The Guide can take many forms, in dreams and on the roads of waking life. Our true spiritual teachers often use shock or humor in their efforts to wake us up to the real nature of things, and they love to play dress-up.
An earnest woman in a church group once asked me, at the break, whether she could meet her guardian angel in her dreamsl. Absolutely, I told her. When I began to explain the process of dream incubation, she interrupted me. “I’ve done that three times, and each time I asked to meet my guardian angel, I got Garfield the Cat.” I asked her to explain to a visiting space alien, “Who is Garfield the Cat?” She explained that he’s greedy and always looking out for Number One. Angel means messenger, I pointed her. Could there be a message in Garfield’s approach to life? This earnest woman, who had clearly given a lot of her life to service to others, thought about this, then stole a quick look at the buffet and asked, with a mischievous glint in her eyes, “Would it be okay to jump the line and get some chocolate cake while it’s still left? I reassured her that Garfield, as guardian angel, would say “Absolutely.”
The angel can be terrifying as well as funny. Rumi evokes beautifully the terror Mary felt when the Archangel Gabriel apperared to her in the moment of annunciation. In the presence of a supremely greater power, she literally jumps out of her skin. Whereupon the angel who is patron of the astral realm and of dream travel says to her (in paraphrase): “You flee from me from the seen to the unseen, where I am lord and master? What are you thinking of?”
The truth of our dealings with higher sources of knowledge – and above all the Guide of our soul – is that we don’t need to go looking for them because they are forever looking for us. When Dante at last finds Beatrice (the Guide appearing in the form of a beautiful women he loved and lost) after the terrible journey through all the hells of the medieval imagination, she reproaches him that for many years she was seeking him in dreams, and he would not listen.
The Australian Aborigines say that the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them. It’s like that with the powers of the deeper world. Here’s a poem I wrote about this:
You say you are hunting your power
But your power is hunting you.
I’ll go up to the mountain, you say.
I’ll fast and live on seaweed
I’ll hang myself on a meat-hook
Under the hot sun. I’ll give up sex
And wine and my sense of humor.
What are you thinking of?
For you to go hunting your power
Is as smart as the mouse hunting the cat.
Step one inch outside the tame land
And you are near what you seek.
Open the window of your soul
Any night and your guide may come in.
The issue is whether you’ll run away
When you see what it is. To make sure
You succeed, tether yourself like a goat
At the edge of the tiger wood that breathes
Right beside your bed. He’ll come.
Tiger in South India. Image via flickr