Liberating the Ancestors

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Liberating the Ancestors

What follows is an inquiry into the nature of life and who we are, not by contemplating life before we die, but by imagining life after death.

As an only child, I had a wonderfully close and loving relationship with my mother, who loved me more than anything. I knew and felt that she always wanted the best for me. Having a small family, I remember as a kid my parents and I visiting my relatives almost every weekend, since my mother really wanted me to develop relationships with my extended family so that I would have a family after she and my father were gone.

Without going into the whole story (I’ve written a book about this – Awakened by Darkness: When Evil becomes your Father), at a certain point in my life my family catastrophically imploded to the point where at the time of my mother’s death, we barely had any relationship at all. It was as if something had come between us, as if my loving mother had not only been taken away from me, but had turned against me. To say this was unbelievably painful is truly an understatement. I would never have believed what took place if it hadn’t happened to me. The incredible love between us made what played out between us that much more tragic.

To make a long story incredibly short, it wound up that my father was a really sick man—extremely emotionally disturbed—and I was one of the primary recipients of him acting out his unhealed abuse (my mother and his sister being the others). As if under my father’s sinister spell, my mother aligned with and supported my father, seeing me, once I began expressing the pain I was in from my father’s abuse, as being the one who was sick. In my family I became what is known as “the identified patient.”

At a certain point psychiatry entered the scene, who was more than happy to concretize in stone my alleged illness by labeling me with a diagnosis – thereby affirming to my parents that I indeed was the sick one in the family. At the same time this served to protect my father from his sickness. In being allied with my father, and having enlisted psychiatry to support their point of view that I was the sick one, my mother legitimized my father to the rest of the relatives. In my parent’s—and my extended family’s—mind, the situation was clear: If only Paul would stop blaming his father, denying his illness and simply take his medication, the problem would be solved.

As you can only imagine, this process became a total nightmare for me regarding my relationship with my mother, which included not just the person of my actual mother, but the image of my mother inside of my head. Over the subsequent years it has been a real challenge for me to come to terms with the fact that my beloved mother unwittingly played a key role in enabling the abuse from my father to play out the way it did – my father could never have gotten away with what he did without my mother siding with and covering for him.

My mother died in 1999, my father died in 2002. Since their deaths, I’ve been banished, scapegoated and excommunicated by the extended family, the very same relatives who my parents and I would visit almost every weekend during my childhood. Contrary to the best intentions of my mother, who so wanted me to have a family after she and my father were gone, in protecting my father and pathologizing me, she ironically played the key role in ensuring that I had no connection with any remaining family member after my parents died.

By siding with my father’s view of things, my mother invalidated me and my experiences of his abuse – turning me, in the eyes of the rest of the family, into a psychological “in-valid,” i.e., someone whose perceptions have no currency. I was seen as the “crazy” one in the family, and my mother played a key role in keeping this dynamic in place. As if enacting a Shakespearian tragedy, my mother had betrayed her beloved only child.

Since my mother’s passing, one of the most painful things I’ve ever felt is to imagine my beloved mother—wherever she is now—realizing her complicity in her only child’s abuse. Since her death, the sense I have when I tune into my mother—in my imagination—is that she feels overwhelming guilt, shame, pain and self-hatred for the role she played in betraying her only child. It is as if she is called to look at and come to terms with one of a mother’s worst nightmares. And yet, recently I’ve noticed that my imagination is morphing, taking on a different form.

As a direct result of having been forced to deal with the suffering that resulted from the abuse in my family, I have over a number of years created a body of work—articles, books, interviews, etc.—that I never would have been able to bring forth without the abuse that I suffered. This is to say that my creative output was spawned by the very abuse in which my mother played such a key part. As I imagine into and amplify this process, at a certain point I notice that, as my work reaches and inspires more people around the world, the internalized image that I have in my mind of my mother is transforming.

My mother now seems relieved, lighter, as if a burden has been lifted due to this gradual turn of events, or so I easily find myself imagining. She seems proud of me, and actually seems happy, not to mention over-filled to the point of out-flowing with love. It is as if she, in her core essence (her soul)—out of her incredible love for me—had chosen to play the incredibly painful and unpopular role in my life that she did, in order to help me find myself. In other words, as I’ve managed, over the course of decades, to transform my situation and extract the blessings hidden within the abuse and find my true vocation, this has seemingly—at least in my imagination—concurrently helped to liberate my mother from her nightmare.

The question naturally arises: Is my imagination of my mother actually affecting whatever state she is in right now, or is this just my own wish fulfillment—mere fantasy—my own active imagination gone wild? In other words, is my feeling that my mother is experiencing redemption simply my imagination with no correlate to “reality,” or am I genuinely picking up, tuning into and intuiting a process that is happening at a deeper level of reality? Is there a difference? Or am I creating and participating—via my creative imaginationin this whole process?

In any case, it’s as if my letting go of clinging onto a static and fixed idea of what played out in my family—and who my mother was (and is)—is seemingly giving my mother the space she needs to become free and continue her soul’s journey. As an added bonus, my not holding onto or solidifying my mother in her seemingly negative role is helping me to heal too. It’s helping me to forgive – both her and me.

I’ve noticed that holding a solidified image of my mother in my mind is an unmediated reflection of my own solidified—and stuck—state in that very moment. As I become more spacious in envisioning who my mother was, the role that she played, and who I imagine her to be right now – my spacious attitude has a direct, instantaneous and expansive effect on my own image and experience of myself.

It’s as if there is some sort of bridge and connection between those of us still incarnate and those we love who have passed on to the other side that continues to grow and evolve after death. Though contrary to the pervasive reductionist, materialist mindset of our culture (where only what is quantifiable is real), the notion that there is a relationship between life and the afterlife is something I imagine that many of us who have lost someone whom we love feel to be true from our own experience. It’s as if my letting go of my fixed, concretized image of who my mother is—a form of blessing her—constellates her to reciprocally bestow her blessing upon me. In this process it is as if the grace of the universe has found space to come full circle and make itself real in time through our love for each other.

In any case, deep in my heart my mother and I have returned to our loving relationship. If this is just my imagination, I celebrate it.


A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the author of Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father(Awaken in the Dream Publishing, 2015), Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013) and The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis(Authorhouse, 2006). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years. He is the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. Please visit Paul’s website You can contact Paul at; he looks forward to your reflections.


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14 Responses to Liberating the Ancestors

  1. Interestingly, we seem to have had polar opposite experience with our parents — and the subsequent effects on our lives and our work. Hopefully, you’ll come to the same place with your father as you have with your mother. Perhaps, he even gave you the greater gift! I know now that my mother did. (Actually, in my case, they were both un-healed and un-integrated, each on their own way, which, of course, made for a very co-dependent relationship and dysfunctional family despite their best intentions.

    Wounds into blessings, indeed!

  2. I have been working with a retired man for the past three years – trying to help him understand his dreams and visions. He suffered from psychologically abusive parents that also distorted his image of what mother and father should be. In the past few months his dreams showed the parental images becoming more friendly. I understood this to mean that the wounds he received (if the bullets are in your legs – Jung said the wounded individual had to deal with it) were being reconciled. As the unconscious put it, “Thou art thine own mother and father now.” Thus, this man begins to individuate and like this find his way into a world view that goes beyond the collective.

    In terms of ancestral healing there is such a thing a quantum nonlocality in quantum physics. “Since matter and psyche cannot be so different from each other” as Jung put it – this means that your parents are benefiting from your magnum opus because you have psychically gone deep enough to reach psychophysical nonlocality. This is at a level of parapsychology where “spooky action at a distance – Einstein” is possible. It’s a connection to Jung’s notion of a “Point A” effect (of the unextended intensity thought to have unleashed the Big Bang – a creation event that produced our universe). What happens when we psychically enter the unus mundus (the one world, the psychophysical realm, the magic unified world of Hermetic alchemy) as in meditation using passive imagination has the potential to effect the everywhere always; i.e., the entire universe and even the Beyond as if from a psychic “big bang” effect.

    Dr. Remo F Roth talks about this in his book “Return of the World Soul Part II” (2012).

  3. This is a great example of what we do for each other out of love. Soul contracts can be heartbreaking…

    “It is as if she, in her core essence (her soul)—out of her incredible love for me—had chosen to play the incredibly painful and unpopular role in my life that she did, in order to help me find myself. In other words, as I’ve managed, over the course of decades, to transform my situation and extract the blessings hidden within the abuse and find my true vocation, this has seemingly—at least in my imagination—concurrently helped to liberate my mother from her nightmare.”

    Thank you for sharing your path.

  4. …….blessings and thank you paul…and the cosmic song …for this beautiful fuel to the fire of transformation in my own lineage experience….. life is such an bless*ed mystery and joy at times….ho….elanra

  5. Am I looking in a mirror or what? All I wanted to do as a child was dance and used to skip football practice and get the train, alone, at the tender age of 8-ish to the main street of Auckland and Da Katipa’s ballet classes. One day my father caught me practising, raised his hand and smacked me to the ground and said ‘Play Rugby you little queen’. Devastated, I never went back and it was not till my adult years and decision to become a full time actor/singer and yes ‘dancer’ that I dreamed up a job with NZ’s biggest theatre company – the Mercury Theatre. Soon after – I was chosen
    to dance THE OVERTURE with ‘THE DANCERS’ to Sweet Charity and remember taking a moment to say-
    ‘Well Dad — look at your little queen now’. Through my luck in having some very good channelling friends, unsolicited one night I received a message from my father who said he was so sorry, and that he didn’t realise what a sensitive child I was! I have since well forgiven the violence and alcohol, especially after I quit drinking 2 years ago and had a meg-breakdown last year which found me spending 12 weeks in a psych unit. So Dispelling Wetiko is nearly finished and I look forward to Awaken( in more ways than one’ Paul Levy – I must have been due some wonderful positive karma for us to have found each other. I am still keen to explore the poss of you coming Down Under to NZ and Australia. We need you!

  6. Thank you, Paul, for this article. I appreciate how you share with all of us. I recently has a cranial therapy session with an awesome person. I thought I was going in for body work but much to my surprise it quickly morphed into very deep ancestry work. I saw all of the women on my Mother’s side lined up in the way they came into the world. My great grandmother was my cheerleader. She said” If Noelle wants to do this work today we are going to do it with and for her.” I proceeded to forgive and embrace the entire line. I ended with a profound realization of how IMPORTANT I was here and now. I was able to take my place in the lineage with my head held high, knowing I was the facilitator of much needed clearing.

  7. BEAUTIFUL and as usual so thorough and clearly/Authentically expressed!!! Ah!…and to be able to have this shift with “abusers” who are still breathing in form on this planet…..

    THANK YOU again and again Paul!

  8. I feel that what you have written about speaks to both the personal and the collective, in that it shows the change that happens when one’s perspective changes. I see this affects the pattern within the collective mind.

    Briefly, I had a father whose attitude was, whatever happened was never good enough. There was never a celebration of life…life was lived from the state of lack.

    One night as I was falling asleep, years after he passed, I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling come over me. Without thought, I simply said, “I forgive you.” I actually saw him move into God more deeply. I was unable to move with the shock of what I had witnessed. What I knew was, that whatever that forgiveness was about, it set my father and myself free, even though I had forgiven my father many times before this evening. It was like a level of bondage released both of us. Through this experience I knew that how I perceived him affected both of us, that everything is interconnected.

    So, thank you Paul for sharing your gift.

  9. Great article. There is a problem with understanding one’s family dynamics with the clarity you provide. The problem is that in order to solve it, for yourself, there has to be a radical departure from the status quo. In other words, you have to pack your gear and get the hell out of there. This is impossible for most people. It is also just as impossible to effect healing within the family. People don’t want healing. They demand their own idea of reality, one that coincides with their personal comfort zone.

  10. Thank you, Paul. You’ve opened a long closed door in my heart with regard to my own father.

  11. Paul…If there is life after death your mother must love you beyond what words can describe. I certainly think so.
    As I sense the intensity of your love for her, I’m so reminded of why I can’t dismiss existence as “just a fluke.”
    In my case, I wish I had been a better son. This is something I have agonized over. Nonetheless, she has my whole heart. Thanks for sharing. David G

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