LIFTING THE VEIL
Publisher: Fisher King Press
; First edition (June 1, 2012)
Lifting the Veil
is an ambitious effort to describe “how cultural wounds and archetypal defenses of the group spirit, be they Middle East or of the Western powers, add to the spirit of the age in which we live”
. Jane Kamerling
and Fred Gustafson
explore the veil that has served as a powerful symbolic attractor throughout Islamic history. The veil and headscarf (hijab
) is a symbol for the tensions between the Middle East and the West, for a symbol for movements advancing the rights of women, and symbol that relates to the urgent need to recover lost parts of the feminine principle. In the course of their thoughtful examination, many veils are lifted, and the idea of cultural complexes is extended from an individual psychology to the culture at large. This domain of the cultural complex has remained veiled, according to Dr. Thomas Singer who writes the introduction, since C. G. Jung met with such disastrous results in his explorations of the outer, collective roots of the rise Nazism.
The historical and cultural significance of the veil is carefully presented in Lifting the Veil
. When the authors eventually reach out to Sheherazade, a hero figure who uses storytelling to heal and recover the repressed feminine, a solid foundation has already been laid for the claim:
“… Allah has raised up your daughter [Shahrazad] to be the salvation of my people”.
Many Westerners are caught in a struggle, unable to move beyond a collective ignorance about Islam. They are ensnared by certain cultural complexes that are mistaken for representatives of all of Islam. Sadly, there are many Muslims who adhere to a form of Islam (submission
) and jihad (struggle)
that focuses almost exclusively on outer mastery, the rejection of any vestiges of colonialism, and retribution for offenses committed by the West. Kamerling
offer evidence that the abdication of the interior dimension of submission and struggle goes hand-in-hand with repression of the feminine. Lifting the Veil
argues that the tension and conflict between Middle East and West also derives from repression of the feminine principle.
Most Christian Americans would not want others to think that Westboro Baptist Church
speaks for all Christians. The West then also needs to understand that Islam is not a monolithic religion represented by the ultra-conservative Wahhabism that the Saudi royal family disseminated across the Muslim world, in part to appease clerics.
“The veil powerfully holds the polarity of attitudes and beliefs and invites the projections of the psychological complexes in both Western and Islamic societies. These negative shadow projections fuel external and internal conflict between and within each culture, the veil is not just a female garment to hide, protect, or humble Muslim women, but the curtain behind which resides the feminine principle, repressed East and West.”
When Jungian theory is applied to whole cultures, as if a culture is a person, concepts such as ego, persona, shadow, anima/animus, repressed feminine, and complexes take on new meanings.
Jung warned of the dangers inherent in extremism where the complementarity of opposites becomes lost such that the unconscious must then offer some compensation. Lifting the Veil
devotes thirty-two of its one hundred sixty pages to Sheherazade. Sheherazade is introduced as both an adept, manipulative temptress and a storyteller whose tales are placed like stones on a golden path of awakening and integration. It is the feminine principle that carries the functions of relationship, it is the feminine principle that gathers and cherishes the stories of life, and it is the feminine principle reanimates stories and thereby elevates stories so that they become templates by which we can guide our lives.
According to Fatima Mernissi
in her 1987 book, Beyond the Veil
, Arab-Muslim nationalists in the post-colonial periods like Qasim Amin “…considered the liberation of women as a condition sine qua non
for the liberation of Arab-Muslim society from the humiliating hegemony of the West.”
This modern day feminist observed that women can stir fitna
(chaos stirred by sexual disorder) and this accounts for some of the demonizing of women’s sexuality. While earlier Islamic voices like Imam Ghazali (1050-1111) “… recommends foreplay, primarily in the interest of the woman, as a duty of the believer”, women are still seen as a “dangerous distraction”.
Mernissi notes that “While Muslim exploitation of the female [feminine principle
] is cloaked under veils and hidden behind walls, Western exploitation has had the bad taste of being bare and over-exposed.” She goes on to assert, “The entire Muslim social structure can be seen as an attack on, and a defenses against, the disruptive power of female sexuality.”
In Lifting the Veil, Kamerling
, like Mernissi, recognize that throwing off the veil for some women is an act of self-determination but it is also an act of self-determination for some women when they don the veil.
Transcending and integrating the tensions between anima and animus is akin to what certain Sufi masters encourage. Hear the words of The Shaykh of Shaykhs Abu Maydam al-Maydam al-Maheibi Shu’ayb,
“Gatheredness (jam’) is what makes your separation drop and annihilates your indication. Arrival (wusul) is the absorption of your attributes and the disappearance of your qualities.”
“The one who still has a residue of his nafs
(the small self)
remaining for him, has not reached pure freedom.”
Lifting the Veil
can be read as a succinct scholarly synopsis of the history of Islam. It can also be read as a treatise on the repressed feminine. However, it should also be read as a re-visioning of Sheherazade, a prototypical figure in the feminine psychology Islam. The stories she told “were not neat”. Kamerling
maintain that “Locking away or placing a veil over life not only leads to an extreme fundamentalistic and myopic ay of living, it proves to be psychologically and spiritually disastrous. … A person [or culture
] trapped in this dilemma becomes unbearable to self and others.”
The head-scarf is likely to remain a touchstone that will frame the tension between secularism and Islam. Re-introducing Sheherazade and portraying her as the feminine principle that can “think as well as remember stories that unite all people”
presents the reader with a challenge. It is the task of each one of us to recover the stories of the past and live those stories “in service to life”. At one point the authors quote from the Koran
Sura XIII line 11
Will God change the condition
Of a people until they
Change it themselves.
There is a rich, deep, coextensive history and tradition between the People of the Book and Muslims. They share a common, almighty God. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are each a called people. A recent book by Peter Todd, Individuation of God,
states “It is in this sense [garnering power and controlling energy resources] that religious fundamentalism can be seen as a collective manifestation of the collective Jungian shadow archetype.
Permit yourself to imagine what might emerge if each of these called people were to take on something from one another’s religious practices or traditions. Suppose that Jews were to devote themselves to the idea of building the Kingdom of God here and now and that across the world they engaged in regular, ritualized prayer five times per day. And also suppose Christians recovered some elements of the Arianism discarded at the Council of Nicea and gave more public
emphasis to the traditional monotheistic view of God and less on God’s Trinitarian nature. Also imagine Christians began to pray five times each day. And finally, imagine Muslims being very mindful of their is common heritage and common prophets with Jews and Christians without surrendering a foundational belief, Muhammad-ur-Rasul-Allah (Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger). And of course they too would pray five times per day. Now consider if two thirds of the world’s population lifted the veil of separateness and difference and sought common ground and engaged in prayer five times each day. Into such an imaginary world, introduce storytellers. Lots and lots of storytellers, sharing tales that heal, that serve as templates for how to live and how to wake up.
Lifting the Veil
is a critically important book that speaks to our times. It continues the recent interest in cultural complexes
that offers hope for the human race. Jane Kamerling
and Fred Guststason
are to be commended for taking on such a charged topic respectfully and with the depth that seasoned Jungian Analysts can bring to such a project. All of us can hope that when enough veils are lifted and projections recovered perhaps we can dwell in the love of which Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī writes:
ملت عشق از همه دینها جداست — عاشقان را ملت و مذهب خداست
The nation of Love has a different religion of all religions — For lovers, God alone is their religion.
The Asheville Jung Center
will host a live conference on May 31, 2013 at 8:00 PM titled Lifting the Veil: Recovering the Feminine
that will also be available for later viewing by streaming video. To register go to http://ashevillejungcenter.org/webinars/w11/