By Celia Coates
When people think about hope they often remember Emily Dickinson’s lines about “the thing with feathers.” Our times demand a kind of hope that is stronger and more active than,“ the little Bird that kept so many warm.” I’d call this more forceful form Tough Hope – like the Tough Love that is called for when the situation is dire and even the best heart-filled caring alone cannot provide enough of a remedy.
Filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro said some useful things about this kind of hope that were included in a TIME Magazine article on optimism: *
“Optimism is radical. It is the hard choice, the brave choice. And it is most needed now, in the face of despair. … History and fable show nothing is ever entirely lost. David can take Goliath. A beach in Normandy can turn the tide of war. Bravery can topple the powerful. These facts are often seen as exceptional, but they are not. Every day we all become the balance of our choices — choices between love and fear, belief or despair.”
“Optimism is our instinct to inhale while suffocating. Our need to declare what needs to be in the face of what is. Optimism is not uncool; it is rebellious and daring and vital.”
Del Toro’s film fantasies are not for children. Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water are about bravery and beauty in the face of “what is.” Monsters, violence, and ugliness are part of us, part of the reality in front of us that we have to deal with. Del Toro has said that fairy tales tell the truth and his stories have often included portals to other worlds. Elmer Green often told a kind of story with what he called “vision dreams,” stories that brought him wisdom and guidance from another level of reality. In an entry from his Journal dated 17 November 1994, Elmer described what lies ahead of humanity that will demand hope, tough hope:
“Educational vision dreams took up quite a bit of the night. There were 8 or 9 scenarios on a single theme, the appearance on earth (or polarization on earth, or descent, or emergence, or stimulation) of living energies of an impersonal nature, not personal, but apersonal. These energies had substance, intention, and volition, but not intellect as we know it.
In the first scenario, I was looking out across fields of grain, bushes, and small trees from a cottage window. A black-top road wound through the fields and up a little hill to the cottage. As I watched, I noticed that an out-of-control fire was advancing across the fields, all the way to the left and to the right, burning the grain and bushes. But there was no smoke and no real flame, the vegetation was just turning black, like charcoal, and crumbling in the wind.
But, I thought, it must be fire. What else could make everything turn black. Then someone standing behind my left shoulder, a man whom I could sense but couldn’t see, and who seemed to be my instructor said, “No, it isn’t fire. It’s something different. Look again.”
When I looked again, closely studying the road up which the devastation advanced, I saw that just ahead of the line of shriveling, the tar on the road was changing color, beginning to melt and bubble as if from some intolerable radiant heat coming down. As I noticed this, I began to see a huge column of pale green mist, as wide as the whole road, above the bubbling area. It was moving toward the cottage where my companion and I stood, and as it advanced the line of shriveling came along in its wake.
What was it? A tornado? No, it didn’t spin, and it was a vertical column that went straight up, out of sight. Whatever it was, it didn’t look safe. This was indeed startling – but before I could flee, the green mist became thicker and quickly came over the house.
Was this the end of me, I wondered? And then I noticed that though I felt electric waves of energy pulsing through all of my body, I could still breath,** and move and think. The effect of the green energy was slightly paralytic, but it also seemed to be invigorating. What was it?
Then the next scenario began. It was predominantly mental, with little imagery, and consisted mostly of information from my companion. The green mist was a form of stimulation coming all over the planet. It would have destructive effects in some places, such as burning the earth, but its main effects would be felt in the human psyche.
It was a boon from the cosmos. It was an energy that would intensify the life of all the psyche parts of which humans are composed, the Subconscious and Superconscious deva beings and angels who make up our physical, emotional, mental, and causal natures. What we think of as our baser selves, as well as our higher selves, would all be stimulated, enlivened. The immediate effect would be a heightening of internal conflict in everyone, everywhere.
Then I was shown a series of images in which the Subconscious parts and Superconscious parts of an individual were in conflict. They had come to life, and like giant almost-invisible amoebas within the psyche they were fighting to gain control. As they changed shape and tussled, the person’s psyche became a battleground. At the same time the Conscious Self, completely unconscious of what was causing these wild fluctuations of mood, thought, and aspiration, felt it was going crazy. It was like a puppet on a stage where two puppeteers were struggling to gain control.
There was a difference, though. A puppet isn’t alive. In the case of the human, it felt like his or her very substance was being torn in two. And so it was. It was a dividing of the ways, and the substances of the two kinds of devas, Subconscious and Superconscious, were in conflict. And these substances were, literally, the substances of the person.
In many people, the Superconscious won. When that happened, the Subconscious gradually weakened and was transformed toward the higher. Its control faded. The Will of the Higher Self became stronger and took control of the puppet, the Conscious Self.
In the meantime, the Conscious Self realized that it was recovering from its bout with “insanity,” integrated its nature, and began to pursue changed goals, feeling happy and free, though not really understanding, yet, what had happened.
For those individuals in whom the strength of the Subconscious Self was too powerful for the Superconscious, the Subconscious won the battle and fear ruled.
The person did not recover from his “insanity.” Instead, not having a strong integrating principle, the personality disintegrated, became non-functional, and faded away like a deserted shell of a human. It was as if some people wouldn’t be able to integrate their lives in the world of the green light, that is, they wouldn’t have sufficient spiritual adaptability, and would vanish.
* * *
Another scenario showed a hill on which two gnarled pine trees stood, as in a Japanese painting. This was a sacred place of worship, or veneration, and the stimulative effects were much stronger here than in the land as whole. Those who came here for religious reasons when their world began to disintegrate (rather than for spiritual reasons), would suffer intensified anguish because the polarized parts of their nature would be doubly strengthened, by the green light and by the place.
But, because of the nature of their worship, an upward looking or longing, the Superconscious parts of their psyches would be more strengthened than the lower parts, and those people would recover, and integrate. Their anguish during the process would be greater than that of secular people who did not come here, but they would survive and live, while many secular people who suffered less anguish, died.
On the other hand, those people who came to this sacred hill purely for spiritual reasons would suffer very little, but would be blessed by the visit.
* * *
There were other scenarios, and other details, but those were the main ones. Oh yes, one more thing, the effect of the energy on some people was to make the Shadow so strong (without any significant counteracting Superconscious strength) that it appeared that the people had gone berserk, senseless violence and acts of cruelty going completely out of control.
The final scenario showed that in the experience of this travail, the Superconscious of humanity (as a species) would win. Transformation (a word that was emphasized, heard very clearly) would win over disintegration.”
If you find the terms used by Elmer puzzling or if his ideas don’t seem useful, don’t worry. Just read the vision dream as a fairy tale and see if any of it is about the reality you are facing. What is most important is that we each make the best and bravest choices in our own lives and work towards changing fear into love.
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Green, you might read the chapter about him in Tony Schwartz’s book, WHAT REALLY MATTERS: Searching for Wisdom in America. After writing THE ART OF THE DEAL, his book about Donald Trump, Schwartz was discouraged and undertook a journey to find something better by interviewing a number of wise people. The title of the chapter about Elmer is, “The Yoga of the West: Elmer Green, Biofeedback, and Self-Control.” (The book was published by Bantam Books in 1995.)
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* “Why I’m Hopeful: Leaders share the sources of their optimism,” TIME Magazine for February 18 and 25, 2019.
** This journal entry that Elmer titled THE COMING STIMULATION OF THE HUMAN PSYCHE is printed here exactly as Elmer typed it, mistakes of spelling and punctuation are included, because he told me to write about his ideas but never to change or edit anything. I’ve decided to take that instruction literally.