The COMPLETE HATCHERY is an extraordinary collection of diverse esoteric, paranormal, Native American proverbs, postmodernist philosophic terms, even the nuances of gourmet wine-tasting, all  designed as a lexicon for instant cyberdivination in the production of wholly new and original “blended meta-constructs,” called FROGS, or “Fluid Resonance Oracle Gnosis” set in motion with a Random Number Generator.  (Samples from tarotpsych members are included on FSA under CyberExperiments).

The instructions below can be found in the Files Section of Tarotpsych, and available to Tarotpsych Members.  (The Complete Hatchery is currently 36 pages, with over four hundred interesting entries;  instant access to a Random Number Generator, and easy instructions to make this deep pool of knowledge very accessible, and wildly worth “hatching,” as we say).

Interested in Transpersonal, Jungian, and Tarot Psychology?              Join TAROTPSYCH…A lightly moderated Yahoo discussion group on “psychologically-based” tarot work, for seekers, therapists, counselors, Jungians, spiritual teachers, healers, and serious dabblers. Go to: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/tarotpsych/                                                        

                                    Click to enlarge: 

AS IN THE CAVES

August [24] 2008

 (Poem)

  

As in the caves where black was bright

and golden rays could not be thought

of souls in daze of endless night;

 

We marched our spirit staid and white,

beyond the halls of null and naught

as in the caves where black was bright.

 

And down poured waves of vengeant blight

bemoaning raves invective wrought

of souls in daze of endless night.

 

Then welling dry I spied a sprite

whose sight I held but never caught

as in the caves where black was bright.


The blinding shrill of naught clung tight,

taunting the will forever sought

of souls in daze of endless night.

 

The whole of hell, and all her might–

we befell her charm and hard had fought,

as in the caves where black was bright

our souls in daze of endless night.

                                        1971 

Note: I wrote this villanelle at 21, as an English major at Beloit College.  People have asked the cause of the poem’s apparent angst, and I’m sorry to report it was written after a minor argument with my father over the car keys.  It remains, to date, the only poem I’ve been able to put to memory. FSA

ON SYNCHRONICITY

August [13] 2008

Excerpted from Chapter 9 ‘Synchronicity’ in TAROT AND PSYCHOLOGY: SPECTRUMS OF POSSIBILITY   

              

“Science comes to a stop at the frontiers of logic, but nature does not–she thrives on ground as yet untrodden by theory.”   C. G. Jung 

Strange Workings

Even after reading and accepting (albeit provisionally) the foregoing discussion pertaining to the meeting of Psychology and Tarot, the responsible psychotherapist will still properly wonder: How could these spiritually-based, randomly-selected Tarot cards be reliable and valid in psychological treatment?   It is one thing to establish a Tarot lexicon based on sound psychological principles, or even stunning metaphysical insights, but quite another to actually bring this arcane instrument into one’s livingroom, much less one’s consulting room.  Particularly as the Tarot method requires placing supreme trust in the natural intelligence that collects around sacred or “empowered” randomness, many will feel hesitant, fearing the method’s lack of reliability.  Before being sufficiently comfortable to introduce so unorthodox a tool into actual practice, the therapist will need to better understand the mysterious mechanism of its operation.  How on earth, she well asks, does it work?

Little assurance will be drawn from so unlikely an apologist as Fred Gettings, occult author and compiler of the voluminous Fate & Prediction: An Historical Compendium of Palmistry, Astrology, and Tarot , who himself allows an echoing, if not disconcerting, sentiment:  “Although the Tarot method works,” he writes, “it must be admitted from the outset that no one has ever been able to explain how it works [italics mine].”2   Perhaps a more precise summation of Mr. Gettings’ factually correct assertion would grant that although the mechanism behind Tarot has been speculated upon in multiple arcane and exotic ways, from nonlinear postulates of theoretical physics to ancient wisdom myths like Indra’s Net (and everything in between), still no one to date has empirically demonstrated to any  satisfaction how or even “that” the Tarot method works.

To do so scientifically, one must clearly demonstrate a causal relationship linking method and effect, a linkage that can be repeated under similar conditions by different observers.  The inherent problematics of scientific proof for a subjective, invisible, and irregular effect present a real challenge to the would-be Tarot empiricist, much as is encountered with related depth techniques or even in the fierce “brain versus mind” debates brewing in the emerging science of consciousness.  It is widely agreed that scientific study is not well-equipped to penetrate the subjective dimensions of the human mind.  The problem with classical scientific method when dealing with intrapsychic states is that mental events are not always clearly distinguished, nor are they independent from each other.  Subjective effects in some cases are not easily translatable into precise language, nor are they consistently or objectively reported.  There is no clear flowing of influence from one event to the next as (allegedly) with outer behavior, and finally, “psychological time” is neither linear nor unambiguous, but irregular, observer dependent, and contextually shaded.  All of which makes direct quantification and measurement especially troublesome.

 

The Theory of Meaningful Chance

Such inherent difficulties notwithstanding, I believe an empirical explanation for the Tarot method can indeed be demonstrated in Jung’s theory of synchronicity.  As we suggested earlier, many explorers today believe synchronicity carries the key not only to divinatory practices but to paranormal phenomena and certain anomalous physical phenomena as well.  Herein lies a region we may refer to as “metascience,” the study of invisible, acausal, non-linear relationships between inner and outer worlds.

As was briefly discussed [in Chapter Four], the term “synchronicity” made its first introduction into the world’s lexicon in 1938 by Carl Jung, in his quite famous foreword to sinologist Richard Wilhelm’s classic translation of the I Ching.  For those not familiar with the Book of Changes, it has been without rival the fundamental text of traditional Chinese culture and continues to capture the imagination of intuitively-inclined Westerners today. The text is a divinatory system with 3000 year old roots in the traditions of magic and shamanism.  Nearly all that was significant in traditional China–philosophy, science, politics and popular culture–was founded on interpretations and adaptations of the I.   The core of the book is considered the oldest and most complex divinatory system to survive into modern times.

Perhaps more than any other divinatory tool, the I Ching’s  mechanism of operation parallels that of Tarot.  The Chinese term I, reminiscent of our description of the Tarot method, emphasizes “imagination, openness and fluidity” as contemporary I Ching  scholars Ritsema and Stephen Karcher (1994) note:

[I ] suggests the ability to change direction quickly and the use of a variety of imaginative stances to mirror the variety of being.  The most adequate English translation of this is versatility, the ability to remain available to and be moved by the unforeseen demands of time, fate, and psyche.3

 

The authors further summarize:

The I Ching  offers a way to see into difficult situations, particularly those emotionally charged ones where rational knowledge fails us yet we are called upon to decide and act…[It] is able to do this because it is an oracle.  It is a particular kind of imaginative space set off for a dialogue with the gods or spirits, the creative basis of experience now called the unconscious.  An oracle translates a problem or question brought to it into an image language like that of dreams.  It changes the way you experience the situation in  order to connect you with the inner forces that are shaping it.  The oracle’s images dissolve what is blocking the connection, making the spirits available.4

 

From highly personal divinatory experiments with the Chinese Book of Changes or I Ching, Jung advanced the synchronicity hypothesis.  In his later works he more generally describes synchronicity in relation to certain strange curiosities of nature operating in various rare instances of inner/outer “crossovers” which defy normative constructions of reality.  Such anomalies as prophetic dreams, unconnected parallel processes, paranormal oddities and chance occurrences in which subject and object mysteriously seem to collide are included in this brave literature of “acausal” connection.  According to Jung, synchronicity is a special case of “acausality” that additionally produces in the observer some intimate, self-deepening, or spiritually-enhancing meaningfulness, or put in the Jungian vernacular, “unconscious compensation in the service of individuation.” 

By this definition, not all acausal phenomena are necessarily synchronistic.  As its name implies, ‘acausality’ simply means that no exchange of energy (the hallmark of Newtonian causality) is transmitted between related events.  Examples have been shown, for instance, by experimenters like Robert Jahn et. al. at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEAR) that certain acausal phenomena occurs naturally and can be scientifically demonstrated as such.  Through studying the interaction of human consciousness and complex machines (“sensitive physical devices, systems, and processes common to engineering practice”) Jahn has shown that a test-subject’s conscious intent could influence a machine’s operation.  Such effects, though usually quite small, have nevertheless been proved to be statistically repeatable and appear to be operator-specific in their details.5  

Technically however, these extraordinary findings of ‘acausal connection’ are not purely ‘synchronistic’ as they carry no particular meaningfulness to the subject unless, of course, the test-subject is lucky enough to be a race car driver, a machine-gun mercenary, or even a high-speed computer user with minimal techno-skills like myself, in which case, any clairvoyant repartee with one’s machinery would prove immensely meaningful indeed.   Be that as it may, one point is certain as put succinctly by Jungian author James A. Hall: “Science without parapsychology is two-dimensional.  Parapsychology without synchronicity misses psyche.”6

Therapists in all their sophistication should take heart as they search for alternative explanations for the “synchronicity hypothesis.”  Jung stipulates clearly that acausality requires not merely the absence of physical energy exchange between events, but equally the absence of psychological  energy exchange as well.  Victor Mansfield (1995) an astrophysicist and synchronicity author, further specifies this point: “just as gravity causes the apple to fall,  anxiety causes the head to shake.”  Both events are easily explained by ordinary causation.  Psychological causation (like physical causation)  contradicts the elusive precondition of acausality itself;  Jung carefully stressed that neither repressed contents, defense mechanisms, complexes, nor archetypal constellations could cause such coincidences, thereby ruling out subtler mechanisms like projective identification or conversion from slipping through the psychological cracks.7 

 

Synchronicity And Events

Examples of synchronistic phenomena are easily illustrated in collective events, as for instance, the Oklahoma City Bombing of April 19, 1995.  But first, let’s examine (hypothetically) the more likely cause-and-effect scenario of this incident, which must be ruled out should we find the genuine article.  Suppose several research psychologists attempted dream studies in Oklahoma City following the event.  They discover significant numbers of subjects reporting dreams and fantasies involving sabotage and destruction, of buildings exploding, of hidden bombs or mass death–that is, dreams occurring shortly after  reports of the tragedy.  These parallels would hardly be considered ‘synchronistic’ or even ‘acausally-connected’.  The psyche of such dreamers has obviously been affected by psychological causes churning throughout local and collective awareness.  Anxiety dreams following shocking events of this nature are quite common.  To the contrary, after the tragic news one might rather expect a great many people in all parts of the country to incorporate this upsetting imagery in their dreams.  We would then obviously rule out ‘synchronicity’ to explain such clearly ‘caused’ correspondences.

If, on the other hand, a particular dreamer reports: (1) the same sort of mayhem and destruction in his dream, perhaps with lucid details of the Ryder truck, the screaming panicked government employees, The Murray Building collapsing etc.;  (2) this startling dream occurred on the night preceding the catastrophe; and (3) we can be certain this dreamer bears no possible conscious or unconscious relationship to the conspirators themselves, or has not been made privy at all to their goings on whatsoever; then, (4) it is then safe to conclude that those clamoring headlines discovered on the morning AFTER the event (by said dreamer) must reasonably be considered ‘acausally-connected’ to the dream.  This is simply because the actual event for which such dream content was referent had not yet taken place. 

No exchange of energy can therefore connect these two events or account for their mutual co-arising, neither physical nor mental energy.  An acausal connection is thus clearly established between dream and event.  But note: “synchronicity” has not yet technically occurred.  If then, (5) upon reading the dreadful report in the newspaper on the morning after, the dreamer is thus struck meaningfully (i.e. in regards to his/her own sense of psychospiritual purpose or individuation) by this eerie coincidence, and encouraged perhaps to reevaluate core beliefs (say, of the importance of family, or perhaps, the impermanence of life and death) owing to this strange coincidence, it is at that point, officially, that these two events have produced a bone fide “synchronicity.”  They are now, in Jung’s famous phrase, “acausally connected through meaning.”

Of course, the parapsychologist may beg to differ.  His argument would insist that a causal exchange did in fact occur: the dreamer was simply prescient, his psychic foreknowledge (precognition) would account for (i.e. caused) the seeming dream coincidence as such.  It was simply a case of prescience or clairvoyance; in a manner of speaking, the ‘future’ had caused the dream!   It’s simply that we have not yet the technology to measure such invisible forces.  Jung himself, with his great fascination for J.B. Rhine’s groundbreaking ESP experiments at Duke in the 1930’s, entertained the impressive parapsychological evidence contributing to synchronistic phenomena.  Many in the Tarot community, as well, believe divination to be a psychic phenomenon, with the cards acting as “psychic springboards” or triggers for telepathic, clairvoyant, or precognitive phenomena.  Paranormal research, in fact, may one day isolate certain subtle and causal energy fields operating between Tarot cards, readers and subjects, and require major revisions of the synchronicity hypothesis.

More recently, however, Mansfield (1995) challenges this argument by making a compelling case against such paranormal attributions which, in effect, violate the technical specifics of Jung’s own treatise.3  Psychic causes, Mansfield contends, suggest some transfer of energy between bodies, albeit to date, not an “energy” clearly isolated, measured, or demonstrated as such.  Psychic causal agents, of course, even unseen hypothetical ones, would veer away from Jung’s central notion of “acausality.”

 

Absolute Knowledge

Suggested in Jung’s theory of synchronicity is the presence of some underlying interior intelligence at work, some non-personal agency of wisdom which purposively guides each individual psyche towards its predestined objectives of balance and wholeness (equilibrium and individuation).  Empty of the sentiment that normally muddies human perception, this higher logic flows more like a fresh running river.  It is deep and clear, cool and nonpersonal, unfixed and nonlocalized.  Though accessed from a mysterious source, it is nonetheless closer to the natural order.  It is immune to those arbitrary habits or conventional thinking which, in the final analysis, may rest on no logic at all.

For Jung, such transcendent intelligence is viewed as the very matrix from which all psychological development and transformation unfolds; it operates through a system of compensatory self-regulations for the purpose of linking conscious and unconscious worlds with the objective of psychological wholeness.  This view is quite distinct from the determinist constructions of evolutionary psychology which place more emphasis on the role of social and cognitive factors of adaptability without reference to teleology.

From a depth psychological perspective, the bridge that this transcendent intelligence uses to link conscious and unconscious worlds is the symbol.  After all, one might pause to consider this: given the generally accepted hypothesis that dreams and dream symbols are significant and meaningful, and moreover, that these spontaneous unconscious narratives are revealing, multifaceted, intricately crafted, economical, restorative, poetic, and even comical– then by whose masterful intelligence are they authored?  The sleeping child?  Your snoring, comatose “creative side?”  Who is it really, in the final analysis, that speaks to us when we sleep?  After studying thousands of such dreamscapes captured from his patients and his own mind, Jung was moved to formulate the concept of “absolute knowledge” to account for their true creator:

Final causes, twist them how we will, postulate a foreknowledge of some kind.  It is certainly not a knowledge that could be connected with the ego, and hence not a conscious knowledge as know it, but rather a self-subsistent “unconscious” knowledge which I would prefer to call  “absolute knowledge.” 8

 

Habitual Causality

One needn’t be a behavioral psychologist to know that old habits die hard.  These learned patterns of activity through chronic repetition become automated, fixed, and effortlessly carried out much like putting one’s left sock on first each morning.  As author Umberto Eco laments

I believe that you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing.   

Given the undeniable fact of our own nearly intractable, causally pre-conditioned, modern habits of explanation– the cognitive reflex that needs to discern “this is so because of______,”   I think it is safe to surmise that many reading this brief synopsis of the synchronicity hypothesis, and even Tarot divination in general, will find it bordering on the ungraspable.  I myself feel this way often.  There will likely be a gnawing urge to restate the obvious, at least to oneself, as almost everything learned throughout our scientifically-constructed lives has taught us not to presume otherwise.  Be it parlor trick, clairvoyant reader, psychological illusion, misattribution, projective identification, accident, meaningless coincidence, miracle, or loaded deck: something  surely must be given credit (or blame) as the “real cause.”

Jung’s puffy phrase “absolute knowledge,” a cause without a cause, will smack of fuzzy theology and leave the scientifically-grounded and metaphysically-squeamish (i.e. most therapists) whining about Ouji boards.  His or her  gut will continue to encourage rational assurances: “There can be no reliable effects resulting from non-existent or indiscernible causes.”  Of course, the corollary to this logic is equally tenacious: “if no reliable cause can be established, then the effects of the reading cannot be valid.”  A short while later, after the Tarot reading one has just witnessed does appear to be unambiguously accurate, “amazing” by some accounts, or at least, strikingly meaningful to its subject, then and there, as a matter of habitual reflex, the explanatory litany of accidental factors, suggestibility, projection, fraud, or “coincidence” is causally assigned.  We are relieved.   Phew…  “It was merely an instance of  _________.”

But no matter.  In defiance of our reassuring rationality, the synchronistic hypothesis reasserts its ugly head:  All energetic exchanges between reader/querent/card are categorically ruled-out and unrelated to the effect!  That is, no parlor trick, no clairvoyant reader, no psychological illusion, no misattribution, no projective identification, no accident, no meaningless coincidence, no miracle, and no loaded deck has caused the reading’s accuracy.  Indeed, there are NO BECAUSES.  

To the contrary, one finds instead only the disquieting reminder that the world moves in mysterious ways.  Meaning has arrived acausally  as a function of the method itself, involving no extrinsic influence whatsoever.  Instead, an agent presumably of ‘higher intelligence’ or ‘absolute knowledge’ (at least from our limited vantage points) has delivered the correct cards for this moment much as it delivered the correct dream in all its well crafted complexity last night.  Although in Tarot, unlike the dream, the agent is deliberately called forth.  Sagaciously, and in concert with the emotional motivation of the querent, the Tarot method itself creates conditions for the probability of synchronicity to occur.  And as mentioned in a previous chapter, psychologists will likely locate this innate, guiding agency as residing within the psyche, while metaphysicians, theologians, and perhaps quantum physicists will place its residence in nature or in god.

In the Tarot method, a procedure that intentionally disrupts and confounds linear assumptions, the meaningful coincidence that occurs between cards and querent can not be causally explained, because in the final analysis, there is no conventional causality operating.  A linkage between mind and matter, subject and object, has been facilitated by what has been deemed ‘empowered randomness,’ the vehicle of oracularly-intended synchronicity.  This phenomenon is likely to be simply an occurrence of nature– related perhaps to “The Force” (of Star Wars fame)–though typically unrecognized due to our vast inculcation of scientific realism and habitual causality.  When it occurs spontaneously we deem either fraudulent or else categorize it as “some religious miracle.”   Such describes the so-called “apex problem” of the Tarot practitioner, mentioned earlier with Thought Field Therapy.

We should regard such things in keeping with our earlier theme of opposition: that is, so-called ‘acausal/synchronistic’ phenomena are merely the other side of conventional causality, “like the different, but inseparable, sides of a coin, the poles of a magnet, or pulse and interval in any vibration (Watts).”  The apparent rarity of synchronistic occurrences reflects more than anything our habit of causal explanation.  If we can’t explain it, it probably doesn’t exist.  But it is important to remember that the concept of so-called “randomness” is itself a modern invention that developed out of the dogma of causation.  Of course, that well-oiled band of naysayers–the professional skeptics and debunkers–who bravely embrace the scientific realism of the 19th century, will not be deterred by such unbridled “metaphysical hogwash” but instead will salivate over such claims like greedy jackals over wounded rabbits.  “Blatantly unscientific!” they hoot and snarl with great assurance.  “Prove it!  Prove it!  The method is flawed, it’s entirely random.  It can never be re-peat-ed!” 

Little do these smug evaluators realize that Tarot’s random selection is precisely what makes it Tarot.  Repeatability is hardly the point.  Like each unique fingerprint or signature of human identity, no two Tarot readings are ever identical or repeatable per se.  Though what does repeat, should we call it that, is the consistent and striking experience of meaning for the subject.  John Van Eenwyk notes in Archetypes & Strange Attractors: The Chaotic World of Symbols  (1997):

If a dynamic repeats over and over (orbits, chemical reactions, symbols), it is possible eventually to figure it out.  That which occurs just once, however (miracles, the creation of the universe, a crank telephone call) is infinitely more difficult to decipher.  Repetition creates patterns that can be scrutinized.  Single occurrences are incomparable, hence they tend to be labeled “random.”9

 The serious scientist, without the professional skeptic’s need to prejudge or “debunk” to make his living, does, however,  indeed hold forth a legitimate challenge for objective verification.  To my mind, solid scientific verification of the synchronicity hypothesis is an unrivaled and highly worthy challenge for the very best scientific explorers.  But as the imaginative, and indeed highly regarded scientific thinker Arthur C. Clarke recently noted from his home in Sri Lanka:

We need more scientists…to push the limits of knowledge and understanding. Science, unlike politics or diplomacy, does not depend on consensus or expediency– it progresses by open-minded probing, rigorous questioning, independent thought and, when the need arises, being bold enough to say that the emperor has no clothes.10

 

In this case is the Emperor clothed or naked?  The scientist is quite right to wonder: Could this synchronistic hypothesis using the Tarot method be demonstrated experimentally?  Could it empirically be shown to have practical value and application?  Regardless of Tarot’s inherent difficulties with scientific measurement, could a pilot study of sorts be designed to demonstrate sufficient consideration of this approach, in the least to initiate a path of further research and experimentation?  The following chapter describes one of several such pilot studies conducted by the author wherein the synchronicity hypothesis was tested.

 

Notes

1 Jung, C. G., ‘On the Nature of the Psyche’. Reprinted in Collected Works Vol. 8;  Second edition (Princeton University Press), Ziff, 246, p. 167.

2 Getting, F., Fate & Prediction:  An Historical Compendium of Palmistry, Astrology, and Tarot;  Exeter, New York, 1980, p. 157.

3 Ritsema, Rudolf, and Karcher, Stephen [trans] I Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change;  Element Books Limited, Great Britain, 1994, p. 10.

4 Ibid. 

5 Jahn, Robert, and Dunne, Brenda, Margins of Reality:  The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World;  Harcourt, Brace, Javanovich, New York, 1987.

6  personal correspondence, 1998.

7 Mansfield, Victor, Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making,  Open Court. 1995, pp. 22-36.

8 Jung, C. G., Synchronicity  [Collected Works, Vol. 8]; Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.,  1978, p.493

9 Van Eenwyk, John, Archetypes & Strange Attractors: The Chaotic World of Symbols; Inner City Books, Toronto, Canada, 1997, p. 42.

10  Clarke, Arthur, C. quoted in The San Diego Union Tribune [“La Jolla Nobelist rocks the scientific boat”, Graham, David, E.), September 15, 1998, p. A13.

 

Readers— Chapter 9 actually introduces the final section of my book, The Tarot Research Project, which is a landmark pilot study of the synchronicity hypothesis; unlike anything attempted before, it explores tarot divination with an experimental population of spousal abusers and female victims (that I conducted in 1997 in Southern California). If interested, order directly on Amazon.com or from Paragon House. FSA

WHO’S WHO IN AMERICA

August [8] 2008

[This essay of Art Rosengarten was first published in The MetaArts  Magazine, 2003]

The Great Mystery

In discussing the conditions for enduring psychological transformation (individually, societally, and globally), I noted that Buddhists believe the core difficulty stems from the fact that we don’t really know who we are. The argument goes something like this: We know ‘what’ we are, in terms of roles, preferences, and beliefs; we know ‘what’ we’re supposed to be, in terms of familial, religious, and cultural expectations and assumptions; we may even know ‘what’ we’d really like to be, in view of all these things plus a little imagination as well. Yet despite our prodigious capacity to self-assess along these lines, we don’t know who we are. We confuse the ‘what’ for the ‘who’ and at the end of the day we don’t have a clue.

The “what we are” refers to our content, the“who” to the carrier, agent, or driver of that content. Simply stated, the ‘who’ is the guy that’s minding the store (not the stuff on the shelves), in some cases, it exists before the store has even been built (but we will take up the illusion of Time in another article). The who says: “Let’s open early today…don’t forget to call the tax guy after ten…Wow, who is she? Nice ass…”  You might think: “All that silent conversation and mind chatter.. who’s doing it?” The answer is we don’t really know. We’re more focused on collecting and expanding our stuff, the whats, than on solving the whos.  People would rather know “what’s” for lunch than who’s eating it?

Those In The Know

Not long ago, I put this very question to some 46 senators in the American Congress—that is, while day-dreaming on a slow Saturday afternoon. “Senator, could you tell me, in your own words, who you really are?” Below I’ve listed a sampling of their responses:

A person of conviction and compassion

The son of a twice-decorated war hero from Alabama

A man who cares for the children of America

A woman who understands the less fortunate

A guy who believes in fiscal responsibility and common sense

A proud son of the grand state of Louisiana

The man standing before you, who else?

Just a citizen with a vision for the American people

(And so forth…)

Obviously, American senators have no idea who they really are by this survey. Fortunately for them, they are no different than 99.99% of the world’s population. Unfortunately for us, they wield considerable influence over the future course on this planet and beyond. This got me to wondering: Except for a few intriguing possibilities from the emergent sciences, the out-of-the-park home run that is the Internet, and perhaps Sushi Bars, the world seems as ignorant today as it’s ever been, and arguably worse. Not to say that we are bad or just plain dumb people, because we’re not bad or dumb people; by and large, human beings are a fairly bright and decent lot, we don’t go around spitting on each other, lopping off heads, or throwing bombs in open marketplaces (well..let’s say, MOST human beings are a decent lot and leave it at that); people pretty much do the best they can with what they’ve got to work with. It’s simply unfortunate that they don’t know who they are.


Inmates Running The Asylum

Here’s what I see today in America, circa today:  As Earth reaches critical depletions in ecosystems and the global population continues to soar, America pretends to know who it really is (but is otherwise clueless). To a certain degree, America knows “what” it is, and “where” it’s going, or at least pretends to know.  America’s political agenda is driven foremost by the myth of superiority–energy, information, weapons, and wealth, the four fabled components of power dominance. Its real and perceived threats of terrorism have provided a certain moral/primal justification to accelerate and extend this power agenda. Simultaneously, its economic and social institutions are clogged from decades of attrition having been stylized by a meritocracy that gets its blood-draw entirely from the imagination-deficient “reality thing” (see “Reality” essays in IDEAS).

America’s poor no longer have political representation in the Bush Administration and are viewed as annoyances, like mosquitoes. Its entrepreneurial movers and shakers hustle like “valley boys” for new slice-and-dice designer technologies, and its idea-starved “identity culture,” (see The New Gurus, IDEAS), is agog in the narcissism of consumer culture, or else thumps its chest out in the hubris of going backwards in time.  The Arts stumble over tired replays of unreal reality, and The Sciences have made a new religion out of the deification of reification (Thingism), meaning we see god in our ability to recreate god.  But given this troubling assessment of the state of the union, is it not odd that almost nobody in America is concerned about who they really are? And perhaps more concerning, who’s minding the store of America?

The emergent sciences (by which I mean forward-looking empirical theories and technologies) such as microelectronics, biotechnology, neuropsychiatry, and artificial intelligence would seem to offer the best hope in solving this puzzle.  They point to impressive gains in the information marathon, like the fact that human knowledge is doubling every ten years, and that in the past decade, more scientific knowledge has been created than previously in all of human history. That the number of DNA sequences we can analyze is doubling every two years.  That computer power is doubling every eighteen months, and that the Internet is doubling every year. Curiously, despite such rapid doublings in scientific knowledge and application, even the vast majority of scientists themselves have no verifiable idea of “who” they really are. What time do they have to work on it?  Even the field of Psychology–which with Freud and Jung and their many wise disciples–once prided itself as the science of self-knowledge (“who-ness”) NOW has joined the march of hard science towards what-ness. One must wonder, therefore, what will the emergent sciences do with all this rapid-fire new information?

Once again it’s the same rather hairy situation of the inmates running the asylum. The plain truth is that neither the valley boys, the scientists, the politicos, the fundamentalists, the identity projects, the poor, the normaloids, the Good Ol’ Boys, or the children have the foggiest idea who they really are. Nothing new under the sun here. Hmm. Like certified mental disorders all differentially diagnosed, each strain of personhood actually functions quite coherently within its own quirky parameters. From the Tabugian perspective (see The New Gurus, IDEAS), this is more than a tad bit disturbing! It’s sheer runaway humanity setting up shop like a chicken with its head cut off!  If the Buddha was correct in his assertion– that the fundamental cause of human suffering is the fact that Man doesn’t really know “who” he is [and let’s assume for the moment that this transformed Indian prince knew experientially, in ultimate terms, exactly what he was talking about] THEN we definitely DO have a problem here. It’s what I call the  “Who’s Who In America” problem.

Jung pointed (partially) to the problem in his writings:

Anyone who has any ego-consciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them.

Who’s Who In America from the Jungian perspective is really a story about What’s What in America– perhaps with the subtitle: A Compendium Of What’s Taking Up Space On The Shelves Of My Store. As a mass collection of narcissistically-injured egos [we are a little self-absorbed in the wrong places, don’t you think?] in our lost perceptions of  who we really are we tend to overcompensate either through being inappropriately proud (or else, gravely insecure) about “what” we are, and by extension, what America is; yet in the same breath, we are virtually disinterested in the more vexing problem of “who” we are. Is this really the 21st century?

Had one senator in my imaginary survey said simply “an observing center of awareness,” or “something that eludes me when I’m highly present in the moment,” or perhaps, “an unfolding, non-local, experiential field of biological, mental, karmic and environmental factors,” or even “Hell, son, I have no idea who I really am but I pretend I’ve got this thing figured out because it’s a lot easier to stay employed that way”—all Tabugians would rest easier.

Emptiness

Buddhist psychology takes Jung a giant step further on this matter.  Beyond Jung’s static focus on “contents of the mind,” whether conscious or unconscious, Buddhist psychology recognizes “processes of mind” (modes of perception) under which resides a vast, content-less awareness called ‘sunyata.’  The word translates into English as ‘emptiness’ and it may be thought of as pure process blended with pure awareness. In contrast to the perceptual forms that characterize the conscious mind—thought, feeling, sense perception—or even those characterizing the unconscious mind—images, memories, complexes, archetypes, dreams, Buddhists believe the larger nature of consciousness has no shape, no form, no substance and no style at all.  It is therefore described as emptiness.  One wonders how such utter negation could give rise to a “who?”

In the classic ‘Heart Sutra’ the Buddha teaches that wisdom essence is the worldview based on direct knowledge of emptiness. Enlightenment is no other than the direct and stable perception of emptiness. This perception, from the Buddhist perspective, is perhaps the goal or ‘finality’ that our construct “who we really are” ultimately strives to connect us to, but eventually “it” too will be surrendered in the process.

Writes American Buddhist psychologist John Welwood:

If the contents of mind are like pails and buckets floating in a stream, and the mindstream is like the dynamic flowing of the water, pure awareness is like the water itself in its essential wetness.  Sometimes the water is still, sometimes it is turbulent; yet it always remains as it is, wet, fluid, watery.  In the same way, pure awareness is never confined or disrupted by any mind-state.  Therefore, it is the source of liberation and true equanimity.

Who we are is basically “essential awareness,” that is, the process of awareness itself.  We are not the contents of awareness, which more accurately point to the “whats.” Directing this insight to the attainment of deep wisdom is the job description of the bodhisattva. “Warrior saints, and Enlightened Beings seeking the perfection of wisdom,” spoke ‘the Conqueror’ (the Buddha) in The Heart Sutra, admonishing that one’s essential awareness must be directed to:

“The perception of emptiness by a person whose mind is filled with the Wish for enlightenment.”

Such is the Buddhist formulation for ultimate realization. At this level, bodies are no longer bodies and Tabugians are no longer Tabugians, they have decomposed into only ‘such’.  As we can see, the Buddhist formula requires not only essential awareness but also ‘right intention’(choice) and ‘the Wish.’ We must take aim with our awareness, divining it in highest motivation.

To be continued…

(Note: This article has been translated into French, as well as Tagalog, under the titles, respectively: “Who’s Who In France,” and “Who’s Who In The Philippines.”  Comments are appreciated.

THE NEW GURUS

August [6] 2008

Distilling The Essential From The Special

[By Art Rosengarten. First published in The MetaArts Magazine, 2003]

To be a Tarot-based Buddhist Jungian–a ‘Tabugian’ [‘ta-BOO-ghee-en’]–is to be an interactive and spontaneous blend of essential teachings.  By comparison, one-way belief systems like fundamentalist religion, stern father-figures, and hard science (anointed by the dictum of ‘either/or’) no longer hold sway in a pluralistic metaverse where personal and collective identity evolves with increasing velocity towards differentiation, cross-fertilization, specialization (particularization), and eclecticism. 

The advent of the guru import industry of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s in North America and Europe saw thousands of bright and earnest spiritual seekers (bored baby-boomers looking for meaning) experimenting with substitute orthodoxies while hoping to find The One “one-way” school that carried a formula that actually worked, had a certain sexiness or “brand-ability,” and required some thinking before joining. Powerful and exotic teachings appeared during this mini-Rennaissance, which, in retrospect, served an important “bridging-function” to the meta-ethic of today. Though things today have morphed into results not entirely predicted by yesterday’s trends.

Often these first offerings were purged of their essential psycho-cultural native soil and made to exude a certain “export quality mysticism” befitting the American fascination for neat tricks, handsome faces, and suburban rebellion. Notes Jungian author James Hillman:

In the East the spirit is rooted in the thick yellow loam of richly pathologized imagery—demons, monsters, grotesque goddesses, tortures and obscenities…But once uprooted and imported to the West it arrives debrided of its imaginal ground, dirt-free and smelling of sandalwood!”  (Re-visioning Psychology, p. 67)

Debriding the hidden forces has served Western capitalism’s great genius for manufacturing. Essence, it concluded correctly, would be hell for mass production because, by its very nature, it is intangible, unknown, and unseen. Form, on the other hand, required only ingenuity, engineering, and due dilligence. Form works wonderfully well in studios, laboratories, factories, ad campaigns, and academic institutions, especially when there is sufficient incentive.  If it looks the part, it can play the part, capitalism reasons, though toxic Janey-dolls and tainted cans of Chinese dog giblets have recently thrown this assumption back on itself. 

In the emerging Meta Age of today, former “One Way” stalwarts like General Motors, Major League Baseball, and Jesse Jackson, have lost “fan base” of new generations due mostly to the blue and mangled extremities they’ve suffered from years of shooting themselves in the foot. Today’s “market-tested spirituality,” much like yogurt sections in the supermarket and American teenage “theme-camps,” favors high variety, mix-and-match “menu-selectivity,” and bright-colored wrappings; towards these ends, it has added a vibrant array of spiritual nuance to 21st century yearnings. By contrast, when Mark Twain joked slightly more than a century ago “Give me heaven for the climate, hell for the company”— today one rightly asks, “Why stop at two?”

 

COMBINATION GODS

Today it appears like there actually is “something new under the sun.” With hardly a giggle, postmodernists are free to express, espouse, even “invent” (construct) unique identities from purely blended, “integrationist” platforms. Old barriers between system, style, and semantic have melted away when redefining precisely who we are in the service of this new breed of postmodern pantheism. Philosophically, for instance, one may now fashion oneself as ‘Qabromanterian’ (Qabalistically-inspired Romantic Presbyterian),Gaysuflåtonist’ (Homosexual Sufi Platonist), or even, ‘Blastro-Fartographer’ (Blind Astro-Cartographer with gas) that is, if one wishes to. That is the key.

No longer must we adhere to native birth identity for defining Who we are, How we recreate, and What we believe, as the new ethic now tugs at our sleeve, insisting—“For heaven’s sake dude, why NOT go ‘Pastafarian’ (Italian Rastafarian),or even blinking ‘Squeajewnaut’ (Squeamish Jewish Astronaut)?” After all, this is the age of blending forms.  Such are the new 21st century gurus. Should one still have zero interest in upgrading “soul brand” or blending belief, he or she may simply remain, hopelessly, as they say,  ‘Sub-Reptile’ (Subdued Republican Gentile), and be satisfied in doing so.

Strict lines that formerly demarcated the “nomenclature of belief” now blur like vegetarian catfish soup.  “Blending gurus,” once unheard of in the monotheistic fatherland, has become a liberating exercise in the making of selfhood that now paves the way to the Holy Grail of the Meta Age—“designer consciousness.” It’s new motto, of course: “If you can slice it, you can dice it!”

Yet the phenomena is not without precedence. Decades ago the zany American political arena began to slice-and-dice the “demographics of subcategory” ala Pro-Choice Rockefeller Republicans, Southern White Reagan Democrats, and, of course, Libertarian-leaning World Wrestling Federation Independents. Certainly, the once pithy 60s slogan “Do your own thing” never quite imagined we would evolve to the spiritual equivalent of “fifty-seven channels and nothing’s on.”

Sociologically, for example, the singles dating landscape has made a high art form of what may be termed: ‘entitled particularity’—e.g. “Extremely short and freckled white pagan harpsichordist looking for same in a mate.” Cable television has given our once “unprogrammed” imaginations the market-researched fodder of agnostic entertainment executives on a short leash.  We look for guidance from image-makers finger-painting from the temples of Hollywood over shooters and age demographics. Imagination, oddly, has become the single most coveted port of entry in the postmodern free market.

Science and technology do their parts as well.  New generation biopharm researchers now labor feverishly for ever more target-intensive/symptom-differentiated concoctions—ala “relieves upper-left shoulder morning pain in pollen allergic forklift operators.” Specificity is the new gold standard, “made to order” and “right for ME” it’s soft mantras. If unable to extract the grail of “designer consciousness,” the new science of neurochemistry proudly extols the next best thing: “designer drugs.” Indeed, as the general boundaries of worldly existence have been cast, the emerging frontier now sizzles in search of the specific and the special “high” (“a relative emotional response with respect to baseline perception of subject”  it notes in the fine print disclaimer).

 

BROAD STROKE INTEGRATIONISTS

Technically-speaking, Tabugians are neither specialists nor “particularists” despite their blended zeitgeist (or just maybe, because of it!). Rather, they are “broad stroke” integrationists, and look primarily  to the essentials, not the specifics, for direction.  All three Tabugian legs–Tarot, Buddhism, and Jungian Psychology– dig down beneath the superficia of difference to expose the wellspring of sameness. Perennial philosophers call it ‘Universal Consciousness’ but the C word is loaded with allusion and hard to pin down.  It’s not that Tabugians don’t care about Katie Holmes or CSI Miami etc. in a sour disapproving modes particularly—to the contrary, we simply observe “It” with a passing glance as part-and-parcel of “reality” and then we try to get refocused on other ways of dealing (see IDEAS articles, “Reality; & Reality 2.0).  Nonetheless, “we” (and I use this term editorially, as to date, there is actually only one official Tabugian on the planet, as far as we know, and I’m damn proud of it too!) regard the current trend towards differentiation and specialization as dubious, delusional, and flawed.

 

THE GERUNDS OF EXPERIENCE

But why? Doesn’t greater differentiation generate more possibilities to play with?

The answer is simple: yes & no. The new ethic dabbles in proliferating the “subnouns of reality,” not in transforming the “gerunds of experience.”  Specialization, upon closer inspection, is about differentiating the content of reality, not advancing the process; specialization inspires a widget world of pre-form thingness, but it misses the essential penetration, activation and transformation of human awareness and experience.  Particularizing is simply an apparatus to slice-and-dice the known, changing apples to applesauce, mangos to chutney.  Essentials, critically, are not really touched in the process.

Without question, particularizing has tremendous short-lived appeal; hybrid possibilities of ‘garbage in’ can now generate new and improved combinations of ‘garbage out’. After all, high technology (to its credit) makes garbage-collecting extremely efficient, attractive,and profitable, vacuum-packing STUFF into snappy, polymerized containers at a quarter of the cost. Yet, in the final analysis, it IS “nothing new under the sun” thinking (like deja vu)“all over again!”  Don’t believe me? Try punching the words “new and improved” or “totally original” into your search engine and jot down everything you get…

The problem is the world is awash in recycled garbage and it doesn’t look, feel, stack, or smell very pretty. Re-wrapped and aerosoled solutions are not sufficient to transform what we call the “intractables” that plague the human condition and its brave new world—violence, poverty, narcissism, gridlock on the 405 etc.  The Buddhists reduce such intractables to their root causes: hatred, greed, and delusion.  And likewise Tabugians cry out for real change: “We don’t need no stinkin’ chutney!” they shout, believing boldly that YES indeed there can be something new under the sun, “process-wise” on planet E. 

 

 BOTTOM LINE

For a truly new creation to grow wings, for an apple to become an orange, for a person to become an individual, an individual to become enlightened, a society to generate well-being, and a globe to be transformed, a magician’s touch of true creativity is required. The basic meta-ingredients of essential wisdom must be skillfully aged to perfection, blended, and properly cooked, not merely sliced, diced, and repackaged. Under such conditions, something truly fresh, nutritious, and original will likely emerge. This is real transformation. This is qualitative change. This is what Tabugians ultimately seek.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Please comment below if you would like to become THE SECOND TABUGIAN in the world [or if you believe this insane heresy should be banned from the internet immediately].

 

 

OLD FRIENDS

August [2] 2008

(Poem)

old-friends-image-pipei1

Always we stay

such good friends

sharing a cave.


I see us now

by those few chairs

of our den,

sitting on the the cold clay

choking

while we talk

our sinful wisdom

and gloat in the humor

of our splendid shyness.


I think of the saints

and the martyrs

who sleep on hard floors

and scent their spiteful caves

with dingy hermit’s wax,

and I know

that we simpletons of the frontier

can sing our hymns anywhere.


Our songs have burnt through brown

and amber autumns,

warmed our paws over frozen craters,

blanched our summer beards;

for we are old friends

who have eaten much fox,

sturdy mountain goats

who have trudged virgin rivers

on swings of spiked wood brush.


Old friends,

echoing many silent sermons–

why time gets so crisp,

why we’ve been here so long

and each year mountains seem less high

and we smell so much sweeter.


1978

WHO WILL KNOW?

August [1] 2008

  (Poem)
                 

After the war

who will know

love’s defeated soldiers

or hear their songs

once laden with devotion

in the rubble and revision?

 

Where are the guides

that directed their hearts

and whispered the way?

And who will answer

the prayers behind their shields

or see the timeless hands

behind their lover’s rose?

 

Who will know

the real blood

that dries beneath the story?

Who will hear the real scream

that led both the hero’s charge

and the child within

to lose the war

and die?

                             1986