Archive for April 2010
I am currently in Jamestown, North Dakota where I am visiting three of my grandchildren and their parents. Since this place is further south than my home in Saskatchewan, nature is found further along its journey toward summer. These sand cherry blossoms remind me of time spent in China. I used early morning sunshine to accent the emergence of these blossoms. There is something special about light in the early morning and the very late afternoon. I imagine that for me, it is about transitions, about emerging into new realities, new ways of being.
But, when I see these images and live the experiences of discovering these images, I get a sense that it about much more than uncovering hidden aspects of my own developing “self,” I “know” that the experience and the image points to something “more.” Perhaps I invest so much in these images because they take me deeper and allow me to connect with that numinous “more.” Some would call this a religious experience, or a meeting with the god-head. But, I hesitate to go there. I find it too hard to separate my “self” from the image and the experience. Whatever it is that I touch includes “self.” CG Jung knew this as well and expressed the idea much better than I ever could. His quest for understanding led to a word that encompasses that religious feeling, that wholeness and holiness while at the same time including the individual – through the self, one meets the SELF.
Okay, I can sense that there is a protest that this is nothing more than a playing with a word using capital letters. I can sense that the protest says that nothing really has changed simply because of the use of capital letters. But I ask you to consider what that means. In our various books of religion we are continually pointed inward in order to discover that essence of “God” regardless of the name given by each religion. If God is truly found within, then “self” is not strong enough to encompass that god. We need to shout it out, to exclaim and wonder about that with which we connect. With this approach to understanding that which we might call God, we can use the One, or as CG Jung puts it, Self.
“The God-image is the expression of an underlying experience of something which I cannot attain to by intellectual means.” (Carl Gustav Jung)
Well, I got this photo just in the nick of time. It seems the sun will become a memory for the next week as we enjoy clouds and scattered attempts at rain here on the Canadian prairies. This is a Golden Elder bush that borders my driveway – well a detail of the bush to be more exact. I was hoping to catch the sunlight on the leaflets that had just emerged. It wasn’t until I had downloaded the photos that I noticed that this group of leaflets surrounded a head of what I assume will be the “flower” of this bush.
The whole takes on a different look as I see a head that is dressed in red hair and is bowed in humility, or as if it is bowed in prayer towards the sun that has breathed life into the dormant branches. It is as if the plant knows that its consciousness has its source in the sun.
I guess that this image is not much different than what happens to me each time I emerge from periods of dormancy back into periods of consciousness. Being awake doesn’t really mean being conscious. Most of the time in past years, being awake was simply being an organism that moved through life unconsciously interacting with others and the environment on instinct. Awareness was something that was pushed into the shadows as it only interfered with being in community, being engaged in career.
But now that midlife has knocked me about in order to get my attention, awareness is making small appearances and I am humbled. I finally see sunlight for what it is.
This is a different kind of photograph for me. I rarely use the camera in the car. Yet on this morning just a few days ago I had a thought that this might be one destined or this blog. I wasn’t too sure what the focal point was, whether it was the scene in the rear view mirror, the mirror itself, the clouds in the sky, or the bright red tassel that dangled from the mirror.
The idea that this concept would make for a good series of photos for the SoFoBoMo challenge came to mind and so the photo was taken with that thought in mind. I did stop in the middle of the highway in order to take the photo and realised that any such series of photos would have to be almost staged rather than natural scenes that I would snap as I passed them by. So, I will have to rethink this idea.
In looking at the photo now, I get a sense of an alter universe, the landscape of dreams. Here is what Robert Bosnak has to say about dreams:
“A dream is not a story, not a movie or a text or a theater play. A dream is a happening in space, an articulation of space.” (Bosnak, A Little Course in Dreams, 1993, p. 10)
A close look at my apple tree in the back yard, actually it’s a crab apple tree. This tree gives us quite tasty little apples that have a mouth-watering tartness. For those who prefer sweet and gentle tasting apples, this tree would be a disappointment. For me, it is perfect. As I noticed the new buds on this tree, images of returning bird, perhaps robins or cedar waxwings, making their nests in the tree came to mind. I have watched the cycle of life take place in this tree for a number of years. Last year’s residents left early and in distress. Their nest had been invaded by a cat leaving a few broken eggs in his wake. The unbroken eggs never did hatch. Nature isn’t always pretty.
I enjoy taking pictures found in nature as you can probably well guess if you have been following these posts for some time. In nature, I find that the layers we use for the protection of our ego in community, are not very evident. I have to admit that there is the use of some camouflage by many animals which exist so that the animal’s chance of survival in increased. In nature, what is up front is not a mask; what one sees is what is. It is as though the barriers between consciousness and unconsciousness don’t exist. I can’t imagine nature setting up artificial laws to protect the rights of unborn birds in eggs with punishments given to marauding cats who attack the nests in hopes of getting a free meal.
With consciousness, humans have introduced a different way of being in nature. That consciousness allows us to look at choices and weigh them in terms of being good for the psyche or hurtful to the psyche – stuff that indicates an ethical or moral nature. This is also “natural.” In community we create laws that support those concepts of moral behaviour. I guess one could call laws that we build in community based on nurturing the psyche, natural laws. Other laws? Well, I guess that they are based on advantage – not really about nourishing the individual or collective consciousness.
If we re-think our understanding of given laws, such as the ten commandments, in terms of how the laws nourish the soul and the psyche through avoidance of behaviours that damage the psyche, then we can determine which laws would be more “natural.” For example, “Thou shalt not kill” is one that can be easily understood in these terms. The number of soldiers who have participated in warfare which saw them “kill” another human, who have since fallen into depressions, dysfunction, or have committed suicide is startling. It doesn’t matter what their society tells them about the righteousness of their actions in the theatre of war – their soul and psyche tell them otherwise.
Then if we look at other laws such as those prohibiting nudism, we begin to see how some laws are based on collective complexes. I want to give an example based on Canadian history. At a given time in Canada’s past, the Church was a force in terms of community law. I guess that churches still are forces of law within their tight communities, but not to the same extent. That said, the Church in response to behaviours exhibited by the parishioners, created a law banning the playing of cards during a church service. The issue was not of the actions being hurtful to the psyche or soul of the individual or even the collective, but was more of an issue of collective control. Such laws are not within the field of natural law.
For myself, I need to respect natural law so that I suffer less in terms of my soul as well as avoiding putting immense roadblocks in the way of my journey towards becoming a more conscious person. I also need to respect legal codes when those codes don’t contradict natural law. I am not fond of getting tickets for parking in the wrong thirty square feet of space on the planet even though parking in that spot would not have made a difference in the personal or collective consciousness.
It’s all about caring for the soul in the end, isn’t it?
This is more new life emerging with approach of warmer weather. I took this photo a few days ago. Looking out the window this morning, I see a totally different scene. It looks as though winter has returned as there is a layer of white snow covering the world, a thin layer which is more like lace than like wool. It is snow that won’t stay long. That is one of the more amazing things about spring on the Canadian prairie – the only constant is change, The joke around here is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.”
The appearance of more snow this morning fits yesterday’s posts about how we put on layers and layers of protection only to then work hard at midlife to remove these layers upon layers in order to “find ourselves.” While we engage in this journey of self-discovery, we have a tendency to fall back and cover ourselves up with another layer as we feel exposed, too exposed, and therefore at risk. Much like a late spring snowfall, this new layer won’t have a long life-span.
I think of how I retreat for short periods of time behind a layer or mask in community, take on a layer that looks like one I used to wear so that those around me can then recognise me. The layer is temporary. Sometimes I retreat into a revised layer in order to give myself a rest from the journey. Going from retirement back into teaching at a university in China is a good example of this. I retreat into an older persona and invest energy and time and avoid the journey as if it was the plague. Yet, beneath that revised layer, I know the truth and can’t still the voices I am coming to recognise only too well. As a result, the persona shifts to accommodate a more conscious self-awareness. I am now a different kind of teacher as I re-emerge.
The journey is cyclical, one retreats into dormancy like a plant into winter, only to re-emerge in the spring with a newer version of self – one that will also retreat into dormancy and then re-emerge. This isn’t a new idea. The changes aren’t always positive, sometimes they are regressive. Sometimes one chooses to not do the work of enlarging one’s narrow slice of consciousness. Rather, the retreat into darkness and shadow as if a victim. For myself, I will fight the darkness and strive towards the light even as the sun sets on span of my life.
This morning as I enter these words on the keyboard of my laptop, there is a slight drizzle that is expected to turn into snow as the morning wears on. It is zero outside, that line that marks the freezing point. The skies are gray. It has become an almost colourless world here on the Canadian prairies, a world waiting for sunshine and the return of colour, the return of life.
This photo was taken three months ago in San José, Costa Rica at the hostel I was staying at while in the city. It seemed as though everywhere I looked, people had strung concertina wire around their homes. The wire was meant to keep out those who would steal and perhaps injure those within the confines of the sharp wire.
The wire made me think of how we build our own defenses against outside intruders. In truth, our personae are just that, defenses. We build our personae into personalities that hide the inside contents, the treasure that is our soul, our sense of worth. In a way, it is similar to the layer upon layer of protective wrapping that we use when we want to ship something fragile and priceless to another destination. The last thing we want to happen is to have an “other” steal our treasure and perhaps even destroy it.
While reading books such as the Da Vinci Code or The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (and others of the same genre) one watches as the layers are peeled back to reveal the ultimate treasure. The extremes to which one goes in order to protect that central truth is amazing. What we do in ordinary life is just as amazing when it comes to adding layer upon layer of protection. It doesn’t take too long before the inner treasure becomes almost mythic in nature. What takes on the lustre of truth are nothing more than protective symbols that can only point back to the centre, or in too many situations, point away from the centre if one doesn’t recognise the symbols.
As we try to regain a sense of who we really are, we must navigate through the carefully constructed layers of protection, decoding the symbols along the way, overcoming the traps set by our various complexes. This work is truly a hero’s journey.
This clay pot is in very sad shape. I admit that when I placed it in the flower garden that it was already in some stress with bits and pieces missing. I didn’t set it in the garden alone. Beside it is another clay pot that is losing its integrity. Though far from perfect or even useful in the traditional sense, I leave them in place as though they belong. To me, they have a certain dignity, an authenticity that can’t be matched with things that appear to be perfect.
One of my readers brought up the idea of wabi sabi to describe a state of transience. I did a bit of reading on wabi sabi and found that it holds the belief that stuff must be trimmed away in order to find the essence, a purity. It is about simplicity. There is no doubt that this clay pot is being reduced to a simplified state and that it takes on an aesthetic beauty in doing so. So how does this “fit” in with Jungian psychology. Well, I have to admit that I found no ties in doing an Internet search. However, what I did find suggests that there is enough to warrant being looked at a bit more closely.
The word “wabi-sabi” is a combination of two Japanese terms. “Wabi,” literally means poverty. However, it has a positive connotation because the word does not refer to lack of material wealth as much as it implies freedom from dependence on worldly possessions. Wabi is simple minimalism that has divested the material in order to directly relate with nature. “Sabi” translates to “solitude” or “loneliness,” such as the reflective moods induced by traditional Japanese art. (Wabi-sabi and Its Influences, SocyBerty)
In a way, this is what happens when one goes through the process of individuation, one simplifies. The search for “self” is a work that is lonely and one that requires one to take time for solitude. As I listen to what this tells me, I think of the fourth stage of live in Hinduism where a person gives up all connections and possessions in preparation of the final work leading to a holiness that leads to Nirvana. I also think of monks and nuns simplifying and denying themselves stuff with St. John of the Cross being one of the most famous of examples.
As we peel off the layers of persona and expose the essence of who we are. As we make this journey during which we shed masks our load becomes lighter and our inner beauty is allowed to shine through. It is when we are authentic and transparent that we sense the more numinous aspect of self, that which we ascribe to an outer god. Individuation is about separating from the collective and allowing the fullness of the individual to emerge. And in the process, the self then sees its true connection to the whole. Could this be yet another face of the Eastern concept of wabi sabi?