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!
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.
Generations of children have sat in church listening to this story [the Biblical Story of the Expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden]. Generations have been imprinted with the idea that a woman succumbed to the temptation of the serpent and brought sin and suffering into the world and that her suffering and even her death giving birth to her children was the punishment for that original sin. They also learned that this primal woman tempted Adam to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge and thus was to blame for his fall and his being forced to toil for his living. How would this myth have influenced their view of their mothers? How did it affect the attitude of boys to girls and girls’ view of themselves? Would it not have set up a great conflict in their nature, making them mistrust and feel guilty about their instincts, believing that this punishing God demanded the repression of sexuality?”
Having been raised in the Catholic faith, the consequences of the mythologies of Man’s Great Fall and the stain of Original Sin are personally difficult for me to reconcile. Some of the greatest tragedies of human history may be traced to this mythological notion of the Fall of Man (as a result of being expelled from the Garden of Eden) and its concomitant idea of Original Sin, tainting humanity for all time.
A direct repercussion of this Old Testament concept was and is the separation of Matter and Spirit, Man and God, Nature and the Divine. As the great mythologist Joseph Campbell notes, “The Christian separation of matter and spirit . . . has really castrated nature.” Further, this expulsion from the Divine is laid squarely at the feet of the feminine – Eve, who falls prey to the temptation of the serpent, herself tempts Adam to disobey God, leading to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, leaving a stain upon the whole human race.
This notion of the feminine being the source of the downfall of humanity, the origin of sin, suffering and death, has created a bitter legacy in which nature and the feminine have been denigrated, repressed and imbued with guilt and suffering.
Had the story of the Fall of Man remained exactly that – a story, a myth that carried it with it archetypes and models by which one might perceive the world – it may have been regarded as something of a benign curiosity. Unfortunately, elements of the story have been taken literally over the millenia, leading to terrific violence and suffering.
This initial great Old Testament myth led to the idea that the only way to redemption and return to the Divine was through strict adherence to the doctrines of the Church, and that for non-Christians, no salvation was possible. Needless to say, the resulting witch hunts, crusades, repression and violence have been an awful legacy for a theology that, at its core, contains so much that is beautiful.
A concomitant notion that arose from this origin myth is the idea of Original Sin, the idea that human nature is corrupted by the actions of Adam and Eve, with this sin transmitted to all of humanity by “concupiscence,” or sexual desire and copulation, resulting in “humanity becoming a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd), with much enfeebled, though not destroyed, freedom of will.”
This peculiar notion originated with Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine), who’s obsession, in my view, with sin, guilt and fear of sexuality drove this radical view. With it came the complete separation of the divine from the natural world and a lasting psychological wound to the Christian heart and soul. With Augustine’s pronouncements, the Church shifted from the teachings of Jesus to the consolidation of its growing power.
The mythologies of the Fall from Grace and Original Sin have so distorted our relationship with the feminine and the natural world as to have created a lasting legacy of suffering, guilt and destruction, all in the name of attaining salvation through the one and only path decreed by the Church.
Sexual guilt, repression and misogyny are only some of the many hallmarks of a twisted and literal take on what is properly the mythological. There is so much that is beautiful, compassionate and loving in the teachings of Christ, yet with the emergence of the Church as a powerful institution, power, control and domination have been unfortunate aspects of its legacy as well.
When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. In this horizon, a genuine sense of the common good also disappears.”
– Pope Francis, Laudato si’ (#204)
– Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS
The recent visit of Pope Francis to Cuba and the United States has brought into focus something beautiful that is happening not only within the Church but with the unfolding of transcendent consciousness itself. There is a growing recognition of the interconnection of all life, of a divinity not separate from creation but one that infuses all life, all nature, all of creation.
I am so pleased and inspired to see that the grievous error committed upon nature, the feminine and indeed all life reflected in more than a thousand years of orthodox doctrine has been addressed, corrected and transcended by this extraordinary Pope!Dating back to St. Augustine and his 5th Century AD work, “City of God Against the Pagans,” a document which codified the gulf between God and Man, the Divine and Nature, orthodox doctrine has held that, because of the idea of Original Sin, humanity is fallen and nature, and the feminine, were equally stained and corrupt. Nature was devoid of divinity (for the Divine was separate and beyond creation) and could therefore be subject to the dominion of man.
This mistaken philosophical idea has paved the way for terrible, destructive actions and attitudes toward our natural world, and each other, and allowed for an economic philosophy that sees nature, and all life, merely as resources to be exploited, devoid of divinity, compassion and consciousness.
In the May 24, 2015 Encyclical, “Laudato si, mi’ Signore” (“Praise be to you, my Lord”), Pope Francis lays out a radically different relationship with nature, each other and with the Divine (or, as I would call it, the transcendent energy consciousness). From the beginning of the document, the Pope reflects his humble nature, addressing the encyclical not to the hierarchy of the Church but instead to ALL PEOPLE; this humility and compassion seems to reflect the heart of Francis, and is what is needed for the continuing unfolding of consciousness.
The focus of this Encyclical is to enter into “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation that includes everyone, since the environment challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” (Laudato si’, #14). With the heart of a poet, Francis goes on to say:
This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.”
Laudato si’ (#2)
While Pope Francis and the Church still see a doctrinal separation between God and Man, he recognizes that, in practice, such a schism can no longer be used to justify our treatment of nature and each other. As he states,
“we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures . . . This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature.”
Laudato si’ (#67)
Ultimately, the publishing of this Encyclical, and the recognition on the part of Pope Francis and, as a consequence, of the Church, of the need for a new relationship between humanity and nature is a reflection of a new, emerging relationship with transcendent consciousness. While Francis goes into great and noble detail about the destruction and exploitation we have and continue to visit upon nature, the act of publishing this work signifies something even greater at work: the gradual shift of human consciousness, from one focused upon power, control and domination to, instead, one that operates from the heart (the 4th Chakra).
Recognition of our obligation to “till and keep” nature begets recognition of the web of all life and creation. In the greater scheme of things, this will be seen as a small but firm step toward the recognition of the divinity in each of us, in all of life and in all of creation. We are the stuff of divinity, of transcendent energy consciousness, and it is heartening to me to see the growing awareness of this reflected in practical action by Pope Francis.
The heart is like an umbilical cord which mediates between the life within us and the life around us. It connects us to the life of the whole, the greater life of the divine ground. The heart is our creative imagination, born of our instinct for relationship with this greater life. The heart generates all our quests, all our hopes and longings and will ultimately reunite us with the source from which we have come. Without the heart, without the instinct to feel, to imagine, to hope and to love, life is meaningless, sterile, dead. When we are in touch with our heart, when we are connected to our deepest feelings, it comes alive, it vibrates, it sings.”
– Anne Baring, Lecture 7: Healing the Heart: An Alchemy of Consciousness, 1993
Some time ago, I attended a lecture by Richard Bandler, the co-creator with John Grinder of NLP, Neurolinguistic Programming. Richard asked a gentleman, a Wall Street banker, to come forward from the crowd and talk with him. “What do you feel?” Richard asked him.
“Nothing,” was his reply. Richard quizzed him further, trying to get to the heart of his disconnection; in fact, the poor man was unable to comprehend the nature of the question. Why? He had lost the connection with his own heart, buried under years of repressed feelings, cultural and familial expectations and a laser-like focus on nothing but the masculine mythology of power, control and domination. From that point forward, I realized the irreplaceable value and need for feelings, for the feminine, and for the need to balance the masculine and feminine energies.
For most of the evolutionary history of humanity (up until the rise of tribes and states, about 4,000 years ago), the collective myth that cradled humanity centered around the Great Mother. In this prevailing myth, body and soul, nature and spirit, were aligned in a great web of interconnected and sacred life; the feminine values of compassion, empathy and connection formed the foundation of human societies and relationships, with each other and with nature.
However, this prevailing myth was gradually replaced with a masculine, Authoritarian Father mythology, coinciding with the rise of competitive, aggressive tribal and state systems, and with it the generative values of the heart, of the Great Mother – creativity, gentleness, compassion and love – were repressed, devalued and shunted deep into the unconscious. This devaluation has created in all who are touched by it an indelible wound to the heart, punishing expressions of authentic feeling and / or creativity, while focusing instead upon an insatiable drive to control, to accumulate and exercise power over others, and over the Earth.
Such a shift can be seen in many cultures across time (including our own); gradually, the feminine goddesses receded into the background as the masculine gods ascended. In some cases, the rise of the All-Powerful Father comes concomitantly with the murder of the Great Mother, as in the Babylonian Creation mythology of Enuma Elis, where the masculine god Marduk defeats and splits in two the Goddess Tiamat, using her body to form the earth and sky.
This swing to the masculine has resulted in a loss of the sense of the sacred in life, of the empathetic connection to each other and to nature that is so deep within us as to be instinctive. As the masculine has ascended, the value of nature, of compassion, of the feminine has been degraded, coming to be associated with darkness, chaos and evil (it is Eve in the mythology of the Garden of Eden who tempts Adam and who, as a result, leads to the expulsion of man from paradise).
The values of the heart have been repressed as the primacy of the mind has come to the fore. Yet, that deep instinctual need for connection, creativity and compassion, the values of the Great Mother myth, do not disappear, try as the intellect may to eradicate them. Where the spark of creativity is buried in the unconscious, it will often bubble up uncontrollably and even with awful consequence, for it is a primal energy that cannot be extinguished. As the great psychologist Carl Jung noted, everything we call negative and evil emerges from the wounded heart of a culture.
Where the energies of the feminine are repressed and cloaked in fear and confusion, those creative sparks can become an inferno of barbarism, with the masculine-focused religions and doctrines unable to contain them.
What is required is a reconnection to spirit, to the feminine; we need a rebalancing of the masculine and feminine, within a new mythology, one not based in merely rote belief but in authentic experience.
To heal the wounded heart, we must restore to honor the values of the feminine. We must reconnect the body with the soul, the realm of the transcendent. We must live life out of the highest spiritual values of compassion, loyalty and love. We must participate in the gradual transformation of our level of consciousness, from single-minded pursuit of power to the reconnection of heart and mind, body and soul.
There is, in fact, a new consciousness coming into life or, rather, we are awakening to the transcendent energy consciousness of which we have always been a part though have repressed lo these many millenia. We are all participating in the synthesis of a new mythology, one that reconnects and acknowledges the divinity in all life, in all existence. We are awakening to the fact that we are all a part of the divine, both transcendent and immanent.
This awakening, to a consciousness of the heart and soul, is what will heal and bring us to redemption and reconnection with our transcendent nature.