Archive for the ‘separation’ 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.
Today I have another rose photo, this time taken in Hong Mei Park yesterday. As I mentioned yesterday, the rose has a special significance to me because of my wife. While taking many rose photos yesterday, a good number of the photos had her in company with them. As much as I talk about the central relationship being with the self, it is impossible to come to grips with that primal and primary relationship without first engaging in relationship with an “other.” I don’t want to limit this “other” to a contrasexual definition as it isn’t so simple. Human psychology is never simple.
Each of us falls in love at some point. If we are lucky, the someone with whom we fall in love, reciprocates the same feeling thus allowing a relationship based on this initial impulse to love. In my case, it was love at first sight for both of us. If one only thinks about it for even a small moment, this doesn’t make any rational sense. How can two complete strangers fall in love simply by seeing the other person? What does one see in this circumstance? Certainly not the person. Jung calls it projection. Some others call it magic or fate. Regardless of what one calls it, the result is a marriage of two individuals. And by marriage, I mean a consensual agreement to live in a loving relationship with this significant other person, not necessarily legal arrangement. Whether or not the two lovers sign documents, the consensual agreement gives birth to a marriage.
It doesn’t take long to discover that this person with whom you have fallen in love and with whom you have engaged in marriage is a stranger, a mystery person. Reality has a way of forcing one to question who this “other” person really is. At that moment, a moment of psychic separation, one becomes a bit more conscious, not only of the other, but of one’s self. Interactions with this significant other leads to a constantly shifting sense of self, a deepening of self-awareness. Where this gaining of self-awareness is stalled, in situations where one remains entranced with the myth of the other not allowing the other to be human. Each gain is achieved only through the loss of an aspect of the original fiction – yet that loss doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of the other person, just a loss of a projection. A marriage can survive becoming conscious with the creation of a new relationship. Again, I want to bring a few words from James Hollis:
“the quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves.” (Hollis, Eden Project, p. 13)
Know thyself and one can get to know the real person that one loves. It comes back to our desire to love, to be loved – especially for who we are, who we really are, warts and all. And when the passion dies, life seems to somehow shrivel and we shrivel within ourselves. And now, for a few final words for today’s post from Gao XingJian:
“you regret not chasing after her, you regret your lack of courage . . you regret losing the opportunity. . . You don’t even know how to go about starting a romance, you’re so weak you’ve lost your manliness, you’ve lost the ability to take the initiative. Afterwards, however, you decide to go to the riverside to try your luck.
. . .
Only you are left sitting in the pavilion, like an idiot, pretending to wait for an appointment which wasn’t made, with a woman who came and vanished, just as if you’re daydreaming. Could it be that you’re bored, that you’re fed up with your monotonous life devoid of passion and excitement and that you want to live again, to experience life itself again?” (Gao XingJian, Soul Mountain, p. 41)
As I began yesterday, so I continue today – with relationship. And as with yesterday, I want to continue with a focus on one’s relationship with one’s self. As a parent, I watched my children grow from newborns. I saw them as fully unconscious and saw them begin to meet the world, and themselves. Perhaps the biggest discovery made is that the self is separate from the rest of the world – separate from the mother and father that on the other side of sight. I’ve watched as toes and fingers were discovered and then used as tools to discover more of the world. The learning curve is steep and takes quite a few years before there is some comfort with the fact that self is separate and safe in that separation.
The approach of self awareness and self consciousness precipitates another journey where there is a search for meaning, trying to make some sense of one’s existence, a search for being happy to be oneself. I may have been one of the slower ones in this regard as this part of my journey didn’t start until I was seventeen years old. I admit that flashes of this upcoming journey were felt like speed bumps during my youth, but immersion into this stage of the journey waited until I was in my senior high school years. Hungry for some answers, I found that teachers and extended family members had no suggestions other than to pay attention in class or to engage in distracting activities. So I looked elsewhere for some answers – looked to dead philosophers, theologians and psychologists. I knew that someone else had to have the answers that I needed. Of course, no one did have the answers about who I was or why I was.
I was in community, in a family, in school with classmates and teachers, in a music group playing with a fierceness that was determined to define myself as an artist, as one of the group. Yet even in the little band of five, each of us were separated regardless of how many hours we practiced noisily or how many hours we drove around the streets of Ottawa as a way to pass some of the hours, or the hours hanging out in each other’s company between classes at school.
The band broke up, high school classes ended, I got a job and the world that I had come to know disappeared. Though we promised to keep in touch, the relationships with others came to an end and again I was alone with my self, still a stranger to my self. I don’t know if any of us ever get over finding that regardless of how many friends or family members, one ends up alone in the crowd, somehow unable to bridge the distance between self and other. As I looked at these seniors sitting outside a senior residence in XiTang, not too far from the entrance into the restored ancient part of the city, I can’t help but wonder if they are sitting alone with themselves in spite of the others sitting near them.
This photo taken in XiTang was meant to capture a sense of magic, a sense of the Garden of Eden, of romance and the mystery of an ancient culture. I didn’t know at the time that it would find its way here, but most of my posted photos are taken for other reasons even if most of those reasons are unconscious.
With this photo and this post, I am returning to a theme I often visit, that of relationship. I am not an expert in relationships though I am engaged in being in relationship to my wife, a relationship that is approaching its fortieth year. I am approaching this theme through the work of James Hollis as explored in his book, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other. I make no promises on how long I will stick with this theme. All I can tell you is that the “magical other” that I am in search of is one that is found within myself. I hope that in wandering again through this book I find a few more trails within that will allow me to build a stronger relationship with my “Self” in order to be a better participant in my outer world relationships with others.
But of course, in searching within, I find that I must look at my “self” as expressed in the outer world, in the relationships with others – parents, friends, siblings, children, enemies, colleagues, students, and with my life partner. It all starts with “me.”
When I am honest with myself, I am alone, separate, distanced from everyone and everything. I am even separate from most of what I could consider to be myself. Awareness came slowly, awareness that I actually existed as a separate being. And when the awareness of my own being arrived, I found myself immediately alone in my head. At that moment, I began working to somehow reconnect, to go back to where I had come from before finding myself alone. But of course, before this moment of realisation, “I” didn’t really consciously. In a manner, I was born “separated” from all others.
With time and effort I learned to connect tenuously with others, with a mother and father who were confused in their own roles as parents, as lovers. I knew early that these two individuals struggled with themselves and couldn’t be there for me – I was locked in my head and they were out of reach. The dawn of consciousness within me caused a separation between parent and child. And so a new relationship was born because of that separation. The awareness of “self” and the existence of “other” and the separateness of both was the source of my first experience of relationship.
“Je pense, donc je suis” better known as “I think, therefore I am” “Cogito ergo sum” are words that are relatively famous, words spoken by René Decartes in 1637 about the time my ancestors were making their way to New France (Canada). This is the only truth any of us really knows, the fact of our own personal beingness. It is only through an emerging personal consciousness of “self” that the world and “otherness” begins to take shape. As one thinks the relationship to otherness expands and becomes: “I think, therefore I am, therefore you are, therefore God exists.” Without consciousness, there is nothing else.
“Incarnation thus understood becomes an alternate description of what Jung means by “the relativity of God” (Jung, 1921, pp. 242–244; 1954, p. 381). Put succinctly, Jung is contending that only in human consciousness can God become self-conscious and so relativized, at least, in relation to a God conceived as an absolute and transcendent self-sufficient divinity “wholly other” than the human (Jung, 1953, p. 11, n. 6). The “relativity of God,” thus understood, also provides the deepest meaning of human suffering. Relativization implies that divinity must divest itself of its transcendent remove and suffer in historical humanity the resolution of its unresolved eternally conflicted life. It is no wonder that Jung (1954) would write that “God wants to become man but not quite” (p. 456). Even for deity things were less painful in eternal but unconscious bliss. With the realization that the pain of becoming conscious is the same pain in the human and the divine, humanity has to face the fact that its deepest historical meaning and suffering is the redemption of God at the insistence of a God who creates human consciousness as the only locus in which the divine self-contradiction can be perceived and resolved.” (Dourley, “Jung and the Recall of the Gods”, Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2006, pp 47-48)
This is actually quite an understatement for any conscious human (is there any other kind?). It seems the more we become aware, the more we suffer. This is why there is a real belief in the expression “ignorance is bliss.” I have often read the bible as well as a number of other books on religious thought, as well as listening and reading about other stories of creation. In each of these it is consciousness that marks the beginning of relationship, especially the relationship with self. Without consciousness, one “is” without awareness of self. In discovery of self, one then is able to discover others, an act of separation. Before consciousness, there is no separation between self and other, all just is. And this includes whatever it is that we call the Divine. The Divine, God, self and other – all enmeshed without consciousness. Too much here to think about, to wonder about for a small post. Perhaps more deserves to be said later.
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Bible, Genesis 1)
The beginning – a darkness, a formless void – unconsciousness. And then there was light – a separation from the darkness – consciousness. The beginning begins with the dawn of consciousness. Think about it for a while. If not, this was not the beginning at all. How do we account for the creation of darkness, what came before consciousness? From whence this entity called God?
A beautiful wildflower in a ditch along the side of a highway in southern Saskatchewan, near a town called Rouleau … In the background you can see the blue flowers of flax plants. I had stopped originally to take a photo of my wife surrounded by the blue flowers, so finding this extra photo was a bonus. Taking photos of my wife with flowers has been standard operating procedure no matter where in the world we find ourselves. She is definitely in tune with Gaia, mother earth.
I’m going to continue following the idea of relationship, an idea that is at the heart of Hollis’ book, The Eden Project. This is probably the hardest topic to approach, for like all ideas, all that can be said often points back to the speaker rather than to the ideas themselves. It’s a risk, trying to uncover ideas, but so is getting up in the morning (poor attempt at humour, I know). Why do I even attempt this? Perhaps in the process of digging out ideas and listening for resonances, both you, my reader, and I will be able to come to know “self” a little better. If not,at least the thinking exercise will have been worth the time spent.
I have to admit that this topic has been of interest for as long as I can remember. Every Jungian analyst and writer that I can think of spends a lot of energy in dealing with the topic. All agree with one basic notion, that every relationship in which a person becomes engaged, is based on projections. Within each of us, images are buried deep within, images which act as templates, so to speak. As we meet people, especially people who trigger the templates, we sense that we know something about them. Some we “instinctively” know are good, are evil, are … the list goes on. When no template is triggered, we bypass the person in question, or if circumstances allow, engage them in polite conversation before taking our leave. This momentary meeting doesn’t have a “charged” feeling tone, and as such in a meeting in which projections are not present.
A bit about projections are in order, I think. First, we NEVER know that we are casting projections as they are from the unconscious. If we knew, then there would be no projection for “knowing” is consciousness. Perhaps in quoting Hollis, it can be better understoond:
All projection occurs unconsciously, of course, for the moment one observes, “I have made a projection,” one is already in the process of taking it back. More commonly, we only begin to reclaim our purchase on consciousness when the Other fails to catch, hold, our projection. If there is a central law of the psyche, it is that what is unconscious will be projected. (Hollis, page 35)
Hollis goes on to talk about two basic and universal fantasies held by humans, that of immortality and of the Magical Other. The Magical Other is a belief in the idea that there is some special someone out there that “completes” us, heals us, holds us, protects us. In a way, the magical other is about an unconscious pull back into the Garden of Eden or the womb, the time before consciousness, the time before pain and separation. Our internal template image of this Magical Other has been formed around a parental image constructed by each of us in infancy and early childhood. Of course, since there was very little conscious activity involved based on each of us at that stage having little in the way of consciousness, the templates are charged with feelings of survival.
“Nothing has greater power over our lives than the hint, the promise, the intimation, of the recovery of Eden through that Magical Other.” (Hollis, p. 50)
This is what is enacted when one “falls in love.” Think about all that is said about love and falling in love. How is it how, after years of being in a relationship, one wakes up one day and says, “Who is this stranger beside me?”