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#3 The Basilisk, Reality & Losing Touch



"The basilisk dwelled in the desert, or more accurately, it made the desert" - from Book IX of Pharsalia.

The basilisk - a hideous snake-monster - is a universally resonating archetype re-ascribed by the psyches of civilisations for millennia. It's mythological representation is characterised by hyperbolic descriptions of it's ugliness, with it's outstanding characteristic being it's power to stupefy: anyone meeting it's gaze is automatically turned into stone. As with any enduring archetype worth it's name, the basilisk too is archaic and typical. It resonates with humans throughout the ages because it represents a typical part of our human psychology; a shadow side of our psychology that doesn't want to be seen. But the basilisk has something to teach.


The basilisk is real. It exists in so far as your shadow side exists, whether you face it or not. As humans, there is the perennial danger of our minds being captured - that alluring disposition to travel time and alternate dimensions. So too is there the danger of our bodies being de-rooted from the embodied human condition. Until an essential touch is lost with reality. It begins when the basilisk presents some horrifying realisation, up-heaved in disgust from it's reptile layer into consciousness. Some fundamentally dis-integrated part of you that the ego has great trouble squaring. Unless fully conscious to what has come up, the subconscious quickly squares this cognitive dissonance in line with a neat egoic belief.


A passage from 'The Basilisk', a 17th century romance by Quevedo, speaks to our tendency to identify our 'selves' in our stories and the power of the beginner's mind in re-membering the present moment:

"If the man who saw you is still alive, your whole story is a lie,

since if he has not died, he can not have seen you,

and if he has died, he can not tell what he saw."


Like the dream that seems crucial upon waking, the basilisk lives to reveals to us some essential messages. It will let you know, one way or the other, if life has become too inharmonious. A life in which an animated relation is lost with humanity. That so many people dwell in the eyes of the basilisk - remaining 'stone-dead' in a sense - speaks to the pain of turning away. With the surface-level frictions of life grating against the deeper essential messages we receive, the latter often gives way first. Those essential messages, like your forgotten dreams, get pushed back down. The basilisk feels the tectonic shift and earthquakes occur in the psyche. Nothing is more repugnant to the basilisk than this ignorance. Turning away once more, the crucial messages go to die in the basilisks layer. The basilisk becomes uglier. To stop the disintegration, the basilisk of the psyche asks that the earliest conscious tremors be acknowledged. An incorporation of their messages back in the body - as a part of you.


According to Book IX of Pharsalia, one effective weapon "the seasoned traveler" reliably carried "when venturing into unknown territory" was a mirror; "it's own image would strike the basilisk dead".


 

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