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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Self Worth – CREDO CLXIV


This is a topic every human being seems to have to come to terms with! And it is a tricky one for the ego (who we think we are and bears our name) to deal with because if we have a strong sense of self worth, we may feel guilty of inflation, and if we have a lack of it, we feel defeated and useless and unappreciated. So what is the solution?

There is one! Jung likened the psyche to a mandala, a circle, and every circle has a center and a circumference.

  • Every circle can be made bigger or smaller.
  • The center generates the circle.
  • That center is the SELF; it is a hole in the wheel through which       Spirit shines and gives us life.

The first dream I had of Jung, years ago, we were walking in a wood. He had a cane and poked it in the ground making a circular hole. Then he remarked in German, “Ein Loch ist auch eine Mandala.” [A hole is also a mandala.] Needless to say, I didn’t get the meaning right off, but it made sense later on. That image is very helpful, because if the psyche can be represented symbolically as a mandala, then the ego is a point on the circumference, and we even have the expression “to keep going around in circles!”

So what gives us our Self Worth is the Spirit shining through our center. The problem is it dwells in the Unconscious!! Aaargh!

But this is logical, bear with me. What is missing so far is the line connecting the ego (me) with the center, the radius. However, there is one: The Only Way. We now have a Jungian psychological trinity.

In Christian terms:
  • The center hole – God, the Father – the individual Self
  • The X on the circumference – the Son – the individual Ego
  • The radius – the Holy Spirit – the connecting individual, the “Only     Way” between the two.

(Another term for the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete meaning Comforter!! This is a positive feminine energy, a theological upgrade of the archetypal Fairy Godmother. Her name gives her away!)

The purpose of the following diagram is to help make conscious what is essentially an unconscious process!




The only part of us that is conscious is our ego, the part that we call by our name and that is exposed both to the outer world through our persona and to our inner world which we encounter both by intuition and our dream life. The persona is the actor’s clothing! We are constantly changing as we encounter a parent, a colleague, a lover, a salesman, a stranger, etc. This just happens automatically as the ego faces the outer world of relationships! At the end of the day or in meditation, we are given the opportunity of confronting the question of the mystery of who we really are! The answer, I suspect is the Self at the center that allows Spirit to incarnate in any unique individual. I hope this makes sense!

lovingly,
ao

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Injustice – CREDO CLV


Pearl Buck, the writer, who lived in China, wrote this memory of waiting on a station platform with a Chinese grandmother and her grandson and daughter. The kittle boy did something naughty and blamed his sister. The grandmother spanked the little girl who protested her innocence in vain. Buck could not refrain from telling the old woman the truth. She shrugged it off saying, “It doesn’t matter, it is more important that my grandchildren learn early that injustice falls, sooner or later, justly on us all,” The train came and the trio left Buck with a new insight.

I learned that when I was three in my grandfather’s, Basil King’s, house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My nurse Nanny accused me of wiping my bottom, pointing to the toilet paper in the bowl. Apparently, I was too young to do this properly. She always did this for me. I was innocent but got scolded fiercely, and the awful truth that grownups could be fallible dawned on me at an early age! I had thought them omniscient. Never again!

As I am now almost 90, you can see how profound a revelation this was! Since then I have suffered unjust punishments over and over, as I am sure my readers have as well. Perhaps they make up for the things we get away with.

I wrote these conclusions once to console a friend who suffered a false accusation and was deeply hurt and offended. I wish I could thank her for making me aware that this is an archetypal human condition. That Chinese grandmother was very wise.

These days, the news brings us tale after tale of horrible injustices, leaving us with the agonizing question of why so much suffering has to be? False imprisonment abounds. The Greeks, I believe, though I am not certain, sculpted a woman holding the weighing scales for measurement. She is blindfolded. Justice is blind.
Some would argue that this is karma but if that is so, we should benefit by the Chinese grandmother’s conclusion:
    Injustice falls justly into the lives of us all.

lovingly,
ao

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Understanding – CREDO CLIII

When I was thirteen I was probably more serious and idealistic than I ever came to be. That summer vacation I spent in La Jolla, California, at Wisteria Cottage, which had been rented by my Grandma King. I read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and decided to materialize my ambitions by having book labels printed with the words Give me understanding and I shall live. Now that I am approaching my 90th birthday, I realize that this quote has shaped my entire life!

From that time onward, through thick and thin, for better or worse, I have tried to understand the ultimate meaning of existence. I read and studied and the earnest, solemn search through reading, and endlessly studying, led me perhaps to meriting meeting my Teacher at the age of twenty-one. By then I had read nightly the Old and New Testament, the Koran, the Upanishads, the I Ching, and Plato, and countless other books, furiously underlining and copying into notebooks like a glutton for wisdom until the day came when to my utter dismay my Teacher told me that what I was looking for was not to be found in books!! I became a crushed autodidact in one fell swoop. I was so distressed that he consoled me by saying it would give me a good vocabulary [which it did].

What he was trying to teach me was that understanding is not just an intellectual pursuit but following the path that teaches that an unexamined life is not worth living and that wisdom is the result of experience, that experience comes from acknowledging with humility the hopelessness of the conscious intellect to encompass the All! Now, in my old age, some people project onto me that I am a Wise Woman, to which I reply truthfully that I am wise in one respect only: I am wise enough to know only one thing for sure: I know how much I don’t know!!

So, back to my original prayer: Give me understanding! So here are a few things I have learned along the way, much of which I owe to Carl Gustav Jung:

1. Our conscious mind is but a fraction of our psyche. It floats on the vast endless ocean of our personal Unconscious, which in turn floats upon the Collective Unconscious. This truth has been the foundation of Eastern teachings all along and is their gift to the Western world.

2. To understand implies so much more than mere comprehension. It implies a grasp that love and humility are called for and that for us to really live implies understanding one’s own limitations while, at the same time, having respect and compassion for all the know-it-alls who think they run the world!

3. So, I come back to the unconscious wisdom of my thirteen year-old self in choosing that saying for my book labels! It has become the prayerful quote guiding my entire life!

Give me understanding so I shall live!

lovingly,
ao

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dealing with Adversity – CREDO CLII

As so many people in the world are having extremely difficult times, any advice worth listening to seems welcome. There are two voices from the past that offer such on both a collective and an individual level, a very cogent observation. The renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee observed that it was not what happens to a civilization [country] but how it reacts that determines the outcome. A case in point, of course, was the “decline and fall of the Roman empire” which resulted from laxity and frivolity, political squabbling, contrasts between wealth and poverty, and many of the other symptoms facing our own country today. Those who are aware of history can think of many other examples, including some positive ones. Yet, many countries start out reacting positively only to fall into the power trap, such as Germany after WWI, which resulted in the Nazi regime of corrupt socialism and the Soviet version, which degenerated into tyrannical communism. Both countries started out with meaningful ideology and both ended with defeat from outer and inner forces. Then a new development cast off communism by people coming out in thousands peacefully demonstrating and protesting tyranny.

In our own country, in the late 1700s, a strange sequence was to emerge. Hindu philosophy came to Europe for the first time and was translated into German coincidentally with the American Revolution, and, as a result, some New Englanders chose to go to German universities rather than England’s Oxford or Cambridge. They learned of ahimsa, nonviolence. This inspired Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience, which was read by a young Gandhi in South Africa, who went on to liberate India without firing a shot, which influenced Martin Luther King, and led eventually to the peaceful inauguration of Barack Obama. Phew! The power of ideas! This is a new way of reacting, for sure!

On the individual level, the Swiss psychologist Jung put forward the same idea, saying it’s not what happens to us but how we react to it that determines our fate. We have a choice. We even say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!” An extreme example would be blind and deaf Helen Keller, but so many outstanding Americans have demonstrated this way of reacting, coming out of difficult circumstances in youth – one could almost name it a national trait. Contrast this, alas, with an increasing segment of our contemporary population who are succumbing to escapism in distorted pleasure-seeking drugs, porn, and crime. The hours spent on TV and video games, to say nothing of the Internet, imply living an ersatz life. In the meantime, we are risking losing our planet, our own physical well-being, and our ability to relate to each other in a genuine way. Now adversity offers us “the kitchen table,” the rediscovering of families around it and the challenge of reacting in a real and not synthetic way. Our frenetic national extraversion hopefully may adjust to rediscovering some of the rewards of introversion and a search for simple rather than virtual reality. This implies the need for a profound change in our values, taking time “to smell the roses,” noticing the suffering and needs of others, of animals, and the environment, and offering compassionate service to them insofar as we are able. This kind of reaction, were it to spread, might even save our world.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of this simple response to adversity! It liberates us from feeling helpless victims and gives us a very real freedom of decision and action. There is a price, of course, that comes with it: conscious decisions, psychologically understood, involve “karma,” or facing the results, positive or negative. For me, personally, the answer is to pray for inner guidance. I recite Buddha’s Noble Eight-fold Path every night before I sleep. The more I reflect upon its wisdom, the greater the respect I have for its simplicity and reliance on common sense. At the risk of being repetitive, I enclose it again as a daily checklist for spiritual review. So here it is again:

THE NOBLE EIGHT-FOLD PATH

The Four Noble Truths

There is suffering in this world:
All suffering comes from attachment and desire
There is a way beyond suffering
The way is the Noble Eight-fold Path:

RIGHT VIEWS
Free from superstition and delusion

RIGHT ASPIRATIONS
High and worthy of the intelligent; worthy of man

RIGHT SPEECH
Kindly, open, and truthful

RIGHT CONDUCT
Peaceful, honest, and pure

RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
Bringing hurt or danger to no living being

RIGHT EFFORT
In self-training and self-control

RIGHT MINDFULNESS
The active, watchful mind

RIGHT RAPTURE
In deep meditation on the realities of life

              — Gautama Buddha , 6th Century B.C.

lovingly,
ao

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fiat! – CREDO CLI

In my coming 90th year, I go back to my 21-year-old self sitting on the fire escape in New York on West 13th Street and looking briefly at the sun. The thought came to me: The sun shines but IT DIDN’T HAVE TO!!! Existence is the primal YES!

It has to come before a ‘no’ can attempt to deny it.

Today, I realize that with my bicameral brain, it is virtually impossible, given the starry universe, to come to any cause-and-effect solution. The Big Bang must have had an origin, as well. Thus I am resigned to humility and repeat the Vast Certainty will have to do until I have a higher organ of perception! Perhaps that is the heart . . . ?

What touches me deeply is that humanity all over the world has wrestled with these problems. For many of us in the Western world, the Torah and the Old Testament are full of such questions, and so also have the indigenous people struggled with them. The Eastern civilizations, the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists, and Zoroastrians, all have their creation versions, and I do not doubt that a handful of enlightened beings know the truth but on another level.

Thus, I suppose, a certain humility is required until we cross over.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I remember that question being brought up by the red-haired country priest in my German Swiss school in Appenzell exactly 80 years ago (as of tomorrow). I was 10 at the time. My response was that it might have been laid by a hen that wasn’t yet a hen, which immediately begged the question of evolution! With a sigh, I gave up, and I am back to the fire escape on West 13th Street!

As today is the last day of this year 2011 and tomorrow is New Year’s Day, I woke with the word GRACE on my mind. This word is full of polyvalent meanings – the Oxford Dictionary lists 14! I am choosing the 9th:

(Theol.) Unmerited favour of God, divine regenerating inspiring and strengthening influence; (state of ~ ) condition of being so influenced; (fall from ~) lapse into sin or disgrace, etc.

This word, of course, is the source of gratitude. So we receive grace when we say grace! The Lat. origin is simply gratus, meaning thanks!

This brings me to the point I am trying to make: gratitude is the antidote to the fear most likely generated about the Mayan ‘prophecies” that the world is coming to an end in 2012! If Y2K is any example, we should remember not to panic!

The truth of the matter is that it is the astronomical end of the Age of Pisces, as the Point of the Vernal Equinox, aligned with the first visible star in the constellation of Aquarius, signals the beginning of the Age of Aquarius! This Age will last approx. 2,000 years. (The confusion prior to the astronomy involved, was that in 200 BC when Hippolytus proposed the succession of Ages, he didn’t know exactly which degree to begin.)

So to sum up, the Grace we need to feel and accept is the following : Simply expressed.

      CATS WILL GO ON HAVING KITTENS!!!

There will be events, no doubt, that will tax our faith, but it pays to remember that we are not in the ultimate charge of existence itself. We need to be grateful for our existing in the first place! What needs to be ended is our ignorant insistence on fighting and killing, often in the name of this religion or that one, and the materialism of evil, greedy, and criminal behavior. The hope lies potentially in the balance of the opposite constellation sign to Aquarius: LEO! This, on Earth, is ruled by the Sun, as is every physical heart that gives us not only life but the capacity to

              LOVE!

We need to remember what Christ and other Teachers taught us:

A new commandment do I give you: Love one another as I have loved you.

lovingly,
ao

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Instant Cure for the Blues! – CREDO CL

As some of you already know, I had a remarkable spiritual teacher – M. I met him on June 6, 1944, and my life changed from that day forward. I was 21, and today I am living into my 90th year. In all this time I have not once had a doubt concerning him. His teachings have guided me through thick and thin and many ups and downs. Last night I woke up and realized I was tired, and in considerable pain, and perhaps flirting with a potential depression, and realized that I have not shared his formula for this state of mind. It is very simple and it works:

     DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEBODY QUICK!

So I am curing myself in this act of sharing! If you think about it, if you feel sorry for yourself, you enclose yourself in a static circle of self-pity. However, if you act on behalf of another, that dynamic opens you to a spiral, and Spirit flows through you in even the humblest gesture toward another person, animal, or even flower. You are no longer trapping the flow of loving concern and appreciation of others.

This idea is present in the spiritual advice of all religions, not just one! It underlies the concept of our common humanity: that to love another as sparks of the same flame is equivalent to loving the Mystery we call Spirit. So here is just one beautiful expression of it:

            Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

These words were written in the Thirteenth century endure and transcend any religious dogma. They are the words of a mystic and are common to all other mystics. They seem so appropriate to our desperate needs still today, eight centuries later.

May they bring light, love, and life to us as we move towards another Solstice!

lovingly,
ao

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

As Below, so Above – CREDO CXLIX


The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus gives us the phrase “As above, so below,” indicating that archetypal processes operate on a descending level of planes. Now looking back over the years of my long life as I approach my 90th year to come(!), I see the thrust of my life’s work has been starting at the bottom and trying to demonstrate that the “great truths” of our earthly incarnation can be demonstrated as simple self-evidence! We can learn the greatest lessons from the smallest, humblest objects!

This is the basis of the wisdom of fairy tales, proverbs, and even jokes, which contain the essence of religious and hefty philosophical classics. In the past these contained not abstract but physical “object lessons.” Most people disdain them because they are so simple; and thus the more complicated language is used to reach sometimes absurd definitions. Here is a quote from The New Yorker I used in my first book, Jungian Symbolism in Astrology:

   COROLLARIES WE NEVER GOT AROUND TO READING
  From “Prolegomenon to a Theory of Religion,” by Gerald James
  Larson, Journal of the American Academy of Religion
[3.1] The Definition. Within the context of these considerations, let me now proceed to a definition of Religion and to offer as well two corollary definitions that grow out of the basic definition. I suggest the following: Religion is a “complete system of communication” (or a “form of life”) showing in primarily “commissive,” “behabitive,” and “exercitive” modes how a community comports itself when it encounters an “untranscendable negation of . . . possibilities.”

I still have to laugh every time I read it!

What I am suggesting is a device to finding your own wisdom. If you are familiar with the basic tenets of alchemy or astrology, so much the better, but these are not necessary. Plain common sense will do just fine!

1. Look around the room and concentrate your attention on one thing. Ex: wrapping paper (a noun). Ask it: What do you do? (The answer will be a verb.) I conceal.

2. Think now of what this process suggests. Jot down your observations.

3. Its purpose may be to hide a gift, protect what’s wrapped. It differs from what it wraps. It hides the contents.

4. Thinking symbolically, what obvious example might you come up with: How about our body? How does it differ from its precious contents? Your consciousness? Your emotions? Your fears? The real unvarnished private you? Your unconscious? Your unique being!

In Jungian psychology the wrapping paper is the persona, the wrapping paper that we present to the world. My father, a Pisces, was a flaming extroverted friendly representative of the company he worked for. Cheerful, engaging, and successful. When he came home to the hotels we lived in in so many different countries, he became almost childlike, rivaling me for my mother’s attention! His mother died giving him birth, and he chose to turn my mother into his; this resulted in his having a mistress, much to my mother’s distress.

Actors are capable of changing the wrap by consciously assuming other characters. And, in a way, all of us assume different “roles” every day. This makes us socially adaptive beings. Only the very shy, introverted people use plain brown paper to hide behind.

It also is manifested unconsciously by alcohol! Drugs? Some introverts, when tipsy, become hilarious extroverts; some extroverts, on the other hand, become sentimental introverts. Extremes turn into opposites.

I disgraced myself in the hospital when delivering one of my daughters. I was given a whiff of something for pain, and as the doctor was stitching my torn cervix, I started singing at the top of my lungs, “Oh give me something to remember you by . . . !” Oh dear! I’m afraid this daughter has never forgiven me. I just became unwrapped!

lovingly,
ao