I have been meaning to straighten up my home office, get many books back on the shelf and into some organization. However, I have been having interesting experiences as I step over and sort through them, stopping to pick one up and re-reading at least some parts. This happened yesterday when I picked up Erich Neumann’s Art and the Creative Unconscious and started re-reading the chapter Creative man and transformation. Transformational leadership is a current research interest and the Dao De Jing is all about transformation. The Dao De Jing is a pre-configuration of Neumann’s magnum opus The Origins and History of Consciousness and his Depth psychology and a new ethic forms the underlying thesis in the posting Deep Jesus, Us? Early this morning I found this section in Creative man and transformation on Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception that is related to our study of the Dao.
The “primary symbolic image” is not complex, or alien to our experience. In a certain state of mind, which may be found in a number of ways, the “objective vis-avis” becomes transformed for us. The term participation mystique has a very similar implication but was coined for something remote from the experience of modern man. When things, a landscape or a work of art, come alive or “grow transparent,” this signifies that they are transformed into what we have called “unitary reality.” What we see becomes “symbolic” in the sense that it speaks to us in a new way, that it reveals something unknown, and that in its actual presence, just as it is, it is at the same time something entirely different: the categories of “being” and “meaning” coincide.
A passage in Huxley’s The doors of perception will make my meaning clear. A psyche transformation, artificially induced by the drug mescaline, has led the author to a symbolic perception of the one reality.
“I was not looking now at an unusual flower arrangement. I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation – the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence.
‘It is agreeable?’ someone asked.
‘Neither agreeable more disagreeable,’ I answered. ‘It just is.’
Istigkeit – wasn’t that the word Meister Eckhart liked to use? ‘Is-ness.’ the being of Platonic philosophy – except that Plato seems to have made an enormous, and grotesque mistake in separating being from becoming an identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea. He could never, poor fellow, had seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have received that what role as an iris carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were — a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, they bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence.” (Doors, 17)
This insight into the symbolic mode that preceded our consciousness seems to justify our theoretical digression. For it turns out that the vision and production of a symbolic world of the archetypal as well as natural in religion, rite, myth, art, and festival not only involved an atavistic tractor and regenerative element arising from their emotional charge. In a certain sense they are characterized precisely by the fact that in them a fragment of the unitary reality is apprehended – a deeper, more primordial, and at the same time more complete reality that we are fundamentally unable to grasp with our differentiated conscious functions, because their development is oriented towards a sharper perception of sections of polarized reality. In the differentiation of consciousness, we seem to be doing the same thing as when we close our eyes in order to enhance our hearing, in order that we may be “all ears”. Unquestionably this exclusion sharpens and intensifies our hearing. But in us excluding the other senses, we’ve received only a segment of the total sensory reality, which we experience more adequately and fully if we not only scare it but also see, smell, taste, and touch it.
There is nothing mystical about the symbolic unitary reality, and it is not beyond our experience; it is the world that is always experienced where the polarization of inside and outside, resulting from the separation of the psychic systems, has not been affected or is no longer in force. It is the authentic, total world of transformation as experienced by the creative man. (Neumann, 176-177)
Alan Watts – The Taoist Way (Lecture)
A Creative Individual Is A Daoist!