Book Two

 

RETURN TO THE WHOLE

A study of the landscape symbolism of the Bible

as it relates to the spiritual journey


1996, 1997, 1999, 2001 by Ann K Elliott

 

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BOOK TWO

THE WILDERNESS

Part I

CALL TO BOUNDLESSNESS

 The decisive question is:
Is [a person] related to something infinite or not?
C G Jung

Saul Raskin's ABRAHAM



 

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Abraham's Call

The Judaic-Christian heritage goes back nearly 4,000 years to when Abraham heard the voice of God directing him to

Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.(1)

Thus Abraham set out for the land of Canaan--the Promised Land. He was called out of one life into another. He experienced a separation from all he had known and all to which he had thought of himself as belonging. He was enjoined to the solitariness of an unfamiliar Wilderness, called to a place where he would experience his true nature as a child of the universe, as one who was boundless.

 

 
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The Call to Individuation

Edward Edinger has described Abraham's divinely originated urge as "the archetypal image of the 'call' that initiates individuation."(2) Abraham was called to wake up to who he was individually and eternally, to become aware of a center of personality other than the ego, a transpersonal center Jung has identified as the true, creative, authentic, whole Self, the Self by which the individual is linked to the infinite.

 

 
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Early Intimations

Similarly Wordsworth, in the language of poetry, speaks of the Soul as "our life's Star." In his "Intimations of Immortality" he recollects early memories not entirely forgotten:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
and not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:(3)

. . . a little child playing alone in her sandbox, sensing herself surrounded and enfolded by the love of a heavenly Father whose omnipresence she senses in the flowers, in the melody of a bird, in the gentle breeze and the warmth of the sun, in the iridescence of the sky--a Presence she senses as everywhere and in everything as far as she can see.

Such early "intimations" reflect the Self's innate sense of being. Later they are the holy ground from which a readiness for vocation arises. The call may come as a voice (inner or outer), or as a vision or dream. It may happen in the midst of a literal or figurative Wilderness, or through an ordeal, or in answer to a soul-searching question sincerely asked. It comes in whatever way it can, through whatever opening into consciousness it can find. As with Abraham, the call comes to tell us who we are and why we are here. Above all, it comes to summon us back into relationship with an infinite Being who is called by many names.

 

 

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Boundless as the Stars

So it happened that Abraham found himself cut off from his family, his native land, and all that had been familiar. Standing all alone beneath the desert night sky, a voice spoke out of the silence: "Abraham,"

Lift up your eyes and look: As far as you can see in every direction, all this belongs to you and your descendants for ever.(4)

Thus Abraham was brought into relationship with all that he could see as far as he could see. And without knowing how it could or would happen, he accepted God's word that he would father a great nation, one so great that his descendants would outnumber the stars. In him all the families of the earth would be blessed.(5)

The ancient Hebrew sages, according to Rabbi Dobin,(6) had a belief that every twenty years, when Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction, the will of God was made known. The idea was that Saturn, the farthest planet they could see, was the Divine Messenger who communicated God's will at the time of the conjunction. The message was then passed on to the rest of the planets over the following year as each came into conjunction with Jupiter. Thus every twenty years knowledge of God's will made the rounds of the heavens. Possibly it was such a conjunction that brought Abraham out beneath the stars that night. Perhaps he was standing there in readiness, his mind and heart attentive to the voice of God.

In any event, it is the Self who comes with the divine message that we, too, are as boundless as the stars and who calls us into a relationship with God that is based on an intimacy such as exists between close friends, a Self with whom God covenants to be mutually bound.

. . . you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend.(7)

Before their fall into consciousness Adam and Eve had "walked and talked" with God in the Garden of their pre-conscious existence. (Book One, Part I) Then had come the separation from the One, the sense of self as severed from God. But now, in the person of Abraham, the relationship was being restored, only higher up the spiral as a conscious relationship.

 

 

 

Star Stuff

Edinger identifies the Covenant relationship between God and Abraham and his descendants as "the core content of the old Testament"

Abraham is told that the fruits of his life will be countless and of the nature of stars. . . . He is to be the father of "star stuff."(8)

An ancient Chinese Book of [burial] Rites, also points metaphorically to the stars as the home to which the eternal Self returns:

Earth covers the bones . . . the spirit rises to the stars.(9)

Abraham's call was to father individuals destined to take their places among the stars. Symbolically speaking, each soul has its own individual place in the whole of creation in the same way that each star has a place of its own in the heavens. The stars speak of an individuality that is an integral part of a greater Whole. Porphyry describes this unity as a particular that is distinct without being separate. Raynor Johnson comments:

Perhaps the individual human consciousness, the sense of "I"-ness, is an irreducible and fundamental thing, and the increasing sense of unity as we penetrate towards reality is a unity of relationship. I think we can find useful analogies for this on many levels--being careful not to press them too far. There is on the material level the relationship of atoms in a molecule. The atomic nuclei remain intact, but the external structures are interlocked to form a new and larger whole. Take the human body. The billions of cells are united into functioning organs and the various organs into a still greater whole through which runs a principle of co-operation and unity. The unity is one not of structure and function, but of relationship. On the level of mind we have the unity of relationship of many varied memories held without confusion within a single mind. In art we have the unity of relationship of pigments forming a painting or of notes forming a piece of music.(10)

 

 

 

The Christ Event

Jung held that the lives of certain individuals so far exceed their personal influence as to impact the psyche of collective humanity. Through their attainments humanity as a whole is furthered along the evolutionary spiral. From the seed of Abraham one in particular would come whose relationship with God would be so close that to see the one would be to see the other. Out of this at-one-ment an Event of cosmic proportions would be generated so as to reverberate throughout all ages.

From an evolutionary perspective, the task for which the Israelites, as the descendants of Abraham, had been chosen was to be the boost that would launch human consciousness from one stage to another--like millions of rockets fired irretractably into the heavens.

A brilliant conjunction of heavenly bodies had announced the advent of the long foretold Event. The new light that had entered human consciousness continued to increase during the centuries immediately following its earth entry. Early on there had been expectations of a Second Coming. But when the parousia did not take place, at least as expected, the fervency surrounding the Event began to diminish. Eventually it was politicized and institutionalized. Then, with the dark ages, its light disappeared from view. By this time, however, the seeds of the Event had been sown far and wide and lay waiting to burst back into Life.

Certainly, in the art and architecture of the Renaissance, the Event was reborn as aesthetics. This awakening, however, gave way to the dehumanizing influences of industrialization and the over-rationality of the age of science. Metaphor, myth and symbol were becoming lost languages. The vision of Christ, risen and returning to complete the work of atonement, was perishing for lack of visionary language.

 
 
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The Silent Awakening

Then, moving into the Twentieth Century, a new stirring of spirit began. In Civilization in Transition Jung speaks of a "secret spirituality" among the "silent ones of the land." He quotes Keyserling as one who "speaks with the voice of many and so gives expression to a great time of change."

The man of this age undoubtedly speaks through him when he rates understanding above faith and experience above a credo. The individual, "master of himself and freed from the shackles of tradition, is beginning to understand the old truths, in so far as they are truths which in earlier times were simply accepted on authority, in a new and personal way. At the very time when the old forms are disintegrating, advanced minorities are beginning to experience their essential meaning, their living and immortal substance, more profoundly than at any time since the golden age of Christianity, when Greek thinkers were giving shape to the Christian view of the world. This means nothing less that that the age of the Holy Ghost is now at hand."(11)

"Who would have thought that?" Jung muses:

Who are these "advanced minorities"? Where are they? I will tell you: your next-door neighbours, the Meiers and the Mullers, of whom you would never have expected it, . . . . (12)

What is "it" we don't expect of our neighbors? Is it their deep but secret spirituality? That they have dreamt big dreams, heard voices, and even seen visions? That they have had spiritual experiences they wished they understood but are reluctant to talk about? Could it be that this generation really is witness to a collective, planetary spiritual awakening? To a New Coming? Barbara Marx Hubbard would agree when she speaks of this generation as "members of the evolving world" who are living "at the time of its Quantum Transformation."

We are the seed of a fully human species. Our desire to grow is the pulse and power of evolution itself, motivating us to realize and fulfill our life purpose. Deep personal stories often reveal the pattern of the future human.

Each of us is an expression of the overall evolutionary journey. By tracing our individual stories, we discover our unique participatory role in the great transformation of our time.(13)

 
 
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The Twentieth Century Synthesis of Psychology and Spirituality

As early as mid Twentieth Century the fresh new wind of the Holy Spirit was clearly discernible throughout the land. Charismatic "renewal" communities were springing up across all denominational lines. In place of statements of belief they offered an experience of the Holy Spirit. Faith was coming alive in a new and living way.

For some the experience of the Holy Spirit was also a call to individuation, a call that recognized the need for going deeper into the psyche where soul healing was needed in order to free one to discover and follow her or his own individual path. In this manner spiritual renewal and depth psychology found themselves joined together. And out of this synthesis the Christian implications of Jung's work gained credibility, particularly in the work of authors such as Morton Kelsey and John Sanford who were able to relate Jungian concepts to New Testament teachings. Both recognized Jung's map of the unconscious as familiar New Testament territory and concurred with Fritz Kunkel's assessment of the New Testament as "the great text-book of depth-psychology."(14)

The winds of change were stirring on still another front, around the thought of Jesuit priest/scientist Teilhard de Chardin. Silenced by the hierarchical authority to whom he had vowed obedience, his writings were not published until after his death in 1955. Writing in terms that were at once scientific and mystical, Teilhard's legacy to the Twentieth Century church was a contemporary language in which to recast the ongoing redemptive work of the Risen Christ. For a decade or so interest in Teilhard spread like wild fire. Then, perhaps because much of his writing was not easy reading, popular interest waned, but not before his thought and his vision of the Cosmic Christ had made their imprint on the collective mind of the times.

With the ideas of Jung and Teilhard as leaven to the psychology and theology of the latter Twentieth Century, science was about to make another leap that would again challenge the prevailing assessment of reality: If the universe was an expanding macrocosm it was also a contracting microcosm of infinitesimally small sub-particles--universes within universes moving in both directions. And as for chaos, look again, underneath the appearance of disorder there was a whole other level of order. Beyond all this, some physicists--serious physicists--were now entertaining the possibility of simultaneous, alternate or "parallel" universes. Star Trek was becoming believable. And wouldn't the insatiably curious Jung have enjoyed dialoging with these new leading-edge scientists, and they with him?

Moreover, in light of where science appears headed such issues as evolution-versus-creation-according-to-Genesis has lost all relevance. In their place a door into unlimited possibilities has been thrown wide open. And it may be that this is the doorway--"the eye of the needle"--through which the Judaic-Christian journey must pass into the Twenty-First Century if it is to regain the universality of its beginning; if it is to leave the vestiges of Judaic exclusivity behind in favor of the universality of Hellenistic thinking.

 
 
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Return to the Whole

Nor could Abraham have foreseen the twisting, turning path his spiritual lineage would take so as to make him the ancestral father of the cosmic Christ, and towards whom Teilhard's vision sees all of creation converging.

When a vision is formed of "living and immortal substance," then its eternal truth stands ever ready to be understood in a new and relevant way. As in Jesus' day there were those who wondered if the Baptist might not be Elijah returned, so in our day there is something about Teilhard strikingly Pauline--the Paul who was able to create a bridge from ancient Judaism to a hellenized Christianity and so provide the means by which the seeds of Abraham could be universally sown. Now, nearly two thousand years later, Teilhard is as much a product of his age as Paul of his. Teilhard--scientist, priest; prophet, poet, mystic; visionary; paleontologist; evolutionist--whose vision of the Cosmic Christ Robert Faricy has summarized, in part as follows:

The whole universe, the cosmos, is the body of Christ.

The church, as Christ's body, identified with him in unity, and yet distinct from its Head, does not yet appear as what it really is in the overall structure of God's plan: the central axial line of the world's development toward the final reconciliation of all things in Christ.

The church's main field of action is this world and all that is in it: that everything be more and more brought to Christ and reconciled in him toward the time, the end of time, when God will be all in all and Christ will hand over the one kingdom to the Father.(15)

But will this be the end, or just an end that is at once a new beginning? Will creation's return to the Whole initiate a new divine-scale creative process?

 

 
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The Birth of a New World

To Abraham the vision appeared as the countless star/souls in whom the seed of God consciousness would be sown. For Paul the vision was of a collective birth of the sons and daughters of God. For Teilhard the vision came as a progressive evolutionary ascent towards Christogenesis(16)--the Christing of human consciousness. And to Barbara Marx Hubbard, twentieth century visionary, the vision is of the birth of a new species--Homo Universalis. She sees

The planet itself . . . evolving toward a quantum leap, wherein all of its members will experience themselves as part of one body.(17)

Abraham, in being directed to "look up" to the star-filled heavens, was being asked to make a shift in consciousness from reason to imagination and to see through the eyes of faith.

Jesus similarly challenged his followers to "Look up," adding, for "your redemption is drawing near."(18) In context he referrd to upcoming upheavals both in nature and society. Normally, catastrophic predictions would be cause for trepidation, but Jesus, in saying to "look up," was pointing beyond this finite, temporal world to an infinitely greater, eternal reality.

Also contrary to expectation was Jesus' statement he brought not peace but the sword. Now a sword is used to sever, and likewise the work of individuation begins with a call which, in effect, is a separation--is a severance--from one's former life circumstances. It is a call to a time of change when disruption and upheaval are precursors of a reordering of the psyche with the Self as the new center. Accordingly, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses were all called out from where they had settled into living familiar, comfortable, unconscious lives.

One must be dumped out of the psychic containers that keep one unconsciously identified with family, tribe, party, church and country.(19)

Continuing, Edinger proposes:

One who succeeds in dissolving this participation mystique becomes, like Abraham, "a great nation." To achieve the state of conscious individual being is like the birth of a new world.(20)

And from The Visions Seminars he quotes Jung as dropping a "mysterious hint" that

It is quite possible that we contain whole peoples in our souls, worlds where we can be as infinitely great as we are infinitely small externally--so great that the history of the redemption of a whole nation or a whole universe might take place within us.(21)

Even from Jung this is a mind-stretching idea, but one comparable to Abraham's challenge to believe his offspring would be more numerous than the stars. Abraham at first (and as we also are prone to do) took the imagery literally and applied it narrowly: "How could that be? Were not Sarah and he childless and past the childbearing age?"

To shift from the limitations of logic to the realm of unlimited possibilities goes against human reason. Even where our dreams are concerned, the tendency is to reach first for a literal meaning, and only later explore the possibility that the dream just might be delivering a symbolic message concerning some other level of meaning.

Taken literally the Promise to Abraham referred to a quantity of sons and daughters with a common ancestry. But taken symbolically, Abraham's progeny would be those who would "take after him" in their capacity for intimacy with God. Moreover, they could be expected to hear voices and see visions, even be visited by angels. And the particular hyperbole, "as many as the stars in the heavens or the grains of sand beneath your feet,"(22) could be taken as pointing to a time when humanity in its entirety will have attained conscious unity with God, will have evolved to Homo Universalis.

 

 
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Passing Down the Blessing

In the patriarchal days of Abraham, a Blessing would have been one passed down from father to eldest son. Isaac, accordingly, would have been the next recipient. Sanford, however, points out that missing from the records of Isaac's life are indications of his having had dreams or seen visions. Sanford wonders if Isaac, as the boy who was almost sacrificed to God, "may have been so badly frightened by God that for the rest of is life he kept him at a distance."(23)

The Sacrifice of Isaac

 
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When Isaac and Rebekah had their twins, Esau, the first born, was "hairy" and grew up as Isaac's favorite. Jacob, the second, was "smooth" and favored by Rebekah. Rebekah connived with Jacob to deceive blind Isaac into thinking Jacob was Esau. Thus Jacob received the patriarchal Blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau. When Esau heard about the deception he let it be know he was going to kill his brother. In fear Jacob fled for his life. Thus Jacob was dumped from his "psychic container" into the aloneness and uncertainty of the Wilderness, but where he dreamt his big dream.(24)

Jacob's Dream

Of Jacob's twelve sons it was Joseph, neither the first nor last born, upon whom the Blessing of spiritual consciousness next fell. Provoked to jealousy by the partiality shown Joseph, his brothers sold him into slavery.(25) And so with Joseph the Blessing traveled down into Egypt where it disappeared from sight for the next four hundred years. There it remained as a seed hidden in the depths of the descendants of Abraham until, with a sudden burst of revitalization, the seed sprang forth once again in the person of Moses. It was this seed-potential for spiritual consciousness that brought Moses face to face with the Burning Bush where he received his call to be the new evolutionary dynamo around whom the twelve-tribe nation of Israel would come into being.

Holbein's Moses and the Burning Bush

 

 
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From Abraham to Christ

From Abraham to Christ, one generation after another the Blessing passed, each a progression in the evolution of consciousness. Abraham's call was to father a people of faith who would have the capacity for individual relationship with a personally-known God. Jacob's call was to a Selfhood based on the capacity for self-honest reflection. Without this, the work of becoming conscious would have been stymied. Jacob had twelve sons who, in their differing personalities, characterized the major facets of human personality--the symbolic Tree of Life with its twelve fruits, one for each month, symbolic of the whole, individuated Self.

Joseph's call was to a still greater depth of consciousness, one that enabled him to see all things as working together according to God's purpose. It was this insight that enabled him to forgive his brothers. Jealousy had been their motivation, but God's intention had been to bring good from it.(26)

Joseph's whole life was a demonstration of his connection to a Self that was directing his life for a purpose that transcended his own personal well-being. He was in touch with a depth of the psyche where all things exist in simultaneous, interconnected relationship: the realm of nature; of the Tao; of the laws of universal harmony; and of synchronicity--the ordering principle that governs even unrelated, non-causal events. Through his Self connection he was able to interpret dreams, to discern the signs of the times, to read the cycles and patterns that determine lives and events as well as nature. Not until the coming of Jesus was anyone else portrayed in the Bible as functioning so purely from Self as Joseph.

 

 
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Evolution and Individuation

From the death of Joseph until the birth of Moses, no more is heard of Abraham's seed. Hidden in Egypt their strength and number increased until Moses was called to the most challenging task of the entire Old Testament. To him was assigned the task of facilitating the evolutionary transformation of an entire people, a call of exponential magnitude, and not equaled until, with the Crucifixion, the Christ seed of divine sonship was implanted into the collective human psyche in its entirety.

The individuation process follows a pattern that is similar to the evolution of consciousness as this is given in the Bible: Like Abraham we initially are awakened to our potential for spiritual awareness. As Jacob we must experience separations and "wrestle" with the shadow aspects of our human personality. Similar to Joseph we must come into contact with the deeper, transpersonal levels of being where we dream dreams, hear an inner guiding voice, and come to see our lives as having transpersonal meaning. Then like Moses and the Israelites, we must have the heroic impulse to endure our Wilderness ordeals and temptations as we progress towards wholeness--towards the Promised Land. But once there, we still must take possession of a land that is only potentially ours.

 

 
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Becoming Boundless

In the Wilderness the Israelites accepted their "election" as the People of God. In doing so they unknowingly initiated the process that would bring into their experience (and therefore into their self-awareness) all those regressive tendencies that stood between them and the freedom from bondage they sought, a bondage that in reality was to their own unconsciousness.

In the Wilderness the Israelites, as Abraham before them, would be asked to contemplate the countless stars, and so be put in touch with the boundlessness of creation and the ultimate power by which the course of each star and each life is guided and sustained.

Jung saw the anxiety of our age as the need to know that our individual lives are eternally relevant. About this he wrote:

The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. [When we do so] we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted. In our relationships to other men, too, the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness is expressed in that relationship.(27)

 

 
~ Illustration Credits

Abraham -Etching by Russian-born (1878)
artist Saul Raskin
The Sacrifice of Isaac - From 15th Century German Bible
Jacob's Dream - From 15th Century German Bible
Moses and the Burning Bush -Woodcut by German artist Holbein

End Notes

1. Genesis 12:1
2. Edward F Edinger, The Bible and the Psyche, Inner City Books, Toronto, 1986, p 25
3. William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
4. Genesis 13:14 (paraphrase)
5. Genesis 12:3
6. Rabbi Joel C Dobin, The Astrological Secrets of the Hebrew Sages, Inn Traditions International, LTD, NY, 1983, p 33
7. Isaiah 41:8
8. Op cit, Edinger, p 28
9. Zimmer, Heinrich, "The Significance of the Tantric Yoga," in Spiritual Disciplines, Edited by Joseph Campbell, Bollingen Series XXX,-4, Princeton, 1960, p 26
10. Raynor C Johnson, The Imprisoned Splendor, Harper & Row, NY, 1953, p 336
11. C G Jung, Civilization in Transition, Bollingen Series XX, 1964 p 494 and where Jung, referring to the "silent ones" and the age of the Holy Ghost is quoting Keyserling
12. Ibid
13. Barbara Marx Hubbard, The Revelation, Our Crisis is a Birth, Foundation for Conscious Evolution, Greenbrai CA, 1993, p 19
14. Fritz Kunkel, Creation Continues, Word, TX 1973, p284
15. Robert Faricy, The Lord's Dealing, Paulist Press, NY, 1988, p98-99
16. Survival, A study guide for Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man, published by POM Project, Canoga Park CA, 1967, p 3
17. Op cit, Hubbard, p 31
18. Luke 21:28
19. Op cit, Edinger, p25
20. Ibid
21. Ibid, p 26
22. Genesis 13: 16 and 15:5
23. John A Sanford, The Man Who Wrestled With God, Paulist Press, NY 1974, p 11
24. Genesis 27, 28 & 29
25. Genesis 37
26. Genesis 45: 5-7
27. C G Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Pantheon Books, NY, 1961, p325

 

 
 

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