Reply To: Lions, and Tigers, Athena, oh my!” with Professor Mark C.E. Peterson”
Hello Mark; a hearty welcome and so glad to have you with us. What a great reference topic to start this discussion with. For many of us I think as you suggest we discover Joseph often in unexpected ways. For me it was definitely a “dark night of the soul”; where I had been stumbling out in the desert wasteland searching for answers to questions no one could answer. And his ability to unravel all the deep inner conflicts I was experiencing in a way that made sense to me was life changing.
As you mentioned reflection is indeed the acknowledgement and engagement with our inner self; that aspect we think we know which includes not only aspects of what we know about ourselves; but also aspects we don’t; like our unknown face; and may also include our wounded side as well. This may involve a trip down into a cave; a place deep down inside ourselves where all our uncertainties, pain, and fears dwell; those issues and things that come up in later life waiting to be witnessed if we can only hear and understand what they are trying to tell us through those aspects of our Shadow side we may not know about that have been repressed. But there also resides an unknown dimension of our unrealized potential; those things we don’t necessarily know about ourselves that have never been given a voice or the opportunity to surface. And often we use our persona mask to hide behind so that no one will see us as we really are. It’s a crisis that many times Joseph describes as life drying up and a brand new adventure is required to address it. And it may involve wrestling with inner dragons or seeking new domains or finding that inner child you forgot was locked down there and needs healing; and as you suggest it starts with reflecting and contemplation and perhaps “play” to bring it forth as Jung did with his Red Book.
One of the things that Joseph mentions in many of his Jungian lectures is it surfaces through our blind side that others see but we can’t. Those moments when we show a side of ourselves we may not even realize is there while we are doing it. And he also mentions that one of the great tasks of later life is to try and integrate this dimension of ourselves with the other side to become a more balanced and fully realized individual. In several of these lectures he recommends thinking of this as a “parallax effect”; (driving from both sides of the road at the same time; or steering from the middle of the road while balancing your view of traffic coming from both directions). Easier said than done of course; but his point is that of attempting to access your weaker undeveloped side of yourself so that whatever conflicts are blocking your ability to move forward can be released and you can move on.
If you are moving into retirement for instance and holding on to your persona identity as who you are the mask is probably at some time going to crack because you are moving into a different stage of life; and not adjusting to this new reality arrests this process. So in essence you must take a little trip down into to your unconscious and get to know your other side which often times may be your wounded self. Reflection challenges you to acknowledge this unknown dimension and entreats or invites you to enter into a dialogue with this other half and to hear it’s message; especially through your dreams. And whether you are thinking in terms of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur and that little piece of string to help you find your way out; or some other motif your myth is your guide; that inner intuitive voice that Joseph mentions may come in the form of magical aid that can give you some kind of symbol to hold on to in your journey into the dark forest of your unconscious.
And so you become the hunter, the detective, the Grail Knight with no compass or clue except your own instincts seeking a North Star of your Marga Path with only your heart to guide you. Many forms this adventure can take; but only you can go and there are no set rules for how to get there. The Greek civilization gave us so much and your examples are some of my very favorites; but for a moment I want to go back to play and childhood and the gentle humanity these stories can help provide.
It just so happens that I grew up around the Parthenon where that magnificent shield of Athena is displayed at her side; and much of my youth was informed by the presence of this incredible building and continued on throughout the goings and comings of my entire life. But something mythical happened one night that forever changed the way I saw and interpreted my story or myth that told me this whole inner landscape of mine had changed. We each have a quest or inner drive Joseph informs us that seeks to express itself; and if fortune is with us a threshold is crossed and an life achievement of some sort is acquired; the arch of life from youth to old age and death has stages and the requirements of life corresponds to them. And I had just retired from my adventure as a musician of 45 years; and was going through my new adventure/individuation process and was at loose ends of what it all meant; and this moment is where my particular reflective transcendent portal opened.
I had just taken up photography and was out for an early evening shooting expedition because dusk is the golden hour when the light is special and had come to my favorite place which just happens to be the park where the Parthenon is located. This was shortly after the Parkland School Massacre around Christmas time back in 2018; and right next to the Parthenon is a special shrine to the victims of teenage gun violence. The shrine was decorated with Christmas lights and displays that children might enjoy and was it packed with grieving parents and family commemorating their loss. Seeing this impacted me profoundly and I was determined to come photograph it when no one was around to listen to it what it had to say. As I returned later and quietly explored the different viewpoints to take my shots I began to hear the voices of the parents coming to grieve their loss and as the weeks and months rolled by I began to go back and explore all the different childhood stories and authors and teachers from my past up to the present and listen to their voices and what they had to tell me.
There would be Christopher Robin; and Mr. Rogers and all these: “once upon a time” characters from my youth and their stories and the books about childhood teaching development and childhood violence and the gun lobbyists demeaning the Sandy Hook Massacre because of efforts restricting gun rights; and all of this information was rolling around in my head until I began to get a better sense of what it was working inside me. Movies, books, and documentaries followed as I began to explore this voice it became incredibly clear that this was a synchronistic influence in the path I had been on exploring what was leading me forward. But what I could not have realized was it was the wounded voice from my childhood calling to me and informing me of what my myth was really about; and that a much deeper reflective excavation into my cave was going to be in order to heal from my past. And so the new journey began.
More Jung and Campbell; more research on different themes where I was always following this inner voice that kept leading me. My newest endeavor I have been reading is some of the work of Jungian Mario Jacoby; but I want to leave a link to a piece by the Smithsonian Magazine about: A.A. Milne, A teddy bear, his son Christopher Robin; (aka Billy Moon); but more importantly it is about childhood and the things a child needs facing a modern world; and the relationship between parent and child. I hope you’ll read it because it has something to say in connection to many of these themes in this post and in relationship to the new possible Covid world looking forward. The movie: “Goodbye Christopher Robin” is easily available online for those interested; but the article; (at least to me); reflects how the inner world of both child and adult are inter-related; and how one’s myth can change. When I found my earlier calling as a musician it was because I was motivated by earlier childhood trauma to find a safe harbor through which I could seek expression. But what I later discovered was a much stronger more powerful drive that allowed me to survive and thrive; but at a cost of which I am now starting to discover and heal. This article illustrates what can happen when fame robs a child of their sense of self; but also at the end how reconciliation can help restore meaning to a broken relationship.