“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
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.
In Part I of this series I asked (1)What would a new idea of Who We Are look like?and (2)What difference could it make to our world crisis if enough of us become coherent [united] in a new idea of who we are?
To answer these questions I summarized findings from recent research in quantum physics as reported in the first half of The Field, by Lynne Mactaggart. Here’s my summary of the remainder of the book.
The images and intentions of others can influence our dreams. McTaggart, p. 126
Ordinary humans have the ability to influence other living things on many levels: muscle activity, motor activity, cellular changes, nervous system activity. The influence seems to increase depending on how much it matters to the influencer, and how much s/he can relate to the object of influence. p. 133
Several common characteristics to experiments in remote influence tended to more readily guarantee success: relaxation techniques (through meditation, biofeedback or other methods); reduced sensory input or physical activity; dreams or other internal states and feelings; and a reliance on right-brain functioning. p. 134
When the left brain is quieted and the right brain predominates, ordinary people can tap into a “deep well of alert receptivity” which brings a state of unity with the single object being focused upon. p. 134
When two people ‘relax’ and attempt to establish some kind of deep connection, their brain patterns become highly synchronized, and the most ordered brain pattern always prevails, nudging the less organized recipient toward a greater degree of order. p. 137
Children are open to far more information in The Field than the average adult. p. 138
Our natural state of being is a relationship—a constant state of one influencing the other.” Just as the subatomic particles that compose us cannot be separated from the space and particles surrounding them, so living beings cannot be isolated from each other.” p. 138
Tests conducted by the behaviorist Dr. William Broud suggested that 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
Many of humankind’s greatest achievements may result from an individual suddenly gaining access to a shared accumulation of information—a collective effort in the Zero Point Field—in what we consider a moment of inspiration. What we call ‘genius’ may simply be a greater ability to access the Zero Point Field. In that sense, our intelligence, creativity and imagination are not locked in our brains but exist as an interaction with the Field.” p. 139
“…healing through intention is available to ordinary people, although the healers may be more experienced or naturally talented in tapping into the Field.” p. 193-4
Illness could be a disturbance in the quantum fluctuations of an individual and healing might be a matter of reprogramming individual quantum fluctuations to operate more coherently. Illness could be isolation: a lack of connection with the collective health of The Field and the community. p. 194
Consciousness may live on after we die. p. 195
Group consciousness, working through a medium such as the zero Point Field, may be acting as the universal organizing factor in the cosmos.
In summary, McTaggart writes:
“We have far more power than we realized, to heal ourselves, our loved ones, even our communities. Each of us had the ability—and together a great collective power—to improve our lot in life. Our life, in every sense, was in our hands.” p. 226
Next time: some implications for how we can help make a difference in the world. I invite you to add your thoughts.
“Consciousness can only exist through continual recognition of the unconscious…” ~Carl Jung, Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, Par 178.
What does it mean to be unconscious? It doesn’t mean we’re dull, socially clueless or lacking in intelligence, creativity or passion. It simply means we are so used to thinking and behaving in habitual ways that we’re minimally aware of inner forces that move us every day.
These forces include our shadow (potential our ego actively disowns, both positive and negative), our anima and animus (untapped feminine and masculine potential), and a wealth of other archetypes (inherited psychological patterns and images) including the Self (our core and circumference and our connection to sacred Oneness).
All these entities influence our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior; sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. If we don’t notice and reflect on why we’re thinking or acting the way we do, we miss valuable opportunities to develop our fullest potential.
For example, you and I are having a calm, civilized discussion about politics and you bring up your candidate’s take on a certain issue—say emigration, abortion or gun control—and suddenly I become indignant. So what brought that on? you wonder as I aggressively spout opinions about the rightness of my position and the wrongness of your candidate’s position.
The more I talk the more justified and self-righteous I feel in my indignation. I might even get frustrated and angry at you. My position feels perfectly reasonable to me. How could you not see things the way I do? I wonder. How could you vote for that terrible candidate? Meanwhile, you’re mystified by the heat of my response. You might have strong opinions too, yet you have no problem discussing them calmly.
I’ve studied and thought about this issue. I think I know exactly why I believe what I do and I assume any rational person would feel the same way. But the truth is, I don’t really have a clue because I’ve never explored the inner forces that moved me to adopt my position in the first place.
So what has happened? Something about the mention of this issue activated an unconscious complex of associated memories, attitudes, and emotions. Maybe my complex arose from an early wound—a parent’s cruel neglect, a dismissive attitude or unjustified accusation, a traumatic experience at school or church, a cruelty I suffered at the hands of another, a secret shameful act I once committed. Or maybe the issue reminds me of painful conflicts I’m currently suffering.
My ego doesn’t want to admit to anxiety or self-pity or suffering. I associate these feelings with weakness and victimization, so I ignore them. But now the pressure cooker into which I have stuffed my complex has boiled over. The floodgates separating my ego from my unconscious self have opened, my ego is swamped with emotion, and every cell in my body wants to fight or escape. This time, my instinct is to fight.
I don’t stop to wonder why. I’ve gotten so good at dismissing my anxiety as unimportant or unacceptable that I barely notice it. Nor can I see that my agitated response to you is uncalled for and hurtful.
If you bring this to my attention, I’ll deny any wrongdoing and believe the fault is yours. Later on I might wonder if I came across a little too strong, but unless I’m unusually reflective I’ll soon forget the incident and lapse back into unconsciousness. Sadly, my ego’s dualistic resistance to my unconscious self has once again won the day. And I’ve lost another opportunity to learn, grow and heal.
“The contemplative stance is the Third Way. We stand in the middle, neither taking the world on from another power position nor denying it for fear of the pain it will bring. We hold the dark side of reality and the pain of the world until it transforms us, knowing that we are both complicit in the evil and can participate in wholeness and holiness. Once we can stand in that third spacious way, neither directly fighting nor denying and fleeing, we are in the place of grace out of which genuine newness can come. This is where creativity and new forms of life and healing emerge.” ~Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, pp. 169-171.
Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness. We need to explore new ideas of who we are.
Image Credits: Terence McKenna quote, Thesyncmovie.com. Never Stop Exploring, Quotesgram.com
Our relationships with nature and matter are closely connected to our relationships with our bodies. In certain orthodox religious circles, love for God as remote masculine spirit has gone hand in hand with physical self-loathing. For example, Moses Maimonides, the greatest Jewish medieval philosopher, was merely stating a commonly held belief when he said that “all philosophers are agreed that the inferior world, of earthly corruption and degeneration, is ruled by the natural virtues and influences of the more refined celestial spheres.” Likewise, St. Augustine considered his body to be the major source of his spiritual problems and sufferings.
This attitude is an obstacle to the fullest development of our spirituality. In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes:
“Spiritual life does not truly advance by being separated either from the soul or from its intimacy with life. God, as well as man, is fulfilled when God humbles himself to take on human flesh. The theological doctrine of incarnation suggests that God validates human imperfection as having mysterious…value. Our depressions, jealousies, narcissism, and failures are not at odds with the spiritual life. Indeed, they are essential to it….The ultimate marriage of spirit and soul, animus and anima, is the wedding of heaven and earth…”
Vessels are classic symbols of feminine matter. Of the many vessels symbolizing feminine containment, one that is particularly dear to Christians is the chalice or grail, the highest level of spiritual development and heavenly and earthly happiness. The female body is a vessel which receives sperm and produces eggs. A womb is a vessel within a vessel, the cradle of life that receives, holds, nurtures, and protects a growing embryo. A breast is a vessel which creates and dispenses milk. A skull is a vessel containing the brain, itself a vessel teeming with creative potential. In Christianity, Mary is a vessel for new spiritual life.
Another vessel-like symbol is the tower. A tower’s elevated position links it to heaven; its impenetrability to virginity; its vertical aspect to the human figure; its roundness to the womb; its containment to creative new life. Hence, towers that are closed and windowless were once emblematic of the Virgin Mary. In early Christian times a tower was often used to suggest the sacred walled city, another feminine symbol. The Herder Symbol Dictionary notes that a tower with a light is a lighthouse, which has long been a symbol “of the eternal goal toward which the ship of life [is] steered across the waves of this existence.” Its light suggests Sophia, the divine spark of life within us.
For Jung, too, the tower was a feminine symbol with sacred meaning. In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he describes the stone tower he built at Bollingen, a small town on the upper shores of Lake Zurich, and writes that it “represented for me the maternal hearth.” He wrote,
“From the beginning I felt the Tower as in some way a place of maturation — a maternal womb or a maternal figure in which I could become what I was, what I am and will be. It gave me a feeling as if I were being reborn in stone.”
Vessels accept, contain, protect and preserve the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life at both the physical and metaphysical levels. Our planet Earth is a living vessel whose life cycles mirror the soul-making processes of psychological and spiritual transformation. The matter (L. mater) of which our bodies are composed is our mother, teacher, partner and guide on the spiritual journey. For that, it deserves our everlasting gratitude. How do you honor and thank your mother/body for nurturing the life of your soul?
This past weekend I attended a symposium featuring the internationally renowned poet, David Whyte. As the subtle beauty of his words and images—and even more, the silence behind them—washed through me, an intense inner resonance asked to be heard. “This is a fellow traveler,” it said. “Pay attention,” it said. “You can learn from this one,” it said.
He told stories, he recited poems, and over and over the same three threads ran through. One was “the conversational nature of reality.” This reminded me of an observation from the American Buddhist, Jack Kornfield,
“All of spiritual practice is a matter of relationship: to ourselves, to others, to life’s situations…Whether we like it or not, we are always in relationship, always interconnected.” ~Jack Kornfield
David Whyte would no doubt add, “…always having a conversation.” Everything we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think or feel initiates a relationship, a conversation with otherness. Otherness that sparks our imagination. Otherness that provides clues, if we’re observant, to who we really are. Our ongoing conversations—sometimes between ourself and another, sometimes between Inner Ego and Inner Other—motivate us to reflect, form questions, discover new insights, and ultimately, act on what we know to be true.
Which brings me to a second thread that colors his poems: the importance of asking “beautiful questions.” Again, not just of other people, but of all hidden otherness everywhere. For example, while sharing a story about the thoughts and feelings that an ancient stone carving of a woman’s face evoked, he said, “We stand on the threshold of what has not yet occurred…a possible future. What is the invitation?” What is the invitation of this joy? These tears? That yearning?
A question like this invites us to take a new step, in a new direction, to a newer, truer reality. Toward my growth. My truth. My reality. Toward the life I was born to live.
A third thread binds the others into the artful fabric of a life: “Beauty is the harvest of presence.” It’s true. The seeds of our beauty are sown with our presence. The bud of our beauty opens petal by petal as we practice presence moment by moment, day by day, year by year.
“Start close in. Don’t take a second or third step. Start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take. Take a small step you can call your own. Start with your own question.” ~David Whyte
If we’re not listening to the Other right now there will be no conversations worth having. If we’re unaware of standing on the threshold of what has not yet occurred, of a possible future, we will never ask the beautiful question, “What would it mean for me to be the ancestor of my future self?” If we don’t stay present long enough to see and take the step we don’t want to take, the fabric of our lives will never flower into a work of art.
Inspired by the beautiful poem that is David Whyte, I have a beautiful question for you: “What threads run through your life?” Or as my friend Rachelle Mayers, a gifted videographer and media consultant, asked me three months ago: “What principles do you live by?”
Fascinated by the inner forces that influence human attitudes and behavior, I’ve spent years trying to understand archetypes. Nobody can describe them with any certainty because they are deeply unconscious. However, there are many theories based on research and careful observation of human nature.
My perspective is based on Jungian psychology. Like Jung, I think of the archetype of the Self—our core, circumference and God-image—as an alchemical blend of so-called “masculine” Spirit (animus) and “feminine” Soul (anima). Obviously, Spirit and Soul have nothing to do with gender; everyone contains both. However, using “masculine” and “feminine” to describe these foundational forces of every psyche can be helpful. As metaphors, they help us understand differing and often conflicting forces in ourselves and others. But when, in our ignorance, we assign them to the genders and reject the qualities of our opposite, we repress our fullest potential and obstruct our growth.
I’ve found it helpful to think of four main feminine archetypes as Queen, Mother, Wisewoman and Beloved. These serve our drive for species-preservation and relationship/wholeness. The masculine King, Warrior, Magician/Scholar and Lover serve our drive for self-preservation and individuation. Since the masculine archetypes are more familiar to most of us, I’ll begin with them and discuss the feminine next time.
It is by no means necessary that we all agree with any one way of imagining our instinctual energies. Indeed, the fact that I’ve found it useful to organize them into mental categories simply reflects my masculine penchant for clear, logical distinctions. I could just have easily focused on experiencing them in my body, nature, relationships, needs and emotions. But I was educated with the left-brained academic bias which has dominated Western culture for thousands of years. This does not in any way violate or diminish the power of feminine energy. It simply blinds us to it. Which is why I believe that clarifying the differences that divide us is a necessary step to integrating them.
I also want to note that while everyone is furnished with the same basic patterns of psychic energy, how we and our culture see, activate and manifest them differs. Moreover, each archetype changes as our egos mature through three phases of self-awareness and self-knowledge.
In the first phase we see our King as a cultural Father figure, protector, and preserver of law and virtue who leads us with clear thinking and hierarchical order. The Old King is authoritarian and tradition-bound; questioning his law is taboo. But if we keep growing, he becomes a restless, searching, ego-driven Son/Prince who challenges outdated standards and risks breaking old rules. In turn, the Prince can become a mature and wise masculine sovereign of the psyche who, like England’s Queen Elizabeth I or the legendary King Arthur, actively promotes tolerance, healing change, order, virtue and justice in himself and society.
Our unreflective Warrior is focused on perfecting the body and the world. He proves himself and acquires power and success by influencing others with aggressive, impressive behavior while having little real concern for their feelings. In the Son phase he begins to question his motives, methods and values and struggles to channel his dynamic manifesting activity into work that provides a satisfying outlet for his true talents and ideals. In his final phase he is like Merida, the warrior princess in Disney’s animated film Brave, a Samurai Warrior, or a Star Wars Jedi master who channels his expertise, self-discipline, courage, and moral maturity into activities that heal the broken, protect the vulnerable, defend human rights, and preserve every form of life.
The unreflective Magician/Scholar seeks release from delusion by processing information with focused consciousness and logical thinking. He prefers the objective to the subjective and the known to the unknown and keeps the two sharply separated. In his Son phase he questions tribal wisdom and pursues unorthodox and occasionally original ideas and ways of thinking. The mature Magician/Scholar is a creative, reflective Wise Old Man like Hermes, Avatar’s Dr. Grace Augustine, or Professor Dumbledore whose “magical” knowledge, acceptance, and integration of the visible and invisible forces of life makes him an effective thought leader who can transcend boundaries between people and worlds.
Finally, the Lover is the idealistic and passionate dynamic principle in relationships. In his unreflective phase he seeks emotional release and physical love and pleasure with little compassion or moral responsibility. As Son he treats his Beloved with less selfishness and moodiness and more responsiveness to her differing feelings and needs. The mature Lover is a playful, romantic, aesthetically aware and psychologically balanced lover of life. Like Dionysus, poets Sappho and Lord Byron, or William Blake he appreciates the beauty, worth and inspiration of femininity and honors it in himself and his partners.
The negative poles of the masculine archetypes can be as contemptible as the positive are commendable. The shadow side of the masculine drive for self-preservation abuses and destroys otherness. Whether in a male or female, an unconscious King is a morally rigid, biased, rule-oriented and uncaring tyrant; a Warrior is an abusive invader and wanton destroyer; the Magician/Scholar is a cleverly manipulative, duplicitous, and critical know-it-all; and the Lover, a perverted, hedonistic addict. But when all four are fully developed and partnered with equally mature feminine archetypes, the result is a profoundly powerful, uniquely creative, psychologically whole and spiritually enlightened being.
Next time I’ll address the basic feminine archetypes. Meanwhile, if you’re in the mood for a little inner work you might reflect on which of your masculine archetypes are more fully developed and which could use some growing.
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.