Note: Reviews below are culled from the pages of The Newsletter of The C.G. Jung Society of Montreal as an educational service to the public. Copyright belongs to the authors and should be respected as such.
Marion Woodman, The Pregnant Virgin
The following is an excerpt of a book review that was written recently in our Jung Society newsletter. To read the rest of this review, please inquire about a membership.
The Self-Esteem Trap:
Raising Confident And Compassionate Kids In An Age Of Self-Importance
New York, Little Brown, 2008, 248 pp.
This book is rich in wisdom, replete with psychological research, and based on a strong foundation of years of experience by a most extraordinary Jungian. Polly Young-Eisendrath has written a book for all of us who have wondered about the generation of young adults, now in their twenties and thirties, who seem to take a very long time to grow up, that is, accept their career paths or choose a life partner or, more importantly, become authentic members of our communities. The book is addressed to both the older generation who may be scratching their heads trying to make sense of what is going on (because, after all, didn’t they give their children everything to ensure their success?), as well as to the younger generation who feels lost, depressed, and anxious.
Dr. Young-Eisendrath instructs us that we are all caught in a self-esteem trap. Born in the late 60’s and 70’s, the GenMe or GenX have been idealized by their Boomer parents, who have repeatedly told them that they are special, that opportunities will open up for them. However
(the) trouble with being special is that it … promotes excessive self-consciousness, isolation, and relentless self-criticism.” (p. 7)
Obsessive self-focus, restless dissatisfaction, pressures to be exceptional, unreadiness to take on adult responsibilities, feelings of superiority (or inferiority) and excessive fears of being humiliated are the pervasive symptoms of the self-esteem trap. (p. 21)
Volume 28, # 7, March, 2002
The Psychology of Mature Spirituality
Polly Young-Eisendrath and Melvin Miller, Eds.,
London, Routledge, 2000, 200 pps.
Several years ago during a workshop held by our society on Abraham the Father, the Jungian analyst Henry Abramovitch made an interesting comment. He stated that he often encountered people whose image of God was that of a very old man with a very long beard, insinuating that their sense of God and spirituality had never really developed beyond childhood. The Psychology of Mature Spirituality consists of a collection of essays addressing the concept of spiritual meaning beyond the perspective of the child, that is, as it is experienced in its full maturity. The various contributors to this book offer some interesting answers to the question of how we can be spiritual in these post- modern, post-theistic times.
The book is divided into three major sections related to the major components of mature spirituality: integrity, wisdom and transcendence. Introducing the first section, Jungian analyst John Beebe describes integrity as an individual’s accountability. He finds the Jungian ideal of individuation as “personality in a continuous state of consciousness” to be an impossibility. He asserts that the total personality cannot be individuated; rather what becomes individuated is the willingness of the person to face his/her total personality including the shadowy parts.
[It is] not the particular character flaw that a hero (person) may possess, but rather the attitude toward it that matters. There seems to be something especially attractive, spiritually speaking, about owning of the parts of oneself that do not fit the usual gestalt of one’s moral identity.
The highest level of integrity is realizing our connection to all others on this planet, seeing all as part of a larger whole, that is, “the capacity to recognize the spirit of God in experience that is unexpectedly meaningful and to celebrate that experience by uniting the world.” Other chapters in this section include an entertaining story about the Buddha and his shadowy cousin Devadatta, by Richard Hayes, associate professor of religion at McGill University and a chapter by Demaris S. Wehr, professor of religion and Jungian psychotherapist, who speaks about her own experience of being spiritually abused by a healer and describes the effects of such abuse on the individual.
Sherry Salman, Jungian training analyst in New York City, begins the section on wisdom. She describes Jungian analysis as having many of its philosophical and spiritual roots in the wisdom path of the Western mystery tradition, which “emphasizes a sustained regression into the unconscious for the purposes of individual and collective spiritual transformation.” The unconscious embodies wisdom because it is “the seat of deepest levels of information processing in the service of developing better ways in which to meet the future,” and because “it partakes of the ‘two-million-year-old-person’ reaching backwards to the instinctual, genetically hard-wired codes that make up a human being, hailing from the ancient plains of the African savannah or from present-day New York City.” Amor fati, the love of one’s fate, is also part of wisdom. It is our ability to be creatively involved with what life offers us with all its conflicts. Other chapters in this section include a thoughtful essay on relationship as a path to attaining wisdom by psychology professor Ruthellen Josselson and a chapter comparing and contrasting the theories of Jung, Erikson and Maslow by David Rosen and Ellen M. Crouse.
Up to this point in the book, one could question how spiritual maturity differs from psychological maturity. Integrity, after all, was conceptualized by Erik Erikson as the eighth and final stage of psychosocial development and wisdom was proposed as the basic virtue accompanying that stage.
It is in the final section of the book, on transcendence, that spirituality is most highlighted. This section begins with an insightful essay by the co-editor, Jungian analyst Polly Young-Eisendrath entitled “Psychotherapy as Ordinary Transcendence.” The author describes transcendence not as a New Age, otherworldly experience but rather as something inhabiting everyday life. For example it can occur in the moments of connectedness and realization of interdependence that can be felt in the psychotherapy consulting room. It can be experienced in the idealizing transference which awakens “spiritual yearnings in the patient—yearnings for compassion and wisdom.” These longings can also be for the transcendent function which can help the patient discover a third personality, a new element which resolves a conflict in which he/she has been embroiled.
In this book transcendence is presented in its horizontal dimension as opposed to the usual vertical one. This is most clearly outlined in the excellent chapter entitled “Green Spirituality” by Michael C. Kallen, director of the Liberal Arts Program at the University of Washington. He writes of “ecosystemic interdependence,” which does not view human beings as the pinnacle of evolution because of evolved brain capacity. Rather, he takes the stance that human beings are just part of the great community of life. In a horizontally framed spirituality, “the question of belonging acquires a newmeaning. We exist always and only enmeshed in the relational reality of surroundings and situation.” Nature becomes sacred and transcendence is premised on life rather than the evolution of mind. In this view we transcend our little egos, become part of it all, and pay homage to all our relations, that is, all sentient and insentient beings, in the Native American sense.
This thought-provoking book offers an important contribution to the understanding of spiritual maturity. It is not an easy read however. Some chapters such as the one on authenticity and integrity from a Heideggerien approach can be intellectually challenging. The book is definitely not a “how-to” manual. It offers few suggestions on how to achieve the qualities of wisdom, integrity and transcendence except perhaps through depth psychotherapy. As well, its emphatic psychological bias precludes discussion of spiritual practices such as meditation. There is only passing mention of compassion as a significant aspect of mature spirituality, although one can argue that compassion is implicit in discussions of embracing cast-off parts of ourselves and connecting deeply to others. In any case, this volume is a most enlightening contribution to our understanding of the psychological dimensions of mature spirituality. I highly recommend it.
Jung and Yoga: The Psyche-Body Connection
Inner City Books, Toronto, 2001, 158 pp.
Judith Harris, a Jungian analyst who is also a yoga practitioner, believes that at this time in our society, it is essential that we begin to pay attention to our bodies. She sees considerable connection between Jungian analysis and yoga, since both attempt to merge upper and lower, feminine and masculine through the union of opposites.
Hatha yoga, the type she practices, aims to develop the body into a strong yet flexible container that is able to hold the immense power of the spirit. “We often think that ecstatic, spiritual states only take place in the mind. As a matter of fact, however, mystical states can have a profound effect on the body, especially on the nervous system.” It is through the body, Harris thinks, that one must first connect to reality before one can ascend to higher states of consciousness.
The sacrum, the large bone at the base of the spine, connects the upper to the lower body. It is the first bone to form in the developing embryo, and the last to be burned in cremation of a body. Harris equates it to the white herb of alchemy, which can raise a mortal to the realm of the immortals. The whiteness of the herb represents the possibility of new life. It has also been considered a holy bone for centuries because it is the resting place of the eternal bone, the fifth lumbar vertabra, Harris notes.
Jung recognized that the back of a person represents the unconscious, since we have no eyes in back. Harris states that the time has come to begin to make what is behind
conscious. “If we look around us for a moment we will find people everywhere with back problems; we live a one- sided life when we neglect the back and the spine. We must undertake the immense task of connecting the dream world to the world of bodily reality…What is meant by neglecting the spine is that it becomes dangerous solely by virtue of the fact that it has been neglected.” This neglect of the spine, which Harris equates with rootlessness, can surface in physical trouble with the back or psychic problems such as fear and anxiety.
In her practice with patients, Harris often combines body work with Jungian analysis and gives several examples of cases where it has helped the patient. One was a young woman who was suffering from a terrible skin disorder and dreamed of becoming a bird. Her desire to be a bird symbolized her lack of rootedness in physical life and lack of connection to the feminine. Through body work and analysis, she was able to overcome her skin disorder and begin to heal her psyche.
Another patient came to Harris already bent over and beginning to suffer from osteoporosis at only thirty-eight. Harris diagnosed her as suffering from a negative animus possession. “She had literally been weighed down by life, the constant pressure to meet the expectations of others.” By working slowly, she was able to start to relax her spine and gain some access to movement and spontaneity.
Although Harris does not herself practice Kundalini yoga, she devotes two chapters of her book to it. She claims that “the path of Kundalini yoga can be a dangerous one,
especially for the Westerner. When one has not received the grounding and security that is essential in early life, the desire to leave life may be very strongly constellated. Many people go around half-alive, not knowing what they want, what they need or what may be destructive for them. Embracing life can be so frightening that the split life of ambivalence is scarcely endured. One fears being caught in earth, in mother, and never being able to free oneself. Nothing feels more scary to one who has never felt the love of secure arms.”
Harris connects Kundalini yoga with its emphasis on chakras with some of the symbols of Kabbalistic Judaism. For instance, the elephant symbol which is so important in Indian culture she connects with the base or root chakra and with the feminine. “As we become the roots which descend into the earth, we come into contact with the feminine,
with the body, which is referred to in the Kabbalah as the Shekhinah, the incarnated divine feminine presence on earth.”
Jung believed that the fire of Kundalini is located just above the sacrum, at the critical fifth lumbar vertebra. Harris says she is inclined to agree with Jung, since that is an area of the body where an immense amount of energy rests, awaiting the birth of consciousness.
For those unfamiliar with yoga, this book will not be easy reading. Harris tries to associate a number of different symbols and concepts from different traditions in ways that are not always clear. However, she provides the reader with much food for thought and further study.
The aspect of the book I found most interesting were the references to the importance of fifth lumbar vertebra, since this is a body part which has caused me problems in the past. I am among those who believe that the cause of much back trouble is psychological rather than purely physical, and I was pleased to have this viewpoint reinforced by Harris’s book. For the many sufferers of back pain, it provides a larger context in which to consider this very common scourge of modern life.
C. G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time
Marie-Louise von Franz
(translated by William H. Kennedy)
1998: Inner City Books
Toronto, ON, 368 pp.
First published in English in 1975 by the C.G. Jung Foundation for Analytical Psychology of New York, C. G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time, by Marie-Louise von Franz, was re-issued by Inner City Books early in 1998.
The re-issue now appears especially fortunate and timely, for Marie-Louise von Franz died in February of this year, at the age of 83. The intention of this review, therefore, is to commemorate two lives: to honor the life and work of C. G. Jung and the memory of this most accomplished disciple and scholar.
The book could well serve as a companion volume to Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Von Franz fills in the spaces omitted by Jung as only the soror mystica can illuminate the works of the master by adding her own personal reflections.
Von Franz had a long collaboration with Jung, and she obviously admired him and had a great affection for him. She variously describes him as a shaman, a healer, a romantic poet and medieval scholar, and then tempers the lofty descriptions by reminding us that he also possessed a jocular peasant’s soul. There is no mention here of the scandals that some recent books have bruited about Jung concerning his dalliances with Nazism and his extra-marital affairs.
The focus of the biography is the essential substance of Jung’s work: the mysteries of the unconscious. Von Franz gives a detailed study of the broad scope of Jung’s work and the influence it has come to bear in today’s society.
One of the mysteries Jung recognized early in his life was the dual aspects of his character, which he called personalities number one and number two. Later on he would give these two dimensions more sophisticated names, “morning knowledge” and “evening knowledge”. The author’s argument is that we too are subjected to divided loyalties. We are driven on the one hand by a rational hard-minded attitude that can be satisfied only by concrete facts; and one the other, those of us who have ventured into the subterranean world of dreams recognize the impulsive outbursts from the unconscious that attest to the power of complexes and we know that we are not masters in own houses.
We realize that forces greater than our egos are at play, day and night, in the fields of our Psyches and in the collective sphere as well. Thanks to pioneers like Jung and von Franz, we can appreciate the difficulty of entering the shadowy, liminal realms that reside in our personal psyches. Knowing that collective values are also founded upon deep unconscious layers of history and mythology, we are better prepared to confront the tough transitional times we live as we approach the new millennium.
Jung was struck by the immense power of dreams from a very young age. His earliest dreams and visions informed him about the fathomless depths of the unconscious. These numinous images left their lasting impressions on his daytime world. Von Franz shared Jung’s conviction that the objective nature of Psyche was as powerful as that of Nature itself.
The power of his early experiences led Jung to conduct research, both deeply personal and extensively scholarly, covering many fields. He formulated theories about psyche (Shadow, Animus/Anima, Projection, the Collective Unconscious, Extroversion/Introversion, the Transcendent Function, Archetypes, the Mysterium Coniunctionis); he read and wrote esoterically on alchemy; he speculated on difficult theological issues (Answer to Job, Psychology and Religion: West and East); and he even mused on subjects that have been taken up by new-age movements (synchronicity, flying saucers).
The complex nature of Jung’s life and work have been received with both great fascination and dark accusation. Perhaps it was the very nature of the subjects that Jung tackled that have made his accusers uneasy. In a darkly cynical age, one is not surprised that many find his ideas suspicious. Perhaps von Franz’s “angelic” glorification of the man is no more than an antidote to the demonic way many of us devalue those we cannot understand.
Many readers of Jung may be distressed by his incessant references to God. This is a difficult subject at the end of a troublesome, apparently godless 20th century, a time when materialism and science are in the ascendancy and faith is a fallen currency. Many theologians do not dare enter the treacherous waters as Jung did with his celebrated Answer to Job. But this intensely curious search for a psychologically grounded meaning permeated all his works.
Von Franz notes that Jung was willing to plumb the “depths of God” to find the answers to the most profound mysteries. She compares his struggling with theological questions to Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at the ford in the river. “He held fast to this dark mysterious Other until his grace was revealed.” This image is particularly compelling for this reviewer who is a descendant of the tribe of Israel. The name Israel means “he who wrestles with God.” Jung was never satisfied with dogmatic answers to the mysteries.
Jung’s quest was to wrest external values from his inner psychic turmoil. Some have considered his value limited exactly because his ideas tend to favor the subjective perspective over objective reality. Yet Jung seemed to make the link between inner and outer after a monumentally dark dream he had during the First World War, which led him to this life-altering conclusion:
It was then that I ceased to belong to myself alone . . . From then on my life belonged to the generality … I myself had to undergo the original experience and, moreover, try to plant the results of my experience in the soil of reality … It was then that I dedicated myself to the service of psyche. I loved it and hated it, but was my greatest wealth.
Von Franz concludes her study of Jung with a final chapter on the mythic figure of Merlin. Legend has it that Merlin was the son of the Devil and an innocent virgin and was thus a darker and truer personification of modern man than his lighter counterpart Parsifal, who Jung believed possessed too much of a one-sided virtuous Christian spirit. Merlin’s existence in the world of imagination was no less meaningful for von Franz or Jung than the attraction of so many of today’s youth to the compelling story-telling magic of The X-Files, whose mythic appeal is that science and intelligence agencies are not the only sources of the truth that is out there.
The voice of Merlin, according to legend, continues to cry out to this world from beyond. Von Franz notes that Jung intended to carve le cri de Merlin onto the backside of a cubic stone, which, she parenthetically adds, he never did. Jung wrote:
... the secret of Merlin was carried on by alchemy, primarily in the figure of Mercurius. Then Merlin was taken up again in my psychology of the unconscious and remains uncomprehended to this day.
The unconscious remains a mystery to us and we must thank our lucky stars that we are humble enough to recognize that fact. Let the unknown remain unknown but let us take up von Franz’s challenge: “... to set out upon the great adventure of individuation, the journey into the interior.”
Marie-Louise von Franz first met C. G. Jung in 1933, when she was 18, and she began working with him the following year and did so until his death in 1961.
She became an acknowledged authority on the psychological interpretation of fairy tales, myths, dreams and alchemy, and the author of many books on the application of Jungian psychology. But although she did her utmost to further Jung’s message, she was not just a mindless follower: she put her own inimitable stamp both on Jungian psychology and on those she taught.
Daryl Sharp, the publisher and general editor of Inner City Books, shared his thoughts in an account of the Farewell Service held for Marie-Louise von Franz in an email he sent out in the “wake” of her funeral of February 26, 1998. Sharp reports that von Franz passed away peacefully on the morning of February 17, after a protracted illness but with a crystal-clear mind and a dignified spirit that did not fear Death.
Sharp and a number of his fellow analysts agree about the spirit which came through loud and clear in the works and life of this remarkable woman. Gary Sparks, a Jungian analyst practising in Indianapolis, paid tribute to the grand lady of soul on a web site dedicated to memories of von Franz:
She was saying, “Look at this civilization. Its story must be understood at depth to do the suffering human spirit justice.” ... It was the first time I ever felt authority really serve the essence of life. Above all I recall the intensity and humanity of her creative spirit which burned straight to the center, inspiring in me a re-evaluation of everything. This challenge is something I wanted to be a part of.
And Sharp echoes the sentiment, which I believe may be shared by a large number of readers of this newsletter.
“Yes, and me too.”
The Not-Yet-Transformed God
Janet O. Dallett
Nicolas-Hays, Inc. 1998, 146 pps.
Dallett begins with C. G. Jung’s observation that “every patient over the age of thirty-five who had come to him for help during the preceding thirty years was suffering from a religious problem.” Framing the psychological need for help as a religious problem immediately changes it; we are not then dealing with pathology but with the need for a religious perception that may transform the individual. Dallett suggests that we begin by examining what we find “numinous.” Indeed, what we find numinous is an opening or a gateway into the psyche and self-understanding. She writes:
If you want to know what is numinous to you, consider what you find fascinating, compelling, thrilling, mysterious, horrifying, gripping, tremendous, terrifying, dreadful, or awesome. Think about the things with which you are preoccupied in spite of yourself.An example of numinosity Dallett refers to is the death of Princess Diana. Many of us who previously had no interest in Princess Diana were so deeply moved by her death and funeral that we wept as though a much loved friend or family member had died. The extent of our grief suggests that something more was happening than the death of a privileged young woman thousands of miles away. Dallett writes, “As I see it, the former princess was destroyed by the dark side of the spirit, which she let out of the bottle by leaving the royal family and setting out to live an individual life.”
Dallett offers a fascinating discussion of the phenomenon of Princess Diana, but since the writing of Dallett’s book the horrendous events of September 11 must also be included, not only as a tragedy but also as a significant numinous experience for many people. Dallett writes that “the energy of divinity is rarely where we expect it to be.” We are like Jacob in Gauguin’s painting “The Vision after the Sermon” reproduced on the cover of Dallett’s book. We struggle in darkness with events that seem to overwhelm us, but like Jacob, when we finally become more conscious, we discover that it is the angel or the numinous with which we are wrestling.
What is “the not-yet-transformed God”? Dallett writes, “When he (Jung) refers to God … he means the image of God in the psyche, which at other times he calls the Self.” She explains the Self more fully; Jung, she writes:
speaks of it paradoxically as both the center and the circumference of the total personality, including both conscious and unconscious aspects. The Self is an archetype that carries the numinosity of the image of God. It is often used as a synonym for the God within.When Dallett writes about God, she is always, “strictly speaking, referring to the image of God in the psyche” and “does not in any way preclude the existence of a God outside the psyche.”
At some point in our lives many of us are called to reflect on the inner life, to begin the process of individuation. Dallett writes, “the instinct to individuate often appears first in a negative form: life-threatening illness, severe depression, an extramarital affair, a psychotic episode.” Individuation is not only self-transformation, it is also the transformation of our concept and experience of the divine.
Dallett discusses Jung’s “description of historical changes in the Western God-image,” moving from how “Yahweh displaced the ancient nature gods and goddesses” and later the God-image changed again by incarnating in Christ. Dallett writes, “Today, says Jung, the incarnation wants to take place in many people through the process of individuation.”
In the final chapters of The Not-Yet-Transformed God Dallett gives the reader some insight into how the process of individuation takes place. She writes:
the process of individuation entails the gradual discovery, through trial and error, of exactly how much and what kind of power rightfully belongs to a particular individual, in the course of which the unconscious God-image inside becomes conscious and is tempered until it can be lived in a mature and responsible way.Helping the individual with the “gradual discovery” of the Self are Jung’s important concepts of the Shadow, the complementarity of opposites, and so on. These concepts form the foundation of Dallett’s discussion of individuation and it is always rewarding to hear Jung’s key concepts discussed from a different author’s perspective.
Janet Dallett’s The Not-Yet-Transformed God is a significant book. In light of the events of September 11 we ask: How are we to live? What are we to do? Many of us can still turn for comfort to the old image of the divine, but we know that we must also look within ourselves, that we can change in a fundamental way, that we can become conscious individuals. The alternative is that “everything suppressed, repressed, denied, or simply unseen in a person will eventually come out.” Dallett writes:
By carrying my portion of untransformed God-energy consciously, I believe that I remove it from the general supply, thereby reducing the collective pressure toward war, terrorism, mass murder and other out-of-control forms of violence.Every age is important, but each age feels that the urgency of change is now more pressing than any preceding it. We feel traumatized since September 11, and it is the duty of all people of good will to begin or continue the important work of individuation. The alternative, unfortunately, is a future of conflict, turmoil, and suffering.