I went to India in 1985 and spent some time in Dharamsala, the home of the exiled Tibetans, and the seat of its Government even today. I watched some reels of 8 mm movies, along with listening to the stories of those Tibetans who had made it across the mountains from Tibet to India. I learned of the utter devastation of an entire culture, an entire way of being. Following this life-changing experience, I began to pay attention to a strange phenomenon that up to this time I had simply taken for granted. We also see it so often in the West. Stalls were set up everywhere to sell Tibetan ritual objects, now called “artefacts”, to us tourists. Ceremonies were also being held all over India and the rest of the world to “initiate” others in the thousands, and then millions, as the years passed.Everyone is welcome to these rites: “It’s not just monks and devotees and Buddhist spiritual leaders. The Initiation is also for the curious and people enthusiastic about Buddhist teachings.”
At the time, in 1985, as I saw these sacred and once secret mysteries now on public display, being peddled equally to practitioners, Western scholars, and casual gawkers, I was shocked. The most shocking disclosure of intimate Tibetan secrets to an unready public occurred as I watched Martin Scorsese’s movie, Kundun (1997), which shows a scene taken from the Dalai Lama’s biography. This ritual was once only available to the top officials of the old Tibetan government. The scene shows the Dalai Lama and his Cabinet consulting with a demon, the State oracle, warning them of the Chinese Invasion in 1949!
I began to ask around, “what happens to the mysteries, once available only to the few in Tibet who were prepared, through rigorous training and discipline, to participate, when they are now displayed so blatantly to the undiscerning public eye?” I did make some enquiries and learned from the Tibetans that the sacred mysteries are in fact perfectly safe! They are right there in the open and yet perfectly hidden from view. The Tibetans knew that if they were to have any chance in the modern world they would have to adopt the appropriate clothing, the garb of modernity. And so, as well as releasing their most secret rituals to the public domain, they executed a program to connect their most closely guarded methods and mysteries with the language of Western modernity: science.
I thought of all this as I continued to read Catafalque, particularly Kingsley’s Chapter Thirteen. Here he tells the story of how Jung makes the transition back from Hell to the ordinary world:
[Jung] knew very well he had his message and mission … which he was needing to bring to the world …But he also knew the language he was using [prophetic or archetypal] for this message wasn’t the right one—and he was going to have to find another.
Kingsley’s chapter, like all the others, is brilliant and worth reading again and again if you want go more deeply into the strained question of whether Jung was first and foremost a scientist. Kingsley tells us what Jung was aiming for in his decision to adopt the garb of science in order to convey his mystical revelations. He, like Odysseus, Parmenides and Empedocles, and I would add, the exiled Tibetans, had to disguise himself and his revelations:
Kingsley reminds us what happens when the prophet comes back to the human side and talks to people in their own language: “the only thing they are going to hear is the hum of their familiar words and concepts.”
As a dear friend of mine from Ireland puts it:
Mark -4: 11 – 12 … And He told them, The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given you, but to those on the outside, everything is expressed in parables. so that they may be ever seeing but never perceiving and ever hearing but never understanding, otherwise they might turn and be forgiven. Then Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables ?”
This what the Tibetans knew too. The deepest secrets of Tibetan practices are in fact quite safe after all, out in open full public view, disguised and unseen, continuing their work quietly in the background. As is Jung’s greatest secret! We prosaically and scientifically refer to his secret as the reality of the objective psyche, or simply “interiority”. This well-accepted term, like the Tibetan’s “emptiness” or “dependent co-arising”, is now safely fenced in and we can go on unchanged, as before.
Jung complained in his old age that nobody understands. This is a howl that bursts out every so often from the extreme loneliness that holding such a mystery imposes.But Jung and the Tibetans also knew that the work of their respective mysteries goes on quietly in the background, determining our fate as a species, as is becoming more and more visible, even to the most obdurate of us today.
See my post: Auguries in at Time of Great Uncertainty:
When I emerged from my twenty-year-long spiritual ordeal, I had to find a way as well to articulate my discoveries within the available pools of knowledge, without losing its essential mystery character. You can choose any book or essay to see my efforts, drawing from so many different disciplines, like a thief! See for example, Manifesting Possible Futures: towards a new genre of literature:
See my recent post Howl:
See the menu item on my blog, Endtimes. Take your pick!