by Juliette Jones, appearing in Natural Awakenings, March 2017
Reflections on Dr. Richard Tarnus
Growing up in the nuclear age has precipitated momentous internal glimpses into the dark side of the human psyche. An early experience in grade school planted a seed that awakened me to forces which, at the time, were beginning to cast a dark shadow on the planet and now threaten our entire future, causing a recent forward adjustment to the so-called “Doomsday Clock.”
You may remember an educational classroom publication known as The Weekly Reader which covered news-based current events for younger grade levels. Each week, the teacher passed out these miniature newspapers, and we sat at our desks quietly reading. One such day, I happened upon a short article, written in an innocuous tone, that dealt with the subject of fallout shelters. Apparently, they had become popular enough to warrant mention in the context of a “normal” social phenomenon.
In one stunning moment, I realized that to bring such a phenomenon into being, the consciousness of this human race must suffer from a deep, dark distortion of perception. I was overcome by a thought that some collective disconnectedness had conceived and activated nuclear warfare, opening a Pandora’s Box from which terrible consequences would emerge.
This intuition came early in life and permanently shifted the axis of my sheltered worldview. At the time, it rocked me into a deeply depressed and fearful state, which I processed throughout my teen years, and laid the ground work for deep and continuous exploration of my personal psyche.
Not long ago, a program hosted by the C.G. Jung Society of Sarasota featured Dr. Richard Tarnus, an expert in depth psychology and acclaimed author the book Cosmos and Psyche. His impressive credits and connections are too numerous to list here, but he is one of the psycho-spiritual pioneers and prophets of our age. Much of the material that follows is reiterated from the wellspring of ideas that he graciously presented.
At present, humanity is undergoing an unparalleled evolutionary crisis, greater than anything our species has ever faced. The tensions of opposites in society are proliferating through every aspect of living with great force, and have affected the cultural zeitgeist of peoples and nations, as well as the morphic field of our planetary psyche.
In the world of form, we are witnessing mass extinction of species, global warming, misuse of resources, burgeoning pollution, political and moral crises and overpopulation. At the same time, spiritual faith abides largely in darkness. Although the media makes every effort to suppress these truths, the majority of real science is shouting the alarm.
“Faith is something that can only grow in darkness.”~Bruno Barnhart
In light of the vast 15-billion-year evolutionary history of the cosmos, our time is what the ancient Greeks would identify as a Kairos moment––a moment of change intended for a special work, a time when heroes and heroic communities must act to transform worldview. This is a great turning when the dark forces of the unconscious are rising and may clear the way for manifestation of authentic spiritual realization. A tremendous shift can occur with potential for a healing crisis.
Psyche (soul) is the intermediary connection between spirit and matter.
This moment was not of our conscious choosing, but has been brought about through expression of the human unconscious which has been transforming. The primal, innermost human consciousness is not separate from the cosmos, but exists as one with the cosmos––linked to nature, trees, earth and sky. The planet, itself has a psyche, and that psyche “ensouls” the entire natural world. Carl Jung named it the Anima Mundi.
In this dark hour, our Western culture has forgotten that we humans are not the only source of consciousness in the universe, and this forgetfulness is not just a psychic problem but a practical problem as well. In our material culture, humans have not just separated from their tribe, but from their intrinsic connection between all living things, the planet and the cosmos. All aspects of the current crisis reflect this same mistake.
Is the world experiencing a rite of passage?
In the Western world, there are no initiatory rites. However, in a collective sense, our present condition bears a great resemblance to initiatory rites of passage that still take place on an individual level in cultures that understand the human connection to the anima mundi. These rites involve frightening confrontations with darkness, death and aloneness, initiating the individual psyche to the great mysteries of life, death and rebirth, and catalyzing immense transformation.
Dr. Tarnus related a story about the initiation of a Native American shaman who, as a boy, was taken by sled far out onto the ice and placed alone, crouched in a small hut, upon an animal skin. For thirty days, he was left by himself and twice given only a small amount of food and water.
During this time, he faced frightening encounters with darkness, death and aloneness. Gradually, he experienced a transformative realization which granted him a larger, deeper perspective of the whole––a discovery of a vast horizon which he never knew existed. He found, in the depths, the voice of nature speaking in a motherly tone and granting him assurance there was absolutely nothing to fear from the universe. This realization was so powerful that he took his transformed view back to the general community to manifest his true purpose as a wise teacher and healer. This speaks to the universal nature of shamanic descent.
Rites of initiation reveal an undiscovered destruction and renewal principle. Perhaps, at this time, the human and planetary psyche are on the same trajectory. Perhaps we are under a grace and passing through an initiation rite that could lead to a better integration of our purpose on this planet.
The examination of consciousness––of our deepest wounds and the terrible suffering we have caused on this earth––is the soul’s most powerful remedy for the ills of civilization. Everything is at stake. We must change to survive, and the coming generation must take note if we are not to destroy ourselves with science and technology.
“We need a life of meaning, purpose and a sense of joy in participating in a community of being.”~Rick Tarnus
Find what you love to work on, be part of the collective action of a heroic spiritual community, and carry different values from the mainstream––open to the multiple meanings of the whole. Our personal journeys are embedded in life itself, as is the soul of this entire human journey. We are marvelous instruments of the whole, each an aspect of the universe becoming conscious. Our deepest value is not in our separateness or superiority but in the sense that we are wonderful instruments of something greater than ourselves.