“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
What followed my adventure into Taoism, was a delightful new discovery of the writings of Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychologist. Unlike Freud, who I had learned a bit about from a high school teacher who regularly stated that we have no mind, only brains, Jung’s views focused less on libido as man’s primary drive and more on man’s drive toward wholeness of the psyche he called Individuation. Jung believed that the religious instinct was both natural and universal and had a purpose. I suppose that Jung’s ideas became a bridge from eastern ideas back westward. It occured to me while reading Jung just how little I knew about both world history and particularly western history.
Jung was the first writer I read who gave validity to both the depth and the mystery of who we are. He was very much an empiricist, seeing that what is psychologically real is practically speaking real and the more aware of that we are the less we will be slaves to unconscious drives, powers and desires. Reading Jung encouraged me in my hunch that the only life worth living was one in which reflection, imagination, meaning and following one’s vox cordis, or voice of the heart are both essential and primary.
There were then many branches leading out from Jung including Joseph Campbell’s excellent series The Masks of God which takes the reader on a long journey through the study of very primitive cultures to modern ones through the study of artifacts, anthropology, history. You can’t look at the world the same way after reading Campbell, or Jung for that matter. The world became big, vast, deep, unfathomable, dark and sometimes frightening after learning about an unimaginable world of primitive and later, not so primitive man. It was after reading Campbell that I felt the desire to explore western european history, where my roots are.
For a few years my focus was turned to learning all I hadn’t learned in school about history along with a parallel study in depth psychology. Most of what I read about western european history shed a lot of light on:
- Just how bloody and painful life was prior to very recent times and places (like the place I live).
- The Catholic church was a hypocritical, over-bearing bully responsible for most of the evil seen throughout humankind (think witch burning, slavery, Inquisition, global Plunder & Conquest.)
- The Protestant Reformation, while still perpetuating the absurdities of Patriarchal Christianity (think more witch burning, slavery, Inquisition, global Plunder & Conquest), helped precipitate the Age of Enlightenment by disolving the exclusive grip on the culture held by the Catholic church. This allowed Science to take it’s true and rightful place in the hopes of bringing about everlasting justice and peace.
- More importantly, the lesson learned was that I live in a priviledged time and place, and the biggest danger to my life was affluence, along with a battle with my personal deamons.
But at this time I did not suspect that anything I learned about European history was anything other than the complete truth, somehow hidden from most ordinary folk and that I was now entering into the ranks of an underground elite who were in the know. I did not have enough critical faculties to question or dispute any of the information I ingested. There was also a sense of satisfaction derived from the feeling that I was learning the real truth. I thought too that disolving the power that the common cultural mythology held over me was, at the time anyway, freeing. As I reflect back now, I see that more and more freedom, or the lack there of, was an ongoing and overiding theme in my life that became harder and harder to ignore the older I became.
But, free I did not feel, except momentarily, and it took a few years, a few heartaches and a cross-country journey to understand why.