Monday, October 11, 2004


St. Louis Jung Society, Fall 2004 September 23, 2004


First, you must accept some underlying assumptions—or at least entertain certain hypotheses.

1. The Unconscious is real. It exists. It influences and affects everyone's everyday life. It is a living phenomenon—the teeming, ever-creative source of life.

2. The ego does not create or give rise to the Unconscious. Rather, the Unconscious gives rise to and supports the ego.

3. Establishing a relationship with the Unconscious is worthwhile and beneficial to everyday life.

4. Just as in other relationships, the more we know, understand, and accept the other, the richer, deeper, and more satisfying the relationship.

5. The unconscious wants to be seen and understood.

6. Ego consciousness plays a vital role in the process of relationship. It seems that nothing changes or emerges from the Unconscious without an ego to serve as its agency. The ego serves—wittingly or not.

7. The Unconscious is capricious in nature.

In our work together we will make a sort of Pascal’s Wager. Remember his wager? "It makes more sense to believe in God than to not believe. If you believe, and God exists, you will be rewarded in the afterlife. If you do not believe, and He exists, you will be punished for your disbelief. If He does not exist, you have lost nothing either way. "

Substitute our word, “Unconscious”, for “God” in this paragraph, and you will better understand the approach we will take for our time together. I’m certainly not advocating anything of a religious nature with this approach. Rather, to me, the whole matter comes down to practicality and a simple question: What approach will benefit us the most?

With that behind us, let’s return to our question: Why study this difficult work? Edinger tells us that Jung’s Mysterium is like the Unconscious itself. It is oceanic. Just like work with our own psyche or unconscious, it is difficult to get a foothold, to understand, to sort out the myriad of images and storylines. Understanding and relating to our own psyche or Unconscious is a daunting task. However, for those of you who make the effort, you already know the effort is well worthwhile.

And just what does this effort consist of? Paying attention to dreams and dream images; observing synchronicities that occur in our life; watching for repeating patterns in our own behavior; being mindful of the unintentional effects we have on others and on events; mapping our own psyche for the complexes (which act like mine fields) that exist in our unconsciousness and that explode or erupt occasionally; being more or less aware of the triggers that set off our complexes; paying attention to our emotional state and its many variations and swings; entertaining fantasies that can provide information to our ego state; and above all, having an awareness that ego consciousness is embedded in something larger than itself that exerts pressures, that influences attitudes and behaviors, and that has real affects.

In this course, we are making an additional effort. By relating to Jung’s ideas and the images he explores, by developing a relationship with them, we are in effect establishing a better relationship with the Unconscious. The psyche, or the Unconscious, consists of images and patterns that picture vital activities which are full of meaning and purpose. These images and patterns are not random. They are uniform and recurring patterns or archetypes. Our western way of explaining physical phenomenon is largely by the mechanism of cause and effect. I am uptight and anxious because my early formation occurred during the great second World War is an example of cause and effect thinking. An equally valid way of ‘explaining’ physical phenomenon is to ask, “To what end or goal is this event, behavior, occurrence aimed?” A third way of explanation is to explore the possible patterns that make the event, behavior, occurrence necessary for the pattern to complete itself. It is this third way that Jung explores in his great work.

The value of knowing and recognizing these archetypal patterns is that when they manifest themselves in our personal experiences, we can see them. Why is that important? It is the case that healing in analysis occurs when the individual recognizes the connection between the personal and the archetypal. It is as if a connection gets made from one’s small personal existence and experience to some underlying source of all existence and experience, and the individual has an ‘ah-ha’ realization that is satisfying and helpful. And, it would seem to be case, the Unconscious also gets something of an ‘ah-ha’ when those moments occur.

Let’s take some examples. The word psyche is a Greek word that also means “butterfly” so that in the word itself is an understanding of the experience of transformation or metamorphosis. If the ego is an epiphenomenona of the psyche, that is to say, the ego is formed on the substratum of the psyche and takes on its patterning, then the ego, too, will be subject to psychic transformations. However, without an awareness of the underlying nature of the psyche and its pattern of regular, somewhat predictable transformations, the ego will simply be dragged through the transformations and will experience primarily the suffering. Or the ego may simply try to numb itself to all experience, in which case the baby has definitely been thrown out with the bath water. With memory, knowledge, imagination, patience, and perserverence, the ego can better weather the suffering and storms that are part and parcel of transformation. Simply remembering one’s own adolescence and knowing that it is a major transformation in everyone’s life can be of enormous help to any parent with teen-age offspring.

Knowing, too, that parenting itself is one of those universal, archetypal human experiences can help adults to understand and, if desired, modify their own personal ways of expressing this pattern in a very important and personal way. In other words, we don’t necessarily have to live out a particular pattern we discover in ourselves. But if we don’t know about the pattern, we will live it out unconsciously—often with effects that we would avoid if we knew how to avoid them. Imagine that you are a bulb plant about to give rise to a spring bloom. Whether you identify with the bulb or with the bloom can make a considerable difference in how you experience that period of painful splitting and pushing upward to the light. Better still if we can realize we are both bulb and bloom!


I have chosen Edinger’s lectures on Jung’s book, Mysterium Coniunctionis, (Volume 14 in Jung’s Collected Works) because Edinger is able to make Jung’s work more accessible. Even though we will be using Edinger as our portal, we will run into much that we do not understand, and we will be frustrated. It is as if we enter a mental state like the California goldminers of old. We will stand patiently in the stream, sifting through a lot of silt and ore, looking for that occasional flash that will make our effort worthwhile. Keep in mind that Jung and Edinger have already done a huge presort so that what we are presented with is mostly gold—although we won’t often recognize it. Edinger argues that the content of Jung’s Mysterium is the content of the collective unconscious, the objective psyche, transmitted through Jung’s highly-developed consciousness.

Jung’s great work is also his last. He spent his 70’s working on it and considered it the culmination and synthesis of all his earlier researches. As with all the important issues and directions in his life, Jung’s move into alchemy was presaged by a dream. This is his statement about the dream, one in a series he discusses at greater length in Memories, Dreams and Reflections:

"Before I discovered alchemy, I had a series of dreams which repeatedly dealt with the same theme. Beside my house stood another, that is to say, another wing or annex, which was strange to me. Each time I would wonder in my dream why I did not know this house, although it had apparently always been there. Finally came a dream in which I reached the other wing. I discovered there a wonderful library, dating largely from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Large, fat folio volumes, bound in pigskin, stood along the walls. Among them were a number of books embellished with copper engravings of a strange character, and illustrations containing curious symbols such as I had never seen before. At the time I did not know to what they referred; only much later did I recognize them as alchemical symbols. In the dream I was conscious only of the fascination exerted by them and by the entire library. It was a collection of medieval incunabula and sixteenth-century prints. The unknown wing of the house was a part of my personality, an aspect of myself; it represented something that belonged to me but of which I was not yet conscious. It, and especially the library, referred to alchemy, of which I was ignorant, but which I was soon to study. Some fifteen years later I had assembled a library very like the one in the dream." [MDR, p. 202]

In alchemical texts, Jung found processes described which paralleled the processes he observed in the dreams of his modern patients. The alchemist observed and practiced his art in his his/her laboratory, an art that consisted of “separation and analysis on the one hand and synthesis and consolidation on the other. For him there was first of all an initial state in which opposite tendencies or forces were in conflict; secondly there was the great question of a procedure which would be capable of bringing the hostile elements and qualities, once they were separated, back to unity again. " [Vol. 14, p. xiv] The beginning of the work was not self-evident, and the end-state even less self-evident. Generally, the alchemists found common elements or ideas in the end-state: “. . . the ideas of its permanence (prolongation of life, immortality, incorruptibility), its androgyny, its spirituality and corporeality, its human qualities and resemblance to man (homunculus), and its divinity.” [Vol. 14, p. xiv]

From his researches, Jung concluded that there is in the Unconscious, or the psyche, an ancient and ongoing process that tends toward an endgoal—wholeness or realization of the Self. He called this development “individuation,” the process in which opposing tendencies in the personality can be separated, analyzed, understood to some degree, and synthesized in such a way that a lasting connection and dialogue between ego and Self is established. The alchemists term for the process of separation and analysis was solve et coagula, dissolve and coagulate. Their term for the endstate was lapis Philosophorum, or the “Philosopher’s Stone,” which they equated with Christ. (In his work, Jung considers Christ as one symbol for the Self.)

Using Edinger’s lectures as an aid to understanding alchemical language, we will explore the images and processes of alchemy which, as Jung so carefully and methodically demonstrates, are parallel to those that take place in our own psyches if we but can recognize them. Recognition is critically important for the reason I cited earlier: It is the case that healing in analysis occurs when the individual recognizes the connection between the personal and the archetypal.

Edinger gave these lectures at the Jung Institute in Los Angeles in 1986-87. The lectures were audiotaped, and the book we are using is one compiled and edited by Joan Dexter Blackmer. This is the first paragraph of her “Foreword:”

Mysterium Coniunctionis has been an object of fascination for me from the very start of my acquaintance with Jung’s work almost twenty-five years ago. For many years I read at it and struggled unsuccessfully to grasp its heavily veiled meaning. Its images and phrases kept coming back to me as apt symbols of my experience, but always clothed in the riddles that symbols present—riddles that defied solution.” [p. 14]

Add to that quote, this one from Edinger: “This book can’t be read the way one reads an ordinary book—it has to be worked on the way one works on a dream. Initially, almost every sentence will present you with something that is more or less unfamiliar, and that adds up to a whole series of defeats for the ego. But if you can disidentify from the ego sufficiently, then that may enable you to keep going.” [p. 18]

What to Expect

The student of this work will:

1. discover fresh insights into the development of his/her own consciousness,

2. develop an understanding of the structures of the ego and the Self, as well an understanding of the relationship between the ego and the Self,

3. probe the mechanisms of projection,

4. learn to appreciate the role of fantasy and active imagination in personality development.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Analytical Meaning of Sacrifice

If, as Jung tells us, we worship as divine the life energies that flow through us, (1991, 83) then the release or the harnessing of new energies will be experienced as an incarnational event. For the individual who has been gripped by his/her own inner, autonomous energies, the one whose ego has entered into a cooperative relationship with those energies, incarnation becomes a matter of life and death. The relationship is also a great paradox because the refusal of the energies is a refusal of life while the embrace of the new energy can be felt as the death of some vital part of one’s identity. In other words, incarnation requires sacrifice, and sacrifice entails suffering. Sacrifice (making sacred), Incarnation (giving flesh to) and consciousness (a knowing with) are closely related terms. All three imply the presence of an Other. In this way of understanding the psychological nature of the human person, ego consciousness is the repository for incarnating energies.

Early in his life Jung wrote, “the whole art of life shrinks to the one problem of how the libido may be freed in the most harmless way possible” (318). Later in discussing his “Joining with the Primitive to Kill Siegfried” dream, Jung describes the process by which he was able to free the libido he had invested in his heroic attitude (1965, 180-81). At the time of the dream, December of 1913, he felt great loss and sorrow as he realized that part of his own personality was dying. Some years after the dream, Jung notes that in sacrificing his heroic ideal (symbolized by the murder of Siegfried), he gave up his superior function, thereby allowing the released libido to work toward a new adaptation to life (1989, 48-49).

In his old age, Jung wrote, “My raison d’etre consists in coming to terms with that indefinable Being we call God” (Jaffe, 1979, 207). Jung was cautious about using the word “God,” but I don’t believe he ever strayed far from equating God or the God-image with life force or libido.

In the journey toward a wider consciousness, many levels of sacrifice are necessary. Ultimately a fairly conscious ego can learn to participate in the sacrifice of itself when it is able to give up closely held attitudes, let go of relationships that no longer fit the life situation, or, paradoxically enough, sacrifice life situations that no longer fit an essential relationship. The ego begins to understand that the Self as the organizing principle of the psyche is unfolding itself in a slow and often painful process in one’s life that tends to some end or goals obscure to ego understanding. The Self serves mystery and it serves the divine. “But everything divine is an end-in-itself, perhaps the only legitimate end-in-itself we know” (Jung, 1969, 250). The Self makes the ego its object. The ego in turn learns to offer up in service to the Self, i.e., to sacrifice to the Self, “the fruit of attention, patience, industry, devotion, and laborious toil” (253). The Self demands the maximum sacrifice from the ego, and the conscious ego seeks to make that sacrifice.

Sacrifice is more than a way of expressing our relationship with the divine; it is also an avenue by which the divine enters into the human realm and the human person partakes of the divine. “We must overcome death by finding God in it. And by the same token, we shall find the divine established in our innermost hearts, in the last stronghold which might have seemed able to escape his reach (Teilhard, 82).

Probably at a very deep level of our being we recognize the necessity of sacrifice. We know that every living thing feeds off other living things. We know that the sun must set for the sun to rise. We bring new human life into the world only through labor pain. Though we anxiously work to avoid suffering, to make ourselves secure, we cannot hide from the fact that we are by nature suffering animals. The foundational myth of our culture tells us that our separation from God, our fateful decision to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, set us up for toil and suffering and death. Knowledge, or consciousness, a knowing with, is bought only with suffering and sacrifice and death, both on real and symbolic levels.

Religious Significance of Sacrifice

Abraham’s willingness to kill his only son at the behest of God is a religious working of the theme of sacrifice. Abraham has kept faith with his God, had faithfully executed his commands, and had been rewarded richly in his old age with the birth of his son Isaac and the promise that God would maintain his covenant with Isaac and his descendants. Then an enormous sacrifice was demanded of Abraham—his beloved son and with him the promise of the future—and Abraham was compliant to this highly irrational demand (New American Bible, 1986, Genesis 22: 1-18).

The increase of consciousness, i.e., the deeper understanding of God brought about by the indwelling of the divine in Abraham, and the fuller participation of God in human nature, afforded by Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice, signaled a change in the relationship between God and humankind. Perhaps in the Abraham-Isaac enactment there was too little presence of God in human nature for Abraham to find God in Isaac’s death. Did Abraham, with of course God’s help, intuit this fact, and was that the reason the sacrifice was halted?

Another replay of our theme in the Judeo-Christian tradition has God sacrificing his only son. Here God more fully partakes of the event; he no longer watches from a distance removed. It is God’s son, in whom he is well pleased, who is sacrificed. The indwelling of the divine in the human plus the sacrifice the divine carried out on itself seems to have been sufficient to make God more conscious of the human condition and to make humankind more conscious of God. In this sacrifice the incarnation of the divine allowed a human being to share in immortality. Hence, the resurrection represents the incarnation itself, and the appearance of the risen Christ to ordinary people represents the possibility of its realization in human consciousness.

Sacrifice in Fairy Tale

In “the Girl Without Hands” (Grimm, 1977, 113-18) the miller has been forced to chop off his daughter’s hands after he made a deal with the devil that would bring his family worldly riches. The daughter suffers her loss passively. Eventually she is faced with a choice—stay with the father and accept his loving care (the same father who chopped off her hands!) or give up this questionable security and venture into the world on her own. She leaves the confines of the family and courageously strikes out on her own. This is the moment she begins a conscious sacrifice.

A fruitful way to explore this tale is to consider the daughter as the developing feminine ego and her relationship with the other characters and the situations in the story as the unfolding and growth of the ego within the encompassing psyche. When looked at in this way, sacrifice becomes a major theme.

We follow our heroine through a series of adventures in which she submits to the insecurities of the unknown. Eventually she is able to grow new hands. Like Odysseus and Telemachus, our male heroes discussed below, she reaches a new and higher level of relationship with transpersonal powers that is reflected in her everyday existence. She is empowered by forces she meets in her own psyche when she has the courage to engage them.

The tale could be the story of a modern woman caught up in patriarchal values. Her introjected parents (the miller who made the bad deal and the mother who realizes it but is powerless to change it) would have her stay infantile and in their care, crippled but safe. Our modern woman may be faced with the choice of staying safely in the confines of a traditional marriage, in the role of “mother” long after her children need her, or in a good job in a corporation. If she stays or if she goes, the cost is high. The price for staying is the sacrifice of manifesting herself in that world (her hands). The price for going is the sacrifice of her life as it is, perhaps uncomfortable but known, perhaps unfulfilling but safe. Either choice she makes involves sacrifice. If she can forego safety and win through to new hands, she may become a mature and nurturing woman to herself and to others, someone who power to effect change, to put a stop to deals with the devil.

Sacrifice in Myth

In the Odyssey Odysseus and Telemachus, father and son, undergo a number of sacrificial experiences, Odysseus on his journey home and Telemachus in the search for his father. In some ways their experiences are similar and parallel. Odysseus in trial after trial is stripped of everything—his family, his ships, his crew, until finally, having given up his heroic identity, he reaches home, his beloved Ithaca. The reader understands that the hands of the gods are at work in every experience the father and son have. Odysseus and Telemachus, however, simply experience suffering, hardship, sacrifice, as well as ease without conscious understanding that they are at the mercy of and in service to warring divinities.

There comes a moment though when Odysseus stands his ground with Circe, a goddess who lives on the island of Aeaea. He relates cooperatively with her so that, with her help, he begins to learn to actively participate in sacrifice. Circe cautions Odysseus and counsels him about the dangers of the Sirens. He listens carefully, abandons any heroic attempt to deal with them, and strategizes with his crew about avoiding them. He uses beeswax to seal the ears of his comrades, and he commands them to lash him fast to the mast so that they can sail beyond the spellbinding song of the Sirens. No heroic engagement here; a wise avoidance with the help of a deity.

What does Odysseus sacrifice in this courageous act? The Sirens promise to make him and his comrades wise, to tell them about “the pains that Achaeans and Trojans once endured on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so—all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!” (Homer, 1996, 277). Circe has told Odysseus the dangers of listening, of the danger of their being drawn into the realm of the Sirens. There will be no sailing home, no greeting from wife and children. Instead Odysseus and his comrades will be drawn into a kind of death for the Sirens have “round them heaps of corpses, rotting away, rags of skin shriveling on their bones . . .” (273) Odysseus has to forego the temptation of succumbing to intellectual understanding devoid of life.

Sacrifice in Clinical Material

Diane, a woman in her middle forties who had spent her career working up the corporate ladder, came into analysis suffering from meaninglessness and depression. She had divorced some years earlier and more recently had quit her job when the corporation where she worked offered a generous separation package to a number of middle managers. Although she had agonized over leaving the job, she felt the need for time off, having worked except for brief vacations since she was a teen. She quickly established a new lifestyle, considerable reduced from before, and entered analysis.

The decision to quit work had certainly felt like a huge sacrifice, but Diane was buffered from it by the notion that she would eventually return to the corporate world. Like the Handless Maiden, she had had to give up a lot of herself to fit into her former life situation. Slowly she began to explore areas of her personhood that she had truncated in the interests of rather one-sided relationships, economic independence, career advancement, and success in a male-dominated environment.

About one year into her analysis she had the following dream: I am in a church. On the altar Mark is nailed to a huge cross. The service is about his sacrifice. It is horrible, and I am amazed to see that he is looking about with great interest at what is going on in spite of his suffering.

Diane felt the pain of this dream so strongly that after she told it, she sat weeping through the remainder of the session. When I tried probing into her feelings, she screamed at me to be silent. She was unable to engage other than to stay in the room.

From our previous work I knew Mark was a man Diane greatly admired and respected, someone upon whom she projected heroic qualities of intellect, power, and ability. This part of Diane, perhaps her identity with her first function, thinking, was being sacrificed. She could only witness passively in the dream. She certainly suffered great pain in her waking reality as she began to realize she could not return to her former way of life, but she had little consciousness of what was happening to her.

Some two years later, Diane entered into a relationship that held great promise. Over time, however, she realized that she was back in a situation that cost her too much of her essential self. Painfully and slowly she reached the decision to withdraw from the relationship. This sacrifice was made on a conscious level, although she entered into the process with considerable hesitation. After some months of intense loneliness and pain, she had this dream: I am on a journey with an unknown man. We arrive at a junction that requires much effort to cross. On the other side there are many trees that have been turned into timber. The man says to me, “Now we must go to church.” I am surprised and ask, “Why?” He says, “Because we share the Paschal Mystery.”

The dream seemed to contain precisely the confirmation Diane needed about her decision, and it gave her great comfort. She associated the Paschal Mystery with the death and resurrection mysteries of the Catholic faith, the willing sacrifice of the son and his later transformation. The dream caused her to revisit her earlier crucifixion dream and to glean considerable understanding about it and what it had effected in her life at the time.

I noted to myself the motif of the trees-to-timber, something Edinger writes about, “The general symbolism of falling trees in dreams indicates that some major quantity of libido is in the process of transit from one level of awareness to another. . . . Whenever you encounter a dream like that, be on the lookout for what is going on in the life of the patient. Very often it is the conclusion of some type of unconscious relationship” (1994, 76-77). Jung also tells us that a sacrifice often occurs at an important point of crossing (1991, 347) which is a motif in this dream.

Eventually Diane entered into a new relationship, one that can encompass the whole of her personality and one in which she and her husband meet on equal ground. Her attitude today allows her to enter consciously and meaningfully into sacrifice—although not without pain—and to see sacrifice as a necessary cooperative enterprise. Often she feels her life as a slow, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful, working out of issues with which she cooperates but which is tending towards aims of which she is but dimly aware. Not a religious person in the traditional sense of the word, she has said she occasionally feels a “sort of joyful hope like a really spiritual person might feel” in her day-to-day lived experience. She has a job that she enjoys. Although it lacks the “glitz and the fast pace” of her former work, it allows her to earn a living and to employ her skills in a fuller expression of who she is.

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