When starting on this journey one of the first things confronted is your servitude. It becomes clear when the illusion is laid bare before you that you are a slave. A well fed and willing slave but a slave nonetheless. Knowing this, it eats away at you to escape the system but the thought of the loss of the comforts you have grown accustomed to presents a major challenge. When first faced with this dilemma I just wanted to return home from the vexing jungle and go back to my familiar servitude. I didn't want to face up to this challenge. Eventually I regrouped and was able to take steps forward on the journey, being more careful this time. I've reached the point where I'm using my servitude as a springboard to further my spirit quest but haven't cut ties to my bondage. My attachments, which are near and dear to me, curtail the freedom I head towards.
The use of psychedelics in a responsible manner will force you at some point to come to terms with identity, its malleability, and the constructs culture uses to keep the sense of whom you think you are rigid. The plant medicines also have an ability to open up your heart in an ineffable way, even if just temporary. You are shown what it is like to live with love in your heart. They reveal many secrets and at some point this clarity of being that you develop I think can lead to contentedness and inaction. I’ve been thinking about this lately along the lines of what happens when you reach a stage of perceived ‘enlightenment’? Does something holy descend upon you and give you a certificate and then you retire to your exalted place of awesomeness? All joking aside there seems to be a danger or a trap laid out for the seeker. One day I was discussing Greek mythology with my son, in particular the Gorgon Medusa, when an idea struck me about the metaphor of the stone that humans are turned into when they gaze upon her visage. The following is my unique esoteric interpretation of the myth based upon my journey into different dimensions of consciousness.
The myth of Medusa deconstructed lets us know directly by her head full of snakes for hair that she is an aspect of the Great Goddess.
Medusa by Arnold Böcklin, circa 1878
If you look directly at her you will turn to stone as the feminine power will birth you into this world and usher you through life into death - which really is just a transitional phase, a rebirth or becoming, into something new. This all makes for a great exoteric adventure story involving the demigod Perseus who must slay this Gorgon in order to free his mother from the clutches of an evil and amorous king.
Perseus with Medusa head
The king takes advantage of Perseus’ boasting of his strength and sends him on his way to return with the head of Medusa. He enlists the help of the deities Athena, Hermes, Hephaestus, and Hades to complete the task and is successful. He then uses the head of Medusa to immobilize the king and his court thus freeing his mother. In gratitude he gives the Gorgon head to Athena, who places it in the centre of her aegis.
Athena's aegis with Gorgon head
But what does all this mean?
To me Medusa is representing the world illusion, known in eastern philosophy as Maya, that entraps you through culture and identity games. As the hero on a hero’s journey, Perseus' ultimate task in his quest is to free himself from the stultifying effects of participating in the world system. To come face to face with that illusion, represented by Medusa, will turn you to stone. Why is that? It's because at some point anyone who has spent some time soul searching will come to the realization that this is all an elaborate game or hoax. At that point it is easy to declare a victory of sorts and decide you have figured it all out. You become complacent; this is what turning to stone is all about. The hero's journey comes to an abrupt end because you have the answer. You look directly at the illusion and it stops you in your tracks; there is no need to continue on. You become essentially a stone Buddha. Perseus had to figure a way out of this predicament which had felled many before him. This battle had the potential to stop him stone cold and he was victorious by reflecting the image of Medusa back onto her therefore causing her to turn to stone. He then beheaded her and used her head as protection against his foes in battle. Perseus heads back into the world, balancing his inner life, to continue the battle. The act of beheading her suggests a break with the mask of personality. We all wear our mask which is used to project the image we want to convey to the world we operate in however we all know or will discover that deep down we are all an act creating our own drama. The physical act of beheading is symbolically demonstrating that Perseus fully comprehends and sees through the game. The other elements of the story are also suggesting to us things we can use or expect on our journey. The help of the gods are accessible if your intentions are sincere. Take it for what you will but I received a cloak of protection from the Goddess the first time I entered into the ‘other realm’ and for sure I have needed it or I would have been throughly trounced. This cloak I perceive as the aegis of Athena. The freeing of his mother from the evil king is a metaphor for the overthrow of the ruling patriarchy of the world. In order to complete your quest you must at some point reconcile your relationship to the great mother goddess. Medusa has been described as both beautiful and ugly.
Is this not how we shiftingly view the world? At times we see its beauty and other times we are aghast. Seeing the illusion for what it is reveals a part of the created world which is surely upsetting. The snakes for hair demonstrate serpent power being the animating force of this world. But once again beauty is in the eye of the beholder; once you are over your initial shock you become free of the illusion and can use this knowledge to find peace within the game.
I am convinced some myths can only be decoded through experiential means. You have to live the myth yourself before approaching the essence of the mystery and its esoteric threads. This is my antidote to complacency.