#542 Chuck’s Place: Direct Experience

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences!

Consciousness, with its companions: reflection and choice, is the most recent acquisition of mankind, considering the breadth of the evolutionary journey of human beings. Like our animal companions, our instinctual knowledge, what Jung called the collective unconscious, governed our decision making until the very recent past.

The birth of consciousness in mankind can be likened to the young child’s dawning awareness of “I” as distinct from the world around him. In my own case, that birth of awareness was at once exciting and terrifying. How could my little self survive and hold its own in an ocean of others? I recall, as a young boy, attending a Yankee game and suddenly being overtaken by panic, fearing being swallowed up in the midst of thousands of people. My young ego was experiencing, in projected form, the fragility of its position amidst such an overwhelming presence, a direct experience of the collective unconscious. I also recall the terror of going to sleep, many a night, as my young consciousness grasped the realness of death. I pondered: how can I be certain that I will awaken in the morning? In effect, my ego was terrified to turn out its light, uncertain it would reemerge the following morning from the collective unconscious of sleep and dream.

We are all orphans of our true parents: nature, instinct, collective unconscious, etc., cast from the garden for the sin of consciousness as our awareness continues to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge: our reflections upon our experiences in the world. At once, our egos must build fortresses of security, individual arks, to survive the power and fury of nature for the sin of our conscious hubris, and, at the same time, we desperately need to find a way to connect to the wisdom and nurturance of our roots.

Jung proposed that all religions and esoteric traditions have attempted to serve that function. Mystics and artists, who have had direct inner experience with the collective unconscious, have produced powerful symbols that embody its energy and guidance, symbols that range from the crucifix to those expressed in the Tarot. These symbols attract the masses and have provided a means, albeit a step removed from direct experience, to bathe in the knowledge and nurturance of the collective unconscious while being shielded from its disintegrating potential. Over time, these symbols have become increasingly polished and rigidified, removed from their natural healing roots, as the egos of mankind have commandeered the symbols and imposed dogma upon them, stripping them of their abilities to serve our deepest need for connection. Jung suggested that anyone who could still find a deep connection to their spiritual selves in the religions and traditions available in the world should continue their practices. For those whom these traditions have lost their transformative potential, he proposed the journey of individuation, utilizing psychotherapy to develop a relationship with the unconscious through dreams and active imagination.

The shamans of Carlos Castaneda’s lineage stripped their tradition of its rituals to arrive at its pragmatic core through a series of practices that enabled them to have direct experience. In this context, shamanic journeys are direct experiences of infinity at an energetic level.

Jeanne has proposed that we have evolved to the point where we can remove all projections of our deepest nature from the outer world’s spiritual systems and embark on a path of direct experience of our deeper spiritual selves. To protect our fragile egos in this process, she suggests that we engage our spirit guides, who are available, for the asking, to guide and protect us on our inner spiritual pilgrimages. She states, simply: Ask for help and you will receive the help you need. This is not based in belief; it is an experiential practice. She suggests that we approach it like any scientific experiment, treating it like a hypothesis: state your intent and see what happens!

Beyond that, she encourages recapitulation in order to clear the channel of the burden of barricades, erected to ward off encounters with our deepest truths. With respect to the controlling influence of our outer projections, she coaches us in detachment by strengthening our adult selves to encounter both our angels and demons within. Finally, as we are challenged by life’s inevitable changes, be they deep, heart-felt losses or blindsided fates, we are offered the practice of fluidity, whereby we learn to open, fully, to experience, remaining completely present and flowing with the changes, with grace and awe, as we await our next direct experience of infinity.

Ultimately, don Juan suggested to Carlos that he always find a path of heart in determining the direction of his journey. This is what Jeanne calls resonance. Whether it be in the world’s religious traditions, psychotherapy, shamanic practice, or Jeanne’s guidance, we must find our own path of heart to direct experience.

Should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: chuck@riverwalkerpress.com

Until we meet again,

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