Tag Archives: Greek

Chuck’s Place: Bearing The Tension

Like the hot flame emotions flare up... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Like the hot flame emotions flare up…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Intense emotional encounters with rage, desire, joy or love are encounters with powers greater than our ego selves. Whether we seek out or seek to avoid these encounters, they require tremendous ego-forging to successfully receive or withstand the energetic intensity of their impact.

The ancient Greeks were well aware of the otherworldly origin of these higher power emotions, assigning many to the gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus. Many Greek myths capture the intensity of human seizure by such higher power emotions in romances between the gods and mortals.

This ancient respect for the non-ordinary human origin of intense emotion, with its volatile, ecstatic, and overwhelming impact upon our human selves, is largely lost to the modern world. Now the lone ego self, or rational self, is given the daunting task of owning and managing emotions of great intensity.

Following ancient tradition, Jung’s psychology assigns the numinous energy of intense emotion to the ego’s encounters with the spirit self in the realm of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. This dimension of the psyche exists outside of the parameters of everyday space and time, in the timelessness of eternity. The ego, in contrast, was born in the world of ordinary space and time. Encounters between these two worlds are highly charged energetic exchanges.

For example, to be seized by love is, for the ego, an inner encounter with the archetype or Greek god of love—Eros—who pierces the ego with a numinous arrow of otherworldly spirit energy that then flows into the ordinary confines of human interaction. Some egos, under such seizure, are unable to approach the ‘object of their desire,’ collapsing in frozen awe or feelings of unworthiness. In instances where contact is made, rarely can an individual or couple withstand the energetic impact of the encounter for too long, as the relationship inevitably slips into the stasis of the ungodly boredom of the mundane, into the ordinariness of everyday life. As the light of the divine spark dims, a couple is challenged to search inwardly for divine connection and human partnership.

Bearing the tensions of ordinary reality... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Bearing the tensions of ordinary reality…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Sexuality, as Freud and William Reich researched, is itself an interaction between ego and spirit energy. The ability to channel the highly charged spirit energy of orgasm requires the ego to relax its controls and constructions of ordinary reality to physically receive and commune with the divine energy of orgasm. Alexander Lowen spent his professional life developing Bioenergetics, physical movements to forge the ego’s ability to channel and receive spirit in ecstatic release.

The act of simply going to sleep similarly challenges the ego self to release control and receive spirit contact with its energy body in dreaming. In dreaming, the body self is completely immobilized to allow for this encounter.

In native American vison quests, the ego/body self is contained within a circle, bearing the tension of limitation, as it forges a vessel to receive a visitation from spirit self.

Christianity and Buddhism likewise engage physical stillness and limitation as the means of achieving divine encounters. Christ bound to a cross, bearing the tension of human suffering, is the context for divine connection. Buddha similarly bears the tension of the onslaught of human illusion as he sits in utter stillness, preparing to receive divine enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree.

At the culmination of the Jewish wedding ceremony, as divine energy pours into a couple, they forge a vessel of deeper commitment in human relationship by shattering a glass, in remembrance of the bearing of tension at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. In marriage, the ego self must bear the tension of suffering, as it makes contact with the divine, in joyful energy of union. The ego must be tempered to receive successfully the divine energy of joy.

Even the most modern of psychotherapeutic approaches boil down to forging the ego’s ability to suffer the influx of divine energy. In DBT therapy and Neuroplasticity, where the brain develops new channels to handle higher power emotional energies, treatment requires the ego self to learn to practice mindfulness. In mindfulness, we develop the ability to stay still and present—to manage and channel appropriately—encounters with highly charged spirit emotions.

The struggle to achieve full conscious awareness in spite of the veils of illusion is universal... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
The struggle to achieve full conscious awareness in spite of the veils of illusion is universal…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Vedantic science developed yogic practices to enable the ego and body self the ability to become still and successfully receive contact with the deepest spirit self, the Atman that lives beneath the bliss sheath. In other words, this translates as union with the infinite self in the space and time of ordinary human reality.

The ultimate goal of all spiritual and shamanic practice is: to enter infinity with consciousness, to be able to bear the tension of divine contact without dissolution, to continue the infinite journey beyond human life in full awareness. For this purpose, we are afforded a life in this world.

Everyday life in this world offers us many opportunities to forge the ability to enter infinity with consciousness. As we bear the tension of the reality in this world, we also practice bearing the tension of forging contact with infinity. We practice how to receive it, withstand it, flow with it and, ultimately, to become it, with awareness.

Bearing the tension,

Chuck’s Place: Hero & Hydra

Hydra..guarding the gate... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Hydra..guarding the gate…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

In Greek mythology the Hydra is a nine-headed serpent that guards the entrance to the Underworld beneath Lake Lerna. In modern terms, the Underworld is the deep unconscious psyche, home of the powerful energies that fund our lives with the “rapture of being alive in our bodies.” *

As the myth goes, it took the hero Hercules to slay the Hydra and gain access to the magical, mystical, and awesome energies of the Underworld. In our own lives, we too must access our Hero selves in order to slay the worthy opponent that ferociously guards the gateway to our own magical inner treasures.

Ironically, the Hero and the Hydra are fraternal twins, two sides of the same being, the being of our Ego self. The Ego self was birthed at the moment of decision to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, as another myth portrays it, which led to expulsion from the Garden, the garden of blissful wholeness with nature. Like all children, the Ego, with consciousness and autonomy, must leave the womb of unconscious wholeness and go out and establish itself in the world, separate and distinct from the wholeness of its unconscious origin. To accomplish this, the Ego must break ranks with its deep unconscious nature and become a rational, controlled being, while simultaneously installing the Hydra with all its deadly defenses—projection, denial, repression, resistance, etc.—to defend it from the energies and controls of nature’s instincts.

The Hydra is the greedy, sensually-driven part of the Ego self, the child in us who wants it all. The Hydra is also the power-driven competitor in us who thrives on attention. The Hydra is the frightened child in us who shuns life in self-hate and self-pity. The Hydra is the stoic in us who denies our needs. The Hydra is the defender in us, the repressor, suppressor, who guards the gate to the Underworld and shields us from the truths of our recapitulations, keeping them safely stored just beyond the door to the Underworld. The Hydra is neither good nor bad. It’s the house we’ve constructed to manage our lives. We all need defenses to stem the tidal waves of fear, abandonment, dissolution, and all manner of traumatic events.

Once the Ego has gained a foothold in the world, it desperately seeks its wholeness, that is, access to the deep energies that inspire and electrify life in human form. At this point, the Ego twins are pitted against each other. The Hero seeks to win individuation, that is, union with its alienated, deeper self, in fact, also with the Hydra. This is the moment when the Hero must go to battle, slaying through to everything that has been stored away beyond the entryway to the unconscious, safely protected from memory by the ferocious Hydra. The Hero must face and subdue the Hydra on its journey to adulthood, for its wholeness requires knowing and unification with all the truths of life, as well as the truths of the primal energies that flow just beyond the entryway to the Underworld, in the darkness of the mythological Lake Lerner.

Two-Headed Hydra in the clouds... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Two-Headed Hydra in the clouds…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The Hydra, in its stead, has the task of testing the worthiness of the Hero, proving the Hero’s readiness to undertake the journey into the Underworld and reunite with the powerful energies in the darkness below. The Hero may initiate the journey by undertaking therapy, recapitulation, or some form of initiation or night sea journey into the unknown.

The Hydra is a mighty opponent, a worthy guardian at the door of the deeper self, throwing all the sensual delights at the Hero—food, drink, diet, pleasure, denial of pleasure, etc.—to waylay the journey. If one head is cut off, two heads appear in its stead. In this manner, the Hydra presents distractions, projections, crises, and must dos to snarl and challenge the Hero’s intent—entitlements, resentments, sleepiness, and sloth—in cycles of groundhog days that deplete the Hero’s energy and defeat the Hero’s resolve to complete the journey.

Only if the Hero succeeds in defeating all the Hydra’s heads will the Hydra grant access through the gate, to a Hero proven worthy of feeling the full impact of stored traumas and the numinous reward of the energies of the deeper self. Only with the defeat of the Hydra is the Hero truly ready to join with its wholeness, truly ready to funnel the deepest of energies into rapturous life.

And so, ultimately, these fraternal ego twins—Hero and Hydra—must become necessary partners in our quest for wholeness. May we honor them both for the roles they play in serving to launch us into fulfillment.

On the battlefield,

* Quote from Joseph Campbell.