“I believe that the disenchantment of the modern universe is the direct result of a simplistic epistemology and moral posture spectacularly inadequate to the depths, complexity, and grandeur of the cosmos. To assume a priori that the entire universe is ultimately a soulless void within which our multidimensional consciousness is an anomalous accident, and that purpose, meaning, conscious intelligence, moral aspiration, and spiritual depths are solely attributes of the human being, reflects a long-invisible inflation on the part of the modern self. And heroic hubris is still indissolubly linked, as it was in ancient Greek tragedy, to heroic fall.”
― Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View
C.G. Jung has long been a great inspiration to many in the field of transpersonal and depth psychology, including Richard Tarnas, Stanislov Groff, James Hillman and many others. This is largely due to the fact that Jung gave the transcendent impulse a significant place in the constellation of psychic forces that govern the human experience. The stunning experiences of awe, dreams, synchronicities and the many varieties of numinous encounters with the divine, are treasured as being initiatory catalysts, rites of passage performed in the native garb of the cosmic mind and demonstrations of the spectacular depth and complexity of the universe. They demand a higher intelligence and a more comprehensive set of axioms to be used in the service of their understanding. For archetypal psychologists, numinous experiences are both a source of illumination, revealing a deeper richness to reality, and a source of healing, in many cases dissolving the false notions that keep us clinging to our sense of littleness and isolation, if only temporarily.
From wikipedia: Numinous (/ˈnjuːmɪnəs/) is a term derived from the Latin numen, meaning “arousing spiritual or religious emotion; mysterious or awe-inspiring. Numinous was derived in the 17th century from the Latin numen, meaning a “deity or spirit presiding over a thing or space.” Relating to the word Pneuma, meaning “Life Breath” and “Spirit”, it describes the power or presence or realization of a divinity.
The unresolved dualisms between matter and spirit, subjective experience and objective reality, cosmos and psyche, God and humanity, find their reckoning in the lightning flash of the numinous experience. Suddenly the familiar rationale for our skepticism, our attachment to the trivialities of the mundane and the comfort found in its numbness is pierced by an experience that no words can properly articulate and no explanations can easily dismiss. Our separate identities with our fixation on sensory experiences, and our confidence in the reliability of their testimony is dealt a blow from which some of us never fully recover. In most cases though, the single numinous experience is not a fatal blow but only a wound of doubt. The jolt of it opens a crack in the veil only big enough to peek through with one eye, blinking away tears, and only long enough to catch a fleeting glimpse, before it scars over and becomes a lost memory.
When this happens most of us try to move on, pick back up in the ordinary world and continue “as if” there is an intelligible order to the mundane way of things. Yet some find the cracks too deep, or too numerous to ignore for long. Compared to the superficial lives we lead with their drudgery and hollow fulfillments bringing us ever closer to the grave and its promise of oblivion, a glimpse of splendor is like “honey on the tongue” as Maharishi put it. The numinous experience brings a sweetness and curiosity so attractive that it draws us like bees again and again to the flowers growing through the cracks. To make the numinous experiences more commonplace in our lives or even to live in the numinous world or what Robert Johnson, the beloved Jungian Psychoanalyst called the “Golden World”, we must venture off into the unknown. In many cases leaving the familiar narratives and explanations that we know can not or will not go with us.
We rarely give up the comfort of the known, however conflicted it is, without two things; 1. The doubt that our current model of reality is adequate to the task of our continued security and well-being and 2. A promise of something better, more comprehensive and more whole. Numinous experiences provide them both. To venture out into a new wild world, collecting the materials we need to build a more luminous ontology and cosmology, in the hope of reordering our inner psychic forces, we need compelling reasons. I suggest, as the Jungians, the mystics and the depth psychologists have, that these compelling reasons have their first inkling in the examination of a broader theory of mind. In taking seriously the triune theory of the conscious, unconscious, and superconscious minds and its place as the microcoscopus of a larger primordial and divine trinity, brings awesome implications, not the least of which is that it invites serious doubt as to the certainty of our perceived reality, the limits of our capacities, and our role in the larger plan of creation. When our current perception attests only to the reality of the skin encapsulated ego, the small vulnerable self and the stark boundary between our inner being and the rest of the world, evidence to the contrary can be quite disorienting. And yet a sincere research into the nature of our own mind, the careful examination of the inner world of psyche and soul lead inevitably to the opening of such cracks in the matrix.
To take seriously the notion that “I am so much more than I know” and maybe the whole world is so much more, begins to erode the solid foundation of our mundane materialist and rationalist sensibilities. The possibility that the psyche and soul are not only a part of a limitless interior expanse, clothed in an unspeakable mystery, but that their beingness extends out into the cosmos itself is no small matter. Without the experiences needed to build trust in something better, that promise has little meaning. All the great sages’ beautiful words and their cogent logic pale in comparison to numinous experiences’ persuasive power.
Synchronicity is an experience of meaningful connection between circumstances and events that lack an observable causal link. Symbolic parallels, patterns of self-similarity and resonance across different scales and domains of life, auspicious coincidences of timing, metaphor and meaning all point to deeper structures of the psyche and a greater order to the cosmos than was previously understood. The mechanism of synchronicity which becomes illuminated in the revelatory knowledge of the ancient wisdom teachings, is shown to be the result of hidden laws of nature. It is the result of a scale free pattern of exquisite order and simplicity connecting all parts of existence through interior forces that govern everything, from matter to body to mind to soul and spirit. Those forces and the axioms that describe them can be studied and understood. But only those who take upon themselves the work of cultivating the necessary passion and concentration will succeed since both the will and the attention required to make such careful measurements of reality must overcome an a priori inertia of apathy, fragmented thinking, superficial and partial observations and the aversion to complexity that inspires a reflex to the premature simplification of everything.
Numinous experiences call upon our authentic devotion to truth and its discipleship to reality, one of the few sustainable motive forces in the quest for illumination. It reminds us that there are no quick fixes, no easy answers, no simple definitions and no gurus, guides or angels there to give them to us. There are no shortcuts into the Golden World that last for long, or take us all the way there. Certainly there are psychedelic experiences and non-ordinary experiences induced by drugs, rituals, technologies, trauma and extreme practices of self deprivation that can pull back the curtain to the portcullises that give us a view into the world beyond, but those experiences are inevitably short lived, incomplete, and in many cases are damaging to the psyche and our constructive engagement with the mundane world. As Jung put it. “Beware of unearned wisdom”.
The wisdom of the numinous is not merely knowledge, or the attainment of experiences as if we can just collect a certain number of them required to meet the quota of membership to adeptship. Numinous experiences at their core call for the attainment of virtue in the transformation of the personality and soul. They come to haunt us with the ghost of the greater responsibility we haven’t accepted, critiquing the self serving and self seeking activities that we still find ourselves permitting and justify in soul piercing transparency, and the value of givingness and compassion we have yet to acquire.
The value of non-ordinary experiences is not in the mere experience, but in its ability to deliver the soul into its wisdom, to yoke it in service of its intention toward the world. Numinous experiences can exalt the world revealing its ensouled nature, bringing ecstasy and samadhi, showing us that we ourselves are part of one cosmic family, heirs to its eternal heritage, belonging to and in possession of its beauty. It can enrapture us in the spirit of divinity and touch the innocence of our hearts surfacing the unblemished purity of our innermost essence, cleansing us at once of all our guilt and fear. But it can also goad us to rise up and grow beyond a shadow that we’ve been clinging to, showing us the consequences of our errors, should they continue, and giving us the correction to our egoistic attachments long before their fruits ripen and spoil the garden. The power of the numinous to both exalt the real and correct the impure gives the distinct impression of a kind of parental figure. As if the underlying divinity of reality both loves and guides us with a profound care and deep knowledge of our innermost being.
Many have even described the intelligence that brings us the healing and corrective force of the divine as a kind of feminine deity. As it is written, “while they were studying the Torah, (divine law), Shekinah was among them.” The intelligence of G-d’s holiness that feels us and knows us personally, loves and guides us to the goal of creation is that feminine aspect of the divine. She is the holy spirit as a divine mother principle. And like a mother, Shekinah cares about every aspect of our lives, revealing Her love in the hidden meaning of the synchronicities, dreams, revelations and blessings that transform our personalities and our lives. To be clear, I’m not suggesting an anthropomorphic view of this phenomenon is literally true, but only that it is absolutely appropriate. To have a personal relationship with the divine “other”, the “sacred thou” that is at once imminent and transcendent, moving within and above all things of this world, is to reach with one’s soul to the world beyond and pray for its goal to be made complete here.
To apprentice ourselves to the source of numinous experiences, not only for the sake of novelty and intrigue but for Her sake and the bond we share in eternity, is to follow a path of true healing. This healing is profoundly personal where our traumas, our sense of isolation, our drudgery and our fear are redeemed in the most intimate disclosures of wisdom and love there are. Yet this healing is also transpersonal, belonging totally to the world soul –Animus Mundi– because it lifts us out of the bondage of egoism and its illusion of separation, parting the veil to the Golden World for all time. This healing for the sake of our bond belongs to the Creator who is made whole by our wholeness. This reveals the true order of the universe which was reversed in our vision, showing us that the psyche is not in our heads as it seemed, but rather we are in the psyche of the Cosmos. We are broken fragments of the universal mind, and our healing is not merely our own but in the final evaluation belongs to the ALL.