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Part IV: Individuation and De-Individuation as sacrifice

This is part four of a five part excerpt from my book on the YiJing and DaoDeJing discussing the process of Ego sacrifice as the fundament of the dynamic between Individuation and De-Individuation.

In the following paragraph we have to come back to the process of individuation as a detachment from the physical in order to understand the function of spiritual traditions, like the meditation discussed above. In this context, the concept of the body does not necessarily refer to the physical shell of the human being, but to the bondage of the spirit to a "physical", that is, its connection to an external world and thus the interaction of its spirit with it. This is accompanied by the specificity of the products of this perception for the mode in which they are perceived (i.e., the sense organs of man). Therefore, both in the context of individuation, and in the context of de-individuation, we can speak of physical purification processes, which are a kind of detachment from physical demanding.

If the spirit to be individuated was not considered to be embodied in the body acting on the world, why would a process of individuation be necessary at all? The body is essentially the vesicle that enables interaction with the world. It is this world through which the mind becomes possessed by those projections from which it must detach itself for the purpose of individuation. To purify oneself of this obsession means to free the body from the images by which it is obsessed, and is therefore essentially a sacrifice of the body. This is the reason why the body must necessarily be used to purify the spirit. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that body and mind are one, and accordingly body is also mind and mind is also body. Consequently, it is the body that is used as a vehicle to purify the mind of the images with which it is obsessed: the body purifies itself of itself. This is essentially similar to a conflict that the yogis pointed to as a criticism of Sufi Islam. This criticism was aimed at the lack of connection between the descending, manifesting, and ascending movements of the mind through practices of ecstasy. Unlike the Sufi practices used by the yogis, the body is a link between these movements of the mind. They established the body as a vesicle to achieve spiritual transcendence. In later practices, Sufism assimilated the use of the body as a vesicle to achieve spiritual transcendence. This is evident in both dance and yoga practices, which are capable of achieving ecstatic or mystical transcendence.

The unity of body and mind is deeply rooted in Eastern philosophies to this day. This is particularly visible in Buddhist practice and philosophy, where body and soul (mind) are not separate, as Thomas P. Kasulis points out, "Asian traditions generally do not sharply separate mind and body. Although mind and body may be conceptually distinct from some perspectives, they are not assumed to be ontologically separate." (Kasulis, Yausu, & Yuassa, 1987, p. 1). Carter notes that specifically in Buddhism, "mind and body are everywhere intertwined, [...] in abstract thought alone we find them separate" (Carter, 2008, p. 4). Practices to purify the mind are not purely mental, but involve physical exercise. Interestingly, this purification process, which is the goal of yoga practice as well as Sufi ecstasy and Buddhist meditation, is reflected in the modern psychological concept of individuation as well as in the alchemical practice of transmutation discussed earlier. This suggests a strong connection to the myth of Christ and his death on the cross for the sins of humanity, but also alludes to modern phenomena such as excessive dietary restrictions (e.g., veganism). The states of the body are reflected on the mirror of the mind. All separations of the two in this thinking are conceptual, they remain an abstraction and thus products of consciousness. Far from this abstraction, the separation is not existent and accordingly cannot be experienced, but only conceived (the difference of body and mind in the sense of Descartes' res cogitans is not experienceable, but only conceivable)

But what does a socially lived separation of body and mind mean, as it is prevalent in modern Western thinking? The individual consciousness perceives itself as the subject acting on the detached "nature" by which it is surrounded. This division is further supported by the strong focus on rationality since the Enlightenment. The object as which nature is conceptualized becomes the object of desire, the object of abuse, but also the object of progress. It becomes the frame into which consciousness projects and thus the vehicle of images that keep consciousness from inseparability i.e. the space of archetypes. It must be noted, however, that without the separation between subject and object, no progress, in the traditional sense, would be possible. One could further venture the hypothesis that without such separation, the experience of the body as a separate entity and even the experience of consciousness would become impossible. Thus, human consciousness and the human intellect seem to depend on, or by its very existence to effect, the division of the world into object and subject. The sacrifice of this division, as well as the sacrifice of human consciousness in the process of self-purification, would mean a loss of human consciousness and thus probably the end of traditional human progress.

The body and its presence are necessary for any sensory experience. It becomes clear that the idea of the necessity of liberation from this sensuality is deeply rooted in most cultures. One may recall the shamanic traditions with their highly complex initiation rituals aimed at elevating the mundane existence of the novice to a state of sacredness. As an example, consider the following: Among the Bantu peoples, before circumcision, the initiate must undergo a ceremony known as rebirth. His father sacrifices a ram for the newcomer. Three days later, he wraps the child in the animal's stomach skin and hide, but first the boy must join his mother in bed and cry out like a newborn. Another interesting feature of the Bantu people is that their deceased ancestors are buried in a ram's skin and in an embryonic position. In Bali, too, burials sometimes still take place in coffins in the form of cows - the symbolism of the cow as an image of the great mother has been discussed at length elsewhere in connection with cave paintings (Kleinau, 2020). In these rituals, the circularity of the transformative character of time becomes visible: death and rebirth complement each other, and one becomes the condition of the other. The need for constant renewal of their narratives is reflected in the rites and practices of these cultures. Time is perceived as a tool that can be used to maintain the culture's connection to its supreme deities. Thus, the myth of rebirth conveys not only the necessity of death, but also the possibility of being reborn after death through voluntary acceptance of the suffering involved. This idea of the cyclical nature of life and death, and thus of time, is also expressed in YiJing.

Confucius points out in this context that it is the duty of everyone to "review the old and realize the new" (2019, AN 2:11). In this symbolism, physical death at the end of life is only part of a series of many deaths that one must die in order to attain aliveness. One death follows another until life ends. Life in this context is a fluid essence characterized by its ever-changing nature. As LaFleur notes, "If water serves as the source of life, by a symbolic extension it can also serve as the source to which the dead can be returned" (1992, p. 22). Thus, life signifies movement, and the end of life non-movement. This movement is energized by the opposites we face in our environment. To every evil there exists and arises a good, to every great a small. The "thinking" of one without the "other" is impossible. This separation that arises from the presence of consciousness in interaction with the environment brings the flow, the movement, the change in the individual. This change confronts the individual with the necessity of liberation from the movement, which is ultimately guaranteed to him by death. This means that a liberation from consciousness (de-individuation) is finally given by death.


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