I have always thought of homeopathy as more than just a medical system. Well chosen homeopathic remedies – remedies that are well matched to your state of illness, stress or inner imbalance – seem to have an extraordinary capacity to reduce physical symptoms and to help your inner condition to be more relaxed and at ease.
However my belief in the profundity and capacity of the homeopathic system to help much needed change, can be challenged in the face of global crisis. This week sees a week or so of action in London by the Extinction Rebellion coalition. Reading their website is an extraordinary eye opener. It makes me think about denial. Denial in our own lives, and denial in public life.
For any kind of change to happen, whether in our own inner lives, or in our collective relationship to each other and to nature, we first have to see things as they are. Actually, not just see things as they are, but feel things as they are. For there to be any possibility of real change in ourselves we need to really see and feel our state of distress. Actually just this opening to what is, is already a powerful initiator of change. We can’t pretend. We need to be able to feel it as it is, without justification, without excuse.
Really, for me, this is the core of homeopathy. This is already a homeopathic approach. In the homeopathic consultation this is also what is required. I, as a patient, need to be able to report, as accurately as I can, what I experience. I need to notice and report accurately my physical symptoms and sensations. This part for most people is more or less straightforward, although people sometimes have to learn to be accurate in their self observation. They sometimes need to acquire the skill for noticing things.
It’s not always so easy when it comes to my inner state. I might be able to report my emotions, or the perceived reasons for why things are the way they are. But what about my deeply held attitudes and beliefs? For most of us they are not so accessible. It usually needs cooperation between homeopath and patient to uncover and clarify these deeper stratas of our condition. But when this deeper condition is brought into the light, there is more possibility of discovering a remedy that can help bring about the long lasting changes in health and well being that we are looking for.
What about our collective situation? It’s often said, and most spiritual traditions would support this, that if you want to change the world, first change yourself, first free yourself. I think this is largely true. But is it the whole truth when you’re standing on the deck of the Titanic, heading towards an iceberg? Maybe it’s not so black and white. Maybe the two can go hand in hand. Most religious traditions would support this view. Take care of the inner garden and take care of the outer garden. The two are not mutually exclusive.
What to do? At this point it might be helpful to remind ourselves again of what was said above concerning one’s own inner condition. The prerequisite for change is to see it and feel it. No ifs and buts. Come naked and face it as it is, without an answer. Then already things begin to change, without you doing anything. This, in essence, is what homeopathy is. The bottom line for homeopathic practice: find out exactly how things are, then give the remedy which was able to cause a similar state in a healthy person. Voila!
So maybe that’s the starting point when it comes to the world situation. Face things exactly as they are. No ifs. No buts. Also be aware of emotions like anger that come up in reaction to how things are. But don’t act from that place. That would be to act from opposites, and not from similars. Then just see what arrives. What opportunities to help present themselves.
Back to homeopathy. Despite all that’s happening in the world, all the chaos and dysfunction, homeopathy is still an extraordinary thing, and still has great capacity to help you be more whole, more at ease, and less troubled by difficult symptoms. If you need to do something in the world, can it be more from a place of love and responsibility, and less from a place of reaction or fear? Is that possible? We could say that acting from a place of reaction – which is built upon past conditioning – while appearing to produce change, actually in the long run perpetuates the cycle of action and reaction. It perpetuates the wheel of karma. Is it possible to act more from stillness, in a spirit of giving?
Presence here means the simple spacious awareness that is always present whether I acknowledge it or not. Its the awareness, I Am, in which experience arises. If I’m present, I’m present to, or present with whatever is happening.
In language and thought we tend to distinguish between the space in which things arise and the objects in that space. This is true of both inner and outer worlds. For example in our visual perception of the world we see objects in space, which tell us also about the presence of space, even though we can’t see space. We only know space through the objects in it.
Likewise, when it comes to the inner world, we are aware of thoughts, feelings and sensations. We witness, know or experience these things. Our awareness of the presence of these objects (of our awareness) tells us that we’re aware. Awareness can be likened to the field or space in which these things arise.
A note of caution here. In our thinking there is a kind of dualism, between awareness and the objects (thoughts, sensations, etc.) of or in our awareness. As long as there is any sense of “I” (an awareness that is localised in space/time) this dualism is inevitable. Sages such as Ramana and Nisargadatta tell us that even the witness disappears in ultimate consciousness. For now we will just say that there is a kind of unity of space and the thing in space. You can’t have one without the other. The great Chinese sage Lao Tzu puts it like this:
“Thirty spokes share one hub. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart.
Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel.
Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.
Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.”(1)
This brings us to the topic of spiritual inquiry. In presence or meditation we give our attention to whatever arises – thoughts, feelings, sensations. These are known in much the same way that we see furniture in a room. Something is present in the nothing (space).
It is often taught that to witness the presence of thoughts, feelings and sensations in this way, helps us to be released from their hold. This is true.
However, in the witnessing we often still maintain something of a distance. The feeling or sensation is kept at a distance; especially when it is named (categorised) as something unpleasant.
If I experience something in me and name it “anger”, I’m immediately distanced from it. Once I’ve put it in a box labelled “anger”, I’m prevented from a fuller experience of this phenomenon(this arising, this movement). The same can happen with our experience of the outer world. If I pass a rose on my walk, and call it rose before really opening myself to it, I shall have missed its true nature, being and uniqueness.
But I can also, as it were, drop that label, and allow myself to experience this phenomenon (event, happening) more fully. I can enter more deeply, beyond the label, and experience the full force of the sensation, with no label. I can let it in without defense. I can experience the uniqueness, nuance, flavour of the happening I previously labelled “anger.”
I may now find something completely unfamiliar. I may struggle to find words to describe what I’m experiencing, having dropped the convenient generic term “anger.”
This full opening to the experience leads to something rather wonderful. What we notice when this is allowed to happen is that there is a kind of release. The experience releases its grip. I feel relieved of a pressure or of a burden. I feel lighter. I am “enlightened.” It is said that everything desires liberation. It desires to be “known” – that is fully received as it is, on its own terms. When this happens, that “something” spontaneously “self liberates.” (2)
The more we can open ourselves to such an experience, the more this can happen. If we can go beyond the label, beyond the naming, the classification, and really let the experience in without resistance, the more it will release.
What one is doing here is allowing oneself to be, so to speak, immersed in, completely taken over by the sensation, whilst remaining aware. There is no action involved. The end is achieved simply by surrendering to the sensation. What one surrenders to may appear as a sensation or as an image. If an image appears which somehow expresses the condition which is seeking release, this can also be very powerful. By “end” I mean liberation for the “thing” experienced, as well as for the experiencer. Liberation for the experiencer is often felt as a relief or a release or a lightening.
When someone goes more deeply into a sensation, in order to experience it, they often encounter, when trying to describe their experience, a difficulty with words. Their experience often defies description. I think that this could be because these experiences seem to come from a level of early experience and memory – from early life or existence in utero. It may also be that they arise from even deeper memories, such a previous incarnations, ancestral experience, or prehuman existence. At any rate they certainly seem to be pre-verbal. There is lots of evidence to suggest that we carry deep layers of sensation and memory which come from far beyond the shores of an individual subconscious.
Dr. Rajan Sankaran, the Indian homeopath, has coined the term “vital sensation” to describe this deeper level of experience. The vital sensation underpins and informs both mind and body. It appears in both mind and body, but comes from a level that is deeper than both. It is a sensation that pervades the whole being. It is usually unconscious and is present (even if unconscious) in every critical or stressful life situation. It is a sensation present in the whole being and not just a part. It is a general sensation.
Sankaran’s theory, supported by many documented homeopathic case studies, is that this realm of experience is not only pre-verbal, but pre-human. What do I mean by this?
At this level, if someone can relax and open enough, they often start describing something which seems to be beyond the reach of a specifically human experience. Thus it is beyond the reach of the language of human experience – beyond the reach of the language of imagery and feelings. It seems to be beyond psychology and notions of the human unconscious. Sankaran refers to the world of thought, imagery and feeling as “human specific”(3). It is the world of the human condition, of human relationship, aspiration and fear. What lies beyond this, according to him, is the world of “non-sense”, where strange things just are, apparently without rhyme or reason. It’s a bit like entering the world of Alice in Wonderland, where a completely different logic prevails. This level is referred to as “non-human specific.”
(C.G. Jung was also aware of something beyond the human unconscious and used the term “psychoid” to describe that level where the human unconscious merged with the realm of matter.)
What Sankaran and other homeopaths have found is that if a person can let go enough to get beyond the logic of human experience they will start to to use “nonsense” words and descriptions which don’t seem to be rooted in their own experience or personal history. These descriptions cant always be explained in terms of a personal history, or a birth experience, or even in the collective history of the species. These descriptions seem to belong more to the world of nature than to the human world.
At this level, most people will begin to talk in terms of either:
1. an internal lack in their capacity or structure
2. a specific kind of sensitivity and reactivity
3. me versus you; an experience of victim and aggressor
These three realms of experience belong respectively to:
1. the mineral kingdom
2. the plant kingdom
3. the animal kingdom
(There are other groupings, but it’s these three that come up in the majority of individuals.)
It is as though the person has tapped into a level of experience in which an energetic pattern peculiar to a mineral, plant or animal finds expression. The person describes a specific kind of lack or incapacity (mineral). Or they describe a specific kind of sensitivity and reactivity characterised by a specific sensation (plant). Or they describe a specific pattern of me versus you, of victim/aggressor (animal). Given enough time and space a person will sometimes even describe a mechanism, behaviour or way of being characteristic of something in nature.
These are not surface experiences. But they do colour everything that happens in a person’s life. They are unconscious but somehow always present. To access these deeper habits and ways of being one has to go beyond one’s story, with its feelings, explanations and ideas of what causes what. This is beyond the realm of human logic and experience. Here one stumbles upon patterns that seem to be far older. Patterns that are to be found in nature, but somehow live on in us. Is it these that seek “self liberation”? Perhaps, when they are liberated, so are we.
1. Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Penguin Classics, 1963, p67
2. “The term self-liberation should not, however, be taken as implying that there is some ‘self’ or ego there to be liberated. It is a fundamental assumption, as we have already said, at the Zogqen (pronounced Zogchen, ed) level, that all phenomena, are void of self-nature. ‘Self-Liberation’, in the Zogqen sense, means that whatever manifests in the field of experience of the practitioner is allowed to arise just as it is, without judgement of it as good or bad, beautiful or ugly. And in that same moment, if there is no clinging, or attachment, without effort, or even volition, whatever it is that arises, whether as a thought or as a seemingly external event, automatically liberates itself, by itself, and of itself. Practicing in this way the seeds of the poison tree of dualistic vision never even get a chance to sprout, much less to take root and grow.”
Namkhai Norbu, The Crystal and the Way of Light, p33, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1986
3. See the many books by Dr. Rajan Sankaran, such as:
The Sensation in Homeopathy, Homoeopathic Medical Publishers, Mumbai, 2004
I find these diagrams, published in Nettesheim’s work De Occulta Philosophia, intriguing. I took this figure with cube, circle and stars as the starting point for an improvised movement sequence, wondering what the diagram might mean, what it might represent. This is what I came up with.
The centre of the circle is the hara. This is a good place to move from. Its a good place to to be anchored in. Its a place that gives centre and stability to your inner and outer life. In traditional Japanese teachings the hara is regarded as the natural centre. Its truly where upper and lower meet. Its where our life and activity can flower from instinct. What good is the head or the heart without a stable foundation? 1
The outer circle is consciousness.... emptiness.... the space in which things happen. If we extend it in all directions it is universal consciousness that contains everything, like space.
The inner circle is the kinesphere, the imaginary sphere in which the human frame moves. Looked at like this our way of being becomes more circular and flowing, rather than linear and directional. We need both of course – both being and doing.
The small circle (above the figure’s head) represents something more individual. Our individual awareness. In ancient Chinese philosophy this is “heaven” as opposed to “earth.”
The cube on which the figure stands is form and structure. It is shape and form in the mind and the world. We could also say that its the base of everything. When we come down to the base, the floor, the root, we feel safe. There is a security beyond all coming and going of form.
The stars make me think of “constellation.” And from there I think of “astral” and of the “astral body.” This in turn makes me think of the world of desire. What does desire constellate in your life? In the diagram the man reaches and grasps the stars. Isn’t that what we do? We reach for and grasp. Without this capacity we couldn’t eat, wouldn’t love, wouldn’t fly to the stars. It is desire that takes us into the world. It is because of desire that we manipulate the world (through the hand), alter the world to our needs. This is done still, despite the electronic age, via the hands.
But.... is he gripping the stars, or is he gripped by them. We say “I have a desire”, but if we’re honest we should more often say “my desires have me.”
The diagram seems to suggest that to be whole, to be well centred, these worlds – consciouness, form or structure, and desire, need to be balanced and integrated. Our spiritual nature, the world of emptiness, of awareness, needs to be balanced with form, with earthiness, with embodyment. Above all our desire nature needs to be included. Without desire we have no place in the world. However here, by desire, I don’t necessarily mean the things and conditions you want in the pursuit of happiness. Rather I mean your individuation. Your urge to be and to express who you are.
1. For one of the first scholars to bring the traditional Japanese teachings to the West, see,
Hara: the vital centre of man, Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1962
How did Apple convince us that we needed a phone costing several hundred pounds? Well not everyone can have a top of the range car, but many people (in all economic brackets) can have a top of the range phone, especially on contract.
They can be satisfying and delightful to use. Like all electronic media, when they don’t work they can be maddening. Iphone rage?! When they work well, they give one a sense power, of importance and of being in control (just like an expensive car). What a contrast to so much in our lives which is messy and bewildering!
One may wonder at the constant checking and playing with Iphones that can be observed in public places. To what extent is this a natural keeping in touch, and to what extent is it neurotic. The answer, as so often, lies with questions like “can I do without it?” ”Am I addicted to this?”
To the extent that these activities are neurotic, is there essentially anything new in this neurosis? After all the neurotic activity of pointless thinking, of worrying about everything under the sun is endemic. I suspect it is far more prevalent in the post modern world, where so many of the values and institutions which traditionally gave a sense of identity and security have been eroded. So this neural hyperactivity has been a feature of psychological life now for many decades now. Neurotic activity always goes on – thinking, wondering, worrying. Only now it is more visible. Iphone as mirror of busy mind!
It is worth noting that technology is always an externalisation of some human function. The industrial revolution was largely powered by steam, which gave the “muscle power” to turn ideas into reality. Information technology externalises neural activity.
Once a particular function is externalised via a technology, then humans (or at least some humans) are freed of that function. Since the industrial revolution we have had machines to perform the work of muscles. We now have machines to perform (some) functions of the nervous system. We can expect to see information technology increasingly regulating and/or controlling every aspect of out lives.
People of all ages and genders can be observed “playing with” their phones. Checking for or sending texts and emails, looking at photos, listening to music or going on line. These devices really are palm computers. Hence the price!
And what’s the word that hovers behind all this activity? “Connectivity.” The need to be connected with each other, with our music with our photos and with information in general.
We all have, have always had, the desire to belong. In the past this need was met in village, local community, church and so on. How is it met in the 21st century, where so many are on the move (mobile me) and no longer belong to traditional communities? Thus we have the technology for the global village. But it’s interesting how the technology connects while at the same time emphasizing isolation. People have so many friends on Facebook. Why haven’t I? The need for belonging and relationship has never been greater.
We could also see “connectivity” through the lens of what are classically thought of as feminine values. To connect, to share, to relate.
Iphone technology has an especially feminine slant. Observe the user with the delicate touch on the screen. The smart phone seems more suited to women’s fingers, than men’s!
So is the Iphone an icon of the emergence of feminine values in the modern world? Or should we see it as a seductive, but false, solution to the problems of isolation and loneliness?
I leave you with a statistic from the website Statistic Brain:
Percentage of marriages in the last year where the couple met on a dating site: 17%
When I look at my life now it seems to me that much of what I knew has passed away, and consequently I’ve had to learn to live in a rather different way. There is less certainty in my life. Each day has to be negotiated as a new beginning. Life doesn’t run on the old familiar tracks as it once did.
As a consequence of this I feel, and tell myself that I’m stronger, that I’m clearer. I’m more able to find security and stability in myself, and less reliant on external conditions for a sense of well being and security. The path has led, often through loss, into this new landscape.
The positive side of this is a greater sense of freedom. A greater ability to be myself. More able to get out of my own way. After all, it doesn’t really matter that much!
But I’ve also noticed the other side of the coin. My dreams continue in much the same way as they’ve always done. Here, it seems, things are no better. The same troubling things happen. I’ve done something bad. Disaster threatens. I’ve displeased someone. Someone has angered me, etc, etc.
What do I make of this? It seems to me that as my internal space becomes somewhat clearer, the dross becomes more visible. As I “polish my mirror” the whole drama of my ego self, “me”, “julian”, becomes more clearly visible....especially in the mirror of my dreams.
There’s always a deal to be struck; some deed to be hidden; someone to be avoided; some situation to be manipulated. This is the way of the ego, the game of the person I call “me.”
For me its not so much about analysing the content of the dreams, although that can be useful and revealing. Its more about seeing the whole story reflected there, and just seeing it for what it is. What’s seen is the story of “me” – the archetypal hero’s journey, told since time immemorial.
What to do? Nothing. Just witness. Just see it for what it is. Not good. Not bad. Welcome the “good” in oneself. Try to love the shadowy and murky within oneself. Feel the joy and pain of existence as deeply as you can. Drink deeply from this cup. This is the medicine.
_We can’t help clinging. We cling to people, to beliefs. Clinging is the natural tendency of things to embrace one another. Clinging displays the power of attraction. Things are held together through clinging. For example gravity is an expression of clinging. The earth clings to the sun through gravitational pull. People are attracted to one another through clinging.
But clinging also obsesses and fixates. “I cling to you and wont let you go.” Thus clinging produces the pain of separation. The person that was clung to is now perceived as the source of pain and loss. Thus clinging produces aversion, produces hatred.
But clinging happens. It is Eros. It is love in action. So clinging happens... it can’t be avoided. This is a given.
So what to cling to? How to express clinging?
In the commentary for Hexagram 30 (Chinese Book of Changes, Richard Wilhelm translation), we read the following:
“...The trigram Li means “to cling to something,” “to be conditioned,” “to depend or rest on something,” and also “brightness.” A dark line clings to two light lines, one above and one below – the image of an empty space between two strong lines, whereby the two strong lines are made bright... As an image, it is fire. Fire has no definite form but clings to the burning object and thus is bright.”
“What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter. A luminous thing giving out light must have within itself something that perseveres; otherwise it will in time burn itself out. Everything that gives light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may continue to shine.”
The Judgement for the hexagram also states that “care of the cow brings good fortune.” Clinging means we are docile. We devote ourselves to something. Except it’s not some “thing”. We devote ourselves to the Self, to the inner guide. We are docile, like the cow, allowing ourselves to be led.
“A dark line clings to two light lines, one above and one below – the image of an empty space between two strong lines, whereby the two strong lines are made bright.”
What we cling to is not a thing. It is emptiness. This emptiness is also the light. We are conditioned by the mysterious emptiness at the source of all, within all, which is also fire, energy, brightness. The emptiness appears as energy, which is to say movement, motion. We allow ourselves to be informed, to be led from within by this energy. This is what we “cling” to, are “conditioned” by, and are “dependent” on.
What does it mean to be devoted in such a way? “What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter.”
We bring all that is dark and negative within ourselves, and offer it to the fire. We don’t suppress the negative emotions. We offer them to the light. To cling like this, to be devoted in this way is a conscious act. It is a discipline. We choose not to act out of negativity and defensiveness. Even though we feel the full force of these things in us, we choose not to be moved by such things. We choose to be guided (light) by the mystery of our depth (dark).
Illusion and Reality: a commentary on C.G. Jung’s introduction to the classic Chinese text, “The Secret of the Golden Flower.”
_To read the full article click here
In his introduction to the ancient Chinese classic text “The Secret of the Golden Flower”, Jung warns us against premature transcendence. He writes:
“So it is better for western man if at the start he does not know too much about the secret insight of Eastern wise men, for it would be a case of the ‘right means in the hands of the wrong man’. Instead of allowing himself to be convinced once more that the daemon is an illusion, the Westerner ought again to experience the reality of this illusion. He ought to learn to recognise these psychic forces again, and not wait until his moods, nervous states, and hallucinations make clear to him in the most painful way possible that he is not the only master in his house. The products of the disassociation tendencies are actual psychic personalities of relative value. They are real when they are not recognised as such and are therefore projected; relatively real when they are related to the conscious (in religious terms, when a cult exists); but they are unreal to the extent that consciousness has begun to detach itself from its contents. However, this last is the case only when life has been lived so exhaustively, and with such devotedness, that no more unfulfilled obligations to life exist, when, therefore, no desires that cannot be sacrificed unhesitatingly stand in the way of inner detachment from the world. It is futile to lie to ourselves about this. Wherever we are still attached, we are still possessed; and when one is possessed, it means the existence of something stronger than oneself. (‘Truly from thence thou wilt ne’er come forth until thou has paid the last farthing.’) It is not a matter of indifference whether one calls something a ‘mania’ or a ‘god’. To serve a mania is detestable and undignified, but to serve a god is decidedly more meaningful and more productive because it means an act of submission to a higher, spiritual being. The personification enables one to see the relative reality of the autonomous psychic fragmentary system, and thus makes its assimilation possible and depotentiates the forces of fate. Where the god is not acknowledged, ego-mania develops, and out of this mania comes illness.
The teaching of yoga takes acknowledgement of the gods for granted. Its secret instruction is therefore intended only for him whose light of consciousness is on the point of disentangling itself from the powers of fate, in order to enter into the ultimate undivided unity, into the ‘centre of emptiness’, as our text says. ‘To hear such a teaching is difficult to attain in thousands of aeons.’ Clearly the veil of maya cannot be lifted by a mere decision of reason, but demands the most thoroughgoing and persevering preparation consisting in the full payment of all debts to life. For as long as unconditional attachment through cupiditas exists, the veil is not lifted and the heights of a consciousness free of contents and free of illusion are not reached; nor can any trick nor any deceit bring this about. It is an ideal that can be completely realised only in death. Until then there are real and relatively real figures of the unconscious.”
From Jung's Commentary to the Secret of the Golden Flower
In this passage Jung shows us that he is aware of the non dual reality that lies beyond the relm of psychology. However he is also at pains to point out in no uncertain terms the fact that, like it or not, we are mostly ruled by psychic contents more powerful than ourselves. These are the unconscious complexes which the psyche still pictures as gods, as powers, just as it has done for millennia.
Those who have attained to the deepest insights into the nature of consciousness, tell us that these are phantoms, illusions. This is all well and good but does not deal with the fact of their power over us.
As Jung says, they are “real” when entirely unconscious and thus projected. That is to say when our own characteristics remain unconscious, and are thus seen as attributes of external events, other people and so on. They are “relatively real” when these projections are taken back and it is understood that these things are not happening to us as events over which we have no control, but are in fact forces within our own psyche.
They only become “unreal” when it is seen fully that they are contents of consciousness. They are reflections or images that arise in the pool of empty awareness. This emptiness, this primal ground, is in fact our true and permanent nature, in which the play of images (the play of the gods) arise. This is the highest experience and teaching of the wisdom traditions of the East.
But this last can only be real for us when we’ve truly come to it. If we act as if all is illusion, but are not truly seated in the state of empty awareness (in the witness state), we will certainly suffer from dissociation and the powers of the psyche will continue to be real and relatively real, thus ruling our lives. We will not truly be in the “centre of emptiness”, but disembodied and dissociated, only imagining that we have dealt with out stuff.
To live in “undivided unity” (advaita) it is necessary to completely accept and include all that we are, without avoidance and without pretence. We must feel into and fully experience all that arises.
Self inquiry helps us to understand how and where we get stuck. We can better see our self defeating habits and responses.
Peace and well being come from your essence. Being with whatever comes, rather than against or indifferent, opens the door to a deeper sense of who you are. Try to accept all that arises in you – feelings, thoughts and sensations – experiencing them as deeply as possible.
Its also helpful to know and understand the patterns that arise from your conditioning, your experience and your ancestral inherited traits. Once we see the triggers and action of habits and patterns, they begin to loose their power. Maps can help us here.
Maps are ways of systemising, quantifying and qualifying our experience. They can be used to “map” the laws of our inner existence as well as those of the phenomenal world. We use maps to help us to navigate in outer or inner terrain.
For example Mendeleev created a map to describe the structure and behaviour of the atomic elements, the periodic table of the elements. Physicists have sort to name and map the fundamental forces governing matter and energy – gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force.
Similarly humans have always sort to map consciousness. When you’re on the spiritual journey of becoming who you are its often helpful to know where you are and to find that someone in another place and another time has journeyed that way before. There is often a universality to these maps that transcends differences of time, place and culture.
For example philosophers, journeyers and researchers, past and present, East and West, have recognised different levels of consciousness, which they have attempted to map. In different maps there might be three, seven, twelve or more levels. These might be thought of as different levels of consciousness or different levels of reality.
Inner and Outer
Scientists have always sought to gather data and attempt to define the laws that govern phenomena. Theories are proposed and tested. This then gives scientists the ability to predict phenomena. Scientists attempt to define the laws that govern the outer world.
In a similar way psychologists have attempted to make maps of the inner world. Jung for example proposed a cartography of the psyche comprising ego, personal unconscious, collective unconscious, shadow, anima, animus, as well as other archetypal images and forces. He also attempted to define the dynamics of the psyche through an understanding of the functions of suppression, projection and so on.
Sages and mystics of the past, through contemplation, attempted to articulate the laws which govern consciousness. For example the vedantic sages said there were three levels of consciousness – deep sleep, dreaming and waking consciousness, each with its characteristic mode of perceiving self and the world.
So we can see the relevance of maps for describing outer phenomena as well as the inner landscape of the soul and the functioning of consciousness.
But please always remember....”the map is not the territory!” Try to trust your own experience. Don’t get hung up on the map. Use the maps you find to help you. Play with them. Put them down when they don’t seem relevant.
Some useful inner maps
Astrology; four elements; five elements; I Ching; Tarot; Levels of being/consciousness, as defined in Eastern as well as Western alchemical and gnostic traditions.
Jung’s four functions; Myers-Briggs; Enneagram; Twelve elemental types; Wilber’s four quadrants and so on.
_Identity, stages of development and polarity
From our earliest beginnings we retain experiences and memories. Early sensations begin to condition our responses. Primal hopes and fears take root. Will I survive? Will I be safe?
With the development of feeling awareness and the capacity to make images and concepts, we begin, in early childhood, to wonder who we are and whether who we are is acceptable or not. The basic question of survival is superseded by the question “am I loved?”
If such fears and doubts become established we come to see ourselves and the world in a particular way. We hold, unconsciously, fundamental beliefs that are not amenable to reason.
These beliefs are always based in pairs of opposites – good/bad, beautiful /ugly, success/failure etc. As long as we are living to the standards of the “good” polarity we feel life is OK. I feel good because I’m good not bad, beautiful not ugly, successful not failing.
However the “bad” end of the polarity is never far away – bad not good, ugly not beautiful, failing not successful. These polarities are inseparable from the function of our conceptual minds.
Life seems to be a story which plays out these opposites – just like the stories of heroes and villains. In this story we tell ourselves that if we can just do this, fix that, get the other, everything will (hopefully) be fine.
However this strategy never defeats the law of opposites. As long as we see anything one way – the world or ourselves – the opposite will always be there also. So if I’m good, I must make sure I don’t become bad. Or even if I’m bad, I must make sure I don’t become good.
These polarities grew out of our need to survive and be loved. We “chose” to be one way and not another in order to maximise the possibility of survival and love.
However these beliefs come to imprison us. Pure awareness and freedom of movement get replaced by a set of beliefs and reactions. The belief that this is who I am, and I must defend it.
However this isn’t who you are. This is an apparent identity created by an apparent separate self in it’s quest for survival.
In truth you are dynamic movement arising in pure awareness. You are awareness and not a particular identity. You are the dancer not the form.
Short pieces from Julian on all aspects of healing, psychology and spirituality