Changing Consciousness

Everything is changing. My perceptions, understanding, opinions and even my consciousness changes. What I thought it is “to be” today, may not be the same tomorrow.

For many years I had a recurring dream. In the dream I was locked in a dark dungeon on a mountain top, guarded by a lizard like human who held the keys to my cell. He was quite frightening in demeanour and appearance. I saw him only occasionally. His actions towards me were aloof, without verbal communication. I remember the underlying theme of these dreams being the fear of being trapped here, possibly for life, and upon that realization settling into a place of passive acceptance of it; that I might as well get used to the situation.

One night, after many years of this dream the guard began to speak with me. He started to become gradually more friendly and eventually we began sharing intimately with compassion for each other. Eventually he opened my cell door and allowed me to leave my cell and I entered into a world I had not seen for a long time. The sky was blue and the sun was shining and the ice that lay there on the mountain side was melting. There were rivers of water running down the mountain towards something alive, beckoning me to follow.

This was the end of my recurring dream. I wonder to this day what it meant and why it ended my ongoing nightmare of enslavement; if it was a symbol of having destroyed in myself, a certain basis of illusion that made life bearable but that kept me in ignorance; incapable of really knowing myself and/or others. I see now that there was a shift of a sort that did enable me to face a deeper truth. The gream was symbolic of that. I felt elation in that, as I would arising in the morning to a bright lovely spring day where life was beginning again.

Coming out of the darkness did not result in eternal bliss but it did permit me to leave old ways and to enter a place that I was more prepared to face the darkness of life in my waking hours, openly and honestly. As well I was able to cope with the reality of the suffering of life a little bit more directly without the use and need of conventional aids, numbing and diversions. In that I am more open and more alive, possibly having taken another step forward in my own unfolding of consciousness.

Stepping Outside of Delussion

Human behaviour is affecting life on this planet. It is apparent to me that society is invested in a delusion, a part of which involves a selective narrowing of awareness and abandonment of a more holistic perception of self. In this modern vision of self, individuals seem to strive for identity, focusing on becoming something with a great deal of emphasis put on fitting in and coping. We cant seem to see or do anything about the destruction we are causing.

I question what becoming better-adapted cogs in a toxic industrial culture does for us and if at some level it helps us to ignore something urgent calling of ourself and the planet. Naturally when we ignore something of our being there is the chance of dysfunction. We must ask if it is a delusion that we have chosen in our use of conventional tactics and strategies, necessary for striving, becoming and fitting into society, that take us away from something more creative and real of ourself and the universe. I suspect that there is certain necessary basis of illusion that makes life bearable for most human beings these days.

Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Contrary to convention I favour the idea that ‘”not fitting in” is not an indication of pathology or abnormality although it does increase the likelihood that we will feel marginalized and that is not an easy experience to navigate. However more authentic it is to be with our “aloneness” and “deeper realization” it can be very challenging to see these truths and to live in this place of deeper awareness. Most human beings have no chance of seeing through and understanding the delusions and the structures that form our conventional experience. The fear of being marginalized is powerful and many can not cope with the thought of being alone and because of that they seem to be unconsciously caught in a dance of striving to become something of perceived value and of coping with not ultimately being able to achieve that.

Over the years any efforts that I invested into attempting to solve the problem of myself in conventional ways always seemed to leave me with a subtle sense of selling out. It has taken some contemplation to illuminate that to go along with the conventional strategies contributed to individual and social dysfunction. The deeper truth did not always hold the promise that our delusional ideals did; only of destroying the illusions that make life tolerable. I question the notion that there are ultimates in the classical mystical, or even scientific, sense although for me there is something relevant to the active notion that the world is a living being to which we belong and that it is a part of our own self and that we are a part of its suffering wholeness. Until we go to the root of our image of separateness, there can be no healing of self or the world.

Perpetuating Separation

Our modern methods of solving our individual problems seem not to address the deeper causes of distress, aloneness and depression that seem to be not so separable from overall social dysfunction.

I now accept the notion that I am an “Outsider” and that I am marginalized in that. I consciously take my leave from a conventional point of view; realizing that it has resulted in me being enmeshed and lost— overwhelmed and bound by so many irrelevant issues, delusions, and illusions, all intertwined and overlapping, that kept me in obscuration and perpetuating dysfunction at various levels. I now realize that there is a difference between the “adjusted coper” and the “intelligent, sensitive citizen”.

A part of waking up and living more fully, for me, involves embracing a more active and aware thinking, feeling and direct experience of life that includes a never ending unfolding and opening to something more intuitive and authentic, emanating from within. In that there is the awareness that, beyond our individual perception we are intricately connected to a larger world and community of humans and beings. To be able to realize this involves an expansion of our experience of our deeper nature. A more contemplative focus in life may help us to examine and explore more deeply the root causes of our fear of being alone and other influences that are unsettling us, that block and separate us from experiencing life more responsibly and fully; that underlying grief and panic may be an unavoidable consequence of the change and dying of our culture and our world.

A Slow Awakening

I share my experience in that there might be the possibility that even one individual might see that there is another way. Influenced by my own life struggles and many years serving as a social worker with children and youth in crisis my perception has come to be that so many of us are on a path towards waking up, often not knowing in our early years what this is about. For many years I didn’t know that I was in the early stages of a long struggle to free myself from various traps that my serial attachment to ideals and wishful thinking only served to mask and strengthen. I now know that I was looking for something that would free me from something that confined me. I didnt know what that was? In an unconscious way I searched in the most bizarre and contradictory places for a life energy that could assist me to emerge from something unrealized that was consuming me. For the longest time it was just about surviving from day to day. I almost didn’t, and others that I grew up with didnt make it. Being lost, I was consumed by doubt and related emotion and confusion.

Slowly I came to a realization regarding how much of my life had been spent inside various boxes, trying, mostly unconsciously, to get out. I had always been drawn to the reflection and evidence that others might have, of moments of vision and insight in which the deeper meaning of life is revealed. My heart was generally closed but increasingly non literal inspirational experiences would arise. Simone Weil wrote about this search and insight that is experienced in life, “To love truth means to endure the void and, as a result, to accept death. Truth is on the side of death.” Something dies every time there is change. I was learning that I had to be able to let go and make space for the true; that familiar well-worn habits must give way. I am recovering from a literalist vision that gave me a world where things and mind are separate and language is the creator of “meanings” connecting the two parts of reality. In those moments that I give up the notion of any literal reality I am free to feel the psychic nature of things and the thing-like-ness of thoughts, that mind and nature are not separate. It was becoming increasingly clear that the tiny spark that I tried so hard to protect and defend against the darkness isn’t a thing at all. In opening to that darkness there is a world more mysterious and wonderful than we can know in our literal way. Behind our collective attempts to conceptualize and control, manage, and civilize our worlds there is so much of life that we are missing. The universe is more unusual and more than we can know through the use of concrete abstractions.

Yes, I have a framework through which I see life which includes a set of categories that structure my experience, but I understand that this or any other framework is not universal and necessary. If mine becomes too stifling and damaging I can utilize another. In the end the simplicity and permanence of literal understanding is limited in comprehending the impermanence and complexity that is the nature of all that exists.

IMAGINAL LOVE The Meanings of Imagination in Henry Corbin and James Hillman TOM CHEETHAM

A stunning book. This is one of my all time favourite books, one that I am sure I will reread numerous times. It is an astounding creative exploration and extension of the writings and life views of Henry Corbin and James Hillman, including brief synopsis of poets Robert Duncan, Wallace Stevens and others. He explores the literal process by which human kind has wandered into and the misguided abstract world that does not reflect concrete reality. He explores how energy of the archetype manifests in us and can be wrongly interpreted and discourages attachment to abstract nouns and literal understanding, encouraging a life view and living through “being” and a practice of reflecting in verbs and adverbs. He speaks of events rather than objects. He writes in a way that is inquisitive, that he has discovered something life changing and that he intuitively relates to in Henry Corbin and James Hillman. A genuine desire to find in humans what is authentic is obvious and in that, he has come to see the wonderful aspects of being human that we all have access to. He encourages another non literal perception of our very creative, expansive and compassionate human nature that easily becomes trapped in the narrowing of our human perceptions. He does not illustrate any of this as an idealistic pursuit or success or as something to be achieved but more out of an unraveling and letting go and a returning to what we inherently are.

The Magnus Opus

There is a tight complementarity between the emotions and the imagination. The imagination is a powerful solvent ‒ it keeps things fluid and prevents the world from freezing up. It breaks down walls. It refuses the literal and sees all things as metaphoric and symbolic. Imagination perceives correspondences. To do this it must flow. It is the essential element for any work with the crippled and uncontrolled emotions that dominate the literalist psyche. The emotions all have their own dynamic and style of imagination, but when they are dominant, monolithic, autonomous, and automatic it is as if the whole person has been caught in some vast eddy of energy, cut off from the broader stream and unable to escape. Jung had a name for these reflexive, habitual and semi-conscious emotions that so often dominate our lives. They are the feeling-toned complexes. The great challenge of psychic development is to become conscious of the complexes that dominate your life. It is the great work ‒ the magnum opus. And I think the one of the best ways to think about the process involved is by means of the metaphors of alchemy. The psychic and spiritual battlesthat alchemy describes are difficult and painful almost beyond description. The prima materia of the opus consists in a massa confusa of wild emotions ‒ a powerful chaos of pain, shame, rage, fear, anger, hatred, and anguish. All of it must be contained in the vas bene clausum ‒ a well-sealed vessel, and a veritable furnace. For the impossible rule of this work is “don’t repress; don’t act out” ‒ the only allowable action is to stay sealed in the furnace and Imagine. In the heat at the heart of the great work the cooking occurs by means of a series of operations repeated over and over again in a seemingly endless process of psychosomatic stresses and transformations. The goal is to get some distance between the soul in the oven and the dominating and impersonal emotions that engulf her. The struggle is to discover that the all-consuming passions, whatever they are, are not inevitable responses to features of some stable, objective world but states of the psyche ‒ and so, the world they arise in response to is not literal and objective, not permanent, not the Truth. This distancing is the difficult process of becoming conscious of a complex. It is the chief key to freedom from the passions. Only through this distancing, the dis-identification with the complex, can clarity be had in any emotional situation. And the one certain rule here, so very hard to keep front and center, is that any time there is strong affect, any time the passions rage, there is a complex at the center of the storm.

Tom Cheetham

from his wonderful book IMAGINAL LOVE The Meanings of Imagination in Henry Corbin and James Hillman TOM CHEETHAM SPRING PUBLICATIONS THOMPSON, CONN.

Conceptual Language

From IMAGINAL LOVE The Meanings of Imagination in Henry Corbin and James Hillman TOM CHEETHAM SPRING PUBLICATIONS THOMPSON, CONN.

Conceptual language is the rhetorical style of this directed thinking ‒ as it is the rhetorical style of the ego, that master of direction and control. Hillman says conceptual language “is the chronic locus of our collective neurosis as it appears in language.” [37] The concept is the workhorse of rationalism. Rationalism accounts for the world in concept words rather than images or thing words or craft words. It is based on establishing identities ‒ what something is rather than what it is like. And to say what something is we have to treat it schematically, abstractly, since the real thing itself is far too complex, individual and immediate to be anything but itself. So we take this being away from it, and rather than describing it metaphorically, we categorize it with a concept and say what it is. So, Hillman says, we may claim that our hypotheses and conceptual statements are only heuristic, but in practice was substantiate everything because we are trapped in the literalism of our language. Of the rationalism of psychology he writes, We speak in concepts: the ego and the unconscious; libido, energy and drive; opposites, regression, feeling-function, compensation, transference… When working with these terms we curiously forget they are concepts only, barely useful for grasping psychic events which they inadequately describe. [38]

Tom Cheetham