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  • Thursday, March 23, 2023 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    The hero is king in our individualistic culture. Campbell popularized it. We all may need to be the hero at some point in our lives. But what about the heroine in all of us? Like the feminine in general, the heroine has been relegated to the cultural shadow, and it’s time she made her appearance again in our culture and our lives.

    To move forward and save our planet and our humanity, we must find a new way. The warrior archetype is one sided; patriarchal control is non-inclusive and destructive; greed and narcissism abound.

    Borrowing from the Iroquois, the heroine’s journey gives us a new perspective on how to challenge power and create democracy. Ghandi accessed it and brought it to the world stage. Martin Luther King and the women’s movement harnessed it here in the US. The heroine teaches us how to confront negative patriarchy and weave a social fabric that includes and listens to all.

    On a personal level, in order to become whole, we must find a healthy relationship to the feminine. The heroine’s journey shows us the path of initiation into the power of the Dark Feminine. This aspect must be redeemed to individuate, whether you are a man or woman. Indigenous cultures know this feminine way. It is an inner journey into the unconscious, as Jung illustrates in the Red Book. He followed his soul. In it is a different orientation to our body, our everyday life, and our relationships.

    The heroine’s journey will be given voice in my presentation on the Heroine’s journey in men and women. We will speak of it through history, neuroscience, fairytale, and myth. Come and begin your heroine’s journey with us.

    Erica Lorentz, M.Ed, LPC, Jungian Analyst (IAAP) is a training analyst at the C. G. Jung Institute of Boston where she has served on the Training Board. She has been an adjunct faculty at Antioch New England Graduate School of Professional Psychology, a training analyst with the Inter-regional Society of Jungian Analysts, and she has been featured on Pacifica Radio. One of Erica’s areas of expertise is working with the body in analysis. At the Ghost Ranch Jung conferences in New Mexico (1988-1991), she led Jungian Movement workshops for candidates and analysts. In 2014, she presented at the Creativity and Madness conference in Santa Fe, NM. Since 1986, she has lectured and taught workshops in the US and Canada. Presently, she is the president of the Jung Association of Western Massachusetts and has a private practice in Amherst, MA.


  • Friday, March 17, 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    The back is that part of the body which is invisible to oneself; keeping the back still symbolizes making the self still. The lower trigram indicates this keeping still of the back, so that one is no longer aware of one’s body, that is, of one’s personality

    Hexagram 52: “Keeping Still, Mountain,” I ChingVol. II, (Richard Wilhelm, trans.)


    When the flint strikes steel in the moment of conception, a spark of life, whether fertilized in utero or in vitro, worms its way into an ovum, and a journey of metamorphosis begins. In the process, an embryo develops and finds the way to its refuge in the amniotic fluid, floating and dreaming in the warmth of the womb. The alchemical metabolic journey of the personality has begun. The quality of air in every breath the mother takes affects the oxygenated blood that flows through the umbilical cord’s single central vein to the fetus. In response, the two arteries in the cord carry carbon dioxide and waste out.  

    Every stress and joy that the mother experiences in the outer world is transmitted through the rhythm of her heart, pulsing throughout her shared body. The metabolic qualities of each mouthful of her food influence the early process of accelerated fetal brain development, known as exuberant synaptogenesis. The mother goddess is conditioning the body’s personality to prepare a unique being to be born into the world. Keeping these dynamics in mind, we could use them to model daily self-care for our own precious body.

    The child’s awakening at birth is charged with duality from the first cry of chaotic emotions that interrupt the experience of oneness in the womb. This trauma triggers the fight-or-flight response from the sympathetic nervous system. The initial stress at birth is displaced as the archetypal instinct to search for nourishment is awakened. If mother is available and able after birth, the initial flow of her colostrum, the almost narcotic “liquid gold,” dense in nutrients and antibodies, soothes the infant. The golden shadow of paradisal oneness is projected within the union of mother and child. This elixir shifts the infant to the emotionally healing, digestion and procreation supporting, immune enhancing, parasympathetic nervous system. These first alternations of compensatory dualities -- psychic and somatic, diastolic and systolic, dark and golden shadow projections -- are the beginning of the hero’s bio-alchemical object-relations odyssey.

    Like a snail in a shell, we are fused with the body’s sympathetic nervous system. This initiates us into a kind of physiological “Eleusinian Mystery,” that helps regulate our rite of passage through the cycle of life and death. Jung explains, “if you could put yourself into your sympathetic nervous system, you would know what sympathy is – you would understand why the nervous system is called sympathetic. You would then feel that you were in everything; you would not feel yourself as an isolated being, would not experience the world and life as your own private experience – as we most certainly do because we are conscious persons. In the sympathetic nervous system, you would experience, not as a person but as [hu]mankind, or even belonging to the animal kingdom; you would experience nothing in particular, but the whole phenomena of life as if it were one” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 1, p. 751).

    Once we have lost the refuge of the womb, our dawning awareness within the prima materia may direct us to a sacred marriage within our earthly existence. In order to attain this goal, we will have to integrate the intergenerational transmissions from the karmic legacy of our ancestors: our genetics, epigenetics, a self-destructive culture, and a toxic overheated environment. Jung speaks to this challenge, “At all events, you are a collection of ancestral spirits, and the psychological problem is how to find yourself in that crowd. Somewhere you are also a spirit – somewhere you have the secret of your own pattern,” the quinta essentia of the self. The revelation of that secret may lead us to find refuge in what the alchemists called the “heaven in ourselves” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 2, p. 1401).

    One of Jung’s solutions for finding refuge from the burden of stress on his sympathetic nervous system was to build a small stone fortress. Without electricity or running water, cutting his own wood to build a fire, he could step out of the way of the juggernaut of modern technology and collective contagion to find stillness in the primitive comforts of Bollingen. There he could safely commune with his own crowd of ancestral spirits. 

    If only Jung had a chance to live long enough to have a dialogue with the chatbot ChatGPT after he received the results from 23andMe Holding Co. about his personal ancestral genomics. Somehow, I doubt he would be very surprised by these developments of artificial intelligence and biotechnology. These contemporary “advances” in quick gratification can be pretty scary for many of us, as they develop faster than our comprehension and, as Jung puts it, without “a corresponding development of morality.” It makes sense for us to create our own equivalent Bollingen, to create a sanctuary, for even a day, away from the distractions and incessant spam intrusions from the devices that are trying to create our identity in their image. 

    Unhealthy eating, with its negative metabolic consequences, now surpasses smoking (only 23% of the world’s population still smoke cigarettes) as the leading cause of avoidable death (or dying longer) in our world of abundance. The internet, pharmaceuticals, and sugar- and carb-spiked food products are often designed for consumption with the built-in intention that the more that consumers use them and remain unconscious of how self-destructive they are, the greater the profit for the manufacturer. Unfortunately, wellbeing is not addictive, as so many self-destructive behaviors and substances are. Jung warns: “Those people who are completely identical with consciousness are often so unaware of the body that the head walks away with them, so they lose control of the body and anything can happen to it: the whole system becomes upset. The brain should be in harmony with the lower nervous system; our consciousness should be in practically the same tune or rhythm. Otherwise, I am quite convinced that under particularly unfavorable conditions one can be killed” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 1, p. 750).

    Fortunately, realizations about these sources of suffering and death have motivated the development of research in such fields as nutrition, neuroscience, biotechnology, and detoxification. This has produced significant innovations in healing, preventative healthcare, and extending longevity that are now one of the benefits we might extract from this information age.

    The opportunistic pathogenic nature of disease is unkind and penetrates to where we are most vulnerable or unaware. Shadow projections, formed in our object relations encounters, trigger us with a similar dynamic. As we remain ignorant of the signs of triggering and the seeds of illness, toxic substances, infections, and psychic contagion can accumulate in the body. These stresses can activate the immune function that is essential for sustaining life in such a hostile environment. The placement of an antigenic substance, an “inoculum,” into the body will boost immunity to a specific disease. This process is analogous to the alchemical principle of conscious meeting unconscious, creating the prima materia, that enables the integration of the shadow. The strength of our bio-psycho-social immunity is interdependent with the quality of sleep, nourishment, and exercise we give to ourselves. All of these interactions of psyche, matter, and movement occur through the transfer of energy mediated through what the alchemists call the subtle body. 

    If we can take on this sacred task to get to know our subtle metabolic alchemy, it could save us a lot of pain. Through this process we can discover a revelatory model for transmuting the biochemistry of the body’s personality. We can develop a kind of telepathic connection to the inner self. This relationship can empower us to attain the highest degree of conjunction, the prima materia (what Jung calls “the unknown substance that carries the projection of the autonomous psychic content”) that must be extracted from the sacred bath.” Jung says of this procedure: “In the unconscious are hidden those ‘sparks of light’ (scintillae), the archetypes, from which a higher meaning can be extracted. The magnet that attracts the hidden thing is the Self” (C.G. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, par. 700). 

    If we can become mindfully aware of the fight or flight nature of our sympathetic system, we can turn the reverberating effects of trauma into hormetic stress (intentional, non-chronic, beneficial stress) to create a healing crisis. Then we can build our psychic and bodily immune response to these repeated destructive patterns and eventually dissolve these imprints so that we can occupy our body’s refuge safely and thrive. Paradoxically, to do this, we often need to go “out of body,” through our subtle energy, into a world that can transcend time and space. Here, we may be challenged in an encounter with our own mortality in processes more easily identified with shamanism or the occult.  

    Promoting these non-ordinary states changes the neurobiological environment so that psychic perception is enhanced and synchronistic occurrences can be experienced in ways that references our individuation needs. This way we can integrate the patterns of ancestral object-relations trauma imprinted in the sympathetic system down to the cellular level.  This process may help us recognize that much of our reactivity to what seem to be external triggers and patterns are actually self-generated from the holographic inner narrative that fuels our mythical identity. 

    This realization, in turn, extends the orbit of our psychic awareness. Jung points out: “But you see, this collective unconscious, in spite of its being everywhere, or in spite of its universal awareness, is located in the body; the sympathetic nervous system of the body is an organ by which you have the possibility of such awareness; therefore you can say the collective unconscious is in the lower centers of the brain and the spinal cord and sympathetic system” (C. G. Jung, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1934-1939, Vol. 1, p. 751). 

    With practice, we can develop our interoception, a synthesis of internally directed senses that creates perceivable biofeedback from the neuropsychic functions of the body. This experience can help us intentionally moderate our sympathetic/parasympathetic cycle through sensory awareness of our back and spinal cord. We can intentionally deepen our stillness, quieting the personality and freeing us from fear and agitation. This heightened inner awareness, paradoxically, leads to the revelation that our sympathetic system extends past our skin and bone boundaries, past the increase of infrared radiation from a flush of shame that can be detected miles away by a thermal scope. Our presence is conveyed beyond the archetypes and space-time into unconditioned, unbounded spaciousness of being.

    Timothy Lyons, LCSW, is a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist in private practice for individuals, couples, and families in Capitol Hill, DC and Takoma Park, MD. For over 25 years, Tim has applied the holistic mind-energy-body connection and the healing power of creativity, imagination, and dreams to his practice as well as to his teaching of depth psychology. He has a certificate for post graduate studies from the Philadelphia Jung Institute and is a frequent presenter at the Jung Society of Washington. His post-graduate studies also include infant observation and art therapy. Tim’s work is further influenced by studies in Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, and yoga philosophies, having completed teacher training in Trul Khor (Tibetan yoga). His earlier career as architect and editor includes writing for the Washington Post and lecturing at the Smithsonian Institution.

    Check out Tim's upcoming programs at

  • Saturday, February 25, 2023 11:00 AM | Anonymous


    Who can wait quietly, while the mud settles?

    Who can remain still until the moment of action?

    Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Verse 15, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English 


    One of the great concerns of the religious and spiritual traditions of the world is in learning to see clearly. Blindness must become sight; ignorance must become understanding. There is widespread agreement across the traditions that we do not see things as they are and that this is a condition that needs to be rectified.
    A common image used to illustrate this state of unconsciousness in which we generally go about our lives is that of mud.  For instance, we read in the Buddhist text The Dhammapada that the person who has achieved liberation through “right understanding” is “like a lake without mud” (The Dhammapada, translated by Gil Fronsdal). A similar idea is expressed in the Jewish tradition — this time from the other angle — in a statement from the prophet Isaiah: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud” Isiah 57:20. And it is the same kind of understanding that prompts the crucial question in the quote from the Tao Te Ching that heads up this post: “Who can wait quietly, while the mud settles?”
    The operations of the alchemical opus are often divided into four stages: nigredo, albedo, citrinitas, and rubedo. The nigredo is the initial state, the “muddy” conditions that prevail at the beginning of the opus. The first great work of the whole process, which is a kind of “cleaning up” of this state, is the work of the albedo stage. In many ways, this is the heart and soul of the entire opus and involves, we are told, the greatest efforts on the part of the alchemist. In Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology, Marie-Louise von Franz describes it this way:
    In the alchemical literature it is generally said that the great effort and trouble continues from the nigredo to the albedo; that is said to be the hard part, and afterwards everything becomes easier. The nigredo — the blackness, the terrible depression and state of dissolution — has to be compensated by the hard work of the alchemist and that hard work consists, among other things, in constant washing.
    The need for the “washing of the mud” is portrayed in an episode from the Christian scriptures in which Jesus heals a man who has been blind from birth. One of the things that is interesting about this particular episode is that it is more involved than many of Jesus’ other healings. He doesn’t just speak a word or put his hands on the man. He makes a whole procedure out of it. First, he makes some preliminary preparations of his own, and then he requires some effort on the part of the blind man. “[Jesus] spat on the ground,” we read, “and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see” John 9:6-7.
    The parallels in this story with the alchemical process are remarkable. When Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud to put on the man’s eyes, it is reminiscent of that part of the opus in which the alchemist seeks to find or produce the prima materia — that fundamental, underlying substance from which the goal of the work, the Philosophers’ Stone, can be produced. The mud that Jesus makes, of course, is an echo of the “first matter” — the dust of the ground — from which God created human beings. And, as I have already suggested, the direction to the blind man to “wash in the pool of Siloam” mirrors the work of the albedo, of which “constant washing” is an important component.
    It is not just the act of washing, however, that does the trick. The decisive factor seems to be the water in which one washes. Jesus sends the blind man to a particular pool — the pool of Siloam. Not just any body of water will do. Likewise in alchemy. Matter is to be washed in the aqua divina, the divine water, which already contains some qualities of the Philosophers’ Stone. This water, Jung writes, can be compared to the waters of baptism:
    Altogether, the divine water possessed the power of transformation. It transformed the nigredo into the albedo through the miraculous ‘washing’ (ablutio); it animated inert matter, made the dead to rise again, and therefore possessed the virtue of the baptismal water in the ecclesiastical rite.

                               - C.G. Jung, Alchemical Studies, CW 13, par. 89

    How can we understand this “divine water” psychologically? What is it, in our own experience, that possesses this life-giving power? In the images we looked at earlier, mud is often the result of a lack of stillness:

    Who can wait quietly, while the mud settles?

    Who can remain still until the moment of action?

    In his commentary on this verse of the Tao Te Ching, the philosopher Wang Pi states, “By means of intuitive understanding, the dark becomes bright. By means of tranquility, the murky becomes clear” (Lao-tzu’s Taoteching, translated by Red Pine). This corresponds exactly to the work of the albedo, which is, as von Franz notes in Alchemy, “the first stage of becoming quieter and more detached and objective, more philosophically detached.”

    Stillness, quiet, tranquility, and reflection, then, are the waters in which the prima materia of our own unconsciousness is washed. At the same time, they are the result of our washing. “One must start with a bit of the Philosophers’ Stone,” explains Edward Edinger in Anatomy of the Psyche, “if one is to find it.”

    Alchemy, it turns out, was in part a contemplative practice. The need for concentration and meditation is frequently emphasized in alchemical writings. (C.G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12). The symbol for this was the “well-sealed vessel,” which was at one and the same time the container in which the work was performed and an image of the alchemist’s own inner life — the mind and the soul. The substance in need of transformation had to be held within the vessel and not allowed to leak out in any way.

    We should not doubt that stillness and reflection are hard work. They involve more than just a state of not being busy or of doing nothing. They are, writes Evelyn Underhill in Mysticism, “the last and most arduous labours which the human spirit is called to perform.” One aspect of stillness, psychologically speaking, has to do the long and difficult work of learning to recognize and withdraw our projections.

    The stage of the albedo, as I’ve noted, was considered the hardest part of the opus. That is why its ultimate achievement was often greeted as if it were the culmination of the whole work. With it one gains a fundamental ground within oneself, which sets the stage for all that may follow. As Marie-Louise von Franz puts it in Alchemy:

    The albedo is characterized by something wonderful, for, the alchemists say, from now on one has simply to feed the fire, keep it going, but the hard part of the work is done.


    Note: This post is adapted, with minor changes, from previously published material. The original post can be found at

    Photo of Jason SmithJason E. Smith is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA. He is the creator and host of the podcast Digital Jung and the author of Religious but Not Religious: Living a Symbolic Life (Chiron Publications). Jason is a past president of the C.G. Jung Institute of Boston (now of New England) and serves as a training analyst and faculty member for the New England Institute.

  • Tuesday, January 24, 2023 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    For those who pay attention, psyche’s agenda is endless. Presently, I see several men and women who are between 65 and 80 and I have noted some interesting phenomena. Those who handle the aches, the losses of the older years are those who have lived the richest, most risk-taking lives. Those who have not, are more often caught up in fear, regret, remorse, and a vague dread. It is not enough to say they dread dying; rather, they more profoundly dread not having lived first.

    Another phenomenon I have observed is even most interesting. So many of the dreams of these persons review their journey, bringing different stages, different people associated with each stage, sometimes even different geographies together in the same dream. Why might our psyche do that? Invariably, it brings up old associations, forgotten places, times, people…. Since we know that our psyche is this meaning-making, meaning requiring organ, and I suspect that the reason for this stirring of our histories is for more than addressing unfinished business, though it may also include that. I think this is how our psyche sorts and sifts, and helps us begin to identify the threads that run through our narratives, perhaps help us make more and more sense of what engines have been driving our lives.

    Perhaps to illustrate such an exploration, let me turn to that poet of the depths, Rilke, as he recalls images from his childhood, and allows their widening circles to amplify and stir a trans-personal awareness of our common condition. He employs a metonymy, the game of “ball” to conjure up those past hours, linking us to the greater mystery in which they, and we, all swim.

    The poem is from his Sonnets to Orpheus series, and is my translation:

    Oh you few, you playmates of long ago,

    Amid the scattered gardens of the past,

    How we circled, shyly approached each other,

    Communicating without words.

    Joy was our common ground, but how joy

    Fled before all the gathering forces

    In the anxious years to follow.

    Strange coaches clattered around us,

    Houses loomed, large, phantasmal,

    And no one knew our names.

    What was real in all that?

    Nothing…only the balls, their glorious curves,

    Not even the children…for, alas, sometimes one of them…

    O Ephemeral, would step beneath the falling ball.

    What comes up for you, when you reflect on those days? Where are those playmates? Who were they?  Where are they? They are still alive in our psyches even though we have not seen them in decades, or even thought directly of them.

    What images rise from those days for you? Those images serve as metonymies, whereby a particular image intimates a larger, often unapproachable, inexpressible experience or atmosphere.

    What persists for you from those days, what “stories,” what fragmental narratives do you carry still, like splinters beneath the flesh which wish to work their way through to the surface? As a character in a Faulkner novel put it, “the past isn’t dead; it’s not even past.” How is that past activated in, and influencing, our present lives?

    (Personally I have learned, and I am not always happy about this, many of the generative energies within me, the complexes, the wounds, the avoidances, keep showing up when I think I have left them far behind. This shows me the staying power of some of those energy clusters, and how, for good or ill, they operate autonomously).

    Since nothing that we have ever experienced has wholly left us, what do these shards of history make us do, even today, or keep us from doing?   If we wish to understand ourselves, even gain a greater measure of freedom, then we have to bring these “stories” into greater conscious life. How can we ever choose freely if we don’t know all the players on our inner field?

    As we sort through these shards of experience the psyche keeps throwing up charged images into our dreams, our impulsive choices, and repetitive behaviors. There is more than enough work here, sorting through this mélange of images, this debris-strewn history, to keep us busy for the rest of our journeys.  Again, this is not in service to nostalgia, or a desire for an earlier time; it is essential to figuring out now what continues to create our history, a history in which we are often unconscious, unwitting partners.

    Sign up for Dr. Hollis' poetry course, Quartet: Reflections on Life, Death, and the Troubles In-Between starting Tuesday, February 1st! 


    James Hollis, Ph.D. was born in Springfield, Illinois, graduated from Manchester University in 1962 and Drew University in 1967.  He taught Humanities 26 years in various colleges and universities before retraining as a Jungian analyst at the Jung Institute of Zurich, Switzerland (1977-82). 

    He is presently a licensed Jungian analyst in private practice in Washington, D.C. He served as Executive Director of the Jung Educational Center in Houston, Texas for many years and now is Executive Director of the Washington Jung Society. He is a retired Senior Training Analyst for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, was first Director of Training of the Philadelphia Jung Institute, and is Vice-President Emeritus of the Philemon Foundation.

    He lives with his wife Jill, an artist and retired therapist, in Washington, DC.  Together they have three living children and eight grand-children. 

    He has written a total of fifteen books and over fifty articles. The books have been translated into 20 languages

    You can find a list of his books HERE  

  • Wednesday, December 07, 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

     “Trauma isn’t stored as history. It is stored as myth.” – Nathan Schwartz-Salant

    If fairy tales could choose us, Caperucita Roja chose me. Early in my childhood, I glimpsed myself in this Cuban version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” thanks to the clever ingenuity of my older siblings who sat me down in front of their makeshift radio to listen to a special “story hour.” The dramatic storytellers’ voices coming through the box seemed eerily familiar to me, but to a 4-year-old, the narrative was riveting. My siblings never attempted to explain the fairy tale; they simply told the story. But their Caperucita had an uncanny likeness to me, same hair, same dress, same mannerisms.  This description allowed me to draw my own inferences and hang my own projections upon the protagonist of the story. It was not until much later that I realized they had narrated the fairy tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” while stealthily attributing distinctive characteristics of my personality and appearance to the heroine – making me and her one in my young mind. 

    A year later, I was boarded onto a plane to the United States—an unaccompanied 5-year-old coming to America as a Cuban refugee. It was my Caperucita Roja doll that I clung to at the Jose Marti Aeropuerto in Habana on that frightful day. Sadly, my doll did not make it through the required military inspection, during which she was dismembered to ensure I was not smuggling valuables in her body cavity. It has taken me many years to acknowledge that, I, too, was experiencing a kind of psychological dismemberment from the rupture of family and cultural belonging and from all that I knew my world to be. Years later when I heard Carl Jung speak on exile in the documentary, Matter of Heart, my intuition was confirmed:

    Man is not born every day; he is once born, in a specific historical setting with specific historical qualities and therefore he is only complete when he has a relation to these things.... Having no connection with the past is a mutilation of the human being. 

    I understood Jung’s words to mean that to be exiled is to be psychologically dismembered, that the severance from emotional belonging, secure identity, and ancestral rootedness is a psychic wounding that perniciously persists in those who are forcibly expelled from their homelands. The words of philosopher Theodor Adorno corroborate this saying, “Every intellectual in emigration is, without exception, mutilated . . .  always astray . . . in an irreconcilable breach.” As with my decapitated Caperucita doll, parts of myself felt left behind in my native Cuba as I boarded the plane to America. And parts of myself felt lost in transit. 


    Origins of Caperucita Roja

    Although most interpretations of “Little Red Riding Hood” (LRRH) reference the Grimm Brothers’ 1812 version, scholars attribute the original narrative to Charles Perrault, noting that he wrote it to entertain the French court of King Louis XIV. It is believed the Grimm Brothers “cleaned up” Perrault’s 1697 version to make it more palatable to the general public by removing cannibalistic and sexual allusions and adding a happy ending. There are a variety of verbal and written forms of LRRH found worldwide, ranging from the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Spain, and Africa to Latin America. 

    Ultimately, since all fairy tales originated in oral form, any written version claiming originality is somewhat suspect. It all seems in keeping with the mystifying quality of the fairy tale genre: original authorship is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Fairy tales are wonderfully pliable to interpretation; they resonate with diverse cultures throughout multiple centuries. This is reflected by its time-dismissing, enduring opening words, “Once upon a time,” which suggest anytime, anywhere, applicable to any people. As Marie-Louise von Franz argued in The Interpretation of Fairy Tales (1996, p.1), fairy tales “represent the archetypes in their simplest, barest, and most concise form.” They depict symbols and motifs of universal or collective human experiences, such as suggested in this blog, the individuation of the exile. 

    In many myths and fairytales, the hero or heroine in the story is typically thrust into a forest or an unknown, foreign land. There, the protagonist is threatened to be swallowed up by hardships - sometimes arriving inside the belly of a whale, like Jonah in the Bible, or dismembered like Osiris of Egyptian mythology, and must find a way of escape. Allegorically, these myths and stories illustrate the development of consciousness as a heroic adventure. The ego (as the protagonist) must struggle with unconscious forces (the big, bad wolf, a monster, or a whale) and differentiate from the maternal fusion (grandmother, Mother[land], Great Mother) in order to proceed to individuation (wholeness, synthesis of the self).

    In the Cuban version of the fairytale, Caperucita leaves her mother and sets out on a journey alone to take provisions to her feeble Abuelita (grandmother) in a distant village. Covered in a red-hooded capa that her grandmother had made her, Caperucita enters el bosque oscuro (the dark forest) and encounters el lobo malo (the big, bad wolf) who deceives her into giving up the location of her grandmother’s cottage. When she gets to Abuelita’s house, Caperucitafinds the wolf disguised as her Grandmother and must grapple with the discrepancies: “Abuelita, ¡qué ojos más grandes tienes! (What big eyes . . . what long nose . . . what big ears you have). She eventually recognizes that it is not her true Grandmother, her trueancestral heritage and the legacy to which she belongs. The Wolf swallows both Abuelita and Caperucita, but unlike other versions of the tale, which introduce a huntsman rescuer, my Cuban version credits the young heroine as the one who outsmarts the cunning wolf: the child fights her way out of Wolf’s belly, redeems Grandmother, and refills his belly with rocks, disabling his control over her.

    Archetypal Symbols in the Fairy Tale

    The Dark Forest

    Many folk tales originated and were set in the dark forests of Europe. These were areas thick with woodlands that obscured the infiltration of sunlight. Hence, they represented the edge of civilization because they were impenetrablewild, uncultivated, and out of the control of human or conscious effort. Travelers easily lost their way traversing through these liminal spaces and were confronted with dangerous predators, like hungry wolves or bears, that laid in wait in pursuit of their next meal. In addition, magical beings like dwarves, fairies, or witches were said to have made their homes in the forests, provoking the transformations of those lost or exiled from the human world. Therefore, the dark forest has long been considered a symbol of the unknown and the unconscious, a space where the conscious human world is separated from the world of archetypal figures. 

    In this fairy tale, Caperucita is thrust into a solitary journey through a dark forest to confront devouring adversaries, traversing a place of testing and initiation where something must die for something new to be born. It is there that Caperucita emerges older and wiser to face her wolves, within and without. Similarly, the exile must relinquish that which has been familiar and familial in order to acculturate into a new country and find new life.

    The Divine Child

    The figure of the child in fairy tales and other mythopoetic narratives usually represents the archetypal image of the Divine Child, symbolizing potentiality and futurity (CW 9/1 par.278). This archetypal force makes way for future transformation and life possibilities, often in the face of apparent impossibilities. The initiation of the lone child into the forbidding forest, with the clear threat of extinction, portrays the invincible quality of the archetypal Child who manages to push onto self-realization against all odds. We see that, through the deadlocked struggle between what has been and what is yet unknown (the future that wants to manifest), individuation advances, ultimately producing an irrational third. Caperucita, as the nascent Child, must leave Mother, step into the forest of unknown, and outsmart the wolf in order to step into new life and wholeness. It stands to reason that Jung linked the Divine Child archetype to the Self, as both exemplify the impulse towards potential development, invincibility, and individuation.


    The Mother-Grandmother

    At the beginning of the fairy tale, Caperucita, her mother, and her grandmother are in the foreground of the story with no masculine figures present. We see that the tale is set in the context of the maternal or feminine archetype. The setting and opening characters purport much Eros (the feminine principle) and little Logos. When the masculine appears in the form of a male wolf, it suggests an animal-like instinctual unconscious nature, perhaps cloaked underneath Caperucita’s very own red hood! As the tale unfolds, we see the display of traditional feminine virtues, such as trusting innocence and unselfish connectedness, displaced and eventually integrated by masculine values like power, discernment, logic, and independence. Fate thrusts the innocent girl into exile, and it becomes her arena of transformation as the feminine-masculine energies are assimilated in her individuating psyche. 

    It is the mother-grandmother figures that induct this young initiate into her destiny and full potential. The description of Caperucita’s grandmother as sick and weak, needing cake and wine to strengthen her, suggests a vulnerability or weakening of the family heritage, the birthright that ancestral grandmother imparts onto her lineage. Like Caperucita, the exile’s challenge is to redeem the wounded sense of ancestral roots that have been swallowed up and annulled by the devouring forces of the exile complex.

    The Big Bad Wolf

    The politically displaced person who flees to a foreign country for asylum will confront dark forces in the unknown forest. The threats are not just external. More pervasively are the internal complexes that take residence in the psyche: despair, outsiderness, loneliness, and the feeling of being utterly unprotected are just a few of the painful disturbances that often plague the exile long after the displacement occurred. As with our heroine in the story, an exile’s violent rupture from Mother(land) and assault by devouring forces (complexes) can be felt as a rape of one’s true identity.

    Along with the mythological image of Kronos (the king of the Titans who devoured his children for fear of being overthrown), I associate the Wolf with Fidel Castro whose failed communist experiment separated thousands of Cuban children (14,000-plus Pedro Pans) from family and home, devouring their sense of familial and cultural belonging. I find it ironic that Castro’s death has been attributed to diverticulitis, as I imagine that swallowing up a whole generation of Cuban children would do that to one’s gut. 


    Summary: Seeing Through the Fairy Tales

    My personal reading of the fairy tale, Caperucita Roja, corresponds to the initiation of an exile into a new country. Like the protagonist, the exile leaves the security of mother and home and struggles toward newfound awareness or what Jung called individuation. According to Bruno Bettelheim (The Uses of Enchantment), “Myths and fairy stories both answer the eternal questions: What is the world really like? How am I to live my life in it?... By recalling how the hero of many a fairy tale succeeded in life,...the child believes he may work the same magic” (p. 50).  As in the fairy tale, the exile is tasked with leaving the safe containment of the Mother(land) to face the regressive forces of the dark unknown forest (the unconscious). It is by wrestling within the belly of the Wolf (the exile trauma and complex that threatens to swallow up the exilethat Caperucita is reborn into new life. Following the mythic pattern of the hero’s journey, Caperucita (as well as the exile) is pressed into individuation, where she must integrate conflicting forces that threaten to split and devour her wholeness. Similarly, the exile must rescue the vulnerable self from the grasp of the devouring complex and bring the disparate cultural states into synthesis, redeeming her enfeebled and supplanted ancestral heritage (personified by Grandmother).

    The archetypal motifs of death/re-birth and endings/new beginnings are prevalent in this fairy tale. Caperucita Roja reminds us that separation from the “containing Mother” (e.g., the archetypal Great Mother, or Mother-land) and being thrust into unknown forests of frightening containment can serve to initiate our growth, rebirth, and individuation. By identifying with Caperucita and her triumph over the Wolf, I believed I could also work the same victory in my turbulent young years. It was through the power of this symbolic story, imbued with archetypal energies, that my traumatized young self was able to imagine a way through. Jung stated it this way: “Without the cooperation of the unconscious, the conscious personality would be too weak to wrench itself free of its infantile past and venture into a strange world with all its unforeseen possibilities” (CW 5, par. 463). In this manner, the fairy tale of Caperucita Roja became a living symbol, forever conflated with my early development and exile experience fleeing Cuba.

    In this writing, I have talked about the dynamics of exile through the fairy tale of Caperucita Roja as mirrored by my own political displacement. However, this psychological distress, which I am calling the exile complex, is not limited to political banishment. In my consulting room, I observe this emotional distress in many who have never been expelled from their country and yet suffer a deep-seated sense of outsiderness and estrangement from others and from place. Existential alienation and estrangement can ensue from a general mismatch with family, the death of a loved one, the loss of a home, or the dissolution of a marriage or business. There is also the debilitating childhood wound of early insecure parental attachment or birth trauma that often leaves the individual with implicit feelings of not belonging or even deserving of life. In addition, running throughout Jung’s theories and ideas is the individuation proposition of assimilating disenfranchised or shadowed aspects of the personality, those parts of the self which have been exiled from consciousness. I submit that exile is an archetypal aspect of the human experience and that perhaps we’re not really meant to fully belong in this world but are called to suffer the tension of both home and exile simultaneously.

    Lourdes Hernandez was marked by the traumas of war and political asylum when her family fled Cuba to take refuge in the United States. She holds post-graduate degrees from Pacifica Graduate Institute and Regis University in hermeneutics, counseling, and Jungian and Archetypal Studies. After a period of study in Zurich, Lourdes returned stateside to complete her analytic training with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts and has a bilingual private practice in Boulder, Colorado. Lourdes is a lifelong musician and visual artist who values the curative power of the symbolic psyche and its restorative interventions. You can learn more about her at

  • Tuesday, November 08, 2022 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    Individuation, embodying one’s full essence, is not a solo endeavor even though it is an innately driven process of psychological differentiation from the collective. The process is inseparable from embodied moments of conuinctio with people in your life and the union of opposites within your psyche. Relationships, particularly intimate couple relationships, are an alchemical vas for encountering the unknown within yourself. As you adapt to living with the differences in your partner, your vital energies (innate essence) take shape in daily activities. As the specifics of your nature interface with the “other”—someone separate from you, your psyches naturally intertwine. This conuinctio offers an opportunity to live into your wholeness by embracing aspects of psyche that arise only in intimate relationship; or you can remain one-sided with an ego ideal that is identified with collective expectations or defended against your personal history (personal unconscious). 

    You open to the gift of Self by seeing your primary relationship as a transformative vessel where your partner mirrors unknown aspects of you. Your commitment to the “other” is bonded by unconsciously activated energies in psyche that want to be connected to your ego consciousness. This means you encounter yourself in every interaction with your partner as psyche filters the experience through your complexes. Strong, out-of-proportion affects, activated by non-harmonious exchanges, are the doorway to knowing yourself more deeply. 

    C. G. Jung writes, “The unrelated human being lacks wholeness, for he can achieve wholeness only through the soul, and the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in ‘You’.”  (CW 16, par. 454) The reality of psyche as a phenomenal world coexists with the reality of the external “other” world where people are who they are, not our projections or images. Individuation demands conscious differentiation of your inner imagoes and the outer partner as an individual in their own right. 

    Imagoes carry both desirable and undesirable feeling tones. The desirable traits and affects are projected in the romantic love phase of relationship. Sooner or later, these are destroyed by reality that forces you to see beyond the one-sided idealized images. As the positive illusions die, there is often the projection of negative states of the imago onto the partner. Projection is an unconscious mechanism that transfers powerful, unmediated archetypal/instinctive energy that evokes certain ways of being and acting from the other. Unknowingly, a projected complex pulls your partner to act in sync with the projection. To be whole and to have healthy relationships, you must be willingly to see and claim the unintegrated bit of your psyche instead of exporting it.

    By addressing the projection of the internal imago onto your partner, you can differentiate internal factors that shape your experience from the external realities that trigger the perceptions. This necessitates withdrawing projections through consciousness of your complexes. This increased consciousness brings a clearer perception of your partner and a more focused use of the previously split off or projected psychic energy. You become more whole in the process of owning the projected energies or shadow. 

    Owning your projection can be difficult as there is always a hook for the unconscious material. An example: Sally has a harsh and critical father complex, so she unconsciously attracted a partner who is harsh and critical. The partner is an easy projection screen as they mirror her inner father/partner. Exporting the negative, she is left with an accommodating sweetness that lacks healthy aggression and fuels blaming the outer partner for feelings of inadequacy and failure. This keeps her psychologically stuck, thwarting her individuation, as she does not consciously address the inner aggressor to claim her autonomy and initiative for life. 

    Over time, Sally let go of blaming her partner and began dialoguing with her inner critical father/partner. She now listens deeply to connect with the seed of the Self that is cloaked by the negative father complex. Through this conscious relating, she connects with the vital energy of her larger Self that holds the needed opposite to balance the negative. When this happens, she experiences an inner coniunctio that results in inner and outer boundaries rooted in healthy self-respect and self-responsibility. She becomes more whole by standing with herself internally and with her outer partner.

    Jung writes,

    Wholeness is a combination of I and You, and these show themselves to be parts of a transcendent unity…. I do not of course, mean the synthesis of two individuals, but the conscious union of the ego with everything that has been projected into the ‘You.’ Hence wholeness is the product of an intrapsychic process which depends essentially on the relation of one individual to another. (CW 16, par. 454)

    The relationships to yourself, the Self, and another individual are the heart of individuation. Couples relationships are a particularly fertile ground for individuating as your most deeply rooted, personal needs and vulnerabilities are experienced. Your willingness to engage the intertwining worlds of inner and outer relationships simultaneously is the key for fully embodying your essence. Relationships are essential to individuation.


    Kathleen Wiley is a Jungian Psychoanalyst, LCMHC, and LMFT in Davidson, NC. Her work empowers individuals to fully embody their essence through conscious relationship to the Self and other. She is an articulate and engaging speaker who moves her listeners into their depths. She leads an online community with self-paced courses focused on embodiment practices and processes rooted in Jungian psychology and alchemical symbolism. Learn more at and 

  • Wednesday, October 05, 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    I have been interested in Erich Neumann’s work since I was first introduced to Origin and History of Consciousness, just out of college. I was a language and arts major with a minor in psychology. Nothing prepared me to read this opus except my own imagination. Of course, without the maturity and experience to fully understand what he was saying, I found it intriguing, but difficult. I was drawn to books that made little sense to me at the time, but for some reason I suspected that the knowledge they imparted would eventually become clear—like a completed painting. Early on in college I ran across a four-volume set of books on Kabbalah at a used bookstore and was gripped reading the whole series. It was like a puzzle with such a different way of perceiving the world -- more like my childhood world of imagination where anything could be real, reality was relative. These books allowed me to step outside my limited worldview and begin to imagine once again. Reading Neumann remains such an experience; it opens up many new worlds of thought and feeling each time I re-read one of his books.

    Now as a so-called seasoned Jungian analyst, I am still amazed at the brilliance of his writing. He was Jung’s most brilliant friend and collaborator and challenged Jung’s thinking in many areas. Isn’t that what we want and need—to be challenged, to explore new ideas and perceptions of reality, to keep learning about this amazing world we live in and all the unique and interesting creatures that inhabit it with us, including other humans? How do we keep our sense of imagination and curiosity alive? 

    While Neumann describes in detail-- with more clarity and detail than Jung-- the stages of human psychological development from birth to death, recently in my reading I was particularly struck by his descriptions of what can go wrong in the process. He has a concept called mass man. Of course, being a “man of his generation,” he uses the word “man” to refer to “human.” Today, such a referral stops one in his or her or their or its tracks. Language needs to catch up. But to segue a bit here, Neumann is the early Jungian who was most conscious of the multiplicity that exists as male and female, as masculine and feminine blended and mixed in complex and unique ways in each of us, in our inner and outer realms. 

    OK, back to mass man. I have been thinking about the current political situation and how our country has become so polarized and angry. Reading history makes clear that this is not new for the U.S. -- or anywhere else in the world, for that matter -- but it feels more extreme and unresolvable now, perhaps because of the additional worry about climate change and the war in Ukraine at the same time. Neumann lived through the catastrophe of WWII and spent his time during the war in Palestine trying to understand what happened to the German psyche. His description in his essay explains how the development of the ego and self can fail and throw a person back into a collective state where ideologies and a powerful, charismatic leader become the ego and superego for the individuals. This can become a mass movement of “hysterical neurosis,” as Neumann called it. Now it would have a different name. Jung also described this same phenomenon in his essay, “After the Catastrophe.” It is interesting that they both came to the same psychological conclusion while having halted their communication with each other during the war. 

    Understanding the healthy progress of human psychological development helps us to recognize how children should develop, how important it is for adults to continue to develop to maintain a solid ego-Self axis, and how it can be lost along the way for so many reasons. What we are witnessing now is a huge failure in our mental health system. Of course, it puts an emphasis on drugs, not counseling. Without the difficult work individuals do to recognize and integrate their shadow material, we as a collective are vulnerable to huge negative shifts in the collective unconscious, resulting from all the splitting and projection.

    What a depressing way to end this blog. But better to understand than not, to challenge ourselves to give a few drops of precious, creative moisture-- the water of life-- to support the positive, constructive side of our collective. 

    I will be speaking at the Jung Society of Washington on October 21 & 22 on Erich Neumann and his work and why he is still relevant. As you have seen, I believe he is. I look forward to conversations and discussions about all of what I presented in this blog and much more. 

    Dr. Nancy Furlotti has written numerous articles and co-edited several books, including The Dream and Its Amplification with the late Erel Shalit.  She lectures internationally on Jungian topics, such as dreams, mythology, trauma, the feminine, and the environment.  A long-standing interest of hers is Mesoamerican mythology, specifically the Quiché Maya creation myth, the Popol Vuh.  Her book on this subject is forthcoming.  Her company, Recollections, LLC, edits and publishes the writings of first-generation Jungians, most recently Erich Neumann’s two-volume manuscript, The Roots of Jewish Consciousness 

  • Tuesday, September 27, 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    Imagine, for a moment, that you are the universe. But for the purposes of this thought experiment, let us imagine that you are not the disen­chanted mechanistic universe of conventional modern cosmology, but rather a deep-souled, subtly mysterious cosmos of great spiritual beauty and creative intelligence. And imagine that you are being approached by two different epistemo­logies—two suitors, as it were, who seek to know you. To whom would you open your deepest reality?  To which approach would you be most likely to reveal your authentic nature?  Would you open most deeply to the suitor—the epistemology, the way of knowing—who approached you as though you were essentially lacking in intelligence or purpose, as though you had no interior dimension to speak of, no spiritual capacity or value; who thus saw you as fundamentally inferior to himself (let us give the two suitors, not entirely arbitrarily, the traditional masculine gender); who related to you as though your existence were valuable primarily to the extent that he could develop and exploit your resources to satisfy his various needs; and whose motivation for knowing you was ultimately driven by a desire for increased intellectual mastery, predictive certainty, and efficient control over you for his own self-enhancement? 

    Or would you, the cosmos, open yourself most deeply to that suitor who viewed you as being at least as intelligent and noble, as worthy a being, as permeated with mind and soul, as imbued with moral aspiration and purpose, as endowed with spiritual depths and mystery, as he?  This suitor seeks to know you not that he might better exploit you but rather to unite with you and thereby bring forth something new, a creative synthesis emerging from both of your depths. He desires to liberate that which has been hidden by the separation between knower and known. His ultimate goal of knowledge is not increased mastery, prediction, and control but rather a more richly responsive and empowered participation in a co-creative unfolding of new realities. He seeks an intellectual fulfillment that is intimately linked with imaginative vision, moral transformation, empathic understand­ing, aesthetic delight. His act of knowledge is essentially an act of love and intelligence combined, of wonder as well as discernment, of opening to a process of mutual discovery. To whom would you be more likely to reveal your deepest truths?

    This is not to say that you, the universe, would reveal nothing to the first suitor, under the duress of his objectifying, disenchanting approach. That suitor would undoubtedly elicit, filter, and constellate a certain “reality” that he would naturally regard as authentic knowledge of the actual universe: objective knowl­edge, “the facts,” as compared with the subjective delusions of everyone else’s approach. But we might allow ourselves to doubt just how profound a truth, how genuinely reflective of the universe’s deeper reality, this approach might be capable of providing. Such knowledge might prove to be deeply misleading. And if this disenchanted vision were elevated to the status of being the only legitimate vision of the nature of the cosmos upheld by an entire civilization, what an incalculable loss, an impoverish­ment, a tragic deformation, a grief, would ultimately be suffered by both knower and known. 

    I believe that the disenchantment of the modern universe is the direct result of a simplistic epistemology and moral posture spectacularly inadequate to the depths, complexity, and grandeur of the cosmos. To assume a priori that the entire universe is ultimately a soulless void within which our multidimensional conscious­ness is an anomalous accident, and that purpose, meaning, conscious intelligence, moral aspiration, and spiritual depth are solely attributes of the human being, reflects a long-invisible inflation on the part of the modern self. And heroic hubris is still indissolubly linked, as it was in ancient Greek tragedy, to heroic fall. 

    What is the cure for hubristic vision? It is, perhaps, to listen—to listen more subtly, more perceptively, more deeply. Our future may well depend upon the precise extent of our willingness to expand our ways of knowing. We need a larger, truer empiricism and rationalism. The long-established episte­mo­logical strategies of the modern mind have been both relentlessly limiting and unconsciously “constructing” a world it then concludes is objective. The objectifying ascetic rationalism and empiricism that emerged during the Enlightenment served as liberating disciplines for the nascent modern reason, but they still dominate mainstream science and modern thought today in a rigidly undeveloped form. In their simplistic myopia and one-sidedness, they seriously constrain our full range of perception and understanding. 

    The disenchanting strategy can be said to have served well the purposes of its time—to differentiate the self, to empower the human subject, to liberate human experience of the world from unquestioned pregiven structures of meaning and purpose inherited from tradition and enforced by external authority. It provided a powerful new basis for criticism and defiance of established belief systems that often inhibited human autonomy. It also at least partly succeeded in disciplining the human tendency to project onto the world subjective needs and wishes. But this differentiation and empowerment of the human being has been striven for so single-mindedly as to now be hypertrophic, pathologically exaggerated. In its austere universal reductionism, the objectifying stance of the modern mind has become a kind of tyrant. The knowledge it renders is literally narrow-minded. Such knowledge is at once extremely potent and deeply deficient. A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but a massive amount of knowledge based on a limited and self-isolating set of assumptions may be very dangerous indeed. 

    The remarkable modern capacity for differentiation and discernment that has been so painstakingly forged must be preserved, but our challenge now is to develop and subsume that discipline in a more encompassing, more magnanimous intellectual and spiritual engagement with the mystery of the universe. Such an engagement can happen only if we open ourselves to a range of epistemologies that together provide a more multidimensionally perceptive scope of knowledge. To encounter the depths and rich complexity of the cosmos, we require ways of know­ing that fully integrate the imagination, the aesthetic sensibility, moral and spiritual intuition, revelatory experi­ence, symbolic perception, somatic and sensuous modes of understanding, empathic knowing. Above all, we must awaken to and overcome the great hidden anthropocentric projection that has virtually defined the modern mind: the pervasive projection of soullessness onto the cosmos by the modern self’s own will to power

    Objectifying the world has given immense pragmatic power and dynamism to the modern self but at the expense of its capacity to register and respond to the world’s potential depths of meaning and purpose. Contrary to the coolly detached self-image of modern reason, subjective needs and wishes have unconsciously pervaded the disenchanted vision and reinforced its assumptions. A world of purposeless objects and random processes has served as a highly effective basis and justification for human self-aggrandizement and exploita­tion of a world seen as undeserving of moral concern. The disenchanted cosmos is the shadow of the modern mind in all its brilliance, power, and inflation. 

    As we assimilate the deepening insights of our time into the nature of human knowl­edge, and as we discern more lucidly the intricate mutual implica­tion of subject and object, self and world, we must ask ourselves whether this radically disenchanted cosmology is, in the end, all that plausible. Perhaps it was not as truly neutral and objective as we supposed but was in fact a reflection of historically situated evolutionary imperatives and unconscious needs—like every other cosmology in the history of humanity. Perhaps disenchantment is itself another form of enchantment, another highly convincing mode of experience that has cast its spell over the human mind and played its evolutionary role but is now not only limiting for our cosmological understanding but unsustainable for our existence. Perhaps it is time to adopt, as a potentially more fruitful hypothesis and heuristic starting point, the second suitor’s approach to the nature of the cosmos.

    Humanity’s “progress of knowledge” and the “evolution of consciousness” have too often been characterized as if our task were simply to ascend a very tall cognitive ladder with graded hierarchical steps that represent successive develop­mental stages in which we solve increasingly challenging mental riddles, like advanced problems in a graduate exam in biochemistry or logic. But to understand life and the cosmos better, perhaps we are required to transform not only our minds but our hearts. For our whole being, body and soul, mind and spirit, is implicated. Perhaps we must go not only high and far but down and deep. Our world view and cosmology, which defines the context for everything else, is profoundly affected by the degree to which all our faculties—intellectual, imaginative, aesthetic, moral, emotional, somatic, spiritual, relational—enter the process of our knowing. How we approach “the other,” and how we approach each other, will shape everything, including our own evolving self and the cosmos in which we participate. Not only our personal lives but the very nature of the universe may demand of us now a new capacity for self-transcendence, both intellectual and moral, so that we may experience a new dimension of beauty and intelligence in the world—not a projection of our own desire for beauty and intellectual mastery, but an encounter with the actual unpredictably unfolding beauty and intelligence of the whole. 

    Richard Tarnas is a professor of psychology and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. Formerly the director of programs and education at Esalen Institute, he is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of the Western world view from the ancient Greek to the postmodern that is widely used in universities, and of Cosmos and Psyche, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network and is the basis for the documentary series Changing of the Gods. He is also the co-editor of Psyche Unbound: Essays in Honor of Stanislav Grof. Richard Tarnas is a past president of the International Transpersonal Association and has served on the Board of Governors for the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco.


    If you wish to buy Richard Tarnas’ books, here are links on Amazon:

    Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View


    The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View 

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    The earliest form of the archetypal perspective, and in certain respects its deepest ground, is the primordial experience of the great gods and goddesses of the ancient mythic imagination.  In this once universal mode of consciousness, memorably embodied at the dawn of Western culture in the Homeric epics and later in classical Greek drama, reality is understood to be pervaded and structured by powerful numinous forces and presences that are rendered to the human imagination as the divinized figures and narratives of ancient myth, often closely associated with the celestial bodies.

    Yet our modern word god, or deity or divinity, does not accurately convey the lived meaning of these primordial powers for the archaic sensibility, a meaning that was sustained and developed in the Platonic understanding of the divine. This point was clearly articulated by W. K. C. Guthrie, drawing on a valuable distinction originally made by the German scholar Wilamowitz-Moellendorff:

    Theos, the Greek word which we have in mind when we speak of Plato’s god, has primarily a predicative force.  That is to say, the Greeks did not, as Christians or Jews do, first assert the existence of God and then proceed to enumerate his attributes, saying “God is good,” “God is love” and so forth.  Rather they were so impressed or awed by the things in life or nature remarkable either for joy or fear that they said “this is a god” or “that is a god.”  The Christian says “God is love,” the Greek “Love is theos,” or “a god.”  As another writer [G. M. A. Grube] has explained it: “By saying that love, or victory, is god, or, to be more accurate, a god, was meant first and foremost that it is more than human, not subject to death, everlasting.  . . . Any power, any force we see at work in the world, which is not born with us and will continue after we are gone could thus be called a god, and most of them were.”

    In this state of mind, and with this sensitiveness to the superhuman character of many things which happen to us, and which give us, it may be, sudden stabs of joy or pain which we do not understand, a Greek poet could write lines like: “Recognition between friends is theos.”  It is a state of mind which obviously has no small bearing on the much-discussed question of monotheism or polytheism in Plato, if indeed it does not rob the question of meaning altogether.

    As the Greek mind evolved, by a process sometimes too simply described as a transition from myth to reason, the divine absolutes ordering the world of the mythic imagination were gradually deconstructed and conceived anew in philosophical form in the dialogues of Plato.  Building on both the Presocratics’ early philosophical discussions of the archai and the Pythagorean understanding of transcendent mathe­matical forms, and then more directly on the critical inquiries of his teacher Socrates, Plato gave to the archetypal perspective its classic metaphysical formulation.  In the Platonic view, archetypes—the Ideas or Forms—are absolute essences that transcend the empirical world yet give the world its form and meaning.  They are timeless universals that serve as the fundamental reality informing every concrete particular.  Something is beautiful precisely to the extent that the archetype of Beauty is present in it.  Or, described from a different viewpoint, something is beautiful precisely to the extent that it participates in the archetype of Beauty.  For Plato, direct knowledge of these Forms or Ideas is regarded as the spiritual goal of the philosopher and the intellectual passion of the scientist.

    In turn, Plato’s student and successor Aristotle brought to the concept of universal forms a more empiricist approach, one supported by a rationalism whose spirit of logical analysis was secular rather than spiritual and epiphanic.  In the Aristotelian perspective, the forms lost their numinosity but gained a new recognition of their dynamic and teleolog­ical character as concretely embodied in the empirical world and processes of life.  For Aristotle, the universal forms primarily exist in things, not above or beyond them.  Moreover, they not only give form and essential qualities to concrete particulars but also dynamically transmute them from within, from potentiality to actuality and maturity, as the acorn gradually metamor­phoses into the oak tree, the embryo into the mature organism, a young girl into a woman. The organism is drawn forward by the form to a realization of its inherent potential, just as a work of art is actualized by the artist guided by the form in the artist’s mind.  Matter is an intrinsic susceptibility to form, an unqualified openness to being configured and dynamically realized through form.  In a developing organism, after its essential character has been fully actualized, decay occurs as the form gradually “loses its hold.”  The Aristotelian form thus serves both as an indwelling impulse that orders and moves development and as the intelligible structure of a thing, its inner nature, that which makes it what it is, its essence.  For Aristotle as for Plato, form is the principle by which something can be known, its essence recognized, its universal character distinguished within its particular embodiment.

    The idea of archetypal or universal forms then underwent a number of important developments in the later classical, medieval, and Renaissance periods.6   It became the focus of one of the central and most sustained debates of Scholastic philosophy, “the problem of universals,” a controversy that both reflected and mediated the evolution of Western thought as the locus of intelligible reality gradually shifted from the transcendent to the immanent, from the universal to the particular, and ultimately from the divinely given archetypal Form (eidos) to the humanly constructed general name (nomina).  After a final efflorescence in the philosophy and art of the High Renaissance, the concept of archetypes gradually retreated and then virtually disappeared with the modern rise of nominalist philosophy and empiricist science.  The archetypal perspective remained vital principally in the arts, in classical and mythological studies, and in Romanticism, as a kind of archaic afterglow.  Confined to the subjective realm of interior meaning by the dominant Enlightenment world view, it continued in this form latent in the modern sensibility.  The radiant ascent and dominance of modern reason coincided precisely with the eclipse of the archetypal vision.  

    Between the triumph of nominalism in the seventeenth century and the rise of depth psychology in the twentieth, philosophy brought forth a weighty development, Kant’s Copernican revolution in philosophy, that subsequently had major consequences for the form in which the archetypal perspective eventually reemerged.  With Kant’s critical turn focused on discovering those subjective interpretive structures of the mind that order and condition all human knowledge and experience, the a priori categories and forms, the Enlightenment project underwent a crucial shift in philosophical concern, from the object of knowledge to the knowing subject, that influenced virtually every field of modern thought.  

    It was not until the turn of the twentieth century that the concept of archetypes, foreshadowed by Nietzsche’s vision of the Dionysian and Apollonian principles shaping human culture, underwent an unexpected renascence.  The immediate matrix of its rebirth was the empirical discov­eries of depth psychology, first with Freud’s formulations of the Oedipus complex, Eros and Thanatos, ego, id, and superego (a “powerful mythology,” as Wittgenstein called psychoan­alysis), then in an expanded, fully articulated form with the work of Jung and archetypal psychology.  Jung, drawing on Kant’s critical epistemology and Freud’s instinct theory yet going beyond both, described archetypes as autono­mous primordial forms in the psyche that structure and impel all human experience and behavior.  In his last formulations influenced by his research on synchronicities, Jung came to regard archetypes as expressions not only of a collective unconscious shared by all human beings but also of a larger matrix of being and meaning that informs and encompasses both the physical world and the human psyche.

    Finally, further develop­ments of the archetypal perspective emerged in the postmodern period, not only in post-Jungian psychology but in other fields such as anthropology, mythology, religious studies, philosophy of science, linguistic analysis, phenomenology, process philosophy, and feminist scholarship.  Advances in understanding the role of paradigms, symbols, and metaphors in shaping human experience and cognition brought new dimensions to the archetypal understanding.   In the crucible of postmodern thought, the concept of archetypes was elaborated and critiqued, refined through the deconstruc­tion of rigidly essentialist “false universals” and cultural stereotypes, and enriched through an increased awareness of archetypes’ fluid, evolving, multivalent, and participatory nature.  Reflecting many of the above influences, James Hillman sums up the archetypal perspective in depth psychology:

    Let us then imagine archetypes as the deepest patterns of psychic functioning, the roots of the soul governing the perspectives we have of ourselves and the world.  They are the axiomatic, self-evident images to which psychic life and our theories about it ever 

    return. . . .There are many other metaphors for describing them: immaterial potentials of structure, like invisible crystals in solution or forms in plants that suddenly show forth under certain conditions; patterns of instinctual behavior like those in animals that direct actions along unswerving paths; the genres and topoi in literature; the recurring typicalities in history; the basic syndromes in psychiatry; the paradigmatic thought models in science; the world-wide figures, rituals, and relationships in anthropology.

    But one thing is absolutely essential to the notion of archetypes: their emotional possessive effect, their bedazzlement of consciousness so that it becomes blind to its own stance.  By setting up a universe which tends to hold everything we do, see, and say in the sway of its cosmos, an archetype is best comparable with a God.  And Gods, religions sometimes say, are less accessible to the senses and to the intellect than they are to the imaginative vision and emotion of the soul.

    They are cosmic perspectives in which the soul participates.  They are the lords of its realms of being, the patterns for its mimesis.  The soul cannot be, except in one of their patterns.  All psychic reality is governed by one or another archetypal fantasy, given sanction by a God.  I cannot but be in them.

    There is no place without Gods and no activity that does not enact them.  Every fantasy, every experience has its archetypal reason.  There is nothing that does not belong to one God or another.

    Archetypes thus can be understood and described in many ways, and much of the history of Western thought has evolved and revolved around this very issue.  For our present purposes, we can define an archetype as a universal principle or force that affects—impels, structures, permeates—the human psyche and the world of human experience on many levels.  One can think of them in mythic terms as gods and goddesses (or what Blake called “the Immortals”), in Platonic terms as transcendent first principles and numinous Ideas, or in Aristotelian terms as immanent universals and dynamic indwelling forms.  One can approach them in a Kantian mode as a priori categories of perception and cognition, in Schopenhauerian terms as the universal essences of life embodied in great works of art, or in the Nietzschean manner as primordial principles symbolizing basic cultural tendencies and modes of being.  In the twentieth-century context, one can conceive of them in Husserlian terms as essential structures of human experience, in Wittgensteinian terms as linguistic family resemblances linking disparate but overlapping particulars, in Whiteheadian terms as eternal objects and pure potentialities whose ingression informs the unfolding process of reality, or in Kuhnian terms as underlying paradigmatic structures that shape scientific understanding and research.  Finally, with depth psychology, one can approach them in the Freudian mode as primordial instincts impelling and structuring biological and psychological processes, or in the Jungian manner as fundamental formal principles of the human psyche, universal expressions of a collective unconscious and, ultimately, of the unus mundus

    In a sense, the idea of archetypes is itself an archetype, an arche, a continually shape-shifting principle of principles, with multiple creative inflections and variations through the ages as diffracted through different individual and cultural sensibilities.  In the course of that long evolution, the archetypal idea seems to have come full circle, arriving now in its post-synchronicity development at a place very closely resembling its ancient origins as cosmic archai but with its many inflections and potentialities, as well as new dimensions altogether, having been unfolded and explored.

    We can thus conceive of archetypes as possessing a transcendent and numinous quality, yet simultaneously manifesting in specific down-to-earth physical, emotional, and cognitive embodiments.  They are enduring a priori struc­tures and essences yet are also dynamically indeterminate, open to inflection by many contingent factors, cultural and biographical, circumstantial and participatory.  They are in one sense timeless and above the changing flux of phenomena, as in the Platonic understanding, yet in another sense deeply malleable, evolving, and open to the widest diversity of creative human enaction.  They seem to move from both within and without, manifesting as impulses, emotions, images, ideas, and interpretive structures in the interior psyche yet also as concrete forms, events, and contexts in the external world, including synchronistic phenomena.  Finally, they can be discussed and thought of in a scientific or philosophical manner as first principles and formal causes, yet also be understood at another level in terms of mythic personae dramatis that are most adequately approached or apprehended through the powers of the poetic imagination or spiritual intuition.  As Jung noted about his own mode of discourse when discussing the archetypal content of psychological phenomena:

    It is possible to describe this content in rational, scientific language, but in this way one entirely fails to express its living character.  Therefore, in describing the living processes of the psyche, I deliberately and consciously give preference to a dramatic, mythological way of thinking and speaking, because this is not only more expressive but also more exact than an abstract scientific terminology, which is wont to toy with the notion that its theoretic formulations may one fine day be resolved into algebraic equations.

    Richard Tarnas is a professor of psychology and cultural history at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he founded the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness. Formerly the director of programs and education at Esalen Institute, he is the author of The Passion of the Western Mind, a history of the Western world view from the ancient Greek to the postmodern that is widely used in universities, and of Cosmos and Psyche, which received the Book of the Year Prize from the Scientific and Medical Network and is the basis for the documentary series Changing of the Gods. He is also the co-editor of Psyche Unbound: Essays in Honor of Stanislav Grof. Richard Tarnas is a past president of the International Transpersonal Association and has served on the Board of Governors for the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco. 


    If you wish to buy Richard Tarnas’ books, here are links on Amazon:

    Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View


    The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View



  • Saturday, April 09, 2022 10:31 AM | Anonymous

    We were living in Memphis when Martin was murdered, moving households after dark, against curfew; there were ongoing riots then; the city was burning.  But we were white, so no one bothered us, and we had a baby to protect.  My husband was a graduate student, earning his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, Medical Units; I was working as a lab technician at Baptist Memorial Hospital; both institutions were near the middle of town, a town that the National Guard, uniformed and armed with rifles, was trying to protect from the rioters.  

    We had been living within easy walking distance of what we’re called the “Projects,” where black people lived in large, red-brick buildings, each as desolate looking as the others, but most of the Guards were in the neighborhoods that were erupting downtown; they made their presence felt.  This part of the story, what follows, is little known and too rarely told.

    The reason that Martin had come back to Memphis was because of the garbage men’s strike.  You may have seen photographs of them marching, wearing signs around their necks proclaiming “I AM A MAN!” in black letters on whiteboard.  And the reason for this?  

    A few days prior, on a cool hard-rainy morning, the garbage men were out doing their jobs.  Each garbage truck had a driver, who was white, and two men to dump the garbage into the back of the truck; these men were black.  At break time, the work would be stopped for coffee, but only the white drivers had access to the coffee shops; black folk were not allowed in.  

    On that wet morning, a garbage-truck driver  went inside a coffee shop for hot coffee; the two others took cover just inside the back of the truck, where the rain was probably loud against the roof.  When the driver returned, he was probably unconcerned about the others, about where they might be.  He climbed into his cab and turned the key.

    What we don’t know is if the men in the back could have heard him return (probably not), if the driver knew where the two had taken shelter (probably not), if what happened next had been imagined (surely not).  When the truck was started up, the two in the back were thrown into the belly, and along with the trash, they were crushed.  They didn’t die immediately; they knew what was happening because there was evidence that at least one of them had tried to climb out, but couldn’t.  It was this horrific incident that brought Martin back to Memphis and why “I AM A MAN!” was proclaimed by the mourners.

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"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." – C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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