Piccola seduta di analisi per expat in crisi

6/06/2015

Piccola seduta di analisi per expat in crisi

Due psicoterapeuti spiegano i problemi di autostima che trasferirsi all’estero può generare. Ecco i consigli per superarli

Alessandro Secci e Chiara Virgilio*

Due psicologi spiegano i problemi di autostima che trasferirsi all’estero può generare. Ecco i consigli per superarli

(Getty Imges/Spencer Platt)

Parole chiave:
Argomenti:

Quando emigriamo in un paese straniero, sia che lo facciamo per motivi di studio, lavoro o altro, cambiamo radicalmente la nostra vita. Facciamo nuove conoscenze, ci creiamo diverse abitudini, viviamo in un ambiente molto diverso. Tutto questo può affaticarci e farci sentire appesantiti da stress. È quando attraversiamo momenti come questi che possiamo sentirci soli, isolati, distanti dagli altri, lontani da quegli affetti che fino alla partenza sono stati vicini e rassicuranti. Il senso di perdita e la sensazione di vuoto alimentano le insicurezze che a loro volta hanno effetti diretti sulla propria autostima. Le domande che ci si pone più spesso, quando si è “expat”, sono: Ce la farò? È stata la scelta giusta?

La migrazione è un grande cambiamento, che mette in gioco le sicurezze acquisite fino al momento in cui ci si trasferisce in un altro Paese. Come rovesciare il senso di impotenza e costruire giorno per giorno una buona autostima?

Il termine auto-stima è composto da due parole o definizioni che si riferiscono a due aspetti singolari riguardanti l’individuo umano. La prima parola “auto” significa autonomia, in termini di definizione personale indica “il proprio sé”, “se stesso”. La parola “stima”invece ha a che fare con il misurare, fare la stima di qualcosa, fare una valutazione. Questa valutazione è indicativa del proprio sé.

Per capire quanto amiamo e quanto teniamo a noi stessi, dobbiamo osservare il grado di attenzione e cura che dedichiamo a noi stessi e alle nostre cose personali, alla cura dell’ambiente in cui viviamo, del tempo, degli oggetti che usiamo, i vestiti, il cibo che mangiamo, la nostra salute, le relazioni sociali, la spiritualità, ecc.

Quanto tempo nella nostra vita dedichiamo alla cura di queste cose?

Tutto questo ha una stretta correlazione con il rapporto che abbiamo con i genitori e in primis con la relazione con nostra madre che si è occupata delle cure primarie e ha costruito le basi della nostra fiducia negli altri. Quindi la misura della stima di noi stessi o se vogliamo la nostra autostima, è determinata da quanto amore e attenzione abbiamo ricevuto da piccoli. Ovviamente qui amore e attenzione stanno a significare cure amorevoli e positive, indispensabili a sostenere, rinforzare in modo creativo e costruttivo la personalità del bambino. Queste cure, oltre a quelle primarie come essere nutrito, pulito, rassicurato, coccolato, ecc., sono correlate all’essere ascoltato e considerato, essere visto e riconosciuto come individuo, essere protetto e rispettato, essere, attraverso tutte queste azioni, amato. Questo amore, ricevuto nell’infanzia, determina il nostro amor proprio. In altre parole noi ci amiamo nella misura in cui siamo stati amati. Noi ci vediamo e riconosciamo nella misura in cui siamo stati visti e riconosciuti, accettati e ascoltati, ecc.

Se si alimenta la bassa autostima si inziano a perdere delle occasioni, a non valutare delle opportunità, si tende ad ingigantire situazioni problematiche, si vive in un atteggiamento di rinuncia

Certe volte l’autostima nella vita dell’individuo può essere intaccata o minacciata da eventi inaspettati e/o difficili: cambiamenti di vita, separazioni, nuovi ambienti. Possono essere di tipo economico o politico, lavorativo, oppure il prospettarsi di eventi catastrofici come terremoti, guerre, ecc. Cosa può succedere in questi casi? Una situazione difficile potrebbe creare tensione e stress psicofisico. Questo stress può produrre delle conseguenze sia al livello fisico che psicologico. Al livello fisico lo stress abbassa le difese immunitarie e apre le porte a vari tipi di disturbi che inizialmente possono manifestarsi come un semplice raffreddore o una lieve influenza, mal di testa, dolori muscolari, stanchezza, insonnia, ecc.. Dal punto di vista psicologico invece si possono produrre effetti sull’umore, di tipo depressivo, come la chiusura in se stessi e la limitazione delle relazioni con gli altri. Si possono assumere senza rendersene conto, atteggiamenti di tipo vittimistico o paranoide, o altri tipi di atteggiamento che possono avere a che fare con disturbi psichici più complessi dove può essere necessario l’intervento dello specialista se il disturbo non si risolve in tempi brevi.

Se si alimenta la bassa autostima si inziano a perdere delle occasioni, a non valutare delle opportunità, si tende ad ingigantire situazioni problematiche, si vive in un atteggiamento di rinuncia.

Un cambiamento è possibile, anche quando le certezze di una vita iniziano a vibrare davanti a una scelta di vita così radicale come lasciare il proprio Paese. Si può iniziare da piccoli spunti che vanno a incrementare l’autostima e le risorse che la sostengono e la migliorano. Ecco alcuni punti di partenza:

  • Cambiare linguaggio. Oltre ad esprimersi in una lingua diversa, un buon punto di partenza può essere quello di cambiare il modo nel quale ci rivolgiamo a noi stessi e parliamo di noi. Spesso utilizziamo parole come “sempre/mai” con un’accezione negativa. Ad esempio: “Riesco sempre a mandare all’aria i miei progetti, di questo passo non riuscirò mai a realizzarmi.” Far caso al come e quanto utilizziamo questa parole ci aiuta a capire che non hanno un reale legame con la realtà e rafforzano invece la bassa autostima. Inoltre, esplorare nuove parole per descriversi è un buon esercizio per padroneggiare meglio la lingua;
  • Aver cura di sé. L’aspetto fisico rimanda a un’immagine di noi stessi immediata, averne cura regala un immediato slancio ad iniziare a volersi bene. L’esperienza fuori dall’Italia è ricca di nuovi spunti per iniziare da fuori a costruire la propria autostima;
  • Credere. La fiducia deve prima essere data a sé stessi. L’insicurezza agisce direttamente sull’autostima. Credere di essere qui per le giuste ragioni e che la partecipazione di ciascuno alla vita è un dono prezioso per chi ci circonda, è un punto fondamentale e troppo spesso dimenticato. Spesso si pensa troppo a come ci si esprime e poco a come ci si pone. Porsi in maniera più sicura, credere i ciò che si fa, rimarrà più impresso nelle persone che incontriamo di un’ottima grammatica;
  • Orgoglio. L’amore di sé è una delle risorse più sottovalutate per incrementare l’autostima. Anzichè cadere nella trappola dell’autocommiserazione, l’amor proprio ci permette di prendere una pausa prima di iniziare ad autodenigrarci. Questo permetterà di risparmiare le energie che avremmo investito alimentando le insicurezze, per altri aspetti più costruttivi della vita.

L’importanza di avere una buona autostima indica che anche davanti a qualche ostacolo e a qualche difficoltà tutto si può riequilibrare e riassestare, proprio perché la fiducia negli altri acquisita e interiorizzata porta in sé una forza interiore che viene espressa positivamente.

Nel caso contrario, quando la persona si abbatte rapidamente davanti alle prime difficoltà, potrebbe indicare che abbia la necessità di rinforzare maggiormente questo aspetto.

A volte, la strada migliore da percorrere può essere quella offerta dalla psicoterapia, che aiuta a ricostituire un senso di sé positivo ed equilibrato, in particolare attraverso la psicoterapia psicodinamica. Essa lavora in profondità aiutando l’individuo a ristabilire un senso di fiducia in se stesso e negli altri. E questo lavoro viene svolto sia in sessioni individuali che di gruppo a seconda delle esigenze e dei bisogni del paziente. È questo il tipo di attività che proponiamo a Londra, lavorando sugli aspetti relazionali ed emotivi della persona, per rinforzare e rigenerare gli aspetti più sensibili e bisognosi della personalità.

*Alessandro Secci
alesecci@tiscali.it
https://alessandrosecci.wordpress.com

Chiara Virgilio
c.virgilio@psicologolondra.com
http://www.psicologolondra.com

http://www.linkiesta.it/autostima-expat-psicoterapia

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Così la psicoterapia può aiutare gli expat

Solitudine, sradicamento, assenza del supporto del proprio gruppo: cosa vive un expat? Chiara e Alessandro ne parleranno su Linkiesta

Chiara Virgilio e Alessandro Secci

Mariusz Kluzniak/Flickr

Mariusz Kluzniak/Flickr

Perdita dei punti di riferimento, solitudine, sensazione di sradicamento. Aspettative disattese. Ecco alcuni degli aspetti psicologici, spesso sottovalutati, che un expat affronta quando lascia il proprio paese e va a vivere all’estero. Una volta che si è trovato l’alloggio, sistemate questioni come visto o lavoro, bisogna fare i conti con il cambiamento appena avvenuto: nuove abitudini e un contesto profondamente diverso da quello lasciato. Non si è più immersi nel tessuto sociale italiano e non si può più contare sul supporto del nostro gruppo di riferimento.

«Quando si emigra si perde il supporto del proprio gruppo di riferimento»

Noi siamo Chiara e Alessandro, due psicoterapeuti che come molti altri italiani all’estero hanno lasciato il Bel Paese per vivere e lavorare nella capitale britannica. Alessandro con una formazione in Psicoterapia maturata in quindici anni di esperienza tra Bologna e Firenze, e Chiara una formazione a Roma prima in Psicologia poi in Psicoterapia dei gruppi. Insieme ci occupiamo del fenomeno degli expat sia in ambito di psicoterapia individuale che soprattutto in ambito di gruppo.

Su Linkiesta curiamo una rubrica mensile dedicata ai temi che caratterizzano il vissuto degli expat. Esploreremo i temi dell’autostima, dei rapporti con le distanze e i confini. Sarà un viaggio che scorrerà parallelo al percorso di gruppo per italiani a Londra iniziato lo scorso 11 aprile.

http://www.linkiesta.it/depressione-expat

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Italiani a Londra, Italians in London

20/03/2015

Il rischio depressione degli italiani all’estero

«Aiutiamo gli expat a ripartire quando le risorse si esauriscono». La storia di Chiara e Alessandro

Silvia Favasuli

Parole chiave: LONDRA / DEPRESSIONE / LAVORO / SOLITUDINE / PSICOTERAPIA / PSICOLOGO / CREATIVITÀ

Argomenti:

Alessandro traccia una breve linea sul tavolo. «Creatività è ciò che usi per spostarti da A a B». Si attiva anche quando A vuol dire Italia e B è la cool Britannia. Le migrazioni sono processi creativi, spiega una coppia di psicoterapeuti italiani in questo café di Richmond, West London, mentre fuori piove e il cielo inglese dà il peggio di sé. «Usiamo la creatività per adattarci alla realtà», continua Chiara Virgilio, 30 anni e una formazione alla Coirag, scuola di specializzazione in Psicoterapia di Roma. Appartiene a tutti gli animali. Le scimmie, ad esempio, bagnano con la saliva i bastoncini di legno per farci appiccicare le formiche e poi mangiarle.

Solo che a volte questo processo si interrompe. «Le persone arrivano a Londra con un sogno in testa. Ma spesso i tempi per realizzarlo sono più lunghi del previsto. A volte capita che il sogno sfugga di mano, oppure che degli inconvenienti non calcolati ostacolino il piano fatto prima di partire». E si può cadere in depressione.

Per questo Chiara insieme ad Alessandro Secci, 46 anni, psicoterapeuta con esperienze di lavoro anche in Scozia, hanno attivato dei gruppi destinati a chi ha esaurito tutte le energie (questo il loro sito). Si sono conosciuti grazie al network “Psicologi a Londra” e hanno iniziato a lavorare insieme a questo progetto. «Se ti trasferisci in questa città senza lo scudo protettivo di un’azienda che ti ha chiamato dall’Italia, arrivi nudo, vulnerabile». A Londra, continua Chiara, la vita viaggia a un livello diverso che in Italia, tutto è più veloce. Non solo. È una città dura, competitiva». Offre opportunità ma le opportunità sono difficili da raggiungere. E qui si sperimenta la solitudine vera, accentuata da un costo della vita talmente alto che spesso si rinuncia ad uscire.

«Lingua e cultura sono troppo sottovalutate da parte di chi emigra», ricorda Alessandro. «Noi italiani purtroppo siamo chiusi verso il resto del mondo, e non solo non conosciamo bene l’inglese, ma ignoriamo anche le diversità culturali con gli altri». Lavorando in Scozia, lui stesso ha scoperto l’importanza che le regole hanno in Inghilterra. «Mi trovavo in una struttura scozzese come psicoterapeuta. Un giorno in cui sia io che la mia manager eravamo liberi perché tutti i pazienti avevano cancellato i loro appuntamenti, mi sono avvicinato al suo ufficio per scambiare qualche chiacchiera. “Non dovresti stare qui”, mi ha risposto, “Dovresti rimanere nel tuo ufficio”. Mi ha gelato. Ma poi ho capito che le regole, da queste parti, sono più importanti dei rapporti umani e sociali. Se lo sai, lo accetti e riesci a gestire la differenza».

E poi l’alcool. «I rapporti sociali qui sono spesso oliati dall’alcool», spiega Chiara. «Quando ci si trova non si beve un cocktail o un bicchiere di vino, come da noi. Uscire qui significa sempre ubriacarsi. Ma noi italiani facciamo fatica ad accettarlo. Non è nella nostra cultura. Gli inglesi – spiega – ne hanno bisogno perché è l’unico modo con cui riescono a liberarsi delle regole. E anche questo crea ostacoli all’adattamento e alla socializzazione». L’alcool in Inghilterra ha un peso sociale talmente forte che Alessandro racconta di aver assistito ragazzi esclusi dal gruppo perché avevano deciso di smettere di ubriacarsi tutte le sere.

«Con i gruppi cerchiamo di ricreare uno spazio di pensiero, lo chiamiamo così – spiega Alessandro – dove ti incontri con un certo numero di persone (generalmente cinque o sei), sempre alla stessa ora e lo stesso giorno della settimana. E in questo contenitore lavoriamo per riattivare la creatività, la capacità di adattamento».

La depressione, infatti, arriva quando ci si dimentica di quel che si è in grado di fare e ci si butta giù. «Se non raggiungi subito quel che ti eri prefissato di ottenere, finisci per dimenticare le tue potenzialità. Noi offriamo uno spazio in cui lavorare per recuperare la consapevolezza di sé. È un lavoro intenso, che richiede il coraggio di ammettere di avere bisogno di aiuto. Ma è un investimento di energie utile per la propria vita».

I gruppi di Chiara e Alessandro attendono di partire da un momento all’altro. «Abbiamo iniziato a lavorare a questo progetto a gennaio e stiamo raccogliendo ora le adesioni. Stiamo formando i gruppi e ci prepariamo a partire, anche se finora è stato difficile mettere d’accordo gli iscritti sugli orari». «Le richieste arrivate mostrano che c’è davvero bisogno di un supporto di questo tipo», raccontano i due psicoterapeuti. Il percorso è a termine, fatto tra gli otto i dieci incontri, e il costo per ciascun incontro varia dalle 20 alle 30 sterline, in base al numero di partecipanti ad ogni gruppo.

English version

20/03/2015

The risk of depression Italians abroad

“We help expat to share when resources are exhausted.” The story of Clare and Alessandro

Silvia Favasuli

Alessandro draw a short line on the table. “Creativity is what you use to move from A to B”. It also activates when A and B means Italy is the cool Britannia. Migrations are creative processes, explains a couple of psychotherapists in this Italian cafe in Richmond, West London, while it’s raining outside and the sky English gives the worst of themselves. “We use creativity to adapt to reality,” continues Chiara Virgilio, 30 years and a training Coirag, graduate school in Psychotherapy of Rome. It belongs to all animals. The monkeys, for example, wet with saliva sticks of wood to make us stick ants and then eat them.

Just that sometimes this process is interrupted. “People come to London with a dream in his head. But often times to achieve it are longer than expected. Sometimes it happens that the dream out of hand, or that of the drawbacks not calculated hinder the plan done before we left. ” And you can fall into depression.

For this Chiara together with Alessandro Secci, 46, a psychotherapist with experience of working in Scotland, have enabled the groups for those who have exhausted all the energy (this is their website). They met thanks to the network “Psychologists in London” and they started working together on this project. “If you move to this city without the protective shield of the company that called you from Italy, arrive naked, vulnerable.” In London, Chiara continues, life is traveling at a different level than in Italy, everything is faster. Not only. It is a city tough, competitive. ” Offers opportunities but the opportunities are hard to reach. And here we experience true solitude, accentuated by a cost of living so high that often waives out.

“Language and culture are too undervalued by those who emigrate,” recalls Alexander. “We Italians unfortunately we are closed to the rest of the world, and not only do not know English well, but also ignore the cultural differences with others.” Working in Scotland, he has discovered the importance that the rules they have in England. “I was in a Scottish as a psychotherapist. A day when both I and my manager were free because all patients had canceled their appointments, I went over to his office for a chat. “You should not be here,” he said, “You should stay in your office.” I froze. But then I realized that the rules around here, are more important than human and social relations. If you know it, accept it and can handle the difference. “

And then the alcohol. “Social relations here are often oiled by alcohol,” says Clare. “When you are not drinking a cocktail or glass of wine, as with us. Exit here means always drunk. But we Italians we find it hard to accept. It is not in our culture. The English – explains – they need it because it’s the only way they can get rid of the rules. And this also creates barriers to adaptation and socialization. ” Alcohol England has a social burden so strong that Alexander said he witnessed boys excluded from the group because they had decided to stop getting drunk every night.

“With the groups we try to recreate a space of thought, we call it – says Alexander – where you meet with a number of people (usually five or six), at the same time and on the same day of the week. And in this container we work to reactivate the creativity, the ability to adapt. “

Depression, in fact, comes when you forget what you are able to do and he jumps down. “If you do not reach right away what you had set out to get, you end up forgetting your potential. We offer a space in which to work to recover self-awareness. It is labor intensive, requiring the courage to admit that they need help. But it is an investment of energy useful for their lives. “

Groups of Chiara and Alessandro waiting to leave at any moment. “We started working on this project in January and now we are reaping the adhesions. We are forming groups and prepare to leave, although so far it has been difficult to reconcile members timetable. ” “Requests arrive show that there really need a support of this kind,” tell the two psychotherapists. The route is completed, done between eight of the ten meetings, and the cost for each session varies from 20 to 30 pounds, depending on the number of participants in each group.

http://www.linkiesta.it/aiuto-contro-depressione-londra

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Solastalgia


“I am developing a conceptual framework for understanding psychoterratic, or earth related (terra) mental health (psyche) states or conditions. I want to contribute to an expanded understanding of the changing relationship between the states of biophysical and built environments and human mental and physical health. Despite the importance of connections between environmental or ecosystem health and human health (physical and mental) in many cultures, we have very few concepts in English that address environmentally-induced mental distress, or conversely, environmentally enhanced positive mental health. What I am attempting to do now is develop a rich psychoterratic typology that provides a language and conceptual landscape to match the rich range of emotions and feelings people have about nature and place.”

Australian philosopher Professor Glenn Albrecht

http://www.psychoterratica.com/

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Creativity

“The root of creativity is found in the need to repair the good object destroyed in the depressive phase”

Melanie Klein

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”
(A. Einstein)

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Spirituality and religious experience

Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy

Rudolf Otto pages:
The Idea of the Holy  |  The Idea of the Holy 1: Summary  |
The Idea of the Holy 2: Comments |  The Rudolf Otto Virus

Mircea Eliade starts off The Sacred & the Profane (1957) with a few paragraphs on Rudolf Otto’s Das Heilige (1917), translated from the German as The Idea of the Holy. Eliade offers a perspective on Otto which suits his own purposes but ignores a large part of what Otto has to say. [1]

My Summary provides a reasonably comprehensive account of Otto’s work. I deal in some detail with that aspect of Otto which was of interest to Eliade, his analysis of the nature of religious experience. However, I am equally be concerned with that aspect of Otto which Eliade and others have significantly chosen to ignore, his account of the history of religious experience.

My Comments on Otto’s ideas are made in a separate article.

NOTES

1 Eliade

In fact, Eliade’s reference to Otto is a red herring. It diverts attention away from Emile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912), in which the sacred – profane dichotomy is a central theme. Any truly serious scholar introducing a book entitled The Sacred & the Profane would have surely have referred to the most important previous authority on the subject, Durkheim, rather to mention an authority of merely tangential relevance, Otto. Eliade was certainly aware of the key work of this founding father of sociology: it is listed in his bibliography and dismissed in a single misleading sentence on p 231.

It seems impossible to supply Eliade with any creditable motive for ignoring Durkheim. For example, when you have chapters on sacred space and sacred time, how can you ignore the authority who has discussed these notions 45 years previously, as far as I am aware introducing them?

Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy 1: Summary

In this first part of this brief study of The Idea of the Holy we summarise what we take to be Otto’s two most important themes: the numinous and religious progress. In the second part, we comment on them in turn.

The Numinous in Religious Experience

Otto starts The Idea of the Holy by arguing that the non-rational in religion must be given its due importance, then goes on to introduce and develop his notion of the numinous. As a kind of first approximation for the wholly new concept he is giving us, Otto characterises the numinous as the holy (i.e. God) minus its moral and rational aspects. A little more positively, it is the ineffable core of religion: the experience of it cannot to be described in terms of other experiences.

[Note that the German heilig can be rendered as either holy or sacred. The translator had to make a choice and chose holy. So in the context of Otto, for holy it is possible to read sacred: the religious experience he discusses is the experience of the sacred.]

Otto’s next approximation is the notion of creature-feeling. He suggests that those who experience the numinous experience a sense of dependency on something objective and external to themselves that is greater than themselves.

The Experience of the Numinous in Real Life

The writer goes on to indicate in concrete terms the kind of experience he is considering. Quotations are essential here so that we are absolutely clear on what Otto has in mind.

It is:

The deepest and most fundamental element in all strong and sincerely felt religious emotion.

It is to be found:

in strong, sudden ebullitions of personal piety, … in the fixed and ordered solemnities of rites and liturgies, and again in the atmosphere that clings to old religious monuments and buildings, to temples and to churches.

It may peaceful and:

come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship.

or faster moving:

thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its profane, non-religious mood of everyday experience

even violent, erupting:

from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions

and leading to:

the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy [pp 12-13 in the standard English version]

Otto’s Mysterium Tremendum

Otto has reached the heart of the matter. He pins down this sort of experience for dissection in terms of a Latin phrase, mysterium tremendum. He presents the tremendum component of the numinous that is being experienced as comprising three elements: awfulness (inspiring awe, a sort of profound unease), overpoweringness (that which, among other things, inspires a feeling of humility), energy (creating an impression of immense vigour).

The mysterium component in its turn has two elements, which Otto discusses at considerable length. Firstly, the numinous is experienced as wholly other. It is something truly amazing, as being totally outside our normal experience. Secondly, here is the element of fascination, which causes the subject of the experience of the numinous to be caught up in it, to be enraptured.  [1]

Some Points Arising

There are several important points to be made about this description and analysis of religious experience. First of all note Otto’s passing mention of the profane. In this account the religious person operates on two levels: usually on the profane or everyday level, but with occasional moments or longer periods of accession to a higher, sacred level.

Secondly, note the situations in which this higher level may be attained. Otto refers not only to personal piety, where he is presumably talking about prayer and religious meditation. He also includes participation in religious ceremonies and even visits to churches and the like.

Thirdly, note that although Otto initially mentions participation in ceremonies and visits to holy buildings as occasions for profound religious experience, he proves in the discussion of the five elements to be concerned above all with mysticism. This is surely a matter of personal piety.

Religious Progress: a Preview

Fourthly and finally, note that in the course of the analysis of the mysterium tremendum Otto gives us a preview of his ideas on religious progress. In the section on the first of his elements, awefulness, the writer explains how this part of the experience of the numinous still retains something of its origins in the most primitive form of religious experience:

let us give a little further consideration to the first crude, primitive forms in which this numinous dread or awe shows itself. It is the mark which really characterizes the so-called religion of primitive man, and there it appears as daemonic dread. This crudely naïve and primordial emotional disturbance … [pp 15-16]

In this context, Otto suggests four stages of religious progress, the third being implied:,

  1. the worship of daemons
  2. the worship of gods
  3. inferior forms of the worship of God
  4. the highest level of all, where the worship of God is at its purest [p 17].

In his sections on the last two of his elements, the wholly other and the element of fascination, the writer refers again to daemonic dread as the primitive starting point of the numinous experience.

Having established early in the book (by p 40) exactly what he means by the numinous and the experience of it, Otto goes on to explore various ramifications of the idea. Much of this kind of material seems to have no bearing on the development of ideas of the sacred in the c20th and is irrelevant to the purposes of this site. So we shall skip it. As has been suggested previously, the issue that is of interest is the writer’s treatment of religious progress.

The Profane

However, let us note in passing that Otto returns briefly at one point to the question of the profane. He argues that the experience of the numinous leads in people to much more than the sense of personal unworthiness he had spoken of in his discussion of creature-feeling. It leads, according to the writer, to a sense of the worthlessness of the whole of ordinary existence. He calls this the feeling of absolute profaneness [p 51]. Thus the experience of the sacred has as its inevitable concomitant the experience of the profane.

The Awefulness of God

Also worthy of attention is Otto’s effort in his chapters on the numinous in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and in Luther to emphasise that the rise of the rational in the Judeo-Christian tradition did not eliminate the non-rational numinous. In particular, he reminds the reader of the continuing presence of the awefulness aspect, as in ideas of a dread inspiring, vengeful and wrathful God.

In the chapter on the numinous in the Old Testament, Otto discusses the transition of the Old Testament God from an early Yahweh, still bearing traces of the daemonic dread of the pre-god stage of the numinous , to an Elohim in whom the rational aspect outweighs the numinous [p 75], though the latter continues to be very much present.

In the New Testament likewise, Otto looks at the balance between non-rational and rational. Here the rational aspect of God reaches its consummation, but the numinous aspect has not been lost. Thus Otto sees the numinous in New Testament references to a God of vengeance, who will destroy wicked men [p 84]. The author also notably sees St Paul’s doctrine of predestination as non-rational [p 86] and springing from the numinous.

With regard to Luther, Otto argues that the non-rational in the reformer’s religion has come to be ignored:

the Lutheran school has itself not done justice to the numinous side of the Christian idea of God. By the exclusively moral interpretation it gave to the terms, it distorted the meaning of holiness and wrath. [p 108]

An Evolutionary Context

It is a measure of the importance of the theme of religious progress in Otto that, when he gets to it, he allots nearly as much space to it as he has done to the analysis of the experience of the mysterium tremendum. (Clearly, it has to be significant that Eliade and others choose to turn a blind eye to this aspect of Otto.)

The writer starts his treatment by placing the whole matter in an evolutionary context. He seems to express the view that human nature has been unchanged since humans became humans:

The history of humanity begins with man … we must presuppose man as a being analogous to ourselves in natural propensities and capacities. [p 114]

The Human Predisposition for Religious Experience

So religious growth has occurred not because of any development in human capacities, but because of a predisposition towards religious experience that was always present but only gradually awakened. The writer emphasises that this predisposition is a characteristic not just of some individuals, but of the whole human species.

Otto goes on to identify and discuss a series of phenomena he associates with the earliest expressions of the human predisposition for religion. His eight phenomena are not part of religion as he understands it, but of pre-religion. He begins with: magic, worship of the dead, ideas regarding souls and spirits, belief that natural objects have powers that can be manipulated by spells etc, belief that natural objects like mountains and the sun and the moon are actually alive, fairy stories (and myths). A little more advanced are: belief in daemons (pre-deities, so to speak), notions of pure and impure.

The Beginnings of Religion

Religion proper starts only when feelings prompted by the predisposition for religious experience are no longer projected on to things out there in the natural world, but are accounted for in terms of gods. From then on the progress of religion is a matter of the gradual refinement of people’s understanding of their experience of the divine, till the culmination in Christianity. (Note Otto’s view of Christianity as the end product of religious development: for example

Christianity … stands out in complete superiority over all sister religions. [p 142])

The Motive Force Driving Religious Progress

Now the human predisposition for religious experience does not explain how religious progress took place, how humanity gradually advanced towards Christianity. There had to have been some mechanism or mechanisms to drive things forward. At the very end of his main text, Otto points to

three factors by which religion comes into being in history. [p 176]

But, not for the first time, he expresses himself obscurely. The general idea seems to be that it is basically a matter of the cumulative effect of the interactions between the human predisposition to religion and the contingent events of human history (somewhat like the interactions between nature and nurture, heredity and environment in the development of human individuals, one might suppose).

A specific type of historical event that Otto draws into his argument is the emergence of particular people far more sensitive to the numinous than their fellows and who sensitised those around them. These special individuals included the Bible prophets and pre-eminently Jesus, of course, as the writer points out in the final words of his main text.

As indicated initially, we shall comment on Otto’s ideas in the second part of this article.

NOTES

1 fascinans

June 2007: When I wrote this summary 6 years ago, I was not aware of the widespread use in references to Otto of the pseudo-quotation mysterium tremendum et fascinans, for which see on this site The Rudolf Otto Virus. The term fascinans is indeed used by Otto, but only on a few isolated occasions and not in conjunction with mysterium tremendum. I still don’t think the term fascinans as such has an important enough place in Otto’s book to warrant inclusion in my summary.

(c) John C Durham, 2001 – 03

 

Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy 2: Comments

In the first part of this brief study of The Idea of the Holy we summarise what we take to be Otto’s two most important themes: the numinous and religious progress. In this second part, we comment on them in turn.

The Crucial Comparison: the Appearances of Great Kings

Having analysed the experience of the numinous in terms of the mysterium tremendum, [1] Otto goes on to explore the relevance of comparisons between it on the one hand and sexual feelings and the experience of music on the other.

The crucial comparison, however, is one that Otto does not make. It is the comparison with the way people felt in the presence of emperors, kings and the like in the days when such individuals had absolute power: the present-day equivalent would be the feelings of fans at the performances of their musical or sporting idols.

For Otto’s analysis applies equally well to the experience of taking part in an audience with some absolute ruler as it does to that of the numinous: on the one hand, the tremendum part, the impression of immense explosive power, combined with the reaction of awe and admiring inferiority, on the other hand, the mysterium part, impression of the wholly other, combined with the reaction of fascination. To understand what the mysterium tremendum is really all about, we need to enquire how it is people felt the way they did in the presence of great kings.

An Artificial Reality

The thing to understand about the public appearances of great kings is that they were totally stage-managed, with the effect of creating an out of this world experience for those attending. Thus, there can have been no difference in principle between an audience of the Sun-King, Louis XIV, and a performance of, say, the King of Pop, the late Elvis Presley. Attending either type of event was a matter of stepping out of the everyday world into an altogether artificial environment in which normal life was suspended for the duration and everything was orchestrated to focus on the appearance of the great one. And when the great one appeared, everything about him was totally artificial in comparison with the norms of everyday life: his costume, his movements and gestures, the way he was treated by those close to him and so on. He appeared to be out of this world.  [2]

In the artificial, controlled environments created for the appearances of great kings, people are assailed with a barrage of sensations and impressions: sights, sounds, information. But their normal resources for handling situations, the normal ways of reacting to their experiences that their culture has taught them, do not apply. So they are forced back into a sort of primal emotional state and produce primal responses: awe-struck submissiveness in the face of the impression of immense power, fascination in the face of an individual who is so clearly human yet so clearly belonging to another world, these two emotions combining as total adulation.

Now, it seems likely that what is really going on in Otto’s experience of the numinous is that subjects are stage-managing this kind of experience for themselves: in some sense switching themselves out of everyday reality and into an artificial reality of their own imagining, one which triggers the same kind of primal responses.

It is likely that, confronted with the comparison between the experience of the numinous and that of the public appearances of great kings, Otto himself would have argued to the effect that the latter merely attested to the truth of his notion of the human predisposition for experiencing the numinous, that the stage-management of royal appearances was a matter of exploiting it for unholy ends. We are not going to try arguing with that. This site is concerned to try to add to the spiritual resources of those who do not believe in the supernatural, not to challenge the faith of those who do.

Divine Kingship

What must be said, however, is that it is a surprising omission on the part of Otto that he did not refer to kings in his account of the development of religion from earliest times to its culmination in Christianity. He must have been aware of the phenomenon of divine kingship, of kings and the like being regarded as gods. There had been the Egyptian Pharaohs, for instance, and indeed there was a living example in the person of the Emperor of Japan.  [3]

What is more, it seems as though divine kingship ought to occupy something of a pivotal position in Otto’s scheme of religious development. He makes a distinction between what he calls pre-religion and religion proper. Pre-religion is about the projection of religious feelings on to things from the natural world, such as the dead or volcanoes; religion is about the projection of religious feeling on to things from the supernatural. One would have thought that divine kingship straddled that divide: the king belonging to the natural as a man, to the supernatural as a god.

[To be concluded]

(c) John C Durham, 2001

Otto’s Understanding of Other Religions

In the Summary of The Idea of the Holy, I remark in passing that it has to be significant that Eliade and others choose to turn a blind eye to Otto’s seeing Christianity as the culmination of a religious evolution, with other religions as stages along the way. The significance as far as others are concerned is that Otto’s religious history had become an embarrassment.

There came a time, say after the Second World War, when it was no longer tenable for Christian religious theorists to belittle other religions the way Otto had done, by understanding them as earlier phases of religious progress. Certainly, that sort of religious history was no longer thinkable in the post-colonial world of the United Nations, the British Commonwealth etc: it was too close to racism. And independently of that, such a theory no longer made sense in the face of a now obviously de-Christianised society, such as was admitted in the 1960s Death of God debate: it was no longer obvious that history was going to stop with Christianity.

February 2004

The Idea of the Holy and the Great War: a Question

Given that The Idea of the Holy was originally published in 1917, it is tempting to ask to what extend, if any, the book might be seen as Otto’s contribution to the German war effort. There are two considerations that make this seem like a reasonable question.

Firstly, Otto claims explicitly that Christianity is the highest form of religion and implicity that German religion is the highest form of Christianity: the latter by, for example, his discussion of the numinous not only in the Old Testament and the New Testament but also in Luther. Might he be suggesting that on this account Germany is worth fighting for?

[March/May 2007: In their wartime propaganda the Allies were characterising the Germans as barbarians. Thus French propaganda emphasised wholesale destruction of churches during the German invasion of Northern France, the severe damage to Rheims Cathedral during the 1000 day bombardment of that city being presented as epitomising German barbarism. It is very hard not to believe that part of Otto’s purpose in publishing his book at the height of the war was to affirm the religious aspect of the German contribution to Western civilisation.]

Secondly and perhaps more significantly, attention has recently been drawn to the importance of awefulness in Otto’s account of the nature and history of the numinous. Might not his emphasis here be seen as a suggestion that unser Gott may be on occasion a warlike God?

Unfortunately, I know little more of Otto than the information provided in his English translator’s preface. This tells us that during the war he was a member of the Prussian parliament and that in 1917, the year of publication, he moved to a chair at Marburg, a university with a conservative and nationalist reputation.

Perhaps somebody could throw some light on the matter. What were Otto’s politics with regard to the war? For example, on what platform was he elected to the Prussian parliament and what was his attitude to the war there?

March 2007: Indeed, why the dearth of accessible English language biographical information on Otto?

June 2011: The English, French, Spanish and German Wikipedia entries currently offer almost no biographical information on Otto, the German version being the least forthcoming of all. Not even this last points to the existence of a book length study of the life of Otto! None of the four refer to Otto’s wartime membership of the Prussian Parliament: did he occupy one of the university seats in the Upper House or what?

November 2003

Special Individuals

Otto’s idea expressed at the end of The Idea of the Holy of a succession of individuals specially in touch with the numinous may be understood as science to religion crossover. It is a restatement in evolutionary terms of the old Protestant idea of a succession of individuals to whom God spoke stretching back to creation.

The Catholic Church derived its authority from the Apostolic Succession, the claim that the Pope and all other properly consecrated bishops stood in direct line of succession from the original New Testament Apostles. Early Protestant theorists like Philip Melanchthon countered that by seeing themselves as part of the True Church, standing in a direct line of succession stretching back before the New Testament Apostles to the Old Testament Prophets.

In fact, for these Protestant theorists the line of individuals to whom God vouchedsafe His Revelations actually started with the first human, the Adam of Genesis, then proceeded through the biblical genealogies and the Prophets to Christ and His Apostles. The line had had a hidden existence during the ages of Catholic supremacy, but in the Reformation had re-emerged.

We can understand William James’s idea of religious geniuses expressed in The Varieties of Religious Experience as part of the same tradition.

September 2006

NOTES

1 The Use of Latin

Part of this note has been moved to its own page. See The Rudolf Otto Virus

The whole question of the use of Latin in c20th discussions of religious phenomena is worth considering. In general, words from other languages are used either for communication or for effect. It has clearly been for communication that writers have introduced Indian religious terms like guru and nirvana into European languages. But it seems far more likely that, in their use of Latin, Otto and Eliade were seeking for effect.

Latin has had two main sorts of resonances in modern times, scientific and religious, and Otto and Eliade were tapping into both of those. Let us consider Eliade’s term homo religiosus first. In Eliade’s day this was clearly quite superfluous from the point of view of communication: religious man and its equivalents in other European languages were adequate for that. (Today, with political correctness, the situation is different.) Primarily, what Eliade was doing was tapping into the scientific resonances of the Latin, creating a term that seemed authoritatively scientific because of its similarlity to the genuinely scientific homo sapiens. Secondarily, he was tapping into one of the religious resonances of Latin, attaching himself to that tradition of learned commentary on religion in Latin that had started with the early Church fathers.

With a different emphasis, the analysis applies to Otto’s mysterium tremendum. One has to ask why Otto chose to drop in a bit of Latin a century or however long after the language had finally ceased to be an international medium for learned discussion. It is certainly not that he was using an existing Latin phrase, which would have been unexceptional: no, he was creating a new phrase of his own. This can only have been for effect, to give his ideas some extra increment of intellectual weight. On the one hand, there are the scientific resonances of mysterium, rhyming as it does with many of the more obscure elements in the periodic table. On the other hand, and doubtless far more important, there are the resonances of the Church fathers: Otto was making to give his notion the weight of a Patristic tag like anima naturaliter christiana (the soul is naturally Christian).

2 Out of This World

In this light, it would be quite wrong (for example) to understand an Egyptian pyramid as an imitation hill. It was a deliberately artificial-looking construction, its stark, unnatural geometric form and original white colour intentional. If Egyptian engineers had wanted to create a hill that looked like a hill, they would have done so: they were undoubtedly capable. They intentionally built something out of this world for the Pharaoh.

3 The Golden Bough

It is difficult to believe that Otto was not familiar with James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, which had been originally published in a two volume version in 1890 and which was particularly concerned with divine kingship.

(c) John C Durham, 2001 – 2004

 

The Rudolf Otto Virus

When you see the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans in discussions of Rudolf Otto, you are not looking at a direct quotation from The Idea of the Holy, at least not from the English translation. This tag appears in about half the discussions I checked in books to hand, e.g. Ninian Smart: Dimensions of the Sacred (1996), (not in fact a book about the sacred). You have to think that Smart [1] and the others were all working from some secondary source and not directly from Otto at all. On the other hand, e.g. Joseph Campbell has the authentic mysterium tremendum in Oriental Mythology (1962), as does Roy A. Rappaport in Ritual & Religion in the Making of Humanity (1999).

In The Sacred & the Profane and in Myths, Dreams & Mysteries (both 1957), Mircea Eliade adds his own coinage, mysterium fascinans, to Otto’s mysterium tremendum. In view of this, it seems likely that it was Eliade who coined the phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans in some other of his many works. If you have a reference, please let me know and I shall insert it here, acknowledging your help if you want that.

Like Misquoting Hamlet

Since I put the above online a couple of years ago, nobody has suggested a possible source for the pseudo-tag.

It can be seen as a kind of virus, rather like a computer virus, spread by a lack of rigour among academics. Certainly, any authority that uses it seems dubious. You have to think that any academic who doesn’t check the validity of quotations is going to be unreliable on sources generally, that no reference can be taken at face value.

Thouless in Straight and Crooked Thinking warned against making a sweeping judgement on the basis of a minor lapse. But we are looking at more than that, we are looking at a phenomenon. In the context of discussions of religious experience, it’s somewhat like half of the world’s English literature scholars misquoting the start of Hamlet’s soliloquy.

We must suppose that similar examples of error propagation, of passing bad currency, are to be found in other academic fields.

On 18-07-03, a Yahoo UK search for the phrase brought up 7 sites; a world search suggested 327 sites. The UK sites were in fact mainly religious and devotional. One had a bishop referring to a theologian as if quoting Otto. One was offline, removing the phrase, we may hope. Another appeared to have the phrase on a school exam question, presumably for a Religious Studies A Level course: so they’re teaching it in school.

Some checking of overseas sites failed to produce a page reference for the alleged quotation. But this is not surprising. The whole thing is so incredible that I’ve checked Otto’s book yet again, so as to make sure I’m not getting egg on my face: I still haven’t spotted the tag in there.

NOTES

1 Ninian Smart: the source of the Rudolf Otto virus?

May 2007: It looks as though not Eliade, but the late world religionist, Ninian Smart, may be the source of the Rudolf Otto virus. I have just happened across this, referring to Otto, in a book by him first published in 1964:

He analyzed the numinous experience in terms of the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans: what is apprehended is a mystery which is awe-inspiring and fascinating. [Philosophers and Religious Truth, 2nd edn 1969, p 110]

This reads as though Smart is offering the phrase as a genuine quotation from Otto. Smart is in error. Otto did not analyse the experience of the numinous in terms of the Latin phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans: he never used the phrase.

This is the earliest instance of the phoney tag I have come across. Smart apparently made no relevant changes to his book between the 1964 1st edition and the 1969 2nd edition, so this instance of mysterium tremendum et fascinans must date from 1964.

to see the flesh in which the bare bones are encased:

Smart repeats the spurious tag less than 2 pages later, on p 112. Between times, he has made the following remark:

… my brief account of Otto’s position is scarcely adequate: the reader would be well advised to read through The Idea of the Holy to see the flesh in which the bare bones are encased. [p 112]

This remark is noteworthy for several reasons. Firstly, it establishes that The Idea of the Holy is indeed the Otto work that Smart is representing as the source of the phrase mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

Secondly, Smart’s use here of metaphor is strangely inept. For one thing, encased is used properly when there is a hard outside, as when we say a medieval warrior was encased in armour. But in this situation it’s the inside that’s hard, the bones inside the soft flesh.

We accept this kind of lapse in journalists and politicians, but in a work called Philosophers and Religious Truth in which a full Professor of Theology has chapters with titles referring to Hume, Aquinas, Kant and, in the second edition, Wittgenstein as well, we should expect very much greater precision of thought

Thirdly, Smart’s suggestion that he has provided the ‘bare bones’ of ‘Otto’s position’ is more than somewhat misleading. He may have provided an account of Otto’s argument regarding religious experience that suited him, but that has meant editing out half of what Otto had to say.

A diachronic understanding:

For Smart fails to point out that Otto offered a diachronic understanding of his alleged phenomenon of religious experience. It is a thoroughly Protestant understanding, in terms of the development of God’s relationship with individual humans since the dawn of time, a process which involved most notably the Old Testament prophets, then Christ and the New Testament apostles and then Luther.

Indeed, we must wonder about Smart’s presentation of Otto not as a theologian but as a philosopher who can keep company with Aquinas, Hume, Kant and Wittgenstein. Has any history of philosophy ever even mentioned Otto?

I take The Oxford Companion to Philosophy [1993, edited by Ted Honderich, c1,000 pp], an authoritative encyclopedia of philosophy, to represent the consensus on who qualifies to be regarded as a philosopher now and by and large who did in 1964. There is a half page entry on holy, numinous and sacred [p 372] in which Otto is referred to and his book is listed. But unlike Aquinas (2½ pages), Hume (nearly 4 pages), Kant (nearly 6 pages) and Wittgenstein (3½ pages), Otto does not rate an entry of his own. By contrast, William James gets not only an entry (2 pages) but also, like the aforementioned quartet, a picture as well.

The Smart pages referred to above appear near the start of a chapter called Rudolf Otto and Religious Experience [pp 109-138], which you might suppose is devoted to discussing Otto. But in fact, Smart uses Otto basically as a peg on which to hang some very ineffectual ramblings of his own on ‘religious truth’ and ‘the great religions’. After the first few pages, Otto fades from view.

the highest expression of divine truth:

That Smart soon forgets Otto can be seen in the former’s assessment of the relative merits of his ‘great religions’. Otto had stated categorically on the first page of his book:

Christianity not only possesses such conceptions [about God] but possesses them in unique clarity and abundance, and this is, though not the sole or even the chief, yet a very real sign of its superiority over religions of other forms and at other levels. [The Idea of the Holy, 2nd English Edn, 1950, p 1].

Smart stumbles his way to a similar position:

… even if Judaeo-Christian theism represents the highest expression of divine truth. [p 135]

However, Smart does not mention that the German had been there before him. If he had been genuinely interested in Otto’s point of view, he could not have failed to refer to him in this context.

Smart is able to reach his own conclusion because he has defined religion in such a way as to make no other conclusion possible. It’s as if he were to say, There are some great fruits, namely the orange, the banana and the plum: all have outstanding qualities. But to qualify as the greatest of all, a fruit must have crunchy white flesh that produces juice you can make cider out of. So after weighing all the evidence, after careful deliberation, we are forced to conclude that, well, the apple is the greatest fruit.

(c) John C Durham, 2001 – 2011

 

http://www.bytrentsacred.co.uk/index.php/rudolf-otto

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Holotropic Breathing and Shamanism

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Schizophrenia – John Weir Perry interview

John Weir Perry interview

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Music, Mystery, and the Dreaming Process by Amy Mindell

Originally published in the “Dream Network, a Journal for Exploring Dreams and Mythology”, Vol. 21, #1, 2002, pp. 7-11, http://www.dreamnetwork.net

When I was a child I learned to play the guitar and piano, and loved to sing and dance. As a little girl I used to twist and frolic to the rhythms of rock and roll, “Oh shake it baby now, twist and shout!” As I grew up, music and movement became my lifeline; a home I could return to in order to find meaning in an everyday world. Today, whenever I feel confused about what direction to go, curious about the world, or upset by something that has happened, I find myself spontaneously sitting at the piano and letting the music carry me like a magic carpet to lands of greater perspective, to my inner dreams and deepest yearnings, and to my sense of connection with others. However, for the first forty years of my life I was unable to find the thread to my own inner songs. I don’t really know what suddenly allowed me to begin to write my own music a few years ago but I do know that it has something to do with my growing openness to, and my fluidity with, my dreams and my dreaming process.
There is something so inexpressible, so deeply stirring about music and the creative process, that I am utterly grateful each time a piece of music comes through me. Sometimes a song has begun with a dream image, sometimes a slight body sensation, at other times a faint tune that has unfolded into a melody. There have been times when I cannot track what has happened. It has felt as though the piece of music was always here and I simply allowed it to manifest through notes and chords.
Therefore, I am shy to try to describe my process of writing music in any clear or defined way. However, in my work as a process worker (1), a form of therapy and conflict resolution developed by my partner and husband Arny Mindell, I have found vocabulary for this ineffable experience. This understanding has helped me and my clients gain an even deeper access to the creative process. Perhaps I can share some of these concepts here.

The Dreaming Process
A central idea in process work is that we do not only dream at night but we are dreaming all the time, throughout the day as well. The source of these experiences is what we call the dreaming process. The dreaming process is like a wellspring that continually generates dream-like experiences whether we are asleep or awake. Spontaneous movements and gestures, body symptoms, and flickering experiences are some of the ways that the dreaming process manifests in everyday life. If we follow and unfold these occurrences, they actually mirror our nighttime dream images. When I tune into this source of dreaming in all of its manifestations I tap into a fountain of creativity and expression.
Levels of Experience
In order to understand the dreaming process more, let me describe various levels of experience.(2) One level is called “consensus reality” and includes such things as the way I identify myself, my profession, my weight, my height, my body gestures, the sound of my voice, music that I can notate, etc. These are things that most of us would consent to, or agree upon. A second level is what we call “dreamland”. In this realm lie deeper feelings, our dream images and dream figures. An even deeper level we call the “essence” or “sentient essence” level. This is the area of subtle tendencies that occur before something manifests as a visual dream image, an identifiable feeling, or an exact tune or melody. In Taoism, this realm would be called “the Tao that can’t be said,” that which arises before it can be named. Aboriginal people call this the area of the “Dreaming” which gives rise to all other levels including the material world. In process work, this is the level of the dreaming process.
The dreaming process is the deep source from which all the other levels arise. We can visualize it as the underground roots of a tree from which the visible portions of the tree emerge. In other words, as the essence begins to express itself, it appears as flickering experiences that catch our attention such as something suddenly catching our eye, a fleeting feeling in our bodies, or a quick sound that grabs our attention. When these experiences further unfold, they express themselves as identifiable feelings and the images and figures of our nighttime dreams. In other words, dream images first appear as very slight tendencies and sensations that then unfold into dream figures and images. In fact, if we notice these slight tendencies during the day, we can often predict the dreams we will have at night. When dream images further unfold, they appear in consensus reality at times as disturbances such as body symptoms, spontaneous gestures, slips of the tongue, etc, or, if we follow this unfolding with awareness, they appear creatively in such forms as song, art, and dance. These levels are not really separate but part of a fluid spectrum. By joining the flow of dreaming along this spectrum we can gain access to a great deal of inspiration.

Heaven is Open
Let’s think about my experience of creating my song Heaven is Open. When Heaven is Open began to unfold I felt a tremendous relief. It was as if something inside of me wanted to write this song for many years and finally gave birth to melody and words. The process of writing the music began with both a dream and a flickering body experience.
About a year and a half ago, I had a dream in which I was feeling a bit down and was sitting by the ocean. In the dream I laid back and let the water carry me. When I awoke I wrote down my dream and went about my day as usual. A few hours later I noticed a very subtle and strange feeling in my chest, a slight sensation as if my chest was moving backwards, expanding, and opening. Since the sensation was so faint and didn’t make sense to me, I was going to ignore it. However, I decided to stay with it and meditate upon it. As I did that, I suddenly had an image of gold pouring down from heaven into my chest. At that moment I began to hear the beginning melody of Heaven is Open. I then remembered my dream images from the night before. I sat down at the piano and the song poured out like melted butter: “I thought I was empty, at the edge of the sea, I lay down and rested and let it carry me. And heaven is open, each and every day….”(3) (You can hear this song on the music page of this website.)
Each time I sing this song, I feel that deep sense of openness to something greater than myself. My chest expands, I drop my everyday self, and I am taken by the wings of eternity. Where the song actually came from is a mystery to me and hopefully always will be. It flowed from the unfathomable essence of my experience. I do know, however, that by noticing a fleeting body sensation and then connecting to my dream images, I was able to catch hold of the dreaming process, let it unfold into melody and words, and finally share it in everyday reality with others.
Songs of the Land
When I was a child, I loved to sing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music!” For me, the plants and the ground were full of dreams and songs. I twirled around the trees dancing and singing and imagined they sang back to me in partnership. Throughout time, many peoples have said that the consensual, material world originates from dreaming and that the basic essence of the earth and the universe is sound. Australian Aborigines say that the material earth manifested from the Dreaming and that legendary beings sang the world into existence. These songs or songlines, invisible pathways that flow throughout Australia, recount the creation of the land.(4) Sufi mystics understand the universe as an immense, vibrating medium.(5) For Pythagoras, the pitch and rhythm of music was a microcosm for the mathematical laws of the universe.(6) Likewise, from my limited understanding, quantum physics teaches us that the basis of all matter can be understood as vibrations or waves.(7) This of course, is the basis of music as well.
Over the past few years, I have had a few experiences in which I felt that I heard the sound of the land. I remember taking a walk in the beautiful mountains of eastern Oregon a year ago. As I walked I thought I heard a faint sound coming from the mountains. I listened closely to what seemed to be a rhythmic beating of a drum. It sounded to me like a war march. As the rhythm reverberated inside of me, I started to walk to its beat. Eventually, I began to hear the first words of another song. I heard, “Standing on this mountain, far away from our home, fighting for our freedom, on this land that we roam…” The song further unraveled and when I returned home I wrote down the music and the words.
About a week later, I was reading a book about the plight of the Nez Perce Native Americans who inhabited that very land years ago and who were forced to leave it by the US army.(8) They were chased to the Canadian border where they were finally overcome. I was startled to read that many of the images in the song that I had written down closely followed the story of what had occurred. I feel shy to talk about this since I am not Nez Perce. However, this music came through me while I was listening to the mountains and I tried to step out of the way and let it express itself. I realized that the land itself carries history and dreams, the stories of ancestors, if we listen to its songs.
Kermit’s Dream
It seems to me that some songs come to me in a very humorous way. One night I dreamed that the famous Muppet puppet, Kermit the Frog, was singing to me about his own dreams. Kermit was in a frustrated state and was terribly confused because he dreamed that he had transformed into a dog! Kermit had begun to wonder who he really was! When I woke up, Arny and I had a good laugh about the dream and I found myself writing “Frog Song” which is about the impermanence of life. (You can hear this song on the music page of this website.) I’m grateful to Kermit for imparting such wisdom and to the dreaming process for its endlessly generous gifts.

1 For an introduction to Process Work see my Metaskills:The Spiritual Art of Therapy, New Falcon, Tempe, AZ, 1995/Lao Tse Press, Portland, Oregon, 2001, Arnold Mindell’s River’s Way: The Process Science of the Dreambody, Penguin, London, 1984 and his Working with the Dreaming Body, Penguin/Arkana, London 1984/Lao Tse Press, Portland, Oregon, 2001.
For more on particular process oriented methods for connecting dreams and music see Chapter Eleven in Arnold Mindell’s upcoming Dreammaker’s Apprentice, Hampton Roads, Charlottesville, VA, 2001 and for more applications of process work with music see Lane Arye’s, Unintentional Music: Releasing Your Deepest Creativity, Hampton Roads, 2001.
2 See Arnold Mindell’s Dreaming While Awake: Techniques for 24 Hour Lucid Dreaming, Hampton Roads, Charlottesville, Va., 2001 for detailed descriptions and examples of these various levels of experience.
3 Heaven is Open can be heard on our website, http://www.aamindell.net.
4 Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, Cape, London, 1987.
5 See the beautiful book, The Mysticism of Sound and Music: The Sufi Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Shambhala , Boston and London 1996 for more on the connection between sound, the universe, and mysticism.
6 Donald Jay Grout and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, 4th ed, W.W. Norton, New York, 1980, p.7.
7 See Arnold Mindell’s Quantum Mind: Journey to the Edge of Psychology and Physics, Lao Tse Press, Portland, Oregon, 2000 for more on the basis of quantum physics and its connections with psychology.
8 Diana Yates, Chief Joseph: Thunder Rolling Down from the Mountains, Ward Hill Press, NY, 1992.

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craters and coalhttp://www.lboro.ac.uk/microsites/sota/tracey/space/index.html

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