We all know about our own negative patterns, our bad habits, our reactivity, our negative emotions and anxious negative thoughts (the “ants” crawling around inside our skulls). And we all know something about the patterns of our nearest and dearest. Everybody has bad patterns.
“Bad behaviour” refers to negative or dysfunctional behavioural patterns. When we talk about physical actions, we tend to use the morally loaded words “good” and “bad”, although these also carry a merely qualitative meaning (“bad posture” and “bad dancer” are obviously not moral judgments). At the aesthetic level, we talk instead of patterns that are “beautiful” or “ugly”. A pattern on a rug or on a dress, for example. Or the pattern of notes in a melody. When we talk about patterns of meaning, on the other hand, we talk about “true” and “false”, applied to lines of logical reasoning, theories and stories.
The Good, the True and the Beautiful are, of course, interrelated, although they are naturally associated with the optimal, “right”, patterns of body, mind and feelings respectively. We talk about “good moves”, “good balance” and “good posture”; “beautiful art”, “beautiful words” and “beautiful music”; “true accounts”, “true stories” and “true understanding”.
Mysticism famously dissolves all patterns. This is represented, for example, by the central “purification” channel (the shushumna) in Buddhist Tantra. On achieving satori (spiritual enlightenment) Zen Master Dogen said, “bodymind dropped”. This can be understood as referring to the mental and physical patterns of confusion, anxiety and tension. In that moment, he was free of his patterns. His freedom of mind made him a Mystic and his freedom of body made him a Shaman.
The Mystic and Shaman archetypes therefore point to the dissolution of all mental and physical patterns, the patterns of synaptic grooves in the brain and muscular and nervous tension in the body. This is “bodymind dropped”, or even more dramatically, “the Great Death”. The death-rebirth motif is ubiquitous in all spiritual and religious traditions, because new patterns cannot be established until the old ones are overcome.
The Warrior, Monk/Nun and Philosopher archetypes refer to the practice and mastery of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga, the yogas of action, devotion and knowledge. They are about establishing good, beautiful and true patterns of body, feelings and mind. This is the rebirth, the reconstruction, the reprogramming of the “new man” (or “new woman”) from the ashes of the old. (The King/Queen archetype refers to Raja Yoga, the royal road of the soul, the cosmic pattern of the individual’s relation to the whole, Atman to Paramatman).
With or without the aid of psychedelics, this is what the spiritual journey and the spiritual life is all about: giving up our habitual, negative patterns of movement, emotion and thought and training ourselves in new, better, truer and more beautiful patterns of body, mind and feeling. In Shamanic Christian Zen, we do this primarily through dance and martial arts (body), music and art (feelings) and study and discussion (mind). True therapy, true medicine, is not merely psychological, or merely spiritual, but holistic and integral. Patterns exist in all dimensions simultaneously.