Saturday, December 4, 2010

Of Toxic Oneness and the God of Gators

[Catholic chapel door knocker in Tlaxcala, Mexico. Photo by Warren Falcon. Click on the image to enlarge it]

Regarding toxic oneness I begin with a dream of duality given account of by Jungian analyst, Dr. Edward Edinger :

"The wine of Dionysus shares with the blood of Christ the qualities of reconciliation and communion. The dream of a young minister, which came to my attention, illustrates this point strikingly:

"Dream (abbreviated): I am to celebrate communion. In the sacristy, which looks like a kitchen, the communion wine is to be prepared by mixing two separate wines--a dark blue wine and a red wine. The latter is a bottle with a yellow label that looks like a Scotch label and is marked "Paul". At a round table, two men are sitting. One is a political leftist, the other a rightest. Up to now they have maintained a facade of social amenity but now they are becoming hostile to one another. I suggest that they ventilate at the gut level and resolve their feeling relationship. At this point the scene darkens as in a theater play and a red-yellow spotlight focuses on a small table between and behind the two men. On the table is a bottle of the warm red wine with the Scotch label clearly marked "Paul." Then there is total darkness and the tinkle of glasses, sounding as though they've been clinked and perhaps broken. The sense is obvious in the dream. I think: they've drunk the red wine in their discussion, attained comradeship, became drunk and in the process, fallen asleep and dropped their glasses. My response is delight in the aesthetic way this has been portrayed and anxiety about the fact that the service needs to begin and we do not now have the ingredients for the communion mixture.

"This dream presents the interesting image of two wines--a blue one and a red one--perhaps symbolizing spirits of Logos and Eros. It shows that the dreamer has achieved a "lesser coniunctio", meaning marriage, a reconciliation with the shadow, but the "greater coniunctio" signified by the full communion service with both wines is not yet ready to take place.

"Regressive dissolution and conscious reconciliation of differences are sometimes confused or contaminated with one another. The blood or wine of Christ or Dionysus can cause either."

-Edward Edinger, Ego and Archetype, The Religious Function of the Psyche", pg. 248-249

In Edinger's book, Anatomy of the Psyche, Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy, pgs. 66-67, he reports the same dream and comments:

"The dreamer's psychology is not known to me in depth; however, it is evident that Dionysian and Christian symbolism are here combined. Although the union of the two wines--perhaps Logos and Eros--remains to be achieved, a solutio [the alchemical process of dissolving solids into liquid form] has occurred that dissolves the opposition between leftist and rightest, although at the price of consciousness since they fall asleep. In this case, as is often true, there is a confusion between authentic reconciliation of opposites though greater consciousness and a regressive dissolution which blues awareness of the opposites."

Ego and Archetype was published in the early 1970's. Since Edinger's books are largely drawn from his analystical practice, lectures and Jungian training seminars, one can assume that the dream reported above occurred in the 1960's, a volatile time of war and political unrest attempting to bring about a collective coniunctio of racial, gender, political and regional opposites, of "red states" and "blue states" though these attributions of colors to politically affiliated U.S. states was not then used. This fact makes the dream even more interesting as it heralds the use of "red states"/"blue states" currently in use.

Although a political "solutio" apparently occurred in the Civil Rights Act of the 1960's, and long, too long overdue, an authentic psychosocial coniunctio has yet to be achieved in the "land of the free". It can be historically argued that for all the lauding of the American democratic "melting pot" (coniunctio language and imagery) the authentic coniunctio Edinger refers to in the dream above has not yet occurred though it is "written" on paper in the U.S. Constitution. As the dream suggests, authentic reconciliation of the opposites (the both coniuntios, lesser and greater) are hardly ever achieved personally much less socially/collectively.

Given the recent resurgence nationally of unrepentant racism, regionalism and pathological patriotism with fanatical religious tints, the theater lights, to borrow from the dream image above, are turned up bright upon stage and auditorium illuminating sleeping actors and audience, both unconscious for it is a terribly humbling and at times humiliating thing to confront one's own unconsciousness and personal shadow. Easy platitudes and gestures of reconciliation, wishful statements of "oneness" and even the pietistic/patriotic mouthing of truths as yet to be understood much less integrated "that all men are created equal", may and do create momentary emotional states of "oneness" (as wine does reduced to sincere though mawkish sentimentality--and America is one of the most sentimental of collectives moving from one addictive sentiment to the other but without depth of feeling matched/mated with insight and integration) but are reduced to glibness and hollow repetition unable to disguise real reptilian/primitive instincts perceiving the red or the blue as a threat and acting accordingly but with self-righteous, Bible and flag-draped "authority" attached to murderous, separating intentions.

Each individual must confront the reptile, the lizard within and rather than take it to "the theater", costume it in angelic robes, wipe its ass with sweet unguents and spraying perfume all around (cosmetics-are-us) one must like Job see the chthonic dark side of not only self but of God. Jung's as yet to be assimilated much less understood intuition that in integrating our own opposites we are integrating those of our gods points us to do our own inner work which is more likely to create authentic cultural change than all the extroverted acts in the world.

In another Edinger book, The Psyche In Antiquity, Vol. One, in the chapter on Mani, the originator of Manicheanism, an account is given from Manichean texts of the battle between the "sons of light" (Light = all good) and the "sons of darkness (Dark = all evil). The sons of light are defeated in a cosmic battle of good and evil. In the tricksterish image of authentic psyche which votes for neither good or evil, light or dark, but accepts and contains both, the sons of darkness as victors eat the sons of light. In so eating the sons of light the sons of darkness are contaminated by the sons of Light and are therefore made less evil! Edinger astutely (and relievedly) points out that one is "perfected" (etymologically, perfection means "complete" as is in ripening which implies a process of maturing in space and time) not by imitating the sons of Light, curtsying to one another with a "peace and blessings" and a "namaste", but by consciously "eating" assimilating (or at least struggling) both dark and light. Becoming identified or identifying others as either does not "perfect" or mature/develop ripen an individual or culture.

To repeat in order to stress the problem of evil is not resolved (solutio-ed) by identity with either side of the opposites but by tolerating the tension between the opposites; the image of Christ in the middle of the vertical and horizontal poles of the cross depicts this suspension and meaningful suffering which leads to the reconciling third image of resurrection which is not an ascension into all good and Light (this is clearly depicted in the imagery of the Book of Revelations where Christ-once-the-Lamb-of-God returns apocalyptically as the Avenging Ram of God exacting vengeance upon "evil" thus illustrating, too, that clearly the Christian religion has failed to solve the problem of the opposites, of good and evil, but this is another essay, one already written in many of Jung's later books.

A man dreamed for years of being pursued by dark men of various racial groups. These men were threatening and for years in dreams he avoided them, ran from them but in spite of his efforts to flee was forced in dream scenario after dream scenario to fight them, to confront them. These "dark" men carried rejected values forced into shadow by clan, clergical groups and culture, they were projected to be the "sons of darkness" as in the Mani text above. As he worked these repressed, despised, rejected and projected aspects of shadow self the dreams and the client transformed, became more human, less identified with All Good/Light. He recovered the values of the Dark, the night, the instinctual/chthonic aspects of human beingness and existence. In confirmation of this he dreamed of hearing a strange but familiar voice in almost complete darkness. In a space "in between" the more distant city illuminated with a blue light on the horizon and an intense immense solid blackness the voice called from the this darker than dark region. He strained his eyes to see into this darkness and ultimately saw two small lights close together punctuating the blackness. With fear and trembling he turned fully toward that darkness and traced his way slowly toward the lights which did not grow brighter as he approached but emanated instead an intense visual vibration. As he grew closer he smelled rich odors of mud, trees, water; he heard lapping sounds and knew that he was on the edge of a swamp. The voice, louder now, beckoned him to enter further. Mustering his last bit of courage, knowing his fate had led him to this encounter, he stepped into the swamp boldly, splashing loudly. As he awakened from the dream he saw that the lights were the eyes of a larger than life alligator and realized that this was no ordinary gator but the "god of gators". He fell to his knees in the water in awe and awakened in tears.

Upon awakening he wrote:

Stuck in "King James",
entangled in lyrical tongues,
Revelation's Old Virgin,
I know only that deep night,
that way beyond sentimentality,
that way over and beyond
'the Path' into the thicket,
the swamp where the
god of gators waits,


calling to me to step less
lightly upon the world.

One must recognize the all too easy temptation and avoid a toxic "Oneness", being overly identified with and thus overvaluing of one opposite over the other. Toxic Oneness is similar to that drunken solutio of wine and many ecstatic religions/religious experiences where one is emotionally "dissolved" and suddenly "one" with others, with the universe, but upon sobering up into the hard dark night or the bright harsh light of day, realizes that one is comprised ever again of both dark and light. The reconciliation of the opposites may be glimpsed in wine and "god" drunkenness but is without lasting gains nor is this state sustained. Rather, the most difficult work of ongoing confrontation with the unconscious, the personal and archetypal, the shadow in its various forms, and ongoing attempts at least to reconcile the opposites within oneself leads to greater wholeness.

This most valuable work implies assent, rendered in time, to hang, as the Hanged Man card of the Tarot depicts, upon the cross of the opposites undergoing a sacred process not created by one's self or will but by what Jung calls the Self, that central organizing transpersonal factor/dynamic beyond ego requiring something beyond gator selves and fetishized local deities of light. This suspension upon the cross is called by San Juan de la Cruz "the dark night of the soul". It is an emptying process called kenosis. It's parallel is found in all religions, major and minor throughout human history and the world. The suffering is not gratuitious and arbitrary but has a telos, a purpose though it can only be gained by enduring and by the benefit of recorded human history which traces in time the unfolding pattern of consciousness-making dependent about and resultant upon the very opposites of dark and light, instinct and reason, nature and spirit, unconsciousness and consciousness.

Although it is completely understandable, a premature dissolving into Oneness without the necessary engaging in the most difficult crushing work of confronting the opposites within oneself and enduring the suspension within and between dark and light, then for all the good intentions and utterly valid needs for soothing and hope, such a oneness is toxic which continues and reinforces the split within every human, human culture, and existence. Religions and spiritually-oriented communities and institutions would do well to recognize the Manichean splitting off cosmological, theological, psychological into all good and Light which only feeds the split and the sons of darkness which we already are.

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