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Archive for March, 2013

Queensboro Bridge Construction

“[The] symbol of the creative union of opposites … points … forward to a goal not yet reached. … the archetype, because of its power to unite opposites, mediates between the unconscious substratum and the conscious mind. It throws a bridge between present-day consciousness, always in danger of losing its roots, and the natural, unconscious, instinctive wholeness of primeval times.”

C.G. Jung (CW 9i, par. 293)

The union of opposites is a powerful archetype for individuals and the collective. Jung’s words state that the process of bringing opposing forces together lies in the future. Psychologically, the union that stretches out before us is the connection of our conscious directed life with our instinctual self. It is as if we need to be constantly reminded that we are animal that our being-in-the-world is deeply rooted in this earth. With our development into highly technological beings we seem to have lost this connection to our animal nature. Jung’s words also point out that the archetype builds a bridge between our present being and that of ‘primeval times.’ In the process of bringing together the opposites we reconnect to the un-dividedness of our primeval past. We are not talking about our historical past, which was written by us, but a past extending into the evolutionary depths of time.

The result of this reconnection is to find something that was lost within. Jung (CW 9i, par. 285) says that, “… all uniting symbols have a redemptive significance.” What is redeemed in reconnecting to our ‘primeval times?’ I would say a re-membering, a re-collection of our selves into wholeness. Our outer directed search for fulfillment turns inward to redeeming our lost other.

Jung uses the image of a bridge to describe the process of reconnection and redemption. This is an apt image for we speak of bridging differences, or building a bridge across our divides. Interestingly the word metaphor means to build a bridge. Finding metaphoric images in the world  builds bridges within us and in the world at large. These are powerful ideas. If ever we needed to be building bridges it is in today’s world. Everywhere we look we perceive gaps, abysses, canyons calling out for a bridge to mediate between the opposing sides.

When I consider the polarizing political bickering in our nation’s capitol, including division around the issues of national budgets, health care and climate change, I feel despair. Most troubling this week is our apparent inexorable movement towards building the Keystone pipeline, which will result in terrible regional and global destruction. We seem to have lost our ability to throw bridges across our ideological divides in order to avoid destruction. Our inability to build metaphoric bridges across our collective divides illustrates an inability to imagine. For imagination is a bridge building activity and we are sorely lacking in this creative construction process.

It is easy to fall into a sense of despair when so little is happening, so few bridges are being built. Perhaps we can take heart in the fact that this mediating process is essentially archetypal. It is not solely up to us to build these bridges for deep within our primeval unconscious exists the need for bridges to be built. Called or not, bridges will be built. I end with the words of a well-known bridge builder…

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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GreenMan

“… all unconscious functioning has the automatic character of an instinct, … [which] … because of [its] compulsiveness, … may positively endanger the life of the individual. As against this, consciousness enables [one] to adapt in an orderly way and to check the instincts, and consequently it cannot be dispensed with.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 412)

“The closer one comes to the instinct-world, the more violent is the urge to shy away from it and rescue the light of consciousness from the murks of the sultry abyss. Psychologically, however, the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way…”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 415)

Looking out on the world today can cause one tremendous anxiety. Just this past week new studies were released indicating that we are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previous years and that the current rate at which the world is warming is unprecedented. Rate of warming is significant, because it effects how readily life can adapt to change. Since the rate of climate change is now unlike anything we and many other species have ever experienced in our history, we are placing ourselves in a very precarious situation.

How does all of this relate to depth psychology? Depth psychology tells us that we are more than just our ego. That our decisions and behaviors towards our world and others is determined in large part by unconscious factor or forces. This fact about our way of being is continually reinforced by neurological and social science research. Thus, learning about our psychological depths is imperative if we are going to pull our selves back from the murky abyss of global warming.

Jung views the unconscious as holding both the dynamism of biological instincts and the numinous archetypes, or images of instinct. In the quotes above, Jung explores the dynamic capabilities of the these two forms. We know that compulsive instincts lead to life threatening behaviors. With regards to  global warming, think of our rampant consumerism and excessive use of energy to fuel this compulsively consumptive behavior. We consciously recognize that if we come too close to this ‘instinct-world,’ we approach the ‘sultry abyss’ of collective destruction. However the compulsive urge is so strong that we continue the behavior.

How do we avoid the urge towards destructive compulsiveness? Jung argues that we consciously engage with the image of the instinct, rather than the compulsive urge itself. The image or archetype holds collective meaning and connects us with a sense of the numinous. It is not that we reject the physical or biological instinct, but that we include the spiritual or numinous dimension of it. Jung poetically states that this experience of the numinous is the “spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way…” What is the numinous archetype embedded in the instinctual compulsion to consume? What is the image arising from this instinctual force that holds the ‘spiritual goal towards which [our] whole nature… strives?’

Perhaps our compulsion to consume Earth is an attempt to fulfill our inner selves. Could our need for tremendous amounts of energy to create new material things in the outer world be a reflection of our need for creative energy within us? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but depth psychology opens the door to such reflection. If we are to deal with our compulsive need to consume the world, then we need to consciously work on the images that surround this instinct. Depth psychology is a way to do this work. It provides a numinous and valuable way to deeply explore psyche and the world.

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