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Friday, March 6, 2009

The Unconsciousness of the Unconscious – CREDO LXIV

Jung defines the ego as the center of consciousness and tells us it is a very small part of the psyche as a whole. We all have to have one when we are awake and have to function in the world. And more importantly, while we are at it, we are identifying with it and thinking this is “I" am. Thus in my diagram it is the little circle on the circumference of the larger mandala or circle of the psyche. It is bisected by the circumference, one half looking out to the outer world and the other looking inward to the unconscious entirety of the Self, whose center point is focused like the wick in a candle to hold the universal flame of Spirit (our Divine Guest). As Jung points out, the problem is that the Self dwells in the unconscious!

So it is safe to assume that most people in this world are completely oblivious that they are unconscious of the Unconscious, and really all of us were until Sigmund Freud came along and explained it. Somebody pointed out that as Freud was doing this, the dark unknown interior of Africa was also being discovered. Certainly, one of the most important discoveries in recent times was Freud’s discovery of the ego, thus making it possible for us to be conscious of the Unconscious! He divided the psyche into three parts: the ego, the id, and the superego, and Jung, his early disciple, broke with him because it left Spirit out. (I am oversimplifying!)

Later, Jung added the complexes of anima/animus, Shadow, persona, etc., and wrote extensively about them in his Collected Works. The result has been that even today there are many who think of Jung as “wooly-minded,” but we and an increasing number of others see him as a prophetic man way ahead of his time. In fact, he seems relevant in many areas besides psychology.

Perhaps we forget that every night the Unconscious tries to come to us in dreams, which is why, even long before Freud, they are mentioned throughout history. The oldest work of fiction in the West, the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, is an example. It has come down to us on clay tablets written in cuneiform more than three thousand years ago.

This unconsciousness manifests itself in all Shadow projections, both personal and collective. Politically and professionally, it can appear in what I call the “Guru Disease,” in which people identify with the Guru being projected upon them, while the Guru, at the same time he is busy castigating his disciples, is brought down by revelations of destructive personal indiscretions! Here Jung’s insights can be so helpful. As I began to lecture around the world, I myself received a good many projections of “Wise Woman” or “Fairy Godmother,” and I will repeat the help that I got from analyst Edward C. Whitmont. I went to him in fear of inflation. He wisely said, “Don’t deny it. (!) Count to ten and offer it up.” He could have put it another way: don’t identify with the projection! Since then I remind myself and others that I am only wise in one respect: I know for certain how much I don’t know!! And as I age, the vastness of my ignorance in all directions threatens to overwhelm me. I have forgotten who said it, but I agree with the certainty of nothing but the heart’s affection.

Knowing about our Unconscious also helps us to understand the wisdom of loving our enemy. Our “enemy” often is receiving our projection, and if we can see that we can learn what it is we abhor in him/her, we might be able to find what we are denying in ourselves. Jung says that he recognized this in himself when the person made him “hot under the collar”! If the person is truly evil, our reaction should be dispassionate compassion, knowing full well the karmic suffering of eventual consciousness that awaits him or her in the future. Father forgive them, they know not what they do.

Psychologically, there is also the “White” Shadow, which consists of hero worship of all kinds. It’s when we admire the good characteristics of others and envy them, not realizing “It takes one to know one!”

Jung distinguished between the personal and the collective Unconscious, the personal having to do with our own individual psyche and its challenges. As we deal with them and grow, we may tap into the collective. This has been reflected in some of the unusual dreams some of us occasionally have. Ira Progoff, I believe, uses a helpful analogy: he likens the personal Unconscious to a well and the collective to that underground stream that feeds all our wells.

The simple stories attributed to the individual life of a Teacher demonstrate this. Take the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. A man talking to a woman at a well is a common occurrence, but that conversation has gone down through two millennia. Or think of his observation about our seeing the speck in another’s eye but not the beam in our own. (He was a remarkable psychologist!) The reason parables, fables, and fairy tales endure is that they raise common individual experiences to a collective level. They reflect archetypal situations that repeat themselves through the ages. They, like the works of some enlightened authors, become classic! Shakespeare, for one.

I see a good reason to rejoice in the step offered us by psychology in the evolution of consciousness: It’s not that the truth has not always been there, but now some of us can say, “I am now conscious that I was unconscious of the Unconscious!” Wow!

The biggest problem remains the fact that the Self itself dwells in the Unconscious. It has now become the object of our ultimate yearning and what “Individuation” is all about, as well as the original intended goal of every religion. The problem with the great Western exoteric (extroverted) religions is that so much of them depend on the conscious ego to achieve this, but the ego is disqualified because it functions through duality .It can only point the way. (God is experienced as “outside” of us, and you have to follow our rules and definitions to find Him.) But, as Jung puts it in one of his letters, “I don’t believe God is all that interested in theology”! Esoterically (introverted), the mystics without exception tell us that our heart knows the only way to approach the Mystery. In other words, Love. Perhaps that is why astrologically the physical heart is ruled by the golden Sun, center and only star in our solar system. Ultimately, it justifies those famous words in the New Testament: She can be forgiven much because she loved much. Or the Dalai Lama’s “My only religion is kindness.”

Just give a moment’s thought to some of the people you have known that you remember who were dear to you. What did they have in common? How did they bless you by being in your life?

Time for lunch. Yum!


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