Friday, December 11, 2009
I have related in my book Jungian Symbolism in Astrology and elsewhere how I came to be converted from viewing astrology as “superstitious twaddle for nincompoops” to spending the next sixty-five years of my life studying it, teaching it to Jungian analysts, lecturing worldwide, and writing about it in my books! So I will concentrate on it as a majestic topic uniting the visible cosmos with its invisible meaning. Astrology transcends people’s individual charts. It is at least 5000 yrs old and has evolved through the collective unconscious and sheds wisdom through each of those Ages right up to the Age of Pisces and the coming “New Age” of Aquarius. If you are sick of hearing about the New Age, relax, we have 2000 years of it to come!
So my definition is Astrology is a symbolic language of archetypal processes. The astrological horoscope or natal chart is a description of the way an individual is likely to process experience. In other words, no two people are exactly alike. Even born at the same moment, one will go to the drugstore while the other takes a nap. As Heraclitus put it, “With our eyes open we share the same world, but when we close our eyes, each of us enters a separate world,” Jung warns of predicting because many complexes can be dissolved through consciousness; otherwise we have to live them out as fate! Three factors are requisite: latitude, longitude, and exact time of birth plus the gender of the person.
Up until the Age of Reason, in the seventeenth century, astrology was what united science and religion. For centuries Christian cathedrals and early Jewish temples had zodiacs on their floors, and the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples each were allotted to a sign of the zodiac, but when the split occurred with Descartes and others, religion lost its proof and science lost its sense of the sacred. Now, in the last hundred years, thanks to theoretical physics, Jung and many others, we are beginning to see the reunion of the two taking place on a new level.
We do not reject Shakespeare because of comic books, though both share the same words and even some of the archetypal characters. Unlike many other mantic or psychic devices, such as tea leaves, crystal balls, etc., astrology is soundly based on the visible planets orbiting a visible Sun whose positions are measured mathematically through time. But I confess I get a symbolic kick out of looking in an almanac and seeing the Sun’s glyph depicted as a circle with a dot in the middle and finding the same glyph for gold in metallurgy! The same symbolic implication is the wick in a candle and the individual Self that Jung describes as the center of our own unconscious psyche’s mandala. And each Self holds the Same (!) Flame of Spirit’s Life, Light, and Love that I call our Divine Guest to avoid the differing names given it in different cultures.
I find all these matters to make sense, to be symbolically obvious. God geometrizes indeed.
Most of humanity these days is too preoccupied with enormous social and environmental problems to remember and appreciate that our solar system is still running on time. The Sun appears to rise daily, the Moon orbits the Earth every month, and the seasons come and go every year. The Point of the Vernal Equinox precesses (not processes) through the 12 visible sidereal constellations at the rate of 1 degree every 72 years. This message of cosmic order should be a source of comfort. (The word kosmos comes from the Greek and actually means ‘beauty,’ as in cosmetics.)
As I am writing this in December, the whole idiotic argument about whether schools, for constitutional reasons, should abstain from religious or even secular displays and music celebrating the season! What most people don’t realize is that the entire basis for celebration is astronomical – the Winter Solstice – when the Sun appears to suffer the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and yet begins to return the Light anew. Hence all the Light symbolism! December 21 marks the entry of the Sun into the sign of Capricorn, ruled by Saturn. Pagans for millennia have naturally welcomed this event, and the Romans literally called it Saturnalia and whooped it up, big time. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, it was easiest to arbitrarily supplant this with Christmas, which symbolically equates the birth of Jesus Christ as the coming of the “Light of the World.” The actual date, even year, of his birth still is a mystery. One thing only is certain – the astronomical event of the Winter Solstice, and the rejoicing of all of us that the days will be getting longer and spring will come again.
When my children went to school, they sang all the carols, Christian, Jewish, and secular, and celebrated Santa Claus, who as the disguised archetypal Jupiter, the beneficent opposite to Saturn, ho-ho’s his way, bestowing gifts and good cheer. If you don’t believe me, look at the actual planetary glyphs or symbols. They are the same, only reversed! They balance each other’s processes of contraction/expansion.
Saturn, who is depicted as an old man with a long white beard, rules the material world and matter. Symbolically, it takes nine months for a new life (Aries) to manifest in a body. Capricorn starts the tenth sign. Saturn is also the Grim Reaper or death, proving our body is temporary, and, wouldn’t you know, Saturn’s Greek name is Kronos, which rules chronological Time! Saturn’s process is contraction.
Jupiter, rules Sagittarius, and the processes of expansion, fecundity, religion, optimism, and joy. These archetypes manifest themselves in literature in characters such as Scrooge and Falstaff, and, by now you should know which is which!
The Chinese advised the artist: When you think of expansion, use contraction and your work will have good form. When you think of contraction, use expansion and your work will have the spirit of effortless ease.
To close, a friend of mine decried the loss of these archetypes in our daily lives, and I had to laugh – each day of the week is named for a planet with a god’s name:
Sun-day, Fr. dimanche, Lord’s Day;
Mon-day, Moon’s day, It. lune-di;
Tues-day, Norse for Mars or Fr. mar-di;
Wednes-day, Norse, Wotan’s Day or Mercury, mercredi, Fr. (the German Mittwoch or midweek, is Mercury’s function as both/and);
Thurs-day, Norse for Thor or Jupiter, as in It. giovedi, Jove’s day;
Fri-day, Norse goddess Freya, or Venus, as in Fr. vendredi;
and finally Satur-day!
Writing this on Mercury’s Day. I could mention that the ancients also had planetary hours, starting with the Sun’s rise. Years ago I made myself, for fun, a bracelet with colored beads: gold, silver, red, white, blue, green, black, so I could watch the rotation. I know, I was eccentric, but that is Uranian, the higher octave of Mercury, and I have Uranus rising in Pisces in my First House and Aquarius on my Ascendant. Uranus, now rules Aquarius, and Aquarius rules astrology. Figures! Now I have hunger rising and will stop for lunch!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
“The unexamined life is not worth living” could have been one of Jung’s mantras, and I learned early from him to ask the simple question “why?” or “how come” and then look for a symbolic answer. And this is fun! What demonstrates chaos and order at the same time? How about a kaleidoscope? The Greek word translates into “a seeing device of beautiful image.” It is a toy and I hope you can find one. It is a colorful cardboard tube containing two vertical mirrors set at an angle. At the bottom is a cluster of small transparent tiny shapes of multi-colored glass or plastic held in a translucent bottom that can be shaken around. At the top is a peephole. When you look through the hole the bits and pieces form gorgeous mandalas of geometric shapes which change as you rotate the tube. Were you only to see the one end of random bits, you have chaos but reversed is breathtaking beautiful order in motion. The one I have is cheap, but I have seen more expensive ones made with real glass. I keep one in my office to prove a point now and then.
Another example that comes to mind is knitting, especially with different colored wools to make a patterned sweater. As you knit the right side it forms beautiful order but the inside or wrong side is a total mess of seeming chaos. When I could knit, and I loved to! before my stroke, I used to think that most of the time my self-estimation was of the chaotic mess, and I would hope that when I died, some pattern could emerge. I also remember my grandmother had a Chinese silk embroidered little hoop that was supposed to serve as a sconce for a wall light. The embroidery was the same on both sides! It was so fragile it eventually fell apart but not before delivering the message of an avatar’s example, a Buddha or a Christ, who wore a “seamless garment.
Children’s games are another source. Take Ring-around–the-Rosy (Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!). Nobody’s perfect. But from another point of view, when children hold hands in a circle, the energy is distributed and may reach a niveau of collective energy which helps the teacher. When grown-ups form a circle, I have already pointed out that each individual sees the same circle from a unique perspective, and I quoted Heraclitus saying With our eyes open we share the same world, but when we close our eyes each of us enters a separate world. Later I learned from the Stanford physics professor William Tiller, who discovered through biofeedback, that when two people hold hands the energy is squared! Then on Iona with a group of seventy two participants, I shared this, and realized we had solved the insoluble riddle that one cannot square a circle!! I probably am repeating this anecdote but in this context it shares an insight on Ring-around-the-Rosy, and further on the dichotomy presented by the coming 2000+ years of the Age of Aquarius!
Aquarius rules the “Common Man” and the global collective – we see this development happening all around us – the opposite constellation is Leo, which rules royalty and the imperial Self of the individual. In North Korea, when you see squadrons of men marching as one, that is Aquarian, and individual opinion seems difficult to come by. This was the ideal of Communism, but with time, the opposite, an elite (Leo), inevitably emerged. Technology is Aquarian: We get Social Security in an envelope but there is no love (Leo) in it. So a flashing light that says “Thank you! “is a poor substitute for gratitude. Now we have the Internet with Facebook, Twitter, etc., presenting the so-called civilized world with a “virtual life” rather than a natural, real one. It will take some time before the balance is restored. Obama is a Leo with Aquarius rising and undoubtedly used Aquarian know-how not only in trying to get elected but in trying to set our sights on a peaceful global community. Lincoln was also an Aquarian, I might add.
I hope I can be forgiven for repetition, but Sophia’s wisdom is at work in every candle. Each individual has the wick Jung calls the Self, but the flame on every wick is the same Flame!! So the Christmas season abounds in light symbolism. Why? What we forget is that for millennia we have welcomed the return of the Sun at the winter solstice on December 21 and that Christmas was consciously designated to replace the pagan festival of Saturnalia after Rome became officially Christian. Saturn rules Capricorn, the most material sign of the Zodiac, so the rebirth of the Sun coming at this darkest time, had symbolic meaning also for pagans throughout history. The Gospel of John speaks of Christ as that true Light which lighteth every one that cometh into the world.
Hanukah is a festival of light as are Hindu traditions involving floating lighted candles down rivers at Diwali.
In Gerald Schroeder’s masterful scientific book The Hidden Face of God, he describes the light in the subatomic world. He doesn’t have to preach. There is Light hidden in darkness, where Jung points out, One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but in making the darkness conscious.
Sophia’s Wisdom extends even further. I remember my ninth graders expressing boredom on an absolutely still day and using that to defend the use of “Speed,” a drug popular at the time. I stopped them in their tracks with the following information, which emphasizes her paradox of stillness and motion:
1. When you, like Newton, drop an apple or a stone, gravity seems to draw a straight line of descent; however, is it really?
2. Our earth is rotating at 1000 mph.
3. The earth is orbiting the sun at 60,000 mph.
4. The Sun and Solar System are moving at 481,000 mph in the Milky Way.
5. The Milky Way is said to be moving at 1,350,000 mph!!!, or so I have read.
I’d like to close with a funny dream I once had:
It is night and I am in a hotel. The manager is conducting me down a hall to show me the rooms. The odd thing about him is that his head is a small blazing sun. He proceeds to open the door to a closed room, sticks his head in which lights it up, and says “I can’t see anything dark in here!” He repeats this each time.
I woke up laughing and then realized a Solar God cannot know darkness, so the domain of Sophia’s feminine Wisdom of the Moon provides the dark in which the Sun’s light can be reflected and constantly changed during each mo(o)nth. If everything were light, we would not be conscious of it. The paradox is that sunrise is actually earthset! And vice-versa. The sun is always shining and steady, at least, in its centering of our solar system. Earth as a planet is the one constantly moving in orbit.
Today, the astronauts are able to move outside the spaceship as if nothing were happening, and yet they, too, are subject to orbiting the earth at 20,000 mph! Now if someone could explain to me who or what the Prime Mover was or how motion ever began!
As Galileo put it, E pur si muove and Heraclitus was spot-on when he remarked “Everything flows.” But, guess what, now I am going to stop!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Many of us may have grown up dismissing all of the above as fanciful nonsense from the past – just not true! Jung however points out that myths are “true of the psyche.” Marie-Louise von Franz, whom I met in Davos, wrote extensively on the psychological import of fairy tales. Jesus and all other avatars taught with parables, and good old Aesop did it with fables. It seems that hiding psychological wisdom in these devices endures because everybody enjoys a good story, so they last, but “having ears we do not hear” until we learn to think symbolically. That is the key!
A Hindu example is “Two birds sit in a tree. One of them eats the fruit and the other one watches.” Think about that from the psychological point of view or from the philosophical point of view, etc. It contains, for me, the whole essence of Herman Hesse’s novel Narcissus and Goldmund! Two schoolmate boys make a deal: one goes out into the world and the other enters a monastery. They agree to meet again when they are old and compare notes. . . What does the saying suggest to you? Are you an extravert or an introvert? As for myself, I have decided I’m an ‘ambivert’(!), extraverted with people, deeply introverted when alone.
The hidden wisdom in all of the devices above is revealed when we think symbolically because this demonstrates the different levels of understanding. The story of the lion that is suffering from a thorn in his paw and is rescued by a kind child was always one of my favorites. One version has him meeting the same lion in the Roman Coliseum. The man expects to be martyred but the lion recognizes him and comes over to lick him fondly. I think George Bernard Shaw wrote a play about that.
On a more controversial level is the whole story of the Exodus in the Old Testament. Some historians today maintain that this story of the Hebrews fleeing Egypt is an allegory, on the grounds that there is absolutely not a shred of historical proof of it given by Egyptian records, which are extensive for the period. Stay tuned. My own take is that this story is set during the Age of Aries the Ram, when the concept of the ego (Aries – I am!) and its opposite Libra (law) emerged. It was the great Age for Judaism. Remember Abraham substituted a ram for Isaac’s sacrifice, and altars with rams’ horns were built, and even today the shofar that is blown is made of a ram’s horn! Moses, stand-in for the ego, led the people to the Promised Land but could not enter it, a psychological truth. Up until the last eight centuries of the Age of Aries, 800 BC, only rulers or eponymous figures were given names, and the concept of universal laws rather than local ones flowered then in the Code of Hammurabi, the Roman Twelve Tablets of Law, the Ten Commandments, and the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path. Also, at the end of that Age, the huge number of named individuals indicated the final triumph of an anthropocentric era, and actual men and women entered history for good in countless fields of endeavor. Jason and the Golden Fleece (ram!) seems another reference to Aries the Ram, and Greek coins of the time have Athena with ram’s horns on them. (For lots more, read my book The Heavens Declare: On the Evolution of Consciousness through the Astrological Ages.) We owe the actual discovery of the Precession of the Equinoxes, that Platonic Year of 26,000+ years, to the astronomer Hipparchus of Alexandria, an incredible feat!
Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper, and many of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, contain much symbolic wisdom, and perhaps I might include my own efforts in my “children’s” The Beejum Book, which has also been studied by several groups of grownups for several weeks, and the chapter “Figg Newton’s Tale” has been taught at two universities, one in a class of cognitive psychology!
I find it sad that the Fundamentalists in many religions take every word literally in their sacred scriptures. This concretizing is a form of idolatry. It keeps the story at the level of kindergarten and by the time the child is in college, he or she is apt to chuck the whole idea as nonsense. And yet if you read my CREDO LX, “The Global Return of the Prodigal Son,” you can see that parable even has political applications.
I cannot stress Jung’s emphasis on thinking symbolically enough! He wrote extensively on the subject and maintained that leading the symbolic life was the key to individuation because it united any external events and objects with their inner meaning. In the end, after all, when we die, all we can take with us is the intangible import of it all. As I will be 87 tomorrow, I can honestly say this with some conviction!
I feel that the purpose of my own life has been to prove that the Sacred is also to be found in the commonplace and that is the easiest place for us to start finding it. Love can be found and expressed in kindness, as well as passion. If you think about it, kindness has no secret agenda. It’s such a simple thing, and I learned this from a fairy tale and as an old lady from a six-year-old little boy, who got off the school bus with a bunch of wild flowers for his mother meeting him. When he saw me, he rushed to the edge of the road and picked some buttercups so I, too, would be happy. I am still blessed, not by the actual buttercups, but by the memory of his kindness. My life has been punctuated with such examples, as well as hideous examples of the opposite.
As a former teacher of children, I cannot resist giving the reader an assignment! What story, parable, or fable was meaningful to you as a child and has guided you unconsciously ever since? If you can remember it, you have been touched by Sophia whose disguise is often the Fairy Godmother, that archetypal aspect of feminine wisdom that mediates between the visible and invisible worlds, always with our spiritual benefit in mind.
This is the first of Sophia’s levels and leads us to understanding that the “Vast Certainty” of Spirit operates on ascending stages of discovery and is constantly challenged by the destructive aspects of dia-bolos, hateful ignorance, the antonym of symbolos. The thing to remember is that there has to be first a yes! for a no to deny it!
The most serious level of Sophia’s devices has to be legends. The difference between a myth and a legend is that myths tend to involve supranormal beings and deities, whereas legends involve human beings. It seems every unique culture has one and they are of heavy duty import. The Hindu Mahabharata, The Teutonic Walkyrie Cycle, the Norse Sagas, the Irish Leobhar Gabala Eirann, and the Christian Legend of the Holy Grail, to name only a few. Each, in its way, is filled with esoteric levels of interpretation and reveals a different facet of humanity.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Don’t be alarmed. Just realize that you’ve been using them all along, which I will explain later on. Alchemy is the name given many, many centuries ago to the discovery of those archetypal processes that are basic to our existence and operate on every level. The popular image is that of a medieval man attempting to turn lead into gold. By now, dear readers, you will remember how often I write of them and the importance of viewing them symbolically. Astrologically, Saturn rules lead and – you guessed it! – the Sun rules gold, which never tarnishes.
Jung studied the matter assiduously and wrote copiously on the subject because he saw the psychological symbolism of the individual’s vicissitudes of experience (Saturn) as the struggle for spiritual growth or individuation. He found that his patients often dreamt alchemical images, which in turn, mirrored the problems and solutions necessary for growth. Solutio is one of the alchemical terms. Shakespeare and Goethe, both literary giants, were familiar with the “science” and the late great Jungian analyst Edward F. Edinger wrote a whole treatise on Faust and also on Paracelsus. Jung was pooh-poohed for his interest, but has hopefully been validated more recently.
My purpose today, in connection to Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, is to point out that if you have ever been cooking in a kitchen, you have been practicing alchemy. All that is necessary is to attach the Latin terminology to a few of the processes. The gold in this case must surely be the secret ingredient: Love! Also the nourishing of life.
One of my very earliest memories of my mother was in the kitchen when I was three. It must have been the cook’s night off. (I never saw my mother in a kitchen again until twenty-four years later because when I was four we left the only home I ever knew for our traveling days, and hotels, nannies, and boarding schools, etc. for me.) Mother had cooked some soup and was eating it, and I sat across the table which, in my memory was as wide as a billiard table! I wanted a taste, so she filled a spoon, blew on it, and reached across with a smile and fed me with love. Needless to say, she never was domestic. My father ended up cooking, making a ghastly mess, and Mother cleaned up. No dishwasher! But that once is still a most meaningful event.
The alchemical term coagulatio describes what happens when you turn raw eggs into scrambled or make Jello; the liquid mixture becomes more solid, or the batter becomes a cake.
Sublimatio occurs as the hot water for tea lets off steam.
Putrefactio takes place in the rottings of the garbage pail.
Distillatio is what you are performing if you make homemade beer or if you made coffee years ago in those glass globe coffeemakers that sent the boiling water up a tube to the top one and you put the coffee in and turned the heat off. Meditation, for me, is the equivalent! You send the consciousness to a higher level, and the Powers-that-Be put a message in and you go about your day until brrrrbrrrbloop, the Thought comes down. The only problem was that I might be getting into the tub or driving in traffic at the magic moment! But I find that if I have a question, it rarely gets answered on the spot. Alas, this system has cost me many insights. Like dreams that vanish on awakening.
Separatio – just peel and core an apple, or debone a fish.
Solutio – dissolve sugar in your coffee or honey in your tea.
The point I am trying to make, is that these basic archetypal processes are hidden in everything occurring on our planet – they are the varying ways energy expresses itself and go by an infinite number of names. The key to perceiving them, as Jung points out, is to be able to think symbolically. Can you remember those IQ tests that list church, house, womb, knife and ask, which one does not belong? You pick knife. Why? Because all the other three contain. The astrological shortcut is the sign of Cancer, ruled by the Moon as Mother, the archetypal container. This understanding can extend all the way to Mother Earth and Mother Nature. In prehistoric archeology, and the Age of Cancer, figures of the Mother Goddess had animals, birds, and stick figures carved into them. Psychologically, the Good Mother/Bad Mother complex has connections to the placement and aspects of the Moon in a man’s or a woman’s chart. There is a difference.
In alchemy the container is the vessel; in the Taoist symbol of the yin/yang, it is the circumference that holds the opposites of light/dark, each holding a tiny circle of dark/light. The entire manifest world belongs to Hagia Sophia, and the struggle of opposites is played out in history and the daily news. Humanity today is out of balance with nature because of our ignorance. Primitive man saw the opposites of womb/tomb and covered the dead with red powder to illustrate the blood of rebirth. Capricorn, ruled by Saturn, is the opposite sign to the Moon-ruled Cancer and rules, among other things, what the Dutch call stoffeljik overschot, stuff left over or mortal remains! In other words, we come into the world naked and live a manifest life but leave everything behind. I believe I have already quoted the Tibetan lama who said we make a huge mistake in making verbal opposites of Life/Death. It should be Birth/Death and both are part of that Greater Life.
It should be noted that the Moon transits everybody’s chart once a mo(o)nth and Saturn transits it every 28/29 years. I think it was Lincoln who said, “The years know much that the days don’t know.” So there is a “menu” to life. The first 28-year stage consists in dealing with what psychological gifts/lacks (karma?) we have; the second, in acquiring new experience and dealing with what we missed in the first stage; the third, combining the results of the first two, and offering that consciousness to the world. As an apple tree blossoms, grows a long summer of little green apples, and drops the fruit and seed for future generations. So by 60, ideally, you should be sharing. Personally, I think I’m making cider by now! Only a few more days and I’ll be 87! The cackling lessons are almost done! I graduate on November 13. Needless to say, this is the ideal plan for psychological evolution, but it is very obvious that the exceptions far outnumber the rule! No two people are alike. All we have in common is time, a mystery itself.
The phone just rang. One of my granddaughters’ water just broke and the world awaits a new incarnation as I write. Awesome! And one of these days, someone is likely to tell you I have departed. Just remember I refuse “to die.” I am going to celebrate my Aberduffy Day. (Later – Arabella just arrived in Maine!)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Let me start with Wisdom, because for some reason people often think I am “wise.” This may be because in less than a month I will be 87, which is old and ready for cackling lessons(!) or because I am still semiliterate, but I wish to straighten out the matter for good. I am wise in one respect only: I know for sure how much I don’t know!! So, there, just remember that.
In Beejumstan, the land of my The Beejum Book, there is a character called Virgo Prunefiddle, a lady elk. She carries a large leather bag full of “facts”! Period. Ten thousand Lithuanians wear bed socks. A horse has no toes, etc. The problem is that for a fact to be meaningful, it has to relate to something further, or So What?
There is a gap between knowledge and understanding. Many think reading some texts equips you to be a teacher or a therapist, but book learning needs life experience to yield understanding. “Emotional Intelligence” as Daniel Goleman puts it. If you think about it, there is a huge imbalance between knowledge and understanding, and it is getting worse every day as technology makes leaps and bounds, and meaning, in the deeper sense, is lost. A dangerous example is our overuse of plastic which doesn’t deteriorate or the worst – the use of drones in warfare to kill human lives!
A sacrament could be described as an outer and visible sign with an inner and spiritual meaning. Science alone covers three levels of knowledge and by its own definition stops, but the fourth remains unspoken. This is meaning which leads both to potential understanding and greater wisdom.
Science 1) Observes and studies. 2) Experiments and proves. 3) Draws conclusions and makes assumptions.
Spirit 1) Intuits symbolic meaning. 2) Our Divine Guest, (Jung’s Self) teaches us from within, i.e., Sophia’s process of Wisdom. (The word science comes from the Latin scire, to know.)
Nothing is hidden but we are blind, and “having eyes we do not see!” which is what I learned from that dream in which Jung shouted at me: “Consider the obvious! I did!” When I checked the root of obvious, I found it comes from Latin ob via, on the road, which is where Petrus Bonus, the alchemist, says the Philosopher’s Stone is said to lie, “and wagon wheels roll over it!” I have written this before, but not in connection with science. Let me bring this down to a kindergarten level. Suppose:
1. We wind up a long length of string into a ball.
2. Hanging on to the string, we let the ball drop.
3. The drop is far quicker than the winding up.
Meaning? An analogy that applies to making mistakes?
Years ago, I was chapel lady for a group of Sunday school kids, K–3rd Grade. The reading included the mysterious saying of Jesus: “To him that hath shall be given but to him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.” There was dead silence. Then a little boy held up his hand. “If he had stuff in a bowl and turned it upside down, what he had would fall out.” Brilliant! Perhaps the bowl is symbolic of our need to be receptive? The bowl in every kitchen can now instruct you further! Yang/yin?
This is my source of delight lately. I look at things and ask, What do you do? Then the archetypal process takes over and you have released the noun to become a verb.
Agrippa, the alchemist, wrote Virtutes divinae in res diffusae. Divine powers are hidden in things. I used to write that quotation on the top of every blackboard at every lecture. But recently in my old age, I see the entire manifest world concealing this wisdom everywhere I look! I am beginning to see! Shakespeare expresses it best in As You Like It:
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
I would not change it.
This all started for me in giving names to things (see Credo 82). This may seem silly to some of you, and yet the word silly comes from the German selig, which means holy, blessed. As it is, many give names to their homes, cars, boats, so why not more intimate things? The whole point is that it helps us to learn wisdom from wrapping paper, window panes, pencils, the spiral of water going down an emptying bathtub – that one yields the mathematics of the Spiral Nebula, the nautilus shell, the Golden Rectangle, and the shape of the Parthenon! Phew! God does indeed geometrize!
This is a Geometry of Being, and these archetypal processes can be found anywhere you look if you know the secret. It helps to know astrological processes because they make the linking go quicker. Remember my definition: Astrology is a symbolic language of archetypal processes! The zipper demonstrates this perfectly. Sym-bolos means putting two and two together: going up the zipper unites the manifest with its meaning, and the wee tab is Jung’s Transcendent Function! Going down, it becomes dia-bolos! which separates the two through doubt and cynicism, ridicule, and we are left with a dead world of matter only. Think this through. But even the word matter comes from mater, mother (Goddess!) Sophia is giggling and so am I!
I hope you see how etymology, the meaning of words, is another of Sophia’s clues. My friend Jungian analyst Russ Lockhart and I both came up with the phrase “Words are eggs,” because they hatch out hidden meanings. Another “obvious”!
Monday, October 5, 2009
To complete Rabbi Marc Gellman’s brilliant description of the four types of prayer, Wow! implies genuine appreciation and praise. Today we would say we are “blown away” to such a degree that only spontaneous prayer can thank God (and the Holy Wisdom of Hagia Sophia especially) for manifesting the matter (mater!). Certainly all the religions, every one, are filled with poetic psalms, hymns of joy and gratitude, leading me to link Wow! with our appreciation of beauty, which extends the matter perhaps beyond the purview of religion per se to the vast world of human creativity – to music, to dance, poetry, to painting, sculpture, and sacred architecture! Also, to the world of seasonal festivals, common to humanity everywhere. These are all tangible or visual expressions of praise and things we celebrate year in year out. The shadow here, of course, is that today so much of it is lost in commercialism, yet, as many of these feast days are set by our planet’s rotation around the Sun, in the ultimate sense, the grandeur is there and our physical bodies are impacted. The heavens, indeed, do declare!
We have only to think of Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Egypt, or the Gothic cathedrals of Europe; or Bach, Handel’s Messiah, Shakespeare, Goethe, Michelangelo, to name the more obvious ones, but now we know of Macchu Picchu, the great temples of Asia, and the Vedas, The Bhagavad Gita or our own Emerson, Thoreau, Steinbeck, and Jung himself. Why not the Beatles! The list is endless, but the underlying idea is that Wow! is a human expression of consciousness, a reaction to amazement and awe, whether it be seeing a man walking on the moon or seeing a newborn baby boy’s wee eyelashes or the expression of a child seeing its first tree on Christmas morning!
For me (almost 87!), the world of I-pods and Blackberries, etc., is a Wow!-a-day but this differs from a night full of stars, the sight of perfect symmetry in a flashing snowflake, the miraculous patterning of a goldfinch’s feather, the gorgeous palette of autumnal colors in the trees at the moment. To me, these are silent gifts of prayer that nature gives every moment of every day. The ocean with its tides of breathing! Lovers discovering love!
I am at a loss for words, but suggest at the end of reading this CREDO you take a deep breath and close your eyes, and make a start on what creative example of the universe you might have overlooked. Making these Wows! conscious is itself a prayer. Here is a sample from just the Wow! of memory itself:
A pleasant English summer a life ago
A pleasant English summer a life ago –
a weaving of ovals green
above the riverflow
a dappling of those chips of blue
and gold below
all from a summerswifted evening glow –
a bending of the fluted waving grasses
where the carapaced slow beetle walks
lurching its scarabed angles
through the stalks
wrens in the dusty hedgerows
wagtails, linnets, buntings
darting soundlessly about a
somnolence of sheep
marking the leys of our longing now
to sleep –
oh, what were we waiting for
those summerhays ago
lying aneath the beeches
near the river's summerglow!
The old manse, the pilgrims' eaves
and bedding by the silvers of the starcut leaves
still life, life still
our faces framed by hands and leaning each to each
hushes, whispers, hushes on our tongues
as we let each other in
reaching for – so simply, softly, softly –
the sweetness of each other's skin
what were our pleasures then
drowsing the lovelit night
waking to the scattered pealing
of a morning's feathered light!
marigolds and hollyhocks and
dew-drenched bending roses
flax, weld and foxglove
and the river moving time along
reflecting and collecting
all that lovely, lovely summersong
thinking now in winter
of our older saddened eyes
parted and yet joined
by grey and sodden city skies
I pluck insistence so
from that which summering in dreams
while ever singing deeper, deems
to bear us forth where heaven seems
still flashing in the endless rippling riverflow:
all love that time would let us know
that pleasant English summer, only a life ago!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Continuing this commentary on the four types of prayer, defined so brilliantly by Rabbi Marc Gellman, maybe a word should be added about the blessed role of humor in the great religions, because it is an important factor and, in my opinion, a desperately needed one. Wisdom and joy are placed together in the Old Testament, and there is a glorious tradition in the story of the Baal Shem Tov, who woke up one morning and decided to dance and rejoice and celebrate God in every way possible rather than pour over books and debate all the time. Just one story illustrates this. He entered a tavern to beg money for charity, whereupon a bunch of drunken Cossacks beat him up. He then picked himself and said, “Well, that was for me. Now what have you got for the poor?” At which, the Cossacks roared with laughter and emptied their pockets. He became the source for Hasidism.
In Islam, there is the Sufi “Idiot Sage” Mullah Nasruddin, whose teaching jokes still amuse us after one thousand years and are to be repeated in new versions to this day. He was looking outside his house desperately for something. “What are you looking for?” “My key.” “Where did you lose it?” “In my house.” “Then why are you looking out here?” "Because there’s more light out here!”
I have met many Buddhist lamas in my life, but have yet to meet one who is not cheerful. There are smiling Buddhas. When we met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India, my husband had a bloody scar on his forehead. “What happened to you?” asked the Dalai Lama. Walter told him that because he was tall, he had walked into a shop awning. “Well,” smiled His Holiness, shaking his hand, “that will give you a good reason for remembering Dharamsala!”
Christianity has had the worst time of it. A family story tells of a Puritan forebear who reprimanded his little boy for saying his soup tasted delicious by pouring cold water into it. It was the Sabbath. But C. S. Lewis lightened us a bit, and today, bringing laughter and delight, we have the great and fun-loving spiritual works of British writer Timothy Freke, now a dear friend of mine. As you can see, especially today with one calamity after another, we need to remember that humankind is the one species that can laugh. It is a sacred gift. Even as the Titanic was sinking, someone quipped, “Anybody want to buy a gold watch?” It takes guts to find “laughter in the void.”
So now to the matter of Oops! which translates to the solemnities of penitentia, or asking forgiveness for our manifold sins. For this we have Ramadan, Lent, Yom Kippur, and many, many of our daily prayers that beg for forgiveness. The Episcopal “General Confession” still gets me in the middle of the night – at almost 87, I am no longer able to sin big time (I sin on the installment plan!), but the one that gets me is “Forgive me for those things I ought to have done and have not done!” That is an abyss!
It seems to me that much of what we do starts with ignorance, and I learned this from a tree: A mistake is a loop in consciousness made to expose a greater surface to experience! A tree intends to grow vertically, but branches out more or less horizontally with twigs bearing leaves exposed to the sun. And each new leaf is an aha! of consciousness, and thus it (and we) grow! Neat!
Secondly, there is a mysterious statement in the New Testament that Christ wears a seamless garment. To me this suggests a whole aura, which has led me to think that if we enter this world with an aura with holes in it (metaphorically speaking) they might represent our past failings and so we try one by one to fill them up. Well, I first became conscious of one and felt very pleased with myself. Oops! I discovered that wasn’t enough. I had to actively practice and apply what I had discovered in order to truly mend that hole.
There are both physical and mythological allusions to this. Each of us has an optic “blind spot.” That’s a fact. And there is the story of Achilles’ heel – his goddess mother held him by the heel and dipped him in the River Styx to make him invulnerable. Oops! Where she held him left him vulnerable. The Teutonic hero Siegfried bathed in dragon’s blood to become invulnerable but a leaf fell on his back, witnessed by someone, and so, Oops! a spear conveniently found that spot. Another Norse, and lovable one, was Baldur, who was protected by all that grows, except the mistletoe, which didn’t count. He was killed by an arrow tipped by mistletoe. Oops! And Chiron, the patron of all “wounded healers”! His story gives us the clue to our redemption, because unless you have experienced the mistake you cannot really help another person. You cannot become a good therapist just by reading a text!! Your personal journey of suffering only gives you that gift. It takes one to know one! This is what “Bill” learned from Jung and applied to Alcoholics Anonymous, and this is only one example. “Every saint was once a sinner” about covers it.
As I see it from an astrological point of view, our lives unfold in stages of 28/29 years, the times it takes Saturn to transit all around our charts. Supposing your karma or lesson (symbolically speaking) involves “eggs.” In Stage I, you have little choice of parents, neighbors, etc. So you have to eat your eggs hard-boiled. If you don’t succeed, then in Stage 2, as you move out into new experiences, the eggs come at you scrambled but the motif is still eggs! By the age of 56, hopefully you have recognized them and are able even to enjoy poached eggs and serve eggs up in cookies and cakes to delight others, or else you may end up in Stage 3 with a reputation as a “bad egg”! Obviously, the trick is not to repeat the same mistake over and over. Unravel the meaning of what those “eggs” represent. Fill one of those holes in your aura and move on to the next one.
Finally, a word I have not mentioned, and that is the damage done to kids with the words sin and guilt! I watch with admiration as some wise parents, applying tough love, instead of saying “Bad girl or boy!” simply say, “That’s a no!” or instead of telling them they won’t get what they want, simply say, “It’s not going to happen.” I myself watched a young mother whose child crashed his tricycle into a tree stopping and diverting the child’s tears by saying, “Oh, the poor tree!” The child realized it wasn’t the tree’s fault and tried to comfort it. These are simple steps to start the very young off without the onus of guilt and a lifetime to come of unconscious shame, anger, hatred, and blame. It’s worth a try.
The secret of redemption is indeed “Oops! My blame” Almost two thousand years later, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” is still hard for many of us, but it remains the only way to go. Do no harm.
Continuing with Rabbi Gellman’s pithy contractions of the four kinds of prayer, I would first like to salute anyone of any faith who combines religion and wisdom with joy and humor.! He is a true son of Hagia Sophia, who is described in Proverbs as co-creator with God, full of delight and wanting to be friendly with humankind. Also Gellman is a member of the “God Squad” with the Roman Catholic Monsignor Tom Hartman, which implies interfaith. I say a hearty Mazel tov! to them both. Please, dear readers, check him out!
Sad to say, I think thanksgiving is the least-practiced prayer. Our ego is so occupied with worrying and wanting more, and yet it is only by saying grace (gratias) that we can receive it and consciously acknowledge how blessed we are! The problem arises with self-pity and envy. This comes through comparing ourselves with others negatively instead of positively. As many of us, particularly in these hard times, are consumed with economic or health-related problems, we look to the richer, younger, healthier ones and fail to allow the misery of a greater proportion of the world’s population to intrude on our own predicaments. As the news of this increasing global misery is displayed constantly, we tend to insulate ourselves. So the poster child of this dilemma is Madoff, perhaps, who did this all to himself! “What profiteth it a man if he gains the world and loses his soul thereby?”
After many years of pondering, I have come to realize that the only thing we collectively as human beings really have – and take for granted! – is our level of consciousness. Without it, we would be unable to be aware of anything, let alone the Great ONE or our Creator! So essentially we need to give thanks for that one basic necessity.
Without it, we might never know the unending mystery of Love!
Without it we might not be aware of the gift of Life itself.!
Without it we would not know Light from dark, or the abundant beauty of nature or the joys and privileges of our senses.
Without it we would never know the freedom to create art, literature, music, architecture, the gifts of kindness, comfort, and healing!
That we misuse it is, of course, the matter of our free will.
I am tempted to repeat Jung’s story of being in the jungle in Africa, sitting by himself and thinking he might be the first man to be sitting in that very spot watching the animals and feeling the hush. He asked himself what was he contributing? And it came to him that he was making it conscious! He became conscious of being conscious!! Now, if you haven’t already tried this – stop reading and do it!
So about twenty years ago, I had my own powerful revelation which I related in my CREDO XIII, "God Can’t Eat a Poached Egg" (q.v.).
The following quote comes from a small book called In Abraham’s Bosom by my grandfather Basil King. The words are spoken from “the other side” to the main character, a crusty agnostic, as he lies unconscious.
I found the book by chance and opened it to this, but I am taking the liberty of changing his word God to Spirit. I think Grandpa is giving me permission!
Go back to what we said as to sight being not the action of a temporary optic nerve. We see Spirit by what we understand of It by Its attributes; and we measure Its attributes by their beauty and goodness and practicality. Wherever there has been a blessing to enjoy, you’ve seen Spirit. Whenever love has cheered you or kindness helped you, you’ve seen Spirit. In sunrise and sunset and moonlight and starlight, and trees and fields and harvest and flowers and ice and snow and air, and health and beauty and generosity and friendship, and all that gives to existence, you’ve seen Spirit. It hasn’t been invisible. There is not one world in which It is not. There is not a life with Spirit and another life away from It. There is only one world and Spirit fills it; there is only one life, to which Spirit is All-in-All.
More blessed are they who learn to live in Spirit as in the One Vast Certainty – which created everyone, and supplies everyone and upholds everyone and loves everyone; and does it all with unlimited intelligence and might.
So, as the center of consciousness, according to Jung, is our ego, it is up to each of us to offer thanks and offer it to our Self, which like the individual wick in every candle holds the SAME FLAME of that Vast Certainty!
Monday, September 28, 2009
This brilliant reduction of the four kinds of prayer, we owe to Rabbi Marc Gellman of Temple Beth Torah on Long Island, NY, as reported in an article on prayer by Zev Chafets in the spectacular Jung edition of the New York Times Magazine (Sep 20, 2009) celebrating the publication of Jung’s Red Book. The formulation is so succinct that I thought it should reach a greater audience. Volumes of theology have been written on prayer in all faiths, but, when it comes right down to it, these four one-syllable words cover the matter perfectly and suggest that hopefully our Creator might have a sense of humor, as well as compassion. It surely is an example of “laughter in the void” – after all, laughter is restricted to humankind, as far as we know and the Wisdom of Hagia Sophia is full of delight.
Gimme! is probably the hands-down winner of the four and one of the most ancient. The earliest Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics reveal that prayers of petition were common to all. Farmers prayed to the gods for rain, no locusts, and good harvests back then; lovers for loved ones; mothers for their babies. This reminds me of an incredible conscious experience of the collective unconscious that I once had. It was during the Vietnam War. My son, Timothy, who could have been safe from the draft as a student at Stanford University, was a pacifist who went to extraordinary legal efforts to enlist in the army as a Conscientious Objector and finally succeeded in being sent to Vietnam “in order to help rather than harm.” He came home on leave before his departure, and the final parting took place on the doorstep of our small development house. There he stood in his uniform saying goodbye, and I, his mother, knowing he would be unarmed, put my arms around him to hug him. As I did so, an extraordinary experience occurred: I was overwhelmed in that instant by knowing I was one with every mother throughout history – past, present, and future – sharing an archetypal experience known only to mothers sending a child of their womb and heart into danger unknown! Believe me, it left me shaken. We were to be blessed in that he served as a medic, volunteered in his free time in a Vietnamese hospital, and gravitated to such an interest in medicine that when he finally returned to Stanford, he completed his philosophy major and moved on to the lengthy procedures of medical school. Today he is a distinguished psychiatrist, working with veterans of subsequent wars and using his idealism in a bold new educational plan for the medical field.
But I digress! If we pray at all, chances are we are praying for something or someone. If you could visualize the collective “gimme prayers” of the world, they would form a global aura for sure. Perhaps the greatest one of all is - for Peace! Give just a moment to think about your personal history of gimme! prayers from childhood up … How were they answered, how have you altered their content?
In my The Beejum Book is a chapter titled “The Gimme Attack.” Teak , aka ao, was six and in Athens and wanted something so badly, she ruined peace altogether. My mother, bless her, handled it so well that eighty years later I remember the lesson!
Today, I would add that the function of the ego is to want and want. As we grow older and wiser, the nature of our needs becomes, hopefully, nobler. The Christian Lord’s Prayer covers all four of Rabbi Gellman’s definitions, and likewise the Buddhist prayer for the Noble Eight-Fold Path (in Credo LXXXVI). Years ago, I met a wonderful anti-guru Guru, Dadaji. I still remember his pronouncement: “There is only one true Guru! It is the Self [Divine Guest]! At that level you know everything, only you don’t know that! So we live in time and space and remember as we grow.” (Which is what Jung says.) And I had an attack of insight on the spot: Is that why rain comes down in drops and not in one great SPLAT? At that Dadaji cracked up and gave me a hug. “Eternity hides in the fact that it is always NOW, but time comes in minutes, hours and days, and years. The mind can stretch them out or encapsulate them in a memory of a time frame. It is a paradox.” This I remember figuring out in Rome when I was seven, but I missed the Now part!
A lifetime later, I wrote a poem called “Paradox”:
How wealthy I am
in such a lack
in the specific of poverty
I have everything this day
but you to share it with
and so it seems I have nothing –
yet, knowing such ever-brimming loss
places me beyond my peers of need,
it is like having all of never
into which to set a now.
Monday, September 21, 2009
In a corner, high on a bookshelf is a large stuffed toy of a wizard elf with a bulbous nose, a white beard, a peaked hat with stars on it, and a blue jacket with facing silver moons. I named him Gadzook. He was the gift of a grateful client, the first one I shared the great aha! that came to me about one way of approaching one’s Shadow. And I owe it all, of course, to Jung but also to the archetypes of astrology.
Jung defines the Shadow in this manner:
Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.... If it is repressed and isolated from consciousness it is liable to burst forth suddenly.... At all accounts it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions. (CW 11, para.131)
This described my dilemma perfectly. For decades, so often when I would want to do something, an inner voice would come up and tell me why I couldn’t. Over and over. In a granted moment of grace in active imagination, it was as if all my most negative opinions of my own character added to the shame of my physical shortcomings were formed into a horrid homunculus of a little dwarf and cast down into a dark cellar of denial! Aaaargh!
So one day, when I hear this voice telling me why I can’t, I rebel and shout I know why I can’t, how about telling me how I can!! Well, a miracle occurs, a hatch opens and up comes this pale old creature and remarks, “Well I’ve waited fifty years for this! Now, come along, let’s get to work and let me help.”
From the astrological point of view, I suddenly realized that Saturn rules the Shadow and that I should have remembered that every member of our solar system has a positive as well as a negative archetype. In the case of Saturn, the negative always comes first: the Cruel Judge! I even would tell my suffering clients when they would be putting themselves down, to quote the blacks in the play Green Pasture, who cry out, “Here comes de jedge!” But Saturn also has a positive archetype – The Wise Old Man! Aha!
So by combining these two, I learned that the secret lies in befriending one’s Shadow, though only when it is a matter of genuinely good intentions. As Edward C. Whitmont, the late and my beloved analyst, confided, “Whenever I learn something, out of nowhere a patient appears who needs to know that very thing!” Sure enough, a man appeared with whom I could share this latest attack of insight, and, out of gratitude, he brought me the gift of Gadzook! Now the friendly creature has presided over every session I have had since, and I think the good humor he engenders may help my clients relax and realize that to be introduced to the way they are likely to process experience might well induce a chuckle of conscious recognition.
Those of you familiar with dealing with the Shadow will recognize that this was only an unconscious aspect of it, namely my negative animus, and would be quick to warn the practice of inviting too much, too quickly. It is far wiser to contemplate the Seven Deadly Sins one at a time, and examine one’s conscience. These were defined in the fourth century by one Evagrius of Ponticus, sometimes considered a forerunner of psychology.
• Gula – gluttony of any kind
• Fornicatio – lust of any kind
• Avaritia – greed of any kind
• Tristitia – despair
• Ira – anger
• Acedia – apathy, sloth
• Vanagloria – pride (the worst of all!)
I, personally, prefer Buddha’s Noble Eight-Fold Path, which I try to recite nightly before sleep. I find it so much more positive than any commandments. I have shared it in a previous CREDO but it bears repeating!
THE NOBLE EIGHT-FOLD PATH
The Four Noble Truths
There is suffering in this world:
All suffering comes from attachment and desire.
There is a way beyond suffering.
The way is the Noble Eight-fold Path:
Free from superstition and delusion
High and worthy of the intelligent; worthy of mankind
Kindly, open, and truthful
Peaceful, honest, and pure
Bringing 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
Thomas Berry was more than a man; he was an oak tree in motion. He was many things: a Passionist priest, a scholar, a Fordham professor, a copious and passionate writer, an international force, years before others of us, to warn the world of the potential loss to humanity of our home here on Earth through ignorance of the preciousness of our planet and the sacredness of nature! That is a run-on sentence, I know, but Tom was a run-on man.
I met him once at his home on the Hudson River overlooking the Palisades, and, yes, he pointed out his favorite tree, a huge oak. We had a long conversation; I could never forget him. He followed up our meeting by sending me for several years his bound mimeographed writings in pale blue covers. Each time I received one, his dignified face, so like a stone cliff, would come to mind. For me he was Saturn exalted.
The very night I met him, I had an extraordinary dream:
Tom takes me into a book-lined chamber and explains to me that in it are all the sacred writings ever written all over the world. Then he asks, “Would you like me to show you my God Machine?” He points to a black metal standing box about the size of a two-drawer file. The top section is open. Tom flicks a switch and reveals a little stand. “I can take any book and place it on this stand, push this button, and the book will turn to crystal and the words in it that are true will turn to gold.” So he takes several books and demonstrates this. Some have more layers of gold than others. I marvel.
Then he says with a smile, “I could put a year of your life or a month or a day on it as well, but you would have to realize that we all need the plain dark of the crystal, ruled by Saturn, the god of time. It is what holds the gold.
I woke up before the test! But as you see, I have never forgotten the dream. My conclusion is that God must have a vast library with a section of rare books, first editions, and heaps of paperbacks!! And yet each one would have unique contents and has the potential to be “an open book” or “read like a book” for the instruction of others. Some will probably be more influential than others for positive or negative reasons, which brings me back to that same old question: Do two people read the same book? See the same picture? Hear the same conversation or speech? The answer is obviously, no. Each of us processes the same experience uniquely, which in one whap describes how unity through motion becomes diversity. This is the profound underlying grandeur of cosmic creativity, so obvious (aha!) we tend to overlook it. A billion manufactured butter knives or Coke bottles might look the same; a google of molecules forming different elements may be standard matter, but the minute they are used in unfolding time they too become unique. Panta rhei – everything flows, as the pithy pre-Socratic Heraclitus pointed out millennia ago, and remember, he’s the one who remarked that with our eyes open, we share the same world, but with our eyes closed each of us enters a private world.
I can’t help wondering if Thomas Berry and Gerald Schroeder read each others’ work. Tom can no longer be asked but Gerry can.[ He says he hadn’t.] Both men approach this world of ours wanting to prove the holiness of nature. Both are profound scholars and cosmologists as well as spiritual mystics. Gerald is the author of one of the most awesome books I have read in the last forty years, The Hidden Face of God.
I discovered Gerald Schroeder through listening to a Roman Catholic priest describing the book on television. As I didn’t catch either the title or author, I queried the station which led me to Father Dubay, who enlightened me. I googled Schroeder and wrote him an e-mail, and thus discovered that he grew up in Jericho, Long Island and watched the Green Vale School bus drive past his door – the school where I taught! He graduated from M.I.T., married a Jewish girl from Connecticut, now a distinguished author herself. They moved to Jerusalem, had five children. He is now an honored scientist, renowned in the worlds of astrophysics and microbiology (which covers a lot of territory!) and is also a mystic, a kabbalist, and now an Orthodox Jew.
The reason I love and honor the book is that it is an exploration, written simply enough for a layman, of the complexity of the subatomic world in which we live. The incredible beauty he reveals proves the validity of the word kosmos, which is Greek for beauty and the root of our word cosmetics. Schroeder has no need to convince us that the extraordinary intricate interactions of the subatomic world are absolutely impossible to have come about by “chance.” He does not preach; he doesn’t have to.
I remember lying out in a field one night when I was twelve, in Teufen, Appenzell, at the Swiss boarding school I attended. With me was a classmate, Dorothy Atherton. We were discussing what we wanted to do when we grew up.
I told her I wanted to unite religion and science – ha! What I didn’t realize at the time was that we were lying under the stars! So my path was through the cosmic science of astrology as a symbolic language of archetypal processes and the chart as a guide to the unique way each individual is likely to process experience. Normally, we do that unconsciously, but the option is given us to use it as a diagnostic tool in Jungian analysis. Teaching this has been my life’s work, as well as the topic of several of my books. You can imagine my delight, when I first began the serious study of Jung, to find that he had made a serious study of it all and even consulted the charts of his patients when he was stuck!
I began my studies in 1945 with Marc Edmund Jones, so in a way I was an early pioneer in promoting the serious work of rescuing astrology from its popular reputation as superstitious twaddle for nincompoops. I wanted to become an analyst, but Dr. Edward F. Edinger (bless him!) insisted that I would be of greater service to Jung sharing the value of astrology as a diagnostic tool and a guide to individuation. This is how I eventually came to teach the subject at several C. G. Jung Institutes in this country and also with countless lectures at universities and conferences, as well as a few Grand Rounds in Psychiatry. I spoke at the International Transpersonal Conference in Bombay, but the biggest one was to twelve hundred in Davos, where I was surprised and deeply touched by Marie-Louise von Franz, who, when Walter and I were picnicking out under a fir tree, silently bent under a branch and kissed me, as she passed by!
Thus, I hope you can see why I am in awe of the far greater accomplishments of Thomas Berry and the ongoing ones of Gerald L. Schroeder! What we have in common, along with many others today, is reconciling faith and reason, the outgoing dilemma of the Piscean/Virgo opposition of the ending Age.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Recently, I invited some men to comment on sports from a Jungian perspective. Only one came up with an answer that revealed the potential solution. In his e-mail he wrote “Sports is the sublimation of combat.” But, he seemed to overlook the fact that sublimation is an alchemical process. I remember reading in Volume I of Parabola (1976) an article by the now late Jungian analyst Edward F. Edinger, and I found that I still have it! In it, he wrote:
Two outstanding and inter-related instruments of civilization were created by the ancient Greeks – the sacred games and the ritual drama. It is indicative of their psychological similarity that we refer to both games and drama by the same word, play. These action-forms give human energies a second world [level] in which to function. We are apt to forget the crucial role that games and athletic contests played in civilizing the aggressive energies of early man. . . . In the beginning, the games were always dedicated to a god, indicating that the athletes’ efforts were being offered up to a transpersonal meaning.
–“The Tragic Hero”
This offered for me the solution to my puzzlement at why in archetypal astrology Sagittarius rules both religion and athletics. The icon of the fire sign Sagittarius is the centaur, which symbolizes the triplicity humankind represents: animal body, human, and the aspiring, uplifted bow and arrow aimed at the heavens. So this sign rules both religion and physical sports. The air sign Gemini, the opposite sign, in contrast, rules mental games: cards, chess, checkers, etc., but also drama, the duality of tragedy and comedy. The glyph is II(!), and the icon represents the twins Castor and Pollux.
The word play is common to all of them, and most Sagittarian games involve a solar shaped ball or puck, perhaps suggesting that the One is safely divided into uniting the Two. The Jungian coincidentia oppositorum? Heraclitus did say that “war [combat] is the great accelerator.” Alas, the negative cannonball and the bullet are the Shadow. The penis (Mars) shoots Life and the pistol (Mars) shoots Death.
So where does the alchemy come in? In the case of all these games, they must be contained (like the duality of Jungian analysis!) in the safety of a vessel where the sublimation takes place. If that glass is broken, the action falls down into everyday reality. Games erupt in riots among spectators, and, yes, mental contests can also have the same result. For this, I can give personal experience. When I was married only two weeks to my first husband in 1946, we were playing backgammon in the hushed drawing room of the Harvard Club in New York, of which my father was a member. It was occupied mostly by men reading papers and smoking pipes. Now, I had an extraordinary gift with dice and I was winning by far. When I threw doubles yet again, he suddenly took the entire board and threw it on the floor, noisily scattering all the pieces, shocking us all! Years later, I played cards with a teenager who, when losing, just threw all the cards in her hand and on the table to the floor.
In the case of the analytic vessel, we all know what happens if analyst and patient act out the intimacy often built up in safety during analysis!
I remember that when I was a child growing up in hotels my mother and grandmother never played Russian Bank, a card game, in the lounge but always upstairs where they could affectionately insult and mock one another. Eventually, I was old enough to play and during the game only was allowed to do the same! This was an unconscious application of alchemy, to be sure, but the action was limited to the safety of that vessel.
This may explain the etiquette that built up in the Middle Ages during tournaments and even tennis, where the handshake formally ended the game. (An interesting historical note: Henry VIII and Francis I of France had their first falling out as teenagers over a game of tennis.) The tradition also lives on in the formal high fives ending some sports to this day. The concept of fair play and being a good sport emerged. Contrast this with killing people with drones or transpersonal bombs.
In the Olympics, the sacred symbolism persists in the solar gold, lunar silver, and bronze medals awarded to the winners.
I can’t resist adding another astrological footnote concerning the opposite signs of Aries, ruled by Mars, the martial god (archetype), and Libra, ruled by Venus, the goddess of beauty (archetype). These two are sword dancing and fencing. Both raise the sharp weapon to a level of serving an art form. My husband engraved wedding (Libra) invitations on copper (Venus) plates with a sharp steel-pointed (Mars)] burin. These were done by hand for Cartier, the jewelry store, in New York. His chart had Mars in Libra! Go figure.
As this is written at the height of the games of another sport season, early September, I hope you can see the symbolic, archetypal, and alchemical value in their performance – they are indeed a peaceful alternative and sublimation of combat badly needed in this time, yet again, of violence and wars. In ancient Greece, all military action was suspended during the time of their Olympic games. Would that we could do the same!
Friday, August 28, 2009
I once asked Dr. Edward Edinger, now the late great Jungian analyst, about projection, and he told me all consciousness is projection. This can be further differentiated by the fact that no two people see exactly the same thing because 1) all of us will process what we see, hear, and feel in different and individual ways, and 2) our charts are descriptions of the unique way each of us processes any experience. This is the miracle of unity and diversity, if you think about it. However, some of us are more conscious than others, and, of course, what we choose to be conscious of is greatly determined by our Unconscious!
A toddler learns by naming. So does a student of a foreign language. Naming unites an object with our consciousness. Consciousness, per se, words, and the human bicameral brain are all ruled by Gemini, whose symbol is the Roman numeral II. Words and names both separate and communicate. My brilliant British friend, author and spiritual being Timothy Freke, just discovered the names of Yuk and Yum!! They sound like Beejum Tibetan twins, but those words describe Jung’s projective “feeling function” in a nutshell. Brilliant!
The Chinese sage Lao Tzu (604 BC) wrote the following in his Tao te Ching, translated here by Witter Bynner:
Existence is beyond the power of words
Terms may be used
but are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth
there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter;
and whether a man dispassionately
sees to the core of life
or passionately sees the surface,
the core and the surface
are essentially the same,
words making them seem different
only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
from wonder into wonder
So the concept of names, their differentiation, and consciousness is not exactly new. My hope is to point out that the things named also have a function for us! They are not just to be bought, sold, or possessed, they need to be listened to! They can be our teachers because they are manifest proofs of archetypal processes. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes gives us the words: “As above, so below . . .” so if we start with below and think symbolically we can unlock a wee bit of the above of that “heaven spread upon the earth that men do not see,” which the Gnostic Gospel according to Thomas refers to. The trick is to pay attention to what Jung implored us to do and wrote volumes about: to think symbolically and thus climb, step by step, to understanding and wisdom. Or as I have applied this, in what a zipper taught me!
This idea could help us, having eyes, actually not only to see the “heaven spread upon the earth” but might help transform our attitude to the material world that we are so busy consuming, abusing, and destroying! My whole preceding chapter of nonsense has this sense hidden in its nonsense because by naming a few objects, we were stumbling onto the realization that these objects had hidden gifts for us!
The alchemists knew this. Paracelsus taught it, and it was Agrippa who wrote, Virtutes divinae in res diffusae – divine powers are hidden in things! I used to write this on top of the blackboard at every lecture. The reference in the preceding CREDO to the same geometric spiral of the cowlick, the nautilus shell, and the spiral nebula are concrete proof of this – you cannot deny it! So Mother Nature, whose name mater hides in our word matter, is waiting through eons for us materialists to acquire fewer things and stop and learn from what we already have. This is Sophia’s game! Her delight! It is as if every thing is symbolized by wrapping paper. When you unwrap the gift, out comes a surprise! In short, there is a whole new way of applying “materialism.”
So how do we go about it? Stop reading and look for any object and say to yourself, “I know what you are, but what do you do??” Then listen.
This is the flowback of projection, which is active; now one is in a passive and receptive mode. The object can be a natural or a manufactured object, makes no difference. What you are doing is simply turning a noun into a verb. (The word noun comes from Latin nomen, the root of English name). A movie filmstrip is a sequence of “stills,” but when they move they tell a story . . . As the pre-Socratic Heraclitus wrote, panta rhea, everything flows. Nouns stop the flow. (Mercury, ruler of Gemini, as Trickster!)
One of my books, The Dove in the Stone, has the subtitle “Finding the Sacred in the Commonplace.” The title comes from a Hermetic treatise, because it was heresy for the alchemists to maintain that matter has spirit. The priest Matthew Fox was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, just a few decades ago, for saying the same thing! But the time has come for a whole new attitude toward the material world. If this idea can spread, this earth and we ourselves could live to see a whole new world.
Native people all around the globe know this instinctively but the so-called civilized world has forgotten or rejected their insight and continues to stress building an economy bent on getting and having more and more things instead of pausing to listen to them, to learn from, and appreciate the wisdom they conceal. From wonder into wonder existence opens!
P.S.: Lest I be accused of anthropomorphism, I am conscious of the playful projection, but when it comes down to it, it is the archetypal processes that I am honoring. I can see, however, how unconscious projection can lead to the making of idols. Quite a lesson!
Monday, August 24, 2009
It must have started in 1927, when my parents and I began traveling the world. With our constant separations, they had to cable directions about luggage, so each suitcase was given a name. A typical yellow folded telegram would arrive, and my mother would unfold it and read typed on the white strips such words as HAVE CHECKED DRAGON AND PLATYBUS PARIS GARE DU NORD STOP PICK UP FOR ROME LOVE REG. I remember Mother got in trouble with the Egyptian government when she wired SENDING DROMEDARY BY BOAT TO PIRAEUS LOVE PENELOPE. She was told she could not ship an animal without a permit! I had the Camel because it humped when full and the Kangaroo (pockets in interior) and my beloved Spy Bag, an over the shoulder strapped leather pouch. So naming things came naturally.
Walter, my beloved husband, the Polar Bear, understood immediately. He had the Moon in Gemini. When we married in 1980, having met on the ship cruising the Mediterranean that I was teaching on, he lived in La Habra, California and I on Long Island in New York. So after the wedding, he went back west and bought a bigger house, and I traveled shortly to a whole new life.
Walter showed off our new home but was very apologetic about the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink. (I had never seen one!). It seemed he had put three orange remnants in it and they came up in the washing machine! So I named it Prokofiev, for the composer who wrote “Love of Four Oranges.” Happily, we took to “feeding Prokofiev” and he would go growlrowlgrowl from then on. When we moved east, I actually felt terrible at parting from him! I had brought Brother Lawrence, the new brown plastic garbage bin that held our ice at the wedding. I think I have mentioned the connection before. Brother Lawrence was the monk who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God in Paris and felt closest to God in the kitchen. He is still with me in mine.
When we came to Rosecroft in 1983, we purchased a freezer. Walter called it Niflheim and explained, as a Norseman himself, that this was a reference to the Norse myth of creation. It seems the world was covered with ice and given that name. Then a heavenly cow licked the first man and woman out of the ice, which is the origin of our “cowlick,” the first thing to show at our birth! Then I pointed out that the geometric whirl is the same spiral as that of a nebula in the heavens or the whirl in the water flushing down a toilet, or the way a chambered nautilus grows. So Niflheim is still a fixture in “Switzerland,” the laundry room that is neutral territory between our house and the house of my daughter Beth and her family next door. My icebox is the Igloo, and the bathroom downstairs is Tivoli, named for the child’s wallpaper featuring toy wooden soldiers in red/blue and ballerinas. For me, Tivoli is Copenhagen’s original nineteenth-century fun park plus the Royal Ballet the city is famous for. My daughter Beth disapproves of the wallpaper, but I chose it because when my clients come for a reading of their chart, they first often are apprehensive and go piddle. One sight of that wallpaper clues them in –that there must be some humor in this house – and there is!
Upstairs, we had a group of stuffed animals that turned out to be archetypal. After my stroke, I could no longer make my bed, so Walter made it and took to arranging the critters in different ways every morning. The very last time, I came up to find the wee hedgehog, Dr. Zweistein, on the baby pillow with a bottle of my “Stinkum,” my Grandma King’s name for perfume. The two bears, Rosie and Rofty (a polar bear); Oxo, the bison; and the two camels, Camille and Kahlil, were all in a circle around the pillow paying close attention. At my look of inquiry, Walter explained: “He’s giving a lesson in aroma therapy!”
Camille, the smaller camel, deserves special mention. On the ship, there were a number of middle-aged single women who all liked the handsome white-haired widower. To make them happy, he would joke with them and promise their fathers ten to twenty camels if they would become wife Number 3,.7, 8, etc.! But at 9 o’clock pm, I was No.1!! He kept us all in stitches. So at the wedding reception, the cake was brought in topped by a foil pyramid, and Roger Woolger, a Jungian analyst and the Best Man, explained that at the church wedding I had been only a proxy bride. The real one was under the pyramid. Ta dah! He lifted it to reveal Camille with a little bridal veil. There she was and, believe it-or-not, she traveled with us everywhere for eighteen years, went to the hospital with Walter each time, and was tucked under his arm on the gurney as he drew his last breath!
So even on his Aberduffy Day, Walter conveyed a smile for comfort, and today Camille presides on a shelf next to my new bed in my new bedroom downstairs.
You can imagine the whoop of joy I gave when I read in one of Jung’s biographies that he also gave names to his pots and pans and spoke of das Tuecke des Objekts, the mischief of objects, if they are not treated with respect (read affection?). If you have read my The Beejum Book, you can surely see that he was a Beejum himself!
lovingly, with a fond smile,
“Just remember that nonsense is every bit as important as sense, because sometimes it’s the last resort to help people come to their senses!” Lonesome, the rabbit psychopomp’s advice to young Teak, The Beejum Book, p.47. A sensible consequence to this Credo follows in Part II .Be sure to read it!
A helpful friend was aiding me in clearing out and reorganizing my stationery cupboard, which, before my stroke, was my secret delight and an example of a triumphant Virgo Prunefiddle. However, since my stroke thirteen years ago and the resultant loss of the use of my right hand, the cupboard has become a shambles. The task triggered my memory and the origin of my passion for stationery.
Seventy-nine years ago, I was sent to an English boarding school, St. George’s, in San Remo, on the Italian Riviera. It was a so-called Christian school set in a marble mansion built as a winter residence for Russian nobility. It had a glorious garden and view of the Mediterranean. There I was physically and psychologically abused. Cut off completely from my parents and unable to write an uncensored letter, I suffered in despair. I was eight and a half years old. (I have written about this in a separate chapter and would be willing to send it as an attachment to anyone interested.) The whole experience turned me away, big time, from Christianity. But hidden, it was my first experience of love from two strangers, and since then I have realized that such love is never wasted or even diminished by time.
These two women have a special place in my heart. One was the Italian seamstress who mended our clothes. I first encountered her when I was sent down to the supply closet for fresh paper. This closet had the marvelous fragrance of stationery stores. I could see stacks of pencils and pads, notebooks and drawing paper, clips in boxes, all neatly in place. When I ventured further into the basement room, there sat a voluminous woman all dressed in black. She smelt of honest sweat and garlic and unabashed affection. Seeing how small I was must have touched her, because she would never fail to put aside her sewing and sweep me onto her lap for a swinging hug. She would croon, “Che bella piccola! Che carina! Aleechay, vieni qua!” which translates loosely into words of endearment and approval. I would curl up and cling to this earth mother and shower her with kisses and laughter. Pretty soon, I would learn to rip the hems of my uniforms on purpose to be sent down for more doses of maternal love. I still love and bless that dear woman for understanding the needs of a lonely child. Dear Maria, you taught me to love the smell of garlic! Not only that, but a passion for stationery, and my first lesson that no love is ever wasted. Such was the gift she still gave me yesterday as I gazed into the past delights of my very own cupboard.
The other woman was called Matron. She was the school nurse. She was Scottish, and dour, and had a purple nose. She growled and she twinkled; she was gruff and caring at the same time. She made you feel safe and secure. Perhaps we each understood the suffering in the other.
After a few months, a terrible thing happened. At assembly we were told that Matron had suddenly died and was no more. It came as an enormous shock. It was, perhaps, the turning point for me. My best friend, Patsy Cliff, also my age, knew what biblically was called for: sackcloth and ashes! So we locked ourselves in the playroom, dumped our toys out of burlap bags, stripped and sat down in the fireplace and covered our faces with ashes and wept grimy tears. Never was anyone mourned more sincerely for about three minutes. Then we looked at each other and saw what a mess we were and began to giggle. After cleaning up in the bathroom, we went out in the hall and played leap-frog and were reprimanded severely by a teacher for irreverence and given two demerits each! But today almost eighty years later, I can close my eyes and feel the love that Matron gave me. It was her knowing look of secret recognition of the potential good seen in a naughty child. My soul felt realigned briefly in her presence. These were two strangers.
Since then, I myself have loved and lost in numerous hopeless love relationships and yet in every case turned them into lifelong enduring friendships and vice-versa. One of them described himself as offering “stepping stones” to the real thing that would come along, as it finally did when I was fifty-eight years old and met my so beloved Walter, who was sixty-nine!
In years of counseling others, I have heard so many versions of lost loves and have noticed the difference between those who react with anger or bitterness and those who truly try to understand and want the best for the other. The first group love out of hidden need, which is not the love that lasts, but the second group send out the message that their love gathers itself into a gossamer container, impervious to time or even future lives, that somehow is or will be available to the recipient when ready to receive. Such love is never wasted. Trust me!
As a teacher of kids, I had love for many of them. It is the fate of so many teachers that they give of themselves to their students only to lose them forever. But not always. One of my sixth grade students, came back, now a mother herself, and reminded me that I had told her that she had a flame inside her that no one could blow out! Am blessed to still be in touch with quite a few.
You can see what I learned from discovering Bronson Alcott’s book which, I was able to republish more than 150 years later as How Like an Angel Came I Down. Alcott loved his students and was rewarded by a letter from an eight-year-old boy, which Elizabeth Peabody added in 1834 to the appendix of the original Conversations with Children on the Gospels. Here is how the boy concluded his letter:
The comparisons in your letter, I think were very good – the one that struck me most forcibly and which I have before mentioned in my journal, was the Looking Glass of Circumstance, which I think meets the subject. In this letter you have fully convinced me, that we should not too often commit the dreadful sin of seeking all good without, and not beholding it within our imagination.
From the Jungian perspective, true love comes from the Self of one to the Self of the other. Alcott demonstrates that true teaching does likewise. Most relationship functions on the ego-to-ego basis, including that of teaching. It might be helpful for any readers of this to take a moment to reflect on those people they can call to mind who have recognized the Divine Guest in them or who have tasted the enduring joy of love that lasts. Esoterically, this is the nature of the catena aurae, the Golden Chain, the one of lasting, living filaments that links us forever with the wisdom and love of the great Givers of Gold, those Teachers, all composers, in different fields and times, of lasting inspiration. .
God’s grace is like an ever-blowing breeze, all we have to do is lift our sails to catch it! – Sri Ramakrishna
Monday, August 17, 2009
I learned about this game from Penny Harris in 1944. Penny was a petite woman of my mother’s generation. She knew M before I did, and he called her Nickel. Widowed and a mother of three sons, she was an heir to the Borden milk company, and had a lovely apartment on the upper east side of New York and a beautiful old home in Connecticut. Bill Regan, M’s closet companion, had been a close friend of her husband, and was now back at West Point teaching during the war. I mention these two because it reveals the kind of people that surrounded M. Penny was a Gemini and, as I was by far the youngest in the group, we became fast friends and almost like kids together. Penny struggled mightily with the highly erudite and esoteric material we studied. Her disposition was to being loving and generous. For instance, she gave M her own large bedroom in her apartment and slept in a maid’s room so that he would have the space for a meditation center and the comfort he needed for his work. He was already in his seventies when I met him. As it was up to me to translate the concepts and terminology of, say, the Kabbalah, by hindsight, I see that this was an introduction to my life’s work: helping the concepts of the Above make more sense to the Below. A kind of spiritual algebra … I was deeply touched when she once turned her beautiful blue eyes to me and said she wanted to be my child in our next lifetime! It was Penny who told me about the Bottle Game.
This was a game played at parties during the “Flapper” era of the post WWI days. It helped if the players were in a playful mood. As Penny described it, I began to see its value on an entirely different and symbolic level. I recommend it highly to any of my readers involved in giving workshops. It is certainly a good example of Sophia’s delight in making wisdom fun. Here’s how it goes: a row of eight empty bottles is set up about two feet apart. An innocent volunteer is chosen to prove that he/she can slalom the row without knocking over any bottle. This is carefully practiced three times. The volunteer is then taken to another room and blindfolded while the host explains the rules of the game. Then the volunteer is brought back and set exactly at the head of the row and challenged to slalom again while blindfolded. The other guests are instructed to make soft positive and encouraging remarks during the time the volunteer triumphantly manages to succeed. At the sound of applause, the volunteer removes the blindfold, and surprise!! No bottles!!!
The bottles seemed to me to represent many of the unconscious, built-in inhibitions we all absorb in our youthful development placed there by family, education, religious doctrine which are accepted, perhaps misunderstood, but left unexamined. As a workshop proceeds, it may be helpful for participants to list and perhaps discuss some of these. I will never forget one woman who burst into tears when she removed her blindfold. Her reason? “I was totally convinced that the bottles were there! How can a person be that wrong!” I rest my case.
I think we need to distinguish cultural mores and apply psychological and spiritual tolerance. An example is that a Muslim is permitted more than one wife, but Christians are not. An Orthodox Jew may commit a sin if he eats pork or shellfish, good advice in the light of trichinosis and a hot climate, but today it may seem unnecessary to others. I think I have already mentioned the factor that turned a boy into a lasting agnostic when he was forbidden to attend chapel wearing white socks at his boarding school. One of my own daughters was turned away for forgetting to wear her beanie! On a more serious note, the ubiquitous scandal of priests molesting altar boys has undermined their teachings of Jesus. On the positive side, the gradual shift in the acceptance of Christian women as priests in several Protestant denominations has only happened during my lifetime, and as a student of history, I find it fascinating that one century’s heretic is another’s saint (Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalen), and that goes for scientists such as Galileo and even some recent political leaders like Mandela. One of Pope John Paul II’s finest acts was his public repudiation of the condemnation of Galileo and Luther.
In closing, I really have to recommend the “Milk Stool Principle of Love, Wisdom, and Power” (Credo XXXVIII) that can help keep us more balanced and spiritually sound. The ‘Shalt-nots!” need to be replaced by our own positive personal conscience, responsibility and tolerance – my personal favorite being Buddha’s “The Noble Eightfold Path” (see Credo LXXI), which can apply to anyone. I am also partial to the kindness suggested in this Sufi counsel:
Before you criticize, pass your words through three sieves:
Are they true?
Are they kind?
Are they necessary?
Friday, August 14, 2009
The following quote from the late Tibetan Lama Dudjom Rinpoche reinforces the message of a recent Credo, adding the spiritual application. I was struck by this as I was reading his book of lectures Counsels from My Heart. Here is what he said:
What is the root of all this, the source of both good and evil? The doer of all virtue is the mind, when it makes positive use of body and speech, its servants. The doer of all evil is also the mind, when it uses body and speech negatively. The root and cause of good and evil is in the mind itself. Nevertheless, in a sense, this mind of ours is something unknown to us. It does anything and everything, like a lunatic running here and there at the slightest impulse. This is how it accumulates karma.
The mind is the root of every defilement. It is here that anger is born; and from anger, every kind of hurt and injury to others: fighting, beating, and the rest. The mind is the soil in which all this grows: all malevolence, envy, desire, stupidity, arrogance, and so forth. That is why the Buddha told us to get a grip on our minds. Having realized that the mind is the root of all affliction, we must be vigilant in keeping it under control, holding down our defilements as much as we can. We have to be completely focused on this, gaining mastery of whatever arises.
The mind can move in a positive direction as well. . . . Through the practice of the Dharma, the mind can also accumulate the causes of its own liberation and that of others. Therefore, since the mind is the root of both good and evil, it stands to reason that it must be corrected and transformed. The examination of one’s mind is thus the principal feature of the practice.
The interesting point to me is that if you substitute the word ego for mind, you would hear Jung saying the same thing! He defines the ego by the psychological terminology of “center of consciousness” and also sees it as functioning through duality. (Astrologically, the brain is ruled by Gemini, whose glyph is II.) When we identify with our ego, we give it our name, and it serves us daily in making it possible to live in the manifest world. We do get an involuntary break every time we sleep or are rendered unconscious. It is the part of our psyche that constantly is having to make choices, not only in practical matters, but also in allowing ourselves to be influenced by the emotions Dudjom describes above. In terms of my diagram, the ego, that small circle divided by the circumference, half looking out to the world and half looking inward to the psyche, goes round and around searching. But there is a conscious decision that we can make that is helpful: meditation!
One of the purposes of meditation is to become aware of our ego or “monkey mind.” Every religion has some form of it. Many, though, confuse it with prayer which is active, whereas meditation is receptive, a surrender to something greater than one’s mind. At first, we usually have trouble concentrating, but eventually awareness grows and you ask, “Who is watching?” That is the breakthrough! Who indeed? In this magic moment the radius to the centerpoint of Jung’s Self becomes a reality in Hagia Sophia’s process of in-tuition. Holy Wisdom, Holy Spirit, name it what you will, is the “Only Way” (process, verb!) that connects us to that wick in us that holds the universal flame of Spirit. And, as Jung points out, this center dwells in (sigh!) the Unconscious! The mind can reason that there must be something going on, but what? “The Tao that can be defined is not the Tao.” So, to repeat what Jung said, “The longest journey for most of us is from the head to the heart.” To meditate is to visit a place of love and eventually a state of bliss. Now Teachers and mystics have all pointed this out in every culture and every age, one way or another, but Jung clothes it in psychological terms because so many of us are ego identified and unhappy, lost and not conscious of why. Now, I am probably stepping on many toes, because there are so many instructions and how-to’s to meditation, but, honestly, forget all that to start with – just light a candle, close your eyes, and sit and listen to and receive the Silence, “that peace that passeth understanding.”
One of my favorite stories is that of one of the greatest intellectuals in history, Thomas Aquinas, who pursued and exhausted the philosophical proofs of God. At the end of his life, he had a spiritual experience that knocked his socks off! He came out of it declaring that all he had written was “as straw”; he surely had gone from the mind to the greater mystery of the heart. The Hindus would say that he practiced jnana yoga, the path of knowledge. They also tell us that there are different approaches to that “Vast Certainty”: bhakti yoga, the emotional approach of devotion; raja yoga, the totally committed path, taken by priests, monks, and lamas. A fourth, karma yoga, is to live in the world and give all of the fruits of your actions to God – my path, for sure.
Another person, lesser known, I admire immensely is Brother Lawrence, who was a French lay monk in Paris in the 1600s. He wrote a small book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He felt closest to God in the kitchen! It is a paean of delight among his pots and pans and profoundly spiritual in its joyful practice. Perhaps Julia Child is his reincarnation!
In his honor, I have a brown plastic garbage can which held the ice at my wedding to my beloved Walter in 1980. It has a label pasted on top + Brother Lawrence +. So he is a real and daily reminder in my own kitchen.
In conclusion, I am just trying to point out that one can consider oneself of no consequence and meditation to be a lofty and unreachable pursuit, but that is not the case. Each of us, if we are alive and conscious, is precious and unique, so all it takes is to be conscious of the gift and ultimate purpose, perhaps, of consciousness. As the Hindu Dadaji put it, “God is making love in your every heartbeat twenty-four hours a day.”