Dr. Steve Buser and I have been treated to an extraordinary five days in Zürich, Switzerland. The collage above was created from two photos captured while on a long bicycle ride around parts of Lake Zürich. It is a piece of public sculpture we could easily have missed. I felt a sort of undulation through as the statue and I encountered each other that is difficult to describe. In this scene of participation mystique other characters began to appear. Recall that Jung explains this idea of participation mystique as follows:
Participation mystique “denotes a peculiar kind of psychological connection with objects, and consists in the fact that the subject cannot clearly distinguish himself from the object but is bound to it by a direct relationship which amounts to partial identity.” (Jung 1921: para 781).Janus, the Roman god representing beginnings, transitions, passageways, and endings was awakened by this sculpture. Such two-faced images call forth the complementarity revealed throughout nature. Whether we consider the night and the day, the unconscious and the unconscious, the feminine and masculine, we encounter repeated reminders that life frequently arrives as a pair of apparent opposites. Quite often when it seems otherwise, when one polarity has overtaken the other, we ill eventually be required to acknowledge the hidden other. Such requirements may be seen in the interior landscape in such phenomena as the inferior function that Jung, von Franz and others describe. In the outer life, the symbol of the yin-yang reminds us that at any moment whatever has overtaken its opposite may reverse since within each extreme manifestation exists the seed of its opposite. Transformation is the theme of Chiron Publications’s most recent release Paths to Transformation by Zürich trained analyst Kate Burns. Our encounter with the public statue quietly tucked away between Seestrasse and the shoreline of Lake Zürich also called forth Michaelangelo’s unfinished sculpture. As if the stone awaited the arrival of a human being guided by Techne, the goddess ruling over such artisans skills. In those encounters between a stone, perhaps the very embodiment of lifelessness, through the skillful hands of the sculptor, emerges something that seems very alive. The figure depicted in public statue struck me as ambivalent, unsure whether to fully emerge into the solar consciousness or perhaps better to retreat into the lunar realms. It was indeed lucky that the encounter with this statue occurred in the afternoon when the sun was beginning its descent into the western sky so that the front of the statue was brightly illuminated whereas the back of the statue was in the shadows. I wish to issue an invitation that may be better characterized as a challenge. We are living in times of great crisis as we witness the heating of the planet from the exaggerated, almost urgent use of fossil fuels. One of the most fundamental resources we share, water, is being despoiled, harnessed for hydroelectric power, and simply squandered. One of the tragic consequences of these crises is the biodiversity of our planet is rapidly declining such that a gestalt favoring monoculture over biodiversity asserts itself in our individual and collective psyches. For instance, our expectations have shaped to desire a uniform appearing tomato at our grocer’s shelves. But do we pause to consider that the desire for a uniform appearing tomato is a manufactured expectation whose downstream effect is profoundly unstable. Any gardner knows that a tomato plant produces different sizes and shapes of tomato. Of course, a tomato’s genome can be manipulated to improve its yield of uniformly shaped tomatoes. But we may ask ourselves what has actually been improved and at what cost? As a variety of tomato that yields uniform appearing fruit succeeds in the market (note the intentional double entendre), we are apt to find more growers shifting to this variety. This shift will happen at the expense of a varied, diverse cultivation of tomatoes that produce different sizes, shapes and colors. One might imagine an individual act of rebellion playing out in day-to-day decisions when we arrive at the grocer’s stand. Imagine thoughtfully and mindfully choosing the irregular, misshapen fruit. I have often wondered why the god Hephaestus, creator of so many beautiful things must himself be deformed or misshapen. For me it serves as a reminder that perhaps choosing the ugly tomato or the oddly shaped zucchini is a first step in participating in the creation of something quite beautiful, a biodiverse ecosystem. The Challenge Consider any of the big themes or cries of our time like energy, water resources, the loss of biodiversity. Listen and seek out the deep symbols that lie beneath the surface. Beware of seizing hold of the first symbol you identify since it may be a deeper symbol awaits the persistent inquirer. Two valuable resources that can serve as references are Jungian Symbolic Psychology (Byington), Chiron Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology, and The Herder Dictionary of Symbols. Once you find the symbol(s) see how you might communicate that deep symbol to others. Finally suppose you succeed in communicating something about the symbol you have excavated. The challenge becomes how to let this work inform your day-to-day decisions. Here I mean to encourage choosing the ugly tomato, the walk to the store that leaves the automobile behind, the decision to reclaim rainwater, reduce waste, reuse materials, and the countless other small decisions we make every day. When our psychological work is then made flesh and dwells among us through the small and large choices we make concerning how we live not only may we find ourselves in a drama of participation mystique with the objects of our world, but we will have brought the fire of inspiration imparted to us by the gods into the manifest world. Like the statue that Steve and I encountered that seemed to maintain an encampment in the hidden unconscious realm simultaneously with the evident, conscious realm, when we accept the challenge we may find it difficult to distinguish inner and outer, manifest and latent, implicate and explicate order. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I wish to acknowledge that the source of most of the ideas contained in this blog is Frau Brigitte Egger, who has done very original work in psychecology. Notice the ordering of the root words psyche and ecology. Brigitte confirmed for me that this is an intentional ordering of the words that connotes that it is first the work of inner transformation that equips us to go into the world as agents of change. I urge anyone interested in these subjects to visit her website at www.psychecology.ch . Frau Egger has agreed to present a webinar for the Asheville Jung Center on Water in early 2015.