REALITY — Is it worth looking for?

There is another world, and this is it. (Paul Elhuard, surrealist poet)

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Why does this look like a real peacock when the picture in The Union from which it was copied was faded and lacked almost all color? How could the scanner + the computer restore reality? How can I use the word “restore” when there was much less reality to the original picture than after the “restoration”? How can I use the word “reality” when I did not even see the peacock shown on the picture? Where does the reality lie? Is or was there any reality to begin with?   Faded picture almost without color. If this is a restoration, actually what has been restored? Etc. etc.

In her excellent book Jung and Tarot, Sallie Nichols points out a question raised in Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle which raises the questions alluded to in our title.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle has destroyed many fixed boundaries with which man formerly marked out various aspects of reality, and the uncertainty is reflected in the language of science in an astonishing way. Since it is now accepted that subatomic particles cannot be accurately defined in time and space, physicists today speak of them as having a “tendency to exist.” Following this through to its logical conclusion has brought with it the horrifying realization that we, too, have only a “tendency to exist.” The minute particles which constitute our bodies are in constant interaction with those which comprise the people and objects of our environment. Just as we interact constantly with our environment through breathing, perspiration,  and elimination, so also are our  seemingly solid bodies in constant interaction with everything around us. Our existence as individual entities has become, at best, merely a statistical probablity.

Is the psyche then, the only thing that is real? But it is not a “thing.” Even the psyche can be known only through its effects, and these may vary from individual to individual. Those events  and objects not ascertainable by the five senses, we must speak of in an “as if” manner if we do not wish to be considered at best naive. This leads to my belief that most, if not all, of our problems stem from the fact that each of us views reality differently. Does it follow then, that everyone actually does live in a different world? Perhaps Heisenberg’s Principle does indicate that such might be so. Such a scientific principle might be applied in politics if one of our leaders asked Osama bin Laden, “What is it that you have against us? Why do you hate us?” We might learn something about who we are as a nation as seen from a quite different viewpoint – – just how our seemingly solid bodies constantly interact with everything around us.  How, as in religion, some see the devil simply as God as perceived by the wicked.

Likewise in medicine. We test drugs as if everyone will react the same to a given drug. Supposedly the most scientific method of testing on humans is the double-blind method. This method, however, we discredited a long time ago, since it is based on the theory (once a fact) that if you didn’t know you were taking a placebo you won’t have any reaction to it. We now know that the body may produce a reaction based on belief alone, thus negating the value of the double-blind experiment. A drug company was just exposed to suit for several million dollars in February, helping to bring the stock market down further, because it had failed to discover that the drug it produced was worthless since the reactions of those taking it was exactly the same as the placebo. They went ahead and marketed it since they had demonstrated that it was harmless, but they overlooked the fact that the placebo was just as effective and a lot cheaper.  Pharmaceutical companies frequently suppress results unfavorable to their potential sales and publish only the favorable results.

Perhaps we need a hierarchy of realities. Those objects on whose existence the vast majority can agree based on all or most of our five senses such as mountains, weather phenomena and the like can be called real. Concepts, however,such as war and peace which have generally been considered opposites by all but now only by some, would be lower on the hierarchy like heat and cold. Those objects or events which can only be observed by only a few senses or only a few people may frequently be questioned but could be viewed “as if” and more in the realm of the psyche.  Mme. Blavatsky said that matter is spirit at its lowest vibration. But we know so little. pointed out that we know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases. When I was “standing” without a body, the dogs having carried it off, (see Conversations with the Daimon in this Blog)  I said to Hermes, “I don’t know where I am.” His reply was not an answer but a koan. “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are. Who are you? Think about that.” I have since not been able to stop thinking about that, and this blog is a partial result. Perhaps, following the Uncertainty Principle, it was not necessary for “me” to be there at all, since that whole process may have occurred during a moment of  non-existence. All perceived events then would be occurring in broken sequences. Or alternatively perhaps everything is here all the time. It may onlybe that our aperture of awareness is so narrow that we experience events sequentially. Is there any way to know? Scientists were, we thought, going to answer these questions, but it seems that they have deprived us of the few answers we had. I assume that is why people like Pauli looked outside the field of science to find the answers he sought. He joined with Jung to find them in the psyche. But how one finds the answers in the psyche, even though it is primarily responsible for all the historical changes wrought by humanity on the face of this planet, must remain an insoluble puzzle, since we are looking at it from within. This requires a completely different approach which has not yet been taken by science , for it  requires a step which many have feared to take. We have only nibbled at the edges. Some, such as Rumi, believed they had found it.

There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so much they can’t hope. The hopers would feel slighted if they knew. (pause) He said also: Out beyond our ideas of right and wrong there is a field. I shall meet you there.

But there are so many who have claimed to find the answers, and so many different opposing answers that one can be disillusioned if one continues to seek them outside oneself. As Goethe said, with knowledge doubt increases. That is true in the field of spirit also. And yet people demand certainty, not only from scientists but from those in all walks of life. In affairs of the spirit, this creates problems just as it does in science. The Uncertainty Principle seems to be, therefore,  truly revolutionary. It sounds like the statement made by the Buddha:

All beings are born enlightened, but it takes a lifetime to discover this.

So where, then,  is the certainty? How can we know what is real? Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that we have always sought reality in the physical world, and not in the realm of psychology. Jung believed that we have an irresistible tendency to account for reality solely on physical grounds which springs from the horizontal development of consciousness in the last four centuries, springing as a reaction to the exclusively vertical perspective of the Gothic Age.. We delude ourselves with the thought that we know much more about physcs than about metaphysics, and so we overestimate physical causation and believe that it alone provides a true explanation of life. But matter is just as inscrutable as mind. Ultimately we can know nothing, and only when we admit this do we return to a state of equlibrium. We can not deny that there is a close connection, however, between psychic happenings and the physiological structure of the brain and the body in general. Jung explains:

Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this directiion, for they show that the non-psychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them.

Apparently the psyche has roots in the material realm, and in the background of the psyche are to be found non-psychic factors of consequence which through matter can communicate to us knowledge of who we are. The archetype is something more than psychological, that is, as Jung referred to it as ‘psychoid’ brings us to Wolfgang Pauli. He was very supportive of  Jung’s efforts to understand synchronicity and the complications it introduces into our world-view. In fact, Jung credited Pauli for the suggestion to begin publishing on synchronicity in the first place. Pauli was in turn much affected by Jung;s inquiry into this field. The role of matter in symbols induced Jung to ask with Pauli’s help, “What is the archetype?” The role of symbols in matter similarly induced Pauli to ask, with Jung’s help, “What is matter?”

The problem for the materialist lies in the fact that these processes have the qualities of consciousness. If there were no consciousness, we could not speak of the psyche at all — indeed, we would have nothing to say about anything. Consciousness is, therefore, the sine qua non  of psychic life. Psychologies without the psyche, such as behavorism, ignore the existence of unconscious psychic life — their textbooks read like texts on physiology. Jung said that no one today would venture to found a scientific psychology upon the postulate of an independent psyche that is not determined by the body. The idea of spirit in and for itself which is the only adequate postulate for the belief in autonomous, individual souls, is extremely unpopular in our culture. Maybe that is because many people are unaware that we are living in a world of metaphors. For example, ‘soul’  derives from the Germanic ‘Seele’. The adjective ‘seelig’ translates literally as ‘soul-like.’  ‘Seelig’ is where our word ‘silly’ comes from. A silly person is ‘soul-like’. He is a fool. He lives in a different world. He sees the world differently. It is the world which is a metaphor to him. Reality lies in the spirit — the world is but a metaphor.

Fool-72Certainly we would call such a person a fool. He is ‘seelig.’ It seems that in all or most languages the word for spirit also means ‘breath of air’ or ‘wind.’ Which is the metaphor?  Spirit or wind? If you believe that the world is a metaphor for the spiritual, or that the spiritual is a metaphor for the world determines whether you are a fool or not. Therefore reality is a metaphor, no matter which way you look at it.  if one sees the world in only one perspective,  that is, sees the world as simply a  metaphor, then what happens to one’s body does not matter. Hence the fool, who believes the material world is a metaphor, does not fear death. Does this change our attitude toward the fool? Perhaps thatt depends solely on our definition of reality.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that reality is created through metaphor. I shall attempt to demonstrate that myth, as an example of metaphor, in itself creates reality. The myth of the savior, examined last time, is obvious but by taking a lesser example, we can capture my meaning in more detail. Take the myth of Adonis. It actually describes a society in transition from matriarchy to patriarchy – an actual situation in the Middle East three or four thousand years ago. The divinities here have their Greek names, even though the tale is set in the Middle East. It was not written down until classical times.

One day the queen foolishly boasted that her daughter Smyrna was more beautiful even than Aphrodite The goddess avenged this insult by making Smyrna fall in love with her father and climb into his bed after her nurse had made him too drunk to realize what he was doing. Later, he discovered that he was both the father and grandfather of Smyrna’s unborn child and, wild with wrath, seized a sword and chased her from the palace. He overtook her on the brow of a hill, but Aphrodite hurriedly changed Smyrna into a myrrh tree, which the descending sword split in two, out of which tumbled the infant  Adonis. Aphrodite, repenting of the mischief she had made, concealed Adonis in a chest which she entrusted to Persephone asking her to stow it away in a dark place. Persephone had the curiosity to open the chest and found Adonis inside. He was so lovely that she lifted him out and brought him up in her own palace. The news eventually reached Aphrodite, who at once visited Tartarus to claim Adonis; and when Persephone would not assent, having by now made him her lover, she appealed to Zeus, who, well aware that Aphrodite also wanted to lie with Adonis, refused to judge so unsavory a dispute, and transferred it to a lower court, presided over by the Muse Calliope. Calliope’s verdict was that Persephone and Aphrodite had equal claims on Adonis (reminiscent of Solomon’s famous judgment) – Aphrodite for arranging his birth, Persephone for rescuing him from the chest – but , unlike Solomon, she  decreed that he be allowed a brief annual holiday from the amorous demands of both these insatiable goddesses. She therefore divided t he year into three equal parts, of which he was to spend one with Persephone, one with Aphrodite, and the third by himself (he no doubt needed a rest by then. Note the divisions of the year which we shall look at later) Aphrodite did not, however, play fair: by wearing her magic girdle all the time, she persuaded Adonis to give her his own share of the year, grudge the share due to Persephone, and disobey the court order. She ignored the fact that Persephone is the goddess of the dead. Persephone, justly aggrieved, told Ares that Aphrodite now preferred Adonis to himself (remember, Aphrodite and Ares were lovers – love and war, you know) “A mere mortal,”  she cried, “and effeminate at that!” Ares grew jealous and, disguised as a wild boar, rushed at Adonis who was out hunting on Mt. Lebanon, and gored him to death before Aphrodite’s eyes. Anemones sprang from his blood, and his soul descended to Tartarus. Aphrodite went tearfully to Zeus and pleaded that Adonis should not have to spend more than the gloomier half of the year with Persephone, but might be her companion for the summer months. This Zeus magnanimously granted.

The opening part of this myth describes a period in history when the sacred king in a matrilineal society decided to prolong his reign beyond the customary length. He did so by celebrating a marriage with the young priestess, nominally his daughter, who was to be queen for the next term, intead of letting another princeling marry his daughter and take away his kingdom. Earlier, the sacred king who had only a religious role, important thought it was, would be sacrificed after a certain term and be replaced. Adonis (Phoenician  adon, Hebrew adonai, ‘lord’) is a Greek version of the Syrian demigod Tammuz, the spirit of annual vegetation. In Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece, the goddess’s sacred year was at one time dividedaccording to Calliope’s judgment into three parts, ruled by the Lion, Goat, and Serpent. The Goat, emblem of the second part, was Aphrodite’s; the Serpent, emblem of the last part, was Perseph-one’s, the Lion, emblem of the first part, was sacred to the Birth-goddess, here named Smyrna, who had no claim on Adonis. In Greece, this calendar gave place to a two-season year, bisected either by the equinoxes in the eastern style, as at Sparta and Delphi, or by the solstices in the northern style, as at Athens and Thebes, which explains the respective verdicts of Calliope, a mountain goddess, and Zeus.Both Tammuz and Adonis were killed by a boar as were many similar mythical characters including even the Irish hero Diarmuid. The boar seems once to have been a sow with crescent-shaped tusks, the goddess herself as Persephone; but when the year was bisected, the bright half ruled by the sacred king, and the dark half ruled by his tanist, or rival, this rival came in wild-boar disguise – like Finn mac Cool when he killed Diarmuid. Tammuz’s and Adonis’ blood is allegorical of the anemones that redden the slopes of Mt. Lebanon after the winter rains. A mourning festival called the Adonia was held at Byblos every spring. Adonis’ birth from a myrrh tree – myrrh being a well-known aphrodisiac – shows the orgiastic nature of the rites (this may also apply to Twelfth Night, when the three kings brought the Christ child three gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh) The drops of gum that the myrrh tree shed were supposed to be tears shed for him. Another mythic demonstration of this transition lies in the myth of Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. He was a youth with woman’s breasts and long hair. Like the androgyne, or bearded woman, as we see in a few woman pharoahs, the hermaphrodite as a religious concept originated in the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy. Hermaphroditus was the sacred king deputizing for the queen and wearing artificial breasts. A queen, called Androgyne, was the  mother of a pre-Hellenic clan which had avoided being patriarchalized. In order to keep her magistral powers or to ennoble children born to her from a slave-father, she assumed a false beard, as was the custom at Argos. Bearded goddesses like the Cyprian Aphrodite, and effeminate gods like Dionysus correspond with these transitional social stages. You see this also in ancient Egypt.  So you can see that one can more easily look into the realities of the past by seeing into the metaphors contained in myth. For this reason I like to call history the myth of the present. At the present time, we look at a past time only through our own myth. That myth tells us what is real today, not what was real in the past. For instance, I used to tell my history students that they should be careful when they read the textbook, for in there it says that Columbus discovered America, but isn’t it more likely that the Indians discovered Columbus on the beach? The text-book version of the discovery of America is the myth of the present, even now becoming the myth of the recent past, for as you know there have been modifications to this so-called fact. George Orwell was aware of this also, for he wrote that whoever controls the past controls the future. Carl Rove knows this very well, for in all his  public statements he attempts to change our myth of what has happened in the recent past to fit in with his own views of guilt and innocence. he knows very well that innocence is like sincerity. If you can fake it, you’ve got it made.

Perhaps experience can be said to be real. But then, perhaps it is merely projection. Everyone experiences a particular event differently, and those differences can very likely be accounted for by  projection.  But isn’t the event real? How do we know, when everyone experiences it differently?   These differences can be eliminated through the scientific method, but now that we have gotten to the point where we can say that something absolutely is just as it is perceived through scientific examination, suddenly we find that we can not even be certain that it exists! Perhaps we can find reality in the psyche. This each can experience for himself, not having to base our experience on what others have found. Many consider this type of research too obscure and uncanny, and even the methods employed seem a shocking misuse of mankind’s intellectual attainments. As Jung points out:

What can we expect an astronomer to say when he is told that at least a thousand horoscopes are drawn for every one 300 years ago? What will the educator and advocate of the Enlightenment say to the fact that the world has not been freed of one single superstition since Greek antiquity? Freud himself, the founder of psychoanalysis, has thrown a glaring light upon the dirt, darkness and evil of the psychic hinterland, and has presented these things as so much refuse and slag; he has thus taken the utmost pains to discourage people from seeking anything behind them. He did not succeed, and his warning has even brought about the very thing he wished to prevent: it has awakened in many people an admiration for all this filth. We are tempted to call this sheer perversity; and we can hardly explain it save on the ground that it is not a love of dirt, but the fascination of the psyche, which draws these people.  There can be no doubt that from the beginning of the 19th century — from the memorable  years of the French Revolution onward — man has given a more and more prominent place to the psyche, his increasing attentiveness to it being the measure of its growing attractiveness to him. The enthronement of the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame seems to have been a symbolic gesture of great significance to the Western world – -rather like the hewing down of Wotan’s oak by the Christian missionaries. For then, as at the Revolution, no avenging bolt from heaven struck the blasphemer down. It is certainly more than an amusing coin-cidence that just at that time a Frenchman, Anquetil de Perron, was living in India, and in the early 1800’s brought back with him a translation of 50  Upanishads, which gave the Western world its first deep insight into the baffling mind of the East. To the historian this is mere chance without any factors of cause and effect. But in view of my medical experience I cannot take it as accident. It seems to me rather to satisfy a psychological law whose validity in personal life, at least, is complete. For every  piece of conscious life that loses its importance and value – so runs the law – there arises a compensation in the unconscious. We may see in this an analogy to the conservation of energy in the physical world, for our psychic processes have a quantitative aspect also. No psychic value can disappear without being replaced by another of equivalent intensity. This is a rule which finds its pragmatic sanction in the daily practice of the psychotherapist; it is repeatedly verified and never fails. Now the doctor in me refuses point blank to consider the life of a people as something that does not conform to psychological law. A people, in the doctor’s eyes, presents only a somewhat more complex picture of psychic life than the individual. Moreover, taking it the other way round, has not a poet spoken of the “nations” of his soul? And quite correctly, as it seems to me, for in one of its aspects the psyche is not individual, but is derived from the nation, from collectivity, or from humanity even. In some way or other, we are part of an all-embracing psychic life, of a single “greatest” man, to quote Swedenborg.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction–a psychic law which applies in the physical world also.

So psyche influences consciousness and the unconscious, and it does this through its influence onmatter. Matter and psyche acting together create experience. Without experience we have no indication that either matter or psyche is real.  As Jung further points out. the atomic theory of Leucippus and Democritus was not based on any external observations of atomic fission, but on a mythological conception of smallest particles, the soul-atoms, which are known even to the still paleolithic inhabitants of central Australia. We are indeed incapable of saying how the world is constituted in itself, since we are obliged to convert physical events into psychic processes whenever we want to say anything about knowledge. Drawing from Jung:

But who can guarantee that this conversion produces anything like an adequate “objective” picture of the world? That could only be if the physical event were also a psychic one. But a great distances still seems to separate us from such an assertion. Till then, we must for better or worse content ourselves with the assumption that the psyche supplies those images and forms which alone make knowledge of objects possible. But where did Democritus first hear of atoms? This notion had its origin in archetypal ideas, that is, in primordial images which were never reflections of physical events but are spontaneous products of the psychic factor. Despite the materialistic tendency to understand the psyche as a mere reflection or imprint of physical and chemical processes, there is not a single proof of this hypothesis. Quite the contrary, innumerable facts prove that the psyche translates physical processes into sequences of images which have hardly any recognizable connection with the objective process. The materialistic hypothesis is much too bold and flies in the face of experience with almost metaphysical presumption. The only thing that can be established with certainty in the present state of our knowledge is our ignorance of the psyche.There is thus no ground at all for regarding the psyche as something secondary or as an epiphenomenon; on the contrary, there is every reason to regard it, at least hypothetically, as a factor sui generis and to go on doing so until it has been sufficiently proved that psychic proceses can be fabricated in a retort. We have laughed at the claims of the alchemists to be able to manufacture a lapis philosophorum consisting of a body, soul, and spirit, as impossible, hence we shold stop dragging along with us the logical consequence of this medieval assumption, namely the materialistic prejudice regarding the psyche as though it were a proven fact.

Jung concludes from this that the psyche is real, although enigmatic, since it appears essentially different from physical processes. We do not know what it is in substance, although this is true also of physical objects and matter in general. However, he does posit an objective psyche,  called the unconscious, from which emanate determining influences which guarantee in every single individual a similarity and even sameness of experience, and also the way this experience is represented in one’s imagination. A proof of this is the almost universal parallelism beween mythological motifs which he calls archetypes. Therefore, one could say that reality, in Jung’s view, stems from the unconscious and is revealed through archetypes. There actually seems to be a universal truth, which Jung called the archetype, that speaks to us out of a myth, no matter what time or place its source. What we notice,  however, is its manifestation. It is very difficult to isolate a pure archetype or to see it when we have it. It is like the invisible man in the old science fiction movie who who could only be seen when he was wrapped up in bandages or dressed in a hat and coat. The archetye can only be “seen” when it is enveloped in the bandages that each cultural manifestation puts on it. Or it is like a doll that you dress in different moral values. But the story itself, the essential archetype, has no moral values; it is just a narrative, an image of what happens. It is up tothe interpreter to ask why it happens. The archetype, however, lets us “see” the myth that is built around it, just as the hole in the doughnut lets us see that the doughnut is a doughnut. Jung himself acknowledges the transparency of the archetype:

The archetypes are eternally inherited forms and ideas which have at first no specific content. Their specific content only appears in the course of the individual’s life, when personal experience is taken up in precisely these forms. There are undoubtedly inherited archetypes which are, however, devoid of content, because, to begin with, they contain no personal experiences. They only emerge into consciousness when personal experiences have rendered them visible.

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Archetypes are necessarily transmitted by manifestations. One might define an archetypal myth as what a story would be like if no one told it; but we cannot hear such a story, any more than we can perceive an unmanifested archetype. An archetype is a vacuum into which meaning keeps falling, which meaning-lessness abhors. Like their archetypes myths do not, strictly speaking, have meanings; they provide contexts in which meaning occurs. A myth is not so much a true story as a story in which truth is based, a story which people may infuse with their truth. As Mark Twain said, “Only fiction must deal with facts; truth doesn’t have to.” As the shaman replied to the anthropologist who persisted in asking him, “What do the myths mean?”  “The myths signify — nothing. They mean themselves.” Myths perform what has been called “a mating dance with meaning.” So where does the reality lie?  In the archetype, which in itself cannot be perceived? Or in the manifestation via experience or mythical expression of the experience as perceived through various cultural dress? Or in the meanings derived from interpretations of the experience? Although as the Buddha said, all of us are born enlightened, it just takes a lifetime to discover this. So enlightenment may be what is real, it just takes a lifetime to realize it. According to the Upanishads, the gods do not want us to realize it. Likewise in  the Genesis myth. Lucifer did not want mankind to perceive reality. He refused to kneel before mankind and provided him with the power to perceive light unhindered by the senses provided him by God. Therefore our senses retain their function of preventing us from perceiving reality. For this, Lucifer (light-bearer) was exiled from heaven but still retains the ability to prevent us from full perception. It was only when I was outside of my body that I perceived full perception of light, and even got a glimpse of the goddess. I have deduced that this is true of all our senses. We cannot hear the “music of the spheres” but hear single musical tones, which if properly combined harmonically can be listened to under certain conditions. When one gets older, or after these organs of hearing are injured by loud sounds, one can hear what the Bushmen called “the stars hunting.” This indicates to me that they believed that tinnitus is a kind of super-hearing since stars make no sound when they hunt since making a sound when you hunt will eliminate the possibility of success. So what may be annoying to us actually may be the beginnings of what we would call an inkling of the “music of the spheres.” This is of course all my deduction, and as you know, deduction is drawing particular conclusions from generalities. But since I did once experience the light of Lucifer, perhaps I am using induction, drawing a generality from single facts. The best example of the art of induction I know is the time a man jumped off the Empire State Building. When he had reached the 50th floor, he remarked, “Well, so far so good.” But then, logic does have its difficulties. So since the gods do not want us to be enlightened with unimpeded perception, they must have a good reason.

Whoever among gods, sages, or men becomes enlightened becomes the very self of the gods, and the gods have no power to prevent him. But whoever worships a divinity other than himself is like a sacrificial animal for the gods, and such a person is of use to the gods just as many animals would be of use to a man. Therefore it is not pleasing to those gods that men should be enlightened.

Therefore we are more useful to the gods when we worship them as Other, and they can then draw energy from us.  Let us follow through on this point by looking at a mythical representation of a single archetype – that of Sacrifice. The similarity to the myth of Dionysus provided a useful metaphor for the early Christians when they created a myth about the origin of the ritual of the Euch-arist. They needed a myth to describe what was to them a truth, and although the myth of Dionysus described an archetypal truth, it did not go far enough. The Christian myth tells of someone who realized he was part of a myth, one that others did not at first recognize or accept. In its retelling, when Jesus at the Last Supper ate of the Passover Lamb and then instructed his disciples to drink his blood in the form of wine, he knew, though the others did not, that he was to become that lamb whose blood was to be painted on the doorposts so that death would pass over us. In the Gospels, Jesus predicted that he would become such a god; in the myth, he knew that his own myth and ritual were taking place for the first time, which is the function and purpose of ritual – to restore the ambiance and repeat the actions of the First Time as it had been taught by the god. Jesus is depicted as having established the ritual of his own myth when he taught his worshipers to drink his blood and eat his flesh. He reestablished the old ritual so that people would remember the new myth: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus is depicted as speaking with th vision of one who realizes that he is living the myth of one who is sacrificed in hate – crucified; but from that frame he sees the inner myth, the old myth of a god who sacrifices himself in love. He was to be the surrogate for the lamb, which much earlier had been the surrogate in the sacrifice of a human being. Within the Hebrew Bible, there is solid evidence of the sacrifice of the firstborn human child. Most famous of all, of course, is the story of Abraham and Isaac. The usual situation, which Isaac refers to in all innocence, is the sacrifice of  lamb (”Behold the fire and the wood,” he says to his father, “but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”) Such an animal usually stands as a surrogate for the human sacrificer himself, who had been saved by the sacrifice of the lamb at Passover. Isaac is to be substituted for this substitute – until another lamb appears in the thicket as a substitute for this human substitute for the basic surrogate lamb. This is the already labyrinthine house of mirrors into which the New Testament introduces its own mirror to end all mirrors; for surely John and Paul (like so many Christians after them, including Kierkegaard) had Isaac in mind as the human lamb who was to be saved by the sacrifice of Jesus. There is a midrash on the story of Abraham and Isaac that argues from the point of view of Hebrew grammar that since the verb going up the mountain is plural whreas the verb going down the mountain is singular therefore Abraham really did kill I saac, who was subsequently resurrected. This strengthens the Christian argument that Christ’s sacrifice was to be the last.  Since the archetype is universal, and not limited to particular time and place, it follows that we live the myths of other peoples as well as our own. An example is a myth told to Laurens van der Post when he was a child by his nanny who was a Bushman housemaid and enriched his life as a child.  This story enabled me to reach the conclusion I have reached up to now on the nature of reality.

Before she would marry him his wife had made him promise her that he would never lift the lid of the basket and look inside until she gave him permission to do so. If he did, a great disaster might overtake them both. But as the months went by, the man began to forget his promise. He became steadily more curious, seeing the basket so near day after day, with the lid always firmly shut. One day when he was alone, he went into his wife’s hut, saw the basket standing in the shadows, and could bear it no longer. Snatching off the lid, he looked inside. For a moment he stood there unbelieving,  then burst out laughing. When his wife came back in the evening, she knew at once what had happened. She put her hand to her heart, and looking at him with tears in her eyes, she said, “You’ve looked in the basket.” He admitted it with a laugh, saying “You silly woman. You silly, silly creature. Why have you made such a fuss about this basket? There’s nothing in it at all.”   “Nothing?” she said, hardly finding the strength to speak. “Yes, nothing,”  he answered emphatically. At that she turned her back on him, walked straight into the sunset and vanished. She was never seen on earth again.

Van der Post said in telling the story that to this day he could hear the old black servant woman who told him the story as a child sayng to him “And do you know why she went away, my little master? Not because he had broken his promise, but because, looking into the basket, he had found it empty. She went because the basket was not empty; it was full of beautiful things of the sky she had stored for them both; and because he could not see them and just laughed, there was no use for her on earth any more and she vanished.”  This helped me to draw the conclusion that the function of perception is to conceal reality from the unenlightened. Indeed, it seems likely that our sense perceptors were deliberately designed to conceal reality from us, a conclusion I reached after seeing the light of the Spirit only until I received my “sight” back, after which I had to squint until the light diminished. Although we do not know what reality is, if we should ever become enlightened, our perceptors will no longer be able to conceal reality from us.  Only then will we be able properly to answer Hermes’ koan, “Who are you?” And then we can say that reality is but one aspect of the truth. And do not ask me what that is!

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One Comment on “REALITY — Is it worth looking for?”

  1. Joanna Says:

    I’d just like to thank you for your post. It has given me some comfort (and interesting points) as I can often find myself interpreting things that happen in, or come through to my senses from “the ‘real’ world” as metaphors placed (often) to guide me in some way. This can cause conflict as I battle between two different ‘realities’. Perhaps I should stop worrying that these experiences and ideas do not fit with most peoples opinions on things and have more faith in myself and my beliefs. Thanks again, I’m glad I found this post 🙂


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