Wednesday, December 5, 2012


"If you only follow your own desire according to its own indications it will never go too far, it will always lead to its own defeat." Marie Louise von Franz, from Alchemy, An Introduction

In this statement, I hear Marie von Franz saying that our incessant cravings for pleasure and happiness always contain within them an ultimate defeat. The new car, new home, new lover, yummy bowl of ice cream or a great movie I've been looking forward to--I desire it, get it, and then it's gone. Then what? Most of us simply fill the mind, heart and hands with the next anticipated desire, even when we know that it too will come and go. But then a moment arrives in life, or several moments, when we ask, "Is this it? Just one unfulfilled craving following the next?"

The conscious person is left with at least two alternatives when such questions arise: One, become really super spiritual and learn to stop desiring. Two, continue to desire while realizing that every unfulfilled aspiration is leading me toward a goal. Von Franz is recommending alternative number two. You see, her quote comes from a book about alchemy. Alchemy refers to the process of transforming one thing into another thing, an entirely different thing than the first. Her comment about desire leading to defeat is not a negative assessment, but very positive. She is not suggesting that we ought to get rid of our desires, but simply realize that they will always leave us empty and needy, but that each new desire and each subsequent defeat moves us closer to the ultimate goal--which is completion. Please do not ask me what "completion" is. I have no clue--any more than I could have told you when I was five years old what it would be like to be twenty or fifty. But I knew that such ages or "completions" existed. C.S. Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” I think Lewis is suggesting that every desire is God-given, but that the continual disappointments remind us that eventually the desire can and will be fulfilled by "another world". I once heard a Rabbi put it like this, "Every time we connect to something or someone that we desire, the cord is cut and we fall into disappointment. But God reties the rope, each new knot drawing us one inch closer to completion." I love that image. There is purpose in every desire, every defeat, and every retying. Enjoy your desires. Fulfill your desires. Acknowledge the defeats. Know you are moving to a goal--the goal of making your unique soul.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Government Controlled Health Care and Mental Illness

 My biggest concern over government controlled healthcare has less to do with party politics and more to do with giving any govermental body control over our minds. Once the government gets hold of the ever expanding Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR, 2000, Fourth Edition, which now has almost 1000 pages worth of mental illnesses, they hold the equivalent of The Malleus Maleficarum. This ancient text, first published in 1486-7, was the standard medieval text on witchcraft. It remained in print throughout the early modern period. Similar to the DSM it describes what is normal and what is not and the ways to "fix things" that don't fit into "normal" society. Thomas Szasz calls the modern  Western proclivity to resort to accusations of "mental illness" as being the equivalent of the Catholic Inquisition. We no longer accuse people of being possessed in order to ostracize them socio-politically, but resort to labeling them with pathologizing terminology. Szasz argues that the old religious model has been transferred to the modern medical psychiatric model. Same result: One receives an "authoritative" label, stigmatization follows, and then one is handed over to the state run institutions to be removed from normal society, treated and "fixed" or incarcerated by the new priests--therapists and social workers.

Recently, someone I know discovered who I was voting for in the 2012 presidential election and wrote me a concerned email saying, "Some of your friends think you have lost your sanity." I had to smile. The same person would mock Christians for accusing someone of demon possession, but unquestioningly resorted to the modern scientistic parallel of being possessed by "mental illness". I was clearly not in "the right, or left mind". I assured her that I was certainly insane, as the word in-sane can mean "partly there". I also made it clear that we are all somewhat insane, and thanked her for the compliment. Watch out for people who think they are sane--they are the most dangerous kind of people.

Now, back to the government controlling "mental health". Imagine either a democrat or a republican majority, or even both parties conjointly, appointing those who adjudicate what is "normal" and revising the DSM, which is done every few years, to reflect their judgments--adding illnesses like criticizing the president, disagreeing with the majority, being a Tea Party member or Occupy Wall Street member. It is a very short step to adding new mental illnesses to the "Book" and seizing control of the minds of the citizens, just as the Church tried to do in parts of Europe with their "Book" in the 15th century. I think Orwell called Governmentally run mental healthcare the Ministry of Love.

Friday, October 12, 2012


The modern Sufi writer, Idries Sha, notes that most modern spiritual programs determine the success and enlightenment of the spiritual student by her/his mystical experiences and feelings of bliss. To put it mildly, this is dispiriting to those who have no such experiences, or to those who have such experiences and can’t seem to find them again. Shah says this about that, “...according to Sufi ideas and practice, it is precisely those who do not feel subjective states, or who have at one time been affected by them and no longer feel them, who may be real candidates for the next stage [of spiritual development].”

In other words “spirituality” is not necessarily measured by “feelings of numinous connection”. This is a profound Sufi teaching, suggesting that advanced Truth and “spirituality” are most often experienced in the times of disconnection and feelings of ordinary daily life, or times of feeling distant from the divine Presence. Junaid of Bhagdad, a Sufi teacher who lived in 900 A.D writes: “Truth comes after ‘states’ and ecstasy, and takes its place”. Some mystics call this the “Presence of Absence,” suggesting that Absence is a living Experience that takes us more deeply into soul-making than any ecstatic sensation of bliss. The Hebrew psalmist wrote:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;

the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

~ Psalm 139:11-13

This Psalm recognizes that the divine knitting or weaving together of one’s soul takes place in the light and the dark, in moments of numinous light and moments of murky absence. Divine activity takes place even in the darkness of the womb--every mundane moment forms a divine womb where we are being fashioned into the image of God.

Remember this next time you wish you had more mystical experiences or numinous feelings of divine Presence. Remember this when a guru or teacher tells you that ultimate spirituality is a feeling of divine bliss. Like romantic love, feelings come and go, but the Presence of the Divine and opportunities for Truth-knowing are in every moment of the day. Make yourself a little sign like the one Carl Jung had carved in Latin above the door of his house in Kusnacht, Switzerland: "VOCATUS ATQUE NON VOCATUS DEUS ADERIT," which says in English: "Called or not called, the deity will be there." Jung said he placed it there for his clients to see each time they came for therapy—reminding them that the divine usually does not show up in the way one expects.

The Normalcy and Necessity of self-Annihilation

“All things in creation suffer annihilation (fanā) and there remains
the face of the Lord in its majesty and bounty.” ~ Qur'an, Sura 55:26–27

The Arabic word fanā means “to pass away” or “to annihilate," referring to the often painful obliteration of the individual human ego that keeps one from experiencing the majesty of the infinite God. Fanā is one of the necessary steps taken by the Islamic Ṣūfī adept in pursuit of union with the pure love of God, often through unceasing contemplation on the attributes of God. Most Ṣūfīs view fanā as a negative state or a first step in preparation for the positive state of experiencing the revelation of the divine attributes and union (tawḥīd) with God. This is not an easy step. It requires the dissolution of the ego-self while remaining physically alive.
I am struck by this Ṣūfī notion of fanā as it relates to James Hillman's archetypal psychology, specifically his idea of pathologizing. Hillman describes pathologizing as "the psyche's autonomous ability to create illness, morbidity, disorder, abnormality, and suffering in any aspect of its behavior and to through this deformed and afflicted perspective... necessarily...central to the soul" (Re-Visioning Psychology 55-57). Elsewhere Hillman discusses the therapeutic process and the troublesome pathologizings which sometimes lead analysands to suicidal thoughts and urges: “Where the death experience insists on a suicidal image, then it is the patients ‘I’ and everything he holds to be his ‘I’ is coming to its end” (Suicide and the Soul 75). In other words, there is something native to the human psyche that requires the fanā or obliteration of the current "I" before new life may emerge. This suggests that all of life's experiences, especially the so called "negative" and painful, contribute to the making of a soul. The Ṣūfī poet Rumi states it beautifully:

This human soul is like a hotel.

Every morning there is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a nastiness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain all of them!

Even if a mob of mourners arrives

who violently sweep the rooms

and destroy all of the furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He or she may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The depressed thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them all at the door warmly,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.


If you feel like you are dying, or that an old quality or relationship is eroding, remember that such experiences are normal and necessary. Take a lesson from the Sufis--cooperate, assist and let the death take place without a struggle.

Preparing for the End, and the Beginning

 The Book of Revelation, also known as The Apocalypse of John completes the biblical story of spiritual development. Let's remember that the author named John was not a literalist, but a symbolist. A symbolist is one who expects the reader to see through the surface of a story to the inner personal significance. In The Gospel of John, Jesus speaks to a religious professional named Nicodemus who interprets Jesus' comment literally: "You must be born again." The perplexed Nicodemus then asks, "How can a man enter into his mother's womb and be born again?" Jesus replies, "How can you possibly teach others about spiritual things when you cannot understand spiritual symbolism?" (my paraphrase). This little exchange is a key to reading John's writings. They are to be read symbolically.

The Book of Revelation is for those spiritually advanced souls who have sufficiently experienced enough of life to see that there must be more to it than pleasure and pain, success and failure, marriage and divorce, education and ignorance, etc. All of these experiences are normal and necessary for spiritual development, but they are meant to lead us to deeper and deeper experiences leading to a more complete personality--a personality that blends the human and the divine into a new being.

The Book of Revelation portrays shocking images of the advanced soul in a state of personality annihilation, the peeling away of worn out goals and lost dreams. Physical aging forces one to look in the mirror, viewing bodies and past lives as they evaporate like a morning mist. The horrific and beatific images in the Revelation are meant to cause us to reflect as we prepare for the end of this phase of existence. That preparation requires us to obliterate the old and anticipate the new--the "new heavens and new earth". But both must be done together. Most people would rather dismiss the book or turn it into something literal rather than do the hard work of reflection that brings renewal. The Sufi poet, Rumi, put it like this:

This human soul is like a hotel.

Every morning there is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a nastiness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain all of them!

Even if a mob of mourners arrives

who violently sweep the rooms

and destroy all of the furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He or she may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The depressed thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them all at the door warmly,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Freezing the Infinite in a System: C.S. Lewis's Critique of Anthroposophy

Before C.S. Lewis made a decision to become a practicing Anglican Christian, he was engaged in thinking about spiritual and psychological matters--matters beyond objective, rational literalisms. Lewis protested the temptation to be drawn into the certainty of metaphysical and occult "systems of truth" with their established categories which froze the infinite. One might wonder if his eventual strong adherence to orthodox Christian theology belies his wariness of freezing the infinite. Here is a letter Lewis wrote in 1926 at the age of 28. In this letter he chastises Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical system of metaphysical certainty:
"No one is more convinced than I that reason is utterly inadequate to the richness and spirituality of real things: indeed this is itself a deliverance of reason. Nor do I doubt the presence, even in us, of faculties embryonic or atrophied, that lie in an indefinite margin around the little finite bit of focus which is intelligence—faculties anticipating or remembering the possession of huge tracts of reality that slip through the meshes of the intellect. And, to be sure, I believe that the symbols presented by imagination at its height are the workings of that fringe and present to us as much of the super-intelligible reality as we can get while we retain our present form of consciousness.
My scepticism begins when people offer me explicit accounts of the super-intelligible and in so doing use all the categories of the intellect. If the higher worlds have to be represented in terms of number, subject and attribute, time, space, causation etc (and thus they always are represented by occultists and illuminati), the fact that knowledge of them had to come through the fringe remains inexplicable. It is more natural to suppose in such cases that the illuminati have done what all of us are tempted to do:—allowed their intellect to fasten on those hints that come from the fringe, and squeezing them, has made a hint (that was full of truth) into a mere false hard statement. Seeking to know (in the only way we can know) more, we know less. I, at any rate, am at present inclined to believe that we must be content to feel the highest truths 'in our bones': if we try to make them explicit, we really make them untruth.
At all events if more knowledge is to come, it must be the wordless and thoughtless knowledge of the mystic: not the celestial statistics of Swedenborg, the Lemurian history of Steiner, or the demonology of the Platonists. All this seems to me merely an attempt to know the super-intelligible as if it were a new slice of the intelligible: as though a man with a bad cold tried to get back smells with a microscope."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Science and Religion: Two Instruments for Seeing Reality

Science and religion are two methods, or two instruments for looking at similar life phenomena--one is like a microscope (science) examining the details; the other is like a telescope (religion) examining the larger picture. It is very important to see that "reality" is never found by any single instrument. "Reason is the organ of truth, imagination is the organ of meaning," said CS Lewis. Both reason and imagination are equally valid and useful organs for experiencing, examining and explicating reality. Both instruments must submit their dogmatic convictions to critiques. Einstein famously said, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." ("Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium" 1941.)

Science typically utilizes rational and empirical approaches yet borrows heavily from imagination; religion typically utilizes intuitive and emotional approaches yet borrows heavily from reason. It is not an either/or situation, but rather one of emphases. There are as many dogmatic scientists as there are dogmatic religionists. There are many brilliant scientists who experience a rich religious life, and many spiritual theologians who experience a rich rational life. The famous philosopher Alfred North Whitehead shocked his rational audience in the 1920s when he told them that modern science would never have come into existence without the Christian theological cosmology which began with the idea of a reasonable Creator in His rationally ordered universe. (See chapter 10 of Whitehead’s Adventures of Ideas). Whitehead noted that the vast majority of the early great philosophers and scientists were practicing Christians who sought to understand the mind of a reasonable deity. This idea of a reasonable deity is not and cannot be found in the Eastern religions which worship Nature as divine--one does not experiment on or question the Natural Gods. And of the Western religions, only the Christian religion stresses "orthodoxy" (ideas) over "orthopraxy" (actions) as in Judaism and Islam. In other words, the Christian emphasis on beliefs and ideas provides a matrix for evolving thought and a rational exploration of a reasonable material universe, even if the ideas develop slowly and receive censure or resistance from the ecclesiastical powers. The Christian "system" of orthodoxy (right ideas) has a built-in default setting that returns it to conversations about beliefs and ideas.  That is why Communist, Islamic and other ideologically frozen territories have been and continue to be terrified by the Bible and free theological/religious discourse. Whitehead makes it clear that one's mythology sets the trajectory of cultural consciousness, discoveries and inventions. This is also significant for politics--something which our Western international policy makers ought to take into account before they try to export democracy or import socialism. 

Our modern academic ignorance of religious, philosophical and psychological big ideas are the bane of our Western education and social institutions. Politicians, journalists and business owners once had an education in the Humanities. Now they learn techniques without the examination of philosophical foundations or an exploration of meaning.

It is important to remember that both science and religion appeal to the innate human compulsion toward certainty, security and order. Every human child is born with equal drives to suckle, walk, talk and seek self-, social- and cosmic-assurance in a world of chaos and fragmentation. The human psyche naturally and autonomously requires and is motivated to acquire assurances of security and order internally and externally. Humans are congenitally meaning-making creatures in a world without human meaning. "Culture" is the result of this congenital condition. 

Such psychological assurances are most often pursued, defined and defended in human personalities largely unconsciously and uncritically during the first 20 years of life. These assurances are acquired ideological stances that meld with the personality and become what seems an unalterable identity of security in a hostile and dangerous world. Many in the West have called this acquired secure identity the "ego". This compulsion toward the solidifying of a specific self-identity most often occurs in the late teen years, but it is not uncommon to experience radical ego-shifts as one matures--sometimes quickly as in a conversion experience or gradually via a lifetime of assimilating new experiences and ideas. The most intractable are those who cannot or will not openly examine a perspective outside of their current secure "identity-stance". This inability or unwillingness to seriously consider differing points of view is often complicated by perceived or real threats to tangible aspects of ones identity—like losses of vocational livelihood, peer bonds, family connections and a sense of internal cognitive harmony. Change feels like death. Tolkien captures this experience in The Hobbit as Gandalf the Grey tries to enlist Bilbo Baggins in an adventure to other worlds outside “The Hill”. Bilbo, seated on his porch, blowing smoke rings, ensconced in his cozy hobbit hole in the ground replies, "Adventure? Nasty uncomfortable things, make you late for dinner."

Religion and science are frequently hobbit holes. Leaving them, seriously leaving them, in order to deeply explore other worlds causes distress and discomfort—making one late for the usual ideological dinner they have been eating for decades. No wonder Jesus said, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, and there are few who find it.”

Friday, August 31, 2012

Progressive or Conservative?

     I see the terms progressive and conservative as neutral, each having a light and shadow element. I see conservatives as those holding to the Hellenistic Apollonian wisdom tradition, embracing really smart archetypal ideas and ideals that work over time. In the Helios/Apollo myth, the Greeks realized there is a wise conservative path for the sun to travel each day--to change it is to invite disaster, as seen in Phaeton's mistake. The Founders of America enshrined many of these Apollonian truths in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The conservative weakness is in getting stuck in areas that require development. That is why I had to leave the dogmatic wing of the evangelical residence years ago.

     I see progressives as being delightfully Dionysian, not afraid to look at new ideas and new ideals, to make changes where they are clearly better. They see the developmental nature of the psyche and society, and are bold enough to oppose old worn out views and laws. However, their weakness is in mistaking "change" to be a virtue--not all new ideas and ideals are clearly better just because they are novel. As C.S. Lewis has written, "We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

     That is why I am an independent, attempting to choose the best of both parties and avoid the worst of each. I do think that both are far too black and white in their thinking--the republicans in morality issues like homosexuality and and sex in general, and the democrats with their tendency to divide the country by class, gender, race, and religion. I understand that much of this either/or thinking by both parties is due to the need of their respective politicians to acquire votes, and for the media news networks to attain commercial ratings and make money. Conflict has always been effective for power brokering and economic success. However, psychologically it is also important to see that such divisions serve a useful purpose. The natural and necessary condition of the human psyche is innately binary and oppositional, which is a requirement for individuation or soul-making. Humans must have choices and conflicts to evolve psycho-spiritually. This began in Eden with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Humans need conflict to develop into the image and likeness of God, or if you prefer a secular view, Freud wrote: "Psychoanalysis early became aware that all mental occurrences must be regarded as built on the basis of an interplay of the forces of the elementary instincts." Read more:

     These days I can see both the buffoonery and wisdom of both parties. Neither is sacrosanct and both are, in my opinion, necessarily in bed with corruption. The choice for me is of the lesser of two evils, choosing to align with the ideas and candidates which best support the freedom for personal soul-making--recognizing that this world will never become heaven or hell, but the playing field for each soul to be formed into unique selves.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Confessions: Toward a Personal Political Position

A couple of people have asked me for my political views. I have hesitated because I fear that few will actually read what I say with an open mind and read all of the way through. I know this because I am like them, typically forming my opinions on partial arguments. I am working on reforming that bad habit. I ask you to read the whole blog. I will try to keep it short at the risk of over simplifying.

First off, I have been a kool-aid drinking conservative and kool-aid drinking progressive, ensconced within each group for about 15 years each. Currently, for lack of a better term, I am an independent / libertarian (independertarian?). I find value and non-value within both the progressive and conservative traditions. I confess that I am more sympathetic with the new batch of conservatives because of their return to constitutional govt. and fiscal responsibility--containing what I consider to be a more exceptional political philosophy and psychology of human nature and nations. The bold print underscores where some will now draw their stereotyped conclusions about my politics. Please read on. My evolution through conservative and progressive systems is nicely summarized by Greg Gutfeld's comment: "I became a conservative by being around liberals and I became a libertarian by being around conservatives. You realize that there’s something distinctly in common between the two groups, the left and the right; the worst part of each of them is the moralizing." I concur. Both liberal and conservative groups tend toward "puritanical" moralizing and ideological triumphalism. I know. I have been both, and can still be a moralizing puritan and triumphalist know it all. I am working on reforming these bad habits as well--not very hard, but I am aware of them.

However, the issue of values is up in the air for me. I find both Democrats and Republicans holding to both useful as well as dangerously useless values. By that I mean that as a nation we cannot return to the old conservative absolutist Christian value systems, yet the liberal Secular value systems are even worse, a la Marx, Mao, Stalin, Castro and most other forms of socialism. Both basic liberal and conservative value systems require individuals to conform to the collective dogma of the ideological mechanism --one a religious machine and the other a secular machine--both machines ultimately neglecting the individual human being in his/her unique psycho-spiritual development. Carl Jung addressed this by writing: "Both [religious and socialist institutions] demand unqualified submission to faith and thus curtail man's freedom, the one his freedom before God and the other his freedom before the State" (Undiscovered Self, p. 38). Both the religious and socialist moralizing-Enforcers quash the human soul while claiming, ironically, to set it free. Equally ironic is the fact that the religious collective sets humans free from State dogma, while the State collective sets humans free from religious dogma. As the founders of our American republic knew all too well, we must find that "narrow gate" that passes between these two extremes. That is the number one challenge for America and the world at this juncture in history--how to reconcile the above and the below, the human and the divine, the material and the spiritual, the scientific and the soulful.

All of that being said, as a political citizen I will support an antiquated and very fallible "basic Christian" value system if forced to choose between that and a secular anthropocentric system elevating human saviors with their narcissistic dogmas derived from the "sciences". At least the former acknowledges that human beings are not the center of the universe, and that our scientific technological advances must be balanced by ideas and values that derive from something other than human instincts, emotions and logic. Let me emphasize--I choose the "basic Christian" value system in its most broad definition without the theological accretions that have gathered over the centuries. By Christian I mean a philosophy that recognizes a rational Higher Power, a blending of the visible and invisible as equal and necessary elements for existence, and the humanization of the divine along with a divinization of the human. The Christian philosophy makes central the notion of a reasonable and purposeful God, Being, Transcendent Agents and Agencies underlying existence in some mysterious fashion. The paradigmatic strength of reasonableness found in the Christian philosophy was addressed by the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, shocking the academic community in his Lowell lectures at Harvard in 1925, when he said that Western scientific methodology arose "from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God as conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher" (Science and the Modern World, p. 12). On this point I am more in line with Thomas Jefferson than modern evangelical Christians. I should also add here that I find the Christian-invented tradition of theological dialogue to be both fascinating, fruitful and worthwhile. This tradition at its best generates ideas and creative thought, sometimes called orthodoxy which, when separated from those who use the term pejoratively simply means straight ideas or teachings. This is important since the other world religions tend toward orthopraxy, or right actions and rituals. This theological tradition, at its best, has given rise to the ideas of Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, John Milton, Newton, Copernicus, Martin Luther, Dorothy Sayers,  Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and many others.

That being said, I would rather not have to settle for any antiquated religious system. Ideally we as a nation and international community must build upon what has gone before and forge a new and larger psycho-spiritual narrative and value structure based on some sort of trans-sectarian version of Natural Law, Analytical Psychology, Archetypalism and spiritual neuroscience (See also the N.P.R. program, This is Your Brain on Religion).

I think all four of the forementioned areas ought to be studied in tandem. I will not explain what I mean by this, except to say that the religio-politcal question as it relates to the entire human community, cross- and trans-culturally, will occupy center stage over the next few decades if not centuries, likely yielding results that we cannot now even begin to imagine. Sadly, it also seems to me that liberals and conservatives both are incredibly ignorant and regressive on the role and significance of this religious issue with regard to politics--both groups largely still stuck in their myopic mytho-ethical dogmas of days gone by. The liberals may have a slight lead here, but I have met few progressives or conservatives who even know what Natural Law, Analytical Psychology, Archetypalism and spiritual neuroscience mean. 

In my opinion, I and an increasing number of independents and libertarians represent a kind of hybrid: neo-progressive conservative, or neo-conservative progressive, yet being neither, but an amalgam of both and then some beyond both groups. This position is really beyond stereotyping, but most liberals and conservatives in these days of stark political warfare cannot or will not comprehend such a slippery fish, and will feel that they have no choice but to lump independents in with the group that most resembles their vile "enemy". It seems increasingly that both republicans and democrats require vitriol in their emotional engines in order to fuel their drive to ideological conquest of the "Other". Each must vilify their archnemesis Sarah Palin or Nancy Pelosi, G.W. Bush or B. H. Obama.Both groups live in their tiny ideological ghetto of fundamentalist security.

It has become a cultural cliché--but as with most good cliches, apparently unheeded--that what we need is genuine dialogue between political parties--not some new age broadmindedness without substantive content, nor a polite veneer that keeps us from really knowing what the "other" is saying--but an authentic, honest  conversation which explicates deeply held convictions and the reasons for those positions. I want to know what you REALLY believe and why. That is more important to me than you sparing my feelings or injuring my self esteem. I may indeed go away wounded, offended or upset--but past experience has taught me that those experiences that disintegrate my old world in order to construct the new one are most beneficial in the long haul. I am not advocating cheap shots, ad hominem arguments or mean spirited debate--but honest, passionate exchanges salted with respect and interest toward the "other". From such interactions will come understanding and the sacred third position that neither person in the debate is capable of discovering without the "other".

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Assessment of the Law of Attraction from Oprah's Interview with Larry King

A friend just sent me this video clip of Oprah speaking about her experience with the Law of Attraction (LOA). These are my comments following her remarks:


Oprah is one of the few promoters of the Law of Attraction I have heard who seems to recognize that the so called "Secret" is just one psychological or spiritual law among many--not the only or even the primary law. As she said so well in the interview, "I think that the mistake that was made with The Secret was that they tried to let that be the answer to all questions."

I think some advocates of The Law of Attraction run the risk of cherry picking a particularly memorable event that happened to coincide with the fact that they had been thinking about it, and then taking complete credit for "creating it" or causing it solely by their own thoughts and intentions. The ancient Greeks called that hubris, which is defined as "an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power." For the ancient Greeks, hubris was the ultimate sin--ignoring the roles, powers and influences of the Gods. Do we really have that much to do with "attracting" the event or object?

Let's consider an alternative or more complete possibility that some Higher Power (or Powers) has a larger role to play, beyond my own thoughts. Perhaps this Higher Power, working in alignment with my soul's unique destiny, plants that particular idea and feeling in me because the idea holds soul-making power for my individuation. The "event" or manifestation may indeed be coming my way, but I am not at all convinced that I alone created or attracted that event without divine influence, or what William Blake called "divine influx". It appears to be more true that we humans are allowed to co-participate in a coming event because that particular event furthers our soul-making destiny. It is more like a prophetic image or idea that is given to me, or Oprah, than a thought I, or Oprah, alone decided to make come true. 

One ought to ask why that particular book, The Color Purple, seized Oprah's notice so deeply. Surely it wasn't her doing. She had likely read hundreds of books before that particular book, none of which seized her with such intensity. Do we think that we are the sole instigators of our obsessions with certain ideas or desires? Do we think that certain movies, people, places, and fantasies recur in our imaginations for no good reason? I doubt it. Contrary to popular science, the mind does not just out of the blue create thoughts and feelings from chemicals leaping across synaptic reception sites in the brain. And to say that my so called "ego" manufactures all of my thoughts is just as arrogant. "Something" more than neurons or tiny egos are at work in our thoughts and feelings. "Something" or "Someone" whispered to Oprah through the Color Purple, "Your soul-making is somehow tied up with this story. These impressions will not leave your mind until they are done with you." Getting the role in the movie was a very tiny part of the whole process. Taken in its entirety, Oprah's process caused her to face her food addiction and problems with self will. Those of us who fixate on the human role in manipulating the Universe by the Law of Attraction run the dangerous risk of taking credit for a small slice of a much larger spiritual enterprise. The Gods are at work in our souls--the external manifestations are a distant second to the work done on our internal psyches.

The key to Oprah's interview comments is in her song where she finally "surrendered all". The subsequent phone call from Stephen Spielberg didn't show up because Oprah was repeating her Color Purple affirmation during an ecstatic moment at a meditation retreat, but when she was depressed and miserable, surrendering her hopeless situation on a jogging track on a Fat Farm. She finally realized that she was powerless over her addiction to food and finally recognized her need for Help. Her mental obsession about the Color Purple movie role was nothing but an avenue to her surrender, facilitating the more important project of soul-making. If the Law of Attraction attracted anything to Oprah, it was her need to relinquish control, and to surrender to her destiny which is creating her. To believe that my puny little mind discovers and creates my reality based on my desires is extremely dangerous, in my opinion. The message that we are being created is much more significant than the message that we create our realities. Both are true, but the second is infinitely dwarfed by the first. But in this culture, hubris is the rule rather than the exception.

Those of us who think our thoughts alone create reality, without any inspiration from a Higher Authority, remind me of Bilbo Baggins comments at the end of Tolkien's book, The Hobbit. After his battles with Orcs, the slaying of the dragon and his gold gathering adventures, Biblo asks Gandalf how much he, Bilbo, had to do with bringing the whole affair to realization. Gandalf wisely replies: “Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

The way the Law of Attraction is often presented runs the risk of making us, like Bilbo, over estimate our roles in the soul-making endeavor. We are very fine people, and people to be fond of, but we are quite little follows in a wide world after all. Before you start "attracting," find out which God is whispering to you, acknowledge that divine voice and move out of the way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A SOLDIER’S DHARMA: The Death of My Son in Afghanistan

The Bhagavad Gita is a book of War, as nearly all sacred scriptures are. Puzzling to some, it was the favorite text of Ghandi and R.W. Emerson, both avowed pacifists. Dharma is the topic, specifically as it relates to Arjuna the hesitant warrior. Krishna, God incarnate, convinces Arjuna to kill people, even family members in the great civil war of the Mahabharata.
In September of 2007 I took my twenty four year old son of the 173rd Airborne to the airport for his third deployment to Afghanistan. We knew he was heading into a bad place. During the weeks leading up to that departure, his mother, two older sisters and I begged him not to volunteer to be reassigned. We were Jason’s Arjunas, saying with the Arjuna of the Gita, “Our limbs sag, our mouths feel parched, our bodies quake…our minds are in a whirl.” Don’t go to war!
The night before our trip to the airport, I tearfully embraced Jason in the driveway. For the last time I held his six foot tall frame, his broad shoulders and rubbed my right palm across the back of his buzz-cut scalp. I wept as he whispered, “Dad, I know you don’t understand, but this is something I have to do.”
I thought of Krishna’s conversation with the hesitant Arjuna, reminding him of his dharma, his duty, his vocation. After much instruction and a soul-altering vision of Lord Krishna, Arjuna concluded, “O Krishna, my delusion has gone. My faith is firm. I am aware of my true Reality and committed to my dharma.”
No other human can understand another person’s call to make soul. Dharma transcends family ties, and religious and political ideologies. James Hillman observes, “…soul knows neither morality nor mortality.

After Jason was killed in the Battle of Wanat, July 13, 2008, we received this letter which he wrote a few days before his death:


“I pray to God no one will have to read this, but death is all around me in this madness we call life. Never have I felt as strongly as I do that I am doing the right thing. It is understood and accepted by my God - thus death is easier to accept. To prepare myself to take life without hesitation has been a very difficult thing. To take away another woman’s son or husband - a man’s son or brother has always bothered me, but through my eyes it is understood by my God and I am forgiven. The man that may take my life likely feels the same way. My love for you motivates and brings me comfort. Carise, let your new son know of me, and that even though I was never able to see him grow up, I love him more than he could imagine.”

At the Memorial Service , my daughter Micael, a progressive Democrat completing a masters degree in Conflict Resolution said this:

"I didn’t want you to go Jas. I told you not to go. I am proud of you. I know you were a damn good soldier & fighter. We had lots of practice. You have just the right mix of heart and guts. You went to war, not to blindly fight but to learn and grow and help. You knew the world was a much bigger, more complicated place than the stretch between I-5 and I-405 -- and that while war is not the ideal solution to our problems, you sitting in Seattle installing electrical cables and drinking beer wasn’t getting us anywhere."

That day I met and talked with over twenty other soldiers -- companions and brothers who had served beside my son. The list of honorable warriors enumerated by Sanjaya in chapter one of the Gita came to mind.

Dressed in mottled Army fatigues, berets in hand they lined up, many with tears, to express their condolences. They were the most compassionate men I have ever met – yet men whom, like ‘lion-hearted Arjuna,’ would fight for the welfare of others.

This reflection is neither a justification for war nor a call to pacifism. It is the recognition that through personal and social action souls are made. That is what I see in the life of Arjuna and in my son’s willingness to follow his heart’s call. The French author Camus said, “If there is a soul, it is a mistake to believe that it is given to us fully created. It is created here, throughout a whole life. And living is nothing else but that long and painful bringing forth.”

With love, pride and admiration for Jason Michael Charles Bogar
K.I.A. July 13, 2008
Wanat, Afghanistan
Click for: NPR Report on Jason's Life
Click here: Snap Shots of a Soldier
Click for documentary on Jason's Life:

Soul-making and the Colorado Shooting: James Holmes as the Joker, Trickster, Savior

"There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites."
~ Carl Jung

          In 1965, a broadly published debate was held between two philosophical adversaries named Arnold Gehlen and Theodor Adorno regarding the nature of suffering and violence in the world. At one point Ghelen questions Adorno about the necessity of suffering, incredulous that one would doubt that the aim of human existence is to emancipate people from all suffering. Here is part of that debate:

Gehlen: “Mr. Adorno, you see the problem of emancipation here once again, of course. Do you really believe that the burden of fundamental problems, of extensive reflection, of errors in life that have profound and continuing effects, all of which we have gone through because we were trying to swim free of them—do you really believe one ought to expect everyone to go through this? I should be very interested to know your views on this.”

Adorno: “I can give you a simple answer. Yes! I have a particular conception of objective happiness and objective despair, and I would say that, for as long as people have problems taken away from them, for as long as they are not expected to take full responsibility and full self-determination, their welfare and happiness in this world will merely be an illusion. And will be an illusion that will one day burst. And when it bursts, it will have dreadful consequences.” (Safranski 407-08 italics mine)

          Perhaps 24 year old James Holmes who killed 12 and wounded 70 people at a Century movie theater in AuroraColorado on July 20, 2012 is a current example of what Adorno is talking about—"a burst[ing] forth with dreadful consequences" in a world that expects to avoid all discomforts in life. Or perhaps Ghelen is right when he suggests that the aim of human existence is "to swim free of them [problems]". This controversial debate addresses not only the issue of "violence" but the larger role that violence plays in the cosmic scheme of things. Is it possible or even desirable to end violence? Does violence play a necessary role in human existence? Ghelen and Adorno hold two very different positions. Let's explore these positions from a depth psychological perspective.
          First off, such "bursting forths" of violence and public mayhem may be found throughout recorded human history. Mythically, the perpetrators of such antisocial actions have been labeled "Trickster" by academics.[1] Tricksters appear in stories and rituals from every culture as socially disruptive characters who might defecate in public, engage in inappropriate sexual liaisons, deceive without shame, or commit felonious acts of violence and other lawless exploits. The trickster's demeanor covers a broad continuum--ranging from slapstick comic to homicidal-rapist, with many variations in between those two extremes. Paradoxically tricksters are also frequently portrayed as cultural hero/heroines--pulling the rug out from under the established order so that something revelatory and innovative might appear in its place. One such character in popular American culture is The Joker, Batman's archenemy appearing in comics, television shows and movies. The Joker is a highly intelligent homicidal psychopath, always smiling during his antinomian escapades. He, like most tricksters, is a strange concoction of despairing anomie mingled with manic extroverted energy, [2]  which is how James Holmes was described just before his violent outburst in the Colorado movie theater as it premiered The Dark Knight Rises. In fact some sources reported  that Holmes told the police, as they arrested him without a struggle, that he was Batman's nemesis, the Joker.[3]
            In the comic books, Joker makes it clear that he will never kill the Batman because the caped crusader is the necessary counterweight that keeps the Joker animated and thriving. Batman stands for complete law and order, while the Joker stands for lawlessness and chaos. Neither can meaningfully exist without the other. This is an archetypal pattern that can be traced back to ancient Egyptian mythology. The Egyptians imagined two contrasting deities named Isfet and Ma'at  who personified the cosmic drama between chaos and order. Isfet represented injustice, evil, chaos and “socio-political unrest, forming the necessary counterpoint to Ma'at who personified justice, harmony and socio-political law and order. The two Gods formed a complementary and paradoxical dualism that kept each other and the cosmos in balance. According to Maulana Karenga in his book, Maat: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt, the role of the Egyptian pharaoh was to destroy Isfet in order to attain and maintain Ma'at (71-73). In the Batman comics Gotham City is like Egypt, a dwelling where people are trying to carve safety and cultural order (Ma'at) out of terror and chaos (Isfet). The Batman (Bruce Wayne) is akin to the pharaoh working incessantly to attain and maintain law and order. As a boy, Bruce Wayne's parents were killed by the forces of evil, and Wayne grew up to become the Batman, a wealthy corporate billionaire who developed personal discipline and technological inventions to secure an orderly existence in Gotham by subduing all disorder and instability. In both the Egyptian and Batman mythologies there is no possibility of one without the other. As with Aristotle's notion of a great plot, there is no drama without conflict. A similar idea is found in the Hebrew Bible and Hesiod's Greek Theogony  where primordial Chaos is a murky void from which night and day, light and darkness and all created order emerge. Similarly, the Chinese yin/yang symbol portrays light and dark swirling (like gas or air) together as the primeval elements of creation from which all order emerges and returns. Even the secular Freud eventually identified Eros and death to be the two most basic instinctual constituents of the human psyche, locked in a perpetual struggle for obliteration or civilization. Freud writes:
After long hesitancies and vacillations we have decided to assume the existence of only two basic instincts, Eros and the destructive instinct...The aim of the first of these basic instincts is to establish ever greater unities and to preserve them thus--in short, to bind together; the aim of the second is, on the contrary, to undo connections and so to destroy things. In the case of the destructive instinct we may suppose that its final aim is to lead what is living into an inorganic state. For this reason we also call it the death instinct. (Standard XXIII. 148)
            With this background, let's return to the opening words of the debate at the point where Ghelen incredulously asks Adorno if he actually believes that all humans "ought" to go through problems reflectively rather than strive to create a world where we can “swim free of” all problems. Adorno argues that avoidance of problems will not make things better, but will actually bring about the opposite effect, resulting in what he calls “dreadful consequences”. Adorno believes that struggling with problems and overcoming them is the ultimate source of all real happiness. Similar to the struggle between the Egyptian Isfet and Ma'at, Adorno believes that life presents each individual with experiences of "objective despair" (chaos)  which have the potential to be turned into "objective happiness" (order) by taking " full responsibility and full self-determination". If humans do not personally or collectively enter into the grappling match between order and chaos, "their welfare and happiness in this world will merely be an illusion." In other words, if we humans were to live in a problem free world, the resultant "happiness" would be illusory and superficial. But then Adorno adds the troubling conclusion: Whenever humans do succeed in temporarily eliminating the struggles of existence, providing discounted happiness--such happiness "will be an illusion that will one day burst. And when it bursts, it will have dreadful consequences.” In other words, externally bequeathed happiness that is not achieved through personal effort is always ephemeral, and when real life (problematic life) catches up, the consequences will be "dreadful"--not just disappointing, but dreadful--filled with terror, fear, and what Mel Brooks called "high anxiety"!
            Let's consider this from a depth psychological perspective, psychologically--particularly with regard to the Colorado theater massacre perpetrated by James Holmes, as well as other acts of mind boggling social violence in the media these days. Ours is a culture obsessed with law and order, justice for all and equality without discrimination--and I concur that these are all virtuous and worthy goals. I am not for one second denigrating these righteous and humane intentions. Justice and order (Ma'at) are always noble and desired goals for any civilized culture--however, when viewed myopically, as the sole aim of human existence, we set ourselves up for increasing disasters and dreadful consequences.  If, as Adorno suggests, problems are required in the cosmic and psychological pattern of human development, then our efforts to eliminate them entirely sets us up for equilibrating and compensatory consequences that may be devastating. The attempt to eliminate all madness and disintegration from human existence is tantamount to making a bowl of plastic fruit that will never decompose. Everything appears perfect, until one is actually starving--then the happy artifice becomes a nightmare. Let's now apply this to the extreme situation of James Holmes homicidal appearance at the theater. What are we to make of this horrific "problem"? What are we to do about it, or with it?
            Law enforcement agencies, journalists, and politicians on both sides of the ideological aisle immediately made this horrific act a "problem" about guns, mental health, better security, political legislation, functional parenting, school bullying, moral values and 101 other important yet secondary literalisms. While all of these are legitimate concerns, perhaps the deeper unseen problem is our lack of comprehending the nature of cosmological and psychological development. External solutions provide comfort, for a time, but they do not grapple with the "objective despair" that permeates the individual and national psyche in the wake of these unimaginable atrocities. A more psychological solution would find our politicians, educational institutions, media talk shows, churches, community centers, and dinner table conversations revolving the kaleidoscope of imagination in order to "see through" the banal and literal and into the depths of our individual and cultural soul, or lack thereof. Perhaps these disasters arise from Isfet or Freud's death instinct in order to equilibrate our psychological indolence and cultural indifference. In addition to external solutions, we might also explore the effects of movies, movies theaters, shopping malls, university educations and culture in general do to the soul. Will we take this approach? Not likely. And the Joker/Trickster will strike again and again, doing what tricksters have done throughout mythic history--pull the rug out from under human stability—reminding us that we live in a cosmos where chaos and order are always swirling together to facilitate deeper soul-making experiences.  As James Hillmans writes, after berating the usual solution of "showing more love": "Love...[is] neither the goal nor the way, of many means of putting our humanity through a complicated imaginal process” (Re-Visioning 189).
            The ambush from a "trickster" is not meant merely to be managed externally, but to be explored internally resulting in external results based on such reflections--in that order. The chaotic trickster exists to present us with "objective despair" in order to move us along in the soul-making experience toward real happiness and genuine joy. This developmental aspect of the trickster archetype is what makes him a kind of "savior". Jung's points this out by referring to the sociopathic trickster qualities of the biblical savior God, Yahweh:
 If we consider...the daemonic features exhibited by Yahweh in the Old         Testament, we shall find in them not a few reminders of the unpredictable behaviour of the trickster, of his pointless orgies of destruction and his self-appointed sufferings [of human beings], together with the same gradual developments into a saviour and his simultaneous humanization. It is just this transformation of the meaningless into the meaningful that reveals the trickster's compensatory relation to the 'saint'... (Radin 196).
This same trickster/savior paradox may be found in Jesus' frequent violations of the Jewish ceremonial laws, his associations with notorious tax collectors and prostitutes, his  felonious cleansing of the temple and his treasonous claim to kingship--resulting in his crucifixion between two convicted terrorists. Jesus is quoted as saying:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a    man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matt. 10:34-37)

Theologians and ministers often soften these antisocial trickster activities of the "savior", but in Jesus' day they garnered him the epithets of madman, sinner, demon possessed and felon--appellations worthy of all savior-tricksters. Here my point is not to say that Yahweh and Jesus are just like James Holmes, but rather to  suggest that all psychological and social change arrive via some kind of chaotic disintegration. Trickster/savior, Isfet/Ma'at, Batman/Joker, Eros/death always work in tandem in a soul-making universe.
            Chaos is not the problem. How we view chaos is the problem. Chaos is the source of all creativity and psycho-spiritual transformation. I believe that is what Adorno is getting at when he says he sees a world that wields “a particular conception of objective happiness and objective despair”. Without the objective despair, there is no happiness; without the objective chaos, there is no creativity; without necessary destruction, there is no development. Adorno’s point is that when we fail to creatively integrate this dualistic nature of reality into our lives by attempting to eliminate chaos and disintegration, the destructive experiences will burst onto the scene in a compensatory fashion. Pushing the hellish nature of re-creative chaos away from us is like jamming a clown back into the proverbial jack-in-the-box. Eventually the tension will cause the joker to pop out and terrify all who are nearby, calling each to examine his or her existential priorities. Is this a pessimistic view? If we are able to rid ourselves of all suffering and create a legislated Utopia, yes, I am a pessimist. However, if chaos is as necessary to this human existence as is order, then I am providing a very optimistic reminder. If all chaos and suffering exist as part of the package in order to call attention back to the soul-making endeavor of human existence, then to believe we can eliminate all chaos is the real insanity. If we have been put on this planet to conquer all disease and eliminate all chaos, then I am a gloomy naysayer. But if the basic cosmic pattern is that of perpetually moving from chaos to order, and then into more chaos and subsequent order, I am a providing a necessary reminder—that the ultimate and primary aim of human existence is not to end suffering, but to make soul at the personal, cultural and cosmic levels. I am proposing a view that will not end all suffering, but it will help to end the kind of suffering which results from the illusion of ending all suffering. I am arguing that if this Colorado event and others like it are unheeded by the psyche, and if we place all of our energy into “solving the problem” rather than seeing the event as symptomatic, events like it it will be repeated over and over. Such occurrences may become pandemic--perhaps even some rogue nation will take on the role of the World-Trickster as did Nazi Germany in 1939.  
            It would be appear that the tacit assumption, of modern Westerners at least, is that our politicians can eliminate all pain and suffering, creating a society and eventually a world of ease and abundance from the cradle to the grave. Our television shows are filled with Law and Order, CSI, hospitals fixing all medical problems, Judge Judy and half a dozen other court programs distributing perfect justice. We are obsessed with social justice, fairness, equity, and never hurting anyone's feelings. We have come to expect our leaders to make us 100% safe and secure all of the time. We elect politicians who promise to make us free from all possible chaos. Laws proliferate—from wearing seat belts to whom we may marry, dictating what we can smoke or eat. There are often noble and good intentions behind such aims, but when legislated without recognizing the necessary experiences of their opposites as inevitable and even oddly beneficial, we are inviting Trickster to show up with a vengeance in order to equilibrate our hubris and arrogance. The Game of Life will always have two opposing teams, internally and externally. Our primary goal ought to be to find the most creative and humane ways to allow for this necessary process of psychological isometrics to occur. The ancient Greeks did this by creating the Panhellenic Games from which our modern Olympics derive. Jung states that most people will look outside for a savior to correct calamities--to politicians or moralists to "fix" things, but this is looking in the wrong place. He goes on to say:
 In the history of the collective as in the history of the individual, everything depends on the development of consciousness. This gradually brings liberation from imprisonment in agnoia  [agnoia], unconsciousness, and is therefore a bringer of light as well as healing. As in its collective, mythological form, so also  the individual shadow contains within it the seed of enantiodromia, of a conversion into its opposite. (211)
            The role of the trickster in all cultural myths is to fracture the pervading psycho-social structure--to bring fragmentation into the logical order by yanking the civilizing rug out from under us. Trickster's aim is always to overturn the established rules, laws, order, norms, safeguards and the security of a people trusting solely in the laws of the socio-political routine founded on human ingenuity--as if the aim of life were to never experience any distress. Even our medical profession has become a system that aims at pharmaceutically induced orderliness via drugs -- "keep em flat-lined and unaffected" so they can go to work and buy more stuff or pay more taxes. The goal of the trickster archetype is to return us to raw Nature--to creative chaos--to the untidy disorder that precedes new ideas and attitudes of soul. If we fail to see this event with James Holmes as a kind of cultural trickster event--as a collective dream (nightmare) with myriad symbols and a plethora of images for us to gather insights from--such incidents may escalate in frequency and scope. The next Joker may not toss a smoke bomb into a theater while wielding an assault weapon, but a dirty radioactive bomb into a shipping container, or launch a nuclear missile into a major urban center.
            Lastly, let me state clearly that I am neither justifying nor excusing Holmes' or any other heinous acts of violence. I am not minimizing the unimaginable losses and grief of the families. I lost a son to war in Afghanistan and know the reconstructive hell of the trickster pattern. I am not asking people to stop seeking justice as they perceive justice, or to cease seeking cures for deadly diseases or the end to war. Our aim as humans, in my view, is to love and care for others--to bring healing and order to life. However, I am asking that we look more deeply into the significance of cultural and personal tragedies. If Adorno is correct, then this "bursting forth" in Colorado may carry a revelation from the unconscious—that life is comprised of  "objective happiness and objective despair",  and that "as long as people have problems taken away from them... their welfare and happiness in this world will merely be an illusion. And will be an illusion that will one day burst. And when it bursts, it will have dreadful consequences.” If we continue to deny or ignore the necessity of problems by numbing ourselves with distractions and by insisting on creating utopian external solutions—then we can expect greater and greater compensatory nightmares to get our attention. If the pain of ordinary events does not call us to reflective soul-making, the pains of extraordinary events will escalate, forcing us to do what we must do for our psycho-spiritual development.

[1] In the study of mythology, folklore and religion, a trickster is a deity, spirit, human or anthropomorphizedanimal who violates social standards and plays tricks on others. According to George P Hansen in The Trickster and the Paranormal, the term "Trickster" was probably first used in this context by Daniel G. Brinton in 1885.

[2] This is a state of mind officially designated by modern psychiatry as "Dysphoric Mania". In this state a person may feel depressed and hopeless, while feeling activated and energetic at the same time. (

[3]New York Post. July 20, 2012 by Kate Sheehy.