No one needs reminding of what strange times we find ourselves in. Today we are living through an epic shift of consciousness, replete with upheaval and catastrophe on many levels of human experience. There is a kind of fever pitch taking hold of the collective imagination and in a bid to grasp onto shreds of certainty, theories, speculations and expert data merge and mingle almost seamlessly into jumbles of unfathomable material.
For me this craziness points one way- inward- to the inner knowing and self-generated wisdom that in the aftermath of the age of reason many of us have lost touch with. Bringing our instinctual and intuitive awareness back online is the portal through which we are being invited to walk now- and for me the compass that can lead us there is the language of myth, archetype and symbolism, or in the words Sufi master Ibn ‘Arabi, ‘the imaginal’.
I notice people are getting very angry with conspiracy theorists; one woman’s rant against pseudo researchers demands literature reviews, abstracts on every paper cited and independent probability statistics on each report given before accepting the material as valid. I agree that spouting any piece of second-hand information that comes one’s way in an attempt to validates one’s fears and assumptions is not helpful. But the question I am asking today is, what qualifies a democratic point of view? Also, epistemologically speaking, how do we know what we know are how justified are we in sharing our beliefs?
This is a tricky subject… given that most of our science, philosophy, academia and medicine has been filtered through an androcentric lens for several hundred (if not thousand) years, what space has been left for other ways of knowing? From the Renaissance to the early modern period and beyond, medicine has almost exclusively been dominated by white males of a certain class and education. It was not until 1983 that a woman received the Nobel prize for physiology or medicine, and that was only after decades of having her work refuted and ridiculed by the medical establishment.
This same privilege of male sovereignty is also applied to the fields of education, religion, law, finance, philosophy, and scholarship- in short, the tenets of our entire current Western civilization.
So how do we know?
Barbara McClintock the aforementioned female scientist said of her pioneering work in the discovery of the Transposable element (one of the most important contributions to the study of genetics):
“If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off… no matter what they say.”
In studying maize races of South America, she confirmed the mechanisms of genetic regulation. She worked tirelessly and profoundly with the maize saying,
“I know my corn plants intimately, and I find it a great pleasure to know them.”
With asteroid Ceres conjunct her natal Sun in Gemini, Barbara McClintock seemed to be channelling the wisdom of the Great Mother herself and though she showed steely determination and steadfastness, she finally succumbed to the pressures of ridicule and stopped publishing her research.
She was, and is still, the only woman to ever have received an unshared Nobel prize for physiology or medicine.
My point is this- is the rational left brain, statistic qualified, peer reviewed, scientifically proven knowledge the only knowledge that we must believe or have any faith in? And, is wisdom the same as knowledge?
Given that most of Western knowledge has been presented by men, where we might wonder is the space for more intuitive ways of knowing? Scholar and ecofeminist Val Plumwood coined this particular androcentric way of knowing the ‘Master Model’, and in questioning the validity of this model says,
“The participants in the great dialogue of Western philosophy, which extends now some two and a half thousand years into the past, have been almost entirely male, white and drawn from the privileged sections of society.”
To the ranting woman who so vehemently dismissed any knowledge which has not been processed through the well protected grinder of the verifiable voice of reason, I ask, isn’t your view a little lop-sided and ultimately limiting of the vast human experience?
Some of the greatest scientific discoveries were made by ‘accident’ when the tyrant of left brain rationalism was snoozing… Paul McCartney wrote ‘Yesterday’ while sleeping, and many cast out and rejected artists and thinkers were later celebrated as geniuses.
How does an animal know to climb high or vacate an area when there is an ensuing tsunami or storm? It is down to primal instinct, or as scientist Rupert Sheldrake calls it, the Morphic Resonance… which is in fact a very ancient wisdom.
When I was child growing up in Scotland, I would often hear the women saying, “I just feel it in my water”, and we say, “I feel it in my bones”. We talk of ‘gut instinct’, but so often we are asked to deny these inner experiences and give way to an external voice of authority.
The problem is that we have by-and-large lost contact with our instinctual knowing which has been over-ridden by external governance. Be it the laws and codes of our society, the unchallenged assumptions of our parents and peers, or nowadays the aps on our smart phones that tell us when our next period is due or remind us that we need to pick up orange juice on the way home from work, we have forfeited the ability to think for ourselves.
It is this innate instinct that needs to come back online for us humans, and OK this process might look a bit messy in our ‘post truth’ culture where many of the external codes that we have placed our faith in have begun to crumble. It is little wonder that our channels of information are hoaching with conspiracy theories of a dark cabal, the illuminati, and reptilian intervention- the time is ripe for it.
This kind of projection however prevents the necessary descent into the human psyche to face and own the full spectrum of humanness in all its dark and light manifestations. Casting the darkness into convenient receptacles and scapegoats and remaining in blind fear will not facilitate awakening. Everything, says archetypal psychologist James Hillman, is in psyche, meaning it’s not so much that we have a psyche, but that we are part of the collective psyche, just as the archetypal energy of the lizards, the grays, and the omnipotent ‘One World Order’ are too.
Of course, within this great shifting archetypal matrix we also have an individual psyche and to get to know this is our personal journey or quest. Jung referred to this process as individuation and the ancients knew it as initiation.
In her book on the asteroid goddesses Demetra George says,
“Therefore, insight into one’s personal mythology, gained by an understanding of planetary themes in the birth chart, can enable the individual to more consciously live out his or her destiny.”
Myths depict the basic scripts of life and direct human drama; they are universal patterns of consciousness through which humans may evolve. To understand the secret meaning of myths and to consciously work with them prevents us from becoming stuck in chasms between life played without any personal autonomy, and projecting everything that happens to us onto some uncontrollable agent, or fate. There are of course also uncontrollable agents but here too they might be read through an archetypal lens. Finally, myth, archetype and symbols speak the language of the soul… it can not always be qualified or proven nor does it have to be.
To reject all impulses that fall outwith the spheres of acceptable rhetoric is to restrict the soul’s expression and questing for wholeness.
Once again this crisis throws us back on ourselves- we do not have to read everything that is out there, we don’t have to believe every opinion that floats in with the wind, and we do not need to get angry by other people’s beliefs. If we are triggered there is certainly something worth exploring. Above all this is an opportunity to master discernment.
The journey of the awakening human is to not get stuck or fixated in archetypal complexes or blame everything that we don’t like or understand on outside forces. The trick is to dance with the archetypes towards deeper self awareness and maybe even liberation.