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..:: Reflections ::..


Alan Schneider


"What I am saying is that we are living in an insane society, and as individual  human beings we have the choice of participating in that insanity, or of taking risks, becoming sane, and perhaps also becoming crucified!"

- Fredrick S. Perls -


         The above quotation initially seems like a harsh condemnation of modern society – surely there must be more to life than this stark and austere choice! But, Perls (who possessed both an MD and a PhD) is someone whose words we should ponder very carefully. As a Jew who fled the Nazi Holocaust, he knew a lot about harsh conditions and harsh choices – something reflected in the treatment schema he developed – Gestalt Therapy. As someone who has had extensive experience with this modality in my youth, I would have to describe it as having been ultra-confrontive, at least at that time, when it was relatively new, and Perls was still alive. Ultra-confrontive here means ultra-painful emotionally – people in my succession of therapy groups regularly broke down in tears under the frank examination of the therapists. The goal of this therapy was to focus on the individual’s “presenting problem” as an issue symbolic of their “root problem(s)”.  By using a variety of therapeutic techniques that validated the individual’s personal responsibility for their condition and perception, the root problem was eventually identified, brought into the light of conscious recognition, and emotionally released. Again, a very painful process, but highly effective as a treatment regimen.

          With the passage of the decades since the birth of Gestalt Therapy, therapeutic science has learned a lot about treatment, the long term durability of treatment, and about the essential nature of life and perception as we know it. One of Perls’ contemporaries was Abraham Maslow, whose hierarchy of developmental schema and thresholds over the lifespan is still taught in universities today. One of the outcomes of therapy in Maslow’s system was the condition of self-actualization. Maslow felt that this was the mental state that was the goal of treatment – a condition in which the individual was in full and valid contact with both internal and external reality, and expressed optimal levels of consciousness in all decisions – essentially an Ascended state of mind. Maslow also felt that, once attained, this condition was self-maintaining, requiring little or no further augmentation for the rest of the individual’s life. 

            As bitter experience has shown since society and culture have passed into the Post-Modern Expression in the vicinity of twenty five years ago (or thereabouts!), the Jungian assertion that life is an ongoing battle is absolutely correct. Not only is it a battle for survival and privilege, but also to attain peace and enlightenment, and it is a battle to maintain either condition in the face of ever advancing age and the advanced social decay that is the hallmark of Post-Modern living. The world culture passed its zenith somewhere around 1980, and, although apparent progress has taken place since then, the burgeoning human population, economic inflation, and escalating fascism have all created a real background of social decline for most classes of people in the world. When the aging Post-World-War-II Baby Boom population is factored into this equation, an added consideration of decline emerges – much of the therapy of the sixties and seventies was simply enveloped in idealistic misconceptions about human nature, human life, and human potentials that have not withstood the test of time, as increasing age added new and more problematic stressors to the process of living. And once the ego has taken form, it tends to revert to that form across time – no matter how much therapy has successfully been concluded – requiring consistent, ongoing counter-reinforcement to prevent this reversion process. This is why monks and nuns of many religious persuasions live in monasteries and cloisters – those environments provide a good part of the ongoing spiritual “messaging” needed to constructively support their faith.  This support becomes increasingly critical as the specter of Death approaches with the decline of age – confronting death and dying is the ultimate test of any faith. Essentially, the practice of a positive, constructive lifestyle has become a requirement of consciousness to combat the Post-Modern social decline. 

            The very nature of our human existence has also been subject to sweeping reconstruction and reconceptualization in the Post-Modern period, and it is the spiritual implication of this rethinking that I wish to discuss in this essay.  When we look at the human being as a field of consciousness, as opposed to a material organism, a drastically different picture of existence emerges. 

            The best overall description of the Psyche of which I am aware remains the Jungian Spherical model so often described in these pages, because it is the simplest model that still gives a valid theoretical description of the forces that seem to be at work in consciousness at every known level of expression, even including the animal, vegetable, or mineral levels. Anything will “fit on” this conceptual model, not just the human mind. This model of consciousness may be viewed on my website in the Gallery link under "The Holistic Mind".

            This model remains the most scientific depiction of consciousness of which I am aware, although it still constitutes a theoretical “leap of faith” away from the more comfortable, and concrete, Freudian model of the Ego/Id/Superego. It is true that the Hindu Chakra model, the Cabala Tree of Life model, and the Native American Totem model are also very effective descriptions, as are many other mythological systems, but there is much variance of terminology and theoretical valence among these more strictly spiritual motifs. If we are willing at all to consider the possibility of the Logos at the focus of the Psyche, and the Archetypal symbols as cultural expressions of that Logos, then the Jungian model wins the simplicity contest deemed desirable by the application of Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation of a phenomenon that still accounts for all the data available is always the most desirable one from a scientific perspective.  

            As I sit here writing this essay, I am mediating my field of consciousness through the action of my ego. This is one of the most valid functions of my ego – the process of intelligent discourse is fundamentally desirable as a mode of human interaction. This is perhaps the best use of my remaining time in incarnation, with the possible exception of meditation. Meditation has made my current level of understanding of the Psyche possible. Meditation makes all understanding possible through ego transcendence – those who do not meditate are living in darkness even on the most brightly lit day, and no matter how intelligent they may be. 

            The Jungian Sphere is a “picture” of the Psyche and its constituent parts.  This model of the Psyche is based upon a completely holistic perception of the totality of existence as conscious expressions – even rocks are conceived of as having a minute amount of consciousness because they exhibit a limited repertoire of “behaviors” in our human perception – just laying there is still a behavior, after all! The Archetype of “Rock” is the origin of the perceptual building block that enables the identification of all subsequent material “rock” expressions we encounter on the Physical Plane of manifestation. I can say “we” encounter because, even though I am enclosed in my personal expression of the Psyche for life, my culture enables me to “compare notes” with my fellow creatures through spoken language and writing. This is perhaps the most valid function of culture – human communication. In this way, I have come over the years to the cumulative understanding that the Logos is not only my consciousness, but all consciousness, and that existence is consciousness as well. If we follow the rock back far enough into the Psyche, we arrive at God, and realize that God is everywhere in all things through the experience of Samadhi. 

            A number of considerations enter into the view of consciousness as consciousness, most significantly the implication of the symbolic component of entities perceived on the Physical Plane.  Jung referred to entities that demonstrated an unusual degree of symbolic significance as synchronicities – meaningful coincidences. Eventually the realization is attained in life that all coincidences are meaningful in the Cosmic Dance of the Logos – there are almost no real coincidences.  In the Field of Consciousness, the symbol is more real than any discreet manifest expression of that symbol.  In most cases, conflicts and misunderstandings of all kinds are traceable to symbolic deficits among the communicators involved – one communicator simply has a different symbolic conception of a given entity or condition than the others, based upon Karma and total life experience, and may have little or no knowledge of this. The use of the term “poverty” has vastly different meanings to one born into wealth and luxury than one born in a ghetto. For the first, it is a remote, abstract conception, for the other, a brutal daily reality. 

            As long as conscious perception is relegated to the physical senses, the world is experienced as “concrete” and literal in nature, and we experience ourselves that way as well. We enjoy (or, more commonly, suffer) our secure little island of the mind, bounded by the coral reef of the personal unconscious, and do not venture out into the deep.  This is the world of the first three Chakras in Hinduism, and the Malkuth of Cabala, a safe, secure world, but fundamentally an illusion. This world is an illusion because it is composed of reflections of the deeper reality that exists beyond the reef. The vast majority of people choose to live in that reflective illusion simply because it is the habit of the ego to do so, nothing more. And this habit is maybe not so bad – the reef is perilous, and so is the deep water beyond. But, if we do not challenge the assignment of living by taking risks, we fail as human beings, crucifixion or no crucifixion. Perls was fundamentally correct in his view of society and the primary choice we must make. He simply did not extend this to the logical conclusion of Post-Modernism – life itself is insane because we die in battle regardless of what choices we make – and the crucifixion is inevitable. For this reason, contemporary therapies tend to err in the direction of cautious risk taking and conservative living, and this is most certainly a good thing. 

            Meditation constitutes such a method of cautious risk taking, particularly in contrast to some of the other options still around like brutally confrontive group work, invasive hypnosis, and hallucinogenic drug use!  If we are going to maintain the realistic awareness that we are going to go through the Gate of Darkness (regardless of what might lie beyond) at death, and life itself, at least as reflectively experienced on the Physical Plane, is insane, then we need to modify our understanding and expectations accordingly. As long as we continue to cautiously investigate beyond the reef, this will be sufficient to answer the call of the Logos for most of us. Gone are the days of complete self-actualization and therapeutic conclusion, and enter the day of monastic moderation! 

            The world that we encounter in the senses is, in fact, a cosmic mirror in which we see God pouring God into God at the gross physical level. In meditation it is possible to pass “through the looking glass” and work directly with the archetypal symbols beyond and beneath the surface of material perception. Done in moderation, this also is most certainly a good thing, and can show us the deepest meaning of life as consciousness. We are all this field of consciousness whether we know this or not, even though we may chose to perceive a field of objects instead – we still are making a perceptual decision. When the field of consciousness that I am becomes aware of that condition as its fundamental nature, and begins to investigate itself from that perspective, the process of Enlightenment has begun. When this investigation begins to include meditation, the process of Enlightenment is enormously enhanced. When meditation is carried to its ultimate conclusion, the Logos is encountered, and the Truth of Consciousness is revealed in the Divine Light at the center of Creation. Namaste!


                                                          - With Love, Alan -

                                                   (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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