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Reply To: THERE and BACK AGAIN,” with MythBlast author Stephen Gerringer”

#74727
Robert Juliano
Participant

Stephen,

Thank you for your kind response and challenging (and ultimately rewarding) line of inquiry, largely about the community within and our responsibilities there. This is a massive topic and I apologize for the length of my response. Before I begin, I am posting this as a new entry instead of as a reply because the web page formats replies by indenting them thereby making the text thinner, something that I think interferes with the readability and aesthetic of the post.

Let me begin my reflections by first considering Jung. The reason I responded to your post on Joseph Campbell with Jung is that Jung’s ‘confrontation’ is an example of what Campbell called creative mythology in Volume 4 of his Masks of God master set, that particular volume in my opinion being his greatest work. And it was also a good example of how essential community is to what he derived from that set of experiences. In fact, Jung is told point blank that community is essential, that religion is defined in terms of community, that it is expressed through the “transformation of human relations.”

Now, I don’t remember Jung specifically expressing individuation in terms of fulfilling obligations to the community within (e.g., he didn’t, like Shaman and Elder Dr. Malidoma Somé, say something to the effect of individuation as being of service to the ancesors). But, that is just a matter, perhaps, of style of expression. In the details of what he experienced and what he did in his life, fulfilling obligations to the inner community is an extremely strong presence. Some examples.

On February 24, 1916, shortly after his last Sermon (i.e., Seven Sermons to the Dead), Philemon informed Jung that Jung is not just an individual, but that he has also become a collective figure, that “no longer are you an I, but a river that pours forth over the lands. … You are the fool and the door between two eternities, an open passage, a street walked upon; one walks on it with shoes and spits on it.” On January 5, 1922, Jung asks his Soul what his calling is, and his Soul replies that his calling is “The new religion and its proclamation.” Thus, Jung serves a collective role, the substance of which comes from the inner figures (who are ‘real’).

On March 31, 1916, Jung speaks with his Soul:

Soul: It is true, we need the human mediator and rescuer, because man is not only soul to us, but also God. Since these, who are Gods to you here, are men craving for your help there, where you are God. You must already build your divinity here and now in order to prepare the way to the crossing over. We really need your help. I gave you the dark and horrible dream so your face would turn toward us, and through me to the Gods. I let their torment reach you so that you would remember the suffering Gods.

Jung: What is their suffering? And how can I help?

Soul: You do too much for men, rather let go of men and turn toward the Gods since they are the masters of the world, where you as a man live. In effect you can help men only through the Gods, not directly. The burning torments of the Gods needs to be alleviated. Men look after themselves.

One can also consider the very Red Book itself as fulfilling an obligation to the inner community as that book now gives voice to that inner world. I also remember that in the beginning of 1914, Jung helps a sick god Izdubar become born again and renewed. I am also reminded of that wonderful couple Baucis and Philemon in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, but who experience deep tragedy in Goethe’s Faust. Though Goethe’s figures were not the inner ones of Jung, Jung took responsibility for them in his life. It seems to me that Jung lived his life with conscious responsibility to the inner community.

Now, the individual who explicitly lives his life for what we might see as the inner community was Dr. Malidoma Somé. He was a Shaman and Elder of the Dagara community in Burkina Faso in West Africa. And his initiation and life were lived with the ancestors in the forefront of his mind. His book Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman is simply a wonderfully beautiful book. In 2014, I had the honor and privilege of having a one hour audience with him. Such a beautiful man!

You mentioned James Hillman and I want to say a few words here. First, I think he is far too hard on monotheism and mistates certain necessary conditions for monotheism’s existence and certain of its characteristics and effects on people. It has been my experience that there have been in history gentler forms of monotheism. I also feel that it is important for comparative mythology and depth psychology to devote time to reading the history and archeology on this. For example, reading about the first known monotheism, the worship of Aten, the ancient Egyptian sun-disc god, and the move by Pharoah Akhenaten to change Egypt from a polytheistic country to a monotheistic one in the 14th century BC is important. There, we can see the earliest form of monotheism and understand better its qualities in ancient Egypt. If you read the hymns to Aten, he is certainly depicted as the creator of all, but not, as Hillman would say of all monotheism, an exclusively good god. So, rigorous scholarship is necessary in order to understand the true qualities of monotheism as it has been experienced over the many millennia by different cultures.

Now, if I understand Hillman’s work, he is advocating, not polytheism, but polytheistic thinking and approaches. I do believe such is very important! But, there is a very real danger that monotheistic thinking is ignored. From a pragmatic perspective, I believe there is a place for both polytheistic and monotheistic thinking. Both are mutually interdependent and neither essentially more important than the other.

In my latest scholarly activities, I am working through the process of reconsidering the concept of the unconscious and developing a new model for it. The expressions of what we now conceive to be related to the unconscious come from many cultures over extremely vast periods of time, reaching back even to the earliest writings in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennia B.C. But, it has been argued that the ‘unconscious’ is a particular concept, a concept which exhibits certain patterns found in a particular culture during a particular period of time. As others have said (e.g., Jung), in the past we used terms like ‘mana,’ ‘daimon,’ ‘god,’ etc., as early expressions of what we now see as the ‘unconscious.’ However, the ‘unconscious’ as we presently conceive it is an explanation for how we are affected by inner forces not explainable by the dynamics of consciousness or by the causation which links thoughts to that which affects us. This exhibits a pattern particular to our time and our culture – the perspective of ‘I,’ its causation of a field of thoughts or dynamic process of thinking, and its formulation of identity. Thus, the concept of the ‘unconscious’ is specifically tied to this particular pattern of that held to be inner which is not explainable by ego and that which the ego causes. The question about the history of our concept of the ‘unconscious’, then, is largely a history of this particular pattern of thinking or of conceptualization. The work of Leibniz in the late 17th century is the earliest I have been able to see this pattern, but we might find this pattern further back in time.

Crucial to all of this is bringing into consciousness particular decisions which were made in the development of the concept of the ‘unconscious.’ With the existence of firmly established depth psychological traditions and their respective models of the ‘unconscious,’ it is exceedingly difficult to discover what these decisions were and why they were made. However, by bringing together the work of Jung, Hillman, Giegerich, and Dr. Stanton Marlan who is an expert on all three, these decisions are brought out into the light. For the agreements and disagreements among these pioneers provide, in essence, a sort of map, the specific areas of divergence representing a particular decision having been made.

The reason I mention this is that the notion of inner and outer was a decision – there was a decision to make the ‘unconscious’ a concept of the inner. So, when we speak of inner community, this thinking is, in many ways, a specific result of this decision. Perhaps instead, and I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the notion of inner community, we might think of such a community as always being present, but at a different frequency – that we can only perceive this community if we ourselves are at the right frequency.

There is a beautiful story about a Buddhist monk named Asanga who lived in the 4th century AD. He lived a life doing austere meditation practices. After some years, because he could not see Bodhisattva Maitreya, the next Buddha, he thought of quitting, but would through various circumstances be convinced to continue. After a few times of this, he eventually comes into a situation in which he is most compassionate, and it is then that he sees Maitreya who had been with him all of this time.

So, tending to these communities, those we perceive and those we may not, is exceedingly important.