Tag Archive for individuation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jung, Individuation, and Film (includes Audio Interview)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Jung, Individuation, and Shamanism


According to historian  philosopher Mircea Eliade,  has been around for millennia, practically as long as humans have existed. In recent decades, the archetype of  has experienced a rebirth. With growing consciousness, more  more individuals are recognizing spontaneously  consistently what our indigenous ancestors knew: that there is a divine intelligence at work in the universe, a life force of love  light, of which, by nature  birthright, we are an integral part.

Anne Baring (2007), psychologist  author, notes that C.G.  himself commented on the capacity of humans to respond to this greater force, saying:

The archetypal image of the wise man, the saviour or redeemer, lies buried dormant in man’s unconscious since the dawn of culture; it is awakened whenever the times are out of joint  a human society is committed to a serious error…These primordial images are … called into being by the waywardness of the general outlook. When conscious life is characterised by one-sidedness  by a false attitude, they are activated…”instinctively” … in the dreams of individuals the visions of artists  seers. (Read a great post on Alchemy  the Hermetic Tradition: Mircea Eliade here).

In her article, “Sacred Plants  the Goddess”, Susana Valadez quotes the late Mazatec shamaness, Maria Sabina, who says, “There is a world beyond ours, a world that is far away, nearby,  invisible.  this is where God lives, where the dead live, the spirits  the saints, a world where everything is known. That world talks. It has a language of its own.

By contrast, modern humankind in western consumer-based societies seems destined to live our lives in a sterile box, limited on all sides by stark white walls, traveling forward in one direction  marking progress by the number of strides we take in any given day. Little do we know there is something that surrounds us, a force that supersedes our wildest imaginings; a creative wellspring that, if we were to partake of it, would allow us to fulfill our greatest potential  to remember once  for all who we really are.

We can taste that supernal realm through ritual, trance, chanting,  calling upon energies that inhabit that realm,  by using the mala as a map to locate our self in relation to the sacred realm  to create a practice that will sustain us  allow us to grow evolve. If we can but learn to surrender, to offer our lives as we know them in spontaneous offering to the powers that be, to make a mixed feast for the hungry ghosts, we will gain entry into the world beyond  that will give meaning to the lives we live.

Ritual is a critical aspect of . Vicki Noble (Motherpeace, 2001) says, “ritual happens, …creating the space for it to happen is really all one has to do.” The magic of ritual lies in its structure  ability to channel energies in a direction of focused intention positive growth. In other words, if we will but open ourselves  create space in our lives  then be observant, regarding the magic around us, it will unfold.

Our ancestors have known for millennia the power of ritual. They observed that natural rhythms of nature  paused to honor the subsequent openings of the window between our perceived reality  the reality of the spiritual realm which occurred naturally on specific days of the year based on the lunar calendar. Solstices  cross-quarter days (like the one coming up on February 2nd!) offer up age-old opportunities to tap into the magical realm of power when the veil is thin. Specifically, Imbolc (also known from its Celtic roots as St Brighid’s Day or Clemas) is the day halfway between Winter Solstice  the Spring Equinox. Thus it is a powerful day of prophecy transformation, a time when ritual celebration of healing  rebirth can bring us renewed life  wholeness. Through dedicated ritual, we can approach the portals that connect this world with the one beyond  allow the beauty  creativity to shine through  give meaning to our lives.

Musician Gabriel Roth describes the state from which humankind must break away if we are to experience the ecstasy  knowledge of the spiritual realm. “The soul starves,” she says. “Our bodies get locked into patterns. We get stiff with repetition. Our hearts also become rigidified into automatic routines. We’re soon numb, insensitive to what we really feel.  our minds are quickly blinded by unquestioned assumptions, guiding attitudes that don’t allow us to see what’s out there, let alone explore the world’s fullness” (p. 13). She speaks of “awakening the shamanic dimension of ourselves” through movement  dance.

Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux medicine man, suggested: “Peace comes in within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe  all its powers,  when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan Tanka [The Great Spirit],  that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” , too, believed in individuation, a coming into wholeness with the self, a feat made easier, perhaps, through alignment with nature  forces greater than our every day ego selves.

If you have an interest in shamanic practices  ways in which you can be more truly yourself while honoring ancient practices, delve in. Two of the best books I’ve read which correlate ian psychology   are “   in Dialogue: Retrieving Soul / Retrieving the Sacred” by C. Michael Smith, Ph.D,  “  the Psychology of C.G. : The Great Circle” by Robert E. Ryan. You may also have interest in an essay of mine entitled “The Shamanic Perspective: Where ian Thought  Archetypal Converge.” There are also many shamanic practitioners /or therapists who integrate shamanic work into their practice listed here onDepthPsychologyList.com.


Enter the World of Soul and You are Like a Madman: Learnings from Carl Jung’s Red Book

  • Originally Posted by Bonnie Bright on November 29, 2010 at 7:00pm

“If you enter into the world of soul, you are like a madman
– Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 238.

Jung's Red Book

In his recently released Red Book, a body of work Carl Jung immersed himself in for nearly 17 years, Jung reveals the deep introspective nature of what he ultimately considered an archetypal “descent.” He documented this journey to the Underworld in tremendous detail and accompanied many of the entries and topics with beautifully detailed drawings.

If you haven’t had a chance to view the Red Book, I highly recommend you find a way. It truly has the feel of a sacred book, not unlike many of the ancient alchemical tomes and other holy books that have endured for centuries.

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of attending a teleseminar on the Red Book facilitated by Dr. Michael Conforti of the Assisi Institute. Dr. Conforti, a Jungian analyst who offers ongoing sessions on the Red Book, has a wealth and depth of knowledge about Jung, archetypes, dreams, and the Red Book especially.

During the session, the group focused on Jung’s metaphor of the desert and how the soul seeks to survive the journey, often encountering divine madness. The madman, as Dr. Conforti pointed out, can often say whatever he wants and no one pays attention, but what is madness? What we label madness in our culture is often based on visions and ideas that arise from a certain kind of truth. Madness introduces chaos, but it also removes the barriers that traditionally limit us, allowing something new to emerge. When the floodgates of the psyche let loose and one is taken over by something bigger than the ego self, by the unconscious, or what Jung called in the Red Book “the spirit of the deep,” the levies do not hold.

Sometimes madness is just what we need; it is the moment when we access the energy that allows us superhuman strength, or the capacity to ride a wave and write passionately all through the night. It is the power that drives our dreams, fuels lovemaking, and powers deep meaningful ritual. When we are in the grips of the complex of the madman, the otherworld has broken through and transported us “somewhere else”. And though Jung would never condone not taking responsibility for one’s actions during such a state, he makes it clear how important to embrace madness when it comes, for it is “divine” and it comes of its own accord.

In the end, recognizing and embracing divine madness is part of life. We must be open to engage what is frightening, what is dark, what makes us anxious in order to be balanced and whole. When the rational world no longer makes sense, when images and thoughts are coming from somewhere “else” (from soul), it is then that patterns begin to appear and synchronicity happens. It is then that truth emerges and the way is opened for individuation and growth of the self to occur.

Big thanks on my part to Dr. Michael Conforti, a gifted teacher whose compassion and depth of feeling is  conveyed in stories and everyday situations he uses to illustrate material that might be otherwise hard to grasp. Dr. Conforti has offered an amazing weeklong conference in Italy every summer for that past 20+ years. I attended last year and can’t say enough about how how much value I took away from the event—not to mention the wonderful setting! The theme in 2012 is “The Spiritual Mandates of an Inspired Life”. See the Events section on Depth Psychology Alliance to attend a virtual open house and to get information, or email assisi@together.net. Dr. Conforti also teaches certificate courses on Dreams and on Archetypal Pattern Recognition based on his book, Field, Form and Fate, allowing qualified graduates to make careers in the field.

Book: Field, Form, and Fate: Patternsin Mind, Nature, and Psyche by Dr. Michael Conforti


If you’re interested in the Red Book, you may also want to check out these posts:

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO C.G. JUNG’S RED BOOK By Mathew V. Spano, Ph.D.on the Jung page
Top Ten Images From the Red Book on the blog site of Jungian Stephen Parker Ph.D.

Jung's Red Book Image - Dragon

Jung's Red Book Image - Dragon

Tags: archetypeassisiconfortidescent,individuationjungmadmanred book