Archive for the ‘conscious’ tag
One of the differences I saw between Laos and Cambodia was in the choice of umbrellas for the Buddhist monks and novices. In Luang Prabang, Laos the monks used black umbrellas, a fact that is captured on many canvases, postcards and other tourist items. In Cambodia, it seems that saffron is the colour of choice. That said, this photo wasn’t chosen because of this bit of trivia. While living and travelling in Asia, I find that I have a certain fascination with monks. The four weeks in IndoChina found my “lens” filled with images of monks, a contrast with China where monks are not frequently seen other than immediately around Buddhist temples.
I’ve often wondered about whether or not I would have ever chosen the life of a monk, or if I would do so in the future if I found myself alone due to some circumstance or other. There is an appeal to a life of contemplation, a life of holiness. Yet, I wonder if, for me, the temple would be a place for contemplation and holiness. I somehow think that the reality of temple life and the structure of a religion would work against what I perceive to be my journey of individuation. And, I know that I can only speak of my journey and not judge the paths taken by others.
In this photo, the young monk, who I presume would be a novice, is being the object of another’s spiritual outpouring. He is the container in which the young woman projects her prayer. His journey is to gather offerings for the collective of monks as well as for the most desperate who feed off the leftovers of the monks. There is a curious dance of needs in the process. In a way, it makes me think of the dance of archetypes and shadows from the unconscious being brought into the lens of the outer world where people become the faces of the archetypes. How much of this is conscious intention on the part of the monk or the others that are in his orbit? I would guess that none are operating with conscious intention but rather out of superstition, out of spiritual need.
I wonder how much of this I do, that is being unconscious of the acting out of shadow, the faces of archetypes, in the outer world? I sometimes become aware of it after the fact when I see shock or surprise in the eyes of others who become the projected recipients. Because I know that I have a shadow that isn’t afraid of the light, I tread a bit more gently when interacting with the world, always with a sideways glance over my shoulder to check out if the numinous faces of archetypes are trying to put in an appearance without my acknowledged permission.
I used to revel in the role of authority, now I resist it as much as possible. As an authority, I was no better than any other authority. I became full of myself, swollen with a mana personality. I thought I knew best, was wiser than others around me and that it would be better for others if they would only follow my lead. Now, I know that it would be a mistake for even one person to follow me. It is more than enough that I find my own path which is a path that can only hold my self. That is the call to individuation.
Images. Dream images, photo images, art images, nature images, nightmare images – messages from the unconscious as much as they purport to be snippets of conscious reality in one form or another. Images are numinous.
This photo was taken at Angkor Wat. As I walked across the bridge crossing the moat leading into the main grounds of Angkor Wat, I noticed the typical gate keepers, a buddha-like image backed by a cobra-like structure with five heads or naga. Because these gate-keeper structures were quite damaged, I wasn’t too interested in capturing a lot of photos of them. However, in passing them, I saw this image carved on the back of one of them. This image captured my interest and triggered an unthinking part of me that I’ve come to respect. I allow that unthinking part of me to guide the camera and the taking of photos. The “Why this photo?” question follows much later when I empty the memory card and review the photos to cull those that have no resonance of some form for me.
“Imaginology is the study of theimagination, and imaginologists are students of the imagination. Other psychologists study drives, the ego,objects, or the self. Jungian psychologists study images. The emphasis on the imagination is what is unique about Jungian psychology . . .” (Michael Vannoy Adams, Imaginology: The Jungian Study of the Imagination, July, 2006)
It is no wonder that I resonate with so much of Jungian psychology. Images are vital to how I interact with the world. The images aren’t only those found in my photos, they are also found in music, in my words, in my dreams, and in the appearance that I present of my self to the world; images are also found in the way I speak to others. In a way, this makes for some difficulty for others in trying to connect with me. Most want it short, straight and simple – basic common language with basic common sharing of information. For whatever reason, this doesn’t work well for me and I end up a quiet bystander when others around me are chatting and connecting. It is work for others to cope with my way of communicating, with the content of what I want to say, to share. My words are used to point towards an idea that often refuses to sit still long enough to be contained in a simple and straight forward manner for others.
Jungian psychology opens a door for me, a pathway that connects me with others who share a similar understanding so that I can speak with images and with metaphors with some hope of being understood. But even then, it is work to dig beneath the images of photos and words to hear what I am saying, what others are saying in response. One of the issues that I have, one that makes it harder for others to follow me, is the power that images have in terms of capturing my attention. It is difficult for me to “stick” with a theme such as the current theme of the masculine. Others write it off as ADD rather than as my nature, my way of being in the world, my way of being in relationship. With Jungian psychology’s orientation around images, I can see myself as a whole being rather than as a dysfunctional being best understood in terms of the DSM-IV.
I want to thank one of my readers for sending me the Adams article, a paper presented at the “Psyche and Imagination” conference of the International Association for Jungian Studies as a “pdf” file which you can read here. Thank you, John (a pseudonym as per his request). I want to visit this paper again, and soon, here at Through a Jungian Lens.
I was almost tempted to do a bit of photo editing with this photo taken just a few hours ago just before sunset here in Vientiane, Laos. The scene is the Mekong River as seen from the fifth floor outdoor restaurant in Vientiane, looking across the Mekong River toward Thailand. I was initially worried that there wasn’t enough “light” because I was facing into the west making the picture darker than it was. But, the thought to edit lasted about a half a second at most and I decided to leave it “as is.”
The afternoon spent in various temples as well as a book I am reading on my e-Reader have left me in a pensive mood. I think back to my original foray into Transcendental Meditation in the early 70s, reading Siddhartha by Hemann Hesse back in the same time period and find some peace in meditative approaches that have come to me naturally in the second half of my life. Perhaps it is because I find myself approaching life in the older lane to be a contemplative time. Regardless of the reason, the temples of Buddhism, Hinduism, and a collection of animistic beliefs find a resonance in terms of honouring the unknown.
I am not drawn to any particular “religion” though I am drawn to a more spiritual life. For me, religions and a spiritual life don’t exactly go together. One can be spiritual with a professed religion as one can be rigidly religions without having a spiritual bone in one’s body.I am drawn to the numinous such as is found in this photograph. For me, it is telling that it contains water, land and sunset colours.
I belong to the earth and water, I am made up of both earth and water. And in the natural flow of life, I will return to the natural elements from which I came. And in the meantime, meaning will arise from how I life my life through both my attitude and my actions.
Behind the blue metal wall is a new housing project called Chianti. Why Chianti? I could only guess. The images on the main wall suggest that the housing project will evoke an Italian and Spanish location. The main entrance has a strikingly beautiful pale yellow building with clock tower that is “European” in look and feel.
However on this side of the blue metal barrier is a different world, one that is decidedly not indicative of wealth, one that is rural and Chinese. The artifice has been stripped away and all that is left is bare bones simplicity.
Why is it that I took this photo and passed on the European style of beauty that lay on the other side of the wall? Good question that remains to be answered. Strange how I get pulled into attention with contradictions and the tension between those contradictions.
“There is by definition a natural conflict between ego and shadow, but when one has made a commitment to live out as much of one’s potential as possible, then the integration of the shadow – including the inferior attitude and functions – evolves from being merely theoretically desirable to becoming a practical necessity. Hence the process of assimilating the shadow requires the capacity to live with some psychological tension.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 30)
I should have guessed that it was not just an attraction to dirt roads as opposed to paved highways. It is about staying alert to the tension between the conscious and the unconscious; between ego and shadow. In thinking about it, the terrain between my dominant function of intuition and the weaker functions is not much different that the differences between the dirt road country and the world on the other side of the blue wall. One is well constructed with all manner of comforts while the opposite side is mostly abandoned, undeveloped. The image is clear in what it asks of me – “Please pay attention to me; please bring me some of your energy.”
I have to admit, dragonflies always seem to catch my attention as they hover just over the surface of the water or the edges of the shoreline like this magnificent looking guy. He is a graceful insect, one that has a long history before he is allowed to fly free. For all of life before this freedom to fly, the dragonfly lives in the water feeding.
If I take this dragon fly as a symbol, it tells me that most of life is lived unconscious and that the process of making that unconscious, conscious is what is required if I am to have a moment of glory, flying in relative freedom. I use the word “relative” deliberately as in truth, that freedom doesn’t soar too far away from the water, from the larger universal unconscious.
I deliberately choose to name the larger unconscious as a universal or world unconscious. A world soul, anima mundi, is an accepted idea while the unconscious is not typically viewed as a world shadow, but more of a collective shadow. If I extend the shadow to embrace everything that is unconscious, then the totality of that is closest to what I could call a god, similar to the soul/spirit that is universal.
I don’t believe that we can yet say there is a universal consciousness. For us as a people to arrive at that state, we have to do our individual work towards becoming more conscious. And at that time where there exists a universal consciousness that is in a harmonious balance with the universal unconscious, our task as a species is complete. For only at that point can we say we know ourselves, that God has finally discovered the fullness of him/her SELF, a self in which we are a part.
For now, I work hard to hover just above the surface of my personal unconscious which is embedded in the collective unconscious. And for a brief time, add to the slowly evolving universal consciousness.
Normally, I don’t save photos that aren’t well defined with good colour and texture. Somehow, this photo made me hesitate. In the original, before I stripped out the colour, the flowers were bright, bright orange. I took this photo as quite a distance using the full 15X optical telephoto feature. I obviously needed a longer telephoto if I am to ever get this shot right for bird identification purposes. That said, there is something powerful about the image for me, something deeper than the recording of factual reality.
The task in active imagination is to wrestle with the symbol until its meaning and purpose become clear to consciousness. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book One, 2008, p.96)
There are element in the image that are clear, well-defined. The bird is the least clear, the least grasped aspect of the image. In a way, it is not much different than trying to get a clear image of myself. As I’ve learned and continue to learn, who and what I am is a mystery even to me. So many filters are in place that it is next to impossible to get a real look at my “self.” Of course, I can find snapshots aplenty which clearly document one persona or another, but to see the self? No such photo exists.
So then, how can I approach the self in hopes of getting some personal clarity? How can I transcend the current state of limited ego in order to see more? Jung suggests the use of active imagination as the best tool for producing the transcendent funtion.
In order, therefore, to gain possession of the energy that is in the wrong place, he must make the emotional state the basis or starting point of the procedure. He must make himself as conscious as possible of the mood he is in, sinking himself in it without reserve and noting down on paper all the fantasies and other associations that come up. Fantasy must be allowed the freest possible play . . . The whole procedure is a kind of enrichment and clarification of the affect, whereby the affect and its contents are brought nearer to consciousness, becoming at the same time more impressive and more understandable . . . This is the beginning of the transcendent function, i.e., of the collaboration of conscious and unconscious data. (Jung, CW 8, pars 166; cited in Sharp, op cit, p. 97)
As you, the reader can tell, this is the prime reason for the existence of this blog site, to use photos in the work of active imagination so that, bit by bit, I can tease out unconscious data in the hopes of learning more about my “self.”
This will be the last of the Changzhou, China photos in this series of posts. I have chosen this photo of the canal along Jinling Lu heading towards the centre of the city. From my apartment to the city centre was a walk of seven kilometres, something I was willing to do as it allowed me to see so much. Often I would take different routes to the city centre. As you can see, Changzhou has a very modern face as well as the scenes of deconstruction.
It is only to be expected that the collective consciousness and unconsciousness is found in the individual. A close study of one’s environment can reveal aspects of self that have been lost to conscious awareness. Individually, we move forward. Each of us is unique and as we struggle to become more aware of ourselves and our communities and the world at large, we do so in relation to others.
We exist in relation though we only ‘know,’ somewhat, ourselves. We are in relation to the land, water, sky and the elements. That relation has its own history that shows in our phobias as well as in our passions. We are in relation to community and family. Again, our lived history as well as the history of siblings, parents and other extended family members which are still in the collective memory of the family and the community. Both polarities of positive and negative are alive within the community as well as within ourselves.
We move through this towards a better sense of self always aware that the crystal clear picture of self we project is reflected in such a way as to let us know that this picture is hazy at best as there will always be so much that will remain unconscious with enough of these unconscious contents at the edges hinting that all isn’t as it seems.
It’s been a few days since my last post. Life somehow seems to be conspiring to keep me away from being overly present here. Most of the time away has been spent on being more present in my face to face life, especially with my son, his wife and new son. These are good reasons to be lest present here. Now that I am home, I have spent time working on photos of my new grandson in order to create a few pictures that will celebrate the event. With the first set of proofs done, I am now able to focus a bit here.
Today’s photo was taken in Goa, India. Obviously, I take a lot of sunset photos, especially over water. For me, it is not simply about a beautiful scene; it is more about the almost overwhelming fullness to the point where there remains a sense of emptiness. Water symbolizes the unconscious and air symbolizes consciousness. The horizon is a fine line that separates the two, a line that is difficult to isolate, a line that is almost not even there. Strange, isn’t it, we know that the two are separate but we can’t seem to find the exact dividing line that separates the two – truth is, there is no definitive line. Water is in air and air is in water. I guess that is trying to tell us something about the nature of ourselves in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness – the line between is porous.
Yesterday I took my camera with me when I went for my first round of golf for this new season. There was no evidence of green yet in the semi-desert hills at the golf course. The only signs of spring were a few clumps of crocus plants and open water on the river-lake. In spite of the browns and the golds and the grays, the prairie crocus speaks of hope, of promise that life does arise out of the darkness of winter. All of this is a gift of the sun, the warmth of the sun, the regenerative power of the sun. As Jung states:
Sol in alchemy is much less a definite chemical substance than a “virtus,” a mysterious power believed to have a generative and transformative effect. Just as the physical sun lightens and warms the universe, so, in the human body, there is in the heart a sunlike arcanum from which life and warmth stream forth. (CW vol. 7, “The Personification of Opposites”, paragraph 113)
Symbols. The crocus is a symbol of rebirth, of spring, of hope, of a coming warmth. As well, spring is about change and transformation – nothing will be the same. Transformation is about moving forward, becoming more conscious, more aware as we move out of the darkness and the cold.
Okay, so you ask, where are the ruins? Well, they are off to the right, outside of the view finder of the camera. Actually, they are almost within arms reach. Somehow, I was drawn to take this photo as symbolic of the ruins by which the dead tree lies.
The roots of the tree are found at the beach’s edge, where the brush meets the sand, only metres away from the seashore. Like the ruins which are out of view, the tree is stripped bare, exposed to the core. I identify with this tree and somehow that is a bit troublesome. What if I were stripped bare of all the masks, all the ruses and illusions created by my conscious and unconscious mind? Would the exposed core be alive? Would the exposed core be me? Unwilling to risk the answer, I continue to cloth my “self”. I deliberately choose to present the world a dressed up version, one that is full of colour. I present a somewhat acceptable persona so that I can drift through the collective with some sense of safety, some sense of anonymity.