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.

 

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).

Exile and Individuation by Stephen Foster, Ph.D.

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 In general, it is the process of forming and specializing the individual nature; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a differentiated being from the general collective psychology. Individuation, therefore, is a process of differentiation, having for its goal the development of the individual personality.   

C.G. Jung, C.W., Vol. 6, para 757

 There are times when I feel like an exile in my own land, not just because I am an immigrant, but also because the individuation process can be a lonely, isolated and difficult road to travel.  The tension between following a collective group, or cutting away to pursue one’s own interests and one own heart creates a strong internal “pulling apart” in the psyche.  Jung said that this tension creates the flow of psychic energy; pulling energy out of the unconscious to fuel new creative acts.  If we are conscious, or courageous and can hold this tension for enough time, Jung reassures us that the transcendent function will be fired up, like a capacitor, ready to discharge a symbol.  When this symbol is encountered by the ego, it will lead to greater consciousness and an expansion of the psyche.  However, it is easy to forget the body in this process.  The tension I have describe is contained within our physical form, and we react to the tension as we might respond to any “complex[1],” with sweaty palms, tingles in our body, a cloudy mind and a churning stomach.

These bodily feelings are also present when we are excited or stimulated by something new. Psychologically, leaving the collective evokes fear, and powerful feelings of rejection and alienation.  But it is also the seed or precursor to something new and wonderful.  Edward Edinger[2] cites William James[3], who describes this place of alienation as a forerunner to “numinous experience.”  What Jung might call a numinous experience of the Self: a transcendent or transpersonal experience.  This all sounds very grandiose, but in simple words, making a move away from the collective, and treading one’s own path is fueled by energy from the unconscious, which supports us and provides the energy and inspiration to become an individual, even in the face of criticism and rejection from those in positions of power within the collective.

Often, others misunderstand one’s choices and actions that lead to a new path, especially if they are entrenched within a collective system, hold positions of authority or are invested with power (by self or others).  One often has to endure a hurtful backlash from one’s choices to take a new path.  The key point here is that when one makes the choice to go in a different direction, “the road less traveled” as describe by Frost[4], one is actually not treading a new path alone, but following the unseen new ways created by so many others before.  Like Jung, you may feel compelled to listen to your unconscious, to take a new direction in your life, and to become a more individuated human being.  Like the Hermit card in the Tarot, you may feel alone and alienated; yet the Tarot deck leads to the World card, and Jungian work assures us that these steps away from collective psychology lead us to become more of who we were meant to be.



[1]           Jung defined a complex as an autonomous feeling tone collection of images.

[2]           Edward Edinger, Ego and Archetype, Shambhala Press, Boston, page 52

[3]           William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, Random House, NY, page 150

[4]           The Road Not Taken, Mountain Interval, Robert Frost, 1920

Flooding, riverbeds and Archetypes By Stephen Foster, Jungian Analyst

Flooding_in_Boulder

Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at any time. An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return to its old bed.

CW 10: Civilization in Transition. P. 395

One month after the event, it is impossible to have lived in Boulder, or the small mountain communities near us, and not have been emotionally and, in some devastating cases, physically moved by the flooding that occurred on September 12 through 14, 2103.  We have been touched personally, we know those who have been touched, and in some cases know those who have been “wiped out” by the water and the mud that flooded out of the hills, after we received one year’s worth of rain (18.5 inches) in a few days.

It quickly became apparent, that we had experienced an event with traumatic consequences.  When one hears, “we were lucky, we only had three feet of mud in our basement, and we didn’t loose our house,” it actually says more about the friends who were left homeless.  For those affected there are so many “hard parts” to the destruction.  It is not just the lost material property (house, car, furniture), although these losses are hard enough, there is the loss of stored precious memories, stored photographs (births, weddings, anniversaries), yearbooks, and more.  And the smell of antediluvian basement mold in one’s beloved treasures is unforgettable.

Emotional flooding during and after powerful events parallels Jung’s observation on Archetypes; our own emotional riverbeds fill in ways we have not known, yet they somehow feel familiar to us.  Our emotions flow in rivers; tears fill our eyes welling up like groundwater from beneath the surface.  When it is too much for us, they flow over the banks of our fragile containing ego consciousness, and we dissolve. When the energy is too much for the ego it is overwhelmed and lost in the flood. Yet, Archetypes have no value, except that assigned by the ego, and there is another side to flooding.  When psychic energy flows through psychic channels, we can also feel the energy enliven those unseen aspects of our world.

The Archetype of flooding is as old as civilization itself. In Egypt it was the source of renewal, and sustained life in the desert.  The god of the event was Hapi, and one image of Hapi is two figures holding a common strand of wheat, representing the uniting of Upper and Lower Egypt.  For those of us who are not required to rebuild our lives, the experience has challenged us to reexamine what has value, what is important in our lives, and to reconsider our relationship with the small mountain towns and people who were grievously impacted.  In the midst of material losses there is an opportunity for reorientation and renewal.  By eliminating the unimportant we may all return to one of the deepest and most important Archetypes of human existence that unites upper and lower, and that can heal so much: relationship.

 

“Integrity and the Pursuit of the Numinous” by Puddi Kullberg

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The documentaries Bill Cunningham New York (2010) and Birders: The Central Park Effect (2012) tell the stories of two New Yorkers who epitomize a certain kind of pursuit of the numinous. Bill Cunningham, now in his 80’s, for decades, has taken off on his bicycle each morning (and still does) to photograph New Yorkers for the “Style” section of the New York Times. Starr Saphir, also for decades, has set out most mornings of spring and fall (and still does) to lead birders through Central Park.

For each of them, clearly, their given objects of attention are numinous. And while it’s hard to resist some sort of “plumage” comparison, something much deeper strikes you as you watch these individuals. I was struck by the quality of a certain kind of purity of pursuit, or integrity, that each of them, Bill Cunningham and Starr Saphir exhibits. The Jungian analyst John Beebe has written, in Integrity in Depth (2005), that what individuates is integrity. If you would like an example of this, I highly recommend these two unique documentaries.                         .Birders_ori (1)