Sometimes, when in crisis, it is important to do nothing for a while and just sit in the awfulness of it. It is not the time to jump out of the fire to avoid the burning, but to endure and sit in the flames. Julian David, a Jungian analyst resident in Devon U.K., gave a lecture to the Jung group here in Johannesburg, South Africa some years ago. I made a note of his words from that lecture: ‘When you are in the fire, when you are burning in the flames, you have to sit in the fire, to be strengthened. If you try to protect yourself you are not strengthened‘. It is a time for no-action.
I see Lilith in the flames, sitting, with her knees drawn to her chest, her chin resting on her knees, her arms and hands wrapped around her legs. She sits; she doesn’t move. She knows she has to be here and now is not the time for her to escape. There is nothing else she can do. She must and will endure. In the flames, she must resist the temptation to jump out of the fire and not be burned. She must be burned. But the fire slowly strengthens her. She kindles the fire adding new branches to the furnace to keep the flames burning. She is kind to the fire. She feels akin to it. She stirs the ash. Perhaps she is reminded of things of beauty that were fashioned after being in the fire, beautiful crystal glass work, ornamental beads, clay pots, beautifully crafted and fired, made from the same substance as she. Slowly she feels that she is being forged and fashioned, that the fire is strengthening her. She feels purified by the fire. Perhaps she wonders in some way if this is an alchemical process, one that takes a long time and furthermore, she knows not what lies in store for her. And she feels the absolute stillness of doing nothing, a dynamism. She senses the paradox in this, senses that stillness and movement somehow belong together even if they appear to be completely opposite to each other. She feels her blood quicken in some barely discernible way. Her frozen heart is melting. She feels a sharpening of wits, while at the same time a lessening of her previous bonds. She feels looser yet tighter at the same time. Her perceptions and attitude change. She sees that there is more. It seems to be out of her grasp but worthwhile reaching for and waiting for.
Lilith is in the fire but also in the depths of the Red Sea, wet, not only from those watery depths, but also very much from her tears. Tears of rage, frustration, anger and deep, deep sadness at her plight. How in the name of heaven did it come to this? A life of mutual joy and co-operation with Adam was not to be. She was rejected not only by him but also by G.d, discarded, exiled and thus thrown upon herself. Perhaps from her personal experience of rejection, surely the deepest wound to her psyche, she learned never herself to be the instrument of rejection, hurt and wounding. Her own wounding showed her the path. From her extreme anger and sadness, there was a glimmer of the potential of its opposite, i.e. that of compassion and joy.
Mr. Nelson Mandela endured 27 years in exile on Robben Island, yet he emerged victorious after his isolation, with his heartfelt message of peace, compassion and humility. And above all, forgiveness. He has stated that he saw those years of confinement as necessary for his development as an individual in that he gained a broader vision of his place in the world. He stated in his autobiography, that the only way to make an impact on society and one’s fellow man is to effect a change in one’s self. It is necessary, he said, to let your fellow man know that you pose no threat to him. He is a living example of how one person can make a difference and a living symbol of what can be transcended. Even his name is like a mandala. There was no place in his heart for bitterness.
For Lilith in the watery depths and Mr. Mandela in prison, there was a sense of trust and hope that there was a way of being, beyond the confines of the given world at that moment even though, given their circumstances, it precluded the ability to exert any control over it.
All each could do was to fall back only on themselves and wait until events conspired in their favour.