Through a Jungian Lens

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Archive for September 2009

Butterflies and Individuation

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butterflyThis is another photo from 1976 taken near Ile-a-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan where I was teaching at that time.  A butterfly in black and white standing out from it’s busy background of a million shades of gray.  Butterflies have a certain grace and purity about them that catches our imaginations.  In many ways, this butterfly is a poster child for the idea of individuation.

I think most of us will remember the lessons of science that teaches us how the butterfly started out as an ugly caterpillar and how over time it transformed during a period of sleep into the beautiful and fragile butterfly.  There is a defined path of development that is followed in order to reach this enhanced state of being.

As we look then to all of nature, we see that everything, every form of animate life appears to do the same.  Each individual strives for optimum development, to individuate, not only for its own survival, but for the survival of the species.  And along the way, each must adapt to changes be they minute changes or cataclysmic changes.

I think then of people, of individual humans and how each appears to be wounded, some grievously and some mildly.  All of us feel some wounding, a necessary wounding that triggers the will and need to individuate.  No wounding and we would not exist for the first wound comes through separation from our maternal hosts as we are expelled into the world.  The wounding continues as we age and separate and develop consciousness.  It seems that it always takes a wounding to turn us back onto the path of becoming more aware of ourselves as individuals as we are forced to respond to the wounding.  This is a process no different from alchemy where dross is turned into gold – where the caterpillar is turned into a butterfly.

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From Worship to Psychopathology

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DSC07840Somehow, I have been pulled to post again today.  The reasons spring from my continued reading of Tracking the Gods, by James Hollis and partly as a reaction against the insanity that is swarming through our political systems in Canada and the U.S.A., a right-wing fundamentalist knee-jerk response to all that is “different.”

The photo I have chosen for this post is one I took a few days ago of my living room wall as the morning light came through the door casting faint shadows on the wall.  The shadow was created by a crystal and gold hummingbird that is attached to the window glass by a suction cup.  It’s hard to make out the source of the shadow, but then again, most are not concerned with the source, but with the perceptions that come about.

All of this reminds me of the argument once held by Plato and a few confrères when discussing a shadow in a cave.  Whole philosophies and belief systems come into existence out of the shadows.  It is far from necessary to have to build belief systems on consciousness.

Here are the words from Hollis that have led me to a second posting today:

The great paradigm shift that lies at the very core of modernism is the loss of mythic connection to the cosmos. The incarnation of meaning, once carried by myth and myth-sustaining institutions, has gone within, receded, as Jung said, from Olympus to the solar plexus, from worship to psychopathology. (James Hollis, Tracking the Gods, 1995, p. 53)

That loss of connection has lead to so many factions, so many splits that it is as if the modern world has developed multiple-personality disorder.  The birthers and the truthers and the tea baggers are just a few of the most recent editions of collective psychopathology.  Even given the power of modern communications, it is seemingly impossible to present enough “evidence” to refute the errors of thinking and held beliefs being taken up in reaction to changes in the world.  Someone has to be blamed.  Someone has to be the scapegoat.  Someone has to be the sacrifice to appease the gods that are now silent and absent.

Tiger Lily in Black and White

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tigerlilyI have returned to my photo archives for a few photos from 1976 taken while I was teaching in a métis community in northern Canada.  At that time, I was also writing a book, a social history for the community in which the school was located.  You can read this book here.  The book is still in use more than thirty years later in northern education institutions.

This photo of a tiger lily managed to look good in black and white.  When I bought my first SLR in the early seventies, I rarely took colour photos because of the expense of processing them.  I defaulted to black and white because of a gift of large reels of black and white film from a brother-in-law who rescued the film because of age issues.  I then loaded the film into small canisters for use and then set up a basic, bare-bones darkroom.  Free film and low cost for processing meant that I was able to explore photography without worrying about cost issues.  Somehow, this kept a window open for the work of my soul.

I am back at work as a carpenter in my home, working on replacing carpet with hardwood.  I will finish laying the last boards this morning leaving only the task of putting up new baseboards and putting all of the furniture back into position in the living room and dining room.  Next task will be to replace the flooring in the kitchen.  Working with one’s hands is as important as working with the mind.  Balance is vital.

Due to the busyness of life, I haven’t had much time to read or reflect.  This has resulted in the latest posts having, perhaps, less value to other readers.  However, it has provided me with an excuse to let others know a bit more about the person behind the posts.

Written by Robert G. Longpré

September 29, 2009 at 10:03 am

A Holy Union

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hint of greenThis is the last of the series of photos from 1979 taken at the University of Saskatchewan while I completed my Bachelor of Education degree.

When I took this photo it was with the intention of showing that in spite of all the concrete that marks a modern society and culture, nature manages to survive.  Nature not only survives, it runs deep under the foundations of this modern, technological community.  No wonder that we, the modern men and women of the twenty-first century feel some disequilibrium, some sense that all this technology and all this consumerism has left us feeling emptier than we can ever understand.

Like nature eventually buries the traces of a civilization, the unconscious will consume the puny ego unless each person, one by one, deliberately moves forward into awareness, honouring the shadow as well as the light.  It can’t be an either-or for us.  It must be union, a holy union of both dark and light, nature and community.

Controlling the Flood of the Unconscious.

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fire hydrantThis is the third in the series of 1970s photos.  Again, like the others, this one is located at the University of Saskatchewan, in the commons or bowl area.  Like the first one, this one was part of an exhibition I was featured in during August of 1979.  I took the photo because of the play between light and shadow.  Little did I know that thirty years later I would still be caught up in this drama of light and shadow.

In 1979 I wasn’t yet aware of Carl Jung or Jungian psychology.  I was however, long familiar with those who had some part in forming a foundation of thought for Jung.  I had studied Nietzsche since the mid-sixties, a typical “flower child” of that time living in the city of Ottawa.  Joining Nietzsche in filling my head with strange ideas were Spinoza, Whitehead, Kierkegaard, Leibniz, Sartre and a host of philosophers, especially in the field of existentialism.

I was not so typical a teenager underneath the “flower child” appearance.  Like this fire hydrant, there was a lot of hidden depth and pressures, just waiting for a valve to be turned.  The paths to the unconscious were laid and it became more about controlling explosions of the unconscious than about mining the unconscious for increased self-awareness.  That task was waiting for the second half of life.

Teaching as a Life-Long Learner

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greenThe second photo in the series of photos taken in the 1970s.  This scene is also located at the university, actually in front of the College of Education where I completed both my B.Ed. and my Masters program.  I began teaching in 1974 after completing just two years of the Bachelor degree with what was then called a Standard A teaching certificate.  Life was different then as there was not the problem of too many wanting to be teachers.  The pay wasn’t worth it.  If one decided to become a teacher it meant basically that one actually “wanted” to be a teacher or else one liked books and didn’t know what else to do.

I wanted to be a teacher.  Why?  I guess being born with an old soul and finding myself being a caretaker of my brothers and sisters were partly responsible for that orientation.

But, I think that there was/is something deeper that calls to me, directs me.  I am a gypsy, always seeking something new, someplace new, always curious about what is hidden over the next horizon or in the shadows.  And as I wander, I find myself trying to place that which I find in some sort of context with the world I know.  And I share all of this, even though most times no one is interested or is even present.  As a teacher, I had a ready audience.  As I discovered, I taught.  As I taught, I learned more.  Here was a profession that allowed me to continue wandering through books, trying out discovered ideas, even allowing me to invent ideas and try them out.

Now that I am retired, life hasn’t really changed.  I still read, search, wander and wonder.

A Relationship Between Man and Nature

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glovesI am doing something a bit differently for the next few posts.  I am rescuing photos I took in the 1970s, photos I had placed on another blog site, a site I want to take down as I haven’t posted to that site for almost a year.  It is enough for me to make this blog site my “centre.”

The photo was taken in 1979 while I was taking a final class to finish my first degree, an elective class.  The photo was constructed rather than natural.  I found the gloves and two rakes sitting idle beside the tree.  I thought “Why not?” and proceeded to set up this shot which later ended up in my photo exhibition in the Fine Arts gallery at the university.

Why this photo, now?  Well, as many here know, I am busy with renovations, stuff that is physical rather than mental in nature.  In a way, I want to honour that ordinariness, something that tends to get lost when I am deep into my head when reading, researching and writing.  Jungian psychology has room for this mundane and posits that the first half of life needs to focus on the stuff of the outer world in order for one to be “ready” for the inner journey that comes calling in the second half of life.

I also wanted to place man in context with the world of nature.  This isn’t an easy relationship we enjoy.  Our efforts of work often find us trying to tame or overcome the forces of nature.  It’s a losing battle.  As a species, we need to establish a honourable relationship, no different than the relationship one must establish with one’s inner world, with one’s shadow, with one’s soul.

Written by Robert G. Longpré

September 25, 2009 at 6:16 am

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