Evil is – psychologically speaking – terribly real. It is a fatal mistake to diminish its power and reality even merely metaphysically.
– Carl Jung, Letters Vol. I, Pages 539-541.
Evil is real, psychologically speaking. It’s what happens when we react to our own pain by lashing out instead of meeting it with kindness, patience, and curiosity. That lashing out can be very damaging to ourselves and those around us. And when it’s acted on by political leaders, it can harm a whole society. Trump is an unfortunate current example of this. I assume he is reacting to his own pain in the way he behaves, and those who enthusiastically support him do the same. Adyashanti talks about this in the discussion on Judas in Resurrecting Jesus.
Note: I am not sure why three pages are listed in the Jung reference, and the second part of the quote does seem a bit mangled.
Since my teens, I have worked with dreams using mainly Jungian approaches such as active imagination. It’s been an important part of my process, and I used to remember dreams quite regularly. Since I started with the Living Inquiries a couple of years back, I have remembered far fewer dreams.
I wonder if it is because dreams convey information from what’s going on outside of conscious awareness to my conscious awareness, and especially if I remember them and work on them. Using the Living Inquiries, I am accessing that or similar information anyway, so there may be less need to remember dreams. An even simpler explanation is that my conscious attention is more on inquiry than dreams right now, and my mind responds by reducing the number of remembered dreams. One or both of those seem to be the most likely reason and they also make most intuitive sense.
One should be willing to make mistakes cheerfully. The most perfect analysis cannot prevent error.
– Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 13
That’s certainly been my experience. And one way to find more peace with this, and perhaps even clarity, is to examine my fears and beliefs about my own mistakes.
This quote also reminds me that however much I admire and love Jung “should” statements still seem a bit old-fashioned and less helpful. I tend to prefer cause and effect statements, perhaps with clear and practical pointers. Even if they are brief.
The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ — all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself — that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness — that I myself am the enemy who must be loved — what then? As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.
– Carl Jung in Memories, Dreams, Reflections
You cannot apply kindness and understanding to others if you have not applied it to yourself.
To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images– that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions– I was inwardly calmed and reassured.
Had I left those images hidden in the emotions, I might have been torn to pieces by them.
There is a chance that I might have succeeded in splitting them off; but in that case I would inexorably have fallen into a neurosis and so been ultimately destroyed by them.
As a result of my experiment I learned how helpful it can be, from the therapeutic point of view, to find the particular images which lie behind the emotions.
– CG Jung, p. 177, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
This is an essential part of Buddhist inquiry, the Living Inquiries, and several body-oriented therapy forms in the west. Feel the sensations. Notice images and words associated with them. Look at these. Notice images as images. Notice words as words. Notice sensations as sensations. Feel sensations as sensations. That’s how these separate out and the charge goes out of the initial bundle of images, words, and sensations.
These bundles are how our minds create drama, stress, tension, trauma, wounds, discomfort, suffering, a sense of separation, deficient and inflated selves, and more. And when the charge goes out of these bundles – and images are recognized as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations – there is typically a huge relief. A sense of coming home. A sense of simplicity.
We are more free to live from our “true nature” – that which we are with fewer of these drama bundles drawing our attention – which is a very simple and ordinary kindness and wisdom.
These bundles of words, images, and sensations are also called velcro (Living Inquiries). I used to call them conglomerates. The bundles are created from identification with the images and words in the bundle, and the stories associated these with certain sensations. And all of this can be called “ego”, although I prefer to not use that word since it has too many misleading associations and makes it all seem more solid and more like an object while in reality it’s all quite ephemeral.
And what about the term “true nature”? I don’t really like to use that term either. It can sound too fanciful and esoteric while it’s really something very ordinary and simple. In this context, it’s just the ordinary kindness that’s here when attention is not drawn into (too much) velcro.
It is common for very infantile people to have a mystical, religious feeling, they enjoy this atmosphere in which they can admire their beautiful feelings, but they are simply indulging their auto-eroticism.
– Carl Jung, ETH lecture 11 Jan 1935, Page 171.
I recognize this. I recognize how an opening or enjoyable or transcendent state can come with a certain feeling, and the mind then attaches to that feeling as something important and beautiful. It’s quite common. I also agree that it goes with the territory in a relatively early phase of the process, and that it can stay for a lifetime if not investigated.
We can spend a lifetime trying to hold onto, or regain, a certain feeling that we associate with something our mind holds as important. And when we investigate, we see that it’s just a sensation, associated with certain images and words.
When it’s felt and recognized as a sensation, and the images are seen as images and the words as words, that apparent compulsion to maintain or regain a certain feeling falls away. It doesn’t have anywhere to stand anymore. It’s revealed as created by the mind, and not having much more significance than that.
The lotus has always had an important mystical meaning. Its roots are down in the slime and mud at the bottom of the lake and the flower unfolds on the surface of the water.
– Carl Jung, ETH, Page 113.
There are several ways of understanding this.
One is that our “roots” are in what’s hidden to us, and they feed and lead to what’s visible. That happens within content, where dynamics we are unaware of inform what’s visible. It also happens in that what we are – this no-thing that it all happens within and as – is the metaphorical “roots” of who we are, this form and human self.
In a more conventional sense, we can use difficulties (mud) to grow (flower). We can use challenging situations in life, or embracing and finding kindness towards inglorious sides of ourselves, to mature, be more fully human, find more empathy, be more real, find a more open heart, find resiliency and more.
And in another sense, we can explore the basic ideas of mud and flower. We may see that they are not as they initially seem.
For instance, I may find that the “mud” in me – perhaps anger, grief, confusion, tendency to isolate, neediness, hopelessness, arrogance – comes from a wish to protect the me, it comes from deep caring, it comes from love. The mud is perhaps really a flower. And the flowers, what I and perhaps others see as my “good qualities”, may turn to mud if I hold onto them and take them as too precious. They may create problems for me and others.
Also, when I look, can I find “mud” or “flower”? Can I find what I see these as referring to? Can I find it outside of words, images, sensations? Is it findable?
Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical.
Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life…
If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature…
Be glad that you can recognize it, for you will thus avoid becoming its victim. Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.
My soul spoke to me in a whisper, urgently and alarmingly: “Words, words, do not make too many words. Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it?
Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner?
You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you.
Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life.
That I feed the hungry, forgive an insult, and love my enemy – these are great virtues. But what if I should discover that the poorest of beggars and most impudent of offenders are all within me, and that I stand in need of all the alms of my own kindness; that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?
I usually don’t use the words shadow or projection these days. And that’s perhaps a good reason to see what these words would mean to me now.
For instance, shadow is usually defined as:
A dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface. (Physical definition.)
In Jungian psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” may refer to (1) the entirety of the unconscious, i.e., everything of which a person is not fully conscious (2) an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not recognize in itself. Because one tends to reject or remain ignorant of the least desirable aspects of ones personality, the shadow is largely negative. There are, however, positive aspects which may also remain hidden in ones shadow (especially in people with low self esteem). (Wikipedia.)
For me right now, focusing mostly on The Work, I see that any thought – when taken as true – comes with it’s own shadow.
The shadow of a thought is, to put it simply, (a) the truth in the turnarounds of the thought, and recognizing (b) that it’s just a thought, an innocent question about the world, and has no absolute or final truth in it. This is what’s not recognized, especially at a felt level, when a thought is taken as true.
If I – in a certain situation – think that life is unfair and take that thought as true, then it’s shadow is examples of (a) how life is fair and (b) how I am unfair (in my thinking about life), and (c) that it’s a thought, an innocent question, and I honestly cannot know.
If I think that M. is caught up in conspiracy theories, and believe that thought, then the shadow is examples of (a) how M. is not caught up in conspiracy theories, (b) how I am caught up in conspiracy theories (about him, life), and (c) that it’s a thought, an assumption, a question, and that I don’t know.
All the conventional ways of looking at archetypes (the Jungian ones) are of course valid and useful. Looking at them in an evolutionary/biological perspective, arising in stories of all types, shared among people from different cultures, and so on.
But there is also a way of exploring them as they arise here now, and this one has been alive for me since I started working with the sense fields, noticing each sense field for itself, and then how thoughts combine with the four others to create gestalts.
When the fields are each seen for itself, the thoughts component of archetypes becomes very clear and distinct. I see that the archetype is a gestalt, arising here now, and I also see (some of) the different components of the thought, and how and why it has the effects it has as a gestalt, when it appears solid and real.
And as with any other gestalt, when it is seen in this way, simply, clearly, there are no hooks in it anymore. The hooks are there only when I get absorbed into the gestalt, when it appears solid, real, substantial, when I don’t see it as a combination of simple sense fields.
It is better if they differentiate history and teaching stories. (From a dinner conversation with friends yesterday, where they got into talking about some of the non-Biblical scriptures such as the gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene.)
It is a description, in words and drawings, of an amazing inner transformation of a woman who grew up in war-ravaged Eastern Europe and had a very strong inner connection to what Jung called the Self, the organizing principle that leads us towards greater wholeness, and healing, as a human being. The book is an account of a series of dreams and active imaginations over several decades, and the images are powerful for anyone on a similar journey. At least they are for me.
It is an example of the process of exploring and awakening to who we are, as an evolving individual human being. It is a tremendously rich, fertile, deep, embracing and rewarding journey. It brings deep healing, a deep sense of our shared humanity and how it shows up in this particular life, a deep sense of connection with all of humanity, a deep recognition of what I see in you as familiar here too…
It leads right up to the edge of a sense of a separate self, but not (in itself) beyond. There is still that core belief there of being a separate self, and that journey – of discovering what we ultimately are – is one that other traditions can help us with. Maybe especially Buddhism and Adveita, and the mystics of any tradition who realized selflessness… those in whom the Ground of emptiness noticed itself, and lived itself out through these human lives.
One of the roles of the trickster, whether it shows up from ourselves or the wider world, is to nudge us beyond what we are familiar with – our identities, roles, world views, beliefs.
It is usually not what our personality wants, can often be uncomfortable, and may even seem disastrous, but it is always an invitation to move beyond our familiar identities.
We went through one version of the Scandinavian fairy tale of King Lindorm today, in the workshop on alchemy, and the trickster shows up several times there, disturbing a stable situation, setting things in motion that brings the kingdom ahead in its development (the individuation process of differentiating then integrating the whole of who we are.)
The king and queen are not able to have children. The queen meets an old woman in the woods (in the untamed, beyond the known areas of the castle) who tells her to eat a white or a red rose, but not both. She eats the red first, but can’t help herself and eat the white as well, in spite of the warning. This is the first instance of the trickster, this time in the form of an irresistible impulse. It also shows the initially unconscious union of the male and female in all of us, one that is driven by impulses and instincts that cannot be resisted because there is not much or any consciousness there.
While the king is away waging a war, she gives birth to a lindorm (a dragon), which initiates the first nigredo phase for them all (mortification.) After the king returns, the lindorm demands a bride. He is given a princess, and he promptly eats her. This is still an unconscious phase where the demands of the impulses and instincts are automatically given in to, first when the lindorm is given the bride, and then when he can’t help himself and eats her (much as his mother ate the second rose).
This repeats itself once more, but the third time the bride is a commoner (presumably with better sense). Before the wedding, she meets the (same) old woman out in the woods, gets advice for how to deal with the lindorm, and is able to tame him.
Actually, she tricks him into shedding all of his nine layers of skin, and then beats him into a bloody pulp. This is the second time the trickster shows up, this time tricking the lindorm. Also, it represents the albedo phase, a purification. After the beating, she bathes (what is left of) him in milk, wraps him in the nine night skirts she took off, cradles him, and falls asleep.
This is the soothing, nurturing and comforting end phase of the albedo, after the grief of the nigredo and the heavy work of the earlier albedo.
When she wakes up, she finds herself in bed with a beautiful prince, transformed from the remains of the lindorm, a rebirth of a prince out of the death of the monster.
Now follows a period of joy, an early rubedo phase. One of maturing, of reaping the fruits of the work that has gone before.
But the work is not finished (is it ever?) And to start the next cycle, pushing the kingdom beyond its complacency and a situation everyone is enjoying, the trickster returns. King Lindorm, as his father before him, is away waging war when his wife gives birth to two healthy boys. A red knight acts as a messenger between those at the castle and King Lindorm, but for unknown reasons changes the content of the messages, causing a great deal of grief and upheaval.
He tells King Lindorm that his wife has given birth to two dogs (when she has really given birth to two boys), and then gives a return message to the old queen with an order to burn and kill all three of them (King Lindorm’s message was to allow them all to live.)
This is the next nigredo, a return of the grief and sorrow, showing the cyclical nature of the three alchemical phases. There is more work to do, which is shown in the misalignment between the masculine and feminine. Although they are friendly towards each other, serious problems still arise through miscommunication.
The old queen disobeys the order (there is more consciousness here now), sends the two boys to a wet nurse, and the young princess out into the woods (again, going into the untamed areas, beyond the familiar realms of the castle, the conscious identity.)
She meets a swan and a crane, feeds them milk, and they turn into two princes. This is a much easier albedo, this time transforming already noble creatures into human form. Noble and beautiful, yet instinctual, patterns are released from instincts into more consciousness.
This time, there is a more full reconciliation. The communication between the masculine and feminine is established in a more genuine way through some work. The two liberated princes marries and establishes their own kingdoms, and King Lindorm and his wife have several more children.
This is a more full, complete and rich rubedo, where the fruits of the work are abundant and spreads out to the wider world. It no longer only benefits the original kingdom (individual), but also other kingdoms.