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