[Dual Dog - My title for this sculpture exhibited in a Princeton, NJ sculpture garden. Click on it to enlarge the image. Photo by Warren Falcon, September 2008. Currently seeking the names of the sculptor and sculpture to give full and due credit]
[Tres Coyotes. Public domain. I found this image on the Web and believe it belongs to the public domain. If using this image is in violation of copyright law, please email me [email@example.com] and I will remove it immediately.Click on the photo to enlarge the image.]
Jung was the first to formulate the problem of modern man as mythlessness...It is evident to thoughtful people that Western society no longer has a viable, functioning myth. Indeed, all the major world cultures are approaching, to a greater or lesser extent, the state of mythlessness. The breakdown of a central myth is like the shattering of a vessel containing precious essence: the fluid is spilled and drains away, soaked up by the surrounding undifferentiated matter. Meaning is lost. In its place, primitive and atavistic [reverting/regressing to a past style, manner, outlook, approach, or activity; throwback] contents are reactivated. Differentiated values disappear and are replaced by the elemental motivations of power and pleasure, or else the individual is exposed to emptiness and despair. With the loss of awareness of transpersonal reality (God), the inner and outer anarchies of compelling personal desires take over...It is the loss of a containing myth that is the root cause of our current individual and social distress, and nothing less than the discovery of a new central myth will solve the problem for the individual and for society.
- Edward F. Edinger, The Creation of Consciousness, Jung's Myth for Modern Man, Inner City Books, 1984, from pgs. 9-11.
"I blow my nose at you! I wave my private parts at your aunties! Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!" - French soldier character in the film, "Monty Python And The Search For The Holy Grail"
Can you not hear Trickster laughing, warning in goose-bump raising howls that there will be hell to pay for willful stupidity, for willful ignoring of psychological depths insisting on emerging into consciousness which cannot and should not be escaped via perfectionist spiritualish fantasies of transcendence?
If one courts and sports with Trickster be prepared for egg on the face and shit on the shoe, winged or not, eating a large portion of humble pie which "is always hard to swallow with your pride" (lyrics from a Graham Nash song). Being a dissembler and dissolver he will dissolve egoic masks of individuals, groups, organizations, programs of all flavors that are too self-important, too pompous and self-inflated. He will use "sex, lies, and videotape" to break down donut sugar piety in order to bring up now-insistent and spiritually incorrect, repressed essentials demanding integration toward greater wholeness/holdness. He wounds the healer and heals the wounder. He transforms all values in an ongoing evaluating and revaluing, unsettling those values which calcify into sacred cows. From Greek myth one of the first acts upon the trickster god Hermes birth was to steal the sacred cows of His brother Apollo, god of law and order, of rules and regulations, of theologies and systems, of drawing lines and planting flags declaring rights and wrongs derived mostly from opinionated collective throngs, be they Olympian or human.
According to C.G. Jung, Hermes/Mercury, the Greek/Roman Trickster god, is "the patron deity of depth psychology" who descends into the depths of the unconscious by way of the personal unconscious into the transpersonal (archetypal) layers in order to bring archetypal energy to everyday mind for conscious, always creative/destructive integration. When this material/energy crosses the threshold into awareness it greatly rearranges the world within and around. Trickster makes, remakes, deranges, rearranges, destroys, ploys and re-ploys established orders and worlds, his investment in order tenuous at best, ordure and disorder being more his style. When Trickster works you over it is best to smile while you can, oft through clinched teeth, caught in one's own trap and deception, adhered to one's "absolutes" eventually revealed to be follies, fortresses and weapons used to stay the uncertainties of existence but for that only one which is incontrovertible, the constancy of change, the birth and death and rebirth and re-death of meaning.
Trickster is subject to his own medicine which if nothing else hints us that there is a tandem process of change, of inexorable involution/evolution/dissolution/re-solution/revolution within sacred/archetypal dimensions, as well. Thus, when William Butler Yeat's says in his poem "The Second Coming" that "things fall apart, the center cannot hold" one can know and take some comfort that what is occurring within and around one is not only of one's personal making. Something, some "rough beast", collective/social and transpersonal is undergoing transformational processes and, Sphinx-like, composed of many parts of historical symbols, is "slouching toward Bethlehem to be born." Some new god image which incorporates and holds shadow, the shadow of god and nature, human and divine, personal and collective, encroaches without abeyance nor is turned away or transformed with easy affirmations and "positive thinking" which reinforces their opposite.
Trickster, a god of making-consciousness, continually rents the contents of consciousness asunder into an "unknowing" confirming that there is great wisdom in universal human knowledge that one must become comfortable with this not knowing. "One must go by way of dispossession" (St. John of the Cross) of what was known to be certain, exact and true and dwell in emptiness ("kenosis" in Christian mysticism), vacated of familiar internal and external worlds, forsaken by once were loves. and stays against the swarm and storm. In many indigenous medicine wheels knowledge becomes an enemy when reified/calcified into "letter and law", into dogma and doctrine. This is not to forsake knowing but to understand it that knowledge is a stage toward widsom derived from alchemical personal and collective cauldrons at high boil with necessary, often merciless, crushing dissolution of old, familiar, and "sacred" forms, ideas, doctrines, truths.
This quicksilver Hermetic/Mercurial nature of consciousness making suggests a more fluid process involved in becoming conscious which partakes of its own open creativity allowing for all possibilities, in fact, insisting upon them, moving toward "we know not what for sure" though we are confronted with the plethora of what the Buddhists call "the ten thousand thing". Carl Jung suggests that this movement is toward "meaning-in-mythos", that humans live symbolic lives, are contained in myths (most often dimly or unconsciously and identified with the myths), that an ongoing study of one's own dreams and of the dreams of history/culture reveals that humans seek and create/recreate meaningful patterns which render our lives a significance in and beyond ourselves. Archetypes, primal patterns, are independent though interactive appearing to be stable but also undergo changes from human (and nature's) interaction with them. They assume no final shape though they do take shape when perceived, they re-pattern themselves in an ongoing dialectic of this then that, then this/that, or neither or either depending upon human or divine weather and chance, or fate, or both, chasing out of the gate of awareness like the black and white horses, opposites, tethered and harnessed to the chariot in the image of the Tarot "Chariot" card, the strong and challenged charioteer struggling to master the repelling propulsion of these two beasts at natural odds mindfully prodded to move forward in one direction. This image informs us that the very conflict of the opposites (the black and white horses)mindfully engaged moves the vehicle of consciousness, of knowing, forward. This Trickster "vehicle" ("yana" in sanskrit) "mixes it up", keeps the creative/destructive pattern, patter and pratter going as rumors and ultimately humors of "order" for where there is order, ordure cannot be too far behind. In common English vulgate how often do we exclaim, "Bullshit!" when what appears to be ordered, measured, received truth is misused, misapplied and turned to convenient lies of the tricksterish "sage" redolent with "taurean ordure"?
But, importantly, thankfully, we are not left with ordure alone. Alchemy tells us that it is from the shit, the primal material, that gold is eventually derived; it does not spring from Zeus's head fully formed. Gold is made from hellish heat and recombinant elements burned then turned into precious metal symbolic of great value throughout the world. Trickster is this process of crush and burn and turn and in spite of himself and his skewing and screwing of set "laws" there are noticeable "habits of transformation" which seem to bear out in experience uniquely impressed and expressed via individuals and collectives. But lest we think we or Nature or Deity has finally arrived in terms of ultimate knowing and consciousness Trickster is the destroyer of that certainty. We get to argue with Trickster, to give him a taste of his own medicine realizing that he like all/us/we are "bozos on the consciousness-bus", big red noses, flaming red coronas of hair radiating from our tonsured pates, big floppy shoes hindering our gait, loudly sounding our retreats and advances giving us away lest we sneak up on some "Absolute Truth" then haplessly fall through the gap between the two front teeth of God, and to what end? What lies within and behind that gap? What is the story there? Dare we ask? or speculate? Trickster grins a big toothy grin, gap and all lending and rending entire universes.
Of Psychopomp, Psycho-pomposity and Trickster's Romp Though A Spiritual-ish Group Or, Fuck The Gap! My Front Teeth Are Missing! A Confessorial Tale And Tattle-tail Dream
Hermes/Trickster is chiefly known as a guide, a "psychopomp", "psyche" meaning "soul" and "pomp" meaning "sending, sender." Thus He is a "soul sender" in, through, and beyond official boundaries. He is the "cosmic blender" with one setting, "High Frappe"; one can only reach for the plug to unplug the machinery from its apparently indiscriminate mixing of the most disparate ingredients for as Guide and Teacher, Hermes is a troublemaker, a boundary and rule breaker, a thief, a liar, loudmouth truth teller with egg on his ever changing face. He's not "appropriate." He is a god of messes and makes plenty of them. He dwells in them, an equal opportunity trickster manifesting chaos in both secular and spiritual settings where He is duty-bound to mug each without apology, with or without "rhyme or reason", often using both! The more Light-identified the individual or group the more likely an encounter with Hermes/Trickster is fated. He raucously exclaims, "the King has no clothes..." which also means that his subjects have no clothes since they've projected their inner King upon the outer one and thus find themselves ungarbed though garbled with a Babel of accusations while proclaiming their innocence. To this Trickster proclaims, "ah, what a load of crap!" or like Cher in "Moonstruck"" as she slaps Nicholas Cage commanding him to "snap out of it!". Trickster shape shifts to shock and startle bringing a new way of perceiving reality, seeing it as it is, not as one visualizes it New Agely, egoically willing it to be otherwise. Even if one can and does will it to be otherwise this does not exclude that otherwise from Tricksterish intentions and reinventions preventing certainty but always inventing tears and laughter.
Trickster is Psyche's child, not Spirituality's. Spirituality formed to escape from Psyche, from unfathomable, incomprehensible and therefore frightening depths, though it is a product of Psyche yet in hubris proclaims itself to be of greater value, nostrums of Narcissus/narkosis the "soma" drug most often imbibed. I witnessed and haplessly participated in Trickster's gripping of and dissolving a spiritual-ish group which, though it intended to "heal the split between spirituality and psychology", continually relegated psychology to "red-headed step child" status, not of equal value to "spirituality" which, of course, kept the very split it purportly desired to heal going. Thus, one August day while on vacation with some friends and colleagues of this overly identified-with-spirituality group and after difficult and troubling conversations between one of my colleagues and the de facto leader of this group who was unwittingly used by Trickster (and other participants, my inflated self greatly included) to dissolve the group, I went to the bathroom to ponder and shit. While letting go on my turd tuffet - which humbles one and all reminding that we are animals "after all is said and dunged", we holy animals who dung in our own dwellings - I suddenly heard just outside the open window the loudly resonant, cackling howls of at least three shrill coyotes.
Flushing fast and quickly spraying in vain "New Aeon Shit Coat Air Freshener", I called to my colleagues to "come quick! listen up! the coyotes are warning that there is real mischief at work and much shit ahead. No one shall be exempted." We immediately went to a sweat lodge on the property to sweat and fret for once Trickster has sprayed and marked one and others for his bitter "soul sending" medicine one can only pray and return yet again to conscious shadow work all the while knowing that scapegoating and shadow projecting will run unchecked in groups, and it did and still does, that shitty whiff-gift that keeps on giving. Willful ignoring of shadow and Trickster guarantees disaster and perhaps the greatest disaster is to to be ignored completely by the gods, to be left to one's own unconscious, inflated devices. Even though catching the gods attention, especially Trickster's, means trouble while in their gaze and grip, the eventual grace wrung is not of saintliness and rumored spiritual high-stature but of simple, humble humanity participating in imperfect yet creative encounter of self and other, newly awake to being only one member of vast uncountable choirs of beings in a tricksterish unfolding/enfolding cosmos creating and destroying entire galaxies like a child who crumbles a cookie in her hand merely because she can, a display of will to power and power over.
Growth and transformation is to be gained from struggle thus is Trickster's domain. Intuition, valuable as it is, does not really trump wisdom hard won from enduring vicissitudes in space and time. Intuition "drops in" to one and all heedless of quality of consciousness and development or moral character or social or spiritual stature. It impresses but does not necessarily transform. It often entertains delusions of Tom Thumb-like grandeur - "what a good boy am I!" thinking that the pie, the plum, the thumb and the eye/I are of his own god-like making. It is no accident that intuition has been subjected to dimly lit parlors or now New Age light-flooded lofts, reduced to fascinating entertainments with vague "metaphysics" manufactured more from slick wishes and wonders in the consumer wanderland of Trickster's "secret knowledge", paying participants sucker punched and punch drunk from table tipping and raps enraptured and intellectually, often psychologically/spiritually, fractured and disappointed from projected, promised and expected "enlightenment" with materialistic gain to prove one's spiritual arrival.
In wisdom's struggle transcendence (escape) is not gained for it is no needed. Transcendence, that fantasy of perfectionist religions and groups of "escaping to a fiddle beyond the pail" (Rainer Rilke) cannot surpass what is to be gained from incarnation, individuation, and the transformative struggle of psychological integration (also a dream but with practical incremental gains) which include all of the gods, sacred energies all, from warrior energies, erotic energies, to more subtly nuanced inflections establishing orders of history from which now and future generations may learn to build or take down "these lucastrine cities" of gods and humaity:
These lacustrine cities grew out of loathing
Into something forgetful, although angry with history.
They are the product of an idea: that man is horrible, for instance,
Though this is only one example...
The worst is not over, yet I know
You will be happy here. Because of the logic
Of your situation, which is something no climate can outsmart.
Tender and insouciant by turns, you see
You have built a mountain of something,
Thoughtfully pouring all your energy into this single monument,
Whose wind is desire starching a petal,
Whose disappointment broke into a rainbow of tears.
- John Ashberry, from Rivers and Mountains (1966)
As one banished now from more than one overtly spiritual guild, lucastrine cities all, I have had to bear stains that are truly my own. I have also had to painfully discover and differentiate those stains which are NOT mine and to return them to those who refuse to reclaim them or who cannot, from psychological wounding, weakness or outright hubris, bear the pain of seeing their own authentic sinfulness and guilt. Many these days in New Age "perfectionist trances" - those of organized religion have been numerously exposed and analyzed by history - refuse to acknowledge authentic evil in existence, their own and others. These days an inflated, naive, magical slight of hand dismisses evil and shadow to mere "gremlins" with whom one does a workshop dance, or pinches! thinking that Trickster can be appeased and transformed by such cartoon-like psycho-spiritual flickers which are ultimately egoic entertainments and impotent wishful thinking, what Trungpa Rimpoche astutely calls "spiritual materialism" where profoundly/confoundingly real sacred images, rituals and powers are turned into consumer items for purchase in what Harvey Cox calls the "new gluttony" - spirituality - with "enlightenment by Ticketron" and a dumbing down dance with one's cutesy gremlins. Oy.
Ironically, unwittingly prophetic, the notes from which I am composing this essay were taught in the group mentioned above three years before its demise, then already in the paws and maws of the Trickster. Repeating myself (so that I may ultimately "get it") hubris is an equal opportunity inflation and self or group hypnotic trances of piety and god almightiness are some of the ugliest and most difficult parts of the pathways of individuation and shadow integration. To find oneself there may be occasion for denial, for battle and scapegoating but if one can remain conscious enough and eat authentic humble pie with one's real crow one may also see that real enlightenment, not the transcendence-inflected, namaste-tourretting, consumer-Ticketron-best seller spiritualities-Lite so currently prevalent, greater wholeness may be derived. This wholeness is not perfection. Trickster laughs at perfection. Quoting a taunting Monty Python character, Trickster says, "I blow my nose at you. I wave my private parts at your aunties!" Trickster the maker, breaker, expander of boundaries is more about wholeness, greater expansions of consciousness which can contain and hold tremendous conflicting opposites without demanding that they all "get along" in hypnotic group think, sacred or secular. Trickster is not a god of perfection but infection and inflections of all the spectrum of consciousness from red to violet/indigo. To vote as "best" for one or several colors over the full spectrum of colors manifests variously as neuroses and, in extreme, psychoses of various kinds, so-called "spiritualities" being perhaps the most disguised forms of psychoses since spiritual group-think sacrifices critical intelligence for sheep-like belief in a leader and systems which perpetuate faux-transcendence bestowing power on a leader and inner circle who call themselves "good guys" as opposed to all those "bad guys" out there out to get them and their power, their "spiritual" and material baubles.
In this light the Trickster is irreverent and sacrilegious. Since my own life is the best example I know of hubris and denial, of "dumb-ass" pomposity and pretenses, alas, I share the following dream had at the advent of my first year of training in a New Age seminary which warned not only of my own god almightiness and inflation but in retrospect that of the very program I was training in. To be fair the program was no exception. All programs, beset by and identified with archetypes beneath their ideals and missions, are unconsciously inflated and this dream would be appropriate to them as well. The dream:
I am to be crowned Bishop to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I am standing outside the front doors awaiting entry into the cathedral overflowing with parishioners there to witness my ordination. I wear the gold robes and the bishops miter. At the signal I knock loudly with my Crosier/Shepherd's Staff upon the door. I can hear it echoing throughout the vast spaciousness of the cathedral. The door slowly open, clouds of incense smoke billowing out into the secular city. I enter and slowly begin my walk down the central aisle to the altar at the other end of the cathedral. As I pass the initial crowds in the foyer I begin to hear gaspes and snickers of laughter. Nevermind. I am full of the august occasion of my inauguration and stay focused. As I continue to walk the aisle past smiling people who then begin to gasp and laugh I become annoyed. This laughter is inappropriate to the seriousness of the ocassion. Halfway down the aisle the din of laughter is too loud to ignore. I stop and wonder what to do. It is then that I feel a cool breeze up my legs to my ass. I reach behind to feel my back side and discover that the robes have somehow caught at my waist above my buttocks which are naked. I look back and see to my horror that I have not a human ass but that florid garish brightly colored ass of a mandrill. The crowd roars with laughter. I cringe in humiliation and shame. So much for sacredness and pomposity. A sure cure for spiritual inflation and taking one's self way too seriously. The laughter compensates for the too too seriousness and high mightiness of belief and affiliation/institution.
This is Trickster's dream. And though I have yet to shed the mandrill ass I can indeed laugh at myself and, of course, as required, at others knowing that Trickster is subject to his/her own medicine and is a Fool, too, for gods, humans, and all phenomena of existence.
What follows is reprinted from my published notes on Hermes/Mercury [click here or copy and paste to read these notes:
Of Boundaries and Bounders, Hermes Makes & Breaks Them Without Apologies
Any discussion of boundaries calls for a presentation of the god of boundaries, Hermes/Mercury. According to C.G. Jung he is "the patron deity of depth psychology," which goes into the depths of the unconscious through the personal unconscious and into the transpersonal archetypal layers of the unconscious, to bring unconscious archetypes, energy, and content up over the boundary/threshold into consciousness.
Hermes is chiefly known as a guide or psychopomp, "psycho/psyche" meaning "soul" and "pomp" meaning "sending, sender." Thus He is a soul sender, in, through, and beyond official boundaries.
As Guide and Teacher, Hermes is a troublemaker, a boundary and rule breaker, a thief, a liar, and loudmouth truthteller. He's not "appropriate." He is a god of messes and makes plenty of them. He equally is an equal opportunity trickster manifesting chaos in both secular and "spiritual" settings where He is duty-bound to mug each without apology, with or without reason. The more Light-identified or Justice-identified the individual or group the more likely an encounter with Hermes is fated. He shouts out, "the king has no clothes..." or "ah, what a load of crap..." or like Cher in Moonstruck, as she slaps Nicholas Cage, "Snap out of it!". He's a trickster who shapeshifts to shock and startle, bringing a new way of perceiving reality, as it is, not as one visualizes it.
Hermes is not about safety. Safety for Hermes is being street smart, eyes wide open, canny, cunning and swift of foot and mind. He's a fast talker, a sideways walker-talker, speaking out of both sides of his mouth in order to gain something, to steal something hidden away in the unconscious in order to make conscious "by any means necessary" holy and unholy, writ, or wit, or twit, equally valuing the white between the lines, opening out or in to a "WHA'?" of mind.
Hermes, a god of occult, hidden knowledge, teaches by reversals, mistakes, sudden insight, and revelation. He is well-acquainted with the dark, the unconscious, the repressed, and forbidden, not only a protector of all wayfarers on official byways, but is the god and protector of thieves. He lies in wait, then springs upon and reshapes that which is set and stodgily staid into new revelations, new meanings, new formulations. He is the god of interpretations, of hermeneutics, which is the art of reading texts and finding the meaning "between the lines".
Hermes is a messenger deity, thus His winged helmet and feet. He carries messages between the upper world (the conscious), the lower world (the unconscious), and the inbetween world. In ancient times it was believed that if you entered the underworld without a guide, you would never come back. Hermes is that guide. He knows the ways of the demons there. He speaks "demon" and proclaims "shadow", and will shout it from the rooftops willy-nilly. He helps to negotiate and integrate the shadow, for He is a god of integrations, re- and dis- integrations in the depths of Dis (see William Blake's cosmological poem, "The Four Zoas" re: the Kingdom of Dis).
If one courts and sports with Hermes, be prepared for egg on the face and shit on the shoe, winged or not, and a large portion of humble pie which "is always hard to swallow with your pride" (lyrics from a Graham Nash song). Being a dissolver, He will dissolve groups, organizations, programs of all flavors that are too pompous and self-inflated. He wounds the healer and heals the wounder. He transforms all values in an ongoing evaluating and revaluing, unsettling those values which calcify into sacred cows. One of Hermes's first acts upon birth was to steal the sacred cows of His brother, Apollo!
I will use the following dream to reveal how Hermes shows up in contemporary dreams. As far as I know, the dreamer had no knowledge of the attributes of Hermes prior to dreaming this dream:
A client dreamed that he was late getting to the airport to fly to Europe, due to traffic congestion. He finally arrived, but found there was a problem with his passport and ticket. His plane was leaving shortly, and he felt "fucked with" when he realized that he had left his most important baggage back with the baggage claim man. He ran back to the man, who, upon seeing him, said, "I knew you'd be back for this", and gave him his bag. The dreamer explained the problems with his ticket and passport, and that the plane was about to leave. The baggage claim man smiled, and said, "No problem. Follow me." He led the client through a series of doors through which only airport officials go. In minutes they were at the gate. The doors were about to close. A few words from the baggage claim man to the flight attendant, and the dreamer was led to the airplane door. The client shouted his gratitude to the man, and asked his name so he could find him upon his return. The baggage claim man shouted back, "My name is HERMAN!"
In this dream we have the presence of a god, Herman, or rather, HERMES Himself, the keeper of the gates, breaker of rules and boundaries, who knows the right people. The baggage claim man (and the flight attendant) could allude to the dreamer's therapist, who functions as a guide and hermeneut in the ways of the client's conscious and unconscious life.