The Warrior in me

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This post is a continuation of my exploration into the masculine and feminine psyches.

A comment from a reader the other day to my query about how I might work with other men in developing their inner awareness through the work with dreams nudged me into taking another look at the mythopoeic work of Robert Bly and reminded me of his book Iron John and the concept of the warrior and wild man who was at the center of the men’s movement back in the 90’s. At the time of his heyday I was still resisting aspects of the male in me that I deemed negative and unwanted but I found myself attending his workshops anyway. Something in me at that time said that I needed to explore a little more of what I was resisting but I had not done that much justice until this most recent communiqué.

I believe that in every man exists an aspect of the warrior. It’s something that every one of us have to deal with in our jobs, our neighborhoods and with other people usually but not exclusively in the form of other men. Many of us have worked on our own aggressiveness so as to moderate it or in some cases to suppress it. As boys it’s what our mothers worked the hardest on to civilize. Some of us had to be worked on more than others. Eventually Robby became a “Good Boy” and relatively civilized. Relatively being the operative word and the warrior became pacified.

The warrior in me came to the fore while in the Marine Corps and especially when I found myself in a combat zone in Vietnam. But I can also say without any internal conflict that we did not belong over there doing what we were doing. I thought that then and think that now. Not that I didn’t think that hurting others was wrong but those thoughts were just abstractions to me at the time and could be easily dismissed. It wasn’t until confronted with the realities of death, grief, self-preservation, camaraderie, and hardship that I was able to see that this was all wrong that we had no right to be involved in the Vietnamese civil war or to kill those who had different ideas than we had. Also while on the ground I began to see that we were not welcome by the everyday people. There also seemed to be an organized resistance underground where the women who did our laundry on the base during the day were directing rocket fire onto us at night. Over time I began to feel as though I was the jackboot Nazi invader.

Was I not a patriot? Yes I was, but I was also becoming a more conscious patriot and I had lost my America Love it or Leave it mentality after a few short months in country. I began to think we had all been lied to. Over time I became more and more suspicious of our politicians and leaders and that eventually grew into a general distrust of government.

Defending my country against communism wasn’t part of my patriotism either because that too was a little too abstract and as it turned out it was wrong because it was a fabrication for going to war in 1965 as much as WMDs were for invading Iraq in 2003.

When I came home I was yelled at, accused of having killed babies, and spat at on one occasion. I observed some protests where our troops were booed and weekly statistics about American deaths were applauded. But I understood where they were coming from so I tried to help people separate the war from the warrior, the politician from the pawn, and the generals from the fodder.

We lost that war because it was all too abstract to those not actually engaged in it and neither the politicians nor most of the people had their heart in it.

After the war I worked hard at putting the awakened warrior to rest.

Today my thinking is along the lines that 1) War should be the very last recourse and only as a defense. 2) That evil should never be met with evil. 3) That aggressive domination of any kind is of the negative male attribute and needs to moderated. 4) That the people of any nation have the right to form their own version of the perfect union and to do so without intervening force. And 5) If you find that all other choices are gone and war is the only choice left then engage in it like you mean it as with everything without heart their can be no win and people’s lives are given for nothing.

After my war I came to the conclusion that if young men were to say no to war the generals and politicians would be hard pressed to start any. To that end I began to do presentations to 8th grade classrooms in Santa Clara Valley that were decidedly anti military and anti-war in theme. These were matched with representatives from the military recruitment offices so as to bring some reality to their romanticized version of the military. Anecdotally these seemed to have some effect.

After having watched people in Vietnam literally starving while pulling up weeds in the rice paddies and having heard some of the stories about how joining the Marines was the only way to escape poverty and hunger for some of the guys I also came to the conclusion that undealt with hunger contributed to mankind’s aggressiveness and so I eventually joined an organization dedicated to ending hunger and became the chairman of the Santa Clara County program presenting and recruiting donations from Palo Alto to Gilroy and then into San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin and Monterey counties.

I also discovered that I had some intuitive skill in listening to the grief and fears of other Marines in my squadron and this awareness helped me to move toward a career in psychology.

I resist the warrior less these days because having discovered that I can never fully outrun him I have over time learned and am still learning to work with the warrior and to enlist his power for good when it is needed.

In short, my experiences in Vietnam literally set the stage for the rest of my life. It opened my eyes and brought purpose to my life. As part of my journey I do not regret the experience because it’s clear to me now that this path is the one that God wanted me on.

Beginning work with consciousness

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Found on: Eddie Calz @ Deviantart

 

Beginning work with consciousness, dreams, or shadow work can often produce a disturbance in ones reality. Many people who aren’t ready for it just say it’s utter nonsense and refuse to even take a look. Looking into that part of oneself that is largely unconscious can be disconcerting, confusing, and sometimes frightening. It’s not something to be entered in on lightly because the journey will take you to places you didn’t even know were there and this will over time transform your life–it will literally shift your reality.

Because of my fascination with mirrors and the perspective on reality that they present, I have a device that I purchased some time ago called a Pseudoscope. When looking through it what is seen shifts with the right eye seeing what the left should and vice versa. In this way the background becomes the foreground, convex becomes concave and the brain begins to fight with the senses for a new reality and creating an uncomfortable disturbance. Typically the brain tries to suppress the new reality, the new interpretation of space that is revealed.

This has become my waking life metaphor for what can happen when exploring a new reality as it is revealed through the interpretation of dreams, meditation images, and mindful awareness.

Most people will make the shift and find that it enhances their experience of the world, but a few will experience great difficulty, especially those who have habitually resisted new input in their lives.

As with anything that you want to master, “practice makes perfect” or at least it makes you better at it. Many people who start to explore the usefulness of dreams find that they begin to remember more dreams. As one develops a greater understanding of symbols and metaphor they also begin to see the world as a much richer experience than they ever thought possible. As one expands their awareness input beyond the basic five senses a broadening transformation happens, subtle at first, but growing as one develops greater skill.

And transformation is an interesting phenomenon in that when it happens it spreads not only within the present moment but both forwards and backwards through time so that former understandings seem almost quaint in retrospect and are understood differently. This of course effects not only the present, but also the future relationship with reality as well.

In the novel, The Archipelago of Dreams* Robert experiences this transformation and expanded awareness and in the How-To book, The Dragon’s Treasure* one can learn the particulars of the transformation process.

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*See Books by Author in right hand column

Mystical Experience

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Many people over the years have shared their unusual experiences, bidden or unbidden, eyes open or eyes closed and all having profound effects on their ordinary state of consciousness. All those who shared seemed to experience a deep sense of connectedness or union with others and/or the environment.

Some people have had these experiences while in deep meditation, through their dreams, or while just walking down the street. There is for all a sense of transcending the self i.e. the ordinary self identified by name and body to a place of communion with something much, much greater.

Some years ago when descending from a hilltop building toward the parking lot below I happened to look out at the dusky glow of the city as it was slowly being cloaked by the evening light. My focus went to the traffic on the street slightly below me and made eye contact with one of the drivers.

Suddenly something else looked out from those eyes driving by. It was a spirit so profound I could only imagine it to be that of God. As I scanned other drivers this same observer looked out and saw a man standing on a hillside about to descend toward a parking lot. I was both seeing them and seeing me through them. The boundary between us disappeared and the stress of the day melted away.

I continued down the embankment with tears in my eyes knowing that something had changed forever in the way I was seeing the world. As I climbed into my car and pulled out of the lot and into the traffic on the street the experience lasted for at least another few minutes, or longer, or shorter, I don’t know because time too had stopped. Fortunately this didn’t last too much longer or I’d no doubt have ended up in a fender-bender.

This is what some philosophers call a mystical experience, though others might label it a brain burp caused by some random misfiring of neurons.

The phenomenology of mysticism was summarized in Borg and Wright’s book The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (Chapter 4 page 61) where a five-part description of a mystical experience was presented.

Borg suggested that the pre Easter Jesus was a mystic and that “If one takes seriously that the sacred can be experienced, and that people who have such experiences frequently and vividly may be called mystics or Spirit persons, then it seems apparent that Jesus was one of these (62-63).”

Though Borg was describing the pre Easter Jesus he was also defining the experience of mysticism and mystics in general. Borg’s description seemed spot on with my own experience as well as those shared by the many people who have written me over the years.

Mystical experience generally involves five characteristics; Ineffability: where the experience can’t really be described through ordinary words, Transiency: where the experience is somewhat brief, Passivity: in that they are usually unbidden, received rather than achieved, Noetic: produce a knowing of something not known before the experience i.e. a new reality. This may also include a sense of awe and joy. Fifth in the series is that these experiences are Transformative: they transform a person’s way of being in part because they see the world differently after the experience.

For me the experience on the hilltop above the parking lot was one of many I’ve experienced throughout my life all of which have shifted radically my vision of reality. Though my ego-self continues to insist that I view reality through a vision of separateness I know and am able to easily access the “knowing” that has grown from my experiences of the mystical.

I wish that I could share that there was some secret means for accessing the mystical spiritual but nearly all of my experiences have come unbidden though my tendency to give emphasis to such things as dreams, meditations, spiritual, psychological and emotional exploration may have left me more open to it. I have often had a dream or a meditation or rumination that I thought should have produced something deep and profound only to have it reach the level of interesting but hardly awe-inspiring. It’s one of those pieces of “magic” that can’t be made to happen but can be allowed or given room to happen.