November 11, 2021 at 2:11 am #74659Stephen GerringerKeymaster
Author, archetypal consultant, and recognized futurist Kristina Dryža is once again our guest in Conversations of a Higher Order for a discussion of “The Beautiful, Hidden Harmony of Chaos” (click on title to read), her latest entry in JCF’s MythBlast essay series. Kristina’s work focuses on archetypal and mythic patterns within the context of nature, and their influence on creativity, innovation and leadership.
Though I will get us started, please feel free to join the discussion and engage Ms. Dryža directly (as well as each other) with your questions and observations – that’s what will make this a true “conversation of a higher order.”
Thank you for your meditation on the beauty and order to be found within chaos. The surprise isn’t that most creation myths begin with order emerging out of chaos (whether the Babylonian god Marduk, fashioning the world from the vanquished corpse of Tiamat, dragon goddess of chaos, to Chaos as origin of Eros, first of the gods, in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, or the face of God moving across “the deep” [Hebrew: tehom – etymologically related to Tiamat] in Genesis).
The surprise is that this is one of those instances where contemporary science and the mythic image are in harmony.
The nonlinear dynamics of chaos theory and complexity science –– which finds exquisite beauty and complex order hidden within chaotic systems –– impact fields ranging from meteorology to marketing. Particle physics, information technology, even health care have all benefitted from the emergence of this discipline over the last 40 years. There is even research that applies chaos theory to pandemic responses, past and present.
Though these insights arise from observation of the physical world, I find them oddly reassuring. I can’t help but think of the alchemical dictum purportedly inscribed on the Emerald Tablet by Hermes Trismegistus: “As above, so below; as below, so above.” Indeed, why wouldn’t my inner nature reflect the nature of the universe “outside” me, of which I am a creation? Hence, your words ring true for me on so many levels, especially your insights on how to join in the dance and go with the flow, so to speak.
The key insight for me is this observation:
For anything truly original to be born in the world, chaos must first precede it. Nothing new can emerge until we’re ready to reach into the chaos – willingly – and pull it out. Only out of chaos can a new order emanate, be this order within one’s own personal psyche or in the collective. In the apparent void, which chaos leaves behind in its wake, life renews itself.
At the same time, I do notice an intriguing practice the last couple decades that I am of two minds about, one especially common to commercial startups: a conscious intention to disrupt a market and/or upend an industry –– sowing chaos, if you will.
Examples abound: the internet has disrupted media and publishing to the point they are unrecognizable; Airbnb has rocked the hospitality field, in the same way Lyft and Uber have transformed the taxi industry; Tesla has disrupted the status quo in the petroleum-based automobile market, and SpaceX has forever altered the aerospace industry.
I’m not saying these are necessarily good or bad (though I do miss frequenting the local, independent bookstores murdered by Amazon). In many instances, an innovation in technology or service that generated severe disruption has led to an entirely new and beneficial field emerging out of the resulting chaos.
At the same time, I have noticed among some venture capitalists and angel investors an emphasis on disruption first and foremost: determine an industry or market that is vulnerable to disruption, and then find a product or develop a service as a means to do so. And, in more than a few instances, there seems to be a focus on creating chaos without any accompanying creative vision: toss a monkey wrench (or a hand grenade) into the works and trust something positive will emerge, with no thought to the multitudes so affected.
We have seen this in recent years in fields ranging from education to health care (especially in the U.S., in regards to a concerted, collective national response to the pandemic) and, especially, politics. Indeed, in the United States in 2016, a number of key behind-the-scenes players, who had for years been intent on disrupting the status quo, coalesced around Donald Trump not because they agreed with his political ideology, but because he was the candidate most likely to upend government if elected (which turned out to be accurate –– political philosophy aside, we are still reaping what was sown during those years).
Considering you have consulted for businesses and have a foot in that world, I’d like to draw on your insights. If creation emerges from chaos, is there a difference between trusting and engaging that chaos, versus actively, consciously generating chaos? Could just be me, but seems the latter is diametrically the opposite of “going with the flow.” (I do understand how disruption and chaos can be the result of a creative vision that re-makes a profession, and have no problem with that – that does seem part of the natural rhythm, the systole and diastole of life.)
Even though this question may seem to veer away from your emphasis on creativity and soul work and focus on the economic and political sphere, I believe there is some resonance there. Perhaps you can draw that connection for us.
Thanks for bearing with me.November 13, 2021 at 3:51 pm #74667
Always a pleasure to be here in this forum with you Stephen and the COHO community. And thank you for calling the essay a meditation. It certainly felt like that for me when I was writing it, despite the subject matter.
My first thought is, ‘Is disruption chaos?’ Our intellect doesn’t function well in chaotic periods, so we’re required to defer to our intuition and imagination, but I notice that many people cope quite fine intellectually with disruption. It may be semantics, but just as an example, ‘chaos’ is necessary for alchemy, but is ‘disruption?’ I would argue ‘no,’ so I’m going to address your question via the word ‘disruption.’ And forgive me if I digress, but I’ll try to answer the essence of your questioning tangentially through the lens of the workforce, not specific industries.
I feel many people in the corporate world approach disruption in the ‘wrong’ way. Namely, you can’t plan for disruption. It exists in real time. Many companies struggle with this because most of the data they look to create with is coming from the past. But when working with disruption we must make ourselves a ‘verb’ in present time, not a ‘noun.’ And we disrupt not as a one-off event, but so that it becomes an intrinsic part of us. Those who have successfully brought disruption to the market by reimagining new possibilities have done so because within themselves, and those they work with, they spend the majority of their time with present data and being ‘verbs.’
But, if you were a manager thinking about your next hire – and be honest here – would you choose the most disruptive person for the job? You may like to think that you’d say ‘yes,’ but most people would say ‘no.’ You wouldn’t want them anywhere near you as they challenge everything about who you are, and what you believe in, and your comfort with the known world. And what do we like to call them – trouble makers, whistle blowers, people who rock the boat – until they become a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk and the like and then we call them geniuses, visionaries and pioneers.
Very few individuals have enough self-esteem, well, I’d actually say soul-esteem, to be around someone that disrupts them. And very few people want a disruptive person on their team. Are they going to show up for work today? Will they embarrass the team? Will they be communing with nature for inspiration rather than trawling online reports for something supposedly new and inspired like the other sheeple? (a portmanteau of sheep and people to describe herd behaviour) If they march to their own beat, how will we control them?
And if you were a CEO, would you hire the most disruptive person for the board who directly challenges the mediocrity of other board members that didn’t gain their position through meritocracy? Would you select the most disruptive candidate who highlights the current, uninspired vision and poor performance of the board? You’d say, ‘get real’ and choose safety, though the inner rebel in you wishes otherwise. This is the challenge, which confronts many CEOs, department heads and HR managers, while in the same breath (and often while they’re speaking at conferences) they’re espousing the need for an innovative, creative workforce!
To disrupt requires disruptive thinking, allowing disruptive feelings and taking disruptive actions on a daily basis. Many in the corporate world think that they can just ‘strategy away day’ this topic, or put someone else’s disruptive ideas into a PowerPoint presentation and try to implement them second-hand, or vicariously, by reading the latest bestseller out of Silicon Valley with ‘disruption’ in the title.
We must break the spell of thinking disruption is doing the same thing just better, faster, and cheaper. Disruption is a state of being, not a technology. And the best way to avoid actually changing is to go into our heads and endlessly argue about what ‘disruption’ even means. Our minds love to evaluate, oppose, critique, judge etc. but rarely do we hit the streets embodying the discussion of our feverish, small minds, so with that, I shall stop here.
I look forward to engaging the plethora of ways in which chaos meets and finds you this week – Kristina.November 15, 2021 at 8:43 pm #74666Stephen GerringerKeymaster
Thanks for indulging my tangent, Kristina. I appreciate the way you make a distinction between chaos and market or industry disruption. That raises interesting questions about how an existing institution makes room for creative disruption – but that would indeed take us far afield.
Returning the topic of chaos as precursor to creativity, my sense is that chaos, in the alchemical sense, suggests formlessness – everything swirling about, which can be especially disconcerting in terms of one’s personal circumstances – while creativity, in a sense, gives form to that formlessness
. . . or, at least, to a portion of that formlessness.
Seems to me in addition to developing the sense of wu wei you mention in your essay, it would be beneficial to have a container in which that formlessness can take shape (drawing on the alchemical metaphor). Ritual fulfills that function for me: establishing a sacred space and activity that provides a safe setting for me to give free rein to the flux.
Sometimes that’s an elaborate ceremony with sage and incense and candles and drumming and chanting, and sometimes it’s just sitting quietly and observing what’s stirring within. Just by observing and reflecting, the sense of turbulence calms and I can see what wants to emerge.November 16, 2021 at 2:12 pm #74665
What I’m hearing in your response is how important it is to ground our mercurial function. To give it form, a vessel of containment. But paradoxically, the more we are an empty vessel, the more we can create a holding space for our own discoveries.
It begs us to ask, ‘Where is the sacred thread of ritual in my life? Where’s the emotional alchemy?’ Because venturing into the unknown can come at such an extortionate cost, we must know where the vessel is, which can contain the shattering.
It’s our duty to create this alchemical vessel – the temenos – the sacred container for our experiences. And it seems to me, you have that down pat! Kristina.November 16, 2021 at 8:51 pm #74664
A warm welcome to the Forums Kristina.
What a wonderful discussion this is you and Stephen are exploring and I would like to introduce another possible form of “chaos” which to me would represent an emotional “crisis” of one sort or another and to bring in the Jungian idea or concept of the: “Transcendent Function”; which I will leave a couple of descriptions below taken from Daryl Sharp’s Jungian Lexicon. But before doing that I want to briefly touch base on a couple of things that might help to clarify what I think is the connecting factor which would unite both your and Jung’s concepts relating to what not only Stephen alluded to; but also your idea of “harmonizing”.
“Returning the topic of chaos as precursor to creativity, my sense is that chaos, in the alchemical sense, suggests formlessness – everything swirling about, which can be especially disconcerting in terms of one’s personal circumstances – while creativity, in a sense, gives form to that formlessness
. . . or, at least, to a portion of that formlessness.”
“What I’m hearing in your response is how important it is to ground our mercurial function. To give it form, a vessel of containment. But paradoxically, the more we are an empty vessel, the more we can create a holding space for our own discoveries.
It begs us to ask, ‘Where is the sacred thread of ritual in my life? Where’s the emotional alchemy?’ Because venturing into the unknown can come at such an extortionate cost, we must know where the vessel is, which can contain the shattering.
It’s our duty to create this alchemical vessel – the temenos – the sacred container for our experiences.”
So I’m going to start with the idea of a “personal crisis” in which the individual flow of psychic energy has become “blocked” if you will; or put another way a situation or circumstance that the individual cannot consciously “resolve” that has created some sort of emotional chaotic turmoil which is causing a state of depression or extreme anxiety; and the psyche is at work attempting to unravel or sort out it’s meaning or resolution. So looking at the resolution of internal conflict as in say (depression) as described below one can see the connection with the (transcendent function) which I will leave a separate description afterward.
A psychological state characterized by lack of energy. (See also abaissement du niveau mental, final, libido, night sea journey and regression.) Energy not available to consciousness does not simply vanish. It regresses and stirs up unconscious contents (fantasies, memories, wishes, etc.) that for the sake of psychological health need to be brought to light and examined.
Depression should therefore be regarded as an unconscious compensation whose content must be made conscious if it is to be fully effective. This can only be done by consciously regressing along with the depressive tendency and integrating the memories so activated into the conscious mind-which was what the depression was aiming at in the first place.[“The Sacrifice,” CW 5, par. 625.]
Depression is not necessarily pathological. It often foreshadows a renewal of the personality or a burst of creative activity. There are moments in human life when a new page is turned. New interests and tendencies appear which have hitherto received no attention, or there is a sudden change of personality (a so-called mutation of character). During the incubation period of such a change we can often observe a loss of conscious energy: the new development has drawn off the energy it needs from consciousness. This lowering of energy can be seen most clearly before the onset of certain psychoses and also in the empty stillness which precedes creative work.[“The Psychology of the Transference,” CW 16, par. 373.]
A psychic function that arises from the tension between consciousness and the unconscious and supports their union. (See also opposites and tertium non datur.) When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego’s absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive. Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.[Ibid., par. 824.]
The tendencies of the conscious and the unconscious are the two factors that together make up the transcendent function. It is called “transcendent” because it makes the transition from one attitude to another organically possible.[The Transcendent Function,” CW 8, par. 145.]
In a conflict situation, or a state of depression for which there is no apparent reason, the development of the transcendent function depends on becoming aware of unconscious material. This is most readily available in dreams, but because they are so difficult to understand Jung considered the method of active imagination-giving “form” to dreams, fantasies, etc.–to be more useful. Once the unconscious content has been given form and the meaning of the formulation is understood, the question arises as to how the ego will relate to this position, and how the ego and the unconscious are to come to terms. This is the second and more important stage of the procedure, the bringing together of opposites for the production of a third: the transcendent function. At this stage it is no longer the unconscious that takes the lead, but the ego.[Ibid., par. 181.]
This process requires an ego that can maintain its standpoint in face of the counterposition of the unconscious. Both are of equal value. The confrontation between the two generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living, third essence. From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. If, for instance, we conceive the opposition to be sensuality versus spirituality, then the mediatory content born out of the unconscious provides a welcome means of expression for the spiritual thesis, because of its rich spiritual associations, and also for the sensual antithesis, because of its sensuous imagery. The ego, however, torn between thesis and antithesis, finds in the middle ground its own counterpart, its sole and unique means of expression, and it eagerly seizes on this in order to be delivered from its division.[“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 825.]
The transcendent function is essentially an aspect of the self-regulation of the psyche. It typically manifests symbolically and is experienced as a new attitude toward oneself and life. If the mediatory product remains intact, it forms the raw material for a process not of dissolution but of construction, in which thesis and antithesis both play their part. In this way it becomes a new content that governs the whole attitude, putting an end to the division and forcing the energy of the opposites into a common channel. The standstill is overcome and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals.[Ibid., par. 827.]
So now we come to uniting these ideas with what both you and Stephen were discussing concerning what I would interpret as the chaotic/conflict/ resolution process of the the psyche’s ability to “harmonize” or create a symbolic image or connecting idea or thought that either “relativizes” or resolves the conflict or blockage that is causing the problem so the flow of psychic energy; (i.e. libido); can move forward and resume it’s normal function.
Here is what I would interpret as a Jungian/Campbell expression of this concept that one would utilize within the individuation process of alchemy or vessel say like in a temenos situation or within one’s personal dream-state of internal conscious/unconscious transformation.
My apologies if my description is a bit clumsy; and I realize this may not be exactly what you were alluding to earlier; but it struck me as relative to some of the general ideas you might be addressing and was curious as to your thoughts or impressions.
Again; a warm welcome here and thanks for your very insightful ideas.November 19, 2021 at 5:46 am #74663
Thank you James for your astute insights.
A few additional thoughts that I can offer.
A good question to often ask ourselves is, ‘How is my relationship with the unknown developing?’ Bearing in mind that the unknown doesn’t always mean dangerous.
Our wounded ego often manipulates our energy so that there’s no room for the unknown. And we can’t manage chaos through the strategies of our old self. We can’t grow by staying where we are. But there’s a part of us that struggles to trust that this cycle has its own intelligence and timing.
To meet chaos we require spaciousness within ourselves first. If there’s no space inside, we can’t do anything with the insights, which chaos brings. It’s like a blocked funnel that gets stuck. It’s why meeting chaos takes alignment, not time. We’re yielding to the spirit, allowing the sheer force of divine creativity – an ephemeral vitality – to flow through us.
And it’s not that there’s anything ‘wrong’ when depression or chaos visits us, it’s just that there’s something else that life is trying to show us. We’re given a chance to recalibrate our truth. Rather than binary thinking of right or wrong, it’s about the revelation . . . or its possibility. We withdraw to hear something brand new that wants to live inside us. And we find ourselves in the apparent emptiness, not in the reflex actions. This is why we need our temenos, to place all that which we have previously censored and not given voice to, so it can be held, witnessed and integrated.
And this is what I referred to in the essay regarding self-sabotage. ‘Am I incubating a new self? Or am I stuck in the slow lane with imaginary blockades of my own making?’ When we make chaos or depression an ally and hold it close like a dear, beloved companion, the less power it has over us. It only wants to be seen. To be recognised and acknowledged.
And thank you for posting the descriptions too. Most helpful – Kristina.November 26, 2021 at 11:54 pm #74662
Kristina; my apologies for such a late reply but I wanted some time to digest and mull over your wonderful insights concerning “Temenos” and the approach the psyche takes in digesting and integrating the unknown and unrealized content that is presenting a blockage that it must assimilate to move forward; and indeed; you offer a great way to think about this task.
” This is why we need our temenos, to place all that which we have previously censored and not given voice to, so it can be held, witnessed and integrated.”
And later you add:
“When we make chaos or depression an ally and hold it close like a dear, beloved companion, the less power it has over us. It only wants to be seen. To be recognized and acknowledged.”
There are several ways to think about this challenge which as you suggest is often seen as something separate or apart of who and what we are; but as you wisely point out that it really is an unrealized part of ourselves that is asking to be; as you put it; “recognized and acknowledged”; and given a voice so to speak; at the table around which other parts of our psyche are asking for our attention as well.
One of the things I think is often left out of the conversation; or put another way; utilized as a tool for realization that the “transcendent function” will often ask for is a “symbol”; which like a tool becomes a mechanism to aid in this process. (The “Alchemists” of old were very aware of the cooking process that often took place to separate the: “gold from the base matter”; metaphorically speaking; otherwise known as the: “Prima Materia” in spiritual concerns and used symbols to utilize this process as well. For instance; we know Jung liked Mandala’s; and here is one type that has not always been recognized that I think is a great example for what we are discussing called the: “Mandorla”; that is a little bit different for contemplative purposes you may have thoughts on.
To further add to this idea about symbolic imaging in Diane Osbon’s: “Reflections on the Art of Living”; (on pages 155-158); Joseph goes into great detail about how one might envision and utilize a specific symbol to evoke this neglected part of ourselves and give it a voice; which is the double triangle of the Jewish: “Star of David”; as a psychological device and means of transition from one mental and emotional state to another. In other words; to work through the blockage so that the psychic energy of the libido can resume its’ natural flow until the next crisis presents itself; because as Jung reminds us; “We are in a constant state of becoming”; which understood another way; is to know that life is built on conflict; and we live in a world of opposites and are not going to prevent suffering but must learn how to navigate it.
So; we have crisis and chaos all around us; but by accepting this fact the challenge of harmonizing our conflicts promotes the growth our psyche is asking for to give life meaning and purpose in a universe that has no meaning; (we bring the meaning to it). In other words; if understood properly; he is saying your obstruction can become the means by which realization can be achieved.
“On page 157 Joseph states:
“When you find yourself blocked by a concretized symbol; (also read experience); from your childhood, meditation is a systematic discipline that will solve your problem. The function of meditation, ideally, would be to transcend the concretized response and deliver the message.
The first thing I’d do would be to think, “What are, specifically, the symbols that are still active, still touching me this way?” What are the symbols? There’s a great context of symbols in the world. Not all of them are the ones that afflict you. When you do find the symbol that is blocking you, find some mode of thinking and experience that matches in its’ importance for you what the symbol meant. You cannot get rid of a symbol if you haven’t found that to which it refers.
If you find in your heart a center of experience for which the symbol has been substituted, the symbol will dissolve. Think, “Of what is it the metaphor?” When you find that, the symbol will lose its’ blocking force, or it will become a guide.
This is the “knowing” part of “to know, to love, to serve.” If you’re in trouble with this part because you do not know what this thing refers to, then it will push you around. I’m very, very sure of that.
To dissolve such a concretization as an adult, you need to find what the reference is of the symbol is. When that is found, you will have the elucidation. The symbol will move into place, and you can regard it with pleasure: as something that guides you to the realization of what its message is., instead of a roadblock. This is an important point. That is the downward-pointed triangle. It is either an obstruction or the field through which the realization is to come.”
(The upward pointing triangle represents aspiration; the downward pointed triangle represents obstruction. This symbol represents the threshold which must be broken through to attain the realization you are seeking. Additional text mine.)
From Daryl Sharp’s Jungian Lexicon:
“Temenos. A Greek word meaning a sacred, protected space; psychologically, descriptive of both a personal container and the sense of privacy that surrounds an analytical relationship.
Jung believed that the need to establish or preserve a temenos is often indicated by drawings or dream images of a quaternary nature, such as mandalas.
The symbol of the mandala has exactly this meaning of a holy place, a temenos, to protect the centre. And it is a symbol which is one of the most important motifs in the objectivation of unconscious images. It is a means of protecting the centre of the personality from being drawn out and from being influenced from outside. [“The Tavistock Lectures,” CW 18, par. 410.]
Tertium non datur. The reconciling “third,” not logically foreseeable, characteristic of a resolution in a conflict situation when the tension between opposites has been held in consciousness. (See also transcendent function.)
As a rule, it occurs when the analysis has constellated the opposites so powerfully that a union or synthesis of the personality becomes an imperative necessity. . . . [This situation] requires a real solution and necessitates a third thing in which the opposites can unite. Here the logic of the intellect usually fails, for in a logical antithesis there is no third. The “solvent” can only be of an irrational nature. In nature the resolution of opposites is always an energic process: she acts symbolically in the truest sense of the word, doing something that expresses both sides, just as a waterfall visibly mediates between above and below. [The Conjunction,” CW 14, par. 705.]
So now we come to your wonderful insights which suggest that by listening and nurturing the: “wounded child or archetype” that is demanding to heard you are not only giving it voice but are claiming it as part of your lost inheritance. And these are only a few aids that suggest how one might think about this; but I so much agree with what you added; and appreciate the very thoughtful way you offered it. This exchange has been a joy to participate in; and I look forward to any other thoughts that you, Stephen, or anyone else might want to add.
Again; my apologies for my late reply but it really did take all this time to work through it; and I hope this addition did not take your original topic too far off course.November 27, 2021 at 11:43 am #74661
Thank you James. I love how these conversations infuse and live in us. Sometimes they need a response, and at other times, they just need to sink into our bones and then through some sort of osmosis, a certain type of magic occurs. Until we meet again – Kristina.November 27, 2021 at 4:05 pm #74660
Kristina; I love the way you express things and you have been most kind and generous in sharing your thoughts. I will certainly look forward to any future discussions. All the very best to you.
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