Originally published in “The Buzz”-Depth Insights News for Depth Psychology Alliance, April 2012 (www.depthpsychalliance.com)
The Oxford English Dictionary defines home as: The place in which one is free from attack; the point which one tries to reach; the goal. But, home is a much more complicated idea than this definition leads us to believe. As I read the Passover story, I wonder what home meant for ancient Israelites. For those of us in the Depth world, home conjures many different images: A physical location, the company of a particular person, or more deeply an inner state of mind. Perhaps our idea of home is a Garden of Eden, the return to which is barred by angels with flaming swords. But for many of us, like the Israelites of old, the home of our fathers and the belief systems of our parents ultimately hold us captive and when unexamined, those very same beliefs threaten to enslave us.
In the story of the Exodus, YHWH commands the Israelites to leave Egypt, the place that has been their home for generations. For these ancient peoples, as for many spiritual seekers, home is no longer a place of nurturance and safety, but rather a place that has become oppressive. At the command of this greater Self, these courageous people must leave behind all that is familiar in pursuit of a Promised Land, a land where mothers milk and alchemical honey flows like water. And to arrive there they must wander in the desert for forty years.
How often during our own wandering in the spiritual desert did we wish we could return to the familiar? To the home we had known? Our old ways and ideas call to us from the mists of our memories and beckon us back into that Edenic past. And like the Israelites we have our “Golden Calf” moments. Moments when we are so frightened of a new path that we revert to our old ways in the hopes of being rescued from the miserable discomfort of wandering and the miserable discomforts of the desert. We might find ourselves reverting to worshipping our old gods, our own golden calves. We pray that those gods can keep us safe, but of course, the golden calf is merely a false idol. It is the symbol of the old ideals that can no longer serve us in the life ahead. And as spiritual seekers, we are drawn to continue our journey.
In the story of the Exodus, the complaints of the wandering Israelites bring about the anger of their Gd causing Him to send poisonous serpents throughout the wanderers. In biblical literature, the serpent always tells the truth. The snake of the bible, even the snake in the Garden of Eden, told the truth. Here, in the desert of the Exodus, YHWH has ensured that each Israelite will have to survive being bitten and inoculated with his or her own truth. Can every man and every woman survive such total consciousness? From that chaotic moment in the desert we learn that only some will survive the power of such awareness and continue their quest.
In Thou Art That, Joseph Campbell writes, “Slowly but surely the conscious adventurer can make his way through the desert, all the while striving towards some unseen and unknown Promised Land.” (36) The Passover story, celebrated by millions of people for thousands of years is nothing less than the journey towards individuation, the journey that each one of us must take in order to become.
Wishing all of you a reflective and thoughtful holiday season.