In general the people asseverated the Creator had made everything good and beautiful. He was beyond good and evil. He was m’zuri, that is, beautiful, and everything he did was m’zuri.
When I asked: “But what about the wicked animals who kill your cattle?” they said, “The lion is good and beautiful.” “And your horrible diseases?” They said, “You lie in the sun and it is good.”
I was impressed by this optimism. But at six o’clock in the evening this optimism was suddenly over, as I soon discovered. From sunset on, it was a different world – the dark world of ayik, of evil, danger, fear. The optimistic philosophy gave way to fear of ghosts and magical practices intended to secure protection from evil. Without any inner contradiction the optimism returned at dawn.
It was a profoundly stirring experience for me to find, at the sources of the Nile, this remainder of the ancient Egyptian conception of the two acolytes of Osiris, Horus and Set. Here, evidently, was a primordial African experience that had flowed down to the coasts of the Nile: adhista, the rising sun, the principle of light like Horus; ayik, the principle of darkness, the breeder of fear. In the simple rites performed for the dead, laibon’s words and his sprinkling of milk unite the opposites; he simultaneously sacrifices to these two principles, which are of equal power and significance since the time of their dominance, the rule of day and of night, each visibly lasts for twelve hours. The important thing, however, is the moment when, with the typical sudden-ness of the tropics, the first ray of light shoots forth like an arrow and night passes into life-filled light.
The sunrise in these latitudes was a phenomenon that overwhelmed me anew every day. The drama of it lay less in the splendor of the sun’s shooting up over the horizon than in what happened afterward. I formed the habit of taking my camp stool and sitting under an umbrella acacia just before dawn. Before me, at the bottom of the little valley, lay a dark, almost back-green strip of jungle, with the rim of the plateau on the opposite side of the valley towering above it. At first, the contrasts between light and darkness would be extremely sharp. Then objects would assume contour and emerge into the light which seemed to fill the valley with a compact brightness. The horizon above became radiantly white. Gradually the swelling light seemed to penetrate into the very structure of objects, which became illuminated from within until at last they shone translucently, like bits of colored glass. Everything turned to flaming crystal. The cry of the bell bird rang around the horizon. At such moments I felt as if I were inside a temple. It was the most sacred hour of the day, I drank in this glory with insatiable delight, or rather, in a timeless ecstasy.
Near my observation point was a high cliff inhabited by big baboons. Every morning they sat quietly, almost motionless, on the ridge of the cliff facing the sun, whereas throughout the rest of the day they ranged noisily through the forest, screeching and chattering. Like me, the seemed to be waiting for the sunrise. They reminded me of the great baboons of the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt, which perform the gesture of adoration. They tell the same story: for untold ages men have worshipped the great god who redeems the world by rising out of the darkness as a radiant light in the heavens.
At that time I understood that within the soul from its primordial beginnings there has been a desire for light and an irrepressible urge to rise out of the primordial darkness. When the great night comes, everything takes on a note of deep dejection, and every soul is seized by an inexpressible longing for light. That is the pent-up feeling that can be detected in the eyes of primitives and also in the eyes of animals. There is a sadness in animals’ eyes, and we never know whether that sadness is bound up with the soul of the animal or is a poignant message which speaks to us our of that still unconscious existence. That sadness also reflects the mood of Africa, the experience of its solitudes. It is a maternal mystery, this primordial darkness. That is why the sun’s birth in the morning strikes the natives as so overwhelmingly meaningful. The moment in which light comes is God. That moment brings redemption, release. To say that sun is God is to blur and forget the archetypal experience of that moment. “We are glad that the night when the spirits are abroad is over now,” the natives will say – but that is already a rationalization. In reality a darkness altogether different from natural light broods over the land. It is the psychic primal night which is the same today as it has been for countless millions of years. The longing for light is the longing for consciousness.
– Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by C.G. Jung
Quite the tag line, huh? I couldn’t resist.
Funny enough, I arrived at my current incredibly positive take on death logically. I believe that life’s troubles are caused by an unhealthy relationship with things that are easily craved or averted, calling them unhealthy attachments. But, all attachments have a positive side. For example, a little beer makes you feel good but too much makes you feel bad. Craving beer when you aren’t getting it can also be a pain. But, none of that will change the fact that a little beer makes you feel good, which is GREAT!
In trying to find balance in my own life, I started to realize that being human simply means that you are stuck to an imperfect body. Things go wrong and it can kind of drag you down sometimes. There is definitely a “burden of life”, and through that down payment you get all of the wonderful things about life! (The “gift of life”) So, at the end of the day, our biggest and one most absolutely unavoidable attachment is the attachment to life itself – the deep connection between our soul and our body.
I have recently personally experienced some incredible releases of old attachments. The feeling of passing through critical doors that once seemed impossibly blocked is indescribable. When I think of death, I can’t help but think of how it comes with the release from the deepest attachment we will ever know.
It seems like there is a period of time just before a transition happens or an event ends where the mind accepts that the change is inevitable, and the release from the attachment begins. I feel this every race about 10-15% from the finish line. You can probably relate, the burden just gets lighter. I can’t imagine what that experience would be like when it comes to death.
“Remember the clear light, the pure clear white light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns; the original nature of your own mind. The natural state of the universe unmanifest. Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home.”
– Tibetan Book of the Dead
What is really incredible to me is now this plays out in everyday life for you and me, just on a much smaller scale. That’s the magic.
[I:] I feel that I must speak to you. Why do you not let me sleep, as I am tired? I feel that the disturbance comes from you. What induces you to keep me awake?
[Soul:] Now is no time to sleep, but you should be awake and prepare important matters in nocturnal work.
The great work begins.
[I:] What great work?
[Soul:] The work that should now be undertaken. It is a great and difficult work. There is no time to sleep, if you find no time during the day to remain in the work.
[I:] But I had no idea that something of this kind was taking place.
[Soul:] But you could have told by the fact that I have been disturbing your sleep for a long time. You have been too unconscious for a long time. Now you must go to a higher level of consciousness.
[I:] I am ready. What is it? Speak!
[Soul:] You should listen: to no longer be a Christian is easy. But what next? For more is yet to come. Everything is waiting for you. And you? You remain silent and have nothing to say. But you should speak. Why have you received the revelation? You should not hide it. You concern yourself with the form? Is the form important, when it is a matter of revelation’s?
How about this for deep research:
“Liber Novus this presents a series of active imaginations together with Jung’s attempt to understand their significance. This work of understanding encompasses a number of interlinked threads: an attempt to understand himself and to integrate and develop various components of his personality; an attempt to understand the structure of the human personality in general; an attempt to understand the relation of the individual to present-day society and to the community of the dead; an attempt to understand the psychological and historical effects of Christianity; and an attempt to traps the future religious development of the West. Jung discusses many other themes in the work, including the nature of self-knowledge; the nature of the soul; the relations of thinking and feeling and the psychological types; the relation of inner and outer masculinity and femininity; the uniting of opposites; solitude; the value of scholarship and learning; the status of science; the significance of symbols and how they are to be understood; the meaning of the war; madness, divine madness, and psychiatry; how the Imitation of Christ is to be understood today; the death of God; the historical significance of Nietzsche, and the relation of magic and reason.”
Wow. That pretty much covers all of the areas of study that I can think of. Just “self-knowledge” and nature of the soul would be plenty!
Visualization is an incredibly powerful tool. In fact, to say it’s a “tool” might distract from the fact that I believe it is almost the most important part of your very essence.
When you believe something completely, it becomes as real in your mind as it is in the rest of the world. It is incredible how much power your intangible mind has on the physical world as well. “If you believe in yourself.” Those familiar words are more true than most of us care to understand. It’s not only in yourself, but anything which you can believe.
Think positive, and positive will happen. Think health and purity, and that will happen too. This is what imagination is all about.
The other day I was in a meditation class and the teacher was explaining to us how the mind has no color, shape, or weight. He was teaching that the mind has no tangible existence in the world. I felt like my response was a little too deep for the context of the class, but I thought to myself that your mind absolutely has a tangible nature in the world – it’s the effects that your mind has on your experience in the world and how you shape the world around you that is the physical embodiment of your mind.
The tree was standing, now the tree is cut. You cut it down. The thoughts in your mind that lead you to do that look exactly like that tree laying on the ground.
A cold virus is also “intangible.” But, a pale face, a runny nose, a tired person, all these things are what that cold “looks like” in the outside world.
My meditation sessions have become more intense lately. I have decided not to restrict myself to thinking “on task,” but to allow myself to take on imaginary thoughts and sensations things as if they are real, because in a sense they are. The goal is to see what affect believing these things might have on my conscious, more realistic thoughts.
So far, this has lead to some new insights. I have always felt that there was a place near the back of my head that held a sense of clarity and truth. If I center my thoughts and feelings there, it makes me feel very good.
Today I started to feel like the source of these feelings is small and round, and sort of hovering in that space in the back of my head. I decided to do my best to imagine touching the source, and as soon as I did I immediately felt an incredible source of energy surge through me.
I can’t describe what exactly it felt like, but it was very strong. I could do it again, and again, and again.
I am amazed at the power that the mind has over the body, and the world around it. Whenever I manage to clearly visualize something, I gain a small sense of truth about it. The truth becomes more a part of my life, and little pieces of confusion and despair slowly wash away.
Imagine the possibilities of years of practice and training of the mind using this incredibly simple and basically instinctual technique! What could you do with athletics, or music, or with the people around you?
I wonder if any feeling of discomfort is rooted in the need to take an action. I sit at my table and work on the computer. My hips and back get tired and achey, and I need to stand up and move around. My brain gets tired of working on the current problem, and I need to think about sun and flowers and mountains. I sense a strange feeling of lostness or loneliness, and need to preempt an engaging conversation with someone else.
Last night in Jackson Hole I watched a buddhist monk talk about “The Next Step” after reading books and going to talks to learn about Buddhism. His main point was very simple – the next step was to take action.
Funny enough I had come to that conclusion on my own only a few days before. I know a lot about what makes me happy and what doesn’t make me happy. I’ve don’t my homework learning about the rhythm of my life and the ebb and flow of happiness and unhappiness. I had decided that the only thing left was to stand up and engage my mind into the fold.
The monk said that you can learn all you want about the Dharma and Sangha, but if you don’t do it then all your knowledge is in the book, and not in your life. If it’s in the book, then what does it matter?
He moved on to tell us how to take action in the Buddhist fashion. That part went very quickly. He told us to take refuge, either in the Dharma, or your church or equivalent religious structure, and then about prostrations, mediation, and Mala.
The prostrations are meant to humble your spirit. Your identity and ego exist in your face and so should be put down and into the ground to remove the dominating strength of the ego. “Buddha make me humble, Buddha make me humble.”
Of course, the Buddha doesn’t “make me humble,” but the act of submission, or taking refuge in the Buddha (someone who has achieved enlightenment, and therefore representing a teaching to take refuge in), is how you can make yourself humble.
Moving forward I will try to take action, and remind myself to keep taming my mind towards egging in life and not hoping that it will engage me.
Moving forward, the question that I can raise about this now is when do you run out of steam to engage yourself? How long can you? Is it enough to simply remember to engage? Will i forget exactly how to engage?
I imagine that has something to do with where repetitious practices of religious practice come into play.