“Belief in truth begins with doubts of all truths in which one has previously believed.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Metaphorically speaking, beasts of burden are incapable of creating new values. They are only capable of carrying old values. They will suffer their entire lives, broken and trod-upon, to carry those old values. There is perhaps no beast of burden more symbolically “weighed-down” than the pack mule.
Sadly, modern man has become a pack mule whose reverence for his burden has become a crippling thing. He carries the weight of ages – both religious and political – on his worry-heavy back and grief-stricken shoulders. He is the bearer of existential angst, reverent only to the historic heaviness of prescribed values.
The most frightening task of a weight-bearing animal is the creation of new values. This causes such a fear in him that his heart clinches in his chest, threatening to suffocate him with fear. What could be so terrible as to cause such inner crises? Is it the unknown, the new motion, the self-propelled wheel, the blank slate of freedom? Or is it simply the fear of change?
A sacred No! is needed; a casting-away of spoon-fed ideologies and parochial burdens, and a seizing of a new dawn. The announcement of “I will!” in the face of “Thou shalt!” But this is no easy task. Much transformation is needed. The spirit must un-burden itself.
Self-questioning courage is needed. What emerges after we allow the cosmos to reorient our mind-body-soul? What replaces the overburdened pack mule? A lion: a creature capable of mighty will, whose roar is a sacred No! in and of itself, whose claws are capable of clipping yokes and cutting away the straps that bind the heavy burden of outdated values.
The lion is a courageous archetype. Sheep vacillate, donkeys trudge, but a lion pounces. A lion acts and reacts, proactive with its decision-making. A lion is a symbol for courage in the face of uncertainty. And what could be more uncertain than the dark night of our culture’s current existential crisis?
And so with our hair wild, and our hearts pressed up against the uncertainty of the world, our being is ready for its becoming. We are ready to be transformed into lions.
Rise like Lions after slumber in unvanquishable number, shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you. Ye are many — they are few. ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
But, Caveat leonem, lion beware. Courage is the treat but pride is the trick. Every sacred No! must eventually discover a reciprocal sacred Yes! lest hubris lead to tyranny. Pride can cause us to become too hard and rigid in our ways.
When our courage becomes prideful we become hard and our third-eye closes. Our garden dries up and the Spirit Lotus, representative of soft innocence, shrivels up and dies.
As the Kalahari Bushmen say, “you must first get soft before tapping into transformative energies,” into the energy of the universe that they refer to as N|om. It takes the lion’s courage to transcend the pack mule’s burden, but it takes a softening, a return to innocence, for real transformation to occur. Courage breaks the spell, but courage that becomes Power can also be the spell.
When we get out of our own way – that is, when we nip Reverence (the overburdened mule) and Pride (the hardness of the lion) in the bud – we free ourselves to unfold the Spirit Lotus, to kick open the third-eye, to awaken the mysteries that have been hiding within. Having done this we unleash a torrent of creative energies that propel us out of small mind and into Big Mind; out of hard mind and into soft mind. What we discover is a spiritual plasticity that awakens our primordial self, our eternal innocence.
It is the Eternal Innocent that tempers the lion’s ardor. Without it we become stuck in the reverence reaped from the glory that our courage sowed, and we risk becoming tyrants. Wisdom is perishable. Altruism is impermanent. It is all too easy to fall victim to the charm of pride (lion) and reverence (the mule). Even King Solomon the Wise descended into tyranny.
Our eternal innocence is powerful because it is an arrow of humility that pierces our self-serious agenda. It injects a liquid innocence that softens our too-hard, too-reverent hearts, and leaves us open to progressive change. The gift of eternal innocence is eternal becoming.
In the end, transformation is not without risk. Change does not imply enlightenment. And so we must remain circumspect, keeping our lion’s eye focused on the prize but our third-eye open to the vicissitudes of life’s many illusions, especially those of pride and self-deception.
Courage will become pride, pride will become reverence, and reverence will become stagnation unless a newfound courage (found within eternal innocence) can be “reborn” to continue the cycle. Once again, a return to playful innocence is the healthiest bridge toward the numinous wisdom hidden within us.