Posted by: innerpilgrimage | May 30, 2012

The Abyss Which is Herself

      I have been spiritual-seeking recently. Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell led me to looking for symbolism in myth (Carl Jung was a big Mandala proponent for psychological healing; Joseph Campbell believed we are in a time without a communal myth to represent 20th Century culture because things change so quickly), and I meandered toward the symbolism of the snake. The snake led to dragons. Dragons led to a word: chthonic (it means, “of or under the earth”, dealing with underworld and hidden-in-soil reality–like graves or the abundance inherent in dormant seeds and the fertile darkness they exist within). The word chthonic led to Dr. Camille Paglia’s quote about the biggest feminine mystery of all.

      What’s ironic is that the best spiritual teachers always seemed to buck the norm, and even in this quote, Dr. Paglia shows her credentials as a feminist who riles even feminists. She’s a free-thinker with a PhD from Yale University (a journeyer to reason and truth who started in an institutional setting), from what I have read of her. I am getting ready to follow up Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzche with Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. And, well, Martha Duffy’s Time article on Camille Paglia, written after Sexual Personae was published in 1990. (Duffy’s article appears in the 13 January 1992 issue of Time Magazine).
      Now, one might not consider how this would relate to my toxic love addiction or the cross-addiction of food compulsion. What was the trigger?
      A religious system which is threatened by the forces of nature inherent in the symbolism of both woman and serpent. To the religion I was associated with (my family did not practice it as a united front after I was born, we just were part of the “Christian Nation”) and the church I was sent to (so my parents could have free babysitting on Sunday mornings–they only went to pageant days), both woman and serpent were the cause of man’s fall from grace.
      Just . . . sit with that a minute. Because I have a uterus, I am partly to blame for every penis-receiving person’s fall from grace. From the bliss of not having to be part of the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth. Not to have to be burdened by the knowledge of duality. I and every girl born into Christianity gets to wear this shame and guilt. To be put into our places as servants and chattel.
      Nature and the natural forces are what is considered “fallen” in this institution. The serpent, which is a symbol for the eternal natural forces of birth, life, death, and rebirth (aka change), and the woman, that doorway from the darkness of the inner sea into the natural world through blood and water are symbols of chaos which much be controlled.
      Interestingly, the divide of religion comes down to nature-as-sacred and nature-as-fallen lines. If the natural world is sacred to an individual or culture? The snake and woman can find their places as sacred symbols in personal or group mythology. Snakes are guardians in many cultures, beneficial–even if deadly. Their venoms can cure as well as kill. They don’t back down when threatened, a warrior archetype in animal form. For women, the Upper Paleolithic Venuses are considered by many anthropologists to be sacred objects connected with fertility. The steatopygia (a generous fat deposit around the gluteal and upper thigh region, considered beautiful in some cultures) and full breasts and stomachs of these carved women . . . I am tossed into turmoil looking at them. The nature-as-sacred part of me sees that Venus as beautiful. The ideal woman, capable of producing a healthy life from her body, nourish that child from her body, then bring that child into the community. She is abundance. The nature-as-profane/fallen/sinful sees her as greedy. Lewd. That part of me follows the ascetic concept of self-denial-as-the-path-to-holiness. That force of human will over nature, of the self-abusive anorexia which women practiced in order to earn worthiness in a culture which loathes womankind . . . it takes that which is woman and makes it androgynous in a cruel and abusive manner. Self-mortification in a woman who is at the peak of her fertility can remove it. Obese or anorexic, it’s about forcing order on nature and rejecting the divine in creation, itself.
      The extremes are the problem. All or nothing. Good or evil. Right or wrong. The extremes are of the mind, are thoughts and judgments and opinions. They make up the knowledge we took on when we became human–a thinking animal which can, by free will, reject the divine.
      Does this mean that we have to find religion to find the sacred? Not at all. One can be an atheist and appreciate the miracles of life and nature, sit in wonder at the beauty which is all around us, appreciate the scientific developments humanity makes, delight in creation of art (in all of its forms) and music. An atheist can sit in meditative silence on all of these things and live in the Heaven of here and now; a religious person can suffer the Hell of active addiction.
      That’s, I think, where the middle way is laying for me. I have such an anger toward the institutions which demanded the impossible of me. However, I am working toward accepting that it was my choice, knowing even as a child their paths were not mine, to submit to it–in order to avoid pain. I had free will.
      I think about Gavin de Becker, who looks into Nitezche’s abyss. He helped develop MOSAIC, which finds people who have submitted to the violence in their lives and perpetuate it. In The Gift of Fear, Mr. de Becker recounts a violent event involving his mother shooting his stepfather, a vignette from his violent and chaotic childhood. Instead of following a path of violent criminal behavior, he became a guardian. He is a teacher of situational awareness in order to predict violent behavior.
      Greatness of an individual comes from that crossroads moment when society and self intersect. Lose society or lose self. Submit to the other or surrender to a higher purpose, or a “higher calling”. Submit to fear or surrender to love (self-care and self-preservation being the first step toward care and compassion for the world).
      Duality is part of the human condition, but I perceive a third option: transcendence. I accept the ineffable, the silence, exists; “the abyss of time and being” is part of that-which-is-human–just like timelessness and non-being is, too. Do I fear eternity and non-being, do I embrace it, or do I simply accept it?
      Ugh, I just tripped into the ineffable, which means there are no words, images, roadsigns on this part of the way. Is it Truth? Possibly. I don’t know. That’s the one Truth I can hold to in this situation. But that very broad concept feels right–neither euphoria-inducing nor grief-inducing. I don’t understand it intellectually, and I doubt I will. I honestly feel the words can’t even begin to touch the concept, though Camille Paglia’s words about woman’s monthly fate “to face the abyss of time and being, the abyss which is herself,” touches on this very deeply for me. It’s a signpost to a Truth as yet to be revealed.
      Within every woman is the story of Genesis: The darkness, the firmament, “earth” and water, the light of the inner self of a new life. That’s pretty powerful, pretty sacred. It’s also pretty scary if you want to control a population and lead it into a thriving future.
      I blamed myself for my imperfection. I believed I could barter perfection for love. It’s unattainable, like Mr. Right or “the perfect body”. It is the myth of order, a distraction from the sacred all around us–including ourselves.
      I chose the addiction because it was easier than face the truth. Consciously or not, it doesn’t matter. I reached the crossroads and believed my head over my heart. It happens. It’s part of duality, I suppose. Where this leads? I don’t know. But I was supposed to find it, to consider it. Perhaps . . . this is my path out of anger and grief about my upbringing and the resentment I hold so close to my core for religion and my parents. And my parents, I accept, are human like me; therefore, they are imperfect and duality-driven like me. So, accepting them will be easier than the large, anonymous monolith of an organization made up of individuals. What of this triggered the toxic love addiction and food-based cross-addiction?
      I guess I get to send it back to my Higher Power and just sit in the gratitude that my eyes are opened to something within me that drove me into church, out of church, into Wicca, then out of it. I can’t connect to an external deity, so I reject ritual-based external-deity frameworks.
      It may be why I gravitate to the 12 Steps. I am asked to go within, to celebrate the wholeness of mind-body-spirit as a means to reach the fullness of my own humanity and the journey on this planet which we call “life.”
      I planned to write about the Twelve Steps and Ann C.’s Twelve Rewards. It’s interesting . . . paradoxical, like The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith (often attributed to Mother Teresa) and The Prayer of St. Francis and even the 12 Steps. All seem to accept the human condition and expose it, offering a divine route out through ourselves. Beyond that . . . I don’t know. I’m touching the ineffable again, and I don’t understand how it relates to the whole journey. Kicking it up to my Higher Power, trusting the gift of intuition will give me more insight if I accept the guidance of a Power greater than myself.
      My name is Jess. I’m a toxic love addict (vulnerability-resentful), real love avoidant (vulnerability-fearful), and binge-arexic (punitive self-mortification of my body to achieve . . . something divine). Addiction doesn’t work. These concepts are in my head. I had experiences, felt pain, am trying to avoid pain. However, in every heroic journey, a greater reward requires a greater risk. The journey to Enlightenment has a great risk–the retreat into the abyss. The journey begins with a single step, however–the decision to first seek the Step Twelve spiritual awakening followed by the decision to be willing to go to any length to surrender to that spiritual-awakened life and the promises of recovery lived every day in every way.



  1. Have you ever heard Andrea Gibson’s poem Blue Blanket. It is youtube. It really helped me feel some of the feelings around the feelings I have about this issue. The other book I found helpful was Marianne Williamson’s a Woman’s Worth. Powerful stuff. The Higher Power I work with now picks up my calls on the first ring and is always to excited to hear from me.
    I received a call from a fellow yesterday and returned it this morning. She was agitated. Last night she had a slip and binged. I gently asked her what happened. She explained that she was exhausted. I asked how many hour’s of sleep she was getting. She went off into a very long tirade about you OA HOW people this and you OA HOW people that. You people don’t know me. I listen and when she stopped. I said I am so sorry. I am so sorry I upset you this morning. I am sorry it sounded as though I was trying to tell you how to live your life. My only intention this morning was to return your call and see how you were and to get to know you better. I am sorry about any judgement I have made you feel. It is clear in my mind that she had already had this conversation before I called her. She stopped. She apologized to me for being snappy. I think I really through her for a loop with my apology. My apology was very sincere though because of a story a fellow in my program had told me yesterday. She had gone to a seminar that discussed that there is a belief that we manufacter everything that comes into our life. She told me of a story had about how a trained psychiatrst had been practicing Traditional Hawaiian healing medthods and he was asked to told me I really believe that HP had me call her to apologize. I manifested that angst. I have felt that mad at the program too. (when I was using it as a diet and not as a program of recovery) HP made me strong enough in myself to be able to take no offense to what she was saying and to just say I am sorry.
    You know how a big shot will walking into a bar and say Bartender Drinks all around on me. Today I am going to shout to the world HP Miracles all around on me!

  2. ok I was correcting something at the end and it sent this before proof reading and cut out the rest of the story. I hope what is there makes sense

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