Thursday, August 26, 2010
As a child, I grew up with the fictional Beejum “Wise Old Man” Gezeebius, so any pithy saying was called a “Saying of Gezeebius.” One of those that came down in my family, thanks to my parents who invented the Beejumstan that ended up in my The Beejum Book, was, “If you want to be rich, count your blessings! I find myself reminded of that every day, especially with all the distressing world news that threatens to submerge us daily. Thus it is, that though old, weak, in pain etc., I am gently brought back to being grateful by that Saying!
As I savored my porridge and coffee this morning, I realized again that the word gratitude comes from the Latin gratia, meaning grace. Now grace is one of those words with a double meaning; we receive grace when saying grace! Aha!
So, it is by appreciating the love, beauty, and bountiful goodness of our earth and its inhabitants that is out there for us that we receive their blessings. Just writing these words this day when the world news totally contradicts them, seems like a Pollyanna absurdity. The irony is that this rings so true in the prophetic words of the “Gnostic Gospel according to Thomas”: Heaven is spread out upon the earth but men do not see it. Words written almost two thousand years ago!
Thus it is, that I recommend to anyone reading these words to take a daily moment to be grateful for something, if only that one is alive and able, as Jung reminds us, to make it consciously conscious through our appreciation.
The importance of gratitude was brought to my attention decades ago by one of the men who, in my opinion, has been a humble saint among us: Brother David Steindl-Rast. A rare combination of a Benedictine monk and a Zen priest! An Austrian by birth, he is one of the most accomplished scholars, teachers, and writers I know of. And he walks his talk, year after year.Today, he has a beautiful website, www.gratefulness.org! I met him in 1972, when we were both lecturing at Wainwright House, and subsequently many times. He invited me to spend a week at the Monastery of St. Clare in Memphis, Tennessee, actually a convent of forward-looking nuns. They were studying the Gurdjieffian enneagram and I was invited to see if there was any connection to astrology!
The convent was a commodious building, and the nuns were delightful. We assembled and the Mother Superior spoke eloquently about the geometric figure of the enneagram which has nine points. Each marks a psychological type. For three days I struggled to find the connection to astrology, and then suddenly I had a breakthrough: it had to do solely with the Moon, which is associated with the Ego. Then it made sense. While it is far too complicated to explain in a CREDO, what I want to concentrate on is the importance Brother David gives to gratitude!
Gratitude itself is a receptive matter. For me, it shares the physical attributes of a cup or a bowl, which can be filled and poured out. “My cup runneth over”are words from the 23rd Psalm; these are words that contain the essence of gratitude!
But as a Scorpio, I realize that just as the Moon reflects both light and the lack of it, a bowl may be filled with anything: poison, filth, etc. but few of us would be grateful for such contents! Though, some bowls are essential even there! The lesson is that psychologically speaking, we are constantly filling and emptying the cups of our souls, and sometimes we can make a more conscious choice. I thought of this as I savored my morning coffee, and of the simplicity of being grateful for those blessings that we receive and usually take for granted.
One of the secrets, I discovered, is that when you invite your Divine Guest to partake of any moment, you never lose it! I first discovered this on a lonely one-track road on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. My car broke down in a howling storm of wind and rain. I was totally stuck! For almost two hours I watched the terror and beauty of the elements, the greys, browns, and livid greens out the window. Finally, I called on my – what turned out to be – Divine Guest and invited it to share the experience, thinking it was too extraordinary not to share with somebody! I cannot express the awareness of what that moment meant! Not only was I making it conscious, but just the invitation sealed it with gratitude for that first instant of realizing the purpose of consciousness itself! Time and space evaporate as I write these words. I am still in that car, the rain pounding on the roof, and I am in awe of the reality of Spirit. And, of course, to the rugged wet-locked guy in his bright yellow mackintosh, who discovered me, tied a rope between his truck and my car, and set off for a garage in Portree. What we didn’t realize was that his tail lights were not working! So I had to guess when he might stop and I might bang into him . . . I was a wreck when after miles of curving narrow roads we drew into the garage and I was able to totter out and ask for the loo!
But I know forever in this life, that if you want to be rich, count your blessings of any kind. This is the secret of gratitude!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
We all know that this is a geometric impossibility. Why? Because of the formula pi r squared. Pi never works out exactly. And yet on another level, 72 of us on Iona did it quite easily. And here is the story of how we did it:
Dr. William Tiller, a theoretical physics professor emeritus of Stanford University, discovered several decades ago that when two people hold hands, their biofeedback energy results are squared. So when ten hold hands in a circle, that energy would be a hundred. I would call that syntropy in opposition to the better known entropy. The interesting feature to this is that it requires human beings in accord with one another to be accomplished. And if this is indeed so, that energy can then be sent out to bless others, so there may be a way that we can help heal the world, and perhaps this is already happening in prayer groups around the world, unconscious of the physics!
It is the basis of the “silly” practice that I have indulged in called the yum-yum. As I did this in Dharmsala in India with over a hundred Tibetan orphans, who knew instantly how to do it, I can now call it an old Tibetan ritual! To those not yet familiar with this, it is a form of instant communion. People in a circle throw their heads back and cry an extended Y-U-M!! followed by putting their heads down and saying yum-yum-yum multiple times. This is done 3 times and then it’s” hugs to the left and hugs to the right”. I call this Instant Communion. Mother Teresa said, “I believe in person to person and that God is in everybody.” Well put! Most of us believe the second part more easily than the first, and it seems the yum-yum is a quick solution! Anyway, the custom, to my delight, is spreading and I recommend it to all groups. It always seems to end in laughter and affection.
Kindergarten teachers may have noticed that when kids play Ring-around-the Rosy, the energy of the group seems to level out, and the world over in Sufi dancing, Greek dancing, etc., etc., harmony is quickly established by holding hands in a circle. And if you add in Dr. Tiller’s explanation you can see the potential for syntropy in this suffering world. It’s worth a try and full of Sophia’s Delight.
If you think this sounds silly, it is! The origin of the word silly is the German selig, and, believe it or not, that word in German means holy!!
I cannot stress the value of etymology enough, the study of word origins! Oddly, both my friend the Jungian analyst Russell Lockhart and I came up with the idea that “Words are eggs,” meanings hatch out of them. He wrote a paper with that title, and Lonesome, the psychopomp rabbit in my The Beejum Book announced the same truth! So it pays to be silly. Seriously.
Nonsense can be a great teacher. Think of the courage of “Laughter in the void”!
Seriously, but always lovingly,
I have written recently in CREDO CV about the impact of Descartes’ philosophy in the late 1600s. The introduction of the Age of Reason put paid to the symbolic value of astrology. The result was that faith lost its proof and science its sense of the sacred, and it has taken several centuries to heal thanks to Jung and especially theoretical physics. The work of David Bohm, Rupert Sheldrake, Fritjof Capra, and Stanislav Grof come to mind. I have met or colectured with all except Bohm, though I attended one of his extraordinary lectures demonstrating the contrast between explicate and implicate order. I did, however, have a later conversation with him about Jung. Bohm was influenced by Krishnamurti. In his lecture he demonstrated with a large cylinder filled with a white liquid. When he rotated it in one direction, individual blue blobs appeared; when rotated in the other direction, they all vanished. Plicare means to fold. The implication (another plic!) being that the universe pulsates rhythmically over the centuries. All beyond yours truly, believe me!
In Paris at the time of Descartes there was even a symbolic enthronement of the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame Cathedral. That legacy is still with us, with best-selling books touting atheism and the like. Psychologically, this is an enormous collective identification with the ego, center of consciousness, and an abysmal ignorance or denial of the Self, which, to be sure, Jung tells us dwells in the Unconscious and can only be accessed by the “heart.” The longest journey for most of us is the journey from the brain to the heart! Jung includes the spiritual dimension, the realm of the heart, in his psychology.
Astrology, thus, fell like a fallen woman to the streets and survived as fortune telling and had to wait really till the twentieth century to be rescued, a work that Jung, Dane Rudhyar, and Marc Edmund Jones (with whom I studied at the age of 22) as well as several others undertook. This led to astrology becoming my life’s work. I went on to develop it as an archetypal language of symbolic processes, taught at Jung Institutes, wrote two books on the subject, and lectured worldwide. For me the accurate chart will always offer a description of the way an individual is likely to process experience.
This revival started in the early years of the 1930s and by now, seventy years later, is firmly established and manifested in several professional societies, celebrated in annual conventions, and the source of many serious books. The popular version survives in newspaper horoscopes and a lot of other trivial publications. As I always say, we do not reject Shakespeare because some of the same words may appear on bubble gum wrappers or Chinese fortune cookies!
Personally, I credit Jung for having the enormous courage to study astrology and even place it in ancient history as the ur-mother of psychology! You cannot imagine the delight I had, after studying for years on my own and finding the mythological archetypes cognate with the planetary processes, in discovering that Jung had been doing the same decades before me! As the years have passed, and I am now in my late 80s, I realize more and more, the professional risk Jung took in not only pointing out the historic antiquity of astrology but also proposing its usefulness in psychology! Even today this notion is rejected by most of the other branches of professional psychiatry.
For me, this “cosmic science” reunites and heals the rational split that occurred four centuries ago. Richard Tarnas, whom I met at Esalen when I was teaching there, has written a vast scholarly tome of that title, which recently was awarded by the British as the best scientific book of the year! I cannot help but mention my efforts in the second section of The Heavens Declare, which is on the evolution of consciousness through the Astrological Ages, because it is backed up by archeological and mythological symbolism that is absolutely irrefutable.
The insights it provides are that the archetypal processes from the solar system to every manifest object in it are subject to the same invisible forces, and so eventually we may accept the idea that we live in a holographic unity. We can get an idea of this by changing an object from a noun – “pencil” – to a verb by asking it, “What do you do?” Communicate: a pencil communicates. This links it symbolically with the symbolic applications that are all the province of Mercury! So that pencil can be your teacher, and so can any humble thing your eye may fall upon. This is Sophia’s joke all right – truly nothing is hidden, we are blind. So when Jung shouted at me in that dream, “Consider the obvious! I did!” he gave me a huge hint! That many truths are simple, is a sort of revelation, is it not?
The world at present is seemingly in desperate straits, beset by all four elements: floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, and now fire on a geographic scale in Russia that beggars description! The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? And yet according to TV news, the serious implications remain unmentioned. It’s “Death and Wheaties” for breakfast, all over again.
My only hope is in my teacher M’s advice years ago, back in the 1940s. He mentioned among many things:
2) The importance of 1 x 1 x 1= 1, implying that each individual’s consciousness mattered and that transpersonal love was a secret to progress.
3) That the dichotomy of priest/congregation, teacher/class would give away to circular groups, where, as the pre-Socratic Heraclitus said, “With our eyes open, we share the same world; with our eyes closed, each of us enters a private one”. Unity/Diversity.
4) That organized religions must give way to spiritual tolerance! Interfaith!
5) He even hinted at a European Union as a solution to international peace and a common currency . . .
Remember, I was in my early twenties at the time, so much of this I recorded without fully comprehending, and yet I can see now how much of it has come to pass.
To sum up: There is only One Way and it is not a noun, it is a VERB applying to each of us. We need a new commandment: “Love thy neighbors, they are thyself!
Forgive the repetition – each of us has a Self, an individual “wick,” but the flame on each is the same flame!!
What concerns me most, at present, is the oblivion of most of my fellow citizens – we seem to be unaware that we need to stop our endless pleasure seeking and realize that the situations globally are truly serious and that it is time for applying 1 x 1 x 1 x 1= ONE!
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Some wise person remarked that there is another world and it’s hidden in this one! This is evident when strange synchronicities occur that seemingly break all the rules of chance. I will give three examples from my own life.
In 1964, we put our small development house in Westbury, Long Island, on the market and made the momentous and disastrous decision to move to Tucson, Arizona. Everything was packed into a truck, and I drove our station wagon hitched to a U-Haul. My son and husband were in the truck and my three daughters and our dog were in the car. I said good-bye to the house and got ready to climb into the car. As I rounded the trailer, there on our back bumper was my grandmother’s golden thimble, marked with her initials and birth date of 1854! We later returned to our empty house, broke and jobless, to start anew.
By 1972, I was divorced and lived now in a garage apartment in Glen Head. My oldest daughter, Abby, and family lived up the country road in a rented house. One afternoon she and her six-year-old son, Jamie, appeared at my home. They had walked across a field way back of my house. Jamie held out his hand and said, “Look, Gaga, what I found!” He opened his hand and in it lay seven old Chinese coins! Those brass ones with a square hole in them.
It so happened that I had long wished for them when consulting my copy of the I Ching. (I had been using three silver quarters.) Well, that was just the beginning. Eight years later, I was to lecture at the Jung Institute of Los Angeles. I had met Walter Andersen on the ship traveling the Mediterranean, and he had invited me to stay with him. As I carried my I Ching and the coins with me, I decided to introduce the oracle to him. I explained that he was to think of a question silently, then toss three coins six times, noting the sequence of heads and tails, and then look up the relevant hexagram in the book. He did as he was told, and when he looked up the advice, he burst out laughing! So now he could share the answer to his question. It was “Marry the maiden!” and so he proposed, and, sharing a hug and a kiss, he then 68 and I at 57 became engaged and were married that same October 25th!
By 1998, I had suffered a debilitating stroke the previous winter, and my darling husband had died on April 1st. Yet, I was to conduct another seminar on the Scottish Isle of Iona. I had been there already 22 times. I left New York in a wheelchair at the airport, kindly propelled by my co-traveling friend, Edith Spenser, but gradually got to walking with my staff Woodstock, very slowly yet gratefully on Iona. The weeklong seminar successfully concluded, Edith and I spent a few days in Oban before flying home. It was always my custom to do last minute shopping in the town of Oban, across the bay from Mull, and this time I had my heart set on buying a white cable knit woolen Aran hat. Each day, we managed to walk a little further down the main street, entering the shops. As it was September by then, no luck! The last day, we managed to get to Mactavish, my favorite restaurant, for a quick lunch, and thus fortified, I suggested that we walk back along the parallel waterfront for a change. So I hobbled around the corner and started back to the hotel. Now, in Oban, wherever there is a street corner, short ornamental green stanchions mark both sides. At the second set, there, on top of one of them, was a white hand knit Aran hat!! Without any hesitation, I knew it was mine for the taking, so I took it and have it yet fondly in my closet awaiting another winter! So, I call such events Sophia’s Winks, because when they happen it is as if at that moment the world perceived by the Ego at the circumference and the Self at the centerpoint of the mandala of the psyche flash as one in a our consciousness and remind us to keep going. They tell us we are on the right track, despite all our challenges and concerns.
At our last monthly Prayer Breakfast, we shared how these unexpected events happen in all our lives and perhaps, indeed, can be called Winks of Sophia or Holy Wisdom encouraging us to persevere. In every case, it seems, there is an element of delight involved.