It takes a thousand years to wake, But will you wake for pity's sake?
The image above of this extraordinary sculpture/carving was sent to me by my friend, Colleen. She knows me well enough to intuit that I would be taken by it, but maybe she didn’t know how much. To me, it expresses in an image what could take countless words to articulate.
At first glance it depicts three kings under a round/spiral rug with their heads sharing a pillow. An angel gently touches the hand of one while pointing to a star above. The eyes of the one being touched are wide open, while the other two kings continue to sleep.
While it might be appreciated as an image fitting for this time of year, referring as it does, to the three Wise Men or Magi who follow the star to Bethlehem, it is a scene which goes beyond the story of the three kings recorded in the New Testament. While I don’t know the exact intentions of the artist, I believe the sculpture has archetypal significance and speaks to the situation we all face in our lives and in the world.
Let me add that receiving this image was synchronistic for me. The previous evening I had been reading about the legend of King Arthur, the Once and Future King, and how he is said to be asleep in a cave until he is summoned in his country’s time of greatest need. This is known as the Great Awakening. Mara Freeman, who wrote the piece I was reading, included an old song with the words,
In the east the dawn is breaking, The land cries out in pain, Who among you will wake the Sleepers and let me live again?’
But as Mara Freeman points out, Arthur - and his knights (and their horses) who are also asleep in the cave - cannot awaken until we are awake. It is really we who are asleep. We are the ones who are dead to the world.
Occasionally one of us wakes, or are woken by a divine nudge. What might it mean to be fully awake and have eyes wide open like those of our king in the image? It suggests more than sliding out of bed in the morning and getting on with our day. It means rousing ourselves from our tendency to sleepwalk through life, buying into, without question, cultural assumptions and messages. It includes fighting off our addictions and the trances we are under, such as our endless compulsion to consume. It means shaking off our denial about climate change and the devastation of the natural world. It implies caring about more than our own personal interests, especially when they are at the expense of others.
But it means even more. The quality of presence that we see in the eyes of the king who is awake also relates to the star to which the angel points. The star represents our destiny. Richard Harries, in his description of this stunning piece, writes, “the guidance of God is rarely loud and overwhelming. It is usually the slightest touch, the nudge, the hint.” We can only realize our “star” if we pay attention – to the subtle nudges and soft pokes, the sensations, synchronicities, and whispers which are occurring all the time, in and around us. To follow the golden thread of our lives and become who we truly are, we must pay attention. For each of us to contribute what we uniquely have to offer, at this great age on our beloved planet, we must stay awake and listen.
The Breezes at Dawn have secrets to tell you Don’t go back to sleep!
Image – Gislebertus Dream of the Magi Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, Autun, France. Description by Richard Harries, God’s Guidance, ArtWay.eu
The words of Christopher Fry and from the old song were included in a lesson from Mara Freeman’s Avalon Mystery School. See also her book, Grail Alchemy: Initiation in the Celtic Mystery Tradition, Destiny books, 2014.