“It has been a long time since most of us have experienced the world. We experience instead a constriction, a selection. We step cautiously out, checking our selves at first, against What Is Allowed, What Is Known To Be True. We constantly throw a world out ahead of ourselves and move safely into it.” Tom Cheetham
In Green Man, Earth Angel, Tom Cheetham begins with a hefty indictment on the state of soul, or Anima Mundi, in this modern age of distraction, extension-by-technology, hall of mirrors. For all of our coming and going, between people, places and things, we risk never fully entering the place of the other, and in so doing, finding that primary means of entering more fully into ourselves. The hall of mirrors we find ourselves in, insulates and protects us from the force of invisibles, shadows, and the powers beyond one’s predictability. What if by breaking through the shell and armour between self and other, crossing over the boundaries that language, perception and sensory limitations impose, every step then becomes a movement into a void, the source of creation, where all being wells up from the unfathomable depths, the place where the unknown, the not yet born, comes into being?
“It is the mythic experience, the mythic imagination that opens, reveals depth and mystery, which places the human in the context of the nonhuman, and so, forces retreat, humility, and awe, in the presence of spaces beyond our will.”
Cheetham quotes Emma Brunner-Traut who writes: “In the ancient past the idea of faith in the sense of belief did not exist; for them it was a matter of “knowing.” For those who “know,” the unspeakable can be uttered without being misunderstood. But already when the smallest distrust creeps in and hidden meaning must be explained, then an integrity is endangered, especially so when the secret becomes a dogmatic formulation. It is placed into the light of critical doubt and demand for proof, and in this light it appears false. Myth is not definition, nor is it proof. It is self-evident. It is endowed with dignity and majesty, perfect in its inner power and validity….”
But, isn’t it also true that we humans are not like the other animals, and especially not our imagined primordial mythological past? The human skin does not protect as does shell, fur, scales and wings, but relies as much on psyche, as the medium which senses the invisible, imaginal and fantastic through the use of artifacts such as tools, exotic coverings, airplanes, log cabins, cars and cities where we shelter our thin-skin inside farmhouses, apartment complexes, huts, suburbs, row housing and hi-risers. I’m not as convinced that we humans have a past to return to, for perhaps it has always been the case that “the son of man hath nowhere to lay his head.”
“Psyche is communal. But true community transcends any boundaries between the inner and the outer, the public and the private. Community only exists among persons, and persons can only be perceived, perhaps they can only exist, when the walls dividing the inner from the outer begin to crumble. Only when we begin to hear the voices inside can we begin to listen to the voices outside. Then the boundary between what is mine and inside, and what is Other and outside grows ambiguous and unclear. We find ourselves immersed in the conviviurn, in community.”
Here the god is Hermes, psychopomp, mediator of borders whose essence is liminality. Richard E. palmer suggests, in his paper, The Liminality of Hermes, that liminal states of being are those neither here nor there, but ambiguous. We may liken them to twilight hours, “streets with no name,” rites of passage, or any state in which passing through, fully immerses us between the known and perhaps, towards something newly given.
“During the liminal stage, the between stage, one’s status becomes ambiguous; one is “neither here nor there,” one is “betwixt and between all fixed points of classification,”2 and thus the form and rules of both his earlier state and his state-to-come are suspended. For the moment, one is an outsider; one is on the margins, in an indeterminate state.” Richard E. Palmer
It is Hermes that serves as guide between day and night, dream and waking, underworld and dayworld. In this journey to the unknown, there cannot be a map and every step in this dark world heightens the senses, disorienting us out of the familiar in preparation to receive the invisibles and the gifts they offer us in turn for our sacrifice. Referring to Martin Heidegger’s book, On the Way to Language, Palmer says:
“For Heidegger, it is significant that Hermes is the messenger of the gods and not just other humans; for the message brought by Hermes is not just any message but “fateful tidings” (die Botschaft des Geschickes).7 Interpretation in its highest form, then, is to be able to understand these fateful tidings, indeed the fatefulness of the tidings. To interpret is first to listen and then to become a messenger of the gods oneself, just as the poets do, according to Plato’s Ion.8 Indeed, part of the destiny of man is precisely to stand in a hermeneutical relation to one’s being here and now and to one’s heritage. Human beings, insofar as they are truly human beings, says Heidegger, “are used for hearing the message . . . they are to listen and belong to it as human beings.”9
We are naked, perhaps, for this reason. The state of our being exists between the gods, and the unfathomable depths of being, and our naked, vulnerable, mortal body. Our vulnerability necessitates an imaginal, ensouled perspective whose liveliness depends on that part of us that can and does spontaneously use language, tells stories, and yearn for what is beyond food, water and shelter. We sense and need more than what so-called nature provides; to experience, call it what you will, the invisibles, the gods or God. But we are also that which, as W.H. Auden reminds us, are “lived by the powers we pretend to understand,” powers we mistakenly believe to be us. Yes, like Prometheus, we can steal fire, but as with all gifts of the gods, we receive them at a cost. The gifts themselves have no preset moral value, the fear and respect for their use must come from our better angels.
” “From the source of the event of appearing something comes toward man that holds the two-fold of presence and present beings,”10 says Heidegger. .The human being stands in this gap, this zone of disclosure. One does not so much act as respond, does not so much speak as listen, does not so much interpret as understand the thing that is unveiled. The primary movement here is understanding as an emergence of being. The human being becomes Hermes, the message-bearer, only because one has first and foremost opened oneself to a process of unconcealment: “The human being is the message-bearer of the message which the two-fold’s unconcealment utters to it.” “
Here we reach a place where a primordial, pre-lingual opening is possible, a listening for what Henry Corbin referred to as the Lost Speech, coming to us as music, where the other as more truly other, and not only reflection is seen, heard, sensed, encountered, waiting to exchange gifts. For what else is a gift if not something given that we do not already have?
“We meet the Other as Other, in fear and respect. This experience is open, embodied, and mysterious. We are in company. In sympathy with the plants and the sea, and with all the persons of the world, both within and without. To receive, we must give. To be fed, we must feed. To consume we must be consumed. To live, we must die. To assimilate, we must transform-die, empty, and release-letting go of what we defend, of what we fear, of what we hide.” Tom Cheetham
Tom Cheetham quotes from, Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World (S U N Y Series in Western Esoteric Traditions). Kindle Edition.
Richard Palmer quotes from: http://www.mac.edu/faculty/richardpalmer/liminality.html