Learning to communicate
When we were babies, learning how to work the body machinery, one of the things we had to learn to do was to speak to the embodied presences around us. First came meaningless sounds, (and, sometimes, howls of frustration), then came baby talk, then came the ability to speak recognizable words and sentences and — in a word — communicate. As adults we rarely remember going through the process, but we all went through it.
What is easily forgotten is that besides learning to talk, we also had to learn to listen. That is, we had to learn to distinguish meaningful from meaningless sounds. We had to learn to recognize and categorize voice, tone, emotional nuance, etc. We learned to fill in the blanks when people used words we didn’t know, and often enough we heard correctly but misunderstood what we heard.
It was a lot to learn, but we learned it. Learning to communicate with the disembodied is much the same process. The major difference, as far as I can see, is that, learning it as adults, we typically don’t have as much confidence, or patience with our learning curve, as babies do.
Here’s an example of learning the process. Four years ago, my friend Hank Wesselman, knowing that I had contacted various historical personages, asked if I could ask Carl Jung about a specific letter from Max Zeller. The results of the experiment are instructive.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
(12:30 p.m.) Dr. Jung, a friend asks you to comment on a letter from (to?) a Max Zeller. He knows I don’t know anything about it, and is sure you would remember the letter.
To get this you are going to need to be willing to fantasize and at the same time treat this seriously, a very difficult balance; the reason that facts are so difficult for you. You usually get “facts” very easily – but they are wrong – or not at all, but you know that they exist. The reason is that it is what you would call a left-brain right-brain balancing act. Try.
All right. So if I were making this up as I go along –
That’s right. Do that and do not commit yourself to approving what you wind up writing. In other words, knowing that you are deliberately fantasizing allow yourself freedom, not worrying about right or wrong. If you get it wrong you can try again until you learn the knack. Like Focus 10, once you recognize it, you will know how to feel your way back to it.
All right. Max Zeller.
Let’s call him an American, writing from Cleveland, Ohio. He was a plumber who had read about you in the newspapers and wanted your advice, which you gave him, thinking him a remarkable man. This uneducated man had produced — or had suffered — a dream. In it, birds of prey were attacking a lone man in a desert. He had only a giant cross to swing at them in self-defense, in the hot sun. He was afraid that he was going to run out of strength, and he could see more birds coming, and no one in sight to help him, and no place to take shelter. Because of the cross, Mr. Zeller – who was not a religious man – thought he should ask you what the symbol meant, what the dream meant. You took it as a sign from the unconscious that the average man was plumbing depths, feeling attacked, using the cross as defense but tiring and seeing no one in sight and nowhere to hide. A sign in short of the passing of the gods.
That’s my instant fantasy and I put no stock in it but not a bad production, I’d say.
Not bad. Do another.
Max Zeller. He lives in the desert, or anyway in the Southwest near arid country (did when he lived, anyway; probably long dead by now). Mr. Zeller is a nuclear physicist working at Los Alamos and he was writing to you to get advice on the morality of his work. He was afraid they would blow up the world and did not want to participate in that, yet hesitated to throw up his job, especially if it couldn’t change anything. He wrote you because he believed you had a handle on the meaning of life and our choices in life. He wrote in 1956. you told him that he could do nothing better than to follow his conscience – but to be sure what his conscience was saying, and not jump to conclusions prematurely.
Max Zeller – let’s see, a Swiss, (interesting, I tried to make him a German but met resistance), a fellow doctor, asked you in the 1930s if he would be better studying psychology than continuing to practice as an internist. (Is that a word? I thought an internist was a young doctor finishing residency.) The reasons for his indecision were practicality – sure thing – on the one hand and perhaps a bit of a stretch if he tried to become a psychologist as well as medical doctor. You advised him to stay as he was unless and until the burden of staying became insupportable to him; that is how he would recognize a vocation.
Now without trying to make it consistent with any of these portraits, describe Max Zeller.
Sort of European-tidy-looking face, neat mustache. Brown hair. Perhaps in his forties, maybe early fifties. Trim, not fat. Not a working man; business suit. Slight, serious, even grave. Highly intelligent, refined, cultured.
Make up a profession for him.
School teacher. That is, professor as some university or college. Middle of the road, not major not provincial.
Now, a nationality. Not ancestry – where does he live when he writes to Dr. Jung and are they already acquainted?
He lives in Paris. They are acquainted. It is a letter from one friend to another. Swiss by derivation?
All right that is enough for the moment. Do you see the difficulties and do you see the difficulties you have faced in asking Joseph Smallwood for specifics?
Yes indeed! I still have no idea if anything I said was right, but even if it is, the questing-about feeling of it is quite different from the scrambling to get information down on paper as fast as it comes in, other times.
Yes. Now if you had tried to put that all on me, so to speak, would you likely have gotten valid information?
The agitation makes it harder.
It does. Now calm yourself deeply.
You can perhaps feel how the idea of my saying something that might prove untrue clamps at your access, in a way that playing did not, or that talking about values and emotions (for who can prove them) did not.
So if I steel myself to let you say something that may be right and may not, you can come through?
Precisely. But you have to drop your attachment to outcome.
All right, let’s try.
Max Zeller wrote to me in 1936 with a question. What did I think of
I can’t do it. I got “UFOs” and that wouldn’t be in 1936.
Try again. [Pause]
No, I can’t get anything this way.
Report all this to your friend then, and we will discuss it after he replies. (1:15)
Saturday May 27, 2006
(10:50 a.m.) Dr. Jung, you said you would resume our discussion after Hank replied to what I sent him. He replied telling me that Max Zeller was a friend of yours, etc.
Yes. So, you see. You could not snap your fingers and produce the information. Neither could you thus “prove” anything about the person you think you may be talking to. This we must regard as negative proof.
However you learned something – if you remember it! – in the difference between the “feel” of this process at this moment, when information flows freely through you, and the “feel” of the other process, in which you were striving for information, producing it, having no confidence in it, and hoping that it might be correct.
Your underlying quandary in all this long effort remains: You suspect that a part of you is toying with another part of you. To put it in different terms but say the same thing, you think perhaps you are being deliberately misled by unknown beings, for their own amusement or for whatever malign purpose they may have. Else, the information would be available.
The very fact that there is no way to resolve the concern points up an extremely valuable fact:
Information must always be judged, not merely accepted.
Judgment has its dangers; it is very possible to exclude too much, and certainly one risks being warned off paths that might have proved very productive. However the corresponding danger, or risk, or – shall we say – opportunity-cost, is to believe too freely, too eagerly, almost one might say too greedily. This will bring you many new things but some of them may have sharp edges, or may be poisoned. It is not for you to abandon judgment or to allow it to run uncontrolled.
Is this any different from the rest of life? And is there any reason it should be different? If you are to integrate these areas into your life so that you are leading a broader, wider, deeper life – “life more abundantly” – you cannot play part of this game with certain rules and another part with unrelated and perhaps even contrary rules.
You will find it a mark of integration that the same rules apply to everything that has been included. It matters not which rules you have chosen, for each person chooses which rules will bind his mental processes, but everything that has been brought under one roof will naturally follow the same rules; will naturally respond to similar stimuli in a similar fashion.
Yes, I see that. It sure leaves me in a bind, though. In the rest of my life, evidence is available; not here. I don’t mean that the information is not attractive. It’s fabulous. But the simple correlations to physical reality that ought to be easily found just don’t seem to exist. I can’t find Joseph’s book, or David’s; I can’t find any trace of either of them (I grant you, a cursory search, but why would I not be led to the right places?) and I can’t find so simple a thing as the name of a friend of yours. By the very conditions you postulate I ought to be able to find something. In “ordinary” life I find things. Why not here?
You have yet to go so deep that “you” are scarcely here. You are still so much in evidence that you cannot receive the – evidence! Your process is too shallow. It is fine for the purposes you have been using it to date, to sharpen your awareness and increase your access – but it is not sufficient for you to achieve what you want – which is why you have been held from your toys.
I understand what you’re saying. If I had gotten the proof I’d have settled for the process perhaps.
A very large perhaps! So the price to “the other side” was your suspicion and occasional alienation. But it was in service to your own desire.
All right. I suspect that you have a procedure for me to use, or you wouldn’t be bringing this to me at this moment.
“Rubbing your face in it,” eh? But this is your deepest wish. Would you want to die not having achieved it?
No indeed. What do I do?
You must first understand, what works for you is not therefore a general rule for the human race. Analysts do not believe that one size fits all.
I understand. I assume there is no reason not to share the procedure though.
There is no reason to make it a secret, only accompany it with this warning: What works for one is ineffective for another and perhaps dangerous for a third and misleading for a fourth. This is a reason not for fear but for discretion and discernment.
Not so clearly, in my long experience.
All right, I’m ready if you are, I guess.
But is it a good guess? You think of coffee and breakfast. This can be done at any time, but it can be done only with undivided mind.
Yes. All right.
Your objective is to sink down to the zone between waking and sleep, remaining conscious enough to ask your question, then return with the answer. This is not a way to return with sentences, but with knowing, so set yourself the task – and give yourself permission in advance – to paraphrase freely. If you wish to put it in dialogue format, or to make it as if from one person, or to give a narrative, or whatever form you choose, do it freely. The alternative would be to retrieve a few words at a time – at best a few sentences – and it would greatly drain your energy.
I have often experienced that state, of course.
Yes, and all that practice will be none too much, for this is a difficult skill to learn. What you have done to date is two separate parts of the task. On the one side you have gone deeply within, trying with varying success to stay awake enough yet deep enough. You haven’t thought to wonder why you have been doing this so much these past few months, thinking it just the natural result of your having an open schedule. On the other side you have practiced letting Joseph and others come through. This has worked well except when verifiable matters of fact have arisen.
Now it is time to merge the two streams, and I suggest that you wait until you have eaten and have digested breakfast, then begin. Also, you might sketch your understanding of the two streams; it will clarify things for you.
I’m quietly excited, and hopeful. You know you have my continued thanks.
Yes. Your work is your thanks, more.