Monthly Archives: July 2013
Today is not such a good day in the grand scheme of things for me. Every once in a while I crash and find myself having to pick up the pieces and put them back together again like some senior citizen Humpty Dumpty. After two weeks of putting myself out there in a fairly active manner, I simply had run out of energy. That is one of the problems of being an introvert.
An introvert? I can almost hear the disbelief. What is with someone who claims to be a naturist, takes nude photos of himself, and at times shares them, has to do with being an introvert? Well, introversion is not about being a reclusive person. Introversion is about where energy is gained and where it is lost. Being socially active takes a lot of my energy as it does for any introvert. To recharge my batteries, so to speak, I need to find a quiet place. For an extrovert, being in a quiet place is hard work, work that takes a lot of energy. However, being in a social setting and active serves to recharge the batteries of the extrovert. Enough said about introversion and extroversion – this isn’t supposed to be a teaching session about these terms. That said, I hope that the basic idea is explained enough for the purposes of this post.
Being away from home where life is quiet, I engaged with a host of family relations on both my wife’s side of the family and my own side of the family. We even threw family friends into the mix. Whenever we did get a bit of a break from visiting and socializing, we were more often than not out for a long hike. It was an enjoyable time though it did wear down my energy reserves. Of course I am familiar with my needs for quiet time-outs, but when in these situations, I begin to feel guilty about taking these time-outs. I persuade myself to dig deep and keep going hoping that a good night’s sleep will be enough.
Now that I am at home, I don’t have to try so hard and time-out is just a few steps away. But, I somehow got caught in my own delusion that I could just keep going without the time outs.
Thankfully, my wife saw what was happening to me, saw me coasting towards a crash of spirit and energy. Seeing what was going on with me, the expectations disappeared and a sense of it’s okay to stop and rest began to be heard by me. A cup of tea together on the patio in the sunshine and now some naked time to think, read and write, finds me finally beginning the work of recharging my body, mind and soul.
I want to begin today’s post with a quotation:
“The human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserve intact its splendour and its beauty… Nakedness as such is not to be equated with physical shamelessness… Immodesty is present only when nakedness plays a negative role with regard to the value of the person…The human body is not in itself shameful… Shamelessness (just like shame and modesty) is a function of the interior of a person.” by: Karol Cardinal Woytyla (John Paul II), Love and Responsibility, translation by H. T. Willetts, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 1981
Yes, I seem to be using images again for my posts. When it comes to any discussion about nudity, especially in terms of human response to nakedness, it often needs illustrations to prove a point. I have used Pope John Paul II’s quotation before, but I felt I needed to return to his words as I sense the world becoming more and more phobic about human nudity, especially in North America (Canada and the U.S.A.). Living in this area of the world where gymnophobia is as close to institutionalised as it is possible to be, makes it difficult to enjoy the freedom of nature in one’s natural state, even more difficult to share this with the world at large. So, like most North Americans, I live most of my naked hours indoors paying careful attention to draperies so that I don’t offend the sensibilities of those who hide from their own bodies.
Why do they hide from their bodies and want the rest of the world to stay covered up? There is no easy answer. One could say it is about religion and that would be partially true for a good portion of the population – but there is more to it than that. We don’t like our bodies for the most part. It is no wonder that the biggest selling books are diet books and those that promise fit and toned bodies. And for some reason, envy and jealousy feed the prohibition against nakedness.
And then we have the culture of youth which makes it harder for older people. It isn’t unusual to have statements such as “who wants to see saggy boobs and wrinkly skin;” when it comes to older women, or “he must be a pervert,” when older men bare it all at a beach, even a naturist beach. Nudity is tolerated as long as the bodies are beautiful and preferably women’s bodies.
But the biggest reason, is a fear of one’s sexuality. Sex equates with sin, with being dirty and lewd. If you see a naked body, there is an illogical assumption that the person has sexual intentions, intentions that are linked to rape, prostitution and pornography. The mind doesn’t seem to process that the naked human body can be simply a naked human body. A grandmother at a nude beach enjoying the sunshine while reading a book or watching the water or simply just getting some needed sunshine is not understood in these simple terms. There has to be a catch – perhaps a dirty-minded husband who has commanded her to pose for naked photos. Or perhaps, she is a pedophile waiting to snatch some passing child. An older man (or even a younger one) can be on the same beach with the same intentions but the general consensus would peg that man as a pervert, a danger and menace to others, a pedophile, a voyeur, a flasher, or sick. Likely, all of these labels would be assumed prompting a quick call to police to come and arrest this sick and disgusting man.
As a result, most naturists and nudists are rather secretive, disrobing only within their homes, secluded beaches, at naturist resorts, or deep within a forest where people are scarce. There are exceptions of course.
It is okay to be naked if one is being filmed in a porno film. It is also okay to be nude posing for a skin magazine such as Playboy or Playgirl. Strip clubs are legalised and hedonistic hotels are given operating licenses. – Where there is money to be made, society has a different opinion of nudity. But of course, this is very understandable. Where nudity is repressed in one sphere, it pops up in a different sphere – a Jungian psychology truism that says what we repress consciously has a way of being brought out as shadow behaviour and content. There is no room for common sense in any of the response to nudity. Almost all response to nudity is unconscious, a knee-jerk type of response that defies rational thought.
We find room for nude art, nudity in film and advertising, nudity in protest activities and love our nude babies. Yet at the same time, we become increasingly repressive about our own nakedness and that of others. It is the way it is.
Well, it took an extra day to get home as we decided to stop in at one of our daughter’s home where I then got in a game of golf with one of my grandsons. As we drove the last few kilometres, I decided I just had to have this photo of our Canadian prairie sunset. There is a reason that Saskatchewan is called the land of the living sky. The day was coming to an end just as our two-week journey was coming to an end. As soon as the car was unpacked, the clothing came off and some of wine was enjoyed before bedtime.
This morning we woke up to a crisp 10 Celsius and sunshine. With the lawn mowed and veggies picked from the garden, it is time for me to get some clothing-free time and catch up on reading blog posts by my cyber-friends, as well as to add my own two cents here at Naturist’s Lens. I hope to write something with more content tomorrow when I have had time to settle back into daily home routines. Until then, you, my readers are left with just this light chatter as I take some time to re-connect. Between now and my next post I will be sitting back and enjoying some R&R, most of it au naturel of course.
A nature scene that I took yesterday afternoon while hiking along another section of the TransCanada Trail just outside of Fernie, B.C. – after all, naturism and nature do make a perfect fit. However, since it is a public trail that is relatively busy, the possibility of hiking naked is non-existent if one wants to stay out of legal trouble. Hiking in nature is very popular throughout most of Canada resulting in most hiking trails being well used. One has to leave the trail system if one wants to free-hike with at least a slim chance of avoiding running into other people and risking confrontations. Regardless, hiking with a minimum of clothing is worth wearing those clothes when one gets to enjoy both the hiking and the scenery along the way.
The photo above also serves as a reminder to me of the ancient alchemical expression: “As above, so below.” The expression ”As above,” can loosely be considered as persona, lives lived in the outer world. ”As below,” can be then understood as the realm of both personal and collective unconsciousness. Enough of this psychology stuff for now. It’s time to go out hiking again.
The image was taken yesterday while we were doing one of our daily hikes during our British Columbia travels. Being out of one’s normal “home” world creates different expectations and accommodations as one tries to get the most out of the daily experiences that are available. I have been wanting to walk a part of the Trans-Canada Trail for a long time and was rewarded with a good opportunity while staying with a friend in Cranbrook, British Columbia. We only walked about 12 kilometres as the temperatures soon passed the 30 Celsius mark. We shared the path with others who walked, cycled and roller-bladed on the dedicated pathways, a fact that meant clothing was de rigueur. I have to admit that the experience was exceptional and well worth the effort regardless. As you can see, I finally broke down and provided an image to go with the post. This doesn’t signal a return to the use of images, it just seemed to be very appropriate for the moment. Images will be used on rare occasions when they seem to be appropriate or even necessary for the topic.
The recent series on alchemy is on hold while I do some more work on the nigredo stage and prepare a summary wrap-up. I don’t know when that will happen, So, please be patient if the series interests you. It will be finished. At the moment I am not sure where The Naturist’s Lens will head to next. I will let the next few days provide me with direction as it always does.For now, it is all about simply being in the moment, being present.
I want to begin by bringing a sort of synthesis of the process as spoken by Jung in Mysterium Coniunctionis:
“Grey and black [nigredo] correspond to Saturn and the evil world; they symbolize the beginning in darkness, in the melancholy, fear, wickedness, and wretchedness of ordinary human life. . . . The darkness and blackness can be interpreted psychologically as man’s confusion and lostness . . . The situation is now gradually illuminated as is a dark night by the rising moon. The illumination comes to a certain extent from the unconscious, since it is mainly dreams that put us on the track of enlightenment This dawning light corresponds to the albedo, the moonlight which in the opinion of some alchemists heralds the rising sun. The growing redness (rubedo) which now follows denotes an increase in warmth and light coming from the sun, consciousness.” (Jung, CW vol. 14, para. 306-307)
The alchemical journey is one of moving from the depths of darkness where one is indeed lost, back into the full light of day where we are aware of our own presence in relation to the world which is illuminated by the day. Aware, conscious, alive. There is a vitality that is felt as one is able to breathe freely and deeply and participate in life rather than stand on the sidelines guarding our breath while trying to fade into the shadows so that no one sees us or hears us.
With consciousness, we become aware of our presence in relationships, we become aware of our body and its sensations, we become aware of the dance of contradictions that often find their expression in good versus evil.
This consciousness is not all encompassing, can never be all encompassing. If all the darkness (unconscious) was exposed and brought to consciousness, there would be no awareness. Awareness can only exist in contrast. Day only exists because there is night. Black only exists because there is white.
Now, to finish this first part of exploring the rubedo with a return to Jung’s words:
“This corresponds to the increasing participation of consciousness, which now begins to react emotionally to the contents produced by the unconscious. At first the process of integration is a “fiery” conflict, but gradually it leads over to the “melting” or synthesis of the opposites. The alchemists termed this the rubedo, in which the marriage of the red man and the white woman, Sol and Luna, is consummated. Although the opposites flee from one another they nevertheless strive for balance, since a state of conflict is too inimical to life to be endured indefinitely.” (Jung, CW vol. 14, para. 307)
This third stage, citrinitas, is particularly difficult to grasp. More often that not, attempts to use an alchemical model for psychotherapy limit themselves to just three stages. Jung and his student, Marie-Louise von Franz do include citrinitas in their discussions of alchemy, but noted that it was a fourth and final stage, that of becoming gold. With that said, Jung’s and Jungian focus still limited . I will stick with the idea that citrinitas is the third stage in the process as that is what makes sense to me.
The idea of turning base material into gold is an idea that seems more magical than real. And, it is the magical that emerges during this stage. One is led to think of a magician such as Merlin, or even Christ. Both somehow defied all logic and nature to accomplish magical deeds. But where does this fit in with psychological process in therapy?
I want to step back just a little to place this stage in context using symbolism. In the first stage, nigredo,, light was lost as the psyche descended into the inner world of the unconscious where all the negative and fearful aspects of self have been contained as if in some personal hell. In the second stage, albedo, a light appears in the darkness, the light of an awakened soul which is symbolised as a moon (the feminine) shining in the darkness. The third stage, citrinitas, brings forth the light of the sun (the masculine), a light which magically transforms the shadowy and fearful into valuable consciousness. It is as though one has achieved the treasure grace à Dieu, through the Grace of God.
In this stage, awareness deepens. The problem yet remains how to assimilate this in order to return to the balance of being an ordinary human living an ordinary life? The objective of any therapy is to allow each of us to become at one with ourselves so that we can be fully present in our outer world as well as in our inner world. The objective of therapy is not to turn us into mystical and magical beings that don’t belong to the world. Assimilating bits of the unconscious aspects of ourselves is a huge task that sometimes falls off the rails, especially when we meet with the awe that comes with discovering the gold within ourselves.
“One is inclined to think that ego-consciousness is capable of assimilating the unconscious, at least one hopes that such a solution is possible. But unfortunately the unconscious really is unconscious; in other words, it is unknown. And how can you assimilate something unknown?” (Jung, CW 9i, para. 520)
The bits of gold we discover are just that bits. The depths of our psyche reach deeper beyond the boundaries of our personal self. Yet the discovery of these bits does lead to wonder and joy, even ecstasy. There is danger here for us, a danger that we will become so entranced of this ecstasy that we refuse to leave this stage.as it feels like perfection, we feel like perfect beings in a perfect bubble.
“One hopes to control the unconscious, but the past masters in the art of self-control, the yogis, attain perfection in samādhi, a state of ecstasy, which so far as we know is equivalent to a state of unconsciousness. It makes no difference whether they call our unconscious a “universal consciousness”; the fact remains that in their case the unconscious has swallowed up ego-consciousness.” (Jung, CW 9i, para. 520)
There is work yet to be done, to bring this gold back to the world, back in the form of a more mature and aware self.
“From the darkness of the unconscious comes the light of illumination, the albedo. (Jung,Mysterium Coniuntionis, paragraph 220)
Awareness. How often do we avoid it in spite of our protestations otherwise? If one dares to look outside oneself, one is able to see the reflections of oneself in the world and in others. But to have the ability to see these reflections, one has to remove the filters and the shades that cover consciousness. Needless to say, this is easier said than done.
Let me step back a bit to talk about darkness and light. In all of our stories concerning the creation of the world and all life, we are told about an all encompassing darkness in which there is no knowledge, no awareness of anything, no life. Somehow, out of the darkness light is born and with that light, life.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 1:1-4)
But of course, that is just the beginning of the story. Without light, there is nothing that is firm, nothing that is definable. There is no foundation upon which we can sense ourselves or the outer world around us. We hide, fearful in the darkness, without looking at that darkness, doing our best to deny that darkness. We are victims of that darkness. Rather than sink into the darkness and become one with it, we build walls to deny the darkness walls which do little other than delude ourselves of the reality of who and what we are. And then, someone turns on a light and all is exposed. Now, we are in deep shit.
“And the Lord commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it . . . (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 2:16-17)
“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be gods, knowing good and evil.” (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 3:5)
“And the eyes of them both [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they knew that they were naked . . .” (The Holy Bible, “Genesis,” 3:7)
And this is the dilemma we face in turning on the light, we get to see our deficits as well as our perfections. And for some strange reason, we are drawn to our deficits, our warts and sores. But now in the light, we are confronted with ourselves and we don’t like what is exposed as we stand naked to our own consciousness.
In the psychotherapeutic context, this is a period of withdrawing a little from life, participating just enough to keep things “ticking over,” the main forces being inwards. This enables clients to experience sudden realisations about themselves and they often begin to question their life direction. It is easier to see, in a moment of insight, what is important and what is not. (Hamilton, The Alchemical Process of Transformation)
Another way of looking at this stage would be the appearance of “ah-ha” moments. Up to this point, a lot of time has been spent on the telling of dreams, the recounting of incidents from the past, the detailing of disturbances in the present, and in finding associations between each and all of them. Linkages and explanations are given, and there is a curious dance that begins to play as the information is approached and re-approached through various functions – feeling, thinking, sensate, and intuition. It is often the inferior function that breaks the logjam. There is movement, curious realignment, a change in the way one now perceives a particular piece of one’s story. A light has been turned on, so to speak.
At that moment, the psyche has shifted and one becomes different in real terms. Over time, as various lights come on, the process of transformation seems to speed up as though the psyche is primed to peer into the dark shadows with a flashlight. With the guidance of the therapist, associations are noted. One begins to see the connections between childhood patterns in response to father and mother or other authority (who take on a father or mother symbolism in terms of power). One then learns to see present relationships in the light of what has been exposed.
But, it is not enough to just turn on the lights. Now that one has awareness one is obliged to do something with this awareness.
The dark night of the soul, this is something that is intimately known by all who suffer depression. The dark night of the soul is what we meet when we enter into midlife crisis. Each of us senses a darkness, a place of shadows from which we want to flee. This depression is not “organic,” a depression that is chemically induced. This depression and darkness appears to be something “out there,” something to which we feel we are victims. Typically, we run like hell trying to escape, trying to hide from the darkness. Drugs, sex, money, work, new places, new hobbies, redecorating our homes, a new car, a new spouse: we try anything to banish that darkness. But, the darkness refuses to be banished. This is the dark night of the soul, or at least our introduction to that darkness.
If we are like many others, we head to a doctor’s office for some pharmaceutical relief; or to a psychotherapist’s chair for some answers, some other strategies to banish the darkness. We do this only as a last resort knowing that if we don’t do something we will descend into insanity or commit suicide. It isn’t a pretty picture, but it is real.
“Alchemy announced a source of knowledge . . . which yields a “bitter” water by no means acceptable to our human judgment. It is harsh and bitter or like vinegar, for it is a bitter thing to accept the darkness and blackness of the umbra solis and to pass through this valley of the shadow. It is bitter indeed to discover behind one’s lofty ideals narrow, fanatical convictions, all the more cherished for that, and behind one’s heroic pretensions nothing but crude egotism, infantile greed, and complacency. This painful corrective is an unavoidable stage in every psychotherapeutic process . . . it begins with the nigredo . . .“ (Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, CW 14, paragraph346)
So, the pain serves as an impetus to finally do something about the pain when all other avenues prove fruitless. So, one enters into psychotherapy. However, before the work can even begin, there is a need to create a place for the work; a safe, even sacred place. Like a surgeon preparing for an operation, there is the need to build a sense of safety in the relationship as well as place. The therapist needs to become aware of the boundary limits (or lack thereof) of the person and to build a sense of trust in that person as well as to have the person enter into a trust relationship with the therapist.
As time goes by, the two begin to test each other, test the boundaries of safety. And when there is a sense of safety, the belief that the container of their relationship has become sacred in its own way, then the work may begin:
“In the early period of analysis, the primary work is the establishment of the boundary, the analytical temenos, in which the analysis is to take place.” (Hall, The Jungian Experience, p. 78)
There is real vulnerability for both therapist and the person entering into this work of depth psychology. It is as through the establishment of temenos that one becomes safe enough to strip of their psychic layers as if stripping off clothing in order to expose the wounds that have led to the therapists office.
Now to continue on with a quote from Nigel Hamilton’s study, “The Alchemical Process of Transformation“:
“From a psychological standpoint, this stage is experienced as entering a dark and chaotic unconscious inner world. St John of the Cross has referred to this as the first of two dark nights, the dark night of the mind, which is an encounter with the darker aspects of our self (that which Jung called “the shadow”). At first nothing appears to make sense, indeed all the therapist can do at this stage of the process is to be fully present and empathise with the client, who in the process of articulating their experience, facilitates it further. The therapeutic setting, i.e. the therapy room, becomes the hermetically sealed vessel and the inner chaos that the client enters into is symbolised by the reactions of opposing forces struggling against each other. That is to say the client’s own psyche reveals its submerged inner conflicts to the conscious mind.
This is what I referred to in the last post, the establishing of a place of sacred safety, of temenos. During this part of the work, the “client” tells his or her story as it is known and sensed by the ego, the clothed self, This telling is vital and it is enough for the therapist to listen and support without trying to fix anything at this point.
As the client begins to experience the inner world to be more real, the process intensifies (the fire increases) and often anger, fear, frustration, and a desire to “escape from it all” is experienced. To pass through this stage requires patience, humility and acceptance not only of the client, but also of the therapist, who through experiences knows that a process of purification is in progress and that one by one the inner conflicts will gradually become resolved until a completely new inner state of clarity and freedom is achieved. Then the client will be reconciled with his or her inner earth nature – in alchemical terms they will have united with their “earth nature.”
The therapist tracks the appearance of complexes, contradictions, images and fears through the process of working with dreams, journaling, sand play, and other active imagination strategies. For the client, it almost feels that everything is getting worse as old sores are laid open, exposed to the light. It must be stated that the process doesn’t wait for all the shadows to be exposed. The shifting to the second stage, albedo begins when the therapist and client begin to tackle what has been exposed. Only so much darkness can be held at one time.
When one is intent on getting unstuck, one has to peel away the layers that disguise the real issues. One has to approach this work or opus with honesty and not hide behind excuses like one hides behind clothing. Honesty is critical. Before I begin to talk about the first alchemical stage (the next post), I want to quote Carl Jung’s words on the the use of alchemy as a process for psychotherapy:
“Since my aim was to demonstrate the full extent to which my psychology corresponded to alchemy – or vice versa – I wanted to discover, side by side with the religious questions, what special problems of psychotherapy were treated in the work of alchemists. The main problem of medical psychotherapy is the transference. In this matter Freud and I were in complete agreement. I was able to demonstrate that alchemy, too, had something that corresponded to the transference – namely, the concept of coniunctio . . . (Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 212)
Jung published his findings in his book, Psychology and Alchemy, the 12th volume of his Collected Works. Further studies resulted in the 13th volume, Alchemical Studies; and probably (in my opinion) the most important of his work regarding alchemy, volume 14, Mysterium Coniunctionis.
“There I was concerned with the interplay between conscious and unconscious, and with the impact of the greater personality, the inner man, upon the life of every individual.
This investigation was rounded out by the Mysterium Coniunctionis, in which I once again took up the problem of the transference, but primarily followed by my original intention of representing the whole range of alchemy as a kind of psychology of alchemy, or as an alchemical basis for depth psychology. In Mysterium Coniunctionis my psychology was at last given its place in reality . . . (Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 221)
Now, with this foundation, I will attempt to bring Jung’s words and ideas to you through my lens and filters.