An analysis of The Hymn of the Pearl using
the Four Stages of the Soul’s Journey:
Via Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa
The Hymn of the Pearl offers a way of understanding what could be called the soul’s journey with the help of the model of four stages of Creation Spirituality. One of my old teachers, Matthew Fox, promoted a model of The Four Paths of Creation Spirituality (1) which I believe is essentially a meta-archetypal process of growth and transformation. It is also offers an invaluable map of the four stages of the journey of the world soul, as told in the creation story of Sophia.
Referring to Matthew Fox’s book, Original Blessing, his website says this.
“The sacredness of creation and of our role in it is a starting point—what the mystical tradition calls the Via Positiva, the path of joy and delight, awe and gratitude. The Via Negativa is the past of darkness and silence and also of suffering and of letting go and letting be. The Via Creativa is the path of creativity. And the Via Transformativa is the path of justice and compassion. All four paths constitute an adult spiritual journey. Each feeds the others. “
Here are the four stages to help us step into this story of the Prince and the Pearl.
Via Positiva represents the bounty of our beginnings, our origins, that offers support and nurturance for a life to come. The young prince is found in his well-endowed home base. “In the wealth and the glories of my Up-bringers, I was delighting, from the east our home…” begins the Hymn of the Pearl (ref). This is the place that every child deserves to find themselves in at birth, where they are loved, valued, and given the right emotional nourishment, as they are protected from the harsh challenges of the bigger world. This is the King and Queen archetypes at their best, where “source” is an ever-giving wellspring of divine order and nurturance. In this fourfold model, this is called the Via Positiva, or the Way of an original and inherent state of grace.
But then, from this place of origins, there is a descent, the Via Negativa. The Prince matures to the point where he is ready to step outside the nest, where it is natural and important for him to explore beyond the safety and comfort of his home. “I left the East and went down.” In the three fold stages of rites of passage, this is known as the separation. In Jung’s model of psycho-spiritual alchemy, this is the falling apart, called nigredo, and the dropping into the depths of one’s soul. It was here that the Prince gets lost. “I forgot that I was a King’s son, and became a slave to their king. I forgot all concerning the pearl for which my parents had sent me; and for the weight of their victuals I sank down into a deep sleep.”
Then the Prince goes through the process of remembering. Here, the hard knocks of incarnation, of being in a body in this world point us to our higher purpose, beyond just merely coping with what life delivers to us. This is the way of Creativa, of inner sourcing, where no one can rescue the person but themselves. This is where the vision comes to the vision quester. This is where the energies of creative effort emerge from out of the blues song of hardship and into the power of resiliency. In this phase, retreating into a place of victimhood with an immature blame on all that isn’t just right for us will result in a failure to move progress through this developmental process. This lesson was an important one on my own journey. Indeed, many a prince and princess have gotten caught in the Negativa, where the to push into the Creativa was so difficult. The Creativa is where we find ways of expressing the deepest part of ourselves, where others can then be moved by our expressions. What is our calling? What skill am I needing to develop that can be like an instrument to my unique heart song? “I began to charm him, the terrible loud-breathing Serpent. I lulled him to sleep and to slumber, chanting o’er him…” This is the big initiatory challenge, to bring forth what is within.
The final stage of this cycle of change is called Via Transformativa. This is where we reap the ultimate rewards of our efforts. “And I snatched up the Pearl, and turned to the House of my Father.” This is where the caterpillar breaks out of its cocoon in its transformed state. This story of the Pearl includes a theme of how the Prince returned to his home where he was reunited with his fabulous coat of many colors, his “Glorious Robe”, a theme that is constitutes one of the great mysteries and treasures of this esoteric tradition. The key to this final stage is that we can’t will this to happen, as opposed to what is required of us in the Creativa phase. If we try to force it to come to us, it only further distances us from this ultimate achievement. Rather, it is in our presence, in our refined consciousness with a calmed rambunctious mind where the doors of this great treasure might open for us.
At the same time, this stage brings us to a place of action, where we are faced with a new task which is to bring the gift of our transformation into the world, to help others, and to be an agent of change in the society at large. Ghandi and Martin Luther King were such wonderful role models for this as we are also being called to stand up for collective human transformation, as our soul song neutralizes the control and tyranny of the fierce dragon.