Tag Archives: individuation

Chuck’s Place: Black Swan—A Tragic Coming of Age

Please note: If you have not seen the movie Black Swan yet, you may not want to read this blog until after you’ve seen the movie.

A ballerina, the epitome of elegant, feminine beauty and form is swallowed up by a lethal schizophrenic process. This is the story of Black Swan.

I draw from Black Swan the archetypal underpinnings of coming of age: nature’s call to greater individuation; separation from mother; encounter with the shadow; and, in this case, a maladaptive initiation into full adulthood.

No one can successfully traverse the gateway to adulthood without a deep encounter with his or her passionate nature. With adolescence comes the rumblings and fires of our awakening sensual, passionate, and sexual natures. These are the impulses that will draw us beyond home and family into new life, new roles, and a deeper connection to our passionate selves.

Families that may have securely housed our innocence and forged our ego discipline and control can no longer provide a home for our evolving passionate natures. We must loosen the nursery tie to our families and allow ourselves to become full passionate, sexual beings, an essential part of our adult selves.

This road to passionate self is fraught with danger. Our childhood goals, or those of our parents for us, may rest upon the repression and sublimation of nature’s fires, energy channeled to forge a successful education and career. In the case of Black Swan, the goal of premier ballerina was presided over by a mother whose single focus was her daughter’s success. We must acknowledge the pressure on our fledgling ballerina of her suffocating mother parasitically stealing her daughter’s life to vicariously realize her own frozen, frustrated dreams of stardom.

All this being true, the deeper challenge is the daughter’s ambivalence about letting go of the safety of the nursery and opening to the thunderous pulsations of her own nature that will forever separate her from the security of mother’s womb. To go deeper into life she will need to cut this infantile protective cord that, at this stage of life, can only serve to entomb her in lifeless security.

We all struggle with a tie to this enticing but devouring security, symbolized by the protective mother in this film. She is the mother that welcomes our regressive turning away from the deepening challenge of life, as we fall into stages of victimhood, entitlement and depression. She soothes and numbs for the price of our spirit. We must rally the hero within ourselves to be delivered from such a regressive vortex, to take on the adventure and responsibility of discovering and integrating our whole selves.

The mother I speak of is an internal image within us all. She is the mother we constellate when fearfully confronted by life, be it in the world or within the hidden recesses of our body and soul. If our ego balks at taking on the challenge before us we activate this apparent nurturing great mother to self soothe and protect us from our fears. However, if we cling to regression, this supportive mother becomes the devouring mother who fully takes us back into the womb of depression. In fact, she becomes the death instinct itself—nature reabsorbing life energy for its own purposes, a mother consuming her child’s life. Our ontogenic imperative insists we choose life and be willing to fight for it, refusing the comfort of the regressive call. All responsibility rests with the ego. The devouring mother is not the ultimate antagonist. She is the consequence of the ego’s refusal of the call into deeper life.

Our ballerina does begin to fend off her symbiotic mother, however, largely through the onset of a schizophrenic process. Her ego cannot directly loosen its attachment to mother, however, her shadow—that is, the repressed part of herself that houses her rejected feelings, needs, and impulses—begins to assert itself by taking over her personality with aggressive acts of resistance and defiance. Her ego and shadow remain diametrically opposed, unintegrated, contributing to her fragmented, hallucinatory process.

The artistic director serves as the protagonist to allow the ballerina direct access to her sexual nature, essential to fully embodying the dance of the black swan. This challenge is deepened by the real life addition to the ballet company of a woman who is the perfect mirror of her latent, repressed, sensual self: her shadow. What ensues is a relationship part delusional and part real as our ballerina struggles to alternately merge with and fend off her shadow. Merger is expressed graphically by her hunger to sexually unite with her shadow.

Jung was clear that our shadow is always presented or symbolized by a person of our own sex, as our shadow contains qualities of self that are fully realizable in our conscious personality. In this case, the female shadow symbolizes our ballerina’s full feminine self, including her sexual and sensual self. Sexual union with her shadow is the most appropriate symbol and experience of this deeper self-connection. To merge sexually with a man without being able to unite with her sexual self will not resolve true ownership and connection to her sexual nature. An unintegrated sexual shadow is a major struggle in the sexual lives of many adults.

The psychic divide between ego and shadow broadens and is maintained by a series of psychological defenses. Our ballerina’s major defense to maintain her child ego stronghold is that of perfection. She works ruthlessly to perfect her technique. After four years in the ballet company she is the most perfect ballerina. However, her perfection cannot incorporate the spontaneous, passionate impulse of her deep nature and she falls short of the fluidity needed to dance the black swan. She fortifies her perfection with anorexia and purging as she desperately controls and holds on to her child’s body.

Even more gruesomely disturbing is her defense of body mutilation, whether it be scratching her back until it bleeds, peeling skin from her fingers until they bleed, or ultimately stabbing herself with glass. These various forms of self-mutilation serve several defensive functions. On a very primitive level, blood letting provides a release of the supposed illness in the body. In the case of our ballerina, the shadow impulse is projected upon the blood, which is released through tearing the skin.

Furthermore, the ritual act of scratching or peeling skin, leading ultimately to skin penetration and bleeding, serves as a displacement of a sexual impulse into a more acceptable form to the child ego.

The painful experience of bodily mutilation serves another defense called identification with the aggressor. Here, through bodily mutilation, she is able to both punish herself for her sexual impulses and feel the strength and power of living out the role of the repressive punitive parent.

Finally, I propose an archetypal basis for bodily mutilation present in all initiation rites of “primitive” societies. Initiation rites serve the societal and deep psychological function of ushering the initiate from childhood into adulthood. Wounding has always assumed a central role in initiation rites and shamanic journeys. The wound loosens the ego’s grip upon the familiar and the initiate is opened to a greater reality, presenting new possibilities to be incorporated into the existing sense of self. These ancient rites and journeys are also dangerous times, as initiates are subjected to energetic intensities that could easily result in “loss of soul” (schizophrenia in modern terms), or death. Hence, the caution of having elders other than the parents of the initiate overseeing and guiding is instrumental to this transformative ritual.

Our modern rational world has, unfortunately, lost its connection to these rituals, but the impulse to be initiated emerges spontaneously and misguidedly, in many cases of self-mutilation or fashionable body piercings. Through the loss of guided ritual, the modern world has required the developing ego of every individual to assume responsibility for accomplishing self-initiation. This deeper journey of initiation may be delayed, becoming instead a lifelong struggle to individuate. In fact, we may have a society of largely uninitiated adults. The far greater challenge of our time may be for the would-be initiate to defensively hold together the highly pressurized opposing energies within psyche and soma to allow for a lengthy individuation process, resulting finally in full adult initiation.

As our ballerina inches closer to opening night, her efforts to make contact with and unite with her shadow self become increasingly more dangerous and delusional. Even the moviegoer has trouble discerning which scenes are real and which are pure hallucination. Here lies, perhaps, the greatest failed defense: a full-blown schizophrenic process. I call it a failed defense because it serves to keep all the sub-personalities separate, at the cost of a central organizing factor: the ego.

The transition from late adolescence to early adulthood is one of the most vulnerable times in the life cycle for the onset of schizophrenia. The demands of adult roles, as well as the encounter with the shadow self, can shatter the personality into fragmented pieces like an earthquake creating new fault lines in the earth.

Only a conscious personality, able to loosen its hold on the child ego state, can allow nature to bring forth the deeper sensual self and make the transition into mature adulthood without serious damage. No wonder the initiation rites of yesteryear were so prominent in all societies.

In the case of our ballerina, though she completes the dance of both sides of the swan, white and black, they remain separate, unintegrated entities within herself and though the movie ends somewhat speculatively, to me, she went to her death having lived more fully in a fragmented way, but certainly not as a whole, integrated being.

Nature insists we move along the life cycle. This first major bridge, from child to adult, in coming of age, needs to be appreciated at a much deeper level in our modern world.

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,

Chuck’s Place: Magical Books

Some books simply are magical. Every time I pick up any book of Carlos Castaneda’s—books I have read dozens of times over the past forty years—I encounter new knowledge. These books are alive with an energy that takes me deeper in my journey of awareness. They inevitably lead me into heightened awareness where my clarity of knowing is unparalleled. I experience directly the intent of the seers of ancient Mexico. Carlos channeled that intent in those living books by completely removing his self-importance from their pages. He reserves his words for precise descriptions of his experiences in the seer’s world.

Recently, while rummaging through the books at the local recycling center, I came upon the big book, AA’s “bible.” Though I’ve read countless works on recovery, I never actually read this book. This book is also a living book, a magical book. Unpretentious, blue, with no outer appeal, in fact, rather anonymous looking, it nonetheless called out to me.

As I began to read through its pages, I recognized the evolutionary intent it channels. AA is the most successful mass movement for evolutionary change on earth. The guidelines of that intent are clearly spelled out in shamanic terms. For change to happen one must beckon a power beyond the ego. The ego must then open to a shamanic journey with that power to experience genuine transformation. In preparation for that journey the guidance requires a complete loss of self-importance, in fact, in AA everyone remains on a first name basis only. No one is more important than the other—there is no hierarchy. No profit is to be made from the program and no one is rejected; all are equal. (I think Senator McCarthy was barking up the wrong tree when he was seeking out the true communists in America in the nineteen-fifties!)

Furthermore, the growth of AA was predicated on the energetic law of attraction, clearly spelled out in the book, attraction versus promotion. The guidance also strongly recommends one’s individual encounter with the truth in the form of a moral inventory and making of amends. This is a version of recapitulation that enables the seeker to put down old burdens, erase the constraints of personal history, preparing the ground for freedom and transformation.

In describing the magical origins of AA, the book chronicles the role of C. G. Jung. After failing to cure one of AA’s founders, the dejected patient pressed Jung for any glimmer of hope for what to do next to heal. Jung, offering little hope to this advanced alcoholic patient and without any further guidance, suggested he might experience a transformation through a spiritual experience. “Here and there, once in a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual experiences,” Jung told him. (p. 27 in Alcoholics Anonymous Third Edition.) He did indeed go out and have a spiritual experience that channeled the path to AA, and the rest is history, as chronicled in the big book, a living viable path for transformation.

Jung himself, the son of generations of protestant ministers, was faced with the personal experience that dogma and belief could not serve the needs of his soul. As Aniela Jaffé writes in C. G. Jung Word and Image: “In his eyes, the ability to believe was a gift of grace, one which he (Jung) and many others no longer shared. That loss justified the search for new approaches to the numinous.” This was the impetus behind Jung’s suggestion to his alcoholic patient to go out and seek a spiritual experience.

Jung himself recorded his own spiritual journey in The Red Book, another magical book. In this book Jung chronicles his personal confrontation with powers greater than himself, a series of numinous experiences that ultimately paved its own path to wholeness in the form of analytical psychology. This book, like other magical books, is bereft of self-importance and hints at a means for each of us to discover our own individuation.

The common thread running through the magical books of Carlos Castaneda, AA, and C. G. Jung is that they all channel the energy of transformation and evolutionary intent, offering access to a personal spiritual transformative experience. Whether the journey happens in the shaman’s world, supported by a nagual, or in psychotherapy under the guidance of a therapist, or in “the rooms” supported by the AA community, it is only a personal experience that will lead to genuine transformation and change.

These magical books speak to our time, where the grace of dogma and belief can no longer serve the spiritual evolutionary needs of a planet in crisis, in dire need of transformation. However, to go beyond dogma and belief and truly achieve transformation each one of us must individually take the journey, and see what happens!

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,

#724 Chuck’s Place: “Seeing” with Jung: Prelude to Encounter

When the seers of ancient Mexico scanned the human body with their “seeing eye” they saw thousands of vortexes of twirling energy.* From this vantage point they discovered that we humans are physically comprised of countless individualistic energy fields functioning as an integrated unit.

Carl Jung discovered that the human psyche is similarly comprised of many complexes: segregated, individualistic sub-personalities, many of whom, though they co-exist in the psyche, remain unaware of the existence of each other. For Jung the dominant problem for modern Western civilization is its near total reliance on one complex within the psyche, that is, the ego complex. In fact, the rationally dominated modern ego complex dismisses, denies, and remains deeply alienated from the greater part of the psyche, appropriately called the unconscious. The vast majority of mental illness and world strife can be traced to this imbalanced condition within the human psyche.

The seers of ancient Mexico saw death as the unifying moment when all separate energy fields of the body become one energy. Jung discovered a method he termed individuation, that enabled the ego to embark on a journey of interaction and synthesis with all its opposing parts, to arrive at a place of psychic wholeness and equilibrium.

Jung himself undertook an intensive journey of self-discovery with his inner complexes or parts, as documented in the recently published primary source: The Red Book. Jung recorded the dialogue between his ego or conscious personality with complexes or characters within his psyche who spoke back to him autonomously with their own voices. Jung later termed this technique active imagination.

Through these dialogues, some of which were intense confrontations, Jung learned many things. He discovered that we have complexes inside our psyches that we acquire during our lifetime as well as complexes that we inherit. In his dialogues Jung spoke to figures from the Middle Ages who possessed ancient knowledge and wisdom and spoke in the vernacular of that time. From these experiences Jung determined that the unconscious was both personal and collective, of this life and beyond.

Jung also discovered that some complexes are quite powerful and can exert a strong effect on the ego. For instance, one complex with a female voice repeatedly attempted to seductively convince Jung that he was a great artist. Jung sternly refused this suggestion, stating in return that his use of art was part of his process of self-discovery. Jung realized how easy it could be for the naive, insecure ego to come under the sway of complexes with their own agendas, attempting to commandeer the ego through bolstering its self-importance. This became the basis of his understanding conditions such as psychic inflation and deflation, or in their extremes, mania and depression.

Inflation is a condition where the ego identifies with a complex, becomes greater than it truly is, and embarks on behaviors driven by the interests of the complex. In deflation the ego feels utterly diminished by an encounter with a complex, shrinking into powerlessness and depression.

Jung realized that his ego had to maintain control as he encountered these powerful complexes or sub-personalities within himself. To do this his ego had to be receptive to listening to points of view and potential truths that challenged completely his conscious attitude. He committed to honest reflection upon these views and submitted to change when he discovered his ego attitude to be limited. However, he refused to automatically accept any new truth without a scrutinous conscious processing.

Ultimately, Jung’s encounters with the perspectives of different complexes modified his personality in a new synthesis with a vastly broadened awareness. This enlarged consciousness was not an inflation, that is, an ego identification with a sub-personality. To the contrary, this new synthesis represents a reconciliation of many opposing parts of the self. The ego, in this new synthesis, accepts its relative but important place as the center of consciousness but not the center of the personality. The ego accepts its role as mediator of the greater forces of the self, with definite challenges to take on in this life. The ego acknowledges that it is not lord and master of the personality but, as a complex with consciousness, is charged with learning the truths of the self and acquiescing to the appropriate needs and expectations of the total self.

In a future blog I will explore in more detail the technique of active imagination. The necessary prerequisites to its practice are to be gleaned from Jung’s personal journey. Engaging directly the unknown self, or the unknown not-self, requires definite safety precautions.

1. The ego self must be ready to engage in dialogue with an entity or a complex within the self that is not part of the ego. Don’t underestimate how tightly the ego holds to the security of seeing itself as the whole personality. We must be ready to accept and make room for the Not I.

2. The ego must stay present and insist on consciousness remaining in control during interactions with other parts of the self. Sub-personalities are allowed a voice, but not a take-over coup of the personality.

3. The ego, with its growing knowledge and awareness, must not identify with any entity; that is, it must not see itself bigger than its humble ego self because of its ability to have contact with other entities or their influences. This would be inflation. Nor must it allow itself to turn over power and guidance of the personality to any entity, no matter how benevolent or helpful. The ego must ultimately take personal responsibility for all decisions. We are in this life to live it, grow from it, and learn from it. We are not here to turn our life over to another. This is an evasion of responsibility and ultimately a predatory arrangement, no matter who the entity is. In contrast, acquiescing to the higher power of the self, or spirit, is a decision rooted in consciousness, a decision based upon the resonance the ego feels in its encounter with spirit. This is not an evasion of responsibility but an acceptance of the appropriate ego position in relation to spirit. In simple terms, this is the ego assuming its proper role in alignment with the total personality versus going off on its own agenda or turning its life over to the control of another.

With these prerequisites in place we are ready to journey deeper into self and beyond, in interactions with infinity.

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,

* Paraphrased from Carlos Castaneda’s Magical Passes, page 91.

NOTE: Books mentioned in this blog are available in our Store.

#712 Chuck’s Place: Chuck—The Capitalist?

In a dream, I find myself working diligently on the renovation of a living room. In the center of the room is a round pool, actually the replica of a small 36″ deep pool that Jan and I put in the backyard this year. I am concerned about the cover being firmly in place, sealed, to allow the heat to be retained in the pool. Along one wall of the room I meet a man from India, studiously reading. I am aware that he is brilliant. I ask him a question. His answer goes way over my head, but I stare as if I am following him. He has advice for me: Just focus on inputting things, like into a computer. Next he tells me he appreciates the Capitalists. I am taken a bit aback and ask: “What about Gandhi, wasn’t he a God?”

“Oh yes, he replied, “he too was a God.” And then, affectionately, he puts his arm around me and talks about the history of other Capitalists, whom I’d never heard of.

I awaken, immediately recognizing the mandala in my dream: the circle of the pool in the square of the room. It was Jung who identified the mandala as the archetypal symbol of the SELF. I understood, with the appearance of the mandala, that I was being offered specific guidance about my own individuation process, that is, the completion and fulfillment of my true self in this life. But, what was I being shown?

Become a Capitalist?! I don’t think so!! Improve my computer skills? True, they are not so hot, but is that really what my deepest self wants me to work on?

As I contemplated this dream over breakfast, I appreciated the alchemical symbol of the tightly sealed pool—a container with rising heat. That is exactly the theme I wrote about last week, Bearing the Tension. Then, all of a sudden, I thought about what had preoccupied me the night before. I had opened an old file that Jeanne and I had kept from our early days in Tensegrity, back in the mid-1990s, of experiences and newsletters and publications from that time. I was struck by comments that Carlos and his female cohorts (Carol, Taisha, and Florinda) had made about don Juan’s world. They could not stress enough don Juan’s contention that the seers’ world was full of practicalities geared toward achieving definite results. They disputed any spiritual, intangible dimension to his world.

That night, I recapitulated how both the impact of the shaman’s world and Jeanne’s death had delivered me to a level of detachment that has made it impossible for me to be satisfied with the goals of an ordinary life in this world. I don’t say this from a place of self-importance; it is simply a fact, a major shift in my life. I know that I am a being who is going to die and preparation to enter that mystery is the central focus of my life. Constructs of romance and family, the things that keep us most attached to this world, though once very important have given way to a new reality. Love has deepened and become far more inclusive, appreciative of the shared journey we are all on. I attribute this shift largely to the accrual of energy previously spent on specialized attachments.

As I read through an old interview that Carlos gave to the magazine Uno Mismo, Chile and Argentine, February 1997 by Daniel Trujillo Rivas, my attention was drawn to the following question and answer:

Q: What’s the aim of you not allowing yourself to be photographed, having your voice recorded or making your biographical data known?

A: With reference to photographs and personal data, the other three disciples of don Juan and myself follow his instructions. For a shaman like don Juan, the main idea behind refraining from giving personal data is very simple. It is imperative to leave aside what he called ” personal history”. To get away from the “me” is something extremely annoying and difficult. What shamans like don Juan seek is a state of fluidity where the personal “me” does not count. He believed that an absence of photographs and biographical data affects whomever enters into this field of action in a positive though subliminal way. We are endlessly accustomed to using photographs, recordings and biographical data, all of which spring from the idea of personal importance….

For the seers of don Juan’s lineage encounters with infinity and preparation to enter it in full awareness was the central goal of their lives. To achieve this they discovered that you needed energy, plain and simple. Those seers determined that the number one waste of energy in human life is self-importance. That is why Carlos remained so anonymous, refusing both photos and recordings. In today’s world we might consider the world wide obsession with facebook as reflecting perhaps the number one drain of energy: obsession with self-importance.

As I continued to look through the old file the other evening I also came across some questions posed to the women seers, one of which drew my attention—from an interview with Florinda, Taisha and Carol by Concha Labarta from an article in Mas Alla, April 1, 1997, Spain:

Q: It seems that the key to expanding our capabilities for perception lies in the amount of energy we have at our disposal, and that the energetic condition of modern man is very meager. What would be the essential premise for storing energy? Is this possible for someone who has to take care of a family, go to work every day, and participate fully in the social world? And what about celibacy as a way of saving energy, one of the most controversial points in your books?

A: Celibacy is recommended, the old nagual told us, for the majority of us. Not for moral reasons, but because we don’t have enough energy. He made us see how the majority of us have been conceived in the midst of marital boredom. As a pragmatic sorcerer, the old nagual maintained that conception is something of final importance. He said that if the mother wasn’t able to have an orgasm at the moment of conception, the result was something he called “a bored conception.” There is no energy under such conditions. The old nagual recommended celibacy for those who have been conceived under such circumstances.

Another thing he recommended as a means of storing energy was the dissolution of patterns of behavior that lead to chaos, such as the incessant preoccupation with romantic courtship; the presentation and defense of the self in everyday life; excessive routines and, above all, the tremendous insistence on the concerns of the self.

If these points are achieved, any one of us can have the necessary energy to use time, space and the social order more intelligently.

I am struck by the thought, how many people would be willing to ask their mothers if they orgasmed when they were conceived?! I think it is fair to say that many of us were conceived outside of orgasm and did not inherit a large storehouse of energy. Tensegrity practitioners always challenge the suggestion of celibacy as a means to store energy. It is a personal choice. But the women seers do suggest other practices to revamp and accrue energy, namely, recapitulation, freeing oneself from incessant patterns i.e. groundhog days, whether they be romantic preoccupations or otherwise, and elimination of self-importance.

Finally, back to my dream. It suddenly dawned on me that my deepest self was urging me to continue to input energy into my pool. That is, to contain it, store it, and let it accrue. My Indian guru guide encouraged me to become a Capitalist—the ultimate symbol of the energy miser: he who amasses vast sums of money (energy) for himself. The practices of the seers’ world are all geared to the very pragmatic goal of retrieving and storing one’s vital energy toward the ultimate goal of taking the definitive journey in infinity as an energetic being in full awareness.

My Indian guru is encouraging me to continue to input, that is, to store my energy. This is the path to my fulfillment, completion, and INTENT to enter the mystery fully prepared. I am simply blown away by the continual juxtaposition of Carl Jung’s and don Juan’s guidance in my life, both in dreams and waking dreams.

P.S.: I walked in the door from work and Jan greeted me with an anxious: “We have a serious issue to address.” A call had just come in from Citibank. Apparently, a suspicious donation to an Indian mission of some 299,000 Rupees had been charged to our credit card. I immediately called a Citibank service representative. I spoke to Rajeesh, I suspect a highly educated Indian of advanced computer skills, working from India for an outsourced division of Citibank. He calmly and warmly reassured me, as if he had his arm around me, that this matter would be straightened out, at no charge… Such is the humor of the synchronistic universe we live in!

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,

#663 Chuck’s Place: The Hen, the Egg & the Golden Psyche

The alchemists, like the ancient Chinese sages who created The I Ching, studied nature to discover the fundamental process at the heart of transformation. They focused on the hen and the egg. Within the egg lies a composition of primordial liquid. Encapsulating this liquid is a tough boundary, a shell. Sitting upon the egg and providing the heat for transformation rests the hen. Thus, the combination of these three elements —prima materia, a sealed container, and heat— yields a transformation of life from liquid prima materia to a solid living chick.

Modeled upon these principles, the alchemists set up their personal laboratories in an attempt to transform prima materia into gold. Jung discovered that the procedures and findings of the alchemists mirrored his own discoveries of the inner workings of the human psyche in its quest for wholeness.

In his own research, through psychotherapy, Jung discovered that the boundaries of the human psyche far exceed that which our conscious personality is aware of. In fact, he discovered that most of what we truly are is largely unknown or unconscious to us. What we know inside ourselves as I, is but one fragment, albeit important (!), of a much greater whole. For Jung, the major purpose in human life is to seek and unify our fragments, to become whole in a complete sense; joining known and unknown parts in a process he termed individuation. Individuation is the alchemical equivalent of creating the gold and, like alchemy, has the psychic equivalence of prima materia in the form of fragments, a sealed container in the form of a clearly defined psyche with boundaries, and heat, which is generated through the containment and amalgamation of one’s fragments into a unified whole. The heat is the intense emotional pressure generated through containing the oppositions inherent in our fragments. Individuation is the outcome of this transformative process where these fragments peacefully coalesce into a unified whole in full consciousness.

The first step in the process is to know our parts. What are they?! Where are they?! The part we know the best is our ego self. It consists of consciousness, attitudes, beliefs, skills, and psychic functions that come most naturally to us, and that we find most acceptable to the world. Then there are those parts of us, those tricksterish parts —feelings, thoughts— so unacceptable to our egos and the outside world that we repress them into the shadow, the darkness within. Then there is our deeply instinctual self —sexual and aggressive energies— that, in our highly refined, civilized self may remain deeply inaccessible to our conscious life. Beyond this, we house the burdens of our families and ancestors and the traits of our genetic line, as well as the archetypal patterns common to the entire human race, at its core. All these parts, many of which we are completely unaware of, exist and influence our moods, thoughts, actions, and reactions in daily life.

Then, of course, there is the multitude of projected aspects of our self, lodged in people, places, and things in the outside world to which we are fully unaware. The first challenge of individuation is to sift through the prima materia, to collect and own the elements of the self, both within and without. We must distinguish the I from the Not I if we are ever to arrive at the boundary of the self, which is our psychic container, our egg, our hermetic vessel.

As we develop the moral courage and psychic stamina to take ownership of our parts, however shameful, frightening, fragile, or unacceptable they may be, we contain them within and clearly define the circle around the self. This is the process of sifting through the prima materia as we withdraw our projections and shed light upon our shadow, holding firmly to what is truly ours. In the process, we may discover “alien parts” that have found their way into our psychic structures, clearly not I. These may be the archetypes, which have so much energy that they can burst through our boundaries and take possession of our egos. These represent forces that we can and must interact with, be schooled and nourished by. However, we must clearly not allow them to take up residence within the boundaries of the self, as they are liable to create distorted ideas of who we are, or create compulsions that we cannot understand, or terrify us with frightening thoughts and images.

In honor of the Lenten season, I refer here to the process Christ underwent in the desert, drawing his line or circle in the sand, casting out the devils, the Not I, from the boundaries of his Self. The shamans teach a magical pass called the lifesaving pass where you stand with feet shoulder width apart, arms extended straight down at a forty-five degree angle away from the body, and swinging from side to side, with hips remaining facing front, allow the upper torso and arms to swing back and forth in a circular motion, using the downward pointed hands to carve a complete circle around the self, which seals in one’s energy. One can also create a circle by sitting calmly on the floor or the ground and make a circle around the body with whatever seems resonant. Within that circle bring objects that symbolize all the known parts of the self, including the most contentious. Representations of compulsions, emotions, beliefs about the self that do not belong within the self should be cast outside of the circle. One might include as well a candle within the circle, representing both the heat and the light of consciousness, which sits like mother hen upon her egg. The psyche itself presents images of circles in dreaming to indicate prima materia that should be included within the boundaries of the self for our contemplation. Watch for those discarded pennies in the streets of your dreams!

The containment function of our hermetic vessel is completed with a seal, a hermetic seal. We seal our psyche by holding onto our parts in full awareness, despite, at times, our excruciating discomfort with the emotions they might generate, such as deep sadness, shame, rage, hate, and, yes, even love. Love often escapes our hermetic seal in a projection of weekend blissful love, spent upon our newly discovered god/goddess, only to have us wake up Monday morning, once again disappointed and deeply disillusioned. We might have been better served containing this energy, which seeks unification within the psyche, in our internal alchemical process of transformation, resulting in deeper self-love.

The containment of the powerful emotions of our opposing parts seek to burst apart the container through the outlets of projection, distraction, acting out, and general self-delusionment. The ability to hold the truths, with all their energies within, is the key here. Let us appreciate the patience of the hen sitting calmly upon her egg.

Finally, the heat. The heat is generated by our ability to keep the container sealed, following the guidance of mother hen. To accept and retain the unacceptable in the self, perhaps choosing not to open another kind of bottle to soothe the tension within, or perhaps to decide not to gossip with a friend about an “unacceptable other,” is to remain calm and patient, presiding over and containing within the facts and energies of the self. This process of bearing the tensions of those inner oppositions results, and here is the magic, in the transformation of our inner fragments into psychic gold.

And what might that gold look and feel like?: True self acceptance, calmness, compassion, removal of another veil as the crutch of another illusion is dismissed, a deeper alignment with and knowing of the true self, and the readiness to enter a relationship from a position of wholeness. This hermetic transformation is the birth of the chick, the inner child of innocence, freed of the tensions of the old oppositions, ready to enter new life.

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,