Psyche Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Evil of an Unexpressed Archetype

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

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

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

Hubris, Sacrifice, and Living the Religious Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divine Progression

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

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

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

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

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

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.