In 1992, I saw something that chilled me to the core of Being. I had an imaginal experience of peering into a raging maelstrom, which I took to be the very source of all reality. This whirling abyss contained all potentiality. From it, emerged all things. Like Poe, I wanted to explore its mysteries, even if it meant my death:
It may look like boasting — but what I tell you is truth — I began to reflect how magnificent a thing it was to die in such a manner, and how foolish it was in me to think of so paltry a consideration as my own individual life, in view of so wonderful a manifestation of God’s power. I do believe that I blushed with shame when this idea crossed my mind. After a little while I became possessed with the keenest curiosity about the whirl itself. I positively felt a wish to explore its depths, even at the sacrifice I was going to make; and my principal grief was that I should never be able to tell my old companions on shore about the mysteries I should see. These, no doubt, were singular fancies to occupy a man’s mind in such extremity — and I have often thought since, that the revolutions of the boat around the pool might have rendered me a little light-headed (A Descent Into the Malestrom, by Edgar Allan Poe).
At the time, I took it to be Anaximander’s Apeiron, for I had been studying the Presocratics in my early days as a Philosophy major, and was familiar with the idea. Gazing into its limitless depths, I became vertiginous, as if I were atop the summit of Everest.
Never shall I forget the sensation of awe, horror, and admiration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface of a funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but for the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays of the full moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds which I have already described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along the black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses of the abyss (ibid.).
My paltry words cannot begin to describe what I saw and felt. I read Poe’s short story some time later and knew that he had seen it too. His wordsmithery is much better than mine, so I quote freely from him.
The Maelstrom contains all polarities, so it’s not just positive, feel-good, and New-Agey. It contains much danger. The reward, however, is worth the risk. Being connected to the vast potentiality that is the Cosmic Mind is worth it all, in my opinion.
To plunge freely into Soul’s Maelstrom means you are opening yourself to the spinning infinitude of the collective unconscious. This is no cakewalk.
It is no accident that the vortex, based on the spiral, is one of the oldest spiritual symbols in human history. It is similar to the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, a wormhole, that theoretically connects two points in spacetime. Soul’s Maelstrom connects the consciousness with unconsciousness. I have also called it The Metaxy.
The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the profound
gulf: but still I could make out nothing distinctly on account of a
thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and over which there
hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and tottering bridge which
Mussulmans says is the only pathway between Time and Eternity. This
mist, or spray, was no doubt occasioned by the clashing of the great
walls of the funnel, as they all met together at the bottom — but the
yell that went up to the heavens from out of that mist I dare not
attempt to describe (ibid.).
Soul’s Maelstrom is infinite in depth. The light of the moon will never find the bottom of this vortex. Out of it pours all forms that the Mater-Materia chooses to bring forth. Soul’s Maelstrom is not only this, but also the font of all dreams and visions, for it contains all possible images.
The rainbow bridge idea is very illuminating here. Poe says the Muslims (Mussulmans) believe this bridge is the “only pathway between Time and Eternity,” which tells me he had probably heard some of the Muslim philosophy Henry Corbin was exploring.
As all archetypal symbols, Soul’s Maelstrom has an infinite number of meanings. All we need do is take the plunge.