Sunday, April 10, 2011

Transpersonal Psychology and the Hero's Journey

Each of us are a product of our life experiences, the things that we are taught as children, the beliefs we have etc. Together these forces combine to create, for each of us, our way of viewing the world. This view of the world has a deep impact on the way that we live and in particular with how we process the stimuli that are fed to us every moment of our life to create knowledge within ourselves.

For ancient man, religion played a deep and abiding part in the construct of our world view. However, since the renaissance started to peel back the veneer of religion and allow us to understand the world around us, man has increasingly shed the beliefs of our ancestors leaving us bereft of many of the traditional rituals that allowed us to find our place in life and the universe.

Traditionally belief and ritual have played important roles in providing a basis for how we lived our lives. Religion, and more specifically the concept of God provided for us an epistomological putty that filled in anything we didn’t understand (why does the storms destroy my crops – ah it must be the wrath of God for my failing to remove that neighbor who doesn’t share my absolute knowledge of the truth – therefore if I don’t want to lose my crops next year I better get rid of that neighbor, or at least convert him to my ways that he may know the truth too). Ritual provided for us a way to undertake those key transformative journeys that marked the passage of key milestones in life.

Today so much of the epistemological putty has been prised out and filled in with scientific knowledge and understanding that we find God committed to being the God of the fringes. At the same time we have ceased to observe many of those key rituals and as a consequence we are left without a process for marking transition in our lives, and no belief framework in which to place ourselves and give us a yardstick against which to measure our actions.

Yet for many, the beliefs of the past are still an integral part of existence, even though the body of scientific fact has destroyed the basis for those beliefs (for example we once knew that we were the entire purpose of Gods creation and sat at the centre of the universe- today we know that we live on an insignificant planet in an insignificant solar system on the edge of one of trillions of galaxies). Our centre has been removed.

Yet in the midst of that we still have to live and try to find some purpose or meaning to our existence. Without those key transformative rituals, for example, how does a young man grow up and take his place in society without experiencing significant difficulties in settling to the role that society would have him fill.

How then, can we transform ourselves and effectively take our place in society?

Several years ago I started on a piece of writing where I drew on the work of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and many others to look at the transpersonal journey that many take in the second half of life. This piece of work has been sitting unfinished as I tried to deal with my own transpersonal journey. I have now picked it back up and I am going to try and puull the threads together.
Given the volume to be discussed and the range of issues to be considered, it is somewhat beyond the scope of a blog based discussion. Instead I will undertake this piece of work in the form of a personal wiki.

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