“People often asked Dr. [Carl] Jung, ‘Will we make it?’ referring to the cataclysm of our time. He always replied, “If enough people will do their inner work.” This soul work is the one thing that will pull us through any emergency” —Robert Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche (HarperSanFrancisco: 1991).
“The cataclysm of our time.” That time was approximately 100 years ago. The word comes from the Greek, Kata (down, against) Klysmo (to wash over or surge). But do we now have a cataclysm? I think we do.
In fact, there will always be a potential cataclysm inside us, let alone in the world, if we don’t understand the importance, calling and nature of our soul. The irony is that the vast majority of us don’t know our own soul and not that many of us even want to.
It’s much easier, isn’t it, to live on the edge of chaos, exclaiming at the world ‘out there’ and blaming it and others for whatever situation you/we might be in.
But if you do want to, then the first thing to do is find the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a real place in the human psyche, a place of peace, self-acceptance and the gateway to your soul.
Who says so? The ancient Judaic mystical system known as Kabbalah (which is the Hebrew word for ‘receive’). This is nothing to do with Madonna and the Kabbalah Center — that’s a modern re-working of the system which, in my not-so-humble view has completely missed the pot and potentially misled a lot of folks on the nature of this version of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition. You’ll probably have heard of the Kingdom of Heaven through the words of Jesus in the Bible. He also spoke of the Kingdom of God which is where you can head for once you’ve found the Kingdom of Heaven.
Does that mean Jesus was a Kabbalist? In the sense that he knew the ancient mystical teaching and received inspiration directly from the Divine, yes. However, in those days, the tradition was known as ‘The Way’ or ‘The Knowledge.’ He certainly knew all about The Way. He never intended it to be limited to those who became what we now call Christians.
In a nutshell, in the Kingdom of Heaven is the place in the psyche where you have spiritual power within your own life and your surroundings. The Kingdom of God is where you have spiritual power within the World. Everyone’s Kingdom of Heaven is unique to them and everyone’s Kingdom of God is transpersonal — involving the whole of Spirit. That’s why Jesus talked about giving up the self; you can do that happily from the Kingdom of God
We need both in these polarised times but more than anything, we need the Kingdom of Heaven, because it is everything within us that is generous and kind and honest and true and beautiful.
And we need to walk before we can run because if you head out seeking the Kingdom of God before we’ve internalised the Kingdom of Heaven we are likely to hurt ourselves – and others. It’s like fire; marvellous when you know how to use it, and incredibly destructive if you don’t. In fact, you’d never reach the Kingdom of God but you would believe you have and that’s where you’ve opened a psychic doorway to something very unpleasant indeed, including the corruption of power.
My headline also mentions the Kingdom of Hell. That’s where so many of us spend a lot of our time. The Kingdom of Hell is everyone else. It is where other people, family, work, governments, medical diagnoses disempower or incite us us. It is where our lives can be kicked in any direction without our say-so and sometimes even our knowledge. Sounds familiar?
As the lovely Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love (Penguin 2006): “All the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hitler-‘n’-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.”
“The search for contentment,” to the mystic in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is the pilgrimage to uncover the Kingdom of Heaven within us. If we won’t go within, we must go without and when we go without, we do just that…
What will you find in the Kingdom of Heaven?
Peace, happiness, joy, contentment, the ability to intuit what is needed for your own healing, the ability not to react continually to the outside world’s silliness and craziness and a space within that is open to inspiration and guidance from Beriah the world of blessings; the place we call heaven.
Heaven is not something waiting for us after death if we are good. Heaven is the destination at the end of the hero’s/heroine’s journey, made famous by the American mythologist, Joseph Campbell. It’s where we leave our old habits and patterns and set out for a better life and then, when we have tamed and released our inner dragons, we bring our story back to our tribe so as to teach them how to do the same.
Let me say again: this is NOT selfish work. Finding your own happiness is the best gift you can possibly give to the world.