“The merit of human existence lies in putting all its hope onto God”
Bernard de Clairveaux
The Cistercian monk and Christian mystic Bernhard de Clairveaux (1091-1153) was one of the most influential theologians of his day. Anyone who had ever visited a gothic cathedral might well imagine how that medieval worldview stood in opposition to our contemporary beliefs. Nothing decorative should ever distract from the meeting with God; the church stood for an overwhelming cosmos where the human being was reduced to nothing more than a grain of sand. Life during the Middle Ages was rife with epidemics, wars and famines, humanity therefore looked towards a redeeming afterlife and an omnipotent God for meaning and solace.
The literati who was the philosophical mainstream at that time began to strive for a more critical approach towards questions of faith. Nevertheless the almighty God remained the focal point of all discourses: “Come, holy spirit, come and have mercy on me. Prepare me for your grace so that my lowliness may please your greatness and my weakness may please your infinite mercy.”
(Anselm from Canterbury).
With bright minds such as Charles Darwin or René Descartes, the Age of Enlightenment saw the decline of the omnipotent God. Attention now moved towards rational thinking and the theories of natural selection.
By mid 20th century, quantum physicists began to substantiate that the main expression of life is communication rather than natural selection. These profound insights didn’t seem to have a significant effect on mass consciousness at the time; materialism and the survival of the fittest blossomed in the wake of two horrific World Wars.
To make it in life, one now has to be financially successful regardless of the consequences. Individual success began to count much more than the interconnected “we”. This materialistic individualism started to manifest itself in spirituality as well.
At the time of Anselm from Canterbury, Hildegard von Bingen and Bernard de Clairveaux theological and philosophical discourses were held within the walls of monasteries or secret occult circles only. During the middle of the 20th Century spirituality had liberated itself from its past secrecy, and metaphysical trends of the last decades somewhat inverted common philosophies of the past.
New teachers and theories mushroomed everywhere especially in the western world. Spirituality had turned into a profitable self-help marketplace worshiping individualism, money and success. As diverse as these teachings might be, they all circle around the individual creating his or her own reality where there once was divine order only. Divine punishment or acts of angelic grace turned into individual responsibility and empowerment.
Today endless self-help literature fills the bestseller lists of those who “made it”. Wealth, love, health and fortune… you name it. All that matters is to find the right program to get you there. If it’s not bringing about the desired result, one attends different courses, seminars or even gives oneself over to self-proclaimed gurus who know how to do it for you.
The age of enlightenment and the so-called new age may have released us from dogmas of the church. At the same time, we have become imprisoned by our own inflated egos. Efficiency is looked upon as a measuring stick for one’s power. We have failed if a successful outcome isn’t reached as fast and as big as possible. Then we have to attend more seminars, try even harder.
Even though we are still confronted with death, disease or similar strokes of fate, we are increasingly ashamed of the misery we might find ourselves faced with. Divine intervention or external circumstances no longer hold much sway; it is ourselves that we hold ultimately accountable. So we meticulously curate our successes on Twitter, Facebook etc. while secretly suffer alone.
Author Esther Hicks aka “Abraham” became known through the blockbuster film “The Secret”, made by Rhonda Shimes. The eponymous big “secret” is that you can get everything; you just need to want it enough and feel good about it to attract it into your life. Thereafter, not only those in esoteric circles, but everyone and their cat were parroting the “Law of Attraction”. This law basically states that we get whatever we invite into our lives with our current emotional states. Esther Hicks was attacked by a scornful backlash when her husband Jerry Hicks died of cancer in 2011. Everything has to work or something is wrong with you. Or is it?
Have we not just tilted from one extreme to the other? And is the past “God given” doctrine of the clergy and nobility, so very different from this contemporary “from-rags-to-riches” ideology in entrapping and controlling people through their faith?
Should life not be about nourishing one’s creative forces as much as possible, to make things happen as much as we can, while accepting that we are just part of an infinite whole? Is it not a lot healthier to assume, that even if a “law of attraction” exists, it is just one among many other laws and forces that shape our lives?
Many of these self-proclaimed teachers preach incessantly that it is all in our hands and all is one. There is a profound contradiction in everything being one, while at the same time being responsible for everything that is happening to us. We’re co-creators at best. No more, no less.
We are simultaneously powerful and powerless. It is not necessarily our fault (or due to our emotional state) when we go through a crisis; nor is it because of our glorious selves alone that we succeed. Everything is constantly moving. We are constantly influenced and influence at the same time. Constructive thinking and positive feelings are definitely a plus, but never the sum in themselves.
In spiritual circles, people talk about the dawn of the Age of Aquarius (oh yes, grab your ‘60s wig and sing with me…) in which we live, which began around the new insights of quantum physics and the hippie movement. And is associated with the return of the goddess. The goddess represents among other things chaos, unity and endless potentiality. The research into quantum physics and chaos theory takes a similar direction. My intention is not to try and deliberately press scientific research into spirituality, nor would I ever claim to fully understand quantum physics. Rather, I would just like to point out that we are children of our times, just as Bernard de Clairvaux and Anselm from Canterbury were, and so are our culture, our beliefs and prevalent insights. To quote a renown quantum physicist and student from Heisenberg, Hans-Peter Dürr (1929-2014):
“Creation is a beautiful woman recognizing herself in the mirror (the material world).”
The social and technological developments of the past century, as well as the revolutionary insights of quantum physics, have initiated seismic changes that leave us unable to foretell the final outcome of mankind. Up until his death, Hans-Peter Dürr cautioned that humanity will not survive if we continued to apply insights gleamed from quantum physics technologically without integrating these same insights into our daily lives, our thinking and beliefs. If we fail to learn that life does not exists in only binary “either / or” but rather in an “as well as” state. This unity represents not only responsibility for oneself but for everything that exists.
It seems to me that the egocentric paradigms of the “law of attraction” devotees and the profit only advocates of capitalism are outdated models of a patriarchal mindset. Isolated and obsessed with outer accomplishments, each concerned with his/her ego, individuality, profit and success. There is nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves, what is wrong is our concern for them is far out of balance, much like the dosage determines whether something acts as a poison or medicine.
Centuries ago we saw ourselves as playthings for both divine and mundane forces, nowadays we have inversed that position to place our ego above all else, with a steadfast belief in our abilities to control everything. Generation Selfie, where we reduce others as extras in the play of our lives, embedded in a society that puts profit over co-creation of real values. Me, myself and I will eventually have a fall. And it already has: burnouts, depressions, anxiety attacks, exploitations of human and natural resources that have devastating consequences. Deep inside we know we are never truly loved for the image we present to the world, nor are we ever wholly masters of our own destinies.
If we can no longer find help in modern spirituality, because we are pressured to strive for the same criteria of status and success (what I would call the law of attraction and its consequences); their failings definitely signal the need for another paradigm shift. The time might have come where the pendulum swings back the other way and finally settle somewhere in the middle. By accepting that we are just a tiny part of the whole, we can hopefully swing back without the humble detachment and powerlessness of the Middle Ages, and arrive at some state of “as well as”.
The prominent psychiatrist and founder of analytic psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, divided the mental stages of development throughout human history into three main parts:
1.The female or magical principle
In the magical and female principle everything is one and everything is animated by spirit. The divine expresses itself through nature and endless spirits. Everything that is created has to be driven by desired outcomes and support. At the mercy of these invisible forces, one has to worship these entities through sacrifices and rituals. Above all the triune (trinity) goddess has her throne (in the moon phases of full moon, new moon, waning and waxig moon), at times nourishing, life giving, wild, magical, chaotic, soft, compassionate and cruel. There has been a magical explanation for everything that has ever occurred. The human existence is embedded in everything that is, but at the same time caught in the symbolic language of the subconscious mind.
2.The male or dividing principle
There is a fluent transition in time from the goddess to the dominance of male gods, for example to the Egyptian or Greek mythologies. While in these ancient times several gods ruled the world, but this polytheism is eventually overturned by the rise of Christianity and Islam. The searching and dividing mind is elevated out of the subconscious ocean, where the human is looked upon as a sinner that can be solely redeemed through strict religious obedience. Humans, divine and nature are not one anymore. During the Middle Ages, God is the Almighty and religious buildings that reflect his endless power. During the Age of Enlightenment, his influence is slowly displaced by rationalism. No more “I believe to understand”(Anselm of Canterbury), but rather “I think therefore I am” (Descartes). Nevertheless a clear binary distinction between inside and outside, emotions and mind, me and you, good and bad… represents the male or dividing principle.
3.The interconnected (male and female) principle
At the end of his life Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) foresaw the “resurrection” of the wild, magical and sensual female principle that had been demonized for thousands of years. He looked upon redemption not as an idea conferred solely on the afterlife but rather inherent in the physical world as well. The body is seen as a temple where the divine pulsates in every cell. For him the devil was the demonized natural and physical realms with all its needs, demonized and therefore split off. These once suppressed energies, when separated unfold their raw power in the subconscious mind and mutate unchecked into greed and fanaticism. In “answer to Hiob” he explained why Jesus had to emerge as the pure expression of forgiveness to an unforgiving old testamentary God. The same way he was convinced that there would emerge new forms of spirituality as an expression of the interconnectedness of male and female, divine and physical, life itself.
Many shamans in South America speak about the return of Quetzalcoatl (the feathered snake) as part of the Mayan prophecies. For them the particular date of 21.12.2012 was not an end, it was instead a turning point. The symbol of the feathered snake connects earthly desires and wisdom (snake) with divine grace (wings), the “as well as” state of being. (see article shamanism – an introduction)
This resurrection of the female principle certainly means processing through the separated and wounded parts of our soul. Therefore a change in the way we think, feel, act AND cooperate is connected to our individual healing as well as the healing as a collective. “Unlearn what have you learned” as Master Yoda would say. This requires patience, forgiveness and letting go to be open for new ways to live.
The Quantum physics’ principle of “as well as” means a new balance to me. Integrating a new balance between male and female, giving and receiving, body and spirit, good and evil… into every cell of our body, every thought we have, every step we take. Allowing ourselves to be influenced, as well as being able to influence at the same time. For generations to come there might be other challenges to surmount, but these are ours and they are not easy.
If the quantum physicist Hans Peter Dürr is right, it is not only the time to change our point of view, it is inevitable if mankind means to survive.