Sunday, February 23, 2014

NEW. Philip Levine presenting "The Pearl Within: Discovering the Riches of the Underworld"

Maine C. G. Jung Center, Portland, Maine, January 30, 2014

Modern culture is dying from lack of nourishment. The inner world is considered empty or threatening. So much around us is designed to distract us. It takes great courage to try to live one’s own life, to follow one’s own path as revealed from within.

Who lives inside of each of us? How much of our selves do we know? This will be an evening to appreciate the soul and its challenges and rewards.

Listen (1:45)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Attitude of Consent

[This excerpt is from "The Pearl Within: Discovering the Riches of the Underworld", by Philip Levine]

The hero of the “Hymn of the Pearl” leaves his home and parents voluntarily. We may not be so fortunate. We have forgotten our original Home and so have made our familiar identity and habits its substitute. When we are evicted from our accustomed expectations by events out of our control, whether external or internal, it is easy to feel victimized or resentful. After all, what did you do to deserve this accident, affliction, or loss? At this critical moment, like standing at a crossroads, the road taken may be chosen by your attitude

So let us say that you have been confronted by a disappointment, a failure or defeat. Maybe someone you thought loved you turned out not to. Maybe your commitment to stop drinking or compulsive sex doesn’t seem to be something you are strong enough to achieve. The ego cannot bear defeat easily since it implies limits on its power. Often spiritual teachers focus on desire as a key to growth; not the desire to grow, but the way we are trapped if we identify with our desires. Buddhism in particular teaches that continuing to pursue desire keeps us on the treadmill of habit and suffering. Detachment is liberation.

The Tao-te-Ching says:

Free from desire, you realize the Mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.1

If you observe your desires, you will probably see that desire is bipolar—it pursues whatever seems to bring pleasure and satisfaction (even if it’s pain), and avoids whatever is experienced as a negative. You seek food and avoid hunger, seek comfort and avoid uneasiness. The point is not what we seek, but that desire exists in a world of opposites. One person desires what another flees.

As we mature from infancy, some of our innate traits are praised and others meet with disapproval. Pressure from our parents, teachers and peers subtly or harshly forces us to choose which of our natural instinctive behaviors we will allow, and which cause too much pain, disapproval or embarrassment and so must be let go. We form our persona, our outer mask in order to adapt to our world. Some of this mask is hopefully authentically who we truly are, and some is fake or pretense. However with the passage of time we tend more and more to identify with this mask, and to forget who we really are at the core of ourselves.

The qualities that have been forgotten or driven underground—both pleasant and unpleasant—come to form a hidden alter ego, a personality in many ways the opposite of who we think we are. This opposite self, or shadow, is the first form of the Other, or the Companion. It is understandable why we have so much resistance to opening ourselves to meeting the inner Companion Who can bring us back Home, because it appears at first to be largely composed of rejected traits and behaviors that have not been developed, and so remain immature, because unused. In addition we carry all the judgments that formed around this other self as being unlovable, unwelcome, repulsive, shameful or dangerous.

In our desire to adapt to our surroundings we have had to cast off much of who we really are, unless we are enveloped by an atmosphere of unconditional love. Thus the inner other self or shadow feels like a cast-of for reject. In order to accommodate this other self we must be willing to experience the shadow’s painful feelings of rejection and shame. But if we do not, we become increasingly crystallized in our false self, which eventually brings us close to a state of death, of emptiness. In this state we may even seek out pain as a way to feel we are alive, or we may feel the need to inflict pain out of our own desperation and suffering. We are then the “hollow men.”2

So the first steps of recovering our true Nature can be unpleasant and lonely ones. Starting with an admission of powerlessness and leading to what the 12 Steps call an honest inventory of ourselves, it is easy to see why we usually avoid this. In alchemy for example, the beginning of the process by which gold (or the true Self) is made takes place in chaos, and starts with what was called the prima materia  or primary material, consisting of low and filthy matter like dung and decomposing flesh.

There is in our chemistry a certain noble substance, in the beginning whereof is wretchedness with vinegar, but in its ending joy with gladness. Therefore I have supposed that the same will happen to me, namely that I shall suffer difficulty, grief, and weariness at first, but in the end shall come to glimpse pleasanter and easier things.3

In order to grow beyond the limits of the ego, we have to face death. We have to go through our own death and give up who we thought we were—usually quite a terrifying prospect. Letting go of what we know, of who we were (our false home), and for a time being groundless and without a self, we need something that can “carry” us across the threshold from one state of being to another. 

This could be psychotherapy or belief in a religion or philosophy in which such a death is seen as an initiation leading to rebirth. Rebirth is rarely perceived when we are deeply into our “decomposition” or what the alchemists called the putrefactio. What will carry us through this dark and lonely time, which can last much longer than we might imagine? We need something that says it is all right, it is natural and meaningful to be passing through what can be an agonizing experience.
There seems to be very little in our culture that can offer us anything like this. Instead, if we are unable to avoid this natural breaking down we again find ourselves at the pharmacy counter at the urging of our friends, family or doctor. Anything to suppress the pain, and calm the terror that it will not only get worse but will go on forever. When it starts, it looks like a long straight road to hell. There is nothing to reassure us that eventually it will turn of its own accord and that we will begin to see a dim but growing light, other than the testimony of those who have passed that way before.

Even this reassurance does no good unless we are able to muster enough faith. “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” Instead, for example, of reading the trial and crucifixion of Jesus as something one must blindly believe in if one is Christian, we can once again try to penetrate more deeply into the story without prejudice to hear the voice of the Mystery that speaks. When faced with the realization of what he must suffer in order to fulfill his dharma (the true innate purpose for which he was born), Jesus bends his will into a voluntary acceptance, a sacrifice, which literally means “to make whole or holy.”

This is a lesson for all of us, and at one or more key moments in your life, you too, like Jesus, will be faced with the question of whether or not you can accept what seems forced on you as the only alternative, far different from what you would choose if you could. Are there such moments in your life? What have you done then? Is there one now? What will you do?

In the novel The King Must Die the young boy, Theseus, who will someday be king, must witness his beloved grandfather performing the horse sacrifice. The most beautiful and noble horse in the kingdom, for which the boy has much love, is put to death by the king. The boy is heartbroken with shock and despair, having no possible reason for such an apparently cruel and heartless act. His grandfather explains to him:

Listen, and do not forget, and I will show you a mystery. It is not the sacrifice, whether it comes in youth or age, or the god remits it; it is not the blood-letting that calls down power. It is the consenting, Theseus. The readiness is all. It washes the heart and mind from things of no account, and leaves them open to the god. But one washing does not last a lifetime; we must renew it, or the dust returns to cover us.4

The limits forced on us by life are what was known as “fate,” or necessity. There has always been in myth a boundary, a “ring-pass-not” beyond which one simply cannot go. Why this is so and who or what is enforcing it, we do not know. But sooner or later, if we don’t surrender at the start, we will probably encounter this barrier. It is crucial how we react, because at this time we are meeting the Mystery and from this event we will cast our attitude as to how we will be in relation to that Mystery. 

Consent and sacrifice honor the Mystery; bitterness and refusal to yield are prideful and will only lead to one’s downfall. The difficulty is in being able to tell the difference between a temporary obstacle that can be overcome, and that which cannot be budged, like death. Yielding to any and all challenges is not likely to lead one very far either.

If we believe that there is a pattern or a design or a flow to our life, then we will seek to attune ourselves to it. This is what the Chinese Tao seems to be about. The Tao or Way is between the opposites—the Middle Way. It is so difficult in our extraverted and out-of-control world to be able to give serious attention to our invisible interior landscape, as well as to find the time for its contemplation.

Concepts like “Tao” and “kingdom of heaven” and “dharma” and alchemical solutio are not easily or quickly grasped, and their great power as maps of the interior is largely lost on our ADD culture. What would it take for us to realize that these ideas are worth our attention? How much further out of control must we be, must our children be, before we begin to realize that the answers to many of our problems do not lie in tasks and activities, but in quiet consideration of who we are?

It is indeed tedious for you and for me to keep reminding us of our difficulties. Why not just have another donut and curl up in front of Entertainment Tonight? Why bother anyway? Who knows if life has a purpose at all? The more chaotic things get, the harder it is to believe. However, the more crazy things are, the more desperate we really are for something to provide a sense of order and sanity. These ancient inner ideas can help us to navigate, just as our atlases and computer programs help us land on the moon.

As you set out on your solitary journey, whether voluntarily because you feel called, or because you have been forced out of your familiar setting by circumstance, it will ensure the best possible outcome if you give some thought to preparation.

Provisions are supplies and the foresight that can meet contingencies. What can you expect when you leave the known and move into the unknown? 

You can expect to get lost, and to have no idea of how far, how difficult, or what type of destination you even hope to reach.

1 Tao Te Ching, 1.
2 T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”.
3 Michael Maier, Symbola Aureae Mensae(1617).
4 Mary Renault, The King Must Die, (Vintage, 1988), p. 17.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

There Will Be More Tears

By now, we have seen our national (US) and global economy teetering on the edge. Or we have witnessed repeated "super" storms with outrageous strength and size. Is there a reason to expect that will suddenly stop, or do you now wait for the next one? And more and more lone gunmen play out their video-game fantasies as if other human beings are only put here as targets.

No doubt, the world as it is and as it is becoming is not the same world I grew up in.

If you are not among the vast numbers of people in total denial that things are crumbling around us, then you probably are wondering "What is really happening? Are these events at all related? If so, how? What can I do? What should I do?"

To "do" implies to take action. Our unbalanced macho approach to life (collectively) makes it clear: we need to analyze the situation, figure out which details can be changed to make this all go away, and then to take action. DO something!

I don't personally think that is going to fix things. Because to me, one of the main causes of our predicament is in our assumption stated above: that we can fix anything with enough logic and sweat. It is the statement "DO something" that reflects our erroneous flight path.

People run to their pet solutions: ban guns, put away all mentally "ill" people, make punishment harsher, blame homosexuality, gay marriage, and other religious scapegoats for our troubles. But what we need is to devote our efforts to rediscovering who we really are.

To do so requires introspection, contemplation, humility, curiosity and courage. To find a still place within while the world collapses around you, in order to reconnect with your true Source and your true Identity, what you were born for, not what others tell you you should be doing. It is only from that Source that we will be able to find our way, not in plans, the next war-on-something (drugs, guns, violence), or macho pride (we are the best, we are the biggest, etc).

We cannot wait for the government to figure this out, or expect to be told that we must turn inward for the answers.

There will be more tears. And they also will come from within, as does almost all that humans create.

So why keep looking only on the outside for answers to the problems that arise from within?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sacrificing Our Children (1998)

[Sadly, I am reminded of this article which I wrote 14 years ago.]
During the past weeks the shootings of young students and a teacher in Jonesboro, Arkansas and the suicides of two high school students here in Maine have evoked a lot of pain. Once again a chorus of questions asks why did it happen and how can we prevent it from happening again.
These tragic losses of the young hurt us more than natural death because we see lives lost before potential has been realized. These children have not had and never will have the opportunity to try life and leave their mark as adults.
Consider that these very visible and heart-breaking cases are the shocking evidence of a much larger and deeper problem. Our children are not being cared for in ways that they need. The ones who survive, who don’t take a gun or commit suicide, are still suffering from a lack of recognition, of respect.
Experts argue whether it is the violence on television or the availability of guns or lower education standards that are at the root of such troubles. Perhaps we need to change our perspective if we ever hope to stem the rising tide of senseless violence and disrespect for life.
Instead of debating about what we need to DO, it might be time to begin asking who we need to BE.
In ancient times in Greece, where the gods and goddesses were worshipped, when a tragedy befell the innocent, it was assumed that the cause was that the gods had been angered. And the common cause for this angry response was usually believed to be neglect – that the gods had not been honored, respected, given their due.
While we now live in a time that can no longer accept the possibility of gods and goddesses – or for many, any higher Power whatsoever – it is important that we reconsider the potential wisdom of such a belief. We lost our ability to believe when science began to ask, "If there are such gods, then where are they to be found?" "What proof do we have?" "Has anyone ever seen one?"
Perhaps their gods represent interior parts of us that have been ignored.
Whether or not the Greek gods exist (or any other religion’s) we must admit that there are aspects of life that are beyond our control and that can intervene in powerful and unexpected ways. Perhaps the Greeks (or all religions, for that matter) simply did the best they could to understand and to relate to these forces by personifying them. The fact that we cannot scientifically prove their model does not negate the existence of these forces that move us from within.
The Greek myth of the minotaur tells of how once a year the ships came from King Minos’ kingdom on Crete to gather children to be brought back to be sacrificed to the monstrous bull-headed minotaur. And this creature was created because Poseidon, god of the sea, was angered at having been cheated by the King who promised to sacrifice his best white bull (which Poseidon had given him) but substituted another.

We are sacrificing our children because we are either unwilling or unable to honor our inner world anymore. Our problems need us to honor the creative source found within. Our souls are drying up because of the belief that a life is made meaningful only by the pursuit of material objects or glamour or fame. And the children suffer first.
To deny that we are subject to the apparent whims of mysterious and uncontrollable inner forces is dangerous in the extreme. Yet that is what our culture seems to be doing. How long can we continue our denial in the face of the painful evidence to the contrary?
Exactly what do we as a nation do to honor these powers or forces? We must begin to teach our children to develop a relationship with their inner world of feeling, thought and imagination.
In earlier less violent times, Sundays and holidays were days for prayer and reflection. Now these days are a chance to go shopping or run errands that cannot be done during the week.
Do we as a community offer one week, one day, one hour, or even one minute of our lives to honor that which is bigger, deeper, more mysterious and unknown than our daily lives? To be humble? To be respectful?
Our children need us to show them that the inner person is to be respected and honored if it is to be understood. There is no space in our lives – largely based on the pursuit of money, information, and material objects – for looking inward, either as individuals or as a community.
Our children, who have not been born with our collective madness and lack of spiritual roots, find themselves starved for the nourishment they need. They witness most of us running frantically toward something quite shallow and unfulfilling, if we are indeed even pursuing anything at all. Is our country, as a whole, pursuing a goal, following a higher ideal? Or are we fleeing, in fear, the truth of our emptiness and the dread of inactivity?
This is a dangerous imbalance and indicates that we are sick as a society. These violent events are symptoms. Stuffing our emptiness with more 'things' is not the answer. Trying to find a solution only in more and more external programs and activities does not address this core problem.
Reaching inside ourselves to our human nature, to the border between what we know and what we don’t, we may be able to hear a guiding voice, to glimpse a healing vision.
Our children are dying, inside and out. Do we care? Really care?
We need to teach them how to reflect, to meditate, to understand and to contain their often conflictual and chaotic inner world of feeling and fantasy. Is this not the place where the urge to do violence to themselves or others arises?
What are you willing to do to save a child? To save the children all around us?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Good News, Bad News?

In 1989, as Pluto approached the Soviet Union's birth Sun position, the Communist system that was the Soviet Union collapsed. Did the Soviets imagine such an outcome? Were they aware during the downfall of their ideology (not political system, but a religion) that their world was coming apart while it was happening? Now, with Pluto approaching an opposition to the US birth Sun (exact in 2014), and our "religion" of Capitalism in deep trouble...

-- Mystery blog, July 2009
I have always lived in the USA. The prevailing atmosphere for quite a while now has seemed to me quite unhealthy, and going in the direction of chaos and disintegration. The government is barely functioning, elections are now more than ever just popularity contests, about personalities and self interest, not the good of the country. If ever in my lifetime the United States has needed change, radical change, it is now.

If you have read my writing, you know I am not a proponent of predictive astrology. I consider it self-glorifying fortune telling. Yet in 1986 I began pointing out that Pluto was moving into a conjunction with the Soviet Union's Sun (1917) and that major change was to be expected. Yet I did not foresee what a huge and surprising transformation would soon occur. After generations of governmental brainwashing to instill in the populace a devotion to communist ideals and practices (corrupt as they may have been), suddenly there was no more communist state.

Now here we are in 2012, and Pluto is moving closer to its opposition to the US Sun (1776). In addition the powerful theme of Uranus square to the US Sun is simultaneously occurring. What are we to expect?

I called this blog entry "Good News, Bad News?" because we are deeply in need of a thorough change. The depth of a Pluto transit like this (2014-15) combined with Uranus brings tremendous opportunities for healing, empowerment, cleansing, purging (good news). But those positive terms usually are painful to endure (bad news). It foreshadows a breaking down into chaotic pieces, the collapse of illusion and deception, and the cleaning up of deep seated corruption. We've got plenty of illusion, deception and corruption.

What about you? Is this good news or bad news?

If an astrological client comes to me with an impending Pluto transit to their Sun, I have usually said to them the opportunity for death and rebirth is presenting itself. I tell them to come back in a year and tell me how they are then a different person, a different "I". I say this to convey the depth and power of such a change, so much so that one's personal identity feels different from what it had been.

We can see this as being the case in Russia over the past 23 years. Communism, the heart of the ideology that ruled that nation since the early 20th century, fell apart. The collection of allied nations in Europe and Asia that had been unified under the Soviet system broke apart into pieces, for better or worse in each case.

Now we are on the brink of what could be a change of similar magnitude in the United States. Our identity in this country is going to change, probably drastically. We have thought of ourselves as the strongest, mightiest, wealthiest, smartest, etc in the world. Evidence has been mounting (debt, corruption, erosion of global power, etc) that this may no longer be true.

It is actually the Sun (and its square with Saturn) in the US chart that represents our deep-seated insecurity, the result of having proclaimed ourselves as a legitimate nation in the face of the monarchy and its backing by divine powers that had been historically our justification for existing. Interestingly, the Soviet Union had the same Sun-Saturn square, and the same insecurity, which in their case came from declaring themselves as valid in the face of the authority of the czars. It is like a weak son loudly proclaiming his independence from his strong father, bragging and chest thumping his power while inwardly doubting his own authority. Thus the Cold War showcased two nations claiming superiority while feeling inferior. But that is another blog.

The astrological cycles suggest that the time is almost here for something to break down, collapse, lose power, as happened in Russia.

Again, is this good news or bad news?

Or both?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Obama and Sully Sullenberger

If you are one of the three individuals following this blog, then you may remember that in February 2009 I wrote (see below) that perhaps Sully Sullenberger's heroic and competent action which saved the occupants of US Airways Flight 1549, a week before Obama's inauguration, could be a sign of Obama's presidency, in which all we can hope for is that as President, he could guide us in our plunge (economic) to earth in a way that at least kept us from obliteration.

Yesterday, in an interview with CBS, President Obama said this: "No matter how well we're steering the ship, if the boat's rocking back and forth, and people are getting sick, they're being buffeted by the winds and the rain. At a certain point if you ask them, 'Are you enjoying the ride right now?', folks are gonna say, 'No.' And [if you ask them], 'Do you think the captain's doing a good job?', people are gonna say, 'You know what? A good captain would have had us in some smooth waters and sunny skies, at this point.' And I don't control the weather. What I can control are the policies we're putting in place to make a difference in people's lives.' "

It's been almost 3 years. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Neptune and Believing What You Want To Believe

The MJ hysteria hopefully has crested. The "greatest entertainer in the history of the world" is finally leaving the stage. I am not a Michael Jackson fan (though I own and have listened to "Thriller"), nor am I an MJ accuser. My interest lies more in the fascinating collective event I have just witnessed. What could possibly generate such an over-the-top reaction in the media and in millions of humans?

Astrologers are aware that we are experiencing a rare conjunction of Jupiter-Neptune-Chiron this summer. Where Neptune is involved, questions of credibility usually arise. Add Jupiter -- the planet of expansion, exaggeration and inflation -- to Neptune's predisposition to imagine, pretend, and fantasize, and it looks like a Hollywood extravaganza celebrating the benefits of delusion and denial.

I have nothing against Michael Jackson, but I abhor pretense and denial of what's real and true.

Why at this time -- summer of 2009 -- should this matter?

If people want to believe that MJ was the greatest entertainer of all time, the greatest humanitarian citizen of our times, and Father of the Year, in spite of a documented history of having been an abused child, and living as a drug addict and accused pedophile, then let them, but let's call it what it is: "escape from reality."

The greater concern is how this very public display of self-indulgence and fairy tale values accurately reflects our attitudes and beliefs about our current situation in the world. The economy is (not was) collapsing. In 1989, as Pluto approached the Soviet Union's birth Sun position, the Communist system that was the Soviet Union collapsed. Did the Soviets imagine such an outcome? Were they aware during the downfall of their ideology (not political system, but a religion) that their world was coming apart while it was happening?

Now, with Pluto approaching an opposition to the US birth Sun (exact in 2014), and our "religion" of Capitalism in deep trouble, why not lose a few days in an orgy of emotionalism because a pop entertainer is gone? Hasn't he already been gone a long time? Isn't it much less trying to mourn a fantasy pop figure than to face our growing scary problems?

What will be the next Great Crisis?

When this Jupiter-Neptune conjunction dissolves this fall, will that mean escape is harder to find? Probably not. There are still new iPods, iPhones, flat screens, mindless movies, and the drama of sports to pull up over our heads, helping to drown out the scary sounds and images of a collapsing world.

Yes, I know, you can call me a "pessimist," "sourpuss," "gloomy," and all those other terms we use to diminish any negative message that doesn't keep propping us up with more denial and self-deception.

The Hollywood funeral with all of its merchants of escapism, the obsession of the media with every detail of the death and burial of a former pop star, and the attempt to make this a life-altering event cannot stop the movement that is already under way, anymore than the collapse of the Soviet Union could have been stopped.

Rather than just ranting about how bad things are, I would rather ask you: how do you intend to live your life through the coming years? After October, the curtain will once again be drawn back, just as it was in late 2008, and we will once again discover that we are living at the very edge, and that our credit cards, SUV's and entertainment centers will take on a very different meaning as banks, stock markets, or whatever the latest hole in the dike may be, resume their downward spiral, unable to maintain the illusion of a prosperous life and unlimited growth as our roads and bridges continue to fall apart.

Will there be a Mystery at the center that you can turn to, hoping for answers and images of sustenance to get you through, or will you be carrying on over the latest celebrity to kick the bucket?