Into the Light: Re-Emergence after Descent

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Descent and Re-Emergence form a unified theme found in many mythic and literary tales, as in our lives. Descending to the depths is healthy and constructive; re-emerging renewed to apply the insights gained is extremely valuable. Out of the Darkness, Into the Light is therefore a cyclic process for personal growth and development.

Since we are in the final week of November, Month of the DESCENDER Archetype, it is appropriate to focus on the theme of Re-Emergence. Of course, this is also a Better Endings theme of itself, as Descent needs a resolution, a surfacing or a transcendence, in order to bear its cornucopia forward into mindful awareness and change.

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There is a plethora of mythic and literary examples to choose from to represent the sort of Re-Emergence you can bring about in your own mythic life’s journey.  Theseus’ descent into the Labyrinth to defeat the Minotaur at Crete and rescue his captured compatriots is a Classical example.  Ariadne, daughter of King Minos who has contained the Minotaur and feeds him with captives from Theseus’s home of Athens, gifts Theseus with a sword and a skein of thread so he can defeat the Minotaur (half-man/ half-bull) and then follow the thread back OUT from the labyrinth to lead his compatriots to safety.  Heroic Theseus, son of King Aegeus, thus succeeds quickly—after some deft storyline complications in his return voyage—to become a worthy King of Athens himself.

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The story, though, that most comes to mind for me as an example of Re-Emergence from Descent this week is the historic and spiritual tale of the life and death of Joan of Arc. I have been thinking of the recently late Leonard Cohen’s lyrics all week in his tribute song to La Pucelle (“the Maid”), “Joan of Arc.”  Jennifer Warnes does a wonderful rendition of this song on her “Famous Blue Raincoat” album, itself a tribute to Leonard Cohen; I will link you to a YouTube version that includes both Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen singing this  excellent song below. As the Universe or Spirit would have it, when I asked inwardly if this is the example I should share, last night a version of Jeanne d’Arc’s biography showed up on late night TV. That was my confirmation.

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Of course, Joan of Arc’s Descent occurred in two ways: first, spiritually, by her accepting and listening to the voices she attributed to St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. It took an unusually receptive consciousness and deep faith for Joan to accept the mission she felt called to undertake based on these voices. Then after several successful campaigns leading troops to deliver France from British control, Joan’s physical world Descent came with her imprisonment, with her trial in which she did not recant her spiritual calling, and ultimately with her being burned at the stake as a heretic.

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Leonard Cohen, who passed away earlier this month, penned his “Joan of Arc” lyrics around the final descent and the Ascension of St. Joan from the unusual point of view of the Fire that consumed her.  One might read Cohen’s protagonist as simultaneously the Holy Flame of her enduring faith and the physically voracious Fire at the pyre that consumed only her physical shell so to release and liberate her Spirit.  In both senses, the burning at the stake of Saint Joan constituted her Ascension, her ultimate Re-Emergence into the Light and Truth of the Divine via the action of Holy Spirit. Many accounts of her death report that witnesses saw a White Dove rise out of the mixed ashes of Jeanne d’Arc’s body and the wood of the fuel that claimed it.

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images are from pixabay.com

JOAN OF ARC (by Leonard Cohen)

http://www.leonardcohensite.com/songs/joan.htm

Now the flames they followed Joan of Arc
as she came riding through the dark;
no moon to keep her armour bright,
no man to get her through this very smoky night.
She said, “I’m tired of the war,
I want the kind of work I had before,
a wedding dress or something white
to wear upon my swollen appetite.”

Well, I’m glad to hear you talk this way,
you know I’ve watched you riding every day
and something in me yearns to win
such a cold and lonesome heroine.
“And who are you?” she sternly spoke
to the one beneath the smoke.
“Why, I’m fire,” he replied,
“And I love your solitude, I love your pride.”

“Then fire, make your body cold,
I’m going to give you mine to hold,”
saying this she climbed inside
to be his one, to be his only bride.
And deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and high above the wedding guests
he hung the ashes of her wedding dress.

It was deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and then she clearly understood
if he was fire, oh then she must be wood.
I saw her wince, I saw her cry,
I saw the glory in her eye.
Myself I long for love and light,
but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?

 

Joan of Arc

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When I think of archetypal female Elder Leader figures, Joan of Arc comes quickly to mind. She exhibited strengths of a Mystic and a Warrior, and as a Leader, Jeanne d’Arc led an army to victory at Orleans in defense of her beloved France. This brave young woman listened to her own inner voices, whether from her unconscious archetypal assembly and/or spiritual agencies supporting her mission.

I acted in a play while in college in the the role of a schizophrenic woman who believed she was Joan of Arc. For the part, I read all I could find about St. Joan so by the time the play was performed I really did identify strongly with La Pucelle.  The night before the first performance of this play, Chamber Music, a well-known author focussing on women’s psychology gave a talk on my college campus and she mentioned Joan of Arc as a primary example of the highest qualities of a heroic figure. She ended her lecture after mentioning Joan, saying, “having spoken of Joan of Arc, I cannot say anything more.”

I felt the weight of the world land on my shoulders then, and I promptly went to my dormitory to re-read the entirety of George Bernard Shaw’s play, Saint Joan, that night.

The Good Joan

Along the thousand roads of France,
Now there, now here, swift as a glance,
A cloud, a mist blown down the sky,
Good Joan of Arc goes riding by.In Domremy at candlelight,
The orchards blowing rose and white
About the shadowy houses lie;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.On Avignon there falls a hush,
Brief as the singing of a thrush
Across old gardens April-high;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.The women bring the apples in,
Round Arles when the long gusts begin,
Then sit them down to sob and cry;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.Dim fall the hoofs down old Calais;
In Tours a flash of silver-gray,
Like flaw of rain in a clear sky;
And Joan of Arc goes riding by.Who saith that ancient France shall fail,
A rotting leaf driv’n down the gale?
Then her sons know not how to die;
Then good God dwells no more on high!

Tours, Arles, and Domremy reply!
For Joan of Arc goes riding by.

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Could there have been a “better ending” for Joan of Arc, who died by being burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19? We know of the tragic betrayal and of her torturous death for having held to her truth and fought for her people. She was declared a heretic for not denying that she heard the archangel Michael and other spiritual agencies directing her campaign. Women were not expected to have a direct communication with God or angels then, let alone to set out to lead an army to victory. St. Joan could have recanted; she might have escaped, but history records how she chose not to betray her spiritual agencies just to save her physical form.
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I can hardly abide the more recent biographical films about Jeanne (though from a modern context they are well acted); it is Ingrid Bergman’s 1948 film depiction of St. Joan, based on Shaw’s play, that feels to me to be the best or better ‘rendering’ of this true tale of valor and faith that has become culturally iconic and archetypally embedded in human consciousness.
I cannot conceive of a better ending than what St. Joan chose by her own nature and conscience to endure for the sake of her faith and her relationship with Divinity Itself.
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The best account of Joan’s passing to my sensibility is Leonard Cohen’s song of tribute, https://www.youtube.com/embed/gtwUyDPXROQ?rel=0“>Joan of Arc, as sung by Jennifer Warnes. Click on this link or select:   to see this excellent YouTube performance.
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images gratefully from pixabay.com
Those attending Joan’s heroic passing witnessed a White Dove flying to the heavens as her bodily form crumbled to dust. Watch this video (above link) and read about St. Joan to contemplate your own archetypal Elder Leader (combined with Warrior and Mystic) potentials!