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The story of this split from nature is not new. It is in fact embedded in the mythology of western culture. The biblical story of the Garden of Eden lays out a devastating tale of loss. That in the rise to consciousness – the eating of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”, there is the loss of our innocence along with the simultaneous loss of our real relationship to the natural world – the garden.
Yet we cannot go back to a time before the “eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”. We cannot go back to a time before the evolution of modern consciousness. Dreams can help us though to begin the journey back to remembering this lost innocence and grace and how to bring that deeper consciousness back into our modern world.
That journey back will not be without pitfalls. We have for the most part erased from our conscious minds these parts of ourselves. The traumatic nature of our human history has locked in this split, locked in this denial of innocence and grace in our culture and in our psyches.
Carl Jung himself, who was one of the most brilliant of not just psychologists but also philosophers, was so scared of speaking of his own personal experience of this split that he hid the book that was his most important life’s work. In reference to the Red Book he stated: “All my works, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies and dreams.” And yet this book like so much else in our history was forgotten, hidden from public view until almost a hundred years after he wrote it.
Jung began this fascinating and psychotic journey into his own psyche with a conversation/argument between the two voices of this split – between the “spirit of the depths”, referencing the depths of our inner consciousness and the “spirit of the times” in reference to our conscious minds and lives.
“But the spirit of the depths spoke to me and said: “To understand a thing is a bridge and possibility of returning to the path. But to explain a matter is arbitrary and sometimes even murder. Have you counted the murderers among the scholars?”
For Jung, the spirit of the depths is the path of returning, an experiential “understanding” and returning to the depths of ourselves. He contrasts this to the realm of the conscious mind which would “explain a matter” and in doing so “murder” it. He argues against the scholars who would “explain” the psyche from the perspective of the conscious mind and makes the case throughout the Red Book that this returning is a personal path that needs to be experienced, that needs to create a “bridge” between our conscious mind and the spirit of our own depths.
How we make that bridge, how we find this path back to the spirit of the depths is what I hope that we will learn here together. Jung himself leaves the path completely unfinished in the Red Book (for more discussion of this see “Finding Love in the Desert”). In doing so he offers us all an invitation to find our own way.
In reference to this Jung says:
“If you do not acknowledge your yearning, then you do not follow yourself but go on foreign ways that others have indicated to you. So you do not live your life but an alien one. But who should live your life if you do not live it? It is not only stupid to exchange your own life for an alien one, but also a hypocritical game, because you can never really live the life of others, you can only pretend to do it, deceiving the other and yourself since you can only live your own life.
There is a reason for the intensity that Jung brings to this issue. He was adamant that this path had to be found within you. He began writing the Red Book at the time of his break with Freud whom he disagreed with profoundly on this issue. Jung did not want any of us to be his followers. Instead of seeking acknowledgment for himself he honored each of us: “you yourselves are the fertile acre which bears everything that avails you”.
It is worth reading the larger quote about this from the Red Book:
“Believe me: It is no teaching and no instruction that I give you. On what basis should I presume to teach you. I give you news of the way of this man, but not of your own way. My path is not your path therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life.
Woe betide those who live by way of examples! Life is not with them. If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself. So live yourselves.
The signposts have fallen, unblazed trails lie before us. Do not be greedy to gobble up the fruits of foreign fields. Do you not know that you yourselves are the fertile acre which bears everything that avails you.
Yet who today knows this? Who knows the way to the eternally fruitful climes of the soul? You seek the way through mere appearances, you study books and give ear to all kinds of opinion. What good is all that? There is only one way and that is your way.”
I love these passages from the Red Book. For me they speak beautifully about grace – “Give humanity dignity, and trust that life will find the better way.” A little further on Jung speaks to the relationship between this individuation and community – “May each one seek out his own way. The way leads to mutual love in community.” All of this speaks to the need to find truth within ourselves, to find that inner consciousness that I have received through my dreams and that comes in various traditions that understand this inner world.
I share these quotes with you because these passages touch my own yearning to find not just my path but also to share that journey with you. I have found through my years working my dreams that having what Jung describes as a “fellowship” has made all the difference. It is one of the contradictions of the work that it is such a personal inner process and yet we all seem to need a hand to stay on that path through the more challenging moments on the way.
My hope is that this book will be an extension of Jung’s invitation. That through it I will continue to find my own path and that in sharing this work and the work of others we will find “mutual love in community”.