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Friday, January 2, 2009

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.


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