Archive for the ‘Angkor Wat’ tag
I am writing this post just moments after me daily time out for meditation, rather later in the day than has been my normal pattern. I must say that I feel relaxed as I approach this writing today and as a result, my choice of photos matches my state of well-being. I took this photo at Angkor Wat in Cambodia late last January because of the meditating figure enclosed within the circle which had a background of light as I stood within the temple building. It is only now that I realise that the figure is feminine, a feminine form of Buddha. Some quick research resulted in a number of different female Buddha images found in different locations. Yet I wasn’t quite sure if the image was of a female Buddha (they exist) or of a Buddha which is suggestive of the feminine.
It was only with time spent with the photo that I can to realise that this image spoke to me about the integration of the masculine and the feminine into a state of wholeness. As I said earlier, I took the photo within the building. The site was dark with the only light coming from outside through the small window. There is no doubt that to see the image one has to be contained within the temple and its natural shadows and dark spaces. Yet the image only becomes visible with the light from without, with consciousness.
I realised that I needed to learn that my quest for consciousness is grounded in unconsciousness, my masculinity is grounded in the feminine. Consciousness cannot exist without unconsciousness. Without darkness, one cannot discern light; without light, one cannot discern darkness. The masculine, likewise exists only in contrast because of the feminine. And so I learned that I need to move from an either / or set of understandings to one that is inclusive and holistic.
So, where does that take me from here?
A break from the architectural and people photos taken during the tour of IndoChina that I have been posting here as of late. I did take nature photos during the trip as nature is a vital part of my personal journey. This particular butterfly was found in Siem Reap, Cambodia on an unscheduled walk that had no objective other than just being there.
After having just spent the day before visiting Angkor Wat and the morning on the water in the floating village, it was time for unplanned discoveries without a driver or guide. Since I have a good ability in building mental maps that avoid me getting lost in strange cities, I had no fear in wandering in search of whatever the day and place would present to me as a gift. It might seem like aimless activity, but I have learned that though I might not be consciously aware of these kind of journeys or excursions into the unknown, there is purpose and direction. It might be a foreign country and a strange city, but in the big picture, there is no foreignness as all are connected unconsciously, all are part of the whole.
When I found this butterfly, I was thankful that he stayed put long enough for me to get a few good photos of him. Then just moments later, I was surprised by thousands of fruit bats hanging from trees in the central park of Siem Reap. Within moments of each other, I was presented with a flying creature of the day as well as flying creatures of the night. It immediately made me think of my self making journeys consciously and unconsciously.
I often fly in my dreams with a body that defies logic, gravity and physics. I fly through mountains and water as well as in the sky. Everywhere I journey in these dreams is home. The land, the water, the sky . . .
Ta Promh has gifted me with more photos than I can ever use, as well as a life experience that I will never forget as long as I remain a conscious being. In this photo, a tree rises from the ruins of Ta Promh. The seed that became this tree belonged to the world of possibility. The possibility of life is the greatest mystery. Mystery is one way that I sense the spiritual, the existence of something that humans have given the name, God. As I look at this expression of mystery, I see two faces, one of creation and one of destruction, one of light and one of shadow.
“When we speak of “the gods” we are speaking metaphorically, as befits any approach to the mysterium tremendum, the great mystery. The gods are our personifications, please recall, the constructs of our limited intellects, which point toward the energies which run the cosmos and course through our being. So if one is “depressed,” then our being is not consonant with the intention of the gods. The gods may very well take us anywhere they damn well wish, of course, including depression as a steady state. But when we examine the psychodynamics, that is, the dynamics of the soul, we discern that depression is the expression of an energy transcendent to the ego’s choices, albeit felt as an oppression.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 104)
What is is that resonates for me and others in the presence of mysterium tremendum? Well it is that aspect of self that is the soul. I know the soul is there. here and in all that is me. I am a biological being, but the body is just the container, not the essence of who I am. Whatever it is that is the self is more that the body. Yet, the body has its role, its purpose in the life of the soul. As I come to realise this, I begin to understand better my purpose.
This understanding isn’t an intellectual understanding. My mind resists the fuzziness of soul, of this mysterium tremendum. My mind wants it all to be straightforward, provable to mind analytical mind, verifiable by my physical senses. As I resist the shadow and run into obstacles, my mind is taught a lesson and is reminded that I need to attend to ALL that floods my consciousness, even the stuff that only appears at the edge of consciousness, the numinous stuff. I resist too hard and find out that I don’t really have all the self-control that I think I have. The message is clear. I am not in this alone and I am part of a whole.
A second photo from the series taken at Ta Promh, a group of buildings and temples near Angkor Wat, shoes how trees have wrapped themselves around doors, walls and windows of one of the temple structures. I took the photo in the late afternoon, a time when light coats everything with a sheen of gold. Though the scene is one of abandonment and decay, there remains a strong sense of what was in place in the times before abandonment. There is a feel of almost holiness as if this was a once-upon-a-time favoured place of the gods.
As I look at the photo, I almost sense a heaviness, a depression. Yes, this is a holy place, but the intent of ego which was responsible for building the temple has been overthrown. The gods have responded to the ego and not in the expected manner. As Hollis would explain it, “the ego’s agenda is overthrown” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 109). What is it that overthrows the intentions of ego, the plans of men and women? Listen to Carl Jung’s thoughts on this matter:
“I know of the existence of God-images in general and in particular. I know it is a matter of a universal experience and, in so far as I am no exception, I know that I have such experience also, which I call God. It is the experience of my will over against another and very often stronger will, crossing my path often with seemingly disastrous results, putting strange ideas into my head and maneuvering my fate sometimes into most undesirable corners or giving it unexpected favorable twists, outside my knowledge and intention.” (Jung, Letters, vol. 2, pp 522-523)
God then is a personal god, one with which one battles. One knows that this god is present and has a presence that transcends all that one knows. Yet this personal god with whom one wrestles is also bigger than just a personal god for one person. This transcendent otherness is also engaging others and in found in places and within images. One knows this presence through some aspect of self and consciousness that is found only on the edges, a numinosity.
This image holds that sense of numinosity for me. This was a place for the gods, and curiously the photo “glows” pointing back to the gods that have transcended the time and place. And what is left becomes a temple that points to a God transcended, not a god tamed by man, contained by man’s stonework.
Going to Angkor Wat is an experience that gets extended with other temples in the relatively nearby area. This photo was taken at Ta Promh, a temple complex that didn’t get the care over the centuries that most of the temple sites enjoyed. As a result nature has reclaimed so much of the site and salvaging some of the site is a challenge.
When I saw these roots almost devouring the walls of the temple, I couldn’t help but think of the temple as the self. I think back of the time when I was so focused on others that the foundations of my self was eroding. I have to admit that I didn’t think of balance in my own life. I assumed that all I had to do was to put myself fully into parenting, being a marriage partner, teaching and coaching and a community member and all would be well. Each of these things I did was something worthy and honourable. Each of these things gave meaning to life and had value to myself as well as to others. So, how was my attention to these things having my self break down?
First, I believed that it was right to be unselfish, I actually still feel the same way. Only thing was in the past, I mistook the meaning of being selfish as taking time for my own mental health, my own psychic health. In most things, this actually caused me no end of problems. Whenever anyone asked what I wanted, I always would respond with figuring out what the person wanted so that I would choose correctly. If I dithered long enough, or simply returned the choice back to the other person, the correct decision would be made based on the wants of the others. Most times I had no opinion, no desires, just the desire to please, to be of use, to affirm the choices of others. But not always.
This was the key point, for each time I had an opinion or a desire and I would defer to another person, it ate at something deep within me. Over time, my opinion stopped being solicited and that added to my sense of unimportance. I taught those around me that my opinion wasn’t needed, that only their opinions and needs were of value. With balance falling further and further away, I became easily upset and as a result angry with myself for feeling upset as it was me being selfish.
Dreams warned me of the dangers of my eroding psychic foundations, but I ignored the warnings and worked harder than ever to fill my life with family, school, sports and service. With the foundations eroding, the control I had over shutting shadow out was evaporating. I became more and more irrational. It was only because of my training in counselling as a psychotherapist that I finally recognised what was happening and took a “time out” in order to bring balance back, to repair the foundations.
A Cambodian woman with three of her children at the back gates of Angkor Wat. A fourth child, a girl is sitting on a block of stone that is part of the wall, just off to the left. Family grounds a person, family nourishes. But looking carefully, there is a hint that all is not well. There is evidence that the children, the mother and the face of the world in which they are presented are not nourished as they could or should be nourished. There is evidence of neglect, perhaps of abandonment and abuse. Yet, in spite of appearances, there is also love and hope in evidence.
This is really not a post about this photo, but about the self which is in much the same state of being. Anima, the soul, is not nourished as it could or should be. How does one care for one’s soul? Well, it might sound as though the answer would lie in doing things that focus on self in a way that excludes others or the outer world, but that is not even close to the truth of what it means to care for one’s soul, to nourish one’s soul.
We are individuals and can only understand the world through our limited capacities of body and brain for the most part. We are members of a collective with bodies and psyches that demand connection to others. The pull to join physically, socially and psychologically are the norm, not the exception. In joining, co-joining and cooperating with others, a sense of fullness and purpose is activated. One senses a rightness at that moment. The sense that being with other is part of what makes one whole is important. We marry, we join groups, we teach, we work and we play with others and in the process often find ourselves in the process.
As I listen to voices in cyberspace talking of community in new ways, community that has no geographical boundaries, no racial or religious boundaries, I learn that “otherness” is not something that needs to be separate from “self.” In fact, I learn the opposite, that otherness and self are two parts of a wholeness. And this is a lesson that one needs to learn about the “otherness” that exists within one’s psyche, the shadow world that one senses is there but often refuses to associate with or acknowledge. Denied, the internal otherness, the soul wrapped in mystery and darkness, only results in the self reflecting the malnourishment. Depression, anger, fear, moodiness and isolation eat away at the foundation of one’s self.
Individuation is a work of one within the container of the whole collective with the collective being nourished as one’s soul is nourished.
I continue with bringing a photo from Angkor Wat with this post. Walking out of the back of the main temple area of Angkor Wat there is this smaller temple, or more likely one of the smaller palaces that were part of Angkor Wat. I was entranced by the solidity and ancientness of this building which has been somewhat rescued from the jungle that is native to the area. Looking through the doorway and windows, one expects to encounter shadows of an inner space. Yet, that expectation was denied as the doorway and the windows opened up to show the outer world framed by the door and windows.
Inner and outer landscapes, light and shadow. It is the contrast between dark spaces and light that indicates the presence of life. If all is dark, that is all there is. If all is white, that is all there is. I need contrast to have feeling, to be able to discriminate. Without contrast, there is nothing but a state of suspended animation – no awareness – as if one is asleep with no dreaming, no physical sensation to have one shift on the bed, no biological clock to have one wake up. One needs both darkness and light in order to be alive.
I think of many who are bored with their lives. Why the boredom? There is not a lack of material stuff in their lives, not a lack of opportunity, not a lack of time; yet, there is little satisfaction. To go to the same work, to see the same people, to hear the same stories, to take the same routes, to watch the same television programs; to do any of these things day after day without change is not much different that living in a cocoon, in suspended animation. It is only when someone or something enters the scene, disrupting the pattern that one becomes animated. Typically, that animation is a negative response, a complaint about how one’s routines have been turned upside down. The greatest curse one could give was to wish them and interesting life. An interesting life, one in which pain and pleasure are present, one in which there is mystery and a anxiety. We now treat anxiety with pills in an attempt to surround the anxiety with a narcotic numbing agent so that one can avoid pain.
I wonder at my need for an interesting life. If things go too smoothly, I become agitated and find myself resisting the invisible bonds that would have me sit quietly, not making waves, as I wait for my biological death. I want to feel alive and that means I need to feel, to think, to dream, to act, to go, to be denied, to be loved and hated. I need to speak out even if what I say is nonsense. Would it be better if I could sit still in a small town at the edges of the world, smiling and not making any waves, listening to words repeated endlessly so that the words have no meaning other than as a constant drone that persuades the brain it doesn’t need to listen anymore?
Sitting and waiting while life happens around me but not within me – that is what this photo tells me – when one sits still waiting, one has become an empty shell in spite of the fact that the body is still performing biological functions that says the body is alive. The owner, the spirit has abandoned the body; the soul has shriveled up. The gods have gone to find a new home. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Clint Black has his way of telling us the same thing.
The lights are on, but nobody’s home – Clint Black
Move slowly to my dresser drawers
Put my blue jeans on
Find my cowboy boots, my button down
Strap my timepiece on my arm
Grab my billfold, my pocket change
Just a mindless old routine
Then it’s out the door and down the street
But it’s not really me
I still comb my hair the same
Still like the same cologne
And I still drive that pickup truck
That the same old bank still owns
But since you left, everybody says
I’m not the guy they’ve known
The lights are on, but nobody’s home
Cup of coffee in the morning
Just food for the brain
But I’ve been numb since our last goodbye
I haven’t felt a thing
But now there’s pains in my head
And pains in my chest
And I think I’m losing my hair
I’m a half a man with half a mind
To think you didn’t care
I still comb my hair the same
Still like the same cologne
And I still drive that pickup truck
That the same old bank still owns
But since you left, everybody says
I’m not the guy they’ve known
The lights are on, but nobody’s home
I am continuing to draw on the photographs taken at Angkor Wat. Though built by man, this is a place that can best be described as a place of the gods and spirits of a time long past. But of course, these gods and spirits didn’t exist, nor did they make Angkor Wat their home. Angkor Wat was a place built by man, for a man, for his throne and his tomb. It was built as a Hindu temple with the thought that all would associate this man with the Hindu god, Vishnu. Temples such as Angkor Wat are vivid expressions of a human living and acting out of the unconscious. The self becomes consumed by a larger, darker thing, the collective unconscious.
“The world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me.” (Jung, CW 12, par. 857)
There is a wonder within me about those men who managed to have their societies accept them as more than human, as beings who are the gods revealed as men. Many modern men have no problem believing in the gods (or a singular god); nor do modern men have a problem positioning themselves as superlative beings in comparison to the people of their country and generation in order to accept the public acclaim and rewards of being godlings. Riches, fame and adoration are theirs and the ordinary man who sits under the skin of these modern day godlings have been usurped by the collective shadow. There is no way that they could have ascended to the thrones as godlings without the willingness of the collective to have them as holders of their projections, their need to have the gods revealed.
One has to live in the dark, with a low level of consciousness, to both give their power to another and for that other to hold that power. When consciousness begins to grow and the projections of collective and personal unconsciousness begin to be withdrawn, there is a sense of dis-ease with the reality that had grown out of living unconsciously. We see this today in Arab world. Projections are being withdrawn and personal power is being reclaimed. Yet, this is just the first steps. Will those who are reclaiming their personal power give it up to a new godling, even if that godling is an idea?
I want to draw on the situation in my own country, Canada. It seems to be a quiet place where there appears to be fewer projections running unchecked. A democratic form of government enables personal power to be exercised with some regularity. Yet, all is not what it appears on the outside. The leader of government has unfortunately begun to believe that he is above those whom he leads. What is more disquieting is the fact that many have given up their power of thought and discrimination and now believe all that he says without question. Canada is not a big country in terms of people, nor does it have significant power in the affairs of a global society. Thankfully, the majority of Canadians haven’t given up their power to this new face of the collective unconscious, at least not yet.
My point in making these comments isn’t to make a political statement about Canada and its leader, or about the Arab world and the unrest there as people rise and say they have had enough of living in a shadow world of the collective unconscious. The point I am trying to highlight is that Angkor Wat, the Great Wall, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and any other man-made marvel; as well as the religions and governance systems that feed on people giving up personal authority, exist because of unconsciousness, projected collective unconsciousness.
Withdrawing the projections, one must become responsible, self responsible. In this state of being, there is no “other” to blame, to carry the scapegoat, to carry the shadow. One must own it all. When this happens, tyranny cannot exist within the community, for no one will follow.
This photo was taken at Angkor Wat. I have to admit that I went trigger crazy with the camera while wandering through the Angkor Wat complex of buildings and grounds. So many images, scenes, shadows, and all of these left me in a state of wonder. For a moment, I felt a connection with something deeper, more intense. I guess one could almost call it a spiritual feeling. Okay, I can almost here the questions coming – what do I mean by a “spiritual” feeling? Thanks to one of my readers, I have a pdf document written by John Dourley, a Jungian analyst and Catholic priest who lives and works in Ottawa, Canada. I will draw on Dourley’s words to help wrestle with the term spiritual. This is not the first time I have tried to wrestle with spiritualism, nor the first time I have borrowed from Dourley’s work. I will include the document for your reading if you have the interest by placing it here: The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality, 2006.
“Spirituality is a term that is currently coming into ever more prominent use. It is also a term that is taking on a wide range of meanings. In its narrower sense it describes the spiritual discipline and practice of a given tradition. One can speak of a Hindu or a Buddist or a Christian spirituality. In contemporary usage spirituality has taken on another and wider meaning. It has come to describe a religious consciousness and discipline entirely free of a relation to any religious institution.” (Dourley, “The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality,” 2006.)
I have to admit that I originally took the narrower meaning in my youth and early adulthood, a meaning that grew out of Catholicism. I “felt” awe when entering into a cathedral, a sense that was physical as well as of the psyche. Even when the belief in the church had evaporated the spiritual sense was still present.
I remember when I was forty something years old and found myself entering into a cathedral in Avignon, France one evening while there was an Easter service in progress, how the presence of something that was bigger than the cathedral was sensed by my self. Today I don’t discount the feeling or my understanding of it. Rather, I have only expanded my understanding of that awareness of the spiritual, a spirituality that has a “wider meaning” as Dourley defines it. Spirituality has grown within me as I become more and more conscious of my own being. That consciousness of self is framed in a consciousness of other and dim edge of consciousness that embraces self and other.
I find that in my journey through life, as I walk my path that takes me through shadows and light somewhat like this corridor in the temple complex at Angkor Wat, I pass through and beside darkened doorways that reveal mysteries when I am ready for the revelations. As I wandered through Angkor Wat, I felt the pulse of what I can only understand to be the source of my spiritual self, a pulse that I know is bigger than my limited sense of self, something that includes all life, and everything else, all possibilities as well as all realities.
This photo was taken near Siem Reap within the Angkor Wat complex. This object in the front right half of the photo is a Buddhist stupa dating from the 12th century, a burial marker or memorial not much different from a modern tombstone. As far as stupas go, this one is rather plain in structure, perhaps due to the fact that the site has suffered over the centuries. The base of this stupa, and most Buddhist stupas, is square in shape with the four sides oriented with the four cardinal directions. The stupa has five elements including the base which represents the earth. The structure rising out of the base symbolizes water, fire, wind, and the void. For more information on the stupa, I will leave it to you to do the research rather than risk making incorrect statements that would miss the real significance of the stupa in Buddhist thought. When I took this photo, I took it with a simpler thought in mind, that of letting it resonate with my psyche. It is enough for my purposes to be aware of the basic symbolism of the stupa.
One of the important points that I omitted talking about above was the fact that within the stupa are artifacts related to an individual. For me, this was vital. The stupa becomes a container for the individual. Images such as this one can lead one back to looking at self from a different point of view. I, like this stupa, am grounded in the world to which I was born, a product of the earth taking from that earth every day and returning bits back to the earth everyday without thought. In the end, I will add my elements back into the earth from which my body arose. My my body is both mineral and water and it is the water which serves as the medium in which the elements of the earth come together to form life, not much different that the amniotic sea within a womb serves as the container in which life is generated. This life is an unconscious life. With the fire of the sun, being born and striving to survive, consciousness develops, consciousness of self and other. It is the interactions of self with the world and with others that eventually lead to an awareness of spirit, something beyond the prosaic aspects of living. One knows it is there and can only feel the spirit indirectly, not much different that wind and air. One knows that air exists though it isn’t seen or felt too often, only when the air stifles, freezes or assaults. The awareness of spirit seems to point beyond to something to big to name, yet at the same time, having no properties that would allow us to validate its existence. In the stupa, that is the void. In me that is the ONE / SELF that contains all that is and all that isn’t; all that is possible as well as impossible,
It started out as a simple photograph. Yet, the symbols the image evokes are so deep that I don’t have the words to communicate the numinousness, the fullness of the symbol. It’s time to take a few more photos in my search for self, for consciousness.