Robert Clarke: “Again, it’s down to love, basically”

In going through some material I have saved, I found this email from my friend Robert Clarke, dated 2-12-2006. I can’t remember what I had written that he was responding to, but his own views are clear enough, and well worth repeating in public.

What a lovely man he was, a man wholly without malice, and well beyond pettiness. He bore his physical suffering patiently and enjoyed his quiet life as it came to him. Saint Robert, I sometimes thought him.

Dear Frank

Let me say first of all that your work is very positive and helpful. If everybody thought like this they would be much healthier and happier, and the world would be a better place. I’m sure Jung would have heartily approved of it.

When you say you came to realise that everything is alive, even the furniture, it reminds me of the first dream of my processes, where the ghostly head of Jung took me into a workshop where everything was made of “living stone”. I was told that nothing ever dies, it only changes form, and everything has life within it, even empty space. (I saw a documentary recently in which certain scientists have discovered there is some sort of living force in “empty space”, though they don’t know what it is.) But all creation is “alive”.

I had something within my jaw for years that caused me pain at times. One night I dreamt a team of doctors operated on it, and within a few days the problem cleared up. This fits in with what you say about non-physical, or even spiritual, forces working on the physical. The query is, why does it only happen at times and not at others?

Many peoples of the world have believed we think with the heart rather than the brain because that is where we truly “feel” things. I would agree entirely that the mind is not the brain. The brain is physical whereas the mind is non-physical and actually has connections with layers and archetypes beyond. I think of the brain as being the TV set that picks up signals from beyond itself, then placing them in order on the screen. Signals may come from very far off, as our minds sometimes pick up things spiritual at times.

You’ve set me thinking in a different way about our attitude towards illness. We usually say, “My leg is hurting me” as though it’s an enemy. I must admit that is the way I have been thinking. But what if I see the leg as a friend that is suffering, that needs my help and affection? I then embrace it as a loving parent does its suffering child. And after all, the leg is part of me and its pain is a positive thing in that it says something is wrong and needs help.  So I’ve been feeling love for my head that is suffering pain recently, putting my arms around it, as it were, rather than hating it as some sort of monster that is attacking me. Your whole healing system is based on this positive attitude, and I can see much value in this. It really is quite different and helpful. Again it’s down to love basically.

The mind, or psyche, extends into the Higher Self ultimately, and as the mind is connected to the brain and body, the physical body is therefore part of the metaphysical or spiritual. If we extend this thinking, then the whole physical universe is closely connected with, or is part of, the eternal spiritual. So when you speak of “A religion that respects and investigates and teaches spiritual facts. A science that is rooted in spiritual values. This will be the basis for a whole new civilisation … ” I can only agree one hundred percent. Jungian depth psychology is a science that is based upon this concept, but it needs extending to all religion and science, as you say.

I found as a young man that life could hurt a lot and so I believed the defense against this is not to feel. I refused to feel anything, love or compassion or even dislike and hate – only the strong and unfeeling survive. Underneath, I was very weak and vulnerable, of course, but this was the only answer I could see in my fear and pain. This was part of Nietzsche’s answer to his own weakness and fear.

But then I ran into Jung and everything changed completely. I was taught by the unconscious and “higher powers” that it doesn’t matter about weakness and fear and pain. Be those things, feel those things and accept them as parts of yourself and of reality, but above all feel love for yourself (not a selfish love) and for others. Nietzsche taught we must be hard and he believed there was an elite of “masters”, the leaders, artists, creators etc. which must be above the common herd and which the latter must serve. He belonged with the masters, of course.

But the unconscious taught me the way to wholeness and happiness lies in precisely the opposite direction (though unhappiness and sadness must be accepted as a part of life). We must identify with and indeed love the “common herd” because we are all of us One. Even animals and insects and so forth, as you say. I had a dream in which I said to a mentally ill person, though it was really the unconscious speaking, “Listen to my words as they are the truest that can be spoken. The only answer to mental illness is Christian love”. At my words, a green snake came and rubbed its face against mine. “Be ye therefore wise as serpents” as Christ told the disciples. Love really can conquer all, even mental illness.

Realising that Jesus the man had to be full of love and wisdom in order to bring forth the cosmic Self as Son of God, I became a sort of follower, hoping that I could at least strive for that mental state. I also followed Jung because this was in essence  what he too was teaching, as psychological reality. While Nietzsche said we must be hard and deny love and compassion as weaknesses, Jung said love is the great mystery of the universe that unifies all things. He also said, “Healing may be called a religious problem”. He pointed out that the words heal, whole, and holy are from the same root. To heal is to make whole, and as true wholeness includes the spiritual, then the state of holiness may be achieved.

As to realising we may be wrong, Socrates said we must be truly grateful to those who prove us wrong. They have helped us from a negative and false state, to a wiser, true, and positive one. It is also true that humility is the greatest of human feelings. It is not superhuman that we need to be, as Nietzsche believed, but more human. Let the gods be gods and we humans be human, then things are in their right place. Another dream told me that our greatest gift is our humanity, our very humanness. Jung said we must shrink to the size of a pea before the eternal powers, and therein lies our protection. I personally never needed to be a god; what is wonderful to me is that there is God and the Higher Self above and we can kneel before them. I am then very content to be a humble human being.

In conclusion, let me say again I find your work very true, very wise, and very helpful. This is the sort of thing people should be reading to help themselves and the world. I personally feel uplifted.

One suggestion is that you use the term “unconscious” rather than the Freudian “subconscious”. Jung pointed out that “sub” refers to merely “below”, whereas the unconscious is also above, at the sides, behind and beyond to who knows where. So Jung always put unconscious rather than subconscious and it would suit your work better.

I am attaching a few paragraphs about existing opposite to our true natures that may be relevant to a degree here.

All best wishes

Robert

People often live their whole lives and never question the fundamental nature of the reality around them, of which they are part, nor the society to which they belong. Some even exist contrary to their true natures, unaware that their true selves, and how and what they should be, may be different to what their present personalities have become. Jung relates the case of one of his patients at least three times in his works, and it is worth mentioning here because it illustrates perfectly this unknowingly being divided against ourselves. When sufficient individuals are affected, the rot sets in for the whole culture.

This patient was a young Jewish woman who was suffering from a deep neurosis. She was the daughter of a rich banker and very beautiful, but although Jung found her highly intelligent, he concluded it was somehow in a superficial way. To make matters worse, she had been educated in the modern, over-intellectualised manner, due in the main to the way her father had brought her up, and who had himself rejected the religious beliefs and traditions of his forebears. The daughter could boast a long line of lovers in her young life, and another psychiatrist was now sending her on to Jung because he too was falling for her, placing both his marriage and his career in jeopardy.

After the first consultation, Jung found himself looking down on the girl, for as said, he could not help considering her shallow and superficial. However, that night he had a dream in which he kneeled before her, which told him he had been mistaken and had seriously underestimated her. The unconscious was now stating that she was so special that his true place was on his knees before her.

So at the next consultation, Jung probed deeper into her background, and it turned out that her grandfather had been a zadig, a holy man of the Jewish faith who experienced visions, and further, came from a long line of similar holy men stretching back many generations.  But the girl’s father had turned his back on all of this, betraying both God and the faith, as Jung puts it, plus generations of his forebears. He had raised his daughter the same way, with the same shallow values, and giving her an education to match.

The trouble was – the cause of the young woman’s deep neurosis was – she possessed the soul of a saint and was meant for holiness. It was in her very blood; she was a true daughter of her forebears. But the way she had been brought up and was living, cut off from her own soul and its meaning, in total opposition to its real needs, her true inner self had no outlet, no chance of expression. So a great chasm had opened up in her psyche between consciousness and the unconscious, and this always means a neurosis; the wider the chasm, the deeper the neurosis. Jung says she thought she was in the middle of things, with her “modern” values and the way she lived, but she was really hopelessly lost. She had everything the modern world believes we need for happiness; beauty, wealth, high intelligence, and a more than abundant love life. Yet she was not happy, and indeed, was in danger of falling to pieces.

Jung was easily able to restore her to health, however, because it was basically a matter of putting her in contact with her own inner depths, where her true spiritual nature lay stifled and repressed, and her neurosis automatically vanished. The split, the dissociation in her total being, was healed.

Not everyone possesses the soul of a saint, of course, as this young woman did, but we nevertheless do have souls, and as Tertullian (160-220 AD) points out, “The soul is naturally religious”.  The people of the ancient world knew that, as did all other peoples until our dissociated modern age.  Even the West knew it – once.

Jung’s patient reminds us of another young Jewish woman of that time, and closely so in certain ways. This second figure, Edith Stein, was born in the 1890’s in Breslau, which was then part of Germany. Edith was well educated and noted for her intellectual brilliance, though she was also considered kindly and warm-hearted. She was to write a number of noted works on philosophy, though her stance at that time was staunchly atheistic.

Nevertheless, she eventually became a Catholic nun, having experienced a revelation in which she suddenly understood the immense significance of “Christ in the mystery of the Cross”. She then chanced upon the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, which deeply affected her, and which she came to love dearly, so that when she became a nun she chose “Teresa” for her Baptismal name, becoming later Sister Teresa Benedicta. She was to become a very devout personality, but one with a humanity and simplicity that everyone who met her not only admired, but much loved. She appears to have been that rare combination of brilliant mind and truly humble soul. Looking at her photograph now, her face is lovely, and both the high intelligence and gentle, special quality of soul shine through.

Yet she was to die at the hands of the Nazis simply because she was Jewish. She had been sent to a convent in Echt, Holland, where her sister, who had also become a nun, joined her. Eventually, the two were arrested and sent “Eastwards”, which to the Jews meant to Auschwitz, and there the sisters were gassed on August 9th, 1942. What is especially significant for me is that this was my own date of birth. Edith Stein – St. Teresa Benedicta – and her sister were being murdered as I was being born.

So Jung’s young patient and Edith Stein were very similar in that both were at first existing completely contrary to their true natures, for each had the soul of a saint but were living superficially and atheistically. (Both possessed Jewish “soul”, of course.) Edith was beatified in 1987 and canonized in 1998, though unfortunately Jung does not tell us what eventually became of his young patient.

4 thoughts on “Robert Clarke: “Again, it’s down to love, basically”

  1. I found this not only interesting and thought provoking but very helpful.
    I want to pass it on. I can count on feeling uplifted by your selections. A heartfelt thanks.

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