Category: Individuation : Journey to The Center of Being

Life is a meaningful process; it takes us, through a series of experiences deemed by us positive or negative, to the perfecting of the Being, as dictated by an Emergent Consciousness – just like Evolution has done for the biological species. This evolutionary process has been described in Jungian analytical psychology as a process in which the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious. In the popular media we know it as the process of Awakening.

The Archetypal Hero – Why I Should Wake up @ 3 am to Watch Star Wars’ Latest Episode

Just seen images of different cinemas (London and Paris) with young people waiting since as early as 3 am for the early show. Is it a mania? A fad created by the western society in these past forty years? After all, we all contributed with some coins to the amazing 33 bil $ that the franchise amassed from its films, comics, cartoons and merchandises issued under the brand.  On October 31, 2012, George Lucas’s selling of his Star Wars over to Disney for 4. 05 billion dollars, not a current event in the movie industry, not in any other industry – it made waves in the media. The most expensive sell of movie rights so far rightfully entails the question: “Why would Disney be so interested in buying this particular movie?”, and “Why the elevated price?” Obviously, because it is worth it: six parts already and people around the world are still hugely interested. What is it that makes this one stand out among all the other successful movies?

I imagine that, for Disney to have advanced  4. 05 billion, it must be safe to assume that it knows what it’s doing, and it is everyone’s knowledge that, among the immense production of Hollywood’s dream factory over the years, Star Wars stands out by its enormously successful previous six parts. But why should this particular structure be so attractive to the public? Why is it so irresistible to so many? It is because we are all caught up in this Hero Archetype. With the rise of the ego and of individualism, the hero season is in full swing. Is it good? Is it bad? Like sharp cutting tools, like electricity and nuclear energy, it all depends on what we do with it. On what kind of hero each one of us we choose to be.

If you don’t believe my story, here are the facts. Not many would care to know, but Lucas  acknowledges his source of inspiration to Campbell’s 1949 book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. He just came upon it right in the middle of his first draft of the Star Wars, so his genius idea was to import the ancient myths from that rich mass of myth and folklore and dress them  into the modern dress of the 20th C (and now 21st ) cinematography special effects.

But Star Wars is not about ” myth and folklore”, at least not in the trite meaning that we are used to give to these words. In The Hero With a Thousand Faces Campbell first introduced his theory of the Monomyth, a concentrate of all the hero journeys from the world’s literatures and religions, capturing in it the essential moments, challenges and initiation stages taken by heroes of all ages and cultures found  in world mythologies. Campbell elaborated extensively on the hero archetype and on the archetypal journey of trials and transformation, so much so that no story or heroic movie ever gets to be born in Hollywood unless it follows to the letter Christopher Vaugler’s Writer’s Journey – Mythical Structure for Writers, his textbook for screenwriters (for more info on that, you can go to https://chrisvogler.wordpress.com/) conceived, of course, as a writers’ guide into Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

The story structure of Star Wars is, of course, the journey of the archetypal hero, one that we all go through in life on our path through transformation, and this is what gives it the special appeal it has over audiences around the world: the hero in us cannot fail to identify him/herself with the universal hero pattern. Whatever the background,  living situation and the nature of our aspirations, truth is that we all get to go through the same many aspects of the human experience – and this is the main and first reason of existence for fiction, this is what we all mainly look for when we go to the cinema or start reading a new book. In Jung terms, the hero is a symbol of the Self where the human part in us aspires to its communion with the Divinity, the divine part in us, after having had integrated all our parts of shadow. In Lucas terms our road of trials awakens us to our communion with The Force, the one that supports us in our eternal battle against the Darkness, mostly the one inside ourselves.

There is another aspect to the genesis of the Star Wars, that of continuity and of transmission communion and ultimately, of unity and oneness. In spite of what copyright and anti-piracy laws claiming exclusive ownership on any individual work, in fact no idea and no work of man is just the result of that one man’s (or woman’s) work or idea, but the influences come from many sources. In this instance we have a happy instance of a conducive thread to follow which shows us the most important influences – that is, only up to a point.

First Lucas, and then Campbell in turn, acknowledges two ideators as his source of inspiration: Joice and Jung. The Monomyth is not Campbell’s own term, but is has been coined by James Joyce in his Finnegan’s Fin, inspired in turn by the German Adolf Bastian’s pioneering idea of “psychic unity of the mind”.  In the true spirit of a Renaissance man, this man has used his extensive knowledge and his direct experience gained through exploring the populations and mythologies of the world along his extensive voyages around the world ( he was a ship doctor) to come up with an unheard of, complex and unifying theory. But Campbell also traveled to Bollingen, Switzerland to meet Jung in person. He uses Jung’s insights into archetypes in his book Pathways to Bliss by introducing Jung’s theory of the constituents of the soul: anima/animus, the shadow, the ego-consciousness to his American readership.

Then Jung, in turn, acknowledges Adolf Bastian’s concept of the “psychic unity of the mind” as being an early source of inspiration for his theory of the unconscious and archetypes.

And think that, without the strenuous work of all these people, we wouldn’t have felt the need and impulse to skip work today, wake up before sunset, or skipping sleep all together, to go watch Star Gates – Episode VII, The Last Jedi. But this effort is just another challenge on our individual Road of Trials?? Of which kind of Hero we choose to be?

“I Am” – What Makes The I-ness? Individual And Collective Mind – The Shadow

 

Show Me My Shadow

James J. O’Donnell, author and classic scholar, tells us that “People kill because it’s the right thing to do.” And he is terribly right. Only this last Christmas, a woman in Arizona shot in the eye another woman because that one didn’t believe in God – at Christmas!

He goes on: “elected statesmen—American no less than from countries we aren’t so fond of—are no less prone to pull the trigger on killing with exact justifications based in the soundest moral arguments. We glance away nervously and mutter about exceptions. What if the exceptions are the rule?” And then he leaves us with a warning: The good guys are the bad guys. Teaching your children to do the right thing can get people killed.”

More than half-a-century ago, Jung identified our own Shadow to be the source for the problem: we never pay attention to our own flaws, to the spiderwebs in our own closets – this is a wink to those who are into psychology.

To those into religion, the Bible says: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” But maybe we pick in our religions the stuff that suits us and dispose of the rest??  Cause “there is nothing wrong about it, God would never see it anyway, if we hide it well”… or so we’d like to believe. But God, whoever, whatever this is, is not much into any spying system – it is our own soul that cannot bear hypocrisy, lying, finger-pointing, wrong-doing… because human soul has this property, it always wants to be neat and clean. Rather than being saintly, the soul would want things to be honest and straight.

So, who and what am I, the good, or the bad one?? I am the two – and seeing this is my utmost, foremost “soul assignment” in this life: seeing the log in my own eye. It is just that – but it’s so hard.

I have been watching the fear, the hatred, the suspicions, the accusations and incrimination at the coming of the Syrian and Afghan refugees in Europe and in the States. Not all of them are good people. Not all of them are genuine refugees. But the biggest majority are.

But meanwhile, for who knows, maybe 0,0001 % of the infiltrated bad ones, Europe is radicalizing its policies, all like the US: we may be testimonies to the process of electing an American president not because he may be the best man for the job, but because he is the one most skilled at scaring the frightened child inside us.

shadow Jung

There has been another president before who declared a new “Crusade War” to the Middle East. And he didn’t hesitate, he went for it: what we are living now is just the aftermath. If a new president will follow in his footsteps, we are going to live a new edition, the “Crusade War Two”.

And, the aftermath to that…?? The aftermath to that wold be total Chaos, if this one we are living now was not enough.

Finally, rather than deliberating whether “They are good” or “They are bad”,  a change of pronoun may help enormously: “I am good” or “I am bad”.

The Bible didn’t say: “see the log in your eye” and mend it. Just seeing, becoming aware of it would be equal to fixing it and accepting that”I am good” and “I am bad”. Maybe if I see my own dark corners I won’t be that ready to throw stones at another fellow human being?

 

 

Deppression: Chaos In and Out – “Have You Lost Your Mind??” “No, I Have Only Now Recovered It”- The Role that Chaos Is Playing in Our Lives

 Depression, Why Are You Coming Into My Life?

                                             Why Me, Depression? Are you here to harm me??

follow the path of your heartDuring years 2000 and 2007 (more or less) I was grappling with shadows in the depths of depression; at the time I didn’t know what depression was, I didn’t see any psychoanalyst and I was convinced that That Was It, I mean, the end of me.

Maybe the worst part of it was that nothing made any sense; I had no idea what, and why all this was happening to me. From the perspective I have now on things, I realize that my depression was in fact the outcome of a powerful inner struggle for clarity and self-knowledge, fueled by my gasping for outside validation, acceptance and acknowledgment; in short, I wasn’t quite “fitting in”, neither in my own vision of myself, nor in the outsiders’ view.

But why would anything like this happen to anyone? Is it a downgrading of the personality? Is it a disease – and if so, what is there that it’s sick, the mind … the brain? The soul? Is it a heavenly punishment for nobody knows what personal, or “original sin”, ancestral mistake of our fathers’ fathers – good to know in case you are a believer??

If religion would attribute all our ills and evils to some sinful nature (see “original sin”), scientists still grapple in the dark. One evolutionary theory attributes the finality of depression to nature’s programs: to help select or restructure next generations’ DNA for better adaptive features – not unlike Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”(*see: Fumagalli, M. et alSignatures of environmental genetic adaptation pinpoint pathogens as the main selective pressure through human evolution: http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1002355).

But then, view that countless people have come out of it without the use of medication, what are the mechanisms in and out of depression ?

We are “social animals”. In my own case, depression wasn’t triggered either by my own feelings of inadequacy alone, or by the image which outsiders, I thought, may have held of me, but it was rather a combination of the two, in a closed loop of cause and effect. Whether everyone with depression is aware of this one mechanism or not, it is always true that our inner picture reflects what others project on us, and the outer picture – the one that others form of us, is itself a mirror of how we see ourselves.

And this yet would be an oversimplification, as it shows just a short segment of our cause-and-effect type of reality.  Whatever we feel that we are at any point in life is just a construct that we make based on all our previous lived experiences.

Daniel Kahneman (https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory/transcript?language=en) has successfully argued on how our self-image is not  made of objective memories, but it is, in fact, our subjective interpretation of those experiences.

It could be that, back in my childhood, my mother didn’t give me that last pancake,  but gave it to my little brother because she had nothing else left to feed him, while I was supposed to go have my breakfast at the school cafeteria – meaning not at all that my mother stopped loving me and gave all of her love to the newest baby (yea, I agree, too many times mothers do fall into that ancient mammalian instinct of  shunning the older baby so that she can provide for the new, helpless one).

It is also true that lots of people fall into depression unexpectedly, unable to see any possible reason that may justify all that terrible fall into darkness. Midlife crisis, if one didn’t know depression before, is sure to come and shake all the solid ground on which an individual has carefully built his whole personality. It is so unavoidable that it is lately seen just as a normal, necessary period of transition from youth’s folly to the appeasement of mature age. If so, why not embrace it?

 

Midlife Crisis – Time for Transition

                              When things get stale, when you start growing mold on your soul, it is time for change – want it or not, chaos will come.

the hero's journeyThey say that depression is often triggered by the midlife crisis, that creeps into your life always unexpected, and, surely, uninvited. I believe in that; I am the active type, the one that looks for and accepts challenges, so I was struggling at the time to achieve more, do more and conquer yet other peaks and heights. It is then that we quit our job impulsively, quit a long-loved spouse, decide to leave everything behind to start a new life, go battle own demons, etc, etc… .

In our quest for happiness we all start from the false premises that this or that thing or achievement will make us happy – we never seem to realize how fast after the realization of our goal, it almost suddenly loses its initial appeal and significance. Or, if we do, we don’t seem to care, because we immediately start aiming for a new one, just to keep going, in a perpetual “chasing the carrot” type of journey.

It’s been established as a routine fact that, at some point in life, the questions begin pounding with ever more persistence: “What is the meaning of it all??”, “Who am I, and what am I doing here?” If all this wasn’t already hard enough for those with faith, it is way harder to get your answers when you are traveling on your own, when there’s no God in sight to agent it, to guide or to support you.

When this happened to me, I didn’t know of any symptom questions or routine signs – I fell in it totally, blindly – I was trying to make myself a place and find recognition inside a culture that was not mine, among people that would perceive me, at least unconsciously, that I didn’t belong – but don’t we all do that to our own “strangers”??

I now recognize how I just fitted perfectly in the pattern: after having been teaching at the same school for nine years, I suddenly decided to quit, on the spur of the moment (sudden bouts of anger are my driving engine), realizing that the school owner and principal would never keep promises and would never allow me to move forward.

Leave the safety of a relatively easy, unchallenging job, for God knows what new challenges must have sounded stupid, I know. It was an especially risky move on my part, due to the unfavorable time and place, inside a culture that was not mine, and not particularly open to foreigners, particularly to those coming from the eastern, ex-communist bloc. Some people around me rightfully asked: “Have you lost your mind??”

That was the step of a Fool, I acknowledge.

 

The Fool – That I Was, And Still Hope to Remain 

Be a Fool – it’s not dangerous: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

I had no idea of arcanas, fools and journeys at the time – far less of archetypes playing defining roles into our lives. My mindset at the time was as aligned to the mainstream as possible: within the “right” materialist-scientific worldview no “esoteric” or “obscure mysteries” could enter my impermeable mind.

But if I choose today to speak with quasi authority on the field of Tarot is my encounter (through his work, at least) with a cutting-edge physicist and specialist in System Sciences. In his book, Genesis of The Cosmos – The Ancient Science of Continuous Creation, PhD Paul La Violette finds amazing parallels between ancient Egypt history, ancient myths and system sciences.

Through his book he is guiding the reader into the realization that some cutting edge scientific principles reflect ancient knowledge kept hidden for eras as utmost spiritual truth – the most guarded occult mysteries. For the first time, due my previous familiarity with the history of religions and compared mythology, I sensed how ancient myths and symbols began glittering with their own light. Could it be that, what mainstream science used to see as “mystical, supernatural, magical powers, practices, or phenomena”, can enter the domain of scientific theory, due to 21st century advances in scientific discovery ?

I was already knowledgeable in the domain of ancient, compared religions and mythology, but the idea never crossed my mind that all those things could be something more than gibberish, not worthy to be told even to little children – I got them just as required studies. But I was in to learn much more: that general, universal truths have been coded and preserved, in the intention of those advanced enough as to grasp, seize and understand an unfathomed, advanced view on the true reality.

Truths are being hidden, suggested or disguised in the allegories and the metaphors of ancient texts, myths, stories, rituals, and none of these had any chance of being scarcely understood before the 20th century advances in quantum physics and mechanics, before the advent of chaos – catastrophe theory and system sciences.

In the Tarot system the Fool is the protagonist of a story that is right about to begin, and as such, it is the zero-point card of the Major Arcana (from here the arcane: known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret; obscure; esoteric”), a number of 21 cards, or images representing human archetypes or instances along a schematic, spiritual journey,  “the path to spiritual awareness”. The cards mark, or depict, “the various stages we encounter as we search for greater meaning and understanding” along our own journey.

Unknowingly, the path I just initiated was marked by the Fool, and my journey ahead, designated in Tarot language as the “Fool’s Journey”, was to be a journey of discovery and initiation.  The Fool

The journey is guided by the main human archetypes (Gr: archein, “original or old”; and typos, “pattern, model or type”) that will pop up at diverse stages through dreams or other means. They may stand for real people and real-life events that will prompt you to the next stage or the next leg of the journey, or they may only appear as symbols signaled by the unconscious – or both.

Looking back at that point in time I can realize with no difficulty that my journey effectively started exactly as described by the “Fool” card: I actually was at a turning point in my life, eager for the next stage of the journey, and, while my foot was already in the air, ready to step forward, I was totally unaware that I was on the edge of a cliff, and that the next step was going to be in the void.

What I find most intriguing is that, this process being autonomous, while it is happening to us, we are never aware of what is going on – or, at least, not consciously aware – maybe we are too engulfed into our suffering and existential pain (and who could blame us?), which renders us incapable of objectivity. We lack the necessary distance and detachment, unable to grasp the bigger picture.

From the perspective that the passage of time allows me, I can also say, although I am against the clichés and the overly used chunks of wisdom:”What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

I am not writing this to describe the journey, but to introduce the “transformation archetype”, the one that Jung rightfully considered the major archetype that dominates our lives.

 

The Individuation Journey – The Journey of A Lifetime

    Absorbed into the transformation archetype we are  jumping into the dangerous void of our own insecurities, the realm where our demons dwell. But demons always hide the treasure of our own greatest potential.

the individuation processWe are all, at least once, if not repeatedly, on the point of starting a new journey: leaving home for continuing own education, marriage, a change in the workplace or a new job altogether, a major change of the living place to a new city or country, a newly declared, life-threatening medical condition, a divorce, or the loss of a dear one.  Whatever the reason, at some point in life we are about to change our previous worldview and previous identity – our approach to life altogether.

One thing, increasingly common to these times, is that Crisis and Chaos comes with the destructiveness of  a tornado that, once has you lifted, whirling and swirling in the void, won’t let you down until it has shattered all your previous assumptions and identifications.

But when it lets you down, you are a new you, a self-contained, stand-alone individual, capable of existing by oneself and through oneself, free from the need to please others, to follow others, to conform and comply; you finally get to be “the real you”, and be fine with it.

Under this new light, the imperative “know thyself” is not a witty, catchy phrase to enchant the ears of generations of theater-goers; it has as deep a meaning as can be.  At the other end of the self-interrogation “Who am I?”, “Know thyself!” has been the highest imperative along ages, known to all those who wanted to grasp the meaning of their life. Starting at least as far back as with the ancient Eastern philosophies, it was known to Socrates and Plato, to Shakespeare, and to modern psychology today.

Swiss psychiatrist and depth psychoanalyst C.G. Jung coined the term “individuation journey” for this journey of finding oneself, the journey of transcending the Ego towards finding one’s own center, the Self.

Jung: individuation process: a journey of personal achievement guided by myth, archetypes and symbols that aim at achieving balance between the person’s conscious and personal unconscious; the journey is figured as a spiral movement towards a center, the center of one’s personality. The journey aims at delivering the person towards its final destiny that can be plenitude and a religious integration” (Andrew Colman’s Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford)

I have found a few excerpts about Jung’s individuation on the net that I’d like to share – these are from mindstructures.com (October 07, 2012):

“According to Jungian psychology, individuation is the process of transforming one’s psyche by bringing the personal and collective unconscious into conscious.

  • Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically.
  • Individuation is a process of psychological differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality. In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.
  • Besides achieving physical and mental health, people who have advanced towards individuation, they tend to become harmonious, mature, responsible, they promote freedom and justice and have a good understanding about the workings of human nature and the universe.”

So, from the perspective that the passage of time is offering us, chaos and crisis in our lives may serve us well – could it be that it also takes us closer to finding the meaning, to the fulfillment and the scope of our lives??

dragon treasureThis will be the subject for my next post.