Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Epiphany Chronicles II: Menaced by Monsters

Night of January 5/6

We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment...

...The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires.
~T.S. Eliot, "East Coker"

I am in a dismal psychiatric hospital with dingy yellow stained walls and seizured fluorescent lights.  A variety of infirm people are milling about in a commons area.

I'm not a patient, and I have some kind of purpose here, but I don't know what it is.  I'm trying to leave but patients keep detaining me, trying to tell me their stories.  I need to get back to my children, I say.  I've been gone too long.

Something is amiss, there's some sort of threat being announced.  Someone is attacking.  I begin to move out of the commons area into the hallway, and they're saying it's a lock-down, that no one can leave.  I have a growing sense of the presence of evil, and of being trapped.  I must escape.

As I move into the hallway, chaos is building, and there are more people, all rushing in different directions.  I'm trying to move past them, get to the doorway at the end of the hall.  I notice a figure to my left.  She's skinny, blonde, and ugly, with gaping pale blue eyes, and she's carrying a small black to-go box containing an iceberg lettuce salad.  She's not human.  She's an evil creature; I can feel it, and I'm terrified.  She seems fake, like she's made out of heavy rubber.

She's inching up behind someone, sniffing at the back of their head with horrible intent.  She catches me looking at her, and then throws some of the lettuce toward me.  I'm doomed.  She moves toward me and I know I will not leave this place alive.  I know she has the strength to do with me what she will, and there's no point in fighting it.

I say something to her, how I know that she can throw me against the wall and kill me in an instant, and she says, "I don't have to."  Just then, I notice  huge rusted pipes, the thickness of barrels, lining the wall of the hallway.  They begin to creak and rumble, and I realize that they're filled with water.  They're about to send a force of rushing water through the building that will quickly drown everyone there.

"Here it comes..." she says.

And I woke up.

The evil black sludge had filled my bedroom, it was a tangible presence, and I was frozen.  I haven't had a nightmare like this in a very long time.  There have been times when I've sensed the presence of evil on the perimeter of my awareness, and deliberately pushed it away, but now it encompassed me, and I couldn't even get out of bed.

My first rational thoughts were that a) It's the night before Epiphany, and I have had an epiphany of evil, and  b) if evil has actual substance and presence, how much more does God have, the divine love and goodness.

I made myself get up eventually, and I went to the living room to ponder and pray.  I wrenched myself away from the sludge enough to turn my thoughts and heart toward God, toward the quiet love I have avowed myself to.  I thought of a scene in Paulo Coelho's novel, Brida, in which the heroine must spend the night in the forest alone.  At first she is terrified with the sounds and the shadows of the night, but then she realizes that she has the CHOICE of how to feel, that if she turns her mind and heart toward love and beauty and goodness and joy, then that is where she will be.  Because it's real.  She eventually falls asleep in peace.

I also thought of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, who witnesses a manifestation of evil among his fellows, and can never embrace them again, even though he's not sure if it really happened or if he dreamed it.

Sitting here now, several days later, in the comfort of distance and day, it's easy for me to see how I manifested the nightmare in response to the events of the day before.  The deep fears and pain that I had given up trying to control were leaking out.  Threatening to rush out, in fact, as if from huge rusty pipes, and drown me. I have had several insights into the meaning of this dream just by writing about it here.  But I can't write it off as merely "psychological."  It was a manifestation of evil that was not merely within me.  It had a presence of its own.

I don't want to get into armchair theology of evil just now, because that would diminish the actual experience and what it meant to me.  Besides, I don't even know how to distinguish between "within" and "without" when an issue comes to this level.  The sludge was definitely in the room, but isn't the room "in me" in the most profound sense? 

As awful as this experience was, it showed me my spiritual growth, because I didn't just run and turn on a light and try to externally comfort myself.  I never even looked at the clock.  I also didn't sit and try to analyze it, to think it away.  I immediately went to God, to divine love for that comfort.  I leaned into myself to the source instead of outwardly to some illusion of control. And this deliberate invocation of divine love was much more effective and comforting than turning on a few lights and telling myself it was nothing.  It didn't make the sense of evil "go away," but rather came into that evil and illuminated it.  Experiencing the substance of evil confirmed for me at a deep level the substance of God.  The light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.


  1. Gee, no one's commented yet? Well, gee, I'll offer this, clipped from steven's blog's sidebar, a Rumi poem. It would apply to dreams as well.

    this being human is a guest house.
    every morning a new arrival.

    a joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    welcome and entertain them all!
    even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still treat each guest honorably.
    he may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    the dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.

    be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    rumi (trans. coleman barks)

  2. Maybe I am too reality driven as I perceive this situation.

    I believe there are indicators around a person that say...who/what/where/ is this force coming from. It is either outside or inside of YOU because we are not separate from anything, it is all intertwined.

    Also, I believe many times we become attached to thought/mind/thinking as an addiction and that we believe those thoughts to be something MORE than thoughts. This does not diminish the power of intellect or thinking or words, but they are WORDS they are not FORCE, they can be used within force, but in their essence they are a man made tool to communicate, this is the divinity of God in man. We are more than our brains. We are more than thought. We are more than words. The brain is a tool, a very very powerful tool.

    I have had a most recent time of coming into contact with a very REAL darkness I got out of my head and went into the piece of myself that is ETERNAL. The part of me that is of God, the part that exists forever.

    The brain will die, words will fade, it is your spirit that is now and was then and will always be, no matter how dark today is or bright tomorrow will be, there is a piece of you that will always BE. It is in this state NOW & FOREVER.

    Whatever is coming against this REAL TRUTH and is trying to take that truth from you is not in fact the REAL piece of what exists eternally...see how you are already shifted into a different place in your life, just with the passing of time. The ONE thing that exists in you still, the same as it did before this situation and now after is that YOU the eternal part is still there beyond any other thing.

    I must say within the human side of me I am tested in commenting on this post and your last. As Postman said, I do not want to be presumptuous. I do in fact care very deeply to be supportive and careful of a person's life experience. I hope most of all this is known from me to you and to everyone.

  3. Wow!

    You take my breath away AND you rock! Cut it out already! :)

    "...I leaned into myself..." - sends shivers up my spine.

    You speak of darkness so beautifully in a language I can completely relate. Encompassing without denying or separating.

    Thank you!

  4. I would also like to add one more thing. My perception of this, is that this is not a light matter by any means, and that there is a seriousness attached to your words, your heart and this post about these experiences for you.

    I feel you are very brave for sharing this experience.

    Not only are you brave to share of yourself, but to allow us to comment of our own thoughts in regard to the matter.

    I cannot imagine the risk you have felt at baring your soul and the work going on within your soul. I can only relate to my own experience and recognize how hard it is to be so "out here" about your experiences.

    It is inspiring. I thank you for the honor of being a part of your journey.

    Loving thoughts with you today.

  5. Thank you for all of your comments and support.

    Dan, that poem is wonderfully fitting, and echoes Delwyn's comments on my last post.

    Jennifer - Yes, there is something very deep going on. And it keeps unfolding and asking to be written. I think if I'd known what I was in for I might have ignored the whole process of blogging it, and that would have been a great loss.

    I definitely feel soul-bared here, and will even moreso, I expect, with the other two posts that I'm working on for these chronicles. I hope I'm not putting anybody off, but this is something I need to do.

    And while I heartily value the suggestions/interpretations/advice that I'm getting, it was not my conscious intention to ask for that with these posts. It has been an unexpected bonus, and I do very much appreciate it. New tools in the toolbox are always a good thing, or new ways of looking at how to use a tool that was already there. Thank you.

    Jenny - I'm glad this spoke to you, that it resonated within you. It makes me feel a little less like I'm whining here.

  6. Polli, I remember you commenting on my blog last Wednesday briefly about an experience of evil. Shortly after I read that, I went to a women's group where the scripture, "the light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" and I couldn't stop thinking about you. How lovely (how God-ly) to see you end with that scripture. I also love that you didn't need to make the evil go away. In the presence of love, you could live WITH it.

    And I love, love, love that Rumi poem which I read all the time to my directees.


  7. This whole poetry-before-postulation thing really, really works, Polly. I'm loving it.

    Man, if I thought Part I was powerful, this one was a gut-buster. That nightmare had me in a sweat. I can only imagine how you must have felt. I'm glad you found solace in your instinctual turn to the Lord. I can't claim to know much about how that works, myself...

    This is an intriguing story to follow. I'm going to go over and read Part III right away.

  8. Rebecca - That verse has definitely been much on my mind ever since Advent. Now even moreso.

    Postie - Poetry-before-postulation, I love it! Maybe I should change the name of my blog.

    Turning to God for me really is just a turning-within. And not even so much that as a not-turning-out.

    I'm glad this story has held your attention; I never know for sure how people will respond, especially you, who are decidedly not into the "God thing."

  9. Jennifer - I was just re-reading your comments, and what you said in the first one is really right on.

    Also, you should know that it's your soul-baring posts that have been the biggest shot of courage for me in posting my own.

    It's been an epiphany in itself for me to see how someone can share so intimately as you sometimes do without being whiny or self-absorbed or blaming. Or boring!

  10. I can only say I am thankful that anyone will be encouraged through my life and experience, as I am through yours and others. We are all very blessed to share, in safe places, our journey.

    The Epiphany Chronicles are beautifully written and the last I know was hard to push through. I am eager to read the next.

  11. I think you've got the right idea about God, then, if it's a turning-within, or a not-turning-out. The way I hear it, that's the way it's supposed to be. Even if I'm not into the whole "God" thing, I can get behind the sentiments expressed, and understand the feelings involved. We're all human.

  12. "but rather came into that evil and illuminated it" Such a powerful statement you've written and acted out in your life. Would that I would recognize evil and treat it in the same manner you've described!!

  13. Yes, and this epiphany keeps evolving for me. Now I'm seeing more fully that evil is always something that the light of consciousness dispels. It's never "outside" of me.



Related Posts with Thumbnails

Search This Blog