“Opponere Draconem est prehendere Vitam”
This ancient saying translates to a profound truth: “To confront the Dragon is to COME ALIVE.“
The Year of the Dragon comes once every 12 years. The dragon 龙 years of the last century were 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012. This year, February 10th 2024 yet again, we enter the lair of the dragon, but what exactly does the Dragon represent?
The Shadow Self
Within us resides the world’s oldest nemesis: the symbol of our darkest fears and the hidden aspects of our nature. Representing the darkness we run from, our fears of not being enough, of being alone, of being judged, it holds profound truths and revelations that have built up the invisible walls around us that we can no longer see.
The dragon guards the treasure beyond those walls that you dare not knock down, for that would mean the destruction of the false self, the ego which believes itself real, when in all truth, it is a highly sophisticated chemical, biological and physiological code of information which was downloaded in the first seven years of your life and has allowed you to form an ‘identity’ of which you have been playing for most of your life.
So who are you really? If, at 7 year old, we are a reflection of everything we have ever known, with beliefs about ourselves in direct relation to the world around us, then as an adult, aren’t those beliefs about ourselves going to be seriously flawed? How do you know that you’re not good at maths? “Because you told yourself that.” How do you know that you’d never be a writer? “Because you told yourself that.” Why do you think that you’re never going to be in good shape? “Because YOU told yourself a STORY!” Why do you believe that you’re not lovable? “Because you TOLD YOURSELF THAT!” The list goes on and on…
It’s time to UNLEARN what we have learnt and start to question everything, peel back the layers and start anew. How? By returning to the eyes of a child. CURIOSITY. WONDER. It’s our natural state of being! We were born curious, we are natural born explorers on our own adventure seeking to experience what it’s like to be alive! We came here to experience everything by way of emotion and connection.
Your fear is stopping you from discovering your best self and it is paralysing you from realising your dreams!
Did you ever check-in with yourself to ask those essential questions that so many fear – “What am I really afraid of and why?” “Am I speaking my truth or just trying to fit in?”
In alchemical traditions, the dragon is the source of primal energy, the crux of authentic power. We alone must venture into this inner cave to face the dragon and emerge with the elemental force that no external wisdom or guidance can provide, it’s you (avatar) versus the becoming of the real you.
“Be still – Rest in the arms of the Dragon“
In the Grail legends, Merlin takes a young King Arthur into the dark woods to instruct him in natural magic, but the young man is terrified by the wild sounds, threatening growls, and glowing eyes that hide in the forest. “What are you afraid of?” Merlin says. “Shall I tell you what’s really out there? The Dragon – a beast of such power that if you were to see it whole and all complete in a single glance, it would burn you to cinders. Where is it? It is everywhere; it is everything! Its scales are in the bark of trees. Its roar is heard in the wind. And its forked tongue strikes like lightning. And there is only one thing you can do to survive the Dragon. “Be still. Rest in the arms of the Dragon.”
The Dragon is a composite of the features of many animals and represents the chaotic matrix of creation of which the life force is part. Dragons derive their power from the primordial Black Hole from which all things came, the One Thing, the formless Tao, the unrelenting chaos of the First Matter. In modern physics, the Dragon is the unknowable quantum field from which atomic particles are created, the underlying strings of pure energy which transform into physical matter.
The Three Phases of Alchemy
There are three steps which correspond to the Three Phases of alchemy. The first is “Facing the Dragon,” and it occurs during the Black Phase ‘Nigredo‘ of alchemy.
This difficult stage is the beginning of true transformation. Why is it so hard to face the dragon? As I stated above, we are afraid to. We desire to live in the illusory but comfortable world of personal ego and modern civilisation. The Dragon is the underlying chaos in our bodies, our lives, our culture, and the entire universe.
The second step is called “Surrendering to the Dragon.” That challenge begins during the White Phase ‘Albedo‘.
During this stage of purification, we begin to see the connection between that chaos in our inner world and that of the outer. Here we are called to drop all pretences and strip away all defence, understand that you cannot hide from your real self, everything hidden is brought to the surface and you can hide nothing. The only way to understand who you are underneath all those false stories and endless labels you have attributed to yourself, is to see them for what they are and LET THEM GO.
Here is to understand the Yin and Yang of existence. We live in a dualistic world and everything has its exact polar opposite, as it states in the second verse of the extensive Chinese philosophy – Tao Te Ching 道德經 :
“When the world understands that beauty is beautiful, ugliness will exist.“
The Dragon is neither all good or all bad – it is all things in all ways. This idea is depicted in the symbol of the Dragon (or Serpent) devouring its own tail, known as the Ouroborus – the oldest allegorical symbol in alchemy – representing the eternal cycle of destruction and rebirth.
The final step is the most challenging. It is the act of “Unleashing the Dragon” and marks the Red Phase ‘Rubedo‘ of alchemy. If you are not pure of spirit and free of ego-fused thoughts and emotions (like greed and ambition or guilt and shame), you may be destroyed by the hypnotic gaze of the Dragon and you may lose your way. However, if your heart is pure and your intentions honourable, you will experience a metamorphosis and a rebirth.
In Taoist alchemy, advanced techniques of Unleashing the Dragon centre on the microcosm of the body. Disciplines like Tai Chi and Chi Kung seek to allow the Dragon to live and circulate within us without our interference. To do this, is to use flow so it moves without resistance or control. This feeling of energetic flow is often experienced by athletes, artists, musicians etc. The same experience occurs on mental and spiritual levels too and is felt as boundless creativity.
This ancient nemesis is also our greatest ally and has participated in every aspect of our lives; inconspicuously looming in the background, effortlessly adapting itself at every turn of the century to the simulation of an ever evolving world and silently partaking in its perpetual role to uphold one of the universes most ancient laws.
Facing our dragon is not only a personal challenge, but a collective imperative. It is the fountain of transformation and the catalyst for profound change which is so greatly needed. To embrace a life of fulfilment and true meaning, we must confront the dragon within and embrace what we have been running from for so long.
Whatever fears you have holding you down – you have the courage to overcome them!