Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Enlightenment By Protoplasm--One's Dreadful Yet Sacred Responsibility

[A Pre-Columbian Serpentine Deity exhibited in the Museo de Antropologia, Mexico City, Mexico. September 2009. Click on the photo to enlarge the image. Photograph by Warren Falcon]

For Mat emerging from the Hudson "Drink",
an old sailor's term for the fathomless bottom.

Here at the beginning an admonishment from
the American master seer, beholder of the Behemoth
in the "Drink"--

"A man thinks that by mouthing hard words
he understands hard things.
" -- Herman Melville


**********************************************************

"And God created great whales." -- The Book of Genesis

And life itself told me this secret – ‘Behold’, it said, I am that which must overcome itself again and again.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

That I may reduce the monster to
Myself, and then may be myself

In face of the monster, be more than part
Of it, more than the monstrous player of

One of its monstrous lutes, not be
Alone, but reduce the monster and be,

Two things, the two together as one,
And play of the monster and of myself,

Or better not of myself at all,
But of that as its intelligence,

Being the lion in the lute
Before the lion locked in stone.

--Wallace Stevens, The Man With The Blue Guitar XIX, from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, Alfred Knopf Inc., 1993: pg. 175.

"
T
he unavoidable internal contradictions in the image of a Creator-god can be reconciled in the unity and wholeness of the Self as the coniunctio oppositorum of the alchemists or as a unio mystica. In the experience of the Self, it is no longer the opposites "God" and "man" that are reconciled, as it was before, but rather the opposites within the God-image itself. That is the meaning of divine service, of the service that man can render to God, that light may emerge from darkness, that the Creator may become conscious of His creation and man conscious of himself...That is the goal, or one goal, which fits man meaningfully into the scheme of creation, and at the same time confers meaning upon it. It is an explanatory myth which has slowly taken shape within me in the course of the decades. It is a goal I can acknowledge and esteem, and which therefore satisfies me."

--C.G. Jung, Memories Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books, 1989, pgs. 338

In speaking with a Jungian analyst recently about this passage from Carl Jung's autobiography he reminded me of a Jungian viewpoint that humans are essentially "just conscious/newly self-conscious" protoplasm. Protoplasm are basic single-celled life forms, elemental organisms driven instinctually to strive, survive and propagate. Most of what humans call or have called sin in terms of human behavior are expressions of our fundamental instinctuality as drive driven creatures who like protoplasm seek food, sex, comfort, shelter, safety, soothing and power and, when we can get away with it, by any means necessary.

Jungian analyst Edward Edinger has written of this basic protoplasm that we humans are but with an all important distinction from other protoplasmic forms of life. He arrived at this crucial difference from a personal dream he had where he sees a pulsing protoplasm like all other protoplasm only this protoplasm has a hole in it through which he could see through and to another world with " a landscape stretching toward a horizon", the world of the transpersonal, archetypal psyche. Edinger concludes that persons do not overcome their essential protoplasmic selves by ethical, moral and spiritual self improvement programs but by consciously embracing the protoplasmic self and in so doing discover the hole or window into the transpersonal "other world" which is within this incarnate physical world. One does not transcend the instinctual "sinful" self so much as arrive at the greater meaning of it via the "hole" or "window" discovered and seen in and through protoplasm itself. Protoplasm can lead to the discovery of depth dimensions of existence which is the Psyche. This is a sort of Jungian tantric view that the way out of bondage and identity to mere and powerful and always present protoplasm/instinctuality is through conscious accepting embrace of it. Edinger explicates:

"Some associations to [his dream of protoplasm with the hole where he saw another world, a landscape stretching to a horizon] were these: The one-celled organism reminded the dreamer that life is carried by discreet, individual units, the cells...Protoplasm was described as the basic life stuff, the source of all biological urges to survive. We might consider it the seat of concupiscence and desirousness of all kinds. The pulsation brought to mind the ebb and flow of the tide, systole and diastole, and the alternation between day and night. The hole in the center of the cell reminded the dreamer of the rabbit hole which was the entrance to another world in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The fact that the cell was empty recalled a passage the dreamer had read in Jung to the effect that traditional religious mandalas have the image of deity in the center but that the center of modern individual mandalas is usually empty. The over-all effect of the hole was described as a window looking into another world...The dream gives us a picture of a Monad [a single solid unit of One] in its biological form, the cell. The cell is composed of pulsating protoplasm signifying the psyche's basic hungers, lusts, and urge to live. At the very center of this trembling mass of concupiscent desires is the window or entrance to the other world, the archetypal psyche. The implication is that one gets a glimpse of the other world by piercing to the center of protoplasmic urges, certainly not by rejecting protoplasm [with all its primal concupiscence and urges]. In other words, the experience of individuality as a transpersonal fact is found at the very center of personal, selfish urges to power, lust, and self-aggrandisement." -- Edward Edinger, Ego and Archetype, Individuation and the Religious Function of the Psyche, Penguin Books, 1972, pgs. 174-175


Again, Edinger's view sounds very much like tantra. 'Sin' or the natural innate protoplasmic thrust of life for more of life, Freud's Eros principle, is seen through to its archetypal dimensions as drives toward individuation and incarnation of the archetypal Self, basic compulsions toward wholeness which do not shut out any part of itself including the profound protoplasmic drives which human culture in its evolution came to call 'sin'. From this I venture to say, and blaspheme by proclaiming, that in sin is the proto-Self.

Consciousness is the means by which individuals can become aware of that which is symptomatic and symbolic of in 'sin' which can precipitate the hard work of shadow integration, recollection of and integration of self with Self. Everyone can, does and will sin but to consciously not push it away and to dare to peer at it, embrace it then contemplate and at times enact it to find the hole, the window, into the archetypal dimensions can lead to greater humanity and wholeness reframing and understanding envy and other sins as potential means of grace which in a Jungian sense means individuation, a holdness (I prefer this term for wholeness ) where one is consciously aware of his/her protoplasmic, transpersonal self--one is a sinner; one is a sin eater, consciously, boldly, humbly so.

Eating imagery always implies assimilation and integration of that which is to be eaten thus one grows and expands from the darkly numinous meal which is incarnate and conscious human existence. An apt mythic image of this is depicted in the kaballistic tradition which asserts that when the Messiah returns there is to be a grand banquet with a meal to be eaten. That banquet feast is to be none other than the leviathan which Job saw in a vision when God revealed His dark, unconscious protoplasmic side which had put Job through such hell. Sin's origins, suggested in this and other myths, are in the deity [sacred dimension] itself.

In this dark light Wallace Stevens' poem quoted above now takes on a a more somber urgency at once absurd and deeply meaningful, a nuanced noir inflection of dreadful yet sacred responsibility:

That I may reduce the monster to
Myself, and then may be myself

In face of the monster, be more than part
Of it, more than the monstrous player of

One of its monstrous lutes, not be
Alone, but reduce the monster and be,

Two things, the two together as one,
And play of the monster and of myself,

Or better not of myself at all,
But of that as its intelligence...

Here, in a Jungian light, intelligence means consciousness, will intact, self aware, enlightenment, not liberated from but to the task.


It is this promethean task laid upon humans to consciously see this monstrous shadow of God, to bear the vision and the reality of It, to willingly eat portions of It, and in so doing transform not only personal shadow but the very shadow of God. This is not for the faint of heart nor is it about to become a popular theological view, especially in the pop religious movement of the New Age with its "denial of evil", that slight of hand dismissal of it as the "lack of good", the privatio boni of Catholicism. When elderly Jung was asked in a final interview about his personal realization of the shadow of God as the origin of evil, of man's duty to bear It and assimilate what he can of It for self and Self (God), and how he, Jung, could live with this he replied, "I live in my deepest hell." And then he fell silent.


This is a most profound religious calling and duty. Few will accept it. Few can bear it. But consciously bear it some must and nevermind failure of the task. One tries. Repeatedly.

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