In my previous post (Enjoying Blissful/Pleroma States?) I wrote about blissful states of mind.
I stated that we often cling to Blissful states because ... well, because they are blissful.
But clinging is an attachment. Attachment, just like aversion, needs to be removed in order to achieve the unpolarized consciousness.
Here I'd like to offer you a variation of my End of Words method, which you can use to clear Blissful states.
End of Words for Clearing Blissful States
Feel the Blissful state and answer the following questions:
1) What's good in or about this state?
2) What's bad in or about this state?
(take a little more time for this question, as your first reaction will most likely be "Nothing")
3) What else needs to be expressed about this state?
- Go through the questions as many times as necessary to clear this state.
(You'll know the exercise is complete when there's nothing else to say about this state)
- Write all the answers down if you're self-processing.
So in the middle ages Temperance was seen as total abstinence from the ‘bad’ pole. In other words, from sin.
But complete abstinence, being an extreme, inevitably creates its opposite—overindulgence.
We can see this with ex-alcoholics. When they quit drinking, they really QUIT. They don’t drink at all anymore.
But if they fall off the wagon, they never stop at one or two drinks.
No, they get dead drunk.
The same goes for diets: after a strict eating regimen, you’ll typically get not only your ‘old’ weight back, but a few extra pounds/kilos as well.
So just like ex-alcoholics, who drink uncontrollably when some stressful event triggers their addiction again, after diets people usually overindulge in food.
Total abstinence will sooner or later bring about its own opposite—overindulgence.
Most of us spend our lives oscillating between the two.
So total abstinence, the approach to temperance popular in the middle ages, simply does not work for most people.
Neutralizing the negative pole with the positive pole—the solution that the archaic world offers us—is certainly more healthy and effective.
The Angel Lady
After the middle ages, the idea of mixing the positive and negative pole has come into vogue again. But in the new tarot images the dominant influence seems to be Indian, not ancient Greek.
More about that in the next Temperance post.
In a therapy session where you use my methods or the ST methods, you often experience high states of mind, such as Peace, God, Love, Pure Consciousness ...
I call these states Blissful States, because they feel blissful--exhilarating.
My father, Z.M. Slavinski, calls them Pleroma states.
Not all of those states appear to be of the same class/order. Some feel higher, some lower. Some stronger, some weaker.
Some feel soothing, some mind-blowing.
So for instance, in the state of Peace, you may feel centered, weightless and calm.
Whereas in the state of Divine Love, you may feel like you've been catapulted into another, fantastic dimension.
But regardless of its nature, a Blissful state is always very pleasant.
This is why your response to experiencing a Blissful State is to try to hold on to it for as long as you can.
We naturally gravitate to Blissful States, just like we are naturally repelled by the opposite--negative--states of mind.
Common sense tells us: the more exhilarating a Blissful state feels, the more 'spiritual' it is.
To enjoy an exhilarating state means to enjoy the exhilarating emotions/feelings you feel in that state.
In other words, to enjoy an exhilarating state means to be attached to it.
And attachment is as bad as aversion.
Because both attachment and aversion polarize our consciousness.
For this reason, in my methods I insist on clearing Blissful States of their emotional charge.
Once you clear the emotional energy of a Blissful State, you'll be in a NEUTRAL state of mind--where there is no negative. And no positive.
Where there is no split, no division.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
For practical advise on how to use my method End on Words to remove emotional charge from Blissful States, read my next post: Clearing Blissful (Pleroma) States.
Anger is a protest to a perceived VIOLATION.
You or someone else has been wronged.
Values are always involved when anger comes up.
The higher the value, the more emotionally invested you are, and the stronger your anger will become.
With rage, the violation seems so great because it has to do with your highest values.
Your Trust (or Love or Justice or Truth or Life or Self-value...) has been betrayed, jeopardized, or denied.
Practical exercise for removing anger
1) Feel the situation in which anger has come up.
Describe the situation. Be specific and brief, as if describing a scene in a movie.
2) Ask yourself:
What do I protest in this situation?
(the answer should include a specific person/group/being at whom you are angry and their specific action or behavior)
3) Ask yourself:
What has/have… (name the person or group) violated?
(If one of your core values comes up here, proceed to part 5)
4) Now look deeper into the violation and ask yourself:
Which of my core values is involved/connected to this violation?
5) When you find the core value, describe how it is exactly that that value has been violated in that situation
- If necessary, repeat (parts of) the exercise
- If you work alone, I advise you to write down all the answers
- Do this exercise for every person that angers you on a regular basis (mother, boss, child, spouse ...)
In the archaic world, Temperance was a symbol of balance and harmony.
As seen in my previous posts about ancient Greece and China (see Temperance as Harmony of the Soul), a temperate person deals with an extreme by balancing it out—by introducing its opposite.
But in the medieval period a new idea of Temperance emerged.
And this new idea is at times pretty bizarre.
In two out of three Eteilla’s tarot decks, Temperance is depicted as a girl with a bridle in her hand.
The bridle is normally part of the horse’s gear. It is used to restrain or guide the animal.
The ‘bit’ of the bridle is placed in the horse’s mouth. It is through the discomfort and/or pain caused by even the gentlest bit, that the animal is controlled.
So Eteilla wants us to know that the 'Temperance girl' has to restrain her appetites or desires by force. And the pain is an unpleasant but inevitable consequence.
Temperance and Rage
In the ancient world Temperance was connected to violent passions, such as sexual desire, rage or fear.
Connection with anger/rage/wrath was especially strong. This is obvious even today, from words and phrases such as “temperament” and “keep (or lose) one's temper”.
Put Your Sword in Its Place
Giotto’s fresco cycle, Seven Vices and Virtues, decorates the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.
Temperance, one of the virtues, stands in her niche, binding up the straps around the hilt of her sword.
She is next to Wrath, the third vice, because she needs to ‘temper’ it.
More interestingly, she is placed below the fresco of the Betrayal.
The betrayal in question is Judas’ betrayal of Christ.
According to the gospels, Judas leads a crowd to arrest Jesus. Among the crowd is the high priest’s servant.
Judas kisses Jesus to point him out to the crowd. It is this kiss that Giotto portrays.
But he uses what happens next as inspiration for the Temperance fresco: one of Jesus’ disciples ‘loses his temper’—draws his sword and cuts off the servant’s ear.
Jesus then commands him: ‘Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.’(Matthew 26:52)
What’s That in Her Mouth?
Giotto’s Temperance, unlike Jesus’ apostle, is binding the straps on the hilt of her sword so that it cannot be drawn.
She seems to have overcome her rage, her wrath.
Thanks to the bridle she is biting on.
The Brownie Experiment
“The cookies just came out of the oven, smelling deliciously and oozing with chocolate chips. On the table next to the cookies was a bowl of radishes.”
This is how Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, begins the chapter on (what I call) ‘the brownie experiment’.
Mark Muraven, a psychology PhD candidate, conducted this experiment with his colleagues. Their ‘guinea pigs’ were hungry students; the point of the experiment was to force the students to exercise their willpower:
They were to eat ONLY the food that was assigned to them: chocolate brownies OR radishes.
Impossible to Solve
The radish eaters were miserable.
One took a brownie, smelled it, then put it back. Another grabbed a few brownies, then put them down.
And then he licked his fingers.
After 5 minutes they were given a puzzle ‘to kill the time’ and told it was easy.
In truth the puzzle was impossible to solve. And so it took enormous will power to keep working on it.
Unlike the brownie eaters, the radish eaters muttered, complained, snapped at the researchers … They worked more than two times shorter on the puzzle than the cookie eaters before giving up.
Fighting off temptation is difficult.
The fact that girls and women who represent Temperance in the middle ages often wear or carry a bridle proves just how difficult fighting off temptation is.
“Ask people to name their greatest personal strengths, and they’ll often credit themselves with honesty, kindness, humor, creativity, bravery, and other virtues— even modesty. But not self-control. It came in dead last among the virtues being studied by researchers who have surveyed more than one million people around the world.” (Baumeister & Tierney, Willpower)
Will Over Instinct …
… is an expression used to show what Temperance was considered to be in the middle ages.
It is in this period that she suddenly found herself set against appetites and passions. The latter were considered not only the negative pole, but vices—the work of the devil.
So they had to be extinguished without mercy.
Yet when Will and Instinct clash, Will is almost always defeated.
So the solution the Middle Ages came up with was to use force. Temperance was seen as a forceful and absolute abstinence from vices.
And so Temperance came to signify its own opposite: harmony, inclusiveness and compromise transformed into fanaticism, intolerance and puritanism.
Temperance is about dealing with our appetites and desires, passions and impulses.
Most often it is mentioned in connection to alcohol, food, sex, and anger.
The iconography of Temperance, the tarot card, is rooted in philosophy and religion. I’ll discuss those roots in the following posts, starting with
The Ancient Greeks …
… who used ‘sophrosyne’ for temperance. But ‘sophrosyne’ is a complex word, which seems to have no one and true translation in English:
"the quality of wise moderation; ... prudence, moderation in desires, discretion, temperance," …
A Sound Mind
“At your late age it is bitter to be taught temperance you should already practice.”
… states Aegishus in Agamemnon, Aeschylus’ tragedy. It seems that in ancient Greece, temperance was seen as a quality every adult should possess.
Another definition of ‘sophrosyne’ supports this view: ‘sound-mindedness’ or ‘healthy-mindedness’.
So temperance is the foundation of a normal, healthy human being.
There’s just one problem: most of us are not very healthy-minded.
We overindulge in food, alcohol, sex, social media… We lash out in anger…
Then we try to fix things with strict diets, or with total abstinence from alcohol, sex or romantic relationships. Or by withdrawing from all conflicts and burying our emotions deep down inside of us.
That’s why, although the ancient Greeks consider temperance as a mandatory trait of a sound mind, they are also aware of how rare it is:
Temperance is the noblest gift of the gods,
states Euripides, another great tragic poet.
Heraclitus, a philosopher, makes a similar claim:
Sophrosyne is the greatest virtue…
He also gives one of the simplest and most beautiful statements on temperance and polarities:
It is not good for all your wishes to be fulfilled: through sickness you recognize the value of health, through evil the value of good, through hunger satisfaction, through exertion, the value of rest.
It is believed that these ideas of Heraclitus deeply impacted Plato. And Plato was the most influential figure in the Western world when it comes to the concept of temperance.
Plato discusses temperance in two of his dialogues.
In the first one, Charmides, he does not give us the definition of temperance.
But he uses other ways to show what temperance is.
An Upsetting of the Soul
Amazement and confusion reigned when he (Charmides) entered; and a troop of lovers followed him.
The above quote describes the entrance of Charmides and his admirers. Charmides is the title character of the dialogue, and a strikingly handsome young man.
But the Greek word translated here as “amazement and confusion” seems to have much stronger implications: “the loss of normal self-control on account of some shocking incident arousing violent passion …”
An “upsetting of the soul”, which ‘dislocates’ the normal sense of self.
And though the “violent passion” in question is most often fear, it can also be sexual desire, as in our example.
In practical terms, the scene comes down to this:
Charmides’ appearance arouses such strong sexual desire in people around him, that they lose their heads.
It is interesting to compare Charmides’ entrance to the judgment of the 51st hexagram of the I Ching. The hexagram is called Shock or Thunder, and we immediately see why:
…When the movement like a crash of thunder terrifies all within a hundred miles, he will be like the sincere worshiper who is not startled into dropping his ladle and cup of sacrificial spirits.
Here, “he” refers to the ‘superior man’, or a person of noble character.
he ‘jun zi’ in Chinese.
The above scene, just like the Charmides scene, depicts a shocking incident. But the difference lies in the subjects’ reactions.
Surely He Feels No Fear?
The image of Thunder, being repeated, forms Shock. The superior man, in accordance with this, is fearful and apprehensive, cultivates his virtue, and examines his faults.
So does the superior man feel fear in a shocking situation?
The one in the I Ching does.
But the ‘jun zi’ “remains confident and self-possessed—so much so that he can calmly perform his religious duties during the prevailing chaos.”
The two seem mutually exclusive: how can he feel fear, yet remain calm?
What I believe the Book of Changes is telling us is:
The jun zi uses the sudden change and the fear it rouses for self-examination.
He responds to the shock by tempering (mixing) fear with introspection.
Fear and Introspection
Fear is a centrifugal force. It dislocates our sense of self, pulling us “out of ourselves”.
Introspection (literally, “looking inside”) is a centripetal force – it draws us back in, anchoring us in our sense of self.
So the jun zi of the I Ching neutralizes fear with its opposite—introspection.
The Measure of Temperance
Both in Charmides and in Shock, the subjects’ reactions to a distressing incident are used to measure how temperate they are.
And while Charmides’ admirers fail the test, the jun zi passes it with flying colors.
Now, what the jun zi is to the I Ching, Socrates is to Plato’s dialogues.
The whole point of Charmides is for Socrates to establish how temperate Charmides—a handsome youth with whom he discusses temperance—is.
In simple terms: Socrates needs to examine if Charmides’ soul is as beautiful as his body.
“For when… he looked at me with his eyes in such an irresistible way and was drawing himself up to ask a question, … then indeed … I saw inside his cloak, I was inflamed, I was no longer in myself,…”
So Socrates is overwhelmed by the young man’s physique and charm. Yet he is well aware of what is taking place inside of him.
In fact, his attention is immediately redirected to the words of another Greek sage:
“I thought how well Cydias understood the nature of love, when, in speaking of a fair youth, he warns someone ‘not to bring the fawn in the sight of the lion to be devoured by him,’ for I felt that I had been overcome by a sort of wild-beast appetite.”
By means of remembering Cydias’ words, Socrates distances himself from his desire.
He then continues his talk with Charmides …
~ * ~ * ~ *
The jun zi balances out his fear with introspection.
Socrates balances out his desire for a physical connection with Charmides with the desire for a metaphysical connection with him – with the need to know Charmides’ soul.
In Charmides, Socrates speaks to one more person about temperance.
That’s Critias, Charmides’ cousin.
By the time Plato wrote this dialogue, Charmides and Critias were dead.
They died protecting Athenian ‘Thirty’, the most notorious government in the history of ancient Athens.
Charmides and Critias are both among the Thirty’s ranks, with Critias playing an especially important role.
The Thirty’s actions quickly earn them the name Thirty Tyrants:
- They murder Athenian citizens they don’t approve of;
- They make rules about killing innocent foreigners living in Athens in order to confiscate their property;
- Critias has his former friend Theramenes, who openly objects to the murders, killed.
So Critias is the embodiment of tyranny. And tyranny is the ‘political’ opposite of temperance.
Is Critias already such a monster in Plato’s dialogue?
But in his vanity, inflexibility, and love of honor we can see appetites he is working hard to repress.
A Tyrant vs. a Philosophic Soul
Once Critias comes to rule in Athens, these repressed appetites explode in acts of radical cruelty.
He embodies the tyrant, the wild reign of unhealthy appetites.
In contrast, Socrates personifies the ‘philosophic soul’: desires, while still there, are neutralized by their opposites and harmonized with the whole.
Plato also speaks of temperance in another of his dialogues, Republic.
In it, temperance is mentioned as one of the four core virtues of the ideal city:
“My notion is, that our State being perfect will contain all the four virtues--wisdom, courage, temperance, justice.”
He describes temperance as the virtue that binds his citizens together.
Although they may differ in wisdom, strength or wealth, temperance harmonizes them, making them to be of one mind.
But for Plato temperance is also one of the four parts of the soul, one that harmonizes all other parts.
And when all its parts are harmonized, “the soul acts as one”.
For Aristotle, Plato’s disciple, virtue is a state between opposite vices.
So the virtue of courage, for example, is set between cowardice and recklessness.
This means that Aristotle finds recklessness, or too much courage, just as bad as cowardice.
The virtue of temperance is placed between excess and asceticism. In other words, between overindulgence in sensual pleasures and the total avoidance of them.
A Cardinal Virtue
The four virtues of Plato’s ideal city were taken over and immortalized by church men like Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.
And so Plato’s wisdom, courage, justice and temperance became ‘cardinal’, or most important, virtues for Christianity.
Three of the four made their way to the tarot. Today they are known as the Strength, the Justice, and Temperance.
And all three have numerous representations in art and architecture.
Today, however, the most famous of all is the Justice. The statue of a woman with a blindfold, scales, and a sword can be seen in courthouses throughout the world.
- The blindfold means that Justice is impartial;
- The scales, that She weighs both sides of a case before a decision;
- The sword, that the guilty party will be punished and the innocent party protected.
What about Temperance?
What are its symbols on the first tarot cards, and what do those symbols mean?
But What Is She Mixing?
On most its old depictions—the icons, statues and tarot cards— Temperance is a woman pouring liquid from one pitcher into another.
But what exactly is she pouring and why?
This is where opinions differ.
Some believe that she is mixing hot and cold water, others claim that she is combining subconscious and super-conscious minds …
I believe that the simplest interpretation is the best:
She’s pouring water into wine.
A Lawless Brute
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus pays a visit to Polyphemus’ cave with his comrades.
Polyphemus is a cyclops—a giant with a single eye in the center of his forehead.
The things turn ugly when Polyphemus, “a lawless brute”, starts eating Odysseus’ companions.
So how does Odysseus outwise this fearsome opponent?
By getting him drunk.
Tempering Wine with Water
Thinning wine with water is an ancient custom.
In the ancient Greek epic literature, heroes always drink their wine mixed with water. The characters who drink undiluted wine are portrayed as cowardly and reckless if not downright stupid.
Like the cyclops Polyphemus.
Homer goes out of his way to tell us that the wine Odysseus gives the cyclops is very strong and unmixed with water.
Polyphemus drinks one bowl after another.
"I poured him another fiery bowl— three bowls I brimmed and three he drank to the last drop, the fool, and then, when the wine was swirling round his brain …"
… Odysseus gouges the giant’s eye out, enabling himself and his comrades to escape.
Calling someone a drunk was one of the worst insults. So when Achilles showers Agamemnon with bitterness in Homer’s Iliad, the first name he calls him is “drunkard” (winebibber):
“"Winebibber," he cried, "with the face of a dog and the heart of a hind" …”
Drunkenness, for ancient Greeks, is dangerous and shameful.
Yet drinking wine with measure was considered a staple of the Greek civilization.
The Homeric epics show a new "civilized" world, characterized by wine use with the closely regulated social norms.
The preferred drinking condition was a moderate intoxication where one’s decorum was maintained—a condition that Theognis later called being ‘neither sober nor too drunk.’
This is only possible if wine is diluted with water.
Temper Your Wine with Water
That mixing water with wine has served as a symbol of moderation in general, can be seen from expression to temper one's wine with water.
The idiom is still used in some European languages. In French, they say mettre de l'eau dans son vin, in Dutch water in zijn wijn doen.
Used metaphorically, it means “to moderate one's eagerness; to cool one's heat or spirits”.
Wine and Water as opposites
Wine, on its own, can be dangerous; it often leads to conflicts and violence.
Water, on its own, does not really get the party going.
Together, blended, they create the perfect, “civilized” mood, where people are open and communicative, but not aggressive.
Wine needs water, water needs wine. Combined, they’re just right.
Ben-Dov, Y.: The Marseille Tarot Reveiled
Sheratt, S.: “Feasting in Homeric Epic”
Papakonstantinou, Z.: “Wine and Wine Drinking in the Homeric World”
Sewel, W.: A Large Dictionary English and Dutch, Part II
Yunus is a cleaner in a Baghdad house.
Every day he sweeps the same yard and hums the same song--it makes the time go faster.
Yunus has a lot of children he has to provide for.
He always dreams of the day when he'll be free to go to desert and meditate.
Many years pass.
All his children are married. He's free at last.
So off to the desert he goes.
He walks and walks under the scorching sun. But nowhere can he find water or shade.
Suddenly, there's a cloud of dust on the horizon.
As it comes closer, Yunus can see
FOUR RIDERS in it.
They're approaching quickly.
The yard sweeper, remembering stories about desert robbers, is scared out of his mind.
The men reach him.
Yunus, paralyzed with fear, watches them dismount.
But instead of drawing their sabers, they ask him if he cares to rest and eat.
Dumbfounded, he nods for yes, and the riders start mumbling something.
A familiar feeling washes over Yunus as he listens, but before he can remember...
A HUGE TREE GROWS OUT OF THE SAND.
In its shade, a table full of delicious dishes and a pitcher of ice-cold water.
Yunus, half-starved, eats and drinks to his heart's content.
Once satisfied, he asks the strangers:
"How long did it take you to master this magic?"
"The truth? Less than a day. A friend taught us that magical song. But he'd heard it from Yunus from Baghdad, a great sage disguised as a yard sweeper."
Upon hearing this, Yunus bows in all four directions and returns to Baghdad to sweep his yard.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
In the first part of this post I wrote about how we idealize and romanticize, crave and envy... even when it comes to personal growth.
I and Others are opposites, and Others always seem to be on a higher rung of the spiritual ladder.
But I believe there's a better way to look at this:
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare your present self to your previous self.
How much have you grown? How have you improved?
Because spiritual evolution is not about becoming someone else. It's about fulfilling your own potential.
The work that you do on yourself is much more important than you think.
It's leading you to your best Self.
Your yard is precious. So go on sweeping it, and humming your song.
Return to Baghdad.
(I've translated the sufi story Yunus and his Broom from Croatian, changing it slightly -- found it in V. Krmpotic's book "Košulja sretnog čovjeka" (Happy Man's Shirt))
No tarot card embodies balance and reconciling of opposites as deeply and obviously as Temperance.
The meanings of the card in divination are balancing things out, moderation and patience.
But how exactly do we balance ourselves and/or a specific pair of opposites?
The answer to this question transformed as the idea of what it means to be temperate changed. The pictures on the cards illustrate this change.
In the older tarot decks, the card shows a woman pouring liquid from one pitcher to another. Sometimes the woman is depicted with wings.
In many modern versions, the woman is not a woman at all: it is a hermaphrodite, a person that is both a man and a woman.
In the following posts I want to explore the main points in the visual and philosophic history of Temperance and their connection to the integration of opposites.
We compare ourselves to others all the time.
We look around and see that they are doing better, are more successful, have what we don't.
We compare the level of our spiritual growth to that of others, too.
It looks like they have less or no problems, like they never go through crises, like they're initialized into some mystical secrets that are still unattainable to us ...
Like we're missing out on some spiritual luxury that others enjoy.
What we're not aware of, however, is that others are looking around, too. And some of them most likely envy you for the same reasons you envy them.
You don't really know where others are and what they're going through.
What is important is that they NEED to go through it. And you need to go through your own experiences.
Just as no two people have the same face, so no two people have the same Path.
You've chosen your Path yourself. Your True being has chosen it for you, even if you're not aware of it. And It knew exactly what It was doing.
Your path is the best path of all ...
Bloom where you're planted.
~ * ~ * ~
(Next week, in Spiritual Envy II, read an old Sufi story)
So how do you make Pleroma your permanent state?
Is there a special method?
A get-the-perfect-abs-in-a-week trick?
A magical pill?
What I can offer you instead is what Buddha calls 'bitter balm'. An unpleasant truth no one wants to hear. But this truth, once you realize it fully, cures you.
And the truth is: you have to work your way to Pleroma.
Spiritual evolution is missing an 'r' for a reason.
Methods that take you to Pleroma are a shortcut, but they too will only take you so far.
What they do is give you a glimpse of the transcendental reality.
It's like being magically transported to a mountain peak, from which you can see your life and problems from a bird's-eye view.
But this is not your natural perspective. You HAVE NOT EARNED IT yet.
So what is the good news?
Some progress is made whenever you process.
Even when you get back to your 'normal', unpleasant reality after spending some time in a Pleroma state, you're not exactly back at square one.
What you need to do is continue climbing that mountain, even when it feels like you'll never get to the top.
And enjoy Pleroma states that you do experience...
... And stop comparing yourself to others...
... And stop worrying about Pleroma.
"On being asked by someone how he could become famous, Diogenes responded, by worrying as little as possible about fame."