M1. Every now and then I am prompted to do some soul searching. Why am I bothering with dreaming and Tarot cards and stories of inner journeys? Instead, I could be earning some more money or be sitting in Starbucks reading a glossy magazine or just chatting with friends.
As businessman Robert Townsend once said,
“If you are not in business for fun or profit what the hell are you doing there?”
But I say, why not have both fun and profit and have a great life too?
However, today’s soul searching was prompted by a dream about office work and hobbies.
And, I believe, that was prompted by the realization that the Classical Utilitarians like JS Mill and Jeremy Bentham would have considered office work to be almost “leisure”, but hobbies like gardening or exercise must be “real work” because they are physically arduous.
Life can be contrary, at times.
On the subject of taking the right direction in life, Stephen Covey, the business guru said that:
“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
And like all gurus, he was probably copying someone else. Like Thomas Merton, the American catholic writer and mystic who put it more clearly as:
“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find out,
once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”
Both of these writers are saying that, surely, we need a meaningful road map to help us build our lives based on having fulfilling and worthwhile goals.
Science is our current ruler. It brings us technology like iphones, cars, planes, medicine, etc.
Many people seem to pay lip service to the idea that science and reason rule over superstition, dreams, imagination, intuition, etc.
“It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.”
— Henri Poincaré, Mathematician
And just now, we live in a land where facts and evidence are king.
That’s all well and good as far as it goes, but I want to explore the world through my personal experience. And I think you do too.
In making sense of reality we take account of science, reason and facts but we also have feelings, intuition, etc and want to live a fulfilling life that is more than just buying a load of stuff from the shopping mall.
So, since Thomas Merton was a monk, what about religion and faith?
Well, faith is having great trust or confidence in something, but it’s probably not based on evidence, facts or proof. And it’s certainly not based on science.
So between science and religion is there a middle way?
A Middle Way
I believe there is a middle way. It’s about asking questions about the mystery of who we feel we are. It’s about exploring ourselves to find meaning, understanding, and spiritual knowledge.
The criteria I use to determine if something is inwardly true is that “it feels right to me”.
I have also learned that what feels right to me changes over time and with my developing experience. The meaning of life for me is not something that is fixed in time but it is more about an evolving process.
At the same time, we all find we are informed by science. Neuroscience, psychology, and physics all have a great deal to tell us about the world, but, it’s just that other things matter too. Such as values, love, beauty, ecstasy, … and simple pleasures and fun.
So Why Dreams, Tarot, and Inner Journeys?
Back in England, before the Reformation in the 1500’s, there were established practices for people to explore how best to live fulfilling lives. But these have largely been forgotten or lost at best. But with the rise of psychological investigations in the 1900’s some of these practices have been revived.
And they are worth pursuing. The fathers of psychology like Freud, Jung, William James, etc all talked extensively about the meaning of dreams.
But we can also explore the oral traditions of Medieval Western Europe to uncover these ideas too. And I do find some of those stories very compelling because they already had many of the keys to unlock those mysteries of the self.
Tarot cards can be interpreted convincingly in these ways.
In India and China more than 2000 years ago, people had thought deeply about these topics too and they too have something to say.
I believe that inner journeys began here and have been explored extensively since through the Greeks, into Western Europe and into psychology over many hundreds of years.
As German literary giant, Goethe, said:
“He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”
So what Goethe is talking about here is a fantastic knowledge base of “truths”, tried and tested over a long history, by generations of very clever people.
One thing I have learned is that adjustments to need to be made as new things come to light. For example, I discussed recently that multiplicity is inbuilt in our psyche.
So the concept of everything boiling down to one is not practical…ever.
Although integration to reduce the frictions between the parts within us is definitely desirable.
I am on a quest through dreams, which are the “trapdoors to our unconscious minds” and “the royal road to knowledge”.
We all want to know ourselves. We want to have better lives. And we can, but we can’t leave our inner lives behind and create a gulf between the two. We will only be happy in out outer lives when our inner lives are in accord and not in conflict.
We all want to be our own masters. As Deepak Chopra said:
“No one volunteers to be insignificant. No one yearns to be powerless and without purpose.
The self craves one thing: To express it’s potential”
And this is also precisely the meaning of the Grail Quest of the medieval times. It is what the Tarot cards display. It is what dreams constantly remind us of. It is what the inner journey is all about.
These are what soul searching takes us to and through.