I texted Mr Neave, my former Deputy Head last week, to ensure his family were safe from the fires burning in Australia. Thank God all was well, although some of the schools he looks after in the outback were burned down. Reports from Australia depict more than 15 million acres being torched and over a billion animals being incinerated or else dying because their ecosystems have been destroyed. While most of the people and some of the larger, more mobile animals may escape the flames, smaller animals are not able to do so, and are being consumed no matter what they do.
On a psychological level human trauma can work that way as well. Parts of us may survive the traumas of war, natural disaster, personal loss or some other kind of devastating change. Other parts of us are unable to escape and those become the charred remains, the ever smoldering inner aspects of trauma and loss that can heat up and burn within when new tragedies are in the air. Like any truly traumatic condition, we would not knowingly choose it; but like it or not, we are caught between inner and outer fire.
Inevitably, like wildfire, the underlying tensions of life erupt again and appear in both the external world of forms and in our own inner world. And, one of the greatest betrayals in life is the self-betrayal that happens when we imagine that someone else will solve the great dilemmas for us. While the increasing traumas involve all of us collectively, the way out of the burning issues requires that we awaken individually. A point that the great wisdom traditions of the world remind us of again and again.
The inner alchemy of the soul intends to turn the heat of all that fumes and burns into the light of illumination. Yet, a dark night of the soul seems to be required in order for the inner light of life and enduring flame of imagination to be found and be confirmed. How else do we understand that everyone suffers in this world, that ultimately we are all connected? The real risk in this life has always been that of becoming oneself amidst the heat of the moment and the uncertainties of existence - that terror of the human situation. The only real sense of security can be found in taking the kind of risks that lead to a greater sense of life and a more encompassing way of being in the world.
Soul is the resilient and resourceful aspect of our being that can deal with great loss and handle even despair, because it is the only part that is connected to the divine. It is part of the mystery of life on earth that the human soul can awaken, grow greater, and reveal inner gifts when everything turns dark and seems about to fall apart. The alchemy of the awakening soul becomes a source of meaningful change and a living root of remedies for what ails both culture and nature. This is the soul-fire of imagination that does not burn.