Archive for August, 2009
In taking this photo in Udaipur, I was struck by the “attention” being given by the younger woman, the daughter-in-law. In terms of their world, life is relatively successful with a baby in the background, a house and good clothes; significant things in a world where most want for the simplest things. I learned long ago not to judge anything found in the outer world using my own measuring stick. I learned that what is visible is only the tip of what actually exists and that the visible part is usually not the best guide to what lies beneath that surface. You know the old expression – never judge a book by its cover – that is what I mean.
Appearances can be deceiving. Someone who struggles, who faces so many challenges may possess an inner sense of equilibrium. Those who appear to navigate through life without many challenges and appear to be the most with-it are often roiling cauldrons of dis-ease within. Jung says it best:
… it is not always the contradiction between subjective assumptions and external facts that gives rise to problems; it may just as often be inner, psychic difficulties. They may exist even when things run smoothly in the outside world. Very often it is the disturbance of psychic equilibrium caused by the sexual instinct; equally often it is the feeling of inferiority which springs from an unbearable sensitivity. These inner conflicts may exist even when the adaptation to the outer world has been achieved without apparent effort. (Carl Jung, CW 8, paragraph 762)
Kumbh Mela is an Indian festival in which people go down to the Ganges River to wash away the sins of the world. It is a festival that occurs once every twelve years in the month of February. Each day in between festivals, most make the journey to various ghats along lakes and rivers throughout India in order to wash away the grime of living in an unclean world. It is symbolic and practical at the same time. I wondered about this while in India as often the water is likely dirtier than the person who comes for his or her ritual bath.
There is something to learn for me from this. It isn’t about looking outward for antiseptic cleansing, but more about looking inward for spiritual cleansing. The soul is awash in all of the shadow detritus, all of the dark aspects, all the rejected poisons. Yet, by honouring the soul through some small ritual, it shines and renews. Out of the muck one discovers the gold of “self.”
This is one of my photos from India, taken in one of the circular mud, dung and stick homes that abound in the Rajasthan desert countryside. Small little openings such as this served as windows, limiting the amount of sunlight so that the house would stay cool, and limiting the amount of sand when winds race over the scrub desert country. This small brass holder reminded me of a pair of similar vessels that sit atop my TV which are often used as vases for smaller flowers. As it glowed, I sensed at its edges, a numinous aspect that took me deeper than was expected. And so, I took this photo.
This plain vessel evokes more than its simplicity in setting and workmanship would suggest. In a way, this becomes a holy chalice, a container for the soul. Though the interior of the hut was dark, light trying to peek through the darkness allowed the vessel to glow as though it was the keeper of a treasure.
It’s much the same with us. Our soul is illuminated by consciousness which peers into the darkness of the unconscious. In that darkness is found transformation; in that darkness is found shadows of forgotten and castoff aspects of who we were, who we are, who we could yet be. In that darkness we find a deeper connection that lets us know that we are more than self, that we are all part of a whole that embraces all the light and all the darkness; all that is and all that isn’t.
A lesson for myself, even the warts are worthy of being contained and honoured.
I got the lady who works the pro shop at a golf course close to the city to take this picture of us before our golf game this morning. As far as games went, the scores were normal for us on a very nice, small course. We try to visit this course every few years. As the subject line tells it, today marks our 38th anniversary. Sometimes I didn’t know if we would have ever made it this far. I am not an easy person to get to know and I definitely have issues that get in the way of a solid relationship. But then again, so does everyone else I have ever met. It’s rather amazing to me that anyone ever stays married as they learn about the bumps, bruises, warts and worries of the person that they find themselves involved with as a couple.
Of course, that said, I know that I am blessed to have had this woman with me over the years, and even more blessed that she plans on being with me for several more decades of life. Some people stay together and don’t even like each other. Believe me, this isn’t the case with us. For both of us, the only major issues that rise up are issues with self. We both want to be so much better than we are, more deserving of the “other” with whom we continue to choose to be with each day.
Thank you to the love of my life for choosing me thirty-eight years ago and for continuing to choose me.
A male Magnificent Cormorant sits on a mast of a small fishing boat called the Black Christ (Cristo Negro) in the harbour of Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico as evening gets ready to settle in. It’s a photo I took at the end of January of this year.
I struggled for quite some time today trying to find the words that I wanted to put here. A search through a number of volumes of Jung’s works didn’t yield anything that resonated. And so, I decided to simply speak as it “felt” for me. In the end, that is all any of us can ever do. the closest any of us can ever come to what might pass as the truth of who we are.
Black is about shadow, that much resonates loud and clear. However, all that is black isn’t evil. That is the hard part to get past sometimes. For the owner of this boat, obviously, the use of the word Christ is all about hope. So, why not have the two combine? This is where I jump from the scene of the photo to my personal realm of the underworld/inner-world.
Going through midlife, it is only when I dared to look at the edges of shadow country, staring into the fearsome blackness within that I finally began to sense hope, sense that I would emerge from that inner journey better than when I began that journey. The darkness and shadows yielded treasures about self, about personal strength and even validation of my “self.” Like the fisherman heading out into the ocean for the rich yields of the sea, I headed deep within the darkness, blind for the most part because of the darkness. I fought those sea monsters that assailed my sense of fear, my sense of inferiority and somehow, like the fisherman, found myself back in port, back in the outer world of consciousness. The journey had rewarded me with a bit more awareness of self and of the nature of the unconscious – a rich treasure. But more importantly, it renewed hope in something bigger than my ego. This is the promise of the Christ symbol.
There is hope if one does not fear the darkness so much that one flees from it. Rather, think of how San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross) embraced the dark night and found love, love that burned with its own light, a love that touched Christ. To embrace this, one must go under, one must sacrifice the “what is” for “what could be.” Or as I read in Jung’s works somewhere in words similar to these, “the good is the enemy of the better.”
Just as the sun, by its own motion and in accordance with its own inner law, climbs form morn till noon, crosses the meridian and goes its downward way towards evening, leaving its radiance behind it, and finally plunges into all-enveloping night, so man sets his course by immutable laws and, his journey over, sinks into darkness, to rise again in his children and begin the cycle anew. (Carl Jung, CW 5, paagraph 251)
The photo was taken last January in Rio Lagartos as I was sitting at a table enjoying a pre-supper drink with three others while at a sea-side restaurant in Mexico. It’s amazing what feelings arise when one experiences a sunset that is so colourful. The quotation which suits the photo was taken from an essay, The “Origin of the Hero,” by Jung taken from his Collected Works volume 5, Symbols of Transformation.
I love the approach of evening when the light begins to paint everything with a touch of gold. In the bright sun of mid-day, so much looks taudry and flawed. Yet in the last part of the day, this disappears to be replaced by gold. It is as if life is transformed. The photo is a scene from Rio Lagartos in January, 2008.
If one can imagine it, what happens in nature is mirrored with that which happens within each of us. As we move past the middle of life into the late afternoon and early evening, a similar transformation occurs. It isn’t something that just happens overnight, it is something that is gradual, similar to the change processes that turns grapes into wine. It’s an alchemical change, transmutation from dross into gold. All it needs from us is to be present in the moments, even at this time of descent into the inner realms where one discovers that what before appeared to be flaws now becomes character, traces of ancient gods that dwell within as archetypes. Re-visioning and re-awekening to our “self” allows us to finally feel comfortable with ourselves in relation to whatever it is that is the guiding principle of everything,
I took this photo in April in the Yucatan. It was one of the hundreds of photos I took while working on the Swamplands book. It didn’t make the cut for the final product because of the competition it faced from the other photos as it became a matter of choosing about 12 photos from the collection which were taken for the purpose. All of them, and the book were my preparation for my first SoFoBoMo experience, an experience that I enjoyed enough to want to repeat the process next June and July.
While taking the photos on long walks alone through the swamplands, I found that I was never alone at all. Everywhere I walked though no people were to be found, I sensed the presence of one specific “other” constantly in my head, tucked quietly but firmly at the edges of awareness. I looked at the scenes and the images as though through two sets of eyes, mine and hers. In some outside perspective, it might even appear as though I was possessed by this sense of otherness within. For me, however, that presence was more about fullness. That other had no physical form; that other came from deep within the shadows, an ephemeral woman. Who was this woman? My anima.
This is more than just accepting the woman within for a man and the man within for a woman, this is about honouring the polarities, about holding the tension of opposites. This isn’t about losing oneself in other; it is about finding oneself in relation to the darkness and the crowded underworld of archetypes, the mob of characters in the throng of complexes. And yet, there is a parallel universe in the outer world where a real woman waited while I walked taking the photos.
Love requires depth and loyalty of feeling; without them it is not love but mere caprice. True love will always commit itself and engage in lasting ties; it needs freedom only to effect its choice, not for its accomplishment. Every true and deep love is a sacrifice. The lover sacrifices all other possibilities, or rather, the illusion that such possibilities exist. If this sacrifice is not made, his illusions prevent the growth of any deep and responsible feeling, so that the very possibility of experiencing real love is denied him. (Carl Jung, CW 10, paragraph 231)
As within, so without. In my opinion, one can never truly experience the depths of true love in the outer world if one can’t do the same in the inner worlds.
I took this photo on the outskirts of a nondescript village in India called Khichan, a place where Demoiselle Cranes are the main reason why people take back roads to visit the place. I have to admit that I take a lot of photos of birds, especially those that are not typically found in my Canadian prairie town. Taking these photos wasn’t as easy as I had originally thought. It took a lot of time to quietly edge close enough for my 12X optical built-in telephoto lens to get enough detail for my purposes. That said, the time spent was worth it. I managed to get a good quantity of photos.
With that, I want to return to the topic I began in my last post, that of Logos and Eros. First, a few words from Carl Jung.
Logos and Eros are intellectually formulated intuitive equivalents of the archetypal images of Sol and Luna. In my view the two luminaries are so descriptive and so superlatively graphic in their implications that I would prefer them to the more pedestrian terms of Logos and Eros, although the latter do pin down certain psychological peculiarities more aptly than the rather indefinite “Sol and Luna.” The use of these images requires at any rate an alert and lively fantasy, and this is not an attribute of those who are inclined by temperament to purely intellectual concepts. These offer us something finished and complete whereas an archetypal image has nothing but its naked fullness, which seems inapprehensible by the intellect. Concepts are coined and negotiable values. Images are life. (Carl Jung, CW 14, paragraph 226)
Now, in the last post I talked about balance, the union of opposites which when put together offer a fullness. For us, a day is not just the daylight hours; it also includes the night. It isn’t about choosing day over night, sun over moon. We realise that both are needed. Well, that goes for the self as well. For a person to be complete there must be an acknowledgement and acceptance of the “other” within, something we can call the soul, the anima in men and the animus in women. Of course, this is a concept, one that asks us to be aware of the darkness of the unconscious anima/animus. That said, the pull to the opposite is externalised. Men seek women and women seek men for more than the reproductive needs of the species. Both look to the “other” to complete the “self.” More often than not, this is a recipe for disaster. No external other can ever complete the self.
An external other can complement the self and help point to the anima/animus within the self, serving as a mirror of sorts. What we find pleasing in other are those aspects of self which seem to fill in the holes. What we feel as aggravations are often our own contents projected onto the other. It is only when we become aware of these things that we can become better aware of a fuller self. That allows us to then recognise the other as unique and separate other. It is only then that love can deepen beyond need.
A walk down a country road came up with this harvest photo. This swather had taken down two rows of lentils and was parked at the edge of the field, just behind a ripening field of Durham wheat. With the approach of harvest, the regular rhythms of life are abandoned by those who are connected to the land. It becomes a race against nature to see just how much of the crop can be harvested before frosts degrade the quality of the crop. Who would have ever thought that I would know any of this, growing up a city kid and only exchanging the city for life in small towns when I became a teacher?
I am going to try to spend more time looking at masculine and feminine and relationship here. Before I babble too much, I want to return to some basic ideas from Carl Jung so that you can, perhaps, better understand where I am coming from when I make statements. Here are a few words from Jung taken from his work called Mysterium Coniunctionis.
For purely psychological reasons I have, in other of my writings, tried to equate the masculine consciousness with the concept of Logos and the feminine with that of Eros. By logos I meant discrimination, judgement, insight, and by Eros I meant the capacity to relate. I regarded both concepts as intuitive ideas which cannot be defined accurately or exhaustively. From the scientific point of view this is regrettable, but from a practical one, it has value, since the two concepts mark out a field of experience which it is equally difficult to define. (Carl Jung, CW 14, paragraph 224)
Logos and Eros, two opposites. Logos is represented alchemically as Sol, the sun. Eros is represented as Luna, the moon. One rules the day, the other the night, again the opposites of day and night, light and darkness, come into play. That which we “know” is that which is exposed to the light of day and is called consciousness. That which we don’t know is that which is hidden in darkness and is called unconsciousness. These opposing principles, the masculine Logos and the feminine Eros, are not gender bound. In the real world, we experience males who appear to operate from the principle of Eros as well as women who operate from the principle of Logos. There are masculine women, a feminine men. This is important to note as otherwise, it becomes too difficult to even begin to approach understanding anything about the union of opposites, of relationship.
To be continued …