By Cynthia Ray
January 6th is the feast of the Epiphany in the Christian tradition, celebrating the arrival of the three wise men to the child Jesus. While it can mean the literal recognition of the Christ within, this story may also be understood in a symbolic way to help us to understand where inspiration comes from and how to tap into it.
These Magi, or magicians, represent the conscious mind coming to the realization of the light or truth which the subconscious mind has given birth to after a long period of gestation-a personal epiphany. The Magi were visionaries, they believed and followed a star that had meaning only for them. Others may have seen the star, but only they knew where it would lead.
If we accept this, then how can we undertake such a journey? Why would we want to go on such a perilous undertaking? What star would we follow?
Recently I heard Ursula LeGuin’s famous award acceptance speech. In it, she gives an admonition to writers and artists to become visionaries. LeGuin says, “I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries — the realists of a larger reality. …”
Wow! That hit me right in the gut. As writers and artists shouldn’t that be our highest quest? To be realists of a larger reality. To show truth, to inspire, to lead. If so, once our intellect, or conscious mind decides on the quest/question and sets the conditions, then the subconscious mind does its work, hidden in the deeps of the universal mind, where all truth awaits. Follow the star.
In the Star Tarot card, the two pots of water represent the two aspects of mind, the conscious and subconscious. The functions of the Star card are Meditation and Revelation; exactly what an Epiphany consists of.
Epiphanies are experienced as a sudden realization or illumination of thought. They are often described as a “flash of genius”. Archimedes illustrated this exactly when he jumped from his bath and ran naked from his house, exclaiming “Eureka! I have it!” after he discovered his groundbreaking method to determine the density of an object. Newtons theory of gravity is another example of an epiphany, triggered by his observation of a falling apple. You have probably felt that way a time or two when something fell into place.
In both cases, these scientists had spent a lot of time contemplating, thinking and focusing on specific problems with their conscious mind. Meanwhile the subconscious, a beautiful fertile receptacle that allows and nurtures all seeds planted there, brought forth seemingly miraculous answers to the questions posed. These experiences are memorable to us and even seem supernatural, but they are the natural result of the creative process we put in place with our focus.
So in order for an epiphany to occur, there needs to be:
- A clear question
- A desire to know and understand something
- A time of contemplation and focused thinking, where one wrestles with the issue, studies and labors to understand
We could not do better than to consider Ursula’s admonition in this, looking for hope, a leading out of the dark and how we could express that in our art. What if we all asked, “What can I, as a writer/artist, do to show new ways of being to a world in need of awakening, of hope?”
While the conscious mind is occupied with these things, below the surface, in the deep waters of our subconscious womb, things will percolate, grow and gestate, until they rise to our consciousness, born seemingly out of nowhere and “it all becomes clear.”
Embrace the knowing that our subconscious will eventually and inevitably give birth to what we are seeking and focusing on, whether it is the resolution to our characters dilemma in our story, or startling perceptions about mankind’s current state. This is the star we must follow.
Whether it is a shared wisdom we tap into and from which our Epiphany springs, or from our own personal depths, the fact is that there is a deeper wisdom which will answer all of our questions if we put them out there and meditate, contemplate and stew in them long enough. What a powerful tool we have at our disposal!
Wishing you many Epiphanies in this new year, in a world that is a better place to be-because of you and your work.