Archive for the ‘unconsciousness’ tag
I went back two months into my archives to find this photo which I took in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Why this particular photo? I guess, it was the first to catch my eye. There is no “plan” as far as today’s post is concerned. For a while, I didn’t even know if I would write a post. Today is a sunny day with the temperature finally climbing into a very comfortable range which lead to a long walk in the early afternoon. The morning was spent trying to keep up on the tragedies that are unfolding all around the world with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan heading the list. With all of this happening, I just couldn’t seem to find the “will” to write as I usually do. However, now in the late afternoon, I find that the words are beginning to come. Trusting to instinct, I have decided that I will post today. In a way the photo sort of helps explain how it feels to be coming out of a tunnel and looking at the sunshine promised in the distance.
The unrest in Northern Africa, the conflict in Afghanistan, the tensions in so many places and the unsettled planet making its own set of statements through earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and storms. It makes me think of how one is often left feeling powerless when the inner storms begin their assaults that are chaotic. When the psyche decides enough is enough, one is shocked by eruptions of the unconscious.
I turned to Jung’s works for some words that might make a difference in feeling less “at sea” with all that is going on. Strangely enough, I found something in volume 11 in a an essay on the concept of “quaternity” that seemed to fit with what I am experiencing/feeling. I have often written about typology, about the two rational functions and the two irrational functions with the dominant function being opposed by an inferior function. In the essay, Jung looks at the role of the inferior function in a way that helps me understand a bit more.
“Three of the four orienting functions are available to consciousness. This is confirmed by the psychological experience that a rational type, for instance, whose superior function is thinking, has at his disposal one or two possible auxiliary functions of an irrational nature, namely sensation (the “fonction dy réel”) and intuition (perception via the unconscious). His inferior function will be feeling (valuation), which remains in a retarded state and is contaminated with the unconscious. It refuses to come along with the others and often goes wildly off on its own. This peculiar dissociation is, it seems, a product of civilization, and it denotes a freeing of consciousness from any excessive attachment to the “spirit of gravity.” (Jung, CW 11, par. 245)
The missing fourth function erupts and does its own thing, unchecked by the superior function that is blind to the inferior function. Why do I think this is relevant? I think back to how other cultures, and animals have been in tune with the planet and seemed to “know” in advance the approach of events such as earthquakes. Such events take us by surprise and seem to come out of nowhere. But, our inferior function lost in the sea of unconsciousness to our purposes is not really lost. All really isn’t in a state of chaos.
It takes a lot of patience with ourselves as we do the work of rediscovery of the inferior function, trusting that the dark and unknown regions are not really just a personal version of a chaotic and dark hell. There is light in this darkness as well. And as in this photo, we can learn to navigate into and out of the shadow and feel less of a victim.
I stopped at Hoi Van Pass en route to Hue from Da Nang this morning. There is no question in my mind that the clouds and darkness of the morning well suited the scene that met my eyes and heart. This image shows one of the defensive emplacements used by the forces of “good” versus the forces of “evil,” at least as it was experienced by those who manned this and similar bunkers during the Vietnam War, or as it is called in Vietnam, the American War. Seeing the terrain, I could almost feel the terror and the fear that must have been experienced by those waiting for the enemy, an enemy that didn’t want to play by the same rules of war.
“With no human consciousness to reflect themselves in, good and evil simply happen, or rather, there is no good and evil, but only a sequence of neutral events . . . ” (Jung, cited in Jung on Evil, p. 7)
Both sides seeing the other as enemy, as forces of evil. Both sides following orders trusting in their leadership. Both sides fighting with their god(s) on their side. There is no room for consciousness in a war.
Taken on an individual level, this image becomes more about how an single person feels surrounded by enemies, surrounded by the vast unknown that is, for the most part, out to get you. Each of us gains just enough consciousness to know that death lies around some corner in our future. We grasp at anything or anyone who promises us life. We huddle in collectives rather than venture into the dark unknown regions. We make ourselves victims of our own fear. And so, we remain unconscious of our own acts of unconscious, acts where we hurt others and hurt ourselves.
Sometimes light allows for interesting images – well, I have to restate that – always, light allows us to have interesting images. Light is the what allows the dark stuff to take shape and become “interesting” and useful. For example, if one came upon the barbed wire in the darkness, then the barbed wire would become an evil force that would either pierce or trip one – a foe. Yet, if one came upon the same barbed wire in the daytime, the sharp points become warnings rather than threats. Light changes one’s perspective.
Consciousness does the same thing. As children we are told about bogeymen, and all manner of things that are meant to keep us in check, to keep us somewhat safer in a world that is perceived as unsafe. As we become more aware of the dangers, more aware of the nature of the world, we let go of the projections. Yet knowing that this is a natural way to move from unconsciousness towards consciousness, we don’t seem to learn from our own lessons. We continue to hold to projections that don’t stand up to scrutiny. We hold to partisan politics, to fundamentalism, to enemies that are almost faceless and deny evidence that would tell us that our projections are not in fact reality. We build barbed wire enclosures to keep out the adult bogeymen only to find that we have not kept out the darkness, but that we have imprisoned ourselves with the very protective barriers that we have built.
As usual, it is hard to pass by another iguana when walking with the camera. For me it was interesting to see how this iguana found in a tree was more intent on “going to ground” even though it was warm and sunny. Usually I see these iguanas making a place for themselves as close to the sun as possible so that they could bask in the warmth of that sun. And when the heat of the sun fades, the iguana heads back into the bowels of the earth in order to find warmth, a warmth of both the earth itself as well as that warmth which has been captured from the sun, stored in the darkness beneath.
I don’t think I am much different from an iguana at this point of my life. In the daylight I seek to capture as much sunlight and warmth as possible, a warmth that is reflected in my darkening skin. At night I retreat into an underworld, the world of dreams.
Night and day, consciousness and unconsciousness, soul and spirit, body and mind. These things are at the centre of my universe for the moment. I have no interest in the outer world for the most part at this time. The world is too chaotic with too much upheaval evident in society as well as with the planet itself. Does the planet’s condition reflect itself in the psyche of the collective? Or, is it the other way around?
“Great innovations never come from above; they come invariably from below, just as trees never grow from the sky downward, but upward from the earth. The upheaval of our world and the upheaval of our consciousness are one and the same. Everything has become relative and therefore doubtful.” (Jung, The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man, Modern Man in Search of Soul, 1933)
There is little doubt in my mind that the arrival of midlife and the crises I faced in terms of identity, value, soul and relationships were upheavals that not only rocked my world but also the world of my family, my students and my community. Of course in the descent to the depths of my personal underworld I encountered all the sins visited upon me as well as those of my own commission. I needed to come face-to-face with these things that shamed me. One of the curious outcomes of this time of crisis was a flowering of sorts of my presence in the outer world of the community. I was able to contribute to two books in the field of second-language education, was elected to serve on the provincial executive for French Language Instruction as well as the Guidance and Counselling Association. I also managed to complete my Masters in Education. On the sidelines I painted, wrote poetry and owned and co-managed a Jungian On-line discussion group. Who said that crisis meant retreat? I do give credit to all of this to the opening of the gates which had been holding the unconscious contents at bay.
I didn’t become famous in any way, but I did become more present and active with the upheaval of the personal unconscious. Somehow I don’t think it always turns out well. I was lucky that I had some understanding of the human psyche at least an intellectual understanding. When the dam broke and the shit-filled contents started to swirl around, I was able to grab a few lifelines and point myself in the right direction. One of my brothers wasn’t so fortunate. When the dam broke for him, he broke.
Knowing that there is a collective psyche as well as a personal psyche, it does offer some hope that out of the current upheavals that are plaguing most of the world, something will be born, some idea, some process, some collective will. And with this innovation, we can collectively begin to heal our world and our place in it. Yet, I am wary. My brother also points to another darker end. And then I wonder if the Mayan end of times and the end of times according to Revelations drawing near?
“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?
These two photos are separated by time. The photo of the sun was taken in January of this year and the photo of the moon was taken in July, 2008 with my older camera which has since been passed down to one of my children. Of the many photos taken of both sun and moon, these are the two that have the greatest alchemical feel for me, the greatest pull to the inner world in which I can travel in search of a stronger sense of self, of a fuller consciousness.
Consciousness requires as its necessary counterpart a dark, latent non-manifest side, the unconscious, whose presence can be known only by the light of consciousness. Just as the day-star rises out of the nocturnal sea, so, ontogenetically and phylogenetically, consciousness is born of unconsciousness and sinks back every night to this primal condition. This duality of our psychic life is the prototype and archetype of the Sol-Luna symbolism. So much did the alchemist sense the duality of his unconscious assumptions that, in the face of all astronomical evidence, he equipped the sun with a shadow. (Jung, CW 14 par 117)
You can see the descent of the sun (Sol) into the sea of unconsciousness, the realm of darkness in which the moon (Luna) can be seen, only because of the reflected light of an apparent absent sun. This descent into darkness is found as a descent into unconsciousness on a personal level where I drift from the state of being awake and conscious of life around and in me, into a state of sleep where my consciousness is set aside so that the unconscious can do its essential work so that the psyche, my psyche, can attain some semblance of balance. It is through dreams that the unconscious communicates in a manner that is like walking through a hall of mirrors that distort the reflections of the unconscious contents as to be confronted directly with the unconscious contents would likely result in madness, my madness. But then again, perhaps all is madness in its own way.
Moments before dawn the moon descends behind the trees on a hill to the west. With the dawn and sunlight, the ghosts and presences that hint at evil are banished so that the good will rightfully claim its place in the light of day. As a child and in all the years since, the world has taught me that there is good and evil. Good wears white and evil wears black. Evil feeds at night while good celebrates in the sunshine. Think of the white knight versus the black night. Then I learned that what is called good and evil is just a view of the world. One’s position in the world provides us with different understandings of good and evil. Then I learned that the two aren’t really separate things, but polarities of the same thing.
One thing that highlights this good and evil as a perspective is found in the world of religion. Each religion, by definition, sees is theology, its belief system based on good. The value of the religion is as serving as a guide to living and being good. The value of the church is found in its providing a place of temenos, a place of sacred safety for the soul of its people. Knowing this, that each religion is based on these basic principles, why do we have these “good” religions go to war against each other? Why is the “other” religion seen as being the holder of “evil?” Why? I think it has to do with seeing the world in black and white – “Either we are right, we are good, we are going in the direction of heaven, or else we are wrong and heading straight to hell.”
Again, it is the classic situation of projection. only this time it is a collective projection. Withdraw the projections and everyone becomes ordinary with ordinary needs, living in patterns that transcend local place and time.
And for me? Well, there is good and evil, of this I have no doubt. But, both are hosted in my full self. My conscious self is seen, for the most part as good and aware that I am able to be even better if …
And then there is my shadow. The more I deny this shadow, the more damage I do to myself and others, the more that darkness, unconsciousness, controls and guides. I am aware that I have a shadow, a heart of darkness buried deep within. Being aware of that shadow and acknowledging its rightful place seems to lessen the pressure. The shadow becomes less of a shadow, less of a chaotic negative force in my outer life.
While this happens, I give up the need to be saintly. I know that I am neither a saint nor a demon. I move beyond good and evil into a place of balance weighted down with both the dark and the light as I journey through life.
I was fortunate enough to get this photo of a father and his son in the surf. When I find people with my lens, I wonder what kind of people they are. Of course, it is too hard to tell from observation only, especially limited observation as in passing these people by while walking or any other mode of movement.
In the early morning, I go for a jog on the beach with my wife. It has become a new habit, or should I say, a re-visited habit. I began running when I was a young teenager and only quit running in the 90s due to a number of circumstances such as heel spurs and midlife angst.
Returning back to this morning, while running I go into an inner space and almost lose track of my surroundings. Of course I am not so “zoned out” that I am unaware of logs or stones or people on the periphery of my senses. Still, I go to an inner place and my thoughts swarm almost as though there is no control. My head fills with thoughts of what I will write, how I am coping with the demands on my body, dreaming while awake. This is classic unscripted introversion.
And my wife, whom I have previously mentioned meets the world with an extraverted attitude, is running beside me. I am aware of her there and set a pace that isn’t too much, yet still asking a bit more from her as she builds her strength and endurance. She is tuned into the world around her. She notes all the sounds, the sights and the activities. I know that if someone else was running beside her there would likely be some conversation to fill in the silence.
To the extravert, in these circumstances, the introvert is in fairy land and not good company at all. So how does this get interpreted and understood by the extravert and the introvert? Well, the answer to that question isn’t really all that important. What is important is how each handles the “self” in relation to the “other” at times like this. And this, is an area of dealing with one’s shadow.
And now, a few words from Sharp:
Introversion and extraversion, as a typical attitude, indicates an essential bias that conditions one’s whole psychic process. The habitual mode of reaction determines not only the style of behavior, but also the quality of subjective experience. Moreover, it determines what is required in terms of compensation by the unconscious. Since either attitude is by itself one-sided, there would be a complete loss of psychic balance if there were no compensation by an unconscious counter position.
Hence alongside or behind the introvert’s usual way of functioning there is an unconscious extraverted attitude that automatically compensates the one-sidedness of consciousness. Similarily, the one-sided extraversion is balanced or modified by an unconscious introverted attitude. (Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book One, 2008, p. 71)
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.
This is one of my photos from India, taken in one of the circular mud, dung and stick homes that abound in the Rajasthan desert countryside. Small little openings such as this served as windows, limiting the amount of sunlight so that the house would stay cool, and limiting the amount of sand when winds race over the scrub desert country. This small brass holder reminded me of a pair of similar vessels that sit atop my TV which are often used as vases for smaller flowers. As it glowed, I sensed at its edges, a numinous aspect that took me deeper than was expected. And so, I took this photo.
This plain vessel evokes more than its simplicity in setting and workmanship would suggest. In a way, this becomes a holy chalice, a container for the soul. Though the interior of the hut was dark, light trying to peek through the darkness allowed the vessel to glow as though it was the keeper of a treasure.
It’s much the same with us. Our soul is illuminated by consciousness which peers into the darkness of the unconscious. In that darkness is found transformation; in that darkness is found shadows of forgotten and castoff aspects of who we were, who we are, who we could yet be. In that darkness we find a deeper connection that lets us know that we are more than self, that we are all part of a whole that embraces all the light and all the darkness; all that is and all that isn’t.
A lesson for myself, even the warts are worthy of being contained and honoured.