Tag Archive for carl jung

The Image Making Capacity of Soul: A Conversation on Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life with Dr. Mary Harrell

Every once in a while, a term emerges on the horizon of my awareness which I find strikingly beautiful. In this case, it is the “image-making capacity of soul.” The language of soul is symbol, and symbol shows itself in image—including dream images, fairy tales and myth, or even art, Mary Harrell, Ph.D., explains in her recent book, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life: Stories from the World Between Matter and Mind. Ultimately, this language of images is soul manifesting in a way people can understand, and without that image-making capacity, people can’t come to terms with the unconscious, Harrell insists.

ghost-girl-window-ss_117156934What inspired Mary to write the book, I wondered when I sat down with her to discuss it not long ago. Mary, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist who earned her degree in the Clinical program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, began by sharing a an unusual and surprising story. When she was 13 years old, her mother died. Two years later, a self-described “intuitive, inward-leaning spiritual child,” she experienced a “figure” that came into her bedroom, an “incorporeal” being that became more and more embodied as she moved toward Mary in order to hand her a box. Mary knew that the box was meant to be a gift, she explains, but at just 15 years of age, she was understandably terrified. Instinctively, knowing her sister was asleep in another bed in the same room, Mary threw her arms around her sister. Since her sister had a real body, Mary believed that would stop that ethereal woman from approaching her—and indeed, the woman disappeared.

Untitled_design_2.jpgMary had no context to help her understand how to deal with “ghosts,” nor anyone she could talk to about it, she told me—even though that ghostly woman continued to appear to her for 22 years. In order to cope with the terrifying visits, Mary “altered her consciousness” as she explains it, often by turning on lights or putting her arms around her husband in her 20s. All of this woke Mary up from that altered state which allowed the woman to appear, and eventually the woman stopped manifesting.

Mary began her doctorate at Pacifica in her 40s and discovered analytical (or depth) psychologyoffered a powerful lens which enabled her to investigate with “a sense of reality and scholarship” such unusual phenomenon that is often dismissed in the mainstream. She came to realize she wanted to spend her professional life studying about imaginal beings such as the one she had experienced for much of her adult life. Such beings live in the realm between matter and mind, Mary suggests. They are neither fully of the physical world nor of the mind, a realm which philosopher and scholar, Henry Corbin (and others), called the mundus imaginalis. One can enter that realm by allowing an altered state of consciousness.

There are seven stories in Mary’s book, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life. At Pacifica she found a framework that could deepen the experiences she had, particularly through an understanding of Jungian archetypes. Archetypes have two ends to a spectrum, a physical end and a spirit end, according to Jung. Each of these had a place in Mary’s experience. The spirit end was the “angel” that visited her, and the physical end was the sensation Mary felt when the figure manifested in Mary’s room. Additionally, Mary visually perceived the figure as a Madonna who had a box for her.

Years later, Mary realized it was the image-making capacity of soul that allowed her to perceive the box, and to understand that it represented the gifts a mother would give her child. She credits her education at Pacifica with helping her not only understand the concept of archetypes, but also that each individual experiences archetypes in different ways. Mary holds the belief that, when working with the imaginal, one way to know that you’re not making something up is that there is a deep experience of resonance, a visceral feeling in your body that testifies there is something real at work there. As the stories Mary was writing and their archetypal connects began to resonate with her, Mary knew she could pierce a veil between worlds and make some sense out of the images in the form of a book for those individuals who are open to this invisible realm.

In the Age of Enlightenment, beginning around 1685, Mary told me, a new paradigm emerged in which “science became the great arbiter of legitimacy.” Science insisted certain “truths” might be legitimized if we looked at them through the lens of science, effectively objectifying whatever was under our regard. If we investigate something and it doesn’t fit under that model of reality, she states, it risks being cast aside as something we “made up.”

We are all prone to discount such experiences with the imaginal realm simply because they don’t fit the model of reality to which we tend to adhere, when in reality, in such events, we are experiencing something that lives in that cusp between conscious and unconscious. As a psychotherapist, Mary often invites clients to keep a journal of dreams because, as she points out, even though she and the client are speaking together through the conscious parts of themselves, the unconscious parts of each are also in dialogue. Individuals who have a sufficient amount of “psychological maturity” seem to take to depth-oriented work like a fish to water, she insists, and they discover tremendous richness if they’re willing to take advantage of doing the work.

On the other hand, I note that Robert Romanyshyn, author and now Professor Emeritus at Pacifica, has referred to Mary’s work as a “therapy of culture,” and I ask Mary how her ideas can be applied to our society.

You can’t pay attention to your own integrity, development, liminal experiences or dreams, she asserts, without also becoming open to how those manifest in the culture. When she wrote the stories in the book, for example, Robert Romanyshyn pointed out that she used language that embodied a deep “poetic sensibility.” If you look at the world through the lens of a poet instead of as a “psychologist,” then you are engaging a lens of the humanities, Mary suggests. Her work enabled her to look at that “very real” cultural phenomenon—that of school shootings— as a cultural dream, and to investigate what the psyche is saying about the collective. If we “go back” through an imaginal process and go deeper into the experience, we can actually change the world, Mary confirms.

Mary conveyed her own excitement about a turn she perceives that Pacifica has made toward action in the world—to change the ecological trajectory, or to transform social injustice. If each individual can actually hold a container in which they look at negative aspects of themselves, and require of themselves a certain integrity, this generates a sort of ripple effect, according to Jung. It lends a kind of stability to an individual, simply by being in a room and being centered. People can feel that, Mary insists. To look at psychotherapy with a poetic sensibility and acknowledgment here in the “middle realm” we inhabit (the same place where the dream of school shootings and other such disturbing events coalesce), then the culture itself can benefit, and not just individuals, she affirms. Jung suggested we work with images by staying with the image. The understanding and transformation derived from the process could take seconds, or it could take years, but if we look at an image with a self-reflective ego attitude until we “come to terms with” the unconscious, it will engender “more goodness, more community, and more understanding.”

Like many people who go to Pacifica, Mary notes, she was at a time of extreme transition in her life when she enrolled there. She recognizes how valuable a container it was for her to find and carry out her work, and cites all the faculty there for “a special kind of courage” for doing things others are not willing to do or to acknowledge in the wider world, and she perceives that they each are following a connection with “something deep within them.” Robert Romanyshyn and Veronica Goodchild, both depth psychologists and authors were especially “brilliant and tender teachers” she confides, and Pacifica itself seems to “collect” people who can participate in this “holding” process, in making a container in which this kind of deep and often life-changing work can be done. For some reason, on hearing this, my thoughts turn to the box proffered by ghostly woman so many years ago.

Listen to the full interview with Mary Harrell, Ph.D., here (Approx. 37 mins)

Learn more about the M.A./Ph.D. program in Clinical Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology at Pacifica


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Mary H. Harrell, B.S., M.Ed., Ph.D., is the author of a new book, Imaginal Figures in Everyday Life: Stories from the World Between Matter and Mind.  It comes as a result of research, personal experience, and professional accomplishments in the area of Jungian-oriented psychotherapy. Dr. Harrell, a licensed psychologist, earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and her M.Ed. in developmental reading from University of Delaware.  She is Associate Professor Emeritus at State University of New York at Oswego, Curriculum and Instruction Department School of Education. She served as a K-12 teacher and reading specialist for three decades in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and California.  During 8 of those years she also was a consultant and presenter of teacher effectiveness programs, classroom management skills, learning styles, and teaching strategies for Performance Learning Systems, Inc., in California. Learn more at www.MaryHarrellPhD.com

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Pacifica Pos

Yoga Meets Depth Psychology: Union, Consciousness, Healing

silhouette of woman practicing yoga on the beach at sunset

“The body is merely the visibility of the soul, the psyche; and the soul is the psychological experience of the body” —C.G. Jung

“Yoga is most often understood as the union of the individual with the transcendental self, with what Jung terms the Self.” —Judith Mills

 

In recent years, the practice of yoga has made headlines in the mainstream media as parents in U.S. school districts challenged its inclusion in the curriculum at public schools, insisting it amounts to religious indoctrination and that it violates religious freedom.[1] In the U.S. today, while mainstream yoga is largely focused on physical poses and breath work, historically it evolved over millennia in the context of the spiritual and religious traditions of India. As such, it is not a religion, but rather a philosophy that enables mindfulness and a sense of well-being, among other benefits. No matter where you fall in the debate on whether—and where—it should be taught to children, practitioners of depth psychology and those seeking positive transformation appreciate yoga for its powerful potential to heighten spirituality and increase consciousness.

C.G. Jung, who valued yoga for its evidence-based experiential approach, perceived “important parallels” with psychoanalysis. He made a comprehensive study of yoga, delivering multiple lectures over the course of several years focusing on a psychological interpretation of kundalini yoga. He asserted that as yoga, being the oldest practical philosophy of India, is the mother of psychology and philosophy (which are one and the same thing in India) and therefore the foundation of everything spiritual.[2]

Yoga, meaning union in Sanskrit, seeks to create awakening through somatic experience, cultivating states that connect us more wholly with something larger than our ego selves—the ground of being, the web of life, or what Jung termed the “Self”—effecting a transmutation of consciousness that stems from attention to inner experience. The experiential, embodied practice puts us in touch with our physical being and grounds us more fully in the earth, anchoring us to something immutable, even as our breath and movement serve to make us more consciously aware and to shift inherent patterns and blocks we may be experiencing.

AVENUES OF HEALING

“Yoga teachers are well aware of how the practice of yoga brings awareness through the layers of the body, often dredging up previous traumas and somatic awakenings,” Cheri Clampett, who is a certified yoga therapist with over 25 years of teaching experience, and the co-author of The Therapeutic Yoga Kit confided. “When these two complimentary fields come together, they offer deep avenues of healing for the soma and psyche.”

What are those avenues of healing, exactly? While yoga serves to balance and unite opposing forces to create a harmonious being, Jung went as far as to describe the intersection between depth psychology and yoga as the capacity for liberation, for each to lead to a “detachment of consciousness…a freeing from the passions and from the entanglement with the realm of objects…a psychical experience, which in practice is expressed as a feeling of deliverance.”[3]

Practitioners have long reported the capacity for yoga to evoke the numinous, a term Jung borrowed from psychologist Rudolf Otto to describe something beyond the ordinary; inexpressible or mysterious—something spiritual or sacred that carries us past the ego experience of the everyday self and reveals our divine belonging, our wholeness in potentia.[4] Indeed, yoga has been known to lead to the awakening of Kundalini, a force described as primordial energy, Shakti or universal power, which can be constellated a combination of ritual spiritual and somatic practices. When its ascent culminates in topmost chakra in a “blissful union of Shiva and Shakti,” it leads to a “far-reaching transformation of the personality.”[5]

JUNG AND YOGA

For Jung the Kundalini is the anima, or soul. “From the standpoint of the gods, this world is less than child’s play; it is a seed in the earth, a mere potentiality,” he wrote. “Our whole world of consciousness is only a seed of the future. And when you succeed in the awakening of Kundalini, so that she beings to move out of her mere potentiality, you necessarily start a world which is a world of eternity, totally different from our world.”[6]

Jung believed that yoga originated as a “natural process of introversion,” and that such introversions characteristically lead to personality changes. While Jung viewed these inner processes that evolved from yoga as universal, he felt the methods that led to them were culturally specific.[7] For this reason, Jung discouraged westerners, whose core beliefs are founded on a perception of separation—of dual and opposing poles in the realms of mind and matter, nature and psyche— from practicing yoga, fearing it could lead westerners into territory they were not culturally prepared to encounter. He suggested the west would develop its own “yoga” to explain or engage the unconscious in due time, ideas now being debated in the field of Jungian psychology.

Indeed, yoga, like many eastern or mystical spiritual traditions, is rooted in the idea of non-duality; that is, that all creation, including humans, is an aspect of the divine and is not separate from it. While this kind of transcendent consciousness is potentially available to each of us at any given moment, our ego-identity often stands in the way of that sense of unity. Yoga, in part through enabling us to engage our bodies and to be more in the present moment, allows us to suspend the thoughts, ideas, concerns, and conditioning that typically stand in the way of our sense of the sacred.

Jung makes a compelling description of the kind of transcendence one might experience in awakening to these kind of psychological or spiritual truths. On the subject of freeing ourselves from outer and inner entanglements, Jung wrote that “consciousness is at the same time empty and not empty. . . . no longer preoccupied with compulsive intentions but turns into contemplative vision.”[8]

Lionel Corbett, M.D., Jungian analyst and author of Psyche and the Sacred, writes about this apparent dissolution of boundaries, noting that “innumerable people have been able to …have numinous experiences of union with the larger psyche. In such moments,” Corbett suggests, “the world and the personal self seem to flow into each other, both part of a greater unity, with no sense of separation or personal unity…. In such an experience, the personal self is lost in the larger Consciousness of the Self, revealing our essential continuity with it.”[9]

Corbett points out that Jung, in much of his work, displays a spiritual sensibility that is compatible with the great non-dual spiritual traditions, even while remaining dualistic in his thinking in others. Both these approaches are valuable to psychotherapy, Corbett insists, yet most Jungian therapists ignore Jung’s non-dual thinking. Corbett intends to expand on some of the important implications of non-duality for psychotherapy at the Yoga Meets Depth Psychology program offered by Pacifica Graduate Institute in July.

Another Jungian analyst contemplating the value of the interface between yoga and psychotherapy is Dr. Joseph Cambray, who proposes that Jung’s incorporation of yoga practices and principles in his version of depth psychology started largely with the Red Book in which Jung documented his exploration of his unconscious and his active imagination encounters with various images and figures during that time. In fact, Jung revealed that during this intense period of confrontation with the unconscioushe frequently turned to yoga to eliminate powerful, wrought up emotions that had been stirred up.[10]

The correspondence between yoga and depth psychology emerged in subsequent theorizing that included references to the yogic literature, points out Cambray, including Jung’s Kundalini seminars in which Jung endeavored a western symbolic analysis of the Chakra system. As a long time psychotherapist (and past President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology), Cambray asserts that the interface of these two approaches provides profound advantages for contemporary psychotherapy.

MINDFULNESS AND PLAY

meditation yogaMindfulness is another powerful tool for accessing states of unity and flow according to Dr. Patricia Katsky, psychotherapist and Vice-Provost at Pacifica Graduate Institute who, in conjunction with Dr. Juliet Rohde-Brown, Director of Clinical Training for the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Pacifica, and long-time Buddhist meditation teacher, is exploring the critical characteristics of the mind states that are common to the three fields of yoga, depth psychology, and Buddhist meditation.

Similarly, the two clinicians are inquiring into the implications of “deep play”—a mind state comparable at an adult level to the meaningful childhood play of our past. “Deep play experiences are capable of bringing us into healing contact with the numinous,” writes Katsky. Indeed, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung recounted his own experience of how the act of play created a powerful psychic state in his own life. After spontaneously recalling a childhood memory of play, Jung felt compelled him to take it up again as an adult. Each day, before his patients arrived, Jung succumbed to the urge to “play,” mindfully building an “small town” of stones. For him, it released a “stream of fantasies” and led to an inner certainty that it was helping him to discover his own inner myth. “In the course of this activity my thoughts clarified, and I was able to grasp the fantasies whose presence in myself I dimly felt,” he wrote.[11]

In psychotherapy, Katsky proposes that the therapist mind state of “evenly-hovering attention” is one form of deep play, and submits that the practice of yoga can bring one to similar inner states of release and nourishment, leading us to rich self-reflections, creativity, greater contact with the imaginational world, and to deepened consciousness, including numinous experience.

Ultimately, yoga, like many of the world’s wisdom traditions, can become a portal to the present moment, to being anchored in our bodies and on the earth through the embodied use of breath and movement. This, in turn, may give rise to a dissolution of boundaries, enabling us to feel more relaxed, connected, and unified with a larger ground of reality—even ultimately awakening us to numinous experiences of the sacred. Depth psychology, with its emphasis on engaging the unconscious in order to achieve greater wholeness, can lead us to similar states. 

“At the intersection of yoga and depth psychology lies the threshold where psyche meets soma,” asserts David Odorisio, a depth practitioner who has created a professional practice that integrates the spiritual heritage of the world’s wisdom traditions with Jungian and depth psychologies in an accessible and embodied way. “This mysterious meeting point between soul and body holds unlimited—and often untapped— archetypal wisdom, vitality, healing, and wholeness.”

Join these and other world-renowned scholars and practitioners July 15-17, 2016, for Yoga Meets Depth Psychology: Embodying the Sacred, Encountering the Soul, an experiential, transformational weekend immersion at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Pacifica faculty, including expert-level Jungian analysts and depth psychologists, will present alongside internationally recognized yoga teachers to highlight and illuminate the rich intersections of these diverse yet complementary fields. Details and registration here

Recommended reading: 

The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932 by C. G. Jung, edited by Sonu Shamdasani. Princeton University Press, 1996

Jung and India. Spring Journal, Volume 90, Fall 2013, edited by Al Collins, Elaine Molchanov, and Nancy Cater

Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection, by Judith Harris. Inner City Books, 2000.

“Jung’s Encounter with Yoga,” by Harold G. Coward, Journal of Analytical Psychology23(4), 1978, pp. 339-357,

Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung, edited by Aniela Jaffe (1961). Vintage Books, 1989.

Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion by Lionel Corbett. Spring Journal, 2007.

 


NOTES

[1] See “Beyond ‘Namaste’: The benefits of yoga in schools” by Dana Santas. CNN, May 10, 2016: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/10/health/yoga-in-schools/index.html

[2] Jung and Eastern Thought by Harold Coward, State University of New York Press, 1985, p. 11

[3] In The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, C.G. Jung, p. 83

[4] See “On Psychic Energy” in Jung’s Collected Works, Vol. 8.

[5] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. xxv

[6] In The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. 26

[7] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga

[8] C.G. Jung in “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’ ” in Alchemical Studies, Collected Works Vol. 13, para. 65

[9] Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion by Lionel Corbett. Spring Journal, 2007, p. 25

[10] Sonu Shamdasani, in his introduction to Jung’s The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, p. xxv

[11] Jung, in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books, 1989, p.174

How Many Climate Scientists Does It Take?–Media, Perception, and Soul Loss

American psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton identifies our very human tendency to ignore difficult realities and overwrite them with thoughts and beliefs that are more palatable as “psychic numbing.” This allows our ego to distract itself enough that it doesn’t have to engage with inner and outer voices and images and movements that go beyond the mainstream consciousness (in Shulman-Lorenz & Watkins, Toward Psychologies of Liberation).

When we witness instances of ecocide (ecological suicide) in the world around us, take note of how wasteful and damaging our consumer-oriented culture has become, or are faced with dire news about how climate change is devastating our planet and threatening life as we know it, we are affected in both body and psyche.

Aspects of the psyche which we require to be healthy and whole get displaced at seeing the destruction; they split off and take cover in a sense, because it’s easier than admitting and knowing we each have some part it in it. This creates a condition of what some indigenous cultures regard as “soul loss,” a sort of psycho-spiritual deficit, which leaves us individually (and collectively) in a state of depression, malaise, and a general loss of vitality. In fact, in Modern Man in Search of Soul, Jung (1933) diagnosed our entire culture as suffering from loss of soul.

In his essay, “The Viable Human,” (in Deep Ecology for the Twenty-first Century, Shambhala), theologist Thomas Berry wrote, “Our present dilemma is the consequence of a disturbed psychic situation, a mental imbalance, an emotional insensitivity.” Ecocide and our contribution to climate change make it nearly impossible to feel “at home” on our planet in today’s world. Many of us are consciously or unconsciously experiencing anxiety at the destruction we’re inflicting on the earth.

 

Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of ChaosIn his excellent and comprehensive book, Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity Theory, Deleuze|Guattari and Psychoanalysis for a Climate in Crisis offers an interesting look at some humorous ways comedians and others engage us in the environmental debate, in the end, he notes many of us turn to denial because the possible outcomes are so grim and so vastly unknown that we just can’t wrap our brains (or our emotions) around the issues.

Dodds writes, “It seems that we have evolved to deal optimally with threats which are immediate, clear, visible, with simple causation, caused by a clearly identifiable ‘enemy’, and with obvious direct personal consequences,”(p. 46) subsequently pointing out that climate change is highly uncertain, not readily visible, and rather abstract in relation to the “here and now.” This translates to the mass denial, apathy, and dissociation we are currently witnessing overall. Dodds calls it the “ultimate bystander effect.”

Globalization, and especially the pervasiveness of media and the manner in which information is conveyed, amplifies the symptoms, affecting us even more deeply, both somatically and psychologically. The speed at which we exchange and take in information is also a significant problem for the psyche, allowing little or no time for reflection and contemplation of what we hear, see, or read.

Much of my current research on the topic of ecocide, environmental degradation, climate change, and their effects on the human psyche consist of newspaper and magazine articles providing the latest information and statistics on the symptoms of a pattern I am referring to as “Culture Collapse Disorder.”  

Due to the speed and fragmentation of mass media, I struggle to articulate and convey information in a way that is considerate of the deep wounds to soul at work in this amazing and frightening phenomena of witnessing the collapse of life as we know it.

media overwhelmNews today in general is difficult to sift through, and does a poor job of conveying what is important. So-called “news” is often delivered at such speed, and with so little time between stories as newscasters, newspapers, or websites skip from one to the next, that we as a public have no time to reflect on any given story.

Too, stories are placed in conjunction with one another with no context of what is deeply important. Recently, I watched PBS Newshour spend nearly ten minutes talking about what it means that many western cultures default to assigning “pink” to girls and “blue” to boys, arguing that it limits girls in their capacity to grow up and become leadersundefinedonly to see that in the next segment, which lasted less than a minute, they “touched on” the topic of the 200 school girls in Nigeria that had been kidnapped to be sold into marriage by terrorists. While I don’t contend that the “pink and blue” debate relating to gender issues is important–it certainly beats the Kardashians reality show which was just a few channels over–the way each topic is portrayed in conjunction with the next, distorting the significance of each, confuses the human mind regarding status and urgency of each situation. 

I recall noting during the early days of the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan, headlines on the Yahoo home page read “Japan Faces Nuclear Crisis,” positioned right next to a section entitled “Trending Right Now” which included information on “The Bachelorette,” “Lady Gaga,” and “Oil Prices.” Stories on Yahoo about Charlie Sheen acting out uncontrollably received more overall hits than the Japan disaster did during that time, and we can witness this kind of cognitive dissidence online in a myriad of ways virtually every single day.

Back in Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos, Dodds succinctly and convincingly portrays how media serves to skew our comprehension of the real imperative but also reflects our ambivalence, citing examples of how articles for climate change appearing in newspapers are placed side by side with ads for holiday airfares or for SUVs.

Today’s incredibly fast pace of information dissemination via Internet and social media allows us to access important news and data about ecological destruction and climate change, but when treating all topics with equal intensity (everything seems to be “breaking news” on CNN these days), we quickly lose sight of the context that makes meaning.

A recent comic sketch on the HBO news-satire program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver illustrates this concept visually and forcefully. Oliver explains that, while 97% of climate scientists concur that climate change is a reality and that humans have a part in it, we normally only see television debates in which both sides of the argument are represented equally–as if the debate were fifty-fifty, for and against.

In the sketch, Oliver points out that in order to portray the issue realistically, the debate would have to be between just three climate change deniers and 97 individuals who believe. The point that the debate is 97 to 3, rather than fifty/fifty, is driven home when Oliver sets up a mock debate and proceeds to march out three people on one side of the table and dozens on the other. (Click the video below)

 

Online, virtually everywhere, stories about celebrities and their public lives line up alongside stories about the destruction of the planet, about atrocities, violence and trauma, as if all were equal in importance and scope. Debates occur without context or proper weighting for us to reflect on what is real and meaningful. It makes me wonder how we, both individually and as a culture, can truly begin to understand what is truly critical and meaningful to spend our time and resources on, when we haven’t properly reflected about what’s going on on our planet and in our culture.

Reflection, and taking the time to allow things to emerge from the margins where they have been banished, or to well up from where they have been suppressed, is a fundamental practice of depth psychology which enables us to have profound insights. What if we collectively set aside a few minutes each day simply to unplug, turn off the news and sit in quiet contemplation, allowing our psyche to truly absorb and reflect the challenges we face? How might that kind of quiet activism begin to initiate change, first in ourselves–and then in the world around us?

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NOTE: If you’re interested in the topic of soul loss, you can read more about it in my essay, The Shamanic Perspective: Where Jungian Thought and Archetypal Shamanism Converge.

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.

C.G. Jung: His Role in Depth Psychology

In honor of what would have been Jung’s 138th birthday, July 26, I’m sharing an excerpt from my essay on Jung’s role in Depth Psychology, “Occupy Psyche: Deconstructing the Jungian Shadow in Depth Psychology,” published in Occupy Psyche: Jungian and Archetypal Perspectives on a Movement (2012, Eds. Jordan Shapiro and Roxanne Partridge).


The essay takes a look at how Jungian psychology relates to depth psychology and examines the influence of the larger-than-life persona of Jung on many of us who feel profoundly impacted by his work. 

It also cautions us, by the way, to regard the shadow cast by the legend Jung has truly become and to ground ourselves in remembering his humanity and not idealizing him. 

Read on…

The theories of Swiss-born Carl Gustav Jung (known as C.G. to his peers) developed during the infancy of the emerging field known as psychology, established him as a pioneer and one of the founding fathers of depth psychology. The broader field of psychology was essentially born in 1879 when German physician and philosopher, Wilhelm Wundt, set up the first laboratory that carried out psychological research. The next few years marked the award of the first doctorate in psychology, the first title “professor of psychology, and the establishment of the American Psychological Association in 1892 (Zimbardo, 2001). In 1890, American philosopher William James, published Principles of Psychology, which marked an important transition from a mental philosophy to a scientificpsychology. A few years later, in 1896, a Viennese medical doctor trained in neurology, Sigmund Freud, introduced the term “psychoanalysis” to define the practice of “talk therapy.”

In 1900, the same year that Jung graduated from the University of Basel with his M.D. degree, Freud published his groundbreaking work, The Interpretation of Dreams–strongly establishing this aspect of mental life as an area of study. Freud’s explication of psychoanalysis based on his theories of hysteria, dreams, and word association as a doorway to uncover repressed material was one of the turning points that led to the birth of what was ultimately called “depth psychology,” a term coined by Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler around the same time. Depth psychology claimed to reveal critical understanding of the conscious mind through exploration of the depths of the unconscious one. Jung’s path to depth psychology solidified when he completed his doctoral dissertation for his Ph.D. in 1902 at the University of Zurich on a depth-related topic, On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena.

Jung met Freud who became Jung’s colleague and mentor in 1907, and they continued to establish the study of depth psychology both independently and together until 1913, at which time Jung’s capacity to support some of Freud’s theories reached a breaking point. While Freud continued to be entranced by the idea of a personal unconscious that harbored secrets, wishes, drives, and desires that could be mined and explained by childhood experiences, Jung moved more toward his theory of a collective unconscious which was a reservoir for archetypes, dreams, and stories that applied beyond the individual. The ensuing rupture between Jung and Freud was partially responsible for sending Jung into a downward spiral into the depths, instigating the fear that he was losing his mind, and ultimately resulting in an engagement with the objective unconscious that led to his writing the Red Book. When he emerged from his “descent,” Jung went on to make many vital contributions to depth psychology as we know it today.

By the time of his death in 1961, Jung had become something of a legend in his own time. As John Ryan Haule (2011) pointed out in volume one of his new scholarly work, Jung in the 21st Century, Jung “has become the most beloved of the original giants of psychoanalysis” (p. ix), even though Jung’s credibility in scientific circles and even the general field of psychology has been controversial due to some of his unusual theories which have branded him more as a mystic. Recent years have only emphasized the growing cultural interest in such esoteric topics and in Jung himself, evidenced in part by the warm reception of Jung’s Red Book (published in 2010), and also by the release of the recent film, “A Dangerous Method” (Cronenberg, 2011), which profiles Freud and Jung’s relationship and tells the story of how psychoanalysis developed. And, with growing numbers of Jungian analysts and organizations employing technology like video conferencing to educate or conduct sessions around the world, Jungian psychology is experiencing a golden era of rebirth. In fact, the headline of a January 2012 article in the Guardian boldly proclaimed, “This Could be Carl Jung’s Century” (Samuels, 2012).

On top of his professional persona, Jung’s life was a human life, marked by its own unique set of challenges, and further complicated—as with all of us—by human companions and colleagues. This, however, bears out the opportunity and the invitation to look at our attachment to Jung, the man, and his role as one of the founders of an institution many care deeply about. While it is easy to idealize both Jung and his ideas, it is critical to examine where we are accepting without questioning, buying into unauthenticated stories, worshiping while ignoring foibles, and establishing our convictions based on emotional attachment to an ideal image or outcome.

Jung’s work has personally profoundly affected me in many ways but he would likely be the first to minimize the tendency to put him on a pedestal. He purportedly said–more than once–“I’m glad I’m not a Jungian” and eschewed the establishment of a fixed initiative for studying “Jungian” psychology. 

Happy birthday, Dr. Jung. I so appreciate your contribution to our world.


References

Cronenberg, D. (Writer). (2011). A dangerous method. In R. P. Company (Producer). U.S.: Sony Pictures Classics.

Haule, J. R. (2011). Jung in the 21st century: Evolution and archetype (Vol. 1). London; New York: Routledge.

Mogenson, G. (2003). A Review of Sonu Shamdasani, Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science., 387. Retrieved from http://www.gregmogenson.com/Shamdasani.pdf

Samuels, A. (2012). This Could Be Carl Jung’s Century. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/jan/25/carl-jung-century?newsfeed=true

Shamdasani, S. (2003). Jung and the making of modern psychology: The dream of a science. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Zimbardo, P. G. (2001). History of Psychology. Discovering Psychology. Retrieved February 11, 2012, from http://www.learner.org/discoveringpsychology/history/history_nonflash.html

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.

 

Working with Dreams: Depth Psychology Techniques of Carl Gustav Jung and James Hillman

Working with Dreams: Depth Psychology Techniques of Carl Gustav Jung and James Hillman

Dream work is ancient, it’s long tradition evidenced in the temples of Asclepius in Greece where individuals went to be healed through their dreams. Dreams have been an important aspect of many spiritual traditions, and even Freud considered the study of dreams to be his most important work. There are many methods of dream analysis. When working with dreams, it can be helpful to intentionally assess them from various aspects, including mythical, archetypal, alchemical, and collective, and to pay attention to which resonate most strongly emotionally and elicit even a physical response in order to begin to understand what insights are being gifted through your unconscious.

In The Dream and the Underworld, archetypal psychologist and post-Jungian James Hillman prefers to allow the dream and dream symbols to remain what they are, and not to analyze and interpret them but to simply interact with them and see what comes about. However, Hillman’s method of seeing focuses far more on an artistic view than from a therapeutic or results-oriented standpoint. As such, when it comes to dreams and symbols, he stays with the process and activity itself instead of seeking an outcome or solution. He values the description over interpretation, the animating and making a thing come alive rather than suffocating it with a contrived explanation from outside the dream. He thrives on visiting the dream in its own realm of power, the underworld, and in honoring it by allowing it to be its own entity there instead of trying to make it come alive in our ordinary world of thinking.

Hillman’s goal, as was Jung’s, is to get ever closer to the characters and activity in the dream realm, but as opposed to Jung who then turned to amplification in order to find meaning and interpretation at the level of the waking ego, Hillman chooses not to bring the dream element back into waking life and force it to match up with symbols or meanings we already hold. In fact, Hillman claims that to bring the dream out of the underworld actually betrays the dream. Hillman advocates finding wordplays, asking questions of the objects themselves, and then allowing them to live out their own soul-like existence without comparison or contrast to external references. He chides us in our desire to analyze, our wish to know, and speaks of “letting our desire die away into its images (p. 201).

I find Hillman’s technique enjoyable and rewarding as an activity, like reading a good book or watching a movie with a plot and characters that take place in front of your eyes. It is mentally stimulating, interesting, creative, and even insightful on its own terms. However, as a thinking/intuitive type, analysis and interpretation come as naturally as breathing to me, and I simply can’t conceive of doing dream work without some aspect of interpretation. If I truly believe that the unconscious is trying to communicate through dreams, and that there is a message in store that can help lead to my individuation, I must also adopt some of Jung’s (and many others) methods, in order to draw some conclusions. Otherwise, I simply recognize events or aspects of my life much later and don’t benefit from the learning aspect of my dreams as Jung purported.

Jung stresses the value of compensation in dreams, describing it as a means of “balancing and comparing different data or points of view so as to produce an adjustment or a rectification” (1960, p. 75). Robert Sardello (1995) sums up Hillman’s approach as metaphorical as contrasted to Jung’s approach, which is symbolic. However, he reminds us, “dreams are not metaphors for something else, but a different reality, a metaphorical reality” (p. 110). Robert Hoss (2005) claims compensation appears “in order to reveal misconceptions and inappropriate myths that have bound us in conflict, to provide an alternative path or reversal in our thinking about the dream, and to lead us in the direction of transformation and release” (p. 115).

Though Jung believed virtually every dream was compensatory, Hillman dismisses the compensation theory because, according to him, dreams are made partial, one-sided and imbalanced and therefore require the dreamer to turn to the dayworld aspects of ego to find the missing elements in order to find meaning (1979).

Jung asserts, “A dream…is a product of the total psyche. Hence, we may expect to find in dreams everything that has ever been of significance in the life of humanity” (1960, p. 65). Here, Jung refers to the archetypal quality of dreams, the idea that universal patterns, which are the building blocks of the collective unconscious, also make up our dreams. Robert Johnson insists “we incarnate the archetypes with our physical lives” (p. 62) and that we must research mythology and seek to understand the characteristics of the archetype, once identified, in order to understand its role in our lives. The archetypal aspect must be connected to a personal perspective or it is pointless, Johnson goes on, because “every symbol in your dream has a special, individual connotation that belongs to you alone…even when a symbol has a collective or universal meaning, it still has a personal coloration for you and can be fully explained only from within you” (p. 63).

Regardless of which dream method you adopt, there is usually not one “right” translation. Dreams hold knowledge and insight for us on many levels—often at the same time. If you’re interested in dreams, be sure to check out a free upcoming teleseminar on dreams by Jungian analyst Dr. Michael Conforti, whose methods adhere closely to Jung’s and who has been working with dreams for more than three decades. Details for the archived teleseminar can be found here –and don’t hesitate to look for depth practitioners on DepthPsychologyList.com who offer dreamwork as well.

Some References

Hillman, J. (1979). The dream and the underworld. New York: Harper & Row.

Hoss, R. J. (2005). Dream language: Self-understanding through image and color. Ashland, OR: Innersource.net.

Johnson, R. A. (1986). Inner work: Using dreams & active imagination for personal growth. San Francisco: HarperCollins.

Jung, C. G. (1960). Dreams (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). New York: Routledge.

Sardello, R. (1995). Love and the soul: Creating a future for earth. New York: HarperCollins.

Memory, Place and Story: How Connection to Land Connects us to Self

Some would argue our contemporary consumer-based, productivity-oriented culture contributes to a collective loss of memory—done of being connected to something larger than our everyday selves. As a society, we have become dislocated in time and disconnected from place, leaving us rootless, transient, and opting for sensationalism instead of spirituality; superficiality instead of soul. So much of this malady is due to our disconnect from nature, our bodies, and earth itself. We are no longer grounded in something real that gives us context to understand how our lives play out in a fabric of being, a pattern in living nature with a self-organizing intelligence of its own. As Jung put it,

“Man feels isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had symbolic meaning for him. Thunder is no longer the voice of a god, nor is lightning his avenging missile. No river contains a spirit, no tree makes a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom and no mountain still harbours a great demon. Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things, like stones, springs, plants and animals” (in Sabini, 2005, p. 79-80).

Blood and memory play a significant role in the ongoing spiritual relationship between the indigenous ancestors and their Native American descendants according to Native American literary scholar Robin Riley Fast, who has written about the work of contemporary Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso. Tapahonso insists, “The land that may appear arid and forlorn to the newcomer is full of stories which hold the spirits of the people, those who live here today and those who lived centuries and other worlds ago” (in Fast, 2007, p. 203). Each cliff formation, each watering hole, every boulder or ancient tree had a story that rooted it in the landscape and in the people’s psyche. Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko asserts that stories were often triggered as people passed by a specific landmark or exact place where a story took place (in Halpern, 1987).

So many memories-turned-stories speak of suffering and separation from place. During what is known as “The Long Walk,” the Navajo were tragically displaced during a forced march of the Navajo people after Kit Carson initiated a path of destruction in 1864, burning their homes and crops, stealing their livestock, and forcing them into a state of starvation and surrender. Many of the more than 8500 Navajo forced to march to Fort Sumner, several hundred miles away, died on the walk. Those that did not die from illness, freeze, starve, or get shot by soldiers, were likely drowned while forced at gunpoint to cross the raging Rio Grande river where they were washed away. The poetry of Luci Tapahonso illustrates the stories of the horrors of the forced march, speaking to the murder of pregnant women and the purposeful drowning of elders and children, or of those who were too tired or too sick to travel (in Fast, 2007).

Loss of place and of connection with the land results in profound loss to the collective memory of a people or culture, disorienting them and obliterating their identity. Living in a new place meant a loss of story since there was no memory attached to the landscape around. One might argue that the loss of place at the hands of the white men affected the Navajo forever. “What good is memory if this place does not recognize me?” (p. 203) asks Tapahonso.

Glen Albrecht, professor of philosophy and sustainability, points to a kind of “place pathology.” When you separate people from their land he suggests, “they feel the loss of heart’s ease as a kind of vertigo, a disintegration of their whole life” (in Smith, 2010, para. 4). Jungian analyst Jerome Bernstein (2005) points out that when the Navajos were displaced by the Europeans, many of the Navajo simply disappeared. They no longer knew who or where they were. The disorientation initiated by loss of ancestors and memory, of being located in a larger web of meaning, is profound and virtually irreversible. Estrangement from land results in uncanniness, the feeling of not being at home. Thus, to be without place translates to not existing at all. In fact, the Navajo called their land “the Great Self” (Casey, 2009), evoking the idea that separation from place literally results in a separation from self.

Perhaps it is the lack of relationship with the new land and lack of mourning for their own loss of home among the newly-arrived Europeans that initiated a wave of destruction and despair amidst the First Peoples of the so-called New World. Yet, through listening with all our senses, through being fully present, through allowing the living story that is unfolding at every moment in the place where we are to engulf us, we can each begin to reconnect. In her poetry, Tapahonso examines the sense of alienation wrought upon the Navajo which evokes a sense of homesickness for the readers of her work, blossoming into a true feeling of emotional and literal exile as one makes their way through her words. Through Tapahonso’s own perception and the visceral reaction it evokes, it is possible to recoup a shadow of the loss the Navajo have suffered.

Yet, in a poem entitled, “Starlore,” Tapahonso introduces hope, reassuring us that healing ceremony can “restore the world for us” (p. 204). Healing ceremony often includes a narrative, and locating ourselves in the story so that the mythical implications can work on us. In An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field, eco-writer TerryTempest Williams echoes this notion, saying “We are healed by our stories (1994, p. 57). Reconnection to land where-ever we are—land that holds stories both ancient and new—can provide us with a sense of homecoming and healing if we slow ourselves, ground our feet on the earth, open our hearts and our senses, and simply listen to its tale. In this way we may re-member wholeness that somehow slipped from memory in our fast-paced and forgotten hours.

(Note: Parts of this post have been excerpted from my essay, “The Power of Story and Place among the Navajo in Canyon de Chelly” published in Depth Insights scholarly eZine, Fall 2011.

Some References

Bernstein, J. (2005). Living in the borderland: The evolution of consciousness and the challenge of healing trauma. New York: Routledge.

Casey, E. S. (2009). Getting back into place: Toward a renewed understanding of the place-world (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Fast, R. R. (2007). The land is full of stories: Navajo stories in the work of Luci Tapahonso. Boston, MA: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group.

Halpern, D. (Ed.). (1987). On Nature: Nature, landscape, and natural history. San Francisco, CA: North Point Press.

Sabini, M. (2005). The Earth has a Soul: The Nature Writings of C.G. Jung

Sandner, D. (1991). Navaho symbols of healing:  Jungian exploration of ritual, image, and medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.

Smith, D. B. (2010, January 27). Is there an ecological unconscious?, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, p. 36.

Tapahonso, L. (1997). Blue horses rush in. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Tempest Williams, T. (1994). An unspoken hunger: Stories from the field. New York: Pantheon Books.

Ensoulment and Synchronicity: Concepts from “Cosmos and Psyche” by Richard Tarnas

Ensoulment and Synchronicity: Concepts from Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas

In his 2006 book Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View, Rick Tarnas suggests that the western mind has catapulted us away from a fundamental cosmos where everything was ensouled, alive, and animated by meaning and archetype. Our modern mindset is, instead, to attempt to control and manipulate our environment, making us the active subject in any interaction, and the things we see around us the passive object. Tarnas suggests “disenchantment” refers to the way the world is objectified, thereby denying subjectivity. “Objectification,” he contends, “denies to the world a subject’s capacity to intend, to signify intelligently, to express it’s meaning, to embody and communicate humanly relevant purposes and values” (p. 21).  By objectifying the world around us, we enable ourselves to believe that we can manipulate and determine our own existence, giving us greater freedom and autonomy.

Seeing oneself as the only source of life and intelligence in a universe that is increasingly dead and soulless leaves us in a vacuum where we are increasingly aware. (I’m also inclined to believe it makes many of us feel more alone, alienated, and disconnected from a sense of belonging and community, contributing to a culture where the sharper and sharper contrast of me versus them causes more people to act out via shooting rampages, suicides, or violence.)

Tarnas suggests that some of this objectification stems from the first moment mankind used a tool, making him the subject and the thing he was acting upon an object. Rather than being on equal terms, then, with everything else in his world, mankind began to ascend, leading to a hierarchy which placed himself at the top of a world where all things were neutral (or dead), and could have meanings or values or uses projected on them at the will of the human. Hence, a world that was previously rich with signs and symbols and intentions all with a life and intelligence of their own was replaced with a world that is devoid of any meaning without that assigned to it by human beings. The sense of balance and equality with nature and the cosmos was lost.

Tarnas proposes that the dichotomy (or antagonism) contributes to an increasing environment of alienation—and I would add, a greater gap between self and “other.” Rather than participating in a world that has a soul of its own (known as the anima mundi in depth psychology terms) which communicates in a rich kaleidoscope of mythical, divine, and numinous being, all sense of continuity between self and the world around them is disrupted leading to a breach in the participation mystique where the direct participation of human, nature, and divine no longer is believable or possible. C.G. Jung stated, “The collective unconscious surrounds us on all sides… is more like an atmosphere in which we live than something that is found in us” (in Tarnas, p. 59). Clearly, then, the boundaries created between self and things, self and other, self and world, and things and things became so multiple and diverse that we find ourselves divided from self and from the unconscious—and therefore losing a sense of meaning.

Tarnas also covers the concept of synchronicity in some detail, referring to it much as Jung did as “coincidences in which two or more independent events having no apparent causal connection nevertheless seem to form a meaningful pattern” (p. 50). Tarnas goes on to state “the dramatic coincidence of meaning between an inner state and a simultaneous external event seemed to bring forth in the individual a healing movement toward psychological wholeness, mediated by the unexpected integration of inner and outer realities.” He relates that events like these frequently lead to a new personal orientation where the world is suddenly seen as being rife with meaning and intentions beyond simple human projection: there seems to be, in short, a significant and intelligent order to what previously seemed like chaos.

Tarnas stresses that Jung held the belief that synchronicities served a similar function to dreams and psychological symptoms that essentially served to counteract the one-sidedness of the psyche and turn the person toward the unconscious and therefore toward greater wholeness—that is, individuation. In other words, we can benefit from a synchronistic event by allowing it to challenge and redirect our own conscious attitude. By observing more of the aliveness and autonomy of the world around us, we begin to allow synchronicities to occur. What would happen if you took a moment now to look around and notice what’s speaking to you in your environment, wherever you are?

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.