Dreaming the Apocalyptic Tango: A Love Letter from the End of the World
After 9/11, Armageddon rhetoric ramped up in Western political rhetoric, and I became fascinated with the various elements contained in the idea of apocalypse / end times / end of the world / rapture/ global catastrophe. Questions arose in my mind:
Why does this idea of the end of the world have such tenacious longevity?
What other perspectives exist besides the Christian fundamentalist version?
Is there such a thing as sacred apocalypse? If so, how do we live it?
Is there something embedded within the human mythogenetic code — within archetypal, mythopoetic, human structure, within symbolic consciousness, within endangered human qualities — that knows how to die and be reborn, that knows how to step out of the conceptual prison of pre-ordained story within linear time and travel the cyclical road from Apocalypse to Genesis?
The ongoing results of my research, experience, and experiments are here.
I’ll begin with the title of this website, word by word. Dreaming. The Book of Revelation is a symbolically dense text and most people in the West rely on interpreters, mostly white men, who have collaged the apocalypse scenario over time. As such, the idea of apocalypse as the mega-violent end of the world is part of the dead white male legacy.
In his book The Dream and the Underworld, James Hillman posits the necessity of an imaginal / underworld ego, as well as a dayworld ego, for full human development. He posits that is the imaginal ego that dreams, and dreams for its own reasons, not merely in service of the dayworld ego. It seems to me that the imaginal ego is one name for the part of a human being that is fluent in symbol language, and it’s the cultural exile of the imaginal ego that has created, at least in part, a situation of symbolic illiteracy, at least in the U.S., where symbolism is most often used to perp consumerism via advertising. A symobolically dense text like the Book of Revelation doesn’t have a chance to offer up whatever treasures might be embedded in it, in a literalist culture where most depend on literalists to interpret such a text. If one looks around at current cultural ideas about apocalypse, one can see the danger of this.
Tango. Apocalypse, in its literalist version, is the final battle between good and evil. Many traditions have God in primary relationship with a Goddess, a consort, an inseparable lover. The God of the Bible as we commonly know Him has an enemy as His primary relationship. That says something important about our predicament right there: it’s way easier, and culturally sanctioned, to be haters rather than lovers.
I’m not talking necessarily about romantic or sexual love here, but rather a love that is an awareness of our interdependence and interconnectedness, a love that naturally expresses as compassion and empathy towards all we share the world with.
The tango is an improvised dance, an intimate body poem of love, passion, heartbreak, life and all its elements, sometimes between men and women, sometimes between strangers, always about making art with the polarity of leader and follower (or sometimes even pluralities of that polarity). “Apocalyptic tango” contains within it a prayer to make art and beauty with our polarities / differences and end what I call ‘the self/other war.’
This is no easy task. People still reference the Holocaust, and with good reason: though some say ‘never again’ the mind habits that lead to genocide, beginning with ‘us and them’ distinctions that head for dehumanizing ‘them’ are still very much in play.
In the riddle of self / other, the slash line isn’t merely a device showing the boundary, but the space in between and an important part of the equation. A critical aspect of ending the self/other war is that it opens up that slash line / liminal / space between us, so that we might enter it like a new territory. People tend to get scared of such unknown places, because of stories about the evil and danger that lurks there, but perhaps there is a vitally needed gift in that banished place, that place that is neither fully self nor fully other, a place where perhaps the mystical tango can happen. (Tango is often referred to as one heart and four legs — a unique, poetic creature birthed in a moment of self, other, atmosphere and music.)
In current news, ISIS wants to get rid of the grey zone for the benefit of polarized apocalyptic black vs. white, us vs. them. I am calling for exploration of the diversity and ambiguity of the grey zone, out of love for evolutionary possibility.
IF part of our problem is a lack of intimacy with the imaginal realm, and a lack of fluency with the symbolic literacy that is part of our indigenous humanity, and IF the divinely ordained mega-mess known as the Apocalypse is a collective story collaged over time by Western white men possessed by a seriously polarized, dualistic story of good / saved and evil / damned, and IF it’s possible that we have internal resources that will aid us during these times, and help us change the collective story into something that contains more intimacy with the Mystery that underlies our lives and all that we can perceive, THEN it seems worth exploration, even love and devotion.
There are various names given to our times. I like to call it the Great Gamble. If you look around, you can see that the stakes are high, and getting higher. Rumi wrote: “Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being.” I invite you to join me in exploring what it might look like to be a true human being who gambles everything for love, not love as Western culture fairy tale, but a wild gnosis, an indigenous mysticism that has its home in the human heart.
Love letters from the end of the world: Welcome to the love side of the apocalypse. I believe that one deep human medicine we must access at this time is to boldly call out what we see, and look out for each other, as feral boddhisattvas (you don’t have to be a Buddhist to recognize the truth that we are all in this together.)