Through a Jungian Lens

The quest for self-evident truths

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.


  1. Colleen Culligan

    April 13, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    First there is the entering into the self and birth consciousness, to the parental environment…the next trauma! Hollis says that Jung defines “original sin” as the neglect of the soul experienced in the family and passed down through the generations. This is the work to spend a lifetime on. Even then, the collective unconscious is also present, as we cannot forget the ancestors who brought us to this place.

    • jungian

      April 19, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      Just a side note to add here, Colleen. That work of a lifetime does not supersede the work of being present in the day-to-day world of work, family, and community. Too often I find some who allow their lives to slip by while believing that doing the work [usually analysis or therapy] is enough. You add some valuable ideas here, Colleen. Thanks.

      • Colleen Culligan

        April 20, 2018 at 6:49 pm

        I love your reply, Robert. Yes and yes.

        Funny though, sometimes when I am in the moment with those I love, in family and at work, I find that I must pause briefly, breathe, and wait. What helps me stop to listen is just that brief remembrance that what I bring to the exchange next has taken a lifetime for me to formulate…sort of like a collective wisdom of some kind that has coalesced in a flash of insight. So I give it its due and never take it for granted any more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


%d bloggers like this: