Thought for the day….
Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you - Carl Jung
This wonderfully playful statement, by the truly pioneering psychoanalyst and (prolific) writer, Carl Jung, illustrates something profound at the heart of the Jungian approach; An attitude of oft-deliberate ignorance to what is ‘known’ and a giving up of the need to ‘understand’ everything. Moreover, Jung is here poking fun at those amongst us (and those personalities within us) for whom sanity might be equated with either secure knowledge or some societal measure of appropriate behaviour. Jung here points us towards the wisdom of those with lives outside of convention; The Holy fools.
‘Iurodstvo’ is the Russian term for ‘holy foolishness’, an ancient form of asceticism that has been practiced within Russian orthodoxy for centuries. Indeed 36 holy fools have been canonized in its history. It’s adherents often feign madness in order to provide the public with counter-cultural spiritual guidance. The ‘madness’ serves to avoid acclaim or praise for perceived holiness and so its adherents often lead somewhat tragic lives well outside convention, as pariahs or considered insane. Over time however, those in contact with these holy fools are seen to recognise the invitation and challenge to enter into a new relationship with that which lies outside of their everyday awareness. This is a radical form of wisdom and humility.
One might well read the Christian stories of Jesus as one of a foolish humorist, and stories about the Buddha present a reasonable amount of unconventional wit. Sufi stories are often extended simple jokes and Jewish wisdom or commentaries often contain incredibly amusing or bizarre outcomes. The Holy fool is an archetype, a profound psychological imprint in us all.
The Holy fool is an archetype, a profound psychological imprint in us all.
Holy ignorance is not nothingness nor unconsciousness. To be rooted in uncertainty is to rely upon a more tentative and spacious language of associations, hypotheses and intuitions. Deliberate foolish unknowing is the rich soil from which images, stories and meaningful collective rituals are nourished and grow. We have come (increasingly in this century) to equate the sensation of ‘knowing’ with a personal and collective security in this mysterious life. Modern cognitive psychological approaches reinforce the fantasy. But, if we look carefully at the fruit of our modern knowledge, for all its brilliance, we find that it comes up short in offering security or certainty in our human lives; We are anxiously reminded of that right now in the midst of a global pandemic. A cultivated emptiness of ideas and deliberate foolish not-knowing addresses the gap; It frees our imaginations from the constraints of knowledge and invites us in reverie into the unknown within and without ourselves.
What opportunity is there for you to be more foolish right now? Look to the children or to Nature around you...how might they help you to re-member your holy ignorance?
The thought for the day is a short reflective writing relevant to the art of suffering well (enough) in difficult times, for parents and staff of Alice Smith. If it offers comfort amidst adversity, read the text and call it to mind when needed (even if just a short phrase from the larger text), allowing it to soak into the marrow of your bones and merge with your breath. Remember, we are all in this together…
Take good care, Dan
Author: Dan Lawrence, Primary Counsellor, The Alice Smith School