“Religion is supposed to teach us the way of love. Jesus even commanded it. Though I’m not sure that you really can order or demand love, it’s so all-important that the great spiritual teachers always do, saying with urgency, as it were, “You’ve got to love or you’ll never find your soul’s purpose. You’ll never find the deepest meaning of life itself.” Philosophically, you will never discover the Logos, the blueprint, the pattern, the template of all reality, what Jung would have called ‘the soul of the world.'” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
Do we, the majority of us in the contemporary world, do we understand what love means? Do we feel fulfilled and spiritually satisfied in the depth of our souls? To the point that we’ve found our soul’s purpose? To the point that we can feel love for others whether they love us or not? Most of us don’t. I think that’s why our world’s in such a mess. Consider how our ideas about love for God and others develop…..
AN INFANT’S IDEA OF LOVE: You satisfy every instinctual need.
Come here right now! Feed me. Hold me close. Touch me gently. Make the hurt and hunger and loud noises go away. Smile at me. Make soothing sounds.
A CHILD’S IDEA OF LOVE: You give me what I want.
No! I won’t eat that nasty broccoli. I’ll throw up if you make me eat it. I want this toy! Don’t take it away from me! I won’t lie down. I don’t want to take a nap now. Come back here. Don’t leave me alone. Give me what I want and I’ll be good. Don’t leave me with the baby sitter. I’m afraid. Look under my bed. Did you check the closet? Just one more story and I promise I’ll go to sleep. Pleeeeeeease! Suzy’s touching me! Make her stop looking at me!! Thank you for giving me that (insert item) I wanted. You’re the best mommy/daddy/god in the whole world!
ADOLESCENT: You leave me alone.
There’s something wrong with you if you won’t let me do what I want to do. Why don’t you understand me? I was definitely born into the wrong family. I can’t wait to get out of here!!
YOUNG ADULT: I am attracted to you and you make me feel good!
If you love me you’ll always make me feel this good and I will love you forever! (Unless, of course, you stop making me feel good, in which case I’m outta here!)
I don’t feel as good as I used to. What’s happened to you? If you really loved me you’d …. (fill in the blank.) You don’t love me any more. I don’t love you any more either and its your fault: (Pick one:) A. But, I’ll stay (and make both our lives miserable because being with you is familiar and I’m afraid to change) or B. So I’m leaving (you’ll be sorry, but I know there’s someone out there who will love me.) There’s a C option too, but most of us never get to that…..
“I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”~ C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul
MIDDLE AGE: You’re not enough for me.
Is this all there is? I’ve done everything I thought I was supposed to do and I’m still not happy.What’s wrong with my partner? Could there be something wrong with me? How can I feel better? Would it be wrong to tell the truth and act on my honest feelings? Will God punish me if I change my beliefs and break my promises?
MATURITY: Teach me to love so that I may become Love.
“Meaty spirituality must first of all teach us freedom from the self, from my own self as a reference point for everything or anything. This is the necessary Copernican Revolution wherein we change reference points. Copernicus discovered that Earth is not the center of the universe. Now we have to discover that we are not the center of any universe either. We are not finally a meaningful reference point. Although we do have to start with self at the center to build a necessary ‘ego structure,’ we then must move beyond it. The big and full world does not circle around me or you. Yet so many refuse to undergo this foundational enlightenment.’This ultimate reality, the way things work, is quite simply described as love.'” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
“The unconscious as we know can never be “done with” once and for all. It is, in fact, one of the most important tasks of psychic hygiene to pay continual attention to the symptomatology of unconscious contents and processes, for the good reason that the conscious mind is always in danger of becoming one-sided.” ~Carl Jung; Syzygy: Anima and animus.
Is it my imagination or has this summer been crazier than usual? I’m wondering if this is not just about the world situation in general, and America’s situation in particular (especially the upcoming election), but also about my personal life. I didn’t expect to feel this way at my age, especially not when I’m supposed to be relaxing and enjoying our vacation in the mountains. But this summer there seems to be so much more on my plate, and I’ve been unusually aware of the weight of it. Yet at the same time — and here’s the odd part — I find I’m accepting it more calmly and letting go of it more easily. It’s……just……no big deal.
So I’ve been thinking about this lately and apparently my unconscious wants to help me clarify it. I think this because this morning I awoke with the residue of a dream in which I was writing a post about managing ‘monkey mind!’ I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term. Meditators use it to describe the challenge of calming the mind when myriad thoughts, images, ideas, worries, responsibilities, emotions, etc. are bouncing around in your head like a roomful of monkeys. So since we just returned to Florida last night, and since today is one of those days when it feels like there must be a million monkeys in there, I’m going to go with this theme. How shall I begin?
TRUST: As I wrote the above question, I realized that my choice to write about the issue highlighted in last night’s dream was exactly what I wanted to write about. For me, calming my monkey mind is a matter of trust. Trust that my mind is normal. Trust that my ego doesn’t have to control everything and I can let my unconscious do some of the work. Trust that my dream has meaning I can apply to my waking life. Trust that writing about what is meaningful to me might be helpful you. Trust that if my day gets so crazy that I don’t get my post written by my deadline of midnight tonight, my readers won’t be upset and my world won’t fall apart…. You get the idea.
So what I want to tell you is that I didn’t start out with all this trust. It has come very slowly, over years of reflecting on my inner life. You don’t decide one day to start trusting yourself and the universe, and then Trust just falls into your lap. You have to work for it, and there’s no way of getting around that. What happens is that the more inner work you do, the easier and less stressful your life feels. You’re not as afraid of looking like an idiot. You don’t get as worried about silly unimportant things; and when you do, the agitation passes quickly. It feels like the big monkey bullies are calming down, some of them seem to have abandoned ship, and a few are starting to feel like friends you want with you on the cruise.
“Dictionaries define a contradiction as two things that cannot be true at the same time. I would say it this way: a contradiction is two things that cannot be true at the same time by your present frame of logic. As long as you do not reframe your reality, as long as you insist on your own frame of reference, you will not be able to find the wisdom in paradox. “The kingdom of God” is Jesus’ term for the bigger frame, or what we often call “the big picture” or “in the light of eternity…” You’ve got to find some framework that allows you to stand back and look at the moment with the eyes of Infinite Love and Mercy. Then you’ll see that many things which appear to be contradictory through logical, egocentric, dualistic thinking might not necessarily be so to a nondual mind.” Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, August 21, 2016.
TAKE YOURSELF VERY SERIOUSLY: This isn’t easy. Conventional wisdom has it that taking yourself seriously signals self-centeredness. And religion tells us that you should always think about others first. Right? Wrong. Let me remind you of a couple of sayings by someone generally considered to be one of the greatest Spirit Persons who ever lived.
#1: “The kingdom of God is within.” So if the sacred place is located inside your mind, is it wise to ignore the monkeys that plague your mind? Might taking them seriously be, in fact, the exact way to acquire a more spiritually enriched life?
#2: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “As yourself” implies that you have to love yourself before you can love your neighbor, right? So how can you love yourself if you’re frantically trying to love and take care of everyone else and neglecting the monkeys in you that want your attention? Will you learn to love others by hating your monkeys? Ignoring them? Being afraid, critical or ashamed of them? It doesn’t work that way.
STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY: Yes, on the surface this seems to contradict what I just said above. But if you can accept both sides of this paradox instead of thinking it has to be one or the other, you’ll see what I mean. Yes, we have to notice the monkeys. And, yes, we have to stop being so hard on them and start lightening up and playing with them. Because that’s how we calm them down. We have to ask ourselves, “So how important is it really, if I don’t get this post written by my self-imposed deadline? Is trying to save the world with my writing really more important than living fully and loving and being who I was born to be?” (Which is a lot more than just a writer.) Can I let go of my self-importance and start enjoying my day?
I think I’m finished here….except you might be interested in knowing that I just wrote this entire post in record time with plenty of time leftover to play for the rest of the afternoon and evening. This on a day onto which my ego projected an especially dismal forecast. I hope you’ll forgive me for giving myself a metaphorical pat on the back, and for awarding myself a metaphorical gold medal for what feels like an Olympic accomplishment.
Late at night a baby cries out in hunger. The exhausted face of its young mother appears over the top of the crib. She thrusts a bottle of cold milk in the baby’s hands and hurries away. Alone, yearning for the softness and warmth of her mother, the baby greedily drinks the milk while a tiny portion of her soul’s light flickers and fades.
A toddler taking his first steps crashes into a table and breaks a lamp. “Now look what he’s done,” his father shouts at his mother. “I paid good money for that lamp,” he yells as he storms out of the room. The confused child sees the hurt and fear in his mother’s eyes and begins to wail.
A third-grader on the playground says to her friend, “Look what I can do!” and executes a dance move she saw on TV. A sixth-grader nearby rolls her eyes and says scornfully, “Trust me. You’ll never be a dancer. You’re too fat. They have to be skinny and pretty. Like me.” She leaves without seeing the death of innocence on the little girl’s face.
“Can I play?” a boy asks some neighborhood kids. When a baseball rolls his way he tentatively tosses it back. “You throw like a girl,” jeers an older boy. There’s laughter. Someone taunts, “Sissy girl. Sissy girl.” The boy runs home so they won’t see him crying.
“See my muscles, Daddy?” a ten year old girl says, flexing her biceps proudly. Her father looks away and says, “You smell sweaty. Better go take a bath.” “And brush your teeth,” her mother calls after her. “You won’t catch a husband smelling like that!” As their daughter heads for the bathroom, the pleasure she felt in her strong and healthy body is erased by shame.
“I want to be an astronaut,” a 13 year old boy shyly admits after a lesson on astronomy. “It’s time you faced facts kid,” says the discouraged teacher of this unruly class of low achievers. “You’re an average student at best. And I happen to know that the men in your family have never amounted to much.” The boy feels the place inside that was left empty by the loss of his beautiful dream filling with ugly resentment.
Sitting alone in her room on prom might, an introverted honors student writes in her diary: All my friends have boyfriends. Why don’t I? What’s the matter with me? Am I too serious? Too boring? Will any man ever love me? Fearing to test her divorced mother’s emotional fragility, she suffers silently.
“When will I be loved?” asked Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers in their 1960 hit song.
I’ve been made blue, I’ve been lied to
When will I be loved
I’ve been turned down, I’ve been pushed around
When will I be loved
When I meet a new girl that I want for mine
She always breaks my heart in two, it happens every time
I’ve been cheated, been mistreated
When will I be loved
When will I be loved? If we’re like that lonely honors student, musically gifted teen-aged boy, or any of these wounded people, we probably believe the answer to that question is, “When I make people love me by showing them the false self they want to see.”
Unfortunately, that’s the wrong answer. The correct one, the one that leads to a love-filled, self-fulfilled life, is, “When I become the true self I’ve been denying and discard the false self I’ve created.”
The hungry baby deserved her mother’s full attention, but the mother was too wounded by her own inadequate mothering to give it to her.
The toddler’s first steps should have been celebrated with looks of delight, but when he gazed into the mirrors of his harried parents’ faces he saw only anger and fear.
The dancing girl could have been appreciated for her enthusiastic efforts, but the mean girl was too insecure and intimidated by the perfectionistic standards of the adults she knew to feel compassion for someone who clearly fell short of their ideal.
The more experienced kids could have shown the tentative boy how to throw a ball, but in their desire to impress each other and the adult males in their lives they imitated their demeaning and disrespectful attitudes toward girls and less athletic boys.
And so it goes. Many of us cover them up quite well, but all of us, children and adults alike, suffer from secret wounds that make us feel unlovable. And unfortunately, the less lovable we believe we are, the less able we are to love.
When will I be loved? When I stop showing others a false self, they will see my true self. When I listen to my true self, others will listen to me. When I respect myself, others will respect me. When I love myself, I will be loved. And I will love.
Carl Jung said the Self is both our core and our circumference. Some think of it as our soul, the totality of who we are and who we have the potential to become. Jung called it the archetype of wholeness. In later years he referred to it as our god-image and connection to the Mystery some call God. Composed of the twin drives for self-preservation (i.e. masculine logos, represented in alchemy by the King archetype) and species preservation (feminine mythos/eros symbolized by the Queen), the Self shapes our ideas about what is sacred.
As the source of our irresistible compulsion to grow into our true selves and express our unique creativity, the Self is an ongoing, never-ending process. I see it as the psychological equivalent of the physical exchange of energy and information constantly occurring at the quantum level between the molecules of our bodies and between us and our environments. As I understand Jung, he suspected that the energies of both processes, inner and outer, are united in one intelligent, purposeful, evolving collective unconscious, Force (as George Lucas named it), or Zero Point Field (as some physicists now call it), which promotes increasing order, health, and wholeness.
We associate the Self with six attributes: wholeness, centrality, unity, love, pattern, and the life-giving force. We grow conscious of its guidance by noticing these themes in the symbols and synchronistic events of our dreams and waking life. Benevolent by nature, the Self calls our egos to their heroic destiny of merging with the indwelling Mystery. Our egos often reject its guidance, but it never gives up on us. The more we notice and respond to it, the more it responds to us.
The following story from one of my earliest blog posts illustrates the loving interaction that can take place between ego and Self:
I’ve just arrived at my soul’s home in the mountains of North Carolina where I will spend the remainder of the summer. I’ve often wondered why I love this place so dearly, why it makes me feel so loved and connected and alive and grateful for my life. My answer came last night and this morning.
I’m at my desk looking out an east-facing window. The morning sun enters my backyard late because it has to rise above the mountain before its rays filter down through a thick tree canopy. Most of what I see is in shade but a patch of sun has highlighted the brilliant silver threads of a spider web between two branches of a buckeye tree. Grandmother Spider is busily checking connections, tightening threads, and hunting for tasty morsels that got trapped during the night.
Pursuing the threads of last night’s thoughts, this morning I picked up Aion, Volume 9, ii, of Jung’s Collected Works, in search of symbols of the Self. In paragraph #356 he writes:
“The commonest of these images in modern dreams are, in my experience, the elephant, horse, bull, bear, white and black birds, fishes, and snakes. Occasionally one comes across tortoises, snails, spiders, and beetles. The principal plant symbols are the flower and the tree. Of all the inorganic products, the commonest are the mountain and lake.”
Spiders. Mountains. Trees.
When I entered the gravel road last night my arrival was heralded by a cawing black crow who flapped off toward the house. The first thing I did was feed the rainbow trout in our pond. Black birds. Fish. Lake. (Do you think a pond counts?)
Then I walked around the garden to check out the flowers. My treasured peonies are already spent, but the pink New Dawn roses and purple clematis are a-riot on the trellis, the hydrangeas look like giant blue and white powder puffs, the hostas are sending up tall bud-laden spikes, the astilbe have myriad pointed white cotton candy tufts, the golden daylilies are in full bloom, and there’s a mound of pink petunias by the kitchen door. I don’t garden in Florida. It’s just too hot. But here I can have my flowers. Flowers.
Below Bear Pond and Shadow Brook there’s a small pasture and stable where my horse, Shadow, used to spend his summers. I’ve always had a thing for horses. And Shadow, well, he’s a subject for another post. Horses. By the way, bears are the theme of this mountain home. They’re all over the house. But that’s another story too. Bears.
Speaking of bears, every summer for ten years I’ve come here with my sweet friend, a handsome golden retriever whose name was Bear. He passed on last August, but his ashes are in a white box with a label that says “Bear Raffa: Forever Faithful” in a cabinet four feet to the right of where I sit. I cried when I entered the house without him last night. But this morning when I was still in that borderland between sleeping and waking, I heard his joyous booming bark. Twice. He’s glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m back.
Do I need any further reminders of how loved I am and why I love this place so? Not really, but such is the nature of the Self that I’ll probably continue to get them every day anyway. And night, too. Sweet dreams of the Self, my friends.
Image Credits: Google Images. “Serpentine Fire,” https://albaricoquenalmibar.wordpress.com/tag/la-india/
Research reported in The Field (2008) was directed toward studying connections between quantum physics and human consciousness. The scientists sought explanations for a variety of theories and phenomena that have long permeated myth, religion, medicine and philosophy.
As we know from the experiences of Copernicus, Galileo, and countless others, science has always fought new ideas which challenge established theories until the research is sufficiently replicated and validated by independent observers. So it should be, and so it was for the studies discussed in this book.
In every field of human endeavor, progress begins with a tiny seed of intuition that grows into the bud of an idea, flowers into research and new discoveries, and culminates in nourishing fruits enjoyed by all. Each phase is essential to the process; each explorer contributes to our evolving knowledge. With this understanding, we remain open to possibilities suggested by author Lynne Mactaggart about who we really are and how we can make a difference.
“If we could understand the inherent potential available to us we might learn how to systematically tap into it, which would vastly improve every area of our lives, from communication and self-knowledge, to our interaction with our material world. Science would no longer reduce us to our lowest common denominator. It would help us take a final evolutionary step in our own history by at last understanding ourselves in all of our potential.” McTaggart, p. 225-6
“If we could finally work out the science of medicine that treats human energy levels and the exact nature of the ‘energy’ that was being treated, the possibilities for improved health [are] unimaginable.” p. 226
“The coming scientific revolution heralded the end of dualism in every sense. Far from destroying God, science for the first time was proving His [sic] existence—by demonstrating that a higher, collective consciousness was out there. There no longer need to be two truths, the truth of science and the truth of religion. There could be one unified vision of the world” (p. 226) which could reduce hostilities instigated by polarized thinking.
“This…could give us back a sense of optimism, something that has been stripped out of our sense of ourselves with the arid vision of twentieth-century philosophy, largely derived from the views espoused by science.” p. 226
“We [are] not isolated beings living our desperate lives on a lonely planet in an indifferent universe. We never were alone. We were always part of a larger whole. We were and always had been at the center of things. Things did not fall apart. The center did hold and it was we who were doing the holding.” p. 226 Perhaps if a critical mass feels this hope, it can spread to people who are deeply disillusioned and disappointed by outdated ideas of who they are, thus reducing meaninglessness and certain forms of depression.
“[A] living system of greater coherence could exchange information and create or restore coherence in a disordered, random or chaotic system. The natural set of the living world appeared to be order—a drive toward greater coherence…. By the act of observation and intention, we have the ability to extend a kind of super-radiance to the world.” pp. 138-9 Perhaps those who acquire greater coherence through meditation are on the right track when they send loving kindness into the world! Who knows? Maybe their efforts are behind our new interest in eliminating practices responsible for our increasingly chaotic ecological systems.
A finding that children are open to far more information in The Field than the average adult is especially heartening. p. 138 Just yesterday I learned that as of this fall, our grandchildren’s school will incorporate a few minutes of yoga and “loving kindness” meditation and mindfulness into their morning meetings. I’m so pleased!
Here are some thoughts offered by my readers:
Brian: “An accessing of universal unconscious material by an increasing number of humans brings forward new dialogues, understandings, new positive choices become available, routes away from the history of conflict. Hopefully also a synthesis of religious thought and a route for the previously agnostic to access a real connection to the”spiritual” nature of existence.”
Susan: “There is no question in my mind as to the power of critical mass having a profound influence on the world, hopefully for the benefit of all. And if we can…see, really see, the unity that is inherent in our lives, of all things big and small, our service in doing the hard inner work is thus meaningful. I’m taking away from your post the need to pray for peace around the world in the hope that my tiny vibration adds to the whole.”
Sally: Having read as much as I could understand about quantum physics for years, one of the most exciting developments is that it is destroying the divisive either/or controversy between science and religion and leads to a deeper understanding of the both/and reality of spirit-energy of all life.
Many of the new ideas discussed in The Field confirm insights and intuitions I’ve acquired over years of study, personal experience, practice, inner exploration and positive change. I no longer need to “believe” because I trust an “inner guru” or “Force” which I, like Carl Jung, call the Self. Perhaps it is simply my portion of The Field. Whatever it may be, the dreams, insights, intuitions and synchronicities it sends my way have improved every area of my life and brought a mystical awareness of the basic unity and connectedness of all life.
So, like Susan, The Field reinforces my need to pray for peace plus hope, intention, and determination to make a positive difference with “my tiny vibration.”
While empowering our masculine sides was a necessary phase of our psycho-spiritual development, our ego’s repression of our feminine sides has brought about the dangerous imbalances we see in today’s world. But to put all the blame on males and masculine values, or the patriarchies, Gods and religions they created, is just more projecting! The truth is that most of us are still divided and incomplete. The Great Mystery of Life some call God didn’t want to punish Adam and Eve and the people of Babel any more than it wants to punish us. It wants us to grow into our fullness, but our divided egos are resisting it with all their strength.
There is a time for everything. The dualism that gave rise to our evolving ego and developing Christ potential has become our worst enemy: the anti- Christ. And as long as we repress unwanted parts of ourselves and project them onto others—whether these be our compulsive instincts, dangerous emotions, or frightening aspects of our masculine and feminine sides—we will struggle through the darkness of confusion and the world will be a dangerous place.
Fortunately, our inborn urge to transcend our limitations is still at work. For the first time in human history, the relatively new science of psychology is revealing the unconscious forces within us that led us to this precipice, and this understanding is expanding our ego’s awareness. We are seeing that the cherished God-image of a Father/God/ King who is an objective reality beyond ourselves and prefers our tribe to any other is a product of dualistic thinking which has created religious bigotry, divisiveness, narrow-mindedness, repression, persecution, fanaticism, and terrorism.
The extreme polarization that permeates society today is intolerable to many of us. But what can you and I possibly do if the world’s greatest thinkers, philosophers, political leaders and spirit persons have failed to create healing change? Does it make sense to redouble our commitment to the very thought- patterns and ideologies that brought us to this point, or are we ready for radical change? And if we are, what might healthy change look like?
A lifetime of searching has led me to a path that works for me. There’s nothing new about it. Every mystic and authentic spirit person from every religion has always known about it because it’s always existed in us. This is a way of intentional and persistent self-examination in service to consciously connecting all pairs of opposites. I call it the path of Mandorla Consciousness. Imagine two circles that move toward each other until they overlap. The almond-shaped symbol created by their merging is a mandorla. Christianity has long considered this a holy place of transformation and transcendence because Christianity is founded on compassion, and compassion requires integration with otherness.
Our potential for Mandorla Consciousness is the same potential humanity once associated with Sophia’s holistic wisdom. But before we can return to this holy space and know it for what it truly is, we need to undergo the initiatory ordeal of suffering into consciousness. We need to see our resistance to the pain of growing. We need to understand that our ancestors justified their fear of change by imagining a God who didn’t want them to change either. We need to admit to our own fears, and experience the sacred healing power of love that sleeps at our core and is unveiled when we open ourselves to otherness.
Our hope for personal and world peace lies in self-discovery. This work begins as we acknowledge our individual and cultural shadows, and it comes to fruition when we invite our disowned masculine and feminine sides into our awareness. By facing our own capacity for evil as well as good, we will acquire humility and compassion for others. By accepting our soul’s potential for wholeness we will free ourselves from the chains of inferiority and self- hate. And by honoring the nobility and worth of our inner Mother/Queen and inviting her to enjoy equal partnership with our Father/King, we will embrace otherness and return to our true home: a conscious, evolving partnership with the Sacred Mystery of life.
Note: This post and the previous one were originally published by the Center for Action and Contemplation under the title, The Mandorla Consciousness. Radical Grace, Summer 2012, vol. 25, no 3, p. 18.
“The animals follow the natural law only….With man things are very different. He is not at one with himself. He is subject to two laws that do not by any means always coincide. Consequently he is inwardly divided.” Esther Harding, Psychic Energy, p. 202.
By around the age of three, most children’s egos are strong and consolidated enough to think of themselves as separate individuals. This is when memory begins. We do not leave Epoch I behind at this point but we do begin to adjust our responses to our instinctual needs according to the demands of our environments.
Thus we grow into a more mature form of self-awareness I call Epoch II Ego Consciousness. During this time we gradually lose our allegiance to the natural law as we obey the human law to prove ourselves and become responsible members of our families, groups, and society.
Most of us experience spurts of increased self-awareness during the normal developmental stages; for example, adolescence when we begin to assert our independence, young adulthood with its task of finding meaningful work, marrying and parenting.
During these critical junctures we acquire new needs and desires which challenge the status quo. Conflicts between what was and what is coming into being strengthen our egos to a certain extent, and many people lead happy, productive lives without looking very deeply into their unconscious selves. Or we may not be happy at all, yet do not seek help or change in any meaningful way because lethargy, habit, pride, and fear of the unknown prevent us from stepping too far out of our familiar comfort zones.
Moreover, we may grow in some areas of our lives, yet maintain one-sided, either/or attitudes in others. We might continue to open to new insights and ways of thinking in our work and relationships, yet we might think, “I know my religion is correct. To question its beliefs is dangerous,” while ignoring secret doubts. Or we automatically agree with our political party and assume the other is wrong without weighing the issues. Or we avidly uphold unjust laws that violate human rights while fighting the enactment of new ones that would right these wrongs.
Certain qualities are common in Epoch II. Among them are
dualistic thinking and with it, a sense of being separate from others;
a primary emphasis on self-preservation and need-satisfaction, that is, self-centeredness and selfishness; ‘the will to develop our individuality;’
an outer-referential focus on society and its rules and conventions;
resistance to and bias against otherness, including other people, other ways of thinking, other belief systems, and the unknown or disowned otherness of our own psyches, i.e. our unconscious selves;
anxiety about our self-worth;
conflict between our longing to lapse back into the unconscious maternal matrix and the pressing need to prove ourselves.
Masculine Values. A primary feature of Epoch II is the ego’s preference for masculine values which gradually supplant our Epoch I condition of pure enjoyment in the Mother’s paradise of dependency and the innocent pleasures of simply being. During Epoch II the healthy ego of either gender flexes its wings, struts around the nest, and begins to assert its will power, independence, self-discipline, competition, achievement and ambition.
Repression. Developing these qualities has advanced civilization in many valuable ways. But because of our dualistic thinking it has also had some nasty repercussions. This is because of repression, a second major feature of Epoch II self-awareness. If “the way I (my ego) am” is the good, right way, then I will develop bias, prejudice, suspicion, hostility, fear, and aggression toward anything that conflicts with the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ of my self-image.
Shadow. The third major feature of Epoch II Ego Consciousness is the development of a shadow. This unconscious complement to the ego is composed of everything we don’t know or like about ourselves. As long as we refuse to acknowledge these disowned aspects of our psyches they influence our attitudes and behavior without our awareness. Becoming conscious of our personal and collective shadow is one of the most critical and potentially life-enhancing challenges we face today.
The majority of Epoch II egos restrain their shadows and repressive tendencies without causing undue damage or harm. But some obsess over the “masculine” qualities so highly prized during this phase that they become inordinately repressive to “feminine” otherness, both figuratively and literally. Unwilling to consider opposing points of view or budge from entrenched polarized positions these egos become so self-righteous and closed-minded that they gravitate, like the Sky God onto which they project these qualities, toward agitation, divisiveness, domination and war.
“Egos like this might be strong enough to keep growing, and often are well-intentioned. But as long as they put their consciousness in service to repression, and as long as they cling to their position as the sole “deity” within the psyche, they will not recognize their imbalances. The most powerful and repressive of these Epoch II egos are the major culprits in the dangerous dramas playing out on the world stage today. In their psychological ignorance, many of them fervently believe they are God-centered; but in truth, they are firmly entrenched in Epoch II egocentricity.” J.B. Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 44.
In empowering our ego and masculine qualities we are obeying the evolutionary imperative to see and use all of our human potential. But if we stop there, vast amounts of our psychological inheritance, including our instincts and many aspects of our feminine sides, remain buried in a dark, pre-conscious reservoir.
This effects every aspect of our lives, especially our relationships and spirituality. In the West and Middle East our separation from the human mother is accompanied by a rejection of the archetypal Great Mother. Fortunately, this doesn’t destroy her.
Why? Because the Sacred Feminine is an archetypal reality in the psyche and the ego has no control over it. If this were not true, humanity would never have projected her onto ancient Goddesses and she would not be re-entering our awareness today.
Next time I’ll have more to say about this repressed archetype and how our acceptance of her has the potential to heal the divisive schisms threatening our world today.
Image Credits: Elephant Quote: Depth Psychology Alliance. Jung Quotes: Courtesy of Lewis Lafontaine.
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.