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Another Perspective

The Hymn of the Pearl

The following story is a powerful myth. It speaks to our individuation process. Here is The Hymn of the Pearl.*

When I was a little child and dwelt in the kingdom of my Father’s house and delighted in the wealth and splendor of those who raised me, my parent’s sent me forth from the East, our homeland, with provisions for the journey. …They took off from me the robe of glory which in their love they had made for me, and my purple mantle that was woven to conform exactly to my figure, and made a covenant with me, and wrote it in my heart that I might not forget it: “When thou goest down into Egypt and bringest the One Pearl which lies in the middle of the sea which is encircled by the snorting serpent, thou shalt put on again thy robe of glory and thy mantle over it and with thy brother, our next in rank, be heir to our kingdom.”

I left the East and took my way downwards, accompanied by two royal envoys, since the way was dangerous and hard and I was young for such a journey. …I went down into Egypt, and my companions parted from me. I went straightway to the serpent and settled down close by his inn until he should slumber and sleep so that I might take the Pearl from him. I clothed myself in their garments, lest they suspect me as one coming from without to take the Pearl and arouse the serpent against me. But through some cause they marked that I was not their countryman, and they ingratiated themselves with me and mixed me (drink) and with their cunning, and gave me to taste of their meat; and I forgot that I was a king’s son and served their king. I forgot the Pearl for which my parents had sent me. Through the heaviness of their nourishment I sank into deep slumber.

All this that befell me, my parents marked, and they were grieved for me….And they wrote a letter to me, and each of the great ones signed it with his name.
“From thy father the King of Kings, and from thy mother, mistress of the East, and from thy brother, our next in rank, unto thee our son in Egypt, greeting. Awake and rise up out of thy sleep, and perceive the words of our letter. Remember that thou are a king’s son: behold whom thy has served in bondage. Be reminded of the Pearl, for whose sake thy has departed into Egypt. Remember thy robe of glory, recall thy splendid mantle, that thou mayst put them on and deck thyself with them and thy name be read in the book of the heroes and then become with thy brother, our deputy, heir in our kingdom.”

Like a messenger was the letter. …It rose up in the form of an eagle, the king of all winged fowl, and flew until it alighted beside me, and became wholly speech. At its voice and sound I awoke and arose from my sleep, took it up, kissed it, broke its seal, and read. Just as was written on my heart were the words of my letter to read. I remember that I was a son of kings and that my freeborn soul desired its own kind. I remembered the Pearl for which I had been sent down to Egypt, and I began to enchant the terrible and snorting serpent. I charmed it to sleep by naming over it my Father’s name, the name of the next in rank, and that of my mother, the Queen of the East. I seized the Pearl, and turned to repair home to my Father. Their filthy and impure garment I put off, and left it behind in their land, and directed my way that I might come to the light of our homeland, the East.

My letter which had awakened me I found before me on my way; and as it had awakened me with its voice, so it guided me with its light that shone before me, and with its voice it encouraged my fear, and with its love it drew me on. … (Then, as he approached his homeland his parents sent out to him his robe of glory and his mantle.) And I stretched toward it and took it and decked myself with the beauty of its colors. And I cast the royal mantle about my entire self. Clothed therein, I ascended to the gate of salutation and adoration. I bowed my head and adored the splendor of my Father who had sent it to me, whose commands I had fulfilled as he too had done what he promised. …He received me joyfully, and I was with him in his kingdom….

As you contemplate this story, seek to identify who or what has been the letter in your life. Who or what circumstances awakened you to your true nature and purpose? Please share your findings.
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* Jonas, Hans., The Gnostic Religion, Boston, Beacon Press, 1958, p. 113f as found in Edward F. Edinger’s Ego and Archetype, Individuation and the Religious Function of the Psyche, [Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1974] 119-121.
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