Then said the gardener's boy, 'I am grown up, and will go to the wars also, only give me a horse.' The others laughed and said, 'Seek one for thyself when we are gone, we will leave one behind in the stable for thee.' When they had gone forth, he went to the stable, and got the horse out; it was lame of one foot, and limped hobblety jig, hobblety jig; nevertheless he mounted it, and rode away to the dark forest."
As I said in the last post, it's time now for lessons on the matter of inner conflict, which falls into the realm of masculine fire and air. I think it's great the story begins lessons in the feminine elements for a boy/man; the obverse would be true for a girl/woman. These stories usually include more than one generation, since personal transformation doesn't take place in a linear sense, and can be undertaken at any age after childhood's end; and of course in "real life" some women have very strong masculine traits and vice versa.
It's great to begin mastery with the element(s) that are weakest. If we emphasize the elements that are already easy for us, we will perhaps get further and further out of balance. In the case of a man or primarily masculine-oriented woman, for example, too much air means we get too reliant on the intellectual mind, get too hierarchical, or embody a sort of evasive spirituality which is idealistic (based on ideas) and actually ignores or outright hates the embodied experience, creating inner tension and big old Jungian inner shadows. The earth and water work keep us Euro-Westerners centered; contemporary American society is already way out on that air element limb.
Speaking of limbs...can we explore the word "limb" as we contemplate our lame horse? Is the injured beast a correlate to the pinched finger, the sore head? I think that fits. Whether our boy-king is hobbled by an overly defensive position, by fear, by old attachments to suffering, this limping, ineffectual horse can represent the psyche before mastery of fire and air element.
Facing death is a universal transformative practice, and going to war is nothing if not that. For that reason, going to war can be thought of as an opportunity for initiation- one that many a youth has faced and undertaken, though some return so broken they will limp through the rest of their lives like the hobblety-jig horse. Our boy is aspiring to avoid that eventuality, of course.
A fun detail is found in the "Seek one for thyself when we are gone." It points out first that it's up to us to discover our own personal Third Way. It's not to be found in following others, at least not those who are completely engrossed in hierarchical thinking! It's easier to move into unity consciousness when we surround ourselves with folks of that vibration- or when we are alone, part of the purpose of retreats. When we are far enough along in our alchemical work, our light-field will be strong enough that others of slower frequencies won't influence ours; we increasingly embody the invulnerability that's attributed to super heroes, those who fear not the pits of Hel. We will experience depressed and antagonistic folks as Oneness, whether or not they do; they won't tempt us back into dualistic reality.That's one way to think about the radiant masculine sun; it's so bright it swallows everything that comes near. Until that day, we are basically training our vibrational field to strong new habits. The physical realty is always here to act as reagent for our consciousness.
Another easily missed detail is the horse being left behind. The Fool archetype (soul) is often symbolized in these tales as behind or underneath, and it's certainly what the conditioned personality considers worth leaving behind!
The gardener's boy's perceived (assumedly also by himself as king and inner child) as not good enough in a social sense to go to war. Therefore he is made jest of and laughingly assigned an animal to ride which is essentially valueless from the objectified perspective, to the conditioned personality, which, like the people in the city earlier, sees only how things serve our ego's ends. The donkey or ass, a less powerful, less biddable animal, is the go-to symbolic equine related to the Fool. Both ass and lame horse express the Fool's, and the soul's lack of concern with social status. Since the Fool and the soul could not give a rap about social hierarchies, they also are unfazed by ridicule; that's not their game. In a sense ridicule is the Fool's provenance, as the jester or clown, but as a joke, not as serious gaming. That's in service to the soul, as I hold forth in the posts referenced in the previous paragraph.
Fool and soul, ass and lame-o potatoes of all sorts represent humility, and acting in ways that could result in being laughed at by others will always test our humility. Thus religious practices like begging and nakedness. The Holy Fool is part of the Fool archetype; here's a nice Wiki article. Holy Fools appear in all religions; Sufism is steeped in it, and in Tibet there's Crazy Wisdom. I was unaware that Russia had a big Holy Fool trad, the yurodivy; not surprising if you consider that the Siberian shamanic philosophy holds that folks who frequently slip into altered states (what we call insanity can sometimes be interpreted as an altered state) are closer to the Divine.
Notice the Fool's number- 0. It's the unity-circle, it's nothingness; no-thing-ness, a wilder, uncontrolled/uncaged consciousness expanded beyond the limitations of physicality and human society.
In contemporary dreaming, cars, planes, and other fire-and-air gas-driven vehicles are the same. Whether we are doing things in the world or employing spiritual practices, it's all and always in the interest of the same thing; our soul-directed psychospiritual development, which dovetails with the divine cocreative project of an expanding universe. That's the overarching name of the game here; the physical and soul levels are inseparable in Truth. In a technological world the vehicles we claim use "horse power" symbolize the same.
All those dreams you have with cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc. are employing this wind horse archetype to describe some way you're moving along your developmental path- or some way you would like to. Every little detail of the vehicle adds to the symbolism, so I think our psyches have a lot of fun with that, especially Joe's. If your dream car has a flat tire, it's an obvious hobblety-jig horse, right? Right side would be masculine, left side feminine, back would be more or less unconscious, front conscious, though whether it's front wheel drive or not would change that...Who's in the driver's seat? Who's in the back, along for the ride? Where are you going? Symbolic fun!
To enforce this soul-power= horse power interpretation, our boy goes right away to the "dark forest", the soul world.
"...he called 'Iron John' three times so loudly that it echoed through the trees. Thereupon the wild man appeared immediately, and said, 'What dost thou desire?' 'I want a strong steed, for I am going to the wars.' 'That thou shalt have, and still more than thou askest for.'
Then the wild man went back into the forest, and it was not long before the stable-boy came out of it, who led a horse that snorted with its nostrils, and could hardly be restrained, and behind him followed a great troop of soldiers entirely equipped in iron, and their swords flashed in the sun. The youth made over his three-legged horse to the stable boy, mounted the other, and rode at the head of the soldiers."
So just in case we thought power comes from hierarchically ordered worldly orientation, the Foolish lame horse is exchanged within the soul-forest for a fiery steed. This exchange equates the two, in the symbolic sense, just as the flower wreath and the ducats are correlates. I imagine this as an inner shapeshifting moment, a revelation of the Truth that Iron John actually expounded earlier, when he said that, though he seems to others like a deadly dangerous crazy hairy guy (like the yurodivy), he had gold and treasure in abundance. Though our worldly conditioning tells us the Fool's non materialistic, self reflective way of getting around is lame, ineffectual, in fact the desire for truth and authenticity as taught by the soul is powerful magic when it comes to certain objectives like dispelling fear and inner conflict, rediscovering self loyalty, dwelling in a state of abundance regardless of circumstance, in realizing our creative destinies.
The inner state is what creates the outer, not the other way around, and the glorious destinies fools realize in these old tales is meant to prove that. You can't create with and from what you don't know, and it's actually lame from the soul perspective to believe the physical reality is more powerful than what lies beneath (or behind or beyond or within). You can spend lifetimes getting lost in manifesting in the limited ways society believes you should manifest and never meet Iron John uncaged, never claim the forest-gold- which is beautiful, too. No judgment, we have eternity to work it out. It's all in service to The One.
Whether or not your wise soul-powered trajectory involves owning (manifesting) a fancy car is up to your own plans for this lifetime, plans that aren't always understood by the personality. We can only do so much in one lifetime. However, we can always decide to master, to cocreate, the feeling-state that car might invoke for us- then see what else manifests!
Since this air element sword is gifted by and within the soul (the wild man's forest), it moves into the cosmic mind aspect of air. That's emphasized by the sword's "flashing in the sun". It's the mind that realizes experience beyond air element intellectual dualism, the magical sword Excalibur of Arthurian fame. It's a light-sword; it's working behind or beyond physical reality, like Obi Wan Kenobi (did I spell that right?) and, indeed, Darth himself, our Star Wars shadow-and-nigredo figure (I'll talk about that later). Harry Potter's dark side is, of course, Voldemort; Gandalf's is Sauron. All of them have light-fights.
When we use our thoughts to undermine rather than create in the sun's life-giving way and unify, we are in a state of imbalance. We believe too strongly in the dualistic, judgmental, fact-based,goal-oriented thoughts which uphold our limitations, our conditioning. We imbue these small-minded Mini-Me thoughts with undue power, with "truth", sending them our gold coins, which we will then hoard, most likely, or use to supposedly purchase the love we are disconnected from.
We also self-and-other undermine we are unaware of the healthy balance to dualistic thought's masculine intellectual power; archetypally feminine connectivity, the heart, the circle, the river that flows to the sea. In a society which is utterly in thrall to the intellectual mind and its ability to spew at an astounding rate, it's even more crucial than ever to realize that we have no obligation whatsoever to value any thoughts, ideals, beliefs, and/or their manifestations. As the wild man knows, verbal thought and intellectual activity in general is actually kind of optional, although Americans of my demographic have trouble fitting into their social stratum without it. We can live without a constant stream of thoughts, as babies and young children and animals teach us. The wild man recommends we learn to master our thoughts rather than letting them master us, that's all.
A nice commentary on the ultimately True, Third Way circular nature of intellectual, dualistic thought, which bounces back and forth between its own polarities...
You think if you watch the news religiously you will be "informed; you will know what awful things might lurk in the bushes of the world and you'll be prepared for them. However, thinking about all the awful things that are lurking dispels the feeling of protection that spurred the impulse to "be informed".
Soon we are stuck in a whirlwind of intellectual mind's perpetual question, answer, question, answer; problem, solution, problem, solution... its monkey-mind problem-solving function that can't access answers that are not already part of the question, the opposite pole to answer. It can't access the Third Way realm of cosmic mind's No Question, No Answer...no need for security measures...
There are countless limited and limiting thoughts which hold truth with a little "t", and then there is Truth; Lao Tzi's "Tao that can't be spoken". Air element mastery, symbolized by the long (powerful) golden hair, is in part understanding that dualistic little "t" thoughts are cocreated by you. Technically they are usually something you caught (and continue to habitually select) on the winds of the collective, really. They are not original and they are not owned by you. In that you have the power to deconstruct them, to decide you would prefer entertaining some different thoughts, maybe. That's why this story goes into the existential origin of fearful thoughts (the boy at the well); when we understand the hows and whys of our thought patterns, we begin to master that part of air element.
Cosmic air element is much bigger than any little "t" thought, and uniquely humans can use their minds to see through or past their thoughts! The personal and/or collective mind is like a snorting steed. Jump on it and it can carry you off if you don't understand air element! Though there is some Truth in everything, it gets far out (in a disconnected way) and you've got chronic anger, anxiety and other disconnection problems...too far from the cooling and grounding elements!
That was a lot of words about the intellect, hey? Ha ha!
Aha! Here we have the well known self-help approach of "changing your mind". Whether during some sort of formal meditation, or as we go through our days, we watch our thoughts. We decide which we believe are in support of our cocreative vision. Those which judge negatively are not supportive, right? They may serve us to some end, and may have been useful once. They may hold some truth, and if we reword them, may still have perfectly good value in the physical plane. However it cannot be True that we are served by judging our lives, the creative manifestation, self and other, negatively- forever. That lames our horses. From the alchemical standpoint, the negative judgments serve The One through being "enlightened"; seen for what they are and transformed. Planet Earth is probably one of the best places in the universe for playing this light-and-darkness game. Next, you go on to the another level- letting go of positive judgments that have shadows, that have dualities, as in "You are a really good person because you recycle" while we judge folks who don't recycle as "bad", however subtly.
In the way of very practical techniques, there's EFT, or "tapping"; EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. The title describes its original focus on emotionality, but it uses thoughts or beliefs since emotion and thought are tied together. Here's a good enough site with video and info to get you started; What Is Tapping. The self help world is exploding with ways to work with thoughts and the beliefs they support as part of personal transformation; no need to wait until you have an anxiety disorder or whatever. Though that can get your butt in gear, as I discovered...
We can also choose to cocreate "good luck", as it's termed in the wind horse quote. The universal rule of manifestation is that it follows energy, and energy follows our thoughts and their attendant feeling states, though it's not necessary to add linearity to the project. We could say they appear together. As Abraham Hicks puts it, a belief is just a thought you keep thinking, and we cocreate our experience, our life, according to our beliefs. If we believe in the possibility of disconnection, as almost all humans existentially do, we'll experience it everywhere. If we believe we can be in lack, we will experience that, keep cocreating it until we master it. Attention, as in the quote below, when focused is archetypally masculine. That's what wands do; focus and direct attention, and thus power...
"Then the youth galloped hither and thither with his iron soldiers, broke like a hurricane over the enemy, and beat down all who opposed him. They began to fly, but the youth pursued, and never stopped, until there was not a single man left."
It's the transcendent mind that's at work here, the wind horse beneath him and the sun glinting on the sword; the observing mind, the Watcher, the higher self, etc. which has more power than the dualistic judgments we've repeated for years due to our conditioned beliefs. His iron weapons and armor could be the result of the mastery he's already worked on and its partnering of earth, water, air and fire. We could say that Iron John represents the magical blacksmith figure, since he gives to the youth these powerful alchemical gifts. The iron would lend grounding to the air element flying about, that's true. It's ability to protect is like a big "STOP!" sign; nothing passes through it.
Likewise when we are working with negative self judgment we can dismantle old thoughts by stopping them in their tracks. We're not judging them; we're just done with them, and without our interest, our belief, our attention, our repetition of them, they will eventually dissolve. Lack of abundance thoughts are closely related to "I am not enough" self-betrayal thoughts, for example; most of us have plenty of such mind-garbage to chuck out! This thought-stopping work is like Superman stopping bullets (or martial arts masters, for that matter). The very act of recognizing the thought as un-True and nonsupportive creates relative invulnerability to it- if you want to use your bullet stopping power. Again, usually we need to persist in investigating the ways in which the old thoughts have served us, our old soldiers hanging around fighting old battles. Otherwise it's like pulling weeds without getting the root- they just grow back again, something our youth would learn working as the gardener's boy!
Here's a cool poster I tripped over in my wanderings that refers to some other attributes of air. Like the other elements, air is appearing here in numerous forms; observe! Back in the day fire was a relatively simple element in comparison to the others, but technology has changed that. The many ways we use electricity alone is mind boggling; back in the day electricity was mostly experienced rarely, in lightning. In alchemical terms, there's not much happening more cosmic that lightning, a coming together or integration of opposites previously divided which emits a flash of light-energy! From Wikipedia ("electrostatic discharge" is the lightning; little ones happen when you get a static electricity shock, I think);
In order for an electrostatic discharge to occur, two things are necessary: 1) a sufficiently high electric potential between two regions of space must exist; and 2) a high-resistance medium must obstruct the free, unimpeded equalization of the opposite charges.
Masculine and feminine which are naturally magnetically attracted, + something obstructing their meeting, + they gather enough charge to overcome the barrier. Just like those sex scenes in films where a man and a woman (or some other gender configuration) finally decide to make out after a period of attraction builds up over time, and Boom!
But I digress...lightning does take place in the air, in "space" as the Wiki quote puts it...our old partners air and fire.
One of my favorite soundtrack songs, Touch the Sky, sung by Julie Fowlis, written by Alex Mandel and Mark Andrews
When the cold wind’s a’ calling,
And the sky is clear and bright,
Misty mountains sing and beckon,
Me out into the light.
I will ride, I will fly,
Chase the wind and touch the sky,
I will fly, Chase the wind and touch the sky.
Where dark woods hide secrets,
And mountains are fierce and bold,
Deep waters hold reflections,
Of times lost long ago.
I will hear their every story,
Take hold of my own dream,
Be as strong as the seas are stormy,
And proud as an eagle's scream.
I will ride, I will fly,
Chase the wind and touch the sky,
I will fly,
Chase the wind and touch the sky.
The film, Brave, is certainly a tale of mastery! The young princess Merida, a sort of Artemis-like figure who loves archery and horse riding, sings here about air element in Touch the Sky. She's also got mountain storms (good chance of lightning), deep water reflections (the well), eagle flight and scream (the eagle or hawk that might be seen soaring over the kingdom's woods) and more....