How do we decide what to do in life? This is an enormous question which gets to the root of the entire meaning of our lives. There are many ways that people answer this question — or fail to answer it. Many people are not, in fact, doing with their lives what they are meant to do, or want to do — but are living out someone else’s wishes for them — quite possibly, those of their parents. (Or, alternatively, they may be living out a reaction against their parents).
I believe that people are happiest, if they are living out their own purpose, and have made their own decisions, which may have come as a result of considering several trusted sources of wisdom. How do we know what advice to believe, and what advice to reject? Ultimately, the only way to know what significance to give to other’s advice or input, is to judge it based on our own Inner Wisdom or Inner Guidance. And if we lack this Inner Guidance, or lack confidence in it, this is difficult to do.
Developing one’s Inner Guidance is both a matter of cultivating Intuition, as well as in cultivating Integration. The intuitive capacity is a skill we can develop, and working with it is an art form. One of the principal aspects of this art, which actually emerges from ancient tradition, is that of integration of several functions or parts of the personality. This integration has been addressed in intriguing symbolic form in the Magical Process of Alchemy. In modern times, it appears in the psychological work of Carl Jung, who could be described as an alchemical psychologist.
The basic premise of Alchemy and of Jung’s psychology, is that we can attain wisdom and wholeness through the integration of our rejected parts or disowned parts, or inferior functions. To put it more concretely — this means, for instance, that a person who is very strong in the thinking function, needs to integrate their feeling function, in order to attain wholeness. Likewise, the sensate person needs to integrate their intuitive function, and the intuitives need to learn to ground themselves. The best Inner Guidance, comes when we are able to develop our less strong functions, and incorporate them in our assessment of any situation.
The many forms of Divinatory Arts, such as Horary Astrology, Tarot, Runes, Ogham Fews, Geomancy, Pendulum, Crystal Ball or Black Mirror Scrying, and Bibliomancy, as well as the many ancient oracles such as reading clouds, the flight of birds, thrown sticks or bones, or the entrails of slaughtered animals, all are merely tools to support the Inner Guidance that we already have as a profound potential within ourselves. Forms of divination containing symbols, allow us access to the depths of the Subconscious, or Collective Unconscious, which in Magical Traditions is also known as the “Otherworld.” Carl Jung saw clearly that this Unconscious realm is truly a realm of symbols — which we can easily see by doing Dreamwork and starting to explore our dreams. Their language is entirely in symbols.
There is both a universal, as well as a personal language of symbols, and it behooves us to learn both of these. We cannot develop our own Inner Guidance without knowing the unique twists of our own psyche, our own wounds, our own weaknesses and flaws, and this is where the study of dreams is so beneficial. For our dreams will continually bring to our attention those parts of ourselves which we are failing to attend to, and which may have been disowned. Dreams are also very often compensatory, and will express those energies that we are not consciously in touch with. For instance, if we continually dream of being imprisoned, this can show us that some part of ourselves is “stuck” and has not been developed. We are holding some part of ourselves back and need to find ways to access what we are imprisoning in ourselves.
My view of dreams is that they do not tell us what is happening in the outer world, or what others are doing to us — they reflect our inner state, and show what we are doing to ourselves.
By contrast, if we have many dreams of being a superhero, this may be an indication that the “hero” part of ourselves is getting short shrift in our day to day lives, and that we are more capable of miracles than we may think.
A second way to develop our own Inner Guidance, is to work consciously with symbols, perhaps by starting to keep a Symbol Journal of all those symbols, fairy tales and archetypal themes which most appeal to us. The more we know about what types of symbols and archetypes are significant to us, the more we can come into touch with our own Inner Guidance. In fact, for those so disposed, these symbols and archetypes which are of most significance to us, or have a “numinous” charge, can also point us towards those gods and goddesses, and spirits, which we can work with Magically — with whom we can do what in Pagan-Magical Traditions is called “Pathworking” and involved Otherworldly guidance.
Honoring the symbols, archetypes, and spirits who are most important to us by using a Symbol Journal, Magical Journal, doing Art, or creating Ritual or Altars to honor these beings and guides.
A third way to develop our own Inner Guidance, is to pursue Mindfulness and Inner Clarity, something that is done by many people now through various methods of meditation, such as vipassana, walking meditation, or forms of yoga such as hatha yoga or bhakti yoga. Some souls are more oriented to pursuing meditation and inner stillness, while others, (myself included) are more oriented to pursuing a devotional path which is simultaneously a meditational path. Either way, the work is in removing “junk” from our psyche — such as grudges, old resentments, unhealed old wounds, psychological complexes — letting go of what does not serve us, and holding fast to the still center, the loving light, the radiant beauty at the center of the universe.
The clearer we can be inside ourselves, the freer from distractions and “garbage” or inner “clutter”, the more we can see purely and clearly this enormously radiant and Magical world so full of the divine — and be guided by what Hildegaard of Bingen called ” the Loving Light.” The Loving Light belongs not just to Catholics, and not just to Christians, but to all those who devote the time and work to cultivating their inner life and pursuing the mystical truths which are so often “hidden in plain sight” in everyday garments.