1Q84: Reflection on a Story about the Search for the Other

 A Book Review by Stephen Foster, Ph.D. Jungian Analyst

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Don’t you just hate it when you finish a really good book?  I found myself drawn so deeply in the world of 1Q84, created by Haruki Murakami, that for a short while I was outside of time.  I was so completely immersed in this rich and engrossing novel, that when it was over I was left feeling both elated at having found a book I could be “in” and flattened that it was over. What was wonderful was that it was full of the possibilities for Jungian interpretations; my mind was set spinning.

Let me first admit that I did not actually read the 1160 pages of the book.  Like everyone these days I have so little time to actually read each word on the page.  These days the fantasy of curling up in front of a crackling fire with a good book is sadly just that: a fantasy.  No, I listened to the book in my car, at the gym, and while walking the dog.  For me, this is also a great way to be in the book, and to experience the world of 1Q84.  But—I digress.

In good Jungian fashion, the book starts with the feminine protagonist descending a ladder from the Tokyo freeway down into this new world; the world of 1Q84.  In this world the masculine and feminine characters are searching for each other, and through parallel process, they are unconsciously searching to unite with their own animus or anima; in this book the contrasexual other that holds creative potential.  In trying to find their connection to each other, in this strange new world, they each grapple with their childhood beginnings, their familial norms and their individuation process.

Synchronicities abound, and are so common in 1Q84 that they are taken for granted.  The mysterious and the unusual events that pulled me into this world are not always explained, but one knows exactly what is going on.  Like theater in the round, it is as if the author has somehow incorporated us into the world as a part of the story.  The stories of each character are interwoven, like braided hair.  Yet the novel is simply written.  One gets the impression that there is an unseen hand guiding the actions of the characters in that world of IQ84. For example, the private detective holds the shadow while the couple searches for each other much like anima and animus figures in the unconscious. When we work with the unconscious, these alternative worlds hold powerful symbols and this book is filled with symbolic content that is open for Jungian interpretation.

It seems that Haruki Murakami was drawn to Jung, (he even mentions him in the book) and he was able to work with the tensions of good and evil within the unconscious to conjure up the story of 1Q84.  For me it was the perfect melding of two of my favorite subjects: science fiction and Jung.

 

Brothers by Puddi Kullberg, Jungian Analyst

get-attachment     As a lover of the movie The Hours, based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham, I was interested to see the review of his new book in the on-line NYT’s Arts section this morning. The headline caught my attention, “Two Brothers in the Icy Grip of Midlife.” Michiko Kakutani reviewed Cunningham’s new book The Snow Queen in which “two brothers yearn for a sense of purpose in midlife.”

Having spent most of yesterday working on a class about individuation, I thought, “Aha, midlife, here is something that might enliven the discussion.” Not to mention that a pivotal ingredient of the novel-named-after-a-fairy-tale involves one of the brother’s having had a numinous experience, a vision of beauty and grander, on a snowy evening in Central Park, kept secret from his sibling. How Jungian can you get? Could I assign a novel for my class or might that be too much reading?”

As I read the review though my mind wandered from individuation to brothers. I couldn’t help but connect it to another current brothers story.  The indie rock band The National is made up of two sets of brothers and the singer/lyricist whose brother is not part of the band. As it turns out though, the non-band brother is now intimately connected to the group via his recent movie Mistaken for Strangers. And the poignant Mistaken for Strangers turns out to be as much about brothers as it is a documentary about The National.

Maybe someday we’ll have a movie of The Snow Queen that is not Frozen. At any rate, if brothers captivate you, I can recommend Mistaken for Strangers and if you love Cunningham, you can look forward to The Snow Queen, the book.

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Snakes as Symbols of Transformation by Deborah Bryon Ph.D., Jungian Analyst

References to snakes and serpents as a universal symbol of transformation are found throughout mythology across the world. As a student of Jung, I have found references in his writings to snakes which have also enriched my understanding of this powerful image. Jung has stated that the image of a “serpent in a cave is a common image associated with baptism or beginning[1].” The cave or Underworld represents a layer of the unconscious where there is no discrimination; male and female are no longer distinguishable. Snakes exist in the primordial realm of creation.

In Greek mythology, Asklepios, the god of physicians for healing, wisdom and prophecy is represented by the serpent.[2] In Asia, Kundalini is the snake fire that burns and cleanses the chakras in the body. Nathan Schwartz-Salant described these kinds of snake symbols as Dionysian, involving the lower anthropos, chakras or energy centers in the subtle body and etheric field.

What continues to be most meaningful to me about the snake – beyond providing me entry into my own shadow and dismemberment process – has been the deepening of my “felt” connection to Peruvian cosmology. In Peruvian Shamanism, Uhupacha, the Underworld, is ruled by Amaru the great snake. It is the womb of the Great Mother, Pachamama, and the place of manifestation. This is the primordial realm where a complete “union of opposites” exists.

 


[1] (C.G. Jung, CW Vol 18 (1989), p.116)

[2](C.G. Jung, CW, Vol 18).

Women’s Voices by Puddi Kullberg, Jungian Analyst

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In Praise of When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice (2012) by Terry Tempest Williams

Women’s Voices

I am now 67 years old. The summer of my 16th year I sat on the dock at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, and over the course of several sunny days, I simultaneously tried to get a good tan and read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. It changed my life forever. Not the tan.

Don’t get me wrong, I went on to follow a very conventional life-style for the next two decades. However, the seeds of discontent had been planted. My inchoate considerations of my life in my family, in the Catholic Church, in the patriarchal academy and employment sectors and society of the United States in the late sixties had not escaped my observation. Here was someone who was articulating my dilemmas and puncturing my various denials.

After seeing the movie Tom and Viv  in 1994, I refused to read anyone but women authors for many years to come.  The whole “women are crazy” just got to be too much for me to bear – think Sylvia Plath, Virginia Wolf, Zelda Fitzgerald, Viv of course. Not to mention the prevailing etiology of serious mental illness at that time? The crazy (frigid) mother and/or penis envy.

Neither did I buy the tag line, “But it is symbolic” about Thelma and Louise having to sail the car off the cliff or “But it’s the myth” when Jen in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon leaps into the ethers above the valley to escape an impossible life.

Women’s voices saved my life. During my self-imposed male author hiatus, I became accustomed to the sound of women’s voices speaking to me from all realms of endeavor. Eventually and without any conscious decision on my part, I was back to reading men authors as well as women. It had taken a seriously long time, about ten years I would say, of immersion into the realm of the sisters, mothers and daughters to heal the women-are–crazy wound in my psyche.

I have just come across a Holocaust book, Where Every Single One Was Someone (2013) by Phil Chernosfsky. The entire volume is a repetition of the word JEW, six million times. Some say it is more a work of art than “a book”. In the spirit of repetition, if I was to write such a book, here is my list of names that would be reiterated over and over and over again. The women’s voices who saved my life – provoked, enlightened, sustained, entertained and educated me – from the time of that 16 year old teenager until now (excluding family and friends).

Betty Freidan Erica Jong Madeline Albright Willa Cather Gerda Lerner Elaine Pagels Alexandra David-Neel Beryl Markham Anne Morrow Lindberg Lucile Clifton Betty Meador Linda Leonard Sherry Salman Annie Liebowitz Louise Bourgoise Mira Nair Deepa Mehta Jane Campion Taiye Selasi Abi Maxwell Amy Cutty Betty Freidan Erica Jong Madeline Albright Willa Cather Gerda Lerner Elaine Pagels Alexandra David-Neel Beryl Markham Anne Morrow Lindberg Lucile Clifton Betty Meador Linda Leonard Sherry Salman Annie Liebowitz Louise Bourgoise Mira Nair Deepa Mehta Jane Campion Taiye Selasi Abi Maxwell Amy Cutty Betty Freidan Erica Jong Madeline Albright Willa Cather Gerda Lerner Elaine Pagels Alexandra David-Neel Beryl Markham Anne Morrow Lindberg Lucile Clifton Betty Meador Linda Leonard Sherry Salman Annie Liebowitz Louise Bourgoise Mira Nair Deepa Mehta Jane Campion Taiye Selasi Abi Maxwell Amy Cutty Betty Freidan Erica Jong Madeline Albright Willa Cather Gerda Lerner Elaine Pagels Alexandra David-Neel Beryl Markham Anne Morrow Lindberg Lucile Clifton Betty Meador Linda Leonard Sherry Salman Annie Liebowitz Louise Bourgoise Mira Nair Deepa Mehta Jane Campion Taiye Selasi Abi Maxwell Ami Cutty Betty Freidan Erica Jong Madeline Albright Willa Cather Gerda Lerner Elaine Pagels Alexandra David-Neel Beryl Markham Anne Morrow Lindberg Lucile Clifton Betty Meador Linda Leonard Sherry Salman Annie Liebowitz Louise Bourgoise Mira Nair Deepa Mehta Jane Campion Taiye Selasi Abi Maxwell Amy Cutty …

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Jane Campion and the Anima and Animus By Puddi Kullberg


When I first started reading Jung, I would go through his lengthy descriptions of the anima, and then look, in vain, for what he said about the animus. Inevitably, it was something like, “the animus has a similar function but for women, it is a masculine function.” If you did a word count, there would be at least 200 words on the anima for every 10 words about the animus. In other words, it got short shrift. Never did I feel like the (positive), awe-inspiring functions of “the anima” (soul!) were duplicated in Jung’s cosmology for the animus. How come the men had this essential element and the women had… what? Something that made them opinionated!

In fact, “animus possessed” seemed to be the most damning epithet rather casually flung at women who were in any way feisty. It made me crazy. And the most I heard otherwise, outside of the Collected Works, was that a woman was “supposed” to have an animus who “supported” her. It/he would provide spirit and ability to function in the world. I never liked this conception. I myself have always functioned rather well in the world and it seemed of-a-piece with my nature. Not something some male part of me was promoting or supporting or accomplishing.

Over the years I have kept my own counsel and confined my personal animus explorations to the facts, i.e. psychic facts – male figures who showed up in my dreams.

However, lately I am having a certain regard for Jung’s anima and animus ideas. Have you seen Jane Campion’s film The Piano or her recent TV series The Top of the Lake?

The PianoHolly Hunter goes from the protagonist, Ada, in The Piano to the sage in The Top of the Lake. Elizabeth Moss, as Detective Robin Griffin, takes over as the protagonist in this later Campion creation. At spinning class at the gym – where ideas and inspirations and aha’s come to me (unconscious coming through third function!) – I realized something from Campion’s work that matches my own experience, an anima/animus aha moment.

In The Piano the heroine, Ada, is being saved by the vigorous, sexual, smart, vital, renegade native man (animus), Banes, played by Harvey Keitel. But at a certain point Ada has to decide, as in really decide, make conscious, choose, to be saved. She has accidentally-on-purpose entangled herself in the rope that is attached to her piano which has toppled off the canoe and is inexorably on its way to the bottom of the ocean taking her along with it. At first Ada passively drifts down through the crystalline clear, azure tropical waters, enjoying the beauty. Then Life jolts her. Her survival instinct kicks in. She responds. Her will to live coagulates. She literally starts kicking (kicks-in) with purpose, trying to extricate herself from the rope and the clutches of a watery death. Eventually she succeeds in getting free of the line but the sunlight of the water’s surface is now far distant. She struggles upward and finally she does surface, gasping for breath as she is pulled into the canoe. As all this is going on, she is narrating, a voice-over:

What a chance

What a surprise

My will has chosen life.

Still, it has had me spooked and many others besides.

Top of the LakeSimilarly, in The Top of the Lake, the heroine has to consciously choose her self before she can be authentically related to an other, an animus. Towards the end of the series, Robin is having, it seems, a redeeming relationship with an old/new love, Johnno, played by Thomas M. Wright. But at a certain point, she too, like Ada in The Piano, cannot just let this circumstance allow her to drift off into oblivion. Consequently, Robin forces a confrontation with Johnno that will certainly threaten the new found love. “Did you give them [the rapists] a signal?” That is, “Lo those many years ago, and although you have apologized for not protecting me and I have forgiven you, is there any chance that you were, in fact, colluding [actually and/or psychologically, unconsciously] with the rapists?”

What am I saying? I am saying that there is something that needs to happen within a woman’s psyche, something definitive, where she determines to and chooses herself as the locus of her experience. This is not an ego project nor is it making the ego stronger. As with Ada and Robin, something native to a woman’s psyche needs to coalesce, coagulate, decide, take an action, force the issue, confront – within or without. That moment of assertion of her own being brings her into being as a woman. Her anima is born. From that core, herself as anima, she can now enjoy an equal, reciprocal relationship with the men in her inner and outer life.