posted June 21, 2007 11:28 AM
Enantiodromia (Greek: enantios, opposite + dromos, running course) is a concept introduced by psychiatrist Carl Jung meaning the superabundance of any force inevitably produces its opposite. It is equivalent to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance.
Jung used it particularly to refer to the unconscious acting against the wishes of the conscious mind. (Aspects of the Masculine, chapter 7, paragraph 294).
Enantiodromia: Literally, "running counter to," referring to the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control. ("Definitions," ibid., par. 709)
Enantiodromia is typically experienced in conjunction with symptoms associated with acute neurosis, and often foreshadows a rebirth of the personality.
The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understanding that we can never know what evil may not be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, and what good may very possibly lead to evil. ("The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales", Collected Works 9i, par. 397)
((That's Wikipedia. The following is me.))
Thomas Moore describes the working of this principle in-depth in his bestseller, Care Of The Soul. He subsrcibes to a school of psychological thought called archetypal, or polytheistic, psychology, and his contention is that, whenever we consciously champion one drive over any other, the repression of other drives creates disturbances in the subconscious, and ultimately undermines whatever drive we have embraced. In all of us, he says, there is a variety of drives, all valid and in need of expression. An extreme example of enantiodromia is when people subscribe to an ascetic religious life, and supress their drives for freedom, sexuality, what-have-you, only to find that these drives are not negated, but, continue to operate in unconscious ways, thwarting the ascetic practices. Whenever we "demonize" some part of ourselves, we make a true demon, and, ultimately, an avenging angel of it; it will return with a vengence and undo the work we have done. The key, says Moore, is awareness and the balance that comes when we embrace our multi-faceted natures. Thomas Moore was a Catholic monk for twelve years before turning to psychology.
As I understand it, although the ground of our being is Spirit, we are also Soul and Personal Self, and any attempt to maintain a pure connection with Spirit is doomed if it does not first embrace all the permutations of Soul and Personality (ours and others'). Embracing them is the only way to get beyond them. And it happens in God's time, not in our own. The dangers of trying to rush this Great Work provide the themes for many religious parables and mythological tales. This is why most esoteric traditions warn us that it is necessary to erect a strong personal identity, or "Ego", before we may safely dissolve the boundaries between Ego, Soul, and Spirit. Otherwise, we leave ourselves open to manipulation by various psychic forces. The history of religion is largely populated with people who have not heeded this warning, and have, consequently, been the dupes of various unconscious and/or external influences, resulting in a mutability that equates to madness, or a rigidity that equates to fanaticism.
"If the string is too loose, it will not play,
if the string is too tight, it will snap."
- Lord Buddha
When we try to "take the kingdom of heaven by violence", or to "storm the gates of the unconscious", as some have described it, we only create a karmic vacuum, and the future repercussions may be such as to set our progress back that much further from the goal, which is, ultimately, wholeness. This, at least, is my present understanding.
"Love is the flower. You got to let it grow."
- John Lennon
In another sense, we may say that the flower is already full grown. Always has been. But, any attempt to speed up, or assist in, the business of the flower communicating its fragrance, merely scatters its fragrance to the winds. As long as you are doing, you are not being. This does not mean we do not take action in the world, but, that we take action in such a way as to express what is most natural to us. Attitude is everything.
The Buddhist tradition itself suffers from a kind of schizophrenic split. There is Theravada, "the Lesser Vehicle", characterized by gradual teaching, and Mahayana, "the Greater Vehicle", characterized by abrupt teaching. Both do not claim to impart truth to the disciple, but only the Way to truth, like a boat that carries one to the far shore, the atmosphere of which cannot be experienced before the arrival. Theravada Buddhism is like a small boat; the deck is cramped, the seats uncushioned. Very few people are suited to adhere to the strict practices of Theravada, also called the Way of the Elders. It is older than Mahayana, and it emphasises ascetic practice and constant purification, to effect the gradual realization of Nirvana. Mahayana takes a different approach. The most well-known school of Mahayana Buddhism is Zen. Zen practice works to effect a more sudden realization of Nirvana. To this end, Zen monks meditate on, or contemplate, various riddles, called "koans", designed to spontaneously by-pass the operations of the conscious mind. Two strong examples of zen koans would be, "where are you between two thoughts", and "what is the sound of one-hand clapping". It is said that the ultimate koan is the universe itself, and when this koan is "solved" (lol), the disciple attains enlightenment. There are stories of monks who, upon "solving" this koan, laughed out loud for many days, and a humorous, knowing glint never left their eyes thereafter.
The difference between these two schools of Buddhism may most easily be observed in a popular Zen story told about two Buddhists. One, an esteemed monk named Shen-hsiu, when asked to present his understanding of Buddhism, wrote the following words on the wall of the monastery:
The body is the Bodhi-tree,
The mind, a mirror bright,
Take care to wipe them always clean,
Lest dust on them alight.
The other, an illiterate kitchen boy named Hui-neng, when read the verse, pleaded with his friend to have his own verse written beside it:
The body is no Bodhi-tree,
The mind no mirror bright,
Since nothing at the root exists,
On what can dust alight?
The second verse was erased by the monks, and the kitchen boy was told to leave the monastery, as it was understood that his view was absolutely fatal to the monastic way of life. He became the legendary author of the Diamond Sutra.
The anti-guru, U.G. Krishnamurti, evinces his own acceptance of Zen when he claims that he attained Nirvana, not because of his spiritual practice, but, in spite of it. According to this way of teaching, any work done with the intended purpose of attainment is just baggage which must eventually be eschewed. Consciously seeking to obliterate the ego merely places another, more subtle mask, over the ego, who is always in control of the one who seeks.
However, it is my understanding that, by means of this backwards practice, a person may come swiftly to the realization that it is backwards, and this, in itself, precipitates enlightenment. So, in a sense, the two schools are merged and become one, as the gradual practice results in the abandonment of all practice, and the abrupt realization of Nirvana. That is, the truth is realized only when the way is utterly abandoned, but the way can only be utterly abandoned when a person has uttelry exhausted him or herself upon it.
"This thing we tell of can never be found by seeking,
but only seekers find it."
- Abu Yazid (Persian Sufi)
How's that for "Enantiodromia"?
Another popular Zen story tells of a sermon which the Buddha gave in which he held up a lotus flower, and this was intended to be the entirety of the sermon. One of the listeners understood and instantly attained a state of realization. The Buddha gave him a knowing nod of approval, and proceeded to preach a long, wordy sermon for the remainder of his audience. The man who understood is credited as the founder of the Zen tradition. This illustrates why Zen teaching is called a "Way" to truth, and not the truth itself. The truth itself is just a flower.
http://www.amazon.com/C are-Soul-Cultivating-Sacredness-Everyday/dp/0060922249/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-8044928-1947341?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182433909&sr=8-1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_sutra