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Mythic Passages - the magazine of imagination

Courting the Muse
Jerry Wennstorm
by Jerry Wennstrom
Copyright © 2006 Inferential Focus and reprinted with permission

Publisher's Note: At the age of 29, artist Jerry Wennstrom destroyed all of his work, gave away all of his possessions, and set about living a deliberately simple and profoundly spiritual life. He practiced celibacy for 15 years until choosing to marry his life partner, singer Marilyn Strong. He is the author of The Inspired Heart: An Artist's Journey of Transformation. He has published over 50 essays and interviews, and his life's work has been the subject of Holy Personal by Laura Chester. In 2001, Parabola produced a documentary film called In the Hands of Alchemy: The Art and Life of Jerry Wennstrom. In July, Sentient Publications will be distributing a new 3-feature DVD, which includes In the Hands of Alchemy, the new film Studio Dialogue, and The Life and Works of Jerry Wennstrom (1979). We're pleased to introduce you what we hope will be a regular contribution of Jerry's essays to Mythic Passages beginning with this article on the elements of balance when "Courting the Muse".

There is a very real distinction to be made defining those aspects of ourselves that are best described as masculine and feminine. In the latter part of his life, the great psychologist C.G. Jung devoted a good part of his work to the exploration of the masculine and feminine. He stressed the importance of incorporating the two as a united whole within ourselves — believing this single experience would empower our lives and create balance both personally and collectively in our world. This significant union has been defined in a number of ways; "Wholeness," "Individuation," or in the language of the western, alchemical tradition, "Coniunctio."

When speaking of masculine/feminine in this context it is important to note here that this is not a gender issue. It has more to do with how we maintain the natural balance of two equally important components that make up the totality of who we are as whole human beings. Generally speaking, boys will be boys and girls will be girls (well... most of the time.) However, if we favor or ignore an element of our totality we remain out of touch with our full potential, and our actions in the world will reflect the excesses and deficits of an interior life out of balance.

Die Musen Clie, Euterpe und Thalia by Eustache Le SueurDecibels below the scream of the obvious, the essence of our physical creation speaks to us in a whisper. This more knowing, essential wisdom we might call The Muse. She is the one pointing the way inward, towards a more balanced center where the masculine and feminine unite. For women and men alike — the spirit of the time is calling on us to cultivate a healthy relationship with the mystery and the creative potential of the Muse. Consciously creating a place for the emergent feminine to enter our lives is the important work of our day.

The masculine has run its natural course and is currently pushing beyond the point of balance. To witness the ways in which this imbalance is being reflected back to us we need look no further than the destructive atmosphere of our current American political arena, which of course is closely related to the way we do business in the world. This, however, is not a political or economical issue either.

Men certainly need to value and cultivate aspects of their inner feminine. However, many women do as well. There are women who, in order to succeed in a patriarchal environment, have either repressed or never actually learned to value their own true feminine. The way to proper balance requires attention from all of us, and on all fronts. First we must examine and fine-tune the particulars of our internal balance and this, in effect, will create balance in the larger society.

Contrary to this, there are both men and women with a deficient masculine, who, in order to create balance must refine elements of the masculine. However this particular imbalance is not the dominant social influence at this time. It is in valuing the sensibility of the true feminine where we are lacking. In the destructive environment of the current American psyche, balance calls on us to rekindle our relationship with the Muse in all of her fierce, subtle and feminine glory.

As it often happens, fads, trends and some of the more unexpected sociopolitical movements, which seem to crop up out of nowhere, call attention to areas of our collective imbalance. Lighting Brigid's flame A case in point — where the feminine flame, quite literally, has been rekindled in modern times — is an event that occurred this year in Ireland. On February 1st, 2006 ("St. Brigid's Day,") Ireland's President Mary McAleese visited Kildare Town to officiate at the re-lighting of St. Brigid's Flame on the Market Square in Kildare to commemorate the historic flame kept alight for centuries by the Brigidine nuns after St. Brigid's death. History notes that she was originally worshipped as a Sun Goddess, associated with fire. In the passage of time, the meaning attributed to Brigid has evolved.

A Brigid's cross made from straw Brigid has remained one of the most enduring of the Celtic goddesses. If ever there was an embodiment of "The Muse" she certainly fits the bill. She was, and is, the Goddess of inspiration, creativity, healers, poets and childbirth. St. Brigid's name derives from her worship by the pre-Christian Brigantes, who honored her as Juno, Queen of Heaven. St. Brigid lit the flame 1,500 years ago. Late into the 18th Century her sacred flame was tended; at first by priestesses, and later by nuns who came to be called "Daughters of the Flame." The Catholic Church, infuriated that the nuns would not allow priests to come near the sacred flame, eventually had it extinguished.

Certainly the continually evolving "woman's movement" has led the way and been another clear indicator of our call to feminine balance. Marija Gimbuta It is no accident that the polemical works of renowned archeologist Marija Gimbutas awakened our interest and acknowledgement of the feminine powers with her discoveries and theories involving ancient Goddess traditions. Through her cultural/scientific work she inspired people globally (especially women) to reclaim the qualities of the divine feminine. Author Marion Woodman, one of the foremost Jungians in the world today, spoke of the call to feminine balance in more epic terms. She went so far as to say, "What we await in the 'Second Coming' is what we lack: God's inner dynamic or process. This is the essence of the feminine, traditionally enacted in the ancient Mysteries."

The unbalanced masculine is no longer on speaking terms with the Muse of ancient Mysteries! Without the ease that comes from a naturally balanced creative environment, excessive amounts of will, strategy and deceit are what hold an imbalanced culture in place. Eventually such a creation will collapse under the weight of its' own excess. To accept this dysfunctional playing field as the norm in our society does not justify joining ranks with the masses already on board. Not even if all agree that our survival in the accepted field of engagement is at stake. When the bandwagon covertly insists on denial and cowardice, we always have the option to make a more noble and daring choice. The option is to risk it all — to break the current mold of limitation and give ourselves to the mysterious, feminine realm of creative unknowing!

In a society weighted heavily on the side of the masculine, unknowing is seen as a sign of weakness. This is especially true in the political arena where a politician is severely criticized for a moment of introspection where he or she appears not to know. Ironically, a time of feminine balance may actually come when our humble leaders will be pictured in the media saying, "I Don't Know" and this will be seen as a sign of honesty, openness, strength and great leadership! Lao Tsu riding on a water buffalo The courageous man or woman, rooted in the masculine, who can inhabit this unknowing and listen to the deep and subtle voice of the feminine, may actually come to represent the new Renaissance person. From the ancient tradition of Taoism, Lao Tsu's words come as a reminder, "Know the male — Be the female."

In an atmosphere where fear and frenzy governs the direction a society goes, we may be called on by the Muse to go our own way. By courageously giving ourselves to the loneliness of this unknown direction we may find we survive gloriously and create a new model for success. The journey, in balance, shimmers with attraction. It resonates with a deeper sense of purpose, responsibility and excitement. It is the "hero's journey," the one we all come to acknowledge and celebrate, realizing, after all is said and done, there was really no other way to go!

blackhole Poetry, Mystery and the Muse are one. Like the Black Holes in space, they stir in fluid unknowing while a star becomes shining, solid ground. The lofty, well-lit grounding that mystery brings into Being can only come from the unreasonable, poetic hand of the Muse. The indisputable power of such a creation can empower any new thrust forward and effectively override the lifeless social patterns that no longer serve — patterns we may have been too afraid to release before.

Fear-based impersonations of the mystery are many these days. They come to us as vague half-truths; "spin" designed to hide shadowy motives or outright lies. They attempt to justify taking as much as possible in order to fill the vacuum left by the insatiable demands of imbalance. Everywhere we look — media, politics, business, even art and science — the blur between fact and fiction has become impossibly difficult to discern. The cultivation and manufacture of biased "facts" has become commonplace in America. A complete media industry has grown up around it! The only means left for us to discriminate between the murky half-truth we are being peddled and the genuine, poetic Truth is the filter of an intuitive heart and the end-results, which often come to us too late if we have bought into the illusion. Simple, creative Truth is indisputable and it has a way of clarifying and legitimizing one's basic intentions. Those who feel threatened may attack this Truth — but it doesn't need to be defended or in any way propped up. A true and generous act of power that comes through a humble response to the Muse is its own best defense! Reality itself upholds the creation firmly established in the slight-of-hand maneuver of a radical poetic stance.

When the unbalanced masculine dominates, mind and reason inform our actions and everything is done with an eye on the objective prize. In this scenario, the necessary conditions of unknowing have no value. With the meat and potatoes of this diet we may expand, but we die of heart failure!

It is the overall accumulation of our little failures and successes that ultimately creates our reality. Often, it is not until late in life that we experience the sum total of the choices we have made. Many of us experience a complete letdown when we are actually faced with the reality of our retirement. We feel lost, never having learned to simply BE — be with ourselves, or with our loved ones. It is sad how many financially successful people divorce or begin to wither away just as they transition into the supposed luxury and ease of their hard earned retirement. The unlived life arrives late to collect its due, and like the IRS it has the last word!

If we do not reverently court meaning through the quiet voice of the Muse our objective fix can only reflect back to us the limitations of the same literal reality. The final product of the unbalanced masculine becomes power for its own sake and meaningless material gain. This "gain," at best, becomes soulless carrion, fought over and coveted by others — often times, even by our loved ones who have inherited our vacuous need for more! Some get more than others in this scenario and we may even convince ourselves that we have won the prize. Without meaning, compassion and deep relationships there can be no real winners. The false-god of "quantity" has a way of turning our misguided ventures to dust! One need only look to the dream of America to see the dust beginning to stir and many of our most cherished, innocent dreams are stirring in the mix.

Clearly we are on a dangerous edge in this country, and in the world at large. Paradoxically there is also a strange sense of excitement in the air! For those who know the current conditions are right for healthy transformation to occur and sense the importance of a time like ours; they also know here and now is the place to BE and our collective dream for humanity has the most potential to come through gloriously.


I see in your eyes
a pathway
through the wilderness of time.
It is light
and it beckons me
back through the ages
like an early frost
on the turning leaves.

Moving in unison
with the ardent air,
you return,
flowers in your hand
and moonlight in your eyes.

I am a bandit,
a thief in the night,
trying in vain
to catch this coveted air
only to find
I am bathed in

— Mud

Visit Jerry Wennstrom at his website

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