The Accidental Pilgrim Part II

Sometimes, just before an epiphany, a feeling of discomfort, even torment occurs. Like birth, a deep realization can move slowly through its narrow canal until it is born into the light of one’s awareness. There are Eureka moments that splash into view occasionally, apparently out of nowhere. But in some deep bovine level of mind, that cud has been chewed until its bliss point ignites. Such was my mood as I grappled with BBQ Jesus in the blue room in Santa Fe, surrounded by icons of the Virgin Mary with my sacred soil from Chimayo on the table next to my bed. This room was unusually peaceful, with a cool breeze blowing through the window as I drifted into dreams while praying for help in understanding why the bloody image of Christ attracted people oppressed by Christian conquerors.

No dreams brought me an answer, at least none that I could remember. I awoke with a clear vision of Christ as a liberating force in the world. It wasn’t just the aspect of death and then resurrection; it was being in the trenches with the downtrodden and overthrowing tyranny. I can’t convey the unexpected force of this awakening. After years of steeping myself in the failure of Catholic and Protestant churches to truly minister the gospel of Jesus, grace found a way to open my heart. I do believe in the wholly (making whole) spirit, the comforter who has delivered me from various circles of hell, sometimes with a swift kick in the behind. I certainly did not expect to see Liberation theology playing in the theater of my mind. The next morning I talked with my friend Ralph about my new found realization – that by seeing and understanding crucifixion, we find a path to resurrection. He told me that his cousin (a nun who works with the poor in New Mexico) meditates and sleeps in the blue room when she visits Ralph and Danny in Santa Fe. I had been following the Nuns on the Bus tour, which gave me hope that there were good Catholic leaders willing to step forward on behalf of the poor. The nuns courted severe consequences from the church fathers, who felt they had become tainted by feminist ideologies, but they were determined to walk in faith. The nuns drew a line in the spiritual sand when they declared they were following the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

This spirit moves us to comfort the suffering, including the wounded savior. In Jungian terms, healing the wounded God (and thus ourselves) includes a growing exchange of energy between the ego (me) and the psyche or Self (I), aided by spirit as ally. For those interested in exploring this in depth I recommend Jeffrey Raff’s wonderful book Healing the Wounded God. As cells in the body of Christ, we share all the joy and suffering life offers together. This gift in which we are asked to grow beyond our assumptions, even of who and what we are, never stops giving. There are always moments in which we yearn for peace. Sometimes they come through grace and sometimes we must make the effort to find sanctuary. But this discomfort goads us to move and grow. It’s hard to believe the changes in my perception of the suffering Christ since I awoke in the blue room. The agony that life can bring when we see our neighbors suffering invites compassion, toward oneself and others. In each moment of pain we seek solace. Finding comfort, sharing compassion and healing brings a resurrection of spirit, of faith that we are loved. Since we began crying as babies, we learn to give and receive the comfort of love. I see the tears of Mary, the blood of Christ in the pain of the world, in every child, old person, victim and soldier. The choice to seek and to give comfort, to grow in compassion leads to resurrection in love. Love lifts us up with every glorious and tragic aspect of this crucifixion called life.

For those who wish to cultivate the presence of wholeness, of love, Christian contemplatives offer the Centering Prayer, a daily practice in which one opens to the indwelling presence of God. In the literature it is described as simply resting in God beyond thoughts, words and emotions.

Buddhist meditation goes beyond desire (including the desire for union with God) to cultivate detachment and objectivity, mindfulness – beyond the illusion of life into reality. Taming the mind by a mental focus of one-pointedness and following the natural in and out breath creates an inner calm, allowing one to withdraw the senses from the world. The awareness of three stages of being: impermanence, suffering and non-self arises as the practice takes one beyond the body and into the intuitional realm. Much preparation is done before deeper stages of meditation are taught.

All cultures have contemplative practices that help us center our focus inwardly. For those who have found themselves at the intersection of in and out, up and down, us and them, words do not explain. It becomes a way to anchor our restless mind as we stumble through the complexities of life, allowing humility to keep us on the path of love. Listen to your heartbeat, it’s synching with the pulse of the universe, or as Joseph Campbell would say, “Follow your bliss.”

The Shell and the Kernel – an Easter reverie

Celebrating my birthday on Easter at the ocean gave me a chance to check in with my Self and open to rejuvenation, resurrection. This Easter reverie reminded me of a time a few years ago in which my understanding of Self and ego centered around symbols of the egg. May Easter unfold for you throughout the years to come.

The changes in perception I’ve been experiencing are connected to the ongoing Egg series. I just read a bit from the Sanford book, Mystical Christianity that somehow I missed in Edward Edinger’s The Bible and the Psyche:

“As Jungian analyst Edward Edinger pointed out, the Center consents to being broken and divided symbolically in the breaking of the host, so that his reality may be disseminated within and among the worshipers. All of this is part of the Christian mysterion which is further described in verses 17 and 18, that reality we call Christ is available to us in very small portions, of which we partake inasmuch as we are able, and it is like a sacrifice made by God for our sakes that this can happen. And in fact in all psychological and spiritual advances in consciousness it works this way; the truth is assimilated only bit by bit.”

This relates directly to the breaking up of the egg that is an ongoing symbolic progression. The ego as the egg, changing as the Center grows within, then cracking open and being disbursed throughout as a universal awareness of the Center in all. Yesterday as I was riding the bus I saw the shell of the ego/egg changing and dissolving, becoming luminous like a star, with some discrete boundaries but soft and light, not fragile and brittle. Our essential nature as it shines forth from the Center is light. This is the message that just keeps unfolding. Incorporating the shadow has continued growing the awareness of the center as it is disbursed throughout humanity as it was shown in the last part of the dream I had last December. As I held on to the shadow and walked into the light outside I saw kaleidoscopic scenes of humanity from all parts of the earth. This is something I’ve been working on for so many years, finding it in myself to love all people. I swear if there ever was a beautiful mandala it is the earth.

One day as I sat in the back yard I experienced myself fragmenting, emotionally, like shards of glass exploding in slivers, piercing my awareness like knives. This searing, painful recognition of brokenness, of imperfection gave way to a healing fountain from the Center, flowing through the separation, bringing healing in its wake. I felt like the butterfly I saw drinking in the water from the sprinkler. It would just stretch its wings out and drink in the living water, the Holy Sprit drenching the soul with love. This is the love I must feel for myself. Looking outside doesn’t work. This love from deep inside, from my heart of hearts is for me too. This is something I haven’t learned from my family although my daughter experiences this love of self without the overtones of its shabby pretender, Narcissus. Our culture is infested with this case of mistaken identity, the confusion of the inflated ego with the wholeness of Self. Now is the time for reconciliation and for love and forgiveness, starting with myself.

The shell image came to me months before I read this book. The ego is handled in the same way I saw it, as the brittle shell of time surrounding the eternally evolving self within.

Excerpts from The Shell and the Kernel by Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok with my commentary:

Introjection represents both the aim and the specific course of psychic life from birth to death. It is a constant process of acquisition and assimilation, the active expansion of our potential to accommodate our own emerging desires and feelings as well as the events and influences of the external world. It is the psychic counterpart of the child’s biological development and continues through the various stages of maturation, including adulthood. As a result, the repressions and psycho-sexual anxieties and experiences of childhood continue on and do not dominate the unfolding consciousness of the individual. They view sexuality as an expression of the energy of the psychic-somatic, not the cause and cite any number of traumas to the process of introjection as inhibitory toward integration.

Introjection is the process of psychic nourishment, growth and assimilation, encompassing our capacity to create through work, play, fantasy, thought, imagination and language. It is the continual process of self-fashioning through the fructification of change, whether the modification is biological and internal (i.e. sexual maturation) or external and cultural (child detaching from parents). At the same time, it represents our ability to survive shock, trauma or loss; it is the psychic process that allows human beings to live harmoniously in spite of instability, devastation, war and upheaval.

Three stages of introjection:

1) Something new or foreign (good or bad) occurs in or to me
2) I turn myself into that which this new “thing” has done to me. I familiarize myself with it through play, fantasy, projections, etc. I appropriate it for myself.
3) I become aware of what has occurred and of my own gradual encounter with it. As a result, I am now able to give the whole process a place within my emotional existence; I also understand why and how the scope of “myself” has been modified and expanded. The purpose of psychoanalysis is to intensify the process of introjection in order to effect healing of life traumas. Some of the obstacles to introjection are the phantom (undisclosed family secret handed down through generations), illness or mourning, an untoward sexual outburst at the time of loss, a secret or alien identity which “entombs” an unspeakable consummated desire.

The shell and the kernel in dynamic relation:
How the ego is represented (p80):

The ego struggles on two fronts: toward the outside it moderates appeals and assaults – turned inside it channels excessive and incongruous impulses. Freud sees this as a protective layer, an ectoderm, a cerebral cortex, a shell. The role of the shell is also to conceal and yet reflect the nature of that which it protects. They are very clear about this; the kernel is “unbendingly resistant to encyclopedic systemization.” The authors admitted the possibility of a conceptual organization of psychoanalysis but its inherent unity cannot be found in the bounds of traditional thinking, its apprehension requires a new dimension to be found.

Stage 1

The question: “If Freud’s theories form a protective shell around his intuition, simultaneously concealing and revealing it, what of the actual kernel? For it is the kernel which, invisible but active, confers its meaning upon the whole construction. This kernel, the active principal of psychoanalytic theory, will not show through unless all the apparent contradictions have found their explanation in the unity I ascribe hypothetically to Freud’s intuition. (Abraham and Torok)“

Semantics play a large part in conveying the contradictions inherent in posing opposites for reconciliation. For instance, Pleasure and Discharge refer not to the conscious experience but to that which may be experienced as pain/pleasure simultaneously. In this way they approach the new dimension of unity in polarity. A & T accuse philosophy, which is reflexive (reflecting upon thought itself) of being naïve, ignoring the mystery of the “opaque indeterminacy of the distance that separates the reflecting subjects from themselves, a distance endangering even patent notions founded on an illusory proximity to self, or the space that separates the “I” from the “me”. In this space, in this non-presence of the self to itself – the very condition of reflexivity, psychoanalysis stakes it domain – on the ground of non-thought. The challenge: how to include the very thing which is a precondition of the discourse and which fundamentally escapes it. If nonpresence, the kernel and ultimate basis of all discourse is made to speak, can it – must it- make itself heard in and through presence to self? Such is the paradox inherent in psychoanalysis”.

AntiSemantics: they go to great lengths to establish the “designification” of words like “pleasure”, Unconscious, Id, Self, Conscious, in an effort to return again to the mystery of meaning arising from non-being or un-thought. This is valuable in setting up the relationship between the ego and the self, as layers of interpenetrating psychic envelopes.
The messenger and sender are used to describe the process of establishing meaning as it stems from that which the two have in common, but remains yet in mystery. The poles of somatic (body but not just body) and psychic (mind but also designified) are the opposites, with the representative or messenger more clearly visible as the mediating entity. Poetry uses symbols to convey a meaning, which is alluded to but never fully articulated or revealed. “The philistine claims to translate and paraphrase the literary symbol and thereby abolishes it irretrievably.” The mystery remains but the desire to possess it, to describe it is just as powerful. We can view this process as Adam’s challenge as God asks him to name what he sees. Naming includes both the desire to possess something or limit it while simultaneously admitting the futility of absolute definition. Something always remains unspoken.

Abraham combines the two ideas of the unconscious and the symptom as more than a way of treating neurosis. The unconscious, with its ability to overwhelm the conscious mind and its historical self-reference is shown as the incoherent basis of self-identity. Symptoms allow us to track down the disruptions in conscious development and track them to the source of origin in the unconscious, establishing maps, as it were into our mystery of being.

Anasemia is introduced as a way to define the paradoxical status of thinking and interpretation. Abraham maintains that psychoanalysis is mainly an interpretive science, but anasemia allows for the interpretation of that which is not available to direct interpretation, the apparent with not apparent, observation and non-observation, speech and silence, and so on.

Symbol and Anasemia enable us to look at fantasy as a symptom of a desire that seeks solution through expression. He pairs it with the symbol of the messenger, which can also be seen as instinct or drive. Fantasy creates the message that links the envelopes of the somatic (organic source of drive or message) to the psychic or conscious/body awareness. The somatic is alluded to by the messages conveyed to the psychic outer envelope. In this way the kernel is expressed to the ego or shell. Sexual fantasies are represented as contact between the phallic nature of the unconscious Kernel with the envelope or Ego. The embedding and interrelationship of the kernel in successive envelopes or layers produces on the surface, the ego or epidermal expression of the Self (kernel). Again, that which the envelope (ego) conceals it simultaneously reveals as the kernel is implicit in every envelope and interpenetrating all, including the unconscious receptacle of itself. It arises in the unconscious but stems from a deeper organic source: God, the manifest Center as Christ.