Archive for the ‘St. John of the Cross’ tag
Now to continue on from the last post . . . From Nigel Hamilton’s study, “The Alchemical Process of Transformation“:
“From a psychological standpoint, this stage is experienced as entering a dark and chaotic unconscious inner world. St John of the Cross has referred to this as the first of two dark nights, the dark night of the mind, which is an encounter with the darker aspects of our self (that which Jung called “the shadow”). At first nothing appears to make sense, indeed all the therapist can do at this stage of the process is to be fully present and empathise with the client, who in the process of articulating their experience, facilitates it further. The therapeutic setting, i.e. the therapy room, becomes the hermetically sealed vessel and the inner chaos that the client enters into is symbolised by the reactions of opposing forces struggling against each other. That is to say the client’s own psyche reveals its submerged inner conflicts to the conscious mind.
This is what I referred to in the last post, the establishing of a place of sacred safety, of temenos. During this part of the work, the “client” tells his or her story as it is known and sensed by the ego, the clothed self, This telling is vital and it is enough for the therapist to listen and support without trying to fix anything at this point.
As the client begins to experience the inner world to be more real, the process intensifies (the fire increases) and often anger, fear, frustration, and a desire to “escape from it all” is experienced. To pass through this stage requires patience, humility and acceptance not only of the client, but also of the therapist, who through experiences knows that a process of purification is in progress and that one by one the inner conflicts will gradually become resolved until a completely new inner state of clarity and freedom is achieved. Then the client will be reconciled with his or her inner earth nature - in alchemical terms they will have united with their “earth nature.”
The therapist tracks the appearance of complexes, contradictions, images and fears through the process of working with dreams, journaling, sand play, and other active imagination strategies. For the client, it almost feels that everything is getting worse as old sores are laid open, exposed to the light. It must be stated that the process doesn’t wait for all the shadows to be exposed. The shifting to the second stage, albedo begins when the therapist and client begin to tackle what has been exposed. Only so much darkness can be held at one time.
I took another photo of the full moon late yesterday evening. I went through a full range of settings in hopes of getting an image that I would actually like because of the weak light situation of late evening before darkness fully sets in. The photo reminded me of a song I used to sing, one made popular by Cat Stevens:
Moon Shadow - Cat Stevens
I’m being followed by a moon shadow
moon shadow-moon shadow
leaping and hopping on a moon shadow
moon shadow-moon shadow
and if I ever lose my hands
lose my plough, lose my land
oh, if I ever lose my hands
I won’t have to work no more
and if I ever lose my eyes
If my colours all run dry
yes, if I ever lose my eyes
oh well …
I won’t have to cry no more.
. . .
and if I ever lose my legs
I won’t moan and I won’t beg
oh if I ever lose my legs
I won’t have to walk no more
And if I ever lose my mouth
all my teeth, north and south
yes, if I ever lose my mouth
I won’t have to talk
Did it take long to find me
I ask the faithful light
Ooh did it take long to find me
And are you going to stay the night . . .
moon shadow – moon shadow
The moon does have shadows as well as reflected light. I know because my camera tells me this. And when I think of the moon as the feminine aspect of self, I think of both light and shadows, just as the sun as the masculine aspect of self is all about light and shadows. Listening to the song, I think somehow of St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz) and his song of joy to the night, and the light of the night. To me, this signifies a holy union of light and shadow, of soul and spirit, of masculine and feminine – all the polarities that exist within the self, those polarities that cause us so much grief and pain and suffering. C.G. Jung had it right when he counselled to hold the tension of the opposites until a new path emerged, one that didn’t lead to either pole, but to a state of being in which both are held with dignity.
A male Magnificent Cormorant sits on a mast of a small fishing boat called the Black Christ (Cristo Negro) in the harbour of Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico as evening gets ready to settle in. It’s a photo I took at the end of January of this year.
I struggled for quite some time today trying to find the words that I wanted to put here. A search through a number of volumes of Jung’s works didn’t yield anything that resonated. And so, I decided to simply speak as it “felt” for me. In the end, that is all any of us can ever do. the closest any of us can ever come to what might pass as the truth of who we are.
Black is about shadow, that much resonates loud and clear. However, all that is black isn’t evil. That is the hard part to get past sometimes. For the owner of this boat, obviously, the use of the word Christ is all about hope. So, why not have the two combine? This is where I jump from the scene of the photo to my personal realm of the underworld/inner-world.
Going through midlife, it is only when I dared to look at the edges of shadow country, staring into the fearsome blackness within that I finally began to sense hope, sense that I would emerge from that inner journey better than when I began that journey. The darkness and shadows yielded treasures about self, about personal strength and even validation of my “self.” Like the fisherman heading out into the ocean for the rich yields of the sea, I headed deep within the darkness, blind for the most part because of the darkness. I fought those sea monsters that assailed my sense of fear, my sense of inferiority and somehow, like the fisherman, found myself back in port, back in the outer world of consciousness. The journey had rewarded me with a bit more awareness of self and of the nature of the unconscious – a rich treasure. But more importantly, it renewed hope in something bigger than my ego. This is the promise of the Christ symbol.
There is hope if one does not fear the darkness so much that one flees from it. Rather, think of how San Juan de la Cruz (St. John of the Cross) embraced the dark night and found love, love that burned with its own light, a love that touched Christ. To embrace this, one must go under, one must sacrifice the “what is” for “what could be.” Or as I read in Jung’s works somewhere in words similar to these, “the good is the enemy of the better.”
I wonder what it is about fences? I found this one interesting as though there was an attempt to contain a part of the sky, to declare this part off limits. Life seems to be like that at times when we tell our spirits “this area is off limits. Stay out!”
Of course, I am as guilty as many others when I set limits on what I can and can’t do. Typically, it is about saying that I am smaller than I really am, saying that I have less worth than is real. I know I am not alone with this way of acknowledging self.
But then, when I look at the barbed wire of the fence, I think about the warning “to all who dare enter here.” Entering into this space will definitely be painful. Becoming too much “spirit” will cost the body its vitality. Becoming too much spirit will cost in terms of connection with others. This reminds me of St. John of the Cross and an assortment of monks of the middle ages who sought lives of purity, denying their very bodies for their grossness, burning with religious fervour entranced with the light.
I won’t deny body and its animalistic and instinctual needs, it messiness. The body is a work of art and deserves respect and good care. And in this one can go overboard as well, travelling the opposite track of the aesthetic monks, worshipping the body at the expense of the soul. It isn’t supposed to be either/or.
A second post for today, not because I missed yesterday, but simply to announce that my first eBook has been published as a PDF. Using the ISSUU service, the finished product is quite neat. This is the first of a series of such books. I will be doing a second book by the end of June, a book that will be at least twice the size with a minimum of thirty-five photos and an appropriate amount of text.
This book documents with photos, the Yucatecan estuary that is a swampland found within minutes of my winter villa. The book deals with the issue of midlife crisis, drawing on my experiences as well as the words of Jungians (including Jung) on the topic. I conclude the book with the words of “Dark Night of the Soul“, the poem of St. John of the Cross. I hope you enjoy reading and viewing the book.
I took this photo last night just after 10:00pm. I watched as the growing moon grow larger in the western sky as it made its descent toward the sea. As it got closer, the usual white began to change to a light golden yellow and then as captured in this photo, a burnished red gold as though a crescent as one would expect to find at the end of a staff of some deity out of our Greek or Egyptian past. At that moment I wished I had a better camera so as to be able to capture the light on the gentle waves of the sea. It wasn’t much longer and the moon had disappeared into the depths of the sea without making a ripple to mark her disappearance.
I have begun to put together an e-book called SWAMPLANDS: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL using MS Word which I will save as a PDF and then possibly publish it through an e-book service called ISSUU. The book is based on photographs taken in the salt marsh swamplands just minutes away from my villa. Besides the normal commentary that I typically place with photos, I am including St. John of the Cross’ poem, Dark Night of the Soul, both in its original Spanish and translated English. This book is a test run for a second book I will be creating before June 30th as part of SoFoBoMo. SoFoBoMo is short for Solo Photo Book Month.