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Posts Tagged ‘The Call

Trapped In The Belly Of The Whale

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Are you a sensible, down-to-earth, broad-minded, interesting person?
(Modest, aren’t you.)
If you think you’re in control – guess again.
We delude ourselves when we think we can control our feelings. Here’s what Jung has taught me recently:

Stage 1. The Change
We think we’re in control but then the world throws a surprise our way – from the nasty divorce to the tram not turning to up.

Stage 2. The Blockage
Our attitude needs adjustment but there is a tendency to get upset, to blame the world for not living up to our expectations. (This causes an emotional blockage.)

Stage 3. The Split
We try to rationalize the shock. We split the world into pairs of opposites – was it this, or that? But it clearly wasn’t me at fault – we can see no easy way out so we shrug and go to the pub. But the doubt won’t go away – “What is wrong with me?” we ask – so we lock down and force our attitudes even stronger. They become one-sided and brittle, liable to snap at any moment.

Stage 4. Retreat Inside
Then, eventually, we snap! releasing some of that blocked psychic energy – we become possessed by an inner demon and do something nasty. This is a natural reaction – our psyche, sensing the blockage, eases the pressure on the opposites, and retreats into our rejected unconscious. This is projected outwards and up come our forgotten infantile traumas, sexual taboos. We are plagued by unjustified fears and bizarre desires. We are in limbo.

Stage 5. Search for a Solution
But the psyche thrusts the unconscious onto us for a reason – in the hope that we will find a useful baby among the bathwater we thought we didn’t need in our narrowly conscious mind. The problem is, the longer we searching for this “baby”, the longer we’ll spend lingering in this unhappy and irrational state.

This is all very interesting, I’m sure, but I was having a read of this theory of Jung’s when it suddenly occurred to me why it is that modern life is in a bit of a destructive degeneration.

In the past, attitudes were largely inspired and maintained by religious convictions. Through the unconscious references of a prime myth, the conscious and unconscious were brought into line. In this respect, there was One Truth – the truth of the Eleusinian Mysteries, or of the Bible or Koran. In olden times, within their cultural horizons, the great myths were perfectly in synch with the current scientific knowledge, the current view of the universe, the current social order and they gave the individual a definite place in his world, inspiring a sense of completeness and meaning throughout life.

But then, Stage 1. The Change:
Some surprises fell our way – we discovered the world was not flat, the sun didn’t go round the Earth, and, responding, the social order became rationally determined not decreed by God.

Stage 2. The Blockage:
The myth is cast into doubt; conscious and unconscious are no longer flowing smoothly. We vent our uncertainty with violence and repression. (There is a tendency to blame the world, i.e. ‘immoral heretics’, for not living up to Revelation.)

Then, Stage 3. The Split:
The mythology breaks into opposites – light versus dark – something called the Devil must (somehow) be to blame. (The One Church splits into hundreds of differing denominations, as the collective psyche breaks into fragments.) None of this helps, so the playful myth is forced into a set of inflexible rules, becoming one-sided and brittle (and so we say, nowadays, it is “bullshit”). The believers become crusty and extreme in an attempt to hold off their own doubts, while the rest of us are isolated from our subconscious, get cocky and blame the government, those rich people, those dole-bludgers, the misguided political left or right, or those immoral Jews/Blacks/Homosexuals.

Then comes Stage 4. The Retreat Inside:
Out streams the unconscious. Up wells the infantile desires, and compulsive fears – the need for “security”, the desire for meaningless sex, the lack of compassion and maturity, and overall, a great emptiness – a feeling of dissatisfaction with the world. We are alone in the universe because we’re out of touch with our insides. And we seek to distract ourselves with fads, techno gadgets, political outcries, sexual dalliances and violent outrage.

Stage 5. Search for a Solution
There is no solution of course, as we have no spiritual order. All of the myths are dead. But we have forgotten that the psyche thrusts the unconscious onto us for a reason.

It’s as if we have lost a precious diamond (spiritual wholeness) and every day, we get up and crawl through slime and rubbish and excrement (our projected unconscious) to find it. It is bleak and unpleasant but some days we come across some excitingly heady odours and some racy novelties – low, sexy, repressed infantile things. And as time wears on, we begin to think that these things are all there is to life.

We are all ‘In The Belly of the Whale’. Every story has a beginning, middle and end (Act 1, Act 2, Act3). Writer David Mamet tells us that in act 1 the hero sets out on quest with a clear goal – say, to find the lost diamonds. In Act 2, he gets lost in the underworld (like Jonah (or Pinocchio) in the whale) and even forgets what his goal was. As Mamet puts it, “It’s hard to remember you set out to drain the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators.” We are searching in the dustbin in order to find something. (In musical terms, we are in the development section in search of a recapitulation.) The hero must fight on in spite of the temptress from the deep. The message is: don’t give up.

(This is why romances and melodramas offer only destructive distraction. The hero succeeds because of his own magical brilliance – he succeeds by co-incidence or super-human powers or because he has a bigger gun – and we all end happily ever after without undertaking any effort. We are encouraged to think that success and enlightenment comes easily. We are encouraged to give up when we face similar challenges and don’t find them resolved quite so easily.)

Scary Whale

Joseph Campbell tells us, “You cannot invent a myth any more than you can predict what dream you’ll have tonight.” We have no universal myth and can’t just make one. But we can take the hint and try to find our own, all you need to do is answer The Call.

What is The Call? The hero is off in the woods hunting when he sees a beautiful bird and follows it. The bird leads him out of the known world into the mysterious world of the subconscious depths. Each of us has our call. Many of us don’t know what it is, have forgotten what it is, or have repressed it. It will be something personal. It will be something you have a predilection for, something that is not easy but, when it comes to doing this thing – whatever it may be, you could well be ‘The Chosen One’. It may be a dream-job, or an artistic gift you never pursued. Jung suggests thinking about what you did when playing as a child. For Jung, it was playing with building blocks. He found great fulfillment and rewards in building his own home from scratch. When you deny The Call, life dries up.

So answer The Call. Do not let the temptations and deprivations of the unconscious distract you from your goal. If each of us took the time to find that something that ‘activates your being’, we can all slowly begin the journey out of the belly of the whale and into a new beginning. There is huge social pressure nowadays to focus on the economic and the “productive” – these are hollow goals on their own. If we all took the trouble to find out what truly motivates and satisfies us each in our own way for its own sake, there would be no need to project our own dissatisfactions onto to anything or anyone. (Why commit crime when you are satisfied in your soul? Hell, even advertising and political coercion doesn’t turn you head when you are living with spiritual wholeness.) Only you can save your Self.

The first step of this process is to become conscious of the existence of the unconscious – with what your feelings are telling you. (And for heaven’s sake, explore the old myths, but read them psychologically, as metaphors.) And start the search for your goal. My personal suggestion: seriously consider whether you need to work quite as much as you do, especially if you are under 30 and do not have a family of your own. I would encourage everyone to ask themselves why they are working full time. Are you meeting your basic requirements or are you simply living out of restlessness or convention? In today’s fractured and spiritually-undeveloped world, if you follow the dictates of any kind of mass creed – whether religious, political or just ‘popular opinion’ – you are not living your own life. Do you spend money just to pass the time, just to distract yourself from looking within, from facing what seems to be an empty void? Fill it with passion not possessions. In this day and age, doing anything simply because everyone else does it is the most demoralizing activity you could possibly do. Take the time to find something genuine – the spark that brings your being up above the waves so you can swim in the unconscious sea instead of drowning.

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Written by tomtomrant

5 September 2009 at 10:05 pm

Posted in myth, philosophy

Tagged with , , , ,