Eduard C. Heyning


Zen Buddhism, Christianity, & outside tradition

I practise Zen Buddhist meditation with the Canterbury Zen Group led by Marcus Averbeck (Hozan Sensei), part of the Wild Goose Zen Sangha in the UK, which belongs to the world-wide White Plum Asanga Zen lineage, and is affiliated with the international zen practice community 'Being Without Self' of Jeff Shore. I have been accepted in the Anglican Church and regularly attend services at St. Stephen's Church Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral. But I feel free to pick from traditions and teachings as they fit me. Among my spiritual favourites are Eckhart Tolle, Carl Gustav Jung (see below), and Russel Williams. Ultimately I feel spirituality is something inside one's self, 'that which is to come', and has no name, no form, no limit.

I am a member of the Dutch Jung Society, the Interdisciplinaire Vereniging voor Analytische Psychologie. In 2015 I presented the talk below for their members, which was later accepted as an article in Psychological Perspectives. Here's a snippet: 'Jung concludes his chapter on the Afterlife in his memoir with two dreams, where “the unconscious represents the generator of the empirical personality”. Our world is experienced as “a kind of illusion, like a dream which seems a reality as long as we are in it, (…) the Oriental conception of Maya.” The first example of the reversed generation of reality is Jung’s dream of an UFO, which had a form like a magic lantern. Half asleep the thought came to him that the UFO projected him, not the other way around. In the other dream Jung enters a wayside chapel, where he finds a yogi meditating. The yogi has Jung’s face. He awakes with the thought: “Aha, so he is the one who is meditating me. He has a dream, and I am it. When he awakens, I will no longer be.” Now I feel we have come to the other shore. We are no longer asking if ghosts are real and if there is life beyond death, we are asking is we are real and if this world is not just an illusion. The chapter on the Afterlife closes with “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.” These cryptic words serve as a bridge to the next chapter, ‘Late Thoughts’, where Jung reflects on the opposites within the God image, good and evil. The chapter ends by admitting that besides the realm of reflection there is another realm, that of Eros, hardly spoken of, “the creator of all higher consciousness, a daimon who rules from the endless spaces of the heavens to the dark abysses of hell.” I feel I should mention that Jung also does not say very much in his autobiography on the Christian concept of the afterlife, although he was a Christian; nor does he say much on the esoteric tradition of the ‘astral body’, although he studied astrology. Having said what wasn’t there, I would now like to recall the steps we’ve taken on ‘Jung and the Beyond’. We started out with the Jung the psychiatrist who was very much aware of the power of the unconscious on people and their surroundings; he was open to but suspicious of occult phenomena, describing them as ‘exteriorisations’. As he plunged into his inner world after breaking with Freud, he discovered the reality of the psyche: spirits like Philemon that had a life of their own. He encountered a crowd of spirits of the dead, shouting: We have come back from Jerusalem, where we did not find what we sought. Jung his inner experiences were the base material for his academic output, taking the mandala as a symbol of the centre and individuation as a path to the self, the goal of psychic development. Then the Sacred Tree of Liverpool came up as a symbol of the self depicted as a process of growth. Jung’s break from isolation came with the recognition of the similarity of these symbols and those of Chinese and Western alchemy. In 1944 he experienced liberating visions on the edge of death. Afterwards he felt we live in a three-dimensional boxlike universe especially set up for us to do our task, to answer the questions life poses us. Near the end of life he dreams life is in fact a dream. After his wife died in 1955, Carl Jung spent much time in the garden of their home at Bollingen, on the shores of Lake Zürich. He would often read and rest in the shade of a magnificent old poplar tree during the summer months. It became one of his favourite places during his later years. Jung died on the afternoon of June 6th, 1961. A few days before Jung had seen the Philosophers’ stone in a dream. That was the fulfilment of his life’s quest for understanding man and his symbols. While taking his final breaths, a great storm erupted around lake Zurich. A bolt of lightning cleaved the sky, striking and splitting into two the poplar tree under which he had spent much time. To me that signifies that Jung had completed his metaphysical task: to bring over a maximum awareness at the time of his death. And so, if you ask me, I think he is still here, and – to cite Haraldsson - he “might be ‘just around the corner’ and a part of us.”

Light of Eleusis

Light of Eleusis

Excerpt from an essay for the MA on Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred of Canterbury Christ Church University on the Mysteries of Eleusis.


The goddess Demeter had two gifts for mankind: the golden grain as the basis of civilized life and the Mysteria that held the promise of ‘better hopes’ for a happy afterlife. One is tempted to think this involves food for the body and food for the soul. We know nothing for certain about the afterlife, just as we know nothing for certain about the secret of the Mysteria.

I believe that some of the mystai saw the light of eternity. Plato writes: “There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw beauty shining in brightness – we philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we beheld the beatific vision and were initiated into a mystery which may be truly called most blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we beheld shining in pure light”.  The whole nine-day initiation gives me the impression of having been directed towards experiencing life as a divine gift, from procreation to eternity. Whatever the hierophant was able to make appear in the Telesterion must have been very profound. The Eleusinian hope for life beyond the death of the body can only be explained if the vision somehow referred to the source of all creation, matter and soul, male nor feminine. That would be very much in accord with Plato, whose beatific vision is the vision of the Good. I think the Mysteria of Eleusis provided the soil out of which Platonic philosophy grew and therefore its mystery lives on in Western thought and arts.

I Ching: chance and change

I Ching: chance and change

Excerpt from an essay for the MA on Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred of Canterbury Christ Church University.


The Book of Changes, usually called the I Ching , is a Chinese oracle book. It contains a system of 64 hexagrams, six-line figures consisting of whole and broken lines. There are 26 = 64 possible combinations, and thus 64 hexagrams. All hexagrams have a number and name and indicate a situation the subject is in according to the oracle. Each hexagram is presented with a description of this situation and an advice on how to act to achieve positive result or avoid negative effects.


It is generally taken to be the Chinese view that there is no such thing as chance involved with the I Ching divination and that the result of the procedure is meaningful, even if not apparent. The I Ching text has a peculiar attitude towards free will. Hellmut Wilhelm writes in his book Change. Eight Lectures on the I Ching : “From this comprehensiveness of Tao, embracing both macrocosm and microcosm, the Book of Changes derives the idea that man is at the centre of events; the individual who is conscious of responsibility is on a par with the cosmic forces of heaven and earth. The individual must adjust to the fated order of heaven and earth, and only then does the framework of reference emerge within which action is possible and is demanded” . So there is only real free will within the framework of fate. Hellmut Wilhelm finds this a natural attitude for the Chinese.


The ‘Book of Changes’ has at its heart the concept of change. The 64 hexagrams were conceived as symbols of the successive stages in the ever moving cycle of universal change. While in Europe pure Being is taken as fundamental, the decisive factor in Chinese thought is the recognition of change as the essence. The I Ching makes change itself the centre of observation and recognizes time as an essential factor in the structure of the world and in the development of the individual. The concept of change of the I Ching has as its opposite reversal, regression, things going against nature. Lama Govinda says: “The dark begets the light and the light begets the dark in ceaseless alternation, but that which begets this alternation, that to which all life owes its existence, is Tao with its law of change”.

The Sacred Tree

Carl Jung's drawing of the Sacred Tree
Carl Jung's drawing of the Sacred Tree

Excerpt from an essay written for the MA on Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred of Canterbury Christ Church University in 2015.


When I see a tree with an open mind I sense having an unusual reaction. The tree is there to see in perceptible reality and yet it is experienced as an inner image, merging with and empowering the visible world with its otherworldly qualities. There is something timeless about this experience in a very comforting way. It gives me roots and strength, it raises me up. Is this unique? No, the experience of the tree as a magic or sacred symbol is common to mankind from time immemorial and holds a special place in religion, mythology and cosmology.

A tree is a perennial plant with a trunk, supporting branches and leaves. Below the ground, the roots spread out; they serve to anchor the tree and extract moisture and nutrients from the soil. Above ground, the branches divide into smaller branches and shoots, bearing leaves, which capture light energy and convert it into chemical energy by photosynthesis, providing the food needed by the tree for its growth and development. 

Encountering a tree is an everyday experience for mankind. They are all around; an estimated 27% of the terrestrial surface of Earth is covered by forests and trees make up around 90% of earth’s biomass. Trees have dominated the earth’s surface for over 370 million years. They live much longer than man, on average between 80 (apple) to 400 (chestnut) years but some reaching several thousand years. The most surprising aspect I think is the fact that trees don’t die from old age, they keep on growing until disease, fire, storm or the axe will destroy them. Trees support our life with fruit, timber, fuel, shade, shelter and - less obviously - with oxygen.

A symbol is something that has both a conscious and unconscious meaning and is therefore bridging a gap between different modes of knowledge. If it is just pointing towards something else, it is called a sign and not a symbol. If it is a symbol it always has something special to it, magic or sacred. So a symbolic tree is just a tree and yet it is something else in a mysterious way. Because a symbol means more than just the literal sense, it brings together different meanings or levels of meaning and therefore has a unifying or reconciling power. To determine the meaning of a symbol is becoming conscious of the hidden, unconscious content and therefore provides an interpretation that adds meaning. Using symbols in speech, writing or any form of art is generally called ‘allegory’, from Greek ἀλληγορία.

The tree I take as a symbol of the self in the Jungian sense, bridging consciousness and the unconscious. Jung has made this very clear when he connected the tree symbol with the mandala: “If a mandala may be described as a symbol of the self seen in cross section, then the tree would represent a profile view of it: the self depicted as a process of growth.” As an allegory it depicts long lasting growth: it grows from the earth towards the sky, showing life as a process that leads from the roots in the dark depths of matter towards the highest regions. In a moral sense the tree may stand for steadfastness and perseverance or for a collective centre. Finally the tree reaches up to the light of heaven and so becomes a symbol of the longing of the soul for a union with God. What makes the tree symbol very special is its universal appearance, ranging from the Cross on which Jesus Christ died to the Tree of Life of Darwin’s rather unbiblical universe.

In his Septem Sermones Jung depicts the Tree of Life as a “god-devil”, that ”buddeth, as in growing it heapeth up living stuff.” The “tree of life groweth with slow and constant increase through unmeasured time.” With this image of the Tree of Life as a symbol for all living things we enter a universe where creation is governed by a force of “Life, altogether indefinite, the mother of good and evil” which Jung calls “Abraxas”.