Archive for Art & Creativity

Jung, Individuation, and Film (includes Audio Interview)

Ever since I met Dr. Glen Slater in 2008, I have known him to be a particularly passionate and knowledgeable advocate of film. I often see his film reviews in Jungian and depth publications, and his background in clinical psychology and religious studies—along with his interest in technology and culture—make his commentary especially valuable.

jung_film_blog.jpgIn a recent interview, Glen and I sat down together for an intriguing depth discussion on Jung, individuation, and film.

To begin, Dr. Slater notes, while we can think of individuation as coming to one’s deep self or unique character, it’s also the place where one comes to contribute to the larger human story. The individuation process is both deeply personal but also transpersonal; both universal and archetypal. At any given time in a specific culture, individuation is about finding a deep relationship with those energies that are coming up from the collective psyche. Jung believed that “no one can individuate on a mountaintop,” Glen reminded me. Therefore, at the same time you are growing into your own genius, you are also finding where your own life resonates with what is emerging collectively.

Since we need models and mirrors, films are a key place we go today for myth. Films provide a wonderful arena where we can see characters going through the process of individuation—not only experiencing change and transformation, but also finding a deeper understanding of who they really are. As Joseph Campbell pointed out in The Hero’s Journey, there is often initially a refusal of the call, but eventually archetypal forces align to draw the character in to their deeper destiny, Glen states. While a character may initially be uncertain in the journey to individuation, more often that not, they reach a point where an event occurs that seems to spark the idea that they need to serve.

In our culture, we live in a dualistic state in which we all deeply long for a vision that is unitive; where what happens outside is connected to what’s going on inside our mind, Slater notes. Therefore, film, by nature, is an excellent tool for melding inner and outer, enabling us to recover that sense of presence, unity, enchantment, or magic.

So how does one begin to look at a film from a Jungian lens? The answer is definitely related to this idea that the outer world is reflective of the inner world, Slater insists. You must make the bridge with what is known in Jungian psychology as “symbolic thought,” the idea that what occurs in the story is metaphorical rather than literal. The process of individuation may be regarded as “living the symbolic life,” suggesting we must move from an egocentric place of being, to looking at events with a kind of curiosity that asks what things mean on a deeper level.

It’s not hard to know when a film is resonating with something going on in our inner worlds.  When we walk out of a film, it either stays with us or it doesn’t. It’s a litmus test, Glen claims. Does it stay with you or linger in the way a powerful dream might? Paying attention to the way certain stories or characters stay with us helps us discern the material that is touching the psyche.

So what are the new values and energies that need to come in to drive the process? For one, films can empower us to see what’s on the horizon for our culture. As an example, Glen emphasizes that at a time when many Jungian and depth thinkers are talking about the return of the feminine in our current masculinized culture, certain female “heroes” (like Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron in the recent Mad Max: Fury Road) carry a very different value system than we have customarily seen before.

films.jpgOne especially important point Slater notes is that often a protagonist does not move up and out into the light, but rather down into the underworld. Intelligent filmmakers are able to show us the shadow side of our culture instead of parading the heroic values that are traditionally held up in a culture. In our discussion, Glen cites examples from films like American BeautyMillion Dollar BabyCarol, and Star Wars for various interpretations from Jungian perspectives. Jung’s work provides a great toolbox in terms of articulating the archetypes, he asserts.

When I asked Glen how the word “soul”—so commonly used in Jungian and depth psychologies—applies to film, he had a fascinating perspective. He suggests soul refers to a sense there is something outside the ego, that is directing or shaping our experience so that we are drawn into a feeling that there are other presences at work. He points to Jungian and archetypal psychologist, James Hillman, as someone who thought of soul as “that dimension of experience where the spiritual comes into the world”—into everyday embodied experience. For Hillman, the sense of soul requires something that is substantive, something “felt.” In this way, soul is related to the magic and enchantment.

Slater contends that we can identify the presence of an archetype when the “universal” and the “unique” are together simultaneously. Film must absolutely engage our imaginations. And, while images do engage us, for our imaginations to really be set on fire, archetypal patterns have to be activated, creating resonance, and lingering on well after the lights come up and the theater empties. What’s the last film you saw that really set your imagination alight? If you have to think about it, it may be time to see another film.

Listen to the full audio interview with Dr. Glen Slater here (28:29 mins) 


glenn-slatter.jpg

Glen Slater, Ph.D., has a background in both religious studies and clinical psychology. He teaches Jungian and archetypal psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, California. He edited and introduced the third volume of James Hillman’s Uniform Edition, Senex and Puer, as well as a volume of essays by Pacifica faculty, Varieties of Mythic Experience, and has contributed a number of articles to Springjournal and other Jungian publications—several in the area of Jung and film.


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 blogpost was originally posted on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute, on February 3, 2016

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

“Taking Responsibility for One’s Creative Life”: Nina Ross Ph.D. in Conversation with Bonnie Bright for Depth Insights™

50In this depth discussion, Nina Ross (at right) and Bonnie Bright, Ph.D, engage on what happens when one attempts to make art, and the dynamic relationship between art and psychology. Nina offers personal retreats on art and psychology in Santa Fe, NM. Depth Insights™ is a media affiliate of Depth Psychology Alliance.

Originally aired September 20, 2015
(approx 35 mins)

Nina Ross (PhD, LPAT, and ATR) has a PhD. in the Depth Psychology of Art from Union Institute. Nina is an artist, art therapist, and psychotherapist working from a Jungian perspective. Nina has led numerous workshops retreats, and classes at universities, retreat centers and conferences. She is a gentle, experienced and patient guide through the mysterious realms of art and the psyche. View a gallery of Nina’s artwork hereVisit www.ninarossphd.com for additional insight to Nina’s work

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