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

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


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.

Mistaken (1) 


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).


Flooding, riverbeds and Archetypes By Stephen Foster, Jungian Analyst


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.


The Heart as a Vehicle to the Self and the Unus Mundus by Deborah Bryon, Ph.D.

148In Peruvian shamanism, “the heart” – as an expression of connection with Pachamama (the Great Mother – Mother Earth)– is the hub of connectivity in the body and the vehicle through which connection and relatedness with others is experienced. Peruvian shamans say that the heart is where we experience munay energetically, the universal feeling state of love connecting us to the land and every living thing around us. The experience of munay refers to a state of union or an experience of a major conjunctio. It is collective state of love, different from personal love directed specifically towards another person.

Von Franz and Jung both referred to an aspect of this experience as “union through the Self.” Von Franz has written,

“Whereas relations based merely on projection are characterized by fascination and magical dependence, this kind of relationship by way of the Self has something strictly objective, strangely transpersonal about it. It gives rise to a feeling of immediate, timelessness, “being together” (p.177). [1]

Von Franz’s statement about relationships via the Self corresponds to the Q’ero description of munay. Both, are ecstatic spiritual experiences of connecting with the numinous that transcend time and space. Jung stated, “Objective cognition lies behind the attraction of emotional relationship; it seems to be the central secret. In this world created by the Self, we meet all those many to whom we belong, whose hearts we touch; here “there is no distance but immediate presence.”[2]

Lionel Corbett[3] has written about a glutinum mundi, or glue of the world, a “life force, uniting body and soul (Jung, 1968, 12, par 209). According to Corbett, this glue is the bonding material or prima materia of the conjunctio – a “secretion of the Self.”  As presented earlier, this has also been described as a conjunctio experience between people in relation to the field within the analytic container, in the context of transference and counter transference. The experience of the field as a conjunctio experience can also occur outside of the analytic container, often in contexts such as ceremony or communal religious settings. The power of a group in creating an energetic field is well-known and practiced in meditation circles and monasteries around the world.

In Egypt, I had the opportunity to watch whirling dervishes perform and enter a state of ecstasy. Sitting in the room during a ceremony, I witnessed a vibration shift in the entire energetic field of over 100 people! Chanting and drumming rituals and tribal dancing are illustrations of similar phenomena. Pentecostal churches with members of a congregation who speak in tongues, the emotional charge present created by a group of gospel singers.  Modern raves are another example seen in current Western culture of people collectively becoming mesmerized.

[1] M. Von Franz, “Re-Collection and Projection.”

[2]  C.G. Jung, “CW Vol 8” (par 912).

[3] L Corbett, “Fire in the Stone,” (p. 125)