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).

The Subjective Experience of Time by Deborah Bryon Ph.D.

2012-07-28 20.45.36-2  Time is experienced differently depending upon the subjective psychological state of the person having the experience. The use of language can offer the framework to understand time as a linear, sequential cognitive process that defines the way time is experienced in consensual reality. Whenever we talk about time in this reality, space automatically becomes a factor because it provides context. Non-ordinary reality can only be accessed in preverbal, somatic states because it is non-temporal experience that occurs outside of a time/space continuum. The problem with the experience of non-temporal reality is that it is near impossible to understand conceptually as it is occurring – within the context of ego consciousness.

When we have moved outside of “other world” experience and begin describing it we have returned to ordinary reality – and ego consciousness. Based upon my own experience, nonordinary reality is predominately perceived as a formless, energetic state. I have learned that I can only (partially) assimilate the experience consciously as it is occurring if I have experienced the state before and have already laid done the cognitive neural pathways that can map and organize the experience in ego consciousness. Both shamans and analysts say that the can only help others materialize material (heal) if they understand the experience from “the inside out.”

Psychoanalytic theory (Ogden, 1989) offers rich scaffolding to further develop a conceptual framework to hold undifferentiated experience.  At birth, an experience of being a feeling of pleasure, (i.e. anger, fear, etc.) occurs before the ability to identify having a feeling exists. In this phase, we are our feelings because there is no separation between ourselves and the outer world. I have discovered in working with analysands in these kinds of preverbal states that the analytic session can become a fertile, multi-layered microcosm that holds the opportunity to access nonverbal state experiences – parallel to experiential work in Andean shamanism.       

Whatever we experience as time outside of a “time and space” continuum is an energetic state, without space-defined boundaries. Jung described the unconscious as “an extremely fluid state of affairs: everything of which I know, but which I am not at the moment thinking, everything of which I was one conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mend, everything which, involuntarily without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do: all future things that are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness: all this is the content of the unconscious. (“The Structure of the Psyche,” CW 8, par.342).