Archive for the ‘hero’s journey’ tag
As I continue this study of my gender and what it is to be a man, what it is to be masculine, I realise that while I am immersed in this journey of psyche, an inner world journey that is surrounded by an outer world in which I continue to exist as well. While search, I must continue to be a man with my partner, within the community I find myself in for the present here in Corozal which has a number of sub-communities embedded within it. I find myself in a community of expats, Americans and Canadians who have chosen to come here to make a new home or are searching for a new home base; as well as these expats, I have begun to interact with a few local men at the various shops, and on the street. Being a man is assumed by all I meet as I am obviously a senior, adult male. No one questions my identity as a man. That said, at the same time, I am digging deep into my head and heart trying to find answers to questions that are hard to put into words, questions about my identity as a man in this modern world.
“Jung insists that individuation is above all a dialogue with the unconscious psyche. The ego needs to maintain its essential connection with social reality as it attempts to ‘have it out’ with the unconscious forces. As the ego makes its ‘descent’ for the sake of renewal, it must resist the ‘inertia’ of the unconscious, and the forces that would paralyse it, and maintain human integrity at all costs.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, p. 19]
I have been there, finding myself so immersed in the psyche chasing down the shadows that I forgot about connecting with others. For a long time, I self-isolated and spent all my time on reading every depth psychology article I could find, recording and the plumbing the depths of my dreams, using meditation as a diving tool to take me further into the depths, only taking time out to connect with my analyst. My ego inflated as I saw myself as an authority, as a misunderstood and ignored wise man. I forgot that I was a human that was flawed deeply and needing the connection to others, to life, to my body.
“When we make contact with the unconscious, and so become privy to some of the collective secrets of the ages, we must compensate for this ‘dialogue with the Gods’ by increased amounts of humour and humility: two of the best antidotes to spiritual arrogance and inflation.” [ibid]
I know that I am not the only one who gets caught in the dialogue with the unconscious. If anything, when one approaches this dialogue without intention, the danger is even greater. One of my new friends here in Corozal is an American who is searching for property and a home here. He came with his wife and we have been together a number of times, two couples in Belize. His wife has no intention of moving to Belize. He hears her words but is so captured by his need that he can’t respond to her pain that is growing with his obsession with moving. His response is simply “I have been taking care of others all my life, I need to take care of myself, now.” Yet, he doesn’t know what that means or how to accomplish this need. I have learned that it is not achieved by changing addresses. One must wade in the unconscious keeping a line open to the conscious world at the same time. It is the only way to see the ripples that flow from the changes in oneself on others. We need to address these ripples and make conscious decisions based on reasoned outcomes. Will one truly be serving the self living alone in a foreign country when a wife of many decades, children and grandchildren are left behind?
I don’t have the answers to these questions though I do know they need to be faced, questions of one’s participation in the outer world of place, things and relationships. It is hard enough to be a man without getting lost in the shadow land of the unconscious.
I was able to get close enough to this not so small snake as I neared the end of a small group tour at the Lamanai Mayan ruins. It is called fer de lance, although it’s more correctly called Bothrops Asper, a member of the viper family. This snake is very dangerous. Still, I left the safety of the raised path I was on in order to get down to his level and get this photo, not a great photo, but good enough as I didn’t want to get too much closer. Apparently the lance de fer is commonly found around Mayan ruins and it has been suggested that the choice of location for a Mayan site was dependent upon the presence of poisonous snakes as a protective barrier. Of course, that sent me in search of more information which took me to Och Chan, or God K of the Mayan religion.
I don’t want to tell too much here but perhaps save a bigger tale after I have been to Hell (Xibalba) and back a trip that will occur in the near future. For now, it is enough to know that the snake again figures in the original story of creation and again involves a woman. There, I hope that either sends you searching for more or whets your appetite for when I return to this topic sometime next week.
I am going to try something different today, a different approach to evoking a sense of consciousness and the unconscious. As I was meditating this morning, images emerged and vague presences that might be called words or thoughts. The first image that appeared was that of a mother nursing her child – I was the child looking up into the eyes of this Magical Other person who was my key to life. And in being there as child and as observer, being nursed, I saw the origin of a Mother-complex, a complex that was neither good nor bad, but simply was. I could feel the love of the mother who was nursing me, nursing all the children of the world who were fortunate enough to be nursed. But I also could feel the unconscious shadows that hovered over that mother, that distracted her, that at times saddened her and caused her fear. At times, I could even sense her anger, her own darkness. And, I knew the source and origin of the Dark Mother.
And then the image shifted to darkness, the time before birth into the world, the time of the womb. Though the Mother knew I was there, she was fully unconscious of how I was developing, how I was growing, what was happening within me that was preparing me for the birth of my personal consciousness. All this was taking place in darkness, within the womb, unconsciously. The image shifted again, even further back in time to the instance before conception. Whatever it is that was potentially I was in two parts, the seed of the feminine and the fertilizing material of the masculine. Separated there was no life. Yet in that darkness where life didn’t exist, the two parts drew together and out of the darkness within the Mother, the spark of life was created.
Another shift, this time a different scene appeared. Appeared is a poor word for there was no light any where. All was darkness. I knew I had been taken back even further and was now floating in the space before creation, when the universe was only darkness, where light didn’t exist. I knew in an instant that I was in yet a different womb, the womb of the universe before there was life or light. Yet, though there was nothing to be seen, nothing to be felt, tasted, smelled, sensed, intuited, there was a pregnant possibility that was unconsciously just waiting for a shift in the emptiness and darkness. That time of pregnant pause before light and life would appear signifying the event of creation was nothing but chaos. Within the womb of the universe that was to be born, energies swirled without conscious intention. It was as if the universe yet to be was holding its breath, waiting for that magical moment when something would be born – consciousness, life, light.
And I was there, waiting, waiting for the essence of whatever was to be, a masculine essence, swam blindly in the darkness on a journey that was fully unconscious, not yet instinctual either. And I knew that I was in the womb of the All, the One. I knew then that the creator of light and light was the unconscious feminine, the Great Mother. With another breath, I rose from the depths of my morning meditation and came here.
I have written earlier that patriarchy is destructive of both men and women. It is important to remember this. It is also important to understand that in spite of many modern men becoming sensitive and heart-based, patriarchy is still thriving. Men might be abdicating their authority to their wives, to their mothers, but this abdication does nothing to dismantle the negative power of patriarchy. All one has to do is to take a good hard look at our corporations, our assemblies, our religions – any of our social and economic enterprises – and see that men are still in charge.
So what is a man to do? Jung suggests:
“. . . if the connection between the personal problem and the larger contemporary events is discerned and understood, it brings release from the loneliness of the purely personal, and the subjective problem is magnified into a general question of our society. In this way, the personal problem acquires a dignity it lacked hitherto. [jung, CW 6, par. 119]
These are powerful words for modern men to hear. The work of becoming more conscious of oneself has done a lot to bring a sense of balance between the power of the mind and the power of the heart. Being stuck in one or the other leaves us disconnected from a larger life. If we are truly interested in acquiring balance then we must see that the society within which we live is a part of us. Patriarchy is a part of who we are. We have to own it rather than see it as an enemy somewhere out there, a collective shadow that needs to be attacked and destroyed.
We need clear eyes, head and heart if we are to find a way through the darkness that is patriarchy. Patriarchy is our shadow, our collective unconscious. We need to listen to the gods and goddesses of mythology, we need to listen to our dreams, we need to listen to our children and our women; we need t listen to their pain, their arguments, their logic and heart. We need to also listen to the spiritual voices without getting caught in their webs of timelessness, a web that would have us wait with calm and abiding patience. And, we need to listen to our bodies.
It seems a task almost beyond what I am capable of doing. But it is a task that I must do, that each of us must do. Joseph Campbell has helped show the way with his book, Hero of a Thousand faces. We are each heroes bent on crossing through the darkness of patriarchy; are collectively one larger hero. Our future as men and women depend on crossing through the darkness if we are to deconstruct patriarchy before patriarchy deconstructs our very home, the planet earth.
One of the very good things that came my way during midlife crisis was an opportunity to talk with David Tacey, author of Remaking Men: Jung, Spirituality and Social Change. I was able to participate with a number of other Jungian oriented therapists in a discussion about David’s new book at that time. It has been a little more than fifteen years since that event, and I have met at talked with so many Jungians and I have read so many of their books as well as other books; yet not much has changed. The world is still going to ‘hell in a hand-basket.’ And, I ask myself, “What have you done as your part for this needed change?” Truthfully, not much if anything. I was too focused on my own change. However, it is time that all changed.
There is a reason for my spending time with the topic of the masculine here on Through a Jungian Lens, the first of which is simply that I am a man and as such feel first hand the struggles that men and women are experiencing with masculine energy in our modern, patriarchal world. We’ve made a mess of it and we need to do something about it for our children and grandchildren regardless of their gender. Patriarchy has wounded so many men as well as women and is, in my opinion, the prime psychological cause of our planet’s environmental stress.
Patriarchy is about the dominance of a wounded and immature masculine, boy psychology as termed by Moore and Gillette in their book, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. In order to rescue our planet and to give our children and the gift of mature parents and leaders. we need to confront the issue of the masculine in our modern world context.
“The Iron John tradition is virtually All-Phallus, while the contrary antimasculine discourse is No-Phallus. Why can’t we have the phallus without appalling idealisations or guilt-ridden demonisations? We must unpack and disassemble patriarchy, while at the same tie developing new meanings and metaphors for masculinity which must never be constructed as the ‘enemy’ of men or women.” (Tacey, Remaking Men, pp 6-7)
Yes, the need to do something different in order to get different results is critical. But what is it that must change? We can’t just burn it all down and rebuild from square one. We will only end up at the same place again because we failed to become conscious of the underlying roots of the problem. The old ways don’t disappear, they reappear in new faces, in new assemblies and communities. We have learned this lesson through history and through our stories told in our myths. We must know ourselves, our weaknesses as well as our strengths and refashion the journey forward, a new version of the Hero’s Journey.
“The postmodern or post-matriarchal hero does not have to throw in the quest and go back to the mother, but every would-be contemporary hero must take a genuine commitment to the feminine soul, as the ultimate cure for male narcissism and infantilism.” (p. 7)
Join me as I go in search of solutions in the minefields of the masculine in the modern world. Challenge me, lead me. This is not a singular need, this is a collective need.
Best intentions, that is how I am approaching 2013, both in my face-to-face world and here on this blogging site. Last month I wrote up eleven posts, less than I normally write. Why? In my opinion, it is because I don’t have a plan, a road map which I could follow when the muses abandon me.
The past year has been one of constant disruption and change. I started the year as a professor in China then took leave which took me back to Canada after a pause in Thailand. Rather than spend time at home I set up house in a new city where I spent months digging through the shadows and sewage of my psyche. After several months, the patterns began to repeat as though I was a hamster on a wheel so I decided to once again get out of my comfort level and put myself out there with a trip to France in order to walk part of the pilgrimage route leaving from Le Puy en Velay. When my body said enough, I did return home. Something had shifted within and being at home felt like being where I belonged. Since my return, I have been working on rebuilding my foundations in my home and family. With the new year, I intend on making sure I am truly present.
I almost never make New Year’s resolutions but I think that this year I will approach this site with more structure which will make it easier for me to continue posting. For example, I intend on making Mondays my days for posting on Masculine Psychology. Thursdays would be for Tibetan Buddhist themes. sort of a Meditation Monday kind of process. With this sort of approach I might find it easier to create a flow for writing, even to the point of for some of the themes being able to write and schedule posts for when travel and life demands that I refrain from using the computer. I don’t want to be chained to the computer though I do want to write and write and write.
In the process of attempting to organise my thoughts along various themes, I likely will find that I need to bring parts of older posts back here so that there is some sort of logical flow of ideas and material. I do beg your patience for when this happens. Right now, I am finding it hard to remember what was said and what was left unsaid because there wasn’t a plan in place.
With that now said, I wish each of you a Happy New Year for 2013. Be blessed and be at peace. I do pray and meditate for your well-being.
I often get up in the pre-dawn darkness when the world is silent, and sit with a cup of coffee in my hand and watch the sky begin to lighten, listening to the silence without a thought in my head. After a while I notice that my coffee has remained untouched and has cooled because the house is kept at a cool 16 Celsius (60 F.) overnight. In the silence and the waning light of dawn, especially on cloudy days such as today, ego awareness is as slow to waken. It is as though I have remained in the land of dreams even though my body has left my bed and shows signs of having begun a new day.
As I sit there, words began to call out seeking to be freed from the depths of darkness. A rush of images, of possibilities, of impossibilities cascade into almost recognisable scenes. I am aware that I have been gifted with dreamscapes and stories. I have been gifted with these knowing that it is now my duty to find some way to bring them to the outer world where others may hear and see these stories. Will I be able to find the will to make this happen? Only time will tell. For now, I can only offer you this image taken this morning.
I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with my youngest grandson for the past five days. He’s just three years old and he uses as many of his hours as possible in play. Most of those hours were spent with me while mother and grandmother had time for other things.
It didn’t take long for me to lose many decades of structured life as I became his partner in play. He was a good teacher and I was his willing student. And in the process of shared play, a bond of trust was built that allowed me to become the leader and use my life experience to guide the play to the practice of new skills and the gaining of new knowledge.
The greatest gift that my grandson gave me was time spent out of my head. For the time he was here in my home, I spent time on little things such as building towers with blocks, racing and crashing toy cars, doing and re-doing jigsaw puzzles, playing in the snow, going for walks and sled rides, reading story books and wrestling that involved a lot of tickling. It was a time for imagination to run wild and free, a time for male bonding, mentoring, modelling and simply being “pépére.”
I have always been fascinated by doors and windows. Doors are portals into spaces and places. Though this door leads to open space, there is a sense of magic about where this door would lead if one could only allow imagination free rein. One would have to allow time to shift to a distant past if one were to enter into what might have been behind this particular door. Yet, that isn’t the only possibility. One could also use the door as a way to enter a fractal universe, one that would lay ready for discovery in the present if one could only navigate the boundaries between possibilities.
Another universe does lie behind the door. If one would dare see the door as a portal to an inner world, and if only one would dare to enter through the door into that inner world in order to begin a journey that has its own magic, its own heroes, its own pilgrims and wizards and witches and monsters and riches, one could take on the role of hero in search of the treasures hidden there, treasures that would enrich psychologically and spiritually.
Will you enter through the portal in search of the you that has been hidden?
Life is a hornet’s nest if one truly lives rather than simply existing waiting for someone to come to the rescue.
As I read what I have just written, I realise that I have said something that is rather dogmatic as if it was a universal truth rather than my understanding of my own truth. That is the problem with words. Once they are put on paper [or on the screen], they become solid as a rock. However, the words, like rocks, are transitory things. I have to remind myself that the authors of all words, including C.G. Jung, are simply painting self-portraits, maps of their own journeys.
I have often fell under the power of their stories, their journeys through their inner landscapes and came to adopt their landscapes as my landscapes. I was entranced with their words that resonated with things inside of myself, so entranced that I failed to notice the words that didn’t resonate, words that didn’t reveal the stirrings within myself. For a time I was deeply Catholic ignoring the realities of the Church and its priests that took on ghostly and shadowy shapes; I was entranced by the life of Jesus. For a time I was an ardent environmentalist in love with the earth not seeing the contradictions and the power-plays and sometimes even the nihilism of those who were entrusted with my faith and that of others. For a time I was Jungian hanging on every word that I found in the Collected Works, even those words which seemed to skip passed me leading to confusion. For a time I was a Buddhist embracing the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path in spite of monks, rinpoches and darhma that seemed the stuff of fairy tales, tales that had no connection to my own tales.
It is only with the crisis that came with midlife that I began to understand that I could never be any of these. I began to understand that rather than embracing a church, a faith, a psychology, a philosophy or a science; I had to build my own story, my own ship within which I could navigate the last of my numbered years as a living human. Yet, I knew that I had to hold near all those words that touched me and told me about myself. Yes, I am unique, an individual living my own story. I captain my own ship, walk my own trails. However, I do so in a sea of trails and in the company of others ships sailing the same ocean of unconsciousness.
Jung is reported to have said, sometime in the 1930’s, when he was beginning to be famous, something like this: “The trouble is that I have built myself a boat with which to ride the flood, and now people are trying to climb into my boat rather than build their own”. (quoted from David Holt here)
Now, I can rephrase the opening statement with a hope that it can be better understood:
Life is like a hornet’s nest if I truly live rather than simply existing waiting for someone to come to my rescue. There are stings that let me know that I am alive. There is a container called my life that is fragile, a container that finishes off blowing in the wind only to disappear back into the dust of beginnings and endings. Life is precious moment in an infinite universe of time and space.