Archive for the ‘projections’ tag
I know that it is Thursday and I had intended to write about Tibetan Buddhism, but things change. I have to admit that I ran into a wall, bruising my ego in the process with the attempt. So, it is time to step back and perhaps go “lite” for a change.
As most of my readers are now aware, I am on a break from the snow and cold of winter in Mexico. Each day I am lucky enough to wake up to birds just outside my little studio. There are a few regulars who like to join me in my morning coffee routine as they put in an appearance on a near by tree or shrub, regulars such as this Oriole. His cap is darker than his body, more orange than yellow. He is a beautiful bird.
Of course, that got me thinking, do birds think they are beautiful? It’s a silly question, I know. Birds don’t have the same level of consciousness as does a human. It is extremely unlikely that there is the same issue of body image that we find in humans. They simply instinctively pose for potential mates and nature takes care of the rest. If anything, birds assume that they are beautiful in terms of being able to attract a mate.
Humans somehow become obsessed with how others see them. The general belief is that, especially if one is a male, one is not beautiful. Of course, the same can be said about females. The fashion industry and body image industry are constantly assaulting us with all sorts of messages that we are not beautiful unless we buy their product or service.
Humans seem to blithely overlook the obvious – in spite of our self-beliefs, we find mates. And, we wonder “What do the see in me?” Beauty is not on the surface. What attracts us is not the perfect shape or weight or fashion, but the unconscious reflections of our denied self. We fall in love with character and potential and our projected self. So much for worrying about body image. Being human is about being beautiful just as we are.
I took this photo in early evening light and all was tinged with blue, all had a faded look. In spite of the faded colours and the blue tinge, there was so much life that was evident in the moment as the mother with her five daughters went deeper into the water making sure the littlest child, a boy stayed safe. There was a real sense of joy in the moment. When I took the photo I knew that eventually it would make its way here in spite of the poor light conditions and the colour distortions.
Women, girl children – there is no doubt that in Asia, they are second class citizens. Being second class in society isn’t all bad as there are individuals who escape the fate of their gender because of a number of factors just as there are a number of men who, though belonging to the privileged class of men, find themselves on the wrong side of the power equation in their personal relationships
“While women’s lives have historically been disempowered and miserable, for which men are in large measure responsible, men’s lives, because of the price of self-estrangement, are perhaps even more miserable and pathetic. They are the endangered gender. Because of this self-estrangement, men, generally denied access to “the feminine” within them, and derided for efforts to connect to “her,” have conveyed too much psychological power to women and then wind up either trying to control her, or please her, or avoid her. For this reason, though driven biologically, sexuality occupies too large a role, psychologically speaking, in the psychic economy of men.” (Hollis, What Matters Most, p. 49)
The dominance of women does have its cost. Being unaware of their own feminine aspect, their anima, men project this vital energy into the women of their lives and wonder how they will regain that energy. The only link that remains between these men and women that can be drawn upon with any conscious effort, is sexuality. Men want to recover the missing half within them and mistakenly place the missing part in others who in turn consciously and/or unconsciously use this power. This is a two-way dynamic as women project their masculine energy on men, in effect giving their power to men.
The only seemingly available escape from this unconscious, instinctual dynamic is to become conscious, to become aware of one’s own psyche in depth. In recovering one’s own femininity, men are able to finally see women as they really are, not as sexual objects, but as full and equal participants in the journey to collective awareness. As women become aware of their own masculine power, they are able to withdraw their projections and cease being victims of men, sexual objects of men, mothers of men. It is only in this way that a true marriage of whole men and women begins to evolve, a holy marriage.
The Mondou Hills surround a non-existent Mondou Lake, a low flat area now filled with wheat and canola fields. The lake has long ago disappeared and the hills are semi-desert grassland in which all kinds of cactus plants can be found such as this small, but colourful little plant. It is easy to forget that such a delicate blossom can be found a plant that has built-in armour.
In looking again at this image, I begin to think of relationships, especially the relationship with a significant other. When we catch awareness of the other person and somehow feel a sense of magical connection, we are seeing the beauty of the flower. The beauty exists objectively, we aren’t making it up in our minds. Our relationship to that beauty, that sense of falling in love with that beauty is a different story. We project something else onto the flower, onto the other person and create an other that is totally born out of our own need, our own inner spaces.
I think also of how people attract each other, how the choose each other and mate. Both project their own denied attributes onto each other and both are ripe, ready to be hooks to catch the projections of others. Of course, I am talking about the phenomenon of falling in love here, not about the calm, well thought out and deliberate choosing of a mate from a narrowed down subset of possible mates. Falling in love with another person is all about projections and hooks. There is no weighing of personality, characteristics, probable future security, genetics or social suitability involved. Reason is not involved at all. The truth is, when we fall in love with a person we don’t know, we are not falling in love with the person at all for we know nothing about this stranger.
Does this person believe the same truths as we do? Does this person enjoy the same activities as us? Will this person ever get to know the real you? Will they like the real you? Will you care for the person you discover eventually when projections are withdrawn?
Under the projections, a real person exists just as the real plant exists once the fragile blossoms are blown away in the next wind. Beneath the projections are thorns, spikes and of course, a moist and vibrant life that is ready to create more life. As time goes on, many relationships are broken because of the barbs that come out in self-defense. For each of us does engage in self-defense when the stranger beneath the projections begins to emerge. One says: “Who is this stranger? Can I trust this stranger with my own truths?” Sadly, the response to self-defense mechanisms is a reciprocal building of walls as the other also feels at risk as they are challenged and even denied. Confusion exists within both as the other bemoans the fact of the other’s dishonesty, a dishonesty that doesn’t exist except in one holds the projections as the truth.
On the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia near Kampong Chhnang, I came across these children who live on the river. These children are a proof that there is a beauty and vitality and hope for life. These children are the product of the human instinct for survival as a species and a deeper instinct for the preservation of the self as an immortal being. One doesn’t think of any of this when one meets the other with whom mating and giving birth and child-rearing becomes a life-consuming task.
Many reasons are given for marrying in our modern times – love, wealth, power, duty, loneliness – but whatever the initial impulse the two entering into a marriage begin to change because of the marriage, because of the intimate contact with an other person. Two people choose to be together in a contractual arrangement that is best described as a marriage. Yet, it isn’t too long before both parties of the contract have changed. Intimacy evokes a response as much as dropping a stone into a still pond affects change in an environment.
“Many marriages simply evolve beyond the implicit terms of the invisible contract. Whatever complexes or programmed ideas of self and Other may have inspired the marriage the psyche has moved to another place. It is not so much that people fall out o love, but that the original controlling ideas have waned in favor of others – or the complex has decided that the Other cannot meet the expectations of the original agenda. (Hollis, The Eden Project, p 44)
Imagine if the two in a marriage became stuck in the initial human psychological developmental stage (it happens). Two who become forever adolescent; two who never move past that initial Magical Other; the result is tragic from the view of individuation as individuals, and perhaps even more tragic if these become parents who are so fixated on each other that the children are basically orphans in a psychological sense.
The binds and blindfolds of the Magical Other deny the growth of self. One is frozen in place and in time. One never does find the person behind the projections. And, one never does find the depths of one’s self.
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.
I am continuing to draw on the photographs taken at Angkor Wat. Though built by man, this is a place that can best be described as a place of the gods and spirits of a time long past. But of course, these gods and spirits didn’t exist, nor did they make Angkor Wat their home. Angkor Wat was a place built by man, for a man, for his throne and his tomb. It was built as a Hindu temple with the thought that all would associate this man with the Hindu god, Vishnu. Temples such as Angkor Wat are vivid expressions of a human living and acting out of the unconscious. The self becomes consumed by a larger, darker thing, the collective unconscious.
“The world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me.” (Jung, CW 12, par. 857)
There is a wonder within me about those men who managed to have their societies accept them as more than human, as beings who are the gods revealed as men. Many modern men have no problem believing in the gods (or a singular god); nor do modern men have a problem positioning themselves as superlative beings in comparison to the people of their country and generation in order to accept the public acclaim and rewards of being godlings. Riches, fame and adoration are theirs and the ordinary man who sits under the skin of these modern day godlings have been usurped by the collective shadow. There is no way that they could have ascended to the thrones as godlings without the willingness of the collective to have them as holders of their projections, their need to have the gods revealed.
One has to live in the dark, with a low level of consciousness, to both give their power to another and for that other to hold that power. When consciousness begins to grow and the projections of collective and personal unconsciousness begin to be withdrawn, there is a sense of dis-ease with the reality that had grown out of living unconsciously. We see this today in Arab world. Projections are being withdrawn and personal power is being reclaimed. Yet, this is just the first steps. Will those who are reclaiming their personal power give it up to a new godling, even if that godling is an idea?
I want to draw on the situation in my own country, Canada. It seems to be a quiet place where there appears to be fewer projections running unchecked. A democratic form of government enables personal power to be exercised with some regularity. Yet, all is not what it appears on the outside. The leader of government has unfortunately begun to believe that he is above those whom he leads. What is more disquieting is the fact that many have given up their power of thought and discrimination and now believe all that he says without question. Canada is not a big country in terms of people, nor does it have significant power in the affairs of a global society. Thankfully, the majority of Canadians haven’t given up their power to this new face of the collective unconscious, at least not yet.
My point in making these comments isn’t to make a political statement about Canada and its leader, or about the Arab world and the unrest there as people rise and say they have had enough of living in a shadow world of the collective unconscious. The point I am trying to highlight is that Angkor Wat, the Great Wall, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and any other man-made marvel; as well as the religions and governance systems that feed on people giving up personal authority, exist because of unconsciousness, projected collective unconsciousness.
Withdrawing the projections, one must become responsible, self responsible. In this state of being, there is no “other” to blame, to carry the scapegoat, to carry the shadow. One must own it all. When this happens, tyranny cannot exist within the community, for no one will follow.
One of the differences I saw between Laos and Cambodia was in the choice of umbrellas for the Buddhist monks and novices. In Luang Prabang, Laos the monks used black umbrellas, a fact that is captured on many canvases, postcards and other tourist items. In Cambodia, it seems that saffron is the colour of choice. That said, this photo wasn’t chosen because of this bit of trivia. While living and travelling in Asia, I find that I have a certain fascination with monks. The four weeks in IndoChina found my “lens” filled with images of monks, a contrast with China where monks are not frequently seen other than immediately around Buddhist temples.
I’ve often wondered about whether or not I would have ever chosen the life of a monk, or if I would do so in the future if I found myself alone due to some circumstance or other. There is an appeal to a life of contemplation, a life of holiness. Yet, I wonder if, for me, the temple would be a place for contemplation and holiness. I somehow think that the reality of temple life and the structure of a religion would work against what I perceive to be my journey of individuation. And, I know that I can only speak of my journey and not judge the paths taken by others.
In this photo, the young monk, who I presume would be a novice, is being the object of another’s spiritual outpouring. He is the container in which the young woman projects her prayer. His journey is to gather offerings for the collective of monks as well as for the most desperate who feed off the leftovers of the monks. There is a curious dance of needs in the process. In a way, it makes me think of the dance of archetypes and shadows from the unconscious being brought into the lens of the outer world where people become the faces of the archetypes. How much of this is conscious intention on the part of the monk or the others that are in his orbit? I would guess that none are operating with conscious intention but rather out of superstition, out of spiritual need.
I wonder how much of this I do, that is being unconscious of the acting out of shadow, the faces of archetypes, in the outer world? I sometimes become aware of it after the fact when I see shock or surprise in the eyes of others who become the projected recipients. Because I know that I have a shadow that isn’t afraid of the light, I tread a bit more gently when interacting with the world, always with a sideways glance over my shoulder to check out if the numinous faces of archetypes are trying to put in an appearance without my acknowledged permission.
I used to revel in the role of authority, now I resist it as much as possible. As an authority, I was no better than any other authority. I became full of myself, swollen with a mana personality. I thought I knew best, was wiser than others around me and that it would be better for others if they would only follow my lead. Now, I know that it would be a mistake for even one person to follow me. It is more than enough that I find my own path which is a path that can only hold my self. That is the call to individuation.
During the time spent in Cambodia after three weeks of wandering around Vietnam and Laos, I got to see a serious side of poverty. It seemed that everywhere I turned, the face of poverty was there looking back at me, looking deep into my soul. It left me feeling overwhelmed and powerless for the most part. What could I do as an individual, a person within the lower middle class of the western world, to make a difference? The “money” I had would soon be exhausted with negligible effect on the lives in IndoChina.
It didn’t take me long to see that the poverty was deeper than the lack of money. If that was the only problem, throwing money at the problem would solve the problem. The time I have spent on reserves and in rural areas of western Canada where First Nations poverty is a real fact had proven to me that the infusion of money, more often than not, worsened the problems creating more dependency, adding more tension between the givers and the receivers of the money.
All I could think of was somehow opening doors to education, an education which would allow those hungry enough to claim the knowledge and tools to reforge their own lives. But even that is not enough. What about the little ones like this little girl who is trapped by geography, culture, family poverty, and by history? How does one change the mindset of a nation which is governed by the shadow of the masculine? Revolts against the shadow erupt all over the world, but those revolts are more instinctual than they are based on consciousness. The results of these revolts that promise change only end up with a different set of faces continuing to govern unconscious of the roots of the real problems of their communities.
So, I am left with hoping that what I am doing here as a teacher, as a guide through the dark sides of the human psyche, will make a difference.
This is the scene I was greeted with as the car pulled into Chhong Kneas where I was to board the fast boat to Phnom Penh. The image of the rising sun was a welcome one and I wasted little time in taking too many photos, something that seems to be a growing problem. Since I began this journey through IndoChina three weeks ago, I have taken more than 9,000 photos. I have created a nightmare task for myself in trying to reduce the images to those that are “keepers.” The biggest problem is that I don’t yet know what to use as criteria to make the decision. I guess the best bet is to leave most of the images in the archives until “time” has worked within me as a sort of distillation process so that I can “see” more clearly. That said, this image has no worries about surviving the cut.
I can see why people in other cultures and even my own culture have found the sun to be so compelling. In the past few days leading up to the taking of this photo I had bee having vivid dreams that allowed very little rest. As I mentioned earlier, the bombardment of images on my psyche has left me exhausted and almost adrift. Since taking this image, I seem to have calmed down within so that last night I was finally able to sleep and wake up rested. It is as though, like the sun, I have ascended out of the underworld, a place of sensory and psychic overload, in order to find a bit more clarity in my life.
On the boat ride down Tonle Sap Lake, I talked with a young British man called James. The conversation was curious as it seemed to avoid all the typical tourist talk of sights seen and places visited. Rather, we talked of purpose and meaning, relationships and projections, and psychology. Part of our talk centred on the work of Viktor Frankle and Martin Buber. The meeting was definitely one of those precious “I-Thou” moments. Parting was made without parting words as they weren’t needed. The ripples of the meeting will work their magic for both of us for a long time. Interesting. It was as if I have woken up again, just like the sun has risen again.
I took another set of hundreds of photos today and have trimmed the lot so that only three hundred photos remain from the day’s efforts. I then ended up selecting this photo taken a few days ago though there were a fair number that I had thought would be used for today’s post while taking them. This photo was what was needed for me today so I decided to honour the pull to it and present it here. It’s a simple photo not too unlike a mandala to my mind. The image isn’t symmetrical or balanced, but it works. It wasn’t until the third viewing of the photo, after it was placed here in this post that I noticed the Buddhist swastika, a mandala unto itself, in the bottom right of the circle.
My original thought was of being on the inside, looking out – in the dark, looking toward the light with a yearning. And what was to be found in the light wasn’t in focus, couldn’t be objectified and so kept its numinous quality, its mystery. As I peer through the barriers of my ego and filters, I can only see these barriers clearly. I know that I have to take these dark lines, these projected pieces back into my self if I am to attain the light.
I begin to wonder if perhaps this is a call for me to once again turn to meditation. I wonder but know that I will wait, hold the tension to see what else pulls me before committing to a turn in the road that is my journey of individuation.