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Monday, January 12, 2009

The Hierosgamos – CREDO XLI

This heavy Greek word means Sacred Marriage and is the process associated with Jung’s work on the Coincidentia Oppositorum, which is Latin for the “uniting of opposites.” As this is the underlying motif of all earthly manifestation and the brain itself, instrument of ego consciousness, it is worth considering. (This word, incidentally, means “with the stars.”) And the royal pair in our solar system is, of course, the Sun and the Moon. Perhaps you are familiar with the alchemical drawing of the King and Queen with those heavenly orbs beneath their feet and a dove and six-pointed star above their joined hands. It is on p. 157 of my The Web in the Sea.

My purpose in citing all this is to illustrate a psychological truth that popped up spontaneously one day when I was teaching a class on the psychological value of astrology. It generated an insight that not only affected my own so deeply happy marriage to my “Polar Bear,” Walter, but also became something I often quote when counseling couples.

An average good and loving husband declares his love to his wife when newly wed, say in 1985, and proceeds to shelter her and their offspring and brings home the bacon, year after year, and assumes that his wife knows, without question that he loves her. He doesn’t need to articulate it all the time. Like the sun, he just shines steadily light, love, and life.

The wife, however, is ruled by the Moon, which is constantly moving. A conversation may ensue that goes something like this. She asks, “Do you still love me?” which is incomprehensible to her husband, who might have indicated something to that effect only the day before. “But that was yesterday! What about today?” Expressed or not, this is often the basic difference between the masculine and the feminine, spelled out in a humorous way.

The reaction was laughter in the class, but my husband, bless him, took me seriously and from then on hugged me every single day and told me he loved me, and I did likewise. Mind you I was sixty-three by then and he was seventy-four, but the practice only deepened our love for each other. He was the one who believed in me and inspired me to write those eight books, and he was the one who insisted I gather my poems, index them, and put them on the computer. It mattered not that they were written to previous loves of mine – to him they were equally beautiful. So I gave him the print-outs and he put them in a file, and after his death when I came across it, he had pasted three card-sized post-its on the cover with more “I love you’s!” I, in turn, had written the following for him:

When the last question is asked,
the answer will be molten gold.
Love will have minted
more than life could hold.

Thus, it seems to me, that opposites attract or repel, the extremes being love/hate and both imply relationships. Perhaps this explains Aphrodite/Venus being the goddess of both love and war. Her metal, copper, conducts. In the zodiac, Aries, the first sign, is ruled by Mars and the opposite sign is Libra, the Balance, ruled by Venus – the I and the Thou. When I would teach this I would have a man and a woman stand up in front of the class and act out the possible common actions they could think of: shake hands, fists, dance, hug, turn their backs to each other, or fight, etc. In every case, they were relating.
The Chinese symbol of the Tao, the yin and the yang, demonstrates this perfectly. What we may fail to observe is that they are contained in a circle. The Christian cross has the opposites of vertical and horizontal lines. They make four right angles of 90 degrees, which add up to the 360 degrees of an implied unity of the hidden circle. The six-pointed Judaic Star of David has opposite triangles united, which can be circumscribed by a circle. These all hint at the mysterious One of Spirit. A circle itself can never be fully defined. Its area is pi r squared and pi never ever comes out, which is why, no doubt, Jung describes the psyche as a mandala.
As a child, I remember marveling at the circle of light formed by any lamp post at night when it was snowing. The circle was still and the snowflakes fell through it. Years later, I understood the meaning of this, especially as every snowflake is scientifically deemed to be unique.
Here’s another “obvious” observation:

Haiku: Looking at night
A hundred thousand puddles
are reflecting
the same silent white moon.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

As Above so Below, Part II – CREDO XL

I sometimes wonder about the insubstantiality of the material world, as put forth both by Shakespeare and the Buddhists. As I have quoted before, Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

What if ego consciousness is locked into a certain level of perceiving “reality” like a radio tuned into AM and some of us are able to switch to FM or even UHF? The raising of wavelengths would alter our perceptions. Television offers us different channels ... Thus the reality that what incarnate humanity perceives might be only a fraction of reality itself. There could be a universe within the bubble of a single atom or another surrounding a distant star. This might explain the “reality” of elementals and wee folk at one level or angels at another. It also might explain the gifts of true psychics and the “reality” of discarnate spirits. Jesus’ saying “In my Father’s house are many mansions” to me equals many “bubbles,” one symbolically surrounding another. There is a hint of this in The Beejum Book, I realize, but I am only beginning to grasp the concept.

I remember both my Teacher, M, and Edinger saying that if you are giving a lecture and only one person understands you, you have not spoken in vain, and how do you know there might not be a “crowd of witnesses” surrounding you unseen. I am not suggesting that you accept any of this, but just consider the possibilities.

The authors of popular books on atheism at the moment seem to make the error of being convinced that the brain is responsible for creating everything, which is only half right, as if the broadcast is responsible for the content! That seems to me fairly obvious.

Communication is ruled by Mercury, whose Greek name is Hermes. This personification is the passe-partout god who is gifted with three symbolic things: a helmet that renders him invisible and wings on his feet. These represent the invisibility and speed of our thoughts. The third item is the caduceus, the staff that holds two serpents crisscrossing up it and topped with the wings of a dove. At present, Mercury seems to be delivering flowers for florists, but he is also associated with the medical profession and pharmacies.

Esoterically, the caduceus is also found in the chakras and explains the dilemma of levels. If you have a discussion A to B on the same level it is understandable, but when one person is considering it from a higher level, problems inevitably arise.

  B   !  A+
  A   !   B

For me, this demonstrates the wisdom of the Teachers in all faiths of teaching through natural examples, parables, or the collective unconscious, handing down universal truths embedded in myths or fairy tales. For example, the Hindu saying:

Two birds sit in a tree. One eats the fruit and the other one watches.

From a Jungian perspective, the ego eats the fruit of experience but the Self, (dwelling in the unconscious) observes, until summoned, to yield insight. It is the inspiration perhaps for Hermann Hesse’s novel Narcissus and Goldmund. Two student friends decide on different lives; one goes out into the world, the other enters a monastery, but they vow to meet again in old age and compare notes, and they do. Symbolically, they represent the extrovert/introvert paradox.

For Christians, the same idea is more elaborately illustrated by the story of the Prodigal Son (ego) and his loving return through the humility of kenosis to the loving arms of the Father (Self or even Divine Guest, the Christ Within).

In the Old Testament of Judaism, we learn of the incredible experiences of David, who is perhaps the first human being depicted with all his faults, all his virtues and creative gifts and historic accomplishments! He represents the emergence of a conscious ego during the Age of Aries (circa 2000–0 B.C.). His name means Beloved. He had many failings, which were balanced by courage (Goliath), creativity (the beautiful Psalms), and historic accomplishment (becoming king and founding Jerusalem). He was also the father of Solomon. No wonder Christians traced the ancestry of Jesus (through Joseph!) to his line. I urge you to reread his life and read it symbolically, as well.

M-L von Franz explained that the monks of old would take a quotation from the Bible and meditate upon it on four levels: earth/sensation; water/emotion; air/intellect; fire/action. Many of us do not realize that the four creatures in the Old Testament vision of Ezekiel are mirrored in the four symbols of the four Gospels of the New Testament, which are also the four elements and the four fixed signs of the zodiac!

The Lion of “St Mark” (Leo) relates the actions of Jesus. Fire.

The Man of “St, Matthew” (Aquarius) relates the teachings of Jesus. Air.

The Ox of “St. Luke” (Taurus) relates the human story of Jesus. Earth.

The Eagle of “St. John” (Scorpio) relates the mysteries of Jesus. Water.

The great modern Greek writer Kazantzakis wrote this in one of his novels.

He looked at the almond tree and said, “Speak to me of God,” and the tree blossomed.

I leave this lovely one for you to think of four ways,


As Above, so Below – CREDO XXXIX

This significant phrase comes from the mysterious Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistos, an ancient text whose origin is disputed to this day. However, it fits Jung’s emphasis on the tremendous importance of thinking symbolically. Taking things literally is a form of idolatry, which is why our Teachers throughout history have spoken in parables, which can be read on more than one level.

I have discovered for myself that this is also true of words and, not only words, but things, as well. Take the word symbol itself. It comes from the Greek symbolon, and Latin symbolus, meaning to throw together or “put together.” In the case of a word, its meaning; in mythology, the message; in Jungian psychology, ego/Self. About twenty years ago, I asked myself, was there an antonym? It came to me in meditation – it is dia-bolus!! So that which gets united symbolically is separated by the diabolic process, which is anthropomorphized as “the Devil.” Hah! Gotcha! So, psychologically, it is a matter of denying all symbolic thought and growth of understanding through mockery and cynicism. Sure enough, Goethe in Faust has Mephistopheles introduce himself as “Ich bin der Geist der stets verneint!” I am the spirit which always denies!

As some of you already know, I then tried to think of a physical object that would demonstrate this. And I found one, a perfect one! What common thing, when you pull it up, makes one out of two and when you pull it down, makes two out of one?

The answer is a zipper! And the Transcendent Function is the wee tab or Mercury in disguise. Astrologically, Mercury is hermaphroditic (Hermes/Aphrodite). So in pulling the zipper up he becomes the positive Psychopomp, the leader of souls, (love that word!), and when he pulls the zipper down, the Trickster or worse!

From the moment I shared this with my darling, fun-loving husband Walter, he would put on his pants in the morning, shouting “Symbolos!” and at night, with a comic leer, “Diabolos!” Needless to say, this was a fun thing to relate at lectures, and I would caution the men in the audience not to get lost in the loo as they realized it all starts with the Freudian emphasis on the first two chakras.

Who says that Sophia sends us wisdom with delight – the Old Testament, that’s who.

Seriously, the Emerald Tablet contains an enormous secret: All archetypal processes are verbs and they function on all levels “as above so below.” The problem is that in order to talk about them, they have to be personified – to start with, gods and goddesses, as these processes were seen to be universal, hence divine. Zeus, Jupiter, and Santa Claus express the same process of benevolence and generosity, as does the planet Jupiter in any chart. Jung mentions one of the characteristics of an archetype as being a process.

Lately, I have sought for a physical object that can demonstrate how astrology works. It works through synchronicity, not the medieval concept of cause and effect. Last year, I finally found one: a pantogram! This is a wooden folding lattice-like device that enables an artist to write, say, the Lord’s Prayer, on the head of a pin. At one end he writes a legible script and the engraving point writes it at the same time in miniscule. You can look one up on the Internet.

Needless to say, with the help of a symbolic language of archetypal processes, which is my definition of astrology, I have a delightful time decoding things around my house and, in turn, they become my teachers. I learned from my paper coffee filter an aspect of the “Virgin Birth” – as my Moon is in Virgo, I get a kick out of the pure white paper used to hold the coffee. As you know, the Church Fathers of old were under Mary’s skirts like those old photographers under their black cloth with the camera on a tripod, asking all kinds of literal questions. They didn’t realize that every woman’s womb relines itself every month, so in that sense, every baby born comes in a virgin placenta!

Now, I am not trying to dumb down the highest and most sacred mysteries. Far from it! The wonder is that if we start with the things that are obvious and think symbolically, little by little, we can find the proof we need for those things unseen. The fabric of our cosmos would seem to be ONE and our ego consciousness thinks through duality, so putting two and two together is the secret. Nothing is hidden, we are blind!

As the mystic English poet George Herbert wrote:


TEACH me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake;
Nothing can be so mean
Which with his tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.


The Milk Stool Principle – CREDO XXXVIII

During WWII, the summer I was twenty, I volunteered to work on a farm outside of Brandon, Manitoba. Historically, the wooden house was the first two-storied building in the area and had neither electricity nor running water, but there was a big barn, a chicken shed, and an outhouse with an old telephone book for you know what. There were eight cows to be milked twice a day and I was to be the milkmaid. This was my first introduction to a milk stool. It had three legs and would not tip over under any bovine circumstance. Why? Because the legs were balanced.

Years later, when I was looking for a metaphor, the memory of that simple sturdy item came to mind as a practical example for three basic spiritual needs we all have: Love, Wisdom, and Power. If you think about it, they too have to be balanced, and we spend a great portion of our lives discovering this.

Each of us tends to favor one of these over the others.

But if we love without wisdom or power, we spoil our children and our marriages or relationships. To spoil, as in fruit, implies that what is spoilt was potentially good to begin with. Psychologically, it is a matter of boundaries or codependency. Wisdom and the power of an occasional “no!” is needed. The Sumerologist Noah Kramer writes about an ancient Sumerian clay tablet of cuneiform in which a father bemoans the fact that his grown son lolls around in the marketplace, when as a boy growing up he never forced him to work in the fields as other fathers did ... and we all know the archetypal mama’s boy or girl. Eugene O’Neill, the playwright, based his The Iceman Cometh on the problem of an alcoholic and abusive bum of a husband who commits suicide, blaming his wife for constantly forgiving him and never setting limits. Alas, too much love expressed without wisdom or power to guide it upsets the balance.

The introverted scholar or professional man or woman who pursues knowledge or skills to the exclusion of love or power to serve others is one example of unbalanced wisdom. Or the false guru who misuses his teachings to enslave others for personal ego or money is another example. We have had quite a few notable cases of these in the last few decades!

For many, power used without love or wisdom is the hardest of all. It is the disease that afflicts every dictator in history and many a tyrannical boss or family member or bully in school. Many of us avoid power for fear of misusing it.

In 1998, seventy-two men and women gathered on Iona to prepare for the Centennial Peace Conference at The Hague. Several were retired military members, and a lively discussion ensued of the role of the soldier in the world. We finally came up with the archetype of the Knight, who before his installation had to spend a night’s vigil in a church with his sword on the altar, vowing only to use it to serve his Lord, to protect and defend the weak and helpless. Imagine today if, everyone in the world had to do this before purchasing a gun! Needless to say, many knights broke those vows, but it was an ideal.

The curious thing is that after the Peace Conference in The Hague, only a month passed before the war in Kosovo ended.

At the closing ceremony, we all stood in a circle holding hands, and I quoted the theoretical physicist William Tiller, who discovered at Stanford University that in biofeedback when two people hold hands the energy is squared. We therefore were putting out the power of 72 x 72 which equals 5184 ... As this was quickly calculated by someone else, it gave me the moment to realize we had solved the unsolvable problem of the alchemists – we had squared the circle!!! (You just have to think outside the box.)


Suffering – CREDO XXXVII

It seems that all incarnate human beings suffer at one time or another. It’s almost as if this is the price we pay for incarnation or even one of the purposes of being born into this dimension. My mother wisely boiled it down to three basic reasons: money (survival), health, or love problems. She pointed out that one at a time was instructive, two were painful, and all three unbearable! Think about the amount of suffering there is in the world at this very moment! Poverty, disease, and war are collective scourges that well could put some of our personal problems, past or present, in perspective.

The obvious practical solutions for me with money are the only wise words that have come down to me from my great-great-grandfather Chase: “Always pay your small debts and the big ones will take care of themselves.” In other words, do not go into debt! He spoke before credit cards. Try to distinguish between wants and needs.

Health is not always an option. But it pays not to get into the situation of medications that require a daisy-chain of antidotes for side-effects and consider the impact of the psyche upon the soma, when appropriate.

By love problems, all forms of relationships are implied, not just sex, marriage, parenting but problems that can arise in matters of authority, work, government, as well.

All this is pretty obvious. So what am I driving at? The answer is the archetypal process of Saturn, who dwells in every psyche (and chart) and represents our Shadow. In alchemy Saturn rules lead and contraction or limitation. In the body it rules the skeleton, skin, hair, nails, etc. (And when we die, the Dutch call that our stoffelijk overschot, i.e., leftovers!) We think of this personification as the grim, white-bearded, cruel judge who is intent on denying us happiness. Needless to say, he falls in Aries because there his process delays beginnings, but he is exalted in Libra, the scales of justice. (Remember this is a personification of a process; please don’t take this literally!) So psychologically, it is as if we repress all we know we are not good at, make a homunculus shaped in whatever we don’t like about ourselves physically, and lock him up in the cellar of our personal unconscious. Then whenever we want to do something, he pops up and tells us why we can’t! So we go on projecting our own failings on others ad infinitum. It took me over thirty years to realize why the alchemists were trying to make lead into gold! Hah! So the next time I succumbed to the why I couldn’t, I bearded my Saturn and said: I know why I can’t but maybe you could tell me how I could!! At which, this cold, nasty personification stood up and said: “I’ve waited almost fifty years for you to realize this; now come on, let’s work on this together.” So the alchemy consists in realizing, at the personal level, that the purpose of suffering is to transform it to wisdom. And guess what? The positive personification of Saturn is The Wise Old Man!

This means perhaps that incarnation is something we elect to undergo for the purpose of becoming wiser. This is truly worth considering, because book-learning, alas, alone won’t accomplish this, and the only people who can heal others are those who have learned the hard way. This explains Chiron, “the Wounded Healer.” Add to this that Saturn rules Capricorn, the tenth sign, and it takes nine months for a baby to be born, so many pagan gods were said to be born at the winter solstice in December, including Jesus Christ, whose incarnation was deliberately set by the Church to replace the pagan Roman celebration of the Saturnalia! Add to this the fact that the Moon circumnavigates every chart every month in approx 27+ days, and the transiting Saturn does the same in approx. 28 yrs. This means that between the two of them the lessons are there to be learned, every day, week, month, and year as the aspects between them progress. This is the meaning of karma, cause and effect. If one considers the Moon, the matrix of consciousness, it reflects the function of the ego, which Jung says, circumambulates the Self. As the physical Moon always presents the same face to the Earth, half of it is exposed to all the other planets and the stars beyond, and half of it reflects the Sun in ever-changing amounts. Psychologically and symbolically, everything in the manifest world including our mind is in motion. As Heraclitus wrote, Panta rhae, everything flows – including time. Kronos, Saturn’s Greek name is the origin of “chronology.” So, logically, we can assume that one way of knowing you are identified with your ego is when you suffer. To learn “how to suffer and not to suffer”* means to be able to watch yourself suffering and ask, “Who is watching?” The opposite is also true; the ego can be happy, and when we remember to share our happiness with our Divine Guest (Jung’s ‘Self’) it becomes joy, which always has a spiritual dimension.

Pain cannot be avoided, but the Buddhists give even that a purpose. As one is suffering physical pain, one can offer that up to relieve someone else’s. By sincerely practicing this, some have even been cured. This is also suggested in Christianity by Jesus on the cross.

If you look back to your own past, you realize that suffering ceases when the lesson is learned. I thought at first that that was all that was required. Not so! The new consciousness has to be applied in real life! Rats!


*From Jesus in the Gnostic Gospel of John in “The Round Dance.”

Ad rem/ad hominem – CREDO XXXVI

These two Latin terms are legalese for arguing “to the issue” (ad rem) and “to the person” (ad hominem), and they certainly are in plain view in politics and debates! Usually people start out discussing the issues or the matters at hand until they begin losing their grip and start getting personal and begin attacking each other or projecting labels onto them. In Jungian terms, loosely interpreted, it is the difference between the thinking and feeling functions, between being objective or subjective.

My beloved husband had a strong feeling function, and I tend to err on the thinking end. If I am given a beautiful poem to read and the author has slipped from “thee’s” and “thou’s” to using a “you” in the middle, I am likely to point that out because the poem is so lovely, it needs to be grammatically perfect. My husband, on the other hand, would not mention it for fear of hurting the writer’s feelings. This may have resulted in my karma as an English teacher, as, with the loss of the use of my right hand, I now butcher the English language to my endless shame and regret!

Knowing typology helps enormously in understanding where other people are coming from. To refresh our memories, they are intuition over against sensation and thinking over against feeling. Feeling for Jung was not just emotion but judgment into right/wrong or good/bad. I discovered by chance an amusing way to determine the predilections in a group by placing an object in the middle of the room, say a cup or a box, and having everybody with pencil and paper write down, in phrases or just single words, their observations in exactly three minutes. Using a watch, I’d say “Go!” and then “Stop!” Then each would read out their short list. The intuitives would write symbolic or mythological associations but would have to admit that by that list alone you might not know it was a cup! The sensation people would describe the form, size, color and you certainly would know its uses and value. The thinking people might speculate on the origin or history and the importance to humanity of cups, while the feeling people would react to the beauty or lack of it and whether they liked it or not. On the Internet, with groups, it is quite fascinating to observe the typologies at work, omitting the introverted and extraverted sides of each.

Another discovery I made over the years was that at a party, when people had a little too much to drink, the unconscious and opposite function takes over. The intuitives become heavily practical, the sensation people admit to the possibilities of the paranormal, and the feeling people begin high-handed opinions as experts in the field while the thinkers get very emphatic about their concepts. You get the idea.

Getting back to ad hominem/ad rem, there is an enormous advantage to understanding the concepts and their application to parenting and teaching children! When I was a child, the approach was invariably ad hominem. We were naughty, disobedient, or just plain bad! The guilt trips have hovered in the personal unconscious of generations, blighting many a psyche. But today there could be hope for many children if grown-ups would use the ad rem approach. When the child acts out, this would mean saying, “That’s a no!” or if they are whining for something or to go somewhere, “It’s not going to happen!” This directs the attention to the issue and not to the child. In the spirit of a non sequitur, I can relate that my crafty mother, when I was having a tantrum, would drag me in front of a full-length mirror. I would scream and yell until I saw how funny I looked, and I’d end up sheepishly giggling. As a grown-up, when in genuine tears over a love affair, I had the surprising visit of a ghostly inner violinist playing some tragic melody and whispering, “Woozoo, woozoo!” On a more profound level, there are the wise words of Jesus in the Gnostic Round Dance: “Learn to suffer and not to suffer!” – which emphasizes the point that it is the ego that suffers and the Self that observes.

As there is so much suffering in the world today, this potential for detachment though hard to achieve, does offer all of us hope and comfort.


Chuang Tzu and the Raccoons – CREDO XXXV

Chuang Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, lived in the fourth century BC. One of his stories affected my life forever after I read it. In it, he pointed out that when two fishermen go out to fish and their lines entangle, it is common for them to get frustrated and blame each other and get mightily upset. However, if a single fisherman gets his line caught under a stone or by a root, he will sigh quietly and do his best to untangle his line and solve the problem.

About thirty-five years ago, I was living in a garage apartment on an estate on Long Island. You had to put out your trashcan the night before because the garbage truck came in the wee hours of the morning. My garbage can had a well-fitting lid, yet, try as I would, a pesky clever couple of raccoons would manage to open it and strew the whole mess over the place. In dismay, I would look down at the yucky prospect of cleaning it up in my dressing-gown or parka, depending on the weather.

Then, Chuang Tzu’s wisdom came to mind and I grinned as I proved him right. As I counted myself something of a philosopher (lover of wisdom), I cleaned up the horror and came back for a cup of coffee. As I sat drinking it, I marveled at the miracle of the transmission of a Chinese gentleman’s reflection traveling down twenty-four centuries and across almost half the world to teach and affect an unknown woman on an unknown continent! It certainly makes one think about the unseen web of time and place, and the great gift offered us by simple wisdom. I thank Chuang Tzu often and assume somehow that his conclusion came from personal experience those thousands of years ago,

As I was teaching history to a ninth grade that very morning, I couldn’t wait to share Chuang Tzu and the raccoons, realizing that alchemy was afoot, transforming the lead of exasperation to the gold of an insight that has stood me in good stead from that morning onward.

Which brings me to the wisdom of Carl Gustav Jung. Barbara Hannah, in her biography of him, relates an occasion when he was traveling in Burma. He was in a rickshaw with a bilingual friend when their vehicle collided with another rickshaw. Both drivers dismounted and started gibbering at each other wildly, but in the end, they started smiling and repeating two words over and over, and then took up the job of carrying on. Now Jung had a lifelong habit, if you have noticed, of being curious and asking what? why? or how? He asked his friend what those two magic words were. The friend answered, “No soul! No soul!” and explained that in Burma when something untoward happened, one had to decide if it was important enough to take into one’s psyche – or not.

Fast forward to 1981, when I was a co-leader of a group traveling to India. We flew in to New Delhi after a long flight from London and arrived at a dank, hot, dusty airport at about midnight. Slowly we went through customs after waiting ages for our luggage and then straggled out to a bus waiting to take us to the hotel. In the end, we sat in the hot bus waiting for the last two members to join us. The group in the bus was getting restive and fed up and starting to complain. I was sitting with my dear husband, Walter, who was visibly perspiring, beside me. And so, to entertain them, it occurred to me to tell the story of Jung in Burma. As I ended, the last two staggered onto the bus, and we were off. The remarkable thing was that during the entire trip through India and Nepal and Kashmir, whenever things went awry, and that was often, we would hear laughter and those two magic words, “No soul! No soul!”


Theoria and Praxis – CREDO XXXIV

Most intuitive and thinking types in the Jungian quaternity favor theoria over praxis, whereas the sensation and feeling types would stress the practical and the importance of any concept. As some of you might suspect, I fall into the theoria category but have in my eighty-five years had my nose rubbed in the praxis! CREDO XXXIII on the Lotus and the Rose is a prime example, so today I would like to balance Jung’s application of thinking symbolically to the praxis or implementation of life as the individual ego perceives it.

In today’s turbulent times most of us are confronted with major problems having to do with the triplicity of money, love, or health. As my mother pointed out, just one of them is doable, but two out of the three is a challenge, and all three at once are just plain hell. So take your pick and then apply the symbolism. This means backing off and asking yourself: what am I supposed to be learning from this situation? Because like the life in every seed, there is meaning in every situation.

Remember that each individual processes a situation in a unique way. As Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher put it, “With our eyes open we share the same world, but with our eyes closed, each of us enters our inner world.” The proof of this is to have a few people form a circle and notice that each is seeing it from a different perspective.

Jung pointed out that when we grasp the meaning of a problematic situation, it may not have to be acted out as fate. Forty years ago, I eagerly subscribed to this and came up against a rude shock. It wasn’t that simple (theoria)! .Understanding was only the first step. One has to apply the new insight in outer life (praxis)! Then you earned the consciousness. Edward C. Whitmont, the great analyst, told me that no sooner had he grasped a new concept than a patient would appear that proved the point.

The image I had was that we have an aura that has several holes in it. One becomes aware of the hole and acting out the new insight fills it. The myths of Achilles’ heel and Siegfried’s wound spot hidden by a leaf, and I think a Greek goddess dipping a baby into flames to make him immortal but the spots where she held him caused this to fail are all examples. And as we know, the ‘blind spot’ is a physical reality we all share.

This sheds light for me on the symbolism of Christ’s seamless garment. Anyway, most of us are polka-dotted with holes of ignorance or karma waiting to be healed. I know I am!

Needless to say, this applies to the collective as well. History is full of examples, and what with television, radio, and the internet we can observe collective crises brought on every day. To conclude with a positive example: the punishment of the German people after WWI resulted in the rise of Hitler. The humane conditions of the Marshall Plan restored the collective of the enemy after their suffering defeat and perhaps the example – then! – of the United States of America led to the united countries of Europe, with countries formerly at war through centuries now begging to join!

On Iona, I bought a bumper sticker that says: LET PEACE BEGIN WITH ME.


The Lotus and the Rose — CREDO XXXIII

The subtitle of this could also be “Thinking Symbolically” because that is what Jung stressed over and over as the path to wisdom and individuation. In fact, he wrote a whole volume titled The Symbolic Life. This not only opens the door to matching events to meaning in sacred writings, myths, and fairy tales, but I have discovered the joy and fun of matching things to the hidden processes as well.

The Lotus is not a thing, however, but is well-known as the sacred flower of the East. It is a most exquisite water lily, and many gods and goddesses are depicted either seated on its form or holding one. The reason given is clearly symbolic: It is rooted in mud (earth) and grows up through water, to blossom in air, and reflect the gift of the sun (fire). All four elements combine to express natural perfection. Thus it models what human beings are given to work with individually as they strive for nirvana (samadhi). Body, soul, mind, and the presence of an inner sun, our Divine Guest (Jung’s “Self”) are necessary for a complete person.

The Rose is the sacred flower of the West, for Christianity, esoteric Judaism, and Islam. Think of the rose windows in cathedrals, the Rosicrucians (rose + cross), and the Madonna; the rose in Persian, Arab, and Moorish cultures and literature all point to a hidden meaning, but this is not quite as clearly explained. The kabbalist Zohar opens with the rose and the commentary that there is ‘one level of a rose and another level of a rose’. So, I decided to ponder the matter. We named our home Rosecroft because the rose has appeared in wondrous ways in my personal life.

Here are a few things that came to me, and I am certain that you who read this will be able to amplify even further.

The sacred Rose, red or white, is grafted onto the stock of a sturdy wild rose. Suggesting the hypostatic union? That’s the theological term for Jesus Christ as Son of Man and Son of God, hinting that all human beings are a combination of physical/spiritual.

Grafting requires a gardener, and a gardener is a higher level than a plant. A gardener can move about and has the skill to graft, and who created the gardener?

The rose is silent and fragrant. It has a hidden gold center. Its leaves spiral up the stalk in such a way that no leaf shades the one beneath it. It has thorns.

The flower itself is the miracle because it grows in a spiral that follows the one yielded by the tracing found in the Golden Rectangle.

The Golden Rectangle is formed by a straight edge and a compass. Whatever a straight edge produces can be measured (matter) but the compass’s circle is fathomless because of pi (Spirit). It in turn yields four lines of proportionate lengths. (The Acropolis is built on these proportions, and they are to be found also in the pentacle, which is the design of the five-petaled wild rose and is hidden in every apple cut crosswise!)

The spiral yielded by the rectangle can be traced on tracing paper and laid over a sectioned chambered nautilus shell, or you can find it in the spiral nebula of stars or anytime you flush a toilet, look at a baby’s cowlick, or observe the way a fir tree grows, a pinecone, or the seeds in a sunflower!! As the Greeks said “God geometrizes.”
In our culture, the rose signifies Love and it blooms on Valentine cards and appears in the arms of would-be lovers. The rose and the lily appear in the Tarot.
The powerful symbol of the rose at the intersection of the cross, by now, should make symbolic sense!

In the spring of 1944, I met my teacher, M. One spring afternoon I was invited to his workplace on Spring Street in New York. We were alone and sat on a sofa facing the fireplace. On the mantelpiece was a vase holding a single red rosebud. We had a profound conversation, he a white-haired elderly man and I a 21-year-old neophyte. During the conversation, I noticed that the rose was slowly opening and, at the end of our conversation of about two hours, it had fully bloomed. As I got up to leave, he gave me a fond hug and whispered, “Never forget that you saw a rose bloom!” I haven’t.

In 1980, James Fadiman introduced Walter and me to Sheik Muzzafer, head of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis, in Istanbul. Walter and I had found each other on the ship, on which Jim and I were faculty. The sheik ran a spiritual bookstore just beyond the Great Bazaar. Jim advised us that if he offered us cigarettes, to accept them, because when he lit them we would receive baraka, a blessing. Physically, Muzzafer resembled M to a striking degree. His eyes sparkled, and he kept looking at the two of us in a loving way, and we received the blessing and each a handwritten page from the Koran. As we left, he came out and shouted, causing us to turn to see him blowing kisses at us!

Jim left us, and instead of shopping, we went to the Blue Mosque and sat absorbing the experience, then took a cab back to the dock. I went in, leaving my husband-to-be to pay the taxi. There was a long delay. I went out to find a Turk was trying to exchange a torn $1 bill for a whole one. Walter didn’t have one, but I did. The man then said to me in English, “Please wait!” He ran up the street and returned with three roses. Putting his hand over his heart, a Sufi gesture, he smiled and gave them to me saying, “For you, lady, for you.” Smiling, he left.

Needless to say, I shared them with Walter and Jim. They felt like another blessing from Muzzafer. We met him again several times in America, and I went to hear him lecture in Spring Valley, NY. It was a long drive, and when I arrived, I found only a gathering of women. I pressed through them over their Turkish astonishment and came to the door of the theater all filled only with men! Muzzafer saw me and waved for me to come down to sit in the front row and gave me some candy, and then resumed his lecture. His generosity covered my embarrassment!

Later we watched the men and their joyous Sufi dancing in a circle, arms over their shoulders, shouting and praising Allah with abandon. He is the man who told me: “Allah, blessed be His Name, says, ‘When you have sought Me with such sincerity, how can I not reveal Myself in the beauty of your world!’”

Finally, the dear widow who sold us this house was called Rose!


Friday, January 2, 2009

Karma Yoga and The Three Donkeys — CREDO XXXII

There are several types of yoga; the most familiar ones are:
Hatha Yoga: the physical discipline of various postures or asanas for health.
Bhakti Yoga: the path of active devotion, gratitude, and praise.
Raja Yoga: becoming a monk or nun in Hinduism.
Jnana Yoga (pronounced gnana): the path of the intellect (cf. Thomas Aquinas).

And then there is Karma Yoga, which to practice calls for “living in the world and giving all of the fruits of your action to God.”

Many years ago, I said to myself, “I can do that!” It wasn’t easy as I was to learn. I began at bedtime by reviewing each day and trying hard to come up with anything I had accomplished by good intention, words, or actions that would be worthy as a gift. I sorted carefully through each day and came up with maybe one or two possibilities.

After about two weeks of this, I became increasingly morose and depressed, and a miasmic sense of guilt pervaded the day. What on earth was I doing wrong? I went back and reread the instructions, which I urge the reader to do. What word had I missed? Can you tell? Many of us, brought up in the West, have fallen into the trap Jung has pointed out – the conscious assumption of positive and the denial of negative (shadow) behavior. The latter banished into the personal unconscious, causes that vague sense of guilt. In other words, as I was trying to extract a speck of gold, the shit (nigredo) was piling up outside my door!

The word I, with my sorting Moon in Virgo, had missed was the little word all! Karma Yoga means offering up one’s failures as well as one’s virtues. If one has the courage to see them, one has made them conscious and maybe one can do a little better the next day. Keeping the balance of impartial observation is what’s tricky. Too harsh judgment is the sign of a negatively inflated ego; the smug assumption of nothing but good bespeaks an inflated ego, but an honest appraisal would point to a reasonably healthy ego. I tried to describe that in “The Tale of The Three Donkeys” in my The Beejum Book. I will try to include it as a sort of Easter present. Feel free to share it. It has been read in churches.

Chapter Eighteen
The Tale of the Three Donkeys

Once upon a time there were three donkeys who lived in the same stable, and this stable was in the countryside, a fair distance from the nearest big city. Every day, together or separately, the donkeys trotted out to market with heavy baskets at their sides, and every evening they munched their hay back in their stalls and compared notes about the day’s events.

The first donkey was by far the strongest and the handsomest and he always had the best tales to tell. It seemed he always carried the heaviest load or the best of the produce. He was, if the truth were known, the most conceited donkey anywhere about. And when his companions teased him about this, he simply put his nose up in the air, and closed his eyes with long-sufferance, and told his two friends how incapable they were of understanding him, because if they did, they would realize that he was really the humblest donkey in the world!

Now, the second donkey was just as big as the first one and was a very presentable donkey, indeed. But he was shy and suffered from a very poor opinion of himself. He always felt inadequate and stupid. The stories that he would tell invariably dwelt on his mistakes or his clumsiness – how he had stumbled and how his baskets had fallen off and spilled or how the other donkeys at the market mocked him. Secretly, he thought he was the worst donkey in the world, and apparently so did his master, who beat him daily with a stick and insulted him as a matter of course.

The third donkey was, in truth, the smallest of the three, but she was certainly the most realistic. She knew that she was a good solid and dependable beast of burden, and when she came home at the end of the day, there was little for her to brag about and still less to be ashamed of. She did the best she could with what she had at the moment it was most needed. She didn’t tell many stories about herself, because she knew that sometimes she was good and sometimes bad, sometimes smart and sometimes stupid, and that was the way of it. She got along very nicely with the other two, because she always listened to them with interest, if not curiosity, and in this manner she profited from their experience as well as her own.

One morning, an important man was going to ride to the city and needed to hire a donkey for that purpose. So he came to the stable to make inquiries of the owner. Naturally, the owner came into the stable and chose the first donkey. He was always the first chosen! So the man got on the donkey and began riding towards the city, and as he went down the road the news of his coming spread. People began to gather, and to point, and to shout, and to clap their hands. Soon they were waving palm fronds, calling him king, and throwing the fronds under the donkey’s feet.

The first donkey was delighted to be recognized as a king. Finally! It was about time! And he thought how splendid it would be to wear a golden crown and be the first King of all Donkeys. He completely forgot about the rider on his back and he pricked up his ears smartly, pranced a little this way and that and switched the tassel on his tail in what he thought to be a regal manner. He bowed his head graciously to the applause of the crowds, attempting withal to appear modest. However, when a young man, who had climbed up a tree just to see him better, waved and called for his attention, he just could not resist responding to such an effort to admire him. Thus it came about that he raised his head to acknowledge his admirer and, in so doing, stepped into a hole, fell, and broke his leg! His rider, who had almost been thrown off, dismounted, and decided – since he had gone only a third of the way to the city – to retrace his steps and return to the stable to hire another donkey. As he walked back, a wagon came to pick up the first donkey, and eventually he was carted back to his stable in considerable disgrace.

When the man spoke to the owner of the donkeys, he went straightway into the stable and chose the second donkey. But the second donkey, having heard the roar of the crowd, suspected the importance of this rider and immediately decided that he was unworthy to carry such a personage. Besides, his own coat was too mangy and his tail all ratty, so people would only make fun of his ugliness. None of which was true.

When the owner came to get the second donkey, he braced himself on all four feet and absolutely refused to budge. And we all know how stubborn even a small donkey can be! And all the while, this donkey was thinking bitterly to himself that if this man were truly a king, he should have hired a white horse! What on earth could he, a miserable donkey, do for a king! Why should anyone choose him to ride upon? So, the owner cursed the second one roundly and beat him soundly and called him the stupidest of all donkeys. And, at that moment, so he was.

Finally, the third donkey was brought out, and she sturdily and sensibly carried the man, without further to-do, to where he wanted to go, which was the big city of Jerusalem. She did the best she could with what she had at the time that it was needed. And she thought no more about it, since it was another day’s work, although she had to admit, there was a lot of attention given to the gentle rider on her back.

And strange as this may seem, that donkey ride has gone down in history, and that very donkey has been mentioned in a book that has sold more copies than any other in the world! That donkey has been painted over and over again carrying one of the greatest Masters of your world. It is quite true he could have ridden to the city on a fine white horse, but he didn’t. He chose a humble donkey who was willing to serve.
— From The Beejum Book by Alice O. Howell


Reaction – CREDO XXXI

The historian Arnold Toynbee wrote that the rise and fall of civilizations did not depend on what happened to them but on how they reacted to the challenges. Jung said exactly the same thing about individuals. This is a key to progress or success in both outer life and our inner attempts at individuation. It explains the rise of so many individuals born in obscure or poor circumstances who courageously prevail under the most awful conditions in childhood or in life or when handicapped by physical infirmities. Helen Keller, born blind and deaf; Nelson Mandela, incarcerated for twenty years; or even the composer Irving Berlin.

The secret lies in never taking “no” for an answer and avoiding self-pity and surrendering to an abject sense of failure. Those familiar with the New Testament may recall the occasion of the despair of two of Jesus’ disciples who were fishermen at not catching any fish. He simply said, “Cast your nets on the other side.” It worked. Taken symbolically, he was recommending that our ego consciousness, which normally is directed to the outer world of every day can be turned inward and directed toward the Self (Divine Guest) that hides in the unconscious.

The tree that is pruned yields greater fruit.

As an astrologer, I never ever make predictions because I learned from Jung and my own experience that when we change our consciousness the outer circumstances change of themselves. I cannot predict if someone is going to wear green or blue socks on Tuesday, but I can point out that the color of socks is important to him! Or, more seriously, foretell that a young, unhappy woman will meet a handsome stranger, but I might explore her desperate need for the fulfillment of being loved by projecting onto unavailable men.

Very few are fortunate enough to be born into the manifest world without desire, which, as Buddha has pointed out, is the root of much suffering, and I am reasonably certain that all of us reading the above know this to be true. My mother, who was a remarkable woman in many ways, pointed out to me that most suffering comes from three sources: love problems, money problems, or health problems. If you have one, you can usually cope but if you have two, it is really hard, and if you have all three, it seems impossible!

Looking at the state of the population of the world, there certainly is a great deal of suffering. It seems like hell, yet “heaven is spread upon the surface of the earth but men do not see it” (Gnostic Gospel acc. to Thomas).

Another quote from Thomas is even more telling:
That which is within you, if it cometh forth will save you. But that which is within you, if it cometh not forth, will destroy you!

So back into the hopper you go for another try!

The story of the Prodigal Son, psychologically understood, is what happens to most of us. We spend a long time identified with our ego until the disillusionment hits: wealth, sex, power, pleasures leave us sated but unsatisfied and if we are blessed, we finally turn inward to search for meaning. “When the pupil is ready, the Teacher appears.” Perhaps this is why Jung tells us that the second half of life is more important than the first. The French have a pithy saying: “If the young only knew and the old only could!” Ah so.

Consider the hidden treasure Robert Browning writes of in this section of his poem “Paracelsus”:

Imprisoned Splendor

Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect, clear perception which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and, to KNOW,
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape,
Than in effecting an entry for a light
Supposed to be without.