Archive for the ‘participation mystique’ tag
I took this photo a while ago while strolling down the street. At first, I simply saw the humour in the photo, humour from a Canadian male point of view. Young men in Canada would not be caught dead carrying their girlfriend’s purse, let alone a pink purse, down a public street where other young men would see them. Yet, here, the scene is not that rare. Proving “love” to the “other” has so many quirky twists and turns regardless of the culture one finds oneself in. When there is a focus on “self” in the situation of “love,” it is usually about insecurity and the need for proof that one is valued by the “other – “Prove you love me,” kind of thinking takes over. When there is a focus on “other” then the “self” feels abandoned and almost valueless. There is no space where two become one. Does it matter which one is suppressed and which one suppresses? The result is the same for both, albeit from different viewpoints – the individual, unique self is no longer is valued.
The last day I wrote about distance and intimacy. I want to return to that topic in order to add to the idea of what “distance” really means in terms of intimacy and relationships.
“A relationship based on intimacy with distance does not require separate living quarters. Intimacy with distance means psychological separation, which comes about through the process of differentiation – knowing where you end and the other begins. Intimacy with distance can be as close and warm as you want, and it’s psychologically clean. Togetherness is simply fusion, the submersion of two individualities into one. That’s symbiosis, identification, participation mystique. It can feel good for a while but in the long term it doesn’t work.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 73)
In China, I see this “psychological distance” every day on the street, especially in crowds. It is as though each person, though surrounded by a sea of others, is alone, is separated as if on a deserted island. People walk by each other only aware on a peripheral level that there are others present, but oblivious of the them other than as objects to navigate around while walking.
How does one move to being self-contained rather than as half of a couple? This is the real problem for our heads, at least for mine. How can one be “separate” without having one’s partner feel abandoned? Living in the same place together and having a privateness is often taken as a rejection by the other. Somehow, it takes two moving through individuation and arriving at the idea of intimacy with space for relationship to survive. When it is a journey only one chooses to take, the relationship is threatened and all hell breaks loose.
“Togetherness is to intimacy with distance as being in love is to loving. When you’re in love, you absolutely need the other. This is symptomatic of bonding, which is natural at the beginning of any relationship, at any age. But need, finally, is not compatible with loving; it only shows the degree to which one lacks personal resources. Better take your need to a therapist than dump it on the one you love. Need in an intimate relationship easily becomes the rationale for power, leading to the fear of loss on one hand, and resentment on the other.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 74)
In the photo, this expression of love is about power. At what point will this young couple move from “falling in love” to a fear of loss and of resentment?
I went back into my photo archives looking for something I thought appropriate for today’s post. I was looking for perhaps a photo of a holy man, a sadhu, as I had taken quite a number of such photos while I was in India in January of 2008. But, as I wandered through the photos, I came across this one and so the choice was made easy for me. First, this is a girl child who is honouring traditions on the Ganges River as it passes the ghats in the holy city of Varanasi. This is about as far away from the title as I could possibly find. But, in a special way, it is perfect for my purposes and my thoughts.
My time in India pointed me towards what I felt were insolvable contradictions, of community holding common beliefs, of individuals in later life who seemed to live those beliefs as ascetics, as solitary individuals that were “held” within the embrace of their community, as a natural way of being. I got the feeling that there was little consciousness, even among the holy men. In fact, it seemed as though the more holy, the less conscious the condition of those holy men. They seemed to be attempting to embrace a state of nothingness. Of course, in saying all of this, I am only saying what I think, intuit, feel.
In this photo of the Ganges River at sunrise, there is a calm face of a girl whose presence tells me that all is as it should be. Though she is selling marigolds to be floated in the water of the Ganges River, a holder of the prayers of those who believe, the scene is less about commerce than it is about acceptance of the status quo in which there is no questioning of the way things are. And for myself, this both attracts me and pushes me away.
“The man who has attained consciousness of the present is solitary. The “modern” man has at all times been so, for every step towards fuller consciousness removes him further from his original, purely animal participation mystique with the herd, from submersion in a common unconsciousness in which the mass of men dwells. Even in a civilized community the people who form, psychologically speaking, the lowest stratum live in a state of unconsciousness little different from that of primitives. Those of the succeeding strata live on a level of consciousness which corresponds to the beginnings of human culture, while those of the highest stratum have a consciousness that reflects the life of the last few centuries. Only the man who is modern in our meaning of the term really lives in the present; he alone has a present-day consciousness, and he alone finds that the ways of life on those earlier levels have begun to pall on him. The values and strivings of those past worlds no longer interest him save from the historical standpoint. Thus he has become “unhistorical” in the deepest sense hand has estranged himself from the mass of men who live entirely within the bounds of tradition.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
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.