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Friday, March 6, 2009

Institutions and Individuation – CREDO LXII

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalist author and philosopher of Concord, wrote, “All institutions are the prolonged shadow of one man.” There seems to be some truth in that, if you think about it. In the Jungian sense, the Shadow of institutions is the almost immediate concretizing of the vision of the founder! We see this in almost all exoteric religions, which in jig time set up all kinds of rigid rules and regulations, rewards and punishments, and every kind of grading and structuring, tests and trials, and rewards for passing them!

I worked for a time for Frederick Prince, the wealthy heir of the Prince family of Bellevue Avenue of Newport, Rhode Island. He was in his seventies and losing his sight, so I was hired to read to him. Gradually, we moved from the newspaper to history books and long conversations. He was a spiritual seeker at heart but as an adolescent attending a most prestigious boys’ boarding school in New England, came to a full stop when he was turned away from chapel because he was wearing white socks! After I left, he told me he had returned to his Episcopal roots, been confirmed, and had taken his First Communion. I rejoiced for him.

My own middle daughter was prevented from attending the Sunday service because she had forgotten her uniform beanie. In the midst of WW II, on the battlefield, a Roman Catholic chaplain refused to allow a Protestant soldier to receive Communion. The small group perished, and the bitter survivor told the tale. These are reductions ad absurdum, but I relate them as examples of the consequences of the literalism and the power shadow that can overtake any institution going, even Jungian ones! This has caused the recent break-up of many institutes, the world over, into more than one group.

It is also true of education and even some businesses. The paradox is ego conformity and the fear of rejection, and collectively we see this in great political movements down through history. Think only of Hitler, Stalin, and the current situation in North Korea.

A solution is possible, especially in the area of religions and politics. It is quite simple. Inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness! This means going a notch higher and respecting the validity of diversity. Just as there are different races, humanity embraces all. Just as there are any numbers of religions in the world, each has its own worth. As Christ put it, In my house are many mansions. The music scale has many notes, the rainbow, different colors. In fact, together these reflect a single Light.

President Obama is reminding us that this inclusiveness is what our Founding Fathers had in mind and what Roger Williams, who rebelled against the Puritans’ would-be supremacy in Massachusetts, founded Rhode Island to exemplify. Now Jews could worship in Newport, and Quakers were safe, as were Native Americans. In fact, my father’s ancestors threw my mother’s ancestors out of Boston, and I am proud to be descended, along with thousands of others, from Roger Williams as well. This inclusiveness is what the European Union is about – a whole embracing many, a huge step in eliminating thousands of years of war and loss of innocent lives.

One of Jung’s greatest contributions to the world was the concept of Individuation. The word means to be whole, not divided. Given the freedom and understanding of the importance of each of us becoming who we really are, he pointed out that what needs surrendering – not killing! – is the identification with our ego to that center point of the Self (or the wick in our candle, which holds the universal Flame of Spirit). This is what distinguishes Jungian psychology from most others. Jung even said, in so many words, that individuation was not possible without a religious (spiritual) dimension. The paradox is that the closer one gets to individuating, the more the person lives for the good of the collective. It seems that, like popcorn, once you’ve popped you are transformed and can’t go back again!

We honor the saints of both genders with a golden halo, symbol of wholeness, or the Buddhist bodhisattvas, or the Jewish holy ones, or the Muslim mystics; there have been many of them, yet they all have one thing in common – in the end after much traveling through the hurts and heat of commitment they became unique in their lasting contribution to the collective. You could add Jung himself to the list! I can think of not a single avatar who did not travel what Joseph Campbell called the “Hero’s Journey.” And lest we forget the feminine, there probably have been just as many women in every culture but perhaps fewer are recognized until they have departed. We must not forget that the recognition of women as equals to men is historically a recent event, and in terms of financial pay less than a week old! Around 9000 B.C.E., during the Age of Cancer, that was a different story, but even today millions of women are literally covered from head to toe and still forbidden an education.

Tertullian, an early Christian Father, even wrote Habet mulier animam? Does a woman have a soul?

To sum up, what the future hopefully promises is a world of interfaith, a world of mutual respect and appreciation of diversity, and an appreciation of yin/yang or the balance of opposites: positive and receptive. It takes two to tango and to create a new world or a life. We need to respect and honor our differences rather than blending them into a sexless mush; without the tension of opposites, there is no room for relationship, creativity and love. We need and rather than or!


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