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  • Sunday, November 15, 2015 12:04 PM | Jung Society of Washington

    It is important to have a secret, a premonition of things unknown. It fills life with something impersonal, a numinosum. A man who has never experienced that has missed something important. He must sense that he lives in a world in which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated. The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world. Only then is life whole. For me the world has from the beginning been infinite and ungraspable.
    - Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 356.

    In this passage, taken from Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung lays open a life spent in active engagement with underlying, transpersonal streams of mystery.  A Jungian analysis aims to deepen our awareness of those transpersonal currents that fashion our life-course, most often outside our awareness.  We engage this mystery through “the symbolic function”—our natural inclination for image-making, symbolization, and the enactment of ritual patterns that stem from the unconscious psyche.

    More generally, the term “spirituality” describes our intentional participation in mystery.  Spirituality keeps us in conversation with the transcendent but ever present Other within and without. We may promote this dialogue through dream-work, writing or reflection; through relating to the natural world as a subject rather than an object; through creative works; through attending to our emotions and the images that spring up out of the depths; through meaningful conversation, storytelling, prayer and ritual practices within or outside of a faith community. The symbolic function, a uniquely human capacity, makes this engagement possible.

    Like the seasonal cycles and the planetary courses, the symbolic function belongs to nature. The symbolic life thus represents life lived in a way that is naturally human. Our receptivity to symbolic expressions of meaning “illumines the self” in Jung’s sense by connecting us with the web of life. We attain a more comprehensive self by surrendering the illusion that self and world can be fully known or understood in a purely rational way. Jung’s psychological theory gave place to our religious and symbolic inclinations outside the category of pathology. Still today, Jungian psychology not only respects the irrational dimensions of the psyche, it observes the invaluable role played by the symbolic function in the journey toward wholeness.

    Melanie Starr Costello, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, historian, and graduate of the C.G. Jung Institut-Zurich, holds a private practice off Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. She earned her doctorate in the History and Literature of Religions from Northwestern University. A former Assistant Professor of History at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Dr. Costello has taught and published on the topics of psychology and religion, medieval spirituality, and clinical practice. Her study of the link between illness and insight entitled, Imagination, Illness and Injury: Jungian Psychology and the Somatic Dimensions of Perception, is published by Routledge press. Currently her work explores archetypal currents running through the collective psyche in our times—a topic she takes up in her workshops on the Stranger, Aging and Spirituality, and on Dream Cosmologies.

  • Thursday, October 15, 2015 11:57 AM | Jung Society of Washington

    Jung writes from his deepest personal encounter with his soul in The Red Book, “The knowledge of death came to me that night…I went into the inner death and saw that outer dying is better than inner death. And, I decided to die outside and live within…I turned away and sought the place of the inner life.”

    Everyone experiences loss, grieves, and goes through transitions and dark passages. It is a fact of life and is an inevitable occurrence. Sometimes the experience is more than what the ego is prepared to handle. We wonder how we can go on, if help will ever come, what we have done wrong, it’s too late to change and why bother – the worst has already happened. We are learning from neuroscience that the brain registers trauma in the same way it does torture and that acceptance and healing require us to create new neuropathways. Jung’s wisdom has a psychology to get us there when he teaches that the psyche has a Religious function. He says that there are times when it is necessary to let go of the intellect in favor of the heart. How else could we endure the pain and envision a new world within and the potential to reconcile opposites that at times break our hearts?

    Separation, loss, and death are the sine qua non for new and expanding life and are major themes in the analytical process. The troublesome complexities of separation, loss, and letting-go, require that we endure the suffering that inevitably follows. The intertwining of life and death was a fundamental concern for primitive peoples, whether in burial rites, fertility sacrifices, or just keeping on the good side of the Gods and Goddesses. The profound crucifixions of Inanna, Christ, Odin, are major mythological reflections of this intertwining. Just as a plant must die for the seed to initiate new life, so must worn-out patterns of behavior be discarded in order that new patterns have room to unfold.

    Honoring our personal destiny asks that we enter the wilderness of our being to attend the demands of our soul. As Jung states, “When you are in the darkness you take the next thing, and that is the dream. When a man is in the wilderness, the darkness brings the dream…and you can be sure the dream is your nearest friend.” C.G. Jung, Vol. 18

    The shattering experience of death whether outer or inner brings us to our knees. And, the grief that accompanies death is a responsibility owed to the psyche. If unacknowledged it can be passed onto others for generations to come. It lasts as long as it lasts and has its own rhythm. The poet Rumi’s words capture the nature of grief drunk to the last drop.

    “All theologies are straws
    His Sun burns to dust
    Knowing takes you to the threshold
    But not knowing through the door
    Nothing can teach you if you don’t unlearn everything.
    How learned I was, before Revelation made me dumb.”

    Anne Pickup is a licensed psychotherapist in DC and Maryland with a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She received her Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles in 1995.

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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

Welcome to the Jung Society of Washington's blog. Here you'll find posts by our speakers on topics ranging from interpretations of Jung's works to comments on events from a Jungian perspective, and so much more.

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