Friday, February 27, 2009
In the winter of 1930, I spent a term at the Beaver School on Chestnut Street in Boston. I was eight years old, and my parents left me with my aunt and uncle in their handsome townhouse on Beacon Hill. I was bored with the curriculum, which involved a lot of playing with paper and paste and crayons, unlike the academic rigors of the Italian school in Rome. However, I learned one thing that has yielded me great insight as I have progressed with observing the hidden symbolic wisdom of processes. It was the lesson of a lima bean!
Each child was given a soil-filled paper cup and instructed to plant a lima bean in it upside-down. The cups were then lined up on the windowsill. Mine had the initials a.o. on it. We watered them, yet time passed very slowly. Eventually a little green shoot appeared in each cup. Then came the demonstration of geotropism. The teacher explained that it took extra time for the poor lima bean’s root to find the sun. We unearthed the beans and saw that the root had struggled by first plunging further into the dark earth before curling up and eventually breaking the surface to the warm air and light.
The symbolic metaphor for human consciousness is obvious and most profound in its implications. Fire is the element that shoots up as if wanting to reunite with its source, the sun. All vegetation from grass to trees needs sunlight and even grass grows vertically. So for us as human beings, the life that gives our bodies existence also yearns instinctively for its mysterious Source, whether we are conscious or unconscious of this. For most of us this can mean years of materialistic darkness. But we walk vertically and sleep horizontally. Physically our eyes see only one half of reality at a time – aha! So we have to consciously, perhaps, supply meaning to the half unseen. We need a mirror to see ourselves at all and two mirrors to see our backs completely.
In Istanbul, the delightful Sufi Sheik Muzzafer quoted to us: Allah says there are 77,000 veils between you and Me, but not a single one between Me and you.
Most of you are familiar with the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus? In it is the famous saying: As above, so below. Feminine wisdom, in terms of processes, also says, As below, so above! And as a Jungian I like to add, As within, so without! because no two people see the exact same thing. Each of us processes experience uniquely in terms of consciousness according to our charts, and now science tells us that each of us has a unique DNA which orders everything!
When I would go to the zoo in Rome, we bought a lump of stale bread to feed the animals and birds – and me. Yum! I remember asking my mother how come the same bread turned into fur and feathers, into elephants and me. My mother was stumped. Now we know. Perhaps this mystery of DNA sheds light on the bread and wine of the Christian Communion Service? Speaking of which, the climax of the Roman Catholic service is the revealing of the Monstrance. An ornamental golden radiant circular sunburst is raised, and its center is uncapped to reveal an empty white circle! The symbol in sacred geometry of Spirit Immanent. The mystery being that because pi never comes out, the area (pi r sq) can never be defined. I am curious to know if that is ever explained. Perhaps one of you could answer that? Jung’s definition of the psyche as a mandala or circular expression of the Self at its center yields the symbol for Spirit Manifest, which circle with a centerpoint, is also (aha!) the astronomical symbol for the sun and the metallurgic symbol for gold!! These are all little obvious matters that having eyes, we do not see.
Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, Shekinah in the Old Testament in Proverbs ( 8:22–31) is described as co-creator of the earth, “full of delight,” and wanting to be friendly to mankind. So is Tara, the Buddhist feminine counterpart to Wisdom. Her Christian symbol is the dove. The title of my book The Dove in the Stone is taken from a Hermetic treatise. The alchemists had to conceal their knowledge that matter contained Spirit, because it was heresy to say this and they could be put to death! So now you have all these philo-sophers (lovers of Wisdom) looking for the Philosopher’s Stone – and She is hiding in every stone, giggling. It truly is a cosmic joke. Petrus Bonus wrote: To find the Philosopher’s Stone, look with the eyes but see with the heart.
I hope this cheers you up a wee bit coming at such a devastating turning point in history. My beloved Walter and I used to take our coffee cups out in the early summer mornings and look at the jeweled dew drops on the grass, and murmur “If you want to be rich, count your blessings!”
In 1945, during the war, I finally had a space of my own – a flat in a very old building in Greenwich Village on West 13th Street. It had a fireplace and looked out on a cobbled stone courtyard in the back. I had met my teacher M, and I set up a small altar on top of a small bookcase in my bedroom. I could sit on the daybed and meditate. I was twenty-two.
It seems that the teacher/preacher archetype was always in me. In Rome when I was seven, on those Sundays Grandma King was unable to go to church, I would put a shirt of my father’s on backwards, and lead a service. I am told that I would solemnly pronounce “Yeah verily” and one of my sermons advised, “Always share what you don’t want yourself!” I would line up my three stuffed animals at the foot of the bed and teach them in three different languages according to their places of origin, and so forth. My beloved grandfather Basil King had been rector of Christ Church in Cambridge but had died when I was five. He was my first father figure and I thought God had his face. That might have had something to do with it, or maybe it was another life, or the fact that I have the Sun in my Ninth House of teaching and preaching. Who knows? But that has been my lifelong vocation, and if you are reading this, I am sure that most of you have had a similar sense of following some mysterious bent in your life.
But back to a Sunday morning. I was alone, conducting the Communion Service from the Book of Common Prayer, blissfully unconscious that “communion” usually implies other people! Maybe my sincerity pardoned my ignorance, but after the bread and wine, I tidied up and, since it was a lovely spring day, I opened the window and climbed out onto the fire escape that descended to the cobbles below. And then came the epiphany. I glanced up at the sun and realized
THE SUN IS SHINING AND IT DIDN’T HAVE TO!!!
Out of nothing came this primal YES! This blew me away. And then I realized that there has to be a YES before a NO sounds, because a NO has to have something to deny. We can deny negatives endlessly but they add up to spiritual tautologies. As my Grandpa King overheard William James point out to a friend on a trolley car, “Nothing is the only resultant of that which is not!” Ahem.
The physical sun is the primal source of Light and Life. No wonder it was worshiped by humanity through the ages. If its light went out, it would take only eight minutes for our earth to be plunged into darkness, cold, and death. It rules the heart in our physical bodies. On another level, it rules Love. It represents the one element – fire – that the more you give away, the more there is. Jung’s ‘Self’ is like the individual wick in each of our candles, but the flame on each, our Divine Guest, is the same flame! For Christians, it is “the Light that lighteth every man,” and that means all human beings, not just Christians – aaaaaaargh! That should be obvious – how long will it take for human beings all over the world to realize this simple fact! Love thy neighbor, he IS thyself! This simple truth should break our hearts as we witness the fundamentalists of so many religions killing each other! When in doubt consult nature, said Paracelsus, the alchemist.
This very morning, I watched a theologian on TV talking of the fascinating importance of the recurring number 7 in both the Old and New Testaments. He failed, however, to mention the octave in music or the colors of the rainbow or the Sumerians’ discovery of the 7 days in a week based on the motion of the moon and the menstrual cycle of women. An omission that would have strengthened his argument!
Speaking of alchemy, the illuminated (sic!) MS called Splendor Solis ends with a picture of the physical sun looking sideways hinting at the “Sun behind the sun” . . .
Needless to say, today is Sunday! Domenica, dimanche, the day of the Lord.
You may have seen her on TV. A hurricane victim in Texas standing in her totally wrecked house, wearing a dirtied white shirt, blue shorts – a woman in her thirties. At her feet the pet carrier she was unable to retrieve containing her two dead puppies. She told the reporter she had lost everything, had no place to go and no way of going – a poster person for what confronts each one of us at the moment of our death. But she is alive and so are many others. What is the psychological impact on such individuals? Could anything positive be said? The answer, I truly believe from personal experience is yes! She is still living.
When my so beloved husband Walter died, what struck me again the next morning, were his toothbrush, his dressing gown, his notebook open on his desk with a pencil laid across it . . . every thing left behind! A permanent situation.
For those of us who have had a near-death experience, there is a gift. Your values are changed for the rest of your life. On October 9, 1949, I almost died from hemorrhaging after a miscarriage. My blood pressure went down to 3, and I found myself in outer space looking down at the earth, the size of a dime. (Strangely, it seems Emerson and Jung, decades later, had the same trip!) A black cloud engulfed me and a voice asked: Can you love enough??? As if the world depended on my answer, I screamed YEEESSS! which is what I was whispering on the operating table, as I came slowly back to consciousness. I woke to find myself surrounded by hot water bottles and that big round light about 6 inches above my body. They brought me hot sweet tea to suck through a pipette. As this happened about midnight, the rest of the night I lay on my bed watching a nurse with a death’s head kindly pressing air bubbles up the dripping tube attached to my arm. When she had walked in, I thought she was death come for me and I turned in fear to the wall. Then I knew I had to look at her with love and so I did and received the love back from her all night long. In fact that nurse died three days later, but I have never forgotten her. But the interesting thing that happened was that though I was so weak I could only move my fingers, I felt strong enough to lift the city of Paris! There was a total reversal of where one’s life force resides!
This was the beginning of my reversal of values. Like an old fashioned photo negative, all the darks were light and the lights were dark! The importance of physical things diminished and the abstract and emotional ones increased. The psyche made the soma a physical container of hidden enduring values – hard to explain! This lasted fully the three years of being an invalid that followed. The reminder came back to hit me anew with a shock when my husband died, and, of course, as I confront the certainty of my own celebration of “Aberduffy Day.” As I approach my 86th birthday, I feel the necessity of sharing the insight that dying alive holds the magic of a permanent shift of values. Astrologically, Scorpio rules death, resurrection, and recycling, and its opposite sign is Taurus, the sign ruling material possessions and earthly manifestation!
The bull of Merrill Lynch is in the news today. The “stock market” is in question. It is no longer “bullish.” Believe it or not, I did the chart for the advertising director of Merrill Lynch years ago and asked him if they were conscious of that bull’s symbolic significance. He said he didn’t think they had a clue.
I suspect that for most of you reading this, it will come as no surprise that the global economy and the four elements involving weather – fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and droughts – all seem to be challenging humanity to change its sense of values collectively! Or else!
This is already happening. Some of the wealthiest people are now engaged in helping others, and many of the new younger generation are waking up to the joy of serving and helping others. So, as our election approaches, perhaps the matter of ideals can acquire more significance. I sure hope so!
I want to explain the importance of that woman absolutely stripped of everything but life and what her example can prove to us, and also to point out that by sharing my personal near-death experience, I hope you will accept that I am not just mouthing platitudes but have walked my talk as best I could, like many, many others in this world, including you who are reading this.
In the end, as I learned from my darling Walter, all we leave behind, for better or worse, is what we give.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Jung defined the Shadow as the unconscious complex in the human psyche that holds its negative aspects. We project these outwardly onto others in a judgmental and critical manner. In layman’s terms, “It takes one to know one!”
There are three things to remember about the Shadow:
1) Shadows prove a source of light. A YES must come before a NO can deny it!
2) There is a collective Shadow as well. Bush projecting an ‘Axis of Evil” onto other countries is a good example.
3) If you are mortal you have one. Every one of us also has a physical “blind spot.”
In psychology, the term “light Shadow” is sometimes used to describe the projection of untoward admiration of positive qualities unconsciously inherent in the admirer himself/herself. This can occur in the so-called ‘transference’ in the analysand/analyst setting or in the disciple/guru relationship. And here is a way to tell a good Guru or Teacher from a bad one. The good Guru will only hold up a mirror to help you see that what you recognize there is already in yourself. The fake one will accept the admiration and become increasingly inflated until he comes to a sad or bad end. There have been any number of these tragedies in recent years. I call it the Guru disease.
One of the things that has struck me is that the Shadow sheds light on Christ’s advice to love our enemies! An enemy carries the mask of our Shadow projection. The very thing we abhor is what we deny having in our own selves so, in that sense, we should be grateful for our enemy carrying that particular projection! Ah, but what if the enemy really is evil? Well, Jung provides the answer. If you are projecting your own shadow, you get “hot under the collar.” One might add that if you are not, you might even have some compassion because of the karmic suffering surely awaiting the person.
I, myself, tied myself in knots with the following: I was only intolerant of intolerance! I projected this especially onto Cardinal Ratzinger when he was acting as Defender of the Faith! I learned my lesson when I was rebuked in meditation with the advice that rather than get angry with him, I should pray for him. The end result has been that ever since he has become Pope, I actually am almost charmed by him and rejoice that as my own intolerance has diminished, so – it seems to me! – has his tolerance of other faiths increased. Please understand that all this has taken place within me and my own past judgmental projections. I have never met the man nor had any influence whatsoever on the Vatican! The closest I came to trying was when I wrote to protest the excommunication of Matthew Fox many years ago, when my collar sure was hot.
Sixty-four years of astrology has taught me that no two people process experience in the same way and has convinced me of the wisdom of “To understand is to forgive.” So now I am more tolerant even of my lapse of intolerance! And I caught that particular aspect of my own Shadow. I made it conscious.
Jung has also reminded us that as we illuminate the smallest bit of our personal Shadow, we are also withdrawing that much darkness from the Collective one! So perhaps the task of the coming Age is to attempt to do this more collectively. This is the archetypal task of Pluto/Hades. The god was the ruler of Hell. Both the Latin and Greek names mean “riches,” and the redemption of the Collective Shadow implies the redemption of all the crimes and cruelty in history – the Herculean task of the Cleansing of the Augean Stables. There is gold hidden in that nigredo. Nature calls it (ahem ...) fertilizer!
So how do we make these bits of our Shadow conscious? By non-judgmental self-observation of our ego reactions. The Sufis have a word for those petty negative things we think and do. They call them nafs. At almost eighty-six years of age, I don’t seem to have the energy to break those Ten Commandments, but I am a whiz at Sinning-on-the-Installment-Plan! And the sum adds up. The Sufis also suggest:
Before you speak, put your words through three sieves:
Are they true?
Are they kind?
Are they necessary?
That’s a good place to sign up for the spiritual sport of shadow catching. Just start observing yourself reacting in your thoughts and why you are thinking them and what you are doing as a consequence. It’s an application of that First Reader “See Spot Run!” “Watch me finding fault!” After applying this a while, you suddenly ask yourself, “Who’s watching?” Aha!
I realize, by hindsight, how my mother prepared me for this game. I remember how when I was three years old and was having a royal screaming tantrum, she would drag me in front of the hall mirror and force me to watch myself! After a short time, I would start to giggle at the spectacle and be ready to surrender. Fast forward to my forties, I remember looking out my window on a grey November day, heartbroken, despairing with years of unrequited love, utterly hopeless ... when an imaginary violinist appeared playing a tragic melody and softly singing “Woozoo, woozoo, WOOZoo!” Aaaargh! But despite my utter misery, I discovered a level of consciousness that was observing me suffer! Then, thanks to Jung, I realized in a flash of insight that it is the ego that is suffering, and I grasped the words of Christ in the Gnostic Gospel of John counseling us “to learn to suffer and not to suffer”! So it becomes gradually possible, on occasion, to watch ourselves identifying with our ego. At least it is a first step to a higher level of consciousness. No, it did not solve my problems right then, but I glimpsed a new way of finding a solution. For me, it was finally to find the Beloved within, which may have made it possible for the miracle of meeting and wedding my “Polar Bear” Walter, and for our living eighteen precious years as white-haired Philemon and Baucis.
I cannot conclude without adding another glimpse of my mother in her old age. I was in one room about to enter the one in which she was struggling at her desk to tie a string around a package. It was a very frustrating attempt and she was clumsy. I watched her shaking her head and sighing, “Poor dumb beast!” Aren’t we all!
If you read the previous Credo, “Ecce Ego,” you may remember the bit about waving to passing cars. Well, the very next day, I hobbled all the way up to “Trivia,” so-called because three dirt roads meet. The Latin word came to mean “idle matters” because in ancient Rome people would stop and get out of carriages or off their horses to gossip and exchange news. This spot became a turning point for my darling husband and me and, as old as we were, he would play the same game under the big tree there. He would start looking in all directions. I would ask why? He would say, “I’m looking for a maiden.” I would offer innocently to help, whereupon he would exclaim joyously, “I found one!” and then he would hug and kiss me.
My Polar Bear is gone these ten years and the tree is now a stump surrounded by ferns, but I was determined to get up there again. Suddenly a car came by and stopped, and a middle-aged woman got out of the car and effusively thanked me for the months of waving! She said it cheered her up, that it was so special, and could she take my picture? Naturally, I was struck by the synchronicity and the place. In fact, I was delighted!
On my way home, though, I was struck by that word special and its implications. I remembered the words of Christopher Whitmont, my analyst, wise mentor, and later beloved friend. “When you receive a compliment, don’t deny it! Count to ten and offer it up [to your Divine Guest]!” This keeps one from the ego trap of false humility and sends the credit rightfully back up to its source. Oops, watch out!
That night I pondered about the difference between special and blessed. In the familiar “Hail Mary” prayer, Mary is said to be blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus. The prayer could certainly have used the word special or unique but it doesn’t. Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig, a Swiss Jungian analyst, wrote a very important book on the Shadow called Power in the Professions. It speaks of the dangers of inflation and the pride of feeling powerful and superior. As many of us are in the helping professions or know someone who is, it is a timely reminder of a potentially unconscious attitude. So often we can refer to patients or clients as “cases,” which suggests an “I-it” approach rather than the “I-Thou” one Jung insisted upon. Jung actually called analysis a maieutic process (note the four vowels!), which means midwifing or helping the patient to give his/her own insight birth.
Then, of course, there is the opposite called negative inflation and the spiritual no-no of scrupulosity in which we consider ourselves the absolute worst person in the world, which is an insult if ever there was one to our Divine Guest!
I think I may have told the story of a client I had who had this problem. We were in the basement of an analyst’s home. I quoted Christ’s words “No man hides a light under a bushel basket.” Her eyes widened in amazement for, unbeknownst to me, there was a stack of bushel baskets in the corner behind me!
This reminds me of another synchronicity in another basement of another analyst’s house. I may also have recounted this before. I was quoting the Hindu guru Dadaji, who said, “God is making love in your heartbeat twenty-four hours a day.” At that moment the furnace went on and the woman, who suffered the same negative inflation, reported that for the rest of the tape she was recording, it went “thump, thump, thump”!
We all need to remember those comforting words! So you can see how blessed I have been by the wise counsel of so many. I hope I can avoid inflation when people call my white hair a sign of wisdom. I can honestly say and will repeat that the more I know, the more I know I don’t know!
ao, about to sign up for cackling lessons!
Then I heard the Lord saying, who shall I send? Who will go for me? And I answered, Here am I; send me. Go and tell the people:
“You may listen but not understand
Look and look again and not know....”
Their wits are dulled, their ears are deafened and their eyes blinded, so having eyes, they do not see, having ears they do not hear, having wits they do not comprehend, so that they may awaken and be healed.
– Isaiah 6:8-10
As most of you know, I was blessed in meeting my Teacher in 1944. At that time, he told me that there are Teachers unseen around us always trying to guide and help those of us wanting to be of service. Innocently I asked, “How does one get in touch with them?” And he answered, “All one has to do is pray sincerely and volunteer!” He laughed and added, “You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll be put to work, even if it is only a small thing to start with ...” Then he added, “There is nothing spooky about this, the door always opens out, the commitment is only between your own heart and Spirit. But they can’t interfere, you have to ask.” And I thought of Christ’s words, “Knock, and the door will be opened!” It seems they cannot help us unless we ask, and I still have problems remembering that because I feel unworthy. However, it seems to be a spiritual requirement.
I am sharing this because I am convinced that if you are reading this either you are already committed or wondering how to go about it! As I look back over the 64 years that have passed since that conversation, I can see that Ecce ego, mitte me has been the motto of my life, through ups and downs, and a series of inexplicable synchronicities, many of them connected to Jung, I might add.
My path eventually led me to the Hebridean island of Iona and its monastery, founded by St. Columba, and eventually I traveled to Lindisfarne, on the east coast of Northumbria, founded by his disciple St. Aidan. There I found a statue of Aidan with the motto carved into its pedestal. This was over thirty years after my meeting with M.
I associated the Here I am! for years with the boy Samuel in the Old Testament, but last Sunday the full quote from Isaiah came to me as I was listening at 6 am to a homily on TV! And this was the impetus for this Credo, because the state of the world in general seems so awful, so many people suffering in so many places, and so many people, alas, in our own country oblivious to it all, and we here wondering what we can do about it!
The answer I get always is the same – 1 x 1 x 1: “What you do for the least of thy brethren, ye do it unto me!”
Needless to say, I volunteered, and over the years as some of you know, life got pretty interesting. I think it is best described by Joseph Campbell as “the night sea journey”! But I am willing to wager that is true of you who are reading this. We have to suffer and learn not to suffer. On the other hand, each of us is now equipped to come from a real place, because when we are asked to help someone else, we have been there and we are not mouthing a psychology text! For me, this means trying to connect with anyone who comes into my life, however casually, in a real way.
I observed and learned this from an experience in an airport hotel at 5:30 am when my husband and I were having a quick breakfast in a dreary eating place with plastic tables and chairs. The other customers all seemed to be sleepy salesmen. It was a grey and hopeless kind of day. One by one, these men would pay the cashier, who happened to be a middle-aged woman with grey hair.
As each guy came up, I heard her pleasant voice asking them how they were, commiserating about the weather but assuring them with a laugh that it would get better, and so on. Her loving warmth was amazing and I drew Walter’s attention to her as well. She never failed to draw a smile from the customer. When we went up to pay our check, my darling Polar Bear put it best. He said to her “I hope you know that you bring the sunshine into this room.” Her face lit up. She said to us, “Thank you, I try to do my best.” The fact that this happened about twenty years ago and still inspires me, is a testimony. Her gift is still giving.* Come to think of it, all the best teachers I have known have taught by example. It’s not what they say alone but who they are.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “My only religion is kindness.”
This obviously is the first step. Each of us has a unique way of serving with different skills, professions, opportunities. The point is that little “pook” of love makes all the difference. The trap for the Age of Aquarius is that it is so transpersonal and needs the balance of its opposite sign, Leo, ruled by the Sun, the source of love. We may get a Social Security check but there is no love in the envelope. One pays the turnpike toll and a little green light says “Thank you.” Mother Teresa said wisely, “I believe in person to person, and that God is in everyone.” The first is praxis and the second is theoria! I noticed yesterday, as I thankfully can still hobble with two sticks up and down the dirt road adjoining my home, that as I wave to the infrequent cars that pass me, I waved six times. One car stopped, and a familiar nameless man cheered me on; two truck drivers and a woman waved back, and two strangers sped by looking straight ahead. Not bad. When I would drive up and down the coast of Western Ireland, it was never ever less than 100%. That’s where I learned the custom.
So now I sign off on a computer, hoping you may somehow receive the pook of love hidden in.
*I can’t resist relating another extraordinary incident: I had lectured to a Jung Society in Milwaukee, and my husband and I had to catch a very early bus back to Chicago, where I was teaching at The C. G. Jung Institute in Evanston. We were in a dingy, grubby smoke-filled waiting room with about fifteen sleepy people, including a young mother with a three-year-old boy. In the midst of the silence, the child’s voice suddenly proclaimed, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Everybody was startled, to say the least, and the little boy giggled and hid his face in his mother’s shoulder. She smiled.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Jung’s coincidentia oppositorum is a Western expression of a profound universal truth: the manifest world consists of opposites and so does every human psyche. Whether it’s reality and its meaning or ego and Self, the yearning to unite them needs a third (the Transcendent Function is the tab to every zipper!) If you turn the letter Y upside down, you have the idea in its essence. But that’s just the beginning. The word “yoke” comes from the Sanskrit for yoga, which implies this same process of uniting expressed by Hindus for centuries in various ways. The basic purpose of yoga is to reunite each of us from the distress of separation from the atman or Spirit. In the West, we would say God, Christ Within, Jung’s “Self” or, as I call it, our Divine Guest. The etymological roots of our word “religion” are the Lat. re-ligare, to bind back, which is another way of putting it.
For centuries, Hindus perfected various processes to enable this, and they realized “different strokes for different folks.” Here are a few briefly defined:
1) Hatha Yoga – perfecting the physical body as an instrument through postures and movements to reach higher consciousness. This is the best known yoga in the West because it also results in good health.
2) Raja Yoga – the monastic vocation of monk or nun, considered the royal road to this union.
3) Jnana Yoga (pronounced gnana) – the most difficult path of the intellect. Thomas Aquinas is an example in the West.
4) Bhatki Yoga – the path of loving devotion expressed through all the arts devoted to personal praise of God and gratitude. This was popular for us in the ’70s with chanting of “Hari, hari Krishna!” and the first popular introduction of Hinduism through the Beatles. For many it led to a deep commitment to its spiritual goal and an exposure to the others mentioned above. I find it helpful to remember that the polytheism of Hinduism was to help discern the various aspects of the ineffable One, Brahman. This gives choice for individual needs. Gods and goddesses in all faiths represent the personification of archetypal processes and go by different names in different cultures. To realize this can deepen our understanding of so-called pagan religions. When some of us pray to St. Anthony to find something or St. Jude to help a hopeless case, it is much the same concept. We are, after all, human beings and it helps to have Spirit come to us through a human being as a shining instrument. We are blessed in the great ones who have come to us through the Ages in different times and different cultures. They surely all deserve appreciation rather than selective rejection.
And then there is 5) Karma Yoga – the humble layman’s path. Years ago, I read the definition:
To practice Karma Yoga is to live a life in the world and give all of the fruits of your actions to God.
“Aha!” said I to myself, “that’s for me! I can do that.” So, fervently I began to review my day every night and to try most sincerely to find anything I deemed worthy to offer up. About ten days later, I found myself getting more and more depressed! I despaired. What was I doing so wrong? I carefully reread the definition several times, and I suggest that you, the reader, do likewise. What word had I missed?
It was the little word ‘all’. What does that word imply? The whole Schmier! That would mean one’s failures, as well! Oh dear!
By unconsciously sorting so carefully, the you-know-what was piling up behind my door! No wonder, I was depressed. This yoga was intended to make one conscious of both success and failure, and the necessity for honestly saying “I blew it!” yet be willing to keep trying. Karma means cause and effect.
Now as an old lady, I realize that I am unable to break most of the Ten Commandments and so am resigned to sinning on the installment plan! The Sufis have a word for this, so I’m not off the hook. They call it the nafs – those nasty little things one does or thinks or says. They even have a wise proverb:
Before you speak let your words pass through three sieves:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
Were we to follow this counsel, think how many of the printed and spoken words we could eliminate with one mental delete!
Needless to say, all three great Western religions have various ways of dealing with guilt-relieving confessions, but the Episcopalian one I grew up with has the ghastliest one of all. It goes like this:
Dear Lord forgive me for all those things I have done that I ought not to have done and for all those things that I have not done that I ought to have done!
For me, that second one is a psychological abyss! Beware of falling into it.
It is as bad as defining yourself by what you are not!!
Out to the garden with my ego to eat worms!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Words are eggs, as Lonesome, the rabbit guide in my The Beejum Book, and my friend analyst Russ Lockhart, who wrote about this, both agree. Why? Because they hatch out meaning. Quick, as in “the quick and the dead” originally meant alive, and to quicken meant “to give spirit to.” Which brings me to that enduring and ever more meaningful word:
The etymological root of this word comes from Lat. spirare, to breathe. So the connection between life and death of the material body depends on breathing. We come into this world at birth and take our first breath and exspire with our last. Inspiration hints at the quickening of an idea which may take perspiration to transpire or happen.
So, it seems obvious that breathing is essential to life and to the indwelling of Spirit. The process of breathing in astrology is ruled by Gemini and this sign rules the lungs, the brain, and the nervous system, all of which function through duality. The sign’s glyph is II, for the Twins, which Gemini stands for. So we have right/left brain, and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and now comes the kicker: two ways of breathing!
We breathe on automatic pilot unconsciously but we can choose to breathe consciously so we can alter the level of our health and consciousness by yoga and holotropic breathing. Too little oxygen, we become unconscious; and too much can have the same results. I can remember as a teenager fooling around breathing deeply through a long hollow bamboo pole and almost fainting! We dared each other. Alas, today kids sniff more deadly fumes. As for Stan Grof’s holotropic breathing, a form of supervised hyperventilation, this technique accesses the contents of the personal unconscious.
By now, hopefully, you can see the connection of the ego to Jung’s definition as the center of consciousness, and its duality in being able to look out to the world of experience, the aforementioned “Looking-glass of Circumstance,” or inward to our individual psyche. Thus we have a choice to become conscious of the mystery we call Spirit or the Self (Divine Guest) through our awareness or “Quickening.” This makes sense of “Having ears, you do not hear; having eyes, you do not see.”
What is it that makes the difference? I venture to say it is when something ordinary suddenly becomes meaningful. Those rare instances, for instance, of synchronicities or “Sophia’s winks,” as I like to call them, when a glimpse into the unus mundus occur s, and for a moment we realize that there is another world and it is hidden in this one! It is a moment for the quickening “pook” of Spirit that can take our breath away or leave us breathless. It hints also at the “Peace that passeth understanding” and we move from thinking to knowing.
Thus there seems to be a proof that uniting the opposites (II) on any level has the potential for Jung’s “Transcendent Function” to lead us to such glimpses. Mercury (Hermes) is the ruler of Gemini. His process is personified as Psychopomp or Leader of Souls. Think of how meaningful lacing your shoes can be! If the laces go up without crisscrossing, your shoes fall off. (Think Obama!) Considering the obvious is a good place to start on finding the sacred in the commonplace. It is the key to having eyes and occasionally seeing.
Perhaps one of our readers can explain how physically vision is accomplished by the right eye going to the left brain and vice versa, and wrong side up becomes right side up in the end! Sounds like Hermes and his caduceus has a hand even there!
ao, still getting a kick out of life – Upon my Word!
“I think therefore I am” is the famous statement made by René Descartes. This set the movement of rationalism in motion and the Age of Reason in the late seventeenth century. The ego came into its own and seems to be still thriving today if one looks at the books being touted by atheists today. To be sure it was followed and challenged in subsequent decades by the rise of Romanticism (which coincided with the discovery of Neptune, which rules the process of dissolving boundaries). By the end of the nineteenth century, the ego became defined by Freud as a psychological factor, and later put in its place by Jung as the “center of consciousness” that was subordinate to the unconscious contents of the psyche and orbiting the center of the Self (Divine Guest).
Given the present public interest in the topic of the ego, I venture to comment on a function I have noticed not much attention has been given to so far: the ego as a protective device!
Have you ever noticed when you are reading a paragraph in a book, for example, your brain turns to cement! And perhaps years later, you come across it and suddenly it makes sense? Or at a lecture, you sneeze or are distracted and miss an important point? Well, my teacher M warned me, when at 21 I was so eager to learn and devour esoteric knowledge, that one was responsible for what one learned, responsible for taking it in, applying it, and later sharing it. As he spoke, I had the image of a cup flowing over, and today I would say that the ego sets the appropriate boundaries for what it has the capacity to contain and, that left to its own devices, it widens naturally to contain more and more.
However, there is a danger of the ego being swamped by the negative aspects (not the positive) of those things ruled by Neptune: alcohol, drugs, fumes, etc., all of which can alter consciousness and dissolve the protective function of the ego. (Astrologically, Uranus rules occultism and Neptune rules mysticism. One is yang, higher octave of Mercury, and the latter is yin, higher octave of Venus.) The prevalence of drugs and their global threat to consciousness is a real concern and addresses a collective yearning to escape a meaningless existence. As William James once remarked, “Alcohol is the poor man’s way to mysticism.”
With the breakdown of some religions, their fundamentalist versions seem to have overreacted with literalistic reinforcing of collective ego boundaries! Therein lies a dilemma, and, I really do believe, Jung and many others are pointing to the importance of symbolic understanding and interpretation of so-called reality. The ultimate quest for every ego is to seek meaning, the source of which is the Self (Divine Guest) because “the unexamined life is not worth living.” And this is where Eckhart Tolle and Oprah come in. Together they are a force! (I can’t resist the esoteric implications and humor of his chosen name. Eckhart alludes to the wise thirteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart and Tolle in German, loosely translated, is the feminine adjective meaning “nuts”!—i.e., making him a “Holy Fool” or an unpretentious teacher of wisdom, which he certainly seems to be.)
While I am at it, it might be worth mentioning the three potential states of ego: inflated, negatively inflated, and healthy. A topic I took on in my The Beejum Book in the parable of “The Tale of the Three Donkeys.” The inflated EGO is full of itself; the negatively inflated ego considers itself totally unworthy; and the healthy ego does the best it can, aware of its daily fluctuations. Edinger wrote brilliantly of this in his book Ego and Archetype. I cannot recommend this book too highly. I have read and reread it many times.
The discovery of the Collective Ego was during the Age of Aries, roughly the last 2000 years before our Age of Pisces. Yahweh’s mantra and that of Aries are both “I Am!” which reminds me of the six-year-old Josiah Quincy rushing in to Bronson Alcott’s school in Boston in 1843, joyously exclaiming, “Mr. Alcott! Mr. Alcott! I never knew I had a mind until I came here!”
About twenty years ago, I dreamt in Latin: “Cogito ergo sum ergo scivio Deus est. I think therefore I am, therefore I [can] know that God is.” I was so surprised, I woke my beloved husband Walter and we wrote it down. Have never dreamt in Latin before or since!
Barbara Hannah, the earthy English biographer and devoted friend of Jung, tells a lovesome story about him and his trip to Burma. It sheds light on a gift that Jung had of always asking “Why?” or “How come?” and getting a new insight. It seems that they were traveling with a Burmese friend in a rickshaw. Suddenly their rickshaw collided with another one. Both drivers stopped and started jabbering furiously at each other but then changed their attitude and kept repeating a phrase to each other. In the end, they smiled and waved, and resumed riding the bicycles that drew the carts.
Jung was curious about the phrase they kept repeating. What were they saying? Their friend replied, “No soul! No soul!” and explained that in their culture when a mishap of any kind occurred a decision had to be made whether it was important enough to take into one’s soul or not. In this case, the drivers both decided it was not. Hence the phrase “No soul!” was repeated.
This small reference had repercussions in my own life and proves the value of passing on a good idea. In 1983, I co-led with Maggie Smith, a Chi-ops trip to India. Walter and I joined the group in New York and we all stopped off in London and flew directly to Bombay, arriving about 1:00 am. After a long, tedious trip through customs we emerged, a few at a time, into the hot, humid, dust-fetid air of India and climbed into a waiting un-air-conditioned bus. After half an hour passed, those in the bus were understandably starting to object and complain, for a last few of us were still missing. We were all sweating, thirsty, and dead tired.
I thought of Jung in Burma and stood up in the bus and told the story. Just as I finished the last two people climbed aboard, apologizing for the delay at customs. Thus our adventure began, and we traveled north through India, Kashmir, and Nepal. Needless to say, almost everywhere we went there were glitches of every kind, but invariably they were met with laughter and the phrase “No soul! No soul!”
It occurs to me that this tale could come in handy for us all as we are confronting challenges of shortages and occasions for impatience and short fuses! It seems to me there is magic in the sequence of that one small incident with Jung in Burma, and Barbara Hannah having the wisdom to include it in her book, which makes it possible for me to pass it along on the Internet and bring Jung and those two rickshaw drivers into our presence. It seems like transmitting one tiny spark that defies time and place!
Sweet are the uses of adversity, which like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; and this our life, exempt from public haunts, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
– As You Like It, William Shakespeare
I am always learning new insights from nature. For instance, all seeds seem to germinate underground in the dark womb of the earth. Then comes the lovely moment, called by the invisible light of the Sun, when they break through to air, water, and fire. With the help of dew, rain, and the warmth of sunlight, they come into existence. The next stage, if it is an apple tree, is to start to grow, to blossom, to be pollinated, and settle in to the long summer of little green apples. Finally, it yields its fruit for the benefit of others. Out of one single apple pip, potentially an unlimited number of future apple trees have come down to us in thousands of years. This is a demonstration of the process of creativity, ruled by the Sun in astrology.
A human life, esoterically, unfolds potentially in three such stages that coincide with the 28 +/- transit of Saturn around the chart and the 28 +/- orbiting of the progressed Moon. This appears to program us as follows:
I. First cycle: a karmic picking up of our past strengths and gifts and confronting old lessons not learned. Sigh! We exist during our childhood without much choice of circumstances or relatives, neighbors, etc.; then a change occurs at puberty and the ego is ready to go. At 28, we are now ready to move on to living at a new level.
II. Second cycle: the acquiring of new experience and independence. However, if one flunks the karmic lesson of eating boiled eggs, they get served up as scrambled or fried, etc.! (I am being facetious here.) Psychologically, this means dealing with one’s complexes, neuroses, all the while acquiring new challenges, joys, and griefs. This is called living in the world. In the middle of this cycle, comes the midlife crisis and an important opportunity to question seriously the meaning of it all, if that has not occurred long before. It is interesting to note that the feminine life acts out most of these stations physically, with the onset of menstruation (lunar), potential pregnancy, and the cessation of menstruation. Maiden, mother, and crone to come! Men have a harder time knowing the stages of their anima! We are now 56-58 years old.
III. Third cycle of Saturn’s return: the culmination of adding the gifts of I and II. The apples ripen and need to fall for others to relish. At the end of this cycle we are usually a white-haired senex or a crone or out of here!
Now that I am in my 86th year (85½!), I think I am in the apple-dropping phase and they seem to be CREDO apples or a few conclusions about life and its paradoxes. I realize that we all come into existence with a baby’s fresh wee body and leave that body behind when it ceases to exist. In between, with the arising of consciousness, we start to live and for many in the sunset years, we revert to mere existing. So what does real living consist of? For me, personally, it means when we question the meaning of our existence in the first place. This is a very basic and private matter. It may happen at the age of four or forty or never at all. All water does not become wine, yet there is no wine without water. Wine then can be further “alchemically” distilled into higher contents of “spirit” until it becomes aquavit or uisge bheath (whisky), both meaning the same thing: Water of Life. Another triplicity ...
There are highly symbolic connections to this etymological sequence, one of them being Christ’s first miracle at Cana where he changed the water at the wedding into wine. Also, it explains William James’s comment that alcohol is the poor man’s way to mysticism. The word spirit comes from the Latin spirare, which means to breathe, and incarnation begins and ends with breath, as do higher levels of consciousness reached through breathing techniques of yoga or holotropic breathing. Too much or too little of breath results in our passing out, and we have two choices in the matter – to breathe consciously or unconsciously by the body’s remote control.
These factors suggest to me that truly living involves our first connections to the Self or Divine Guest dwelling, as Jung reminds us, in the unconscious. Jung writes eloquently in Memories, Dreams and Reflections of this happening to him at the age of twelve, when he first discovered the two levels of his own psyche: ego and Self. (If you are reading this Credo at all, I guarantee you are living and not just existing!)
There are further dichotomies and they involve the five senses. Jesus pointed this out when he asked, Having eyes, see ye not? Having ears, hear ye not? Do ye not remember?
There is a difference between looking and seeing, and seeing and perceiving,
Between listening and hearing, and hearing and understanding,
Between touching and feeling, and feeling and appreciating,
Between eating and tasting, and tasting and savoring,
Between sounding and speaking, and speaking and communicating!
And we could add:
Between existing and living, and living and loving!
The third stage suggests the addition of Spirit. Perhaps this is the level where we give the gift of our living to our Divine Guest and enable that mysterious Presence to become mortal! This is surely the ultimate coniunctio; exchanging gratitude and grace. Here the poet E. E. Cummings expresses it beautifully:
i thank you God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Friday, February 6, 2009
Atheists seem to be quite popular these days. Several books on the topic are on the Best Seller lists. They believe there is no God, period. I suspect that really all they have done is reject the god of the level beneath them and that maybe they should keep up the search. If the answer for them is purely evolution and everything is the product of chance, I suggest the following dialogue tracing evolution, which certainly I agree is a historical fact, all the way up the chain to homus erectus and the individual standing in front of you. “So you would say that your brain is ultimately the product of chance?” “Certainly.” “Then of what value is your opinion?”
Unconsciously the atheist is demonstrating his superior Self. Monkeys, as some wit pointed out, realistically could not throw type into the air and have it come down The Collected Works of William Shakespeare! For the life of me, I cannot see what the hoop-de-do between the Fundamentalists and the scientists is all about. What seems obvious is that evolution is a scientific fact and just might be part of a spiritual unfolding we know not of.
Which makes all of us, with the exception of the few Fundamentalists to whom God speaks on a daily basis, agnostics. A-gnosis means not knowing, which is what the healthy ego should, in all humility, admit.
Jung felt that children deprived entirely of the concept of a God would invent one, a concept that William Golding developed powerfully in his novel Lord of the Flies. And Jung also pointed out that this notion could also account for the secular notion of projecting gods and goddesses onto celebrities, movie stars, or even political figures. Since then we have witnessed such tragic projections upon Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.
Jung described the individual image of God as unique and perforce only a partial approach to a mystery. The Tao that can be defined is not the Tao. If it could be expressed consciously, the ego would be in play and, as consciousness depends on duality, it seems to me, that settles the matter. As Jung wrote humorously in one of his letters, “God is most likely not interested in theology.” And yet when asked in the BBC interview if he believed in God, he answered “No,” and, after a pregnant moment, added “I know.”
In The Symbolic Life, Volume18 of the Collected Works, he wrote this perhaps hope-giving explanation:
The Self, or Christ [atman, Divine Guest], is present in everyone a priori, but as a rule in an unconscious condition to begin with. But it is a definite experience of later life when this experience becomes conscious. It is only real when it happens, and it can only happen when you withdraw your projections from an outward or metaphysical Christ and thus wake up the Christ within.
Jesus himself said that the Kingdom of Heaven is within, (which perhaps can also have an astrological connotation!). So most of us, if we are honest, should be agnostics at the ego level. As St. Paul wrote, “We see through a glass darkly ...” and “Faith is a belief in a substance unseen.” In my first Credo, I quoted my beloved grandfather Basil King, who wrote simply of “a vast certainty.” Every time I read those words, I have a jubilant reaction because this describes the way I feel and yet leaves my ego surrendered humbly in awe. This perhaps ranks emotion above intellect, placing love, appreciation, gratitude, and wonder above the words to express them, though “the Peace that passeth understanding” comes close. I conclude that we experience that vast certainty or we don’t. I write this to suggest that whoever reads this stop and think when and where and how you might have not valued such an experience of silent affirmation and a moment of bliss. It almost always comes in beauty and can be something quite simple, a testimony to finding the sacred revealed in the commonplace. I share such a memory:
It is raining.
Pink hollyhocks press at our kitchen window
doubled by Degas –
each filled and frilled flower
draws tints of dance
to deeper knots of light.
I wait for you, stunned
by a hummingbird landing
on a stem of air
as drops drip
from bright leaf to green bud to leaf below
by a purling silence
and the flaunting flutter
of rosy wet whimsy
now within myself as well
truly it is too much for prayer!
enough to read the round matutinal rubrics
illumined on this page of glass
like the hovering winged emerald
I, too, sip the sweet and holy word of Presence.
you come in smiling. I give and get a kiss.
I pour hot coffee
you break toast
together we open the missal of morning
to a grace
blurred by bliss.