Through a Jungian Lens

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Reflections in a Puddle

with 8 comments

A few moments after the storm had broken, I slipped outside for a walk that had been rain delayed.  As the sun tried to break through the clouds, I I caught a glimpse of that sun reflected in a large puddle.  The image sent me racing back into the house for my camera so that I could capture this image before it transformed into something completely different.  With the photo taken, I continued the walk in an attempt to beat the return of the rain storm.  The walk between the rain was navigated without becoming drenched and cold.   I had risked taking this walk, risked damage to my hearing aids.  I know, it would have been wiser of me to remove the aids before going for the walk.  But, at what cost?   Without the hearing aids, I would have experienced less.

As I look into the photo, it is somewhat like being pulled into it.  There is a pull into the underworld, a call to dive into the water in order to follow the light.  In some ways, the light, surrounded by the darkness, makes me think of going down a tunnel as if I would become a modern day “Alice” getting ready to fall down into a “rabbit hole.”  Even before that thought was completed, another thought emerged, that of the “light at the end of a tunnel” that is often used as the image of near-death experiences.  No wonder I was pulled to take the photograph, and pulled again to bring it here.

There is a certain, perhaps perverse, fascination in following the call into the unconscious in order to become more conscious.  Why do I say that it is possibly a perverse attraction?  Well, I guess I had better define my use of perverse as “deliberately deviating from what is regarded as normal, good, or proper.”  The key word is “normal.”  In the community I live in, it is not normal to invest in the “inner world.”  It is normal to invest in being present and focused on the outer world.  A person’s worth is judged on appearances and on presence, even if the presence is superficial.  Too much of an inner focus leads one to be branded as strange, aloof, spaced-out or as an egg head that thinks he/she is too superior for the common, ordinary, everyday Joe.  Knowing the societal reaction that must follow when one is drawn into the unconscious, to choose the call is a defiance of what community calls “normal, good or proper.”  To heed the call is a statement to the community that one is rejecting the community, that one is selfish.  So, why then, would one ever want to follow that call, to follow the light into the tunnel?

How can I explain it in a way that is “sensible?”  I follow because I “have” to, not because I “want” to.  To “not follow” would be akin to committing a suicide of soul with the result that I would shrivel and become a shell of a person, bitter and angry all the time.  Why would I risk anything for which I have worked so hard for so many years?  Why would I risk relationship?  Why would I risk economic well-being?  Why would I risk losing even my small space in community?  I know what is at stake and yet the loss of all of this is less than the loss of “soul.”

And so, I tumble into the underworld chasing an illusory sun beneath the surface of the water, into the dark and wet underworld of the unconscious – with hope.

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8 Responses

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  1. Robert,
    Got chase in by rain. Saw this post. I cast my vote, and the two in the quotes below in your favor:

    The fact that many a man who goes his own way ends in ruin means nothing…. He must obey his own law, as if it were a daemon whispering to him of new and wonderful paths…. There are not a few who are called awake by the summons of the voice, whereupon they are at once set apart from the others, feeling themselves confronted with a problem about which the others know nothing. In most cases it is impossible to explain to the others what has happened, for any understanding is walled off by impenetrable prejudices. ‘You are no different from anybody else,’ they will chorus, or, ‘there’s no such thing,’and even if there is such a thing, it is immediately branded as morbid.’ …He is at once set apart and isolated, as he has resolved to obey the law that commands him from within. ‘His own law!’ everybody will cry. But he knows better: it is the law…. The only meaningful life is a life that strives for the individual realization-absolute and unconditional-of its own particular law… To the extent that a man is untrue to the law of his being…he has failed to realize his life’s meaning. The undiscovered vein within us is a living part of the psyche; classical Chinese philosophy names the interior way ‘Tao,’ and likens it to a flow of water that moves irresistibly toward its goal. To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, one’s destination reached, one’s mission done; the beginning, end, and perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in all things. (C. G. Jung CW, XVII, Chap 7.)

    “Everything profound loves the mask. . . It not the worst things of which one is most ashamed: there is not only deceit behind a mask – there is so much goodness in cunning. I could believe that a man whose shame had something fragile and valuable to conceal might roll through life thick and round as an old green thick-hooped wine barrel: the refinement of his shame would have it so. A man whose shame has depth, encounters his destinies and delicate decisions too on paths which very few ever reach and of whose existence his intimates and neighbors may not know: his mortal danger is concealed from their eyes, as is the fact that he has regained his sureness of life. . .(Friedrich Nietzche, “Beyond Good and Evil,” p. 51.)

    This work is not for the faint of heart.

    J Ferric

    June 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    • Thanks John, for the quotes and for the votes. 🙂

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm

  2. You went for a walk without your camera?? Aiya!

    I really like this shot – reflections are fascinating and can take your thoughts down many paths. For me this one brings the light to me – closer, not so far way that I cannot reach it, not so distant that I ignore it.

    Lotus Light

    June 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    • For me, it not only bridges distance but teaches me that one can find the sun in the depths as well as in the heights. A paradox made possible if one learns that the polarities are eventually united into a wholeness. Thanks, Lotus.

      Yes, walking around our tiny town takes about twenty-five minutes. It is a journey that is repeated and repeated and repeated. After a few years, one stops looking and focuses on the movement. The camera is taken out once the walking for exercise is done. 🙂

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm

  3. Going inward apparently always has the price of Tribal disfavor or even rejection. It seems to be the price for Individuation.

    Urspo

    June 10, 2010 at 12:05 am

    • True, Urspo. I have to say I like the expression you use “the price of Tribal disfavor.” Thanks.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 10, 2010 at 10:04 am

  4. Robert

    I appreciate the reflections offered in this post, and your capacity for seeing beauty in the unconventional is most certainly stimulating. Lovely image. I also enjoyed your reference to Alice and the rabbit hole, no doubt. (I can’t wait to see the Johnny Depp version of that fantasy).

    There is one comment you made, though, regarding the pull toward the unconscious “in order to become more conscious”, that made me think. The older I get the less it matters to me to become more conscious, and the more it matters to me to live with soul. I would like to share with you my favorite Thomas Moore passage (The Original Self) that I am copying and pasting here from a Word document (I typed it out one day because I love it so much). Thomas says that “Consciousness is a sign that we haven’t yet learned to live from the soul” and this resonates with me, deeply.

    This is long, but worth the 3 minutes or so it might take to read:

    “I spent many years trying to become conscious, but all that effort led merely to self-consciousness, which in turn generated guilt, anxiety, and ambition. I was told that higher consciousness was a worthy goal and that its opposite, unconsciousness, was the result of laziness and ignorance. Around the age of fifty, my ideals and values began to change, so much so that many of them turned upside down and inside out. Now I see great value in laziness, understood as giving up both effort and the attempt to justify my life. I have come to appreciate the teaching I have found in many religions that praises holy ignorance. And I have been discovering how to live with little consciousness.

    “Emerson once remarked that it is advisable to live without consciousness of the workings of the body, and I wonder if the same recommendation applies to the whole of life. Perhaps in some ways we do have to become conscious, and that may be the proper work of the first half of life. But then all our education and learning experiences may fade, not into oblivion, where they are simply lost, but by a process of absorption into us, so that they become us or we become them.

    “I have always thought that the most remarkable statement James Hillman ever made about the soul, and he has made many startling observations, is that the soul leads us into unconsciousness, and that for our own benefit. When we fall in love or become absorbed in work or are seized by a powerful depression, we lose control and perspective. The soul takes over and from a dimmer place takes the lead. We don’t know exactly what we are doing or whether we should be doing it. By remaining in this psychic fog, we may end up in a place we have been searching for all our lives – with the right person, in a good job, with a new level of self-possession.

    “Our culture prizes cleverness and self awareness, but it should be obvious that this approach merely leads to competition and aggression spurred on by anxiety. To live from the mind is to balance in uncertainty on a high wire. The soul is more grounded, and indeed its proper territory seems to be somewhere beneath the ground. There is a fine word for this particular soul and its spirituality – chthonic. It is the level of ground for personal growth, rather than the kind that is full of intention and from where we can see what is going on.

    “As events come and go, as we read and experience and learn, all this material metamorphoses into bits of images and becomes the imagination, which is the bedrock of personality. But for the imagination to flourish, we may have to surrender, as do artists of all kinds, to a looser life and a more liberated imagination. We may have to say words and make things while not knowing what is going on. We may have to become somebody we never intended to be. We may have to let life happen in a way that challenges our plans, our values, and our hopes.

    “Whenever I stand in the presence of a powerful, creative person I feel the impact of the deep spirit responsible for that person’s life and personality, and I am aware that even this person may not know anything of this other presence. I may see it more clearly because I am touched and pressed by its palpability. It is this deep force of vitality, not intention and by all means not consciousness, that grants personality. In fact, a certain self-forgetfulness may be just the item that allows the soul to break through with forcefulness and creativity.”

    Beautiful, isn’t it?

    I invite folks to visit me at my blog for subjects of this nature, and those related to aging with grace:

    http://septembermay.blogspot.com/

    Jesse

    Jesse Mendes

    June 13, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    • Thank you, Jesse, for taking the time to comment on the stuff I am bringing here. First, I think that what we define as consciousness is quite different. I don’t define consciousness as knowing more stuff:

      “I spent many years trying to become conscious, but all that effort led merely to self-consciousness, which in turn generated guilt, anxiety, and ambition. I was told that higher consciousness was a worthy goal and that its opposite, unconsciousness, was the result of laziness and ignorance. Around the age of fifty, my ideals and values began to change, so much so that many of them turned upside down and inside out. Now I see great value in laziness, understood as giving up both effort and the attempt to justify my life. I have come to appreciate the teaching I have found in many religions that praises holy ignorance. And I have been discovering how to live with little consciousness.

      I don’t know if you are familiar with Jungian psychology or not, but I think it would be worth the effort to investigate this way of understanding the world without and the world within. Consciousness is more about coming to grips with one’s inner self that is often banished into dark shadows as well as the collective unconscious that is embodies in archetypes. You talk about soul. Well, this is a soulful a work as can be found 🙂 I do hope you take the time to read some of my past posts to see where I am coming from and how I view and understand the nature of the human and the human soul. I am over 60 and believe me this isn’t an adventure in getting more, it is an adventure of “self” discovery that leads to knowing one is one with whatever you want to say is guiding the universe. Thanks.

      Robert G. Longpré

      June 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm


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