Ever Deeper Core of Meaning

Myths . . . are accessible collective narratives containing densely coded symbols and archetypes that can awaken stage-specific dynamic interplay between instinct and archetype.

—Maren T. Hansen, An evaluation case study of a myth class to stimulate identity development for early adolescents

     C. G. Jung taught that images are spontaneous irruptions from the deep psyche that can manifest in a variety of forms which are not limited only to visual images but can also appear as emotions, thoughts, fantasies, and daydreams. These psychic products are furthermore symbolic, meaning they contain hidden knowledge which the psyche is attempting to convey to the conscious sphere, whether this conscious sphere is that of an individual's or that of an entire society. In the context of “densely coded” symbolic images being conveyed to an entire society, the imaginal language of films, books, poems, fairy tales, myths, and a variety of visual and performing art forms such as music, dance, and religious ritual allow us to sound the depths of the psyche in order to understand the messages it has for us. 

     What we have learned during our course is that these symbolic images are imaginal stand-ins for the immense variety of psychological experiences we encounter during the span of one lifetime. Each image—whether it’s an overwhelming irruption of sorrow, a nasty moment of jealousy, or a drawn picture of a caged bird—is a symbol which represents an inner psychological event. Usually, the images that are spontaneously produced and the images we are drawn to at any given moment are reflective of the current cycle of psychological growth and development while throughout the vast pantheon of imaginal material produced by the human psyche we find images and narratives that tell the story of different stages of psychological experience. These are then grouped into types of myth and types of books and types of art, all of which reflect certain psychological and archetypal characteristics and processes. 

     All of us are living our lives from within the inner parameters of these different psychological cycles so that the stories in myths and fairytales, and their counterparts found in the art world and especially in the world of films, can help us to identify which stage we are in. These stage-specific narratives thus contain a great deal of information for how best to navigate that particular section of the psychological road. The overall goal, at least according to countless myths and fairytales, and according to depth psychology, is individuation, which is the process whereby the sphere of consciousness and the much larger and more powerful sphere of the unconscious form a symbiotic harmony, what has been termed the Ego/Self axis. This harmony is only achieved at a great price, namely, the price of enduring great psychological disharmony and suffering, for it is the continual defeat of the ego in the face of the much larger and transpersonal powers of the unconscious that slowly polishes the soul into a vibrant jewel. The quest for individuation and the seemingly never-ending obstacles faced on this quest are often symbolized in the myth of the hero’s journey, most notably articulated by mythologist Joseph Campbell. 

     My vocation—the calling of my soul—is to become a theoretical archetypal psychologist and a scholar. For me, the application of learned material to my own psychological life for the purpose of psychic research and to gain an ever deeper knowledge of the intricate and mysterious workings of the psyche is of paramount importance. In this sense, knowing the way myths and fairytales and films identify inner dynamics and show them to us through the use of symbolic images is of immense value. In this course, I have learned that images are not only symbolic but that they carry a moving, dynamic core of meaning which, when deciphered, explodes open our usual narrow ego perspectives.

And so, onward!

The Spiral Stairwell

     I think it’s a fundamental characteristic in the study of archetypal psychology that can never be repeated enough, an aspect that is so easy to forget or misunderstand, and that is that mythical images are the psyche, or as Jung succinctly put it, “image is psyche” (Jung, 1929/1967, p. 54, CW13 para. 75). This means that an image of a god or goddess, together with any and all imaginal accouterments they carry or are adorned by as well as the events and dramas of their lives are all psyche. These images are not some separate reality that we study from a position outside of psyche. Both the images and our interactions with them (whether these interactions are scholarly, mythopoetic, ritualistic, or actively imaginal) are psyche. So when we study the gods and goddesses, as in this course, for example, those from the Greek pantheon, we are studying psyche itself. The gods and goddesses and the dramatic narratives of their lives thus portray the life of the psyche—its way of living (Rossi, 2019). 

     As we know from our studies thus far, the psyche is composed of conscious and unconscious spheres, the latter being the larger and more powerful of the two. Indeed, Jung thought that the conscious sphere is surrounded on all sides by the unconscious in the same way that a lit candle in a dark room is surrounded on all sides by impenetrable darkness. Yet this mysterious and humongous surrounding space is dynamic and alive. In its fathomless depths, amorphous numinous entities—psychological energy patterns—roam and rule. These archetypes carry specific programs which affect the way we live our lives since they can powerfully influence our consciousness. Intrinsically unknowable, the archetypes appear through symbolic images in myths, dreams, and fantasies so that a personified and recognizable narrative alerts us to the hidden workings of the deep psyche. The gods and goddesses thus exhibit these psychological systems at work in the collective unconscious and show us how they are actively influencing our day to day lives. If we can understand the patterns of behavior that reflect these inner psychic workings, we can better comprehend the deeper and often hidden significance of life events, rites of passage, big ideas such as love and hate, massive social affairs like war and peace, and, of course, the deepest mysteries of the human soul. 

     In this course, I have learned that the movements of goddesses and gods and the movements of the psyche are one and the same thing so that when I study these divinities I am in effect studying myself. Not myself in a personal sense but rather the self in me which is psyche—the parts of “me” that are rooted in and informed by broader spheres of consciousness, which are, in fact, all of me since it has been made abundantly clear by almost all mystical wisdom traditions that the experience of a separate self is just a trick of the mind. In this labyrinthine way, the study of archetypal divinities becomes a moving spiral stairwell (heading in both directions simultaneously) which leads to self-knowledge. 

     Since my vocation involves one day becoming an archetypal psychologist and scholar, this course has been vitally essential. Our in-depth study of the works of archetypal psychologists such as Ginette Paris, Christine Downing, Rafael Lopez-Pedraza, Patricia Berry, James Hillman, and others has taught me how to look deeply into the often ambivalent and contradictory nature of archetypal images, particularly as they are embodied in the characters from Greek mythology. I’ve learned that archetypal spaces and locations are also “persons" and that all mythical narratives can best be understood through the use of metaphor and simile. Above all else, for me, there is tremendous value in understanding the workings of the psyche so that I can touch the deeper dimensions of life, particularly its divine nature—which is to say, the coursework this term has brought me closer to an understanding of what it means to face the gods. 

Earth-Born Kore

If we think of the psyche as an internal polis, Athene can be seen as the force which seeks to civilize the contents. Despite her status as Parthenos goddess, she is uniquely qualified to enact this civilizing potential through her relational aspects which differ from other virgin goddesses—Athene is the protectress of ordered relationship. Within herself, she contains and holds, not only herself but the potential for constraint and mastery of the strictly held and strategic moment. Like Kore, Athene shares space with Necessity for all three are self-contained in their inherent psychological directness. All three goddess images dwell within themselves, and are, on one level, entirely whole and implacable. Athene’s self-contained and armored wisdom is crafty with an ability to weave various strands and impulses into “a whole fabric” just “as her own person is a combination of Reason and Necessity” (Hillman, 2016, p. 66). She uses strategy, craftiness, and intelligence to redirect (through persuasive rhetoric) the chaos and irrationality of the psyche into a recognizable, satisfying, and cohesive integration where each piece has its clearly defined and necessary place. 

And yet Athene cannot stand goatish Dionysus, cannot abide sensual Aphrodite, is in constant warfare with Poseidon and his inherent depth, and smothers the fires of Ares with her measured tempo. Her urge toward order and civilized containment, her bridling of the wild horse, can be seen as its own shadow since it tends to circumnavigate the intrinsic and necessary wilderness of psychic regions where the necessity of chaos gives birth to new and unruly life. There is also Jane Ellen Harrison’s rather convincing critique about Athene’s negation of the mother as expressed in the manner of her birth which Harrison calls “a desperate theological expedient to rid an earth-born Kore of her matriarchal conditions” (Harrison, 1991, P. 302). 

Hillman, J. (2016). Mythic figures. The uniform edition of the writings of James Hillman, Vol. 6. Putnam, CT: Spring. 

Harrison, J. E. (1991). Prolegomena to the study of Greek religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

Kore and the Parthenogenesis of Psychological Androgyny

There is a self-contained certainty in the hermaphroditism of Dionysus that reminds me of the Kore—the just-so status of each is not given or attained but rather exists psycho-parthenogenetically. So the first thing to internalize is that the dual consciousness, the hermaphroditic bisexual androgyny preexists in Dionysus consciousness. And yet, remarkably, Dionysus is also the dismembered one, the repressed one, the regressive one. So there is the suggestion that inner (divine) nature, the nature that is given with life, the one-ness or non-duality of psyche, is perhaps also the cause of wounding dismemberment, the cause of regressive repressions. Or is it that by repressing this oneness and dividing it into opposites that painful dismemberment occurs? After all, why do the Titans lure Dionysus specifically of all the divine babies in creation? Is it because he is undivided? 

The complexity of Dionysus knows no bounds. I’m beginning to see what James Hillman meant when he said that the image goes on and on, forever. Because even after the dismemberment, his androgyny is still intact. Again, it reminds me of the intactness, the un-consumable virginity, of the Kore—nothing can dislodge it, not even tragedy. But then, why the female-only worshipers, why the tragic emotions, the madness and the hysteria? If original selfhood is forever intact, why the necessity for psychic agitators? I think the answer lies in the fact that the state of psychological androgyny preexists yet remains unavailable to consciousness without an experience in the body of tragic emotions. Dionysus is still a baby when he is dismembered and an androgynous god later in life, after the violence of Titanism is experienced. This shows the psychological necessity of emotional madness, why ever and anon we must undergo painful periods of psychic dismemberment before we can return once again to a space of equilibrium. 

A Psychology of Perspective, A Look of Love

In Re-Visioning Psychology (1975), Hillman wrote that archetypal psychology is a psychology of perspective (p. xvi) and it encourages a special sort of vision—a metaphorical, mythic vision that generates universal meaning and insight. This sort of I-sight opens “the questions of life to transpersonal and culturally imaginative reflection” (Hillman, 2013, p. 28) leading us to that mode of perception “which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic and metaphorical” (Hillman, 1975, p. xvi). Accordingly, myths are the I-sight of the archetypal perspective, “they open” (Hillman, 2013, p. 28) vistas of imaginative meaning, just as the lens of a camera opens to allow for more abundance and possibilities in the total composition. This vision is different from the monotheistic attitude which primarily enjoys classifying mythic images into categories that give each archetype one face, one direction, one value. 

A good example is the invigorating discussion of Mary in Paris’s Pagan Grace (1990). The monotheistic perspective places her in a limited role of passive mother who subserviently acquiesces to the brutal sacrifice of her son by the angry Fathers. In contrast, Paris explains how Demeter, as a mature woman Goddess with full powers, answers good with good and evil with evil—when her daughter is stolen, she rebels and doesn’t budge so Zeus acquiesces to her. Here we have metaphorical perspectives on universals of mothering, womanhood, and religion that open the imagination to reflection. I’m reminded of American Christian mothers who send their sons to die in wars, mothers who can’t stand up for their kids, won’t fight a corrupt system, who are conditioned to let their young be slaughtered in senseless wars, and how much this fits the mythic pattern of Mary as described by Paris (p. 38). Mary as fantasy and metaphor thus points to a relevant and modern cultural reality in need of tending. Both mothers are sad to lose a child, but the myths help us reimagine appropriate responses. 

Hillman, J. (1975) Re-visioning psychology. New York, NY: Harper & Row. 

Hillman, J. (2013). Archetypal psychology. The uniform edition of the writings of James Hillman, Vol. 1. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications. 

Paris, G. (1990). Pagan grace. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications. 

One Ring To Rule Them All

Lord of the Rings (1954) presents a multivalent universe of characters, ideas, and myths—it is quintessentially polytheistic. But what about Sauron? He is a man with one plan, one vision (the single eye), one definition, one idea—one ring. The others have many rings and plans and lands and insignia and cultural bents. The others are all different, with different histories, different proclivities, different physiognomies, foods, customs, and traditions, a veritable archetypal panoply. But Sauron wants to rule over them, bring them all together and “in the darkness bind them.” Why? Because “the logic of monotheism attempts to override” particularities; it focusses on “a single and empty abstraction that can contain all things” (Hillman, 2013, p. 157). Sauron wants to obliterate the multiplicities and replace them with the one vision. This is the way of the ego, too, in each of our lives. 

The danger of literalizing transforms a mother complex vis a vis the son, enforcing a degeneration of puer consciousness into the overcoming/subservient hero/ego. The mother as Great Goddess when made literal becomes the monotheistic complex, the one drive (one ring to rule them all) that defines all subsequent behavior. Yet the son, the hero, the puer, and the mother each contain and point to multitudes of possibilities for “the archetypes do not so much rule realms of being as they, like the gods, rule all at once and together the same realm of being” (Hillman, 2013, p. 127). There can simply be no son, hero, puer, or mother existing independently from one another. They coexist simultaneously as do all the gods, all the complexes, all the afflictions. Attributing values to archetypes is a fantasy of the ego (p. 111) and serves to dislocate the vision of experience inside a relic consciousness now solidified because of being “condemned to a single view” (p. 127). 

Hillman, J. (2013). Archetypal psychology. Uniform edition of the writings of James Hillman vol. 1. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications. 

Hillman, J. (2013). Senex and puer. Uniform edition of the writings of James Hillman vol. 5. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications. 

The Religious Psyche

By entering the imagination we cross into numinous precincts. And from within this territory all events in the soul require religious reflection. 

James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology, p. 226

     Archetypal Psychology is ultimately a religious project since its primary concern is for the soul and its relationship with the Gods. Hillman’s (1975) conception locates soul in a nonhuman realm where it is more of a perceptive quality rather than an object or substance. Furthermore, this perceptive quality of soul is self-reflective—it differentiates, mediates, communicates; it imaginates, congregates, and “deepens events into experiences” (p. xvi). As a perceptive functionality, soul is inseparable from image. It is a visionary and myth-making activity that experiences itself “through dream, image, and fantasy—that mode which recognizes all realties as primarily symbolic or metaphorical” (p. xvi). Jung also placed high value on images and their function in the psyche. Indeed, Jung said that “image is psyche” (Jung, 1929/1967, p. 54, CW13 para. 75) and Hillman follows Jung by confirming the monumental purpose of images in human psychology. Both men argue that images are the primary data of psychic life where soul is image and image is soul. Therefore understanding the nature of image would lead to a deeper understanding of not just the nature of soul, but also its needs and requirements. 

     Turning to the word “archetypal” which qualifies Hillman’s psychology is already a move toward images since archetypes themselves are inherently inscrutable and intrinsically unknowable so that there can be no conception or experience of an archetype without an image. Images are the language of the archetypes and if “image is psyche” then archetypes are psyche, too. An archetype brings a particular style of perception or a pattern into which experience can flow and grow into an intelligible psychological metaphor. So an archetypal perspective is a soulful and imaginative perspective. 

     Through overpowering numinous images, archetypes seize the soul and induce psychic action which then sensuously unwinds itself into a longwinded drama with countless actors and as many acts. These archetypal events are metaphor, myth, and story that take place in what Corbin (1972) has called the mundus imaginalis—a world of “celestial spheres” and “mystical cities” located between “the empirical world and the world of abstract intellect” (p. 7). Because of their residence in this celestial yet ontologically real nonhuman sphere, archetypes are imagined by Hillman as veritable Gods, and since they are innumerable, Hillman conceives of psyche as essentially polytheistic. Gods and the archetypal images they inhabit are perceived and experienced through imaginal stories and metaphors of the psyche, thus they allow the soul to make and experience itself. This process of soul-making is the primary concern of archetypal psychology. 

     For Hillman, the human being is inside the psyche, not the other way around. Therefore the most urgent work of life is to awaken to the inherent divinity of our souls—to internalize external reality and transmute it into metaphorical, imaginal, and symbolical reality which is the only reality the soul can recognize. The literal events of everyday life must be taken inward to the soul’s realm where they are transformed into the myths and dramas and stories of our polytheistic souls and their archetypal patterns. Archetypes are the root metaphors of the psyche and give it its flow and direction, they are the ideas of the soul, tools with which it weaves itself into illustrious or tragic patterns. Without this procedure we are left with nothing but the literal world of “history, society, clinical psychopathology, or metaphysical truths” (Hillman, 1975, p. 128) and these literalized aspects of external life are alien to the soul and naturally cause alienation and harm. Archetypal psychology therefore encourages us to “recollect the Gods in all psychological activity” (p. 226). Through the imaginative function we can realize that we are made of the nonhuman stuff of the soul and that this nonhuman stuff is essentially divine. This is the work of soul-making. 

Corbin, H. (1972). Mundus imaginalis or the imaginary and the imaginal. Spring: An annual journal on Archetypal Psychology and Jungian thought. Putnam, CT: Spring Publications. 

Hillman, J. (1975). Re-visioning psychology. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers. 

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.