A gentle summation of the year 2020, and – in here the U.S. – these first weeks of 2021, would be highly, deeply weird. We’re living in strange times. Yet, for those of us who have been paying attention for preceding years, decades even, and who recognize the cyclical, ever-in-flux nature of the universe, this weird, troubling moment in humanity’s story is unavoidably necessary. Radical change needs powerful pattern interrupts. It needs the seething underbelly of a society and culture steeped in colonization and enslavement – American, yes; but equally, her crusading European forebears – to ooze its way out of hiding and be brought to conscious awareness.
Shocking and terrifying though it is, we have all been complicit in its survival; transmutation of these base elements can only begin when we acknowledge this and begin the work of looking at our own participation – for the most part, unwitting – and doing our own difficult work of inner-decolonization before resorting to the laziness of simply finger-pointing out there. Out there is only calling to attention what exists within, lurking in our own unseen. To deny this is to deny a foundational tenet of Indigenous and mythic wisdom the world over – that we are all inextricably interconnected within an unseen fractal-web of reality. To deny this is to subscribe to one of the foundational tenets of the colonizer mindset – that we are separate from each other, from our environment, even from our own bodies, and that what is unseen and unresolved in us does not exert control out there. It is to subscribe to the domination of ‘strong’ over ‘weak’, divide and conquer, and to the notion that we are automatons instead of holistic creatures full of mysterious depths, unique and connected.
Perhaps some of us need the corroboration of science in order to begin entertaining such seemingly woo-woo notions. This invisible web, sacred to the pre-Christian, Pagan-Indigenous mindset for millennia, is what theoretical physicist and unofficial ‘father’ of Quantum Physics, David Bohm, called the implicate order – or unmanifest potential. We live in a web of life: our actions and participations – conscious and unconscious – are causes that have effects beyond our illusory separate identities.
Early European Pagan traditions conceived of this unseen web as Fate, or the web of Wyrd. Wyrd is an archaic Anglo-Saxon feminine noun, deriving from the verb ‘to become'(weorthan), and is where we get our modern ‘weird’ from. Before it was reduced to its current pejorative meaning, it was associated with the mystery of unseen forces, which the wise old medicine-crone – or witch – was the gatekeeper and dexterous weaver of. The three weird sisters in Macbeth arose from this tradition, originally from the pre-Christian Norse stories about the three Norns, or Goddesses of Destiny (wyrd was urür in Old Norse).
The three Norns sit at the base of Yggdrasil, the folkloric World Tree at the center of the cosmos, tending to it with water from the Well of Fate. In some tellings, they are depicted as weaving the unseen web of fate or destiny that governs life – the implicate, unpotentiated architecture of the universe. In Greek mythology, we also have the three Moirai, or fate-goddesses, weaving the web of wyrd – or fate – on a loom.
Yet, the notion of fate has become something that has been rejected by the age of reason and the seemingly separate individual. Ever since the domination of patriarchal rule by the Church fathers, time has become singularly conceived in a linear fashion, and the idea of fate is seen as inexorably rigid and fatalistic – outside of the ego’s control and domination, and therefore an unseemly, primitive concept.
But the nature of a web is anything but linear. And beliefs, actions, behaviors and participations – especially unconscious ones – create the pattern of the web that is being woven that stretches out to the past and future, connects us to each other, our ancestors and future generations, and to the earth and cosmos that we are an inseparable part of. We do not exist in a vacuum, in other words.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.”
Jung is referring here to the inexorable experience of fate- the linear, rigid, fatalistic one. And that is what fate is experienced as when we subscribe to the myopic, colonizer view of ourselves as separate selves, believing that we are freely making our own individual choices, forging ahead, doling out judgment here and there, within and without; all of which just hardens this calcified sense of self. And then, when change inevitably comes sweeping through, we’re subjected to the alchemy of calcination, an ego death. Clinging onto hopes of a return to ‘normality’, and onto the righteous horror of the creepies crawling out of the rot out there prolongs the process. Those are our creepies, crawling out of our unconscious woodwork. We need to look at them, and look at how we’ve been complicit in perpetuating systems of domination and oppression within ourselves and in our own lives and interactions that then mete out their reflective meanings without.
This is the Indigenous-Pagan view of the web of Wyrd – the holographic implicate order from which emerges the explicate. The unexamined unconscious that creates our lives as we, like toy soldiers soldiering on, believe we’re operating outside of any larger sphere of influence. This is when fate becomes an inescapably linear punishment as opposed to a throbbing, luminous web of creative interconnectedness – the eternally-coming-into-being web of Wyrd. We can only participate in this if we mature out of the colonizer mindset of repressive and polarized consciousness: from either/or, to the ecology of the indigenous way of both/and.
The web as a non-linear experience of creation exists in other pre-Christian traditions too. The Hopi people from the American south-west have Grandmother Spider, who dream-weaves the cosmos into being through her web of interconnectedness on the horizontal and vertical planes – that is, connecting above and below, within and without.
In the Vedas, the ancient sacred texts from India, the deity Indra has an infinitely vast net, its origin point being above his palace on Mount Meru, the cosmological focal point of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, resonant with the symbolism of Ygdrassil, the World Tree. Indra’s net is embedded with holographic jewels at each origin-departure point; holographic because each jewel is reflected in and reflects back all the other jewels:
“In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net’s every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite. The Hua’yen school [of Buddhism] has been fond of this image, mentioned many times in its literature, because it symbolizes a cosmos in which there is an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all the members of the cosmos. This relationship is said to be one of simultaneous mutual identity and mutual intercausality.”
Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra
Awakening to this, potentiating it into our lived experience won’t come through (self) judgment, blame, guilt and denial – all foundational building blocks of the patriarchal lineage of the colonizer, perpetuating endless cycles of alienation and shame.
Compassion for ourselves, for each other might be a good starting point. Compassion as in the Latin roots of the word, to feel with, not as in sympathy. Compassion because we are all in this together, in this work of navigating through this time of extreme uncertainty, where the fixities of normal are in suspended animation; and where, in the dim lighting of the in-between time, the ghouls are crawling out of their hiding places.
The Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Ken McLeod writes in his wonderful Wake Up to Your Life:
“Evil takes many forms, [one is] is that evil is the incapacity to experience one’s own pain. Evil is the opposite of dismantling patterns. Instead of experiencing the pain at the core of the pattern, an evil person lets the pattern run, externalizing his or her own pain by creating pain and suffering in the world.”
McLeod’s description of “evil” seems to me to go to the very heart of what the experience of it is in the world: an inner conditioning of suppression, an inner conditioning that we have all, regardless of our differences, been poisoned with. This conditioning is the lifeblood of the colonizer. Ultimately, the power of Wilber’s words point to the knowing that an “evil” person is a person in pain, one who does not have the capacity to be present with their pain. And have we not all been that? Have we not all been incapacitated by this cultural conditioning to suppress and reject our pain, push it down, into the implicate, where it becomes the strands with which our wider web of wyrd is woven, and reflected back to us?
This can be liberating, and a well of thirst-quenching compassion, for ourselves first of all, and then out towards others, to the world and all of its evil. If we’re looking for a tool with which to navigate this weird time, remembering our fundamental interconnectedness, our shared indigenous wisdom, might be a radically worthwhile compass.
If you are interested in exploring this work of inner decolonization/re-membering your soul’s indigenous wisdom through the lenses of Alchemy, Myth + Nature, Rohini is now offering immersive one-on-one sessions.