I feared that I had somehow lost my ability and inspiration to write, some time ago. Part of it certainly was a particular brand of apathy towards writing, but on the other hand has been a lot of change and growth in how I think of and experience the world. I’m not sure if I could really pin it down in a single blog post, though. So I’ll simply choose a topic.
I find myself often navigating a strange combination of beliefs in my personal life. Fundamentally, I have been for quite a long time a non-theist. If non-theism were to be an umbrella descriptor for a part of my psyche, it would be the humanist, the rationalist, the lover of math and science, the one who thinks critically about life and probably even thinks a little too much. This is one side of a particular dualism that I mean to take note of here, which I shall label the thinker.
The other side of this pair of opposites is the part of my beliefs that defy our current scientific understanding of the universe. This is the me that studies Tarot, Magick, and Kabbalah, the part that considers the possibilities of ghosts and the astral realm, and who considers conspiracy theories’ possibilities. These beliefs are also connected to the parts of me that are the dreamer, the artist, the one who acts upon instinct without second thoughts, who is unafraid to imagine the possibility of anything and even pursue it. We’ll call this the dreamer.
In taking a Jungian point of view on things, I believe that the dreamer is truly important to embrace. The dreamer might believe things that are improbable, unprovable, or even a bit irrational. When I let the dreamer take hold of me, it becomes a great source of inspiration and happiness for me. The world becomes more vivid, its depth becomes unfathomably deep, and the richness of its context defies description.
Yet if I let it run wild, I tend to lose sight of the practical side of life, and I lose sight of my commitments and bigger goals in life. It becomes more difficult to remain stable. It is as if there is a threshold which upon crossing, the ecstasy and joy of embracing the dreamer begins to warp my reality out of shape so much that I start slipping away from the very things in this world that satisfy me most. It is like a story where one enters a mystical dream world full of wonder, and after some time in this place of fantasy, one falls under the spell of some sorcerer, pursued by a monster, or trapped in living vines or underwater… To escape is to return to the paradigm of reality. One cannot stay too long in the realm of dreams before getting lost.
The paradigm of the thinker has been my primary vehicle in this life. I more easily identify with it. Perhaps it is because it is fundamentally the conscious thinker, in the most literal sense, but perhaps also because for many years of my young adult life, my relationship with the other half was very weak.
Thinking is problem solving. I’ve typically been very good at this, in my life. In fact, more often than not I pleasurably find myself in a role working with someone who is more of a dreamer- someone with great ideas and big goals to create something- working with them as an assistant of sorts, to find a practical way to bring their dreams into reality. Kind of like a midwife for brain-babies.
If one were to pull an idea from the dreamer’s deck of Tarot cards, a mind is like the suit of swords. When sharp, it is able to cut through illusion. We cultivate our intellect and ability to reason so that we can navigate reality to a finite set of problems that are within our ability to solve. One step at a time, we are able to make progress and shape reality according to our perspective and intention. “Manifest Destiny,” said the American settler to the Wild West, and so does the rational mind to the unclaimed and infinite space of the unknown, until one day allegedly we will become know-it-all’s that know it all.
But I have experienced first-hand the thinker that spirals out of control. The allegorical sword is sharp to cut on both edges. What ability we have to slice through illusion may cut away at our own foundations of Self. For instance, as the alcoholic (Ha! I can’t blog without mentioning alcoholism!), the mind has doubled-back on oneself as we use reason to justify the most toxic behaviors and perspectives. The mind thinks so hard that it burns itself out on an endless feedback loop of chattering ego. The thinker has become so obsessed with himself that reality seems to warp into a static and lifeless desert, devoid of hope and without change. We become trapped in a frozen bubble of our own thinking and cease to see possibilities beyond our own unimaginitive conclusions. Self-fulfilling prophecies based upon fears and judgemental biases become our reality.
In C. Jung’s work, “Man and His Symbols,” he discusses very acutely the problem of suppressing the unconscious (synonymous with “the Dreamer”). This to me is reminiscent of the psychological disorder of alcoholism. But there is more to it than that; this is an oversimplification.
Both examples of the dreamer and the thinker overpowering the psyche are representations of imbalances, in one direction or the other. In Tarot and Kabbalah, we play with the idea of polarity. Take for instance the Major Arcana of the High Priestess. She sits between two pillars, one black, one white. In Kabbalah, there are three pillars on the Tree of Life. The center is balanced (As is the High Priestess), but the pillars of Mercy and Severity correlate respectively with passivity and activity. The passive, or receptive, mind (think of receptivity as like a container or vessel, which holds liquid; water is like the unconscious) is what I am referring to as the dreamer. The active mind (again, intellect/action, like a sword that cuts) is the thinker.
With either of these polarities out of balance, we have certain types of problems that arise. This is a very non-scientific way of approaching reality, and some people find distaste in it. Certainly, a modern doctor would much rather diagnose someone with ADHD or as bi-polar, etc., and offer a pharmaceutical or therapeutic solution. Yet, as I explore the writings of Jung more deeply, I see his reasoning in exploring the unconscious as a method of healing or interpreting the world. There are few to no absolutes or static archetypes within the unconscious and the unconscious mind is extremely individualistic and dynamic. Does this make the study of the unconscious mind somewhat unscientific?
One could say, “Okay Lucas, I get Jungian psychology, but how can a non-theist put serious stock in mysticism?”
I don’t know. I think about it often. I think it’s peculiar that, for my rational rejection of the concept of God, I still put stock in non-theistic yet mystical ideas. The no-bullshit answer is that if I believe it, it’s because, first and foremost, I want to, and I like the idea. But that’s insufficient.
I was listening to a podcast of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s (StarTalk), and he said something that I thought was wonderfully poignant, which is, “…people think that the criteria for believing something is whether or not it feels good.” This demonstrates a certain problem with my point of view, to an extent.
In looking at arts such as Tarot in the light of unconscious manifestation, one sees within the imagery, symbolism, and numerology, that these are tools of the unconscious. I tend to think it a bit different than, say, a group using an Ouija board to communicate with spirits. Of course with Tarot, the amount of stock one puts in the divinatory aspect of the cards can affect this line of questioning significantly. But it we utilize these cards as a method of navigating the unconscious mind, to explore our notions of self, our hopes and fears, and the relationships we hold with the objects and individuals in our lives, the mysticism begins to lend itself to an awakening of the aspect of our mind that is the dreamer.
Now, perhaps I’m just fooling myself and it’s another case of bias confirmation. I’m not really ever certain, but I try my best not to fool myself. There are plenty of conspiracy theories I’m inclined to believe that are certainly loaded with evidence of circumstance, which proves little to nothing, and is more or less fodder for the imagination. Yet, when I put stock in the belief of one of these theories, I force myself to acknowledge my bias. When I can admit that to myself openly, it allows me to retain the possibility that I am absolutely wrong, and this in turn allows me to keep an open mind to shift my beliefs if confronted with new evidence or the natural shift in my perspective on a given topic.
Regardless of the particular peculiarities of my individual set of beliefs, the underlying quality behind these beliefs I take the most stock in is how they shape my life. What do I create? Am I happy with myself? Do I have a positive outlook on my life and humanity? How are my relationships? These and many other questions like them are the ones that mean the most to me. These days, more than any I can remember in the past, I feel that the thinker and the dreamer in me get along pretty well. I know some of the things I believe don’t exactly match up with the best scientific evidence out there, but these quirky perspectives also have a wonderful effect on my creativity and perspective on life. That being said, the rational side of me functions pretty well, and I am not afraid to get to the root of my own mistakes or mistaken beliefs and work on cultivating a better understanding of myself and the world around me. I am always hungry for knowledge, and I love learning as much as much as I love dreaming- I love these as I love life itself.
The last thing I’ll say is that, I think it’s important to allow oneself to believe things that are not proven. To be clear, I don’t advocate believing things that have reasonably been disproven (ie. Creationism, the Bible was written by God, the Sun rotates around Earth, etc.), but am referring to realms of possibility that have yet to be fully or successfully explored. The search for Quantum Gravity is a great scientific example of this. The Astral Realm is an excellent example in metaphysics. Both of these are great examples of things I don’t know shit about but am really fascinated by.
I could write so much more, but this is already quite long. Cheers for reading to the end of this blog!
Alright! It’s the end of the year and everyone’s got their end of the year lists! Here’s mine:
Top ten things I don’t give a fuck about: