Thursday, November 1, 2012

#109. Jung & Eastern Thought

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This post is 9th in a series of blog entries beginning with #101-- a collection of notes and essays from my files all dealing in one way or another with the emerging new religious consciousness. They are mostly things I've written over the last decade to clarify my own thoughts but which I now want to make available for anyone who might be interested.

Post #109 is a collection of personal thoughts stimulated by two books with the same name, "Jung and Eastern Thought." It dates from December, 2004.

If you have questions and think I might be of help, you're welcome to send me a note:


I've been trying to get these two books with this same name for a long time. It's been so long that I can't remember now what the impetus was that set me to locating them. 

Finally got them, thanks to (son-in-law) John. One is by Harold Coward (SUNY, 1985), the other by JJ Clarke (Rutledge, 1994). Both are interesting, but the Clarke book is more useful. It contains about a dozen references to the Coward book, which is essentially a collection of essays. Clarke's book is a much more detailed study. He is (at time of publication) Senior Lecturer and director of degree programs in history of ideas at Kingston University (UK). His book is subtitled "A Dialogue with the Orient" and divided into three sections: Prologue, Dialogue and Epilogue. I took no notes from the third part, but the first two offer many interesting and stimulating ideas.


From Part I, the Prologue...

1) There are a half dozen basic similarities between Jung's ideas and Eastern perspectives; both hold strongly to ideas about:

• The reality of the psyche 
• The primacy of inner experience
• A sense of self as more than ego
• The possibility of transformation/healing via one's efforts
• The psychoid nature of reality
• The quest for healing/wholeness via creative interaction of complementary opposites within the psyche.

The first five of these six are identical to basic ideas of the New Cosmology and of Mary Coelho's work. The focus on union of opposites within the psyche seems to me less obviously part of either. I'm sure it's there, at least in Mary's work, but I don't recall it being stressed; I don't recall it at all in the materials offered by Swimme and Berry. (Which, again, doesn't mean it's not there.)

2) One immediate thought is to suggest to Mary C. that in any presentations of her work and in a second edition of the book she give some attention to Eastern thought (more than merely mentioning it as not within her competence). Just one or two paragraphs, making some connections, would be sufficient to open her whole "way of seeing" to a wider perspective and wider audience. New Age spiritual seekers, especially, would be more receptive to the Western contemplative tradition if it is more clearly acknowledged as part of an even broader pan-human unitive worldview. And, even more basically, if the presentation is meant to be "for the future," this "way of seeing" needs to be set in the widest context of the emerging global culture.

3) To go back to the list of six similarities... It's clear that these views are also the fundamentals of Bulgakov's sophiological perspective. Some, of course, are taken for granted, just as he takes the reality of person for granted when he says the divine gifts to the world are essentially diversity and unity (whereas Berry and Swimme spell it out more explicitly in terms of the cosmic goals of "differentiation, subjectivity [autopoesis] and communion"). Systems Theory uses "autopoesis" instead of "subjectivity." [All three terms (person, subjectivity and autopoesis) refer to what Systems Theory calls self-organizing systems. This idea seems to me to indicate the very ending of 19th century atomistic materialism. It remains still to become known and its implications understood in the wider scientific community and, needless to say, by "the person on the street."]

Similarities like the reality of the psyche, the primacy of inner experience and the self as more than ego would be "givens" for Bulgakov. He would talk about the psychoid nature of reality in terms of the world's sacramentality. And the idea of the possibility of transformation/healing via one's efforts would be included in all that he would think of as an authentic traditional asceticism. The quest for wholeness via creative interaction of complementary opposites within the psyche is his most fundamental idea; he would say it in terms of created and uncreated Sophia, and their interaction. Indeed, the fundamental Russian term Bogochelovechestvo (usually translated very unsatisfactorily as "GodManhood") Bulgakov describes precisely as "the synergy of the divine-human inter-action."

I don't think Bulgakov had anything to say about a broader understanding of union of complementary opposites; that seems to be an idea limited still to psychology, and even there only to those who would be trying to re-think good and evil, light and dark, in religious terms, such as the Canadian RC Jungian, John Dourley, and those such as Brewster Beach who are thinking through the Gnostic tradition. 

It's exciting to realize that these widely diverse perspectives (of Bulgakov, Jung, the East, Mary C. and the New Cosmology) are all very much concerned about the same things so lacking in Western culture.

4) Frequently referred to Eastern texts in Clarke's book include: I Ching, Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tibetan Book of The Great Liberation, The Secret of the Golden Flower, Tao Te Ching, Rig Veda and The Bagavad Gita. A significant ideas in Clarke's Prologue is that that Jung is described as taoistic, buddhistic and a hermeneuticist.

5) If Taoism means to "go with the flow" (of the natural world, cosmic process, etc.) then Jung was most definitely "taoistic" in terms of his ideas as well as personality. He was personally "taoistic" in that he was most comfortable with experiences of nature rather than society, and most at ease with simple activities such as gardening, cooking, sailing and stone-carving. [I'm with him on two of the four! Never had opportunity for sailing or stone-carving. Walking and tai chi exercises may have a similar role for me. The closest I've come to something like stone-carving is working with stained-glass, and both tai chi and stained-glass are late-in-life activities for me.]

6) Jung was "buddhistic" in his willingness to confront one's inner demons (the Jungian "shadow"), and in his understanding of the importance of fantasy (imagination) for experiencing those inner demons.

7) Jung was also a "hermeneuticist," in the sense of an interpreter of things. The term "hermeneutics," says Clarke, dates from the 1600's and originally referred to knowing details about biblical texts (date of composition, cultural context, etc) that would help readers better understand them. It later was extended to mean "the art of understanding used to understand texts, artifacts and human beings" (the quote is Jung's, apparently). And eventually it came to mean much more, an attitude or realization that accepts the fact that all attempts at understanding anything are culturally conditioned and we can never get totally out of our own cultural limitations, so that the best we can do in trying to understand anything is to pursue a dynamic course of interpretation followed by critical reflection on our interpretation, followed by more interpretation. (This understanding of understanding is called "the hermeneutic circle.") [I note that Taussig says, "Sophia is understanding," so there's yet another-- and I think especially significant-- connection to follow up. Of all these ideas, so far, this one most "calls me" to pursue it further.] 

Another aspect of hermeneutics is communication. A hermeneuticist is a communicator, a communicator across cultural boundaries. [Needless to say, this understanding immediately brings to mind an essential trickster function, "border crossings," and probably the very name "hermeneutics" comes from the (phallic) herm at the cross roads, so here we have another very positive aspect of Coyote to take into account in relating Sophia and sacred manhood.]

8) Of special interest: Many of the thinkers mentioned by Clarke as significant in bringing eastern thought to Western consciousness-- such as Hegel, Kant, Leibniz, Nietzsche, Sheller, Schelling, Schopenhauer-- include the same Germanic Romantics who provided the philosophical foundations for the sophia thinking of Soloviev, Florensky and Bulgakov. So, again it's clear that the sophiological worldview is strongly related to Jung, Eastern Thought, the New Cosmology and Mary Coelho's work.


From Part II, Dialogue...

9) With regard to the reality of the psyche... Jung's view is that the psyche "isn't derived" but is "a pre-condition of being." He calls it "the world's pivot" (a neat translation of axis mundi!). [I found it interesting that that same language about something being "derived" shows up in Bulgakov's Introduction to the Outline of Sophiology, where he makes the point that even the doctrine of Incarnation isn't basic but "derived" (from the more fundamental sophiological perspective). It was a new idea/term for me there; so here's another, even if small, link between Jung, Eastern thought and Sophiology.

10) Jung describes the West as seeing reality outside, the East as seeing it from within. He says the mind/psyche is as a big as cosmos inside as is the entire physical universe outside. And he makes the point that we know the mind directly, whereas the external world is "a hypothesis." We know it only indirectly, via the mind and senses. The main idea is that, in contrast to the view of Western materialism, reality is in fact "mind-like." [That matter outside the mind is a "hypothesis" according to Jung is a new idea to me. What a comment it is on the atomistic materialism of the western secular mentality!]

11) With regard to individuation, self-transformation, healing.... The goal of psychic growth and development is wholeness: a dynamic balance of parts, union of the opposites within. [In a religious context the only person I know who stressed this was Ira Progoff, who was talking 30 years ago about "The Next Step in Religion." Organized religions have yet to take this step, alas. It may simply not be possible for the institutional churches to take the step: establishments by their very nature are not a place where a promotion of individuation can be expected. Even Bulgakov's sophiology doesn't seem to move in that direction, although surely it is at the very heart of the sophiological perspective. Much to think about here!] 

12) Re Jung and Taoism... A basic meaning of tao is "the way things work." This is precisely the meaning of Sophia on the old icons when she is called things like the "Guardian Angel of the Universe." And it isn't different from the term "cosmic ordering principle" of David Bohm's Implicate Order ideas. (Or even from Sapientia in the Advent hymn's "O come, O come, thou wisdom from on high, who orders all things....")

But Jung says the best meaning of tao is "meaning." (By which he means what I usually call "significance").

O come, O come, thou Meaning from on high,

Who gives to all things their sig-ni-fi-cance.

I would like to pursue this double sense of ordering principle and significance in terms of wisdom of the body as analogy for Eternal Wisdom. Does the phrase "wisdom of the body" also contain a sense of the body's meaningfulness? Is the body's significance contained in that "wisdom" it has in terms of how it works?  Does "how the universe 'works'" also contain a sense of its significance? Jung obviously would say 'yes.' Is it perhaps just another aspect of the pervasiveness of materialism that we're not able to readily see the meaning of the world (or body) in terms of its workings?

Even as I'm writing this I'm seeing that the link between ordering and meaning isn't tenuous. They really are one and the same thing-- in the Teilhardian-Berry sense that the evolution of the universe has a telos (of differentiation, subjectivity and communion). The world is ordered toward unity-in-difference (of persons). (Bulgakov would agree!) And that is precisely the meaning of our existence. I still like best Bruno's (or is it Teilhard's?) term, "eucharistic omega."

One more thought, then: What does this say about the wisdom of the body? Does it too work towards a telos? Would "fullness of life" be an accurate description of that telos? What does this say about the wisdom of an old body? Of the body of a dying person? Is a dying person's body still working toward fullness of participation in and contribution to the cosmic telos? I think the answer would definitely be 'yes.'

And if all that's the case, then-- to push the words a bit-- we should be able to talk about a "somatic sophia," or at least a somatic aspect of sophia. [My brain is starting to hurt!] To Taussig's "understanding is sophia" we could add "dying is sophia." And helping persons to die well would then most definitely be an aspect of Bogochelovechestvo.

13) If the tao is the meaningful ordering of all things, other basic ideas in taoism also make good sense: chi is the dynamic energy of the cosmos, wu-wei is source [the "no thing from which comes every thing"], and ying-yan is the balance of opposites in which wholeness consists. Lots to think about there! (I think it's an understatement to say that's an understatement!)

14) Clarke makes the point that the I Ching and Jung's idea of synchronicity are based on the same idea of the universe: a (post-Newtonian, post-rationalist) understanding of the unity of all things: "All things are linked by a hidden pattern of significance". I.e., "meaning is a function of interconnection." Again, this is the same as D. Bohm's insight of the Implicate Order as "the unbroken wholeness beneath the surface of the manifest phenomena." Clarke explicitly refers to David Bohm's work, and in fact closes the book with a quote from Peat's and Bohm's 1989 book, Science, Order and Creativity.

15) Emphasizing the distinction between an orientation toward whole or parts.... Jung and the East both recognize that we can't see the tao when we focus only on details (as Western science does). We have to take into account everything, down to the least detail, which makes up the present moment. The point is that the significance of every part of reality is only clear in terms of every other part: the interconnections of the whole.

This means, then, that there are correspondences (correlations, homologous-ities) between parts, and this "homologous-ness" is the order or pattern to the unus mundus

This idea of the harmony of the whole is the basis not only for Jung's synchronicity ideas but also for things like astrology, sympathetic medicines, and the Medieval idea of macro- and micro-cosmos, etc. (Neat stuff!) It's also at the base of ideas like karios, Mary C's "chime," Brian Swimme's "one time event" or "window of opportunity," Brother Lawrence's "practice of the present moment," etc. etc. etc.!

16) Notes 9-16 above all come from the chapter on Jung and Taoism. There are also some, although fewer, interesting things in the chapters about Yoga (notes 17-20 ) and Buddhism (note 21).

17) With regard to Yoga... Jung used the term "yoga" (as others also do) to mean both the postures and breathing exercises and also the worldview out of which those practices originate.  Brahman is described as the dynamic creative life-energy within us. Jung calls this "libido" (meaning much more than merely sexual energy, which Freud limited it to) and makes the point that our truest self is one with this cosmic principle. Tat twam asi = "This is what you are."

Jung also makes the point that this cosmic principle has a goal (purpose, direction) and that the whole idea of individuation is to bring yourself into alignment with this Brahman (Great Self, Great Person). Yet another link with ideas about Eternal Wisdom and a basic insight in the New Cosmology.

18) Especially interesting is Jung's contrast of the spirituality of the West as "up-rising" effort: the effort "to raise yourself above the world" (imaged by phallic church steeples, he notes [and Islamic minarets, we can add]) on one hand and the yoga's downward spirituality (imaged by caves and underground shrines) on the other. (A fruitful line of thought to pursue might also be to relate in terms of a single gender contrast the up-standing phallus and the low-hanging double-round.)

19) The Sanskrit term or name for joining with the cosmic principle of Brahman is rta-- from which comes our word for rites/rituals. Jung calls this joining "sinking" or "going back to the maternal depths of nature." "Sinking" is also then, Jung notes, returning to the taoist wu-wei ("mother of everything"). It's also what Freud calls the "regressive" activities of the psyche, and which Mary Coelho recognizes as contact (via the archaic triune brain) to the primordial archetypal powers; she mentions in this context the work of Masters & Houston with regard to the third and fourth levels of psychic functioning.... A whole world of things to think about!

Eckhart has the same idea somewhere, and which (as E. Edginger) points out is even an advance over Jung's thinking on this, about letting the divine reality be released or "leaked out" into the world. Even Mitch, my tai chi teacher, uses the same word "sinking" to talk about movement originating in the place (the tantien) which is the source (wu-wei) of the mind-body's (cosmic) chi. Too much!

20) The section on Jung's ideas about tantric yoga and kundalini serpent power is fascinating; the chakras (imaged as circles and lotus flowers) are recognized as "psychic centers of the subtle body." Jung says they have "fairly definite bodily localizations" but also calls them stages or levels of development.

1st: perineum/cloaca = sleep = instincts/unC = earth [and north?].

2nd: genital/bladder = initial arousal/awakening = initiation = water, sickle moon, Leviathan/sleeping serpent [and west?]. 

3rd: stomach/belly/solar plexus = emotion/earliest localization of consciousness/creative-destructive passions = fire [and south?].

4th: heart/diaphragm [& lungs] = seat of feeling/thinking, where individuation begins (and inflation becomes possible) = air/breath/wind [and east?].

5th: neck/throat = ether = abstract thought, mental concepts, inner-subjective experiences, experience of psychic/archetypal reality of world: trans-ego self-knowledge.

6th: third eye = where the ego disappears

7th: top of head = where there are no dualities = all is one.

I note that Jung had little to say about the last two; he felt the Western mentality simply wasn't able to think in terms of no ego at all. Certainly he wasn't. (And I'm glad he wasn't!)

21) With regard to Buddhism... Jung and Buddhism agree on the importance of taking charge of yourself and of the possibility of working at your own inner healing.

He sees the mandala not only as an image of the balance of opposites but as being in itself a healing image: mandalas promote inner wholeness by trying to organize inner dis-organization. (The text uses the term "chaos.") By themselves they have the ability to move a person out of a state of conflict and anxiety into an inner condition of wholeness and reconciliation. (What a wonderfully explicit statement of what Native Americans would call "power objects"! And Christian would call-- or would once have called-- "sacramental realities.")

Jung says mandalas are a good example of the essence of religion, since all religion is about meaning and purpose, healing and reconciliation. (I once was given an earth name which was a version of the mandala: Hoc'oka. It's the Lakota word for the relatively safe and secure area inside the tipi circle encampment, in contrast to the much less safe area outside it; and is also used in shamanic language to mean the area where initiation takes place.)

22) I have no idea how to proceed from here with all this. +++

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