Thinking vs Feeling - The Serpent

Encapsulated more and more in my dreamwork homework, is the forethinking vs pleasure that Carl talks about in The Red Book. My cut continues to be to notice when I am in the spin of story or thinking I know something and to bring in the feeling part of my homework. This week it is to bring the pain of my wound to the Anima as we tumble and tumble in each others arms in the waves of the ocean, or to bring it to the place of spinning round and round with the 13 year old girl. Both these places carry feelings, such as sensuality, joy, and desire but they also move me into disorientation, which cuts through my mind's powerful re-orienting abilities.
Two Coils, Lorena B. Moore’s Ironwing Tarot

This cut is actually the movement from thinking back to feeling. I have written before about Carl’s serpent, the serpent that moves from black to white and back again.

Noticing when I go to thinking I know something or spinning out a story in my head about something is like trying to live in the blind spot since it seems I am doing this all the time. Someone could walk in the room and I have a whole story about them within moments!

Archetypal Dreamwork helps us move from thinking to feeling and I think it’s fair to say that many of us have lived mainly in forethinking (our minds), not in pleasure (our feelings). What I had thought were my feelings were more often than not emotions which are a reaction based on a projection into the world about something that has already happened or something that might happen. True feelings were fleeting and short-lived as I sought to avoid pain and grief and other “negative” feelings. It's interesting that Carl talks about feeling as pleasure. I have discovered that even the grief or pain can carry the pleasurable visceral sensation of sensuality in the body.

Without my dreamwork homework, the place where the serpent begins to move from black to white is like an event horizon in me, especially when I am in a trauma reaction. It’s like I have pulled all the light deep into me and no light escapes the black hole that is me in my thinking/reactions.

With the homework, I can see across from black to white without the aversion that I once had. I no longer actively seek to avoid the pain, instead I feel a yearning to discover the full and true essence of me. But even still, it is a battle. The serpent must fight to move from black to white.  It is chaotic as it bursts forth from thinking to feeling. It's like pushing through the eye wall of a hurricane. It feels like I am still in the blackness right up to the event horizon and the blackness intensifies and becomes completely chaotic in the moment before the serpent turns white again. It is the supreme effort of working my cut or, as Carl says, bringing the sword to my brain.

The change from white to black can be just as intense for me. I may be triggered back into it or I may run to the comfort of it, but most often it is just my default.

As the speed of this movement in me intensifies, so does my disorientation. It is the place where I can begin to see that I am changing but I don’t really know what is happening.

There is crack just before the transition where the grace enters or, conversely, where the pathology enters. I am beginning to notice the crack in me as this shift occurs. In this crack is the moment of clarity where I can bring my dreamwork homework into my consciousness to break the power of my mind.

Carl says we need our thinking and we need our feeling. The demarcation of the serpent between the black and white is some other place. I think of it as being in the river, floating in the current of the Divine, a place where I can both think and feel because I am neither striving toward the light nor fighting to escape the dark…we might call this resting in the Love or a higher principle that exists in the place where we allow all to be just as it is.

Carl talks extensively about the issue of duality. I have written about it before on this blog. It is interesting to realize that where there is a God, there is always a devil. Therefore, should we seek God, since to seek God we are also seeking the Devil? We should at least know that when we are seeking God, we will also find the Devil since one cannot live without the other.

Duality is often thought of as binary opposites such as good/evil, light/dark, hot/cold, life/death and so on ad infinitum.  For example, without an understanding of pain, I could not know joy or love. We need one to create an understanding of the other. This is how the mind works. It needs to create order and finds order most easily in differentiation.

I have learned through the dreamwork that by desiring the love, I cannot seek to avoid the pain. Avoiding the pain is avoiding the love.

Carl quotes an ancient Gnostic text attributed to 2nd century Christian philosopher Basilides, about the place that exists where there are no dualities because they cancel each other out. He calls this place the Pleroma. Jung refers to this teaching as the First Sermon to the Dead, delivered by his spirit guide Philemon:

"We call this nothingness or fullness the Pleroma. Therein both thinking and being cease, since the eternal and endless possess no qualities. No one is in it, for he would then be distinct from the Pleroma, and would possess qualities that would distinguish him as something distinct from the Pleroma.

"In the Pleroma there is nothing and everything. It is fruitless to think about the Pleroma, for this would mean self-dissolution. "Creation is not in the Pleroma, but in itself. The Pleroma is the beginning and end of creation.  It pervades creation, just as the sunlight pervades the air. Although the Pleroma is altogether pervasive, creation has no share in it, just as a wholly transparent body becomes neither light nor dark through the light pervading it.

"The pairs of opposites are the qualities of the Pleroma that do not exist, because they cancel themselves out. As we are the pleroma itself, we also have all these qualities in us. Since our nature is grounded in differentiation, we have these qualities in the name and under the sign of differentiation, which means:

"First: these qualities are differentiated and separate in us; therefore they do not cancel each other out, but are effective. Thus we are the victims of the pairs of opposites. The Pleroma is rent within us.

"Second: these qualities belong to the Pleroma, and we must possess and live them only in the name and under the sign of differentiation. We must differentiate ourselves from these qualities. They cancel each other out in the Pleroma, but not in us. Distinction from them saves us.

"When we strive for the good or the beautiful, we forget our essence, which is differentiation, and we fall subject to the spell of the qualities of the Pleroma, which are the pairs of opposites. We endeavor to attain the good and the beautiful, yet at the same time we also seize the evil and the ugly; since in the Pleroma these are one with the good and the beautiful. But if we remain true to our essence, which is differentiation, we differentiate ourselves from the good and the beautiful, and hence from the evil and ugly. And thus we do not fall under the spell of the Pleroma, namely into nothingness and dissolution.

"You object: you said that difference and sameness are also qualities of the Pleroma. What is it like if we strive for distinctiveness? Are we, in so doing, not true to our own nature? And must we nonetheless fall into sameness when we strive for distinctiveness?

"You must not forget that the Pleroma has no qualities. We create these through thinking. If, therefore, you strive for distinctiveness or sameness, or any qualities whatsoever, you pursue thoughts that flow to you out of the Pleroma: thoughts, namely; concerning the non-existing qualities of the Pleroma. Inasmuch as you run after these thoughts, you fall again into the Pleroma, and attain distinctiveness and sameness at the same time. Not your thinking, but your essence, is differentiation. Therefore you must not strive for what you conceive as distinctiveness, but for your own essence. At bottom, therefore, there is only one striving, namely the striving for one's own essence. If you had this striving, you would not need to know anything about the Pleroma and its qualities, and yet you would attain the right goal by virtue of your own essence. Since, however, thought alienates us from our essence, I must teach you that knowledge with which you can bridle your thoughts."

Excerpts from The Red Book, pages 347 & 348.

It is clearly stated here that we must seek our own essence, not something outside of ourselves which we think of as right or good or even as God.

He says, “The Pleroma is rent within us.”

There is a tear in the fabric of the cosmos. I am split. Does he mean that the God in me is torn in two? The black and white, thinking and feeling, good and evil? In the dreamwork, our soul comes to us in the duality that our mind can understand, as the boy and the girl. My teacher, Marc Bregman has taught us that they are split but must be brought together; the girl can’t stand in relationship without the container of the boy.

As I continue my journey in Archetypal Dreamwork, I feel more and more the possibility of the girl and boy in me. It is like a miracle to find the place in me, so long hidden, that can emerge into consciousness in some wholly new and unknown and unexpected way. I don't know what this will look like.

I just have to say here that I love The Red Book, even though a lot of it is esoteric and hard to understand. For several months, I have been attending a weekly class through the Center for Archetypal Dreamwork called Carl & Me, taught by Archetypal Dreamwork founder, Marc Bregman. If you want to follow his journey and teachings about The Red Book from the beginning, visit his blog at The classes are also available for viewing free of charge on the North of Eden website at

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