One’s perspective goes under water, in a sense, when as Subjects we realize so much of our perception is subjective. This palpable immediacy of our subjectivity continues to cycle as the mystic awakening process unfolds. What Ken Wilber calls the “higher self” in the causal state-stage and what Christian mysticism speaks of in terms of a couple of dark nights overlapping The Illuminative Way, or Illuminatio, is a realm of encounters with archetypes, which serve as the base, or core, of the entire Time-Space Matrix. Yet don’t let the word “illumination” fool you into imagining some vast conspiracy of heartless demi-gods (ie, The Illuminati) ruling the world; the territories of the Illuminative Way, and the Archetypal Sea are anything but demonic or malicious. In fact, this phase tends more towards the opposite of mailice: the problem of being too “good.” The subject, or mystic, can easily subsume too much external material, perhaps out of extreme sensitivity or compassion, so that one’s own self-interest is compromised.
The Archetypal Sea, or causal realm, is like arriving at the climax of the story in your own personal myth, and then suddenly realizing that the real task has become something more mundane. The task becomes this: try to live comfortably with all the gods on Mt. Olympus, without playing favorites. It may be anathema to some religious traditionalists to not play favories, and not be in an exclusive relationship with one’s Deity, yet the mystic traveler inevitably comes to a point where that is exactly what needs to be done. There is a realization that allperceived gods, goddesses, and archetypes are nothing more than one’s own inter-subjective interpolation of one’s direct experience with psycho-spiritual elements. The mystic has, in part, formed his own version of the cosmos. This cosmos is also partly Other, but the aspect of it that is not Other, that is Self, is often what we are inclined to overlook. Our world, as mystics, is simply the resulting ontological domain of a synthesis between our self-sense and interaction with existence. That result then, becomes an object when observed, as Wilber walks us through in The Religion of Tomorrow. Yet these transformations of vantage points and healing are far from mere intellectual processes. This is all an experiential exercise, to be incorporated in our meditations and prayer lives.
The archetypal sea is challenging. Some archetypal essences and symbols can become more difficult than others to balance. As we encounter and experience our own imbalances, we may indeed “wobble,” as Wilber calls it, in the presence of causal-state material. Yet this need not be a crisis; we all have our preferences. One’s particular archetypal preferences, of course, usually resonate with one’s own individual and psychological development. Whatever struggles and sticking points may have occurred in our journeys, have come to take on even bigger forms in this archetypal dance, this balancing and unbalancing of living Mythos. Still, we needn’t journey back (although such journeys back often bear fruit) with a therapist to uncover and heal old developmental wounds, we can dance our way through this higher context, so to speak, reconciling the particular ways in which our issues have manifested themselves into the causal, Archetypal Sea. We can deal with this Eden and this Fall, as if it is part of the one myth, the one story, that changes and never changes, mixing Archetypal Seas with an exiled holy man, weeping by the Rivers of Babylon., where everything has happened, is happening, and will forever happen.
Of course, to extend Cohen’s metaphor, the causal landscape includes Zion as well, though it is a Zion that we recognize not as a culmination but as The Living Cross, crucifying us once more for yet another, deeper, fuller resurrection of Living Wisdom.
But what about good and evil? One wonders. Is the mystic to understand these forces as also being an inter-subjective interpolation, a sort of “personal take on good and evil?” Well, yes. Of course, good and evil as principles exist outside of our own minds; take me out of the world, and there is still good and evil. Yet each cannot help but interact with good and evil through subjectivity, thereby producing some sort of partially psychologized model of heaven and hell, right and wrong, God and Satan, good and evil. Whatever we receive through involution (top down) is received in our own way, on our own time, with our own conscious or unconscious conclusions being made about it. No one receives the heavens purely; no one “feels the Spirit” completely purely – baptized or not, biblically justified or not. It is tainted with original sin, or at least one component of original sin: subjective experience. In a sense, we are creating, or at least managing, what our future afterlife might look like. The concept of Judgment, alas, contains a trace of eternal truth: the discernment we all embody, whether leading to “good choices” or “bad choices,” are always imperfect. And this imperfection becomes the block to God. Whether framed as original sin, hyper-self-consciousness, or simply human limitation, this is our predicament, like it or not. There is no spiritual bypassing our own psychological wounds or individual socialization, whether we pray 100 times a day or not at all. So on some level, an essential piece of the journey is learning the courage “to find one’s own way.” How well we do this often determines how well we swim in the Archetypal Sea.
At a certain point, passages invariably occur in psycho-spiritual development where we must realize that as Yoda (D.T. Suzuki) tells Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back : there is nothing in the cave that we don’t take with us. The Archetypal Sea is me, I realize, and I am the archetypal Sea. Observing that the archetypal sea is all inside of me, I then realize that I can see it and own it as my own inter-subjective creation. I can now observe this creation, disentangle from it somewhat, and begin to make it into an object.
One fear of course is that the power and majesty of God could be lost in such a process, but it’s not God who changes and shifts – it’s our own orientation. God lives in us, and our temple of the Holy Spirit looks different than before. As the modalities and structures of our consciousness change, so does our experience of God. That absolute substance of God, though, never changes.
This is hard work, and again, it’s much more than an intellectual exercise. The waters of the archetypal Sea can present ever-recycling karmic currents, until one collapses in frustration. The currents often appear to even vacuum themselves up in this dizzying land between the God-without and the God-within. But is that what it is? We always risk encountering a convoluted Semiotics with explicitly religious language, and Western philosophy offers refreshingly clearer ontological paradigms than Dogmatic Theology history has. The struggle between secular Western philosophy with the culture of the Catholic church contained within in it an unconscious either/or choice that the church violently imposed on folks during Medieval history. But while the Inquisition and the zeitgeist of it can now be viewed through a 21st century lens to appear like an embarrassing disgrace, to the say the least, there may indeed have been some solid justification at the time to which we are now provincially-in-time blinded.
Throwing God out of the individual, though – however and why-ever it was done – forever derailed much of mainstream Christianity’s self-awareness. An externalized God, who both grants favor and takes it away, no doubt fuels the offering plates of many mega-churches. The reality that Thomas Aquinas bridged the theology of the in-dwelling spirit with the ideas of Aristotle and science is still lost on many. This cultural understanding of God, whether arrived at out of ignorance or as a corpse of intellectual warfare, has become something more an external god than an internal one. People pray to the God out there, and theologians err on the side of knowing God through his book, The Bible, as if the real laboratory exercise is one of Biblical Study, not experiential transformation. The real laboratory still finds us, though, and we are swimming inside our own life, our own growth, and our own dreams. It may be less glamorous to examine the ugly pains of trauma than it is to theorize about theological maxims, in the trauma, in our trauma, lo, in us, is where the jewel is, as the saying goes, buried underneath scars in the spirit of our lotus, coming not with outward show, saying lo here or lo there. OM MANI PADME HUM. The Kingdom of God Is Within You.