The subject of countless songs, poems, books, and expressions, the soul is probably the most referenced and least understood aspect of the human experience.
Think of all you have ever read or been taught about the soul. What are some of the words that come to mind? Mysterious. Immortal. Ethereal. Spiritual. Individual. Subconscious. It evokes a sense of the unknown at the same time that it seemingly forms a direct part of our most core identity.
In his Red Book, Carl Jung recounted a journey toward his own recognition of the soul’s primacy, and as a driver for all that is experienced in the worldly world, writing:
I shall learn that my soul finally lies behind everything.
I too have come to the conclusion that the soul is the most critical component of this giant apparatus that directly connects us to the divine. But it was not an easy one to reach. For the soul is in many ways abstracted and hidden by the spectacular illusions of the physical plane. And, it is not something we are explicitly taught about in the realms of formal education, organized religion, and especially science.
As a cartographer of the collective unconscious, Jung had every assurance that he had attained a superior perspective – one that would eventually be classified as scientific – on the forces and archetypes that populate and condition the human psyche. But as he began his descent into his own personal madness, traced eternally for us in the Red Book, the scientist began to discover vast rifts between his objective observation and his mystical experience:
I thought and spoke much of the soul. I knew many learned words for her. I had judged her and turned her into a scientific object. I did not consider that my soul cannot be the object of my judgment and knowledge; much more are my judgment and knowledge the objects of my soul. Therefor the spirit of the depths forced me to speak to my soul, to call upon her as a living and self-existing being. I had to become aware that I had lost my soul.
Looking back at what he, and the greater part of the intellectual society, had identified and classified as the soul, Jung writes:
I had to accept that what I had previously called my soul was not at all my soul but a dead system.
Let’s remember that Jung was creating the Red Book in the shadow of the Scientific Revolution. The motto of the time was still owned by Descartes, who put everything on the saddle of cognition when he wrote I think, therefor I am. In this respect, the ‘soul mechanics’ that Jung was surfacing in his shamanic states put him at direct odds with the time. The idea of the soul as some cosmic portal burrowed deep in the biological architecture of man was unreconcilable.
No wonder he never wanted the Red Book published.
Before Jung began his own inward journey, he placed the soul as a mind-driven phenomenon as well. Though he did believe it was a real feature of the human condition. But once he entered that long night of his search for meaning beyond the physical realm, he discovered the transfiguring force of a thing that was part conjurer, part guru:
You took away where I thought to take hold, and you gave me where I did not expect anything and time and again you’ve brought about fate from new and unexpected quarters. Where I sowed, you robbed me of the Harvest, and where I did not sow, you gave me fruit a hundredfold. And time and again I lost the path and found it again where I would never have foreseen it. You upheld my belief when I was alone and near despair.
At every decisive moment you let me believe in myself.
For those who wholeheartedly decide to take up the path, the soul becomes our silent but unwaveringly patient guide into an experience that has no relation to the world most people inhabit. One in which we lose all interest and hunger for the rewards of this earthly plane:
He whose desire turns away from other things, reaches the place of the Soul. If he does not find the soul, the horror of emptiness will overcome him and fear will drive him with a whip lashing time again in a desperate and ever and a blind desire for the hollow things of the world.
He could find his soul and desire itself, but not in the objects of desire.
Jung had become the servant of his soul. But not as some penitent pilgrim under the sway of a commanding and judgmental Lord. Not at all. This realization was the most transcendent of all because he realized that he was, at the highest level of identity, the “expression and symbol of the Soul.”
For the mystical aspirant, the promise of this level of soul-integration is an invitation to initiation. As Jung discovered, it is a deeply isolating and wholly internal process; one that could not have been directed to me from something outside of his being.
You know this shit is true because it is your soul, itself, that is beckoning you. And testing you at the same time.
How hard is faith! If you take a step toward your soul, you will at first miss the meeting. You will believe that you have sunk into meaninglessness, into Eternal disorder. You’ll be right! Nothing will deliver you from disorder and meaninglessness, since this is the other half of the world.
And its the only half of the world that I now want to explore.
This is the second part of a series about Jung’s Red Book, the first of which is here.
[There is also a facebook page now for this blog, here]
I have owned Carl Jung’s Red Book since it was published in 2009. This is the legendary journal that he kept during a period of self-discovery and introspection that has been described as both revelatory and psychotic since its publication.
At the beginning, my copy was placed in our living room, open to one of the many entrancing images that Jung painted during this deeply private odyssey into, what he termed, “a confrontation with the unconscious.”
I hate to admit this, but I became one of those people who owned the book, but never read it. And so one of the greatest and most intimate journals of mystical illumination sat like some literary trophy on display in our living room. Often discussed, but only in the most banal of degrees.
Until a few months ago when I felt this deep pull to start reading Jung’s words.
So the book migrated to my office desk and then began traveling with me to cafés and weekend trips. I am sure it looked ridiculous, or more probably pretentious, carting around the 10 pound crimson red volume. But I didn’t care, I was so wrapped up in Jung’s writing that I used every spare moment I had to push through the text, marking it up with pencils so that I could return to transcribe the passages that were relevant to my work.
There is a lot I want to write about the Red Book and I will do that in a series of posts over time. But I want to start with a very simple and profound bit that comes from the Introduction. It is a statement about the time in which Jung was writing (1913-1917) by Hugo Ball that places it very precisely in a parallel historical period to the one we are currently entering:
The world and society in 1913 looked like this: life is completely confined and shackled. A kind of economic fatalism prevails; each individual, whether he resists it or not, is assigned a specific role and with it his interests and his character. The church is regarded as a “redemption factory” of little importance, literature is a safety valve……The most burning question day and night is: is there anywhere a force that is strong enough to put an end to this state of affairs? And if not, how can one escape it?
I have long been interested in the system of historical cycles; since I first read Schlesinger’s cyclical theory in high school. The idea that we can look at the intrinsic governing forces of a past time and then use those to map events in a current epoch is fascinating and takes the chaos out of human affairs. History, after all, is a function of economic, social, and spiritual currents. And when one looks back at previous historical trends, they will see very similar patterns occurring.
But I am focused on much more subterranean forces. These are the ones that precipitated the 1920’s and the 1960’s, and now these 20teens, as eras of unparalleled social change.
The birth of the jazz age, and all of the potent intellectual/artistic movements that were surfacing worldwide, is often overshadowed by the omnipresent psychedelia of the hippie era. But what they share in common is that amongst all the partying and re-identification, there was also a deep movement inward toward the mystical frontier.
And the person you find in the early pages of the Red Book is unlike anything you have ever read or been taught about Carl Jung. Here, he is going full shaman and what he is unearthing and chronicling about the pre-material forces that guide and propel our material plane is of critical importance as we enter this time of confusion and fear.
Because as you will discover, there are one of two belief systems that you can adopt about our reality. The first is that it is unpredictable, chaotic, and unpatterned; the product of a spectrum of disparate and purposeless forces which we have no choice but to protect our selves from.
Or you believe that there is an order to this world. That there is a system of reality-generation that is comprehensible and regulated; chaperoned by some force unknown and unseen, but which has the verifiable tracings of a system in place.
Of course, there is an infinity spectrum that bridges these two paradigms. The fundamentalist Christian can share a certain brand of certainty about the nature of reality with the molecular biologist.
But when one turns inward from the world, especially as a result of a calling from that deep seat of the soul, they embark on a journey of self-discovery that is both torturously lonely and paradigmatically revelatory. That is to say, what they learn about their ‘self’ and the forces that propel ‘it’ are ultimately understood as the same forces that govern the world.
This is the nature of systems theory. And I believe we live in an immaculate and uncharted system designed to nurture, evolve, and optimize our human ‘being’. Oh, so much could flow from this statement, and it will.
But for now I want to leave you with Jung’s description of the ‘spirits’ that drive and conjure the world we experience, but from two polar frontiers. I challenge you to read this in the context of the time we live in and ask yourself what Jung’s vision holds for us in this time. (I have bolded the lines I marked as important in my transcriptions):
I have learned that in addition to the spirit of this time there is still another spirit at work, namely that which rules the depths of everything contemporary.
The spirit of this time would like to hear of use and value. I also thought this way, and my humanity still thinks this way. But that other spirit forces me nevertheless to speak, beyond justification, use, and meaning.
But I did not consider that the spirit of the depths from time immemorial and for all the future possesses a greater power than the spirit of this time, who changes with the generations.
The spirit of the depths has subjugated all pride and arrogance to the power of judgment. He took away my belief in science, he robbed me of the joy of explaining and ordering things, and he let devotion to the ideals of this time die out in me. He forced me down to the last and simplest things.
The spirit of the depths took my understanding and all my knowledge and placed them at the service of the inexplicable and the paradoxical. He robbed me of speech and writing for everything that was not in his service, namely the melting together of sense and nonsense, which produces the supreme meaning.
But the supreme meaning is the path, the way and the bridge to what is to come.
Read Part 2 of the Jung series, here.
i have come to understand that my reality is generative, not deterministic.
i mean we do not live in a paradigm that is set and pre-determined as we are taught. but rather, one that is generated by the inputs (thoughts, feelings, actions) of the human beings that are generating, or transmitting, it.
further, the engine that generates this reality – from the transmitting being to the experience they are having – is something we have come to lazily call ‘consciousness’, but which is actually a much more quantifiable factor, which can be described as vibratory frequency.
reality is a generative construction that moves from the inside out. not the outside in.
two points about that:
- the best way to understand this way of seeing reality is as an algorithmically-driven platform. in other words, reality is created by highly tuned formulas that convert non-material impulses to a material experiential realm.
- this is confusing for many because we currently inhabit a paradigm that is actually highly deterministic (ie. for 99% of humanity, their experience feels very much beyond their own power of creation). and that is because humans have been conditioned to believe that that is what reality is; something that is generated from outside of them. so we are generating a deterministic reality paradigm. a very tricky business indeed.
so the vast majority of human beings believe we are born into a world paradigm that they cannot change and which they just have to accept. this has unquantifiable impact on the way that we live in the world and what we believe is possible.
the first step toward a reboot of the human operating system is to teach our people that the reality paradigm is generative and thus transactional: which means that we are in a constant state of negotiation with the reality we are experiencing.
it is created by, and for, us.
this is a revelation of the highest (r)evolutionary order. it means any single individual can gain agency in the process of reality-creation by learning about the power their thoughts, emotions, and actions have in creating their moment-to-moment experience.
because what we are experiencing is a direct output of our vibrational state and it can change moment-to-moment based on the nature and content of the vibration we are emitting.
in other words: if reality is generative and transactional, it is transmutable.
the great problem is that certain groups have more generative power than others. and so it is that some can say, “this is your world, i am just living in it.” in most cases, these generator populations have no idea of the power they wield in creating the experience of others. this is by design.
understanding the nature of reality, and our ability to re-orient ourselves within it, will be the key determining factor of whether the human civilization escapes the extinction algorithm we are currently programmed for.