IN THE BEGINNING…
A friend told me that he felt that the passion that runs through my life has always been to bring awareness. He was right. To bring awareness is the heart of all that follows. The awareness is important is because we are living in the largest shift in human consciousness – ever. There have never been times like the present.
In the image below, the sphere in yellow is the cosmos our ancestors could see with their eyes. All their notions of culture, soul, spirit, life, divinity, were based on it:
We now know that there is no sky dome.
The Big Dipper, for example, though appearing flat in the photo above, actually looks like this:
The heavens described in all of our inherited sacred texts disappear into the expansive depths of 2 trillion galaxies of the space/time universe we inhabit.
Our imaginings of the highest order are now dissolving into a new awareness of the depths of culture, soul, spirit, life, divinity the cosmos calls us to create.
Theologian Thomas Berry wrote:
We are just emerging from a technological entrancement. During this period, the human mind has been placed within the narrowest confines it has experienced since consciousness emerged from its Paleolithic phase.
In The Dream of the Earth, Berry repeats again and again that the change we now face is a change in an order of magnitude never before attempted. He named our historical moment, the opening of the environmental age. This opening we are in, I call, The Age of Magnification. The date of the beginning of this Age is March 13, 1610 and it was with the publication of Galieo’s book, Sidereus Nuncias – The Starry Messenger, in English. Since then, Western culture has been trying to integrate magnification into its world view. In Chapter 4 of this text, I define what it means to magnify as:
…to see through the apparent to the depths within, beneath and beyond, to amplify, to understand more deeply, to celebrate and acknowledge what was, is, and is coming to be, to awaken together in the dream. The West now requires a participatory archetypal psychology, cosmology and ecology that invite us to co-create and deepen the foundations of the real.
For us, the real is a bi-polar rotating planet wrapped in an atmosphere that is orbiting a bi-polar sun. Our sun is a star at the center of a solar-system in inside one of the arms of a bi-polar galaxy. Our guiding star, itself held and sustained through relationship with the wider whole, is in a 226 million year orbit around a galactic center, the heart of which is a supermassive bi-polar black hole. Our galaxy is a conglomerate of a larger galaxy that is currently incorporating 2 dwarf galaxies. In our reality, we are in a galaxy with many Earth-like exoplanets that is in motion with millions of other galaxies, in a cosmos of 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies.
Ours is a chronically expanding quantum cosmos so vast that all descriptions of it fail to encompass its Mystery.
Another way to understand what my friend called my passion to bring awareness is at the root of the word, educate – educare Educare means, to lead out from.
The education I’m attempting in these chapters is to offer my own “maps” that lead out from the narrow confines within which my own human mind was placed. These are field notes that I hope can model and inspire the journeys of as many as I might reach. It is possible to co-dream, to co-create a whole and beautiful future for our children and grandchildren.
It is possible to become aware of the “technological entrancements” that have held consciousness prisoner the past 400 years. Once aware, it is possible to choose to no longer participate.
The gift of my own possibility to choose is indebted to the lives of Michael and Lenita Locey at Bowling Green State University, the city of Berea, Ohio and the Berea City School District, Norwalk, Ohio, St. Mary’s, St. Paul’s and the Toledo Diocese, Mike Hay, Vocata George, James Hillman, Carl Jung, Eugene Monick, Jack Marsick, Jane Piirto and Ashland University Patrick Slattery, Diane Pinchot, Ursuline College et les Bonnes Soeurs Ursulines, David Fideler, his Phanes publishing, his journal and community based on Alexandria, Lee Irwin and the virtual online crew of the Argo on his Hermetica listserv in the early days of internet, Larry Nusbaum, Marni Binder and the Holistic Learning community in Toronto, Robert Bly, Malidoma Some, Michael Meade, Martin Prechtel and the Minnesota Men’s Movement, Richard Tarnas, Kieron Legrice and Archai Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Mankind Project, Michael Olin-Hitt and The Braided Way, Pastor Carol Vaccariello and the HeartSpace community, Carol Dombrose and the Angel House community, Robert Sardello, Stan Grof, Chris Bache, Chris Keffer and his Magnetic North. In the indigenous traditions, I am indebted to Andy Papp, Alex Farkas, James Beard, aka. Noodin, Francine Zephier and the Oglala Lakota. In 1975-76, our family entered in the 12-Step Recovery Movement. I feel rooted to Ohio through the ongoing Recovery efforts and earlier in the Underground Railroad.
Running through the very center of all the above is a more private and intimate heart journey. I could not have written what follows without having been pierced and called to a most inner, sacred and erotic labor for all the meaning contained in the word, Beloved.
This could not have been written without the music of Hephaestos, Hot Rox, Eclipse, Those Guys, The Shaman and the Clown, and The Reynolds Brothers.
The Paleolithic phase that Berry described is where this story begins. That time-period featured painted caves of the Cro-magnon peoples of Southern France and Spain. Some 20,000 years ago, they lived at the edge of ice-shelf that covered Europe.
I got to live the experience how consciousness emerged in the belly of one of those Paleolithic caves.
The Age of Magnification and the Ur-constellations
c. 2017 by F. Christopher Reynolds, M.Ed. (This is a work in progress, citations coming)
INTRODUCTION:WE ARE LIVING INSIDE A STORY THAT IS MUCH LARGER THAN WE ARE
In July of 1986, my first wife, Paula, and I went to France to study through Bowling Green with my French-teaching mentors, Drs. Michael and Lenita Locey. We stayed with a French family,took classes at Institut de Touraine and traveled. It was a very romantic trip as well because we were hoping to conceive our first child while in La Douce France. I am aware that the last sentence was intimate, but it is not gratuitous. There have been periods of my life when the stars seemed to align and the same theme resonated throughout the big picture to the most intricate details. That summer was a time of imagining the future and the theme was everywhere.
One of the excursions the Bowling Green group made was to Les Eyzies, a village of the Dordogne river region of southern France. There has been an uninterrupted human presence in La Dordogne for 55,000 years. For that reason, it is the location of the recently constructed Musée Nationale de Préhistoire.
Just outside of Les Eyzies is a Cro-Magnon painted cave called, Font-de-Gaume. In what was to be the most pivotal day of my life, most fortuitously, on a warm summer afternoon, I experienced an initiation into the old ways, in the sense of a primal, 20,000 years old indigenous way of being.
If you visit Font-de-Gaume today, the tours are limited to 12 persons and feature only a partial visit. Luckily for us, in 1986, the rules were looser and we were able to enter into the heart of the grotte.
Our feminine underworld guide was a lovely blond Française. You could tell she knew something about how the painted caves were used for rituals long ago because of how she staged our visit. Once our group got inside the wooden gate that protects Font-de Gaume, she shut the door and kept speaking to us through the darkness. She told us to hold the shoulder of the person near us and to follow her voice further underground. Led by her sensual, and to me, nearly erotic, French, we were invited to enter more and more deeply into the dark cave passage that lead beneath a hillside.
It really was a journey back into the womb of time. The sides of the winding tunnel were smooth and warm to the touch. Our guide had us stop and stand side by side, and told us to keep facing her voice. She then said:
— Ce que vous allez voir n’a pas changé depuis vingt mille ans.
(What you are going to see has not changed in 20,000 years)
She switched on the light and before us.
To my left, a woman’s voice cried out,
— My God, I’m having a mystical experience!
The heart of Silence collapsed.
Before it so abruptly ended, I was opened by the awe of the enduring beauty of the red ochre animals before me. I experienced a simultaneous awakening to timelessness while at the same time being timelessness. I knew that my experience was gnostic, in the old sense of the term of a lived experience of the sacred. I had received a lightning strike of direct knowledge of the Eternal, but in slow motion, like an 8 second near-death experience. In that sudden flash of illumination, I came to know that I am Eternity and I am of Eternity. The ancient Greek word for an awakening to Eternity by becoming it is, apotheosis.
Within a 45 minute period that day, everything I had ever learned in my 25 years in Irish/German Roman Catholic culture, 10 years of the 12 Step Recovery Movement, Adult Children of Alcoholics with some 7th Day Adventism thrown in, even all my dream knowledge — ended.
A perfectly functional 20th century Jesuit education grounded in modern science, was decisively dissolved in the vastness of time unto timelessness. It could be told that I went to France in July 1986 and took a look at Paleolithic cave art. Going into that gallery turned me into some sort of accidental Cro-magnon gnostic heretic.
I became the divinity even as I was in the Presence.
I am Eternity.
When we re-emerged to the upper world of the 20th century, I was embraced by a renewed Earth in Creation. The best way to describe it was that I enjoyed a simultaneous seeing and feeling into the depths of Creation, surface (exteriority) and depth (interiority) at once. I could sensually feel into the energies of the historical and geological ages beneath my feet. They themselves rested, as if rooted, into a timeless ground. Without being able to explain in words, I understood the shape, color and motion of each tree, bird, plant, breeze. I knew the underlying pattern within them in-formed all the events. For the following 4 days, love-making with the intention of conceiving new life was like never before — a sacred sexuality.
Wherever I was alone, indoors or outside, I felt the persons of the Earth and Grandmother Herself loving me back in appearances of beauty. I also would feel an occasional warm tingling flow through my body. I recognized the invisible patterns that influence and transform meaningful events and their timing. It was clear how sensual moments and beauty announce the depths. Beneath it all, in a constant and faithful Silence, I understood the great open secret that Heaven is Earth and as Plotinus had stated some centuries earlier:
All Creation breathes together.
It would not be until 1990 that I would first hear Joseph Campbell use the words, transparent to the transcendent and aesthetic arrest with Bill Moyers on Power of Myth. The most valuable spiritual experience of my life connected me with the planet and a deep context of human history. It separated me from most everyone and everything else of our culture. You can imagine my happy surprise when I unexpectedly met someone who understood. In 1991, I met Gene Monick and we had a conversation. It turned out that he had gone to Font-de-Gaume himself and had what the guides there still call, la Revelation. Gene shared that after it happened to him, he sat speechless in a cafe with another woman from his tour group. In his writings, he used the term aura, to articulate the way the nature appeared to him after his own awakening.
The rest of our time in France, I worked on a song to better integrate the initiatory passage. I had been reading a lot of Alan Watts and stories of Zen. Inspired by Watts, I chose the word, Satori. In the closing days, I had an odd, poetic moment while walking alone one evening after sunset. It was a starry night and I came upon a small yard strewn with old sculptures. What caught my eye was a sculpted head that seemed to be pushing upward from beneath the Earth. His marble face was gazing up at the stars. That unexpected star-gazer was the other ‘bookend’ to the revelatory summer of 1986. He was the trigger for the lyrics which became my song, Satori.
See how slowly summer turns
to her own completion?
Bring your piercing reason
and seek this hidden love.
It’s quick as light!
Silent river, peaceful song
mocking your confusion,
feel your true emotion
and seek this hidden love.
It’s quick as light!
It’s quick as light!
Reach to touch your own hand.
This carved stone disk above was found in Moundville, Alabama. It is from the Mississippian culture that flourished from 800-1600 CE. I was taught by an elder that the rattlesnake symbolized time/no time.
FORLORN PALEOLITHIC GNOSTICISM
Direct connection with Eternity through aesthetic arrest made me a very lonely person. Even thirty years later, in most places I go, I am silent about my “Cro-magnon satori”. America is materially well-to-do but impoverished in the understanding of soul.By soul, here, I mean soul as understood in the Western tradition. It is, essentially, the imaginative capacities of our being. (Sardello, 1995) This is the tradition that holds that the whole of our awareness is a union of consciousness and unconsciousness. In your experience of waking awareness, the unconscious informs and surrounds the mind you are now using to read these words. When you sleep, your waking consciousness merges with the unconscious, informs, nourishes, becomes it.
The journey of my life has allowed me to live through and to set aside ideas that Jung would say, cripple and injure the full phenomenon of psychic life. Fortunately, the gift of my birth was to be born right into the heart of American Irish Roman Catholic culture from family trees that stretch back through the Great Hunger in Ireland, to German Protestantism on my mother’s side and back through 240 years of American history through the Civil War, back over the ‘wilderness road’ on into Anglican England when Roman Catholic and Irish were unfavored adjectives.
I was fortunate to be born in Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. Good Samaritan, formerly known as St. John’s was where, in 1852, the Sisters of Charity first began to work to serve those who could not afford it. The Ohio river was called the Jordan by those seeking freedom from slavery during the days of the Underground Railroad. The high hill that is Mt Adams was home to my family. In the days before the Europeans came, Mount Adams was a site sacred to the Shawnee.
Most of my life has been in the Great Lakes Bioregion, in northern Ohio.
Coffin Ship from Ireland to America, 1847 (My great-great-grandmother, Winnefred Reynolds, came to America on one of these – at age 2. Her father, Thomas Reynolds came to America earlier to establish a new life and called for her to come after finding work with the Pennsylvania Railroad in Dayton, Ohio. )
RECOLLECTION OF OUR OWN SOUL TRADITION
The Western soul tradition is thick tree with a branch that currently moves through Richard Tarnas and archetypal cosmology to his mentor, James Hillman, who, perhaps more than any scholar since Jung, kept this soul oak alive.
In his Re-Visioning Psychology, Hillman traced his archetypal psychology through C. G. Jung, Freud, Dilthey, Coleridge, Shelling, Vico, Ficino, Plotinus, Plato, finally to Heraclitis, whom Hillman quoted:
You could not discover the limits of soul (psyche), even if you traveled every road to do so; such is the depth (bathun) of its meaning (logos).
To fully appreciate my Cro-Magnon apotheosis, however, Heraclitis’ uniting of depth and soul in 500 BCE needs to include the Paleolithic Cro-Magnon that came before it.
Beyond city walls and beneath the temples of the Gods and Goddesses still abide the primal archetypes of Grandmother Earth (Gaia), Grandfather Sky (Ouranos). All those indigenous archetypes who were demonized prior to foundation of patriarchal Greek world view endure. The primal world view still sustains indigenous cultures, even after thousands of years.
Primordial wisdom can be symbolized by the Medicine Wheel of 7 Directions.
Generally, where you find all the persons who are Earth, Sky, East, West, North, South, centerless Center, there will also be the Ancestors and sacred persons of Fire, Water, Wind, Lightning and Thunder, all biological life, the stars, all that is
I have been forced by lived experience to unify the Western soul tradition with the primal world view. It has been a saving Grace to me. In writing this, I wish to both honor, yet move more deeply than James Hillman’s, or even Tarnas’ love for the Gods, whose agenda Hillman wrote in ReVisioning Psychology:
That agenda is clear enough: To restore the mythical perspective to depth psychology by recognizing the soul’s intrinsic affinity with, nay, love for the Gods. Or, as the Greeks may have said, to reaffirm the tragic connection between the mortal and the immortal, that natural plight of the soul that lies at the base of any psychology claiming to speak of psyche. To this intrinsic connection, we must attribute, as did the Ancients, the Renaissance Humanists, and the Romantics, the founding sources of human pathologies.
My own agenda is to reaffirm that tragic connection between the mortal and the immortal, first by returning that connection to its partner, the comic. Second, by uniting them both in the healing powers of our tears of grief and laughter that are of water, still called, first medicine, of Sky, Stars, Fire, the Winds and Thunders, the sacred clowns – all dancing with the heart-beat rhythm of the Dreaming Earth. And third, by uniting them all in the cosmic.
Thomas Berry described this re-union with the Sacred beneath the temples of the Gods and Goddesses:
Beyond our genetic coding, we need to to to the earth, as the source whence we came, and ask for its guidance, for the earth carries the psychic structure as well as the physical form of every living being upon the planet. Our confusion is not only within ourselves; it concerns also our role in the planetary community. For beyond the earth, we need to go to the universe and inquire concerning the basic issues of reality and value, for, even more that the earth, the universe carries the deep mysteries of our experience with itself. (p 195 in Dream of the Earth)
I can honestly say that I made a full out effort to make the Western way of life work. There are tremendous gifts. Yet, it did not work for me because it was too narrow as regards my lived experience. The de-colonizing and re-indigenizing that started in La Dordogne continued when I returned home.
I now enjoy feeling connected with the ways of wisdom that have been the key to human flourishing all around the Great Lakes and throughout what the Indigenous still call, Turtle Island. I am slowly re-rooting into this same kind of wisdom through my own Irish, English and German ancestors.
The life-enhancing, nurturing gifts of the Western way are still very much a part of my life. I’m writing on a laptop that is the result of Western knowing. I have done the same in learning from Indigenous wisdom – to integrate the best and leave any life-crippling concepts to the past.
There is a name for the ‘location’ where I now live. It is an in-between meeting place that blends the best of Indigenous and Western ways of knowing called, Ethical Space. Marie Battiste wrote a wonderful description of Ethical Space in her 2013 text, Decolonizing Education: Nurturing the Learning Spirit
She described Ethical Space as:
…the in-between space that connects Indigenous
and Eurocentric knowledge systems…the space that is created
when Indigenous and Western thought are brought together…
It is not a merge or a clash, but a space that is new, electrifying,
even contentious, but ultimately has the potential for an interchange
or dialogue of the assumptions, values and interest each holds.
Adding ethics to this space entertains our personal capacity and
our integrity to stand up for our cherished notions of good,
responsibility, and duty. (p. 105)
The above words describe the struggle of my life in a nutshell.
I’ve also had to expand or magnify Western ideas of soul so that they mirror current cosmology. In many ways, this is also my ancestors’ homework I’m turning in. Thanks to them, most importantly, my mother and father, I was able to work within a deep context. It’s important to know that all critiques or praise I level in this essay comes from my own lived experience.
I spent from age 19 to 21 being a Christian ‘true believer’ and though I have not flown a plane into a building for my cause, I’ve lived inside that mind-set and am empathetic. My heart goes out to all cause-possessed zealots. In another time-period, I would have gladly taken up the crusaders’ cross and sacrificed my life for God, King, Queen, Country, and Cause. My heart breaks for the destruction, trauma, loss and ugliness done in the name of a perfect power above, beyond, or outside the universe. Ohio, too, has paid in blood when James Garfield was assassinated by Charles Guiteau so Guiteau could – Go up to the Lordy - as he sang for those gathered for his execution.
BENEATH THE GRID
The world is flat describes more than a global economy. It describes an inability to sense or respond to life’s deepest beauty in activities, times and places. Our hearts enable us to recognize the difference between shallow flatness and depth of soul. There is certainly a physical component when our hearts are in the presence of life’s deepest beauty. If someone were to monitor your heart during those times, there would most certainly be a quickening. Seeing with our hearts requires a particular style of education and vocabulary. It is by spontaneous intuition, a knowing feeling – feeling into, is how I described this way of the heart.
Our hearts feel, know, recognize, reflect, by means of psychological ideas. Their recovery was central to the preservation and nurturing of soul in Re-Visioning Psychology. Hillman stressed that without psychological ideas, the divinity in life is always overlooked, moralized, repressed, diagnosed, imprisoned, exploited, betrayed, drugged and mocked. What Hillman did not write is that the oppressive list of adjectives lands most on our children and grandchildren. If we add the words, polluted, degraded, exterminated, we can also take in how our lack of psychological ideas harms the awe of Earth’s biological beauty for the generations to come.
I’ve shared a few psychological ideas up to this point: gnosis, power of myth, transparency to the transcendent, aesthetic arrest, satori, indigenous wisdom,. Another concept that provides insight is from Rudolf Otto’s concept of the numinous that he found was shared by all traditions that value the holy. He wrote of the numinous in The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational.. The English translation was published in 1923.
He defined the numinous experience as an experience of the fearful and fascinating mystery:
“Mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (fearful and fascinating mystery):
“Mysterium”: Wholly Other, experienced with blank wonder, stupor
“tremendum”: awefulness, terror, demonic dread, awe, absolute unapproachability, “wrath” of God overpoweringness, majesty, might, sense of one’s own nothingness in contrast to its power creature-feeling, sense of objective presence, dependence energy, urgency, will, vitality
“fascinans”: potent charm, attractiveness in spite of fear, terror, etc.
In July, 1986, I had a numinous experience of awe and became blank with wonder. I knew a potent sense of both my nothingness/everythingness under the ground.
THE DEPTHS THAT PARTICIPATE IN CONSCIOUSNESS
The idea of the collective unconscious, also known as the archetypal unconscious/objective psyche, expands our horizon further. The waking consciousness of human beings is informed by immense soul depths. Human beings have a personal conscious and unconscious that share biographic touch-points with a collective unconscious. There is enough evidence now in the research. A simple word association test can prove that though our conscious minds may have will and intention, deeper layers of our awareness also participate in our lives, minds, emotions and relationships.
The word association test was more than a century ago. Consciousness studies have carefully established a body of knowledge, an incredible gift to future generations, that opens the heart the way the telescope and magnifying opened the mind 400 years ago. It’s waiting for you to look through it, even as institutional authorities warn you of bedevilment.
The most recent publication in consciousness studies is the 2016 text: What is Reality?: The New Map of Cosmos and Consciousness.
Our minds are as deep as the cosmos we inhabit. The majority of the unconscious is shrouded in mystery – Is the Mystery.
OUR MINDS ARE THE COSMOS
Our minds are the cosmos we inhabit. — is the central message of Lazlo’s 2016 text. Much of our consciousness is beyond our own biographies, cultures, even beyond our species-mind. This is where current quantum physics and consciousness research has its growing edge.
My Font-de-Gaume experience, then, was a becoming conscious of what was before that moment, of my unconscious and collective unconscious. Not very much of 25 years of life that led me to that point can account for the experience.
When I was in primary school, I loved drawing underground tunnels. During ages 13-17, my friends and I dug tunnels to be our forts to play in. My experience took me beyond my biography, beyond my culture – it was a transpersonal experience. Transpersonal is the term coined by Stanislov Grof that his research required. In his consciousness studies, there was just too much beyond individual lifetimes. He wrote of this:
…probing of the depth of the unconscious revealed another vast transbiographical and transexperiential domain for which I chose the term, transpersonal. It comprises a rich array of experiences in which consciousness transcends the boundaries of the body/ego and the usual limitations of linear time and 3 dimensional space. It took me three years to map this territory before I felt that the new cartography included the most important categories and types of transpersonal experiences and phenomena. (p. xxvii, in What is Reality?)
To be human where the most meaningful experiences of our lives are numinous non-rational transpersonal knowing of transbiographical, transexperiential, moments – means that we are in a conundrum in how to speak of such things? This question has been solved for us already. We need metaphor to approach as best we can our experiences where words fall away. We need art, music, all cultural forms, myths, and mythic modes of speaking/listening. All the metaphoric styles of language are then, symbolic – they require images. The images that do this for us best are the archetypes.
I can share now that the image I looked at when the lights were switched on was the side of an ochre horse. This cave painting is similar to what I saw:
Numinous phenomena of the archetypes of the collective unconscious are life-changing religious experiences – transpersonal moments of awe. A definition of archetype us now in order. James Hillman’s in Re-Visioning Psychology:
Archetypes are semantically metaphors. They have a double existence which Jung presented in several ways: 1) they are full of internal oppositions, positive and negative poles; 2) they are unknowable and known through images; 3) they are instinct and spirit; 4) they are congenital, yet not inherited; 5) they are purely formal structures and contents; 6) they are psychic and extra psychic (psychoid)…every statement regarding the archetypes is to be taken metaphorically, prefixed with an “as-if”.
Let us then imagine archetypes as the deepest patterns of psychic functioning, the roots of the soul governing the perspectives we have of ourselves and the world. They are the axiomatic, self-evident, images to which psychic life and our theories about it ever return. They are similar to other axiomatic first principles, the models or paradigms, that we find in other fields. For “matter,” “God,” “energy,” “life,” “health,” “society,” “art,” are also fundamental metaphors, archetypes, perhaps themselves, which hold whole worlds together and yet can never be pointed to, accounted for, or even adequately circumscribed…root ideas, psychic organs, figures of myth, typical styles of existence, or dominant fantasies that govern consciousness…
But one thing is absolutely essential to the notion of archetypes: their emotional possessive effect, their bedazzlement of consciousness so that it becomes blind to its own stance. By setting up a universe which tends to hold everything we do, see, and say in the sway of its cosmos, an archetype is best comparable to a God. And Gods, religions sometimes say, are less accessible to the senses and to the intellect than they are to the imaginative vision and emotion of the soul.
The archetypal perspective offers the advantage of organizing into clusters or constellations a host of events from different areas of life…in behavior…images…style of consciousness…psychopathologies…attitude. [RE-Visioning Psychology, pp. xix-xx]
UNDERSTANDING PSYCHE – PSYCHE LOGOS – IS A MEDICINE
As I write, re-read, copy, and weave my knowledge into the lineage of soul in the West, all the psychological ideas, my whole being stretches out and I feel at home. I breathe a sigh of relief. It is because the most valuable spiritual experience of my life feels seen, visible, and honored in a way proper to its effect on me. A need to protect myself goes away. My private experience of awe becomes ours to be shared when the knowledge of soul is recollected.
With a psychologically equipped intellect, my private and personal experience returns to what is acknowledged as fundamentally human. This is very healing to me.
I need to decolonize the term, archetype of the collective unconscious in order for my experience to feel comprehensively understood. In the Western tradition of soul that comes to us through Freud, Jung, to Hillman, the archetypes of the collective unconscious have often been relegated to the private experiences of the individual in therapy. The West has a habit of making everything into private property. This was Hillman’s lament. His driving passion was that soul belonged to the world. Richard Tarnas carried forward Hillman’s passion by founding archetypal cosmology. Archetypal cosmology offers a vision of the cosmos woven with meaning. In 2006 with the publication of Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of an Emerging World View. Western persons were invited to imagine the discovery of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, as collective soul events that now inform how we can imagine the development of consciousness of all humanity – consciousness woven with the deeper patterns of the universe.
This same returning awareness in the West was never lost in indigenous wisdom. Understanding, experiencing, and participating in an inherently meaningful cosmos endures. The collective unconscious is collective because it connects us to all humanity and all that is – now and into the future. The collective unconscious is not of the past alone.
The Lakota, Mitakuye Oyasin- All My Relations. – is real and lived. There is a Cree story I heard of how the people dreamed of the ships coming from Europe before the vessels arrived offshore. It was a dream of what looked like islands with trees hung with white fabric. After much discussion, the people were still mystified. However, when they saw the first ships arrive, they understood the dream. Beneath our day to day consciousness, we are all connected.
What Hillman called organizing into clusters or constellations a host of events from different areas of life…in behavior…images…style of consciousness…psychopathologies…attitude. Jung named a diffuse cloud of cognition. He wrote that there is a space-timeless, a diffuse cloud of cognition, that is present wherever there is a merging of personal consciousness with the archetypal ground of the collective unconscious.
At the heart of what Hillman and Jung before him described is synchronicity.
Synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence that surrounds direct contact with the archetypal unconscious, animistic, subjective, mythical consciousness, living mythology.
For example, one synchronicity (among countless) not long after my re-emergence from Font de Gaume, we were all riding on our tour bus. At an old French village where we stopped, I watched a bent-over old woman dressed in black carrying a heavy bundle of branches along a small road. I was not able to photograph that woman, but there are many images like the woman I saw.
She carries the burden for them., occurred to me as I watched her. The appearance of this burdened woman in black was one of the images that surrounded my underground awakening/becoming. This is Hillman’s constellation, Jung’s diffuse cloud of cognition – a knowing that appears in the vicinity of the deeper knowing – a field of awareness in touch with the Eternal.
Feeling into the constellation, diffuse cloud of cognition, of the archetypal ground is described as an Akashic Experience in Ervin Laszlo’s 2009 book, The Akashic Experience: Science and the Cosmic Memory Field. In Sanskrit, Akasha, means cosmic sky. An Akashic experience is a Cosmic Sky experience in this way of understanding. Laszlo wrote:
To give a basic definition of the Akashic experience– unlike giving a scientific explanation of it–is not difficult. An Akashic experience is a real, lived experience that conveys a thought, an image, or an intuition that was not and not very likely could not have been, transmitted by our senses either at the time it happened or anytime beforehand — at least not in our current lifetime. In a popular, though overused and misused formulation, the Akashic experience is a lived experience in the extra or non-sensory mode.
The Akashic experience comes in many sizes, forms, and flavors to all kinds of people, and all its varieties convey information on the real world — the world beyond the brain and the body. The experience ranges from artistic visualizations and creative insights to non-local healings, near-death experiences, after-death communications, and personal past life recollections. Notwithstanding the great variety in which it occurs, the Akashic experience has strikingly uniform features. Whatever else it may contain, the Akashic experience conveys that the experiencing subject is not separate from the objects of his or her experience — the sense that “I, the experiencing subject, am linked in subtle but real ways to other people and to nature.” In deeper experiences of this kind, there is a sense that the cosmos and I are one” (p.2)
Here in northeast Ohio, I tried hard to pass as psychically smaller than I really am for an embarrassingly great deal of my life. Now that I’m 56, I can assert that, my struggles are not limited to Ohio. In Western culture, pretending to be psychologically smaller than actual size in order to out-smart and dodge the rampant dogmatism is at epidemic levels.
THE SOUL IS SAFER OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
There is a warning from indigenous wisdom that our souls are safer outside the house. It comes from imagining the living space of our lives inside the wider vessel of the soul. Our bodies are imagined in that same way, as a concentration and living form of our souls around and through us.
For many years, my experience in all institutions, whether in churches, schools, hospitals, seats of government, museums, businesses, etc…was as if there were hard psychic walls around them. I felt like most of me was outside the windows looking in, even as I participated in the communities inside them.
Only over time did my sense of perspective turn inside out with the wider, felt connection of meaningful relationship. Feeling connected to the ecosystems, Ancestors and stars, after many years of dreamwork, became strong enough to withstand what felt like a cookie-cutter to my awareness.
Moreover, inside Western institutions is not only this cookie-cutter, but also a filtered environment that can have a numbing, blinding effect on any sense of remembering how we and Eternity are in union. Soul. We seldom see the greater part of ourselves reflected back.
The experience of I am Eternity is the birthright of all humanity. It’s not the exception to know this and humans in non-Western cultures know this, have known this for millenia.
After spending 15 years participating in Lakota rituals, I know that when we manage to get our psychological ideas of soul right, all the voices of the ecosystem can be heard singing – I and the cosmos are one.. I can also affirm with some authority that each night when we go to sleep, we are reminded of our root in Eternity because the fundamental message of the night and dreaming is – We are Eternity
A CHANCE TO SEE WITH THE EYE OF THE HEART AND TO HEAR WITH NEW EARS
This next story invites you to see with your heart with the psychological ideas presented above. Find below gnosis, the Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans, transpersonal knowing, the collective unconscious, a synchronistic and akashic experience:
A woman I once met had the gift of spirit sight. In our sharing, she told me about the death of her brother. By spirit sight, I mean that she had an intuitive mind’s eye to perceive the depths of soul that surround and saturate material life. This is soul perception that I called, ‘sensually feeling into’ in my opening story. As her brother lay dying in his hospital bed, she said he appeared to her stretched way out into time. It was as if his head was behind his head was behind his head…ad infinitum, in the way a person looks when 2 mirrors are held facing each other and you place yourself between them. He was out of his mind, mumbling and bobbing his head. However, sometimes he would stop and look at the clock on the wall for a moment, then return to his delirium. It went on this way for some time until suddenly, he stopped and turned to her.
There are so many worlds, is this the real world?
All the worlds are real, this world, though, is the material world.
He pondered a moment and spoke again:
So, if I get the time right in this world, all the worlds line up, right?
She said to him:
I think so.
On hearing that, a peace came over him and he smiled. From then on, he would spend time going out of his mind. She could see him stretched out infinitely beyond himself, but he was not disturbed anymore. Once in awhile, he would come back into awareness of the room, look at the clock on the wall, smile and then return to his adventures.
When you get the time right in this world, all the worlds line up.
The above image is close to what I am describing – the infinity of worlds when the time is right in this world is not a simple endless repetition. The above image, in fact, would offer a way of imagining infinity with no root in the material world – a dry and even hellish endlessness. To get at what I am describing, use the above image, and allow each surface its own nuanced meaning and mystery – let there be unique cracks in each that allow you to feel into the warmth, love, joy and humor, of each – at the same time, with a realization that you are learning about yourself by entering more deeply into the Mystery. This is another way to think about I am Eternity .
ELABORATION OF SOUL AND RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
My Font-de-Gaume awakening and this man’s NDE are both religious experiences. By religious, I mean that the word comes from the Latin root, religio. It features the prefix “re”=”again” with the word, “ligio”, a derivation of “ligo” = to bind/link = “to connect”. Both experiences are examples of re-connections with Eternity. An experience of the depths of the worlds of meaning doesn’t belong to a particular new religion but to soul in our Western tradition.
There is no Church of the Cro-magnon Gnostic Heretics, Churches of the Joy of the Infinite Depths, nor Temples of the Cosmic Sky. These are, however, religious experiences of the divinity that sustains life. They are psychological, thus, soul experiences indigenous to Western persons. Hillman affirms:
By soul, I mean, first of all, a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint towards things rather than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the doer and the deed, there is a reflective moment–and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground.
It is as if consciousness rests upon a self-sustaining and imagining substrate–an inner place or deeper person or ongoing presence — that is simply there, even when all our subjectivity, ego and consciousness go into eclipse. Soul appears as a factor independent of events in which I am immersed. Though I cannot identify soul with anything else, I also can never grasp it all by itself apart from other things, perhaps because it is like a reflection in a flowing mirror, or like the moon which mediates only borrowed light. But just this peculiar and paradoxical intervening variable gives one the sense of having or being a soul. However intangible it is, soul carries highest importance in hierarchies of human values, frequently being identified with the principle of life and even of divinity.
In another attempt upon the idea of soul I suggested that the word refers to that unknown component which makes meaning possible, turns events into experiences, is communicated in love, and has a religious concern. These four qualifications I had already put forth some years ago; I had begun to use the term freely, usually interchangeably with psyche (from Greek) and anima (from Latin).
At this point in the text of Re-Visioning Pscyhology, Hillman made modifications to his earlier definitions of soul. He insisted that the soul’s special relationship with death was now necessary in order to understand the meaning it makes possible. I think his main reason for doing that was in order to truly honor the way pathologizing aims towards death. He did not go far enough, for the soul also has a special relationship with conceiving, labor, birth, evolution, Earth and cosmos which manifests as receptivity and creativity.
What this means is that sometimes what causes the pathologizing is less about a death and more about that part of suffering that is labor for what has never been, as when we suffer because of a Calling or for some Great Work. We need to open pathologizing to the soul’s freedom of in death or birth because that at this time in history when all life is participatory and invites us all to fully take up our parts not only as meaning makers, but also as future co-creators. The Hillman-Reynolds updated definition of soul is:
First, “soul” refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second, the significance soul makes possible whether in love, in receptivity, in creativity or in religious concern, derives from its special relation with death, with birth and with re-birth. And third, by “soul” I mean the imaginative possibilities in our collective and personal natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, intuition, dream, image, fantasy, and co-creation (co-poesis) – that mode that recognizes all realities as relational, primarily symbolic or metaphorical and in service to the relationships by which the past and present are honored and through which the future is brought forth.
Lacking this definition of soul, a dogmatically enforced psychic limitation continues to cut off, cripple and poison life. Inside the boundaries of our late modern culture, life-transforming innovation is starved. Beyond our cultural borders, we are chronically consuming the ecosystems of Earth, bringing an end to the wealth of human wisdom perfected over thousands of years in traditions we label as other.
RETURN TO ANCIENT WISDOM
Author, Wade Davis, in his book, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, (2009) made a beautiful case for why it is such hubris for persons of modern Western culture to consider more traditional ways as failures to be modern. He invites us to look at all enduring human cultures to be the results of the choices of paths taken spiritually and intellectually.
He coined the term, ethnosphere, to describe the living diversity of human wisdom. In the same way that preserving the diversity of species of a biosphere allows a higher quality of life and resilience, preserving the diversity of our ethnosphere is long overdue. (Languages are a key to seeing the diversity of the ethnosphere)
“There is a fire burning over the earth, taking with it plants and animals, ancient skills and visionary wisdom. At risk is a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination, an oral and written language composed of the memories of countless elders and healers, warriors, farmers, fishermen, midwives, poets, and saints — in short, the artistic, intellectual and spiritual expression of the full complexity and diversity of the human experience.
Quelling this flame, this spreading inferno, and rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our times.” (p. 34)
Ethnosphere is a word I shall use often in the pages to follow. Paraphrasing Wade:
By enthnosphere, I mean the living diversity of human wisdom, a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination, an oral and written language composed of the memories of countless elders and healers, warriors, farmers, fishermen, midwives, poets, and saints — in short, the artistic, intellectual and spiritual expression of the full complexity and diversity of the human experience.
Ethnosphere is our collective unconscious made collectively conscious. What is driving Western culture’s spreading inferno is a failure in awareness. As post-copernican late-moderns, we lack the idea of even the possibility for direct connection with the collective unconscious, therefore numinous experience. We are unable to discern the difference between the Comfort, spelled with “C”, that is the fruit of a life filled with collective and individual ritual experience in a radiant creation and the comfort, spelled with “c” of consumer goods, medications, temperature control, and technology.
UN-BURYING THE DEAD – THE COLONIAL LEGACY OF THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY
In her book, Moral Geography: Maps, Missionaries, and the American Frontier, Amy DeRogatis described the mapping and missionizing of what is called, The Western Reserve, which is where I have spent most of my life. Those Moravians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbytarians, and Catholics, all came into the Western Reserve with the Biblical notion of the promised land in their minds. Centuries earlier in the Papal Bull of May 4, 1493, the “Doctrine of Discovery” stated that
the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.
Coming west, our colonist ancestors felt as if they were enacting sacred history and drew their maps that way. The pioneers lacked psychological ideas like their own Western tradition of soul. Psychological ideas like the collective unconscious, archetypes, numinosity, aesthetic arrest, and Akashic experiences, were still 150 years into the future. Due to a poverty of ideas in the American frontier, those Christians who came to the Western Reserve were incapable of knowing that the direct connection with divinity in their own tradition was also a reality of the sacred traditions of those tribes who lived here before colonization.
It was not possible for the pioneers setting up a new life on their sections of purchased land to know that the rivers flowing through their ecosystems were as sacred as any rivers named in the Christian tradition. There is little mention of how the plattes they purchased were procured by near-genocidal warfare. There was no ritual knowledge in how to be in soul relationship with the new biosphere, especially, the water.
In a conversation I had with a man with Aztec roots, he told me that his ancestors were confused by the Franciscans coming from Europe. He said as they watched the Spanish Catholics raze shrines, burn sacred texts, and enslave the people, their 2 questions were:
Don’t they realize we worship the same God?
How do you talk to a people who don’t know they live in a solar system?
The second statement, How do you talk to people who don’t know they live in a solar system?, goes to the heart intention of The Age of Magnification text. The violent people who didn’t know they lived in a solar system were Europeans who came to America using Christianity and the Bible for their model of universe. They not only did not know they lived in a solar system, but very self-righteously did so.
DIS-ASTER BEGETS DISASTER
The inability to transform the cultural world view when the scientific knowledge of the cosmos no longer supports that world view is pathogenic to the wholeness of individual souls and most notably, all of that culture’s institutions. By pathogenic, I mean that it causes pathos, which means, suffering. The degree of suffering generated is related to the intellectual capacity of the individual. Nietszche is a prime example who suffered because God had gone missing. Earlier, this was Pascal’s terror in 1639. He suffered the mental division between the devotion of his Christianity and the infinite spaces discovered by the telescope.
It is cosmological knowledge that represents a culture’s metaphorical ground that supports its reason for being. To become split from the cosmos is to suffer an obstacle that numbs and renders the people incapable of feeling truly related to our own source – split from the stars. The word, disaster – dis = split from and aster = star, names what I am describing.
Western culture, then, has been a culture in disaster (They don’t know they live in a solar system!) with a tendency to cause disaster (Destruction of the enthosphere, biosphere, atmosphere) because we have not taken the time to heal our most intimately meaningful, thus ensouled, relationship with our cosmos — neither personally, collectively, nor institutionally.
Consider this poem as a description of a modern Western person who is split from the stars:
Poem by David Wagoner:
When Laurens van der Post one night
In the Kalihari Desert told the Bushmen
He couldn’t hear the stars
Singing, they didn’t believe him. They looked at him,
Half-smiling. They examined his face
To see whether he was joking
Or deceiving them. Then two of those small men
Who plant nothing, who have almost
Nothing to hunt, who live
On almost nothing, and with no one
But themselves, led him away
From the crackling thorn-scrub fire
And stood with him under the night sky
And listened. One of them whispered,
Do you not hear them now?
And van der Post listened, not wanting
To disbelieve, but had to answer,
No. They walked him slowly
Like a sick man to the small dim
Circle of firelight and told him
They were terribly sorry…
Richard Tarnas named this dilemma the post-copernican double-bind. He suggested that there is a similarity betweem the double-bind that schizogenic (mind-splitting) mothers impose on their children and the cultural double-bind that is caused by insisting on pre-Copernican ways during a time when those ways are disassociated from the actual solar system. This condition is a constant yes-no that ultimately splinters the psychological bond with the source of life.
Just to drive this point home, another separation in the long sequence of dissociation from our own stars occurred in 1838 when science confirmed that the sun of our solar system is, in fact, a star. After 1838, any of our sacred texts or traditions that use the words, star, sun, universe, became disconnected, split from authentic human reality.
Because star, sun and cosmos are recurring metaphors in humanity’s spiritual traditions, any tradition that comes to the West is subject to the same kind of pressures. This means that the sacred texts don’t quite square with the science. As a public school teacher, I witnessed that the students who suffer most from this are 2nd generation sons and daughters of immigrants who were not able to make the religion of their parents work in the New World.