As Fr. Bob, Episcopal priest, once explained, The Other is that entity that is so completely not me, so unknowable because it is so foreign, that it carries the numinous qualities of the divine. Moses met The Other in the burning bush and then later came down off Mt. Horeb with white hair to prove it. We attract that which we fear.”
When referring to my The OtherI am basically referring to Alberto Salinas, El Curandero. He lived in and breathed the air of Mexican Folk Culture. Well, I did too, as I crawled into bed with that culture (acculturated).
What created the condition of “The Rub” (the transcendent function), by which I hoped to individuate, was Alberto’s connection with a Magical World View-especially since he channeled the spirit of the dead Mexican folk saint, El Ni~no Fidencio, which practice qualified him as a shaman. To my way of thinking, this made him a card-carrying member of The Other World. And he was my spiritual director.
The Other in The Other World tensioned against me as the WASP in McAllen, Texas. Forbidden desire was powerful. Something had to give.
Having arrived on the other side of the border in Mexico, Alberto tells me,“I have lots of enemies, including some of my own relations. Sometimes I believe I can see the curses and protections zinging back and forth through the elemental world in spiritual battle. And when I get paranoid, like I am today here in Mexico, where curses are as common as cats, I don’t function right. Here in Mexico, people use witchcraft like people in the States use the court system.”
Synonyms for magical
supernatural, magic, occult, shamanistic, mystical, paranormal, preternatural, other worldly.
The belief system of the synonyms occult and paranormal, for instance, are generally dismissed with superiority by WASPs . With western proclamation of science as the bedrock of thought, WASPs generally believe the occult and paranormal are superstitious evil, and possibly delusional, up against a Christian belief system.
But, more functionally, when sympathetic magic is parallel to fe, esperanza, y salud (faith, hope, and health), we’re looking at el pobres-the poor ones of Mexican folk culture of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas-who are examples of citizens of a Magical World in The WASP and El Curandero . They are the ones who live in poverty in colonias; the alienated ones who have no agency to function in the larger Rio Grande Valley society.
Safety is one of Maslow’s human needs. Safety is more secure when you feel you can exercise some power over your choices. For el pobre, alienated from larger society, sympathetic magic is an operative resort to power and control. Sympathetic magic ameliorates the existential angst that comes from a loss of meaning in an alienated life. But it requires agency. Witches, demons, and spirits are the agents in elpobres‘magical world view.
Also, Alberto Salinas is a shamanistic agent, brokering healing power from the spirit world by channeling the spirit of the dead Mexican folk saint, El Ni~no Fidencio.
Mexican Folk Culture is constituted by Mexican immigrants in the USA, legal and illegal, and are predominantly those who don’t have medical insurance. Culturally, they are often called the poor ones, or el pobres. Their faith in the old ways—old stories, old medicine, old religion (and witches, demons, and spirits), mediated by curanderismo—is sometimes all that gives them esperanzay salud, hope and health. And perceived control operating from within their situation of poverty.
The still suffering Mestizos—the genetic mix of Native Americans (of all the Americas, not just the U.S.) and the sixteenth century conquistadors, (the conquering Spaniards)—are the ones that really count, as far as Mexican folk culture goes. The first thing Mestizos in Mexico do when their babies are born is to check their skin color and report it to l the extended family members in the waiting room, for they know the darker the skin all, the more discrimination the child will face. They pray for lighter skin. One can pretty well guess why Mestizos struggling in Mexico want to come to the U.S. where all men are created equal and the minimum wage is more than double. When they cross the border into the U.S.—some across the international border bridges, some across the Rio Grande River—they become known as elpobres, or the poor ones. They have suffered physically from poverty and mentally from alienation. It is through befriending el pobres that I can confront my awareness of existential guilt. Why should I have money and they don’t?
Individuation is a continual process of integrating into our awareness, unrecognized or undiscovered fragments of our psychologies when thus we will have a choice about how to manage the delved content. Individuation can help you reclaim energy from your psyche–energy that perhaps got repressed, or suppressed, which can make you depressed. The band wagon for perfection through societal proscriptions is often the culprit for way-laid energy.
We might want to say individuation is psychological transformation, but transformation works upon the material realm. So we might want to say individuation is spiritualization, but that’ll take you across the earthly border into a strange land where spirit flees from body. What Individuation is, is a matamorphosis of personality.
Darling, we must respect humans, for we were all born naked.
What happens after we start wearing clothes, who knows.
-Vivienne DuBois to her daughter in Sacred Marriage-Monks and Nuns in Love
I want to tell you, I was like a WASP in a fishbowl when I swam in the circles of the upper class, some of whom were among the 12% “whites” living here on the border of Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. I use “fishbowl” as a metaphor for my own chosen insularity -that would be my social class of privilege as a White Anglo Saxon Protestant.
My experience of fishbowls is mine, and yours is yours. However, if I generalize my WASPhood, fellow WASPs will understand the cultural nuances. Not so the Mexican Folk Culture where witches, demons, and spirits are literal citizens of the pobres’-the poor ones’-magical world; which, by the way, tends to be insular, also. WASP and pobre: one would think “never the twain shall meet.” But I’ve lived in that magical world. I’ve slept with their spirits. Just like reading, travel, and Individuating, communion with “The Other” (i.e., enculturation) can ply one’s attitude with tolerance, appreciation, psychological flexibility, and fluid boundaries outside the comfort and familiarity of one’s own culture.
You will not find all fractions of your psyche, or soul, within your own fishbowl. But you can’t necessarily go flip-flopping in and out of others’ fishbowls, either. What you need are efficient tools to help you rise above the rim of your fishbowl so you can observe things from a higher perspective, perhaps magical things you never knew existed.
For it’s the hero’s exploration and delight in adventure that makes life a quest. And we’re all heros of our own story if we’re intentional about the whole thing. Importantly, you don’t have to quest to Tibet, or to Egypt, or to the Antarctic. You can quest as far as you like in the imagination (and on Internet, the global mind 🙂 ) with good results for shoring up integrity, which I would like to think is an honorable goal for the individuation process.
The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.
Imagination is the instrument of Self Knowledge.
If you’ve never experienced the dynamism of Eros (being struck by Cupid’s arrows) during your life on earth, you’re missing out. Eros is love, desire, sexual yearning, a condition of creation, a feeling of being alive. But all Eros’s attributes carry a voltage. Eros can groove a sluice in your brain, and fry your hair!
Carl Jung says Eros creates such exquisite desire, such psychic tension, that it can activate the transcendent function (I call it The Rub), and open up the fastest avenue to the collective unconscious where the divinities reside. Ecstasy (I think not the drug) can be the vehicle that carries you directly to the archetypal Kingdom of God. Sure, this is what the religious celibates know.
It’s culturally relevant-and culture clash is one way to ignite the transcendent function-to call Eros, Deseo. So I do in The WASP and El Curandero. During my field research, in my mind, of course, I thanked Alberto for providing the hook for my Deseo,and thus, the locomotion driving my desirous approach to The Other World. Of course it drove my dedication to the research, too, but that’s a rather mundane topic for this context.
For Eros is the God of Love, and you are in love with Love! But for god’s sake, I never told Alberto I thought he, was divine. Although that is exactly how I felt under the force of Eros. That’s the point: Individuation can be furthered by transferring, instead of concretizing, the intense yearning for your human to craving the Divine. It draws you into the realm of imagination where stories are created and transcendence can be experienced. The imagination, not the material world, is where transcendence happens. The sin would be in humanizing Eros before the transcendent function resolves itself; before the opposites–the conscious and the unconscious–unite as in the Greek myth, Eros and Psyche.
But remember: if you are thinking to Individuate by holding the tension Eros creates, you can only proceed by restraining physical consummation. In this way you fuel the desire until you think you will explode. It’s exquisitely excruciating to hold the tension. It’s the mystics’ ecstacy.
And finally a warning: don’t inflate your head by identifying with the deities. You are not The Virgin. Nor is he your God. You are a human becoming more so. There’s real integrity in that. You can thank Eros for not knowing anything about orgasms.
Possible examples: Any kind of fundamentalist, the country club crowd, North Korea and Kim Jong-un, college frat houses, gated communities, the Junior League, internet RPG’s, the bookworm (of course we can insulate ourselves.) I want you to notice, insularity as a modus operandi is usually chosen by newbies.
I’ve enjoyed belonging to several of these examples of insularity.
While anthropology is the study of man, fishbowl is a metaphor for chosen insularity by a group of people whether the circumscription limits race, religion, nation, culture, society, or peer group. Consider Little Italy, China Town, and Harlem–all fishbowls in the larger society of New York City. Consider the popular group, the nerds, the druggies–all fishbowls in high schools across the nation.
Insularity in a fishbowl feels safe and comfortable, and might give one a sense of superiority over those in other fishbowls. But nothing much happens–things can get a little stagnant in the good ol’ fishbowl when there is no inlet or outlet for human cross-pollination.
I can think offhand of four ways to diffuse human insularity: Reading, travel, acculturation, and individuation. All four build tolerance of The Other, appreciation of The Other, flexible psychological boundaries, and a higher perspective than the fish who doesn’t know he’s swimming in water. The fish still living in the Age of Pisces.
WASP is a class distinction I have made up for the creative nonfiction, The WASPand El Curandero, whereby W.A.S.P. equals White Anglo Saxon Protestant, equals those McAllen WASP women-including Hispanic women-who 1) have Sunday brunch at the Country Club after church; 2) buy their clothes at Sylvia’s; 3) wear elegant manners to the Museum’s galas; 4) are in the Junior League; 5) have children attending St. John’s Episcopal Day School; and 6) drive white suburbans.
That’s just my perspective. In my particular case, you can add blonde hair and blue eyes, at least my hair was blonde in the year 2000, the time frame of the novel. I want you to notice my WASP reflects those women who were instituted at the top of what the anthropologist, Emile Durkheim, calls social organization (aka they had climbed the social ladder to the top).