Sunday, November 18, 2012

#133. Beyond Religion and Psychology-- To Nature

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Post #133 is a collection of notes and comments on a 1990 book by Robert Aziz, "C.G. Jung's Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity."


In his 1937 lectures at Yale, C. G. Jung talked about the “need to move beyond established religion and accept the challenge of immediate experience.”

As Aziz puts it, we need “to enter into a ritual with the sacred circle of the psyche.” By “ritual” here Aziz does not mean a ceremony but rather what we would call today a religious practice or a spiritual discipline.

His main point is extremely significant: that while Jung in 1937 saw the “ritual of immediate experience” taking place via direct encounter with the unconscious, today we see it as taking place via direct encounter with the external world as well, "with nature as a whole, in its entirety.”


Aziz says that Jung’s own inner journey was the means for opening up a new route to the outer world and that this is his deepest personal meaning. It is what Jung himself did “on behalf of all and for all.”

Jung's work with archetypes and his discovery of the active imagination process, for example, are obviously important. But what is of the greatest significance, says Aziz, is that Jung discovered how we can be, once again-- since the beginnings, thousands of years ago, of patriarchal dualism at the end of the Neolithic age-- rightly related to the external world of matter.

Aziz quotes Marie-Louise von Franz, with regard to philosophical and religious dualism, to the effect that the synchronistic phenomena uncovered by Jung provide empirical evidence for the non-duality of body and soul.

Aziz notes that we get this full picture of Jung’s life and work not from his formal writings so much as in letters, comments, and activities with his clients.

What it comes down to is that each of us must be a facilitator of the unfoldment of the events in nature.


For a religious person in the 20th century, the transition from institutional religiousness to ritual attention to the contents of the unconscious has been a big step.

Yet we need to go further: we must learn as well to be always and everywhere attentive to the flow of nature in the external world. As von Franz puts it, "to be attentive to the Tao in all its wholeness."

This is a real breakthrough.

It clearly ties Jungian perspectives with ecological consciousness and environmental awareness, and it verifies the tribal and specifically Native American perception of our need to be one with all nature, with “All my relations.”


A second important point Aziz makes is that Jung is able to provide an explanation of the mechanism by which an individual, being faithful to the individuation process in himself, is in fact able to have an effect for good on the whole of reality.

Jung says, "When an archetype, which is universal-- i.e., identical with itself always and anywhere-- is properly dealt with in one place only, it is influenced as a whole-- i.e., simultaneously and everywhere.”

Jung is saying that once changed in any one place, via the individuation process in a single individual, an archetype is changed permanently "always and everywhere." (And so there would seem to be a kind of natural selection mechanism at work for the evolution of archetypes!)


From Aziz's work, all that Jung has said about the significance of the individual for the salvation of the world is even more clear. And Aziz takes us further.

While the section dealing with the solitary individual's effects the whole, for example, is especially fruitful, it also helps us understand how a small group like a drumming group, or a larger group like an Orthodox Church parish-- groups which seemingly have no effect whatsoever on the mindset of Western culture as a whole-- can, by faithfully doing their thing, indeed “make a difference” in the renewal of society.

Aziz's point here is that we are not alone in our individuation process. We become who and what we are only with the aid of what he calls our "soul family," that gathering of kindred spirits around us which, he says, "is not created by accident or mere ego-motivation,” yet is “one of the great mysteries of the individuation process.”


Another major point in the book is that Aziz identifies individuation and the shamanic vocation.

He quotes von Franz to the effect that “The shaman is the most individuated, i.e., most conscious person of the group to which he belongs.”

Aziz describes the shaman as being distinguished by two main traits: an intense intuitive capacity for ecstatic states, and the ability to guide others.

He says that “the shaman suffers from the plight of his people” and that the individuating individual, like a shaman, deals with the archetypal spirit powers that the community needs.

It's not a surprise to see shamanism and the individuation process equated, but it's nice to have it spelled out so clearly.


With regard to this shamanic ritual "of immediate experience,” which today must take place via direct encounter with both the unconscious and "with nature as a whole," Aziz quotes von Franz again. She describes a contemporary religious person as one who is constantly trying to get a feeling for the rightness of whatever he/she is doing.

Such persons are constantly “looking for some sign from the Self," constantly "paying constant attention to the Tao."

He notes that prayer is efficacious "only when one is 'in the Tao.'”


As Karl Rahner says, “The great question of our day is not whether God exists but whether we are willing to make the effort to be sensitive and responsive to the Mystery which is always and everywhere giving itself to us.”

Von Franz’s words help us to see that it is precisely by constantly paying attention, by constantly looking at our feelings and constantly watching for external signs, that we can “always and everywhere" be "sensitive and responsive” to the Great Mystery.

Such attentiveness is what defines a contemporary “religious person.”


The religious person in the 20th century has been called to make the transition from institutional religiousness to ritual attention to the contents of the unconscious. A big step, indeed!

And now there is a need to go further: we must learn as well to be always and everywhere attentive to the flow of nature in the external world around us.

And beyond that, says Aziz, there is one more thing to take into account: we especially must be attentive to the compensatory contents of both the unconscious and of external nature. Only by such a sensitivity to the compensatory contents of the "within" and the "without" of things will we be able to live in balance and harmony with all things.


Aziz notes that we are “in harmony with the forces of nature only when we consciously give up the ambition to be in control of them.”

This is precisely the same point Allan Chinen makes in Beyond the Hero with regard to the need for an adult male to be in right relation with the feminine. If a man is to move beyond the hero stage of patriarchy, he must give up his need, based on fear, to intimidate and control women.

It probably works the same way with all those things, besides women, usually considered evil by patriarchal dualism: matter, nature and the body-- and of course the unconscious.


“Harmony” means not needing to dominate them, precisely because one doesn't fear them. This seems to be a major insight because, I think, it is so simple.

To be "in harmony” means having such self-regard that you can treat others-- whether women and children, or your own body, or the natural world of matter, and even the unconscious-- with equality.

We can only be in balance with something if we are not afraid of it. Once again, what it seems to come down to is the gospel counsel, "Fear not."


Personal reflections

1. For several years now I have understood my present stage of development to be one of "not doing, but being."

Not, especially, writing or teaching in those areas that I gave a dozen years of my life to, starting back in the 80's. I am only to guard the center and keep the sacred fire. (More recently I have added the phrase “fast, abstain and exercise;” meaning daily exercise, little wine, and nothing to eat in the evenings.)

It is extremely difficult not to be concerned with doing, probably the most difficult thing I've yet been called to do in my life. Aziz’s explanations make it all somewhat easier to take.


2. Aziz says that just as "the shaman suffers from the plight of his people," so the individuating individual has to deal with the archetypal spirit powers that his community needs. Clearly my focus has been on living an authentic spiritual life independently of the confines of the religious institution. And dealing with a major related issue, the loss of sacred manhood and its healing recovery and affirmation.

I understand sacred manhood to be the embodiment of that masculine principle at the heart of the universe which is co-eternal-with-the-feminine and with which it unites in a harmonious balance of opposites for the fullness of epiphany of the Great Mystery.
For me, the deep masculine is especially imaged and personified as the Holy Male Ancestors, and in a less personal form, as the sacred fire.

I understand that when the archetype of the sacred masculine is embraced and ‘owned’ by me, it is permanently affected "always and anywhere," and that this is my uniquely personal contribution to the renewal and transfiguration of the world.

All this seems to be extremely important and healthy stuff.

I note that my present earth name, Hoc'oka, does not name myself as a safe place, but honors the whole cosmos as the hoc'oka of transformation.

While it doesn't fit anywhere, I need to record a quote from Jung on page 169-170 of Aziz's book that grabbed me: "Whether we are talking about doctor and patient, shaman and petitioner, analyst and client, teacher and student, you can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence.”

Note that, here, as ever the concern is with being "of influence."(!)


3. Another book I read recently, Mitakuye Oyasin: "We Are All Related" by A. C. Ross (1989, Bear [Kyle, SD]), is said to be "a holistic approach toward white and native American cultures," and an exploration "of the similarities between Jungian psychology and thought."

It is described by the publishers as "A controversial and original treatment of comparative culture studies.” That puts it mildly. It is, in fact, for the most part pretty goofy New Age stuff.

But the author keeps saying, “and that’s what Native Americans think, too.” And I'm thinking that for the most part, he’s right.
An insight from the book: the author talks a lot about Atlantis and Wu (the Pacific Ocean counterpart of Atlantis); I can see that to many people this would not sound any sillier than my talking about a vision quest or the sweat lodge rites.
What stayed with me most is Ross' comment that "the "best way to help the world be in balance is to help people who have the same kind of problems you do."

I keep asking, what kind of problem(s) do I have? And keep coming up with the same answer as above: How is "being, not doing" of use? And how, especially, am I to contribute to the healing recovery and affirmation of sacred manhood-- without doing?

Aziz's book really is helpful.


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