Archive for the ‘shadows’ tag
Looking out my apartment window here in China I do get to see a different world than the world that appears through my window in my Canadian home. In today’s photo, a collector of cardboard has just picked up a load of spent fireworks’ boxes. There is rarely a day that goes by when there are no fireworks. Strangely, from my point of view, most of the fireworks occur during the daylight hours. The intention is different as is the intensity in comparison with the rare fireworks’ events I am familiar with in North America.
Trying to understand what is purpose of all the flash and noise here, I asked my university students about the reasons for the constant barrage which often makes one think that one is on a battlefield. Reasons were given that make sense: a new birth, a new business, a birthday, a new apartment, a marriage, a death. Anything that was viewed as a shift in the known world, a change, was marked by setting off fireworks and long strings of firecrackers.
Why? The best answer I can get is because of tradition. Reason has no role to play as the fireworks go up in noise and smoke. A layer of superstition lays buried underneath the modern veneer of the psyche. The noise is meant to frighten evil spirits leaving the way open and clear for good luck to rule in the affairs of men.
Thinking about it, I have to admit that I am not much different. I know that there are dark things waiting for an opportunity to make an appearance in my outer world and in the process make a mess of the illusions that I have crafted to be representative of the light aspects of myself. My persona is that of a kind and gentle man, one that is trusted and honourable. I am the teacher, trusted and valued. I work hard to maintain the illusion, to restrain the shadows that would deny the exclusivity of saintly Robert. I know that I can’t totally control these shadows, the ancient and primal darkness of man, so I seek quiet moments in privacy to acknowledge these shadows.
Denying the darkness didn’t work for me in the past. The more noise I made, the louder I protested their presence, the more they found a way to disgrace my presence among others. Now, the pressure has lessened as I have given up on trying to distract these shadows within with flash and noise. Now, I honor the shadows with an acknowledgement of their presence, of their being. I am both saint and sinner.
I likely have hundreds of photos taken at Tianning Temple in ChangZhou. Why I decided to take yet another photo is a mystery. Perhaps it was the light, the sunlight that had decided to reappear and led me to spend the afternoon in the park beside the temple. As I walked along the edge of the temple grounds towards the park, I saw this photo and decided it just had to go into my collection. It had to do with the lines and the colours, and with the small shadowed tunnel between the wall, the road and the trees.
The weight of the wall almost makes this a throw-away photo. Though the temple wall is bright yellow, in this scene, it is almost oppressive. The faint bit of white light which holds the image of a person that is found at the bottom right, only adds to the sense of heaviness.
Okay, this is too much (and a bit comical at the same time)! I just took a break from writing up this post as my eyes couldn’t stay open though it was early afternoon here. I found my own body resisting alertness and engagement and ended up taking a nap, something I never do. Both body and mind refused to work with the image in a way that I normally find relatively easy. So, I have decided to listen to both mind and body and just let it be for now; until the next post.
This photo was taken at Angkor Wat. I have to admit that I went trigger crazy with the camera while wandering through the Angkor Wat complex of buildings and grounds. So many images, scenes, shadows, and all of these left me in a state of wonder. For a moment, I felt a connection with something deeper, more intense. I guess one could almost call it a spiritual feeling. Okay, I can almost here the questions coming – what do I mean by a “spiritual” feeling? Thanks to one of my readers, I have a pdf document written by John Dourley, a Jungian analyst and Catholic priest who lives and works in Ottawa, Canada. I will draw on Dourley’s words to help wrestle with the term spiritual. This is not the first time I have tried to wrestle with spiritualism, nor the first time I have borrowed from Dourley’s work. I will include the document for your reading if you have the interest by placing it here: The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality, 2006.
“Spirituality is a term that is currently coming into ever more prominent use. It is also a term that is taking on a wide range of meanings. In its narrower sense it describes the spiritual discipline and practice of a given tradition. One can speak of a Hindu or a Buddist or a Christian spirituality. In contemporary usage spirituality has taken on another and wider meaning. It has come to describe a religious consciousness and discipline entirely free of a relation to any religious institution.” (Dourley, “The Foundational Elements of a Jungian Spirituality,” 2006.)
I have to admit that I originally took the narrower meaning in my youth and early adulthood, a meaning that grew out of Catholicism. I “felt” awe when entering into a cathedral, a sense that was physical as well as of the psyche. Even when the belief in the church had evaporated the spiritual sense was still present.
I remember when I was forty something years old and found myself entering into a cathedral in Avignon, France one evening while there was an Easter service in progress, how the presence of something that was bigger than the cathedral was sensed by my self. Today I don’t discount the feeling or my understanding of it. Rather, I have only expanded my understanding of that awareness of the spiritual, a spirituality that has a “wider meaning” as Dourley defines it. Spirituality has grown within me as I become more and more conscious of my own being. That consciousness of self is framed in a consciousness of other and dim edge of consciousness that embraces self and other.
I find that in my journey through life, as I walk my path that takes me through shadows and light somewhat like this corridor in the temple complex at Angkor Wat, I pass through and beside darkened doorways that reveal mysteries when I am ready for the revelations. As I wandered through Angkor Wat, I felt the pulse of what I can only understand to be the source of my spiritual self, a pulse that I know is bigger than my limited sense of self, something that includes all life, and everything else, all possibilities as well as all realities.
I love taking photos in nature, about nature. For example, this photo shows a new pine cone as well as an old pine cone attached to the branches of the tree. And behind the bright greens are dark shadows as the branches filter out sunlight. The intensity of the green colour changes with the presence of sunlight. In the shadows, the green becomes closer to black, a more sombre colour. Nature celebrates both darkness and light and acts as a living reminder that life is a balance of both darkness and light. This is a lesson we rarely take to heart. Instead, we become “complexed” as we struggle with both darkness and light. And our psyche keeps pushing us to become more balanced whether we do so consciously or unconsciously. When we resist the intentionality for balance, trouble begins and it is left to the unconscious.
“. . . complexes interfere with intentionality, and they often trip up the best laid plans of noble and base individuals and groups alike. One wants to offer a compliment and instead comes out with an insult. One does one’s best to put an injury to one’s self-esteem behind one and forget it, only to ind that one has inadvertently paid back the insult with interest. The law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth seems to remain in control despite our best conscious efforts and intentions.” (Stein, Jung on Evil, p.3)
The shadow, the darkness within finds an out when consciousness is weak. With a breakdown in the psyche, that expression of shadow and darkness is left to run amok and often results in acts and attitudes that are best described as evil. The fear of darkness is a fear of evil. The dark shadows of a forest are thought to hide evil, an evil that is really located within. Being blind to our own shadow has us become victims of what we perceive is the evil of others.
To have this lack of consciousness become the basis for a “collective consciousness” where we are hell bent on punishing and imprisoning and even killing those who are own projected shadow is an invitation to collective evil. So how does one escape the darkness of the collective, one’s home culture, one’s home family? I think one has to become an individual and suffer being pushed out of family, culture and community on some level. The hope is that in daring to be an individual and not become a victim, one can be a beacon of light for others who would then dare to chose consciousness.
There is obviously some male – female energy in operation here. This great-tailed grackle is busy courting his smaller lady-love. Notice how she is pretending not to be tuned into his display of puffed-up ego. I am getting to see a lot of this type of bird behaviour lately whether it is doves or flycatchers or kiskadees. The behaviour of birds aside, the photo provides a “human” quality for me. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up a scene in which people have been bewitched and find themselves under a spell. The photo begs the question, “How can we get out of this state and get back home the way we are supposed to be?” Okay, so I am “projecting” a lot onto this photo. But, perhaps that is not be unexpected. Let’s see where it leads . . .
Everything unknown and empty is filled with psychological projection; it is as if the investigator’s own psychic background were mirrored in the darkness. What he sees in matter, or thinks he can see, is chiefly the data of his own unconsciousness which he is projecting into it. In other words, he encounters in matter, as apparently belonging to it, certain qualities and potential meanings of whose psychic nature he is entirely unconscious. This is particularly true of classical alchemy, where empirical science and mystical philosophy were more or less undifferentiated. (Jung, CW 12, par 332)
Alchemy is thus not really about changing lead into gold, but more about moving from the darkness of the unknown to consciousness. Loosely translated, one changes their personality by facing the shadows and complexes that roam the dark inner spaces.
In the darkness of anything external to me I find, without recognizing it as such, an interior or psychic life that is my own. (ibid, par 346)
So, that takes me back to the photo and what I have projected on it, on the birds in the photo. So, what is this saying about me? What message is my shadow trying to bring to my awareness? Is this about relationship to my partner? Or, is it about my courting a relationship with yet another face of anima that is hidden within? Somehow, I know that is not about another person, that is fully about what is happening within me. The blackness of the bird tells me even more information, that this is indeed about shadow. I will talk more about alchemy in my next post or two. Right now, I have enough to chew on, to think about.
This photo was taken in Changzhou, the city that was home for two years. This canal was only a few short blocks off the junction of two main streets in the downtown area. The coned buds on the tree to the left side are large brilliant mauve flowers in the spring. It was simply amazing to me how the most modern buildings, upscale shopping area and huge shopping crowds could be bordered in just two blocks by this scene which dates back significantly in time, to reveal a different face for China.
This is pretty much the same story, when I think about it, for me. I have a certain polish when I get dressed up. I show my age, but it is not a dated age. It is more a modern maturity that “fits” with modern society. My mask and persona work well and all is well in terms of being at one with the collective.
But, if I retreat even just a little bit, just enough to get a bit of perspective, I see something else about myself. I see that the mask is simply a mask. Under that mask there is a curious combination of light and dark, of shadows and mystery, of exposed warts and wrinkles. And running through this self beneath the mask is an unconsciousness that looks like it might be gentle an peaceful, but in truth is a dangerous place.
Below that peaceful reflective surface … Well, it is all unknown … and often one is right in fearing the unknown … encourage that unknown into the conscious self and all becomes forever changed … and the fear that the ego will be overpowered, possessed …
As I was walking along the sidewalk upon the return from a longer walk in the countryside, this little bird was huddling in the protection of the tree, closer to the calm centre. Often, we do the same thing, we retreat from the buffeting winds of the outer world for the presumed safety of the shadows. Do we necessarily know what we are really doing when we do this, or is it just an instinctual respone?
Robert Johnson has an interesting point of view:
When we experience inexplicable conflicts that we can’t resolve; when we become aware of urges in ourselves that seem irrational, primitive or destructive; when a neurosis afflicts us because of our conscious attitudes are at odds with our instinctual selves – then we begin to realize that the unconscious is playing a role in our lives and we need to face it. (Johnson, Inner Work, 1986, p. 5)
I found this quote which I had highlighted in my copy of this book this morning, the first thing that caught my eye. Synchronicity? Perhaps. Why do I suggest synchronicity? Well, if you have been following the posts and the comments, you will have found that some of my posts are in response to the comments. I had no intention of deliberately responding to one of the latest comments through a post, but it somehow began to emerge. First, the photo. Retreat into a safe place, an assumed safe place. Only, it isn’t so safe at all as in this shadow zone, one is not alone at all. The ghosts, shadows and memories crowd into this safe place making it seem more a prison than a safe container.
Waking up to the unconscious is something can disable the psyche, especially if one is not also strong in the outer world. The best strategy when in this position is to find a guide. Of course, I am biased and would suggest that one find a qualified, certified Jungian analyst. Why? Well, this allows one to remain in charge and not become an obedient follower. In my opinion, this is the best and safest route to take when attempting to become a whole person, a healed person with a healed soul.
This will be the last of the badland photo series that I will post here for the present. I particularly enjoyed this photo with its folds and shadows and crevices that hint at something much bigger. It is all in one’s point of view, I admit. That said, that is particularly what this blog site is about – photos viewed through a Jungian Lens.
This blog site is a map through the razor’s edge between my conscious state of awareness and the personal and collective shadow. Since I can’t truly speak of unconsciousness, simply because it is unconsciousness, I can balance on the edges of it, perhaps catching fleeting ghostly images, such as one finds in one’s dreams. Photography then becomes a form of active imagination, a tool to approach those edges of unconsciousness. Every so often, I sense an “ah-ha” moment where something has shifted from unconscious to consciousness, something that was ready to be noticed. All of this is directed towards meaning, creating and finding meaning in my life.
Daryl Sharp, a Canadian Jungian analyst, publisher and author talks about how the search for meaning becomes an imperative vocation in the second half of life:
Simply and naturally, by the virtue of the work on yourself, you are a magnet for those whose souls long for life. Granted, this is not your problem, but you do have to own up to the person you’ve become. Who you are, whether you will or no, has an inductive effect on others. To my mind this is all to the good, for if enough individuals become more conscious, why then the collective will too and life on this earth will go on. (Sharp, Who Am I, Really?, 1995, p. 66)
And this in part explains why this blog is open for others to read, for you to read. Perhaps my struggles, my thinking out loud, my questions; perhaps all of this is some way effects you in a positive way.
The second photo in the series of photos taken in the 1970s. This scene is also located at the university, actually in front of the College of Education where I completed both my B.Ed. and my Masters program. I began teaching in 1974 after completing just two years of the Bachelor degree with what was then called a Standard A teaching certificate. Life was different then as there was not the problem of too many wanting to be teachers. The pay wasn’t worth it. If one decided to become a teacher it meant basically that one actually “wanted” to be a teacher or else one liked books and didn’t know what else to do.
I wanted to be a teacher. Why? I guess being born with an old soul and finding myself being a caretaker of my brothers and sisters were partly responsible for that orientation.
But, I think that there was/is something deeper that calls to me, directs me. I am a gypsy, always seeking something new, someplace new, always curious about what is hidden over the next horizon or in the shadows. And as I wander, I find myself trying to place that which I find in some sort of context with the world I know. And I share all of this, even though most times no one is interested or is even present. As a teacher, I had a ready audience. As I discovered, I taught. As I taught, I learned more. Here was a profession that allowed me to continue wandering through books, trying out discovered ideas, even allowing me to invent ideas and try them out.
Now that I am retired, life hasn’t really changed. I still read, search, wander and wonder.
This photo was taken on the evening of the Lantern Festival, the last event of the Spring Festival in China. Since the event is tied to the full moon, that date shifts every year. That evening, I watched as many sent off paper lanterns into the sky from the Buddhist temple that stood at the side of the park in which I was standing to take this photo. The lanterns were like small hotair ballons which were powered by a flame in a small box which made the lantern glow in the dark night sky. Each lantern is sent to the heavens with a prayer written within. The year before this photo, I stood on the edge of the South China Sea and sent a lantern free into the night sky.
I guess I could say that this sending of a prayer into the night during a full moon is symbolic. For me, the moon is representative of anima, that distant feminine aspect that is found within the deep and dark underworld of unconsciousness, in shadow country. I choose to enter into this region of shadows, ghosts and relics in hope of finding hope and meaning. I know that there is something deeper within, something deeper without that is waiting to be born, to be reborn in consciousness.
Something in us knows much more than the ego does, and in time the ego may learn to enlarge its frame to include this other wisdom. This is how one benefits from the compensatory power of the unconscious as it seeks to enlarge the narrow frame of consciousness. (James Hollis, On This Journey We Call Life, 2003, p. 54)