Monday, March 19, 2012

Jung and the Novel- The World is Made of Glass

In a continuation of my blog series, Jung and the Novel, taken as an idea from David Ward-Nanney, author of Powder Dreams, (a contemporary novel which features a Jungian style analysis. David was the first to write a blog series on Jungian related novels and inspired me to write this series, as well as to read, Pilgrim by Timothy Findley (which I reviewed in a previous post) and  The World is Made of Glass, two novels which feature the noted pioneer of Psychoanalysis, Carl Gustav Jung as a main character.
The World is Made of Glass  is written by Australian author, Morris West (also author of The Devil's Advocate) who takes the reader on a wild ride as it does Carl Jung, when an unnamed woman is referred to Jung for psychotherapy.  The timing is dangerous and catalytic for both patient and analyst, since Jung has recently broken his strong alliance with his mentor, Freud as well as broken of his intimate relationship with Sabrina Speilrien, even though he still stays in touch with this patient turned lover, in addition to beginning a lifelong working and intimate relationship with Toni Wolff. 
Let's just say that both client and rock each others' worlds.
At first it surprised me that any writer would have the guts to employ the esteemed Professor Doctor C. G. Jung as a character in his novel, especially at one of the most fragile times of this highly respected psychiatrist.  But when I found out West had also had the guts to feature the devil in a novel, Jung seemed to be an easier subject.  West makes Jung so three dimensional, so well -rounded, that we are not only in the therapeutic cocoon of his study at his home at Ksnacht now that he has resigned his University teaching position and his position as a psychiatrist at the Burgholzi clinic, mostly to analysis himself as he faces the crisis of this breaks ups as well as a breakdown of his own psyche.
Beneath the fast paced riveting story, which is as much a detective story as it is a drama, West explores some highly important themes related to the as yet relatively unformed process of analysis transference and counter transference, non-judgmental acceptance on the part of the therapist in order to precipitate trust and healing, the willingness to be flexible and human within the confines of the therapeutic relationship and try whatever method may best suit the highly individualistic nature of their patient and this particular rocky and inflammatory times of their lives.

Like The Devil's Advocate, The World is Made of Glass is an incendiary novel.  It never simmers or offers simple heat from banked coals, but roils and flares, igniting not only Jung's passions but also his insights and illumination, even when dealing with the deepest depravities of the human psyche. Despite his Jung's own dissipated state, he attempts to offer healing to this damaged and suffering woman, over an intensive period of  days in which they work for almost full day sessions.Since the sessions are held at his him, Emma , Jung's wife also connects with Magda, eventually becoming her friend. West's characterizations of both Emma and Jung, famous and often written about, yet in these pages they come alive, well rounded people with their foibles and strengths fully developed.  We laugh at Jung's wit and cringe at his peasant crudeness, we feel sorry for Emma as she must deal with the intrusion of Toni Wolfe on her family, yet we see the potential of her future as both an analyst and a writer. 

The story takes place in 1913 and is based on a very brief description of a case Jung writes about in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections.Magda Liliane Kardoss von Gamsfeld, as we come to know her, is a wealthy Russian, who has dallied in many aspects of the human existence from managing a highly respected horse breeding farm to traveling throughout Europe during the Belle Epoque to satisfy her ever escalating need for sexual encounters, which as she grows older, must become more dangerous. She is now widowed, estranged from her only daughter, bereft of the one woman who was like a mother to her,  and is hunted down by a ruthless and powerful arms dealer, hoping to capitalize and even help instigate the First World War, who is now intent on her death, because she won't become a spy, using her sexual prowess and connections.
This is heady stuff for the doctor living in the relative neutrality and intelligentsia nestled within the pristine beauty of  Swiss landscape, even though he's already having dreams of destruction and chaos.  
due to the novels construction which offers a chapter from offering her services as Magda's point of view alternating with a chapter form Jung's point of view.  What a instructive way to learn about the inner workings withing the sacred alembic of the therapeutic relationship.

West has taken on a daunting challenge and rises to it with flare, even shock at times, yet the story is believable, fascinating and an interesting take on the enigmatic figure of Jung. When people would come to visit Jung form all over the world after reading his books, some in such a state of awe, they couldn't speak, Jung would be come flustered and even, rude demanding that they just view him as a man. I'm afraid that was how would I be, if I'd been lucky enough to live during that time and meet Jung. But West did not put Jung on a pedestal, nor was he afraid of Jung's complex mind. West treated Jung as just a man. A man who could be frustrated and blustery, compassionate and wise, defeated and elated. What better way to understand Jung in all his humanity?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Books, Dreams and Active Imagination

As my mind an imagination are still struggling to build an understanding of Jung's methods and tools, the way he built his tiny village with rocks and blocks, I'm discovering how easy Active Imagination can be when your enmeshed in these books.  I just now realized I'm kind of learning the way Jung liked to - in a circular or spiral  motion, looking at his body of work from various angles.  I have about fifteen books, (many birthday gifts from my son, others library books) propped on my bed right now, (where I tend to read) not counting the ones on the floor or nightstand.  I am reading seven or eight at the same time, some are novels The Message to the Planet, by Iris Murdoch I'm reading, some are Jungian novels I'm reviewing, The World is Made of Glass, by Morris West,  The Game, by A.S. Byatt,some are books written by Jung, some are biographies of Jung and some are books reformatting Jung's theories in easier to understand terminology.  I read often while I'm off work and a number of times in the middle of the night I'll read a chapter or a few pages.  When my brain gets overtired, I switch to a novel and get lost in the story, when I'm trying to analyze a dream I'll record or an active imagination session, I'll pick up one of the non fiction books and jump around.  Some of Jung's techniques which I'm trying to assimilate right now are: archetypes, the wounded healer, active imagination and transference and counter transference. I'm pretty good with the dreams having recorded and studied my own for years.  And my recent Big Dream with the mute giant holding the jar of fireflies was recently featured on Carla Young's blog, The Daily Dreamer  where she interprets guest dreams from time to time  (another idea I ganked from David Ward-Nanney, author of Powder Dreams, a novel which features analytical sessions with a Jungian trained psychotherapist.
But some of the other material such as transference and counter transference is new, and one I need to know about given the nature of my job working with adults who have suffered traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries. 
I'm also trying to balance this with work in my garden planting jasmine and phlox (birthday gifts from my daughter), making sweet and sour chicken with baked not fried chicken and with green peppers, onions, pineapple and cherries as they made it at the Hawaiiain Gardens in Dracut, Mass.  where I lived when I was married.  and helping my granddaughter build a resort (complete with seven apartments for her Monster High dolls, stage, bistro/coffee shop, pizza stand, fashion boutique, outdoor lounging area and daycare. It's not quite the same as Jung building his tiny Swiss village in his garden, but it allows me to allow the inner child to run rampant with dolls I would have loved as a child and the freedom to be imaginative and playful.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jung and the Novel - Alice's Masque

After The Magus by John Fowles, I think Alice's Masque and Chymical Wedding are two of the most brilliant books written from a psychological perspective similar to Jung's concepts of symbols, transformation, and individuation leading to an authentic self.  I was riveted with this novel, the impact of the swan, incredibly personal since it's been my totem animal since the 1970's.
Strong, complex and mysterious, Alice's Masque, first published in 1994,  is a compelling story which circles in and around itself capturing the reader in a depth experience. Clarke's language is lush and mysterious, dressed in the harshness of the Cornish coastline. I read this insightful  novel many years ago and it figures in the Top Ten books which changed my life deeply, I'm reading it again. Alice's Masque embraces the English fascination with the Middle Ages, knights and monks, ladies of queenly natures who, wise, by way of observation, when encountered, may summon a seeker to the inner quest, which proves more of a test than the outward journeys of the Crusades

And this was at the height of English post-modern fiction from the likes of Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, A.S. Byatt and more.
While Alice's Masque was first in the novels of transformation written by Clarke and has the same feel, it is in fact, quite a different story told in a different way.  It starts with three women at the seaside in Yorkshire, in a wild and beautiful area and the theme harkens back to the concept of the Courts of Love from the Middle Ages, when women were to judge for crimes against the heart. Seventy year old Alice, a weaver and astrologer taught Medieval Studies at the university level  before she shocked everyone her affair with a younger man so withdrew form society, first with her lover and then alone, where she becomes a well known artist and weaver.  I won't say much more because I hate to reveal plots.  As with movies, I want to be surprised at almost every curve and shift in a movie.
But I will say, this novel is quite different because as it's told from the viewpoint from Alice we have a rather unique perspective due to her age and experience. There are few boundaries in this novel, which can be cruel and brutal as often as it is touching and poignant.  And the blur of boundaries often takes place between reality, dreams and active imagination.
It's odd that while reading this book, someone sent me a link to Psychology Today and there was an article on the Highly Sensitive Persons  HSPs which has been researched a good bit over the past five or ten years.   This is a rather new typology, a subset of the introvert with slightly different characteristics.
A the recent article, Time Magazine: "The Power of (Shyness)" and High Sensitivity
first published in Time and then reprinted in Psychology Today which referenced an earlier  Psychology Today article,  "Sense and Sensibility,"  from 1969 you can see the research has been going on for a while.

"Ernest Hartmann, a psychiatrist at Tufts University best known for his dream research. Around the same time, he was solidifying the concept of boundaries as a dimension of personality and way of experiencing the world. Life, he observes, is made up of boundaries—between past and present, you and me, subject and object. And people differ in the way they embody and perceive boundaries.
In his schema, people with thin mental boundaries do not clearly separate the contents of consciousness, so that a fantasy life of daydreaming may bump right up against everyday reality. It's as if those with thin boundaries have porous shells that allow more of their environment to penetrate and "get" to them—and into their dreams, Hartmann's concept of the thin-boundaried seemed to suggest that there indeed exists a group of people who take in a whole lot more than others.

 Today, science is validating a group of people whose sensitivity surfaces in many domains of life. Attuned to subtleties of all kinds, they have a complex inner life and need time to process the constant flow of sensory data that is their inheritance. 
 Highly sensitive people are all around us. They make up about 20 percent of the population, and likely include equal numbers of men and women. All the available evidence suggests they are born and not made.

This description totally explains an elderly person of an HSPs nature.
 And I can attest to that myself being one. All my life, I've been told to get my head out of the clouds (I was in a fantasy almost all day through school and then through much of my failed marriage) but now I see there was no way I could.  It's just how I was genetically programmed from birth and further pushed by the death of my father when I was five. Once I started writing I mined that world on the other side of a very slim veil for poetry and novels but just within the past year, I've noticed my dream life now invades my awake life, without any active imagination on my own.  Images just break through, more often when I'm alone, reading, but they have nothing to do with the subject matter of the book.  It happens more often than not now, everyday and often I am able to participate in a dream and change it while I'm still asleep or half asleep.  It's often hard to tell, they seem the same world at times.
Much  of Alice's Masque is like this from the first shocking pivotal events, through a brutal crime on the beach, and a manhunt, to lovers testing, chasing, thwarting and hurting each other, when all they want to do is open up and be authentic. And there is one way, slowly revealed through a series of bizarre experiences and encounters.  Ultimately its a story about finding one's true self, no matter what the world expects. For HSPs, this can be quite difficult, especially for men.  Yet each character in this novel appears to be of this type especially the author who must be one himself  
More from Psychology Today,  "The Highly Sensitive Person has always been part of the human landscape. There's evidence that many creative types are highly sensitive, perceiving cultural currents long before they are manifest to the mainstream, able to take in the richness of small things others often miss.
This is an especially important book, take Fowles word on it, but also for those 20% (many who I imagine are readers) of the HSPs nature, it can be a revealing book which makes one feel less freaky, less out of touch, less isolated, especially in a time when nonfiction books such as Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, are finally educating the public on who we are.  Funny how this novel helped to "set the stage" in 1994. 

Jung and the Novel - Pilgrim

I've already reviewed two novels which either feature Jung as an actual character or have underlying Jungian themes.  When I set out to write Shaman Circus, my conscious intention was not to highlight the Jungian concepts which guide my life, but my subconscious had a different idea and now looking back, I employed Jungian though a good bit.  That was probably due to the books which most inspired me to be a writer but also to change my life.  Namely The Magus by John Fowles and both Alice's Masque and The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke.  
I read The Magus while in my 20's during the late 1960's, and it was and still functions as the most powerful novel on both my writing and life.  At the time I'd never heard of Jung and didn't find him until later when I studied astrology, thanks to Jungian astrologer, Liz Greene, but now Jung is a constant companion on my inner journey and the changes I make in my outer life.  So I, must thank the novelists who have the insight to offer this ticket to those seekers, who may not choose the literal psychological path but prefer their lessons in the form of stories (as Jung, knowing his own love for stories, approves).
 I've already reviewed Powder Dreams (2011) by David Nanney and The Water Theatre, (2010) by Lindsay Clarke and plan to review the following books over the course of the next few months.  Luckily for me in my voracious appetite for Jungian styled novels, the list keeps growing. The books I plan to review (at this moment, I'll add more as I find them, range in settings all over the world and in time periods which go back centuries (as in Pilgrim), through the the era of the post-modern novel and psychological literature up until the current day.
Here they are but not in the order with which I'll review them: The Magus, (1965) Alice's Masque,(1994)  The Chymical Wedding,(1989) Lemprierre's Dictionary (1992) by Lawrence Norfolk, Pilgrim (2001) by Timothy Findley  The World is Made of Glass, (1987) by  Morris West, The Game (1992) by A.S. Byatt, The Interpretation of a Murder 2007 (by Jed Rubenfeld.  

And now onto Pilgrim by Timothy Findley published in 2010. What a beguiling tale and Findley has a lot more confidence than I suspect I'll ever have in that he actually features Jung as one of the main characters and what fun it is, even as it's a lesson in personal hopes, failures, regressions, and ultimate growth.  I would love to be in therapy with y Jung even more now, as Findley presents the young psychiatrist as a complex character, at times earthy and peasant like, at others full of compassion and then also as the abstract mystical thinker combined with the sleuth of the mind that we've come to expect from Jung's own biography, Memories, Dreams and Reflections.  
And an even more of an uncanny gift in Pilgrim, is the main character, a mute giant, an elegant man both brilliant and refined, who is admitted to the Burgh√∂lzli Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich where Jung is just starting out on his career.  A mysterious woman, one of the two white ghosts, as Pilgrim's nurses aid in the hospital will describe them, descends upon the Clinic like the wrath and pleading of angels indeed, hauling her ailing friend, a tall man with wings, into the clinic begging for an audience with Jung and pleading with him to heal her friend.
Findley is one of the most elegant authors I've ever read and is the foremost author in Canada.  His prose, pebbled with insights, cultural, historical, and art references, augmented by brilliant metaphor and descriptions is so splendidly balanced with action, that the reader is mesmerized. The characters are so finely and intricately developed that one is held in a state of awe as each chapter unfolds, and their dialogue which can run the gamut form poignant to sarcastic all on the same page allows the reader to participate as if they are present, but overwhelmed by all they experience can't yet speak until after a period of debriefing the myriad webs and knots and tangles.  Part literary tour de force, part mystery, we are captivated and stumped by this Pilgrim, who must be immortal to have experienced such diverse lives and explains them not in conversation, but in a diary his friend, Sybil Quartermain shares and which Jung passes on to his wife Emma to read and interpret and Jung tries, often unsuccessfully, to deal with his patient, and other patients suffering from dementia praecox, as schizophrenia was called at the time, while at the same time encountering his own inner demons.
 There are many beautiful metaphors in Pilgrim, but one, threaded throughout the entire book, illuminates the paradox of a delicate but dangerous bittersweet hope, that of the butterfly, the symbol for the goddess Psyche. For me, in Pilgrim, never has the human psyche been more fully portrayed, explaining the various stages of human spiritual growth and transformation, which Jung knew so well having experienced it in his descent to the subconscious in the days of The Red Book. Especially poignant is the connection the pupa stage, where the caterpillar, while it must discover its true nature in its secret hideout, must helplessly remain without any defense against the cruelty of  the predators and even the nature of the  world, in order to grow into the being it was meant to be all along.  And the next stage, emergence, when the pupa disintegrates all around the new creature, leaving it highly exposed and uncertain, still wet, feeling naked and alone with its hard to understand new skin, if lucky may live long enough to unfurl its wings and become authentic, a stunning aerial creature of much muchness, the closest we can be to angels on earth, and what we were ultimately meant to be, if only we dare. 

What a work of art this novel is. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Jung and the novel - The Water Theatre

As I shuffle the books I've read which have underlying Jungian themes or Carl Jung as an actual character, I have to wonder where to start.  Because or despite the fact that many of Jung's concepts and techniques are now a cohesive structured method for psychotherapy, they are also as highly diverse as he was, during the stages of his life both on an outward and inward scale.  
A number of the novels which feature Jung in the character line-up feature him at the pivotal stage when he'd broken or was to break his association/apprenticeship with Freud and delve into the subconscious, which led him to discover first hand so much about how the psyche works.
I've decided  to take the angle of the Mystical Tour, because this is the way I encountered Jung's techniques and my own subconscious.  I'm not going to start with the pivotal book which changed my life and opened my eyes, The Magus, by John Fowles,because, I must admit, I'm not ready to write a review which could do justice to The Magus. , however I will start with a somewhat similar book although it takes place later in the time frame than The Magus.  While Clarke's Alice's Masque addresses similar themes, I believe The Water Theatre may be more accessible to younger thinkers and readers.
The Water Theatre by Lindsey Clarke, and published in 2010 is a long awaited book and another which offers Jungian concepts.  Clarke came to some of these  themes to due to his own explorations of myth as well as his interest in Jung (as mentioned in this interview on his publisher, Alma Publishing Company's web page).
In all three books, which also include, Alice's Masque and The Chymical Wedding, we find the same subtle dangers taking place in both known landscapes, Yorkshire and foreign landscapes, Africa and Umbria when dealing with the psyche and the journey it must undertake to become whole. 
The Water Theatre is the first in the series but I want to offer it first since it's the most chilling and the most transformative.  
Three English characters in a town in Yorkshire: Martin, a young man who has grown up in a cellar apartment with working class parents, becomes the unlikely friends of  Marina and Adam Brighshaw, whose father is a wealthy diplomat and political author. Martin finds himself trapped at their home during a snowstorm and witnesses not only their privileged lifestyle at High Sugden Grange, but is also exposed to the outside world by another guest, a man from Africa who is attempting to save his country form political cruelty and domination. Martin and Adam met as adolescents, when these adult influences intrude for the good and the bad and direct each of them away from their true inner selves,  into developing personas later in life to accommodate other people's and society's expectations. While this is an attempt to undo the harm they encountered growing up, they later realize how heavy the cost. They each choose ways to rebel or be accepted in an unconscious way. They struggle to find love and someone else "knowing" their true selves, despite glaring flaws and mistakes, needing approval and understanding of their life choices. However this is not forthcoming and as they blunder on, hurting others as they try to hold fast to these impossible burdensome shells, they're drawn to each other, somewhere deep inside, knowing that within this triangle, healing can occur, once they have the courage to undertake the psychological process of accepting paradox in both the polar level but also in the alchemical union of lunar and solar, "the midnight sun."  
As they grow and engage in the adult world, now set up against a backdrop of both England and Africa at the time of rebellions, coups, cruel wars in Equatoria and attempts to rebuild, as well as the rest of the world during the wars in  Viet Nam, the three characters, now a poet, an artist and a war journalist, - still connected, yet torn apart- by love, yet fraught with mistakes, misunderstandings, betrayals, and loss. They all fall to pieces in different ways: break downs or rebellions, dangerous and risky behaviors and self defeating withdrawal. Eventually they feel summoned to The Water Theatre, in an ancient small  village Fontanalba in Umbria, Italy, a place riddled with myth, folk lore and mystery, populated by mystical priests, musicians, artists, elders; Sybils and sarcastic actors, but ultimately The Dream Theatre serves as a divine alembic where each may thrash out their mistakes, in the alchemical stages of transformation and individuation as they offer their confessions, relieve their guilt, undergo experiences of atonement and absolution and come to comprehend the nature of  forgiveness and understanding and finally come to acknowledge each true angle of their shattered psyches.
The Water Theatre, lush and eloquent in its prose, is also a taut and emotionally fragile story - as are the lives of its characters, the scenes can range from eerily beautiful - an enigmatic web of secrets, brutal and unforgiving, at times in landscapes where violence and brutality are the norm. Each character is broken, and through their suffering we are forced to see how deeply and tragically society is broken.  But over a forty year span, we also see how the life force will struggle, despite it's periods of despair and depression, despite one tragic enlightenment after another - we learn that those who will, can prevail and find a way to their true selves, stumbling onto the numinous as they wander, fall, and finally, find the courage to stand back up fully comfortable in their own paradoxical natures.

The Water Theatre, like Alice's Masque to me is one third of the triumvirate of novels which best explain the process to individuation which dates back to ancient cultures like the Egyptian, Native American Indians and the shamanistic rites of  initiation in every culture. Like Fowles, struggles with the concept of the, mystical mind, the introvert, as Jung described who must search inward as opposed to living outward in society.  And The Water Theatre embraces various mythological experiences: the Orpheus journey, the meetings with daughter, mother and crone.
While research Lindsay Clarke's Lindsey Clarke, I found Jim Murdoch's insightful and thorough blog, The Truth About Lies, where he writes a long review of The Water Theatre ( don't read too far until after you've read The Water Theatre though due to spoilers in my opinion).
At ,  Clarke explains that like his other novels, The Water Theatre started with a dream, and he believes the novel is a primary method to explain the journey of  the mystical mind. 
"I think there's generally a misunderstanding about what mysticism is about in our culture. ... They think of mysticism as something rather strange and spooky and eerie in a way. In fact the origin of the word means healing; they’re rites that heal wounds in people, deep wounds to the soul, spiritual wounds. And that's what I'm interested in doing now is writing the kind of novel which by unfolding its narrative in a hopefully entertaining way will take the central character on a journey by which the ego-based life which he's been living gets called profoundly into question."

While Clarke's language is sensory and poetic, and the theme transformational, Clarke doesn't shy away from the modern day political arena of the 1990's, indicating that the transformation of each individual, ultimately has an impact on the transformation of societies. Due to so many compelling insights on human nature, The Water Theatre is one of those rare novels capable of guiding the reader on their own transformational journey. For even more insight into the development of The Water Theatre, check out this essay written by Clarke on the writing and background of this deeply disturbing and enlightening novel.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Monster High: folk tales and mythos in play

As in the words of Monty Python: "And now for something completely different! "
This may be one of the oddest blogs I write, but I've been thinking about this for a good amount of time, ever since my nine year old granddaughter became fascinated with the new line of Monster High dolls made by Mattel.
For any of you not around young girls, this is a line of Barbie like ball joint dolls, each one unique, each one based on a mythological monster.  They all attend Monster High school and are a spin off of a cartoon.  I wish they had these dolls when I was a child and I can't resist and join in to play with her, Here they are, a bunch of freaks with flaws and odd parents - some with no parents at all,  like Frankie who,  in their mythos is only 15 days old when she starts Monster High. And she wasn't born but was made out of pieces - how's that for a metaphor for the fractured and put back together self?
The reason I think these dolls are great for kids is how they embrace uniqueness, creativity and even oddities and freakishness,  as in  Operetta, The daughter of the Phantom of the Opera, who has no problems with hanging out with  Claudine and Claude, the werewolf siblings, or Laguna the monster from the blue lagoon, who is also a mad scientist. Cleo de Nile and her sister Nefera are mummies with their entire arsenal of Egyptian lore and talismans at any child's disposal, and Draculara and Jolt might be seen dancing or studying homework together despite the fact, Draculara might bite the Jolt on the neck, only to get electrocuted!
 Myths and monsters, as anyone who is familiar with fairy tales and Jung, are the ways our brain embraces those parts of us which frighten -  our shadows,  which are also important aspects of ourselves, and when confronted, may hold us in awe because of their unusual and possible beneficial powers.
I am thrilled to see a line of dolls where children can embrace their strangeness, learn a little mythology, literature and fairy tales in the bargain, and not feel as if they have to be perfect or have the perfect families.  Monster High characters are born from a highly dysfunctional group of families, as many of us are as well.  Yet they function, find friends, embrace life and pull their acts together.  They also don't have quite the seductive aspect of Brats, a line of dolls who appear to be to be the opposite aspect of the Barbie line. In my opinion, the  Bratz dolls are too sensual, Snookies reincarnated in plastic, and not the best role models.
While there are some wonderful dolls of more human character and design such as Moxie and Liv dolls, and I think these are great role models for girls, I personally enjoy the Monster High creativity and diversity - the illusive Abbey Snow Man, Ghoulia and Spectra (a ghost), the werecat twins and Jackson who is related to Jekyll and Hyde.  
 You can tell that the writers of the cartoons and doll designers are having a blast coming up with ideas, digging into their own cultural memories of monsters and the things that frighten us - the creatures who live in our unconscious minds as well as in the universal unconscious depths.  Bring them into the light and let them play  -  for play is one of the ways we discover our split off selves. 
Yes, the girl's skirts are a bit too short for a grandma's taste, but otherwise I even love the clothes,  everything from party dresses to kilted skirts, to tomboy sporting clothes for the girls and
I'd love to meet some of the designers and see if they are from the generation whose parents and grandparents first embraced Jung, as well as monster stories, folk and fairy tales and gothic literature. What a goldmine of teachable lessons in restraint, self awareness, social ostracism, control of personal powers and emotions as well as empowerment.
I'm always excited when I see contemporary or even pop culture embrace the dark sides of us all, for without first confronting  and then embracing the shadow, we cannot come to comprehend the numinous or the divine in others or ourselves. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

via regia, the royal road into the unconscious

For those who begin the journey of the Via Regia, the royal road into the unconscious, whether it be through dream work, psychotherapy or even art and writing, they quickly realize how frequently they undergo a variety of experiences, from impatience for the work to prove fruitful to awe when it does in ways no one could imagine, from excitement to fear, from growing awareness to losing oneself in the dark.
 Working with both realities - the dream and the real world in tandem, can be difficult, but the see-saw must be occupied, even if not fully maintained at an equal level. The dangers are there, as anyone who has worked in the field of psychology of psychiatry can see, when the journey into the unconscious world is  undertaken by a traveler unarmed with enough reality tools to stay sane.  Reality can fade into the background in a sort of gray haze, or even worse, the lack of staying in touch with it,m lead one so deep into the coils of the unconscious, they get lost, as in the cases of psychosis and schizophrenia.
I'm undergoing such a journey right now through dream work. It's a journey I've done before, and although I've attempted other journeys which prove fruitful in revealing aspects of the unconscious, such as poetry, writing, art and active imagination, dream work tends to be the more powerful and therefore the more dangerous.  I tend to want to sleep a lot, spend time writing out and analysing my dreams.  I become a hermit and as one friend used to say, "distracted."
This time, I'm finding that my dreams are even warning me about detaching too much from reality.  Luckily, I work with individuals who have traumatic brain injuries and therefore need me fully present and very grounded in the real world at all times during my work.  So this helps a great deal, providing me the talisman to stay real and work on my dreams more on the weekends. 
However, I also believe in physical talismans.  They've been used by people who delve into the unconscious for ages, right up into the way the modern mind thinks, such as Dom Cobb who spins a top in the movie, Inception as he enters other people's dreams. It's the only way he can tell whether he's in reality or the dream world.
I've always been one to carry something in my pocket. When I was about 10 or 11yrears old,  I swiped a square inch piece of sparkling mosaic tile from the construction site of a Greek church right behind my grandmother's house.  I carried that tile in my pocket for years and in my mind it had magical properties, even though I often felt guilty for taking it.  Over the years, I've carried stones (when I hiked a lot), pieces of metal I found at the side of a road, (when I made art assemblages in my studio in a rough part of the city) and now  pieces of sea glass form my favorite childhood home area.
The sea glass represents the soul to me.  I like sea glass because it is brittle like the various fragments of ourselves when they've broken away from the whole.  The brown ones from ale and beer bottles symbolize the prima materia - the course aspect of our soul before we have worked with it.  The everyday soul, the beer bottle of common man and earthy life.
The green ones, from coke bottles have a little more vitality. Like Venus, the color represents healing and love, energy and renewal.
The red is dedicated to our passion, our obsessions and loves, desires and the drive to seek love and experience in the world.
And the more rare blue, represents the airy state of the intellect, when we study and educate ourselves to make our lives broader and richer.
Purple  is one of the rarest. This one enters into the spiritual realm, the role of transformation and awareness-seeking in our lives. And how odd,  the gold and yellows representing the Solar force and the whites or clear, representing the Luna force,  you rarely  find washed up by the sea onto the shore, even though clear is the most the most prevalent on land.
All of these together represent the rainbow, the peacock colors of the hermaphrodite, the joining of all and opposites into one whole.  I love seeing my pieces of sea glass displayed all together in a jar on my mantelpiece, representing man's constant magical, sacred and ultimately divine search for the self in all it's varied and colorful aspects.
Like most people, I also wear certain gemstones in rings or pendants for this purpose.  
 But I like how the sea glass starts off man made, like we are as individuals when we construct our persona to protect the vulnerability of our true self.  However once the glass is tossed or lost in the ocean, it undergoes a series of natural refining processes. It breaks apart, fragments, as we do into archetypes in the subconscious, and as the glass is tossed about in the depths of the ocean  (the subconscious) the pieces become smooth-edged and frosted by the abrasive action of sea salt, stones and sand. They are transformed from sharp pieces of brittle glass which can hurt us, into stones which are beautiful and soothing to the touch. When they're tossed up on shore, they're ready to be exposed to the conscious mind.
Plus sea glass is rare and hard to find and takes a contemplative attitude as we bend our heads and walk along the shore line, sometimes for hours, waiting for that one flash of colored light in the corner of our eye and there below us is a piece of sea glass easily identifiable among the browns, grays and blacks of the seaside stones and sand.
So now, in addition to my two rings, I carry two pieces of sea glass, since we often forget about the rings on our fingers and their meaning.  But when I tuck my hand into a pocket and find the pieces resting there, I am reminded of its meaning and purpose, which keeps me aware and awake.
So for now, I'll carry a piece of brown sea glass to stay in touch with the earth, and a piece of green sea glass for love and healing and renewal.  I've recently replaced the red garnet ring I wear, feeling that I'm pretty much in touch with my passion for things in my life and have replaced the amethyst ring, which stands for spiritual growth and transformation and which is even more potent for me as a February Pisces, since it was a gift of my birthstone - a reminder of my true complete selves, not just my limited persona.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Transformation by Murray Stein - An Ah-Ha experience

Transformation - Emergence of the Self  by Murray Stein is indeed a transformative experience for the reader, especially any of those interested in Jung's use of alchemy as an allegory for the transformation and individuation process, leading to authenticity when triggered and maintained during an extended relationship.  While Murray (and Jung) uses the Rosarium philosophorum alchemical process of the transcendence to show the stages of transformation within the relationship of an analyst and patient during the course of therapy, I choose to look at it as the Chymical Marriage, when the transformation which can happen between two committed people in a relationship.  After all, each person's road to individuation or authenticity is different and perhaps the alchemists used images for a reason, so each individual would provide their own understanding towards the symbolism drawn out during the various steps.
And now let me introduce Dr. Murray Stein.  I first encountered him during some of his webinars at The Asheville  Jung Center He has covered a number of topics using a Jungian approach such as, Caring for the Soul: An Introduction to Jungian Psychotherapy for Patients and Therapists, The Architecture of the Soul, Active Imagination, and Individuation A Life Long Journey. 
Murray Stein is a Ph.D. Jungian analyst in the Chicago area and has written a number of books during his career, and after many years of experience working with patients.  I found his webinars personable, even humorous at times with easy to understand concepts which he explores in Jung's many books and lectures.
I purchased the book, hoping Stein's writing style would be just as easy to follow, and because he wrote about the transformation of a poet, Rainier Marie Rilke, two artists,  Rembrandt and Picasso, and Jung.  Being an Introvert Feeling Intuitive, these are four people I could relate to.  
But, even better,  I was incredibly thrilled when I reached the chapter where Stein explained the therapeutic process of transference, counter transference and the resulting transformative process which can result if both parties stick with it, even during the rough spots.  I was introduced to Jung's alchemy approach when I worked as a counseling astrologer over twenty years ago and found Liz Greene's explanations, using astrological imagery, helped to explain what I found hard to understand in Jung's book on Mysterium Coniunctionis. Jung can be a wordy writer and his way of viewing every subject from every angle can be confusing, especially when he reference4s so many books and papers during his extensive research. 
But even reading Greene and other books on alchemy as well, I have never seen it broken down into such comprehensible components those offered by Stein.  Wow - in ten pages, I got it!  (Granted back then over twenty years ago, there was no Internet, Amazon or Google, such archaic information wasn't available at our fingertips.  Many libraries carried limited books on symbolism and alchemy and so the only alternative involved  hunts through used and rare bookstores in order to stumble upon resources.
 After I read Stein's approach, I delved into a large book I have on 16th and 17th century alchemical texts and I could decipher some of the images with no problem whatsoever! (however not any of the Kaballah images - those always stump me). 
The way Murray Stein explained it (in only ten pages, no less!) reminded me of the way a herald in the Society for Creative Anachronism breaks down a blazon.  Each aspect, each color, even where on the device an element is placed, left, right, up down, etc. and how the space is divided has a meaning. Some of these are universal meanings.  And then others can be personal for each individual aspect. 
Stein only used the first ten of twenty woodcuts from the Rosarium philosophorum found in De Alchimia opuscula complies veterum philosophorum... Frankfurt 155, which is said to be based on Arabic alchemy.
At this time, I've only begun the research and feel ready to tackle just the first ten stages as well, combining Stein's explanation of the process, with Adam McLean's viewpoint on The Alchemy Website, (McLean is author and publisher of over 70 books on alchemical and Hermetic ideas).
 Finally, I, at least, can comprehend most of the myriad images and their profound instructions on how to achieve authenticity through the "other."
The Rosarium philosophorum starts with The Fountain of potential, the Prima Materia. represented by the fountain, where the three spigots releasing the water (emotion, feeling) indicate the separate waters of the King and Queen symbolized by the sun and moon above, to be ultimately joined with  the waters released from the third spigot as the Aqua Vitae, the water of life, the inner source of soul energies, into the vessel below where the primal substance (the soul energies) may potentially undergo a divine transformation with the heavenly aid or grace of Hermetic/Mercurial forces above, represented by the separate snakes in the clouds or heavens not yet joined for the healing caduceus, and not yet the ourorborus.
The second panels depicts the left-handed handshake, where the unconscious aspects (the lapis) of each person, represented by the King and Queen are engaged, aided by magic and mystery and the potential for transformation. The next stage is the  solutio, a bath of emotions, where the King and Queen are enthralled and decide to immerse themselves in each other, conjunctio, (where they feel the joining of egos and make a conscious decision to be together, then the nigredo (or katabosis, dark night of the soul,) which brings up anxiety and depression, as each individual confronts their fears of giving oneself up totally and/or the alternate fear of abandonment, as they relive the wounds caused previously in their childhood and life, which they must address. This is a pivotal stage which can either prove as a catalytic stage or a stalemate,  where each must make a conscious and unconscious decision to be patient and strong enough to give up their total ego control, in order to heal their past wounds, and discover their true essence through the other, before they can move on to the most important part, the coagulatio, indicated by joining in the bath under rain (intuitive help from above), the most productive if each separate entity chooses to face their fears, discuss them with the other, and solve them together. This is the stage which leads them to enlightenment if successfully navigated and is experienced as the most sacred and powerful stage. The two separate entities are visually depicted by either two birds or two totally different animals representing the separate souls. The joining of souls then leads to authenticity through the paradoxical unity as symbolized by the rising of one solitary creature, the Rebus (a winged creature, sometimes mythological, or a combination of animals not found in nature, sometimes a synthesis of images, a combined soul or spirit, which rises up from the couple, representing archetypal unity) and wholeness. This magnificent stage is followed by the final panel, the hierosgamos (sacred marriage), the gold sought by alchemists, depicting the hermaphroditic, androgynous creature of conjoined King and Queen, sun and moon. I still have to figure out what the four snakes, three in a chalice held by the King, and one coiled, held by the Queen mean. I wonder if they mean the four elements.  The second is the mystery of the full moon tree - there are only 11, so I don't have any idea at this point.
I used many of these alchemical/psychological stages as underlying threads in my novel, Shaman Circus, between Jacob and Lily, but as they often become stuck in the nigredo stage, they have yet to reach the more sacred stages, to stay there long enough to accomplish the final scared stage.  This process I address in Shaman in Exile, a current work in progress, goes back through another, more enlightened coagulatio and nigredo stages and while not yet finished, touches upon the efforts to obtain the hierosgamos stage. 
So reading Stein's, Transformation served as an Ah-Ha Experience. A visual short hand so to speak, as opposed to the word intensive approach, written in a cryptic and circulatory style by the alchemists on purpose,  since they thought this knowledge should only be understood by the few and not the many, and also by Jung due to his abstract way of thinking.  
Finally, Stein offers the key to the visual map I've been searching for during my research over 29 years. I knew the steps intellectually, but knowing them was nothing like the experience of visually reading the original Rosarium philosophorum as easily as I can read a map, an astrological natal chart, even a traffic sign. 
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