Archive for the ‘hero’ tag
I am finding Hillman’s book to be quite challenging and fascinating. He is forcing me to rethink my own muddled ideas about self, and to look at the culture in which I was born and raised. As I read daily in newspapers, editorials and in the social media of Twitter and Facebook, we are, as a culture, caught in a vortex of energy that wants release, wants to escape the messiness of a world we have created. We have “Occupy” movements, we have loud and sometimes violent and destructive protests hoping somehow that we can change the world we have created. But, can we change this bed we have created for ourselves without changing our sustaining myth as a culture? That is the critical question. Certainly, we cannot change that myth if we don’t know what that myth is.
“Were we to be interviewed by an aboriginal anthropologist from Australia for our “dream,” our “Gods,” and our “cosmology,” this would be the story we would tell. We would tell of the struggle each day brings to Ego who must rise and do battle with Depression and Seduction and Entanglement, so as to keep the world safe from Chaos, Evil, and Regression, which coil round it like an oppressive Swallowing Serpent. This gives account to our inquirer of our peculiar irrationalities, why we sweep the streets, why we pay taxes, why we go to school and to war – all with compulsive, ritualistic energy so as to keep the Serpent at bay. This is our true cosmology, for Ego, who changes rivers in their course and shoots to the moon, acts not out of hunger or Gods or tribal persecutions, as the inquiring aboriginal might imagine in his savage mind, so inert and lazy bound to the maternal uroboros, with his “weak ego.” No, our civilization’s excessive activism is all to keep back the night of the Serpent, requiring a single monotheistic single-mindedness, a cyclops’s dynamism of all the God which She and Ego have partaken together at a Western banquet lasting three thousand years and perhaps now coming to it indigestible conclusion as Ego weakens in what we call “neurosis| and the swallowed Gods stir again in the imaginal dark of his shadow and of her belly. Ego and Unconscious, Hero and Serpent, on and Mother, their battle, their bed and their banquet – this is the sustaining myth we must tell to account for our strange ways: why we are always at war, why we have eaten up the world, why we have so little imaginative power, and why we have only one God and He so far away.” (Hillman, Senex & Puer, pp 144-145)
As I was meditating this morning as the sun was rising, a thought crept into my brain. I tried to breath into my body, to focus on each part of each breath in order to gently dissipate the edges of this thought that came creeping. But, it was to no avail. The thought took form and called on me to honour that thought. So, I listened to that still voice that at times decides to grace me, a voice that is so different from the regular chatter that seems to occupy so much of my thinking. The voice suggested that I set aside Hollis’ book for a moment and return to Jung’s words and listen. That was it. With that, silence returned and I fell back into a meditative state.
With meditation done, I had forgotten about the voice and the message for a while as I engaged back with being present in my physical reality and got prepared for the day and making sure that I finished my morning routines. Then, I approached my collection of books on the shelf rather than doing some cyberspace surfing and connecting. I picked up one of my books that looks at Jung’s words on a theme, this particular book looking at what Jung had to say about mythology. Then, I opened the book at random and found these words:
” . . . the hero myth is an unconscious drama seen only in projection, like the happenings in Plato’s parable of the cave. The hero himself appears as a being of more than human stature. He is distinguished from the very beginning by his godlike characteristics. Since he is psychologically an archetype of the self, his divinity only confirms that the self is numinous, a sort of god, or having some share in the divine nature.” (Jung, CW 5, par 612)
At first glance, there isn’t much remarkable about this photo. Even after a lot of time spent studying it, nothing says “keep me.” I took the photo in WuZhen while my trigger finger was working overtime without my doing much “thinking” about what images were being captured. I often do this just to see what caught my subconscious attention. In spite of the image being basically unremarkable, I am happy with what I found in it.
The image does capture a worn, almost threadbare aspect, probably an authentic image for representing Ancient China. It is also a good image to represent life in the middle half. As usual, in making a statement such as this, I am probably referring more to myself than other people. I am comfortable with growing older, with my hair graying and with my body being more typical of an elder than as a fit and trim mature male. I am ragged on the edges, especially now that I am regrowing a small beard similar to when I was working as a school administrator and therapist – the professorial look as my children used to comment. Like the inscribed lines on the wood, the lines on my visage also have a story to tell, a story of places, people, relationships, events, dreams and disappointments. But more importantly, the lines hint at a mystery yet to be discovered.
As I look at this image, I imagine myself walking down some dusty road in the company of a perhaps three others; with one of them being a woman, one being a warrior-protector and one being a challenging and often obnoxious pain in the ass. As night approaches we are drawn to an ancient pub where we will share a meal and some drink to wash away the day’s dust from our throats. Before night deepens and we head to sleeping pallets, an evening of argument and entertainment awaits as my little band of travellers interacts with those we have met in this tavern. With any luck, the pain in the ass won’t have us end up in an argument with the locals or even worse before I retire to a well-earned retreat to my bed chamber with the woman who shares my life journey.
All of these actors, my fellow travellers are part of the cast of characters that abide within my psyche, personal faces of ancient archetypes, my shadow, my anima, my warrior.
I took this photo in Hong Mei Gong Yuan, or Red Plum Park in ChangZhou, two days ago. Of course, it didn’t actually look like this, so cold almost lifeless. As I was cropping and trying to have the lanterns stand out with a bit of toggling of various editing options this version of reality appeared. As I played with the editing features, I realised that what was appearing before my eyes was also reality through a different lens, but reality none-the-less. Readers here might remember that I have commented about this idea of what is seen, in my August 24, 2010 post which talked about the lens through which we see the world. This post is about dreaming, a different world or reality.
I have been dreaming a lot recently. The trip to IndoChina in January and early February seems to have awakened something within that continues to give voice as well as images to the unconscious. The outer world seems to be mimicking the inner world as small voices are protesting their enforced silence. Even in Canada, the effort going into “silencing” has taken on an autocratic tone as if to deny the very existence of another way of knowing, another point of view.
Leaders are heroes to someone – and that part is sometimes hard to understand, especially when some of these leaders distort, lie, and manufacture realities that even a bit of consciousness would immediately recognise as false. How does the world ever allow a Hitler, a Gadhafi, a bin Laden, a Bush or minor league leaders such as Harper to have leadership? Fear is the first reason. These men all prey on the fears of the unwashed, the fear of the others who are the carriers of both personal and collective shadow. Here, I want to add Jung’s words to my post in hopes that you will understand what I am thinking/feeling at this time:
“Apart from the moral difficulty 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 activated archetypes have a disagreeable effect even – or should I say, particularly – on the most cold-blooded rationalist.” (Jung, CW 12, par. 38)
As I look at what is occurring around the world, where many ordinary people have somehow fallen out of the webs woven to keep them silent to the point of of refusing to hear their own conscience, their own souls, I see my own culpability. I see that I have also been a leader acting out of shadow – the leader of a classroom, the leader of a sports team, the leader of a family, the leader of a school – I see that rather than leading, I was being lead and that I believed I was a hero. Yes, there is a question of degree, but when one goes into the mind of each of those we now label as infamous, each of these men see themselves as heroes. At what point does one “wake up” from the delusions and reclaim “self” from the shadow?
This is what this image today is asking me. When will I wake up and acknowledge the shadow that is being denied? Of course, I don’t consciously know what I am denying, but at least I now have an idea that something is being blocked, something is feeling banished to an inner Dachau. Yes, this photo evokes the same response as when I watched Schindler’s List. Will I deny and watch the small signs of life be silenced? I hope not. It’s time for me to listen to the inner voice of self. It’s time for all of us to listen to the inner voice within each of us that is self and wake up and leave the power of the collective shadow, the belief in a leader that will save us, that will be our hero.
“The hero task is apparent in the humblest of lives, especially in those who rise wearily and go off to demeaning labor to support their families. It is seen in the willingness of any person to sacrifice the creature comforts, narcissistic interests, personal agendas on behalf of a larger value. We do not customarily accord these persons hero status, but their acts renew the world each day, redeem it even, as a place of enduring value. In our narcissistic and superficial society, we transfer our own yearning for the heroic onto others, grant such status to movie stars, sports figures, celebrities of all kinds, all of which is a measure of how dismal is our understanding or our own daily summons to the task of individuation. We are all, every day, faced with death, depression and despair. Whoever rises to do what must be done, does a deed for us all.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p.60)
These men placing wires on new towers are just some of the men and women that Hollis talks about here, the real heroes. It makes one feel humble to realise that all that one takes for granted is only present in the world because of the many who trudge off to work in order for the rest of us to be gifted with the end results. Their work is that much harder because they don’t see the value to others in their work. They only see that the small wages that never seems to be enough for their needs and the needs of their families.
People such as this old woman do what they must each day. Being in China as a “laowai” I get to see the world differently. Old men and women pulling carts gathering cardboard, broken bits of wood, carrying grandchildren, washing clothes in cold water on the side of a street while the air hovers around the freezing mark. There is little room for complaining as that will not put food on the table.
With eyes becoming clearer, I now see my own heroic efforts as well as those of others that I know. My children are doing heroic work as they struggle raising families in a modern world in which they will never have all they desire. I see them worry and yet refuse to quit. My wife takes each day at a time doing what needs to be done while following me from country to country while I do a different kind of work.
And what is this work? It is my hope that in becoming a bit more conscious, I bring some value to this world, to my relationships, to my family, to the students I now teach in a foreign university, to the new acquaintances, and to you, my readers through this blog. It might not be much, but it is authentic.
It looks as though this is a dead tree, but appearances are often deceiving. What is visible in this photo are simply some of the wounds the tree has received as part of “living” a full life as a tree. Nature teaches me a lot. For example, I see wounds such as this, leaves eaten off of smaller plants, road kill of animals small and big – life is not “fair” in any sense of the word. Life simply happens. And along the way as one goes through life catching diseases, suffering falls, scrapes and broken bones, life has a way of coming to an end. The who cycle of birth and death repeated over and over again in plant, animal and even at a larger level is simple a process that has no moral or ethical “good” or “evil” side.
I wonder why we humans have a tendency to ascribe the pains and joys of living to good and evil and to the gods. Life is life. In saying this, I don’t want to discount good and evil, for they are there. But as I said in my last post, they are both faces of gods, of the One God when it comes down to final definitions. I mentioned in one of my responses to comments made here about the story of Job as found in the Bible. I want to follow up on that reference with some words of Jung’s.
“Without wishing it, we humans are placed in situations in which the great “principles” entangle us in something, and God leaves it to us to find a way out. Sometimes a clear path is opened with his help, but when it really comes to the point one has the feeling of having been abandoned by every good spirit. In critical situations the hero always mislays his weapon, and at such moment, as before death, we are confronted with the nakedness of this fact. And one does not know how one got there. A thousand twists of fate all of a sudden land you in such a situation. This is symbolically represented by Jacob’s fight with the angel at the ford. Here a man can do nothing but stand his ground. It is a situation that challenges him to react as a whole man. Then it may turn out that he can no longer keep to the letter of the moral law. That is where his most personal ethics begin: in grim confrontation with the Absolute, in striking out on a path condemned by current morality and the guardians of the law. And yet he may feel that he has never been truer to his innermost nature and vocation, and hence never nearer to the Absolute, because he alone and the Omniscient have seen the actual situation as it were from inside . . . (Jung, CW 10, par 869)
So who can judge us as we wrestle with good and evil, for we do wrestle with both? Who can know the intention, the situation, the purpose of such encounters with good and evil? It becomes a difficult enough, if not often impossible, to judge. It is enough o simply bear one’s wounds and continue being present in the situation called life.
This is a photo taken just three kilometres from my home, a close up of the hills I see everyday from my living room window. Yesterday yielded a few more good photos for the second book. I hope to get a few more within the next several days as there is one or two scenes I am hoping to add to the total before all is said and done. I have enough photos, but I am hoping for a few different ones in order to be satisfied. In the end, it is about being personally satisfied. That said, book two for SoFoBoMo is doing fine and will be finished on time. I have twelve more days left to finish it.
Today won’t be a work day for me on the book as I have booked the day for participation at a local golf tournament in the hills along Lake Diefenbaker. There is as close to no chance of winning as there can be as neither my partner nor I are all that good. For us, it is a chance to just enjoy the moments outside, a chance to nourish a bit the idea of friendship. So, I will keep today’s snippet from the book short. More will come. …
The journey has taken the hero though all manner of trials. The hero has, like all other heroes before him, has arrived at the pinnacle of his journey, successfully. And, the hero now knows himself as a hero, as one with God, one of God’s children.
The hero is the protagonist of God’s transformation in man; he corresponds to what I call the “mana personality.” The latter has such an immense fascination for the conscious mind that the ego all too easily succumbs to the temptation to identify with the hero, thus bringing on a psychic inflation with all its consequences. (Jung, CW vol. 5, “The Dual Mother,” par. 612, 1956.)
Two in a row – photos of me, that is. I am with my youngest grandson in this picture. He is my helper and I am his hero, almost on par with his father. He calls me his “buddy.” Today’s post is about fathers, the second part of this section in my book-in-progress, Through a Jungian Lens: Discovering the Hero Within – In Search of Meaning at Midlife. Now, the entry:
Name of the Father
Frustrated Anger Exposed
What happens in the inner world will find a way of expressing itself in the outer world. So, it wasn’t surprising to see the shadow conflict, the conflict with father, erupt in my outer life. I found my natural tendency for conflict with men in authority was increasing in intensity.
There was history with my real father clouding the issue. I feared him both physically and mentally. I saw all of my small world give in to him and his whims. We travelled on a moment’s notice, ill prepared. No one stood in opposition to him, not his parents, siblings nor his wife. His word was law, his physical strength was legendary, his temper instilled fear.
Yet, the war with Father, the archetype, was in full bloom.
As with all projections, the authorities with whom I found myself in conflict provided the hooks to hold my projections. Like my father, they clung tightly to their authority believing that only in the use of their positional power would anyone obey their rules. It was all about power and authority, it was not about leading.
I confronted their authority, became a threat to their sense of self which was wrapped up too tightly in persona. And in the confrontation, I became acknowledged. And,I reclaimed my power.
I am my father’s son; I am the father of my son. I am at one with the Father.
Walking down a dirt trail heading out from the south-western edge of the small village about three kilometres from my villa, I went in search of birds. The trail is rough and follows along the shore of the estuary or laguna. This day I decided to go further west past the narrow highway that leads to Mérida, down the dirt road that used to be the route to Sisal further west down the Yucatan coast. I knew that I was going to come across the bridge that was damaged during one of the last hurricanes in this area and I assumed that it would prevent me from linking to the west shore. Well, as you can see in this photo, vehicles could never make it across. This was the best part of the remains. In two different spots I was reduced to using broken pieces of the bridge as stepping stones in order to make it across. And, I did make it across the river that joins the sea with the estuary that covers most of the coastal area of the Yucatan.
Crossing a river. In Jungian psychology, crossing the river is symbolic of transformation.
By crossing the river the hero achieves the critical degree of consciousness necessary to confront and assimilate the power of the unconscious … Jung also recognized a danger in not “fording the stream of unconsciousness … (Women and Sacrifice, William Beers)
Now, this explains the need to take this photo and to bring it here. The alchemical work that is in progress while I am in Mexico is being flooded with so many images that it makes sense to me that it is all about change. I don’t know if that is good or bad in terms of where I have been and where I am going. Looking at this image I get a feeling that the transformation is not necessarily going to be gentle. The journey looks to be rough and solitary. But then again, the journey of individuation is precisely that, rough and solitary. It can’t be any other way. So I wait and wonder what when will the hurricane strike opening up a singular route for me to follow.