Consciousness and Summer Hikes by Stephen Foster, Ph.D.

 

“We stand on a peak of consciousness, believing in a childish way that the path leads upwards to yet higher peaks beyond. That is the chimerical rainbow bridge. In order to reach the next peak we must first go down into the land where the paths begin to divide.” (CW 12, Paragraph 75)


South B PeakC.G. Jung spent a great deal of time in nature, and used his observations and experiences in natural settings as metaphors in his psychological work.  He also drew from alchemical writings because alchemists were detailed observers of nature. But Jung had a particular gift for incorporating myth, alchemy and metaphoric language to convey insights with many layers.  And the above quote from Psychology and Alchemy is a good example.

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains brings one in touch with the reality of the effort required to summit a mountain, and I am sure that hiking in the Swiss Alps gave Jung time to consider mountain analogies.  Jung’s metaphor of reaching a peak of consciousness can also feel like a tremendous feat.  Once we become conscious of a particular aspect of the human psyche, particularly our own, our ego feels that insights into consciousness abound, or as Jung says, “upwards to yet higher peaks beyond.” And yet it is a fantasy to gain insight so easily.

Jung is incorporating the Norse idea of the rainbow-bridge, Bifrost, which is the bridge that connects Asgard, the world of the Aesir tribe of gods, with Midhard, the world of humanity. So by reference he suggests that the ego has the fantasy that we can simply, without much effort, cross over Bifrost from the land of humans to the land of the Gods; a short cut for the human ego to God-like wisdom.

I was reminded of this quote and Jung’s nature analogy this past weekend when I looked across the short distance from South Boulder Peak to Bear Peak. Hiking across the saddle between the two peaks requires first heading down from South Boulder Peak into the now charred trees and burned out landscape from last year’s forest fire that threatened Boulder about this time last year. This nature analogy suggests we often have to pass back down through the burned out landscape of our past experiences, which is a powerful aspect of psychological work, a process that provides deep and lasting insights. On the mountain, amongst the downed blacked trees and charred earth, patches of green plants are pushing their way up from the black soil. The patches of green can be seen as areas of repair amongst the fire ravage trees.  They represent glimpses of awareness (or consciousness) in the shadow.

Bear PeakJung might suggest that acquiring consciousness often requires going down through shadow material, back into the blackened places in our lives to find the green areas of new psychological growth. And yet in his quote Jung also warns us that consciousness is not gained easily. Limited awareness can be deceptive because it gives us the illusion that we are more conscious than we actually are.  He is suggesting that we have the fantasy that higher consciousness is gained easily and simply.  This is the “chimerical rainbow bridge.”

In reality, gaining consciousness requires the process of going down (inside) to the depths of our experience, to where our path crosses the paths of others, because this work leads us towards consciousness of another kind; metaphorically to another peak. I believe it is the process of going down and coming back up via another path that gives us consciousness.  For Bear Peak, crossing the saddle is easier than going down the 3000 feet of vertical gain and coming up another path.  But if we take the easy path we rarely gain the consciousness we actually need on this journey of life.

Inner Authority and Jung’s Model of Individuation by Kaitryn Wertz

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C.G. Jung used the term archetype to describe the innate, universal, unconscious patterns and predispositions that order human psychological experience. Authority is among those archetypal patterns. Throughout history and across cultures, every human society has had some system of authority and communal life is usually organized around it. As individuals, we negotiate with authority daily. We obey authority, resist authority, seek authority and hold authority; we project it, carry it, idealize it, devalue it and search for ways of authoring our own lives.

The word authority first appeared in the English language in the early 13th century, to describe “the book or quotation that settles a question.” Curiously, this 13th century definition gathers many modern meanings of authority into the phrase “that which settles a question”. Authority is that which settles the big and small questions of our lives; it is whatever we trust and depend upon for what neuroscientist Richard Burton calls “the feeling of knowing.”

For much of the past two thousand years of western history, authority was not to be found inside the psyche. Although Jesus had announced that “the kingdom of heaven is within”, cultural consensus located authority in the heavenly Christian God and his exclusive representatives on earth, the hierarchy of the Church. It was not until the Renaissance and Reformation challenged the Church’s exclusive claim to theological and political authority that the idea of interior authority came more into being. That challenge was voiced in Luther’s impassioned words, “To go against my conscience is neither right nor safe.”

With mainstream cultural consensus continuing to locate authority outside the psyche, religion’s authority was slowly ceded to science. But now there was also a separate stream of developing awareness of authority as internal and psychological, which gained ground as 19th century Romantics turned inward to understand human experience, arguing that we can best discover what we need to do by listening to an inner voice. In the process, these philosophers discovered the unconscious and laid the foundation for depth psychology

Forms of Authority

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In the 1920’s, the influential German sociologist Max Weber (1946) contributed a seminal work on the types of authority, distinguishing between traditional, rational-legal and charismatic forms of authority. Traditional or patriarchal authority derives from long-established customs, habits and social structures, resting on “piety for what actually, allegedly or presumably has always existed”. This is the “sacred and inviolable… authority of the father, the husband… the lord and prince.”

Rational-legal authority rests upon rationally established norms, regulations and laws. Scientific method, the modern state and the legal system are based on this form of authority.

Charismatic authority arises from belief in “the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him.” From a Jungian perspective, this form of authority arises from the projection of archetypal contents and thus it is experienced as numinous. Charismatic authority is often revolutionary, sweeping away the stagnant traditional order. But the beliefs of the followers must be continuously supported with evidence of the extraordinary, making this form of authority highly unstable. I believe that charismatic authority, with all its instability, opens the possibility for the withdrawal of projected authority and its discovery within the psyche. In charismatic authority, the archetype of authority is moving toward consciousness.

Unlike earlier historical eras in which one form of authority dominated, in the United States today we have a menu that includes the traditional authority of established religion and patriarchal figures, such as president, general, doctor or priest, as well as impersonal rational-legal structures such as law and scientific method. The mere existence of these multiple and potentially valid forms of authority relativizes all of them.

But most striking is the multiplicity of charismatic forms of authority. From evangelical and New Age religious leaders, to political pundits pontificating on the airwaves, to self-help gurus and celebrities promising secrets that will make us wealthy, healthy, loved and sane, we live in a Babel of competing authorities. If indeed charismatic authority is the movement of the archetype toward consciousness, what is trying to be born out of this cacophony?

Inner Authority

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Jungians would answer by positing a fourth form of authority: inner or psychological authority. Unlike the previous forms, this type of authority is found within the individual. It is the ability to value and validate our own thoughts, feelings, intuitions and perceptions, leading to self-trust, confidence and the ability to become the authors of our own lives. Inner authority is a quality that emerges in men and women during what Jung called individuation, the process of psychological differentiation from both social norms and collective psychology that leads toward a more conscious awareness of wholeness.

The development of inner authority occurs throughout the individuation process, which Jung described as the progressive integration of the persona (or social identity), the shadow (rejected, repressed aspects of the personality), the anima/us (the inner contra-sexual image) and the wise old man and woman. This integration occurs repeatedly and cyclically, more comparable to phases or seasons than to linear stages, and it leads toward a conscious relationship between the ego, or center of consciousness, and the Self, the archetype of wholeness and the regulating center of the psyche.

Often imaged as the coniunctio or union of masculine and feminine principles, the Self contains all opposites and is the ultimate source of inner authority. But the processes through which inner authority develops take place during every phase of individuation. Inner authority increases as we differentiate from persona (social) roles and as we face and integrate aspects of the shadow. Just as men must differentiate from the feminine authority carried by the mother, wife, etc., women must integrate the masculine authority that has been excluded from consciousness and projected onto male figures or male-dominated institutions, such as father, husband, church, academia, etc.

We may also deepen our experience of value and validity by integrating aspects of inner authority that Jung imagined as the encounter with the Wise Old Woman and Wise Old Man. Here we find our own source of inner wisdom and learn to be in balanced relationship with it. The energy of Wise Old Woman is grounded in the earth, in embodied consciousness and in relatedness, while the energy of the Wise Old Man brings connection to authentic spirit, intellect and discernment.

Jung regarded the ultimate source of inner authority as the Self, often personified as the union of masculine and feminine figures. Developing access to the Self, through dreams, active imagination, body awareness, etc, enables us to become the authors of our own lives through a continuing dialogue between the ego and the Self.  This is, indeed, the unblazed trail, the path toward an authentic, individual experience of inner validity, value, trustworthiness and agency.

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Jung and the Symbolic Journey by Stephen Foster

Not for a moment dare we succumb to the illusion that an archetype can be finally explained and disposed of…..  The most we can do is dream the myth onwards and give it a modern dress.  (Collected Works, Vol. 9, Part I, p. 160)

 

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In a world where most people seem to pay more attention to the latest football score or sale at Nordstrom’s Rack, its hard to fathom why anyone would be interested in the psychological perspective of the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung.  But I am sure that you have seen a movie or read a book that has had a powerful effect on you.

Movies like Star Wars, or the Lord of the Rings, or Eat, Pray, Love illustrate certain patterns of human behavior that are mythic, or what Jung called archetypal.  If we are willing to spend a little time alone with ourselves in reflection, or enter into Jungian analysis, we are able to identify some of these themes or patterns in our own lives through the movies or books that hook us. It is as if the movie expresses something within us that we cannot articulate. The projection on the screen is also a projection of something within that is important for us to see, and we are drawn back to it like a moth to a flame.

I remember when I was young my teacher in the small two room country schoolhouse would read from a large green illustrated copy of the Greek myths.  These stories were like movies playing in my imagination, and as I heard the adventures of Jason and his crew in the Argos I imagined that adventure was just around the corner.  The characters in these myths were alive to me.  In the same way, if we review our own personal stories we might see how they reflect an underlying mythic structure. The films or books we are drawn to often complete that part of our mythic journey that we are unable to directly see for ourselves until it is presented on the screen.  The trick is to think symbolically about the images on the screen and imagine them as possible symbolic solutions to our current, often restricted situation.

It is not necessary to act out, or concretize, the fantasy. One does not have to sail around the Mediterranean to feel free. Instead, one can convert it to a symbolic event by asking the question, “What am I looking to satisfy in my desire to have a fantasy voyage around the Mediterranean, and how can I symbolically meet the need in this moment?”  It requires a measure of honesty.  But we all have it in us, and it can save us from some very expensive road trips.

Walking a Spiritual Path by Deborah Bryon, Ph.D.

 

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 Von Franz wrote, “There exists no individuation process in any one individual that does not at the same time produce this relatedness to one’s fellow man.”Both Jung and Von Franz believed that the role of a spiritual figure or mystic in many cultures is to facilitate a numinous religious experience as a community. Both Jung and shamans agree with the need to “give back” to the collective. However, there is a distinction between the two approaches concerning timing – at what point along the spiritual path an emphasis on “giving back” begins.

In shamanism, everything in life begins, exists and ends through direct dialogue and interaction with the land. Q’ero shamans of Peru teach that one must re-member to “source” from pacha mama because unlike people, pacha mama remains constant and is always there. To complete the uroboric circle, what is taken from the land is returned to the land so that it can be born again. The land is not only understood as a symbol of the Great Mother, the land is the Great Mother. A reciprocal relationship and dialogue is developed between the shaman and the land, which serves as a functional spiritual gateway between ordinary and nonordinary reality. Everything is understood within the context of the natural order and relationship existing between all living things, which the Q’ero refer to as kawsay pacha.

In Jungian psychology, the relationship with the unconscious serves the same function as that of the shaman maintaining a state of communion with “the land.” For Jung, the Self might be understood as similar to “the land.” “The land” might be understood to be a symbol of the Self. Jung wrote:

“The more one concentrates on one’s unconscious the more they become charged with energy: they become vitalized, as if illuminated from within. In fact they turn into something like a substitute reality.”

The distinction between the Jungian approach of drawing psychic energy from the unconscious and shamanic practice of sourcing from “the land” as a means of experiencing the numinous may be understood more as a function of introversion vs. extroversion rather than as an individual vs. a collective orientation. Both shamans and Jung would likely agree that “sourcing” occurs in the collective rather than the personal unconscious. In shamanism, this is done in ritual as an outward expression of connecting with the land. In Jungian psychology, this may occur in active imagination, dreams and synchronistic events.


 M. L. Von Franz, “Projection and Recollection in Jungian Psychology,” (p.177)

CW Jung, “Psychological Commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation,” in Psychology and the East. (p 124, par 793)