Ouroborus Dreams

Hierophany and Panpsychism

Hierophany is a term for manifestation of the divine. It is a broader term than the more familiar term, theophany, because it allows non-personal forms of the divine to become manifest. The term was popularized by the noted scholar of comparative religion, Mircea Eliade (1907–1986). https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-0-387-71802-6_300

In Eliade’s (1978) hierophany the objects in the natural world exist also as manifestations of the sacred/divine world while always remaining profane. Equally, what is sacred remains divine even when limited by its manifestation in the perceivable realm. He says of Nature, “It is not only ‘alive’, it is also ‘divine’,” going on to add that the divinity is perhaps an aspect or feature (p. 171). This creates a paradox through which human consciousness may endeavor to create union, in the self as well as between the self and nature. Von Franz (2014) gives an example when she discusses the “Egyptian techno-magic” of preparing the dead (p.165). When the priests are handling the god-making materials, the materials hold the sacred which is in turn being held by them. Carl Jung (1970-1955) said of this dialectic, “the alchemistical philosophers made the opposites and their union one of the chief objects of their work” (p. 15) and patterned his theories about individuation around the same move. For Jung the work remains in the inner world primarily. Although, he encourages engagement in the natural and creative realms as catalysts for the inner alchemical transformations.

     Hierophany is a kind of precursor to panpsychism/panprotopsychism. In the former, the understanding is that “fundamental entities” are conscious and in the latter that entities have “precursors to consciousness” (Chalmers, 2013, p. 1-2). These protoconscious entities can collectively be conscious as a mass/group. Chalmers (2013) promotes panpsychism as the synthesis of materialism, all consciousness is a result of the physical, and dualism, some things are physical and others are mental and conscious. It is reminiscent of hierophanic thought, things are profane (physical) and things are divine (mental) and each limit the other while existing simultaneously. Panpsychism doesn’t go as far as hierophany but has an alchemical undercurrent I didn’t notice before this week’s readings.

Chalmers, D. (2013). Panpsychism and panprotopsychism. Paper presented at the Amherst Lecture in Philosophy, Amherst, MA. 1-32. Retrieved from http://consc.net/papers/panpsychism.pdf

Eliade, M. (1978). The forge and the crucible. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jung, C. G. (1970). The collected works of C. G. Jung: Vol. 14. Mysterium coniunctionis (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (H. Read et al., Eds.). Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1955-56) https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400850853

von Franz, M. L. (2014). Psyche and matter. Boston: Shambala Publications, Inc.

Not everything should be born

Recently, my imagination was captured by Kerenyi’s (2016/1951) Nemesis, relentlessly pursued then raped by Zeus after which she lay an egg and immediately deserted it in the woods. Her aspects unfolded for me. Nemesis is the goddess of righteous anger when nature’s order is violated (including the nature of the psyche). She’s also the retribution for hubris, or arrogance against the gods (Atsma, 2017). Zeus, in his egoic pursuit of his individual desires, commits hubris against the goddess herself with fearsome consequences. The goddess becomes pregnant from her violation and lays an egg, which she leaves the egg to rot. From the egg which is rescued by Leda, a monstrous beauty, epically destructive and expansive, is born, Helen of Troy.
In life, we are sometimes forced into something we aren’t yet ready for, are incapable of mothering, or which should not be given life through our labors. There are also cases of giving birth to things the soul does not want or can’t handle. In more than one counseling session, I’ve had clients want to move directly to “fixing the problem” before getting to know their symptoms, emotions, relationship to it, etc.
As I was processing these thoughts this week, I found an interview by Daniela Sieff (2009) with Marion Woodman about the death mother and how she kills the imagination, among other aspects. This too applies to Nemesis. When an egg is fertilized, it will not begin to develop unless kept warm under its mother. It ceases to even begin to imagine itself and the necessary change it often brings.
The reluctant/death mother can serve a life-affirming purpose by not always giving the ego what it wants, and staving off future disaster, but also a life-denying purpose by stifling the imaginative powers of psyche as it fertilizes the fundament in preparation for necessary change.

Atsma, A. J. (2017). Nemesis. Retrieved from https://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Nemesis.html
Kerenyi, K. (2016). Gods of the Greeks (Kindle ed.). Aukland: Pickle Partners Publishing. (Original manuscript published 1951)
Sieff, D. (2009). Confronting death mother: And interveiw with Marion Woodman. Spring, 81, 177-199.

Leaving Eden

A hallmark of Eden is that it doesn’t change.  When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, it wasn’t Eden that changed, but them.  Innocence is not an eternal condition and time brings innocence into direct conflict with the realities of life.  This is the real inescapable foe, time and the psychological changes it brings with it.

In the hundred-acre wood, Winne the Pooh and his friends and neighbors live in a timeless sort of Eden.  It is the memory of childhood as an idyllic community outside of the passage of time.  It’s this aspect of Edenic literature, which Milne captures so well.  Yet, it’s the leaving of Eden that creates its immortality in our hearts, the break from the innocence creates the longing, and in Pooh this leaving is handled in an idyllic manner where the relationship between Christopher Robin and Pooh remains valued without diminishing the necessity of the parting.

Without the parting, Eden becomes a trap or a prison. Milne became trapped by the Eden he created, typecast as a children’s author, as did his son who the public refused to allow to grow up in the way the fictional Robin did (McGavran, 1998, p. 190).  So too does the desire to recreate an Edenic place in the world, to deny the loss of innocence, create the conditions for imprisonment of the psyche and an unwillingness to grow.

McGavran, J. H. (Ed.). (1998). Literature and the child: Romantic continuations, postmodern contestations. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Confrontation and Compassion: (Bound by Nature Part 2)


Our culture is bound by a complex of narcissism which has become, as Shalit (2002) described in the story of Odysseus, “a raging complex that has settled in the “ego-state” (p. 67) or as Jacobi (1959) states the complex is so swollen with energy it has “become the ruler in the house of the conscious ego” (p. 15). Just as Prometheus is bound and suffering but unable to free himself, we too need a hero that “represents the psychological capacity to respond to a call to go forth from the conventions of the ego and redeem a treasure that lies dormant” (Shalit, 2002, p. 46).
Prometheus is freed by a human, Heracles, who is not entirely human since he’s also the son of Zeus. Herein lies the balm for the traumatized soul of our culture. When we lose sight of our own divine nature, forget that there is more to us than blood and bones, we become fearful, terrified of death and life’s meaninglessness. The ego, to protect itself, swells its own importance to gigantic proportions giving permission for all manner of sins in the acquisition of what it thinks will provide meaning. Kalsched (1996) says, “if the patient’s traumatized ego is to be coaxed out of its inner sanctum and inspired to trust the world again, a middle way will have to be found between compassion and confrontation” (p. 40). There seems to be plenty of confrontation on social media, in the news, but this alone is not healing the lonely and fearful element of our culture. Bringing the compassion of Hercules for Prometheus, to the rock on which we are bound, the part that is laboring toward his own divinity, may help offset the confrontational aspect already in play, politically and socially. Nonetheless, until we again find the meaning of our own divine natures, the fear of our own loneliness and insignificance will continue.

Jacobi, J. S., & Manheim, R. (1959). Complex: Archetype : symbol in the psichology of C.G. Jung. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Kalsched, D. (1996). The inner world of trauma: Archetypal defences of the personal spirit. London: Routledge.
Shalit, E. (2002). The complex: Path of transformation from archetype to ego. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Bound by Nature (Part One)


I was going to write something else, until I read the news this morning and saw the President considering firing Dr. Fauci, and the eagerness for it by his supporters. Our self-annointed King, and his followers, seek to strike at the bearer of our most educated and careful guidance in the face of a goddess-like aspect of nature of dis-ease. Erisichthon was also known by the name Aethon, which means burning or blazing. To burn so hot with your own supremacy, a kind of narcissism that suffers deeply from its equally weak ego, leaves a person, a leader, a country in its grips never satisfied with a thing well or soberly done. This sense of self first pervades our culture. Convincing us to stay home to protect others from the virus was met with many protestations that the economy comes before the old and infirm.

At the core of this complex, is the titan Prometheus, who stole from the Gods what didn’t belong to humans by right. Glen Slater (1998), when speaking of the Promethean nature says, “We forget that Promethean abandon can lead to an incarnation of gigantism, which then calls forth a corresponding binding” (p. 112). Our most current and pressing attitude of Titanism is that of man’s superiority over nature, Demeter herself and the longer we assert our rights above those of the goddess, the longer we are bound in our homes. Jung (1969/1936) says, “Western man has no need of more superiority over nature, whether outside or inside. He has both in almost devilish perfection. What he lacks is conscious recognition of his inferiority to the nature around and within him. He must learn that he may not do exactly as he wills. If he does not learn this, his own nature will destroy him” (CW11, p. 535).

Jung, C. G. (1969). Yoga and the West (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 11, 2nd ed.). Retrieved from http://www.proquest.com (Original work published 1936)

Slater, G. (1998). Re-sink the Titanic. Spring, 62, pp. 104-120.

Loss of meaning and I-Thou

The loss of meaning is the loss of relationship, with ourselves, with others, with the world at large. In the early twentieth century, Martin Buber wrote about the ways in which humans interact with their existence. The I-and-It inclination treats everything as an object, including our own person, which can be used in some manner and/or is a sensory experience. The I-and-Thou mindset sees the interconnection of all things because there are no divisions of consequence. This was called to mind while I pondered this question. To have a symbolic perspective is to be in relationship with the thou and to lose it is to be cut off from that relationship, to be deprived of relationship with the self and in turn with everything around the self. Detached from this and we become unmoored from meaning and the experience of life is more difficult to bear.
Our age is one which lists, catalogs, and describes things, even the processes of our inner worlds, as separate and distinct and treat symbols as the excess material dumped into daydreams and nightdreams to clear the way for consciousness. This attitude leads us culturally to regard the earth not as a mother who nurtures and sustains us, and to which we are duty-bound to love and protect, but as an object over which we have dominion and can utilize until all its resources are stripped. The results of this unfortunate loss of symbolic perspective created an increasingly toxic environment. The loss of meaning via the loss of the symbol is evinced in an actual loss of habitability. In the end, an I-and-Thou relationship with nature, summoned by a return to the soul of nature, will reconnect us to our indivisibility from it and back, again, to ourselves.

Anthropos complex and the Freud/Jung split

An Anthropos complex, the over-identification with being human and grasping at legacy as immortality, was involved in the Freud/Jung relationship/split.
Purusa, a god/pure mind, was sacrificed/dismembered by the other gods to create the material world, including humans (Rig Veda 10.90). “Man is both the victim that the gods sacrificed and the divinity to whom the sacrifice was dedicated — that is, he is both the subject and the object of the sacrifice” (Doniger, p. 177). Anthropos means the collective soul rather than the individual person but when we over-identify with being an individual human/soul, we become obsessed with creating a legacy (a pithy tweet, an artwork, a psychological theory), hoarding the sacrifice. Creating hurts; We slice off a piece of ourselves as an offering to the world. Once created, it is no longer a part of us, but something with its own life and destiny to fulfill. The Anthropos complex leads to grasping at our creations, believing they are still ours, extensions of us. This tentativeness to release the creation from our legacy leads to an incompleteness which remains a primal wound because it limits its, and our, growth.
Freud/Jung spoke about their ideas as “precious stones” (Bair, p. 210), “unconditional devotion” (Freud, p. 32), and things to always be looked after (Bair, p. 211) showing they struggled to let go of their creations. Equally their tendency to personally attack each other as a means of critiquing/defending the ideas indicates the inability to separate creator from creation (Shamdasani, p. 52). When Jung writes part two of Transformations Bair says it was traumatic because, “he thought it must have corresponded to how the archetypes spoke” (p. 224), and “he was compelled to write it down as he heard it spoken to him” (p. 225). The break comes after Jung experiences this de-anthropomorphizing of himself, and begins learning, as the Veda reminds us, of the one-ness of all created things, “All creatures are one-fourth of him, three-fourths eternal life in heaven” (Rig Veda 10.90).

Bair, D. (2003). Jung: A biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.

Doniger, Wendy. (2009). The Hindus: an alternative history. New York: Penguin Press

Freud, S., Jung, C. G., & McGuire, W. (Ed.). (1974). The Freud/Jung letters: The correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung (R. Manheim & R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Harvard University Press.

Shamdasani, S. (2003). Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511490095

Loving our beautiful mess

Learning to love the messiness of myself, the shadowy parts, the complexes, my noisy unconscious, is crucial to my individuation process and is the most effective thing I do for that aim. It means I have to acknowledge the beauty of the thing within exactly as it is in order to accept and love it. Hoffman (2014) wrote, “It is the heart that beauty engages, and in the heart intellect is protected from intellectualism and will is protected from moralism, because beauty gives heart to the intellect so it can become wisdom, and beauty gives heart to the will so that it can become love” (pg.58). It’s not easy, but I can always tell when it’s happened because I can feel the shift. I feel it psychologically and in my body. My gaze softens, my breath deepens my thoughts loosen, and compassion begins to flow. The messiness is still there, but my relationship with it has changed and seeing its beauty allows the wisdom and love Hoffman talks about to aid those parts toward more conscious actualization.
I find it relies on seeing past the temporary mask it wears and into its beautiful nature and therefore my own. Acknowledging the beauty, turning toward love, always feels like becoming more myself. Jung says, “the more numerous and the more significant the unconscious contents which are assimilated to the ego, the closer the approximation of the ego to the self, even though this approximation must be a never-ending process” (CW. 9 part 2, para 44). Two things are crucial in that sentence. First, approximation means the ego and the Self become more similar in values but they are not equal to one another. Rather they are true to its Latin root of proximus and very near. The second is the process has no end. If we think we’ve done “it”, we are in danger.

Dylan Hoffman (2014) Becoming Beautiful: The Aesthetics of Individuation, Psychological Perspectives: A Quarterly Journal of Jungian Thought, 57:1, 50-64

Jung, C. G. (1979). The self (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Series Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 9 pt. 2, 2nd. ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1959)

The story we tell with our mouths shut: Personifying and ensouling psyche

Personifying permits us to loosen our tightly held grasp on life. We enter into a relationship with soul instead of an autocracy and this allows us to soften our response to the movements of psyche. Hillman (1992/1975) called the insistence of personal soul alone a “personalistic fallacy” (p.49) where we believe we have ownership of the events of psyche, the symptoms and rumblings. When psyche stops being personal and becomes personified, we become present to the metaphorical nature of it and its expressions.
In their book Metaphors We Live By, Lackoff and Johnson (2003/1980) say, “Love is not love without metaphors of magic, attraction, madness, union, nurturance, and so on” (p. 272). What personifying helps us do is notice the metaphors we assume and find the ones psyche desperately needs us to embrace. The archetypal persons of the imaginal aren’t conceptual but experiential, and personifying invites us to the task of experiencing life.
Hillman’s (2015/1992) reintroduction of the heart as a sensing and thinking organ, where “events of the heart may be conceived as philosophic” and imaginal, is a personification away from the “personalistic fiction” of Moore (1996, p. 27). Then the matters of heart are mythic and we find “the story we tell when our mouths are shut” (Moore, 1996, p. 24). The sense-experience of soul being lived through us ensouls everything and, as Moore suggests, we can “live in a mythic, animated (imagination-filled) world where everything is sacred, where angels appear unexpectantly and in many guises and where devils make it all interesting and complicated” (p. 27).

Hillman, J. (1992). Revisioning psychology. New York: HarperCollins. (Original work published 1975)
Hillman, J. (2015). In McLean M. (Ed.), The thought of the heart and the soul of the world. Thompson,
CT: Spring. (Original work published 1992)
Lackoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Original work published 1980)
Moore, T. (1996). Developing a mythic sensibility. Sphinx. London, England.

#MeToo and Kali

Kali was born from the forehead of the Devi Durga, created from the rage of a goddess in danger of abduction and rape. She is fearsome to behold, emaciated and wild eyed with a sky-shaking roar, ready to devour everything. The hubris of Asura Sumbha, and those who aid him, begin a war they lose, along with their heads (Cartwright, 2013).
Divine rage currently grips our nation. A rage fueled by the hubris of power and born from the bodies of survivors of sexual assault. Millions of Kali filled the streets of our major cities after the election of a self-confessed perpetrator to the Presidency. Thousands packed the hallways, offices, and elevators of the Senate during the Kavannaugh hearings. Heads have rolled. Heads of studios, industry and politics felt the Kali’s blade descend upon their necks, bewildered by the rise of a nemesis to their long-standing hubris.
Kali is only brought relief by the sacrifice Shiva makes by being fully present to her anger, “performing a symbolic mood of death” (Jung, 1964, pg. 112). He represents the necessity of individuation to listen to a victim’s rage without minimizing, justifying, soothing, or naming it something else. Assured of his own ego strength he feels her anger without being overwhelmed, “beyond the reach of emotional entanglements and violent shocks – a consciousness detached from the world” (Jung, 2013, 229). He understands his own ability to harm others with his power and therefore his shadow does not control his actions. Instead the individuated person understands the power in the shadow can be used for good and he “must come to terms with its destructive powers . . . before the ego can triumph” (Jung, 1964, pg. 124). He doesn’t subdue her with shadow power, but instead with his integration. Those same qualities of individuated life act as an impediment to the misuse of power in sexual assault.

Cartwright, M. (2013, June 21). Kali. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Kali/
Jung, C. G. (2013). The essential Jung. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. G. (1964). Man and his symbols. New York, NY: Dell Publishing.