Yesterday afternoon, while walking along and in the estuary taking photos of birds, this tree sat waiting for me to notice it, to take note of it. And so, I listened and added this picture to my collection. This tree has a look and feel that suggests the lonely journey we each take. Regardless of those we surround ourselves, we ultimately are individuals, alone in our own skins, separated by both conscious and unconscious aspects of self and community. We struggle to recognize ourselves let alone our “self” in relation to “other”. Individuation, the work of alchemy and conscious intention.
What is individuation? In a simplified form, it is about developing conscious awareness of one’s shadow, one’s soul (anima/animus), the archetypes that are active in one’s unconscious contents – contents accessed through dreams and projections, and the unifying aspect of which each of us is an integral part. Becoming aware. That just about says it all. And in becoming aware, more aware of “self”, we find our uniqueness.
I have to admit that I didn’t take this photograph. My wife took it while we were in Goa, India following a three week tour of Rajasthan. Rarely does my camera leave my hands during our travels, but every once in a while she points the camera in my direction so that there is proof that she hasn’t been to all of these places alone. I take MANY photos of her. And, for the most part, she loves it. Usually pictures of me turn out to be snapshots, uninteresting pictures that do the task of recording my physical presence. This picture is different. It caught something much deeper. A second note, this photo was taken with my last camera which has since been given away, a Sony DSC-H5 last year in February.
In many ways, this is very representative of what is happening now to me and by influence, those immediately around me. I know that each change within me ripples out to affect others in my orbit. This is all part of something called Chaos Theory. In the world of the psyche, the collective unconscious substrate becomes activated by the appearance of certain events or conditions, something nowhere in the range of being predictable. Strange attractors pull things slightly askew with significant affect. Then with the initial disturbance receding, our psyche attempts to return to a normal pattern – only the normal pattern is ever-so-slightly altered. We can never return exactly to where we have been. Others in relation to us can never attain the same relationship to us. All is altered, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse in terms of those relationships.
Perhaps that is why we become strangers to those who thought they have known us for so long, why they become strangers to us. Do we ever really know another person?
While wandering around in the estuary late yesterday afternoon, I came across this juvenile bird. Of course, I wasted little time in capturing his image with my camera. I kept coming closer and closer to him, a surprise as usually when a bird becomes aware of an approaching human, it takes flight. Wondering, I came almost up to the bird who then began to open its beak as if to speak. No sound, not a peep, though it was trying desperately to communicate something. At that point, I retreated so that he could continue whatever it was that was his journey at that point. In my opinion, this bird had been grounded, unable to fly, and was waiting for the end.
Yes, another day and another image presents itself. This morning while on a walk heading toward the estuary hoping to see once again the flamingos that have decided to make a short-term stop on their way to their nesting grounds, I came across this snake crossing the sandy road. The original photo is crisp and clear, but I wanted to alter it slightly using Adobe and this was the result, softer, more dream-like.
The snake has a bad rap in my opinion and in defense of them, I want to look at the snake in symbolic terms, in Jungian terms. Joseph Campbell wrote in his book, The Power of Myth, that :
the snake is the symbol of life throwing off the past and continuing to live.
Carl Gustav Jung writes in his book, Man and His Symbols:
This is the universal quality of the animal as a symbol of transcendence. These creatures, figuratively coming from the depths of the ancient Earth Mother, are symbolic denizens of the collective unconscious. They bring into the field of consciousness a special chthonic (underworld) message …
In Mayan tradition, the snake symbolizes the underworld, the realm of the unconscious contents. There is little doubt now why this particular snake made it way into my field of view at this time. Like all the other symbols that are presenting themselves, there is constant reinforcement about the nature of my journey at this moment in time.
The flamingo, symbol for the colour red in ancient Egypt, living symbol for the Sun God Ra. The flamingo became called Bennu, the mythical Phoenix bird that symbolized alchemical transformation in which the spirit is freed from the bonds of the physical, a release from the limits of the outer world.
I have been seeing so many flamingos lately and have been provided with many opportunities to photograph them in the sky and on the water. This photo has a fiery quality to it that came from using a tele-extender on my camera. I thought to trash it as I do with many photos, but hesitated. Now I understand what the symbolic import has come to mean for me. There are so many signs both in dreams and in waking life that are screaming about change, about dying and rebirth. Not a physical dying, but a dying of old ideas, a dying of an old self. In the red fires of change, I am re-emerging, a little more aware of my own personal shadow stuff – owning it.
Faceless … dreams are often faceless. When I lead dream work, especially with groups, I had a person present a dream several times, each time from the point of view of other figures in the dream and of the apparently inanimate objest as well. At that time I understood this as the Gestalt approach to dream work. Then, I rethought exactly what I was doing from a Jungian standpoint where the dreamer is all parts of the dream. The archetypes and images that are shifting in and out of one’s dream are communication attempts between the self and the personal and collective unconscious which has but one goal, bringing the shadow to light, becoming fully aware – individuation.
I often dream but have given up working on my dreams for the past number of years. And now, the dreams are coming faster than ever. One aproach to understanding what is currently happening involves Mayan prophecies surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar come the winter equinox in 2012. Gwynne Mayer writes in “Gateways to 2012“:
We have been discussing the energetic of 2012 and how the planet is speeding up its own energies aligning itself with the galaxies and we are focusing on how this is affecting us as our lives seem to be folding in on themselves. Our dreams are becoming more intensive, our interactions with others are intensified and it seem we are all being bombarded from the personal to the political arena…it is all part of the soup we are in, as Carl Jung use to say. We in the psychological field are definitely skewed in our frame of reference as we see person after person struggle in this area, not to mention those peers of ours in the healing professions try to gain balance and not get tipped over in this topsy turvy world.
I find this interesting stuff indeed, especially since Gwynne is counted among my friends for many years. This speaks of energy, about an heightening of senses. But, I want more right now. So, I turn to C.G. Jung:
The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends. For all ego-consciousness is isolated; because it separates and discriminates, it knows only particulars, and it sees only those that can be related to the ego. Its essence is limitation, even though it reach to the farthest nebulae among the stars. All consciousness separates; but in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises, be it never so childish, grotesque, and immoral. (C.G. Jung, CW 10. page 304)
There, this is what I have been trying to remember. my dreams are my doorway, my portal to my soul, the portal to unity.
The masculine. It has been a problem of identity for men since the dawn of history. The Mayans were very masculine, warriors, administrators, magicians and kings. One would think that these people had no issues with their masculine identity. But, the evidence says otherwise. On this figure found at Dzibilchaltun, the penis is pierced twice. And, it is doubtful that this was an attempt to decorate the penis. Sacred blood was drawn from the penis of Mayan kings as a blood offering in ritual worship.
And since the dawn of human time, the masculine, its power, its uncertainty, its sense of inferiority has been causing the individual and the world, grief. The personal and the collective. It has been difficult to grow from a child, born of a woman and nurtured by a woman, to find his way to manhood.
Defining self as man, as masculine, is an issue that seeps into relationships with women. Men see themselves reflected through the eyes of a woman. And through the eyes of a mother, the man remains a boy.
Noting this figure and finding that it had to be captured on the camera brings it home to me. I am a man, yet, what exactly is a man? An insecurity that is masked by a modern-world persona based on intuitive ideas, models and history. But, that isn’t enough, not for me.