METAPHOR as WISDOM

Posted January 25, 2016 by jackmeier
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Information is factual — this is this and that is that.  Knowledge is categorical — this is this but not that. Wisdom is metaphorical — this is this and also that.

We live in the Information Age. Via the internet and many other means we can garner as many facts as we need for whatever purpose we decide. We might also call this the age of scientific knowledge. Science itself has many categories or sciences, and each science has many subcategories, all of which make knowledge easier to obtain and retain, However, metaphor has been pushed aside as being ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading’. It’s fine for poetry but ours has become a prosaic age. Once Joseph Campbell was interviewed on the radio by someone unfamiliar with the term ,so Joseph tried to explain its meaning. To say “he runs like a deer” is a simile, which the interviewer accepted as meaningful, but to say “he is a deer” the interviewer said would be meaningless and a lie. Or one could say it was a myth, today often used as a synonym for ‘a lie.’  So myths and metaphors are now considered by many as equivalent to lies. How then can one refer to them as ‘wisdom’?  As Jung wrote:

Wisdom is neither a question of belief nor of knowledge, but of the agreement of our thinking with the primordial images of the unconscious.

My first lesson in the language of the unconscious came from a message from Poseidon while traveling with my friend David in Europe by auto. I was at that time learning how to deal with Hermes through active imagination when he told me one night that he had a message from Poseidon, which I assumed was from the depths of the unconscious since in Jungian terms that is what Poseidon represented. It was: “You must drive on the mainland, but among the islands it doesn’t matter.” I assumed it was meant literally, and therefore could not obey since that meant that I would have to insist on driving the whole time until we reached the Balearic Islands which we were not intending to visit for a couple of weeks, and David would think I was crazy since he had not yet heard of my dealings with Hermes. So we continued to share driving and shortly after we both got very ill, I in France and he in Spain. We decided to cut this trip short and go to the islands as soon as he got well. Until recently, I assume we were punished for my disobeying an instruction, but now I have come to the conclusion that the spirit does not punish, (and why punish David for something he wasn’t even aware of?) but I had simply failed to get the point (and what better way could the so-called unconscious have figured out a way to do it?); that is, that the unconscious communicates primarily through metaphor, and Hermes wanted me to learn his language, a fact which he explained later, in a most informative way. I consider Hermes as my daimon or spirit guide. If you prefer, consider him as a personification from the collective unconscious which many people today consider the ancient gods to be. In this way Jung has restored the ancient gods to a respectable position in our psychology so that one can accept the ancients and their gods as having a kind of reality. I have found this approach very useful. Therefore I found his explanation very informative and I shall give it to you now.

It came during an active imagination in which I asked him to explain to me why, as occasionally happens, I have asked for something and later received it in the form of a disaster. This had happened when I came out of the navy at the end of WWII. I asked for three things. I got them all, but two of them came as a result of what was to me a disaster — my father’s suicide. After meeting Hermes, I asked him about that. He responded by explaining to me that he knows my world only through my dreams (which apparently is where he lives, and we know that they are metaphorical) and also by what I tell him. Words are the only conscious means of communication with his world, as we assume when we pray. Therefore I must explain thoroughly whatever I want him to know or want to ask for. Any common knowledge between the conscious and the unconscious world is purely symbolic, hence his statement that he knows my world only through my dreams. I wonder, therefore,if that explains Coyote’s strange behavior when dealing with the world around him. The Trickster is teaching that the material world is merely a metaphor of the spirit. That the ‘mainland’ of Poseidon’s message is the everyday, ego-dominated world while the ‘islands’ were the world of intuition, dreams, contemplation, etc. My seeming punishment was not an attempt to trick me, but to teach me, and certainly David’s illness could not be punishment, but it did make him more susceptible to my explanation of how all this happened, and his willingness to accept did surprise me at the time. I have now come to view every so-called misfortune as well as good fortune in such a light, which makes it difficult for Hermes to teach me by placing obstacles in my path (apparently a major function of the daimon). which he demonstrated to me by his asking the question (this time out loud as if it were coming over the radio) “How can I bring you sorrow when you accept it as blessing? In other words, “How can I teach you by putting obstacles in your path if they only make you happy to be in communication with me? You are missing the point.” The point, I now realize, is that the spirit communicates with us primarily by metaphor, whether in words or events. This may be by means of obstacles, accidents, symptoms, and similar events. The spirit admits to not knowing our world, and so these metaphorical words and events are sometimes difficult to translate, thus they may be misinterpreted as punishments or rewards, although it is more likely that their purpose is instructional. It is important that we communicate with the spirit if we wish to know the meaning of our life. I later discovered that this is accepted wisdom in some traditions as when I found this expressed by the wisest of poets, Rumi.

I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “It tastes sweet, does it not?”
“You’ve caught me,” grief answered, “and you’ve ruined my business. How can I sell sorrow, when you know it’s a blessing?”

One could say that the conscious self and the unconscious self are (another metaphor) two golden birds, intimate friends, dwelling in the same tree. While the former seeks the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree of life, the latter looks on in detachment.

It’s interesting that poetry uses metaphor freely, and that in ancient times spiritual truth was always expressed in poetry. In the Old Testament, historical events were described in prose, but Truth was expressed in poetical form, and was metaphorical in nature. This has created problems for the fundamentalists,who believe in literal interpretation of what were intended as metaphors. The same mistake I made on my trip in Europe. As implied in the title of this series of essays, Myth as Metaphor, poetry and myth are similar in that respect, and as you know, epic, an important form of myth, is poetry. On first reading Parzifal, I realized the similarity to my own dream of coming across a great wall and failing to wonder what was on the other side. Each time I then awakened, again went to sleep and dreamed the same thing. This happened three times in a row. Each time I awakened I wondered what was on the other side and could not understand why I hadn’t tried to find out. Upon reading Parzifal, I got the message of the dream. When he did not ask the meaning of the grail ritual which he was being shown, he was thrown out into life where he went through much suffering and had to find out the meaning himself. That is what life is for. And that is what myth is for. Discovering meanings. That is what Einstein meant when he said that in times of crisis, imagination is more important than knowledge. The perspective of each of us adds to the collective experience of the whole; our individual experiences and consciousness enrich the collective unconscious. Perhaps that is why we are here. If we do not ask the meaning, we must live through it. If we do ask, we may still have to live through the meaning, but at least we understand what is going on. It is nice to know when you are the statue and when you’re the pigeon.

Shadow is created when light strikes matter. Matter is created when light strikes shadow. Therefore we could say that dark matter is uncreated by not having been enlightened. Therefore the universe is a metaphor of the process of enlightenment. It comes into being as we discover it. as the light strikes the shadow.  And this light is the flame called imagination which means ‘image-making, bringing an image to light.

Can we invent, compose, indeed create anything without imagining it first? The only reason they haven’t found evidence of intelligence elsewhere in the universe is because we haven’t yet found it on earth. We haven’t looked, since imagination is considered irrational, and metaphor requires imagination. In Greek, metaphor means ‘to carry over, or carry across.’ As  Mary Greer, wrote in 21 Ways to Read a Tarot,

A metaphor is simply one thing representing something else; furthermore, it’s not just a comparison but also a shared identity. It serves as a transportation device transferring meaning from one domain to another and, in the process, triggering cultural and personal stories.

And arguing about the Spirit is arguing about metaphor, and to deny its existence demonstrates that one has not experienced it. And the longer that argument continues, the more difficult that experience is likely to be. As when a neighbor saw a strange man in his living room walking through a chair. We believe we know it all just because we have never experienced anything but what we know. And I am sure you realize that it is what you learn after you know it all that counts. And the truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you.

A metaphor brings to light an image of something else. This usually requires, rather than the five senses, the Five Wits in order to decipher it. Since these are not considered rational, they have been forgotten today and replaced by the five senses which can be scientifically verified. These five wits can be defined as: (1) Common Wit, the ability to focus; (2) Imagination, essential for invention including modern technology, art, literature, etc.; (3) Fantasy, the ability to experience the unreal; (4) Estimation, the evaluative principle, related to Jungian feeling function; (5) Memory, as Plato said, all learning is impossible without memory — the ability to associate experience with memory is necessary for all learning.

Von Franz said that her introduction to metaphor was when she first met Jung who told her of a client of his who claimed she had been on the moon. Von Franz said that was nonsense; she couldn’t have been on the moon. Jung replied. “She was on the moon.” Von Franz insisted that that was impossible. Jung repeated, “She was on the moon.” Then von Franz woke up. How could one arrive at sense without realizing the truth of nonsense — of metaphor? This woman knew that she had been on the moon. Reality is what we perceive, not what someone tells us we should be perceiving.  

You can see that this is not related in any specific way to the principle of reason, which became important only in the 18th century Age of Enlightenment, often called the Age of Reason. That which was not related to Reason became irrational and so the Five Wits were soon replaced by the Five Senses. The sixth sense is a recent, more or less unrelated addition. A person who has all five wits about him/her is considered intelligent but not necessarily rational. In dealing with Unreason, one must stand under that which one desires to understand. If one uses reason, all one has to do is to pass judgment. which often leads to disagreements, wars, etc. Or one might suffer the fate of  Pope Leo X who in the 16th century rationalized that all he had to do raise the money to build St. Peter’s in Rome was to change Christian dogma on Purgatory from what one finds in Dante where people may choose to go to Purgatory where they can work on their karma, the pope chose instead to make it incumbent on all but a few chosen ones to have their family buy them out of that miserable place by giving money to the Church. This way the Church was able to raise the money needed, although this action soon drove Luther up the wall and eventually destroyed the unity of the Church. This is what reason can do when money is involved. Interestingly, the pope paid for this in a spectacular metaphor as he later died from a ceiling falling on him. It must have seemed to him that the heavens were falling. It seems that there were higher powers that disapproved. After all, things don’t just happen. They happen just.     

Metaphors are  nonsense — they turn something into something else, even the impossible. As von Franz explained about her first meeting with Jung.  Indeed, how could a therapist deal with a client if the therapist believes that the only reality is what one is expected to perceive? How can anyone communicate with anyone on that basis? Without metaphor we would have  no poetry and therefore truth would be inaccessible. As you have already heard, the spirit speaks through metaphor. As Alice Howell wrote,

Everything in the natural and visible world is, when rightly perceived, an expression of an invisible reality whose pattern is made perceptible by the stars. The universe is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual force.     

When she says “rightly perceived” she means “perceived metaphorically.” The ancients perceived the heavens as full of metaphors depicting myths containing truths for mankind. They knew that metaphor is essential when reaching for truth. It is the veil which prevents truth from blinding us.  We can say today that, psychologically speaking, if a person feels shackled in one’s life, one could very well see Andromeda shackled to the rock expecting the approach of an unknown creature when one is looking at the sky. The heavens can certainly be perceived as metaphorical of  what is real. An English astronomer, Bode, set forth what is now called Bode’s Law:

The mathematical proportion between planets from the sun to Saturn (including the asteroid belt) is that of the notes of a stringed instrument.

This goes back to Pythagoras, an ancient mathematician. who drew his knowledge from the ancient Egyptians, and Bode demonstrated that it is factual. The perspective of each of us adds to the collective experience of the whole; our individual experiences and consciousness enrich the collective unconscious. Only when we remain unconscious of our problems or refuse to deal with them are we forced to confront them in our outer lives as events. We often imagine that this is the work of the Trickster. Einstein himself said that in times of crisis, imagination is more important than knowledge. Thus we see what Jung saw in his time of crisis, that Unreason can be even more important than rationality. If one tries to use reason, one will likely simply pass judgment by blaming someone or something else, or one might suffer the fate of Pope Leo X.

  It seems that even time is a metaphor. Everything is all the time. I discovered by experience that it is only because our aperture of awareness is so narrow that we experience things sequentially. Thus we see that time itself is but a result of the limitations on our perception. It is difficult even to express the truth that the world is a metaphor, although a few poets have succeeded in doing so. Ibn Arabi wrote:

Everything that we see is a shadow of what we don’t see. The world is the continuous shadow of God.           

And Paul Elhuard, a surrealist poet, put it simply enough for us to stand under without the ceiling falling in on us when he wrote: “There is another world and this is it.”

Jung wrote that:

There are not many truths, there are only a few. Their meaning is too deep to grasp other than in symbols. An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors. Life does not come from events but from us. We create the meaning of  events. We make it. It comes from our-selves. The meaning of events is not their particular meaning. Events have no meaning. Every judgment made by an individual is conditioned by his/her personality type and is therefore relative.

Our aperture of awareness was reduced even more by the rise of Rationalism in the 18th century. Unreason, or irrationality, came to be considered stupid or even dangerous. This is especially true in the US since our constitution was created during this period called the Enlightenment and is based on rationalism. That is why religion is purposely kept out of its purview, although unreason, being ignored, cannot be easily controlled and therefore war, magic, and religion can easily sneak up on it from behind. We can see this in the attack by Moslem fundamentalists who believe that we hate their religion even though we may be simply ignoring it as unworthy of our attention. Any set of beliefs is almost by definition a religion and therefore is irrational. so any single belief is irrational also. Even Voltaire, the founder of the rationalist school of philosophy, knew how powerful irrational religion can be, so he permitted a priest to administer extreme unction to him on his deathbed. The priest told him that he must reject Satan. Voltaire replied, “This is no time to be making enemies.” He doubtless knew that Satan was a metaphor for the evil aspect of the godhead, but he also knew that metaphor was a powerful instigator of action, whether desirable or not.  

As I have stated previously, spirit usually speaks in metaphor, and almost invariably uses metaphor for the purpose of instruction. Those of you familiar with the Delphic Oracle can see almost nothing but metaphor in its instructions, which unfortunately allows many historians to ignore these records as mere  nonsense. Academics as well as scientists are rarely skilled at dealing with metaphors,  but the spirit deals in almost nothing else. What is even more difficult to accept is that the spirit deals in metaphor even when it speaks to us through our body. As von Franz wrote: “what we reject psychologically often becomes imprisoned in the body.” Symptoms, encounters, accidents, and even events occurring in our vicinity can be metaphorical messages from spirit through the body.. After all, many parents teach their children the existence of  Santa Claus, even though we believe he is “just a metaphor.” But this metaphor serves a purpose during childhood, although few of us would ridicule a child who believes in the actual reality of Santa Claus. What we need to mature into is not one who believes in metaphor as fact, but retains the acceptance of metaphor as meaning. I remember as a child when I asked if Santa Claus existed, I was told that he was the spirit of giving. This enabled me to realize that one is  not a fool who believes in him as fact, but has simply mistaken spirit for physical reality, no different from one who has seen a ghost.

You can see this also in dealing with our environment. You may have noticed that after a portion of a forest has been cut down leaving the ground bare, it sometimes happens that, to keep the soil from blowing away, rain comes and causes grass and other forms of plant life to grow, thus holding down the soil. Don’t you realize that there is a purpose behind this attempt to preserve the natural world? Metaphorically, one can see here a higher truth in which the grass is God’s handkerchief to absorb His tears which were shed in regret for the loss of the beautiful trees.  You see, imagination can create a metaphorical reality which, just like the existence of Santa Claus, is also true when taken metaphorically.

The ancients also believed that truth lies in metaphor. That which they intended as truth was written as poetry, and that which was fact was written as prose. You can see this by looking at the Old Testament. The Egyptians had another form of writing for their commercial accounts and business affairs; hieroglyphics were used only for truth. Such distinction was retained at least until the time of Shakespeare, where we can see in his plays sections he wrote in prose which are of a different nature than what he wrote in verse. Metaphor is essential for understanding truth, although it is also a veil which prevents that truth from blinding us. It thereby permits us to experience our oneness with everything. Consider the human body which functions metaphor-cally as an occasional appendage of the Spirit-Self to be used as an indispensable instrument for increasing consciousness. I felt this to be the case when I realized through experience that our senses exist to limit our perceptions rather than permit them. Our body exists to permit us to experience the material world but at the same time to limit our experience of what Helen Luke       would have called the ‘real world’  as she said:

This coming to consciousness is not a discovery of some new thing, it is a long and painful return to that which has always been. 

An example is the Greek stem of the word for ‘to hear’  AUR. (Latin, AUD) It was also the word for ‘breeze’, something you can feel and hear but can not see. It was also the word for ‘gold’. They knew that hearing is more important than seeing. It is a sense that occurs within us, sight is what we perceive without, separate from us, a different world. A metaphor.   

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away. However, as Jean Cocteau said, “We must believe in luck, for how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?” 

 Can the truth be found in physics, or perhaps in philosophy?  Let us find out where the truth lies.

And so we conclude that an electron is a particle.

But you also claim that an electron is a wave.

Yes, it’s also a wave.

But surely, not if it’s a particle.

We say it’s both a wave and particle.

But that’s a contradiction, obviously.

Are you saying that it’s neither wave nor particle?      

No, I’m asking what you mean by ‘it.’

Does that mean, since a metaphor is both this and that, that a particle is a metaphor? Which of course would indicate that reality itself is metaphorical. We have here a knowledge crisis, since knowledge is categorical, this and not that. Our knowledge of what is real has come into question. And if we don’t know what is real then in what sense can we say that we have any knowledge at all?  It has become impossible to define knowledge in a way which genuinely distinguishes it from mere belief. And we know that belief is what causes disagreement, wars, etc. Which leaves us in a crisis in ethics as well, for without knowledge of truth and reality, we possess no means to resolve the great moral questions that have plagued mankind. And this is where our state of ignorance tears at the fabric of society. We do not know what the world is, yet everyone has a belief as to what it must be, and science can be no help because it can not tell us. Science has never determined what a metaphor is, nor is it designed to deal with such questions. How can a particle be a metaphor?  To be both this and that? Can a particle be a manifestation of a wave? Then what is a wave? Do not try to get an answer to that from a physicist, or even a philosopher. Perhaps it would be better to ask a daimon. As Steve Hagen wrote in How Can the World Be the Way it Is?

A thing is what it is. What could be more clear? Could there be a proposition more convincing? How could anyone doubt it? And could there be any greater absurdity than that a thing is what it is not?  Yet things being what they are — which is just what common sense would have us believe — results in a world which makes so very little sense. For if things are what they are, then there could be no becoming and the world, contrary to experience, must be immutable, sterile, and devoid of consciousness.

One might conclude, therefore, that life itself is a metaphor. If there is no awareness of becoming, as Steve Hagen just pointed out, then how do we even know where we are going? We must assume that our “going,” that is, our becoming,  is a metaphor for life. As you know, metaphor is from the Greek meaning “to carry across,” and thus implies taking from one category to another, and since knowledge requires categorical thinking, perhaps then metaphorical thinking denies the possibility of knowing anything at all. Knowledge can not possibly exist at all. We must simply assume that we are living. We cannot know it. We can not even know that the sun will rise tomorrow. Even science, our major source of knowledge, denies that the sun will rise, that sunrise is only an appearance. People thought they knew that sunrise happens every morning since time immemorial, but science has taught us that we cannot know anything unless science can demonstrate it. But metaphorical thinking denies even that. Metaphor is concerned only with meaning. What does sunrise mean? We know it exists, even despite science. But what does it mean metaphorically? That meaning has existed since time immemorial, and we all have a sense of that meaning (the word sense is also a metaphor in this statement).

public-domain-labyrith

One of the most inclusive metaphors in our language is the labyrinth. Its most important meaning is life itself. Everyone is potentially an Odysseus on a path to the center, to Ithaca. A chance to become a new Odysseus is given to everyone because each of us has been condemned (or chosen) by the gods to follow a path of realization, of penetrating the hidden meaning of our wanderings, and of understanding them as a long series of initiation trials, willed by the gods, as so many obstacles on the path which brings us to the hearth, the center. That means seeing signs, hidden meanings, the depressions, the dry periods in everyday life as metaphors whose meanings need to be examined. But until we arrive at the metaphorical hearth, this labyrinth seems to be a maze leading nowhere. it becomes a labyrinth only when we realize that this path has been chosen for us. The labyrinth is a defense, sometimes a magical defense, built to guard a center, a treasure, a meaning. Entering it can be a rite of initiation, as we see in the Theseus myth. That symbolism is a model of all existence which passes through many ordeals in order to journey toward its own center, toward the Self. So you must realize that life is not made up of just one labyrinth. The trial, the ordeal, recurs. Once the center has been reached, our consciousness is broadened and deepened, so that, if given proper attention, many things become clear and meaningful; but life goes on: another labyrinth, other encounters, other kinds of trials, only generally on another level leading to another center, another set of metaphors. Thus human life itself seems to consist of a set of metaphors. At birth, we move gradually through a kind of labyrinth and come out into a world of dimensionality in which our perceptions are limited to what is material in our environment and nothing else at all. And we wonder why children weep when they are born. Such behavior must be nostalgia, At least the Greeks thought so, since ‘nostalgia’ comes from Greek nostos and algos which together mean the pain or sorrow associated with the desire to go back home. Perhaps the infant fears that from that point on it will be limited to the necessity of following a passageway as defined as is a labyrinth where one can only perceive that which is in the immediate surroundings with a very limited knowledge of what is past and nothing definite about the future. And we wonder why some people are sad. Is the labyrinth truly a vale of limitations? However, there is one blessing to make up for this. We are provided a gift which breaks through those limitations, although we are carefully taught as soon as we leave childhood that we must not use it. That is imagination. Only artists and writers are permitted to use imagination and they are generally very poorly paid. Imagination requires ability to deal with metaphor. Without imagination metaphor would be incomprehensible. I am certain that most of you have noticed how scarce imagination is within the Beltway. but we can not go into that here.             

Now that we all know what a metaphor is, what’s a meta for?

In order to answer that question, we must re-enter the same labyrinth whose center we have just reached. Science requires proofs, religion requires faith, and philosophy requires discrimination. Mythology lays the foundation for all three. This is possible because mythology consists of significant stories that have been developed and redeveloped by many members of the human race. Not only that, but also listened to with rapt, participating attention in every corner of human space-time. Storytellers speak from imagination, storylisteners hear with imagination. However, even though myth is freighted with memory, insight, and wisdom, it is filled with insoluble mysteries. When you return a caged wild animal to the wilderness it will have much to learn and to suffer. The same is true here. Like quantum physics, mythology also has many irrational elements. Its goal is also to arrive at a ‘unified field,’ in this case by creating the broadest possible basis of knowledge and sympathy, plus an abiding hunger for significance, within ourselves.     

Before the Enlightenment which occurred in the 18th century, reason was not the path to truth that it has been considered since our Constitution was written, which is definitely a product of the Enlightenment, and would have been considered meaningless 200 years earlier. To quote The Enchanted Glass by Hardin Craig, a book about the way people thought in Renaissance England.

The road to truth was ratiocination, not the free use of reason, but reason was restricted to the discovery or rediscovery of a universe whose form and purpose were already known and whose laws were the legacies of a wiser past or the fiats of an unimpeachable God. Consultation of authority and the correct employment of logic, not the examination of phenomena, were the means by which truth became known.

There was a disposition to believe in the possibility, especially if a happy one, that mutually contradictory facts and principles might be true and valid. Reason could be disregarded.  As Montaigne wrote:

We have indeed strangely overrated this precious reason we so much glory in. this faculty of knowing and judging, if we have bought it at the price of that infinite number of passions to which we are continually a prey.

During the Renaissance, man was conceived of as a microcosm fashioned in the pattern of the macrocosm. Since God was the head of the universe, it followed that the father should be the head of the family, and so on. This was a heritage of the Middle Ages. It emphasizes the metaphorical aspect of mankind’s position in the world. The greatest metaphor of all at this time was the great Chain of Being, stretching from the foot of God’s throne to the meanest of inanimate objects. Every speck of creation was a link. Every creature was inferior or superior to every other creature in virtue, which was reflected in social degree as opposed to modern democracy. But it dealt with much more. The lowest class is mere existence, the inanimate class: the elements, liquids and metals, but within this class there is a difference of virtue; water is nobler than earth, etc. Next is existence, life and feeling. the sensitive class. There are three grades here, roughly dividing higher and lower animals. Then comes mankind, having not only existence, life, and feeling in common with the lower animals, but understanding in common with the angels, but to a lesser degree. Thus we share faculties with lower and higher brackets. The angels are as precisely ordered along the chain as the other classes. The chain is also a ladder. There is a progression in the way elements nourish plants, the fruit of plants nourish beasts, and the flesh of beasts nourish us. There is also a primacy in every class; the lion or elephant among beasts, eagle among birds, emperor among men, sun among stars, fire among elements, justice among virtues, etc. All creatures excel in something. This fact accounts for Elizabethan love of metaphor. Plants in growth, stones in durability, beasts in being content in their condition, eating what is good for them, getting the proper amount of sleep, and keeping to their ‘proper seasons’ of courtship. Mankind excels in having two souls, mortal and immortal. This was a Platonic doctrine enlarged upon by medieval philosophers and was important during the Renaissance. The immortal soul was placed in the head, and the neck was the isthmus separating it from the mortal nature so it would become as little contaminated as possible. Thus a person with a long neck was  more ‘spiritual’ than a short-necked person. The superior, though mortal, virtues were governed by the heart, and the desires were in the lower regions governed by the liver. The chain could not be single as the elements composed all living things as well, and therefore had to comprise a supple-mentary chain connected to the main one.

The theory of the elements was based on the notion of hot and cold, dry and moist. They were thought of through their effects. Heaviest and lowest was the cold and dry earth, the center of the universe, despite Copernicus. It was the dregs of the universe. Outside earth was the cold and moist water. Outside that was the hot and moist air. Air, though nobler than water, could not be compared with ether for purity. Humans breathe air, but angels ether. Air is foul in the sublunar regions (becoming true in a non-metaphorical sense today.) Above the moon the elements are mixed perfectly(no smog there). That is why only in the sublunar regions do things die. The more perfectly are elements mixed, the longer lived the creature, therefore we live longer than animals. And that is why, light and dark being perfectly mixed on the moon, it is where the opposites come together. Perfection exists only above the moon. The moon in its fulness contains all the opposites within it. It is the mediating force of such polarities as being vs. non-being, light vs. dark, good vs. bad, and transcendent vs. manifest world. That which is below changes, that which is above does not change, except the planetes (Gk for wanderers) whose paths wander among the stars but are actually fixed. Darkness flees from the sun as its opposite, but in the moon light and dark interact. This understanding still exists in non-scientific societies, and existed in the West before the Enlightenment. Many still say that the dark needs the light in order to become articulate. Now you know why I say that the moon is more important than the sun. It actually gives light at night when you need it. But the noblest of all the elements is fire, hot and dry, rarefied, the fitting transition to the realm of the planets, the most rapid and complete instrument of transformation available to mankind, the gift of Prometheus who suffered much for his generosity to mankind.

The elements are constantly at war with one another. Fire and water are opposed, but God put air between them which, having one quality of both, acts as transition and keeps the peace. Mankind bridges the greatest cosmic chasm, that between matter and spirit. We contain within ourselves samples of all degrees of creation, excelling in this even the angels, who are entirely spiritual beings. Our food is composed of the four elements. We contain samples of the four elements in the form of humours. These are referred to throughout Shakespeare’s works, for example. One humour was usually prominent in each person giving that person’s character its distinctive mark. The Renaissance period was rich in metaphor. As Alice Howell wrote:

Everything in the natural and visible world is, when rightly perceived, an expression of an invisible reality whose pattern is made possible by the stars. The universe is an outward and visible  sign of an inward and spiritual force.

The stars, both in Medieval and Renaissance times, through obeying God’s changeless order, were responsible for the vagaries of fortune in the sublunar regions. They dictated the general mutability of things and fortune was that part of this applying to mankind alone. It was the fall of man that was primarily responsible for the tyranny of fortune, so man could not shift blame but bear the punishment as best he could. It was God, Who, prompted by the Fall, set the celestial bodies against each other in their influence on the sublunar universe, but He also tempered their opposition to preserve a balance of power. Thus the contrary notions of the heavens imply balance and ‘mild Venus’ checks ‘fell Mars.’ Degree is thus preserved. But a strong-willed person may overcome fate, so there is nothing of predestination here. However, the stars have absolute sway over plants, beasts, and those of weak will who lack understanding and intelligence, and are therefore practically beasts. The paramount subject of understanding goes back to Greece. To know oneself. The angels already do, the beasts obviously can’t, and not to know oneself is to resemble the beasts. This is not egotism but the gateway to virtue. The Renaissance delighted in exposing the contrarieties in our nature, by picturing us between the beasts and the angels as we see in Shakespeare where mankind is shown in being in action like an angel and in apprehension like a god, and yet capable of all baseness.

As you can see, astrology was very important, as this was the approach by which mankind viewed the stars. Indeed, white magic was used to read the riddles of the universe but was never generally accepted because it lay under suspicion on account of its black brother. At this time the distinction between the material and the spiritual was largely a distinction between the perceptible and the imperceptible. One effect of this thinking was to make the unseen and the imperceptible a real thing (as we see in science again today) so that the supernatural seemed ready at any time to pass over the margin and assume perceptible form. Spirits were believed to be finite and always in a definite place, living in time and space. This cosmological structure is not to be thought of, in spite of its limitations, as being fiction or superstition. It was perhaps science in its infancy. or a kind of  traditional knowledge, expressible today in metaphor. It was mostly an instrument of thought as a means of understanding life. It was a a child of mankind’s needs and as such fulfilled its chief purpose, fading away today into poetry, another approach to truth. Indeed. I can provide you with evidence that metaphor is just what truth is!

It seems that healers in primitive tribes use metaphor to hide the truth. There are several words like ‘water’ which they substitute another word for, so that non-healers will not know what they are saying. On examination, it has been found that healers in the South Pacific use the same set of words and meanings as healers among the Berbers in Morocco! This is like what Jung discovered when he made a thorough study of alchemy. It was meant to be misunderstood by those who would misuse the knowledge. And it has been, consistently. ever since then, just as fundamentalists misunderstand the metaphors in Scripture and think they are historical events. The idea that alchemy enabled one to turn base metals into gold derived from the fact that these metals were metaphors of spiritual ideals which the alchemist was trying to reach. It apparently goes back to to the myth that the Great Goddess whose son (the God who created the universe) created an imperfect world because He (a mere child) needed a plaything but made a mess of it. The Goddess tried to straighten things out and got Herself caught and can’t get out. The alchemist tries to achieve his own salvation by extracting Her from the base metals in which she is caught and when they find and extract gold they know they have had a success. They rarely got gold, of course, but the attempt brought them closer to salvation. Each of these base metals stands for something which they are trying to overcome.

The strange thing about this is that the use of metaphors can sometimes demonstrate the validity of these crazy beliefs. But you won’t read about examples of this in the newspapers, or even history textbooks, as few people seem to understand just what a metaphor is. A historian describing these examples would be exorcized. I was thinking of a situation in the Hundred Years’ War in the late 14th century when England had invaded France and brought it almost to its knees when Charles VI of France could not raise an army because he had no money for mercenaries and his aristocracy feared that if they continued to support France they would lose their lands, so they were beginning to side with England. Joan of Arc came along and told Charles that if he could supply her with an army, she could defeat the English. He of course could not easily believe her but he had no choice. But where could he get the money to raise an army? At that time, even the wealthiest merchants were practically starving since trade was highly irregular with all these thieving armies running around. the countryside, but there was one merchant who said he could help. (I actually saw his house in France. It was still standing.) He happened to be not only a merchant but an alchemist. He was able to provide Charles with an army large enough for Joan of Arc to defeat the English and kick them out of Orleans where they had embedded themselves. His money could not have come from trade, since that had almost come to a stop. Can you imagine how that affected English morale to be defeated by a woman? You can see why they got the Church to kill her at the first opportunity. This Battle of Orleans was the turning point of the Hundred Years’ War and soon the English were forced out of France (except for Calais, just across the English Channel from England). All because of a metaphor!   

We must remember that today we live in  an age of technology, which has the knack of arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it, and experience, after all, is necessary in order to develop maturity. It is actually why we are here. Technology also has the disadvantage of giving people delusions of adequacy. I am encouraged to believe that if I acquire all the latest digital equipment, I shall be able to enjoy the 21st century to the fullest, but I suspect that I should then only want to be what I was when I wanted to be what I am now, but it will then be too late. I would have completely succumbed to a rational world. After all, a book is a greater friend than any computer. As Will Durant wrote, “A book is a friend that will do what no friend does — be silent when we wish to think.” And, as the goddess told Parmenides: “If you think it, it is.”  Ask any inventor. Only time separates the thinking from the being. And time doesn’t exist on its own, but only because we think it does. But that’s another question.       

Myth and Its Role Today

Posted January 11, 2016 by jackmeier
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MYTH and its ROLE TODAY – How by viewing events in your life as a series of metaphors you may then see your life as myth.

How many things are lost through disbelief! 

We are starting today with a couple of statements which you might keep in mind during this session. One is what you just heard from Heraclitus and here is another from Parmenides:

If you can  think it, it is.

No one has ever added to the sum total of human knowledge by denying the existence of anything. In order to conceive of something, it must already exist in the collective unconscious outside of time and space. As soon as someone conceives of it, it enters time. If it is then created or invented, it enters space. Therefore, everything conceivable exists at least as a possibility. However, nothing is certain. There is nothing whose existence can be accepted except as a hypothesis. Everything depends on point of view. Even that we are here. It may be that we are simply being dreamed, As a Bushman once said, “There is a dream dreaming us.” I trust that you will be able to accept that as a hypothesis by the end of this session.

Initiation is not a ceremony; it is the beginning of a new way of using the mind. . . To believe is to see.

In the mysteries, initiation was kept secret because no uninitiated person could believe what the initiate had experienced, or even how the initiate was now seeing the world he/she was presently inhabiting. The initiate, however, has learned this new way of seeing; namely, one must accept all beliefs as hypothesis. As Jung pointed out in The Red Book, to hold beliefs as fact creates wars, magic, and religion, all of which, he said, were the same. Since all beliefs are hypothetical, one can see the world through the lens of each belief as it is presented. For example, in polytheism there are as many lenses as there are gods, and when one deals with a particular god, one sees the worlds through the eyes of that god. That is why polytheists do not proselytize. When they hear of another god, they merely see that here is a different way of looking at the world. They can then accept that all things are possible, but nothing is certain. They are then free to choose among a multiplicity of beliefs. However, in a single-lensed monotheistic society, such a person may be burned at the stake, so one is better off not exposing the secrets of the Mysteries.

We are living in an era of unparalleled impoverishment and depreciation of the human soul. The collapse of old religious forms has been followed by a general demoralization of the dominant Western culture. The now-prevailing secular religions of humanism and rationalism prove inadequate because they fail to engage the transformative layer of our psyches, nor can they even provide explanations for occasional phenomena perceived by our senses. People are beginning to bump up against the limits of materialism and rationalism, realizing that these fail to offer a purpose in life. Man does not live by making a bundle alone. Although a few turn to institutional religion for orientation, many find that road barred to them by their reason and their skepticism. There must be a marriage between reason and faith, science and religion. The closest approximation we have to this today is Jung’s school of psychology, which affirms the redemptive power of consciousness. For this reason, I intend today to deal with those elements from the past, many of which had fallen into the collective unconscious, and which, having been returned to consciousness by Jung and others, as well as by myth itself, may seem to us useful in our search for both consciousness and belief. We shall start with a quotation from Plato’s Republic, Book X, which describes the function of the Fates.

When all the souls had chosen their lives, they went before Lachesis. And she sent with each, as the guardian of its life and the fulfiller of its choice, the daimon it had chosen, and this divinity led the soul first to Clotho, under her hand and her turning of the spindle to ratify the destiny of  its lot and choice, and after contact with her, the daimon again led the soul to the spinning of Atropos to make the web of its destiny irreversible, and then without a backward look it passed beneath the throne of Necessity.     

Necessity was called Ananke but was never personified by the Greeks. Note that the soul chooses the daimon and its destiny beforehand and the Fates ratify it. From then on the daimon guides the soul in conformance with this choice and destiny. This is in complete agreement with Catholic doctrine as per Aquinas and Dante that we make our choice. No one is forced to enter either heaven, Purgatory or hell. Each chooses it as part of one’s own destiny, even to the length of time one spends in Purgatory. The abandonment of this doctrine had much to do with the destruction of the unity of the Church, for the sale of indulgences was the primary cause of Luther’s revolt, for these would buy a person’s soul out of Purgatory even though the deceased had chosen his time there. These indulgences are similar to the Mormons who may buy a deceased person’s conversion and place in the afterlife without regard to the choice made by the deceased. It seems reminiscent of being kicked out of one’s house before one’s lease is up.

This is a myth that goes back for centuries. In the view of Plotinus, the founder of the neo-Platonist school of philosophy (3rd c. AD), each of us elected the body, the parents, the place and the circumstances that suit the soul and that belong to its necessity. Thus these are all your choice, but you do not understand this because you have forgotten. So that you may again remember, Plato tells the myth in which he said that by preserving the myth we may better preserve ourselves and prosper. In other words, the myth has a redemptive psychological function, and a psychology derived from it can inspire a life founded, not by understanding it, but by being better able to stand under it. As I pointed out earlier, it is best not to believe this myth, but it helps to accept the validity of the ideas implied by the myth in viewing your life story, as if they are true, such as that of a calling, of soul, of daimon, of fate, of necessity. We must attend carefully to our life to catch glimpses of the daimon in action, to grasp its intentions and not block its way. Then one will see that to recognize the calling as a prime fact of human existence is of the highest importance. We must align ourselves with that call (vocation in Latin means calling). We will then find that the accidents, symptoms, dreams and the natural shocks that flesh is heir to belong to the pattern of our destiny, are necessary to it, and help fulfill that destiny by instructing us on our holding to our path.  

The Latin word for daimon was ‘genius.’ A genius therefore belongs to everyone because the genius or daimon or angel is an invisible human escort, not a person, although it is subject to personification. To the early Romans, it was attached to a family rather than an individual, perhaps because they were still within a stage of participation mystique. They depicted it as a snake, similar to the Indian Kundalini. The pattern of our life is always and continues to be selected by our soul because time does not enter the equations of myth. “Myth,” said Sallust, a Roman philosopher, “never happened but always is.” Unpacking the image takes a lifetime. It may be perceived suddenly, but understood only slowly. This happened to me particularly with Parzifal. Thus the soul has an image of its fate, which time can only show as “future.” According to a Jewish legend, the evidence for this forgetting is pressed right onto your upper lip. That little crevice below your nose is where the angel pressed its forefinger to seal your lips. That little indentation is all that is left to remind you of your soul-life with the daimon, and so, as we conjure up an insight or a lost thought, our fingers naturally go up to that significant dent. Images such as this fill the mind with lovely speculation, and have for centuries. Why is She called Necessity but not personified, and why does He pay so much attention to sea monsters and creeping things one whole day before getting to mankind? Are we here because last? Or are we least, a mere afterthought?

These cosmological myths place us in the world and involve us with it, not like the cosmologies of today — big bangs and black holes, antimatter and curved, ever-expanding space going nowhere — leaving us in incomprehensibility. Science’s cosmologies say nothing about the soul and so say nothing to the soul. about its reason for existence. how it comes to be and where it might be going, and what its tasks could be.  What is the purpose of anything? Does Purpose actually exist? If we look at the world not as a senseless mass, we can see the parenting afforded by the world every day. The world provides nesting and sheltering, nourishing and quenching, adventuring and playing. It is made up less of nouns than of verbs. It doesn’t consist merely in objects and things; it is filled with useful, playful, and intriguing opportunities. The oriole doesn’t see a branch, but an occasion for perching; the cat doesn’t see a thing we call an empty box, but a safe hiding place for peering. The bear doesn’t smell honeycomb, but the opportunity for delicious feeding. The world is buzzing and blooming with information, which is always available and never absent. And when a child asks why the sky is blue, why is he more likely to remember the answer when you tell him that blue is the best color for setting off the clouds?

Awakening to one’s soul and hearing it speak may not be easy in our materialistic age. How do we recognize its voice, what signals does it give? Before we can address this question, we need to notice our own deafness, the obstructions that make us hard of hearing: the reductionism, the literalism, the scientism of our so-called common sense. For it is hard to get it through our heads that there can be messages from elsewhere more important to the conduct of our lives than what comes over the internet or other media available to the public. And even from our parents. Indeed, I soon discovered that instructions from parents are always accurate but never adequate. These meanings don’t slide in fast, free, and easy, but are usually encoded in the painful pathologized events that may be the only ways the spirit can wake us up. As James Hillman has said, “when the gods are repressed, they often return as pathologies.”

There are, however, a few signs that the source of much of this reductionism is being challenged in the realm of science. Much work is being done by a few of our greatest scientists, some of them philosophers as well as scientists, as explained in a book by an extraordinary woman, Lynne McTaggert, entitled The Field; The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe. Here is a small portion from the conclusion of the book, where she spoke of the scientists she had been working with:

There are discoveries that may change the lives of future generations in many practical ways, in fuel-less travel and instant levitation; but in terms of understanding the furthest reaches of human potential, their work suggested something far more profound. In the past, individuals had accidentally evidenced some ability — a premonition, a ‘past life’ , a clairvoyant image. a gift for healing — which quickly was dismissed as a freak of nature or a confidence trick. The work of these scientists suggested that this was a capacity neither abnormal nor rare, but present in every human being. Their work hinted at human abilities beyond what we’d ever deemed possible. We were far more than we realized. . .These experiments had helped to validate alternative medicine, which had been shown to work empirically but has never been understood. . .There were also discoveries which scientifically verified the ancient wisdom and folklore of traditional cultures. Their theories offered scientific validation of many of the myths and religions humans have believed in since the beginning of time, but have hitherto only had faith to rely on. All they’d done  was to provide a scientific framework for what the wisest among us already knew.           

Now that the Age of Pisces, the age when we must deal with the tension of opposites, is passing away, perhaps the scientist will no longer have to regard spirit as a mere abstraction, as opposed to the reality of matter. This does not mean that science and religion must form a sacred marriage, but it just might be possible for them to be seen together. But there are still many among  us who just will not wake up. A fairy tale from the Grimm Bros. expresses this in the language of myth.

The big old giant Skrymir went to sleep under a big old oak. Thor came and hit him on the head with his hammer. Skrymir woke up wondering if a leaf had fallen on him. He went back to sleep and snored outlandishly. Thor hit him again, harder; the giant woke up and asked whether an acorn had fallen on his head. He went back to sleep. Thor hit him with an even greater blow to his head with that divine hammer, but the giant, rousing himself from sleep, said, “Must be birds up in the tree; they must have dropped something on my head.”

Giants are notoriously slow-witted, cursed with physical thinking, short-sighted, and always hungry. Skrymir is our literalist, our reductionist who never can quite get it. And so the giant is counterposed in fairy tales with the cunning animal, elf, or gnome, the savvy maiden or the little tailor. These can pick up a metaphor when they come across it, while the giant will reduce every-thing to its lowest common denominator so that he never has to leave his cave or awaken from his stentorian stupor, much like the dragons in the myth and fairy tale who guard the treasure or the lovely maiden but have no idea what to do with either. This is like people today who when hit over the head by circumstances take drugs or liquor to dull the pain so they can go back to sleep. Little wonder that when we were children we feared giants and thrilled to stories about those who could kill them like Jack or outwit them like Odysseus. The giant, with its grown-up stupidity, threatens a child’s imagination, a child’s connections with a wondrous world. Stupidity is the giant that misses the small things. After all, it’s a bean that saves Jack, and a pebble that saves David from Goliath. The giant in the psyche is another name for Plato’s cave of ignorance, and so it’s in a cave that Odysseus meets Cyclops. the one-eyed giant who takes literally Odysseus’ witty way with words and is thereby fooled. 

Pathology prompts sharper psychological insight than do  spiritual ideas and formulae. A negative experience sheds the harshest light. We almost invariably learn much more from pain than from pleasure. The most pathological moment in the entire incarnation story is the cry on the cross, which tells of the agony when one is encompassed only by the visible world, seemingly abandoned by the spirit. Although Jesus was opposed and pursued by enemies throughout much of his life, he was never so besieged as at that moment.

There are times in our life when the world seems permeated with invisibilities, a condition that Christianity calls paganism, and we call childhood. When the invisible forsakes the actual world,  as it did when it deserted Job, leaving him plagued with every sort of physical disaster (Job’s midlife crisis), then the world no longer sustains life because life is no longer invisibly backed. Then the world tears you apart. Isn’t that the simple lesson taught by the withering and collapse of tribal cultures once they are robbed of their spirits in exchange for goods? Or in exchange for spirituous liquors? The co-presence of the visible and the invisible sustains life. We come to recognize the over-riding importance of the invisible only when it deserts, when it turns its back and disappears, like Yahweh at Golgotha. The great task, then, of a life-sustaining culture is to keep the invisibles attached, the gods pleased and recognized: to invite them to remain by propitiations and rituals; by singing and dancing; by anniversaries and remembrances; by great doctrines such as the Incarnation and by little intuitive gestures — such as touching wood or fingering beads, a rabbit’s foot, a shark’s tooth, or by putting dice on the dashboard; or by quietly laying a flower on a polished stone. Which is what the ancient Celts meant when they said that one should never give a sword to a man who can’t dance, which if we understood that metaphor today, we might actually solve our problem concerning guns. The Celts were not stupid. If we can keep the gods attached, we may no longer need to be hit on the head to receive the messages; we could keep them in contact in less painful, even pleasurable ways. Indeed it is not even necessary that we believe that every ritual or gesture is done correctly or is the correct one. We need only to act “as if” it is. It has nothing to do with belief, and so it also has nothing to do with superstition. It’s merely a matter of recognition. As the ancients said of their gods: they ask for little, just that they not be forgotten. Like every other living creature, they only require recognition.

Since this series is called Myth as Metaphor, now is perhaps as good a time as any to show how this works. Many say that myth is a lie, while cynics say it is pure fantasy. It is neither. Perhaps we should stop looking at Circe as a witch who turned men into swine. In Greek, her name means ‘falcon.’ In our language she may be considered simply as a control freak. She merely gave,in this case, food and drink to sailors who had been at sea for months eating nothing but gruel and spam and other such goodies in order that she may gain power over them as control freaks are wont to do. I suspect many of us have run across such people who use material wealth to gain power and influence over others. Politicians are particularly susceptible to such guile. What these sailors did was what we might expect of them under the circumstances. They made pigs of themselves. Do you actually believe that to accomplish this feat requires witchcraft? We see it around us all the time. Odysseus, however, did  not fall for her wiles because he was conscious of his susceptibility. He had obtained this consciousness from the gods –Hermes in the myth — but one could say his daimon. Hermes prepared Odysseus so that he would not give in to Circe without full consciousness of what she was like. After all, Odysseus was susceptible to control freaks as we find later when he spent eight years being hidden away by Calypso (hider). He never even wrote home to tell his wife where he was! Hermes provided him with a plant called moly. This is a metaphorical plant which had a  black root shaped like a human being just like we are. We all have a shadow, and what Hermes was doing was giving him the means to become conscious of this shadow, a necessity in dealing with witches or control freaks. The plant flowers with a white blossom; in this way his shadow was revealed to him. A plant with  black roots and white blossom is a perfect metaphor for deception. He was notorious for this in the myth of his time, being known as a deceiver. Here his shadow was being revealed to him so he could make conscious use of it. He must treat Circe as he would any beautiful woman who was also a immortal. He must also do what the other sailors failed to do, which was resist making a pig of himself. This may remind you of the prohibition against eating in Hades if you expect to return. So you can see why the fundamentalists and the cynics are both right, and this is also true of religious myth. Any interpretation of myth is both a fantasy and a lie. It is also a profound truth. As the 5 year old said, “Myth has the lie on the outside and the truth on the inside.” Therefore I have been telling you that if you wish to know the origin of the specious, you must become myth informed. But perhaps I digress too much. I want to return to the story about just what the gods do require, and it is not much.

When the great rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov saw a misfortune threatening the Jews. it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted. Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer,” and again the miracle would be accomplished. Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say, “I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient and the miracle was accomp-lished. Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God. “I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is tell the story and this must be sufficient.” And it was sufficient. God made man because He loves stories.                 

As you can see, the Spirit requires only that it be recognized, in whatever form. The form does not matter, nor does the method you use in dealing with it. We receive many rewards for attempting to remember what we forgot when we drank from that spring. We must recall, for instance, that the tricks the gods play on us are frequently done to draw us back to our remembering. The misfortunes spoken of in the previous story were likely for the purpose of bringing back the Rabbi and his people to God. That may even be true today! You just have to remember that sometimes you are the pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue. Even the Buddha discovered that one day when a few years ago he was wandering the streets of Nirvana City and feeling hungry (for recognition?) approached the counter of the hot dog stand opposite the Nirvana Theater and said to the hot dog salesman, “Make me one with everything.” The salesman did just that (an act of magic, certainly) and handed the Buddha his hot dog. The Buddha then gave him a $20 bill, the salesman opened his drawer and inserted the bill, closed the drawer, and looked at the Buddha. The Buddha looked at the salesman expectantly, and this staring went on for some minutes. Then the Buddha inquired, “ No change?” The salesman then replied, “Oh, your Holiness, you of all people should know — change comes from within!”

Myth has always been considered as Truth disguised as metaphor, and was originally conveyed by means of poetry sung or chanted by bards or priests even before the invention of writing. It was sometimes preserved for future use by pictures (hieroglyphics) or signs by being carved on stone tablets. This material can be designated as myth, since priestly chanting was regarded as derived from spiritual sources. and bardic singing as derived from bardic ancestors who had supposedly witnessed them or heard of these events from witnesses. These stories, for example from Homer, were considered didactic as well as entertaining, but were considered as true only in the didactic sense. They were never considered historic until the rise of Christianity. They were informative of what consequences could be expected from certain types of behavior, and what types of behavior could be expected to bring about divine responses, helpful or harmful. Myths, especially about gods or heroes, differed widely, but the listeners could always be certain that, regardless of whether they could grasp the metaphor, they would be entertained without ads. The decline of myth came about in those regions which adopted Christianity and ads. I shall give you an example of how it happened. When Dionysus was an infant, he was torn to pieces by Titans (giants) who consumed him, all but his heart, which was saved by his grandmother Rhea when she discovered what was going on. The heart was implanted in Zeus’ thigh so that he could be  twice-born.. Incidentally, the term ‘thigh’ when used in such instances meant ‘sexual parts.’ Having been borne thus by Zeus, he is thenceforth a god. The heart, in ancient times, was considered the center of the mind as well as feeling. The brain was simply viewed as we view a switchboard, and was not one of the four organs considered worth storing in the canopic jar by the Egyptians.

At the beginning of the Age of Pisces, the nature of belief changed so that a newly converted Christian might want to spread the word about this new faith by relating the story of Christ’s immortality through being twice-born. At this time, the resurrection was the most important myth surrounding Christ, and still is in the Orthodox Church. The  listener might respond that this was very much like Dionysus. Such a statement would stop the teller cold in his attempt at conversion since the attitude “what’s the difference?” puts the two myths on the basis of equality, especially since in a polytheistic society, new gods are always welcome as a demonstration of the sacredness of all things. But Christians believed they needed a basis for exclusivity to prevent the “chaos of the gods” and bring about unity of belief necessary to prevent the chaos which was beginning in the Empire which was threatening everyone. They had the necessary answer. It actually happened! It is a historical fact! It is not a myth! All you need to achieve salvation is not by learning from myth and trying to keep a good relationship with the gods through propitiating them, but simply by believing that it happened. Believe in the immort-ality of Jesus as the Christ and that he will return and take up to Heaven all the believers and leave behind in Hell all those who don’t, and you too will be one of the saved. The Age of Faith had arrived, and the Piscean Age had begun. One must now cling to one of the opposites (faith in Christianity) and fear and despise its opposite, those who do not. So myth had to adapt, and deal more with faith and, as with fairy tales, morality.  It still was concerned with Truth, however, even if only in a metaphorical sense, such as the myth of Parzifal. I realized that in my first series of visions when I was faced with the problem of not asking the question. This was Parzifal’s failure which determined his whole future path, and was also mine, as the vision pointed out. It can also be applied to anyone, which is why we speak of myth as Truth. As Joseph Campbell said, “Myth is not what happened in the past, but it is going on all the time — inside you.” The destruction of Dionysus and his being reborn through the thigh of Zeus has parallels in the vision I had when I was torn apart by dogs and was then outside my body while it was being consumed, but the skeleton was returned with a beating heart. Demeter, Rhea’s daughter, later reconstituted my body with light which, as you know is the energy responsible for all creation. I was not reconstituted in Zeus’ thigh, perhaps because that would have bestowed divinity. I do not know for sure, and I did not ask.

There are instances where in ancient times like today, faith was dependent on myth as with religion today. At the Asklepion, the patient was often visited by the god Asclepius, at which point the patient was healed. The patient believed that it was the visitation of the god which healed him/her. The skeptic might say that it was the belief that did the healing and not the god. A believer would not be able to deny this; indeed, some mystics have pointed out that prayers are more likely to be answered if the person praying concludes the prayer with the assurance that it has already been answered. Here faith and myth can reinforce each other. Today it is the fundamentalists who insist upon the historicity of the sacred texts of the Old and New Testaments, even though the Old Testament is not a Christian text. Most of the Old Testament was written in prose, and all of the New also. In ancient times truth was written in poetry and fact in prose. Much of the Old Testament simply chronicles those aspects of Hebrew history which the priestly authorities wanted to preserve as fact, but no religious authorities claimed it as divine dogma except for certain parts which, like the Ten Commandments, were intended as divine truth and were therefore written in verse. The New Testament was written as fact but no one then expected that fact would one day hold the meaning of divine dispensation. To accept it as one would myth would mean that all of us were living the life of Christ and would therefore be sons and daughters of God regardless of whether we believe in Christ or not. That is, of course, heresy! The fundamentalists deny the existence of religious myth and say that all religions describe facts or they are lies. Perhaps Joseph Campbell was an early herald of the Age of Aquarius, when myth can exist as a balance between truth and fact. He wrote:                                    

Voltaire, even though he was the founder of modern rationalism, was aware of its limitations. Most myths concerning the foundation of religions are of the revolutionary sort, in which the founder of the religion is the only one who sees the truth and has the faith and courage to follow his personal vision against the deadly threats of the rest of society. But through time, the rebel becomes part of the establishment. This creates a paradox expressed by Voltaire, who was approached by a man who praised him and thanked him effusively for having destroyed the credibility of religion; the man said that he wanted to found a new sort of religion with none of the flaws that Voltaire had pointed out in the extant traditions, and he asked Voltaire’s advice on how to go about this. “Simple enough,” said Voltaire, “go get yourself crucified and rise from the dead.”

As you know, no one since Christ has thought it desirable to carry out such an act of sacrifice, and therefore Christianity is not a Mystery religion. The Mysteries are collective where the experiences of the savior god are relived in some fashion so that the participants might share in the nature of their god. The Christians, on the other hand, believe that their god went through his passion in order to save them the trouble, and so each believer attains the resurrection body through faith and good works alone. Although the Church denies that it is a Mystery religion, the changes that have occurred over time seem to move in that direction, as people are experiencing individually what the Mysteries experienced collectively. In Christianity, this is called “the Christ within.” Jesus called it the Paraclete, although the Church resists the idea since a relationship with the Paraclete would make the Church superfluous. One could be initiated by the Spirit without collective sacrifice, although ritual might be useful in bringing one into contact with the Spirit. There are at least two reasons why the Church resists this idea: (1) it eliminates the need for collective worship which would turn the Church into a purely spiritual organization, which is why the Church eliminated the Gnostics by declaring them a heresy, even though Jesus stated that one must pray alone to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy. (2) it feeds an ecumenical movement denying the Church any unique quality by which it could provide salvation since the Paraclete need not be the Christ but any savior god. The Church has also been affected by the rise in the West of Eastern spirituality which tends to substitute for one which has become ineffectual. This can be misleading, however, since the Christian myth has left clear traces in the unconscious of Westerners. This adaptation has come about only on the level of rational awareness and not in the depths of the soul. An external religious conversion all too often proves to be a delusion. Jung gives an example of this in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It proves how deeply he felt that he was rooted in specifically Christian mythic spirituality. During his journey to India in the 1930’s, he experienced the impressive depth of Indian spirituality at first hand. He reported on an overwhelming variety of impressions, but also he was visited by a surprising dream in which he had to swim alone and unaided across a channel to reach the Grail.  Thus his own unconscious had again called him back into the sphere of Christian myth. He comments on this dream:

This fact had impressed me all the more when I realized that the concordance between this poetic myth and what alchemy had to say about this one vessel, this one medicine, this philosopher’s stone. Myths which day has forgotten continue to be told by night. The dream wiped away all the intense impressions of India and swept me back to the too long neglected concerns of the Occident, which had formerly been expressed in the quest for the Holy Grail as well as the search for the philosopher’s stone.

And now there follows in Jung’s account his definition of his spiritual position in respect to Christian spirituality. He continues:

I was taken out of the world of  India, and reminded that India was not my task, but only a part of the way — admittedly a significant one — which should carry me closer to my goal. It was as though the dream were asking me, “What are you doing in India? Rather seek for yourself and your fellows the healing vessel, the savior of the world, which you (all) urgently need. For your state is perilous, you are in imminent danger of destroying all the centuries have built up.

Jung never played down the importance of Christian spirituality. When he made skeptical remarks about Christianity, as he often did, these remarks related primarily to the Christianity of the Church, which he had come to know through its dark side as the son of a Protestant Reformed pastor. This exoteric viewpoint calls for faith but fails to take into account the value of personal religious experience. That this experience could be attained within the Christian belief system made it possible for him to bring many of his clients who had lost their way back to their Christian roots which resulted in his being given a medal by the pope. He continually looked hopefully toward a possibility of the growth of the Christian myth. At the age of 58, he wrote to a reader in London:

I am aware of my unconventional way of thinking and understand that it gives the impression that I am not a Christian. But I regard myself as a Christian, since my thinking is wholly rooted in Christian conceptions. In precise terms, I regard myself as a Christian, but I am at the same time convinced that present-day Christianity does not represent the ultimate truth; that is demon-strated by the chaotic situation of our time. The present situation seems to me to be intolerable; therefore I think that a fundamental further development of Christianity is absolutely necessary.

  In earlier times, the Holy Spirit initiated people in groups, as in the Mysteries, but occasionally an entire nation as the Hebrews who spent 40 years being initiated, a symbolic number meaning a time between two ages, the time necessary to be purified after wasting their youth in the fleshpots of Egypt. The ancients generally considered Egypt a fleshpot, as we see in the Greeks who said that the Egyptians were the happiest, healthiest people in all the known world, so the Egyptians obviously failed to recognize the sinfulness of the flesh. The Hebrews crossed the Red Sea and spent all that time being initiated in the desert. In fact, Golda Meir, a clever lady from Chicago who became the first Prime Minister of the newly founded state of Israel, obviously knew how to see myth as a method of perceiving our world when she said that it took Moses forty years to lead the Israelites into the only place in the Middle East that didn’t have any oil.

But in the Piscean Age, a single individual, the Christ, was chosen as a demonstration to all that the Spirit can be incarnated in this world. Now we have entered what might be called the Psychological Dispensation. As Christ predicted, although ignored by the Church, the Paraclete can incarnate in each of us individually, although as Aurobindo said. there is only One who incarnates. The techniques for bringing this about are not very different from those of the Mysteries; indeed,for a few the group methods still work, even within the folds of churches, but when done individually, as is usually the case, we have what depth psychology calls the process of individuation. This is not an unalloyed blessing, however, since every content of the unconscious as it emerges into consciousness is seen to have a double aspect, viewed as a good and a bad side, and must always be faced alone, and not lifted from one as at the confessional. And the last thing the Western mind wants is to look at oneself, as we see in our foreign policy today, for example. We only do so if we have no alternative. What is in store for the individuating person is, on the one hand, a sense of fulfilling the purpose of the Spirit within, but also misunderstanding and isolation. You can’t have one without the other. Six months before Jung’s death, he had this dream:

I had to understand that I was unable to make the people see what I am after. I am practically alone. There are a few who understand this and that, but almost nobody sees the whole. I have failed in my foremost task: to open people’s eyes to the fact that man has a soul and there is a treasure buried in the field and that our religion and philosophy are in a terrible state.

Jung failed in his self-appointed task because of the difficulty, in this extraverted society, of retaining in consciousness the reality of the soul, which is one of the functions of myth that has suffered neglect. Collective forms like churches, rituals, holy days, liturgies, canonical laws, prayers, Sabbaths, jubilees, church calendars, books of hours, devotional works of art, literature, and music — most of these no longer help us to keep in mind the reality of the soul. Perhaps some of the relics of what are now esoteric practices and doctrines can be of help. Some of these we have looked at today, and many more are being discovered. I believe there is a purpose behind the fact that it is only now that some very important discoveries from the ancient world are being made. In  medieval times they would have been destroyed or at best ignored. Because these collective forms  which might help us to remain conscious of the reality of the inner world no longer exist in a viable form, each of us must provide our own tabernacle in anticipation of the day when enlightened communities will arise to assume that function. The one institution which has arisen is depth psychology which, although its purpose is primarily directed to therapy, does represent an encounter with an inner world, thus preparing us to understand the language of the soul or unconscious. Another modern structure, also primarily therapeutic, which aids many in the process of individuation is the Twelve Step Program  practiced in Alcoholics Anonymous, which Jung was instrumental in helping to found. Bill W., a co-founder of A.A., was a friend of Jung’s, and in a letter to him, Jung wrote of one of his clients who was also a friend of Bill W.

His craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst for wholeness; expressed in medieval language, the union with God.

In ancient times, wine was a spirituous liquor. Indeed, the craving for spirituous liquors is still rather closely connected with a craving for spirit. Although this may seem strange, it is not inconsistent with Jungian myth. This may also be true with hallucinogens of all kinds. It may be true that reality is the shifting face of need, it is also a crutch, and is good sometimes for kicks, but don’t let it get you down. These statements about reality were discovered as grafitti on the walls of public johns. One that might be especially useful was “Love thy neighbor, but don’t get caught,”  and “We are the people our parents warned us about.”  One that I particularly like is, “I want to be what I was when I wanted to be what I am now.”

  To get back to today’s myth. the new religion, if we can call it that, is more individual than traditional religions and less dependent on faith and dogma. It places its emphasis on personal subjective experience, that is, consciousness. As Socrates observed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  The hope is that the devotee will forge a connection to a power greater than the ego. Jung called this power the Self. The religious term is God. A relation to the Self grants us an indestructible inner authority.

The God myth, or as it generally called, the god-image, is constantly changing. This is usually referred to as the transformation of the God-image, of which the essential ingredient is consciousness. Human consciousness seems to have a stimulating effect upon the unconscious. The idea that God takes a personal interest in human beings with whom he maintains an ongoing dialogue without actually incarnating is the essential contribution of the Jews to human history. This idea plus that of a single incarnation was taken up by Christianity in the Piscean Age, and now, as we enter the Age of Aquarius, a much more psychological age, we have the idea that something can change in the collective unconscious (God) as a result of attention being directed to it. We see this already in the myth of Faust, and even earlier in Job.

Consciousness should not be misunderstood as something purely intellectual. Like ‘conscience’, it derives from Latin con and scientia meaning ‘knowing’. Therefore consciousness signifies ‘knowing with another.’ The other may be God or another person or another part of ourselves. Consciousness combines head (logos) and heart (eros). This contrasts with ‘science’ which is derived from scientia alone and therefore denotes knowing detached from feeling or ‘withness.’ It is written: “He who loves God will know God.” This is the sort of knowledge, driven by the heart, which is the bedrock of consciousness. Edward Edinger writes:

On the collective level, consciousness is the name for a new supreme value coming to birth in modern man. The pursuit of consciousness, ‘conscience.’ unites the goals of the two previous stages in Western history, namely religion and science. Religion (meaning ‘linking back’) has as its essential purpose the maintaining of man’s connectedness with God. This corresponds to Eros, the connecting principle, and the ‘withness’ factor of consciousness as ‘knowing with’. Science, on the other hand, boldly gave up the connection with the other and opted instead to pursue an increase in human knowledge. If religion is Self-oriented, science is ego-oriented. Religion is based on Eros, science on Logos. The age now dawning will provide a synthesis for this thesis and antithesis. Religion sought linkage, science sought knowledge. The new world view will seek linked knowledge. The God-image is like the atmosphere, the pervasive medium in which we exist but of which we are unaware. We participate in it. It is inside and outside of us. It expresses itself through us. Because we are of the same substance as it, it changes as we change. Who discovered water? I don’t know, but it wasn’t the fish.

An excellent example of this synthesis is demonstrated by the dependency on the spiritual element when dealing with the problems of this world which we can see in the following. It also provides us with a solution to our own problems which we might profit from if we only looked back for them to history This example occurred in the 6th century BC, a time when all major decisions were made only with the concurrence of an oracle, most prominently the one of Apollo at Delphi. It didn’t matter whether one was attempting to establish a new business, plant a new colony, go to war, get married, or whatever. If one could make the journey to an oracle, one did it. And records at Delphi were kept of all requests and decisions made by the priestess, called the Pythia. There was at one point a problem which I am sure we can all recognize as a current one as well. The Libyans were enveloped in a civil war against their king and the rebels reached out for foreign help and advice to the Pythia at Delphi. She told them to divide Libya along tribal lines, allowing the current king to remain ruler of his own tribal portion. If he resisted, or any of his successors resisted, they would be  killed. The king agreed and peace followed. At the king’s death, his son attempted to restore the previous situation and, as the Pythia had predicted, was killed. Why can’t we listen to our elders? The situation is no different today.

Just as Christ was the first Piscean man, Jung may have been the first Aquarian man. In the Piscean Age we swam in the waters of the unconscious which sustained us — indeed, the unconscious is often symbolized in dreams by the ocean. In the Aquarian Age our relationship to the waters is becoming more conscious, as we have all been discovering. As the image of Aquarius tells us, we are fated to assume the burden of the unconscious upon our shoulders. Everything we need is to be found within us. This is a truth that is hard to hold onto, partly because in America,  perhaps the world’s most extraverted society, we are constantly being assured that what we need lies outside of us — in the shopping center, church, social hall, books, university, and so on. The pundits scratch their head, wondering, “Why, when Americans are better off economically than ever before, is the national mood so discontented?” No better answer exists than that found in Scripture.

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, Or, as Jung reminded us, we have forgotten why man’s life should be sacrificial; that is, offered up to an idea greater than himself.   

We have not only forgotten why man’s life should be sacrificial, but we have forgotten how sacrificial it actually is. Indeed, life in matter is itself a sacrifice for soul. In matter, we lose the ability to fly, to perceive clearly, to express ourselves easily, to unite completely with another. In short, this is a life of limitations for the soul. Separation is itself a sacrifice of oneness. It is a training in the opposites. We live a separate life in order to know better the meaning of a spiritual life. It is learning by experiencing the opposites. So in attaining anything on this earth we must sacrifice something else, its opposite. To become something we must give up hope of becoming something else. To attain body, we must sacrifice spirit. Soul is spirit minus body; body is soul minus spirit. So it seems that the Mysteries are becoming individual instead of collective. The Church radically opposed the Mysteries, insisting that Christianity is not a Mystery as the Gnostics would have it, but it is becoming a Mystery religion simply because it can no longer maintain the historicity of its doctrine. St. Malachy may have been right — the present pope may very well be the last. The Christ may continue as Paraclete or daimon, also the Virgin, but both must accept  the entire gamut of all points of view. Christ must no longer turn his back on his brother, as he did when dealing with the devil on the mount. As you can see, this religion is not one of merely sweetness and light. Consciousness, as Prometheus knew, is fire, and we must suffer as he did for stealing that fire from the gods. Consciousness is the deepest and most cherished dream of the soul — the day is the dream of the night. As the Bushman said, There is a dream dreaming us. indeed, I have seen many things that are not true.       

To conclude,  you shall read a portion of a lovely piece of poetic prose by P.L. Travers, from Parabola Magazine (XI:4) which deals with the meanings that myth holds for all of us, called Lively Oracles.

If there are to be new mythologies — and why should we need new mythologies?– they  cannot but congregate to this point.

So a` Dieu, Taliesin, Bard of Elphin! Where the center holds and the end folds into the beginning there is no such word as farewell. . .

My shadow follows me as I walk westward. The sunset spreads it along the grass, taller and lordlier, now, than I. What will be remembered in it, this changing incorporeal shape compact of myself and the sun?  When the tides of evening come flowing in we shall both be lost to sight.

May the Lord have mercy on me and my shadow!            

     

BODY, SOUL, SPIRIT: An Imperfect Connection

Posted October 12, 2015 by jackmeier
Categories: Uncategorized

According to an old Gnostic myth, before the universe existed, the Great Goddess bore a son who was the Creator God, but before he grew into maturity he began creating things so he could have something to play with. He thus created our world while he was still only partly conscious of what he was doing. Since he was Spirit, he wanted a connection with the matter he was creating, and this connection was Soul, a kind of switchboard which made communication possible between our body and the Spirit, but since he was himself not yet fully conscious, the Soul, like most of Creation, turned out to be technologically primitive and rather unconscious.

As you can see, this myth is a metaphor of our present imperfect condition in the world. Indeed, he made such a mess of things that when his Mother tried to find him among all his toys she herself got lost and caught in the creation, and this was the purpose of alchemy, to extract her from the matter in which she was caught. Alchemists did not discuss this much in the Christian world, however, since it tended to arouse the Inquisitors. Where, then, does our spirit derive the consciousness needed for the creative process to occur? This process is, as the myth points out, dependent on the link between spirit and body. Thus the soul has no meaning unless it is brought into consciousness. This, in effect, is what the alchemists were attempting; discovering the spiritual process within the material world and freeing it from its bondage within it. This spiritual-material process is what we may call the Soul. But this process requires an ability to recognize and accept misfortune, pain, and other miseries in an attempt to understand their meanings. As Rumi wrote:

“I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out: “It tastes sweet, does it not?”  “You’ve caught me,” grief answered, “and you’ve ruined my business. How can I sell sorrow, when you know it’s a blessing?”

It seems that pain and pleasure play a considerable role in the relationship between matter and spirit. Spirit apparently derives the energy necessary to support life from the living body and this sometimes creates problems for the body, especially when the body is incapable of supplying the amount necessary. This process can lead to various afflictions such as illness, accidents, and even eventually death. This does not mean, however, that the affliction is the enemy; something to overcome. This was made apparent to me in a rather extraordinary dream which took me some time to figure out

I was in a room with several other people whom I could see through so I assumed they were spirits. In the center was a glass tank full of what appeared to be water with a human body in it pressed against the wall of the tank. This pressure caused it to emit a fluid which I was to drink. I assumed that the others were there to get some fluid also (since they too were spirits.) I was given some of it, about 3 or 4 oz., and drank it. It was the color of water but the consistency of blood.

This dream caused me to assume that I was being told that the function of the body is to provide energy to the spirit. The spirit uses the body to attain its ends in the material world, but it needs the energy from the material world to perform these functions, and the body is required to provide it. This may be true of all living forms, not just humans. As the body ages, less energy becomes available, and as energy runs low, pain or other afflictions sometimes result, and some, like injury, can further restrict the flow of energy. This flow of energy can be limited also by the switchboard used to determine the direction of this flow, which we call the Soul. Indeed, if we do not recognize the existence of a soul, or are unaware that we even have one, there may be no limit to the amount of pain and confusion we can experience, although soul is also inherently capable of  providing much pleasure. Love is an example.

        This dream also seems to express the scientific view that matter consists of energy in various forms. Waves and particles seem to be different forms of energy; particles perceptible as matter and waves imperceptible which may be what we mean by spirit. One of our meanings of spirit has always been ‘energy,’ a ‘spirited person.’ In living creatures, or at least in mammals, spirit and body are linked by Soul. Thus it might be correct to say that the soul is the switchboard which selects the proper form which energy is to take as it passes from spirit to body or the reverse. The soul can turn pain into pleasure, love into hatred, hope into despair, or vice versa. Feelings can be turned into emotions and even into actions using the body as an instrument.

James Hillman stated that the soul naturally pathologizes.  It presents itself variously in abnormality, twistedness, pain, exaggeration and mess. He does not romanticize abnormality, however, but he authenticates it as native and essential to the soul. He is the founder of the school of psychology called ‘archetypal psychology’ which is Jungian in its foundation but goes beyond where Jung perhaps felt it safe to go.

In our attempt to achieve or maintain health and normalcy, we can find the heroic ego at work. The ego is always ready to wage wars on poverty, disease, and any and all kinds of trouble. By trying so hard to transcend, the hero represses feelings of inferiority, which can strike one from behind as grand failures. Rather then cure these manifestations of the soul, Hillman believes they should first be investigated for their intentions. He wrote:

“One day in Burghölzli, the famous institute in Zurich where the words ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘complex’ were born, I watched a woman being interviewed. She sat in a wheelchair because she was elderly and feeble. She said that she was dead for she had lost her heart. The psychiatrist asked her to place her hand over her heart to feel her heart beating: it must still be there if she could feel its beat. “That,” she said, “is not my real heart.” She and the psychiatrist looked at each other. There was nothing more to say. Like the primitive who has lost his soul, she had lost the loving, courageous connection to life — and that is the real heart, not the ticker which can as well pulsate isolated in a glass bottle.”

This is a different view of reality than the usual one. It is so radically different that it is usually considered to be a form of insanity. But I am certain that you can understand what the woman felt in her psychosis as well as the view of reality in his attempting to convince her that her heart was still there. Despite the elaborate and moneyed systems of medical research and the advertisements of the health and recreation industries to prove that the physical is what is real and that the loss of heart and loss of soul are only in the mind, it seems that, like the primitive and the woman in the hospital, we can and do lose our souls. As Jung said, each of us is ‘modern man in search of a soul.’  Actually, dealing with symptoms can help us find our soul, just as suppressing the symptom may cause us to lose it. Pain may just be the soul crying for help, comfort, love and  attention, trying to impress the stupid and stubborn mind — that impotent mule which insists on going its unchanging, obstinate way by suppressing all pain with its demands for remedies. In some cases, the symptom may be the first herald of an awakening psyche which will not tolerate any more abuse. Jung said that sickness is the body’s way of relieving an overloaded psyche. Do not deplore sickness, he said, but be grateful to the body for helping to carry your burden! When dealing with a symptom, one must first listen and look carefully at what is being revealed in the suffering. An intent to heal can get in the way of seeing. By doing less, more is accomplished. Observance is homeopathic in its working rather than allopathic, in the paradoxical way that it befriends a problem rather than making an enemy of it. Through the symptom the psyche is demanding attention, and every living creature needs recognition, The ancient Egyptians apparently were aware of this in their view of the neter. Working with the symptom through dealing with the neter, or spirit of the affected part of the body, can improve one’s relationship with the body generally. I tried this the last time I was in serious pain and it worked. Not only on that occasion but I have not had serious pain since. Remember that God is said to have created the world in order to know Himself, so the world being the manifestation of Himself, the more of a mess that the world is in, the more likely it is that He will get to know it.

Even our view of death need not be so negative. For the Eskimo, when one falls ill, one takes on a new name, a new although diseased personality. To get over a disease, one must literally “get over” it by transcending it, that is, by dying. The only hope for cure lies in the death of the ill personality. Health requires death. Perhaps that is what Socrates meant with his last obscure words about owing a sacrificial cock to Asclepius. Once the cocky pride of life that crows hopefully at the dawn of day is sacrificed, the need for tomorrow is sacrificed along with it; Death then is the cure and the salvation and not just the last, worst stage of a disease. That disease which the experience of death cures is the rage to live.

It may be considered strange that our society considers death the worst punishment our criminal justice system can inflict on evil men, even though it is a fate met daily by thousands of innocents. Furthermore, according to the Christian doctrine of Original Sin, our greatest offense is that we were ever born since such an offense is inevitably punished by death! But our fear may be preventing us from seeing that death may have a positive side. Death is really a means of abstracting the life principle from the form or body it assumed in the world. Our scientific consciousness has focused attention wholly on the form which life takes in biological evolution, on the organisms in which life manifests. We seek the explanation of life in the physical elements, and the evolution of life in the transformation of forms. It occurs to few of us that the outer form merely serves the inner life and consciousness, and that these are the motivating factors in evolution. We know from psychosomatic medicine that the physical organism reacts to the inner emotions and mental life of the human being, and that this is responsible for up to 90% of all illness. We also know that the body and consciousness can separate themselves both in life and in death. Sadly, because we identify life and consciousness with our physical bodies and the material world, we tend to think of bodily death as the terminal point of our existence. A religious belief in an afterlife softens the fear of death for many, but few. even among the religious, know death of the body as anything but the end of life, as complete annihilation.

In death, the indwelling life and consciousness is in the process of withdrawing from the form in which they have until then been manifest; this identification with form-life begins to break up, consciousness knows itself as still alive and sees the disintegrated form as a thing apart from itself. Many have experienced the beginnings of this in near-death experiences. The bodily form begins to be seen as a limitation from which, in becoming free of it, the subjective consciousness is liberated for wider experience. This is a characteristic found in dreams frequently among older people. Here dying is experienced as a liberation and widening of the horizon. In fact, many who survive a near-death experience resent returning and feel it as a return to confinement — as Carl Jung put it after he recovered from a heart attack: “Now I must return to the ‘box system’ again.” This idea is expressed by Dion Fortune:

Life, having evolved beyond the capacity of lowly forms to give it expression, builds itself higher forms.The fossilized remains of the abandoned lower forms are found among the debris of life. They have undergone death; their race is extinct; they are no more; but the life has achieved rebirth into a higher type of vehicle. it is only by the abandonment of the simpler form that life can enter the more complex, though the consciousness that is on the plane of the simpler form sees therein a tragedy because it cannot conceive the higher life and it sees its own passing prefigured; but the consciousness which is of the higher life sees the birth of a new manifestation and rejoices, for it sees the fuller expression of its potentialities.

Death comes in many guises. As T.S.Eliot wrote, “Death has a hundred hands and walks by a thousand ways.” It may come not only as a physical death, but also as a paralyzing fear, as a sense of utter rejection through the loss of love, as a loss of values resulting in a sense of mean-inglessness, as the threat of nonbeing leading to self-loss, as spiritual darkness or the death of God, etc. What all of these deaths have in common is their effect on the psycho-spiritual con-sciousness of the human victim — on the way that one experiences loss. Death is actually thought of as the ultimate enemy. This was apparently the meaning of this dream:

I am looking through a kind of scaffolding so I can not at first see their faces — men of all ages dressed in ragged overcoats and jackets waiting in line. They had been forced to stand there so long that some of them had urinated on themselves. The line was slowly moving forward toward the scaffolding which was part of a chute or steps down to a sheer drop which I could not see. I only saw the top, but I knew they would drop to their death. I twisted about so I could see the face of the one about to step off and saw that he was a young man whose face was twisted in grief, although he was trying to be as stoic as the others. His thick wavy hair had one hand placed on it in compassion, the hand of the man next in line. As I began to wake, I asked, “Why am I being shown this?”

I now think I can answer that question. These are all people who fear the unknown, which is always associated with death. The people were clad in poor clothing, indicating that this life has not provided them with what they assumed they needed. They could not see beyond the stepping-off point so they feared that which was unknown. Compassion was the only comfort, but that was inadequate. I did not understand this, so I asked the question which was apparently answered in a later dream which had a completely different view of death.

I was waiting in line holding what seemed to be a wadded-up sheet bound in a light-weight kind of chain. The others in line carried the same, and at the front of the line was a teller window with a woman behind it collecting these packets. When I got to the window, I handed the packet to the woman and asked if I were to get a receipt. She replied, “No, but if you ever need it just come back and I’ll give you your packet.” I then stepped outside and found myself in an open field with a cliff on the left dropping about 60 feet down to a large body of water with a narrow rocky beach and a group of people standing there seeming to be waiting. I thought I’d like to go down to see if there was anyone I knew and so stepped off the edge, with only a momentary concern about whether this was the right thing to do, but soon found myself drifting down and landed on the beach. No one was speaking to anyone or relating in any way, but seemed to be waiting. I decided to leave and explore this new world and so took off in flight, but noticed  a young man was accompanying me, and so I said, “Oh, you can fly too?” He answered, “Yes. Everyone can. They just don’t know it yet.”      

They did not expect that death could liberate them. This was apparently another dream about death. I disposed of all earthly connections, which I might need again some time and could then receive back, The dream might be telling me what to expect. The people on the beach were experiencing the ancient myth of standing at the shore of the River Styx waiting for Charon to take them to the other side. We experience our own myth throughout our many lives which can be understood as metaphors if we wish to see them that way.

That death can also be a welcome friend and the companion of spiritual growth needs to be better understood. Then the death that leads to transformation can be embraced in an attitude of confidence. No longer will it be seen as a dead end, but as an end to death as we have always thought of it.  We know that death is infinitely generous, never omitting anyone from its ultimate embrace. Can’t we show it some gratitude? After all, it is the Great Transformer. There are times when we get stuck in a rut, life seeming to go nowhere. And a rut. after all, is simply a grave with the ends knocked out. The flow of life has ceased. Is this not death? Or is death itself simply Nature’s way of telling us to slow down?

Thomas Moore in “Care of the Soul” raises a point which Leonardo da Vinci noted:

Leonardo da Vinci asks an interesting question in one of his notebooks:

“Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?” One answer is that the eye of the soul perceives the eternal realities so important to the heart. In waking life, most of us see only with our physical eyes, even though we could, with some effort of imagination, glimpse fragments of eternity in the most ordinary passing events. Dream teaches us to look with that other eye, the eye that in waking life belongs to the artist, to each of us as artist.”

The idea that we are captive in the prison house of matter is of ancient origin, that consciousness is blinded by the material world. I experienced this myself when in a shamanic experience, Demeter reconstituted my body with light which did not blind me until my body was restored, at which point I had to close my eyes or squint it was so bright. I thus realized that our senses are not so much to permit perception of reality but to limit it. It is our birth, not death, that brings about our limitations. When we are born we forget our spiritual origins. This is an ancient idea. In Greek myth one was said to have drunk before birth from the spring of Lethe (Forgetfulness), thus forgetting one’s origin. When we are bound by things of the material world, something of our higher nature surely dies; we then become lost in a world of matter, no longer realizing that matter is but a metaphor of what is real. From that point on, our entire bodily life is made up of a series of initiations, mostly unconscious, intended to bring us into consciousness of this material aspect of life. This is essential for our understanding of this world and our learning of its nature. As the saying goes, “God created the world so He could know Himself.” We may share that aspect of divinity and are here for the same reason. But the spirit must not be completely forgotten, and perhaps that is the origin of the term ‘midlife crisis.’ We must again come to the realization that our body and its immediate physical environment can no longer be the sole basis of our reality. We begin to search for meaning elsewhere. This latter part of life is the return. Remember, the early birds may get the worm, but its the second mouse who gets the cheese.

I may have told you before of a dream a woman had which supports this idea that the spirit derives its energy to operate within this world of time and space from the body which it needs to bring it into manifestation. It is actually the most moving dream I have ever come across. It was dreamt by a woman who lives in a rural town in north-central Italy which had existed since ancient Etruscan times, and still had a ruined temple dating from about 2500 years ago. This woman felt a strong connection with her Etruscan ancestors which probably helped to bring about this dream.

She was standing outside her house when she saw a boy walking toward her who was dressed in the ancient style. He appeared to be completely lost and was weeping. She felt sorry for him and wanted to help him. She took him by the hand and led him toward the temple, assuming that that was where he wanted to go. They walked to the temple hand in hand, and when hey reached it she could see that it was not in ruins, but appeared as it must have 2500 years ago, At the bottom of the steps leading into the temple, he released his hand and he went up the steps and entered the building. She then noticed that he had left his hand in hers. She was shocked by this and awoke.

After awakening the next day she knew she had to go to the temple. She went there and saw it again in ruins, and stopped at the foot of the steps where the boy had left her. She noticed that she was stepping on something protruding from the ground, reached down and dug it out. It was a sculpted hand.

Naturally, we can look at this dream only from an archetypal standpoint since we do not know the personal life of this woman. But we can look at it as a myth. The boy could be viewed as an ancestral spirit who had perhaps unwittingly stepped out of his time and, although still in his home space, he is lost in time. He therefore goes to the one person who would understand his needs, and she leads him to the place of the spirit where he needs to go. In doing so, she briefly enters his time and sees the temple as it had been. He leaves her the only part of him that was bodily, the hand which she had been holding, perhaps as a gift. This would seem to indicate that she was being told that the body is only needed in time and space, that being in time and space without a body, as he had been (except for the hand which he needed to relate to her) wounds the spirit since the spirit needs the energy provided by the body, which may be why he was weeping, and so the spirit must leave space-time if it wishes to be whole. To remain in space-time would require that he, as a spirit,  obtain a body in order to provide the necessary energy.

In the 15th century, Ficino wrote that spirit and body, religion and world, spirituality and materialism can all be trapped in a polarizing split: the more compulsively materialist we are, the more neurotic our spirituality will be, and vice versa. His recommendation for healing such a split is to establish soul in the middle, between spirit and body, as a way to prevent the two from becoming extreme caricatures of themselves. The cure for materialism, then, would be to find concrete ways of getting soul back into our spiritual practices, our intellectual life, and our emotional and physical engagements with the world.      

In the broadest sense, spirituality is an attempt to approach or attend to the invisible factors in life and to transcend the personal, concrete, finite particulars of this world. Religion stretches its gaze beyond this life to the time of creation, what Mircea Eliade called in illo temporethat other time outside our own reckoning, the time of myth, as you found in the dream you just heard. It also concerns itself with afterlife and with the highest values in this life. This spiritual point of view is necessary for the soul, providing the sense of meaning it needs. Spirit, according to the Platonic philosophers, lifts us out of the confines of the human dimension, and in doing so nourishes the soul.   

Ancient Religion and Christianity

Posted November 16, 2013 by jackmeier
Categories: Uncategorized

O virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son.  (Dante, Paradiso)        

Many people today have rejected the symbols of Christianity along with the religion itself because they no longer find inspiration there. This is understandable, although such people are depriving themselves of a rich heritage of symbolism. The Christian Church took over much of the symbolic heritage of the ancient world and degraded it by turning these symbols into signs denoting historical events. To take the ancient and rich symbol of the cross, for example, and make it refer simply to a place to hang their dying savior on destroys centuries of accrued wealth of symbolism. As Plato had said centuries earlier,

 The Creator stretched the soul of the world onto the body of the world in the form of a cross. The duty of mankind is the release of that crucified soul.

Byz. Cross-cropped

If the cross is simply the place to hang the dying Christ, what meaning would Plato’s statement have? Hence, to reject the symbols which the Church has degraded is, as you see, a rather foolish act. By undoing today what the Church has been doing for centuries, we are being heretical and even diabolical in the eyes of Christian fundamentalists. We are here relativizing the Scriptures and denying the uniqueness of the Christian message. Jung put it rather forcefully:

 The insistence on the uniqueness of Christianity, which doesn’t even allow it a mythological status conditioned by history, renders the gospel unreal; all possible points of contact with human understanding are abolished, and it is made thoroughly implausible and unworthy of belief, and empties the churches. It is very convenient because then the clergyman doesn’t have to bother about whether the congregation understand the gospel or not but can comfortably go on preaching to them as before. Educated people would be much more readily convinced of the meaning of the gospel if it were shown them that the myth was always there to a greater or lesser degree, and moreover is actually present in archetypal form in every individual. Then people would understand where, in spite of its having been artificially screened off by the theologians, the gospel really touches them. Without this link the Jesus legend remains a mere wonder story, and is understood as little more than a fairy tale that merely serves to entertain. 

A religious tradition severed from its archetypal roots, its mythologic grounding, becomes a set of signs or rituals without depth. Rather than rest everything on the uniqueness of a religion, one might better argue for the ways in which it taps the same mythic sources that undergird every other religion. This is the best antidote to bigotry.

The beginnings of Christianity are not to be found in the life and teachings of a single founder such as a historical Christ. But everything impossible as history is not only possible as myth, but can be the creative cause of the history! Only the mythical origins can explain the birth of the child that was begotten without the father; the virginity of the mother being the natural status of the most ancient genetrix in mythology, who was far earlier than God the father. The virgin mother is nothing if not divine, and being a divinity she cannot become humanly historical. The most ancient, gold-encrusted Byzantine pictures of the virgin and child represent the mother as Isis, not a human Mary. Only the mythical origins can explain why there are two Marys, both of whom are described as being the mother of Jesus. Only the mythical origins can explain why Jesus was rebegotten as the anointed son at 30 years of age, the time of full adulthood according to Egyptian reckoning. Only the mythical origins can explain why there is no history furnished from the time when the child was about 12 years of age to that of adulthood of 30 years. Only the mythical origins can show how the Word, as Manifester, could be made flesh. The dogmas of the incarnation, baptismal regeneration, transfiguration, transubstantiation, resurrection, and ascension were all Egyptian mysteries. These included the mystery of the ever-virgin mother as well as the mystery of a boy of 12 transforming suddenly into an adult of 30 and then becoming one with the father, just as it had been earlier in the mysteries of totemism.

There was the mystery in which the dead body of Osiris is transubstantiated into the living Horus by descent of the holy spirit; the mystery of a divine being in three persons, one of whom takes flesh on earth as the human Horus, to become a mummy as Osiris in Amenta, and to rise up from the dead as spirit as Ra in heaven. Amenta corresponds to the Christian Purgatory, and was the source for the Christian doctrine of Purgatory. All of these, and other miracles of the Christian religion, were already part of the Egyptian mysteries. But the Egyptians did not pervert the meaning by literalizing them since there was no fall of man to deal with, so there was no need for a redeemer. Horus was the justifier of the righteous, not of the wicked. He did not come to save sinners from taking the trouble to save themselves. He was an exemplar, a model of divine sonship — but his followers must conform to his example — and do in life as he had done — before they could claim any fellowship with him in death.  Read the rest of this post »

LANGUAGE

Posted September 15, 2013 by jackmeier
Categories: Uncategorized

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter. It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” (Mark Twain)

A few years back on TV I saw a group of rabbinical students sitting around a table in a room reading from Hebrew holy scripture, aloud. Each seemed to be reading a different passage and so the sound of their reading was an incomprehensible sound between a mumble and a roar. I did not understand what the meaning behind this exercise was, but now I believe I know. I discovered it while reading David Abram’s “The Spell of the Sensuous”, aided by my having briefly studied that language in graduate school. It seems that Hebrew has a single word for both ‘spirit’ and ‘wind’ — the word ‘ruach’. Thus spirit and wind are very closely related in their religion. The very first sentence in the Hebrew Bible, the “Torah”, states:

When God began to create heaven and earth — the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind (ruach) from God sweeping over the water. . .

At the very beginning of creation, before even the existence of the earth or the sky, God is present as a wind moving over the waters. This idea exists also among the Navajos, and can be found among other primitive groups as well. And breath. as we learn from the next section of Genesis, is the closest link we have to the divine. For after God forms an earthling (adam) from the dust of the earth (adamah), He blows the breath of life into the earthling’s nostrils and the human being awakens. The Hebrew term for breath of life is not ‘ruach’ but ‘neshamah’, which denotes both breath and the soul, the more personal, individual aspect of wind, the breath. In this sense, it represents conscious awareness. As we find in the Emerald  Tablet and also in Meister Eckhardt, “Words derive their power from the Original Word.” Read the rest of this post »

Myth, Religion and Spirituality

Posted July 22, 2013 by jackmeier
Categories: Uncategorized

Parmenides wrote: If you think it, it is.

No one has ever added to the sum total of human knowledge by denying the existence of anything. In order to conceive of something, it must already exist in the collective unconscious outside of time and space. As soon as someone conceive of it, it enters time. If it is then invented, it enters space. Therefore, everything conceivable exists at least as a possibility. However, nothing is certain. There is nothing whose existence can be accepted except as a hypothesis. Everything depends on point of view. Even that we are here. It may be that we are simply being dreamed, As a Bushman once said, “There is a dream dreaming us.”

In the mysteries, initiation was kept secret because no uninitiated person could believe what the initiate had experienced, or even how the initiate was now seeing the world he/she was presently inhabiting. The initiate, however, has learned this new way of seeing; namely, that one must accept all beliefs as hypothesis. As Jung pointed out in The Red Book, to hold beliefs as fact creates wars, magic, and religion, all of which, he said, were the same. Since all beliefs are hypothetical, one can see the world through the lens of each belief as it is presented. For example, in polytheism there are as many lenses as there are gods , and when one deals with a particular god, one sees the worlds through the eyes of that god. That is why polytheists do not proselytize. When they hear of another  god, they merely see that here is a different way of looking at the world. They can then accept that all things are possible, but nothing is certain. They are then free to choose among a multiplicity of beliefs. However, in a single-lensed monotheistic society, such a person may be burned at the stake, so one is better off not exposing the secrets of the Mysteries.

We are living in an era of unparalleled impoverishment and depreciation of the human soul. The collapse of old religious forms has been followed by a general demoralization of the dominant Western culture. The now-prevailing secular religions of humanism and rationalism prove inadequate because they fail to engage the transformative layer of our psyches, nor can they even provide explanations for occasional phenomena perceived by our senses. People are beginning to bump up against the limits of materialism and rationalism, realizing that these fail to offer a purpose in life. Man does not live by making a bundle alone. Although a few turn to institutional religion for orientation, many find that road barred to them by their reason and their skepticism. There must be a marriage between reason and faith, science and religion. The closest approximation we have to this today is Jung’s school of psychology, which affirms the redemptive power of consciousness. For this reason, we shall deal here with those elements from the past, many of which had been forgotten, and which, having been returned to consciousness by Jung and others may seem to us useful in our search for both consciousness and belief. We shall start with a quotation from Plato’s Republic, Book X, which describes the function of the Fates.     Read the rest of this post »

Sacrifice

Posted March 5, 2013 by jackmeier
Categories: Uncategorized

ImageSacrifice is essential for life.  We see it all around us all the time. The problem lies not in its existence, but in the fact that we have forgotten the original meaning of the word and that means that we don’t know how to deal with it

As you most likely know, the word ‘sacrifice’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘to make sacred’. Today we go through many sacrifices without thinking there is anything sacred about them. And perhaps there isn’t, but when you stop to think about it, they often turn out to be a significant part of your individuation process, what we call maturation. But right now I am thinking about it from a Christian point of view which I think you will see is not significantly different from the psychological except that the religious standpoint adds a minor factor called immortality, at least of a sort, what we might call ‘survival.’ Let me explain.   

Going back to earliest times we have the Egyptian myth of Osiris, his wife Isis, their sons Horus and Seth. It seems that in the earliest times, this myth did not contain the idea of sacrifice because  Egyptian myth was not concerned with it since they were mostly concerned with the preservation of life by blending it with death which under proper conditions could be also a continuation of life. Later the idea of sacrifice came into their religious outlook which soon spread into the surrounding cultures and ultimately became an important aspect of Christianity. You can see its beginnings in the myth of Osiris being cut into pieces with Isis seeking him throughout the Egyptian area.  In our secular age we do not see this so much as sacrifice, but more as murder, since we no longer believe in sacrifice as a spiritual act. This is similar to the myth of Demeter and Persephone. Plants must be destroyed by those who will guarantee their rebirth (the farmer) in order to preserve both our life and theirs.  In sacrifice we must destroy life in order to preserve it. In hunting societies, animals are said to give up their life in return for our guaranteeing their rebirth, as among the Ainu.

There is only one absolute requirement: it must be done in full consciousness. Osiris must have known (after all, he was a god) that his body was about to be destroyed. Persephone must have known (after all she was a goddess) that eating the pomegranate seed would mean that she would have to return — after all, she was a maturing young lady who didn’t want to remain for all eternity under her mother’s wing, and being queen of Hades can’t be all bad. And Abraham now was certain that he could accomplish his goal by substituting the death of an animal for his son, and he might even have assumed that this would guarantee the rebirth of the animal just as he had intended the same for his son. Conscious sacrifice guarantees results; unconscious sacrifice guarantees only the suffering that may lead to learning the lessons needed to acquire the needed consciousness. This is what lies behind one of the most important myths that entered Christianity in its early centuries, although in some Christian areas, mostly the Protestant, it has been largely forgotten. It is the myth behind Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, which falls on January 6.

In Orthodox areas, and many Roman Catholic countries such as Mexico, gifts are not given at Christmas but on Twelfth Night since that is when the gifts were given to the Christ child. One may, after all, have a Shower for a mother on the birth of a child, but one would be much more likely to wait a while before giving gifts to the child. With that in mind, 12th night would make more sense for giving gifts to children in our secular world. There is a small coterie of apparent believers in this myth that can be seen when Christmas lights are turned off in January. Secularists turn theirs off about January 2, believers turn theirs off after January 6. After all, if you want the gifts of the Wise Men, you must keep that star lit until they can reach you with those gifts, and that’s Twelfth Night. But just what were those gifts? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Wise Men are supposed to have been Magi, Persian Zoroastrian fire worshipers to whom these articles had other meanings, namely they wanted not to worship the Christ, but to find out what this bright star was signifying, and if it was a child, what did this mean? Was he a god (frankincense), a king (gold) or a physician (myrrh)? Which gift would he accept? He accepted all of them. So they assumed he was all three. Their religion was at that time primarily a medical religion for healing the body. But when St. Matthew wrote his gospel, he had other things in mind. To him it meant what it has come to mean in the Catholic and Orthodox churches ever since. It represents sacrifice, one of the most important concepts of Christianity. Christ was being given three gifts which he would have to sacrifice at considerable cost during his lifetime on earth in order to achieve his goals on earth — something that is also true for every believing Christian. During one’s time on earth, one must consciously sacrifice these three things: Wealth (gold) — this is what the story of the widow’s mite means. This is the original meaning of Collection as a part of church services.  Remember, it is voluntary, thus to be done in full consciousness. That is what Christ meant when he spoke of the rich man passing through the Needle’s Eye. Christ had to give that up as far as we can tell when he reached age 30, for that is the age at which the Gospels begin. From that point on, he was dependent on others.  Secondly: Power, kingship (frankincense). He claimed he was king but not of this world, but still for that reason he was crucified, even though the Roman power was not willing to indict him. The Jews brought his death about because King Herod feared rebellion. This enabled him to sacrifice the power of kingship in order to attain the sacrifice of his body necessary to achieve immortality, but it was not an easy sacrifice for him especially since it had to be done consciously. Third: Since myrrh is used primarily for incense in the West (it was a medicinal plant for the Persians) Christianity looks upon it as spirit in the sense of atmosphere. When in Church with incense in the atmosphere one can understand why we sometimes use the word atmosphere to mean spirit. The atmosphere of a particular place is actually the spirit of  a place. So incense symbolizes the body being an actual part of the spirit, surrounded and imbued by it. Myrrh is an incense which has little about it that is sweet, but it is pungent. This is spirit. This oneness with spirit has to be sacrificed at some point in our life — as  Meister Eckhardt wrote: There is nothing more sorrowful than the leaving of god for God. And Eckhardt is no polytheist. This Christ found at his most dreaded moment, when he cried out: “Oh God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This was the final sacrifice made for him by his god, who by abandoning him, left him open for his return as spirit, and his everlasting life. By the term ‘his god’, I do not mean that his god was not God, but remember that even Satan helped in the enabling process with the three temptations. ‘His god’ was the spirit of life and love who enables us all, if we wish to make the necessary sacrifice.

So sacrifice is a Christian idea which has been around for about 3000 years, and is common to both hunting and planting societies. It states that death need not be permanent, but can not be avoided without consciousness. It is true that these sacrifices are made by everyone at death, but unless they are made consciously, they are not ‘made sacred.’

ImageWe have not only forgotten why man’s life should be sacrificial, but we have forgotten how sacrificial it actually is. Indeed, life in matter is itself a sacrifice for soul. Separation is itself a sacrifice of oneness. It is a training in the opposites. We live a separate life in order to know better the meaning of a spiritual life. It is learning by experiencing the opposites. So in attaining anything on this earth we must sacrifice something else, its opposite. To become something we must give up hope of becoming something else. To attain a body, we must sacrifice spirit. If we want both, say, a spiritual body, we should have to give up one or the other. This is impossible, at least without divine intervention. So it seems that the Mysteries are becoming individual instead of collective. The Church has always radically opposed the Mysteries, insisting that Christianity is not a Mystery religion as the Gnostics would have it, but it is now becoming a Mystery religion simply because it can no longer maintain the historicity of its doctrine. St. Malachy may have been right after all; the next pope may be the last. The Christ may continue as Paraclete or daimon, also the Virgin, but both must accept the entire gamut of all points of view. Christ must no longer turn his back on his brother as he did at the three Temptations. As you can see, this religion is not one of merely sweetness and light. Consciousness, as Prometheus knew, is fire, and we must suffer as he did for stealing that fire from the gods. Consciousness is the most cherished dream of the soul — the day is the dream of the night. As the Bushman said, “There is a dream dreaming us.”


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