Archive for the ‘Carl Jung’ Category

“Find the Right Tree”   Leave a comment

says a line in my current OBOD Ovate gwers (Welsh for “lesson”). No, I’m hardly giving anything away. Or at least no more than I often do here on this blog. (Thus I fulfill the wise counsel of Lew Welch’s 1969 poem “Theology” to “Guard the Mysteries! Constantly reveal them!”)

Though the instruction may sound peremptory or authoritarian, the judgment about any “rightness” is — no surprise — left to the student. Thus are we led and set free in equal measure by spiritual teachings that prove their worth in such encounters.

In practice it’s not so much different from deciding which flavour of ice cream you’d like as you stand in front of the menu board. The quality of your decision will be reflected in your choice, and in your subsequent experience. You are not separate from your situation, but an integral part of it.

Or to enlarge the kind of choice a little, not too much: who will you commit to and spend your life with, if you choose to do such a thing? How do you recognize the — or just a — “right” one? What can your recognition teach you? What qualities of rightness met your judgment, sense, desire, will, reason, imagination, etc.? As interesting, perhaps, do these same qualities arise today when you recognize rightness?

Curiously enough, any rightness isn’t for hoarding. It’s rarely some kind of endpoint where I arrive, having won the prize, and where I can now rest, fulfilled, accomplished, self-realized, gone to the other shore, salvation assured, gold crown in hand, halo proudly pressing on my brow. Much more often, it’s for giving away, for planting, for setting in the earth to manifest, so that more rightness can arrive. It’s the rightness that arrives, not me. I take this as a good thing. When any rightness arrives, I can serve it, rather than the other way around.

Sometimes the bright tree is also the right one. Or vice versa. Maple this a.m.

Here I’m with a maple I transplanted two years ago from where it had sprouted right next to the foundation of our house. This is the first autumn its leaves haven’t simply fallen, but turned bright red first, in best sugar maple fashion.

Sometimes the “right” tree is one you’ve already connected with. Sometimes it’s one you’ve yet to learn from. By branch and leaf, elder brothers and sisters, steer me towards the tree of today.

Of what value is such a spontaneous desire or prayer?

I want to weave in another thread here, this time from Jung, whose introduction to the Wilhelm version of the I Ching offers some deep insight into how attention and divination (and magic, for that matter) can work. Rather than build my own argument — Jung does it much better — or spend time cutting and pasting text from an online version you can as easily find here (, I encourage the curious or thoughtful reader to investigate.

The only indulgence I will grant myself are these closing lines from Jung, which seem to me to accord with the spirit behind the gwers instruction to “find the right tree”:

The I Ching does not offer itself with proofs and results; it does not vaunt itself, nor is it easy to approach. Like a part of nature, it waits until it is discovered. It offers neither facts nor power, but for lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom — if there be such — it seems to be the right book. To one person its spirit appears as clear as day; to another, shadowy as twilight; to a third, dark as night. He who is not pleased by it does not have to use it, and he who is against it is not obliged to find it true.

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When’s a Sign a Sign?

Yes, there are signs and signs. And whole bunches of debate, at intervals, over what “really” constitutes one.

Here’s my in-progress rule of thumb: if it helps me see more deeply, love more richly, create more vibrantly, wonder more amazedly, then it deserves the name “sign.” Coincidence doesn’t enter into it — in fact, it’s irrelevant. (Most days, though, I won’t go as far as Carl Jung and say “Superstition and accident manifest the will of God.”)

What matters with a sign for me, then, is not its origin but its effect. If I don’t invite such causal ripples, funny thing, they tend not to manifest for me. Tune myself away from the universe and it doesn’t vibrate for me like it did. I cut myself off from that original song that’s always singing just beyond my hearing. That’s a form of spiritual death.

If a potential sign doesn’t manage to do any of these positive things, however woo-woo* it appears, I’ve got better things to do than wade in superstition. By which I mean a vague sense of woo, yes, but without anything concrete and transformative that rises out of my encounter or experience. Those are just dime-a-dozen woos.

And if it’s your sign? Go with it! What does it say to you?

But I tend to discount signs others witness and want to “give” to me. To each our own. There’s a reason you and not I witnessed what you witnessed. And vice versa. That neither validates nor invalidates the sign. It simply personalizes it. If, following Leonard Cohen, the “cracks in the world let the light in,” the person or persona lets the sound of awen through. Latin persona: the theatrical mask (and later, a character or role) that lets a voice come out that did not speak before.

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you …

sings Leonard Cohen in “If It Be Your Will.”

But he continues:

If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell …

As long, then, as the rivers fill and the hills rejoice, I take it that there is a choice — and it’s our choice.

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On to my “sign of the day” — two giant red oak leaves I spotted during my climb up Wantastiquet Mountain, detailed in the previous post.


The larger of the two leaves comes in around 10 in./25 cm. Are they “signs”?!

I find meaning in them. They make me marvel. They come at a needed time. More about that in a minute. They resonate in my thoughts. They also objectively stand out in some way — in this case, a measurable physical dimension. Together, those qualities are enough for me for them to earn the name “sign.”

As a primary tree of Druids, the oak already comes laden with symbolic meanings. (Some plausible etymologies, after all, define druid as “oak or tree knower.”) And now, for me, more: to stand up in a way that expresses my best. To be more visible in my walk (especially since I found the leaves on a mountain walk, and after asking for sign). Not to shy away from living the values that matter to me. To leave a legacy that inspires, even as I have been inspired. Simply, to give my best.

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*woo-woo: a deeply scientific term, used here, of course, with ultimate precision. Urban Dictionary obligingly defines it as “any belief not founded on good evidence.”

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