Archive for the ‘light’ tag
I took this photo on the weekend, a scene from a section that is unmarked by the presence of paths and human footsteps, a natural piece of a young scrub poplar forest. I am attracted to those areas that for a moment are still free of human presence, natural settings that remind us of a time and a place that no longer are the norm in the modern world. These natural settings talk to me of a time long past, a time of mythological gods and goddesses, of tricksters and talking animals of the First Nations stories that I learned more than forty years ago. When I find myself in these spaces I become quiet; listening, watching, smelling the air – hoping that outside of the edge of my vision I catch a glimpse of the alter world that I know exists.
I learned from Nietzsche, long, long ago, that god was dead – dead in the hearts and souls of modern man. Science and rationalism had done in the Christian god. Like the Greek and Roman and Viking gods, the numinous presence of the spiritual that the Christian god embodied, this god had failed to make the cut and was tossed into the dustbin in which we toss all our deities when they fail us. But in spite of what Nietzsche told us, I still sense the numinous alive and well in the world. But then again, who am I to make such as statement, after all, I am just some partly crazy psychotherapist wanting some fame and glory and . . . meaning.
As I wander through the almost quiet spaces I get to feel the presence of those old gods and goddess who have chosen to remain hidden from the collective. I know that they sense my presence and approve. I bring with me my deep sense of spiritualism that isn’t bound to the old images, a spiritualism that is open-ended and has unconditional regard for them. For me, they aren’t dead and that is important for with their continued existence outside of form and institution and dogma, I find a place for myself. I belong in this larger, more inclusive world. I become a part, of the world, not some outsider at odds with a shallow world of science, dogma, corporations and governments.
Sensing these presences, I learn that I am not a victim of anything. I am as I am. I am responsible, fully, for what I become, what I do, how I am. I cannot hide in ignorance and blame the darkness that I see in the world for that darkness is also within me. I must get to know my own darkness which is also the same darkness of my neighbours, friends and enemies. And in becoming aware that there is no one else to blame, I am forced to own my own pain and make the world around me a better place, not demand that others do this work for me. I am responsible.
“If the old metaphysical powers are dead; and if we walk carrying as much darkness as light, then we are now obliged to stand more consciously and responsibly before the universe. In Jungian terms, each of us has become responsible for our own individuation. Individuation is not only the inherent, natural impulse within to become what we were meant to be, but the moral imperative of consciousness to cooperate, to further the mysterious aims of nature through the particularities of the individual . . . we are obliged to take responsibility for the meaning of our lives.” (Hollis, Tracking the Gods, pp 35-36)
Yes, this is what I looked like the summer I got married. I was a flower child, not a hippie (distinctions lost somewhere in the mists of time). As I look at this image which has not stood the test of time, I see a person so much different from the person I am today. Yet, at the same time, I see so much that is still the same. I remember having my French-Canadian grandmother see me looking similar to this (beard was a bit longer) and her response: “Mon Dieu! C’est Jésus Christ!” In a way, she wasn’t all that far off as I was trying desperately at that time to be as Christ-like as possible.
The attempt to be a holy person, a saint if possible was a response, my response to a history of abuse that had been the gift from my parents and others to help form the character that I live with today. Out of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse I transformed into a decent father, husband and grandfather. I took the modelling as what not to do in the roles of parent, spouse and grandparent. But of course, like all “wannabe” saints, I found myself to be as un-saint-like as possible. Today, I accept the fact that I am not a saint, nor will I ever be a saint.
No I am not a saint. But still, the urge to avoid darkness and evil remains strong within me. If I think about it, the words of this blog site are all spoken in an attempt to bring light into the darkness. It would have been easy, too easy for me to have given up in my youth, given in to darkness. I could have travelled many different paths to the present. Each path would have not yielded me the love and family that the path I chose through the dark and trackless wilderness in which I had found myself as a young man. One of my brothers chose death, a fate I had often thought would have been best for me. In truth, the only choice I found myself confronted with was always death or light. The options for addictions, for crime, for any other path refused to present itself to me. Darkness or light – which would I choose?
And like all good saint “wannabes” I chose and continue to choose the light.
I have arrived in Thailand and am finally getting to feel warm again. I have been looking forward to the heat and the sun for a number of different reasons the first of which is simply because I enjoy being warm and I love sunshine. The second reason is about the break from China where life has slipped into routines and habits that sometimes get in the way of being present in either the inner or the outer world. And finally, because the heat and the sunshine are part of what I see as my alchemical process of transformation.
I know that I am constantly changing, but more often than not, the changes are just things that happen to me, more about unconscious relation to others and the environment than about individuation. The first photo I took after arriving in the Jomtiem sector of Pattaya, was of this tree, a late afternoon photo when the sun paints gold onto the world, or should I say the sun allows light to diminish just enough so that the embedded gold of life has an opportunity to radiate out into the world. During the heat and intense light of the daytime, the gold is hidden by the white light, an intense light that cooks, bakes and boils the world.
As the light withdraws, it allows the handiwork of the changes wrought during the day to emerge, transformed, into gold. This is how I approach and understand my own process of transformation, becoming a bit more conscious, a bit more gold, with the repeated bathing in the purifying light of the sun.
I see this tree as symbolic of my self. I am hemmed in by life, constrained and limited by the ego that wants to stay in control, even if it means that the psyche’s growth should be stunted. Like this tree, I am learning to grow over the fences. Rather than deny the fence or deny the self, I enfold the boundaries to become part of my self. I think I just learned something here.
Yes, it’s the first weekend of December and our apartment is looking a lot like Christmas even though we are in China for Christmas. We have been decorating for the season in some fashion or other for as long as I can remember as a family. Lights, a tree, and an assortment of other decorations including garland, stars and coloured balls take their place in various places in our main room. As I am writing this, Christmas music is playing and the lights are dancing.
I have to confess that this Christmas season has nothing to do with a religion for me. The lights, the colours, the music, the greenery and the good cheer that animate our home at this time of year are connected with something more primal within. If anything, this joyful celebration is a deliberate act to help the spirit navigate the darkest time of year, taking the spirit back into the light of a new year.
Winter’s solstice has been celebrated almost from the beginning of awareness within humans. The celebrations were invocations to the gods to bring back the light of the sun that seemed to disappear more and more each day. Fear of increased darkness and cold, fear of the loss of light encouraged humanity to cajole the gods, to invite the return of the sun and warmth.
I don’t find any relation between this season and the religion of Christianity. For some reason, the Christian face of the season became corrupted with commercialism. I dislike the practice of gift-giving and shopping for these gifts. I want to give the gift or relationship and the sharing of time, food and good drink – the celebration of being alive and together. I guess this makes me a pagan. Somehow, I think that this also makes me a truly spiritual person, living with my heart and soul rather than out of a creed of rules that separates the saved from the damned.
I am writing this post just moments after me daily time out for meditation, rather later in the day than has been my normal pattern. I must say that I feel relaxed as I approach this writing today and as a result, my choice of photos matches my state of well-being. I took this photo at Angkor Wat in Cambodia late last January because of the meditating figure enclosed within the circle which had a background of light as I stood within the temple building. It is only now that I realise that the figure is feminine, a feminine form of Buddha. Some quick research resulted in a number of different female Buddha images found in different locations. Yet I wasn’t quite sure if the image was of a female Buddha (they exist) or of a Buddha which is suggestive of the feminine.
It was only with time spent with the photo that I can to realise that this image spoke to me about the integration of the masculine and the feminine into a state of wholeness. As I said earlier, I took the photo within the building. The site was dark with the only light coming from outside through the small window. There is no doubt that to see the image one has to be contained within the temple and its natural shadows and dark spaces. Yet the image only becomes visible with the light from without, with consciousness.
I realised that I needed to learn that my quest for consciousness is grounded in unconsciousness, my masculinity is grounded in the feminine. Consciousness cannot exist without unconsciousness. Without darkness, one cannot discern light; without light, one cannot discern darkness. The masculine, likewise exists only in contrast because of the feminine. And so I learned that I need to move from an either / or set of understandings to one that is inclusive and holistic.
So, where does that take me from here?
The sun gets to be too much for some people. It hurts the eyes if one is sensitive to light. For some, there is a strong desire not to be “tainted” by the sunlight which will make one “darker” in appearance. For others, there is a need to dance, to bask and to bronze in the sunshine. I belong to this latter group. I love sunshine, I love being bathed in the sun’s rays and seeing my body darken. But of course, I am on guard to make sure that I don’t stay too much in the sunshine and burn.
As always, I see beneath this physical layer of thought and experience into another layer and wonder. To stay out of the sunshine is to have the body stay at its whitest possible state, untainted. If I thing of the sun as symbolic of logos I see that if one steers away from logos, or consciousness, one remains unconscious. And here the imagination gets confused for I have always associated white with consciousness. Yet in this layer, white is a fleeing from consciousness, staying unformed, unchanged, undifferentiated. To stay in the sunshine is to darken.
Bringing light into the inner world is to darken in the outer world. It seems to be a paradox, a contradiction. But, I find myself digging deeper into the image to find more. And then I think of balance. There is always some sort of balance at work with the psyche, not always a balance that obeys my sense or understanding of what that balance should be. There is only so much and no more of anything.
Nothing is ever really created or destroyed – just shifting of places and spaces and time. In terms of consciousness, one is either conscious (aware) of some psychic fact of one’s self or one isn’t. As one uncovers the unknown of one’s self, on becomes less unconscious and more conscious. The psychic facts of self remain the same. The fullness of self remains, only one is more aware of that self. There is no rightness or wrongness involved.
I took this photo just a short while ago while looking out from the back doorway of my son’s home in Toronto area. I was glad to see the skies showing promise of sun rather than the predicted cover of clouds with showers as I have planned on a day of wandering through the city with my camera. Staying at my son’s home for a short visit is my nephew who often reads this blog. He was watching as I took this early morning photo as the smell of freshly brewed coffee had beckoned him to join me in the main room of the house. I asked my nephew to choose from the collection of photos and then to make the choices of lighting (shadows, increased light, decreased contrast) to get the final look. Tracey, this post is for you!
The colours in the sky are real, the oranges and gold tints on the higher clouds promised sunshine for at least some of the day and the thought of some sunshine put a smile on my face. I love the light as it allows me to better see and capture ideas with my camera. But more than that, the light allows me to better find the shadows that lurk otherwise hidden. When the skies are gray and overcast, shadows can’t be found. All is seen as though through a damp and filter making scenes appear almost lifeless, or should I say, listless. Wandering through the grayness in the absence of direct sunlight is more like being in a cocoon, waiting for life to restart. Waiting. Waiting.
With the appearance of a small crack in the blanket of clouds, a few rays of light immediately transform the world from a place of suspended animation to a place of vibrancy, a world of vitality. At last life can begin again, renewed with a new day’s light. This daily renewal of sunrise brings hope and a promise should we dare to do our part in entering into the journey that awaits, the discoveries promised with new light.
Carpe diem! Seize the day!
This particular lily sits in a garden in front of my daughter’s house. It had rained during the night and I was able to capture a few of the raindrops that had not yet evaporated the following morning thanks to overcast skies. Of course the light conditions didn’t allow for as much colour saturation as I would have liked, but what I did get was good regardless, not perfect but good.
One of the problems in engaging in therapy or analysis is that one expects too much; there is the expectation that one will be fixed and that life will return to normal if not better than normal. Of course, if one works long enough one comes to accept that there never was a normal way of being. For those who become patients in a pharmacological approach to therapy, the drugs create an illusion of being fixed which often leads to the patient making a decision that the drugs are no longer needed. Predictably the patient returns to the previous state of instability often unaware that they are in jeopardy again. For them, a crisis and/or an intervention is required to have them again achieve some sort of psychological balance. For many conditions, medication must become a lifelong part of the therapeutic process. Hopefully, it won’t be the only part of the process.
For those who engage in therapeutic processes that don’t include prescription drugs, there is the same need to readjust one’s life around the lessons learned, the discoveries uncovered by counselling or analytic session. One needs to create a new normal that is fluid, that has the ability to shift as one becomes more and more aware of shadows within. This doesn’t suggest that one becomes a permanent client in therapy, but it does suggest that one needs to learn how to self-engage in therapy. Ideally, one would maintain a therapeutic relationship that would allow for more objective evaluation of the processes underway. This isn’t any different than going for a biannual eye checkup or a semi-annual dental checkup.
This journey of growing awareness of the depth and complexity of self will allow one to find beauty in the self regardless of the condition of light and life.
I took this photo two days ago and find that it an appropriate image for today’s post which I am writing while sitting in my second airport of the day. I guess I could legitimately say I am spending a good part of my day up in the air. It will be good to finally arrive at my home later in the day, but even there life is somewhat up in the air as my brother-in-law, Michael will be staying in the house and I will be his chaperon/guide for the next few days. For those who have been following for some time, you will know Michael as a young man who has Alzheimer’s. It will be good to be with him again but at the same time, he serves as a reminder to me of how fragile and tenuous our time as conscious beings is in the world. I see in Michael my own fading from consciousness back into a shadow world and eventually back into the darkness from where my existence sprung more than sixty years ago.
I am finished with the selection of photos and the placing of the photos in a paged document that will become a PDF and ebook in the near future. The writing component of the book is underway and has altered from my original intentions largely due to my experiences in British Columbia with my mother, her mate, and my brother. Light and Shadow – consciousness and unconsciousness the circular journey that ends where it begins though it seems linear to our western world minds. As you know, I am using the visual of a rail track as the “linear” approach as I follow the day from dawn to sunset where light produces large shadows that shrink as one approaches midday and then lengthen again as one approaches the ending of the day. This is a journey that is about light, about being up in the air in terms of conscious awareness of self. As consciousness wanes, one is again brought back to earth to become again part of the earth. For our minds, this is a one-way journey from birth to death, a straight line as if we are literally on a rail track rushing towards the end of the journey.
I have another four days left to finish the book and publish it to the SoFoBoMo site. I will make it available here as well on the “free ebook” page as well at the same time. Now, back to the business of flying.
I took this photo yesterday while on a walk through the hills about seven kilometres from my home. This particular magpie was perched on a rock on the side of a hill and I was able to get within fifteen feet of him allowing me to take a number of satisfactory images. When I shewed him off, he went down to the valley allowing me to get this photo of him as I was then higher than him on the slope of the hill. This photo was just one of a few that I have decided to include here as the day was perfect for revelling in the sunshine.
I have a serious start on my SoFoBoMo 2011 book project and have been busy with C,G. Jung’s Collected Works, Volume 9i, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, as my reference source for the photo book project. As I envision my project, I am seeing the journey of individuation as a cycle, a circle within which one finds one’s self. This is the opening quotation for the book:
“Consciousness grows out of an unconscious psyche which is older than it, and which goes on functioning together with it or even in spite of it.” (Jung, CW 9i, paragraph 502)
Imagine the moment when a human is born to a mother, the moment when the self leaves the waters of the womb in order to begin a journey in an outer world. The journey is born out of the dark and wet womb. The self, though existing within the womb has no sense of self. In the light, with the passage of time and experiences, the self begins to differentiate from the environment, from the mother, and in the process learns about self as object, then as subject. The journey is of the self becoming conscious. But as one discovers, the journey cycles back towards the darkness and an apparent dimming of consciousness and finally death. This is a one way journey that has uncountable numbers of experiences going in uncountable numbers of directions. Yet, the final destination awaits. The self has to be reclaimed from the world of light.
We are born out of darkness and return to darkness, but in between, we have wings to fly as high as we dare.