S: SOUL & SPIRIT
S: SOUL AND SPIRIT
Soul sinks. Spirit soars.
Soul resides in the depths, spirit in the heights.
Different images of these words.
If we use the ordinary language of logic and law in trying to define what each means, we lose the essence of these image laden words. Let’s look at them metaphorically and imaginatively and hopefully get a better sense of why they initially need separation; and if they can both work together.
Soul does not attempt to escape the grittiness and hardships of life. Spirit seeks to transcend them and rise above them. Soul resides in the psyche in each individual though there are times when call a person soul-less. ‘S/he has no soul’. Spirit is formless, impersonal, abstract, the breath (pneuma) of God given to each of us from the moment of birth yet is always above and overshadowing us.
Soul resides in the vales (valleys), in the deep ground of our being. It is the raw material, the experiences we have on a daily basis, both good and not so good. It is in the blood, sweat and tears of everyday life, the precious salt of life, the dark of life, the depths, the swamps – the cooking, crooked, circular complexities of our being in e.g. relationships or on our own. It says yes: it is this and it is that also and all belong. Transformation happens in soul work, the deeper we go.
People who seek spiritual enlightenment very often seek them in the highest altitudes, those peaks where the light is bright and piercing. Illuminating? Often it is a solitary journey, leaving the soul behind, in ascent of spirit. It is usually goal oriented, seeking inspiration, absolute truth, yearning to be inspirited in those distant, superior lofty heights. The linear approach to spirit says: it is this and not that.
Is there a middle position between the two?
Do we experience soul in the world, and is spirit a split off from the soul? Can they be reconciled? It is of immense value to have a spiritual vision, one of divine perfection. But this is an ideal, and is not necessarily ‘of the world’, this world in which we live. Can they be metaphorically, mystically married? Can the one animate the other? Can each feed into the other using our gift of imagination to bring these two closer together?
John Keats: (In letters to his sister Georgiana) “Call the world, if you please, the vale of soul-making. Then you will find out the use of the world”.
R: REJECTION, REPRESSION & RESISTANCE
OT: Psalms 118 vs 22 “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’’.
Our history is littered with events of overt rejection and repression that are clearly recognizable and with which we are familiar. The ‘other’ is too often rejected and repressed, or resisted against.
But what of less clearly recognizable ‘events’ of, and in, the psyche? Those more covert ways in which we reject others, or we reject what we don’t like in ourselves and thus seek to repress them? Or we resist asking ourselves what role we played in situations that did not work out. Are we even aware of these dynamics repeatedly going on, in ourselves and towards others?
Anything that is rejected, repressed and resisted within ourselves, or without, or simply buried in the hopes that it will never be unearthed, will always find a way out, in fateful manner, for good or ill. That which has been banished will always return, albeit in a different guise in its natural bid for expression (e.g. Lilith in guise of serpent in the Garden of Eden).
We know that sometimes our illness is psychosomatic, e.g. raised blood pressure, a skin rash, a dark mood, a stomachache or worse. This may be the result of denied and unexpressed feelings of rage and anger, even towards our most beloved.
What are we to do with these unexpressed dark, unhappy emotions? Those highly charged emotions are meant to disturb us and are valuable for that very reason – they want our attention; they want to be recognized for what they are and not lie festering in unreachable places. They want to brought out into the open and reconciled with ourselves in some constructive way.
Too often, we project onto the ‘other’, though the ‘other’ may well be the ‘other’ in you, which requires a willingness to step into those disowned and unknown parts of ourselves. Hard work, yes. And if we are still under the yoke of our patriarchal conditioning, it is quite possible that we unconsciously fear that any questioning or displays of anger or disagreement may result in a punishment, rejection and banishment similar to that meted out to Lilith and Eve.
So, we need courage – to not resist getting to know ourselves better, to not repress what rightfully belongs, and not reject the cornerstone. If we can dig, and dig some more, into the reaches of our psyches, we may find the treasure or the Philosopher’s Stone that resides there.
If one does not reject, repress and resist what we are, and rather considers it in a new way, using the skills of differentiation, discrimination and discernment, one may change one’s thinking and feeling about the situation – in the inner and outer – and ponder it anew.
Don’t ignore what seems to be irrational. Give them their due. Be responsible for yourself. Reality is freeing. Illusions keep us bound.
Q: QUO VADIS?
The words spoken by Peter to Christ : Quo Vadis – Whither goest thou?
The song by Diana Ross : Do you know where we’re going to, do you know …?
I quake when I observe all that is going on in the world.
I have qualms about our planet and the damage to Mother Nature
I query bank charges and government policy
I hate queues and will not wait for a restaurant table
I quiz myself often about my purpose in life
I walk, cook and read quickly
I love reading about historical quests and wonder about my own
I love quotes
I am fascinated by quantum physics where the wave is also a particle
Quarks are also interesting
I sometimes want to call it quits when faced with my untidy study
The question is sometimes more important than the answer
I wonder about my allocated quota for the time left to live
The British Queen Elizabeth is gracious and I love Queen the music rock star
I sometimes have to get quarantine shots if travelling abroad
I am not mad about quince
I love quartz crystals
Some doctors are quacks
How to quell my desire for quality chocolate is ongoing
People who quibble over inconsequentials are irritating
Old and quaint are often lovely as in quill pens
I sometimes feel as if I am stepping into quicksand if I take on too much
I qualify as mother wife sister friend writer wonderer
I love night time when all is quiet and quarrels are forgotten
quarries can be dangerous if fascinating
Mac quarter pounders? My sons love them
Ok, enough already – But the movie ‘The Quartet’ was wonderful and quixotic
and my husband always has a quip to make even though the subject matter is serious
Is reconciliation possible between the few opposites I have listed below? Is there any value in uniting those opposites? Is there a centre? Are they opposites or do they belong to each other, two sides of coin, part of a larger cycle?
acceptance : rejection
peace : war
light : dark
good : bad
spirit : matter
day : night
angel : devil
strength : weakness
saint : sinner
They seem to lie so far apart from one another and we may inclined to identify with one side of the pole over the other; if not for ourselves, then we view the one pole as more ‘ideal’.
But, like the moon, we darken and there are times that the devil gets into us and we enact in some way our darker impulses and then we wonder how we, ‘angels’ as we view ourselves, or the person who we thought was ‘above’ such action could have been so devilish. Somehow the unconscious within, seems to act counter to the wishes of the conscious mind.
We do meet these opposites in our every day lives. I know from personal experience and from wondering about them as to how it was possible for example, that I could have both the sinner and saint within me. I can be manic one moment and depressed the next. I can feel optimistic about life in general and an incident can have me swinging over to the other side. I know that I can be creative one moment and hugely destructive the next in relation to e.g. food whereby I had been mindful for several days of exercise and good eating habits, then in a fit of something (unconsciousness), will undo all the good that has been done.
All the opposites reside within our psyches. We ALL contain the polarities of good and evil, agony and ecstasy, sainthood and sinfulness, bliss and pain. Things are seldom ‘either-or’. When we are racked by conflict, we can be sure that an opposite has been activated within. The task is to hold the tension between the two until a symbol reconciling the two appears. After one has differentiated the opposites, a third, uniting factor can appear. Both poles are necessary although at timed we experience only one pole for a while. We sit in that uncomfortable place even if the destructive dimension is more apparent.
We know that our weakness can turn into our strength. What we may perceive as our vulnerabilities may in fact be our strength if we can work it out.
This is a vast subject and I have definitely bitten off more than I can chew. It was an over reaching on my side to attempt to write about this in 500 words or less. But I hope that this brief glimpse into the opposites gives you something to chew on.
And I sincerely hope that from the tragedy of the Boston bombing, for the survivors and their families, for all those grieving and for all of America, some light will shine on this terrible darkness.
It is a Dark Day for
Boston and the marathoners; for all of America. My deepest sympathies are with you all for this terrible tragedy. May the law take its course and the perpetrator/s be brought to justice.
Some of our South Africans are among the injured as they were crossing the finish line. Our president has sent his condolences to your president and expressed our outrage at this.
Night has fallen too soon for too many …
I’m writing about the dark night of the soul – that deep, dense, dark, desert-dry, dreaded silence where even God does not answer. Our souls lose connection with everything in the world and with God. No one can reach us. It is too deep, even beyond pain. It is a ‘disintegration’; a spiritual or existential crisis par excellence. There is no meaning in life. There is no way out, all doors are closed and bolted. The night is dense indeed.
Many of us have experienced the ‘dark night’ in some way or the other. Deep grief and loss on the death of a loved one, illness, breakdown of a marriage, loss of secure job, betrayal by friend, rejection, coming to a stage in our lives where there seems to be no meaning in it any more. The empty nest syndrome is very real where the mother has no identity other than being the caretaker for her offspring. The list is endless. We do not enter into this willingly.
Those who are severely depressed, experience this on an ongoing basis. If they are in a state of immobilisation and unable to work effectively, they may be fortunate enough to make use of safe medically prescribed drugs. Others may seek the help of a skilled therapist who can act as a safe ‘container’ for their ‘dark night’. Yet, many others seek a way out of escaping that darkness by means of inter alia drugs, drink, food, or throwing their energies into work, work, work, avoiding relationship with their partners.
Can we escape this metaphoric darkness? I doubt it. Can we listen to what our soul is saying to us by way of e.g. dreams and pay them the attention they deserve? If we can acknowledge the ‘shadow’ that we each have in the dark recesses of our psyche, meet the dragon and come to terms with it, we may be able to lighten the dark. Is it something that we can apply a band-aid to and be done with it? No. It needs to be suffered through, allowed to incubate, turn blacker if necessary and our fragility and vulnerability is to be honoured.
The deep night ultimately does give way to the dawn – the darkness though, needs to be made conscious.
C.G. Jung says: ‘Right at the beginning you meet the dragon, the chthonic spirit, the devil or, as the alchemists called it, the blackness, the nigredo, and this encounter produces suffering’. Jung saw this deepening stage as necessary for the individuation of the individual, i.e. for coming a wholeness of `Self’.
M: MONDAY: MOON DAY
I hope you all had a great weekend!
So, another week into the A-Z and we are halfway through! ‘M’ is the 13th letter of the alphabet; 13 more to go. 13? – lucky number? Why not –
Monday is mostly assumed to be the first day of the week, as this is the day that people go back to work, those who hold 9-5 jobs and children go back to school. But it really is the second day of the week, Sunday being the day on which the new week begins.
I look at my diary now to double check what lies ahead; what I’ve noted down and what I’ve forgotten to note. What on earth will I write for ‘N’ for the A-Z? I can think of nothing – maybe I’ll write about ‘nothingness’. ‘O’? oh no …
The Greeks named the days after the sun, the moon and the 5 known planets, Ares, Hermes, Zeus, Aphrodite and Cronus. Sun’s day became Sunday. Moon’s Day became Monday.
The Sun Day is bright and visible; the moon, earth’s own satellite, represents night and the unseen with its zillions of stars beyond.
I love this acknowledgement of the moon and its historical and etymological association with Monday. She stands for the feminine principle:yin, and her receptivity to the sun:male, yang, whose lights she reflects. Although she produces no light of her own and projects the light of the sun, this ‘mirroring’ is a profound metaphoric way of illuminating the dark as well as her relation to the (male) Sun. She is queen of the night; responsible inter alia for the changing tides; some plant according to the moon cycle; women’s menstruation (menstruation means moon change – and perhaps lunacy at this time?); the movement of the celestial bodies –
I look out of my bedroom balcony on a clear night and see where the moon is in its phases – waning: symbolic of letting go and incubating; new moon: symbolic of rebirth; waxing: on the way to fullness; full moon: fullness, peak …
Like the Moon, the month has its phases, neatly divided up into four weeks with a bit of overlap on either side. Before we know it Monday has arrived, then the next, and the next, and all of a sudden we are into another month already!
According to the Midrash*, Lilith was born at the same time as Adam in the Garden of Eden and thus they were equal. Because of Lilith’s refusal to be submissive to Adam and the ensuing argument in which Adam refused to see Lilith’s side of the story, she was banished to the depths of the Red Sea to be never seen or heard of again. But she does re-appear, in the guise of the serpent who offered Eve the apple, and hence was instrumental in Adam and Eve’s exile. In psychological terms, this banishment is referred to as the ‘Rise’ of man, and not the ‘Fall’as it is seen as necessary to get out of unconsciousness and to strive for consciousness.
Lilith has a seriously bad reputation. She is viewed inter alia as a whore, responsible for the death of new borns, men’s wet dreams at night (to sap their strength), Bride of Satan… In her demonised form she is indeed frightening and threatening.
She is seen as all we are NOT, she who is the container for the dark and earthy creative feminine. We have all sought to repress her through our projections. We have put her out there, as not belonging to us and the hard work is bringing her in again, allowing her into our psyches to her rightful place within us.
If we can relate to her in a more compassionate way we can see in her, some of ourselves. We all get into horribly dark places at times, when we feel unloved, unappreciated, unvalued, unfairly treated, exiled even from ourselves and we feel that dark, destructive and dangerous energy rising. Too often we act out our feelings of rage and despair, stuffing ourselves with food, whiskey, drugs, anything, to rid us, numb us, of those uncomfortable feelings and emotions.
What are we to do with that energy? Do we disregard it as too foreign to ourselves, too black? Can we bring this dark Lilith energy out the shadows and connect to it in a different way, releasing some of its demonic powers by acknowledging her? Any dark energy stored in darkness tends to become distorted and, if so disregarded, it turns against us to our detriment.
Her energetic force arose as a result of opposition and suppression. Her spirit was broken but not indefinitely. If we bathe her, wash and cleanse her with our tears she will be redeemed and transformed. We need to cleanse her from the socially conditioned and condoned guilt that we have taken it upon ourselves to suffer. Can we reach deep inside ourselves and connect to the core of our sadness, anger and wounding and allow healing to take place allowing the feminine divine to be restored?
It is important to be aware of her divine and demonic powers. She is not to be cast out and banished. She needs to be redeemed through our conscious awareness of her.
Barbara Koltuv, in her book The Book of Lilith says: ‘Experiencing Lilith in her many forms is part of the process of giving birth to the feminine self‘. (italics mine)
Hannelore Traugott, German Lilith expert: ‘ .. Lilith…is striving to become conscious again. Let’s call it archaic energy, spiritual femininity, something akin to the wisdom of the goddess. As long as we don’t have access to this energy we experience it psychologically as loss, suppression, isolation, emptiness, addiction and above all, power struggles’.
* Midrash: Rabbinic study into the spirit of the scriptures for a larger understanding.
** Oil painting by John Coller, 1887
JUNG: CARL GUSTAV: 1875-1961
This is a quote by C.G. Jung in CW 9 : AION: 126
“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves”. (emphases mine)
The above picture to the left of the A-Z badge shows light falling onto the surrounding darkness. It is meant to show metaphorically, that when we look into our own souls and the darkness that resides within, and if we actively acknowledge it, its power is reduced and the light will shine.
The quote speaks to the unknown within us that yearns to be known. That hidden stranger who waits patiently in the wings, who is willing to guide us so they we may be a little more whole, within and without.
For the purpose of today’s A-Z blog challenge, I am using only a very few powerful quotes of Jung’s which are worthy of reflection.
‘Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity’.
‘Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people’.
‘We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses’.
‘Where loves rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other’.
‘We deem those happy who from the experience of life have learned to bear its ills without being overcome by them’.
Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil, Switzerland. He trained as psychiatrist and formed a friendship with Sigmund Freud which after several years (1907-1913) ended. He was the founder of analytical psychology which emphasises the individual coming to know him/herself and in becoming what one truly is.
IMAGE & IMAGINATION.
Einstein famously said: ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’.
He replied when asked by parents who wanted to know how to enhance their children’s intelligence: ‘If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales‘.
Why is this do you think?
The short answer is that the child uses its imagination when hearing or reading the story. There is a fascination about dragons that need to be overcome, dungeons to be explored; or the wicked stepmother lurking in the shadows, or the helpful bird that saves the day; and also a fascination of tales that do not have a neat and happy story line. Children may not have the emotional understanding to relate the tale to their own lives, but it resonates in some way as the fairy tale or myth expresses essential truths about the human condition in a metaphoric way.
As adults we also get lost in gripping tales as images come to mind. We may know that we are not literally Parsifal in search of the Holy Grail; yet in some way we sense that we too seek redemption and healing; and it seems that we too have to go metaphorically through TS Eliot’s ‘wasteland’ as life challenges us.
Image and imagination are inextricably linked. Knowledge is fixed (I’m not knocking knowledge); imagination has no boundaries. The image that emerges from eg a dream requires that it NOT be fixed forever but that it is given room to breath and, more especially, that I engage in it, and allow it the attention that it demands of me and let it act as a psychopomp or daimon (guide) as it changes, moves, up or down, is fed by other images, enlarges, darkens, brightens, surprises and leads me ‘towards‘ – whatever that may be.
Does the artist know the outcome of his painting as his paint brush hovers about the canvas? Does the writer know the final outcome of his words? The poet? Of course there may be an idea of where the work is intended to go – the plan – but as the artist knows, the muse or the imagination may take him or her to places where they never imagined, the door will be kept open, imagery will flow and they will feel the richer for it entering into the ground of uncertainty.
The wound of the Fisher King (the Grail Keeper) is healed and transformation happens when Parcifal poses the socially uncomfortable yet conscious question:’Whom does the Grail serve?’ It is a metaphor for the question we could ask of ourselves as we play with the image using our imagination.
H : HAIR
On the one hand, I don’t care much about my hair; on the other hand –
Sometimes look in the mirror and think o no! NOW’s the time to have it cut, maybe the roots done, a flash or three here – or, and a big or, to wait awhile, maybe do the roots myself in the bathroom quickly, at much less cost and think about a cut, shape and style another time, when I have time.
Too many times I have done the hair colour myself and it’s been much too dark and perfectly horrible.
Many years ago I would take my sons as schoolchildren to George the Greek barber, until the day I asked him if he would cut my hair. It’s short you see – yes, he said, he would. I am no longer fazed by the peculiar looks of others – mostly much, much older men in the barber shop (or the mothers of boys) when I dash up the road to George for a quick trim. I get very fazed though a day or so later when I actually hate the hair cut he’s given me and then I make an appointment with Derek, at the hair salon. Which is what happened last week. The previous week I’d dashed up to George just for a slight trim thinking the following week or the week after (this week), that I would have my roots done. It looked fine that day after George had cut it; the next day it was horrible and in the ensuing days it looked just terrible. Seriously awful – I was down in the dumps. So I made an appointment at the salon with Derek this past week for a proper shape and to have the roots done.
Derek (Vidal Sassoon trained (I know – from one extreme to the other) is used to me coming to him to fix my folly. We had an interesting discussion. He maintains that the obsession with hair is a form of addiction, not unlike alcoholism, drugs, retail therapy or any other form of addiction. Instant gratification is what is required he says. He says that it is extraordinary how women allow their hair to be tortured into shapes that their hair really doesn’t want to go. The amounts of money that women spend on their hair would make me gasp he said. We talked about hair – most people he said don’t have good hair, it’s too thick or too thin, or they suffer hair loss.
Well, I was intrigued, especially given my need for instant gratification when I am not happy with my hair (inter alia). On occasion while travelling to exotic places, I have stopped by the roadside where hair is being cut and had a quick trim. Actually, I have done this several times and if not at the roadside, then in cities other than my own – searched for a salon that can take me NOW. A frisson of excitement –
A tiny bit of google research yields interesting information ..
Hair expresses what we are and wish to be –
Ancient civilisations: our thoughts dwell in the hair – and maybe it’s true –
It is our skin’s expression; it communicates us; it has message and sensuality; it has a biologic function but we ornament it, giving it a social meaning –
Within its chemistry, the hair keeps our mood and the memory of our ailments –
Maybe in a 2000 years, somebody could take a look on our hair (sic) and know something about us –
The above excerpted from: thehistoryofthehairsworld.com
So, for the moment I am happy with my hair re-shaped and roots done, rescued from my folly by Derek. Next week I will have some flashes or highlights or whatever they are called, by Derek at the salon. Or maybe later on this week – I’ll see when I look at my hair tomorrow, or the next day and check out my satisfaction or otherwise.
I wonder what this all means?
In memory of the Holocaust.
– Genesis: ‘Origins’. The Hebrew word ‘Beresheet’ meaning ‘In the beginning’ –
Have you ever had the desire to read the Bible, from beginning to end? I have, but I haven’t accomplished this. I sometimes read parts of it for research which often becomes sheer pleasure. But I mostly read psychological expositions on it which I find extremely illuminating, by authors whose purpose is to show (inter alia) that while the place and setting, circumstances good or ill have drastically changed, the dynamics of the human condition have changed little. We continue to search for meaning in our lives, for our sense of identity, connection to our neigbour, a connection to our soul -.
Interestingly, the Bible gives no biography of God – we are introduced to Him by His actions which were all good and creative for example: light is created to balance the darkness (ignorance).
He creates Adam and then Eve as a catalyst for his growth, so they that they can be in relationship and dependent upon each other as equals. Yet God is genderless and so it’s interesting that He creates them in His own image. What does this mean? God is surely infinite; so does this mean that we too have an infinite capacity to grow? To keep on developing our potential and our identity – and not be defined by anyone else’s? So that we have, or find within us, the ability to journey to find our own soulful centre?
Adam and Eve each denied that they were to blame for eating the apple. But we see in their expulsion from Paradise that, with this, paradoxically, came the gift of free will, with accountability and responsibility as its partner. And, we gain a psychological insight into the power of denial. The universal story of growing up and leaving home – leaving established boundaries and voyaging into the unknown is apparent.
Cain and Abel – blessed first borns to Adam and Eve – what can we learn from this tragic fratricide? The Lord says to Cain when He questions Cain’s sadness at Abel’s offerings being preferred: ‘But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it. And to you shall be its desire, and yet you may rule over it’. God essentially tells Cain that denial will not be accepted and that he has the choice to make the right decision. Cain’s violent impulse was not restrained and he kills his brother. He then challenges God ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (denying accountability yet again) and is bereft when he is cast out, marked on his forehead, nevertheless with the mercy of God upon him. Thus begins the separation of nations ..
What can we infer from this, today? It’s extremely tricky for me. Was God capricious in favouring Abel’s offering over Cain’s and why allow Cain to live albeit in exile? Why was Abel’s murder not prevented? Is this the first instance of evil winning over good? Does it illustrate the inherent evil in us so graphically enacted? Was this an unjust death? So often this is how it is … God’s favoured ones die unjust and undeserved deaths.
Was Cain envious of his brother as happens within the family? A child who perceives rightly or wrongly that its parent/s favours his sibling over him/her, feels a rejection in the ground of its being. I can only infer that Cain’s violent anger arose from extreme envy. How can we tame the beast that crouches at our door? Sibling rivalry or rivalry between our colleagues, friends, envy between groups, cultures, countries is ever present, in today’s world.
If the first few chapters are read with a psychological and contemporary eye we can see the potency of these human stories. They do not contain sweet and simple tales with happy endings. Rather, the allegories in just these two stories, highlight the contradictions and extreme difficulties and sufferings we all face in our daily lives. We can temper the sadnesses by generating growth in our lives by seeking deeper and deeper – and remembering our genesis –
And which helps me believe in the unfolding of our souls, throughout our lives.