Physicians of the Soul
“Engaging and relevant, ROBERT M. May’s analysis of the teachings of Lao Tzu, Moses, Jesus, Guatama Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad -and new to this twentieth anniversary edition, a chapter on Native Amercan holy woman White Buffalo Woman- is an absolute delight to read. May is a lecturer and teacher on the topics of religion, philosophy, psychology, and mythology, and he correlates the continuum of these wisdom teachings to their place in modern psychology. As inspiring as it is informative, the book is an excellent work for scholar, teacher, student and seeker alike.” (White Cloud Press, 2003). SHIFT, JUNE-AUGUST 2004
I wanted to share with you five new endorsements I received, 2003-2004, for my second edition of Physicians of the Soul: Brooke Medicine Eagle, a Native American woman author (two books), Dr. Larry Dossey, the medical doctor author of 9 books on prayer and healing, Lisa Whitlow, D.Min., a pastoral counselor, Rev. Luther Peterson, a retired Lutheran pastor and Christian Spiritual Teacher, and Aisha Rafea, a Muslim woman author and sister of Sufi Master, Ali Rafea.
“Whew, life is intense and most interesting right now. I’ve finally had a few minutes to look over your wonderful book. I appreciate the depth of inquiry you have expressed in Physicians of the Soul. Your inclusion and discussion of the importance of White Buffalo Calf Woman is stellar, and gives us the holy perspective of Oneness with All Things which must be the touchstone of our existence on this sweet Earth. Thanks so much for all you offer.” Brooke Medicine Eagle, Author of Buffalo Woman Comes Singing and The Last Ghost Dance
“Dr. Robert May has written one of the most valuable descriptions of the key figures in the world’s great religions that has appeared in decades. This is an important contribution. Our world is currently aflame with suspicion and misunderstanding between faiths, and May’s penetrating insights radiate the tolerance and love that are required to heal our world. May’s descriptions wisely preserve the precious differences between faiths, but also point to the unifying threads common to all of them. This book is valuable for anyone wishing to cultivate his or her personal spiritual life, and also for all those who wish to spread understanding between faiths.” Larry Dossey, M.D., Author: Healing Beyond the Body, Reinventing Medicine, Healing Words, and others
“Dear Dr. May,
I just had to let you know that your book is a masterpiece! I have been a student of religious traditions for many years and have been convinced that a common thread runs through them all. You articulate it beautifully. I am a counselor/spiritual director and also teach – your book is invaluable. When can we expect a next book? If you have time, I would love to have you answer this question: How would you define ‘spirit’ and how would you define ‘soul?’ I find that the two become hopelessly muddled for me Blessings to you and your loved ones.” Lisa Whitlow, M.A., D.Min.., Kansas City
“Hi Robert, Here it is finally! What a crazy time I have had trying to get at the computer to do this. Anyhow, I am happy to do this. I hope this will be useful. I have not read anything before that does such a careful, insightful, and interesting job of analyzing and comparing the world’s great religions and their founders. PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL by Dr. Robert May also brings a wealth of psychological insights to spiritual claims and experiences and an enrichment of spiritual light to psychological phenomena. In a world where religious fanatics continue to attack one another and everyone else, mislead their followers, and spread confusion and hostility everywhere, PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL is a refreshing, clarifying and much needed work. I hope it will be widely used in classrooms as well as for individual enlightenment.” Rev. Luther E. Peterson, B.A., M.Div., Pastor Emeritus of St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota
PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL by Robert M. May is a genuine work by all measures because different levels of knowledge are interwoven in a fantastic, deep, and simple way shedding spotlights for those who seek spiritual realization. May’s inner journey, which took ten years of studies and practice, made him penetrate into the filed of psychology, religion, and mythology, reading them anew and presenting to modern man a way out of the abyss he is lost in. Relating modern psychological theory to the practice of religion, he made an attempt to reveal the inner meaning of the world’s great religions. His methodology weds academic research, with its credibility and objectivity, to the very personal and individual spiritual experience. It was in the teachings of the Masters of the world’s religions, and not modern psychology, that he found comfort and illumination. It was in the depth of turmoil that he came to seek support from a higher power that manifested itself in all the Teachers of humanity healing his wounds, when calling upon the help of Christ, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Krishna, Muhammad, and Moses, all at once.
On presenting the core crisis of modern man, D. May actually makes each and every one of us catch an idol he is worshipping and gives a clue to be liberated. Idols in his view are so many on the individual and societal level. An idol is any thing that man gives absolute value and devotion without realizing that nothing in the temporal realm should be deviating him from spiritual realization. Idols are so many; the dollar, scientific knowledge, consumption, social traditions, and values that slip man from realizing inner freedom and make him a slave to many powers and illusions.
Idolatry, as such, not only blinds our eyes, but it also kills the soul.
When probing into the mystical experiences of all Teachers discerning their spiritual rebirth that took different ways and means and expressions, Dr. May is actually tracing the experience of each human soul looking for realization, elevation, and freedom. Although each Master represents a unique message, yet they are all One Message. They all reached the Source of Life within, and without, and the core of their wisdom is but one.
Being a Muslim, I could find much in common with Dr. May since his presentation of the shared principles in all spiritual paths of humanity is in full accordance with the way the Holy Qur’an presents Islam as pointing to surrender to God; a Way that transcends names and labels unfolding an approach to life in which man is free from devotion to any temporal aspect of this life. Islam or surrender to God as such implies a meaningful life in which man sees in this life a good chance for spiritual gain, and hence be keen to live it from the perspective of love and harmony with the whole universe.
Dr. May touches upon the core of the Revelation to the Prophet Muhammad when saying that the Prophet’s act of destroying 360 idols that the Arabs were keeping around the Kaba was an act of demolishing the complexes and archetypal images that were widespread at the time of Jahilyya, the Age of Ignorance. Dr. May says that it is not at all different from our present world as each age could be called ‘the age of savagery’ as long as it creates its own multiple gods and is heedless of the Unity beyond. Muhammad was one who followed the light to its Source. He discovered Unity amidst the multiplicity, and this changed the course of human history. Unity, as Dr. May says is to be found in the realm of the Spirit. It is the Tao which cannot be named. It is the realm of God where no graven images are permissible. It is a silent realm. It is the realm about which the Hindus have said, ‘Neti, Neti, Not this, Not that.’ It is what Moses discovered on Mount Horeb. It is what Jesus encountered at the River Jordan. It is what Buddha experienced under the Bodhi tree. It is the Atman Krishna shoed to Arjuna. And it is what Muhammad was gradually to become aware of during the years of his spiritual search. It is the reality of the One. Muhammad called this reality Allah, the God.
Dr. May follows the spiritual journey of the Prophet Muhammad realizing that it was motivated by a God-given gift to him that urged him strongly to search for a path in life that would satisfy that innate quest. Implicitly, Dr. May says that this God-given gift is so deep there in every human being. When that gift, the pure nature of man or the spiritual origin of any human is strong enough, it will not only devastate outside idols, but also inner ones. Anyone who starts this war will find out the need to call upon the supreme inward power, the Self, or Allah within. Dr. May says: This necessitates the destroying of your inner idols, and the establishing of the true Self in their place as the rule of your own inner house, or Kaba, and Muhammad is your inner prophet and holy warrior. After you smash your inner idols, you can say: ‘There is no god, but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’ Now you are a Muslim, the one who renounces idols, within and without.
What I liked most in Dr. May’s approach to the part about the Prophet Muhammad and Islam is that with his own pure nature, or the Fitra (the primordial nature), he could communicate with several principles that can be of help to the modern world. For instance, the Islamic creed, ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God,’ is not a mere testimony to be repeated by Muslims expressing their identity, it is a symbol for a path of life that anyone who seeks spiritual realization is prone to follow. On saying, ‘there is no god,’ a human is actually expressing inner search for spiritual realization from any transient aspect of life (an idol). And on saying, ‘but God,’ this is an expression of discerning the Unity behind all creation that transcends any names. Dr. May also clarifies that the second part of the Islamic creed, ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of God,’ is not merely pointing to a historical figure, it is a symbol for discernment of the Self within or the Divine Reality dwelling in each and every one of us. Muhammad as such is a symbol for the inner Teacher and Messenger of God who guides whomsoever discovers his existence so deep within. That meaning is in full accordance with the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad to his followers about the oneness of manifestations of the one Truth. That approach to Islam, as well as all spiritual paths, helps a great deal in calling humans upon realizing their oneness and also respecting their diversity turning it into integration and richness. That realization can carry us anew from an age of ignorance (separation, hatred, and destruction) and age of Knowledge (unity, love, and construction). Aisha Rafea, Co-author of Islam, From Adam to Muhammad and Beyond.
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Reviews and Endorsments of Physicians of the Soul, First Edition
(1982, 1988, 1991)
“May focuses on the search for the Self among the central spiritual teachings of the world. The author devotes a chapter each to the life and teachings of Lao Tzu (Taoism), Moses (Judaism), Jesus (Christianity), Gotama (Buddhism), Krishna (Hinduism), and Mohammed (Islam). Within each chapter, he carefully unpacks the seminal teachings of each master and adds his own experience of each tradition. In addition, he interprets all the doctrines allegorically so that the reader learns how each doctrine applies to the search for the Self . . . A well-written book offering a selected overview of each of the major spiritual traditions against the background of the inner search of the Self.”
“An interesting synthesis.”
“Insightful and compelling.”
“An account of one person’s perception of the central core of much religion and of his response to that perception.”
”Author Robert May’s frankness about his own quest for life’s meaning and ‘the Grail’ gives this rare book a convincing validity.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Physicians of the Soul is considered by many religious and psychological scholars to be the seminal work in the field of sacred psychology.”
“I know no other book that does what Robert May’s Physicians of the Soul accomplishes. If anyone wanted to know more of the inner meaning of the world’s great religions this would be a book to refer to . . . written in a clear, fast-moving style . . . the author has a knack of making difficult and profound subjects clear without losing their depth of meaning.”
John A. Sanford
“A rich maieutic text that grapples with the dark and light dimensions of soulmaking and reminds the reader of the transcultural truths within the teachings of the great spiritual teachers.”
Association for Humanistic Psychology Newsletter
“An excellent and lucid presentation . . . well worth reading.”
“The dark and light dimensions of soulmaking within oneself are the subject of this remarkable study . . . lucid and insightful . . . a treasure to be read and re-read as one continues her or his own search for mystical experience. The goal for each of the world leaders — and for all human beings in exile — is to find the way back home. Home is the source. Physicians of the Soul is a great road map.”
“. . a beacon of light.”
“. . . overwhelming strength.”
Dr. William Rogers
“In the sincere sharing of his struggles, surprises and joys in pursuit of the ‘Holy Grail’. Mr. May has given reassurance to all who follow the quest for life’s meaning and truth . . . a source of spiritual healing, the book is subtle, beautiful and powerful — a treasure in my personal library.”
Lilah F. de Vries
“Read this book, find thinking medicine, and fix your thinking mind. Then throw away the thinking medicine and return to your True Self. This book brings together all the major religions of the world. That is wonderful.”
Seung Sahn. Providence Zen Center
“As his contribution to the re-spiritualizing of psychology, May offers an interpretation of six the major religions of the world . . . thus, true religion and sound therapy have the same goal — to guide human beings to full selfhood.”
Journal of Ecumenical Studies
“. . . looks at the level of religious experience that is not looked at too much by 20th century psychologists.”
San Diego Tribune
. . .daunting. . .something of a triumph. The author’s insights are frequently incisive and rewarding from a variety of viewpoints.”
“May’s extensive knowledge of the world’s great religions has been brought together in this marvelous book. I can commend it to all who desire to broaden their perspectives and learn new insights from discipline of religions other than their own.”
Dr. A. James Laughlin Jr.
“This study, the product of the author’s 10-year inner journey, presents Lao Tzu, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and Mohammed as spiritual teachers and sacred psychologists who can lead the seeker toward wholeness and the source of life.”
Catholic Periodical and Literature Index
“It should have a good influence in this materialistic age. . .[an] inspiring book.”
Sir John Eccles, (Nobel Laureate in Neurophysiology and Medicine)
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THE great philosopher and moralist Confucius, who lived in China of the sixth century BC, came to Honan province to consult with his contemporary, the Old Sage, Lao Tzu, who was the historian and keeper of the secret archives of the Chou Court, on matters of ritual, and to speak with him about the heroes of old. Lao Tzu had this to say to Confucius:
All of those of whom you speak long since moldered away with their bones. Only their words remain. When a capable man’s time comes, he rises, if it does not, then he just wanders wearily around. I have heard that good merchants keep their goods buried deeply to make it look as if they had none and that a superior man whose character is perfected will feign stupidity. Give up, sir, your many wishes, mannerisms, and extravagant claims. They won’t do you any good, sir! That’s all I have to tell you.
Confucius went off and said to his students: I know that birds can fly and fish can swim and beasts can run. Snares can be set for things that run, nets for those that swim and arrows for whatever flies. But dragons! I shall never know how they ride wind and cloud into the sky. Today I saw Lao Tzu. What a dragon! 1
Lao Tzu, whose name means something like “Old Sage,” lived a humble life in Honan province. When he retired, he decided to leave for parts unknown. When Lao Tzu reached the frontier, as legend has it, the border official, Yin Hsi, would not allow him to pass until he had written a book for posterity. 2 Lao Tzu wrote a book of his wisdom in the form of short aphorisms, 81 in number, in just over 5,000 words, and then he rode westward never to be seen again. What he left, the Tao Te Ching, or “The Way of Life,” became the sacred scriptures of Taoism, a major influence on Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, and one of the seminal masterpieces of all religious literature. Today, the Tao Te Ching is translated into almost as many different languages as the Bible.
One subject permeates the Tao Te Ching and that is what Lao Tzu calls “the Tao.” It is a word that is as indefinable as God, and it is, in fact, used in similar ways. For Lao Tzu the essence of existence, the ultimate reality, is the Tao, as for Moses and Jesus it is God: YHWH. This is what Lao Tzu says about the Tao. I take the liberty of giving the poems names; Lao Tzu merely numbered them.
The Eternal Tao (1)
The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name. Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth; Existence is the mother of all things.
From eternal non-existence we clearly see the apparent distinctions.
These two are the same in source and become different when manifested.
This sameness is called profundity. Infinite profundity is the gate whence comes the beginnings of all parts of the Universe.
“The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao.” One thinks of the prohibition against the pronunciation of the divine Name, YHWH, in the Jewish tradition. The second commandment, which forbids idolatry, “You shall not make for yourself an idol,” makes the same point. The modern philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein put it as follows: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” 3 Was Wittgenstein a Taoist? He sometimes sounds as if he is.
“Nonexistence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth . . ..” This is the Taoist expression of the Mystery of the Source of the Universe. In the Hebrew mystical Kabbala, the highest form of the Godhead is known as “Ain,” which is translated “Void.” To scientific astronomy for which the evidence points overwhelmingly to the “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the Universe, as well as for metaphysical and religious thought, the “brute fact” stands: we are a creation ex nihilo. The astronomer Robert Jastrow states:
Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a Biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy. 4
From nothing did everything arise. What kind of no thing? We need
only look around us to conclude: a no thing of extraordinary creativity! _
His/Her (I insist upon the Male and Female Sides of God in this book) thought gives birth to an expanding Universe of hundreds of billions of stars, each of these of immense size, power, and longevity. Perhaps among the countless billions of stars of the known Universe are many that have developed planetary systems, and among these some which have evolved life, and among these, higher forms of life, even civilizations. I personally be-lieve that our Universe is teeming with life, some even as highly subtle and complex as human beings, who are, in our Judeo-Christian tradition, said to be created in the Divine image. We will know this when we discover life, even microbial life, on another planet, perhaps Mars, or one of the moons of Jupiter. When will we be able to travel to other solar systems? This would require the speed of light to travel to nearest stars. Who knows when we will achieve this?
Who or What is the Source of such a Living Universe? Lao Tzu calls this the Tao, and views it in a somewhat impersonal sense. You cannot address the Tao personally. By contrast, Moses was vouchsafed the name: “I Am That I Am.” Jesus spoke of the Source of Existence as “Abba,” or “Papa.” Our English word “God” comes from the German root word, which means “Depth.” Once I consulted the I Ching, the ancient Chinese “Book of Changes,” and asked the question, “What is God?” The “reply” (what the random coin tosses revealed) was: a “Well” and an “Abyss.” Does this Cosmological Mystery of the origin of existence in nonexistence have relevance for our individual lives? I think so. If our true origin is God or the Tao, and we have fallen into “Exile” through “eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” thus forming a limited self-concept, and losing contact with God/Tao, then Salvation is the regaining of this connection with the Source of our being.
The Buddhists of the Rinzai school have a Koan (riddle), which is: “What was my Original Face before my parents were born?” The student meditates upon this Koan day after day until he or she receives an “an-swer.” This “answer” may not even be in the form of words or images; it may just be a state of awareness. It is certainly nothing that the rational intellect can conceive of. The intellect tells us that we did not exist before our parents were born, and that there is no possible answer to such a question. But the intuitive mind and soul has an intelligence and wisdom of its own. It is to these deeper sources that the meditative experience leads.
An “experiment” for you as “irrational” as it seems: Sit for ten minutes a day, for three days in a row, and meditate on the “Original Face” Koan. When your mind wanders, just bring it back to the question: “What was my Original Face before my parents were born?” Don’t “think about it,” or “ratiocinate,” or “philosophize,” or “introspect.” Introspection is not meditation. Meditation is not doing but non-doing. It is entering the state of pure awareness. In the case of
the “Original Face” Koan, await an answer. It will come in due time from your Deep Unconscious. It may be a word, image, or altered state of consciousness that is different from your usual ego consciousness in an indefinable way. You may experience in this way something of the no thing, which preceded existence. Lao Tzu called this the Tao. It is one of the names for the Nameless.
Teaching without Words (2)
When all in the world understand beauty to be beautiful, then ugliness exists.
When all understand goodness to be good, then evil exists.
Thus existence suggests non-existence;
Easy gives rise to difficult;
Short is derived from long by comparison;
Low is distinguished from high by position;
Resonance harmonizes sound;
After follows before.
Therefore the Sage carries on his business without action,
and gives his teaching without words
Lao Tzu’s poem suggests the post-Exile condition of human beings. Prior to the Exile, Adam (Adam = “man” in Hebrew) did not know of any distinctions. He lived in the original state of Unity. When he ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil proffered him by the serpent, the world became split and divided into “pairs of opposites.” We pay a heavy price for “beauty and goodness,” namely, “ugliness and evil.”
All wars in history tend to be the struggle to defend what one side considers “good” against the “enemy” who is adjudged “evil.” It is, doubtless, what the Crusaders had in mind in their war to win back the Holy Land from the Saracen “infidel.” The Moslem defender viewed the Christian invader as “infidel” as well. The two sides saw the “enemy” as each other. This same thing is seen in its most brutal terms in history, in the attempt in the 20th century of the Nazis to first defame, and then exterminate, their “arch enemy” the Jew. What was “Aryan” was seen in terms of “goodness” and “light” and what was “Jewish” was associated with “darkness” and “evil.” When you make these kinds of distinctions, the unthinkable becomes the actual! On the other hand, there is the Jewish correlative tendency to project the Shadow, as well, e.g., on the “goyim.” Shadow projections tend to be reciprocal. During the “Cold War,” Capitalists saw Communists as the “archenemy”; Communists saw Capitalists as “imperialist war mongers.” Mass murder can be the result of such mutual Shadow projections. This dividing of people and things into opposites is not indigenous to any group or people; we are all heirs to the universal disease of splitting the original unity into duality. C. G. Jung spoke about the division that happens within us in terms of the “ego” and “Shadow.” The ego, or conscious self, is all that we think we are and aspire to be; the Shadow is all that is repressed and rejected and denied about ourselves. The Shadow, unconscious in most people, tends to be projected on some enemy, whether the enemy is individual or collective. Facing the Shadow side of ourselves is the first step in the Inner Path following the breakdown of the “persona,” or mask personality. Ego and Shadow is like the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is the upstanding doctor and good citizen, liked and admired by all. He is the “daytime” personality (the conscious self). Mr. Hyde comes out “at night” (alluding to the unconscious).
We are all Dr. Jekyll and we are all Mr. Hyde. Most of us identify with our Dr. Jekyll side and remain unaware of the Mr. Hyde who lurks within. It is the almost universal human tendency to “cast one’s Shadow.” That is, the Shadow side of ourselves tends to be projected upon others, usually quite unconsciously. Do you have an “enemy” whom you just loathe? I think we all do beginning sometime in childhood past the age of innocence. When I was seven or eight years old, in summer camp I had such an “enemy,” and his name was “Schneck.” I hated his guts! Later in life, at the age of 29, I met this “fellow” again while taking the Arica training in the person of someone named “Eckhart.” I found him so “negative” a fellow. Later, in the encounter-like sessions of the Arica training, I discovered that I embodied the very same thing to him, as he did to me. What a revelation of mutual Shadow projection! What “Schneck” and “Eckhart” represented to my psyche was the perfect projection foil for my own unconscious Shadow (and I to them apparently). At a later point in my journey, I experienced the Shadow more directly in terms of a “dark beast” in a dream. Shakespeare’s “Caliban” in The Tempest is a literary Shadow figure. The recognition and integration of the Shadow side of oneself, and the concomitant withdrawal of projections, is the first, and one of the most difficult, moral barriers of the Inner Journey. It is an essential step in the Alchemy of regaining one’s lost Wholeness.
Is this the “acceptance of evil,” you are asking? On the contrary, the failure to take responsibility for one’s own Shadow is the psychic force behind the bloodshed and evil of human history. If the “pure Aryan” Nazis had accepted and assimilated the “Jewish side” of themselves, the bloodiest chapter in human history, the Holocaust, might have been avoided. If the Southern bigot in the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan could have realized the “black side” of himself, how many murders and lynchings would have been averted? And likewise it is with individual hate, revenge, and murder. These are the social (or should I say antisocial?) consequences of the non-assimilation of the Shadow. The personal consequences are as weighty. Prior to the integration of the Shadow, one lives in inner warfare between the “good” and the “bad” sides of oneself. This inner warfare, if too overwhelming, is known in psychological parlance as “neurosis.” We may succeed in suppressing, or even repressing, our Shadow side, but it expresses itself in all manner of symptoms and manifestations from phobias and anxiety attacks, to depressions, to psychosomatic disorders, to obsessions and compulsions, to everything in between. The Freudian psychologist seems content to make conscious to the ego of his patient his unconscious urges, e.g., sex and aggression, and help strengthen the patient’s ego in keeping these impulses under control. The Jungian psychologist goes one great step beyond this, and actually leads his patient in the Alchemical process of integrating and assimilating his/her Shadow side. This is the crucial first stage on the Journey to Wholeness. This integration of the light and dark is perfectly symbolized in the Taoist “Tai Chi” symbol.
What does it mean to integrate your Shadow side? Integration is not acting out. If your Shadow contains murderous or lascivious elements, it does not mean that you will become a murderer or a rapist when you integrate your Shadow. It may mean, however, that you may now be able, for the very first time in your adult life, to express healthy aggression that you were unable to express before, so blocked were you in your healthy aggressiveness, and it does mean you may become unblocked and freer in your sexual life, so repressed were you in your healthy sexuality, and so on. You see, when the normal instincts are long repressed, they become “monsters.” They usually form a symbolic image figure, generally of the same sex as we are, which Jung called the “Shadow.” Freud would have merely called this “the unconscious” or “the repressed”; and the lifting of repressions, and the strengthening of the ego, is the beginning of “cure” in the Freudian sense. Another step beyond this is the integration of the Shadow with the conscious side of ourselves which both Freud and Jung called the “ego.” This integration process is the “minor work” of the inner path, and results in wholeness not before experienced (at least not since the age of original innocence in early childhood). This new wholeness may be experienced in symbolic forms by the psyche, for example, as a “white stone” or a “mandala image.” Because of the possibility of integration, both Jung and the Alchemists said that the Shadow contains “gold.” This “gold”
is the potential for the reintegration of the two sides of ourselves
leading to wholeness. No longer is the world divided into “beautiful”
and “ugly” … “good” and “bad”; it has become Whole again. The Tao
is now found even in the lowliest of things when the opposites have
embraced each other. Where is the Tao to be found? In a butterfly, a cockroach, a tree, a dog, a cat (cats are very Taoist!), maybe even in your “boss.” No, he may not be aware of it. And yes, in your true love – love is Taoist, as well as Christian!
Lao Tzu says that the Sage conducts himself “without action” and gives his teaching without words.” This is hard to understand except if you have met someone like that. One of the most enlightened persons I have ever known was a wandering mystic named Pierre whom I met in rural France. He embodied this idea of “teaching without words.” I actually met Pierre while driving along a road in rural France with my friend, John, who is a photographer. The beauty of the French countryside overwhelmed us. As we drove along, we saw a beautiful dark-haired young woman, standing by the road, hitching a ride. We stopped, and out from behind a bush came the most Christ-like man I have ever met in my life; barefoot, and humbly dressed, but shining with a certain inner light which was unmistakable. He said very little during the 24 hours that we spent together, and what little he did say was in French, and my French was rudimentary to say the least. Yet, I learned more of the greatest value to me from the look of Pierre’s eyes, and his presence, than I learned in more than a decade’s study of “academic psychology” which led me to Ph.D. candidacy at the time. This man’s Christ-like being I shall never forget. Never have I met a higher master than Pierre, one who “gives his teaching without words.” Has the reader met somebody like that in his/her life?
The Mystic Mother (6)
“The valley and the Spirit never die.”
They form what is called the Mystic Mother,
From whose gate comes the origin of heaven and earth.
This (the origin) seems to endure.
In use it can never be exhausted.
This poem of Lao Tzu’s makes me think of the Virgin Mary in our Western tradition who is regarded in Christianity as “the mother of God.” I discovered, one fall day in Central Park in New York a few years ago, that the Mystic Mother can be interceded with in prayer, as in the Rosary: “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” Walking through the park that day, I repeated the Rosary to myself again and again. To my astonishment, I had a vision of the “birth” of a “fur-covered ball” from Mother Earth herself. In the vision, the “fur,” peeled off and it revealed a new-born baby. The baby transformed into a white stone, and then into a symbol of the Holy Grail. What I experienced overwhelmed me emotionally for the next few days. Jungians might speak of the “Self,” Christian mystics would speak of the “Christ,” Taoists would speak of the “Tao.” The Tao, unlike Christian symbols, is essentially empty. But because it is empty, it can foster all things.
A couple of years later, following a period of dark despair, I experienced the intercession of the Mystic Mother in another form. I encountered Kwan Yin, the far-Eastern Bodhisattva of Universal Compassion, through the person of a bisexual woman whom I will call “J” who said the words, “I love you,” and them, in this dark time in my life. “J’s” love vouchsafed me a vision of Kwan Yin, the life-giver. “J” wrote something very beautiful to me, the last line of Dante’s Divine Comedy: “The Love that moves the sun and other stars.” 5 From such as Kwan Yin and the Virgin Mary, perhaps two versions of the same archetype, we can experience this healing love. It can also be experienced through people who love us.
In the Kabbala, the feminine aspect of the Divine is known as the “Shekhinah.” She is the Creation itself, or “matter,” which comes from the same root word as “mother.” The material universe, in the eyes of the Kabbalists, is not “dead matter,” or “blind atoms,” but the very embodiment of God. Modern physics itself, as opposed to the atomism and materialism which dates from ancient Greece through the 20th century, is not really that far from the mystical view of the Kabbalists and Taoists, judging from the writings of physicists, such as, Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics (1975). To quote Capra:
Relativity theory has had a profound influence on our picture of matter by forcing us to modify our concept of a particle in an essential way. In classic physics, the mass of an object had always been associated with an indestructible material substance, with some “stuff ” of which all things were thought to be made. Relativity theory showed that mass has nothing to do with any substance, but it is a form of energy. Energy, however, is a dynamic quantity associated with activity, or with processes. The fact that the mass of a particle is equivalent to a certain amount of energy means that the particle can no longer be seen as a static object, but has to be conceived of as a dynamic pattern, a process involving the energy which manifests itself as the particle mass. 6
E = MC2, the creation of matter from pure energy, this is the legacy of the Einsteinian physics of the 20th century. What, indeed, we may ask is “pure energy”? The physicist Capra turns to the metaphor of the “cosmic dance” which finds expression in Hinduism. The Hindus view this world as the manifestation of the dancing god, Shiva. It is Shiva’s “dance” which sustains the Appearance of a Material Universe. This is, in truth, closer to the view of modern physics than it is to the older view of “static matter” which dates from Democritus, the ancient Greek atomist to 19th century classic Newtonian physics. What we take to be a “static piece of matter” is, in reality, a “creation” of our sensory-perceptual apparatus. A plain little stone I am looking at consists of a relatively stable configuration on the macroscopic level of a dance of energy at the subatomic level, that, if we could see it, would make the Bolshoi Ballet look like very dull stuff indeed. The concept of this world as “dance” or “song” is not unique to Hinduism. It is to be found in our Judeo-Christian tradition as well, if we investigate beneath the surface. In the original translation for the Aramaic of the Lord’s Prayer, the text states: “For Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Song, from Ages to Ages . . ..”7 God’s song, His/Her dance, is the Material Creation. He/She sustains the “existence” of “solid matter.” This is a rather different world-view from the usual dualism of Western theology, which views Creator and Creation as radically separate and apart (this may have little relation to the world views of either Moses or Jesus). It also differs fundamentally from the materialistic monistic view of “hard matter” as the basic reality. It is a “nondual” view of God and the World as essentially two aspects of One Reality. In the Spiritual, or “energy” aspect, we can speak of “Spirit Father,” and in the Earthly, or “material” aspect, we can speak of “Earth Mother.” These “two” are, in reality, “Not two.” “Not two” is a Zen Koan, I am told. Jesus, in The Gospel According to Thomas, also speaks about “making the two one.” It is the meaning of the sacred name: YHWH. If you know the Kabbalistic code, it refers to the fact that Spirit and Matter, God and Creation, Shaddai and Shekhinah, Yang and Yin, are “Not two.” This is the Cosmic Unity. It is the One of the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin knew this when he spoke of “the Diaphany of the Divine at the heart of a glowing Universe…” 8
The Tao Is like Water (8)
The highest goodness is like water. Water is beneficent to all things
but does not contend.
It stays in places which others despise.
Therefore it is near Tao.
In dwelling, think it a good place to live; in feeling, make the heart deep; in friendship, keep on good terms with men; in words, have confidence;
In ruling, abide in good order; in business, take things easy; in motion, make use of the opportunity. Since there is no contention, there is no blame.
In this, and in many other places, Lao Tzu uses the metaphor of water for the Tao. In keeping with this metaphor, the American orientalist Alan Watts entitled the last book of his life, Tao: the Watercourse Way (1975). Watts says that “Tao is the flowing course of nature and the universe . . . and water is its eloquent metaphor.” 9 He goes on to say that we can never find an “aesthetic mistake” in water, from the flowing of a mountain stream, to the dashing of waves upon a beach, to the merest trickle of rainwater on a rooftop. It is always just right. But artificial things and activities from “business” to “baseball,” while they may be interesting for a while, would become a Mephistophelean hell if they went on and on without cease. Faust found this out in Goethe’s classic. There is something about human artifice which goes “against the grain” of the human soul. But can the ocean bore you, or a lake, or a river? I returned many times to the Cove in La Jolla, California (when I lived in San Diego in the early 1980’s) and walked along the Coast walk or just sat on a rock and watched the ocean waves coming in and out; it never bored me. It was refreshment to my soul. H. D. Thoreau spent two years by his little Walden Pond in rapt enthusiasm as anyone who reads his book, Walden, can plainly see. I visited Walden Pond a series of times (when I lived in Boston in the mid 1980’s with my future wife, Margie, who was a student at Harvard) and it is just an ordinary little pond. In Herman Hesse’s novel, Siddhartha, the protagonist finds his enlightenment, after many years of previous searching in everything from sexual pleasures to ascetic disciplines, by working as a river man, crossing back and forth the river, day after day, month after month, year after year, until he became at one with the river, and the All. To become water-like is to become attuned to the Tao.
The Tai Chi “dance,” which was invented by the Taoist, Cheng San Feng in the 13th century during the Sung dynasty in China, 10 is indeed “water-like” in its continuous and flowing motion. Tai Chi is one of those Oriental arts, like Sumi painting, calligraphy, flower arrangement, etc., in which a person strives for “oneness with nature.” Tai Chi is “applied Taoism” at its best. It is very much like a flowing stream in its naturalness and effortlessness. It seems “easy,” but this kind of “easiness” is very difficult to attain, and takes many years of practice. After more than 25 years of Tai Chi practice, this author is just getting the idea! Tai Chi eventually becomes an exercise not so much in doing as in non-doing. At the point at which you are not so much moving by your own effort as you are being “moved by” the Tao, the Tai Chi art gains its uncanny power. Like water, it can be as peaceful as a mountain lake or as forceful as a tidal wave! It brings you near Tao!
Lao Tzu asks his reader to apply the “Tao principle” to all aspects of his life. He advises you to “dwell in the Tao,” to “make your heart deep in it,” to “allow the Tao to speak through you,” etc. This egolessness of which Lao Tzu speaks is paradoxically the true meaning of confidence. It reminds me of what Jesus said to his disciples about not worrying about what to say, but rather to let the “Spirit of the Father” speak through them. In my experience as a college teacher and a lecturer, I found that the less I worried about prepared notes and the more I simply said “whatever came into my head,” the better my lectures were. This applies to writing, too, and to just about any creative activity. There is the necessity of preparation, true, but the creative act takes place spontaneously. Creativity is to allow the Greater Unconscious to express itself. Taoists call this, Pu, the Uncarved Block. Conscious mind must learn to relax, to let go, to let the Unconscious Mind speak.
Lao Tzu says an interesting thing in his last line: “Since there is no contention, there is no blame.” Our “modern” Western world of the 20th century (now 21st) was certainly full of contention on all levels, between nations, between groups in the same nation, between individuals, and within individuals; our world was one of continual and nerve-wracking contention leading all the way from world wars to nervous breakdowns! Our Capitalist “free enterprise” system even recommends it: “Competition is the American way.” Not that the Communists believe in non-contention either; their very world view is based upon the idea of “class struggle” and “dialectics” which implies struggle and contention at all levels of nature from animals competing for the same food supply to social classes competing for the means of survival. Mao Tse Tung, the spirit behind the Chinese Communist revolution, favored “continuous revolution.” Struggle without end! Mao Tse Tung’s predecessor in the history of ideas, Lao Tzu, preached quite a different idea: no contention. When you do not contend, no one will blame you, and you can go about your business. If individuals and nations were to follow this, we would live in a far happier and more peaceful world: non-contention, letting go, peace.
What about the inner world of the psyche? How does non-contention apply here? Neurosis, as I have said earlier, is a state of continual inner warfare within ourselves – much of it unconscious. Ego versus id, superego versus ego, and superego versus id, the war rages on in the Freudian tripartite system of psychodynamics. There is more hope in the Jungian system of finding the deep center, or the Self, which is the “still point in a turning world.” This is the point of non-contention where one can let be, or to say it in another way, “let go, and let God.”
The Use of Non-Existence (11)
Thirty spokes unite in one nave,
And because of the part where nothing exists we have the use of the carriage wheel.
Clay is molded into vessels,
And because of the space where nothing exists we are able
to use them as vessels.
Doors and windows are cut out in the walls of a house,
And because they are empty space, we are able to use them.
Therefore, on the one hand we have the benefit of existence,
and, on the other, we make use of non-existence.
This poem of Lao Tzu’s is reminiscent of the Buddhist teaching about form and emptiness: “Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.” To consciously realize this is to attain “satori” or “awakening.” I experienced something of this while driving all day long through Eastern Canada with a Chinese friend, Paul. We were talking and talking endlessly on “philosophical subjects” such as the “mind-body problem” and the “nature of reality,” and the like, when we both simultaneously broke through to a state of mutual satori in which we realized that all the “boundaries” and “concepts” through which we usually view the world were merely mental fictions created by our egos. All we saw was form and emptiness, emptiness and form. It was a great joy! In this state, we crossed the US/Canada border, and drove all the way to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Harvard University, where we walked around laughing and laughing at all the pretensions of academia. Then we drove home to Connecticut where we both taught at a state college, and returned also to the ego consciousness of subject-object. Our satori was just for the day.
The Western world, it can be said, emphasizes the value of thought and ratiocination. Look at the history of philosophy, theology, and science dating back to the ancient Greeks. It is a history of endless rational and intellectual disputation on philosophical and scientific matters. The empiricism of Aristotle and the idealism of Plato were the two poles in this history of Western ratiocinative thought. The Eastern world, throughout its history, has valued more than the “thought” the “emptiness” in which the thoughts took place. This very emptiness is enlightenment in the Zen Buddhist and the Taoist sense. A Zen story may illustrate this:
A great professor visited a humble Zen master in his small hut in the mountains in search of enlightenment. The Zen master offered the professor a cup of tea. While the professor held the cup, the Zen master poured the tea, but he kept pouring, and did not stop, until the tea had spilled all over the professor’s clothing and the floor. The professor was puzzled about this strange behavior. The Zen master said, “How can you come to me in quest of enlightenment when your head is already so full of opinions? There is no room to add anything. Empty yourself first, and then come back to see me. 11
The anonymous author of the Christian mystical classic The Cloud of Unknowing must have had something very similar in mind when he exhorted his reader:
Let go of this “everywhere” and this “everything” in exchange for this “nowhere” and this “nothing.” Never mind if you cannot fathom this nothing, for I love it surely so much the better. It is so worthwhile in itself that no thinking about it will do it justice. 12
Both the humble Zen master and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing understood the same mystery of “emptiness” of which Lao Tzu speaks in his poem. It is the predecessor to spiritual peace.
He Who Attains the Tao (16)
Attain to the goal of absolute vacuity;
Keep to the state of perfect peace.
All things come into existence,
And thence we see them return.
Look at the things that have been flourishing;
Each goes back to its origin.
Going back to the origin is called peace;
It means reversion to destiny.
Reversion to destiny is called eternity.
He who knows eternity is called enlightened.
He who does not know eternity is running blindly into miseries.
Knowing eternity is all-embracing.
Being all-embracing he can attain magnanimity.
Being magnanimous he can attain omnipresence.
Being omnipresent he can attain Tao.
He who attains Tao is everlasting.
Though his body may decay he never perishes.
Lao Tzu is speaking of the enlightened ones who have attained what he calls “absolute vacuity.” They are empty of ego, and thus can see through the dark “cloud of unknowing” to the spiritual light which is the true giver of peace. It is here that you go back to “the origin” and revert to your destiny. It is here that you leave the ways of your worldly conditioning. I recall, in the beautiful motion picture about St. Francis of Assisi, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, when Francis, who had attained enlightenment and had become a child of God, took off all his clothes, and handed them to his rich merchant father, and said, “These are yours.” He walked out of the city into the woods to the amazement of all, including his parents, and the bishop to whom his father had brought him for judgment (Francis had given away a great deal of his father’s merchandise to the poor). This is what it is like to return to your origin and revert to your destiny. Francis went on to build a new monastic order, which swept through Europe reviving the simpler traditions of early Christianity.
The last stanza of the poem is remarkable in its similarities to the sayings of Jesus. Lao Tzu says that “He who attains the Tao is everlasting/Though his body may decay he never perishes.” Jesus said “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”13
He who knows the masculine and yet keeps to the feminine
Will become a channel drawing all the world toward it;
Being a channel of the world, he will not be severed from the eternal
And then he can return again to the state of infancy.
He who knows the white and yet keeps to the black
Will become a standard to the world;
Being the standard of the world, with him eternal virtue will never falter,
And then he can return again to the absolute.
He who knows honour and yet keeps to humility
Will become a valley of the world, with him eternal virtue will be complete,
And then he can return again to wholeness.
Wholeness, when divided, will make vessels of utility;
These when employed by the Sage will become officials and chiefs.
However, for a great function no discrimination is needed.
“He who knows the masculine and yet keeps to the feminine . . ..” Lao Tzu is speaking to the necessity for the male to come to consciousness of his inner feminine side if he is to come to wholeness (analogously for the woman and her inner masculine side). The Jungians speak of the feminine in the unconscious of a male as the “anima.” She is always personified and is usually known in projection as “the woman we fall in love with at first sight.” This goes far beyond merely sexual attraction; it is a numinous experience as all archetypal experiences are. It is an experience of the soul. Let me speak of some of my own experiences of the anima; they may remind you of yours. My first anima figure, in adolescence, was Joan Baez (I have vague reminiscences of the anima in early childhood). She represented the mysterious feminine to me. Margaret was my first love. I was 20 and she was 19. We shared an experience of the Holy Grail. Ours was the true love of which the poets speak. It lasted for one blessed summer of 1962. 1 shall never forget. Ten years passed before I met another “anima female” in the person of Gabrielle, who was a dancer. She was, to me, awesomely beautiful. I saw Gabrielle for the very first time in a restaurant in San Francisco, and I just instantly “flipped out.” That was at age 30. It was not until more than two years later, while I was in analysis (in 1975) with Robert Johnson, the author of HE and SHE that I came to consciousness of the anima within. This is quite a hard thing to come to consciousness of, and it usually follows the moral barrier of Shadow integration. When you come to know your own inner feminine side (or correspondingly in the woman, the inner masculine side), it is quite an extraordinary thing. She is the “mediator,” as it were, between your ego and the Greater Unconscious. Whereas the Holy Sage can open the door, the Inner Maiden can lead you all the way to the Holy of Holies. In the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, when Virgil bowed out as a guide, Beatrice “descended from heaven” (arose from the Unconscious) to guide Dante on the rest of the Journey to the Heavenly Jerusalem. This is an allegory of the Journey to Self.
While I was in analysis with Robert Johnson, and was coming to consciousness of the anima within, an extraordinary synchronicity took place. I heard for the first time from Gabrielle, the dancer from San Francisco, who was for me at that time, the “anima without.” She had never written to me before, nor had we any contact for a couple of years. This is Gabrielle’s letter (it was written on green paper-the color of love!):
The path of the warrior is a lonely one until we totally surrender to the moving spirit.
Love my brother and thank you for sharing your process with me. I left the school over a year ago and after a period of total disintegration and illness embraced and nurtured my broken spirit.
Back on the souls of my feet again dancing and singing with humanity. A new-age nun of the church but not in the church happy to have a friend in San Diego willing to share-that is what you must do-share-giving people the space to be more and more of who they are. Stay in action, my friend. Our stay is so brief, our capacity so enormous.
Recommend the SETH books and a lovely little book TO A DANCING GOD-Sam Keen.
Being mother to my little Zen master, traveling working giving readings growing changing praying cause deep down I know we are truly one and our common link is our uniqueness.
Love and Peace, Gabrielle
This letter from Gabrielle, who had never written me before (although I had written her), truly overwhelmed me. This synchronicity of inner/outer anima called forth in me the “hero image.” I was filled with images of Sir Lancelot of the Lake, Samurai warriors, American Indian war chiefs, and the like. I wanted to become a “true Knight . . . deserving of the hand of the fair maiden!” It is incredible how closely linked are the anima and animus archetypes in the psyches of both male and female. One will surely arouse the other into awakening. For the male, where the Holy Sage leaves off (Robert Johnson, who was a monk for two years and Jungian analyst without formal degrees, was a Holy Sage figure to me), the Holy Maiden appears to lead you on your way.
Corresponding in function to the anima in the male is what Jung calls the “animus” or inner male figure in the female psyche. I believe that both anima and animus exist within both men and women, but in differing relations to the ego. The anima in the male is his “dearly beloved”; his soul figure. The animus in the female is her “spirit figure,” the “knight in shining armor” who will awaken her from her sleep, as in the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Yet, the male relates to the animus too in terms of the “hero” with whom he identifies. And, in the opinion of some, the anima is the soul figure in women as well as men. The soul, since the time of the ancient Greek myths, has been pictured as a maiden. The spirit, on the other hand, has been portrayed as a masculine potency.
I have spoken of the anima already, and some anima figures of mine, so let me give some examples of animus figures in the popular culture. They are obvious and many. Children’s literature, television, and movies seem to be the first place where these archetypal figures appear. The rebirth of the old comic book hero, Superman, in recent films is one such example. Do you recall the “flight” that Superman took Lois Lane on through the evening sky? It was pure “magic.” It connoted somewhat of the feeling of awe, which the female feels toward her “animus figure.” The immense popularity of the motion picture, Billy Jack, about the half-breed American Indian Vietnam veteran who comes home to take on the whole town and all its toughs and villains at once, is explainable in terms of animus numinosity. Older examples of animus figures in world literature include Sir Lancelot, Robin Hood, and Tarzan.
“And then he can return to the state of infancy.” Does Lao Tzu mean infancy literally? Jesus also said, “Unless you become converted and become as little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Notice that Jesus does not say that you must “become little children,” but you must become “as little children.” I think that what both Jesus and Lao Tzu had in mind by the words “infancy” and “little children” is the state of Original Wholeness and Innocence that we have all experienced once, and inevitably lose in the course of the socialization process.” I have a photograph of myself at two years of age, sitting on a hill, holding a large ball. It is the “picture of wholeness.” That wholeness was lost in subsequent years of familial conditioning with its inevitable traumas and hurts to the psyche or soul.
The state of Original Wholeness is what we have all lost in “the Fall” and subsequent “Exile,” however we may interpret this to mean. Original Wholeness was the Edenic state of man/woman before he/she ate of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” and fell from Grace . Man/woman now knows the difference between good and evil, but in gaining this, he/she has become split from Original Unity and loses his/her Innocence. Man/woman now walks the earth aware of his/her “nakedness” and in “shame.” It is an exceedingly painful state, this state of Exile, and we try to cover it up in many ways from drugs and alcohol to achievement and worldly success to the search for sexual pleasure. But, for some, the Exile is so horribly painful that they are compelled to “enter the Path.” And they find that they must make the most difficult Journey in the world from the state of “Exile” to what St. John called the “Heavenly Jerusalem. ” Really speaking, the Garden of Eden and the Heavenly Jerusalem are the same, but with one difference: the Garden of Eden is the place of Unconscious Wholeness, the world of early childhood; the Heavenly Jerusalem is the place of Conscious Wholeness, the realm of the enlightened adult. Consciousness is the crucial difference. It seems that in order to attain consciousness in the first place (to attain an ego), it is man’s destiny to eat of the fruit of the “forbidden tree.” In so doing, Original Wholeness is inevitably lost. It is lost for the sake of developing an “I,” an ego. The cost is sundering oneself from Original Unity. Most people wander through life like this in Conscious Unwholeness, as Adam did after he left Eden. Some feel “the call,” and make the agonizing journey back. It is no “rose garden path.” One passes through trials and tribulations undreamed of by most. This is called Purgatorio by Dante
There are many allegories of this Journey in Western literature. One of the best is Dante’s Divine Comedy. The final vision of Heaven is a fully conscious one; Original Eden was unconscious. It is consciousness we have gained in the process of making the Journey, as the travelers in The Wizard of Oz have gained, respectively, their brains, heart, and courage. The Journey, however, has been a circle, and you will be “startled” at first to discover your “Original Face” at the end of the Path. Conscious Wholeness. Welcome Home!
Lao Tzu speaks of the one “who knows the white and yet keeps to the black.” Robert Johnson said, one day during our work together, “the Christ is light within, darkness without,” but “the anti-Christ is light without, darkness within.” The I Ching says the same thing about peace versus its opposite. “Ta’i,” or peace, is Yin, or darkness without, and Yang, or light within. Its opposite, ‘P’i,” or stagnation, is Yang, or light without, and Yin, or darkness within. Is this unclear? It was to me at first. Some examples might clarify it.
Charlatans, “gurus,” and false prophets seem to abound in our time. They “promise you the world,” and deliver something quite different. They seem to “shine” with the light of self-glorification. An obvious and notorious example was the Reverend Jim Jones who proclaimed himself “Messiah” and even “God” to his followers. He established a “utopia” in Jonestown, Guyana. He was the “beneficent one.” Where did he lead his followers? To mass suicide and death. He wore his “white” on the outside, and kept his “black” within-until it manifested itself! A classic “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” in Jesus’ words.
Jones is not the only false prophet of this type by any means; most are still extant. We have the “benevolent and smiling” Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and his “happy” young disciples selling carnations in the streets to increase the empire of their arms manufacturer self proclaimed “messiah.” Reverend Moon’s people operate under many false fronts on campuses promoting such things as “community development,” “educational utopias,” and “scientific research.” “Divine deception” is one of Reverend Moon’s own terms. Speak of light without, darkness within!
There are many subtler frauds in the vast industry of “pop therapies” which proliferate as rapidly as hotel chains in America and feature everything from “rebirthing” from hot tubs to “primal screaming” to “getting it” to anything you can think of. It’s all “therapy” today as Thomas Szasz, M.D., has so disarmingly shown in his iconoclastic book The Myth of Psychotherapy (1978, 1988). Dr. Szasz’s earlier classic is The Myth of Mental Illness, 1974. Many of these “therapies,” unlike their more established predecessors, such as, Freud, Jung, and Adler, claim “100 percent success.” They back their claims with specious “scientific reasoning.” It is astonishing how seri-ously they are taken as they emanate from the West Coast one after another. All of these “saviors” (who shall go unmentioned) wear their
“light” on their sleeve. What is within is another story. The sacred profession of healing has become big business with each of the moneychangers selling his or her wares. Light without, darkness within.
I spoke of the enlightened master named, Pierre whom I met in France. He had almost no money and wore simple clothes. He walked mostly barefoot. He was devoid of possessions save a teakettle and a burlap-covered Bible. He walked in most humble ways. I have never met a more illumined one. His light was within. This is perhaps what it means, “to know the white and yet keep to the black.”
In the Jewish mystical tradition, there are said to be 36 holy men, or “Tzaddekim,” who uphold the world. Without them, humanity would lose all contact with the Divine. Yet, they are the most ordinary men imaginable! Rabbi Zalman Schacter tells a story about the meeting of a famous Rabbi with one of these hidden Tzaddekim who was a poor and humble tailor. That tailor “sewed together” the Rabbi’s soul that day! Darkness without, light within.
“He who knows honor and yet keeps to humility…” The Taoist sages greatly stress the value and importance of humility. They will never brag or boast, nor are they concerned with “image” or “appearance.” They keep their treasures secret; they are men who can “bow low.” Yet the Tao raises them up! It is the same with the “poor in spirit” in Jesus’ saying, who will inherit the Kingdom. The greatest people are often the most humble. The arrogant are not great. Lao Tzu himself led a humble and practically anonymous life. Jesus was an unknown Galilean carpenter until he began his life’s mission. He never “raised himself up,” although the Devil tempted him to do so. In the end, he died in disgrace upon a cross, only to be “raised up” by God. The humble Jewish carpenter turned preacher became the central figure of the Christian religion. The reclusive historian of the Chou court became the standard for Chinese religion. The humble seem to be “raised” by some mysterious force, but the arrogant who raise themselves up, tend to take a terrible fall! Look at the arrogant dictator Mussolini, who proclaimed himself the “new Caesar,” and tried to build a “new Roman Empire.” He was hung upside down by his heels by his countrymen in a public square in Milan. The infamous tyrant Hitler died by a self-inflicted bullet wound in his underground bunker in Berlin, a fitting end to his “thousand-year Reich.” The little emperor Napoleon, who tried to conquer Europe, spent his last years in exile on St. Helena, a tiny island. The examples could go on. The arrogant fall, the humble are raised. There is a moral order in this Universe. It may not seem so in the short run, but it is so.
“Wholeness, when divided, will make vessels of utility. My intuition is that Lao Tzu is speaking of the “One and the Many.” When the Tao, the One, becomes the Many, it becomes the sun, and moon, and stars, and trees, and rocks, and birds, and flowers, and butterflies, and human beings, and so on . . ..
Lao Tzu says, “These when employed by the Sage will become officials and chiefs.” It makes me think of Plato’s concept of the “Philosopher King.” The latter appoints those below him to their appropriate positions, i.e., “officials and chiefs.”
“However, for a great function no discrimination is needed.” This is a very Zen like statement. The enlightened state comes when you stop judging, stop dividing the world into “good” and “bad,” stop making discriminations into “this” and “that.” All becomes one at this stage. Action in this state is really perfect. Of all places, I met one summer a wandering Zen master in San Diego’s Balboa Park. He did not advertise himself as a “master,” but I know one when I see one. He was a Japanese who was traveling 100 miles a day throughout the world, supporting himself in a most unusual way. He did a dance while at the same time sculpting “dream image” figures out of a lump of resin like substance on a stick. Within less than a minute each, he completed a “dragon,” an “elk,” an ” eagle,” and so on. He gave these out at random, or so it seemed, to various people gathered around him. He handed me a beautiful unicorn. I felt it stood for freedom! How we would wish to attain the freedom of this man. He is like the ones born of the Spirit of whom Jesus spoke.
Knowing Thyself (33)
He who knows others is wise;
He who knows himself is enlightened.
He who conquers others is strong;
He who conquers himself is mighty.
He who knows contentment is rich.
He who keeps on his course with energy has will.
He who does not deviate from his proper place will long endure.
He who may die but not perish has longevity.
“Gnothi seauton,” or “know thyself,” was the teaching of the Delphic Oracle of ancient Greece. It was also the teaching of the Buddha, who said “Be thou a lamp unto thyself,” Jesus said the same thing when he said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” It is the teaching of the Old Sage, Lao Tzu, as well. To know others may be wisdom, it is true, but to truly know yourself is the meaning of enlightenment. And what is “enlightenment” but the discovery of the light that was always there within you. You can actually see this light in the faces of the illumined masters. I went into a Catholic Bookstore once, in San Diego; there was a nun who worked there, and from her eyes came a light so strong I could not look at it! She was a humble nun – a vehicle for God. This is what Jesus must have meant when he said, “You are the light of the world.”
Lao Tzu says that the conqueror of others is “strong.” But the truly “mighty” are those who conquer themselves. Alexander the Great was surely a “strong man,” he conquered nations. But he was hardly a man of Self-knowledge, and he died in a drunken orgy at a young age. In a Sioux Indian prayer to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, one line is as follows: “I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy-myself.”
Contentment, not material wealth, is what makes one truly “rich” in the words of Lao Tzu. Robert Johnson once said that “content” comes from the same root as “contain,” and that gives a clue to its meaning. To be content is to be contained. That is, to be in harmony with one’s environment. Robert said that glassblowers he saw in Tijuana, Mexico, seemed content in a way that Americans rarely are. They were “contained.” Most people in our culture seem to “fill a job;” they “clock in” and “clock out,” and the time in between is that of “quiet desperation” in the words of Thoreau, the 19th century mystic who saw the beginnings of “modern technocracy” even in his rural Concord, Massachusetts. I have always admired people whose work is also their joy. One such person I knew was my friend Doris, who was the librarian of the C. G. Jung Institute in New York. She was more bibliotherapist than librarian. Whenever I came in, I would say a few words about “where I was at,” and Doris would immediately recommend the appropriate book to me and she was astonishingly accurate in her intuition. She was content or “contained.”
“Keeping on one’s course with energy.” Have you ever heard a more perfect definition of will power? It is applying all of one’s energy to one’s chosen course. It is so rare today that it is a marvel when you see someone like that. An example of this is the incredibly gifted (and physically crippled) violinist Yitzak Perlman. He devotes himself to his violin art with such energy and total devotion. He has an astounding female counterpart violinist, Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg, who makes the violin a Zen art! She always receives standing ovations. Pablo Picasso was like that in his painting, and he painted from boyhood to the day he died in his 90’s. The masters of the martial arts I have known devote such energy to their art, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, and for year after year, until they are flawless. Then they practice some more.
When you find your “proper place,” you will long endure, says Lao Tzu the Sage. I take “proper place” to mean your “true calling.” Not what your parents want you to be, or your teachers, or your culture, but what you are called to be in your heart of hearts. This is a difficult thing to listen to, the heart, in this modern materialistic age which values “things” over feelings and “logic” over the heart. How can you know what your calling is if you are not as precocious as Mozart who began composing great symphonies at the age of nine? It may come much later for you. You may have what I will call a “vocational dream.” It is usually a powerful one. I had two dreams of this sort with regard to writing; both came in my late 20’s to early 30’s. One was a “visit” by the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. In the dream, various characters first visited me, including college professors (I used to teach college), who were “two-dimensional.” They were “flat.” And then came Leo Tolstoy. He was three-dimensional. He was solid. The other dream was this: there was a line of eight persons, representing eight different interests of mine. However, the first space was vacant. Walt Whitman came to fill this vacant space. The Dream Unconscious honored me with these two “visits.” I had two dreams, which symbolized 10 books, one was a gift of 10 evergreen seedlings, and the other was being given a card with a number 10 on it by my writing mentor, John Sanford. I tell you these “vocational dreams” so that you will look at your own vocational dreams. They come not from your ego, but from your deepest Self. They give one direction and goals. Whether one can fulfill them or not depends upon one’s dedication and hard work. Look to your own dreams as a source of direction and guidance.
Alfred Adler, the Viennese psychologist, and one-time disciple of Sigmund Freud, made an interesting discovery of the relationship between earliest memories and eventual vocational choice. My earliest recollection at age two had to do with learning the meaning of a word. I was having dinner with my parents and another couple at our rented summerhouse on the New Jersey seashore. The other man (not my father) was serving fruit for dessert, and asked me, “Do you want an apricot?” This seemed strange to me because I already knew the word “uppercut,” which my Grandpa Abe had taught me, “Give ’em an uppercut!” And this new word for fruit, “apricot,” seemed to sound exactly like it! Curiously, during my earlier years in academic psychology, in my mid 20’s, my field of specialization was psycholinguistics, the psychology of language. Some years later, at age 29, after I left academia to pursue the spiritual path, I decided to become a writer. This was to begin a long journey for me of many years. The early memory seems to have been prophetic of future vocational interest. In the former case, the “study of ” language seemed to be the thing. Later, the “use of ” language as a direct means of expression of what I have to say seems to be what the Self has in mind for me. What is the meaning of being offered the “apricot?” Is this symbolic of “eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge?” The thought just occurred to me. I was just two.
It is often not until midlife that one finds one’s “proper place,” and this may involve, at times, a rather drastic change of direction. One thinks of Paul Gauguin, who quit his well-paying job in France as a banker at age 35 and left for Tahiti and the Marquesas in 1891 to devote himself to painting. It involved a drastic material sacrifice for him, and dislocation of his established middle-class life, but he found himself (and the world became richer because of it). Dante Alighieri only began his epic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, in 1308, at age 43 after he had been exiled from his native Florence. He begins Canto I with these words:
Midway life’s journey I was made aware
That I had strayed into a dark forest,
And the right path appeared not anywhere. 14
From this point of utter nothingness, Dante began his Inner Journey that he allegorized in his great work of epic poetry. Before we can find our true calling, there may be a very long period of retreat and withdrawal from the affairs of the world, a Nightsea Journey, but when we return, we may bring back with us the seeds of our future growth, a treasure that can be attained in no other way. The historian Arnold Toynbee speaks of this:
There is one characteristic that though far from being general, has been common to a number of great men. That is, some of the greatest men have been people. who have had a broken career; they started off on some ordinary conventional line; they have come to grief in that; and then they’ve withdrawn from the world and come back in some new capacity. There does appear to be a psychological law operating here-a law that people who somehow got off on the wrong path recover themselves in the middle of life. They are twice born; and they are different from the once born. The twice born often get farther; it’s like a rocket that has a second boost. 15
Lao Tzu seems to imply that when you have found your “proper place,” you may die, but you will “not perish.” You will have “longevity.” It brings to mind my favorite American poet, Robert Frost, up there with John F. Kennedy at his inauguration in the winter of 1961. Frost was old, in his 80’s, but he had already achieved immortality. I also think of the great Pablo Casals, the cellist, who played with such virtuosity into his 90’s. Or that incredible architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who began to change the shape of America in his 20’s, yet designed great buildings into his 89th year. Or the masterful artist, Georgia O’Keefe who moved from the East Coast to New Mexico and painted nature with such brilliance into her old age. She lived to 99. Such people will “not perish.” On the other hand, it does not matter if you live to a very old age either, as long as you have found your “proper place.” My old hero, Henry David Thoreau, who died at the relatively early age of 45, had these words to say, and they are written on the sign that marks the site of his tiny cabin on Walden Pond:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of 1ife, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 16
To find one’s true way may involve sacrifices, giving up a secure job, a marriage, the approval of one’s parents and relatives, or even one’s culture, and all material comforts, even the sacrifice of one’s life. But not to find one’s own true path involves even greater sacrifice. We should not like to come to the end of our life, as Thoreau suggested, and discover that we “had not lived.” Thoreau’s Walden is very Taoist!
Your Person (44)
Fame or your person, which is nearer to you?
Your person or wealth, which is dearer to you?
Gain or loss, which brings more evil to you?
Over-love of anything will lead to wasteful spending;
Amassed riches will be followed by heavy plundering.
Therefore, he who knows contentment can never be humiliated;
He who knows where to stop can never be perishable;
He will long endure.
Lao Tzu’s poem recalls to mind the analogous saying of Jesus concerning ultimate values: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” What would you trade your soul for? Material wealth, fame, status, power, academic advancement? It is a Devil’s bargain. Satan offered Jesus, whom Christians regard as the Messiah, all these things in his temptation in the wilderness. The final reply of Jesus to Satan was: “Begone, Satan! For it is written,’ you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” 17
How many of us in this “modern world” are asked to make the Devil’s bargain of the exchange of soul for some material reward. I think almost all of us. When a student feels he must compromise his integrity, and falsify his beliefs and values, in writing a paper, in order to “please his professor,” this is the Devil’s bargain. In one of the saddest experiences of my college years, I wrote what I believed in a term paper for “my professor,” who was one of the arch behaviorists of the time (early 1960’s) who was a “visiting professor” at NYU, and my defense human consciousness earned me a “D” (and some evil words besides). “D,” I think, for “Devil!” This “professor” demanded total compliance on the part of his students with his ultra behaviorist views in order to earn the “reinforcement” of the “magic A.” I chose, instead, to write according to my conscience. This “D” prevented me from gaining admission to the graduate school of my choice, but is a graduate school worth your soul or your integrity? Is a high paying job worth your soul? Or a promotion to a higher position is this worth your soul? How many in this culture feel they have to sell their souls for money, power, security, or other material advantage in this age of materialism? Big government, industry, military, and academia, can all be as soulless and soul-denying in this age of technocracy, or “Kali Yuga” as the Hindus have put it.
We are a country born in illumined vision, but have in the past century gone a long way toward selling our collective soul to the Devil! It is not surprising that the “unique contribution” of American psychology in the 20th century was behaviorism, which as its first premise denied the existence of the human soul – even consciousness. The “original behaviorist,” John Watson himself, after losing his academic job in a scandal (a sex affair he had with a woman graduate student), went on to offer his services of soulless behaviorism to the Madison Avenue advertising industry. There he applied his “science” of manipulating people through “conditioning.” B. F. Skinner, his behaviorist successor, in his Walden Two, would construct his “ideal society” through the use of “operant conditioning” techniques based upon his laboratory work with pigeons and white rats in “Skinner boxes.” If pigeons and white rats can be “conditioned” to perform, then why not human beings? I have seen children in public school who were put on “operant schedules” a la Skinner. How far have we have come from the supreme valuation of the human soul as expressed by the Chinese poet-sage, Lao Tzu, and the miracle-working Rabbi Jesus, who lived respectively 2,500 and 2,000 years ago?
Lao Tzu says, “Over love of anything will lead to wasteful spending.” It relates to the Buddhist idea of “attachment.” Whatever you are attached to, you are enslaved by, whether it is the attachment to money, prestige, power, or the approval of others. True freedom is precisely nonattachment.
He who pursues learning will increase every day;
He who pursues Tao will decrease every day.
He will decrease and continue to decrease,
Till he comes to nonaction;
By nonaction everything can be done.
This poem of Lao Tzu’s is quintessential Taoism. The pursuit of the Tao is nothing like the pursuit of “scholarly learning.” The latter is a never-ending accumulation of “facts” and “theories.” The Way of the Tao is just the opposite. It is a decreasing, a diminishing, a losing, a dying to all that is illusory, artificial, or unreal in yourself until you have come to the rest of nonaction, or wu wei, and by this “everything can be done.”
What a mystery this nonaction, or wu wei is. Tai Chi Chuan, the Taoist martial art, actually demonstrates this power in the physical world. When the “solo-dance” becomes perfectly effortless and easy, as if you are no longer doing it, but it is being done through you, it becomes, at the same time, immensely powerful. The “light touch” of a Tai Chi master will send an opponent flying. I saw a film of the great Tai Chi master Cheng Man Ch’ing, in his 70’s, doing the push hand exercise with his student, my teacher, William C. C. Chen, in his early 20’s, and sending his younger opponent sailing off his feet, time and again, with the softest touch. This same young man, William Chen was a world champion in a martial arts tournament between all martial arts styles in Taiwan in 1959. The “force” responsible for this Tai Chi “uprooting” is difficult to explain in terms of classical physics, if not impossible. There is a certain state of consciousness associated with this power, and I experienced it myself through “beginner’s luck” after my first Tai Chi lesson. I went to visit a friend of mine, John, and I asked him if he’d like to experience the power of Tai Chi? He said, “sure.” I touched him ever so lightly while “rooting” my body in the Tai Chi posture. He took off and hit the wall with tremendous force. Fortunately, there were no broken bones; he was just a bit shaken. I couldn’t believe it myself, and I have never achieved anything quite like it in all my subsequent years of Tai Chi practice. You see, in my “beginner’s luck,” I was not really “trying.” I had come, inadvertently, to this mysterious “nonaction,” or wu wei.
This same consciousness and power upon which the Tai Chi art is based as a martial art applies to every aspect of life from making a speech to painting a picture. It is quite a different thing to make a speech with prepared notes, as politicians and professors are wont to do, and speaking through the power of the Spirit as Jesus advised his disciples to do when he said not to worry about what you shall say, but rather “let the Spirit of the Father” speak through you. One can imagine that the Apostle Paul did just this in his charismatic addresses as when he said this to his Corinthian audience: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”18
It is one thing to paint according to “academic rules” learned in the Academy, but quite another to paint as that tragic hero Van Gogh did, as though the Spirit were moving his brush. He is my favorite painter, and I saw all 500 of his collected works at the museum in Amsterdam devoted to his work. I was moved to tears by the awesome power of his paintings. He did not paint in the manner that was customary in his day in the late 19th century, and as a result he sold only one painting for 10 francs in his lifetime. This rejection by the artistic establishment of his time was so bitter that Vincent took his own life at age 37. If he had lived for a few more years, he would have known worldwide acclaim; today any painting of his is a priceless treasure. One sold recently for $80 million. His personal life was a tragedy, but few painters of the West have ever painted with the spiritual power of Vincent Van Gogh.
What comes of this nonaction is of such beauty and perfection, and is quite unlike the results of ego’s striving to achieve something. Many Japanese Zen arts are done in this egoless, effortless way, whether it is Zen archery, or calligraphy, or flower arrangement, or the tea ceremony, or Haiku poetry. There is a spiritual power, which moves when the ego steps aside. It is called “Chi” by the Chinese, “Ki” by the Japanese, “Prana” by the Indian Yogis, “Ruach” by the Hebrew prophets, “Ruh” by the Sufi saints, “Pneuma” by the Greeks, and “Spiritus” is the Latin word from which our English word “Spirit” is derived. In all of these languages and diverse cultures, the word “spirit” relates to “breath.” In most cases the same word is used for both. The Holy Spirit to the Jewish mystics is the Ruach Elohim, “the Breath of God.” I was reading the account of a “born-again Christian” of his experience of the Holy Spirit, and he described it as a “rushing wind.” Yoga teaches an elaborate breath discipline known as “pranayama,”which is said to harness the power of “prana” or spirit. Zen Buddhists employ a similar breath discipline, known as “misogi” which builds “Ki energy.” The Sufi mystics have their breath disciplines. “Speaking in tongues,” or “glossalalia,” must relate to the same phenomena. When you are “breathed” by the Divine Spirit, what comes forth has power and truth. How to achieve it? You can’t. It comes through the action of nonaction, or wei wu wei. Was not Jesus of Nazareth saying the same thing when he said the following: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin.”19 Precisely!
Not Knowing (71)
Not knowing that one knows is best;
Thinking that one knows when one does not know is sickness.
Only when one becomes sick of this sickness can one be free from sickness.
The Sage is never sick; because he is sick of this sickness,
therefore he is not sick.
I remember the words of that charming Korean Zen master, Seung Sahn (his book is Dropping Ashes on the Buddha), whose lectures I attended in New York. His favorite saying was “Go straight, don’t know!” I wish I could capture the way in which he said that: Don’t know. He says that the point of Zen is to attain to this “don’t know mind.” It is in this “don’t know” mind, or state of “emptiness,” that one can really know reality as it is, and not as our ego’s constructions project upon it. The ego is the great “map maker” and “theoretician.” Our Western philosophical heritage is a testimony to the “productivity” of the ego in constructing “theories of reality.” A course in the history of Western philosophy is something like a tour through the “Tower of Babel:” Nominalism, realism, materialism, idealism, rationalism, empiricism, utilitarianism, existentialism, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Have you seen that marvelous play, Godspell, with its first scene of all the “philosophers” from Karl Marx to R. Buckminster Fuller simultaneously “spouting” their philosophies? It is babble! And do you recall the sudden appearance of John the Baptist who says: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” One needs to clear the mind of all the “babble” in order to perceive reality as it is. In Godspell, the sacred reality is the appearance of Jesus. For the Zen Buddhist, it is the coming of “satori,” or enlightenment. And for Lao Tzu, the Taoist Sage, it is the becoming “sick of this sickness” of “thinking that one knows when one does not know.”
This “thinking that one knows when one does not know” leads to what I will call “Procrustean thinking.” Do you know the myth of Procrustes? He was the giant who had a bed in his house of a certain length, and when a guest came who was too short, he stretched him out to fit the bed; when a guest came who was too tall, he chopped off just enough of him to make him “fit perfectly.” Most of his guests died! This is what happens in so much of Western thinking of whatever sort from philosophy to biology. Everything must “fit” the theory. I am most familiar with psychology, so I will take my examples here. To the Freudian, everything, just everything, must be “reduced” to the vicissitudes of the sexual instinct (Freud later added a “death instinct which was not as popular with his students). And so Freud “explains” the work of Leonardo da Vinci in terms of the “sublimation” of the sexual instinct:
If we reflect on the concurrence in Leonardo of his overpowerful instinct for research and the atrophy of his sexual life (which was restricted to what is called ideal/sublimated/ homosexuality) we shall be disposed to claim him as a model instance of our third type. The core of his nature, and the secret of it, would appear to be that after his curiosity had been activated in infancy in the service of sexual interests he succeeded in sublimating the greater part of his libido into an urge for research. 20
And so the “great” Freud reduces the creative genius of the multifaceted Leonardo, a highest-order Renaissance man, scientist, inventor, and artist of world rank, to the “vicissitudes” of the sexual instinct! Freud’s “argument” that creative genius is “sublimated sexuality” is impaired by the fact that there were other Renaissance men of the order of William Blake, the poet-artist, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the scientist-man of letters, who were married men of fully active sexuality, who despite this “handicap” attained the highest levels of achievement. Freud goes on to admit that the evidence for Leonardo’s sexual life (or lack of it) is very scanty indeed. Freud bases much of his speculation upon an early memory of Leonardo’s in which the Italian word for “kite” is mistranslated (by Freud) as “vulture.” 21 Leonardo recalled a kite falling into his baby carriage as an infant, and his sucking it (that’s what babies do!). In Freud’s mistranslation, a vulture presumably alighted upon the hapless infant, and he sucked its tail, ergo, passive homosexuality. To such lengths will Professor Freud go to make the “patient” fit the psychoanalytic Procrustean bed. An alternative “interpretation” of the “kite episode” is that this symbolized the fact that Leonardo would attain “great heights,” as well he did. In another “classic work” of Freud’s, Moses and Monotheism (1939), Moses is “proven” to be an “Egyptian” on the basis of the scantiest, or rather nonexistent, “evidence,” such as the fact that the Egyptian word for child is “mose.” 22 Freud thereby relegates one of the greatest episodes in human religious history to the Oedipal struggle between father and son. In another famous work, The Future of an Illusion (1927), the Viennese physician and creator of psychoanalysis reduces the spiritual heritage of all humanity to the “infantile projection” of the “father-complex” upon the universe. 23 And so the former astute scientist-explorer, Dr. Freud, who penetrated the mysteries of hysterical neuroses in the 1890’s, in such cases as Frau Emmy von N. and Fraulein Elisabeth von R., becomes infected, in the 1920’s and 1930’s, with the disease of Procrusteanism. The young scientist has become the old ideologue.
Alfred Adler, the first of Freud’s early circle to defect from the “master” and form his own school of “individual psychology,” hinges his core theorizing upon what he calls the “inferiority complex.” True, most of us feel “little” or even “inferior” as children in the “big world” of adults, and many of us suffered specific forms of “inferiorities.” True, as Adler points out, there are some whose adult careers are compensations for these real or felt inferiorities. There are classic examples, such as Demosthenes, the stutterer, who went on to become one of ancient Greece’s greatest orators, and the American black woman, Wilma Rudolph, who overcame childhood polio to win two gold medals in Olympic track. Other examples may occur to you. But Adler’s theory of individual psychology demands that this principle be true universally. So he makes the outlandish statement that “Signs of an inferior visual apparatus play a large part in the development of painters.” Adler has to search history to find a little known 15th century Italian painter, Guercino da Centa, who “squinted.” He mentions another painter, Piero de la Francesca, who became blind in old age. And another, Lenbach, who had only one eye. 24 To such lengths will Dr. Adler go to “support his case.” Never mind that such world masters of art as Titian, Raphael, and Rembrant van Rijn had perfectly normal vision. Most artists whom I have known myself have normal 20/20 vision (writers are much more likely to be nearsighted!). Adler extends his “argument” to other fields such as actors, singers, musicians, etc., and in each case he goes to obvious lengths to select cases, which “prove his hypothesis.” The point is that merely one exception would disprove the “rule.” Yet, quite to the contrary, Adler’s “examples” are exceptional indeed. Far be it from the socialist-egalitarian Adler to conceive of the notion of a God-given gift. It is just possible that Mozart was endowed with a musical gift, Shakespeare with a literary gift, and Jim Thorpe, the American Indian Olympic champion, with an athletic gift, and those and others were not just cases of “striving to overcome inferiorities.”
I feel closer to the Jungians in my views, and I think they have done much to revive the ancient truths contained in the myths of all cultures. But I must differ with them too in their overextension of “Jungian theories.” They too extend their “map,” based upon the limited, though brilliant, career of C. G. Jung, to “explain all.” All religious phenomena are, therefore, reduced to the Jungian “archetypal categories.” One famous Jungian analyst views Christ as the “archetype
of the individuating ego.” Apparently, this is all. It denies by non-statement the possibility of a transcendent spiritual dimension, call it God, and reduces this to the
Self-ego relationship within the individual psyche. The Self, or the psyche’s image of “wholeness,” is as far as most, if not all, Jungians will go. They almost universally say that the God image and the Self are “indistinguishable.” This goes contrary to the history of Western mysticism, which is a history of souls in search of God. It is true that to find God is also to find the Self, but this in no way abrogates the distinction between transcendence and immanence, between God and Self. The orthodox Jungians seem to ignore the action of a transcendent God in the world and in history. This is the action of the spiritual dimension: revelatory and miraculous. It is what religions are about. It is not “reducible” to the dimension of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. It is a higher dimension, the spiritual dimension. To close oneself to this possibility is also Procrusteanism, of a higher order to be sure than Freud’s or Adler’s, but Procrusteanism just the same. Like all Procrusteanism, or reductionism, it has two dangers: (I) it may “mutilate” the patient, and (2) it ignores the possibility of healing of a higher order.
Jung himself, as opposed to the “Jungians,” cannot be faulted on this level. I heard that Jung said, “Thank God, I’m Jung, and not a Jungian!” In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, as an old man in his 80’s, looking back at his life in its broadest patterns, Jung reflects the sentiment of Lao Tzu, the Old Sage, when he declares:
When people say I am wise, or a sage, I cannot accept it. A man once dipped a hatful of water from a stream. What did that amount to? I am not that stream. I am at the stream, but I do nothing. Other people are at the same stream, but most of them find they have to do something with it. I do nothing. I never think that I am the one who must see to it that cherries grow on stalks. I stand and behold, admiring what nature can do. 25
Jung repeats a Hasidic story about a student who came to a rabbi and said: “In the olden times there were men who saw the face of God. Why don’t they any more? The rabbi replied, ‘Because nowadays no one can stoop so low.’” 26
Jung echoes the exact words of Lao Tzu on the last page of his book when he says: “All are clear, I alone am clouded.” 27 He has come to the end of the sickness of “thinking that one knows when one does not know.”
Although Jung would not claim the title for himself, Lao Tzu, I suspect, would say, “This man has become a Sage.” Sagehood involves self-emptying and humility. It is the opposite of Procrustes.
The Weak Can Overcome the Strong (78)
The weakest things in the world can overmatch the strongest things in the world.
Nothing in the world can be compared to water for its weak and yielding nature; yet in attacking the hard and the strong nothing proves better than it. For there is no other alternative to it.
The weak can overcome the strong and the yielding can overcome the hard:
This all the world knows but does not practice. Therefore the Sage says:
He who sustains all the reproaches of the country can be the master of the land;
He who sustains all the calamities of the country can be the king of the world.
These are words of truth,
Though they seem paradoxical.
What is “weaker” and more “yielding than water”? Any hard object will pass through water unobstructed. Yet, the ocean’s waves, in the course of time, will turn hard rocks upon the shore into the finest sand. A tidal wave will demolish any seaside town. Air is even “weaker” and more intangible, yet a tornado is one of nature’s most powerful forces, and it will uproot anything in its path. The Tai Chi art bases itself upon this “water principle,” neutralizing any “hard attack,” through yielding, and delivering explosive force through the concentration and release of “Chi.”
If water and air are “weak” and “yielding,” and yet paradoxically so powerful, how much “weaker” and more “yielding” is “Chi,” or “Spirit”? Both water and wind, it might be noted, are Biblical symbols of the Spirit. Our “modern world” has ceased almost entirely to believe in the reality of the Spirit, in its scientific and philosophical materialism, the legacy of the Age of Rationalism of the last three centuries, only now coming to its limits and ultimate demise at the threshold of a new millennium. Yet, a person moved by the Spirit, such as Lao Tzu stopped at the border to write his poems, or Moses at the burning bush, or Jesus at the River Jordan, can alter the course of human history in ways that no Caesar, Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, or even any modern warlord of this nuclear age could even dream of, despite their great material power. A modern “conqueror” would only bring about mutual destruction, obliterating himself as well as his opponent. But the words and deeds of such men and women of the Spirit as Lao Tzu, Moses, Jesus, White Buffalo Woman, etc., live on into eternity influencing people’s hearts and souls for the good.
Lao Tzu was a shy and retiring historian and mystic who shaped the course of Chinese religious, philosophical, and literary thought for two and a half millennia. Moses was the adopted son of a pharaoh, turned exile and wanderer in the desert. Yet, he was vouchsafed a spiritual vision at a “bush” which altered the course of all of human history, established a monotheistic religion which has lasted for over four millennia, and produced two offspring: Christianity and Islam, and has given Western people their ethical and moral standards in the form of the Ten Commandments. A humble carpenter, born in a stable in a small town in the Middle East, experienced a spiritual transformation following his baptism in a river by a desert prophet named John, and went on to fulfill the prophesy of a Chinese Sage named Lao Tzu who lived hundreds of years earlier in a different part of the world: He sustained “all the reproaches of the country,” and “the calamities of the country” were laid upon his shoulders in the form of a cross upon which he gave up his life. In the belief of Christians, at least, he became the “king of the world.” Jesus’ reliance, as was Moses,’ was on the Spirit, and not on any worldly force or power. Because of this reliance upon “the weakest thing in the world, “Jesus defied the laws of death itself, in his crucifixion and resurrection, as Moses before him had defied all laws of nature and of man, leading a slave people to freedom across a sea, in the face of the greatest army of the world (at that time). We must think about this Spiritual Power.
Throughout history, there have been people of great political, military, and economic power, who seem to have been the “movers” of events. Most of them have long since turned to dust, dead and forgotten. There have also been the much rarer kind of people who show that Lao Tzu spoke the truth when he said, “The weak can overcome the strong and the yielding overcome the hard.”
Probably the greatest of the Taoist Sages following Lao Tzu was ChuangTzu, who lived in the third century BC Chuang Tzu was a master of humor and wit, and he has been called the “genius of the absurd.” In concluding this chapter, we could not do better than to quote the following poem by Master Chuang Tzu:
Man Is Born in Tao
Fishes are born in water.
Man is born in Tao.
If fishes, born in water,
Seek the deep pool,
All their needs are satisfied.
If man, born in Tao,
Sinks into the deep shadow
To forget aggression and concern,
He lacks nothing
His life is secure.
Moral: “All the fish needs
Is to get lost in water.
All man needs is to get lost
In Tao.” 28
The Christian-Zen-Taoist philosopher, Alan Watts makes an interesting comment about Lao Tzu and the Taoists in Tao: the Watercourse Way (1975):
Taoism is not a philosophy of compelling oneself to be calm and dignified under all circumstances. The real and astonishing calm of people like Lao-Tzu comes from the fact that they are ready and willing, without shame, to do whatever comes naturally in all circumstances. The unbelievable result is that they are far more sociable and civilized than those who try to live rigorously by laws and watchwords. 29
The spiritual geniuses of history, the likes of Lao Tzu, Moses, Jesus, and the Buddha, as well as, Krishna, Muhammed, and White Buffalo Woman, had one thing in common: they knew how to “get lost in Tao.” In doing so, they paradoxically found themselves. Moreover, they became beacon lights to the rest of us human beings who are still “lost” out here in exile from the Kingdom of God, or the Tao. Each of these beacon lights “calls us home” in his or her own unique fashion. But, we should not forget that each of these enlightened ones receives his/her light from one single Source, whatever Name: Tao, Brahman, Nirvana, YHWH, Father/Mother, Allah, Wakan Tanka, etc., we call this. So, in the words of Chuang Tzu: “Get lost (in Tao)!”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, trans. Ch’u Ta-Kao, Samuel Weiser, New York, 1973, Chapter 1, 2, 6, 8, 11, 16, 20, 28, 44, 48, 71, 78,
1. Lao Tzu, The Way of Life, trans. R. B. Blakney, New American Library, New York, 1955, p. 27.
2. There is a question among scholars as to whether Lao Tzu actually was a person or a spiritual tradition. Legends about him are wrapped in cryptic symbolism, such as the legend that Lao Tzu was never young, but was born an old man with a long white beard! The only evidence that someone called Lao Tzu, the “Old Philosopher,” did exist are the reports of his meetings with Confucius, and the existence of the extraordinarittle book: the Tao Te Ching. I favor the view that he did exist; he certainly exists for me.
3. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London (New York: Humanities Press), 196 1, p. 15 1.
4. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, Warner Books, New York, 1980, pp. 3-4.
5. The Portable Dante: The Divine Comedy, trans. Clifton Wolters, Penguin Books, New York, 1961, p. 544.
6. Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics, Shambhala Publications, Berkeley, Calif., 1975, p. 77.
7. Rocco A. Errico, The Ancient Aramaic Prayer of Jesus, “The Lord’s Prayer,” Science of Mind Publications, Los Angeles, 1975, p. 59.
8. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York and London, 1978, p. 16.
9. Alan Watts, TAO: The Watercourse Way, Pantheon Books, New York, 1975, p. 49.
10. William C. C. Chen, Tai Chi Chuan, published by William C. C. Chen, 2 Washington Square Village, New York, 1973, p. xix.
11. 1 heard a Zen master tell this story several years ago; I do not recall his name.
12. Author-anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing, trans., Clifton Wolters, Penguin Books, New York, 1961, pp. 134-135.
13. The Bible, Revised Standard Version, New Testament, American Bible Society, New York, 197 1, John 11: 25.
14. The Portable Dante, p. 3.
15. 1 discovered this quotation by Arnold Toynbee in a clipping from a magazine in my 1976 diary; I do not know the source.
16. Henry David Thoreau, Walden, College & University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1965, p. 105.
17. The Bible, Revised Standard Version, Matthew 4: 10.
18. Ibid. I Corinthians 13:1.
19. Ibid. Matthew 6:8.
20. Sigmund Freud, Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood, trans. Alan Tyson, W. W. Norton, New York, 1964, pp. 30-31.
21. Ibid. p. 9.
22. Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1967, p. 5.
23. Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion, Anchor Books, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1961, p. 35.
24. Heinz L. Ansbacher and Rowena R. Ansbacher, eds., The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler, Harper & Row, New York, 1956, p. 29.
25. C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, recorded and edited by Aniela JaffL1, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1963, p. 355.
28. Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu, New Directions, New York, 1965,
Watts, p. 122.
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