Getting past the shield

Statue of a Gaul warrior wearing a sagum and h...
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“Projection is always an indirect process of becoming conscious – indirect because of the check exercised by the conscious mind, by the pressure of traditional or conventional ideas which take the place of real experience and prevent it from happening.” Carl Jung, Mysterium  Coniunctionis, par. 486

Our ideas as defense mechanisms that replace real experience, now if that doesn’t that throw the towel into the ring, nothing does.  William James went so far as to claim that all forms of absolutism are but cowardice in the face of theeil chaos of the cosmos (sorry, the book isn’t with me so I’ll add a reference later).

So our notion of the world as a shield from the world, and pressures from the unconscious leaking out as projection as if the unconscious attempts in this indirect manner to reconnect us with the real.  An example: a projection of wisdom gets laid on the “guru” in any field, perhaps when that level of wisdom is not even carried by that individual, because the unconscious is attempting to put wisdom itself into the mix when the conscious attitude becomes to rigid.   We see it all the time in web 2.0 and much like the confidence man of Melville, the guru’s are quick to capitalize on the projections, even positioning themselves to become the target.

Our rational shield gets stripped away a bit facing the expanses and the harshness of the Western landscape.  Indeed, a return to nature tends to put our feet firmly on the ground and bring our heads down out of the clouds.  If not,  slipping on the uneven terrain and an injury is a likely result. If you find yourself looking to others for your answers, perhaps switch it up a bit and turn back to wilderness.  As Dante shared, it’s in the dark wood that we find the portal to the underworld.

…and Sun

Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Image by kevindooley via Flickr

(Third in a series of posts examining guiding words for 2009: water, fertilizer, and sun.)

After examining testimonies through hundreds of pages in his masterpiece The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James concludes:

“Meanwhile the practical needs and experiences of religion seem to me sufficiently met by the belief that beyond each man and in a fashion continuous with him there exists a larger power which is friendly to him and his ideals.  All that the facts require is that the power should be both other and larger than our conscious selves.  Anything larger will do, if only it be large enough to trust for the next step.”

When I selected sun as the third word of my guiding triad for 2009, it was with this idea: of moving forward being open to powers greater than myself.  Planning is an essential activity, but each day throws the unexpected in our path from both within and without.

I’m reminded of the simple African ritual that Jung encountered in his travels.  At sunrise the men would spit in their palms and raise their open hands to the rising sun.  That done, they got on with their day.  For me the word sun is all about remaining in right relationship to the cosmos, honoring both the fragility and the intricacy of the balance that results in this marvelous show.

Negitive Capability

John Keats


Last week in a post on practice, I sketched the simple pragmatist approach to action which I found scattered through the notebooks of the poet Charles Olson: thought, belief, action.  In Olson’s poetics, the poem flowed onto the page from a place of certainty, but certainty defined with one caveat: negative capability.

In a letter written in 1817, John Keats wrote:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.

Action flowing from right relation to the cosmos; how difficult it is to hit the mark.  It’s interesting that Gladwell’s Outliers is to be released this week.  The premise there, that it takes 10,000 hours engaged in the practice of whatever to reach mastery in the given activity.  We intuitively know it to be true for athletes and musicians…but the fact is, its true for everything.

Beware the danger: 10, 000 hours of commitment and still the unfortunate “irritable reaching after fact & reason.”  William James refers to this lack of intentional open mindedness coupled with a reliance on common sense as the result of cowardice when faced with the chaos of things.  Such cowardice James claims engenders all and every form of absolutism.

That seems like plenty to chew upon…

(image cc via Wikipedia)