Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spiritual Missions, Double Destinies, and the Articulation of the True Self

One reader mentioned that he was grateful for my delving into the arkive, as it will give him the opportunity to catch up. A lot of later material is based upon assumptions laid out in earlier posts, for example, this one, in which I discuss the nature of the Self. (I capitalize the nonlocal Self in order to distinguish it from the local ego.)

Again, nothing new here, but it does give me the opportunity to add some new material about the nature of synchronicity, destiny, and the "dual mission" of vons Balthasar and Speyr. In such a case, one person's destiny is entirely intertwined with the other's, even before either realizes it. And when they do recognize one another, it is like an electrical arc that completes the circuit. ZAP! (And one reason this is so interesting to me is that their story has eery parallels with that of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Richard, another two-headed feast.)

****

Humans are in an odd situation. That is, we are born with what I believe is a true Self. And yet, this Self must be actualized in time. In short, the Self is both a priori and something that must be worked on and discovered. In other words, the task of our life's journey is to paradoxically become who we already are. More ominously, it is entirely possible -- in fact, more likely than not -- for us to spend our lives being or becoming something we aren't. How strange is that? And yet, it is so. A truism, really.

This brings up the interesting question of where our true Self is when we aren't identified with it. That is, it must be "somewhere." While we can get lost, it never is. No matter how much someone messes up their life, they can almost always make their way back to their Self. The Alcoholics Anonymous program is a case in point. They specialize in taking the most lost souls and often helping them reconnect with their true selves.

The reason I think that AA works for people is that its founders happened to stumble upon what I believe are universal psycho-spiritual principles, such as believing in a Power greater than oneself, surrendering one's life to that Power, being ruthlessly honest with oneself, working to maintain contact with the higher Power, carrying the spiritual message to others, etc. These principles are as objectively true as any law of physics.

Chaos theory has developed the idea of attractors that govern complex systems. According to this theory, systems that may look chaotic to us are actually "pulled" into certain patterns that seem to be located outside space and time, almost like Platonic forms. About 15 years ago I published a paper on how the mind itself may be thought of as a multidimensional topology with various attractors pulling us this way and that.

For example, think of a person with bipolar disorder, which involves very wide mood swings between mania and depression. For these individuals, it is as if the space of the mind has two large valleys drawing them back and forth. Likewise, a neurotic symptom, like an obsession or compulsion, exists in a type of phase space known as a "limit cycle" that repeats itself endlessly without getting anywhere. Ideologies can be like this as well. They give a spurious sense of freedom, when in reality the person is as hemmed in as a pig in a sty. And thanks to political correctness, all the fences are electrified. Soon enough the tenured or MSM pig learns not to go near them.

The idea of the Self existing in a complex phase space is well described by the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas. At birth, he says, we are "equipped with a unique idiom of psychic organization that constitutes the core of our self" (Raccoons call it our "divine clueprint"). However, various exigencies in development mean that only parts of that core will be potentiated, which leaves "a substantial part of our self known (profoundly us) and yet unthought."

Bollas does not specifically address the question of where these parts of the self might be before they have been experienced, but one can imagine a complex psychic landscape with various unexplored areas corresponding to these unlived selves, or the what he calls the realm of the "unthought known." (Bion referred to them as the "unborns," which implies that abortion is not only a physical threat.)

In hindsight, it can often look like sheer happenstance that resulted in the birth of one's Self, and one question I often ask myself is to what extent the Self is able to unconsciously bring about the conditions it requires in order to be born. In other words, events that look like pure luck may have been "inside jobs." (As the rabbis say, God spends most of his time arranging meetings and marriages.)

I think that a particularly strong Self can be like the tiny seed that finds a way to break through the concrete sidewalk above. Nothing can stop it from achieving its destiny. Other seeds don't even try. In fact, one of the most baleful effects of leftism is that it preaches that the seed doesn't really exist and that it can't grow anyway without government fertilizer, which is made of only the purest bullshit.

Bollas also discusses how these "basins of attraction" operate, although he doesn't use that phrase. He states, for example, that early childhood trauma may "nucleate into an increasingly sophisticated internal complex" where later "resonant trauma" are pulled in. I have personally treated many cases of psychological trauma, in which the present trauma -- say, being held up at gun point -- seems to "pull" the individual into the attractor of their earlier trauma, conflating the two.

In fact, it is fair to say that dealing with these kinds of attractors is the stock-in-trade of the psychotherapist. A man's wife gets pulled into the psychic attractor of his controlling mother, so he is no longer sexually attracted to her. A narcissist has no stable "basin" of self esteem, so he compulsively looks for it in mirroring from others outside himself. Another uses crystal meth to lift himself out of a "dead" attractor, like a ship stuck in the doldrums and looking for a little chemical wind. Another tries vainly to fill his bottomless attractor of Nameless Dread with the figure of George Bush.

But there are also positive attractor states where creativity and meaning coalesce, and which we struggle to apprehend. Bollas: "One would feel this as a kind of familiar force of psychic gravity attracting ideas, questions, and play work..." In fact, I felt these kinds of attractors very strongly in writing my book, and have come to believe that one of the reasons why religion "works" is that it lures us toward higher attractor states by "submitting" or "surrendering" to their benign influence. Frankly, my book went into a lot of areas that I didn't necessarily know that much about when I started it. But by focussing very intently, in an open-ended way, on certain problems (sometimes for years), the answers would eventually come to me.

I don't know how far you want to extend the metaphor, but there is no question that the intensity of some of these attractors was not limited to my own mind. This is what C.G. Jung called "synchronicity," and I openly acknowledge its functioning in my life. I won't get into exactly why or how I think synchronicity works, but I have no doubt that "meaningful coincidences" do occur, and that they have something to do with nonlocal attractors where two separate events -- or even people -- are actually conjoined in a higher dimension.

The physicist David Bohm illustrated how this might work with a thought experiment. Imagine a standard rectangular fish tank containing a fish. There are two video cameras viewing the tank through sides that are at right angles to one another. The resulting images are are projected onto two separate TV screens in another room. It will become immediately clear that there is some correlation between the two fish, for as one moves, so does the other. The scientific impulse is to look for some kind of causal connection between the two of them. But as Bohm points out, the images on the two screens are actually two-dimensional projections of a three-dimensional reality. While they appear separate, they are in fact unified -- two versions of the same event -- at a higher dimension.

Now just imagine two four-dimensional lives unified on a fifth.

Example.

Last night I was reading some of the background of how Balthasar and von Speyr eventually came together and realized their dual mission. They met in 1940, when she was 38 and he was 35. And yet, it was as if they had been "connected" prior to that, pursuing the individual paths each required in order to complement one another for the sake of the Mission. Although this may challenge common sense, I am way beyond having any difficulty whatsoever accepting this cooncept.

In the book Our Task -- which is based on a symposium on von Speyr requested by Pope John Paul II -- Balthasar writes that there are not only individual spiritual missions -- which is obvious -- but also "double missions" which "complement each other like 'the two halves of the moon.'" "The individuals concerned are first led along a complicated path, which was necessary to get them finally into the right kind of teamwork."

Balthasar cites a number of previous prominent examples in Catholicism, e.g., St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa. But what is particularly interesting to me is that some of the language he uses sounds as if it could have been written by Sri Aurobindo or Mirra Richard. It is that similar. Just as Mirra "recognized" Sri Aurobindo as her missing half the moment she laid eyes on him, so too did von Speyr instantly recognize Balthasar. Here is how HvB describes it: "When she saw me for the first time in 1940, she knew that I was the one for whom she had been waiting and for whose sake she had received the wound" (referring to a stigmata in the area of her heart).

In the case of Mirra, she had had repeated visions of a being whom she came to call "Krishna," even though she knew little of Indian philosophies at the time. "[H]enceforth I was aware that it was with him (whom I knew I should meet on earth some day) that the divine work was to be done... As soon as I saw Sri Aurobindo I recognized in him the well-known being whom I used to call Krishna."

And apparently there can be missions involving the coming together of more than two for the sake of a mission. One thinks immediately of the twelve apostles. Mirra was once asked about this during one of her weekly talks in 1929. I've certainly experienced stranger things: "We are of one family and have worked through the ages for the victory of the Divine and its manifestation on earth." I suppose this is why I am much closer to, say, Meister Eckhart, than to my own brothers, and feel very much as if we share the same mission. For the mission is the "transcendent third" that two people love and which unifies them below. In that realm, 700 years is but a fleeting moment.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an extremely interesting post as it probes the mysteries of how things are orchestrated "behind the scenes" of life.

It is meaningful for me, as my existence seems like a non-stop struggle with my inner state. As you wrote:

'...early childhood trauma may "nucleate into an increasingly sophisticated internal complex" where later "resonant trauma" are pulled in.'

I think I sustained a trauma which has nucleated. While I don't think I'm mentally ill in a clinical sense, quality of life has certainly been degraded by a chronic lack of peace.

The trigger is a woman in every case.

Anyhoo, boring, banal, etc. The only way to turn a nucleated past trauma to account is to use it as a target practice for spiriutal warfare.

If you can make the trauma back down in the face of your positive attitude, then you win. If you can establish peace in place of angst by using surrender, then something has been accomplished.

Perhaps the whole traumatic complex, including the vexing mates that keep cropping up, have been orchestrated by synchronicity for the very purpose of giving me something to push against.

Or so I would like to think. If its just miserable random happenstance, I'd accept that too although it makes me feel sad.

Oh frickin' well.

6/18/2009 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The greatest danger, that
of losing one's self, may pass off in the world as if it was nothing, every other loss,
an arm, leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. is bound to be noticed."

--Soren Kierkegaard, Sickness Unto Death

6/18/2009 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"In hindsight, it can often look like sheer happenstance that resulted in the birth of one's Self, and one question I often ask myself is to what extent the Self is able to unconsciously bring about the conditions it requires in order to be born. In other words, events that look like pure luck may have been "inside jobs." (As the rabbis say, God spends most of his time arranging meetings and marriages.)"

Like the Oklahoma land rush... all that empty space just calling out to be developed, your very own manifest deustiny. Very interesting idea.

6/18/2009 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun post Bob.
In my blog I touch-muse on the same topic .... And no, I didn't see this post beforehand.

Theofilia

6/18/2009 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Anonymous- Great Kierkegaard quote....and wonderfully apt for today's post!

6/18/2009 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

About a year ago, my niece came to visit after which I wrote this. Which turned out to be a pretty good description of the year that was coming up. Next week, my niece will be here again, but I have the distinct impression that this time it signals a bit of respite, and a chance to drift on the deep end. At least for a couple of months. With any luck, that will change in September.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I probably won't be here much, for a while. But before I drift back into mostly lurk mode, I just wanted to say thanks, to Bob and all the regulars. My Self may not have broken through that concrete sidewalk yet, but with your help it's gone a pretty good way.

I couldn't have done it without you.

6/18/2009 01:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed a 'shift' in you Julie:)

Theofilia

6/18/2009 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger lance said...

Very interesting, Very, very interesting. I really like the concept of the Self and what it is doing.

"In hindsight, it can often look like sheer happenstance that resulted in the birth of one's Self, and one question I often ask myself is to what extent the Self is able to unconsciously bring about the conditions it requires in order to be born. In other words, events that look like pure luck may have been "inside jobs." (As the rabbis say, God spends most of his time arranging meetings and marriages.)"

Just really thought provoking. Thanks for this Bob.

6/18/2009 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

"Articulation of the True Self"

Poetic and beautiful post. Why not?

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." I Cor 13:12

God, I sure hope so.

6/18/2009 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I'm still not sure what I think of Sri Aurobindo, or of von Balthasar/Speyr, for that matter (though I have read with interest)...however...I have to wonder how what you wrote relates to "divine appointments," and the brotherhood/sisterhood of believers as they are united in Christ; i.e., "A spiritual house" of "living stones..." Maybe you mean something more specific than that.

"Humans are in an odd situation. That is, we are born with what I believe is a true Self. And yet, this Self must be actualized in time. In short, the Self is both a priori and something that must be worked on and discovered. In other words, the task of our life's journey is to paradoxically become who we already are. More ominously, it is entirely possible -- in fact, more likely than not -- for us to spend our lives being or becoming something we aren't. How strange is that? And yet, it is so. A truism, really."

This, I understood! :)

6/18/2009 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Outstanding post, Bob!

You know, it really helps to get even more outta the repeat posts (or classics, as I call 'em) while keeping in mind theo-drama, the arc of salvation, and all the themes and plot twists you have covered.

In any sense, I see so much more, and your classics hold up well to time (indeed, they are timeless).

BTW, I thought you had another post up for Friday and I was readin' it, and it disappeared, so I read this one again. I didn't imagine that did I?

6/19/2009 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Yes Ben, I saw it too, luckily it was still on my PocketPC so I got to finish reading it.

I'm sensing a disturbance in the force....

;-)

6/20/2009 08:44:00 AM  

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