James Hillman

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. 

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. 

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?

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.

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.

IMG_3027.JPG

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.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/04/05/silicon-valley-beware-big-five/

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.25.56 PM.png