Lived by the Powers

From AN ELEGANT MYSTERY, a furthering of the conversation on being Lived by the Powers and the discussion of the source and essence of images, ideas and an interesting thought about music and lyrical sounds.

An Elegant Mystery

Debra’s recent post ‘Our Lady of the Well‘ over at The Ptero Card dove deep into the rabbit hole by asking how can we trust language to communicate especially if we are dealing with matters of the unconscious, as Jung did in documenting his journey into that hidden realm in The Red Book. It is a critical question for her as she tries to navigate through Jung’s book. It is a question that touches me deeply as well as one who participates in creating images, sometimes watching them evolve without knowing where or what they have emerged from or how they are going to end up when they are finished. I have my own interpretation of what these images mean, if anything, but I am always fascinated by how others react to them, positive or negative.

Writing, for me, can be a bit of a challenge as I…

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Blame it on Kindle

Wow, January is three-quarters over and I have not posted since Christmas! I’ll blame it on receiving a new Kindle for Christmas. I have read six or seven books since December 20 – so much for cutting down on my book bill!

The best part of Kindle is being able to buy books that the bookstores never keep in stock because apparently only myself and forty other people are interested in such topics as cosmology, meaning, identity and such:) I love the Amazon website for it’s reviews and ease of use.

Yes, life has been busy, I am working hard on my pipe band side-drumming as my husband and I are planning a trip next month to a 5-day long pipe band drumming workshop.

I have been off on a tangent which started from reading about NDE’s and has led to a most curious insight from one of the books I read. Apparently one of the current debates among scientists is whether consciousness is created by physiology, or consciousness precedes biology and therefore is the source of living organisms such as ourselves. Hmmmm……

That’s a lot to think about and certainly turns the world on its head. It would help explain how intelligence has been made manifest. I have never understood how intelligence could come from nothing, or even evolve little by little from the smallest particles of the big bang to Us. But, if there were a field of consciousness somehow entwined within the very fabric of the universe, that would at least account for the drive towards manifest consciousness such as we are an example there of.

Why would life forms become more and more complex? Why do life forms such as ourselves seek to be more and more conscious of who, what and where we are?

But what if consciousness, understood as a pre-biological thing-y-ness of the cosmos, could be understood to be the source of intelligence limited in our experience by the physiology of our brains?

This obviously doesn’t answer all the questions. The idea that the big bang comes from nothing does not make sense to me. It would seem that there needs to be something or someone, a Source, eternally existing with no beginning or no end. Is that something God, or the underlying Grand Consciousness and Intelligence of all?

It makes sense then, that our capacity to know and our ability to perceive is limited by our human equipment. So, it’s possible that true knowledge of who and where and what we are is not something we can access. One of the regular bloggers that I read seems to have lots of answers, and he may be right, but alas, I am no scientist and struggle to understand, and am certainly not in any position to affirm or refute what he or any scientist says, but I am most fascinated with cosmology.

On another note, I am coming to a greater understanding of how much we are limited and expanded through our sense of identity. The way in which we identify ourselves internally and externally can limit our perception of the world and also widen it.

I think our capacity for identity, when too narrow, hampers us from the ability to deepen our relationships to both people, things and world views and that one of the keys to freedom is to be aware of one’s ability and limitations in our experience of identity. The world seems to tempt us to over identify in all circumstances, and to see our identity as both static and literal when it really is dynamic and imaginal.

More on that later, but for now it’s back to Quantum enigma’s, Bio-centrism, NDE’s and other related reading.

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

“Picasso said, “I don’t develop; I am.” And the puzzle in therapy is not how did I get this way, but what does my angel want with me?” James Hillman

Although continuing to meditate, I stopped attending Ananda after a brief conversation with one of their ministers. I asked him how he would know when he had reached the coveted state of self-realization. There was no answer to this that satisfied me. I think the Ananda devotees enjoy a lifestyle with like-minded friends and family and I do not begrudge them that, but for myself, there was something calling me away from them. I wanted words for, and some place to be with, the all consuming swell of emotions, and I needed someone to guide me through the dark place I now found myself in.

After years of somewhat smugly and very much intellectually carousing with the  ideas of Jung and Hillman, I called an Analyst and started going to therapy. It was hard to trust enough to get myself to take this step. My past experiences with therapists was filled with disappointments ranging from a marriage counselor that brought my parents struggling marriage to its final collapse in a very cruel and deceptive way, to a therapist that I saw a few times in my teens that was more interested in watching me walk across his office than listening to anything I had to say.

As much as I wanted desperately to open up to someone, I did not easily trust that anyone could possibly be motivated to guide me by anything more than their own selfish motives, whatever they might be. I feared that their motives would take me off the path I felt called to stay on.

When I first talked with Jim, the therapist, I hoped he would give me a clear sense of how his version of therapy works, what our work together would be like, and most importantly, a sense that he will not waste my time.

Seems simple now, but it took months to get over the first few hurdles and to settle into a place of trust with Jim. Then came the dreams. Although I have always had easy access to my dreams, the more time I spent talking with Jim, recounting everything from the day to day of living, to bits and pieces of the past, my dreams kicked into high gear. So, without really knowing what would become of it, I started to keep a dream diary. Useful…

Therapy with Jim was nothing like I thought it would be. It was work to attend to the day to day and to bring it all into the place of therapy where we would sort, sift and weave together the pieces of my past that were bleeding into the present. Jim would question my assumptions and prod me to more clearly articulate what was happening in my relationships and how I psychically digested the world.

After some time I reached a critical point, both inside and out. I desperately needed to find a strong voice to stand up to someone I worked with and yet was very much afraid to. Eventually I was able to see that my fear of confrontation in relationships with others was of my choosing; a way to protect myself  which placed a wall between me and the world. I began to feel a strong sense of self-betrayal. The anger was sometimes useful, but could still drive me back to feelings of hopelessness and just wanting to crawl in hole and die.

The moment I was able to see that the one thing I thought was useful (not stirring the pot), was the very same thing that kept me from being close, or even being in relationship to others (and in some ways even to myself as much as outside mirrors inside), was the moment a newfound sense of daring seemed to come to me.

As I practiced speaking more from the heart instead of safely trying to mirror others, a breakthrough happened. I began to experience a very freeing meta-sense of identity. News to me, I didn’t have to figure everyone out, least of all myself.

Now I was able to see both myself and others as unfathomable beings of complexity. Always a work in progress, we have ideas and fantasies about each other, some of which may have more to do with the powers that be, archetypal realities that have no beginning or end but are there none the less.

No need to harden anyone’s identity into a safe, secure and predictable statue. The identity I thought I was missing, was the identity I didn’t really need or want. The freedom in being is not to be compelled to know yourself or others with any hard and fast definitions, but to be okay with fluidity. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose as far as identity is concerned.

Who we think people are is a mix of bits and pieces of perceptions, memories and influences that are not possible to be fully aware of and absolutely conclusive. The real you and me live in flux, and it might be convenient and yes, necessary to create and store files of information on ourselves and others, the files will always be subject to corruption and will remain terribly incomplete.

If we want our idea of who we are to equal who we are, we will suffer from a deficiency, a stagnation and failure of imagination, losing the ongoing flow of psychic existence or what Hillman calls our purpose in life; soul making.

Our imaginations create and sustain us, we are poetry in motion. We are meaning makers. That is not to say that there is no objective reality to who we are, but more that our access to that heavenly view is not for mortal consumption but perhaps for God and His angels only.

“If therapy imagines its task to be that of helping people cope (and not protest), to adapt (and not rebel), to normalize their oddity, and to accept themselves “and work within your situation; make it work for you” (rather than refuse the unacceptable), then therapy is collaborating with what the state wants: docile plebes. Coping simply equals compliance.” James Hillman

Sometimes I can’t help seeing all the way through

At the risk of jumping straight to the conclusion before beginning to talk about the next stop in the journey, I would like to offer here some insights from James Hillman that were key in breaking the spell of my disembodied self and continue to inspire reflection and renew my place in the world.

The following two excerpts are from Hillman’s A Blue Fire, Selected Writings by James Hillman, edited by Thomas Moore.

“The overwhelming difficulty of communicating soul in talk becomes crushingly real when two persons sit in two chairs, face to face and knee to knee as in an analysis with Jung. Then we realize what a miracle it is to find the right words, words that carry soul accurately, where thought, image, and feeling interweave. Then we realize that soul can be made on the spot simply through speech. Such talk is the most complex psychic endeavor imaginable-which says something about why Jung’s psychology was a cultural advance over Freud’s talking cure, free autistic associations on the couch.

All modern therapies which claim that action is more curative than words and which seek techniques other than talk (rather than in addition to it) are repressing the most human of all faculties-the telling of the tales of our souls. These therapies may be curative of the child in us who has not learned to speak or the animal who cannot, or a spirit daimon that is beyond words because it is beyond soul. But only continued attempts at accurate soul-speech can cure our speech of its chatter and restore it to its first function, the communication of soul.

Soul of bulk and substance can be evoked by words and expressed in words; for myth and poetry, so altogether verbal and “fleshless,” nonetheless resonate with the deepest intimacies of organic existence. A mark of imaginal man is the speech of his soul, and the range of his speech, its self-generative spontaneity, its precise subtlety and ambiguous suggestion, its capacity, as Hegel said, “to receive and reproduce every modification of our ideational faculty,” can be supplanted neither by the technology of communication media, by contemplative spiritual silence, nor by physical gestures and signs. The more we hold back from the risk of speaking because of semantic anxiety that keeps soul in secret incommunicado, private and personal, the greater grows the credibility gap between what we are and what we say, splitting psyche and logos.

The more we become tied by linguistic self-consciousness, the more we abdicate the ruling principle of pscyhological existence…Man is half-angel because he can speak. The more we distrust speech in therapy or the capacity of speech to be therapeutic, the closer we are to an absorption into the fantasy of the archetypal subhuman, and the sooner the archetypal barbarian strides into the communication ruins of a culture that refused eloquence as a mirror of its soul.”

~James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, pp 29-30.

” Since psychological ideas, or insights as I have sometimes called them, reflect soul, the question of comprehending them turns on one’s relation with soul and how the soul learns. The answer to this has always been “by experience,” which is tantamount to turning the question back upon itself, since one of the main activities of soul as we defined them at the beginning oif this book is precisely that of changing “events into experiences.” Here we are specifying how events become experiences, saying that the act of seeing through events connects them to the soul and creates experiences. Simply to participate in events or to suffer them strongly, or to accumulate a variety of them, does not differentiate or deepen one’s psychic capacity into what is often called a wise or an old soul. Events are not essential to the soul’s experiencing. It does not need many dreams or many loves or city lights. We have records of great souls that have thrived in a monk’s cell, a prison, or a suburb. But there must be a vision of what is happening, deep ideas to create experience. Otherwise we have had the events without experiencing them, and the experience of what happened comes only later when we gain an idea of it-when it can be envisioned by an archetypal idea.”

~James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, pp 54.

Everything is Broken

There’s a great article in Pajamas Media about Mr. Zimmerman. The link is here:

How Bob Dylan checked out of the culture war.

I started listening to Dylan around the same time that I was reading Jung. Dylan’s lyrics are interesting in many ways, but surprisingly in light of Jungian thought. Bob’s earlier stuff is often times less personal, more collective. Blowin’ in the Wind, The Times They Are a Changin‘, A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, all touch upon cultural issues of their day. Yes, there are songs from his earlier writing that are more personal, but they aren’t nearly as personal as any of the songs that would come a few years later in the Blood On the Tracks period and thereafter.

One of the things I truly admire about Dylan’s writing is that when viewed chronologically you get a sense of the personal transformation that was and still is ongoing through the years of his life. Gradually his youthful protests that once so easily placed blame for the state of the world at authority figures (i.e., the mothers, fathers, senators and congressman he tells us about in The Times They Are a Changin’), who exemplify corruption and greed have been transformed into wrestling matches with personal deamons.

His later writing displays a much greater willingness to expose his own personal shortcomings and limitations that are a part of the human condition, and he gradually moves into a place where it is possible  to make one’s peace with the past as well as the human condition. Every Grain of Sand expresses very well the direction Bob is going by the late 1970’s.

I don’t know how true it is but I read that Bob underwent a Jungian analysis sometime after the breakup of his marriage. More to the point is that Bob, as many of us have, has gone through some sort of personal transformation, and happily for us has a wonderful gift for displaying his reflections through his songs.

The point of comparison to Jung is to acknowledge a big debt that I owe to his ideas. Jung’s differentiation between a collective unconscious and personal unconscious were very helpful to me for gaining insight into my inability to make clear distinctions between what was and was not within my power to choose, change or ignore; what was me and not me.

In his own words here is a definition of the terms:

“The collective unconscious is part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from a personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition. While the personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents which have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to heredity.”

Whether or not it can be proven that the contents of the collective unconscious “owe their existence to heredity” in a literal genetic sense, the idea is most useful. The collective unconscious is made up of archetypal contents. Archetypes can be understood as impersonal aspects, from Wiki:

“innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic symbols or representations of unconscious experience emerge.”

What I eventually came to realize is that ideas are bigger than me and not only inside but outside me as well. Not every thing that enters your thoughts and feelings and ideas about life is a personal creation. Many, if not most ideas and influences come to us from outside our personal existence. It is as if we are born with the ability to carry within us psychic content that influences us in not so conscious ways. Jung had names for what he thought of as primary archetypes: self, shadow, anima, animus, and these too are useful ideas. I think though that one does not have to study specific archetypes in order to appreciate that psychically we are influenced by archetypal shapes, or rather, that an aspect of our reality is archetypally shaped.

From any understanding of Jung’s ideas along with some time spent with a depth psychologist what I became aware of was a consistent and crippling failure on my part to be able to differentiate between what and who I perceived others to be from who I was, which kept me from developing personal authenticity, and a clear sense of self and other. It was as if I was constantly trying to be everyone else, in order to know them and as a result absorbed all of the fear and hostility that I so easily sensed in people and the world around me into my being.

My life had been so shaped for such a long time that I was utterly defenseless. Somewhere in my early 30’s the only thing left for me to do was hole up in my room where I did much reading and writing, trying to make my peace with being alone. This was not to last for too long though. After a three year old relationship ended, the bottom fell out.

So, I ventured back out into the big old world and did what I had always done, I joined another church.

The sins of the father…

“Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology.  He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throughout the world.  There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul.” — Carl Jung

 Reading Jung left me with the sense that my intuition and experience of the world as a messy place was not an unreasonable conclusion to come to. I spent a lot of time in the following years reading and psychically attending to the darker and more shadowy side of the world. No longer an innocent, I wanted to know and perhaps try to understand all that humans had been through and how it was that we got to our time in history. Why did humans seem to perpetuate so much evil? Was it the lack of security from easy access to basic necessities such as food and shelter along with powerlessness in the face of disease and each other? What made us seemingly so different from the animals?

Animals also live with the same scarcity of security and live and die not unlike we do, but they don’t seem bothered in quite the same ways as we do. They kill for food, fight for dominance, but rarely to the death of rivals within their own kind. But humans have filled history with an interspecial rivalry that continually leads to conquest at the great cost to each other and to ourselves.

But, it wasn’t for the horror of history that my interest remained fixated on our collective past. I wanted to understand psychically what it is that humans are doing. All of this was part of my ever-expanding search for a sense of myself, an identity. My life felt unstarted, directionless, as if I had been dumped into an alien world a total stranger. This might have been a common situation experienced by many, but if so, I was not aware of it. Partly, because I had just enough fear keeping me from finding out from others, and partly because most people I approached with conversations about cosmological concerns did not seem to share either my sense of alienation, lack or misplacement of identity or a strong and incessant drive to understand who and what we are.

In the historical search lies a sense or a pull to “get to the bottom of the problem.”  Who or what then is to blame for our condition? There have been many answers to this question, and I think that how we answer this question plays a part in what direction we steer our boat in the cosmological ocean. It never occured to me then just how much the personal state of my life was driving this quest for understanding and that perhaps this was why other people did not pose the same questions to themselsves.

I noticed that after absorbing the history of a millenia or two worth of mankinds failings that a feeling of dispair and cynicism seemed like the most appropriate response. It was tempting to resign myself to the view that perhaps mankind was a blight upon the universe and my small and trivial life was just one more wink in the sleep of the cosmic nightmare. But the coming to such a negative conclusion did nothing to quench my thirst for understanding. Sigh…

Inspite of our seemingly trivial and pointless lives there remained for me the quest of knowing who I am and to finally bring the quest directly to my own doorstep. If my thirst for understanding was not sated by the knowledge of our collective human history, what then? What did my psychic appetite want?

What drives each of us to be who we are and especially our own peculiar pathologies? Is it the sins of the fathers, genetics, astrology, culture, personal or collective guilt?

In my late twenties, my sense of being lost and without direction, ironically, or coincidentally, put me on a path that eventually found me living alone, 3,000 miles away from family and familiar friends. At last I reached a place of wilderness in an unknown territory, both psychically and geographically. In 1991 I had moved from my native Long Island NY home of 33 years to Portland, Oregon. Although I moved out there with a male companion, by 1993 we had gone our separate ways. In hindsight, I am surprised that I stayed out west. I was terribly lonely, and felt like I was forever circling around the Great Abyss. 

Faster than I could run away from it, the aloneness that surrounded me created a space that gave a new shape to my life. Once that space had been created, there was no longer any way to deny that I was the problem and any real answers to my personal pathology would be found only through learning to live in the dark unchartered depths of being alone with enough courage, space and time to live in the day to day of the mess of my own being. There was something for me to do now and knowing that meant no turning back.

I cannot say whether the sins of the fathers brought me to this place, but I think I felt like they did. Everything in my life seemed entangled with everything else, from human history to family history, I could not tell the difference between me, my life and anything or anyone else. I could not tell how I was getting from one place to another let alone why. I felt pulled from one experience to the next as if I were riding in a car with no driver. Before I could ever hope to be in relationship to others I had to have some way to be able to have a sense of who I was and what I wanted and where I wanted to be. I needed and sorely lacked a vision.

The next two or so years would be the most tumultuous, tortured and crazy years of my life. But it’s true that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

“The broken part heals even stronger than the rest,”
they say. But that takes awhile.
And, “Hurry up,” the whole world says.
They tap their feet. And it still hurts on rainy
afternoons when the same absent sun
gives no sign it will ever come back.
“What difference in a hundred years?”
The barn where Agnes hanged her child
will fall by then, and the scrawled words
erase themselves on the floor where rats’ feet
run. Boards curl up. Whole new trees
drink what the rivers bring. Things die.
“No good thing is easy.” They told us that,
while we dug our fingers into the stones
and looked beseechingly into their eyes.
They say the hurt is good for you. It makes
what comes later a gift all the more
precious in your bleeding hands.

~William Stafford

“Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.

Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me: And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20, Douay-Rheims translation

The trouble with you is the trouble with me

It would not perhaps be fair to place too much blame on Taoism, Zen Buddhism, eastern spirituality for a lack of contentment that remained my constant companion, but the depersonalization I absorbed from eastern ideas mirrored my sense of disconnectedness. Intellectually, I may have found comfort in eastern ideas, especially Alan Watt’s idea of the individual ego as fake or illusory. My unsettled sense of self and inability to feel authentic enjoyed Watt’s disparagement of the ego. I suppose that ideas of every persuasion have their abusers.

We suffer not only from the pain of a wound but pile suffering upon suffering because of not wanting to suffer, and for wanting to be anywhere but where we are when we are suffering. What a leap from simply suffering, with a seemingly endless rippling effect.

But, I think suffering wants something from us.

Suffering can move us through, relocating us to some new way of seeing, even if reluctantly, and makes us more aware that we are alive, not able to go about the day in our usual fashion. We sometimes ask, why me? We find the limits of our control, over both ourselves and others. All the more so in proportion to how much control we are accustomed to assuming we have, or would like to have, both over ourselves and others.

In eastern thought, I think the aim is to be one with life and to live without desire and attachment in a way that conflicts with the separateness each of us knows in our lived, historical, and perceived individuality. Oneness or unity may be inviting, or a vision of a reality beyond us, or desirable, as selflessness promises the release of the tension felt in the ontological fright of being alive now, but will never erase our knowing that we were not always alive and won’t always be alive, which is, in all honesty, an inescapable reality of our individuality.

It is in the day to day living, leading one day to our death, that truly makes us alive and aware of our separateness. It is as persons, uniquely moving through time and space, in relationship to all else, that we create or discover meaning. Michael Meade says, “there is no way not to be who you are and where you are right now.”

There is an inherent tension in being alive because we know we weren’t always here and we know we will die. How baffling, how terrifying it is to know that we are finite, and yet to be given the awareness that transcends our personal historical time, and more space than our single lives occupy. We live multi-dimensionally through the bounty of memory, images, time and space and with whatever powers that influence us.

During the time I was attracted to eastern thought, the thing missing most from my life was both an understanding and acceptance of what it is to be “in relationship to”, whether to others, or to myself. Running away from my individuality was an attempted escape from fear and conflict that I experienced with others.

To be in conflict, both internally and externally, created a desire to move beyond the uncomfortable limits of personhood, and perhaps attracted me to reach for something that relieves the tension and conflict of being-in-relationship. Who wouldn’t enjoy the security and wisdom that an infinite and omniscient being has? A worthy striving, or unstriving, however one imagines the path toward that state of being. And before I understood clearly that there are limits to knowledge, I believed that it was just possible to achieve such a state.

Looking at the mess that being finite, limited individuals has wrought, I wanted something else, some other way to be. But, what if our lives as individuals are God’s idea of extravagance and necessary because relationship is part of the motion of the universe? The mess is okay, but wants something from us.

Many a disillusioned westerner will do anything to run from or disidentify with the mess of the world and especially the burden of history. The danger being to reject western culture without enough reflection to know what is that is being rejected.

And so, a tone of complete rejection of Western culture dominated my thoughts and studies for several years. Little did I understand at the time how common was my thinking even when I was feeling the pangs of my own personhood trying to be born.