Dreaming With Lemurs

Dreams mean different things to people according to culture, time and place. For tribal cultures, dreams were often revered by being incorporated into the life of its members through rites of passage, or taken as prophetic messages. These practices have mostly faded away in cultures where individuality is highly esteemed. As technology enables individuals to sustain themselves seemingly independent of a tribe, there is less need to rely on the messages that dreams bring.

When thought of at all, we moderns tend to think of dreams as personal messages referring to one’s individual psychology. Even psychological practices discourage us from sharing dreams for fear of contamination or the loss of a temenos. I share this concern.

But, I am challenging myself here by sharing with you two dreams to see if there may very well be a shared constellation between dreamers, even in an online environment.

Why not expand our understanding of dreams as meaningful to both the dreamer and the tribe? A tribe can be any group of individuals where connection somehow constellates. Familiarity with tribe members is not necessary for dream meanings to constellate. We have much more in common than our differences may keep us from realizing, yes?

Recently, I was given two dreams which prominently featured a similar animal. The first dream, dated October 18, 2014, included an astounding sense of lucidity and went something like this:

As I wake up, I am actually beginning a lucid dream. I’m standing in the street and realize that if I move I can float upwards above the street. As I move upward, I see a small animal. I move cautiously towards him. It might be a bat, but I don’t see wings. I look into his face and eyes and hold out my hand to him. He then sits in my hand and we look deeply into each others eyes. I let him go and then wake up.

But, I am not awake, but am lifting off the ground into a vivid night sky. There are multiple moons and planets visible everywhere. I am aware of the ability to float around at will. The beauty is so stunning I wake up.

The second dream, dated December 18, 2014, was recorded like this:

On a boat moving towards Liberty Island with Paul (my husband), we move past the island when we see another beautiful island beyond. On the island there are vertical rock formations which have small delicate, ornate tops.

We reach the shore and look around to see a herd of elk-like creatures scampering off the rocks onto the beach where we are. I touch the ornate rock formation and to my surprise, it breaks off. I feel bad about that. I turn around and can feel an animal biting my upper back. Paul says suddenly, “It’s a lemur.” The distinction of his words made me turn around and look. The lemur was now on the rocks and I see him with some cats who are his friends. I am no longer afraid and wake up.

Ring Tailed Lemur

Upon waking I felt very moved by the presence of the lemur, but wasn’t even sure what a lemur was. I thought they were part of the cat family! So, after reading up on lemurs I realize that the animal in the dream from October was also a lemur. It had bothered me that although it resembled a bat, it wasn’t. Upon seeing a photo of a lemur, I recognized that the bat was actually a lemur.

Lemur’s are from Madagascar, and sad to hear, critically endangered, but were very much revered by the native culture. A myth about the Indri, a kind of lemur, portray Indri brothers in story as enacting the original split between animals and humans:

“Most legends establish a closer relationship between the indri and humans. In some regions it is believed that there were two brothers who lived together in the forest until one of them decided to leave and cultivate the land. That brother became the first human, and the brother who stayed in the forest became the first indri. The indri cries in mourning for his brother who went astray.” Wiki

From Wiki: Serge Gomes da Silva – oeuvre personelle (own-work)

Also called babakoto, the Lemurs have a very distinct call and response style of singing. I found some YouTube’s of Lemur sounds and as I hit play, all five cats in my home went on immediate high alert. Honestly, I have never seen all of them react the way they did. I had to stop playing the beautiful haunting lament of the Lemur sounds. Time to get head phones!

“One explanation for the name babakoto, is that the calls made by the indri resemble a father calling for his lost son.[10]

Another legend tells of a man who went hunting in the forest and did not return. His absence worried his son, who went out looking for him. When the son also disappeared, the rest of the villagers ventured into the forest seeking the two but discovered only two large lemurs sitting in the trees: the first indri. The boy and his father had transformed. In some versions it is only the son who transforms, and the wailing of the babakoto is analogous to the father’s wailing for his lost son.”

But Roman and Christian cultures do not see the lemur as a friend of humankind, but as vengeful ghosts of the deceased haunting someone who has dissed the ancestor with an improper funeral or burial.

Lemurs were so-named by the 18th century zoologist, Linnaeus, because of the nocturnal activity and slow movements of the slender loris.” And In Goethe‘s Faust, a chorus of Lemurs who serve Mephistopheles dig Faustus’ grave.”

It’s striking to me how opposite in nature the views are between the Madagascar natives and modern Europeans in their association to Lemurs. Perhaps the dream speaks to a need to reconcile the opposition between these two views? On a personal level, that opposition is very much of a concern to me and upon hearing these associations, I was impressed by how strongly resonant the two cosmologies play in my current thinking.

In mythology, and perhaps because of their size, behavior and likeness to us, Indri are thought to have a common ancestry to humans. A lover of animals all of my life, I am honored that the lemur has come to me in my dreams. Going out on a limb, so to speak, I would love to hear of your associations to the dreams or the lovely lemurs.

Dream Tribes

Could it be possible that dreams contain a level of knowledge not available to our conscious awareness? Who then, is the dreamer, and what is the dream? How can we enter into the dream’s perspective with the demands of our busy, techno-crazed day world where our sense of self as a separate body, by necessity, dominates, taking precedence over the seemingly distant and elusive night-time experience of who we are?

Before Hillman, Jung, and Freud, there were the beginnings of what we might recognize today as modern dream researchers, but their ideas have been over-shadowed or ignored because they didn’t produce a school of followers, a program of therapy, or get much recognition from those who came after them.

Frederic William Henry Myers, born February 6, 1843 in England, was a classicist, philologist, and founder of the Society for Psychic Research. Much of his psychic research is questionable, but his essays on dreams and states of consciousness as quoted by Sonu Shamdasani below interests me. Perhaps the quote below is disturbing or ridiculous enough to some to not warrant much thought. Call me crazy, but this resonates deeply with me:

“One may even say that with the first touch of sleep the superficial unity of consciousness disappears, and that the dream world gives us a truer representation than the waking world of the real fractionation or multiplicity existing beneath that delusive simplicity which the glare of waking consciousness imposes upon the mental field of view.”

Sonu goes on to say that Myers believed that dreaming went on all the time, but our day world awareness, acting as a filter, narrows our sense of self to an illusory, unified whole that aligns more properly with the individual nature of our body. Could it be that the psyche is so fluid as to adapt to the circumstances of the life forms it inhabits? If so, this may help us to understand the group behavior of other species, such as ants, bees and birds, who clearly know at a distance their roles within the context of the needs of the group. Are we just different from them, or, have we lost the ability to dream, think and share a common, or public mind, as perhaps our ancestors once experienced.

In a very unusual statement to modern ears, Meyers gave credence to the possibility that he was more than his waking self, as dreams and other transpersonal states suggest:

“Our habitual or empirical consciousness may consist of a mere selection of thoughts and sensations, of which some at least are equally conscious with those we empirically know. I accord no primacy to my ordinary waking self, except that among my potential selves this one has shown itself the fittest to meet the needs of common life.”

He goes on to say:

“I hold that it has established no further claim, and that it is perfectly possible that other thoughts, feelings, and memories, either isolated or in continuous connection, may now be actively conscious, as we say, `within me’, – in some kind of coordination with my organism, and forming some part of my total individuality.”

Perhaps – or perhaps too, these vagaries suggest that there is communication going on between us and members of our group, or as Jungian Analyst Tess Castleman, in her book, Threads, Knots and Tapestries, How Tribal Connection is Revealed Through Dreams and Synchronicities, prefers to call it, our tribe. By tribe she means a group of people, known to each other or not, but part of a web of relationship which experiences an entanglement on a level below awareness, in her words, “the part of the human psyche where intersection lies within relationship.”

She believes, as did some preliterate cultures, that dreams not only carry personal meaning, but are given to an individual for the sake of the group, or tribe that one belongs to. The message of a dream is not only for you, but in response to your relationship within a group. As a modern though she does acknowledge that this public aspect of the dream does not suggest that we should run out into the street and tell the world our dream. As she so wonderfully puts it:

“Telling a dream is like undressing.”

Indeed.

Freedom of mobility and technology make bonding within a group difficult as people once did. She suggests that dream groups and other purposeful gatherings of people may become places where the telling of our dreams can once again find both shared meaning and a transformative process for each of the participants.

I recently heard about Tess’ work from a co-worker and look forward to participating in one of her dream groups in early December. Her book is quite good and puts a slightly different slant on the subject of dreams for me. I often feel that I am connecting with people through my dreams, whether they be people I know, deceased friends, relatives, or strangers, their otherness is compelling for its stark difference to my day world sensibilities.

Her book describes her experience with both analysands and dream groups. The many complexities of blending and sorting the smeary, or as she says, gooey aspects of interactions between the participants, often includes a bonding where synchronous and meaningful events become commonplace.

For skeptics, at the very least, it may be important to remember that if the dream world seems so foreign as to lack any meaning, or too ridiculous to warrant thinking about them, it is that very strangeness that may be inviting us to consider the mystery that lies within them.

“The questions dreams bring to consciousness, the curiosities and the imagination needed to receive them, opens a territory within oneself that enlivens and restores the modern soul.”

For me, the beauty of dreams is that they continue to open up my deficient day world perspective, night after night, faithfully presenting to me new images, places, people and events in strange settings beyond the limits of my waking self’s choosing.

As noted, quotes by:

Castleman, Tess (2004-08-01). Threads, Knots, Tapestries. Kindle Edition.

Sonu Shamdasani. Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science. Kindle Edition.

Let There Be Dark

As more and more of us, in an increasingly sleep-deprived world lose touch with our dreams, I continue to wonder what it is we are losing. Dr. Rubin Naiman sees our difficulties with sleep and dreaming, driven by “unrelenting motion”:

“We live in a world of unrelenting motion, a world that discourages slowing and stopping, a world that has lost its sense of rhythm and regard for rest. All life is by nature animated or in motion. But in the natural world, all motion is rhythmic, that is, it is tempered by rest. Things come and they go, they expand and contract, they are active and then they rest.” Rubin Naiman, Huffington Post.

But what is it that is lost from a lack of sleep and attention to dreams? In Naiman’s book, Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming, and Awakening, he reminds us:

“Night is the shadow of the Earth. It is as nature intended, dark. And unsettling. Since darkness deprives us of vision, our primary means of orienting to and managing the outer world, it dissolves essential aspects of our social, extraverted selves. Most of us are probably less afraid of the dark per se, but more frightened of what darkness might reveal.”

What might the darkness reveal, what do dark, empty spaces provide for us, why should we attend to them, let alone welcome them?

The endless drive towards daylight keeps us active long after the days’ work is over. Even if you do live in a very remote place, it’s no stretch to see that our drive toward activity has huge implications for all life forms, the physical states of our bodies, souls and the planet itself. Our red-hot activity is a global warming.

The dark might not only reveal to us the restlessness of our minds and pains of our bodies, it may also make room for that which we don’t know, but very much need to. Through a willingness to greet the dark though sleep and dreams, we may gain a new perspective from the encounter with images in dreamstates. The lack of our dayworld orientation and control in dream states is what may further our openness to all experiences of otherness. From Robert Bosnak’s book, Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel:

“What we perceive while dreaming is that we are in a place which is not of our making. We didn’t invent it. It is a spontaneous presentation, an independently alive manifestation. Apparently physical worlds come to life in a flash and disappear without a trace. We stand at the dawn of creation.”

In dreams there is a clear sense that those we meet are not us. It’s an odd circumstance of encountering an objective reflection of our subjective interior. But more than that, dream images, the specific ways in which they appear, engage us in a night world state much differently than our waking selves might.

To gain a better sense of embodied images, Robbie, along with some fellow soul spelunkers, spent time together on retreat in a primitive cave, where over the course of a week or so, they engage the images, their dreams and each other:

Cave of Altamira, near Santander, Spain.

“Along the wall I see, shimmying on his belly along the cave barely two feet high, our ancestor on his way to be initiated into the world of the great spirits, the massive mammoth. He crawls on to the great hall, half a meter high, where, lying on his back, he draws the great spirits among whom he lives, the alien beings, greater, swifter and stronger than he on the ceiling in order to capture and venerate their spirit and become initiate to their powers. Unable to take distance he draws the ceiling animals life size, in perfect proportion, as if by entering their body he can feel along their contours as he draws. Lit by a tiny grease lamp, spooking the cave around him, I see him in a face-off with dark fears, and his awe of the Great Ones. Encounter, meeting, face-off, opposing directions, the Great Ones show the way.”

Can we imagine seeking out such places for their darkness, in which we open ourselves to the power and wisdom from creatures who, although we must fear, must also cooperate with for survival? Does not our technology, with its ability to destroy the night, insulate us from feeling, instinct, intuition and what Robbie calls, embodiment?

Without advocating an impossible return to the past, there is yet something the darkness offers us, especially the more insulated and artificial our environments have become.

In embodied dreamwork, Robbie uses waking imaginative states to move the dreamer’s subjective identity into the figures of the dream. By embodying the images, they come to life, moving in a way that embodies us in their felt experience. Perhaps it is the movement itself that we fear. If so, how can we hope to move that which needs moving in us?

“It is as though through a medium of Paleolithic wall painters the animals have charged into the wall, waiting in static polychrome for a next observer to embody, who again will feel their energetic charge, and change them back from stasis to ec-stasis (out-of-stasis).”

Gua Tewet, the tree of life, Borneo, Indonesia.

Although Westerners, and perhaps others, are not accustomed to giving weight to images, Robbie, in the tradition of Henry Corbin and others, sees images as having their own substance. Substantive images weigh on us and live through us, even when we ignore their reality.

“This book is a passionate attempt to contribute to the restoration of an awareness of alien intelligences perceived by creative imagination—embodied images with a mind of their own—while comparing it to our current, what I consider to be impoverished, perspective which views intelligence as singular. If I succeed in sensitizing you to the existence of an inbetween reality—neither physical body nor mental allegory—of alien embodied intelligences, without expecting you to believe in flying saucers, you will catch a glimpse, as did I in my conversations with Corbin, of a place outside the body-mind conundrum.”

He has succeeded in sensitizing me, towards seeing embodied imagination as one more way to practice living the unity that exists between body, mind, soul, spirit – angels and ancestors, and to recognize the unity between all living beings, especially those encountered in non-ordinary states.

All quotes as noted from, Bosnak, Robert (2007-09-12). Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel (p. 11). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

All quotes as noted from, Rubin R. Naiman. Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming, and Awakening (p. 21). Kindle Edition.

 

 

My Native Language is Image

Recently, I have begun to keep a dream journal, again. As in the keeping of past dream journals, the very act of writing seems to stimulate the remembrance of more dreams, and I wonder if by attending to them, the door to the nightworld perspective widens, bringing with it richness and complexity, scrambling the sensibilities of the dayworld experience.

Flying foxes, or bats, sleep 18-20 hours a day.

In the nightworld’s stories and images I am no longer the master of my soul, but live as one among many. The rational order and structure that shape the dayworld no longer strictly apply; time and place shift suddenly, people, animals and situations seem unpredictable and often bizarre compared to the waking state. In dreams animals and babies talk, we fly like birds, meet strange lovers who seem to know us, run in slow motion, breathe underwater, change sex, and talk to the dead. Here we live amongst archetypal or primary forces that find their way into psyche – for in sleep we cannot but give ourselves over to their world.

The dream world is perhaps a place where soul is shaped by psychic weather much as a tree is shaped by earth, wind, fire and rain. Perhaps dream states place us closer to the primary source or state of awareness. Animals evidently dream, if REM states are any indication and even fruit flies sleep. Maybe we should reverse our idea that we fall into sleep and reconsider whether we are not, rather, falling awake. If dreams are primary and their language is image, then as James Hillman suggested in his book The Dream and the Underworld, image is primary.

Living with this idea increasingly suggests to me that we develop and use language to translate that primary state of the nightworld and its dream images. But the dayworld perspective filters our experience, by narrowing down the sense of ourselves and each other into separate, private beings; each masters of our own house. The more we live life through a dayworld translation, unaware of the depth of the source of our being and knowing, the smaller and more limited our dayworld perspective becomes. To ignore the depths of psyche, where Pluto’s riches are found, is to shrink our awareness by filtering all we know through the logic and reasoning of dayworld awareness alone, in time becoming increasingly dependent on how well we use language to translate to ourselves and to others the imagistic sense of the world’s impression upon us.

“It is this dayworld style of thinking—literal realities, natural comparisons, contrary opposites, processional steps—that must be set aside in order to pursue the dream into its home territory. There thinking moves in images, resemblances, correspondences. To go in this direction, we must sever the link with the dayworld, foregoing all ideas that originate there—translation, reclamation, compensation. We must go over the bridge and let it fall behind us, and if it will not fall, then let it burn.” James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld

Albrecht Dürer, Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn (1516)

This is not to say that keeping a dream journal is necessary or would even change this situation. One’s relationship to the dreamworld is always in danger of contamination by dayworld perspectives with its need to be master and commander. Dreams then are at the risk of becoming our playthings rather than angels or messengers carrying across from that primal source something new, unexpected or forgotten. Attending to the nature of the relationship between dayworld and nightworld is then, perhaps our life’s work, whether we remember our dreams or not. To acknowledge the existence of an underworld perspective, allowing a place for mystery, and experiencing as Persephone did, the force of the god Pluto dragging us out of our dayworld hubris, stripping us of our innocence, relieving us from our duty of being master and commander, might free us to live mythically, storied lives and place ourselves more fully into the context of the time and place we live in.

If dreams and images are primary, the relationship between language, sense and image then is both vital and flexible. If we see the world through the lens of language without awareness of the lens that filters our vision, our perception will be limited to our ability to define in words the world around us. For some, and they will argue, that is all there is; cold, objective reality, everything black and white, either true or false, dead or alive, good or evil. Quantity then takes precedence over quality, measure over meaning. The talk of soul or dreams, angels, messengers, gods or archetypes is then a throw back to human superstition and ignorance.

The trouble with that perspective lies in its claims of superiority; as if to no longer be susceptible or influenced by any force other than one’s strength of will, education, and societal norms will rid us all of the ills of human existence. So, if we live in the hard facts of “reality,” we have somehow reached the pinnacle of human achievement where ignorance, disease and war will be driven out and reason will usher in peace and perhaps someday, ever-lasting life, even if only through the creation of robotic machinery that we deem to be just like us, or the perfected us, reflecting back an unobtainable quality of perfection and innocence forever out of our reach.

“Mythical metaphors are perspectives toward events which shift the experience of events. They are likenesses to happenings, making them intelligible, but they do not themselves happen… We are those stories, and we illustrate them with our lives (Re-visioning Psychology, pp. 101-2).” James Hillman

An excellent essay on Hillman’s ideas here: http://aras.org/sites/default/files/docs/00051Wojtkowski.pdf

JANUARY CHALLENGE… My Awakening Experience And Moving Forward

Here is my contribution to Barbara Franken‘s January Challenge series.

This is a story in which the right kind of trouble unexpectedly brings a gift.

From an early age, I struggled to feel a sense of belonging and identity. As a child I loved play-acting and imagining what it might be like to be a bear, a dog, a fox, or an orphan, a prisoner or conductor. My attempts at belonging were easily expressed by play-acting where I could put on a mask and give myself over to fantasy. But when not play-acting, I felt lost, convinced that I was missing something that others must have.

According to my parents Merriam-Webster dictionary, identity was defined as the quality of being a particular thing and not some other thing. Yes, I thought, my problem has something to do with a lack of being someone in particular. As I grew older, anytime I felt that others were defining me, even when they were being complimentary, I felt alienated. How could they know something about me when I had no clue? I was a fake, and I knew it.

Years later when in my early 30’s I moved to Oregon from Long Island, New York. After a few stormy years of relationships that failed, and feeling the need for solitude to just let myself be me, I started to practice meditation.

Some months later though I started to feel strong, uncontrollable emotions and I could no longer make it through a single day without crying. This was not the kind of crying where a few tears run down your cheeks, but gut-wrenching crying that would last until I finally fell asleep exhausted.

A year later, I was ready to seek out a guide. Having a love and familiarity with the writings of C.G. Jung and James Hillman, I entered into analysis. In the course of a three-year long therapy, traveling to the depths of hell and back, I experienced a most amazing and unexpected healing.

Not that I went from 0 to 250 in an instant. There was plenty of work to be done. Exploring my dreams, memories and relationships led me to see that I was filtering my experience through a very cloudy lens. There was a series of recognitions that came from therapy that both broadened my view and opened me up to not be afraid of an ongoing increase in that opening.

Many insights began to come into view, including a painful recognition that how I understood myself, others and the events of my life needed a revisioning. But with that came a recognition that nothing could happen without seeing how tightly I held on to a view of the past and present which bled into the future. Even if there are objective facts about my life that get to tell the story their way, what I needed was a story that made room for all the longings I ever knew and how to live with and through their power over me. That meant looking fear right in the face and learning how to talk back, and most importantly, learning to talk at all.

Seeing a deficiency in my use of language was a huge part of the work and it still is today. A love of words and language allows for an ongoing stream of ideas leading to new ways to experience and understand all that life has to offer. And for me, learning to open up to deeper levels of myself and others eventually led to the following life-changing experience.

One morning, much later in the therapy, upon waking from an emotional dream, I felt an intense burning and buzzing at the base of my spine. I sat up in bed, and felt what can only be described as an electric shock shooting up my spine into my head. I thought I might die it was so intense, but it only lasted a few seconds. I knew that something very big had happened. Over the course of the next few years, I began to feel different, physically, emotionally and intellectually. I felt tremendous healing as I slowly began to live closer and truer to matters of the heart.

It is as if now I am now more like a hollow reed where before I was a lead stick. It’s difficult to describe, but I continue to feel a sense of opening, enfolding, better able to love and be loved. And especially to belong – in my body, in my family, and in the entirety of this big, beautiful and crazy world.

There’s not freedom from suffering but to suffer as love does when it lives on in spite of the relentless longings. Feelings flow, moving through me without resistance. If I could bottle the experience, I gladly would and give it away. I am most grateful for feeling a sense of renewal.

Surprisingly, the one thing I thought I was missing; having an identity, I now know I never needed.

Next up in the series is one of my wonderful sisters in blogging, Linda – http://lindalitebeing.wordpress.com

Keeping the Change

Black Rock 10-2012 381While it’s accurate for me to say that I write for sanity and to clarify for myself ideas and experiences while engaging others who may have similar desires and needs, I can’t pretend to understand fully why particular ideas and perspectives fascinate me and repeatedly hold claim to my time and energy. I only know that repetition, even if imaged as a spiraling rather than a simple circling, seems inescapable. The form of life may be linear, while the content thankfully is not. I do occasionally tire from my own repetitions although I admit to not knowing of a cure from them.

As the sun seems to be crawling reluctantly across the sky in December darkness, everything, including my thoughts, seem to be dipping into the shadows. I can’t tell what is helpful and sometimes feel that there is always some part of me that I am forever looking for.

My dreams concur, repeatedly setting me in motion. Recent themes find me traveling, encountering people, places, houses, rooms, buildings, animals, occasionally with pauses for conversation, abrupt weather, fearful chases or erotic beauty.

Dayworld too brings with it the sense of movement; there’s nothing or no one to pin down, as Bob Dylan says, “People don’t live or die, people just float.” Perhaps more than any other time, change has become the status quo; we believe in it and expect it – even when it doesn’t bring us quite what we expected, we simply look to more change to rectify the unexpected. But in living with the constancy of change I wonder if we’re not inviting more and more the desire to become the unchanged? Are the changes outside of our control that come through technology, makeovers, relocation, vacation inviting an unchanging self?

Winter iceEarly in my life it seemed life’s floating was seamless, unquestioned, spontaneous. Perhaps that is how childhood with its abiding sense of innocence need be. The transition to adulthood brought with it a self-consciousness as the sense of separation between self and other, inside/outside seemed more and more apparent. That led to the unrelenting question of, “who am I and who are you, if we are not the same?”

There are many ways to answer and account for our differences, but I have always secretly felt that there is, even though dimly intuited, a common meeting place where our creativity springs forth from. A common wealth that when tapped into expands the ideas we have of ourselves and the world to include ideas found by others that we are looking for – not only from the famous or the experts, but in the everyday encounters we have with each other.

Perhaps we live with a diminished sense of self when fear, apathy, belief and knowledge shelter us from being touched by each other and keep us from realizing the potential we have when touched by others and being touched by them. By touch I mean a touch of the heart, a sharing of thought, feeling and vulnerability with another as if they had something you needed.

Jung says in the Red Book:

“You are hard, my soul, but you are right. How little we still commit ourselves to living. We should grow like a tree that likewise does not know its law. We tie ourselves up with intentions, not mindful of the fact that intention is the limitation, yes, the exclusion of life. We believe that we can illuminate the darkness with an intention, and in that way aim past the light. How can we presume to want to know in advance, from where the light will come to us?”

Jung, Carl (2013-08-30). The Red Book (Text Only Edition: No images or Scholarly Footnotes!) (Kindle Locations 376-379). . Kindle Edition.

The perspectives offered by myth, in which the invisibles are personified through stories of their adventures and relationships can be ways to practice hearing others. The heroes, villains, tricksters, creators and destroyers of mythology found in any culture articulate the multi-faceted nature of not just human nature but the primary experiences of the world. Of myth, Liz Greene says:

“The language of myth is still, as ever, the secret speech of the inarticulate human soul; and if one has learned to listen to this speech with the heart , then it is not surprising that Aeschylos and Plato and Heraclitus are eternal voices and not merely relics of a bygone and primitive era.”

Greene, Liz (1985-01-15). The Astrology of Fate (Kindle Locations 374-376). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

It could also be that for us moderns what removes from us the possibility of seeing mythologically the themes in our lives is a theme of believing in a unity of our personal identity. This is the dark side of unity that mistakes undifferentiated oneness for unity rather than unity as that which unites the many parts through the differentiation of their natures. Perhaps wholeness is the desire for differentiated unity, but can never quite be experienced in oneself without the sense that others are crossing the bridge with you.

“But our ruler is the spirit of this time, which rules and leads in us all. It is the general spirit in which we think and act today. He is of frightful power, since he has brought immeasurable good to this world and fascinated men with unbelievable pleasure. He is bejeweled with the most beautiful heroic virtue, and wants to drive men up to the brightest solar heights, in everlasting ascent.

No one should be astonished that men are so far removed from one another that they cannot understand one another, that they wage war and kill one another. One should be much more surprised that men believe they are close, understand one another and love one another. Two things are yet to be discovered. The first is the infinite gulf that separates us from one another. The second is the bridge that could connect us.”

Jung, Carl (2013-08-30). The Red Book (Text Only Edition: No images or Scholarly Footnotes!) (Kindle Locations 2597-2600). . Kindle Edition.

Archetypal Psychology – a Brief Account, Part II

In part II of this exploration of James Hillman’s book, Archetypal Psychology, a Brief Account, I want to write more specifically about the nature of images within the context of Archetypal Psychology. You can read Part I of the series here.

“Archetypal psychology axiomatically assumes imagistic universals, com- parable to the universali fantastici of Vico (Scienza Nuova, par. 381), that is, mythical figures that provide the poetic characteristics of human thought, feeling, and action, as well as the physiognomic intelligibility of the qualitative worlds of natural phenomena.”

When I first began to study Hillman’s ideas I admit that I did not understand much of anything of what I was reading, and  I was perhaps looking for a way to understand myself, others and the world. My fear of being misunderstood, I have come to see, is related to my fear and reluctance to understand others.  Although I would never claim that I know what anyone is really saying, or what they really mean, I have come to appreciate that any understanding garnered comes from practice and is an art, a creative act like many other seemingly mundane things in our day-to-day can be.

Everyday things, from cooking to washing dishes, when experienced contemplatively, can bring unexpected insight and joy. The same is true in the practice and contemplation of ideas, language, and especially in understanding ourselves and other people.

There is an art to understanding, or there can be, either by naturally feeling drawn to, and nurturing the depths of what life shows and offers you, or if, and this is more my story, you feel so lost and incapable of understanding yourself, others and the world, that you are compelled to seek ways to live with yourself out of necessity.

“An arche-typal image is psychologically “universal,” because its effect amplifies and depersonalizes. Even if the notion of image regards each image as an individualized, unique event, as “that image there and no other,” such an image is universal because it resonates with collective, trans-empirical importance.

And, the universals problem for psychology is not whether they exist, where, and how they participate in particulars, but rather whether a personal individual event can be recognized as bearing essential and collective importance.”

File:Wiccan Syzygy.pngBecause Hillman speaks of archetypal images and frequently writes about the Greek gods, it took me awhile to understand that he was not claiming that the gods were literally true, or the only means by which we experience archetypal forces or images, but that the mythology of the Greeks shows us archetypality in abundance and the archetypal nature of the soul, and that these images and myths, as all images and myths do, still speak to us because of the universals that we recognize in their distinct natures through the stories of their adventures, misfortunes and relationships.

But if image is primary as Hillman says, then we are in psyche, all of us subject to universal currents or personas that live through us. Not that we need to be free of their influence, as if we could, but perhaps grant that we are subject to them as much as we are subject to our home planet earth, and the vulnerability and universality of our mortal existence.

So…what does this do for us?…you might ask. For one, it helps us to acknowledge a multiplicity of perspectives, and by accepting the universal nature of archetypes we may depersonlize our ideas, and can then perhaps understand what any idea does for us or others. This understanding may provide an opening up of ourselves, freeing us to explore the nature of the human experience and the world we all share with less fear and a sense of separation.

“Archetypal psychology has pressed beyond the collection of objective data and the correlation of images as verbal or visual symbols. If archetypal images are the fundamentals of fantasy, they are the means by which the world is imagined, and therefore they are the models by which all knowledge, all experiences whatsoever become possible: “Every psychic process is an image and an ‘imagining,’ otherwise no consciousness could exist …” (CW 11: 889). An archetypal image operates like the original meaning of idea (from Greek eidos and eidolon): not only “that which” one sees but also that “by means of which” one sees.” 

File:Psyche-Waterhouse.jpg…by archetypal psychology we mean a psychology of value. And our appellative move is aimed to restore psychology to its widest, richest, and deepest volume so that it would resonate with soul in its descriptions as unfathomable, multiple, prior, generative, and necessary. As all images can gain this archetypal sense, so all psychology can be archetypal … ‘Archetypal’ here refers to a move one makes rather than to a thing that is” (Hillman 1977 b). Here, archetypal psychology “sees through” itself as strictly a psychology of archetypes, a mere analysis of structures of being (gods in their myths), and, by emphasizing the valuative function of the adjective archetypal, restores to images their primordial place as that which gives psychic value to the world. Any image termed archetypal is immediately valued as universal, trans-historical, basically profound, generative, highly intentional, and necessary.”

If highly intentional and necessary, the archetypal nature of images and perspectives have us in mind. They can guide and help if we attend to their presence in our lives, through dreams, fantasies, religious or spiritual urges, our callings and even our pathology.

“As intentional force and person, such an image presents a claim – moral, erotic, intellectual, aesthetic – and demands a response. It is an “affecting presence” (Armstrong 1971) offering an affective relationship. It seems to bear prior knowledge (coded information) and an instinctive direction for a destiny, as if prophetic, prognostic. Images in “dreams mean well for us, back us up and urge us on, understand us more deeply than we understand ourselves, expand our sensuousness and spirit, continually make up new things to give us – and this feeling of being loved by the images … call it imaginal love” (Hillman 1979 a). This message-bearing experience of the image – and the feeling of blessing that an image can bring – recalls the Neoplatonic sense of images as daimones and angels (message bearers). “Perhaps – who knows ? – these eternal images are what men mean by fate” (CW 7: 183).”

All quotes taken from: Hillman, James (2013-09-18). Archetypal Psychology (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman) (Kindle Locations 224-230). Spring Publications. Kindle Edition.

Art courtesy of Wiki Commons.