Though much of the quality of my life I owe to good psychotherapy, a solitary venture I greatly value, I have suffered most in that peculiarly extraverted American phenomenon called "group therapy" and later ongoing mutations in New Age "circles jerkles" foolishly participating when everything within me screamed (me ignoring all along), "Run away! Run away!" Eventually, I was fired literally out of the "Jerry Springer Group Grope For God", an anti-intellectual cabal of entertainers/distracters using the most ancient of smoke and mirrors, spirituality or adulterations which only American baby boomers can produce and actually believe and, alas, mea culpa mea culpa maxima mea culpa, I am one of them. It greatly repenteth me to confess it.
I have now returned to my roots, my solitude, that familiar joy and containment of woods, hills, veils, solitary rooms where some few invited souls may enter. I have rediscovered those good solid souls who endured alone, souls who selected their own society, writers mostly of days past where solitude was not a strange thing but the way of life for many spread thinly through the landscape but for cities which have become Urban Dieties collectively attracting the strange and the estranged. Of course, there are hazards which go with solitude, solitariness, but the greatest of hazards are, frankly, others, especially those who think they know what is for "your own good."
Edward Edinger is most helpful here:
"Loneliness is a precursor of the positive experience of aloneness. We might say that while aloneness is a fact of individual existence, the experience of loneliness is--for an individual
which is not yet willing to accept it--the first painful emergence of that fact into consciousness. Loneliness seeks diversion or togetherness in order to forget the uncomfortable fact of individuality. To be an individual means to be a special favored one, and also a lonely one. If loneliness is face instead of forgotten, it can lead over to the creative acceptance of the fact of aloneness.
The aloneness of individuality is represented by the hermit, the monk, the solitary one. In a recently discovered Gnostic Gospel called The Gospel of Thomas there are several significant sayings of Jesus which speak to the "single ones" or the "solitaries." The Greek word is monachoi which could also be translated as the "unified ones":
54. Jesus says: "Blessed are the solitary and the elect, for you will find the Kingdom! Because you have issued from it, you will return to it again."
65..."I (Jesus) say this: When (a person) finds himself solitary, he will be full of light; but when he finds himself divided, he will be full of darkness."
79. Jesus says: "Many stand outside at the door, but it is only the solitaries who will enter into the bridal chamber.""
- Edward F. Edinger, Ego and Archetype, Individuation and the Religious Function of the Psyche. Penguin Books. 1973. pgs. 171-172.
Here is Rilke:
"When one speaks of solitaries, one always takes too much for granted. One supposes that people know what one is talking about. No, they do not. They have never seen a solitary, they have simply hated him without knowing him. They have been his neighbors who used him up, and the voices in the next room that tempted him. They have incited things against him, so that they made a great noise and drowned him out. Children were in league against him, when he was tender and a child, and with every growth he grew up against the grown-ups. They tracked him to his hiding place, like a beast to be hunted, and his long youth had no closed season. And when he refused to be worn out and got away, they cried out upon that which emanated from him, and called it ugly and cast suspicion upon it. And when he would not listen, they became more distinct and ate away his food and breathed out his air and spat into his poverty so that it became repugnant to him. They brought down disrepute upon him as upon an infectious person and cast stones at him to make him go away more quickly. And they were right in their instinct: for he was indeed their foe.
But then, when he did not raise his eyes, they began to reflect. They suspected that with all this they had done what he had wanted; that they had fortified him in his solitude and helped him to separate himself from them for ever. And now they changed about and, resorting to the final, the extreme, used that other resistance: fame. And at this clamor almost every one has looked up and been distracted."
- Rainer Maria Rilke. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. W.
W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1964. pgs. 160-161.
Fame has indeed become the spiritual gold, the Quest, for spiritual baby boomer narcissists in guise of New Age or adulterated Eastern religions gurus turning the screw of ego another torque tighter. Grandstands and yogic head and handstands notwithstanding, these holy hand jobs milk unthinking collectively driven mobs for both mana and money. Welcome yet again to the new religion, the strange American mutant messiahs intent on material gain, gelt and inclusion in the Mammon god-head.
When living alone on Huckleberry Mountain in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, in my little cabin beside the stream, I worked the all night shift at a half way house, part alcohol detox center and part interlude for schizophrenics whose medications were effective. I worked the late night shift and thus had hours to read, to write, to journal, to contemplate madness and so-called mental health and the wired in need for other humans. My company in those wee hours would be residents with the shakes or those mad ones who had awakened in the middle of the archetypal psyche and could hardly contain much less articulate what they had seen and been put through. These were without a doubt some of the most amazing people I have ever known and interacted with, whose madness, though hell by all accounts, counted so much more greatly than all the channeled "revelations" of caucasian Casandras predicting world plagues and disasters (for a pretty penny to hear, of course).
I recently dreamed of such a true priestess who had been called by archetypal psyche into debts and made to pay a great price. I'll call her Sweet Jane after a woman sung about in a Grateful Dead tune, "Truckin'", "What in the world ever happened to sweet Jane?...living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine..." Sweet Jane was all of 22 years old and scarred from third degree burns when her god, Jerry Garcia, in her head told her to boil a large vat of water and to plunge her face, arms and hands in. She did. Repeatedly. Even though her hands were horribly scarred and damaged she could play her guitar well, Grateful Dead tunes, of course, and a few love songs to Garcia. Sweet Jane appeared to be sane in conversations yet, though medication helped, her references to Garcia and Dead lyrics were pretexts, subtexts and contexts for all things stated. This we might think is insanity outright but I grew up in the American South (and have found it now to be a phenomena all over the American landscape) where many pepper their speech with Bible verses, Biblical references and contexts, a kind of spiritual tourettes completely encouraged and rarely questioned. To hear Sweet Jane do with Garcia and Grateful Dead lyrics was not any different than most folks of the good and godly "Christ-haunted landscape" of the South and now mass media talk show hosts and politicians. Why not Jerry Garcia instead of Jesus? What sacred purgative ritual was Sweet Jane performing for us all? Some raw uncooked archetype had emerged in the land, in the American collective, large chunks of shadow which had been projected upon other races, sexualities, nations, along with repressed, devalued ancient spiritual traditions which compelled many Americans (and other Western cultures) to chase after utterly enchanted and fascinated by archetypal psyche. But it mostly remained raw, these archetypal contents, uncooked, possessed, pursued all the while those chasing after were in the grips of said contents. Mass inflation ensued from identification with the archetypal psyche with many caught up in the libido of such archetypes, soaring high, "getting by, getting high, getting strange" (lyrics from a Kris Kristoferson song). Sweet Jane was being called upon by a messianic figure of American white youth culture to cook these contents. In alchemy water refers to solutio, the process of dissolving solid things into liquid form in order to be cooked or to cook the contents dissolved. As is the case of most people, the contents of the unconscious are either denied (as a defense against the archetypal reality) or believed concretely. This poor and primitive relationship to symbols produces denial or inflation and in the '60's and '70's and, alas, currently, this dynamic continues as unconsciously as it always has with New Age gurus, healers, shamans, priests/pristesses who are, indeed, in touch with archetypal energies but have this primitive relationship to them and think that it is their accomplishment to be able to wield the energies. This is a dangerous inflation. The power of psyche remains uncooked, raw, and is now marketed with many consumers buying. The hard work of integrating the contents of the psyche is refused or "work-shopped" in typical extraverted American Mc-Therapies, Mc-Spiritualities (amalgums of hodge podge confections plundered uncritically and, frankly, disrespecting ancient traditions turned into consumer items to be picked at, nibbled at in a nouveau cuisine intended to ventilate egos rather than individuate.
Sweet Jane prophetically enacted a symbolic requirement for cooking (which means, making conscious, bringing to consciousness) the inflated narcissism which the culture had seized upon in the Beat, the hippie and ongoing youth culture. Her face was forever a burned mask, slits for eyes (which thankfully could see), stubs for fingers which could stretch toward chords of Grateful Dead tunes. The boiling water is an image not only water and solutio but that process brought on by fire (in alchemy this fire process is call calcinatio).
To Be Continued