C.G. Jung, winding down the years….
Regular commenter Hawk recently brought up a subject worthy of its own post:
I just was reading pages 275 – 288 in C.G. Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, and found his comparisons of Indian thought and Christianity very interesting. If you have any reactions or thoughts regarding Jung’s insights here, it would be helpful in my own process.
Little did I know the intensity of what would follow, as I began to read this passage from Jung’s autobiography (easily one of the twelve most influential books I’ve ever read, and one of the few to which I return periodically), which has led into several Internet as well as personal conversations, not to mention a synchronistic series of written teachings from varied sources. Let me provide one slice from Jung, quoting from page 277:
In Konarak (Orissa) I met a pandit who obligingly offered to come with me on my visit to the temple and the great temple car. The pagoda is covered from base to pinnacle with exquisitely obscene sculptures. We talked for a long time about this extraordinary fact, which he explained to me as a means to achieve spiritualization. I objected — pointing to a group of young peasants who were standing open-mouthed before the monument, admiring these splendors — that such young men were scarcely undergoing spiritualization at the moment, but were much more likely having their heads filled with sexual fantasies. Whereupon he replied, “But that is just the point. How can they ever become spiritualized if they do not first fulfill their karma? These admittedly obscene images are here for the very purpose of recalling to the people their dharma [law]; otherwise these unconscious fellows might forget it.”
I thought it an odd notion that young men might forget their sexuality, like animals out of rutting time. My sage, however, resolutely maintained that they were as unconscious as animals and actually in need of urgent admonishments. To this end, he said, before they set foot inside the temple they were reminded of their dharma by the exterior decorations; for unless they were made conscious of their dharma and fulfilled it, they could not partake of spiritualization.
This brings to mind the concept of the Fool’s Journey, which comes from Tarot lore and embodies the idea of the Fool card, which is said to depict all 22 major arcana cards in the life-journey that they represent. In other words, the Fool starts at zero (the number of his card), heads out through 21 stages of archetypal growth, only to return to zero. Those 21 stages of archetypal growth include such images as the Devil, the Lovers and Death, each of which has something to say about the need to pass through the fleshly experience of existence, complete with its erroneous beliefs and its misguided passions, until our karma is played out and we return to the spiritual recognition of our Divine essence (the Universe or World card, number 21, which stands for the panentheistic notion of God in everything, everything in God).
So, in order to pass through the doors to the Holy Sanctuary, one must pass through fleshly existence and all that it entails.
This brought to mind a prominent feature of my own spiritual biography, which I’ll reproduce here:
During spring of 1967, before my fifth birthday, I passed through a phase that lasted about three weeks, during which I sat cross-legged on my bed, facing west through a window that looked out on our back yard. Through what little Bible study I’d managed to accrue, I had formed an intimate bond with Jesus, considering him to be physically present not only when I prayed, but as I went through daily life. We would hold long conversations, walking side-by-side like best friends who’d known each other for two thousand years.
Jesus was present as I sat on my bed one morning. An energy grew inside my little body, filling it with bliss and happiness. Somehow, I knew just how to work with the energy, until “I” outgrew the house, the neighborhood, the city, state, continentÉ the planet. Then I popped out of the physical dimension completely, and was met by several presences that felt like “home,” who nonverbally “reminded” me of many things I’d known before this birth. It felt like I was being infused with sacred information, “catching up” on something that I’d worked long and hard to obtain. I moved in and out of these vibrational states every day during this time. Familiar beings accompanied me on these inner flights, like a family that had sent me into human form for some collective purpose; I was “reporting” back to them, and they were filling me in on my mission objectives, as well as teaching me what I would need to know during an arduous stay in this world. The experience was one of becoming reacquainted with that part of me that extends backwards and forwards through time, such that I merely had to acknowledge what I already knew. The specific information that emerged did not remain in my conscious mind for long, however, as I was a four-year-old boy who did not normally have the language to process these things.
Once, my mother burst into the room and saw me sitting there – I could see her clearly with non-physical eyes – and she quietly backed out, clicking the door closed. She never mentioned this or any of the other episodes to me.
As the final session drew to a close, the presences who’d supported this process gave me a little mantra that I could say at any time during the ensuing years, which would give a hint of remembrance to the states that I’d experienced. The mantra, “I Am Me,” looks innocuous enough now, but at the time, it triggered something deep and primordial, not to mention fascinating. I would ponder the “I” by itself, then the “Am,” then the “Me,” noticing that each could be experienced separately and as a single presence, such that I “traveled” in and out of individual awareness as if hitting a light switch. I knew that I was being acclimated to individual identity, but the mantra allowed me to access the unitive presence whenever I wanted throughout the “barren” years that would follow these experiences.
They (the guiding presences) suggested that they would leave me to a worldly existence for about 30 years before rejoining my spiritual emergence. During precisely 30 years without ready access to the energy that visited me in those early days, I would periodically recite my mantra in order to briefly experience sensations that bridged across many, many lifetimes, and in this way I could let go existential anxieties that may have inhibited the process that would greet me when those 30 years passed.
Those 30 years “in the desert” fulfilled many of the Fool’s Journey requisites, as depicted in the major arcana cards. I’m talking about what we all go through in our own way: coming of age, leaving the nest, getting into all sorts of trouble, getting out of all sorts of trouble (hopefully), developing all sorts of self-destructive beliefs and behaviors, dealing with them, replacing them with either different forms of the same, or brand new, more constructive beliefs and behaviors that lead toward wholeness, healing and, ultimately, reunion with the Divine.
So my wife and I spent this morning having “church” in the living room. We fired up some matte, slathered butter and jelly onto some toast, and sat down at our Japanese table under the picture window — gentle rain outside, pattering the roof — and I opened the Bible to Ecclesiastes, planning to look up in Charles Fillmores Metaphysical Bible Dictionary terms that we encountered in this most poetic and achingly anguished Old Testament book. Here’s an example, taken from Chapter Two, verses 17-26 (TNIV version):
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For people may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to others who have not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 People can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
While I don’t have the Bible Dictionary with me here at the coffee shop, I can put into my own words the metaphysical meaning that Fillmore attributed to Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes means (metaphysically, according to Fillmore) “experience,” which (in my words) is the working out of karma that we must accomplish before becoming “spiritualized.” Fillmore says that experience is by far the best sermon, because we cannot just fall asleep in the pew while the preacher drones on (sorry, Hawk!), but must “face the music” that life’s ups and downs dish up. Eventually, experience leads us into the Dark Night of the Soul that the author of Ecclesiastes seems to have reached — and which St. John of the Cross so beautifully described while shivering in a Carmelite dungeon oh so many years ago. Fillmore says that worldly experience is what leads us home to the remembrance of God, and to the extent that we are able to merge our seemingly separate existence with the ever-Presence of God, we may eventually transcend the pain and suffering (see Ecclesiastes above) associated with attachment to worldly things, and know that we are One with the Source of all Good.
To bring things absolutely full circle in terms of my current unfoldment, I now know from experience what the Buddha meant in the last of his Noble Eightfold Path (Right Absorption), which was/is his “middle path” away from the realm of suffering and into the extinguishment of worldly attachment: each stage of meditative absorption (jhana/samadhi) brings the meditator into greater and greater at-one-ment with the Universal I AM (my words, stolen from many great mystics)… and the absorption itself melts away our illusory attachment to gaining succor from worldly things and conditions. In other words, he/she who works with meditative absorption works with God’s transformative Presence to gradually eliminate “wrong view,” replacing it with a saturation in “right view,” which is to live life in communion with the Infinite.
That’s my take, and apologies to everyone for hitting you with such a long, involved, meandering post.
I am, on the other hand, anxious to get Hawk’s take on the Jung material exampled above….