Ecstasy Is Intensity … Catharsis and Calmness in Spirituality: Spock Should Hardly Have Been the Poster Child for Mysticism … What’s so “Alive” About Acting Like a Machine?
Spock is hardly a role model for spirituality … quite the opposite. Do you not think it awfully convenient that the role models for mysticism promulgated in the media—Unfeeling Machine Men—would be exactly what totalitarian societies want to create?
The Big Primal ~ Instant Satori
Another perspective on this subject is suggested by Heider (1974). He says that an emphasis on catharsis is rooted in “a model of growth and transcendence based on the concept of the sudden satori” (p.41), which is considered unrealistic. It is true that this situation existed among many primalers. Many of us initially, and in line with Janov’s assertions, did assume this dependence on and/or expectation of the “big primal”: the primal that would make it all different and change our lives forever. In fact, letting go of this expectation began to be seen as a mark distinguishing advanced from beginning primalers. More experienced primalers began to see primal as a tool, not an end in itself. We began to see ourselves as growing and living both inside and outside of our primaling, and to see feelings as going on all the time, not just when we were lying down and “catharting.”
…if we do not “be” with our illusions, we cannot know them…
The initial confusion, however, is understandable, considering the inaccurate impression engendered by the early primal that all feeling that is not primaling is somehow unreal. This myth serves to negate all that passes through one and all that one feels between primal experiences. Janov was trying to make a point, and an important one at that: Much of what goes on inside one’s self is, in fact, elements of primal complexes and therefore is not accurate perceptions of self, others, and world. But an important facet to this is that it remains important to “be” with all that material, whether objectively valid or not, in order that one may link it all together and have the connections and insights that can occur during those catalyzing events called primals. For if we do not “be” with our illusions, we cannot know them. Hence, how can we discard them?
Certainly the awesomeness of some forms of catharsis, the energy release involved, helps one to downplay the significance of the in-between times. But subsequently such plateau or calm spots, preparation or postcathartic periods, even the activities of our daily life, took on an importance previously unacknowledged. We began to understand that it is not a matter of catharsis for catharsis’s sake, or just of emptying one’s “Primal Pool,” in Janov’s terms.
In that sense I am in agreement with Heider’s (1974, p. 41) direction in leaving an emphasis on catharsis and beginning “to rely heavily upon spiritual disciplines, both as preparation for the release of tension and as a maintenance program designed to enhance and prolong the desirable effects of the encounter experience.” For, using meditation in the sense that Rajneesh (1976) does, that of being with where one is in the here and now, it makes perfect sense to me that a spiritual regimen can and should be used during the in-between times to help us to stop and be aware of the continuing process within us, if that is what it takes.
Being Where One Is
An important sidelight, however, is that for many primalers this sort of structuring may be unnecessary. As mentioned, the results of primaling, in the postcathartic period, may be the same as the results of meditation. Consequently, for many advanced primalers access is only too apparent during the between times. Therefore, to “be” where one is often only requires that we leave off avoiding, through distracting ourselves in work, sex, alcohol, drugs, food, and various other ways, the primal/spiritual process that continues within us between sessions. At this point it becomes a matter of staying open to Experience/Process, allowing it to flow through and teach us.
Meditation Can Be Anti-Spiritual
In fact, there is the known danger in using a spiritual technique that it can be used to defend against “process.” As Epstein and Leiff (1981, p. 145) put it, “Meditation experiences may be used in both adaptive and defensive ways.” And a meditation that is used solely to force us into relaxation or into a concentration with a specific focus as a way to defend against “process” and the occasional peaks and valleys that are part of it would, in my opinion, be antiprimal, indeed would be antispiritual, antimystical, antigrowth.
Zorba the Buddha
Therefore, in general I agree with Heider’s shift in emphasis away from catharsis and to the postcathartic period, but not nearly to the extent to which he apparently has. For I do not see a need to “transcend” catharsis or go “beyond” it as he does. Certainly Grof, Muktananda, and others would concur that even the outer reaches of transpersonal experience do not entail a cessation of conflict, resolution, growing, and learning. Similarly, Epstein and Leiff (1981, p. 144) have pointed out that “meditation can be viewed as a developmental process which can produce side effects anywhere along the continuum,” and so one would wonder why we would leave off catharsis as a tool for dealing with such blocks.
Ecstasy Is Intensity … What is so Alive About Being Machine-Like?
I should point out that the experience of nearly all primalers is that the need to cathart becomes less as time goes on. But additionally, I do not see a need to posit a point beyond catharsis, for I do not see anything wrong with catharsis, with enjoying the capacity to experience intensity of ecstasy, desolation, or insight. It seems to me that this capacity can add color and vitality to our lives. Indeed, it may be that which, at times, makes us feel we are alive!
It Wouldn’t Be “Up” if You Never Came “Down” from It
But Heider certainly does find something wrong with catharsis, and our differences bring up an important point. He points out that he left off inducing catharsis because of post cathartic depression that would ensue. it is my opinion that occasional catharsis can have just that sort of effect if we acknowledge the depths of primal and perinatal phenomena extending all the way back through birth and womb material. Therefore, anything short of a thorough working through of these deeper levels always will leave one susceptible to relapses, postcathartic depressions, and return of symptoms in that these catharses represent further access as well as resolution.
Enlightenment as an Attitude of Adventuring
To that extent, I believe that Heider has not gone far enough with catharsis to those areas where the most substantial gains can be made … although even then we can expect”relapses” if we employ the model that Grof, among others, presents of “enlightenment” being an attitude toward the process of becoming, of adventuring deeper into the cosmos, rather than a static serene state of inaction. Grof has shown us how deep one often must go before one can expect real resolution; or, in other words, just how deep within us, and how far into our past, the roots of our present concerns extend.
Spock is Hardly a Role Model for Spirituality
A passage from the I Ching may help to clarify this point. It is possible that because of our Appolonian Western heritage we have a tendency to view an unaffected, somehow undisturbable state … as in our common conceptions of the results of meditation … as a goal. But not all cultures and spiritual disciplines posit it as such. In the Wilhelm/Baynes classic translation of the ancient work it is written,
While Buddhism strives for rest through an ebbing away of all movement in nirvana, the Book of Changes holds that rest is merely a state of polarity that always posits movement as its complement” (p.201).
Apparently, an unmovable state is seen as neither desirable nor possible; it is indicative of death rather than greater life.
It continues further on:
True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward.
In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life.
When a man has thus become calm, he may turn to the outside world. He no longer sees in it the struggle and tumult of individual beings, and therefore he has that true peace of mind which is needed for understanding the great laws of the universe and for acting in harmony with them.
Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes.
Such it is that we can be in the midst of life, fully experiencing it, and yet be aware of its illusionary quality, hence be unattached to it and more able to flow with it. Let us say “Zorba the Buddha.”
Continue with The Agonies and Ecstasies of Exquisiteness: A Primal Perspective on Spirituality, Part Thirteen — The Psyche Heals Itself … If Only Allowed to Do So
Return to Science Has Uncovered Something Subtler Than the Physical, Undergirding One’s Life, and Interconnected with All and Everyone: Deeper, and Higher, Spiritual Realities
To Read the Entire Book … on-line, free at this time … of which this is an excerpt, Go to Falls from Grace
Invite you to join me on Twitter:
friend me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sillymickel