Wednesday, October 16, 2019

#13 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Shadow)

If men venture into reading any of these pieces, they will be growing increasingly frustrated, irritated and potentially angry at the persistence here on a focus on what Jung calls the unconscious. Ever the hands-on, fix-it specialists, eager to learn the template that explains how anything works, and even more animated if whatever is not working seems to defy the template, most men begin their day in complete and utter unawareness of their/our unconscious. And if and when anyone attempts to parse some attitude or behaviour that evokes puzzlement, many men find an excuse to depart the conversation while also closing their ears, minds and bodies even to remaining as a silent observer of the speculation. Increasingly, in a digital age, we are surrendering our “public identities” to a complex system of algorithms, the bases of which are undoubtedly based on mountains of evidence of what is considered normal, normative and predictive in human behaviour.

Even if these pieces merely prompt some few men, or even just one man, to pause, look in the mirror, especially when he is experiencing an unsettling conflict within himself, and wonder if there are some aspects of the fullness of his “self” that he does not and apparently cannot understand. Such moments frequently, if not always, emerge from a statement, or an action that seemed to be completely “out of left field”, unexpected, unwanted, often embarrassing and occasionally dangerous. And, although western culture bases virtually all of our shared “conventional, normal, normative and acceptable” behaviour on what is empirically evident and verified, a legitimate case can and needs to be made that opens the door of the cultural ‘mind-set’ to the unconscious. Individual denial, avoidance, repression of many memories, traumas and conflicts, parallels a cultural tendency to “leave sleeping dogs lie”…in the words of many who found themselves engaged in conversations about shared trauma.
It is in acceptance and endorsement of the Jungian proposition that only through the “unpacking” of what lies hidden in our individual unconscious (and also in our collective unconscious) will we find the surprising gift of the new insights peeping out of our unpacking that these words are appearing. Referencing John Sanford’s Evil, The Shadow Side of Reality, New York, 1989, we find a quote from Edward C. Whitmont, The Symbolic Quest, Princeton, 1978, p. 160 in Sanford, p.49:

“The term shadow refers to that part of the personality which has been repressed for the sake of the ego ideal.”

Sanford continues:

The “ego ideal” consists of the ideals or standards that shape the development of the ego or conscious personality. These ego ideals may come from society, parents, a peer group, or religious mores. We may consciously and deliberately select them, or they may operate more or less unconsciously to mould ego development…Generally speaking these ideal standards of being and behaving are related in our culture to the requirements of society and to the Judaeo-Christian moral standards. So society tells us that we cannot steal, murder, or engage in other socially destructive behaviour without incurring punishment. Most of us conform more or less to this requirement and, consequently, deny and repress the thief and murderer within us. The Judeo-Christian moral code goes further and urges us to be loving, forgiving, sexually chaste, etc. In trying to conform to this ideal we reject the part of us that gets angry, is vindictive, and has uncontrolled sexual urges. (Sanford, op. cit., p.49)
And a little later, Sanford writes:

In our dreams the shadow personality appears as a figure of the same sex as ourselves whom we fear or dislike or react to as an inferior being…A man for instance, has certain feminine qualities that comprise his anima, but his Shadow embodies rejected masculine qualities that act like an alter ego….The Shadow may also be a passive figure, the personification of a weakness we would rather not notice…The shadow personality can also be thought of as the unlived life. A good example of this is found in Goethe’s famous poem, Faust. Professor Faust, 50 years old, an eminently successful scholar and renowned teacher, has reached the end of his rope. His life has dried up, his soul has become like a desert, and he even contemplates suicide. Enter Mephistopheles on the scene, and the two fo them make a bargain: If Mephistopheles will do Faust’s bidding in this life and see to it that Faust experiences all of the deep emotions and experiences of human life, when Faust dies he will give his soul to the devil. The bargain is sealed in blood and the story goes on to tell how Faust casts off his role as a professor and intellectual and lives out his unlived life of feeling, eros, power and sex. This story also points up the valuable qualities of the Shadow. For while we have largely described the shadow personality in negative terms, in fact the Shadow contains many vital qualities that can add to our life and strength if we are related to them in the correct way. In Faust’s case, for instance the unused energies of his shadow personality brought him back to life and gave him renewed vitality…At other times, too, the shadow personality may be a boon top our personality if we can relate to it in the correct way. It may be, for instance, that a man who has tried to be kind and “Christian” in his relations with people has repressed his anger, and it now appears as part of his shadow personality. Yet if he is able to integrate some of that capacity for anger, it may help him become a stronger, more resolute person, for anger can be, as James Hillman once said, a healthy reaction to an intolerable situation.

 Without our Shadow, then, we may lack the capacity for a healthy reaction to life situations that are becoming intolerable to our spirit….Another important help we get from the Shadow is a sense of humor. An analysis of humor shows that it us usually the shadow personality who laughs. This is because humour expresses so many of our hidden, inferior, or feared emotions. For this reason another way to get at a knowledge of our Shadow is to observe what it is that strikes our sense of humour, for in our laughter we can often see our Shadow being harmlessly released…People in whom the Shadow is too repressed  are apt to lack a sense of humour. They are also likely to be judging and unforgiving of other people, like the Pharisee who looked down on the woman with the unsavory reputation (Luke 7:36-50) However, Jesus respected this woman and said that, having been forgiven a great deal in her life, she also has a great capacity for love which the Pharisee lacked because he had never made any mistakes in life, and so had never been confronted by his Shadow. (Sanford, op. cit, pps. 50-1-2-3)

“The usual way that people try to deal with the problem of the Shadow is simply to deny its existence. This is because awareness of one’s Shadow brings guilt and tension and forces upon us a difficult psychological and spiritual task. On the other hand, denial of the Shadow does not solve the problem but simply makes it worse, Not only do we then lose contact with the positive aspects of this darks side of ourselves, but we will also very likely project thus dark side onto  other people.” (Ibid, p.58-9)

As a guiding, if paradoxical, principle, Sanford writes:

If we strive to be too good we only engender the opposite reaction in the unconscious. If we try to live too much in the light, a corresponding amount of darkness accumulates within. If we go beyond the bounds of our natural capacity for love and kindness, we build up an opposing amount of anger and cruelty within us. Psychology warns us against trying to be better than we are, and urges us to strive not so much for a forced “goodness” but for consciousness, and to live, not out of ideals we cannot keep, but from an inner Center which alone can keep the balance. The grounds for the moral life are thus shifted from a striving for the highest moral ideals (though moral ideals are also important) to a striving for self-knowledge, in the belief that man’s moral values and ideals are only effective within the scope of his consciousness. To try to be good, and disregard one’s darkness, is to fall victim to the evil in ourselves whose existence we have denied. (Ibid, p. 23)

While these excerpts do not attempt a full explication of the Shadow, they do point to a process of self-consciousness that defies what has become the moral code codified, imposed and enforced by the Christian church. Obsessed with specific forbidden, “evil” actions, and the need to both punish and more significantly to expunge all those who commit such forbidden acts, church hierarchies tend to make pronouncements about the gestalt of evil in war, famine, injustice and especially sexuality, while at the same time, embodying a form of authority and power that, in the convex of its own administration in the lives of individuals, demonstrates a denial of both the individual and the collective Shadow. How insulting, how demeaning and how unsustainable as a theology!

If the Christian church is legitimately in the business of seeking God and attempting to enrich and ennoble that process, then it seems obvious that such a process integrates the whole spiritual existence of the organization and the individuals who share responsibility for its healing and for the potential it offers in the spiritual healing of those who don its doors, its narthex and its sanctuary. And such a process seems only to enhance its own capacity to enrich the lives of the people in the pews, and especially in the committees and in the councils of the ecclesial structure by opening the door of its prayer, reflection, teaching, preaching and counsel to admit the relevance of the Shadow, both in its individual and collective capacity.

Many church hierarchies are still filled by men who, themselves, have failed themselves, their God and more importantly their parishoners, by drinking the  cultural mandate of fixation on the empirical. To be sure, one can notice hints of poetry and of story-telling, and even hints of “symbols” as expressions of the broad strokes of a theology of death, resurrection and forgiveness, as outlined in the New Testament. It is the challenge of confronting the concept of the Shadow, as both an organizational principle, opening the private, confidential conversations, prayers, and decisions to an integration of the Shadow, and thereby of extending that opening as a model for the people sitting in the pews and choir lofts, the church schools and the church administrative staff.

Recently, I had the opportunity to verbalize the need for integrating what I called “indigenous foundations” (the history, perspective, attitudes, beliefs and practices of Canada’s indigenous peoples) into the strategic planning of a local John Howard Society planning day. Three times I made the point, based especially on the empirical data that a significant majority of incarcerated males are, in fact, indigenous young men, and any agency, like John Howard, tasked with facilitating the integration of such men back into the culture, following their incarceration, would be well advised to know, and to integrate the foundational perspectives of this indigenous culture, to enhance the relationship between the agency and the clients. Additionally, Indigenous Foundations, if incorporated into the culture of the agency could/would offer an enhanced prospect of prevention of rising numbers of incarcerated indigenous young men. However, my proposals were literally and summarily dismissed!

It is in a similar and parallel spirit and intent that these words are offered, as stimulation to a new and prophetic, if unconventional, approach to how the Christian church begins the process of incarnating its mandate. Denial, avoidance, repression and especially an ethic that promotes “the highest moral standards” at the expense of the inherent Shadow in each of us, not only achieves precisely the inverse of what the church purports to seek to attain. It also does so in a manner that specifically and tragically trashes individuals for their alleged transgressions, without so much as a tip of the bishop’s mitre in acknowledgement of the Shadow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

#12 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (animus)


If we men think it is problematic to be able to discern if and when we are projecting our anima, then wait, there’s more to challenge every man on the planet: every woman’s animus!

While men tend to undervalue feminine attributes, making it even more essential that we come to accept that these traits are an integral part of our own personality and thereby enhancing the possibility of becoming “relatively immune to the more destructive aspects of anima influence” (Frieda Fordham, An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology, p. 115.)

“Women, on the other hand, tend to exaggerate the value and importance of male attributes, so that it is flattering to them to develop these in themselves, and they sometimes overdo it, becoming masculine women---that is women ruled by the animus (the unconscious of a woman contains a male element, called the animus) rather than women who can make use of his qualities to enrich their femininity. If the animus overrules her a women will always be making trouble with ill-considered remarks, aggressive behaviour, and obstinate opinions. Women’s movements, which always have the driving force of the animus behind them, express the unconscious aspect of women’s nature and often depreciate or forget those feminine qualities which are equally valuable and absolutely necessary to a balanced and healthy life.” (Fordham, op. cit., p. 115)

The animus “seems to be (like the anima) derived from three roots: the collective image of man which a woman inherits; her own experience of masculinity coming through the contacts she makes with men in her life; and the latent masculine principle in herself….The anima produces moods, the animus produces opinion, resting on unconscious assumptions instead of really conscious and directed thought….In the course of normal development the animus becomes projected on to many male figures, and when this projection has been made, a woman takes for granted that a man is as she sees him (i.e. in the guise of the animus) and it is almost impossible for her to accept him as he really is. This attitude can be very troublesome in personal relationships, which only go smoothly so long as the man conforms to the assumptions that the woman is making about him. The animus can be personified as any male figure, from the most primitive to the most spiritual, depending on the state of a woman’s development. He can even appear in dreams as a boy, and is often heard simply as a voice. Another peculiarity of the animus, as distinct from the anima, which is always seen as one woman, is its tendency to be expressed as a group of men. To quote Jung:

The animus is rather like an assembly of fathers or dignitaries of some kind who lay down incontestable, ‘rational’, ex cathedra judgements. On closer examination these exacting judgements turn our to be largely sayings and opinions scraped together more of less unconsciously from childhood on, and compressed into a canon of average truth, justice, reasonableness, a compendium of pre-conceptions which, whenever a conscious and competent judgement is lacking (as not infrequently happens), instantly obliges with an opinion. Sometimes these opinions take the form of so-called sound common sense, sometimes they appear as principles which are like a travesty of education: ‘People have always don it like this’, or “Everybody says it is like that’. (Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, par. 332, quoted by Fordham, op. cit., p. 56-7)

“This critical judgement is sometimes turned on the woman herself as an over-active conscience, giving her feelings of inferiority and stifling initiative. At other times, it is directed on the people round her in a thoroughly destructive and indiscriminating fashion. She will then criticize her neighbours, tear strangers’ characters to pieces without a shred of real evidence, or making disparaging remarks to her family or the people with whom she works on the grounds that ‘it is good for them’. ‘I believe in calling a spade a spade’ or ‘I don[t believe in spoiling them’ are typical animus statements. An intelligent and educated woman is just as much as victim of this animus power as her less-educated sister. The later will quote the daily paper or some vague body called ‘They’ to support her  convictions—‘They say it’s so’ or ‘I saw it in the paper’—while the former will rely on some authoritative body; the university, the Church, the State, or perhaps some book or historical document. This side of a women craves power, and however gentle and adaptable she may be in her everyday life, she becomes tyrannical and aggressive once her animus side is aroused, and is quite blind to any reason. Because of this animus activity it is really difficult for a women to think in an unprejudiced way.” (Fordham, op.cit., p 57)

To reflect upon developments in feminism, Fordham writes these words:
It is true that the feminists chose to develop their masculine side, but in doing so they relegated their femininity to the unconscious, so that they simply reversed things instead of widening their consciousness. (Ibid, p. 116)

On a personal note, I have, tragically and blindly, been raised by a woman’s animus, without recognizing its existence. More tragically and blindly, I have had the animus of at least four different women projected onto me, without being able  either to recognize or to confront the destructive dynamic. The circumstances in each situation were quite different, including one emerging from a divorce, another escaping a ‘dictatorial spouse’ to continue to camouflage and to deny her alcoholism, another to escape an alcoholic husband and a fourth wrestling with a tragic death. My blatant and sabotaging ignorance, linked to a culture that has so buried itself in professional dialogue that references either some specific psychiatric illness, or a glib personality analysis, had serious impacts on both parties in these relationships. Complicating these situations, along with multiple other circumstances requiring a learned and disciplined professional judgement, clearly missing from those in positions of authority (mostly men), were men blind to the complications of their own unconscious and the implications of its power in the lives of individuals for whom they bore responsibility.

Social, cultural, and even professional “expectations” that incarnated the merely stereotypical “cardboard” image of the “weaker” gender (woman) in the face of male “power” as embodied in organizational hierarchy, were, are and will continue to be reductionisms of both the full responsibility of those at the top of those organizations, and the individual men and women for whom they will continue to exercise authority. To be bold and frank, weak unconscious men who are afraid of the wrath of feminist activists who are themselves incarnating a seriously eroded and simplistic image of the feminine (as tools of a political campaign for equality), make decisions that result in an exposure of the paucity of basic learning and understanding, and in decisions that fail to account for the most profound details of what appear to be both threatening and complicated situations.

As indicative of the most barren comprehension, and the resistance to investigate the complications of one’s own person, I recount a brief conversation with an ecclesial leader, as I inquired about the “spirituality” of one of the leading laymen in a congregation to which I was being assigned:
“What is his spirituality?” I asked.
“Oh, red book for sure!” came the vacuous answer. In some churches, an obsession with a “red” prayer book, (Cranmer) over-shadowed a more contemporary “green” book, with a more contemporary theological perspective. The former included phrases such as, “I am unworthy to gather the crumbs from under Thy Table” as part of the penitential prayer, while the latter edited those words and their implications from the parallel text.

Had either the leader or the layman bothered to contemplate the more evasive and also more interesting and resonating readings of human personality, they could have appreciated much more fully their relationship to both the church itself and to whatever they believed the deity to be.

And while there is no guarantee that additional awareness of the unconscious would offer more insightful and knowledgeable, and more foresighted leadership, one can always hope.

 “Some knowledge and experience of the collective unconscious is …absolutely necessary, if we are to understand those forces which have in our time moved vast numbers of men and women to throw over their civilized standards and act in a brutal and terrifying way. Nations are made up of separate men and women and the study of the individual shows, ‘as in a test tube’, the forces which move them; ‘psychopathology of the masses is rooted in the psychology of the individual.’ ( Jung, The Fight with the Shadow,  par. 445, quoted by Fordham, op. cit., p.118) But in any large gathering of people it is not the unique qualities of individuals that count---these only serve to differentiate, not to unite them---it is rather what is common to al—namely the archetypes. When the same archetype is active in a number of people it draws them together, as if by magnetic force, and drives them to act in an irrational way. In additional, a group to preserve its life must stress the adaptation of each of its members, so that differences become a disadvantage and average qualities are cultivated. Hence the large the group the more stupid it is likely to become; even a collection of highly intelligent people will act at a much lower level of intelligence than its individual members, and Jung once said bitingly that a hundred intelligent heads added up to one hydrocephalus.

In 1928, he wrote:

Our admiration for great organizations dwindles when once we become aware of the other side of the wonder: the tremendous piling up and accentuation of all that is primitive in man, and the unavoidable destruction of his individual in the interests of the monstrosity that every great organization in fact is. The man of today, who resembles more or less the collective ideal, has made his heart into a den of murderers as can easily be proved by the analysis of his unconscious, even though he himself is not in the least disturbed by it. And in so far as he is normally ‘adapted’ to his environment, it is true that the greatest infamy of the part of his group will not disturb him so long as the majority of his fellows steadfastly believe in the exalted morality of their social organization. (Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, par. 240, quoted by Fordham, ibid, p. 118-119)…

Since the development of applied science in the last hundred years, man’s material progress has been rapid, but he has moved dangerously far from his roots in the soil. The taller the tree the deeper its rots should go, but modern man has little relationship with nature, and so has become dangerously unstable and a victim of any storms that blow. In addition, our social organization with its laws—written and unwritten—and its system of education, represses his unconscious instinctive nature and civilizes him outwardly, while learning what is primitive in him untamed and chafing under the restrain. And as he does not realize how primitive he really is, he becomes like someone who unaware carrier dynamite in his pockets disguised as harmless cigarettes. Anything that weakens his repression may loose an outburst of violence, or result in chaotic and disorderly behaviour, in an attempt of the unconscious to compensate for the over-civilized and one-sided conscious attitude. When life is orderly and disciplined the compensatory unconscious will manifest itself in a chaotic manner, but when disorder rules, as it does to some extent after the war, and to a much greater extent during revolutionary periods, the unconscious attempts to compensate by producing symbols of order, and man begins to long for a settled and orderly state of affairs. (Fordham, ibid, p. 119)

Clearly, the church, and the education system demand a level of order and discipline to protect themselves from the kind of public ridicule and contempt that would so threaten its ‘established’ trust. At the same time, that rigidity also represses the very collective unconscious that will inevitably erupt, without appropriate or legitimate professional comprehension and address.

For all men who are reading this, or whose partners are reading this, please take away some basic understanding and appreciation of the existence and the implications of both anima and animus. And for those in positions of responsibility, please refrain from the seductive trap of thinking “everything is fine” in your organization if the reports of growth in numbers of adherents, enrollees, and revenues provide graphs pointing upward. Especially in learning and allegedly spiritual enterprises, none of those numbers are relevant, and their relevance to the for-profit, corporate world is much less than the ‘holiness’ in which they are worshipped.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

#11 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (humility)


Our human story, dominated as it is by the thoughts, actions and implications of a gestalt that emphasizes “how men have perceived themselves and the world,” is facing an existential crisis, it says here, because of our shared complicity in epic self-sabotage. While our shared world view is much more complex and nuanced than can be ascribed to a single epithet, there is considerable evidence that our concept of survival has been, and continues to be, based on a masculine perception of power. If I survive, it is because I am more “fit” and more intelligent and more crafty and more worthy than those who have not survived. We have, through a variety of means, philosophies, religions, psychologies, economics, and conflict of all kinds, constructed an “edifice” of what a majority have come to consider  “normal” that is threatening our survival.

For the infant, and for the young child, parents circumscribe safety boundaries, soft padding around cribs, harnesses around danger, and tonal variance around a perceived capacity to integrate with the child’s world. And for the most part, we are both able and willing to see the child as ‘innocent’ and not programmed into a pattern of attempting to beguile, cheat, or undermine siblings or peers, provided his/her needs are generally met. And, while it is impossible to create a “tent” so filled with the absolute purity and humility and respect that approximates our highest and best angels, given that we all come with fears and anxieties and our own brand of both conscious and unconscious “darkness,” we could begin to consider a shift in attitude, perception, and a starting point from which we “enter” into each human situation, beyond our biological parenting for safety and security of the other.

We need not ascribe such heroic and quixotic proportional perceptions, requirements and discipline on our lives as to justify our existence only if we are dedicated to achieving a utopia of any kind. Neither are we compelled to accept and then to perpetuate a social, cultural, political, and faith-based gestalt that, even to ordinary and moderately intelligent and modestly sentient humans, clearly threatens our shared long-term future. Lots of adages bounce around in our heads, coming from a plethora of real-life narratives which are sprinkled into water-cooler conversations everywhere. If and when we are confronted by a situation in which another poses a threat, even an insult, we instinctively react in a manner of withdrawal or fighting. And while we all know that a “fight/flight” instinct is hard wired into our psyches, we are individually and collectively falling into a pattern in which each situation, no matter how trivial or innocent, without hitting the pause button on our instincts, prompts an exaggerated and often violent response.

It is not only our words, our attitudes and our perceptions that we have weaponized. We have rendered ourselves perpetual warriors in a ancient and unfortunately traditional “war” between good and evil. Remembers George W. Bush’s, “You are either FOR us or you are AGAINST us” reductionism to a world of good guys and bad guys immediately following 9/11. For us, individually and collectively, each person has become either an ally or a foe, and the fundamental and essential core of that belief is a threat to our existence. Rhetoric like this, coming at a time of dire emergency, is not and cannot be normative nor determinative of how we consider ourselves, and all others on the planet. Neither can trump’s exaggerated “evil” in everyone who disagrees with HIM convey or envisage a world in which “all men are created equal and entitled to inalienable rights” is even conceivable, never mind worthy of striving for.

Our shared and hourly seeded notion of an ideal world, just like that “ideal” picture of our newborn as Nobel prize winner, or as peace negotiator, is endearing, highly charged as engaging us in a worthy adventure, and intimately and compulsively committed to its realization. However, just as our euphoria and “high” abate in the middle of daily routines, our sense of what is possible twists and contorts and atrophies as our anxieties, fears and cloudy truths of how hurtful humans are seem to eclipse our highest hopes and dreams.

We have constructed around us, a series of social and political and legal and financial “edifices” called institutions that were designed to enhance our lives, at least in the rhetoric of their fertilization and incubation. Banks, churches, schools, safety nets and the intrinsic and binding concrete that was inserted into the bricks and stones of both the actual buildings and the ethos of their erection comprise a legacy of hope and optimism from our ancestors. Comparatively, it would seem, that they had some vision of a future for their great-grandchildren, so high were their shared hopes in that future, as evidenced by their many gifts. Now, however, it seems that we are deeply immersed in a process of tearing down both the edifices themselves and the hope and promise originally shovelled into the cement mixtures that held those institutions upright.
Our future, it seems, is not measured in decades, not in centuries or “ages. Our perceptions, including our attention spans, our news reports, our horizons themselves vacillate between a dystopia looming in a decade or so, and the nano-second of our most recent attack, interruption, road-rage, rude treatment by a clerk or some other stupidity that has “no justification” and therefore merits no tolerance on our part.

And the basic tenets of a so-called culture of “faith” (not denominations or specific religions) seem to demand a weaponization, a domination and a win/lose event for each encounter in order for us to express our engagement, our commitment and our relevance. Whether we are in the “war” against formal and declared terrorists, drug lords, abusive land-owners, deceitful leaders or corporations, mis-and dis-information campaigns from declared enemies, dishonourable trading partners, or even oligarchies of political and financial power, the ordinary, blue-collar, working ‘stiff’ whether male or female is left crawling around gathering up the crumbs of whatever is left after the rich and the powerful have gobbled their share of the water, the air, the land and the status and influence of the town, the city, the province/state, and the nation. Naturally such a leaning and unsustainable “tower of power” threatens both those inside, and those nearby. And we are all now, nearby.

The histories of nations and empires have been forged and then documented on premises and on methods and strategies and tactics that were deemed useful, appropriate and effective at the time of their deployment. The armed horseman was more dangerous and more “effective” than the infantryman with bow or a musket. The cannons built into the hulls of warships were more effective and deceptive than those mounted on the decks. And the richest warlords, kings, princes and queens were more likely to succeed in battle, and in the recounting of those battles than the less affluent, and less armed and the smaller military forces. Big, however, it was measured, has dominated over small, in a manner and a tradition that is now ensnaring each of us.

Extrapolated from “big” and “small” are such notions as “knowledgeable” and “ignorant” / “ethical” and “immoral, or amoral” / “developed” and “undeveloped” (now more euphemistically, “developing”), “industrialized” and “agricultural”….and these concepts bore an accompanying if silent “value” system. Privilege, especially accompanied one side of the equation, while depravity and alienation seemed more likely to accrue to the other side. And this dichotomy prevailed from the classrooms, to the neighbourhoods, to the towns v cities, and then to the various “professions” as compared with labourers. In what we called democracies, there was supposed to be, at least theoretically, a blend of all peoples, classes, neighbourhoods, races, ethnicities, genders and points of view. And then, of course, those making the rules found that they could easily and secretly make rules that would favour their own interests and ambitions, especially as the flow of information was quietly literally and metaphorically drowning the “populace” given the speed and volume of its dissemination.

With each generation of technology, the over-riding argument in its justification is more equitable distribution of power and wealth, notwithstanding a period of turbulence while adjusting to the new norms. That argument, however, has never really addressed the inequities and the restricted opportunities of the rich when compared with the poor. In fact, it seems to have exacerbated those inequities, whether only in the short term or permanently, only time will tell. What the latest rapidly evolving tide of technological revolutions is doing, however, while positing the potential of instant and global links of each person to all others, including video, audio and text, it is also providing “documentation” of the manner by which power has been exercised behind closed doors, (and all of the other instruments of secrecy preserved for the rich and the powerful), and the need for those instruments and personnel purportedly engaged in the “public interest” to devise detection processes and instruments that can and will keep pace with the new technology and the deviousness with which that technology is put to serve the interests of those forces exclusively and compulsively engaged in their own narcissistic, hedonistic and nefarious pursuits.

Laws, and the people who write the laws, have not kept pace with the capabilities of the new technology. Conflicts have emerged whose underlying premises may not have shifted much from the history of “empire” building and “defeating” enemies in that process. Borders that once “protected” nations are now mere Swiss cheese to the penetration of the new digital technologies. The flow of money is now like one river that reaches every urban and rural area on the planet instantly. Intelligence gathering, from “ground” observance, to “aerial” observance to “satellite” gathering continues to portray both needed patterns in weather and climate and the routine transactions of trade, commerce and diplomacy.

Technologically, and scientifically, we are riding a hurricane of innovation. Legislatively, and ethically, we are locked in the wagon trains that barely surmounted the mud-bogs of the prairies of those seeking their fortunes in an opening and “promising” and “inspiring” western manifest destiny across North America. And the divides that emerge from this archetypal inflection of tectonic plates, cultural rock formations, are literally and metaphorically engulfing both our perceptions and our attitudes to each other, about the potential for a shared, equitable and dignified and honourable future,  and the perceived pathways for not merely survival but renewal into a more equitable and more sustaining future for our great-grandchildren.

And the patriarchy, including power-over, domination, competition, and winner-take-all concepts, notions, epistemologies and cosmologies, including the prevailing ethic of the rule of the powerful, like those old wagon trains, must be replaced not merely by new high-powered electric-fuelled, flying vehicles, but a new androgynous and humble and sustainable ethic. That ethic has to do more than write a few meagre cheques from the developed world to the developing world to counteract the decades of air and water pollution. It must also address the centuries of political, cultural and colonial malfeasance of the abuse of power, based on a narrow, male-driven cultural way of knowing, perceiving, valuing, competing, and valuing the other.

Superiority, no matter how it is measured, especially when it is so subtly and seemingly innocently and pervasively embedded like a silent cancer cell in the pancreas of the planet, has to give way to a way of perceiving and then acknowledging the “light” in the soul of each and every human on the planet. And that seemingly revolutionary principle has to become the guiding planetary beacon for the ships of state, and for the new treaties, and the new institutions, in both their dimensionality and in their design and function. Indigenous peoples of every continent have more to teach the “developed” world than we are willing to acknowledge. Poor people, too, in every ghetto, have more to teach us about the realities of surviving than all the research papers in all of the grad schools across the planet. Homeless men and women, in every town and city, in every country, whose numbers are growing exponentially cannot be seen as the new “colony” of the “developed” people in our culture. Good Samaritans, while appropriate, are merely short-term, band-aids. They often swoop into a “blight” like another application of mascara to a zit, in our obsessive, compulsive pattern of the massive “cover-up” to “solve” the problem of our own guilt and shame, both traits endemic to masculinity (and possibly also to women).

We have to re-think and to re-conceptualize our notion of how good people do things we consider worthy of punishment, for their criminality. How did those mostly men arrive at the point in their lives where their only or at least their “best” option was some act of crime? Let’s begin by acknowledging that, in their cribs and in their nurseries, (if they had one) and in their classrooms, they did not necessarily envisage a life of crime, nor even a detour into crime as their chosen path. Let’s begin too by acknowledging that the manner by which our governments perceive the poor and the under-educated, and the under-employed is pivotal in the manner in which these millions adapt to their perceived universe, whether they are living in the developed world or not. (Restricting these thoughts from the sociopath and the psychopath, about whom we continue to learn!)

Let’s us begin to recognize those implicit ways by which we incarnate, and unconsciously express, superiority (couched in the euphemistically polite word, “bias”) rendering the object of those perceptions, beliefs and attitudes as “less than” ourselves. And while both genders are participating in superiority/inferiority judgement, it says here that men, especially, are more deeply ingrained in the process of denial of silent, personal and bigoted perceptions/feelings/attitudes, even when confronted by their exposure. And the process of coming to ownership, acknowledgement and then re-appraising the impact of those silent and superior and condemning “profiling” approaches will take both time and a degree of tenderness, compassion and support that men do not seek and culturally resist, even when in originates from a loved and loving spouse or partner.

It is not merely individual men who have to confront our guilt and shame about those failings in our own lives. As a western, masculine-dominated culture that denies guilt, responsibility and the accompanying shame, we have much for which to atone. And we have not begun the process of taking clear and disciplined, collective, corporate and especially political steps that make it more likely our grandchildren will be able to honour our legacy by their documenting of our significant shift in both attitude and approach to our public discourse.

Individual shame and guilt, while enervating and disabling in their denial, can also be liberating in their exposure, in a safe, supportive and compassionate and sacred space. Collective shame and guilt, however, also needs a similar space in which to be aired, owned and atoned. In the pursuit of immediate and pressing “problems” that confront the planet, it is very conceivable that a shared perception and acknowledgement of the sabotage of historic attitudes, perceptions, norms and processes will get lost in the turbulence of reducing carbon and methane pollution.

And so long as we seem consumed and compelled by the “immediate” problems on our agenda, addressing fundamental attitudes, approaches and beliefs that have significantly contributed to those problems will go unaddressed, just as the health emergencies of millions of men go unaddressed until they cannot be denied or ignored any longer. "Prevention" is not a word or a process exclusive to women, or to the weak. In fact, it can be a perceptual gift to the world.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

#10 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (anima)


If we know that western men and women are out of touch with, or worse, deny that humans have an inner, unconscious life, imagine how much of a stretch it is for western men to come to a place where the concept of an unconscious “anima” the inner feminine is even feasible.

We grow up with a first “imprint” of the feminine comes from our mother, or our first nurturing female. Her voice, her eyes, her very breathing, sighing, baking, cleaning, washing, and interacting with others paint and record a video-recording that leaves in indelible set of imprints on our psyche. Somehow and somewhere there is another partner, a man, in that woman’s life, prompting responses of various pitches, volumes, intensities, sensibilities that pry open our perceptions and then conceptions of how men and women respond to each other. Depending on the quality of the harmony, rhythm, cacophony, resonance and resilience of the relationship between the two first nurturers, we begin to construct an image and the impact of that image on how we experience that dynamic. Do our encounters with “mother” help us feel accepted, tolerated, alienated, rejected? Do our responses generate smiles, frowns, shouts, screams, turned-backs, silences? Do we feel welcome where we live, or, even before we have the words, unloved, unwanted, and barely tolerated?

“You’re just like your father!” could be one of the chants that penetrate our ear drums and our psyche. Perhaps, normal embraces of warmth and tenderness are sparingly dispersed among the taunts. Perhaps even over-sized helpings of food seem to be an attempt to compensate for the emotional turbulence of exaggerated anger, impatience, and intolerance. Naturally, like the universal puppy, we simply want to please. Nevertheless, all of our vigorous efforts to “please” this adult authority figure, as well as the tone, mood atmosphere and ethos in our “four walls” continue to rumble along on emotional corduroy roads in a vehicle with no gas in the shock-absorbers.

This portrait may sound to some like a melodramatic “pity party. However, it is intended to establish an excessive even compulsive feeling of emptiness, inadequacy, unwantedness, rejection and alienation and separation from which many young boys spend much of the rest of our lives trying to “heal.” Whether from a “mother wound” or from a “father wound,” many young men struggle even to acknowledge their/our woundedness. Trying to fill the emptiness of a parent who considers him or herself inadequate, fearful, less-than-worthy is not only impossible; it also robs the young person from the needed energies that could be expended in more worthy and creative activities. So, the spectre of a mountain of recovery faces many young men, whether or not they are conscious of the depth of their emotional starvation. Lacking a vocabulary on which to “hang” these deep feelings, young men will often try to medicate their amorphous and ethereal and insubstantial discomfort and pain.

Filing the discomfort into another of the chores needing to be addressed, (isn’t everything about life needing to be qualified as a “task” to be accomplished?) young men then proceed most likely to first deny and then to minimize their discomfort. Perhaps they/we bury ourselves in so many activities/tasks/goals/objectives/strategies/tactics that our lives become literally and metaphorically a pursuit of one or multiple trophies. Early in our adolescence, we notice the attention of the co-eds in our class paid to those athletes who win championships, score touchdowns, slam-dunk the basketball, score the winning goal in the overtime of the league championship hockey tournament. We objectify our very persons as agents of our own acceptance through the expressed applause  of our peers. And, generally we become quite adept at this strategic/tactical process.

Of course, we are not aware cognitively nor are we able to integrate the concept that our parents/care-givers have their own inadequacies, unworthiness, neurosis, for which they are compensating, over-compensating, and projecting onto their children. Vicarious living through the achievements of one’s child, even if it is unconscious, nevertheless, imposes a subtle and lingering burden on the psyche/shoulders of the child, while leaving the parent in complete impunity for the responsibility. Neither participant in the dynamic is conscious of its existenceor its impact. Resentment, especially based on what are essentially unconscious dynamics, shoves its tentacles deep into our psyche and will only shove their barbs into the light of day at moments when we least expect them, often when we are experiencing some ‘trigger’ event that re-awakens the buried emotion.

“The unconscious of a man contains a complementary feminine element, that of a woman a male element. IT may seem paradoxical to suggest man is not wholly man or women wholly woman, yet it is a fairly common experience to find feminine and masculine traits in one person. The most masculine of men will often show surprising gentleness with children, or with anyone weak or ill; strong men give way to uncontrolled emotion in private, and can be both sentimental and irrational; brave men are sometimes terrified by quite harmless situations and some men have surprising intuition or a gift for sensing pother people’s feelings. All of these are supposedly feminine traits, as well as more obvious ‘effeminacy’ in a man. This latent femininity in a man is. However, only one aspect of his feminine soul, his anima. ‘An inherited collective image of woman exists in a man’s unconscious, says Jung, ‘with the help of which he apprehends the nature of woman.” (Frieda Fordham, An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology, Middlesex, England, Penguin, 1953, p.52)

As an archetype, the anima is an image of “woman” not an image of a particular woman. So long as that image remains as archetype, it has a timeless quality.
“She is often connected with the earth, or with water, and she may be endowed with great power. She is also two-sided or has two aspects, a light and a dark,  corresponding to the different qualities and types of women: on the one hand the pure, the good, the noble goddess-like figure, on the other the prostitute, the seductress, or the witch. It is when a man has repressed his feminine nature, when he under-values feminine qualities or treats women with contempt or neglect, that this dark aspect is most likely to present itself.” (Fordham, op. cit., p. 54)

Nevertheless, failing to grasp and to acknowledge the “feminine” aspect of male personality, as is the case for millions of men, especially it would seem among many of the most contemptible world leaders, men attempt “to make “her” into an external, physical woman. We do this by projection. This is our ego’s way of trying to possess anima, to imprison her in mortal flesh, to experience on a personal, external, physical level. One specific thing is required ion order to return anima to her psychological role as Queen of the inner world: a man must be wiling to withdraw the projection of anima from the women in his life. This alone makes it possible for anima to perform her correct role within his psyche. This alone  makes is possible for him to see his woman as she is, unburdened by his projections.” (Johnson, op, cit., p 93-4)

“This effort to withdraw his projection of anima is very problematic for modern western man. “He is so accustomed to his pattern of trying to life out his unlived self through other people that the prospect of giving up seems a disaster. He feels that all the joy and the intensity of life is contained in the hope that one day a women will come along who will make him whole and make life perfect. It is hard for him to see that he could live with a woman and be close to her and yet not try to live his life through her.” (Johnson, op. cit., p. 109)

It is not only the man who is potentially caught up in the projection of anima onto a female. “Our culture trains women that their role is not to be human beings but to be mirrors who reflect back to a man his ideal or his fantasy. She much struggle to resemble the current Hollywood starlets; she must dress and groom herself and  behave in such away as to make herself into the collective image of anima. She must not be an individual so much as the incarnation of men’s fantasy. Many women are so accustomed to this role that they resist any change in the arrangement. They want to go on playing the goddess to a man rather than be a mortal woman: There is something appealing about being worshipped and adored as a divinity. But there is a heavy price attached to this role. The man who sees her as a goddess is not related to her as a woman; he is only related to his own projection. His own inner divinity, that he has placed on her. And when his projection lifts, when it migrates away from her so some other woman then his adoration and his worship will go with it. If he has no relationship to her as one human being to another, then there is nothing left when the projections evaporate.” (Johnson, op. cit., p. 109-110)

Having failed to withdraw projections of the anima from a specific woman, and having imposed a shared and inevitable pain from the withdrawal of that projection, this scribe can attest to a dearth of mentoring, coaching, learning and appropriate development that likely has been, is now, and will be in the future the fate of many men and women. I can also attest to the narrowness and exclusive “extrinsic” training and apprenticeship of those about to enter the professions of teaching, social work, clergy and parenting. As a culture drowning in the empirical, scientific, objective, conscious and sensate, as if these are the only qualities of human existence that matter, we are collectively and individually immersed in a shared shame of ignorance, denial and avoidance of transmitting other more important dynamics of human personality and the dynamics of their interaction.

Universities, in the west at least, are failing their undergraduates if they refuse to acknowledge and to teach the insights embedded in the writings of Jung, and in the dynamics that pervade a culture blind to the unconscious. Such blindness can no longer be tolerated as willful, deliberate, or even the recipient of lip service. Churches, too, as well as their seminaries, are being challenged to reflect on the conflicts within their congregations, between laity and between clergy and laity, when the unconscious projections are rampantly playing out before their eyes. Of course, in order to accept the truth of these dynamics, both individuals and organizations would have to adopt new perceptions of their responsibilities and their opportunities.

Schools, and faculties of education too, could open the eyes, ears and minds of their aspiring educators to their own deep gifts of personality, and the potential embedded in the personalities of their students and colleagues, as well as the processes that might be deployed in professional discussion of many of the more turbulent and stressful situations that emerge daily. Principals, especially, both men and women, need to comprehend and to acknowledge the mysteries of the unconscious and its potential role in interjecting “sand” into the “gears” of the class, and the school.

In order for such a world view to become operative and instrumental among our various organizations, individual men, too, could become much more conscious of their potential to deny their own biographies, especially the unconscious anima, in order to more readily and successfully engage in relationships with women.

It is my own failure in relationships that prompts these scribblings. And the impact of these failings will confront each of my days, memories and reflections as long as I continue to breath.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

#9 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (patriarchy)


The relationship between the individual and “the system” (whatever system that might mean) is useful as a cultural context. The deep and profound reality that all of our cultural “systems” have a “patriarchal” foundation.

And the dynamic of this cultural foundation means that “feminine value of feeling, relatedness, and soul consciousness have been virtually driven out of our culture by our patriarchal mentality….Women..have been taught to idealize masculine values at the expense of the feminine side of life. Many women have spent their lives in a constant feeling of inferiority because they felt that to be feminine was ‘second best.’ Women have been trained that only masculine activities, thinking power, and achieving have any real value. Thus Western woman finds herself in the same psychological dilemma as Western man: developing one-sided, competitive mastery of the masculine qualities at the expense of her feminine side….(M)en unconsciously search for their lost feminine side, for the feminine values in life, and attempt to find their unlived feminine side through woman. (Robert A. Johnson, WE, Understanding the psychology of Romantic Love, Harper Collins, New York, 1983, p.ix)

This social, cultural, psychological analysis by Johnson, although it was penned three-plus decades ago, continues to resonate into the twenty-first century, although many men have made considerable strides to search for, to find and then to celebrate their feminine side. Listening, advocating, empathizing with their female partners and colleagues, as well as developing an active participatory interest in the details of their children’s daily lives are some of the visible signs that western men are indeed evolving.

Johnson’s book analyses the myth of Tristan and Iseult and parses the monumental forces at work in the process of experiencing romantic love. Positing that romantic love has “supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness and ecstacy,” (Johnson op. cit. p. xi), Johnson poses a serious and significant challenge for the Christian church, given the church’s having commandeered the question of sexuality into its exclusive domain. Whether romantic love has supplanted religion at least in part because of the church’s unrealistic, perfectionistic, idealized notion of exclusion of divorcees, ostracising of extra-marital sexual relationships, banning LGBTQ individuals first from full fellowship and then from ordination, and/or because the church has fallen hook-line-and-sinker into the masculine, corporate, power-driven activities syndrome remains an open question.
Male spirituality, in recent years, has been written about as processes including healing the “father” and the “mother” wound and the accompanying issues of loss, grief, and “rites of passage” sessions including male initiation into age old traditions guiding men into manhood. Johnson, a Jungian disciple, takes time to detail the dramatic difference between “romantic” notion of being “in love”:

“When we believe we have found the ultimate meaning of life, revealed in another human being. We feel we are finally completed, that we have found the missing parts of ourselves. Life suddenly seems to have a wholeness, a superhuman intensity that lifts us high above the ordinary plain of existence…The psychological package includes an unconscious demand that our lover or spouse always provide us with this feeling of ecstasy and intensity. Despite our ecstasy when we are “in love” we spend much of our time with a deep sense of loneliness, alienation, and frustration over our inability to make genuinely loving and committed relationships. Usually we blame other people for failing us; it doesn’t occur to us that perhaps it is we who  need to change our own unconscious attitudes—the expectations and demands we impose on our relationships and on other people.
This is the great wound in the Western Psyche. (Johnson, op.cit., p.xii)

In a culture that denies the unconscious, the inner life, especially under the umbrella of the patriarchy, it may seem a “bridge too far” to speculate on Jung’s teaching that the unconscious is indeed the “source: the primal matter from which our conscious minds and ego personalities have evolved” (Ibid, p.3)

The myth of Tristan and Iseult explores romantic love, as the first such story in western literature, the source of our romantic literature including Romeo and Juliet and many love-story movies. A “man’s myth,” it shows symbolically the “development of an individual male consciousness as he struggles to win his masculinity, to become conscious of his feminine side and to deal with love and relatedness. It shows a man torn among the conflicting forces and loyalties that rage within the male psyche when he is consumed by the joys, the passions ad the sufferings of romance.” (Ibid, p. xiv)
Johnson pictures western people as “children of sadness,” similar to the young man Tristan of the myth. “(T)hough outwardly we have everything, probably no other people in history have been so lonely, so alienated, so confused over values, so neurotic. We have dominated our environment with sledge-hammer force and electronic precision. We amass riches on an unpre3cedented scale. Bur few of us, very few indeed, are at peace with ourselves, secure in our relationships, content in our loves, or at home in the world. Most of us cry out for meaning in life, for values we can live by, for love and relationship. (Ibid, p.21)

Blaming our sadness on the loss of our feminine side, the Johnson’s exegesis of the myth points to Blanchfleur, Tristan’s mother, who brings him into a world of “constant war; men think only of empire building, accumulation of territory and wealth, and domination of the environment at any cost. We still call it progress. But this lopsided mentality kills Rivalen, husband of Blanchfleur and father of Tristan and Blanchfleur and leaves Tristan an orphan.

Tristan’s mother had been traded off to Rivalen by King Mark, Tristan’s uncle, for help in defending his territory. “She is a piece of property, to be used as the masculine ego sees fit in the service of its power drive. If we are awake, we see this in our own society. When a man uses a woman’s feeling to get power over her, when a man starts a friendship only so he can sell something to his friend, when the advertiser on television tells that that we will buy his product if we “really love our children” each of them is cynically putting love and feeling in the service of power and profit. (p. 22) Although written in the mid-eighties, Johnson’s insight proves both cogent and prescient in 2019 and the process of “servicing power and profit continues unabated, if not surging on patriarchal steroids.

Another of Johnson’s insights about the threat of the patriarchal foundations of western culture is evident in these words, the import of which continues to be ignored, denied or outside the purview of the Christian church:

If a man or woman clings to the dominant patriarchal attitude and refuses to make peace with the inner feminine, then she will demand a tribute: When we refuse to integrate a powerful new potentiality from the unconscious, the unconscious will exact a tribute, one way or another. The “tribute” may take the form of a neurosis, a compulsive mood, hypochondria, obsessions, imaginary illnesses or a paralyzing depression. In his writings Carl Jung gives un a vivid example. His patient was a brilliant intellectual, a scientist. The man tried to exist without feelings, without emotional relationships, without a religious life. He suddenly developed on obsessive belief in a stomach cancer. The cancer did not exist, physically, yet he suffered all the terrors of hell. The obsession paralyzed him and his professional life. His orderly, rational mind could not solve the problem. He found relief from this obsession only when he consented to reintegrate the feminine side of his psyche, the human values and spiritual values he had discarded many years before. (p. 27)

A professional career of some forty-plus years in Canada and the United States can and does attest to the entrapment of most of the men in positions of responsibility in school, municipal politics, and the church. And my own life, as well as, although to a lesser degree my father’s, can and does attest to a “drivenness” to be heroic, in a pursuit of career goals fueled by the neurosis of inadequacy that generated an application per month for many of those years. Courses in basketball coaching, executive leadership, supplemented by a “walter-mitty” imitation of  hunting and fishing both the issues and the personalities of politics, through a free-lance, untrained adventure in print, television and radio journalism as well as a stint in selling suits taken together comprise a gestalt of both neurosis and isolation, alienation from friendships, as well as a metaphorical iron wall between my consciousness and my unconsciousness, the inner life.

It was in a class in seminary that I first heard about the cognitive difference between the words “extrinsic” religion and “intrinsic” faith. I bolted upright in my chair, in the winter of 87-88, and have been sniffing out the implications of that little nugget ever since. I had stepped off the career “hamster-wheel” for the identified reason that while I recognized I could pursue additional academic qualifications, my need was to dig into whatever it was that was driving me to work up to eighteen hours per day, and to reflect on what I was coming to perceive as a singular need and appetite for “applause” in whatever form that might take. Something “inside” me needed to be confronted, although at that time I had absolutely no idea what or who that “something” was. Thinking and even believing, ironically and tragically as it now seems, that a deeper look into what I then considered my own “faith” and “spiritual” life might turn up some new insights along with the hope they might unveil. Perhaps I was, at the time, summoning the strength to protect myself against the raw power plays of the inter feminine.

I knew too much about the raw and even abusive “raw feminine” in my early life, likely, in retrospect, even transferring my deep-seated anger and resentment that I felt toward my mother onto an unsuspecting and undeserving spouse, over twenty-plus years. What I did not “know” or appreciate or even anticipate about the “inner feminine” could then have filled a library, a hard drive or even a “cloud” in today’s world. I did not even contemplate the notion of an “intrinsic” religion or faith. Clearly a deep and, at least to my ‘eyes’ an arrogance persisted that I could conquer whatever it was that had been driving me to ever more challenges, and ever more desperation with each attempt. Cognition, reading, rehearsing, challenging myself in ways I had never imagined was clearly not meeting some deep and profound need.

And the irony is, from the perspective of an additional three decades, that the real role and evolution of the heroic masculine ego is to let go, to give up ego control, to stop trying to control the people and the situation and to turn the situation over to fate and to wait on the natural flow of the universe. “To give up the oar and the sail means to stop personal control, to stop trying to force things. To leave the sword means to stop trying to understand by intelle3ct or logic, to stop trying to force things. To take up the harp means to wait patiently, listening to a soft voice within, for the wisdom that comes not from logic or action but from feeling, intuition, the irrational and the lyrical.” (Johnson, op. cit, p.33)

And, along with this identified process of “letting go” came a corresponding and enhancing process of coming to grasp more deeply and personally the important differences between various iterations of male-female relationships.

From Johnson we derive the notion that romantic love is not love but a complex or attitudes about love—involuntary feeling ideals, and reactions….finding ourselves possessed: caught in automatic reactions and intense feelings a near-visionary state. (op. cit. p. 45) Developed around the twelfth century, “courtly love” idealized the feminine, and under its laws, “each knight agreed to obey his lady in all things having to do with love, relationship, manners and taste. Within her realm she was his mistress, his queen. There were three characteristics of courtly love that will help us to understand it. First the knight and his lady were never to be involved sexually with each other. Theirs was an idealized, spiritualized relationship designed to lift them above the level of physical grossness, to cultivate refined feeling and spirituality. The second requirement of courtly love was that they not be married to each other. In fact, the lady was usually married to another nobleman. The knight-errant adored her, served her, and made her the focus of his spiritual aspiration and idealism, but he could not have an intimate relationship with her….The third requirement was that the courtly lovers keep themselves aflame with passion, that they suffer intense desire for each other, yet strive to spiritualize their desire by seeing each other as symbols of the divine archetypal world and by never reducing their passion to the ordinariness of sex or marriage. (op.cit., p.45-6)

Johnson continues:

We seek romantic love to be possessed by our love, to soar to the heights, to find ultimate meaning and fulfillment in our beloved. We seek the feeling of wholeness.
If we ask where else we have looked for these things, there is a startling and troubling answer: religious experience. When we look for something greater than our egos, when we seek a vision of perfection, a sense of inner wholeness and unity, when we strive to rise above the smallness and partialness of personal life to something extraordinary and limitless, this is spiritual aspiration….In the symbolism of the love potion (romantic love) we are face to face suddenly with the greatest paradox and the deepest mystery in our modern Western lives: What we seek constantly in romantic love is not human love or human relationship alone: we also seek a religious experience, a vision of wholeness. Here is the meaning of the magic, the sorcery, the supernatural in the love potion. There is another world that is outside the vision of our ego-minds: It is the realm of psyche, the realm of the unconscious. It is there that our souls and our spirits live, for unknown our conscious western minds, our souls and spirits are psychological realities and they live in our psyches without our knowledge. And it is there, in the unconscious, that God lives, whoever God may be for us and individuals. Everything that resides on the other side, in the realm of the unconscious, appears to the ego as being outside the natural human realm; thus it is magical, it is supernatural. To the ego, the experience of that other world is no different from religious experience the religious urge, the aspiration, means a seeking after the totality of one’s life, the totality of self, that which lives outside the ego’s worlds in the unconscious in the unseen vastness of psyche and symbol. (op.cit., p. 52-53)

Here is the great “nub” of attempting to posit, and then to convince modern western man (in the masculine sense of that word) that there is even an unconscious, inner life, of another world that there is another “side” to our ego, extrinsic consciousness. From all of our human experiences with other people, dealing as they are, have been and will be for the rest of our lives, we have been discussing, dissecting, deconstructing what we call “reality” of the empirical, sensate and manipulatable world of our senses. We generally leave to the poets and the philosophers, the mystics and the shamans matters of the inner, unconscious mystery. Nevertheless, through the reading of church history, dogmatic development, and contemporary operation of ecclesial institutions the words used, and the concepts noted, the dates determined and documented, the processes valued and applied generally if not exclusively apply to an extrinsic, sensate world. Even the definition of empathy, agape love (to use the church’s words) is expressed in physical, sensate terms, without even acknowledging the other side. Numbers of dollars, numbers of adherents, numbers of disciplinary offenses, excommunications, dismissals, and even the definitions of what constitutes “sin” is considered, taught and enforced as sensate. And it says here that the patriarchy is patently, and perhaps even permanently and eternally committed to the preservation of this reality, as if it were the substance and purpose of the institution’s existence.

From Johnson’s perspective:

It is the out of control quality in romantic love that gives us the deepest clue to its real nature. The over-whelming, ecstatic “falling in love” with someone is an event, deep in the unconscious psyche, that happens to one< One does not “do” it, one does not control it, one does not understand it: It just happens to one. This is why Western male ego has such trouble coping with romantic love: It is, by definition, “out of control.” It is out of control because that is what we secretly and unconsciously want from it—to be ecstatic, lifted out of the sterile confines of out tight little ego worlds. That bursting of bonds, that transcending of the ego-mind, is “religious experience,” and that I what we seek. Western men are taught that the male ego must have control over everything within and everything around it. The one power left in life that destroys our illusion of “control,” that forces a man to see that there is something beyond his understanding and his control, is romantic love. Formal religion and the church have long since ceased to threaten Western man’s illusion of control. He either reduces his religion to platitudes or ignores it altogether. He seeks his souls neither in religion nor in spiritual experience nor in his inner life; but he looks for that transcendence, that mystery, that revelation, in woman. He will fall in love. (op.cit.p.57-58)

To be continued….