As the new year starts, we often tend to find ourselves in the pursuit of new goals; hoping their achievement will bring satisfaction to our lives. There is nothing wrong with goals, however when our goals are only external and one becomes obsessed with them, disappointment is bound to follow.
Both Gurdjieff and Carl Jung tried to help us learn the difference between a life of happiness and a life of plenitude yet for the most part we are still stuck in Maya (illusion). The old Walt Disney version of “happily ever after” is nothing but an immature, unattainable idea of looking at life. One could even dare to say a lot of their films (the older ones) were meant to destroy the idea of happiness. How you may ask? simple… by giving too much of a good thing; in doing so the senses are overwhelmed and our expectations get skewed.
A child’s unique ability to simple be and enjoy gets destroyed in exchange for a false idea of “happily ever after”. Many of these children grow to believe they need to chase happiness– they need to be happy at all costs–but happiness is not a state of being, it’s an emotion–like all other emotions, it is a transient feeling; this means one is not meant to “feel happy” all the time.
The excessive search for the “high” of happiness is responsible for the result of a population that is constantly involved in a “rat race”. People forget to look in and think happiness is something meant to be experienced constantly, as such they will do anything; including self destruct; for a chance to feel the momentary “high”. Because happiness is transient and not a permanent state, after the high people are left feeling great emptiness, anger, sadness. These are natural emotions from the subconscious, from our spirit, trying to remind us there is more to life than the pursue of happiness; it’s called Plenitude. Plenitude is something entirely different and unlike happiness, it is not an emotion but a state of being. Plenitude is what our ancestors understood as the elixir of life, yet over time, distortion and ignorance got happiness and plenitude mixed up.
The search for plenitude looks in, the search for happiness looks out. Happiness cannot be found, it will come naturally. Plenitude is a condition of feeling full and complete and is often the result of personal alignment.
During a study conducted by Roy Baumeister; a social psychologist who is known for his work on the self, social rejection, belongingness, sexuality and sex differences, self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, motivation, aggression, consciousness, and free will; it was shown most people between the ages of 18 and 78 felt disappointed with life and many of those who claimed they weren’t, were found to have “meaningless happiness characterized as relatively banal, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which day in and day out they tell themselves things are going well and needs are easily satisfied.”
Baumeister goes to explain that we have become “experts” at experiencing happiness but are totally lost when it comes to giving meaning to our lives; as a result we don’t get to experience plenitude. His studies reveal how although we now have less “needs” and more technology at our disposal, more people than ever before experience emptiness. Technology “badly” use can lead to depression, narcissism, delusion, denial and can even affect the psyche by causing imbalance; this has mostly been achieved through the misuses of social media where many get lost in the “reward program” (how many likes they get) and not realize at what cost they are getting them. By the time reality hits them is often too late, a deep addiction has been developed and the desire to heal oneself and give meaning to one’s life is put aside in exchange for the next high which won’t last because too many other people are doing the exact same thing. Jaron Lenier described it well when he said technology in the right hands can be an excellent tool for growth and expansion; however when put on the hands of people who don’t care to use it for those purposes, it can be the ultimate annihilator of self and intelligence.
We “live” too much (meaning perpetually high) and only worried about things which we believe affect us in practical ways; all the while life is passing us by. Baumeister gave a good example to describe the state of our current society; he used the example of a wedding to differentiate those who simply seek to be happy from those who aspire to a life full of meaning. For the former, the wedding may be equivalent to “having an elaborate wedding for everyone to see, saying a few words in front of the altar, worrying more about the crowd, the photos, the after-party more than connecting with themselves, while the latter would consider said event as a “pact” between two people who understand the ceremony is only for them, to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. They don’t need to impress the crowd therefore an intimate ceremony is more than enough, they understand the ceremony is a symbol of how connected they are”–as you can see is about looking in not looking out.
In a world so full of options and external voices, where the media day in and day out tries to sell a false idea of happiness by making people feel less and desiring more “if only I had more money I woukd ve happy. If only I had a bigger house, a nicer car, more jewelry. If only I was taller, more petite, younger. If only I was skinnier, more curvy. If only I had bigger eyes, bigger lips, smaller lips, etc” –all of it is about looking out, so how then can we find our center?
Carl Jung would say that in order to experience plenitude what is required is “internal flowering” or internal growth. He suggested the best way to achieve such growth was by stablishing contact with our internal “Daemon” (please do not confuse the word Daemon with what is modernly knows as a devil or demonic as they are two entirely different things. The original meaning of Daemon is “messenger”. Just like angels were consider the messenger between God and Humanity, so were daemons, the difference is angels were to deliver simple messages or facts while a Daemons was a messenger who would deliver not only good news but messages which would force a person to look in and grow as a human being. Growth can be scary which is why so much fear was attributed to the name–later on daemon became equated to demonic or devil when in reality the words come from entirely different roots). Daemon has no particular bias towards good or evil but rather serves to help define a person’s character or personality. According to Carl Jung Daemon is the inner genius, an archetype that guides our unconscious passions and motivations, the one that defines our essences and the one we should listen to more often. Perhaps now you understand better the old saying “no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness” but the madness they are referring to is not the current chaotic state of affairs in which people find themselves, rather is the type of “madness” that serves and pushes towards growth.
“The madness of a genius is different than the delusion experienced by an ignorant mind”
Where the first seeks growth and evolution in all levels while challenging the status quo, the second seeks the degradation of man to basic animal; moved not by mind or spirit but by instinct and ignorance which are often the results of refusing to look in.
A mind stuck on false ego will often confuse intelligence with ignorance, self expression with self depravation, sensuality with pornography, alchemical sexuality with animal lust, equality with the allowing of anything and everything even when detrimental–at times the second divides itself into two branches, those who claim self liberation through the abuse of their bodies and minds and those who claim they are liberators of the soul and who use its opposite extreme through condemnation and punishment of bodies and real self expression. They often see themselves as separate but as Jung saw it both serve the same purpose; division of self, separation from the divine spark within.
Either branch from the second group is often hostile towards the first group; hence it seeks to destroy the search for our own inner light by the condemning of anyone or anything who tries to get in touch with their daemon; often labeling them as crazy.
Modernly, if someone acts wild in a way that destroys their inner being, it is masqueraded as “liberated self expression”. If someone takes a rigid attitude towards life, is masquerade it as “virtuous” but if someone dares to challenge the status quo daring to look in and accepting one’s own uniqueness while working on self development then that person is often called crazy or is considered the black sheep of the family.
“Our society is ran by insane people for insane objectives. I think we are being ran by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I am liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”
Our current society then seems to push us towards an obligation to be happy, often leading us to our own unhappiness.
Mathematician and philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb tells us in his book “The Black Swan” “People still believe the whole world is full of white swans, doing anything to avoid seeing the black ones. They think belief alone is enough to get what you want, that promises made to us as children will one day come true and we will experience happily ever after”. However, according to Taleb, our world is tremendously complex, so much so that when we see a black swan we often confuse them or equate them with those who are in path of self destruction; we don’t know how to react, we become vulnerable because we don’t know how to manage unforeseen events and uncertainty and we label it as bad yet life is a balance between light and shadow. Happiness therefore, can never be found if we look outside; as Carl Jung himself would say, we must strengthen our character; our daemon; for that is where is our real power lays.
In the book “The Soul’s Code”, James Hillman reminds us of the importance of making contact with our inner genius or “daemon” in order to build a full life and experience plenitude or in common words “real happiness”.
Daemon actually symbolizes the highest entity of a human being; in Aristotle’s ethics daemon was virtue and wisdom in its most practical aspect. Carl Jung, explained the daemon inhabits our unconscious. It guides many of our actions, drives us, whispers ideas to us, inspires us and gives voice to our intuition. However, in today’s society and at the pace of life we lead today and with our current educational system in place we don’t embrace the daemon, we kill it. We have an education aimed at forming masses rather than the celebration of the individual, where trophies are handed down to prevent a child from experiencing disappointment yet disappointment is part of life. Just like our ancestors, psychologists know such action only foments mediocrity and the destruction of self; where later on the individual will either feel he or she deserves everything because is expected without effort, or having a more develop consciousness will feel torn between knowing life has ups and downs yet finding his or herself unable to deal with them.
Equality as human beings, respect and inclusiveness cannot come at the price of effort or emotional intelligence; on the contrary to live constantly trying to put bandages on deeper wounds will only lead to a more ill society. There is a difference between cheering someone on vs simply doing the work for them and crippling their ability to experience greatness which is necessary in order to build real confidence in abilities and to help develop resilience. It’s all about balance; to be grateful is different than to focus only on rainbows; the first one focuses on the good while accepting reality and working on the “bad”, the second one denies the other side of life exists and leads to delusion and the crippling of our connection to our own daemon–an entity full of vitality, with enormous potential that cries out to unleash its creative impulse.
More often than not we fear this part of ourselves for it can confront us with parts of us that need work or healing; often leading us to the dark night of the soul. We often forget such dreaded night is our spirit, our psyche, seeking to heal; even though the process of submitting oneself to it can be painful, it is often enlightening; when it’s over there is greater strength within–just like building muscle, it takes work but unlike a muscle, the changes are permanent.
Dr. James Hillman suggests few things are as decisive as learning to listen to that spirit, that magical and colorful entity that inhabits all our motivations. Embracing our daemon is not always easy because sometimes, the daemon want things others in our environment may not understand. Maybe the lawyer never wanted to practice law, maybe his gifts are hidden as an artist yet picked that career trying to build a sense of financial security which was instill or demanded of him by his family. The famous and wealthy artist may, in turn, no longer want to create, his daemon may ask him to do humanitarian work. It may also be that our daemon cries out to for deeper changes, maybe it leads us to end a marriage or a partnership, and those around us don’t understand and become judge and executioner, yet we all forget daemon is our inner voice, it is us, it is our spirit speaking.
Carl Jung would said daemon is the messenger of God; you may choose to call that or call it life, but no matter what you call it, it is the truest voice one can experience for it is a reflection of our deepest needs–not towards self depravation but towards self evolution. Nothing is as inspiring and a true reflection of what meeting your daemon is as the phrase inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi “Know yourself”.
Listening to your inner voice then requires high levels of courage for not all the paths it will lead you on will be understood nor accepted by others, yet Carl Jung reminds us to listen to the needs of the daemon; the needs of our soul; otherwise we become ill or sarcastic or frigid which are other forms of illnesses which come forth as a result of betraying self.
Cultivating an authentic relationship with our inner self requires making changes, it implies putting aside schemes imposed from outside and being able to create our own reality. Thus, we must in turn be fully aware of the complexity of our environment, where the unforeseen, uncertainty and difficulties will be constant. The inner being wants out, but to achieve that, we must accept the fact that we will deal with scenarios where it is not easy to express ourselves, to fulfill ourselves; as such perseverance is the main requisite.
You will need to make a choice between the real you and what others want of you, between the fake rewards (your drug of choice) or the feeling of being free of false acceptance, between tapping onto your own genius or mediocrity, between living or surviving, between pretending or being. Within each one of us lies untap potential and the ability to live a fulfilling life but the choice starts with you.
There is no easy fix; how fast your life transforms will depend on how much determination and strength you have in wanting to shed the old you (parts which no longer serve your authentic self, masks) and how much courage you have to face the shadow within. Transformation is painful but just like a caterpillar, the results are well worth it!