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..:: Enlightenment VI / The Adversary ::..

05/28/2010

- Alan Schneider -

                                                                                                                                                

“It is in your nature to destroy yourselves.”

- The Terminator to John Conner -

 

            And it might also be said, to destroy the world.   Why are we so massively destructive as a species, ravenously consuming every resource in sight without giving a thought to any consequences, either immediate or in the future?   What and where is the essence of the invisible Adversary that dwells within and around us, causing this burgeoning calamity? 

            Viewed from a purely genetic, evolutionary perspective, human beings are breeding machines that exist to propagate as efficiently as possible without regard to other considerations. The only requirement is the presence of barely sufficient resources to “build” successive generations, and sustain them long enough to propagate again, ad infinitum.    In this regard, humanity can be viewed as a relatively slowly progressing bio-chemical reaction that is consuming all available resources on the planet by converting them into itself, and releasing carbon dioxide, perspiration, urine, feces, and culture as byproducts of that reaction.   This is certainly not pretty, but is incontestably efficient, and efficient destroyers are absolutely what we are and remain, above and beyond all other considerations.  

            This mechanical demonstration of destructive potential is the epitome of the lower mind – rote consciousness as symbolically determined by the first three Chakras – Survival, Reproduction, and Power, in that order.   The reader may notice that I am specifically avoiding the Hindu terminology for these modes of being, and am instead referring to them as their functions in the lower mind.   On the one hand, we would not have come this far without the interaction of these three processes, on the other, we may not get much further without augmenting them with the four Chakras operating in the higher mind – Love, Communication, Insight, and Awareness, again in that order.   If we can transcend our animal nature and attain higher consciousness, there may be some long term hope for our species, but this matter is far from certain at this time.   

            Freud termed the destructive trend in human psychology Thanatos – the Death Wish – and specified that it is an inherent consequence of our biological makeup.   There is something present in our very cellular construction that is designed by evolution to perform external destruction as a symbolic expression of our internal frustration with who and what we inescapably are, and this process is obviously extremely effective as a coping mechanism when coupled with the sentient perception of self and environment.   Moreover, when this is additionally coupled with Eros – the Life Wish – which (for Freud) was epitomized by sexuality, we have the truly devastatingly potent level of activity that has brought us completely unconsciously to our position at the top of the food chain. Thought or awareness was not required, just frustration connected to appetite by a big, sentient primate brain.   

            Jung had a somewhat more insightful perception of the Death Wish, associating it with the archetype of the Shadow – in a more functional/interactive model than the organic Freudian one – as an expression of all that has been thrust out of conscious awareness by an unaccepting and fearful ego.    For Jung, the Shadow was, and is, something that can be constructively reassimilated into conscious perception, depriving the Death Wish of its organic power in the process, and this is a key feature of Jungian transpersonal psychology.   This is not to say that the reassimilation process is easy or painless, because it is neither, simply to observe that Jung saw substantial hope in the human condition, a condition about which Freud was clearly dubious, as evidenced in his final work, Society and Its Discontents.   Freud may well have been correct in his contentions regarding the ultimate futility of our existence, but without hope life becomes Hell.    In focusing his psychology in the higher four Chakras – as presented in his lecture series The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga (and many other works) – Jung made the case for a hopeful outcome to human events and behavior, postulating that higher comprehension (i.e. Enlightenment) can actually change the total human organism and condition forever and for the better through realization and individuation.   

            Most spiritual cosmologies postulate a dichotomy of light vs. darkness as an integral portion of their theories of existence, with a variety of different titles given to the supreme representatives of both polar extremes.   In all likelihood this is a direct result of the inherent Freudian/Jungian psychological dynamic of Eros vs. Thanatos, and the Self vs. the Shadow.    I tend to contend that Eros is the chaotic strange attractor driving the Self into archetypal manifestation, while Thanatos similarly drives the Shadow into manifest expression as its opposite number, in both instances from behind the veil of our instinctive biology.    In whatever terms, this core dynamic accounts for most if not all internal and external human conflict, and deserves special attention for that reason, if no other.   Thus, let us proceed...   

            The Buddha was once asked about the meaning and purpose of his teachings and philosophy by an interested party, who made the inquiry with particular regard to the agonies of the human condition and their intractable nature.    The Buddha replied that he was exclusively concerned with doing what could be done to heal our condition as much as possible in what we would call today “real time” – i.e. the here and now – given its fundamental negativity and fallibility.    Freud would have said that the elements of Jungian transpersonal psychology were the results of psychotic reactions – something suggested by the statement of Jung himself upon leaving active psychiatric practice “I feel that I am threatened by a psychosis, and must withdraw”.    And withdraw he did, for many years, during which time he produced one of the most important journals of psychiatry, his famous Red Book, subsequently guarded for decades by his descendents as too sensitive to be made available to even the psychiatric establishment.    Until its recent release for publication, only a select handful of the most dedicated Jungian scholars had even been permitted to view the manuscript in its locked vault in a Vienna bank, but the recent decision of a key Jung heir to relent in the matter and permit a limited printing of photographed reproductions of the manuscript pages has now placed this remarkable volume in the public’s hands at last.   The result of all that Jung experienced and realized during his turmoil is chronologically recorded in The Red Book, along with his stunning color drawings and paintings of the visions he experienced during this period, the eventual outcome of all of this being Jungian transpersonal depth psychology.  

            Was Jung really psychotic, particularly a religious psychotic, with messianic delusions and suffering parareligious hallucinations?   I have my own copy of The Red Book, and, frankly, much of the (translated) content seems to support this contention, as do the pictorial additions, however beautiful they are.    Jung was evidently plunged into deep mental distress upon the occasion of the death of his Protestant minister father – such events have been known in the case of a particularly severe upbringing (such a Jung’s was) to throw open the doors of hitherto repressed emotions concerning the departed parent – and this was apparently the case here.    The unique point to be made in this instance was that Jung was a scientist above all, and scientifically recorded his progress through the Dark Night of his Soul in meticulous and absolutely candid detail in The Red Book.   It is, after all, a very intimate look at the innermost workings of an ingenious, if wounded, mind, and I am not surprised that the Jung family was so reluctant to see it made public.   Yet I am glad beyond measure they did, because Jung’s journey in The Red Book is a supreme statement of hope for humanity.             

            Was Jung psychotic at the time of the writing of The Red Book?   Well, he appears to have successfully passed through a lengthy more or less psychotic reaction, and emerged healed at the distil end with a mind integrated in higher consciousness, and the realization that human mental symbols are more real than sensory experience.    

            There is a relationship between the Self and the Shadow in Jung’s system – one that extends beyond Freud’s theories of  Eros and Thanatos, and that refers back to the Buddha’s observation that he was concerned with healing the inherently dark and flawed human condition of his time (and remaining the case in our time today, as well).  What is the connection between these two?   I have come to the conclusion that it is the Kundalini Energy – i.e. the fundamental life force identified by Freud as the libido.   

            In fact, this force – which I will continue to term libido, as did Freud and Jung, out of deference to my preferred scientific model of consciousness – is not particularly well understood to this day, either by therapists, or Kundalini Yoga (or any other Yoga) practitioners, or by many working in the Mysteries.    It is so deeply buried behind the biological veil of chaos mentioned in a preceding paragraph, lying at the very root of human (and perhaps all other) consciousness, that, like other chaotic strange attractors, it can only be inferred as a phenomenon from its observable results, and many of these (e.g. the Chakras) are not directly observable either.  If we rely on observable human behavior, then the effect of the Kundalini/libido becomes manifest in sexual interest and activity with the onset of adolescence, Freudian theories of “infantile sexuality” notwithstanding – these latter being the subjects of too much debate, controversy, and interpretation to be regarded as reliable.   But, no one doubts the emergence of sexual interest in adolescence – the direct evidence of it in human conduct in both sexes is overwhelming.  And with the emergence of sexuality, comes a great upsurge in both internal and external stress and conflict, as the drive to seek a partner in the face of both personal inhibition and social competition moves closer to the forefront of personal awareness.   

            It is perhaps Tantric Theory that has the most functional explanation of the action of the Kundalini, and, with it, the libido.     The Tantric system holds that this force lies dormant initially in the first Chakra, the survival center, until it is awakened by something – if nothing else, adolescence – at which time it moves into, and activates, the next stage of consciousness, Chakra Two – the sexual and reproductive center.    Most of the impulses experienced initially in this center are focused in what Tantric Yoga refers to as Left Hand practice – direct expression of sexual interest in, or with, a partner, customarily to orgasm.    For the Yogi, this is also where the Path of the Kundalini diverges in the other possible direction – the Right Hand practice of inner, symbolic spiritual experience.   Freud’s possible knowledge of this phenomenon may have been what caused him to postulate that all religion was sublimated sexuality, but this is the clear choice in Eastern Tantra – direct, external expression vs. subtle, internal expression.    The origin of this force conceived of as residing in the First Chakra, very near the Sacrum (or Sacred Place in approximate translation) at the base of the spine is quite significant, because this is the foundation of the skeletal structure of the organism, and the skeleton is the most important part of the body – without it, there would be no body, and no senses, and no ego to perceive and organize them into what we subsequently experience as life.  

            The symbolic image associated with the Kundalini is that of a “coiled serpent”, implying a potential force having a fundamentally biological identity, awaiting release or activation.   This image carries with it another, even more deeply rooted implication – the serpent is one of the oldest life forms on Earth, perhaps the oldest organized biological structure if the oceanic tubular life forms are considered.    The essential form of the serpent is: a mouth at one end, a digestive canal in the middle, and an anus and tail at the other, with the whole structure supported by a spinal column (once again: no skeleton, no organism, no life).    The associated consciousness is of the most rudimentary sort – that of the reptilian mind, having primarily only the tendencies to, first, eat and, (a distant) second, to breed.   With the possible exception of the arthropodic (insect) mind – and no one is convinced that this level of separate consciousness exists – the reptilian mind is the first, most ancient vibration of consciousness evident on Earth.  This is the biological origin of the libido, and, just as the serpent on land or at sea undulates to accomplish movement, so this vibration undulates at a very low frequency at the baseline of almost all zoological life, well beyond conscious perception and observation in most cases.  I have contacted this pulsation on a few rare occasions in connection with certain forms of deep meditation and felt its power as the carrier of life and consciousness there – but, as is the case with many meditative experiences, it defies verbal or written description – it is as though one has traveled beyond the beginning of time and space to experience the infinite, and that infinite has the Kundalini/libido vibration.  This vibration even underlies the Self in the region of primordial chaos beyond residing beyond everything.  

            Why is it in our nature to destroy ourselves?  Because, beyond even the biological foundation of life, destruction is the universal mechanism of change and renewal in this universe, created as it was from the original, and unimaginably violent, explosion of the “Big Bang”.    The carrier of this destructive potential on living Earth is the Kundalini Energy/libido.  Every act of creation on Earth necessitates an act of destruction to accompany it to maintain the Cosmic Balance of forces present in the universe, and the Spiritual Balance of consciousness referred to in this series of essays.    Thus it is that we cannot destroy destruction, only transmute it through the Jungian realization process into a balanced form integrated into the total mind.    This particularly applies to the Shadow as the primary archetype and Gatekeeper of the collective unconscious – this symbolic destructive energy must be realized and reintegrated into the total mind to make much additional progress along the path of individuation (i.e. spiritual development) of the total mind, leading ultimately to the Self through total Self Realization.   

            Much discussion has been made in these pages regarding the fundamentally negative character of the Freudian ego as a neurological structure in the total mind, and it is vexatious, having a persistent tendency to control and manipulate.   But, it is the personal and collective, archetypal power of the Shadow that provides the driving force to sustain the ego in its negativity – without this power active in the total mind, the ego becomes what it was meant to be – merely the custodian of conscious awareness, not its dictator.    Is there a Devil – a malevolent, manipulative Lucifer – at work in human affairs and the human condition?    I say to you that if we do not 1) release our personal subconscious trauma through some kind of therapy, spiritual or otherwise, and 2) additionally confront and realize the residual collective Jungian Shadow that may have survived beyond the therapeutic process, we will carry the Devil inside us forever, and it will wreak havoc in the world around and within us!    Even if life and the cosmos is eternally violent, turbulent, and unstable we can attain this much inner peace in this way – this is what the Buddha meant by Enlightenment, and healing what could be healed in the human condition.    The Adversary is the ignorant, unenlightened aspect of humanity – we are all the Adversary without the grace of Enlightenment – and until that grace has been attained so will we be.   There simply is no other method of resolving human darkness than to turn and face our pain personally as individuals and collectively as a sentient race. 

            Moreover, to the extent that we remain grounded in physicality at the expense of spirituality – and this condition of consciousness is more or less inevitable as the price of the flesh – we remain the slaves of the lower mind and its animal passions.    As was noted in the latest essay of this series, The Balance, a concerted, ongoing effort must be made on the three fronts specified – study of the Mysteries of perception, meditation directed toward Self Realization, and selfless service to the other struggling, sentient beings (human and otherwise) on Earth undertaken in the here and now.    The sad fact of the matter is that the Karmic card deck is stacked against us while alive, and if we are not consistently moving foreword in our spiritual growth, we are moving backward – there is no middle ground, and very little rest.    Oh, harsh is the Path of Enlightenment leading to liberation of consciousness from the sensory illusion!   As the old rock band, The Who, proclaimed through their lead singer, Roger Daltery ”There’s no easy way to be free!”, and this is nowhere more true than in the quest for spiritual freedom.    Yes, my friends, we are all the Adversary of that freedom by virtue of our residence in the body, and when this is finally understood with clarity, the only choices are to grovel before the alter of desire or stand up and walk away from the fallen trinity of the body, senses, and ego toward the humble light of compassion.  

                                           - With Love, Alan -

                         (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)

 

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