[Should you wish to go directly to further account of Father Will, his biography and more dreams during the counseling work scroll down to
I believe that James' division of the two types of spiritual health, albeit pragmatic and convenient for rational discussion does not actually acknowledge the fact that both experiences are within and are optionally available as response for every individual. Carl Jung, who studied and greatly valued James, helpfully discovered the binary nature of human consciousness, simply put, that whatever is in the conscious mind has its opposite equally and powerfully in the unconscious which manifest as shadow, symptom and synchronicity for "what one does not live consciously," says Jung, "one is destined to live as Fate". If one is as James says temperamentally healthy-minded then the "sick-soul" attitude is in the unconscious and shows up as shadow and symptom in the self-identified (meaning ego-identified) healthy-minded one. Positive "mind-cure" approaches automatically engender tremendous resistance against locating and integrating the so-called "sick souled" aspect of oneself. Sick souledness is shadow in the healthy-minded one and is destined to be lived as fate, both consciously and unconsciously.
Having personally studied and spent years amongst both religious attitudes which are temperaments I can attest that the denial of the negative side of human experience and of evil is just as unhealthy as the overbearing negative sick souled emphasis I encountered in Protestant Christianity of the Calvinist ilk. More bred in the latter the time spent in the former was well-spent but at some point became out of balance until I realized that both approaches are expressions of the soul which is inclusive of both. I recall here a client overly identified with the healthy-minded viewpoint in compensation for too much suffering in childhood and adolescence. He began to dream repeatedly of high buildings and expansive climbing bridges terrifyingly collapsing. He dreamed of being on the edge of ledges and cliffs at great heights with powerful forces which he could not resist pulling him into the abyss. In other dreams planes fell out of skies, mountains crumbled into seas or into the earth. Having read widely of New Age material regarding thoughts "creating your own reality" and a student of psychic channeling he interpreted the dreams as precognitive and psychic rather than beginning with his need to come down to earth and deal with the painful side of his personal history and the tragic side of existence. It was only when his hair began to fall out in clumps that he began to confront his past, discover compassion and the healthiness of wholing powerful human emotions which the New Age books and channels had discouraged and judged as unhealthy contributors of his, the culture's, and the sickness. I must confess that this is one of the most prevalent and most difficult of belief systems to work with. To take a cue from a client's dreams like these and begin to gently approach the message of imbalance in too much "positive, high-up thinking" puts one in an awkward position as an advocate for the darker side, the down side of things, existence, behaviors, energies. Although I do not seek to change a person's personal belief system nor should I, I have found that the Psyche does which is why I pay attention to dreams.
In my own healing work and psychoanalysis my symptoms, complexes and dreams (night ones, and the dream of waking life) engender ongoingly, without caring for my ego and it conscious beliefs, a "confrontation with the unconscious", to quote one of the most important chapters in Jung's autobiography, Memories,Dreams, Reflections, deconstructing and destroying like my client's skyscrapers falling down along with the waking dream of his hair, my one-sided ego identifications/reifications evident in behaviors derived from what Jung calls the ego complex, the conscious and unconscious beliefs, deductions, conclusions and contusions about my personal existence and the cosmos in general. The psyche addresses, guides, corrects and, yes, demands a change of mind with one's persona and behavior altering (often with resistance, fear and trembling or with relief, joy and relish!) to accommodate the greater wholeness being insisted upon by what Jung calls the "Self", that totality that we are of which the ego is only a part and can know only in part thus the importance of a conscious relationship to one's dreams and the Imagination. This cuts both ways as the psyche also can assert, yea, insist the overtly too positive upon tho ego-identified dour sour puss of self. The psyche does not want saintliness and perfection but rather wholeness which does not mean perfection but, rather, maturing, ripening, evolving and developing in time as one intergrates both positive and negative aspects of self, the opposites, which insist upon living what Zorba the Greek calls the "full catastrophe" of fuller humanity, haloes and hellholes as equally valid options of expression and creation depending upon psychic balances, circumstance and awareness.
Perhaps my biggest "beef" with both healthy-minded and sick-souled religious approaches is that they both deny their opposite while elevating one over the other thus forcing the split in human consciousness further into the shadows and therefore guaranteeing painful yet meaningful, ultimately and essentially creative confrontations with the unconscious. Peter Brooks, the gifted British director of plays and films, in a documentary interview about the life of Jungian analyst, the late Helen Luke, spoke of his "being a realist. If one is an optimist one is too imbalanced. If one is a pessimist, likewise. Being a realist gives one helpful and multi-dimensional recourse to full spectrum living with access to both realities of optimism and pessimism thus enriching life, its experience, its meaning and its art.
This "mind-cure" belief system is still very much the stuff of American popular culture and religion and one only need peruse bookstores on and offline to find how pervasive these paradoxically dangerous and toxic-because-one sided pragmatic "positive thinking" beliefs are which mostly deny and certainly, if acknowledged at all, judge and devalue, the dark, tragic and evil aspects of human existence.
Much of New Thought, Science of Mind and other "new" religious movements derived and developed from "mind-cure" and current New Age and psychically channeled material derives and repeats "mind-cure" beliefs. Interestingly, it is no accident that Jane Roberts, probably the most famous and widely read "best seller" channeler in the hippie and post-hippie New Age movement wrote a channeled book called "The Afterlife Journal of William James." Roberts claims to have never read James but James, American pragmatism, New Thought and other positive and spiritualistic belief systems are such a part of the American psyche and culture, brilliantly intuitive though Roberts perhaps was, it is not a stretch to think that many could have set down something of this American "mind-cure" without knowing of any of these men or movements. It is not necessary today especially since one needs only to tune in popular culture, TV talk shows, films espousing "The Secret" and "Bleeps", Fields of Dreams and reams of channeled material purveying anti-intellectual, non-critical thinking pablum appealing to reptilian brain, child mind and the quest for stuff which we are told will make one happy.
I highly recommend Louis Menand's excellent book, The Metaphysical Club, where he explores in detail the historical personages and personalities of American pragmatism. If one is at all conversant with New Age, New Thought, Science of Mind, Jane Roberts, the Hickeys and other channeled material Menand's book provides foundation to what has come to be a religious phenomenon of positive thinking that could never have happened anywhere but in the United States.
Will's Dream and the Dream of His-Story
Will's dream of dying, his sudden intuitive insistence upon hearing "of the Resurrection" set within the immensities and extremes of remoteness, of heights, of depths, and of majestic yet cold and cruel Nature out the retreat master's window, of the givens of sickness, decay and death, depict his inner tumult as does the violent sea wrack wrenching rendering stone and soil from the yielding shore into the relentless sucking sea. A former religious (one who takes vows and joins a religious order) who lived the severities and austerities required, according to Will's early enthusiatic beliefs, , in order to cultivate holiness requisite for relationship to Go post-ordination into priesthood he eventually left the order after a series of recurring dreams of Vocation where he was continually tending to an abject dieing man in a third world country in extreme poverty. With permission from his abbot he left the order and joined one who served the poor and dieing of India, then East Pakistan. He was there, a young man, during The Bangladesh Liberation War, an armed conflict pitting West Pakistan against East Pakistan (two halves of one country) and India, which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan to become the independent nation of Bangladesh. Many men, women and children were displaced, starved, killed in the warfare or died of diseases.
It was in Bangladesh Will became one "well acquainted with grief" ( Isaiah 53:3). His exposure to sustained human suffering took its toll psychologically, calling into question the supposed goodness of an All Good God. His faith in tremendous crisis, he took his daily and sustaining grace from encounters with the living and the dieing, their attempts at affirming life in the midst of ongoing human catastrophe. He reverently told me of children playing witha mostly deflated soccer ball in the midst of human carnage wit and immediacy of ecstatic presense as only children can have in their resilient innocence. Will feelingly spoke of the passion of Christ, the suffering, the crucifixion, the burial and of the account that while He was dead He descended into hell to minister to the lost souls there. We both mused that if such was indeed the case, that the Great Physician spent time in hell then hell would never be the same after that. We were amused together about "when was the last time you heard a good sermon preached on this most obvious and revolutionary story of Compassion's descent into hell therefore hell would never be the same again from such a Visitation and assumed liberation. Will willed himself to live in the antinomy of the meaningless suffering he witnessed and ministered to and the mystery of the Paschal Christ suffering, dieing, descending into hell and being present with those there. His dream urgency to hear of the Resurrection speaks to his lack of belief in it as a living experience but for the incidents of human kindness in the midst of injustice, cruelty, and suffering.
After some years in Bangladesh Will served the poor in various orders in Africa and eventually, semi-retired, returned to New York City where he taught in several seminaries. The extreme contrast between America, its extraverted materialistic values, New York City being a glaring example, and emphasis upon the self, upon money and all it can buy, became toxic for him. The almost comical and maudlin mostly media-driven "god talk and spirit talk" he heard daily from politicians to TV preachers to talk show hosts, the consumerization of not only Christianity but of other world religions parsed and piece-milled together by choice (remember, America is pragmatic, one picks and chooses a belief by ego and will) in a hodge podge porridge of sentiment and show ("namaste") appalled him. He could not identify with the almost protoplasmic drive of American "greed and gimme gimme", and the apparent, he felt, unholy wedding of many religious institutions, including the one he spent his life within, and spiritual belief systems. From the conservative Christian prosperity gospel to New Age "think and be rich" spirituality which are actually one and the same in terms of means to monetary ends he found himself more and more alienated. He also reacted to the mania, what James Hillman has pointed out as a manic defense, passed off as "happiness" in one of the most, if not the most, depressed country in the world ironically devoted to, in part, "the pursuit of happiness".
He, too, became depressed, a man without a country in his native land, his isolation exacerbated by his life experience of living amongst the most profoundly poor and suffering of the world and witnessing the most authentic joy and happpiness amidst the worst of circumstances of genuine human suffering. Potentially serious health concerns from years of diseases, the physical and emotional hard work in third world nations now prevent his longed for return to live and die amongst whom he believes to be "the poorest yet most joyous". Observing the tragic and buffoonish irony in the manic pursuit of American recreational shopping and acquisition, its addictive and psychopathic disregard for others, even wealthy others much less the less well off and more unfortunate, "culture shock," he said, "does not even come close to what I am feeling here and for all of my inner and outter resourcefulness in the midst of my work with "the used, abused and utterly screwed up" (a phrase he culled from Thomas Klise's profound novel of the decline of the world, The Last Western) I am at wits end to find a way toward meaningful living in a culture which complains but essentially turns a willful blind eye away from any activism and self-examination about this "culture of death." From his work in the third world his mysticism was nurtured and grounded within Liberation Theology which was born and developed in the 20th century in the poorest, most oppressed and ignored areas in third world countries. Globally powerful religious institutions intent on impacting peoples personal morality while not focusing upon and emphasizing focus social and economic justice, not taking care of the poor, "the least of these among you" , he found himself becoming more and more bitter in bloated America.
"My bile is actually a healthy response to what is going on. It's just that I don't have the venues now as an older man that I would have had as a younger, healthier, more resilient man. I'm also humiliated to find that at my age I would be depressed and stuck. I'm not happy though happiness ala capitalist America is not my goal here. Meaningful living with what you, Warren, call the "givens of existence" is enough for me. One takes comfort and gives comfort where one can but I'm in this damned dark night of the soul; at least, NOT the one I expected. Damn it!"
I immediately recalled the last paragraph in Jung's autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
"Will, if we work together I must now warn you that you will hear me speak much of Carl Jung. And I may read a bit of him here and there outloud to you if he seems pertinent and you are game. Jung may fit here if you allow me to read just a paragraph, the last, in his biography."
"I'm game. Read."
Keeping my Jung books near at hand I easily found the book and began to read:
When Lao-tzu says: "All are clear, I alone am clouded," he is expressing what I now feel in advanced old age. Lao-tzu is the example of a man with superior insight who has seen and ex- perienced worth and worthlessness, and who at the end of his life desires to return into his own being, into the eternal un- knowable meaning. The archetype of the old man who has seen enough is eternally true. At every level of intelligence this type appears, and its lineaments are always the same, whether it be an old peasant or a great philosopher like Lao-tzu. This is old age, and a limitation. Yet there is so much that fills me: plants, animals, clouds, day and night, and the eternal in man. The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more there has grown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things. In fact it seems to me as if that alienation which so long separated me from the world has become transferred into my own inner world, and has revealed to me an unexpected unfamiliarity with myself. ****************************** Manic mode: And this extended quote from the old British Isles region and religion in which great happiness is taken about the dark, they who dwell aware of the shadows within and round about, the mysterious and dubious forces which expand us with fear, awe and if endured, happiness, authentic happiness which embraces pathos for these dark ones inhabit us, concern us and our well-being in terms of psychic wholeness, as well. I 'hoppin'ed 'pon this' while researching the etymology of the word 'happy', an extended entry upon the word 'hobbit' in which whilst reading I felt extremely happy to happen upon this entry haphazardly as luck, which is what 'happy' means etymologically, would have it. Be sure to read the entire list. Some great names to call people. Here is the link to what is below: [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=happiness&searchmode=none] "Hobbit
- 1937, coined in the fantasy tales of J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973).
"Hobbit is an invention. In the Westron the word used, when the people was referred to at all, was banakil 'halfling.' But ... the folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk .... It seems likely that kuduk was a worn-down form of kûd-dûkan [='hole-dweller']. The latter I have translated ... by holbytla ['hole-builder']; and hobbit provides a word that might well be a worn-down form of holbytla, if the name had occurred in our ancient language." [Tolkien, "Return of the King," 1955, p.416]
"On a blank leaf I scrawled: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why." [Tolkien, letter to W.H. Auden, dated 1955]The word also turns up in a very long list of folkloric supernatural creatures in the writings of Michael Aislabie Denham (d.1859), printed in volume 2 of "The Denham Tracts" [ed. James Hardy, London: Folklore Society, 1895], a compilation of Denham's scattered publications. Denham was an early folklorist who concentrated on Northumberland, Durham, Westmoreland, Cumberland, the Isle of Man, and Scotland.
"What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks necks, waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins Gyre-carling, pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!"[Emphasis added] It is curious that the name occurs nowhere else in folklore, and there is no evidence that Tolkien ever saw this."