"Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark...." Thus Dante begins his Divine Comedy and journey through the three realms of existence. It is a recurring metaphor for many at a certain stage of life. Here another finds herself in that forest....
L. I see your dark forest, and suggest that if you visit it again, you look for a fountain, spring or stream which will be there somewhere, although you are not seeing it by staying resolutely on your chosen (only) path.
This spring, or whatever it is, will connect you with a source, the source of the forest, of the life of it, of the life of all. But don’t expect light—a source is dark, hidden, unknown, because we turn away from sources on a journey and head for who knows where, always hoping some El dorado will manifest round the next turn of the road! It rarely does, because the real treasure was back at the source.
I think we all have to leave the source and go on a journey. That's life. The trick is to remember the origin, and to turn around. The source may not be where you think it is. It may have travelled with you......
Symbolically and accurately, ‘dark’ is simply hidden, what is unknown, not seen. But Light reveals and displays everything it touches, including all the trash and suffering, turning attention away from mystery, the mystery of origins, the ultimate mystery. In truth Light is a stopping of the dark—as space is dark until it is interrupted by a massy object, planet etc. when ‘dark’ photons hit something and their impulse or trajectory is ‘denied’.
As women, we have a special relationship with this kind of darkness, of origins, of the conception and beginnings of life. We fear turning round to look, because the world is insisting that we take account of it, at all times. It even lays on beauty in the shape of nature, or art, or the face of a child and says assertively: ‘Look at me, don’t ask where I’ve come from, look at ME’.
I am reminded of the power of the Black Madonnas, especially revered in old Europe. And of the ancient symbolism of the Kabbalah where the two highest principles are often translated as Wisdom, the male initiating force, and Understanding, the female receptive. The imagery associated with the latter, Binah, is the Mother of Sorrows. It is not personal, but existential sorrow, bearing the sorrows of the world. Kuan Yin also, who ‘hears the cries of the world’ and pours out mercy from her little vessel. And the Virgin with seven swords in her heart.
The way I look at it—someone’s got to do it, to attend to this aspect of life’s great arc! Perhaps it is an honour, a service, as long as you know that suffering is only a weight if you carry it and wrap it round you. The wisdom alternative is to look for its hidden heart.
Undeniably, suffering is one face of the Dark. The triple Mother/Goddess has three faces. She is also the Bright Mother, and the Unifying. To accept our fullness as women, I think we’ve really got to acknowledge the whole package!