Discern Meaning in an Age of Madness


Simon Heathcote
5 min readMay 30, 2023
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

‘When all else is gone and there is nothing left to lose, then what is left and what cannot be completely lost or even thrown away is truly one’s self.’ Michael Meade

We are book-ended by images and symbols that provide us with clues and hints to the meaning of our lives.

Little is spelled out for the incarnating child. We each have to find our own way. Luckily, the old gods throw us a bone now and then, but we still have to hunt down its meaning.

If we are extremely fortunate, we might birth into a community of wise elders, or receive loving holding by healthy adults to smooth our transition through the trials of childhood and youth into adulthood.

But that’s a rarity, particularly now in a world of spin and disinformation when most people are being thrown into a sea filled with great white sharks, if not crocodiles. The rise in the mortality rate tells us a story that few wish to read.

Truth is we have been plunged into a global initiatory cycle, caught in the washing machine of spin. This tells us we are at the end of an epoch heading for the next.

The old ways are gone, futures uncertain as the Earth quakes and re-arranges the templates of our lives. Many predict famine in Europe as 3000 Dutch farmers are ordered to surrender their land to the EU and never farm again.

You may be surprised to know The Netherlands is the second biggest food producer in the world. Think about what that means.

One common position to take amid initiatory circumstances is simply to minimize what’s going on or pretend they are not happening.

Denial can only work for a time, its walls inevitably pierced by incursions from reality.

Besides, whole worlds can exist side by side, one never knowing the other. Somewhere near you exists a sleazy world of drugs or criminality that never crosses your path.

You live as if such things do not exist, until a collapse in boundaries — egoic or geographic — when the sea comes rushing in. With therapy clients, it is often the waters of emotion breaking the bounds of defence that has kept an ersatz identity in place.

We might extend the idea to migrants flooding national borders as all worlds roll into one, precisely the intention of those pushing the end of national sovereignty and a one world order under the control of the few.

For that you will be required to embrace digital identities and 15-minute cities, which will be presented as offering freedom but are really prison bars.

We need to look carefully into initiatory circumstances at both individual and collective levels to read the true story of our lives. Refusing to look or engage leads to downfall.

I was lucky to have a life replete with symbolic initiations pulling me in to investigate the deeper meaning of my life: both parents born on the Virgin Mary’s birthday, September 8, when the British queen just died; near death from pneumonia on my third birthday when I was catapulted outside of time and space; and being thumped in the stomach when I was ten by a stepfather whose deep envy was one vein of a shattering childhood.

That blow told me something of the patriarchy and in some sense prepared me for these times.

From that point on, I knew I had been blindfolded from the truth and sent spinning, but it started an adventure I wouldn’t be without.

I discovered the Via Negativa is the mystic’s path, where God the Father is only known in his absence.

In short, I was left peering into the void for the meaning that could not be found in the world among duplicitous adults too ashamed to face themselves or tell the truth.

The blows of life are often the initiatory circumstances that propel the hero’s journey, a descent into the wilderness where we must discern meaning in order to survive.

It is not uncommon to die in such circumstances as the soul is unready to bear the trials and tribulations laid out. It is no surprise that many are now leaving the planet.

Yet if we can band together and make some sense of what is going on while offering mutual support, we may survive to the end of the story when the kingdom once abundant is restored.

As the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, finding a sense of meaning in even the worst circumstances is essential for survival.

That meaning can even be the ultimate discovery that we are in a divine and often terrible experiment where life itself is the only meaning. I think that is what I was being shown 57 years ago, but was too young to comprehend.

It was a lesson in emptiness, the stripping away of everything until, as Michael Meade wrote, all that is left is truly one’s self.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that all these years later I am drawn to non-duality, the no-thingness that upholds everything. To discover you are not a thing, neither subject nor object is deeply terrifying until assimilated.

I saw Meade, a superb mythologist and story teller just once, when I was working as a cook in the kitchen of a retreat house in 1996, but his book Men and the Water of Life made sense of what had happened in my young life and pointed up the nobility we all carry deep within the soul, however hidden and betrayed.

‘What was abandoned by others remains part of the genuine self and cannot be abandoned by me,’ writes Meade, ‘rather, it comes out in times of loss. And what stays secret inside everyone is that somewhere he is a king, somehow she is a queen.’

You may well hear talk of reclaiming one’s sovereignty in this dark age, rather than handing it over to those who would steal it away.

For the wicked stepsisters, magicians and dark queens of the old stories exist now as faceless bureaucrats and oligarchs.

And you are no less under threat than Sleeping Beauty or children entering an ancient forest from which they may never emerge.

That’s why it pays to heed the old tales, look back to symbols and initiation in your own life, and the very real dangers coming down the road.

Here a former president of The Club of Rome reveals the shocking truth of banal evil happening today. He asks everyone to stand up. We would be wise to take heed instead of burying our heads.


If you would like to subscribe to my weekly blog go to:



Simon Heathcote

Psychotherapist writing on the human journey for some; irreverently for others; and poetry for myself; former newspaper editor. Heathcosim@aol.com