Archive for February 2013
“The first touch of consciousness in a youth appears as a wound or as suffering.” [Johnson, He, p. 7]
Wounding is not something new. It is impossible to move through childhood and youth without being wounded. Even those with safe, loving and nurturing environments are wounded. The wounding isn’t necessarily due to abuse – physical, emotional, mental, sexual, psychological. In spite of all the types of abuse that make the news, everyone suffers the wounding of loss – the loss of innocence that comes with consciousness, that shift from childhood to adult through adolescence.
The arrival of consciousness at the cost of innocence. Typically this loss comes with adolescence where the body physically changes from child to a reproductive being. Testes enlarge, pubic hair emerges, the voice deepens, the penis takes on a curious life of its own often embarrassing the adolescent male. The shift from childhood isn’t the wound though. The wound is heralded by this shift.
“Most western men are Fisher Kings. Every boy has naively blundered into something too big for him. He proceeds halfway through his masculine development and then drops it as being too hot. Often a certain bitterness arises, because, like the Fisher King, he can neither live with the new consciousness he has touched nor can he entirely drop it.” [pp 7-8]
Like all other young males, I was wounded. I lost my sense of magic, of fantasy and fairy tale and childhood innocence. One day I am a child, and then the wounding leaves me a broken man in spite of the fact that I was only ten years old. I had been wounded sexually, physically and emotionally before I was ten, but those woundings were visited upon me when I was a child, and they didn’t change the fact that I was still a child after the abuse. The wounding means that childhood has come to an end.
It isn’t important that I detail my wounding. What is important is that I am aware of that wounding and what I do about it. I know what I did for the years following the wounding, years which I denied my wounding, buried it beneath layer upon layer of banishment.
“It is painful to watch a young man realize that the world is not just joy and happiness, to watch the disintegration of his childlike beauty, faith and optimism. It is regrettable but necessary – if we are not cast out of the Garden of Eden, there can be no Heavenly Jerusalem.” [p. 8]
Necessary? Yes, necessary. It doesn’t really matter how one is wounded, but it is necessary for wounding to happen. Otherwise, we would never leave childhood and become adult men and women. Now, I can understand this without becoming consumed by bitterness. I do understand that the wounding did force me to take a road away from my home in the years that followed the wounding. And like Parsifal, I went in search of my Holy Grail.
With that said, I take leave for now and pledge to return with more words of wounding, and becoming a man as a result of the wounding.
While waiting for some books I have placed on hold to be freed for me to download from my e-library, I have decided to read one of the e-books I bought last autumn for those “in case moments.” I bought a number of e-books that focused on Jungian psychology and Buddhism so that I wouldn’t have to haul around too many heavy books while travelling. I already own these books as either paperback or hard-cover books and have read most of them. The book I decided to read (re-read actually) is by Robert A. Johnson, a book called, He. It is a little book of only 63 pages long and it was meant to be a reference for the “masculine” series of posts. Te be honest, I had forgotten just how good the book really is. As I began reading, not having the highlights and underlined passages from my hard copy of the book in front of me, I felt like I was discovering new territory. I felt as if I was an old fashioned hero on a quest for hidden treasures.
It didn’t take too long into the Introduction for me to find the first treasure.
“We must remember that a myth is a living entity, and exists within every person. You will get the true, living form of the myth if you can see it as it spins away inside yourself. The most rewarding mythological experience you can have is to see how it lives in your own psychological structure.” [p. 4]
For me, this is particularly important as I sometimes take myth too literally. I am reminded that the myth is a universal representation of the human psyche filling somewhat the same role as a dream which is more of a cross between the universal and the personal psyche.
Johnson’s book is about the masculine and uses the myth of the “Grail” and “Parsifal” as ways to understand the masculine psyche.
“The Grail myth speaks of masculine psychology. This is not to say that it is confined to the male, for a woman participates in her own inner masculinity, though it is less dominant for her. We must take everything that goes into the myth as part of ourselves. We will have to cope with a dazzling array of fair damsels, but must see them too as parts of the masculine psyche.” [ibid]
Now that I have been re-oriented, I find myself wondering where this journey will take me. I know that as I continue reading I will continue to turn the microscope that Johnson is using on the tale, to peer within myself, to shed some light and perhaps understanding about my own wounding and growth into mature masculinity, into a whole, healthy man. I might be getting old, but I am still willing to dig into the depths and undo some of the fetters that have delayed the development my masculine psyche.
Right now, it is time to return to the book. I will be back later to share more of the treasures I find on this journey.
This morning I found myself in a contemplative mood, a good place really, not divorced from the reality of being present in my life. As I am entering these words, I am waiting for the toast to be ready for our breakfast. And yes, I am taking care of them even as I sit here seeing the small toaster oven across the kitchen while writing. With only fort-eight hours left of our stay in Belize, and all tasks taken care of in order to be ready for the shift back to Mexico, my mind is relaxed and there is no sense of being rushed or wondering what I should be doing at the moment, other than making sure the toast doesn’t burn. [time out to eat]
Before I began my morning meditation outside in our garden, I saw the moon in the west which sent me back to get my camera and get a photo for here. After returning the camera into the villa, I took my seat and slipped into my meditation knowing that at some point the sun would rise and anoint my body with its rays. If this sounds like a spiritual ritual, it is because the ritual is about honouring my soul, about connecting with the universe and becoming at one with it. While I meditated, my wife decided to grab the camera to take a photo of the sun rising above the layer of clouds that hugged the eastern horizon. Moon setting and sun rising while I meditated. No wonder I am in a contemplative mood this morning.
Not long after my meditation was left behind, I was sitting having coffee and wondering what I would do with my time. Sitting there, the urge to write here and touch once more on Jungian psychology became strong. But, I didn’t have a clue what I would write about. However, that didn’t seem to bother me at all as I have learned that the words would come. With breakfast done, I turned to Daryl Sharp’s book, Getting To Know You, and opened it at random and found these words which were spoken / written in response to a question about Jungian psychology being soul-making:
“. . . the only way I can understand the progression of my life is in terms of soul. Soul happens when you ponder alone in the still of the night. Soul happens when you grapple with the meaning of your life. Soul is what you are, as opposed to what you seem to be. That’s not theology, it’s experiential reality. [p. 56]
With these words, I think that I have said enough here for now. More will follow in another post on another day.
As I continue this study of my gender and what it is to be a man, what it is to be masculine, I realise that while I am immersed in this journey of psyche, an inner world journey that is surrounded by an outer world in which I continue to exist as well. While search, I must continue to be a man with my partner, within the community I find myself in for the present here in Corozal which has a number of sub-communities embedded within it. I find myself in a community of expats, Americans and Canadians who have chosen to come here to make a new home or are searching for a new home base; as well as these expats, I have begun to interact with a few local men at the various shops, and on the street. Being a man is assumed by all I meet as I am obviously a senior, adult male. No one questions my identity as a man. That said, at the same time, I am digging deep into my head and heart trying to find answers to questions that are hard to put into words, questions about my identity as a man in this modern world.
“Jung insists that individuation is above all a dialogue with the unconscious psyche. The ego needs to maintain its essential connection with social reality as it attempts to ‘have it out’ with the unconscious forces. As the ego makes its ‘descent’ for the sake of renewal, it must resist the ‘inertia’ of the unconscious, and the forces that would paralyse it, and maintain human integrity at all costs.” [Tacey, Remaking Men, p. 19]
I have been there, finding myself so immersed in the psyche chasing down the shadows that I forgot about connecting with others. For a long time, I self-isolated and spent all my time on reading every depth psychology article I could find, recording and the plumbing the depths of my dreams, using meditation as a diving tool to take me further into the depths, only taking time out to connect with my analyst. My ego inflated as I saw myself as an authority, as a misunderstood and ignored wise man. I forgot that I was a human that was flawed deeply and needing the connection to others, to life, to my body.
“When we make contact with the unconscious, and so become privy to some of the collective secrets of the ages, we must compensate for this ‘dialogue with the Gods’ by increased amounts of humour and humility: two of the best antidotes to spiritual arrogance and inflation.” [ibid]
I know that I am not the only one who gets caught in the dialogue with the unconscious. If anything, when one approaches this dialogue without intention, the danger is even greater. One of my new friends here in Corozal is an American who is searching for property and a home here. He came with his wife and we have been together a number of times, two couples in Belize. His wife has no intention of moving to Belize. He hears her words but is so captured by his need that he can’t respond to her pain that is growing with his obsession with moving. His response is simply “I have been taking care of others all my life, I need to take care of myself, now.” Yet, he doesn’t know what that means or how to accomplish this need. I have learned that it is not achieved by changing addresses. One must wade in the unconscious keeping a line open to the conscious world at the same time. It is the only way to see the ripples that flow from the changes in oneself on others. We need to address these ripples and make conscious decisions based on reasoned outcomes. Will one truly be serving the self living alone in a foreign country when a wife of many decades, children and grandchildren are left behind?
I don’t have the answers to these questions though I do know they need to be faced, questions of one’s participation in the outer world of place, things and relationships. It is hard enough to be a man without getting lost in the shadow land of the unconscious.
Shadows and light, it’s another way to view awareness and insight – out of darkness emerges awareness; out of awareness comes insight into the depths of the human psyche. As I sat enjoying my morning coffee, the sun began to emerge from behind the dark clouds on the horizon. It reminded me of how one “turns on the light” in order to see. The scene became one of my “ah-ha” moments that needed to be captured as an image.
I often wonder about what I am doing here in Belize. Most of my time is spent doing very little. I read a bit and most of that reading is fiction that doesn’t stretch me in any way at all. I surf the net a bit, and even resort to playing cards on the computer as a means of filling time. Hours are spent each day sitting in the sunshine “working on a tan.” If anyone was watching and making notes of the way I am spending my time, it would tell as story of an uneventful and likely boring existence. But, that would be an untrue representation.
I am stewing in the rays of the sun, ripening, or as they say in Jungian terms, I am holding the tension waiting for something to emerge from the fires and forge, something transformed. This imagery is vital to understand what is happening to me this winter in the tropics. I appear to be doing almost nothing, but I am wide awake, watching, observing, weighing, filtering . . .
“The Magician energy is the archetype of awareness and of insight, primarily, but also of knowledge of anything that is not immediately apparent or commonsensical. It is the archetype that governs what is called in psychology, “the observing Ego.” [Moore & Gillette, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, p. 106]
Hmm? Magician energy, a masculine energy. I need to read more.
“The observing Ego is detached from the ordinary flow of daily events, feelings and experiences. In a sense, it doesn’t live life. It watches life, and it pushes the right buttons at the right times to access the energy flows when they are needed.” [p. 107]
This is a description of myself that my wife often comments on, a version of myself that speaks of distance rather than engagement. Now, I am understanding that I was, and am, often wrapped up in the observing Ego, as much an apprentice to the psyche as a shaman, as a magician, as a psychotherapist, as I am a participant in life as a husband and father. Yes, the light did turn on this morning, somewhere between the appearance of the sun and the reading of these few words from King, Warrior, Magician, Lover.
I found this image somewhere on the Internet a while ago. Where? I don’t remember. It is taken from some work of art painted when there was no need to conceal the truth for some particular agenda. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word truth as I begin to doubt that there are any truths other that the swirling mass of thought within one’s head, a swirling mass that is rarely based on reality. All is illusion. Yet, if we are to have histories as a people, then we must be able to hold some of that history as being valid. Was there a Jesus Christ? Was he the son of God if he did exist? Personally, I do think that there was a man who was the person we call Jesus Christ. Was he a son of God? I would have to say yes as I truly believe that we are all sons and daughters, all the offspring of the initial creator.
He was a man and he was a godling just like you are a godling. Like you and me, he was born naked out of the womb of a woman. Like you and me, he was a child, saw things children should never see, and suffered for it. Like you and me, he wrestled with his demons and resisted his singular path. For some reason, he was able to hold his singular path, a feat not many are able to accomplish because of fear, because of the cruel weight of community opinion. And like all others who dare to hold to their destiny, he was crucified by his community for daring to go against the collective shadow. The Romans crucified him in fact, but it was his community that forced the hand of the Romans to administer the death penalty for daring to challenge the status quo. The Romans crucified him in the Roman way – hanging him on a cross, naked so as to induce shame.
But for one who dares to follow the individual path that opens into light even as one goes forward seemingly into darkness, there is no shame, just a sadness for others, and a burning question – Why?
I have long struggled with this why and still have yet to find the answer. Perhaps there are no words that can serve as an answer. Perhaps the only answer that can emerge is the experience, step by step, that one passes through along the journey of one, a psychological and physical journey that Jung called individuation. Perhaps it is a conceit on my part, but as I dare my own journey, sometimes at costs that I am loathe to pay, I find myself learning to forgive myself for my own darkness. And in forgiving myself, one dark shadow at a time, I am finding that the path ahead of me is beginning to be bathed in a faint light.
As I inch my way down this individual path, I wonder if it is all worth it. It seems to be costing too much in terms of relationships with others. I find myself wondering if this is far enough along the path. A voice within tells me, I have gone far enough, further than most others travel as if that pat on the back will be enough. Yet, I am in turmoil wondering if I am a coward. I know that I can’t turn around and run back to the past and the certainties of that past, even if there was suffering and pain in that pain – better the devil one knows – is a folk saying that I am tempted to adopt rather than pay the price that is required to go further along the path, a path that I know ends in my own crucifixion, and a resurrection.
It has been a week since my last post. I could claim being busy since then, but that would simply be an excuse that has little to do with reality. I have been doing things, reading, writing and simply being present as the days float by. On Saturday I went to the town of Corozal’s Central Park for the monthly event called Art in the Park. My wife and I wandered through the park a few times while I took photos. Seeing all that there was to offer, we settled on eating pupustas and garnachas. We followed those with some local baking that involved the use of coconut and then a final walk around the park before deciding to head back to our villa apartment.
Before leaving, this young black man who decided that he wanted Maureen to take “our” photo, a photo of a white man and a nigger as he called himself. He was demanding and almost confronting in his attitude. When I said I didn’t think he was a nigger as they don’t really exist, he asked if I knew any Spanish. At that moment I realised, that I had been listening all wrong – nigra (negra) as black. In the end, the photo was taken while we enjoyed a good laugh. Of course I knew he was hoping for a few dollars for his photo with me, and I was more than willing to part with the money. Would he spend the money on food, beverage or even drugs? I don’t have the answer, nor do I want to pre-judge the young man.
Now that I see the photo, the notion that I am a “white” man seems a bit of a stretch. I really do show my racial heritage – dark European and Canadian First Nations – or as is said here in Latin America, Mestizo, the Spanish version of Métis.