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mandala-kalachakra1

“… life calls not for perfection but for completeness…”

C.G. Jung (CW 12, par. 208)

“The [individuation process] is, in effect, the spontaneous realization of the whole man. The ego-conscious personality is only a part of the whole man, and its life does not yet represent his total life.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 557)

Our culture holds striving for perfection in high regard. Such a lofty goal places us in a difficult situation for perfection is ever receding. Try as we might, we never reach a state of perfection. Holding such beliefs create tremendous anxiety within us. We get on a treadmill to nowhere. Psychologically, perfectionism can arise from an unconscious part of us that continually judges our beliefs and actions and finds them lacking. This part pushes us onto the treadmill, which ultimately means we create very little in life for it never seems to be good enough.

Jung felt that our journey in life was not one of striving for perfection, but of completion, or wholeness. This is also a difficult journey for there is so much that we are called to integrate within ourselves. But there is an important difference here. On the journey towards completeness or wholeness we become more aware and more open as we travel the road. With each step along the journey we enlarge consciousness. Becoming conscious of the unknown parts of myself is beneficial to my ability to relate to others and to the world as a whole.

Striving towards wholeness is what Jung called the individuation process. It works through us whether we are conscious of it or not. If we remain unconscious of the process, then we find life more difficult to understand. We are at the whim of the Fates. If we consciously work to make the unknown known, then we are part of (CW 9i, par. 278), “the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness…”  within.

Jung argued that our original true self is one of wholeness and our task in life is to become aware of our innate wholeness. The image of innate wholeness is far more positive than that of perfection. What would our world be like if we held more to the image of wholeness rather than that of perfection?

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SantaCruz

“Everybody needs beauty…places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”

John Muir

For the past year I have had the pleasure of living in Santa Cruz, California. Now all too quickly, it is time to return home to Boulder, Colorado. I came to Santa Cruz to write, teach and learn. These I have done. But so much more has transpired over this past year. I have experienced the profound beauty of the people and places of this area of California. The warmth I have experienced from the people of Santa Cruz and throughout California has been deeply moving. The friends I have made are many and each person has given me so much. It is impossible to describe how moved I am by all of their heartfelt offerings. I have enjoyed lecturing and teaching at the University of California Santa Cruz and have learned much from colleagues and the students at UCSC. Such a beautiful campus! The gifts of friendship born here will be honored for years to come.

I have also had the opportunity to explore the wondrous beauty of Northern California extending north to Point Reyes and south of Big Sur. I previously knew of the magnificence of this place, but found myself in repeated speechless awe in the midst of such varying vistas of verdant grandeur. Driving on Route 1 places one in a state of transcendental travel. Personally, I have always felt more peaceful and centered near the ocean. The grand extent of the sea and its dynamic power touch the depths of my soul. The thunderous sounds of crashing waves, the specular scintillation of sunlight from ocean surface, and smell of salt in the air combine to create a sensual experience unparalleled. Then there are the redwoods… How to describe these ancient sacred beings stretching skyward? The texture of their roughhewn surface, their gigantic girth, or the experience of standing within their encircling base moves me as I write these words. Standing within a forest of redwoods one becomes aware of why indigenous peoples through time have worshiped these entities as gods.

These are but a few of the many feelings that come to me as I reflect on this past year in California. It will be very difficult to leave this place and the people here. I am thankful for this year and vow to return often to drink from this well of soulful sustenance. Allow me to share some of California with you…

PointReyes

 Point Reyes

 Pescadero

 Along Route 1

 PointLobos0

 Point Lobos

 BigSur

 Big Sur

 

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declaration

“Life calls us forth to independence, and anyone who does not heed this call because of childish laziness or timidity is threatened with neurosis. And once this has broken out, it becomes an increasingly valid reason for running away from life…”

C.G. Jung (CW 5, par. 461)

In 1776, we as a nation decided to leave home. We realized that staying under the influence of our parent nation was not healthy. We chose independence in order to develop our own character. A natural part of life is to leave home. If we remain too long or too close to our families, then we never find our own life. We may be attracted to the seeming security that home may offer, but there will be a price to pay for remaining in the orbit of our parents. Jung notes that, “It is not possible to live too long amid infantile surroundings, or in the bosom of the family, without endangering one’s psychic health.” If a person stays stuck in the family orbit, then, “He is incapable of living his own life and finding the character that belongs to him.”

Note that this effect arises whether the parents are ‘good enough’ or just the opposite. Either way we can be bound in their orbit leading to a state where the person is “always demanding love and immediate emotional rewards, [or] is so identified with his parents through his close ties with them that he behaves like his father or his mother.” In order to avoid these states of either perpetual neediness or parental identification, we need to proclaim our independence.

In the act of declaration we open ourselves to defining our own character. We become who we are meant to be. Such transformation is never easy or perfect, but always better than the alternative of forever remaining under the influence of the paternal powers.

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Superman

“What we seek in visible human form is not man, but the superman, the hero or god, that quasi-human being who symbolizes the ideas, forms, and forces which grip and mould the soul.”

C.G. Jung (CW 5, par. 259)

 “The archetype of the redeemer-god … is age-old – we simply do not know how old.”

C.G. Jung (CW 11, par. 202)

Summer is upon us and once again the superhero has returned to movie theaters. Let me begin by stating that I enjoy watching the occasional superhero film for it can simultaneously entertain and enlighten us. In my youth, I was an avid reader and collector of comic books with a special fondness for The Fantastic Four (was this the beginning of my becoming a Jungian?).

From a psychological perspective, even the most cursory consideration of these films reveals the age-old archetype of the hero, including motifs of the wound, redemption and the granting of a gift providing power for the good of humanity. The superhero story also always possesses an opponent of near equal strength (but of course not equal or greater strength than our hero) to add tension to the narrative. For how interesting would the story be without the possibility of the hero’s demise?

It has been noted that the comic book hero Superman first appeared around the time of the Great Depression. His original form, as a very strong man fighting for the underdog, helped people during this time to cope with their feelings of disempowerment. Psychologically, people projected their inner hero onto this comic book hero thus imaginatively allowing them to experience exploits of empowered justice. Also, the portrayal of a simple division between good and evil helped people deal with the ambiguity and complexity of their lived-world. As Jung notes, the archetype of the redeemer-hero has been with us for a long time. Each age, each culture creates its own nuanced form of the archetypal hero story.

What I find most interesting is the current superabundance of these films (see a recent article on the implications of this for film in general). To be sure, Superman has been with us for many years on both television and film screens. But recently it seems the door to the hallowed hall of the superheroes has been thrust open allowing a veritable stampede of heroes to enter our everyday world. Consider the appearances of Superman, Batman, the Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, X-Men and the Avengers, to name but a few! Truly the world is in safe hands with such an abundance of hero-redeemers. Consider also that these superheroes return each blockbuster summer season, nicely synchronized with the appearance of the summer solstice… perhaps, this is no coincidence given that the original hero myths were tied to the Sun’s (Son’s!) rebirth each year.

Apparently, we are in dire need of the redeemer-hero given the large number of people attending these films. The hero eternally returns – most recently in form fitting tights and modern metallic armor (remember the archetype is universal, but its particular form adapts to the times). Today we find our superheroes as projected images on film screens, which is certainly deeply ironic for depth psychologists. A positive aspect to these projections is that they allow us to gaze into the unconscious. Analytic gazing opens us to a path back into ourselves. Perhaps, by questioning why we are so fascinated with our many superheroes we may ultimately find the hero within ourselves.

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hands_holding_earth

“Everything now depends on man: immense power of destruction is given into his hands, and the question is whether he can resist the will to use it, and can temper his will with the spirit of love and wisdom. He will hardly be capable of doing so on his own unaided resources. He needs the help of an “advocate” in heaven …”

C.G. Jung (CW 11, par. 745)

“The only thing that really matters now is whether man can climb up to a higher moral level, to a higher plane of consciousness, in order to be equal to the superhuman powers which the fallen angels have placed into his hands. But he can make no progress with himself unless he becomes very much better acquainted with his own nature.”

C.G. Jung (CW 11, par. 746)

Within the last few weeks the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400ppm. What does this mean? First, ppm is a unit of measure used in atmospheric science to denote the fractional amount of a gas relative to the total amount of all gases in the atmosphere. The more important point is that prior to the Industrial Revolution this number was around 280ppm. So, through the burning of fossil fuels we have increased this potent greenhouse gas by 43%, which is causing the planet to warm up. Second, when was the last time carbon dioxide was at a level of 400ppm? It turns out that it was around 4 million years ago, when the planet was much warmer than today with accompanying higher sea levels. Back at this time very slow natural geologic processes led to higher carbon dioxide levels. Which brings us to the important point that the current rate of increase in carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels is unprecedented. In a matter of two hundred years humans have put Earth back to a point it has not been at for many millions of years. This is important because life on Earth is sensitive to the rate of change of climate.

We are in the midst of performing a very dangerous experiment on Earth. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, as we have in the recent past, then in a mere 80 years carbon dioxide will reach levels of 800 to 1000 ppm. These levels of carbon dioxide were last present around 40 million years ago when Earth was very, very warm. In Jung’s words we humans have an “immense power of destruction” in our hands. Often people will say if the planet was warm in the past and life existed, then what is the problem? Certainly Earth and many life forms on it will survive an increasingly warm world. But humans and many other species have never lived in such a world. Do we want to risk seeing what would happen to civilization by continuing this experiment? Arguments are also made that it will cost too much to do something about the problem, but what of the terrible costs if we do nothing? If a doctor finds you have a serious illness that can be successfully treated, do you do nothing?

Now to Jung’s comments … It has become clear to me that any solution to this problem must be rooted in a transformation of consciousness. We have fallen into this problem because of our ill-tempered will to control. This pure will-directed approach to living is no longer tenable on a planet with over 7 billion people. In the first quote, Jung notes that we need to temper “will with the spirit of love and wisdom.” Many may look upon this statement as unrealistic and perhaps even delusional. However, there is ample evidence that we are capable of finding and expressing love and wisdom to each other and in the way we live life. We are a species innately imbued with the potential to care. Our capability for compassion is boundless. We often forget this fact of life and believe that we are basically greedy beings. If this were so, then cooperation, an act essential for our survival, would not exist. Yet, we do care, love and find wisdom within ourselves. Jung notes that we need a heavenly “advocate” to accomplish this because it is beyond the ability of our ego alone. What does he mean by this? In today’s world, this means that we need to recognize and become acquainted with our “own nature,” in other words, the innate deep part of our psyches that holds the archetypal power of wisdom. In Buddhism this would be called Big Mind as compared to the small mind of the relative ego. Jung would call it the Self. Perhaps a neuroscientist would call it the power of empathy. Whatever one chooses to call this force within, empirically we know it exists.

The most important challenge now is whether we, “can climb… to a higher plane of consciousness…” in order to avoid falling prey to our own “superhuman powers.” The movement to this higher plane rests on our ability to wake up to the reality of our inner “love and wisdom” which  are necessary to create a sustainable future for all.

I would encourage each of you reading this to take one moment today and express your innate sense of love and wisdom towards another. This would be a very good start to creating a transformation of consciousness.

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Striving Towards a Goal?

Tree

“Life is teleology par excellence; it is the intrinsic striving towards a goal, and the living organism is a system of directed aims which seek to fulfill themselves.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 798)

While walking along a path in the Point Reyes National Seashore Park I came upon the above small tree growing out of a bare rock outcrop. I marveled at the tenacity of this life form arising directly from such a rugged environment. The experience of seeing this tree striving to be in the world reminded me of Jung’s musing on teleology. Telos is the Greek word for final cause or goal. Whether life has a final goal or not has been debated since the time of the early Greek philosophers. By the end of the Middle Ages the rise of secular thought proclaimed that we could never know, nor certainly prove, if nature contained a final purpose or goal. Since then teleology has had its philosophic proponents, but the idea that life contains some final purpose or goal finds little favor in today’s world. Presently, the dominant perspective states that we live in a world of random mutating matter lacking any inherent purpose or goal except the perpetuation of our genetic code.

What does such a ‘philosophy of life’ do to us psychologically or socially? On one hand it forces us to find and define our separate goal or purpose in life. On the other hand, it leaves us standing alone in the midst of a dead purposeless universe. Personally, I feel there is more to life than blindly passing on genetic code. A perspective like this leads to a disembodied and detached view of our being-in-the-world. More than ever we need to be experiencing our interconnections and greater purpose in life. Perhaps our teleology is to become conscious of the integrity of our selves and a commitment to caring for others in the world. Can we take a lesson from that solitary tree emerging from bare rock? No matter where we are, no matter how seemingly hostile our environment can we strive to manifest the value of life in this world?

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Place

“Dwelling, however, is the basic character of Being…”

Martin Heidegger

I sit in at the dinning room table gazing into the living room. On the table before me is my cup of coffee and a book. As my eyes drift up from the table I am captured by the symmetry of the en-framed living area. Light streams in from the front window enlivening a collection of flowers sitting on a table before the window. Each flower captures the light in its own particular way highlighting different hues of petal, leaf and stem.  In this moment everything feels right in my lived-world. I feel included in this peaceful place. I am aware of the importance of dwelling as compared to inhabiting. Dwelling opens me to a richer experience of my surroundings. In dwelling I am an active participant in my lived-world. This chair holds me rather than supports me. The soft colors in the room infuse my being with their subtle nature. The balance of proportion surrounding me from every angle evokes within me a deep sense of balance. In this moment, my being-in-the-world is truly a part of the place in which I dwell. These yellow walls, white wooden frames and this wooden floor inform who I am as a being. I revel in my co-creative relationship with the surroundings. A sense of place puts us in touch with a deeper part of ourselves. A sense of place also puts us in touch with the materials used in its design and with all of the craftsmen whose care created this special space. Sitting here with coffee and book this place’s presence opens me to the world at large.

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sunrise

If the whole is to change, the individual must change himself. Goodness is an individual gift and an individual acquisition. … the good [person] shines like a jewel that was lost in the Sahara…”

C.G. Jung (CW 18, par. 1378)

I am writing today in support of Basic Goodness Day, May 7th, proclaimed by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche spiritual head of Shambhala. Today we are asked to affirm our own and other’s basic goodness. The quote by Carl Jung indicates that goodness is something that each of us acquires by carrying out our inner work. If we seek goodness within ourselves and connect to our basic goodness, then any action coming from that still, strong place will be the appropriate action in that moment.

Carl Jung (CW 13, par. 4) liked to quote the ancient saying “If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.” If we do not work from a place of basic goodness, then even if our goal is well intentioned we may end up creating more chaos in the world. So, today let us find the gift of basic goodness within ourselves and seek it also in those we meet. Meeting such individuals on our path will be apparent for they will surely ‘shine like a jewel.’

May we all shine like jewels on this Basic Goodness Day!

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Earth

It is all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.

 Thomas Berry

Without deep reflections, we have taken on the story of endings, assumed the story of extinction, and have believed that it is the certain outcome of our presence here…We need new stories… a new narrative that would imagine another way, to learn the infinite mystery and movement at work in the world.

 Linda Hogan

The old story of our separateness from the world has led us to a challenging point in history. Human civilization’s effect on our planet has reached a critical point. We have placed a heavy burden on mother Earth. Science tells us that we are now warming the world at an alarming rate. Whereas Nature took tens of millions of years to get out of a state of great warmth we are returning the planet to this past warmth within a single lifetime. Living our old story has placed us at a precipice. We must change our story, or allow the old story to carry us over the precipice.

How do we go about writing a new story, a story of sustainability, a story of living in balance with the world, a story that recognizes the sacredness of our world? I believe that depth psychology is well suited for writing our new story for this is a psychology that honors image, metaphor and narrative. This is a psychology that honors the interiority of our lived-world, a psychology that honors wholeness. What better means to creating the new story that will take us into the new world?

From a depth perspective, our new story should include at least the following:

• Facing the Shadows of Outer and Inner Worlds

We need to face the facts of our changing world and own our role in bringing the planet to the edge of great destruction. We need to own our shadowy thoughts and behavior towards Earth. Owning the shadow is always the first step to creating a new story.

• Remembering & Recollecting

Clearly we need to extend ourselves out to the natural world, but I believe we also need to go deep within ourselves to reconnect to the world. We need to re-member and re-collect our inner connection to psyche. Specifically we need to address the missing elements in our old story, which include,

Animal, Body & Feminine

The old story of Western civilization is a story of moving further away from our inner animal, our bodies and our deep connection to the feminine. The new story must include a reconnection to our animal within, it must include a re-collection of our bodily contact with Earth, and it must include the lost feminine.

Relationships

The old story is one in which our connections to one another have radically altered over the past few decades. We have moved from a society of close felt interactions to ones based on connection through the Internet. We ‘see’ others on a screen and not face to face, body-to-body. Yet, our empathic needs are ingrained in us. There is a basic need to connect with one another to relate through touch and presence. The new story must honor this need for felt relationship between each other and with all of Earth.

Wholeness

To address our deepest and most challenging issues will require us to come from a place of wholeness. This still, whole place within provides us with the wisdom required to design a sustainable world. We would like to think our way to this place of living in balance with nature, but we need more than facts, we need guidance from a wiser and more sacred source. Let the new story open us to a renewed sense of wholeness that fulfills us.

Interdependence

It is time to leave the old story of separation and disconnection. The new story must be one that recognizes we are not separate beings moving through an inanimate world. We need to recognize that we are all connected and that harm to one is harm to all.

• Embodying & Living the New Story

It is not enough to just write a new story. We must live this new story. Or better yet, we must allow this new story to live through us. Moment by moment, the new story needs to manifest in each of us. We must embody the new story and step lightly into the new world a world in which we are in true balance with the planet.

Happy Earth Day

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Fox

“If every individual had a better relation to the animal within him, he would also set a higher value on life. Life would be the absolute, the supreme moral principle, and he would react instinctively against any institution or organization that had the power to destroy life on a large scale.”

C.G. Jung (CW 10, par. 32)

Humans have created many astounding accomplishments in the world. Listening to a great musical composition, gazing upon a work of art or standing amidst an architectural structure reminds us of what we can accomplish. We also witness many acts of kindness and compassion taking place daily in the world. Our capacity for creative compassionate acts seems boundless.

Yet, we also are aware of how destructive we can be. Witness the many wars, mistreatment of the poor and abuses of non-human beings in the world. Our sense of cruelty and destructiveness also seem to be boundless. Every moment of our lives we hold the potential to create or destroy. Every thought we entertain holds this potential of opposites and in those moments of destructive thought or action we lose our sense of what is most valuable.

Jung’s words remind us that we can choose to recognize the innate supreme moral principal of the value of Life. If we can reconnect with this moral principal then all of our actions will be instinctively rooted in compassion. Interestingly, Jung tells us a path back to valuing Life is to have a better relation with the animal within us. One way to recognize our inner animal is by connecting with animals in the outer world. If we extend compassion to these animals, then we will reconnect to our inner animal, which grounds us in the supreme moral principal of valuing Life. This one simple act of opening our selves to an animal out there can be the road to preventing the destruction of ‘life on a larger scale.’

Ultimately we are called to envision a world of interconnectedness extending beyond just us. I leave you with the words of the German philosopher Max Scheler written close to a century ago:

“We must learn anew to envisage the great, invisible solidarity of all living beings in universal life, of all minds in the eternal spirit – and at the same time the mutual solidarity of the world process and the destiny of its supreme principle, and we must not just accept this world unity as a mere doctrine, but practice and promote it in our inner and outer lives.”

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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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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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Cosmic Affinities

“… wholeness … has always been characterized by certain cosmic affinities: the individual soul was thought to be of ‘heavenly’ origin, a particle of the world soul, and hence a microcosm, a reflection of the macrocosm. … The macrocosm is the starry world around us …”

C.G. Jung (CW 10, par. 635)

Sometimes a simple news story awakens wonder within you. This week there was an article on how the dung beetle uses the light of the Milky Way galaxy as a compass. The beetle creates a ball of dung by rolling it to a larger and larger size. The ball serves as a sustained source of food. Studies show that the beetle has an uncanny ability to roll the dung ball in a straight line, which ensures the ball is far away from competing insects. Now scientists have performed ingenious experiments to show that the beetle uses the galaxy to guide it. This study adds to others findings of how many life forms use the Sun, the Moon, Earth’s magnetic field and now the Milky Way galaxy as a compass for their local to global journeys.

Jung was fascinated by the ancient idea of how the macrocosm (the heavens) is reflected in the microcosm (humans). This idea appears in the Hermetic adage of “As above, so below,” an idea that fascinated Isaac Newton.  Jung speculated that the reflection of the outer universe within us was an original archetypal image of wholeness. Jung (CW 13, par. 372) says that, “Because the microcosm is identical with the macrocosm, it attracts the latter and thus brings about … a restoration … to the original wholeness.”

If the humble dung beetle sees the heavens above, then what of our connections to the macrocosm? Ultimate wholeness would be seeing our place in the cosmos, not just in our local environment. We are a part of the universe integrally connected to it in ways  yet to be discovered. Let us marvel at the dung beetle’s ability to see deeply into the macrocosm. Tonight I will stare into the heavens and wonder how the macrocosm lives in me.

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Balrog_-_FOTR

“People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth. No, no! … The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.”

Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth)

Last week I gave a university seminar on how affect plays an important role in communicating climate change. A few days later, I met with some environmental studies students to continue to discuss climate change and how to better communicate this issue to the public. As I looked around the table I saw the interesting faces of students working on their graduate degrees. I was reminded of that life the excitement of research and the stress of getting through it all. I also realized that when I was working on my degree –some thirty years ago – global warming was a basic research problem, not a phenomena taking place everyday, not a problem threatening our future. Unlike me, these students were not just studying global warming they were witnesses to it. Even more disturbing, their lives stretched out into a future where increased disruption would be the new normal.

The room was full of sadness, anger and hopelessness. Statements of “It’s already too late,” “The issue is too big for individuals to solve,” and “Nothing is going to happen to solve this problem” wove through the discussion. The more we talked the more we descended into a dark emotional abyss. It is so easy to enter darkness when facing this issue. It’s one of the reasons we all tend to avoid the issue. Who wants to go down into that darkness? Who wants to live in hopelessness?  Global warming seems to be a very dark cloud with no silver lining. The students wanted to know if I thought there was any hope. Could we pull ourselves away from the rapidly approaching climate cliff (by the way, far more destructive than any financial cliff)? I sat for a while experiencing the depths of despair. I was down in that dark place. Part of me wanted to admit defeat. Yes, we seem committed to destroying ourselves. I wanted to accept the hopelessness.

It’s so easy to slip into that feeling for it absolves us of any action. Joseph Campbell compared this space of limitation to the appearance of the dragon or monster in myths. Whenever we find ourselves in that place of “I can’t” we know the monster has appeared. Campbell says that, “Slaying the monster is slaying the dark things, the dragon locking you in.” Remember the scene in the Lord of the Rings when the fellowship was down in the dark caves of Moria? They had awakened the Balrog, the flaming monster of the depths. Gandalf stood up to this darkness. He faced the monster with, “You shall not pass!” His sacrifice enabled the rest of the fellowship to come up out of the darkness. Any transformation requires sacrifice.

Sitting in that classroom amidst darkness I experienced a sense of peace. This wasn’t my ego wanting some magical escape. It was a deep sense of strength and resolve. Jung would say that the Self, the archetype of centeredness, had arisen within me. I felt peaceful in the presence of the monster. In that moment I heard myself telling the students of my growing up in the fifties, how I lived amidst rampant racial discrimination and the ever nigh threat of nuclear annihilation. People knew these things were wrong – just as we know the wrongness of global warming. But many felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems. How could things ever change? It took individuals to find the strength within to live a different way. To stand before the monster and say, “You shall not pass!” Rosa Parks chose one day to say this to a bus driver. Martin Luther King Jr. chose this path and many others joined together to slay the dragon of discrimination. Think of all of the changes that have taken place over the past fifty years that began with the few who chose to live one day.

Joseph Campbell says, “become alive to yourself” if you want to change the world. I believe this is what happened back in the fifties. Individuals awoke to life. In the darkest of times we can truly experience this sense of inner peace and resolve. We have many examples to guide us. With such resolve we can stand before the dragon of global warming and say with certainty, “You shall not pass!”

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Tree

“Sometimes a tree tells you more than can be read in a book”

C.G. Jung (Letters I, p. 479)

“So it comes about that if anyone spends almost the whole day in reading … he gradually loses the capacity for thinking; just as the man who always rides, at last forgets how to walk.”

Schopenhauer (On Books and Reading)

A strange thing can happen when you are writing about a subject, especially if you are inclined to thinking a lot about a subject. Mea Culpa! In the process of researching a subject, you may find yourself moving further away from the heart of the matter. I have experienced this in my writings on our relationship with Nature. I choose an idea of interest and feel compelled to research it first. I carry out this research so that I am ‘well prepared’ to write on the subject. As a scientist I was trained to thoroughly research a subject before beginning my work. But there are inherent problems with this approach if pursued too far. The research may become an all-consuming endeavor. It becomes so fascinating to read other’s words that we forget what we want to say about the topic. Unfortunately, the more time we spend reading other works, the less time we have to write down our thoughts.

The field of phenomenology teaches us to go “back to the things themselves!” To go out into the forest, rather than read about trees is essential to the process. Clearly there is a role for reading and research on any subject. The peril arises when we dwell too much on the research. There is also the peril that we may use our research to avoid our writing. Mea Culpa, once again! As Schopenhauer writes,

“… to take up a book for the purpose of scaring away ones own original thoughts is a sin against the Holy Spirit. It is like running away from Nature to look at a museum of dried plants or gaze at a landscape in a copperplate.”

Schopenhauer (On Thinking for Oneself)

So, this year I am determined to spend more time listening to the trees.

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Being Connected

interconnectedness

“In reality, our psyche spreads far beyond the confines of the conscious mind, as was apparently known long ago to the old alchemists who said that the soul was for the greater part outside the body.”

C.G. Jung (CW 11, par. 389)

This season has brought home how interconnected we are to one another. We have been immersed in tragedies from the senseless slaying of innocent children to worldwide wars and terrible assaults on individuals. Tragedy brings us together. For in the midst of suffering we recognize the fragility and unpredictable nature of our lives, which evokes within us a sense of solidarity. The Greeks recognized the importance of collectively experiencing a ‘suffering with,’ which is the meaning of compassion. They developed the tragedy play to foster the communal healing of collective suffering.

I believe this feeling of being connected to one another is THE one true thing that offers us hope. How does this connection take place? Jung’s statement above expresses the natural ability of psyche (or soul) to extend beyond the bounds of our physical bodies. He often pointed out that the awareness of our interconnectedness was something many wisdom traditions believed in and put into daily practice. Today more than ever we need to recognize this essential aspect of our being-in-the-world.

Psychologically, this sense of being connected occurs on both conscious and unconscious levels. In our present outward directed world, we tend to focus solely on the conscious pathways to connect with another. However, unconscious pathways can be far more effective for interconnectedness. For example, the existence of the collective unconscious creates a powerful way in which we sense not just a single person, but the many. Jung (CW 7, par. 275) states that, “… the unconscious produces contents which are valid not only for the person concerned, but for others as well, in fact for a great many people and possibly for all.” So, by connecting to the unconscious, we create a transformative bridge to all. History presents us with examples of rapid, large-scale social transformation, which proves that this kind of unconscious connectedness is available to us.

As we enter a new year, I hope we deepen our awareness of how connected we really are with one another. Experiencing interconnectedness is actually a way to prevent tragedies. For rather than waiting for tragedies to awaken us to our connectedness, we could choose to open up and feel the heart and soul of others before our seeming separation leads to yet another tragedy.

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Van_Gogh_Vincent-The_Mulberry_Tree

“The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature… The creative urge lives and grows … like a tree in the earth… We could do well, therefore, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche.”

C.G. Jung (CW 15, par. 115)

I have been struggling to find a voice with which to write longer works. I realize that this struggle is deeply imbedded in my wanting to be open to the creative process and how this wanting gets in the way of creativity. I need to let the tree grow from the earth and not force the process. I also realize there is a struggle within me between the poet and the scientist. The poet wants to live in the mystery of life and be immersed in experience. The scientist wants to understand the meaning of life events. This dichotomy between heart and head often creates a roadblock within me. How do I hold these two parts of myself in a co-creative way? Jung was well aware of this dilemma both personally and professionally as a psychologist. Here is what he (CW 15, par. 121) says about this struggle between wanting to know and living in the mystery:

We must interpret, we must find meanings in things, otherwise we would be quite unable to think about them. We have to break down life and events, which are self-contained processes, into meanings, images, concepts, well-knowing that in doing so we are getting further away from the living mystery.

We feel compelled to understand what life presents us and for those of us inclined to science, this means ‘breaking down’ the experience. Yet in the moment of analyzing the thing, the mystery is lost. Jung goes on to say:

As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition. But for the purpose of cognitive understanding we must detach ourselves from the creative process and look at it from the outside; only then does it become an image that expresses what we are bound to call ‘meaning.’

So, we are caught between being in the midst of the creative process and wanting to understand it. Jung states that our cognitive approach is ‘injurious to the immediate experience’ of the creative process. It seems that he is suggesting that it is best to dwell in the experience, i.e. be a full participant in the experience, and only then look back with a cognitive gaze to find meaning. This way we give both heart and head their due.

Giving heart and head their due has become a challenging path for me. I hope to walk this path more often in the future.

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