Each age is an age that is dying, or one that is coming to birth. (O’Shaughnessey)
In this talk I want to distinguish three kinds of time: first of all the time of history, and the idea that we are now experiencing the end of a huge world cycle of historical time, end times that could possibly be heralding the beginning of a new age. (PART ONE) Secondly, I want to talk about visionary time, the time that belongs to the soul and the inner world, the kind of time that we work with in all forms of depth psychotherapy, regression therapy, and most of all, past life regression. Thirdly, I want to talk about a very special kind of time, the time of the heart. (PART TWO)
The Time of History
History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. (James Joyce)
The title of my talk is taken from a remarkable book called The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. It was written in 1950 by the religious philosopher Rene Guénon, a Frenchman who was born in 1886 in Blois and grew up in Paris in a fairly conservative Catholic environment. He studied mathematics at the Sorbonne but knew early on that his chief search was spiritual. Quickly disillusioned with the religion of his upbringing, he spent some years of exploring various esoteric schools then popular in France, as well as Freemasonry, but eventually he found his way to the Hindu tradition called the Vedanta, into which he was initiated. Later he converted to Islam, joining a Sufi order. In the 1920s, disenchanted with modernism, and the materialism of western culture in general-one of his early books is called The Crisis of the Modern World (1929)-he moved to live in Cairo, where he spent the remainder of his life, writing many books on religious traditions. He died in 1950.
Guénon had a huge influence on religious intellectuals of his time; scholars like Mircea Eliade, Ananda Coomeraswamy, Heinrich Zimmer and later Joseph Campbell were affected by him directly or indirectly. Many, in both the Western and the Islamic world considered him a Sufi master. Guénon’s followers today are usually called the Traditionalists because, like him, they believe that wisdom is only to be found at the heart of the great spiritual traditions of East and West and that one must become initiated to belong to them. The Traditionalists remain very critical of the degeneration and decadence of most religious forms as they have evolved.
We would call Guénon something pessimist when it comes to looking at the modern world and its achievements. If you could sum up his major book in a sentence, you could say that it is a philosophical critique of where we in the West have gone wrong spiritually since Plato! Clearly he writes from a much broader view of history then we are generally used to.
Guénon was very taken, from his studies of Vedanta, with the Hindu vision of world cycles or what are called in Sanskrit the yugas. We have an equivalent of the yugas in the classical Greek and Roman myth of the four ages. Humanity is said to begin start with the Golden Age when humanity lived in spiritual harmony with the divine, but over time there is a “fall” into the material realm of the Silver Age with the need for cultivation and human society. In the Bronze Age there is more and more exchange, competition and dependency on the material means of survival and finally, after several thousand years we sink into the deeply conflictual Iron Age of constant strife, warfare and depredation (ruled symbolically by Mars, the god of war!). It is this final age that in India was called the Kali Yuga.
It is important to note that this is a pessimistic picture of human degeneration into decadence, not a progressive evolution into a gloriously superior present. Guenon loathed the false application of the doctrine of evolution to the human race touted by the Theosophists and popularly dressed up as the nineteenth century myth of Progress. The seeds of Guenon’s major vision of our times are to be found in the early book I mentioned, The Crisis of the Modern World, a trenchant critique of modernism, the cult of the individual and the prevailing loss of spiritual values in the face of rampant materialism and the seduction of scientism. He deplored the making of a false religion out of science.
One of the most significant “signs of the times” that Guénon alerts us to in The Reign of Quantity is the prevalence of what he calls psychic or karmic residues. At the end of the current cycle, Kali Yuga, which he believed we are living in, all the unfinished karma from all four of the cycles will come to the surface in both our individual psyches as well as in the collective psyche of humanity. Millennia ago the Indian Shivite texts known as the puranas, had already predicted for these end times widespread war, social dislocation, the breakdown of marriage, universally corrupt leadership as well as greatly increased levels of mental illness. Such are the sign of the times, signs that we are nearing the end of the cycle of Kali, the period which corresponds to the current age, according to Guenon’ calculation.
As this momentous cycle comes to its predicted chaotic end, it seems to me that all us who have any degree of spiritual awareness are finding ourselves affected by the enormous psychic weight of these accumulated residues. And at the same time we are surely also under some kind of obligation to become part of what I can only call an enormous and unprecedented kind of a cleanup act.
The Hindu goddess Kali is also associated with this era for she symbolizes traditionally a cosmic power whose chief function is to preside over purification of impure residues leading to transformation preparatory for a new age. She is therefore a goddess of death and rebirth, often portrayed in her icons with a garland of severed heads and limbs. Not a pleasant figure. We don’t have an equivalent of the goddess Kali in the western tradition. We have the god Dionysus in Greek religion (thought by Alain Danielou to be a transplant of the Indian Siva) and in astrology we have Pluto and the energy symbolized by Scorpio, which are all related to death, re-birth and transformation in one form or another. They seems tame, however beside Kali, who, in the Indian tradition is a mighty goddess who demands total sacrifice-and the only way to be purified, according to the view of Kali, is to die to the old structures and thus transform the murky ocean of karmic residues that we have accumulated over this whole huge cycle of nearly 5,000 years. This is hinted at in Guenon’s reading of the puranas.
This idea, when I first read Guénon, was extremely striking to me. It is clear that he was giving us one of the reasons why past life therapy has arisen as a healing practice and is so vitally important in the current end times we are surely living in. We are not just dealing with cleaning up childhood (the Freudian view). We are not just dealing with cleaning up a few generations of our family in family constellation therapy (the Hellinger view). In the perspective Guénon gives us are dealing with the clean-up of the whole psychic history of the human race since the building of the first cities on the fertile crescent and the beginning of writing!
War, or strife, is the father of all things. (Heraclitus)
What Guénon makes us face is that the whole last 5,000 years, however much we want to idealize or glorify it, is at root an unending story of human strife. Bloody warfare, predatory conquest and violence have been played out seemingly without ceasing through centuries of invasion first by the old Middle Eastern kingdoms (Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians etc), and then in the West right down to the militaristic legacy of the Greek Peloponnesian war. For when the victorious Athenians turned their maritime and warrior skills into piracy along the shores of the Mediterranean they gave the West the first and enduring model of predatory colonial invasion. This colonialist/warrior/imperialist impulse, which has never ceased to be the source of so many of our woes, was to be copied in one form or another for the next two thousand or more years, first by Roman Caesars, and Holy Roman emperors then by Christian popes, land-hungry barbarians, crusaders, Vikings, conquistadors and scores of European heroes, dictators, adventurers and cowboys from Columbus to Napoleon right down to Hitler and George Bush. Certainly there were the benefits of empire-the Pax Romana is justly celebrated-but the price was always unending border war and “defensive” conquest. To look at the US, nothing much has changed.
The late, highly respected Native American teacher Twyla Nitch, was interviewed as saying something similar a few years ago. According to her particular tribal view, the world has not been able to rid itself of the horrors of war for nearly 5,000 years. The whole world has been dominated by the war god, she said. Nevertheless many tribal prophecies are agreed that this cycle is coming to an end. The Hopi in North America in the deserts of Arizona and new Mexico, a very secluded tribe, have their own predictions about the world cycles which in many ways parallel those of the Hindus. They say also that we are fast coming to the end of the Fourth
World and that a new age will begin-the Fifth World, they call it. But before that happens we have to pass through a specific period or time they call the Day of Purification.
What is interesting is that the Hopis refuse to say publicly what kind of purification is to be expected. Outsides trying to interpret the symbolism of these prophecies think that the coming purification may resemble the end of the last cycle where the purification was by water-one thinks of Great Flood then or the melting ice-caps today. However, at the end of the current World or cycle, the purification is said by the Hopis to be by fire. Could this be volcanic? Could they mean wars? We don’t know. The Hopis make a point of saying however, that if human beings turn inward and look at the source of current woes in terms of the accumulated errors of the past, the predicted Day of Purification could equally be an internal one. It is not necessary for there to be an external purification if we take seriously the task of inner purification. (I will return to this essential point in part 2)
Currently Hopi medicine men and shamans of many tribes around the world are all sharing this kind of information with each other in a quiet yet very powerful way. For instance, the warnings of the Kogi Indians of Columbia were the subject of a powerful BBC television program, From the Heart of the World, a few years ago,. Whether you are aware of it or not, I can tell you that there is a growing informal network happening around the world where many elders and shamans are saying very similar things-we are reaching the end of a distinct cycle. In reaction to the mindless anniversary celebrations in 1992 of the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, Noam Chomsky published a book entitled Year 501; the Conquest Continues, pinpointing the disgraceful 500-year cycle of colonialist tyranny the world has been subject to by predatory western nations with their lust for empire and technological dominance. We are all still very much in the eye of the storm at the present moment, although this too is predicted to come to an end as we move into the next cycle.
Others have commented on this. In 1954 Carl Jung in a long article in Time magazine later published as The Undiscovered Self, observed that we fool ourselves if we think that the end of the Cold War will be the end of our troubles. We in the West still have to deal with the unacknowledged guilt that we carry as the psychic legacy of the whole era of slavery and colonialism:
500 years of the slaughter of lesser, weaker peoples, the stealing of their lands and their resources. We are all-British, French, Dutch, Belgian, German-the heirs to this bloodshed and greed, and none moreso than American people. We all inherit, Jung would say, the ghastly unfinished business of colonialism, clearly reflected in the prisons of America overflowing mostly with blacks, the drug epidemic unabated, family violence and political corruption-arms deals, money laundering, environmental destruction-all spiraling out of control. In Jung’s view these are the residual conflicts of the unacknowledged archetypes of the collective psyche that are erupting: “The Gods,” as he put it, ‘have become diseases.’ the dictator states have of late brought upon mankind is nothing less than the culmination of those atrocities of which our anC.G. Jung The Undiscovered Self,” Coll. Works, 10, pp. 296-7
Of course as long as we stay identified firmly with western political, imperial, historical consciousness, we get caught, as westerners, in the self-serving inflation of our own cultural superiority. What we call normal and rational is really a state of chronic denial. We pride ourselves on [delete “out”] our computer networks, that we can send faxes and information to any corner of planet instantly- usually to benefit ourselves! How much time do we spend in surfing what are the real conditions of Third World countries that are still struggling with appalling poverty and oppression. We don’t hear much about the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, where children in the streets are randomly murdered and tortured, or, about the peoples of South East Asia who are still struggling with brutal governments set in power by the CIA and supplied with arms by countries like Britain to this day. On the whole, the corruption, tyranny and exploitation in much if not most of the Third World has not changed a great deal in 500 years in many places.
Thus it is that the brutality of the conquest is not something of the past. Sadly, it remains a present reality.
The sacking of our natural resources, the destruction of our habitat, the assault on our cultures…the strangling of our economies with the payment of an immoral and unpayable foreign debt, the militarization of our rural areas, … have been perpetuated and reproduced right up to our days by those who draw advantage from this hateful and unjust social order.
It is precisely those sectors that are not attempting to “celebrate” with total jubilation, the fifth centennial of the “discovery” by Columbus] as a renewed attempt to cover up the colonization and conquest by force of arms, so that they can continue justifying the political domination of our peoples and nations.
Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples of the Andes, October 1989
In terms of world wide karmic residues, there is much to be looked at and still more to surface. A conservative US journalist Robert J. Kaplan in his book The Coming Anarchy (2000) predicts, for example, that future wars will no longer be over oil but diminishing fresh water reserves. We in Europe of course still have the traces of two horrendous world wars lingering close to the surface of our psyches which we must all to one degree or another work with or be driven by. But North and South America and Africa all have their own historical karmas derived from the colonial era on a huge scale: their peoples are struggling still with the legacies of racism, slavery and the scars of genocide. It is worldwide, alas.
The alternative to the deeply pessimistic view of Guénon and the tribal elders of the world is that we must put our trust in the western doctrine of scientific progress; that we can improve these things with more research, more science, more business investment, globalization etc-all the usual materialist solutions. Progress, as I mentioned, was probably one of the dirtiest words in Guénon’s vocabulary. He saw very little evidence of true progress in the West other than in material ways. If anything he saw only the signs of spiritual degeneracy. The Russian mystic and shaman Georges Gurdjieff remained similarly unimpressed by the touting of western progress and civilization.o(reported by Ouspenksy, In Search of the Miraculous)
Gurdjieff, Jung and Guénon then, were profound and far from optimistic students of human nature and their views are increasingly confirmed by the findings of past-life regression and reincarnation therapists. For when we become familiar, through regression, with the vast array of human suffering, hardship and grief undergone in all cultures and periods of world history, we find that while the lessons from a civilized culture may be written on a much larger scale, in the end they are not at all different from the human lessons of very simple cultures, so-called primitive peoples.
Gurdjieff and Jung would agree with Guénon that the task of the end times of the Kali Yuga is the purification of the impure residues. Among the signs of the times he wrote about is the observable phenomenon of the acceleration in all aspects of life and history. Not just technology and materialism are accelerating but also our psychic capacity to learn and assimilate-just look at the new generation of children recently born! Above all it is our spiritual learning and capacities to heal that are also accelerating. These new tools are necessary to keep apace with so much change and to confront the mistakes that we as a species have made over thousands of years. It is not pleasant and at times the work feels overwhelming. I’m reminded of the poet W. H. Auden, who in 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War wrote: “We must love one another or die.” (In the gloom of the Fifties he changed it to, “We must love one another and die.”)
And so, as more and more of us, like Guénon, start to lose faith in the gods of science and technology and see that economics doctrines such as globalization are but the fashionable self-serving myths of the rich, how can we truly bring an end to war and poverty? How can we look squarely at this vast accumulation of the failures of human society-the stark reality of disease, AIDS, poverty, pollution and the perennial wars of pillage for resources that are all around us-and not fall victims to fatalism and pessimism, to passivity and denial?
Can we step outside the tremendous external compulsions of history and not only squarely face this but actually do something to change it in some small or perhaps large way?
I can only speak as a psychotherapist to my peers. But it is my belief that we are all called to harness the incredible gifts that this accelerated time of learning is giving to us. It is, I feel, no accident that the last thirty or so years have given birth to or recovered all kinds of alternative philosophies, spiritual movements and healing practices. They are appearing precisely at this time to give us the necessary tools with which to deal with this tremendous job of transformation and “clean-up” that we are allotted. We, as regression therapists are actually given a very special task if we can keep this open perspective sand not be distracted by professional politics and anxiety about how the mainstream view us..
Regression Therapy, Body Psychotherapy and Shamanic Healing
We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied, because we are the origin of all coming evil.
We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the iC.G. Jung Collected Works, 11, p. 180.
Regression therapy is without doubt the most powerful tool there for healing the deep collective wounds of the psyche that we are faced with today. It is already beginning to show its huge potential as a truly holistic therapy that can heal body, soul and spirit of its negative emotional and physical residues in an integrative process of transformation and purification
Looking back at my own trajectory as a therapist I see how I have swung between the opposite of our being. After starting as a very reluctant Behaviorist at Oxford I fled in reaction to Jung with his fascinating archetypes of the soul’s journey and his mighty cosmic vision of the greater psyche. But then, suspecting that my feet barely touched the earth I came down to learn sensory awareness from many years in Reichian body psychotherapy. Working in more than one holistic clinic taught me the many secrets of our bodily energy systems as taught in Indian and Chinese medicine. It has given me respect for the deep “wisdom of the body” and the power of working with prana orchi through breathing practices such as Rebirthing and the Holotropic Therapy of Grof. And it has shown me how multi-layered the human psyche-soma is with its hierachy of subtle bodies each influencing and interpenetrating the others.
Working with somatic awareness taught me how the body frequently needs to release blocked and even violent emotions that cannot be healed fully by soothing hypnotic suggestion, or meridian tapping, or summoning spiritual healing guides, however ingeniously done. Indeed, we fool ourselves if we rely on just one approach to the multiplicity of the soul, we need multiple methods to pass through the different and often dark dimensions of the psyche. Wilhelm Reich, writing in a mood we associate more with Jung’s writing on the Shadow said of these layers:
Human beings live emotionally on the surface, with their surface appearance….In order to get to the core where the natural, the normal, the healthy is, you have to get through that middle layer. And in the middle layer is terror. There is severe terror. Not only that, there is murder there…. Before you can reach the core, you must encounter hate, terror, murder. All these wars, all the chaos now –do you know what that is to my mind? Humanity is trying to get at its core, at its healthy, living core. But before it can be reached, humanity has to pass through this phase of murder, killing and destruction. What Freud called the destructive instinct is in the middle layer. A bull is mad and destructive when it is frustrated. Humanity is that way too. That means that before you can get to the real thing–to love, to life, to rationality–you must pass through hell.
Mary Higgins and Chester M. Raphael (eds) Reich speaks of Freud, New York, 1969.
Those parts of the soul that get lost in the collective swamps of past life horror need to be retrieved in the healing journey that we therapists call regression. Reclaiming these lost fragments is of course exactly how shamans, medicine men and curanderos have traditionally worked to heal the soul and body, using trance states and the added help of spirits, The crossover with regression is very clear in the work of Sandra Ingerman and Michael Harner who have popularized the technique of soul retrieval. Ancient shamans always knew that parts of the soul get lost, become fragmented from the core self and have to be rescued and brought back to be integrated into the energy of the whole person. They also realized that these journeys are often perilous and fraught with dangers of possession and sometimes madness.
Q. Mr. Gandhi, what do you thing of Western civilization?
A. I think it would be a very good idea.