December 19th, 2008

A Pre-Solstice Gift of Nothingness


Buddhism anticipated the reluctant conclusions of modern psychology: guilt and anxiety are not adventitious but intrinsic to the ego. According to my interpretation of Buddhism, our dissatisfaction with life derives from a depression even more immediate than death-terror: the suspicion that “I” am not real.

The sense-of-self is not self-existing but a mental construction which experiences its own groundlessnes as a lack. This sense-of-lack is consistent with what psychotherapy has discovered about ontological guilt and basic anxiety. We usually cope with this lack by objectifying it in various ways and try to resolve it through projects which cannot succeed because they do not address the fundamental issue.

So our most problematic dualism is not life fearing death but a fragile sense-of-self dreading its own groundlessness. By accepting and yielding to that groundlessness, I can discover that I have always been grounded, not as a self-contained being but as one manifestation of a web of relationships which encompass everything. This solves the problem of desire by transforming it. As long as we are driven by lack, every desire becomes a sticky attachment that tries to fill up a bottomless pit. Without lack, the serenity of our no-thing-ness, i.e., the absence of any fixed nature, grants the freedom to become anything.

— David Loy Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 92 Vol. 24

Opening photograph:Untitled by Brassaï. 1932

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Filed Under: Buddhism and Depth Psychology and Ego