|A Paradox, by Frances MacDonald, 1905
Literalism prevents mystery by narrowing the multiple ambiguity of meanings into one definition. Literalism is the natural concomitant of monotheistic consciousness–whether in theology or in science–which demands singleness of meaning. Precisely, this monotheism of meaning prevents mystery (James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, p. 149).
In Western consciousness, we tend to demand an either/or. Perhaps it is our ideal of rugged individualism, that “all or nothing” attitude that we seem to have ingrained in us from childhood. Be a Charlie Hustle; give 110 percent! In the context of religion and spirituality, most Westerners think that one is either a monotheist or a polytheist. I’ve heard religious people say things like, “You’re either for God or against God. You can’t sit on the fence!” I think it is narrow-minded to think in such terms. It is a product of our age-old monotheistic consciousness.
Psychologically, monotheistic consciousness attempts to force us down one path, usually the road that leads to egoism. Our self-interest is at the forefront of this mode of thought. For example, we dream of a day at the beach, when, suddenly, we are overwhelmed by a tsunami striking the shore. We are inundated and feel as if we’ve drowned. Monotheistic consciousness would try and get us to grab our dream dictionary and look up tsunamis, water, drowning, etc., to try and get the meaning of our dream. Instead of examining the image for what it is and phenomenologically meditating on it, we take the easy way out and grab our Jungian dream dictionary. I have news for you, Jung did not want us to buy the dream dictionary in the first place! If you want to see the Ego in action, Take a look at this example: Myths-Dreams-Symbols Dictionary.
Symbols can have a plethora of meanings, or, perhaps, no rational meaning at all. Some symbols are feeling-tones.
Unlike Freud, Jung did not believe a dream should be interpreted using “free association.” Rather, he claimed that one could come closer to the meaning by focusing on the specific images that the dream provides. For instance, one person might dream of an obelisk, and another of a Saturn rocket. Freud might claim that both are, in general, phallic symbols, and may allude to some sexual dysfunction, depending on the context of the dream imagery. On the other hand, Jung would want to know why one dream contained an obelisk and the other a rocket. This difference could affect the entire interpretation. In Jung’s words, “I concluded that only the material that is clearly and visibly part of the dream should be used in interpreting it.” A dream image, he says, can have many different meanings according to the dreamer’s associations. Because of this, Jung was vehemently opposed to any kind of “dream dictionary,” where the images are given fixed meanings.
The literalistic mindset should be the bane of all those interested in dreams and depth psychology in general. Literalism always occurs when the Ego is in control. This happens because Ego wants to be God. Remember the ubiquitous tagline from The Highlander: There can only be one! This is the cry of Ego.
An inflated consciousness is always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own existence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead (C.G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy).
Ego wants to be king and does not want you to think about mystery or paradox. Mystery is antithetical to it and anathema to Western scientific monotheistic consciousness. The rationalistic scientific mode of thought demands singleness of mind, singleness of meaning. That is why quantum discoveries have so shook the Western world. Ego doesn’t want to admit a wave-particle duality. Newton’s classical mechanics would suit Ego just fine.
Ego certainly doesn’t want you thinking about anything mysterious like Soul! If you’re a student of Soul, you are not being driven by Ego. Congratulations! Ego is the concomitant of monotheistic consciousness. Ego is merely one of many personalities in the psyche.
Soul is mystery and paradox personified. If these are absent from our lives, we are soulless. I think there is much confusion in the religious world concerning monotheism vs. polytheism vs. monism, etc. These are philosophical abstractions that try and pin labels on both God and people. The mystery is that all is God and God is all, whether God be one, two, three, or millions! It is a paradox that God created all and is in all. That’s okay by me. I don’t require singleness of meaning. Our universe is an ever-expanding, whirling vortex of mysterious, beautiful Soul. I wouldn’t have it any other way.