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Archive for February, 2013

Girl

“Lighting is the meditatively gathering … it is the bestowal of presencing.”

M. Heidegger (Early Greek Thinking)

I am visiting the de Young museum in San Francisco to see an exhibit of 17th century Dutch paintings. The paintings include many by Rembrandt, with the central work being The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer. As I travel through the labyrinth of rooms containing many beautiful portraits, landscapes and stills I continue to wonder where She is. Finally, I enter a simple room with a single painting. There standing before me is the “Dutch Mona Lisa” a truly stunning painting.

A young woman with head turned towards her left gazes towards me. She parts her lips, while her eyes hold a sense of the expectant. She wears a blue turban with a yellow tassel that falls touching her shoulders. There is a quiet around me unlike that found in the others gallery rooms, where I could hear people discussing paintings. Here some form of sacred silence holds court. Looking around at the faces of the people in the room I see wonderment, adoration and rapture. We are all experiencing that sense of luminous shining that comes with Beauty. This is what art does to us it takes us to a numinous place. It touches our senses, thoughts, memories and imagination.

Nothing is known about the young woman who sat for the painting. This state of the unknown opens the door to imagining. We are predisposed to imagine when things are concealed. The mystery in the painting and about the young woman invites me to dwell here in her presence. According to the German philosopher Heidegger, dwelling is an inherent part of our being-in-the-world. In dwelling we experience the world. Dwelling in the world allows things to presence themselves to us. In this presencing things begin to un-conceal themselves. For things lay hiding, awaiting to appear before us. In Being, we are perpetually in a state of concealing and un-concealing. Heidegger says, “presencing as such is ruled by the lingering-with-one-another of a concealed gathering.” I stand before the Girl and find myself in a state of ‘lingering-with-one-another.’ I am a participant in the presencing process. But what is being gathered? And why is this gathering concealed? Could the gathering involve the collecting of my senses? As I walk into the room, I am bombarded with a cornucopia of light, sound, touch and smell. I see people in the room, but my gaze becomes fixed on the Girl. My awareness is gathered towards the Girl and in this moment we un-conceal to one another, we linger-with. My being becomes intertwined with the un-concealing of the Girl’s gaze. I feel her gaze is reacting to my presence before her. In this moment, both of us have stepped into a reciprocal state of un-concealment. According to Heidegger, in this moment we approach truth.

Heidegger also says, “the [gathering] by itself brings that which appears before us to appearance – to its luminous self-showing.” The gathering and unconcealment establishes my being-in-the-world and allows the Girl’s luminous nature to appear. I can think of no better expression for this painting than “luminous self-showing.” Her beauty (and the genius of Vermeer) shine before me.

But, what of the pearl earing? My gaze is so captured by the Girl’s face that I neglect turning my attention towards the pearl. The pearl remains concealed, but soon it moves into a state of ‘luminous self-showing.’ The Dutch painters were fascinated with the play of light and shadow. In the painting, light flows in from the left illuminating much of the Girl’s face, while her back moves into shadow. The pearl rests at the edge of light and shadow and reveals itself with a silvery glow. My gaze pulls towards this object that falls at the center of the painting. An interesting thing happens with my gaze as I move my eyes to the darkness at the right for the tassel of her turban becomes illuminated! I realize the light flows not from her far right side, but from another direction. I am caught in the playfulness of thought about where the light originates in this work. Heidegger says, “… thinking changes the world. It changes it in the ever darker depth of a riddle, depths which as they grow darker offer promise of a greater brightness.” The painting reminds me that my gaze changes the world. My dwelling as being is participatory and transforming. Before leaving the room I move my position around the portrait. Instantly, I see a new, but still familiar face. My semi-circumambulation reveals new presencing, new shining. So it is in life, as our gaze shifts new opportunities to dwell arise in the world. A ‘greater brightness’ arises in my transformation from concealment to un-concealment.

I give homage to Vermeer and the mysterious Girl with a Pearl Earring and the power of art to transform our being-in-the-world.

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Listening to the Beatles

Sgt Peppers cover

 

“… the anima is the archetype of life itself.”

C.G. Jung (CW 9i, par. 66)

Last week I talked about the animate power of the Beatles’ music. Their songs sing themselves through our lives. So, let’s continue our exploration of soul by listening to their music. The Beatles were aware of Jung’s writings for if you look at the cover of the Sgt. Peppers album, you see Jung’s picture between those of W.C. Fields and Edgar Alan Poe! Perhaps the Beatles were avid Jungians for many of the photos on this album cover are of people who strongly affected them.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Beatles’ music follows Jung’s description of anima development. Anima is the feminine archetype within us representing soul. The important role of the feminine in the Beatles’ music is no accident (are there accidents?). Both John and Paul lost their mothers at an early age. Jung points out that the earliest anima form within us arises from the mother image. So the loss of ones’ mother often leads to a strong yearning for a connection to the lost feminine.

The first stage of anima development is the biological drive of blind love. Close your eyes now and reflect back on your youth. Imagine sitting in school (elementary, middle or high?) and bring before you the image of that special one, boy or girl, with whom you fell in love. Remember that feeling of first love the dreamy state of walking on air. The image of that person still lives within you for we never forget our first love. Listen to this Beatles’ song and remember back to that moment:

Ask Me Why

The second stage of anima development is about maturing relationships. We are no longer fearfully falling into blind lascivious love, but beginning to recognize the other person for who they are, not for who we want them to be. This realization requires us to pull back the projections we have been placing onto the person. This moment of seeing the other as an individual is an eye-opening experience. The moment when we wake up one morning, look at our beloved and ask, “Where did my true love go?” Our initial inclination may be to run away and find a new someone to project onto. Listen to this Beatles’ song reflecting the second stage of soul development:

I’m Looking Through You

The third anima stage is one of spiritual mediation. For Jung, the anima connects us (our ego) with our inner Self, the archetype of wholeness. When this connection occurs, we experience the numinous. Sometimes this experience occurs in dreams. Paul composed a couple songs from his dreams like the melody of Yesterday. Yesterday is the second most covered song (a song played by other artists) in the history of music, while the first place most covered song is Eleanor Rigby. The universal appeal of these songs to other artists is yet another indication of how the Beatles’ music is archetypal. Paul composed the song Let It Be from a dream of his mother, Mary. Here is his song representing the spiritual mediation stage:

Let It Be

The fourth and final stage of anima development is one of transcendence. Jung (CW 16, par.361) says this stage, “illustrates something which unexpectedly goes beyond the almost unsurpassable… ,” in which the anima represents an expanding spiritual state that includes the universe. Spiritual transcendence was a central theme of the sixties. Eastern religions flooded into the West to meet this yearning for transcendence and the Beatles played a critical role in opening the doors to the East. Their travels to India to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi raised interest in the power of meditation. The Beatles’ experiences with LSD led the sixties generation into a new psychic space of expanded consciousness. Listen to this song written by John representing the fourth stage of transcendent non-ego experience:

Tomorrow Never Knows

india

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Meet the Beatles

Please

“Nobody can understand [soul] unless he has experienced [it] himself. I am much more interested in pointing out the possible ways to such experience than in devising intellectual formulae…”

C.G. Jung (CW 7, par. 340)

“[Woman] becomes [a man’s] companion… she produces an imago … that has to be kept associated with … Woman is and always has been a source of information about things for which a man has no eyes. She can be his inspiration…”

C.G. Jung (CW 7, par. 296)

I enjoy giving public talks on Jung’s ideas. One of my favorites is on ‘Jung Meets the Beatles.” In this talk I look at how the development of the Beatles music fits perfectly with Jung’s ideas on how the anima develops in us. Anima is Jung’s term for the feminine part within us, our soul. Anima connects us to the deeper parts of our selves. As such, the anima connects us to creativity. If we find our soul, then we are animated about life, we play. Artists are in touch with anima. They allow their soul to work through them to bring creation into the world. The Beatles were certainly a group who felt the presence of soul.

February 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles recording of Please, Please Me. They recorded ten songs in a single session to produce much of this album. The song Please, Please Me quickly reached the top of the charts in the UK. The album was released in March and became an instant hit. So began Beatlemania! Soon after this album the Beatles released the With the Beatles LP. I remember buying this album taking it home and listening to it over and over. Until the Beatles appeared popular music was dominated for the most part by American groups. The Beatles brought a new energy to music and their personalities brought a unique playfulness to the world of the early 60’s. Many of the songs on Please, Please Me are about falling in and out of love, similar to many songs of that time. This early stage of their music falls under the first anima stage of biological attraction. It’s all about the hormones. Their later music continues to parallel the developmental stages of the anima from biological attraction, through relational awareness, spiritual mediation to the transcendent. The development of the feminine within the Fab Four is mirrored in the songs they were writing and playing over the lifetime of the band.

I love giving my “Jung Meets the Beatles” talk just to see the reaction of the audience. The presentation is full of Beatles songs. To stand back and watch the power of their music on people brings wonderment to me. The audience becomes so animated. All ages love their music. A few years ago I was in a music store and a teenage girl had headphones on and was listening to their music. She was singing word for word one of their songs. Imagine someone who was not even around when the Beatles wrote those songs being so touched by their music. Fifty years after their music first appeared we still sing their songs. Think about this… in 1963 how many people were singing songs from 1913? Yet, the Beatles’ music is as exciting today as it was back in 1963. Our soul is eternally touched by their music.

Let us celebrate 50 years of Beatlemania… Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beatles

 

 

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