Saturday, 17 August 2013

A Fantasy Desert Island

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate how a guided pathworking can reveal some unsuspected incident, attitude or relationship information that may be lying in the unconscious mind.  In this instance, what is being sought is something about the relationship that existed between a child and its parents, in particular me and my parents.  Because it is a guided pathworking, sometimes called a fantasy journey, and not a freely flowing journey, certain key points need to be included and observed.

Before moving onto the details of the journey, perhaps I should describe my preferred meditation technique.  I am fortunate enough to have my own meditation room, which I darken almost completely, with just a single candle burning.  This enables me to be aware of some kind of presence, and also to stop me falling asleep.  If the room were too well-lit, that would interfere with the process, allowing too much light to penetrate my closed eyelids.   I sit in an almost upright chair, keeping my spine straight but not necessarily bolt upright, which can cause strain.  (If you do have a slight tum, a slightly leaning back posture helps to achieve unforced breathing. Meditation after a large meal is not advised.)  With eyes closed, I travel around my body slightly tensing and then relaxing, each part in turn starting from my feet (one at a time) and finishing with my breath and scalp.  At the same time, any slight discomforts are dealt with.  (Incidentally, I have never achieved anything like a lotus position, and frankly never try.  This is not an exercise in contortion olympics.)  By the end of this procedure, my breathing rate has decreased to around six natural breaths a minute, thus allowing certain rhythms in the brain to come into their own.  

A Fantasy Desert Island

And now to the journey itself.  It is helpful if the imagination is used to develop as realistic a setting as possible.  If the participant finds that they are beginning to drift upwards so that they are observing themselves on the inner journey, efforts need to be made to rejoin with their participating selves.  This tendency is not uncommon in the early stages of pathworking. So, first of all, the participant or traveller having entered a full state of meditation, begins the journey from a desert island.  Second, the traveller enters the surrounding sea or ocean, symbolic of the unconscious mind.  Third, having entered the water, it is necessary to continue the journey as far as the participant desires.  (In my experience, the deeper the better, so long as one can 'see' what is going on in the vicinity.)  Fourth, having arrived at some stopping point, the participant turns to face in the direction of the island, and waits.  Fifth, some image will manifest itself from the righthand direction, the father image.  Another image will emerge from the lefthand direction, the mother image.  What those images are, how they arrive, any interaction they may have between themselves, and with the participant either singly or together, is for the unconscious mind to decide.  In fact everything about this journey, other than the steps set out, is for the unconscious mind to decide.  Sixth, when any interaction is complete, the observing participant travels back toward the island, leaving the water as the end of the meditation approaches.  The key to this journey (as well as any journey involving imagery) is to observe what happens, without interfering with the unfolding story.

Below, I describe my experience of this particular journey.  If a reader of this post chooses to try this experiment, it must be remembered that this is my path, it isn't yours.  Your experience may well be very different from mine.

..........I began to walk towards the ocean, leaving the trees further and further behind me. Overhead the sun shone down from a perfectly blue sky.  To my right, the gently sloping beach stretched unbroken as far as I could see;  I was unaware of the beach very far to my left.  At last I reached the water's edge, the sand still remarkably firm underfoot.  There seemed to be very little, if any, movement in the water so that as I walked further into the ocean, the water rose steadily up my legs, over my trunks and up to my waist and on until it reached my throat.  For a moment I wondered, then the water was over my head and I found that I could breathe without any discomfort.
          Shafts of light shone down into the water producing a strange but beautiful sparkling effect. There was also some movement of shadows as if clouds had suddenly appeared in the sky.  I continued to walk out into the deepening ocean until the water around me began to take on a darkened, gloomy aspect.  I noticed that the sand beneath my feet was beginning to be swallowed in darkness.  It was time to turn and face the direction from which I had come;  back towards the island, and await events.
          I noticed some slight movement in the darkness off to my right, but closer to the island than me. My retreat was effectively blocked.  As the movement became more pronounced, a large, white shark swam into the light.  It swam this way and that, with a sideways undulating movement, one of its eyes continually watching me.  Once it made a lunge towards me, but at the last moment veered off to my right.  It was at that point that I became aware that I was completely naked and vulnerable.  If I could have felt anything, it would have been an uneasy watchfulness on my part, and a coldblooded disinterest on his.  
          After watching the shark for some while I observed the arrival of an indistinct shadowiness from my left.  As it swam into the light I realised that it was an equally large, black octopus.  She swam much closer to me and seemed to confront the shark.  They each made lunging movements towards each other, but no real contact was made.  Then she slipped behind me, grabbed me with her crushing tentacles, and turned me to my right so that I directly faced the shark.  I was trapped between them, unable to throw off her stranglehold, or defend myself from the shark.
          The waters around us, whilst not stormy, became agitated.  Then the shark lunged at me and struck.  He was overwhelming.  He had struck me somewhere below my waist, yet my legs remained firm and untouched.  She lashed out forcing him to withdraw.  But she would not let me go, neither did she choose to adopt a position between me and the shark.  Steadily she crushed me tighter and tighter. I had to do something to save myself.  I looked up.  High above me, how deep the waters had become, appeared a great sword hanging vertically, hilt upwards like a Calvary Cross.  I reached up in desperation and down it plummeted.  Somehow I managed to grab the sword with both hands on the hilt, reached upwards and backwards, then thrust the sword with all my strength into the octopus. There was a shudder through the water, and she released me.
          Both the octopus and the shark, as well as the sword had disappeared.  The confrontation was over, and I began my way back towards the beach.  It grew steadily lighter, until my head broke the surface of the water.  On I walked onto dry land.  The sun still shone from a cloudless sky.  The only marks on the beach were my own footsteps.  Yet something had changed.  It was as if an invisible veil blocked something beneficial from radiating from the sun.  I began to feel a sense of shame, of guilt, and of an indefinable darkness.  Thus was I roused from my meditation..........

Clearly, because the shark (my father) and the octopus (my mother) are described as large, this experience relates to a time in my early childhood, even perhaps in my infancy.  The confrontation was apparently very destructive on a psychological level.  It all seemed to be about control and ownership.

What is of crucial significance in this encounter is that on a conscious level (the desert island's beach, smooth under a warm sun in a cloudless sky) everything seemed normal.  Yet my unconscious perception of what was happening was very different.  And it must be stressed that this is all a matter of perception.  That unconscious perception is my only truth.  To attempt to replace those perceptions by some form of 'what-actually-happened-in-the-real-world' could only 'intellectualise' the event.  It would not succeed in arriving at any substantive truth that could claim any greater objectivity than my unconscious perceptions had already revealed.  Such an attempt would only further the ends of psychological denial, and to rubbish the feelings of the participants; most importantly in this event, mine. 

One final point, in the exercise described above, an account of certain happenings has been passed from the beyond-conscious mind into consciousness.  Its real significance can only be measured against a background of such disclosures.  In other words, to arrive at a more meaningful conclusion about one's inner world, to "Know Thyself" more fully, a continual ongoing search into one's inner life needs to be undertaken.  That is what my journey is about, whatever it may reveal.

Footnote:      Readers of Gwynt might be interested to note that I have added an extra explanatory script to my side bar, regarding matters relating to my meditations under the title, "Something Extraordinary". 


  1. Tom, I'm very glad to sit back and listen, appreciating the description you've given of your meditation process. It clarifies previous posts in which you've described inner journeys, giving us a kind of road map of 'how you get there'. You obviously have a gift for this kind of visualisation which I don't think everyone has, even if they follow the technique religiously. I for one have on various occasions tried this path, guided and unguided, but never found that it 'worked' for me, but that may be because I wasn't sufficiently focused.

  2. As that appears to be the case, I must make certain that I share as many of my experiences as possible. Hope you always choose to come along for the ride.

  3. I'll re-read later, but the ititial reading brings to mind Hölderlin, "Wo aber Gefahr ist, wächst das Rettende auch." [But where there is peril, deliverance too gains in strength.]

  4. That statement in itself is worthy of a meditation. Thank you.

  5. It's fascinating to read about your method for achieving active visualizations. I've been meditating (Vipassana) for many years so images do come and go, but I ignore them, or, as they say, let them go, a fact that means I've never met my Philomon. Perhaps it's time to let the images reveal themselves in hopes a teacher will appear. I'll let you know if he/she does.

  6. Susan; I am assuming that Vipassana meditation is akin to what in the West we would call contemplation (?), in which the same 'letting go' instruction is given. Random thoughts and images need to be dispensed with of course. But I think it is a great pity that the baby is so often emptied out with the bath water.

    Jung, so far as I recall, does not talk about imagery in his conversations with the soul, but we would have been the worse off, if he had dispensed with his conversations. Good luck, and thanks!

  7. I have great difficulties attaining the inner calm required for such meditation.
    I have notes taken during Rudolf Steiner study group sessions, such as 'meditation develops spiritual ears and eyes and kindles spiritual light-Inner Man requires space to grow which is supplied by the inner calm we give our soul'.
    Have you done all the work alone without spoken guidance?

  8. Ellena; The short answer to your query is, "No." My journey has been, essentially, a very practical one. It began with a requirement to study my behaviour patterns, and that led onto a realisation that I had begun to meditate. From then on it has been a process of commitment, practice and development.

    It would be false to try to paint a picture of glorious, unmitigated success. 'Success' is not what is being sought. Success is an acquisition, not a state of Being. There are no rewards or punishments in this game, only consequences.

  9. Tom,just left you a comment but it may have failed in the authentication - basically I said this was fascinating and thanked you, and said I had only tried this sort of method to revisit particularly important-seeming dreams.

  10. Thank you Beth. Interesting use of pathworking.

  11. Tom I love learning anything and given time intend to learn everything. This landscape of the subconscious is challenging. This my fourth time here and every time I get stuck at the sword.

    Everything means something, even there, don't you think? Perhaps in future encounters you may be able to gain further insights. Thanks for giving us these perks into a very personal process.

  12. Halle; I truly wish you well with your intention to learn everything. :)

    I also found the sword difficult to deal with, until I sensed I had no other option, if I intended to survive - and I do!

    I also believe everything 'means' something; in fact I have long believed that the universe IS symbol. But that conclusion came after much thought, and faith in what I am doing.

    Thank you for your thanks; it somewhat smooths the difficulties I encounter

  13. This is fascinating. Wish i wasn't headed into a long work weekend, but i will experiment with this when i can relax on Monday.

  14. Wish you success with the fantasy journey. And may your working weekend go well.