An Epic Adventure of Individuation
“You know this material resonates with you,” she replied.
She was right. I couldn’t deny it.
Looking back, I can argue a logical explanation for my choice.
I was already working with my unconscious but lacked the structure and community this program offered.
I felt socially alienated by my obsession with my inner world.
I found it hard to organize and interpret my isolated shadow work coherently.
The offer promised a solution to these problems.
This explanation is not an untrue representation of what happened, but my experience of it was anything but logical. All I could feel was an unreasonable compulsion to leap, an urge I felt I must follow with only a foggy notion of why.
From a more emotional perspective, I can see in retrospect that I was battling with fear beneath the surface of my decision. Fear of what taking the offer would cost me in all the ways it could potentially cost me, and fear that not taking it would mean sacrificing the like-minded community and psychological wholeness I desired.
I said, “Yes,” signed a 6-month contract, and authorized my first monthly payment of $500.
The commoditization of spirituality capitalizes on consumer fear— but while it is of ethical concern, the fact that fear increases emotional brand attachment is old news (Dunn et al., 2014).
What fascinates me is how I experienced the buying decision as a spiritual consumer. Dominated by a risky compulsion that overrode my logical fears, I found myself signing a contract. The whole process seems to have taken place in an unconscious state. All I knew was that I had to say, “Yes."
A few months before joining that program, I experienced a psychological phenomenon I wouldn’t fully understand until the writing of this article— a visceral vision called forth by my peaking existential anguish and rage.
Upset, I called out with all my psychic might to the unseen force I sensed controlling my decisions and circumstances from the shadows, commanding it to show itself. To my shock, a being, summoned by my cry, appeared before me.
An angel of horrible beauty and disturbingly familiar endless foreboding, an intoxicating emanation of death, a winged male creature completely shrouded in night, whom I could somehow clearly see with my eyes wide open.
Elated by the power of my cry and the hope that there may be an answer near, I confronted the angel with a brazen appeal: Who ARE YOU?
He said nothing as my mind flooded fast with every traumatic memory I owned. I understood the patterns between them as a matter of fact—he had orchestrated all of it to fulfill my ultimate desire for wholeness. His severity was at my service.
I revolted: How COULD YOU?
In a telepathically transmitted stream of gnosis, I remembered my choice for the suffering to which I had consciously seen myself as the subject. I had known at some authorial level, at some primordial time, exactly which experiences would catalyze a sustained, lucid state of wholeness. I knew suffering and death are extraordinarily catalytic, and I agreed to experience them.
Then, before I could ask any more daring questions, he was behind me. A wave of sensation overtook my awareness and my eyes closed.
The hairs on the back of my neck sensed his approaching body, slowly like a lover, from behind.
All at once, we were one, and his wings were mine.
The vision was over, but my conscious relationship with this archetype had just begun.
I did not see it then, but when I bought the shadow work coaching program, my dark guardian angel compelled me. He had just recently entered my consciousness as the spirit of my most severe lovers, my adversarial other-half who had shaped me to sustain consciousness through loss after loss of hope, identity, and love, all to feed my insatiable appetite for the All.
At first, the program was incredible. I voraciously attacked the material, learned the system, and dug in for several months of intensive mining of my unconscious psyche.
But the more of my shadows I integrated, the more of my teacher’s shadows I could see. I kept quiet about it, but something in her knew. As the group grew in number, she spoke to me with increasing severity above the others and often ignored my participation until I directly asked her to address it. When I asked her questions to help me better understand her material, she responded with a thinly masked animosity which I could not find her projecting on anyone but me.
It was not until I asked my daemon his name that I understood why my teacher perceived me as an enemy. Still only partly integrated, he had yet to speak to me in words. This time, my answer came through synchronistic internet searches and rabbit holes.
I was researching for an unrelated purpose when I saw an image in my search results that diverted my focus completely: a black-winged male angel with a surprising resemblance in feeling and form to the spirit with me. I read the one-word caption, Samael. I instinctively knew that it was him. I had never heard the name and had no conscious notion of the epic proportions of archetypal integration ahead of me.
I clicked on the image and learned.
Samael & Lilith
Samael: The Angel of Death, the Venom of God, the sword of Israel, Satan, Ruler of Hell, and consort of Lilith.
Lilith: The Original Woman, the headstrong seductress, the infanticidal demoness, and Mother of Free Will & Chaos.
A match made in exile, and yet a primordial pair of which Adam and Eve are low-resolution, amnesiac copies. A primordial couple that, as one, form the archaic understanding of the Godhead—an androgynous divinity of simultaneous multiplicity and singularity which excludes no possibility (Dan, 1980).
From my preliminary research, I understood that to fully integrate the archetypal presence of Samael into my awareness so as not to be unconsciously dominated by his severe designs but rather to obtain some level of cooperative control with this aspect of my psyche, I was also beholden to integrate his other-half, Lilith. As a woman, I could identify more easily with Lilith than Samael, so my research naturally veered toward learning in depth about her first and then him subsequently.
Sumerian Creation Myth
The Sumerian creation myth begins as Inanna, the Queen of Heaven, walked along the banks of the Euphrates River. Taking fond notice of a tree struggling against the erosive power of the water, Inanna transplanted the tree in her garden, where she tended to it carefully, intending to use its wood to craft an earthly throne.
But when Inanna approached the maturing tree, she found a snake had nested at its base, a Zu-bird in its branches and, in its trunk, “Lilith, the maid of desolation, had built her house”. Distraught, Inanna despaired her brother Utu about her beloved tree.
Overhearing her cries, the chivalrous hero Gilgamesh came to her aid. With his axe, he felled the tree, the snake and the bird took shelter in the nearby wilderness, “and Lilith tore down her house and fled to the desolate places which she was accustomed to haunt” (Kramer, 1961).
The Priestly & Yahwistic Judeo-Christian Creation Myths
In the canonical bible, there are two creation myths. The first account in Genesis 1, also known as the Priestly version, describes the creation of the first man and woman as a concurrent happening: “So God created mankind in the divine image, male and female God created them (Ariela, 2021).” In Genesis 2, the Yahwistic creation myth describes the curiously far more famous creation of Eve out of Adam’s rib.
This discrepancy between the two first chapters of Genesis and the mystery of why both accounts were included in the biblical canon led ancient rabbis to conclude that Adam’s first wife (Lilith) was dissatisfactory in Genesis 1, and so in Genesis 2, God replaced her with Eve.
Talmudic Creation Myths
In a medieval Talmudic text known as the Alphabet of Ben Sirach, Adam’s first wife is identified as Lilith for the first time. This text contains the story of Lilith that would give rise to her embodiment as the feminist icon she has become today.
Like her later iteration as Eve, the archetypal first woman would also leave paradise, but unlike Eve, she would choose exile of her own free will, which not even God could compel.
When both Adam and God insisted on her submission to their masculine dominance, she flew away, later giving birth to hordes of demon children (Ariela, 2021).
Kabbalistic Creation Myths
The Hebrew mystical text, Treatise on the Left Emanation, reads the following risqué passage:
"And the Serpent, the Woman of Harlotry, incited and seduced Eve through the husks of Light which in itself is holiness. And the Serpent seduced Holy Eve, and enough said for him who understands. And all this ruination came about because Adam the first man coupled with Eve while she was in her menstrual impurity – this is the filth and the impure seed of the Serpent who mounted Eve before Adam mounted her. Behold, here it is before you: because of the sins of Adam the first man all the things mentioned came into being. For Evil Lilith, when she saw the greatness of his corruption, became strong in her husks, and came to Adam against his will, and became hot from him and bore him many demons and spirits and Lilin (Patai, 81:455f)."
In the same Hebrew mystical text quoted above, the Treatise on the Left Emanation, Rabbi Isaac ha-Kohen reveals that previous mystics and scholars had passed down secret knowledge of an older creation myth. In it, Samael and Lilith, Adam, and Eve were all created concurrently as one multi-dimensional, hermaphroditic being.
But in the Zohar, written around the same time (1250-1305), Lilith pairs with Samael only after leaving Adam behind (Gettysburg, n.d.).
The name Samael first appears in the Ethiopic Book of Enoch 6 in a list of angels cast out from heaven by God. Etymologically, the name Samael traces back to the Hebrew sami, which means blind. Some of the motifs and characters Samael is associated with throughout a range of both biblical and non-canonical Hebrew and Greek texts are:
Jaldabaoth (the blind God)
Snake-worshipping Jewish sects (the Ophites)
and the Angel of Death (Gale Group, 2008)
During my research on Lilith and Samael, I found Inanna mentioned frequently.
My teacher was obsessed with the myth of Inanna and had designed much of her program to map the symbolic trajectory of Inanna’s descent into the underworld, followed by death and transformative re-emergence. In a show of reverence, she often referred to Inanna as The Original Dark Goddess.
But my unplanned research on Inanna alongside Lilith revealed otherwise.
My teacher had retold her version of the myth many times, but as I read sources citing the original ancient text, I found the truth.
The underworld into which Inanna descended belonged to her “elder sister and bitter enemy Ereshkigal, the goddess of darkness and gloom and death” (Kramer, 1961). Inanna feared her sister’s power so much that she planned for defeat. Having instructed her servant to plead with the gods for assistance if she failed to return within three days, Inanna put on her queenly garments and began her descent.
Three days later, she was nothing more than a dangling corpse hung from a hook in hell. Only by the mercy of Enki, God of wisdom, was she revived and returned to the land of the living, but not without consequence. Thereafter, Inanna wandered the lands of Sumer haunted by the ghosts that followed her out of hell (Kramer, 1961).
The Snake in the Tree
My teacher’s emphasis on Inanna’s descent conveniently concealed the earlier story in which, long before she met her sister’s wrath in the underworld, Inanna came face to face with Lilith herself in the story of the huluppu-tree (see Sumerian Creation Myth under Lilith, above).
Inanna was not The Original Dark Goddess, as my teacher insisted. Associated with the snake in the tree in both the Sumerian and Judeo-Christian creation myths, Lilith was present from the beginning as the original enemy in Inanna’s (and later, Eve’s) life-long conflict with the dark forces (Ben ha-Kohen, 1260-1280.).
Around the same time that I discovered these historical and symbolic relationships between Samael, Lilith, Inanna, and Eve, my teacher found a man and went mad with psychotic devotion to him, incorporating extremely polarized relationship principles into her program material. Her sudden emphasis on feminine submission to the masculine and her manic delivery of the message, combined with the revelations that my research produced, led me to understand— she treated me like her enemy because, at the archetypal level, I was the snake in her tree.
Once I saw it, I could not unsee it.
Concurrently my teacher's business was pulling in more power than she could handle. She became absolutist and dogmatic, socially punishing anyone who questioned her. The other members behaved increasingly as if under some trance from which our leader extracted blind worship against their deeply buried wills.
Another paradise went wrong; I had to get out.
After leaving the shadow-work coaching container cult and taking a few months to recalibrate my energy field, I went back to coaching. I had sworn off providing this service since burning out on it a year or so prior but watching my teacher's downward spiral into a psychotic episode that ultimately ended in the dissolution of her million-dollar empire changed my mind. I wanted to prove that success with integrity in this field was possible. I wanted to work with others who wanted the same.
I challenged myself to make every business and personal decision in conscious consultation with both my inner multiplicity and unity. Samael and Adam transformed from my adversaries into my protector and magician. Lilith and Eve embodied through me as forces of magnetic creative genius and influence. My sense of self as distinct from yet containing and being contained by these archetypes solidified. My following grew.
Alongside me, others in my network rose to power and got crushed, much like my teacher had been, unconsciously possessed, it seemed, by archetypal forces too powerful for their minds to channel congruently, unstable conduits of divine energy.
In the crowd, debates over how a truly spiritual or fully healed person should behave took hold. Hackneyed, spiritually polarized opinions were hailed as revolutionary truths by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people. Relationship polarity teachings spread like wildfire, handing men back their pass of divine approval to abuse women and brainwashing desperate single women over 30 to agree to it.
I stepped back from the scene, and it hit me: success with integrity is not what the market wants.
They want to escape.
Loneliness, depression, confusion, apathy, fear, and greed drive them to seek relief from these immediate miseries in spiritual services that promise transformation. Desperate in a post-religious era for a model of ideal reality by which to shape their beliefs, they look to coaches, gurus, and healers to become the new gods (Husemann & Eckhardt, 2019).
Happy to offer their currency, blind faith, and sovereignty as a sacrifice to anyone with enough charisma who proclaims themselves a leader, the market makes itself. Anyone who dares to fulfill its intent stands to profit, but to whose benefit and at what cost?
Archetypal Possession & Integration
“For mankind, it was always like a deliverance from a nightmare when the new name was found.” —C.G., Jung
My whole life, I had felt there was a curse on my name, and as I blazed through my twenties with chaotic fire, I collected first-hand knowledge of the dark. Violence, drugs, poverty, desperation, trauma, and death descended upon my naïve dreams of love.
Eventually, I started to see patterns. My abusive lovers had the same look in their eyes before they brutalized me with near super-human strength. Freak accidents and tragedies were drawn to me. Betrayal, deceit, and denigration came to me when I begged for love. I had no roots; my only feeling of home was in roaming with the other exiles. I was punished swiftly with loss when I tried to improve my circumstances through the exertion of will.
Although by then I had managed to establish material stability, at the moment just before I spontaneously summoned my daemon into the light, the sense that my life was not mine had grown unbearable. Seeing him, I understood how I knew him and why he had done what he’d done. I understood the reason for my suffering. But it was only when I found his name that I could bind him to my will.
Only by his name did I find Lilith. Unconscious to me until then, I had played out her story of refusal to submit and of paying for it in blood. The rebellious woman, most loved and most hated by powerful men, unholy in her brazen self-authority—these were all motifs in my behavior and how others often saw me. It was all a story in which I was unwittingly destined to play the lead role until I remembered that I am not just the character.
Calling forth and naming my daemons set me free from their possession of me (Levy, 2010).
Samael no longer animates the bodies of my lovers with hatred or forces me to love the unlovable to test my sincerity. He no longer subjects me to pain but instead protects me from too much of it.
Lilith no longer drives me onto the road to pay for the sin of sovereignty or compels me to love the blades that seek to cut me. She no longer smolders in exile in the dark corners of my mind, but instead runs through it like a forest fire of creativity.
These forces contain me, and I, them. By their illumination, they find their right places as agents of sovereign creative genius and power.
The role that consumer spirituality played in my integration of these archetypes was one of awakening through conflict. Had I known that was the offer, I might not have taken it. But despite the unpleasantness of the experience and my disagreement with many of my teacher’s choices, I am grateful for it and her.
It was only in the distinction and conflict between the archetypes of Inanna and Lilith that I could integrate the feminine split induced by archetypal masculine domination—
Eve, the conscious feminine mind, the good girl, the one who pleases the masculine mind
And Lilith, the unconscious feminine soul, the bad girl, valued by the masculine only for her sex, is made into a monster to be tamed if she disagrees.
Integrating these aspects was what finally freed me from inner oppression that played out externally and returned me to sovereign self-possession. Because of an integrated Lilith, I uphold the right to be and create what I will without guilt. Because of a conscious Eve, I value the right to learn and know what I will without sin. Had I not been confronted with my teacher’s possession by Inanna/Eve, none of these values could have come forward as “the medicine within the apparent pathology” we both displayed. (Levy, 2010)
Ultimately, I take credit for my transformation as much as I take responsibility for my possession. The experience my teacher delivered contained instrumental ingredients, but it was by her loss of self-control and my assumption of it that I came to know my daemons and myself.
Consumer spirituality and its market is a breeding ground for archetypal possession to play out in all its unconscious and unholy glory. And it is a training ground to become fit for conscious wholeness.
The daemonic is quantum. It may destroy or create, abuse, protect, dominate, or respect, depending only on the state of the mind through which it emerges into form (Levy, 2010). A consciousness fearful of its edges and the darkness beyond what it wants to know is ripe for possession.
Yet it was by the Venom of God that I was returned to my inner freedom and power. The crucible of archetypal possession alchemized my psyche in perhaps just the way the ancient alchemists intended. A walking, infinite set of wholes within wholes is the philosopher’s gold at the end of the archetypal rainbow.
Context-aware polarities relating to one another with equal sovereignty, respect, and maybe even genuine care.
A purified, centralized, inwardly open consciousness capable of mediating the immensely powerful primordial forces that shape perception (and material reality), without compulsively condemning them to psychological exile.
A sense of self that echoes reality itself—a fractally organized miracle.
It was only through the arc of possession, revelation, and integration that I could find this gold.
I turned to the spiritual services industry both as a consumer and a provider to understand why I had survived and how to live beyond survival. My decade-long immersion in the unconscious outplaying of my archetypal possession nearly literally killed me on several occasions, and I needed healing and purpose in the world. So, I opened to adventure in earnest service to those aims and leaped when the opportunity came. I devoted my deepest attention to the tests I was tasked with passing along the way.
I eventually woke up to find myself navigating a treacherous landscape of opportunistic maniacs vying for votes of allegiance and money. So-called spiritual service providers use slick marketing tactics they learned from their past life working in corporate to snare society’s unconscious, traumatized misfits into spending their life savings to buy their redemption. Masses and masses of lost people, living out tragic archetypal motifs with zero ideas about it, food for the beast.
And yet, for the seeker with a strong will for truth and wholeness, the opportunity for rapid psychological integration is embedded in the market. As such I cannot wholly condemn its existence or even its shadiness. However, the opportunity for wholeness is embedded in life itself, not just the spiritual market. Consumer spirituality is not the only viable modern path to truth and wholeness.
As I emerge from the gore of my epic struggle with my own divinity, self-directed study emerges as the obvious way forward into further truth and wholeness. I am no longer tempted by the promises of salvation for a bag of gold because I am the gold now. I only want to learn and write and grow.
I have no recommendations for the industry. It is mutually exploitative. Consumers outsource personal responsibility and power to self-proclaimed spiritual leaders on whom they place the expectation to uphold God-like behavior and wisdom in exchange for big money and devotional worship. Everyone is happy-- unless they are not. This article aims to propagate more consciousness in the spiritual market. What my readers choose to do with it is a matter of free will.
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Dan, Joseph. “Samael, Lilith, and the Concept of Evil in Early Kabbalah.” AJS Review, vol. 5, 1980, pp. 17–40. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1486451. Accessed 6 Oct. 2022.
Patai, Raphael (1967). The Hebrew Goddess. ISBN 0-8143-2271-9.
Gettysburg, n.d. “Lilith in Ancient Texts.” https://skhadka.sites.gettysburg.edu/Lilith/lilith-in-ancient-texts
The Gale Group, 2008. “Samael.” jewishvirtuallibrary.org/Samael
Rabbi Isaac Ben Jacob Ha-Kohen, 1260-1280. https://www.marquette.edu/maqom/leftemanation.pdf
Kramer, Samuel Noah. ”Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C.: Revised Edition.” University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961. ISBN 978-0-8122-1047-7
Pelaia, Ariela. (2021, August 31). The Legend of Lilith: Adam's First Wife. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/legend-of-lilith-origins-2076660
Katharina C. Husemann & Giana M. Eckhardt, “Consumer Spirituality”, Journal of Marketing Management, 2019, pp. 391-406, DOI: 10.1080/0267257X.2019.1588558
Levy, Paul. “Are We Possessed?”, Awakeninthedream.com, https://www.awakeninthedream.com/articles/are-we-possessed