The other day a woman confided in me that she was terrified over a new promotion that she had received. An absolutely brilliant woman, she doubted that she could fill the shoes that she found herself now thrust into and worried that the interview required to ascend to the new position would go terribly wrong. Agonizing over how she might handle this, she sought my advice.
As I listened to her worry, I reflected on how common a problem this is. As time goes on, in my life and in my work, it becomes increasingly clear that we live in a world, that, for all of its overt promotions of independence and individualism, the individuals that we are, that is, the actual foundations of our being and our genuine power in life, is poorly supported by the foundations of the society in which we exist. The college students that I teach seem baffled by my suggestion that perhaps they already know the answers to the questions that they have, even though, time and again, this is proven to be true. The clients that I see, increasingly seem to feel that what lies within them is of little importance, has no meaning, possesses no intrinsic validity, and thus could never provide a basis for genuine knowledge.
Any deviation from a norm, no matter the fruit that it bears, must surely reflect defectiveness somehow. This state of affairs is symptomatic of the excessive externality and materiality of our collective worldview, and what is related to this, the loss of cognizance of the reality expressed in the inner world of images.
The modern view of psychopathology has it that we inherit, acquire, or develop defects, which, if we follow closely a scientific path, we may have some hope of surmounting. By pasting over the souls’ suffering nature with positivistic thoughts, medications, or heroic strength we can hold our weaker or more defective selves at bay.
The modern Ego, ever the hero, views nature, both within and without, as something to be overcome. There is no sense, as the poet Rumi said, that one needs to “ask the way to the well.” Nor any awareness of what Ralph Waldo Emerson said when he suggested that the hieroglyphs of nature could inform us directly with regard to any question we might have.
Damaged people all, we imagine our natures as tainted, and that somewhere lies a norm or ideal, to which we must conform if we wish to be made whole. We can learn the “right choice,” and turn away from the voice of the suffering soul. This turn is however almost invariably outward. Seldom do we consider that the difficulties and struggles that we endure in the process of living and becoming, the wounds that we bear, are a part of the process of life forging a new reality through us, one whose expression can only emerge from within us, through our process of living. More to the point, I am frequently brought back to wondering if our contemporary solutions to the problematics of the soul are, in fact, the greatest contributors to its suffering.
It could occur to us that acquiescence to a norm constructed by others, our unconscious inhabitation of a societal myth, delivers us, not only into a diminished state of being, but also into complicity with the aims of a society that seeks ascendency over nature at an unbearable cost, both personally and collectively. As Jurgen Moltmann once said, “Suffering in a superficial, activist, apathetic and therefor dehumanized society can be a sign of spiritual health.” (Moltmann, 1974, p.315).
But the issue may well be less our capacity to care than the relative alienation from ourselves and others brought about by our acquiescence to the “Reign of Quantity”, as Guenon called it. An un-compensated embeddedness within a myth that suggests to us that the manipulation of matter, and ourselves, can, and will, redeem us. It has not. Our failures of engagement with the nature within blinds us to the natures of others, and I dare say, has blinded us to our outward connection with the world around us. We are all less human for this and cannot see ourselves in them nor can we attribute to the world an aliveness that we have forgotten in ourselves.
Time will tell if we will be able to reclaim what for us is nothing less than the wisdom un-leased in us though what we often take to be our psychic defects. That beauty and depth which we would have returned to us, the salvation from our sense of alienation, our aloneness, and our uncertainty, appears to lie in the direction of reading the “hieroglyphs of nature”, as Emerson once called them. The higher writing of nature which, as the esoteric world knew, formed a covenant between humanity and a nature speaking directly to us in a language meant for us alone.
For my brilliant friend, with all of her worries, I doubt that any answer lies in calculating a painless path. It more likely lies in suffering the act of continuing to be herself, something of which she is eminently capable and to which she has an inalienable right. She has acted bravely, I must add. Life has responded. The opportunity that now lay at her doorstep was nothing other than the natural consequence of her striving to voice what was within her.
If you would like to reawaken your ability to dialogue with Life in its more confusing forms, listen to the lecture The Hidden Wisdom of Our Irrational Selves. In it, Mark Dean explores how we can rethink and re-experience our irrational selves in ways that draw us into a fuller relationship with the Soul. Learn More Here.
You can also learn to engage differently with the challenges and areas of ‘stuckness’ in your life, in the course Gibberish:Alchemy For Everyday Life with Robert Bosnak. You will experience how – within the more unknown and mysterious aspects of life – there is a living spirit that wants to help you shift your consciousness. Learn More Here.
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