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Monday, September 28, 2009

Gimme! Thanks! Oops! Wow! I. Gimme! – CREDO LXXXVII

   
This brilliant reduction of the four kinds of prayer, we owe to Rabbi Marc Gellman of Temple Beth Torah on Long Island, NY, as reported in an article on prayer by Zev Chafets in the spectacular Jung edition of the New York Times Magazine (Sep 20, 2009) celebrating the publication of Jung’s Red Book. The formulation is so succinct that I thought it should reach a greater audience. Volumes of theology have been written on prayer in all faiths, but, when it comes right down to it, these four one-syllable words cover the matter perfectly and suggest that hopefully our Creator might have a sense of humor, as well as compassion. It surely is an example of “laughter in the void” – after all, laughter is restricted to humankind, as far as we know and the Wisdom of Hagia Sophia is full of delight.

Gimme! is probably the hands-down winner of the four and one of the most ancient. The earliest Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics reveal that prayers of petition were common to all. Farmers prayed to the gods for rain, no locusts, and good harvests back then; lovers for loved ones; mothers for their babies. This reminds me of an incredible conscious experience of the collective unconscious that I once had. It was during the Vietnam War. My son, Timothy, who could have been safe from the draft as a student at Stanford University, was a pacifist who went to extraordinary legal efforts to enlist in the army as a Conscientious Objector and finally succeeded in being sent to Vietnam “in order to help rather than harm.” He came home on leave before his departure, and the final parting took place on the doorstep of our small development house. There he stood in his uniform saying goodbye, and I, his mother, knowing he would be unarmed, put my arms around him to hug him. As I did so, an extraordinary experience occurred: I was overwhelmed in that instant by knowing I was one with every mother throughout history – past, present, and future – sharing an archetypal experience known only to mothers sending a child of their womb and heart into danger unknown! Believe me, it left me shaken. We were to be blessed in that he served as a medic, volunteered in his free time in a Vietnamese hospital, and gravitated to such an interest in medicine that when he finally returned to Stanford, he completed his philosophy major and moved on to the lengthy procedures of medical school. Today he is a distinguished psychiatrist, working with veterans of subsequent wars and using his idealism in a bold new educational plan for the medical field.

But I digress! If we pray at all, chances are we are praying for something or someone. If you could visualize the collective “gimme prayers” of the world, they would form a global aura for sure. Perhaps the greatest one of all is - for Peace! Give just a moment to think about your personal history of gimme! prayers from childhood up … How were they answered, how have you altered their content?

In my The Beejum Book is a chapter titled “The Gimme Attack.” Teak , aka ao, was six and in Athens and wanted something so badly, she ruined peace altogether. My mother, bless her, handled it so well that eighty years later I remember the lesson!

Today, I would add that the function of the ego is to want and want. As we grow older and wiser, the nature of our needs becomes, hopefully, nobler. The Christian Lord’s Prayer covers all four of Rabbi Gellman’s definitions, and likewise the Buddhist prayer for the Noble Eight-Fold Path (in Credo LXXXVI). Years ago, I met a wonderful anti-guru Guru, Dadaji. I still remember his pronouncement: “There is only one true Guru! It is the Self [Divine Guest]! At that level you know everything, only you don’t know that! So we live in time and space and remember as we grow.” (Which is what Jung says.) And I had an attack of insight on the spot: Is that why rain comes down in drops and not in one great SPLAT? At that Dadaji cracked up and gave me a hug. “Eternity hides in the fact that it is always NOW, but time comes in minutes, hours and days, and years. The mind can stretch them out or encapsulate them in a memory of a time frame. It is a paradox.” This I remember figuring out in Rome when I was seven, but I missed the Now part!

A lifetime later, I wrote a poem called “Paradox”:

Paradox

How wealthy I am
in such a lack

how rich
in the specific of poverty

I have everything this day
but you to share it with

and so it seems I have nothing –
yet, knowing such ever-brimming loss
places me beyond my peers of need,
somehow
it is like having all of never
into which to set a now.

lovingly,
ao

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gadzook and the Shadow – CREDO LXXXVI

   
In a corner, high on a bookshelf is a large stuffed toy of a wizard elf with a bulbous nose, a white beard, a peaked hat with stars on it, and a blue jacket with facing silver moons. I named him Gadzook. He was the gift of a grateful client, the first one I shared the great aha! that came to me about one way of approaching one’s Shadow. And I owe it all, of course, to Jung but also to the archetypes of astrology.

Jung defines the Shadow in this manner:
Everyone carries a Shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.... If it is repressed and isolated from consciousness it is liable to burst forth suddenly.... At all accounts it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions. (CW 11, para.131)

This described my dilemma perfectly. For decades, so often when I would want to do something, an inner voice would come up and tell me why I couldn’t. Over and over. In a granted moment of grace in active imagination, it was as if all my most negative opinions of my own character added to the shame of my physical shortcomings were formed into a horrid homunculus of a little dwarf and cast down into a dark cellar of denial! Aaaargh!

So one day, when I hear this voice telling me why I can’t, I rebel and shout I know why I can’t, how about telling me how I can!! Well, a miracle occurs, a hatch opens and up comes this pale old creature and remarks, “Well I’ve waited fifty years for this! Now, come along, let’s get to work and let me help.”

From the astrological point of view, I suddenly realized that Saturn rules the Shadow and that I should have remembered that every member of our solar system has a positive as well as a negative archetype. In the case of Saturn, the negative always comes first: the Cruel Judge! I even would tell my suffering clients when they would be putting themselves down, to quote the blacks in the play Green Pasture, who cry out, “Here comes de jedge!” But Saturn also has a positive archetype – The Wise Old Man! Aha!

So by combining these two, I learned that the secret lies in befriending one’s Shadow, though only when it is a matter of genuinely good intentions. As Edward C. Whitmont, the late and my beloved analyst, confided, “Whenever I learn something, out of nowhere a patient appears who needs to know that very thing!” Sure enough, a man appeared with whom I could share this latest attack of insight, and, out of gratitude, he brought me the gift of Gadzook! Now the friendly creature has presided over every session I have had since, and I think the good humor he engenders may help my clients relax and realize that to be introduced to the way they are likely to process experience might well induce a chuckle of conscious recognition.

Those of you familiar with dealing with the Shadow will recognize that this was only an unconscious aspect of it, namely my negative animus, and would be quick to warn the practice of inviting too much, too quickly. It is far wiser to contemplate the Seven Deadly Sins one at a time, and examine one’s conscience. These were defined in the fourth century by one Evagrius of Ponticus, sometimes considered a forerunner of psychology.

Gulagluttony of any kind
Fornicatiolust of any kind
Avaritiagreed of any kind
Tristitia – despair
Iraanger
Acediaapathy, sloth
Vanagloriapride (the worst of all!)

I, personally, prefer Buddha’s Noble Eight-Fold Path, which I try to recite nightly before sleep. I find it so much more positive than any commandments. I have shared it in a previous CREDO but it bears repeating!

THE NOBLE EIGHT-FOLD PATH

The Four Noble Truths

There is suffering in this world:
All suffering comes from attachment and desire.
There is a way beyond suffering.
The way is the Noble Eight-fold Path:

RIGHT VIEWS
Free from superstition and delusion

RIGHT ASPIRATIONS
High and worthy of the intelligent; worthy of mankind

RIGHT SPEECH
Kindly, open, and truthful

RIGHT CONDUCT
Peaceful, honest, and pure

RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
Bringing hurt or danger to no living being

RIGHT EFFORT
In self-training and self-control

RIGHT MINDFULNESS
The active, watchful mind

RIGHT RAPTURE
In deep meditation on the realities of life

lovingly,
ao

Thomas Berry and Gerald L. Schroeder – CREDO LXXXV

   
Thomas Berry was more than a man; he was an oak tree in motion. He was many things: a Passionist priest, a scholar, a Fordham professor, a copious and passionate writer, an international force, years before others of us, to warn the world of the potential loss to humanity of our home here on Earth through ignorance of the preciousness of our planet and the sacredness of nature! That is a run-on sentence, I know, but Tom was a run-on man.

I met him once at his home on the Hudson River overlooking the Palisades, and, yes, he pointed out his favorite tree, a huge oak. We had a long conversation; I could never forget him. He followed up our meeting by sending me for several years his bound mimeographed writings in pale blue covers. Each time I received one, his dignified face, so like a stone cliff, would come to mind. For me he was Saturn exalted.

The very night I met him, I had an extraordinary dream:

Tom takes me into a book-lined chamber and explains to me that in it are all the sacred writings ever written all over the world. Then he asks, “Would you like me to show you my God Machine?” He points to a black metal standing box about the size of a two-drawer file. The top section is open. Tom flicks a switch and reveals a little stand. “I can take any book and place it on this stand, push this button, and the book will turn to crystal and the words in it that are true will turn to gold.” So he takes several books and demonstrates this. Some have more layers of gold than others. I marvel.

Then he says with a smile, “I could put a year of your life or a month or a day on it as well, but you would have to realize that we all need the plain dark of the crystal, ruled by Saturn, the god of time. It is what holds the gold.


I woke up before the test! But as you see, I have never forgotten the dream. My conclusion is that God must have a vast library with a section of rare books, first editions, and heaps of paperbacks!! And yet each one would have unique contents and has the potential to be “an open book” or “read like a book” for the instruction of others. Some will probably be more influential than others for positive or negative reasons, which brings me back to that same old question: Do two people read the same book? See the same picture? Hear the same conversation or speech? The answer is obviously, no. Each of us processes the same experience uniquely, which in one whap describes how unity through motion becomes diversity. This is the profound underlying grandeur of cosmic creativity, so obvious (aha!) we tend to overlook it. A billion manufactured butter knives or Coke bottles might look the same; a google of molecules forming different elements may be standard matter, but the minute they are used in unfolding time they too become unique. Panta rhei – everything flows, as the pithy pre-Socratic Heraclitus pointed out millennia ago, and remember, he’s the one who remarked that with our eyes open, we share the same world, but with our eyes closed each of us enters a private world.

I can’t help wondering if Thomas Berry and Gerald Schroeder read each others’ work. Tom can no longer be asked but Gerry can.[ He says he hadn’t.] Both men approach this world of ours wanting to prove the holiness of nature. Both are profound scholars and cosmologists as well as spiritual mystics. Gerald is the author of one of the most awesome books I have read in the last forty years, The Hidden Face of God.

I discovered Gerald Schroeder through listening to a Roman Catholic priest describing the book on television. As I didn’t catch either the title or author, I queried the station which led me to Father Dubay, who enlightened me. I googled Schroeder and wrote him an e-mail, and thus discovered that he grew up in Jericho, Long Island and watched the Green Vale School bus drive past his door – the school where I taught! He graduated from M.I.T., married a Jewish girl from Connecticut, now a distinguished author herself. They moved to Jerusalem, had five children. He is now an honored scientist, renowned in the worlds of astrophysics and microbiology (which covers a lot of territory!) and is also a mystic, a kabbalist, and now an Orthodox Jew.

The reason I love and honor the book is that it is an exploration, written simply enough for a layman, of the complexity of the subatomic world in which we live. The incredible beauty he reveals proves the validity of the word kosmos, which is Greek for beauty and the root of our word cosmetics. Schroeder has no need to convince us that the extraordinary intricate interactions of the subatomic world are absolutely impossible to have come about by “chance.” He does not preach; he doesn’t have to.

I remember lying out in a field one night when I was twelve, in Teufen, Appenzell, at the Swiss boarding school I attended. With me was a classmate, Dorothy Atherton. We were discussing what we wanted to do when we grew up.

I told her I wanted to unite religion and science – ha! What I didn’t realize at the time was that we were lying under the stars! So my path was through the cosmic science of astrology as a symbolic language of archetypal processes and the chart as a guide to the unique way each individual is likely to process experience. Normally, we do that unconsciously, but the option is given us to use it as a diagnostic tool in Jungian analysis. Teaching this has been my life’s work, as well as the topic of several of my books. You can imagine my delight, when I first began the serious study of Jung, to find that he had made a serious study of it all and even consulted the charts of his patients when he was stuck!

I began my studies in 1945 with Marc Edmund Jones, so in a way I was an early pioneer in promoting the serious work of rescuing astrology from its popular reputation as superstitious twaddle for nincompoops. I wanted to become an analyst, but Dr. Edward F. Edinger (bless him!) insisted that I would be of greater service to Jung sharing the value of astrology as a diagnostic tool and a guide to individuation. This is how I eventually came to teach the subject at several C. G. Jung Institutes in this country and also with countless lectures at universities and conferences, as well as a few Grand Rounds in Psychiatry. I spoke at the International Transpersonal Conference in Bombay, but the biggest one was to twelve hundred in Davos, where I was surprised and deeply touched by Marie-Louise von Franz, who, when Walter and I were picnicking out under a fir tree, silently bent under a branch and kissed me, as she passed by!

Thus, I hope you can see why I am in awe of the far greater accomplishments of Thomas Berry and the ongoing ones of Gerald L. Schroeder! What we have in common, along with many others today, is reconciling faith and reason, the outgoing dilemma of the Piscean/Virgo opposition of the ending Age.

lovingly,
ao

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Spiritual Alchemy of Sports – CREDO LXXXIV

   
Recently, I invited some men to comment on sports from a Jungian perspective. Only one came up with an answer that revealed the potential solution. In his e-mail he wrote “Sports is the sublimation of combat.” But, he seemed to overlook the fact that sublimation is an alchemical process. I remember reading in Volume I of Parabola (1976) an article by the now late Jungian analyst Edward F. Edinger, and I found that I still have it! In it, he wrote:

Two outstanding and inter-related instruments of civilization were created by the ancient Greeks – the sacred games and the ritual drama. It is indicative of their psychological similarity that we refer to both games and drama by the same word, play. These action-forms give human energies a second world [level] in which to function. We are apt to forget the crucial role that games and athletic contests played in civilizing the aggressive energies of early man. . . . In the beginning, the games were always dedicated to a god, indicating that the athletes’ efforts were being offered up to a transpersonal meaning.    
                             –“The Tragic Hero”

This offered for me the solution to my puzzlement at why in archetypal astrology Sagittarius rules both religion and athletics. The icon of the fire sign Sagittarius is the centaur, which symbolizes the triplicity humankind represents: animal body, human, and the aspiring, uplifted bow and arrow aimed at the heavens. So this sign rules both religion and physical sports. The air sign Gemini, the opposite sign, in contrast, rules mental games: cards, chess, checkers, etc., but also drama, the duality of tragedy and comedy. The glyph is II(!), and the icon represents the twins Castor and Pollux.

The word play is common to all of them, and most Sagittarian games involve a solar shaped ball or puck, perhaps suggesting that the One is safely divided into uniting the Two. The Jungian coincidentia oppositorum? Heraclitus did say that “war [combat] is the great accelerator.” Alas, the negative cannonball and the bullet are the Shadow. The penis (Mars) shoots Life and the pistol (Mars) shoots Death.

So where does the alchemy come in? In the case of all these games, they must be contained (like the duality of Jungian analysis!) in the safety of a vessel where the sublimation takes place. If that glass is broken, the action falls down into everyday reality. Games erupt in riots among spectators, and, yes, mental contests can also have the same result. For this, I can give personal experience. When I was married only two weeks to my first husband in 1946, we were playing backgammon in the hushed drawing room of the Harvard Club in New York, of which my father was a member. It was occupied mostly by men reading papers and smoking pipes. Now, I had an extraordinary gift with dice and I was winning by far. When I threw doubles yet again, he suddenly took the entire board and threw it on the floor, noisily scattering all the pieces, shocking us all! Years later, I played cards with a teenager who, when losing, just threw all the cards in her hand and on the table to the floor.

In the case of the analytic vessel, we all know what happens if analyst and patient act out the intimacy often built up in safety during analysis!

I remember that when I was a child growing up in hotels my mother and grandmother never played Russian Bank, a card game, in the lounge but always upstairs where they could affectionately insult and mock one another. Eventually, I was old enough to play and during the game only was allowed to do the same! This was an unconscious application of alchemy, to be sure, but the action was limited to the safety of that vessel.

This may explain the etiquette that built up in the Middle Ages during tournaments and even tennis, where the handshake formally ended the game. (An interesting historical note: Henry VIII and Francis I of France had their first falling out as teenagers over a game of tennis.) The tradition also lives on in the formal high fives ending some sports to this day. The concept of fair play and being a good sport emerged. Contrast this with killing people with drones or transpersonal bombs.

In the Olympics, the sacred symbolism persists in the solar gold, lunar silver, and bronze medals awarded to the winners.

I can’t resist adding another astrological footnote concerning the opposite signs of Aries, ruled by Mars, the martial god (archetype), and Libra, ruled by Venus, the goddess of beauty (archetype). These two are sword dancing and fencing. Both raise the sharp weapon to a level of serving an art form. My husband engraved wedding (Libra) invitations on copper (Venus) plates with a sharp steel-pointed (Mars)] burin. These were done by hand for Cartier, the jewelry store, in New York. His chart had Mars in Libra! Go figure.

As this is written at the height of the games of another sport season, early September, I hope you can see the symbolic, archetypal, and alchemical value in their performance – they are indeed a peaceful alternative and sublimation of combat badly needed in this time, yet again, of violence and wars. In ancient Greece, all military action was suspended during the time of their Olympic games. Would that we could do the same!

lovingly,
ao