Archive for Archetypes

Archetypal Reflections: Dr. Keiron Le Grice on Jungian and Depth Psychologies

C.G. Jung contended that our personalities are made up of a multitude of archetypes, Dr. Keiron Le Grice, Chair of the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, reminded me when he recently sat down with me to share his insights into the field of depth psychology. Each archetype asserts its own aims, moods, and ideas on our personalities, influencing our lives on a day-to-day basis. Jungian and depth psychologies, by aiming to make what is unconscious conscious, offer an entrance point into recognizing and understanding the various deep forces that move through us from one day to the next, engendering a deep comprehension of the psyche and the motivations, instincts, and impulses that are at work in our lives.

Individuation, a term coined by Jung, is a way that we can come to terms with this multiplicity of forces, and to attune to a greater organizing force, perhaps looked at as “the god within.” An archetypal view can enable us to find deep meaning in life, Keiron notes. We live in a time when we no longer have a religious, spiritual, or mythological framework to provide orientation in our lives. To be able to turn within, through the study of dreams and synchronicities that occur to us, through direct engagement with the unconscious and through spiritual experiences, we can begin to find our own personal sense of meaning. When we encounter the numinous, (a term coined by Rudolf Otto and adopted by Jung), that tremendous and fascinating mystery that underlies our experience can ground us in our own spiritual and moral autonomies. We need to each find our own individual myth at a time when the collective myths are rendered invalid by the dominant scientific rational perspective in the western worldview.

Keiron became interested in spirituality in his late teens, particularly dedicating himself to learning astrology (which led him to Jung’s writings), then studying philosophy and psychology at university in England. Disappointed at how mainstream academia bypassed Jungian ideas, Keiron read most of Jung’s Collected Works in his spare time, and pursued the work of Joseph Campbell after seeing him interviewed by Bill Moyers for The Power of Myth. He found himself most impressed with Jung’s Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, written in the 1920s, which focused on the role of archetypes in individuation, and described how these ideas really gripped him. He felt like he was tapping into a deep current in his life, he declares. In his late twenties, his interests in astrology, Jung, and Campbell evolved into a book, The Archetypal Cosmos, which was ultimately published in 2010.

For people who are predisposed to find their way in this field, there’s a “right time” for them, Keiron maintains. For him, discovering depth psychology so early in his life was perhaps something of an impediment to participating in the world because when one is powerfully drawn to the depths of the psyche, it can have a tendency to pull us away from the world, a concept even Jung made note of in his many writings. After having some profound spiritual experiences in his late teens and early twenties, Keiron reveals how he made a conscious decision to put some of it aside for a while and “build his ego” in Jungian terms. He believes, however, that his early exposure was helpful, providing a strong foundation as he took time to integrate and really discern which ideas were relevant and valuable to him and which were not.

Now, years later, as professor and chair of a Jungian and Archetypal studies program, Keiron is keenly aware that the “gifts” of Jungian and depth psychology are that they empower the individual to find a spiritual, mythic, or symbolic mode of being in the world, which, in his words, can counter a sense of existential meaningless which is so prevalent today. It may well be the responsibility of depth psychology practitioners to bring awareness and recognition around the dark side of the unconscious energies that have not been brought into conscious awareness and which manifest in destructive ways, he asserts.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Keiron points out, it says that if you “bring forth what is deep within you, it will save you, but if you do not bring that forth, what is within you will destroy you.” Some of that unconscious destructive energy seems to be surfacing in our time, so the more we can be aware of it, the more we can engage to mitigate it. We need to be able to channel the forces at work in the world constructively, in service of the deep psyche. The challenge of our time for those in depth psychology is to be able to communicate the tenets to a new audience, Keiron believes, to somehow convey the integrity of the ideas through a new medium in a way that they are not rendered superficial. It’s critical to connect people and bring them into community into a web, akin to the noosphere discussed in the writings of French philosopher and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).[i]

Keiron has recently published a new book called Archetypal Reflections: Insights and Ideas from Jungian Psychology,which emerged in a way from exactly that kind of archetypal web he refers to. It is a compilation of short writings and reflections Keiron initially made online in the form of posts to graduate students in the hybrid Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica. These reflections encompass a variety of depth psychological topics organized into themes, including archetypes, individuation, synchronicity, the evolution of consciousness, and the mind/matter relationship among them, delving into material that is essential for both seasoned scholars of depth psychologies as well as those who are new to it.

In discussing his current role in depth psychology, Keiron notes how gratifying it is to see students in the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program—who typically arrive in answer to some sort of call from psyche to be there—move from a more tentative longing to study these kinds of esoteric topics to really moving into a place of maturity, authenticity, and authority as they write about what resonates most with them. At Pacifica, Keiron and other faculty members really strive to cultivate the art of critical thinking for students to bring their own engagement and insight into the field in order to find their own truths in what typically ends up being a profoundly transformative journey.

Hearing Keiron mention this brings back warm memories of my own time doing coursework at Pacifica. I’m compelled to point out that there’s a kind of an inside joke among students there that it’s the “Hogwarts” (of Harry Potter fame) of graduate schools, a place that provides opportunities to learn concepts and skills that truly seem magical in many aspects. It definitely brings us into a more enchanted way of being in the world, Kieron confirms, and therefore counters the disenchantment of the modern worldview, bringing about opportunities to engage with the numinous, the spiritual power and mystery that shines through the psyche in so many ways.

Listen to the full interview with Keiron Le Grice here (Approx. 36 mins)

Learn more about the Jungian and Archetypal Studies program at Pacifica

legrice_keiron.pngKeiron Le Grice is a professor of depth psychology and chair of the Jungian and Archetypal Studies specialization at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, where he teaches courses on archetypes, alchemy, synchronicity, and the history of depth psychology. He was educated at the University of Leeds, England (B.A. honors, Philosophy and Psychology) and the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco (M.A., Ph.D., Philosophy and Religion). Keiron is the founding editor of Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, and the author of four books––The Archetypal CosmosDiscovering ErisThe Rebirth of the Hero, and the recently published Archetypal Reflections: Insights and Ideas from Jungian Psychology. He has also taught for Grof Transpersonal Training (UK) and is commissioning editor for Muswell Hill Press in London.

NOTE: This blogpost was originally posted at Pacifica Post, July 22, 2016

The Genius Myth: An Interview with Storyteller and Author, Michael Meade

When Michael Meade was thirteen, his aunt, seemingly by accident, bought him a book of mythology for his birthday. Though he felt profoundly aligned with the book and stayed up all night reading it, it would take another 20 years before it became evident it was his path in life, guiding him to his current calling as a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar in mythology and depth psychology.

“The soul’s way of being is unique to each person,” Meade wrote in his acclaimed book, Why The World Doesn’t End. “It was seeded and sown within each of us from the beginning and it tries to ripen throughout our lives. What exiles us more than anything is the separation from our own instinctive, intuitive way of being. We are most lost and truly in exi
le when we have lost touch with our own soul, with our unique inward style and way of being in this world.”

Child Walking In Woods To Glowing Red DoorIn a recent interview, Meade shared insights with me into his own mythological and depth psychological view of how—though we’re living in a radical time when it seems like the world is falling apart; when “nature is rattling and culture seems to be unraveling”—being in touch with one’s innate genius is “an unerring guide to what a person’s life is supposed to be about.”

Meade’s latest book, The Genius Myth, focuses on how a person navigates a period of such turmoil and uncertainty. Meade’s use of the word “genius” is based on the old sense, he notes, referring to the unique spirit that is in each person’s soul, a concept often obscured in the modern world. One example of how the individual soul is oppressed is in that of transgendered individuals, Meade points out, especially children for whom the issue is active in them for some mysterious reason. The notion of the individuality of each soul makes it more feasible to respect the differences we all live in spite of appearances or backgrounds. One’s “complex” of abilities and gifts is what makes each individual unique and valuable. In a collective society, the uniqueness of life is often overlooked, yet this is the very thing that often provides meaning and purpose in an individual life.

In the face of what Meade terms, the apparent “unraveling of the world,” I wonder how each of us might tap into the genius within. It is important to distinguish the genius myth from the hero’s journey—introduced into the mainstream by the legendary Joseph Campbell, Meade responds. This is what Meade does in his new book, The Genius Myth.

Discussions in Depth Psychology, Click Here to listen to the Interview with Michael Meade

Meade describes the hero as a person making “dramatic moves in the outer world,” emphasizing that in the hero’s journey, the accomplishments are in the outer world. Further, the hero is associated with a masculine way of being from a depth psychological sense, as the “hero” is linked to power and strength. The Genius Myth argues that the genius was already there before we were born, and is not only something we bring to the world, but even something that brings us to the world. It is about discovering the genius within.

Meade, who works extensively with youth suicide situations, has found that many youths who committed suicide in the United States feel empty inside. The culture contributes to this feeling, imposing the belief that one must “make something of themselves.” Meade’s stance is that each of us already is something. We have to make ourselves aware of who we are.

Given the dramatic changes going on in the world—and the rapidity of that change—along with “the rattling and even hollowing out of institutions,” there’s not much in the outside world a person can depend upon for orientation and coherence, Meade declares. We must look inside to find the orientation of our lives and ways to cohere. One idea is that of an inborn genius that encompasses not only the gifts and abilities of a person, but also our purpose and destiny.

Meade refers to the need for “vertical imagination.” In mythology, he notes, there’s an old idea that there’s always two stories going on: one is the ongoing story of the world, and the other is the story of the individual soul in the world. The soul involves the depth of a person, and in depth, a person is naturally connected to nature and the world around them. Our world has become rather flat, Meade suggests: Everybody is connected all the time, but it’s a horizontal connection. The connections don’t go deep enough to contain the growth of soul that is needed for either the individual or world, and we can see that in the consequences of that in increasing polarization and division, exemplified very tragically in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, as well as in other current events.

People get back into an imaginative creative connection to the world through vertical imagination. Our connection goes deep into the soul on one end, where it connects not only to deep emotions but also the depth of feeling for being—for being present in the world and being connected to the world in depth, Meade believes. The other connection goes upward where one is connected to the great “high ideas” and the great imagination where people used to consider themselves connected to the stars. The human was originally intended to be the channel between the stars of the sky and the core of the earth, he insists. Each human is in that connection if they awaken to it.

The problems we are experiencing, whether in nature or culture, will not be solved without a vertical imagination. Healing needs to happen in our culture—not only in connection with genders— but also between races, in the political arena, and in ecosystems, waterways, and forests, among other things. According to Meade, we are living in a time when everyone’s genius nature is being called upon; perhaps there is even an acceleration of calling and vocation as “both nature and culture need an awakening of the genius in as many people as possible.”

Michael goes on to offer two ways to access our inner genius, not the least of which is to glean what we can from traumatic circumstances or rejection by one’s family or community, both instances where the genius is often awakened most strongly. Jung wrote that genius hides behind the wound, so whenever we harbor a wound, we may believe that our genius was an integral part of our survival. “Something deep in the human soul awakens when things fall apart,” Michael penned in Why the World Doesn’t End.

Meade closes with some thoughts on what he views as the two layers of hope: One is the sort of naïve hope that has to ultimately be deconstructed, and there is also despair, meaning “to be without hope.” It’s generally essential that we, at times, fall into despair because at the root of despair is another level—a second layer—of hope. That layer, in depth psychology, might be called imagination—imagination being the deepest power of the human soul. “When we think that all is lost, we are actually falling closer to the deepest ground of soul, which, you could say, has the power of imagination,” he insists. “Imagination is what we need in order to begin to reimagine and recreate the world.”

Meade recounts an Irish myth that teaches us that when the center can no longer hold—as currently appears to be the case in a current political, economic, and ecological sense—we must go to the margins and find the thread that intrigues us there. Then, upon pulling those threads of genius, the center is remade. “A person doesn’t need to be heroic,” Meade insists. “A person just has pull the the threads of their own life as close to the center as possible and they are contributing to the renewal of the world. If enough people were pulling the threads, we would be participating in the re-weaving of the world.” Further, if this re-weaving strikes a chord with you, it’s probably not a coincidence. “There is an old deep sense that we are being called on—we have always been called on—to be our own selves. That’s the real job of a person.”

Jung called this process “individuation,” Meade affirms. Individuation is not only the natural calling for the individual, but the world itself is calling on people to come to consciousness and individuate on an individual level. Once enough of us are doing that, the imagination of assisting the world to renew itself becomes possible.

Michael Meade is presenting a weekend workshop, “The World is Churning: The Myth of Genius, The Genius of Myth, July 8-10, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute. “Pacifica is one of the few homes in the entire culture for depth psychology and mythology,” Meade notes. “It’s one of the very few places where those two essential studies are being honored.” At the workshop, Meade plans to discuss creativity, imagination, and the genius in the soul in order to discover how to encourage this in ourselves so we can do meaningful work in the world. “Pacifica is the right place to do that,” Meade proclaims.

Get more details or register for the “The World is Churning: The Myth of Genius, The Genius of Myth” with Michael Meade, July 8-10, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute: http://www.pacifica.edu/current-public/item/the-myth-of-genius-the-genius-of-myth

Mosaic-Multicultural.jpgMichael Meade, D.H.L., is a renowned storyteller, author, and scholar of mythology, anthropology, and psychology. His hypnotic and fiery storytelling, street savvy perceptiveness, and spellbinding interpretations of ancient myths are highly relevant to current culture. He is the author of many books including Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of the Souland The World Behind the World. Meade is founder of Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to education and cultural healing. For more information, visit www.mosaicvoices.org

 

Note: This blog originally posted at Pacifica Post June 27, 2016

The Therapy Room and the Interactive Field: Dr. Joseph Cambray on Becoming a Supervisor in Depth

Psychotherapy is pervasive in contemporary culture. Even if you’re not a therapist yourself, if you’re taking the time to read this post, chances are good that either you or someone close to you has been involved in therapy at some point in their lives. And, while you may feel you have a good understanding of what happens in the therapy room, there may be more than meets the eye.

Do you ever wonder, for example, what has to occur in the therapeutic process so that the basic experience is what it needs to be for both the client and the therapist? How does a therapist tap into the unconscious in order to help the client be more of “who they are”? How does synchronicity—and the interactive field that emerges between two individuals—serve up messages from the unconscious for the benefit of the work? More, where does the therapist her/himself turn for help in honing their own intuition and skills that ultimately contribute to their own individuation process in working with clients?

These are all questions I asked Jungian analyst, Dr. Joseph Cambray, when he agreed to take a few minutes away from his busy schedule as provost at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Dr. Cambray is co-leading a 10-week course, On Becoming a Supervisor in Depth, along with Linda Carter, Avedis Panajian, Lionel Corbett, and Patricia Katsky starting March 3, 2016, at Pacifica.

Joe Cambray is not only eminently qualified to offer insights on what goes on between a client and therapist in the therapy room, he also has a long history around the process of supervising other therapists, having taught a course on becoming a supervisor for nearly 12 years at Harvard Medical School. More, his landmark book, Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe, also reveals how Joe is uniquely qualified to help each of us identify ways in which unconscious patterns are at work in our lives and in our journeys of individuation.

Joe describes his own perspective on what has to happen in the therapy room so that the basic experience is what it needs to be. While the focus is on the internal life of the person and on them becoming more of who they are, he notes, there is a symmetry between the client and the therapist. The therapist pays attention to his or her own reactions within the dialogue, and uses them to guide him.

blog_supervisor.pngThrough clients’ dreams and through certain events in their lives, it is possible to see how the unconscious is mobilized and activated. More, there is a field that transpires between the therapist and client—what Jung himself might have described as “a multi-dimensional field within the limited frame of our own sensory perception.” Therapists hone certain skills and processes that enable them to tune into what’s emerging into the field between the two individuals. As images arising in the therapy begin to create resonance, it enables us to perceive how the archetypal field is shaping itself, and what’s coming into consciousness.

Perceiving the field is about the “third”—the supervenient— the extraneous or unexpected, Cambray asserts. It’s “something holistically larger” that happens between two individuals that neither can own, but that both are within: an “emergence”—or “emergent phenomenon.” The mind emerges out of the brain in interaction with the environment, including the narrative dimensions of the environment.

How do you begin to go about training a therapist to notice the field, and what is emerging in the field, I wondered aloud. Cambray points out how the process is illustrated in Jung’s Red Book, and in the way in which Jung took great fantasies that were disturbing him and entering into those fantasies rather than repressing them or disregarding them. While there were psychological dangers to this kind of work, Jung persisted, and he set a pathway for us to follow.

Some of the analytic tools therapists use to perceive the field are reverie –that is, sitting quietly and observing the contents of the mind and watching what emerges; countertransference, when the reactions of a therapist that are activated within the therapeutic dyad might be considered a communication from the unconscious, and therapists as resonant instruments in the process; or what Cambray calls objective empathy, where the therapist is empathic with the whole of the situation— including the unconscious dimensions—and not just the client’s ego. Joe recounted a transformational experience of being in analysis himself when he realized the analyst was speaking directly to a figure from a dream they were discussing, bypassing Joe’s own ego completely, as if he were a bystander in the process.

In fact, the way we traditionally understand empathy is far too limited, Cambray suggests. Jung’s notion of a psychoid unconscious (or archetype), in which the structure of the world is intuitively informing us all the time, is an important aspect of the process. Cambray, who refers to “the artistic intuition of the psychoid,” points out how extraordinary elaborate geometric patterns that exist inside 13th century mosques in Iran could not be “worked out” with any of the simple geometric tools that we have—and, in fact, were not replicated by scientists in the west until the 1970s and 80s. Seemingly, five hundred years prior to our current science, the craftspeople who created the patterns were in touch with a fundamental geometric structure of the universe.

blog_supervisor_pollock.pngA more contemporary example, Joe states, is recent analyses of the fractal qualities that are inherent in Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, which reveal Pollock had “spontaneously intuited a way to get at the optimal amount of fractal density.” It’s that kind of intuitive knowing from nature—not from a cognitive rational process—which, when they emerge in therapy and supervision, are art forms.

All this prompted me to inquire how synchronicity, the topic of Joe’s aforementioned book, shows up in the therapy room and in supervision. In complex systems, there is language available that allows us to talk about the way interactions create a larger, holistic structure, Joe submits. Intuition is that part of our psyche that has evolved to pick up patterns—and those are not necessarily causal patterns. Joe sees synchronicity arising in supervision, in the therapy room; even when he does analysis using Skype, noting some interesting examples. We have only scratched the surface of looking at synchronicity with Jung’s work, Cambray believes. The fields (between us) have synchronistic dimensions to them. It’s a fundamental part of the structure of reality.

blog_supervisor_flying_v.pngUltimately, Joe notes, we can look to nature for some remarkably creative solutions. As a culture, we’re just beginning to touch on biological intelligence. Ant colonies are incredibly intelligent as a whole unit in the way they solve problems. Insect swarms or flocks of birds that act in perfect sync, with no apparent guiding principle that overtly tells them all to turn left at the exact same moment, are also examples. Nature provides a set of micro-cues that create collective behavior “in the most wonderful and mysterious ways.” What we call intuition is some of that kind of collective phenomena, Joe suggests.

I agree. Given our conversation, I’m more motivated than ever to pay attention to emergent patterns. And, for all the ways we each strive to perceive what is arising from the unconscious, you can bet the best therapists are tuned in to help us interpret and digest what emerges, and that each of them has a supervisor who is equally engaged.

Listen to the full audio interview with Dr. Joe Cambray here (Approx. 30 mins)

Join Dr. Joseph Cambray and colleagues Linda Carter, Avedis Panajian, Lionel Corbett, and Patricia Katsky, for a 10-week series, “On Becoming a Supervisor in Depth,” starting March 3, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute.


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Joe Cambray, Ph.D., is Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Pacifica Graduate Institute as well as a Jungian analyst. He is Past-President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology, and former US Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology. For years he was on the faculty of the Center for Psychoanalytic Studies at Harvard Medical School where he co-taught a year-long course on becoming a supervisor. His numerous publications include the book based on his Fay Lectures: Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe; a volume edited with Linda Carter, Analytical Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives in Jungian Psychology; and a two volume compendium on research in analytical psychology co-edited with Christian Roesler and Leslie Sawin currently in publication. In addition, he has published numerous papers in a range of international journals.


bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners. She is also the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal, and regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. Bonnie has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute; in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

NOTE: This blog post was originally published on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute on February 18, 2016.

 

Alchemical Active Imagination: Interview with Jungian Analyst Tom Elsner

The brilliant use of alchemy as a symbolic language and process for psychological and spiritual development is arguably one of C. G. Jung’s greatest contributions to the field of depth psychology. While alchemy may appear to be a mystical—and mysterious—domain, Jung developed a powerful and inspired method for accessing it by entering into dialogue with the rich manifestations of the unconscious and applying it to our daily lives for transformation and growth.

“True knowledge of oneself is the knowledge of the objective psyche as it manifests in dreams and in the statements of the unconscious,” wrote Marie-Louise von Franz, one of Jung’s closest colleagues. Finding myself intrigued by the idea of tapping into alchemical symbolism, and wanting to know more, I realized there was no better person to share some insights than Tom Elsner, a Jungian analyst and professor of Alchemy at Pacifica Graduate Institute, where Tom is teaching a 3-day workshop on the topic of Alchemical Active Imagination at P….

Tom immediately offered some history on the process of active imagination, which Jung developed to work with his own difficult experiences. Starting around 1916, after Jung notoriously broke with his mentor, Sigmund Freud, Jung went through an intense psychological process that included depression, accompanied by many deep dreams and visions. Over a period of 16 years, Jung gave voice to his inner dialogues through writing and painting, a process that ultimately resulted in The Red Book.

For Jung, active imagination was the process of making one’s subjective psyche objective—that is, making the unconscious overt and tangible in terms of images, voices, and inner experiences—so that it can manifest in ways we can more easily understand. By entering into dialogue with those images and voices, Jung found himself actively engaged with “emotional drives and dynamics that would otherwise have overwhelmed him,” Tom Elsner points out. It was an effective and inspired way to work through challenges of the psyche.

From around 1916, while Jung was in the depths of his process, he discovered alchemy and realized that alchemists were having symbolic experiences similar to his own. Alchemy emerged out of magical practices in ancient Egypt, was fertilized with philosophical views from the Greeks, and evolved via the Middle East, eventually taking root in Europe in the Middle Ages. By the time Jung came across the ancient texts in the twentieth century, alchemy had fallen out of favor in the west due to the Enlightenment and the focus on scientific thinking. Jung understood alchemy made no sense if one thought of it as chemistry. But if alchemy was viewed as a symbolic process, the images served powerfully as a “huge thesaurus coming out of the unconscious,” Tom notes. And so Jung applied it to the seemingly infinite stream of alchemical images in his own dreams, visions, and fantasies, as well as those of his patients.e.

Jung considered himself a natural scientist and strongly sought to bring an interdisciplinary dimension to psychology, involving other of the sciences of the time. While he undoubtedly related to the medieval alchemists as the natural scientists of their time, Elsner argues that active imagination, as Jung conceived it, has inspired the basis of many of the expressive arts, including dance, poetry, painting and sculpture, that have quite strongly emerged in current day psychotherapy.

However, it was only in the 1930s after Jung met Wolfgang Pauli, the Nobel prize winning quantum physicist, and they took up what was to be a 26-year correspondence, that Jung began to feel that there was a science that supported his experience of the autonomy of the psyche, and some of Jung’s paranormal experiences, as well. This was a significant intersection for Jung with alchemy. He saw it as the joining of the natural sciences with depth psychology, which paved the way for his theories about synchronicity and allowed him to expand his views about archetypes from seeing them as merely experienced on the inner plane to “something that [actually] inheres in the quality of matter—a kind of a return of soul to the world,” Tom affirms.

Utilizing alchemical images to make the subjective psyche objective, as Elsner describes it, is to begin to imagine how certain states of being, such as depression, can emerge and then engage. How might it turn it into an image, for example? What does it look like? Where it is in your body? What is it saying to you? Actively and intentionally engaging in dialogue allows us to overcome passive victimhood of a mood or state; to differentiate ourselves by encountering it as an object we can work with, rather than as something we are identified with, or identical to.

In our conversation, Tom describes in some detail how we might go about conducting an active imagination, engaging with a personal challenge, and “wrestling” with the psyche in order to come into some kind of relationship. Following certain guidelines or rituals in the process, taking action rather than passively watching what unfolds, and writing, drawing, or painting your experience (perhaps even hanging your work on the wall so as to “let it stare at you”) are all recommended aspects of the process. This kind of process can have an almost magical effect if you let it, Tom suggests.

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A core focus of alchemy is the union of opposites, often depicted in alchemical images in the form of the king and queen, sun and moon, spirit and matter, or above and below. Thus, the work of alchemy begins with work of the shadow; with what has been repressed, which includes earth, nature, and the feminine, each largely split off in the western culture, Tom notes. Jung and Pauli envisioned an animated world in which psyche and nature are not split but rather are mysteriously intertwined. For them, that coniunctio, or union of opposites, was taking place in the both the microphysical world and in the collective unconscious.

The writings of Jungian and archetypal psychologist James Hillman, about the return of soul in the world, are very much related to alchemy, Tom points out—and what Jung and Hillman understood about alchemy today is very much relevant in the sense of quantum physics and new discoveries emerging there. Inner archetypal patterns now recognized in depth psychology are not just inside, but are also a structure of the external material world. They enable synchronicity, a meaningful connection between what’s happening in the inner world and what’s happening outside as well. When we engage, is produces a sort of alchemical magic that can transform us. How will you tap into that magic today?

Listen to the full audio interview with Tom Elsner here (28:55 mins)

Join Jungian analyst Tom Elsner for a 3-day workshop on Alchemical Active Imagination, March 4-6, 2016, at Pacifica Graduate Institute

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Thomas Elsner J.D., M.A., is a certified Jungian analyst, faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and a member of the C.G. Jung Study Center of Southern California. He trained as a lawyer, and then as a Jungian analyst at The Centre for Depth Psychology. In his research and teaching of Egyptian, Islamic and European alchemy he continues in the lineage of Jung and Von Franz’s work. The author of numerous articles, Thomas has taught courses at Pacifica on alchemy for over seven years, as well as presenting this material in England, Ireland, Switzerland, and throughout the United States. He has a private practice in Santa Barbara and is completing a book on Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner as seen from the alchemical and depth psychological perspectives.

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Bonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners. She is also the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal, and regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. Bonnie has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute; in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

NOTE: This blog post was originally posted on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute

Depth Psychological Approaches to Suffering—Audio Interview & Blog post with Dr. Lionel Corbett

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ― Kahlil Gibran

We are all intimately familiar with suffering. And, while we might wish it away when it is painfully present, it is a normal part of human life, Dr. Lionel Corbett, M.D., Jungian analyst and professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute reminded me when I recently sat down for a depth discussion with him on the topic.

Corbett-WebImage.jpgEtymologically, the word “suffering” comes from two Latin roots: sub—meaning “under”—and ferre, meaning “to carry or bear,” as in “to bear a burden.” But suffering is not necessarily pathological, Lionel insists. The root of the word “suffer” is also the root of the English word “fertile,” so it is also related to the idea of bearing fruit. Psychologically, then, suffering can produce something; it’s not random or meaningless, nor merely something to get rid of. In reality, it can act as either a fertilizer or a poison. It can be harmful or it can be helpful, but we need a framework by which we can understand it.

Dr. Corbett, whose recent book, The Soul in Anguish: Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Suffering serves as a foundation for his public workshop (February 12-14, 2016) at Pacifica Graduate Institute, asserts that suffering can be developmentally useful, enabling wisdom and understanding we might not otherwise have had. Suffering can change our worldview, our values, and even reveal aspects of a person’s character that were previously not known. It may also make us more empathic and compassionate, or more appreciative of everyday life.

We might take depression, which is one kind of suffering or “burden,” as an example, Lionel noted. It is common to look at it through a clinical lens as a disorder, but if we engage a spiritual lens, depression may be regarded as a “dark night of the soul” which will eventually enhance our spiritual development. Depending on which lens one uses to regard it, we hold an attitude that will either tend to re-enforce and solidify our usual habits and patterns of thinking and doing, or else open us to change and transformation. Suffering (of any kind) may reveal great capacity for courage and resilience in an individual—or it can result in resentment and bitterness. When we consider it using a depth psychological lens, it seems clear it is not a random process, but rather a critically important aspect in the development of the personality and of what C. G. Jung called “individuation.”

Dr. Corbett offers multiple frameworks for considering suffering; among them, the idea that suffering is a period of liminality—a term anthropologists use to describe a rite of passage. Rites of passage in tribal cultures used to occur in three phases. The middle phase was the liminal on, or the phase of being “betwixt and between,” a period of tremendous uncertainty. Considering that while we are suffering, we are simply between phases, may provide an archetypal context that can help situate us and provide meaning, giving us strength to go on.

Suffering brings up fundamental and often painful questions about individual destiny and about the meaning of life, at times resulting in identity crises or “spiritual emergencies” that arouse questions like, “Why is this happening to me?” or “What have I done to deserve this?” Jung suggested that searching for meaning in suffering ultimately makes bearable what would otherwise be unbearable, and pointed out the need to locate ourselves in a larger relationship to “what is.” “The decisive question for man is,” wrote Jung (1961), “Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. … If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change.” (pp. 356-7)

In mid-life, Lionel points out, many of us find ourselves living out the stereotypical scenario where we struggle to climb the ladder, only to find as we get to the top that the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall. In times of intense suffering, our established lifelong spiritual traditions may fail to help. Questioning one’s own religious or spiritual beliefs can be one of the functions of suffering, further amplifying the viewpoint that the way one has been living may suddenly seem rather pointless or hollow. This can cause tremendous regret or bitterness, but if one can have a direct experience of the transpersonal unconscious, what Jung refers to as “the numinous,” it can open the door to a new personal form of spirituality.

Where does suffering come from? Believing it is something that is “happening to” us is an egoic perspective, Lionel reminded me. Because the process of suffering comes out of the unconscious, we have no control over it. Jung would say that it comes from what he termed the “Self,” sending signals from the unconscious that something needs attention. While suffering can result from a complex that has taken hold of us, we can consciously and purposefully engage in the process by inquiring into aspects of or own psyche that we have to grapple with. Lionel offered a compelling metaphor, that is to look at this situation as a boat where the sailor cannot change the wind, but he can adjust the sails. The wind is like the wind of the spirit, he notes: things happen that you can’t control. The way you adjust the sails is your reaction to it.

Is suffering optional? Can we avoid suffering altogether, or at least diminish it? Are some people more sensitive to suffering? Is there such a thing as secondhand suffering, where certain individuals suffer more themselves because of what they’re witnessing? These are all questions I posed in our conversation, and some of Lionel’s answers surprised me, but this final question truly brought me back to the implications of working with suffering in a depth psychological way. “How do therapists and helping professionals sustain their work with those who are suffering?”, I wondered aloud to Dr. Corbett, who is a seasoned analyst and clinician.

There is a shamanic way of working with clients, he was quick to suggest, wherein the therapist takes on the suffering of the client, transmutes it, and then “gives it back to them in a more digestible way.”

This, to me, is the blessing of depth psychology. Knowing it is paramount in our individuation process and having support from depth-oriented thinkers and therapists who can help us hold the suffering so it can transmute and transform us.

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching,” famously wrote Charles Dickens in Great Expectations, “and has taught me to understand what [the] heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but—I hope—into a better shape.”

Listen to the full audio interview with Dr. Lionel Corbett here (27:12 mins)

Learn more about Dr. Lionel Corbett’s upcoming public workshop, “Depth Psychological Approaches to Suffering,” February 12-14, 2016 at Pacifica Graduate Institute.


Sources

Merriam-Webster online dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suffer

Corbett, Lionel. (2015). The Soul in Anguish: Psychotherapeutic Approaches to SufferingAsheville, NC: Chiron.

Dickens, Charles. (2003). Great Expectations. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Classics.

Jung, C.G. (1961). Memories, Dreams, ReflectionsNew York, NY. Pantheonpp. 356-7.


corbett-lionel.jpg

Lionel Corbett, M.D., trained in medicine and psychiatry in England, and as a Jungian Analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago. His primary interests are the religious function of the psyche, especially the way in which personal religious experience is relevant to individual psychology; the development of psychotherapy as a spiritual practice; and the interface of Jungian psychology and contemporary psychoanalytic thought. Dr. Corbett is a professor of depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is the author of numerous professional papers and four books: Psyche and the Sacred, The Religious Function of the Psyche; The Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Practice; and most recently The Soul in Anguish: Psychotherapeutic Approaches to SufferingHe is the co-editor of Jung and Aging; Depth Psychology, Meditations in the Field; and Psychology at the Threshold.

The Return of the Goddesses-in Mysteries!

Notes on a Depth Discussion between Susan Rowland and Bonnie Bright

detective_blogIf you are an avid reader, the mystery genre is likely a familiar presence in the pleasures of your pastime. Those who love detective fiction really love it, as author and scholar Susan Rowland insists to me in a recent interview, and there is a strong ritual element in the reading and writing of mysteries. There are certain consistencies in every story that one may begin to expect; and yet they continue to enthrall us even as they unfold. Mystery novels hold a place for ritual in our culture, and a sense of wanting to repeat something we already know about, things we expect each time we pick one up.

Rituals allow the sacred to be embodied, as Rowland argues in her latest book, The Sleuth and the Goddess: Hestia, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite in Women’s Detective Fiction. In the reading and writing of mysteries, the sacred is enacted, creating a space which is inhabited by the goddesses.

Jungian and archetypal psychologies point out that there is never just one god, Rowland asserts; there can’t be just “Hermes” in hermeneutics (the study of texts, and especially written texts). He is not the only god of writing. While our culture has primarily been influenced by a tradition that is masculine-focused, one must ask: Where are the feminine gods in writing? If they are in our psyche as depth psychology suggests, then they are going to be in what our psyche does—including reading and writing.

Susan relates that all her work has been interested in the feminine and in depth psychology, and she has always been interested in detective fiction. Upon moving to the U.S. from England a couple of years ago, she wanted to understand what it meant to be a woman in America. She began to notice archetypal patterns that emerged from the work of women mystery writers, which, in turn, coincided with the work of depth scholars Christine Downing and Ginette Paris, who were writing about the goddesses, and with Susan’s own longtime, ongoing interest in detective fiction.

Susan points out that detective fiction was born around the same time as depth psychology. Culturally, she notes, the genre emerged as a response to some of the same kinds of cultural pressures as depth psychology did, beginning in the time of Freud. Since the beginning, women writers have been looking at what it means to be a woman hero. These goddesses are returning through women-authored mysteries because the “mysteries” are, well—“mysteries”—especially in the ancient sense, like the Dionysian mysteries and the Eleusinian mysteries. This is true for all detective fiction and anywhere the imagination is cultivated.

thesleuthandthegoddessIn the book, Rowland takes a detailed look at each of four ancient Greek goddesses: Hestia, Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, and gives examples of how these goddesses have influenced the Western world and how they show up in specific characters and settings in novels from women writers. Artemis and Aphrodite, for example, are both goddesses of nature and of human nature. As such, they may be seen as ways of knowing.

The origins of depth psychology and detective fiction are both rooted in problems about “knowledge,” Susan insists. Depth psychology recognizes there is a problem because so much of the psyche is not being acknowledged in the modern world, and that creates a problem.

Rowland offers the notion that there is often a lot of humor to be found in detective fiction, as well as in Jung, citing examples of Jung’s humorous treatment of certain material. These exemplify how humor is a way of engaging and processing the material.

In the interview, Susan reveals to me that one of the reasons she wrote the book is that there is so much potential in bringing a depth psychology polytheistic lens to a topic. Detective fiction begins in America, with Edgar Allen Poe, who has been a fascination for depth psychology especially with Lacan. The figure, the detective, knows knowledge is problem—like the psychoanalyst does, Rowland insists. The detective needs to find and identify clues and track them back to something that cannot be known fully—the mystery of life death. Ultimately, there is an urgent cultural need to become the figure who will search for the bigger clues that will reveal the mysteries of the psyche, and this profound archetypal notion is truly at the heart of Rowland’s new The Sleuth and the Goddess.

You may access this informative interview, “The Return of the Goddesses—in Mysteries!”—Susan Rowland in conversation with Bonnie Bright about Susan’s book, The Sleuth and the Goddess: Hestia, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite in Women’s Detective Fiction here (as well as find info to download a free chapter of the book).

(Approx. 36 mins)

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on the Pacifica Post at http://www.pacificapost.com/the-return-of-the-goddesses-in-mysteries

Archetypal Aspects of Home

“Home” is a word weighted with affect and associated with rootedness, attachment, belonging, shelter, refuge, comfort, and identity. When our relationship to “home” is considered in the context of depth psychology, the study of the unconscious pioneered by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung among others, it stands to reason that our individual notions of “home” may impact us rather profoundly.

A severed connection with “home,” particularly with the earth that supports and nurtures us, produces physical, emotional, and psychological implications. That is to say, the lack of a connection with a “home” that offers us a sense of psychological and spiritual wholeness, potentiality, and belonging in a larger archetypal manner may well compose the very heart of our disorder.

Depth psychology calls for an understanding of how we are influenced by invisible elements beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. Tracing a path from the notion of “home” which we each carry, backward and down into its deeper meaning and psychological effect on us, can begin to shed light on why we treat the earth so destructively that we have come to a state of potential culture collapse.

In At Home in the World, Jungian analyst John Hill (2010) relates how the biological origins of home began with the animal instinct to mark territory. The fight or flight mechanism, to defend space or to abandon it and flee, also carries a critical effect on our psyche since home is tied to caretaking, nurturing, and sustenance. Home has an affiliation with landscape, community, and surroundings, and it is connected to history, memory, and clan, Hill asserts, defining it further as a “narrative reality,” the manner in which we attach to a place a person or an object, a nation, a group, a culture or an ideal. These attachments are experiential, conferring a sense of belonging. Home, whether a physical place or a psychological concept, is a container for those who reside within its borders.

This concept of home as a container, a place to which one can belong, is what C. G. Jung referred to as archetypal. According to Jung (1964), the unconscious is made up of archetypes, autonomous instincts, patterns, or behaviors, which are common across all eras, peoples, and places. Concepts that are archetypal in nature may be recognized without need for definition or explanation. Recognizing and understanding the archetypal aspect of home, then, enables us to see how leaving or losing home can set one askew, rendering us vulnerable, tentative, frightened, and ungrounded—in both a literal and figurative sense.

Regarding Change: Holding the Tension Even When it Hurts

When challenges arise for each of us, it is easier to turn to denial or distraction rather than holding the tension of what’s arising long enough to allow the self-regulating function of the psyche to take over. C.G. Jung suggested that the opposing attitudes of the ego (which gets us through some tight spots, usually by choosing the path of least resistance) and the unconscious or greater “Self” (which has our personal growth and spiritual awakening at heart) can be mitigated and even transcended if we are willing to regard the reality of our struggle and hold the tension long enough for some kind of insight and movement–a transition–to occur.
Employing or maintaining a state of “disregard” in daily life is quick, easy, and painless: almost a default mode of survival in our western consumer-based culture where everything moves faster and faster with each passing moment. In a world where we are focused on meeting deadlines, following timelines, achieving goals, and taking action, we are often are unwilling to make the time to find value in things, people, or ideas that arise around us.
In our haste, we often disregard our health, our emotions, our memories, and our loved ones. We dismiss the natural world, the earth, the landscape around us. We ignore famine, violence, and disease if it’s not in our own backyard. And we judge and disregard “others”: other races, other cultures, the “other” gender, and other beliefs.

Worst, we disregard the profound feelings of loss and longing that run like deep currents beneath our intensity and our frenzied pace, relegating them to the dark shadowy realms of the unconscious where we are not willing to look. In fact, we have ignored so much and so many of our true deep needs and emotions, we individually and as a whole, feel like something is missing. And indeed it is: pieces of ourselves and our collective humanity have become atrophied and dropped away like lost pieces of our souls, leaving us wounded and fragmented. Both universally and personally, this soul loss is a byproduct of the tremendous capacity we have developed to disregard.

Disregard drains the life force of every living thing, and those who do, in fact, make an effort to regard the liminal, the elements that are not front and center, the “non-mainstream” if you will, know that everything is alive. By judging something to have no value (or only monetary value), we dishonor it, kill it, objectify it: turn it into an dead, inanimate object which we feel justified to use, control, manipulate, or destroy. We have done this collectively with Mother Nature, Mother Earth and all of her natural resources. We have done this with animals we raise for consumption in unnatural ways pumping them full of steroids or genetically modifying supplements along with genetically modified fruits, grains, and vegetables.

In fact, in many cultures and a multitude of ways over the past few millennia, we have disregarded the sacred power of the feminine itself from whom all life comes, and a feminine “way of being” which is more receptive and creative rather than forceful, attached, and driven. This sacred feminine aspect is the force that allows us to tenderly hold and sustain the fallout during a difficult situation, patiently nurturing a creative space in which the difficulty can be transmuted and refined.

Evidence from ancient cultures indicates sublime reverence of the Divine Feminine, a life-giving mother who created all things. Goddess-imaged figurines with ripe breasts and bellies said to represent her fertile presence and power have been found from as far back as 30,000 years ago. Cave drawings, art, and pottery from as recently as 6000 to 3000 BCE depict her enlivening force.

As the Great Mother of nature, life, and indeed, all creation, she oversaw the transition from birth to life, then to the realm of death. Our ancestors were embedded in the web she wove. They understood that all things are born into life and light; then fade into the dark of a new phase of being. The goddess has long been associated with the moon. Our indigenous predecessors, who lived in a more profound state of regard for the world around them, traced the infinite circle of life, death, and rebirth through the cycles of nature. Just as the moon died to the sun each night, or faded each month to three days of darkness of the new moon, then was born again, the “people” understood the infinite rhythms of being. We are all born, and we will all die, returning to the earth from whence we came. Systems–sometimes cultures–will eventually collapse and new shoots will arise from the deadwood and debris. Our ability to regard the inevitable, and to surrender to and even embrace the change, will free some of the psychic energy around transition that often makes the transition itself difficult for us as humans.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell suggested that when a deity (or nature or the process of our own individuation and becoming–whatever that “something bigger” is to you) wants to open us up and we are too ego-centered, too attached to let go of our fixed beliefs and desires, we perceive the deity as wrathful and the experience as painful. If we are able to let go and open, we perceive the same deity, the same process, as compassionate and kind. If we are NOT able to surrender to the coming death in what ever form it presents itself–the loss of a job, the decline of health, the passing of a loved one–to dance with it, grieve with it, open to it, then we will suffer, interpreting the process as wrath coming from God or from nature, or from somewhere outside ourselves.

If you are in transition, there are many depth perspectives and techniques that can help you hold the reality of what is happening, and to regard the coming change with compassion and self-love, with awe, respect and hope. Be sure to check for depth-oriented therapists, Jungian analysts, art therapists, shamanic practitioners, dreamworkers, somatic therapists and other practicing individuals on DepthPsychologyList.com to help you regard and to hold the very human process of change until something new can emerge. In this way, you risk less the act of disregarding the beauty and value of the insights to be gained with all change in life, large or small, and the joy of becoming to which they lead.

Seeing the Shadow—The Importance of Depth Psychology in Leadership: An Interview with David A. Laveman & Bonnie Bright for Depth Insights™

In this written interview, Depth Insights™ host Bonnie Bright interviews David A. Laveman, who brings depth psychology insights into the business world to help executives and organizations to raise the bar on performance and deliver breakthrough business results.

Here Dave shares how depth psychology plays a role in leadership, a critical aspect inside and outside the corporate world today.

BB: Why is Leadership an area that Depth Psychology should care about?

DAL: The answer is fairly practical. It begins by looking squarely at the conditions we live in as part of a global economy and international community. These conditions – broadly characterized by ecological fragility, interconnectivity, democratization of information and overall accelerated “change”—are inescapable. The implications of these changes are always surprising us. Consider for instance the dramatic rapidity of regional political change popularly known as the “Arab Spring.” Or the ecological dangers triggered by the Japanese Tsunami. In terms of Depth Psychology, I’m reminded of the rather provocative title of archetypal psychologist James Hillman’s (1992) dialogue with Michael Ventura, We’ve Had 100 Years Of Therapy And The World Has Gotten Worse. It is a polemic against the insular nature of psychotherapy and the fact that “personal growth” doesn’t necessarily lead one into active involvement with the world. Hillman notes that while it may be good to have a deeper understanding of how our psyche works, that alone doesn’t ensure that we finds out about the way the world works. 

Hillman in this same polemic further notes that personal growth often involves “loss”; the loss of inflations, the loss of illusions. However, often those who are widely known as “leaders” are vested with vast institutional powers, which encourages all sorts of narcissistic display. Is this a loss of illusion and inflation – or just the opposite? From Hillman’s view psychotherapy as it is currently practiced, tends to “internalize emotions.” He then aptly points out that the word emotion comes from the Latin ex movere which means “to move out” and that “emotions connect to the world” (p. 11). Following this thread of reasoning, my assertion is rather basic: by applying the insights gained from a hundred years of exploring the unconscious, to the world populated by institutional leaders, we are ensuring that those with the most power to affect the things that affect our lives—our environment, our economy, our safety—are alert to the powerful forces that exist in the psyche, especially the mostly unconscious complexes, and skillful in converting insight into engagement.

We’ve seen enough of the damage done by leaders who have no idea what inner demons they are projecting onto the social landscape. Given the explosion of technological innovation and its inexpensive and uncontrolled dissemination, the stakes in the second decade of the 21st century couldn’t be higher. It is time for those who have spent decades investigating the nature of the psyche to be far more actively engaged with the “leaders” of all institutions, but especially those of business and government. This engagement needs to happen “on the court” where the game of leadership whicis played out in everyday decisions, relationships and initiatives.

This void is now being filled by a thriving leadership development and coaching industry. Unfortunately many of these practitioners know little about the dynamics of the unconscious, how to work with shadow projections on an individual and organizational level and how to recognize archetypal patterns. The emphasis is on conscious mastery, skill building, and behavior modification. These are all useful but not sufficiently effective in creating the “transformational” change that is both promoted by their practitioners and more importantly truly needed by the institutional power centers to become centers of a renewed global culture.


BB: First, I love that you are connecting leadership to the very significant (and growing) cultural and ecological issues going on our planet. Crises of all kinds seem to be becoming commonplace. As these increase as they are likely to do, we are going to have such a tremendous need for far greater leadership than ever before. It’s so important that the leaders who emerge moving forward have that understanding of emotion, shadow, archetypal patterns at play—all the “depth” aspects that depth psychology is so concerned with. 

Meanwhile, I agree with you and James Hillman that there is an aspect of leadership that cannot be dismissed or denied: active involvement with the world. How can anyone calling themselves a leader rely on learning without experience in order to make difficult decisions or offer solutions and strategies to solve critical issues? It reminds me of something Jung said: “Anyone who wants to know the human mind will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart through the world. There, in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling—hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, Socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than textbooks a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with real knowledge of the human soul.” (“New Paths in Psychology.” In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. p. 409). 

Many of us would consider the types of places Jung refers to as places to avoid, not wanting to expose ourselves to the dirtier, darker, or volatile aspects of humanity. But true leaders need to be able to hold all of it without revulsion or judgment. It’s so important not to sweep the shadow side of our culture and our humanity under the rug for we are likely to sweep our own shadow right under their with it. Again, I’m reminded of Jung who said “The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate.” (Christ, A Symbol of the Self, para. 126, Collected Works 9, Pt 2.)

One example of this might be when someone who very vocally promotes his extreme fundamentalist views about fidelity in marriage and ends up being the person who gets caught in an extramarital affair. Can you point to any contemporary examples of how certain leaders either are or aren’t able to embrace the shadow and/or seem to be possessed by shadow or archetypal patterns or images that are playing out? (I should point out that a given archetype isn’t necessarily good or bad, of course, but it’s in the imbalance at play when someone is possessed by it and doesn’t know it). In those examples, what could those individuals have done differently, or what are some ways leaders might begin to learn to recognize the unconscious shadow?

DAL: These are BIG question with endless implications. First before we dive into examples, it’s worth keeping in mind that as we move into concrete, fact-based situations what remains implicit in the background are our assumptions and already-provided classifications. For instance, most corporate senior leaders and consultants believe they know what is good and what is not. And if they expressed too much doubt, this could easily be seen as signs of weakness. Of course, with a little thought, what is beneficial and destructive needs qualification: do we mean short or long term good? Do we mean that which is strictly beneficial to the commercial interests of the business, or do we mean what is beneficial to the larger ecosystem upon which is our common ground? We can get very philosophical about all this. What I want to remain present as I cite examples are the relative, context bound nature of any given situation.

Take for instance, the values of an enterprise so often espoused by leaders, HR professionals, and consultants. Many revolve around three themes: a respect and concern for the individual; the responsibility to be a good corporate citizen; and the importance of being a leading innovator that improves people’s health and quality of life. However as noble as these espoused values are, they are often at odds with the values in action—in other words, the values that the corporation lives every day. In that case the values in action are those of “efficiency,” “doing more with less,” and above all, “growth.” These are what rule the day.

To be clear, I am not necessarily speaking against these latter values, but rather to the “gap” between the espoused values and those that are in action on an everyday basis. It is in this gap – between these two poles—where the corporate “shadow” lurks.

A critical value that Depth Psychology can bring into the corporate world is to generate a broad and deep awareness among its leaders the true nature of the shadow. In common language, the “dark side” and “blindspots” to which we are all prone, is often thought of as being synonymous with the shadow in common language. The fundamental nature of the “shadow” that has direct relevance to corporate leaders is this: the shadow does not reveal itself as such, but rather, is often externalized on to a troubling aspect of the environment “out there” and thus it tends to be either denied all together or addressed with simply rational “problem solving” behavior. Because the shadow exists in the nature of the psyche and is secondarily projected to the external world, its recognition requires leaders to tolerate the psychic tension and a searching introspection. However externalization is typically the rule rather than the exception, with the result often being entrenched “us vs. them” boundaries and a continuous search for scapegoats.


BB: You’ve just offered a compelling description of the status quo, not only in organizations but for individuals as well. This notion that we externalize things is very significant. Executives, coaches and those working in organizations often get training on “problem solving”—and of course step one is to identify the problem. But when the actual problem is incorrectly assigned or the issues underlying the problem are not identified, how can it truly be worked with authentically and solved? It is critical to look at the systemic nature and constantly inquire into what is invisible, hidden, unspoken, or marginalized. This is where the real issues lie, and leaders that have the capacity to recognize it truly have the opportunity to lead, and those who fail to look can quickly move (and move the organization) into dangerous territory, wouldn’t you say?

DAL: Yes, one example I observed first hand illustrates the real consequences associated with an ignorance of the shadow, and the exponential effects of this ignorance when it takes place in leaders vested with significant institutional power to determine the fate of companies that provide meaningful employment and direct significant natural and economics resources. A private equity firm had just paid billions of dollars to acquire a very profitable sub-division of a major Fortune 100 Global Company. They hired a highly seasoned senior executive to be the CEO of the newly acquired sub-division. This CEO excelled in communication skills, and came from an allied industry (but a different sub-sector) after a successful career as CEO of his former company. His mandate by the new owners was simple: dramatically reduce costs and prepare the business to be resold in a 3-5 year timeframe for three times its original cost. To make this CEO’s life easier, he was allowed to move the corporate office 3,000 miles away to be closer to his home, and of course was given major financial incentives if the owners met their financial goals.

The private equity buyer was expert in financial engineering and understood precisely what was needed in those terms. The CEO was an expert in cost-take-out and in communicating effectively with his executive team and the company at large. Neither of these key power players were expert in the sub-sector in which they were now invested. For that, they relied on existing senior managers in the acquired company who had spent their careers working with the mechanics of their particular market sub-sector. The leadership team, headed by the new CEO with final decision making authority, made rational sense, but here is where the dynamics of the shadow—unrecognized as such—began to show itself.

At the time of the acquisition, the sub-sector market was beginning to show early signs of a precipitous decline. A senior long-term executive, highly knowledgeable about the sector and widely respected within the company (pre-acquisition), saw the trends developing a year before they became widely apparent. He tried to warn the CEO of an impending disaster and presented a business plan to mitigate the effects of the anticipated full-blown market meltdown. The CEO, whose generous incentives from his patrons and persuasive optimism was not at all open to this executive’s views and would not hear out his analysis of the early warning signs already present, nor listen to a mitigation plan. More, this executive was promptly labeled by the CEO as a pessimist naysayer and subsequently put in the proverbial “doghouse” for not being a “team player.”

This example is illustrative because it is not at all unusual in the annals of corporate leadership. The business situation was admittedly ambiguous at the time the executive in question was formulating his point of view. One could martial arguments for the market to resume its frothy days and that was, by far, the preferred future that the owners, the CEO, and the majority of the leadership wanted to see happen. All stood to make a lot of money if it did, including the executive in question. The eventual outcome was unfortunate, especially for the 2000+ employees who found employment there. The market deteriorated just as the executive who was completely rebuked and disregarded anticipated, and the company lost a critical 18 months to sell assets when there were still many buyers interested in their acquisition. The company ultimately refused an offer from a major Fortune 50 company to double their acquisition price, and eventually had to seek bankruptcy protection. Most employees lost their jobs, and more, senior managers who were given opportunities to be co-investors with the new owners lost all of their investment.

The official story of the demise was that the company was caught up (like so many others) in the dramatic deterioration of the their sub-sector. In other words, they were relatively innocent victims of uniformly unseen circumstances. However an understanding of the operations of the shadow provide another view. As a factor of the psyche, not the circumstance, it was never collectively inquired into, though privately some executives acknowledged the role it played. The shadow in this situation expressed itself in the following ways: first, greed. The owners, the CEO and the leadership team were already wealthy by any measure of comparison. Second, hubris: the owners and the CEO’s previous success caused them to overestimate their powers to predict the future. Finally, denial: They failed to make the necessary distinctions between success through financial engineering and knowledge of the larger sector market vs. the more precise knowledge needed to run the company effectively in sub-sector market.


BB: Unfortunately, those three factors, greed, hubris, and denial, seem to be part of a recognizable pattern in many organizations that collapse. It is indicative of the culture we live in in so many ways, one in which values capitalism, growth, monetary gain, and puts profit above people so often—and it has to in order to maintain the pattern of corporate growth that has been so established for decades, if not centuries. I can imagine it must be really hard for an individual who takes on a new leadership role with lots of good intentions and promises to actually adhere to his or her ideas and principles without caving to those three things. What do you think about that, and how does a leader actually go about implementing his or her ideas in a depth-centered way without giving over to the status quo?

DAL: The leadership cult popular in today’s business elevates circumstance over psyche; rationality over imagination and externalization over introspection. In short, the reality of the tangible, empirically-observable outer world takes clear precedence over the cloud-like realities of the psyche. This also has obvious implications in not recognizing deeply embedded archetypal patterns. The consequences here are also multiple, but suffice it to say that organizations are constantly interested in “change management.” Over the past two decades as the pace of external change has accelerated, the need to transform rather than merely “change” has given rise to a large network of “transformation” consultants, and Human Resources specialists. However transformation programs rarely achieve a true organizational metamorphosis but rather often devolve into a sub-optimized, energy depleting exercise. A possible reason for this is lack of understanding of archetypal realities and how this has a significant impact on the organizational world.


BB: “Archetypal realities” is an interesting term. How do you define that, and how would you say deeply embedded archetypal patterns play a role in the process of developing more effective organizational design and interventions?

DAL: When it comes to archetypal realities in a business context, I would define it as those background patterns of perception and images on the level of the psyche and cultural values and reflexive behaviors on the level of the organization. Because they exert influence from the background they are often unconscious, and operate independent of the ego. They tap into large stores of energy, which can be expressed positively (as in the collective effort to put a man on the moon) or negatively (as in the collapse of checks and balances that aggravated the 2008 financial meltdown). Without an archetypal perspective, leaders resort to making decisions through an over-emphasis on rational analysis, data gathering, and trend analysis. Take the example of the Change Management discipline noted above. As a differentiated discipline that has been around for at least two decades, it has developed a set of tools and approaches to help companies change – that is move from business model A to model B.

A good example of this is the change forced upon the Utility industry in the face of deregulation; or the change forced upon military contractors in the face of significant government budget cuts. Change programs are approached rationally. Thus a first step is to develop a ‘case for change’, supported by facts and a tight logic thread about why change is necessary. Then there are the objectives which the change will accomplish and why it is good for the company and its employees and finally there are elaborate plans which include the commitments to new model made by senior management, the cascading communication plans, the phased releases of manageable bites, the training of “change agents”, the mitigation strategies (to handle fallout), and the periodic course corrections to address changing circumstances. There is nothing wrong with any of this—its just totally insufficient to address the escalating rate of change, the disruption caused by continual new technologies and the complexity of a global economy. The result is that much corporate energy, human toil and financial expense go to programs that do produce change, but often yield only a fraction of what’s needed. This leaves the organization exhausted where whatever is left over of discretionary effort is focused on short-term survival. The archetypal underpinnings that are orchestrating the forms, their narratives, and accompanying interventions are neither acknowledged nor addressed.

A well-known example of an archetypal reality is “the hero’s journey.” Mythologist Joseph Campbell in his landmark study, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” identified the archetypal hero’s journey as circular process that moves one to go forth from a settled existence, journey into unexplored territory in order to win new powers that can be brought back for the benefit of the community (p. 245). It begins when the Hero hears a “call” to adventure. In corporate terms this would mean create a compelling vision of possible future. The archetypal pattern then requires the hero to cross over the threshold of the known world where one encounters “the shadow presence which guards the passage” (p. 245). In corporate terms this means creating the necessary resources in the form of executive sponsorship, budget, and a team of change agents that will guide the change process.

Now the change agenda is public and the engagement with the significant forces of status quo are in earnest. Campbell identifies this part of the journey as unfamiliar, where one encounters “strangely intimate forces some of which threaten him (tests) and some of which give magical aid (helpers).” In my experience, this where organizations are least prepared and over-rely on only what’s in the change management “toolkit.” This often gets translated into more and better change education, contingency planning, and communications. The helpers that show up are not mined for their potential commitment. The tests that accompany them are often interpreted in terms of self-protection and blind resistance to change. The missing realization that archetypal powers are at work as a company struggles to bring into being a new order of reality, leave those who are advocates of the transformation at a severe disadvantage. Without an archetypal perspective they are left with only their own efforts and superficially literal interpretations of challenge they face. This undermines their confidence and leaves them ill prepared for the next predictable phase of the journey to authentic transformative change.

Before the sustained benefits of a successful transformation can be realized the corporation must pass through the “supreme ordeal” (p. 246). In corporate terms this can show up in many forms. Common are major opposition by a key power center, acquisition by a new owner who has no stake in the transformation, the old culture ignoring the change without consequences. The compromise made at this point often dooms the possibility of authentic transformative change and settles for half measures. In corporate terms, leadership points to real but fairly incremental changes to justify a premature declaration of victory and most importantly to move on to the next “urgent” issue of the day. The result after too numerous outcomes like this, is that employees have become highly skeptical of new change initiatives, take on a ‘wait and see’ attitude which inadvertently becomes ensures that there was never a real desire for transformation in the first place.

It is easy to point a finger at business leadership for being too wedded to their collective views of change based on standard organizational psychology, change management and overarching pressures to produce financial results while the hoped-for transformation is under way. However I think it more productive to challenge those who are committed to the perspectives of Depth Psychology to take it out of the highly ritualized and controlled academic and psychotherapeutic environments, and test its merits to create meaningful change with the business institutions that for better or worse dictate the pace and direction of today’s world. This engagement will force depth psychology to endure tensions previously avoided and engage businesses to reevaluate the role of the soul and psyche in the renewal of our world.

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David A. Laveman works with clients to raise the bar on performance and deliver breakthrough business results. He synthesizes practical understanding of business realities with in-depth insight into human and team behavior, and partners with companies and executives to build capabilities, enhance leadership skills, and generate transformational change. Dave’s background and his knowledge of cutting-edge research inform his down-to-earth approach to optimizing executive performance and driving bottom-line results.

Dave’s career has been distinguished by significant pioneering in the areas of organizational and cultural transformation, breakthrough performance, leadership development and coaching, public-private partnering, and multi-company alliances. He has presented innovative thinking on leadership, transformational change and breakthrough management at The Wharton School, The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, The Society of Information Management, The GMAC Annual Senior Management Meeting, and The Executive Concours. Dave’s thinking on culture, strategy, and paradigms have been cited by Forbes and Harvard Business Review.

Previous to founding Laveman & Associates, Dave served as officer, senior executive, or partner at CSC Index, Accenture, and The Concours Group. He co-founded the Praemia Group and The Pharmaceutical Performance Institute.

Dave is an accomplished chess player whose competitive success has appeared in The New York Times. He holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and Pacifica Graduate Institute.


Bonnie Bright is the principle and and founder of Depth Insights™, Depth Psychology Alliance™, and Depth Psychology List™. She holds M.A. degrees from Sonoma State University and Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA, where she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Depth Psychology.

Depth Insights™ provides media, content, and education for the greater depth psychology community, including written and audio interviews and the semi-annual peer reviewed publication, Depth Insights scholarly eZine.

Depth Psychology Alliance™, the world’s first online academic community for those who are active and interested in the fields of Depth and Jungian Psychologies in 2010–a dynamic organization that surpassed 2,000 members in January 2013. The Alliance is a hub for finding depth psych-related events, blogs, videos, articles and for discussion, learning and connecting with likeminded others.

Depth Psychology List™ is a premier destination to find or list depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners by location or type of services offered.

The Myths of Mary Magdalene: An Interview with Kayleen Asbo & Bonnie Bright for Depth Insights™

In this written interview, Depth Insights host Bonnie Bright interviews Kayleen Asbo, cultural historian, musician, writer, and teacher on the topic of “The Myths of Mary Magdalene,” also the title of her upcoming webinar series. The first of that series, “The Many Faces of Mary Magdalene” is free to the public (must register to join) and takes place May 1, 2013, at 7pm PT.

BB: How did you get interested in Mary Magadelene, and where did you begin your research?

KA: My first memory of Mary Magdalene is as a five year old little girl, crying at the song “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” in a movie theatre when I saw Jesus Christ Superstar, The song haunted me and a few years later, when my first piano was delivered, I spent the first few days trying to pick it out by ear. About ten years ago, I had a very powerful dream in which Mary Magdalene appeared and said if I wanted to find the real Christianity, I should follow the trail from France to Wales. I took the dream seriously, and have been researching early Christianity and its manifestations in France and the British Isles every since. I don’t know if it is “real” Christianity, but I have discovered an amazing set of stories and myths and had incredible adventures along the way.

 

BB: That speaks so strongly to the power and influence of the unconscious on our lives—both through music and through dreams. When the dream said “follow the trail from France to Wales,” did you know what that meant? Were you already familiar with manifestations of Mary Magdalene in those places? Are there real-life instances of Mary Magdalene there, and if so, what are some of the specific images or stories you found? Tell us about your discoveries, how you felt, and what they meant to you at the time and even now.

KA:I had no idea what the dream meant at all. Mary Magdalene and France?…That made no sense to me at the time. It was the year before The DaVinci Code came out, and I had no knowledge about the Medieval legends of her there. I drew a picture the following week filled with other symbols which also made no sense to me then—an Egyptian ankh and some symbols that I later discovered were alchemical images. It has been a slow process of putting together the pieces- and it has taken me on a wild adventure, returning almost every year to Europe to follow new clues. I identified primarily (and still do) with a form of spirituality that is based in Benedictine monastic practices. One of the things I discovered in tracing her pathway in Provence is that the site where she ostensibly spent the last 30 years of her life praying and meditating in a cave is the very site that John Cassian also founded a double monastery after he left Egypt—and he was the foundation upon which St Benedict built his Rule, with its emphasis on imaginal connection to scripture and the idea of the prayer of the heart.

I feel like Wales was a bit of a goose chase. I was expecting to find some sort of wonderful spiritual community there that spoke to my deepest longings—and that didn’t happen. What did happen, however, is that I went pony trekking on my birthday (the feast day of Mary Magdalene, July 22) in the wilds of the Black Mountains. We were talking to the proprietor of the tiny B & B and she was telling us stories about her artist father. I got cold goose bumps on my arms and asked his name. It was Eric Gill, the lithographer. My spiritual director, a Dominican nun, had given me a copy of his picture “The Nuptials of God,” which had carried around in my wallet. It is as you see an image of Mary Magdalene and Jesus in an intensely erotic embrace. He had created the image on the very ground I was standing. I’ll be going back to Wales this Fall to facilitate a women’s dreamquest- I hope I can find a few more clues while I am there this time!

 

BB: It’s very exciting to hear stories of synchronicity like the connection you made in Wales to Eric Gill. I believe the best research happens out of paying attention to such synchronicities. What if you hadn’t paid attention to those goosebumps—or even engaged in conversation with the proprietor? Its great you’re going to follow up. On that note, can you say more about the images that exist of Mary Magdalene and Jesus in erotic relationship and how you perceive that aspect of Mary’s life? While its true that the Dan Brown novel brought this idea to the forefront of pop culture, I can’t imagine there are many of those images, or artists who have had the courage to realize them.

KA: There are implications of an intensely erotic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene from the earliest days of Christianity, even in traditional orthodox literature. For example, the very erotic love poem The Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) was assigned as one of the Catholic liturgical readings for her feast day. It is filled with images of powerful yearning and union with lines like “Let him cover me with kisses, for your love is sweeter than wine”,  and “I am sick with longing.” The imagery is of nuptial union and it is very explicit. That theme of yearning is also present in the psalm that was chanted on her feast day as well: Psalm 42, “As the deer longs for the waterbrook, so yearns my soul for you, O God.”

There are a surprising number of artists who have created images long before Dan Brown that bespeak of intimacy—the Rodin sculpture  “Jesus and Mary Magdalene” [at left] in the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco is one, made all the more potent because Rodin modeled Mary Magdalene after his own doomed mistress, Camille Claudel. The question is—and has always been—do we take these images and poems literally or symbolically? The Song of Solomon was the favorite of Christian mystics and monastics, vowed to lives of celibacy, but individuals who saw in these texts (and sometimes images as well) a beautiful representation of the soul’s yearning for union with the Divine in a spiritual sense.

I meet many people who have a very strong and intense reaction one way or another to the idea of Jesus and Mary in an erotic union or marriage. Some are horrified, others fascinated and compelled. For me personally, it is not one of the central questions. Theirs was an Erotic relationship, in the largest, Platonic sense of the word: full of vitality, life force, intimacy and transformational power. And it could have been physical, but it didn’t have to be. I think at a collective level what we see behind the current fascination around this question of “Did they or didn’t they?” is the hunger in our world to bring together the sexual and the spiritual in a sacramental way of integration. How do we do that ourselves in our own lives? For me that is a much more important and urgent question. Our culture has (for the most part) a radically secular understanding of sexuality and then there is often a radically disembodied spiritual life. For many people, there is church on Sunday and then there is Las Vegas on Friday and Saturday. I think this causes all kinds of shadow issues and psychic disintegration, with suffering at both an individual and collective level. Mary Magdalene invites us to consider how to hold the tension of those seeming opposites together.

One of the things that most intrigues me about Mary Magdalene is how she has been perceived as virtually every possible female archetype. While so many people identify her with the sexual element, with the penitent sinner, adulteress or prostitute, this was really an invention that developed only in the west during the 4th through 6th centuries. Catholic dogma from the time of Pope Gregory taught that once she repented of her sexual sins, she lived the life of a celibate ascetic. It is an interesting case of enantiodromia [an abrupt shift of direction]. This was never part of the doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Church where she is perceived as the Apostle to the Apostles—always both pious and virginal. Martin Luther and Brigham Young are just two of the figures in history who believed she was married to Jesus, and once again many people are wanting to fit her into that role.

What I love is that she can’t fit into a box because she is so multifaceted. You see this particularly in the history of art. The Virgin Mary always looks about 22, lithe and lovely, and almost always blonde with a face of placid serenity. With Mary Magdalene, there is a radical diversity. She is young and old, voluptuous and emaciated, prim and pornographic, glamorous and haggar; of every race, with every hair color, and with expressions of every emotion from hysteria to meditative contemplation, and desolate grief to ecstatic joy. [See *note at the bottom of this post and image just above by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo]. The word that the gnostics used to describe her is “anthropos,” a word meaning “fully human.” I think she is a profound mirror (and teacher) of what it might mean to be just that—fully human.

 

BB: It is interesting that we have projected so much onto Mary Magdalene—as you say, she has been perceived as virtually every possible female archetype. In many ways, she seems to be a unifier. In fact, Carl Jung spoke poignantly about the the long-repressed call for a return of the feminine as a Deity and in 1950 when the Catholic church made the announcement of the Assumption of Mary, he called it “the most important religious event since the Reformation.” (in The Essential Jung by Anthony Storr 1983 p. 324), adding that as the Virgin had bodily entered Heaven, it meant that “the heavenly bride was united with the bridegroom,” their union signifying the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage referred to in alchemy. In other words, Jung believed the event fulfilled our archetypal need for a feminine deity on some level, in that the bringing together of these two archetypal forces allowed a release of the tension of opposites. I would argue that while it was indeed helpful for our culture on some level, we still have a long way to go before that archetypal balance will be restored on a broad cultural plane. What role do you think Mary Magdalene has played in helping to establish balance in the collective, and how might each of us engage with her in our own individuation processes?

KA: I think Mary Magdalene really could be the figure for our times who holds the key to alchemical transformation. For us modern seekers, it much easier to relate to the idea of a sacred partnership or hieros gamos between Jesus and the Magdalene than bridal mysticism through Jesus and his mother. She holds fascination for people regardless of their religious background. I’ve met Pagans, Christians, Jews, and Atheists who are all equally drawn to her. Many of the Gnostic texts indicate that she was seen as the embodiment of Sophia or Divine Wisdom—but a kind of embodied wisdom is what we really need now. She holds that better than any other figure I know. She was called “The Woman Who Knew All,” and the arc of her legends encompasses both grace and disgrace, the body and the spirit, grief and joy in equal measure.

Her symbols as well, encompass a profound duality. Magdala means “tower,” but she is also associated with the symbols of the wild forest, returning to nature. While she lived the first part of her life a wealthy city woman in Palestine, according to French legend, her last thirty years were spent in silent meditation in a cave in the remote mountains of Provence. Her color, red, is both a symbol of sin (scarlet woman, woman in red) and spiritual authority (cardinal red, the pope’s red shoes). For a decade now, I have witnessed in my workshop participants a profound transformative spark once they see the range of images that have been created inspired by her or begin to create their own stories, poems, and paintings through active imagination. One of my favorite paintings is by Georges de la Tour [see at right]. In it, there is both deep shadow and a gentle candlelit illumination as Mary Magdalene is deep in reflection, symbolized by the mirror. Mary Magdalene seems very pregnant and on her lap she holds a skull. How much we need that as a symbol in our times! To be able to hold death and suffering in our laps, and still be filled with hope and new life as we reflect upon the light of illumination! That is such a powerful symbol for all us, both as individuals and as a collective—one that has the power to truly transform us if we let it enter us.

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To register for the free webinar on May 1, “The Many Faces of Mary Magdalene” which explores Mary Magdalene through myths over the centuries, from faithful disciple to penitent prostitute, embodiment of Wisdom and possible bride of Christ to contemporary guide to fulfillment and wholeness—or the entire upcoming series, “The Myths of Mary Magdalene,” with Kayleen Asbo, M.A., click here or visit Kayleen’s web sites at www.kayleenasbo.com and www.mythsofmarymagdalene.com

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*Note for second image above: The wise, knowing half smile on this Magdalene’s face and the silvery sheen of her cloak have made many viewers assume that this is the work of a very modern painter. Surprise! This image of Magdalene—one which embodies such an air of mystery-was painted in the year 1540. While it depicts Mary coming to the tomb (you can see the annointing jar to the far left), the focus here is not on outward action, but inner insight in the moment before she sees the world in a transfigured way. This is the perfect image to accompany the timeless sense of Mary Magdalene which has been reclaimed in our era: a woman of profound wisdom whose spiritual teachings focus on inner contemplation and awareness.

**All images provided by Kayleen Asbo and retain their original copyrights by the original owners.

 

Kayleen Asbo is a cultural historian, musician, writer and teacher who weaves together myth, history, and the arts with experiential learning. Kayleen is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Sonoma State University in the Psychology department and the Osher Life Long Learning Institutes at UC Berkeley and Dominican University. Her classes on a wide array of topics ranging from Dante to Contemporary Music have been hailed as “inspirational”, “fascinating and compelling” , “transformational”  and “truly life changing”.

Kayleen holds three master’s degrees in music, mythology and psychology. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute. Kayleen has been a guest presenter and lecturer on the intersection of history, psychology and the arts at Oxford University in England, the Assisi Institute of Depth Psychology Conference in Italy, Chartres Cathedral in France, Grace Cathedral, the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, and other colleges throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Kayleen is one of four Master Teachers worldwide for the Veriditas Labyrinth Organization, and facilitates workshops at Chartres Cathedral in France every year.

 

Depth Insights™ provides media, content, and education for the greater depth psychology community, including written and audio interviews and the semi-annual peer reviewed publication, Depth Insights scholarly eZine.

Depth Psychology Alliance™, the world’s first online academic community for those who are active and interested in the fields of Depth and Jungian Psychologies in 2010–a dynamic organization that surpassed 2,000 members in January 2013. The Alliance is a hub for finding depth psych-related events, blogs, videos, articles and for discussion, learning and connecting with likeminded others.

Depth Psychology List™ is a premier destination to find or list depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners by location or type of services offered.