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Soul man: Chuck Lofy on you and me and the world’s fragile post-crash psyche

When the going gets tough, I go to Chuck Lofy. Four years ago, when the Holy Wars of the day were raging, I interviewed the now 77-year-old ex-Jesuit/consultant/mystic and learned plenty. What’s on his mind now?

When the going gets tough, I go to Chuck Lofy. Four years ago, when the Holy Wars of the day were raging, I interviewed the now 77-year-old ex-Jesuit/consultant/mystic (here  and here), and learned plenty. At the moment, the chaos of the world economy and the rapidly changing cultural landscape led me to check in with Lofy to see what’s on his mind. Turns out it has nothing to do with Suze Orman or pulling up your bootstraps.

MinnPost: There’s so much discussion about the economy and hard times, but I feel like we’re missing something. You’ve spent your life studying spirituality, creativity, and business, and all that is at the fore right now. People are looking to reinvent this world, and seeking deeper meanings. I like to call you an anti-guru, because you’re quick to say you don’t have answers, but what would you say to people about where we’re at?

Chuck Lofy: Riane Eisler wrote the book “The Chalice and the Blade,” which was very widely read 15 or 20 years ago. She and her husband, David Lowe, followed that up with their book, “The Partnership Way,” and Eisler followed that up with “Sacred Pleasure,” a book you will really love, about the repression throughout history of pleasure, especially sexual pleasure.

She’s an incredible scholar who traipses across multi-disciplines, and she talks about the chalice, which is the female principle, and the blade, which is the male principle. She goes all the way back to prehistoric times and finds that originally a paradigm was at work that she has called not the matriarchy, but “the relationship paradigm.” People were conscious of relationships as far back as then.

Also, I just finished the autobiography of Robert Johnson, a Jungian psychoanalyst who talks about going to India and finding relationships as the dominant paradigm as opposed to money and growth.

MP: The idea of relationships above all else is pretty basic; it makes sense, but Americans are obsessed with data that has little to do with humanity.

CL: Eisler writes that there came a time in history – she doesn’t call it “male,” she calls it “the dominator principle,” which is individualism and its [impulse] to dominate, rather than partner. And it feels to me that that dynamic between domination and partnership is one of the key struggles going on at the present time.

MP: How does that translate to the larger picture?

CL: If you look at it economically, people are greedy for money, and there isn’t the consciousness of the “we.” Yet what I think is being born in our time is a greater consciousness, that we’re all in this together, and that Wall Street and Main Street have to be partners, nations have to be partners, and we have to be partners with the earth.

MP: It’s interesting you bring up the “male” part of this, because the thing that I’m getting from men – be it men who have lost their jobs, or been downsized, or can’t find work – there’s a real blow to the self-esteem. Of course, women are feeling the same things, but for a long time men have been hard-wired to be providers, hunters, gatherers, and they’re holing up with their depression, wounded egos, and lack of self-worth. Others are going it alone and saying, “I’m gonna make money any way I can; screw the other guy.”

On the other hand, I think you’re right. From the social-networking sites to increased church attendance and whatnot speaks to this idea of human relation and partnerships being so much more fruitful than – it’s a cliché, but – anything money can buy.

CL: Two images come to my mind. One is Obama’s thing about, “We are not just the blue states and the red states, we’re the United States.” That image really resonated with people, and if we get stuck in the blue and red, we’re really stuck. And when Bush says “you’re either with us or against us,” we’re stuck. And then when I see what Michelle Obama did … , starting a garden on the White House grounds and bringing children in to help…

MP: There’s a cool new film out called Watchmen. It’s based on a graphic novel, a story of superheroes trying to save the planet. Richard Nixon is in his fifth term, nuclear war threatens the world, and two superheroes-slash-alpha males think they and they alone acting alone can do the job.

In the end, it takes all of them to pull it off, and the main superman, Dr. Manhattan, is surprised at the newfound knowledge he gleans when someone else’s idea – which incorporates him but did not come from him – saves the world. They were intent on going it alone, that they knew best, but found out that they needed each other. It’s a great, subtle, parable.

Beautiful. That’s exactly right. Wonderful.

MP: It’s the old Harry S. Truman quote: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

CL: Where I experience some hope is, below all this domination and fighting and rage and all of that is an undercurrent of a connection to the earth and the planet and to the sense that we are all literally globally in this thing together. A new consciousness is being born. It can’t be the kind of us-and-them and individualism and domination that we saw with Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. It’s like yin and yang.

I love what Jung said about enantiodromia, which is that everything eventually turns into its opposite. That if you go too far into the male, into the dominator, there will be at some point a turn, and there will be a return to the feminine, a return to the earth, and to noticing beauty.

MP: I’m all about beauty, and I can sit in the sun and think that that moment is as real and valid as any news ticker or worry. More so, even, because worry is a manifestation of the mind. It’s not real.

CL: Kierkegaard called it “the disease unto death”; that you can literally die from the anxiety.

Another thought I had was about what Jesus said to the man who bought the barn, and then he had so many crops he built another barn, and the Lord said to him, “Thou fool. This night shall the Lord require thy soul of thee.”

What he was saying was the man is totally into how big he can build a barn. It’s what happened with [Bernard] Madoff. He built a barn, and he wanted a bigger barn, and a bigger barn, and a bigger barn. And the Lord said, “You’re a fool,” and he ends up in the hell of a prison cell. It’s the whole line of, “What do we gain if we gain the whole world and lose our soul?”

And I think there’s a lot of loss of soul going on. That’s what I’m doing in New York. I’m trying to work with people in the department of finance, just below the radar, small groups. I’m trying to get them to understand that they can have a soul at work, and that this is not determined by their boss, they don’t have to report in on it, but they can recapture who they are. It’s a matter of not losing our souls. I think we need to challenge people to think about what that line means, “You can gain the whole world and lose your soul.”

What if you lose everything and gain your soul?

MP: That in itself is a great line. And it’s a real process that may be happening. More magazine is pretty good for that; stories of reinvention. I think stories like that are coming out, or will be coming out: “I lost my job but reconnected to my blank”; “I put the brakes on and did blank.”

CL: I love that. “I reconnected with my blank.” It may be my center, it may be my soul, it may be my kids, my wife, my art. This is the work I’m doing in New York. I’m trying to get people to reconnect with what makes them whole. I worked with one woman who reconnected with the dancer in her. I say, “What is it in yourself that you may have been neglecting?”