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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Web Analytics