Archive for November 20th, 2009

Rene Descartes announced with bold certitude, “I think, therefore, I am.” The Cartesian dictum has had profound effects on Western thought and practice, and, as far as it goes, has propelled our movement from magical thinking to science. All things, however, have a downside, and the inherent liabilities inevitably surface. Thinking without feeling, or the other way around, falls well short of the heights of conscious experience to which human beings aspire.

Among Carl Jung’s greatest and most important contributions and discoveries is recognition of the need to integrate the feeling, thinking, and instinctive functions. The Self is an amalgam of these functions. For each person, one of the three is often better developed than the other two.

Thinking types show clear preference for rational analysis, weighing of pros and cons with systematic discipline, and they value integrity of argument. Feeling types place a premium on emotional impression, a reading of morale, mood, and the enablement of psychological safety, and supportive and encouraging environments and relationships. The intuitive preference measures reality against experience and invests in neither analysis nor emotional tone, but in a gut sense of what seems best given precedent.

The goal of meditation, prayer, self-analysis, and formal analytic psychotherapy is to draw attention to the intersection of the three functions. Giving full expression to the Self emerging at that nexus is the heart of the care of souls.

Feelings of sympathy without reflection swiftly degrade to sentimentality, whereas reflective feeling is authentic attunement to others. For example, on hearing that an acquaintance has lost a loved one, many express their condolences in Hallmark language and with cliche expressions: s/he – has gone to a better place, is beyond suffering, or, the most inane, “looks good” on attending a wake with open casket.

When his wife Joy died, C.S. Lewis responded to such well-intentioned and awkward assurances by saying:

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolation of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. The conclusion is not “So there’s no God, after all” but “So this is what God is really like, the Cosmic Sadist. The spiteful imbecile?”

Thinking without feeling, however, is cold calculation, impersonal, and detached. While science prizes this attitude, mature science begins in imagination, and is increasingly dependent on dialogue and collaboration, and comes with ever greater responsibility to consider consequences.

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” Albert Einstein

Unfeeling rationality appears daily in the roll-out of new technologies. Too often, we introduce the “next big thing”  simply because we can. We invent it,  manufacture it,  and then make money on it. More often than not, we do all this with hardly a thought for the human and environmental consequences of doing so.

Ongoing research on the  impact of genetically engineered plants on insect communities (e.g., honeybees) is one case in point. Cell phones are another. Besides the ways in which addiction to them have forever displaced civility in public places, cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation that may affect the brain by increasing the risk of tumors from frequent exposure to cell signals ( especially when they are weak) when phones are held up to the ear, or when Bluetooth headsets are placed inside the ear: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/135974/Mobile-use-is-linked-to-brain-tumours

Nuclear fission and fusion have certainly led to advances in nuclear medicine along with threatening us with the modern nightmare of nuclear Armageddon. While it has been repeatedly argued that the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved lives, there are many who think otherwise. It’s undeniable, in any event, that the 21st Century specter of portable nuclear device detonations in a post-9-11 world is all too plausible.

The epitome of humanity is not the exercise of reason while dismissing feeling, nor is it about feeling unexamined in the light of reason. Reasoned feeling coupled with intuition reconditions the Mind. The fruit of this alchemical shift is authentic rather than, what one zen master has called “idiot” compassion. It is fellow-feeling rooted in genuine insight. Acting in the service of peace is a telling sign of mature consciousness. Even a casual glance at a newspaper or a few hours of evening news presents more than enough evidence that this maturity is in short supply.

Carl Jung deeply explored the need for integration of the feeling and rational functions. His recently published private notes, The Red Book, stands as clear evidence of Jung’s life-long study of himself, including the analysis of his own dreams. His own private struggles with self-knowledge was the most important aspect of his ability to peer into the world of the psyche, (conscious, unconscious and collective unconscious).[http://www.amazon.com/Red-Book-C-G-Jung/dp/0393065677]

Throughout his work, Jung puts a  premium on facing the shadow, and integrating it into the ego. In doing so, one lives more fully, freed of otherwise imprisoning fears and neurotic compensations (complexes). Thus unburdened, we can reconnect to the archetypes that inform, shape, and guide the Psyche. We come into more direct contact with the great mystery at the Center of the All as we look at the imagery that surfaces in our thoughts and dreams.

Heidegger and Hegel, both philosophers of Being and Mind, arrived at the conclusion, in their later years, that the language best suited to Knowing is poetry. Poetry (whether rhyming or prose) is a more fluid language that invites a blending of the three functions of psyche. For example, we can speak in rational narrative of the structure and physiology of plants and talk about their lives in an antiseptic and clinical manner, or intuit the mystery of plants by reading Michael Pollan or a poem by Dylan Thomas ” The force that through the green fuse drives the flower ….,” and look upon them more as subject than object.

The practical implication is that our own spirituality is well served by keeping a daily journal of our own moments of fear, anger, attraction, and avoidance, relating to them through our poetic intelligence and aesthetic insights. This offers us a divine sanctuary into which we can retreat each day. In this way, the Mind can realize unfettered sight, crystal clarity, and union with the Divine.

By taking a little time each day, we get to live our lives in many more dimensions. Time doesn’t merely pass, but it takes on breadth and depth. Revisiting our journals further insures that we are not living life as just an endless listing of activities. Instead, our experiences and the thoughts and feelings they inspire converge. We cultivate a new sense – a spiritual 6th sense. A sense that represents the next evolutionary stage of consciousness.

This is the Knowledge of the Heart, the prayerful study of the Beloved Within Us, an intelligent and alive devotion to the Real and the all; the one in the many.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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