Thursday, January 21, 2010

Soul-making in Pictures


Unconditional Love


Unimaginable Sorrow


Joyous Innocence



Grief, Courage and Compassion
(notice both faces)




Pain of Loss




Loyalty and Respect

Compassionate Warrior

Friendship

Erotic Love



Humane Care




Reverence



Be kinder than necessary to everyone you meet, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. This is the human condition. All emotions make character. Every experience is a soul-making experience.

------------------------------

A Word from Carl Jung

“The sad truth is that man’s real life consists of a complex of inexorable opposites—day and night, birth and death, happiness and misery, good and evil. We are not even sure that one will prevail against the other, that good will overcome evil, or joy defeat pain. Life is a battleground. It always has been, and always will be; and if it were not so, existence would come to an end. It was precisely this conflict within man that led the early Christians to expect and hope for the end of the world, or the Buddhists to reject all earthly desires and aspirations.
“These basic answers would be frankly suicidal if they were not linked up with peculiar mental and moral ideas and practices that constitute the bulk of both religions and that, to a certain extent, modify their radical denial of the world.
“I stress this point because, in our time, there are millions of people who have lost faith in any kind of religion. Such people do not understand their religion any longer. While life runs smoothly without religion, the loss remains as good as unnoticed. But when suffering comes, it is another matter. That is when people begin to seek a way out and to reflect about the meaning of life and its bewildering and painful experiences.”
Carl G. Jung, Man and His Symbols, pp. 85-87

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

June 22nd - December 22nd: My Two Birthdays

I was born on June 22nd, the day after the Summer solstice in the northern hemisphere when the days begin to get shorter as the tilting earth moves away from the sun. The Babylonians and other cultures in the northern hemisphere commemorated this time with a six-day funeral because it marked the decline of daylight hours and the onset of the withering, deadly summer heat. They saw this moment as the death of Tammuz, and his descent into darkness. Our month of June was called Tammuz by the Babylonians.

In Egypt this God was Osiris. In ancient Sumer this dying God was called Dumuzid, and in Greece Adonis. Recent discoveries reconfirm them as annual life-death-rebirth deities. Tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld in order to secure Inanna's release, corresponding to the coming life giving crops and animal births.

If June 22nd marked the day after the longest day and the death of the god with gradually decreasing light, then December 22nd was the day after the Winter solstice, marking the shortest day and a pivoting back toward the lengthening of days as the light returned to warm the earth, bringing life from the soil. This time was often celebrated as a period of rejoicing, great hope and the rebirth of the absent God/ess. The Christmas story and birth of Christ was assigned to this well known day and event of the rebirth of light, hope and peaceful weather on earth.

When I was exactly nineteen and one half years of age, on the night of December 22nd, after reading the Passion story of Christ for the first time from the Gospel of Matthew, I was compelled by some inner thought to pray and ‘believe’ in the dying and resurrected Christ. On December 22nd I underwent a remarkable transformation. The psychic shift was shocking and unanticipated, especially since I had no religious training or church attendance prior to that night. My whole life literally changed in an instant in a radical fashion. I lost all desire to drink and party with my friends, I felt a union with all of creation, I knew God was real, I felt a total freedom from fear and worry, my college GPA went from a 1.8 to a 3.8 and astonishing events began to occur in my life. For the first time I felt purpose and confidence.

Like Tammuz (Dimuzi, Adonis), I had been raised from death and darkness. The juxtaposition of June (Tammuz) 22nd and December 22nd was either a colossal coincidence, or some sort of psycho-astrological synchronous event.

Subsequent to the transformative December 22nd experience, I began attending an evangelical church, then a Bible college and eventually two different seminaries where I completed two post graduate degrees in biblical and theological studies. I taught part time in a Presbyterian seminary for a couple of years and became the minister of an Evangelical Free Church for five years. However, during those years of theological education, I was having increasing doubts about what I was being taught, and unsure that my December 22nd spiritual experience was necessarily connected with, or explained by those theological teachings.

Depressed, bereft of faith, doubtful of all that I had been taught in my church, the Christian college and evangelical seminaries, I left it all in 1990. For the next decade I dabbled in many different religious traditions, called myself an agnostic and spent considerable time experimenting with alcohol and the lifestyle that went along with it. I was relieved to be free of the guilt, oppression and often inhumane beliefs I had been taught. I was distraught to be so confused, lost and bereft of a structure for existence, or cosmology.

Within a year of leaving organized evangelicalism, I met a woman in a class I was teaching. She told me that she had a dream. In her dream, she said, God had asked her to share a message with me from the divine. Skeptical, but fascinated, I asked her what the message from the dream was about. She said, “Jesus told me to tell you that ‘Life came out of death.’”

I told her that the one thing I had retained from my religious life was my December 22nd experience of reading the Passion of the Christ story and the subsequent spiritual awakening that came upon me. I said, “The one thing I know is that life comes out of death.”

She then told me that Jesus had asked her to “tell Michael that my real name is Irv.”

My reply was, “Whatever,” and I went away thinking she was a New Age kook. Two weeks later she called and said she had shared the dream with her Jungian therapist who was an ex-Catholic nun. The therapist said, “IRV was sometimes used in Catholic school to refer to in requiem vita, or ‘in death is life.’”

June 22nd and the earthly symbol of descent into darkness and death - December 22nd and ascent into light and life; a time of various seasonal rites of death and rebirth on those dates; a dream message of ‘in requiem vita’ or ‘in death is life.

Since that time I have experienced various depressions and struggles with the meaning, source and ‘way out’ of dark nights. I have lost my faith. I lost a marriage and family. I lost my 25 year old son in Afghanistan in 2008. I have been near death on two occasions.

For the past twenty years I have been obsessed with the themes of Eros (love) and Thanatos (death) as seen in my poetry and blog sites. Necessity compels me to explore the themes of darkness and light, life and death, positive and negative. I have experienced mystical ascents into sublimity and a descent into the hell of alcoholism. Both have gifted me with insights as well as in-sites into a diverse and fascinating soul topography that includes light bathed oases as well as shadowy labyrinths. This is my call. I do not know why, but I finally surrender and open to what it means, and what I must do with it, if anything.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Addiction and Comedy: Both Stem from Incomplete Stories

Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories.


Some would call them ‘unresolved feelings,’ but that places too much emphasis on just the internal emotion. There is an event that takes place which triggers the emotions I am referring to. The activating event is almost always a loss of some kind; a death, divorce, destroyed reputation, unfulfilled expectation, betrayal and many other kinds of losses, real or imagined. Our emotional reaction is unpleasant. We are sad, angry, hurt, confused, depressed, etc. Rather than move through the emotional story, we find ways to avoid the pain. Substance abuse [including sex, money, religion and fame] and humor are great ways to avoid moving through the experiences.


After we experience any painful event in life, a story begins. The human mind is constructed to create stories. We remember. We review. We replay the images over and over. That reactivates the pain; this is called resentment, which literally means to ‘feel again.’ What we do not realize is that there must also be a middle and an end to the emotional story. Often telling jokes, being sarcastic and getting loaded are ways to postpone "feeling through" the event in order to complete the story. The more adept you are, the easier it is to postpone the process. Usually the more educated and intelligent person can postpone the process the longest. They take great pride in being able to control their emotions and avoid the story.


But the human being is made to get back, eventually, to the story. And if we live long enough, we will. But why? Why do we have these emotions? Why are there tragic events that trigger them? Why so many painful events in life? Why does the mind review and create stories? Is it just an evolutionary fluke? Why do mice and roses have such predictable lives, and we humans lives of so much drama, pain and chaos? There must be a reason for such a process. I think there is, and that it looks something like this:


HHumans are making an invisible self, a 'soul' if you will. Our bodies and the material world in general comprise a kind of embryo or womb for souls. The soul is parasitic in this sense, living off of the experiences of the body and mind as they interact with the various phenomena of the external world. That is why we often feel like an observer in our thoughts, and especially dreams. At moments we can actually watch our selves as detached witnesses. We may even speak to our self, “You are such an idiot!” Or, “Why did you do that?” Etc.


The invisible soul is being made by all of life’s events. Just as the body feeds on physical food, the soul feeds on psychic or emotional food. We must ingest, digest and metabolize the various emotional meals we are served through life. That is why we love stories. They are emotional meals that feed our souls. That is why Jesus said that a human doesn't live by bread alone, but by words or stories, and some stories are more effective than others.


The human body and mind are clearly made to experience pain. We have nerve endings and innate mental categories for anxiety, grief, fear and confusion. We get depressed and disappointed. From a strictly evolutionary point of view, these seem to be useless and debilitating features of the human species. Cattle and trees seem better equipped to deal with the difficulties of earthly existence, largely oblivious to pain and suffering. But, these pains, specifically human emotional pains, make souls. Like a freshly sprouted pumpkin, a human must detach from the life sustaining umbilical cord, be stabbed in the head, opened up at the top by a sharp knife, hollowed out and made ready for a light in order to become a jackolantern. The analogy of the butterfly is often used to exemplify human transformation, and for good reason. The worm uses the material of its existence to form a cocoon, hibernate in the suffocating chamber and transform into a very different creature. The Greek word psyche means night moth or butterfly. The Greeks understood that the psyche, or soul, was being made through the events of life.


Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories. The story must be completed in order to progress. If the addiction and sarcasm are still enjoyable, by all means have fun! These are part of soul making too. Addictions and chronic humor not only alleviate the pain, they simultaneously aggravate the pain. After each delusional diversionary attempt, another layer of emotional pain is added to the already unresolved pathology. Eventually, a person will go irreparably insane, die or complete his/her story. There is no right way to do this except to resume where the initial activating event took place. Find someone you trust, and tell the middle part of your story, feel the emotions that were set aside. Many find this by going back to or joining a religious organization, some find it in 12 step work, some in therapy, some with a trusted friend. The important thing is to resume and complete the story.


Just a quick word about religion and therapy: Sometimes religion and therapy become a substitute for ones story, or teach a person 'helpful' ways to 'transcend' or control their story. These are really just more forms of avoidance. Both religion and therapy can be of much assistance if they help guide one through his/her own emotional narrative experience, eventually uniting the sublimated raw unconscious psychic material with the conscious soul.

Addiction and Comedy: Both Stem from Incomplete Stories

Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories.


Some would call them ‘unresolved feelings,’ but that places too much emphasis on just the internal emotion. There is an event that takes place which triggers the emotions I am referring to. The activating event is almost always a loss of some kind; a death, divorce, destroyed reputation, unfulfilled expectation, betrayal and many other kinds of losses, real or imagined. Our emotional reaction is unpleasant. We are sad, angry, hurt, confused, depressed, etc. Rather than move through the emotional story, we find ways to avoid the pain. Substance abuse, including sex, money and fame, and humor are great ways to avoid moving through the experiences.


After we experience any painful event in life, a story begins. The human mind is constructed to create stories. We remember. We review. We replay the images over and over. That reactivates the pain; this is called resentment, which literally means to ‘feel again.’ What we do not realize is that there must also be a middle and an end to the emotional story. Often telling jokes, being sarcastic and getting loaded are ways to postpone feeling through the event in order to complete the story. The more adept you are, the easier it is to postpone the process. Usually the more educated and intelligent person can postpone the process the longest. They take great pride in being able to control their emotions and avoid the story.


But the human being is made to get back, eventually, to the story. And if we live long enough, we will. But why? Why do we have these emotions? Why are there tragic events that trigger them? Why so many painful events in life? Why does the mind review and create stories? Is it a just an evolutionary fluke? Why do mice and roses have such predictable lives, and we humans lives of so much drama, pain and chaos? There must be a reason for such a process. I think there is, and that it looks something like this:


HHumans are making an invisible self, a 'soul' if you will. Our bodies and the material world in general comprise a kind of embryo or womb for souls. The soul is parasitic in this sense, living off of the experiences of the body and mind as they interact with the various phenomena of the external world. That is why we often feel like an observer in our thoughts, and especially dreams. At moments we can actually watch our selves as detached witnesses. We may even speak to our self, “You are such an idiot!” Or, “Why did you do that?” Etc.


The invisible soul is being made by all of life’s events. Just as the body feeds on physical food, the soul feeds on psychic or emotional food. We must ingest, digest and metabolize the various emotional meals we are served through life. That is why we love stories. They are emotional meals that feed our souls. That is why Jesus said that a human doesn't live by bread alone, but by words or stories, and some stories are more effective than others.


The human body and mind are clearly made to experience pain. We have nerve endings and innate mental categories for anxiety, grief, fear and confusion. We get depressed and disappointed. From a strictly evolutionary point of view, these seem to be useless and debilitating features of the human species. Cattle and trees seem better equipped to deal with the difficulties of earthly existence, largely oblivious to pain and suffering. But, these pains, specifically emotional pains, make souls. Like a freshly sprouted pumpkin, a human must detach from the life sustaining umbilical cord, be stabbed in the head, opened up at the top by a sharp knife, hollowed out and made ready for a light in order to become a jackolantern. The analogy of the butterfly is often used to exemplify human transformation, and for good reason. The worm uses the material of its existence to form a cocoon, hibernate in the suffocating chamber and transform into a very different creature. The Greek word psyche means night moth or butterfly. The Greeks understood that the psyche, or soul, was being made through the events of life.

Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories. The story must be completed in order to progress. If the addiction and sarcasm are still enjoyable, by all means have fun! These are part of soul making too. Addictions and chronic humor not only alleviate the pain, they simultaneously aggravate the pain. After each delusional diversionary attempt, another layer of emotional pain is added to the already unresolved pathology. Eventually, a person will go irreparably insane, die or complete his/her story. There is no right way to do this except to resume where the initial activating event took place. Find someone you trust, and tell the middle part of your story, feel the emotions that were set aside. Many find this by going back to or joining a religious organization, some find it in 12 step work, some in therapy, some with a trusted friend. The important thing is to resume and complete the story.


Just a quick word about religion: Sometimes religion becomes a substitute or vicarious story in place of your story. Religion can be of much assistance if the religious story evokes and guides one through his/her own emotional narrative experience.

Addiction and Comedy: Both Stem from Incomplete Stories

Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories.

Some would call them ‘unresolved feelings,’ but that places too much emphasis on just the internal emotion. There is an event that takes place which triggers the emotions I am referring to. The activating event is almost always a loss of some kind; a death, divorce, destroyed reputation, unfulfilled expectation, betrayal and many other kinds of losses, real or imagined. Our emotional reaction is unpleasant. We are sad, angry, hurt, confused, depressed, etc. Rather than move through the emotional story, we find ways to avoid the pain. Substance abuse, including sex, money and fame, and humor are great ways to avoid moving through the experiences.

After we experience any painful event in life, a story begins. The human mind is constructed to create stories. We remember. We review. We replay the images over and over. That reactivates the pain; this is called resentment, which literally means to ‘feel again.’ What we do not realize is that there must also be a middle and an end to the emotional story. Often telling jokes, being sarcastic and getting loaded are ways to postpone feeling through the event in order to complete the story. The more adept you are, the easier it is to postpone the process. Usually the more educated and intelligent person can postpone the process the longest. They take great pride in being able to control their emotions and avoid the story.

But the human being is made to get back, eventually, to the story. And if we live long enough, we will. But why? Why do we have these emotions? Why are there tragic events that trigger them? Why so many painful events in life? Why does the mind review and create stories? Is it a just an evolutionary fluke? Why do mice and roses have such predictable lives, and we humans lives of so much drama, pain and chaos? There must be a reason for such a process. I think there is, and that it looks something like this:

HHumans are making an invisible self, a 'soul' if you will. Our bodies and the material world in general comprise a kind of embryo or womb for souls. The soul is parasitic in this sense, living off of the experiences of the body and mind as they interact with the various phenomena of the external world. That is why we often feel like an observer in our thoughts, and especially dreams. At moments we can actually watch our selves as detached witnesses. We may even speak to our self, “You are such an idiot!” Or, “Why did you do that?” Etc.

The invisible soul is being made by all of life’s events. Just as the body feeds on physical food, the soul feeds on psychic or emotional food. We must ingest, digest and metabolize the various emotional meals we are served through life. That is why we love stories. They are emotional meals that feed our souls. That is why Jesus said that a human doesn't live by bread alone, but by words or stories, and some stories are more effective than others.

The human body and mind are clearly made to experience pain. We have nerve endings and innate mental categories for anxiety, grief, fear and confusion. We get depressed and disappointed. From a strictly evolutionary point of view, these seem to be useless and debilitating features of the human species. Cattle and trees seem better equipped to deal with the difficulties of earthly existence, largely oblivious to pain and suffering. But, these pains, specifically emotional pains, make souls. Like a freshly sprouted pumpkin, a human must detach from the life sustaining umbilical cord, be stabbed in the head, opened up at the top by a sharp knife, hollowed out and made ready for a light in order to become a jackolantern. The analogy of the butterfly is often used to exemplify human transformation, and for good reason. The worm uses the material of its existence to form a cocoon, hibernate in the suffocating chamber and transform into a very different creature. The Greek word psyche means night moth or butterfly. The Greeks understood that the psyche, or soul, was being made through the events of life.

Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories. The story must be completed in order to progress. If the addiction and sarcasm are still enjoyable, by all means have fun! These are part of soul making too. Addictions and chronic humor not only alleviate the pain, they simultaneously aggravate the pain. After each delusional diversionary attempt, another layer of emotional pain is added to the already unresolved pathology. Eventually, a person will go irreparably insane, die or complete his/her story. There is no right way to do this except to resume where the initial activating event took place. Find someone you trust, and tell the middle part of your story, feel the emotions that were set aside. Many find this by going back to or joining a religious organization, some find it in 12 step work, some in therapy, some with a trusted friend. The important thing is to resume and complete the story.

Just a quick word about religion: Sometimes religion becomes a substitute or vicarious story in place of your story. Religion can be of much assistance if the religious story evokes and guides one through his/her own emotional narrative experience.