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Seasons of the Soul

{written by : Annamaria Hemingway PhD }

Article word count : 1087 -- Article Id : 2559
Article active date : 2009-10-06 -- Article views : 7484

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This article looks to the symbolism of the natural world and the constant motif of death and regeneration that not only mainfests in the cycles of nature, but also gives an illuminating archetypal portrayal of how we are all part of this continual continuum of consciousness.

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In considering the concept of a continuum of consciousness that includes an afterlife, it is important to look to ancient civilizations who had no problem in understanding their places in the cosmos. Many of these early ancestors worshipped natural phenomena and over three thousand years ago, during the fifth dynasty, the Egyptians paid homage to the sungod, Ra, believing that as the sun died and returned to life each day, so would they be part of the same cycle of regeneration. Hesiod, the Greek poet and writer, who lived around 700 BCE documented how the early Greeks worshipped the goddesses of the seasons, known as the Horae, and thought that they too were part of a constant cycle of renewal that took place in the natural world around them. These people lived in close harmony with the rythms of the natural world, in which all forms of animal and plant life were, as they believed, connected. Through observing natural cycles these early people were able to make sense of the mysteries of birth, death and rebirth. They understood the symbolic analogy that nature provided, which enabled them to feel a numinous and sacred higher power that guided the workings of the universe. Life was considered to be a continuum of consciousness, controlled by a form of psychic energy that manifested in symbolic metaphors. It was during this period that archetypal divinities made their presence felt in human consciousness.

Nature provided and instilled a feeling of unity and "oneness" with an expanded mystical form of consciousness because the natural world constantly had--and continues to have the ability to renew itself. With every death, rebirth followed. This process symbolized the eternal life of the soul, and there were many examples. Each evening, the dying sun--often at its most luminous point--descended like a golden globe on the the horizons. In the place where the sky meets the earth, a thin white line symbolized the thinnest of veils separating the visible and invisible worlds. The moon was also constantly reborn, renewing itself each month. Similarly, the shore of the ocean was hidden and then exposed again by the turn of the unceasing tides, and the barren starkness of winter gave way to the reemeergence of spring and new life.

As the memories of summer begin to fade and the days become mellow, the subtle changes that are taking place in the change of seasons give us the opportunity to "remember" an ancient wisdom. Through ceontemplating how the once vibrant blossom and foliage have begun to wither and by watching the leaves fall gently and be reclaimed by the earth, we are reminded of the sacred analogy of "The Tree of Life," which symbolizes creation, life, and a return to the Divine. This metaphor provides simultaneous images of the microcosm of the Self merging into the macrocosm of the supernatural realms. This motif is found in many world religions and is referred to in the book of Genesis and the Kabbalah teachings and can instill in us a magical sense of connection to the primordial origins and divine roots of human existence.

In his book, "Man"s Search for Meaning," Viktor Frankl who was imprisoned for three years in the German concentration camp at Auschwitz illustrates how this sacred connection and transcendence can still be accessed, even in the most desperate and dire situations. As a doctor, he tried to tend to sick prisoners and relates how he witnessed the experience of a young woman who was dying. Through the window of her hut, she could see a single branch of a chestnut tree that had two blossoms in flower, which comforted her. She remarked to Frankll, "This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness. I often talk to this tree....It said to me, "I am here--I am life, eternal life."

In modern-day Western society, sacred communion to the natural world no longer exists, as the ability to maintain our relationship and sense of wonder and awe with these symbolic images is no longer a part of human consciousness. We now try to control the forces of nature and often view ourselves as set apart rather than being a part of the teeming life force that inhabits the planet. As a result, the ability to connect with our Divine legacy has been lost, and people are unaware and unable to recognize the archetypal images and metaphors that manifest all around the.

Unfortunately, the voice of the natural world and its divinities can no longer be heard. The Swiss psychiatrist, C. G. Jung described people as only able to "refer" to a blief because they had lost this primordial understanding. He lamented that today"s people no longer experience a sacred connection to the natural world that is alive in rivers, oceans, mountains and nature in general. As a result, they live thier live sin exile, with only unconscious stirrings to remind them of their true purpose and destiny. Jung write, "Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events...hs immediate communication is gone forever, and the emotional energy it generated has sunk into the unconscious.

However, as we appraoche the oncoming fall and winter and the days become shorter, we have the opportunity to journey inard and reconnect with the powerful, symbolic imagery provided by the natural world that reflects how death in nature symbolizes the hope of resurrection. This capacity for renewal was also illustrated through myth. The ancient vegetation gods and goddesses of many cultures died during the summer solstice as the sun began to descend in the west into the depths of winter and crossed the threshold into the darkness of the underworld. Fertility goddesses also made similar underworld journeys. Although death claimed them for a while, at the winter solstice, the deities were understood to reappear in the sky as the returning sun commenced its journey in the south and heralded the promise and stirrings of new life.

Through meditating on these ancient myths and primordial images, we can recognize once more the soul in nature and remember that our own soul is merely clothed in the physical body and emanates from the same life force that is visible everywhere in the natural world. This understanding can enable us to live life with a deeper sense of purpose and meaning--as a celebration of our existence--and help us to become fully engaged in the practice of conscious living and dying.

Author Bio :
Annamaria Hemingway PhD is the author of "Practicing Conscious Living and Dying," published by O Books. She is also a spiritual counselor and member of The International Association for Near-Death Studies.

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