Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Echoes from the Whitehorse Conference

-- by Susan Locey

After returning from the conference “Encircling Light–Expectant Silence” in the Yukon, I feel impelled to crystallize and share some of the impressions. That puts me into the context of many people of European heritage from the last four centuries who visited the Arctic and then felt impelled to write about it— the temptation is certainly there! I can only say I was surprised and moved by what I experienced, and am still trying to understand what was experienced.

The greatest—and most unexpected—surprise for me in the North was the experience of the light. Sunlight is so different in the North, even five weeks after the summer solstice. There was a bathing in light that had something to do with the gentle angle of the sun, the pouring of light over the vast landscape, and the long, gentle transitions from daylight or night into twilight. The experience at dawn was not so much of the sun rising from the horizon, as it was of light itself arising. It was a subtle self-proclaiming of the light, as if we were approaching a threshold to the realm where light is at home—a half-conscious experience of nearing the birthplace of the sun! According to Rudolf Steiner’s research, the Arctic is where the sun separated itself out of the earth sphere during the Hyperborean epoch.

I constantly felt questions arising with the light about our kinship to the light, the nature of light with all its potent and manifold substance. And there were many experiences, somehow both known and unexpected:

- Light itself seemed more “real” and powerful than what can be perceived with the light, even though light cannot by itself be seen.
- Light and darkness belong together, as in the outside and the inside of the same emanating power or being. The long transitions of twilight were the turning inside out of the essence of light.
- Light carries formative picturing forces, which are offered directly to the plant kingdom as archetypes for growth into visible and recognisable forms. In the sunlight there is life-bearing substance much more powerful than what nature is able to absorb during the short Northern summer, so that one walks in the midst of a powerful reservoir of potential for growth.

Light is a garment for spiritual beings. Different kinds of light are also indications of different beings from the hierarchies working and weaving in the light. And so the question arises, which spiritual beings are working in this light? “Who” is the spirit of light in the North? Through the content of lectures at the conference, a direction towards an answer was suggested. But if we hold back from defining a specific identity, the Prologue from John’s Gospel reveals for us a highest Being who incarnates in life and light on the way to incarnation as Man. The Logos works with and through other beings in the hierarchies, and the great span from the distant past to the distant future suggests that the spirit of light in the North is a Being intimately connected to the Christ. The distant past brings forth images from the hyperborean time when the sun was still united with the earth. The distant future points to a time when the sun will again unite with the earth.

During the conference in Whitehorse, the boundaries of different levels of consciousness were very permeable, encouraging a weaving-breathing between consciousness, dreaming half-consciousness and super-consciousness. Through artistic experiences, the heroes, prophetesses and divine beings of sagas from the North were impressed into our sensibilities, creating organs of perception in us to perceive “ordinary” people as representatives of great archetypes.

Another strong influence in the North is the close threshold between life and death. It is part of existence that death accompanies us, no matter where we are, but with the presence of the wilderness, the dangers, the extremes of frigid temperatures, months of darkness, and the stories of people who disappeared into the night and winter—all these weave for us a strong consciousness of this threshold of death. This awareness creates a heightened appreciation for the fragility of life, a profound gratitude for each day and each meeting, and for the spiritual impact of the mere deed of living!

It seems so incredibly important for the whole working together of heaven and earth that there are human beings who simply by living build the fragile bridge for impulses from above to work into humanity, as evidenced through the space given in the conference for recognising and meeting Native peoples. Their presence everywhere in the Yukon was notable and their significant contributions to humanity have for so long been overlooked by eyes that only see “results.” It is a powerful reality that human beings can contribute without necessarily creating or producing visible results other than the accomplishment of survival, the deed of life through being.

A book about early contact with the Arctic traces the story of a lone survivor from a winter whaling camp, who by sheer faith and will faced unspeakable terrors and mirages. He returned totally altered to 17th century England, living with a view beyond the normal blindness to the boundaries of life and death, sanity and insanity. In his presence an enduring calm could radiate in a healing way over other people, a power that evoked superstitious awe—but it was a hard-earned gift gained from facing his fears, his own double, and from the stark grappling with his will to survive.

Frederick Cook wrote in Return from the Pole: “the greatest mystery, the greatest unknown, is not that beyond the frontiers of knowledge but that unknown capacity in the spirit within the inner man of self… Therein is the greatest field for exploration. To have suffered the tortures and to have become resigned to the aspects of death as we did—to learn this is experience which no gold can buy. The shadow of death had given new horizons, new frontiers to life.”

If we could receive in all humility these gifts from the North as offerings from spirits of evolution, we could take up into our inner life these potential reservoirs of light forces. The Apocalypse reveals pictures of the earth in the process of dying. Perhaps this dying is like an arctic landscape, outwardly barren most of the time, but filled with potential pictures for new life. The North can reveal for us how change can lead not only to death but through death to transformation—even to resurrection.

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