The Function of Images

An area of interest that has captured my attention this term has to do with the autonomy of the unconscious and the power it wields over us through its images. I had not considered before what the function of images might be, I had just accepted that images are spontaneously produced by the unconscious and that they are its language. But this term, I have learned about the function of images which, to me, seems an important point that deserves emphasis. 

As we know, in depth psychology images are emanations that spontaneously irrupt from the deep psyche. They take a variety of forms including text, creative expression, or even emotions and intuitions. They come at us in our dreams, they come at us in thought formations and fantasies, and they come at us through art, literature, poetry, and dance. The question is, why? Why do these images come at us at all and what are we to do with them? Jung says that the images hold a measure of libido or psychic energy and that they use this energy for their own specific purposes. Furthermore, since autonomous, the images prioritize their own needs above the needs of the ego complex. Our task is to, first of all, allow the images to exist and then to experience and interact with them on their own level—the imaginal level (Jung, 1928/1966, para. 346). The images wield tremendous power over consciousness. They hold this power down in the unconscious and we must interact with the images in order to gain access to that power. In other words, images are libido—they are psychic energy. Which means that our lives as we know them rely upon images for their existence since without energy there can only be psychic entropy—a catatonic state of total inertia. This explains the sometimes overbearing urgency of images and why they often harass us until we meet them on their own terms. They know something we don’t. 

Another interesting feature of images is that they hold a specific message or quality having to do with the situation of the individual who is encountering them. Jung explained that the unconscious is the feminine side of consciousness and that it insists upon a feeling function to restore psychic balance since the ego’s rational and intellectual perspective is usually too one-sided (Jung, 1928/1966, para. 216). The images are thus emissaries of this mission to restore psychological balance and they, therefore, wear outward forms which are most relevant to the individual’s specific issues. Furthermore, psychic balance is not always just a matter of correcting pathological or unwanted psychological manifestations. It is also a matter of individuation, which is to say, a matter of bringing the two spheres of consciousness into proper alignment so that the individual ends up living a life that feels richly endowed with meaning and purpose. The images thus have secret knowledge to impart and play a serious role in the psyche.

Jung further explained that we cannot simply stand back and passively watch the images and hope to understand, much less effect, their meanings, for the images are autonomous, they have a level of unconcern we must contend with. If we hope to access the knowledge they contain we must interact with them actively on the imaginal level, which is to say, inside the image itself, inside the fantasy, inside the dream (Jung, 1928/1966, para. 350). Jung said that by actively participating with the images we “gain possession of them by allowing them to possess” (Jung, 1928/1966, para. 368) us. This method, which Jung called active imagination, makes it possible for an individual to not only experience but also to interact, in a waking state, with the unconscious—to merge with it. In so doing, access is gained to the hidden and secret knowledge of the images and the deeper predilections breeding in the psychological volcanoes of our souls. Without access to this restorative imaginal knowledge, we remain divided, stunted, and incomplete, making titanic blunders as we continue to live a one-sided, egocentric life.  

Jung, C. G. (1966). The relations between the ego and the unconscious (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 7, 2nd ed., pp.  121–241). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1928)

The Divine Urge

Something in you, an urge in you, must lead you to it. . . . This is the divine urge.

—C. G. Jung, The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga 

The psyche presents the face of progress. It is inherently teleological and contains within itself the requisite energy for pushing the entire mechanism forward. Some intrinsic a priori urge is spontaneously born and reborn again, and this activity forms the energetic framework upon which the creation of consciousness depends. Jung (2012) imagined ego-consciousness to be surrounded on all sides by “multiple luminosities” (p. 118) that flickered into being and added their psychic payload to the as yet unformed mass. The multiple luminosities are what the alchemists called radii atque scintillae— rays of sparks—whose light derives from the anima mundi which is identical with the spirit of God. “This light is the lumen naturae which illuminates consciousness, and the scintillae are germinal luminosities shining forth from the darkness of the unconscious” (p. 121). Naturally, then—inherently, intrinsically—luminous sparks flicker into being to create consciousness and life. The suggestion is that out of a dark state of unconsciousness, something new is kindled. The alchemists believed this life-giving light originated in a divine source whose otherworldly nature accounts for its autonomy and its strength. This source employs an overpowering numinous quality which inflames an inner urge—a compulsion, a longing, a divine passion—that can scarcely be ignored. Yet the spark alone is insufficient. The urgency it arouses is everything. 

This dark state of unconsciousness prior to the spark is similar to that of the Kundalini serpent which slumbers in the root chakra. Here there is as yet no light, yet the potential for light is inherent. Kundalini is “latent activity” and “concealed consciousness” (Jung, 1996, p. 20), just as the root chakra is the source of life. To awaken the serpent and travel upwards through the energy systems—which in Jungian terms can be understood as the process of individuation—“. . . there must be something peculiar in you, a leading spark, some incentive that forces you on. . . .” (p. 21). This incentive is apparently fostered by a quasi-religious, numinous promise of psychic wholeness. In alchemy, this is the mysterium coniunctionis, the perfect marriage of opposites symbolized by the sun (masculine) and moon (feminine) which results in an authentic hermaphroditus (Jacobi, 1959) while in Kundalini yoga it is likewise a marriage, this time between śakti and śiva, the symbolic embodiments of masculine and feminine knowledge. 

The sparks in deep unconsciousness, it seems to me, are our own dreams, which (autonomously) irrupt—in luminous fashion—and light up the darkness. They project their beguiling numinous images onto the black wall of nonbeing and give rise to an inexorable compulsion within us to not only live but to endure tremendous uncertainty. The divine sparks, primordial images—the archetypes—compel us to marry an imaginal realm of being, to become fused with it in perfect unity, even though this process is lengthy and painful. 

I find myself drawn to this ultimate story of consciousness, which is evidently a love story. The psyche has an inherent dividing line so that everything becoming conscious is split in two. This split is painful, so all our energy is spent trying to restore the split. Before the tear, there was only the realm of infinite potential—where the lovers were united in perfect bliss. But it is inaccessible since unconscious. The bliss exists, but for no one. The fierce urgency of life finds an immediate iteration in the works of love, so it makes sense that the force which compels life to endure the pain of transformation is love. A dialectical relationship between pairs of lovers—conscious and unconscious, feminine and masculine, light and dark—generates this divine urge which ultimately leads us to the consummation of our marriage to God. 

Forgive My French

It was pointed out in the lecture how Jung was deeply conflicted within himself about studying the extents of the psyche as if Jung’s own psyche were stretched outward and inward simultaneously. This reminded me of Grof’s description of the dual tendencies of Cosmic Consciousness. “The overall scheme of the cosmic drama involves a dynamic interplay of two fundamental forces, one of which is centrifugal (hylotropic, or matter oriented) and the other centripetal (holotropic, or aiming for wholeness) in relation to the creative principle” (Grof, 2000, p. 289). Perhaps Jung’s inability to square this circle within himself indicates the interplay of these two contrary yet fundamental cosmic principles at work. 

To my mind, Grof’s work illustrates perfectly the various parameters and capabilities of psychospiritual growth while also providing spiritual validity for the existence of material reality. His overview of the humor-filled co-creative love affair between existence and nonexistence, form and formlessness, psyche and matter is the most cogent definition of spirituality I have ever read. It encapsulates and validates the essence of many complimentary spiritual traditions and rings immediately true—like a great cosmic gong—on the “inner” level. I am particularly impressed that his findings are based on decades of experiential research. 

As a longtime seeker and practitioner of spiritual self-exploration, I intuitively resonate with the many ways in which Grof validates the ontological truth of so-called “magical” experiences. I am also convinced by his elucidation of archetypal realms and cosmic propensities as inherently intimate and personal impulses which open the doors to ultimate reality and “Absolute Consciousness.” It all makes perfect sense to those parts of me unhindered by the “skin-bound ego” tragedy. 

I can think of nothing more exciting and potentially liberating than the truth of a transpersonal objective psyche. Fuck the ego and its ignoble pettiness. 

The Source Of Power

It is such a fascinating time to be answering this question since I have been wrestling with the intersecting contours of power, wisdom, and magic for some time. My life has been marked by a level of power and innate capability that has almost scared me sometimes. I surfed 20-foot waves and studied Kung Fu and built giant canvasses and lugged heavy stuff around, all so I would have an outlet for my power. It isn’t just that I am physically stronger than most girls, it’s that I also seem to have been born with a higher tolerance for pain. 

Since earliest childhood, I’ve had an ability to see things in people’s faces and body language that they aren’t aware of conveying—a sudden rush of anger behind the eyes, a secret fear in the hunched shoulders. I embody a magician, a wise but stern goddess, and a fun-loving puella. Over time, my terrifying complexes and my shadow grew more and more powerful and took over so that all that power got misused. For a time, I became cruel and dark and seriously negative. 

When I discovered mythology and depth psychology, I found a psychospiritual roadway complete with signposts and maps which helped me to make sense of my inner world and to connect with the magical source of power that had been my constant companion. This road led through creepy towns like Hatred and Fear and Evil, yet the map pointed also to where Freedom and Liberation were located. My dreams showed me the way, too—they gave me little gold stars every time I got something right. 

Now I know that the powerful magician within me likes it when I use her magic to make beauty and love. She also knows that I bow before her each day, awestruck. 

Self Portrait With Doom

A sense of being doomed, or at least surrounded by an essence of doom, has been my constant psychospiritual companion, even since very early childhood. This doom was something I learned to abide in without really knowing why or what it was about. Now, as I reexamine myself through the lens of depth psychology, I understand what the fairy tale story about a princess locked away in a tower by an evil sorceress is all about. 

The sorceress is my own shadow grown immensely powerful and autonomous. She doesn’t care that her existence came about against my will. She doesn’t care that Mother and Father and Culture are to blame. Until I own up to her, she won’t let me out of the tower. 

Last night, She came to me two-faced. One nice girl and one hateful girl—the three of us discussing the ocean on Maui. The hateful girl had her arms crossed tightly. It took all her might to be nice to me (through gritted teeth). The other told me I already had the magic beaded necklace, I didn’t need her to give me hers. 

I think of my father—a coward who can’t speak the truth. A coward who is jealous of his own daughter, a father would rather tear me to shreds than become aware of his own weaknesses. 

“You’re a despicable evil lying thief!” I cry out. 

“Yes, I am those things,” I reply to myself. 

I own it. 

This is no longer about Him or Her or Them. It is about Me and Us, in here—deep in the darkness with my ghouls and demons and utter creeps, snuggled together, sleeping peacefully as the doors and windows of the tower open up wide to let in the moonlight. 

Come Doom, and welcome. 

Starry Heavens Above Me, The Moral Law Within

Phantoms are limited in terms of essential access to Platonic Forms which explains why they are so pale and ephemeral. There seems to be a line or a graph of sorts. On one end stands phenomenal reality, manifest in all its material glory, and on the other, ideational mistiness (not even substantial enough to be called ghostlike) that is abstract, mathematical, and intuited in the mind-realm only. Ironically, the former depends upon the latter for its existence: the immaterial is the form-giver while the form itself is empty of any real substance. Yet the two ends of the graph are inexorably intertwined, like the infinity symbol. For example, what is the difference between a tree in a dream and a tree in the garden? Answer: there is no difference, both arise from the creative force of the phantom Form. 

Manifested physical glory regards itself as primary and absolute. It becomes personally invested in itself, forgetting that it is not only a mere representation of something else but also that its very existence depends upon this forgotten other. Symbolically, material existence is the father who yet lives. Forgetting the source necessitates remembering and sets up the need for realization and “the development of a more objective, transcendent view” (Tarnas, 1991, p. 161). After all, without delusion, there would be no need for realization. 

Plato, Kant, and Jung all say the same thing: there is a preexisting order upon which the validity of all perception depends. Furthermore, it is not just perception (real or imagined) but the very existence of objects and even ideas about those objects (whether the object is the subject or vice versa) which have their ultimate source in this phantom realm of ideational mistiness. Without the fire of the source, not even phantoms can claim existence. 

Divine Intervention

The psyche is the world’s pivot: not only is it the one great condition for the existence of the world at all, it is also an intervention in the existing natural order, and no one can say with certainty where this intervention will finally end. CW8, para. 423

Our course, C. G. Jung in Context begins with this evocative and far-reaching quote from the man himself. Here, Jung is saying that without the psyche existence would be moot and that manifestations of movement, change, evolution, would likewise be absent. The psyche is the pivot, the axis, and the driving force which generates the ongoing project of life. Accordingly, the psyche and its numinous inhabitants—the archetypes—draw consciousness into being making life itself a reality. However, it is the “intervention” of the psyche into “the existing natural order" of life that fascinates me the most about this quote. It reminds me of Jung’s definition of God from an interview he gave to Good Housekeeping Magazine in December 1961, just before his death:

To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse. (n.p.)

Here and in his other writings, Jung essentially equates the psyche (conscious and unconscious, personal and collective) with God—God, the creator, and God, the destroyer. Jung warns that God is not our stooge to be used by us for wish fulfillment, revenge, or derivation of power. Rather, it is a word representing an awesome, autonomous, and not always friendly power under whose ambivalent, unknowable influence we find ourselves, again and again. This knowledge is significant for me personally since I am living the life of a spiritual seeker. Looking for, and ultimately finding God is my job, my vocation. What is unique in Jung’s view is the admission that God is not necessarily our friend. God is not here to save us or rescue us or satisfy our wishes or make us shine. God has a dark side, a vengeful side. Furthermore, this God is none other than our own psychospiritual level of existence. We contain, no, we—are—God.

This course also taught me an important lesson about the dangers of hero worship. By examining the psychic effects of a constellated child archetype in relation with the puella aeternis, and by studying the various attributes of Jung’s personal life and times, I was able to see how I was worshipping him a bit, in the way a young girl might blindly worship her father. During this course, I was able to significantly shift my inner perceptions about the father archetype which led to a graduation from the grips of the wounded inner child, who is, after all, the shadow side of the hero archetype, my unconscious default position.

Jung has said that archetypes evolve, myths evolve, and, through the long step by step process of individuation, ideally, the whole person also evolves. There is an image of growth one can hold onto along the way. This course taught us to examine the idea of a personal myth and self-presentation, not just in how Jung presents himself in his writings, but also how we present ourselves in the many areas of life (including the dreamworld) in which we gambol about. The boundaries between self and other, personal and collective, dream and reality, are much more permeable than we’ve been led to believe. Permeability thus connects personal with archetypal using threads of psychic intelligence—they inform one another and grow together. One’s life and one’s myth are archetypal images which grow and evolve, just as ideas about Jung as a womanizing antisemitic racist permeate and grow with ideas of him as a genius explorer of parts unknown. Learning to put Jung in context helps bring a sense of objectivity to one’s own life as well. The psyche is a divine intervention, and this lessens the potential for boredom in objectivity. After all, what can be more exciting than watching God at work?

Where Is Your Light?

Today we may not fully appreciate the workplace as a laboratory where matters of soul are worked out. We tend to focus on literal concerns such as pay, product, and advancement, whereas developments in work life deeply affect your sense of meaning (Moore, 2008, p. 3).

The imaginatio, as the alchemists understand it, is in truth a key that opens the door to the secret of the opus . . . The place or the medium of realization is neither mind nor matter, but that intermediate realm of subtle reality which can be adequately expressed only by the symbol. The symbol is neither abstract nor concrete, neither rational nor irrational, neither real or unreal. It is always both (Jung, quoted in Rowland, 2005, p. 113).

Yun-men said to his assembly, “Each of you has your own light. If you want to see it, you cannot. The darkness is dark, dark. Now, where is your light? Answering for his listeners, he said, “The storeroom, the gate!” (Aitken, 1984, p. 62)

These excerpts illustrate the current status of my vocation—I am searching for it utilizing very real psychic tools: imagination, symbol, and paradox. Susan Rowland’s expository chapter on Jung and Alchemy provides a structural basis for such vocational explorations which would be deemed vague at best by the scientific worldview, with its rigid parameters for research and knowledge. After all, “Science and reason are modern constructs designed to conceal more irrationally infused modes of consciousness from cultural recognition” (Rowland, 2005, p. 12). Science might scoff at the question, “Where is your light?” precisely because it cannot answer it. Rowland provides a way for the artist/alchemist to define true substance in her work: “For the alchemists, the active power of the imagination transforms matter. For Jung, active imagination transforms the matter of the psyche” (Rowland, 2005, p. 114).

Aitken, R. (1984). The mind of clover. North Point Press. New York: NY.

Moore, T. (2008). A life at work. Broadway Books. New York: NY.

Rowland, S. (2005). Jung as a writer. Routledge. New York: NY.

Jung and Transpersonal Psychology

I have space to discuss two key similarities between Ken Wilbur’s descriptions of certain functionalities in Integral Psychology and C.G. Jung’s ideas. The first has to do with the archetypes, the second with the role of the ego.

Wilbur’s Great Nest theory with its basic structures and waves seem to me to be essentially archetypal psychology. The way Wilbur explains it, the structures and waves themselves have no outside identity, but must instead be filled in with content and effort by the traveling self. “What the Great Nest represents . . . is most basically a great morphogenetic field or developmental space—stretching from matter to mind to spirit—in which various potentials unfold into actuality” (Wilbur, 2000, p. 12). Wilbur takes pains to explain that the structures are of themselves amorphous potentials only, but that they “. . . become actualized . . . given more form and content . . .” so that they “. . . become everyday realities” (Wilbur, 2000, p. 12). This is precisely how Jung’s archetypes function.

Wilbur called the self the navigator of consciousness, explaining how “. . . as the locus of integration, the self is responsible for balancing and integrating all levels, lines, and states in the individual” (Wilbur, 2000, p. 37). This correlates vividly with the depth psychological view of the function of the ego as espoused by E.C. Whitmont in his 1969 book, The Symbolic Quest:

The optimal stance that the ego can strive for . . . could be described as a continual awareness of the conflicting polarities . . . of waiting and seeing, of living things out, weighing various aspects and bringing them into balance, ever ready to work with the materials at hand. (p. 258)

My “work" is so nebulous right now that I can only express a great interest in learning more in order to integrate Ken Wilbur’s perspectives into my overall academic life, in due course.

Us And Them

In his essay, “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man,” Jung called being “unhistorical” the ultimate “Promethean sin.” (Jung, 1931/1970, p. 69 CW 10 para. 153). In other words, a great deal of hubris lurks in the fateful untethering of individual, culture, and psyche from the grounding fecundity of history and tradition.

There are similarities between this idea and the one-sided promotion of individuality which unfolded in the social structures of the last few centuries. The division between self and other found literally in the separation of rich from poor, black from white, male from female; spiritually, in the extreme segregation between man and nature; and psychologically, in the way the “mentally able” were privileged over sensitive dissenters, is in direct proportion to the power of the state to control and manipulate. After all, united we stand, divided we fall.

Abandoning a holistic, multifaceted approach in favor of strict individualism destroyed many possibilities for social equality across all frontiers. This loss of wholeness clearly gave rise to the dominant neurotic features of today’s individual psyche, neuroses which are now “. . . accepted as fact and product of modern existence . . . ” (Jansz, 2004, p. 121). The collective psyche is now chained to the rocks where each day its liver is eaten out by a rabid bird—even, perhaps, by “the Aryan bird of prey” (Jung, 1931/1970, p. 80 CW 10 para. 190), reincarnated and embodied today in Global Corporate Consumer Capitalism. We are unconsciously paying for the hubris of self-obsessive individualization—devoured alive each day by our fears and anxieties.

Unfortunately, "psychology firmly fixed widespread beliefs about the fundamental inequality of races” (Jansz, 2004, p. 180), and appears to have been weaponized for furthering destructive attitudes, adding fuel to the fire of “Us versus Them,” and helping to justify policies of imperialism.

Thank goodness for depth psychology!

Jansz, J. & van Drunen, P. (2004). A social history of psychology. Blackwell Publishing. Malden: MA.

Jung, C. G. (1970). The spiritual problem of modern man (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 10, 2nd ed., pp. 74-94). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1931)

Unfolding A Life In Work

DJA700, “Introduction to Depth Psychology,” provided me with a historic foundation upon which to build my future academic work in Jungian and Archetypal Psychology. While I did not find all of the material equally inspiring, I was nevertheless deeply engaged. The first two modules gave me a look at the ancient shamanic roots of depth psychology and the origin of the word mesmerize. I also learned how the scientific and industrial revolutions led to a preponderance of psychological disorders which gave birth to depth psychology.

We moved on to study the three great founders of depth psychology—Freud, Adler, and Jung. We learned about Freud’s insistence that sexual energy lies at the center of all psychic activity and that it alone is responsible for the creation of the unconscious, since that is where the psyche must deposit all its sexually charged shame and other repressed materials. Adler taught that the well being of the human psyche is tied to a holistic approach to an individual as situated within society and within social equity. Adler felt that inferiority/superiority complexes were instrumental in causing psychic malaise. Then, of course, there is Jung. He is my hero and no matter how often people go on about his romantic misadventures, I still find his work to be supremely illuminating and of extreme relevance to our current world troubles. Jung espoused a vision of the psyche that includes the personal unconscious, the broader collective unconscious, and a number of inhabitants, features, and psychic proclivities which populate and animate psychic existence, all of which exert a formative influence upon our daily lives.

Later, we learned about the social implications of rapidly spreading psychological practices and saw some of the corrosive, diabolical methods for inequitable social engineering that psychology was used for, especially in the post modern world. In the last two weeks we studied Ken Wilbur and his Integral Psychology, which, for me at least, requires a great deal more than one week of study to be understood. Finally, we did our best to decipher Susan Rowland’s views on Jungian psychology by studying Jung’s prose with its invisible peaks and valleys—the expressions of the unconscious embedded in his words and sentences. “Jung believed and wrote as though he believed that the thinking and discriminating mind—conventionally used to produce non-fictional argument—was situated within a sea of unconscious creativity” (Rowland, 2005, p. 1). In other words, the unconscious was also doing the writing, and Jung let it do so.

My favorite part of the class happened when I discovered Gustav Fechner’s The Little Book of Life After Death, in which, among many other moments of beauty, he postulates the development of human consciousness and its evolution into an angelic eventuality. This further cemented my personal attachment to the Romantic ground of depth and archetypal psychology, with Keats’s profound notion of life as “the vale of soul-making.”

My work is still amorphous and unknowable, like the archetypes. I am in the middle of a creative journey and cannot know yet what the outcome will be. The history of depth psychology and its many permutations is a snapshot of academic work as creative work. I’m able to see the knowledge which developed out of the discovery of the unconscious, and I’m able to take inspiration from its serpentine progression. All our forebears in this work, people like Jung, Freud, Fechner, Adler, Whitmont, von Franz, Mesmer, Edinger, Hillman, Rowland, Mayes and countless others have each expressed a life in work, exhibiting the way a vocation unfolds into a realized vision. For me, this means that I must simply continue putting one academic foot in front of the other, paying careful attention to every step, and taking special notice of the numinous moments along the way when a certain idea takes hold of me and doesn’t let go. In this way, I hope to unfold a life in work as a writer, an artist, and a scholar.

How God Enters The World

Jung believed that God and all of creation labored through time to bring conscious awareness into the universe, and that it is the role of human beings to carry that evolution forward--Robert Johnson, Inner Work

The material we have studied in DJA720, “Jungian Psychology: The Individuation Journey,” has affected ideas about my overall vocation in several key ways, beginning with the important invitation to understand and interact with the symbolic nature of the inner psychic world upon which all other worlds, perceptions, and experiences are built.

In the first module, I saw how modern humanity experienced an outbreak of psychological neuroses once ritual symbolic experiences were replaced with speed, factories, telegraphic communications, trains, and the wholesale exploitation of nature. I learned that incorporating rituals and other symbolic activities (drawing, music and dance, storytelling, dreamwork, active imagination) into my daily life will keep “me” grounded in the fathomless, beautiful, and terrifying realm of the unconscious, providing a priceless psychospiritual support system for my creative and academic vocational aspirations.

In the second module, we studied complexes. I learned that a complex is “an autonomous set of impulses grouped around certain kinds of energy-charged ideas and emotions; it is expressed in identity, compulsiveness, and primitivity, inflation, and projection, for as long as it remains conscious” (Whitmont, 1969, p. 58). I vaguely knew about complexes, but I did not know that I can be “identical” with one, which means I am not consciously aware of being controlled by the complex. This terrifies me because I sense that I am ruled by energies beyond my control (which is one aspect of archetypes, the root of all complexes). How can I trust my desires or have faith in my plans and schemes to say nothing of the words that come out of my mouth? A dangerous psychic reality with far-reaching implications, complexes must be differentiated from the ego and brought into consciousness as much as possible. Here I found another reason to delve deeply into the realm of the unconscious and interact with its contents, particularly through dreamwork since complexes are often personified in dreams. It suddenly felt dangerous to dream about vocation without a solid plan for understanding my complexes.

In the third module, I experienced a radical breakthrough when I learned about the Transcendent Function and read about the Shadow. Seeing and integrating my own darkness has been an ongoing project for me. But learning about projection of the Shadow onto others was a turning point. I started honoring the shadow in rituals and began to consciously take back my shadow projections in active imagination sessions. This took place after a six week period of acute psychological suffering in relation to a raging mother complex. For weeks, I held the tension of the opposites, suffering under the “divine progression” of “conflict to paradox to revelation” (Johnson, 1991, p. 91) while doing daily drawings, until one day, suddenly, a massive energetic shift occurred leaving me elated for a few weeks, until the next conflict arose.

I aspire to be an artist and a scholar. I think I just want to be(come) who I already am, but in a fuller, more realized fashion. “Individuation is the term Jung used to refer to the lifelong process of becoming the complete human being we were born to be” (Johnson, 1986, p. 11). My work, my vocation, is to develop my self into this realized person. My job is to further the project of consciousness, to expand it. In my Zen practice, I daily vow: All beings without limit, I vow to carry over. The promise contained in this vow and the lifelong work of individuation are essentially the same thing. Our class has given me practical tools for approaching and interacting with the unconscious, without whose blessing, my work would be meaningless and unrealized.

A work that is realized is divinized. This is how God enters the world.

Psyche Matters

It is difficult to get through a day without some type of heartbreak, to say nothing of incessant and creepy premonitions of doom. Living, as we are, at the epicenter of countless potential catastrophes—the collapse of civilization, climate change, nuclear war, mass economic slavery, erupting racial and religious tensions—one feels the cultural pathology arising from dissociation of mind from matter from soul most acutely. We are, after all, “. . . new and liberated men and women living forward into a science fiction . . . ” (Hillman, 2005, p. 80), busy ignoring the roots of consciousness, lost in our insane collective mirage of spiritual/material attainment.

#JesusRules #MAGA #LoveItOrleaveIt #YouthNotDeath #LoveAndLight #SayNoToDarkness

If mind is spirit, and matter is body, then God (the inherent religious function of the psyche, the unconscious itself) is soul. The mind (spirit) has become dislodged from its soulful place in the natural depressions of psyche. Matter (body) is desacralized—its spirit liberated—and now, “. . . directed almost exclusively to conquest and erosion of the external world” (Jaffe, 1984, p. 135).

But the psyche is inherently religious because archetypes are the impetus for its life, they exist in a state of devotion to life. The unconscious is creative. God is creative. Psyche is creative—it “exerts a formative influence . . . on the creations of the human spirit” (Jaffe, 1984, p. 132). Without this religious, soulful ground that is devoted to life, the spirit/mind spins out of control, paving the way for a massive body count.

As usual, we are being invited to a wedding of life-affirming individuation.

We are individuals, we can unfold an inner marriage where psyche matters and mind/body is wedded to that “. . . third thing, a neutral nature which can at most be grasped in hints since its essence is transcendental” (Jung, quoted in Storr, 1983, p. 335).

The Evil of an Unexpressed Archetype

The anxiety caused by the sense of not having appropriately expressed an archetype—an unmanifested, hence unknown, potential—can be excruciating. Whitmont, 1969, p. 254.

Answer To Job tells us that by enduring excruciating doubt, humiliation, and suffering, Job produces heightened awareness and a direct experience of the Godhead, ingraining this formerly absent experience into his deepest being, thereby humanizing a hitherto unconscious God while divinizing (completing) his own consciousness. Psychologically, this describes the way “. . . we are crucified by the opposing needs of Self and ego . . .” (p. 254), for in life, “. . . we are called upon to serve two masters . . .” while, paradoxically finding how “. . . every attempt to serve the one arouses the opposition of the other” (p. 256). The ego (Job) is called upon to maintain a tremendous cohesion, to endure unimaginable conflict, and to simultaneously differentiate, mediate, and integrate between itself and the unfathomable realm of the unconscious as symbolized in the archetype of the Self (Yahweh).

The projection of evil (this font of necessary spiritual conflict) onto some ungodly locus of existence is a primary feature of the contemporary God image. God is only good, he exists independently of evil. Evil is shunned (as Satan) while goodness and God’s love and light are privileged with maniacal ferocity. But, as we have seen, and as Jung has said, too much light casts a powerful shadow. When culture rejects evil, and therefore its collective responsibility to endure suffering and expand consciousness, “evil” (unconsciousness) grows and develops a life of its own. “Christianity has made the antimony of good and evil into a world problem . . .” (Jung, quoted in Storr, 1983, p. 271), but, in truth, few can endure the depth of this conflict, and so, “. . . the truth about the self—the unfathomable union of good and evil . . .” (p. 271) remains "an unmanifested, hence unknown, potential."

Hubris, Sacrifice, and Living the Religious Life

The never-ending school shootings are the unconscious sacrifice and American Exceptionalism as embodied in the Second Amendment, the so-called infallibility of the Founding Fathers, and the Constitution—is the hubris.

I’m more excited about the second part of the lecture--that subtler level of sacrifice and its practical application in everyday life. This is where we can develop “. . . that stability which human existence acquires when the claims of the spirit become as imperative as the necessities of social life” (Jung, CW 10, para. 190) [Italics mine].

The correct relationship of hubris to sacrifice is exactly that of the ego to the Self. There is a healthy way and a destructive way, and the healthy way unequivocally requires sacrificing the ego to the Self, again, and again, and again.

Strange moods, dark forebodings, irrational sorrows, sudden, unmistakeable intuitions, creative outpourings, the immensity of our dreams—these are the “significant” parts of “psychic life” that “always” lie “below the horizon of consciousness,” for “when we speak of the spiritual problem of modern man, we are speaking of things that are barely visible—of the most intimate and fragile things, of flowers that open only in the night” (Jung, CW 10, para. 194).

Sacralizing average moments in the day by surrendering egoic inclinations in favor of nurturing “the restorative possibilities in embracing the dark, underworld of shadow and dream” (Slater, nd, p. 114)—this is what it means to live a religious life.

Each morning, I write down my dreams. Each day, I honor the shadow (sad songs, angry, passionate drawings), 10, 20, 30 times a day I check in with myself: Where is my attention going? Who is in charge right now?

I finally know what Krishnamurti meant when he said you must die to your Self.

Divine Progression

The essence of psychic conflict seems to reside within the confrontation between two warring factions. On one side sits the hardened one-sidedness of ego consciousness with its abysmal feeling of inadequacy, on the other a numinous intuition, an image of wholeness and freedom emanating from the unconscious. This confrontation between pairs of opposites yields an intolerable tension which creates a third thing. The transcendent function, as it is called, is a new and elegant solution “. . . which manifests itself as a quality of conjoined opposites” (Jung, 1969, p. 90).

Why is this psychic tension necessary for the individuation process? It seems that without it, there would be no forward movement. Coppin and Nelson (2017) write that the psyche is dialectical, invoking Hegel and his view that “all human thought and nature itself is composed of paradox and contradiction . . . the source of the natural and necessary movements towards the ‘Absolute’. . . ”(Nelson, 2017, p. 157). Accordingly, the psyche is inherently teleological, and the transcendent function is a kind of engine that feeds on tension, driving the conscious ego into the arms of the Self. “Conflict, to paradox, to revelation;” says Robert Johnson, “that is divine progression” (Johnson, 1971, p. 91). We must suffer--allow and bear--the tension, so we may “. . . earn the right to unity” (Johnson, 1971, p. 88).

Allowing and bearing the tension can sometimes become unendurable. After weeks of weathering an emotional cacophony, I was finally led to reading about the shadow. I discovered why things have been so painful—I have not been honoring mine. I have brutally rejected my artist self. I began drawing images that symbolize and express different parts of my shadows. I enacted a ritual of acknowledgment. I did active imagination.

While this process is urgent and ongoing, relief has been instantaneous.


Jung, C. G. (1969). The transcendent function (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 8, 2nd ed., pp. 67-91). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1958)

Coppin, J & Nelson, E. (2017). The art of inquiry. A depth-psychological perspective. Spring Publications. Thompson: Conn.

Jonson, R. (1971). Owning your own shadow. Understanding the dark side of the psyche. Harper One. New York: NY.

A Shallow Reservoir of Faith

An essential connection between the loss of a symbolic perspective and the inevitable existential crisis which follows is the absence of a healthy bridge mediating between the two centers of consciousness in the human psyche, namely, the conscious and unconscious minds, which are centered by the Ego and the Self, respectively.

In our unexamined post-Enlightenment haste to adapt to a world ruled only by rational thought, we destroyed the ancient and elaborate tapestry of symbolic systems together with the ancestral threads connecting us to it, creating a dangerously unsustainable situation where we no longer comprehend the meaning nor the potential outcomes of events in our lives, personally or collectively. In Man and His Symbols (1964), Jung wrote:

Modern man does not understand how much his rationalism (which has destroyed his capacity to respond to numinous symbols and ideas) has put him at the mercy of the psychic “underworld.” He has freed himself from “superstition” (or so he believes), but in the process, he has lost his spiritual values to a positively dangerous degree. His moral and spiritual tradition has disintegrated, and he is now paying the price for this break-up in worldwide disorientation and dissociation. (p. 84)

As one current example, I offer the attached image, which I found in the New York Review of Books article also listed here. It’s about cyber and information warfare and mentions how the United States “is currently working with an extremely shallow reservoir of faith” as a way of explaining our vulnerability to the power of misinformation. That is, we have lost faith in the symbolism of Democracy which once buoyed us, and so—dangerously—can no longer tell the difference between truth and lies.

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Blood Bond

The immediate value of dreams doesn’t come from explaining them, analyzing them, or following their overt or covert suggestions. It lies in re-entering them, living inside them, tasting and chewing them, until they become incorporated into the fabric of our waking hours (Lipsky, 2008, p. 14). 

When our course first began, this quote from our reading seemed abstract to me. It contained a promise that had yet to unveil itself, like a gift. I thought dreams were to be understood and utilized for personal gain and advancement of growth. Dreams were the powerful work animal and I was to harness them with my goals so that together, we’d super-quest and super-charge the individuation journey. But as I began the sincere work of keeping a new dream journal for class, I started to apply the coursework to my day-to-day dream interactions with exciting and disconcerting and dichotomous, paradoxical results. At every turn, I found alterations and mood swings and simultaneous explosions of exaltation and emotional destitution. The more I worked with my dreams, the more they resisted my ego’s greedy, acquisitive approach until I finally let go of the harness. At last, an organic, untethered way of the dream emerged of its own accord. Significant and astonishing was how letting go of the acquisitive approach permeated my entire consciousness. A corresponding psychological outlook spread across the horizon of my soul the way a few drops of blood beautifully flow and dissolve in water, fusing completely with its molecular structure. I think this is what is meant by re-entering a dream, living inside a dream, tasting and chewing a dream. 

In our course, we learned the craft and methods for dream work and of course, these are very useful. Associations, amplifications, and animation of dream figures, active imagination work, writing and speaking and dreaming in waking hours, developing a profound receptivity to the exceedingly subtle vibrations and messages of the unconscious—all these are powerful tools and important knowledge that I’ve come away with after taking this course. 

I have personally experienced the way dreams work together night after night, month after month, forming a series of linked narratives. What this tells me is that I am living my life in the unconscious in the same way that I am living my life in waking hours. In my dreams, I am growing and changing and evolving. In my dreams I am facing challenges, overcoming obstacles, questing and seeking, trying and giving up. In my dreams, I meet the darkness that cannot be named and also meet the strength and resilience I need to face it. Joseph Campbell says that when the truth is shoved down our throats, we choke on it—as do all people who meet true doctrine. Our course has taught me that my dreams are the true doctrine and sometimes I will choke on this truth. Even so, as it starts to go down, as it begins to be digested and assimilated, the truth of the dream spreads and becomes a powerful life force. It does so of its own accord, this work is not created by “me,” it is not manufactured by “me.” Dreams are real. I emanate outward from my dreams, not they from me. Indeed, this awareness has grown so pronounced that I feel in perfect kinship with Leonard Cohen who says:

Hold on, hold on my brother,
my sister, hold on tight. 
I finally got my orders: 
I’ll be marching through the morning,
marching through the night, 
moving cross the borders
of my secret life. 

For this is how it feels when dreamworld and waking world are fused in a bond of blood. A new, secret life emerges, powered by the prerogatives of the soul, where dreams have been “incorporated into the fabric of our waking hours.” This is where our course and the craft of dreamwork has led me—to a value in dreams that is no longer abstract, but immanent. 

I have crossed the border into a new land. There is no need to look back.

Lipsky, J. (2008). Dreaming together. Larson publications. Burdett:NY.