Have you ever experienced a life crisis where you felt empty, losing your sense of what you did, liked, where to go, what to do next? Fairy tales teach us how to navigate these moments, give us fundamental tools, guidance, insights, road maps for the individuation process that is our life. They are a complete script for life and death. When nothing else adds to us, neither politicians nor economists or intellectuals… artists - like the mystics, with their pen and brush - poets, storytellers, painters, sculptors, dancers, have the ability to translate what each season needs, as the light of a beacon that illuminates a huge night ocean.
Carl Jung, in his reflections, said: “Art represents the process of self-regulation in the life of nations and eras ... The creative process, as long as we can follow it, consists in activating an archetypal image and elaborating this image in the final work. By shaping it, the artist is translating (this knowledge/wisdom implicit in the image, author’s note) into the language of the present, enabling us to find our way back to the deepest sources of Life. Herein lies the social meaning of art: it is constantly educating the spirit of each age, gathering and summoning the forms that each age needs” (for its evolution, author's note).
“Let an artistic work act upon us, as it acts on the artist - dance, music, poetry, painting, literature .... To receive its most precious message, let it shape us, as it did with the artist. Then, we will understand the meaning of the fundamental experience of art. The artist, both protagonist and translator of the transpersonal world, plunges into the healing and redemptive depths of the collective psyche, where humanity is not lost in the isolation of consciousness and its misconceptions and sufferings; where we are all involved in a common tide that allows us to individually communicate feelings and desires to humanity as a whole. ”
One student once told me that she had already achieved success, achievement, fulfilment twice in her life, and twice known subsequent failure, loss and downfalls. I told her the story (I can't remember the name of this tale or its author; I read it about 20 years ago, and I synthesize a lot here) of a young woman in a village where she learned the art of her parents - a rare art of weaving certain ropes - and when she achieved mastery, a catastrophe came and killed her family, leaving her orphaned and landless. Forced to flee far away to survive, she found another foster family in another kingdom that taught her their art: carving fine wood. When she was finally integrated, recovered, almost happy, having learned the new art with mastery, a war decimated the village and once again she was left alone, hopeless and lost. She was able to leave in a boat that took her to the farthest realm, where she started all over again… older, engaging in a new mourning for the second time, again she found a community that welcomed her and taught her a new art: to melt and shape precious metals. Again, she learned with love and dedication. She became master of that new art. One day, the king of those lands urgently needed an artisan who knew precisely those three arts from which she had gained mastery… They searched the entire kingdom and only found her…! She was called to the palace, present before the king who had entrusted her with this urgent and absolutely necessary task for the kingdom and which needed mastery in exactly the three arts she had mastered. While she was fulfilling the task, the king fell in love with this unusual woman, capable of such uniqueness with such devotion and artistry. When the piece was completed, he proposed to her! They married and, of course… were happy ever after!
This student of mine has understood that life presents us highs and descents, deaths and rebirths, and in each of them we gain mastery of something fundamental - we learn for example discipline, or courage. In other moments, we learn to take risks, leadership or to lay down the arms; we learn psychological self-knowledge, greater connection with the soul and the inner world, new meanings… a countless number of human learning.
When all seems lost, as in the tale of Psyche and Eros, life brings us helpers - the little ants that represent the creative resources of our unconscious, bring us the new landscapes necessary for our evolution - the river, the reeds, the waterfall and the rock - where we test ourselves, know each other, and - hopefully, if we live consciously - evolve into our individuation = becoming whole. In the end Psyche earned the right to marry Eros, the God of Love. In the end of this marriage, which is a metaphor for the individuation where we learn to be completely human, the mortal Psyche having communed with the realm of the gods by marrying one, became also divine: the revelation of our authentic Self. For Carl Jung, the Self was represented by the archetype of Christ: the complete Man/Woman. For him, the cross was the integration of the 4 psychological functions: feeling, thinking, intuition and sensation. This integration led to the Self, the Christ consciousness, the full realization of the Man/Woman. This is the process we go through in life, like fairy tales teach. For me, in times of crisis, the above tale gives me hope that in every loss there is a sense of renewal where I learn more from myself, where new inner characters can unfold in the objective world, where new tasks and resources are experienced, and one day all this knowledge/mastery together will be needed, just as the woman's knowledge for the king was necessary. A new integrated synthesis is the alchemy that takes us from the person we were, to that we need to become. Continuously. By the time we die on this plane, where it will surely be necessary to gather all that we have learned and integrated into the ultimate alchemical marriage that we will experience between our soul and the spirit of the World. If we have not accepted the tasks we have been offered, if we have rejected our “cross” / destiny, if we chose to be mere victims, if we were so lazy that we learned almost nothing…. then this ultimate marriage, instead of being blessed by the quality of a beautiful palace… will have the feeling of a wedding in any dark concealed alley… we die as we live, and it is of utmost importance what happens NOW, between here and There.
“Fairy tales sometimes also serve as a way of forcing us to look at the problems we need to solve alone, but we prefer to ignore… fairy tales are a way of expressing the spirit, the geist (of time) … they are created to fill in the gaps in our spiritual understanding… The spirit is archetypal in nature and the fairy tales that come from the spirit come from the collective consciousness as an image or idea in people's minds everywhere… The feeling of ignorance about the future results in the inner self casting a dark shadow over the future… this shadow can only be understood through dreams and fantasies (imagination)… or fairy tales… The fairy tale is the great mother of the novel, and has even more universal validity than most of the most avidly read novels of its time." (Carl G. Jung, The Red Book).
I believe in fairy tales as my poetic bible; its rigor in revealing the human processes is similar to the rigor of astrology with the right dynamics and right timing for every stage. I learned the alchemical magic of tears from the Silver-handed Maiden fairy tale while the rational mind and the ego tend to desperately look for quick, clear, assuring answers, fairy tales activate our unconscious resources, stimulate the intuitive mind, and teach the bodysoul how to wait… to gestate the response… to trust the process of Life; to realize that if something so desired has not yet happened, it is because its time has not yet come. Fairy tales teach us how to make the Way – the process of living - more precious than the expected objective result. This is the pathway of the Conscious Feminine and Masculine.
Stories and fairy tales, which speak the language of the right hemisphere of the brain, holistic, intuitive, synthetic, reveal important things about ourselves, about our unconscious that cannot be suppressed in a lasting way, nor by religious precepts or political/economical ideologies. They do not care about being politically correct; the moral they convey is profound, of life itself; its strength is beyond fashions, trends, popularities; the fairy tale is like an arrow that points straight to the heart of what really matters in life. “Let's renounce the make-believe world and believe in fairy tales again!”