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The Idea of a Shamanistic, Stormy Spiritual Path Is Too at Odds with Our Religious Anti-Body Culture to Be Easily Accepted: Is the Supernatural Terrifying?

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Correcting the “Civilized” Ego … The Stormy Path to Self, Part One — The Way Forward Is Down: The Divine Is Mistaken for “the Devil” Until One Is Surrendered Enough

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Implications of Falls from Grace, The Devolutional Model of Development

From looking at the possibility of a more benign, less tragic human trajectory, as we did in the last chapter, I would now like to delve into the implications of this devolutional model of development—these Falls from Grace—as concerns psychotherapy, human growth, or “healing.” For, once the falls have happened to a person, once the patriarchal pathology has occurred, we need to look at what to do about it. We need to turn from prevention, as in the previous chapter, to correction or remediation.

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The Way Forward Is Down

I said at the outset of Part Two that a metaphorical analysis such as this one can uncover underlying meanings: It can provide understanding of inner and outer behavior as well as guidance for such. At this point it can be stated that the implications of an analysis such as I have been presenting are for no less than the direction of growth, the direction of mystical experience, the concept of regression, and the evaluation of current ego psychotherapies, among others.

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Is a “Fully Functioning Ego” a Prerequisite to Higher Consciousness?

Specifically, this perspective puts in question the psychotherapeutic maxim that ego strength precedes higher consciousness. I confess that many years ago I myself made exactly that claim in a work titled The Dangers of Mysticism for Modern Youth (Adzema, 1970). As I concluded, “Cosmic consciousness is dependent upon self-actualization.” By this I meant, following a Jungian line, that ego-actualization leading to a solidified ego and ego strength was necessary before one could hope to face the overwhelming and terrifying Unconscious Self—the repressed inner Divinity. And again following Jung, I proposed that this usually could not occur until the second half of life, or after the mid-life crisis.

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Is the Supernatural Terrifying?

Subsequently, however, I encountered the new experiential psychotherapeutic techniques which — it has been my own experience — allow one to deal with and integrate the repressed “negative” energies that lie along the path (as this book’s analysis demonstrates) to mystical experience of Energy, Mind, Absolute Subjectivity, and God. Thus, I declined to publish that earlier work.

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Ego Does Not Precede Illumination, It Prohibits It

Schneider (1987), to give an example, claims that the kind of mystical consciousness of which Wilber speaks is not possible because, for one thing, it would be terrifying and overwhelming.

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Indeed, that was a good part of my position in The Dangers of Mysticism for Modern Youth (Adzema, 1970). But as I say, I eventually came to understand there to be a big difference between access to and integration of these realities. For, as both Jung and Campbell have pointed out, a God is often seen as a devil until one is wholly enough … I would say surrendered enough … to approach him.

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Some People Are Sick for Healthy Reasons

At any rate, those subsequent experiences of mine with the experiential psychotherapies led to a reformulation of my understanding which led to works titled, descriptively enough, “The Way Forward Is Down” and The Centered Path Through Hell. The proposition arising from this later work is that low self-esteem, low ego strength, is a precondition for “higher” (“lower”) growth in a mystical direction.

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As Maslow (1968) put it (and contrary to Wilber [1970]), some people are sick for sick reasons and some people are sick for healthy reasons. Therefore, especially in an avowed “insane” (see Fromm, 1955) culture, we might want to think twice about doing people the big favor of “helping” them in the direction of increased ego defenses … and societal adjustment and social functioning.

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In fact, those people with inadequate defenses against what is in essence more real are not only closer to being truly sane than the majority of folks but also might be better helped by leading them in the direction of dismantling what remains of the barriers between themselves and pure Energy, pure Consciousness, and helping them instead to integrate with and grow to encompass the expanded awareness that results.

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The Stormy Path to Self

Now, I realize that this proposition is not absolutely new. For one thing it seems to make sense of some of the extreme and bizarre behavior, the seemingly manifest neurotic behavior, of some of the saints and mystics on their way to expanded awareness (see for example James, 1899/1982, especially Henry Suso, pp. 306-310; and Saint John of the Cross, 1959).

But in this secular age, it seems such allowance for “aberrant” behavior is rare. Keep in mind that in many cultures there are institutions—like medieval monasteries—or roles, like shamans, through and in which such distortions of personality can be worked out in socially sanctioned ways.GrofChristStan_StormySearchicon Contrast this with the modern attitude which seems to be that if they can’t be talked into picking themselves up and/or behaving themselves like everyone else they are to be drugged or electroshocked into compliance.

Nevertheless, there are those in this day also who do speak out in favor of the direction of growth that this book is presenting. R. D. Laing, Arthur Janov, and Stanislav Grof are not the least of these. Indeed, Stanislav and Christina Grof’s (1990) book, The Stormy Search for the Self, is a near-exact affirmation of the proposition I have just stated.

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Our Religious, Anti-Body Culture Makes Folks Terrified of the Shamanistic, Stormy Path

Still, this idea of a “stormy” spiritual path—despite the fact that it was distinctively presented and described over a century ago in William James’s classic (1899/1982) work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, (1899/1982)—in my opinion, goes too much against our hard won “rationality” … which we see is essentially our cultural rationalization. This notion is too much an affront to our culturally embedded “pragmatism” … which it is clear now is our cop-out to consensual constructs, especially fear-rooted economic ones. And it is in direct opposition to our pervasive Judeo-Christian anti-body cultural bias. So this idea of a stormy spiritual path, a path in which progress involves regress … in which the way forward is down, is anything but easily accepted.

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Continue with “Crazy” and Transcendent Are Not Opposite as Ego Psychologists Conveniently Proclaim: Have Western Puritanical Beliefs Infected Transpersonal Psychology?

Return to What Does the Natural Self Look Like? The State of Not Losing the Soul Is Emotional Openness and Joy, Being Equally Free in Tears and Laughter

To Read the Entire Book … on-line, free at this time … of which this is an excerpt, Go to Falls from Grace

To purchase any of Michael Adzema’s books, available in print and e-book formats, go to Michael Adzema’s books at Amazon.

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Life Is Passed Performing Rituals and Mouthing Incantations in the Service of Others’ Requirements: At the Age of Four or Five, Giving Up, We Become “Them”

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The Natural Self Slain, the Ego “Is Rewarded for Being Obsequious While the Real Self Seethes in the Prison of Loneliness”: The Third Fall, the Primal Scene, Part One — “Child Sacrifice”

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The Primal Scene

The primal scene occurs at around the age of four or five years. It corresponds exactly with Wilber’s tertiary dualism, as also it correlates with the beginning of the Oedipal struggle (in Freudian terms). It consolidates the formation of the ego against the body, severing the Centaur into “a horseman divided from his horse” (Wilber, 1977, p. 149). It may be likened to a third shutdown, a third stage in the removal of self from divinity, a third denial of God—this time under the terrorizing influence of what might be called social or relationship trauma.

The Natural Self Is Slain

According to Arthur Janov (1970), at around the age of four or five there occurs a point at which the child perceives the hopelessness of ever being loved for him- or herself and becomes instead what the parents (and, by proxy, society) want. Their needs become her or his needs.

The real self—the “child within,” the natural self, the God within—is slain and buried in the unconscious (once again) and becomes the unconscious self. Janov (1970) explains this process of losing the real self in a systematic and detailed manner. He writes brilliantly and poetically in his description, and I will let his words do most of the talking here.

Janov points out, first of all, that

We are all creatures of need. We are born needing, and the vast majority of us die after a lifetime of struggle with many of our needs unfulfilled. These needs are not excessive—to be fed, kept warm and dry, to grow and develop at our own pace, to be held and caressed, and to be stimulated. These Primal needs are the central reality of the infant. The neurotic process begins when these needs go unmet for any length of time. . . .

Since the infant himself cannot overcome the sensation of hunger (that is, he cannot go to the refrigerator) or find substitute affection, he must separate his sensations (hunger; wanting to be held) from consciousness. This separation of oneself from one’s needs and feelings is an instinctive maneuver in order to shut off excessive pain. We call it the split. (p. 22)

The split evolves into the permanent disconnection between the real and the unreal selves—between the real, needing, “feeling” self and the self we must pretend to be in order to try to get some our needs satisfied.

Demands for the child to be unreal are not often explicit. Nevertheless, parental needs become the child’s implicit demand. The child is born into his parents’ needs and begins struggling to fulfill them almost from the moment he is alive. He may be pushed to smile (to appear happy), to coo, to wave bye-bye, later to sit up and walk, still later to push himself so that his parents can have an advanced child. As the child develops, the requirements upon him become more complex. He will have to get A’s, to be helpful and do his chores, to be quiet and undemanding, not to talk too much, to say bright things, to be athletic. What he will not do is be himself. The thousands of operations that go on between parents and children which deny the natural Primal needs of the child mean that the child will hurt. They mean that he cannot be what he is and be loved. . . . (p. 25)

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Becoming “Them”

The upshot of this process, then, as Sam Keen (1972) described it:

He knows he cannot both be himself and be loved. So he splits into a real and an unreal self. His real feelings are sealed in the throbbing vault of the lonely inner self and he begins to tailor his conduct to the expectations of his parents. His watchword becomes: I will be what you want me to be if you will only love me. Although I feel hurt, alone, fearful, and unlovely, I will act trustworthy, loyal, helpful. . . . Henceforth the budding neurotic child gets plastic approval but no genuine love. His unreal self is rewarded for being obsequious while his real self seethes in the prison of loneliness. (p. 46)

Body Snatchers

The primal scene itself, however, is that crystallizing event that for the child symbolizes the essential truth of all the accumulated interactions that from birth on have demonstrated that in order to get a semblance of one’s needs fulfilled one cannot simply be oneself but must instead struggle to please another—for now a parent or parents, later it will be a lover, a spouse, a boss, society in general.

Giving Up, We Become “Them”

Janov (1970) describes this primal scene:

As the assaults on the real system mount, they begin to crush the real person. One day an event will take place which, though not necessarily traumatic in itself—giving the child to a baby sitter for the hundredth time—will shift the balance between real and unreal and render the child neurotic. That event I call the major Primal Scene. It is a time in the young child’s life when all the past humiliations, negations, and deprivations accumulate into an inchoate realization: “There is no hope of being loved for what I am.” It is then that the child defends himself against that catastrophic realization by becoming split from his feelings, and slips quietly into neurosis. The realization is not a conscious one. Rather, the child begins acting around his parents, and then elsewhere, in the manner expected by them. He says their words and does their thing. He acts unreal—i.e., not in accord with the reality of his own needs and desires. In a short time the neurotic behavior becomes automatic.

Neurosis involves being split, disconnected from one’s feelings. The more assaults on the child by the parents, the deeper the chasm between real and unreal. He begins to speak and move in prescribed ways, not to touch his body in proscribed areas (not to feel himself literally), not to be exuberant or sad, and so on. The split, however, is necessary in a fragile child. It is the reflexive (i.e., automatic) way the organism maintains its sanity. Neurosis, then, is the defense against catastrophic reality in order to protect the development and psychophysical integrity of the organism.

Neurosis involves being what one is not in order to get what doesn’t exist. If love existed, the child would be what he is, for that is love—letting someone be what he or she is. Then, nothing wildly traumatic need happen in order to produce neurosis. It can stem from forcing a child to punctuate every sentence with “please” and “thank you,” to prove how refined the parents are. It can also come from not allowing the child to complain when he is unhappy or to cry. Parents may rush in to quell sobs because of their anxiety. They may not permit anger—”nice girls don’t throw tantrums; nice boys don’t talk back”—to prove how respected the parents are; neurosis may also arise from making a child perform, such as asking him to recite poems at a party or solve abstract problems. Whatever form it takes, the child gets the idea of what is required of him quite soon. Perform, or else. Be what they want, or else—no love, or what passes for love: approval, a smile, a wink. Eventually the act comes to dominate the child’s life, which is passed in performing rituals and mouthing incantations in the service of his parents’ requirements. (pp. 25-26, emphases mine)

In Myth: Isaac’s “Primal Scene”

A good mythic reflection of the dynamics of this third fall from grace is the Abraham and Isaac story in Genesis. In the story, God “tempts” Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Therefore, the altar Isaac is to be sacrificed on is that of the parent’s own misapprehended growth needs.

What Is Meant by “Child Sacrifice”

Moreover, just as Isaac, the son, the child, is to be offered in sacrifice to Abraham’s relationship to the divine, to his supposed spiritual needs; so also we, most of us, are asked to forego our own dreams, our own unique directions, for the unfulfilled dreams, desperate hopes, and ego vanity of another—usually the same-sex parent.

Continue with Having Become “Them,” We Are Left Forever Asking “Who Am I?” The Third Fall From Grace, The Primal Scene, Part Two — The Philosophic Bands

Return to Becoming Not Yourself: The Centaur Stage of Infant and Toddler Learning Involves Learning You Are Not OK and Continues the Separation from Innate Divinity

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Continue with Having Become “Them,” We Are Left Forever Asking “Who Am I?” The Third Fall From Grace, The Primal Scene, Part Two — The Philosophic Bands

Return to Becoming Not Yourself: The Centaur Stage of Infant and Toddler Learning Involves Learning You Are Not OK and Continues the Separation from Innate Divinity

To Read the Entire Book … on-line, free at this time … of which this is an excerpt, Go to Falls from Grace

Invite you to join me on Twitter:
http://twitter.com/sillymickel

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