Dreams

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.

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.

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.