Heidekolb's Blog

On Not Writing and Missing Parts ~ Jungian Reflections

January 16, 2017
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Why has it been years since my last entry? As so often with our actions, or lack thereof, motivations are not always easily brought to the forefront, often buried beneath rationalization and explanations.

To some extent I experienced and saw in others the effects of a not insignificant over-stimulation triggered by the daily bombardment of words and images accelerated by the increase of social media. A digital whirlwind blowing us away. What could in proper measure inspire and connect became an instrument of confusion and destabilization. Too many images, too many words, too many opinions, each one claiming a sense of righteousness

Why contribute to the clutter?

 We don’t know what to take in any longer in our era of fabricated facts, fake news and deliberate manipulation in the service of some clever marketing scheme.
Our inner landscape often does not provide much help either. Our fragmented selves, each part with their own “voice” pull us in different directions. The outer and at times inner voices as well  have become a shrieking and painful cacophony. Where is the center? Where is the orient?

 

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Pieter Bruegel, the Elder ~ The Tower of Babel (1563)

So much noise, so little listening, so little worthwhile to hear. Uncertain times.

Why bother writing?

A few months before the catastrophe of World War I began in 1914  Jung looks “into the depths of what is to come” and describes his vision of  “the enormous dying and the sea of blood”…..A darkness seized the world, the terrible war arose…And so we had to taste hell.  (Red Book, p.274)

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Civil War victims in Syria ~ People and children massacred in Ghouta by chemical attack, 2013 (Wikipedia)

Jung continues: “I saw which vices the virtues of this time changed into, how your mildness became hard, your goodness became brutality, your love became hate, and your understanding became madness. Why did you want to comprehend the darkness! But you had to or else it would have seized you. Happy the man who anticipates this grasp….You are completely alone in this struggle, since your Gods have become deaf.”

The felt appreciation of how much life needs death is one of the cornerstones of Jungian thought. Death, not as an abstract concept but as a deeply felt reality expressed as empathy for the other, in all its manifestations, human, animals and  other life forms. Gaia herself.  And eventually also, we may open up to our own suffering as irrelevant and small, so our heads want to tell us, it may appear compared to the attacks we inflict and witness on the screens that have become our reality-shaping tools.

I began to wonder if I had answered my question of why not writing for so long. Probably, to some extent. But one answer is never the full picture. Easy to forget, hard to practice. More digging in silence. Sitting with nothing.

 

Often  it is helpful to revisit the “crime scene”. In my case, I reread my last entry from. “A Dangerous Method ~ The Movie~ Part I”. Part II was never written.  The “why not” is only speculation. I was not ready. I did not what it was. Who knows. But “it” knew and “it” had to patiently wait until I was ready to hear it. I now know what could not  be written then. Part II is the tragic story of Sabina Spielrein.

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Sabina Spielrein 1918

I am grateful to my colleague, Jungian analyst Ilona Melker who has done extensive research on Spielrein and who confirmed for me in her unpublished presentation at the Jung Foundation how much Spielrein was not only used as a muse by both Freud and Jung (even that without any acknowledgement, as Melker points out) but how many of her findings were appropriated and contributed to the emerging theories of both Freud and Jung. How closely her ignored paper “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being” is related to Jung’s understanding of transformation and how much life needs death to renew itself and to Freud’s concept of the death instinct. Acknowledged only in footnotes. Sabina Spielrein, a pioneer and one of the first female psychoanalysts perished together with her two daughters, both of whom were talented musicians. They were shot dead along with the many thousands of Jewish residents by an SS squad in 1942.

Women as footnotes. We tend to oscillate between how much has changed and  our denial of what has not. We are entering a new political climate with renewed hostility towards the feminine and psyche, and therefore also on women as the main carriers of projections of the feminine. All are under renewed attack by a now seemingly institutionalized form of greed and indecency by a changed and potentially dangerous political atmosphere, where climate change denial, ruthless exploitation of the planet’s resources, attacks on women and anyone who fits the definition of “the Other” are fighting to become the new normal. From demanding obedience to the law without pondering questions of ethics and morals.

Patriarchy is a dying. But not dead yet. It may take a few more generations. We are in the midst of  a political backlash to prior attempts towards a more integrated culture. Authoritarian structures wrestle for the upper hand. If we can,  we need to be vigilant. If we can, we need to show up with a voice. But if the voice is not there yet, if we cannot yet hear what needs to be said, then we need to sit patiently until we can hear what needs to be said.

And then, if one can tolerate the passing of time without judgment and surrender to the timeless nature of psyche, deo concedente, a word, a thought appears that wants to become flesh.

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The Annunciation by El Greco


On Image and Duality – C.G.Jung – The Red Book Reflections

January 11, 2010
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In 1925, in the midst of working on the Red Book (RB) Jung wrote “It seemed to me I was living in an insane asylum of my own making. I went about with all these fantastic creatures: centaurs, nymphs, satyrs, gods and goddesses as though they were patients and I was analyzing them”. S. Shamdasani, the editor of the RB, noted that Jung found mythological work both exciting and intoxicating. Jung understood mythological images as symbols of the universal life force (libido) depicting the movements and dynamics of the autonomous, archetypal psyche.

Jung writes about one of his earlier visions: “On the night when I considered the essence of the God, I became aware of an image.” In this vision he dialogues with Elijah and his daughter Salome. Two thoughts strike me immediately as relevant for an understanding of Jung’s approach. One is his use of the word image.

An image is not to be confused with outer reality. Physicists provide explanations for the nature of matter and outer reality, but one thing is certain, our experience creates an inner image that is not the same as outer reality. The image is a subjective experience in the individual mind. It can be visual, but the experience of a sound or a physical sensation will also bring forth an image. A thought is an image.  No question, there is an outer world and also an objective psychic reality, but it is only through the subjective capacity of cultivated self-reflection that one can – with some luck and grace – gain access and insight into the larger, transpersonal realities. An image is like a symbol. It is not to be taken literally or the door becomes a trap holding you prisoner in a concrete and narrow reality. An image is a doorway  into another reality.  A paradoxical situation, the image is you and is not you. You are the observer and the observed. A necessary duality has been created. Necessary because all creation depends on this duality and the forever shifting dance between the two opposing forces. A oneness has been torn asunder. It is in the liminal space in-between that new life can be born. In the context of self-reflection the new life can be a new insight, the possibility of a new pattern of experience.

In the context of a necessary duality, it is interesting that Jung when contemplating the essence  of “the God”, encountered a male AND a female figure. The transpersonal may be a field of oneness, but the human intellect can only approximate the  divine mystery of creation as two intertwined forces. As above so below. Think DNA. These two opposing forces are often referred to as masculine and feminine, but one must drop all preconceived notions about gender or sexuality. Each individual psyche, male or female,  is made up of these energy strands, as is the objective, archetypal psyche. Yang and Yin are more neutral descriptions. Jung elicited the principles of Logos (yang, masculine, foresight, legislation, ordering, willful) and Eros (yin, feminine, receptive, related, moving, dissolving) out of his visionary meeting with Elijah and Salome. Jung writes: The way of life writhes like a serpent from right to left, from thinking to pleasure and from pleasure to thinking. Collectively and individually we are suffering an imbalance in this eternal dance that has favored the masculine principle. Where Logos rules order and persistence  prevail, where Logos rules at the expense of Eros, it degenerates into dominance and abuse of power. In the individual this tendency can be associated to the sickness of the soul, known as the narcissistic personality. The problem of narcissism has been thought of as a characteristic of a dying culture. I can see this trajectory, unless psyche is irrigated by the flow of eros and balance is restored one more time again.

I am less interested in why Jung’s psyche chose Elijah and Salome as personifications of his unconscious thoughts. These are uniquely his images. It seems of much greater significance how he engaged these images. A method that later became known as Active Imagination. A technique that strongly emphasizes the duality principle. In other words, the ego, the “I” as I know it does not disappear in the face of the visionary figure. One must hold ones ground vis-a-vis an imaginative figure. They are to be met with respect, but not revered as gods, because they are not. Nor are imaginative figures spirits who have all the answers and will tell one what to do. They also don’t foretell the future. Our psychic images are real, but the essence of their reality is behind the surface of the mental image.

It is in this dialogue with Elijah and Salome, in that sacred, liminal space between them that  Jung realizes: “If forethinking and pleasure unite in me, a third arises from them, the divine son, who is the supreme meaning, the symbol, the passing over into a new creation. I do not myself become the supreme meaning or the symbol, but the symbol  becomes in me such that it has its substance, and I mine.”

Not one, not two. The paradox, nonduality requires duality.


On Soul and Darkness and Imagination: The Red Book Reflections

November 6, 2009
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In the Red Book (RB) Jung documents his process of confronting a series of gruesome visions and fantasies filled with blood, destruction and cruelty. As I am writing this, images of the tragic news today of the massacre at Fort Hood flash through my mind. Jung’s recorded visions date from 1913 to 1914 and he considered them to be precognitive, foreshadowing the flood of destruction that would soon sweep through Europe. I am thinking of our culture’s current fascination  with horror, violence and destruction, which, so we are told, will culminate in the cataclysmic events of “2012”. End days? The final hurray before the ultimate apocalypse? Maybe. Jung was deeply effected by the darkness that enveloped Europe during the First and Second World War. The horrors were unimaginable and it was indeed the end, the death for millions. Yet life continued. But the danger still looms. The archetype of the apocalypse (the violent pattern of disintegration of the world as we know it) continues to be the dominant force. Hindu mythology tells us that the dark age of Kali Yuga began 3000 BC and will last for another while (another 400 000 or more years). Are we depressed yet? Ready to stick the head in the sand or bury the nose in a bottle? I would not blame you.

But that is not what Jung did. One way of looking at the RB is, I suggest,  as a “How To” book of some sort.  How to gaze into the darkness and survive it. How to gaze into the darkness and bring forth meaning. How to gaze into the darkness and, Deo Concedente, find a shimmer of light in it. Not a job for the faint hearted, but then the Jung I know never was. One thing I am certain is that the RB will do away with for good with the notion that Jung is a fluffy, new agey psychologist whose path of individuation is filled with love and light and flowery archetypal imagery.

If we stay with the idea of looking at the RB as a  “how to” (deal with these times) book a little longer, then Jung suggests the absolute necessity of “refinding the soul”( p.231). Not the idea of soul as it has been co-opted by religious institutions, but the very private soul (or psyche if you prefer). Our core that is capable of the most terrible suffering and the most ecstatic bliss. It is the expression of our shared humanity, which  connects us to the larger world soul, the anima mundi. The soul in us feels, connects, longs for, desires. It finds and creates beauty. Cynicism, political games and unbalanced ambition are lethal to soul.

Jung writes:” He could find his soul in desire itself, but not in the objects (italics mine) of desire. If he possessed his desire, and his desire did not possess him, he would lay a hand on his soul, since his desire is the image and the expression of the soul. If we possess the image of a thing, we possess half the thing. The image of the world is half the world” (p.232). Jung develops here what is to become a hallmark of his work: an appreciation for the power of the imagination, the true alchemical imagination that creates and transforms worlds.

Looking back out into our blood stained, violent and cynical world as we spin (out of control?) towards 2012, it is our courage and willingness to follow the soul’s imagination that could change the trajectory of our current path of destruction, for nothing is ever written in stone.


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