Depth psychologists use the word “adaptation” to describe the current attitude of the conscious self toward life. For example, we can have an attitude that shuns any idea having to do with spirituality. Like Bill Maher, we can be hell-bent on the myth of scientific materialism for correctly explaining the nature of the world around us and see anything metaphysical or transpersonal as erroneous new-age hogwash. Many people in our world today operate from this adaptation.
Often, our conscious adaptation to the phenomena of our lives can become very one-sided. Some people go the other extreme, for example, and believe that there is nothing but spiritual and metaphysical answers and that materialism and those who believe in it are wrong in virtually every assessment they make about the nature of reality.
This one-sidedness is problematic since it creates a too-big gap between what we believe and all the other ways things can be in a world whose unanswered mysteries abound. Usually, we get one-sided because the other side of the argument scares us and our vehement belief systems become a formidable defense mechanism that shields us from the oceanic onslaught of the unknown.
But engaging with the unknown is the only way out of this dilemma and it forms an integral aspect of the growth process of the human soul. There is no escaping it. How many times have we known someone, for example, who has become too militant and rigid in their views undergo some catastrophe or other which pulls them directly into the exact opposite position they held their entire lives? A ready example comes to mind with people who are deeply homophobic and who must reckon with the fact their own child is LGBTQ.
These sorts of reckonings with our own one-sidedness happen to all of us sooner or later. Some people keep struggling and struggling while the order and civility of life falls apart around them. The point here is that human consciousness is not a tool to be used but a living being (a soul!) who wants to change and grow and fulfill its destiny. One-sidedness is the enemy of this growth and the deep psyche makes this known to us by creating havoc in our lives until we reckon with the fact that our own conscious attitude — our old adaptation — needs to be replaced with a more open, fluid, and mystery-friendly consciousness.
I’m reminded here of the story of Adam and Eve. It is thought of as a creation myth, so it is a story of beginnings. “In the beginning” translates, psychologically, into the early part of the soul’s being. It means when the soul is first born. So in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, who represent the two psychological sides of one human soul which contains both masculine and feminine principles, are in the early stage of their psychological life and they are blissed out, carefree, happy. They have no responsibilities, they have nothing to do or accomplish. They just are and they enjoy their lives. This is the consciousness most of us have in childhood. We are one with all things, with nature, with our toys, we play and eat and sleep. We have no responsibilities yet, and we are just in a state of contented peace.
The serpent in the garden was appropriated by the political ideology machine of the patriarchy thousands of years ago and translated into a figure of evil, and Eve, the feminine principle of the psyche, was imagined as an evil-doer, but those stories are for people who are not very bright. In truth, the serpent represents the unconscious, the deep fertile and creative fecundity of the human soul. It tells Eve that if she eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil she will become immortal and god-like. Until they eat this fruit, they are stuck in a childlike consciousness which is blissful but hopelessly incomplete. In order to evolve and grow, they must learn about duality and suffer the pain of being ripped in two by the never-ending dualities and paradoxes of fully conscious life.
The story shows how painful it is for them to leave the garden. This is an image that describes the psychological shock we undergo when we first become aware of differences that are caused by duality. Usually, by the age of seven we come face to face with something so heinous that it rips us away from the childlike bliss of our early lives and thrusts us into the world of adulthood where evil is a very real power we must reckon with.
Leaving the garden and knowing about duality does not mean escaping reality. It means engaging with it even more deeply. Reality is not what we thought it was, there are issues that are beyond our power, and there is so much suffering.
I have recently realized that being an adult means accepting the truth and reality of darkness. I think we are still a child when we imagine that darkness can be completely eradicated. This is the unfortunate childishness many warriors of justice are dealing with in our current cultural climate. They are still stuck in a childish adaptation that refuses to accept the reality of evil, the reality of duality, and the reality of how duality operates in human consciousness.
The process of consciousness evolution requires us to accept the truth of duality — good and bad, dark and light, masculine and feminine, high and low, black and white, etc. Duality is what helps us to differentiate between things and it is what creates the psychic electricity we need to live our lives. If there was no tension, we would never get out of bed. It is the occurrence of things that bother us that motivates us to get up and do something about it. We all know intuitively that when things are going well for us, soon they will start going badly. If we have any intelligence at all, we will notice the cyclical nature of events that occur in the world around us and inside our own psychological and spiritual spheres of consciousness.
Struggling with the maddening pressure of duality is what gives birth to the inner divinity that lives in potentia in our souls. We leave the garden of bliss where we are not any different from anything else, and enter the world of duality where everything is jarring and intense. Here, we work hard for many years, making loads of mistakes and living in one-sidedness to defend ourselves against the onslaught of duality. But little by little, we start to see how it all works and then we start to get a bit wiser. We stop chasing one-sided desires and ideas around and start to take things more seriously — our thoughts, our words, our deeds. We see that there is a connection between these and the way our life is unfolding around us.
The knowledge of good of evil shocks us at first, but then becomes the engine propelling us through the deep learning phases of our lives were we slowly mutate from shallow, selfish, emotionally reactive dunces into deep, considered, and wise beings who move through life with grace and humility. There is an age group that often corresponds to this process and the beautiful graciousness often comes much later in life.