not really at all, but… I don’t see anything else out here. What’ve you got for me?”
“Dunk your head in the water and look under the raft. Over towards me on the other side. Understand?”
What if she ate me down there, or kept me a prisoner of circumstance aboard a monolithic structure, Captain-Nemo-style? On the other hand–what if she gave me gills and brought me to Atlantis? I decided to take my chances. “Okay, let’s find some sort of conclusion here. I’ll buy.” I got on my hands and knees, ready to submerge my head, when I looked over my shoulder at her one more time. “I’ll see you on the other side, yeah?”
She giggled and winked at me. I wasn’t sure whether to be unnerved or comforted.
Begrudgingly, I pressed my face into the cold water, closing my eyes instinctually. When my eyes were in position, looking underneath the raft to Ramona, I opened them and saw her fully submerged in the water, waving at me. Her skin and scales gave off a steady, luminescent glow that lit up the water all around us.
It’s different on the other side of the waters, she said to me telepathically.
Evidently, I thought to her as I began to look around a bit.
When she noticed my curiosity, she voiced a warning and swam a little closer to me. Careful, it’s best to take things one step at a time. There’s a lot to see down here that you aren’t ready for.
As she finished her thought, I saw something deep down, what seemed like thousands of feet below. It was titanic, inconceivably large, like an ocean beneath the ocean. As it moved, Ramona’s light glistened off it ever so faintly. Suddenly, I realized that it was a creature, and out of utter shock, I lost my grip on the raft and slid into the water.
You dumb sailors! I heard her shout at me, echoing in my mind as I awoke in my bed.
As I gasped for air, I slowly came to realize where I was, and it seemed to comfort me no less. I still felt like I was drowning in open water, but in a different way. Amidst my drab room in the middle of the night, I smashed my alarm clock against the wall and shouted a few resonating curse words. What the hell was going on here? What did I see in the depths of the water? How did any part of this situation make any sense? I felt alone, but I remembered Ramona’s luminescence and felt a source of faint but steady strength—and even that made hardly any sense.
People often fail to find much value in the spiritual because they are afraid of the plunge, and even if they do plunge, they don’t know how deep to go or how deep they can go, or if they will ever remember the way home. Many people give up halfway through the journey because they don’t understand that it can sometimes take twenty-thousand leagues before we dive deep enough to find anything monolithic. It is usually in the deepest, darkest depths that we tend to find the brightest light—eventually. And if not for the juxtaposition of the depths, we would have never recognized the light, thus like the Ying and Yang, the dark brings forth the light. Admittedly, the light will be briefly set aside in this chapter, but rest assured that diagnosing an ailment is a critical first-step towards aiming the treatment methods.
This chapter will analyze the initial facets of the anima and its relationship to the individual psyche. Seeing as how a diagnosis must be first obtained before the proper medicine can be administered, we will be first analyzing the darker aspects of the anima—the anima that is paid attention firstly by the shadow. Rest assured that further chapters will discuss the beatific aspects of the anima as well.
(Briefly, for my feminine readers out there: the animus is a bit of a different story. The same rules apply whether to the anima or animus, Great Mother or Great Father, but the vantage point is a bit of a different story. When I discuss the anima, you may rest assured that the story is applicable to the woman’s quest to reconcile her animus—but it will need to be fleshed out further from the feminine perspective in order to understand the minutia. For initial study on the animus, I recommend The Cassandra Complex by Laurie Layton Shapira.)
The individuation process—the coniunctio or alchemical marriage of opposites, leading to the rebirth of the psyche—is the process that leads a person to reconciliation with their “soul” through their “spirit” and/or the “spirits”. The soul is the unconscious epicenter, the nexus or cornerstone of the individual psyche—this is the part of the mind that constitutes the fractal because a fractal implies two separate units identical to one another yet with varied size. This is the boundary between the subjective and objective.
Let us also remember that the anima/animus are transpersonal states of a person’s psyche that rests beyond the archetypal shadow—the blackness of the ocean’s depths and what is hidden within it. Recall the contents of Chapter Six, and the discussion of the soul and spirit. This in mind, note the fact that anima is Latin for the soul, and animus for the spirit.
Consider a Ven-diagram, the Anima and the Animus being the two interlacing circles, i.e. the Unconscious and Conscious; Feminine and Masculine; Negative and Positive; Soul and Spirit; Chaos and Order; the Trees of Death and of Life; the Waves and the Shore. None of these are meant to represent the classical forms of biological femininity and masculinity—although all these ideas were classically personified by the differences in the biological sexes. When speaking of symbolism, the biological sexes are derivatives, not axioms. They are ancient ways of explaining forces that affect both men and women, with specialized ratios naturally arising in both men and women. It is important to understand that this conversation is not any sort of “socio-cultural gender normalization” nor is it a conversation of good and bad—this is purely a dissection of evolutionary psychology and how archetypes deterministically constitute our culture.
When processing the unconscious self, we first encounter the shadow—that which represents all we do not know about ourselves. Eventually, after wrestling with the shadow, the anima of a man or the animus of a woman may be integrated. Reconciliation with the anima/animus represents the alchemical marriage, thus, once again, leading to the rebirth of the psyche in the truer nature of the soul or unconscious epicenter.
To explain this in some esoteric terms, take the symbolism of Hiram Abiff, the archetypal Freemason. He was the son of a widow. The unconscious mind is here represented by the widow being abandoned by the order of the conscious mind, thus creating chaos. The Hiramic legend is the reinstatement of the son or the sun, much in the same archetypal way of Christ. It is important to remember here that this is a reinstatement, for Hiram would not have been born without his father, the metallurgist. The archetype of the son, even Christ, is specifically emphasized through the resurrection of the daylight. It is not the actual daylight itself—that is the Father—but the son is that which paves the way for the return of the Father’s energy.
The point to be made here is that even when the conscious experience has been allegorically seized from the unconscious mind through trauma, the widow’s son can live on and thrive and bring rise to the nature of the archetypal Great Father. Of course, this couldn’t be done without the Great Mother, and the “son” is meant to personify this positively-charged energy within both the man and woman, son and daughter. It’s a celebration of the archetypal family-unit as a whole—the Russian-doll of human civilization.
From the words of an alchemist colleague of mine, “The Great Father is a constructor, and a killer. The Great Mother is a birther and devourer. The Great Father is an Externalizer, the Great Mother an Internalizer.” The Anima and Animus, the Great or Divine Mother and Father archetypes within the mind, are like the primary servers of consciousness, in computer-terminology.
Ultimately, this describes the obstacles and advantages of each sex—namely, that men seek mostly to fit chaotic nature into a box, while women seek to account naturally for the chaos around them. Both are specified modes of adaptation that are geared slightly differently. Let us not forget the myth of Pandora’s box, which personifies the chaos of the infinite and the box that we ever attempt to squish it into.
Additionally, as a brief aside, some Jungians tend to associate the anima with something only a man interacts with, and the animus as something only the woman interacts with. However, I think this is an extreme overcomplication, and it is much more efficient and cogent to relate the anima and animus directly to the Great Mother and Father. Even the Jungian sees the anima and animus as derivations of the greater modalities. Furthermore, I don’t think that this simplification deviates the data at hand or any interpretations therein.
A couple weeks after my dream that began this chapter, I was given a free ticket to a show in Anchorage—a handful of popular punk and metal bands were coming up from the Lower Forty-Eight (states) and letting some local acts open for them. I had a penchant for some heavy metal and hardcore (and still do), and I really needed to get out of the house. The friend that gave me the ticket, Mick, was working security for the show, so I would know at least one person there.
I also figured, since it was an outdoor show before winter, it would be an opportunity to soak up the last bit of good sunlight. I grabbed a sack of weed, a pouch of tobacco, and a vodka-screwdriver in a thermos that was spiked with lots of kratom and valerian root extract. Mick and I were going to stay plenty fucked up for this day-long show.
I showed up a little late, which proved to be a great move. I hadn’t considered that Ramona’s boyfriend was a member of a local band, and there was every chance that he had secured one of the multiple slots for local talent at the show.
I asked Mick if the boyfriend’s band had played, and he said they’d gone onstage about an hour before I showed up.
I sighed, relieved, but then felt my sigh drop my heart into my stomach. The more I thought, the more I realized that there was every chance they were still around.
It took me less than five minutes to run into them—but thankfully, I went unnoticed. I was walking to the restroom, and between the Men’s Room and I stood Ramona and her boyfriend, probably forty feet away or so in the crowd. I froze, unsure of if I should change my course or not—I did really have to piss. Within the moment I had frozen stiff, he grabbed her and pulled her close as they kissed passionately. Suddenly I felt some instant karma for snooping and felt real sorry that I had ever stopped walking to the restroom. I was so full of pure frustration that it made me nauseous, so I just walked away and decided to smoke some more weed with Mick. Thank god they hadn’t seen me, and it’s another miracle that I didn’t puke.
As I walked over to Mick, I thought about what had just happened. It occurred to me that the feeling I had been struck with was identical to what I felt when I chased Ramona in my dreams. Precisely, I didn’t feel so angry during the dreams—it was both euphoric and frustrating during—but when I awoke, I always felt this same feeling that I couldn’t shake. And for the first time, I had experienced the exact feeling in fully conscious, waking life. An intersection had occurred—a crossroads. It was no longer just my reaction to a sequence of dream phenomena, it was becoming a real-life phenomenon.
This moment in the chaotic sea of people, heavy metal blaring in the background, proved to be a real turning point in my life. It was here that I realized I would have to eventually get back in touch with Ramona. I had to understand what kind of woman could cause such a stirring in my soul—no one had unveiled me as deeply as she seemed to, not even my own family. I knew that for now, however, I had to get a grip on what was occurring within me and leave her out of it.
As far as I am concerned, this was the first time I knowingly had a phenomenological encounter with the syren archetype. It was very surreal and left me with quite a bit to consider. I couldn’t let this internal conflict spill out into my real life so blaringly. It was getting worse and I had to cut this thing off at the knees somehow.
One of the strongest feelings was a self-loathing throughout it all, I hated myself for caring. I belittled myself a great deal, thought of myself as weak and useless and undeserving of any sort of resolution. I just wished that my mind would allow me to let is fall to the back of my mind forever, instead of dreaming about it all too often.
Later that night, I wondered if she had seen me at some point during the show. Perhaps she had noticed me ignore her for the rest of the time before I left. For some reason, I thought it might be a good idea to send her a message online.
I told her I saw her at the show. I didn’t want to say hi and I apologized if she had seen me ignore her.
She said she didn’t even see me there.
For some reason, I kept messaging. I remarked how I heard her boyfriend had played a good set.
She said that he did.
I folded my hand of cards, realizing what a stupid idea this conversation had been from the start. I wouldn’t speak to her again for several months.
As I went to sleep, I sulked and wondered how I had become that guy hung up on an ex-girlfriend. I felt like I was too smart to fall into this pit, but intellect really had nothing to do with it, and I couldn’t seem feel my way through the situation.
Carl Jung wrote candidly about his interactions with the anima in his book, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, saying, “I was greatly intrigued by the fact that a woman should interfere with me from within. … At first it was the negative aspect of the anima that most impressed me. I felt a little awed by her. It was like the feeling of an invisible presence in the room. Then a new idea came to me: in putting down all this material for analysis I was in effect writing letters to the anima, that is, to a part of myself with a different viewpoint from my conscious one. I got remarks on an unusual and unexpected character. I was like a patient in analysis with a ghost and a woman!” [MDR p.186-87]
In western folklore throughout, the mermaid is the typical depiction of the syren—the qualities are entirely the same, the syren is just far more specific than the general depiction of the mermaid. Both, however, lured sailors overboard with promises of untold romance and discovery—the only discovery usually being death by drowning.
It is the idea of pure unadulterated entrancement—and pure unadulterated terror results in the same outcome. It is a different type of phenomena, practically polar-opposites, yet they bring about the same oblivion of the subject.
After some study, I learned that the opposite of the syren, in the case of archetypes, is the succubus. It was here that I really started to get into the meat of the matter, for it was here that I finally stumbled onto some essentially territory: Lilith, the Queen of the Qliphoth. If we are speaking allegorically, the syren represents the danger just above the ocean line—the gateways of the qliphoth—while the succubus represents the horrors beneath the open sea, and thus within the qliphoth. Both can have the same results, but the syren seems much less severe initially, and Lilith certainly embodies both.
So, as a result of all this research into dream analysis, shamanism, and folklore, I eventually found myself researching the phenomena known as sleep paralysis and its surreal side-effect known as the shadow people. It often goes unnoted today that these shadow people have been seen throughout history, across the world for thousands of years, and became unanimous in the ancient world for the incubus and succubus (the dark anima and animus), which comes to steal the soul of the human in the night. And if we look elsewhere still, we sometimes find this same archetype also depicted unrelated to sleep and living near bodies of water, like the Slavic Rusalka or the Amazonian Yacuruna.
Each given culture obviously has its own specific lore surrounding the occurrences, but the archetypal equivalencies are all astounding—especially when considering sleep paralysis. This nocturnal terror is everywhere and has been there since the dawn of recorded history—from Africa, to Asia, all throughout Europe, the Americas, and it is not a matter of question that this is a very common human experience with biological underpinnings.
In the medieval text, The Alphabet of Ben Sira, we find the classical origin story of Lilith as it is known today in the west.
God created a female out of “filth and sediment” for Adam, and this female was named Lilith. Adam was not entirely satisfied with Lilith, and she felt the same about Adam. After a brief and disgruntled relationship, she left the garden in protest, claiming that Adam was more a slaveholder than a lover, and fled to live near the Red Sea. Here, she is said to have remained for some time, spawning over one hundred demon children a day. When God and his angels found her and demanded she return to Adam or be executed, she refused and sought vengeance by birthing the plagues of mankind, strangling young men in their sleep and “stealing their seed” in their dreams, causing epilepsy in people, and eating children from their cribs in the dead of night.
It is unknown who originally wrote this medieval text, but its influence in rabbinic studies, mysticism, and Jewish folklore is undeniable. Lilith grew to be considered the Queen of Hell, sometimes even the bride of Lucifer; although, technically, she is classically married to Samael, the archangel of death and ruler under God of the fifth sphere of Heaven. She was sometimes even associated with the very snake that tempted Adam and Even in the garden. Indeed, it is very interesting to note how Michelangelo painted a feminine snake coiled around the Tree of Knowledge in The Temptation of Adam and Eve atop the Sistine Chapel. Since it is left a bit open for debate as to what exactly the artist intended to depict, many naturally interpret this as Lilith. From an archetypal perspective, it seems hard to call Michelangelo’s serpent as anything less than Lilithian.
Today, Lilith survives overall as a poignant double-edged symbol of both feminine empowerment and destruction. As we shall discuss in a moment, the deeper nuance to the dark anima is part of the alchemical transmutation.
But the character of Lilith is much older than the ancient Kabbalists, and interestingly, the ancient stone Sumerian King List from 200 BC states that the father of Gilgamesh is a lilu, which is a Sumerian incubus or male vampire. Lilitu, ardat lili, and ardat lilu were different classifications of evil spirits. Ardat lili was the succubus.
At its earliest form, the Lilith archetype is very clearly a cultural, allegorical depiction of mental ailments, and even sometimes physical. It is a simple empirical deduction, therefore, that the earliest forms of demonology, psychoanalysis, and even literature as we know it, all began right around the same time. Consequently, the further we analyze the Lilith archetype throughout the different aspects of theological doctrines, we find that wherever Lilith follows, psychoanalysis, mental illness, and demonology are right behind.
It is at this time that I feel it necessary to supply a quote from Fortean investigator, John Keel, “The most fearsome monsters of all may inhabit the dark corners of our mind waiting for us to release them through our beliefs and gullibility. The phenomenon feeds on fear and belief. Sometimes it destroys us altogether, other times it leads us upwards into the labyrinth of electromagnetic frequencies that form a curtain in the area we call windows and stalk us to drink our blood and create all kinds of mischievous beliefs and misconceptions in our feeble little terrestrial minds.” As far as I see it, what Keel describes is in essence everything I am painstakingly laying out in this chapter. [Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings, p. 223]
For contextual reference, we may see the Eve and Lilith as two sides of the same coin, the inversions of one another. From an archetypal perspective, Aleister Crowley called the Lilithian dark anima by the name Babalon, or the Scarlet Woman.
But the history of Lilith, the dark anima, naturally parallels the history of the Great Mother archetype herself. Isis, worshipped as the Great Mother of the Egyptian Mysteries, was the mother of the cosmos, of magick, and of the arts, and of the unknown. She had a deep callousness amidst her warmth, which is illustrated well by the Egyptian mystery initiation rites. The rites themselves were perilous, traumatic, and potentially fatal, but the promise was not only a liberation of the self, but an opening to vast wealth of ancient science and lineage. True to the alchemical symbolism, Isis was equipped with a motherly love as well as a sense of wrathfulness and punished humans like a mother parenting her child. She represented a crystalized state, the coldness that the darkness can bring, and the alchemical distillation of the physical, mental and spiritual that is inclined to occur in the cold. Lilith, as a lesser aspect of the anima, is the avatar of the Great Mother’s alchemical wrath, which is the corrosion of non-useful elements so that only the essential, divine elements remain.
I would say that directly equating the Lilith archetype to the Great Mother herself would be a bit of a misnomer that goes against most of the esoteric tradition and information. But in fairness: in Vedic and Tantric philosophy, Kali is the goddess of creation and destruction, representing the cycle of birth and death, the diurnal mind-state, and the states of comfort and torment that can come from the parenting mother. To the enemies of Kali’s worshippers, she was as wrathful and demonic as a mother grizzly bear protecting her cub, and if Kali was crossed by her worshippers, she would bring wrath like a mother scorning her child. Kali, like Isis and Lilith, was represented by total blackness and the Moon.
In Babylon, the Great Mother was Ishtar, and in Mesopotamia she saw fruition as Inanna, coupled with the Babylonian inspirations of Ishtar. She then became hellenized into Ashtorteth (or Astarte). From here, her archetype developed within the Mystery Initiations with the involvement of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and to the nearby Greeks she was Ananke (but the Greeks and the Romans often called her Isis as well). While I am aware that I am being a bit reductionist, it seems from here that the Hebrew took what they had heard about the Mother of the Mysteries and turned her into the full-fledged demoness they saw her to be. Thus, eventually, the Queen of the Qliphoth was shaped into what she is today.
The question now at hand, however, is the difference between psychosis and therapy when considering spirituality. What, really, is the difference between a positive and negative spiritual experience? After all, a Christian will say that a pagan’s positive spiritual experience is actually negative. How does one scientifically separate the wheat from the chaff—the therapeutic from the neurotic?
Ancient Egyptian philosopher, Iamblichus touched on this in his classical work, Theurgia, in chapter nine, entitled Daemons: “It is declared, most irrationally, that the origin of the divining art is ‘the mania that occurs in diseases.’ For it sets forth enthusiasm or divine inspiration as due to melancholia or the redundancy of black bile, the perverted conditions of drunkenness, and the fury incident to, rabid dogs. It is necessary from the beginning, therefore, to make the distinction of two species of ecstasy or entrancement, of which one causes degeneration to an inferior condition, and fills with imbecility and insanity; but the other imparts benefits that are more precious than intelligence [Great Mother]. The former species [or entrancement] wanders to a disorderly, discordant and worldly activity; but the latter gives itself to the Supreme Cause [Great Father] which directs the orderly arrangement of things in the world [ecstasy]. The former, being destitute of real knowledge, is led aside from good sense; but the latter is united with those superior sources of wisdom that transcend all the sagacity in us. The former is constantly changing, but the latter is unchangeable. The former is contrary to nature, but the latter is superior to nature. The former brings down the soul into lower conditions, but the latter leads it upward. The former places the subject entirely outside of the divine apportionment, but the latter joins, unites him to it.”
Until our own minds are purged, everything will remain distorted. And when we start diving into metaphysical phenomena—examining the moving train of existence, how it moves, and what conducts it—we are deterministically destined to collide with our distortions. If we are not prepared for such a collision, the sight will likely prove to be grotesque and even scarring.
This in mind, it might perturb a person to know that the word “nightmare” came from the mare or mara of the night, which is another name for the succubus. Lilith, the mare of the night was said to slink through the keyholes of bedrooms, rest her knees on the chest of the sleeper, and strangle them. Often, a visit from these night mares were considered in folklore to be a brush with death, and the survival of the “Grim Reaper” character today seems to stem from this idea, albeit in a more masculinized tone. Some encounters will have two or more figures. We may find one resting on top of our chest if we have fallen asleep facing the ceiling, with another looming over our bedside. Often, but not always, their eyes are red.
It is also fascinating to note that as Gautama Buddha sat under the bodhi, the arch demoness, Mara, was the ultimate temptress, proving to be his final barrier to enlightenment. Not surprisingly, this showdown was set at night.
It is quite interesting to see that the idea of the first “vampire” is intimately connected with the notion of masculine-symbolism of the Great Father, as God created Lilith, and it is generally considered that the Buddha wouldn’t have even reached enlightenment without the trials that Mara tested him with under the bodhi. It is here that we should especially recall what Iamblichus noted, because this is where culture and folklore inevitably spill into the dark arts, psychosis, and evil spirits.
Many scientists and psychoanalysts today look at the shadow people phenomena as meaningless hallucinatory side-effects of the sleep-paralysis event. While I don’t disagree with any of the modern science about sleep paralysis, I think it is very haphazard to consider the minutia of the hallucinations to be meaningless. Usually, very elaborate and nearly-theatrical movements manifest themselves unto the sleeper in their bed. Personally, I have talked to many different people about their experiences with the shadow people during sleep paralysis, and while I am not claiming that these things are actual beings visiting the sleeper in the room, I will take some time in this chapter to show that the entities of the sleep paralysis encounter go much further beyond any mere hallucination.
To its credit, the psychiatric community has begun to correlate neurosis with the onset of sleep paralysis symptoms. It has become noted that sleep paralysis is more likely to occur if the subject has a history with severe PTSD from something like sexual abuse, violent trauma, but also things like anxiety disorders, panic disorders, narcolepsy and even Parkinson’s disease.
I have thankfully only experienced sleep paralysis twice in my life, both as a child, and I do not remember any specifically terrifying encounters—although when I found that I was paralyzed I became very frightened all the same.
From here, it should be emphatically stated that people who experience sleep paralysis are not psychotic, but they are suffering from a serious ailment or a psychic phantom limb.
As I began to ask more and more people about sleep paralysis, I was astounded how many people suffered from it, and how many people were willing to suggest that it was a real encounter of some kind. I have spoken with countless amounts of people that have experienced detailed and recurring sleep paralysis phenomena, and these are people of all walks of life, all backgrounds. Every single experiencer I talked to wondered if they had been visited by something. Some of the people I spoke with were even considering the idea that they had been abducted by extra-terrestrials. This is a notion I would somewhat agree with yet not subscribe to, for I consider aliens to be another rendition of classical archetypal phenomenology, leaving room for the possibility of other-worldly beings but not assuming such.
In terms of health and psychology, let’s consider the implications of the brain’s sleep cycle—the waves of the ocean. During the average sleep, a person passes from the first two stages (transitioning from alpha to theta waves) into the third and fourth stages of sleep (predominated by delta waves). Stage four is where somnambulism (sleepwalking) will occur, and the fifth stage is the REM cycle. A person does not cycle through these sleep stages in a chronological order, but more so bobs and weaves through it. However, all humans phase through these sleep cycles with similar patterns, at similar rates.
It is most commonly stated that sleep paralysis occurs during stage five REM, but it also appears to occur around stage four, when a person begins drifting into deepest levels of sleep. When it occurs during entry into REM (or entry into sleep overall), it is considered hypnogogic—the suffix of the word meaning to lead forth or guide. Occurrence upon exiting stage five (usually implying that the sleeper has woken up) is hypnopompic, the suffix essentially meaning to send away.
In the practice and study of hypnotherapy, somnambulism is considered an outside-directed state, meaning that it is generally a metaphorical process of reading a script. There must be some sort of format given for the somnambulism to occur, otherwise there is no reason for any animation to occur to begin with. For these reasons, somnambulism is an intricate and essential state in any form of hypnosis. But this eerily begs the question: what is providing the script for the sleeper? We may certainly say that the unconscious mind provides such a script, but this is an answer that brings with it more questions than answers.
It is somewhat interesting to note that somnambulism occurs during stage four of sleep, leaving it right on the heels of the sleep-paralysis spectrum. Of course, these phenomena are polar-opposites on the face of it, but they are predicated on the same basis: the sleeper losing certain large faculties of self-control. Along similar lines of thinking: common sleep paralysis folklore suggested that a person never fall asleep supine, with the chest up to the sky. This was considered easy access for the demon to rest on the chest strangle. And, interestingly, scientific studies have shown that posture maintained during sleep is a determinant factor in whether a person will experience sleep paralysis.
A study conducted in 2014 by Jahal Baland and VS Ramachandran reads, “We specifically propose that this perceived intruder is the result of a hallucinated projection of the genetically ‘hard-wired’ body image (homunculus), in the right parietal region; namely, the same circuits that dictate aesthetic and sexual preference of body morphology.” A follow-up study by the same names was also released in 2017, further relating the phenomenology of the shadow people to the brain’s Mirror Neuron System—which we have discussed the implications of in prior chapters. In terms of what is happening within the brain during sleep paralysis, it appears that the Mirror Neuron System plays a critical role.
Another study even managed to associate these hellish symptoms with bio-phenomenological preconditions. “One factor, labeled Intruder, consisting of sensed presence, fear, and auditory and visual hallucinations, is conjectured to originate in a hypervigilant state initiated in the midbrain. Another factor, Incubus, comprising pressure on the chest, breathing difficulties, and pain, is attributed to effects of hyperpolarization of motoneurons on perceptions of respiration [paralysis of respiratory system]… A third factor, labeled Unusual Bodily Experiences, consisting of floating/flying sensations, out-of-body experiences, and feelings of bliss, is related to physically impossible experiences generated by conflicts of endogenous and exogenous activation related to body position, orientation, and movement. Implications of this last factor for understanding of orientational primacy in self-consciousness are considered. Central features of the model developed here are consistent with recent work on hallucinations associated with hypnosis and schizophrenia.” [Cheyne, J. Rueffer, S. Newby-Clark, I. 1999.]
So, if science can deduce a cohesive framework of bio-phenomenology that describes sleep paralysis events, and this scientific framework is in an obvious explanatory accordance with the archetypal allegories of folklore—what could this imply about all the archetypes of angels, demons, and gods overall? What meta-spaces might this behold unto the individual psyche? And what types of psychic-phantom-limbs could this approach help heal?
Furthermore, what could this help explain about the psychedelic experience, or even unexplainable phenomena like the paranormal or cryptid monsters in the wilderness? This question is, admittedly, based purely on my own speculation—but it’s an idea grounded by data and I think it is a much better than a lot of the other running explanations of the unexplainable.
Could it be that these archetypes are embodiments of an analytic framework that is imbedded within the psyche? Yes, this is absolutely the case, including the case of sleep paralysis. But are they conscious? Well, even Jung saw these archetypal qualities as autonomous, and think this is indeed the case—but sentience is a question that will be heavily analyzed in the chapters to come. The short answer here is: no, they are not sentient, but I say this with a certain wiggle-room…
The important thing to take away from all this is that the dark aspects of the anima pave the way for the beatific visions. In times of crisis (brought by the shadow), both the anima and animus prime the individual psyche for positive revelations. It is for this reason and others that Lilith is so very important to understand, and why her syren qliphoth are necessary tools for diagnosis. It is clearly evident at this point that the succubus-nightmare and the syren-daymare are two sides of the same psychodynamic, phenomenological coin. The succubus-nightmare is ghastly and horrendous, feeding on the neurosis of self-deprecation and self-loathing, leaving the sufferer in a position where they feel incapable of helping themselves. The syren is the exact opposite, luring with seduction and gullibility, hypnotizing men to give into those desires that they may never satisfy, placing them in a spell that could last a lifetime if the proper steps were not taken to break it. Both equal to an entrancement of the subject.
The unconscious mind is projecting, telling us that something is very, very wrong with our current systems—it is telling us that we have lost our synthesis, and that we are descending into an internal chaos. In my case, I already knew that something was wrong—I needed to figure out how to resolve the problem. But it was still a struggle for me figuring out how lil ol’ Ramona fit into all of this. If symbols are essentially psychosomatic projections of underlying biological data, what did it mean that my unconscious mind had manifested so thoroughly through this beautiful young woman? It was all starting to feel like a swelling headache, as if I was a snake that had just swallowed an entire antelope, stuck dragging around for days a carcass in my belly that was many times the size of my body. I really wanted to talk to her again, but with the strange dreams I was having lately, I figured it was probably healthiest to stay far away from her.
Little did I know how precisely I was engaging in a very primal, archetypal dance. For example, in the beginning of Goethe’s Faust, Dr. Faust is given a magical potion to camouflage him with seductive youthful looks, enabling him and the lovely young woman, Gretchen, to fall in love. She is a pious, pure, Christian girl and Faust is quite rude to her at first, but she becomes captivated by him. Mephistopheles manages to arrange a meeting for Faust and the woman, and their subsequent relationship results in the death of her mother and brother at the hand of Faust himself. Gretchen even becomes pregnant with Faust’s child during it all. At this point, Gretchen finds herself struggling with a sense of demonic possession, her guilt of the pregnancy being personified as an evil spirit as she prays to the Virgin Mary in the church during one scene. Faust recognizes his time to exit and leaves Gretchen to visit the sabbath of the witch, Walpurgis Night.
Faust is enamored by a woman he meets here, the woman being none other than Lilith. In the scene, Mephistopheles introduces Lilith to Faust, telling him:
“Beware the lure within her lovely tresses,
The splendid sole adornment of her hair!
When she succeeds therewith a youth to snare,
Not soon again she frees him from her jesses.”
When Faust and Lilith begin dancing, he says to her,
“A lovely dream once came to me;
I then beheld an apple-tree,
And there two fairest apples shone:
They lured me so, I climbed thereon.”
To which Lilith replied,
“Since first in Paradise they grew;
And I am moved with joy, to know
That such within my garden grow.”
[Goethe’s Faust, Part 1, Scene XXI]
After their interaction, he witnesses Lilith’s face form into Medusa—the feminine shadow, the personification of his guilt for Gretchen. Goethe’s brief depiction of Lilith is easily the best summary of her overall archetypal context and significance. Here, she represents allure to Faust, an opportunity for the depths of hedonism, but at the last moment she presents the opportunity for redemption by her very nature, reminding Faust of his responsibility to Gretchen and the opportunity to forego Mephistopheles’ current wishes, all while continuing to seduce Faust, giving him opportunity for both decisions.
As I explained, the aspects of the dark anima are entirely necessary because they ultimately allude to the deeper mechanisms of the alchemical transmutation. Without an encompassing understanding of their transmutational representation, these feminine archetypes embody demonic qualities. When we do not engage with this alchemical process of the psyche, “demonic” or psychotic qualities of the masculine and feminine are free to run rampant.
The day after the show I went to, I knew that the next step was a concentrated integration of the shadow. No more psychedelic adventures with friends, either—this was starting to get out of hand, and I had to grab the reigns tight. But I was in far too deep to just walk away from it all—the dreams and phenomenology wouldn’t allow me to simply “walk away”. I had to contact my anima and the usual means of communication were becoming corrupt by the shadow.
I started scouring the internet for forums about magick and the occult—ritual, ceremony, and the study of. I had been studying it, but now I had to take the next step, and I wasn’t about to just pick up a book and follow any random nut job. If I was going to get advice from anyone, they needed to be a disciplined, altruistic occultist that understood the archetypal, psychodynamic underpinnings of magick. Such ideas are not unheard of within modern esoteric and occult discussions, and I knew there had to be several different people out there I could talk with. I just had to find them.
I joined several different forums, and I only ever made one post on any of them. It was a personal message to a username Virgil_the_Poet, a reference to Dante’s pagan spirit-guide through Hell in the Divine Comedy.
In a post nearly a year old when I read it, he spoke of similar things I thought about, and he asked similar questions that I wondered. He had been practicing magick for several years—taking breaks throughout—and had recently been uncovering a similar inner-mythological journey that seemed to point to the syren. Yet, he didn’t speak of the syren itself, so I sent him a message and asked him what he knew about the syren, Lilith and the Qliphoth. Hopefully, he had something to say on the matter. Whatever was to happen, I knew I needed help somehow and a therapist wouldn’t understand at this point. I didn’t want to be taken advantage of by a medical nutjob or a new-age nutjob. I wanted a friend—a colleague on my allegorical search for Captain Nemo’s Nautilus within the sea.
As the old saying goes: Heaven hath no rage like love turned to hate, and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I yearned to talk about this rage, fury, and how to transmute it.
Chapter Eight Coming Soon…
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