Bringing It All Together, Part 1
by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
I have twice before mentioned Carl Jung's commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower, a text on Inner Alchemy, or what Jung calls "Chinese yoga'. He brings some very interesting ideas to the general subject of Oriental spirituality vis-a-vis the West, some of which I will try to share in this limited space.
Perhaps a good place to begin is his statement of intent: "It is really my purpose to push aside without mercy the metaphysical claims of all esoteric teaching". This is not an expression of dogmatic atheism, but of a desire to scientifically (psychologically) understand the dynamics of these experiences.
In this context, it needs to be said that he approaches this, and other similar teachings, with great respect. "My admiration for the great Eastern philosophers is as genuine as my attitude towards their metaphysics is irreverent."
He sees this teaching and practice as an attempt to integrate the personality, to bring together the disparate and relatively autonomous components which make up the human experience. He is not entirely explicit about what these components are, but the most prominent is the unconscious. He mostly sees the powers of the unconscious as instinctual 'dark forces' which rule us, rather than the other way around.
I admit to having hoped Jung would have also spoken of a more 'positive' pool of untapped (but tappable) inner reality, something approximating Zhuangzi's Numinous Reservoir. But I suppose this would have led him into metaphysics. To remind the reader, the Numinous Reservoir is, for Zhuangzi (as I understand him), that inner sanctum of our existence where that existence rises from the Source. It the qi spot, sort of speak, of our spiritual selves, "a kind of emptiness" which is our interface with that emptiness from which we arise. Still, despite Jung not having considered 'positive' unconscious forces within, his model works should we choose to include them.
With respect to the unconscious, Jung reminds us that, contrary to consciousness-dominated Western thinking, consciousness arose from the unconscious and is still rooted there. The unconscious is not some pocket on our personality into which we toss unwanted instincts — it is an autonomous force which can come to dominate us entirely. It goes without saying, therefore, that true freedom and autonomy can only be realized when these forces have been understood and integrated into the larger self.
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