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Response [temporary] to Meditation in a Former Chapel””

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    Robert Juliano

      On August 7, 2022, Dr. John Bonaduce wrote a wonderful essay in MythBlast entitled Meditation in a Former Chapel. For some reason, there has been no conversation thread started as of yet for this interesting essay. I thought I would put my own thoughts here and will move it to the conversation thread should one be created for it.

      One of my alma maters is Pacifica Graduate Institute (PGI), home to the Joseph Campbell Library which houses 3,000+ of his books. The Ladera campus where I studied depth psychology is the site of a former Jesuit novitiate, the details of which are still visible to the careful observer. It is a very peaceful place to study with a breathtaking view of the Santa Ynez Mountains. And I sensed more the presence of ancestors than that of deities at that site.

      In the essay, Dr. Bonaduce wrote that “the idea that one ‘beholds’ God is actually a disaster in Campbell’s thinking. It is the ‘final barrier’ encountered by the kundalini who has reached the sixth cakra.” I’ll return to the notion of beholding God a bit later. But, I remember in one of Campbell’s talks, he showed an image of Kali having just cut off her own head and explained that this is Kali removing herself as an obstacle to the yogi moving to even higher attainment. Crucially, it is the Goddess herself who does this for those who follow her and are ready to go beyond. Sri Ramakrishna demonstrates another way this can happen. When he was asked about Kali and the color black, Sri Ramakrishna responded:

      You see Her as black because you are far away from Her. Go near and you will find Her devoid of all colour. … The nearer you come to God, the more you will realize that He has neither name nor form.

      Thus, we see here that in the long run it is not a disaster to behold God. But beholding God does greatly weaken one’s sense of autonomy, something which can be seen to be at odds with the spiritual path Campbell thought appropriate for the West – the individual quest, the individual path. It is worth mentioning that both he and his wife Jean had an experience of seeing God. This was during their trips to Elephanta where they saw in cave 1 “the colossal bust” of Shiva Mahésvara (Trimurti Sadashiva), the image of which would grace the front cover of Campbell’s later book The Mythic Image. Of those trips, both said they had the numinous experience of “looking at God.”

      I think it is important to note that when we experience an image, we don’t have to stop at the image. There are ways of profoundly deepening our experience of that image. This can be done safely by circumambulating the image through various means, means which maintain the distinction between individual and image, or through means which result in a more intimate relation with the image such as through our imagining. It is possible to do this even to the point of uniting with it. And in the work of Dr. Wolfgang Giegerich, we go beyond even this. We see the formless essence of the image in the form of thinking and philosophical thought, the myths of entering into the stone being an example of what he called absolute negative interiorization. The stone, like the image, is held to be a very real obstacle. The approach is not merely to skirt around the stone. The very obstacle becomes *the way* inside the stone, the way to absolute negative interiorization which is seen by Giegerich as a higher plane in relation to the image. It is reminiscent of what Sri Ramakrishna said about going nearer to God.

      The movement beyond the image which has been evolving in the West over the centuries since the death of Christ is worth studying in detail. There has been a striving for emancipation from the visible, the perceptible, the tangible, and toward the abstract infinite and the imagining of pure, imperceptible, unlimited space. Crucially, we see evidence that what we call “the unconscious” has been aiding this process. We likewise see this aid through an astrological hermeneutic applied to the last two millennia. Now, you mentioned Mohammed cleansing the Ka’bah of idols. This was done in 630 AD, about 160 years before the Nicaean Council of 787 where the image was depotentiated followed by the Council of Constantinople in 869 which reduced soul to the rational intellectual spirit.

      It is quite natural, then, to fear the image for they remind us of the limitations of our freedom. Put another way, they demonstrate to us the immensity of the task before us to achieve various spiritual goals such as individuation or beyond. Dr. Giegerich’s work attempts to take us beyond the image, but as Dr. Stanton Marlan says, this may come at too high a cost. Dr. Marlan points to the work of Jung and his success at re-cognizing the importance of the image. To give that up so soon after such recognition seems quite dangerous.

      It is not quite clear that “Brahman without characteristics is superior than Brahman with characteristics.” Here, I am reminded of the triple body of the Buddha – Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. These are held to be equally important even though Dharmakaya comes closest to the notion of Brahman without characteristics (Sambhogakaya being close to the subtle body, and Nirmanakaya being close to the manifested physical body). And I don’t sense in Sri Ramakrishna’s words that Kali without qualities is superior to Kali with qualities. I am also reminded of Philemon’s Sermon I (Jung’s Black Books and Red Book) where he talks about the Pleroma and says “that which is endless and eternal has no qualities, since it has all qualities.”

      One final thing. Jung’s work on the archetype spans five decades (largely from 1906 to 1954). Jung begins with that which is directly experienceable – the image – and ends up with that which cannot be directly experienced at all – the psychoid archetype. In the greatly updated 1954 paper entitled “On the Nature of the Psyche,” the only paper in all of the Collected Works where he elaborates on the concept of the psychoid unconscious and the psychoid archetype, Jung hypothesized that the archetype may be beyond the psyche (i.e., it is no longer held to be in the collective unconscious, but in the psychoid unconscious). And Giegerich and Dr. Jeffrey Raff, each for different reasons, hold Jung didn’t go far enough. Giegerich writes Jung did not take his work to its logical conclusion – thought and absolute negative interiorization; Dr. Raff writes Jung’s Analytical Psychology only supports Dorn’s first and second stages of the coniunctio, but does not support the third which is union with the unus mundus.

      PS: In my note Faust and the Dangers of Limitless Space, I discuss the deal made between Faust and Mephistopheles in Goethe’s play. Faust does NOT unconditionally give his soul to Mephistopheles in exchange for those experiences that he would otherwise never have. Instead, the deal is that, should Mephistopheles ever introduce Faust to a life that Faust does not want to and cannot leave, only then is Mephistopheles entitled to his soul. It is critical to see and feel the full implication of this deal. Theoretically, Faust can have an infinite number and variety of experiences and never have to pay for them with his soul provided that he never tells Mephisopheles to stop – “Ah, stay a while! You are so lovely!” This is a compelling image for our current circumstance in the West – the inability to embrace and be hospitable to the *present moment*. For so many reasons, this represents an exceedingly dangerous situation. And it seems to me that improving relations with the image, physical or imaginal, can have the effect of keeping us grounded to the current moment and balance out this movement toward the infinite whose momentum is of frightening immensity.

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