Archive for the ‘Robert A. Johnson’ tag
“One has no right to talk about the last stage until he has accomplished the second one. One has no right to talk about the oneness of the universe until he is aware of its separateness and duality.” [Johnson, He, p. 8]
The second stage, the “imperfection of middle life” stage is where most of us get stuck and stuck hard. I have met a number of people holding all manner of belief systems that claim they are well into the third stage of enlightenment, people for the most part much younger than I am. I don’t mean to be judgemental, but most of these people are grasping and squeezing the rituals and the status of “enlightenment” that is awarded by participation in a particular belief system such as Ascendant Masters, Scientologists, Mystics, and so on. The New Age movement is rife with all sorts of esoteric belief systems that promise a way out of the messiness and discomfort of the imperfection of middle life.
To be honest, I can’t lay this all on the New Age movement for fundamentalist religious participation promises the same thing, promises enlightenment if one suspends all critical thinking and accepts the theology of the particular religion as the “Word of God.” And if one begins to doubt, the community of faith will rally around and pray for one to regain certainty, total and complete trust in the faith. One learns to deny one’s inner doubts, one’s own questions and even the stirrings of one’s own body. One learns to deny self, to deny the authority of self, to deny the evidence of the senses. And in that embracing of denial, one becomes a fanatic claiming enlightenment through faith and with that enlightenment, power. Men who gravitate to fundamentalism become blind to themselves as they cast their shadow and the shadow of their chosen people onto others who have not embraced their faith.
Our human history is a sordid, violent and angry history made by men who step into the role of the enlightened without having dealt with their personal imperfections. We have fought wars with God on our side, feeling justified in committing any and all dark behaviours on the heathens, on those who by definition of not being enlightened, are the mindless peasants and minions of the devil, of Satan.
For a man, even in our modern and more liberal societies, becoming aware of the dual nature of being a man, the dual nature of the universe as he sees and senses; and then accepting that dual nature which in turn changes his behaviour, even his manner of being present in the world – life becomes more problematical in relation to these fundamentalist groups be they religions or New Age movements. As a man becomes aware of his inner feminine, his manner of relating to the world is altered. He becomes a bit softer and gentler. Now a soft and gentle man becomes a target for those who feel threatened. Men feel their own masculinity being threatened, often seeing that softness and gentleness as signs of homosexuality. Women who are in relationships with these soft and gentle men feel their space being invaded and even their security being threatened – who will then protect and provide for them if their man stops being manly?
Yet, as Johnson points out, there is no way to enlightenment that does not cross completely through the messiness and complexity of middle life. One must abandon the blind obedience to dogma, to any given philosophy in order to be able to wrestle the demons of his inner darkness to a draw, to find balance between the darkness and light, to find that space between breaths – the field of true enlightenment.
“According to tradition, there are potentially three stages of psychological development for a man. The archetypal pattern is that one goes from the unconscious perfection of childhood, to the conscious imperfection of middle life, to conscious perfection of old age. One moves from an innocent wholeness, in which the inner world and outer world are united, to a separation and differentiation between inner and outer worlds with an accompanying sense of life’s duality, and then, at last, to enlightenment – a conscious reconciliation of the inner and outer in harmonious wholeness.” [Johnson, He, p. 8]
I’m in my sixties and I would love to say that I am in the the third stage, but like most modern men, I am not there . . . yet. I left the first stage too early and perhaps that is the source of my hanging around in the second stage so long. Perhaps the third stage is not reached by most men in the modern world; perhaps it hasn’t happened in many cultures over the millenia of human existence. I am not so sure as to make this a statement of fact. Buddhism makes me think twice.
“The first touch of consciousness in a youth appears as a wound or as suffering.” [Johnson, He, p. 7]
Wounding is not something new. It is impossible to move through childhood and youth without being wounded. Even those with safe, loving and nurturing environments are wounded. The wounding isn’t necessarily due to abuse – physical, emotional, mental, sexual, psychological. In spite of all the types of abuse that make the news, everyone suffers the wounding of loss – the loss of innocence that comes with consciousness, that shift from childhood to adult through adolescence.
The arrival of consciousness at the cost of innocence. Typically this loss comes with adolescence where the body physically changes from child to a reproductive being. Testes enlarge, pubic hair emerges, the voice deepens, the penis takes on a curious life of its own often embarrassing the adolescent male. The shift from childhood isn’t the wound though. The wound is heralded by this shift.
“Most western men are Fisher Kings. Every boy has naively blundered into something too big for him. He proceeds halfway through his masculine development and then drops it as being too hot. Often a certain bitterness arises, because, like the Fisher King, he can neither live with the new consciousness he has touched nor can he entirely drop it.” [pp 7-8]
Like all other young males, I was wounded. I lost my sense of magic, of fantasy and fairy tale and childhood innocence. One day I am a child, and then the wounding leaves me a broken man in spite of the fact that I was only ten years old. I had been wounded sexually, physically and emotionally before I was ten, but those woundings were visited upon me when I was a child, and they didn’t change the fact that I was still a child after the abuse. The wounding means that childhood has come to an end.
It isn’t important that I detail my wounding. What is important is that I am aware of that wounding and what I do about it. I know what I did for the years following the wounding, years which I denied my wounding, buried it beneath layer upon layer of banishment.
“It is painful to watch a young man realize that the world is not just joy and happiness, to watch the disintegration of his childlike beauty, faith and optimism. It is regrettable but necessary – if we are not cast out of the Garden of Eden, there can be no Heavenly Jerusalem.” [p. 8]
Necessary? Yes, necessary. It doesn’t really matter how one is wounded, but it is necessary for wounding to happen. Otherwise, we would never leave childhood and become adult men and women. Now, I can understand this without becoming consumed by bitterness. I do understand that the wounding did force me to take a road away from my home in the years that followed the wounding. And like Parsifal, I went in search of my Holy Grail.
With that said, I take leave for now and pledge to return with more words of wounding, and becoming a man as a result of the wounding.
While waiting for some books I have placed on hold to be freed for me to download from my e-library, I have decided to read one of the e-books I bought last autumn for those “in case moments.” I bought a number of e-books that focused on Jungian psychology and Buddhism so that I wouldn’t have to haul around too many heavy books while travelling. I already own these books as either paperback or hard-cover books and have read most of them. The book I decided to read (re-read actually) is by Robert A. Johnson, a book called, He. It is a little book of only 63 pages long and it was meant to be a reference for the “masculine” series of posts. Te be honest, I had forgotten just how good the book really is. As I began reading, not having the highlights and underlined passages from my hard copy of the book in front of me, I felt like I was discovering new territory. I felt as if I was an old fashioned hero on a quest for hidden treasures.
It didn’t take too long into the Introduction for me to find the first treasure.
“We must remember that a myth is a living entity, and exists within every person. You will get the true, living form of the myth if you can see it as it spins away inside yourself. The most rewarding mythological experience you can have is to see how it lives in your own psychological structure.” [p. 4]
For me, this is particularly important as I sometimes take myth too literally. I am reminded that the myth is a universal representation of the human psyche filling somewhat the same role as a dream which is more of a cross between the universal and the personal psyche.
Johnson’s book is about the masculine and uses the myth of the “Grail” and “Parsifal” as ways to understand the masculine psyche.
“The Grail myth speaks of masculine psychology. This is not to say that it is confined to the male, for a woman participates in her own inner masculinity, though it is less dominant for her. We must take everything that goes into the myth as part of ourselves. We will have to cope with a dazzling array of fair damsels, but must see them too as parts of the masculine psyche.” [ibid]
Now that I have been re-oriented, I find myself wondering where this journey will take me. I know that as I continue reading I will continue to turn the microscope that Johnson is using on the tale, to peer within myself, to shed some light and perhaps understanding about my own wounding and growth into mature masculinity, into a whole, healthy man. I might be getting old, but I am still willing to dig into the depths and undo some of the fetters that have delayed the development my masculine psyche.
Right now, it is time to return to the book. I will be back later to share more of the treasures I find on this journey.
As I sat and thought about today’s post I realised that I wasn’t really talking about men or women, I was talking about love - Romantic Love. It is the relationship that is magical. Robert A. Johnson has clearly defined this in the introduction of his book, WE:
“Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness, and ecstasy. . . . Romantic love is not just a form of “love,” it is a whole psychological package – a combination of beliefs, ideals, attitudes, and expectations.” (p. xi)
For the most part, this is what I believed, after all, like almost everyone else, I fell in love and that became my life, the centre of my life, my foundation.
“When we fall “in love” we believe we have found the ultimate meaning of life, revealed in the form of another human being. We feel we are finally completed, that we have found the missing parts of ourselves. Life suddenly seems to have a wholeness . . . ” (p. xii)
It was amazing for me. I had met a young woman only one year younger than myself who was beautiful and had that magical quality that gripped me, possessed me. By some grace of the gods and goddesses, I became a magical other for this young woman. Three hours after we met I proposed to her and she accepted. The emptiness and meaningless of life disappeared, was sent to some far corner of the universe and bound up with chains and locks, tucked into a dark closet from which escape seemed impossible. There was no questioning of what had just happened. We believed and that was all that mattered. Then life happened.
I fell in love with her and she fell in love with me. Two strangers from different cultures, even different parts of the country, were held captive by the magic of Eros, that god who represents desire, that yearning for someone that evokes life energy. Two strangers met and joined. We thought we knew each other; not the surface knowing, but a deeper knowledge. ”When we abandon ourselves to the power of Eros, all previous points of reference are impaired or swept away.” Aldo Carotenuto tells it like it was for both of us in his book, Eros and Pathos. For both of us, all our guards and protections had fallen away leaving us stunned with the power of Eros that coursed through our veins.
And so began, for both of us, the journey of a man and a woman who had discovered in the eyes of the other, a magical other.
On the way back to our apartment after a meeting with the head of the English department in a large elementary school where we have agreed to teach one afternoon a week, I came across this particularly colourful butterfly. It isn’t as beautiful or as exotic as some of the other butterflies I see here in Changzhou, China; but it is beautiful none-the-less. There is something about butterflies that speaks about love.
Before going to far into this post I want to clarify that I believe in love. I don’t mean the love of a parent for a child or the love a grandparent has for a grandchild or the love of a child for a parent or grandparent; I mean romantic love. This is the love that “pulled” me into a relationship that has now seen four decades. Somehow, what was triggered 40 years ago still is active. What ever it is, it defies reason, defies the reality of the two of us. So, what is this “love?”
I guess the first thing to say is that romantic love is messy. It seems it should be straight forward with a “he” and a “she” somehow finding each other out of billions of possibilities and becoming “we” and giving food for the poets, for songwriters, for love stories and cinema. The messiness of romantic love is what results when the he and the she are faced with each other and the activated emotion and somehow try to find a way to live in the real world.
There is something called anima and animus lurking in the shadows of the he and the she – archetypes. Within the man, within myself, exists an image that is hard to contain as it constantly shifts, a contrasexual image of the perfect woman. This anima is also the container of a man’s soul. The anima is unique to each man and comes out of personal experience with the feminine in our lives as well as cultural and instinctual tribal memories. When our eyes catch a fleeting glimpse of anima/animus in another person, we tend to project anima/animus onto that person. Sometimes the projection is overwhelming as the object receiving the projection, a real person, somehow activates more than just a fleeting glimpse. It’s as though anima has decided to engage us as consciously as possible. Falling in love, romantic love, isn’t so much falling in love with the person, but with the projection of that unconscious aspect of self, the contrasexual aspect which we deny within. What is denied within is lived in our outer life as fate.
I invite you to read “We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love.” Johnson explains so much better than I what romantic love is.
“When we are “in love” we feel completed, as though a missing part of ourselves had been returned to us; we feel uplifted, as though we were suddenly raised above the level of the ordinary world. Life has an intensity, a glory, an ecstasy and transcendence . . . (p. 52)
I took this photo early yesterday afternoon as I was leaving town for a walk through the countryside. I really had no intention of taking a “flower” photo with my mind on other things, especially things that have to do with relationships. That is one of the problems with getting involved with a project that focuses on “inner world” themes; one brings a different view to the world. Yet when I saw the bee through the edges of my vision, the decision was made – just one photo then I would continue my walk.
It has been a while since I read Robert A. Johnson’s and Aldo Carotentuto’s works on attraction, books that resonate with the Sol and Luna theme I have been working on for the latest eBook. I am beginning to see that “relationship” is about being pulled to participate in the outer world as much as it is about is demands that one honours the pull to individuate.
As a man, I am drawn to a woman. In today’s world, and I place myself squarely in the centre of this world. The pull to relationship with another person is as much about instinct as it is about “romantic” love. I believe in romance. Falling in love is anything but a logical or objective process. For the most part, it is all about mystery. Some strange forces “pull” one into a state of awe.
“It is difficult to look objectively at romance; it is painful, for we fear that reality will drive out the love, and that life will then be cold and dismal. But one of the great needs of modern people is to learn the difference between human love as a basis for relationship, and romantic love as an inner ideal, a path to the inner world. Love does not suffer by being freed from the belief systems of romantic love. Love’s status will only improve as love is distinguished from romance.” (Johnson, We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, pp 48-49)
So much to learn here. What does “falling in love” say about me, about the “inner” me? At what point does one let go of romantic love in a relationship in order to see if there is a love that remains for a true and deep relationship? Would there be less heartache if one didn’t cling so desperately to romantic love when the reality of the relationship asks for something different? So many questions and only each individual has a particular answer that lurks at the edges of consciousness.
This is a mule deer that I saw alongside the road while driving home from hunting elk with a camera. I did get a few elk shots but the results were poor in the weak early morning light. But then again, being there and seeing the elk as well as a few white-tail deer was worth the hours of walking and getting up at 4:30 in the morning.
It is finally getting a bit warmer. Yesterday we got to 15 C., and today we are up to about 8 C. Definitely autumn weather which I appreciate. It is too jolting to shift from summer straight into winter.
In thinking about this idea of “jolting” I am reminded of the shock one receives when waking suddenly from a vivid dream only to have it almost instantaneously disappear. The affect remains though the dream is gone and often even the memory of having dreamt disappears.
Anyone having any knowledge of dreams from a Jungian perspective realises that dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious. Well, there is a second road, that of active imagination.
… the unconscious also functions during the waking hours. It emits a continual stream of energetic pulses that find their way to the conscious mind in the form of feelings, moods, and most of all, the images that appear in the imagination. (Johnson, Inner Work, 1986, p. 22)
With than in mind, what we assume about the constructs of our imagination are not really fictions at all. Every fiction we invent is really not a fiction, it is simply our imagination giving a voice to the unconscious. Study our “created fictions” and we will learn more about ourselves. In this way, I study my photographic images, photos that are really not pleasant accidents at all, but deliberate choices based on the unvoiced unconscious. Interesting ideas …
Yes, there is snow on the ground this morning. I have to admit that it does look clean and beautiful, so pristine with its sharp lines and contrasts. One can almost sense that the darkness has been banished beneath a white cloak. Now if only it wouldn’t get so cold!
Winter freezes the soil, slows down so much of what we call life. We like to hibernate, hide under warm sweaters and blankets. More often than not, even the mind is numbed as folk retreat into heated homes to watch television. But, too much of this winter means also a lack of sunlight. So, we retreat into a zone of depressive silence, silent even to ourselves, caught in a constrictive container. We slow down and feel all the aches and pains of past injuries and illnesses. Yet, we don’t challenge any of this, we simply endure, waiting for winter’s end. If we are lucky, we will emerge at the other side of winter without letting lose the inner demons, without dealing with the darkness within that matches the darkness without. But …
Every person must live the inner life in one form or another. Consciously or unconsciously, voluntarily or involuntarily, the inner world will claim us and exact its dues. If we go to that realm consciously, it is by our inner work: our prayers, meditations, dream work, ceremonies, and Active Imagination. If we try to ignore the inner world, as most of us do, the unconscious will find its way into our lives through pathology: our psychosomatic symptoms, compulsions, depressions, and neuroses. (Johnson, Inner Work, 1986, p. 11)
At this time of year, the mountain ash trees are filled with berries. In several weeks time, birds like Cedar Waxwings will swarm the trees to eat the fruit. By then, the fruit will leave the birds a bit intoxicated. Freezing the berries and then warming up a bit results in “ripe” berries. It’s funny watching the birds stumble around as they feed on the over-ripe berries. I’m hoping to get a good photo of a feed sometime this late fall.
I’ve been paying more attention to politics in my country and am amazed at how many errors are made by the politicians, errors that are easy for opponents and the media to catch. Following these public errors, the politicians protest about being set up or blame it on their aides or plead a moment of misjudgement. It is almost as if they truly didn’t realise that they were making these errors at the time. Of course, this charges the air around them in the political world and there is a definite feeling of conflict “us” versus “them.” Even within party ranks, the errors occur.
Something is going on, something below the surface. This is about shadow, about the unconscious.
Our egos tend to think of the unconscious as being outside ourselves, even though its contents are actually deep inside us. This is why we hear people say things like “I just wasn’t myself when I did that.” When we find ourselves doing something unexpected, something that doesn’t fit in with our conscious conception of ourselves, we speak of it as though someone else were acting rather than ourselves. The conscious mind is startled, because it pretends that the unconscious isn’t there. Since the total psyche is much larger and more complex than the ego-mind can grasp, these unexpected things always feel as though they come from outside us rather than from within us. (Johnson, Inner Work, 1986, pp 8-9)
This explains why we so often feel like victims of the outer world which becomes a more and more dangerous place. This also explains our need to scapegoat, to lay blame outside for our own dark stuff. It’s amazing how we refuse to believe that we have said certain things. In our own minds we are certain that we didn’t do or say those things others accuse us of saying and doing. Imagine being a politician whose words are forever made public through recording devices. For the rest of us who don’t have anyone recording our words, there is a tendency to believe that “others” are lying about what we have purportedly said and done. We enter into a state of denial rather than do the work to uncover what is going on within ourselves.