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  • Saturday, October 05, 2019 10:23 PM | Anonymous

         Jungian concepts can facilitate deeper insights into literature, especially in works which abound in archetypal imagery. Haruki Murakami’s most recent novel, Killing Commendatore, is a complex but authentic representation of a life crisis in a young man, told as a magical realistic individuation saga. The immediate psychological challenge to the young man, a painter whom we shall call the hero (he is never named in the novel), is the unexpected divorce by his wife after 6 years of a tranquil but childless marriage. This sudden, inexplicable and wrenching loss causes him to quit his adequate but uncreative job and up and leave his home in Tokyo for an extended road trip to the north of Japan. The road trip morphs into a kind of dream sequence, a modern-day heroic night-sea journey, with macabre encounters of ghostlike, demonic characters that stir up paranoid and murderous impulses. This first iteration of the night-sea journey is vague, confused and overwhelming, and does not lead to understanding or insight, but rather suggests our hero has fallen into a state of morbid depression. He takes refuge from this nightmare in an offer to stay at the abandoned home in the mountains of an aged but famous artist of the previous generation, who has moved out to a nursing home for the demented. In this mountainside temenos begins a series of interlocking subplots, all of which are now clearly presented in mythological symbolic form.

         The young painter sets up a studio in the house, and begins to paint creatively, in new ways he had never done before. He befriends a somewhat older, wealthy, highly refined man, his neighbor, who is a projection of an idealized self-representation, (complete with his own anima problem). He also explores the house, which yields nothing personal of the older painter, until he goes up into the attic, where he finds a single, carefully wrapped painting unknown to the world. The painting depicts a variation on the famous opening scene from Mozart’s Don Giovani, when the enraged Commendatore, father of Donna Anna, Don Giovani’s conquest, confronts Don Giovani and is slain by him. Shortly after pondering the meaning of this odd but powerful painting, the hero hears a bell in the middle of the night, whose source cannot be found. He ultimately has the back yard of the house dug up to discover a magical and numinous ancient circular pit buried in the ground. The pit is just deep enough to prevent a person from jumping out, and the walls are perfectly sheer stone blocks which cannot be climbed. Caught in this trap is a magical figure, none other than a miniature version of the Commendatore in the painting. The hero rescues him and brings him into the house, where he describes himself as an Idea embodied. This Idea of the Commendatore becomes the genius loci of the increasingly uncanny studio temenos, appearing randomly to speak to the young artist in cryptic oracles.

         There are many further developments, but the most important all revolve around the hero’s relationships with women, beginning with his younger sister who died when he was a teenager. In an elegant weaving of old memories intermixed with plot episodes involving several females of various ages, Murakami lays out the anima problem of the hero and the neighbor, both in his life historical developmental reality, his current love life, as well as in his conscious and unconscious (dream) erotic/sadistic fantasies. None of this however seems to relate directly to the hero’s newly creative painting and his increasingly fascinated obsession with understanding the secret mystery behind the old painting he discovered.

         Following the urgings of the Idea of Commendatore, one of whose attributes is to recognize the importance of “the right time,” which this now is, the hero tracks down the old artist in the nursing home. He attempts to learn from the dying, mute artist the significance of his painting. It was done during WWII while he was in Vienna, in love with a woman whose Nazi father ultimately killed her. While learning this, the Idea of Commendatore suddenly announces that the time is right now, and demands that the hero must kill him immediately, and literally, just as in the painting. The shocked hero is deeply averse to such a tangible, palpable murder, but eventually does indeed slay the Idea of Commendatore, thus enacting in “reality” the imagery depicted in the painting. The immediate result of this violent bloody “human” sacrifice of an Idea, is the opening of a new tunnel into the earth (right there in the nursing home!), which the hero is bidden to enter by a previously encountered but ill understood trickster/Hermes figure, “Longface,” who had identified himself as a Metaphor (rather than an Idea). There follows a second, now truly mythological night-sea journey, fully articulated in all its richness of archetypal imagery, which leads our hero across a kind of River Styx, meeting various shades of the underworld, and journeying through ever more dangerous and difficult obstacles, until at the nadir he is about to be devoured by a snake monster. At the climax of this mortal crisis, however, the hero is suddenly transported/transformed from the “belly of monster,” but only to find himself now trapped inside the very same the pit in his own back yard, just as the Idea of Commendatore had been trapped earlier in the story. There, he must “incubate” in this alchemical vas and overcome his fears of suffocating or starving, or even worse, immortal abandonment. Then, when he has, he is rescued by his doppelganger neighbor, who had previously “modeled” for him how to allow the experience of the pit to deepen his consciousness rather than overwhelm it. The hero is fundamentally transformed by enduring all these trials of Herakles. He is able to reconnect with his estranged wife. He embarks on a new phase of his life with a renewed relationship to his anima and a more conscious awareness of the personal colors with which he had painted his sister’s death in his psyche.

         The symbolism in this novel is powerful, it is a contemporary mythological epic. What makes it 21 st century is the consciousness of both the archetypal symbolism and the real historical, developmental trauma which damaged his relationship to his anima in adolescence. This overview may give you a hint of the elegance and depth of the writing, but if you are intrigued, I urge you to read the novel and grapple with its density, both literary and psychological. There are many other characters and subplots, none of them irrelevant or incidental, and deciphering the whole opus will amply reward the adept.

    John Boronow, M.D. is a retired psychiatrist from Baltimore. He has rekindled a long set aside fascination with Jung in his retirement, and is thoroughly enjoying reading Jung’s works in his third year of the Jungian Studies Reading Seminar.

  • Sunday, September 08, 2019 2:35 PM | Anonymous

         Sometimes we wake up to find that we have lost our soul. Sometimes trauma interrupts and breaks our connection to our self and life. And sometimes this interruption is something that has happened a long time ago, resulting in the building of a wall in our very self that separates us from ourselves and the world. This wall, built along the ego-self axis, results in the inner world of trauma and we see its dissociative effects in our social-political world and in our personal-psychological worlds. Both worlds create their exiles and underworlds—socially and politically, among the outcasts and scapegoats; personally and psychologically, in the underworld of the unconscious.

         But the problem with the underworld of the unconscious is that it is not outside of this world. It is not even under. The underworld of the unconscious exerts its effects in the world in which we live. We swim in it. In it, we live and move and have our being. What Jungian Analyst, Donald Kalsched, has shown in his two books, The Inner World of Trauma (1996) and Trauma and the Soul: A Psycho-Spiritual Approach to Human Development and its Interruption (2013), is that powerful dissociative complexes are marshaled in the inner world of trauma which paradoxically both protect the soul and harm it, by keeping it from embodiment in life and the world. These dissociative energies are at work in our inner worlds and exert power in the “overworld,” as may be readily apparent.

         The psyche symbolizes these both self-protective and dissociative complexes and they emerge in dreams, myth, language, affect, bodily states, all those aspects of experience which are human. Kalsched calls this the self-care system. When trauma hits, that most precious part of us, that quintessence called soul, goes into exile and recedes to the nether regions of the psyche, because it is not safe to be embodied in the world. While the soul is whisked away into a kind of innocent hiding, it is taken care of by archetypal powers that “take care” of this exiled soul even as they dissociate it from the world and life. There the soul awaits its being found again and brought back into the world. In order to find the exiled soul, the inner world of trauma has to be entered into and it is a scary place held together by a strange combination of violence and tenderness. The tenderness expresses the innocence of the lost child, but the violence expresses the violent and cutting protective powers of the dissociative complex.

         There is a mytho-poetic dimension to the psyche—indeed, a distinguishing function of the psyche can be seen as mytho-poesis in a relational context. The psyche keeps score and expresses the music of this score in its mytho-poesis. It is there—in the mytho-poetic stories of the psyche—that we may find, imaged forth and held, our own lost souls. These symbolic stories hold the mirror up to our inner worlds of trauma and hold the mirror out to our social worlds to reveal the dissociative dynamics operative in these inner and outer worlds.

         One such telling forth of the journey into the inner world of trauma is Dante’s Inferno. Himself a social and political exile, Dante finds himself blocked in his life’s journey and the only possible way forward is down into the inner world of trauma—the Inferno. Fortunately, Dante has a mytho-poetic guide, the embodiment of Latin poesis and culture, the Roman poet, Virgil, someone who knows the terrain, having written of it in the Aeneid. From being blocked by a wall, Dante’s relationship with Virgil forms a symbolic bridge which enables Dante (and the reader) to confront the dissociative energies at work and play in Dante’s actual social-political and personal-psychological world. He sees their true nature symboled forth and finally comes face to face with the core complex at the root of this inner world of trauma—the powerful archetypal energy of dissociation which Dante calls Dis. With the wise guidance and symbolic witness of Virgil, Dante is able to find a bridge to belonging in the world of light and eros, “the love that moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradiso). He has found a symbolic bridge between the worlds and thus regains his own soul.

         In his influential, The Body Keeps The Score, Bessel van der Kolk brings out the inescapable somatic dimensions of trauma and argues persuasively for bodily interventions in the psychotherapeutics of trauma. However, he does not mean this in a reductive way, as if trauma were merely physiological. In a conversation at a recent conference, talking about the current field and sharing my own interests and concerns, Bessel said to me, “Don Kalsched is a wise man.” In this brief yet meaningful conversation, I took this as an acknowledgement that there are dimensions of the human which register trauma which, including the body, involve other dimensions of experience. The psyche keeps score. And when events, traumatic or not, happen to the human psyche, they “happen” symbolically. They register and are registered according to symbolic processes that involve the body and the full range of human experience.

         The introduction of the symbolic into the field of trauma, is really the reintroduction of something that has been operative all along, from the beginning, even in our sleep.

         And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget,

         falls drop by drop upon the heart,

         And in our own despair, against our will,

         Comes wisdom,

         By the awful grace of God. (Aeschylus, Agammenon)

         For, mytho-poesis was where the psychology of trauma was before it became psychology. In recent presentations, Bessel refers to the great tragedians, the Greeks and Shakespeare. What these “people who knew everything,” as Bessel has called them, knew was that the mytho-poesis of trauma, engaged in a relational and feeling way, helps to metabolize the traumas of being. But we need a mytho-poesis worthy of the depth of human experience—its dramas, losses and tragic victories. Fortunately, when the psyche keeps score, it may also rise to the occasion and descend to the depths of trauma’s underworld, there to find its lost soul and bring it, in a new birth, to a new belonging in a world now more worthy of the name human.


    Mark Napack, M.A., S.T.L., M.S., studied archetypal patterns in comparative literature at Columbia University, after which he applied Jungian theory to the redemption motif in medieval theology for his thesis at Fordham University.  He further studied Jung, psychology, and the history of religion at Loyola and Catholic Universities.  A long-time graduate and college instructor, Mark has presented at international conferences and his work has appeared in scholarly journals and books in English and French. Mark Napack, LCPC, is also a Jungian informed psychotherapist in North Bethesda, MD.






  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 9:06 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    Life on this planet is humbling. We know so little about anything. Take the night sky. Increasingly, in order to see starlight, we must find an equivalent darkness. We race out into the countryside, turn our eyes upward, and pick out familiar constellations one by one. We gasp with delight when a meteor races past and feel wonder when we catch Jupiter on the elliptical.

    The Great Mystery is all around us, and we are in it. It beguiles and keeps the sap of our lives awake. Yet, neither you nor I nor any of our relations have discovered its true name—the name that breathed us all onto the scene like salted lanterns or Roman candles, each with our own part to play. It is only when we turn our gaze to unexpected places, not toward the light, but toward the dark rivers that hold the light, that we are gifted with glinting breadcrumbs to guide us on.  

    This Mystery is as real as you or I. It moves through the world wearing a symbol cloak of images, “speaks a secret language” (CW12, para 315), and “keeps an eye on ‘age-old, sacred things…remind[ing] us of them at a suitable opportunity” (CW12, para 85). A year into the Jungian Studies Reading Seminar, I know this is true and have enough sense to know that I am the fool here—the solitary human sitting high in an attic, daring to reach my fingertips out to the Mystery, hoping to coax a note of onto this page.

    To engage the Mystery takes courage and a willingness to stride into dark, uncharted places full of archaic matter. Jung engaged the Mystery head on, plummeting into his own depths—uncertain if he would become mad or enlightened…uncertain if he would return at all. He wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “In order to grasp the fantasies which were stirring in me ‘underground,’ I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them...I felt not only violent resistance to this, but a distinct fear…I let myself drop…below the threshold of consciousness everything was seething with life” (pp. 178-79).

    Dark-matter physicists are twinned companions on the journey for they also search within the Mystery for the shadowy presence that refuses to interact with light. To do so, they too must venture into the depths, down into the bowels of the underland, far beneath the strata that holds the world’s memory. A half-mile down, they hunt for what they cannot see—for the something that does not emit light, reflect it, or block it. Like the alchemists, they look for thelumen naturae, the light that lives in the black blacker than black (nigrum nigrius nigro,CW12, para 433).

    Perhaps it’s really as simple as this. We are a part of everything and everything is within us. As we explore the star-strewn heavens and luminous depths, our eyes and egos adjust to the larger Mystery. We begin to allow that these scintillae, these golden sparks scattered through the Mystery, whether we call it Psyche or Cosmos, are one in the same.

    What happens then is perhaps the most beautiful mystery of all. We realize we are matter on the move, adrift on ancient seas, like a pulsating regatta lit with soul fire. The stuff we seek is already drifting through us. There is nothing to do but feel wonder at how our unique granularities and constellated angles reach out into the Mystery and haul on board what we need the most. Rilke wrote in the Duino Elegies, “The eternal current whirls all ages along in it, through both realms forever…” All we have to do is ride what already is.

    Kelly McGannon, M.A., M.A.R. is an executive leadership coach in private practice in the Washington Metro Area. She completed her graduate work in medieval art history and pilgrimage at Yale University Divinity School and Princeton University. She is a current student in JSW's Jungian Studies Reading Seminar. 

  • Wednesday, July 10, 2019 11:18 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    For those who pay attention, psyche’s agenda is endless. Presently, I see several men and women who are between 65 and 80 and I have noted some interesting phenomena. Those who handle the aches, the losses of the older years are those who have lived the richest, most risk-taking lives. Those who have not, are more often caught up in fear, regret, remorse, and a vague dread. It is not enough to say they dread dying; rather, they more profoundly dread not having lived first.

    Another phenomenon I have observed is even most interesting. So many of the dreams of these persons review their journey, bringing different stages, different people associated with each stage, sometimes even different geographies together in the same dream. Why might our psyche do that? Invariably, it brings up old associations, forgotten places, times, people…. Since we know that our psyche is this meaning-making, meaning requiring organ, and I suspect that the reason for this stirring of our histories is for more than addressing unfinished business, though it may also include that. I think this is how our psyche sorts and sifts, and helps us begin to identify the threads that run through our narratives, perhaps help us make more and more sense of what engines have been driving our lives.

    Perhaps to illustrate such an exploration, let me turn to that poet of the depths, Rilke, as he recalls images from his childhood, and allows their widening circles to amplify and stir a trans-personal awareness of our common condition. He employs a metonymy, the game of “ball” to conjure up those past hours, linking us to the greater mystery in which they, and we, all swim.

    The poem is from his Sonnets to Orpheus series, and is my translation:

    Oh you few, you playmates of long ago,

    Amid the scattered gardens of the past,

    How we circled, shyly approached each other,

    Communicating without words.

    Joy was our common ground, but how joy

    Fled before all the gathering forces

    In the anxious years to follow.

    Strange coaches clattered around us,

    Houses loomed, large, phantasmal,

    And no one knew our names.

    What was real in all that?

    Nothing…only the balls, their glorious curves,

    Not even the children…for, alas, sometimes one of them…

    O Ephemeral, would step beneath the falling ball.

    What comes up for you, when you reflect on those days? Where are those playmates? Who were they?  Where are they? They are still alive in our psyches even though we have not seen them in decades, or even thought directly of them.

    What images rise from those days for you? Those images serve as metonymies, whereby a particular image intimates a larger, often unapproachable, inexpressible experience or atmosphere.

    What persists for you from those days, what “stories,” what fragmental narratives do you carry still, like splinters beneath the flesh which wish to work their way through to the surface? As a character in a Faulkner novel put it, “the past isn’t dead; it’s not even past.” How is that past activated in, and influencing, our present lives?

    (Personally I have learned, and I am not always happy about this, many of the generative energies within me, the complexes, the wounds, the avoidances, keep showing up when I think I have left them far behind. This shows me the staying power of some of those energy clusters, and how, for good or ill, they operate autonomously).

    Since nothing that we have ever experienced has wholly left us, what do these shards of history make us do, even today, or keep us from doing?   If we wish to understand ourselves, even gain a greater measure of freedom, then we have to bring these “stories” into greater conscious life. How can we ever choose freely if we don’t know all the players on our inner field?

    As we sort through these shards of experience the psyche keeps throwing up charged images into our dreams, our impulsive choices, and repetitive behaviors. There is more than enough work here, sorting through this mélange of images, this debris-strewn history, to keep us busy for the rest of our journeys.  Again, this is not in service to nostalgia, or a desire for an earlier time; it is essential to figuring out now what continues to create our history, a history in which we are often unconscious, unwitting partners.

    James Hollis, Ph.D. is a Zurich-trained Jungian analyst in practice in Washington, D. C. He is also author of fifteen books translated into nineteen languages. 

  • Friday, March 15, 2019 11:35 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This statement first appeared on April 22, 1970 for the first Earth Day poster designed by cartoonist Walt Kelly, the man behind the comic strip “Pogo”. The cartoon shows Pogo looking out across his beloved forest now littered with trash. This iconic image and quote among others was intended to encourage Americans to become more responsible for their behavior and treatment of their environment and homeland. It was an apt representation of a growing public awareness of how fragile and interconnected our ecosystems and human life are. And it worked.  As a result of greater consciousness of each American, a national movement was created and “we, the people” changed our more wasteful habits and transformed our environment.

    Kelly’s statement also reveals something even more personal and psychological. Jung identifies ‘the enemy’ as the shadow within each of us. Last year at this time, I wrote a blog entitled “Can the Youth of Our Nation Save Us from Ourselves”? I focused on the outspoken young people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day shooting. Sadly, we have had additional shootings since then. But their voices were heard. They joined many others touched by these violent acts. Sparked by their activism, which also had a hand in the mid-term correction in Congress, a bill was passed in the House of Representatives on this past Valentine’s Day closing the loopholes in the requirement of background checks for those buying guns. Also, as of this March 14th, families are now able to sue gun manufacturers for the guns used in school shootings and other massacres which had been outlawed until now.

    These are small steps, but major victories over a powerful lobbying group that had amassed too much power and influence over politicians through financial contributions and other support for elections and re-elections as a quid pro quo to support and push through legislation in favor of their interests. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great leaders we have had, but we could not have had great leaders unless they had a great people to follow.” And a few short years later, Harry S. Truman stated, “The people have often made mistakes, but given time and the facts, they will make the corrections.” When people look within, then amass with passion around an issue of concern, they become empowered to change themselves, their environment, their communities, their country and the world.

    “The people” did this. These young people held a mirror up to us and said, “Look! You are the enemy!” They challenged us to dig deeper into ourselves, into our souls, to confront the enemy from within. Jung said that our greatest enemy is ennui, more commonly known today as apathy. Through apathy, we allow things to occur as long as they don’t seem to impact our lives. Yet, what we are painfully having to accept through numerous international and domestic terrorist acts and hate crimes is that we are not innocent in our ignorance.  We cannot turn a blind eye and hope someone else is taking up the mantle of the good fight.

    In “Aion”, Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung describes the shadow as “a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.” Becoming aware of our inner demons empowers us to realize we don’t have to be swayed, even dominated by the enemy within.

    Noted writer James Baldwin laments: “ I’m terrified at the moral apathy; the death of the heart which is happening in my country. It’s a terrible thing for an entire people to surrender to the notion that one-ninth of its population is beneath them and until that moment when we, the American people are able to accept the fact that I, who have ancestors both white and black, that on this continent we are trying to form a new identity for which we need each other. Until this moment, there is scarcely any hope for the American dream because people who are denied participation in it, by their very presence, will wreck it and if that happens, it will be a very grave moment for the West.” The white nationalist incident in Charlottesville in 1917 revealed how little some hearts and minds have changed since Baldwin wrote this after the race riots and assassinations of black civil rights leaders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s.

    In the past year, Americans, indeed the world, has watched and often felt the war of good and evil right in front of us as political divisions, reputations of notable figures, acts of brinkmanship, the veneer of institutional governance and all that have emerged from our shadows, personal and public, have been peeled away, exposing our dark shadow psychological content.

    Jung states in “The Philosophical Tree” that “a man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbor.” If, in fact, we begin to do the hard work of removing our projections from others, we soon discover our own inner dark angels, and we are not as quick to blame others for their shortcomings. “Such a man [or woman]” Jung says, “knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow, he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.”

    Obama eulogized after the Charleston shooting in 2015: “As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.

    As we have examined the darkness outside of ourselves parading across our TV and internet screens, we have been confronted with the darkness of our nation. Only by working through what we see and do not like that makes us feel uncomfortable, angry, even rageful, can we bring forth a better nation, our better angels. We can choose to look away, but it is at our peril.

    Jung’s words on love and power ring true today more than ever. He said: “Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.” Our issues are not impossible to solve if we bring love to inform our power to act. A recent poll shows 93% of Americans do not approve of our current divisive politics. This means we are allowing only 7% of us to dominate our lives. The Dalai Lama shows us a way out:  to find in our enemies our commonalities beyond our opposing perspectives. This can only be done when we bring compassion to our brothers and sisters whom we regard as Other. Only when we are able to face our enemies within and without are we then able to work through our differences and our fears. If we can, this brings us closer to what the foundations of our democratic ideals are all about and we, the people, through greater wisdom will form “a more perfect Union”.

    Janice Quinn, PhD, LCSW, s a Jungian Analyst with a private practice in Arlington, VA. She is a member and past president of the Jungian Analysts of Washington Association  (JAWA) and is a Training Analyst for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts (IRSJA).

  • Friday, February 15, 2019 11:36 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    When it was suggested a few years ago that one could prefer a hero who doesn’t get captured, it was another one of those decline and fall moments of “there goes the culture.” Why and how could this reveal a big deal? The myth of the hero is one of foundations of human culture. I recently had the pleasure of rereading Carl Jung’s classic, Symbols of Transformation (CW 5, cited below by paragraph) and was struck by how truly foundational the hero myth is to a culture, a civilization, and human development itself. There is a pattern to the hero myth that is worth exploring, if we are to get out of the ways in which we have been captured.

    Jung beautifully summarizes the archaic and “typical mythological motifs” (par. 42) of the hero in the following:

    He journeys by ship, fights the sea monster, is swallowed, struggles against being bitten and crushed to death (kicking or struggling motif), and having arrived inside the ‘whale-dragon,’ seeks the vital organ, which he proceeds to cut off or otherwise destroy. Often the monster is killed by the hero lighting a fire inside him—that is to say, in the very womb of death he secretly creates life, the rising sun. (par. 538)

    Thus condensed is the underlying pattern. There is some capture, symbolized in different ways, which indicates a “going under,” a night sea journey, a neykia, a type of death and resurrection. We only need to think of Jonah and Jesus, Odysseus and Aeneas, not to mention, in American culture, Washington, Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, MLK, among many others. Some kind of dangerous journey to the underworld of darkness and suffering is required, if one is to gain something of true value that has the potential of renewing the culture and oneself in the process.

    For Jung, this myth of the hero symbolized the risks and possibilities of becoming fully human. The forces and regressive rip tides of unconsciousness are all too real. Indeed, Jung referred to unconsciousness as a “deadly threat” (par. 548) which could take over an entire nation. However, the dragon of the unconscious could be engaged, entered into, and transformed with the lighting of the fire of consciousness and discovering, in the darkness of suffering, some source, some treasure hard to find, that transcended one’s previous sense of self. “The treasure which the hero fetches from the dark cavern is life,” and one’s very self, new-born (par. 580). In this way, the hero is “an archetype of the self” (par. 612). Even more, for Jung, the question, myth and status, if you will, of the hero is internally connected to the role of religion in a culture and a psyche. How these heroic questions of the unconscious, suffering, darkness and unknowing are negotiated and dealt with, in many ways, determines whether religion serves the spirit—“the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath”—or the various alienating structures of the ego’s spiritual materialism and appetite.

    The hero has gotten captured, in our selves and in our culture. And, the myth of the hero has been captured by a two-dimensional story of aggrandizement and various forms of narcissism with its insatiable hungers. Whether the hero is freed and the myth of the hero restored is really up to us. A long time ago, when Star Wars was first released, I remember the heroic journey being played out on screen. In particular, I remember seeing the heroic Han Solo being captured by the kleptocrat, Jabba the Hutt, that grotesque image of bloated ego. In the end, Han is freed and Jabba is done in by Princess Leia, twisted into an image of objectified feminine and abused soul, to give it a Jungian interpretation. We need to be conscious and brave here. In recovering the hero in our midst, we need to remember that the unconscious has its own logic. If we spurn and chain it, it may come back and do us in, as it did to Jabba. But, seen from the angle of the hero, and venturing forth into life on the basis of such a perspective, after being captured and finding the treasure, one may find oneself on the new shore of a renewed human relatedness —Han finds Leia, the hero finds soul, feminine finds masculine—the opposites of the self are reconciled and a glimpse is given of what King imaged as “the Beloved Community.”

    Mark Napack, M.A., S.T.L., M.S., first studied the hero's journey as a student of comparative literature at Columbia University, after which he applied Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces to the redemption motif in medieval theology for his thesis at Fordham University. He further studied Jung, psychology and the history of religion at Loyola and Catholic Universities. A long-time graduate and college lecturer, Mark has a special concern for areas of psychology and spirituality and an ongoing involvement with the Collected Works of Jung and Jungian classics. He has presented at international conferences and published in scholarly publications. Mark Napack, LCPC is also a Jungian informed psychotherapist in North Bethesda, MD.

  • Saturday, December 15, 2018 9:30 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    The way is within us, but not in Gods nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life…. May each one seek his own way. The way leads to mutual love in community. Men will come to see and feel the similarity and commonality of their ways.” (The Red Book, p. 231)

    The path to discovering the oneness of creation starts with discovering our individual oneness. C.G. Jung took this path in 1913 when, having lost his way at midlife, he returned to his journals and let himself drop into the underworld to confront the unconscious. He writes in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “Suddenly it was as though the ground literally gave way beneath my feet, and I plunged down into dark depths.” (p. 203)  So begins the story of The Red Book, the story of Jung’s journey toward finding himself, of how he reached out for the hand of his lost soul. Jung encourages us to do the same, to ask our soul to stay by our side as we make our own journey. And to write it all down in our journals, in our own red books.

    We have another example of finding the way within, in the journals of Etty Hillesum, Dutch Jewish author of An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork, written from March 1941 to September 1943, when she was deported to Auschwitz. She died two months later at the age of 29. Fearful of what loomed ahead, Hillesum started a journal, describing herself as “a miserable, frightened creature.” Slowly through intense inner work, with pen in hand, she uncovers a deep well inside herself. “And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too.” (p. 44) She draws prayer around herself in order to rest calm and collected, and to keep her body at peace with her soul. “The sky within me is as wide as the one stretching above my head.” (p. 145)

    It is in bringing together opposites—body and soul, the conscious and unconscious—that we uncover a wholeness, an essential oneness. During his journey of individuation, transcribed in The Red Book, Jung continues to call out to his soul. At one moment he asks her to dive down into the depths of darkness and to bring him all that she finds. She finds old armor, painted stones, images of Gods, stories from the ages. It is too much, he exclaims. His soul scolds him, “You wanted to accept everything. You do not know your limits…. Take shears and prune your trees.” (p. 306) Jung takes an imaginary knife and cuts away everything that has grown without measure. He cuts down to the marrow to find himself.

    His journey continues until in 1928 when he dreams of being in Liverpool, where in the middle of the dark, rainy city, there is a dimly lit square. In the middle of the square there is a pond with an island. In the middle of the island, there is a single magnolia tree in a shower of reddish blossoms. “It was as though the tree stood in the sunlight and was at the same time the source of light.” (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 223)  Jung sees the blossoming tree as a symbol of the Self, the goal of psychic development. He painted the dream in a magnificent mandala, naming it Window to Eternity.


    Window to Eternity, C.G. Jung, Image 159, The Red Book

    This oneness is both within us and around us. After this dream, Jung stopped writing in The Red Book, and turned to the study of alchemy and Eastern religions. The groundwork for his scientific opus was done. Jung taught, lectured, wrote, experiencing an ever expanding wholeness. It was during a stay in his tower at Bollingen, on Lake Zurich, that he wrote, “At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the plashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons. (ibid, p. 252)

    We find ourselves at one with all the creation. We experience a feeling of belonging, a feeling of being at home in the world around us. Jung summons us to find this oneness. “May each one seek his own way. The way leads to mutual love in community. Men will come to see and feel the similarity and commonality of their ways.” (The Red Book, p. 231) From inward, we stretch outward. Our path takes us to those around us. We discover our shared ways and our shared earth. We are part of this greater wholeness, one small whole within greater wholes – within family, community, country.

    When we embrace ourselves, we embrace all creation.

  • Thursday, November 15, 2018 9:30 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    We have…succeeded in forgetting that an indissoluble link binds us to the men of antiquity…By penetrating into the blocked subterranean passages of our own psyches we…establish a firm foothold outside our own culture from which alone it is possible to gain an objective understanding of its foundations.
    -C.G. Jung, CW5, para. 1

    Two decades ago, the notable post-Jungian writer, Wolfgang Giegerich, declared that the modern psychological situation is without parallel, that ancient mythology can no longer illumine the psychology of modern people. We have broken, he states, “with the entire level of consciousness on which truly mythic experience was feasible” (1999:175)*.

    Like Giegerich, we may point to our post-modern engagement with information technology, the internet, virtual reality, social media, and cyber communication as proof that the realities we construct have few, if any, links to our ancestors’ mythic sense of reality or their foundational stories.

    Jung would likely not agree. As our quote from Symbols of Transformation suggests, Jung rejected the idea that modernity could sever our ties to the mythic imagination of our ancestors. He spent a lifetime elaborating this position through his work on the archetypal structures that inform and organize human thought, emotion and behavior.

    The unconscious presence of mythic modes thinking, as well as the ongoing influence of foundational mythic themes in the Western psyche can be broadly illustrated. Ancient mythic underpinnings can still be cited in narrative patterns, basic cultural assumptions and behaviors. And because mythologems may express themselves constructively or destructively, we have an ethical duty to bring them out of the shadows.

    As I will demonstrate in my presentation to the Jung Society of Washington in December, critical examination of Biblical creation stories casts light upon the Western psyche’s dissociation from the land, our continuing investment in economies of extraction, and the industrial exploitation of human and non-human others. Despite its depth and beauty, the Biblical creation myth found in the second chapter of the Book of Genesis paints a bleak portrait of humans in relation to the larger creation. Human identity and existence proceed out of a fallen state; the curse of Adam severs our kinship with the land and its non-human inhabitants. The myth prescribes hierarchical family and social structures and attributes mortality to sin.

    Combined with other ancestral and ideological narratives, these creation motifs continue to inform our sense of time, our relationship with the land and with non-human others. They mirror back to us our fear of death and aging. And sometimes, when not interpreted metaphorically, but instead wielded as inerrant, literal truths, they foster communal warfare.

    Of course, it is important to consider the larger context of any motif. The narrative of “The Fall” is prelude to a much longer story about divine-human relations over the course of history. Our job is not to dismiss the mythic currents flowing out of the past and informing the present, but to think critically, dare to acknowledge how foundational stories inform society and culture, and to track how they underpin one’s sense of self and the world.

    To acknowledge and take responsibility for ourselves as mythic animals we must consider, not just what we think but how we think. We meet ourselves as mythic creatures through this work of tracking ancestral influences, but we also access the restorative and enriching experience of mythic imagination through those states of mind where conscious and unconscious psyches intersect: metaphoric communication, day-dreaming, story-making, night-dreaming, and socalled “mystical states.” I would like to suggest that the much-needed healing of the Western body-psyche may be supported by envisioning the path of individuation as an ecological process, one that fosters the healing of our broken kinship with the land through (what I am calling) “polyvalent awareness.” Working intentionally with the mythic dimension of our humanity, we foster multiple ways of perceiving: Western (differentiated), mythic (weaving ancestral with contemporary story-making) and holistic (explicable only by reference to the whole).

    Differentiated consciousness allows us to approach ancestral narratives with a critical eye. Mythic perception connects us with our deeper resources, allowing us to formulate meaning through metaphor and symbol. Differentiated thinking may help us locate ourselves within our ancestral stories while mythic thinking may carry forward the stories in forms that restore our kinship with the land and help us meet the experiences and needs of our time. Holistic awareness graces us with momentary glimpses of our participation in the greater whole. Polyvalent awareness allows us to receive the stories that rise up from the land. It links us to our ancestors and to one another through symbolic ways of perceiving, and it fosters personal authority in the face of powerful, unconscious currents flowing through us as a people.

    I look forward to sharing this exploration with you in December.

    *Giegerich, W. (1999) The Soul's Logical Life: Towards a Rigorous Notion of Psychology, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

    Melanie Starr Costello, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, historian, and senior Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D.C. She earned her doctorate in the History and Literature of Religions from Northwestern University and is a graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute-Zurich where she currently serves as a Training Analyst. Dr. Costello has taught and published on the topics of psychology and religion, medieval women’s spirituality, individuation and ecology, aging and clinical practice. Her study of the link between illness and insight, entitled Imagination, Illness and Injury: Jungian Psychology and the Somatic Dimensions of Perception, is published by Routledge Press. Her presentation and workshop, “Natural Symbols, Natural Cycles: Individuation as Ecology,” is scheduled for December 7 and 8, 2018 at the Jung Society of Washington.

  • Monday, October 15, 2018 5:16 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    It is the natural desire and tendency of conscious life to solve problems and then move on.   This proclivity does indeed lead to the resolution of many if not most of life’s dilemmas.   But not the ones that matter most.

    Jung himself shared our desire to quick and happy resolution to the conflicts and stuck places.   He describes, “I had always worked with the temperamental conviction that at bottom there are no insoluble problems, and experience justified me in so far as I have often seen patients simply outgrow a problem that had destroyed others.   This ‘outgrowing,’ as I formerly called it, proves on further investigation to be a new level of consciousness.   Some higher or wider interest appeared on the patient’s horizon, and through this broadening of outlook the insoluble problem lost its urgency.  It is not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.”  (CW 13, Alchemical Studies, par. 17)

    How often the old adage, “sleep on it” does bring a measure of relief the next day when we have been able to step back out of the emotional morass and reframe it in some way.   Our unconscious has also worked on it to provide a new perspective.   Notable artistic and scientific discoveries have risen out of this outer/inner world dialectic.

    Still, many of life’s issues are not solvable.  For example, sometimes quanta of trauma remain in our system and send up bubbles to trouble our days, just as a sunken ocean liner releases its flotsam for decades.  (The USS Arizona is still leaking oil at Pearl Harbor after seventy-seven years).   Sometimes betrayals, profound losses, roads not taken continue to haunt a person and cloud the present.    We will never “solve” these experiences for they are always part of our psychoactive history.   But consciously we can attend to the business of living in the present.   Asking the question: “what does this old, persisting problem make me do, or keep me from doing,” obliges us to take responsibility for what spills into the world through us.

    Some years ago, in a book called Swamplands of the Soul, I suggested that our periodic visitations to dismal places: depression, loss, betrayal, grief, and so on were part of the human condition from which none of us is exempt.   But to move beyond a posture of outrage at life’s “betrayal,” we are called to ask another question: “to what present task is this swampland calling me”?   Asking this question moves us from a posture of “victimage” to engagement with the unfolding of our destiny.   Without this move, fate triumphs over destiny.

    Elsewhere, Jung writes eloquently about those dilemmas to which there is no obvious resolution, or no cost-free resolution.   Then he suggests we hold the tension of opposites which are pulling us apart, until the “third” appears.   The “third” means, neither this nor that, yes or no, but what is the developmental task this dilemma is bringing me.   Where am I being asked to grow larger than, to reframe, to reposition this contretemps?   In asking this question, once again, we are moved from a paralysis, a stuckness, a loss of agency to a summons to accountability.    Being accountable is what it means to be a grown up.

    Jung’s summarizes, “the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble.  They must be so, for they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system.   They can never be solved, but only outgrown.”  (Ibid. par. 18) Meanwhile, the task of living goes onward, with or without our participation.

    James Hollis, Ph.D. is a Zurich-trained Jungian analyst in practice in Washington, D. C. where he is also Executive Director of the Jung Society of Washington. He is also author of fifteen books translated into nineteen languages. 

  • Saturday, September 15, 2018 9:44 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    “Rather seek for yourself and your fellows the healing vessel, the servitor mundi, which you urgently need. For your state is perilous; you are all in imminent danger of destroying all that centuries have built up.”
    — C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 283. 

    Once upon a time, there was a man who illegally became king. Because he knew his own illegitimacy and the precarious position it left him in, he had a great tower built. Notwithstanding its apparent impregnability, the walls of the tower kept on collapsing. The king summoned a unique expert to diagnose the problem. This mysterious diagnostician revealed that there was a serious problem underground. The tower was built over two dragons, one red, one white, who, feeling oppressed by the edifice, would move around, shake the foundations of the tower whereupon the walls would collapse. The dragons were dug up from underground, engaged in their festering conflict and the white one killed the red.

    So begins the backstory to the Grail quest as told by Robert de Boron. The king is Vertigiers; the country is Briton; the expert diagnostician is Merlin. Merlin explains that the red dragon symbolizes King Vertigiers and the white dragon symbolizes the rightful heirs, Pendragon and Uther. The heirs and the king join in battle and the king is defeated. Merlin, because of his knowledge of the archaic past and his ethical pledge to the good, tells the new and rightful king to build a table, at which will sit a knight who will have found the Grail. Eventually we come to a fisher king, whose illness will not heal, whose country is a waste, who awaits something and someone new that will draw life and renewal from the Grail.

    Carl Jung, as indicated in the above quote, felt that the Grail myth was central to the problems of our time. It was Jung’s own mythic world, containing a great secret which, though still unknown, might confer a redemptive meaning on our own wasteland. Is not the backstory of the two dragons our own situation, where opposites are vying in the underground of the collective unconscious, shaking the foundations of our structures and institutions, state and church? Evidence of collapse is all around us. When opposing forces are unconscious, the people may know nothing but nevertheless feel themselves to be undermined.

    In many ways, the point of the Grail legend is to bring into consciousness the situation of dissociation that exists generally in the culture in order to move towards reconciliation of opposites and conscious relatedness. For, the red and white of the dragons, in the imagery of alchemy, are the colors of the bridegroom and bride called into relationship, a coniunctio. That is the hope implied in the Merlin backstory, but we know that is not how it goes, at least initially. There is inevitable conflict and the ruling principle of the culture and the psyche, symbolized by the king, must be overthrown. The words of Hamlet are enacted:

    Laertes: The King, the King’s to blame.
    Hamlet: The point envenom’d too?
                     Then venom to thy work. 

    In Hamlet, the dying King is in denial—“I am but hurt”—and the overthrowing movement of Hamlet cries out in dragon-like rage, “Here, thou incestuous, murd’rous, damned Dane, Drink off this potion! Is thy union here?” In death and destruction?

    The Grail myth points the way to a different outcome, a life-giving and creative union, where the opposites don’t end up in a nuclear fission, but are reconciled, with the result being that the country, from top to bottom, is restored to health. The Grail quest is the search for this hidden wholeness.

    Mark Napack, M.A., S.T.L., M.S., first studied the Grail legend as a student of comparative literature at Columbia University. From there, he went on to study Jung, psychology and the history of religion at Fordham, Loyola and Catholic Universities, from which he received various graduate degrees. A long-time teacher and presenter, Mark has a special concern for areas of psychology and spirituality and an ongoing involvement with the Collected Works of Jung and Jungian classics. He has presented at international conferences and published in scholarly publications. Mark Napack, LCPC is also a Jungian informed psychotherapist in North Bethesda, MD.

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