She Rises Like A Phoenix
Contributed by Natalie Stroud
The phoenix is a mythical bird from Greek mythology. It was a feathered creature of great size with talons and wings, its plumage radiant and beautiful. The phoenix lived for 500 years before it built its own funeral pyre, burst into flame, and died, consumed in its own fiery inferno. Soon after, the mythical creature rose out of the ashes, in a transformation from death to life. Christianity adopted the depiction of the phoenix rising from the ashes as a symbol of rebirth and eternal life. (Source: grammarist.com)
This past Sunday, I awoke in a different world from the one I remember. I opened my eyes disoriented, not so much in physical space, but dimensionally. Lying in my bed, not knowing where my four friends (the ones I’d spent the previous night with) landed, I sent them an urgent Facebook message:
WHAT EVEN HAPPENED??!!
I think I woke up in a parallel reality!
And I don’t have cats anymore!
Or a phone!
Feeling catatonic, trying to piece together the events of the previous night, I eventually pried myself from my bed to start a manhunt.
Two bodies were passed out on my L-shaped couch. Behind a closed door, I rightfully assumed the two remaining bodies could be found. I could not, however, find the three cats who cohabitate with me. It was time to assess the damages.
What once sat on my coffee table lay scattered about the living room. Shards of mosaic tile, part of a now disassembled candleholder, covered the floor along with puddles of water. Clothing…some dry, some wet, some outerwear, and some “risqué-wear”…draped over armchairs, hung from chandeliers, and drooped from the knobs of my beautiful CD case (a converted medicine cabinet).
To my surprise, everything was damp…and smokey: my furniture, my clothes, my brain. I made my way from the living room through the kitchen (carefully navigating a sea of empty wine bottles, mead bottles, beer bottles, bourbon bottles, and champagne bottles), then out the backdoor.
My backyard was a war zone. Flipped-over and mangled, I recognized the remnants of a metal fire pit. Empty plates, crusting condiments, a smoldering grill, evidenced the previous night’s feast. Nearly every goblet and chalice I own, like Easter eggs, but unhidden, were strewn about the lawn.
I found car keys, cell phones, a bra or two, boxer shorts, shoes, an empty carton that once contained my treasured croissants, and broken glass scattered between the fire pit, the hammock, and a small pond. A chair lay on its side, in a ditch.
And then I saw it: The bright-yellow wall of one side of my shed was splattered with blood stains, looking like a murder scene. Aside from a vague memory being underwater, briefly, I couldn’t remember the events leading to this scene (which resembled something out of a Peter Greenaway film).
I started striking the set (a fancy way to say “cleaning-up when the play is done”), waiting for the others to return to life…which they did, one by one, sometime in the afternoon. My world had been flipped on its axis, and the events of the previous 24-hours began to Pan out (I capitalize Pan for good reason: he is the god of the wild) as we began sharing memory snippets. Here’s what we know about this grand bacchanal:
Within the first 60-seconds of arriving at my house, Rob stepped on a water meter lid in my front yard, which immediately gave way, and he ended up with one leg stuck in a deep hole.
I fell backwards into a 3-foot-deep koi pond, not much longer or wider than my body, landing hard on the filter.
Brittany was catapulted from the hammock, face-planting into the fire pit--which was actively aflame.
Chris fell forward into the coffee table, knocking everything on it to the floor. This, apparently, happened twice. Note: Although Rob had allegedly picked-up everything “not broken” off the floor and placed it back on the table, I found the same items strewn about in the morning.
Audrey, evil vixen that she is, remained unscathed.
Somehow, at some point, garments were shed. I’m unsure if this was a result of drenching myself in the pond, then being dared to rid my wet clothing. If so, I must have returned the dare, evolving it into a game of strip poker…without the poker. (In actuality, there was a fire-poker; her name is Brittany.)
It is still unclear whether someone or something was sacrificed.
At this point, maybe you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Neville Goddard, or consciousness being the only reality.
None of my fellow revelers are aware of Neville; they occupy a different plane of consciousness than I do. But this doesn’t stop me from flapping my gums about the magnificent nature of reality...especially when it is staring us in the face. And, while administering first-aid ointments to Brittany’s 2nd-degree burns covering the right side of her chest and length of her right arm (the right arm is the symbol of the creative power of God), we speculated on what set everything in motion.
Brittany amusedly reported a strange conversation she had earlier on Saturday with her 15-year-old son. Out of the blue, he asked her, “Mom, how many times have you burned yourself?”
She had no idea why he asked such an odd question, and was baffled how to answer, but was (undoubtedly) spiritually moved to the sensation of being burnt in that instant. Not long after that, in an unrelated conversation with someone else, she declared, “I will rise like a phoenix from the ashes!”
Hearing this, I quickly pointed out that she was the one who set the whole crazy night in motion with these innocent conversations. “This is how it works!” I proclaimed, then broke out into song (in my most disturbingly off-key, hungover voice): We didn’t start the fire! It was always burning since the world was turning…” – Billy Joel).
I was teasing her about being a fire-starter, knowing there is only one consciousness, only one I AM. Everything I observe in my world is ignited from within; therefore, I am the cause. I breathe fiery life into all. William Blake puts it this way:
"In your own bosom you bear your heaven and earth,
And all you behold, though it appears without,
It is within, in your imagination,
Of which this world of mortality is but a shadow.”
There is nothing, not one thing, experienced in the seeming outer world which was not first conceived in imagination. When you live by this knowing, you are walking on water.
“Water symbolizes your acceptance of life as psychological, and its drama as taking place in the Imagination. When you cease excusing yourself or anyone for life's experiences and begin to rearrange the structure of your mind to feel your desire is fulfilled, you are walking on the water. Scripture speaks of the stone, the water, and the wind. Accept the facts of life and you are stepping down on stone. Change the facts in your imagination, and you have turned them into psychological truth, which then becomes a spiritual experience. When you live by this principle, you are walking on water, towards your birth from beyond.” -- Neville Goddard, Walk on the Water, 1968
While laughing about my friend’s seraphic rise from the flames (and wondering how her long, brittle, red hair didn’t go up in a blaze) and my “koi pond baptism” (while I don’t remember the actual fall backwards, I do remember my head being immersed and my body lifted out by unknown, unseen hands), I heard texts coming through on my phone. Having no idea where my phone was, I ignored the constant dings.
Forty-five minutes later, all but one of the revelers had left on their quest to regain some normalcy before the weekend ended. I took the opportunity to locate my phone and discovered a rampage of text messages and videos from family. While I had been ribbing Brittany about her fire-starting, dragon-breathing abilities, and concerning myself with how I would clean the murder wall of my shed (which was allegedly her bloodshed, though no one knows for sure), lest my dad saw it and got upset that his paint job from earlier this year had been ruined...
My dad’s house was burning down!
Literally, his house was on fire. But that isn’t the crazy part. The absurdity of this was it’s the second time his house has burned down. The first was 15-years earlier. It took two years to rebuild, bigger and better. Fortunately, no one was hurt. It was daytime, and both my dad and stepmom were able to escape the furnace, as they watched history repeat itself.
Although my mind was turning over a million thoughts per second, I remained centered in the wheel, silently giving nod to the fact that this was all an inside job. Everything was happening within.
Everything had been set in motion within…
In the past couple of minutes, in the past hour, in the past two days, in the past fifteen years, in the past (which, ironically, is only now). All of my thoughts, my beliefs, my assumptions, my jokes, my songs, everything I had ever given life to with spiritual sensation, and everything that implies, are constantly breathing life into my now moment.
Note: This is the part where I insert a sobering fact, which I had forgotten in the moment: My fire-breathing friend had suffered a devastating loss earlier in her life. Her father and her half-sister had both died in a house fire.
Knowing this, I turned within. I felt my inner being fill with love, love being my birthright, my “all that I am”.
I brought my dad and my stepmom before my mind’s eye and gave them warm hugs. I surrounded them with this love. I knew all would be well. All was already well. All is perfect, always. I couldn’t be with them in the physical at that moment, so I transported myself in imagination. I hugged them, knowing they received it.
Two days later, when I could see and hug them in the flesh, it was like Deja vu. I was simply repeating an action I had experienced two days earlier.
Yes, the entire situation was a reenactment, an eerie repeat of the event from fifteen years ago. But what’s important is how it is different. The short story is that I was a sad, lonely girl-woman the first time around. I felt ostracized by my family. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I wanted to help them but didn’t know how to help. I was going through some tragedies of my own, quietly, without support. I was a master at giving life to the unlovely.
But that’s another story entirely; it was another lifetime, another person. I have since died to that expression of I Am to rise into the expression I Am now.
Yesterday, instead of crying, I spent the afternoon and evening with my parents, laughing. As we walked through the remnants of what was once their house, now smoke, ash, and water, we each held a glass of wine. Everyone was in surprisingly good spirits. They are fortunate to have a separate garage that was untouched by the fire, and they will be turning that into their temporary home while they build again. From the garage, we ordered take-out food, ate, drank, and made merry, while their friends popped in to join us.
Looking back on my “state of being” the first time this happened, I realized what a completely different person I am today; what a completely different relationship I now have with my family. Cinders all around, the smell of smoke still in my hair from two nights earlier, yet we had such a lovely, loving evening of solidarity. The tears I shed in 2005 were ones of loneliness, separation, devastation, of feeling small and helpless. The tears falling now, as I write this, are tears of joy, of my resurrection, of the love I feel for all that I am, for everyone in my life, near and far.
”Love and hate have a magical transforming power, and we grow through their exercise into the likeness of what we contemplate. By intensity of hatred we create in ourselves the character we imagine in our enemies. Qualities die for want of attention, so the unlovely states might best be rubbed out by imagining "'beauty for ashes and joy for mourning" rather than by direct attacks on the state from which we would be free.” --Neville Goddard, No One to Change But Self, 1948)
I understood, as I got back into my car to drive home, that I had been redeemed. Like the phoenix, I had risen from the ashes and been reborn. Though things had seemingly come full circle, the circle is now complete, and I rise from it into a new arena. My folks will rise from the ashes, too, and rebuild, even bigger and even better. My father is a structural engineer and architect, and in my Father’s house are many mansions [John 14:2].
How do I know this?
Because... although it appears without, it is within... and this is what I am giving life to: two beautiful people and family members who are merely individual (undivided) expressions of the one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all. I have set myself aflame in the furnaces of affliction, turned to ash, and been baptized in the spiritual waters of truth.
“Baptism on this level is a symbolic representation of being raised to the realization of being God the Father. In his letter, Paul tells the Ephesians that there is only one baptism. This occurs prior to the realization of being God the Father. And in Paul's letter to the Romans he states: "We are buried with Christ by a baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also may walk in newness of life."” -- Neville Goddard, The Mystery of Baptism, 1969
I know who I am, and I am home.
My friend who face-planted into the fire pit? She is me: a mirror reflection, showing me myself. My dad and my stepmom? They are me, pushed out. Their house going up in flames, again? That was me, direct evidence of the contents of my own consciousness. I set it all in motion (Shhh! Please don’t tell them) in my imagination, which is the eternal being of man, God in action.
I live in a new world now, on higher ground from the one I once knew. I know how to turn water to wine. Water is the symbol of psychological truth; and turning water into wine is living by that truth, using imagination consciously and lovingly.
”You and I have descended in consciousness to the level where we now find ourselves and we see imperfection because we have descended! When we begin to ascend while here in this three-dimensional world, we find that we move in an entirely different environment, we have entirely different circles of friends, and an entirely different world while still living here. We know the great mystery of the statement, "I am in the world but not of it.”” (Neville Goddard, No One to Change But Self, 1948)
Everything in the world has symbolic significance, and symbolism is the language of God. There is only ever one being speaking, and that being is God. He speaks to us in dreams, and this is no less a dream than a dream of the night. He is speaking right now.
As you can see, I allow Neville to do most of the talking, because there’s nothing I can say that is any different (and definitely not any better) than what he’s already said. So, I’ll leave you with one more quote from this beloved being, again from The Mystery of Baptism:
“I am not encouraging you to go out and violate your codes, but I urge you not to carry the burden of your past with you. Let it go if you can, and set your hope fully upon this baptism, for the Father is hovering over you. You do not see him because you are immersed in water, but he is incubating you, and one day you will break through the surface and be baptized into the body of the one God and Father of all.”
He was speaking through the late, great Louis Armstrong when he sang: It’s a wonderful world. And it really is…a world intricately, perfectly, beautifully woven.
Endnote: Incidentally, my three cats, who bolted during the night, returned. My croissants haven’t. And, according to my friends, “One has to have dignity first in order to lose it”. We have also appropriately recoined ourselves “The Disciples of Dionysus”: Brittany is reborn as Mother of Dragons; Audrey as TheMage; Rob as King YardHolio; Chris as the Knight of the Square Table; and, yours truly as Ophelia, Lady of the Lake.
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Natalie Stroud lives in the world of imagination (it's her reality), where anything is possible, and her senses are anything but common. Although her ideas about life might appear "crazy" to the majority, she considers herself to be a rather sane cat lady, lover of all animals, vegan cuisinartist, amateur-yet-passionate gardener, coiner of new words, and magician of domestic blissitude