Through a Jungian Lens

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As Below, So Above

with 6 comments

Life in China has some interesting aspects for a foreigner.  A few days ago, I was invited to celebrate a National Day dinner hosted by the city of Changzhou, and its mayor.  In comparison to other similar gatherings I have already attended this month, it was a smallish affair of about 120 people with about thirty of those present being foreigners and the rest being Changzhou city government officials and communist party officials.  The evening before, I was one of about three hundred foreigners and at least fifteen hundred city residents attending the opening of an international conference.

Following the dinner, I returned to the apartment taking a route through the new district park which features a man-made lake pictured here.  The scene made me think about persona and shadow and about Jung’s often quoted statement, “As above, so below; as below, so above.”  The truth is, Jung isn’t the author of this statement, it is the second of seven principles drawn from the Kybalion, a work of Hermes Trismegistus that sets the foundations for Hermetic Philosophy.  “As above,” can loosely be considered as persona, lives lived in the outer world.  “As below,” can be then understood as the realm of both personal and collective unconsciousness.

Here in China, I have a persona that has been handed to me on a platter.  I am a foreigner and that puts me into the upper stratosphere to begin with.  I have been here before and I have returned.  That has added to the status in some way.  Of the foreigners who have come to teach at the university over the past while, I have been the only qualified instructor and my students and colleagues have accepted me as the “real thing” when it comes to being a teacher.  Of course, a career of teaching has had something to do with it.

But, I am aware that this is just a persona, one that is initially one crafted by myself and then redefined by the community in which I now find myself.  The community cannot attribute what isn’t there within me.  Perhaps I haven’t been aware of aspects of self that are evident that others can see.   Nor, can I truly limit what is “exposed” to the public through my persona.  That said, I look into the shadows and see that the “nature” within is mirrored by the persona.

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6 Responses

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  1. Wow Robert, all these delicious Chinese dinners, it made me jealous of you and it is good to read that you take such long walks, smile !
    Good Post and image … yes, as Above as Below – or as Inside, as Outside.
    To experience (read) how images differ from person to person is fascinating to me.
    I always have the feeling and the Sense, the picture, the image, that Above is the Heaven and Below is the Earth – (perhaps the Christian influence) – but at the same time I am aware that “God” is also within me.
    Your Post provides me again a lot to think about.

    Opa Bear

    October 2, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    • The Chinese dinners are good, there is no doubt about it; even in the little mom & pop shops tucked into the tiniest corners have great food.

      Robert G. Longpré

      October 4, 2010 at 8:40 pm

  2. Excellent post. I have been think about my shadow a fair bit recently, so this was timely.

    beyondanomie

    October 2, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    • 🙂 Thinking about “shadow” while it is working on you – balance. Thanks.

      Robert G. Longpré

      October 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

  3. On the ex-pat life.
    Robert living the ex-pat for even a short time allows one to view our “culture of origin” from a distance. I value my ex-pat time as fundamental to understanding the influence of unconscious “culture of origin” values on the psyche. Evolving over years and struggling with this data I have come to understand that “racism” as that term is commonly used does not really exist. What I used to think of as racism is, at base, cultural differences. The “strangeness,” “otherness” is mainly based on unconscious cultural values. The fact that the “other” may have skin of a different color is simply beside the fact.

    JFerric

    October 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    • That difference in colour is real when the colour is significant such as white/black. In China, the difference is also measured in terms of size of nose. Foreigners tend to have bigger noses 🙂 You are right about cultural differences as there is very little visible difference between Chinese and Korean or Vietnamese. The cultural differences do result in negative attitudes to the otherness of the non-Chinese.

      Robert G. Longpré

      October 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm


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