Self-Exploration 5 – Mystery

Learning from Mystery

Soul is a primary experience of embodied subjectivity. Soul lives on images and metaphor that are the basis of consciousness. Psyche is fundamentally associative, a combination of physical nature and transcendent spirit. The inherent self-mirroring function of the psyche is prelinguistic and postlinguistic.

The soul in depth psychology is imagination, fantasy, and creativity which is always in the process of becoming  — images forming, and dissolving, and forming anew. Imagination is the essence of the life forces, both physical and psychic. These fantasies always permeate our beliefs, ideas, emotions, and physical nature. The world needs our imagining, not our escape into literalism. Often, knowing means realizing and admitting that we don’t know.

The world needs our participation, because how we image things makes all the difference in the world. It is not what we know, but a Way of Knowing even in Unknowing. An intuitive way of knowing ourselves is the ability to see through the world perceived by the senses to deeper knowledge of the structure of reality — the field-like dimensionality of psyche — a sensitivity to multidimensionality. Our archetypal method discovers root metaphors and operational myths.

Psyche is a complex network of associations among unconscious contents. “The rational mind is incapable of deciding what is best for the soul. The mind can discover what is needed only by listening to and reflecting upon the subtle movement of the soul as it expresses itself in bodily sensations, feelings, emotions, images, ideas, and dreams,” says Robert M. Stein in Body and Psyche.

In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore contends that “it is impossible to define precisely what the soul is. Definition is an intellectual enterprise anyway; the soul prefers to imagine…. Soul lies midway between understanding and unconsciousness… its instrument is neither the mind nor the body, but imagination” (p. xiii). He also believes soul “is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance” (p. 5).

Moore continues, “If we deprive sacred stories of their mystery, we are left with the brittle shell of fact, the literalism of single meaning. We tend to view phenomena literally rather than metaphorically. We are literally inundated with the world pouring through every opening and in this awareness we recognize a fundamental truth: we are of the earth.” Hillman suggested we can “see through” our personal history to its archetypal image, dissolving the literalisms that constitute empirical reality.

“The difference between psychology and religion boils down to the same as between psychology and science: literalism. Theology takes Gods literally and we do not… In archetypal psychology Gods are imagined… They are formulated ambiguously, as metaphors for modes of experience and as numinous borderline persons.” Hillman  (RVP:169)

Literalism is a rigidity of perceptual stance. Absolute surety in our inner experience has little or nothing to do with its outer truth. Makingthe symbolic concrete is a mistake. Taking fantasies literally confuses the literal and the concrete, emphasizing the self-centeredness of the spiritual point of view. The difference between a bias and a mirror is predictability. Corbin and Hillman emphasized that literalism is one of the chief strategies of the fundamentalist and totalitarian mind. Literalism encourages the uncritical use of power and coercion because it presumes that reality can be known with certainty. Humility, caution and critical self-awareness are essential for a life in tune with imaginal realities.

Insights mean the dissolution of literalism and the reconnection of fantasy (Hillman: 1972: 41-42). Most of us have clarity on the difference between real and imaginary much of the time, but then get totally stuck in literalisms of one kind or another. For example, danger lies not in the death fantasy but in its literalism. The death wish of the soul is metaphorical. Literalism also  means interpreting religious symbols and stories at face value, and accepting them as factual descriptions of the world.

A poetic move away from literalism is an invitation to consider subtler realms beyond. Hillman observes, “The problem with literalism is that it takes itself to be the only valid point of view.” This makes it impossible for literalism to see through itself; to see the inherently metaphorical nature of all forms of knowing. The symptoms of literalism include an arresting or blockage of psychic energy’s flow, the source of fantasy, the fountain of soul.

Literalism is an incessant need to make all things purposeful. Taking fantasies literally confuses the literal and the concrete. Ego’s weapons are rationality, positivistic knowing, causality, literalism, strength, and growth. If truths are the fictions of the rational, our fictions are the truths of the imaginal. Without metaphorical understanding, everything is only what it is and must be met on the simplest, most direct level. We can focus on keeping imaginal pursuit of value and insight free of literalisms.

Direct experience means living in the image and what it represents. If we gulp down images their shallow meanings specify exactly what we should think, feel and believe. Literalism means that the image is explained away: its uroboric, interminable, endlessness is terminated when one understands the image and can thereby end the gaze. But if we do not explain them away in  words, they do not end. Not in time to begin with, the imaginal image is revelatory, nonlinear, discontinuous, inherently significant in itself.

Imagination is its own ground to be valued for its own sake. The concealed and mysterious are as important as the revealed and understood. The science fantasy relies on objectivity, technology, verification, measurement, and progress – in short, its necessary literalism. This is the either/or world, the world of “facts,” and singleness of meaning — one end of a binary opposition, stiffening against paradox, ambiguity, irony — veiling psychic multiplicity.

“Literalism prevents mystery by narrowing the multiple ambiguity of meanings into one definition.” says Hillman. It hardens the heart and hinders our imagination as it encounters the world.   It prevents mystery.  It narrows by making the multiple into one; multiple meanings, multiple definitions, interpretations are reduced into one, monolithic meaning. Literalism abhors the symbolic, the metaphoric, the  “as-if” quality in words, in truth, in experience. Literalism revels in the concrete, the material, the one. Literalism, when taken to its extreme leads to fundamentalisms of all varieties.

Just because we believe something literally, doesn’t mean it is metaphysically real. We may be troubled by historic and contemporary life dominated by literalism and simplistic ideologies. Extremes of literalism, like fundamentalism, are destructive. Literalism deadens psyche with single, simple, solid and stable meanings. Our approach is away from the crushing literalism of modern life toward the reanimation of soul in ourselves and the world — metamorphosizing through metaphor.

The prime expression of beliefs is through  spontaneous imagery. We never experience directly, but interpret our experience of our perceptions through imagery. All our input comes through multi-sensory channels. We never directly perceive ourselves, soul, or God.  We don’t perceive our bodies directly, only our sensory impressions. But we do have first-hand experience of our body-image, soul-image, and God images. That is all we know directly.  The rest is pure speculation. We have to go beyond what is taken for granted.

Depth is a particular trait of soul. Soul is a root symbol or metaphor for heart, life, warmth, humanness, purpose, character. It is a perspective that allows us to see through all of our activities and states. Consciousness is emergent and self-referential, a way of looking back at and transcending ourselves. The true nature of reality is pure potential Consciousness.

Like the archaic Greeks we face an unprecedented time of expansion of inner and outer limits. The anxiety of new possibilities is forced on us whether we wish it or not. The Oracle’s symbolic utterance  means we should know ourselves as souls, not merely egos. This is the soulful approach to self-knowledge. From antiquity, dreams and imagination have been associated with soul. Myth opens culture from its literalism, liberating the mind, revealing the depth of experience.

Myth becomes heroic in the sense that it can release or liberate the mind, the imagination. We recognize the mythic dimension by active, reflective introspection, and connection with archetypal stories. We see through the darkness into images, resemblances, correspondences. We feel, think, or imagine and simultaneously are aware of it. When we don’t have to respond to strong external stimuli, we automatically engage in narrative processes. What mythologems, images and narratives emerge? We often experience emergence as emergency.

Self-consciousness is a primary source of reflexivity in human thought and action. Memory is also self-reflexive as is the physical structure of the body as the biological form of memory. Grief gets trapped in the body. Self-referentiality means something refers to itself. Paradoxes of self-reference can serve as a guidance for consciousness. The living system, and the information processes underlying life consciousness reside at a much deeper, intrinsic level of the universe. All conscious experiences have reference to the self, but we can imagine many selfs, Selfs, or a network of selves.

Research shows no stable center of our functional identity or self-image. A literalism of Self is like a non-existant God absolutely believed in. Our selves are dynamic bundles of perceptions, sensations, desires –a sense-opening odyssey. We can obliterate it, philosophically, conceptually and chemically. Valuing one literal identity over another prevents us from seeing through the images we construct.

Such literalism does not promote healing, according to James Hillman. Consciousness can raise doubts about identity, but only direct experience can confirm it. When hidden assumptions are made explicit something very astounding may be revealed. Questioning about consciousness or self is radically self-referential as an act of consciousness.

A natural state, “shamanic trance” is at the core of religion. Consciousness naturally achieves a profound level of inner awareness. Myths are esoteric descriptions of psychophysical phenomena during trance in the human body. Knowing and understanding are passed on codified in myths. The intuitive mind has its own ways of plumbing the truth. As the oracle suggests, we find peace and equilibrium only through self-knowledge, the spontaneous image-making of the soul.

Hillman says it comes from holding ourselves up to the mirror of mythological situations which help us to understand and not live blindly. “If you know which mythical pattern, which archetypal drama, is being enacted in your dilemma you are already on the road to relief.” (James Hillman, 2008, Aphrodite’s justice, p. 32, Edizioni La Conchiglia). When we tune to the depths, our nightly dreams may reveal hidden oracles, though metaphorical and symbolic, rather than literal. Dreams have just as much to do with our death as life. They are complete in and speak for themselves.

Soul is the bridge that leads us across the river between the trees, both in the mud and in quicksand, making what is known more and more unknown. The deeper we come from the, the more the consciousness becomes opaque. So, in order to be able to follow it, we must like, explicitly stating that understanding is moving from what is known to what is unknown, in a epistemology based on the motto ‘ Ignotum for ignotius’…. Soul obfuscates, produces puzzles puzzles, prefers Esoteric and occult, where she can stay hidden: she wants uncertainty at all costs. Stripping everything that is known from its solid ground, brings every problem into deeper waters; and this is also a way of making a soul. The deeper we follow soul, the more amazing becomes the conscience .” James Hillman, soul, p. 171)

Our own oracle or spiritual guidance lies in the depths beyond the threshold of our inner temple and holds the deepest secrets of our individuality and fate. The injunction is an invitation to enter the world of soul, of psyche. Life as we know it is full of desire, passion, pathos, complexity, and paradox. This is the knowledge of experience that defies concepts and beliefs, a pathos that pines for the impossible in the face of the absolutely necessary.

Desire is not enough: in reality, the ignorant desire disappoints itself or is consumed and extinguished, because desire is fulfilled, because Opus reaches its fruit – in Art, in love, in any process – learn everything possible on his Fire: its splendor, its flickering instability, its heat and its fury … […] Mastering the art of fire and possessing the key to alchemy means learning to warm up, excite, to light, to inspire the material we are working on, which is also the state of our nature, in order to activate it to move on to a further state. ” James Hillman

Interiorizing Vision

Confusion, symptoms, pathos, and complexes are the very things that connect us to soul, to core self-knowledge. Hillman called pathos, “the spiritual component of love or the erotic component of spirit,” and considered it “the longing towards the unattainable, the ungraspable, the incomprehensible.” Pathos cannot be separated from soul. It is the emotional speech of our suffering soul — the soul’s suffering of meaning. Archetypal suffering is our experience of being buffeted by fate. Gravitas is the weight that holds us down to the world.

We all are wounded and suffering is universal. We are excruciatingly sensitized to what we perceive beyond our ordinary senses. It breaks open our hearts to self-compassion and the mythic dimension. Universal knowledge is a natural function of consciousness. From the field of potentiality, we can all access a wordless knowing awareness of different potential ways of expressing ourselves. In a fugue of meaning, our self-critical faculty is checked; we may lose perspective.

Pathos is the quality or power in an actual life experience or in expressive arts. Art provides unique access to interior life. It becomes a conduit to intimate self-knowledge and knowledge of others, accessing meta-verbal ways of knowing. Pathos is our passion of the moment – personal, political, spiritual, emotional, moral, relational or intellectual. Pathos refers to arousing the emotional responses to what we encounter in our environment. We can’t stop our intrinsic instinctual or visceral emotional responses anymore than we can voluntarily stop our heartbeat or breathing.

We hide ourselves in the joys and horrors of experience, in the borderlands of time between the eternities, in pathos, obligations, and reverence, in the necessary polarity of opposites of paradoxical experience, in the deepest desires of our hearts. The truth of our pathos is that we can never know what lies beyond. Pathos is the human keynote of both ancient and therapeutic gnosticism: the desperate longing for escape, for final liberation, for a return to the God beyond.

Our own transcendent mystery of human existence is solved or dissolved in naked awareness. In the face of tragedy, the sadness of the soul shapes us into a larger sense of what life is all about. When we feel abandoned, perhaps even annihilated, we recognize levels deeper than our pain. We can experience the entry of the gods and the ennobling of the self. Thus, in high tragedy pathos is a divine process working in the human soul.

We question natural process itself about the underlying nature of ultimate reality. We are immersed in the sweetness and pleasure born of the soul beyond the suffering, even in self-transcending experience — thrilled with the joy of life and death — the seal of the promise of eternal love as the instantaneous transformation of One to None.

A passion for the spiritual, like all passions, can veer toward pathos, fundamentalism, and fanaticism alienating of other parts of the Self. Individuatiion is becoming the innate personality potential from the beginning of our life. The goal of individuation, unlike that of the religious quest, is not union with the divine or salvation but rather integration and wholeness, the forging of the opposites inherent in the Self into an image of unity and integrating this into consciousness.

There are many ways to enter the path. The popularity of genealogy and genetics has opened the field of Transgenerational Integration. This is an invitation to travel, but an inner journey to self-exploration, to make a return to our roots. Our ancestors become substantive  possessors of a set of knowledge, experiences and secrets that come from far away, deep in our roots. Transgenerational integration is a road to self knowledge of our origins, complexes, psychosocial, cultural and spiritual issues.

Ours is a search for clarity. To be engaged with the psyche, inevitably means to be engaged with our ancestors. Genealogy is a reflexive discipline. Your family tree opens a vast inner realm of ancient, living symbols — your ancestors. We yearn toward eternity, longing for connection. What kinds of things actually exist?

Meta-questions include: What is existence? and What is the nature of existence?  We ask, “What is the nature of the universe?” or “Is there a god?” or “What happens to us when we die?” or “What principles govern the properties of matter?” The entangled nature of quantum entities provides a plausible theory for how our ancestors might ‘appear’ in our own very material psychophysiology.

Death makes life possible. Facing mortality inspires us to live more fully. Perhaps we learn to live from the dead and dying. Burial rites are among the oldest ceremonies of mankind. Consciousness arises at the beginning of life and sinks back into the cosmic maternal womb at death. Unconscious psyche and matter are one. Beauty, mystery, and healing potential are related.
Experience of Death in symbolic or metaphorical dying  is experience of Rebirth or the Philosophical Resurrection. Rebirth is synonymous with restoring the true history of our origins and integrating our transgenerational inheritance, somewhere between the loss of what we thought we knew and true self-knowledge.

The soul generates images unceasingly. The soul lives on images and metaphor, especially epistemological metaphors–how we know what we know. They help us probe our deepest fears, pain, and suffering. These images form the basis of our consciousness. All we can know comes through images, through our multi-sensory perceptions. So, this soul always stays close to the body, close to corporeality, to what “matters.”

For me, mythology is a function of biology… a product of the imagination of soma. What does our body say? And what is our body telling us? The human imagination is rooted in the energies of the body. And the bodies of the body are the determinants of these energies and conflicts between the impulse systems of organs and their harmonisation. These are the realities of the myth “. (Stanley Keleman, Myth and the Body. A colloquy with Joseph Campbell, Center Press, Berkeley, 1999, pp.10).

All knowledge has gaps, and our self-knowledge is no exception. Climbing our family tree helps us fill in some of those gaps with myth, symbol, history, and immediate experiences of the power of presence and healing transformation. An occurrence can appear and be understood as a material event or a psychological experience, depending on our attitude, faith, and worldview Some may explore through the expressive arts, travel, pilgrimage or exploring nature, The Feminine, meditation, gnosticism, or other self-initiated, self-reflexive paths. Almost any activity can be done with soul in mind and heartfelt spirit.

We don’t have to come to any particular conclusions, as Hillman points out: “So the wandering path also follows Plato and Plotinus, which describe the path of the soul as circular. Psychological reasoning tends to be circular, it thrives on repetition compulsion and cyclic returns over the same insoluble themes. If his knowledge proceeds through error, error does not mean rectification of mistakes and improvement, but learning through what is deviant, bizarre, odd, displaced in itself…

“The wandering path certainly leads to the less known and the less certain, to a lesser knowledge as founded, accumulated in security. It comes to dissolve the known in doubt, in the freedom of uncertainty. Does not it say that knowledge makes us free? Knowledge allows us to abandon it on the way, to turn down the path of traps, in complete foolishness, risking windmills even larger and farther, old knight increasingly daring, old rascal more and more weird….” (Re-Visioning Psychology, p.280)

Intrinsic Awareness

We intuitively know what it means to have a self and an inner life. Interiority invites us deeper into the world and the continuous flow of life. In the depth approach, our life is psychological, and the purpose of life is to make psyche of it, and find waking and dream connections between life, soul, and cosmos. Intuitive spiritual knowledge includes the ability to see through the world perceived by the senses.

Cicero noticed that the injunction to ‘Know Thyself’ was followed by the command, ‘Know Thy Soul’, or ‘know oneself’ completely. Otto Rank said, “The new meaning of soul is creativity and mysticism.”

Why creativity?

“The unconscious itself is neither tricky nor evil – it is Nature, both beautiful and terrible. . . . The best way of dealing with the unconscious is the creative way. . .”  Carl Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 108-109.

The unconscious plays a major role in our lives, prior to conscious decision making and insight. The creative source we tap into is the creative source of all being — an essence that also guides the body. Creative insights are related to conscious and unconscious processes — the creative and vital currents of life. Ancient and modern wisdom describe the subconscious as a muse, a wellspring of creativity, vitality, growth, and resolution of opposites. Sometimes, its function is lost, repressed, or unrealized.

Unconscious thinking is an active process which plays a key role in the generation of creative ideas and solutions. Jung described our creative unconscious as the sum total of all of the knowledge and wisdom accumulating in our psyches since the beginning of evolution. It guides us to realize, the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual stages of our development from the transgenerational past.

Order emerges from the murky depths of the unconscious. Research on unconscious thought suggests that it may be most effective in incubation, the divergent phase of creative thought, and breakthroughs. During an incubation period unconscious processes contribute to creative thinking often resulting in creative problem solving, especially if we have been stuck. The unconscious mind can knit together seemingly unrelated threads into insights and ideas — ‘Eureka’ moments we can use right away.

This is the same intelligence that created myths, legends, and great archetypal stories. Metaphors transform imagination into multisensory images. Sometimes breakthroughs, even in music and science, arise in dreams, intuition, or fantasy thought-experiments. Producing groundbreaking discoveries or great artistic creations still requires a plethora of connected raw materials; we have to be able to focus on some options out of an associated array. In an instant, impasse can give way to revelations of unforeseen completeness.

As Jung informs us, “Naturally a new meaning does not come ready-made out of the unconscious, like Pallas Athene springing fully-armed from the head of Zeus; a living effect is achieved only when the products of the unconscious are brought into serious relationship with the conscious mind.” (CW 4, Para 760)

Why mysticism?

Plotinus: “The way to truth was the journey of a lonely person to that which is eternally alone.”

Mystics, saints, and philosophers of all eras have much the same message. Mysticism is self-transformation through self-knowledge. Nondual traditions have applied various terms to the experience of self-knowledge, or witness consciousness. Seeing ourselves as energy that remains invariant, infuses a felt-sense of constancy in us as experiencers of that energy. What is valuable is often hidden from the conscious point of view. We must seek the secret treasure which will be revealed fully only at some future moment of utter self-knowledge.

Paracelsus explained: “The knowledge to which we are entitled is not confined within the limits of our own country, and does not run after us, but waits until we go in search of it. No one becomes a master of practical experience in his own house, neither will he find a teacher of the secrets of Nature in the corners of his room. We must seek for knowledge where we may expect to find it, and why should the man be despised who goes in search for it?

Jesus, Hermes Trismegistus, Moses, St. Augustine, Homer, King Solomon, the Buddha Shakyamuni, Padmasambhava, Mohammed, Eliphas Levi, H.P. Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, Swami Shivananda, Nicolas Flamel, Basil Valentine, Paracelsus, Dion Fortunem, and others, all recommended self-knowledge, experiential knowledge.

Nondual traditions have applied various terms to the experience of self-knowledge, or witness consciousness. Seeing ourselves as energy that remains invariant, infuses a felt-sense of constancy in us as experiencers of that energy. But our aim in our own self-exploration doesn’t have to be as lofty as illumination. Revelations are valuable at all levels of reflection.

Alan Watts portentously said, “Inability to accept the mystic experience is an intellectual handicap. Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination. For in a civilization equipped with immense technological power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology in a hostile spirit – to the ‘conquest’ of nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature.”

In The Meno, Socrates said, “I would not be confident in everything I say about the argument: but one thing I would fight for to the end, both in word and in deed if I were able—that if we believe we should try to find out what is not known, we should be better and braver and less idle than if we believed that what we do not know is impossible to find out and that we need not even try.”

Rumi wisely notes, “man is what his eye covers. He is essentially vision, and the rest is just flesh and skin. The mirror that hides facial defects to respect a person’s feelings is not a mirror; it is hypocritical. As long as you can, don’t look for such a mirror! You’re not a body, you’re the eye of the spirit. If you’ve contemplated the spirit, you’re free from the body. Anyone who is free from ego is all ego; when he no longer loves himself he is loved by all. When a mirror is devoid of images it reaches its splendor, since then it reflects all images.

To locate a thing you need space, to place an event you need time; but the Timeless and Spaceless defies handling. It makes everything perceivable, yet itself is beyond perception. The mind cannot know what is beyond the mind, but the mind is known by what is beyond it,” says Nisargadatta Maharaj.

One day man will be awakened from oblivion and finally will understand who he really is and who has surrendered the reins of his existence to a false, lying mind that makes him and keeps him slave … He has limits and when one day he realizes it, he will be free even here in this world,” says Giordano Bruno, quoted in Giuliana Conforto, the future science of Giordano Bruno and the birth of the new man, noesis and macro, 2001.

Thomas Moore says, “We know intuitively that soul has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music has soul or a remarkable person is soulful… Soul is revealed in attachment, love, and community, as well as in retreat on behalf of inner communing and intimacy.” (Care of the Soul, xi-xii)

In The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, “The soul answered and said, ‘I saw you. You did not see me nor recognize me. I served you as a garment, and you did not know me.’ When it had said this, it went away rejoicing greatly.” … “And the soul said, ‘why do you judge me although I have not judged? I was bound though I have not bound. I was not recognized. But I have recognized that the All is being dissolved, both the earthly (things) and the heavenly.” James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990.

We can find inspiration in culture-heroes, but ultimately must make our own way through the ‘dark forest’, like the Grail Knights. Krishnamurti declared, “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.” (The Dissolution of the Order of the Star, 1929). As Einstein remarked, “I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.

Eliphas Levi describes how, “Imagination is actually as the eye of the soul, and it is therein that forms are delineated and preserved, by its means we behold the reflections of the invisible world. It is the mirror of vision and the apparatus of magical life…for the sage, to imagine is to see, as for the magician to speak, is to create.” He also says, “Man is himself the creator of his heaven or hell, and there are no demons except his own follies.

In Alchemical Active Imagination, M.-L. von Franz states, “True knowledge of oneself is the knowledge of the objective psyche as it manifests in dreams and in the manifestations of the unconscious.  Only by looking at dreams, for instance, can one see who one truly is; they tell us who we really are, that is something which is objectively there.  To meditate on that is an effort towards self-knowledge, because that is scientific and objective and not in the interest of the ego but in the interest of “what I am” objectively.  It is knowledge of the Self, of the wider, objective personality.

As Professor Wolfgang Pauli noted, “We should now proceed to find a neutral, or unitarian, language in which every concept we use is applicable as well to the unconscious as to matter, in order to overcome this wrong view that the unconscious psyche and matter are two things.”

Baudelaire suggests, symbolism and ‘correspondences’ help us “Extract the eternal from the ephemeral.” Generic symbolic languages such as esoterics, alchemy, and Qabalah articulate the phenomenology of inner experience. They help us wake up and grow up.

There is a memory of Nature that reveals events and symbols of distant ages. The mystics of different countries have spoken of this Memory in several centuries … […] William Blake calls his images” the sculptures of the Sala de Los “And states that all events,” all love stories, “draw on their renewal,” notes William Butler Yeats  in Anima Mundi.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is succinct: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Wiliam James notes, “One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impressions of its truth has ever remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the finest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness quite different… No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded…

As Manly P. Hall suggested, “Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.

Joseph Campbell summarizes, “What is it we are questing for? It is the fulfillment of that which is potential in each of us. Questing for it is not an ego trip; it is an adventure to bring into fulfillment your gift to the world, which is yourself. There is nothing you can do that’s more important than being fulfilled. You become a sign, you become a signal, transparent to transcendence; in this way you will find, live, become a realization of your own personal myth.”

Jung’s basic ideas about the unity of knowledge and existence are in principle synonymous with the Platonic tradition, alchemy, Qabala and Gnosticism. Plato treated the end product of the evolution of mathematical concepts, (a fixed system of idealized objects), as an independent beginning point of the evolution of the “world of things.” This concrete form of philosophy was determined by the nature of Greek mathematics.

These philosophies seek to reconcile the actual condition with a hypothetical distant ideal, which expansively incorporates both personal and universal dimensions. It is an inward-oriented epistemology. By intuitive perception we can consciously reiterate the laws of Nature and mind which are equivalent to the archetypes themselves.___________________________________________________________________________________________

Jung told us in Two Essays, “…we are not concerned here with a philosophical, much less a religious, concept of the soul, but with the psychological recognition of the existence of a semiconscious  psychic complex, having partial autonomy of function, [anima].” Psychological soul-making is recognizing and giving psychic elements an expressive voice — the metaphorical inner voice of the human psychological condition. An ensouled life is a deeper, wider, and fuller life, aware of symbolic depth.

We tend to seek from the world what is already in us — a soul-centered view, the symbolic activation of feeling-charged images, moods, and emotions within the undeveloped inherited part of our human psyche. Such a vision quest includes calling, purpose, life-themes, presence, and authenticity — the unknown as it immediately effects us. Its core is the vital reciprocal relationship of conscious and unconscious. Such knowledge comes from understanding the soul. Knowing ‘for’ ourselves, means direct experience, rather than a concept or instinct.

Psyche is our imaginal soul which flows mainly through images and dialogues in reveries, fantasies, reflections, and imagination. These are inner directives that bring us to a state of ‘awareness’ of our complex individuality and our unique individuality as a whole person. The true self underlies the ego as the eternal One. Breaking the bonds of ordinary life, the riddle of the self and our own nature remains our biggest puzzle.

An archetypal feeling of emptiness may be the reason we want to find ourselves. Talking about it is an expression of loss, desperation, insecurity, and a collective depression. This insecurity makes us upset. We live in conditioned trance states of hypnotic self-talk, roles, and automatic responses that take the place of an authentic life.

But what has been forgotten or ignored in ordinary life  can be retrieved as another kind of memory or gnosis, precisely from the place of seeming emptiness. We already have an ordinary framework of honesty about our physical, psychological, behavioral, and spiritual condition — our worldview and beliefs, relationships, and capabilities.

The myths we enter most deeply choose us. We do not know exactly what archetypes are going to seize us. Collective archetypes are impersonal and don’t care about our personalities or real needs in life. We feel helpless in these situations. We face the daemonic grandeur of archetypes and their creepy destructiveness. It is extremely difficult, and it scares us deeply, to think about looking archetypes in the eye.

We fear losing ourselves in both the dark and the light. Indelible archetypal memory cannot be erased. Our whole lives revolve around relationships, and the one we have with the autonomous functions of the collective unconscious is crucial to our well-being and wholeness. Our movement in depth maps our psychophysical space. Soul compensates too much escapist spirt by going into history, ancestry, into the valleys where shadows are cast and languish in the unconscious. We learn to work with our wounds in ways that bring imagination and creativity to our suffering, symptoms, and pain.

We are that one point of experience in the emptiness that becomes the whole Tree of Life in the infinite vastness. Our one point of view emanates from the clear Light, from Oneness, unity. We see objective reality by the light of our true nature, the heart of experience.

Hillman cautions that, “The soul loses its psychological vision in the abstract literalisms of the spirit as well as in the concrete literalisms of the body.” The doorway of imaginal perception leads from the mind through the stream of consciousness to the experience of objective reality and primordial awareness.

Now is an eternal moment that unfolds all time. Now is the horizon of time that is eternal, the center of all experience, Outside the sphere of illusion Nothing is happening in the eternal now, or ever will in absolute space. This is remembrance and reflection. Now becomes the primary focus of our lives.

As Eckhart Tolle says, “If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now. Then accept the consequences.

Krishnamurti cautions against a transcendental escapist approach, “Now, why are you seeking the ultimate certainty, that reality which you hope will give you happiness, explain the cruelty and the suffering of man? What is the cause of your search? …Finding yourself in misery, in great emptiness, despair, you begin to seek a way out, an escape. This escape is called the search for reality, truth, or by whatever name you like to give to it.”

Our solitary journey is an expedition into the deep inner world of the personal and collective psyche. Our exhausted consciousness is forced toward the unconscious. The unconscious includes everything within us that is outside of our conscious awareness—everything we don’t know or can’t observe within ourselves. It begins simply by looking inside, at what is interior, both felt and imagined. The path opens a new route to our “Truth” or myth in this form of an inner journey.

Power and mystery are within our inner experience, psyche’s inner world. The invisible becomes visible, matter is spiritualized, and the spiritual materializes in dreams, synchronicities, visions, and our psychophysical being. A tension between  interiority  and  exteriority, psyche and its grounding in events and relations to others is a dimension within interiority itself. We can imagine that a real understanding presupposes a kind of love, out inspired or abandoned passion for our own subjectivity.

Self-knowledge should not be treated as a social industry that can be learned in books, or weekend workshops and retreats. It is a process of lifelong learning and deep transformative experience. Much depends on the quality of approach. It’s about relationship as a bridge between fullness and emptiness, the finite and the infinite, between us and the world, between the world and us. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery suggests, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Depth psychology provides a coherent and cohesive framework for understanding and relating to unconscious phenomena and psychic contents. The subconscious is a vast territory of dark forces which affect our lives and the integration of opposites within the psyche: feminine/masculine; conscious/unconscious; divine/human — drawing upon a previously untapped reservoir of inner wisdom.

“An image becomes not what we see, but the way we see it.  Imagination can therefore be defined more closely as the subtle sensing of the prepositional relations among events – dynamic connectivity, or complexity. We experience fantasies as part of our conscious life.  The unconscious is simply “unawareness of the all-pervasive presence of the imaginal in our so-called conscious life…The numinosity of the unconscious is due solely to its radically imaginal character which must remain invisible to our day-light consciousness.” (Hillman)

Imagination is the realm of sacred psychology, which approaches the gods through imagining and personifying, rather than through explicit ritual, prayer, and sacrifice of a religious orientation. Likewise, the artist relies on the former process for inspiration. Imagination is the primary reality, with its own non-verbal logic. Naomi Goldenberg, (213-4) says, “The task then becomes one of awareness of soul through its own expressions – through its language of metaphor. Once imagination is recognized as the realm of soul, we need imaginal inroads.”

To enter the archetypal region itself, a transcendent or visionary imagination is required. Through visionary imagination we come to know archetypes in dynamic interaction in every aspect of our lives and perceptions. They condition all our experience on an a priori basis.  We don’t see them, but see through them.  They are the means, not the objects, verbs rather than nouns, dynamic not static, primordial not secondary constructions.

Archetypal imagining, the phenomena of our interiority, is a discipline of consciousness, which is first visionary, and second provides an orientation in the inner world, in the mindscape.  The visionary state is heightened awareness, a form of attentional shift from the mundane toward the more fundamental dreamworld, which undergirds it.

Image result for Quest for Wholeness 

Quest for Wholeness

It is a necessary journey of self-exploration into our own unconscious and unrealized potential, soul’s journey from the material world towards its source. We can intentionally build a soulful relationship between our conscious and unconscious being. In Jung’s view, ego represents the conscious mind comprised of thoughts, memories, and emotions we are aware of. The ego is largely responsible for feelings of identity and continuity. But it has blind-spots, denial, and projections.

Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “The more you know yourself, the more clarity there is. Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.” “There is no end to self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is only from moment to moment, and therefore there is a creative happiness from moment to moment.” New Delhi India 1st Public Talk (14 November 1948)
James Hillman states our foundational condition in strong terms: “Each of us exists not as a material object but as an image. We are complex images given by the vocation of our soul that preceded our birth and all the dreams, missions and voices of our ancestors. …We are images, not imaginations, but powerful images that are echoes of original or primordial images that belong to the time of origin and have produced in a legendary place: Olympus, mount Meru, Mount Popa, the home of the gods. ….We could say that our lives are the memory, the echo of those primordial images. Such images of origin can be defined as eidola, i.e. idols.  We can only do in time what the gods do In eternity.”  (The Vain Escape from the Gods)

In knowing ourselves we also encounter the sacred dimension and come to know God, however such numinous experiences appear, Jung noted we never directly can know God, only the god-image in the psyche. The experience of the sacred or the holy is “numinous”, mysterious, tremendous, or fascinating, with a powerful emotional quality. Mystical union is a felt-sense of the sacred, divine, or presence of God.
Typical phenomena include unity of opposites (a sense of Oneness, wholeness or completeness); timelessness (a sense that mystical experiences transcend time), and a feeling that we have somehow encountered “the true self” (felt-presence, a sense that mystical experiences reveal the nature of our true, cosmic self: one that is beyond life and death).

It can also initiate a transformative descent into darkness, a Dark Night of the Soul, with despair and alienation.The searching self trembles. Our suppressed darkness is exposed as we struggle to bring light to the darkness. This destruction precedes rebirth and awakening to the truth of the self.  Joseph Campbell says,”The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.”

The Dark Night produces spiritual and existential crisis. We feel engulfed in darkness. The spiritual process creates varieties of dark nights, since each one is unique. Crises can follow life-changing events, a natural disaster, berievement, a medical diagnosis, confrontation with mortality, mental or physical pain which can be opportunities for discovering depths of wisdom and awareness.

An unexpected collapse of identity and understanding of life creates depression that changes our worldview. It includes transformation involving deep, profound insights into our spiritual evolution and facing our shadow. General categories include fear, dryness, loss of meaning, desolation without consolation, and trauma of the spirit.

Our conditioned self breaks open. Such transformation is a natural evolutionary process that anyone can access. Trauma comes to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, examined, held in presence, aligned with reality, and healed. We may find that true surrender is not death but actually true life.

Everything depends on how we emerge from the trauma and deal with the struggles that emerge. It links the inner and outer worlds together, Resonances between the inner and outer world suggest guidance, insight, and encouragement. Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, claims “Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny.”

The transcendent archetype guides the psycho-spiritual process. The deep intuitive mind has the power to connect us to spiritual reality and inner truth. It takes a leap of faith to turn away from conventional expectations towards our inner world of wisdom with acceptance and curiosity.

Mysterium Tremendum
Anyone can be an ordinary mystic. Each of us can find ways to express our inner journey. We may not experience a regular loss of ego and absorption in the divine. Yet, now and then we may feel lifted out of our bodies and become lost in a beautiful piece of art or scene in nature, or bliss at the wonders of life.

Being infused with a sense of the sacred is enjoyed for its own sake. Sacred sites and pilgrimages may inspire expansive feelings or humility in the living presence of the divine. A rush of personal or collective feelings and deep memories may engulf or flood us with emotion. Paradoxically, the soul, remains passive in divine infusion.

A common example is the nature mystic experience, an ecstatic nonordinary experience where transcendent nature, awesome vistas, or stupendous events inspire us with a sense of the external sacred that resonates and enters the body. This is the “perceptual” nature of experiences of God. The natural world bring blissful feelings, an altered experience of time, a sense of unity, and luminous phenomena. The divine universal presence becomes accessible to the soul, and the nature mystic’s experiential being becomes infused by the experience.

We may feel enveloped in glory, often with a felt-sense  of unity. Inner spaciousness comes with contemplative engagement with the natural world. We can engage and open a conversation with the elements —  earth, the wind, the fire, and the water, We renew our connection with the vital energy that makes our physical lives possible while it cleanses and heals.

These are deeply subjective experiences of the objective or autonomous psyche, which has a compelling life of its own. The Self not only shows up in dreams, but is the maker of dreams. More than just an understanding of our own capabilities, character, feelings, motivations, or self-concept, self=knowledge is an intentional relationship with soul, with psyche as The Beloved, the heart’s knowledge or gnosis. Only a world with soul offers intimacy and resonance. For some it becomes a passion. This is the myth of Eros and Psyche.

Felt-sense is a symbolic bridge to our common co-belonging to the world. We turn toward nature and our own nature to find the authentic self, focusing on dreams, images, and perceptions. “Self-authenticating” experiences, from expressive arts to penetration by the sacred don’t need collective dogma or tradition. These experiences break through our conditioning in both positive and dark ways that cause suffering.

The Quest for the Holy Grail of self-knowledge and self-exploration is a self-initiatory Way, a solitary endeavor that prioritizes psyche or soul. The sacred cannot be defined but only experienced. It is a way beyond the denial of false self-narratives and conditioned self-images, such as roles, persona, and shadow. We come to know and love our images, not as material and concrete, but as imaginal, metaphorical, spiritual. Anima Mundi is our soul relationship with self, others, and cosmos.

“It has to be found by yourself, because it is your life; and without the widening and deepening of that knowledge of the self, do what you will, alter any outward or inward circumstances, influences – it will ever be a breeding ground of despair, pain, sorrow. To go beyond the self-enclosing activities of the mind, you must understand them; and to understand them is to be aware of action in relationship, relationship to things, to people, and to ideas. In that relationship, which is the mirror, we begin to see ourselves, without any justification or condemnation; and from that wider and deeper knowledge of the ways of our own mind, it is possible to proceed further; then it is possible for the mind to be quiet, to receive that which is real.”  J. Krishnamurti Ojai 4th Public Talk 24th July 1949

The seemingly simple precept is at once familiar, mystifying, and profound. Yet, self-knowledge is the foundation of any beneficial practice. We cannot dismiss its claim on us, for it is simply our own inevitable individuation, that distinguishes us from the collective through our unique experiences and understanding. Many worldviews compete for our attention.

Self-knowledge helps us find light and refuge in our suffering. There is a terrible necessity for reciprocity between us and the Gods, between us and our fate. We face the fragility, unpredictability and imponderabilities of our lives within the plots of our personal mythologies and necessary constraints of the environment. Self-awareness means the ability to monitor our inner world – our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is one method for enhancing this essential capacity.


The Delphic imperative was finally followed as a prescription by Oedipus, the unconscious, unreflective archetypal person. He did not know himself at all, but was convinced he did know until he entered his tragic revelatory period.

He did not know his origins, his character, or his visionary calling that eventually allowed him to reconcile with his transgenerational legacy and archetypal situation. The gods are not merely instincts, nor concepts, nor archetypes, but living forces with which we are inter-related through the soul of the world, Anima Mundi.

He could not distinguish his character from his personality. His blindness became a metaphor for our own lack of insight and self-understanding. We do not have to follow his path to the bitter end, but can make self-exploration and self-knowledge a daily part of our soul-tending practice.

Oedipus is reborn through unveiling a formerly unsuspected meaning, dealing with the limitations of rational thought and heightened awareness of unconscious dimensions of the psyche. He is a symbol of both the personal and collective unconscious — first in blind denial, then in visionary insight, from ignorance to self-knowledge. Revelation continues all the time if we know how to look.

In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell states, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

Such a profound reality is symbolic and generally invisible. It relates to the absence or presence of a true self. Such language allows us to apprehend certain truths related to the life of the soul, to interpret situations whose meaning goes beyond the ability of reason alone. Transgenerational analysis shares this language with mythology in order to apprehend how certain necessities in life function and what role they perform in the orientation of our destiny. Thereby hangs our fate. (Gaillard, Oedipus Reborn)

Knowing ourselves can be as simple as identifying our set of beliefs or accepting that we are ignorant of that which remains unconscious. We can never know completely know Absolute reality, universal absolutes, only our relative, subjective experiences, which appear in images as the content of psyche or soul. This is how we know what we know.W e can never know all of the objective psyche, the absolute, only our relative self-awareness.

We like to make cavalier interpretations based on what we think we know, but that just stops the process cold with one a-ha solution. If we remain open to multidimensional meanings the images continue unfolding.

In Facing the Gods, James Hillman points out the common identity of Necessity and Chaos with anxiety: The psychological viewpoint sees Necessity and Chaos not only as explanatory principles only in the realm of metaphysics; they are also mythic events taking place also and always in the soul, and they are the fundamental archai of the human condition. To these two principles the pathe (or motions) of the soul can be linked. Psychology has already recognized the faceless, nameless Chaos, this “sacred and crazy movement” in the soul, as anxiety, and by naming it such, psychology has directly evoked the Goddess Ananke, from whom the word anxiety derives.  If anxiety truly belongs to Ananke, of course, it cannot be “mastered by the rational will.”


~ by ionamiller on January 12, 2018.

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