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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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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Theophany, soul’s imagination

Theophany by Pskov- 13th- 14th century, from: http://www.wco.ru/icons/. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Theophany by Pskov- 13th- 14th century, from: http://www.wco.ru/icons/. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

In the image above we see the Theophany. Theophany is an Ancient Greek term from theophaneia, meaning “appearance of a god” [1] . The word describes the the appearance of the deity to the living soul. In Psychology and Alchemy, Carl Jung speaks of “the relationship between God and soul.” (Para. 11) Jung says:

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Unicorn: representation of spirit

Wissembourg_St-Jean_44
Alsace , Bas-Rhin , Wissembourg, Protestant Church St. John, St. Catherine Chapel , Fresco ” Lady and the Unicorn ” (XIV ) US Public domain via wikimedia

Carl Jung tells us that the unicorn is an image of spirit (CW 14, para. 3).

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Nobleman’s tomb: a story by Carl Jung

King Khufu's tomb, the great Pyramid of Gizeh, and the sepulchres of his nobles, Egypt-1902. US public domain
King Khufu’s tomb, the great Pyramid of Gizeh, and the sepulchres of his nobles, Egypt-1902. US public domain

“In Upper Egypt, near Aswan, I once saw an ancient Egyptian tomb that had just been opened. Just behind the entrance-door was a little basket made of reeds, containing the withered body of a new-born infant, wrapped in rags. Evidently the wife of one of the workmen had hastily laid the body of her dead child in the nobleman’s tomb at the last moment, hoping that, when he entered the sun-barge in order to rise anew, it might share in his salvation, because it had been buried in the holy precinct within reach of divine grace.” (Carl Jung, CW 9I, para. 239)

Reference: Carl G.Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious – Collected Works volume 9i (originally published 1934–1954)