Jung, Bohm and the Axis Mundi
"Everything is enfolded into everything." Bohm
Carl Jung and David Bohm were great thinkers of the 20th century, and pioneers in intuiting our deeper connection to the transcendental. Jung was a student of Freud and focused on consciousness and its access to the whole through the collective unconscious. As a physicist, Bohm collaborated with Einstein and sought to merge quantum mechanics and relativity. But both were considered mystics in their respective disciplines.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." Jung
Their age difference of 42 years might have prevented a meeting between Jung and Bohm, but I can imagine the animated discussion that would have ensued, and their sense of being kindred spirits. After all, they both struggled to be taken seriously, even while their ideas were ground-breaking.
They both divined the sense of order we associate with the axis mundi – or that place where we gain an infinite view of where heaven and earth intersect. Jung expanded our understanding of the world within, while Bohm expanded our outer world view. Jung might call the meeting synchronicity, where the inner and outer meet in rapport. The meeting would have certainly been and axis mundi of sorts. Perhaps Bohm would say they were just describing two versions of the same phenonmenon.
Bohm didn't see the world as a place of differentiated things: “The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts.”
Both gave us an understanding of a type of awareness that can transcend our sense of being disconnected from the whole. This connectedness is a place we have come to view as the world navel or axis mundi. It is a place where order exists – while everything that exists outside of it remains in chaos or darkness.
“All effort to bring order into disorder is disorder.” Bohm
As organisms, we are organizing creatures. We are driven to make sense out of chaos, rather than opening ourselves to the ordered whole.
Access to the Axis Mundi
We gain access to this 'divine order' in many ways. In ancient times, the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi granted this type of access. The Greeks thought of Delphi as the world navel or axis mundi. According to myth, Zeus sent out two eagles, one flew to the right and the other flew to the left, and they met at Delphi. Zeus called it the omphalos or navel.
Heed these words, you who wish to probe the depths of nature. If you do not find within yourself that which
you seek, neither will you find it outside of yourself. In you is hidden the treasure of treasures.
Know thyself, and you will know the universe, and the gods.
The world navel or axis mundi is also a world tree in many mythologies. It is the place where the divine and mundane worlds intersect. This is where Odin found enlightenment and is also represented as the Tree of Life in the book of Genesis.
It always seems that some sort of sacrifice of something valuable is required for the enlightenment. Odin traded an eye – Adam and Eve traded eternal life.
Tai Chi, awakening the chakras in Yoga and the Sefirot in Kabbalism, all use the body as a representation of a world tree or axis mundi. Astrology too, places the coordinates of human birth in the center of a wheel that reaches up toward the celestial spheres to organize a story of the lifepath. This is also why mandalas are drawn around the world.
Order and Chaos
The axis mundi or world axis has become a universal psychological center. No matter where it exists, whether in a shrine, the body, based on birth data, or at the top of a mountain, each focus us toward a center, or the point of access to divine guidance. This is where chaos can be organized into answers, offered from a more omniscient perspective.
The pilgrimage to this center is often as important as arriving there. Proving our dedication and a willingness to open becomes the boon of the journey – and we receive the enlightenment.
The I Ching and Tarot create similar axis points in their layouts and structure. In the I Ching, from the chaos of throwing many line variations, hexagram images emerge as answers. In Tarot, 78 different archetypal energies will appear in specific placements relating to areas of life that can provide answers. This is the purpose of oracles – they allow us to view possibilities beyond our subjective awareness.
Beyond the ceaseless flow of routine and our repetitive ways of viewing life, we have the sense that life has a greater purpose than simply putting food on the table. Some other part of us is driven to see life beyond the Self.
In the first millennium BC, visitors traveled to the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi to get answers from the priestess Pythia. An ablution, washing away of the mundane, or spiritual purification seems to be a necessary prerequisite too.
This is the symbolic release of one’s routine way of viewing experience – a type of nakedness of spirit that is required to participate with the divine.
Prior to entering the Temple, one would see a sign inscribed with the words: ‘Know Thyself.’ Today, psychology, meditation and self-help are founded on the same aphorism – as if daily life is not enough to reveal who we really are.
But we continue to access an oracle of sorts, each night while we sleep. My work as a dream analyst reveals how we all access profound guidance when we dream.
Dreams as the Axis Mundi
As we sleep, we drift away into a world that is boundless. The body is paralyzed, and portions of the psyche associated with self-consciousness and logic abate. In this way, the ablution is performed for us. REM or Rapid Eye Movement during dreaming, proves everyone dreams nightly. We may not remember our dreams, but they are changing us in profound ways.
For many decades, I have interpreted dreams for people all over the world, and from many different cultures. I have observed how dreams share common themes and draw upon similar archetypes, no matter where we live. Jung called this the collective unconscious – but Bohm would have told him there are no boundaries – everything is collective.
We embark on a strange adventure, and similar to the hero of our mythical stories, the landscape is often bizarre. Different ideas can merge together in a strange type of hybridization of normal experience.
Like the hero of our mythical stories, we are offered cryptic clues, and solving these riddles can awaken us to our destiny. In this fantastic landscape of dreams, all that we see becomes a mirror that can point the way toward positive change in our lives.
Since this guidance transcends what we know to be true about ourselves, we have accessed the axis mundi.
Carl Jung and Oracles
Carl Jung was fascinated with both dreams and oracles. He saw how oracles could facilitate synchronicity and described it as how we encounter meaningful coincidences: “a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality.”
Jung differentiated causality as a statistical truth and not an absolute, a “working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another.” Similar to the Taoist perspective of Yin and Yang, Bohm would say: "In nature nothing remains constant. Everything is in a perpetual state of transformation, motion, and change." Each state holds the seed of the opposite condition.
While Jung may have grappled with the why of synchronicity, Bohm would have reminded him: "Everything comes from other things and gives rise to other things" so there would have been a discussion about how, exactly, one can determine the cause. High and low pressure systems come together as wind, but is it driven by the warming of the sun, or the molecules within the pressure systems? Are we seeing waves and particles or two versions of one thing?
Because Jung had not opened to a world without boundaries, he interpreted the flow or connection as being something remarkable.
We are accustomed to viewing time as linear, unaware of the eternal moment at the axis mundi. Or, as Bohm would say: “Ultimately, all moments are really one, therefore now is an eternity.”
An awareness of the axis mundi connects us to this eternal now.
Causality and Synchronicity
Causality is just our ceaseless and routine way of organizing reality into specific parts. Nothing catches our attention – because nothing seems out of place. Reality is trapped as the version in our mind. Or, as Jung would say: "Thinking is difficult, that's why most people judge."
But synchronicity “takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance.” What makes synchronicity meaningful is that the information is deeply personal to the one who experiences it. What makes causality an illusion is our sense of being separate from the whole.
Our dreams can be digging away at an area of the psyche and this digging can erupt into an event that captures our attention by day. The same transformative theme we explored in a dream begins to take form in our everyday awareness. We may not remember the dream, but have a vague sense of familiarity or deja vu.
Jung used astrology, the I Ching and other oracles to gain a greater understanding of the synchronous way events ‘in here’ can connect to events ‘out there.’ Last month I wrote about the field – and how ‘in here’ and ‘out there’ or ‘me vs that’ are our inability to see how we participate in a boundless field.
Osmosis allows the atmosphere to steal heat from our bodies, while carbon from the early universe is recycling daily in our cellular regeneration. If lightning were to appear – the energy will go through us too! We are not merely observers showing up as witnesses to nature. We are part of its boundless energy flow.
Both Jung and Bohm described a type of tension that can lead to a breakthrough. Jung saw the tension or dilemma in the psyche as the creative energy born of opposites. From the transcendental merging or third idea arising as the opposite energy of two, a breakthrough occurs. The idea of either/or and making choices can cause enormous tension in the psyche.
Bohm saw the creative tension in the separation of quantum theory and relativity – and the scientists’ quest for the Holy Grail that might unify them. Bohm felt we were looking for the wrong thing with the wrong perspective.
He watched the quantum theorists rush to jugments and wanted relativity and quantum theory to be further explored through creative tension – perhaps that third idea or merging might emerge. Where Jung saw this tension occurring in the psyche, Bohm saw it occurring in our understanding of the world.
Bohm believed a much deeper theory that transcended conventional notions of space-time would allow relativity and quantum mechanics to be unified.
Bohm and the Axis Mundi
Bohm described how we usually think “of the totality as constituted of independent fragments” and cannot see the whole. We know life is showing itself as both waves and particles – but by viewing them as separate phenomenon, we are missing how they are two variations of one field.
Physicists keep stumbling on an observer-based reality and believe consciousness is intertwined with what is measured. The problem is that we cannot see the interconnectivity of the larger field. Of course, consciousness would have a role. The body is sharing energy with the environment and so is the mind. And Jung’s collective unconscious loses its mystique when viewed in the context of an unbounded field.
Biologists, psychologists, neurologists, archeologists, physicist and astronomers – each is coming at the problem with different tools and perspectives.
Bohm wrote about how we can observe “everything coherently and harmoniously in an overall whole that is undivided, unbroken, and without a border.” Only then, can our mind access the order of the axis mundi: “From this will flow an orderly action within the whole."
Boundless and Flowing
I teach students to transcend the boundaries between ‘in here’ and ‘out there’ to become more aware of synchronicity. The 24 hour mind means we have one mind learning and evolving whether we are awake or dreaming. At every level we are sharing energy with the field.
A boundless view of life means that there is no separation between what happens 'in here' or 'out there.' Like the tree's roots hidden below the earth, the mind is at the root of all experience.
The events we encounter by day or while we sleep are both creative and transforming. They are born from the same mind and its way of organizing the world of experience.
The World as a Tree
We look down from space and can imagine the different manifestations of the field taking the form of the visible and invisible: wind, gravity, cloud formation, rain, ocean currents and atmospheric flow. The energy of this field can sometimes look green, sometimes brown, and sometimes blue but all share a common root of molecular bonds.
From the carbon cycle to atmospheric changes – it is the manifestation of one field of energy. The field allows the sun to reach 92 million miles across space to turn cold air into wind. It instigates a chain of abundance across the earth.
In each science, we measure phenomena or the effect and movement of this giant field, but cannot see the whole and therefore, fail to understand it.
We see the tree as what is visible, but never ackowledge the importance of the unseen roots. By compartmentalizing life as phenomena, we cannot accurately see it.
Jung and the I Ching
Jung was particularly fascinated with the I Ching: “While the Western mind carefully sifts, weighs, selects, classifies, isolates, the Chinese picture of the moment encompasses everything down to the minutest nonsensical detail.”
Taoism is a philosophy that studied nature to understand the human journey. In his Introduction to Wilhelm's I Ching, he wrote: “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.”
Jung also said “the ancient Chinese mind contemplates the cosmos in a way comparable to that of the modern physicist.” Physicists say we are part of an observer-based reality and Jung called it psychophysical, where every “event includes the observer.”
While we keep behaving as observers of phenomena, and not participants within the whole, we cannot see the order apparent in the axis mundi.
Café au Soul Oracles
My first website offered a free online dream dictionary, but after many decades of interpreting dreams, it became apparent that most people had difficulty remembering their dreams. Freud taught us that we dream about what we are repressing. Why would waking consciousness want to remember dream content?
This led me to create the many oracles on my site so people could access and explore the same break-through ideas that come from dreams and synchronicity. Oracles allow a more transcendetal view of life.
Oracles work because synchronicity is just the tip of the ice-burg. It is how the inner world pokes its head out to view life as its mirror – just like dreaming. Whatever is repressed in the psyche wants to be known. It will come out with a little digging and oracles facilitate this process.
I love it when people write to me to share how profoundly the I Ching oracle on my site speaks to them. It presents wisdom more like a koan – throwing the question back upon the questioner…allowing room for self-discovery by spending time with the deeper aspects of the question.
I have written many books and apps about dream interpretation. This is like providing the owner’s manual to a vehicle most people aren’t even aware they are driving.
That is the beauty of the oracles. Whether you explore your birth chart, look in the dream dictionary, consult a Tarot spread, or seek the guidance of the I Ching, the answer can be like meeting the Pythia at Delphi.
And I ask that you approach them with the same ablution and respect.
Just like dreams, the answers are always meaningful, deeply personal and a reflection of your inner world.