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.