Through a Jungian Lens

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The Illness That We Are

with 4 comments

I’ve pulled a different book off of my tiny book shelf here in Changzhou, China.  The Illness That We Are:  A Jungian Critique of Christianity, by John P. Dourley, a Jungian analyst living and working in Ottawa, Canada.  I haven’t yet read any of the book, so this will be a shared reflection here on the blog as I slowly make my way through the book.  I am leaving Daryl Sharp’s book, Jungian Psychology Unplugged for the next while.  I am surprised that I actually sat still with that book for as long as I did as it is hard for me to “focus” so long on anything.  Perhaps I will return to Sharp’s book in the future.  I have to admit that I didn’t have many choices on my bookshelf as most of the books on Jungian psychology that I own are still in Canada.  I have two books by Sharp and two by Dourley as well as a few others and about a half dozen by Jung.  Hopefully this will be enough until my return to Canada next June.

This photo was taken three years ago when I was Changzhou.  I found the photo this morning while going through my photo archive looking for “people” photos in order to prepare for a lecture I will be giving in three weeks  on the topic of non-verbal communication across cultures.  As soon as I saw this photo, I knew that this was the one I wanted to use to begin this next section of my “self” discovery.  I chose this hoping that it would fit what I would find in the opening pages of Dourley’s book.  With that said, it’s on with the “process.”

First, the image.  I have found a fair number of “yin yang” symbols here in China, not surprising since “yin yang” is a Chinese symbol.  Here’s what WIKIPEDIA says about this symbol.

The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and in the valley. Yin (literally the ‘shady place’ or ‘north slope’) is the dark area occluded by the mountain’s bulk, while yang (literally the ‘sunny place’ or ‘south slope’) is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.

Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, or tranquil; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime.

Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, or aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.

When I see these symbols, I see a wholeness, an embracing of dark and light, I intuit that this is an embrace of spirit and soul.  This photo showing the symbol on an old coin, was taken a few weeks ago.  In this image the “I Ch’ing” symbols are also present, broken lines (yin) and solid lines (yang).  As for the symbol of yin yang itself, my university students call it “Tàijítú” or more correctly, 太极图.  For years before ever coming to China, I have felt the power of this symbol, one that brings me a sense of “rightness” or “calmness.”  Perhaps it is that inner spirituality that lays within me, a spiritualism that is at odds with all religion.

Jung discerned in the movement of these energies a drive toward wholeness, understood as a progressive unification of one’s many disparate components, always carrying with it an even more extensive empathy with the world beyond one’s individual life.  This he called the process of individuation.”  (Dourley, p. 7)

This feels right to me, especially the “more extensive empathy with the world beyond one’s individual life.”  It is within this context that I began this blog site, an acknowledgement of the world beyond myself.  Dourley continues:

Jung came to equate the experience of one’s wholeness with the experience of God, and to see its expression in certain transpersonal and transcultural symbols of the deity.”  (Dourley, p. 7)

Yes, tai ji tu as a transcultural symbol of deity.  That fits.  That resonates.


4 Responses

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  1. Thank you.


    October 30, 2010 at 8:34 pm

  2. Thank you Robert for this Post and very symbolic picture (look at all the stones in this creation of the Yin and Yang !).
    A new adventure on the (our) Numinous discovery journey of the ways how God incarnate in us.

    Opa Bear

    October 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    • 🙂 Thanks, Opa.

      Robert G. Longpré

      November 2, 2010 at 6:47 am

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