Animals and spiritual experiences : coincidences and omens from animals
Nothing is accidental nor arbitrary in life. Nothing. No tornado touches down, no numberless wave laps the shore, no hurricane rises or falls, and no wind even slightly blows without perfect intention and purpose. Everything is alive with consciousness and meaning. And the beasts that run about, or swim, or fly are no different. Consciousnesses within consciousnesses within consciousnesses. If a message doesn’t come to you one way it will come another, and when you live in the wilds, and with the wilds, the symbols of our mythic beings often come through the wilds. Omens are alive and well in the wilderness, to be sure. You only have to tune into the other way of seeing.
For instance, it happened one summer that, twice within a month or so, an eagle dropped a salmon head from up on high, down to land right nearby me. Had I been alert and sensitive enough the first time, I would have gotten the message and been done with it. But repetition is often a necessity in the sublime schoolroom where our dull and torpid minds fail class after class and often never even graduate from first grade. So we repeat, and repetition occurs, and the second time something unique like this, or anything else, happens it is time to wake up and take note, which I did. And the message, which I heard, and the lesson which I got the second time around, was that my Piscean era was finished, and a new way of being was well under way.
It is these rites-of-passage which help the stages between transformations go much smoother; otherwise we’re likely to hang on to old ideas and ways, and so inhibit the evolving movement within us.
Another message from the sky, at another time, came repeatedly to me, again as a shift within me had occurred, or was about to occur.
This one came from the Ravens- those wise and wily tricksters of legend who speak out in tongues with their ancient knowledge and forethought. Ah, the garrulous raven, which is said to have no less than one hundred and thirty-seven different sounds within its repertoire, which is a might larger than our twenty-six letters, only six of which are vowels and therefore true sounds. To sit in between two ravens having a little chat over god knows what in the middle of the wilderness is to understand how limited is our perspectives on the intelligence of the beasts. It is we who are unevolved, we who are far from Heaven, we who are the parasites on a planet made for living and loving.
Though it was not a raven’s voice which would call to me this time, but rather it was their aerial acrobatics which spoke out their message, as I was walking along a pebble beach outside of one of the towns on the blessed isles, and my inner world had been in a bit of confusion and turmoil, as per usual, and then one of the dark bandits flew overhead, let out a gargle to grab my attention, and then turned upside down, coasting that way for a while, then flipping back over, flapping a few times, then over again and gliding upside down, laughing at the fool human below, and then upright again, a few flaps, then back over and out into the distance, harbinging the overturning my life was about to take in the next couple of weeks.
It was a magical sight to witness, that stunt pilot showing off and carving words of wonder in the air. Upside-down was the perfect metaphor for me back then, though I was hardly gliding peacefully nor loving the ride. Life was all flipping over upon me, as it has always been trying to do, but I hadn’t yet got my wings and so I stayed on the ground and somehow managed to stay upright.
Oh it’s a crazy life at times. It’s a marvelous ride on a mysterious train through a stupefying madhouse. A ride unlike any other ride, in which you can neither hold on nor fall off, and so you are tossed about in the blender, and whirled about on a string, and you’re always falling and always caught.
When the Mother had caught me in her arms a few months back, that night on the apocryphal hill, something had changed which would turn me upside down and would complete my ground-school training, for no longer was I just a child of the heavens, I was also now a child of the earth, and with that new found lower communion came a critical wholeness that would mend an open wound which had been bleeding in me since Old Adam’s mortal transgression.
Not that this solved the struggles I would still encounter while making my way through the pitfalls of society, but a re-union had happened which brought me- a male spirit, born, and bred, and a card-carrying citizen of the sky and of non-being- into being. I had finally landed.
The divorced spiritual Parents of my separated Self had come back together within me, had rejoined forces, and could work together again, and that meant that non-being and being were no longer on their own, no longer opposed, and so the mind and the heart were intimate, and therefore, in cosmological terms, conception could be conceived into the Mater by Dad.
It is a process that we all must go through, I expect- a reunion of our divided selves- one half which is strung high up in the heavens, timid to venture down, the other, wriggling beneath the surface, unable to leave the ground; a reunion which does not occur until the Spirit consummates into the Soul, and the livingness of the cosmos is won. Is One.
Once you have eaten of the flesh, so to speak, you must ride it out completely.
You must ride it out with one leg on a white Pegasus flying towards the sky, and the other on a black Nightmare, fleeing away in the night. And yet how to hold it all together? How to get away and remain? How to be and not-be, and, making the two into one, going nowhere, be free?
Another glaring synchronicity based on animals which comes to mind occurred while I was working in Sitka, Alaska, and a few of us had gathered on a buddy’s sailboat for a couple of drinks, and we were passing a bottle of the German bitter, Jaegermeister, around which has on its label the picture of an eight or ten-point buck, with a glowing crucifix between its antlers. Amongst our party was a man who was at that time writing a book about deer hunting, and his keen interest in the emblem brought about a lengthy conversation regarding its possible meaning. We tossed about all sorts of hypotheses and then forgot about it and went on with the evening. The next day, however, I was rummaging through a thrift shop in the town and a certain book on one of the used-book shelves seemed to grab my attention for no particular reason. I picked it up and it was all about the sacred link between man and animals, and not only that, it contained an exact description of the insignia which we had been discussing the night before: it related the story of St. Eustacius, and how one day while out hunting he had chased, on horseback, after a large buck, and when he had finally gotten within his arrow’s reach, the buck turned around and between its antlers there shone a glowing cross. At that moment St. Eustacius was converted and spent the rest of his fairly trying days spreading the good news, only to wind up being roasted in a hollow iron bull by the heathens of the day, though when they opened it up afterward he was found with a bewildering smile on his face.
This episode carried other synchronicities as well, for, not long after finding that book an acquaintance of mine suggested that I read Voltaire’s Candide, which I did, and which described incredibly similar events to the story of St. Eustacius that had transpired in Candide’s life, and so I figured the universe was trying to tell me something, which it was, because perhaps a year later another friend of mine wrote me a letter and, for no specific reason, chose to address it to St. Eustace. I understood then the message I was receiving at that time, but I will leave it to the curiosity of the reader to consider or disregard what that message was, however they choose.
Occasionally the messages from the wilds are neither symbolic nor abstract. Sometimes the warm-blooded beasts simply want to send out some love.
For me this type of event came about on a paddling trip I undertook with a very brilliant young man who had camped beside me at our illegal bush-camp in the forest, just behind the town of Sitka. He had never sea-kayaked before but decided to come along anyway. And so we each took a few days off of work and paddled across a channel of water to a nearby island with a large, extinct volcano on it. There we set up camp, slept the night, and the next morning paddled out to another island renowned for its puffin and auklet colonies.
The puffin is a beautiful and laughable creature, appearing like the clown of the Pacific, and we spent the whole day circumnavigating the outer island, bird watching, and then paddled back to the camp we had set up the evening before. The next morning when we awoke the weather was foul, with a strong southerly crossing over large swells from the west, making for a chaotic blender of spray, swell, and chop, which was a messy soup for small craft. Normally I would have waited it out and hoped for better weather the next day, but my buddy had a flight to catch and we had to get back. Always there is a good reason for making a bad decision.
We got halfway across the strait we were crossing to return to Sitka and the weather system picked up and shifted to an easterly, and suddenly we were paddling into a strong headwind, making no headway, and being lashed from the side by blowing swell and chop. My companion’s lower back had seized up and he was having a very tough go of it. I was beginning to worry that we had screwed-up badly, because I knew that in these conditions if he tipped over I’d have a hell of a time rescuing him, and if I went over I’d most likely fail at the Eskimo roll- a technique which I was no expert at even in calm and tepid water, let alone in raging, icy seas- and he wouldn’t stand a chance of helping me. Things were looking grim. Real grim. I was trying to support him, but what could I do? We were in separate kayaks, and I had to keep my own head forward, conscious of every incoming wave, and paddle fiercely just to keep from going backward. It had become an epic, and was bound to get worse, but just as I was thinking these thoughts, and sensing that we were in true danger, a massive humpback whale surfaced right beside me, and blew out a huge cloud of spume- which, on every other occasion that I have caught an unlucky whiff of the spray, smelled as bad as the most horrid halitosis a festering, never-brushed mouth could have, with a nauseating stench that stuck to your clothes and all, but this time it was the sweet perfume of love and support- and I knew the blessed beast was saying- “Come on man, dig in brother, you can make it, I am with you!” And I let out a joyful yell of gratitude and victory, and my mate must have seen and felt the same thing because we did dig in, and did make ground, and finally crossed the channel, coming to shore soaked and exhausted, but we were alive, and we were alive perhaps only because of the visit from the whale which had spurred us on. And the lousy American beer we toasted to that living gift tasted wonderful that night.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)