26 septembrie 2011

Inteligenta emotionala


Cartea lui Daniel Goleman, „Inteligenţa emoţională“, a marcat o revoluţie uluitoare în psihologie prin analiza importanţei covârşitoare a emoţiilor în dezvoltarea personalităţii umane. Studiul său ne explică cum, atunci când ne înţelegem sentimentele, situaţia în care ne aflăm devine mai limpede. Descoperim chiar un nou mod de a privi cauzele bolilor care ne macină familia şi societatea.
Reacţiile pe care le avem faţă de ceilalţi, ca şi ale lor faţă de noi, au un impact biologic mult mai extins decât ne închipuim. Este vorba de declanşarea unor cascade de hormoni care ne reglează întregul organism, de la inimă până la sistemul imunitar, determinând relaţiile bune să acţioneze ca nişte vitamine, iar pe cele proaste ca nişte otrăvuri. Ne putem „molipsi“ de emoţiile celorlalţi oameni tot aşa cum luăm o gripă, iar, pe de altă parte, consecinţele izolării sau cele ale unui stres social intens ne pot scurta viaţa.
În „Inteligenţa emoţională“, Daniel Goleman explică surprinzătoarea corectitudine a primelor impresii, fundamentul charismei şi forţa emoţională, complexitatea atracţiei sexuale şi sesizarea minciunilor. El descrie „partea întunecată“ a inteligenţei sociale, de la narcisism la machiavelism şi psihopatie. Ne mai vorbeşte despre uimitoarea noastră capacitate de a fi vizionari, ca şi despre tragedia celor care, asemenea copiilor autişti, au un acces redus la raţiune. Iar mesajul distinct al acestei cărţi este următorul: noi, oamenii, avem o predilecţie înnăscută către empatie, cooperare şi altruism, astfel încât putem dezvolta o inteligenţă socială prin care să ne hrănim aceste calităţi nepreţuite.

18 septembrie 2011

Minunata lume noua



  Literatura secolului XX ne-a lăsat multe viziuni pesimiste asupra viitorului omenirii şi puţine optimiste. Dacă de la sfârşitul Evului Mediu până în secolul al XIX-lea literatura abundă în utopii (Utopia lui Th. Morus, Cetatea soarelui, de Campanella, Gargantua şi Pantagruel – Rabelais, Călătoriile lui Gulliver – Swift etc.), secolului XX pare să-i fie caracteristică distopia (prin H.G. Wells, A. Zinoviev, A. Huxley, Ray Bradbury, G. Orwell, Andrei Platonov etc.). De ce acest lucru?
Utopiile (prin Th. Morus, Campanella) apar spre sfârşitul Evului Mediu, fiind legate de începutul Renaşterii, de perioada marilor descoperiri geografice, ca substrat istoric, cultural, social. Ele pot fi considerate şi alternative imaginare la proiectul de fericire socială al Evului Mediu, care se destramă în perioada respectivă. În modernitate, odată cu industrializarea, utopiile se transformă în distopii, mai ales în domeniul literaturii de anticipaţie, ele reflectând teama autorilor de un viitor în care omul eşuează: devenind sclavul unei maşini (H.G. Wells), instrument al unui stat totalitar (Orwell, Zinoviev), creaţi prin inginerie genetică pentru a îndeplini anumite funcţionalităţi într-o societate utopică ştiinţifică (Huxley) – sau “de-culturalizaţi”, “de-spiritualizaţi”, într-o lume în care cărţile sunt interzise iar oamenii devin “captivi” ai televizoarelor, ai distracţiilor, pentru a fi egali între ei şi a fi feriţi de “pericolul gândirii” (Ray Bradbury).
În toate distopiile, omului îi este îngrădită libertatea de a interveni în societate din voinţă proprie (Orwell, Zinoviev, Bradbury) – sau, mai rău, prin anumite mecanisme, omul este transformat în însăşi structura sa lăuntrică. Aceasta consider că este cel mai terifiant la distopii – nu controlul exterior de către un stat totalitar, ci modelarea omului chiar în straturile sale fundamentale, intime: credinţa, aspiraţiile, impulsurile, reprezentări sociale. În toate distopiile, eşecul omului este în primul rând unul lăuntric! Ray Bradbury imaginează omul acultural – fără trecut, fără Dumnezeu -, deoarece cultura cărţii îi este inaccesibilă, un om captiv în televizual, pentru care televizorul ţine loc de familie, Aldous Huxley prezintă un om condiţionat prin metode ştiinţifice să aibă anumite aspiraţii pentru a îndeplini anumite funcţionalităţi, programat să deteste ideea de familie, iubirea dintre bărbat şi femeie fiind redusă la contacte sexuale, iar credinţa în Dumnezeu fiind înlocuită cu manifestări ritualice în cinstea zeului noii lumi, Ford. În distopia lui George Orwell se încearcă transformarea interioară a omului prin impunerea unei noi limbi (“Nouavorbire”) care conţine din ce în ce mai puţine cuvinte, tot mai stereotipice (super-ultra-delicios, de pildă) pentru a feri gândirea de concepte abstracte precum “libertate” sau “morală” (sociologul Giovanni Sartori vorbeşte despre o asemenea diminuare actuală şi reală a limbajului adolescenţilor, despre “o exprimare zeamă-lungă”, semn al sărăciei în cunoaştere şi gândire). De asemenea, în toate distopiile, cultura cărţii este abandonată, fiind considerată “periculoasă”, contradictorie şi capabilă să distrugă fericirea de slogan a societăţii.
“Mankurtizarea societăţii” (parabola lui Cinghiz Aitmatov din romanul O zi mai lungă decât veacul) reprezintă ruptura omului de Dumnezeu, de tradiţie şi limitarea orizontului de valori, credinţe şi cunoştinte al omului exclusiv la prezent, la ideologia societăţii concrete în care trăieşte. Deşi romanul nu pare o distopie, el ilustrează exemplar modul în care ideologul şi ideologiile încearcă să dezrădăcineze omul, să-i “şteargă memoria”, să-l înstrăineze de valorile comunităţii pentru a putea fi controlat, funcţional în societate. În acest punct, romanul lui Aitmatov surprinde chiar esenţa demersului utopic, într-un mod mai realist.
Romanul Minunata lume nouă, al scriitorului britanic Aldous Huxley, la o primă vedere pare o utopie, şi nu o distopie. Totuşi, societatea perfectă imaginată de autor este una în care individul este controlat încă dinainte de a se naşte şi condiţionat să aibă o anumită personalitate, anumite valori şi să îndeplinească anumite funcţionalităţi în cadrul societăţii. Totalitarismul minunatei lumi noi rezidă tocmai în acest control total al natalităţii şi al esenţei psihice indivizilor. Eugenia, în lumea imaginată de Huxley, înlocuieşte selecţia naturală a indivizilor, fiind completată de manipularea genetică şi de condiţionarea timpurie pentru a da naştere unei societăţi perfecte, formată din cinci caste: indivizi Alfa (pentru funcţii de conducere), Beta (indivizi cu un nivel ridicat de inteligenţă), Gama şi Delta (cu un nivel mediu de inteligenţă) şi Epsilon (pentru funcţii care nu necesită inteligenţă). Familia nu mai există în această societate, deoarece toţi membrii ei sunt creaţi artificial – însăşi ideile de părinţi sau de căsătorie ori de iubire (în sens de ataşament profund faţă de o persoană) provoacă repulsie personajelor din roman. Familia ca unitate socială a dispărut din această lume, în locul ei fiind exaltată o combinaţie stranie de egoism şi comunism. “Toţi suntem ai tuturor celorlalţi” – este lozinca preferată (şi inoculată cetăţenilor încă din copilărie). Idealul social al lumii noi este stabilitatea, asigurată prin condiţionarea indivizilor de a nu-şi dori altceva în afară de bunăstare, confort şi distracţii. Astfel, un individ dintr-o anumită castă nu va dori niciodată să facă parte dintr-o castă superioară, fiind programat a se mulţumi cu situaţia sa socială.
Funcţionalitatea pare a fi valoarea ultimă a societăţii imaginate de Huxley, chiar şi religia reziduală (Ford, exponentul producţiei industriale, devenit noul zeu al oamenilor), prin formele ei orgiastice şi paroxistice de adoraţie, având o funcţie de descărcare a tensiunilor şi impulsurilor. Statul închipuit de autor reuşeşte să controleze indivizii nu prin represiune, ci prin fericire. Oamenii sunt însă condiţionaţi să-şi gândească fericirea doar prin anumite valori: bunăstare, confort, igienă, distracţie şi activitate sexuală. Dragostea se rezumă la contactul fizic, iar idealul de frumuseţe feminină este redus la atributul “pneumatic”, aplicat femeilor. Tot în numele stabilităţii societăţii, angoasele, stările accidentale de nefericire sau de neîmplinire sunt îndepărtate cu ajutorul unui drog: “astăzi ai întotdeauna la dispoziţie soma, delicioasa soma, o jumătate de gram pentru un weekend, două grame pentru o excursie în Orient (…) aşa suntem feriţi de orice primejdie, pe terenul solid al trudei şi distracţiilor zilnice, alergând de la un film tactil la altul, de la o fetişcană pneumatică la alta…”.
În incubatoarele centrelor pentru bebeluşi se realiza condiţionarea acestora astfel încât ei să aibă diferite repulsii (faţă de cărţi sau flori de pildă) şi să asimileze pentru întreaga viaţă normele şi valorile promovate de stat: “până când, în cele din urmă, mintea copilului se contopeşte cu aceste sugestii şi suma sugestiilor formează mintea copilului. Şi nu numai mintea copilului. Şi mintea adultului – pentru toată viaţa. Mintea care judecă, şi doreşte, şi decide – alcătuită din aceste sugestii. (…) Sugestii din partea Statelor Unite ale Lumii”.
Cultura, în această lume, a fost sacrificată. Trecutul, cărţile, religia creştină – toate au fost interzise şi uitate, deoarece nu sunt funcţionale în lumea nouă, care practică chiar acel “realism integral” constatat şi teoretizat de Julien Benda (în Trădarea cărturarilor) la începutul secolului XX. Spiritualitatea, idealul de rafinare a conştiinţei şi introspecţia nu sunt compatibile cu principiile utilitariste, cu idealurile materiale, imediate şi egoiste: “Trebuie să alegi între fericire şi ceea ce pe vremuri oamenii numeau . Pe aceasta noi am sacrificat-o. Am înlocuit-o cu filmele senzoriale şi cu orga de parfumuri”.
La fel ca şi în Fahrenheit 451 sau în 1984, în romanul lui Huxley există un personaj care înfruntă societatea, un individ diferit de ceilalţi. În Minunata lume nouă, acest personaj este John Sălbaticul, care a crescut într-o rezervaţie de indieni şi este adus în societatea abundenţei şi a eugeniei. El este un reprezentant al vechii culturi, devenind judecătorul obiectiv al noii societăţi. John Sălbaticul a citit cărţi (Biblia, Shakespeare), este religios (valorile sale sunt o combinaţie de păgânism şi creştinism), a trăit în mijlocul naturii – iar prin aceste valori şi experienţe, el este capabil să înţeleagă mai bine alienarea individuală şi socială a lumii noi. Cultura este cheia înţelegerii romanului. Însăşi titlul cărţii face trimitere la o piesă de-a lui Shakespeare (Furtuna), sugerând o exclamaţie retorică deznădăjduită faţă de o lume nouă, inumană. Golirea de spiritualitate a societăţii imaginate de Huxley şi centrarea ei exclusiv pe vicii, distracţii şi principii instrumentale – “nu poţi avea o civilizaţie durabilă fără o mulţime de vicii plăcute” – reprezintă, de fapt, un capăt al civilizaţiei aşa cum o înţelegem noi acum, şi aşa cum o percepe şi John Sălbaticul. Sinuciderea acestuia simbolizează nu doar imposibilitatea lui de a se adapta, dar şi lipsa de speranţă că spiritualitatea va mai putea fi vreodată aşezată la locul ei.
Unele elemente din lumea imaginată de autor pot fi regăsite în tendinţele actuale ale societăţii noastre. Cultura media, de exemplu, este o cultură pur distractivă, senzorială şi seducătoare, valorizând pozitiv principiile utilitarismului, iar publicitatea, prin amploarea ei, dar mai ales prin caracterul ei repetitiv, este o formă de sugestionare a indivizilor (încă din copilărie, pentru mulţi!) chiar către acea formă de fericire imaginată de Huxley: o fericire bazată pe confort, bunăstare, igienă, activism, distracţie, pe cultul sănătăţii fizice şi satisfacerea pulsiunilor erotice. O societate care pune în mişcare la nivel global asemenea resorturi este însă în pericol de a fi foarte uşor de manipulat, subminând conştiinţa şi libertatea indivizilor. Deoarece, aşa cum apreciază autorul în Reîntoarcere în lumea nouă, un eseu literar-sociologic în care vorbeşte de “actualitatea romanului său”:
“O societatea a cărei majoritate îşi petrece o mare parte a timpului nu la faţa locului, nu Aici şi Acum şi în Viitorul previzibil, ci altundeva, în lumea cealaltă, irelevantă, a sportului şi a serialelor siropoase, a mitologiei şi a fanteziei metafizice, va întâmpina mari dificultăţi în combaterea celor care vor s-o manipuleze şi controleze”.

De Florentin Cristian

10 septembrie 2011

The Three Seeds

Once upon a time, the tribe of humanity embarked upon a long journey called Separation. It was not a blunder as some - seeing its ravages upon the planet - might think. Nor was it a fall, nor an expression of some innate evil peculiar to the human species. It was a journey with a purpose: to experience the extremes of Separation, to develop the gifts that come in response to it, and to integrate all of that in a new age of Reunion.
But we knew at the outset that there was danger in this journey: that we might become lost in Separation and never come back. We might become so alienated from nature that we would destroy the very basis of life; we might become so separated from each other that our poor egos, left naked and terrified, would become incapable of rejoining the community of all being. In other words, we foresaw the crisis we face today.
That is why, thousands of years ago, we planted three seeds that would sprout at the time that our journey of Separation reached its extreme. Three seeds, three transmissions from the past to the future, three ways of preserving and transmitting the truth of the world, the self, and how to be human.
Imagine you were alive thirty thousand years ago, and had a vision of all that was to come: symbolic language, naming and labeling the world; agriculture, the domestication of the wild, dominion over other species and the land; the Machine, the mastery of natural forces; the forgetting of how beautiful and perfect the world is; the atomization of society; a world where humans fear even to drink of the streams and rivers, where we live among strangers and don't know the people next door, where we kill across the planet with the touch of a button, where the seas turn black and the air burns our lungs, where we are so broken that we dare not remember that it isn't supposed to be this way. Imagine you saw it all coming. How would you help people thirty thousand years thence? How would you send information, knowledge, aid over such a vast gulf of time? You see, this actually happened. That is how we came up with the three seeds.
The first seed was the wisdom lineages: lines of transmission going back thousands of years that have preserved and protected essential knowledge. From adept to disciple, in every part of the world, various wisdom traditions have passed down teachings in secret. Wisdom keepers, Sufis, Taoist wizards, Zen masters, mystics, gurus, and many others, hiding within each religion, kept the knowledge safe until the time when the world would be ready to reclaim it. That time is now, and they have done their job well. The time of secrets is over. Released too early, the knowledge was co-opted, abused, or usually just ignored. When we still had not covered the territory of Separation, when we still aspired to widening our conquest of nature, when the story of humanity's Ascent was not yet complete, we weren't ready to hear about union, connectedness, interdependency, inter-being-ness. We thought the answer was more control, more technology, more logic, a better-engineered society of rational ethics, more control over matter, nature, and human nature. But now the old paradigms are failing, and human consciousness has reached a degree of receptivity that allows this seed to spread across the earth. It has been released, and it is growing inside of us en masse.
The second seed was the sacred stories: myths, legends, fairy tales, folklore, and the perennial themes that keep reappearing in various guises throughout history. They have always been with us, so that however far we have wandered into the Labyrinth of Separation, we have always had a lifeline, however tenuous and tangled, to the truth. The stories nurture that tiny spark of memory within us that knows our origin and our destination. The ancients, knowing that the truth would be co-opted and distorted if left in explicit form, encoded it into stories. When we hear or read one of these stories, even if we cannot decode the symbolism, we are affected on an unconscious level. Myths and fairy tales represent a very sophisticated psychic technology. Each generation of storytellers, without consciously intending to, transmits the covert wisdom that it learned, unconsciously, from the stories told it.
Without directly contradicting the paradigms of separation and ascent, our myths and stories have smuggled in a very different understanding of reality. Under the cover of, "It's just a story," they convey emotional, poetic, and spiritual truth that contradicts linear logic, reductionism, determinism, and objectivity. I am not talking here about moralistic stories. Most of those carry little truth. To transmit the second seed, we must humble ourselves to our stories, and not try to use them for our own moralistic ends. They were created by beings far wiser than our modern selves. If you tell or transmit stories, be very respectful of their original form and don't change them unless you feel a poetic upwelling. Pay attention to which children's literature has the feel of a true story. Most recent kids' literature does not. You can recognize a true story by the way its images linger in your mind. It imprints itself on the psyche. You get the feeling that something else has been transmitted alongside the plot, something invisible. Usually, such stories bear rich symbolism often unknown even to their authors. A comparison of two 20th-century children's books illustrates my point: compare a Berenstain Bears story with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Only the latter has a psychic staying power, revealing the spirit of a true story, and it is rich with archetypal symbolism.
The third seed was the indigenous tribes, the people who at some stage opted out of the journey of separation. Imagine that at the outset of the journey, the Council of Humanity gathered and certain members volunteered to retreat to remote locations and forgo separation, which meant refusing to enter into an adversarial, controlling relationship to nature, and therefore refusing the process that leads to the development of high technology. It also meant that when they were discovered by the humans who had gone deeply into Separation, they would meet with the most atrocious suffering. That was unavoidable.
These people of the third seed have nearly completed their mission today. Their mission was simply to survive long enough to provide living examples of how to be human. Each tribe carried a different piece, sometimes many pieces, of this knowledge. Many of them show us how to see and relate to the land, animals, and plants. Others show us how to work with dreams and the unseen. Some have preserved natural ways of raising children, now spreading through such books as The Continuum Concept. Some show us how to communicate without words - tribes such as the Hazda and the Piraha communicate mostly in song. Some show us how to free ourselves from the mentality of linear time. All of them exemplify a way of being that we intuitively recognize and long for. They stir a memory in our hearts, and awaken our desire to return.
In a recent conversation, the Lakota Aloysius Weasel Bear told me that he once asked his grandfather, "Grandpa, the White Man is destroying everything, shouldn't we try to stop him?" His grandfather replied, "No, it isn't necessary. We will stand by. He will outsmart himself." The grandfather recognized two things in this reply: (1) That Separation carries the seeds of its own demise, and (2) That his people's role is to be themselves. But I don't think that this is an attitude of callousness that leaves the White Man to his just desserts; it is an attitude of compassion and helping that understands the tremendous importance of simply being who they are. They are keeping alive something that the planet and the community of all being needs.
By the same token, our culture's fascination with all things indigenous is not merely the latest form of cultural imperialism and exploitation. True, the final stage of cultural domination would be to turn Native ways into a brand, a marketing image. And certainly there are some in my culture who, sundered from community and from a real identity, adopt Native pseudo-identities and pride themselves on their connections to Native culture, spirituality, people, and so forth. Underneath that, however, we recognize that the surviving First Peoples have something important to teach us. We are drawn to their gift, to the seed that they have preserved until the present time. To receive this seed, it is not necessary to participate in their rituals, take an animal name, or claim a Native ancestor, but only to humbly see what they have preserved, so that memory may awaken. Until recently, such seeing was impossible for us, blinkered by our cultural superiority complex, our arrogance, our apparent success in mastering the universe. Now that converging ecological and social crises reveal the bankruptcy of our ways, we have the eyes to see the ways of others.
The seeds of Reunion are sprouting everywhere. That which was hidden for millennia is coming to light. Soon, fertilized by the detritus of our decaying civilization, the sprouts will mature, bloom, and bear fruit. Our job is first to receive them, then to spread them everywhere and to guard and foster them with every ounce of our love.

Charles Eisenstein

9 septembrie 2011

Dying Race Apocalypse


The final hours coming
Closing chapter of time
As the embers fade
Not even the strong will survive
Great catastrophe told by the prophets and wise
Those who believe in gods start praying their prayers of lies

Howling wind pouring rain
Rising tides endless days
For the sun and the stars
Never to rise again

Whores and angels flee
As Babylon burns
Summoned into the void
Never to return
As the water rise
The grand leveller leads
The future of the new order
Drowning to funeral beats


Kingdom empires fall
Rulers conquerors crawl
No more urge to be free
No more hate, tyranny

With the fire comes the storm
Death will call you'll wish you were never born
Infernos demons crawl from the deepest abyss
Dawn of a dying race apocalypse

All comes to an end, roots of all life
Fear greed hypocrisy jealousy lies
Nations tribes every race
All that has been done, godforsaken
All that we've never been able to learn
Will be wiped from earths face

With the fire comes the storm
Death will call you'll wish you were never born
Infernos demons crawl from the deepest abyss
Dawn of a dying race apocalypse

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE GOD-IMAGE

Just as we can interpret our dreams symbolically and we can interpret our life as a dream, we can contemplate the history of the world as we would a dream being dreamed by the deeper, dreaming Self that we all share. When we view the unfoldment of the cosmos in this way, one of the things that comes into focus is how the Self, or God-image, which is a living symbol and doorway into the wholeness of our true nature, is continually differentiating and expressing itself in both inner and outer events. Seen symbolically, outer phenomena such as the enlightenment of the Buddha and the life of Christ are seen to be reflections of a mystical process of awakening that is occurring in the depths of consciousness itself, a process which has to do with the birth and the revelation of the true Self in all of us. To quote Jung, “The real history of the world seems to be the progressive incarnation of the deity.”

The Self is continually revealing its mystery in symbolic code hidden in plain sight, woven into the fabric of our waking dream, i.e., life, whether these self-secret clues be found in experiences such as the cosmic passion play of Christ, in synchronicities, dreams and visions, in the ordinary events of our daily lives, or in the patterns of global events. The underlying, archetypal motifs which repeat themselves in endless variations as the dramas of history are themselves living, embodied revelations of the ever-evolving God-image. To quote Jung, “…the imago Dei [the God-image] pervades the whole human sphere and makes mankind its involuntary exponent.”
As if speaking a rarified and refined form of symbolic language, the Self paradoxically reveals itself in its own veiling of itself, adumbrating itself in a variety of images which all hide as well as indicate its true nature. If the inner resonance of the God-image is attuned to and awakened inside ourselves, these living images of God reveal themselves to be hyper-dimensional portals into and living symbolic expressions of a more expansive consciousness that is always available to us.
A living symbol that points beyond itself, the God-image is not a concoction of the conceptual mind. To quote Jung, “The God-image is the expression of an underlying experience of something which I cannot attain to by intellectual means.” The God-image is an autonomous phenomenon that is not invented by the intellect, but rather, experienced. Based on a pre-existing, archetypal pattern, the God-image’s existence precedes our cognition of it. Having no hand in its creation, the intellect can only try and come to terms with and assimilate the God-image into its conception of the world. The God-image is a self-produced image spontaneously blossoming from the psyche as a whole that simultaneously reflects and effects what is going on within the very psyche which produced it. The God-image is not a static entity but a living, dynamically evolving process, which is the core archetype, the supreme symbol of the collective unconscious. The God-image is the collective unconscious’ projection of itself, representing the Self as well as the individuation process (the process of realizing our wholeness). Our God-image expresses our conception of and relation to God, while at the same time being the very image through which God is revealing Itself to us. To quote Jung, “As it is a natural process, it cannot be decided whether the God-image is created or whether it creates itself.” Do we create our God-image? Or does our image of God create us?
Seen as a dream, the Christ event was an inner, archetypal process that was occurring deep within the collective unconscious of humanity that literally got dreamed into materialization as its own self-revelation (see my article “Christ Would not Vote for Bush”). Seen as a dreaming process that is playing out in the collective psyche of our species, it makes no difference whether the Christ event actually historically happened or not. The Christ-image is a genuine symbol that has arisen in and out of the human psyche which speaks to, is an expression of, and transforms the imagination itself.
When the Christ event is viewed as a dream of the deeper, dreaming Self and interpreted symbolically like a dream, it reflects the incredible polarization and deep inner split existing in the collective unconscious of humanity. This tension of the opposites symbolically played itself out on the world stage in the adversarial figures of Christ and Satan. Christ’s utterly sublime and spotless nature evoked a blacker darkness on the seemingly contrary other side to oppose it, as if the two interconnected opposites reciprocally yet mutually co-arose together. Seen symbolically, Satan, to quote Jung, “represents the counterpole of that tremendous tension in the world psyche which Christ’s advent signified,” and he was related to Christ “…as inseparably as the shadow belongs to the light.”
Christ in himself represents a completely perfect emanation of the Self in its radiant light aspect, lacking nothing, being an open doorway into and mirror of our divine and primordially pure nature. Seen symbolically, however, the figure of Christ is too one-sided a symbol of the multi-faceted archetype of the Self. Christ himself is too overly light and identified with the good, and as the Gnostics realized, he “cast off his shadow from himself,” which Satan is carrying. Because he is the full-blown Incarnation of the Light, to quote Jung, Christ is only a symbol for “one side of the Self [the light] and the devil the other [the dark] [emphasis added]. Seen as dream characters, symbols representing aspects of ourselves, in the figures of Christ and Satan the opposites had become completely severed and dissociated from each other. To quote Jung, “the Christ-symbol lacks wholeness in the modern psychological sense, since it does not include the dark side of things but specifically excludes it in the form of a Luciferian opponent…from the psychological angle he corresponds to only one half of the archetype.” Psychologically speaking, Jung continues, “…the Christian image of the self – Christ – lacks the shadow that properly belongs to it.”
When we view the history of the world as the progressive differentiation of the Self, which is to say the incarnation of the deity, we begin to notice that the Self responds to a one-sided image of itself by gradually expressing and giving rise to the part of its totality that is left out and marginalized, just as in dreams the unconscious compensates a one-sided image to a dreamer.
This process can be clearly seen in the minds of the alchemists, who after the Christ event discovered a new God-image within their own psyche. The God-image of the alchemists was a further differentiation over time as well as a revelation in time of the archetype of the Self, which exists outside of time. In their God-image, which they called “Mercurius,” the energy that had animated the Christ event had further extrapolated itself in the imagination of the alchemists by taking into itself its darker half. Jung said, “…alchemy is rather like an undercurrent to the Christianity that ruled on the surface. It is to this surface as the dream is to consciousness, and just as the dream compensates the conflicts of the conscious mind, so alchemy endeavors to fill in the gaps left open by the Christian tension of opposites.”
The wisest of the alchemists knew that what they were witnessing in their retorts was nothing other than a projection, or reflection of the deepest ground of the archetypal, transpersonal psyche. They experienced Mercurius, like the unconscious, as an autonomous spirit very unlike the purely light figure of Christ. Mercurius was ambiguous, paradoxical, and dark, not to mention utterly pagan. Jung said, Mercurius “represents a part of the psyche which was certainly not molded by Christianity and can on no account be expressed by the symbol ‘Christ’…It represents all those things which have been eliminated from the Christian model.”
An evasive trickster, Mercurius was a shape-shifter who was considered two-faced and duplicitous. He was related to Hermes – the God of Revelation, the Germanic Wotan, the Egyptian Thoth, and the maleficent Saturn. Saturn is the dwelling place of the devil himself, and to quote Jung, “If Mercurius is not exactly the Evil One himself, he at least contains him.” Jung continues, “Mercurius truly consists of the most extreme opposites; on the one hand he is undoubtedly akin to the godhead, on the other he is found in sewers.” To again quote Jung “It seems, however, that the alchemists did not understand hell, or its fire, as absolutely outside of God or opposed to him, but rather as an internal component of the deity, which must indeed be so if God is held to be a coincidentia oppositorum.” As an image of the Self, Mercurius was a revelation of the Self as a co-incidence of opposites, consisting of and uniting the most extreme opposites within itself. Jung continues, “The concept of an all-encompassing God must necessarily include his opposite…The principle of the coincidence of opposites must therefore be completed by that of absolute opposition in order to attain full paradoxicality and hence psychological validity.”
When the figures of Christ and Mercurius are recognized to be symbolic expressions of two different aspects of the Self, to quote Jung, “Christ appears as the archetype of consciousness and Mercurius as the archetype of the unconscious.” Seen together, the figures of Christ and Mercurius re-present the Self in its totality, in its light and dark aspects, of consciousness and its inseparability from the unconscious. To quote Jung, “The paradoxical nature of Mercurius reflects an important aspect of the Self – in fact, namely, that it is essentially a complexio oppositorum, [a union of opposites] and indeed can be nothing else if it is to represent any kind of totality.”
When viewed relative to and as relatives of each other, the revelation of Christ and the alchemist’s revelation of Mercurius are different symbolic representations of the very same emerging Self. Just like consciousness and the unconscious, the figures of Christ and Mercurius collaboratively illumine each other as complementary and compensatory aspects of a greater whole. To quote Jung, “In reality every intensified differentiation of the Christ-image brings about a corresponding accentuation of its unconscious complement.” In the fully revealed Incarnation of Christ, the Word became flesh such that it precipitated its symbolic complement in the figure of Mercurius, a genuine praising of the logos.
To quote Jung, “Hesitantly, as in a dream, the introspective brooding of the centuries gradually put together the figure of Mercurius and created a symbol which, according to all the psychological rules, stands in a compensatory relation to Christ. It is not meant to take his place, nor is it identical with him, for then indeed it could replace him. It owes it existence to the law of compensation.” Mercurius, Jung concludes, presents “a subtle compensatory counterpoint to the Christ image.” Seen as a symbol in a dream, in the figure of Mercurius the unconscious is compensating its one-sided image of itself in its own evolving self-revelation.
A divine messenger, Mercurius is itself the message, as the medium is truly the message. Though appearing to be a trouble-maker, Mercurius, like Christ, was considered to be a peacemaker, a savior, a guide through the underworld, a server of humanity, the mediator between the warring elements of the psyche, as well as the producer of unity. Mercurius is the figure who acts out the marginalized role, presides over the borderline, the places of transition, and the cross-roads.
Though not existing objectively, separate from the creative imagination of the alchemists, it is a mistake to write off Mercurius as merely a figment of the alchemical imagination. Through the figure of Mercurius, the alchemists had discovered what Jung calls the “reality of the psyche.” By saying the psyche is “real,” Jung is pointing out that the psyche in-forms our experience of ourselves and the universe in the most fundamental of ways. It is through the medium of the psyche that we give shape to both ourselves and the world around us. When we recognize the reality of the psyche is when we begin to enter the dimension of experience where our imagination and our experience of ourselves intersect, interpenetrate, and mutually influence each other in a conscious and consciousness-generating way.
The figure of Mercurius is a living example of the God-image making itself known by revealing itself through the image-making psyche. As Jung reminds us, “Psyche is image.” The figures of Christ and Mercurius are different iterations of the same deeper, universal Self imaginatively and fractally unfolding itself within the dimension of the human psyche. A further component of the resurrected body, Mercurius is an elaboration over time of the birth of the Self, an Incarnation which is happening within the creative imagination of humanity. The human psyche is the organ through which we imagine God while God simultaneously imagines Itself into incarnation, in our psyche as well as the world, through our imagination. To quote Jung, “The human psyche and the psychic background are boundlessly underestimated, as though God spoke to man exclusively through the radio, the newspapers, or through sermons. God has never spoken to man except in and through the psyche, and the psyche understands it and we experience it as something psychic.” Just as the eye is the instrument through which we behold the image of the sun, the psyche is the organ through which we behold the image of God.
The paradoxical figure of Mercurius is not only a symbolic expression of a process going on deep inside the human psyche but within the divine imagination as well. The divine imagination is the creative organ of perception animating the human psyche through which the formless archetypal dimension is accessed and translated into comprehensible images. The God-image is a unique phenomenon in that it is the intersection point through which the human and divine imaginations reciprocally in-form and collaboratively engage with each other as if wedded in an intimate relationship.
The God-image is an expression of the unconscious of humanity, while simultaneously being God’s disclosure of Itself to Itself through us. This is similar to how our dreams at night reflect back to us our unconscious, while at the same time they bring consciousness to the very unconsciousness of which they are an expression. Like with our dreams, how the figure of Mercurius manifests, whether as a helper or as a diabolical seducer leading us astray, depends upon if we recognize what he is revealing to us.
The God-image is realizing and revealing itself in the collective unconscious of humanity, which is to say “incarnating,” and we are, whether we know it or not, active participants in and vessels for its transformation. This is a big discovery, genuinely worthy of our deepest attention. Realizing that the God-image is transforming itself is to be contributing to the transformation of the God-image. The degree to which we comprehend this process is the degree to which we become active participants contributing to the very process we are simultaneously comprehending. To quote Jung, “But if consciousness participates with some measure of understanding, then the process is accompanied by all the emotions of a religious experience or revelation.” A true conjunction of opposites, the Self is making itself known in the unconscious of humanity and is inviting us to share and partake in its wholesome, whole-making, and holy nature.
Integrating within ourselves an expanded image of God can only be achieved at the moment when we ourselves change in relation to our new imagination. To enlarge our conception of God is to ourselves grow and become greater in volume, as the limits of who we imagine we are and what we imagine we are capable of expands simultaneously to greater heights and more abysmal depths. Seen in its progression since ancient times, the God-image was mediated in the Old Testament through the law, in the New Testament it was dependent on faith, and in the new psychological dispensation of our time the God-image is centered in and mediated by direct experience.
In the symbolic figure of Mercurius is a spontaneous God-image that has crystallized into and out of the human psyche which is a manifestation of, as well as a doorway into an inner experience that unites the opposites. In a radical re-visioning of itself, in the figure of Mercurius the unconscious has offered us an image of God which includes and embraces evil as an integral aspect of our wholeness.
The God-image is like a dream that we are dreaming that is simultaneously dreaming us. To recognize what the unconscious is revealing to us through our God-image is to step into and discover within ourselves the dark, unconscious, projected, and “dreamed up” content which is being reflected back to us through our imaginings of God. To expand our conception of God so as to include darkness can only be done, and is an instantaneous reflex of, our embracing the darkness within ourselves. Becoming acquainted with our own darkness is a genuine “illumination,” which is why Jung points out that, “…not only darkness is known through light, but that conversely, light is known through darkness.”
To recognize that the figures of Christ and Mercurius are reflections of a deeper process of awakening happening within ourselves “appreciates” them, as well as ourselves. Appreciated as the mirror that they are, these internal figures, as well as ourselves, appreciate, i.e., grow in value.
The figures of Christ and Mercurius, when recognized as co-related symbols of our wholeness, reciprocally activate, awaken, and reveal the wholeness within us. The evolving God-image, our intrinsic wholeness, has crept under our skin and has empowered our creative imagination to materialize itself as our experience of ourselves. In a sacred IN-pulse, something greater than ourselves is incarnating through us as it reveals itself to us. We are truly made in the image of God, while at the same time our image of God makes us.


By Paul Levy.