Tao and the psychology of transformation

Tao and the psychology of transformation

When I was doing research recently about Taoism, I was astounded at how civilized China was in the 11th century BC.

They were the first government to print paper money, they had invented gunpowder, used a compass to derive true north and had a permanent navy. They printed books and the people were well educated. Women were respected and ran their own successful businesses. There were retirement villages and public clinics supported by a social welfare infrastructure. They traded iron, silk, velvet and porcelain.

Thinking about the various great civilizations in history, it seems that once a nation reaches their pinnacle of civilization, it somehow collapses. This made me wonder what it is that destroys civilizations that are flourishing.

Then I received an email (synchronistically) which spoke about Alexander Fraser Tytler, Scottish historian and professor who wrote several books in the late 1700s and early 1800s. What he had to say was this:

‘Great nations rise and fall and when they fall there is always a dictatorship that follows:
The people go from bondage to spiritual truth,
From spiritual truth to great courage,
from courage to liberty,
from liberty to abundance,
from abundance to selfishness,
from selfishness to complacency,
from complacency to apathy,
from apathy to dependence,
from dependence back again to bondage.’

Currently, a lot of Western Countries, especially in Europe, lie in the region of apathy and dependence, so according to this cycle, they are well on their way to bondage. By contrast, there have been a few countries, e.g. Libya who has now shaken off dictatorship, so they would be right at the beginning of the cycle. Here in South Africa, we are somewhere between liberty, abundance and selfishness (depending on geographics and political affiliations ). So we still have a way to go.

Of course, the real question is, are we as the human race ever going to be spiritually or emotionally evolved to stop this cycle? Surely the humanitarian goal is for the whole world to be somewhere between liberty and abundance.

But is this realistic?

I think not. Not unless we escape duality.

Duality in a nutshell

Our world is up and down, left and right, back and front, wrong and right, Yin and Yang. There is no escaping it. It moves from the one to the other constantly. It is the flow of life and the cause of movement, change and growth.

If there were no duality, there would be no life. No birth, no death. The circle of life would be at an end. There would be no creativity, no passion, no wonder.

Let me break it down for you:

If there was no duality:
You would not know what it is you want vs what you have
That would result in no passion or desire for change
There would be no growth or transformation
There would be no need for you to cry or laugh

You would not exist

And this is the key to the Jungian approach. Becoming conscious of the paradoxes in your own life, is a gift ‘ the possibility of change is open to you.

The potent opposite

We are all complex psychological beings full of contradictions and paradoxes. What is really interesting is that my opposite to a problem is totally different to your opposite. For example, your idea of success is different to mine. I may think success is fame, but it could be wealth, happiness, love, etc. it all depends who you are and what you value. I may envy your fame, but you may envy my happiness. You get the idea .

Think about that. Let’s use the example of fame being a goal. There is the situation you are in now (what you have) and then there is the idea of what you want. How do you get from here to there? That tension is what is going to make you transform, change, grow and learn. If you did not have that goal, you would never move forward. You would not become a better you.

The actual gain

So, I would like to point out here, just in case you are missing my point, that the goal itself may be the thing you think you want, but the real gold, the real magic is in the process of achieving the goal.

The courage, the persistence, the tears, the doubt are all gifts of pursuing your goals. I was told once that suffering builds character and that really rings true for me. As it states in the cycle, complacency leads to apathy, which in turn leads to dependency and finally bondage.

Where does the energy comes from to change.

It takes an enormous amount of energy to change.

Where do you get this energy from?

From that tension that exists between your current situation and the future that you want. The Nigredo, or the Dark night of the Soul, is part of the alchemical process of change. This is the time you draw back the arrow to gain the strength to fly off into the future.

In the modern world, we have bought into this idea of pursuing a utopia, of living a life without the existence of pain or suffering. But consider that this could be the worst thing that you can do for yourself. Every time you repress your needs and goals, try to convince yourself that you can do without, stop wishing and dreaming, you are robbing yourself of the most potent gifts of all ‘ the potential for transformation.

The greater the tension, the greater is the potential. Great energy springs from a correspondingly great tension of opposites.- Carl Jung

Until next time.

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