So far our boy has accrued some pain and suffering, and cocreated some thoughts that will reinforce, habituate, those early perceptions, his interpretations of the pain. He's getting increasingly disconnected from the golden well of self love. Iron John says he can give it a third try "but if this happens for the third time then the well is polluted, and thou canst no longer remain with me." In the Judeo-Christian tradition we have a similar expulsion from the unified, golden state, from Paradise, upon incarnation. In that myth unity consciousness or soul centeredness is displaced in the psyche for duality consciousness, for the "knowledge of good and evil" in Biblical lingo. Here the movement away from unity into dualistic consciousness is symbolized by the metaphor of the polluted pool.
"On the third day, the boy sat by the well, and did not stir his finger, however much it hurt him. But the time was long to him, and he looked at the reflection of his face in the surface of the water. And as he still bent down more and more while he was doing so, and trying to look straight into the eyes, his long hair fell down from his shoulders into the water. He raised himself up quickly, but the whole of his head was already golden and shone like the sun."
From the boy's perspective, here's another fun metaphor going on. Moving into a later phase in life (puberty?), when the intellectual mind creates more focus on the passage of time, further from the timelessness of the soul ("the time was long to him") he begins to get intensely interested in his own reflection- distracted from his allotted task by it, actually. This is Narcissus's famous activity; I began my interp of the myth here on 8/27/13. Just so does our attention shift in adolescence, the time most common for rites of passage, to "the world" as self-reflection. We strain to see ourselves in the eyes of others. We imagine what we "look like" from the outside.
Though from the nonsymbolic perspective it seems that something bad has happened, again the golden hair, shining like the sun, encourages the alchemically oriented, for the sun and its related gold are code for the divine brilliance of the archetypal masculine. Such blessings are not to be understood or received easily by the wounded; he is described as "terrified". Just as he tried to cover up the gilded finger, so does he cover his head. The wild man knows better, of course; he tells the boy to remove the handkerchief and "the golden hair streamed forth". He tells the boy "'Thou has not stood the trial, and canst stay here no longer. Go forth in the world, there thou wilt learn what poverty is. But as thou hast not a bad heart, and as I mean well by thee, there is one thing I will grant thee; if thou fallest into any difficulty, come to the forest and cry, "Iron John," and then I will come and help thee. My power is great, greater than thou thinkest, and I have gold and silver in abundance.'"
So our maturing self can't resist the world; that's an existential fact of human embodiment, a bald, bare truth. No mistakes have been made. I love the line "Go forth in the world, there thou wilt learn what poverty is." It simplifies this teaching into one concerned with the polarity of abundance vs. lack, one I have been working with. The sort of poverty he's talking about is spiritual poverty, poverty of soul, because lack is always an experience, not a circumstance. Such poverty is due to the disconnections we've cocreated through our experiences and the ensuing self betraying meanings we have given them.
Though we can certainly experience worldly poverty, our bank account does not need to mean anything. Wisdom teaches that "the world" is just a mirror in which we will search in vain for ourselves unless we "wise up" to the lessons alchemical stories like this communicate. Just like the Biblical paradise, the soul's gold and silver experience knows nothing of lack, which is an idea that's been overlaid onto the experience of disconnection. Lacking love, lacking support, lacking money, whatever we think we lack; notice Iron John says "My power is great, greater than thou thinkest." Though the body has needs, gets uneasy when it hasn't water, air, food, shelter, etc, it doesn't make attributions like lack or abundance. It just acts; that's part of our wild side, in fact, the urge to put a hurting finger in the water which will be covered up as we mature.
He goes to a palace, and "the people about court did not at all know what use they could make of him, but they liked him, and told him to stay." The inner castle is where he is, which is the opposite of the marketplace with its worldly values, the city he first goes to. Marketplace usually symbolizes "the world" in its soul disconnection. To confirm that interpretation the people in the castle prioritize liking him, feeling connected, over what "use" he could be to them. "Using" in this sense usually implies an object relationship. Object relations is what the intellectual mind (air element) creates through its ability to separate, to make two from one, duality from unity. Objectification asks, Is he (or it, or myself) going to profit me in a worldly sense? Does his reflection help me imagine myself more secure, bigger, better? If not, he's useless. The city folks answered "No" to the questions about the boy's worth. Or- do people and everything else deserve to be here (to stay) merely because they are? Because we have something in common- humanness, if nothing else? Is that good enough? The soul thinks so, therefore we are in the inner soul-castle. I have never run across any other sort of castle in these stories, though I'm open to the possibility!
In the castle, he's about to get some more developmentally appropriate mentoring from some soul-men. The castle cook takes him under his wing "and said he might carry food and water, and rake the cinders together."
Of course it's way more complicated than that, but there are plenty of relationships that mostly fall out that way. It's great as a worldly partnership, since we enter adulthood in the same condition the boy finds himself when sent into the world. We are still alchemical beginners when we start our adult lives. It would be a rare bird indeed who had attained mastery over all four elements by then! So in order to get along in a worldly sense, we allot tasks between the two partners.
I'm not talking about false humility; martyring or false modesty. When we are doing humility work those might arise, and then we might discover how to separate that dross from the gold! Those are comparison shopping self identities, not the true ground of our being which understands humility as all-is-one, as impossible to avoid, as a universal form of love. Even our "negative" experiences and behaviors are always in service to the whole, to the Truth.
Finally the cinders; I'll interpret this as cinder-biter work, like Cinderella's (a short blog definition of cinder-biter). The phoenix bird, symbol of transformation through fire (fire also intrinsically involves air), above symbolizes the result of this boy's inner work with the archetypal feminine elements. Through his humble inner work with earth and water the boy is transformed; unwanted thoughts and their attendant emotions and behaviors have been burned away. The experiences that compromise earth and water elements are no joke- until they are. In the Biblical fall from paradise, it seems that Adam and Eve are cursed, to work their butts off (Adam) and suffer as they cocreate (Eve's childbirth "curse"). Tragedies of body and losses of soul- these sufferings are in service to earth and water mastery. The phoenix's purifying fire is always there if we are ready to give it up, give it over, let go of old identifications whether good or bad. Our self identifications are the wood that's burning in the alchemical kitchen. Raking the ashes together is the time for renewal, when the burning has been done and the phoenix rises.
And in fact the boy's time in this particular kitchen service is over.
Since he doesn't want to show his golden hair, he wears a cap to cover it. One day the king of the castle notices; "he said, 'When thou comest to the royal table thou must take thy hat off.' He answered, 'Ah, Lord, I cannot; I have a bad sore place on my head.'" The head covering is, as I said, the way we all go about our lives- or most of us, anyway. Our experience of that golden-crowned being which lies beneath the everyday consciousness, behind the personality, is covered up. The boy's sore head is the bandaged place Rumi refers to, where the light streams in (and out).
So the king calls the cook and chews him out for having a diseased waiter in court, ordering him fired at once. So the cook exchanges his waiter for the garden-boy. "Now the boy had to plant and water the garden, hoe and dig, and bear the wind and bad weather." The psyche we're addressing here has moved in the cycle of self-renewal to the project of cocreating a new way of being in the world. The tasks are specific; planting (new beginnings), hoeing and digging, and watering. All are earth element and water element. He (the king) is continuing his work with the divine feminine aspect. Though this is inner work, of course the actual physical labor corresponds with the inner state. If you are an avid gardener, you have some mastery of earth and water elements- unless you are doing hydroponics or something.
"Bad weather" is basically the same, though bad weather implies water element, too. Water element adds the difficulty factor of watery emotions. We learn not to get swamped by, carried away by, grief and elation. The current designation of bipolarity in psychiatry is an increasingly common case in point, and of course our negative self talk corresponds with and cocreates our emotional states, thus "bad weather" which usually involves both air and water element.
By the way, I did an interp of an old alchemical/magical ballad that uses this bad weather metaphor. Variously named, my version is Dreadful Wind and Rain. Seems like a good way to finish up for today...if you want the interp of the song, go to 8/03/13 on this blog. Archives are on the right of this blog page towards the top. Crooked Still's lyric is a little different than mine, but nothing that matters in changed...
Next- flowers and more gold!