Archive for the ‘mystery’ tag
Well, with a new contract signed for another year of teaching at the university, there is a moment for relaxation and catching one’s breath. Strange, there isn’t anything to suggest stress as returning to Canada to a nice home and no economic barriers to a decent life, or remaining in ChangZhou as a university instructor are both good choices. The stress is simply that of making a decision. Once the contract was signed, a trip to the university garden nursery and greenhouse was in order so that I could choose a plant to put into the apartment so that the place could feel even more like a home. One plant soon became three plants, one for each year of service to the university. This photo is a part of the wall that separates the nursery from the main campus grounds.
I had a lot of choices when it came to taking a photo of an opening (window) through the wall where I could get crisp, clear shots and where the opening was undamaged. Yet somehow, this one drew me. A broken window cluttered with leaves and a red ribbon that was meant to hold up a weakened plant and a lack of focus, a lack of clarity – this is what I caught. Interesting as with the signing of the contract, clarity is what I thought was where I was at after weeks of indecision.
It was only with choosing this photo for the blog post today that I came to realise some part of the why for this photo. Making a choice isn’t about moving toward clarity, it is about moving further along a path where the final destination is only a hazy image, so hazy that there is even doubt that it is a destination. And somehow, this gives me a good feeling.
Looking out a window at the world passing by, this young Chinese girl is enjoying late fall sunshine in Changzhou. There is something comforting about being in the sun’s warmth and looking at out at the world while being safely contained.
One looks out with real curiosity at the world and wonders. All those passing people, all the stories untold are mysteries that feed an inner curiosity. One wants to know, but one doesn’t know.
“The problem always comes back to the fact that we do not know what we do not know. We are not conscious of that which we are unconscious. We do not apprehend that which lies beyond our instruments of apprehension. The wise from Socrates to the present, know that they do not know, so all of life remains a mystery, a curiosity, which gets, as British astronomer J.B.S. Haldane once concluded, ever curiouser and curiouser.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 29)
Children, like this girl are also wise, an instinctual wisdom, as they know that they don’t know. So many adults, in fear of the unknown, proclaim truths and hold to the “hard facts” of science or the “word” of their religions. Curiosity is a danger as it questions and doubts.
Did our world emerge out of a big bang or was it created by some deity or . . . ? So many answers claiming the “truth,” the ultimate answer. Yet, the truth is that we don’t know, that we can never be conscious of the unconscious. And coming to realise that I don’t know any of the answers, I allow myself to become curious, especially about the questions themselves and where the questions come. What is it within the human psyche that probes into the unknown in search of beginnings, that searches for the roots of self?
Another flower seen while walking along the banks of one of the many canals and small rivers found in Changzhou. These flowers are actually quite common and are in bright yellow, orange and red. They have a sense of richness, of fullness an alluring fecundity.
I have been using the word “complex” yet I have not given a good definition, good enough so that the understanding of the “emotion” that is activated when one is in “love” is more about one self than it is about the person one is in love with – the other. Here, I turn the words over to Daryl Sharp:
“A complex is a bundle of associations, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful, always accompanied by affect. It has energy and life of its own. It can upset digestion, breathing and the rate at which the heart beats. It behaves like a partial personality. When you want to say or do something and a complex interferes, you find yourself saying or doing something quite different from what you intended. Your best intentions are upset, exactly as if you have been interfered with by another person.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 40)
I think that this aptly describes what “overcomes” a person when falling in love. The world is turned upside down and one is “possessed” to the point of losing control of the situation and one’s perceived “will.” Try to explain to yourself that to love a certain person is not a good idea and see where it gets you. Married people over all of recorded history have been falling in love with others while married to a different person. An extreme force of will can prevent an affair with this “love” but it can’t stop the thoughts, the dreams, and being pulled away from being present with others. One is lost in inner space.
How does one account for this? There is no relationship in reality, there are no shared values – the “other” is a mystery. What there is, is the numinosity of the “other. The self is caught in the image, not in the person behind the image. But of course, at the time the self can’t tell the difference. And so, with complex activated, the drama unfolds and life becomes a confused mess.
The mystery of coniunctio, of the joining of the two into one, a holy marriage – well, this photo is about joining together as these two dragonflies engage in an act that is shared by most creatures on this planet. I think it necessary to bring Jung’s words here in order to better understand the term “coniunctio.”
“The coniunctio is an a priori image that occupies a prominent place in the history of man’s mental development. If we trace this idea back we find it has two sources in alchemy, one Christian, the other pagan. The Christian source is unmistakably the doctrine of Christ and the Church, sponsus and sponsa, where Christ takes the role of Sol and the Church that of Luna. The pagan source is on the one hand the hieros-gamos, on the other the marital union of the mystic with God.[“The Psychology of the Transference,” (Jung, CW 16, pa. 355.)
Thus we see that coniunctio is not a physical union as many would like to believe as they search for their “soul mate.” Rather, it is mental, an internal state of being, a union of opposites, and in particular, the union of the conscious and unconscious. Regardless, there is something very mysterious in this, something we touch on when we lose ourselves in the embrace of passion with other. Albert Einstein speaks of this sense of mystery:
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery—even if mixed with fear—that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual who survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.” - Albert Einstein, “The World As I See It” (1931)
Like Einstein, I would have to say that I also am a deeply religious man. I sense the presence of deity in the images, in the well-springs of my centre and often in the faces of others as well as nature. Entering into cathedrals I am brought into a state of presence both within and without of deity. I, too, marvel at the world at what each part adds to the whole and the mystery behind, within and surrounding. This is what I try to hint at with my photography.
The first snows of winter on the Dene First Nations reserve of Fond du Lac. It is amazing how the land changes its complete aspect when blanketed by fresh snow in early winter. The land becomes a fantasy land, a fairy land. The reality of cold temperatures can’t compete with the vision which beckons us to enter. The silence becomes deeper and softer in comparison with the silence of the bush that existed in spring, summer and fall; a more muted silence. This is a place of magic, not a place of messy humans. It is a place of promise.
The promise one is given when beginning the journey, the inner journey into darkness, is real. There is magic and mystery that will serve to protect and guide one in search of healing one’s soul. Let the journey begin.
The fog is beginning to lift. My medications are finally beginning to do their thing allowing me to be less forced into a world of tunnel vision due to the pressure in my head, one of those side effects of having allergies.
One of the good things about suffering physically is the fact that it has helped me find a theme for my photo book project – tunnel vision. I have ideas of content for the photos, and have been wondering how I would unite the various photos to form a theme. Presentation using a tunnel view such as this photo was my answer to my “self”. I am also thinking that I would have a poem for each photo – or a quote from one favourite Jungian book so as to accentuate the presentation as a unified document.
Tunnel vision is part of my life, part of my journey. Thinking more about tunnel vision, I realised that we are all wandering through this earth dimension with tunnel vision, limited by our shadow, limited by how little of the personal and collective unconsious we have yet faced. Tunnel vision limits not only our sense of “self” but also our knowledge of “other”. We are small islands of light that are drawn to each other in the darkness, yet unable to fully see each “other” because of the surrounding darkness. And, we live in mystery and confusion in our relationships as a result of the surrounding darkness.
The goal of individuation is not narcissistic self-absorption, as some might believe, but rather the manifestation of the larger purposes of nature through the incarnation of the individual. Each person, however insignificant in geopolitical terms, is the carrier of some small part of the telos of nature, the origin of which is shrouded in mystery but whose goal is conceivably dependent upon the enlargement of consciousness. If that be true, and I believe it is, then the task of individuation is wholeness, not goodness, not purity, not happiness. And wholeness includes the descent which the psyche frequently imposes upon the unwilling ego. – Swamplands of the Soul, James Hollis, from the introduction.
As I sat out on the beach side patio for my morning cup of coffee, listening to the morning waves break on the sandy shore, a long string of flamingos began to pass by. There were so many birds, I had more than enough time to race into the villa for my camera and then take a fair number of photos hoping that a few would be worth adding to my collection. There is just something about the vitality of nature that captures my attention. For all of my education, time spent living in cities and business in a modern world, nature resonates and adds to my sense of self and satisfaction. I cease to be trapped within my own head and rejoice in the breadth of a universe larger than myself.