Friday, October 26, 2012

Finding Your Polar Bearings in Swampland

For the sake of continuity, let's continue with Mouravieff's discussion of what he calls "polar beings" (male and female), and how the interplay of their energies fosters spiritual transformation -- or, a kind of purification and ascent.

To back up for a moment, the spiritual life always consists, in some form or fashion, of purification (or purgation), illumination, and union. None of these can actually be radically separated from the others, and the process is always ongoing.

One of the purposes of marriage is to purge oneself of mind parasites (think of them as "impurities") that drag one down and impede growth. Marriage provides an opportunity to work through and eventually transcend these patterns. In the colorful phrase of Raccoon emeritus Dilys, marriage helps us "drain the swamp" -- which is equally true of any sacrament.

A sacrament may be thought of as a kind of disinfecting light that is noxious to the anaerobic beings of interior swampland. This is probably where the legends of photophobic vampires come from. Lies can only flourish in the dark, and in a very real sense, are the Dark.

"The deepest reason why lying to oneself is forbidden," writes Mouravieff, is that "he who lies to himself will also lie to his alter ego."

And "that will be the end of the miracle. The wonderful side of the meeting will disappear behind a curtain of trivial lies, which will rapidly take the aspect of an impassible wall." (Sounds like he knew my parents.)

Once the Wall is in place, "relations with the polar being will no longer be distinguished from those that a man can have with other women: wives, mistresses and adventures. Once more, the experience will be spoiled."

I often wonder what saved me from ruin -- from diving into the swamp and staying there. I won't pretend to know, but I think part of it may have had to do with a kind of intense romantic longing for my "polar being." From the age of nine or so, I can remember each school year, having an intense "spiritual crush" on a different girl.

But even after I entered my teens, these crushes were not sexual per se. Rather, they consisted of a painfully intense longing for an idealized image of femininity -- almost like an angelic being. This image is completely un-cynical, un-ironic, and un-jaded. It is innocent, chaste, virginal, and radiant with a kind of pure light.

For example, I can still remember thinking about one particular girl in the fifth grade. We're sitting on a picnic blanket or something in a wooded area, and I'm looking at her, and her blonde hair is literally aglow with a numinous energy -- I mean, like a Disney movie, when the prince gazes into the princess's eyes and falls in love.

I have a suspicion that more men are like this than we may realize. Or at least used to be. I can't speak for today's youth culture, which certainly appears bereft of such higher sentiments.

The only theorist I know of who has spoken directly to this developmental reality is Joseph Chilton Pearce, in his Evolution's End. There he writes that "at the age of eleven, an idealistic image of life grows in intensity throughout the middle teens." Then, "somewhere around age fourteen or fifteen a great expectation arises that 'something tremendous is supposed to happen.'"

Just what this tremendous IT is supposed to be is something of a mystery. He references the writer George Leonard, "who spoke of an anguished longing so acute he knew it could never be assuaged." That's what I'm talkin' about!

Pearce goes on to say that "it may be difficult to accept that adolescents are idealistic: often they seem crass and cynical, following the obvious anti-heroes." If you knew me at the time, this is probably how I would have appeared, but it was just a facade to protect the vulnerability underneath.

This pure energy probably also gets deflected into politics, hence the naive and romantic liberalism of the young and stupid, or Obama's base. (One more reason why his cynical and deeply unfunny new ad that conflates sex and voting is so misguided.)

When an archetype is awakened within us, we first look for a model in the external world. In this case, it is the anima, or female archetype, that is awakened. I know the archetype is real, because I can remember dreams in which she appeared, and again, the longing for her was painful beyond words.

An archetype is supposed to function as a psychic attractor that guides development. If there is no external model to "meet with" and correspond to the archetype, it can whither on the vine. It becomes "just a fantasy," instead of an important clue to the innate directionality of life, of spiritual maturation.

Back to Mouravieff for a moment, before I run out of time. He agrees that "the highest expression of divine Beauty on Earth is the human body, especially that of woman, for nothing can equal the harmony of perfect feminine forms."

And "The divine purity of masculine and feminine forms really depicts adamic humanity before the Fall. It presents us with the original types and subtypes of sinless men and women, without vices and without karmic burden."

That sounds vaguely familiar. I do remember something about a garden...


julie said...

I have a suspicion that more men are like this than we may realize.

I suspect that most men start off that way. Just going by the effect of divorce on men (as a broad generality, of course), especially when the wife wants the divorce, men tend to be much more devastated by the whole process, and I don't think the financial hardships really account for the depth if the wounds. For instance, a quick perusal of the comments on any of Dr. Helen's columns reveals a bittness and hatred toward women as a whole that seems all out of proportion -- unless they are suffering the loss, perhaps permanently, of that idealized woman.

Conversely, such a woman (an external model, that is) becomes increasingly difficult to find in an age where women are encouraged to be anything but feminine. Or but the worst vices of the feminine, in any case...

Magister said...

What is "growth"? What does it mean to "transcend" a mind parasite?

To me, growth means "closer resemblance to perfect love." Transcendence describes the process of growing up and out of any category, thought, or relationship that prevents one's closer resemblance to perfect love.

A relationship to a certain, specific person can stimulate that growth, but what happens when Dante's Beatrice falls to earth, so to speak? What happens when her (or his) halo is gone, and one despairs of it ever returning? We change, we age, our archetypal glow diminishes, we screw up, we fail.

I believe these are precisely the moments of transcendence, and it is so easy to miss them, get them wrong, or even reject them. These are the moments when we must if we are to grow think less about ourselves and more about the beloved. Have they been suffering? What do they need? It is so hard to ask those questions sometimes, especially when you yourself are hurting.

But only by asking them will we have a chance of being "in" love again, in more senses than one. We must constantly confront the reality in front of us, if we are ever to transcend our limitations as lovers. That confrontation requires sacrifice, and making that sacrifice requires a moment when the ego lets go, and is gracious.

There is nothing that affects our hearts more, and is more beautiful.

ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ted said...

I have certainly had that anguished longing for my polar being... and still do from time to time. But I am aware of the "promise of perfection" that one assumes with that. Although today's youth are inflicted with a cynical exterior, there is still a sense that they place romantic relationships above everything now that they lack a rich interior life. Hence, Divine-man relationship gets replaced with the masculine-feminine relationship. And when that comes crumbling down, because no one can live up to such expectations, one's world comes crumbling down, because one has lost their relationship to the Divine.

Leslie Godwin said...

The other day, Tristan asked Bob, "Do you think those Buddha (Voodoo) dolls you told me about work for love?" It turned out that he wanted to know if a Voodoo doll could get the girl next door to love him. (She is very feminine and since they were toddlers, they have had the kind of relationship where he does whatever he possibly can to make her laugh, and she giggles at him in a very girlish way.)

He later came over to me and whispered, even though we were completely alone, "I love Maia."

You could so completely feel that love to him right now is mysterious and innocent and on a higher plane than just being friends or clicking with someone, which he is completely famliar with and able to articulate.

Mrs. G

mushroom said...

This is a lot to think about, and I'm not at all convinced that I understand.

My wife's personality is complementary to mine, sure enough, and that has worked me through a lot of stuff.

Isn't there a song in "The Music Man" about preferring the "sadder but wiser girl"? -- in my case, an anchor in the positive sense. Or as Lone Watie said in Josey Wales, a man could get used to this tee-pee living.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"But only by asking them will we have a chance of being "in" love again, in more senses than one."

You raise some good points, Magister.
However, it's been my experience that what my wife says ain't always what she means.

This can lead to missunderstandings of tragic, albeit comedic proportions if taken at face value.

It would be helpful if there was a handy guide that interpreted the actual meaning of stuff wives say.

Over time, I have been able, throufg trials and tribu-errors to decipher my wife's language and have even picked up on when she was using it.

But I still don't completely understand everything about stuff my wife says since she will alter her language to throw me off sometimes.

This works the other way too, but in a sort of reverse way.
For example, I say what I mean, but my wife will sometimes interpret what I say to mean something quite different.

This leads to all kinds of hijinks unless one is a very observant detective and linguistic expert of wifespeak and stuff wives hear that you didn't say.

"I didn't say that!" I exclaimed, flabbergasted.

"But that's what you meant!" My wife counters.

"What?!" I reply, incredulously. "Are you serious?"

Now, my last sentence was a rookie mistake but I still make it sometimes.

31 plus years of marriage and I'm still learning.
It's sure worth it though. :^)

Jack said...

As the youngest child (i.e. the comedian) of the family, my mother would sign me up for children's theater for a few weeks of my summer vacations.

So during the summer before the 5th grade I came into contact with Stephanie. She was a year younger than I was. She was lovely and blonde and also very much "lit from within". It was the first distinct instance of meeting a being who's beauty so profoundly confused me that the world seemed to both make complete sense and no sense at all.

I have a distinct memory of talking to her at least once backstage during a rehearsal. I think *she* actually came up to *me*, though it may very well have been because I was staring. If there were other times that we spoke I am unable to recall, so I suppose that may have been the one and only time I talked to her that summer.

Before I knew it summer had ended and of course the dreaded school year had begun, but I had in no way forgotten her or any of it. Thankfully, I would see her somewhat frequently as her 4th grade classroom was across the hall from my own.

Unfortunately though, I was too shy to try to just go straight up and talk to her. I feared that either she wouldn't remember me, or worse, mock me for approaching her (not an unrealistic fear for a boy in the 5th grade). Still, I harbored a longing to talk to her and to be near her.

Not too long after, possibly only in a matter of a month or two, my older sister came home to tell me that Stephanie's older sister had been hysterically crying in the hallway of the middle school. My sister, knowing of my crush, then told me that Stephanie had died of a brain aneurysm. Just like that.

Needless to say I was devastated. For many reasons--the vast majority of which, I am sure, having nothing to do with her--I am an all but confirmed bachelor to this day. Still, I can't help but think that at least one reason relationships haven't worked out so well for me is because for all these 35 years I have been looking for her, and nobody is foolish enough to take on the role.

If I were even moderately skilled enough in the writing of epic poetry, I might very well attempt one about descending into hell and climbing out again in order to find her. Alas, I am not so capable. It's probably just as well.

So, I write this instead.

julie said...

Jack, that must have been devastating.

I'm suddenly, and with no small amount if shame, reminded of the couple of poor boys who were unfortunate enough to have a crush on me at that age and dared to tell me. I was horrendously cruel. I hope my own kids are better people than I was, when they reach those years...

Jack said...


I know what you mean re: childhood cruelty. It is not an infrequent occurrence for me to suddenly shake my head and groan at something I did as a boy. Or last week for that matter.

As for Stephanie, yes, as I recall I was fairly shook about it. I even wrote a letter to her parents. I recall sitting with my mother in a car outside Stephanie's house--where a gathering in her honor was taking place. It took a good while for me to decide to actually give them the letter. Though I eventually did.

Jack said...

Anyway, on matters more contemporary I find this to be the most clearheaded view on the near complete dysfunction of how men and women relate (or don't) these days.

The inevitable fruit of sexual "liberation" is the new paleolithic.

JP said...

My law school roommate nearly inserted Tucker Max into a fireplace.

This was back when I went to law school with Mr. Max.

JP said...


"As for Stephanie, yes, as I recall I was fairly shook about it. I even wrote a letter to her parents. I recall sitting with my mother in a car outside Stephanie's house--where a gathering in her honor was taking place. It took a good while for me to decide to actually give them the letter. Though I eventually did."

I wonder if that's worse or better than metaphorically getting hit on the head by a two by four by the object of your crush, which happened to me. Twice.

It's still causing me problems to this day.

Yay, trauma!

Jack said...

I take it then, that Mr. Max was not exactly the most pleasant of fellows?

JP said...

Mr. Max was someone who actually needed to be inserted into a fireplace.

Jack said...

Sadly, I know the type.

BZ said...

I absolutely feel this way about women. I know about the anima and how I experience it. It is something sacred and to be protected from the world. For me, the experience of a positive anima is uplifting, and makes my marriage into a sacred vocation. I remember something Jung said as the anima is a man's bridge to the self, which I take as being God or something transcendent. I surprised myself in a discussion of marriage with three liberals who described marriage as varieties of an anthropological or useful social custom, I said it was also sacred. That killed the conversation and tagged me as some sort of fool, but I think I spoke of their heart's desire too.