Monday, August 13, 2012

Mysterious Ways

Saul had expelled the mediums and the wizards from the land.  The Philistines assembled, and came and encamped at Shunem.  Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa.  When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.  When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.  Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, so that I may go to her and inquire of her."    -- 1 Samuel 28:  3-7

This is an intriguing passage.  I find it especially intriguing because I have been feeling very much like Saul lately.  I find myself in the midst of a territory that is surrounded by the occult, and I want to push it all away.  At the same time, however, I am wondering if there might be something worth exploring, worth listening to, in this territory.  This passage in the Bible perfectly illustrates this odd dichotomy, the fine line between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in terms of the occult:  dreams, Urim and Thummim, and prophecy, are acceptable, but mediums and wizards are not acceptable.  In the Old Testament, divination is a sin, but reading omens is acceptable.  But isn't reading omens and using Urim and Thummim a form of divination?  And didn't the three wise men from the east read the skies and follow the star to find Jesus?  It's a little hard to figure out what is right and what is wrong sometimes.

The reason I am thinking about all of this is because I've been trying to understand these connections that I find between my thoughts and the things that come into my life, and that has led me into some readings that are too close for comfort to the occult.  My search for enlightenment in this area began when I wrote Divine Intervention, a few weeks ago.  Then, I had just discovered that Jung had given this meaningful connection between external events and internal thoughts a name:  Synchronicity.  To illustrate the concept, Jung tells the story of a patient of his, a woman 'who always knew better about everything.' Everything he said to her was dismissed.  She was very rational.  Nothing could break her resistance to alternative ways of thinking.  Jung hoped for something unexpected to happen that would crack open her walls of rationalism.  In therapy one day, she was describing a dream in which she had been given a golden scarab broach.  As she was talking, Jung heard a scratching sound at his window.  He looked and saw a flying insect pecking at the window as if it was trying to get in.  Jung opened the window and caught the insect as it flew into the room. It was a scarab beetle.  He handed it to the woman, and the coincidence of the scarab beetle coming into the room just as the woman was describing her dream provided exactly the unexpected, irrational, event that was needed to reach her inner psyche.

It's a cool story.  One I've read in several different books recently.  And I believe that Jung was spot-on in seeing something of great significance in these synchronous events and letting them guide his practice and his life.  For I think, like Jung did, that these synchronous events point to some underlying unity.  For me, this unity is God.  Jung, however, explained synchronicity as the result of a "collective unconscious" based around "primordial images" or archetypal figures that become activated when we need them.  His theories were just a little too complicated and "out there" for me. 

The most recent book I've been reading in this line of exploration has been "Cosmos and Psyche," by Richard Tarnas, who takes the subject of synchronicity even further.  Richard Tarnas, well-respected author of "Passions of the Western Mind," (one of my favorite books) thinks that synchronicity has the potential to unite science and religion.  And in "Cosmos and Psyche" I was delighted to read examples of synchronicity which mirrored my own experiences.  St. Anthony, St. Augustine, and Petrarch all had similar pivotal experiences in which their private thoughts were echoed in the words they heard or read.  But when Tarnas started talking about archetypes and I looked ahead and saw that he was going to discuss planetary alignments and natal charts -- all aspects of astrology -- I balked.  As much as I admire Tarnas, and as much as I felt  compelled to read this book, I just did not want to explore astrology.  Half of me was thinking that Tarnas had gone off the deep end.  But the other half was simply afraid.  I could think of a few Bible passages in which astrology is taboo, expressly forbidden by God.

The day after I paused in my reading, unsure whether to continue with it or stop, as I was walking to my car in the church parking lot, I saw a beautiful iridescent green scarab beetle in front of my car.  I was immediately reminded of Jung's scarab beetle.  I saw that this one was dead, probably petrified by the summer heat rising off the asphalt, and I carefully picked it up and put it on my dashboard.  As I drove home I wondered about the significance of finding this green scarab beetle.

I did not remember what symbolism Jung had attached to it.  So, I searched online and found that the scarab beetle was an Egyptian symbol of rebirth, renewal, transformation, and protection.  The scarab beetle was also used to represent Jesus in early Christian writings, since scarab larva hatch underground and fly out of the earth into the sky at their birth.  The scarab beetle was also thought to be a symbol of guidance, a light of wisdom through periods of darkness.

Looking back in "The Tao of Psychology," I read again about the patient of Jung's who had had the pivotal experience.  Jean Shinoda Bolen M.D., writes, "Interestingly, the event symbolically paralleled her situation. ...When the scarabaeid beetle entered the room, transformation of a rigid attitude could begin, new growth could happen."  (pg 15, "The Tao of Psychology")  I realized that I was very similar to this woman.  I was resistant to learning about archetypes and astrology.  And I, too, unexpectedly found a scarab beetle right in front of me -- something I have not seen since I was a child.

Is this just a coincidence?  Or is it an example of synchronicity?  Either way, I am letting it guide me.  I suddenly find myself open to exploring these archetypes of Jung, and trying to understand what the "collective unconscious" is all about, and reading the rest of Tarnas' book.  Maybe, in the process, somewhere along the way, I will grow a little closer to understanding God.

Dear God, you enter my life in a multitude of ways.  I cannot begin to fathom the world you have created, and the richness of the souls that permeate it.  Please continue to be with me and light my path.  Love always, Pam

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