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"Mysteries of Change" by Edith Sullwold, Ph.D.

Reprinted by permission of the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology from Inward Light, Vol. XLII, No. 92,
by Elined Prys Kotschnig, ed., copyright 1979 by Edith Sullwold, Ph.D.

In January of 1978 at Pendle Hill I participated in a remarkable happening, an instance of change, a birth, which I call "the emergence of a title". Innocently, I walked into a gathering of thirty‑five planners for the Friends Conference on Religion and Psychology that snowy evening. Our purpose was to select a title, a focus for the conference. It seemed extraordinary to expect that such a large group could resolve its ideas into a single title. It was neither within my life experience nor within my conceptual framework that such an event was possible. When it was said the next morning, after an awesomely thrilling and pregnant moment of silence, that we had reached a 'meeting' and the title was Mysteries of Change, I knew I had undergone in that moment a profound life change. There was an awareness of moving from the isolated and restricted barriers of individual perception and conception toward a larger and deeper communion of experience. Into this communion personal agreement could move as well as the vast and intense spirit which confirmed the event. In that moment of excitement in the joint discovery of the title there was a breaking through of the eggshell of narrow personal insight into a new vision of potentials. And that seems to me to be the core, the heart, of the meaning of the title. Mysteries of Change.

I will not be the same after that event. My expectations of life are different. My participation in any community carries with it now a deepened opening of trust in spirit and of the possibility of a peaceful but energetic union of individuals in a communion a meeting.

The mystery remains how did this event occur? Remembering the evening, I pondered over the ingredients. A sense of trust in silence, in the inner working of the spirit within that silence, was paramount. And necessarily there was an acceptance of the sense of order and lawfulness of spirit. And there was amazing patience with and acceptance of the individual, giving the persons and the ideas a large, unjudged space in which to exist. There was an important tension of differences, a tension that heightened awareness and stretched the understanding in such a way that the final resolution had a sense of grace and glory to it. These ingredients, trust, openness, non‑judgment, focus of tension, and an intent to resolve seemed to be the necessary conditions for the alchemy of change to take place. The knowledge of the process, of the grace of change, is contained within the experiencing of life itself, as happened to me in January. Every moment has the potential to bring me such knowledge, if I can awake to the actual reality of a state of constant change.

But before this moment of union occurred, there was a lively and intense dialogue which dynamically changed confusion into
order. The general feeling of the group was to consider those conditions of life we call transitions and transformations. In examining these two words much clarity was achieved. Both have the prefix 'trans' meaning to go over, across, beyond, through, on or to the other side of, or to change completely. As I write this list of synonyms of 'trans' there comes to mind a marvelous image of a medieval drawing in which a man is crawling through or under the limit of the boundary of the universe as if it were a tent, out into the wide starry night of the galaxies. And also comes to mind a statement of Russell Schweickart, the astronaut, describing his journey into space: "You look down there, and you can't imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don't see them. Down there hundreds of people are killing each other over some imaginary line that you are not even aware of, and from where you see it the thing is a whole, and it's so beautiful and you wish you could take one in each hand and say, "Look - look at it from this perspective.' And you realize you've changed, there is something new in the relationship between you and that planet, and you and all the other forms of life on that planet because you've had that kind of experience. It's so precious."

In that room at Pendle Hill, we are still discussing the title. Extending beyond the prefix 'trans' to the two words, transition
and transformation, a difference is perceived. Transition meaning the passage from one place, state, type, or stage of development to another; and the period, place, passage in which such a change is effected. We are all familiar with such transitions, the movements recognized both internally and externally by the rituals of birth, union, death, by initiations and graduations. Transformation, on the other hand, implies a change in form, or shape, nature of function, so that the change is through and through a complete change. These we recognize as being of the nature of the experiences described in spiritual journeys.

Beyond the definition of these words we considered analogies and examples of each process. The rites and celebrations of transition that are held by societies and individuals mark these changes as inevitable and significant stages in the development
and maturation of life forms an organic circle of change from birth to death and rebirth, whether in internal or external form. The chicken, the egg, the chicken, the egg. The seed, the bud, the flower, the seed. Or, exemplifying transformation, the metamorphosis of caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly. Such are also the changes celebrated in the deep mysteries of initiation and alchemy.

Exploring the sense of change in these terms, our examples of organic change were meant to be inclusive of changes in the mind and spirit simultaneously. We know for instance that in the body all cellular activity is in motion, shifting, sloughing off the old and creating new cellular material. So it is, or so it can be with mind and spirit. Since the changes occur with an energetic force of natural evolution, to block these changes in any way has consequences. A seed that begins to sprout and has neither sun nor water nor space, will wither before it reaches maturity. So it is with spirit. The medieval explorer of the universe, the astronaut with his mystic vision speak for the expansion going on into vaster and vaster realms of reality. These realities exist simultaneously with the ones we habitually perceive and are as 'known' to us as the full form of the butterfly is 'known' in the cell structure of the caterpillar. But unless growth in awareness of the hidden forms is nourished and promoted, there will be no creation of new concepts and of hitherto unimagined undertakings to make those forms actual.

These relevant lyrics were written by Beth Kingsley for her music workshop at the Conference.

Once there was a caterpillar living in a shell
Happy to be in a place where everything went well
No one to bother him, no other worms to see
Locked up in his dark cocoon, he thought that he was free.

Something took that caterpillar as he slept one day
Woke him up and gave him wings and helped him fly away.
People too can live in shells, afraid of being free
But whatever changed that worm can change both you and me.

When these processes of change into fullness are stopped or even temporarily blocked, we are frequently given the creative
signs of illness of various kinds. The illnesses of body, mind or spirit can be messages which tell us of stoppages in the fluidic
state of our being. Medicine, both western and eastern, psychotherapies, and spiritual practices all have an intention to heal through an attempt to release the flow of change so that maturity, wholeness and fulfillment may be achieved. This may not always be obvious, since the concept and experience of fulfillment itself may be in the process of change. The condition of the gooey mass in the cocoon may not look like much to either the caterpillar or the butterfly unless the total process is intuited and known.

In San Francisco, John Perry, a Jungian analyst, works with young people who are in what he calls the "visionary state", more commonly called schizophrenia. He has found that the psyche will often move with tremendous energy through and past the collectively accepted conception of the world and in an eruption of vision or madness, may image forth an entirely new and total world structure. This sometimes incorporates the old view, but always brings in a new order for both the outer and the inner worlds, which are frequently seen in the visions as one and the same. We witness here the creative seed at work, pushing through to change the totality of the individual and the collective, even at the price of sacrificing ordinary sanity.

The evening gathering closed. The feeling was of clarity, but not resolution regarding the title. I suggested that we dream upon it, another member felt it might come during the service the next morning. I awoke with a phrase in my mind, 'rites of change'. 'Change' seemed good. It was inclusive of both transformation and transition, a way of allowing us to consider both events. Change implies an essential difference, sometimes amounting to a loss of identity, sometimes the substitution of one thing, place, or circumstance for another. So 'change' was a resolution of the choice of the two words by inclusion a way to move beyond the limits in a horizontal way in itself an example of the process of movement and change.

Presenting this as a possibility to the group, I knew 'rite' did not feel appropriate; the others felt the same. There was more discussion. The objection to 'rites' was that it had a certain fixed quality to it, in opposition to change, and suddenly the word 'mystery' appeared. The word included rite, but more importantly a sense of the unknown, the secret, the incomprehensible. As soon as the phrase "Mysteries of Change" was quietly suggested by one of the group, the mysterious happening occurred, the meeting and the pregnant silence around it. As I remember the moment, it was as if in me the eggshell of concept broke. It burst not only from the inside by the natural effort toward resolution we had made in discussion and sharing, but by some mysterious other force which met that push within with just the appropriate and equal amount of energy. The event was filled with a sense of the harmoniousness of life, as if we were all singing to an orchestration beyond our separate conductings.

As I reflected on the process in which we had participated, I saw that it was an example of what C. G. Jung calls the transcendent function. He describes the process of active imagination as a dialogue between opposites, especially the unconscious and the conscious, the imagination and the ego. The tension between the two is held in dialogue until the creative third occurs as a resolution at the apex of the triangle. This is not a blend of the two opposites or a horizontal inclusion, but a totally new event or experience, an alchemical birth, a transformation, through the presence of transcending work.

And thus our title a title that in itself carries the sense of fluidity and of the unknown force that carries us further into knowing and deeper into mystery, constantly in change.

There is a sign which frequently accompanies the state of opening which can come mysteriously through change, a sign which seems to confirm the event. This is an awareness of the simultaneity of different realities, called by Jung synchronicity. One sees events occurring in meaningful conjunction at a given moment of time, linked harmoniously with each other, though not in a sequence of cause and effect in linear time, past, present and future. As I turned to leave the meeting room after this life transforming event, I put my hand on an object on the window sill. Picking it up with curiosity, since it had insisted its way into my awareness, I experienced again that sense of awe that confirms the rightness or truth of a moment. The object was a porcelain egg, beautifully hand painted with butterflies, musical notes, and my own initials, E.S. Here was all of the imagery that had come to me during the meeting the breaking through of the eggshell, the transformation of the butterfly and the sound of individual notes moving by the guidance of spirit into harmony. The initials, my initials, on the egg brought some sense of responsibility and humbleness. This was a mysterious gift of the universe, confirming for me its order and my need to be aware of it.

Thus the elements interchanged their qualities as on a harp the notes may change their rhythm though all the while preserving their tone. This clearly appears from a scrutiny of events.
                                                       - Book of Wisdom, Chapter 19, Vs 18

Change is. All being is in constant flux and we need only become aware that it is proceeding in us. We can support, open to, and enjoy this process or we can block, resist, and tensely deny it with resulting discomfort and disease. What is exciting in this time is the exploration of the nature of change. What dynamics are behind change; what is being changed and for what purpose? The answers to these questions are dawning out of the unknown mystery, awakening us to what we truly are and are becoming through change.

 

 

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