Book Review: Contemplative Masonry

Recently I read an interesting book that I want to share my opinion about: Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft by C.R. “Chuck” Dunning, Jr.

This is a practical advice to a person who is engaged in freemasonry based on the well-known psychological empirical methods for self-awareness and self-regulation. That makes it a book about psychology.

There is a chapter called “The Psychology of Freemasonry” where a model of human psyche is presented together with the interpretations of health and illness, as well as healing. That makes it a method of psychotherapy.

Later the progression in the mastery of this method is shown as the inner work of three degrees. Each degree or a state of consciousness can be achieved using the special exercises. The assumption is that a layperson has a state of illness, and after completing all exercises for all degrees he reaches the state of health. No external help is required, no drugs, no Jungian analysis, no Freudian couch – nothing, just yourself.

What are those magical exercises?

The whole psyche, as we know, consists of consciousness and the unconscious. The author suggest to add four more dimensions that include both conscious and the unconscious aspects:

  • physical dimension with sensations
  • emotional dimension with feelings
  • intellectual or mental dimension with thoughts and images
  • spiritual dimension with inspiration, intuition, and creativity

Health is defined as the equilibrium of each dimension that categorized as peace, harmony, and unity.

Illness is, logically, a disturbance of the equilibrium. Well, we all know what anxiety or the shadow complex is.

The exercises are concerned with each dimension separately and in unity:

  • physical exercises bring awareness to the mindful and prayerful behavior, as well as paying attention to own sensations and breathing. It can be interpreted as connecting own psyche to own body, to form the body schema
  • emotional exercises bring awareness to own feelings, in the way of accepting them and including them, as well as subdue them
  • mental exercises bring awareness to own thoughts and images
  • spiritual exercises bring awareness to own inspiration, intuition, and creativity
  • unifying exercises bring awareness to all of those things together
  • the inner smile exercise
  • the dream interpretation exercise
  • the centering exercise
  • the contemplation exercises

The idea is to make it a habit of clearly knowing what is being experienced now in the defined taxonomy terms, thus remove ambiguity and doubt, uncertainty and analysis paralysis. The four levels are derived from Kabbalah.

Another idea is to think what is a desired experience, how to feel better given the same situation. This is a reprogramming of the Matrix, shifting the perspective, transformation.

The dream interpretation exercise is a typical Jungian analysis of the dream.

The centering exercise is fundamental to improve own balance and stability. It reminds me of Autogenic Training (AT), but limited to relaxation and warmth levels only. The AT was modeled after the dhyana yoga practice as different intermediate states of going into the meditative state.

The contemplation practice divided into four types:

  • associative
  • analytic
  • intuitive
  • interactive

The interactive contemplation practice is a typical Jungian active imagination.

The idea of balancing the energy is not new. Chinese ancient meridians with chi are about the same. A master is shifting own energy and removes the blockage in order to improve own health. It can be done by tai-chi or qigong practice or by acupuncture.

As we can see, the author combined well known practices of dhyana yoga, Jungian analysis, and mindfulness into a cohesive framework for self-improvement and reducing own shadow complexes constellation, integrating mythological images, and avoiding unnecessary medical expenses or self-medication.

While this is helpful for relatively healthy or neurotic individuals to reduce minor issues, it is not enough for borderline or psychotic disorders. It should be practiced in addition to the regular physician checkups.

Also these exercises will not open the numinous realm. The intensity that they provide is too low. They can be compared to the religious service influence.

In summary, the author did an excellent job of developing a cohesive set of views and practices that can be helpful for anybody who realized a need for better self-regulation and confidence.

Psychological Teachings: Kabbalah

There are many different spellings of the name of the abstract metaphysical system that became the foundation of so many cultural phenomena in the West – Kaballah is a Jewish tradition, Cabala is Christian, Qabalah is Hermetic, and also Practical Kabbalah. The original meaning of the word “Kabbalah” is to receive wisdom from divinity.

For the purpose of this review, let’s see Kabbalah as a perfected Qabalah model that allows to explain many psychological realities. It is perfected, because it is abstracted from the original confusing experience into a meaningful worldview.

Kabbalah was the summary of the knowledge about psyche at the time of its creation. The history of its development is not known. We can say that the location of its development was the Middle East, around 2,000 years ago, framed according to a Jewish culture. It had connections to Neoplatonic, Egyptian, and other schools of thought.

Kabbalah was influential in the Western psychological thought for a very long time. It can be compared to the culture-forming concept such as I Ching in China or Vedas in India where almost everything was aligned to the metaphysical framework, providing a meaningful lineage across entire culture.

So called modern Western psychology is, in fact, a continuation of the Kabbalah teachings. Sigmund Freud as a Jew, and Carl Jung as a Christian, were familiar with Kabbalah, and derived their own theories of the unconscious from it.

The comparative analysis of Kabbalah with Eastern traditions as Taoism and Samkhya reveals significant parallels.

Let’s review the system using “A Kabbalistic Universe” explanation.

There are many different views of the same model of Kabbalah. The dynamic model, known as Lightning Flash, shows the progression of Light of Creation. The static model, known as Tree of Life, shows the metaphysical structure, which enables the progression of Light of Creation.

Lightning Flash Dynamic View

Sigmund Freud’s term “libido” was derived from the concept of energy, known as Light of Creation in Kabbalah.

Tree of Life Static View

Kabbalah allows nesting – a copy of the entire Tree of Life inside of the each World. This technique enables explanation of the inner workings of the subsystems using the same model.

Carl Jung separated psyche into three areas:

  • Persona
  • Shadow
  • Archetypes

The Tree of Life view separates psyche into the following worlds:

  • Formation
  • Creation
  • Emanation

The Bible uses also the forth World from Kabbalah – a physical reincarnation level.

Practical Kabbalah can be understood as a form of psychotherapy such as Jungian individuation or Freudian shadow work.

As we can see, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as religion-based cultures share the same metaphysical system which is compatible with the modern Western psychotherapy, which replaces the religion. In other words, we are still using the same foundation, but with different, more scientific, decorations.

Psychological Teachings: The Bible

Let’s explore The Jewish Study Bible, published by the Oxford University Press, from the point of view of an ancient psychology.

Genesis is a story about the beginning of human culture from the God’s perspective, using a style of the literary conventions of the ancient Near East, full of complexity and sophistication. The same events were presented in many different versions, carefully chosen by the original redactors, to provide some contrast and thought-provoking discussions.

So, the first thing first – there is a God, the idea of a deity which is oneness, non-duality. This is not an abstract concept, but rather a state of consciousness, known in other cultures as well, for example, a pure consciousness in yoga, or the Self archetype in Jungian psychology, associated with wholeness and health.

Genesis starts in chapter 1 by the story that God created heaven and earth. Those are the symbols used in many cultures to describe the primordial opposites – like yin and yang, light and darkness, male and female – the initial duality that are connected and, in the same time, are in conflict with one another. In the western philosophy this division is known as consciousness and the unconscious. In psychology the unconscious is what is hidden, unknown, but can suddenly override consciousness and create a neurotic symptom. The duality is already a neurosis. In Jungian terms this is a personal unconscious, the shadow.

In chapter 2 the God created a garden in Eden, and put a man to tend it. This is still a world that has a connection to divinity, heaven and earth, but now has a Man who can decide what to do by himself. This is consciousness, that has a center of decision-making.

The next idea in chapter 3 is more complicated. We can see that the God was careful in doing the right things using the right way, but now he is facing a challenge. He needs to resolve that challenge. Let’s read the text [3, 23]: “So the Lord God banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken.” The soil is the symbol of the physical materiality. Till now we were talking about the different levels of the psyche, but now we extended the psyche to the body, to the nervous system, the brain. That’s how an ancient philosophy tried to explain that the outer world has all the elements of the previous inner worlds.

As we can see, Genesis tells a theory of consciousness, providing an overview of its four levels:

  1. God – non-duality, collective unconscious
  2. Heaven and earth – duality, personal unconscious
  3. A garden of Eden – consciousness, the subject
  4. Soil – physical body, the object

This ancient model of consciousness directly correlates to the structure of modern Jungian psychology, and we can find many more parallels with the Classical philosophy, the Renaissance, and other cultures. There are other texts in the Bible that reiterate this theory, and delve into literary compositions, reflecting the philosophy of that time. Our task is to avoid taking the old obscure texts for its literal meaning and blindly follow the rituals, but to make our own interpretation, find the meaning using the modern worldview.

The Church, the Christianity had multiple dimensions, and it wanted to provide the framework to the entire unconscious world of the humanity in the West. The premise was that Christ had accomplished the one creative act required on earth by the establishment of his church through the crucifixion and the miracle of the resurrection; what remained was for Christians to develop a replica of the divine kingdom in heaven by following direction of the Church leadership, divine monarchy – similar to how it was in Egypt. It used a conceptual model of kabbalah and tried to reconcile the differences with Greek philosophers, who had more humanistic-centered approach. This reconciliation had failed, and the Church went to reformation while the Renaissance created physical science, which eventually expelled from its garden anything psychological.

Our modern world has the material science worldview. It believes in facts that are verifiable by the scientific method. The model of the four levels of consciousness could not survive as it was not easily verifiable, thus the decline of Christianity as a religion, and rise of psychotherapy and parapsychology. The unconscious of the modern individual had lost its frame of reference, and became prone to all kinds of neurotic projections and symptoms, which we all watch in the news every day. The Bible is a work of enormous complexity, and it should be studied and practiced, but with the modern understanding. The old man has gone, and the old ways are not helpful anymore.

Psychological Teachings

As we reviewed the structure of the psyche in the Living between Worlds, its Psychopathology and Archetypes, we are ready to discuss how the mankind historically was trying to deal with all of this.

Carl Jung in the Collected Works, Volume 9, talks about esoteric teachings. We can call them psychological teachings now.

The right way to remove psychopathological symptoms is to face the confusing music of the archetypes. But, it did not happen on the mass scale. Instead, based on the confessions of those few who experienced a hero journey, some narratives were developed that are much more beautiful and comprehensive.

Figure 1. The structure of the psyche with expanded spiritual functions

Those traditional narratives can be grouped in the following categories:

  • myths
  • fairytales
  • religions

As the attractiveness of the traditions faded after the Renaissance, the modern scientific ways to deal with psychopathology are:

  • psychotherapy
  • pharmacology
  • self-help means

Long time ago the primitive people projected inner events onto nature, and they thought that nature actually was that way. They had no idea about own projection, and believed that what they perceived was real physical events – solar, lunar, seasonal, stars, etc. The projections were very subjective and confusing, so over the years of transmission of the initial revelations different people distorted the original text and made it sound more comprehensive and easier to tell. Therefore, the old myths and fairytales were the constructs of the conscious elaboration, based on the initial images of the collective unconscious.

The most advanced form of such narratives were the ruling Western and Eastern world religions. They developed own dogmatic symbols and rituals that were very beautiful and attractive.

The main idea of such narratives, rituals and symbols was to substitute a hero journey with the real archetypes by the less adventurous journey, which was still capable to give some sense of order to people, who experienced psychopathological symptoms, and reduce the devastating effect on their well-being. By following the established and polished over the centuries religious formula, the psyche was regulated externally and the healing was achieved, usually in the form of catharsis.

Modern man believes in materialism and science, and own superiority. As the alternatives to the traditions, there are numerous methods of psychotherapy and empirically discovered procedures that work, as well as clinical trials of the new drugs that are based on the neuroscience.

Also, now we have access to education in the form of self-help books, Internet articles, YouTube videos, movie industry, fitness, yoga, taichi, mindfulness, and drinking culture that can be used to reduce the symptoms.

The Spiritual Function of our consciousness is to differentiate things, make the unconscious conscious, and the mankind produced many traditional and modern means to deal with the split without affecting the Social Function, which became the supreme value of the civilization, business owners, and policy makers.

Archetypes

Previously we discussed the general structure of the psyche in Living between Worlds and some indicators of the split in Psychopathology. Now let’s take a look at the archetypes that create those indicators.

Carl Jung in the Collected Works, Volume 9, talks about the archetypes of the collective unconscious.

As Jim Hollis described, the archetype is the organizing function, that includes a cluster of energies, responsible for the specific type of a split, and a corresponding compensatory function. 

Archetypes are the content of the collective unconscious, which are very old patterns of experience that every human goes through, unconsciously. They formed long time ago, and every person is born with them. This collective inheritance makes us human.

The way we can become aware of archetypes is by projection onto external things. When we are trying to perceive something, we always have to deal with projections, whether we know about it or not. Those projections reflect the psychic processes that are so deep in our psyche that we cannot easily differentiate them from our perception.

Figure 1. The structure of the psyche with expanded archetypes functions

The psychopathological function provides plenty of examples of archetypal projections that distort our normal perception of reality, and our reactions. Loosing self-awareness, experiencing strange feelings, dreams, changes of energy level are the results of archetypal projections.

Even our normal social function is govern by the archetypes. Our language is based on them too. When we think, we think in the forms that are organized by the archetypes. Our insights are the archetypal projections.

Let’s discuss the following major archetypes:

  • The archetype of meaning
  • The archetype of transformation
  • The archetype of the shadow
  • The archetype of the anima / animus
  • The archetype of the Self

When we first approach the unconscious, we face the personal unconscious. This is a thin layer where our individual experiences that are repressed or forgotten are stored. It contains feeling-toned complexes that we encounter when we are tired or irritated. This layer is governed by the shadow archetype. Usually we experience shadow projections in terms like “the enemy” or something “bad”.

The next layer is anima (for men) / animus (for women). This is a beginning of the huge collective unconscious realm. It is not easy to get there, because our shadow as the door is on the way. The anima is a real “witch” that can really mess us up. At the same time the anima is the feeling of being alive, and true happiness.

The archetype of meaning defines the purpose to live, feeling connected to the real truth, getting an insight. We all seek this meaning. When we get it, we have this resonance feeling as the affirmation.

To get to the archetype of meaning, one has to invoke the archetype of transformation. This transformation pattern allows us to go through the shadow and anima to the archetype of the Self.

The archetype of the Self is “stopping the world” experience. Our projections and perceptions cease to exist. We have the numinous experience. This is called “the enlightenment”.

The whole discovery of these archetypes and going through the transformation process is called “individuation” or “a hero journey”. This process provides the healing of the split between the ego and the instincts, and eliminates the psychopathological symptoms (a “victory”).

While these concepts were defined and redefined using different terminology through the entire history of mankind, each person still has to discover them on one’s own to get practical understanding of them. We all are busy with our social function, and our system of education, including family, does not provide such a background. Therefore, we continue with what we got, mostly quietly working on our own symptoms, and getting things done regardless of the shortcomings of our consciousness.

Psychopathology

In the Living between Worlds post we discussed the general structure of the psyche from the Jungian perspective. Now we will take a detailed look at the Psychopathology Function.

Nancy McWilliams published a second edition of her “Psychoanalytic Diagnosis” book, where she presented a modern psychoanalytic model of mental diseases, rendered as personality structures for the clinical therapy. This model is defined to help to decide on the method of therapy to apply in each case. In other words, the model actually describes the groups of methods rather than the personality types.

Figure 1. The structure of the psyche with expanded psychopathology functions

The main idea is that an individual has to go through a development process, and sometimes it does not go as planned. Depending on the stage of the development where the issue occurred, an individual manifests different symptoms.

There are three major personality structures:

  • neurotic
  • borderline
  • psychotic

Neurotic personality can be applied to a large group of people with minor emotional distress. They still have a high objective and rational capacity to function. While they might use primary defenses like yelling, they mostly rely on the mature secondary defenses under stress such as repression. Neurotics have a good sense of identity and consistency, can express their values, virtues, and shortcomings in a multi-dimensional manner. Also they have a solid sense of reality without major distortions. The major neurotic symptoms are anxiety and low self esteem. They seek therapy to reduce some repeating conflicts of their own making, and expand some capacities that they are lacking. Usually such symptoms indicate problems during the father stage of development.

Psychotic personality under stress have severe symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, illogical thinking, being paranoid and terrified. They use primary defenses such as denial, withdrawal, omnipotent control, primitive idealization, and extreme dissociation. The major symptom is their hostility. Psychotics have a problem with own identity up to questioning own existence. They are deeply confused who they are. They are not in touch with reality, and often go too far into magical thinking. They have issues with getting perspectives on their own psychological problems as they lack reflective thinking.

Borderline personality exhibit use of primary defenses under stress, but can change behavior when confronted. They have a confusion about own identity, but they know they exist. They have trouble of being tolerant and self-regulate, but can remain silent or provide one-dimensional answer. Usually they don’t want to change their personality. When they alone, they feel abandoned, but when they feel close to someone else, they panic of fear of losing total control, which drives others to feel exhausted. Usually such symptoms indicate problems during the mother stage of development.

While most of us can sometimes experience any of those symptoms, it is important to evaluate them from the long-term perspective, how repetitive and typical they are. Regardless of personality structure, such people usually live and work, have families, and are members of the community. Some of them attend psychotherapy sessions, some visit psychiatric wards, but most just live as best as they can.

It is important to remind that the severity of these psychopathological symptoms reflect the severity of the split between instincts and the ego. They are just indicators that the social function went too far off. People are getting stuck in impossible situations, but persist in old thinking. The unconscious is trying to heal such splits by sending those indicators, including changes in energy level, feelings, and dream imagery. This is the cost of civilization, its conventional morality, and still ongoing maturation of the consciousness.

Living between Worlds

Living between Worlds. Finding Personal Resilience in Changing Times” is the latest book, written by Dr. James Hollis on the topic of modern challenges of coping with anxiety and help from Depth Psychology. 

The author is Dr. James Hollis, or Jim, as we call him, is a well-known scholar in the field of Depth psychology. I met Jim personally during my tenure at the Jung Society of Washington, D.C. 

This book is an introduction to the field of Depth psychology for general public. It is also a summary of Jim’s personal journey and his previous books.

The author tried to solve the following problems:

  1. What are the causes of anxiety in our time
  2. Why our social institutions are failing
  3. What is Depth psychology, its principles and practices
  4. What we can learn from literature and folklore
  5. What are our tasks
  6. What are the major concepts of Jungian psychology

Jim explained the major concepts in plain language and illustrated in different ways before giving the official terminology. It makes the complex material much more accessible. 

The main problem was framed using the following concepts:

  • Instincts – the unconscious, inner guidance, primary phenomenon, the transcendent Other, the energy, the gods. 
  • The ego – our consciousness, which contains the secondary, epiphenomenal, our subjective images of the phenomenon, our concepts and the worldview.
  • Anxiety – the psychopathological symptoms, the split, caused by the separation of the ego from the instincts.
  • Anxiety Treatment – an approach of Depth psychology to healing by reconnecting the ego to the instincts, based on the ideas of Carl Jung. 

What are the causes of anxiety? The social function that focuses us on the outer values like power, wealth, status, and disregards inner guidance such as dreams. The idea here is to show that our modern civilization is moving in the wrong direction, and creating more, not less, anxiety in people.

In order to provide a solution to the problem, Jim described his view on the principles and practices of Deep psychology. 

The principles: 

  • It’s not about what it’s about
  • What you see is a compensation for what you don’t see
  • All is metaphor

The practices:

  • Journaling
  • Dream Interpretation
  • Active Imagination

What are our tasks to live with dignity?

  • Recovery of personal authority
  • Seek meaning, not happiness
  • Ask more from ourselves, less from the Other
  • Become conscious of own Shadow
  • Acquire steadfastness and philosophic patience in the face of suffering in-between the worlds.

The author presented the holistic framework of the human psyche that explains how changes of energy, feelings, and dreams are connected to the social function and psychopathology.

Unfortunately, the book does not have any pictures or visualizations, and I, as a visual person, developed the following diagrams to understand the text better.

Figure 1. The structure of the psyche

As we can see on Figure 1, we are the Ego, and we are focused on the demands of the social function: education, work, family, and society. Because those demands do not include our personal instincts, we are experiencing the psychopathological symptoms, i.e. anxiety. This anxiety actually prevents us from fulfilling the demands of the social function by isolating us into a severe personal crisis known as neurosis that requires a special treatment. The problem arises when the accessible and socially approved treatments such as pharmacology are not helpful, and we find ourselves in the stuck places. This is the pattern that Dr. Hollis called “the passage”, and makes a reference to his earlier book called “The middle passage: from misery to meaning in midlife”.

The better way to get unstuck is to include in the worldview the nature guidance such as energy level, feelings, dreams, and practice journaling, dreams interpretation, and active imagination. The warning from Dr. Hollis was to avoid what is called lucid dreaming when the Ego is reasserting itself rather than learn from what was presented.

The author presented the functions as different energies, and a concept of an archetype as a cluster of those energies.

Figure 2. The transformation process

The archetype is the organizing function, that includes a cluster of energies, responsible for the specific type of a split, and a corresponding compensatory function. It forces the subject to grow in order to overcome the limitation. The concept of energy follows the rule that nature does not waste it, which includes dreams. 

Personally, I found it very insightful. A typical hero archetype described as something you need to do. Jim showed that an archetype is actually a result of getting into a victim mentality in the first place. Basically, a complex is a creation of an archetype. The wholeness can be broken in many ways, and the archetype is that resulting form that has both sides – the force that got us broken, and the hidden force that is formed to get us healed. Our mature spirituality and meaning seeking will lead us through a resonance system to the inner peace and contentment. The most useful reads for that practice are “Tracking the gods: the place of myth in modern life”, and “Living an examined life: wisdom for the second half of the journey”.

“Living between worlds” is a summary of Jim’s previous works, and serves as the introduction and a navigational framework for the reader. It is also a good reference with the list of the publications available to read next, and the index for terminology used. 

I feel that this book is similar conceptually to the C.G. Jung’s work called “Man and his Symbols”. It was designed as a general introduction to the Analytical psychology, and has served me well before. At the same time, Jim’s book reminded me about another work of Carl Jung, “The undiscovered Self”, where Dr. Jung focused on the society at large. 

I read Jim’s previous books as well as other authors, related to the topic of Depth psychology, and found his way of sharing ideas through a mythopoetic style quite distinctive. His practical advice often illustrated by the examples from his deep knowledge of literature, to show the universality of the archetypes across different times and cultures. Even now, at the age of 80, he is very active in his own analytic practice, gives interviews and lectures, and just shows up.