Saturday, December 27, 2008
Genuine sadness, I think we all would agree, occurs with the onset of puberty. Esoterically, this is a time when the average adolescent develops another psychic sheath and is often accompanied by the true emergence of the ego. There is a tremendous turmoil, and I have a suspicion that few of us reading this cannot look back and say that we were not often sad, if not in despair. Today, the solution seems too often a pill, rather than loving parental support. All this, of course, is made more desperate today by the prevalence of recreational drugs.
One thing for sure, it is the ego that is by turns happy or sad. The word happy comes from the Old English word hap meaning good fortune, a happenstance. In German the distinction between happiness and joy is even clearer: Glueck, from which we derive luck, and Freude, as in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony’s “Ode to Joy.” As the literature of the world has mirrored and our current culture is reflecting, the pursuit of happiness per se, as expressed in the negatives of lust, greed, and power, invariably ends in dust and collapse or at least “a morning after”! In this current year, this is all too apparent. The daily news on TV is a constant morality play. “What profiteth a man if he gain the world and lose his soul thereby?”
In my The Beejum Book there is an autobiographical chapter titled “The Gimmie Attack.” I was 5½ and with my parents in Athens. I saw a change purse in a shop window with multiple pockets (Moon in Virgo!) in which I could put Dutch, German, and Greek coins, to say nothing of Egyptian. I begged and pleaded and whined for about three days and my mother sat me down and said that if this would make me happy, okay, but I had to promise not to beg for anything else as long as we were in Greece. I vowed fervently and great was my delight with owning the wee purse. Alas, only a few days later another object of passionate desire appeared at a fair. This I did not get, but my mother sat me down and explained that there was no end in life to “Gimmie Attacks.” Eighty years later, I know that only too well and sadly observe every day the rush for fool’s gold that leaves so many most unhappy.
So what is the solution? What is joy?
For me, joy comes when we realize that if you want to be rich, count your blessings. Gratitude and grace come from the same root Latin root, gratia, so we receive grace by being grateful. Simple. But this involves consciously inviting the Self (Divine Guest) to partake of the source of happiness. As I have written at greater length in Credo XIII, "God Can’t Eat a Poached Egg," the superstition of never saying one is happy because something bad will happen disappears because that is ego fear. True joy, as many will attest, lasts. One does not lose it because its source is at that psychic center point which has no dimension and is beyond time/space. The gift is the result of a coniunctio of ego and Self.
Bliss is as close to samadhi or nirvana as most of us can come, so in these troubled times it might pay to stop and think, what triggered such a moment in your childhood? Adolescence? As a man or a woman? What was the gift? Because that is what it is. For example, I am mindful of such a moment drinking coffee outdoors one early summer morning with my darling Polar Bear, Walter. The lawn was glistening with dew, the drops became diamonds and we both knew we were rich.
P.S.. As I am writing this, a blizzard is blowing outside. The Polar Bear left this life ten years ago, but I can close my eyes and relive that particular moment as if it were now.
It is as if you were playing a game of cards with a friend and you are dealing saying “One for you and one for you and another for you ...well, one for me but another for you.” Then the game is played, and guess what? You lose!! This is followed by disappointment, possibly unexpressed anger, or self-pitying martyrdom. One finds oneself thinking “After all I have done for so-and-so, you’d think they would at least ...”
That is the trap! It upsets the balance.
Here Jung’s distinction between ego and Self makes all the difference! Jesus did not advise us to love our neighbor’s ego as one’s own ego!! He meant love thy neighbor’s Self (Divine Guest) as you love your own Divine Guest! It is that simple. When you do something for the Spirit in the other, you must not deprive the gift to the Spirit within yourself. This thought is also hinted at in Christ’s words, “Whatsoever ye have done unto the least of these my children ye have done it unto me.”
In Hinduism, and India, especially, the common greeting is “Namaste!” This translates to “I bow to the Divine in you.” To be sure, the meaning is not always conscious when uttered, but the unconscious utterance is implied millions of times a day.
Can we not see that by keeping the balance we save ourselves from unnecessary inflation about being a “good” person and in loving our Self we move toward the goal of the coming Age, which is to “Love thy neighbors, they are thyself!”
Well, today that seems a lot easier said than done, but cheer up, we have 2000 years to reach that point! So if you are sick of hearing about the “New Age,” keep this in mind!
Over the years, I have noticed a common phenomenon. Are there not times when we are reading something very spiritually significant and the paragraph turns to cement! Or one goes to a lecture and one sneezes or is distracted one way or another, and the thought goes thataway and one misses the point. It almost seems that the ego, center of consciousness, is protecting us. The cup is too small and the content spills over. We need for our cup to grow bigger. For example, it is said that one is not to study the Kabbalah until one is forty.
The very first day I had a conversation with my teacher, he mentioned a mysterious book called The Hieroglyphic Monad by John Dee. After an onerous search, I found a copy. Its contents were totally baffling. I have made a practice over sixty-four years, of picking it up every few years, and gradually the propositions, which are numbered, have yielded greater and greater sense. Now, at 85, I see how unconsciously I had to live their proof! Dagnabit! The joke’s on me!
My ego was my protector. The danger is that the shield can be artificially dissolved. Neptune rules the process of dissolving borders and the negative aspect of Neptune rules drugs, alcohol, and fumes. The result is the dissolving of the shield of the ego, and the unconscious swamps it with its uncontrollable contents! Illusions, delusions, and some of these have terrible consequences as the daily news testifies.
The positive aspects are, when guided by the spiritual aim of yearning for the Divine Guest (Jung’s Self) lovingly in meditation or prayer or even dreams, gifts that are bestowed, and for a moment we enter the “peace that passeth understanding”. Here is an example from Yeats’s poem”Vacillation”:
My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
It is said that we only discover a new planet when we are ready for it collectively. Neptune was discovered in 1846. This coincided with the dissolving of firm borders in art in “Impressionism” and in music with the dissolving of strict tempos in the outpouring of the likes of Debussy – in science, Marie Curie; in medicine, ether, and so forth. Most significantly, the works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott introduced us to the philosophy of Transcendentalism which came as the result of the impact of the first translations of the Hindu scriptures in Germany. Because of the American Revolution, the scions of Boston refused to go to Oxford and Cambridge and went to German universities instead. They brought back a whole new philosophy from the East with its emphasis on mysticism and ahimsa, nonviolence, which Thoreau gave a pragmatic application of in his pamphlet “On Civil Disobedience.” He went to jail for refusing to pay taxes for something he disapproved of! Gandhi read it in South Africa and the rest is history. I am writing this on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.
I think the point I am trying to make is that the ego can protect us from too much, too soon, but we should not give up the quest . One has to live and apply spiritual teachings, not just accept them intellectually. We have to be responsible. When we think about how technology has outstripped the wisdom of its application, we sure have a case in point!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The first is those two little words if only! “If only I were ...!”
“If only things were ...” Take my word for it, the minute that sigh is breathed, make a reality check. Some things can be changed; others can not.
I learned this when I was seven and living in Rome. My governess would reprimand me by comparing me to another little girl and say “If only you could be as well-mannered as Caroline ...” Well, that girl was prettier, sweeter by far than I and had curly golden locks, baby blue eyes, and made me feel like a toad. I was beginning to feel jealous. One night in bed I faced the reality that no matter what I did, I was stuck being me and that was that! It cured me for life of jealousy, for which I am grateful, but I cannot count the times I wasted wishing things were different.
In midlife, I had a client whose chart indicated this habit and I used the image of the princess locked in the tower looking out the window longing to be free and not realizing that she had the key in her apron pocket. Her eyes widened in surprise. It turned out that she designed fairy tale dolls and her Princess was in a boxlike tower with arms folded gazing out a cellophane window! As I myself was trapped in a similar circumstance, I finally, with the help of reading Jung, found that key in my own apron.
The second is blaming! All blaming is psychological projection. If we blame others for ruining our lives – a parent, sibling, employer etc., there are two possibilities: the first is that the individual is carrying our own unconscious Shadow projection; the second is that maybe that person really is cruel and behaving in an evil manner. Then, as hard as this is to feel, we need to have compassion for the future and certain karmic suffering lying ahead for that person. Justice always comes, one way or another. Arnold Toynbee, the great historian, made a remark on the collective level: “Civilizations rise or fall depending on their reaction to adversity.” Jung put it on a personal level by saying the same thing – that it is not what happens to us in life, but how we react to it that determines who we become. Either one succumbs to adversity and blames the situation or one heroically changes one’s consciousness. Jung assures us that when we change our consciousness, the outward circumstances change as well. I know of several people who are still carrying a heavy sack of blaming around even though the perpetrator has been dead for years. Each of us has a separate agenda with Spirit. Yet reading all the dreadful news today, not to blame is a very tall order, I must admit! As my Teacher put it: “Eat off your own plate.”
The third abyss, at least for me, comes from The Book of Common Prayer in which the General Confession asks us to beg forgiveness for all those things we have done and ought not to have done (at my age, I am reduced to sinning on the installment plan!) and then asks us to beg forgiveness for all those things we ought to have done and have not done!!! There is a bottomless pit for you! I still get these “Virgo attacks” at 3 a.m.! But at least I know what to call them. Nevertheless ... sigh.
It is hard to have compassion for oneself. My mother was about 73 and alone trying clumsily to tie a package with string on her desk. I came into the door just in time to hear her saying gently to herself, “Poor dumb beast!”
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Even today children are scolded ad hominem (to the person), told they are naughty and bad. But I am impressed by those parents who instead adopt the ad rem (to the matter) approach, simply saying “That’s a no!" or “It’s not going to happen.” Several years ago, I wrote a poem about what it felt like –
The hell I knew had human eyes,
angels that were demon wise –
pain to beauty, beauty's pain,
rounded wisdom round again,
Love came down in hate's disguise.
Life it is that never dies;
love it is that tries and tries –
child and demon, demon's child,
innocent and running wild,
stropped for seizing heaven's prize.
When hell is telling, heaven lies;
when hell is selling, heaven buys.
We struggle dreaming struggle's dreams
and reaching where our wisdom gleams
the child within us cries and cries.
Later in life, I came upon another set of precepts. These were not negative “Thou shalt nots” but positive, sensible suggestions for leading a good life. They are so wise, I have memorized them, and they have guided me for decades. It is easy to check one’s conscience against them. As we are approaching another New Year with resolutions, I thought I would share them. They follow Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and are called:
The Noble Eight-fold Path
Free from superstition and delusion
High and worthy of the intelligent; worthy of humankind
Kindly, open, and truthful
Peaceful, honest, and pure
Bring hurt or danger to no living being
In self-training and self-control
The active, watchful mind
In deep meditation on the realities of life
– Gautama Buddha, 6th Cent B.C.
In looking it up in the dictionary, I find it comes from Latin candere, to be brilliantly white, luminous. This sparks a number of associations! White contains all colors. Incandescence, scientifically, means glowingly hot. So the word suggests both light and heat coming from within. My next association is with stained glass windows in a church. If one walks by them in daylight, their beauty is invisible, but if lit from within at night they glow with beauty.
I once had a client in California, a man who had Saturn in Leo. Leo is ruled by the sun. He was afraid to let his inner sun shine. When I used the analogy above, he burst out laughing. It seemed he worked for Disney. This was back in the days when they used cellophane. His job was painting the characters on cellophane laid on glass. To see what he was doing, a light shone up from below! A synchronicity!
Another was a client I was seeing in the basement of a Jungian analyst. She was his patient. Timid and shy, but religious. I quoted Jesus’ remark about not hiding a candle under a bushel basket. Looking over my shoulder, she gasped. When I turned to look, there was a stack of bushel baskets!
Currently, in the so-called civilized world, there seems to be an incredible emphasis on physical appearance. On television so many ads are directed to beauty and the denial of aging. Actors and reporters often end up looking like dolls. Models strut and pout, and we learn that many suffer from anorexia. The stress everywhere is on how we appear, how big a house, fine a wardrobe, etc. We are urged to become “whited sepulchers.” No wonder my three dream women were disheartened. They felt they had to be fake to succeed.
So what does it mean to be real? The French have a lovely term for a plain woman who is real. They call her une jolie laide, “a lovely homely woman,” one who glows with inner character. If we stop and think of the public figures or friends or family members we admire or love, is it for the outside or the inside?
When I was fourteen, I faced a crisis. I had to wear glasses! I decided they made me so hideous, I took to hiding behind doors when any boys appeared. After about a month, I had to decide which was more important, to not be seen or to be able to see. Fortunately, I made the right decision. I’m still wearing ’em.
Fifty years later, I had a close friend my age who was a natural hetaira, a Jungian term for a woman that men can hardly resist – a Marilyn Monroe type. She told me that she hated being what she was because men only wanted her for her body and couldn’t see who she was inside. Like Princess Diana, later, who later received a collective projection for the goddess Venus, the hetaira suffers if she does not become incandescent as she ages. My friend sighed and went into the kitchen. As she did so, I noticed her rear view suggested a wasp’s and she couldn’t help undulating unconsciously in a provocative way, apron and all!
Toni Wolff, Jung’s significant other, wrote a perceptive pamphlet, “On the Archetypal Structure of the Feminine.” She suggested that there are four and placed them on a cross: the Wife-Mother, the Hetaira opposing each other on the left, both requiring a man to define them; the Amazon (Annie Oakley) and Medial Woman (Lou Salome) on the right, independent of that need. Like the Four Functions, every woman has all four but tends to identify consciously with one and project unconsciously negatively on the other at some time. And men, of course, project and often split their animas as well!
We all seem to be struggling with what Jung termed persona identification – identifying with the mask we would like others to see us as. It is the story of the fairy tale “The Emperor’s Clothes”! But many of us, like the three women in my dream, suffer from negative inflation, a sense of inferiority and hopelessness.
One of the messages of the Christmas story surely – myth always has a truth for the psyche! – is that a baby is born to an ordinary couple who could not even find room at an inn. The new idea is that that child, as does any child anywhere, holds a Divine Guest in his or her heart! As heretical as this may sound, Christian theology has to give up its fixation that Jesus is the Only Son of God! Christ himself told us, “Ye all are gods!” The crucial message that he brought was that collectively we need to become conscious of our Divine Guest, the center point of our psyche. If the ego was the gift of the Age of Aries, then this is the gift of Pisces to hand on to the now opening Age of Aquarius. Should we learn this in time, religious wars might seem absurd and cease, and we might even save our planet, Mother Earth!
Pray to become incandescent! We will only become truly beautiful when we let our Inner Light glow!
The scope of this truth is to be found throughout history. Former foes become allies; scorned heroes and heroines like Gandhi and Joan of Arc, Galileo and Martin Luther [King] become admired, even sainted, and absolved and forgiven by Popes. Time and death frame our lives and somehow give them a different significance.
It seems, all it takes is time for the pendulum of collective opinion to swing back and hopefully end up finding its center, peace and acceptance. Women couldn’t vote, now they head countries. Ah so.
The Taoist symbol of yin/yang is so simple and eloquent. The white contains the small dot of black and the black, a small dot of white. What we overlook is that both are contained in an embracing circle of unity.
In the West, we have the pentagram, which with the central point up is the symbol of man, as Leonardo expressed it, but when reversed is the symbol for Satan. One can draw the upside down one in the center of the right side up one and on and on. The pentagram or 5-pointed star also fits in a circle. I could say a lot more about that and have in my The Web in hte Sea. Jung calls it the coincidentia oppositorum and this is the basis for his Mysterium Coniunctionis. What Anne Tyler calls attention to is the dimension of time.
Today it is fashionable to accuse politicians of flip-flopping, but if we are honest with ourselves, we can surely see that wisdom and growth depend on the unfurling of opposites in time. The double helix, the caduceus of Hermes, the ida and pingala of the chakras, all demonstrate the dilemma of levels. If A and B are opposites as they go up, they switcheroo! and then the B above the A are in conflict, as my childhood anecdote demonstrates! E-volving and e-volution come from the Latin ex-volvere, to unroll. The curious thing is that our physical vision involves the switcheroo principle: our eyes see upside down, the right eye connects to the left brain and vice-versa and, our vision ends right-side up! Think Mercury/Hermes’ caduceus!
Surely, Jung’s Transcendent Function unfurls in time and flip-flopping may be the result of inner growth of understanding. A Hindu guru pointed out to me what a wonder it is that as we incarnate we live in time sequentially so that we can grow in consciousness. Our Divine Guest connects us to infinity. This made me think of what a blessing rain is coming down in drops rather than one big SPLAT!
Incidentally, speaking of chakras, Swami Rama pointed out that psychologically speaking, Freud centered on the first two: survival and sex; Adler on the third, Manipura, the center of power; and Jung, on the heart chakra – the first above the abdominal wall – and hinted at the reality of the higher three.
Fundamentalism’s ignorance in all religions takes things literally, a form of idolatry, and its adherents get stuck in the first two chakras out of the fear of uncertainty and the inability to think symbolically. If we think of pulling the symbolic zipper up (!) with Hermes as the wee tab of the Transcendent Function, it shows the wisdom of the archetypal process of Hermes as the psychopomp,* leading the psyche to higher levels of consciousness. All of which takes time and enables us to change what comes after.
Time to switcheroo!
*psychopomp is Greek for leader of the soul, one of my favorite words!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The emphasis is on the difference between thinking and knowing. I have pondered on this dream for several years. It makes sense in terms of Jung’s differentiation between the ego (I), the center of consciousness, and the mystery of the Self (Divine Guest). It seems to hint that the ultimate purpose is for us to make conscious the existence of Spirit in a logical and undeniable way.
This brings me back to the simple analogy of a candle. The candle is the separate ego; the wick is the individual Self, and when lit holds the flame (Divine Guest!), which is the same collective fire all over the world and is the only element of the symbolic four to give us Light, Life, and Love. So far so good?
In The Beejum Book, the child Teak goes into a lantern factory of the elves and finds every different lamp imaginable, some lovely, some tacky, some dirty and ugly, hardly giving out any light at all. She is asked to select her favorite and the one she dislikes most. Left alone, she chooses two. Then Gumblegurk, the head elf, asks her to look inside and notice that it is the same flame in each. The difference, symbolically, is the lantern, the outer persona of the individual.
When I was teaching ninth grade at Portledge, I brought in a glass box with a top. It was made for me as a gift by a friend. I put a small candle in it and lit it. Then I placed in succession a series of religious symbols: cross, Star of David, Crescent and Star, etc., and the same Light shone through each. The kids could draw birds, people, animals on tissue paper with the same result. I also put a square of black paper with just a few pin pricks in front of it. Now they all got talking – about becoming “en-lightened,” “illuminated,” and the ubiquitous references to Light in the darkness. The most breathtaking moment came when one teenaged girl remarked with awe, “That means that whatever we do to others, we are really doing to ourselves!”
So that ninth grade agreed on a new interpretation of an old commandment:
Love thy neighbor, he is thyself!
Well, we have 2,000 years of the Age of Aquarius ahead of us to figure this out – this is our collective task. Mother Teresa put it in a nutshell: “I believe in person-to-person and that God is in everyone.” The trap must be the person-to-person! Ah so!
Oddly, I now associate this with taking time to sit down and write a word of appreciation to a stranger – an author of a book or an article, an artist, a soldier, or even encouraging a hospitalized veteran or a prisoner. When I was sixteen and spending the summer on vacation with my Grandma King in La Jolla, California, I had this crazy idea and had postcards printed: TODAY I MOST APPRECIATED – and I would send them off at random every day, but then I went back to boarding school and couldn't keep it up.
Now, I myself am the recipient of notes from strangers who are touched by my books or posts, and I realize how on a gloopy day, such a missive arrives and a link between two people is briefly and warmly established. It feels as if my hoop was being edged along! Yet perhaps a collective golden hoop of hope is being pushed along wherever such transactions take place, something that tells any recipient to keep on keeping on, and warms the cockles of the heart saying that one is not laboring in vain.
I remember Dr. Edward Edinger, the late and great Jungian analyst, telling me once that if you give a lecture and only one person hears and is touched by what you are saying, you have not spoken in vain. Now, as I am older, I realize, thanks to Jung, that it is not what anyone says or writes but what the other one hears or reads that counts! Because if one addresses 100 people, 100 different lectures will be heard; if 1000 read a book, 1000 different books will be read because every individual processes every experience uniquely. Just think, there are millions of Mona Lisas! Or Snoopys.
Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher and master of one-liners wrote: "With our eyes open, we share the same world; when we close our eyes each of us enters a separate one."
This, if you think about it, reveals the process of Spirit – one seed can generate a ‘thousand’ out of itself – and when you think of cyberspace, internets, ipods, etc. it is staggering to realize the potential for good or evil that is out there.
Symbolically speaking perhaps we contribute to one Great Golden Hoop. Somehow the solar system itself seems to be rolling along in constant motion. The huge question is
What keeps it rolling???
E pur si muove – Galileo
Saturday, November 8, 2008
"Experiences of things as pleasant or unpleasant are not functions intrinsically belonging to the objects you perceive. They arise only in the mind.
"Take as an example the process of perceiving visual form. The object is a particular form in the outer world, the organ that senses it is the eye, and that which perceives the image and categorizes it is consciousness. If you see a beautiful person, a dear relative, or a sacred statue, you feel glad. If you see something ugly, or some ill-intentioned person come to ridicule or attack you, you feel upset, anxious, or angry. All these perceptions arise in the mind itself. They are triggered by the object perceived, but they do not themselves exist in that object, nor do they originate anywhere else outside the mind.
"Generally, mind is the slave of its own biased perceptions. Dividing everything into pleasant or unpleasant, it constantly tries to experience what is pleasant and get rid of what is not—blind to the fact that this is not the way to achieve happiness and avoid suffering. Blind ignorance drives the mind constantly to generate feelings of like and dislike. You engage in endless ordinary worldly activities with no more durability than drawings on water. Preoccupied entirely by these distractions, you exhaust your life and squander this precious human existence with all the freedoms and advantages that you now enjoy.
"The mind thus contrives everything, so the only thing to do is to master the mind. As Tilopa taught Naropa:
It is not what you perceive that binds you,
It is your clinging to it that binds you.
Cut through your clinging, Naropa!"
—from The Heart of Compassion: The Thirty-Seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva, Dilgo Khyentse (Shambhala, 2007), pp. 138-9.
If you take One to represent the Unity of Spirit (God), it is summed up in the number One or 1.
Every number succeeding 1 – 2, 3 – 4,567,892,319..........google.......... as far as numbers can go into infinity, will always have One or 1 hidden within it.
So, the symbolic implication is that Spirit is hidden in the diversity of all.
Further, if you think yourself an in-dividual. and become in-dividuated, this means you are no longer divided and have become One. But the mystics who reach that state, all say they have become O. (The ego is subsumed in union with the Divine Guest [Self].) The lover and the Beloved have become One. I am Thou.
And then you realize that every-one is 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = ONE!
When we come one with One, the Buddhists say we become O but then maybe the Great O becomes more blissful. Who knows?
A few days later, I went out and lay down in the grass and looked up through the underside of the waving daisies at the blue sky and felt a sense of wonder at the beauty of it all. I came close. Nature was manifesting something mysterious. I felt wonder and reassurance, a hint.
Fast forward to 1935. I am twelve, staying in a seaside hotel in Nieuport-Bains, Belgium. My father has given me a book about science and I am reading it on my bed. I come across the chapter on atoms and read that every bit of matter is made of atoms and each atom has a nucleus that is filled with energy. I have an epiphany! That energy must be God!! This hits me like a thunderbolt. My heart pounds and I want to rush out and tell the world. So I run out the door and look over the banister down on the bald head of the concierge, who is busy writing up some bills or something. Would he understand? I realize that this is something so tremendous and yet there is no one around to share it with. Yet for me, it is a proof. A certainty because I have experienced it personally.
Years later, I read a quote of the alchemist Agrippa von Nettesheim, which I subsequently would write on the board of every astrology class I was destined to teach: Virtutes divinae in res suffusae. Divine powers are hidden in things.
But it took fifty yearsfor me, here in this house in 1985, to come across a footnote in M-L. von Franz’s edition of Aurora Consurgens, quoting another alchemist, Petrus Bonus (Good Stone!), who stated “To find the Philosopher’s Stone, look with the eyes and see with the heart.” It takes only a step then to realize Jung’s wisdom in saying that the longest journey many of us have to take is from the head to the heart.
The ego as the center of consciousness is the instrument necessary for looking. We have two eyes (Sun/Moon) in the front of our heads, so we only see half. The Self as Jung defines it, is the center and totality of the psyche, but it dwells in the unconscious, so we need the feminine Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) to lead us to the heart and the discovery of cosmic Life, Light, Love. This is surely the Mysterium Coniunctionis that he writes of and, in my opinion, experienced.
In sacred geometry, the cube is symbolic of the manifest world because it can be measured. Ask anyone how many sides it has, and they will respond: six. Ask how many can you see, the answer is three. So perhaps we see only one-half and need to join it to its meaning. To think sym-bolically is Greek for putting together. Thus we might change the definition of a sacrament with one word: A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual meaning!
The Philosopher’s Stone was supposed to turn lead to gold, but the alchemists said Non aurum vulgae, not material vulgar gold. Rather they said, the Stone was lying on the road and wagon wheels roll over it – ob via, obvious; as I’ve said before, nothing is hidden, it is we who are blind. The lead, Saturn, is much in the news these days. It is toxic, as is a life lived without meaning, without love. My Teacher always said, “When you feel down, do something for somebody quick!”
The title of this Credo is Panentheism, which differs from pantheism. Pantheism means God is all. Panentheism means Spirit (God) is within all.
The manifest world is full of Spirit, but it seems we can only see It with a loving eye.
Thus began my insight that it is feminine wisdom that is simple enough to look for enlightenment from ordinary things. Masculine intellect often cries, “Oh, that’s obvious, it’s much more complicated than that!” And so it is, but it starts on the road, the ground of manifestation beneath our feet. We must remember that when the Church Fathers translated Hagia Sophia, the Holy Wisdom of the Old Testament, from the feminine into the masculine Spiritus Sanctus, which takes a masculine pronoun, the feminine left the Holy Trinity, and hid in fairy tales, I suspect, as the archetype of the Fairy Godmother. She is a benign character who mediates between the invisible and visible worlds, and always gives the little hero or heroine practical advice and the adult ones as well. The how-to of being kind and helpful to a suffering animal or a lonely beggar and so on. It is the motif of endless tales in all cultures.
The interesting thing is why is she called a God-mother? Might it not be, that she gives birth to our reborn self as the connecting link between ego and our Divine Guest and thus is the instrument to our individuation process of feeling "born again"? It is not a collective orgy but a very private process in which each individual comes to that “Vast Certainty” that there is meaning to life and an undefinable source to creation, evolution of consciousness, and the majesty of the cosmos.
So here is another gift from the alchemist Petrus Bonus, a quote I found in a footnote, I think, in M-L. von Franz’s edition of Aurora Consurgens. He says, “To find the Philosopher’s Stone, look with the eyes and see with the heart." (The ego at the circumference looks with consciousness and the heart receives understanding from the Self or Divine Guest through the radius of Sophia’s intuition.)
Just a few weeks ago, I was lighting a candle and looked down at it. It was a circle and had a wick. As I lit the wick, I had an Aha! Metaphorically speaking, each of us is a separate candle with an individual wick. But the flame on every candle is the same flame!
Fire comes to us from the Sun; fire is the only element of the symbolic four that leaps up, gives light and warmth, and can be shared without being diminished. So when we realize that each of us living has an inner flame and we see it with the heart, we add the mystery of Love.
As Christmas and Hanukah and Diwali all take place in Capricorn, ruled by Saturn (manifestation), life begins in Aries and nine months later, we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun, which, in the darkest night of the year in our hemisphere, appears to move north at the solstice. As John wrote, "the Light that lighteth every man ...” is the Collect for Christians on Christmas Eve. Light in the darkness, the "dazzling darkness," is also the Light that Jung must have had in mind when he counsels us: One does not become enlightened by seeking figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.
1) To be happy, count your blessings.
2) Happiness consists simply in knowing when you are happy. So often we look back and think how happy I was then or look forward to if only I could be happy again ... ("if only" is one of those abysses. Don’t go there!) When this stupendous realization came upon me—ahem—I ran it by my darling Polar Bear, who took it upon himself to start saying out of the blue, “Know what? I’m happy!” followed by a hug, and I did likewise. Happiness is an ego expression of joy. The triple-life involves three stages: happiness, joy, and bliss.
Happiness hides in the NOW of little things. I promised to share a few nutty ones as examples which I have discovered increasingly in old age and being handicapped, etc. But it all began many years ago, probably with my mother, who in her old age raced the upstairs toilet paper with the downstairs and remarked to the visiting plumber coming out of the loo, “Oh, you won the sweepstakes!”
For me it is a kind of classical animism. When we were married in 1980, I bought two brown plastic garbage pails to hold the ice at the reception. They looked like two monks, so I called the one in our kitchen Brother Lawrence and the other Brother Juniper. Brother Lawrence was a lay monk in Paris in the 1600’s and wrote a small volume called THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD, a series of letters to an aspiring novice. In it he explained that he felt closest to God among the pots and pans in the monastery kitchen! It is a charming little book and has endeared his presence now in my kitchen - I take time when I renew his plastic underwear to marvel how 400 yrs later his wisdom and good humor still live on and irradiate my own kitchen.
Brother Juniper, patron saint of gardens, holds the birdseed.
I have a set of bath towels with animals upstairs that we bought for the grandchildren to use when they visited here. Whenever I rotate them into use I have to use a particular facecloth with flowers on it which then I can call flora and fauna!
We have a freezer called Niflheim in honor of the Norse myth of creation: The world was covered with ice and a celestial cow (Age of Taurus?) licked the first man and woman out of it, proved by the cowlick every baby is born with! Every family member calls it Niflheim. The icebox is the Igloo. Tivoli is the name of the downstairs "powder room," so called because the wallpaper features toy soldiers and ballerinas. In Copenhagen there are still the Tivoli Gardens, a nineteenth-century ancestor of a miniature Disneyland with uniformed toy soldiers, and the Royal Ballet of Denmark is famous. I keep this wallpaper, to Beth’s yuck, because clients coming from afar are sometimes apprehensive about having their chart read, etc. They usually are amused and comforted by the humor.
Everything in my living room contains a memory, an association, a classical or historical allusion, and becomes a source of poignancy, historical speculation, or happiness.
So the first layer of happiness for me is in little things. They connect me inevitably to the bigger things they embody.
I would love to hear that I am not the only nutcase among us!
Imagine my delight in finding out that Jung named his pots and pans! And wrote of “die Tuecke des Objekts”—the mischief of objects. It never pays to cuss a "thing" that won’t work ... and I believe I have written already of Chuang Tzu and the raccoons. If not, let me know!
So the ego is the part of our psyche responsible for interpreting our processing of the experience of living our life in the manifest world.
This was not always the case! For generations we did this unconsciously until the huge steps taken by Freud (the personal unconscious) and Jung (the anima/animus, Shadow, and the vast concept of the collective unconscious). Up to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it was up to religion and philosophy to shape our conscience and value systems. Even today, my Teacher’s estimate of sixty years ago, that perhaps 10 percent of the world’s population has access to higher consciousness seems reasonable, especially when the East is included. The rest of us are consciously struggling out of or living an unexamined life.
I am now a great-grandmother and have had the privilege of setting eyes on one of my own great grandmothers and knowing intimately my mother’s mother, my Grandma King (featured in The Beejum Book). She was born in 1854(!) and had my mother when she was forty. So my life stretches technically between seven generations!! Mercy!
Many of you, I venture are "baby boomers," as are my offspring, and many of you are in the prime of life, as their children and life goes on.
What I want to stress is that the work of most analysts and therapists of every stripe is the enormous amount of patients blaming their parents for their own present problems! Blaming anybody is a form of projection! One of those abysses!
We in groups such as ours know this but perhaps we need to forgive our parents, teachers, and generations past because being unconscious they did the best they knew how! In most all of dysfunctional families this applies. I have written before of the elderly woman, a client, who had Saturn conjunct her Moon. When I asked her what her relationship with her mother was, she burst out that her mother had “ruined her life.” So there were two possibilities: 1) her mother was experienced as her own projection, or 2) her mother was indeed a monstrous witch. If the latter, could the woman not realize that her mother had to live with herself 24/7 and she herself could get down on her knees and thank heaven that she didn’t have that nature herself! and further, might she not have compassion for the inevitable karma awaiting such a tortured soul. The client was reduced to tears of relief.
This raises a personal anguish in everybody who looks back on the mistakes we have made for lack of consciousness. Are we guilty or not if we did the best we could? Does not absolution come through becoming conscious of our projections and redeeming them if it is not too late? This is one of the great gifts Jung gives us; the gift of becoming conscious of the gift of consciousness!
So being stuck in the middle of sevengenerations, I personally have made my peace with my forebearers and hope that my descendants will forgive me! I can only say I did the best I could. That I do know. I see the wisdom of the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us!
To conclude, it gives us a psychological excuse to love our enemy because he/she wears the mask of our projection and helps us to become aware of our own unconscious Shadow! Jung would have us realize that we, too, wear the masks for the projections, both negative and positive of others. He even said in one of his letters, “What if the devil removed his mask and we saw the Christ!” Goethe has Mephisto confess to Faust: Ich bin der Geist der immer das Boese will und immer das Gute schafft. I am the spirit that always wants the bad and yet always creates the good. These are courageous statements and could be taken as heretical by anyone not grasping the deeper truth.
Over thirty yrs ago, I wrote "A Paraphrase for Jungians." Here it is slightly modified by further understanding:
Our Divine Guest which art the psyche
Blessed be the Light of Love at our center.
Thy individuation come,
Thy incarnation manifest with consciousness on earth
as it is in our Unconscious.
Give our ego this day its compassionate insight
and dissolve our false projections
as we bear with those of others.
Lead us not into inflation and
help us shed light on our Shadow,
for Thine is the Pattern, the Promise and its Fulfillment.
I have two personal illustrations: The first, before I grasped what Jung meant and the second years later. According to a conversation I once had with Ed Edinger, all conscious response to life involves pro- or introjection. This fits the astrological chart as I describe it: a chart provides a description of the unique way a person processes experience.
Again, a classic example involves my son, Timothy, who is now sixty years old, a psychiatrist married for twenty-five years to his Stanford classmate Meg Little, a child psychiatrist. They are themselves parents of four grown children.
Timothy was on this occasion, thirteen, and in his first year at the Hill School. He had come home on a December weekend with his roommate, Jim, who had left earlier as he was performing with classmates in a choir recital at St Thomas Cathedral in NYC. I was taking Timothy and his three sisters later on the train to attend the recital. The train stopped at various stations along the way, and some other Hill boys boarded. Timothy got up and sauntered down to hang out with them. When we got to NYC Timothy got off with the boys and we followed behind. Without turning around, Timothy waved a hand behind his back and took off with the other boys, not even saying good-bye, let alone introducing us. I was crushed to think that he was that ashamed of us. I sat through the concert holding back tears and indeed Timothy left to go back to school on the bus without a word. I was truly hurt.
Weeks later, when he came home for Christmas, I finally brought it up. Why? The answer sheepishly given was, “I didn’t want the guys to think I wasn’t old enough to travel by myself and think my mother had to keep an eye on me!”
Twenty years later, almost to the day, I married my beloved Walter Andersen and moved from Long Island to join him in La Habra, California. He had bought a new house, and when I arrived I almost immediately began teaching an evening a week at the C. G. Jung Institute in Los Angeles.
Walter was a widower and had been married thirty-six years to a beautiful woman who had died of cancer ten years previously. So when I arrived, we discovered that we had duplicates of many items: pots, pans, dishes etc. Every night I came home from teaching, I noted that Walter only used her pots, pans, and dishes. My assumption was that this gave him the occasion to remember and mourn her, and I reasoned that she must have been young and more beautiful than I. I struggled against my negative reactions. However! this time I was aware, thanks to Jung and my analysis with Whitmont, that all I needed to do was ask the question "How come?’"
“Oh, my dear,” my husband replied, “I am so clumsy and your things are so pretty, I was afraid of scalding a pot or breaking anything!” So NOW I really understood the concept of introjection!
It is imperative of all of us interested in Jung to remember this: It is never what we do, but how the other person interprets it! It is never what we say, but what the other hears that counts!
On a lighter note, I can’t resist sharing that the first day I arrived at the new house, Walter apologetically announced that the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink needed fixing. He had put three oranges down it and they had reappeared in the dishwasher! I had never seen a garbage disposal before, but I knew that this one had to be called Prokofiev after the composer who wrote “Love of Three Oranges”! So from then on we fed Prokofiev, who went graow-wow-wow in appreciation. Which we finally left to move east, we both felt sad at leaving him to strangers who would not recognize his endearing personality!
If it’s any comfort to know we were not totally nuts. I learned from a Jung biography that he himself gave names to some of his pots and pans! So there!
More on these foibles later . . .
Every Sunday, here at Rosecroft, my darling husband Walter, the Polar Bear, would make poached eggs from scratch and serve them on toast on our two wedding gift plates. Then he would proudly put mine in front of me and beam. One morning, the sun hit them and I exclaimed humorously, “These are so beautiful, I must share them with my Divine Guest!” So I bowed over them and invited my Divine Guest to come through me and enjoy them.
Then I had a huge AHA!! That is basically the spiritual purpose of consciousness – to share the beauty of creation and one’s personal joys with one’s Divine Guest. Normally, most of us turn to God when in extremis or shame or pain, but if you anthropomorphize Spirit, he might be looking down into your psyche and thinking “It looks pretty gloomy down there, best to try again in a week or so.”
The Chinese have a lovely saying: If you keep a green bough in your heart, surely the singing bird will come.
Well, after the poached egg experience, I realized something else: The common superstition that people have never to say you are happy because something will surely take it away. That is the ego’s wanting to grasp and hold rather than to go with the flow . . . which led to my memory of Goethe’s Faust in which Mephistopheles says, when bargaining with Faust for his soul: Aber, wenn jeh Du sagst, "O bleibe dochI Du bist so schoen, dann hab" ich dich! But if ever you say, "O time stand still," then I’ve got you! HAH!
Now here is the curious thing, we discovered: Whatever you share with your Divine Guest, you get to keep! So one of the two of us, would from then on, on the spur of the moment, simply stop and say, “You know what? I’m happy!” and we would hug each other and laugh, old as we were. Now that he has been gone almost ten years, those joyous moments are still with me and as fresh as this minute.
Using the image of the circle with the ego on the circumference, shooting it up the radius of Sophia to the center, confirms the function of Holy Wisdom as being "full of delight"! The Joy of Wisdom and the Wisdom of Joy. Given the state of the world as it is presented to us on the news, this may be flying in the face of reason BUT one thing I have learned from being almost housebound the last eight years or so is the pleasure one can take from little things: swallowing hot coffee, apples in a bowl, my wooden spoon from Iona in 1967, the golden leaves of autumn, the deer that come at dawn, etc. Everything I look at these days conjures a memory of association. Voices of friends. My warm puffy in bed. Gratitude and grace come from the same root. Gratias.
Which brings me to Jung. In Memories, Dreams Reflections, the account of him in the jungle, he thinks that probably he is the first white man to be sitting on that spot looking at the animals and trees. "What is his purpose?" he asks. Making it conscious!
So, now I am about to light the fire that my dear son-in-law Al has set for me, and sit down for my Scottish communion, filled with gratitude that I am still able to share these odd bits and pieces with some of you!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
He was 1sixteen years older than I. He was born of American parents who divorced. He moved to Genoa when he was six with his mother and lived in Genoa and Florence. His mother was a friend of Isadora Duncan, Ezra Pound, even Mussolini.
Douglass was taken around the Laurentian Library in Florence by Guido Biagi, fostering his love of handmade paper.
We met by chance(!) in 1946 in NYC, and married three weeks later. When Timothy went to Stanford, he met a cousin of Douglass’s, the family genealogist. Turned out the Howells and my Grandpa King’s ancestors came from the same little village in Oxfordshire, Marsh Gibbon, which in 1967 still had a population of only 200 souls!! Went there in 1967 with youngest daughter, Jennifer.
He was an eccentric genius, highly skilled, and focused 100 percent on making the finest handmade paper extant. His motives for marrying me are obscure, but I think the cruel episodes probably erupted out of immense frustration at the interruptions to his one goal as an artist. He had deep psychological complexes and was subject to outbreaks of rage and violence, but he did his best to support us with years of engraving wedding copperplates for Cartier. He was socially introverted, and would sometimes sit in the cellar in the dark.
He could not receive love or smile without a frown. But he did his best to support us, and I must have been a terrible disappointment to him at times, though in the end I worked to support him. But there were bright spells as well. He just refused any authority, a negative father complex. After the divorce, years later, we became friends and he respected my books and certainly taught me a lot in those years of daily lectures!
Astrologically, the combination of our charts was excruciatingly karmic but, in the end, we worked it through.
It is horribly unfair to only hear one side of a story. I wish he could tell his! He seemed unable to receive love. We all tried. You can Google him for his achievements. Just remember that my accounts were based on my projections but from the artist’s point of view, his suffering must have been even greater than mine. He died at eighty-six, a split, gifted, and tormented soul. If anyone could reach him in the end, it was our daughter Beth and perhaps the generosity of my beloved husband Walter.
I could not eat supper or sleep without adding this.
When I married my artist husband Douglass Howell, we were very poor. Thanks to a wealthy cousin of my mother’s, we were given the down payment to a small 30-x-32-foot house in a postwar development on Long Island. On our block were some twenty houses, and all were occupied by second generation Americans escaping the city, mostly Brooklyn. There were eventually at least twenty-five children under ten on our block. The parents, with one or two exceptions, were moving up, as we were slipping down in the social scale. I had grown up in the Social Register, lived in the finest hotels abroad, spoke four languages, etc., but had never lived in a home, or experienced neighbors, let alone kept house. We now lived on the wrong side of the tracks. Eventually we had four children, a hand press, and a handmade paper mill in the cellar.
I mentioned my son, Timothy, in my last post. On Sundays, I took the kids to the Episcopal Church. When Timothy was about seven, he was already taking Sunday School lessons to heart. My kids took the “first shall be last and the last shall be first" as a variation on the normal fight to see who could sit in the front seat of the car!
The other boys on our block included a bunch of good-natured bullies who fought in bunches. Invariably, Timothy would end up at the bottom of the pile. He is a Pisces, with Mars in that sign. Once his Leo six-year-old sister Abby came to the rescue with a stick, and the boys fled from her outrage! (No, Timothy was not a mama’s boy, but he did have Mars in Pisces!) When I asked him why he didn’t fight back, he replied, “Jesus said, if a guy hits you once, turn the other cheek!” Well, I couldn’t counter that, so I finally consulted M. M grinned and said, “To be sure. First time is one; second time is two, but he didn’t say anything about the third time!” Tim took this to heart, and I had my first lesson in masochism.
But I didn’t learn the lesson for myself and suffered for the next twenty years from a horribly negative animus which collaborated with accepting constant putdowns in every department from my spouse. Not knowing much about family life, I accepted this as a norm and became a closet martyr. Then one day on TV, on American Playhouse, I watched Eugene O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh! The plot involves a common laborer husband who abuses his wife; she forgives him; next time it’s worse and she forgives him and on and on. The climax comes, as I remember, when he blames her for constantly forgiving and not stopping him, and in the end, he jumps out the window! That was my second lesson in masochism. I was wearing a sign on my back saying KICK ME! so to speak. There are many, many cases of this in the world and still are.
I finally woke up when something so dire occurred that I knew it was wrong. So I went to the library and took out my forgotten friend Jung. I studied and learned that one cannot help anyone by pity, or change anyone but oneself. I learned about a negative animus. I learned that by changing one’s own consciousness, the outer circumstances will change.
I wanted to write my thanks to Jung and tell him that in reading The Secret of the Golden Flower I discovered that I possessed a twin of the Tibetan thangka that was his and is the frontispiece in the book. It was given to me by my mother’s friend, who had bought it in Peking before WW II. But who was I to write the great Jung? He died, and years later I read in his letters that at that very time he was despairing of ever being understood. So my life is my letter to Jung.
I studied Esther Harding and wrote her a seven-page letter and tore it up. Who was I to write the great EH! After twenty-six years, I finally left the marriage, and I read Edinger’s Ego and Archetype, wrote him, mailed the letter, and he wrote back! Phew.
Too late, I read in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: “That which is within you, if it cometh forth will save you, but that which is within you, if it cometh not forth will destroy you. I just put down my head and wept.
To end on a lighter note, several years later, I took six of my students, boys eleven to fifteen, and my youngest daughter, Jennifer, to Scotland. We were in the Hebrides, and the boys wanted to camp out and cook over a fire, sleeping bags and all. I had driven the van all over the island, and we ended up opposite a quarry. The kids finally went to sleep on a stretch of grass, and I chose a spot with a rock at my back and some loose stony bits to lie on. At dawn, Jennifer came bouncing down and asked me how I slept. I said it was really uncomfortable with all those stones. Mother! she said, why on earth didn’t you move those few feet over there to the grass!! It had never occurred to me! Survival, in my childhood, depended on my adapting. From age five to twenty-three, I never stayed more than three months in one place and traveled to about thirty-five different countries by age fifteen. I still struggle with adapting rather than choosing to change my environment. But a light went on! Aha!
Forgive this confessional, but if it serves to alert just one of you, how meaningful an encounter with Jung’s ideas and applying them can be, I will not have written in vain. When in the Gnostic Gospel of John, in the Round Dance, Jesus chants, "Learn to suffer and not to suffer," he is pointing out that it is the ego that suffers and if you realize you have a Divine Guest, the Self, this is the part who watches and teaches through the grace of Sophia’s in-tuition. When you observe yourself suffering, for that moment you do not suffer.
gratefully and lovingly,
Back in around 1961, my son Timothy attended the same prep school that my father graduated from, The Hill School. Timothy got a scholarship. He was deeply impressed at age thirteen by a course in religion, after which he came home on summer vacation resolved to attempt sainthood. He gave up his bed and slept on the floor; he became a vegetarian; he got a job that involved biking four miles to and fro doing garden work; he was obedient to his severe father, helpful to his mother, and patient with his three pesky sisters! This went on for about ten days to everybody’s astonishment.
One night, I happened to get up to go to the bathroom and passed his door. I heard sobbing. I knocked and entered. Timothy was banging his fists on the floor and tears were streaming down his face. “It’s not FAIR! It’s not FAIR!” he cried. I asked him what wasn’t fair. He sobbed, “I have tried so hard to be good, but now I have fallen into the greatest sin of all!” “What sin is that?” I asked. He replied, “I think I’m better than other people!”
I tried to console him and said we could talk about it in the morning. He calmed down and I went back to bed agreeing with him and praying for a solution come the next morning. I should add that this was a period in which I was immersed in reading and studying Jung.
When I got up, I went to the kitchen to make coffee and noticed the paper towel roll was down to the last sheet; when I took out the empty paper tube, the sunlight flashed through it and I had an AHA! So I took the tube and stuffed the end of it with the last sheet scrap and went to Timothy and asked him to look through it and tell me what he could see. “Duh,” he said grumpily. I whisked the paper out and told him to look again. “Duh!” he repeated. But then I shared the idea that the good that we do doesn’t come out of us but through us from our Divine Guest (Jung’s Self). So we have succeeded in becoming a clear pipe for a moment. Perhaps, he took this in. He graduated from Stanford as a philosophy major and an M.D. and today is an expert and compassionate psychiatrist and gerontologist.
Today, I keep an empty paper tube handy in my office because . . .
Many years later I was finally analyzing with the Jungian Dr. Edward C. Whitmont and also lecturing all over the country and sometimes getting great applause, etc. I said to Dr. Whitmont that I really feared inflation because I was delighted. His words were so helpful, and I need to share them! He said, “Don’t deny it!” I was amazed. Then he said, “Count to ten and offer it up!”
Phew! If we deny it, that is an ego game – see how humble I am! – but if you count to ten, you acknowledge the worth of the tube and send the rest back up where it came from. So, from then on, I would turn my back to the audience and hold up my arms and clap my hands, too. It worked like a charm, an instant cleansing.
Many of us have an awful time receiving compliments. Sometimes we ask ourselves what the secret agenda might be and the compliment goes past us, or we think if that person knew me as well as I know myself . . . ha, they must be stoopid! and the compliment goes thataway, and then we go out in the garden and eat worms – nobody loves me!
These days when I get a compliment, I turn it into flowers and take them to my Teacher.
I wrestled with this problem because I had known a clinical narcissist and thus went to great lengths to avoid any claim to anything including signing my poems. Dr. Edinger, with whom I corresponded, reproached me and said that one has to take responsibility for one’s creative output and I can see that now . . .
I hope some of these thoughts may be as helpful to some of you as they were to me. As usual, my help also comes down from the process hidden in that paper towel holder. It’s amazing what inanimate – ha! – objects can teach one!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
The Blind Spot is a physical phenomenon having to do with optical vision. We all have one! Check it out.
The Wounded Healer or vulnerable hero appears (according to my Dictionary of Mythology) in twenty-seven world cultural myths, and the list includes forty heroes! This surely hints at an archetypal and psychological truth. Achilles’ mother, Thetis, held him in a fire trying to make him immortal but the heel she held him by didn’t make it. Siegfried bathed in the blood of the dragon he had killed, trying to make himself invulnerable but a leaf fell on his back, preventing it. There are many more instances. Chiron is one of the nicest. He was the centaur who ran a school for heroes. Achilles, and a whole bunch of precocious boys. What a job! Heracles, one of his students, shot him by accident in the foot. As Chiron was immortal and knew that mortal Prometheus was deserving, offered to swap his own immortality for mortality and the suffering of the wound. Zeus took pity on him and later placed Chiron in his own constellation in the heavens. Chiron became the archetypal Wounded Healer. He teaches us that the redemption of our own suffering is the ability to empathize and thus more truly serve others.
What does this tell us? Perhaps that none of us is perfect or we wouldn’t be here and that there is an ultimate good that can come from redeeming our mistakes. Any wise counselor knows that “it takes one to know one.” One cannot apply conscious intellectual knowledge alone to help others; it has to pass through one’s being first. Alcoholics Anonymous, inspired by Jung, is a perfect example. Wisdom, it seems, can only come from the humble acceptance of suffering and through the sublimation of loving and willing consciousness.
Which brings us to the third item: Mistakes! We all make them. We feel shame, regret, embarrassment; “have been there, done that”! It is part of the human condition. When I met M, my beloved Teacher, I was twenty-one. I was overwhelmed and rode up and down Fifth Avenue in New York City on top of the bus in tears and shame at the time I had wasted! When I saw him again, he said kindly, “Dearie, if you would spend that energy now in redeeming those mistakes you could put them to use from now on!”
Later on, a definition came to me: A mistake is a loop in consciousness made to expose a greater surface to experience.
In my book The Dove inthe Stone there is a whole chapter devoted to pointing out that trees don’t grow like telephone poles! The trunk aims in the vertical direction and the branches spread out laterally, and each leaf is exposed to a common source of light, the Sun (symbolically our Divine Guest). Each leaf is the result of an AHA! and many of those Aha!’s are the result of redeeming a mistake. The trick is not to keep repeating the same one.
Slowly, I got the hang of this and felt quite pleased with myself until I learned the next step. Being conscious of the mistake is only half the job; the other half is acting out the correction! This runs the gamut from a spelling mistake to a misdeed or unkindness made either out of ignorance or negative intent. Our tree of life has to keep growing, and karma sure is a great teacher.
When I began teaching kids in school, I would spend the first day explaining three things: the first was not to be afraid of making mistakes! The second was to be willing to ask a dumb question; the third was that my intention was not to get them into the next grade, but to expose them to something useful for their whole life.
M taught us by example rather than only words. I remember that during WWII we were invited to West Point by one of his closest friends, a graduate, a stockbroker, and now returned as a teaching officer. The occasion was a cocktail party. Now M was the wisest, most impressive and knowledgeable person I had ever met. He sat on my right, a lady on my left. She began to share some very simple idea that had come to her. To my astonishment, M began to ask her the dumbest questions, drawing her out and allowing her to grasp new insights with palpable delight! What a lesson for me!
After eighteen years of teaching kids, I concluded that I really never taught them anything but I did engineer a few attacks of insight! Those gratifying cries of “Oh, I get it!”
The real meaning of education is ex-ducare, Latin for leading forth, which is the process of Sophia, in-tuition. So we all need to remember this: it’s not what we say but what the other hears! It is not what I am writing but what you are reading that counts. And I guarantee that in every case, the result will be unique. In-struction, on the other hand, building in, is the framework necessary to every discipline. Music requires scales, notes, keys, etc; grammar, geography, sciences all have necessary basic tools that are essential, but usually by sixth grade enough of a beginners’ kit is at hand for exciting things to develop. Intellectual curiosity, at least a few decades ago, was untrammeled by sex, drugs, and the like. There can be a freedom at that age not likely to come until retirement, when the delight of learning just for learning’s sake can re-emerge; so many responsibilities intervene . . . but many of you are as nuts as I have been all of my life!
Taken symbolically, the parable of the Prodigal Son is another story of the ego’s adventure into the extraverted world of painful experience, making that loop in consciousness, ending in being drawn back home to our Self (Divine Guest) by the loving in-tuition of Sophia, Holy Wisdom.
PS: Came across a lovely quote:
Give attention to your pain as you would to a child, giving it loving and soothing attention.
– Jack Kornfield
The summer I was seven and a half, 1930, my grandma King rented a house in Dublin, NH. I knew nothing about death. Innocently, I was conducting an experiment of plowing with a kitten, a string, and a pencil. The kitten ran off under the house and got stuck, but was rescued. Grandma scolded me saying I could have killed it! It could have strangled! I was puzzled, but a few days later I found a wee dead bird and carried it to Grandma King, who explained that all living things die.
I spent three nights terrified. Then I reasoned that if all die, it must be natural, so ok. So I went into the corner room that had her desk in it, closed the door, and called on God to make a bargain. If I lived a good life and helped people, would he kindly give me a Happy Death!
Fifty-three years later, my cousins invited me and my husband to visit them in the house they had rented in Dublin and gave us the directions. To my astonishment, it was the same house!! So, I was able to go back into the same room and, needless to say, reminded the dear Lord of our bargain.
This is to share with you when the time comes for me that I hope to be celebrating and so should we all.
In The Beejum Book, old Mr. Rathbone is on the train with Teak and the critters headed for Beejumstan. Teak, the little girl (moi) asks why. The rabbit Lonesome explains he is on his way to celebrate his Aberduffy Day. Well, Mr. Rathbone was real. I met him when I was six in Rome at the Hotel Flora. He was the uncle of the actor Basil Rathbone and a friend of Grandma King. They were both in their seventies, and Mr. Rathbone treated me as an equal and we had long and interesting conversations! From a Jungian perspective, he addressed my Self and taught me a valuable lesson about teaching kids later on. I remember he said what I really needed was an En-cy-clo-pee-dia. Needless to say, my mother explained it would not fit in my suitcase.
I want to add a comforting observation of a Tibetan lama I met. He said that the English language makes a grievous error in making antonyms of life/death. They should be birth/death, which are both a part of a greater Life. He then drew a circle with a horizontal diameter, put birth on the left and death on the right. In the upper hemisphere “unmanifest Life” and in the lower “manifest Life.” To me this is an important insight and worth sharing.
Just as the ego cannot define “God” through the duality of consciousness, it cannot describe life after death, but at the center (Self/Divine Guest) of the circle we can get glimpses because there we may remember . . . Paracelsus said “Let nature be your guide!” Nature recycles. Nothing gets wasted. Scorpio rules death and resurrection and recycling.
When my oldest grandson was four, I babysat him while his mother was giving birth to a baby sister. I drove him to school and we passed a cemetery. He commented solemnly, “Gaga, that is the place they put you when you die.” Then he added, “But not the important part.” Intrigued, I asked him where his important part had been before he was born. He thought a moment and then hit his head and exclaimed, “Oh, I forgot!”
Not the same as “I don’t know.”
The idea of life after death is hinted at by prehistoric man, who buried the dead in the fetal position, covered with red ochre in some cases, in the womb of the earth. But it reached full written expression during the Age of Taurus/Scorpio in Egypt and Sumeria circa 4000–1800 BC. I will conclude with an Egyptian poem of the period:
DEATH IS BEFORE ME TODAY
Death is before me today
Like the recovery of a sick man,
Like going into a garden after a sickness.
Death is before me today
Like the odor of myrrh,
Like sitting under the sail on a windy day.
Death is before me today
Like the course of the freshet
Like the return of a man from the war-galley
to his home.
Death is before me today
As a man longs to see his home
When he has spent years in captivity.
Now to go and knock myself live!
Needless to say, I visited a great number of zoos and museums. I saw a gazillion medieval masterpieces that depicted a three-tiered version of heaven, earth and hell beneath the earth!
When I was 12, we were in Belgium and I went to an exhibit of pictures of the horrors of WWI – I could not believe what I saw! In Boston in 1937/38, I saw newsreels depicting Japanese shooting and killing Chinese in Manchuria, and in a wretched boarding school in Rhode Island I learned of the early torturing of Jews in Germany. They were made to dance in their own feces on a table while Nazis laughed! I went out in the school courtyard and leaned against a favorite tree and wept and decided right then that hell was NOT underground but right here on earth!! And what an insult! to nature the concept was. Throughout my childhood, nature was the only constant in my life that I could trust, a few earthquakes excepted. And as for the stars, I decided that the one comfort that existed was that the universe continued to run on time.
It still does. Remember that.
So I moved hell up a storey and placed it on earth. Today, looking at the hellish black smoke, fire, rubble and ugliness in Baghdad, I’m sure many would agree with that assessment!
Ah, but there’s a BUT! Many decades later, the Gnostic Gospel according to Thomas was discovered and it were the wonderful words “Heaven is spread upon the earth, but men do not see it.” And then years later, I discovered in a footnote in Aurora Consurgens (possibly the work of Thomas Aquinas) a footnote, put there by M-L von Franz: Petrus Bonus, the alchemist, wrote, “The secret of the Philosopher’s Stone is to look with the eyes and see with the heart” (my paraphrasing). In other words, to look with a loving eye.
Then I remembered another alchemist writing that the Philosopher’s Stone is lying on the road and wagon wheels roll over it!
Then I had my most recent dream of Jung. He shouted at me: “Consider the obvious! I did!” When I looked up the derivation of obvious, it comes from ob via, on the road!
This sequence of fortuitous flukes clued me in to the fact that the truth is lying all around us – nothing is hidden, it is we who are blind!
So heaven on earth has come to me in utter conviction through the process of Hagia Sophia, who in the Old Testament as Holy Wisdom is co-creator with God (giving form to life) and is said to be full of delight (!) and wanting to be helpful to mankind. Jung tells us that she was part of the original Trinity and feminine but got translated into Latin as spiritus sanctus, which takes a masculine pronoun! Another Greek synonym is "paraclete," which means Comforter.
As you cannot kill an archetype, she hid in fairytales as the Fairy God-mother, whose process is to help bring forth the Divine Guest in each of us through the coniunctio of ego/Self.
The secret is simple and obvious – look at any object and ask it what it does. Turn nouns into verbs. Feminine wisdom considers the obvious. To live a sacramental life is to rethink the definition of a sacrament: “A sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible [grace] MEANING!”
To do this is to find glimpses of heaven on earth, to discover Spirit hidden in the obvious all around us on earth and above all in each other.
Find tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
– Shakespeare, As You Like It”
Silly Old Woman
It is one I seem to have spent a greater portion of my life committing, albeit unconsciously, which is part of the problem.
It is taking the physical universe for granted.
For me, as I approach my 85th birthday in November and ipso facto my “Aberduffy Day”* (or demise), it is late but for the rest of u, I hasten to bring it to your attention.
Margaret Fuller, a Transcendentalist and friend of Emerson & Co, said “I accept the universe.” I always was impressed by that. It seems so sensible. But now I would rather be remembered for saying, “I appreciate the universe.”
I am in awe, constantly blown away by the wonder of the intricate workings of this body that I ineluctably will have to leave behind. I think of the tragedy and waste of miracles: the 9 months every soldier, every man/woman in today’s world was carried in some mother’s womb, nurtured, educated for years only in a split second to be wiped out, wounded, crippled in mind or limb . . . how time-efficient is that!
But let’s start further out. When I was teaching kids in ninth grade, they were looking into drugs called “speed.” I asked them if the following was not sufficient. So, as you read this, take a moment to feel how fixed in time/space you are at the moment. What an illusion!
1. The earth is rotating at 1000 mph.
2. The earth is orbiting the sun at 60,000 mph (spinning as she goes).
3. The sun in the galaxy of the Milky Way is moving at 481,000 mph.
4. The Milky Way, in turn, is whizzing at 1,350,000 mph.
So, if anyone you know is depressed, just think what an accomplishment and miracle it is that each of us can go to sleep and wake up in the same body with the same name and identity!!! It is staggering and yet we take it for granted.
My mother once told me a Beejum story in which I went to sleep and woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror and saw the head of a rhinoceros! I was about 5 at the time. It must have made a lasting impression!
As I understand it, there is a ratio proposed that the average number of atoms in a body might equal the number of stars in the universe, and each atom is a miniature point of energy whizzing around in a dance of its own. So Heraclitus was spot on when he said panta rhea, everything flows.
So what invisible processes conspire to materialize all this in manifest order and beauty? Surely they are the basic archetypes of life/form, yang/yin (male/female), expansion/contraction, light/dark which primitive humans intuited were divine and when talked about were given the names of gods/goddesses. In history, the names change from age to age and culture to culture, but the processes never do! The names are personifications. These opposites are interconnected by the hermaphroditic process of communication, personified as Hermes (Mercury).
What I have discovered for myself is that the end result is objects! Manifest not only in nature but in cups, pencils, buttons, pots, windows – you name it. The manifest world is a mute testament to Light, Life, Love.
These are attributes we give to the Mystery we call Spirit (Creator).
To quote the alchemist Petrus Bonus, “To find the Philosopher’s Stone, look with the eyes and see with the heart.”
Look with a loving eye! Jung’s ‘The longest journey we need to travel is from the mind to the heart’ or the coniunctio of ego/Self, made by the grace of Sophia.
Last week, I looked down at a candle and saw the center wick. That is Jung’s Self, the center of the mandala of the psyche.
The flame that lights it is the Divine Guest. There are many, many individual wicks but the flame that lights them is the same flame. It is related to the Sun, the center of our solar system. This sun is a manifestation of what we might call the Sun behind the sun.
To quote Sheik Muzzafer, whom we met in Istanbul: “Allah says: How can I not reward you when you have sought me for so long by revealing Myself in the beauty of this world!”
Phew! Time for my Scottish Communion . . .
* Aberduffy Day, which is in The Beejum Book, came to me in a dream many years ago before I met my Polar Bear. I dearly loved an older man; in the dream our fingers were touching through a wire-linked fence. I was weeping at the cruel separation. He said: “Don’t cry, my dear, we will meet again on Aberduffy Day!” I woke up on a wet pillow but convinced such a day existed. So I checked all the Celtic festivals, etc. No luck. Then I realized from the little Gaelic I know, that aber is connected to ‘river’ and ‘duffy’ comes from dubh, black. Black River = Styx = death!! So, who the heck wants to die when they can celebrate Aberduffy Day! Remember that when I am gone.
In The Beejum Book, Mr Rathbone is on the train to Beejumstan . . . Mr R was the uncle of the actor Basil Rathbone. I met him in Rome when I was 7. He was a friend of my Grandma King. Both were in their 70’s. My R treated me like a grown-up and we had many serious discussions. I loved him dearly. He told me what I needed was an en-cy-clo-pee-diah. My parents explained that this would not fit in my suitcase, which was all I had for many years to come.
Where Theravada and Mahayana had practiced the cause leading to a goal called buddhahood, the six sub-vehicles of Vajrayana practiced the goal itself as an ever increasingly subtle path, starting with ritual acts calculated to break the grasp of ordinary, everyday projection (which is generally of a privative nature – “Oh, it’s only a dog,” rather than recognizing the miracle of the fact that a dog and one’s awareness of dog could actually be) and culminating in the view that, from the very first, everything has always been beyond all conceptual grasping. Awareness itself – the only thing of which we can be more or less sure in this universe – is said to be essentially empty, clear and vivid by nature and all-encompassing in its compassionate energy. This is said to be like the sun shining from cloudless space or like the surface of a mirror that reflects whatever appears before it.
Ordinary, everyday consciousness with its dualisms of subject and object – situation and owner of the situation – and their concomitant likes, dislikes and lack of interest is regarded as like clouds arising in basic space or dust on the surface of a mirror. It is fleeting and non-essential . . . in Zen terms, the ‘guest’ rather than the ‘host’.
Once the dust is cleared away, the mirror reflects. When the clouds disperse or night lifts, the sun is always there, bright and shining. It has never been anywhere else.
Furthermore, clouds are part of the very nature of the sky, just as waves are of water. Therefore whatever arises within or from awareness will have its being in and as awareness and then dissolve back into it, really like clouds in the sky. There is nothing to seek for in that awareness – pure awareness (an attempt to translate what is meant by the Tibetan term rigpa which in tern translates the Sanskrit, vidya, cognate with the Old English verb ‘to wit’ and the more modern ‘witty’) is our very nature. Everything we know arises from and as it and dissolves almost instantly back into it. Alice knows the story of the little fish who asks the Dragon of the Ocean what water was . . . This is that.
Thanks for the Buddhist letter – am folding it and keeping it in Dilgo’s book. Shakespeare says something like it in The Tempest:
You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
– Prospero, The Tempest, 4.1
The first dream I had of Jung, we were in a wood. He had a cane and poked a hole in the earth and said: Ein Loch ist auch eine Mandala. A hole is also a mandala. So, if we look at the circle with dot in middle, and since a point has no dimension(!) that justifies the no-self Buddhist definition and proves that ultimately Eastern and Western mystics agree. They seem to be paradoxical or complementary definitions.
A funny thing happened to me in Los Angeles in 1982 when I was promoting something along these lines in a seminar and writing on a large blackboard. Suddenly the huge blackboard fell off the easel and landed WHAM! on my foot!! It hurt so much they had to seat me in a chair w/a bucket of ice-water. I was using ‘Woodstock’, my cromag or staff as a pointer and wearing a cotton mumu [long dress], so everybody agreed I looked like a Tarot card! But the message was clear – as long as we are in the body, which Buddhist teaching declares is a wondrous privilege, we have to live with compassion and accept “chopping wood and carrying water.”
The value of a window is provided by the wall that holds it. AHA!
Incidentally, I had to go to hospital emergency room. It broke my right toe!
For me, as I have said previously, Buddhism is not a religion per se but a meta-religion, if you will. It describes the how of the Only Way. It stresses compassion towards all sentient beings, never tries to convert or force others. I have met many lamas personally, including the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala – he who says: My only religion is kindness!
One thing they all have in common – they are merry! Without exception.
It’s getting late and I am tiring. Perhaps I will share the story of our meeting his holiness in Dharamsala in a future post.