Another Journey Begins

Well, another journey has already started, the journey into a new decade. In a few hours, a different journey will begin, a journey to Ecuador where I will be spending three months staying warm and enjoying sunshine while I write. The bags are packed and arrangements have been made with regards to the care of our home during our absence. Someone will keep our sidewalk cleared of snow, another person will take care of checking and emptying our mailbox at the post office. And the community will be vigilant to ensure no strangers are lurking nearby. This is all part of being in a small town on the prairies.

it begins

The physical journey is the easiest one for me to take. The much more difficult journey is the one that challenges me to risk changing and growing. At my age, one would think that I had arrived at a comfortable place where I could bask and enjoy the fruits of all my past heroic/psychological journeys. I am not as strong as I once was. My health is okay, not perfect, but my body is definitely seventy years old. By my spirit? My soul? They just don’t accept any of that as an excuse. So, where is this new journey of soul going to take me?

an alchemical journey

This is the real hero’s journey, that of going deep inside what appears to be a chaotic minefield of powerful figures – some benevolent and many malevolent. What is known is placed on a pyre as a sacrificial offering. We rail against the loss of our old truths as they turn into charcoal. Yet, with the loss, we have made room for a new truth. Grasping this golden treasure, we arise out of the ashes of the past self into a more present self like some phoenix.

This journey doesn’t get easier with age. However, at least in my case, there is a pleasant anticipation. Having taken this journey, repeatedly in the past, I know that my inner self is well aware of what I can and can’t handle.

Now, back to the physical journey. I fly off in a few hours. It will be worth it.

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We Are Challenged To Change Ourselves

My daughter-in-law recently asked to borrow a copy of Viktor Frankl’s book. It somehow gives me a good feeling to know that I am viewed as a good resource person. However, this post is not about her or about Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning. Rather, this post is about entering into a New Year and a new decade with the idea that we need to change ourselves if there is any hope of changing the world around us. It all begins with oneself.

Recent messages to me have been from some who find themselves in dismal places and situations. The news every day is replete with the same sense of hopelessness. Blame is cast everywhere. How do I, how do we respond to the feeling of being victims? Often, we aren’t victims in spite of what we tell ourselves, or what the media tells us. The outer world is not really doing well for the planet and its inhabitants; it’s a fact that one can’t ignore. Yet, we are still the authors of our own consciousness with the ability to change our responses to our situations.

Too often, with the encouragement of media, well-meaning family and friends, we build expectations for happiness. The pursuit of happiness ends up leaving us more miserable that when we began the pursuit. Nothing we buy can give us more that a fleeting, false sense of happiness. The higher the expectations, the harder the fall into a dismal gloom. It doesn’t take long for many to slip into depression and lethargy. Things and people don’t give happiness. In spite of our efforts and the efforts of those around us to obtain happiness for ourselves and the happiness for those we love, we consistently fail. The problem is that happiness is a momentary state of being. We need something more … we need meaning.

James Hollis, in his book, Swamplands of the Soul, stated in 1996:

“One in four North Americans identify with fundamentalist belief systems, seeking therein to unburden their journey with simplistic, black and white values, subordinating spiritual ambiguity to the certainty of a leader and the ready opportunity to project life’s ambivalence onto their neighbours.” p.8

He wrote those words twenty-four years ago. Today, the numbers are significantly larger. Fundamentalism isn’t just the purview of religions anymore. Political camps are increasingly polarized as evidenced in the explosion of hate that now mark almost all elections in the modern world. And it is with this backdrop we find ourselves descending into depressions. Depression is real, it is a disease of the soul, a disease wherein we are left without meaning, without hope for happiness. without a sense of self-worth. It sounds bad, very bad. However, perhaps in some sort of way, this descent into despair has some value.

We all know the expression used with drug and alcohol addictions, where the addict needs to hit bottom before they can begin a journey back to life, a life with meaning. Reading a book somewhere and sometime between the start of the descent and reaching the bottom, doesn’t change the fact that one will still need to hit bottom. However, perhaps the voices we hear at the edges of consciousness will make the landing a bit safer. Frankl found himself in a very dismal place and somehow there, in his own swampland of soul, he realised that he couldn’t change the swampland, that he could only change his response to the swampland. Hollis tells us:

“It is in the swamplands where soul is fashioned and forged, where we encounter not only the gravitas of life, but its purpose, its dignity and its deepest meaning.” p.9

I will be re-reading this book, and likely reflecting on what I read here. I invite you to share your thoughts, your experience, your questions via the comments section. I have been to the bottom and have learned that there is indeed “New Life in Dismal Places.”

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Hubris – Fundamentalism as the Enemy of Self

Icarus by Sergey Solomko

“Hubris is found in our capacity to convince ourselves that we really know what is going on.”  [Hollis, Creating a Life, p13]

It has been more than half a year since my last entry. I am sitting in the sunshine that comes through my window on a pleasant winter morning on the Canadian prairies. As some of you may know, I have somehow found myself running the James Hollis group on Facebook. I didn’t start the group. Rather, a friend, Andrew Hagel, started the group in June, 2010. I joined soon after he created the group. Somehow, the group has become something of a magnet with membership now well past 2800 people. Why? I don’t really know and perhaps the why is not all that important. One thing I do know for certain, is that it has nothing to do with me or my contributions on the site. Andrew has left the workings of the group in my hands as the sole administrator of the group. I am hoping that a revitalization of this blog site will spill over into that group, especially the posts that feature James Hollis.

Poetry and photography

I have spent most of my time since my last post either writing, travelling, or enjoying family. I am seventy years old and I don’t, for a moment, think I am all that wise. My children disagree with me, but again, they are my children and are biased. The truth is that I am loved by my children and grandchildren who accept me as the eccentric man that I am. My children proudly display the three books of poetry that I have published, in spite of the challenge of the photos that accompany each poem.

Three Jungian novels

As well as the books of poetry, three novels are included in their collection. The novels are quite different as they draw on Jungian psychology, Buddhism, and naturism. The protagonist is a Jungian psychotherapist who embarks upon a Hero’s Journey. Though the stories are very realistic, a fact that has had readers believe that I am recounting my memoirs, the stories are metaphorical. Most of the characters are manifestations of archetypes. I have to admit that Daryl Sharp provided a good example of having the inner voices take roles in the outer world. I had fun while writing these novels which challenge those who want conformity and propriety. One other thing that Daryl Sharp taught me by example, is to be my own publisher. None of my books would see the light of day or be in the hands of readers otherwise.

Personal stories as remembered

My children also have a three volume series of my story, call it autobiography or memoirs, it all comes down to my story as experienced by me. These books aren’t easy to read and were very, very hard to write. For some reason, these books sell best. I put my story into three books to correspond to the stages of childhood, transition to adulthood, and the transition of midlife with its imperative to heal the wounding that occurred, especially the wounding in childhood. The books aren’t meant to be a model of how to heal a wounded psyche. They are meant to simply tell my story. That said, I have been told by many of those who bought the books that they made a difference in their lives.

I continue to write books, mostly novels which allow me to create Jungian-themed stories. Since I don’t expect to make a living from the sale of my books, there is a freedom for me as a writer to allow the cast of characters within me, a voice in the world of print.

You can find out more about my books at my home webpage –  or you can find them at Amazon as paperbacks or eBooks.  Now, despite having so many books published, I had to admit that I still don’t know what is going on with me or the world in general. I just wish that our political leaders in the world would allow themselves the necessity of not knowing the answers. Hubris was Icarus’ downfall, and it appears that we are all in for a world of hurt as fundamentalism [having all the answers] is spreading like a plague. It has to begin within each of us, dropping the crutches of fundamentalist beliefs whether they are religious, political, economic, or social. We need to celebrate our individual uniqueness.

Now, on the 2020. Have a Happy New Year


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James Hollis as Mediator and Go-Between

I have been bouncing back and forth between various books by James Hollis and a few others as I search for a direction to travel here at Through a Jungian Lens. For eight years I was owner and moderator of the JUNG-L discussion group, a place that no longer exists. Two years prior to that adventure, I had met James online to discuss one of his books via Jungnet and Jung-Book-Talks. I had come to know James Hollis through Daryl Sharp, a Jungian analyst from Canada who had somehow become a friend, likely because we had both lived in the same prairie town in Saskatchewan, albeit at different times.

The book that hooked me on the work of James Hollis was Swamplands of the Soul, the book that was presented during that pivotal Jung-Book-Talks event in 1996-97, a book I ordered through Daryl Sharp’s bookstore – Inner City Books. Ten years ago, James Hollis’s influence from that first book led me to write a small book, which is pictured above.

Yesterday, I came across a quote from a reading of Hollis’ book, Creating a Life:

I could never have envisioned what my second half of life has brought, nor could many reading this. … Apparently, I was born into service of Hermes, the god of in-betweens, of hermeneutics, and knew it not.”

James Hollis, Creating a Life, page 67

In a way, it made me rethink my own life which has been marked with serving the same god. School teacher as mediator between administration and students; administrator between students and teachers, teachers and parents, teachers and teachers; and for many years, the counsellor in school and community. Then, this morning, I turned to another book on my shelves, Jung and Shamanism in Dialogue and found these words written by C, Michael Smith:

“In the archaic past of human evolution, it was the shamans who first emerged on the scene as mediators of the sacred for their people and for purposes of survival and healing.”

C. Michael Smith, Jung and Shamanism in Dialogue, page 1

The healer, the mediator, the go-between between the archetypal gods and goddesses and humanity. Today, the Jungian psychoanalyst, psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist has stepped into the archetypal role of shaman. It is a humbling thought. As for those who are outside of the remnant cultures which still embrace shamans – isolated tribes along the Amazon River for example – a new breed of go-betweens who take courses to become shamanic healers, I have no judgements to make. However, when it comes to James Hollis, I have no doubt. He is a true shaman and healer of the human soul.

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You Don’t Even Know Who I Am

I was driving to the city yesterday when this song came on the radio. Usually I don’t listen to the radio while travelling alone. However, because of weather alerts, I decided to be smart in case weather conditions were to deteriorate. If that were to happen, I would simply turn around and go back home rather than risk getting caught in a blizzard. Yes, there were blizzards in various parts of our province yesterday. Well, as I was saying, the song by Patti Loveless, You Don’t Even Know Who I Am, began to play. It was about halfway through the song that I realised that I would be writing a post here based on the song.

Love at first sight

When we fall in love with someone, we have this strange idea that we “know” the truth about this person. After all, how is it that of all the faces that pass in front of us, that we instantly “know” that this person is the “one?” Well the truth is, we do know though not consciously. All our consciousness knows is what is felt, almost intuited. The ego accepts this truth – at least for a while. As time slips by, reality rears its head and we lose connection with that truth. The person to whom we have bonded becomes just another ordinary mortal. And, we are angry, upset, disappointed, and grieving at the loss of the person we thought we had joined in a holy marriage.

Loss of soul = loss of other

The song portrays very well that sense of abandonment, of becoming a stranger to the other who has in turn become a stranger to us. The accusations fly. Little does the ego realise that the other hasn’t really changed at all, not at the core of his or her being. The ego is being forced to get to know self, to withdraw the projections that had been initially placed on the other. Of course, we all blame the other. Typically the end result is for one or both to walk away from the holy marriage [and that isn’t necessarily anything to do with a legal marriage according to one’s society and culture]. For many, that walking away happens even though both continue to live in the same house. Their union is kept because of pride, fear, or economics. For others, separation and divorce, or reaching out to another becomes the response. There is a sense of hopelessness and resignation when it comes to trying to recapture the original magic.

If either the ego or the other takes responsibility for daring to turn inward and take ownership, the union has a chance to return to a “love” state. After all, what had drawn the ego to the other in the first place was real. The soul knows what the ego often ends up rejecting.

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Osho – The Journey of Being Human

I am finally settling down after a few days being back home from a visit to my son’s house for Easter. Since my return from Ecuador in early April, I have been anything but settled down. This is not new territory for me as it is always like this when we return home from our three-month winter stay in southern climes. The difference this year is that I am being more gentle with myself, more open to accepting the small things that fill my hours, days, and life.

In Ecuador, I stopped formal meditation. I blamed it on my left knee which began to be an issue for me last August. However, I didn’t stop meditating. Rather, I switched, unconsciously to walking meditation. Since we walked about two hours at a go almost every morning, it didn’t take long before we both disappeared into our breathing and the spaces in between. The walking meditation became a daily conscious choice that fuelled my soul. 

Now that we have returned home, the walking meditation has continued. Yet, I need more. I did manage outdoor meditation once with weather conditions being friendly. However, it is still April and sitting meditation indoors is the only sensible choice. The truth is, it doesn’t matter when or how. It all comes down to simply taking the time to meditate.

“Remember, life consists of small things, there are no big things. Small things accumulated become big things. A single act may not look very significant either as evil or good. A single smile may not look very significant, but a single smile is part of a long process. … Do not belittle your failures, do not belittle your good acts. Each and every act is significant: If it is bad you are going to suffer; if it is good you are going to enjoy life. … Life consists of small things, and you have to transform each small thing through your awareness, watchfulness, alertness, into a beautiful act. Then, ordinary things can become extraordinary.”
Osho, The Journey of Being Human, Prologue

This lesson from Osho is one that I take to heart. Such as small thing as taking time to meditate while stripped of every artifice, being my authentic naked self, is a beautiful act. It isn’t a designer label activity, something to show others how important I am. Rather, stripped I become just another human. Beneath our outer trappings we are all naked and vulnerable. And that, is a beautiful thing in itself.

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Yellow Vests in Canada and the World

Protest in Weyburn, SK

Yellow Vests – Gilets Jaune! They became front and centre on the world stage as they marched and rioted in France. And now, they are an international force. For me this is a bit strange as for the most part, the yellow vests are strong nationalists who are resisting being pulled into the concerns of the rest of the world. Here in Canada, there is a national version – Yellow Vests Canada.

One of the aims of group which has supporters in the tens of thousands is to have all legislation from 1992 be reviewed and voted on by Canadian residents. That is a lot of history that wants to be undone beginning with NAFTA. The yellow vests group is anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-change. They want education, medical care, a social problems to paid for services rather than have “their hard earned money” get spent on others, the “I don’t have / didn’t have kids so why should I have to pay school taxes as part of my property taxes?” complaint is real. The “if they weren’t so lazy, they wouldn’t be on welfare” and “if she been a better wife then she wouldn’t need to go to a women’s shelter” all too easily find a lot of support when they realise that is their tax dollars [and everyone else’s] who pay for these services.

Salmon Arm, BC

One doesn’t have to stretch the imagination to see that this would include the rights of women to be bare-breasted which was won following an 1991 conviction of Gwen Jacob for cycling with no covering on the top half of her body. The reversal which then provided legal protection came a few years later. Removing legal protection is real, and not just for women wanting to enjoy a top-free moment that is legal for any male in Canada. Taking a further look into the 1992 target date and a few other things come to the surface, legalised gay marriage, right to change gender, legalised medicinal use of marijuana, and more. When a country wants to dial back to a simpler time, a lot of individual protections get lost. Once we begin to take that journey of undoing, we will end up a vassal state of our great neighbour to the south, just where we were back in the “good old days.”

Regina, SK

The yellow vests target immigration and international involvement at governmental levels. The vested interest is to retreat behind the border, building an ideological wall between Canada and the rest of the world, an echo of Trump’s wall and the U.K.’s Brexit. I personally feel that any wall becomes a prison for those contained with these walls, akin to burying one’s head in the sand hoping that problems will go away. Be careful what you wish for. The past wasn’t as rosy as many like to believe. Today we are wealthier than at any time in Canadian history. We have more toys for big boys, boats, ATVs, skidoos, seadoos, RVs, motor homes … the list goes on and on. We travel all over the world and are respected as Canadians because we have championed the individual liberties that are missing in so many other parts of the world. Our present wealth is real in spite of the complaints of having to pay taxes. We want it all, but we don’t want to pay for it. And we sure as hell don’t want to pay for anyone else’s rights and privileges as Canadians

I want to hear your take on this. And in telling me your side, please attempt being respectful of the voices you will hear in the comments.

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Fate, Influence of Others, and Conscious Choice

“What is urgent in our lives? What owns us? What do we seek to transcend? These are the core complexes we serve and which govern our lives. They make the goal of creating a life very problematic indeed.”

Hollis, Creating a Life, p. 26

We can never even begin to approach anything that might resemble an answer to any of these questions if we rely on our brains alone. What we know is too limited. I think of the JoHari window – the private known self, the publicly known self, the blind self which others know, and the unknown self. We need others in order to become more conscious of ourselves and better understand the questions.

From happy to angry when a trigger is activated.

We discover our complexes in our “affective” responses to others. We can learn what triggers our complexes and hopefully put ourselves in positions where the triggers don’t come to dominate our lives. This needs the presence of others, but not in the manner that the JoHari window outlines. Neither the self or other is conscious of triggering or being triggered. Jung talked about hooks and projections, all at the level of the unconscious. There is something about self and other that brings a complex to the fore. And this behind-the-consciousness-scenes becomes part of our story, our life script.

“Each of us lives out a story, a dynamic narrative whose only consistency is that we somehow show up in each of the scenes. … The stories we live out are capable of alteration by fate, by influence of others, and occasionally by conscious choice. The narrower the frame of consciousness, the greater the personal chronicle plays out as fate.”

Hollis, Creating a Life, p. 34-35

I guess that is something like being a director of our life play, rather than one of the minor characters caught up in the drama that surrounds a person. I know of a couple of young people who see themselves as at the centre of the universe, a universe that somehow is responsible for the situations they find themselves in. One of these two is a young woman who can’t hold a job for long before being let go. Of course, it is always the fault of the boss. The young woman is so hooked on being in control of others, that she can’t begin to know that she must first control herself, first get to know just who she is. She is the constant victim of fate, totally unaware that has been her response to others that results in where she then finds herself.

It was the story I lived out in the past. Finally reaching the point where I said “this has to change,” I became receptive to allowing the influence of others to change my responses, bit by bit. And like a ripple effect, those changes resulted in my being ready to consciously change a few more things which in turn caused changes in my environment of others. Opening the doorway just a little was met with a desperation to grab that opening. An in response, I began to create a new story, a new life. And that story is constantly changing.

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Life Lived Through a Filtered Lens

“How can one choose clearly, prudently, when the lens through which one sees the world is itself provisional and distorting? How can one not choose wrongly when one cannot see anything but through such a lens?”

Hollis, Creating a Life, p. 14
Life lived through a filtered lens

Letting go of one’s ego, one’s conscious control, is about as threatening to oneself as it gets. Most of us are almost pathological when it comes to “control”. It has taken me a long, long time to come to understand this. Yet still, I find myself bending over backward in trying to exert some sort of control over my environment and others. Naturally, in all of us, this fear-based response to life dates back to magical thinking as a child when we truly believed that what we did or didn’t do were the keys to survival. If only we did x, y and z then the adult(s) in our lives would do a, b and c.

I say left, you say right – neither is correct

Of course, we had the minds of children, not the mature minds that could enter into a situation, identify the elements and the interactions and make reasoned responses. Most of our lives as adults, however, aren’t lived so consciously. Today’s wholesale movement to opposing ideologies highlight this. With my neighbours to the south, the world is either blue or red. Any colour in between is rejected as childish and confused and simply discounted. Since there is gross polarisation, there is simply no way to hear what the “other” is really saying. Dialogue degenerates into character attacks, demonising of the other. Neither side of conflict gets to see the whole picture because of the filters through which they see the world.

“One cannot overemphasize the degree to which one’s core psychology and behavioral patterns derive from this unavoidable flawed reading of the world and concomitant adoption of certain attitudes and strategies.

Hollis, Creating a Life, p. 16

So what do I have as a take-away from all of this? I am beginning to think that I need to trust less what “ego” tells me. I turn inward and listen to the reverberations that may be subtle or not-so-subtle, and let them inform me of what “I” am beneath my prejudices, persona, and ego.

Now, for your listening pleasure, the Beatles sing both sides of the coin with Hello, Goodbye.

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Love – An Altered State of Reality

Beneath the layers of unconscious of self

Falling in love. It is both a blessing and a curse. The world we have known is totally turned upside down and no amount of effort allows us to think our way through the upheaval. Even our truths and certainties are brought down. And none of this is due to the person with whom we have fallen in love. In fact they might not even be aware of our existence. The old self is broken and a new version of self arises.

“The condition of love makes one more disposed toward a new and wider psychic participation. … In the extremes of love … we lose all certainty and become unbalanced. The ego begins to vacillate, to the point where we lose control of our behavior. … The vulnerability revealed by love and the central importance the other comes to assume in our lives throws us into a condition of need.”

Aldo Carotenuto, Eros and Pathos, p. 20

There is no question that we are literally out of our minds, the reasoned minds that had us navigate through life before the moment we fell in love. There is no vaccine against falling in love. We may already be married to a person we respect and love, and with children who have been at the centre of our lives as parents. By falling in love, we find ourselves strangely alone, separated from the others in our lives even though we share the same space and activities with them.

“We are seduced by the other’s way of being, of moving, by that glance, that voice. Certain characteristics of the loved one become irresistibly fascinating. they have, in fact, the gift of coinciding with our desire.”

p. 21

Again, it matters not that the other person is aware of our feelings of love. Love is not about the “other” who has become somehow “magical” in our eyes.

In the condition of love we are ravished not by the person we see before us but by the idea he or she has triggered in us.”

P. 22

Something inside of ourselves has been triggered. Something from within us is awakened and seen in this magical other person, something to which we are drawn in spite of our best efforts. Unknown to both is that beneath the surface of attraction, beneath the triggers that are activated and the hooks within self that provide a landing place for the projections, is a person who is a complete stranger … well, almost completely a stranger. The psyche, the unconscious self recognises that once projections have been carefully removed, a different kind of love, a sane love, will emerge.

And now a song, I Find Myself in You, by Brian McKnight.

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