Discussions, Dreams, Reflections

2nd November - 31st December 1997

Here you’ll find a wealth of insights and angles on all sorts of issues, from senex to puer, qualia to fractals, schizophrenia to imagination . . .


  • From Darlene:

  • I wonder if we could share experiences of shamanic initiation and spiritual emergency. It seems to me that a process of shifting happened to me and I’m not sure if it was the only experience I needed and I just go on from here, or if there could still be another perhaps even bigger, or smaller set of experiences, that is yet to come or is still coming. I feel as if this "more" comes in bits and pieces while other parts of my life pull me away from it. The process I experienced included many "strange" events which I wish I would have chronicled and ordered, and which I now find either hard to list or explain in a way that is translatable, but I’m hoping that through sharing experiences I can further my journey. I know that the easiest one to list and the hardest to transmit to others in terms of feeling and effect was a hypnagogic event that felt sacred and which I’m afraid I diminish by sharing the secret - yet I feel the need to share it because it is lonely and beyond my daily self so that I have trouble with its symbols. I heard inside myself asking "Who created it?" and I heard more deeply the response "My Father. He created everything." My ego does not like this answer because of my fear of the patriarchal dominance and shunning of the feminine, but my Self said it is so. I know I need to use the wider view of the Father archetype in integrating this experience, but I have such core father issues that I get a lump in my throat just writing this. Anyone willing to remind me and help amplify Father with me?

    Senex & Limitation:

    For some reason, while reading what you shared I recalled Jung’s account (in MDR) of the female patient he helped as a Father; she had a Christian background and had projected the God archetype onto Jung, who appeared in her dream as a benevolent old Nature god (Saturn?) standing in a swaying field of wheat. Eventually, of course, when she no longer needed to be contained, or carried, she connected to her own divine Centre. Like all archetypes, the Father has creative and destructive facets, and your own relationship with your father will inevitably influence how you image both this archetype and the animus. Astrologically, the Father is Saturn/senex, who presides over chronological time and fateful limitation. As with all psychological truths, the opposite is equally valid; hence we need both limits and (under some circumstances) the capacity to transcend them. Firstly, who sets them (i.e. is limitation an issue in your own situation?) Saturn is concerned with limitation through order, time, exactness, borders - and, importantly, the earthing of forms. In Taoist thought, limitation is therefore symbolized by the lake, since only through its earthed limitation of form can it contain a finite amount of a (symbolically) infinite source, water as Nature’s mirror of the boundless Tao and the unconscious. In the psyche, the same principle therefore holds; the ego limits our conscious realization of the boundless potential of the circumferential whole of Self. Our eyes limit our range of perception of the e-m spectrum, our ears the range of frequencies we can hear. Too much consciousness, too much input and our poor old brains and bodies would short-circuit with confusion and overload - the lake again. Moral? Limitation equals clarity, durability, stability, tranquillity and focus - the contained surface of the lake versus the boundless inrushing of the ocean (which the poor psychotics and potential shamans must endure when the ego boundary collapses!)

    Second parameter: social - limitations imposed through laws, social conventions, dominant ideologies, etc. Here we have 3 options: conformity, compromise, rebellion. Challenge? To maintain one’s vision and integrity, follow one’s bliss, live one’s Tao, individuate, operate from the Centre, express the Dionysian and irrational in a society that thrives on collective conformity, Apollonian order, reason and ego, yet also offers opportunities for the individual to contribute to the betterment of humanity and Nature. Moral? You can have your cake and eat it - if you can dance on a tightrope! (Also bear in mind Gandhi’s remark: "There are unjust laws" - the dark face of Saturn/senex).

    Thirdly, personal limitation. Challenge? The discrimination between limits which require acceptance and those which invite transcendence. Key question? "Am I more whole, hence better able to contribute to the well-being of the unus mundus if I accept this limitation, or if I seek to overcome it?" And here a less straightforward can of worms (and wormholes) begs to be opened, so I’ll sign off till the next installment.

    Maureen (finite yet unbounded)

    A few more logs . . .

    In considering the domain of personal limitation, I’m reminded of two mountaineering examples; one a dream recounted to Jung, the second a TV documentary. The mountaineer’s dream, recounted in MDR: the guy concerned told Jung that he’d dreamed he’d ascended to a mountain peak and then had stepped out into the air. He asked Jung what the dream suggested. Jung warned him not to go mountain climbing again, recogniziing in the dream the mountaineer’s longing for the ecstasy of transcendence of all limits (including gravity!); hence ecstasy is from ‘ek-stasis’ - to step outside of oneself (which shamans regularly do). The guy didn’t take Jung’s advice, went climbing again, and soon after fell to his death. Moral? All one-sidedness is crippling or dangerous. The puer imagination is limitless, unearthly, but its opposite, the senex, informs all earthly laws and limitations. Solution? The creative tension between freedom and limitation, puer and senex.

    The peur high-climbing imagination, dominated by mercurial optimism which seeks to overcome all limits, knows no bounds; its opposite, the senex, is predictably concerned with boundaries and limitations. As always, the ‘Middle Way’ requires the creative tension of opposites; in the words of Siddharta (Buddha): "If you tighten the string too much, it breaks; if it’s too loose, it will not play." The mythic parallel is of course Icarus, whose father Daedalus advised him to steer a middle path between sky and sea.

    As Hillman notes, without the counterbalance of the puer, the limiting senex becomes petrified and stagnant, cynical and tyrranical, a sol niger who dies through its addiction to order and perfection. The Old Man has lost his wandering, imaginative ‘child’. Both need one another: senex-et-peur, limitation and boundless imagination. (Hey - one could coin a new term to denote their hybridization: ‘pueritanical’!)

  • From Tom Haskins:

  • My great hope for this circle is that we could experience Jung as a process, instead of a thing. I am self taught and eclectic. I consider Jungian thought to be a world view, a way of making sense of inner and outer life. I have also found it very easily to make connections between Jungian ideas and many other diverse fields.

    I was surprised and hurt when I first heard that the "elders" of the Jungian community fought over "dogma". I’ve treasured my process of discovering the truth of Jung’s principles by experiencing them first hand-much like Buddhism and Yoga are said to occur to the seeker, not learned externally. The haggling over precepts seems to lose sight of the experiential truth of the Jungian worldview. Maureen’s vision for this list appeals to me greatly for this reason.

  • From Maureen:

  • "These boots were made for walkin’ . . ."

    The Native American Pollen Path chant:

    Beauty before me

    Beauty behind me

    Beauty above me

    Beauty below me

    Beauty to the left of me

    Beauty to the right of me

    In Beauty I walk

    Joseph Campbell discusses this Pollen Path in his Power of Myth series. For the Native Americans and we Druids, it symbolizes honouring the Above and Below of Father Sun and Mother Earth, honouring the Four Directions and their guardians, and honouring oneself as Centre (as is everywhere else). I use the acting out of this symbolic journey and sacred space during Vision Quests. One thing I like about it is its 3-dimensionality. If you connect all these points, you end up with a double 4-sided pyramid (an octahedron), a neat combination of 4, 3 (sides to each facet), and 2 mirrored opposites, with one-Self protectively nested in the Centre! Similarly, the Chinese speak of 5 directions, N, S, E, W and Centre. In both cases the form and dynamism of the archetypes are symbolized. One treads the never-ending pollen path, whose form remains constant, just as Tao is symbolized by a person perpetually passing through a doorway.

    Safe Journeys (& may your Soles remain intact)

  • From Maureen:

  • I’m reminded here of Jung’s dry comment: "Thank God I’m Jung and not a Jungian." As I understand and experience it, ‘developing an identity’ as individuation is a natural process requiring little or no intervention from the ego, hence Jung endorsed the art of letting things happen, action through non-action, letting go of oneself as ‘the key opening the door to the way’ (as Tao). Jung lamented that consciousness is forever interfering in the Tao of individuation, helping, correcting, negating and never leaving the simple growth of the psyche in peace. "It would be simple enough," Jung adds, "if only simplicity were not the most difficult of all things." Towards the end of his rich life, as he was living in modest harmony with Nature, he summarized it well: "I never think that I am the one who must see to it that cherries grow on stalks. I stand and behold, admiring what Nature can do."

    [Question to list:

    BTW Yvonne - and others - I wonder if you have any thoughts on my observation that many, many people have difficulty with symbolic thinking - even therapists who use interpretation and dream analysis. What they offer as symbolic understanding or interpretation is, instead, and unwittingly, a semiotic analysis (a term Jung used in his revised paper on the transcendent function) - evaluating the symbol as a sign.]

    The overall ‘error’ here is surely the ego’s usurping of its proper place, which is to be subservient to the Self. The transcendent function of the symbol is its capacity to bridge conscious and unconscious, limited ego and boundless Self, individual and universal, form and archetypal content, so by nature it is indefinable and inexhaustible in meaning, hence Yeats’ comment: "No symbol tells all its meaning to any generation." (The Holy Grail is a prime example here).

    Secondly and importantly, ‘interpretation’ and ‘analysis’ of symbolism are not in Jungian work necessarily the same thing. The first deals with verbal explanation (which, if the ego presides, is inevitably one-sided, controlling, logical, or otherwise reductionist), the second with the spontaneous alchemical process of separatio (‘analysis’ into component symbols), as the necessary complement of synthesis (of symbols into symbols). In analysis, one therefore (ideally) remains throughout in dominantly symbolic and receptive (rather than verbal and controlling) mode, which is why in a one-to-one analysis situation, it is ideally the paradoxical and evasive Mercurius, not the reasoning ego who presides. (Hence one does not ‘use’ analysis, but is rather analysed oneself during analysis - everything and everyone gets chucked into the same soup!) And since in Jung’s view the symbol corresponds to the highest intuition produced by consciousness, only a consciousness with finely-tuned intuition and centred in the mercurial Self will be able to avoid the temptation to mistake interpretation for analysis.


    Former comment:

    For instance, to say that a dream of a spider "represents" the negative mother complex (semiotic) vs. responding to a dream of a spider with a process of amplifying the dream, gathering associations, wondering if the negative mother might be in there somewhere etc. - and allowing the spider to continue to hold its complexity as a symbol.

    Response [from Maureen]:

    Like most primordial symbols, the spider is ambivalent, so again a one-sided ‘interpretation’ is likely to have an ego or hidden shadow agenda. For example, if someone automatically ‘interpreted’ the spider as indicative of a ‘negative mother complex’, I would suspect the projection of the interpreter’s shadow onto poor ol’ Spider (who, as Nature, is both terrible and beautiful). The interpreter, in other words, has not owned his/her ‘spider energy’, hence automatically sees it as negative. Here the importance of personal context and amplification in analysis also becomes paramount. No matter how archetypal the symbol, the analysand’s associations are still important.

    Spider is also Maya as weaver of the web of illusion; she is also the ‘beautiful circuiting’ of the soul, symbolic of individuation as the spiralling, weaving motion of the unconscious about its empty Centre. Personally, I have never seen anything more beautiful than a dew-sprinkled spider’s web, a fragile yet strong Nature-mandala, illumined by the full Moon’s or the dawn Sun’s rays. In shamanic work, we go further than allowing spider to be symbolic or complex; we befriend her, respect her, acknowledge the equal validity of her Centre, own through empathy and unio mentalis her energies within us, and learn from her as simply Spider, who does not primarily symbolize, but simply is.

    Response: In the ‘schizophrenic’ experience, there is, as Maureen so eloquently describes, a thinning of the veil, as the ego is overwhelmed by perceptions that the neocortex no longer filters out. Eastern seekers search for this experience. In the West we pathologize it. We take our shamans, who agree to come into this world to give the spiritual healing that is so sorely needed and hence they come in large numbers, and we put them through the medical paradigm, applying body illness as an archetypal experience to the mind. Of course, by the time they have reached the age to be weeded out by this metaphor, they have been damaged in some way by the process of being raised by other people unable to conform to rigidly small social container of our value-system.

    This whole social-system is being blown apart in our time, and as Jung showed us, the alchemists knew that consciousness has to be reduced to ‘first matter’ in order to allow the new consciousness to grow in the now fertile soil of ego-identification. The Ancient Greeks used their schizophrenics for Oracles! [C.A. Meier, Ancient Incubation] See also Karl Kerenyi’s work.

  • From Michelle Christides:

  • It would seem that there are some analysts out there who have gone through Institutional programmes and NOT understood Jung! This was what Jung himself feared would happen and he resisted the institutionalization of the process that he knew must come from life and analysis. Somehow, I prefer the word ‘synthesis’ but Jung was trying to remain within the new discipline of Psychology and be one of the two parents . . .

    . . . it is the awakening of women that has brought about the partial vision of the Universe of consciousness-Energy. However, it is not the ‘feminine’, it is the true view of humanity as a whole species, not two divided in male and female - which, as Jung said to Freud is only a small part of what we are in order to continue bringing what we are into matter!

    I too am trying to help create this new language for the new paradigm of Quantum AND Qualium Mechanics. My whole life has been a search to understand Consciousness itself (hereafter= Cs), until, after a major breakthrough, I understood that Cs is the Eternal Presence of God and that each of us is a hologram, a fragment of the whole universe. This answers Einstein’s observation: "The eternal mystery of the Universe is that it is comprehensible." How this came about will come in due time, but the limits of containment in this world must be respected first.

    First, ‘qualium,’ sing. ‘qualia,’ pl. is the analogue in Cs of ‘quantum’ and ‘quanta’ the words used for the discrete levels at which electrons must orbit around the nucleus of an atom. Gerald Edelman coined the word in his scientific treatise on Cs, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire. Electrons must gather certain amounts of energy before being able to leap outward and orbit for awhile, and when they diminish past the minimum amount of energy to remain there, they fall back to the closer quantum and give off the excess energy for that quantum in light. Einstein’s famous equation showed that Energy is Matter; for millenia in the East, it has been known that Cs is Energy is Matter. The laws of Cs follow the laws of physics, as we are learning them now from Quantum Mechanics, the new paradigm that has replaced the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm, upon which our 3 - 4 centuries of Science have been based.

    Science has been placing the cart before the horse in approaching Cs as though it arose exclusively from matter - it did, but it was directed by Cs to incarnate itself in Matter, the meaning of our ‘Forgotten Truth.’


    . . . simply from my point-of-view (as a former Asst. Prof. of Western Civilization), if we only knew the History of the West, we would not be doing this terrible damage to our shamans, prophets and mystics. We are, thanks to Jung, able to open ourselves to shamanism and other cultures, the West has arrogantly looked down on. Jung had to fight for his place in Psychology, and even today the faith-holders of Science want to cast him out for heresy.

    There is an excellent book by Jerome Kroll on the matching of symptoms between ‘borderlines’ and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (a temporary response to adult trauma) - the same response in a child becomes incorporated into one’s personality as the very fibre of character, until the child can see the patterns (usually after years of analysis-synthesis as an adult).

    I too had a similar experience as this for trauma as an adult, and consequently, perhaps you too are implying this, I avoided the psychiatric establishment like the plague that it is and retired to the country, so that nobody could ever label me as having had a ‘schizophrenic break.’ It was what has been called a ‘dangling initiation’ (perhaps coined by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run With the Wolves) until I had my Jungian analysis with Dr Elisabeth Ruf, who, although Estes book had not been written, directed me through the initiation process.

  • From Michelle Christides:

  • My heart goes out to you for sharing this. I myself have been keeping these things ‘under-cover’ so that I not be relegated for life into the ‘lunatic-fringe.’ My own father was the greatest blessing in my life. My strength came from him. I believe that we come into this world with a ‘contract’ so to speak, that gives us a mixture of experience that will bring us to a certain qualium of Cs-Energy, from whence we are on our own to give off the light or gather it and surrender to the Universal Ethic. From the rest of your letter, you seem to have understood Father perfectly. Sometimes, if you choose not to pass on the suffering but the good - and your generosity of experience with us shows that you have done so abundantly - it is through not-having, through lacking, through failure, that we learn the most about an archetypal experience.

    I feel my ‘dangling initiation’ expanded the experience of intitiation for me, so that I can take others through it. How does one BTW tell others that, so that one is sought out and can do the work one is called to do? My way has been as an intellectual, but the calling has brought me to ‘shamanism’, yet people have a view of that as some kind of primitive culture-view, witch-doctor, superstition. Going to see a ‘Psychotherapist’ in the USA, at least, means one is admitting one has failed in living one’s own life. Ultimately, I’ve decided to pursue the role of one who explains how the whole culture is causing us to wear blinders and that is how we’ve stumbled into a quagmire that is destroying our own eco-niche, as we help expand the quagmire.

  • From Tom Haskins:

  • Michelle mentioned: [Incredible article in Omni magazine, October 1993, David Porush, "Transcendence in the Three-Pound Universe of the Brain."]

    David Porush also wrote a book: The Soft Machine - re Cybernetic Fiction in 1985. It’s akin to some of what James [Maertens] is exploring at the Mythos Institute. In the preface Porush writes about a continuing war of metaphors:

    "All langauge is based on metaphor and that metaphors therefore hold the key to deciphering the code of our knowledge, to mapping the hidden vectors of our cosmologies . . . Metaphors are the traces of our fundamental wishes and pretenses . . . Yet the metaphor [of universe as a machine] has grown so irresistible that it uses us rather than the other way around . . . The proposal of counter-metaphors has taken on its vivid form in cybernetic fiction."

    When Buddha was asked what he would do to change the world, he said he would change the language. A point I’m making in my first book is our attempts to change paradigms will fall into competitive stalemates if we react to rival metaphors. Our challenge is to simply reframe what we see, speak as if the evidence represents a different truth, give legitimacy to a worldview without seeking it from consensus reality, living a found truth discovered within. We get to choose the metaphors to live by and start chain reactions by "talking funny" and continually reframing the facts.

  • From James Maertens:

  • Whew! I can hardly keep up with all of you! It is great, but a bit like having one of Keats’s journal letters (or several) arrive every day! So my apologies if I don’t reply to much of what you all said. The thread on metaphor vs sign explored by Joan, Tom, et al. interests me very much because of my history as a teacher of literature and writing. And, moreover, it seems related to the idea of quanta (or qualia) of consciousness, and the connection between psychosis and shamanism. It seems to me that humans undergo a learning process that moves through 4 phases:

  • 1) being able to understand the one-to-one correspondences between signs and their carefully conscribed meanings. We teach children this activity when we read to them from picture books, or when we teach them our language as infants.

    2) being able to understand similes in which the characteristics of two unlike objects are being explicitly compared.

    3) being able to understand metaphors, in which an implicit comparison allows two different objects to resonate with each other and create a kind of higher sythesis of meaning. This operation seems to take the kind of quantum-leap of consciousness Michelle wrote of when describing the theory of "qualia."

    4) the next quantum/qualium leap, it seems to me, is being able to think symbolically, at which point the symbolic "object" becomes multiple and its meanings multiply perhaps infinitely. The "comparison" of qualities that goes on in simile and metaphor becomes so radically "implicit" that one can hardly even articulate them rationally. Symbolic thinking is often (if not always) beyond the power of analysis because it is inherently synthetic. That is, the symbolic thought process is a process of Imagination.

  • Now, is not Imagination that power to entertain in the mind’s eye what is not present to the material eye (or any of the senses?) It has always seemed to me that the Jungian "function" of Intuition is (or has something to do with) Imagination. That ability to see around corners. Consider how much of what humans do from day to day depends on this ability. Rational thought depends on the ability to imagine what is not present to the senses, just as much a poetry does. Invention of all kinds requires it. So it is not if being imaginative is a higher faculty of some kind, beyond mundane hard-headed reasoning. On the contrary, hard-headed reasoning is built upon the faculty of imagination. It is, as Blake might have said, Imagination circumscribed by careful limits and rules. That might serve as a definition of science in general, too.

    And the power of entertaining what is "not present" in a literal, material sense, also has a good deal to do with shamanic experience, doesn’t it? So the shamanic world and the world of the psychotic mind are each examples of this power of imagination and symbolic thought. The function of the ego, then, it seems to me, is to act as a kind of brake on this process; to give the swimmer in an infinite sea of multiple meanings a small island to hang on to and catch her breath.

    I think it was Maureen who made the often-heard remark that the ego usurps the Self, taking onto itself tyrannical powers, identifying itself with the whole psyche in what seems to us an erroneous arrogance. But I would suggest that we’ve evolved the ego as a psychic organ, if you will, precisely as a strategy for negotiating our powers of imagination. We draw an imaginary line between what is "real" (meaning present to our senses) and what is "unreal" (meaning what we imagine might be). (Note that the line is "imaginary," a construct.) So, it seems to me that, like most tyrants, Herr Ego is a frightened little fellow trying to keep a grip on reality. Sometimes his grip becomes a stranglehold and sends him into a wholesale denial of that vast imaginal ocean lapping at his bare feet. He clings to a great palm tree at the center of his island, and tries not to be sucked into the undertow. What Herr Ego can perhaps fruitfully learn is to put his back up against the palm tree and gaze out to sea. He is living on a beach after all!

    To to sum up my long perambulation: I find a number of the threads of Jung Circle interwoven into a spider’s web that makes a great deal of sense. We learn for the sake of survival skills how to understand signs and enter into a culture of laws and authorities and so forth, largely built upon the language of signs. But as human beings our souls cannot so easily escape the nature of language, which is much more complex and allows us to unfold our powers of imagination.

    Symbols like the Holy Grail (which always seems the perfect example) are sort of the speaking ego’s last grasp at pinning meanings down to concrete objects: to put a circumference around the objects and their multiple connections to other things: the Grail appears as a cup, a stone, a platter; it is surrounded by other symbolic objects: bleeding spear, candelabras of gold, maidens, the Fisher King, and so on until the symbol has spread out like ripples in the water and become a whole mythology. I find it perhaps ironic that so many scholars and lovers of the Grail myths squabble about what it signifies. For, it seems to me, the Grail symbolizes the infinite plenitude of meanings that flow from the creative imagination. It is the source of infinite blessings, infinite nurturance, infinite creative energies. In one reading, the Grail is the rice bowl that never can be emptied, the mother’s breast that never runs dry, the spring that flows for eternity always quenching our thirst. Isn’t it interesting that hunger and thirst are themselves forms of imagination: entertaining what is absent, what is wished-for. Emptiness longing to be filled.

  • From Darlene:

  • Thanks for your comments on the father. In these posts we have discussed the sun as father. I had an uncle who had schizophrenia. He said the sun is God. To me, the difference between schizophrenia and shamanism is that in the former the "as if" gets eaten up and in the latter the "as if" gets nourished. I think the difference between simile and metaphor is that in the former the "as if" gets simply translated into "like" to avoid the overwhelm of meaning, whereas in the latter the "as if" gets amplified into a feeling "is" rather than a factual "is." In shamanism "is" becomes an equi-valence (equal value), rather than a confusion of reality as in schizophrenia.

    When I first started on my journey, I came to declare my own corollary of the Cartesian "I think, therefore I am." It was "I feel, therefore God is." This was no intellectual conclusion, but a revelation of wonder. I remember taking an immediate disliking to Descartes, reading him in college. It was my Self that came up with this answer to him years later, because my ego is too afraid to make such a schizophrenic-sounding statement. I don’t think I’m a shaman, but I do think I am called to Jung’s Circle. I fear schizophrenia too much to ever "go there," but boy I’ve sure come awful damn close. I once believed/felt "as if" my therapist and I were to give birth to the Second Coming. Thank God he didn’t freak and allowed me to live the metaphor and not the schizophrenia.

    When I once declared in a psych class that I was a messenger of God, the teacher wanted to send me to the back of the class. My therapist laughed. I think it is no schizophrenia to say we are all (as beings conscious of our unconsciousness) messengers of God and part of the Second Coming. You just have to be careful who you say it to! Say it to certain scientists and you will end up in the back ward. Say it to any Sufi and you will end up singing and dancing it! To that extent, I have been introduced by the "father" and initiated into the new world - not without trauma. On the day I realized I was "introduced" I had a "pan-ic" attack (thanks for reminding me of dear Pan). I never had one before and I never had one since, nor do I expect to. My initiation came after my own recognition of PTSD, from which I have been healing. I think trauma creates spiritual emergency and psychic opening. It’s a hell of a way to get there, but that’s why I liked what Michelle said about lack leading to love.


    There’s not much I can add to what’s been said, but Barry Jeromson (who’s in this Circle and is completing a Jungian Maths PhD) and I back in May/June had a long discussion/debate on the whole metaphor issue. It got a bit heated later on as the thinking/intuitive (Barry) and intuitive/thinking (me) typologies began to clash - but we eventually reached a sort of Mercurial consensus. For me, the debate was a learning experience and kind of analysis - I ended up modifying my view about metaphor and becoming more aware of the shadow! This is (I think) the first post in the series. Barry’s input is not at all well-represented here, but he’s no doubt saved his messages and might be able to add to or clarify his side of the following (can’t recall what ROT stands for, Barry!):

    Barry J Jeromson wrote:

    [The collective unconscious, the self, etc are beyond direct conceptualisation.

    But if we wish to discuss them, we must draw on our conceptual system.]

    M: Yes, I think that’s why Jung is so readily aligned with Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, since in both, knowledge is expanded through the via negativa of progressive exclusion, rather than through the accumulation of more facts or information. The other point is that in all three philosophies, knowledge (as gnosis) is subjectively self-predicating as truth, hence in Gnosticism the oneness of knower, known, and means of knowledge. Our Western thinking has been led astray by the presumption that we can objectify, or distance ourselves from what can be known. Even physics has now realised that this is impossible.

    When reading Jung’s "Seven Sermons to the Dead", we realise how hopelessly inadequate logic is to convey such absolute truth; indeed, the closest language gets to conveying it is when it deals in paradox, or oxymoron, e.g. the descriptions of Mercurius, or Abraxus, or Tao; or Milton’s wonderful description of Hell, where there is "no light, but darkness visible". Reasoners such as T. S. Eliot dismissed this as absurd, but Milton in his physical blindness "saw" beyond the petty limitations of logic, hence he created art using language, which is why, by the way, I regard writing as the most difficult art form to master.

    B: After all, language is the tip of the iceberg of our conceptual system. Unfortunately, our linguistic capacity does not reach the depths necessary to reveal the collective unconscious directly. Therefore we use metaphor and analogy to describe our experiences of the unknowable in terms of the knowable. In other words, we conceptualise the unknowable in terms of the knowable, in order to communicate.

    M: Here you add a vital qualification: "in order to communicate". But do we not, then, need to expand our means of communicating, rather than restrict our attempts to do so to the fumbling limitations of the verbal plane? This is precisely Lao Tzu’s point, when he says that "the Tao that can be explained is not the true Tao." Truth, in other words, must be first and foremost understood and lived - the two are inseparable. Hence Jung’s comment that we understand nothing psychologically until we’ve experienced it. For me, part of the attractiveness of working shamanically is that words play second or third or even fourth fiddle to other modes of communicating - feelings, intuitions, visions, dreams, touch, chanting, drumming, music, journeying, laying on of hands, herbs, or crystals, rites of passage and transformation. I feel that words are used far too much in a lot of Jungian analysis. Remember Jung’s case of the girl who hadn’t spoken for years? Instead of talking to her, he took her sailing on the lake and sang to her a lullaby. She was eventually cured, and his colleagues couldn’t figure out what he’d done. As he wrote about it afterwards, "enchantment is the oldest form of medicine."

    B: In other words, the linguistically inexpressible core of Jungian psychology becomes theology (or alchemy, or ufology, or whatever). The psyche is literalised as theology etc.

    M: Yes, this is what I was always battling against on the jung-psyc list! They try to turn gnosis into belief - that way it’s tame and controllable! Hence Jung’s comment about "some wreteched ‘-ism’" always usurping the authority of gnosis and life." I like your abbreviation "ROT", by the way! Jung definitely WAS a mystic, if by "mystic’ one means someone who has an immediate, transrational connection to the underlying unitary Ground of Being.

    B: Because there is no literal referent for Jung’s metaphors, argues the ROT, there is no way they can be observed, measured and tested. Therefore it doesn’t exist.

    M: Yes. What this kind of reasoning assumes is that objectivity is inherently superior, or more reliable, or more real than subjectivity. But Jung’s basic premise is "the reality of the psyche", so it’s stupid to try and subject his ideas to such an ethic. By "empirical" Jung meant "founded on experience and observation, not theory", and he included in this camp all his inner work, much of which he labelled as "objective" in that he considered it to have a kind of independent existence, e.g. his spirit guides, Philemon, Elijah, Basilides and Salome.

    B: The ROT has fallen into the literal/metaphorical fallacy, that says, roughly, that literalness is characteristic of objective, verifiable reality, while metaphor is the language of metaphysics, poetry and unverifiable subjectivity.

    M: Yes, and ROT presumes that literality is superior to art as the "language" of truth, hence Keats’ aphorism that truth is "all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

    B: When we get to logical argument, we find the metaphor RATIONAL ARGUMENT IS WAR. In other words, at the heart of rational argument are the tactics of primitive dominance rituals, with the protagonists beating on their syllogistic containers (usually with an erect phallus).

    M: Well, of course, and why? I suggest it’s because at the heart of their o-so-certain logic is extreme doubt, because belief is always a poor substitute for the knowledge and experience that the Self craves. B: Sure, the Self is a transcendent experience, not directly conceptualisable. It can only be indirectly conceptualised metaphorically, in terms of other knowledge.

    M: Not really. Symbols adequately express the inexpressible because they are a bridge between the temporal and the transcendent. The Holy Grail, mandalas, the Philosophers’ Stone, gods, myths - these are all a step closer to ultimate reality than metaphor because they do away with language altogether. I always feel a thrill of wonderment when I envision the Grail - I don’t feel that with metaphors. That’s probably why my Puer Aeternus shamanic deity, Aaivan, says so little, but shows me so much. When he opens his tiny fist on an icy moon in solitude and silence, a small, moving rainbow is revealed sitting in his hand. That speaks to me far more than any words could do. Truth speaks primarily to the heart, not to the head.

    Thanks, Michelle, for your wealth of insights on ‘qualia’, the holographic/holistic paradigm, and the interconversion of consciousness, energy and matter. I’m very interested in the connections between shamanism and holistic science, so hope we can discuss these kinds of issues more.

    It amazes me that brain researchers are still squabbling over causal models of brain functioning, i.e. refusing to switch paradigms and move away from reductionism, as you remind us we need to do. These causal camps - which put brain functioning down to genes, environment, experience, chemicals and so on - are equivalent in principle to suggesting that the picture on a TV set is ‘caused’ by its inner circuitry. In the holographic/shamanic model, however, the brain is more of a receiver and transducer which synchronistically picks up on frequencies in the (universal) ‘holomovement’ - David Bohm’s neat term - and transposes them into imaged content (my insight, James, is that this is how the holistic imagination ‘works’). These ‘causal’ factions are wasting their time with trying to pinpoint how the brain works through physiological analysis. If the brain is holistic - and many of its capacities, e.g. universal empathy, the boundless reaches of imaginative vision, the collective psyche, certainly suggest it is - then pulling it to pieces will destroy its unanalysable ‘magic’ and integrity - just as pulling a flower to bits does the same. The whole is always more than the sum of its parts. If the archetype is ‘psychoid’, that is, transcending the poles of matter and spirit, then there is no ‘god in the machine’ - because there’s no separate god - and no machine.

    Erocentric thought is well-summarized in David Bohm’s view of the Cosmos: one reality principle out of which we all come (stones, trees, stars, people, hence all partake at some basic and essential level of the underlying ‘holomovement’. Most sacred traditions have a similar perspective, e.g. the Native Americans’ one universal ‘Spirit’ from which all came and to which all return. ‘Tao’ would have a similar meaning to the flow of the one universal Energy.

    As Bohm illustrates: ‘The image of a stream is helpful here. The stream can be studied by means of following an object that floats along it, in a time process. However, it is also possible to consider the entire stream all at once, to reveal the overall generative order that goes downstream from the source or origin . The essential flow is not from one place to another, but a movement within the implicate and superimplicate (generative) orders. At every moment, the totality of these orders is present and enfolded throughout all space - all orders interpenetrate. The flux or flow is therefore between different stages and developments of those orders’ [cf. Tao - one situation is decaying while another is coming into being].

  • Safe Boating & Floating to all!


  • "When a spider makes a beautiful web, the beauty comes out of the spider’s nature. It’s instinctive beauty. How much of our own lives is about the beauty of being alive? How much of it is conscious and intentional?" Joseph Campbell

    From Tom Haskins:

    I have been inundated with synchronicities which link to those two challenges I’ve mentioned in recent weeks:

    • not reacting to the vibes of other people

    • raising my own vibes to become impervious to the negativity of others In the past two weeks, I’ve been watching lots of people use their experience of me to feel more unlovable. It’s most evident to me when I am in a very peaceful, non-judgmental state of mind. I am uncluttered enough to observe others without attachment or neediness. What I see is them becoming fearful, insecure, unworthy, ashamed, upstaged, invalidated, etc.

    When I am wanting to have the opposite effect: to extend peace, be healing, soothe insecurities, feel connected - this is a setback. I react with fear, disappointment, self-accusations. My vibes are contracted, lowered, wide open to waves of hostility, antagonism, etc. Giving up the desire to have any effect on others makes sense as a way to eliminate my reacting, clinging, demanding, expecting, controlling. Yet I don’t want to live in a world where people are using their experience of me to feel more unlovable.

    What I received this morning is another way to stop reacting to others vibes.

    Here are the main ideas:

    • we are all connected in the non-physical realm and seemingly separated in the physical dimension

    • we have two ways to relate to this dichotomy: one adds to our fears and the other is an experience of love, healing, expansion

    • one perception is based on the separation being real. It perceives the connection as a boundary violation, imposition, attempt to control and judge. The separation is unbearable, very real and gives rise to all our vain attempts to get connected, understood, validated, loved.

    • the other perception is based on the connection being real. It perceives the connection as healing, accepting, peaceful. The separation is merely going against the spin of the universe, clinging to suffering, ego tripping on the literal view of circumstances and history

    • every relationship is a possible gateway, wormhole, bridge to another reality, vibrational plane, level of consciousness

    • moving through the gateway occurs by connecting to the other’s experience of the connection between us being real and past history having no impact on right now

    • we then create our circumstances, raise our vibration, transform the vibes around us by multiplying what we choose to pay attention to: the experiences of being connected without dangers

    • people will use their experience of us to feel more lovable because that is what makes sense to us, what we are thinking, what we had in mind when we paid attention to them.

    How’s it feel to be a wormhole?

  • From Darlene:

  • I think I did some self-healing (via the nurturance of myself and another) and can act as a sort of psychopomp sometimes. I once put it this way: It is as if those who are fed by the breast can breastfeed others, and it has nothing to do with gender of body. I also take it that another difference between the person with schizophrenia and the shaman is "as if" the latter steps outside of the body to experience the Cosmos and the former has the Cosmos stepping inside so that there’s no room left in the body.

    Having done a lot of work integrating my own shadow, I agree that denying or projecting the shadow is not what shamanism is about. I think that’s why I haven’t been able to buy into A Course in Miracles, or Scientology. To me, I don’t see integration there but denial and projection. I hope I do not offend anyone on the list. I mean to clarify for myself why I’ve been curious but not smitten. I liked your well amplified (pardon the pun) analogy, Maureen, of the brain being like a TV or radio. To me, one of the best shows I watched as a kid was My Favorite Martian (with the guy having antennae growing out of his head), and I’ve often dreamt about radios. In my initiation as a jungster, I often heard telephones (old fashioned ones and newfangled ones) ringing when I was in hypnagogic and hypnopompic states. I agree that to define which wires/connections belong to which brain functions is still to miss that the functions are not caused by these parts of the brain, but I think it’s still useful to look into those patterns as long as we remember this limitation. I think many scientists are too scared to think in terms of the receiver/transmitter analogy. Mystics are usually much better at call/response understanding. I love synchronicity because it taught me about this. Also, having pulled petals off flowers as a child and having regretted the skeleton of a stem I had left, I loved what you said about the integrity of the whole. Without being able to name it, then, I know that’s what I regretted having destroyed.

  • From Tom Haskins:.

  • The world seems overly rational and anti-feeling when we seek respectability on its terms. We sell out to buy in to the credentials we’ve established. We sacrifice our feelings and rationalize our condition. Our ego thinks this as good as it gets. At some point, this egocentric deal with our world falls apart. Our unconscious erupts with feelings that betray our commitments, self concept and limitations. This can follow the process of a mid-life crisis, as Michelle writes about, a developmental progression to a symbolic outlook as James describes, a shamanic initiation as Maureen knows first-hand, an extended bout with depression, falling in love with an illicit shadow figure, etc. These experiences makes feelings seems valid and logic seem insane. We develop heart, soul, depth, tenderness, touch, empathy, vulnerability, humility. The world looks worse than ever to our new sensibilities. We feel misfit, outcast, isolated, betrayed, alienated. We make enemies of rationality, intellect, "heartlessness".

    In this state of mind, I find the Jungian worldview offers a bounty of comfort, freedom, support, healing, meaning. The ego wants to go back to pure rationality, big explanations, dry land, controlled situations. The Self seeks the way of "individuation via synchronicities" to contain our inner and outer experiences: following a process we cannot control, to remain "all wet". This is the idea that Tony expressed of being more Jung-like than Jungian, more Christ-like than Christian. To make a thing of a set of ideas is a trick of the ego. To remain immersed in the process is a sign of the Self running the show - seeking wholes, balance, inclusive understandings. When following this process, ideas resonate, words have feeling, writing is an immersion experience, reading is being touched by another’s world, and the delights of the intellect is not unlike being in love.

  • Traveling lighter than before


  • "One thing that comes out of myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light."

    "Thinking in mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to the adventure." ~Joseph Campbell

    From Tom Haskins:

    Maureen: thanks for the post yesterday about Puer and Senex. I got me pondering about how I’ve gotten partially past my over-identification with my Puer energies and my projection of it onto others, without throwing the baby (shaman, healing energy) out with the bath water (illusions, attachments, labels).

    Puer is meant to be a container. Abuse, introjected cruelty, neglect, abandonment, are the contents. All my experiences of "being made to feel unlovable" seem to be contained by my Puer complex. Senex is also a container. Socialization is the contents. All my experiences of "being obligated, tamed into respectability, confined, ordered" are contained by the Senex. When Puer/Senex is a process, it merely contains the contents of life. The abuse is transformed into paradoxes, such as loving-power, or vulnerable-autonomy, or grounded-vastness. The process transforms what is being taken literally (history, urges, moods, experiences, memories) into golden opportunities to move out of the meaningless world into symbolic life. We sublimate the ego and live in the moment attuned to the Self. As you say, we maintain the creative tension between Puer and Senex.

    Making the switch (from Puer to Puering, thing in itself to empty container) comes about naturally by exploring the inner world of someone who as already made the switch, who sees things differently, who pictures the suffering as a mistaken identification.

  • From James Maertens:

  • Maureen, I love "pueritanical"! Excellent. Reading your dream and what you wrote about the Puer and Senex, I began to think that my life is very much a struggle between these two inward forces in my psyche, tugging me first up and then down. The Puer is the part of me that wants to write and simply escape into the world of imagination, worlds I create myself, or those others have written. But the fierce Senex in me is constantly jerking back on the kite strings, saying: no, you can’t do that! Get a job! My inward fears arise from this Senex complex, I’m beginning to see. Fears of failure, of rejection, of inadequacy. Sigh.

    And yet that old man is necessary to prevent little Puer from spinning off into outer space and melting his wings in the sun.

  • From Maureen [On Fractals]:

  • I’ve been spending hours downloading dozens of fractals from various superb online galleries. Dunno about you, but I get a wonderfully eerie sense of being in touch with something absolute and archetypally transcendent whenever I gaze with rapt amazement on these sublimely beautiful images, many of which I use for meditation, or in therapy and shamanic work - they’re excellent for guided imagination, centring and balancing work, or work with fragmentation.

    Fractals are a great example of the complexity capable of being generated through simple self-reference. Some, such as the Mandelbrot or Julia sets are Strange Loops on a very small scale because they do involve feedback through different levels of meaning. This, to me, sounds remarkably like a description of the parallel ‘loopiness’, multifarious meaning and self-referentiality of the psyche!

    Some folk may have seen the TV documentary on fractals, presented by Arthur C. Clarke, who noted that it was "no doubt coincidence", but nonetheless interesting that the name Mandelbrot (the mathematician who discovered the now famous Mandelbrot Set) sounds like "mandala". Clarke then mentioned Jung, compared mandala images spontaneously generated by fractal maths with those drawn by Jung’s patients and Tibetan Buddhists, and added that the discovery of the Mandelbrot Set has given new impetus to Jung’s hypothesis of the collective unconscious.

    Fractal maths indeed confirms that "the mind of God" (in Steve Hawking’s sense) generates the infinite complexity of natural form through maths - in this case via a wondrously simple equation: z = z squared + c. We can usefully regard this equation as the symbolic representation of the dynamics of an archetype (perhaps the Self, since it is capable of infinite magnification and reduction with no loss of detail?) Significantly, it is an iterated equation. What does this mean? Well, simply put, its form is a feedback loop (shades of the alchemical Uroboros, cyclic distillation, or the self-cycling energy of the unconscious) in which the result of each calculation (parallel with one’s acquired wisdom?) is fed back into the equation as the initial value of z. When this calculation is perfomed (via computer) millions of times per second, the visualized results - which dynamically expand or contract to literal infinity - are stunningly, awesomely beautiful and obviously archetypal - many fractals and Julia Sets look like trees, ferns, insects, mountains, clouds, planetary landscapes, brain hemispheres, neurons, spiral shells - they always remind one of something in Nature. In fact Benoit Mandelbrot, when interviewed about his ground-breaking work, confessed with humour and humility that he never felt he had invented fractals, but had rather discovered something that was already there, and that once seen, seemed to him somehow familiar. Another mathematician confessed that the key formula for a fractal program he’d devised (to create infinite computer resolution in photos) came to him in a dream.

    Reading back on fractals and iterations, I came across an interesting proposal - the iterative dynamic can be observed in the concept of the Eternal Return and archetypal dynamics. As Van Eenwyk puts it:

    "If ‘the backbone of fractals’ is ‘feedback and the iterator,’ this may be at the heart of what Mircea Eliade called ‘the myth of the eternal return.’ Could iteration and the eternal return be referring to the same thing?" "The eternal return begins in tensions of opposites (present and future, actual and potential, sacred and profane), manifests itself in fractal imagery (transcending categories and demonstrating self-similarity across scale through recapitulations of the original act of creation), is sensitive to initial conditions (demonstrated by the wide variety of myths and rituals of different cultures), and iterates (the eternal return). The oscillatory dynamics (tensions of opposites) that generate myths and rituals enliven them as well, by bringing up new possibilities. Thus, creation occurs over and over again."

    "So, the eternal return is an iterative dynamic: it allows the present to be fed back into the original equation. While all archetypal processes generate feedback dynamics, the eternal return is the epitome of all such aspects of archetypal processes. It is the archetype of archetypal dynamics, so to speak."

    [Quotes above from John R. Van Eenwyk, ARCHETYPES & STRANGE ATTRACTORS: THE CHAOTIC WORLD OF SYMBOLS, Inner City Books, 1997, pp. 113-114]

    Another interesting occurrence: perfect formations of the Mandelbrot Set and a Julia Set recently appeared as Crop Circles in England. One final point and yer mad intuitive/introvert is done: the Mandelbrot Set could not have been discovered without the aid of computers; this is a key development in the transition from the Piscean Age into Aquarian consciousness, since the latter does not dualistically separate matter and spirit, technology and mysticism, science and soul, but unites them (as Jung recognized) in a new holistic vision of our boundless potential as a Blakean Divine Humanity.

  • From Tom Haskins:

  • Jung said the unconscious returns the face we show it. The ego faces it with fear and gets frightening experiences in return. The Self is fearless and faces the unconscious with insight, fascination, connectedness. The Self’s comprehensions are paradoxical and beyond the grasp of linear, compartmentalized thinking. For instance, we are both mortal/eternal, ego/Self, limited/unlimited, separate/One, powerful/meek.

  • From Maureen:

  • Thanks for this thought-provoking discussion, Tom. As you imply, it’s the creative tension between certainty and uncertainty that life thrives upon, hence all great art does not preach, but instead asks by evoking the tragicomical (again, a paradox), and answers by demonstrating that life is its own answer and reward. Hamlet, an introverted thinking type, missed the Point - and hence was never at peace with himself or others - by assuming that life was an either-or option: to be or not to be is not the ‘question’ so much as ‘being in the the midst of non-being’ is. Hence Lao Tzu’s comments that the usefulness of a cup lies in its empty space, the usefulness of a door, water-well, or window in the same. The Tao that can be explained is not the true Tao. The Self’s path of gnosis is similarly the via negativa that transcends opposites - one’s knowledge increasingly becomes the paradoxical knowledge (by acquaintance) of a Mystery.

    Take away the wound and you destroy the healing ability and oust the god. Take away the limitation (imposed naturally by the senex) and you take away the unavoidable yet necessary tragedy of limited potential, and the earthed and focused gift of the imaginative puer to the world.

  • From Tom Haskins:

  • In my meditation this morning, I learned a way to perceive the functioning of the Self in my thoughts and experiences. It relates to what can be experienced by meditating on fractals. These four processes are taking effect interchangeably in my thoughts/feelings/actions:

  • 1. Allowing: finding a way to accept, appreciate, extend gratitude.

    2. Reversing: Coming at the situation the other way around, flip/flopping, doing an about face (enantiodromia), getting turned around from reacting to creating, living life out of the Self in lieu of the ego.

    3. Containing: contextualizing, framing, enclosing, incorporating, integrating, making whole.

    4. Restoring: bringing back to life, disrupting stagnation, reviving growth/evolution/differentiation.

  • With these four processes in mind, I can observe my thoughts and catch myself when I am thinking with my ego. My screen saver started spontaneously switching from clocks to fireworks a month ago. I realized a week later that it was functioning as a "biofeedback monitor" for me. The fireworks appeared when the Self was functioning in my thought processes. The clocks signaled being run by my ego- great symbols and synchronicities! This feedback continues and is refining my ability to discern my two thought systems. This typology of four processes is the latest in my learning to dismiss the ego’s premises without rejecting, attacking, opposing or fearing them.

    Gaelic Blessing:

    Deep peace of the running wave to you.

    Deep peace of the flowing air to you.

    Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

    Deep peace of the shining stars to you.

    Deep peace of the gentle night to you.

    Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.

                       Deep peace of the Light of the World to you.               

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    updated 20 july 98