Sunday, December 20, 2009

The White Snake: Transforming Reality

Once there was a king who knew all things. But he had a strange habit at mealtimes of being served a covered dish after everyone else had finished eating. Finally his faithful servant could no longer contain his curiosity about the dish, opened it, saw a white snake and ate a little bit of it. Immediately he could hear and understand the voices of animals. At the same time the queen lost her ring, and as suspicion fell upon the servant, he went to look for it and heard a duck admitting that it had eaten the ring. The servant had the duck killed for dinner, retrieved the ring and won his freedom.

as he began his travels he heard fish crying that they were stuck in the reeds. After he put them back into the water, he avoided stepping on ants because they complained that humans and their horses always stepped on them. The hero killed his horse and fed it to baby ravens whose parents had thrown them out of the nest and left them on the ground to starve. Finally, he arrived in another kingdom and bid for the daughter of the foreign king. To win her he must first find the ring she had thrown into the water, then gather millet seeds she had scattered on the ground and finally fetch an apple from the tree of life. The animals he had previously helped came to his aid. The fish found the ring, the ants put the millet seeds into bags and the ravens got the apple for him while he was lying exhausted in the forest looking for the tree of life. In the end, he shares the apple with the princess, the two fall in love and live happily ever after.

The central mystery in our tale is the white snake. According to Gubernatis:
In Germany, the white serpent (that is the snowy winter) according to popular legend, gives to whoever eats of it, or who is licked by it in the ears, the gift of understanding the language of birds, and of universal knowledge. It is the night of Christmas, that is, in the midst of the snow, that those who are predestined to see marvels can comprehend, in the stables, the language of the cattle, and, in the woods, the language of the birds; according to legend, Charles le Gros, in the night of Christmas, saw heaven and hell open, and was able to recognize his forefathers.

The white snake represents the quiet and sleepiness of winter, the periods when consciousness is lowered and one is open to mediumistic sight. When the king, Charles the Great, recognizes his "forefathers," he is, psychologically speaking, seeing his predecessors, his own earlier incarnations.

At one time the Scandinavians worshipped house snakes, among which the white snake was supposed to be a good spirit. The snakes used by Germanic peoples prior to Christianity to divine the future are relatives of the white snake which gives kings knowledge.

the white serpent is also found in kundalini yoga where knowledge of earlier births is a goal in training. The two nadis, or subtle body channels, through which kundalini energy flows are defined as red and white circuits carrying sun and moon energy, respectively. If the kundalini ascends the red channel, something like a psychosis can result. Gopi Krishna's search for the white serpent in his physiology documents the steady, cool, detached state of mind connected with white serpent processes. In China the white serpent symbolizes wisdom and coolness while the red serpent is related to wild passionate undertakings and drunken states.

Chinese, Indian, and Germanic amplifications indicate that the white serpent is related to hypometabolic conditions, which were attributed to the second snake in the Three Snake Leaves tale. The white snake may be differentiated from its opposite, the red snake, which symbolizes "fired" physiology, compulsion and blind drivenness. The red snake governs the voluntary nervous system without reference to the total condition of the body or psyche.

If the reader wishes to contact the white snake in an experimental way, he can begin by simple meditation on the breath. Secondly, he should gradually create an asana of hatha yoga or any physical posture, then punctuate changes in posture by meditation. While performing these different postures, concentrate on letting the body direct the timing and succession of movements. After a while one feels that the body itself directs what is happening. The last stage of the experiment consists in continuing movement at the direction of this inner body guru.

A yogi's meditative movement creates an awareness of the dreambody guide. Any meditative action works equally well (e.g., the Buddhist method of meditative walking). Hatha yoga is especially useful because its body postures are archetypal and because if ones meditates long enough, without even knowing hatha yoga, the body automatically performs such postures.

Eliade discusses the final stages of yogic practice in which a white snake effect occurs; one reaches deep concentration, stasis or Samadhi. This stage of yogi activity gives the feeling that one is different from one's body. The yogi in Samadhi experiences himself as a spirit located only relatively in the body. In this state, everything becomes apparent, or according to the Yoga Sutras, the "Yogin knows the cries of all creatures."

Thus the white snake symbolizes Samadhi. The previous experiment gives one a hint at this state of mind. "The cries of all creatures" heard in this hypometabolic state are the inner voices or signals of one's own mind and body that appear when internal dialogue and normal consciousness are turned off. This state is normally experienced only in dreaming where the animals then symbolize the patterns that appear in the dreamer's inner theater. However, the white snake refers to a consciousness of the dreaming sate in which one is fully alert and awake.

There are many ways of reaching Samadhi using the white snake. Shamans use drugs to get there. Don Juan differentiates the white snake from its opposite,a red "snake" connected with force, power and passion. Meditation, hatha yoga or extreme physical exertion cut down the red snake and allow the white one to appear. Exhaustion, illness and dreaming also spontaneously create Samadhi.

~Dreambody and Individuation, by Arnold Mindell~

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