jung


An essay, containing secrets that really aren’t secrets.

Yes, I know that Carl Jung is a deeply flawed human being, but his philosophy explains the world to me better than anyone else I’ve encountered. He makes poetic sense of the twisted labyrinth of human consciousness—and it requires poetry rather than logic to explore those paths. Besides, who better to act as shaman on such a journey than a flawed human being?

(Psst. Here’s a secret: no living, breathing human being is without flaws. Purity is not possible in the earth realm. And, in fact, shamans in tribal society are often “other” and strange and outcast people. They make the best interpreters of the less-than-upright world of the spirit and alternate realities.)

I have other shamans I listen to, other paths I explore, but always swing back to ol’ Carl. I don’t swallow his philosophy—or anyone’s—whole. (The story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is an active metaphor in my psyche.) But I do use Jung’s work as a basis for my own worldview and personal explorations.

(Psst. Here’s another secret: any philosophy worth its salt is a means for discovering your own way of looking at the world, not something slavishly to be followed. Anyone who tells you to walk in lock step or that you must attain righteous purity is probably a spiritual fascist.)

(Psst. There are many valid spiritual paths. What matters is finding the one that gets you closest to the mountaintop.)

I even went so far, in my flush days, of purchasing the complete facsimile edition of The Red Book when it was issued in the earlier years of this century. (It’s almost doubled in price since.) It was so visually amazing that I had this idea to display it open on a library pedestal so I and my guests could page through it if they had a hankering. I don’t know if that’s pretentious or not. I suspect it is, but at the time, it just seemed neato kobeato. And now I’m past giving a damn what people think, anyway.

That idea never came to fruition, however. First, because we had a bird at the time who flew freely through the house. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of birds knows they can’t be potty trained. Need I spell out the possibilities of open display of an expensive book in a house of fluttering birds? The bird, certainly, could not be contained in a cage, at least not during daylight hours. That would have been a violation of her spirit. And a metaphor, of course.

The second and more practical reason why I never got around to displaying it was because I never got the library pedestal and because I fell headlong into the emotional and physical pit of caregiving for many years. The bird, bless her, went to the sky gods a few years back and is no longer a risk to my book. But. It took me a long time to crawl out of the hole I existed in. In some ways, I am still crawling, though I think I may finally be sitting on the lip catching my breath before getting up and moving on. My energy, both psychic and physical, are still not at full strength. I will get there (or some form of there anyway) unless I croak first, but my feet are not quite resting on the earth yet.

Meanwhile, The Red Book gathers dust in a safe location. I have cleared a space in the living room for it, but must wait for an appropriate book stand, mostly for financial reasons. There’s another metaphor lying underneath that dust and waiting, but I’m not going to pursue it here.

Meanwhile meanwhile, my dreams are fertile again, full of archetypes and sendings from the Universe and conversations with muses and the dead. Dr. Jung, with one foot planted on mucky earth and the other in the Other, helps me interpret them in a way that Freud never could. In his stumblings down the crooked path of his life, he made ancient wisdom acceptable to (if not accepted by) academia. He prowled the borders of liminality, pulling hidden lore into the light. This made many academics (who are a conservative lot) deeply uncomfortable, but he did more to make the study of folklore and alchemy and such things valid to them as subjects of learning than anyone else in the early 20th century.

So, I cast a skeptical eye on the trickster nature of the man, but am deeply appreciative of the magus.

Random quote of the day:

“Wherever there is a reaching down into innermost experience, into the nucleus of personality, most people are overcome by fright, and many run away….The risk of inner experience, the adventure of the spirit, is in any case alien to most human beings.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success or money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

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Many have written about the ritual use of shoes, including me. This post isn’t about that, but it is about the fairytale-psyche-soulful aspects of shoes.

I’ve been reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes again. This is a book I have picked up and put down many times over the years. It’s as chewy as a chocolate caramel candy with almonds and each chunk of it takes a lot of mastication before you can swallow and digest. But it nourishes the soul and I love it. Ms. Pinkola Estes uses fairytales and Jungian analysis to help women reclaim—or never lose in the first place—their wild woman soul, that part of her that yearns for freedom and creativity and a life of standing on her own two feet.

In the chapter, “Self-Preservation: Identifying Leg Traps, Cages, and Poisoned Bait” she does a brilliant analysis of “The Red Shoes.” I’m not going to duplicate that here because, really, she’s already done it only better and I highly recommend reading what she says. However, the chapter does touch upon the special, deep-down meaning shoes have had for millennia.

Shoes send social signals, of course. Often people are judged by what they wear, especially on their feet. “Artists,” Ms. Pinkola Estes says, “often wear shoes that are quite different from those worn by, say, engineers.” However, if we’re talking ancient times, rulers had shoes, peasants didn’t. They were symbols of power. In a southern clime, shoes weren’t as necessary, but in a northern climate, they were vital to survival. Even the poor must find some sort of foot covering to withstand the winter.

The symbol of shoes can be understood as a psychological metaphor; they protect and defend what we stand on—our feet. In archetypal symbolism, feet represent mobility and freedom. In that sense to have shoes to cover the feet is to have the convictions of our beliefs and the wherewithal to act on them. Without psychic shoes a woman is unable to negotiate inner or outer environs that require acuity, sense, caution, and toughness.

It occurs to me when reading this that it might in part explain why so many women in these modern, privileged times tend towards shoe obsessions. Western society is divorced from so many of the soulful aspects of life that we seek that kind of toughness, that sense of freedom and creativity, from the outside in, rather than the inside out. It’s a strategy that can never work longterm. The soulful life is never an outer construct. It requires work, constant work, from the inside. As Ms. Pinkola Estes points out, “red indicates that the process is going to be one of vibrant life, which includes sacrifice.” You can’t buy that ready made. You can’t find your soul in an enormous shoe closet.

She also points out that in ancient matriarchal cultures in India, Egypt, parts of Asia, and Turkey, henna and other red pigments were given to young girls to stain their feet during threshold rites (a term Ms. Pinkola Estes prefers to the male-coined “puberty” or “fertility” rites). Onset of menstruation was one of the biggest of these rites, menarche being the symbolic crossing from childhood to the full power of womanhood. Girls were welcomed into the tribe of women, with all its attendant mystery and power and sacrifice, to become part of a larger group, a soul group, a belonging tribe.*

We in the privileged world no longer cross thresholds in the same way. We stagger through them as individuals, menarche is downgraded to a “curse,” we are made to feel ashamed of our bodies and their natural processes, and seek snake oil patents to cover “embarrassing odors.” We are privileged but deeply impoverished, caught up in a dance that has no meaning but goes on and on until we are exhausted and must amputate our own soles to get some semblance of rest. We are looking to cover our poor, naked soul-feet from the outside in, lining our caves with glittering, shining, must-have ruby slippers.

I have nothing against Jimmy Choo or Marc Jacobs or Van’s. I too have worshipped at the altar of the shoe fetish. But I recognize that the soleful life will never be the soulful life, and I try hard not to mistake the one for the other.

*Ms. Pinkola Estes sites no sources for these observations just gives a generalized bibliography at the end of her book.

Random quote of the day:

“Clinical diagnoses are important, since they give the doctor a certain orientation; but they do no help the patient. The crucial thing is the story. For it alone shows the human background and the human suffering, and only at that point can the doctor’s therapy begin to operate.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Psychotherapy and analysis are as varied as are human individuals. I treat every patient as individually as possible, because the solution of the problem is always an individual one. Universal rules can be postulated only with a grain of salt. A psychological truth is valid only if it can be reversed.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“At bottom we discover nothing new and unknown in the mentally ill; rather, we encounter the substratum of our own nature.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Everyone who thinks that I am a mystic is just an idiot.”

—Carl Jung, interview with Richard I. Evans, Professor of Psychology, University of Houston, 1957

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The apparently unendurable conflict is proof of the rightness of your life. A life without inner contradiction is either only half a life or else a life in the Beyond, which is destined only for angels. But God loves human beings more than angels.”

—Carl Jung, Letters, Volume 1

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Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“A book of mine is always a matter of fate. There is something unpredictable about the process of writing, and I cannot prescribe for myself any predetermined course.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

*A fortune cookie which has helped decide at least five careers in the arts that I know of.

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Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

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