Archive for the ‘mysterium coniunctionis’ tag
In Jungian psychology, the journey towards wholeness is called individuation. In alchemical terms, this wholeness is represented by the masculine and the feminine symbolism which takes the form of a holy wedding between the king and the queen. Knowing that the images are symbolic is vital for understanding of the psychological process. Within the psyche, the anima, or soul, is the feminine aspect; consciousness is the masculine aspect.
As to be expected, there are other symbols that are used to illustrate the idea of completion, of wholeness. One that finds it way into contemporary society is that of the sun and the moon contained together. As I walk down the street of my tiny town, I can see numerous examples of this image including several that are on my house. In Jungian terms, the sun is symbolic of consciousness, of the masculine principle; the moon is symbolic of the unconscious, or feminine principle. It is vital to differentiate the masculine and the feminine principles from biological males and females.
In social terms, the union of a man and a woman with the resulting creation of a child produces a wholeness that all societies embrace as family. This union of male and female has its roots in instinct, in the will to survive as a species. The union also has the impulse for completeness, for two to become one for a moment, a moment in which allows a transcendence of the painfully prosaic lives we live as individuals, even if we are in relationship with others.
With the act of union completed, it doesn’t take long for each to retreat within themselves and begin a grieving process for the loss of the other, for the loss of a sense of being at one with oneself. One returns to suffering.
“In talking about sex, we are getting into a very big topic. We are getting into the fact that every life situation has meaning behind it, or a process of communication in it. Communication can’y be established unless there are two parties, one of whom is the activator and the other the receiver. On that basis, any communication can be said to be sexual, although I’m not being Freudian here. The passionate quality of sex, doesn’t have to be involved necessarily. In order to communicate anything, however, you do have to have the true element of union. From the tantric point of view, everything is interpreted that way – in terms of union. There is the union of samsara ad nirvana, the union of phenomena and consciousness. We interpret it all in terms of the feminine and masculine principles. Everything is seen that way. (Trungpa, Work, Sex, Money, p. 106)
The union of masculine and feminine, the union of all dualities, polarities – the union of opposites and the achievement of wholeness, of one-ness.
We, as humans, like to keep things separated and in their respective boxes. It makes for bringing order into what otherwise appears to be a world in chaos. We have developed codes for ourselves to ensure that order is kept, to keep things black and white. When things don’t stay in their places, we have a tendency to react negatively.
Alchemy, as a science, looked to bringing different elements together, having them interact and then noting how that interaction changed the two as they became one. The mixing of copper and tin is a prime example which resulted in the creation of bronze.
In psychological alchemy, the work or opus is focused on bringing together the conscious and the unconscious aspects of an individual in order to arrive at a wholeness for the human psyche. Carl Gustav Jung was among those who studied the ancient arts of alchemy with the view of trying to heal the human psyche, attempting to bring the fractured pieces together. One of his major works expanding on this task is called Mysterium Coniunctionis.
Jung not only drew from alchemy, he also drew from Hinduism and Buddhism in order to try to more fully understand the nature of the human psyche and approaches to healing the psyche, a task that today we call psychology and psychiatry.
As I travelled through Indian I was amazed at the presence of the overt representation of the masculine (linga) and the feminine (yoni) in every temple that I came across, a representation that had the two as one. There was little left to imagination. The union of the masculine and the feminine created a wholeness. Of course, the representation was symbolic of creation.
The idea of the union of male and female was graphically on display in various temples as well, such as the temples of Khajuraharo. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, there is a respect given to the sexual nature of being human, a respect that goes beyond merely the physical. Sexual union has a holy aspect, one that curiously points the way beyond the limits of body.
The practice of Tantric sex that has its roots in Hinduism and becomes embraced at some of the highest levels of Buddhism, specifically, Vajrayana Buddhism. The primary purpose is directed to achieving a state of wholeness and awareness.
Wholeness. The impulse to become one, to re-enter into the womb of creation and be at one with the initial impulse of creation. In Jungian psychology, the same symbolism occurs with the same intent, that of healing the human psyche, rejoining the shattered parts, the divorced masculine and feminine aspects of an individual. There is much to talk about yet, so I will leave the rest for part three.
Not so long ago, my wife and I spent a month in India where this photo was taken of us during the winter break from teaching in China. The reason for presenting this photo was simply to talk about the relationship of masculine and feminine, a relationship that is both an outer world dynamic as well as an inner world dynamic. I want to begin with the caveat that I am not a relationship expert by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. The truth is, I struggle with both the outer and inner aspects of relationship. I wonder if this is the case for most people who have some degree of consciousness. In saying this, I make an assumption that the least conscious have the least issues with relationship, especially if both in the relationship are in a similar state of unconscious participation in the world.
Why? Well, for me it seems the more I become aware of myself and of my partner, the more difficult it becomes to find balance. For me, the days of being almost fully engaged in the outer world at the expense of a fuller sense of self, the days of sharing the tasks of building a family and a home gave a sense that there was a mutual balance as there was a mutual expectation. But as the children leave and the home becomes relatively empty, we are forced to look more closely at ourselves and at the person with whom we have travelled on the journey of parenting and home.
But in all honesty, how much of the difficulties that one meets in relationship is about the other person? In those who have begun to be aware of their individuality, there is a significant shift to “me” with most of the world then being seen mostly through the lens of “me.” In my own case, it took a shift into crisis in order for me to come to grips with myself. As I gradually wrestled with the projections, ideas I held as truths, I began to see that what I attributed to my wife as fault was not about her at all. With more time and healing work I began to find out about my complexes and the triggers that made them flare into presence where they caused havoc with my relationship, not only with my wife, but also with others.
Throughout the trials I brought to relationship, and similar things happening with her, we held together. In my opinion, the glue that held us together through the earthquakes and tsumanis was physical connection, the connection symbolized by Shiva and Shakti, a physical fusing that was in itself a holy act.
Jungian psychology somehow misses this vital part of the journey into wholeness. The alchemical process of individuation, the journey of self discovery with the integration of the masculine within and the feminine within into a whole, a holistic self is part of the process, not the whole process. Being present in life is as vital as is being present to one’s soul.
The psyche is contained within a body. Relation with others is as much about the senses as it is about inner feelings, responses, complexes and archetypal stirrings. To banish the physical to some dusty and shadowy corner in favour of an inner mystical experience instead of combining the inner mystical experience with the outer physical experience is not much different that denying one’s inner self, remaining in the dark about the true nature of self.
So, I meditate on how can I bring these two aspects together as seen here where Shiva and Shakti are meditating together, immersed in each other as one. And I am thankful that my orientation to an inner world is contrasted to my wife’s orientation to an outer world. For us, this balance of opposites somehow works.
A double rainbow appeared in the sky a couple of days ago. Of course, being me, I had to fool around with the image and this is what emerged. Purists might be disappointed that I didn’t just let the rainbow be represented as it appeared in the camera. Regardless, this isn’t an exercise in pleasing others, it is all about “discovery” of what is behind the obvious in front of my eyes. I want to know what lies beneath the surface, what appears if one looks deeply enough. I want to return to Jung’s Mysterium Coniunctionis, (CW Volume 14) here as it talks to me about the shift happening within myself, and the shift that I know the collective must go through in order to arrive at a better, higher state of consciousness.
“Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral; but the dominant that grows from historical roots act like a living being within the ego-bound man. He does not possess it, it possesses him . . .” (Jung, CW 14, par 521)
Now I understand why I am so vested in all that is “spiritual” at this time. It is actually amazing how many years I have been reading Jung’s works and that of others who reflect deeply on Jung’s understandings and how different parts of his works come to have their turn at resonance within me. I guess I am a lot like a stone being worked in an alchemists workshop. It is necessary for the psyche to proceed through the whole process in order to arrive at the proper place and at the proper time for each unique and individual psyche.
I know that I have been conscious since an early age and I have watched as I have shifted and transformed through a number of changes, mostly due to the natural rhythms of developing as a human. At each stage of transformation I have had to let go of what I “knew” as certainties in order to expand the sphere of my personal consciousness. Jung compares these transformation points to the death of an old king (consciousness) so that a new king (expanded field of consciousness) can ascend to the throne. I knew this concept in educational terms as that is how learning is planned based on a spiral curriculum. Now, a bit more from Jung:
“Although the renewed king corresponds to a renewed consciousness, this consciousness is as different from its former state as the filius regius differs from the enfeebled old king. Just as the old king must forgo his power and make way for the little upstart ego, so the ego, when the renewed king returns, must step into the background. It still remains the sine qua non of consciousness, but it no longer imagines that it can settle everything and do everything by the force of its will. It no longer asserts that where there’s a will there’s a way. When lucky ideas come to it, it does not take credit for them, but begins to realize how dangerously close it had been to an inflation. The scope of its willing and doing become commensurate with reality . . .” (Jung, CW 14, par 522)
Now, I can consider myself told. There is no need for “anger” and feelings of “powerlessness” in response to all that needs fixing in the world. It is enough (as a number of you have told me through comments and messages) to do the work of becoming as conscious as possible and daring to bring my self here and into the world of “others” in order to effect change at the collective level. Thus, I arrive at my own ray of “hope” like a rainbow in a muddy sky.
Thankfully, this isn’t a recent photo, but one from almost two weeks ago upon my return to Canada. I went looking for this photo as it was one that I felt needed to appear here. Looking out my window the sunrise is applying a light coat of golden paint to the fields and the few buildings that I can see, a huge contrast to this scene. Yet this is the scene that my head is experiencing in spite of what my eyes see.
I have seasonal allergies and they are now raging. Snow mold on the now exposed grass and dead leaves aren’t nice to me, neither are the constant dry and dusty winds. The poplar trees are beginning to show new leaf buds and that will make the situation worse in short order. Of course, like any normal person, I take appropriate medical aids to make the allergies more bearable but they only add a fog and lethargy as they do their thing in allowing me to breath easier. I say all of this, not to garner any sympathy (I get enough of that at home), but in order to contrast and inner and outer world. Though we often think of the mind as separate from the body, both are intricately linked and affect each other. Think of the yin-yang symbol where opposites are constrained tightly together yet maintaining their unique separateness within the container.
All of this is to serve as an intro to my thoughts of the next book, Through a Jungian Lens: Sol and Luna, which will be this year’s project for SoFoBoMo. I have chosen to focus on Jung’s essay, “The Personification of Opposites” from volume 14 of the Collected Works, Mysterium Coniunctionis. I plan on taking the photos and writing the text likely starting on June 12th, the date of the first full moon during the two month “fuzzy month” for the SoFoBoMo project. And, like last year, I expect that I will bring much of that stuff here in my posts. Other than the topic and the ideas from CG Jung, nothing is yet decided.
So, in spite of my allergies, I am still able to focus enough to find my way down my particular path. Tomorrow’s post will likely return to its usual, more reflective nature.
The wave is threatening to rough up this woman, not much different than the threats women face in general in a society that gives lip service to the equality of women in a world that is geared to empowering men. Appearances are deceiving, especially in the modern world. Women are not really seen except as holders for men. Women serve men as mates, as bed partners, as someone who will clean up after them, someone who will sacrifice so that her children will have a chance in a world that is hard and hungry. And should the man fail, the women take the blame and take the punches and the verbal abuse. And then when the man can’t stand looking at his shit stuck to his woman, he leaves her.
Despite all attempts at denial and obfuscation there is an unconscious factor, a black sun, which is responsible for the surprisingly common phenomenon of masculine split-mindedness, when the right hand mustn’t know what the left is doing. This split in the masculine psyche and the regular darkening of the moon in women together explain the remarkable fact that the woman is accused of all the darkness in a man, while he himself basks in the thought that his is a verifiable fount of vitality and illumination for all the females in his environment. Actually, he would be better advised to shroud the brilliance of his mind in the profoundest doubt. (Jung, CW 14, par 352)
Ouch! Guilty as charged! I see this problem in abundance here in Costa Rica where so many broken men have come in search of women, especially loose women who will treat them like gods as long as the money holds out. Sadly, if given an opportunity, the women willingly marry those brave/dumb/scared/lonely/rich men who believe that the good times will last forever with these Latin American beauties. And then the scales fall from the eyes and these beautiful women become as dark as the women left behind in America. The guys just don’t seem to get it, that they bring the darkness with them and it has nothing to do with the women in their lives.
The idea is buried deep within the Western psyche – women as the betrayers, the bringer of evil, responsible for man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The story of the Adam and Eve story has given justice to the belief that it’s all their fault. For this, I have rejected Christianity. Men must carry and own their own darkness. Yes, they have been wounded. But, this doesn’t absolve them from wounding others.
These two photos are separated by time. The photo of the sun was taken in January of this year and the photo of the moon was taken in July, 2008 with my older camera which has since been passed down to one of my children. Of the many photos taken of both sun and moon, these are the two that have the greatest alchemical feel for me, the greatest pull to the inner world in which I can travel in search of a stronger sense of self, of a fuller consciousness.
Consciousness requires as its necessary counterpart a dark, latent non-manifest side, the unconscious, whose presence can be known only by the light of consciousness. Just as the day-star rises out of the nocturnal sea, so, ontogenetically and phylogenetically, consciousness is born of unconsciousness and sinks back every night to this primal condition. This duality of our psychic life is the prototype and archetype of the Sol-Luna symbolism. So much did the alchemist sense the duality of his unconscious assumptions that, in the face of all astronomical evidence, he equipped the sun with a shadow. (Jung, CW 14 par 117)
You can see the descent of the sun (Sol) into the sea of unconsciousness, the realm of darkness in which the moon (Luna) can be seen, only because of the reflected light of an apparent absent sun. This descent into darkness is found as a descent into unconsciousness on a personal level where I drift from the state of being awake and conscious of life around and in me, into a state of sleep where my consciousness is set aside so that the unconscious can do its essential work so that the psyche, my psyche, can attain some semblance of balance. It is through dreams that the unconscious communicates in a manner that is like walking through a hall of mirrors that distort the reflections of the unconscious contents as to be confronted directly with the unconscious contents would likely result in madness, my madness. But then again, perhaps all is madness in its own way.
I often take photos that mix elements such as this one where I capture water and earth, the union of separate elements. I decided to use a filter to bring a hint of black and white while still managing to capture a bit of green, a sense of life in what would otherwise be a dark, shadowy swampland. For me, this is a symbolic union of conscious and unconscious, the union of the masculine and feminine.
Of course, I am thinking of this union as something that happens within one rather than what happens between self and other, between man and woman.
That said, there is no question that what happens in the outer world will be reflected in the inner world, at least in opposite energies where what is denied in the outer world is given life in the inner world even if we are never conscious about what is going on within our own depths.
Jung calls this union of opposites, Mysterium Coniunctionis, the central theme of Collected Works volume 14. Listen to his words on the Personification of Opposites:
Our reason is often influenced far too much by purely physical considerations, so that the union of the sexes seems to it the only sensible thing and the urge for union the most sensible instinct of all. But if we conceive of nature in the higher sense as the totality of all phenomena, then the physical is only one of her aspects, the other is pneumatic or spiritual. The first has always been regarded as feminine, the second as masculine. The goal of one is union, the goal of the other is discrimination. Because it overvalues the physical, our contemporary reason lacks spiritual orientation, that is, pneuma. (Jung, CW 14, par 104)
There is so much more that Jung says, but that will have to wait. There are things here that I want to chew on for a bit, especially the bit about urges of physical versus the pull towards the spiritual. Somehow I get the feeling that midlife is a ripe time for this pull towards opposite urges to come to the forefront. The realisation that youth has been left behind and that our bodies are determined to remind us that we are changing is a crisis in itself. There is little doubt that one has begun a downward slide. Focusing on returning to an exercise regime lets one soon know that we can backtrack a bit, but we can never reverse the direction. Then, the shit starts to fly.
Why? What’s the whole purpose of the struggling in the first half of life? The kids are grown up, work is done, retirement is in place – so now what? Is that all there is? The only answer that can give any hope is that there is something deeper than what appears on the surface of life. There has to be meaning, there has to be a purpose for the second half of life that goes beyond taking up space and using up precious planetary resources. And in looking within, one gets to sense the presence of an answer, an answer that can’t be found on the outside, at least for me. It is this that draws me into something spiritual, something bigger than the sum total of my life.
A walk down a country road came up with this harvest photo. This swather had taken down two rows of lentils and was parked at the edge of the field, just behind a ripening field of Durham wheat. With the approach of harvest, the regular rhythms of life are abandoned by those who are connected to the land. It becomes a race against nature to see just how much of the crop can be harvested before frosts degrade the quality of the crop. Who would have ever thought that I would know any of this, growing up a city kid and only exchanging the city for life in small towns when I became a teacher?
I am going to try to spend more time looking at masculine and feminine and relationship here. Before I babble too much, I want to return to some basic ideas from Carl Jung so that you can, perhaps, better understand where I am coming from when I make statements. Here are a few words from Jung taken from his work called Mysterium Coniunctionis.
For purely psychological reasons I have, in other of my writings, tried to equate the masculine consciousness with the concept of Logos and the feminine with that of Eros. By logos I meant discrimination, judgement, insight, and by Eros I meant the capacity to relate. I regarded both concepts as intuitive ideas which cannot be defined accurately or exhaustively. From the scientific point of view this is regrettable, but from a practical one, it has value, since the two concepts mark out a field of experience which it is equally difficult to define. (Carl Jung, CW 14, paragraph 224)
Logos and Eros, two opposites. Logos is represented alchemically as Sol, the sun. Eros is represented as Luna, the moon. One rules the day, the other the night, again the opposites of day and night, light and darkness, come into play. That which we “know” is that which is exposed to the light of day and is called consciousness. That which we don’t know is that which is hidden in darkness and is called unconsciousness. These opposing principles, the masculine Logos and the feminine Eros, are not gender bound. In the real world, we experience males who appear to operate from the principle of Eros as well as women who operate from the principle of Logos. There are masculine women, a feminine men. This is important to note as otherwise, it becomes too difficult to even begin to approach understanding anything about the union of opposites, of relationship.
To be continued …
A year ago I was in India and took this photo of Lord Shiva, his consort Parvati and a small Shiva Linga which is in the centre foreground. Yesterday’s post about libido brought to mind many such Shiva Linga carvings seen during my wanderings in India. The Shiva Linga has a raised nub at the centre of a circle which has a narrow channel that rises towards the centre. The protrusion of the Shiva Linga is a representation of the lingam, a penis. The circle with entryway is the yoni, the uterus and vagina. The entryway is often depicted with a kundalini serpent moving upwards to the lingam. The lingam in the yoni, yin and yang, the holy union of the masculine and the feminine.
Jung has refered to this holy union as the “mysterium coniunctionis”.
Libido, the energy of the self and the universe. It gets confused with sex. But, it is embodied in the physical relationship between male and female as well as the pyschic relationship between the conscious and unconscious, the masculine energies and feminine energies within, with soul and spirit, with light and shadow.