Through a Jungian Lens

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Katabasis – He Who Would Heal Will Have to Descend

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Dressed in white, dressed for mourning

I  chose this photo by accident when I wasn’t even looking for a photo.  I think I have to explain. I have a set of photos from Vietnam that serves as my screen saver when I am not active on the computer. I was distracted after writing the first two paragraphs of this post and as a result my laptop went into screen saver mode. When I finally returned my attention to the computer, this image flashed and I knew I had the image for this post. In Asia, white is the colour of mourning and death, the complete opposite of the colour we use in the western world, black. This post is heading into a territory of mourning for that is what we do when someone dies. And as I am coming to understand it, the Robert that I know is changing. With each change comes a small death of the old Robert.  That is good in spite of how bad that might sound, for that allows a more authentic Robert to emerge from his hiding place under layer after layer of unconsciousness.

As I read a book called The Maiden King, by Robert Bly and Marion Woodman, I came upon a timely line that talks about katabasis, which basically translates into a descent. I checked my archives and found that I had mentioned this word twice in the past, on December 29th, 2010 and a few days later on January 1st, 2011. I checked because I didn’t want to end up saying the same thing as I had before. I wanted to make sure I was adding something of value, something to show me that I had somehow learned a little more. After looking over what I had written I knew that this time around I was is a completely different place, one that somehow had left a surface world and is roaming around a completely different universe, one that is somehow mythological as well as as personal as it is possible to be.

I have been talking about the descent I am risking, a descent with the intention of uncovering the truth of who I am beneath the history of childhood, beneath the complexes, beneath the personae that I have embraced and nourished in order to feel that I belong somehow in this world. I have spoke a lot of words but to be honest, I didn’t really understand what the hell I had done in setting out on this journey.

As I sit here at the keyboard, alone in my apartment, I wonder what is coming next. I have just learned enough to see that I have just passed the first set of tests in the descent to the underworld. I feel like some sort of Danté condemned to experience every chamber of a personal hell before I am allowed to return to the outer world; or like a modern day Odysseus who will face earthquakes, tsunamis, many-faced monsters and horrors as yet without a name before I am allowed to return home. I know that the prize in this descent, this katabasis, is the recovery of self, the recovery of soul.  And that, should be enough.

The descent means I need to change almost before each progressive dive, or if not before, I must change as I dive. I have to let go of micro-managing everything around me, trying to control and fix the world, trying to heal all near me. I see their fear, their pain, their tears and my heart is torn. Should I abandon this terrible journey and rush to them with comforting words? But as soon as I even think this, I realise that I am deluding myself for I can’t fix another person. I know that each must fix themselves. I am not some magical being who can wave a wand to heal others – I am as broken as all of us. All I can do is to risk this katabasis so that I can self-heal and show all those I love the path to healing and acknowledge that the rest is up to them.

And so, the journey to hell and back continues. I am worth it, and the gift that it will give my children and my grandchildren and any who listen, is worth it. Enough for now. It is time to meditate and focus so that I don’t lose my way or lose my courage.


6 Responses

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  1. Thank you


    March 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    • 🙂 Thank you for reading and connecting.


      March 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  2. Great post, Robert! Yes! You are worth it and the journey, though not always easy, will be fruitful. I know that mine is fruitful as well as difficult – at times.


    March 15, 2012 at 9:03 am

  3. When you get to the mean-spirited roadhouse, buy a couple of beers for the dudes in the corner playing chess.

    Anita Joy

    March 21, 2012 at 2:32 am

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