Dr. Allan Hunter, a professor of English literature with a doctorate in literature from Oxford University, has a special interest in the way that literature has acted over the past 3,500 years here in the West, so that it functions as a way to guide people to live their lives at the highest possible level.
“Unfortunately this awareness has been lost in the recent past, and is now being rediscovered,” he says.
Author of the new book, The Path of Synchronicity (Findhorn Press), Dr. Hunter shares with us insight on fate, coincidence and the Shadow self.
What does it mean to say this awareness has been “lost”?
Dr. Allan Hunter: In the past 250 years our world has changed enormously here in the West. This has to do with two major influences that tended to destroy our earlier ways of seeing things. The first blow fell when we began, as a culture, to endorse a more “rational” and scientific way of thinking – and in the process we threw away a number of deep understandings about the emotions and how the spirit grows.
The second blow fell when industrialization hit, and caused whole societies to be dislocated as they moved towards where the work was, and where money could be made. If we want an example of this I can point to nothing more dramatic than what happened here in the United States. Waves of immigration, headed by those who wanted a better material life, and who were armed with the products of industrial output, destroyed in less than 100 years much of Native American Indian culture. In that process we lost understandings of the land, the soil, and how to live in harmony with nature.
It wasn’t that the invaders were particularly possessed with their own ideas. They didn’t just arrive in the continental U.S. and turn into vile and greedy people. It was, rather, that they had already been victims of this rapacious greed in their own countries, and so had no problem duplicating their “normality” here. Today we know very little about a large number of aspects of Native American beliefs and ideas. In less than 100 years we did to them what had already been done to us. We stripped them of vital human knowledge.
So what, exactly, do you think was lost in terms of knowledge?
AH: Two specific areas of knowledge were lost that we know about. The first is that in the West literature and legend had always been used a guide, a sort of culturally agreed upon way of telling people how they could choose to live and how they could get in touch with the best possible versions of who they were.
I deal with this in detail in my two books, Stories We Need To Know, and The Six Archetypes of Love. These two books trace a pattern that exists in all great literature for over 3,000 years here in the West. It shows six “stages” of psychic growth, and how we can move through them. These stages exist in all the great literature of the West, always the same six, always in the same order. The stories alert us to what these stages mean for us.
The second loss of knowledge has to do with how we face fate and destiny. This is the subject of my latest book The Path of Synchronicity. We seem to see fate, today, as something we have to struggle against. We feel we have to go out and grab life by the throat and make it give us what we want. This is a strange theory, since we have plenty of instruction supplied by literature that suggests we are not here to fulfill our own egos, but to serve the universe. We are not here to ‘pursue happiness” but to allow happiness to come to us, for example.
So you’re suggesting doing nothing, just sitting back?
AH: Quite the contrary! I’m suggesting there is plenty we have to do, but we have to listen to who we are and what’s best for the planet, not what’s best for us. That requires a different mindset. And it’s dangerous. People understand greed and living from the ego. It’s all around us. But we get confused when we start asking questions about long-term sustainable and responsible actions that might cause us some discomfort right here, today. Obviously this is a situation we need to address.
But synchronicity can’t be proven, can it?
AH: That’s what many people say. It’s just dumb luck, they say, or coincidence. And if we feel this way then, of course, that’s all it’ll ever be. We’ll blind ourselves to the possibility that it exists at all. Yet, if we stay open, if we say, “Well, it may exist,” then we give ourselves permission to explore the topic. And when we do that we’ll see that synchronicities, many of them very small, are all around us. And if that’s the case, then the next question is – what are you going to do about it?
Can you give me an example of what you mean?
AH: Surely. I’ll use a personal example. As a writer I used to think I was “supposed” to be a novelist. My ego wanted me to be one, so I labored long and hard to no result at all. I must have invested 10 years in that dream. At the time my non-fiction was being published, almost without effort on my behalf. So eventually I had to ask, what is the universe trying to communicate to me that I’m not getting? I gave up fiction, and I’ve been much happier, and more successful ever since.
The trick is letting go of ego. I’m not here to please me, but to do a job the universe wants done. I have therefore to listen to what it wants. That’s when synchronicity begins to guide us. I like to tell people that the same thing happened to John Steinbeck, who won the Nobel prize. He started off thinking he should write historical novels, and he got nowhere. Then one day he started writing about the poor people right on his doorstep. And everything changed. His novels helped the poor in ways he could never have imagined if he’d remained a writer of historical set-piece books.
How do we get into the place where we can be a part of synchronicity?
AH: The books and legends and stories are very clear on this. You have to be open to the fact that Synchronicity exists. Then you have to listen for it, and accept that it may not take you where you had planned! What your destiny in life might be could come into conflict with the tidy life you’ve got planned. Which leads us to the most important thing – we have to let go of ego. It’s not about what we can get but what we have to give. That’s what they didn’t tell us in “The Secret.”
So you don’t agree with ‘The Secret’?
AH: “The Secret” is very useful, but it does lead us into some dubious areas. It suggests that all we have to do is visualize what we want and have faith and it will happen, like magic. I am sure this happens, but it doesn’t happen if you want a new car just for your own vanity or self-flattery. It doesn’t happen if it’s all about you feeling good about yourself. Synchronicity happens when the thing you desire is for the good of all, and even then it may not happen the way you think it will happen. After all, the universe, God, or whatever you want to call it, knows a lot more than we do, so we have to have faith that there is a plan, and try to be part of it. And we have to get out of our own way. My book gives specific examples of how we can do this.
What are the specific examples?
AH: One of the great works of literature is Dante’s Divine Comedy – which most people have heard of but no one reads today. In it Dante descends into hell and sees all the suffering sinners in their various circles of hell. The message is clear – if we want to pay attention to it. Dante is given the opportunity to see all the ways that these sinners are wrapped up in the ego pursuits that condemned them, and the clear hint is that he has to learn from them and have compassion for them – because he could very easily have been just like them! That’s humbling!
That’s a real lesson that says, it’s not about us. It’s about what we’re here to do. In fact, Dante’s poem reminds us that if we are to let go of ego, we also have to let go of those dark aspects of ourselves that get in the way so often. We have to meet our Shadow self, and embrace it, tame it, and use that energy for our lives.
Please explain the Shadow self?
AH: The Shadow self is where we keep all those mean aspects of ourselves, those vindictive cruelties we all have that we pretend we don’t have. It’s where we put our anger, or sense of entitlement, the negative aspects of the ego. We have to meet that part of who we are, and turn the pain into something positive. As I say to my counseling clients, face the pain, for in it will be your greatest strength.
What does it mean to face the pain, as you say?
AH: It can be very basic. For instance, I have several people I work with in counseling who are in the realm of education, and in many cases they have said to me: “I want to be in education because I’m determined my lousy schooling should be a thing of the past!” Instead of being angry and feeling destructive, they’ve turned their anger into something potentially very constructive.
But we can’t do that without facing the past, and coming to terms with it. That’s when the negative energy is transformed. That’s when we get into the flow of Synchronicity and miracles happen. And they do.
For more information on Dr. Allan Hunter and his book, The Path of Synchronicity, visit allanhunter.net.