Swimming in a secret sea

“One does not discover new land

without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

It is nearly Spring. It feels at last with March arriving that our long cold winter is almost over. I feel vital, alive, engaged – full of gratitude for my sense of well-being. Setting up and running “Writing from the Twelfth House” from mid-2008 has been very good fun –and most rewarding: this wonderful comment from “Lawrence” came in via email two days ago: ” I really enjoy the spiritual serenity your Blog site exudes.. … your site is a healing oasis….”

Other feedback of a similar nature has affirmed that the site is doing what I hoped it might. So my wish is that those of you out there currently going through dark times may take heart from what I write today. Life has its profound rhythms and cycles, which at times clash brutally with how the Ego thinks it should be.

Going through my “night sea journey”, to use Jung’s terminology, took seven long years. At several points I very nearly drowned, in darkness without any apparent navigation points. But the steadfast love of those closest held my head just above the cold dark sea, and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust, but which I cannot name. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another. Every time, the deepest message was  Hold on. Try not to be afraid. Be patient. This is necessary – but it will pass. You will be all right. And I am all right, all right and deeply enriched.

Night Sea Journey
Night Sea Journey

Perspective on a prolonged ordeal which removed me from the world shifted and changed as the journey went on. I reached the heart of my own darkness, understood it, accepted how my life had been both blighted and enriched by conditions in place from the beginning. Quite quickly after that act of acceptance, I returned to being well again.

I recognise now that a lengthy retreat from the world was requisite for the kind of person I am – it is not necessary for most people to go through a mid-life summing up of such drastic dimensions, thank goodness! Having practised as an astrologer for nearly twenty years, I could see from my horoscope, when I was well enough and brave enough to reflect on it again, that periodic bouts of retreat seem to be part of my necessity. One of the great advantages to being an older person is that one has several decades to look back on, in attempting to make sense of one’s own patterns.

Gradually regaining the strength, energy and inclination to lead a “normal” life again, along with a profound sense of gratitude that my good health has returned, I am left awestruck at the sheer power, depth and mystery of the human psyche. The sense I already had of being woven into a meaningful cosmos – tiny thread though I am – has been amplified and deepened by many of the experiences I had whilst on my ‘night sea journey’. These experiences certainly challenged my rational, sceptical self. The added perspective gained by wide reading in spirituality, religion, mysticism, science and cosmology enables me to sum up what I now believe in one sentence:

We live in a meaningful, multi-dimensional cosmos where anything is possible.

The last couple of years of the retreat were spent in a state which I recognised from before, which one might call liminal: not quite having emerged from one life phase, not quite having entered another. This felt uncomfortable and frustrating at one level. But at another, it offered an opportunity to practise the art of trusting to the unfolding process of life, or Spirit’s call, to put it another way; knowing that, in due course, the shape of the next phase would become more clearly defined, the time to take action become evident. As indeed it has. Writing feels like my post-career vocation!

During that liminal time between 2006 and 2008, I felt inspired to begin work on a personal memoir. Not wanting to write an autobiography, I did want very much to track my spiritual development from early years. Thus I recorded key developmental points which remained vivid and significant in an unfolding process set out chronologically, but episodically.When the time is right I will tie it all together into a short book. In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of those episodes, which might very well trigger my readers’ own reflections on the early influences shaping their spiritual lives.

Here is a taste of the first one, which I will publish on the site next week:


i) Grandpa Donald

It was a very stormy day, as is frequently the case in the Outer Hebrides in winter. The ferry was tossing alarmingly, the passengers were very scared. Some were lying being sick in the toilets. Others, white faced, were on the cafeteria floor, clinging to the table legs for comfort and support.

Grandpa Donald’s nerves were steady…..

(note: inspiration for the title of this post was taken from a book which I read a very long time ago but whose haunting title I have never forgotten: “Swimmer in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle

– and the beautiful photo illustrating the post comes from http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusvk/166233536/)


850 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


6 thoughts on “Swimming in a secret sea

  1. Oh Anne, I so enjoyed reading this and I really loved and identified with –

    “and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust, but which I cannot name. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another.”

    – You put a deep experience (that I share) into such succint and beautiful words…thank you.

    With my big intercepted 12th house containing both my taurus moon and my gemini mars, I share a need for retreat, for solitude and my own space. Luckily I have engineered my life so that I can have it daily.

    When my life was busy and full of bustle with no time alone, I used to have periodic bouts of illness (My 12th house moon is opposite meptune in the 6th) which forced the retreat and isolation that I subconsciously needed.

    As you say, age and hindsight are so valuable in understanding ourselves and our own needs and patterns.

    I really enjoy your writing Anne and am looking forward to more! 🙂

  2. Dear Susannah
    thank you so much for your affirmative and insightful comments and support of my work. It has taken me a very long time fully to face – and find a constructive way to live out – the deep paradox of Virgo Rising with five planets in Leo in the Twelfth House: at one time my life became too public, and the stress of that exposure plus lengthy family crisis produced a plunge into the Underworld that took seven years to process. So now, like you, I have built in retreat and solitude as a key part of every week. Hence ‘Writing from the Twelfth House’ !

  3. Shoreacres, Task at Hand, pointed me in the direction of your blog…..and after some wandering, I landed here and found this essay.
    Out of all your writings, this was the one I chose to read first….& this was the essay I so needed to read at this time of my life– I’m a bit amazed – incredible timing and a gift from the stars & your hand I suppose : )

  4. Dear Evy

    thank you so much for visiting my blog and for telling me of the importance of this piece of writing to you. I am glad both to have helped you and to have had my reasons for setting up this site affirmed once more. Do keep reading – there may be more that you will like!



  5. Enjoyed your astrological insights in other posts and this one as well. Oneness is all there is really. Losing a definitely bounded sense of “self” can be scary but once one has crossed the threshold (the Moon in Tarot) it is luminous and free, beyond imagining.

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