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Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Stimulating Jungian Active Imagination Through Mask Making
In my December 17th blog, I wrote about how constructing what turned out to be a multi-sided Janus mask, broke through my numbness, opening me up to feeling the pain and suffering of our living Earth.
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.
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