Animus and Anima in Fairy Tales
Marie-Louise Von Franz
Inner City Books, Toronto, 2002, 128 p.p.
Animus and Anima in Fairy Tales, compiled by Daryl Sharp, is the one hundredth title of Inner City Books. of which Von Franz is the honorary patron. This diversified collection of fairy tales, commented upon by Dr. Von Franz, is richly educational for those interested in learning about Jungian psychology. It is also another sparkling gift from this twentieth-century literary scholar and Jungian analyst, who continues to benefit others even after her death.
There is much good news in this collection. One need never be overwhelmed: neither by the dark sides of the animus, the inner masculine figure in a woman and the archetype of death; nor by the dark aspect of the anima, the inner feminine figure in a man, and the archetype of life. Genuine gifts are given, based not on the resolutions analysis provides but upon how handicaps are viewed - with detached interest and compassion or with fear and self-loathing. For example, a frequent figure in fairy tales, the simpleton, Ivan, has more chance of success than do his smarter brothers. Why? Because, in his naiveté he is more open to new information and to spontaneous action than either of his more self-satisfied siblings. These skeletal tales, then, devoid of character development, provide the bare bones of patterns of behavior and the traits that can work for or against integration. Von Franz candidly suggests that disabilities can work in one's favor as a starting point:
"These patterns, repeated motifs (of conflict) in fairy tales are always linked with what appear to be handicaps in the outer world; always linked with the unknown."
In her insightful commentary following each of the fairy tales, Von Franz insists that it is possible to know ourselves, but only up to a point. After that it's about trusting the wisdom of life. And, oh yes, being willing to die: being willing to accept endings the number of times required, so that this wisdom can do the job without our constant, controlling, interference. In other words, the life archetype has to let go and enter the realm of death.
Consistently, in her analysis of the fairy tales, Von Franz begins by noting what is missing. She looks at what needs to be renewed or released, and equally importantly, how this amalgamation is accomplished. Over and over again, it's not so much about being clever as it is in being good and decent. Qualities such as good intention, integrity, patience, open-mindedness, spontaneity and humility are the redeeming virtues of heroes who, in the end, become more fully alive to begin the circle once more. As Marion Woodman puts it, "life is indeed a series of birth canals." (The Ravaged Bridegroom, 1990)
In story after story, we are counseled about how to handle a journey filled with cruel tricksters, and how to endure the long, sometimes dry walk to individuation. One encounters, Von Franz says, many false masks behind which lie, frighteningly, one face -- the long, grey one that never laughs: the ego that stubbornly resists the principle source of its terror: change.
Which advice of the wise wizards and clever tricksters should be discarded and which listened to? Von Franz urges discrimination:
In "The Virgin Czarina," we again meet Ivan, a "dumbling," who agrees to die, to sacrifice his life rather than compromise himself.
Marion Woodman elaborates, in The Ravaged Bridegroom, upon such discernment, commenting that the old motifs of dominance such as "hero-kills-dragon-and-wins" are outworn. Today's theme is far more artistic and intelligent. It urges both balance and creative, compassionate partnership.
"The transformation of relationship can come about through a genuine understanding of the difference between murder and sacrifice. Both kill or suppress energy, but the motives behind them are quite different. Murder is rooted in ego needs for power and domination. Sacrifice is rooted in the ego's surrender to the guidance of the Self in order to transform destructive, although perhaps comfortable, energy patterns into the creative flow of life..."
Von Franz provides a treasury of "tip-offs" to those who wish to partner their feminine and masculine aspects. Here are but four:
Accept the boundaries of time and space. Be patient:
"When one is distressed, there can be impulsive reaction...it is terribly urgent to send off an e-mail, for instance, or telephone and speak one's mind. The tip-off is this feeling of urgency."
Instead, we can:
- Be open-minded like the simpleton, who has a certain advantage:
"The naive one has the gift of being spontaneous and the ability to expose oneself to new facts:
That is the proper attitude towards the unconscious."
- Welcome challenges and changes:
"The trouble in this story starts only at a crucial moment...when the man wants to marry her...
Before this, she seems to be free. Thus, a person with a neurosis has it because the chance
of getting out of the complex is being offered."
- Accept our human limitations and help each other:
"...North American Indian stories say, "Don't look up at the stars- they are death
and we shouldn't look at them." In some uncanny way, the primitive mind knows
they are projections of the unconscious, and we must stay away from them because
we haven't the strength to deal with them
Von Franz suggests that we not allow self-criticism to hamper fulsome, enthusiastic participation in our own journeys:
"But you who are watching (only) are excluded from going to the mountain."
The Goddess in the Garden
Author: Carolyn Zonailo
Ekstasis Editions, 2002, 87 pages
The cover of The Goddess in the Garden, shows a naked goddess, sleeping quietly, in a garden. Zonailo is from British Columbia and of Russian Doukhobor heritage, and, while she is not of the minority Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, I was reminded of their practice, at times, of undressing as a sign of protest against being required by the Canadian Government to get involved in battles they believed could be resolved more creatively. What is poetry but a creative and stark stripping to the bare essentials of a matter—to expose that which is most important to the unhooded eye?
Carolyn Zonailo, M.A., poet, practicing astrologer, lecturer and lifelong student of Jungian thought, now lives in Montreal, Quebec, and is the author of nine published books of poetry.
Read “Skinhead Riding Bicycle” to hear moments of vulnerability while “getting dressed” prior to showing off the finished image—and hear youth’s fear. See flesh-carved roses, the pale word mother and exhausted mermaids draped over the now frail chest of “The Tattooed Man” as he prepares for the most exciting journey of all, not from the mast of a ship on turbulent seas as a strong, young man but from his quiet hospital bunker as a frail old one—and disrobe to adventure.
The cover of Dancing in the Flames by Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson also features a naked goddess, but this one is quite awake and consuming the hot flames that surround her whilst dancing in their light. The authors warn us that the sleep of the goddess is a special time and not necessarily an unconscious one. When she rises, refreshed, ready, and truly awake now, it is in the trinity of virgin, mother and crone, each with her own job to do, her own aspect that transforms, ultimately, into the whole person. Woodman and Dickson discuss the essence of personal change: “…there must be a letting go of all false values that are rooted in fear.
Zonailo’s poetry is felt, viscerally, in the body, in the resonance of memory and the tough work of acceptance—and all this wrapped in the subtle, but steady encouragement. Both “Paula” and “Going Into Dark Sleep” feature the desperate contract that letting go requires, Read “Mother’s Garden” and consider the author sitting in her own mother’s garden, at peace, now, with what was not received. One can actually be nurtured by the painful process of acceptance.
The Goddess in the Garden, starkly witnesses reality for those sustaining a loss or working hard on healing some torn part of their lives. There are wry smiles for those who recognize landscapes of former trips.
Woodman and Dickson explain, in Dancing in the Flames, that in ancient times, frightened people tried to appease an imagined angry authority with sacrifice including the blood of their children, their animals and themselves in order to avoid its wrath.
Finding peace now comes not from running away, nor seeking approval, nor caving into false values, but from dealing courageously with our own realities. .
Animal Guides: In Life, Myth and Dreams
Author: Neil Russack
Inner City Books, Toronto, 2002, 222 pages
Once there was a lonely and confused young man, an observer. He suffered a sanitized existence – controlled and carefully measured. He early witnessed members of his family making choices, dry and uncompromising, that furnished the objective trappings of security that soothed the pain of the family history –but did not, of course, heal it.
In pondering his own history of isolation, he made the assessment, “What was left out was the animal inside who hungered to explore his own relationship to friends and to the world.”
Reading Animal Guides is a participation in this exploration, The world is indeed welcomed by this once-lonely young man, now a Jungian analyst in San Francisco, as story after instructive metaphorical anecdote is presented. Animal Guides appear to lead seeking dreamers along their way and when they do, birds fly away, deer slip quietly back into forests green, and dolphins plunge to deeper depths, each to live their own life, as intended. .
Russack communicates that the reality of personal growth is a demanding commitment. Some people are willing to grow and some are not yet, one is never left to face one’s troubles alone: support comes with every stage one is willing to enter. As one moves to deeper, to higher or hotter or colder places, different animal guides appear to warn, instruct, and to invite our comparison of our situations to the messages their natures imply. Their unselfish goal is to inspire us to connect with our own essence, not to theirs.
Animal Guides does not set up any hierarchy of animals. Each animal has its place, with distinctive drives. The lowly turtle, for example – a first inspiration for the young Russack – cannot possibly be less important than the phoenix, simply because first hope is so poignant, and so critical. As a discouraged child, also stuck under a roof he could not escape, Russack observed a turtle whose condition mirrored his own predicament:
"…to see this slow dependent shell with legs move with a plan and direction gave me hope…the sturdy legs were slow, yet demonstrated that such heavily burdened life can indeed move."
Nor does the metaphorical animal guide remain permanently. Instead, one is accompanied by creatures who remains true to their natures – a bird is a bird, and a frog is a frog. Each generally represents an instinctual drive, definite and clear in its path and in its limitations,
In Animal Guides, each creature departs when autonomy is achieved. By practicing the action required, the dreamer earns the connection. That which was severed is renewed. The gift is to become more truly alive – a theme often repeated by Russack.
He emphasizes that while there are rich rewards, there are responsibilities and painful price tags to one’s evolution. Russack openly shares his unique experience of achieving vulnerability in his life – a process that gifted him with the readiness to move to an even deeper place of healing. It seems that having created a sturdy and reliable nest of trusting relationships he found himself willing to fall apart in that nest, with yet more hatching to be done.
Is this why the tale ends not with the powerful earthbound bull, but with a more versatile duck?
The finishing lines are, like the book itself, an invitation to a beginning:
“Where are you going with the duck?” someone may ask.
“Wherever it takes me,” I will respond.
Healing and Empowering the Feminine
A Labyrinth Journey
Sylvia Shaindel Senensky
Chiron Publications, 2003,194 p.p.
“There are two ways of entering the underworld”, warns Sylvia Senensky, M.Ed., and Zurich-trained Jungian analyst practicing in Toronto. ”We either make a conscious choice to respond to the call like Inanna and Theseus or we can be ‘raped’ into it the way Persephone was.” We ignore the call at our peril.
In a section of Part l entitled About the Labyrinth, Senensky, a graduate of Jean Houston’s training program in the Cultivation of Human Capacities, discusses the history of the labyrinth as a powerful healing agent and urges her readers to take advantage of this ancient tool. Replete with graphs and photographs, Part l of Healing and Empowering the Feminine describes the early history of labyrinths showing a variety of complicated arrangements of this ancient webwork that so accurately embodies our own circumvolution of back and forth movement to personal growth.
It is interesting to view artwork of two labyrinths side by side, the first a simple seven circuit Cretan one from early times and the other a more complex eleven circuit Chartres labyrinth. Senensky posits the possibility that the latter one elaborates the psyche’s development since primitive times and points out that we embody labyrinthine organs such as the brain and the intestines.
In Part 2, The Labyrinth: A Journey into the Feminine, Senensky illustrates our Feminine energy by what it is and what it is not. Its form, she contends, is labyrinthine:
“Our Feminine is about process and relationship. It is about playing, experimenting, doing several things at once. It is not goal-oriented, although there may be a goal to which we are in fact heading. It's the process that is all important. The twists and turns, the forward and backward movement of the labyrinth, the act of allowing the unexpected to affect your journey, and the still point at the center – all portray how Feminine energy manifests.”
In the audio series of her collected lectures Sitting By the Well (Shambala), Marion Woodman concurs:
“The Feminine is process, paradox, surrender, presence, receptivity...and freedom from the power complex. The Feminine creates the image and embodies it as it processes towards wholeness.”
Definitions, however, must not become rigid. For example, the women’s group to which Senensky belongs resisted limiting itself to the polar opposites of Light Madonna and Black Madonna – and created the Red Madonna to suit their needs. It is important to remain alert to the new and not to hide behind the safe constructs of definition. How can we unravel our own truths trussed to patriarchal forms that once hurt everyone so much?
Similarly, during her recent lecture ‘The Art of Archetypal Psychology’, Ginette Paris, author of Pagan Grace and Pagan Meditations, celebrated the creativity inherent to Greek mythology because it is open to the unexpected. Its highly charged, unpredictable material embodies surprise. She elaborated:
“It is extremely important to understand that it is not the concept that is most important, but the image. Never ask the analytical 'Why' because that is you trying to satisfy your need to find both refuge and power by categorizing and by defining. Instead, focus on the image, the how, what, who and where of the image in order to gain new insight. You must be fearless.”
Senensky believes that all wounding is about interior discord and states that it is in transforming the bartered and betrayed energies within and integrating the healthy Feminine and Masculine aspects that not only healing but creativity occurs. An inside job, the work cannot be appropriated elsewhere. She cites poet Adrienne Rich:
“ I refuse to become a seeker for cures: Everything that has ever helped me has come through what already lay stored in me. Old things, diffuse, untamed, lay strong across my heart. This is from where my strength comes…”
Senensky insists Life is about absolutes. Truth will not be altered or modified to suit our particularities even though, paradoxically, each of us must create our own brand of it. Senensky suggests that this is why there is, in many fairy tales, an initiate who must perform a seemingly impossible task before gaining entry to the cave. Senensky tells a tale, originating from the island of Malekula in the New Hebrides, of a dead man who meets the Devouring Ghost Le-Hev-Hev at the mouth of her cave. Upon seeing him, she traces a labyrinth in the sand and quickly erases half of it. If the dead man, - whose task it is to complete the missing half - fails to do so, then she simply eats him. He disappears forever. If, however, he is successful he gains entry into the cave and the afterlife. However brutal it seems, truth must remain uncompromised. It is the seekers of authenticity who must change or be consumed by their own internalized negativity.
Part 3 features electric examples of Greek mythology about which Senensky points out recognizable aspects of fear and love. Immediately following each myth she provides a present day experience that corresponds with the ancient allegory. This back and forth between past and present experience renders the book itself labyrinthine in style – one that is highly instructive.
How to Befriend Your Shadow
Author: John Monbourquette
Novalis, 2001, 155 p.p.
Simple, practical – and electric – this excellent text for those seeking to better understand the shadow as described by Jungian psychology is now translated from French into English. Well known in the French community for introducing Jungian thought, John Monbourquette earned his Ph.D. in transformational psychology at the International College of Los Angeles in 1985 following his Masters in Clinical Psychology at the U of San Francisco in 1975. A Roman Catholic priest, Monbourquette posits that rather than resisting it, the shadow should be warmly welcomed. Sincere attempts should be made to understand the messages beneath its grey, sometimes heavy, cloak. The shadow, he explains, urges our growth and if we can but accept our unloved side, we can open the door to a life-long friend.
I benefited with just one of the many useful exercises in this book: Monbourquette directs readers to choose a symbol for that which is recognized as shadow – anything will do. I chose a prickly, needly, dry old cactus somewhere in a gritty, arid desert. Next, we are to choose a symbol for our creativity. I selected an expensive fountain pen. Now, he instructs, with the shadow-symbol cupped in one outstretched hand and the creativity motif in the other, slowly, with eyes closed, bring the two closer and closer together. How do the shadow-symbol and the creativity- symbol meet and interact? What happens? As for me, my fountain pen dipped into the cactus and used its milk for ink!
Years ago, while studying Shakespeare in Montreal, I often began my studies of each new play by reading a simplified version – among those rewritten as children’s stories in the 1800’s by siblings Charles and Mary Lamb – in the Children’s section of the Frazer Hickson Library
Likewise, How to Befriend Your Shadow renders helpful service. Its informal explanation set out in eight chapters, details a definition of the shadow, (aspects of ourselves we reject) methods of recognizing it, accepting it, and integrating it to nurture one’s growth.
Replete with anecdotes, Monbourquette points out that, in traditional civilizations, the purpose of the initiatory rite of passage was precisely to allow adolescents to face their fears, separate from their parents and enter the adult world. ‘This is the goal of shadow work: to come face to face with our fears.”
Monbourquette shares how he has dealt with his own shadow/fears. While still a practicing Catholic priest, Monbourquette does not hide from the sexual issues that are shadow material of the Catholic Church: the celibacy rule and the Catholic Church’s position against gay and lesbian and trans relationships among its members. He advocates discussion.
Individuation is a forever process and so is the shadow. As Monbourquette wisely suggests, “Why not make friends with our own twin?”
How to Forgive
Author: John Monbourquette
Novalis, 2000, 198 p.p.
Filled with illustrative stories, insightful quotations and clever exercises used to advantage in his private psychotherapy practice, Monbourquette states at the outset that the term “forgiveness” is much misunderstood. It is, essentially, freeing ourselves from the toxic residue of offenses suffered. Monbourquette clarifies that in no way does forgiveness necessarily mean a reunion with the offending party, nor does it mean excusing harmful behavior. It does mean self-examination and perhaps some changed behavior on our part. A light example: if someone is repeatedly late when we travel to a lecture together, I can decide to meet at the event rather than continue to feel resentful of the delays. The book counsels that it is my responsibility to set effective boundaries for myself. Sometimes, though, it is more complicated. It may not be one person we know or love who has hurt us but a complete stranger or a powerful institution or a religion, or an idea, or a way of life we’ve come to realize is fraudulent.
The book delves deeper into the most important forgiveness: of ourselves.
Monbourquette points out that if we cannot let go of who we once were, we cannot evolve into more mature people.
How To Forgive begins by unmasking false notions about forgiveness – for example, the author reassures that forgiveness does not mean excusing the offender nor does it mean giving up our rights. Legal prosecution of a criminal act can and should still take place even as we forgive. It is neither forgetting nor denial - either of these would be unwise and unwittingly give silent permission for the offender to do it again. Respectful confrontation is an important adult skill, one to be cultivated and honed. However lofty we flatter ourselves to be, it is wise to remember we’re human like anyone else and equally sagacious to deal with our resentments – regularly – lest our unresolved anger, which we overruled by a false sense of moral superiority, gets horribly projected onto an unsuspecting other, or equally as bad, implodes within. There is an old saying: “An expectation is a premeditated resentment.” Monbourquette helps the reader look behind disappointment and, while much less so than in his book How to Befriend Your Shadow, he also discusses the Jungian approach to discovering the hidden messages that lie just beneath the pain.
But what about that over which we have no control? Forgive the drunk driver who kills your child? The doctor whose misdiagnosis of your partner causes untold grief? The blood bank that passes on diseased blood that is a death sentence? Political leaders whose refusal to negotiate peace means that your son becomes cannon fodder? Chilling challenges. This book is not for children nor for those who like to snuggle up in the victim position. Practicing the steps in How to Forgive requires the kind of maturity that makes climbing Mount Everest look like an afternoon stroll. Forgiveness, Monbourquette insists, is the stuff of evolution.
Joy, Inspiration and Hope
Author: Verena Kast
Translated from German by Douglas Whitcher
1994, Texas A&M University Press, 175 p.p.
Dr. Kast suggests that it is the search for joy that both motivates and sustains us despite the traumas of life. She says this search “…is based in the realm of the nurturing mother archetype” (in contrast to that of the father archetype where we minutely analyze our difficulties in order to be more conscious of them.) If you did not benefit from a nurturing mother who modeled happiness for you, then this is going to be your tough task: to become your own loving mother.
The argument of this analytical text is that “we are not only flung into life, as the emotion of anxiety suggests, but we are also carried by life.” In tracking our lost joy we must steadfastly avoid alluring imitations that ultimately disappoint, such as the ecstatic yet brief bursts of joy gleaned from dependencies on drugs, etc., escapes which establish further sub-dominances of cruelty such as sadism.
The author explains the important difference between hope and expectation and cautions that the latter is a trap: rigid and controlling, expectation insists upon the manifestation of a particular picture that, if unrealized, disappoints.
Kast refers to the work of German psychoanalyst and phenomenologist Ludwig Binswanger, who contends that joy can become hollow if, Icarus-like, it is too high flown. A vertical line of exciting ideas needs to be balanced, he contends, with a proportional horizontal line transforming idea into physical life. This involves working through an insight and then living it out in our lives. Kast details Binswanger’s thesis that ungrounded joy causes mania.
Binswanger sees the heart of the maniacal form of life as a “festive, unreflective joy in being” unrooted in history and terribly angry if opposed. He describes mania as “uncommitted joy.”
Ever know someone who could always be counted upon to spoil any special occasion or holiday time? Kast says it is interesting to note how many depressing things happen when manic individuals participate in a celebration. Because mania is unable to sustain joy, happy events are threatening and often result in complete immobility.”
To protect ourselves against the perpetual decline and fall of joy, Binswanger advocates rootedness, the kind brought about by creating routine in your day, no matter where you are, or what is happening. Discipline bridges ideas into physical existence and counteracts the tendency, described by Kast, “to lie in a stupor of postponed reality.”
The author suggests a few ways of learning to be a hopeful person:
- Admit dissatisfaction and reject deficiency. Revolt against bad experience!
- Pursue the daydreams and imaginary worlds that point the way to change.
- Find good people and talk to them regularly and sincerely – open up!
- Listen to what others have to share about their lives.
- Live a gentle routine that constructs a reliable bridge for inspiration to cross over into reality.
the moon with mars in her arms
Author: Carolyn Zonailo
Ekstasis Editions, 2006, 99 pages
Zonailo’s new poetry book is a three-sectioned map: Exile, Desire and Blessing in which the poet shares the experience of her own chronic breathing condition, one which has caused her to know exile: what it is like to drown from the inside. It is not surprising then, that her poetry charts airy corridors and underground passages inside the geography of the human body.
In the first poem from Exile, My Body is Also a Map Zonailo writes that living in awareness of mortality brings gifts of heightened consciousness. Exile, explains Zonailo, is a definite location on the human map, a place of loss – of one’s health, career, or trust in the world. Beginning and ending with the territory of the body, Zonailo shares the message each human heart provides: that its first valve’s path curves back to feed itself. The second artery goes out to the world, but not the first.
“Don’t be afraid to let go of the known. Take a deep breath and remember: you won’t be able to breathe under the water. The trick is to give up, go limp, surrender.”
'Desire' celebrates the exquisite achievement of ‘being there’ for oneself, rejoicing in the sun warming the skin, in meditation of blue skies overhead and unhurried observation out a bus window.
'Blessing', suggests an awareness that the loving moon and the warrior mars are always in a delicate dance together. But as humans we can make love a verb, a choice, an action lived:
“…decide that during your indeterminate time here upon earth – love is your only mission. Eros or Thanatos. Take a stand for love, as death will come sooner or later without any choice.”
the moon with mars in her arms calls upon us to affirm our life force.
Daughters of Saturn
From Father’s Daughter to Creative Woman
Spring Journal Books 2006 361p.
“Submission to one’s situation, one’s relationships, one’s job,
is also antithetical to creative work. Dutiful daughters,
compliant wives, deferential employees, do not create,
they resign themselves to their situations. They surrender,
not to the creative fires within, but to the demands of the
life of servitude the culture has created for them.” Pg. 75
Author and Psychologist Patricia Reis, MFA, says that an understanding of the interconnections between the personal father and the cultural father is imperative not only to free daughters of tyranny but, as important, to claim their power to live creative lives.
Reis explains that extrication from the muzzles of father-rule is tangled by another power; that of love. Daughters, sisters, mothers and wives love the fathers, brothers, sons and husbands who were, under patriarchy, socialized to oppress, repress, sexually abuse and infantilize women.
With the heightened sensitivity of the victim, daughters love their powerful, dynamic, favored, manipulative and depressed patriarchs. Reis shares her own process concerning her own father:
“Only when I unplugged from my craving for love and approval from him
and the men who represented him, could I find within myself,
with the help of other women, my own sense of authority.
…a work that fulfilled me, creative expression… ..”
I know who my people are and where my battles need to be fought.
I know too, where my spiritual resources are and how to replenish myself.” Pg. xix
Reis explains that in the compulsive gulping down of his own children, fear-based Saturn blocked any competition for his prized power. He also confined perceived rivals. Reis comments on the complicated nature of recovery from patriarchal swallowing: “Many women walk the narrow path between wanting to make a home and needing to get out of it. It seems no surprise that the twinned condition of agoraphobia/claustrophobia is primarily a women’s disorder.” Pg 103
Saturn’s wife, Rhea, resists her husband’s addiction to power, but does so co-dependently. She learns to manipulate. Subsumed in his controlling dynamic and unable to stop his destructive behavior, it was only the birth of a male child, Zeus, that fired her dazed instincts into fierce protection of this penis-bearing child.
Rheas’ desperate, clever trickery results in the release of her favored son from the belly of his father and, unintentionally, in the fortuitous disgorgement of her three previously swallowed daughters, Hestia, Hera and Demeter. Instinct-injured, Rhea had dozed in denial during the swallowing of her three beautiful girl babies. Reis comments on a sad reality:
“…Daughters swallowed by a patriarchal culture, lack the necessary nurturing and agency of a strong mother and thus are left vulnerable and unprotected.” Pg. 30
Reis explains how tragic it is when mothers themselves become “the actual embodiment and executors of the repressive patriarchal system.” Such a one was the mother of Virginia Woolf, Julia Stevens. Blind to the sexual abuse of her daughters in her own household, she labored excessively under her demanding husband’s identification as “Angel of the House”. Her early death was attributed to intense exhaustion. Her complete socialization into the patriarchal system sealed her own - and her daughters’ fates.
“Like the mythic Daughters of Saturn, when a woman has awakened out of the Belly of the Father, she will find herself in a male-oriented system, one that has predefined her.” Pg.86
Reis describes the effects of living under the domination of a patriarchal culture: “their inheritance as devoured daughters sets them apart in certain symptomatic ways; they all have relational difficulties; they each struggle with various oral disorders; each has her need for psychic space and all suffer from lack of courageous mothering…They have learned to live without benefit of maternal nurturing, and like sisters who don’t speak to each other…they don’t acknowledge early trauma and try to go it alone.” Pg 97
Reis provides startling research about the lives of Henrietta Dolittle, a client of Freud, Sylvia Plath, Anais Nin, Emily Dickenson and Virginia Woolf, contemporary ‘daughters of Saturn’. Astonishing accounts of these courageous women wipes away any trace of denial about the tortures they endured in a patriarchal system that praises women most of all for selfless service.
Reis escorts her reader through four critical gates: The Awakening, (consciousness of inequalities) The Threshold, (stepping outside of patriarchal thought) The Return (putting theory into practice), and Possibility, (living well without the map). Each stage of the initiatory journey to wholeness requires the alert attention of the woman wayfarer as she seeks her freedom. The creative woman is quiet now, not because she “knows her place” but because she enjoys solitude, peaceful time to reflect and to create.
In the chapter Sylvia Plath and the Marital Hells of Hera, Reis describes Plath’s disastrous decline subsequent to her marriage. Reis poignantly tells how this powerful young poet began to identify with Eve and called herself “Adam’s woman.” Plath wrote, “… away from Ted I feel as if I were living with one eyelash of myself only.” Pg.163
Reis explains that Plath “…embarked upon that process of diminishment which happens upon marriage…projecting her own genius onto her husband.” How could this happen to ‘The Girl who wanted to be God.’?
Reis quotes a statement made by Virginia Wolfe in 1928:
“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power
of reflecting the figure of a man at twice his natural size.” Pg. 164
One might shrug and say ‘Yes, but that was then and this is now, 2007.’
But could the June 1955 commencement address conferred by Adlai Stevenson, ‘the most prominent liberal of the day” upon Sylvia Plath and her graduating class not eerily echo in fundamentalist circles today?
“The assignment for you, as wives and mothers,
you can do in the living room with a baby on your lap
or in the kitchen with a can opener in your hand. If you are clever,
maybe you can even practice your saving arts on that unsuspecting man
while he’s watching television…” Pg. 162
Reis is firm in her last chapter containing but a single, determined page. It is called “Possibility.
It is up to every woman who reads this study to respond for Her Self.
Psyche and the Sacred:
Spirituality beyond Religion
Lionel Corbett, M.D.
New Orleans, LA, Spring Journal Books, 2007, 299 pp.
Lionel Corbett, M.D., a teacher of depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, California, states that psychology is, in fact, the basis of our spirituality and sets out to provide incontrovertible proof. He points to our future:
“The next stage in our spiritual evolution is emerging…and requires
the development of a personal connection with the sacred,
unencumbered by doctrine, dogma, or preconceived ideas about the divine.
It also involves approaching problems such as the existence of evil and suffering
with all the new insights that development psychology can bring
to bear on this and other human predicaments.” (p.6)
In Part 1 “Meeting the Mystery: Developing a Personal Spirituality, Corbett calls for a personal approach to spirituality involving embodied experience and powerful emotions rather than doctrinal formulas. He points out that when religious ideas are divorced from natural psychology, ruptures occur. If someone believed in Christianity, for example,
“such a person would not be found committing atrocities or war crimes, and the
Sermon on the Mount would not be ignored when it was politically convenient to do so.
The teachings of Jesus would fit naturally and instinctively into his or her behavior
they would not need to be reinforced by threats of eternal damnation and they require no hierarchy.” (p.33)
In Part 11, Through Psyche’s Lens: A Depth Psychological Approach to Spiritual Questions, Corbett counsels we integrate our shadow material into conscious awareness instead of leaning on religions “that offer repentance, confession and the grace of God as antidotes to the shadow.” (p.173)
In a riveting chapter, A Depth Psychology of Evil, Corbett describes Jung’s understanding of the message of Jesus: Instead of subordinating oneself to Christ, we should, instead, seek to be similarly free-spirited, questioning of authority, confrontational and willing to suffer the consequences. Corbett rails against the laundering of religious personalities:
“In Jung’s mythology, the divine penetrates the human psyche with darkness
as well as light and our task is to struggle with the tension produced by
aspects of the Self pulling in opposite directions. Rather than take on such
a painful and difficult task, many people choose one of the traditional
solutions to evil: let God take care of it in his own time. (p.173)
Corbett traces the devastation of unnatural, forced religious doctrines and provided me with some insight about the resolute resistance of some of my angry young students to melt, even a little, with my warm affection and consistent care:
A persecuted child “will organize the chaos to give him something to hold onto.” (p.154) Hatred, bitter anger and vicious destructiveness, then, become the primary embedded structure of the self. He can rely on this reality to continue. Now the child knows he exists. With early identification needs discharged in this tragic way, a helpless, traumatized child wards off “formless dread, like falling into the darkness of a bottomless pit.” (p.153) The child feels alive.
In his examination of the dynamic of evil, Corbett further explains that “cruelty allows a perverse form of connection with others in a way that ensures that we are not in any danger of being hurt again.” (pg.153) Cruelty does qualify as a relationship involving connection with others, however hurtful. For some, that is the best ‘reaching out’ they can do.
Our spirituality is expressed in our behavior. While trauma can be mitigated by one single loving exchange, it must be revisited if healing is to happen. Powerful, positive healing must dub the old terror tapes. While trauma may no longer dominate one’s behavior, memories are never erased. Corbett suggests we keep our shadow aspects in mind and stop sanitizing and otherwise splitting God in two in our effort to hide these unsettling aspects of ourselves behind a depersonalizing mask.
Corbett contends that living under the protective umbrella of an inherited religion - one which may instill the very sense of unworthiness for which it dispenses the pricey balm - alienates self from Self. Spiritual insight, he insists, happens spontaneously. Orchestrated performances of highly ritualized prayer may in fact be far more numbing than awakening.
In the chapter entitled The Numinosum: Direct Experience of the Sacred, Corbett points out that Freud’s god was a “jealous god who would brook no other.” (pg.xi) By contrast, he celebrates the astounding contribution Jung made to the world:
“He relocated the ground of religious experience to everyday life.” (pg.xi)
In The Dark Side of the Self and the Trials of Job Corbett examines the parable of Job who demanded to understand his terrible sufferings. Job did not agree with his friends that he’d somehow earned terrible punishment. He said that to submit to this childish notion would be to lose his integrity. He refused.
Corbett points out that Job’s insistence that he understand why he is suffering is in keeping with the idea of psychologists like Jung and Frankl, who believed strongly that unbearable suffering can be made bearable if it is meaningful. “Thus, a depression could also be viewed as a spiritual crisis, a ‘dark night of the soul’…The divine does not only speak to those of us who are emotionally and physically robust.” (pg.30)
Job’s suffering led to his demand that God deal directly with him – perhaps auguring a readiness for more mutual, mature and responsible human relationships.
The daily, hourly struggle with our shadow material is profound spirituality, claims Corbett.
In the final chapter, A Sense of the Sacred, Corbett sets out a banquet of reflections that makes this book one I shall refer to regularly, especially after a rough day. Living well in a complex world probably means I’m on a solid path.
Marie–Louise von Franz
The Classic Jungian and The Classic Jungian Tradition
Edited by James A. Hall and Daryl Sharp
Inner City Books, 2008, 125 p.p.
One night in Europe, a sensitive teenage girl dreamed that she trod ground never before walked upon. Another evening, ‘Marlus’, for that was her name to those closest to her, dreamed that Olympian gods approached her. They wanted something from her and so she opened her knapsack and shared with them her humble bread, all she had.
These are among the many stories in this compendium of praise for Marie Louise von Franz (1915-1998) by her special friends who knew and loved her so much, as do I, a respectful bystander who met this grand giver in her many books.
Imagine that over a dozen loving friends would enthusiastically gather a decade after her earthly life ended, to write about, in such a treasuring way, the honor of having known her, such a brilliant woman, who altered their lives irrevocably, most of all by courageously concentrating on her own work.
I found it touching, in the testimonial by Daryl Sharp, that Mare Louise von Franz worried she may have lacked ‘feeling’ and so she would memorize appropriate phrases for funerals and weddings, words that would testify to her caring. Is it possible that this humble scholar was so deeply focused on some of the most profound and on-going acts of love that superficial ones escaped her?
This 125 page collection of remembrances detail acts of love so moving as to elicit tears that Marie Louise von Franz could ever wonder, even for an instant, that she had a problem with ‘feeling’. Imagine suffering the ravages of Parkinson’s disease without medication so she could know its message – and share it?
In this book, Jungian analyst Anne Maguire shared Jung’s warning that exploration of the deep psyche could prove dangerous for the explorer – and noted the trail Von Franz blazed in her original work in which, ”… she risked her very life.”
Multi-linguist and Medieval Latin Scholar, this eminent analyst was a generous and kind woman and, as her friend underlines, “…real love has much to do with kindness.”
Another contributor, Dr. Barbara Davies underlined a subject extremely important to her friend: that inorganic matter precedes organic matter,
Dr. Davies employed her opportunity to contribute to this book by furthering the admonition of her friend, namely that we are to study the relationship between psyche and matter through daily reflection upon our own dreams.
This engaging read creates a visual glimpse into the life of Marie Louise von Franz – at once a seasoned traveler contributing to hundreds of groups who sought her erudition – to the quiet scholar, chopping her own wood, cooking delicious meals to share with her friend and house mate of forty years, Barbara Hannah, and then settling down at her desk close to her window, perhaps with her beloved bulldog, Nibby, reassuringly nearby, to delve deep into the research that produced the magnificent “On Dreams and Death.”
It is easy to believe that she fed the Olympian gods when reading the praise of those who were nourished by her wisdom.