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The Numinous and Numinosity – Seeing The Light Beyond All Lights

I can’t remember when I first encountered the English term numinous; most likely while reading a Jungian work or something by Carl Jung himself.

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Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961),
the founder of analytical psychology, circa 1960.

The word derives from the Latin numen, usually translated as “the presence of a god or goddess” or the “will, manifestation or power of a deity.”

The most ancient example is in a text of Accius cited by Varro: “Alia hic sanctitudo est aliud nomen et numen Iouis” (“Here, the holiness of Jupiter is one thing, the name and power of Jupiter another).”¹

The English form is traceable to Nathaniel Ward, who in 1647 wrote:

The Will of a King is very numinous; it hath a kinde of vast universality in it.²

Rudolf Otto

Most religion writers cite the German Lutheran scholar Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) who used “numinous” to describe experiences of spiritual power.

For Otto, the numinous originates not from corporeality, as so many reductive psychologists would contend, but from beyond the person. As a personal experience, however, one perceives the numinous psychologically.

If this is difficult to imagine, consider the analogy of wind. Only an imbecile would say that the feeling of the wind is literally caused by the skin. No. Something contacts the skin, and is then interpreted by the body and brain. In a roughly similar way, the same could be said about numinosity, or spiritual presence. It touches us. We have a direct feeling but also conceptually interpret what’s going on, usually afterward.

Otto believes the numinous takes many forms, and is higher than the magical. Instead of homogenizing all spiritual experiences into a fake, politically correct sameness, Otto says the numinous has primitive, daemonic and dark aspects, as well as a noble, elevated and pure quality.

He calls the purest experience of the numen “The Holy.” Unlike the shady, dimmer aspects of the numinous, this highest aspect involves an experience marked by a feeling of “Awefulness,” “Overpoweringness,” “Energy” or “Urgency.”

Image -pxhere

However, Otto is perhaps not always consistent. Sometimes he appears to imply that the numinous is indistinguishable among all religions. At other times he reveals a Christian bias, suggesting that numinosity experienced through the Bible and by various Christian mystics is ultimate and incorrupt.

From today’s standards, Otto’s definition of numinosity could be critiqued as unsystematic. But his work is regarded as a milestone and continues to influence depth psychology and comparative religion.

After all, we can’t really expect pioneers to get everything perfect the first time around. That’s like asking someone who has just developed the rocket to do a perfect Mars landing. It just doesn’t work that way. Not in outside reality nor in the internal realm.

Carl Jung and R. D. Laing

Carl Jung adapted the word numinous to depict spiritual experiences involving a “peculiar alteration” of ego-based consciousness, commonly called altered states.

Religious teaching as well as the consensus gentium always and everywhere explain this experience as being due to a cause external to the individual. The numinosum is either a quality belonging to a visible object or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness.³

Jung devised an entire psychological theory to account for the numinous and other supernatural experiences, like synchronicity. (Rather than summarize Jung’s theory here, I’ll just link to the related concepts.)

Image – pxhere

For Jung, we experience numinosity when an archetype of the collective unconscious is activated. Depending on the psyche’s overall condition, one’s ego stability, and the actual archetypal source, numinosity may be psychologically healing, destructive or, in a third case scenario, transformationally destructive.

When transformationally destructive, numinosity contributes to a breakdown which, some like R. D. Laing say, could be a precursor to a breakthrough. The rocky road to wellness and increased wisdom is often called a “creative illness.” By and large, it’s a dynamic more appreciated by gurus, shamans and alternative healers. Not to say that all mainstream psychiatrists are out to lunch here. And psychiatrists may receive more acutely upset and downright dangerous clients than the average guru. But there’s arguably room for improvement on all sides.

Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade 

The American scholar of mythology Joseph Campbell says that numen finds parallel expression in the “Melanesian mana, Dakotan wakon, Ironquoian orenda and Algonquian manitu.” I like Campbell a lot but he tends to overgeneralize. Put simply, we can’t assume that different terms from various religious traditions denote identical spiritual presences and experiences. And quite often Campbell seems to be doing just that.

No wonder “The Force” in Star Wars is seen as a universal principle with just two aspects, the dark and light. Campbell was approached by George Lucas and had a hand in the development of the mythological and spiritual aspects of Star Wars. True, the hero cycle in Star Wars is effective. But the depiction of spirituality leans towards a reductive pantheism. Specifically, the idea of The Force ignores the cosmologies of several world religions where God is seen as wholly other but immanent. 

Along these lines, the Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade says numinosity exhibits diverse intensities, qualities and effects. Not just one kind with two ethical forms, as with the noble and fallen Jedi Knights.4

Immanuel Kant via Wikipedia

Sigmund Freud and Immanuel Kant

Sigmund Freud touched on so many issues and has been hugely influential within psychology, the humanities and the arts. Not surprisingly, many seekers ignore his crude and backward looking approach to spirituality, but I think that’s a mistake.

Freud no doubt misunderstood the numinous by reducing it to early development. For Freud the numinous is nothing more than remembering a unified “oceanic bliss” that every fetus (apparently) feels within the mother’s womb.

Sadly, the founder of psychoanalysis was not a mystic or perhaps unwilling to accept mysticism on its own terms.

Yet I think it is fair to ask – in a Freudian way – if some alleged religious experience is just emotional fanaticism instead of true grace—think of Super Bowl, Stanley Cup or international football fans and how they resemble some religious fanatics. The jury is out on this one, and it’s a complicated question. But I think Freud’s insights into psychological complexes could come into play with pseudo, emotionally based and also with low grade, oppressive and controlling numinosities.

Before Otto, Jung, Campbell, Eliade and Freud, the philosopher Immanuel Kant spoke to a realm of the noumena. For Kant, noumena are objects and events independent of the senses. Kant claimed that we cannot know the character of a particular noumenon but he believed we may determine the sheer existence of noumena by virtue of the “intelligible order of things”—that is, by studying the observable world of phenomena.

Etymologically, the terms noumena and numinous are not directly related. This has lead most scholars to dismiss any possible semantic connections between them. But even if two words are not etymologically close, their connoted meanings are not necessarily devoid of relationship. (Some run-of-the-mill academics probably wouldn’t consider this).

Kant’s noumena could, indeed, be at the root of some forms of numinous experience, especially in mystical schools leaning toward naturalistic pantheism, such as Zen Buddhism and maybe Taoism.

But again, the idea of numinosity extends well beyond this rather basic possibility.

St. Teresa of Ávila and John Milton

Many mystics from diverse traditions talk about different levels and classes of numinous experience. And even within a single spiritual tradition, descriptions of the numinous vary dramatically in terms of quality and intensity.

Consider, for instance, an ordinary Catholic versus a full-fledged saint like St. Teresa of Ávila. The one feels a solid, holy presence while walking into a church, maybe chats with her or his buddies after Mass. The other experiences a plethora of absorbing visions, revealed warnings and numinous raptures that literally floors them.

In Paradise Lost John Milton depicts Satan’s dismay when he sees the dismal, hellish gloom he’s confined himself to after forfeiting the glorious light of heaven.5

Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,” Said then the lost archangel, “this the seat That we must change for Heaven, this mournful gloom For that celestial light?

Could this be a warning for some of us?

¹ Schilling, Robert. “Numen.” Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 10. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 6753-6754. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale.

² The simple cobler of Aggawam in America, cited in Oxford English Dictionary.

³ In Catholicism, devotional objects and images do not contain numinosity in themselves but rather aid in the reception of otherworldly graces. An important distinction that Jung glosses over here. See http://frithluton.com/articles/numinous/

4 See also Deidre Sklar, “Reprise: On Dance Ethnography.” Dance Research Journal, Vol. 32, No. 1 Summer, 2000: 70-77, p. 72.

While the experience alternately called presence, or unity, or numinosity may be the same across spiritual traditions, “ways of doing” are different. Presence comes in a multitude of flavors. “The virgin,” is different than “Buddha” or “God the Father.” Kneeling in prayer before the virgin is a different bodily experience than sitting cross-legged in meditation. Both the natures of the divinities and the ritual practices performed in their names are elaborated in distinct communities to do different work upon soma.

5 C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, Ursula K. Le Guin and several others each have their own take on the numinous. See my highlights here http://lnr.li/sDdLz/

A sampling of material about numinosity at Earthpages.ca and Earthpages.org

 A Hundred Thousand Year Old Civilisation? (newdawnmagazine.com)

 This is what Happens when we Allow our Souls to Express Themselves. (elephantjournal.com)

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Psychokinesis – Is it in your head?

Uri Geller in Moscow (Russia)

Uri Geller in Moscow, Russia via Wikipedia

Also called PK, psychokinesis (Greek: psyː.kʰɛ̌ː  +  kī́nēsis) is a form of psi in which a person’s thoughts allegedly affect objects without physical contact.¹

PK usually involves moving or modifying objects in space. One of the most famous exponents of transforming objects is Uri Geller, who has bent spoons in public, apparently with the power of his mind.

Detractors of PK like James Randi suggest that Geller is a fraud, using trickery without possessing the integrity to call himself a conjurer or a magician.

PK performances on TV and the internet are virtually impossible to verify. Even the simplest video editing software could produce the illusion of, say, spoon-bending. And a classic bimetalic strip could be built in to customized spoons.

The scientific community generally says there is no conclusive, publicly verifiable support for psychokinesis. However, we have numerous reports over the years of objects spontaneously moving, making noise and, more recently, of appliances switching on or off in relation to strong emotions of anger or fear. For instance, I heard a story from a friend that another mutual friend became enraged and the kitchen stove came on.

Artist conception of spontaneous psychokinesis from 1911 French magazine La Vie Mysterieuse via Wikipedia

Carl Jung believed that he experienced a kind of automatic PK when arguing with a skeptical Sigmund Freud, ironically enough, about the reality of paranormal phenomena.

Apparently while speaking with Freud, Jung’s diaphragm tightened up and felt unusually warm. Suddenly an explosive sound came from a bookcase in Freud’s study, where the two men were squabbling. Jung then claimed, so the story goes, the sound was an example of “catalytic exteriorization” but Freud was unconvinced.

The bookcase again made a loud noise. More impressed this time, apparently Freud continued to hear the sound after Jung left. To this John and Ann Spencer ask whether the fault lay in the bookcase or if, perhaps, Freud became angry enough to somehow cause it to emit noise.²

As a former volunteer in the paranormal category at the now defunct allexperts.com, I read quite a few reports of psychokinesis related phenomena. Were some of these authentic or were all of these reports merely the product of wannabe fantasy writers? I can’t be sure.

Spirit photography hoaxer Édouard Isidore Buguet. (1840-1901) of France fakes telekinesis in this 1875 cabinet card photograph titled Fluidic Effect via Wikipedia

Historically, countless tricksters and cheats have meddled with photos, metal objects or used sleight of hand, trying to convince others of the reality of PK. If by chance the mind could affect matter at a distance, this long history of hoaxers only serves to make genuine claimants seem like charlatans.

It is true that both Russian and American intelligence agencies have shown an interest in paranormal phenomena.³

Whether or not the controlled American results were statistically insignificant, as we commonly hear, remains unknown. If anyone did have the power to read minds or, as with PK, affect matter at a distance, chances are such an ability would be kept secret.

With so much fake news these days, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to suppose there could be a massive disconnect between what we hear and what’s actually happening in any given country.

Meanwhile, believers in PK tend to portray scoffers and skeptics as “acting like people who have evidence of a crime and hide it.”And although most paranormal claims do not hold up in laboratory conditions, believers say that artificial setups kill the vibe or that the subtle mechanism of psi just doesn’t work that way.

¹ Another common word for this alleged ability is telekinesis.

² John and Ann Spencer, Encyclopedia of the World’s Greatest Unsolved Mysteries, 1995, p. 260. This explanation is conceivable but a bit too ad hoc for me.

³ Stuart Gordon, The Paranormal: An Illustrated Encyclopedia1992, pp. 551-552.

4 Ibid, p. 552.

An advertising poster depicting magician Harry Kellar performing the “Levitation of Princess Karnac” illusion, 1894, U.S. Library of Congress via Wikipedia


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Participation Mystique – An alternative to secular materialism

Mystiques of malabar

Mystiques of malabar: Seema K K via Flickr

Participation Mystique is a psychological and spiritual idea proposed by the anthropologist Lucien Lévi-Bruhl. It concerns the alleged mystical relationship that so-called primitives had with objects in their environment.

In Lévi-Bruhl’s own words:

In the collective representations of primitive mentality objects can be…something other than themselves…they give forth and they receive mystic powers, virtues, qualities, influences which make themselves felt outside, without ceasing to remain where they are.¹

The depth psychiatrist Carl Jung used the term participation mystique to denote two arguably related ideas.

First, Jung describes cases where his clients believe they have some kind of mystical connection with another person. This may involve a love affair, real or imagined or, more disturbingly, a kind of paranoid, fear relationship.

Over the years Jung modifies his thinking on this. Early on, he seems to say that participation mystique mostly involves a distorted understanding of the collective unconscious. That is, one mistakenly assumes a two-way mystical connection and that the other feels what they feel.

But later in his career Jung seems to open up to the notion that real, two-way relationships can occur through the matrix of the collective unconscious. These may be mutually conscious, conscious on the part of one person, or mutually unconscious.

Second, Jung talks about participation mystique in terms of the numinous power of the archetypes spilling over into ego consciousness. This doesn’t necessarily involve a relationship with another person, per se. The power of the archetypes can be experienced internally like the power of, as Jung suggests, the old gods. As such, they can be helpful or harmful, depending on how the ego relates to this power.

Lévi-Bruhl and Jung’s theories suggest that so-called primitives had an intimate relation with spiritual powers, good and bad.

For Jung, the ego is a high point of modern civilization. But the ego can also obscure the process of participation mystique. The psychological development of the ego gives mankind planes, trains and automobiles but robs us of an inner psycho-wealth apparently enjoyed by our ancestors.

This scenario has been questioned by Michel Foucault and others who say it is a romantic reconstruction of the past based on little or no fact. Foucault studies different understandings – in postmodern terms, constructions – of the self throughout Western history. He touches on themes like dream analysis and the sacrament of confession. But it seems he never really experiences the numinous in a mature way. Like many intelligent but overtly conceptual thinkers, his only understanding of spirituality comes from experimenting with mind-altering drugs.

The American mythographer Joseph Campbell builds on Jung’s work, suggesting that moderns can enjoy a sense of the numinous and feel spiritually connected to all of creation through archetypal films like Star Wars

Campbell implies that, contrary to what some might say, Europeans do not have a monopoly on deep culture. Culture is alive and well in North America—not so much through majestic old buildings and the classical arts but through the staggering achievements of Hollywood, the media, technology, and a higher standard of living. However, Campbell also appreciates the great cultural riches of European and most other civilizations.³

Darth Vader as a dark archetypal image – Vader has insight but uses it to destroy and conquer rather than to build up and share

Participation mystique is a pivotal idea because it links the individual to something greater than secular materialism. It opens the door to inner exploration and social dialog, both important and best kept in balance. Inner exploration without sincere dialog could lead to madness or charismatic authoritarianism. And social dialog without inner exploration might contribute to the same old worldly ideas being tossed around without any real insight, inspiration or meaningful innovation.

¹ Lucien Lévi-Bruhl, How Natives Think, trans. Lilian A. Clare, New York: Washington Square Press, 1966 [1910],  p. 61.

² The Romanian scholar, Mircea Eliade, says much the same thing in his own critique of modern culture. In Myth and Reality Eliade claims that mid-20th century comics like Superman “present the modern version of mythological or folklore Heroes” (New York: Harper & Row 1963, pp. 184-185).

³ These observations refer to about 1949-1987, when Campbell’s influence was at its peak. Everything has changed since then. I once knew a professor who came to Canada from a European country while it was under the grip of communism. Unlike Campbell, this professor implied that European culture was vastly superior to North American culture, the unanswered question being: If the professor likes the old country so much, why is he still in North America?

Johann Heinrich Füssli, Le Cauchemar (The Nightmare), 1781 via Wikipedia

Related » Representation, Transference, Vampires

 Why I Crave a Life of Disorder. (elephantjournal.com)

 Macbeth Buxton International Festival, review (telegraph.co.uk)


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Freudian Slips – Glitch in the machine or key to countless possibilities?

FC&P New York Cocktail Party shoot: Is he envious of my ciggie?

Alexandra Xubersnak – FC&P New York Cocktail Party shoot: Is he envious of my ciggie? via Flickr

Parapraxis, the Freudian Slip

Parapraxis is an obscure word for a pretty common idea—The Freudian Slip. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was the first to try to analytically explain its occurrence.

In the Psychopathology of Everyday Life Freud says parapraxes are unintentional acts resulting from an unconscious wish, desire, attitude or thought.¹

This could involve forgetting names and sequences of words. But classic examples of parapraxes are slips of the pen or tongue.

Imagine a guest at a cocktail party accidentally saying, “I love your horse” instead of, “I love your house.”

For Freud, the hidden, unconscious meaning of the slip points to the person making it. From the above, the slip-maker could be an avid equestrian or, more in line with Freudian thinking, an intensely sexual person (the horse being a traditional symbol of virility).

miss_millions – my freudian slip(pers) via Flickr

Along with aggression, Freud attributed tremendous significance to the libido. The example for “Freudian slip” given at Wikipedia is even more directly related to sex, which again, for Freud is one of two innate drives.²

In general use, the term ‘Freudian slip’ has been debased to refer to any accidental slips of the tongue. Thus many examples are found in explanations and dictionaries which do not strictly fit the psychoanalytic definition.

For example: She: ‘What would you like—bread and butter, or cake?’ He: ‘Bed and butter.’³

Jung’s Challenge

Freud’s best student C. G. Jung was also keen on studying parapraxes. Becoming a luminary in his own right, Jung tried to explain parapraxes in relation to the shadow.

Jung’s idea of the shadow is both personal and collective. An irruption of shadow contents into daytime life could arise from an unresolved personal complex, the greater forces of the collective unconscious or some combination of the two.

Contrary to Freud’s theory, Jung says that slips do not necessarily point to the person making them. Not exclusively, at any rate. Jung believes that slips can involve an entire situation among several or many people, near or possibly across distance and time.

Freud recognizes the importance of others in the formation of the unconscious. But unlike Jung, he doesn’t talk about instantaneous, thematic connections across distance and time. So Jung arguably prefigures today’s transpersonal psychology, whereas Freud does not. In fact, Freud’s private letters ridicule Jung’s interest in parapsychology.4

Mankind the Information Processor

Like most things in life, there are even more alternative explanations for Freudian slips.

For many secular people accepting cognitive psychology5 there is no need for a personal unconscious or greater, transpersonal connectivity. A purely cognitive theory of parapraxes goes like this:

In contrast to psychoanalytic theorists, cognitive psychologists say that linguistic slips can represent a sequencing conflict in grammar production. From this perspective, slips may be due to cognitive underspecification that can take a variety of forms – inattention, incomplete sense data or insufficient knowledge. Secondly, they may be due to the existence of some locally appropriate response pattern that is strongly primed by its prior usage, recent activation or emotional change or by the situation calling conditions.

Some sentences are just susceptible to the process of banalisation: the replacement of archaic or unusual expressions with forms that are in more common use. In other words, the errors were due to strong habit substitution.6

Image via Wikipedia

Meaning, Wisdom and Everlasting Life

There may well be some truth to this. But cognitive psychologists tend to overlook the possibility that aspects of secular, holistic and theological explanations may actually work best together.7

Many researchers dismiss slips, mistakes and accidents as flukes brought on by stress, distraction, patterning, sleep deprivation or malnutrition. But people like Dr. Charles Brenner believe that parapraxes have profound implications:

In the mind, as in physical nature around us, nothing happens by chance, or in a random way.8

Perhaps one way of differentiating attitudes toward parapraxes is to ask whether we learn something of value from them. Are they just glitches in the machine or is something greater going on?

For me, thinkers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett move through life like horses with blinkers. They see themselves and their world as nothing more than a complex outcome of biochemical processes originally formed by chance. Not unlike robots equipped with sophisticated AI, Dawkins and Dennett may learn how to avoid the next bump in the road after stumbling over the first one. And they may learn how to maximize pleasurable activity.

The full human being, however, is so much more. From life’s lessons we acquire enhanced spiritual meaning and wisdom, which far surpasses the mere avoidance of stumbling blocks and pursuit of ephemeral pleasures.

Image via Wikipedia

¹ Sigmund Freud, Psychopathology of Everyday Life. London: Penguin, 2002 [1901].

² Freud postulates innate drives for sex and aggression, which later came to include Sabina Spielrein‘s thanatos, or death instinct.

³ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freudian_slip

4 See my PhD, p. 283-284.

5 Usually seen as somewhat flimsy science, even among scientists.

6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freudian_slip

Just as Intelligent Design attempts to fuse Darwinism and Creationism, several explanations may better approximate reality than only one.

Charles Brenner, M.D. Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis. New York: Anchor Books, 1957, p.2. This worldview matches my own and perhaps the meaning of the ancient Greek word Kairos – things happening “at the right time.” Kairos in the New Testament (composed in Greek) means at “the appointed time in the purpose of God.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos

Related » Parapraxes, Accidents and Necessary Mistakes

 Top 10 Crazy Facts About Psychiatry In The 19th Century (listverse.com)

 6 Marketing Insights Pulled Straight from a Psych.101 Textbook (grasshopper.com)

 Three lessons to fix America and prevent global decline (scroll.in)

 Doctor’s Diary: How to treat nightmares (telegraph.co.uk)


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Rona and other myths undercut our cosmological arrogance

In Oceanic mythology Rona is a fierce female cannibal who eats her beautiful daughter’s lover.¹

Another Oceanic myth tells of a male god, Rona, who fights the moon to rescue his abducted wife.² According to this story, when the moon tires from the battle with Rona, it wanes. When the moon regains its strength, it waxes.

This is a good example of what might be called alternative logic, lateral thinking or, for some, anthropomorphism. From his fieldwork, the depth psychiatrist Carl Jung observed that archaic myths are logical and meaningful to so-called primitives, just as scientific explanations appear logical and meaningful to many so-called advanced, thinking persons.

More recently, postmodern critiques of science tend to view theories as working myths or fictions instead of facts. This makes sense if one is willing to admit bias and the limits of human understanding.

English: Karl Popper in 1990.

Karl Popper in 1990 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Take Karl Popper, for instance. He points out that scientific theories are never really proved, per se, but only supported. Also, scientific theories are subject to falsification, modification or radical change through, as T. Kuhn suggests, a paradigm shift. We know that Newton’s Laws of Motion perform well for conventional problems. But Einstein’s work is required for areas that Newton couldn’t observe and probably didn’t imagine.³

Somewhat ahead of his time, Jung says he treated so-called primitives with respect and, when interviewing local elders and tribesmen, didn’t challenge their beliefs or try to convert them to a modern scientific or, for that matter, Protestant Christian perspective.4

A considerate move on Jung’s part. Imagine if advanced extraterrestrials publicly visited Earth. Let’s say the visitors could see beyond our common view of directional time and the (apparent) solidity of matter. These beliefs are important to the functioning and psychological security of 21st century mankind. So if ETs revealed too much knowledge too fast, they’d likely blow our minds as David Bowie put it in the song “Starman.”

Likewise, had Jung tried to convince indigenous peoples that the sun’s rising did not depend on contemplation and sacrifice but, rather, the Earth’s natural rotation, he might have upset their psychological wellness.5

This raises questions about our “developed” cosmological assumptions and how they tie in to the idea of progress. Clearly this topic can go in many directions. I touch on some of these in entries on numinosity, spirituality, mysticismscience, psychiatry and scientism, among others.

¹ See http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/om/om08.htm for the source of these and also for this Wikipedia retelling:

According to Māori legend, a Ngaio tree can be seen on the moon:

The man in the moon becomes, in Māori legend, a woman, one Rona by name. This lady, it seems, once had occasion to go by night for water to a stream. In her hand she carried an empty calabash. Stumbling in the dark over stones and the roots of trees she hurt her shoeless feet and began to abuse the moon, then hidden behind clouds, hurling at it some such epithet as “You old tattooed face, there!” But the moon-goddess heard, and reaching down caught up the insulting Rona, calabash and all, into the sky. In vain the frightened woman clutched, as she rose, the tops of a ngaio-tree. The roots gave way, and Rona with her calabash and her tree are placed in the front of the moon for ever, an awful warning to all who are tempted to mock at divinities in their haste.

English: Hand-colored photograph of Carl Jung ...

Hand-colored photograph of Carl Jung in USA, published in 1910 (Photo: Wikipedia)

² Ibid.

³ See Reddit – Ask Science.

My PhD thesis suggests that Jung thinks and behaves like a postmodern before the idea of postmodernism becomes fashionable. Jung’s father, Paul, was a Protestant minister who said Carl had to “believe.” Jung later writes that he doesn’t know how he is to find this belief. With access to his father’s theological library, the young Jung took to Latin and religious studies like a dove to water.

Jung interviewed a Hopi elder and other Native Americans who held these beliefs. See cgjungpage.org.


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Emanuel Swedenborg – Mystic or Misguided?

Emanuel Swedenborg  (1688-1772) was a Swedish scientist who, after recovering from a psychological crisis, became a mystic claiming to speak on a regular basis with angelic, alien and demonic beings.

Although thought-provoking and laid out in an orderly manner, some of Swedenborg’s writings seem questionable.

Emanuel Swedenborg at age of 75, holding the manuscript of Apocalypsis Revelata (1766)

He writes, for instance, that spirits told him people lived in wooden buildings and tents on the planet Jupiter:

Their dwellings were also shown me. They are lowly dwellings constructed of wood; but within they are lined with bark or cork of a pale blue colour, and the walls and ceiling are spotted as with stars, to represent the heaven; for they are fond of picturing the visible heaven with its constellations in the interiors of their houses, the reason being that they believe the constellations to be the abodes of the angels. They have tents also, which are rounded off above and extended in length, spotted likewise within with stars on a blue ground. They retire into these in the day-time, to prevent their faces suffering from the heat of the sun. They bestow much care on the fashioning of these tents of theirs, and on keeping them clean. In them they also take their repasts.¹

Similarly, a spirit from the moon apparently told Swedenborg that the voices of that satellite’s inhabitants “made a loud thundering sound.”

With no atmosphere on the moon’s surface, necessary for sound waves and hence hearing, one wonders how this could be possible.

It’s easy to assume that Swedenborg’s accounts simply reflect the popular imagination of his day, suggesting that he was a quack, charlatan or, as some might put it today, mentally ill. But one could argue that some of the problems with his far-fetched claims arise from translation and interpretation, along with his human limitations inherent to living in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Swedenborgs Flying Machine (via Thomas Roche)

Swedenborg’s Flying Machine (via Thomas Roche)

Swedenborgians could argue, for instance, that the beings on the moon weren’t physical but composed of energy or spirit—likewise with regard to the apparent “sound” they made.

Whatever the truth may be, the psychiatrist Carl Jung notes that Swedenborg did have an accurate precognition of a great fire in Stockholm.

With regard to Christianity, Swedenborg’s work presents a novel and creative interpretation of that religion. He suggests that everything occurring in this life corresponds to a cosmic body, which he calls “The Universal Human.” And the different races of mankind apparently correspond to different regions of The Universal Human.

Likewise, Swedenborg says individual merits during Earthly life correspond to favorable afterlife regions in the cosmic body, such as the brain or the eye. But those who lead evil lives end up in undesirable, filth-ridden regions, such as the liver or intestines.

Swedenborg wrote copiously about demonic beings whose sole intent is to drain energy from the living, causing severe pain and distress.

With regard to the idea of the Trinity, Rev. Glenn “Mac” at GlennFrazier.com adds:

Since you mention Swedenborg, it might be worth pointing out that he explicitly spoke up against the idea of a trinity of persons. According to his theology (in, e.g., his book, True Christian Religion), Jehovah the Father and Jesus the Son were not only one God, but also the one and only one person of God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the activity of that person, and not a seperate person in its own right. This is somewhat similar to Michael Servetus’ ideas expressed a good deal earlier in his “Errors of the Trinity”. Swedenborg’s idea of a trinity of essentials, rather than of persons, should not be confused with modalism—the idea of there being one God that at various times takes on different functions or modes in sequence. To Swedenborg, the Father was literally God’s soul, the Son his body, and the Spirit his influence/activity, not by analogy, but actually. » See in context

Swedenborg was not only interested in the inner life. Like other historical innovators, he tried to devise technological contraptions that would, in due time, appear in some other form, such as a flying machine (pictured 2nd image above).

Swedenborg’s work has been compiled, edited and commented on by the Swedenborg Foundation.

A student of Swedenborg’s works, Judah, adds:

A final thought: while I enjoy pondering the existence of life on other planets, I find it more enjoyable – and meaningful – to explore the ideas in Swedenborg’s writings that have to do with wisely loving my fellow human beings and our creator – the Divine Human. » See in context

Related » Aliens, Angels, Demons, Vampires

On the Web:

  • Rock and roll song dealing with Swedenborg’s ideas:

¹ Earths in our Solar System which are called Planets and Earths in the Starry Heaven: Their Inhabitants, and the Spirits and Angels there from things Heard and Seen from the Latin of Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedenborg Society, London: 1962, par 59.


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The Shadow

Keira Knightley at the presser for A Dangerous Method, a movie that explores the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud at TiFF in Toronto. September 10, 2011

In the psychology of C. G. Jung, the shadow is the unconscious, evil side of human nature.

The shadow apparently is one of the first aspects of the unconscious psyche encountered in Jungian analysis.

Jung says its positive side is expressed through creativity and humor. According to this view, the representation of the shadow’s darkness in non-violent, socially acceptable channels (e.g. art, music, literature, photography or controlled “acting out”) facilitates mastering it. Otherwise, the shadow could conceivably control the ego.

Marina del Castell Shadow puppetry

If merely repressed, Jung says the shadow might find an opening through the cracks of the psyche and momentarily express itself in disturbing ways. This view depends on a model of the psyche where psychic energy is always seeking expression. If overly contained, psychic energy might boil over and “flip its lid” like a covered pot on a stove with no steam vents.

This might account for the cruel actions toward children by Sister Francesca at the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa.

Another version of the shadow appears as a comic strip, pop culture figure, “Only the shadow knows…” And more recently, the science fiction TV program, Lexx, features His Divine Shadow as the archdeacon of darkness.

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jung and other figures like Mircea Eliade and Joseph Campbell argued that the shadow carries or evokes some degree of numinosity. So if we go to a movie and become fascinated say, with the Joker (Batman) or Darth Vader (Star Wars), we’re almost having a kind of “religious” experience in that we’re going beyond our everyday consciousness into something different and captivating.

Debates continue in religion, the humanities and social sciences as to whether this kind of practice is a healthy venting (or possibly redirection) of unavoidable negative impulses or something that simply fans the flames of evil.

Earthpages.org:

Related » Archetype, Darth Vader, Demons, Dracula, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Self, Steppenwolf, Trickster, Vampires, Witch, Yoni