About imaginal cells & future
The people of this world are like the three butterflies in front of a candle’s flame.
The first one went closer and said: “I know about love.”
The second one touched the flame lightly with his wings and said: “I know how love’s fire can burn.”
The third one threw himself into the heart of the flame and was consumed.
He alone knows what true love is.
Twenty years ago, I was very focused on death and bereavement. I wrote several books about loss and bereavement, gave presentations and organised workshops about coping with grief after the loss of a beloved one. Crisis intervention at schools and counselling was also part of this dealing with emotions. Now I can see better than ever before how this is all related to my life theme of healing to wholeness. If it is truth that people teach what they most need to learn, than I understand now why I did what I used to do.
I was grateful to use the metaphor of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross about the caterpillar and the butterfly. EKR was a Swiss psychiatrist and a pioneer in the work with dying and grieving people. She’s also famous for her five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She used the metaphor of the caterpillar and the butterfly to explain what happens when somebody dies. This image gave a kind of peace of mind for terminal patients and their family.
During the dark years after the divorce and the diagnosis of brain tumour, I wrote Land of Mourning as a synthesis of everything I had said and thaught, written and shared in the years before. It was easy writing, as I was living and experiencing in depth all stages, aspects and emotions of grief. Writing is for me a therapy. Healing words create healing toughts in my head. Every positive idea was like a small candle in my dark head. Instead of fighting against darkness, I could allow little lights to lighten my head, to relieve my mind.
In these years of healing to wholness, the metaphor of the caterpillar and butterfly suddenly appeared again at the end of ‘Humanity Ascending’, a program of Barbara Marx Hubbard, where she referred to Norie Huddle and the imaginal cells. If the doctor in Brussels caused a first shift of consciousness, the story of the imaginal cells created a second shift. It litteraly shifted my perception, as if I became another person. And now, it is impossible to think and talk about personal and transformation without the imaginal cells. I can feel them in my own DNA and recognise them in other people.
The story of the caterpillar and the butterfly is a metaphor for our own human metamorphosis. Let us look at the caterpillar as a living being, as a living system with organs and an immune system. Every organ knows exactly its purpose and how to contribute to the caterpillar. Every cell knows exactly its purpose and how to contribute to its specific organ. The immune system is the guard and protects the caterpillar against threats. The immune system wants to keep the caterpillar as safe and strong as possible.
Interesting to see how new and different cells start to emerge within the body of the caterpillar. These cells are so completely different from the other cells of the caterpillar, they litteraly resonate at a different level and don’t belong to a specific organ, that the immune system of the caterpillar sees them as enemies and destroys them. However these new cells keep on emerging imperturbably. They are called ‘imaginal cells’ and contain a blueprint of the butterfly. They are messangers of a new reality within reach. They are the omen of realised potential of the caterpillar.
The immune system doesn’t understand a word of the language of imaginal cells. The caterpillar seems to be ravenous and voracious all the time and is mainly focus on eating everything he can consume. Impossible to teach him to fly. After the ultimate saturation the caterpillar’s body is so greatly increased in volume that he threatens to burst out of its skin and he can hardly move. With a last effort, he ends upside down, attached to a branch. That seems to be the end of the caterpillar, while he becomes a chrysalis.
As we know, every end is a new beginning and every crisis is a new birth. During the consumer life of the caterpillar close to the ground, the immune system is in charge to keep the caterpillar caterpillar. But the imaginal cells keep on emerging, more and more activated, and they start to survive. The immune system isn’t fast and agile enough to destroy them. The imaginal cells start to connect and cluster. They become new entities in the caterpillar, called imaginal discs.
The energy in the caterpillar starts to change. As non-stop consumer the whole system becomes less motile and more limited in its freedom to chrysalis. This situation weakens the position of the immune system and the imaginal discs starts growing and multiplying. A growing awareness of butterfly fills the old system of the caterpillar that seems to belong to the past. By connection and collaboration the imaginal discs become sources of inspiration and they guide the process of transformation within the chrysalis.
It is unthinkable that the imaginal cells in this process would start fighting againt the immune system. That would create separation instead of connection, it would undermine and possibly destroy the immune system and the caterpillar himself before its stage of chrysalis. Imaginal cells stay active and positive by connecting and collaborating. Imaginal discs give them wings and inspire them to fly and fulfil their potential. Every imaginal cell is not just one cell of the new butterfly. Every imaginal cell contains the whole butterfly in one cell.
This story is so amazing that it was for me the biggest eye-opener ever. It opened the eyes of my heart and soul, and suddenly I realised my potential as butterfly in my existance as a caterpillar. The more I progressed in my healing process, the more I could feel a growing awareness as me being an imaginal cell. It was like tuning into a new wavelength of an unknown radiostation. Not completely unknown, because it felt like remembering who I really was, who I had always been, the real me being me.
Again inside became a mirror of outside. By perceiving myself as an emerging imaginal cell, I discovered people as imaginal cells everywhere around me and in the big world. People with who I resonated at the same frequency. In these deep connections, we shared more inspiration than information. Presence with empathy and resilience became an evidence and gave wings to fly. I could see with more clarity than before the potential in other people and in myself.
I also met lonely and sometimes desperate imaginal cells, who could hardly survive the pressure of the immune system of the caterpillar company they were working for. Single imaginal cells are an easy prey for the immune system that only wants to keep the caterpilar as status quo. Every single new idea about butterfly possibilities, they don’t understand it, they can’t speak that language, they even see it as a treath. What can you do as single imaginal cell in a caterpillar system? In many conversations with lonely imaginal cells, we often saw two options.
Either you stay as imaginal cell in a caterpillar system, and you try to connect with other imaginal cells. Once you found and recognized them, it’s easy to connect and collaborate. Once you are in an energy of togetherness, you create an unfolding field of energy that is not so easy to be destroyed by the immune system. By feeding, supporting and inspiring each other, imaginal cells can become a stronger vision of the future, a clearer promise of fulfilled potential.
Or you leave as individual imaginal cell the caterpilar as self-protection. If you don’t do that in time, you might become affected by burn-out (by lack of energy balance) or by depression (lack of purpose and meaning). These and other diseases are always important signals. It is up to us to see and understand them, to come to the right conclusions. Maybe it is not about right or wrong. The question is always: are we ready to see where it is all about?
I also met people who were disappointed and frustrated imaginal cells. They lost their blueprint of butterfly and became lost cells of the caterpillar, swallowed by the low to the ground consuming mentality of the caterpillar. Others lost their blueprint identity, became exasperated and started fighting against the immune system with focus on self-interest. The more they connected with other frustrated cells, the more they created separation and became cancer cells, in the end threatening and destroying the immune system, the caterpillar and themselves.