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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Deep Consciousness

Finding the goddess within

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Formany of us, the world feels increasingly off balance. Life seems out of joint. Many of the apparent causes are in the human environment, whether it’s mindless movies, marketing campaigns to stimulate desire for useless things, political doublespeak or the endless supply of spam.

Ashok Bedi argues that much of our imbalance, and the psychic pollution around us, begins inside ourselves. Bedi, a professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, isn’t a run-of-the-mill Prozac pusher or even a Freudian poking his nose into childhood Oedipal trauma. As a Jungian, Bedi has a much broader canvas on which to paint his theories.

In his latest book, Awaken the Slumbering Goddess, Bedi stresses the need for psychological balance, the harmonizing of male and female principles, the integration of universal archetypes into our consciousness. Key to his thinking is the idea that for many of us, our ego is disconnected from our soul. “I’m not thinking of soul theologically but as an empirical definition,” Bedi says. “If you look at human psychology, our day-to-day life is arranged by our ego. It is our default mode of operation. Each of us also has a deeper center of consciousness—what the Buddhists call the ‘diamond body’ and the Christians call the ‘soul.’”

Working from Carl Jung’s theory of the universal unconscious, the half-submerged dwelling place of mythological gods and goddesses, demons and heroes, Bedi sees the soul as the portal not only to our own deepest experiences as individuals, but to the cumulative wisdom of humanity and its ancestors. Although Jung developed his ideas before DNA was understood, Bedi believes that the contemporary science of the human genome helps explain the transmission of the primal archetypes that reveal themselves in dreams, fantasies and synchronicities.

When a person is out of sorts with the archetypes, “not honoring the gods and goddesses” that represent those principles, the archetypes manifest themselves in physical or psychological maladies. Bedi draws the distinction between ego and soul with this analogy: “To access the soul is like Googling your psyche. The ego is capable of looking up references in one or two books on the shelf.

The soul is capable of Googling the whole universe. Understanding the soul helps fill in what is missing in our limited ego consciousness.” Awaken the Slumbering Goddess draws on the enormous pantheon of Hinduism for the archetypal images Bedi has identified in his psychiatric practice. It’s the system of references he grew up with, but, he stresses, it’s not the only way into the unconscious.

“All mythologies are rich in raw material for understanding ourselves. We ignore them at our peril,” he says. “Archaic wisdom provides a rich heritage for human civilization. It’s not just cultural enrichment. It has an impact on our health and wholeness.”

Ashok Bedi will read from Awaken the Slumbering Goddess and sign copies, 6:30-8 p.m., March 13, at the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital’s Norris Auditorium, 1220 Dewey Ave., Wauwatosa.
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