The Path of Masks

Veronika Bond The Horizon

‘The Horizon’, Part 3, Chapter 23: about Blind-Spots as a healing impulse, what biosophy can learn from the history of oppression, and an overview of the Path of Masks

 

“Sometimes it seems as if even animals and plants ‘know’ it.”Carl Gustav Jung

In his autobiography Carl Gustav Jung tells the story of a woman he saw only once. One day she came into his office. She didn’t give her name, and didn’t expect any treatment. She simply needed to tell her story.

More than two decades earlier this woman had poisoned her best friend because she wanted to marry the friend’s husband. The murder was never discovered, and she became the wife of her friend’s widower.

Born under a dark star, the marriage was short lived. The husband died relatively young. The daughter from this marriage moved away as soon as she grew up, married early and withdrew from the mother until there was no more contact.

C. G. Jung remembers that “This lady was a passionate horsewoman and owned several riding horses of which she was extremely fond. One day she discovered that the horses were beginning to grow nervous under her. Even her favourite shied and threw her. Finally she had to give up riding. Thereafter she clung to her dogs. She owned an unusually beautiful wolfhound to which she was greatly attached. As ‘chance’ would have it, this very dog was stricken with paralysis. With that her cup was full; she felt that she was morally done for. She had to confess, and for this purpose she came to me.”

In our current worldview we have developed an awareness that humans have the power to create their own world. Yet we are unclear about what that means.

We have lost touch with vital aspects of ourselves. We have cut ourselves off from nature and from our own source. Therefore the manmade ‘work of creation’ often has destructive and tragic results.

C.G. Jung concludes the story with the remark: “She was a murderess, but on top of that she had also murdered herself. For one who commits such a crime destroys his own soul…. If he has done it secretly, without moral consciousness of it, and remains undiscovered, … It comes out in the end. Sometimes it seems as if even animals and plants ‘know’ it.”

 

“Male supremacy and male dominance are elevated to the power of natural laws.”Gerda Lerner

The woman in C.G. Jung’s memoir was only capable of committing her crime because vital parts of her Consciousness hand been suppressed relentlessly. Her awareness was disconnected from empathy and moral conscience.

Having committed the murder, she must have been able to justify it to herself and repress any feelings of guilt successfully enough to live in some kind of ‘normal’ relationship with her husband and daughter.

Such a brutal separation from one’s own healthy human Instinct is difficult to relate to. Perhaps it becomes more comprehensible against the background of our cultural history of oppression.

We know that humans have oppressed fellow humans for thousands of years. We might even think  of it as ‘normal’.

We have used and abused each other as slaves, we have discriminated outsiders and minorities, we have overpowered enemies, taken prisoners of war and treated them worse than cattle.

The largest oppressed group of humans since the rise of patriarchy are women. Discrimination against, oppression and enslavement of women has been a daily occurrence for more than 3000 years.

Aristotle (384–322 BC) — one of the most influential philosophers — affirmed the patriarchal gender concept of the ‘inferiority of women’. He emphasises the ‘natural order’ which dictates that “rational thought rules over emotion; humans over animals; and male over female.”

In her work on Women and History the historian Gerda Lerner explains how the metaphors of gender have “constructed the male as the norm and the female as deviant; the male as whole and powerful; the female as unfinished, physically mutilated and emotionally dependent.”

Even today the ‘knowledge of female inferiority as a fact’ is embedded in our Consciousness. It is our frame of reference, and we continue to define ourselves in relation to it.

“Aristotle’s grand and daring explanatory system, which encompassed and transcended most of the knowledge then available in his society, incorporated the patriarchal gender concept of the inferiority of women in such a way as to make it indisputable and, in fact, invisible.” Gerda Lerner points out.

On the basis of Aristotle’s thoughts many topics have been debated for centuries. However, there is one exception: “male supremacy and male dominance are here a basic foundation of the philosopher’s thought and are thus elevated to the power of natural laws.”

 

“Mother Earth has a face of darkness.”Simone de Beauvoir

Gerda Lerner believes the invisibility of female oppression — concealed by a mask of ‘natural order’ — makes it so difficult for women to free themselves from the tyranny of male supremacy.

This is consistent with what we learned in chapter 22: The greatest and most persistent taboos are invisible; and what is invisible cannot be changed. It lives in the Dark Side of human Consciousness.

The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir sees the ‘myth of Woman’ as ‘the projection of Man’s hopes and fears’. “Woman is both Eve and the Virgin Mary.”, she writes. “She is an idol, a servant, source of life, power of darkness; … she is his downfall, she is everything he is not and wants to have.”

Simone de Beauvoir describes the ‘Second Sex’ as Man’s ally and enemy. The feminine is equated with nature, and humans have developed ambivalent feelings towards both.

“Thus, Mother Earth has a face of darkness: she is chaos, where everything comes from and must return to one day; she is Nothingness.”

It is the dark side of our own nature of which we are afraid. For millennia the ‘dark chaos’ has been associated with the feminine principle and projected onto women.

The suppression of the ‘female subspecies’ of our own race does not only affect social status, political rights, access to education, financial rewards — i.e. the repression of the female is not limited to external aspects of life. We are also discriminating against the feminine Faculties of our Consciousness.

Aristotle claimed that ‘rational thought rules over emotion’. 2500 years later the question whether or why the Intellect is supposed to be ‘superior’ to the Instinct is not even on the horizon of our perception. Thus the ‘supremacy of the male Intellect’ remains the accepted norm.

We don’t even realise how deeply such ideas — disguised as facts — shape our daily experience. We don’t yet understand the intensity with which our personal relationships to aspects of ourselves infiltrate our co-existence with others and the whole outside world.

The human mind sticks enraptured to theories of ‘natural hierarchies’ demanding domination and supremacy, while Mother Nature is demonstrating that living organisms survive and thrive much better on cooperation and synergy.

Only a few rare examples throw a glimmer of hope into the gloomy image of humanity. In her book The Creation of Feminist Consciousness Gerda Lerner shares stories of ‘enlightened couples’ who lived in 15th century Europe and enjoyed “a new kind of marriage, in which the woman no longer holds the candle for her husband, but by the light of the candle writes or studies by his side.”

 

“Mental Slavery is far more sinister than physical slavery because the chains are invisible and transmitted across generations.”MK Asante

Despite all progress in politics, education, professional achievements and social status we continue to regard certain ‘feminine aspects’ of our own nature with great suspicion.

We prefer to avoid the ‘dark continent’ of our inner world. We hope dark issues go away by ignoring them or covering them up with a pleasant façade.

In psychology the repressed ‘dark’ aspects of ourselves are known as ‘shadows’. C.G. Jung offers the following definition:

“Shadow is that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious.”

Popular psychology suggests that we can and should ‘free ourselves  from our shadows’. This is easier said than done.

Imagine having been oppressed and treated like a slave for as long as you can remember. Let’s say you come from a long lineage of enslaved people, and all of a sudden you are given your freedom.

When slavery was officially abolished slave owners were offered compensation for the loss of their ‘assets’. But what happened to the oppressed people?

In his book Sick from Freedom the historian Jim Downs describes how thousands of freed slaves died soon after their ‘liberation’. They had no possessions, nothing at all, no appropriate clothing, no food, no job, no support, nowhere to go.

Freed slaves were mentally and physically unprepared for a new life in freedom. Having escaped from their cages they had no means to survive in the wilderness.

Unresolved traumatic experiences are passed on from parents to children, as we learned in chapter 12. This is why the effects of slavery and oppression recur for generations. This means the proclamation of ‘emancipation’ only plays a small part in changing from an oppressive environment to a free world.

“Mental Slavery is far more sinister than physical slavery because the chains are invisible and are transmitted across generations.”, it says in the documentary  500 Years Later, written by MK Asante and directed by Alik Shahada.

“Mental slavery is a state of mind where discerning between liberation and enslavement is twisted. Mental slavery affects how people see their own reality.”

Only now American descendants of African slaves are slowly becoming aware of the effects of oppression passed onto them from their ancestors, and they are often met with lack of comprehension.

Why can’t they ‘forget and forgive’ and move on?

Because mental slavery remains active in human Consciousness until the mind and heart feel no longer oppressed.

“The root of mental slavery is ignorance resulting in a poor grasp of information about self and the world, to function to one’s full human potential.” MK Asante writes.

 

“Until Lions tell their tale, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”African proverb

Why are many women ‘going on about’ feminism? Why are they even asking for male support for their cause? Haven’t they got enough ‘equal rights’ yet?

Why do so many of us — black, white, female, male — have such a hard time uncovering our shadows and recovering from a dysfunctional past?

It is obviously not enough to be told: ‘the subordination is over, now feel free to do whatever you want’.

The oppressed haven’t yet had a chance to develop their skills and knowledge, never mind a sense of true identity.

Perhaps for the oppressed the idea of freedom is not to slot into a male dominated power structure and support a decadent patriarchal civilisation staggering on the verge of self-destruction.

An African proverb says: “Until Lions tell their tale, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”  

Despite all apparent external changes in our society we still glorify the story of the hunter: Wage-slavery is the merciless reality of many, and the oppression of the inner feminine is invisible to most.

Unprocessed negative experiences remain in human Consciousness and become part of it. They are passed on from one generation to the next while simulating ‘genetic traits’.

Painful internal experiences are projected outwards in form of further negative experiences, and so the vicious cycle continues.

When the external expression involves other people, psychologists call them ‘projections’. In this sense the tragic story at the beginning of this chapter shows ‘projections’ of a woman who killed part of herself, was cut off from her own source, became nervous about her life which had turned into a burden, and ended up being paralysed by her own actions.

The terms ‘shadow’ and ‘projection’ lend an almost harmless and inanimate quality to negative experiences and human tragedies. The words give the impression as if they are external phenomena, as if they can be controlled and eliminated with relative ease.

Yet we know that ‘shadow-projection-phenomena’ are primarily internal events. They have a powerful influence on our lives from within our Consciousness.

They are very much alive. They shape our experience on a daily basis. They can determine our destiny, and they can outlive us!

Now let’s imagine these shadow-projection-phenomena as oppressed creatures living in our inner world. Many of them are ‘female’, i.e. non-rational, unpredictable, very sensitive, apparently weak, fertile and productive.

Others look dark, dangerous, and alien. We don’t identify with them. We don’t like being associated with them. We try  to avoid contact with those ‘lower life forms’, thereby — paradoxically — keeping each other in bondage.

Many dark and female inner creatures have been considered ‘inferior aspects of our Consciousness’ for as long as we can remember. They are part of our human ‘inferiority complex’.

Now you decide to set them free. Part of you would like to get rid of them, but you know this is not possible. Integration is the only solution. Integration leads to integrity and real freedom.

But what does that mean?

When you release oppressed parts of yourself from the inner darkness they challenge your current personal world order.

They can’t survive on their own in the ‘wild yonder’. They want to enter the Bright Side of your Consciousness and make their contribution. But in order to do so they need your support, care, and protection.

They need to tell their story. They need to be heard and appreciated, so they can develop into the beautiful and powerful life forms they are meant to become.

Fulfilling such demands is not easy, because instinctively we feel like victims of our suppressed aspects.

Just like the slave masters 200 years ago we would love to receive compensation for being so ‘generous’ and giving our inner suppressed creatures their freedom…

The first step to true freedom therefore consists in the awareness that oppressed and oppressor are inseparably tied to one another in some kind of symbiotic relationship. Freedom can only be achieved when both support one another — when we find a new form of coexistence which is beneficial for both.

 

“War is not inevitable. The only thing in the universe that is inevitable is change.”Susan Griffin

The Path of Masks is designed to help us deal with so-called blind-spots. It is ruled by the Imagination and stimulates Self-Projection.

Unresolved negative experiences become the source of an ongoing internal battle, and our blind-spots prevent us from seeing the part we play in our personal inner war-scenes. Such inner conflicts are projected outwards, for example into disagreements with other people.

Sometimes we get irritated about the behaviour of someone else for no obvious reason. At other times we feel we have a very good reason to be upset about what another has done or said. In both cases we can be almost certain that one of our blind-spots has been activated.

The Path of Masks is suitable for negative experiences that involve a clash with another person. It is a useful practice for partners in an intimate relationship because close encounters with other people always bring us closer to our own unresolved issues.

 

Overview of the Path of Masks

The Path of Masks is designed to help you uncover a BLIND-SPOT, reveal an oppressed part of yourself and change your paradigm.

Your blind-spots are serious obstacles to inner growth. They are invisible to you because they lie within your ‘shadow’, but they can be uncovered through your ‘projections’.

When you feel that someone has done you wrong, when someone has done or said something hurtful and you have an emotional reaction to the event, this process can help you discover your own oppressed inner aspect which may have ‘attracted’ the unpleasant incident into your orbit.

Of course, other people do behave in an inappropriate manner sometimes. This fact is not put into question here. The interesting information for you is whether their behaviour hits your blind-spot, and that’s what your emotional reaction tells you beyond doubt.

The purpose of this path is to reveal a blind-spot, discover an oppressed part of yourself which is held in bondage, set it free, and promote its integration into your world view.

Before entering the Path of Masks remember that this cycle is ruled by the Imagination. In the sphere of your fantasy it is normal to simulate and play different roles.

Exaggeration can also be helpful sometimes to figure out what’s going on inside. Here you are invited to play out a scene of the ‘tragedy of your life’ on your inner stage and to transform it.

1st Mask — Imagination — Tragedy

An emotional surge lets you know that one of your blind-spots has been activated. You have an emotional reaction to something another person has done or said — or even purely to somebody’s presence. This is an opportunity to reveal and release an oppressed part of yourself and nurture your inner growth process.

You may either feel upset because the other person has done something hurtful to you, or as if something bad has been done to you.

Describe the tragic scene.

What happened in this scene of the ‘tragedy of your life’?

2nd Mask — Instinct — Injury

The incident has made you aware of an emotional sensitivity, and you feel hurt. You feel an emotional pain which has been inflicted onto you.

Describe the injury.

What is happening to me? Where and how do I feel hurt?

3rd Mask — Intellect — Suspicion

Your ‘rational’ Intellect instantly makes up his mind about the situation and comes up with a suspicion. This is only a theory, an assumption, but to you it feels and looks as if it was the ‘absolute truth’.

Formulate your suspicion.

What is this person doing to me?

4th Mask — Body — History

Now take a look back at your life history. There is a good chance that you have experienced this before. Ask yourself:

Where have I experienced this before?

5th Mask — Will — Admission

At the 5th step on the Path of Masks you are encouraged to look inward. Here you have an opportunity to discover the actual blind-spot. The following admission enables you to open the door to an oppressed part of yourself which has been kept in the dark. Answer the following question:

In what way am I doing this to myself?

6th Mask — Soul — Conciliation

Your admission has revealed an aspect of yourself which has been oppressed for a long time. Now this ‘oppressed inner creature’ receives an opportunity to tell her_his side of the story. At the same time the ‘inner oppressor part of you’ needs to hear this story and accept his_her role in this ‘tragedy’.

Call an inner ‘Healing-Council’ and let the oppressed aspect of yourself tell its tale.

Listen to your oppressed aspect and acknowledge it. Understand the essence of this oppressed activity and what it is trying to do. Listen to both sides until you can see the perceived harmful action without judgment.

7th Mask — Inspiration — Natural Habitat

like all Paths of Responsibility, the Path of Masks is a profound process of transformation. What we assess as negative or positive always depends on its context. Therefore a negative and destructive action can become positive and constructive in the right ambience. This ‘right ambience’ is what we call natural habitat.

At the 7th step on this Path you are guided to identify the natural habitat for the oppressed part of yourself. This is an environment in which the previously destructive and inappropriate behaviour becomes constructive.

In what situation or environment would this activity be appropriate, constructive, and even desirable?

8th Mask — Intuition — Symbiosis

At the final step on the Path of Masks you are invited to form a conscious symbiosis between the oppressed part of you and the former ‘oppressor’. The word symbiosis literally means to live together. A fruitful living together happens when one cares about the other, when both nurture and support one another, when both partners have the wellbeing of the other at heart.

How can I support the previously oppressed aspect of myself in its new habitat?

Find out in what ways the previously oppressed part can become a true asset to the previous oppressor and vice versa.

 

Any system based on rulership and oppression has a built-in fault line. Neither the oppressive nor the oppressed party can live their full potential. Both loose a lot of their precious energy by keeping each other in check.

The hierarchical arrangement produces an ineffective and fragile structure in the long run. This is the current situation of the human organism, individually and collectively.

Many writers, philosophers and mystics have pointed out that humans live in an existential self-created prison. This means, release from our mental imprisonment has to come from within.

In her poetic essay The Mind can Be a Prison or a Door the philosopher Susan Griffin writes:

War starts in the mind, not in the body.
Waging war is not a primary physical need.…
War arises from unfounded ideas and distorted perceptions aided by lies and silence.…
War is not inevitable. The only thing in the universe that is inevitable is change.

The Path of Masks is designed to end inner wars. History teaches us that oppressor and oppressed remain enemies as long as they don’t listen to each other.

As long as they demand revenge and compensation — and cling to existing power structures — they can even swap roles. This is how both contribute to the continuation of humanity’s tragedy.

When you decide to open the door of the mind, with the intention to uncover invisible injuries and recover from age-old suffering, both parties must be transformed — the oppressor and the oppressed.

 

© Veronika Bond, 2017

This article is a draft of chapter 23 of The Horizon, volume 2 of The Solo System.

It is complemented by an e-letter, containing additional background information about the progress of the book and the creative process.

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Supplies for inner growth - the Friday Letter