My soul leads me into the desert, into the desert of my own self. I did not think that my soul is a desert, a barren, hot desert, dusty and without drink. The journey leads through hot sand, slowly wading without a visible goal to hope for? How eerie is this wasteland. It seems to me that the way leads so far away from mankind. I take my way step by step, and do not know how long my journey will last.Carl G. Jung, The Red Book
[…] My soul, what am I to do here? But my soul spoke to me and said, “Wait.” I heard the cruel word. Torment belongs to the desert.
At the beginning of the Red Book, Jung embarks on a journey to find his soul. The book is a summary of that journey, which took him 16 years to complete. Following his soul, he finds himself in a hot and unforgiving desert. Desperate, without having found even the smallest clue, he asks his soul what he shall do. She gives him the best advice: wait. He takes it is a punishment. Surely waiting is not finding. One does not leave everything and travel to the desert just to wait… And yet, that was what he needed. To wait. To stop. To seat down and listen to the world as it spins. If we want to look inside, we need to detach for a while. Ironically, the first step in an inner journey is to stop and wait.
Silence is one of the major thresholds in the world. The spirituality of the Desert Fathers deeply influenced Celtic spirituality. For these ascetics silence was the teacher: ‘A certain brother came to the Abbot Moses in Scete seeking a word from him. And the old man said to him: “Go and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you all things.”’John O’Donohue, Anam Cara
Everyone’s journey is different, unique. The tools we need are different. The pace is different. And, essentially, we are alone. Family, friends may cheer from the shore, from the top of a distant tower, but our journey is our own and no one can walk our path for us.
This task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will.J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
When you begin walking in the desert you are full of hope that you will find great treasures, solid truths, answers… And yet, for many, many days you find nothing. Nothing. The uttermost nothingness. You see yourself alone and you begin to wonder if this was a good idea. Weeks later, scorched by the sun, thirsty, exhausted, you conclude that this was actually a terrible idea.
Nobody can spare themselves the waiting and most will be unable to bear this torment, but will throw themselves with greed back at men, things, and thoughts, whose slaves they will become from then on.Carl G. Jung, The Red Book
And one day, unexpectedly, almost distractedly, you see a small seed on the sand. Out of sheer desperation, you soak it in the few drops of water you had left in your waterskin. Suddenly, this seed has become more important to you than your own life. You water it, desperately, until one day you see the smallest beginning. And then you know you are not lost. You know you will never be lost.
You think you are alone in the desert, but if you had a ladder and you could climb but a few meters, you would see that the desert is full of people like you, groping in the sandstorm, desperate to find. And you would see the tears in their eyes when they, at last, find a small insignificant seed that suddenly becomes everything.
If you are looking for answers, if you find yourself in the middle of the desert, tired, thirsty, hopeless, cursing the gods, cursing yourself, despairing, be confident. In the end, you will find a beginning. I don’t know much, but I know this: if you seek, you find.