Iron John Chapter 11 Arriving at the Golden Pond

Iron John Chapter  11             The Golden Pond.

How do we find Our medicine, Our Gold this part of the story definitely does not happen in our physical world

What is the Golden Pond? The Golden Pond holds our medicine, our Soul’s gold, and the deep feminine of nature herself.

This part of the story definitely does not take place in our physical world, rather it takes place at the center of Soul in the enormous forest. So, the same lapsed time-rules don’t apply. This is that magical land where animals speak, and fantastic creatures exist. In M.K.P its where we go to get our animal names, where we only dip our toes in that water.   It’s a metaphor and for the purpose of the story, it is spread over three days, which makes the narrative practical. What the metaphor intends is that we get the three levels of stories: the personal, the communal, and the collective.

The Narrative: When the wild man had once more reached the dark forest, he took the boy down from his shoulder, and said to him, “Thou wilt never see thy father and mother again, but I will keep thee with me, for thou hast set me free, and I have compassion on thee. If thou dost all I bid thee, thou shalt farewell. Of treasure and gold have I enough, and more than anyone in the world.” He made a bed of moss for the boy on which he slept.  

“Thou wilt never see thy father and mother again.” The break between the parents and the child is important as the rules and the reach of the status quo can pull us back from our quest, even across the grave. The quest to become a divine King. Guilt and manipulation are the tools of the status quo and with the best intentions of the parents who don’t trust the Wildness released from the cage of apparent safety. 

“For thou hast set me free, and I have compassion on thee”: Perhaps we still don’t understand what a stupendous effort it is to, firstly steal the Key, and then actually turn the lock. What was risked? everything and yet nothing.   EE Cumming’s; The hardest thing in the world is to be yourself when everybody else is telling you what to be, how to be,…… The Wildman does need not to be set free, he is always free. However, if we unlock the cage of our heart Soul (Wildman) is pleased. The Wildman see our true nature underneath all the overlays of the status quo and waits until we are ready. Ready for what? When we realise for ourselves that the bill of goods sold to us by the status quo is hollow and without substance and we begin to cast about and look for something else. When we begin to wonder what happened to our golden ball, the roses in our garden.

The Wind, One Brilliant Day by Antonio Machado

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

Translated by Robert Bly

When the hunter came to the forest with his dog the Wildman grabbed the dog, not to drown it in the pond but to free the domesticated wolf from inside the dog. The Wildman see us is domesticated Wildmen and would free us from the domestication of the status quo. The story of Huckleberry Fin sets out quite well the need to escape from domesticating Aunts to be free to escape the tyranny of the status quo over Soul. The movie  Huckleberry Fin” a good watch)


“Of treasure and gold have I enough, and more than anyone in the world”: Gold in this sense is spiritual Gold, understanding and deep memory as we will see late on in the story. This memory has been called the hall of records or the Akashic records. As with the story of “The Devils Sooty Brother,” this gold is unexpected and not valued in this world but, is a foundational resource to navigate this world. An inner resilience and fortitude to fall back on in adversity. 

Mentoring: “He made a bed of moss for the boy on which he slept.” 

Threats and admonishments are not the way of a mentor and a loving Soul King. There is no need for threats or punishment only learning and consequences and re-learn try again. At this point in the story, the boy is about 7 years old. You do not send a 7-year-old child without support out into the world of the status quo. I imagine the Boy (us) was 16 years of age or so before he left the forest. So, what was he doing all that time? 

Departing from the narrative. At this point, I have departed from the narrative slightly. Understanding that this story was in Grimm’s brother’s collection was recorded within the context of that time and its assumption. Assumptions about child-rearing. Children were effectively chattels and did what they were told or they were punished; this is not in keeping with mentoring by a good King. Read Alice Miller on “Child-rearing practices in 10th century Europe”.

Time differential in stories: As we know from a good story intro we start off with ”Once upon a time, once in that time, there are places where time moves more slowly than here, we are leaving our time now, we are leaving our time now.”

A day in a story refers to a period of time or experience, not the 24 hours. of our world. So, let’s say we spend 7 years in the forest, divided up into three overlapping experiences. We are the sons (all of us) of a divine King and we are in training to take over that role. Remembering that Kingship is always sacral and always waiting to step aside for a younger King.

The Golden Pond: Is a magical place deep within the wellspring of consciousness. It is the same place that shamans go to get answers. Indeed it’s where Ivan went later in the story when the Kingdom was under attack by hostile forces. 

Our first Task at the Golden Pond. The first period of time in the forest with the Wildman.

The narrative: The Wildman says to the boy in the morning, here is your task for today. “Watch over this pond and do not allow anything to defile it.”

“Watch over this pond and do not allow anything to defile it.”  What does that mean? Don’t let anything defile it?  This pond is at the centre of our being and shares beingness with everything. We need to be careful what we allow into our garden of the heart. At this time of COVID, it is easy to be swamped by sadness, anger and rage at the inequities we see around us. However, this learning is to engage our inner warrior to guard the boundaries of the pond and practice a spiritual discernment. In a way to protect and not allow anything to defile it. Not to do so is to lose our centre. It is actually the Ego’s job to do this guarding to patrol the boundaries.

Ego as guardian of the threshold. Because we are a spiritual being in an animal body, we are surrounded by a maelstrom of emotions and beliefs all, competing and clamoring to be heard. As with any Kingdom, there is a walled city where the regent lives. There are guards patrolling the gates and the boundaries who will enquire about your business if you wish to enter. The king then says yes or no.  It is exactly the same in our homes. You ring the doorbell; somebody comes to the door and asks you what you want. Next step “OK sit here in the entrance hall while I check if someone can see you.” If your mission is rejected your told – sorry not interested, or he’s busy, make an appointment – another form of gatekeeping.

If your quest is successful you get invited deeper into the house, a drawing room or meeting room offered refreshments. If the relationship is ongoing then the house is opened to you with the exception of the bedroom. This is the deepest and most sacred part of the house.  Which is why it is such a trauma to steal the key from under the mother’s pillow from his mother’s bedroom.

Ego’s right relation to Soul. This is our Ego’s true function and works with Soul as Guardian of the threshold. Only allowing into our being what we can handle. This part of Ego is called the Magician, always bring up our next step.  

So, the word “defile” means. Guard the gate, guard the boundaries, don’t let anything in that is inappropriate. If and when that does happen, deal with it.

The Wildman, the regenerative man. The divine King knows what the next step is for us on our journey is. We have left home, father and mother behind and now is the time for “solo work”. We are carrying our wounds with us to the pond; the wound we received when we released the Wildman from the cage. In some way we know we have betrayed the status quo, disappointed mother, father, family and community. Our wound is that we carry guilt around that. If we cannot find time or space to consolidate with the Wildman, we can easily be shamed back into the status quo through guilt manipulation, well-meaning friends, teachers, university professors and more powerfully, peers, family and lovers.

The second level of the Pond. Remember we are training for Kingship for regency. As a good steward of the pond, what do we need to know about ponds? Everything! Here is an image I hold from my youth.

Imagine this pond absolutely teeming with life in and around the pond. As a seven-year-old I would be in the wade playing with tadpoles and frogs. Watching boatman skim across the water on the surface tension. Mud squishing up between my toe’s clothes absolutely wet. The air is filled with the sound of birds and animals coming to drink; The air full of earth smell, wet ground, the scent of flowers, the particular smell of the animal that comes to drink. Sitting on the bank that place of betwixt and between, nature is instructing us as to what is needed to keep the pond clean and of pollutants.

We are sleeping next to the pond, through all the seasons and the life cycle of the animals. Animals speak to us about their life cycle and what they need to flourish. Not to survive, but to flourish. Nature herself is so generous with life. She doesn’t parcel it out in dribs and drabs like the status quo.  A fruit tree in the spring has more fruit than we can eat. The fruit is not for sale, it is a gift from nature. There is no waste for what is not eaten goes back into the ground to nourish the earth…..if we will let it. Over this period of time, we are living from the bounty of the forest, honey, berries, fruit, nuts, and the water of life.

The sacred pond. Is a really important detail in the geography of our psychology. We have come to our own very personal and individual sacred pond; this is the wellspring of our deep spiritual history; as this history bubbles up through this sacred pond into our soul for this incarnation. The personal Soul is created. Everything we need for this lifetime is contained as a potential in this water. This is the water of life, the fountain of youth. Always refreshing itself, always new.

Mother’s womb. This is indeed a metaphor for our mother’s womb, for that which is contained within the sacred pond is the beginning of our journey into this world. This is the wellspring of the deep feminine contained within Mankind. Indeed, we are going to meet this pond later again in the story as “The Perfumed Garden” in the Kings court

The great mother archetype: Birth, Death, and Regeneration.

The great vegetation cycle. The birthplace of Hunan beings. Humus “ Hu” Latin of god What does Hu in human mean? The English word “human” breaks down into 2 parts. “Hu” meaning God and “man” meaning mind. Originally coming from the Sanskrit word “mana,” which is, the mind of the ordinary person. So, in other words, god, and man come together.

English gets the word human from the Latin with a similar etymology as the name Adam in Hebrew. In Latin, homo means man, humanus means human, and humus means ground. It should be easy to see the relationship between the concepts of “man” and “ground,” even if we don’t hold these original meanings as literal anymore. Nevertheless, it is interesting to think about these historical relationships and speculate on how they might give us a fuller sense of our own creation. Following this train of thought, in English, like in Hebrew, a human is a “ground man” or an “earth man.”

Why should this interest us? First, humus is the part of the land that sustains life. According to Webster, humus is “a brown or black variable material resulting from partial decomposition of plant or animal matter and forming the organic portion of soil.” Humus is full of nutrients that have developed from decaying forms of life. These nutrients are the spawning ground for new life. Humus is teeming with life. It is a microcosm of the cycles of death and life that are abundant in nature.

The way of the warrior. Guarding the sacred Pond. In a way we are called to step into our warrior to guard the boundaries of our own spirituality and the ensouled potential of this pond. This is hugely important for us, to find our own path through the myriad spiritual teachings, religious, cultural, and societal norms. We have to guard who we are and not be swept away by the should, oughts and have to’s that surround us. The story implies that this is solo work, best done in nature and in silence.

Ritual space The Wildman is holding ritual space for us by simply allowing us to do our work. This is a mentoring moment-a simple instruction that does not require complicated action. Guard this sacred pond and don’t let anything defile it. This is how it should go if the process were conscious however, that is not often the case. In that case, the process is unconscious. Without the elder energy present to limit pain, the process can be abusive and destructive.


When A finger turns to gold. Robert Bly has written most eloquently about this in his book on Iron John. About firstly elevating our wound so that it doesn’t throb or we put it our mouth that other warm, wet, place of soothing.  What is this wound; the one we sustained when we forced the lock to turn and made the blood sacrifice to the feminine? To elevate the wound is to hold it up for inspection, to make it public and acknowledge the shadows we have brought from the Status quo. This is what happens in an “I” group within M.K.P. The “I” group allows us in this world to bring bits of our shadow up in consciousness and to integrate that energy back into our being, instead of it being a split-off part, slowly going toxic within us.

When we place that wound (our shadow) into the golden water, we release all those bits of our 360 deg person we denied, repressed and projected in order to be acceptable within the status quo. Shadow is not our enemy though it often portrayed as such in this world. Mainly because it pops out in an uncontrolled way causing havoc in our lives. Remember that the function of Soul is to constantly crack open the cage of Ego so that we can grow. At the pond, we remember all of who we are.

Our wound is now our Gold and we understand many things all at once.

The narrative says “Thou hast dipped thy finger into the water, this time it may pass, but take care thou dost not again let anything go in”

This is like the “Blue Beard” story. Don’t go into the room where the small key fits” It almost guarantees human what a human being will do. The Wildman sees that this phase is over and sets us the same task at the next level of being which we will need for our Kingship, the level of community.

So we have to do this work while we live in the world of Ego consciousness in Johannesburg today. This forces us to do it secretly, away from the prying judgemental eyes of the alliance. The solution our culture has created for this is the peer group. The peer group is a secret society which the Empire at large cannot penetrate. It pontificates about the effect and behaviours of this group, but as to a deep understanding of the psych dynamics, they leave that to experts in the psychology field who endeavour to describe behaviour in terms of an ego understanding. However, as an axiom, we can never determine process by behaviour. Without some sort of elder presence, the peer group can descend into a gang very easily.

Elders can be individual people and can also be values held by individual people in leadership roles. In the story it is the Wildman, the regenerative man, the healer of souls and nations alike. In Jhb. it is in part the collective values of the citizens. I have to use the word citizen because we have so many different cultures all living side by side. We know that a collective value exists, or all peer groups would become gangs.

The story tells us that the boy (us) aged 7 or 8 approaches the cage. I noticed as my children grew up that a curious thing happened beginning at this age and continuing until the early 20’s . The children began to flock together like birds on a wire. Parents became embarrassing, the shadow of the parents became apparent and there was a realisation that death was a reality and awareness within the children of their own mortality. That there was a vast difference between what the parents said and what they did.

In some traditions, this is expressed as the children leaving the cloak of the mother and moving into the realm of the masculine represented by the father and behind him the elders of the community. In watching my children grow up this was a natural progression. The children expressed a desire to go with me to work to see what I did. They spent a lot of time on building sites playing in the building sand, in and out of bakkies. Being with workers eating their lunch. My Daughter, who came first, and later the three boys all did this. None of them followed my footsteps, they all took their own path. This was a phase until about 14-15 years then the peer group took over and of course computer games.  What are the children waiting for? Their spiritual inheritance which the elders hold for them until they come of age. 

Back to Separating from Mother and Father. When the wild man had once more reached the dark forest, he took the boy down from his shoulder, and said to him, “Thou wilt never see thy father and mother again, but I will keep thee with me, for thou hast set me free, and I have compassion on thee. If thou dost all I bid thee, thou shalt fare well.

We have already seen some of the journey into incarnation from Soul to the Castle Quo. While our western traditions are not very explicit about this process fortunately other cultures and traditions that are. One of these is the Waldorf schooling system sometimes known as Steiner schools after the founder Rudolf Steiner.

The pre-natal time to about 7/8 years is described as being within the cloak of the mother, the influence of the mother. The child is WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get. If the child is hungry, or uncomfortable sad or mad there is no doubt about what’s happening. During this time there is tremendous bonding with the Mother as well as protection from outside hostile forces including the father and the Giant tyrannical forces of the Status Quo. The image of Chronos eating his children applies here. (Link to Jack & bean stalk and Giants)

Much socialising takes place within the mother’s cloak. The norms and morals of the culture are taught by osmosis. The child is inculcated into the family, the family hierarchy, family mythology. The families place as part of a community, culture, language, religion, state and country. Much of the sexual roles and sexual orientation is also inculcated at this time.

The Child begins life totally dependent on mother and by extension the social group, the need for love nurturing and acceptance is so strong that those parts that aren’t accepted are repressed and denied. These cut of parts don’t wither and die but go to live in what has come to be called the Shadow by Carl Jung or the long bag we drag behind us (Robert Bly). The other idea could be that they return to the enormous forest and live there which is why the Forest came to labelled such a dangerous place.

The second phase 7 to 14 or so years.  Now a very natural movement takes place the child discovers the outside world, that world over the fence, outside the car windows. This is a great discovery for the child and full of wonder. The child now naturally becomes interested in the Fathers world the world of the male of things and the masculine expression.

This can be a hard time for the mother to let go and see her world and the Feminine turned away from. Never fear the Cliché the hand that rocks the cradle guides the plough is never more adept. When the child is injured or hurt, straight back to Mum for solace. Dad be blowed.

The Journey continues in Chapter 12..

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