Verses 23–24, 26: “And (Herod) swore an oath to her, ‘Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.’ She [daughter] went out and said to her mother [Herodias], ‘What shall I ask for? She replied, ‘The head of John the Baptist.’…The king was greatly distressed, but….could not bring himself to refuse her.”
As I reflected on the story of the beheading of John the Baptist, I was struck by the symbolic significance of each character as an aspect of our psyche. The drama that unfolds in the story plays out repeatedly within us. We, with our egos (Herod), sense the importance and truth of a voice that is a messenger (John the Baptist) of the Self/God Within
We know something from our gut, but it makes us uncomfortable. It challenges the status quo of our life, as John the Baptist challenged Herod’s marriage to Herodias. We find ways to keep it at bay. Herod imprisoned John the Baptist.
We “imprison” the messengers of the Self/God Within with patterns of body armoring (muscular contractions) that mirror our emotional and mental response to life. The muscle tension stops the flow of the libido/life force throughout our body-mind and causes stagnation physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Our life force and Divine Spirit become imprisoned.
We can identify where and how we tighten by increasing our body awareness and beginning to dialogue with the contractions to release the stuck emotion. Common manifestations of “imprisonment” include chronic body tension and pain, repeating old patterns of behavior, reliving past events in our mind, obsessing, denying the obvious, and lack of energy to move towards what we want. The states of consciousness present in these behaviors will show themselves to us if we look and listen with an open mind and heart towards our inner knowing. When the seed desire or need is seen, a new pattern can form.
The law of inertia dictates the set patterns stay in place until a stronger energy of united desire and intellect challenges them. In the story, Herodias symbolizes the set pattern or status quo. She was offended by John the Baptist and wanted to do away with him. So it is with our learned or set patterns! They seem to work against our hearing the voice of the Self/God Within. The ego, as Herod, may without awareness offer the moment for the killing off of the messenger of the Self—the beheading.
Beheading symbolizes dissociation. Carl Jung stated dissociation is one of the basic mechanisms of psyche. Dissociation can be simply defined as the separation of the head and the body. The head with its intellect and imagination gets separated from our instinctive knowing, desires, and felt experiences. It is as if we are split apart. The two do not inform one another or create together.
We may see what is happening, as Herod was deeply distressed about the request for John the Baptist’s head, but we go along with it. The dissociation has usually been reinforced by past relationships, and our needs for belonging and safety that get attached to pleasing others. As Herod, we may be “greatly distressed,” but we go with the “beheading.”
Take a few minutes to compassionately identify where “beheading” is occurring in your psyche. Look for the relationships, behaviors, attitudes, etc. where there is a tightening in your body and mind that results in incongruence between your outer expression and your inner experience. Ask and listen for the voice of the Self/God Within to lead you to remembering the innate flow of your life force. Identify how you can move in sync with your Inner Divine Spirit.