Lecture January 23, 1987
San Diego Friends of Jung
During my first trip to Reykjavik Iceland in 1986 I met Tryggvie Stephen Sverrir Thorarensen, a young artist who grew up speaking and writing the runes. I was astounded to be given such a profound synchronicity, my dreams having brought me to Iceland. He later wrote me a letter on his way to further his art studies in Sunnhordland Norway and on the back honored me by drawing this image which reads “My Dreams Took Me To Iceland”. Stephen left us on 2-17-2005 in an intensive care unit at University Hospital of North Norway.
My personal adventure into the warrior archetype began with a dream on my birthday in 1984. I dreamed I had given birth to a 9 lb. 9 oz. boy. The infant was a profound presence and I was told that his name was Odin. I sensed that a great deal of consciousness would be required to raise him, but also, that the effort would be mostly in the form of guiding and watching, because it seems he knew where he was going
Ten years earlier, the God Thor had appeared to me in a dream – he was sitting on my kitchen stove, talking to me. This dream had led me to my roots in Norway and to my work with the Nordic goddess, Freya. She is a Valkyrie warrior, but at the time, I didn’t grasp or integrate this aspect of her.
Such archetypal dreams bring to mind the mythological adventure offered to the Navajo, who is ritually carried through the sacred space of a healing ceremony and returned transformed to the world.
The Odin dream had a similar pull – like a lodestar – that same haunting excitement that whispers, “Where does this want to go?”
Jung first discussed the relationship of myth to dream in 1908 in his book Symbols of Transformation – one which Freud was unable to accept. It was then that Jung asked himself, “By what myth am I living?”
Joseph Campbell, the greatest living mythologist, on his 80th birthday remarked, “Myth turns realization inward. It is metaphoric of what I might be.” Each of us is called to come into accord with our own nature and then, into harmony with our society. That journey is truly our personal call to adventure – entering the void with a song! I felt all that tension of the unknown with this dream.
As I began my work on the dream, I knew that the number 9 was a sacred number in Teutonic symbolism, especially as related to death and rebirth in shamanism, but I found I was mostly drawn to begin study about Odin himself. This God had over 200 names. Among others, he was called the Awful, the God of Battle, the High One, He Who Determines Victories, the One with Evasive Eyes, Father of the Slain and All-Father. Odin was the wisest of the Gods – one in balance with life and death – it was from him that all others sought counsel.
Odin was associated with an 8-legged horse (Sleipnir), a shield, a ring (Draupnir) a sword (Gram), two wolves (Geri and Freki) and two ravens (Hugin and Munin – Thought and Memory). Besides being the Father of the other Gods, Odin was associated with the arts, culture, wisdom and war – he was a potent magician warrior and healer – a mystic shaman.
Odin was one-eyed, for he had sacrificed his L eye to the well of the Giant Mimir, in exchange for wisdom and self-reliance and had hung on a wind-blown tree for nine long nights, until he attained the knowledge of the runes. Thus was he recognized for both knowledge and wisdom.
Gyorgy Doczi, in his book, The Power of Limits – Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art and Architecture, differentiates wisdom and knowledge. He writes, “Wisdom is a putting together, knowledge a taking apart. Wisdom synthesizes and integrates, knowledge analyzes and differentiates. Wisdom envisions unity, knowledge grasps the specific. Wisdom comes from “weid”– to see, from which our words ‘Vision’ and ‘Veda’ come. Knowledge originates from root, “gno’” meaning ‘to know’ and gives us such words as ‘can’ and ‘cunning.’
The runes Odin attained are an ancient oracle – the earliest script of the Teutonic peoples, in use by the end of the 3rd century – the I Ching or Tarot of the Vikings – their acknowledgement of the power of nature. The runes are an instrument for channeling into unconscious wisdom – an aid to self-change. They were especially used by the Viking warrior and prophetess. Instead of coins or yarrow stalks or cards, stones, sticks or round pieces of wood were thrown. The number of runes used varied with the culture – Nordic, Icelandic, or Anglo-Saxon. At this time, generally 24 runes are used – three sets of 8. Each rune has a specific meaning, image, sound and number. I made my first set out of tongue depressors, engraving the symbols with an electric pencil, then I ordered some made from pear wood from England. The best, I believe, which I have yet to engrave are selected stones of approximate the same size and smoothness.
Every culture expresses, through myth and story, an organization of their insights into an order of the universe or oneness, the split into polarity and a way to honor and relate to this eternal order in daily life. We all recognize Atman, Yahweh, Confucius, God, Brahman, or in this instance Odin. This process of eternal creation from one to two is beautifully expressed by Lao Tze in the Tao The Ching:
“Tao produces One,
One produces Two
Two produces Three
Three produce all phenomena.
All phenomena carry the Yin on their backs
And the Yang in their embrace,
Deriving their vital harmony from the dynamic
Balance of the true vital forces.”
Maintaining this balance is a key issue in our present study and will be emphasized in the workshop tomorrow.
In Genesis, Chapter One, we read another expression of this continuing formation – “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.” Then it continues through a description of 7 days of subsequent manifestation down to male and female. In the words of Michio Kushi, “We see that our humanity is the terminus of a huge spiral of life arising in the ocean of One Infinity.”
In our own culture, the great historian, Arnold Toynbee, based his entire study of history on the alternating movement of Yin and Yang, which he expressed as Challenge and Response. He writes, “Of the various symbols in which different observers in different societies have expressed the alternation between a static condition and a dynamic activity in the rhythm of the Universe, Yin and Yang are the most apt, because they convey the measure of the rhythm directly.” All phenomena and change are aggregates of these two tendencies in various proportions. Jung spoke of Yin and Yang as the ‘mother-father’ of everything that happens. (Giannini) Let us call them ‘our true parents.’ Listen for the breadth of this view in our story this evening. Tomorrow we will move into quite a detailed understanding of Yin and Yang as our true parents.
Our story is an ancient one. It comes from one of the heroic lays or ballads in the Elder Poetic Edda, the most ancient and vivid of the Germanic writings. There were many stories about our hero, Sigurd, a descendant of Odin. However, history and legend are hopelessly enmeshed. This particular lay was probably written between 800 and 1100 A.D. The prose version is the Volsung Saga. It supplied the structure for the German epic, the Nibelungenlied, countless folktales and Wagner’s 4-part Opera, The Ring of the Nibelung.
But, we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. This was not just an intellectual journey. Recall that the dream had come in November of 1984. By the spring of 1985, I had become really haunted with the possibility of going to Iceland – Iceland is Odin’s land. The whole thing felt so remote, but happened quicker than I could have imagined possible. By late April I was on my way. Toni Wolf once remarked that if a woman is only able to put more trust in her own nature, “The unconscious will find way to achieve the apparently impossible.”
My studies in that brief, preparatory time, showed Iceland to be a land where story and myth had remained a part of daily life and vocabulary. It has been described as a country of vision. The religious mythology there is preserved in the Old Norse language, spoken yet today with very few changes. Not to know this mythology is to be left with a great hole in our Western collective psyche – yet, it has remained quite unconscious in most of us – a sleeping giant.
I continue to integrate the experience. I was moved very deeply by the land with its vibrant color and explosiveness, the sweeping panoramic countryside with stories jumping out of every waterfall and stone. Perhaps the highlights were my visit to the Manuscript Museum at the University – home of the Poetic Edda and the original 13th century copies of the ancient sagas – and the meeting of two men, both artists, both named Trygve – surely, manifestations of Odin himself. There was Tryggvie Stephen Sverrir Thorarensen, a young man who grew up using the runic alphabet, who took the time to encourage my daily use of the runes, who inspired and deepened my appreciation of myth and whose special plaques you see here this evening. Then there was Trygve Arneson whose copper engraving you see here, entitled, “A Woman’s Role,” inspired by his wife, Erla, who expanded my understanding of Nordic woman.
The following spring (1986) seeking inspiration for a paper in religious studies class, I consulted the runes about the matter and drew “Dagur” or “Day.” This rune addresses the spiritual problem of total awakening or the receiving of mystical inspiration. The mystery of this rune is expressed in a poem spoken by Brunhilde after she is awakened by the hero, Sigurd. She says:
Hail to Day’s sons!
Look upon us twain
With loving eyes
And give those sitting here
Hail the Gods!
Hail the Goddesses!
Hail the much-needed earth!
Sayings and sage wit
Give to us, the storied ones,
And healing hands in this life!
The poem absolutely haunted me. There are many stories about people who have fallen into a deep sleep and have to be awakened or reminded who they are. I was so haunted, I looked up the word “haunt!” I found that it comes from the root “Kei” meaning ‘home.’ Somehow if I followed the feeling I knew I would be taken home.
My original idea had been to attempt translation of the poem from the Old Icelandic, but it was impossible to locate, even from the Museum, though the latest clue is a publisher in Amsterdam. The next best thing, it seemed, to do was to attempt to understand the context of the poem. Our story this evening is one episode in the story of Sigurd and Brunhilde and includes the poem and is adapted from several versions of the saga. Listen carefully for the questions and issues about the warrior that form for you, as I read the story and bring them up at discussion time or at the workshop tomorrow.
Our hero, Sigurd, son of the great Volsung warrior king, Sigmund, and foster son of Alf, the Viking was a fearless child, full of laughter, bringing joy and admiration wherever he went. It was said that Sigurd moved with the grace of a deer. His companion-tutor was the treacherous dwarf, Regin-a dark, secretive, old man, a master craftsman who also taught healing spells and herbs and the skill of a harp. But Regin was also a man deeply possessed by greed- greed for the power of his father’s gold, now guarded by his cruel brother, Fafnir, who in his greed had become the Dragon of Glittering Health.
“Surely, Sigurd, you are the only hero alive able to avenge my father’s death,” said Regin. “I know you are ready to win wealth and fame. All I ask is that you kill him, for he is utterly evil – then roast his heart that I may eat it to be wise – then you may take what you will.”
Sigurd’s mother, Hiordis, seeing it was time, gave Sigurd the shards of his father’s sword, Gram given by Odin – to be forged once again into perfect balance by Regin.
Forging the sword brought hope to Regin – he talked of nothing but the gold. “Men say the treasure lays where my father piled it on the ground and that around it coils my brother, the dragon, gloating over it all day, but when the moon shines, he dreams of his youth and leaves his treasure to go drink in the river.”
“I see what I must do,” mused Sigurd. “I will dig a pit in the pathway to the river and crouch there to wait in the dark. Then can I thrust up through his belly to his heart as he slithers over me.”
It was not long before Sigurd and Regin were close enough to begin their work. Soon, the huge, scaly head with weary human eyes stared through the gloom and the monstrous body began to slide over Sigurd’s hiding place. Risking all, Sigurd thrust his sword upward with all his force. Fafnir writhed – his huge body arched like a bow and Sigurd leaped from the pit. The long death struggle over, a fire was kindled while Regin slept and Sigurd began to roast Fafnir’s heart. It spattered and spattered, burning the tips of his fingers. As Sigurd put his burned fingers to his tongue, he realizes incredulously that he can understand what the birds in the woods are saying and that they are talking amongst themselves about him, counseling him to kill Regin, before he himself is killed, and then to hastily ride to Mt. Hindfell, where he is told, he will find a sleeping warrior maiden – the leader of the Valkyries.
Sigurd hurriedly carries out his grim instructions and quickly gathers as much gold as his horse can carry. Donning the Winged Helmet of Dread, the Golden Breastplates and Andvari’s golden ring from the hoards of gold, he set forth for Mt. Hindfell.
Drawn towards a great light, he could see dancing flames on the edge of the sky. Horse and rider tirelessly climbed the mountain of treeless rock, picking their way with care. Fire licked at Sigurd’s garments and hissed through Greyfell’s mane. Light dazzled his eyes and a great roar deafened him. He dug his heels into Greyfell and the horse gave a desperate leap through the flaming wall.
In front of him lay a figure clothed from head to foot in shining armor, with arms crossed, as though dead. He dismounted, touched it gently on the shoulder, but to no avail. Then he very carefully unfastened the helmet, revealing long, golden hair, and the face of the loveliest woman his eyes had ever beheld.
Still, she did not awaken. He saw that her byrnie had become as her flesh. He quickly slit open the rest of the heavy armor with his sword. She lay before him now in pure white garments. Her eyes opened slowly – a soft sigh parted her lips. Speechless with wonder, he watched her gaze upon the world.
“How long hast thou lain asleep? Who art though?”
Like a dawn-awakened bird, Brunhilde raised her voice in song:
“Long was my sleep, long was my sleep,
Darkling ‘twas love and dreamless and deep;
Long as the evils that mankind endure,
As long and as sure;
Helpless in sunshine and star-shine I’ve lain,
Wrapped by the runes that bind like a chain;
Helpless ye found me:
Odin had bound me –
Bound me in sleep where I lay………….”
Hail to the day!
Hail to the sons of the light!
All hail to the night!
Hail and O hear, beholding us twain,
And give what we hope not to gain……..
Hail ye gods and ye goddesses dear,
And Earth, the mother of all,
Give us of wisdom and tenderness here,
Hands that shall heal and hearts without fear
Till death shall at length on us all………
“I am Brunhilde, chosen of Odin. I was a Valkyrie. I hover over the battlefields, bringing victory or defeat. I snatch up the souls of the dying and carry them to Odin’s hall— but, I took the soul of one fated to live and spared a man doomed to die. Odin in his wrath has returned me to man, with one wish granted – that only the greatest hero alive would pierce this flame to free me. Who art thou that hast shorn my armour asunder, and hath power to break the runes of sleep?”
“I am Sigurd the Volsung, one born to be without fear. I have won you fairly” and from his hand, Sigurd drew Andvari’s ancient ring of gold and slipped it on Brunhilde’s finger. Brunhilde and Sigurd swear binding oaths, vowing faithfulness, “until life’s last loop is spun.” Brunhilde gives rune knowledge to Sigurd and counsels him so that he might win fame among men.
Perhaps many questions rose up in you, as they did with me on hearing the story. I want to hear them after the break and at the workshop. Some of mine were – what is a Valkyrie? What is that in us? What put her to sleep? What is such a sleep state? What are the conditions of awakening? How does one stay awake? What do man and woman offer each other as warriors?
We have here a hero who demonstrates as do all heroes the “enormous difficulties” in “attaining the ‘highest good.” Jung has written in his essay, “The Psychology of Child Archetype,” “how precarious” the issue is of “psychic possibility of wholeness.” (9i, 282). Sigurd armed with his mighty sword and good judgment is brave enough to fearlessly kill the dragon. In the East, the dragon is the symbol of greatest strength – what one hopes to reach and taste in oneself. In the West, it is that “monster of darkness,” – the threat from within – the instinctive psyche that we must come to terms with before it devours what development we have acquired. Upon tasting the heart of this issue, our hero is enabled to hear the birds (his own deep intuition) and to act upon it – to slay Regin (a separate view of his destiny), get the gold – the inner riches of balance, including the winged helmet of dread, the golden shield and Andvari’s golden ring and move forward towards the unknown feminine.
What man today doesn’t want to feel the hero in himself to such an extent that he can forge his way fearlessly towards the unknown, containing the terror both inner and outer – especially, toward the feminine opposite in himself – toward his own inner heroine – his warrior goddess – his inner Divine balance. Reception to life and to the spiritual for the man is through his relationship to her and vice versa.
It seems that such a hero will be led to a strange, foreign place, to a foreboding castle of shield-hung walls (could they be those fortified positions of oneself?) and, once there, he must break through an inner wall of flame (perhaps the passion of some goal identification, or of some projection to reality?) Wagner’s expression here is very moving:
Through burning fire
I sped toward you;
Neither shield nor buckler
Guarded my body;
The flames have broken
Through to my breast;
My blood races
Hot through my being:
A raging fire
Is kindled within me.
What incredible fearlessness, perseverance and trust of the void this requires! And even upon breaking through the wall of flame, what does he find, but more obstruction – the woman is helmeted and further encased in masculine armour. Both her head and her heart, it seems, must be freed before her awakening can occur.
The hexagram, The Creative, from the I Ching, speaks to the power and to the effects of such heroic masculinity – “The course of the Creative alters and shapes beings until each attains its true, specific nature, then it keeps them in conformity with the Great Harmony. Thus does it show itself to further through Perseverance…..”
What about our sleeping warrior – maiden, one of Odin’s chosen. As long as the Valkyrie obeyed Odin and remained a virgin she was immortal and invulnerable.
Tomorrow we will explore the words “maiden” and “virgin” more fully, for they increase our understanding of the state of receptivity that is able to receive and nourish the Divine seed.
The Valkyrie was endowed with many gifts – wisdom, courage, bodily strength, knowledge of herbs and healing, skill in weaving and spinning, but mostly, she was a spinner of destiny – a guide, the right hand of God.
But, you will recall, Brunhilde went against Odin’s directions by choosing to give victory in battle to a younger, more handsome king than Odin decreed. Again, Wagner’s expression of this event is very descriptive.
None knew as she my innermost thoughts,
None knew as he the source of my will:
She herself was
The creating womb of my wish.
And how she has broken
That happy bond!
The Valkyrie’s destiny-bearing function was part of her relationship with Odin, i.e. with the order of the Universe. It was not meant to be a separate personal judgment. It is vital to grasp this. By claiming for herself and projecting her own image of what should be, she exercised arrogance and a freedom and separateness from God. Is this not always our choice? But the further question arises – how can we begin to know when this is happening in us? Which comes first? – lapse into separation from Divine Being or identification with one’s own thought? It is impossible to say, but the question must always be in the forefront of our mind.
Schurman, translating Meister Eckhart, the great 13th century Dominican mystic, writes, “Acting and becoming are one. God and I are one in operation; he acts and I become.” You see, the trouble is, we are free not to become. Man is the only animal with the freedom to put his own becoming to sleep. Perhaps this is why we fear our freedom so much. It is directly linked to our power and to our human destiny, which we must distinguish from fate, and in which we must courageously participate. The danger is to fear life itself.
Goethe wrote, “Error stands in the same relation to truth as sleeping to waking.” Brunhilde’s lapse from Odin, from oneness, from truth – brings sleep – self -betrayal puts our inner warrior goddess to sleep, whether we are male or female.
The fact is, we are either in error or truth – we are either asleep or awake in relation to ourselves and our inner Divine nature. The question that forms is – what is our responsibility to the Divine order in ourselves? How do we wake up and stay awake? What is our responsibility to the care and feeding of the spiritual warrior within?
We are told in our story that being put to sleep is the result of disobedience to inner order – to inner nature – and that being awakened requires heroic effort on the part of the masculine – specifically, a persevering masculine energy that is without fear. This is so whether we are referring to the inner masculine – the Yang animus in woman, or to the outer man who must courageously and heroically free his Yin anima. Whether male or female, each of us will experience fear of his inner opposite and will have the task of connecting with them respectfully and fearlessly.
Murray Stein, in a translation of the chapter, “The Amazon Problem,” in the book, Facing the Gods, edited by James Hillman, describes the feeling of this experience for a man: “This is an anima not disposed to throw herself at a man’s feet, for she is self-sufficient and independent. She wakes in a man the mood for conquest and struggle – assists him to dare and take risks. If he is unconscious of her, she will have a tendency to anticipate his masculine decisiveness and confront him with unforeseen possibilities.” I might add – this may cause him to feel really disrupted, threatened or bothered, until he is able to attempt some trust of her, while he also attempts to bear the brunt gracefully of the tension or insult he may feel from within.
Because most of us are preoccupied with the outer self and world, our inner opposite is generally experienced as foreign territory in ourselves and, as a result, can go unnoticed, be avoided and remain asleep. However, it will eventually insist upon being noticed and honored and can even begin to take over in this attempt to be acknowledged. This causes a lack of integration, which, is very disruptive to the individual and to any relationship and must be dealt with for such antagonism to be able to be moved towards complementarity. Very often, under these circumstances, a man or woman will express to me that they cannot do creative work within the framework of the relationship. The projections simply have not been worked through to a level of reality-based balance and freedom.
Full acknowledgment and recognition of this opposite in ourselves, not only allows us to realize and better relate to our outer opposite, but such clarity and discrimination offers the really challenging opportunity for man and woman to become a true guide of masculinity or femininity for each other, offering leadership out of the fear of one’s own inner opposite, enabling them to balance to their male or female center. Such a guardian would promote the growth, harmony and breadth of another’s life. He guards her nature. She guards his vision.
This is only possible with remembrance of the larger view that everything in the Universe is made up of Yin and Yang in varying proportions, giving structure and direction in man and woman uniquely and daily.
Awakening, you will recall, brought an upright stance – erectness – As Brunhilde arises, a view of the horizon becomes possible for her. Erect stance is uniquely human – one is face to face with the continual disclosure between Heaven and Earth’s forces meeting at the horizon. (Think of this at both an inner and outer level) (Reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s latest book, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space) Man’s uprightness offers the greatest opportunity to receive Heaven and Earth’s force. (This energy is called Ki by the Japanese, and Chi by the Chinese). It can be helpful to consider the animal’s view, limited to his immediate surroundings. Man can see the whole world.
Recall also that it was upon awakening and standing that song, poetry and prayer for healing hands blossomed. Not until we recognize and are mindful of our unique stance as human beings and continue in that awareness can we expect to receive the gifts of the inner warrior.
None of us is coerced to remain awake, alert or upright, but that we have a choice must be acknowledged. We are free to refuse the disclosure between Heaven and Earth at the horizon and what Heraclitus has called, “elegance.” He writes, “Elegance is being intently wakeful, is dealing with what is in proper fashion. To be ethical is to follow the norms established by society – to be elegant is to follow the gathering of the logos …within the interplay that bears up the elegance of man.”
Tending then, to the horizon, both inner and outer, results in elegance, an awakened inner warrior, free and upright who has the capacity to keep continually corrected to his own nature and to his destiny, be it masculine or feminine. Such a commitment to ourselves enables inspiration of our outer companion.
We are further instructed in our story that the heart is another clue for both man and woman to connect with his or her inner warrior. Recall that Sigurd, upon slaying Fafnir, was advised to roast and eat of the dragon’s heart – only then did he become receptive to seeing and hearing nature – his own – and only then was he able to be led to the feminine. The heart is also a key in freeing Brunhilde. Not until the byrnie is cut does she awaken to Sigurd and to herself.
An episode from the epic novel, Musashi, by Yoshikawa about the Samurai era, offers us further instruction about the heart of the warrior. The woman, Yoshino and the Samurai, Musashi, are talking:
“Who are you on guard against?”
“No one. I’m just trying to keep myself from relaxing too much.”
“Because of your enemies?”
“In your present state, if you were suddenly attacked in force, you’d be killed immediately. I’m sure of it, and it makes me sad.”
He did not answer.
“A woman like myself knows nothing of the Art of War, but from watching you tonight, I have the terrible feeling I’ve seen a man who was about to be cut down. Somehow there’s the shadow of death about you. Is that really safe for a warrior who may at any minute have to face dozens of swords? Can such a man expect to win?”
The question sounded sympathetic, but it unsettled him. He whirled around, moved to the hearth and sat facing her.
“Are you saying I’m immature?”
“Did I make you angry?”
“Nothing a woman ever said would make me angry. But I am interested in knowing why you think I act like a man whose about to be killed.”
He professed not to be angry, but his eyes were as keen as sword tips. He stared straight into her white face. “Explain what you said.” When she did not answer immediately, he said, “Or maybe you were just joking.”
Her dimples, which had deserted her for a moment, reappeared. “How can you say that?” She laughed, shaking her head. “Do you think I’d joke about something so serious to a warrior?”
“Well, what did you mean? Tell me!”
All right. Since you seem so eager to know, I’ll try to explain. Were you listening when I played the lute?”
“What does that have to do with it?”
“Perhaps it was foolish of me to ask. Tense as you are, your ears could hardly have taken in the fine, subtle tones of the music.”
“No, that’s not true. I was listening.”
“Did it occur to you to wonder how all those complicated combinations of soft and loud tones, weak and strong phrases, could be produced from only four strings?”
“I was listening to the story. What else was there to hear?”
“Many people do that, but I’d like to draw a comparison between the lute and a human being. Rather than go into the technique of playing, let me recite a poem by Po Chu-I in which he describes the sounds of the lute. I feel sure you know it.
She wrinkled her brow slightly as she intoned the poem in a low voice, her style somewhere between singing and speaking.
The large strings hummed like rain,
The small strings whispered like a secret,
Hummed, whispered – and then were intermingled
Like a pouring of large and small pearls into a plate of jade.
We heard an oriole, liquid, hidden among the flowers.
We heard a brook bitterly sob along a bank of sand…….
By the checking of its cold touch, the very string seemed broken
As though it could not pass; and the notes, dying away
Into the depth of sorrow and concealment of lament,
Told even more in silence than they had told in sound…….
A silver vase abruptly broke with a rush of water,
And out leapt armored horses and weapons that clashed and smote-
And before she laid her pick down, she ended with one stroke,
And all four strings made one sound, as of rending silk.
“And so, you see, one simple lute can produce an infinite variety of tonalities. Since the days when I was an apprentice, this puzzled me. Finally, I broke a lute apart to see what was inside. Then I attempted to make one myself. After trying a number of things, I finally understood that the secret of the instrument is in its heart.”
Breaking off, she went and got the lute from the next room. Once reseated, she held the instrument by the neck and stood it up in front of him.
“If you examine the heart inside, you can see why the tonal variations are possible.” Taking a fine, keen knife, in her lithe hand, she brought it down quickly and sharply on the pear-shaped back of the lute. Three or four deft strokes and the work was done, so quickly and decisively that Musashi half expected to see blood spurt from the instrument. He even felt a slight twang of pain, as though the blade had nicked his own flesh. Placing the knife behind her, Yoshino held the lute up so he could see its structure.
Looking first at her face, then at the broken lute, he wondered whether she actually possessed the element of violence seemingly displayed in her handling of the weapon. The smarting pain from the screech of the cuts lingered.
“As you can see,” she said, “the inside of the lute is almost completely hollow. All the variations come from this single cross-piece near the middle. This one piece of wood is the instrument’s bones, its vital organs, it’s heart. If it were absolutely straight and rigid, the sound would be monotonous, but, in fact, it has been shaved into a curved shape. This alone would not create the lute’s infinite variety. That comes from leaving the crosspiece a certain amount of leeway to vibrate at either end. To put it another way, the tonal richness comes from there being a certain freedom of movement, a certain relaxation, at the ends of the core.”
“It’s the same with people. In life, we must have flexibility. Our spirits must be able to move freely. To be too stiff and rigid is to be brittle and lacking in responsiveness.”
His eyes did not move from the lute, nor did his lips open.
“This much,” she continued, “should be obvious to anybody, but isn’t it characteristic of people to become rigid? With one stroke of the pick, I can make the four strings of the lute sound like a lance, like a sword, like the rending of a cloud, because of the fine balance between firmness and flexibility in the wooden core. Tonight, when I first saw you, I could detect no trace of flexibility – only stiff, unyielding rigidity. If the crosspiece were as taut and unbending as you are, one stroke of the pick would break a string, perhaps even the sounding board itself. It may have been presumptuous of me to say what I did, but I was worried about you. I wasn’t joking or making fun of you. Do you understand that?”
A cock crowed in the distance. Musashi sat and stared at the maimed body of the lute and the chips of wood on the floor.
Could you feel the tone of Yoshino’s teaching? So gentle, yet so powerful – clear thinking, clear imaging, decisiveness, elegance, perseverance, commitment to her way of understanding – response in favor of reaction – truly demonstrative of the courageous response of a feminine warrior. Recall his respect of her preciseness as she cut open the lute and how it affected him – he thought blood could spurt out. We see how Musashi’s fear of the Yin – the soft and gentle in him had wrought an overdevelopment of the outer masculine to the point of rigidity. By knowing a developed woman, who was willing and able to express and communicate this balanced Yin nature (which was also in him, but which he feared) he could consider a new trust both within and without.
The blind medicine woman, Ruby in Star Woman who has learned to see better than most, has remarked, “Women need to heal themselves. Do that first in order to heal the men, who need it as much as we do. Remember, only a woman can heal a man spiritually. If you yourself fail, you are two down.” (p.10).
An ancient Icelandic proverb comes to mind – “Many a man lies hid within himself.” And, for both man and woman, Maharaji, a great sage, remarked, “The Moment you know your real being, you are afraid of nothing.”
More symbolic detail of the story
Issues of the heroic, including fear
Further description of the warrior anima
What a warrior must be awake to – condition, attitude, posture, breath
Detailed work on the sleep vs. the awake state
Broader understanding of Yin and Yang down to our food
What must be remembered on a daily basis
The Way of Transformation by Karlfried Graf von Durckheim – Mandala books, Unwin Paperbacks, 40 Museum Street, London, WCIA ILU.
Facing the Gods, edited by James Hillman – Spring Publications, Inc. Dallas Texas.
Shambala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior – by Chogyam Trungpa – Shambala Boston
Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman – H.J. Kramer, Inc. Tiburon, CA.
The Book of Macrobiotics by Michio Kushi – Japan Publications, Inc., Tokyo, Japan.
Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa – Harper and Row
A Book of Five Rings by Muyamoto Musashi – The Overlook Press, Woodstock, N.Y.
Rune Games by Marjorie Osborn and Stella Longland – Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
Macrobiotics and Human Behavior by William Tara – Japan Publication, Inc., Tokyo, Japan.
The Power of Limits by Gyorgy Doczi – Shambala
Meister Eckhart translated by Reiner Schurmann – Indiana University Press
The Story of the Volsungs & Niblungs translated by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson – George Prior Publications, London.
San Diego Friends of Jung
January 22, 1987
Loci S. Yonder