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The Power of the Personal,” with Mythologist Dennis Slattery, Ph.D.”

Viewing 15 posts - 46 through 60 (of 75 total)
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    Dennis Slattery

      Another provocative response, Marianne.  Your journey of discovery is very enjoyable to read. Let me share a story that connects with yours. Years ago at Pacifica I taught Dante’s Inferno to the MA Counseling students as a third of a course on the Mythology of the Underworld. At the break a student came up to me, told me she had been sober for 2 years and then the following:

      “When I read Dante, who I struggle to understand, I nonetheless feel that I have read him before. It is as if while I grasp only parts of his poem, I feel I know the whole poem as it resonates within me.” ‘Well that is the analogical imagination at work. She has never read Dante but feels his story is her story in many essential parts. I find it fascinating that if one’s myth is ready and open to receive what it needs, then those writers, painters, people will step forward. Truly miraculous if we can just open our eyes to see it. Thank you so much Marianne.

      Dennis Slattery

        Hi James: what a rich set of insights in your posting. Jennifer, Deborah and I are in day two, Saturday of four hour zoom on Deep Creativity. We end tomorrow. It is exhausting and so exhilarating to present on zoom. It is a delight to listen to participants talk of their creative processes and their self-identities. I like too what you bring up about James’s preposition “to” and waking to. He was always so provocative to be around. You are right: as we age we see different selves looking back at us and different kinds of dreams visiting us to show us the path; I love journaling each morning, where I look back at the day before to see what wishes to be remembered. I am never disappointed at what bobs to the surface

        Thank you so much, James. Have to prepare for our conference, but will return to add more to this fine entry of yours.


          Dennis; thank you for your most thoughtful and kind reply regarding dreams and journaling. Listening to our inner voices that speak to us in a language that is sometimes difficult to read; (and); as you so insightfully suggest; are presenting us with this inner dialogue of the “Marga Path” that Joseph talks about to show us clues on what our changing life needs are revealing. This “animal path back to it’s den” represents this longing of the human heart to return; (like the great animal migrations); to it’s home where it instinctively knows it should be. And these dreams as you suggest are pointing the way.

          In the movie: “Dances with Wolves” one of the central voices of the story is the: (Journal as narrator); which the main character uses to record, assimilate, and understand his adventure as he experiences his transcendent transformation from Union Army Lt. John Dunbar into the Lakota Sioux Warrior: “Dances with Wolves”. As both a personal document and record of his transformation in the climax of the film the Journal is captured but retrieved and returned; which therefore could be understood as symbolizing the completion of this new rebirth cycle of individuation towards wholeness as seen throughout nature and also within our own final destination toward our journey’s end. The snake sheds it’s skin; as does the moon cycles to completion; these symbols are everywhere showing us we are but a strand of nature’s web throughout our journey; and the psyche reflects this inner metamorphosis from childhood to death. Are we the light or the bulb that carries it? Yet here we are as modern individuals disconnected from our own source; confused and seeking to reunite with our own inner being that seeks to know itself as if for the first time.

          The backstory behind this film is almost as interesting as the story itself because the artist/writer had to undergo the same hero/quest to bring it to fruition with all kinds of hurdles to endure. As a metaphor this refers back to the relationship of a native people to their environment and their responses to life demands and the disappearance of their way of life by modern civilization; and also points to mankind’s disconnection and the loss of his relationship to his “inner world” that must be reconciled toward wholeness; (i,e. Marga or Bastion’s elementary idea as opposed to Desi which is the local or provential – the right and left hand paths that Joseph talks about).

          What I am referring to is your descriptions of the inner processes we all must assimilate as we both attempt to read our outer and inner landscapes to navigate where we are trying go; and what our inner world is asking of us to get there. There are all kinds of outer displays we have to interpret along the way; some are “trickster” situations; some are random occurrences we collide with; some might be seen or understood as fate; but many are also determined by our inner longings and fears guarded over by our inner Dragons we must deal with and the many “Thou Shalt” scales that their skin contains; each one referring to something we must overcome as Joseph discusses with Bill Moyers in: “The Power of Myth”.

          Although I’m sure you are more than familiar with this aspect of Jungian psychology for those who are not I’m adding a short clip of Joseph’s description of the Shadow system which would be helpful to understand in Dream Journaling since this shadow dimension of the personal unconscious is important in what is happening in your inner world and therefore reflected in your dreams as well as your waking life and is asking to be recognized; especially in dreams such as nightmares as well as possibly others with strong emotions.

          I hope you’ll forgive my rather clumsy attempts at description as in some of the other forum threads we are discussing topics concerning dreams and emotions and various other aspects we all must learn how to utilize in understanding this inner narrative of our lives and what it’s trying to tell us.  Again; your voice is so deeply appreciated in sharing your many years of experience helping to provide tools on how we can do this. A very warm Namaste to you as always.


          My apologies to any who have already seen this post earlier for I have re-edited it and added an extra short clip of Joseph’s below to help explain the relationships to the above which is included in it’s very brief description.


            Also I want to add an addendum clip to the above of Joseph’s to further describe this overriding arc-of-life schedule the psyche is constantly checking in the way it sees itself in relation to where it wants to go here.



            And so we have both changed the spelling of our names! As you know, but perhaps I am writing this to others here, I went from Mary Ann (or sometimes just Mary) to Marianne–many reasons.



            This metaphor and story is so beautiful. I loved hearing this. The speaker in the video appears to be Dr. Stephen Aizenstat.



            Shaahyda writes,

            “Then later when the sleeve is turned inside out the myth would be revealed.  So, my first big question is, do myths always have to have that time lapse?”

            I am wondering if there can be a whole bunch of answers to this question at the same time and not one or the other being the correct one–like many things at once, like the inner lining is still there with the outer material even if not seen all the time, that it could depend upon one’s perspective at the time. Some mystics refer to this as the “inner planes” and the “outer planes,” that the inner planes are always there in the outer planes.

            Inner and outer do exist at the same time but most the time we can see only one layer at a time, either the inner or the outer, unless we do fold up the sleeve while still looking at the outer suit material. Since they can exist at the same time and if we apply this to myths, perhaps no time lapse is needed for the outer material or events in history to become the myth–we mythologize life all the time as we go through it. However, I would suppose that in the “actual” myths that got recorded and handed down through time and generations there would be at times that time lapse when people look back in retrospect. This is one reason why I never tire of the old myths. I hear so many people say the old myths are outdated now and tiresome, yet Campbell all his life looked at the old myths and constantly found new things to say about them and I think many a time we here on this forum do the same thing, as well as adding in newer myths a Campbell also did.

            Another time for me in which I have no time lapse in myth-making or in psyche is during a moment when I experience synchronicity, when a seemingly non-causal meeting of the inner and outer worlds meet, the inner as if there is something deeper at work behind the scenes. The coat and the lining of the upturned sleeve seems also like a great metaphor for synchronicity when looking at them both together.

            Just a few thoughts. It is probably that later if I came back to this I would find I could have said these things in a different way–I am being more or less in stream of consciousness mode here as I write. I am sure thoughts on these subjects could roll on and on…



            Hi Dennis,

            I was unable to see your response until now because of computer issues then being without a computer for a while. I thank you for your warm response(s). The story about the woman feeling the whole poem of Dante’s Inferno as she was reading just a part of it sounds like a rather transcendent experience/view. I am thinking what an interesting experience it would be. The only thing I can compare to that in my own experience  (I forever associate it seems) is when I was in high school I once had a dream that I was writing a poem about life under the ocean and it was a poem in three columns; I could read each column as its own own vertically written poem in and of itself but if I read the lines across the three columns horizontally across the page they also made up a poem. I woke up unable to replicate the poem(s). It was like reading one vertical column poem I also could know/read the whole poem horizontally. I have never endeavored to create such a thing!

            I associate a lot as most my life is somehow imbued in memories/memoirs/personal myth, and I suspect it is my way of attempting to understand the world from the “I”/eye of the self out to the world and vice-versa. In a sense, our five senses are all we have with which to make sense of this world–oh and then add on our sixth psychic/intuitive sense and maybe sometimes the 7th might be instinctual although that could overlap with the sixth sense. It is also nice to understand the world through reading/hearing/seeing others “I’s” and “eyes” or ears and listen to what they carry in their hearts such as in a beautiful piece of music, and how a sound can be an archetype just as a visual symbol can be an expression of one. It is so nice to hear a poem recited as it is to read it sometimes.  In any case, I seek forever to relate somehow, and usually the arts and myths are the best ways I find I can relate to the marvels of life on this marvelous planet. To me, as it also might to many of us myth-lovers, it feels like myths make the world go round.

            I also have purchased and worked with your and Jennifer’s and Deborah’s book Deep Creativity. I did this when the book was first released. I loved it, it was extremely helpful, and I do recommend it to anyone wanting to dig into their creativity–for whoever is wondering: whether you feel your creativity is a dried-up well, whether you feel you have had no inspiration, or is gone way too deep inside yourself, or if you have too many distractions, etc. It helps you focus on creative prompts to do. I also think this could be a good book for people who feel depressed during these times to work with–in keeping a journal one can always do the workbook in one’s journal.

            ` Thank you, Dennis for all your kind and detailed replies.

            ~ Marianne


              Hello Dennis; I have a new topic to introduce within this discussion which you brought up recently at the Jungian Lecture Series a few weeks back that I feel strongly directly relates to this subject of the “Power of the Personal”; which was a central feature of your framework of accessing your Personal Myth. You gave one of the most articulate and moving descriptions of one’s intimate landscapes coming out of your own experience that I hope you will share as it relates I think to something not often talked about but which I think is critically important in exploring and accessing one’s personal story and that is the subject of “Shame”. You shared in very personal and intimate details your journey with painting and how something way back in your youth caused you to feel a tremendous loss of self-esteem which this alchemy you used to address it opened up a whole new illumination towards healing. (For those who have not seen Dennis’s work he has 2 separate Galleries listed on his website; and of particular interest to me was his renderings of Jung’s “Red Book”.) Also not to be missed is his recent blog offering concerning his personal writing teaching techniques with prison inmates using Joseph Campbell’s ideas as a template format.

              For me what I think is important to this discussion is the use of personal art and writing as a means to not only express but to deeply explore one’s inner depths of memory where; as Joseph Campbell describes: “the dark jewels glow”; and use these symbolic images and experiences as tools for personal illumination and healing. Joseph describes this process as a kind of: “symbolic imaging”; or as he later refers to as: “symbolic realization” he mentions in one of his Jungian lectures on individuation. He goes into great detail describing how to utilize this process on pages: 155-158; in: “Reflections on the Art of Living – A Joseph Campbell Companion”; by using this process as a means of breaking past blockages and opening gates of transformation of one’s inner world. The particular symbol he uses as an example I am about to quote is the double triangle which forms the: “Jewish Star of David”; and he utilizes this symbol to show how to breakthrough the repression of the psyche by pointing out what each triangle should represent within this process of assimilation in achieving the passage through your own individual process. Each triangle represents something as he describes on 155:

              “In the double triangle, the upward pointing triangle–you might use the word “aspiration” for that–is symbolic of the movement principle. The downward-pointed triangle is inertia, and it represents what the obstacle would be. The downward pointing triangle can be experienced either as an impediment or as the door that is opened. When you recognize it’s psychological significance and effect a mental transformation, then you see the obstacle as an opening.

              So you can experience the downward-pointed triangle two ways: one, as an obstacle; and the other, as the means by which you are going to make the ascent. So, everything in your life that seems to be obstructive can be transformed by your recognizing that it is the means for your transition.”


              On page 156 he continues this train of thought by asking:

              “What is the obstruction in your life, and how do you transform it into radiance?” Ask yourself, ” What is the main obstruction to my path?” In India, demons are really obstructions to the expansion of consciousness. A demon or devil is a power in you to which you have not given expression, an recognized or suppressed god. Anyone who is unable to understand a god sees it as a devil.”


              He picks this description back up on page 157; where he continues by saying:

              “When you find yourself blocked by a concretized symbol 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 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 it’s importance for you what the symbol meant. You cannot get rid of a symbol if you have not found that to which it refers.

              If you find in your own 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 it’s blocking force, or it will become the guide.

              This is the “knowing” part of “to know, to love, to serve.” If you are in trouble with this part because you do not really 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 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 it’s message is, instead of as 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.”


              So Dennis; my question is: “does this description of Joseph’s match up with what you experienced which you shared about Shame” in your lecture? The description you gave rang me like a bell when you bravely offered this “witness” to your childhood; and how you were able to utilize this extremely personal experience as a means for your ascent through your painting. Personal Writing, Painting, or what other means of Art, or Self Expression that one utilizes seems to me to represent this doorway into to the unconscious as well as that of enjoyment, meaning, or purpose that these things are normally used for.

              Of particular importance to me was the understanding of the gate-guardians or Dragon of one’s Shame in your personal narrative. This gateway had to be accessed to obtain passage of the threshold to gain the treasure of your emotional wholeness. And what you shared was so poignantly moving that I think it would be of enormous value to this discussion if you would feel comfortable sharing it.

              I see shame as one of the major manifestations of personal tragedy; which like the Dragon guards a gateway that holds people hostage. Carl Jung called it: “a soul-eating emotion”; and I think it would be almost impossible to count the number of suicides that have been caused by it’s overpowering effects throughout human history. Who among us have not lost someone from this crippling and devastating condition that it causes.

              The below link to the article I am including is a long but very articulate description of what Shame actually is; which I hope everyone will read because I think it has much to offer on this little explored emotional manifestation of the psyche. “Shame” by James M. Shultz


              Hello James,

              Thank you for your awesome post. Joe Campbell’s interpretation of the Star of David, is an absolute masterpiece and my all-time favorite. At one time, I wore the star of David, hoping to get some insight as to what the impediments were in my life, or what was blocking my path to where I wanted to go. The realization did come through a synchronistic moment, and eventually I was able to dissolve the symbol, and thus the roadblock.

              “I see shame as one of the major manifestations of personal tragedy; which like the Dragon guards a gateway that holds people hostage. Carl Jung called it: “a soul-eating emotion”; and I think it would be almost impossible to count the number of suicides that have been caused by it’s overpowering effects throughout human history. Who among us have not lost someone from this crippling and devastating condition that it causes.”

              So true James. Thanks for sharing the article, “Shame” by James M. Shultz. It’s on my reading list after I finish the ‘Second Wind’




              Hello James,

              I read James M. Shultz’s article, and contemplated on many aspects of shame which he elaborates so well.  I can relate to those many ways of being shamed, and feeling the shame when reflecting on those moments. As Shultz writes, “Shame is an inner experience. It can come when no one else is around. There’s a physical sinking sensation that’s something like falling into a pool of our own water, like we are dissolving.

              My question to you is, could one equate ‘being shamed’ to ‘being crucified’…. Then I would like to take the high road that Joe talks about, “If you want resurrection, then be prepared to be crucified”.  It’s difficult to prepare for resurrection when you are a high school student and are being shamed and teased. It’s difficult at any age, but especially difficult for teens who are shamed in schools.  As Schultz writes, ” We are cast out, alone, and cut off, and the cause of our dismemberment is our own deficiency or deformity or constitutional inadequacy, perhaps our exhibitionism. This is humiliation–when the shame is most severe and when it has to do with others. (And in front of others – as some parents shamed their children)”


              Dennis Slattery

                Wonderful, Gard. I have known you so long as Gard that I forget the name you prefer. Is it James? Sorry about that.

                Thank you; you sent me to my study bookshelves where I have a long row of JC’s works. I found the Companion volume and have just finished reading those rich pages to which you refer above.

                At certain moments I think my life has oscillated between shame and anger. I am an adult child of an alcoholic. My father suffered from heart-rending shame; he tried to gather courage through the spirits of alcohol. Never worked but it created devastating violence in our household. So we all, my brothers and sister gained graduate degrees living there: We all have MAs in shame and anger. I have found tremendous relief from Pema Chodron’s work and others who write about Buddhism psychologically. Also from Al-Anon reading. So that is the deeper shame that the incident in third grade ignited into a fury. The pages from Companion you point us to are so rich, in part because they rest on a sense of  or consciousness of, paradox.

                The obstruction is the way in; I love that poetic way of seeing that JC had running through his blood. My father’s alcoholism led me to Jung’s work and, by extension, to my life’s work–53 years in the classroom has been, in part, exploring how shame can crush a life, but also open one to one’s calling. Being called by shame to a work-that has been my experience. I am getting close to publishing my 32nd. book. Now, while they did not grow out of shame, they did grow out of a search for who I authentically am. In my Pilgrimage Beyond Belief I came to terms with his shame, transferred to us. We all have been opened up by shame.

                Again, paradox resides in the expressions of art and life. I bless my father these days for pointing me to my destiny. I hope this helps. It was good to write about it right here and now!

                Dennis Slattery

                  Hi Shaahayda


                  I love your questions to James. I want to acknowledge them and let James respond. Many thanks.


                  Dear Dr. Slattery,

                  Actually, initially I addressed my questions to both you and James, then deleted your name, thinking you’d be so busy and I might be taking up your time. So now, thank you ever so much for responding anyway. Let’s wait for James.


                  Dennis Slattery

                    Hi Shaahayda. I saw your additional response so I thought to respond. I like these exchanges so do not feel that I am too busy to engage good thinking.

                    James will respond to your rich question. What your shaming/crucifixion makes me remember is C.G. Jung’s observation that no process of individuation can begin without an initial crucifixion. That condition can arrive in the form of an illness, a loss, a breakup of an intimate relationship and of course so many more.

                    Shame is a form of self-laceration, which is in part why it needs no audience or participation from others. It can arise from feelings of unworthiness, of being dirty, of being enlsaved to many forms of addiction. One needs assistance in order to free oneself from shame; its other side is anger and fear. I find it a very complex emotion and detrimental way of self-imagining. Your equating it with a crucifixion is not off the mark, for becoming conscious of shame’s presence can lead to action, often in the form of a change in attitude towards oneself and others. Thank you for your question, Shaahayda

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