The Legend of High Tor and Iron
I will not interpret the Legend of the Salamander directly as while that might seem helpful, interpretation also tends to stop imagination as it seems to give the whole meaning at once. I feel it is better to linger with the story, introduce the significance of elements of it, and gradually come to see the wisdom of the legend.
In the story, the group of Rosicrucians come to High Tor to mine and refine iron. High Tor and that whole region of New York is filled with iron mines and was the source of much of the iron, made into steel, that built the early skyscrapers of Manhattan. What is the image of iron about?’
Iron nourishes incarnating, that is, nourishes coming into the physical body and the physical realm. In terms of soul, iron nourishes the will – as the saying “he/she has a will of iron” points to.
The nourishment of iron does not bring about inner freedom, not true freedom, but rather easily becomes internalized as an ego sense of freedom, of independence from the gods – as, for example, the forming of the iron age. Remember the blog where I introduced the image of the “Ages of Man”, the movement away from being connected with the spiritual realms; the image of man with legs and feet of iron – the age of iron, the last stage of the ‘independence’ of the human from the divine, with some of the toes of dirt – that is, what follows the iron age is blowing into dust (atomic bomb?).
Spiritually, the iron within the earth absorbs ‘oxygen’ (we see the iron rust even with iron-bearing stone); it is the spiritual nutrition for iron; we have here an image of the incarnating of the gods — we see this image vividly in the forge-fires, bringing the element of air into the fire, and in the pouring of iron from the forges, the making of steel. We have here the foundation of the imagination of “the man of steel”, Superman. When iron is nourished in the forge, it strengthens into steel.
In the iron age, humans become independent of the gods. Iron as the incarnating element also takes us deep into the body, into the regions of will and desire. Iron makes us different than plants – that is, through iron, we are conscious within self, bodily experienced as will and desire. If this incarnating is not spiritually worked with, this depth of incarnating becomes deeper and deeper egotism.
Spirituality, meditation, contemplation, typically mean a temporary disincarnating, leaving the body to experience something of the spiritual realms. Perhaps the other side of the deep incarnation of spirit that has occurred in the coming of the iron age is to develop the capacity of experiencing the earthly world as spirit permeated. But, this would require developing the contemplative capacities to do so. These capacities are only hinted at in the story of the Salamander. The darker side predominates.
The salamander alchemically symbolizes transformation. It is an image of the alchemical element of fire, an image of spirit, though this particular salamander of the story is an image of greed, of transformation of the human into a being of greed, for this salamander is the spirit of greed.
The element of iron in the forge both takes in oxygen (the incarnating of the gods) and also breathes out as our civilization. – that is, our civilizational breathing unites spirit with the earth, which can, and at this time is an ‘overblown’ trumped-up spirit. As incarnating deepens, when not accompanied with deep contemplation to stay in touch with the spiritual realms, then it is not only we humans who become more and more ego-bound, but earth also becomes subjected to ‘iron-breath’, that is, earth herself begins to lose her inherent spirit nature.
Then, there is iron as Mars, incarnating deeply into body accompanied by the elevation of anger, confrontation, uncontrolled emotion, aggression, and abuse of the feminine soul. When highly egotized, we have the “Trump” phenomenon.
In the remarkable book, “The Zodiac and the Salts of Salvation” by George Washington Carey and Inez Perry, a work on the 12 cell salts of the body, there is a section on iron and the dangers of iron, which we can hear as the dangers of the ‘iron-age’, the dangers of encountering the salamander unprepared as the image of incarnating deeply, bringing the dangers of uncontrollable strength and emotion, and what inevitably happens when unaccompanied by the development of spiritual capacities.
“The secret of a true life is that a man should concentrate the vigors of his youth on God. It is well to do that before the night comes, before the slow decay of age benumbs all the faculties of sense. For as the fluid of the body becomes depleted in iron, the corpuscles slowly suffocate and eventually putrify. This is the true cause of cancer.”
Perhaps we have entered the time of the hastening of the slow decay of this civilization, and the cancerous uncontrolled growth without regard for Earth.
Without the sacrifice of deep incarnation, the dedication of deep incarnation to the gods, without the continual dissolving of incarnating so deeply, without the awareness of dying-as-always-accompanying-living, living becomes greed. That is, greed is the illusion of becoming immortal. Financial greed is but one, large, but still only one indicator of the denial of dying, a misinterpretation of embodiment as spiritual incarnation only. We accumulate, we live in the illusion that there is no end, and certainly in the illusion that we are not now, each instant dying. Dying nonetheless goes on, and living in denial means that death is projected onto the world as violence — we see dying happening ‘over there’, not ‘here’, bodily, as the natural dissolving of incarnation, the natural rhythm of life and death. The Original People of this land lived within this rhythm.
In the legend, the salamander, this salamander, is elemental greed (when the men watching the forge look down into the pit and see the salamander, they also see ledges filled with gems, and they intuit that if they could interpret the writing within the gold triangle on the back of the salamander, they would have everything they ever want or desire), and offers the illusion of living without breathing with spiritual rhythm. Proper combustion does not happen.
Entering the life-death rhythm and the ever-given life-death rhythm expressed everywhere in nature means that to be fully human and here as earthly beings requires that to be human we grieve. Grieving is the most basic of all human capacities. Grieving does not mean suffering loss; to the contrary, grieving is the process of praise. We do not grieve in this country; at most, when there are catastrophes, or even with individual death, we mourn. Mourning easily crosses over into egotism because mourning is about ‘me’ or ‘us’ it concerns what we have lost. Grieving is not about us in this way. Grieving is praise of the rhythmic life-death of someone who has died, and what living in this rhythm has brought to the world.
One must destroy the spirit of money, the blind spirit of possession. It is the dragon for your St. George: neither rewards on earth nor in heaven, of ownership: but always the give and take, the fight and the embrace, no more, no diseased stability of possessions, but the give and take of love and conflict, with the eternal consummation in each. The only permanent thing is consummation in love or hate.”
From: The Letters of D. H. Lawrence