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Posts Tagged ‘Jung’

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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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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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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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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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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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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