Wednesday, November 25, 2009
“The unexamined life is not worth living” could have been one of Jung’s mantras, and I learned early from him to ask the simple question “why?” or “how come” and then look for a symbolic answer. And this is fun! What demonstrates chaos and order at the same time? How about a kaleidoscope? The Greek word translates into “a seeing device of beautiful image.” It is a toy and I hope you can find one. It is a colorful cardboard tube containing two vertical mirrors set at an angle. At the bottom is a cluster of small transparent tiny shapes of multi-colored glass or plastic held in a translucent bottom that can be shaken around. At the top is a peephole. When you look through the hole the bits and pieces form gorgeous mandalas of geometric shapes which change as you rotate the tube. Were you only to see the one end of random bits, you have chaos but reversed is breathtaking beautiful order in motion. The one I have is cheap, but I have seen more expensive ones made with real glass. I keep one in my office to prove a point now and then.
Another example that comes to mind is knitting, especially with different colored wools to make a patterned sweater. As you knit the right side it forms beautiful order but the inside or wrong side is a total mess of seeming chaos. When I could knit, and I loved to! before my stroke, I used to think that most of the time my self-estimation was of the chaotic mess, and I would hope that when I died, some pattern could emerge. I also remember my grandmother had a Chinese silk embroidered little hoop that was supposed to serve as a sconce for a wall light. The embroidery was the same on both sides! It was so fragile it eventually fell apart but not before delivering the message of an avatar’s example, a Buddha or a Christ, who wore a “seamless garment.
Children’s games are another source. Take Ring-around–the-Rosy (Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!). Nobody’s perfect. But from another point of view, when children hold hands in a circle, the energy is distributed and may reach a niveau of collective energy which helps the teacher. When grown-ups form a circle, I have already pointed out that each individual sees the same circle from a unique perspective, and I quoted Heraclitus saying With our eyes open we share the same world, but when we close our eyes each of us enters a separate world. Later I learned from the Stanford physics professor William Tiller, who discovered through biofeedback, that when two people hold hands the energy is squared! Then on Iona with a group of seventy two participants, I shared this, and realized we had solved the insoluble riddle that one cannot square a circle!! I probably am repeating this anecdote but in this context it shares an insight on Ring-around-the-Rosy, and further on the dichotomy presented by the coming 2000+ years of the Age of Aquarius!
Aquarius rules the “Common Man” and the global collective – we see this development happening all around us – the opposite constellation is Leo, which rules royalty and the imperial Self of the individual. In North Korea, when you see squadrons of men marching as one, that is Aquarian, and individual opinion seems difficult to come by. This was the ideal of Communism, but with time, the opposite, an elite (Leo), inevitably emerged. Technology is Aquarian: We get Social Security in an envelope but there is no love (Leo) in it. So a flashing light that says “Thank you! “is a poor substitute for gratitude. Now we have the Internet with Facebook, Twitter, etc., presenting the so-called civilized world with a “virtual life” rather than a natural, real one. It will take some time before the balance is restored. Obama is a Leo with Aquarius rising and undoubtedly used Aquarian know-how not only in trying to get elected but in trying to set our sights on a peaceful global community. Lincoln was also an Aquarian, I might add.
I hope I can be forgiven for repetition, but Sophia’s wisdom is at work in every candle. Each individual has the wick Jung calls the Self, but the flame on every wick is the same Flame!! So the Christmas season abounds in light symbolism. Why? What we forget is that for millennia we have welcomed the return of the Sun at the winter solstice on December 21 and that Christmas was consciously designated to replace the pagan festival of Saturnalia after Rome became officially Christian. Saturn rules Capricorn, the most material sign of the Zodiac, so the rebirth of the Sun coming at this darkest time, had symbolic meaning also for pagans throughout history. The Gospel of John speaks of Christ as that true Light which lighteth every one that cometh into the world.
Hanukah is a festival of light as are Hindu traditions involving floating lighted candles down rivers at Diwali.
In Gerald Schroeder’s masterful scientific book The Hidden Face of God, he describes the light in the subatomic world. He doesn’t have to preach. There is Light hidden in darkness, where Jung points out, One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but in making the darkness conscious.
Sophia’s Wisdom extends even further. I remember my ninth graders expressing boredom on an absolutely still day and using that to defend the use of “Speed,” a drug popular at the time. I stopped them in their tracks with the following information, which emphasizes her paradox of stillness and motion:
1. When you, like Newton, drop an apple or a stone, gravity seems to draw a straight line of descent; however, is it really?
2. Our earth is rotating at 1000 mph.
3. The earth is orbiting the sun at 60,000 mph.
4. The Sun and Solar System are moving at 481,000 mph in the Milky Way.
5. The Milky Way is said to be moving at 1,350,000 mph!!!, or so I have read.
I’d like to close with a funny dream I once had:
It is night and I am in a hotel. The manager is conducting me down a hall to show me the rooms. The odd thing about him is that his head is a small blazing sun. He proceeds to open the door to a closed room, sticks his head in which lights it up, and says “I can’t see anything dark in here!” He repeats this each time.
I woke up laughing and then realized a Solar God cannot know darkness, so the domain of Sophia’s feminine Wisdom of the Moon provides the dark in which the Sun’s light can be reflected and constantly changed during each mo(o)nth. If everything were light, we would not be conscious of it. The paradox is that sunrise is actually earthset! And vice-versa. The sun is always shining and steady, at least, in its centering of our solar system. Earth as a planet is the one constantly moving in orbit.
Today, the astronauts are able to move outside the spaceship as if nothing were happening, and yet they, too, are subject to orbiting the earth at 20,000 mph! Now if someone could explain to me who or what the Prime Mover was or how motion ever began!
As Galileo put it, E pur si muove and Heraclitus was spot-on when he remarked “Everything flows.” But, guess what, now I am going to stop!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Many of us may have grown up dismissing all of the above as fanciful nonsense from the past – just not true! Jung however points out that myths are “true of the psyche.” Marie-Louise von Franz, whom I met in Davos, wrote extensively on the psychological import of fairy tales. Jesus and all other avatars taught with parables, and good old Aesop did it with fables. It seems that hiding psychological wisdom in these devices endures because everybody enjoys a good story, so they last, but “having ears we do not hear” until we learn to think symbolically. That is the key!
A Hindu example is “Two birds sit in a tree. One of them eats the fruit and the other one watches.” Think about that from the psychological point of view or from the philosophical point of view, etc. It contains, for me, the whole essence of Herman Hesse’s novel Narcissus and Goldmund! Two schoolmate boys make a deal: one goes out into the world and the other enters a monastery. They agree to meet again when they are old and compare notes. . . What does the saying suggest to you? Are you an extravert or an introvert? As for myself, I have decided I’m an ‘ambivert’(!), extraverted with people, deeply introverted when alone.
The hidden wisdom in all of the devices above is revealed when we think symbolically because this demonstrates the different levels of understanding. The story of the lion that is suffering from a thorn in his paw and is rescued by a kind child was always one of my favorites. One version has him meeting the same lion in the Roman Coliseum. The man expects to be martyred but the lion recognizes him and comes over to lick him fondly. I think George Bernard Shaw wrote a play about that.
On a more controversial level is the whole story of the Exodus in the Old Testament. Some historians today maintain that this story of the Hebrews fleeing Egypt is an allegory, on the grounds that there is absolutely not a shred of historical proof of it given by Egyptian records, which are extensive for the period. Stay tuned. My own take is that this story is set during the Age of Aries the Ram, when the concept of the ego (Aries – I am!) and its opposite Libra (law) emerged. It was the great Age for Judaism. Remember Abraham substituted a ram for Isaac’s sacrifice, and altars with rams’ horns were built, and even today the shofar that is blown is made of a ram’s horn! Moses, stand-in for the ego, led the people to the Promised Land but could not enter it, a psychological truth. Up until the last eight centuries of the Age of Aries, 800 BC, only rulers or eponymous figures were given names, and the concept of universal laws rather than local ones flowered then in the Code of Hammurabi, the Roman Twelve Tablets of Law, the Ten Commandments, and the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path. Also, at the end of that Age, the huge number of named individuals indicated the final triumph of an anthropocentric era, and actual men and women entered history for good in countless fields of endeavor. Jason and the Golden Fleece (ram!) seems another reference to Aries the Ram, and Greek coins of the time have Athena with ram’s horns on them. (For lots more, read my book The Heavens Declare: On the Evolution of Consciousness through the Astrological Ages.) We owe the actual discovery of the Precession of the Equinoxes, that Platonic Year of 26,000+ years, to the astronomer Hipparchus of Alexandria, an incredible feat!
Aesop’s fable of the ant and the grasshopper, and many of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, contain much symbolic wisdom, and perhaps I might include my own efforts in my “children’s” The Beejum Book, which has also been studied by several groups of grownups for several weeks, and the chapter “Figg Newton’s Tale” has been taught at two universities, one in a class of cognitive psychology!
I find it sad that the Fundamentalists in many religions take every word literally in their sacred scriptures. This concretizing is a form of idolatry. It keeps the story at the level of kindergarten and by the time the child is in college, he or she is apt to chuck the whole idea as nonsense. And yet if you read my CREDO LX, “The Global Return of the Prodigal Son,” you can see that parable even has political applications.
I cannot stress Jung’s emphasis on thinking symbolically enough! He wrote extensively on the subject and maintained that leading the symbolic life was the key to individuation because it united any external events and objects with their inner meaning. In the end, after all, when we die, all we can take with us is the intangible import of it all. As I will be 87 tomorrow, I can honestly say this with some conviction!
I feel that the purpose of my own life has been to prove that the Sacred is also to be found in the commonplace and that is the easiest place for us to start finding it. Love can be found and expressed in kindness, as well as passion. If you think about it, kindness has no secret agenda. It’s such a simple thing, and I learned this from a fairy tale and as an old lady from a six-year-old little boy, who got off the school bus with a bunch of wild flowers for his mother meeting him. When he saw me, he rushed to the edge of the road and picked some buttercups so I, too, would be happy. I am still blessed, not by the actual buttercups, but by the memory of his kindness. My life has been punctuated with such examples, as well as hideous examples of the opposite.
As a former teacher of children, I cannot resist giving the reader an assignment! What story, parable, or fable was meaningful to you as a child and has guided you unconsciously ever since? If you can remember it, you have been touched by Sophia whose disguise is often the Fairy Godmother, that archetypal aspect of feminine wisdom that mediates between the visible and invisible worlds, always with our spiritual benefit in mind.
This is the first of Sophia’s levels and leads us to understanding that the “Vast Certainty” of Spirit operates on ascending stages of discovery and is constantly challenged by the destructive aspects of dia-bolos, hateful ignorance, the antonym of symbolos. The thing to remember is that there has to be first a yes! for a no to deny it!
The most serious level of Sophia’s devices has to be legends. The difference between a myth and a legend is that myths tend to involve supranormal beings and deities, whereas legends involve human beings. It seems every unique culture has one and they are of heavy duty import. The Hindu Mahabharata, The Teutonic Walkyrie Cycle, the Norse Sagas, the Irish Leobhar Gabala Eirann, and the Christian Legend of the Holy Grail, to name only a few. Each, in its way, is filled with esoteric levels of interpretation and reveals a different facet of humanity.