As a recovered alcoholic, when I was still drinking, denying the path my soul was here to explore generated massive amounts of pent-up energy, often in the form of big dreams, big desires, big plans for the future that, painfully, never seemed to manifest.

(This is a continuation of yesterday’s post, which you can read here if you missed it.)

The more this energy had nowhere to go, the more that I’d set my sights on something but fail to follow through, the more I’d drink.

And in reaction, I’d try to force my progress along the Way of Illumination even harder.

More meditating, more yoga, more clearing my mind of unwanted thoughts. And guess what? It didn’t work.

When life would hit a speedbump, which it inevitably did, I’d be right back to drinking, the tension between the life I wanted and the life I had straining to the breaking point.

The Way of Initiation, on the other hand, isn’t a straight shot up the Tree.

It’s a serpent-twisting upward, hitting every sphere along the way, as you learn how to work with Form and Force. It’s also called the Lightning Path.

This Way is an immersion in the opposites of active and passive, creation and destruction, “concreting form and free-moving force.” (The Mystical Qabalah, p. 51)

It’s an ongoing process of, at the start, ping-ponging between opposites, which can be skin-crawlingly uncomfortable.

For instance, maybe you grew up in a wounded family system where your role was clear: You are responsible for tending to other people’s feelings, and if you don’t, you’re bad, selfish, and unlovable.

On the Way of Initiation, you will most certainly be confronted with the tension between this limited role and who you truly are.

To step out of that role will require a willingness, however tentative at first, to disappoint people, to freefall into a sense of unbelonging as you disconnect from the wounded system in search of more fulfilling relationships.

And this can feel like absolute shit, which is why we all, at times, understandably try to sidestep this tension of opposites.

But as we develop our tolerance for this tension, something exciting begins to happen.

We begin to access far more space than we ever knew existed, as if an entire universe of possibility is unfolding within us.

What if I disappointed them…and I was still okay?

What if I met my own needs right now…even though the wounded system says I have to take care of everyone else?

Rather than being torn between opposites, we take up the throne of the High Priestess, between the pillars of Form and Force.

We become more practiced at wielding these energies, knowing when we need a pinch more Form or a tad bit of Force to nudge things in the desired direction.

In other words, instead of being yanked to one extreme or the other, subject to “fate,” our circumstances become subject to us.

We become the Magician of our own life.

You could spend a lifetime studying these Qabalistic concepts, but today, I want to return to the balance between inner and outer work that I mentioned in the opening of yesterday’s post.

The High Priestess is a symbol of the intuition, and we might think of intuition as solely an inner process…

…a practice of going inward and consulting with the still, small voice within.

But she’s also a sovereign seated on her throne, which is a symbol of worldly affairs. She’s not pictured on a meditation cushion, tucked away in a cloister.

The High Priestess mediates between what is behind the curtain (did you notice the curtain she’s guarding? Explore the Star card of the tarot to peek behind it…) and the world we can see, the world of the here and now.

The intuition, according to Jung, is able to access a “garden of magical possibilities as if they were real.” (Collected Works 16, par. 492)

Intuition connects the inner world–what’s behind the curtain–with real, tangible manifestations in the outer world, which, hey! That sounds an awful lot like magic, doesn’t it?

The High Priestess, balanced between Form and Force, can help us master the ingredients of magic…

…ingredients that were introduced in the card before, the Magician (see the four tools or hallows on his altar?).

Call on the High Priestess’s guidance by choosing a situation or relationship in your life that is kicking up a lot of tension for you.

This tension might be internal. Perhaps the surface of a relationship is smooth and placid, but inside, you’re a turmoil of unspoken needs and resentments.

Now, I want you to explore this situation–gently, with heaps of compassion–in the following light:

We often feel tension where there’s an imbalance between our inner work and outer actions. Between what’s behind the curtain and what’s happening in external reality.

And in particular, sometimes we are trying to substitute inner work for outer actions.

For instance, if we’re feeling loads of resentment in a relationship…

…we might try to meditate those feelings away or use protection spells to shore up our aura around the person or spend hours hashing it out with friends.

Some of those things could be quite helpful, too, but what’s missing might be an outer-world action, like setting a boundary in the relationship. (Need step-by-step guidance? Get Free: A Course in Setting Boundaries has you covered.)

No amount of meditation will sidestep this task.

This is a place where the inner work hasn’t been equilibrated with outer action, and tension is inevitable.

It’s a place where life is showing us that we’re being torn between the two pillars of Form and Force, and we are being called to transform this tension into creative action.

Sometimes we get caught in a loop of waiting for the inner work to make the outer actions feel painless.

For instance, if I meditate enough or talk about it with my friends enough, then setting this boundary won’t feel scary at all…right? Right??

Inner work is soooooooooo very, very crucial to this process, it really is, but it cannot eradicate all discomfort of living in the here and now, of being a human in a world of creative and destructive polarities.

If we’re waiting for that magical day in the future when the tasks of living finally feel frictionless, we will be waiting to live a very long time, indeed.

Use the tension in your life as breadcrumbs, leading you to those places where you need more inner work…or more outer action.

Take a pinch of Form, a dash of Force, experiment with the ratio.

Learn, adjust, try again.

This is the Way of Initiation.

Happy Autumn Equinox.

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