Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Law of Cause and Effect and America's Future

This is the final of three essays[1] that focus on America and its current situation from a Jungian perspective. In this last in the series the subject is, as noted in the final sentence of the previous essay, “the size, cause, nature and deep background of the coming American catastrophe.” Since the “deep background” requires more explanation and elaboration we’ll consider that first.

The Law of Cause and Effect: The Deep Background to America’s Current Situation

If we want to understand the deep background of what is going on now in America, we have to consider several key concepts. The first of these is the principle of karma. Theosophy[2] and Eastern religions like Buddhism consider karma to be part of the Law of Cause and Effect. The Dalai Lama has provided a good definition of this Law and the principle of karma:
The fundamental precept of Buddhism is Interdependence or the Law of Cause and Effect. This simply states that... cause gives rise to effect which in turn becomes the cause of further effect,... consciousness... flows on and on, gathering experiences and impressions from one moment to the next... a being’s consciousness contains an imprint of all these past experiences and impressions, and the actions which precede them. This is known as karma, which means ‘action.’[3]

Karma comes from all of one’s acts, words and thoughts, which “determine a person’s fate in his next stage of existence;...” The dictionary offers “fate,” “destiny” and “kismet” as synonyms for karma, and relates the term to Buddhism and Theosophy.[4]

But the concept of karma and the Law of Cause and Effect is not unique to Buddhism. The Bible is full of references to this law and the concept of karma:
Job noted that “... those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.”[5]
Many years later the prophet Hosea expressed the same idea: “But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil,...”[6] Jesus advised his followers: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”[7] And the apostle Paul reminded the church in Galatia that “A man reaps what he sows.”[8]

Jung wrote about karma in several places. In “Aion” he defined karma as “the fate earned through works in previous existences,”[9] and he associated the term with Theosophy. He also recognized the importance of the concept in understanding the nature of archetypes:
When... psychic energy regresses, going beyond even the period of early infancy, and breaks into the legacy of ancestral life, the mythological images are awakened: these are the archetypes. [Here he appends an informative footnote:] This... is... a deliberate extension of the archetype by means of the karmic factor, which is so very important in Indian philosophy. The karma aspect is essential to a deeper understanding of the nature of an archetype...[10]

Ever the man of science, Jung was quick to admit that concepts like karma cannot be proven:[11]
...karmic illusion—that is to say, illusions which result from the psychic residue of previous existences...karma implies a sort of psychic theory of heredity...we cannot even conceive how anyone could prove anything at all in this respect... Hence we may cautiously accept the idea of karma only if we understand it as psychic heredity in the very widest sense of the word. Psychic heredity does exist--...[12]

Jung offered a “Western version of a prenatal karma” in the “very ancient idea of what we might call an inborn bill of debt to fate...”[13]. Our contemporary American culture has this idea, but we put it in a modern vernacular: “What goes around, comes around.” What you put out eventually comes back to you.

All the above remarks relate karma to the individual, but it has collective application as well. The Dalai Lama noted this in his autobiography,[14] when he discussed the Tibetan invasion of China in the 8th century. Back then Tibet was a war-like place and the aggressive Tibetans actually seized the Chinese capital in 763 A.D. The killing, looting and destruction created a karmic debt, even though Tibet soon fell under the influence of Buddhism and became a very pacific and non-aggressive society. No matter. The karmic debt still had to be paid, and the process of doing so began in 1950, when China invaded Tibet. In 1951, just as the Tibetans did 1,188 years earlier to China, the Chinese took over the capital of Lhasa.

At this point you might be wondering what all this has to do with America, its current situation and the “catastrophe” mentioned above. We’ll get to that shortly. First, we must define another key concept: “cosmic vanity” or “ontological arrogance.”

The Concept of Cosmic Vanity

The terms “cosmic vanity” and “ontological arrogance” are not mine. I got the first from theologian Charles Davis,[15] the second from business consultant Fred Kofman.[16] They mean essentially the same thing: “... the claim to a privileged knowledge of the origin, structure and workings of the cosmos... a temptation that dogs all religion ... [is] cosmic vanity.”[17] “Ontological arrogance is the belief that your perspective is privileged, that yours is the only true way to interpret a situation....”[18] “Ontological arrogance [is] when I assume that my truth is the truth."
We can define cosmic vanity situationally: The vain man assumes that the world is as he sees it and also takes for granted that others should see things the way he does... Cosmic vanity occurs when men impose their social structure upon the cosmos as a whole, falling into the conceit of interpreting the entire cosmos in terms of the limited preoccupations and organization of a particular society and culture.[20]

and we are reminded, by Kofman, that cosmic vanity has consequences: Our history informs our understanding of the present and the decisions and actions through which we shape our future. We reap what we sow, not just materially but also mentally.[21] which links the concept with the notion of karma mentioned above.

Cosmic vanity, or ontological arrogance, has several important features. The person who is cosmically vain is unable to distinguish his identity from his opinions, and so feels personally challenged or offended by those whose opinions differ from his. A second feature is the host of faulty assumptions that accompany cosmic vanity, e.g. that my point of view is objective; that no mental models filter my perception; that those who differ from me are wrong and simply don’t want to see the Truth. Other features include: repression and power games; mistrust, miscommunication and antagonism among people; low motivation; fear, stress and anger; a general mood of anxiety, cynicism and resentment among those who have to deal with such arrogance; people feeling disempowered; demoralization, as people feel unable to control their destiny; authoritarianism, solemnity and smugness. The ultimate result, in organizations, is “organizational collapse.”[22] In societies where cosmic vanity is prevalent, the eventual result is a “fall,” as the old adage warns us.

Is America such a society? Has America been such a society? Hark back to the early days of the Puritan settlers. Did they think they had the Truth? Were they confident that theirs was the only right way to live and think? Did they demand that native people conform to their ways? If you have read the previous essays in this series (on American exceptionalism and America’s shadow) you know that the answer to all these questions is “Yes.” America, as a collective, has been steeped in cosmic vanity for centuries. It is a core part of our Puritanical heritage. It is part of our psychic makeup and, despite many generations of growing ethnic diversity, a majority of Americans operate in the unconscious assumption that our ways—Christian, democratic, technological, capitalist—are better than any other peoples’. The “American way” is the only right way; American values, the only right values; our American system of democracy, the only right form of government; free-market capitalism, the only right way to organize the process of providing for the material needs of society—this is how people think who are sunk in cosmic vanity. You may not see yourself in this portrait, but there are many Americans for whom it is very accurate.

America’s Karma or What did America do in its collective past that has karmic consequences?

Historically it has been cosmic vanity that led European settlers in the New World:
to butcher thousands of native people (because we knew we were better than they were)
to remove whole tribes from their lands (because we knew our system of private property was superior to the communalism of native people) to “warehouse” Indians on reservations (because we knew we had better uses for the land—especially the lands with the gold mines—than native peoples had) to “assault” Indian tribalism in the allotment act (because we knew our white governmental system was better than tribalism)
to seize Indian children and forbid them to speak their language, wear their native clothing, and eat their customary foods (because we knew it was our Christian duty to save the souls of the “heathen” and offer them the benefits of “polite” society)
to prohibit the practice of Indian religions and rituals (because we knew that our religion was the only right religion and by prohibiting their religion we would be saving their souls).[23]

In the prior essay on America’s shadow I discussed other actions of our government and individuals that created karma. For many generations there have been many official policies of the United States government—written into our Constitution and Supreme Court cases[24]—that have created karma.

Some people will try to weasel the United States out of the karmic implications of these acts by assuring themselves that what was done arose from the purest and most altruistic of motives. Such rationalizations are just more cosmic vanity. Racists insist that we had to do such things because the “primitive” people could not cope with reality. Racism denies the truth Jung called us to remember: “in the end there is one psyche which embraces us all.”[25]

We’re all in this thing we call life together. We are all one. And what we do to another person we do to ourselves. What goes around, comes around.
And what we put out hundreds of years ago is coming back to us now. On this a wide array of sources—Western Indian, Eastern Indian, African,[26] as well as Jung himself[27]—agrees: America’s karmic debt is up for repayment. How is this showing up? And what does it bode for our longer-term future?

Repaying Our Karmic Debt: Forms and Features

Cause begets effect. This is the Law of Cause and Effect. More than just an effect, there is a close similarity between what was done and what gets returned. In the example above, the Tibetans seized the Chinese capital; later on, their own capital got seized. In the case of America, so much of what we did was done out of cosmic vanity. So we should expect to get back our “stuff” from people equally imbued with cosmic vanity.

This is exactly what we see. The Islamic jihadists have just as much conviction about the rightness and superiority of Islam as the Puritans did in 1630 about Christianity.[28] Just as Christian missionaries forced native peoples to convert to Christianity, so Osama bin Laden’s first demand to us after the 9/11 attacks was that we convert to Islam.[29] Just as the U.S. government and Christian missionaries took measures to destroy native cultures, so the Islamic jihadists are taking measures (turning our technologies against us) to destroy what they regard as the “Great Satan,”[30] the United States.

This confrontation between Christianity and Islam would not surprise Jung. European that he was, he recognized how deeply the experience of the Crusades had imprinted the European psyche. He understood how Muslims carried shadow for Europeans and how the mutually exclusive claims of universality of the two faiths had to be confronted at some point.[31]

The Puritans were from Europe; they carried this component of the European shadow to the New World and it lives on in modern Americans. It may provide one answer to the many questions that arose after 9/11, e.g. Why didn’t we take Islamic jihadists’ threats to the World Trade Center seriously, especially after the 1993 bombing? Why did we put New York City’s Emergency Command Center in the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombings? Why didn’t we develop a strong Arabist desk in the State Department when the oil-rich Middle East became so crucial to the economic well-being of the United States? Why for decades did officials at Aramco look scornfully at their Arab partners? Why do we even now treat many Arab governments in a patronizing manner?[32]

As I noted in the essay on America’s shadow, our ESTJ temperament does not incline us toward introspection or self-reflection. As a result, we experienced 9/11 and failed to realize it was a “wake up” call. Rather than suggest we look within and ask ourselves what message this tragedy was offering us, our leaders told us to get out and shop, get on airplanes and take a holiday![33] Clearly our system is so broken and our collective consciousness is so asleep that it will require something much more major, much more consequential than 9/11 to get us to examine the current unsustainable order of things.

Just what this “something more consequential” might be has been spelled out in numerous native prophecies. The Hopis’ are some of the most detailed and graphic:
· Today we, Hopi and white man, come face to face at the crossroads of our respective life... It was foretold it would be at the most critical time in the history of mankind. Everywhere people are confused. What we decide now and do hereafter will be the fate of our respective people... Now we are all talking about the judgment day...[34]

· [the U.S. government is] ... a government which had assumed the power of the Creator but had lost all sense of moral values.... According to... prophecy... the higher forces would mete out justice. World War III would break out. The United States would be destroyed by a foreign nation, just as it, a foreign nation, had destroyed the Hopi nation. Land and people would be contaminated and destroyed by atomic bombs.[35]

· ... as the time nears the predicted behavior of the people accurately describes the people of today. Perhaps it is time to repent and pray that our earth will not be totally lost....[36]
... the world is facing a new crisis. This is a war of retaliation against terrorism.[37]

· Eventually a “gourd full of ashes” would be invented, which if dropped from the sky would boil the ocean and burn the land, causing nothing to grow for many years.... it could bring an end to all life unless people correct themselves and their leaders in time.[38]

· ... Revolution could erupt on our land.[39]

· ... men will destroy each other savagely. The period of this age will close by the gourd of ashes... Only those who are obedient to the guidance of the Great Creator’s laws will survive.[40]

· ... the bad side of humanity will become so corrupted that the closing of the Fourth Cycle will be necessary.[41]

· World War III will be started by those peoples who first received the light [the divine wisdom or intelligence] in the other old countries [India, China, Egypt, Palestine, Africa].[42]
· The war will be a spiritual conflict with material matters. Material matters will be destroyed by spiritual beings who will remain to create one world and one nation under one power, that of the Creator.[43]

After a presentation I gave in October 2008, at a training session for Pachamama facilitators, I was asked if it might be possible for America to avoid the full brunt of our karma. I replied that it was possible, but only if we, as a collective, did the same thing that individuals can do to “burn” their karma consciously. That is, we would have to take the same steps as individuals: First, get out of denial. As long as we remain in denial—stuck in all the platitudes and self-congratulatory rhetoric of American exceptionalism—we will never see what’s really going on.[44] Getting out of denial implies waking up to the truth that there is something profoundly dysfunctional about our American way of life. Jung would call “waking up” becoming more conscious. If enough people become conscious we might mitigate our karmic repayment. That is, the “catastrophe” facing us might not have to be so bad.

The “size” and “nature” of our karmic payback are yet to be determined. All the prophecies are in agreement on this. The Hopi remind us that “The present crisis of world events is an unfoldment of life cycles which we set in motion through our own behavior.”[45] If enough of us change our behavior, if we correct ourselves, if we heed the warnings, if we give up “life as usual” and “return to the original divine laws of the Great Creator,”[46] if we begin to live simply, practice self-denial and self-sufficiency, if we change our priorities and believe that we can rescue the world, we can lessen the pain that our karmic debt will require.[47] Most of all, Jung and all the native sources agree, we must “shift our attitude.” The future is not cast in stone: “... we can, by following the Instructions and Warnings, alter the pace, intensity, and force of the closing of the Fourth Cycle... we can, by our actions, purchase the time we need...”[48]

When my students ask me how I think the shift from our current “Fourth World” to the coming “Fifth World” will look, I remind them of 1989. Many of them were not even alive then so I have to describe how the people of Eastern Europe “woke up” and realized they no longer had to accept the domination of the Soviet Union, and the various components of the Soviet Union realized they could be free. And the result was a massive transformation without a single shot being fired, a completely non-violent “Velvet Revolution.”

The Hopi believe such a transformation is underway even now, begun “by the humble people of little nations, tribes and racial minorities” which is fostering a new attitude.
As we join together with a new attitude in following the instructions, the mood of the world will change with us. Without a single overt thing taking place, the transformation will be underway. At first, no one will even know it is happening... People will become more caring and sharing... Without a single formal meeting, divided peoples will lay down their guns and begin to cooperate....[49]

The Hopi also offer us a vision of the emerging Fifth World, a world “blooming in peacefulness,”[50] one world, one nation, under one power, the Creator, a world in which people can communicate without words, with both humans and animals, a world of peace, joy and love.

Jung was explicit that, if we want to help this transformative process along, we must not look outside ourselves, to some collective (and certainly not to the United States government!). His sole concern was always “... with the fulfillment of that will which is in every individual.... That is the whole problem; that is the problem of the true Pueblo: that I do today everything that is necessary so that my Father can rise over the horizon. That is my standpoint....”[51]

It is up to us—you, my reader, and me, and other individuals who are waking up—to work on ourselves in the knowledge that our personal transformation is also transforming the world. Get wise to the perils of American exceptionalism. Recognize the forms of our collective American shadow. These are important subjects to know about for understanding what’s really going, and how we cannot, must not, look to government, to political leaders and the powers-that-be to bail us out.[52] The karma of our past is coming down on us. It might prove immensely destructive, or it might be limited to taking out the government, while leaving the bounty of our land relatively unscathed. The size and severity of the coming American catastrophe is up to us, our degree of consciousness, our “waking up” to who we are, what we are meant to be and do, to how we are meant to align with the purposes of the Universe.

Bibliography of Sources

Ali, Tariq (2002), The Clash of Fundamentalisms. New York: Verso Publications.

Bacevich, Andrew (2008), The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. New York: Henry Holt.

Davis, Charles (1974), Temptations of Religion. New York: Harper & Row.

Deloria, Vine (1988), Custer Died For Your Sins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Fisk, Robert (2007), The Great War for Civilization. New York: Vintage Books.

Gyatso, Tenzin, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (1990), Freedom in Exile: The

Autobiography of the Dalai Lama. New York: Harper Collins.

Jackson, Helen Hunt (1881/1965), A Century of Dishonor: The Early Crusade for Indian Reform. New York: Harper.

Jung, C.G. (1959), “Aion,” Collected Works, 9ii. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1963), “Mysterium Coniunctionis,” Collected Works, 14. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1965), Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.

________ (1966), “Two Essays on Analytical Psychology,” CW 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1969), “Psychology and Religion: West and East,” Collected Works, 11. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1970), “Civilization in Transition,” CW 10. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

________ (1976), ”The Symbolic Life,” CW 18. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kirk, George (1949), A Short History of the Middle East. Washington DC: Public Affairs Press.

Kofman, Fred (2006), Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values. Boulder CO: Sounds True Press.

Lewis, Bernard (2003), The Crisis of Islam. New York: Random House.

Lewis, Jon ed. (2004), The Mammoth Book of Native Americans. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers.

Mails, Thomas E. (1997), The Hopi Survival Kit. New York: Penguin Compass.

Mann, Charles (2006), 1491. New York: Vintage Books.

Nichols, Roger (2003), American Indians in U.S. History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Stray, Geoff (2005), Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Ecstasy: A Complete Guide to End-of-Time Predictions. Lewes UK: Vital Signs Publishing.

Vogel, Virgil (1972), This Country Was Ours: A Documentary History of the American Indian. New York: Harper & Row.

Waldman, Carl (2000), Atlas of the North American Indian. New York: Checkmark Books.

Waters, Frank, Book of the Hopi. New York: Penguin, 1963.

[1] See “American Exceptionalism from a Jungian Perspective,” the blog entry for April 2009, and “America’s Shadow,” the blog essay for May 2009, on this Web site.
[2] A philosophical system developed by the Theosophical Society, inspired by Eastern religions, especially Buddhism and Hinduism, expounded in a series of books by H.P. Blavatsky, Annie Besant and others. The Theosophical Publishing House still prints books on themes connected with Theosophy. Its American branch is based in Wheaton, Illinois.
[3] Gyatso (1990), 10.
[4] World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary, I, 1070.
[5] Job 4:8.
[6] Hosea 10:13.
[7] Matt. 7:1.
[8] Gal. 6:7.
[9] CW 9ii, ¶339, note 131.
[10]CW 7, ¶118 and note 15.
[11] Jung died many years before the decades-long research of Ian Stevenson was published. Stevenson spent much of his academic life investigating thousands of reports from people all over the world who remembered their past lives. Stevenson published 10 books in this field, which, while not “proving” the factuality of reincarnation in scientific terms, certainly does present evidence that makes it difficult to dismiss out of hand. Google “Ian Stevenson” and various sites will provide information about Stevenson’s studies.
[12] CW 11, ¶845.
[13] CW 14, ¶299.
[14] Gyatso (1990), 9-10.
[15] Davis (1974), 28-48.
[16] Kofman (2006), 97-131.
[17] Davis (1974), 28-29.
[18] Kofman (2006), 101.
[19] Ibid., 104.
[20] Davis (1974), 29.
[21] Kofman (2006), 108.
[22] Ibid., 112-115.
[23]For a full picture of the centuries-long assault on native peoples, see Waldman (2000), Nichols (2003), Deloria (1988), Jackson (1881/1965), Vogel (1972), Mann (2006), Lewis (2004).
[24] E.g. Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832), precedent-setting opinions written by Chief Justice John Marshall, wherein native peoples were enshrined in American legal history as “dependent nations;” see Vogel (1972), 114-132, for the texts of these opinions.
[25] CW 10, ¶180.
[26] For a succinct review of all these sources and others, see Stray (2005).
[27] CW 10, ¶179.
[28] Robert Fisk noted Osama bin Laden’s total conviction when he interviewed him in 1996; Fisk (2007), 22; see also note on page 1033.
[29] Lewis (2003), 157.
[30] Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran was the first to apply this term to the U.S.; Lewis (2003), 81,86,163.
[31] CW 911, ¶151 and note 2.
[32] Cf. Fisk (2007), 858-859; Kirk (1949), 234; and Ali (2002), 279-315.
[33] Bacevich (2008), 60-61.
[34] Waters (1963), 323.
[35] Ibid., 326-327.
[36] Mails (1997), 202.
[37] Ibid., 205.
[38] Ibid., 209.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Ibid., 216.
[41] Ibid., 350.
[42] Waters (1963), 334.
[43] Ibid.
[44] See my essay on “Denial” in the Wake Up/Leap Frog set of essays on this Web site.
[45] Mails (1997), 299.
[46] Ibid., 215.
[47] Ibid., 238-239.
[48] Mails (1997), 376.
[49] Ibid., 241-242.
[50] Ibid., 218.
[51] CW 18, ¶639. Jung visited the Pueblo Indians in the 1920’s and had conversations with Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake), a chief of the Taos Pueblo, who described to Jung how the tribe recognized its daily task to help Father Sun move across the sky. Jung recounted this meeting in MDR (1965), 247-252. The point Jung is making in this quote is that what is necessary is for each of us to take up our individual spiritual mission.
[52] Leaders, by the very fact of their being leaders, are “retarded,” according to the Law of the Retarding Lead. The Hopi recognize that change comes, not from the top, but from “... the humble people of little nations, tribes and racial minorities...” [Waters (1963), 334], i.e. the marginalized groups who are most aware of changing conditions and most likely to adapt readily to them.
- Submitted by Sue Mehrtens

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