Continued from Part Two
The dream continues…
We are frozen, the dragon and I. He cannot be seen, as he is mirroring my every move, behind me. My fingers explore the tip of the spear, the only movement left…
I press the sharp tip into the skin of my right thumb. There is a slowing of time as the ancient metal pierces the flesh. Then I can feel the tiny warmth of blood dripping from the wound.
“Don’t…” comes the hissing red voice from behind my head. “Please don’t…”
The holding of values must be ranked as one of the highest achievements of civilisation. From the perspective of religious morality, each human is born with a challenge: to choose which side of their nature to supply with attention and therefore energy – the man or the beast.
But the Jungian psychologists discovered it was by no means that simple…
Within mankind are represented all the kingdoms of matter and life. We are made from supposedly inanimate matter at the atomic level. Biological life, based – apart from viruses -entirely on cells, is an organisation of that matter into self replicating structures. Over billions of years, these became plants, then animals, then humanoid bodies.
Sophistication through evolution produces higher levels of creature intelligence, but we do not lose the supposedly lower aspects of our physical being. As the brain and mind mature, the choice of internal government is ours, just as it is within society.
Something is trying to express itself through increasingly higher levels of organisation. Concordant with that should be an external level of civilisation that mirrors the sophistication of the inner, creative urge.
But we experience, at both the individual and societal levels of our lives, continuous challenges to our ideas of society. These cyclic challenges are not based upon forces separate to those in the individual human psyche. What we see in darker ages, such as the one we are living through, is a collective externalisation of the shadow within each individual being.
Examined in this way the legacies of deceit, populism and authoritarianism are simply an externalisation of the darker side of our psyche. Within darkness like attracts like, for its nature is weak and it seeks collective strength against what it knows to be superior yet repressing higher intelligence.
“I’ll show them!”
This is the true arena of events within which we as a species have always struggled. It may be necessary that each ‘third generation’ fights once again for the values of good, truth and vision. Values, like any organic fruit, decay over time when the source of their vitality ceases to pulse.
The Jungian model of the psyche, which includes the shadow, is of great value in understanding what happens within an individual life and within the life of that person’s country.
It would seem that humans as a species are forced to live within a continuous paradox. Individually, we seek to better our circumstances and provide for our families. Collectively, our animal-derived focus on success and individual supremacy produces a society with an increasing lower tier who struggle to survive in a medium where the nutrients are syphoned off to furnish luxury at the top.
‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
Can Jungian thought suggest answers to a life of paradox? In looking at this we come face-to-face with our own past. The age of science has worked wonders for the physical side of our lives, but has emasculated folklore and tribal practices that were exactly designed to balance the individual and collective forces of chaos generated by a suppressed and unheard shadow.
The answers lie in the functioning of consciousness. We have seen that what we call the subconscious or unconscious is simply that from which we have withdrawn attention. Few people, for example, study their dreams, and yet dreams are the other half of our lives. This does not mean that we should fret and go without sleep, simply that a parallel sleeping consciousness – a kind of night eye – exists within our being which can gain great insight into the truth of what is happening to us in our day world.
This night eye may be much closer to the creative forces of nature than we have ever envisaged.
We cannot hope to examine the shadow of a society without first understanding our own. To do this we must know it and then make peace with it. Once we have achieved that the power of its friendship is immense.
Does this mean that we have to release its chaotic wildness into our world? Thankfully not. The processes of the subconscious do not differentiate between our waking and unconscious existences. The way we regain the conscious and positive friendship of the shadow is to ‘dance’ with it. Dancing can be any creative act which allows it to exist in an un-persecuted state. Actual dance, theatre movement, poetry, visual art are all examples of a kind of ritual which opens the harmonic door to the other half of our being.
Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud parted company because their understanding of the unconscious became fundamentally different. Freud considered the subconscious to be largely concerned with the energies of sex. Jung saw the subconscious as the gateway to the spirit… and the history of non-dogmatic spirituality would agree with him.
The temples of the ancient world were focussed on loosening the intellect and giving the ‘other half’ of us life; and opening the gate to spirit in the process…
Next week, we will look at the nature of the paradox in which mankind lives, and ask if we must be eternally trapped between its twin polarities, or whether their inescapable presence is the gateway to something else…
Other parts in this series:
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.
The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.