CG Jung: Among those in the second half of life… there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life

I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.

– CG Jung

I don’t know exactly how Jung understands the term “religious outlook” and I won’t speak for him.

For me, I understand it in the widest sense possible. I would perhaps say “meaning, purpose, and connection with the larger whole”.

We all seem to have a deep need for meaning, purpose, and a sense of connection.

Why? Because existence is already a seamless whole. If we don’t consciously notice that, we will have a sense that something is missing. What’s missing is our conscious recognition of the connections that are already here, and perhaps the conscious cultivation of connections that are especially meaningful and important to us.

That connection is with ourselves as who we are, as a human being with a body and psyche. The connections here are with our body, subpersonalities, deepest needs and wishes (which tend to be simple and universal), and so on.

The connection is with our nature, with what we are. With our fundamental nature as consciousness, and noticing that the word to us happens within and as this consciousness. (And oneness.)

The connection is also with others, social systems, ecosystems, Earth as a living and evolving whole, the universe as an evolving seamless system, and existence as a whole. (I would call existence as a whole God.)

All of this is already a seamless whole. We are already in a relationship with it all. And as what we are, it’s all already happening within and as what we are. And if we are not consciously noticing these connections – and how it’s happening within and as what we are, we’ll feel we are missing something.

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I saw Tarkovsky’s Solaris in a movie theater in Oslo when I was around twenty and it made a big impression on me. I LOVED it. 

Here was a movie that reflected how we relate to our own unprocessed psychological material. 

On an ocean planet, there is a human research station. If people there have something unresolved with someone important from their past, the ocean will manifest these people. It’s impossible to get rid of them since they just come back, and it’s impossible to leave since it’s a research station far from Earth. It’s the perfect alchemical vessel. Some can’t deal with it and go crazy, and others take it as an opportunity to process and find a resolution. 

That’s a metaphor for life. Life (in the form of our mind) will always bring up what’s unprocessed in us, and we can relate to it in a few different ways. We can try to ignore it and pretend it’s not there. We can struggle with it and try to make it go away. And we can meet it, process it, find some kind of resolution, and perhaps even grow from it. 

At the time – in my teens and early twenties – I was deeply into Jung. I read everything the bookstores in Oslo (Norli, Tanum) could get from him, which was a few dozen books, and absorbed it like a sponge. And Solaris, of course, fits perfectly with exploring our shadow and finding healing for old unresolved issues.

I haven’t seen Solaris since then so perhaps it’s time to rewatch it. I have also wanted to read the story it’s based on, written by Stanislav Lem. 

P.S. I see the movie is available on YT now.

P.P.S. It’s now a few days later and I have listened to the audiobook and rewatched the movie. The story is certainly very Jungian and about the shadow, and full of reflections and metaphors. I still love the essence and that aspect of it. And I also see that this is something I loved at that time, in early adulthood, and I am now drawn to slightly different kinds of movies and books. (More gentle and heartfelt ones.)

AI images – water people – week #5

A collection of water people, an undersea dream by me and Midjourney.

What would this represent in a dream? Being completely at home in the watery world of the emotions?

I love to explore AI images as I would a dream. The AI and I dream up images together, and they resonate with something in me. I can explore them as I would a dream. In this case, these water people seem to evoke a wish in me to be completely at home in the watery world of the emotions. How would it be to be as comfortable with my emotions as these people are in the water?

See more of my AI explorations here:

Update: A few weeks after creating these, I watched Wakanda Forever where an underwater people (the Talokanil) look a lot like these images. Did I see some images from the movie without consciously remembering? Was the AI trained on images from the movie so that when I asked for underwater coral people, the images created came out similar to the movie? Or is it just an example of currents in the culture leading to similar imagery?

C.G. Jung: The shadow is the first manifestation of our future inner wholeness


The shadow is the parts of us that don’t fit into our conscious self-image.

It’s not an entity or anything like that. It’s just whatever is here where we say “that’s not me”.

For that reason, we tend to see it in others and not in ourselves. When we see it in others, we are often annoyed by it. We dislike it.

So what we dislike in others, and obviously in ourselves, is a manifestation of our own wholeness.

It’s a part of the wholeness we already are, it’s just not yet the wholeness we consciously recognize, embrace, and relate to as part of ourselves.

In that sense, the shadow – and anything that annoys us in others – is a reminder of what can be our own future conscious wholeness.

It’s the wholeness we already are. And it can be the wholeness we embrace if we have the receptivity and willingness to explore and embrace it.

We push it away because it doesn’t fit our self-image, and it doesn’t seem desirable to us. And, in reality, there are great gifts in it. It helps us find more of our wholeness. And the essence of it is always useful in our life.


What are some examples of this?

One thing that sometimes annoys me in others is being noisy. I see them as inconsiderate and unconscious.

When I can find that in myself, I see that I am often inconsiderate – for instance in my mind when I see them that way. I am often, and really always, unconscious. There is always a lot in myself I am not conscious of, and there is a vast amount I am not conscious of when it comes to others and the world. Most of what is – in the world, others, and myself – are things I inevitably am not conscious of.

When I have those thoughts about someone else, I am describing myself and I am describing myself as I am in that moment.

Also, how would it be for me to be more free to sometimes be noisy? Maybe it would feel liberating? Natural? Maybe I would find another side of myself I would actually enjoy, at least now and then?

Stranger Things & the shadow

I love Stranger Things.

Like many others, I love it for its 80s nostalgia and for being more 80s than the 80s were. I love it for the characters which often are more stereotypical than their inspiration. I love it for the dialogue. I love it for bringing Kate Bush back on the charts and introducing her to new generations.

And as with any story – whether it’s fiction, mythology, or about others or the world – we can explore it as a dream. We can use it as a mirror for ourselves.

What I see in Stranger Things is a group of nerds and outsiders, much as myself at that age. (A part of me wishes I had found the type of community back then that they have, which is perhaps also why I enjoy watching it.) They don’t quite fit in. Some of them are bullied.

And I see the upside-down as one of many representations of what Jung called the shadow. The parts of all of us that don’t fit into our conscious or desired identity. The parts we sometimes push aside or even deny. The parts of us that may take on the form of monsters since they are exiled and we are unfamiliar with them.

In this case, we can take it even more literally and see it as the shadow we tend to create for ourselves if we feel like an outsider, if we are bullied (or bully), and so on. We may experience a mix of emotions and painful beliefs and identities — pain, loneliness, self-criticism, blame, bitterness, anger, sadness, victimhood, and so on. And since these may be painful and confusing to us, we may partially exile these experiences and parts of ourselves. We may also attack the sides of ourselves we feel are responsible for us being outsiders, so these become partially exiled. When these experiences and parts of us are exiled, they tend to take on the form of monsters to us. They go into our shadow. They don’t fit into our conscious or desired self image. And they can look, to us, as the upside-down.

Stranger Things operates from a classic good vs evil duality, at least so far. But it does also have some healing qualities. It shows healing and supportive friendships, which mirror how we can be friends with ourselves. (Even as we may also battle other sides of us.) The new season gives us more understanding of how the upside-down may have been created, and with understanding comes a less adversarial relationship. (Although they’ll still need to protect themselves and their world.)

How could Stranger Things reflect an even more mature process and way of relating to our shadow?

I am not sure, there are several options. In Star Wars, we got the back story of Darth Vader so we could understand him better and find empathy with the person he used to be. We learned that the hero (Luke) and villain (Darth Vader) were as closely connected as two people can be. And the villain was redeemed before his death.

In Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver by Michael Ende, the main characters capture the evil and dangerous dragon. Instead of killing her, they put her in a cage so she couldn’t do more harm. And that allowed her to transform into a golden wisdom dragon for the benefit of everyone.

Stranger Things does hint at intimate connections between the main hero (Eleven) and Vecna and perhaps the upside-down itself. If that theme is continued, it reflects the intimate connection between the two. They are both parts of each of us. And if we create a “good” identity for ourselves that excludes certain things in us, then what’s excluded is often transformed into apparent monsters. (This also goes for excluding discomfort and pain. What we exclude tends to take on the form of monsters to us.)

It’s also possible that One (Vecna) could be redeemed. In terms of contemporary storytelling, that could be seen as a bit naive and sentimental. (Unless it’s well done with realism and grittiness, which they probably could pull off.) But in terms of mythology and reflecting inner processes, it would give us another image in popular culture that shows how we can find redemption for parts of us in the shadow.

And it’s possible that Eleven somehow, through facing her past and the uncomfortable sides of herself, could redeem herself and the upside-down. It could bring about a transformation of her and the upside-down. Again, if the story was to reflect a healthy and deep inner transformation, something like that would happen.

Note: I am writing this after having seen the first release (this first seven episodes) of the fourth season.

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An I Ching experience

Synchronicities can show us when we are in some kind of flow in life. We can use them as a pointer. And we can also make use of them in the form of a Tarot or I Ching reading. 

Here is one I was reminded of this morning. 

When I was in my late teens, I got in touch with a man in Norway who became a kind of mentor for me. I initially contacted him for earth acupuncture services, we started talking on the phone, and he introduced me to I Ching

He told me he had asked I Ching about me in general, and got 1. The Creative / Heaven and 56. The Wanderer, and talked with me a bit about those two hexagrams.

Within a day or two, I went into Oslo to get my own copy of I Ching (the Richard Wilhelm translation with a foreword of Jung whose writings I devoured at the time). When I came back to the house, my first question was the same, a general question about me. And I too got 1. The Creative / Heaven changing to 56. The Wanderer. 

If I remember my middle-school math, I think it’s a one in about 4000 chance that we both got the same combination of lines. And that’s not so important. 

What’s important is that it helped me trust my process a little bit more, and it certainly made me interested in the I Ching in general. I read my copy over and over for the next two or three years until it almost fell apart. 

I also did use it as an oracle, although I quickly learned that I Ching would reflect the state of my mind at the moment more than anything else. And if I asked a frivolous question, or asked the same question more than once, I would typically get 4. Youthful Folly. 

When it comes to the two hexagrams, the first – The Creative / Heaven – certainly seemed to fit then and now. And, at the time, I remember I didn’t like that it changed to The Wanderer. I didn’t particularly want to be a wanderer. But now, looking back, I see it was accurate. I have been a wanderer both literally and metaphorically. I have lived in several places in the world (these days, I am a Norwegian in the Andes mountains). And I have a deep curiosity about a wide range of approaches to healing and spirituality and have explored several of them. 

What Jung left out

I was passionate about CG Jung in my teens and twenties and devoured dozens of his books. (Mostly based on series of talks on different subjects.)

Even then, it was clear to me that he left out something essential: What we are.

His focus was on our psyche and finding wholeness within our psyche.

This is obviously very important, and it’s an essential part of psychological health and well-being. For most people, working on this is more than enough to find a deeper sense of satisfaction, meaning, and groundedness in their life.

And what he left out is what we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience. He left out finding ourselves as that which allows any and all experiences, and that which forms itself into any and all of our experiences. That which allows the world – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – as it appears to us, and that which forms itself into the world as it appears to us.

Why? Probably because he too was a child of his culture and time.

Of course, it’s easy enough for us to add this dimension. It doesn’t change what he talked about, it just adds a different context for it

Note: He may have been on the verge of discovering this extra dimension judging from a dream he had. In his dream, he saw himself asleep in meditation posture in a cave and knew that if the meditator woke up, he – the one he took himself to be – would die. In reality, it’s a bit less dramatic although it can be experienced as dramatic enough. What dies is taking ourselves most fundamentally as something within the content of our experience, this human self.

Jung: The God I experienced is more than love, he is also hate

The God I experienced is more than love; he is also hate, he is more than beauty, he is also an abomination, he is more than wisdom, he is also meaninglessness, he is more than power, he is also powerlessness, he is more than omnipresence, he is also my creature.

– C. G. Jung, Black Books, Vol 1.

There are several ways to understand this.


We can take a more “outside-in” and philosophical approach. If God is all of existence, then God naturally is all of that and more. God is all there is and what allows it all to exist. God is the universe and all of what we are and experience, and God is capacity for it all.

Existence is God expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, including through and as us and our lives and experiences.


This can also be our immediate experience, as Jung suggests.

When I was fifteen or sixteen, I walked down a dark gravel road at night with the stars above me and a big wind blowing through everything. From one moment to the next, all was revealed as God. This was (and is) an immediate experience more clear than any normal content of experience.

Everything without exception is God. This human self – this angst-ridden atheist teenager – and every other being and everything else is God experiencing itself as that. God is beyond and includes all polarities. Any sense of a separate self or I is God temporarily and locally having that experience for itself, and what we all and everything is, is the divine.

This is what mystics from all the traditions speak about, and also the mystics outside of traditions. It’s also what many seem to glimpse through certain plants and drugs.

And it’s what Jung seemed to experience, and what turned my world upside-down and inside-out when I was a teenager. It’s what transformed my life and is still transforming my life, and has never left me.


There is a slightly more sober way to understand this.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong.

When I explore what I more fundamental am, in my own first-person experience, I find something else.

I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find that, to me, the world and this human self and any content of experience happens within my sense fields.

I find I am what this human self and the wider world happens within and as.

When I notice this, I find what a thought may label consciousness. To me, everything happens within and as consciousness.

I also find oneness. Any content of experience happens within the same field, it’s all one. Any sense of I or observer or doer and so on happens within and as this field, this oneness.

When this is noticed, when oneness notices itself, and this human self transforms and lives within it, it takes the form of love. (And it’s all perceived and lived very imperfectly.)

This seems to be my nature.

And since the world, to me, happens within and as what I am, it also seems – to me – to be the nature of all of existence. It’s inevitable that it seems that way. But is that how it is? Is this really the nature of all of existence?

To ourselves, what we are is what a thought may label capacity, consciousness, love, and so on. And when the world, to us, inevitably takes this form, it seems that all of existence is the same. And that’s what we can call God. And yet, can we honestly say we know that’s how it is?

Can I honestly say I know that my nature, as it appears to me, is the nature of all of existence?

We may say it’s likely. We may find suggestions it is that way. (Synchronicities, sensing at a distance, distance healing, and so on.) And yet, I cannot say I know for certain.


We don’t need to wait for random mystical experiences or glimpses to explore this.

We can explore it for ourselves here and now.

The best way I have found for doing that is through structured inquiries. These can function as a support and guide until we get more familiar with the terrain. The most direct ones may be the Big Mind process and Headless experiments. And a more thorough and detailed form of inquiry, which leads us to the same general noticing, is Living Inquiries which is a modernized form of traditional Buddhist inquiry.


I thought I would look a bit at Jung’s quote.

The God I experienced is more than love; he is also hate,

Why does he say “he”? If God is all, why not say “she” or “it”? God is what takes the form of any beings and genders, and also all of what’s not a being. Jung is obviously still speaking from a cultural and Christian bias of calling God “he”.

Since we sometimes experience hate, God takes that form too. Human love takes all different forms and is caught up in fear, desire, longing, a feeling of lack, and so on. And yet, when we notice what we are, we also notice a love that goes beyond all of that. It’s the love of what we are, which gets filtered through our human hangups and wounding.

he is more than beauty, he is also an abomination,

I am not sure what he means by abomination. Perhaps it’s all the things humans tend to see as not so beautiful? The horrors of the world? If God is all of existence, God takes those forms too. And since to me, it’s all happening within and as what I am, what I am takes those forms.

he is more than wisdom, he is also meaninglessness,

Yes, same.

he is more than power, he is also powerlessness,

And same.

he is more than omnipresence, he is also my creature.

Yes, if God is all, then God takes the form of this human self and this life and these experiences.

My nature takes all these forms.

Examining my images of God

Hence do not wait until rawly bungling hands of men hack your God to pieces, but embrace him again, lovingly; until he has taken on the form of his first beginning.

– Carl Jung, The Red Book, pages 283-284

If I hold onto certain images of God, they can be hacked to pieces since reality always is more than and different from my images of it.

I find it fascinating to examine my own images of God and find what’s more true for me.

Piece by piece, it softens or removes places where I hold onto images. Where I make myself stuck. Where life can rub up against these images, and I may find myself struggling in the gap between the images and reality.


Our images of God obviously largely depend on our culture and subcultures.

We may have an image of God as male, leaving out the feminine.

We may have images of God as a being, or perhaps nature, or perhaps all there is.

We may have images of God as emptiness, oneness, love, and so on.

In each case, it can be helpful to examine our images and find what’s more true for us.


How do we examine these images?

We can do it more informally.

Or we can use structured inquiry to guide us and help in the early phases of these explorations, or any time to go a bit deeper into unfamiliar territory.

I find exploring my sense fields helpful, especially using Living Inquiries.

And I have also found The Work of Byron Katie very helpful

A cultural bias in favor of being outgoing

There are several things to explore here.


When Jung introduced the words introverted and extraverted, he referred to where we tend to place our attention. Do we tend to focus on what’s happening around us? (Extraverted.) Or do we tend to focus on what’s going on inside of us? (Introverted.)

This has very little to do with how most people today use the words, for instance as being outgoing (extraverted) or quiet (introverted) in social settings.


Also, this highlights an obvious bias in our western culture. We tend to see being outgoing as good and desirable, and being quiet in social settings as undesirable and even something to fix.

In reality, both are fine and have their strengths and weaknesses. We all have both sides in us. And the only problem may be if we get “stuck” in one or the other due to identities, wounds, reactivity to our own discomfort, and so on.

The more healthy we are, the more fluid we can be in how we access our outgoing sides or more quiet, receptive, and contemplative sides.


Why do we have this bias in our western culture? One guess is that it’s connected to patriarchy and a tendency to see traditionally “masculine” characteristics (outgoing) as more desirable than traditionally “feminine” characteristics (receptive, quiet).

In my experience, it seems that this tendency is stronger in empires like Britain and the US, with their glorification of strength, power, assertiveness, and so on.


The tendency of mainstream media to focus on how to be more outgoing is natural. It reflects the general bias in our culture, and it is fortunately changing. I see more and more articles in mainstream media about how to shift into receptivity, silence, and listening.

This is probably, in part, supported by the more general acceptance of mindfulness, meditation, and so on.


We may already be comfortable with being outgoing in some situations, and more receptive and quiet in other. We may already have some fluidity between the two.

If not, if we notice we seem a bit “stuck” in one or the other, independent of situations, how can we find more freedom around it?

The answer is, as usual, to identify what stops us – stressful beliefs, wounds, and so on, and investigate these, create the conditions for a shift in our relationship to them, and invite them to resolve and dissolve.

I won’t go into more details here since many or most other articles on this site are about aspects of this process.

Dream: Jung’s model of the psyche and the transformation process

I am in New York, possibly Brooklyn. It’s a building with a very mixed group of people – artists, intellectuals, and all ages. Most of them live there, and there is a strong sense of community. I am somehow part of that community and completely included, although it also feels like I just arrived and maybe visiting.

One of the people there, a slightly older intellectual, shows me a model or statue made by Jung in cooperation with an artist. Jung used to live there, in that neighborhood or in that building. The model is about 1 meter tall, generally shaped like a pine cone, and with a lot of intricate details and figures. The main feature is a series of figures in circles around the model, from the bottom to the top. The bottom ones are more primal, and the top ones are more refined. They all have some common features showing their shared essence. They represent parts of all of us, and the model also shows the overall process of individuation and beyond – waking and growing up. I mention that the model is so good that if it was filmed close up, it would look full size.

Another man is there, dressed as the figures in the model. He is a kind of guide, and I talk with him about the model and Jung. I am not sure if he is a man dressed as the figures, or if he is one of the figures in flesh-and-blood. We talk about Jung having lived there.

A friend of mine shows up. He is a spiritual teacher, similar to Joel M. and we know each other well. He has had a mental breakdown but seems to be OK. We go to his apartment, which is part of or near the community. He is still teaching and does so in a slightly intellectual and removed way. I sense that what led to the breakdown is still somewhat unresolved, and that he could resolve it if he became more intimate with his experience and what’s unresolved. He shows me some recent paintings which are OK but not amazing, and he tells me he is not currently painting.

I am back in the building and the community. A well-known intellectual is arrogant and wants me to make him a specific type of sandwich I haven’t even heard about. I tell him no. A younger man wants me to come with him to play some kind of real-life outdoors game connected with a computer came, it turns out he is selling subscriptions. I tell him no.

I need some time for myself. I need rest and space for my system to process.

This is the second dream in a few days where Jung and depth-psychology come up, and also artists and intellectuals.

Obviously, all of this is in me, and I easily recognize it. I am the intellectuals, artists, depth-psychologists, and even the guy trying to make money doing something his heart is not fully in. I am the arrogant intellectual who thinks he is more important than other people. I am the guy who used to paint but isn’t right now. I am the guy with the breakdown (I have had a lot of strong things coming up over the last few weeks, and since these unprocessed parts are – for all of us – a bit crazy, I have felt connected with that craziness.) I am the spiritual teacher who is a bit overly intellectual and could resolve things much more thoroughly if he was more intimate with his experiences and these unresolved parts. I am the place where Jung used to live since I was completely into his writings early in life. I am the building and the rich community. I am the depth-psychologist and artist making that detailed model, and I am what that model represents.

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CG Jung: The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown

The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.

– CG Jung

What are the greatest and most important problems of life? It may be the universal existential ones of living this life, death, loss, finding a sense of meaning, and so on.

What does it mean to outgrow them? I don’t know what Jung meant, but as we find more of the wholeness of who are as a human being – the wholeness psyche and body are parts of – we may find more peace with these questions. They become less troublesome.

Jung didn’t go beyond who he was and into what he was, although it seems he was on the verge. (For instance, he had a dream where he encountered himself sleeping in meditation posture in a cave, and he knew that if the sleeping and meditating version of himself would wake up, he – as the dreamer – would die. The one taking himself as fundamentally a separate self would die.)

If he had gone into what we are, what would he have found? Mainly, that those questions – of death, loss, uncertainty, aloneness, finding meaning, and so on – happen within and as what we are. We find that the true nature of these questions and what they refer to is the same as our own true nature. And we see more clearly that they are created by our thoughts and the questions or dilemmas are not inherent in life. We outgrow these questions in a different way.

We can also inquire into these questions and see what we find. What we discover may surprise us and open our mind in ways we couldn’t have predicted. (The Work, Living Inquiries.)

And we can use the question to enrich our life.

Death reminds us of living life here and now, and notice and find appreciation for our life here and now, as it is. Our fundamental aloneness reminds us to seek out connections and community, and notice and appreciate the connections and community that’s here. An apparent lack of meaning in life reminds us to find what’s meaningful for us and make room for doing more of it, and also notice and appreciate the meaningfulness that’s already here. Uncertainty reminds us that it’s OK that we don’t know anything for certain, and of the richness in the receptivity and curiosity that’s in embracing that inherent uncertainty in life. Loss reminds us to find what’s essential – in our life and what we are – and to notice and find appreciation for what’s here. Fear of living this life invites us to investigate and befriend our fear and live our life whether the fear is here or not.

This is another way to “outgrow” the questions. We make them into fuel for a richer life.

So we can explore these great problems of life in several different ways. We can find what we are and see that they and what they refer to happen within and as what we are. We can notice that their true nature is the same as our true nature. We can see that these questions are only found in thoughts and are not inherent in life. We can use them to enrich and enliven our life in the world.

Each of these are, in a sense, a way to outgrow them. We outgrow the mindset they initially came from.

In Zen, the big problems in our life are called life koans. And they come with the invitation Jung talked about, to examine and perhaps wrestle with them and then outgrow them.

CG Jung: Evil is – psychologically speaking – terribly real

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.

Fewer dreams after inquiry

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.

CG Jung: One should be willing to make mistakes cheerfully

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.

CG Jung: Teachings are tools

Teachings are tools not truths; points of view that are laid aside once they have served their purpose.

– CG Jung

Exactly. Teachings are tools. Pointers. Invitations for own exploration.

At most, there is limited truth in them, as there is in just about any story.

CG Jung: I myself am the enemy who must be loved

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.

– Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 515-516

CG Jung: To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images I was inwardly calmed and reassured

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.

CG Jung: They enjoy this atmosphere in which they can admire their beautiful feelings

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

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?

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CG Jung: Madness is a special form of the spirit

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.

Carl Jung, Red Book, page 298.

Carl Jung: And that I stand in need of all the alms of my own kindness

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?

— Carl G. Jung

Delphic Oracle: Bidden or not bidden, God is present

Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit.

Bidden or not bidden, God Is present.

– The answer the Delpic Oracle gave the Lacedemonians when they considered going to war against Athens. Jung inscribed it over the entrance to his house in Kusnacht.

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Shadow of a thought

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.

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Archetypes here now

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.

Inquiry: It is better if they differentiate history and teaching stories

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.)

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Tataya Mato

I am reading (or rather taking in) a book called The Black Madonna Within by Tatayo Mato.

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.

King Lindorm, the trickster, and going beyond what we know

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.