Numinous experience in Earth’s individuation process Long ago, planet Earth, with its marvelous blue color of water, was a kind of oasis in the universe. It was the only planet known to have life. As if her full potential remained a promise to be fulfilled, the planet continued in a process of evolution through the unfolding stories of people, bounded by history. Before the great migrations of recent times, indigenous people established their ways long ago on the Earth. They conducted their lives with the understanding of a unique task of this planet, in harmony with the breath of this living Earth. Native Americans gathered together with drums, forming a circle so to synchronize their heartbeats with the mother, the force of the Earth. It was as if through them keeping her inside of the circle, they were protecting a life that was yet to be born.
Jacob Needleman (2003) explored how native Indians lived their lives to answer “the ancient and eternal question of man as the bridge between heaven and earth, between levels of being in the universe – man, the being of two worlds, two natures, two directions. (pp. 166-167): How to think and live in a manner that conforms to cosmic law? How to think and live according to conscience, which is the voice of the universe within each man or woman? How to think and live in a manner that allows a relationship between the greatness of the cosmos and the needs of the earth and all that lives and happens on earth? (p. 196)
One day a change suddenly came, a change that broke the harmony and peace that had long existed. It was when the settlers from over the ocean discovered and stepped on the new continent of North America that this change was brought about. The encounter between Western man and Native Americans can be seen as a turning point in the story of the Earth. Needleman described what happened to the Natives. In the blinking of an eye, a great civilization was crushed by American guns and cannons, by overwhelming numbers of American soldiers, by incomprehensible modes of warfare- scorched earth, sustained siege, even the intentional spread of the disease. It was crushed by the American sense of manifest destiny, fuelled as it was by the peoples of Europe who were pouring out of their own native lands in search of a new life away from the Old World which was convulsing in the intellectual, political and economic cyclone of modernity. (p. 200) The story of the Earth changed. Her story became his-story, being edited and manipulated by men. Truth about what had happened was modified in the collective memory, and retold only to reflect one side, as history is always written from the perspective of the winners or conquerors. There was blood, massive genocide caused by European men’s aggression and violence. The land that was regarded as sacred by natives was invaded. Their circle of harmony was broken. Men pressed themselves upon women and children, penetrating deep into the soil of the mother’s womb, raping the land and its peoples. The first act by these kinds of men upon the Earth can be seen as the movement created in the quiet water inside the ovary of this planet. The men’s genitals penetrated the womb and that sperm of “progress” were released into a world with its stamina and aggression to compete. It was survival of the fittest to show who would first reach the egg of life. From one point of view, perhaps without this first aggression brought by men, the Earth would have remained as a potential, with her seeds never to be brought to life. Psychologist C. G Jung first brought forward the idea of individuation. In short, he defined individuation as “manifestation of ones innate, inborn potentialities” (as cited in Hall, 1986, p. 47). Robert Sardello (1995) spoke of how the individuation process is not only for man, but that the Earth itself goes through such a deed,
“Earth is in the process of individuating itself, which she can accomplish over a vast amount of time only as humanity becomes fully conscious and individuated” (p. 107).
Western man’s actions upon the native’s land can be seen as a symbol of a stage of psychological development for both a mankind and the Earth. It was the beginning of Earth’s individuation process and she began its long journey through men to become a truly unique planet in the universe. One can see how our actual birthing process is like the beginning of Earth’s individuation process and was accompanied by this violent and aggressive act that was perpetrated on the land. This entry into the world was experienced as the waters being broken, like an exile from paradise being taken out of mother’s womb. Through aggressive violence that accompanies the birthing experience, each life is claimed on the Earth, as if each life is a sperm, being released into the world. Perhaps in birth, one does not completely lose connection to the peaceful home of the womb. Rather the birth into the world was another kind of entry. Each is like a sperm going inside of the womb of the Earth. Inside of her womb, few road maps or signs for where they are going. It is as if in the darkness each is a sperm carrying its unique information in the DNA, setting out to a long journey to meet the egg-seeds of potential buried deep within each individual. Once the penetration and birthing process is embarked upon, there began a long journey of men, moving outwardly, competitively battling their way into the darkness to explore and expand their territory. Murray Stein (2006) claimed how one is led to take on this journey of individuation process is natural developmental process for man that:
In becoming a person, one must necessarily create distinctions and separateness. The drive to create specificity in human consciousness, to become who or what one naturally is, is grounded in nature. It is in accord with human nature, therefore, to seek individuation. (p. 8 )
The path that each individual carried in the sperm seemed to have diverged into two ways driven by opposing impulses. The leading African American intellectual, Cornel West touched on the two paths, and the impulse behind people that drives them toward different quests. “There’s always a tension between the quest for truth and the quest for power. They can overlap. They can converge. But there’s always a tension” (DemocracyNow!, Nov 19, 2008). The journey toward life faces temptation like a trial, before the active agent or sperm knows who it is serving, who it is uniting with. It is as if each is given free will to on the one hand choose to take on a quest for life and become a tool in a service of Earth’s birthing process or on the other, to turn away from it to claim its own life. The Earth’s individuation process solely depends on each individual’s choice and how each takes on the path of individuation. Murray Stein described how the psychologist C. G Jung points to something that plays a significant role in this process.
“The individuation process, as proposed by Jung and his followers, typically includes experiences of a numinous nature” (as cited in Casement & Tacey, 2006, p. 34).
Numinous is described as the experience that is: awesome, mysterious, powerful, and fascinating. It produces a uncanny sense of dread that somehow penetrates to our core, a dread that is different from ordinary fear. Sometimes the experience includes bliss or joy, reverence or worship, or astonishment and wonder because we are in touch with something that is obviously not a part of the human realm. (as cited in Sperry & Shafranske, 2005, p. 55) It is almost as if the push Westward by those of European descent was a symbol of being tempted, of falling into the matter that is turned away from the darkness deep inside of the womb where the seeds of life are buried. A quest for power found ways to justify an urge to control nature with the ideology of progress and civilization, despising natives as savages, who were killed and denied their way of life. The wisdom of indigenous Americans encompassed an awareness of how the white race is facing the choice of two paths; one being “the road to technology” and the other “the road to spirituality”. Mayan calendar also marks 2012 as the end of the world (as cited in Blulady Creations IV, 2004, para. 3). They left a message for the generations to come, as if native Americans had a sense of inevitable destiny in the Western man’s denial of their philosophy. They appeared to have even been forgiving this act with respect toward man’s free will. The path to technology that can be seen in this view as synonymous with a quest for power seemed to have been a major driving force in shaping the Western civilization, and eventually the rest of the world. David Korten (2006) portrayed a world constructed under the impulse of a quest for power as empire, writing that:
Empire at its core is the consequence of our alienation from life. Seducing us with fantasies of personal power and glory. Empire entices us to find meaning where it cannot be found in violence, domination, and material accumulation. Alienated from life, we become blind to the truth that meaning comes from finding our place of service to creation’s continuous unfolding. (p. 311)
The footsteps of the power-seekers are seen throughout history in various forms, from the construction of the Roman Empire to early forms of colonialism, as well as their modern versions seen in the imperialism exemplified by the United States, as in for example the neocon military based expansion of one group’s ideology and the neoliberal market economical practice, what Vandana Shiva (2002) described as a “cowboy sentiment” (p. 23), which helps to create an ever-increasing gap between the poor and the wealthy and a sense of lawlessness in economic activity. The main characteristic of ultra-capitalism as a social system is how it is based on a quest for power that depends on the concentration and sustaining of that power in a few hands, with the inevitable exploitation of others. This system has inherent problems. Daniel Pinchbeck (2008) stated in a simple manner one of them:
“One problem with capitalism is that it is not self- sufficient, but depends on the constant availability of new markets, forcing expansion by creating ever-increasing amounts of debt” (p. 44).
It can be observed a quest for power is followed, it turns people away from life, and its path comes to be regarded as mainstream, as a road to success. The individuation process of the Earth has somehow gotten stuck, its seeds only a potential, waiting for man’s participation in the process of birth. This turning away was a denial of something higher than themselves, of man’s hubris in regarding himself as the source of life, seen in the genetically modified foods and even genome project. Man is trying to control and manipulate DNA, as if he himself is worthy of being the creator, designing the future and a direction of life. The quest for power seems to have reached the prime stage in the attempt to establish a new order in the world, led by the United States corporations. A hallmark of this quest is seen in the case of Santa Clare, a ruling that systematically granted rights of personhood to corporations in society (Korten, 2000). It is as if the world is proclaimed to become fair game as object of this quest for power as competition for one’s survival. This is closer to the psycho-social character of a gambling casino than true capitalism, with no responsibility taken for the destructive effects. Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation and spokesman for the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy, spoke how natives always had seven generations in mind when making decisions: In our way of life, in our government, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seven Generation to come. It’s our job to see that the people coming ahead, the generation still unborn, have a world no worse than ours – and hopefully better.
When we walk upon Mother Earth we always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generation are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them. (as cited in Arden & Wall, 1990, p. 68 ) The native’s longer view of future was replaced with narrow short-sighted view of the LLC, the Limited Liability Corporations, thinking only in terms of the profit margin for the next day. This shift in view was manifested most strikingly in the agricultural practice that destroys farmers’ symbiotic relation to the land, with the chemicals and terminator seeds controlled by the Monsanto Corporation (Bakan, 2004). Commercial interests in big business have begun to determine the direction of future generations. As spoken word poet, Tallam Acey eloquently exposed the truth hidden behind the lies, the “new new world order, global economy, no borders, no sovereignty, widow’s cries, corporate plutocracy” (2005, track 6). A new God has proclaimed its reign, as transnational corporations, that transcend the boundaries of nations and our shared humanity, with no regulation, and creating a new kingdom of corporate plutocracy, passing as the new world order.
The quest for truth is a voice that leads to life. It was first ignored, then ridiculed, and then attacked and has been silenced throughout modern history. In this extreme capitalistic frame of a world, the voice for the quest for truth is pushed back to one’s periphery, and seems to have become a quiet voice of conscience working under the radar of mass consciousness. Here and there occasionally we might wake up to this voice of truth, like the haunting voice of a daemon that is buried deep inside each of us which James Hillman (1997) described in The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling. The consumer advocate Ralph Nader described how at the age of three, an American child begins to see their world through the corporate lens (Speech, Princeton, March 8, 2008).
There is a temptation to invite one to take up the quest for power. One is faced with conflict between one’s pursuit for his or her calling, a path to follow one’s of passion and love and developing career more out of perceived necessity for capital gain. There the path is divided, (some fortunately happen to harmonize but for many this is not the case) where one has to compromise a quest for truth, in the pursuit for power. In this world, a child is destined to grow up with a sense of ambiguity, tension and conflict. He or she hears two voices constantly whispering and trying to win attention. One might experience an alluring, enchanting voice telling how one can be someone special, to make money and gain material wealth. The other might quietly ask you to listen to your childhood love and follow the innate voice of conscience. Those voices might overlap, and they can converge, but there is always a conflict between them, pulling between two different poles that cannot be easily reconciled. Change and following passion, one’s dream is pursued in the framework of the power structure, sticking with the status quo, giving unconscious compliance to justify the quest for power. It is as if the Western world is a schizophrenic, caught between an outer ambition and a striving for ones dream. This rational age seems to rationalize the denial of life, with no apparent way out of the schism it has fallen into. It seems that the United States of America was build on this schism. Needless to say the self that grows in this framework is destined to manifest its illness. In tandem with the ideals stated in the Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness were also the other harsh reality of genocide, slavery, war and economic practice of exploitation in the name of the free market. Fredrick Douglas was one of those who have confronted with this contradiction on the 4th of July, when the country is supposed to celebrate this country’s birth, independence gave a speech “The meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” saying:
I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. (as cited in Public Broadcasting Service, 2005)
One consequence is revealed in some symptoms that clients bring to the therapy consulting room. Symptoms of this Western pathology are not only seen in the forms of various diagnosis placed upon the individual, such as depression, bipolar and psychosis but also manifested outside in the various crises observed in a society. In fact, crises of a global scale with global warming, the economical meltdown seen in the collapse of the current financial system, the transfer of wealth in the ever increasing gap between the poor and the rich, are all signs that the Western pathology is worsening to the point that it is damaging its life body. Right now, it appears that the conqueror’s sperm, the aggressive growth in shaking up the womb may be destroying life itself. With escalating symptoms, the ancient prophecies are getting to sound more tangible and believable. It is as if the elders that came before us knew that this would happen and gave humanity time to learn to freely come to make a decision. The apparent timeline for a decision is running out, and that it is now that mankind will be forced to make a decision before it gets too late. No one can deny that this planet is going through a critical time of transition. Perhaps mankind is collectively confronting the harsh reality of how the path of power is not sustainable and is destroying this planet. Mankind no longer can deny and be blinded by its schizophrenic state. What is seen out in the world is a manifestation of individual psychological symptoms. An apt metaphor is that the planet is like the sinking Titanic that moves mankind toward its destiny, as a sense of apocalypse is elevated among people. Some are in complete denial doing usual things, while others desperately seek for salvation. The choice is given to mankind, to decide which would lead one’s life: a quest for power or the quest for truth. This choice is foremost a commitment to healing. It first requires one to become aware of one’s contradictory state of being and the path that one is taking consciously or in the form of unconscious compliance. It is undeniable that Western culture itself is in a dire need of therapy, a therapy that requires not just for temporarily alleviation of symptoms, but one that can heal the roots of the social wound and bring permanent and drastic change. Jungian psychotherapy holds this perspective on therapy: “the removal of symptoms as a final goal of therapy is an incomplete approach. The symptom is a wakeup call from the Self to greater consciousness” (as cited in Sperry & Shafranske, 2008, p. 72). Murray Stein postulated that “Perhaps some degree of pathology is needed, in fact, in order for a person to feel strongly enough motivated to set out on a spiritual quest to begin with” (as cited in Casement & Tacey, 2006, p. 35).
The crisis seen in those social symptoms is the urgent call to mankind to examine and correct the direction they are heading in the individuation process. Jung held a view that numinous experience plays an important factor in healing, that of potentially correcting one’s life course in the individuation process. Numinous experience is like a grace given by the creator, a light that shines in the darkness showing people a path toward truth, in service to life. Murray Stein wrote that “ … a numinous experience is a ‘hint,’ as Jung defines it in several passages. It is a hint that larger, non-egoic powers exist in the psyche, which need to be considered and ultimately made conscious” (as cited in Casement & Tacey, 2006, p. 35). Numinous experience is a flow, melting the ego, that is, the identity that is already defined by those in power and given from top down. Corbett and Stein described numinous experience: … A common reaction is to realize that many of our worries are actually trivial. Sometimes it feels as if we have been addressed by an Otherness, but sometimes we may feel a profound sense of union or oneness with a larger reality, with the world and other people, and a loss of a separate sense of self. (as cited in Sperry & Shafranske, p. 55, 2005) It is similar to the moment of conception, when the sperm reached the egg, so the ego’s identity in a moment dissolves in the union and becomes a part of something larger. It seems that the solution to the crisis lies in one’s will to choose between a quest for power or for truth, the choice that was predicted by Native Americans. In the case of choosing, it seems that numinous experience does a kind of trick, where without one choosing either path, two opposing paths dissolve and through this uniting, there emerges a third. Numinous experiences take one out of the quest for power momentarily and “release a person from the limitations of the purely immediate and time-bound framework of the ego and thereby contribute essentially to the formation of what Jung termed ‘the transcendent function’ (1916c),” (as cited in Casement & Tacey, 2006, p. 46).
Numinous experience is not something that one can make happen with will. Like another power called “Tariki” that is a core belief of Buddhism, without one striving for something to happen, rather it happens (Ituki, 2001). After one is touched by the numinous, there is a moment of choice. This choice is not only a path for a quest for a truth or power, as black and white, placing one to the other in opposition. It is not so much to hold one’s path with ego’s determination and control, but it is more like a breathing, extending the numinous experience that dissolved even the line that differentiates between those two paths.
One can remember how the miracle of life works. Once a sperm reaches the egg, it has to yield itself for the inherent wisdom contained in the seed, for that to form life. It must give over itself and merge with the other for this to happen. It can be observed here how the conception process has a correlation with the individuation process. Like reaching the egg, attaining numinous union itself is not the higher goal of messenger sperm that started its own journey. The journey instead continues even after the moment of conception is attained. Murray Stein elucidated the Jungian understanding of individuation:
the goal of individuation, unlike that of the religious quest, is not union with the divine or salvation but rather integration and wholeness, the forging of the opposites inherent in the Self into an image of unity and integrating this into consciousness. (as cited in Casement & Tacey, 2006, p. 43)
Once the ego, which carves out that space, carrying its totally unique information reaches the container that has long waited to receive it, there comes a new responsibility. An important task awaits. Sperm that reached the egg is no longer the same sperm that aggressively compete toward the light of life. The old must die in the union in order for something new to be born. What is born out of this union can be seen as imaginal, which as Sardello suggested is tending, is willing to change and actively participates in the process of creation: While it is so that courage is required to practice sensing through heart, this practice will not result in loss of the experience of oneself. Rather, a gradual shift away from personality into individuality occurs, a movement from ego to the imaginal I, from the I that acts in an illusory way as if it knows who it is and what it is doing, to the I that is unfinished. (p. 151) Sardello later continued, “the work is not perhaps to strengthen our ego in order to be in control of oneself, but to decide to work on becoming a creative being who creates through love” (p. 160). This imaginal ego is connected to the numinous experience, and emerges into the world as an agent for creation, connecting what is divine to what is ordinary, what is potential (spirit) to what is manifested (matter) in the world. This new ego appears to be an answer to the question posed by a brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor (2006) who had a stroke and gained insight through the experience, “Could I retain my newfound sense of connection with the universe in the presence of my left hemisphere’s individuality?” (p. 132).
There, two divergent paths that were once dissolved, reappear. It will become the newly born ego’s task to unite the two paths and reorder the directive in a manner that the path for truth incorporates and transforms the quest for power. Fredrick Douglass spoke and wrote before the Civil War that, “power concedes nothing without a demand” (as cited in Nader, 2004, p. 48). The quest for power, as with the path to technology can be only redirected by demand. But this demand should not be carried out in a forceful manner. It is like the story of the North wind and the Sun (2004) by Aesop in how it was sun’s shining warmth that successfully coaxed the traveler to shed his jacket. Yielding the insulating and hardening quest for power should not be through force, by a cold wind pushing a cold shoulder against the traveler, rather it is the Sun with its compassionate warmth, like the warmth of the heart that will prevail. The quest for power can be only transformed by a numinous love of God’s grace, reminding humanity of a new way. A new world is created out of this new birth of ego. As Nader challenged young people, urging them to ask themselves. “How much courage can one have to connect with one’s professional skills” (Speech, Princeton, March 8, 2008). There a new ordering in the ego is called on that can resolve the tension between two quests. Under a new world movement, growing up eventually will become a natural process of pursuing one’s career that is one of discovery of vocation, a process that allows each individual to give birth to a unique potential of who they are, something that cannot happen if one is controlling or manipulating others.
Perhaps the Earth needs a hero or heroine who was willing to compete, to take on a long journey and find a light in the darkness. The success of this journey is not guaranteed; perhaps many who tried never came back, as they died on the way. In the crisis that this planet faces, there is a possibility of a great turning. Social systems that were built by seekers of power are crumbling. A tiny crack, like a tiny hope of light is opening. What in the past, the grace of God of numinous experience, what was regarded as a special experience for saints and artists, is now extended to ordinary people. The time of decision is approaching. One who a long time ago came to the Earth to show humanity the way toward life said: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt, 16:24, 25 JB) We are asked to die for new life. It is a question to be asked collectively and individually. If humanity can go through the eye of the needle, into a love that opens the heart of the Earth and invites entry into her womb of sacrifice, would we sacrifice our own lives to be in service to giving birth to new life? The answer lies deep inside of each individual, in how one lives one’s life. Birth itself is already a victory. Through the individuation process, the Earth can individuate. Each person is the chosen One, whose life can help this planet reach her next stage of evolution.
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