In my first post, As Above, So Below, I speculated that the afterlife might be analogous to a dream. While nobody knows for sure what happens after we die, I find the theory that the afterlife might be a form of dream intriguing. Carl Jung realized that dreams are compensatory. Our dreams inform us of the ways that we are off balance. By interpreting our dreams we can learn how to regain balance in our lives. In this way, dreams can be seen as a form of corrective measure. Many religions teach that we are either rewarded or punished after we die based upon how we behaved during our lives. If dreams and the afterlife are related, then it seems likely that the afterlife is also compensatory.
I remember a friend of mine, a chassidic rabbi, once told me that we judge ourselves after we die. Some part of ourselves, separate from our ego, evaluates our behavior in life and decrees some form of reward or punishment to correct the soul. This could be exactly what happens in a dream. Our Self formulates a dream experience to help correct our ego. I see no reason why the afterlife should be any different. When we reincarnate or “awaken” into our next life, we will hopefully have gained wisdom from the experience. Every subsequent incarnation offers an opportunity for the further growth of the individual and the species.
I have certain pseudo-spiritual beliefs concerning psychotherapy which have contributed to my desire to become a licensed counselor. I believe that being a therapist is one of the noblest things that a person can do with their life. My suspicion is that there is no more effective or longer lasting way to change the world than through psychotherapy. Many of the problems that plague mankind are psychological in origin and have the unfortunate ability to persist over the course of generations. One of the best ways to rectify these social ills is through psychotherapy. Individuals, families, and societies have been plagued by violence, inequality, addiction, and a host of other problems for millennia. Since the advent of modern psychotherapy, we have seen revolutionary changes in the psyche of mankind. I also believe that every individual is connected via the collective unconscious. If this is true, it might be argued that there is a single organism comprised of many bodies. By treating an individual, you can help that individual and the collective whole, as well. This is empirically true, even without taking the collective unconscious into account. However, I entertain the notion that there is some sort of unconscious psychological connection between each member of the human race. That is why I believe psychotherapy is of paramount importance for the future of mankind. I look forward to seeing the continued psychological evolution of mankind and helping in my small way to guide that evolution, as a therapist.
My own personal belief system is what I hold on to and what I hope will guide me through the difficulties I am sure to face counseling clients. I am hopeful that these beliefs will help me deal with any counter-transference that may arise when dealing with clients and fuel my desire to help others. I believe that everyone lives according to one or more myths, whether they consciously realize it or not. Myths provide order, meaning, and direction to the cultures and individuals who live by them. I believe that the psychological healing of individuals is inextricably linked to the rectification of the universe. This is my myth. I hope it will both sustain me, and help me facilitate positive change for my clients, throughout what I hope will be a long career as a psychotherapist.
Last week I attended a Gnostic mass at St. Sarah’s Parish, an Apostolic Johannite Church, at the Theosophical Society in Arlington, MA. I met Fr. Donald Donato and several of the regular parishioners. Everyone was friendly and made me feel welcome. I was not raised as a Christian, so I tend to feel a little out of my element in a church. However, I’ve been exploring my religious options lately. My interest in Jungian Psychology has led to an interest in Gnosticism, so I was pleased to discover St. Sarah’s online. The mass was similar to the usual Catholic mass in some ways, although there was some Gnostic terminology and elements reminiscent of ritual magic, which gave the service a unique feel.
After the service, we enjoyed refreshments while Fr. Donato led a group discussion about the meaning of the eucharist. I found Fr. Donato to be quite knowledgeable and the evening was both enjoyable and educational.
The following night, I attended a class on the roots of Unitarian Universalism at the Unitarian Universalist Church at First Parish in Sherborn, MA. Rev. Nathan Detering conducted the class, which was attended by quite a few individuals. The attendees seemed to be an even mix of those raised as UUs and those new to the church. Rev. Detering was very warm and friendly. He emphasized his concern that everyone should feel welcome in a UU church, regardless of what they believe or don’t believe. UUism is a non-creedal religion. There are no doctrines or beliefs that one must hold, but one must be respectful of the beliefs of others. UUism is so inclusive that there are even many atheists that belong to UU congregations.
I find elements of both AJC Gnosticism and UUism appealing. Luckily, I don’t have to choose one or the other, since both are liberal denominations that emphasize freedom of conscience and belief. I also suspect that they might be highly complimentary. I plan on attending services at both churches in the future.
Information on the Apostolic Johannite Church, Unitarian Universalism, and the churches I visited can be found at:
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the Hermetic dictum, “As above, so below.” This saying has traditionally been interpreted to mean that, astrologically speaking, what occurs in the heavens is mirrored by what happens here on Earth. However, there is another interpretation favored by depth psychologists, that what occurs in a person’s mind is mirrored somehow in the circumstances and events of their outer lives. Dr. Carl Gustav Jung formulated the theory of synchronicity to explain how this phenomenon is scientifically possible. He believed that an acausal relationship can exist between two events. There is another interpretation of the above saying which I find compelling, that the macrocosm matches the microcosm. Plato believed that the universe was an organism, an animal, of sorts. There are mystical traditions associated with the Abrahamic faiths that this organism is a man, the identity of which varies among the different traditions. According to Jewish Kabbalah, this man is Adam Kadmon. Christian mystics have associated this cosmic man with Jesus. Therefore, a synchronistic relationship may exist between this larger cosmic man (who according to some traditions is a hermaphrodite, combining masculine and feminine traits) and mankind. I believe that by understanding ourselves, we can understand something about the universe and about God. I also believe that the existence of this mirroring effect can be intuited when we observe the daily life of an average human being and consider it’s relationship to the life cycle of a human being. It may be possible to infer the existence of an afterlife and reincarnation, if we understand the meaning of the pattern of daily human routines. In Sophocles’s Oedipus the King, a sphinx poses a riddle to Oedipus. “What moves upon four legs in the morning, walks on two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?” Oedipus comes up with the correct answer to the sphinx’s riddle. The creature is Man. As a babe, we crawl on all fours. As an adult, we walk upright on two legs. As we age, it sometimes becomes necessary to walk with a cane. The sphinx’s riddle draws an analogy between the time of day and the stages of the human life-cycle. There seems to be a relationship between the human life-cycle and the universal aspects of the day to day activities of people. In the morning, we wake up. This is like being born. In the course of our day, we go about our lives. In the evening, we get tired. This is comparable to the infirmity that comes with old age. At night, we fall asleep. This has long been compared to dying. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet says, “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…” Dreams may be a glimpse of the afterlife. Waking up the following morning is like reincarnation and the process starts all over again. This is not hard scientific proof of the existence of an afterlife or reincarnation. However, for those who can see the patterns woven throughout the fabric of reality, it is possible to discern a poetic order behind the chaos.