Early one morning, I awoke to the sound of falling rubble coming from within the chimney-stack. In the twilight of dawn I put on my nightgown and crept downstairs to explore. Upon entering the lounge I heard the sound of fluttering wings coming from the fire-hearth, wherein I found a very dishevelled blackbird gripping desperately onto the soot-covered grate; its wide eyes gleaming in the dimness of a heavily curtained room. The blackbird seemed as startled to see me as I was to see it, and I wondered how best I might pick it up without frightening it further. For a moment I considered a cloth and was just about to open the curtains, when from apparently nowhere I remembered a piece of useful information – birds always fly towards the light! As quickly and as silently as I could, I by-passed the curtains and instead opened the front door. In an instant the blackbird flew out into the new morning sun, but in nothing like an instant did I realise the profundity of that event until some time later. Let alone appreciate the intuitive wisdom of knowing when to open, or when to leave some curtains closed.
Of all the hours, months and years that I had spent studying, it was the incident with the blackbird in which I had perhaps learnt the most. In one moment it had flown carefree in the early morning sky, when in the next it had fallen into the blackest hole from within which it must have thought there was no escape. Being unable to spread its wings in order to return to the former blue skies of freedom, the blackbird had crash-landed inelegantly, and most probably painfully, onto the charred embers of a thankfully cold fire. After a moment of apprehension at the new sensations that must have bombarded its senses, it sprang by natural instinct and flew straight out of the open door, toward the light of a new day. The symbolism within such a seemingly small event over time lit up like a hologram. In pure synchronicity, the blackbird revealed something so utterly amazing and completely obvious that I nearly missed it. It had shown me the archetypal pattern of a definitive flight-path. A pattern that traced the circular blueprint of everything; of man, of a spirit, of reincarnation and re-birth – of life! It was that which I had found written into every teaching, that necessarily involved a descent into darkness, fire, light and resurrection; all of which preceded a spiritual ascension and conscious evolution. It was not only the clumsy capers of a blackbird that I had witnessed that morning, but the structured flight of the mythical phoenix, forever rising from the flames of purification. Before me too, illuminated the fundamental process of chemical transmutation. Though more, much more than that, the blackbird had shown me the spherical journey of a dearly beloved soul, Heaven’s own alchemical vessel capable of extraordinary transformation – it had shown me the flight-path of us.
As the blackbird fell down the chimney, it may have grasped as we often do in life, for a handle, lever or brick on which to hold. But chimneys, like life, are designed circular for a very good reason. Had the blackbird found a temporary ledge upon which to perch, somewhere between the light above from which it could not return, and the darkness below that seemed its only terrifying option, then it may have, as we often do, gotten stuck in the tunnel of its own fears. Getting stuck in the chimney is to us the equivalent (and precursor) of a potential illness; at first in the mind and then in the body. In response to a life event we easily become disorientated, frightened, lost, unstable. In panic we try to go back to the familiarity of yesterday but cannot and neither are we able to move on to tomorrow. We feel paralysed, helpless, trapped, vulnerable and so we seek ledges upon which to stabilise, people on whom to frantically cling. Most of which are only plasters of temporary solution that we desperately hope will never come off, though we inevitably find that they do. In pain we seek a hero, an idol in the external world to fill the void in the internal one. When in truth the only hero that can rescue or save us, is the one that lives forever within. We have lost touch with the saviour on the inside, and that is the real problem we all face today. For many, ‘within’ is the absolute last place they would ever think, or rather, would ever want to look. Even if given a map of their internal world and a way out of the material maze by celestial satellite navigation. Directions to ‘go within’ can seem irritatingly futile when everything on the outside appears to be falling apart. But a solution is always found in the problem and if the problem is in the inside, then there too is the solution.
Tumbling straight down the chimney without any option, the bird would have been undoubtedly afraid. My lounge with all its material stimulants could never have vibrated at the frequency of freedom, no matter how much I had sought to cleanse it. Like us, the blackbird fell awkwardly into darkness, though fortunately it had landed into a cold fire. But not all descents are into cold fires, as we and the phoenix can testify, but then again, neither are they supposed to be. Since it is often in the fires of our apparent private hell, that not only our eyes but our hearts and minds might be opened. Where ‘no-ledge’ for the ego yields knowledge for the Self. And where our souls may be ever more purified, even if the timing between furnace and flight seems unbearably painful and unfairly extended. It is there in the cooling embers and light of a new day, that we may find not just the cinders of carboniferous charcoal, but the essence of the carbon-arc coalesce.
No-one wants to fall down that far in life, but we do. Descents are just part of the process of evolution: of a mind, a heart and a soul. In the fall into my lounge, the blackbird may have learned a very important lesson that day, if only not to perch on chimney tops. Having passed through a cycle of re-birth, perhaps it had emerged better learned, more awake than before and maybe even a little more wise. Were the embers hot, it is possible the blackbird’s physical life may have ceased to continue on, though I am absolutely sure that its spiritual life still would have. ‘Phoenix moments’ are not just for birds, but for anything that experiences life. On Earth is where we do the work of transformation, where every external war reveals only a war in the internal world, projected out in an effort to disown it. It is where we negotiate the hidden agendas in our own hearts and minds, where we hopefully strive not for a hostile take-over, but a diplomatic resolution attained more easily when grace has been invited in. In descents we are called to ask fundamental questions about our realities and ourselves – in ‘phoenix moments’ we may find the answers. Incarnations do not always require that we physically cease, they require that we metaphysically shed our old feathers of yesterday, in order that we may grow stronger wings for tomorrow’s flight. They challenge us to let go inherited, out-dated unconscious belief structures, all in order for a conscious evolution and a unified spiritual enlightenment. ‘Phoenix moments’ force us to bear the pain of the fires of purification, in order for some essence of wisdom to be revealed; a process that can only serve to enhance and fine-tune our flight-paths through this life, and eventually, our ascension through the ethers back home.
by Carole Sawo
(in Pandora’s Panacea)