Written Teachings are Not the Truth

You have no reason to believe me. I ask you not to believe anything that you cannot verify for yourselves. – Gurdjieff

It seems to me that virtually every record of the Gurdjieff teaching is a record of something said in a given place and time, to certain people. As such, we have to understand that it was said for those people at that time with the point of making a certain impression on those people. Therefore, it was not meant as ultimate truth for posterity.

The one exception is All and Everything. However, as Gurdjieff says in The Arousing of Thought, he wrote it for the subconscious, not in normal language for the false-consciousness. Therefore, it is almost completely allegorical. It may state ultimate truth, but not directly. There is also Herald of Coming Good, but Gurdjieff recalled it.

Reality of Being may appear to be an exception but remember that it is from notebooks and so was not prepared by Jeanne de Salzmann for publication. For all we know, it may have been meant simply for her own use preparing for talks with groups. The editors say she had reported that she was writing a book, but we don’t know how close this was to the book she intended. It does not appear to be anywhere close to a complete book. I am compelled to note that, despite its limitations, I feel it is exceptionally valuable.

Still, it seems to me that we must take all of it with some doubt but use it to investigate truth for ourselves.

Words are good but they are not the best.
The best is not to be explained by words.

Johann Goethe

The ‘best is not to be explained by words,’ because truth cannot be expressed in words. It is said that the teaching is an oral tradition. Although oral means by mouth, here it implies direct, not only by mouth. This is why there are few written expositions of great teachings, the teachers know their truth cannot be expressed in words. Of course, truth can also be communicated directly without an oral element.

I began by addressing the Gurdjieff, Fourth Way, teaching but this point is true of all spiritual teachings.

Knowledge is knowledge of the whole. Yet we can only receive it in fragments. Afterward we must connect them ourselves in order to find their place in an understanding of the whole.                                                                                                                   Jeanne de Salzmann

Nondual nature of Gurdjieff’s idea of the Ray of Creation

This post assumes a familiarity with the ideas of G.I. Gurdjieff. However, it may be of interest to those studying nondual concepts as well.

How do you understand, or picture, the Ray of Creation as it is presented by Gurdjieff, as recorded by Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous? I realized that I had generally pictured it as presented in the diagrams in the book. That is, hierarchical, sequential, and separate, like a family tree. Then I realized that Gurdjieff’s words as they are recorded in the book present a different picture.

Consider these excerpts: (emphasis is mine)

“In relation to the term ‘world’ it is necessary to understand from the very outset that there are many worlds, and that we live not in one world, but in several worlds.” P. 75

“If we take one of the many worlds created in the Absolute, that is, world 3, it will be the world representing the total number of starry worlds similar to our Milky Way. If we take world 6, it will be one of the worlds created within this world, namely the accumulation of stars which we call the Milky Way.” P. 80

“In the big cosmic octave, which reaches us in the form of the ray of creation, we can see the first complete example of the law of octaves. The ray of creation begins with the Absolute. The Absolute is the All. The All, possessing full unity, full will, and full consciousness, creates worlds within itself, in this way beginning the descending world octave. The Absolute is the do of this octave. The worlds which the Absolute creates in itself are si.” P. 132

“In order better to understand the significance of the law of octaves it is necessary to have a clear idea of another property of vibrations, namely the so-called ‘inner vibrations.’ This means that within vibrations other vibrations proceed, and that every octave can be resolved into a great number of inner octaves.

“Each note of any octave can be regarded as an octave on another plane.”  P. 135

The words here present a picture, not of a family tree of separate entities like the diagrams in the book, but more like a body with parts which serve individual functions yet are made of the same material, or energy, as the whole. Beelzebub says we have the potential to become particles of the Absolute. This picture seems to suggest we are already particles of the Absolute, all be it, not fully conscious particles. To put it another way, it is popular these days to say we are made of star stuff. Further, this picture suggests that we are made of and live within the sun; the sun is made of and lives within the milky way; the milky way is made of and lives within the world of all stars; all stars live within world three and everything which happens in it, is the action of world three; and everything, including everything we see, know and experience, lives within and is made of the Absolute.

To Die or Simply Fade Away

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, еxcept a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, еxcept a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

Some call it separate self,
Some ego.
Some, “What the hell are you talking about, this is who I am!”

For those who feel that something is amiss
Who hear the prophets’ warning as their gist
They look for the culprit now and then
Catching glimpses of impermanence within
But with each glance it vanishes
Replaced by claims of vanquishes.

The game continues with now and then
Becoming more and less
With warnings becoming mindfulness
And vanishings becoming emptiness
Vanquishes, “The quiet space within.”

So, is death due for the prideful one
Or quiet fading like last night’s dreams?
Is there one which could die,
Or many which evaporate, as
With thanks to the sun,
Does the puddle in the afternoon.

For any who know, let them know.
For those who are wondering,
Best keep wandering,
Appreciating the game,
Of sacred to-and-fro.

In the Beginning …

was …

“In the beginning was the Word.”
In the beginning was emptiness, the implicate and things.
In the beginning was the shadow of the hawk flying overhead;
In the beginning was the four-year old’s taste of ice cream,
              and being the last to finish,
              being tickled,
              finding a frog,
              running in circles;
In the beginning was the cool moist autumn morning;
In the beginning was walking over Ambassador Bridge,
               and feeling it move when the rail is over-looked;
In the beginning was the traffic jam, the long line, the late doctor, forgetting,
               and quiet felt;
In the beginning was crepuscule light, and
               Monk and Nellie,
               and the minor key;
In the beginning was the Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen …;
In the beginning was Duino and the Elegies,
               and Da Vinci’s smile;
In the beginning was the silence of the aged couple,
               and the look between them;
In the beginning was the cross
               with its torture and death,
               adoration and return;
In the beginning was the messenger,
               in resonance with emptiness;
In the beginning was the seeker, seeking the beginning.

The Ouspensky Papers

An excerpt from unpublished meeting transcripts at the P.D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection at Yale University.

In the 1980’s, the small start-up software company I worked for in Atlanta miraculously managed a contract with the now almost infamous, AIG, the largest insurance company in the world. I made many trips to Manhattan to visit the AIG headquarters on Pine Street in the Wall Street area. On one week-long trip Elizabeth joined me. We stayed at the Holiday Inn near Times Square. Each morning I would walk to Times Square and take the subway downtown. Elizabeth would take a taxi to Grand Central Station and take a train to New Haven, to visit the P.D. Ouspensky Memorial Collection at the Beinecke Library at Yale.

At that time, and probably still today, specific parts of the collection could be requested and read on site. Visitors were not allowed to carry anything into the reading room with them. On request, they would be given a pencil and white paper to make notes on. The paper had a whole punched through the middle of it to easily verify that visitors were not walking out with any of the collection’s papers.

Elizabeth spent most of the week there transcribing meeting transcripts to the punched paper provided. Back home, she typed up the notes she took. Resulting in The Ouspensky Papers, 138 pages of unpublished meeting transcripts. A few copies were made and given to friends. Elizabeth’s introduction to the Papers says they were collected by a group of friends over a long period. So, possibly these transcripts are a consolidation of Elizabeth’s and other’s records, or possibly she was avoiding credit for them. Our memory has faded on this detail.

Here is an excerpt dated September 25, 1931:

“We have to avoid all-embracing definitions, bringing everything in one. It’s better to study things according to their manifestation and not to use generalizations. When we come to negative emotions, it will help us to understand what is useless suffering.

“By our education, by art, by literature we are made to think that suffering is necessary and cannot be avoided, and that all negative emotions such as fear, jealousy, apprehension, pride, foreboding, irritation are necessary, and that people cannot live without them; and not only that they are necessary, but that they are useful. It is illusion to think that negative emotions are a useful part in the general economics of life. As a matter of fact, there is not a single negative emotion which is of the slightest use. They are only a loss. But it is difficult to understand that with our mind. We have to study each emotion separately, whether it is useful in any sense. Then you will see that there is no profit in them and that they really can be avoided. Only when we get rid of negative emotions does development become possible. As we are now, energy is running away. Development means first of all stopping all waste of energy. What our machine accumulates during each twenty-four hours is spent during the next twenty—four hours. Sometimes more is spent than was accumulated. Man makes debts and some day he may become bankrupt and die. Development means economy, spending less than what is produced. Then, if for a long time you spend less than you produce, then new powers, new faculties, new forces appear. As long as man spends every day as much as he produces, there is no change. It is impossible to stop the leaking, the waste of energy, if one continues to have negative emotions. Negative emotions can be stopped because there is no special organ for suffering. It is invented. Only instinctive suffering is real, such as physical pain, bad smell, fear of snakes, for instance. All these are necessary emotions because they preserve life. All negative emotions do not give a useful result. There is no real organ for them, but they are made artificially, and this explains why they can be stopped. It is fortunate that they are artificially made because they can be unmade, destroyed.”

All Alone Together

All alone & alone together.

What is nothing.
Too much.
Write what is quiet.
Too loud.
What is now.
Too late.
What is thought.
Too wrong.
Nothing quiet now thought, too…

Silence reigns over quantity.
Peace slips toward tension
Knowing all will be lost.
It is for the Best.

The Best is not to be written.
So strum some mundane ditties
Pretend the game is to be won,
Lose at all cost
Knowing one game.

The only game in town,
Around town,
Across town,
Throughout the land,
To the moon.
Marbles sound like fun.
Call it what you will.

Whatever it is called,
Forget it.
Names are for the dead.
Living is anonymous,
Naming is tyrannical.
Leave it all alone.

Yes, that’s how it is.
All alone.

* * *

Robin beaks a string;
I grab thoughts for nourishment,
Impoverished both.

Together alone
Entangles are particled
Presencing being.

Where three or more are …
Recognized beggars partake.
Conditions provide.

The Duino Elegies of Rainer Maria Rilke

Excerpts from The Duino Elegies and a letter from Rilke elucidating their motivation and intent.

The polish translator of the Duino Elegies wrote to Rilke asking several questions regarding the Elegies. This is Rilke’s response. (Edited by me to remove a few less relevant points. All italics are Rilke’s.)

Here, dear friend, I venture to say scarcely anything, myself. At the hand of the poems themselves, however, may not many things perhaps attempt clarification? Where to begin? And is it I who should be allowed to give the Elegies their correct explanation? They reach out intimately beyond me. . . .  Affirmation of life AND death turns out to be one and the same thing in the “Elegies.” As experienced and celebrated here, to acknowledge the one and not the other would be finally to shut out all that is infinite. Death is the side of life turned away from us and unilluminated by us. We must try to achieve the greatest consciousness of our existence, which is at home in both unlimited realms, from both inexhaustibly nourished . . . The true shape of life reaches through both spheres; the blood of greatest circulation flows through both: there is neither a Here nor a Beyond, but the great unity in which those beings which transcend us, the “angels”, are at home. . . .

. . . We of the Here and Now are not for a moment satisfied with the Time-World nor bound in it; we are forever flowing over and over toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us. In that greatest “open” world all are, one cannot say “simultaneous”, for the very falling away of time implies that they all are. Transitoriness everywhere plunges into a deep Being. And so all the configurations of the Here are to be used not only in a time-bound way, but adjusted, insofar as we can, to those superior meanings in which we have a share. But not in the Christian sense, . . . but in a purely earthly, deeply earthly, blissfully earthly consciousness, we must introduce what we see and touch here into the wider, widest range. Not into a Beyond whose shadow darkens the earth, but into a whole, into the whole. Nature, the things we are associated with and use, are provisional and perishable things; but they are, as long as we are here, our possession and our friendship—confidants of our distress and of our rejoicing, as they have already been the intimates of our forebears. The main point is, not only not to speak ill of or put down the Here, but precisely because it is provisional (which it shares with us), to comprehend and transform its appearances and things in a most intimate understanding. Transform? Yes, for it is our duty to imprint so deeply, so patiently and passionately into ourselves this provisional, perishable earth, that its reality can rise again in us “invisibly.” We are the bees of the invisible. Distractedly we pilfer the honey of the visible to collect it in the big golden hive of the invisible. The “Elegies” show us at this work, at the work of perpetually converting the beloved Visible and Tangible into the invisible vibration and agitation of our own nature, which introduces new frequencies into the sphere-vibrations of the universe. (For the diverse substances of the cosmos are only different vibration-exponents, and so we prepare in this way not only intensities of a spiritual nature but, who knows, new bodies, metals, nebulae and constellations.) And this activity is characteristically sustained and urged on by the ever more rapid vanishing of so much that is visible, which will never again be replaced. Even for our grand-parents a “house”, a “spring”, a trusted tower, their very clothes, their coat: were infinitely more, infinitely closer. Almost everything was a vessel in which they found something human and added to the store of what was human. . . . The animate things, the experienced things, the things which have known us, are running out and can no longer be replaced. We are perhaps the last who will have known such things. On us rests the responsibility to preserve not only their memory (that would be little and unreliable) but also their human and laric worth. (“Laric” in the sense of household gods.) The earth has no other refuge than to become invisible: in us who with part of our being partake of the Invisible, at least hold stock in it, and can increase our holdings in Invisibility during our time here.

In us alone can this intimate and enduring transformation of the visible into an invisible no longer dependent on being visible and tangible be accomplished—as our own destiny at the same time continually becomes MORE AVAILABLE AND INVISIBLE in us. The Elegies set up this norm of existence: they assure, they celebrate this consciousness. They locate it carefully in its traditions, in that they claim for it ancient inheritances and rumors of inheritances, and call up foreknowledge of such references even in the Egyptian cult of the dead. (Although the “Land of Lamentation” through which the older “lament” leads the young dead is not to be identified with Egypt, but is only, so to speak, a mirroring of the Nile country into the desert- clarity consciousness of the dead.) . . . The angel of the Elegies is that creature in whom the transformation of the visible into the invisible which we are carrying out, appears already fulfilled. For the angel of the Elegies all past towers and palaces exist because they have been long invisible, and the still-standing towers and bridges of our life are already invisible, though (for us) still physically enduring. The angel of the Elegies is that being who stands for the recognition of a higher order of reality (in the invisible). Therefore “terrible” to us, because we, its lovers and transformers are, for all that, still attached to the visible. All worlds of the universe are hurling into the invisible, as though into their next deepest reality. A few stars intensify themselves immediately and disappear in the infinite consciousness of the angels— others depend on creatures who slowly and painstakingly transform them, creatures in whose terrors and delights they reach their next invisible realization. We are, let it be once more stressed, in the sense of the Elegies, we are these transformers of the earth; our entire existence, the flights and plunges of our love— everything— qualifies us for this task (beside which no other essentially exists). …

May you recognize here, dear friend, some counsel and elucidation and, for the rest, further help yourself. For I do not know whether I could ever say more.

Your R.M. Rilke

Excerpts from the Elegies

The First Elegy excerpt

Who, if I cried, would hear me from the order

of Angels? And even if one suddenly held me

to his heart: I would dissolve there from

his stronger presence. For beauty is only

the beginning of a terror we can just barely endure,

and what we so admire is its calm

disdaining to destroy us. Every Angel brings terror.

So I withhold myself and keep back the lure

of my dark sobbing. Oh, who is there

to prevail upon? Neither Angles nor men,

and already the ingenious beasts are aware

that we are not reliably at home

in our interpreted world.

Yes, the springtime did need you. Many stars

demanded that you sense them. A wave

long since gone by lifted itself toward you,

or when you passed a window that was open, a violin

gave itself up. All this was charge.

But did you complete it? Were you not always

distracted with expectation, as though this were

but announcing someone you could love?

Should not this ancient pain at last produce in us

more fruit? Is it not time that our loving

freed us from our beloved and we, trembling, endured;

as the arrow endures the string that, gathered to leap forth,

it may be more that itself. For staying is nowhere.

— But all the living

mistakenly draw too sharp distinctions.

Angels (one says) often are not sure if they

move among the living or the dead. The eternal torrent

hurls all ages along through both realms

forever, and sound above them in both.

The Second Elegy excerpts

Every Angel brings terror. And yet, woe is me,

my song calls upon you, near-deadly birds of the soul,

knowing who you are. Where have the days of Tobias gone

when one supremely shining stood in a simple doorway,

disguised a little for the journey and no longer frightening;

(young to the young one as he curiously peered out.)

Should the archangel, the perilous one, behind the stars

take a single step downward and toward us, our own

surging hearts would slay us. Who are you?

Lovers, if they but knew, could in the night air

speak wonderful things. For it seems that all things

conceal us. Look, the trees exist; and the houses

we live in – still stand. But we pass them by

like an exchange of breath.

And all is in agreement to ignore us; half as shame, perhaps

and half as ineffable hope.

The Fifth Elegy excerpt

Angel! Could there be a place we have not known, and there

on an ineffable carpet, lovers revealed all that here

they can never accomplish, the daring

high figures of the heart’s flight,

their towers made of pleasure, ladders

leaning only on each other where there was never

ground, and swaying – and could it be

before those rings of spectators, the countless silent dead,

would not fling their last, their always kept back, always

hidden and unknown to us, forever valid

coins of happiness before that pair whose smile

at last was true, out of the quietened


The Seventh Elegy excerpt

To be present is glorious. You knew it, even you

girls, who seemingly went without, sank under, in the

saddest streets of the cities, festering ones kept for refuse.

For one hour was each of you, or perhaps not

entirely an hour, some span of time that is scarcely

a measure between two whiles, wherein you had

existence. Everything. Your veins full of existence.

But we so lightly forget what our laughing neighbor

will neither confirm nor envy. Into the visible

we want to raise it, when even the most visible joy

only can disclose itself to us when we have transformed it within.

Nowhere, my love, can there be World but within us.

Our life goes by in changing, and ever fainter

dwindles the external. Where an enduring house once stood,

an invented image now strikes across our sight, the concept’s

entire property, as though it still loomed in the mind.

Vast stores of power the Time Spirit builds itself, formless

as that vital drive it levies from all things.

Temples it knows no more. These extravagances of the heart

we are secretly saving. Yes, where there remains

a thing once prayed, served, or knelt before,

it survives, just as it is, into the unseen world.

Many no longer perceive this, still lack the vantage

for building it inwardly now, with pillars and statues, greater!

The Eighth Elegy excerpt

With all their eyes all creatures gaze into

the Open. Only our eyes, as though turned in,

on every side of it are set about

like traps to circumvent its free outgazing.

What is without we know from the face

of animals alone, for even the youngest child

we turn around and force to see the past

as form and not that openness that

lies so deep within the face of animals. Free from death,

has its destruction always behind it

and before it God, so when it moves, it moves

into eternity, like a running spring.

We have never, not for a single day,

that pure space before us, into which the flowers

endlessly open: where it is always world

and never Nowhere without No:

that Pure, Unwatched-over. That one breathes and

endlessly knows and does not desire.

Were consciousness after our manner within this

sure beast that draws near to us

but in another direction -, he would pull us with him

on his way. But his being to him is

infinite, incomprehensible and without sight

into his situation, pure, like his outward gaze.

And where we see future, he sees all

and himself in all, and is complete forever.

The Ninth Elegy excerpt

… why, then

must we be human – and evading destiny,

long for destiny? . . .

                                         Oh not because happiness is

that hasty profit of an approaching loss.

Not from curiosity, nor to exercise the heart,

it could have been that in the laurel. . . .

But because being present is so much, because it seems

that what is here is in need of us, this fading world

has strangely charged us. Us who fade the most. Once

to everything, only once. Once and no more. And we too,

once. And never again. But this

once to have been, if only this once:

to have been of the earth seems beyond revoking.

Earth, is not this what you want: invisibly

to arise in us? Is it not your dream

to become one day invisible? – Earth! invisible!

What do you charge us with if not transformation?

Earth, my love, I will. Oh believe me, I need

no more of your springtimes to win me; one,

ah, just one is already too much for my blood.

Unutterably I am resolved to be yours, from afar.

You were always right, and your holiest occurrence

is our intimate companion, Death.

Look, I live. And for what? Neither childhood nor future

grows any less in me . . . . Unaccountable being

springs up in my heart.

The Tenth Elegy excerpt

That I one, with the passing of this grim vision,

might sing out jubilant praise for assenting Angels.

That from the clear-struck keys of my heart, not one

should fail from doubtful, or slack or breaking strings;

that my streaming face might make me more radiant,

until an inconspicuous weeping bloom there. How dear

will you be to me then, you nights of sorrowing.

Oh why did I not, disconsolate sisters, kneel

more to receive you, give myself more loosely

into your loosened hair. We, wasting our sorrows,

how we gaze beyond them into some drab duration

to see if they may not end there. While already

they are the winter foliage, our darkened evergreen,

one of the season of our secret year -, not only

season -, but place, settlement, camp, soil, habitation.

Yet within us the endless dead were waking in a likeness;

see, they were pointing perhaps to the catkins hung

from the empty hazels, or suggesting the rain

that falls on the dark soil in early spring. –

And we, who have always counted

on joy as ascending, would suffer

the emotion that almost alarms us

when a joyful things falls.

Translations by Stephen Garmey and Jay Wilson as printed in the Petrarch Press edition, 1987.

Why is the ‘Unconscious’ Unconscious by Maurice Nicoll

Written after studying with Jung and prior to meeting Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. Printed in 1918, in The British Journal of Psychology, Volume 9, Number 2.

A discussion dealing with the nature of the unconscious is inevitably difficult. If we wish to understand the significance of the teaching of Jung upon the nature of the unconscious, it is first necessary to gain some idea of the original teaching of Freud. The original teaching of Freud was that the unconscious part of the human psyche contained only what had once belonged to the conscious personal life. It became unconscious because it was repressed. It was repressed because it was painful, or grossly antagonistic to conventional standards. Thus, the unconscious, from Freud’s original standpoint, comes into existence during the life of the individual as a result of repression. It is therefore a secondary product. From this point of view the ‘unconscious’ is unconscious because of repression, a process peculiar to humanity. It begins at an early period in every human life. At birth there is no unconscious, and at puberty there is an unconscious, and this unconscious is only a repressed part of the person’s conscious experience.

This repressed portion, according to Freud, is largely the so-called infantile sexuality. We can say that this kind of unconscious is like a cage opening off the main living-room of consciousness into which we put the things that have become dangerous. The main task of life is to keep the door of the cage shut. If the door is not shut properly, we become neurotic or insane. I do not know exactly what the Freudian school believe at the present moment, over and above this original view. I do not think it is possible to find very clear formulations in the modern Freudian writings.

Jung, the leader of the Zurich school, takes another view of the unconscious. His teaching has led to a split with Freud, mainly over the question of sexuality. To Jung the primitive life force, or libido, is not sexuality, but an energy one of whose manifestations is sexuality.

Jung does not regard the unconscious only as something acquired during personal existence through repression. It is also an inheritance— a racial background of the mind. This, for Jung, constitutes the collective unconscious, and its contents are inexhaustible; that is, no amount of analysis can exhaust them. Jung brings the matter of the inexhaustibility of the unconscious as an argument against the Freudian view. If the unconscious is merely a certain repressed part of the psychic life of the individual, then it should theoretically be possible to exhaust its contents or do away with it by analysis—that is, by making it conscious. Experience seems to show that this is far from possible, and that the unconscious continues to weave its dreams and phantasies ceaselessly. What Freud calls the unconscious, Jung calls the personal unconscious, and this is but an excerpt of the collective unconscious, containing repressed and forgotten material that has an intimate and personal significance. The contents of the collective unconscious are impersonal and are made up of what Jung calls the primordial thought feelings. These primordial thought feelings are shared in common by mankind and form the primitive pattern of all thought, which we, according to our mental powers, work up into more or less elaborate systems. Therefore, the roots of thought and feeling reach down beyond personal history, beyond the personal unconscious, into racial strata where lie the primordial thought feelings.

In order to understand what is meant by primordial thought feelings I might suggest that we compare them to certain primordial re-actions, such as pleasure and pain. Some qualities seem to be inherent in the human soul, and we cannot fundamentally attribute them to education.

The appreciation of beauty and ugliness depends, I think, on a primordial duality in us. Naturally, education will develop these primordial thought feelings in one direction or another. Perhaps all the primordial things have a dual aspect or ambivalency. Certain gestures and expressions must surely be primordial—laughter and rage. Our basic emotions are surely primordial. And then there is the war—were the deeps of the human soul only what Freud has taught, whence comes all this devoted sacrifice?

We have also to consider that we seem to understand more than we have actually experienced, and far more than we can express, but I do not propose to discuss this very difficult thesis. I will only mention that if our capacity for understanding did not transcend our personal conscious experience, the outlook for art, drama and literature would be sterile. Shakespeare could not have existed; or, to put it another way, he would be largely meaningless. All great art lifts us far beyond our conscious selves, but when the spell is over, we lose the vision and wonder at the deeps within us.

Jung quotes the fantasy of a schizo-phrenic patient of Maeder’s— a locksmith—who said that the world was his picture-book. The fantasy, or primitive idea, of this uneducated patient is the same primordial thought feeling as underlies the whole system of Schopenhauer’s philosophy which conceives the world as Will. The difference between the locksmith and Schopenhauer is one of elaboration and detail. The primordial thought feeling is the same and exists in us all.

There is one very important thing which the original Freudian view of the unconscious does not fully explain. It is the language of the dream. There is sound evidence to show that the infant experiences dreams before it can speak, and I think most people will agree that animals dream. Dreaming therefore precedes the function of language.

Dreaming is pictorial language. It is primitive language—a primitive way of thinking. Jung saw in the dream symbol a primitive and primary representation. Freud thought the dream symbol was not a real representation, but something secondary* the outcome of repression. It was a method of disguise, a process of camouflage, whereby the unpleasant repressed contents of the unconscious could gain admittance into consciousness, by avoiding the endopsychic censor. But in the preface to the third English edition of The Interpretation of Dreams Freud says that he has learned to attach a greater value to the significance of symbolism in dreams, “or rather, in the unconscious thinking.” From this and from other recent writings it would appear that Freud recognises in some degree that there is a language of dreams inherent in the unconscious, a primitive way of thinking which we inherit from our ancestors. Many years ago, Jung came to the view that the dream is an archaic process of thought. It is a way of looking at things that belongs to the dim past. Now if the dream is thought at a deep level, in order that we should understand it, it must be developed up to the level of waking thought, and not only reduced down to a more primitive level of sexuality. Take the cartoon as an example—an ordinary Punch cartoon.

It is a way of speaking, and its language is pictorial like that of the dream. We can reduce it to a sexual basis if we like, but are we then to say, “this cartoon is nothing but certain basic sexual components?”

I do not think that we usually apply that method to the understanding of a cartoon, but on the contrary, we develop the cartoon up to the level of contemporary thought. We interpret its condensed symbolisms by adding to them—by what Jung calls the ‘hermeneutical’ method.

Associated with the names of Jung, Meyer, Hoch and MacCurdy, is the modern view of the two great groups of functional insanity— mania-depression and dementia praecox—which teaches that they are manifestations of a retreat or regression to a more primitive stage of human adaptation. They are constructive efforts at adaptation to reality—but instead of being progressive adaptations, they are regressive.

Jung’s teaching on the meaning of the neuroses is in the same enlightening vein.

We have therefore to consider the unconscious from an evolutionary point of view; and to the question, why is the ‘unconscious’ unconscious?, we may answer that it is unconscious because it is not yet fully adapted to reality. The unconscious contains nascent thought—thought that has not yet been fashioned into the form that is useful to consciousness.

The unconscious contains the raw material of the conscious life. It contains the germinal stuff, the bulbs and roots, which exist below the surface because, as such, they are unadapted and meaningless to us.

Their blossoms are what we value. It is only when a man is insane that they come into conscious expression directly, and then we see how unadapted are his nascent fantasies. It must be pointed out here that, if this theory is valid, we must expect to find in the unconscious, through its product the dream, traces of all human qualities—the heroic and upward striving as well as the bestial—the forces of progression as well as the forces of regression. Jung has insisted strongly upon this, and Maeder uses a striking phrase in this connexion when he says that in the dreams of neurotics—those who have regressed partially from the reality-function—we can find the “drowned voices of progression.” Freud, as I understand him, sees only the regressive voices in the dream, the sirens of infantile sexuality.

The primordial thought feelings contain—in Jung’s words—“ not only every beautiful and great thought and feeling of humanity, but also every deed of shame and devilry of which human beings have ever been capable” ; therefore the sources of conflict must lie in the un­ conscious itself, and not only in the restraints of an acquired morality imposed on the growing life, as Freud once thought.

The biological aim behind evolution seems to have been to thrust consciousness up to the gateways of incoming experience in order to free it from the past, from the already experienced. A study of the human nervous system, in the light of the recent work of Head, Sherrington, Rivers, Riddoch and others in the domain of neurology, leads one to this conclusion. The very existence of the reflex is dramatic evidence enough. The machinery of reflexes, of automatic acts, of habits, frees consciousness to deal specifically with incoming experience. 1 suppose we believe in the evolution of the body; the next step is to believe in the evolution of consciousness. If we do believe in the evolution of the mind, we should not find it strange that in underlying consciousness there should exist more and more primitive layers of thought and feeling which are lit up during sleep. For in sleep we leave the focussed levels of waking consciousness and regress to levels where we look at our problems in a way which once belonged to the waking life of dim ancestors. But we call it a dream.

Jung suggests that the contents of the collective unconscious consist of archaic human functions from which spring the myths. But besides these archaic human functions there is also the residue of functions belonging to the animal ancestry of mankind, an ancestry which covers a vastly greater period than that of human existence. These archaic residues may become pathologically active when the life current, or the libido, streams backwards, away from reality. This streaming backwards from a hard task in reality is called regression.

A patient of mine who later developed dementia praecox frequently dreamt that he was becalmed in a small ship upon a smooth and empty sea. He was dangling his hand in the water when suddenly some monster of the deep, which he thought was a large yellow crab, seized it and began to pull him down.

From the Jung standpoint this dream represents the inner situation of the patient. It shows in primitive pictorial language the inner currents and tensions in the patient’s psyche. It is a question whether the dreamer can pull up the monster, or whether the monster will pull down the dreamer. The monster in the deep is a symbol for that amount of libido which has regressed into the collective unconscious. It appears in the form of a large crab because it is a quantity of energy which has only a collective value, and no individual value, in that it is at a primitive invertebrate level, as it were, and not yet adapted to human function.

Unless this energy can be freed and pulled up into the ship on the surface—that is, made available for conscious application—there will be tremendous danger. The ultimate fate of the patient was that he became dragged down beyond recall into the inexhaustible primordial fantasies of the collective unconscious.

To sum up, the ‘unconscious’ is unconscious because life is a process of progressive evolution, and the content of the healthy conscious mind requires to be closely adapted to reality if the individual is to be successful. Therefore, the progressive transmutations of psychic energy are carried out at levels beneath consciousness, just as the progressive transmutations of the embryo are carried out in the womb of the mother, and it is only the comparatively adapted form that is born into waking life. Thus, from this point of view we must regard the unconscious as the inexhaustible source of our psychic life, and not only as a cage containing strange and odious beasts.

1 Contribution to a Symposium at a Joint Session of the British Psychological Society, the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association, July 6, 1918.

Cosmic Consciousness with Walt Whitman

Horace Traubel was a close associate of Walt Whitman and one of his executors. This is his contribution to the book Cosmic Consciousness by Maurice Bucke:

May, 1889. That overwhelming night, as I leaned over the railing of the ferryboat, lost this world for another, and in the anguish and joy of a few minutes saw things heretofore withheld from me revealed. Those who have had such an encounter will understand what this means, others will not, or will perhaps only realize it by intimation. I could not separate the physical and spiritual of that moment. My physical body went through the experience of a disappearance in spiritual light. All severe lines in the front of phenomena relaxed. I was one with God, Love, the Universe, arrived at last face to face with myself. I was sensible of peculiar moral and mental disturbances and readjustments. There was an immediateness to it all—an indissoluble unity of the several energies of my being in one force. I was no more boating it on a river than winging it in space or taking star leaps, a traveler from one to another on the peopled orbs. While I stood there the boat had got into the slip and was almost ready to go out again. A deckhand who knew me came up and tapped me on the shoulder. “Don’t you intend going off the boat?” he asked. And he added when I faced him and said “Yes:” “You look wonderfully well and happy to-night, Mr. Traubel.”

I did not see Walt till the next day, evening. In the meantime I had lived through twenty-four hours of ecstasy mixed with some doubts as to whether I had not had a crack in the skull and gone mad rather than fallen under some light and made a discovery. But the first words Walt addressed to me when I sallied into his room were reassuring: “Horace, you have the look of great happiness on your face to-night. Have you had a run of good luck?” I sat down and tried in a few words to indicate that I had had a run of good luck, though not perhaps the good luck he had in mind for me at the moment. He did not seem at all surprised at what I told him, merely remarking, as he put his hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes: “I knew it would come to you.” I suggested: “I have been wondering all day if I am not crazy.” He laughed gravely: “No, sane. Now at last you are sane.”