Mind Psyche Spirit
by June Singer
The invisible fire remains with us as essence. It has color & heat, but no real substance, yet it has the capacity to transmute substances.
Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
--Teilhard de Chardin
The world would be a blob of clay, were it not for the energies that pervade it, transforming it into matter and life, work and enthusiasm. Energies empower. Uncontrolled energies in Nature stir up winds and waves into hurricanes. Tides batter coastlines and wash houses into the sea. When we understand how these energies work in the natural world, we can begin to put them to productive uses.
Energies of love fall into a different category. They exist within ourselves, and we are part and parcel of them. We owe our very existence as human beings to that mysterious energy which draws a man and woman together in the most intimate and personal act—an act which is also a part of Nature’s cosmic drama. Since we are so personally involved in the energies of love, it is easy to understand how powerful these energies are. Often they rule us more than we realize, and logic withdraws at the approach of passion. Personal involvement focuses our attention, absorbs our feeling and dulls our sense of connection to that which lies beyond the object of our attraction, while we scarcely suspect what is happening. Perhaps that is why so much has been written about love and why, nevertheless, it remains a great mystery.
→ I will be using the word love to mean that expression of a pervading life-energy which draws people together and makes possible the creation of something new. The something may be a child, an idea, a bond between two or among many, a synthesis of what seemed to be isolated, a joining of what was disjunctive, a resolution of conflict. Love is not necessarily personal – it can transcend personal considerations and thus become a transpersonal experience. Love’s preferences are neutral, they can just as well choose an “appropriate” object as not. Love is an energy, and energy must be channelled in order for it to have a desired effect, positive or negative. The channel into which it flows is a factor in determining what it may be able to accomplish.
→ Most of us experience ourselves most of the time as separate beings encased on our skin. We feel alone; thoughts and feelings surge up in us wordlessly and we respond to them. Our bodies stretch and strain and move about to accommodate what we sense to be the movement of energy in us and through us. When another being enters our space and intimacy develops between us, the lines of separation blur. Communication takes place on many levels. You come into the room and my brain is assailed by millions of impressions transmitted by my sensory apparatus. Light enters my eye through the pupil, is focused by the lens, and an image falls on the retina. This is transmitted to the brain, which perceives it, gives meaning to it, and projects an image outward in your direction. What I become aware of is not a collection of neural impulses or chemical alterations. Through a miraculous transformation I see you reconstituted before me, an individual like no other, who can move me to anger, affection, or tears.
My attention is concentrated upon what I see as your being in this moment. What I see is only a small part of what you are in your totality. Because I am I, what I see will be different from what someone else looking at you would see. Yet there is far more than I observe than I could possibly express in words. Along with some detailed impressions, I take in the total gestalt, a configuration in time and space and involving a multitude of associations. Alfred Korzybski’s famous statement, “The map is not the territory and the name is not the thing named,” applies here. So much of every experience defies verbal expression, yet the meaning of the extra-verbal must be extracted if we are to deal with it at all.
→ The poet writes out of a nonlinear consciousness. He or she does not perceive events in a logical order, but they burst upon the senses as though from many levels of awareness all operating simultaneously. It is as though the highly focused quality of mind that our society cultivates had departed from him, leaving him with images and emotions that are not bound by time or space. The poetic dimension is a non-ordinary reality – it is the world of the artist, out of which creation comes. Creation has little to do with linear memory, but much to do with this other, stranger memory, in which insights suddenly appear or wherein one hears an entire piece of music whole. The mystical experience is of this quality also. Like art, it is not dependent upon linear time. It changes little over the centuries; it always has to do with the seeking and sometimes the finding of an intimate relationship between the human and the divine.
This is one level of reality. Contemporary brain research has associated this sort of consciousness with the right hemisphere of the brain, which is thought to be more holistically organized than the left hemisphere, more tuned for music and art, and for seeing things in their entirety rather than detail by detail. Being less addicted to the rational, the right hemisphere can play with images and ideas and, above all, is able to maintain a sense of mystery and wonder. For this hemisphere, it is not important to offer proofs, but rather to experience reality as it presents itself to the individual.
Our culture in the Western world has placed a higher premium on the so-called left-brain productions than on those of the right. Accustomed as we are to the linear, one-at-a-time character of speech and writing, we tend to view our lives as event following event in endless succession. We report about what happens to us in the same way. We see ourselves as standing on this long road, somewhere between antecedent cause and subsequent event. We look backward in order to see how we have come to this place, and forward to project how our current behaviour will affect what happens in the future. So much for our reasoned process.
But we do not experience life in this cumbersome linear fashion. How could we live for even one moment if we had to operate our bodies consciously by taking command of every breath, every beat of the heart, every neural impulse? Fortunately, these matters proceed independently of conscious will and intention. We need only attend directly to the events occurring in a focal area of consciousness, taking care of one small area after another. Meanwhile, our peripheral vision scans wider area and, either consciously or unconsciously, perceives immediate things in a wider context. We can expand that context indefinitely, being limited only by our sensory capacity and the capability of our brains, and of the machines we devise to record, store, process, and retrieve information.
→ The ancient Chinese philosopher, Chuang Tsu, suggested that wisdom comes from widening the vision to include two kinds of knowledge:
Great knowledge sees all in one.
Small knowledge breaks down into the many…
When the body sleeps, the soul is enclosed in One.
When the body wakes, the openings begin to function.
They resound with every encounter
With all the varied business of life, the strivings of the heart…
Pleasure and rage
Sadness and joy
Hopes and regrets
Change and stability
Weakness and decision
Impatience and sloth:
All are sounds from the same flute
All mushrooms from the same wet mould.
Day and night follow one another and come upon us
Without our seeing how they sprout!
Early and late we meet the “that”
From which “these” all grow!
◊ June Singer [d.2004] was a leading American Jungian analyst & author. The above article comprises extracts from the first chapter of her book The Power of Love. Artwork: Paul Klee, Fire at Full Moon. Publ. here 12.2.2014