Through a Jungian Lens

The quest for self-evident truths

The Lost Garden – Part Two

couple counselling

Before I get too deep into it, I want to be clear that the book as I understand it, and my intentions in presenting parts of it here have nothing to do with “fixing” relationships with others. This isn’t couple therapy. Jungian psychology, analysis, and psychotherapy is about the individual. Know thyself – well at least as much as you can through risking digging through your own trash and unlocking buried chests with the ghosts and scary monsters that linger in darkness. Perhaps, and I am only speaking for myself here, it is about trying to understand in part why and how I react and relate to others in my life, particularly those others that have a prominent place in my life. Is the book a recipe book for bringing the magic back into your [or my] couple relationship? No! If you are looking for that, you’d be better off looking at the magazines on sale beside most cash registers. At least those magazines will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy for the moment.

Don’t get me wrong, relationships is at the core of the book, but only from the viewpoint of the self.

“It is no accident that the primary motive, the hidden agenda in any relationship, is the yearning to return … the yearning for the Beloved. It is essentially a religious search …” p. 17

Hollis stresses that it is the birth of consciousness that is at the root of neurosis.

“As the child uneasily carries this growing burden of consciousness, it desperately needs to learn what it can in order to reattach if possible, survive if not.” p. 18

I am a parent. I was at the scene of the births of each of my three children. I saw them emerge into the bright light of the hospital delivery room. I heard their initial wails which both the mother and I cheered as it meant that our child had arrived safely. For both of us, this moment of birth was a miracle. This child of ours was a mystery, a stranger that somehow was forged by an act of love between mother and father. The miracle somehow stood outside of simple biology.

It didn’t take long for each of our three children to “reconnect” with their mother as she fed them. Their lifeline to mother shifted from umbilical cord to the breast. If they were taken from the breast before they had slipped into a satiated state, the cried. They instinctively knew that survival depended upon that connection.

As the months passed and our babies began to learn that they existed separate from their mother, we saw them become conscious of themselves, their bodies, and the fact of being separate from us though somehow connected to us. Unknown to us at the time, and unknown to the child, the tiny separations that fed the development of consciousness were wounds.

“How we read our ego-selves vis à vis the Other begins at birth. The child experiences bonding, or the lack thereof, as an extrapolated statement about the world at large. Is it reliable, protective, or is it unpredictable, even hurtful? It is not an exaggeration to say that the entire course of one’s life may derive from the phenomenological reading of such messages.” p. 18

Of course no infant, baby, child, or youth can ask or does ask these kinds of questions. All there is for them are experiences which at some point begin to take on some sort of meaning as their consciousness grows. And as babies and toddlers and children, that meaning is shaped through magical thinking. And it is this magical thinking that serves as the roots of complexes and the scripts that will come to mark the child’s life as an adult.

For a moment I got lost in the writing of this post as I had taught developmental psychology for a number of years. I fell into a professorial mode. This isn’t about developmental psychology, but about the “self” that I am at this stage of my life, a self that has most of its foundations in magical thinking. I confess, I have uncovered  much over the decades of my life, become “more” conscious in the process. However, I am still engaged in life responses due to the scripts of a child’s magical thinking.

Do we ever become conscious enough to fully engage with others without the unconscious contents taking over to mess up our relationships? What’s your opinion? Do you think you have it “all together” and are fully “in control?” Or, are you like me, left wondering “what the hell?”


Coniunctio – The Union of Opposites -or- The Problem of Relationship – Part One

One of the books on my shelf which I find the most compelling is C.G. Jung’s book, Mysterium Coniunctionis, the 14th book in the Collected Works series. When I first came across the book, I thought of the real-life union of a man and a woman, in holy matrimony. Mystery and magic – that is how I understood how my own marriage came about. I mean, how improbable is it for a man from east to meet a woman from the centre while in the west. Three hours after meeting, I proposed and she accepted. That was almost forty-eight years ago. We are still together though neither of us are the same people we were back then. I’ve changed and she’s changed. We are about as “opposite” as one could find. Somehow instead of having the marriage implode or explode, we still are together under the spell of whatever it was that brought us together. I only mention this as an intro to the words of Jung with which he opens his book:

“The factors which come together in coniunctio are conceived as opposites, either confronting one another in enmity or attracting one another in love. To begin with they form a dualism … moist/dry … heaven/earth … fire/water … masculine/feminine … sol/luna …” p. 3

Now, reality is beyond complicated enough with us accepting everything as either one or the other, a dualistic view of the world: god and devil, good and evil, black and white. It is tempting to fall into this dualistic worldview where everything becomes crystal clear. I mean if it isn’t “a” then it is definitely “b.” This is the premise that all religions seem to embrace. This is what draws people into holding onto fundamentalist views. And that, in today’s world is where we find ourselves rushing toward self-extinction. It just seems too easy for me to accept this as the whole picture.

I am a photographer and am amazed at what my camera captures, even when apparently set on black and white mode. The range of colour, the shades of lightness and darkness [shades of grey] teach me that there is more, so much more needed to truly understand the world. As I read on in the opening paragraphs, I realised that Jung wasn’t stuck in the ruts of dualistic thinking. He spoke of how polarities gathered together in clusters with the predominant cluster becoming a quaternity rather than dualsim: north/south – east/west; moist/dry – cold/warm; summer/winter – spring/fall. When it becomes about polarities and about the tension between polarities the possibilities dispel any thought of one right, fundamentalist position.

As I read on, I began to get lost in all of the references which stretched me passed all the boundaries of what I could comprehend. It wasn’t until Jung somehow encircled the arms of quaternity when it began to register. I am familiar with the medicine wheel of First Nations peoples, and with the wheel of Buddhism and Hinduism, a double quaternity where all the parts become one.

Grabbing onto this and holding on, I set aside the book once again. I will need some time to let this settle in before returning to this book.

The Lost Garden – Part One

Garden of Eden – Jan Brueghel & Pieter Rubens

As promised, I am diving into James Hollis’ book, The Eden Project to look at the world of relationships. Like all good stories, the story of relationships needs to begin at the beginning. Since we don’t really have a data-proofed with video, audio, and/or scientifically proven test sources, we are left to rely on the various stories of the first humans. Our minds can’t accept that there wasn’t a first set of humans. We may have evolved from other species, but at some point, there was a first human or humans. Since I have a Christian heritage, I have chosen to draw on Genesis – Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to illustrate “beginnings.” That said, the only beginning that ends up being important is the beginnings of “self.” If I limit myself to this, then perhaps I can make some sense of the larger picture of humankind.

Somewhere between being conceived and being born, I existed. My heart was beating, I likely sucked my thumb or touched my genitals, and practised being a gymnast according to my mother and the other experts in the field of prenatal development. If I assume that this prenatal version of myself had brain activity, an assumption that modern science can prove, then it is likely that the nascent “self,” knowing only this experience, would claim that all was good. Then, at some unexpected moment, all hell broke loose and this prenatal self was hurled through a dark tunnel into a place of light. Like Adam and Eve, this baby was expelled from a personal Garden of Eden. Without question, for the fetus, this was a very traumatic event.

James Hollis talks about a lost paradise in his opening chapter, “a separation or a disconnection,” that “we contemporary folk always experience ourselves as outside, estranged, adrift.” Hollis suggests that tribal memory that has resulted in the story of Genesis and other mythologies that talk about paradise and paradise lost for the first humans, is perhaps “the neurological hologram of our own birth trauma, a separation from which we never fully recover.” I some ways, it reminded me of a book I read in the early 1970s by Arthur Janov, called The Primal Scream.

Turning back to Genesis, the loss of the Garden was the result of the birth of consciousness. With consciousness, the trauma of separation is highlighted. You are separate from me, It is separate from me. And in the process, awareness of self begins. What follows is a messy quest to return to the Garden of Eden – consciously and unconsciously – where there is no more separation. For, separation is twinned with continual loss of all relationships whether the relationships are about people, places, careers, or the deceits we tell ourselves.

All Relationships Begin, and End, In Separation

If you are thinking the title is talking about divorce, you would be wrong though that is a separation that some will face or have faced at one point in their lives. I am thinking about the bigger picture, one that began with birth and ends when whatever it is that serves us as spirit and soul, leaves the body. I know, you have already deduced that I hold to the idea that we are more than just biological beings that have no meaning other than that of staying alive as long as possible because with death, there is nothing else. Soul is real, spirit is real.

We know we are going to die and lose everything we have accumulated, lose all connection to others whether they are friend or foe. We know that even the ritual of marriage reminds us of the time when the marriage relationship will end with the words, “til death do us part.” We lose grandparents, parents, siblings, extended family, friends, enemies, and too many others whom we have never met but still have an impact upon us when they die.

A few days ago, fifteen people died in a bus accident in the province in which I live. I personally didn’t know a single person on the bus taking a hockey team to a playoff game. But, I knew of the team, I used to know players on that team. I had even taught some of those players. Though I didn’t know a single soul on the bus, I felt the loss of relationship. Strange. And it wasn’t just me who felt this way. The links to the hockey team of the past had thinned over the years, but they are still there.

However worthy it is to make this post about those young men who died a few days ago, this post needs to go deeper. There is one relationship that suffers the most from separation – the relationship one has with one’s self.

“We live our lives estranged – from others, from the gods, and worst of all from ourselves. Intuitively, we all know this. We know that we are our own worst enemies, We never stop seeking to reconnect, to find home again, and in the end, we simply leave it in a different way. Perhaps there is no home to which we can return. We can’t return to the womb, though we try, and few of us are confident of a future celestial home. So we live, always homeless, whether we know it or not.” James Hollis, Return to Eden, p. 11

Over the next several post, I will be turning to this book by James Hollis, not only to provide a template for this blog site, but in order to do work that is demanding my attention. I need to build a stronger relationship with myself if I am to have any quality to my relationships with others. And in order to do that, I need to come to grips with the reality that all of my relationships, the how and why of them, finds their roots in my first relationships – mother and father. This isn’t an easy journey to take, but it is a vital task.

After the Sunset Another Sunrise and Another New Beginning

“Resurrection. … change, transmutation, or transformation of one’s being. The change may be either essential, in the sense that the resurrected being is a different one; or nonessential, in the sense that only the general conditions of existence have changed, as when one finds oneself in a different place or in a body which is differently constituted.” C.G. Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9i p. 114

I lost the original Through a Jungian Lens blog site a few months ago. It has taken me some time to process the loss and to decide whether or not I would go through the work of reinventing the blog site. I had thought that perhaps ten years of blogging would have been enough and that I could leave knowing I had done enough. So, for four months, I stayed silent. After all, what could I ever say that hadn’t already been said by others who could say it better. And, I didn’t have a clue where I could even begin. I didn’t want to repeat myself over and over again, telling the same things to the same people as though I was a hamster caught on a wheel going round and round, going nowhere.

But, in spite of my intention to leave well enough alone, there is another part of me that pushes me, never bothering to put anything in words or in clear images. What is it pushing me, calling me to do? It won’t say. It just shoves and perhaps assumes that I will finally get the unspoken message that it is time to really invest in this blog site, to risk being foolish in front of the world.

So, I resurrected the domain name and then added this blog site so that the old site would appear as if rising out of a coma, out of winter hibernation in time for a Canadian prairie spring that is slow to show its face. It’s going to take some time for me to get my bearings and to see where the compass now points. One thing has stood out from the mess within my head, the idea of the Magical Other. That took me to take James Hollis’ book, The Eden Project off my shelf. Structure and focus. Mother and Father archetypes, the unconscious pull to return to the Garden of Eden which somehow gets mixed up in romantic love and relationship.

Why? Why this? I don’t know but it is enough to listen to that Call and risk the way going forward. Will anyone be listening? I guess as long as I listen to what emerges, and I don’t what emerges from others, it will be enough. I’ll leave the rest to the ripple effect where any disturbance I make in the universe will make a difference.

On Iguanas and Ouroboros

There are quite a few natural life forms here in the Yucatan that I have managed to photograph:  birds, insects and animals.  I have frequently found iguanas emerging from piles of rocks or from crevices in walls to bask in the warmth of the sun.  This fellow had his cheeks puffed out, something I had not seen previously in my wandering through the countryside with the camera.  My first thoughts were that this likely had to do with searching for a mate, for the feminine.

Ouroboros – is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.

Looking at the iguana in the photograph back on my computer after the walk, I thought of urobos, the lizard who tries to consume himself, to feed himself, to somehow become transformed.  And then as I looked at the head, I had a fleeting thought that it resembled a penis.  A penis in search of nourishment, in search of nourishing, in search of the feminine.

Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. Originating in ancient Egyptian iconography, the ouroboros entered western tradition via Greek magical tradition and was adopted as a symbol in Gnosticism and Hermeticism and most notably in alchemy.  Swiss psychologist Carl Jung saw the ouroboros as an archetype and the basic mandala of alchemy. Jung also defined the relationship of the ouroboros to alchemy.  And so now, the Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite,  the shadow.

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