Tag 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

When the Gods Come Calling: Dr. Jennifer Selig on Finding One’s Vocation

What happens when the gods come calling, from a depth psychological perspective, and how can one be ready when it happens? These are questions that arose when I recently sat down with Dr. Jennifer Selig to discuss her Salon on January 22, 2016: “The Right Address: How to Be Home When the Gods Come Calling.”

The title of Selig’s presentation is based on the double meaning of the word “address.” Not only can the word mean a physical “address” where you live or work— where you can typically be found—it’s verb form, while pronounced differently, signifies when someone calls you. “Calling” ties to the word “vocation,” which is based on the Latin vocatus, the past tense of vocare, “to call.” Vocation, from the early 15th century is defined as “spiritual calling.” Thus the word “vocation,” Selig notes, literally means to be called by the gods.

One’s vocation, as it turns out, is not as much about what we want to do as it is about where the gods would have us be based on the gifts they have bestowed on us.

In his book, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, Hillman wrote, “We dull our lives by how we conceive them,” Selig reminded me, so vocation—or calling—is the place where we ultimately express the gifts and talents that come through us but are not necessarily of us; not restricted or constrained by our limited egoic perspective.

While a vocational school in contemporary culture is perceived to have a very narrow focus on teaching someone a specific trade they can practice in a fairly short period of time, Selig wants to take the word “vocation” back from that narrow perception. All of our lives are a vocation, no matter what kind of work we do in the world, she insists. For that reason, Pacifica is a true vocational school, opening students to the gifts that are wanting to come through them. Selig has noticed that very often, people are called to come to Pacifica without knowing why. They often step onto the campus and have a feeling of being home.

There are many ways of looking at and discerning what’s calling us. It is important as one leans toward their vocation to trust emotion and affect the body is one way of finding your calling. If you pay attention to where you feel the most energy in your work life; where you have the most joy, you can notice where the calling is strong. Myths, dreams, ritual, and synchronicity also show us paths and patterns. Selig points to works from some of the great pioneers of depth psychology, including Freud, Jung, Hillman, and Marion Woodman, to help point the way as we address questions around vocation.

Perhaps the most important thing to discerning calling is paying attention. James Hillman calls attention the cardinal virtue of depth psychology, Selig points out, noting that she has done some writing on that topic and believes it is crucial to pay attention to both the rational and the irrational—both using the brain for the rational or logos perspective, but also to plumb the irrational in the form of dreams, myth, story and image. It goes both ways, she insists: there needs to be balance of both the day and night worlds; the logos and the eros.

Is finding balance a fantasy, though? Selig suggests that rather than simply seeking balance, learning to live with the tensions that are inherent in our lives is tantamount to pursuing the call. For example, she asks, “How do we hold the tension between what “makes our heart sing” and having to pay the bills?”

“Yes!” I think, when she asks me this. Jung would have agreed: holding the tension allows a space to emerge in which a new thing can arise—the transcendent function at its best. Does holding the tension, then, open the way so that we are paying attention enough to hear the knock when it comes at our door? Suddenly I find myself I looking very much forward to learning more at Jennifer’s Salon presentation on January 22. Who will come knocking there…?

Click here to listen to the full audio interview with Dr. Jennifer Selig.

Sources
Hillman, James. (1996). The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling. New York, NY: Random House, p. 5.

Online Etymology Dictionary: vocation

jennifer_selig.jpg

Jennifer Selig, Ph.D. is founding chair of Pacifica’s Jungian and Archetypal Studies Specialization and the M.A. Engaged Humanities and the Creative Life Program. Dr. Selig currently teaches in both programs, is a published author of many books including Integration: The Psychology and Mythology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and His (Unfinished) Therapy with the Soul of America; a photographer; and writer of non-fiction and screenplays.

 

This blog also cross posted at www.PacificaPost.com and www.DepthPsychologyList.com

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.

###

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

###

*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.

 

Engendering Innovation in Business, Organizations, and Individual LIfe: A Depth Psychological Approach

 

Everyone who’s interested in depth psychology knows that personal growth—what C.G. Jung called “individuation”—is a keystone of our existence in life. Learning to identify our shortcomings and places where we get “stuck” in patterns and processes that are not generative is a critical aspect.

 I switched career tracks when I “discovered” depth psychology several years ago, but I spent nearly 15 years of my life in the corporate world, observing how organizations can also “individuate” under the right leadership, especially when there is reflection on the archetypal (universal) patterns at play and understanding how to work with them. 

I continue to use all those lessons I learned to organize and promote depth psychology-oriented education and services, so when I recently had the opportunity to hear a teleseminar entitled “Patterns for Successful Corporate Transformation” with Jungian analyst Michael Conforti, I couldn’t resist. My own experience so profoundly points to the ever-present need for soul in business, so I always gravitate to what others in the field of depth psychology manifest when they apply their interest and experience to the business world.

In the teleseminar, Dr. Conforti used aspects of systems theory and archetypal thinking to paint a picture of how innovation emerges. Every system has enhancers and inhibitors and what to watch for is a “bifurcation point”—a choice point where the forward path diverges into two (or more) options (like on a tree trunk that splits into two branches). This bifurcation always entails a change in the organization or system because something new is being introduced; a new path can be taken.

Conforti also explained how attractors contribute to change. An “attractor” is the scientific term meaning non temporal, non spatial phenomena that drives the trajectory of a system—or the energy centers that structure and fuel the system and also act as boundaries. When a new attractor develops, a new epicenter for the structure or system at hand emerges and attracts a new series of initiatives stemming from there.

Regularities in any system will occur, and these can be predicted, Conforti suggested. If you own a small coffee shop, for example, with a handful of employees, you and your employees will be far more likely to create and maintain a friendly family feel, one in which customers and employees know and recognize each other and you as the owner can afford to spend time chatting with customers and connecting on a regular and personal basis when they come in. However, if your business hits a growth spurt and you suddenly have 20 people working for you, it will be virtually impossible to maintain a “Ma & Pop” business where you and your employees know everyone who comes in, let alone being able to greet them personally.

Each bifurcation (or choice point) carries it’s own initiatives and patterns that are integral to it. Like a blueprint, or like the oak tree embedded in the acorn before it ever grows, knowing the patterns at play in various (archetypal) situations allows you to predict outcomes and make choices based on what you want to occur. You can see it in the example playing cards, Conforti says. You can choose to “hold” in Blackjack because you have a good idea of how certain situations will play out based on the moment at hand. Likewise, in business, you can choose to grow, but if you observe the archetypal pattern of growth, you can predict it will change the feel of the company (like in the example of the coffee shop–from a Ma & Pop feel to more of an impersonal but more efficient feel).

The first thing a pattern analyst can do is to identify the bifurcation point: to see where the choice point occurs. The next step is to predict the outcome of that bifurcation point by indentifying what patterns are in play and what virtually “always” happens next as that particular pattern unfolds.

Reading archetypal patterns is based on patterns in nature, Conforti suggests. We can literally see how patterns play out. Jung’s colleague, Marie Louise von Franz, talks about patterns in the life cycle of every living organism; times when an individual can’t get out of their own way; times when it seems one is on a roll and can do no wrong, like having a magic touch

So, how do we look at the innate patterns in businesses? How do we know which individuals are living out the archetypal patterns of leaders? How can we identify innovation at work? How can we as leaders or members of any organization identify which conditions to cultivate and which ones to get rid of? The archetypal processes that go on in systems are predictable and can be encouraged, tended, and nourished or rooted out early in the game if one has the presence and play of archetypal patterns on their radar.

Conforti related the story of a film called “Kinky Boots” about a British shoe company that came up with an amazing innovative solution when it appeared the company would go under. The pattern at play involved the archetypal story of the King who dies and his son, the Prince, must take over the kingdom. In this case, the son happened synchronistically onto a potential solution and chose to present it employeesundefinedsome of who resisted and some of whom got on board. By recognizing the bifurcation point and choosing to take action in a certain direction, the story had a happy ending.

The question is, though, when you make a choice that leads into the unknown, when something is so alien that you (and others) simply can’t relate, how do you help prepare a system for adaptation or acceptance?

What happens when your product or service no longer serves the culture? In the history of industry, many corporations have hit that bifurcation point where they needed something new to survive. The nature of the perturbation (change) that comes the established organization or system into it has everything to do with it.

Understanding patterns at work in our personal lives can also empower us to pursue the path that will best serve us in our own process of growth and individuation. Many authors in the depth psychology space have advocated the idea of “personal mythology” including Stanley Krippner and David Feinstein who wrote a book of the same name, and Craig Chalquist whose book, Storied Lives illustrates how personal mythic patterns can play out in people’s lives from cradle to grave. If you can identify and relate to a known archetypal story–a myth or fairy tale that has collective themes and a universal storyline–you can begin to identify what patterns are at play in your own life and how the story might unfold if you continue in the direction you’re going. When you reach a bifurcation point in your own life, then, you can choose to go a different direction if you can see how it will play out one way or another.

Some of the pioneers of depth psychology like archetypal psychologist James Hillman, mythologist Joseph Campbell and of course, C.G. Jung himself also pointed to how archetypal patterns are work in both the personal and the collective. (Click here for an informative post on these individuals’ contributions and ways to identify and work with personal myth from AngelFire.com —or read an article from Daniel Goleman that appeared in the New York Times (1988) called “Personal Myths Bring Cohesion to the Chaos of Each Life”)

Regardless of whether you area looking at the patterns at work in the corporate, collective, or individual space, by looking at the underlying processes at work, transformation can occur in the best way possible, allowing innovative, abundant, and healing solutions to take shape. 

Note: If you’re interested in listening to the archived recording of the teleseminar, “Patterns for Successful Corporate Transformation” with Dr. Michael Conforti, the replay is available here. The 4-week teleseminar series runs through March 11, 2013.

Psyche and the Symbolic Life: How do Symbols Transform You?

Sometimes events occur that naturally captivate our attention, arresting us mid-stream in our daily lives and returning to our thoughts with increasing intensity. While there is no obvious initial explanation for why these events seem to grab us, if we turn our awareness to them, create a container in which they can unfold, and allow them to speak to us through image and emotion, they can provide powerful messages about our personal lives, our psyches, and our relationship with the culture and cosmos around us.

C.G. Jung believed these captivating events and images are manifestations of the unconscious, which are imbued with numinosity. Jung believed in the idea of a collective unconscious, which is vast and inexhaustible; limitless, unknowable, and indefinable. It is made up of what Jung called archetypes, autonomous patterns or instincts that organize the contents of the unconscious and connect it, at its deepest levels, to nature.

Archetypes in the unconscious express themselves in numinous images or symbols providing a sense of what Jung called the Self, an ordering, regulating harmonizing and meaning-giving agency of the psyche. The Self, per Jung is an inner guiding factor, and the totality of the psyche. It is this central archetype around which we circumambulate and gain experience, instinctively seeking wholeness in a process called individuation (Storr, 1983).

A symbol stands for something unknown; a mystery, which can never be exhausted in meaning but is contextually significant to a particular individual. Jungian analyst, Edward Whitmont (1969), contends that symbols allow the emergence of themes from the unconscious in an attempt to reconnect us with a mode of experiencing from which we have become disconnected. He suggests we experience both external objects, things we can detect with our senses and which have meaning for us in a specific context we have learned, and we also experience inner objects that we can’t necessarily know or recognize. Both are represented by images, and “the same images which present themselves to us as representatives of the outside world are subsequently used by the psyche to express the inner world” (1969, p. 29).

Thus, the external object that represents some unknown inner object becomes a symbol, which is “the best possible representation of something that can never be known” (Hopcke, 1999, p. 29). Intuiting the meaning of this object beyond what we already understand it to be is the idea of symbolic thought (Whitmont, 1969). Ryan (2002) calls the symbol both the guiding force that opens the portal to the archetype as well as a vehicle to navigate the deeper parts of the unconscious. Jung (1964) strongly promoted living the symbolic life: taking symbolic experiences seriously.

“In psychological development,” says Jungian analyst and author Patricia Damery in Farming Soul, “the ability to symbolize is paramount in the development of soul. Symbolic work with an image is the mysterious process of seeking the essence of an image and understanding its subjective impact upon oneself, as meaning. Jung lamented that modern man is in deep need of the meaning symbols offer through their resonance with the unconscious” (p. 70).

One of the most powerful ideas behind depth psychology is the idea of what Jungian and archetypal psychologist James Hillman called “seeing through,” in order to discover what lies beneath, behind, or beyond the surface level in order to notice patterns that resonate with understanding of one’s own self. Symbols surround us every minute of the day—and many reach out and grab us, begging us to notice them and tap into the rich wisdom they hold in store. What would happen if you focused on a symbolic image each day–a dream image, something given to you by psyche (because you asked!), or something that grabs your attention and won’t let it go? How might you be transformed by these powerful messages from psyche simply by tuning in and paying attention?

References

Damery, P. (2010). Farming soul: A tale of initiation. Monterrey, CA: Fisher King Press.
Hopcke, R. H. (1999). A guided tour of the collected works of C.G. Jung. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
Ryan, R. E. (2002). Shamanism and the psychology of C.G. Jung: The great circle. London: Vega.
Storr, A. (Ed.). (1983). The essential Jung: Selected writings. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Whitmont, E. C. (1969). The symbolic quest: Basic concepts of analytical psychology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.