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Mark your calendars for July 8, 2022 from 7-9pm CDT. We will be hosting Connie Zweig via Zoom for our next program: Aging as Spiritual Practice: The Hidden Promise of Shifting from Role to Soul. You can view the event details here and register here.
Connie Zweig, Ph.D., is a retired therapist and coauthor of Meeting the Shadow and Romancing the Shadow and author of Meeting the Shadow of Spirituality and a novel, A Moth to the Flame: The Life of Sufi Poet Rumi. Her new bestselling book, The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul, extends her work on the Shadow into midlife and beyond and explores aging as a spiritual practice. It won the 2022 Gold Nautilus award, the 2021 American Book Fest Award, and the 2021 Best Indie Book Award for best inspirational non-fiction. Connie has been doing contemplative practices for more than 50 years. She is a wife, stepmother, and grandmother. After all these roles, she’s practicing the shift from role to soul.
It’s such a challenging time! There are so many ways that our world has changed and is changing, and these churn up our outer lives and our inner lives. It’s no small matter to stay aware and open, to work toward owning our shadow, discovering and getting free from our complexes, integrating and individuating.
It was very challenging for me to read Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. It is a brilliant spelling out of how the United States has been and is a caste system, a deeply unconscious power hierarchy that rigidly and tenaciously keeps Whites at the top and Blacks at the bottom. She makes legitimate and disturbing comparisons between our caste system and those of India and Nazi Germany. It was very hard for me to stay in touch with the horror and pain of what has been done to so many people, and to feel the ways I have been unconsciously indoctrinated into the system and its injustice and cruelty. The process of reading and feeling and facing truths broke my heart again and again, and it humbled me at a very deep level.
Something in me could feel that this process was strangely beneficial, a gut-wrenching transition into greater honesty with my self and a much-needed deflation of a tendency to regard myself as much further along than I actually am. It’s nice to be acknowledging this amongst my Jungian friends. Thank you for being there and reading this.
In a time like this, the opportunities for understanding and growth are plentiful. May we support one another in learning about ourselves and taking steps toward our healing and our becoming the actual, unique whole persons that we are. Blessings to us all.
In our lifetimes, most of us cannot recall a time when we were more disconnected from one another. Due to a pandemic virus, we were thrust into a new way of living that excluded almost everyone we have ever known or loved and everything we have ever done. At first, staying in place seemed novel and kind of enjoyable, especially to those of us who are introverts. But, after a few weeks of self-quarantine, we began to realize that this new lifestyle wasn’t going to go away anytime soon, and we started to miss the office chatter, the gatherings with our friends, or the satisfaction that comes from a stimulating conversation. Yes, we had our phones, we had social media, and we had technology that allowed us to see everyone with whom we are speaking but, somehow, when we hung up the phone or disengaged from the technology, there we were…all by ourselves, or so it felt.
We have now reached the point where we can put on a mask or practice social distancing, but there are still so many unknowns about this insidious virus. Some of us have adapted our behaviors, like ordering groceries online and paying someone to select and deliver them, or supporting local businesses by ordering in advance for curbside pickup. Others are venturing out, with or without masks, going to stores or restaurants, knowing that either they or other shoppers are potential carriers of the virus, yet also aware that the more risks taken, the greater the chances for infection, perhaps, even death.
Added to this physical sense of separation, we have a political environment that that has fueled the mentality of division, causing uncertainty about who is a friend or who is a foe. Differences in opinion are not tolerated well but, rather, define “the enemy” who used to be a neighbor or friend. Again, we are left with this sense of being isolated from one another.
All of this leads me to what I really want to talk about, and that is the need for us to take this opportunity to go within and to deepen our relationship with ourselves and with humankind; the need to take some of these quiet moments to reflect on what is to be learned from this pandemic. What is our common part in this crisis? How can we work together to change the continuing downward spiral most of the world is experiencing?
Sue Mehrtens’ blog on the Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences website provides some social, political, economic, and psychological insights we can take from the pandemic. Socially, she says we should easily be able to recognize the fact that we are all one, equally susceptible to human adversities, like pandemics which do not discriminate. Politically, we can see the global interconnectedness in which we now live, where isolationism no longer seems rational. Economically, we have experienced the reality of supply-and-demand chains and just how fragile global distribution systems are. Mehrtens suggests that psychologically, we need to become more reliant on our inner wisdom (the Self) to guide us through the tension of separation from loved ones and interrupted routines, and she suggests we spend this time in self-reflection on what is really important to us. She also underscores the importance of remembering, “…this pandemic time shall pass.”
This is also a time to consider the larger picture that we’ve allowed ourselves to forget. We are in the midst of a major transition from the Piscean Age, with its patriarchal influences, into the more egalitarian Aquarian Age. This is bound to contribute to the chaos we are experiencing but, perhaps, it is helpful to recognize we are part of an evolutionary process that has the potential to move us into a more just world for everyone.
This pandemic is a worldwide crisis that is connecting us, be it in a horrific way. It is of critical importance to embrace the notion that we are all connected—now, and always. What I choose to do on a personal level can and, as we have seen with this pandemic, does impact everyone and everything else. Knowing our behaviors during this virus can have a ripple effect, we can use this knowledge to ensure that we are individually contributing to the betterment of our environment and the society in which we live by the behavioral choices we make.
When we reflect upon what we should be learning from this crisis, perhaps we should take inspiration from the traditional teachings of Native Americans. In his book, Mitakuye Oyasin: “We are all related,” Allen Ross shares that traditional Native ways reinforce this notion that we are all one, and as such, we are to show respect to ourselves, to others, and to everything that makes up this earth we share.
Yes, we share this world with one another and, rather than continuing to separate ourselves with biases of race, gender, culture, socio-economic status, etc., perhaps, we need to honor the fact that we live in a time when we are interdependent. Carl Jung would remind us that despite our cultural, racial, or religious differences, there is a oneness that prevails because of the archetypes that connect us all.
We all participate on this earth and, as such, we have a responsibility to come out of this pandemic better people than we were before. We can embrace changes that bring us together and abandon the harmful beliefs and behaviors that have kept us apart. We must protect our planet and find ways to live in harmony with not only other human beings, but all things that make up this great earth upon which we dwell. Everything is connected, all beings, all things—we are all one.
Mehrtens, Sue. (May 29, 2020) Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic: Jung and the Coronavirus. Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences. https://jungiancenter.org/lessons-from-the-covid-19-pandemic-jung-and-the-coronavirus/.
Ross, A. C. (Rev, 2008) Mitakuye oyasin:“We are all related.” Denver, CO: Wicóni Wasté.
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My daughter, who turned 14 last month amid the “lockdown,” lamented to me that she never knows what day it is because every day seems just like the next. I feel exactly the same. Nothing changes from day to day and yet somehow the date on the calendar keeps moving! It is May now, according to that calendar, but it feels no different from when it was, supposedly, April or March. I feel like I’m not living day to day but eking out an existence between events: a trip to the store to buy hummus, serrano peppers, and wine when supplies run low, a dinner on my own because my daughter has an online music lesson which extends beyond the onset of “hangriness.” Perhaps I have become “unstuck in time,” like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five, although I have yet to be abducted by aliens (or maybe this lockdown is my being confined to a cage in the zoo on Tralfamadore?). Other than food runs, I rarely set foot outside the house. While there is a safety/health concern, it is more the feeling of needing to hibernate or burrow down to wait out this pandemic. I keep abreast of the news—COVID-related, political, economic, and financial—throughout the day (something I was not doing before) and am very anxiously awaiting the results of cities opening up—the anxiety is intensifying with each news report and each picture of unmasked crowds shouting their demands. The experts in all areas are warning that things will not go as planned and will not follow the current, apparent downward trend unless we maintain the measures we’ve had in place for the last two months and extensively ramp up new measures for tracking and tracing. Even at this early stage here in Kansas City I see the recommendations ignorantly and thoughtlessly discarded. In a store the other day, two unmasked men were talking and one said that he was not going to wear a mask because his mother said they did no good. I somehow doubt his mother is Dr. Fauci.
It seems that people are desperately wanting and trying to get things back to “normal,” the old normal, that is. But old normal is a breeding ground for the virus—just look at where recent outbreaks have happened, even here in the Kansas City area. There’s a “new normal” in town but, as a recent New York Times headline says: “No Sign of ‘What Normal Is Going to Look Like’.” We don’t know what will happen as cities open up without large scale testing and tracing in place. We don’t know what will happen in the fall with the next flu season. We don’t know when a vaccine or therapies will be readily available. We don’t know how long it will take the economy to rebound. We don’t know how many small businesses will permanently close because they had to be shuttered too long. We don’t know what the future looks like … We just don’t know.
The feeling tone of my world right now is characterized by isolation, uncertainty, unchanging-ness, constriction, heaviness, actionless-ness, stagnation, timelessness. And this feeling tone is the same as that which I experienced several years ago when depression was the dominant influence on my body and psyche. The common factor between then and now is this distorted notion of time and the “inability to construct a future,” as the American existential psychologist Rollo May put it, describing the hopelessness characterized by depression (May, 1969, p. 243). The difference between then and now is the direction of influence: then, it was the illness of depression which stole my ability to conceive of a future; now, it is the unknowable, unimaginable future which engenders the depressive tone of my world.
Timelessness and depression are linked because timelessness is a threat to my existence. Existential psychology maintains that “time is the heart of existence” (May, 1958, p. 67) because existence, as being (as opposed to the fixed ideas of is or has been), “emerges—that is, it is always in the process of becoming, always developing in time” (May, 1958, p. 66). Therefore, “distortions of the feeling of time necessarily result in distortions of the meaning of life” (Ellenberger, 1958, p. 106). Jung attributes the qualities of oneness, indefiniteness, and timelessness to the unconscious (Carl Gustav Jung, 1958, p. 496) and these “peculiar feelings” are conveyed when the patterns of the unconscious are consciously realized (Carl Gustav Jung, 1958, p. 490). Such realizations can be psychically healing and restorative when intentionally and purposefully undertaken. However, experienced outside my own volition (which is what is happening now) they are a threat to my ego and will be interpreted as a threat to my very existence.
The timelessness of depression and of the current situation gives way to hopelessness and helplessness because my inability to create a future destroys my agency. I do not know what will happen and so cannot exert my will to influence and direct my life, to effect change. This is one reason suicide and thoughts of suicide go hand in hand with depression: in the face of utter changeless-ness, death is the only conceivable modality of change. If taken literally, this is pathology; if taken metaphorically or mythologically, this is psychology.
James Hillman reminds us of the relationship between the unconscious of psychology and the underworld of mythology in his book, The Dream and the Underworld. Similar to Jung’s description of the unconscious, Hillman says that myths “tell us that there is no time in the underworld. There is no decay, no progress, no change of any sort” (Hillman, 1979, pp. 29–30). Contrary to the exoteric view of Hades as Hell, the “House of Hades is a psychological realm now, not an eschatological realm later. It is not a far-off place of judgement over our actions but provides that place of judging now, and within” (Hillman, 1979, p. 30). But, once again, confronting Hades against my will, as the rape and abduction of Persephone tells us, is violence and a violation.
Hades, the great disruptor, “turns the world upside down. The point of view of life ceases. … and we think of death” (Hillman, 1979, pp. 48–49). It sometimes takes a hostile invasion to get us thinking about death. All too easily we, as individuals and as a collective, get blinded by the light of sunny days and green fields and beautiful flowers, bull markets and prosperity. We allow ourselves to be fitted with rose colored glasses and forget that, while “death and existence may exclude each other in rational philosophy, they are not psychological contraries” (Hillman, 1964, p. 60). Our one-sidedness makes Hades feel neglected and unwanted. Being locked away in a closet and ignored for too long, he lashes out in a monstrous rage.
This “Persephone experience” thrusts itself upon us, as individuals, in many forms (one of which is depression) and it has now thrust itself upon us, as a collective, in the form of the Coronavirus: an “invisible enemy” in the shape of a spherical crown, usually depicted in the colors red, white, green, and yellow, which penetrates our bodies, and affects our lungs/breath/pneuma/spirit/soul (further free-association with alchemical and depth psychological symbols is left as an exercise for the reader). The collective wants to be rid of this invader, to be given a magic pill that removes all traces from the body, and then vaccinated so the virus never returns. The collective wants to move past, to move on, to return to the “good old days” so they can forget that the pandemic ever happened. And I fully understand those desires. There were many, many times I desperately wanted a magic pill to eradicate my depression; desperately wanted to be cured, once and for all, so I didn’t have to continue rolling that boulder up that hill, over and over and over; desperately wanted back the “good old days” with their relationships and job and energy and optimism and naiveté. But that’s not the way Hades operates. Hades does not allow himself to be so easily brushed aside and forgotten because he, as the embodiment of “the coldness of death,” is an essential aspect of the psyche’s larger plan: “Life wants to live and to die, to begin and to end. To live what is right and to let what is false die, that is the art of life” (C. G. Jung, 2009, pp. 266–267).
Death is certainly in the collective with the daily updates on the numbers of global and U.S. deaths, predictions of numbers of deaths based on how cities handle re-opening, and discussions weighing the risk/benefit of using potential, off-label treatments. And death is certainly in the minds of individuals who have lost family and friends, who are treating and caring for the sick, and who are making the decisions which have such incredibly high stakes. But are we, as individuals and as a collective, looking for a way to avoid the confrontation with death, a way to shift the focus onto someone or something else through finger-pointing or blame or blind optimism or outright denial? Or are we allowing ourselves to cooperate with Hades and even be complicit in what he is trying to accomplish?
The Persephone experience, in all its many forms, is an invitation to transformation, an invitation to be a willing partner in our own transformation or to be acted upon as the object of transformation. Death as the basis or catalyst for transformation is frequently encountered in mythology, religion, nature, literature, and alchemy where “death represents regression to the amorphous, the reintegration of chaos, the return to the initial state, the prima materia, from which transformation can proceed (Eliade, 1978, pp. 156–157). For me, depression was a Persephone experience in which I spent time in the Underworld where everything was bleak. Many things around me died—relationships, jobs, my livelihood—and I spent a long time in grief, mourning the things I had lost. Transformation began only after I started to realize that I needed to cooperate with the process, that there was work I needed to do. One task was allowing dependencies to die where they were not helping the work to proceed: for example, the medications I had been taking. They had definitely helped, but I was relying on them too much and, for me and in my circumstances, it was time to stop taking them and start taking responsibility for getting myself back into life.
We can avoid the work being asked of us, but there are consequences attached to that choice. In Jung’s article “The Philosophical Tree,” he gives a brief analysis of 32 pictures of trees created by patients. One, in particular, stood out to me as particularly relevant because of both the picture and Jung’s commentary.
Most striking in the picture for me is the top central figure which has a shape resembling the Coronavirus. The tree, itself, also takes the approximate shape of a ring. Saturn, to the left, is associated with time (Chronos/Kronos), melancholy, death, and structure. I’m sure you will find other details that stand out. Jung’s commentary reads:
The picture shows an initial state in which the tree is unable to raise itself from the earth in spite of its cosmic nature. It is a case of regressive development, probably due to the fact that while the tree has a natural tendency to grow away from the earth into a cosmic space filled with strange astronomical and meteorological phenomena, this would mean reaching up into an eerie unearthly world and making contact with otherworldly things which are terrifying to the earth bound rationality of the natural man. The upward growth of the tree would not only endanger the supposed security of his earthly existence but would be a threat to his moral and spiritual inertia because it would carry him into a new time and a new dimension where he could not get along without making considerable efforts at re-adaptation. The patient in these cases is held back not by mere cowardice, but by a largely justifiable fear that warns him of the exacting demands of the future, without his being aware of what these demands are or knowing the dangers of not fulfilling them. His anxious resistance and aversion seem quite groundless, and it is only too easy for him to rationalize them away and, with a little assistance, brush them aside like a troublesome insect. The result is just the psychic situation shown by our picture: an inturned growth which throws the supposedly solid earth into increasing turmoil. (C. G. Jung, 2009, pp. 259–260)
To pull just one thread of this dream, we can see the parallels with our communities trying to come out of lockdown. Opening up means reaching out and “making contact with otherworldly things” (the Coronavirus). Our outward spread not only “endangers our supposed security” (our bodily health) but would also “carry us into a new time and a new dimension where we can not get along without making considerable efforts at re-adaptation” (what will the “new normal” be?). Furthermore, we are not “aware of what these demands are or know the dangers of not fulfilling them” (we are not following in the footsteps of South Korea, for example, who is further along the opening curve than we, so there is no basis on which to predict the outcome of our methods). We are seeing many to whom this “anxious resistance and aversion seem quite groundless, and it is only too easy for them to rationalize them away and, with a little assistance, brush them aside like a troublesome insect” (we are getting little guidance from the federal government and some experts feel that states are opening too quickly without a minimum level of safeguards in place). “The result is just the psychic situation shown by our picture: an inturned growth” (a potential return to the need for a lockdown).
My daughter is doing well. We watched her 8th grade “graduation celebration” on YouTube today and she is now officially on summer vacation (although that’s going to look a lot like the last 3 months for a while). She has been keeping up the best she can with her music lessons and her friends. I’m still hibernating—a little bit of time on the front porch; an early morning walk now and then, before most other people are up and about; but nothing Zoom-related. I must admit that I am enjoying some aspects of this “regressive development.” We’ve had more family dinners and family games in the last couple months than in the last couple years—what with full, mismatched schedules and a teenager asserting her independence, they had become a rarity. At the same time, I do miss the solitude I had a few days a week when my workday was done and everyone was out of the house. Whatever happens, I’m trying to stay open to what the future brings, even though I can’t construct an image of it right now.
Eliade, M. (1978). The forge and the crucible. University of Chicago Press.
Ellenberger, H. F. (1958). A clinical introduction to psychiatric phenomenology and existential analysis. In Existence: A new dimension in psychiatry and psychology (pp. 92–124). Basic Books, Inc.
Hillman, J. (1964). Suicide and the soul. Spring Publications, Inc.
Hillman, J. (1979). The dream and the underworld. Harper & Row, Publishers.
Jung, C. G. (2009). The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition (S. Shamdasani, Ed.; M. Kyburz, J. Peck, & S. Shamdasani, Trans.). W. W. Norton & Company.
Jung, Carl Gustav. (1958). On “The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation.” In Psychology and religion: West and East (Vol. 11, pp. 475–508). Princeton University Press.
May, R. (1958). Contributions to existential psychotherapy. In Existence: A new dimension in psychiatry and psychology (pp. 37–91). Basic Books, Inc.
May, R. (1969). Love and will. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Ken Buch, PhD, is the President of the Board of Directors for the Kansas City Friends of Jung, and a long-time board member. Right on cue, at 40, he stumbled upon the works of Carl Jung while re-evaluating his Christian Fundamentalist upbringing. There was an instant identification with many of Jung’s ideas and he has been a student of Jung and depth psychology ever since. Ken holds a BS in Chemical Engineering and a PhD in Aerospace Engineering. He currently works for Cerner Corporation.
In times like these, it is also important to ask ourselves what the psyche is asking of us–where it wants to take us, and for what reason. It seems to be a meaningful coincidence–that is, synchronistic–that the world is being forced to a halt at a moment in time when the world desperately needs us all to slow down and rethink our collective future. Within the greater Jungian community, at least, there seems to be a broad understanding that we have unconsciously imagined ourselves into an ecological nightmare, threatening the climate and all of our Earthly kin. We know unrestrained consumption will lead us to destruction, and yet we go on, overpowered by our complexes and addictions. It’s like one of those bad dreams where you’re speeding down the road, unable to stop yourself. Collectively, we might be like that driver, except in this dream we’ve been forced to a halt by a flat tire at a critical moment.
Our subtle (and not so subtle) unconscious pathologies have led us to consume unreflectively, and in doing so, little by little we kill the planet for our personas. To compensate for inner poverties, we bolster the external image of ourselves, and so we own 20 pairs of shoes and 5 jackets when one (or two) of each would do. Now, COVID-19 mandates our isolation, keeping us in our rooms to think about what we have done, and who we have become. We have no one to dress up for these days, no one to impress or win over, left alone to examine the person beneath the wardrobe. We are stripped of our usual distractions and routines, lured ever closer to the unconscious by this virus. The virus is best known for its effects on the lungs, when its greatest impact has been on our psyches. Yet, its net effects can be more positive than negative with proper tending of the soul.
A lack of depth in the world today results in a plague of disconnection from our own true natures as individuals, and also from nature itself. Our idea of who we are has been distorted by personal and cultural complexes, maladaptive psychological defenses, and a host of other unseen, viral psychological influences which keep us sick. The true self–the soul–finds it hard to breathe in these conditions. Long before COVID-19 became a pandemic that choked the breath from our lungs and hampered the economy, a hidden psychological pandemic had already infected the world, leaving us in a delusional state where we thought we were immune from such a tragedy. Have we forgotten all those myths that warned us what happens when we believe we are gods and goddesses, exempt from the laws of nature? We cannot build a tower to heaven, and that jagged, ever-climbing line on stock market charts cannot take us there either. We have been living in a fantasy–in a delusion of unlimited growth, like cancer. It is long past time we stopped.
It seems reasonable to suggest the cure for our condition(s) would lie in a collective awakening to the realities of the unconscious. It is only by turning inwards (through forced solitude and hardship, if necessary) that we can come face to face with the realization that we do have objective personalities– true selves–which lay beyond the bounds of who we thought we were. Jung wrote:
Without necessity nothing budges, the human personality least of all. … Only acute necessity is able to rouse it. The developing personality … needs the motivating force of inner or outer fatalities. … Yet the development of the personality means more than just the fear of hatching forth monsters, or of isolation. It also means fidelity to the law of one’s own being. (CW 17, 1934/1954, paras. 293-295)
Jungian and depth-oriented psychotherapists recognize the unconscious does not tolerate distortions of the personality. The true self wants to find its expression, and the unconscious will bring us back to it with symptoms if it must. In the same way, we might suppose the anima mundi, the soul of the world, will not tolerate excursions which deviate far from its center. Perhaps our depressive moods and the depression of the stock market brought on by COVID-19 are the symptoms meant to bring us closer to our objective center and the laws of nature. Let us take a brief trek through some of Jung’s words to get some perspective on our situation, and what might be asked of us here and now. While Jung was writing about the individual, let us also imagine this within the context of a collective crisis and the whole of our planet.
The psychological trouble in neurosis, and the neurosis itself, can be formulated as an act of adaptation that has failed. … a neurosis is, in a sense, an attempt at self-cure … (Jung, CW 4, 1916/1961, para. 575)
If we remember that the stoppage of libido was due to the failure of the conscious attitude, we can now understand what valuable seeds lie in the unconscious contents activated by regression. They contain the elements of that other function which was excluded by the conscious attitude and which would be capable of effectively complementing or even of replacing the inadequate conscious attitude …
By activating an unconscious factor, regression confronts consciousness with the problem of the psyche as opposed to the problem of outward adaptation. It is natural that the conscious mind should fight against the regressive contents, yet it is finally compelled by the impossibility of further progress to submit to the regressive values. In other words, regression leads to the necessity of adapting to the inner world of the psyche… Thus a complete orientation towards the inner world becomes necessary until such a time as inner adaptation is attained. Once the adaptation is achieved, progression can begin again. (Jung, CW 8, 1928/1969, paras. 63-69)
What I want to draw out here is the recognition of one of Jung’s chief observations that relates to the regression and progression of psychic energy, which is critical to understand as we reflect upon crisis situations and the individuation process. This has implications we ought to consider in the current crisis. First, at the individual level, we’re each asked to heed the calling of the unconscious by listening to our symptoms, seeking to understand how this turning inwards and downwards is meant to reshape us. As we follow the regressive pull of energy into the inner world, we come into contact with unknown aspects of ourselves that can lead us to new life, as well as an experience of the Self. If we can each find our inner gold, perhaps those destructive, unconscious forces that have driven this planet to the brink won’t have the power they once did.
At the collective level, the same principles regarding the transformation process and the regression and progression of psychic energy remain true. The coronavirus is to the collective what many unpleasant psychological symptoms are to the individual. It is an initiating force that is at once a biologically present and a psychological reality, and as such it forces needed change. The anima mundi–via the coronavirus–has caused the whole world to turn inwards, and to recognize the degree to which we are all connected. An old mentor of mine poetically remarked that this crisis ought to make apparent our oneness, as “what affects the Chinese peasant can ultimately reverberate around the globe and tear down the spoiled, rich asshole in his penthouse in Manhattan.” This awareness is basic to establishing an appreciation of the need for more just, equal, and sustainable societies–societies that have wholeness in mind.
In the midst of this awful crisis, we are also seeing gold in its dark shadow. Already, there are astounding benefits to our inward turn. We are hearing that the people of Punjab, India are able to see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years as a result of decreased air pollution. The people of Venice are seeing the cleanest and clearest waters they’ve seen in generations, with residents commenting that it is even possible to see the fish that live there. In cities across the world, air pollution and CO2 emissions have fallen dramatically. We are seeing people reach out and come together to sooth one another’s loneliness – playing music and singing together from their balconies or out their windows. Each night, whole cities applaud those who risk themselves to care for the sick and dying. Families are spending more time together than they have since… who knows when? We are remembering things we have forgotten, awakening to potentials we never realized were within our grasp.
There is all of this talk about “getting back to normal.” I do not wish such an ill fate upon us. That would rob us of these beautiful things we are just beginning to discover (or rediscover). We need a chance to realize what we’re missing, so we might realize what we’ll lose if we go back to “normal.” A prolonged period of solitude and adventure into our inner worlds may do us some good. If we are forced to stay here long enough, it might give us a chance to rediscover who we really are apart from the demands of the collective. It might also give us a collective opportunity to reimagine the world we have created. Is there a way forward that can keep the heights of the Himalayas in sight, as well as the bottoms of the canals of Venice, and the corresponding heights and depths of our souls?
Marion Woodman (1985), a famed Jungian analyst, reminded us that if you open the chrysalis for the butterfly or disrupt its natural transformative process by pushing it into the world too quickly, it will not fly. In the same way, we ought to look to nature and let the course of this virus inform when it is time for us to emerge from our own nature-imposed, transformative state.
The chrysalis is essential if we are to find ourselves. Yet very little in our extroverted society supports introverted withdrawal. We are supposed to be doers, taking care of others, supporting good causes, unselfish, energetic, doing our social duty. If we choose to simply be, our loved ones may automatically assume we are doing nothing, and at first we may feel that way ourselves. … We argue with ourselves, “I should be out there doing something useful.” But the truth is I can’t do anything useful if there’s no I to do it. … That is what going into the chrysalis is all about – undergoing a metamorphosis in order one day to be able to stand up and say I am. (pp. 21-22)
That brings me back to Jung, and these wise words:
The symptoms of a neurosis are not simply the effects of long-past causes… they are also attempts at a new synthesis of life – unsuccessful attempts, let it be added in the same breath, yet attempts nevertheless, with a core of value and meaning. They are seeds that fail to sprout owing to the inclement conditions of life and outer nature … I myself have known more than one person who owed his entire usefulness and reason for existence to a neurosis, which prevented all the critical follies in his life and forced him to a mode of living that developed his valuable potentialities. These might have been stifled had not the neurosis, with iron grip, held him to the place where he belonged. There are actually people who have the whole meaning of their life, their true significance, in the unconscious, while the conscious mind is nothing but inveiglement and error. (CW 7, 1943/1966, paras. 67-68)
Perhaps the coronavirus – with its crown-like features, evoking associations of royalty and authority–is akin to a neurosis that is holding us with an iron grip in the place where we belong at this critical moment in time. Perhaps one day, many years from now, we’ll look back and realize this terrible illness helped us to form new, healthier adaptations to reality, to bring us closer together, to the unconscious, to our true selves, and to our home, the Earth. Whatever happens at the collective level, as individuals the opportunity is ours, should we listen deeply enough to hear what this crisis asks of us, and if we respond accordingly.
Jung, C. G. (1969). A review of the complex theory (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 8, 2nd ed., pp. 92-104). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1948)
Jung, C. G. (1966). On the psychology of the unconscious (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 7, 2nd ed., pp. 1–119). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1943)
Jung, C. G. (1961). Psychoanalysis and neurosis. In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 4, pp. 243-251). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1916)
Jung, C. G. (1966). The aims of psychotherapy (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 16, 2nd ed., pp. 36-52). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1931)
Jung, C. G. (1954). The development of personality (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 17, pp. 165-186). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1934)
Woodman, M. (1985). The pregnant virgin: A process of psychological transformation. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.
Adam Magers, MA, is a counselor and graduate of Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Counseling Psychology program. He is also an Iraq War Veteran, the founder of Warriors’ Ascent, and the curriculum architect of The Battle Within‘s (TBW) 5-day Revenant Journey Program. He is also the co-architect of TBW’s Frontline Therapy Network, which ensures healthcare workers, veterans, and first responders have access to free psychotherapy. Since 2014, he has immersed himself in therapeutic programming for veterans, specifically through group-based, Jungian-oriented interventions. He is also the author of two forthcoming books which explore the Odyssey from a Jungian perspective to draw out the lessons it holds for veterans–one of which is for veterans and military members, and the other for clinicians or deeper readers.
The following article is based on my training as an Archetype Consultant through the Caroline Myss Education Institute (see Myss.com). It is based on her Sacred Contracts theory that an individual is imprinted with 12 archetypal energy patterns to fulfill one’s soul agreements of this lifetime. The set of archetypes we possess (or possess us) finds expression in our thoughts and behaviors. By studying personal archetypes, you learn to view all relationships as opportunities for growth and understand how certain responsibilities in your life are necessary to complete soul assignments. By learning how certain archetypes animate, you can recognize them in the behavior of those around you as well and be able to connect with them more effectively and compassionately. In this article I focus on 5 lifelong, survival archetypes we all have in common.
The 2020 journey of transformation begins with chaos (universal virus) which transports us inside our home (mind) where we meet up with our 5 survival archetypes and the insights they offer. Seclusion is the perfect time to really take notice of our patterns of thought and behavior and identify which ones bring us happiness or suffering.
From decades of working with clients, Caroline Myss has identified five primary archetypes in our culture. These will be familiar to everyone, and you can decide for yourself which one(s) are running the show for you right now. From there we can practice working with that energy in the most constructive way. In this manner, we can utilize this time of transformation to evolve into a kinder, more loving and forgiving consciousness with greater resilience and strength.
We have all observed how a dysfunctional person creates dysfunctional partnerships. Likewise, a balanced and healthy psyche co-creates a healthy and balanced universe. Like nature, we are creatures of adaptation and will take on a new form, mentally, spiritually and physically altered by the current pandemic. Let’s stay mindful of the thought and behavior patterns we would like to work on first.
To identify which archetypes are most activated for you right now, we’ll start with a self awareness test. Answer (honestly!) yes or no to the questions in the following five (5) sections.
While all archetypes have a light and shadow side and we each contain ALL 5 of the archetypes listed, to varying degrees, the purpose of this test is to address the one(s) that may not be serving you right now and consider making some different choices that may result in a greater sense of well-being. By understanding these 5 archetypes you will also be able to recognize them in others and interact more compassionately.
Read the descriptions below, keeping in mind the Archetype Test Section(s) you had the greatest number of “yes” responses to.
“You’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” -A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh
The Child Archetype becomes empowered as they evolve from dependence to personal responsibility. By learning to problem solve and navigate through personal loss and disappointment with coping mechanisms, the Child develops trust in their ability to resource solutions and accepts responsibility for the outcome of their actions.
By becoming self reliant and having the courage to be vulnerable and deal with conflict the Child develops a greater sense of strength and confidence.
Identify the things in your current life that you most value and truly make you feel secure.
In what ways can we reverse the parent-child relationship of our current political and health care systems, by stepping into our own authority in a responsible manner?
Talk about the emotions you are feeling and take steps to reduce their grip on you through action steps that give those feelings an outlet (online fitness/yoga, guided meditations, art/music/dance projects). Respectfully allow others to do the same.
Take responsibility for daily sanitizing, supply lists, home repair and reaching out to others who could use your time and attention right now. Brainstorm with others about positive changes and lessons that this period of isolation has brought about.
Can you identify service opportunities to meet the needs of a changing social and financial structure?
Other archetypes (& subarchetypes) sharing attributes of the Child:
Prince/Princess, Muse, Damsel, Clown, Martyr, High Chair Tyrant, Magical Child, Divine Child, Nature Child, Orphan Child, Adult Child
“We must learn to leave the table when love is no longer being served.” – Nina Simone
Victim consciousness is prevalent in America. We’ve become a society that glamorizes entitlement and vengeance. Popular movies and TV shows like Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and 20/20 feature villains in many forms, inflicting trauma, betrayal and despair on the unsuspecting victims.
The Victim Archetype views the world through the lens of their past wounds and injustices, feeling violated and negative. They shift quickly into a state of “fight or flight,” seeing danger everywhere. They are easily overwhelmed by change and are quick to lash out in anger at perceived threats. They victimize others with their defensive words and behaviors. Acting from a position of mistrust, fear and resistance to change only exacerbates their sense of powerlessness. They seem to never absorb rational advice and just keep repeating negative banter.
*“Just as the characters and events in dreams aren’t separate from the dreamer, the world according to the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung is but a living symbol, the embodiment of deeper parts of ourselves which we collectively dream into existence.”
Explore the source of your limiting belief or theory – did it originate in your ancestry, your community or your religion? Is it time to release an old wives tale that you do not truly resonate with?
Set boundaries with those you interact. Choose to stay close to a supportive inner circle of optimistic friends, neighbors and associates.
Catch yourself when thinking negative thoughts and say the opposite out loud.
Acknowledge the principle of duality which states that there exists good and not so good in everything.
*Martin Winiecki, “Searching for the Anti-Virus/Covid-19 as Quantum Phenomenon,” kosmosjournal.org
Notice if your Victim dialogue of fear elicits from others a reinforcing payoff of attention, love and sympathy.
Listen to motivational speakers. Envision the new world you’re co-creating where equanimity, love and healing is part of the rebirth.
Take stock daily of all the simple blessings in your life.
Teach others how to treat you by treating yourself with respect.
Scientists say that trauma affects the central nervous system and results in states of hyperarousal. Calm the nervous system by eliminating stimulants like caffeine/nicotine.
Try guided meditations like heart math and somatic breathwork to activate the parasympathetic system.
Other archetypes sharing attributes of the Victim:
Hoarder, Doomsday Prepper, Coward/Bully, Predator, Slave, Beggar, Hermit, Masochist
“Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do.” Henry Ford
This archetype is about creating a win-win situation. It asks “What am I willing to give you in order to get what (I think) I need from you.?” It tests the level of our faith to see if we will compromise our mental and physical well being in order to be accepted, valued, admired and approved of. When we don’t know our own worth, we constantly seek validation from friends, family, colleagues and community. We are easily intimidated and afraid of rejection. We will say and do things we really don’t like or believe in, in order to earn/uphold an image, status or reputation and this dishonesty drains our time, energy and self esteem. We begin to resent others and feel taken advantage of even though we willingly agree to give too much and shortchange ourselves. The deception of people-pleasing depletes spiritual strength and rewards the ego.
The challenge here is to become conscious of the motivations and hidden agendas underlying all interactions.
Practice honoring yourself by being more authentic and respectfully speaking your truth, no matter who it displeases. Keep a truth journal and notice where and if you waiver in everyday life. Be loved for who you truly are. Where is the esteem in being loved for someone/thing you’re not?
What does it really take to feel good about yourself? Is that answer always tied to inflation of the ego? How can you cultivate greater self worth in ways that feed the soul?
Other archetypes sharing attributes of the Prostitute:
Actor, Storyteller, Thief, Puppet, Yes Man, Chameleon, Shapeshifter, Femme Fatale, Salesman
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, it is that we are powerful beyond measure.” -Marianne Williamson
The Saboteur archetype has to do with interpersonal energy and self protection.
It formed in childhood when ideas expressed were tabooed, shamed or judged harshly. Sabotaging behavior is fueled by fears of rejection/humiliation, self doubt and competition.
The Saboteur archetype is characterized by self criticism, low self esteem and confusion. The Saboteur is activated every time you entertain “what if?” scenarios that lead you to abandon a positive thought, action or new endeavor. The source of inner conflict is a feeling of not being smart/talented/good enough.
That’s when the hesitation, excuses and fear blockages form.
We can choose to step into clarity and action by the practice of taking action even though we are entering new territory and feel fear. Like the saying, “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Take inventory of your skills, abilities, accomplishments and resources for a true representation of your inner greatness. Honor your relationships by promoting their success as strongly as your own.
Brainstorm ways you can reinvent and rebuild your role in society, your business, your relationships and finances.
Other archetypes sharing attributes of the Saboteur:
Perfectionist, Judge, Trickster, Gossip, Strategist
“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” – T.S. Elliot
The Addict archetype is on a journey of spiritual transformation, from the self indulgence of worshiping illusions, the destruction it brings, and a subsequent surrender to a life of deeper meaning and purpose.
We live in a competitive culture that will not tolerate pain, restrictions, aging or death. It glorifies wealth/possessions and superiority over spiritual nourishment. Expecting the material world, prestige & ego gratification to bring inner satisfaction has left people feeling frustrated and depressed. We are exhausted by the endless chase for more money, power and privilege. We reach for things/experiences to give an adrenaline rush and further numb our restless desires.
*Jungian analyst Marion Woodman refers to the split between body and soul as an “inner civil war,” the addict’s way to drown out emotions felt in the body. For example, she states that when the soul is starving (because it’s not being recognized), the addict tries to feed it with food, grounding it by symbolizing the unconditional love of mother. Marion sees alcohol as a symbol of spirit, longing for the light – taking one out of the body and the mundane world.
She attributes addiction as both a search for, and an avoidance of a deeper reality (perhaps not being lovable). According to Ms. Woodman, “addicts do not live in the here-and-now.” They are always going to stop their addiction at some point in the future but the body only exists in the present. She says,”the real food of the soul is metaphor…art, music, poetry, the whole creative world is the world of the soul.” Sheltering in place is an invitation to live in the present rather than enter into avoidance tactics.
Shifting our internal value system from the pursuit of personal needs to the inner focus of a deeper connection to the Divine brings one back in alignment with our true nature as spiritual beings.
Identify where in your life you can integrate more daily acts of loving service and practices that bring you into a stronger connection with the Divine (however you define that word). What are the hobbies/practices that bring you into spiritual connection? It can be as simple as caring for animals or walking in the woods.
Other archetypes sharing the attributes of the Addict:
Mystic, Vampire, Gambler, Rescuer, Con Artist, Don Juan, Zombie, Narcissist, Spellcaster
The common denominator within each of these 5 archetypes is a survival instinct.
The takeaway is to remain aware, not to run, from these behaviors or expect that they can change overnight. You may come from a long line of negative thinkers or people pleasers and these patterns were ingrained from an early age. Perhaps, you now surround yourself with friends of a similar mindset. But if we can take notice each time these behaviors emerge, and cause unpleasant consequences, we can make a conscious choice to do something different and practice that new action until it becomes a habit and a new pattern. And that new pattern may lead us to positive outcomes which reinforce repetition. We can alter our course from fate into a soul-satisfying destiny.
Ultimately, you will find that your personal archetypes can lead you to a place where you discover that your inner world holds greater power and authority over you than anything in the physical world. You can participate consciously with the forces in your life. You will be able to interpret symbolism in the world around you and align yourself from a position of strength and truth.
For deeper self exploration, I encourage you to utilize the services of the Jungian Psychotherapists who have written Guest Posts and those listed in the Resource section of www.kcjung.org
Synchronicities, songs and popular sayings have played in my psyche the last week, as I pondered doing an article about meaning in these pandemic times. I write this on Sat. April 11, after steeping my heart-mind on the subject to the point of optimal “steepiness,” which means that I felt deadline pressure I couldn’t refuse.
As many of you know, I directed a feature film on synchronicity, and it is my most natural and meaningful language to use here. Hopefully it is one that can touch you as well in your own way. My main focus is on how the initiation process is playing out now on a global scale.
The most timely cultural synchronicity is that of the virus peaking near the Passover/Easter season. We might wonder about a new journey coming or how our lives might die and be reborn. Looking at the timing of death can also be meaningful when it happens to famous people. Singer/songwriter Bill Withers died on March 30, as the pandemic was rising in our awareness. He was well known for the songs “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The timing of his death raised the first of those songs as a theme for many people when the pandemic escalated, especially for those on the front lines. Last Saturday, as I began steeping on this subject, his song, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” suddenly played on my Pandora station, taking me deeper into the sadness, yes, but also into appreciation for his life and the people on the front lines fighting the virus.
Pandora next offered The Eagles song, “Hotel California,” giving me a fresh experience of the line, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” I sensed the initiation of being semi-confined to our homes, stripped from much of our usual lives and with no escape from an invisible threat. I thought about the irony of my work with juveniles in detention and how I suggest they find meaning during confinement through reflections on initiation and story. I smiled about how juvenile detainees are allotted very minimal TP per use. I found myself in such a depleted state on April Fool’s Day, until I was blessed to find a six-pack of Angel Soft at Hy-Vee that evening. I felt rich, scoring something basic we normally take for granted. What is it about all the TP hoarding anyway? Lois Wilkins, in her April 2 post here, touched on TP’s connection to our first chakra. I’ll unroll the symbolism a bit more around the pressing question on most minds, “How soon can we get back to normal?”
Some would say there will be or already is a new normal, but what is that? Perhaps the deeper question is whether we trust life in such uncertain times. There is a cultural phrase I’ve heard lately that I don’t think serves us very well about the uncertainty in initiation — that is when someone confidently says about the chaos: “I got this,” or, “We got this.” I don’t mean to bash the resilience in the phrase, but a main aspect of initiation is that you actually don’t have s**t — instead, something has you. Maybe the best you can do is adjust your attitude toward it, let go, shall we say, and discover something real or meaningful. You don’t know how long the chaos will last or what it will ask of you. You may go from weeping (see the story of “The Girl With No Hands”) to celebrating new gifts as you stumble in the darkness of dreams, instinct, intuition, and synchronicity.
This reminds me of a character I created to carry the contents of my movie, “What Is Synchronicity?” He called himself, “The Uncertainty Hero.” What would such a hero be like today? He or she might sense just the right moment to score some toilet paper; or the right way to hold space for someone suffering because of the virus; or maybe just the right way to survive or face a death, big or small.
While I think we are all in this together, as many have said, we are challenged in how to live that out. Yet the seeds of deeper connection are present, if we consider how C.G. Jung modeled the importance of doing our inner work. One of my favorite Jung quotes is, “No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” Thank you for reading this. May these images steep something timely, inspirational and loving. Feel free to share your comments.
David Strabala, LCSW, works full-time for the Clay County Juvenile Office, and he teaches ways to find meaning through stories and synchronicity. He is planning more educational webinars in the future because of social distancing. One is scheduled and soon to be announced through NASW-MO for May 27, from 8:30-11:30 am, called, “Using Stories to Vaccinate Fear and Suicidal Spells in a Pandemic.” He holds certificates from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Applied Mythology and Enchantivism. You may also find his feature documentary, “What Is Synchronicity?” through a Vimeo download, or DVD on his site, www.whatissynchronicity.com.
Gregory M. Rieke Overland Park, Kansas April 8, 2020
For four months the world has been shaken by an unexpected and unwelcome visitor, something felt but not seen, having entered our lives without asking and rudely disrespecting national, state or local boundaries. It has shut down the world economic activity in an unprecedented way. Reading the economic tea leaves Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase has just declared that we have entered a “bad recession” in the United States, from which it may take years to recover. Billionaire philanthropist, Bill Gates, tells us that a cure is likely a year away and that we must simply survive until a vaccine is produced to eradicate it, as polio was once cured 60 years ago. Hospital workers, worldwide, are facing unprecedented demands for emergency services; doctors and nurses who only months ago were pursuing their daily routines in a normal way are now afraid to go to work, afraid to come home to their worried families as they have now become our front line in a battle against the deadly virus that affects us all. It is estimated that by August the United States will have lost more casualties to this pandemic than the wars of Viet Nam and Korea combined. 2020 will be long remembered in league with the Black death of 1348 and the Great Plague of 1665 that ravaged Europe or the Flu Epidemic of 1918. Our national treasury has already made a two trillion dollar down payment on our national economic dis-ease. What will be the ultimate cost – in treasure and in lives?
Now, in the 21st Century, despite our advanced medical and epidemiological advances, the world is once again challenged an invisible, insidious and silent menace, perhaps introduced to the human family by bats in China. What are we to make of this new threat to mankind? How should be pursuing its eradication and the economic waste and destruction it is causing us? How do we escape the inevitable and partisan blame game now emerging? What lessons can we draw from it all? While I don’t presume to answer all these pertinent questions, I would like to offer some questions and some perspectives on the psychic level of our existence on planet earth with the hope of stimulating a conversation about our collective future and to exploring together the question: what is the meaning of this!?
In 1958, just four years before his death at age 85, the Swiss psychologist C.G Jung felt compelled to comment upon the UFO phenomenon then emerging as a new, unexpected phenomenon. In his book Flying Saucers – Reflecting on the modern myth of things seen in the skies, Jung addressed the emerging, unexpected and ubiquitous reports of people around the world seeing small discs from outer space with skepticism at first. In the book Jung lamented the fact that he had been misinterpreted by some statements he made in a way that made him supportive of the idea of the physical existence of flying saucers. Jung later wrote the book to elaborate more clearly his real thoughts on the issue. But interestingly, if not uncharacteristically, Jung approached the subject of flying saucers from a mythological, historical and psychic point of view, from the vantage point to try to find meaning in what was happening. He declined to weigh in on whether flying saucers existed, on the veracity of the observers of flying saucers or the hard science of whether they might or might not exist. Instead, in the face of the intense worldwide churning over their existence, Jung introduced an unusual question: “why should it be more desirable for the saucers to exist than not?”.
Without going into a synopsis of his book, I do want to share from his Introduction Jung’s focus on what he saw as the most important aspect of the emerging myth of invasion UFO’s from beyond, an intrusion into the relatively calm of human earthly existence, in a new, curious and even terrifying way. He did so by putting the UFOs into an archetypal context, even placing it within the larger, longer arch of the history of aeons.
“These rumors or the possible physical existence of such objects seem to me to be so significant that I feel myself compelled as once before, when events of fateful consequence were brewing for Europe [his Wotan article was written in 1936] , to sound a note of warning. I know that, just as before, my voice is much to weak to reach the ear of the multitude. It is not presumption that drives me, but my conscience as a psychiatrist, that bids me fulfill my duty, and prepare those few who will hear me, for coming events that are in accord with the end of an era. As we know from ancient Egyptian history, they are manifestations of psychic changes which always appear at the end of one Platonic month and the beginning of another. Apparently, they are changes in the constellations of psychic dominants, of the archetypes or “gods” as they used to be called which bring about, or accompany, long-lasting changes in the collective psyche. This transformation started in the historical and left it traces first of the passing of the aeon of Taurus into that of Aries, and then of Aries into Pisces, whose beginning coincides with the rise of Christianity. We are now nearing that great change which may be expected when the spring point enters Aquarius…. Since, so far as I know, no one has yet felt moved to examine and set forth the possible psychic consequences of this foreseeable astrological change, I deem it my duty to do what I can in this respect. I undertake this thankless task in the expectation that my chisel will make no impression on the hard stone it encounters.” Such is the voice of a prophet who laments his task, without shirking from it. Are we now in the midst of both aeonic and mythological change that occasion the shift from one predictable astronomical age to another every 2000 years, as Jung suggested near the end of Pisces?
When we experienced the tragic and transformative events of September of 2001, at the advent of the new Millennium according to our Gregorian calendars, many of us were asking what was its meaning from an archetypal point of view, so jolting were its consequences, both then and thereafter. I offer the above prophetic lament by Jung, in view of this new threat to humanity, asking a simple question: If the UFO phenomenon, the wars of the last 100 years and this new threat to humanity from a pandemic, as Jung suggests, signify the end of one aeon, the Platonic month of Pisces, then could the Corona Virus be signaling some clues of the age we have now entered – the new age of Aquarius? I do so, sharing with Dr. Jung, similar trepidation of the sniggering and ill repute of those who either dismiss such predictions out of hand as utter nonsense, or even more sadly, of those who are simply ignore the possibility. Therefore, instead of stating declaratively, as Jung surely did, I merely wish to inspire a discussion among those who wish to consider this time more seriously.
I do so with a few initial questions for consideration, again from the perspective of 30,000 feet, peering down at planet Earth; are there lessons to be learned already?:
All these new challenges are of a different character and type which the human family has not taken as seriously as we are challenged to do so at this change of aeons. Will it inspire us to great good and creativity. Or on the contrary, will it make us withdraw into our tribal or gated communities, caring little for our brothers and sisters of differing social strata or far off lands. It seems that both may be happening simultaneously.
Viewed symbolically, the UFO’s shape – that of a disc – was remarkable to Jung, as was its origin from “out there,” from the outer world. As is characteristic of Dr. Jung, he made much of the shape of the UFO, being circular and drawing our attention the symbolism of the circle in all aspects of our lives. “Anyone with the requisite historical and psychological knowledge knows that circular symbols have played in important role in every age. In our own sphere of culture, they are not only soul symbols but “God images.” There is an old saying: ‘God is an old circle is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.” God in his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence is a totality presence, par excellence, something round, complete and perfect.” The circular image is found throughout nature, as an archetype of both our very solar system and in the path of protons circumnavigating the nucleus of every atom of every cell, a primordial, universal symbol of totality, completeness and wholeness. It is a ubiquitous symbol found throughout the universe, from the outer galaxies to the corpuscles in blood stream of every species. Jung repeatedly heard reference to this primordial image from patients from many countries whose thousands of dreams he heard in his study overlooking Lake Zurich. It seemed be baked into the human psychic structure.
And now, ironically, we have been invaded by a new circular image, in the shape of a corona, one depicted in news reports as a rather beautiful shape, appearing benign, yet possessing deadly capacity. Unlike the UFO flying disc, which came from without into our outer world (albeit with psychic effects) , COVID 19 works its terrible mischief within the human body, embedding itself in our lungs circulating within our respiratory tracts until it finds its home in our lungs, embedding itself to them and starting its deadly and destructive mission of depriving us of the vital oxygen we need to sustain life. While doing its dastardly work within, the virus quietly, surreptitiously, destroying families, healthcare systems and economies, while we 21st century inhabitants of mother earth look on in dismay and merely cope, while we search to invent antibodies to fend of the attack. What does its spherical image suggest to us, symbolically speaking?
While my small treatise here offers far more questions than answers at this pivotal time, betwixt and between ages, on the cusp so to say, I can only hint at the meaning of COVID 19 at this time. It is certainly not our friend (as some have wrongly, albeit well-intentioned) have suggested. But can some of its effects be ultimately beneficial to the human family at this particular juncture? Can it call up the best within us, even as we band together to curse it and work toward its eradication? Are we being called up to look within, to seriously ponder the symbolic potency of this horrible thing now in our midst. Perhaps it will eventually seem more clear and significance in coming months and years than it is now.
Until that time I will offer the following to invite your loving contemplation and prayerful meditation during this trying period. In the immortal and mysterious words of the founder of the ancient and perineal Hermetic tradition, written thousands of years ago on the Emerald Tablet, one to which Jung and other like-minded prophetic avatars eluded on many occasions:
“That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing”
During his decades-long interest in the life and work of C.G. Jung, Greg Rieke, MBA, devoted many years to a thorough study of Jung. He is President Emeritus of the Kansas City Friend of Jung, on whose board of directors he served for twelve years. Greg is a “life-purpose” coach, incorporating concepts of Jungian depth psychology into his practice. He has dedicated many years to interfaith dialogue, education and encouragement of youth, and cultural understanding.