I often take photos that mix elements such as this one where I capture water and earth, the union of separate elements. I decided to use a filter to bring a hint of black and white while still managing to capture a bit of green, a sense of life in what would otherwise be a dark, shadowy swampland. For me, this is a symbolic union of conscious and unconscious, the union of the masculine and feminine.
Of course, I am thinking of this union as something that happens within one rather than what happens between self and other, between man and woman.
That said, there is no question that what happens in the outer world will be reflected in the inner world, at least in opposite energies where what is denied in the outer world is given life in the inner world even if we are never conscious about what is going on within our own depths.
Jung calls this union of opposites, Mysterium Coniunctionis, the central theme of Collected Works volume 14. Listen to his words on the Personification of Opposites:
Our reason is often influenced far too much by purely physical considerations, so that the union of the sexes seems to it the only sensible thing and the urge for union the most sensible instinct of all. But if we conceive of nature in the higher sense as the totality of all phenomena, then the physical is only one of her aspects, the other is pneumatic or spiritual. The first has always been regarded as feminine, the second as masculine. The goal of one is union, the goal of the other is discrimination. Because it overvalues the physical, our contemporary reason lacks spiritual orientation, that is, pneuma. (Jung, CW 14, par 104)
There is so much more that Jung says, but that will have to wait. There are things here that I want to chew on for a bit, especially the bit about urges of physical versus the pull towards the spiritual. Somehow I get the feeling that midlife is a ripe time for this pull towards opposite urges to come to the forefront. The realisation that youth has been left behind and that our bodies are determined to remind us that we are changing is a crisis in itself. There is little doubt that one has begun a downward slide. Focusing on returning to an exercise regime lets one soon know that we can backtrack a bit, but we can never reverse the direction. Then, the shit starts to fly.
Why? What’s the whole purpose of the struggling in the first half of life? The kids are grown up, work is done, retirement is in place – so now what? Is that all there is? The only answer that can give any hope is that there is something deeper than what appears on the surface of life. There has to be meaning, there has to be a purpose for the second half of life that goes beyond taking up space and using up precious planetary resources. And in looking within, one gets to sense the presence of an answer, an answer that can’t be found on the outside, at least for me. It is this that draws me into something spiritual, something bigger than the sum total of my life.