Archive for the ‘La Fortuna’ tag
I took this photo in La Fortuna, just a few metres from my room in the El Buho hostel. Various kinds of iguanas and lizards were all over the place and of varying sizes. This particular fellow was in a plastic box in which the owner of the hostel puts in food for both birds and the iguanas living in the tree.
This guy reminds me of time before human history, a time of heat and transformation, a time of chaos for the most part. It is no wonder that our images of devils and evil are often based on reptiles.
I try hard to distance myself from the chaos and confusion and darkness of primordial past – especially as found within my own self. I don’t want to allow the inner reptile loose and have him destroy the little bit of good I try to fashion. Yet, I know that if I deny too much, this inner shadow, it will slither out and damage even more. Somewhere I need to find balance.
In my journey, I want and work hard to bring something good to those around me and to the community. I think of my children and my grandchildren and all of the good souls I see that I don’t know. I look at the children and grandchildren of strangers and know that what I do must include them. And in recognizing all this need, I ache with the regret that I can’t do enough, that I will never be able to do enough. I don’t have enough money, or time, or energy to do what needs to be done. I also know that there are forces at work trying hard to undo anything good that does emerge. Balance between good and evil.
“Many people call themselves modern especially the pseudo-moderns. Therefore the really modern man is often to be found among those who call themselves old-fashioned. They do this firstly in order to make amends for their guilty break with tradition by laying all the more emphasis on the past, and secondly in order to avoid the misfortune of being taken for pseudo-moderns. Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing good can be come into the world without at once producing a corresponding evil. This painful fact renders illusory the feeling of elation that so often goes with consciousness of the present- the feeling that we are the culmination of the whole history of mankind, the fulfilment and end-product of countless generations. At best it should be a proud admission of our poverty: we are also the disappointment of the hopes and expectations of the ages.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
I don’t want to be clumped with the pseudo-moderns, nor do I claim to be “modern” as Jung frames the word. I have no rational reason for my doubts about the New Age movement and the claims being made by those embracing this New Age. I have no proofs that they are just as lost as I am and that they are headed down a false trail. I say this, not as criticism, but simply as a reason for my not travelling down this trail, the New Age trail. Perhaps I am wrong and that is okay. I can only go with what I know/intuit/feel. I don’t have any answers, only questions.
And I worry. I worry that any good that I do create will be destroyed. I worry that somehow I will be the one who destroys that which I create. Does the way I live my life, the way I am changing, render my words worthless? Will my tendency to transparency expose too many warts and ugly shadows be seen as proofs that the small bits of good are made invisible? That is the risk I take. Now I am beginning to understand what Jung says about poverty, as I become poorer in terms of relationship the further along this road of individuation. So why do I continue knowing that in the end I will be fully alone? Well, the truth is in spite of outward appearances as I am surrounded by family and community, in the beginning and in the end and everywhere in between, I already am fully alone wrestling with demons and angels while looking at the outer world through thick lenses.
How can my children and grandchildren, let alone anyone who would partner with me, celebrate my arrival as a modern man? Rather, I do see how their response would be of mourning and of anger.
This is a shot of the Arenal Volcano that I took during the second trip to the volcano. You can see puffs of gray on the left-hand side which seem to be skipping down the volcano. When the light faded, these bouncing boulders glowed red. One can only imagine the power within the earth that gives rise to volcanoes and the power that lets them expel boulders the size of homes and vehicles as if they were bits of feather. I chose this photo for today’s post because of the title Dourley gives to the next section of his essay, Capping the Volcano. It was interesting for me to watch this volcano as darkness began to settle in. It wasn’t long before the top of the volcano disappeared under the cloak of clouds. Clouds don’t make a good cap for a volcano.
“Jung’s understanding of the psyche rests on a conception of containment which tolerates no invasion of the psyche by agencies beyond the psyche. Such containment eliminates all commerce between an allegedly self-sufficient supernatural world of divine beings and the natural world of psyche. Theologically such containment means that the psyche creates all the divinities as well as all personal and collective faiths in them. For Jung this now-dawning consciousness marks the culmination of a millennial evolution of religious maturation (Jung, 1954, p. 402), one which carries with it a moral imperative. This imperative demands that responsible religion recall the Gods to their psychic origin, where dialogue with them would continue on an individual basis (Jung, 1940, p. 85). This dialogue would be at once socially safer and personally more harrowing. It would be socially safer because it would undermine the conflict between religious communities who claim a universal truth for one or other of their competing, still-transcendent Gods. The dialogue would be more harrowing because it would face the individual with an inner critique more personal, rigorous, and defiant of evasion than any religion can muster. Internalizing the conversation with deity would also, in Jung’s words, terminate “the systematic blindness…that God is outside man” (Jung, 1940, p. 58, italics Jung’s). It would force humanity to confront its Gods and its faiths in them within the confines of the psyche from which they first are born.” (Dourley, “Jung and the Recall of the Gods”, Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2006, pp 45-46)
It makes sense to me. As a human, I am made small, even irrelevant for the most part, with the existence of gods outside of me, gods who separate from me, gods of whom I must be afraid – very afraid, gods who are ready to consign me to all manner of torture and punishments should I fail to be a perfect being. If I hold to a god or gods outside of my “self,” then I have a real problem with the presences I find within my “self.” If God is without, then what is within must be the opposite. And so we teach ourselves with notions such as original sin and stories such as Noah, and Lot and Job. No, I’d rather have the gods within making me shine with the touch of that godliness.
Looking into the outer world, I fail to grasp how so many religions that are based on good stuff have fallen so far from their roots and have become armed camps that only see red when in the face of other religions. Age-old conflicts of one “ism” versus another “ism” are made even worse when within the container of one such religion there are splinters which then fall out with each other. Putting the gods “out there” has caused us no end of grief as a human species. It is time to bring the gods back home, back to their birthplace “within” the human psyche.
No, it doesn’t mean that I claim to be god. It does claim that I am touched by god within, a god that is not able to be defined, contained, or even named. The best that I can do is to suggest that all that is and all that isn’t; all that is dark and all that is light and all that is neither; all of this hints to such a presence.. And, that presence is found within. And it is only through our personal human consciousness that whatever the god or gods might be, that these gods can be known, intuited, felt, sensed.
This is the Arenal Volcano. The second day in La Fortuna, allowed for a rare viewing of the full volcano, a view that steadily improved as the day progressed. Plans were made to again make an effort to see the trail of lava in the evening, but this time from a different vantage point, one that wouldn’t retrace the previous hour long hike through the cloud forest jungle of the night before. I’m not interested in repeating the same thing over and over again. If anything, I like re-approaching the unknown in different ways and on different pathways in hopes of catching a clearer glimpse of some otherwise hidden truth.
As I mentioned earlier, I grew up with the ideas and beliefs of the Catholic Church. I believed. I thought that I was destined to become a spiritual soldier of Christ. Yet, in the process of growing, somehow, the belief and the faith in the Church faded. I somehow lost my way. Attempts over the years to re-capture some of that belief and faith failed. I tried attending an Easter service in Avignon, the home of the Church for a hundred years, all to no avail. For me, the Church had simply become a huddling of other lost people, people who had no courage to become individuals responsible for discovering and living their own truths.
“… wherever the response lies along the scale from rejection to integration of inherited truths, it is a response in living touch with the power of the individual’s personal myth. In the end such power is, for Jung, the only power that enables the individual to respond to the collective as an individual. “Resistance to the mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself” (Jung, 1958, p. 278, italics Jung’s). (Dourley, “Jung and the Recall of the Gods”, Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2006, p. 44)
My response to the call to spiritualism, a response of rejection of the heritage of my family and community allowed me to breathe. I found myself on a strange pathway that somehow felt right though I found no other footprints on that pathway. Now, as I walk this pathway I do meet others as their paths intersect and sometimes parallel mine. My response of resistance is more about resisting my own fear, my own doubts than it is about resisting the community and the inherited truths of family and culture.
This is the community Church in La Fortuna. In the background, mostly hidden by clouds, is the Arenal Volcano. I would have to say that I grew up with a religious world view. I grew up a Catholic and went to church when opportunity presented itself, opportunities that weren’t too numerous. Since my mother wasn’t a Catholic and my father wasn’t in the least interested in the church, it was only when grandparents from my father’s side were around that I learned about the Church. It was decided that since I was a quiet person and I wasn’t very mischievous, that I would make a good priest. I actually believed in that possibility for a few years while attending Catholic schools.
By the time I became a teenager, the attraction to a religious life drifted off. That said, the tendency to lean toward a spiritual life has remained, especially now that my children have grown and found homes of their own. However, I don’t find any attraction to any church embedded in this orientation toward spiritualism. The organization of churches seems to exclude true spiritualism for me.
I don’t identify with the church any more as I did in my youth. Growing up Catholic and going to Catholic schools gave me an identity, gave me a sense of belonging to something. For a while, this was important. Growing up a loner isn’t the easiest of childhoods. Growing up as a gypsy in seven different provinces and going to more than twenty different elementary schools only accentuates the loneliness. The church filled some of that hole. But as the years passed, the hole still gaped wide and I found that the church couldn’t fill that hole. I was left to my own efforts to find my own way through the years of life. Any identity I had with the church was overwhelmed by the constant disruptions of moving and leaving.
“Identification with the group is a simple and easy path to follow, but the group experience goes no deeper than the level of one’s own mind in that state. It does work a change in you, but the change does not last. On the contrary, you must have continual recourse to mass intoxication in order to consolidate the experience and your belief in it. But as soon as you are removed from the crowd, you are a different person again and unable to reproduce the previous state of mind. The mass is swayed by participation mystique, which is nothing other than unconscious identity.” (Jung, CW 9i, par 226)
Okay, that explains why Catholicism didn’t “take” with me. I simply didn’t have “continual recourse.” Too much time on my own with my own thoughts left me without identification with any group. Now, in the present time of my life, the lack of identification with an “ism.” And, this allows me to look at the power that “isms” have in the lives of many of those around me. I see “tea baggers” and other extreme groups upping the volume and rhetoric in attempts to gain control and impose their collective will upon others. This is a scary thing. Any look at history will show the horrors that come with societies and groups captured by the mindset of “participation mystique.” And so, I have a real worry about identifying with any group. For in the group, the “self” becomes secondary and often even in last place. So much for individual or collective consciousness.
I have just recently returned from a few days spent in Northern Costa Rica at a place called La Fortuna, a town of seven thousand people who rely on the Arenal Volcano and Lake for tourism dollars. Of course I took hundreds of photos, many of them of the volcano, but I also wandered through the town in order to get a better sense of the community in comparison with Santa Elena, Puntarenas, San José and Playa Jacó. Since law enforcement has been a fairly major part of my extended family’s contribution to society, I am naturally interested in seeing the outward manifestations of this in most places I visit.
It’s interesting to me how a group of men and women can work together for the good of their community, all identifying with one another forming strong bonds. In some ways, the bond gets so strong, the individual becomes unimportant. That’s the problem of belonging to any group, the loss of one’s individuality. But the good part is that one does become transformed by the experience.
“If any considerable group of persons are united and identified with one another by a particular frame of mind, the resultant transformation experience bears only a very remote resemblance to the experience of individual transformation. A group experience takes place on a lower of consciousness than the experience of an individual. This is due to the fact that, when many people gather together to share one common emotion, the total psyche will be more like the psyche of an animal, which is the reason why the ethical attitude of a large organization is always doubtful. The psychology of a large crowd inevitably sinks to the level of mob psychology.” (Jung, CW 9i, par 225)
This is heavy stuff if you think about it. I have seen how this has played out in schools, at music concerts, with a tribal council of First Nations People and other groups. In spite of individual levels of consciousness, the group never rises to the level one would expect based on the individuals contained within the group, even when the goals are lofty.
I think back to one example in my life, one not so distant in the past when I was the Director of Education for a First Nations band on a northern reserve. I had talked long and hard with the new chief who was filled with a vision for his community, a vision that would see the education on the reserve become a significantly better experience. He was a leader that was vested in his goals as he had children who attended the reserve school and one that was to be experiencing post-secondary education in the very near future. Many meetings took place with this chief and his council where directions and decisions were hammered out so that the vision could be enabled. All appeared to be heading in the right direction. But, as past experience had shown, it wasn’t going to work out the way we were planning it – local politics got in the way.
A group must deal with issues of power. Gaining and keeping power requires one to be fully focused on the outer world and in satisfying the lowest common denominator which then limits the potential of the group. Now, more from Jung on this topic.
“If, therefore, I have a so-called collective experience as a member of a group, it takes place on a lower level of consciousness than if I had the experience by myself alone. That is why this group experience is very much more frequent than an individual experience of transformation. It is also much easier to achieve, because the presence of so many people together exerts great suggestive force. The individual in a crowd easily becomes the victim of his own suggestibility . . . . In the crowd one feels no responsibility, but also no fear.” (ibid)
I have been there, in a group that met for healing, for transformation. I have experienced within the group small gains to my psyche while trying to find meaning and purpose after being burnt out. I also watched the others in this experience and saw that they had no need to go further. The band-aids of the group experience was enough to take the edge of their inner pain. They had something to hold on to that would hopefully mask the pain and horrors that had driven them to seek this help in the first place. For me, it wasn’t enough. I felt cheated in a way. And so, I withdrew from the collective experience early though I didn’t withdraw from the process. I stayed to the end feeling lonelier than ever.
Now, I want to re-state the last words of Jung quoted above, “In the crowd one feels no responsibility, but also no fear.” Think of cops in a group laying their batons on protesters who perhaps have gathered to call for an end to violence; think of a suicide bomber who believes that heaven is waiting in the wings as he or she rushes into a crowd and detonates the bomb while proclaiming the name of a god – there are too many examples of groups doing bad things in the name of good.