Some Thoughts About Archetypes In The Midst Of A Pandemic
If some incredibly enthused person – friend, family or otherwise – should approach me with eyes-wide excitement about this New Thing!! that I simply Must Try!!, my immediate inner response is usually …. “aaand I’m out”.
Maybe it’s my aversion to anything that feels like an order; I’m way too Leo for that nonsense. More likely it’s a wee bit of wisdom gained from growing up in a culture where practically anyone has the freedom to offer (or sell) The Truth – about life, money, relationships, finding happiness – you name it, we got it. Having engaged myself with a few of these trends (New Age, anyone?) and watched many more fall into fad, or worse, I’m now quite happy to watch from the sidelines for a bit before participating. To quote the brilliant film, The Big Short, “We live in an era of fraud in America. Not just in banking, but in government, education, religion, food, even baseball.” Truer words….
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold, individuals and agencies of all sorts offered the public their version of the truth about the virus and how to respond. Predictably, in these days of attention-seeking, click-baiting extremes, we had some options to choose from: “it’s a serious illness!”, “it’s no worse than the flu!”, “stay home!”, “it’s all a hoax!”. For a short time, there was enough noise in the signal that some became disoriented and susceptible to external pressures to be fearful and to act fearfully. Soon, headlines about panicked buying, price gouging, hoarding and the like began springing up everywhere, as news and social media quickly passed around the most eye-catching examples.
Personally, I found these initial stories a bit worrying as there are plenty of examples from our recent history to suggest this could have been the beginning of a fall into violence. Every country and community seemed to be grappling with rushes of people seizing goods in response to their fear of the unknown. Would empty store shelves spark more panic and rioting? Would we recover our collective balance after the first rush of fear? And what if the COVID disruptions continued for months, as some were starting to predict?
Soon, compelling stories from people experiencing the first waves of the pandemic made their way around the world – videos of overwhelmed caregivers, pictures of makeshift medical equipment,wrapped bodies and grieving families. It seemed these were the catalyst that quickly clarified the signal and allowed us to collectively attune to a shared reality. Stories about toilet paper faded to trivial as we absorbed near real-time data on the spread of COVID-19 and countless stories of how the human family was fairing. Despite living in this age of global communication, I don’t recall a time when one event consumed so much human attention and action for such an extended period of time – and it’s not over yet.
As weeks turned into months, we were quickly in uncharted territory as businesses closed, people lost jobs and rents came due in the dawning of day-to-day practicalities. Isolation measures created gaps in the availability of goods and services, inviting each of us to recognize how dependent we are on others to keep our lives comfortable. And here’s where things got interesting. Sure, some of us struggled to adapt and got a bit stressed out and angry about the whole thing. And on some level, I think most of us can relate, even if humorously. So nothing new there.
What is new are all the novel and inspiring ways we quickly invented in order to connect and care for one another in the face of this historic event. On the spot, business owners pivoted to new products to keep employees working – or donated space, supplies and time to their communities. Neighbors reached out to find and support those in need of help, be it food, money, pet-sitting or just some company for a few hours. Teachers and others quickly adapted to remote teaching tools; hilarity ensued. Families, schoolmates, co-workers, strangers – all looking for and finding ways to help.
It’s very encouraging to see how quickly we’ve been able to challenge our daily habits, as if we were already itching for things to be different. In spite of living in cultures that divide us, we’re clearly able to set aside flimsy labels when an immediate need to help each other emerges. And on a planet experiencing the kind of environmental and social changes we’re living through now, was there ever a more immediate need for this unity? As an aside, the numerous videos, songs and funnies celebrating our solidarity are also a great source of quarantine entertainment. And so we should celebrate; we are groovy and one must celebrate such grooviness.
As I survey these stories of connection and caring, the pattern suggests to me the emergence of an archetype in our collective response. And by archetype, I’m using the Jungian definition: a primitive mental image present in the collective unconscious. Thought of as inherited potentials, archetypes describe universal patterns of human nature we all recognize: yearning for freedom, desire to serve others, longing for intimacy, etc. These archetypes arise within the individual – or collective – in response to life’s journey; which archetypes arise can be seen as a reflection of our fundamental nature – the artist, the healer, the teacher, and so on.
In response to the pandemic, I’ve been streaming the psychedelic wisdom of Terence McKenna, who is well-versed in all things Jung. In a lecture, Terence explains archetypes with the story of Soteris, the Greek goddess of safety and preservation from harm, who risks the lives of many to save the one who is lost. This archetype has worn many faces over time; in the Bible, it’s the shepherd who leaves the flock of ninety-nine to rescue the lost sheep. It is this – this deep seated instinct to find those in danger and get them to safety, even at the risk of own safety or life – this is the voice calling out through us now.
This pandemic is helping us understand what is essential in our lives. Though we’re still awash in our old habits, we’re also getting glimpses of what a different reality might look like, for better or ill. The pandemic is gifting us with the chance to stop our manic daily momentum long enough to better recognize our interdependence before we make our next moves. In taking this pause, we are seeing past our divisions and finding cause to continue questioning how much of the status quo truly serves the human family. The time is ripe for a new story about how we humans share this living planet; perhaps COVID is inviting us to get on with it!
On some level, I think we all sense that for many of us, life will never fully return to ‘the way it was’. In Part 2, I’ll share some thoughts about what we face next.
In the meantime, sharing these snippets of good news. Enjoy! (That’s an order.)
In my multi-year plan to transform lifestyle and focus, 2019 is the year designated for returning to the work place, an effort I’m now coming back to after a summer spent helping friends and family move to the area. Before diving back in, I thought I’d share some of the teachings that have been running through my mind as I peruse the job market. After stepping away for a few years from a lengthy career in healthcare project/program management, I now confront the tricky question that comes to many after awakening; how to reconnect to the working world from a very different state of mind.
"If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be....People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."
"Successfully bringing your gifts into the world has been called self-actualization by psychologist Abraham Maslow, who also emphasized the importance of self-transcendence...All intelligent and reasonably sane people, as long as they have their basic needs met, have the desire to achieve both self-actualization and self-transcendence. To do both is to pursue your calling...pursuing your calling is not logical—it's experimental. As a scientist, I see it as deeply scientific."
"Many, many years ago, many incarnations back when I was a professor at Harvard, I used to run a course called “Career Decision Making.” It was interesting to start to lead with your wish list of how you would like to live, how you would like to serve, and then start to tune very, very slowly. If you have that option, you’ve got to be ready to fall on your face and make mistakes. That’s a very important part of this game of hearing your uniqueness. Because what you listen to until your mind is really clear is always colored by all these kinds of attitudes, prejudices, cultural preferences and so on."
"If you come into alignment with the present moment….there is an added dimension of aliveness that comes in….And it is often then that change comes into your life, when you align with the present moment instead of trying to get away from it….. You are so aligned that actually Power begins to flow through; that's why I call it the Power of Now. It is the Power of Life itself. And gradually the Universe, or Life, notices that you are in a different state of consciousness. And often it is then that change comes into your life, either through a chance event or chance encounter or sudden idea or realization…to fulfill your purpose on this planet and in this form which is to be a vehicle for consciousness to come into this world."
"What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?...If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You'll be doing things you don't like doing in order to go on living - that is, to go on doing things you don't like doing. Which is stupid!...And after all, if you do really like what you're doing… you can eventually become a master of it - it's the only way to become a master of something, is to be really 'with it'… But it's absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don't like, in order to go on spending on things you don’t like, doing things you don't like…it's all retch and no vomit, it never gets there."
"It's natural ... to want to use the body-mind in the service of this love and understanding. For so long, the body-mind has been used in the service of the ego, trying to fulfill its impossible demands and fears. Now the ego is no longer in place, or at least is largely diminished and in its place - love, peace and understanding is in charge, is wanting to be expressed. And your body-mind is what you have been given to express that love and understanding, to share it, to bring it out into the world. So use your body-mind for that purpose. In relationships, in activities, in employment…"
The estate sale was a smashing success and I’m now writing to you from a cozy little 396 sq. ft. tiny house on wheels parked on a small lot I purchased about 30 miles north of my previous address. Since moving mid-November, I’ve been unpacking, putting in windows, building porch doors, decorating and painting a tiny galley kitchen that seems to go on forever – among a million other things.
I recently plugged back into my blog to find a major WordPress update (yeesh), a few broken links (ugh) and formatting that needs fixing. (How long was I gone?!) So once some housekeeping is done (and I’ve learned some new ‘features’), I’ll be sharing more posts, links, and etc., including some thoughts on what it was like to sell most of my material possessions (what a rush!). More soon…..
I have not abandoned my post. I did, however, slightly overestimate how much energy I would have for blogging in the midst of downsizing from 1700 sq ft into 400 sq ft in between preparing for an estate sale and driving around the Puget Sound in search of the perfect place to park a house – my bad.
Regular programming will resume once this little adventure slows down to a walk.
"If I am the father of LSD, Stan Grof is the godfather. Nobody has contributed as much as Stan for the development of my problem child." --Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD-25
Stanislav Grof, PhD is a Czech psychiatrist widely known for both his psychedelic therapy experience and for his holotropic breathing program. The promising the results of psychedelic research Grof began in 1956, along with his personal LSD experiences, convinced Stan to devote his remaining career to the exploration of 'non-ordinary states of consciousness', specifically states that can bring a person healing from previous traumas and spiritual growth. In the early 1970's, with LSD research largely ended, Stan and his late wife Christina developed a specific model of holotropic breath work - combining breathing with music and body work - to induce these same non-ordinary states of consciousness, a model which has since been built into the Grof Transpersonal Training program by teachers Tav and Cary Sparks. Stan Grof now spends most of his time teaching and writing and is currently a Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in the Department of Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness in San Francisco, CA, and at Wisdom University in Oakland, CA.
"In one of my early books I suggested that the potential significance of LSD and other psychedelics for psychiatry and psychology was comparable to the value the microscope has for biology or the telescope has for astronomy. My later experience with psychedelics only confirmed this initial impression. These substances function as unspecific amplifiers that increase the cathexis (energetic charge) associated with the deep unconscious contents of the psyche and make them available for conscious processing. This unique property of psychedelics makes it possible to study psychological undercurrents that govern our experiences and behaviours to a depth that cannot be matched by any other method and tool available in modern mainstream psychiatry and psychology. In addition, it offers unique opportunities for healing of emotional and psychosomatic disorders, for positive personality transformation, and consciousness evolution." --Foreword to the MAPS edition of LSD: My Problem Child (October 2005) by Dr. Albert Hofmann
What's been helpful: Stan Grof's hands-on experience with psychedelic psychiatric therapy has made him an valuable resource in these days of a re-emerging interest in psychedelics. His interviews appear in numerous documentaries on the subject, including Little Saints (posted here) and The Substance: Albert Hoffman's LSD (not yet posted but recommended for a good tour of LSD's history) as well as on websites, podcasts and YouTube channels. Stan Grof is a perfect example of the accomplished, open-minded scientist I find of interest these days, men and women pushing, pulling or dragging their selected disciplines into new connections with our expanding understanding of consciousness and reality. Dr. Grof's comments are always quiet and measured, yet full of obvious intelligence, experience and humor; a good example is this SAND presentation, Proposal for a Radical Revision of Psychiatry, Psychology & Psychotherapy. And if you've caught my earlier posts on psychedelic art, you'll understand why I was delighted to discover another trove on Stan's website - of his own work! (NSFW) Then I found out about his latest book, HR Giger and the Zeitgeist of the Twentieth Century, and it immediately went to the very tippy top of my summer reading list. What will an LSD-informed psychiatrist who produced those images have to say about the work of HR Giger(?!)..... wow, you can't even make this stuff up.
(From Dr. Fields' website) "What is information? What makes it meaningful? What is memory? What are objects? What is time and space? What is causation? I mainly work on these questions from a scientific perspective, with the aim of developing predictions precise enough to be tested experimentally. It seems to me that all of these questions revolve around the single question: "what is a boundary?" Hence all of my work, including my investigation of the boundaries of scientific disciplines, attempts to understand how boundaries are drawn and what they look like. I mainly work on these questions from the perspectives of physics (some background on the physics of boundaries) and cognitive neuroscience (some background on the cognitive neuroscience of boundaries). I've also explored this question of boundaries using visual art."
"I think there is a definite pressure building in the scientific community toward the idea that awareness has to be a fundamental assumption. That we really do have to drop this business of awareness per se being generated by a particular organization of neurons … or a particular organization of something else, any kinds of material objects…We should have dropped this whole business of material objects in the early twentieth century. It became very clear in the early twentieth century that there aren't any material objects. … There can't be if any of our science is correct." -- Chris Fields in How Close is Science to Understanding Consciousness? (SAND)
What's been helpful: As I've written about before, one of the first videos I encountered post-awakening was from SAND (Science and Nonduality) titled How Close is Science to Understanding Consciousness? In the video, a panel comprised of Chris and four other scientists discuss this topic under the facilitation of teacher A.H. Almass. The video had me hooked at once, hungry as I was for discussions on the nature of consciousness, but I especially noticed Chris' contribution. I'm not sure if it was the combo of sandals, surf shirt and Santa beard or if it was the clearly articulated yet complex ideas ... it was probably the shirt. But what I came to appreciate about Chris' presence generally is how it speaks of a community willing to look beyond traditional academic definitions of expertise when bringing discussions about consciousness to an audience. SAND does a good job of curating their content and I appreciate how they are using their stage to showcase independent scientists working in the field of consciousness research, especially when it brings forward voices like Chris Fields. SAND appears to host most of his video content - I especially liked the ideas Chris discussed in this presentation at SAND 2016. But if you'd rather dive into details about such topics as 'unitary quantum theory as a formal framework for a theory of consciousness', then you simply must check out his website (whew!).
Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert) is a (former) Harvard professor, spiritual teacher and author who initially became known for his role in shaping the counter-culture movement of the 1960's - first as Professor Alpert, who helped stage both the Harvard Psilocybin Project and Good Friday Experiment (and got fired from Harvard for his troubles) and later as Ram Dass (re-named by Hindu guru Maharaj-ji), who went on to create numerous foundations and projects devoted to serving the spiritual growth of others. His 1971 book Be Here Now is still considered by many a 'must read' for the spiritual explorer and the 1964 book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (with co-authors Tim Leary and Ralph Metzner) is still an important reference manual for psychedelic psychonauts. Today, 87 years old and still dealing with challenges related to an earlier stroke, Ram Dass continues to teach from his home in Maui, often sharing his thoughts and preparations for dying and death; his new book with co-author Mirabai Bush, Walking Each Other Home, explores this topic with conversations and meditation.
“You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success – none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here.” --Ram Dass
What's been helpful: I heard a lot about Ram Dass before I heard anything directly from the man himself; case in point my post on The Harvard Psychedelic Club (which I'd highly recommend), a book devoted to discussing the cultural importance of four men during the 1950's and 60's - Ram Dass, Tim Leary, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil. Come to think of it, I'd be hard pressed to think of a teacher who hasn't referred to Ram Dass at some point - either his teachings or this counter-culture role. Of course all these references got me curious, which is why I recently took time to watch the 2013 documentary, Fierce Grace, and learned a bit more about why Ram has been such an influence on so many who are in turn influencing me. Ram Dass' devotion to and interest in the lives of others shines through in this film; there are several glimpses of how powerfully his presence has affected and helped others, along stories of how perfectly placed he was to be center stage during the heyday of the psychedelic 60's. But more interesting to me personally were the moments throughout the film where Ram shares the details - both hard and humorous - about living with the physical and mental challenges resulting from a massive stroke in 1997. Ram Dass has long taught on the subjects of aging and dying and this interest has been brought into sharp focus by the recent years of his life. I look forward to reading and listening to his open-hearted and experienced teachings on this topic as I prepare for my own (physical) death in the coming years.
First, I feel I must apologize to those who noted my recent silence; I look for updates at least weekly on the blogs I follow and that’s the minimum schedule I intend to keep. Then I decided to buy a house so, you know….. been busy.
A tiny house, to be precise. A 398 square foot living space that’s all about letting go. My partner and I had agreed that the time for down-sizing had arrived and now, a few months later, plans are underway for a September estate sale and a new tiny house is awaiting a new address. If I’m speaking candidly, I’m not sure this is entirely what I had in mind when I wrote earlier about using my second post-awakened year to embody what I learned in the first. But despite the upheavals this kind of change brings on all fronts, the momentum and direction feel good and true.
As there’s a growing wave of interest in tiny home living, I’ve decided to share updates on this little diversion (this is actually a means to an end but if I start blogging about furnishings and decorating tips there won’t be any stopping me). All the updates will be added to this post so look for an aside when new stories / pics are available – this whole thing has got to be good for a least a few interesting tales.
Posts with more books, teachers, videos and the like will continue throughout as I suspect this will be how I’ll keep my finger on the pulse of sanity and reason in the months ahead. But for the rest of today? … Spreadsheets! Yesssss!
Psychologist, teacher and author Helen Palmer is the developer of the Enneagram model which profiles nine distinct personality types - the Perfectionist, the Giver, the Performer, the Tragic Romantic, the Observer, the Loyal Skeptic, the Epicure, the Protector and the Mediator - the idea being that understanding our 'type' helps us clarify what we observe about ourselves - and others - and in turn this clarity helps us let go of rigid thinking and responses. (Want to discover your Enneagram type? Here's the test.)
“It is important to stress the ways that people are different from each other, because so much of the suffering that we experience in our relationships with other people is caused by the fact that we are blind to their point of view.” ― Helen Palmer, The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life
What's been helpful: Until recently, the sciences that had most excited my sense of curiosity about 'the unknown' were along the lines of astrophysics and quantum mechanics until I became aware of the deep influence of philosophers and psychoanalysts on the thinking of many of the very scientists constructing these new models of reality. Helen Palmer is another such example - a psychologist and teacher who is informing the thinking in her field with a deep spiritual awareness. In this short SAND presentation, Our Intuitive Capacity for Spiritual Wisdom, Helen's personal stories and professional expertise combine for an interesting teaching on how to use the tools of psychology to observe self. And I recognize in her Enneagram model many of the same types of egoic conditioning patterns discussed by other teachers, making this another of the tools we can choose from as we seek understanding during our inner journeys. Helen's 2014 ConsciousTV interview, Relationships Matter - The Enneagram Tells Us How, is another good introduction to the Enneagram model and how it developed.
Five years ago the well-known TED / TEDx organization kicked up some controversy by taking down the TEDx videos from two speakers under guise of policies against 'pseudoscience', yet failing (to my knowledge) to present any compelling examples of such in either presentation. Not surprisingly, BANNING (!) the videos had the effect of generating attention, protests and petitions until TED reinstated the content - all of which served to bring much attention to the work of author Graham Hancock and biologist and former Cambridge professor, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake... Oops.
“I am all in favor of science and reason if they are scientific and reasonable. But I am against granting scientists and the materialist worldview an exemption from critical thinking and skeptical investigation. We need an enlightenment of the Enlightenment.” --Rupert Sheldrake, 'The Science Delusion"
What's been helpful: Though Rupert Sheldrake has a list of books and academic achievements under his belt, the greatest benefit of running into Hancock and Sheldrake early in my post-awakened state was simply hearing two well-educated and well-spoken professionals rip a hole in the fabric of traditional scientific thinking. Though their theories had been dismissed by 'establishment' as pseudoscience, I could hear for myself that both men seemed to be making a reasonable case with clearly presented evidence. Was it really necessary for TED to be the 'adult' in the room and take away the information before we hurt ourselves with it? (Clearly this type of censorship just pushes ALL my buttons.) But the whole affair, especially when reading about it three years later, after all sides had weighed in and new evidence had emerged in support of both theories, was a good reminder of the unseen forces shaping the ideas that will be 'allowed' in any commercial forum.
While the whole TED thing prompted me to pick up some of Hancock's books, I didn't become familiar with Sheldrake's work until I started listening to the 'Trialogues', a series of wide-ranging discussions with Rupert Sheldrake, Terence McKenna and mathematician Ralph Abraham (available on Rupert's YouTube channel). I haven't yet fully unpacked Sheldrake's theories on morphic resonance fields but his newest book, Science and Spiritual Practices: Reconnecting Through Direct Experience has made it to my summer reading list for the positive reviews coming from the nondual community. A quick peek reveals the book is yet another invitation from an experienced fellow traveler to experience the divine through a number of spiritual practices - meditation, gratitude, relating to plants, ritual, singing/chant, connecting with nature and pilgrimage to holy places. Sheldrake's unique take on this message is to present the scientific findings that validate each of these practices as bringing measurable and beneficial changes to the mind and body of practitioners. (Look for a post in the "Books" section this summer.)