"The undiscovered vein within us is a living part of the psyche; classical Chinese philosophy names this interior way ‘Tao’, and likens it to the flow of water that moves irresistibly towards its goal. To rest in Tao means fulfilment, wholeness, one’s destination reached, one’s mission done; the beginning, end, and perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in all things. Personality is Tao."

  • ~~ C. G. Jung

  • Discussions: February 1998

    • From Mike Dickman [Noll Is Void]:

    As to fighting head on, I have a tale - a true tale - of a gay friend of ours who was accosted by a taunting group of roughnecks in a South African bar one day. Picking on the biggest of his aggressors, he asked the guy if he wanted to have it out, and when the latter gleefully accepted, suggested that they arm wrestle. The bruiser was delighted, utterly certain of victory and immediately sat down opposite my friend at a bar table and held his arm out. My friend (who shall - for reasons of propriety - remain nameless), clasped him firmly by the hand, leaned across, kissed him hard on the mouth and slammed his arm down hard against the table-top. "And I’ve won, too, haven’t I?" he purred.

    One of the first things you learn in martial arts is that if you are going to fight at all you are going to have to choose your own weapons. The other is that any movement - any block, any defense, any attack - is its own problem and may very uncomfortably swiftly be turned against you by a skilful opponent. The object of any martial intervention can only be the swift neutralisation of potentially explosive situations and the establishment of peace. To take it beyond this is only aggression. The general in ancient China (or at least so Confucius says) wore mourning as he went into battle: mourning for his own men who would die; mourning for those of the enemy who would of necessity be killed.

    The ancient battle between those who would close the canon and those who consider it as yet undefined, unfinished, between the Apollonian and Dionysiac, between the ‘smooth’ and ‘hairy’ - between, in short, desire and refusal - are only resolved in political terms by generating an attitude that rises above both - that englobes, encompasses, understands - both. And even where such is achieved, the resulting ‘peace’ is always fragile enough. The plunge - headlong and precipitate - into holding views, ends-in-view, points of view, and subsequently partisanship remains a very real if utterly self-defeating temptation. Conclusions of any nature, someone recently said, are just where you stop thinking about something any more.

    The whole point here is that this entire contention of Scott-Gill-Noll vs the Champions of Jung, Campbell, etc., is being forced onto a single plane - is being constrained by its very parameters into acting itself out as a bipolar (and hence unresolvable) contest. The directions of the universe are infinite (and here we’re still only talking of space and time). Seen in the light of a higher order of things, they [the Noll camp] disappear back into the loveless, wonderless and asepticised morass of definitions and facts from which they think they come. Too bad for them. Give me crows and magpies on a golden morning anytime! So the universe as perceived by us does exhibit certain rules as long as one remains within certain carefully defined boundaries. So what? It equally well remains ever and tantalisingly beyond the reach of any one of us to comprehend completely thus far, and we’ve had some pretty good tries at it over the past four and a half billion-odd years, n’est-ce pas? We perceive seven grades of light, hear some four and a half octaves of sound if our ears are extremely sensitive, are completely trapped in the helmet of our own thoughts - (talk about the man in the iron mask!) - the thoughts of others and the thoughts we think others are supposed to think and think we think... Boy! Perfect viewing instrument I don’t bloody think . . .

    • From Tom Haskins:

    Here are several images to support Andrew Walker’s and Maureen’s call to avoid direct confrontations with Noll (or Chase’s) logical posturing:

    In the prophecy of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, Joseph Campbell said its fulfillment would be a time of "evil destroying evil". I relate this to a quickening of karma, reaping what we sow, "eye for an eye", attracting what we resist. The solution is to "bless the enemy", "resist not evil", allow the process of evil destroying evil to run its course.

    Robert Johnson told a client of his to use the metaphor of bull fighting with her abusive husband. Robert pointed out that matadors do not stand in the way of the bull, they stand aside. When they see it coming, they let it pass with joy (Ole!) and think to themselves, "There went a bunch of bull". As she "reframed" her situation with this metaphor, she no longer reacted to her husband’s taunts, outbursts, or "egotistical sludge". He no longer had a way to "act out his repressed conflict" by projecting it onto her. After a brief escalation, he "tamed himself" and talked things out with his "new found wife".

    In the classes I’ve taught on business strategy, I tell how dolphins can kill sharks. Dolphins swim circles around a shark, avoiding their frontal attack, confusing the shark by taking their time, and flank attacking the shark by bludgeoning its rib cage. The shark haemorrhages and sinks to the bottom. Taking a shark on head to head gives away victory to the most ferocious. Using indirect strategies turns relative weakness into leverage. Sharks are predictable predators which are fixated on personal victory and clueless about their predictability.

    My Self views all torment as welcomed challenges to acquire detachment, to switch from "the love of power" (inflation) to "the power of love" (wholeness), to break up contaminations with a necessary separation which evolves into an new integration. I acquired the label of "perfect monsters" years ago as I learned though my dreams and active imagination to see my adversarial circumstances in the context of my emerging "symbolic life".

    Monsters are also perfect catalysts in an inner alchemical process. When we react to attacks on the level of the presenting problem, our outlook is leaden, heavy, burdened by fear and guilt. We are in no shape to rise above the problem, see through it, or be harmless and cunning toward it. The next step is descending, pathologizing, soul making; not positive thinking, ascension, inflation. It’s time to face the existential void, question our sanity, rethink our worldview. Out of this comes a new possibility, two ways to see the problem, a shift from fact to metaphor. As we integrate this new outlook, there is a feeling of freedom, lightness and expansion that is unlike egotistical inflation and determination. We can then "touch the world sparingly", take "right action/right timing", start chain reactions with very little effort. We are then the catalyst for the inner alchemical processes of others. The web of consciousness evolves.

    There is a fourth component, which I call the Ocean outlook. It embraces the three sea creatures as useful, essential, part of the whole. The ocean is the Tao, fluid Now, eternally resilient, encompassing all. The Ocean outlook practices "emptiness strategies" where the non-action provokes the reconciliation by the dolphin who busily swims around the shark, the ferocious attacking by the shark, and the anxious fleeing by the carp. Those that are compelled to act can be counted on to take action in the presence of inaction. Forces will put themselves in harm’s way if their intentions are harmful, so long as another force compelled to take action does not interfere. A love of power will fall on its own sword if it has nothing better to thrust at.

    • From Mike Dickman:

    A Tibetan tale. A well frog met an ocean going turtle in his well one day (these things happen: don’t ask me how now). "Have you ever seen anything like it?" the frog enthused at his visitor. "Isn’t it just enormous?" "We-ell..." said the turtle who was a very truthful creature but didn’t want to blow the frog’s cover, "I have seen bigger... you know what I mean... a little?"

    "Bigger than this," spluttered the frog. "Impossible! Where? I don’t believe you."

    The turtle helped him out of the well and took him on a journey (the frog, you will note, does not even notice the size of the earth and the sky: they are not ‘his speciality’) first to a large puddle. "Is this it?" asks the frog, a little enawed but trying his best not to show it. "No, no," says the turtle gently. "This is what they call a puddle," and takes him to a pond.

    "Good Lord!" says froggie, his eyes a-goggle. "This must be it!"

    "No, no," says the turtle, "this is just a pond."

    By river, lake and sea, he finally leads him to the shores of the ocean (gyamtso in Tibetan, by the way, means both ‘large lake’, which is all they know, and ‘ocean’, which is what they learned from the Indians, so this story has more spikes to it than are apparent at first glance, but be that as it may...). "This is what I meant," he said.

    The frog takes one look and drops dead on the spot, his brain blown. Ignorance has ever ruled the world for the simple reason that it thinks that it has to. Just because it gives itself big names and struts about in black shirts and brown doesn’t stop the rest of us - and never has - from ‘dragging our tails in the mud’, as Chuang-tze would have it.

    • From Maureen:

    Again, a somewhat oblique comment on the Noll saga from the archetypal/mythic angle. As Tom implies, debating the pros and cons of active and passive responses is tantamount to asking whether yin is preferable to yang! True wisdom (Tao) is knowing when to act and, perhaps more to the point, when not to act. Hence Jung (using a Taoist metaphor) again: "When people say I am wise, or a sage, I cannot accept it. A man once dipped a hatful of water from a stream. What did that amount to? I am not that stream. I am at the stream, but I do nothing. Other people are at the same stream, but most of them find they have to do something with it. I do nothing. I never think that I am the one who must see to it that cherries grow on stalks. I stand and behold, admiring what nature can do."

    Self resides in the ubiquitous flow of timeless kairos, while the poor old ego is stuck in linear time and fixed space. David Bohm also uses the river metaphor to describe the ‘holomovement’ - the unitary ground of all phenomena in physics - which is in turn another oblique comment on the Noll camp’s delusion that science per se is antagonistic to Jung and holism. One cannot objectively prove what is not objective in the first place, eh?

    Here Spider is the perfect example of resting in the Tao of Centre. If you’ve ever watched a spider weaving a web, you’ll note that they begin at the circumference and spiral towards the centre. Here is the perfect individuation metaphor - the circumambulation of the Self by the unconscious circulatio - or the circling of the ego about the Self. At the circumference, the opposites prevail, first one, then another, but the closer one spirals in, the closer the peripheral opposites move to one another, until they are united in the middle. (Of course, from an Erocentric perspective, in which Centre is everywhere, we could just as well view the individuation process as a metaphor of the spider’s weaving!) Once Spider reaches Centre, she rests, each of her 8-fold mandalic legs touching a direction of the sacred circle. Why does she rest in centre? Because only here has she ‘arrived’ through being in touch with the circumferential whole. Hence supreme wisdom resides in understanding the mirror relationship of psyche and Nature, which is of course the basis of living consciously in Tao.

    Here’s a mixed bag of goodies that might amuse some - and maybe provide some stimulation for further Mandelbrot-like tangents of discussion. Topics? Eyes in the back of the head, gods and acorns, holistic scientists, senex et puer . . .

    Curved Straightness & Mandala Maps (Musings from the Event Horizon . . .)

    Maybe what we need is a Sacred Topology. From the Einsteinian perspective of curved space, there are, strictly speaking, no straight lines, hence Einstein’s amusing quip that if he could keep gazing indefinitely and without obstruction in front of him, he would eventually see the back of his head. (Could this be the intuition behind the idea of having eyes in the back of one’s head?) Hence if perfection is wholeness, the Cosmos, as (possibly) a sphere that is "finite, yet unbounded", echoes the paradox of the enclosing Circumference of the boundless Self.

    My own musings on the topography of the mandala include the following:

    the closer we get to the Centre (Self), the less our consciousness identifies with one pole of any duality, hence at the Circumference I would place all ego perspectives (as beliefs, or "-isms", and including atheism as the opposite of theism). As one moves away from the Circumference toward the Singularity of the Centre, one is simultaneosuly drawing closer to the opposite pole. So instead of a levelled or layered approach to the psyche (the sort you see in lots of psychology texts), I see a gradual gradation - from Circumference to Centre - from one-sidedness (belief) toward an increasingly paradoxical awareness of the equivalence of opposites (gnosis).

    Gods & Haycorns:

    Hillman assumes that your personality and behaviour are determined by your fate, your acorn, your daimon. He imports the astrological dimension here by viewing fate or predestination as Saturnian, or fixed and inflexible, hence psychology here conceives personality as a collection of stable traits dominated by the senex archetype. Personality theory and psychopathology, on the other hand, favour psychodynamics, learning theories, conditioning and behaviourism.

    The psychodynamical view is hence mercurial; nothing is given and all can be transformed; all limitations can be overcome and conditions may be altered through re-learning, behaviour therapy, drive-reinforcement etc. As Hillman notes, the impetus behind therapy itself owes more to mercurial optimism and less to the saturnine attitude of fateful limits set by character traits. Congenital means ‘synchronous with birth’, that is, astrological; congenital structure is karma; character is fate. So which approach is ‘true’? The question is perhaps in this context equivalent to asking which god, or gods have greater power and influence in shaping our lives. I, for one, prefer to give ‘em all a fair hearing (lest one get annoyed and visit me with an illness or two), and I think Hillman is as much as anything redressing an imbalance toward the mercurial by stressing his ‘acorn’ bit. (Elsewhere, he presents a more balanced view with ‘Soul-making’, which is the interaction between the unchanging, innate, acorn-ish divine spark, and the world of difficult and shifting circumstance, to forge soul). As Jung reminds us, all psychological truths are valid only if their opposite is equally true. Good one, CG!

    Senex & Puer:

    Significantly, Hillman places these two archetypes on the same vertical axis of changeless ‘spirit’, in touch with transcendence and timelessness, out of touch with changeful soul, so there’s a senex element of resistance to change or development with the Puer, as is evident, for instance, in men who get stuck in a Don Juan mother complex, who refuse to progress toward mature relatedness based on harsh reality but instead hunt or wander (Pure trait again) ad infinitum for the youthful and idealized anima figure. In this sense, the Puer’s enemy is ‘possibility’ - always hoped for but never realised. Like all archetypes, the Puer has its positives: imaginative visions, flights of fancy, the freedom of homeless and endless adventure. No spouse awaits at home - it does not learn through repetition and fears the necessary crippling of its winged heels. The senex, too, is dual. Positively, his fixity presides over loyalty, friendship, honesty; over the inspired genius of the brooding melancholic, over responsibility and necessary limitation. In this same dual sense, the natal horoscope is potential waiting to be realized; the victim will earth it as unavoidable fate; the hero will try and overcome its limitations and conquer its necessary shadows. As always, the Middle Way lies between the two; the Heroic Victim as the victorious yet wounded acorn.

    As Jung discusses, whenever we posit a particular belief, no matter how noble or well thought out, as somehow ‘right’, or superior to others, we are automatically opting for an imbalance, hence belittling, marginalizing, or leaving out of the picture the equally valid opposite pole of the duality. What ‘science’ regards as fact one year, may well be ‘proven’ to be fiction the next! As Einstein said, it is the theory which determines what we can observe in the first place.

    The related trap we can (all) fall into is to assume that our own typological bias is typical, normal, or superior to that of others. This lies behind, for example, the thinking type’s presumption that we should all bow the knee to logic, that reason is the one yardstick by which we can judge truth, or through which we can verify various claims, such as Jung’s hypothesis of the collective unconscious. (This is the trap that the Noll camp falls into). But intuitives and feeling types give precedence to other means of verification; intuitives know because they know (as gnosis); feeling types know because it feels right. All these are equally valid as psychology, hence equally potent deities. Sadly, Western culture has privileged the thinking function and it operates - via the unstated assumption of its supremacy - in most Western discussions (hence again, my comments about Noll vs Dionysus).

    • Empiricism and Divination:

    I have been kibitzing the back-and-forth of the Circle for the past month or so, and enjoying it mightily. Now I’m itching to put in my two cents worth. I would particularly like to address what I see as a key criticism of the Noll and Gill camp, namely that it is not possible to evaluate Jungian concepts empirically. As a research psychologist who directs a research core at a medical university in New England, and as someone who has studied and made use of divinatory systems and Jungian ideas even longer than I’ve engaged in formal research, I am very interested in this. In fact, I recently wrote a chapter on the topic on the relationship between divinatory practice and intuitive knowledge for a book titled Spiritual Knowing: Alternative Epistemic Perspectives published last year by the State University of West Georgia Studies in the Social Sciences (the big words tell you how serious an endeavour this was). One of my interests in writing the article was to argue that it is actually very possible to test the validity of divinatory systems using empirical methods. It’s just that the empirical methods used apply somewhat different criteria for establishing validity than those generally applied by more objective empirical methods.

    What I suggest is that the test of the validity of divinatory systems depends upon a more personal empirical method. This method tests the utility (and thus personal significance or validity) of a divinatory system within a personal context. My main point is that there are tests of validity and there are tests of validity. We need only apply the tests that are appropriate to the questions of interest. In the case of divinatory systems, for example, they are intended to supply personally meaningful information, and therefore only the individual who openly and sincerely (and somewhat skeptically, or with some reservation or personal distance, I might add) asks for divinatory inspiration can be the final judge of the meaningfulness of the information divined.

    Actually, I argue that divinatory systems work best when both the rational and experiential systems are engaged. Westerners have tended to view the two systems as antagonistic, but they are actually complementary. They are meant to work together, as in the marriage of the sun (rational system) and the moon (experiential system). I have been reading what people have to say about synchronicity in some depth over the past year or so, in preparation for writing something on the topic, and I have been struck by the notion that most people who write on it seem to feel that synchronicity refers to episodic experience; that is, there are discrete synchronistic events or episodes. However, I would argue that synchronicity is simply a consequence of processing holistic information in the experiential memory system. In this sense synchronicity refers to an ongoing process, a way of approaching experience that differs from linear, rational processes. Not that it is incorrect to refer to discrete synchronistic experiences, but I believe these are actually discrete moments of awareness. That is, we are more or less aware of our ongoing synchronistic, holistic processing of experience, and when we are more aware of it, we suddenly see a discrete synchronistic event. Moreover, contrary again to popular views on the subject, I believe it is possible to encourage synchronistic events primarily by opening ourselves up to our ongoing holistic experiencing of life. Divinatory systems are one handy means of doing this.

    Meanwhile, holy living to all.

    Ken Fletcher

    [Individual posts are automatically c.1998]

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    update 25 july 98