I love the ancient Greek dramas and comedies! The works of Sophocles, Euripides and especially Aeschylus I hold very dear to my heart because they are timeless. The themes they dared explore then are as pertinent and crucial now: family, ethics, love, betrayal, duty, honor, dedication and sacrifice, among so many more. Ancient Greek theater and culture represented an incredible flowering of consciousness, the reverberations of which we still feel today.
The reason for my affinity, as well as for the continuing relevance of these cultural achievements, is that they represent a breakthrough of transcendent consciousness within our plane of existence. We often live our lives focused only on what’s right in front of us, our daily living; but in doing so, we miss the majesty and radiance of the consciousness that pervades all things yet transcends them as well. There is something behind the curtain of everyday existence, and every once in a while we are treated to a glimpse of that wondrous transcendence.
Transcendent energy consciousness, as it’s been called, is both immanent (pervades everything and nothing) and transcendent (beyond everything and nothing). It informs everything within the realm of time and space; it has been called, rightly so, I think, the “DNA driver of the soul.” It is what gives motive, what informs everything seen and unseen within our universe, all plants, birds, insects, animals, inorganic materials, stars, molecules, galaxies, and the like.
The wonderful author, Anne Baring, puts it so eloquently and poetically in her book The Divine Femininewhen she says:
For those awakened to this vision, to be born a human being is not to be born into a fallen, flawed world of sin and illusion, cut off from the divine; it is to be born into a world lit by an invisible radiance, ensouled by Divine Presence, graced and sustained by incandescent light and love.”
The human mind is like a telescope, exploring the farthest reaches of consciousness. For this is our task, our very purpose for existing: to pull back the curtain of darkness and to bring as much awareness into the light as we possibly can. We are the vehicles by which the universe comes to know itself!
Man’s task is . . . to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious . . . As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.”
Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, p. 326
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD
The purpose of human existence is the creation of more and more consciousness. This is such a profound statement on the part of the great analyst, Dr. Carl Jung, and one with which I am in complete agreement. We are coming into a new age, one which is bringing together the twin elements of our being: our religious nature and our intellectual (scientific) nature. To quote the wonderful author and Jungian analyst, Edward F. Edinger, from The Creation of Consciousness – Jung’s Myth for Modern Man, p. 57:
If religion is Self-oriented, science is ego-oriented. Religion is based on Eros, science of Logos. The age now dawning will provide a synthesis for this thesis and antithesis. Religion sought linkage, science sought knowledge. The new world view will seek linked knowledge.
. . . A genuinely new goal and purpose for human existence is required. That new goal has been found and articulated by Jung. In his words, ‘Man is the mirror which God holds up before him, or the sense organ with which he apprehends his being.’ “
We are entering a new age of synthesis, a new era of individuation in which we will begin to see with the eyes of the soul. It is both a tremendously fraught and exciting time, and I look ahead with great anticipation as we work to evolve into the spiritual selves we have all been born to be!
The chaos befalling the American Presidential election process, is, I think, reflective of the process of the evolution of consciousness we as a species are presently undergoing. We are well into a process that can best be described, in my view, through the application of Jungian Analysis and the study of our great mythologies.
The author and Jungian analyst, Robert A. Johnson, has done a superb job in describing this process in his seminal work, “He: Understanding Masculine Psychology.” I offer below an extended passage of his work that describes this evolution of consciousness particularly well:
We are apparently in an age where the consciousness of man is advancing from a trinitarian to a quaternarian view. This is one possible and profound way of appraising the extreme chaos of our world is now in. One hears many dreams of modern people, who know nothing consciously of this number symbolism, dreaming of three turning into four. This suggests we are going through an evolution of consciousness from the nice orderly all-masculine concept of reality, the trinitarian view of God, toward a quaternarian view that includes the feminine as well as other elements that are difficult to include if one insists on the old value.
It seems that it is the purpose of evolution now to replace an image of perfection with the concept of completeness or wholeness. Perfection suggests something all pure, with no blemishes, dark spots or questionable areas. Wholeness includes the darkness but combines it with the light elements into a totality more real and whole than any ideal. This is an awesome task, and the question before us is whether mankind is capable of this effort and growth. Ready or not, we are in that process.”
We are moving from the psychology of Hamlet – individuals hopeless divided and unsure – into the psychology of wholeness and unification. We must endeavor to see what we have unconsciously hidden or had repressed into our collective shadows and reintegrate that into our complete selves. Only then will we be able to emerge from the presently climate of dissension, violence and conflict that is the hallmark of humanity today.
The joyous necessity of the dream experience has been embodied by the Greeks in their Apollo: Apollo, the god of all plastic energies, is at the same time the soothsaying god, He, who (as the etymology of the name indicates) is the “shining one,” the deity of light, is also ruler over the beautiful illusion of the inner world of fantasy.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (from the Spirit of Music)
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD
The book, The Birth of Tragedy, was written by the great German Romantic Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, and was first published in 1872. In this seminal work (which ironically received an angry and critical reception at the time), Nietzsche explored classical Greek tragedy and found it to be transcendent, among the best work in human history for its capacity to encapsulate and present the complete human experience – pain and joy, heartbreak and elation.
Classic Greek tragedy peered directly into the cauldron of human misery and adversity and embraced it; it validated humanity by encouraging its fellow citizens to joyfully engage in the sorrows and delights of life, for in doing so the full meaning of it might soon blossom.
Greek tragedy, as Nietzsche insightfully noted, achieved its brilliance through the synthesis of both Dionysian and Apollonian energies, a fusion of irrationality, passion, and wild destructiveness with restraint, order, reason and rationality. Nietzsche felt that this interplay of opposites lay at the heart of the human condition, and our greatest challenges in life involve finding ways to achieve a new synthesis between them in our own experiences.
Nietzsche felt that Greek tragedy suffered with the injection of Socratic rationalism, sapping it of its Dionysian passion and fervor.
This is one of my favorite books; I agree with Nietzsche’s portrayal of the human condition as an interplay between opposing energies. It is only through a careful consideration of these opposites with an eye toward evolving a new synthesis – with each of us acting as intermediaries through our own experience – that consciousness can grow.
“The key to the Grail is compassion, ‘suffering with,’ feeling another’s sorrow as if it were your own. The one who finds the dynamo of compassion is the one who’s found the Grail.”
– Excerpt From: Campbell, Joseph. “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.” Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2011-08-01
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
I wanted to share a little note on living out of compassion in our everyday lives; it’s easy to talk about it, but it’s not always clear how to do it.
Whenever we welcome a new staff member to my medical practice, I sit with him or her and have a short – but important – conversation on what the most important thing is that defines our practice: “We Don’t Do This Merely for Money.”
Our practice (which I call “Feeling Centered Medicine”) rests upon the foundation of building relationships with our patients out of a deep and abiding compassion for who they are, what they are experiencing and what they hope for in their lives. As the quote by the wonderful mythologist Joseph Campbell above explains, compassion is to feel another’s sorrow (or experience) as if it were your own.
We spend time with patients because they put their hopes and trust in us. To serve those in need, those who may be suffering or, at the very least, may be in anguish or distress, is to be given a rare opportunity to assist them in not only healing but attaining a measure of peace and contentment.
Attaining this is simply impossible if our aim was only to pad our bottom line.
I included the above quote to begin this post because Joseph Campbell has left an indelible mark upon my very soul; his gentleness, expertise and empathy have always distinguished his work and has always been inspirational to me. The Grail is essentially your own soul, your connection to something transcendent. The key to reconnecting with this elemental part of your being is to operate out of empathy, gratitude and compassion. I try to live this way every day – it is not only necessary but it is possible for all of us!
These two functions refer to what the great psychoanalyst, Dr. Carl Jung, described as part of the four ways we humans perceive and interpret everything in reality: The Feeling Function / The Thinking Function / and / The Intuitive Function / The Sensory Function. They are arranged in a cross shape (Feeling on the Left, its opposite, Thinking, on the right; Intuition on the top and its opposite, Sensation, on the bottom).
The psychological role of feeling is to give us value and direction, to evaluate or judge the worth of something or someone. The function of thought is to rationally analyze whatever we encounter, to apply the tools of the intellect independently of any valuation we may have or feel.
Both functions (and all four, of course, although we are focusing on feeling and thinking here only) are crucial for us to navigate our way through life. We have, in the West however, tended to place far greater focus upon the Thinking Function and, as such, have repressed or ignored much of our Feeling Lives. This has had serious repercussions and has led to generations of people living their lives with a wound they may not even realize they have.
My focus in Beyond Bedside Manner – through the language of optimal health and the medical profession, which is my professional background – is to move to a new perspective in order to participate in the grand evolution of consciousness we are presently undergoing.
In order to experience a higher quality of life, we must restore to its rightful place the value and role of the Feeling Function in our daily lives; we must re-balance it with its opposite, the Thinking Function. In doing so, we will cultivate a tremendous respect for all life; we will live the full experience of life.
You can conceive of the Thinking Function as a map – it has all of the landmarks and details we need to see where we’re going. What it can’t tell you, however, is which way you want to go. For that, you need a compass – the perfect metaphor for the Feeling Function.
So, a balance between the map and the compass, Thinking and Feeling, is key to living the life you were born to live!
When you stand before God, you can’t say, “I was told by others to do this or that. That virtue was not convenient at the time.” Your Soul is in your keeping. What you decide to do every day will determine if you will be a good man or not.”
From the Movie, “Kingdom of Heaven”
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
It may be said that the mark of true spirituality is to choose to take “Right Action” in everything you do. “Right Action” is not a moral choice; it is not making a judgement characterized by “good” or “evil” – these are intellectual abstractions. “Right Action” comes from your heart, comes from your soul; it is not mediated by the intellect but, instead, springs forth spontaneously from your feelings – you simply know it to be right and true.
Right Action is the courage to act on behalf of those most vulnerable, it is the divinity within us; Right Action is centered in compassion, love and loyalty, the highest spiritual values. Being able to identity, to know, what Right Action is comes from a deep understanding of your own identity – not who you are in society, but who you are within the depths of your heart and soul.
Knowing this (and this is Gnostic knowledge at it highest), you know what your authentic and true desires are and how to act upon them. You know – without having to abstract or judge – how to act to serve the calling of your soul, because that authentic calling goes beyond you – it serves a transcendent purpose. Taking Right Action is a key component to living a powerful, fulfilling and meaningful life!
Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep”
– William Blake, Letter to Thomas Butt, 22 November 1802. Quoted in Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), The Letters of William Blake (1956)
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
The great English poet William Blake was truly a visionary, and understood at an intuitive level ideas that challenge us even today. He bridged the traditions of East and West, and even constructed a mythology all his own, drawing from both mystical heritages. In Blake’s mythology, Ulro is the land of the manifest, of time and space; it is the world of duality in which we all live, but it is fraught with illusion. Ulro, it may be said, is the equivalent of “Samsara” in Buddhist tradition, the land of illusion that creates pain and suffering, due to our illusory attachments; it could also be compared to Parsifal’s Journey (in the Arthurian legends) through the Waste Land.
Blake’s admonition to “keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep” refers, I think, to those who live in this realm of Ulro, a level of low consciousness, who are consumed in a single-minded way with control, power and domination (the hallmarks of the general consciousness of our age). Blake opposed the Newtonian view of a mechanical, unfeeling, dreary universe, as well as those who would seek to drown out the voices of subtly, compassion and wisdom. This is a vision cut off from Nature and from the Soul, and is one we should strive to transcend.
The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life.”
– Gary Zukav
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
In ancient Greek mythology, Asclepius was known as the God of Medicine. Removed from the womb of his dead mother by his father, Apollo (in what could be called the first Caesarian section), Asclepius was raised and tutored by the wise centaur Chiron who taught him the art of healing. Asclepius excelled in his studies and became a doctor and surgeon of unparalleled skill, not merely healing the sick but eventually mastering the ability to raise the dead!
This, however, raised the ire of Zeus, to whom his brother Hades complained as so few individuals were entering the underworld after death. In addition, many of the enemies struck down by Zeus’ thunderbolts returned to life, to his distinct consternation. Zeus therefore struck Asclepius down, fearing his growing power, and set forth the dictum that despite the ingenuity, genius and creativity of humanity in the practice of the medical arts, we would nevertheless be subject to mortality and death.
I find this myth to be quite illuminating when it comes to the practice of medicine. Certainly, Hippocrates, known as the Father of Western Medicine, understood this law of nature – and the meaning of this powerful myth. Medicine was about healing the body, mind and soul – not trying to compete with the gods in a vain effort to live forever.
The body, the palette of the medical arts, as it were, is truly a product of the soul. The soul is the organizing principle that gives rise to the physical manifestation we call the body. So, to promote good health and well-being, it is necessary to treat the whole person, mind, body and soul.
This philosophy forms the foundation of what I call “Feeling Centered Medicine,” which is, in fact, how I refer to my own medical practice. Feeling Centered Medicine (FCM) sees that the traditional Western model of viewing the body like a machine is a poor, outdated approach, for it drains from medicine – and from the very patients we serve – the art and divinity at its core.
A key to FCM – and, really, anything you may undertake in life – is to operate from the heart, out of compassion and love. The first thing that I tell any of my team, when they join my practice, is that we don’t work for money. We must have gratitude for this journey we’re on, and we allow our souls to manifest their joy, their gifts, through grateful service to others.
It has always been my philosophy that we don’t fix people – we seek to heal the whole person. We treat every person with the dignity deserving of the beautiful souls that we all truly are. We listen and pay careful attention to everything that a patient shares with us, and we treat them with reverence and respect. People’s pain is almost always a manifestation of something greater and deeper in their lives, something affecting not just the body but the mind and soul as well.
Feeling Centered Medicine is based upon a foundation of compassion (a word meaning “to suffer together”). In FCM, we seek to elicit from people what they feel, not merely what they think (this has its basis in the field of NLP, Neurolinguistic Programming, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder). Through a blend of empathy and compassion with the best tools and practices of modern medicine, we are able to explore what a patient’s feelings are presenting to us, and we are able to work to heal the total person, mind, body and soul.
As you are reading this, for a second, just turn your attention to who is reading. In that split second of shifting awareness, what you feel is a presence, don’t you? As you are reading, you become aware of who is reading. Well, that presence is your soul. It’s not your mind that might be saying, “Oh, I think I’ll have a cup of coffee.” There is a presence, and that presence is in the on/off of your thoughts: there is a thought flickering on and off and in that off there is a presence.”
Consciousness, it may be said, is all that there is – it is life, it is the essence of the universe, yet it simultaneously transcends both of these phenomena. This is the perplexing yet miraculous beauty of transcendent consciousness; however, it has often been misunderstood – and confused – with the concept of “awareness.”
Western civilization, over the last few hundred years, has developed a mechanistic world view in which we have come to believe that everything can be explained in a phenomenological way – everything behaves according to a series of knowable rules and laws which can be deduced, known and harnessed for our materialistic purposes. Nature, once seen as a miraculous entity, filled with spirits and deities, could now be reduced to knowable patterns and dry equations, and could be brought to heal at the altar of the human mind.
This materialist view drained nature – an indeed, humanity – of all of her miraculous glory and divinity; and, in doing so, completely missed the mark by replacing the notion of “awareness” for “transcendent consciousness.” The wonderful author Anne Baring describes the characteristics of the Western World view that has taken hold of us, cutting us off from our intuitive connection with our souls, that which is much deeper than the mind:
• Matter is primary and gives rise to mind as a secondary phenomenon. Consciousness is therefore a by-product of the physical brain.
• There is no survival of consciousness after death. The death of the brain is the death of the individual.
• God is an unnecessary hypothesis and the concept of the soul an irrelevance.
• The life of the universe has come into being by blind chance.
• There is no transcendent purpose or meaning to our lives.
This perspective places the locus of life at the most shallow surfaces of our being – in our senses and in our minds. Yet, Deepak Chopra rightly points out that our sensory perception is our least reliable means of knowing our world:
. . . we cannot rely on sensory observation alone to know the essential nature of reality. For the last 300 years, the whole basis of science has relied on our observational senses; but our senses are the least reliable test of what we call reality. My senses tell me that the ground I am sitting on is stationary and yet we know it is spinning at a dizzying speed, hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour. My senses tell me that, from where I am standing, the Earth is flat. Nobody believes that any more.”
Our sensory apparatus gives rise to what I would call “Awareness.” We receive input through our senses (of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing) of which our brains and central nervous systems make sense. Because we sense it, we are aware of it – or so we think. This immediately brings to bear an important point – what we believe we are perceiving is actually an abstraction of it – it’s what our brains make of the data received through our senses.
Let’s take a simple example. Consider a rose. When you look at one, you might describe its color and fragrance. But color and fragrance don’t exist in an objective way! They are characteristics of our sensory apparatus (our eyes and noses) and what our brains do with that information. To a dog, a rose is perceived in a completely different way! Or consider a honey bee – because it “sees” in the ultraviolet spectrum, it will perceive a rose in an entirely different way. Indeed, the nature of what one perceives really depends on who or what is perceiving, and how one perceives!
So what is the essential nature of matter or indeed anything in the universe? Well, the simple truth is that the answer lies beyond our tools of perception, beyond simple awareness and, indeed, beyond the abstracting powers of the human mind. This is a notion that was described by Plato in his Theory of Forms and has been taken up by many cultures and individuals over time.
Kant’s notion of the “Noumenon,” of the “thing in itself,” describes a reality that precedes perception, that is known (as far as it can be known) without the use of our physical senses.
This (and many other traditions, including Hinduism and Buddhism) reopens the door to the fact that “Consciousness” precedes “Awareness.”
I return again to the wonderful work of Anne Baring and her articulation of a philosophy (The Perennial Philosophy, actually) that more correctly understands the nature of existence and restores the divinity to nature and all life:
• Consciousness is primary and matter secondary. That is to say, the phenomenal world emerges from an invisible dimension or implicate order of reality.
• The universe is conscious and there are many dimensions to this consciousness. ‘In My Father’s House there are many mansions.’
• Our human consciousness is integral to that greater consciousness, even though it is still partially developed or immature.
• Consciousness in some form survives the death of the physical body.
• What we have called God or spirit is the divine ground as well as the process of life in the universe, our planet and ourselves. There is nothing outside or beyond God.
• The soul is a vast and complex field or web of relationships connecting invisible spirit with the phenomenal world. Our body/mind organism is intimately connected to that wider soul, field or web of relationships.
• The purpose of our lives on this planet is to be reunited with the source or ground of our being.”
So, transcendent consciousness is the ground of all being, yet it transcends the very fabric of time and space. You might say that something wakes up in matter, that we are aspects of this transcendent energy, all participating in this grand web of life and experience, each and every component playing an integral, divine role in this magnificent production. We are so much more than what our tools of perception and abstraction make of us, and so is every aspect of the universe!