Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Breath, Dreams, and Numinous Presence

C.G. wrote, “The ego has to acknowledge many gods before it attains the centre where no god helps it any longer against any other god." At the center of the human experience there resides an instinctual capacity to discover numinous experience so as to be regularly nourished inwardly. In order to move into this realm of psychic knowing one often confronts ego based notions regarding the nature of the numinous, that it must be confined within dogmatic religion, that the experience of what is referred to as the holy or the sacred is nothing that can be attained by the common woman or man, that ego assertions regarding unworthiness should be listened to. These frail ego based arguments shield us from robust healing and growth associated with the forward moving, future oriented, trajectory of a healthy psyche. A particularly pernicious mother railed at her daughter, a woman who had been involved in her own depth therapy for many years, “Who do you think you are having your own religious ideas and thoughts? The church teaches what to believe and how to believe. Who are you compared to the church?” Toxic mother god and thwarting church god were both at work here, attempting to encroach on this woman’s individuation process via the introjected words of her mother.
One can sense the mother’s bad spirit, the foul breath of a curse being levied on the daughter. A curse breathed over the self via invectives from a destructive parent can literally maim and cripple psychic growth and development. Feelings of low energy and eventual depression undermine an individual whose soul has been polluted with foul energy especially when the damaging input has been spewed chronically from authoritative figures such as parents. Permitting oneself to be exposed to, repeatedly and over time be in the presence of one who so undermines psychic well being, inevitably ends poorly, in the suffocation of psychological functioning and possible soul loss. In my clinical experience, and within the tradition of depth psychology, the human psyche requires more than strictly relational intervention at this point; a numinous experience is required in order to mobilize healing when the psychological wounding has been chronic and spiritually pernicious.
The daughter found herself drawn into the study and practice of meditation as a way of deepening her own meaningful sense of personal spirituality. When she recounted all of this to me, she stated that she realized that in part she was “curling into myself to escape the horror of my mother’s presence and words.” On the other hand, she knew that there was also a more profound expression of self at the heart of her meditative journey. After two years of intensive meditative practice she entered into a life changing experience. “One afternoon while meditating, I felt the top of my head opening as if a thousand flowers were blossoming. There was such an infusion of light and well being that I though I wouldn’t survive.” When she emerged from this twilight state of consciousness, an obvious state of altered consciousness enveloped her and changed her life. From that point on this woman who had been desperately afraid of her mother experienced such a strong and well defined sense of self that dealing with a previously overpowering mother proved manageable, the entirety of her life now suffused with an equanimity and quality of self empowerment that she had never before known.
“It was as if a great rush of wind, a forceful breeze, made its way up my spine and literally took off the top of my head.” Numinosity flooded the entirety of her being, a quality of transcendence and spiritual presence so engulfing her that in the place of vulnerability she now knew safety and well being. Her dream that night was one of a beneficent maternal presence, one that “I couldn’t see with my literal eyes, but saw with interior vision”, breathed gently upon her and caused her to feel safe and “forever taken care of.” This numinous presence, a deity from the depths of the unconscious, arose as a compensatory factor due to developmental injury. When the literal mother is bad then the psyche compensates by providing a numinous encounter with a life giving deity who more than makes up for in adulthood what was not there in childhood. Bad spirit, in the form of a cursed breathed upon a child, is exorcised by the generative forces of the collective unconscious that seek to forever create wholeness. So, in the words of an ancient yogic text, we must “Remain present on to that Presence. Knowing that It is what is. Then It will reveal Itself in Its essence and in all Its glory."