Facing the Apocalypse:
A Call for Outrageous Courage, Love, and Compassion
From the Foreword of Facing the Apocalypse:
Over a decade ago I opened a lecture I was giving by recounting a dream I had during a crisis period in my early forties. In the dream I found myself sitting in the front of what was then called a Shoney’s Big Boy restaurant. The booth I sat in was next to the large front windows. While I sipped my morning coffee, I looked out onto the main street of the town I grew up in.
As I turned my head and looked across the table, I saw a small boy with rumpled brown hair and intense blue-gray eyes. Shocked, I realized he was a five-year-old version of myself, before tragedy struck our family. When I looked into his eyes, he quietly said, “What have you done with my life?”
Before I could answer, I awakened. As I was musing over the dream, I knew that the boy hadn’t been talking about the surface stuff like going to the office, shopping, dieting, or even making a living for my family. Those sensitive eyes were searching for a more serious answer. That small boy, Buddy, was posing the question to me that life asks of us all. And that question is not, “What is the meaning of my life?” It is, “What meaning am I creating with my life?” That question is still alive in me today.
My answer is to try to fully engage in life, so that I can develop a greater awareness of my reality and the truth of my existence, so that my life will have an evolving purpose, values, and a way of being fulfilled. And I am seeking connection with life’s spiritual aspects and the spiritual depths within myself, so that I can be sure that love is the foundation of how I live.
Now, if you asked me how I am pursuing this complicated-sounding task, I would answer by telling you that I am doing my level best to live Dr. Carl Jung’s individuation process. Jung’s individuation process is one of our greatest gifts from the twentieth century. The process facilitates the conscious and intentional healing of ourselves and developing of the potentials in our unique personality. A brilliant healer of the body and soul, Jung brought us a new way to use the imagination and the experiences of creativity and love.
It was the ideas in Jung’s individuation process that challenged me to become more fully engaged in my life and life in general. Jung was strongly convinced that only a full engagement in life can give us the necessary material for reflections that can transform our consciousness. In individuation, reflecting upon a life being lived is meant to teach us more about ourselves, to increase our daily self-awareness, to expand our consciousness, and to guide us in cultivating our capacities to love. Without mincing words, Jung told a convention of pastors in 1932 that we must be willing to take risks and make mistakes and that, if we are fully engaged in life, we will be in a position to learn from and even be transformed by our failures.
Shortly after this dream, I made a 180-degree turn in my life and began the journey to becoming a practicing Jungian analyst. I also began to write.
Ever since, writing has helped me bring order out of chaos. It helps me focus on understanding my experiences, my life, what is happening to me and around me. The threatening chaos we have been experiencing—from the toxic political atmosphere of the 2016 presidential election, the emboldening of White supremacists, the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic—have roused my emotions. As part of this writing project, I wanted to understand why. This awareness is crucial because my emotions tell me when my boundaries have been violated, as well as when my life has been turned upside down. Emotions reveal my most profound values, and ultimately, no matter how rational I believe I am, they are the power behind my decisions. It is important to include them in this writing process because they make my life real, and the process encompasses a great deal more than simply seeking solutions. In addition, the emotions I have failed to face and integrate all too often become the driving force behind my temperament, health, and decision making, which results in their detriment.
These emotions also keep reminding me of Buddy’s question, “What have you done with my life?” I wonder what he might think of how I’ve answered his question. In the chaos of today’s world, I wonder even more. While I am wondering, I remember a story told by Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel:
A just man decided he must save humanity. So, he chose a city, the most sinful of all cities. Let’s say it is Sodom. So, he studied. He learned all the art of moving people, changing minds, changing hearts. He came to a man and woman and said, “Don’t forget that murder is not good, it is wrong.” In the beginning, people gathered around him. It was so strange, somewhat like a circus. They gathered and they listened. He went on and on and on. Days passed. Weeks passed. They stopped listening. After many years, a child stopped him and said, “What are you doing? Don’t you see nobody is listening? Then why do you continue shouting and shouting? Why?” And the man answered the child, “I’ll tell you why. In the beginning, I was convinced that if I were to shout loud enough, they would change. Now I know they won’t change. But if I shout even louder, it’s because I don’t want them to change me.”
This story moves me deeply. It isn’t why I work or why I write, but in the midst of today’s chaotic world, it reminds me how strongly I must hang on to the values of the heart and of the soul. It reminds me to be a seeker.
I know that I need to find meaning in my shock, my sorrow, my anger, and even in my fatigue.
I have encountered more sorrow than I could have imagined at the number of people dying, and at how they are dying. I have lost people in my community, and people in my practice, some of whom worked with victims of the pandemic. And I’ve lost members of my family. I’ve talked by cell phone with people so ill they wanted to die, with families who have suffered suicides, with healthcare workers who are too broken by the pain they are witnessing to return to work. I know people are dying terrible deaths, alone, no one close to comfort them, to touch them, to speak to them, to pray with them or over them. I have witnessed loved ones and families who cannot see the dying to comfort them or even remember their face for a last time. There is more and it brings inconceivable grief.
I have encountered shock like I could never have imagined—shock that people I was taught to respect will do almost anything, say almost anything, and ignore almost anything to gain and hold on to power. I am just as shocked at how much support these people can get. I am shocked at how the pandemic has revealed the failure of our national character to show that we care about one another. I am shocked that the most powerful and richest nation in history is so driven and manipulated by fear.
I have encountered anger like I have never experienced or imagined. I am enraged that we have given rise to politicians and media sources that seem to behave like genetic mutations that awaken and cultivate anger, fear, rage, despair, and cowardice in people until they become threatening social illnesses, making our whole society sick. Political and media figures make huge amounts of money and gain significant power exploiting people’s deepest fears, resentments, desperations, and hopes.
I know most of us are tired of the pandemic. We are tired of being afraid, isolated, lonely, self-disciplined, worried about our finances, unable to see the future, and unsure of how to deal with schooling and all the other challenges the pandemic has brought. But it is important to remember that we were in a crisis, an apocalypse, before the pandemic. An apocalypse in a psychological sense is an unveiling of a severe reality that has been previously present but unseen. It is what we refer to in Jungian psychology as an archetypal pattern in human nature. The pandemic has intensified this apocalypse and revealed aspects of it that, for many of us, had been hidden, but the pandemic did not create it.
With that in mind, facing our sorrow brings us deeper into our humanity. It can open our hearts even if it breaks them in the process. Of course, it seems rational to want to return to some kind of normal or to envision a new normal, leaving this pandemic behind us. But as many of us know deep within ourselves, these longings aren’t possible and can only be an illusion, a temporary escape from the true reality we need to face.
If we truly accept our sorrow, and even our shock and anger, they can become the impetus for a new journey. Similar shocks motivated Prince Siddhārtha—once he encountered the realities of poverty, illness, and death—to begin the journey of becoming the Buddha. Suffering in a Nazi death camp compelled Holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl to seek to understand the vital necessity of humanity’s search for meaning, and to share it with the world. The true realization of suffering will compel us into action beyond our self-interest. Frankl, Jung, and a history of great souls have revealed to us that beneath our search for easy answers and happy endings, we are more profound creatures who seek meaning, purpose, self-transcendence, and love as the foundations for living. I work and write in the hope I can contribute to this process.
What does it really mean to face a crisis of biblical proportions, the apocalypse we are currently in?
Dr. Bud Harris, Jungian analyst, prolific writer, teacher, and healer of souls brings us face to face with this challenging question. Through his decades of experience and the teachings of Carl Jung he guides us into understanding the structure of the apocalypse we are experiencing and the destructive course it is taking as we continue down the road of self-deception. Focusing on the essential quote from Jung, ”Where love stops, power begins and violence, and terror,” he shows us the personal and collective darkness that is being unveiled. Then he leads us onto the healing path to restore love in a power-driven world and to change our fate—the path of outrageous courage, love, and compassion.
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, anxiety, being human, citizenship, Elder Wisdom, fear, hope, Individuation, Inspirational, Jung, life of meaning, Personal Transformation, responsibility, shadow work, struggles, violence in America
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