When I was just a small boy, my Aunt Tessie used to tell me to go swimming on August 15th, the day that commemorates the Feast of the Assumption, when Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken, body and soul, into heaven. “The Holy Mother blesses the water all over the world,” Aunt Tessie used to tell me. “Go into the water – a lake, a river, the ocean, anything. You’ll receive a very special blessing.” She said this with that incredibly cute, innocent smile of hers that I loved, but rarely took seriously.
In truth, I didn’t give Aunt Tessie’s advice much credence. First, I preferred basketball, not swimming. But more to the point, I saw Aunt Tessie’s advice as narrowly religious, meaning that her faith was rooted exclusively in the dogma of the Church. She wasn’t the least bit interested in whatever universal truths or symbols might lay beneath the holy day, or what special meaning the water might have, for that matter. All she knew was that on August 15th, Mary blessed the water, which meant everybody in the pool.
In my arrogance, I looked at Aunt Tessie’s ideas as quaint, unsophisticated, and largely irrelevant to me. But life has a way of humbling the arrogant. The naïve and ego-inflated belief that I would live some kind of idealized or perfect life collapsed in the face of a seemingly endless stream of mistakes and failures, until I woke up one day and realized that my imperfections very likely were limitless, and that without some kind of divine intervention, I might be crushed under the weight of my own ignorance.
At that point, I didn’t need another reading of the law. I needed something else, though at the time I didn’t have a clue as to what that might be. Absent of clarity or alternatives, I tried to do better, a lesson instilled in me by my many teachers, most of whom were men. Doing better meant, “get your act together,” “work harder,” “think positively, act positively,” “buck up, man” – “bootstraps, bootstraps.” Salvation was found in effort, and when that failed, more effort.
Deep inside, I was too well-acquainted with my own ineptitude to have any faith in my ability to self-regenerate, or bring about my own rebirth single-handedly. Meantime, I was learning one of life’s harsher lessons, which is that effort alone is sometimes not enough.
The evidence is everywhere. People struggle honestly and sincerely and then lose their jobs, see their savings evaporate, and experience hardships that have little or nothing to do with how hard they worked. Blaming others for not working hard enough is just another way of escaping our natural sense of connection to, and compassion for, our fellow humans. It’s also a way of denying our own inherent vulnerability.
Something more than work is needed for anyone to succeed, of that I was certain. Many people call it dumb luck, but I’m not a believer in luck – the word is a dead end that leads to no greater understanding. Einstein had it right when he said, God does not roll dice. Who am I to disagree with the great man?
I needed the other half of the success equation – or as Einstein put it, my work must be complemented by inspiration. For me, that meant some kind of correspondence from the other side. And then, in a dark hour, the thing that I needed most showed up in the soft, redemptive, and unconditionally loving embrace of the Divine Mother. Meaning, I got help from a quarter I didn’t expect, nor deserved.
Like so many others who had been down and seemingly out, I experienced renewal, inspiration, and rebirth. One doesn’t earn such a blessing, at least not in our everyday understanding of the word “earn.” Rather, one learns to open, listen, and follow the inspiration of the heart, even when such inspiration doesn’t always make sense rationally. It’s easier to do this when everything is going wrong.
Most of us are loathe to acknowledge our need for help, especially when we are experiencing a cycle of strength and good fortune. We would rather argue that any success we have achieved is largely of our own making.
But that’s a man’s mind talking. Men initiate, engage, shape, and aggress. We take credit for things that we didn’t create. Moreover, we are committed to the belief in our independence from each other, and from nature herself.
The American West was settled by men, and a man’s mind, which rode roughshod on the belief that only through effort of will and the killing of humans and animals can a land be tamed. But now that the land has been subjugated, it is suddenly in rebellion, and its power, we’re finding, is awesome. This truth that perhaps we are not separated from nature and each other will become more obvious in the years ahead.
The more we engage in such one-sided thinking, the less in touch we are with the feminine side of our nature, which opens, listens, receives, and gives birth. Which may explain why men seek out insoluble problems – and even create them – because we realize that only when we are brought to our knees do we seek truths that are deeper than our own egotism.
The moment of insoluble problems may fast be approaching. Every sector of society is in crisis — medicine, banking, finance, government, and religion. The titans of these realms are confused and stubbornly resisting the forces of change. Very likely that confusion will get worse before sanity is restored. All those banking and Wall Street wizards who gave us the economic collapse of 2008 are at it again, or so we are told by every major publication that monitors such matters. And our approach to treating illness, rather than supporting health, will soon over-run the health care system. (See article on Alzheimer’s disease, this newsletter.) Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.
Goethe said that unless you go through the cycle of death and rebirth, you are a stranger to this world and will never find peace.
What must die? we ask. Clearly, it is our false belief in the illusion of our separation from nature, the cosmos, and each other. In short, the one-sided, male-dominated mind.
The Psyche Seeks Balance, Wholeness, And Health
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said Einstein.
What unrelenting stubbornness would encourage us to keep pushing forward when all the evidence of life is telling us to stop and listen, open and receive new instructions?
One of Einstein’s friends was Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist, a towering figure of the 20th century and among the few equals to Einstein in brilliance and contribution to human understanding. Jung maintained that the psyche is a living entity that, like a constantly flowing river, is attempting to feed the conscious mind with new information, wisdom, and insight. The intention behind this flow of inspiration is to make balance with the prevailing beliefs and actions taking place during daily life.
As a new and greater balance is experienced, consciousness is widened and a larger understanding of life is achieved. New ways of behaving toward each other and toward the earth are adopted, as well. Naturally, new levels of physical and mental health are the consequence.
As far back as the late 1940s and early ‘50s, Jung noted the growing number of people from all over the world who were experiencing visions of the Divine Mother. He maintained that this was not a coincidence, nor some giant hoax. In fact, as Jung himself pointed out, most of the people having these visions were children. In a great many cases, the children who reported such experiences were then subjected to intense scrutiny, criticism, and punishment from adult religious figures who disbelieved their accounts.
Jung predicted that these visions of Mary and other Divine Mother figures would only grow in number through the decades ahead. Now that we can look back on the last 50 years, that prediction has proven all too prescient.
What is the significance of this?
In one of his greatest works, Answer to Job (Collected Works, 1952), Jung argued that religion – indeed, Western thinking in general — had become too male-dominated. The result was a persistent and unquenchable anxiety that trembles at the base of human consciousness. We have become one-sided beings, Jung pointed out, and the consequence is never-ending fear.
Much of the violence we do to each and the earth itself is driven by this fear.
In ancient times, the need for psychic balance was well known and understood. Only through the worship of the Divine Feminine – in short, the source of unconditional love — could humans feel truly at home on the earth. And indeed, the original images of God were female, or both male and female. Even in the early days of Western religion, the feminine archetype still could be found. Sophia, the embodiment of wisdom, was the female counterpart to God, and the Hebrew Bible tells us that she was with God from the very beginning. But that wisdom was forgotten, as the male consciousness rose to dominance.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII issued what came to be known as the landmark Papal order that Mary was taken “body and soul into heavenly glory.”
The importance of the Pope’s act seemed confined to people like my Aunt Tessie, who still looked to the Pontiff for guidance on religious matters. But Jung had a very different perspective. He called the Papal order the most important religious event since the Reformation (1517).
Jung saw that the Pope’s act as the recognition by the Church of the sacredness of both body (or matter) and soul (spirit), and the unity of heaven and earth. It also acknowledged the inherent equality of men and women. The archetype of the Divine Feminine was being recognized and finally placed in its proper context. The bridegroom, which is the Christ consciousness, finally had a female counterpart.
Jung understood the alchemical and mystical meaning of this event. It represented the psychic union of male and female within human beings, which – if allowed to flourish — would bring about a new state of psychic equilibrium and health. It also signaled the potential for the birth of a new consciousness among people, which would represent the next phase of human evolution.
The Pope’s writ was not the important thing of itself, but rather the fruit – or the symptom — of changes that were occurring within the human psyche, changes that heralded the potential for a new state of balance and wholeness. The Pope was open to these changes and acted in accordance with them.
We Are Resisting Our Own Evolution And Survival
The challenge we face today is to open to the changes that have already been prepared within us. The evolutionary step that we are hoping humans can make already lies in potential within the psyche. It is the marriage of our masculine and feminine natures, which itself can combine to give birth to a new understanding within all human beings.
We may not be open to this gift until things get really dangerous, but we should recognize that the gift has already been given to us. Our work is more about opening, listening, receiving the guidance, and acting in accordance with it. The question is, Will we?
Unfortunately, the early evidence isn’t good. I have already mentioned that the barons of greed are already creating financial instruments that could sink us all within the relatively near future.
This same kind of “old boy” thinking still has its grip on religious institutions, as well. It was only a few weeks ago, on July 15th, that the Vatican’s revised laws for dealing with child abuse were reported. In those revisions, the Church leadership listed the most egregious offenses. Included among such terrible acts as child abuse is the ordination of women.
Standing against the tidal wave of change can be dangerous for any institution, from Wall Street to Vatican City. We are alive at that moment in history when a great shift in consciousness is underway, and the birth of a new order. We are being forced to ask ourselves, How can we facilitate this change in our own lives, and thus support the larger process taking place in the world today.
Everybody In The Pool
The blind faith of my dear old Aunt Tessie was fine for the 1950s, but it cannot suffice at our moment in history. The old traditions, which are inherently tribal and male-dominated, emphasizes the differences among us, rather than what we have in common. Einstein put it beautifully when he said, “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.”
The Divine exists in all of us, no matter what our tradition, sexuality, or sexual orientation. It is time to open to our inner worlds, listen to the subtle voice within, and be guided to the new inspiration that is ready to be born through us.
That means a new form of spiritual life, not one based exclusively in specific religious tenets, but rather found in the heart and in daily practices that allow us to speak our needs (namely prayer) and experience the impulse of divine guidance (primarily through meditation, art, healing, and practices that promote self-reflection, such as journaling). Few people would deny that we need inspiration and a new direction. Neither will come from the same tried and true methods of the past.
In Answer to Job, Jung expressed perfectly why our exclusively reliance on the revelation of the past can no longer serve us our present needs for guidance and evolution as a species. As he wrote in Answer to Job:
“The invasion of evil signifies that something previously good has turned into something harmful… The ruling moral principle, although excellent to begin with, in time loses its essential connection with life, since it no longer embraces life’s variety and abundance. What was rationally correct is
Only the Divine Mother, however you conceive of her, can embrace all of her children.
Which brings me back to Aunt Tessie’s advice. On August 15th, everybody in the pool.