Friday, March 29, 2013

Alcoholics Anonymous: Twelve Universal Steps to Spiritual Experience

Most people I meet seem to think that the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are primarily concerned about drinking too much alcohol. That is entirely erroneous. The twelve steps are universal treads on a stairway to spiritual experience. The dilemma of every addict is a spiritual one--whether they are obsessed with booze, chocolate cake, work, controlling a family member or  any other situation that causes unremitting mental and emotional torment. When the human personality is separated from the larger Spiritual Source, suffering is inevitable.

After Bill Wilson co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, he contacted the Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung viacorrespondence in 1961. Wilson wanted Jung to know that the doctors psychological ideas contributed a significant tread to the twelve steps, namely, the need for a profound reorganization of consciousness via spiritual experience. Jung replied: The "craving for alcohol [is] the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God."

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are about each individual finding his/her own personal spiritual experience with a view toward transforming character, and displacing our painful addictive behaviors. Properly functioning A.A. groups do not provide group therapy or self help, although far too many slip into these flawed routines. Effective A.A. groups actually DO the twelve steps, in succession, with a mentor. These are action steps--not theoretical principles. These twelve steps vigorously performed in sequence are universal ceremonies found in all of the world's religious traditions.  They address the alienated soul's desire and need for spiritual connection, providing an unambiguous path toward a longed-for spiritual bond. The aim is to retether the wandering individual back to the Divine--to the numinous Archetypal Beings Who bring new life into our evolving personalities. Over the next three months we will be examining these twelve steps as a path into spiritual experience, as an aspect of the soul-making process. Put on your hiking boots and come prepared to take an active journey into your own unique spiritual experience.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Does Everyone Want to Write a Book?

I have had a sense for the past decade that books are approaching their epistemic or cognitive threshold. Something new is needed--something other than 2nd hand narrative, indirect perception or stale "how to" techniques for the herd. I read recently that approximately 2,200,000 new books are published in the world each year. There were 328,259 published in the U.S. alone in 2010; another source says 500,000 in the U.S. in 2010.

I love books, adore books, devour books--but feel they are nearing their end. How many books can one read? Which ones with so many choices? It is overwhelming and impossible to keep up with even a single field of study. Between books, magazines, mp3s, audio recordings, newspapers, journals, blogs, television, cinema, computer, video games, etc., we are inundated by 2nd hand images that are externally generated ("ex-generated") rather than internally generated ("in-generated") or connected to the fresh and personal Imaginal Realm or Collective Unconscious available directly to each of us. I understand that ex-generated images may act as links (symbols) to help activate in-generated images, but they are not synonymous. It's the difference between frozen idols and living images. It's the difference between reading a menu and sampling the food.

This was substantiated recently by movie director Steven Soderbergh who is retiring because he is tired of making films. When asked why in the Feb. 4, 2013 issue of the New York magazine, he said: "It's a combination of wanting a change personally and of feeling like I've hit a wall in my development that I don't know how to break through. The tyranny of narrative is beginning to frustrate me, or at least narrative as we've currently defined it. I'm convinced there's a new grammar out there somewhere. But that could just be my form of theism."

Yes! A new form of grammar, conceivably connected to some form of theism. Perhaps the reason everyone and his pet pig wants to write and publish a book is due to the psychological necessity of having ones own personal life-plot, of a compulsion to tell our soul's story. The Living Word in each of us knows that it must become ever more fleshy, but we keep reducing the flesh to words and images. Each person is the story--a first-hand account of an inevitable and necessary plot--or as Paul said, "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone" (2 Cor. 3:2). Perhaps the new alphabet is psychological, spiritual and individual. Perhaps the so called New Age "channeling" fixation/phenomenon is the forerunner of something more substantial, personal and vital. Perhaps Walsh's Conversations With God is a primer for Go Have a Conversation With the Gods!

I have been reading a lot of Owen Barfield these days, and his Coleridgeian notion of personal participation in the imaginal realm, similar to Jung's Active Imagination and Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical works (How to Know Higher Worlds, Staying Connected: How to Continue Your Relationships With Those Who Have Died, and Start Now!: A Book of Soul and Spiritual Exercises). These all address dialogical interaction with the archetypal "persons" present to our consciousness--moving beyond the veil of ordinary consciousness. Perhaps our modern book-glut and literary epidemic is a sign that we are approaching a new epoch--a quantum psychology that will rock the world as much as the printing press and the internet; something like a kind of spiritual intra-net. It is likely a few decades off, or not. But something is up. One can take only so much virtual reality and hand-me-down imagination before the next layer of reality must be experienced. Soderbergh's statement really strikes me, "I'm convinced there's a new grammar out there somewhere. But that could just be my form of theism." With Roger Waters and The Wall we ask, "Is there anybody out there?" Perhaps all of that "Junk DNA" inside of us is waiting to be activated as the new biological means to access and commune with the netherworlds only a few have known up 'til now.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Plato’s Cave & Video Games: Is Virtual Reality Killing Us?

Many puzzle over Plato’s book, The Republic, with regard to whether or not he is opposed to or in favor of art in society. On the one hand he calls for a ban of certain kinds of mythical literature, but then later utilizes mythical stories to get his points across. It’s likely that Plato sees both a negative and positive place for art and myth as you take the entire Republic into consideration. I want to focus for a moment on why he might see art in a negative light.

Plato’s opposition to artistic images is illustrated by the human cave-captives chained to their benches, frozen in positions that force them to stare at moving puppet shadows on the back of the cave wall--images projected through a light in a balcony behind the frozen spectators. Plato's concern is that this kind of "artificial" art keeps one from turning around and seeing the more real forms and eventually the Source(s) from which the artistic shadows arise. This is the negative side of art for Plato. Too much art keeps one blind and stupid--oblivious to the reality behind the images.

Perhaps we can see this in the modern world as an overexposure to television, cinema and video images—even books and magazines. Notice: “overexposure,” not simply exposure. I love television, cinema and my computer--but I also know that all of those mediums can be abused to my detriment.

With overexposure, perhaps ones personal imagination atrophies—shrivels away, or is never developed in the first place. This is bad enough on just the personal level with regard to mental development, but if, as depth psychology suggests, our imaginations are conduits, connected to a dynamic Psychic Imaginal Realm from which new creative material enters the human soul—then we are excluding or even eliminating a kind of psycho-spiritual “Star Gate” into the infinite Source of personal development, individuation, intuition, spirituality, soul-making, or whatever terminology you like.

Perhaps that is why Plato was opposed to an overexposure to art, or to certain types of art. The psyche and personality atrophies. Zombies are born. The doorway to new psychic consciousness through imaginative play dependent on internal images is never built, or if built, becomes closed and nailed shut. It is one thing to play in a virtual world, and another entirely to have the virtual world play inside of you. Many believe that the personalities and psyches of children are fashioned through "mere" play in the early years--play that utilizes a maximum amount of internal imagination, and a minimal amount of prefabricated external images. It is like the difference between an athlete watching a workout video and actually doing the workout. It is like the difference between reading a menu, and eating the actual food. The imagination must access the living Imaginal Realm, and metabolize the fantasy images in order to grow and evolve a personality. This goes on during the course of ones entire life--not just childhood. Many adults too turn into Zombies when overexposed to external television, cinematic and computerized images. This can be countered by engaging with the external images: reflect, introspect, reimagine scenes that puzzled or pleased you; write about, draw, paint or sculpt what you have seen and what it means. External images and events must be personally and imaginally experienced before they are assimilated by the soul, and incorporated into the personality.

Look into the eyes of some of these new mass murderers. There is nobody home—the self has shriveled up. Perhaps they have closed and bolted the door into the dynamic Psyche. They have degenerated into a bland Zombie, a replica of the soul-less virtual images they have encountered without the activity of their own personal imaginations.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the emerging field of global mental health has defined mental health as "the area of study, research and practice that places a priority on improving mental health and achieving equity in mental health for all people worldwide" (Patel, V., Prince, M. JAMA, 303, 1976-1977).

Not only do I find it troubling that a group of professionals are trying to define mental health globally, but that they are also placing a priority on "achieving equity in mental health for all people worldwide". On the surface this appears to be a compassionate and well intended goal, but when we read between the lines, we find a potential Orwellian nightmare lurking in the shadows. Link this group's work with nationalized, and then internationalized "health care," and you have a professional/political power structure that not only defines who is mentally "healthy," but then has the power to enforce "equity" on the global community. If we give people like Mayor Bloomberg the executive power to tell us how much sugar we can ingest into our bodies to remain physically "healthy," it is not a big leap to imagine a psychiatric group appointed by a "governing body" that defines what ideas and emotions we can ingest and express. This idea ought to be terrifying to all political parties in favor of liberty and individualism.

Many of us maintain that there is not a one to one correspondence between physical and psychological systems. Human consciousness is much more than the neuro-chemical interactions in the brain. Those seeking psychological "equity" often view the brain as one might view a car engine or computer hard drive, assuming universal normative mental and emotional functions which can be measured and repaired by trained technicians. This "psychological positivism" would then set the standards of mental normalcy and "equity," tweaking the "abnormal" brain as they would a computer to make it operate according to the technical global standards of wellbeing. This is already being done to a large extent by the multi-billion dollar a year pharmaceutical companies selling drugs that create "equity" in the brains of children and adults

Those who have rightly condemned the religionists for past practices of zombie-like indoctrination, Inquisitions and witch hunts had better wake up to the fact that we are moving in a similar direction, but on a global scale! Emotional global equity? Really? We are not machines, and human consciousness is not synonymous with the physical brain box. Systems Theory has made it clear that much trouble arises when we try to transfer the ideas of one system onto another. For example, most of us would not want a car mechanic doing brain surgery on us, nor would we want a brain surgeon repairing our car. Both brains and cars are composed of atoms and molecules, using the positivist model, but the way those systems operate are entirely different, requiring different standards of equity and approaches to the way they function. The same is true of physical "health" and mental "health".

[i] JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, is a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Soul-making Therapy vs. Tradtional Therapy

Put simply, the difference between soul-making therapy and traditional therapy is that soul-making therapy is about becoming emotionally and psychologically literate, traditional therapy is about healing the sick psyche. The soul-making therapist is not a doctor or healer, as in so many modern therapies. The role of the soul-making therapist/counselor is to teach one the alphabet and emotional skills so the individual can see how soul is being made in every feeling, thought, attitude, encounter and action--including sleep. That does not mean obsessive attention to every little detail in life, but rather the ability to know when an event is significant and how to read and respond to it. Soul-making therapy ought not be costly. The costly approach is the traditional therapy that makes one dependent on the therapist-as-healer/messiah. Soul-making aims at freeing you from all “professionals,” and is actually very liberating, even libertarian.

Also, a soul-making approach is about immediate action. Most traditional therapies employ an endless routine of digging up the past and gathering information for the future. Even if the action is "wrong," it is always instructive, activating the next level of consciousness awaiting the
choice and deed, or misdeed. It is actually very simple. Everyone, at every moment is making soul. Most just don't know it and have not been taught to participate with it. One cannot, NOT, make soul--one can only be aware or not aware of the process--and be literate or illiterate about reading the sea of symbols in which we constantly swim.

The paradox about soul-making is that the very psyche that is confused and lost is also compelling you to seek. Just as a seed simultaneously breaks apart in the soil, and sinks roots down into the darkness as necessary steps toward unfolding the plant—so the soul must disintegrate as it reintegrates. Both occur simultaneously and are typically indistinguishable, especially in the early phases. This means there is no way to do it wrong. But as humans, we may minimize the suffering by acquiring a literacy of ideas that allow us to assimilate the insights that swarm around inside of us every minute
. There will always be some amount of pain in soul-making, but ignorance increases and exacerbates the pain.

Again, this is put simply, but we must begin somewhere.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What is Consciousness for? or, Why Are We Conscious?

Let's imagine the idea of consciousness beyond the limited box of positivism, beyond mere materiality. What if consciousness works as an experience-gathering medium for an "organism" or field of personality that operates outside of the physical body? What if consciousness acts as the mouth and stomach of this "field-organism," ingesting, digesting and metabolizing experiences in order to make a psyche or soul that survives physical existence? Perhaps this is why all humans have an innate sense of infinity and immortality. What if the brain operates more like a television, a medium that gathers and projects invisible signals from distant sources in order to transmit them to a “Watcher,” for his/her education. This accords with John Keats, the 19th century Romantic poet, notion of soul making: Perhaps each of us is an extension of our larger Self in this University of Physicality and Emotionality, with a brain, body, feelings and choices to be part of a larger creative project. Perhaps this Big Bang matrix is like a womb, gestating new beings, moving them from humans to HUMANS.