Night Sea Journey – and Return

“One does not discover new land without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

It is 530 am: birds are singing their hearts out in the park near our home. I can hear the river running. It’s been a wonderfully warm, sunny summer in Glasgow. Usually the rain capital of Scotland, we are being granted heat and warmth for what promises to be a joyous, welcoming Commonwealth Games here in the city.

 I feel vital, alive, engaged – full of gratitude for my sense of well-being. 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. I have referred to this 2001-8 period in several different articles on “Writing from the Twelfth House” : check out ‘Just let me get old, ok?’ if you wish to find out more.

At several points I very nearly drowned – symbolically speaking –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! 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 , 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. I have been back at work now, part-time, for over two years. But I’m still writing!


700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page




10 thoughts on “Night Sea Journey – and Return

  1. Thank you, Anne, for sharing your story and your words of encouragement. I’ve been on my Night Sea Journey since 2008. I’m in that waiting state for whatever comes next. I never gave much thought to words like en-courage-ment until I needed to draw on and pray for courage. I never gave much thought to phrases like “one day at a time” until I felt I was surviving “one minute at a time”. Although I understand that planets don’t “do” anything to us, I’m hoping that Jupiter transiting my 12th house Sun, Venus, Uranus will usher in better times.

  2. Dear Martha yes, I remember what that felt like….but I certainly found when Jupiter transited my 12th House planets the last time it was in Leo, that my faith in life’s meaning, and the sense that I was being helped as I waited in the darkness for things to change, was greatly strengthened. And things do change…but in that minute to minute place, it doesn’t seem as though they ever will. Have you read my article recently published in The Mountain Astrologer called “Contemplating the Twelfth House: an optimist’s take on self-undoing” ? It might well help you to gain a clearer perspective on your journey. Thank you for dropping by.

    1. Yes, that’s how I found you, through the Mt Astrologer article. Wonderfully written and since I am truly a 12th house person, I gravitate towards anyone else who groks what that means. So glad to make your e-quaintance!

      1. A pleasure, Martha – and thank for your kind words re the article. It seems to have ‘hit the spot” for quite a few folk including your good self. I am really happy about that since I really wanted to offer out some positive perspectives from my long drawn out immersion…

        Maybe we should start a 12th House Web support group? That way, we could attend virtually, whilst remaining in hiding!

      2. Excellent idea! A virtual support group sounds fantastic. Sometimes I think the theme for the 12th is “hey — where did everyone go?” I don’t consciously hide out — but this sure has been a solitary life, introspective and not very social, even though Venus, Sun, Juno & Uranus are in Leo in the12th. Mercury’s there too, but in late Cancer. (I think I’ve shared enough — LOL)

  3. Just read TMA article. Finally, something about the 12th house AND 12th house stelliums that I am able to apply to my own experiences. All my planets fit inside 120-degree area, five signs and four houses consecutively — Sun, Mercury, Chiron, Jupiter and Neptune all in tight conjunction in Libra in 12th house. I am just beginning to experience transits of outer planets in opposition to planets in 12th house; tr Uranus opp. Libra planets from June 2011/March 2012 thru Feb 2014; can’t say much about this period except a lingering and persistent ennui. However, based on your article, it is tr Neptune that sets the ball rolling; this opposition won’t begin in my chart until May 2026 (I may be in my dotage by then). In your article you describe a “7-year meltdown”. I feel like my entire life I have had to adjust to/accept/respect that ever present veil of “meltdown” and not being completely committed to or part of the here and now — a stranger in a strange land, not even feeling deeply connected to my family. All my life, esp from early teens on, SLEEP has been my refuge (“withdrawal from the world”). Even now, during my recent retirement, I “wrestle … to act effectively in the face of profound inertia.” Until retirement, the workplace had been my refuge from sleep. (Sounds like a contradiction? Sleep is my refuge, but work is my refuge from sleeping all the time.) Disgusted with “is that all there is,” in 1978 I began keeping a journal, which is presently 32 lengthy volumes and until recently had been a “significant part of what kept me sane.” However, it is no longer the succor it once was. With six planets in air signs, I can’t help thinking myself into a perpetual rut, usually a rut of disappointment (natal Neptune conj Sun?) … But I’m not angry — uh, yes I am 😉

  4. Hi Joyes I’ve just written a long response to your comment and it has disappeared without trace before I could post it! How typical…..I may return to add to this reply – but not tonight, too tired now. Apologies. We have been Neptune-d.
    Many thanks for your heartfelt feedback….and glad my article brought some perspective.

  5. Embracing and weaving both the tangible and the intangible with intelligence and compassion – a worthwhile journey methinks 😉

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