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Friday, March 6, 2009

Compliments – CREDO LVII

In the ’70s, I lived in Oyster Bay and sang in the choir of the Episcopal Christ Church. A psychiatrist was a fellow chorister, and I had helped him so successfully with the astrological insight into the chart of one of his patients that he proposed I give a lecture to the Grand Rounds in Psychiatry at the hospital he served. The doctors had just been treated to a lecture on Jung by Dr. Edward C. Whitmont, a distinguished Jungian analyst. As this was a staggering challenge, I wrote out my lecture (something I never do) and mailed it to Whitmont for approval. He invited me to his home in Irvington and I went in some trepidation, little knowing I was about to meet a Magus! Not only was he an analyst, but also an astrologer, a homeopathist, and a mystic. As we met I marveled at his wild white hair, his twinkling eyes, his almost gnome-like appearance, and, like my Teacher M, his spiritual presence. I discovered he was born Austrian and exiled, and we began to speak German together and found many interests in common. An hour sped by and I began to relax. And then he commanded me: “I want you to analyze with me.” I spluttered that I wished that I could but on a teacher’s salary this would be impossible! He just said that he would make it possible, and so he did. Because of my anxiety, I always prepaid him. Later he said I was the only one so to do. Finally, I remembered to ask for the copy of the lecture. He opened a file, took it out, tossed it in my lap, grinned, and said, “It’s fine.” And that is the way I was invited to work, to study, and become the friend of one of the greatest mentors in my life.

The result was that eventually I resigned from teaching after eighteen years and began at another level, subsequently traveling the country giving seminars at centers and universities, ultimately teaching at C. G .Jung Institutes. I owe this to Christopher Whitmont and his patient, loving help in making my obstacles conscious.

So it is with pleasure I now turn to the topic of this Credo. So many of us are uncomfortable receiving compliments! We may on the one hand become suspicious – What is the secret agenda here? – and the compliment goes that-a-way; or we think, If that person knew me the way I know myself, they would never say that, so they’re shtoopid! and the compliment goes t’other way, and we go out sadly to the garden and eat worms.

Well, as I lectured here and there, I began to receive much applause. At first I was pleased but then I began to worry. I went to Whitmont and told him I was afraid of becoming inflated. “Don’t deny it!” he frowned. “What?” I exclaimed.

“No! Seriously just count to ten and offer it up!” Then I realized what he was saying: denying praise is an ego game that says, See how humble I am. Counting to ten gives us time to realize our Divine Guest might have had a hand in it, so we should send it up the pipe to where it rightfully belongs! From that day on, when the clapping began, I would turn my back and clap up as well. If any of you try this one way or another, the problem never even arises. Piece of cake!

I am moved to share this because of the deluge of loving birthday messages, cards, and phone calls I just received for my 86th birthday. When I get any such appreciation, I turn it into imaginary flowers and bring them to my Teachers. Not I, not I, but Thou! But I have to confess that as I heaved my aching old body into bed, the cockles of my heart were very, very warm!


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