Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dreaming of coyotes, qi, and holes in my head

A photoshop reconstruction of my dream image

On the day before Christmas I had this dream.

I was driving up a steep, overgrown jeep trail in my four-wheel drive truck. To my right, I saw a pack of beautifully proportioned, playful coyotes with magnificent multicolored hair, like that of calico cats. Then to the left I saw another pack of coyotes, deformed and misshapen, sullen, snarly, and gnashing their teeth.

Near the top of the mountain, I suddenly and impulsively pulled off the road next to an unkempt, falling-down house just as an ancient, beat-up pickup truck came charging up behind me out of nowhere, slewing to an abrupt and menacingly stop inches from my rear bumper. Two disheveled looking, indigenous men piled out of the truck, falling to the ground, writhing and flopping around, unable to stand.

They were cordial to me but disturbing to look at. I could not help but observe that they had no pants on, exposing their bare asses and legs which appeared fused together and tapered like a fish’s body. Their faces were deformed and the one I could see most clearly had a large hole in his head (see the image I drew from memory above).

The indigenous men said nothing more, just continued to flop and writhe.  It was exquisitely embarrassing to watch. I felt ashamed but, not knowing what to do, I got back in my truck and drove on. At the top of the mountain, I came across a picture-book village, looking like a set from a movie or a real life version of a theme park like Disney Land where everything works and problems do not exist.

Although it was moving too slowly to be perceived with the naked eye, I clearly sensed that every part of the village was in rhythmic, coordinated motion, meshing together perfectly like the sections of a world-class symphony or the many assorted gears in a 21-jewel fine watch.

Not only that, transcending human rationality, I could see the whole village was powered by a single source. A crude sense of what I mean is the old water powered factories, like the old Amoskeag Mills here in New Hampshire where a myriad of different machines and processes, driven by an endless number of belts and pulleys, were all powered by a single, super-human source, the Merrimack River.

The village I had entered was like that, but at the same time, infinitely more. I had an irresistable, overwhelming desire to reach out and manipulative the parts to see how they worked. But, before I could act, a powerful inner voice like a god spoke out to me: Thou shalt not touch.

The voice did not tell me why but at an unconscious level I knew. Without doubt, this village scene represented our Earth, the complex, self-regulating, living entity that James Lovelace called Gaia. [1]

I listened to the voice and obeyed. Like a kid in a fine crystal glass store, I put my hands in my pockets and did not try to touch a thing, just staring in wonder. And so the dream ended.

I interpret my dream as a warning against my own hubris as well as that of the whole modern human world: While the hidden, immanent life force that vitalizes our world can be infinitely powerful, it can, at the very same time, be phenomenally fragile and easily derailed.

I'm still working on the significance of the coyotes in my dream. However, I have had reoccurring dreams about fish and indigenous people. See below for what I have written about these other dreams:

For Kafka fish must have been the very flesh of forgetting...Fish for Kafka must have been the very flesh of forgetting: their lives are forgotten in a radical manner;”
Requiem for a fish...or is it for us all? The message resonates with me in terms of interpreting my dream: "Yes, it may be a requiem for many indigenous peoples and the life forms associated with them, but–no matter how great our grief– we can’t drown in our sadness.”

[1] I could clearly sense – and almost see – that our village was powered by a single vital force, primal energy like what the Chinese call “Qi.”  The danger was that if I intervened I might extinguish that life force causing the village to fall silent. And the danger for human kind is that if they keep intervening in Nature, they will extinguish the vital life force that causes the winds to blow and the currents in the oceans to flow. And that will be the end of everything.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yet another take on Circles, Mandalas, and Life

Photograph I took inside the Chelsea Market, NYC
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Stimulating Jungian Active Imagination Through Mask Making

Hundertwasser © Sun and spiraloid over the Red Sea, 1960

That wasn’t the end of the process. 

After watching the Patriot football game the next day, I went to bed and dreamed I had designed a new Patriot logo and was about to unveil it to the screaming fans. The logo consisted of a maze of square tubes circling outward from the core in a rectangular form. The tubes were not just static and square pipes but glowing and pulsating, infused with feeling.  I wasn’t totally pleased with my creation. I had wanted it even more flowing and alive but it was too late now: it was show time. What I had created would have to do.

But at the last minute, disaster struck: a few of the tubes suddenly appeared disconnected and askew. Worse yet, the whole logo began to slowly collapse upon itself, the same way that my Janus mask had threatened to collapse at that delicate juncture in the construction process when I had to cut the Janus mask into two halves in order to remove the temporary inner form, consisting as it did of old crumbled newspapers covered with masking tape. As I feared, once the inner support was removed, my mask started to collapse.  I worked desperately, smoothing the severed edges of the still moist and pliable clay back together while, at the same time, frantically stretching and straightening the clay to keep it in some sort of coherent form.

The Logo was a metaphor for me

I can see now that the Patriot logo was a metaphor for me. Entering old age, I am finally attempting to open myself up in order to remove my crumbled up, old newspaper, conventional persona, the social face I project outward, the one preoccupied with collective ideas. And, indeed, it comes at a risk. As Jung says, the disintegration of persona of conventionality may well lead initially to a state of chaos in the individual: “one result of the dissolution of the persona is the release of fantasy…disorientation.” [i]
The key to weathering this dissolution of the self is not to attempt to replace it with a single authentic self because one doesn’t exist. What we must understand, as Peter Baldwin tells us, is that we have many parts, multiple selves, both conscious and non-conscious, which we must learn to integrate to live a full and rich life. [ii]

Robert Jay Lifton, in another of my favorite books, calls this ability to integrate multiple selves one of the great psychological challenges of our times, not just as a means to understand ourselves but to help save the world by learning to develop deeper empathy and a real sense of commonality with our fellow humans and the natural world. [iii]

I read these books years ago and have always had a great appreciation for what they have to say.  But now I realize it was mostly at the theoretical level of my being. It only became experiential knowledge, seeping into every bone of my being, when I got my hands dirty building my Janus mask.

Experiencing synchronicity:

Little known to me at the time, my experiential work with masks was not completed. I was about to experience a ‘meaningful coincidence’, something Jung called synchronicity.

Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, something he called synchronicity. Jung felt the principle of synchronicity provided “conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious, in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlies the whole of human experience and history — social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.” Jung believed that there were parallels between synchronicity and aspects of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. [iv]

Now back to my meaningful experience.

After writing about my dream, I attempted to draw my dream image of the Patriot logo that set this whole blog into being. But for whatever reason, after failing miserably, I decided to give up and take a warm bath instead. While the tub was filling, it occurred to me that if I was, in fact, tapping into the Jungian collective unconsciousness, other searchers would have surely also connected to it and created similar images to the one I had dreamed about.

With that in mind, I grabbed one of Russet’s art books, Modern and Primitive Art[v], and took it into the bathtub with me to check out my theory. I opened the book at random and flipped through a couple of pages. When I got to page 37, there it was: My dream image!

I swear – no exaggeration – that’s the way it happened! Synchronicity won the battle against my rational mind.

Conclusions and food for thought
My working assumption is that my jagged, rectangular logo dream image indicates that I am a work-in-progress, journeying from the rigid, theoretical, ideological, patriarchal rationality of my youth toward the more feminine, mystical, spiritual, creative wholeness represented by the flowing spiral forms of Native American symbols, Buddhist mandalas, and Tantra painting. According to Jung, the basic design of all mandalas is "a circle or square (most often a square) symbolizing 'wholeness', and in all of them the relation to the center is accentuated. " [vi] 

Jung says that the circle is one of the great primordial images of humankind and that when we analyze the symbol of the circle, we are really analyzing the self. In a similar vein, Joseph Campbell, the great master of mythology and a devotee of Jung, adds this: "Making a mandala is a discipline for pulling all those scattered aspects of your life together, for finding a center and ordering your life to it. You try to coordinate your circle with the universal circle." [vii]

I believe that is what I am being prompted to do by my dream: To step away from conventional society and discover my authentic self which involves accessing and pulling together into harmony my various disparate parts, both conscious and unconscious. And most important, aligning myself with something bigger than myself: Mother Earth and what Jung called the universal whole.

Notes on other avenues to explore: 
Another avenue to explore is the meaning of “logo” in my dream. The word logo is the root of logos. Carl Jung contrasted the critical and rational faculties of logos with the emotional, mystical elements of Eros. Wikipedia tells us according to Jung’s approach, logos vs. Eros can be represented as "science vs. mysticism", or "reason vs. imagination" or "conscious activity vs. the unconscious. [viii]
For Jung, logos represented the masculine principle of rationality, in contrast to its female counterpart. In terms of my dream, perhaps I am encountering my "soul-image," the complementary, contrasexual part of my psyche when the archetype of my male collective unconscious, animus, finds expression through my feminine inner personality, anima.[ix]
That would explain my increased interest in the imagination and the mystical. And why in my dream I was attempting to mold the rectangular logo into a more flowing, spiraling mandala. I need to explore this further.
Jung viewed the anima process as being one of the sources of creative ability. “In the book The Invisible Partners it is said that the key to controlling one's anima/animus is to recognize it when it manifests and exercise our ability to discern the anima/animus from reality.”[x]

[i] C. G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (London 1953) p. 156 and p. 277.
[ii] Peter A. Baldwin. Four and twenty blackbirds: personae theory and the   understanding our multiple selves (Las Vegas, 1997)
[iii] Robert Jay Lifton, The Protean Self (New York, 1993.
[v] Charles Wentinck, Modern and Primitive Art (Oxford, 1978), P. 37
[vi] Jolande Jacobi, The Psychology of CG Jung (New Haven, 1973), P. 136
[vii] Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (New York, 1988) P. 217
[ix] Jolande Jacobi, The Psychology of CG Jung (New Haven, 1973), P. 114

Monday, December 17, 2012

Four-sided Janus mask

Four sides of the clay mask I constructed 12/17/12

In ancient mythology,
Janus is the god of 
beginnings and transitions, 
endings and time.

This mask speaks to
the chorus of voices 
clamoring for attention 
as Climate Change
renders our past

This mask has myriad faces,
reflecting whoever we are 
from wherever we’re from:

The bleached skull of a pterodactyl 
or a coyote’s cunning glare. 

The crest of a shrill blue jay
 or a sturgeon’s dead stare.

The enlightened smile of a dolphin
obscured by polluted waters

Or an old high-top sneaker
washed up after the flood.

The mask speaks to us all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dialoging with my unconscious: Part 2

Photograph of my mask creadted 12/09/12
Part II: Dialogue with a master

Well, Peter, my mask is drying on a metal rack, preparatory to being fired… I am acutely aware that time is of the essence because my insights formed in the wet, fertile, aliveness of the earthy clay will dry out and become brittle and unyielding, just like my physical mask downstairs.

What follows are my discoveries about my mask and the collective unconscious, such as they are.  I’m afraid that Jung might be disappointed. To my mind, the first archetype, even before those that Jung explored, was our original oneness with the natural world around us. As Joanna Macy put it in her wonderful book, World as Lover, World as Self:

“In the first movement, our infancy as a species, we felt no separation from the natural world around us. Trees, rocks, and plants surrounded us with a living presence as intimate and pulsing as our own bodies. In that primal intimacy, which anthropologists call "participation mystique," we were as one with our world as a child in the mother's womb” – page 13.

To the best of my ability to decipher it what my mask did for me was like a bolt of electricity, jolting me back into a living, throbbing connection with my greater self, the earth. Below is my initial attempt to poetically express in words what happened. 

My mask, Part I: The Blind, Preyless, Predator
One who used to be the predator
Pumped with testosterone
Vietnam vet, avid hunter
Craving raw meat
Now old and neutered
Eating only vegetables
Forced to watch my mother
Limb by limb
Organ by organ
Slowly, agonizingly,
Tortured and killed…

…While my screams like
One hand clapping
Fall on deaf ears.

My mask, Part II: The Conch shell connection
Like a child tunes into the living world
Holding a conch shell to her ear
To hear the roar of the Ocean

So too, the conch shell opening
On the top of my mask:
The seventh Chakra point
  Of pure consciousness
  Without subject or object 
Tunes me in
Like the jolt of electricity
From the executor’s chair:
To the cries of 
Orphaned baby chimps and elephants
Disappearing fish gasping in gill nets
Honey bees suffocating in their hives
Polar bears drowning on disappearing ice

Like the jolt of electricity 
From the executor’s chair,
I feel the Pain we are inflicting
On our Mother, The Earth.

Again, Peter, thank you for your wise inspiration and guidance.