Sunday, December 13, 2009

From Inter-faith to Exit-faith

From Inter-faith to Exit-faith

"The psychic aberration of man is the danger. Everything depends upon whether or not our psyche functions properly. If certain persons lose their heads nowadays, a hydrogen bomb will go off."
Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams & Reflections, p. 132

It's time to stop talking so much about interfaith religions. As the world shrinks and cultures mingle, parochial religions must fade away if the world is going to keep from going mad. Good religion solves a common problem with common images. Jewish images, Muslim images, Christian images, Hindu images, etc. are cozy for those who still identify primarily with these sectarian ghettos. In my opinion, they are too limited for our current world.

It is time to find a new common image. I propose, for lack of a better idea, Psyche or Soul. This image is found in every language; the aspects of Psyche are pretty much universal, always with plenty of room for debate and discussion. Jesus asked, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" Genesis teaches that "man became a living soul." Soul is universal. Soul is common to all -- men and women, all races, all nations.

Psyche can never be contained or corralled, but it can be made central. All humans know and are known by Psyche. Of course this will not happen overnight, and I am not suggesting a 'new religion,' but a new religiuous image that unites humanity, regardless of culture, race, gender, politics, etc.

Religions are always morphing, sometimes gradually and other times quickly. Rituals and stories combine, transform and shift. The Christianities we see today are not the same as the first three centuries after Christ. Those who quote Paul's epistles, pro and con, are not hearing Paul as he spoke nearly 2,000 years ago. The Vedic Hindu religion shifted from rites, chants and sacrificial fires to a more interior spirituality. The same is true of Levitical religion, moving from temple sacrifices to prayer and study of Torah. The various religious reforms involving Buddha, Lao Tze, Plato, Luther, Saint Francis, etc. must continue. Each came at a time when the old religious images and forms were doing more harm than good. Jesus asked, "Was man made for the Sabbath or the Sabbath made for man?" What a great questions! Today we must ask, "Was man made for Islam or Islam made for man?"
"Was man made for Judaism or Judaism made for man?""Was man made for Christianity or Christianity made for man?""Was man made for Hinduism or Hinduism made for man?" The answer to each is that these religions with their Sabbaths, rituals, stories, doctrines and ideas were made for mankind's soul-making -- an experience critically necessary for all developing humans. That is what Jung was saying fifty years ago, "The psychic aberration of man is the danger. Everything depends upon whether or not our psyche functions properly. If certain persons lose their heads nowadays, a hydrogen bomb will go off." Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams & Reflections, p. 132

If the Muslim, or Jew, or Christian, or Hindu is unconscious and disconnected from his own soul, it doesn't matter how much religious education he has or how often he prays -- his psyche is retarded. We know who we are. We attend religious services, debate for our beliefs or unbeliefs, take pride in our well defended positions, and then spend our days and nights feeling chronically sad, depressed, afraid and angry at the world. Or we are puffed up with religious or irreligious superiority, with spiritual arrogance, thinking our conservative Catholic, progressive New Age or skeptical Materialist ideologies are better than those of the morons on the other sides. Conscious evolution toward becoming a wiser soul is an idea, not an abiding experience. And I am not talking about 'living in sweetness and light,' but about moving through heavenly and hellish experiences in order to make soul; births and deaths, sickness and healings, poverty and abundance, pleasure and suffering.

Soul follows certain universal principles. There is no Christian gravity. There is no Jewish aerodynamics. There is no Muslim Periodic Table of Elements. There is no Hindu theory of relativity. These are universal truths. So there are universal truths of soul. To find ways to become conscious, to deal with our bullshit, to tell the truth about ourselves, admit our failings and secrets that shame and suffocate us, face our hidden fears and secret doubts -- to work toward a 'properly functioning psyche,' is the aim. Only insofar as our religions are doing that are they working. And to gather in our ghettos is not functional.

This universalizing of soul has happened to some extent with political democracy. Gradually more and more people around the world are moving in that direction. There are many variations, but there is a common idea that more people can have more freedom, justice and greater opportunities - 'liberty and justice for all." Of course there are variations. There is American democracy, Indian democracy, European democracies, etc. Some are more democratic than others. But there is a center - democracy. The differences are recognized but not made central.

A religion that relegates the cultural cultic trappings to a secondary place, making the universals primary, is the way of the future. This is not the 'One World Church' of the book of Revelation. We already have 'two' of those, Christianity and Islam. We don't need more culturally focused religion that argues over culturally generated issues, ignoring the larger dynamic of soul-making. I am talking about a religious focus which strives to educate people in order to evoke the innate numinous in each human being, making each responsible for taking care of his or her own bullshit. Face it -- each of us knows our weaknesses and 'sins,' our addictions and annoying behaviors. If you don't, ask three family members, three friends and three associates. If you can't find nine such people, you are in big trouble.

Our problem is that of being unconscious and disconnected from a 'better' self -- call it God, Allah, the Buddha Nature, etc. The solution is getting reconnected. This is Psyche, or soul-making. Jesus taught it, but it was turned into a religion; this religion often did much good and still does, but it is not what Jesus taught. Jews, Muslims and Hindus do the same thing. They elevate their own God or Gods, teachings or rituals, ideas or ways. Even the so called liberal or open minded folks of these religions are to blame. They speak of unity while developing their little cult followings and parochial rituals. Again, this may be a necessary interim method, but more must begin moving out of their sectarian ghettos.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"My whole being was seeking for something still unknown which might confer meaning upon the banality of life." Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, p. 165

"Freud's greatest achievement probably consisted in taking neurotic patients seriously and entering into their peculiar individual psychology...The impetus which he gave to our civilization sprang from his discovery of an avenue to the unconscious." p. 168-69

"It may well be said that the contemporary cultural consciousness has not yet absorbed into its general philosophy the idea of the unconscious and all that it means, despite the fact that modern man has been confronted with this idea for more than half a century. The assimilation of the fundamental insight that psychic life has two poles remains a task for the future." p. 169, written in 1961

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tantric Sex and Soul Making

Someone recently asked me why anyone would fast from food, sex or anything pleasurable. They said it sounded like unnecessary deprivation.


I suppose you could call it deprivation, which simply means 'suspension,' but I think that you are using the term in a sort of misunderstood Catholic sense, or stereotyped Catholicism. Many people today see no purpose in missing one minute of pleasure just as television and radio want no 'dead air' time. If the senses are not being engaged and titillated 100% of the time, says the modern person, you are wasting a good life.

But the Catholics originally understood the importance and necessity of the spiritual disciplines, specifically fasting, for expansion of consciousness (like Augustine, Ignatius, Francis, etc.) Pleasure was seen as coming from God, but 'deprivation' was also necessary. Here is why.

The European mystic Gurdjieff called it 'voluntary suffering.' Pain is in the cosmos in order to cause the soul to expand. One of his students said this when it was suggested that we do away with all suffering, "To destroy suffering would mean...destroying a whole series of perceptions for which man exists, and...the destruction of the 'shock,' that is to say, the force which alone can change the situation." (ISOTM308), Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

This view did not glorify pain and suffering, but recognized it as purposeful rather than accidental or the unfortunate result of human failure or sin. Just as the inanimate world must have big bangs, explosions, collisions and disasters (literally stars or planets going astray), so too human psycho-spiritual evolution requires 'disasters'. All religious groups have recognized this fact by declaring times of fasting or other 'deprivational' practices. If we don't volunteer, the universe will eventually enforce them on us in order to expand or evolve consciousness; it is a kind of cosmic and psychological compensatory action/reaction as seen in the Chinese Tao Te Ching:

As it acts in the world, the Tao
is like the bending of a bow.
The top is bent downward;
the bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and deficiency
so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much
and give to what isn't enough.

Some forms of tantric sex involve expanding consciousness through desire. Suspending orgasm allows the shakti or energy to move in another direction, up through the chakras toward soulful liberation.

These various temporary suspensions, when done with clarity, cause one to pay attention to his/her troubled and disturbed sensations, thoughts, feelings, fantasies, night dreams and other non-conscious material that shakes loose into consciousness. I see these troubling 'Emotions' as living archetypal Presences Who are being stirred up and shaken loose. These new aspects of the Self are rising into consciousness. The 'revelations' that occur are sometimes written down and become 'apocalyptic.'

Like physical work outs, one has to change their exercise routines -- repetitions and other regular patterns must shock the muscles because the body becomes habituated and stops developing. The same is true of consciousness; regular patterns (habits, addictions) become stuck in blissful ignorance, limiting consciousness. Like Adam and Eve, it often takes a traumatic, out of the ordinary event to shock and expand us outside the of the psychic Garden in order to grow a soul.

That's why disasters and pathologies are so important in this cosmos -- in order to evolve the universal, global and psychic topographies. It may be deprivation, but when done with a purposeful and conscious aim, it is very beneficial to the expansion of soul.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peace Through Conflict

But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him.” ~ Hosea 8:3

The human being thrives and is driven forward by conflict. Conflict comes from desire. As one Hindu creation story says, ‘desire [is] the primal seed and germ of Spirit.’ (Rig Veda, Book 10, 129) Desire moves us to want something or someone different. This creates conflicts – things fall apart to make room for something new. That does not always or even often mean getting a new object of desire, but often a new psychological perspective on wanting. But we must move into and through these experiences.

One of Carl Jung's patients had the following dream: She dreamt that she had been told to descend into a pit filled with hot material and submerge herself in it. She obeyed and immersed herself uncomfortably in the pit with only one shoulder left sticking out of the pit. Then Jung came by in the dream and pushed her all the way into the hot material saying, 'Not out, but through.' She woke up with a clear realization that moving ‘into the pit,’ ‘through the hot material’ was the way to consciousness. We must disintegrate prior to integration.

This is the way of the Universe -- from the dividing cell at conception, to the Big Bang that birthed the Cosmos and to the decomposing corpse that becomes one with the earth -- dissolution has always preceded assimilation. The more we try to suppress these necessary clashes, or try to ‘cure’ our natural impulse toward conflict, the more likely we are to hurt ourselves or others. Most addicts are trying to avoid their normal and necessary impulses toward experiences of psychological and relational fragmentation – the result is horrific personal and social catastrophe by turning to drink, drugs, food, work or ‘love’. If we do not embrace creative conflict and our periodic inevitable disintegrations in imaginative and inventive ways, relentless conflicts and disintegrations will batter us to bits.

Ironically, peace comes through embracing conflict rather than resisting it.

The recognition of psychic and social fragmentation has been part of the genius of the American form of government. Many moderns have lost this truth in our obsession with ‘healing’ all disagreements. Madison and others knew that factionalisms and fragmentations in the psyche and society were inevitable. It is how we are made. Madison especially saw this and refused to call it the result of Original Sin. He saw it as the Original State of humans and the Cosmos in general. These political geniuses saw that past Greek and Roman Republics failed because they tried to manage factions and differences of opinion.

The American approach was different; it was to craft economic, political and religious systems that encouraged as many factions as possible in order that no one or two would become supreme. Regulations and restrictions of religions, the press, economics, philosophical ideas, etc. would force people into a few sects and groups, as we currently see in Iran, Korea, Cuba, etc. The result of such enforced restrictions against open and celebrated disagreements fosters secrecy, resentments and revolution. As I see it, the genius of our 'system' is in liberty -- especially the liberty to disagree openly. I remember when I was in Eastern Europe, and how odd it was that so many people whispered, even in their homes. Communalism requires agreement, “We are a community, so shut up and consent!”

The same is true on a personal, psychological level. It is healthy to carry on an internal debate -- to simultaneously love God and argue with the Divine; to challenge our selves, to chastise as well as extol our choices and actions.

We ought to laud and enjoy the differences of opinion we see on the news. It is good to 'argue' politics and religion, to disagree over ideas and beliefs. This is how souls are made.

As a social bonus bloody conflicts are minimized. As we became more conscious and open about the necessity of these internal and external oppositional processes, we can find beneficial ways to engage these necessary struggles. Aristotle talked about theatre as a form of ‘catharsis.’ We know from the few extant plays of the Greek playwrights like Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes that very touchy and problematic issues were dealt with on stage.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Myth of 'Free Will': Prove me Wrong!

Someone recently asked me if I believed we had 'free will' or free choice. Here is my provisional response.


I don't think we have as much free will as we usually think we do. An embryo developing in the womb has no free will. The new born for the first year or so has very little if any free will. I know some in the New Age movement say we choose to come to this earth. That may be, but I and many other people see no solid evidence for that assumption.

With time the growing infant seems to have the ability to make some minor choices, and good parents allow them these choices in order to launch them into the soul-making endeavor. As our individual soul wakes up and grows, we gradually get more choices.

But studies and research demonstrate that most of our responses during the day are reactions rather than choices (see Malcolm Gladwell’s, BLINK). We say the same words and phrases, have the same beliefs, choose the same relationships, eat the same food, watch the same TV shows, read the same kinds of books, like the same politicians, seek out the same friends, wear the same clothes, make love or war the same ways, go to the same church, don’t go to church at all, have the same morning and evening rituals, etc., etc. Over time, usually due to some stressful or painful event, some of these things change. But very, very few people actually ‘choose’ do something out of the ordinary.

True free will is doing things that you do not naturally 'want' to do or normally desire to do. This is what the European mystic Gurdjieff called 'voluntary suffering.' One uses his/her will to voluntarily become uncomfortable. He realized that the soul only stretches when it breaks out of the rut. Doing and thinking the same things everyday is not free will. VERY few of us actually choose – we react. ‘Re-act’ literally means ‘to act again.’ Repeat after me, “I am not a robot. I am not a robot. I am not a robot.” Now try saying the opposite, “I am a robot.” Find ten ways your life is robotic. Ironically, if you do this, you may have just stopped being a robot for a few moments!

That is why I like to pick a book from another point of view and read it. I just read Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, the socialist Community Organizer who has so influenced Obama. I am reading Glenn Beck's book, Common Sense. I read books on pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage. Recently I have begun going to plays, shows or concerts that I think I would hate, though I must say, ‘chick flicks’ are still very painful.

Try eating a meal today consisting of food you have never eaten before. If you are a Democrat, watch Bill O'Reilly for the whole hour, or listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio without judgment. Read one of Ann Coulter’s books. In fact, ‘choose’ to find ten points where you agree with them. THAT is free will and that is what makes soul. If you are a Republican, listen to Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow or Stephen Colbert. Find ten points of agreement. Read one of Obama’s books – Audacity of Hope or Dreams from My Father. If you are a theist, read a book by an avowed atheist like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. If you are an atheist, read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain.

Then try the opposite. If you are a Democrat, find five areas where you disagree with your party. If you are a Republican, find five areas of divergence from your party. If you are an atheist, critique atheism. If you are a theist, critique theism. If you are a New Ager, find five valuable insights from the Christian tradition. If you are a Christian, find five valuable insights from the New Age religion.

Most people will find these tasks virtually impossible to initiate, much less complete, proving that free will is largely non-existent. Some may try one of these exercises, but will grouse, groan, moan and cringe their way through it, usually ceasing before the full hour is up or book read. Or they may watch or read, but will not be capable of choosing to find areas of agreement. Our will is most often frozen in a particular ideological mode and can find only what supports our current prison of supposed ‘free choices’. Will is not free unless it chooses beyond our current areas of security and certainty.

Give it a try, then post a response on this blog about your experience.