“I had to follow the ineradicable foolishness which furnishes the steps to true wisdom.”
― C.G. Jung
Culture is a hidden tyrant. As the word defines, a culture is a container for specific kinds of growth. In biology and community alike, culture can have amazing results when tended to with wisdom and skill. Without such, culture will likely go significantly, even tragically wrong. At a glance, we have been heading in the latter direction, being cultured in that direction, for quite some time. That said, I cultivate the view of the alchemist, and as such, see that our cooking in our shadows is right on track for the whole operation we are undergoing. Only in the patient deepening of the night do we become the light.
Our cultures are containers that encourage and even enforce our lines of growth, primarily on mental-emotional levels, which then dictate all else. Our cultures have taken us into this fun house of distorted mirrors for the personality and have created our current situations of enlarged and inflamed images of self. Our cultures have delivered us into the hero-worshiping mentality of “success no matter what,” which has us the servants of ideals rather than vice versa. Culture has wrapped us up in the positive reinforcement of negativity to the degree that we’ve mistaken negativity for being stoic or, even worse, “truly honest.”
Culture has pushed us, overtly and covertly, to develop along these lines. Yet it need not be this way. Culture is a mysterious, wily beast, but it can be harnessed and steered in a direction that genuinely benefits those participating. It can be the container for the emergence of a vibrant, living society that thrives on the mysterious paradox of the individual and collective being in perfect harmony. It can help us grow a human world that we could never plan or successfully try to make happen. Culture is often the villain, but it is also the process through which we can find our way beyond.
I don’t see us doing so until we have more collective energy at the forefront of our consciousness. I don’t mean more thinking about the collective or acting in ways we think will benefit the collective. Both of these views are tainted with our hero culture. While they can often be very helpful bandages on the wounds we are self-inflicting on the world, they arise from the self-definition of the hero mirror and will nurture that sense of separation in everything they touch.
Going in the opposite direction is just as useful and just as damaging. To be a selfless servant in our cultures is no more than another form of self-aggrandizement. While it can do some good, it encourages hidden judgment and reinforces separation. Both the heroic savior and the heroic servant are likely very much needed at times but ultimately are nothing more than first-aid on the battlefield of society. We need not turn them into villains, but we must also be careful not to mistake them for what they claim to be.
To get where I sense we are trying to go, we must take a mysterious path rife with paradoxes and less-than-logical forms of rationality. Finding a world where the individual can thrive within a harmonious collective will take a radical perspective shift. That said, it need not happen all at once. In fact, it will be better for us all if it is a slow process. We all want radical change right now, like toddlers want their cookies, but this is not how true craft is developed. It takes many seasons of the long-cultivated life to bring forth something truly worthy of experiencing.
As more people turn towards intuition development, inner visioning practices such as shamanic journeying, chakra development and energy healing, as more people turn towards their soul-making by reclaiming their grief and joy and forging them into rituals that hone their sense of interconnection, we see an emergent gloaming of what I would call a psychic culture. This is a culture in which our permeabilities to ourselves, each other, nature, the city and world of machines, and the whole universe are explored, made ever more mutually beneficial, and cultivated consciously.
It includes empathy and compassion as the hidden esoteric portals into other worlds that, when seen in their true light, are revealed to be paths of profound warriorship. It includes telepathy, in its original sense of “feeling from afar,” with the hidden layers of self, other and environment. It consists of relaxing into the collective nervous system to contribute to digesting life and simultaneously use the whole to help us integrate our personal experience. It includes healing the outcast, marginalized, victimized, villainized, lost, forgotten, disposed and denied that dwell in the spaces between us which we are meant to inhabit but instead where we have imprisoned our raw soul materials, our wounds, in a psychic wall of ignorance, pain, and terror.
We are best not to try and push ourselves into the cognition of such a radical reclaiming of understanding. For certain, the pressure cooker has built up a lot of steam, and it needs to be skillfully let out, or the whole thing will blow. That said, trying to open it too fast, too far too soon, or even to try and break it open would surely result in having to start the whole thing over from the beginning. We must cultivate ourselves, our relations, our collectives, and our cultures as crafts of true skill, as masterful artists. And strangely, skillfully, and maturely, we must also persist in our folly.
“To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.
We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.
Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.
So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.”
― John O’Donohue