Thursday, October 16, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again

"Simple persons live within the happiness of their inner world."--   Transformation  by R. Johnson

In most every spiritual tradition there is a sense
of growing maturity, a ripening of the self into what some call satori, enlightenment or salvation, among other descriptions of this experience. Author and Jungian psychologist Robert Johnson discusses this in his book, Transformation.

He writes there are three levels
of consciousness. They are universal the world over, yet in industrialized societies the progression of these experiences is made all the more difficult by our very advances in book learning and complex societies. The level of all mankind, endowed to each of us by nature is what he describes as 'simple consciousness' next comes 'complex consciousness,' the "usual state of educated Western man, and an 'enlightened' state of consciousness, known only to a very few individuals."

Enlightenment, Johnson reckons,
comes to very few men only after much work and training by highly motivated individuals. He recounts a simple story to illustrate these notions: 'the simple man comes home in the evening wondering what's for dinner; the complex man comes home pondering the imponderables of fate, and the enlightened man comes home wondering what's for dinner.
"Simple man and enlightened man have much in common, including a direct, uncomplicated view of life, and so they react in similar ways."

The difference between them is that the enlightened are conscious of their condition in ways that the simple persons are not. Complex persons however are often engaged with worry, and often live lives marked by anxiety.
Writing Walden Pond, 19th century author Henry David Thoreau writes about his experiences and those of others he knows. He chronicles the complex, Western man's attempt to regain a sense of simplicity in their life.
Gandhi urged India in an earlier era to retain its domestic simplicity; his urgings were largely ignored. Today when one travels to India we are often aware of the tremendous poverty, illness and wants of her citizens. All true. However alongside of these ills is a clear and abundant sense of joyfulness. There is a happiness among large numbers of Indians in their daily lives. Johnson writes of his experiences there, "I was witnessing the miracle of simple man finding happiness in a rich, inner world, not in the pursuit of some desired goal.

Simple persons live within this happiness of their inner world no matter what the exterior circumstance may be. Those of enlightened conscious also know this and live with an attitude of happiness which bridges their inner world with objective facts, a connection the Simple person does not or is unable to make.
Many a Hindu learns that the highest worship is to simply be happy. On the other hand, complex persons often live in their sense of anxiety and dread, trapped between nostalgia and anticipation of what may come, a fate that mostly eludes ones' grasp.
Despite this, complex consciousness is so highly valued by Westerners that nothing is thought to be too great or expensive in a bid "to gain freedom, self-determination and choices," wrought by his expanded perception writes Johnson.

Traditional Indian society, he observes, is based "on a caste system that allows only a few superior individuals," Brahmins, the chief caste to gain consciousness. The lower castes are less concerned with enlightened minds or methods. This keeps the vast majority of Indians in a state of their natural given, simple consciousness.
For once on the path to enlightenment, many will make significant gains before meeting frustration warned Carl Jung, Johnson's mentor.

Jung noted that once one has left the innate state of simple consciousness for more complex states, one can no longer turn around to retrace the steps of the path from which one has come. Quite simply, he believed that on the path to consciousness, Complex persons may meet with stresses and frustration from which they cannot retire. In other words, you can't just go home again to the earlier simplicity and peace you once knew, in recognition of a certain loss of innocence.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Nature's God the Origins of the American Revolution

"Locke and Spinoza are the chalk and cheese of the early Enlightenment..."  -- Nature's God by Matthew Stewart

The origins of  America, the United States of America as she is formally known, is set down and cast. Generations have studied her beginnings and precepts in schools and universities across this nation. Yet here comes author Matthew Stewart with his new book, Nature's God, to upset the status quo. Not only did the process of establishing a Republic form in the minds of Colonial America, but in European capitals as well where it found fertile soils. The Enlightenment brought a firm change in the usual order of intellectual life. Creation once separated from a divinity and re-assigned to science, now allowed for minds to range freely.

Stewart argues that along with those individuals traditionally credited for the founding of the American Republic, there were a few others. He writes that along with a nation, a civil religion also ensued. He further credits men such as Ethan Allen, Thomas Young instigator of the 1773 Boston Tea Party, Dutchman and philosopher Benedict de Spinoza as among those most fervent to liberate ourselves and our minds from not the tyranny of one king but from the tyranny of the ultimate, the supernatural religions.

They returned to the fertile imaginings of the earlier Republics, both Roman and Greek, to philosophers such as Aristotle and Lucretius; the widely influential mind of Englishman John Locke. John Locke who was a student of Frenchman Descartes in his early years and mentored by the scientist Robert Boyle, in close association with Issac Newton.
John Locke developed and promulgated his ideas on freedom of religion and the rights of a citizen which did not go well for him under the English monarchy; he was forced to flee England preferring Holland.
The Dutch received him well enough and he apparently made good contacts there, most importantly Benedict de Spinoza. Author Stewart charges that it was the conflagration between two unlikely minds, German Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibinitz and Englishman John Locke that produced the ground upon which the American experiment came to rest. For the remainder of the book he lays out his case for both the establishment of a land in which those ideas most rank and most fertile would develop into a Republic, and a national sort of religion based on science and reason.

In the evolving nationhood, America came to regard
the supernatural in ways known since the much earlier eras of heterodox Rome. While Rome held forth for religion and spiritual practice, it was to nature they gave the most delight. These men of Enlightenment were in their day, deists, those for whom religion was, as Stewart writes, "a watery expression of the Christian religion," arising in England and transported to the American Colonies. He further charges that these same men stirred up a sweeping deism, an atheism that allowed for the simplicity of nature to overshadow and endow the American Declaration of Independence and likewise, the Constitution with so much of its radical force.