It is instructive to explore the origin of the terms sacred and profane. In medieval times the sacred was the ceremony for the elite held inside the church with considerable pomp and ritual. The word profane referred to the activities that took place on "the porch" of the church. Morality plays were performed for illiterate peasants on the outside of the church proper. What is interesting is that holy things were going on both inside and outside, just utilizing different language. It has been helpful for me to realize that the sacred and the profane are the same things going on -- just at different levels and places in our lives.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Certainly India's greatest gift to me was the art of Bhakti Yoga. I had read volumes on this way of worship long before I arrived in India, but neither the translations into English nor my level of development allowed me more than an intuitive understanding of this simplest of all forms of worship. Simplicity seems the hardest art for a western mind to comprehend, and it has taken me most of a lifetime to gain even a slender hold on this jewel of India.
India is far richer in its comprehension of the inner life than we are, and it is naive to think that we can appreciate their depth with our present language and thought forms. India apparently gave over its major energy to study and development of the inner world much as we did just that to study the outer world. This resulted in a genius of understanding of what we call the unconscious or inner world.
India devised four disciplines to correspond with the four basic patterns of temperament which appear in humans whatever age, culture or language one observes. To simplify outrageously, it only remains to find the discipline that fits one's native temperament and devote one's self to that path. The great teachers all agree that each path leads to the same goal and Rama Krishna likens the journey to choosing which of four paths leading up the four basic cardinal sides of a mountain he will choose. They all lead to the same mountain top. He chose his own native path, Bhakti, but later trod each of the other three to attain the same mountain top.
The four paths:
Gnani yoga is the art of using one's thinking function to pierce through the illusion of our faulty view of reality. This is so foreign to my own natural functions that I can hardly do more than observe it in its most rudimentary form. I think I see such a path in some of my friends who find an ecstatic beauty and joy in a mathematical formulation or an Einstein devoting his life to a Holy Grail he called The Unified Theory of Matter. If this were the only path to salvation I would not have the
Hatha Yoga is the art of observing and obeying the laws of physical nature - chiefly one's own body - until one sees the divine workings in all their mystery and glory. This is for the sensation type individuals. I sometimes find this in the eyes of a friend who has the genius of seeing the human body as the temple of God and I am near enough to the art to be
overwhelmed by the appreciation of the physical beauty of another person. But I don't have the physical endurance to travel that side of the mountain any farther than I managed the Matterhorn years ago in Switzerland. Hatha
yoga is the most popular of the arts in the western world and most people identify yoga with the art of physical control of the body.
Raja Yoga, the 'Royal Yoga' is for intuitive type people and consists of 'listening' in meditation until one begins to hear the divine music or hears/sees/intuits the Splendor of God. Of course this is not any ordinary audible hearing but 'hearing ' the reality in back of every sound or sight or impression. One is promised the sound as of bells, then of the most
sublime music, then an indescribable harmony, then the sound of the universe itself. I see this shining in the eyes of intuitives, more often a woman than a man, and suffer with that individual in trying to find any possible expression of the vision in our earth-bound culture and language.
Then to Bhakti yoga which has touched me so deeply and seems a language so well suited for the impasse we find ourselves in now. This is for the feeling type, that orphan faculty which the west finds so puzzling.
The art of Bhakti consists of so simple a process that it seems near incomprehensible; but that is only because of our rudimentary development of the feeling function itself. One is instructed to chose a person - man, woman, someone known personally to you, or a historical figure - and pour out one's love for that individual with no intention of any feeling being
returned. Most of the instructions are what NOT to do; one must not pester the recipient of one's love, expect anything in reply, presume a friendship, expect any sexual response, or fantasy any extension of that love into the time-space world. It is the simplest form of love - simply to BE.
I have been on both sides of this Indian exchange and found each to be the most profound experience of my life. Indian Bhakti teachers, with remarkable generosity, often point out Jesus Christ as the greatest of the Bhakti masters.
And that is the heart of the matter, to BE. Our language and customs are so far from this understanding that it is all but impossible for a Westerner to embrace such a discipline. So often when I speak of the possibility of being, the reply is, "Yes, but what do I DO"?
There is one suggestion of differentiation in our language which offers a clue. We do use two terms, to love, and to fall in love. If one can follow this possibility we can observe two levels of love; to love as applicable to loving another person for the attributes of that person, his/her characteristics, likes, dislikes, virtues, faults, idiosyncrasies. This is cool love, human in dimensions, durable and lending itself to long term relationships. It is the stable stuff of marriage, friendship and long-term commitments.
To fall in love is an abyss of ecstasy and bewilderment that is far beyond our western understanding. It is nothing less than seeing the image of God in the form of another person and being transfixed by a splendor beyond our comprehension. The art of falling in love is recent in human experience, probably not much known before the advent of our own modern age. It is still not known, or honored, in the eastern world except as they drink up our customs and ideals by the sudden deluge of the information age. It is astonishing to see how quickly an easterner takes on western characteristics - both good and bad - as he adopts the English language and western customs. Only one generation is required to turn a traditional easterner into a jeans-clad ambitious youth clambering to get to America where the streets are paved with gold.
So, what is the strange love required of the Bhakti yogi? It is very much akin to our romantic love, or falling in love. I am inclined to think that our capacity to fall in love is a new faculty of religious comprehension for which we have so little insight as to be catastrophic.
We naively presume that falling in love is the ideal preparation for marriage, when the facts are that virtually no ordinary human arrangement can hold the immense power of the Divine Love which has fallen upon us. Perhaps romantic love, falling in love, appeared when our traditional religious forms began to lose their power to mediate the Splendor of God
for us. To ask another fallible human being to carry this splendor is to ask the household wiring of our ordinary life to carry the hundred thousand volt power of the Vision of Heaven.
I observed traditional Indian youths going to the temples frequently, sitting in yoga position before an image of God, tremble with the power of the experience, then go about their daily work and family without being tempted to ask that vast impersonal experience of a mortal human.
Probably the most volatile problem our modern world faces is what to do with the uncontrollable power of the love that is greater than any individual. Little wonder that romantic love, that lightning bolt that falls from the heavens, when laid at the feet of a mortal human , fails both persons involved. The origin of the term Honeymoon implies that it lasts for a month.
But what about 'reality'?
Bhakti yoga offers a possibility of investing the great love in a way which can support it and thus leave our human love to a realm which is appropriate for it. To mix the two is a sure program for disillusionment and bitter disappointment.
All models prove inadequate finally, and it must be admitted that all loves are the same love - of divine origin ; but this is a rare experience to be found only after the most careful differentiation. Freud was right: everything depends on sex as the origin of its power: however, he declined ever to define his term, perhaps in humility at the power of it. He might have been better understood if he had used the term Love. But it is a rare individual who has earned the right to this Unitive vision.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 3:24 PM
How to define a dream? You could say that a dream contains what you should know about your psyche, but do not.
A dream does not tell what you already know, but what you need to learn. Dreams speak in stories, and newcomers to the world of working with the inner world of dreams must relearn the "as if" language of childhood. This is the language of stories and symbols. So much of our formal education is superimposing rationality (which is not a synonym for intelligence) upon our language and thought. To understand dreams one must recover the archaic and mythological language of childhood.
If there is too much of something in your life, the dreams will tell you. If there is too little of something, your dreams will inform you of this. If you are overdoing or underdoing, the dream will serve as your guide.
If your dream includes falling, ask of of the dream image, What is fallling? From grace? From esteem? In love?
If there is an image of flying, ask yourself, What am I flying over in my conscious attitude? Am I flying off the handle? How am I inflated? Am I flying toward or away from something? Is a transcendent perspective trying to free me in some way?
The goal is to create an actual experience in the here and now as you interact with the dream images rather than a dry analysis of a dream.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
There have not been entries to the Inner Work blog for the past two weeks while I was participating in a book tour for Living Your Unlived Life. A thousand thanks to so many who attended talks in Boulder, Denver, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Pasadena, West Hollywood, and Los Angeles. There were many highlights, such as nearly three hours of discussion in Boulder with Duncan Campbell for his radio show Living Dialogues. You will be able to access this conversation at www.Living Dialogues.com. Duncan is a treasure.
Michele Daniel and Christophe Le Mouel were most gracious hosts at the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, where there was lively discussion about living your unlived life and the myth of Castor and Pollux as a prototype for all who are on the journey into wholeness. To speak at the podium where Robert A. Johnson, as well as wise souls such as Marie Louise von Franz and Edward Edinger have shared their insights, was truly a pleasure and a privilege.
--Dr. Jerry M. Ruhl
More than one person asked for a quote from Dr. Jung that I paraphrased during presentations. My apologies, but I have misplaced some of your personal email addresses. Here is the quote:
“To this day ‘God’ is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or for worse.” – C.G. Jung
This is an enigmatic statement. Jung often insisted that he was not a theologian and could not address the mystery of the transcendent, a totality that is far beyond human understanding. He did, however, often speak of the human experience of what he called the inner "God image," that spark or energy or potential within each of us that represents our highest value. Jung is suggesting that we take seemingly irrational and unexplainable events in life fatefully -- an illness, a loss, a tragedy -- all those occurrences that upset our sense of control. We can treat such experiences, events we never would have chosen, as teaching tools rather than something that should not be. Within our deepest suffering can be found our highest values.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 2:40 PM
Sunday, October 7, 2007
The word ecstatic in its original sense means to stand outside of oneself. We work so hard to make a personal self, an “I” or ego, with clarity and continuity. This is extremely valuable, but one pays a price for this “I” -- we become small, personal and limited; we are a highly circumscribed entity in our “I-ness.”
The ecstatic experience involves escaping from the “I-ness.” This requires that we break the boundaries of our separateness to experience a greater realm, a realm that taxes our finest poets and artists to convey. It is the most valuable experience any person can ever have. The beauty of the golden world is that one sees a vastness, something so much greater than oneself that one is left speechless with awe, admiration, delight and rapture.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 11:54 AM
Robert, on his first meeting with Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung in 1948, as discussed in our book, Balancing Heaven and Earth:
Dr. Jung saw the potential in me as well as the dangers ahead. I remember sitting there thinking, “This man is just like me, except infinitely wiser. He understands me completely. He understands.”
But I can see now that was part of his genius. He was not like me at all, but he was capable of making me feel as if we were of one mind. Later, when I saw him in other circumstances I realized that our personalities were quite different, then I thought, “This man has deceived me. He tricked and manipulated me.” But as I reflected on that day in Kusnacht, I realized that he had given me a very special gift. Not only did he know how to speak English to me, he knew how to speak in the typology I could best relate to. He chose examples and even figures of speech that were consistent with my introverted feeling type of personality.
This, it seems to me, is pure genius. Many brilliant people display their knowledge by talking in big words and mighty concepts that serve the dual purpose of inflating the speaker and confusing the listener. They sit like Olympian Gods and expect other people to learn their language. But Jung could adjust his discourse in a way that would best serve the needs of the other person. He was a great intuitive thinker, but he did not speak to me in abstract intellectual language; he addressed me in the feeling language that I could relate to.
This is the essence of what I learned from Dr. Jung: Listen to your interior intelligence, take it seriously, stay true to it, and -- most importantly -- approach it with a religious attitude. His psychological term for this is individuation -- the discovery of the uniqueness of yourself, finding out what you are not and finding out what you are. Individuation relates to wholeness, but it is not some indiscriminate wholeness, but rather your particular relationship to everything else. You get to the whole only by working with the particularity of your life, not by trying to evade or rise above the specificity of your life. This is the blending of the golden world and the earthly world. This can provide a truly religious life in modern times.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 11:45 AM
“So I made up my mind, that’s the way I want to live my life. Nothing else makes any sense. I want to do something fine. I want to be totally involved in the doing. As long as I live, I want that awake feeling. Anything else is just kidding yourself.”
--Tim, age 17
Posted by ruhljohnson at 11:39 AM
Saturday, October 6, 2007
It is an audacious notion to put forth in this age of science and willful determination that one’s existence is somehow inspired, guided or even managed by unseen forces outside our control. Call it fate, destiny, the hand of God, or the workings of the Self, these slender threads bring coherence and continuity to our lives. Over time they weave a remarkable tapestry.
What are these slender threads? Being in a particular place at just the right time, meeting someone who steers you in an unforeseen direction, the unexpected appearance of work or money or inspiration just when they are most needed.
These are the mysterious forces that guide us and shape who we are. Patterns that give meaning to our experiences.
Life is not meaningless, but has more connectIon and meaning than we can stand. To live in active relationship to the slender threads is to receive guidance, knowledge and illumination from a mysterious source beyond the ego or personal self.
This notion of slender threads is essentially a religious idea. Each age needs its own language for understanding enduring truths. We must have a religious attitude in dealing with life's depth and mystery. By religious attitude I am not referring to following a path toward redemption or salvation or even necessarily to membership in a particular religious institution. A religious attitude relates to the cultivation of soul -- an openness to wonder, awe, fear, and reverence with respect to the “other,” those mysterious forces that exist outside our conscious control. These powers have been called at various times fate, destiny, the hand of God, or to use our term -- slender threads.
While most modern people are preoccupied with getting and spending, constantly fretting and struggling to manipulate external reality so that it goes their way, life can follow a different flow. You can tune your awareness to the slender threads, listen attentively, and act when the proper course has been suggested.
After many years of struggling with this, I feel that the ego is properly used as the organ of awareness, not the organ of decision. Almost everyone in our society tries to use their ego as an organ of decision. For example, we may say to ourselves, “I am going to Europe. I will buy the air tickets for this date and I will stay at this hotel when I arrive.” The ego is useful as the organ of awareness, at collecting information about ticket fares and accommodations and things to see and do when you arrive. But the ego does not determine the experience you will have on your trip. People get so preoccupied with trying to control things that are not in the ego’s province that they neglect what is the ego’s business -- heightened awareness.
The ego should be collecting data and watching. The ego serves as the eyes and ears of God. It gathers the facts, but it does not make the ultimate decisions. The decisions come from the Self, a modern attempt by Dr. Jung to describe a center of intelligence that is not limited to the ego but contains all of the faculties -- conscious and unconscious -- of the personality. Obviously, this is but a new attempt at describing the old concept of the divine.
How do we know if we are truly following the will of God? One knows instinctively, there is a sense of peace, balance and fullness, an unhurriedness.
Here I am not talking about following scripture to the letter. That is one way of being happy, but for a growing number of modern people this is not a viable solution. Looking for a manual to tell you what to do, whether that manual is the Bible or the latest psychological theory, does not advance psychological and spiritual growth. Listening to the will of God as it manifests within your own consciousness, hearing what has been called the still, small voice within -- this is becoming the religious life for people of the new millenium.
This cannot be reduced to a tidy formula, but one general guideline is to ask yourself what is needed for wholeness in any situation. Instead of asking what is good, or what coincides with our personal interest, ask what is whole-making. Sainthood is the result of wholeness, not goodness. What is required for more wholeness will be different for each person, and it changes moment by moment. This requires realigning yourself each day, each hour and each moment. When one can live in this fashion, aligning the ego with the inner Self, it has a profound effect on the quality of our lives. Abiding by the will of God gives life -- including its misfortunes -- meaning, purpose and dignity. It also removes a great deal of the anxiety of modern life.
I must also caution that following the slender threads does not mean manipulating things so that the ego can get its’ way. Egocentric spirituality just gets one into more intense suffering. Going after the splendor of heaven as an ego project is very different from having heaven open itself up to you.
Many so-called “spiritual” people set about the task of increasing the amount of goodness in their life or the amount of lightness or brightness or happiness. I disagree with that entirely. It is an egocentric journey with no nobility in it. More often than not, seeking more goodness or happiness just leads to their exact opposite. I sometimes think that exhaustion is the best tool for enlightenment, as it gets the ego out of the way. It finally just wears down so that the divine can pour through.
It is deceiving to say, “I will know,” and more correct to say “it will be revealed to me.”
The best way to approach this manner of living is to start with extremely small things. If you start thinking about it too much, you will just end up in contradiction. Instead of weighing all the pros and cons and forcing a decision with your ego, just try to keep your ego alert and slap its hand gently when it tries to do too much.
For example: I have to get groceries this afternoon. Should I go to the small market nearest my house or the larger one with a greater selection several miles away? Instead of trying to decide, I will just wait until I know where to go. This is some ways a ridiculous example, but if you practice you will find that there is a difference when the ego says something and when the Self says something; I know from experience that the impetus comes from different places in me.
You can almost feel in your body the difference between an ego decision and a Self decision. The ego decision seems to come from your head while the Self decision seems to come from your heart or your stomach (we sometimes call it a “gut feeling”).
How do we know when to exert our will and when to let go and surrender to the will of God? There are times when we need to exert our wills. For most young people, the focus must be on strengthening the ego, passing the necessary exams, graduating from school, staying with the marriage, and so on. The focus must be on learning to direct the will to accomplish the cultural tasks of life.
Following the will of God isn’t about resignation or sipping a can of beer and watching television. Rather, it is applying the ego to gather as much information as possible, to serve as the eyes and ears of God. But for the major decisions of life, it must learn to listen to the heart to hear what is the right thing to do.
(To learn more about Slender Threads, please see our book, Balancing Heaven and Earth).
Posted by ruhljohnson at 8:24 AM
“Health calls for the all-embracing vision of myth, as expressed in symbols. If the symbol is lacking, man’s wholeness is not represented in consciousness. A symbol cannot be made to order, as the rationalist would like to believe. It is a legitimate symbol only if it gives expression to the immutable structure of the unconscious and can therefore command general acceptance. So long as it evokes belief spontaneously, it does not require to be understood in any other way."
“A symbol is the best possible representation of something that can never be completely known.”
“A word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider unconscious aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained … As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lied beyond the grasp of reason.”
“Since we are dealing with invisible and unknowable things (for God is beyond human understanding, and there is no means of proving immortality), why should we bother about evidence? Even if we did not know by reason our need for salt in our food, we should nonetheless profit from its use. There is, however a strong empirical reason why we should cultivate thoughts that can never be proved. It is that they are known to be useful.”
“Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give a meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe. He can stand the most incredible hardships when he is convinced that they make sense … A sense of a wider meaning to one’s existence is what raises a man bond mere getting and spending. If he lacks this sense, he is lost and miserable."
“Man is in need of a symbolic life — badly in need. We only live banal, ordinary, rational, or irrational things…where do we live symbolically? Nowhere, except where we participate in the ritual of life … Have you got a corner somewhere in your house where you perform the rites, as you can see in India? We have art galleries, yes — where we kill the gods by thousands. We have robbed the churches of their mysterious images, of their magical images, and we put them into art galleries. That is worse than the killing of the three hundred children in Bethlehem; it is a blasphemy …”
“Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul—the daily need of the soul, mind you! Everything is banal, everything is “nothing but”; and that is the reason why people are neurotic…They are all glad when there is a war: they say, “Thank heaven, now something is going to happen—something bigger than ourselves! You can see them, these travelling tourists, always looking for something, always in the vain hope of finding something. On my many travels I have found people who were on their third trip round the world. Just travelling, travelling, seeking, seeking … the eyes of a hunted, a cornered animal—seeking, seeking, always in the hope of something…A career, producing of children, are all Maya compared with that one thing, that your life is meaningful.”
“We cannot turn the wheel backwards; we cannot go back to the symbolism that is gone. No sooner do you know that this thing is symbolic than you say, “Oh, well, it presumably means something else.” Doubt has killed it. My psychological condition wants something; I must have a situation in which that thing becomes true once more. I need a new form…I am not going to found a religion, and I know nothing about a future religion I only know that in certain cases such things develop…You have to guide people quite slowly and wait for a long time until the unconscious produces the symbols that bring them back into the original symbolic life. Then you have to know a great deal about the language of the unconscious, the language of dreams. That is modern psychology, and that is the future."
Posted by ruhljohnson at 8:16 AM
Friday, October 5, 2007
Most of us can recall a class reunion – that institutionalized venue for parading one’s accomplishments and reflecting upon one’s unlived life. We encounter former schoolmates who were promising youngsters, but who, years later, seem to have grown cramped in their high school persona. This is the result of clinging to the identity won in early adulthood. When we see how stubbornly youthful illusions and assumptions and egoistic habits persist years later, we gain an idea of the energies that were needed to form them. The guiding ideas and attitudes that led us out into life, for which we struggled and suffered, become part of who we are, and so we seek to perpetuate them indefinitely.
A friend recently attended her thirtieth high school reunion. “It was really depressing,” she told me. “There were so many people who were desperately looking to change their lives. One guy, who was a star athlete in high school, had bought into the family printing business and now at the age of forty-eight realized he hated printing. He was in the middle of a divorce and had decided to join the forest service. Another gal, who was the life of the party in our youth, now seemed like a drunken floozy; she wore a low-cut sweater, drank too much and threw up in the bathroom at the reunion dinner. I overheard her tearfully telling a classmate, ‘You didn’t make all the mistakes I did.’ Her friend responded, ‘Oh, I made them alright, I just didn’t marry them!’”
Posted by ruhljohnson at 9:59 PM
On Monday, Oct. 8, Dr. Ruhl is scheduled to discuss unlived life on "Daily Cafe" a national news program that airs on DirecTV and Comcast. Hosts Mary Alice Williams and Felicia Taylor will interview Jerry at 3:15 p.m. ET. The program premiered in June 2007 and guests have included Tina Brown on "The Diana Chronicles", Douglas Brinkley on "The Reagan Diaries", Ted Koppel and his wife, Grace Anne, Sam Donaldson, and Fran Drescher on her new cancer foundation.
On Oct. 9 Jerry will be a guest on the Barbara Alexander Show on the Health Radio Network. Barbara will take listener call-ins during a one-hour broadcast from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. ET. Please tune in in you would like to hear more about Living Your Unlived Life.
And if you live in the San Francisco Bay area, Jerry will appear at 3 p.m. PT on Oct. 15 on "View From the Bay," KGO-TV (ABC). The hosts are Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang.
Robert Johnson will be interviewed by Carol Marks on "A Touch of Grey," a live radio program that is syndicated to more than 50 radio stations including WOR in NYC and KRLA in Los Angeles. This interview can be heard on Oct. 9 at 11:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m. PT).
Posted by ruhljohnson at 9:32 PM
We live in an ego-driven culture. One must work very hard, until exhaustion, just to get ego awareness working well in contemporary life. It takes the whole educational system and all of our socialization processes to promote this consciousness, and our entire society is highly invested in this struggle.
However, in the process of becoming differentiated adults, we inevitably become split. We all have both a lived and an unlived life. Most psychotherapies are designed to patch up wounded people and then throw them back into the battle of oppositions. They guide people in how to become better adapted socially: more adept at making money, more highly disciplined, more dutiful, more economically productive. Even when such therapy is successful and gets an individual back out into the rat race again, you can watch them wither over time under the weight of it all.
Everything human is relative because everything rests on an inner polarity, a phenomenon of energy. There must always be high and low, hot and cold, so the equilibrating process, which is energy, can take place.
Everything that conscious human beings experience is brought to us in pairs of opposites. Anything you do or can experience in your life always has some unlived opposite in the unconscious. This is difficult for us to bear. It is not fair. And yet it is true.
As our standard of living gets better and we have more leisure, the tension of the opposites only increases. When life is hard, necessity settles so many things. This is perhaps why most people can’t stand too much freedom – it isn’t very popular and may be heard as downright un-American, but the more freedom, the more anxiety that arises due to the ego-based level of awareness.
If you try to think about a unitive vision beyond duality, you have already fractured it into the human dimension. Krishnamurti once said that the chief obstacle to heaven is one’s ideas about heaven, and I believe this to be true.
To get on the path to greater awareness, instead of approaching life as a series of contradictions that must be fought, you can fatefully embrace “what is” -- that is, what happens in daily life. This implies taking the ego and investing it somewhere. If your power and freedom are invested fatefully, this will begin to help save you from the constant anxiety of a split world.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 9:24 PM
We are pleased to announce that Living Your Unlived Life, which went on sale Oct. 4, has been chosen as an alternate selection by the One Spirit Book Club, a premier direct marketer of general interest and specialty book clubs with millions of members and over 40 book clubs including Book-of-the-Month Club®, The Literary Guild®, and Quality Paperback Book Club®.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 9:07 PM
Thursday, October 4, 2007
One generally affixes to the ego what one’s culture and family decide is right and good. For example, in our society there is a consensus that it is good to be kind, courteous, solvent, and economically productive. These are elements of a so-called civilized life. But we must ask: What happens to the other side of each of these virtues? Everything comes in pairs, like the electricity in the AC outlet of your wall plug. There is a positive pole and a negative pole, and so it is with the things of the psyche. What is one to do with the unlived, unacceptable, and refused aspects of one’s character?
I count myself a courteous and kind person. When I was a teenager I watched what my parents, neighbors, and teachers did, and I chose more or less consciously to take on a certain set of values, including courtesy and kindness. But I also have a bitter and nasty streak in me that I cannot obliterate. It is painful to admit it, but it is there. I do my best to keep it under control, but under stress it will come out. What am I to do with this?
Everything that conscious human beings experience is brought to us in pairs of opposites. Anything you do or can experience in your life always has some unlived opposite in the unconscious. Truths always come in pairs, and one endures this to be in accord with reality. Most of the time, we support two warring points of view and evade the confrontation. For example, I need to go to work but I don’t want to; I don’t like my neighbor, but still must be civil with him or her; I should lose some weight, but I like certain foods so much. We live with such contradictions on a daily basis.
You cannot just eliminate one side of the balance, and it is not healthy to project one side upon your neighbor. But you can change your way of looking at the problem. These need not be viewed as contradictory. They exist in contrary relationship to each other, that is, they increase and decrease in relationship to one another and both are necessary. When you embrace both sides of the opposing elements in full consciousness, you embrace paradox. True religious experience occurs exactly at the point of insolubility.
You must allow both sides of any issue to exist in equal dignity and worth. If you sit with the tension, a solution will emerge that is better than either one. The two forces will teach each other something and produce new insight. To advance from opposition (always a quarrel) to paradox (always holy) is to make a leap of consciousness.
Fortunately there are inner tools for dealing with unlived qualities in us. One of the most powerful of these we call active imagination.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 6:08 PM
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
It is interesting to note that nature's creations rarely have straight lines (one exception I can think of is the structure of crystals). The root of the word for civilization and our word civil derives from a Latin term for creating straight lines. Civilization is our attempt to straighten up nature. In primitive villages the streets meander like a stream. I am told that in California highway engineers in the 1950s discovered that when they built freeways that stretched for miles the monotony of the straight lines contributed to accidents; eventually they learned that they had to put some curves in the road or people would go into a kind of trance, doze off, or fall asleep at the wheel.
Posted by ruhljohnson at 9:24 PM