Archive for the ‘Mother’ tag
“Through the bloodweb of our mothers, we start out connected to the pulse and rhythm of the cosmos. And then we are torn from the Mother, separated from the cosmos, separated from the gods, separated forever.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 11)
Beginnings – we could easily get lost in the debate of which came first, a man or a woman without ever arriving at a satisfactory answer. For me, and for all humans, our first contact is with the woman, our mother. It is a contact that began in the womb. The relationship was physical and psychologically unconscious for each of us within the womb. We had no sense of self, no sense of separation, no sense of other. It was all one.
And then I, and you, were born. Our births began with a separation from our mothers. The cosmos within which we existed pushed us out. That initial universe died for us. The pulse and the rhythms vanished. Unconsciously, as we enter into a new universe in which we will again become engaged in relationship, we feel afraid. We have already learned loss and abandonment.
For me, like for all men, mother became the new centre of the cosmos. As we grew to sense that we were separate beings, mother became a magical being, an omnipotent being. Mother became our magical other.
This is a spring that emerges from underground on my eldest daughter’s land in Alberta. Sometimes it is hard to understand that what appears on the surface is but a fraction of the full reality of one’s life and the life of our planet. Flowing beneath the surface of the land are streams and rivers as well as lakes. Sometimes the water finds its way to the surface as in this photo, to then carve its way through the external world. Also found on the land are sinkholes which appear as normal bits of ground, an illusion as to inadvertently step on one of these spots is to risk disappearing very rapidly into a vicious soup of mud, being swallowed into the belly of the earth with no chance of escape.
Underground water is of course symbolic for me, symbolizing the unconscious making its entrance into my life. Most times I am not aware of the outbreak of unconscious as I unconsciously project this outbreak onto others. I get angry with government and organisations, or I get frustrated with a person with whom there was no previous frustration even though that person hasn’t changed behaviours or attitudes. Sometimes I become aware because I am learning to look at how I am in relation to the world. When I sense (after the fact) that I have been caught in some field of energy that brought out frustration, anger or fantasy, I begin to dig deeper and try to own the feelings as being more about my own stuff.
Dreams are another way that the unconscious bubbles to the surface of my awareness. And as in working at taking back projections, the work of digging through the dreams becomes important to the process of becoming more conscious. Like everyone else, I only become more conscious when I turn the light onto what was hidden beneath the surface in darkness. And like other people, I want to ignore the existence of that darkness, the shadow side of who I am. As I wrote these words, a song came to my mind – “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” by Three Dog Night, especially these words: “Don’t turn on the lights, ’cause I don’t want to see.“
I found that the title of the song “fit” as the Great Mother is about earth, water and the depths. The Mother doesn’t demand anything from us in terms of becoming conscious, she demands only that we return to her womb. It is the Father, who calls us to the light of the sun, to consciousness. The ideal is to marry the two rather than to be swallowed in the unconscious or to be burnt like some Icarus flying too close to the sun, a holy marriage. Of course, that means I have a lot of work to do in turning on the lights as I find the various light switches hidden in the darkness of the inner, unconscious world.
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)
A different river scene for today as I continue on with river photos. This photo was taken in February, 2011 while I was in IndoChina for a month. I was entranced by the light on the water as it created a “crystal” effect. In the photo, the family of mother and her four children appear so small though they are at the centre of the image. Theirs is a life on the river which feeds them. Where is the father? One can only imagine that the father has some sort of employment that allows the family something more than a subsistence living. In this image he is absent.
Men, as fathers, are often absent in the lives of their children, and that has a powerful affect on the children. A good father in today’s world will find that he gets to be fully present for a couple of hours each day once travel to and from work as well as the hours spent at work are removed from the hours that children are awake. This presents a problem for children. Boys don’t learn enough about how to be a man in the world with the absence of the father, especially if most of the waking hours are spent in the presence of women such as mother and teachers. In the case of fathers who do not take an active presence in the lives of the children, both male and female children suffer wounds of abandonment. Boys suffer more than girls as girls still have the model of mother to show them the pathway to womanhood.
But almost more important than the absence of father is the absence of modelling of relationship, intimate relationship between husband and wife. Both male and female children suffer the same lack modelling behaviour. What they learn is that “mother” is self-sufficient and can do the role of parenting alone, that a man is not needed, perhaps even superfluous. What they learn is that “father” is untrustworthy, undependable, selfish, uncaring. Of course, there is more to a relationship between a man and a woman that the children do not see, do not experience. Children, with their ego-centric thinking and experiencing of the world with the delusion that they, believe they are responsible for all things going wrong in the world around them because of something they did, thought or failed to do = magical thinking of a child. And so they build in small strategies to keep fear at bay, to control the world (adults) around them in order to somehow stay safe. These little strategies become life scripts which influence their life and relationship patterns once they become adults. The more effort needed to feel safe as a child, the greater the dysfunction will be in adulthood.
As a parent, one must guard against overwhelming a child with “too much” or “too little” as both will result in a child being “overwhelmed” and thus feeling unsafe as though drowning in affect. I know, it is easier said and than done.
I met this little guy while walking in the waters just of Cebu Island in the Philippines. I didn’t realise it then, but apparently this snake is very, very poisonous. Of course, poisonous or not, I don’t usually mess with snakes and give them their space. That said, it doesn’t mean that I run from them either. Rather, I do hang around hoping for a decent photo opportunity. In this instance, it took a few extra minutes of waiting for him to appear from hiding so that I could get a good number of images, hoping that one would eventually make its way here.
As I wandered through a number of published items about sea snakes, I came across a particular card in the Jungian Tarot series, that of the Empress. This is what PasteBoard Masquerade had to say about the card:
“The Empress represents the archetype of The Mother (shown above, third from left). The lake behind her alludes to her previous stage of virginity, while the cup she holds symbolizes the female generative organ. The sea-snake behind her represents the potentially destructive aspects of the Mother archetype. This shadow side is balanced by the dove of Venus at her feet. Other Major Arcana cards show additional aspects of the Mother, such as Justice, the Mother as Discipline, and Death, the Mother as Gateway.:
Interestingly, the Mother has found its way into this blog site quite a lot in recent posts. Remember, I chose this photo before knowing what I was going to say about it, or before I did any information search to guide me with the writing with prompts and hints. Next, I notice the cup in her hands – in this context, cup is also symbolic of the sign, Cancer:
“ The suits are then assigned a corresponding Cardinal sign, matching Wands with Aries, Cups with Cancer, Swords with Libra, and Pentacles with Capricorn.”
In this image, there is one cup and that is symbolic of Pluto in Cancer – honestly, I have no idea what this means, even after doing a lot of reading on the topic over the past few hours since I began writing this blog post (Yes, sometimes I spend hours on a post.). I do get a sense of unrest, of tension. But, that said, I will wait for a reader to let me know more about this.
But back to the post, the appearance of Cancer, the great Mother in one card and the snake in water in the photo, and all of this pointing to archetype and the unconscious suggests that I have struck a gold mine. Now, all I have to do is to find a way to uncover the treasures in this gold mine.
My mother died yesterday. Like this lady I found in a field close to a cinder-block shell that served as a small church where younger women with their smallest children were busy saying the rosary, my mother had white hair. She was seventy-nine years old. I was conceived when she was 16 and in love with a handsome French-Canadian young man who was 17 years old. She was Protestant, from a strong Orange family in Ottawa. My father was, of course, a Catholic. Conceived out of wedlock, they married despite the protests of my mother’s parents. Love has a way of ignoring the controls that others attempt to impose. Over the years, she bore nine children – six boys and three girls.
Being a mother begins with giving birth to a child. Being a mother ends when death claims the body, at least for the one who was the mother. For the surviving children, one’s mother continues to live within. The spirit of the mother somehow manages to also migrate to the children of her children, even to great-grandchildren. My mother was a grandmother and a great-grandmother. That which defines a woman as a mother goes beyond the act of giving birth and raising children. There is something that is about a spiritual energy, almost a power that seizes the being and leaves one possessed, almost a victim of the archetypal energy of the universal mother; a priestess of Gaia, the mother of the earth and all life.
No one is all saint or all sinner – one is only human. The only way we can measure each other, if we ever can, is in terms of whether or not the harm done was intentional. Of course, this is rare. And when it comes to my mother, there was little, if any intent to ever harm her children. All children are harmed by their parents, both parents, a wounding of the spirit that is absolutely necessary in order for the children to grow and mature into adulthood. The greatest harm a mother could ever do would be to create conditions in which her child stayed forever a child, never having the need to differentiate, to separate from the mother. Thankfully, my mother not perfection as it allowed me to grow up and become a man.
Children have a vastly differing understanding of their mother than the grandchildren. The veil of motherhood is somehow more permeable when there is a shift to grandmother. There is a different closeness and a healthy distance that allows the real woman to emerge. My mother is loved by her grandchildren and her grandchildren. Their love is different that the love felt by the immediate children. The children grew up feeling that archetypal energy of the great mother and in the process, each child develops a mother-complex. That is just the way it is. What happens with the mother-complex has nothing to do with the actual, personal mother; what happens next is a work of becoming more conscious as individuals as a child of this personal mother, separating what is archetypal from the flesh and blood woman who gave the child, now adult, birth. With growing consciousness, one is able to strip away projections, fears, hurts and find the woman who is the personal mother.
With consciousness comes, not forgiveness but an “eyes wide-open” realisation and appreciation of the woman known as mother.
Mom, I love you, now and for all time that will be.
While in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, I happened to go walking down a narrow trail passed a number of small country homes and tiny fields. The scene was distant from any city and a few kilometres from a small town. As I wandered down the trail I met a few people such as these two women who were busy with the collection of banana leaves which were to be used as food wrap as well as serving platters for meals that were predominantly based on rice which was being grown not too far from this site. The young woman seemed pleased to see me here in the Mekong jungle and even more pleased that I wanted to take her photo. In my imagination, I could almost see her reaching out with her eyes as though to wish me to her, to be a magical other – of course, only in my imagination. The real smile she gave has nothing to do with the magical other. I wonder at how Asians view the idea of a “Magical Other.”
The fantasy of the magical other finds its roots in archetype, the archetype of the parent, a Primal Other. Here are a few words from James Hollis to illustrate this idea:
“Our first experience of ourselves is in relationship to these Primal Others, usually mother or father. Consciousness itself arises out of that splitting of the primal participation mystique which characterizes the infant’s sensibility. The paradigms for self, for Other, and the transactions between, are formed from these earliest experiences. They are hard-wired into our neurological and emotional networks.” (Hollis, The Eden Project, p. 37)
Somehow, this seems to be something very important in trying to understand the idea of Magical Other, a soulmate, or love at first sight. Perhaps it is at this moment one is wired to being attracted to one gender or another. One searches for the safe container in which to find the courage to be self. Many, if not most “marriages” are born of the attraction to the Magical Other.
The stranger with whom one falls in love has power and a numinosity that is in reality too much for a human person to contain. As time passes and the bumps and bruises of relationship teach us the mortal nature of this human, we feel loss and sadness. The grieving over the loss of the Magical Other takes one through anger and the other stages of grief until we come to accept the real person with whom we have coupled, that is if one persists long enough to go through the stages. Many cannot get passed the anger and turn away from this stranger who has betrayed us, lied to us. Too late we come to realise that it is we who have lied to ourselves.
For those that survive the grieving, there is a comfort and a discomfort with what remains. We are comforted that the other, not so magical anymore, has taken on our need for sanctuary and willingly works at meeting the needs for love, security, acceptance. Each becomes lover, friend, child and parent to the other. Listen to the words and you will perhaps hear from those long married, the words Ma, Pa, Mother, Father, Mom, Dad – I hear myself addressed with different tones and different words, including Papa. Again, James Hollis has words for us:
“Such phenomena suggest that the original attraction to the partner was in great part guided by the parental imago. That unconscious image is projected onto potential partners until someone comes along who can catch it and hold it.” (ibid)
I wonder if this parental imago is not simply the replacement of one’s biological parent, but potentially the missing parent whether that absent mother or father was physically absent or emotionally absent? I must remember that is more than the personal parent, but the archetypal parent that is being sought in the Magical Other.
This is another WuZhen photo, one that is not about tourists or a celebration of a restoration of China’s architectural past. This is just a simple scene, one that is played out in many locations in many countries in today’s modern world, a scene behind the scene so-to-speak. l get to see this scene often, a scene in which a woman is crouched beside water, usually water that is far from clean, in an attempt to clean either herself or some articles of clothing. Regardless of what is being washed, the image is there based on real events happening in a real world.
Symbolically, woman is associated with water, birth waters, cleansing waters, dank and dark waters. Somehow out of the clouded dirty water, something is born, dirt is washed away and whiteness emerges. Archetypal images – images that point beyond the facts contained within the images, point to something that goes beyond one person’s understanding and points to a collective awareness. But what is this archetype? Is it the mother who nurtures, to mother who eats her young, the life force that gives rise to libido in men, the receptacle who takes a man with her and sucks out his seed? Because “she” is an archetype, “she” is all of these things and more.
Walking through my life, the archetype is in the dark background out of my conscious reach. As I walk through my life, I find I bump into aspects of her which have been activated by my life experiences. And these appearances are personal to me though they cause a lot of discomfort. These disturbances are not appearances of the archetype, but appearances of my personal complexes. I can never behold the fullness of the archetype, only the “activated” bits that can only be identified as complexes.
There remains so much to say on this topic. Perhaps I will find some of the words to help myself better understand this. I will come back again with another image and more thoughts to explore this territory.
Christmas supper at my home in China was spent with a collection of expats. Gathered at the table were Americans, Australians, Canadians and a Japanese woman – each with a unique story, a unique gift of presence. The gift we give each other is the gathering together, becoming family for a few hours. At the table were three people that I had not met before and likely won’t see again except for chance meetings in the centre of the city. I say this because of the fact that we live quite a ways apart, at least and hour and a half by bus separates us. They needed a place to go to in order to feel a sense of “going home for Christmas,” and our door was open. Four of the guests at the table were colleagues from the university. And, sitting at the head of the table was my wife with her blond hair. The photo is just one of millions of such photos that were taken across the globe as people sat down with guests for a Christmas meal. And, one didn’t have to be a Christian to take part and feel at one with the others gathered at the tables all across this planet.
I often wonder what the reasons are that draw foreigners to China, especially those that come to teach. Very rarely are they teachers. The young ones come for adventure and a job. The older ones, perhaps a job because of the poor economy at home. The oldest, perhaps are looking for a way to make retirement an adventure without draining the retirement fund. One thing all have in common, a willingness to leave their “homes” and their “community,” and to live an individual life. But, is this living of an individual life about the “hero’s task?”
” . . . the personal hero task, the task of becoming whomever the gods intended, not what the ego desires, benefits the culture ultimately through providing it with more differentiated values, more unique contributions to the collective.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 68)
Of course, I can’t be the arbiter and judge for each of those who came to my home, nor do I want to be the judge. All I can do is look to my self and ask my self the question of whether or not I am authentically engaged in my “personal hero task.” If I am truly “individuating,” that is, living my hero task as defined by C.G. Jung, Joseph Campbell, and by James Hollis; then, I am giving gifts to those around me through the values that I am growing into and living. These are my unintentional Christmas gifts to others.
Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Féliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, Shèngdàn Jié Kuàilè to all who read here and who find some value in the archetypes of Father, Mother and Child.
“Each of us has a so-called masculine task, and each of us has a so-called feminine task. If our minds call up too literal a picture of these tasks, we may be ensnared either in imitation or adolescent rebellion. If we see them as the twin embodiments of life’s forms and dynamisms, we gain an enormous sense of the archetypal task before us. Our summons is both to be and to do; it is to nurture and to define; it is to be at home and to journey. If historically these energies and these tasks were delimited to specific genders, then everyone suffered an oppression of some vital part of themselves. Still, even for those who live in a deconstructionist age and can discern the mark of local time and place on such categories as gender, the ancient tasks remain to be lived in their timeless ways. (Hollis, Mythologems, pp 56-57)
Perhaps you can already see why I chose this photo for this post now that you have read the quote from Hollis. There is differentiation between the masculine and the feminine, but both come from the same root, the same source. Like these two leaves on a tree, separate but with neither able to exist without the source tree rooted in an even larger field, the archetypes exist separately within us individually and within us as a species. If anything, the archetypes are what have inspired us to be more than just another animal species that simply exist to procreate and keep the species from extinction.
The question of “WHY?” has always haunted me. From the early years of my life I have been on a journey of finding meaning an purpose for my own existence. Of course that has often had me ask the same question about the human race as a collective. ”Why? Why do we even exist?” Are we here, as biological entities in a drama of life and death that has the singular task of ensuring that future generations will come to be present? Is right and wrong only a question of what will allow survival of the individual and the species? I have never found an answer in the outer world regardless of how many courses, certificates, degrees or diplomas I have amassed. No answers came from books or from asking anyone who would sit still long enough to hear the questions.
Yet, when I finally dared to listen to an almost inaudible voice that came from something, someplace that was just outside of reality as I knew it, I began to sense there were answers. Or perhaps, better questions to be asked. Turning to inner spaces, to inner urges, I began to accept that all wasn’t to be found in the outer world. And so began a journey that I still find myself following. My dreams, and the resonances that ring within me through the voices of others let me know that there is more than just being and doing as a human animal. I am pulled into being and doing that demands more from me. For me, it is about becoming “whole” through acknowledging the vast unknown world of psyche and soul.
The journey has me battle the Great Mother and the Great Father, not so that I defeat these, but so that I can come to terms that their authority is my authority, that I am both of them. That knowledge doesn’t mean that I have more power over others, but that I am not a victim of my own darkness. At some point I will learn to love unconditionally – love myself and others. At some point the gymnastics of trying to bend myself out of shape or trying to bend others to fit my needs will be abandoned allowing me to be at ease with myself and with others. This is my archetypal task.