Art from Dreams

Mother by Susan Levin- 2014. In Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage and Poetry
Mother by Susan Levin- 2014. In Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage and Poetry

“Instincts can malfunction
become defective, deficient, half-baked
There should be a recipe for motherhood
Exact measurement
The precise amount of ingredients
Or else sweets for no one”
~ Susan Levin

The unconscious, like an artist, takes in discards and fragments of experience. The unconscious digests and cooks these fragments and produces dreams from them. In what may be our deepest soul’s instinct, we take in the raw ingredients of experience and we begin to cook them, to symbolize them, dream them, transform them. The uncooked stuff of life may become ‘symbols of transformation’  (Carl Jung, CW5). Our minds and our souls need the raw stuff of real life, we need the as yet undreamed, the fragmented bits of life and truth, to nourish our souls. The fragments may become the very ingredients of the soul’s transformation.

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Mother World: splitting, integration & evolution in the mother archetype

Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain
Whore of Babylon, Russian engraving, 19th Century, US Public Domain

Recently, I have been writing on the aims and instincts of the human soul. Carl Jung speaks of the human soul’s “longing to attain rebirth through a return to the womb, and to become immortal like the sun” (CW5, para. 312). In biblical terms, rebirth is associated with entrance into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the holy city, an image of the divine mother.

Jung says, “the Old Testament treats the cities of Jerusalem, Babylon, etc. just as if they were women” (para 303). While Jerusalem is an image of the holy mother, Babylon is the unholy mother. In Jung’s words: “Babylon is the symbol of the Terrible Mother” (Jung, para 315). In Revelation 17 it is written:

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The Hero as Soul Image: aims and instincts

In Symbols of Transformation, Carl Jung says that the hero myth “symbolizes the ideas, forms, and forces which grip and mold the soul.” (para. 259) The hero is an image or form of the living soul, expressing trials and tribulations as encountered upon the path of soul. While we often think of the hero in terms of idealized images of triumph and even of immortality, getting at the soul of the hero takes a more subtle insight. Such insight includes an understanding of the subtle realms of psychic life: perceptions that extend beyond idealized images, perceptions of the movements in the life of the soul.

At the time that Jung wrote Symbols of Transformation, Freud and Jung were engaged in a stormy debate regarding the nature of psychic life, each seeing the psyche from a different perspective. Their two perspectives formed two basic viewpoints on psychic life: the egoic and the transpersonal. This schism played out in their perspectives on myth interpretation, and particularly their interpretation of the Oedipus myth. Freud’s understanding was focused on the development of the ego, reflecting ego development taking place within the first half of life. Jung’s psychology was focused on archetypal elements, and his reading of the myths focused on the movement beyond ego, into transpersonal and archetypal motifs. Jung often took the perspective that the transpersonal aspects of psychic life were collective and biological, arising from evolutionary determinants. My aim is to read Jung’s writings from a spiritual perspective, understanding that archetypal images express the telos of the soul– the aims and instincts of the soul.

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Surya the Sun God: expressing the creative power of the soul

Suryatanjore
Surya receives worship from the multitudes; Tanjore School miniature painting, 1800’s. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
In the above image, we see a paining of Surya, the sun God, from the 19th Century. Surya is seated on his chariot led by a horse with seven heads.  He is surrounded by attendants and the multitudes praise him. It is said that Surya is the eye of the cosmos. [1]

In images of the cosmic person, Surya is one the eyes, contrasting with the moon in the other eye, representing the solar and lunar aspects of both the cosmos and psychic life.

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Zombie Apocalypse: a symbol of collective transformation

 Gajda, Tegning af en Zombi. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Gajda, Tegning af en Zombi. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

What cannot be worked through at the conscious level is often worked through at the unconscious level, in dreams and fantasy. cf. Carl Jung  (CW 5, para 4-45). When encountering that which we cannot dream, we confront the limits of sense.

Film and art may present an unconscious attempts to work through collective transformation at the limits of reason and sense. In zombie movies and the growing zombie apocalypse movement, we may be seeing an attempt to dream ‘apocalyptic’ change.

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