The Sefer Yetzirah enjoins us to both run and return and Ari Kaplan rephrases that in a useful fashion, pointing out that to run is to swing into the mystical and visionary state while to return is to come back to our critical and analytical framework and to subject what we experienced in the visionary state to disciplined contemplation. What we extract from that disciplined contemplation is what we will use to run forth again, to push more deeply into the mystical and visionary.
So, it’s been a little but since I talked about the Yeatses’ spiritualist material. A large part of that has to do with how clearly it fits into the hungry ghost model. There isn’t a single trait of the hungry ghost experience that you can’t find in the Vision materials: hypnotism, talkative spirits, pseudo-historical identities, warnings about rival spirits looking to interfere with them, cosmological speculation, striking physical manifestations, draining the medium. That’s a lot of red flags.
There are some redeeming qualities, though. The spirits seem less interested in the cosmological speculation than William. While they deign to talk about such things, they often seem to do so with a certain sense of resignation (“oh for the love of…William wants to hear about the afterlife again”). While they do engage in some striking physical manifestations, they are less concerned with dramatic proofs of there power (like healing).
They show concern for their medium’s fatigue and advise the Yeatses to take it easy on channeling. Finally, they show a great deal of interest in family and children, stating one of their key works to be be securing the birth of the children and their well-being in life, and they do seem to manage that quite tidily. If the volume of material is any indication, their direct interaction with the Yeatses declines sharply after the family is established.
Jung gets a bad rap sometimes for over-psychologizing religious experience. While the accusation is true enough, it obscures important dimensions of his work. While popular understandings of Jung were skewed by the way they became popular around Joseph Campbell’s use of his work to explain and interpret world mythology, the core of Jung’s method remained active, hands-on. To get at that, I want to look at Jung with different eyes, scrub off some of the accretions that came to define and distort his work.
So, I’ve started to talk about some right proper kookiness these last few posts: giants, PKD, heavenly invasions to save the dead. Do I really believe this stuff? The short answer is yes, the long answer is no. Or the short answer is no, the long answer yes. Or is it short answer, no, long answer no? Those responses should give you a clear idea of what I am getting at–‘believing’ isn’t quite what matters here, though it does come into play. The gnostic work must take for granted that (1) the human understanding is limited but not incompetent and (2) the world is complex, exceeds our understanding, but is not senseless.