Archive for the ‘Carl Gustav Jung’ tag
A walk through the morning market in any city is something that always yields a wealth of sights, sounds and aromas; it is also a great place to take photographs. This woman was one of the rare older ladies at the morning market in Phnom Penh as older women are not all that numerous in Cambodia. The history of wars has removed many people from the older generations, especially the wars surrounding the Killing Fields of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime.
I mentioned yesterday about the negative affect on life when the ego is submerged by the shadow, by the unconscious. The story of the years of the Khmer Rouge are a vivid testimony of this happening at the collective level. The possession of one’s ego by the unconscious allows the collective unconscious to emerge and find a voice in the outer world as the boundaries between the personal and collective unconscious are very permeable. As I understand it, the personal unconscious is held within the collective unconscious, a subset of the collective unconscious. When the collective unconscious is highly charged, energized; and a portal has opened, the power of the collective unconscious rushes to possess as many individuals as possible. The weakest of egos fall to the tidal wave of the collective unconscious. We see this every time there are mobs acting as if with one voice.
“. . . there is another danger which is not inconsiderable and may lead to complications, particularly with individuals who are pathologically inclined. This is the fact that the contents of the personal unconscious (i.e. the shadow) are indistinguishably merged with the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious and drag the latter with them when the shadow is brought into consciousness. This may exert an uncanny influence on the conscious mind; for the activated archetypes have a disagreeable effect – or I should perhaps say, particularly – on the most cold-blooded rationalist.” (Jung, CW 12, par. 38)
I mentioned the “weakest of egos” before the quotation from Jung’s Collected Works. The weakest egos aren’t necessarily the same as the weakest of minds. A brilliant mind can fall under the sway of shadow which becomes all the more powerful acting out in the outer world. Pol Pot, Hitler, and enough others serve as examples of the shadow exerting “an uncanny influence on the conscious mind.
It isn’t just the bright minds that are influenced by the shadow, dominated by the shadow. Many of the simple-minded are easily swayed via superstition into acting under the influence of the shadow, particularly adolescents which form the bulk of many “movements” which use terror to accomplish the tasks set out by masters.
At the northern end of Playa Jacó, my wife sits on the rocks with the Pacific Ocean in the background. Sunset is on its way. We began our story together in a world-wind of emotion, a true-life tale in which I proposed to her within hours of meeting her. She accepted the proposal immediately. That was thirty-nine years ago. Though we were complete strangers, something moved within each of us as projections were put out on both sides landing on ready hooks. Today, she isn’t the woman I married. Today, I’m not the man she married. Hard work, tears, shared joys and a willingness to look at ourselves when things don’t go right in order to find out what “we” did, not what the “other” did – this is how we have made it so far. And the journey isn’t over yet so the ending is unknown, as it should be.
If a man cannot get along with his wife, he naturally thinks the conflict would be solved if he married someone else. When such marriages are examined they are seen to be no solution whatever. The old Adam enters upon the new marriage and bungles it just as badly as he did the earlier one. A real solution comes only from within and then only because the patient has been brought to a different attitude. (Jung, CW 4, par. 606)
Carl Gustav Jung has it nailed on the head. You can’t fix anything if you only do half of a job. It’s easy to blame the “other” person in a relationship, blame them for not living up to our fantasy, our projections. It’s hard to do the work on one’s self to see if the relationship will improve with self-knowledge increased. There is a risk of course. The risk might be that when projections are withdrawn, this might not be the person needed for a full and healthy relationship. But the risk of not doing this work is worse. For then, no matter how many relationships we manage to engage in, we will still have a blindness to our own contributions for relationship dysfunction.
The experience of the self is always a defeat for the ego. (Jung, CW 14, par 778)
Now, this sounds almost negative until one thinks that what is happening is not a diminishing, but an expansion that includes more than the contents of the ego.
That is what this photo is capturing for me. There is something more than what one “knows” in the objective sense. That sense of more, points both outward and inward. I don’t know who the person is in this photograph. He was simply there fishing, a local person using a large spool to hold his line as he cast out by hand, the thin thread of line in hopes of catching a fish. He was one of about a half-dozen men scattered on the rocks or standing in the surf engaged in this activity. For them, it appears as there is no doubt about who they are or why they are – this is life.
There is one problem in this, “How, can we know that there is more? How can we be sure that we aren’t deluding ourselves? What if there is nothing more than meaninglessness; being just an organism that is born, breeds and dies like some short-lived fruit flies where the only purpose in living is to be alive, to continue the species until replaced by yet another species or until all life disappears when the source of biological life is extinguished?”
I guess the answer in this is to listen, to feel, to observe and to intuit. And in doing these things, sense what the data is saying, especially the data that is only presented obliquely. And then, it is simply a matter of believing. All evidence over the eons of human existence has shown that it really doesn’t matter what one believes, what religion, what creed, what patterns – the fact that one believes is enough to ease the angst. It is with this sense of belief that one gets a stronger sense of self in relation to everything and everyone else. And in this lies self-knowledge.
Self-knowledge can be the antidote to a pervasive malaise, a world-weariness particularly common in middle age, and a spur to an adventurous inner life – the so-called hero’s journey. Understanding yourself is also a matter of asking the right questions, again and again. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book One, 2008, 14, p. 33)
Well, I have completed nine photo pages for the project which I started on May 5th. At this rate, I hope to finish in about two weeks. That leaves me a good amount of time for tidying up the text and photos, getting it right for publication. The photo on the right isn’t used in the project though the text below is. In order to find the will to enter the hero’s journey, often a collapse of ego is required, just like this old car. Now, the post from the book …
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First encounter on the road
Old man bearing gift
Midlife crisis – the real thing, not some precursor which as painful as it felt, forces the issue. Will the crisis result in action? Will it result in denial? Assuming that one decides, or falls into following the quest by default, it is then time for help to appear on the scene. After all, no one is really prepared to go on any quest, especially into unknown country. One is filled with doubts, with fear. But the will to go forward allows one to move forward from the known conscious world into the shadow world of the unconscious, the inner spaces of the human psyche.
Without consciousness there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists for us only in so far as it is consciously reflected by a psyche. Consciousness is a precondition of being. CW vol. 10, “The Individual’s Understanding of Himself,” paragraph 528, 1958.)
To turn back to the certainty of the world left behind is rejected because to return would be the end of ego, of the known self. That much is certain. Because the outer world has betrayed, the idea of another world becomes a considered possibility. And there is hope.
For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass. (Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, p. 69, 1968.)
This is an important thing to realize. Should one facing this crisis of “self” and find the will to begin the work of taking the journey of self-discovery, there will be help along the way. All kinds of our stories, myths and tales provide us with examples of such supernatural aid. In Jungian psychology, one turns to the myths to find the common threads of our human story, aspects of being human that are stored within our personal and collective unconsciousness.
Strange how a thread of thought seems to grow of its own volition and how threads seem to intertwine. In response to Ariaga’s request that I visit her site and speak of the masculine (something which I have yet to do), I pulled a small book off my self called Aspects of the Masculine, by Carl Gustav Jung. The book contains bits and pieces scattered around various volumes of his Collected Works, Letters and presentations, ideas that discuss the masculine. In recent posts I have commented on libido, eros and the hero and his journey. As I opened the book, these words caught my attention:
Just as the sun, by its own motion and in accordance with its own inner law, climbs from 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 again the cycle anew. (CW Vol. 5, paragraph 251)
The sun stands as symbol for the masculine as the moon stands as symbol for the feminine. Both moon and sun are involved in a dance with the moon describing a beautiful stylised eliptical dance that draws light from the sun as it gyrates. They are entwined but never touch, each takes a turn eclipsing the other, each has its opportunity to rule, not a shared rule. Sun claims the day and moon claims the night. Completeness calls on both to be fully present. To deny either of its rightful place destroys the careful balance that wholeness brings. That balance is about relationship, about eros.
This is an old photo I took in the spring of 1979. This is supposed to be a self-portrait. I decided to take this using a window as a mirror. When I first developed the image, I realised that this actually said more about me than a self-portrait that would have captured all of the outer aspects that all could see. And it was fitting for me to use this photo to talk more about the persona.
At the time, I was back at university completing my B.Ed. after four years of teaching in the northern regions of Canada, teaching in a number of First Nations’ and Métis communities. I had spent four years building my image as a teacher within those communities. Of course, since I was an outsider, a southerner, I was able to craft a unique persona without much pressure from a community to conform to a stereotype. In a way, that freedom had set me up for expecting to have that freedom for the years to come. And of course, it meant that I would struggle when I returned to the south where there were more rigid expectations about what a teacher was like. It was a confusing and difficult transition as I rebuilt my persona so as to escape undo attention and stress.
Whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor. But the mirror lies behind the mask and shows the true face.
“Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious” (1935). In CW 9, Part I: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. P.43
Of course, I knew the truth of who I was under the mask. I saw the truth when I looked in the mirror. As the years passed, the lie between the persona and what I saw in the mirror deepened into depression. I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t like the lie, especially with my family. The were learning to live with someone I saw as a stranger. The more I struggled, the more I buried under layers. There came a day when the acting crashed and the mask cracked. The unconscious refused to be forever denied.
On a walk west then south of our fishing village located in the northwest of the Yucatan, we passed what is considered to be the end of the laguna which extends all the way eastwards to Progreso and even further eastward. Of course, looking west from the road heading south to Merida, a narrow paved road, we see more of this expansive saltwater swampland. And it reminded me of two things, the swampland of the soul and the persona, that mask we present to the world, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously.
I will leave comment about the swampland of the soul for another time and reflect on the persona.
The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.
“The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious” (1928).
In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.305
Masks. Looking at the scene above, a peaceful scene with soft earth tones, we see a mask for what is hidden from view, the world beneath the surface, a swamp world. It is much the same with us as humans. We see people, even ourselves wearing masks. It becomes a significant work to establish relationships fighting through masks to locate the person. We live so long in this world of masks we come to believe that the mask is the person, even the mask we have in place for our “self”. This is when we struggle the most, feeling lost and at odds with our “self”.
Though the struggle is waged, few looking at the mask will note the presence of the struggle, rather, like the scene above, they will only note what is on the surface, the persona.