Crossing The River Styx

Guided boat on WuZhen canal

As you can tell, I took some liberties with the photo I took at WuZhen.  Using Photoshop, I went in search of what I was seeing in this scene, a mood and perhaps even place that existed as a layer under the scene caught by the camera.  It is as though there was an alter universe peeking out at the edges of “reality.”

So what did I see in place of a few tourists on a canal boat in a tourist area celebrating a Mythical China?  I saw colour, a coolness that hinted at an approaching darkness touched with sadness, a sense of almost being lost.  I looked at the scene before the shutter clicked capturing an image and saw the faces on the boat, faces which evoked a sense of souls being transported across the river Styx en route to Hades, a realm of darkness, chaos and possession and annihilation.  Three faces in this photo, the woman sitting in the open doorway with a look of resignation, another face framed in the window staring at me giving the impression of a ghost, and the face of the boatman carrying a determined look – there is no evidence of joy.

Crossing the River Styx (I am a ghost)

Kyrie Elesion
Gratia tua illis succurrente
Mereantur evadere judicium
Fac eas de morte transire ad vitam
Et in memoria aeterna erit

Lord, have mercy
By the help of Thy grace
May they be enabled to escape the judgement
Grant them to pass over from death to life
And they shall live in memory everlasting.

Tantus labor non sit cassus

Ne me perdas

(Such travail must not be in vain
Do not let me be lost)

Cor Contritum quasi cinis
Quem patronum rogarturus?
ne me perdas

(My heart is as though ground to ashes
To which protector shall I appeal?
Do not let me be lost)

I found this song by accident while looking for an article referencing the River Styx and immediately saw how it fit here.  I was prepared for the accompanying music to be Gregorian in mood and sound and was rudely jolted by a harder sound, one that evoked K.I.S.S.  (Knights In Satan’s Service).  The words to the song, the image, the music – all pointed me towards something beyond me, beyond what I expected in terms of my personal shadow.  I guess that this isn’t surprising when each day I hear more and more of what appears to be the collective unconscious let loose in the outer world.  And in watching and listening, I sense my own powerlessness in relation to this collective unconscious.

“Whereas the contents of the personal unconscious are acquired during the individual’s lifetime, the contents of the collective unconscious are invariably archetypes that were present from the beginning.” (Jung, CW 9ii, par. 13)

And so, like the woman in the boat, I wonder where we are headed as a collective.  All I can do, is search my own soul and deal with my own personal moral challenges knowing that I am on this boat that will take me to another way of being hoping that I don’t get lost on the way.

About rgl

A retired Canadian educator and psychotherapist living in Mexico in the winter and in Canada the rest of the year.
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5 Responses to Crossing The River Styx

  1. John Ferric says:

    In re: your Jung quote, above; does the collective unconscious really have “contents?” Jung writes: “. . . “Again and again I encounter the mistaken notion that an archetype is determined in regard to its content, in other words that it is a kind of unconscious idea (if such an expression be admissible). It is necessary to point out once more that archetypes are not determined as regards their content, but only regards their form and then only to a very limited degree. A primordial image is determined as to its content only when it has become conscious and therefore filled out with material of conscious experience. Its form, however, as I have explained elsewhere, might be compared to the axial system of a crystal, which, as it were, preforms the crystalline structure in the mother liquid, although it has no material existence of its own. . . .”
    It appears to me that many mis-understand the concept of archetypes; for example, they “believe” that we are born with(just an arbitrary selection here) a “warrior” archetype. Such is not the case, a particular situation in the environment of the archetype, constellates or precipitates it into its “form.” The interesting thing for me is that Jung writes in several places that the archetypes are “not personally acquired.” But he writes elsewhere that the archetypes “. . .owe their existence exclusively to heredity.” So, for me, archetypes are “personally” acquired via heredity and with all the consequences of genetic transmission. I call into question the entire notion of a “transpersonal psychology.”

  2. Urspo says:

    Collectively we seem to be moving towards destruction, alas.

    • rgl says:

      I don’t know if this is the case, but we are definitely living under the curse of “interesting times.”

    • Boer says:

      We live in a post WWII world. Do you really think humanity is vloser to destruction today, than we were at any other previous time in history?

  3. John Ferric says:

    Are we simply witnessing an “as above, so below” situation? Do we need to “destroy” our destructive ways of being in the world? But are we failing to understand that it is the “inner” destructive process that needs to be attended to.

    “. . .It is, however, true that much of the evil in the world is due to the fact that man in general is hopelessly unconscious, as it is also true that with increasing insight we can combat this evil at its source in ourselves. As science enables us to deal with injuries inflicted from without, so it helps us to treat those arising from within.” C. G. Jung, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man.”

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