Advice from a Caterpillar

Studies in Alice V, by Marc Edmund Jones

This lesson considers the fifth chapter of Alice in Wonderland and the fifth great principle of wisdom in the Philosophy of Concepts as revealed through the adventures of Alice is that divinity lies in difference. This lesson therefore is the logical development of the points in the preceding lesson, for while the whole static basis of the universe is seen to lie in the actual changelessness of its eternal components so the whole dynamic basis of the All is now to be identified in the essential difference between every one of the eternal components and eery other. This individual difference inherent in every existing thing is familiarly known in such common phenomena as snow flakes and finger prints, no two of which have ever been found alike. Even such wholly mechanical instruments as typewriters and firearms are individual enough for a machine on which a letter has been written or a rifled weapon that has fired a bullet to be identified positively in a court of law. Differentiation is the basis of selfhood because when self is reduced to its very last component essence it is still found to possess the individuality that differentiates it from everything else in the universe. Indeed, this basic difference is its reality in fact and this difference inherent in every self is the tie to divinity. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8) The very thing which distinguishes or identifies God in an essential difference from everything which is not wholly divine is that which equally serves to distinguish or identify the God in man or his divinity, or his difference. Great leaders in life have gained their respective places in the hearts of men because of their essential difference from the led. To attempt to find the one thing held in common that distinguishes leadership is a fruitless search unless generalities are acceptable. While psychoanalysis will state that leadership is that state of being or consciousness that will make possible a focusing of an individual in the libido of the many, or that men will accept a leader because they can see and feel themselves in him, this does not indicate that leaders are like their followers but rather that they are different enough to appeal to that essential and indefinite difference inherent in all men.

Here is the principle of assertion. Self-assertion or recognition of differentiation in self is the fundamental basis of illumination or initiation, and in this is seen the value of dissatisfaction as well as the truth of the statement that all progress in the world has been at the hands of unsatisfied people. The symbolism of this fifth chapter in Alice is interesting therefore in the characterization of the caterpillar. The real or inner self is symbolized by the worm, note Mark 8:48, and also observe the development of the primal streak or wormlike beginning of differentiation in the embryo. Here is an almost senseless contradictoriness. This contrariness of any caterpillar aids it in its gathering to self of physical substance by means of which it will become a butterfly, and the convenient symbolism of the inner self is further borne out in the fact that the true butterfly does not eat but exists through the whole span of its existence aerially or spiritually or in beauty on the vitality it has stored up in worm state. The parody here of Southey's The Old Man's Comforts, in both its essence and as a bit of verse by itself with its parody better known now by far than its original, is in its change from its dignified model a striking and clever presentment of virtue of differentiation or contrariness. The psychoanalyst has much fun with Lewis Carroll at this point because he is unable to see beyond the purely personal factor of the story.

The achievement of imagination in the chapter, or the fifth great scientific anticipation, is the revelation of the principles of endocrinology or the functioning of the ductless glands. These are the mushrooms in the body or the seemingly parasitic interstitial matter that science now knows controls the animal metabolism of higher life. There is a complementary balance in life or growth between the vegetable and animal kingdoms with the vegetable including mineral and the animal including the human in this fundamental polarity of visible or created manifestation, and this is marked by the inbreathing of oxygen and outbreathing of carbon dioxide on the part of higher life and the inbreathing of carbon dioxide and the outbreathing of oxygen on the part of lower or vegetable life. In the plants the chlorophyll of the leaves acting with the aid of sunlight in photosynthesis makes possible the retaining of the carbon as the consciousness agency. Living matter is always a chemical combination of carbon. In the animal organism the endocrine tissue acting with the aid of combustion, heat and oxidation makes possible the utilization of the oxygen as the consciousness agency to support blood vaporization. This is most simply shown in the astonishing revival of the apparent dead by injection of adrenaline or preparation of the substance of the adrenals or ductless glands situated on the kidneys.

The mushrooms possess no chlorophyll and so are parasites in the vegetable kingdom. They are the link leading vegetable matter to animal form and therefore glands in the animal body of animals and human beings are the sustaining and supporting agency of animal form. That a caterpillar should be seated on a mushroom is itself a remarkable bit of inspirational imagining, and that one side of this mushroom should cause Alice to grow and that the other should reduce her in stature is so perfect a picture of the functioning of the anterior and posterior lobes of the pituitary body as to make Alice in Wonderland forever immortal as an achievement in symbolism. Growth and its lack, especially in stature as in acromegaly or giantism except in stature and similar disorders of animal development, is controlled entirely by these two lobes in counterbalance. The hookah or an arrangement to pass smoke through water is an added touch of unwitting genius, for the endocrines alone make possible the entrance of spirit or smoke into sensation or water.

The law of applied psychology or the fifth big idea for the solution of personal problems is brought out here in the technique of wisdom. The serpent that eternally symbolizes wisdom is well defined by the pigeon or the dove, the symbol of the spirit that is Jonah, or by sign or symbol that only Jesus would give. All who eat eggs get understanding from the germ or essence of the egg or seed of things. In this incident the phenomenon of the use of knowledge is made clear and is symbolized by the right and left hands. The right is the conscious activity of being leading to specialization or growing small whereas the left is the subconscious leading to universalization or growing large. As good measure in this rich symbolism the student of numerology will find much of interest in Alice's various dimensions. The student must learn to EAT SOMETHING and wrap himself around substance. If man will eat of the spirit and of the earth, or subconscious and conscious matter alternately until balance in understanding is struck, he will be able to master all problems.