Inwardness: the inner path in the work of Carl Jung

It has been 101 years since Carl Jung wrote Symbols of Transformation. This work is now in the US Public Domain, and available on-line for all to read freely. It makes sense that our reading of Carl Jung should also occur in the public domain, so that an understanding can deepen and develop through conversation and community.

Life has shifted quite a bit in 101 years. In this time some things have changed and some have stayed constant. One thing that has changed is there is now a greater availability of ideas and perspectives. Western civilization has become more multicultural, and such a change brings with it a multiplicity of viewpoints and religions. Christianity is no longer dominant; instead, we see a variety of beliefs, mixing and melting together.

The Internet, too, has brought some shifts. One can go to and find a plethora of ancient texts, Sūtras, tantras. The sacred teachings are offered in the public domain for anyone who is open and ready to read. The availability of these various teachings has created the possibility of a shift in perspective: what was once hidden is now in plain view, open to everyone without initiation, or guru, or fee. If we are open, and put in the labor and struggle, we can come to know the hidden: discovering the depth and perspective of many planes and many dimensions.

Such an understanding is not bound to history, or time, or place. What is now available to the collective, has always been available. To know the hidden, texts are not necessary. All one has to do is sit down, shut ones eyes and turn the mind toward the mind; in time the hidden will show itself. The shamans know this, the Hindu yogis know this, the Buddhists, the Christian mystics, the Sufis all know this.

The process of introversion brings with it transformation. Most people avoid such transformation, seeking instead to find solace in entertainment and distraction. The Western worldview is one of extroversion. There is a subtle imperative to look only to the outside written into the Western discourse. It is also an old Christian imperative: God is known only through the church. Truth is known only through figures of authority. We are schooled in such an imperative; it is ‘adaptive.’ We are also lured into seeking pleasure in the world of objects.

We find this view in the psychoanalytic discourse of Sigmund Freud. Libido must seek an object. Neurosis develops when Libido turns back in upon itself. Theorists at that time saw a relationship between mental illness and the introversion of libido. Jung begins Symbols of Transformation with an attempt to express this viewpoint. At the beginning of section III, Jung says:

“We know from psychopathology that there is a certain mental disturbance which is initiated by the patient’s shutting out reality more and more and sinking into his fantasies, with the result that as reality loses its hold, the determining power of the inner world increases. This process leads up to a climax when the patient suddenly becomes more or less conscious of his dissociation from reality: in a sort of panic he begins making pathological efforts to get back to his environment. These attempts spring from the compensating desire for re-association and seem to be the psychological rule, valid not only for pathological cases but also, to a lesser degree, for normal people.”

In this passage Jung sets forth one point of view. But his writing employs a dialectical style. Jung often begins his reasoning process by making an argument common to his era, then shifts to a different perspective, opening a new horizon and space for thinking. Here Jung begins with a premise common to his era, that introversion may cause mental disease. By beginning with this perspective Jung will employ a dialectal method in which he takes us to the next viewpoint: that introversion is associated with mystical symbolism. And finally a synthesis: that religious symbols are associated with psychic life.

Jung’s weaving is a movement between the psychological and spiritual. While psychology as a field seeks a clinical understanding of the psyche, Jung’s work goes deeper into the religious dimensions of the psyche. Jung had an extensive intellectual background in theology and philosophy. He was gifted at not only clinical practice, but also in the art of hermeneutics.

This dual awareness gave Jung a binocular vision. He was able to work clinically, and also hold a wider perspective on human nature. With this, Jung was able to perceive psychic truths that were complex, dialectical, enigmatic, and thus, not always available to those limited to a monocular vision.

While it may be true from a clinical perspective that introversion is sometimes correlated with mental illness, we gain from Jung’s larger perspective that correlation does not mean causation. That is, just because introversion is associated with mental illness it does not mean it is the cause.

It is my hope that many have now come to this understanding. Think of the logical conclusions of the prejudiced viewpoint which would correlate introversion and mental illness. To say that introversion is the cause of mental illness is to say that the practices of Native Americans, Buddhists, Hindu yogis, Christians mystics all lead to mental illness. This seems more prejudicial than accurate.

In the 101 years since Jung wrote Symbols of Transformation, Western civilization has become a more multicultural environment, with a multiplicity of viewpoints and religions. Jung’s writings help us to overcome a prejudicial point of view. By starting with this conservative point of view, Carl Jung slowly deconstructs the conservative Christian imperative that had crept into both Western civilization and the field of psychology.

Christianity, with its mandate for extroversion is no longer the dominant religion. We now have hundreds of thousands of people endeavoring into spiritual and religious practices such as meditation and contemplation. Such practices endeavor into introversion with few ill effects.

In the few people who do have ill effects, spiritual teachers are often wise enough to refer the individual to a credentialed counselor or psychologist. Society seems to be heading toward an understanding that introversion is the domain of religious contemplation and mysticism. The process of introversion is vital to many of the more mystical spiritual paths, which put an emphasis on an inner life. Psychology should enter the spiritual domain only insofar as it is works with the psychological disorders associated with spiritual life, and not when it constrains personal freedom or forecloses personal possibility. We must allow for freedom of religion and religious practices, without prematurely and with prejudice associating them with disorder.

Jung’s work, Symbols of Transformation, set the stage for this more open and accepting view of diverse religious and spiritual practices within Western culture. This shift in perspective has now been fully integrated to the point where mindfulness and meditation are a growing part of clinical psychology.

With this opening to the diversity of spiritual beliefs and practices, Jung also set the stage for a shift in consciousness. In particular, he set the stage for a shift in the way that the collective consciousness views the unconscious. The deeper truth latent in Carl Jung’s work has yet to be fully realized. This latent truth is evident within the dialectal synthesis Jung offers, but it requires that we go further, deeper into Jung’s work. Call it the next stage in a collective development if you will.

To read Jung is to view psychic life from various perspectives. We go beyond dialectal thought– into a multiplicity. Through such multiplicity we gain a view of the whole. Through a kaleidoscope of perspectives and dialectical ponderings, we come closer to a realization: that religious deities and arcana are not transcendent to life, but immanent to psychic life– to the self.  No wonder we were afraid of going mad. This is not an easy realization for a fragile psyche to bear.

Western civilization is not adequately prepared for this realization. For much of our long history we have been under some form or another of a ‘Lord.’ Due to our feudal roots, we seem quite comfortable giving over our authority and power to someone else. The inner path, the path of Self-realization, demands that we realize our self, or should I say the Self, as sovereign–at least in spiritual terms. There is not much guidance in the Western tradition for such a path. Many who seek this realization turn to Buddhism or Hinduism. These traditions offer the most direct approach to Self-realization. Yet, taken alone they lack some of the insight of the Western psychological tradition into the nature of psychic life.

Jung is a wonderful guide in this regard. For example, in Symbols of Transformations Jung provides insight into the difference between the literal and symbolic. He says:

“As most people know, one of the basic principles of analytical psychology is that dream-images are to be understood symbolically; that is to say, one must not take them literally, but must surmise a hidden meaning in them.” (para. 4)

And again later, he says:

“The conscious fantasy may be woven of mythological or any other material; it should not be taken literally, but must be interpreted according to its meaning.” (para. 44)

One the path of Self-realization, it is wise if we are able to recognize the difference between the literal and the symbolic. If not then our relationship to spiritual images and symbols will most likely be distorted. This may be one reason Western civilization has feared introversion. The philosophical systems had not yet clarified the difference between that which is literal and that which is symbolic.

Although it has changed quite a bit in 101 years, Western civilization is still steeped in projection and projective identification. Such identification blurs the lines between the literal and symbolic. It was not until the philosophy of Husserl and his “phenomenological reduction” that we really began to understand the nature of our projective ‘reality’.

Now that such concepts and realizations have entered into the social discourse we are more prepared to explore the inner world, and soul life, without literalizing the symbolic. At the most basic level this means that the images of the self are to remain within the realms of the self, and not to be projected onto world around us. To imagine or dream of an angel is a symbolic encounter, and in Jungian terms, it should not be taken literally. It is an image of the self, for the self.

Jung elucidates the difference between the literal and symbolic through a contemplation of the ancient idea of dreams. In the second chapter, Jung speaks of “significant and prophetic dreams, of warning dreams and of healing dreams” (para. 5).

Prophetic dreams were once believed to be sent by literal beings: “According to the old belief, a god or demon spoke to the sleeper in symbolic language, and the dream-interpreter had to solve the riddle” (para. 6) Some people are still compelled to literalize the symbolic and believe that they are speaking to an actual, outer being. Jung is calling for a withdrawal of such projections. The god or demon is no longer seen as outside of us, as literal and actual. Instead we are to take the dream content as symbolic, expressing a hidden, inner meaning. Gods and demons emanate from within the human psyche, from within in the self. It is the awareness of the self that dissolves such illusion. This is an essential insight in the process of Self-realization.





57 thoughts on “Inwardness: the inner path in the work of Carl Jung

  1. Jenna,

    It is remarkable how much you cover here. It took me a very long time to even realize that I am an introvert through and through. Reading this text becomes part of our spiritual experience. Thanks for helping me to see that,


  2. I should add that the text I referred to in my earlier comment is Jung’s Symbols of Transformation. I look forward to start rereading it from the beginning.

  3. Jenna,

    you are right in saying there are no easy answers. We are barely conscious, and are like baby chicks still inside our shells being warmed by our mother’s body and feeding off the yoke that her body has provided, questioning whether there is awareness beyond the darkness that meets our unseeing eyes.

    We will all need to make major shifts in our perspectives before clarity emerges. Our human history is only taking its fledgling steps into consciousness, having just been born, or should I say re-born, and we have far to go before we can even think of ourselves as conscious (awake) by even human standards, leaving entirely aside the virtually incomprehensible task of becoming aware in terms of the full immanence of our being . :-)

  4. Paul,
    Indeed, Symbols of Transformation is a text about inner spiritual life. It is a guide for those on the mystical inner path.

  5. Yes David, we are indeed ‘like baby chicks still inside our shells.’

    Sometimes I like to feel the space around me, this space we call world. It is then that I notice the qualities of world. On one level it is fixed and solid; on another, transparent and ephemeral. To feel the transparency is to realize the womb-like nature of being: birth of soul juxtaposed with the fleeting nature of body.

  6. Jenna…
    You have set the stage beautifully with ”Inwardness”! I appreciate your taking time to clarify perspectives and to set good foundations.I also really enjoyed your comments concerning introversion.Introversion by no means implies mental illness,but rather,does suggest an inherent need to ”turn inward” to heal.Again,as Jung stated: …”The unrelated human being can achieve wholeness only through the Soul.” Soul is located within depth rather than at the evening party.
    You mentioned that today those who take up religious/spiritual practices ”endeavor into introversion with few ill effects”.That’s very true and it’s now also a very necessary individual & collective endeavor.Still,I’d agree with David here that we’re ”barely conscious” and like ”baby chicks”.In describing Insight Meditation and Buddhist tradition Jack Kornfield describes 2 necessary paths and realms…the ”Realm of Absorption”(..expanding the self/consciousness) and the ”Realm of Dissolution”(…death and rebirth).From the Buddhist,shamanic and other perspectives,the completion of one realm automatically leads to the opening of the other.For the Buddhists the Realm of Dissolution equates with the Dark Night of the Soul.So,at this point introversion does imply serious ill effects…very serious.Even so,there’s more than a little good news here.First,one won’t likely reach this more difficult region without decades of intense inner work.Second,as David pointed out yesterday,the person approaching his/her destiny(..encounter with the Self)will have more than enough divine/numinous help and protection to carry on successfully.The mythic and mystic records are full of this wisdom.
    At such a time as ours I’m sure Jung would agree that the mysterious ground between the immanent and transcendent would be beautifully represented by the symbolism of the ”Balsamic Moon”.This mystic/shaman’s moon appears dark & barren but is also most proximate to the approaching New Moon light.It doesn’t appear that much is happening within the stark landscape of winter either but inside the chrysalis of Earth the new seed is being prepared.The Treasure is within the Ruins just as the Lapis is within the heart of Lead.
    P.S. When you complete this wonderful writing could we each buy a signed copy? In other words,I’d sure encourage you to publish!

  7. Rob Two-Hawks,
    If I ever publish my essays in book form, you will not have to ‘buy’ a copy. For you are already weaving your insights into the form and content of my thought!

    Your insight and illustration through the narrative of the moon is a wonderful. Thank you.

  8. Rob Two-Hawks,

    I appreciate your considering my thoughts characterizing the state of human consciousness as being like baby chicks still inside their shells in your 11/24 comment to Jenna on introversion, but you seemed to have used my characterization to support a belief that ” introversion implies serious ill effects…very serious.” I’m not certain how you made that connection.

    I’ll leave it to Jenna to clarify as she believes necessary her thoughts on the merits and demerits of both introversion and extroversion. My own understanding of Jung’s position on the two types is that he thought of them as being on a continuum, with no one wholly introverted or extroverted, but leaning more or less toward one end of the spectrum or the other, and that the two classifications denoted an orientation on how we tend to interact with the world. But this is beside the point.

    I think none of us here is concerned with whether someone is introverted or extroverted, but rather that all who take up the pursuit of truth and seeing things clearly (as they actually are) having the tools and means to achieve their goal. Clearly, Jung believed the process of individuation was hands-down one of the most important tools that any of us could have in our tool bag, if not the most important tool. The question then becomes how do we, individually, best individuate.

    This is where I tend to agree with Jenna, but I would probably replace introversion with introspection. Introspection is something we all do, whether introvert or extrovert, though granted (being an introvert myself) introverts probably have a little easier go at it. We are more naturally comfortable with turning our gaze inwardly and contemplating the ups and downs of our being. And this is what is needed.

    We are chicks still inside our shells with unseeing eyes projecting everything imaginable onto the world. We need to sort through our projections and somehow determine which are valid and which are bogus. This is the part that’s not easy. Most of us would rather go to a movie instead, whether introverted or extroverted. Or go out for pizza. :-)

  9. David…
    Once again.your comments are very appreciated & I’ll do my best here to clear-up some confusion.First,let me say that I’m highly introverted myself.Originally,that was due to major trauma.For the last 20 years it has been by conscious choice.Like you,I agree that introversion & extroversion exist on a necessary continuum.Each has it’s proper role and useful timing.Clearly,I do not favor one over the other.Either one when taken to extremes can generate problems.And,as I pointed out,even those problems can be successfully resolved.When I was speaking of possible ”ill effects” from introversion I was referring to extreme and long-term introversion.The same would apply to excessive extroversion but in other ways.
    David,as you said,the pursuit of the truth and how best to individuate is the whole point.Jung’s long & difficult meditation on the Book of Job is offers good context on what I was trying to offer.In Volume 9 of the CW he wrote:
    ”But the man who is inwardly great will know that the long expected friend of his soul,the immortal one,has now really come to lead captivity captive.(Ephesians 4:8),that is,to seize hold of him by whom this immortal had always been confined and held prisoner,and to make his life flow into that greater life-a moment of the DEADLIEST PERIL”
    Just a few days before his death Jung was interviewed and asked about his conception of God.He replied:
    ”To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my path violently & recklessly.all things which upset my subjective views,plans & intentions,and change the course of my life for better or worse.”
    David,it is within this light that I offered my comments.The encounter with Self could be seen as a ”very extreme introverted experience”,with both ill & glorious effects.And,of course,it is said to be worth every effort and difficulty.We shall see.

  10. Indeed, we shall see, Rob. I like your point of view here and in your other thoughts I’ve been privileged to read on Jenna’s blog. I feel privileged to be here, sharing with the band of seekers gathered here. May it continue to be a high and fruitful journey. :-)


  11. I’m really looking forward to your future posts. This and others have been very rewarding, thank you so much for doing this.

  12. David…
    I have definitely appreciated your comments and p.o.v. as well.And like you,I feel very privileged to be here.Originally,I didn’t intend to comment so often & at such length.That may have been compensatory as I have some doubts that I’ll be able to continue long with this ”band of seekers”.The fact is that I’m quite deep as we speak.I’m intensely introverted and exhausted upon every level.Deep thought and considered writing are difficult now when it often takes 5 trips to the fridge to remember what I was after.”Introversion” within aspects of the dark night and adrenal exhaustion demand much and the instinctual focus remains on endurance and essential survival.
    A fine healer I’m working with jokes about the memory problems I’m having.He put it like this: …”At this level of extreme fatigue the body/mind resorts to a very primal survival mode.The expenditure of any unnecessary energy is quickly & powerfully short-circuited.The short-term memory will really wobble,sometimes to the point you where might feel you’re losing-it or unable to carry on for long inside basic conversations.What you grab from the fridge isn’t that key to your survival but knowing that fire burns may be.So relax,go with it and it’ll pass.”
    And so it has been.For 2 years now I haven’t been able to read a simple book.I used to write them.I can understand but can’t stay with it due to the short-term handicap.Just 4 pages into it I’ll forget much of the other three.So,thanks to you and the others for bearing with me and the tedious nature of some of what I’ve written.That’s not my ”normal”.I’m not sure how much of CW5 I’ll be able to digest at a time.Nevertheless,I’ll be able to follow Jenna’s new posts(…after several readings..ha) and the great comments.Thanks so much for bearing with me and I sure hope I can continue with this wonderful group exploration.I don’t mean to make this so personal but felt some explanation might provide a better context for where my comments have been coming from.

  13. Thanks for sharing what’s happening with you, Rob. A teacher I once had always used to tell us, “take care of yourself first,” and also, “give only from your overflow.” This kind of talk was foreign to me at the time. I was brought up to do the opposite–give to others first. But over time I came to see the wisdom in that teacher’s words. Basically, it is no different than what they tell you on airplanes before each flight, “secure your own oxygen mask before you attempt to secure your traveling companion’s.” The rationale is clear: if you don’t survive you won’t be there to save your companion’s life. So you take care of yourself first, Rob.

    Posting to Jenna’s blog and mixing up with everyone is fun, and I love it but the real work is done offline, inside. Our little ego-conscious selves are barely conscious, so we are not losing so much when their memories become impaired. That immanent reality that Jung called the Self does the real heavy lifting, and it is on duty 24/7. It will not fail to bring us all to the wholeness we already are. Stay strong and be in good health, my friend, always. Chime in whenever that feels right. :-)

  14. David…
    Your response has brought a smile at a most difficult time.Thank you! You appear to have been graced with some very wise teachers.You also appear to have polished your own apple to a very fine shine.I was brought up with a similar work/service ethic.Beyond that,I’ve had to fight to stay afloat much of this life.Those are just the qualities needed for a long,difficult ”inner trek” as well…but when it comes to Surrender,they can prove quite the challenge.The dark night is teaching it’s many lessons of release as it inexorably does.
    As you said,the real work is offline & inside and the Self does the heavy lifting.Meanwhile,being at the far side of the ego-Self axis feels like being on the outside rim of the solar system.It is the feeling/experience of total alienation from the Holy and all else.The full necessity of that,of course,is in generating the growing awareness(even at the level of blood & bone)that we are nothing without the Self.After years of seeking we may have entered the temple but without a fire in the sanctuary even that becomes meaningless.For 20 years I intimately knew the embrace of the Soul and never had a lonely moment.Ego collapse before Self embrace is a different matter and a different Beloved.Each day I spend intervals trying to convince myself that the Self is and will be there just as the Soul once was.Your words have served as just the beautiful reminder of that which I needed today.Thanks for being an appropriate clear mirror! Thank you for your humanity…

  15. The inner path is the descending path, into the depths of the Unconscious and the deep deep of eternity. This deeper understanding of the “latent truth of Jung’s work” and bringing about a shift of consciousness can be approached and applied morally and philosophically. For me, the most important philosophical consideration in a deeper understanding of Jung’s work is in dialectic with existential nihilism. (Nietzsche)believed we could–at a terrible price–eventually work through nihilism. If we survived the process of destroying all interpretations of the world, we could then perhaps discover the correct course for humankind:
    I praise, I do not reproach, [nihilism’s] arrival. I believe it is one of the greatest crises, a moment of the deepest self-reflection of humanity. Whether man recovers from it, whether he becomes master of this crisis, is a question of his strength. It is possible. . . . (Complete Works Vol. 13) May we cultivate strength thru good courage.
    Looking at the state of what our world is becoming is ample evidence of the triumph of nihilism. With what other great dialectics is nihilism in motion? I would suggest one is … the heart of the religion of messiah. “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” The moral imperative, the true imperative, the symbolic imperative must be to become gracious unto holiness even as we descend. Perhaps this descent is the destruction of all interpretations of the world to bring forth what?… a new creation? Whatever the end result, may this inward journey of the soul be written in the language of love!

  16. Rob Two-Hawks, David, Gary,

    I am enjoying your conversation. It touches me deeply: the compassion, the brilliance, the symbolic transformations. To me, you are lovely beings. Experiencing the manner in which you are able to conceptualize complex psycho-spiritual truths I feel inspired to dive deeper in my writing into the self, into love, into the mystical nature of being human.

  17. Welcome Japhy,

    Thank you for reading. Please feel free to join us in a conversation on Jung’s work.

  18. Jenna…
    It is definitely a ”mutual inspiration” and your Soul-felt kindness,commitment and knowledge here is truly touching us all.Thanks again for offering this opportunity for fellow travelers thirsting for the Self,for communion and for deeper meaning!

  19. I’m a nihilist because if you could ask Jung or any of Jung’s followers what an archetype is they would tell you that an archetype is a primordial pattern in the fabric of being that impacts the psyche or they would provide some comparable response as this. If you ask them what is the fabric of being (or its cognate) made of, they won’t be able to give you a responsive answer. No one can. Not a single individual anywhere in the universe can tell you what the universe is made of. All the responses they give (if they are not nihilists) will be of the type: God created the universe out of nothing: some guys stacked up some elephants…; or the big bang exploded the universe into being [out of nothing]. Only nihilists will give you an honest and responsive answer: the universe is not made of anything; it’s not real.

    Many people will tell you that this is a bad thing. This would mean that the universe doesn’t have any intrinsic value, no inherent moral restrictions. Everyone would be free to do whatever they want.

    Well, yes, yes, and yes. The universe doesn’t have any intrinsic value. The only value it has is the value we individually and collective give to it. There are no inherent moral restrictions. The only moral restrictions it has are the moral restrictions we individually and collectively impute to it. And of course, we already know we are all free to do whatever we want to do.

    One good thing about nothing being real is that you can always stop doing whatever you’re doing and do something else. You can stretch forth your hand and heal yourself. Tell a mountain to remove itself into the sea. Think and grow rich. Become a woman if you are a man and want to become a woman, or the reverse if you are a woman. Anything. Everything is up to us.

    As I wrote in a previous comment, we are as unborn chicks still in our shells. Everything we are doing to, for, and against ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones are reactions to unconscious projections we have been making since the dawn of our species which we thought were based in reality. But they are not, and we can start responding more intelligently and appropriately to our projections.

    By the way, we have all the time that we need. In an unreal universe where not even time is real, there is nothing that can get to us to cause us any real harm. We are hid in the breast of God as it were. :-)

  20. I just read what I wrote last night, and I don’t like the tone of it. I believe pretty much what I said, but I know it is not necessary to said it in such an abrasive, in your face style.I apologize and want to do better in the future. :-)


  21. Hi David. I’m confused a little. As a nihilist are YOU real, even if the universe is not? If so, how is this not solipsism?

  22. Hi Jenna, I’m still impressed with the feeling that we are engaged with powerful and primordial forces. But instead of children playing with Promethian fire, we are adults trying to use the cognitive tools of thousands of years of evolution to experience directly the transformative power and religious symbolism of elan vital. Seeking for divine love and the joy that feels as being drunk with fire. I believe we are going into this journey with the good courage of seriousness, open eyed and open hearted, knowing that there are elements of hardship, negativity, absolute evil, Eros, suffering. But that it is worth the risk, any risk, to live out one’s life story and be true to one’s best self and be faithful and true to a calling. Wherever this journey inward takes us, individually and collectively, I’m thankful and consider it a blessing.

  23. Hi David. I don’t believe you need to apologize, but only if you want. I didn’t feel it was in my face. I felt it was honest, from the heart, soul felt. I have a deep affinity with nihilism too, so I can take what I think that you were trying to say. Nietzsche said that there is “a terrible price” to working through nihilism. I’m only minutely aware of that price, but I believe it to be as real as the Self, as real as the shadow, as real as the love of God in Christ Jesus.

  24. Thanks, Gary, I appreciate your words. My words were not directed you specifically, but to anyone who might want to defend their view of the real universe. I guess you’re kind of doing that with your “real as the Self, as real as the shadow, as real as the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Without drawing a line in the sand, I would want to know better what you mean by “real.” By what characteristics are we to know real as you are using it?

  25. I’m not real. Nothing is real. Whatever there is, if there is something. It seems beyond our capacity to make any judgments about. My judgement about it not being real is just as inept as another’s person’s judgement for it being real. We impute whatever we want on to it according to our prejudices, which is the my ultimate point and Nietzsche’s I believe.

  26. David & Gary,
    I hope you do not mind if I offer my perspective on nihilism. Nihilism originates from the Latin root nihil meaning ‘nothing.’ ‘Nothing’ is a word. But if we put a little space between no and thing, we have the phrase ‘no thing:’ as in ‘there is no thing there.’ Human beings are ‘thing’ oriented. We live in the world of things: in other words objects. We have a detailed language regarding the world of objects. We are for the most part materialists, and science is quite good at measuring the material world. But we have no clue as to how to measure ‘no-things.’

    In the first part of Symbols of Transformation (SoT), Carl Jung speaks of the ‘unknown.’ It is here that we encounter ‘no-thing-ness.’ Not in terms of material reality, but psychic reality. The no-thing of the psyche may be seen as the aspect of psychic life which language cannot articulate– the unknown. In other words, there is no-thing to describe the unknown. Yet, it makes up the depths of psychic life. Quite possibility, this ‘no-thing-ness’ is related to the creative and religious instincts which Jung address in SoT.

    It will take patience to address the complexity of the unknown. I believe it is at the heart of SoT. I hope we can be dialectical in offering our viewpoints, talking about the unknown with some ambiguity. In this way Carl Jung can be our guide.

  27. Friends,
    I altered the comment settings so that the oldest comments are at the top and the newest at the bottom. That way it is easier for new people to read the time-line.

  28. Everybody…
    That’s just what I was thinking: Why not let Jung be our guide now?I feel there’s a great beauty & value to nilhilism too,yet even that can become a trap.If taken to an extreme,nihilistic non-dualism can become very dogmatic in it’s intense opposition to dogma,the ”objective” universe and more.I love nothingness just as my mind loves to still and my body appreciates restful sleep.However,the nothingness I enjoy most is the nothingness that’s pregnant-to-overfill(but not yet visible)…the nothingness of the barren winter landscape that enables the germinations of spring.An ancient symbol for barrenness is the dark frost-covered tree set against a gray winter sky.And yet,this same symbol also represents the revelation of essence or archetypal form.The idea is that when you go to this ground where all the superficialities of existence are removed…you also reach the essence of being or the form of the pure Self.Pattern makes little sense without a form to carry it and a form is meaningless without a pattern to inform it.I can sing praises to the dark balsamic moon especially when I know that’s just one lunar phase and one which leads to the new moon rebirth.As a constant(like the long midnight sun)I likely wouldn’t appreciate it in quite the same way.

  29. i want to discover what is true, or even whether there is a truth. It may be that the closest thing to truth is a dialectical tension between something and nothing. Whatever is the case, I want to incorporate it into my psychic reality and have it be a part of who I am. That would be the best and most precious gift that I could give to myself.

  30. And just to set the record straight everybody: I’m not a card-carrying nihilist. Actually, I resist thinking of myself as a that (as well as almost every other label). Nihilism conjures up a negative vibe in my mind that I always want to move away from, like it’s a kindred philosophy to Nazism out to destroy mankind. But every time I’ve gone to the dictionary or Wikipedia (and I’ve gone to both many times hoping to find some definition that will allow me to dis-identify with the appellation) I always come away having to accept that it fits. :-)

  31. David…
    Thanks for that and I sure don’t see you as some ”card-carrying nihilist” either.Your comments contain more than enough warmth to dispel that idea.Still,I can also appreciate how it fits.At the moment nothingness & seeming futility are far beyond some philosophical speculation for me.In a place where ego becomes powerless and alienated the mysterious line between giving-up and surrender can become very blurred.A frantic swimming to survive will no longer work but one isn’t yet adept at floating.Years ago an actual riptide taught me the fine art of surrender but transferring & translating that to where I exist now seems so much more difficult.So yes,it’s very much about the struggle of holding the tension of the opposites…accepting one’s powerlessness and impotence while meanwhile still holding onto the possibility of grace via the numinous contact.Without that it can move towards the suicidal but with it continued endurance is somehow possible.Clearly,learning to float in hell isn’t exactly easy.Yet,the sunya or Buddhist void is by no means kindred to Nazism.I’m so glad you’re here David.As I watch all other major reference points slip away even this distant communion of seeking souls is so appreciated!Thanks so damn much for being here David!

  32. Happy Thanksgiving day and may we feel thanks as well. Even thanks for hardship, negativity, suffering, the labour of experiencing life in its fullness.
    Hi Jenna, David, Robb and friends. As we small band of adventurers embark on a deeper path within the journeys of life we have individually been on for years, I am reminded of this aphorism: God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no flesh might boast in the presence of God.
    I think this is appropriate in the dialectic with nihilism. I also thank Jenna for the sophia and alethia of these words: “It will take patience to address the complexity of the unknown. I believe it is at the heart of SoT. I hope we can be dialectical in offering our viewpoints, talking about the unknown with some ambiguity. In this way Carl Jung can be our guide.”
    The complexity of the numinous unknown, the interface of primal sublime Eros with coeval chaos. I don’t mind being among the weak, the despised, the foolish, the low if we can be be a small part of bringing forth something genuinely meaningful. Love and Blessings to us, every one.

  33. I think that personal existential nihilism is central to finding true, genuine, authentic meaning. This meaning, the yearning for it, is what I have faith in as”real.” I think I’m on a journey to directly experience “the real” not that I have found it nor am able to describe it. Whatever is “real” abides in a deep and hidden domain outside our experience of objective and physical “things” imo. If I have made this more clear or muddied the waters, my only intention is to open up myself more to the chaos of the unknown. :-) I’m more interested in Truth and Wisdom than in agreed upon certainties. Take care David.

  34. Happy Thanksgiving David,
    Thank you for sharing that truth with us. From the comments, I can see that there is much appreciation for your truth, for your path– for your particular subjectivity.

    Nihilism may be an important part of the path. Through confronting nothingness we come to realize that which lies beyond thingliness. It is here we enter into the mystery: ‘Leaping like a bull into the milk.’

  35. Happy Thanksgiving Gary,
    It is clear to me from your comments that you are opening to the mystery: to the eternal that shines forth from within the mystery. I feel the joy emanating from you; a joy that originates from a labor and struggle with the unknown.

    I am thankful that you have remind us of our blessing– “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” It is all to easy to fall victim to pride and grandiosity. We are given a very brief moment here, in living form. A moment in which we, in our awareness, can gaze upon the eternal. How often we sell this out for grandiosity, seeking after fame or fortune. It is truly the path of Sophia (as wisdom):

    For I am the first and the last.
    I am the honored one and the scorned one.
    I am the whore and the holy one.
    —The Thunder, Perfect Mind

  36. Happy Thanksgiving Rob Two Hawks,

    Your heart holds a wisdom that enlightens us all. Metaphor arises in you with such ease, always illustrating the way of heart: as a mode of the soul.

    Thank you for the compassion with which you address each individual. Your own experience appears to have opened your heart. Gary reminded me today that the meek shall inherit the earth. You exhibit such truth: the soul is your inheritance, compassion its virtue.

  37. Happy Thanksgiving, Jenna :-)

    I hope you have a huge tolerance for being appreciated. I’ve told you how much I appreciate you many times in a very short period of time, and I see that same appreciation from others over and over again in post comments. Thanks for providing such fertile ground for me and my fellow seekers to grow and learn.

  38. Happy Thanksgiving, Jenna :-)

    I hope you have a huge tolerance for being appreciated. I’ve told you how much I appreciate you many times in a very short period of time, and I see that same appreciation from others over and over again in post comments. Thanks for providing such fertile ground for me and my fellow seekers to grow and learn.

  39. The appreciation is mutual.

    There is too little appreciation for one another in our culture. Melanie Klein spoke of envy. When we envy we cannot take the nourishment of others into ourselves. Part of our growth is learning to take in psychical nourishment from each other.

    Today, I am working to articulate Jung’s relationship to the unknown depths as I see them expressed in the second chapter, Two Kinds of Thinking. It is such a pleasure for me to have your perspectives, to hold them in my mind.

  40. Jenna,David and Gary…
    Each of you is in my heart and within my thoughts today…and yes,I am thankful for that and for you!It’s been a quiet holiday with the cat purring by my pillow and now a Stouffer’s in the oven.I’m a fine enough cook but today asked for no distractions or supreme efforts.It called me to listen between the snowflakes and to feel all the absences more fully.It asked me to know what’s most important now and to fathom what I’m grateful for within the barrenness.
    I awoke from my nap to discover this series of comments.Today they bring a wider smile than one might imagine.There is a soulful abundance here and also within each of you.Thank you for that!And Jenna please know that your beautiful comments of recognition have touched deeply today.They have touched me to the degree that I’m sure I can even skip the butternut pie.Bless you all!-
    Rumi’s poetic midwife said that if one welcomed the pain in order to reveal the treasure in one’s heart…it would open the dark passage of Grace.Please know that in a very profound and unexpected way that each of you has helped to open that passage today and I’m sure it will birth something amazing within each of us.
    (…”We are here but a little space to learn to bear the beams of love.”)

  41. Two-Hawks,

    I am thankful for you as well. It is delightful to hear that you are taking this day of thanksgiving “to learn to bear the beams of love.” You express a realization that life is the most precious of gifts, and that simplicity of life honors such a gift.

    Thank you for the reminder of what is really important beyond all the pomp and circumstance.

  42. Thank you for thoses words of wisdom. Swimming while floating, being while not being is the union of opposites, our sacred marriage and rite of passage. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.

  43. Very kind words, Jenna. Thank you. I am reading that very chapter today and am looking forward to where it takes us. :-)

  44. Thank you, Gary. I had been standing alone with the tension between being and not being, knowing and not knowing for such a long time that I had began to think I would have to armour up and go the whole distance alone with out friends. I am feeling like I have found a home and friends tonight. :-)

  45. Gary, I didn’t include a wish for a happy Thanksgiving in my comment to you yesterday. A small oversight, but it’s important to me for you to explicitly know the wish was there. I hope you had a great day of thanksgiving yesterday. :-)

  46. I’m happy to provide some small amount of encouragement, David. You have given much to me. This is what it’s about, imo… engagement and strengthening one another. I’m glad to be in this band of seekers, and gladdened by your participation. Cheers!

  47. It was a good day of feeling gratitude, made better by our online conversation. I’m looking forward to reading SoT and our ongoing dialogue. :-)

  48. Of Transformation

    My love cannot support my full weight
    She is but a fragile flower
    a petal’s dew

    It was an early morning
    when I first eyed her horizon
    Her mountains and valleys had not
    fully formed
    Her rivers had not yet learned to run deep
    She had never known a lover

    Yet when I approached she was eager
    even though I was more
    than she could ever imagine

    She pushed up as high as she could to meet me
    her back a near perfect circle
    Our passions grew and our love overflowed
    She captured my heart

    What does it matter that she cannot support
    my full weight
    She is mother of my motley-colored children.

    David R

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