SELF CARE IN THE MIDST OF INNER & OUTER FAULT-LINES
Reflections on the impact and significance of the Christchurch earthquakes
An address to the Christchurch Branch of the New Zealand Assn of Counsellors
by Joy Ryan-Bloore, Jungian Analyst
Abstract Since 4 September 2010, we, the people of Christchurch have been subjected to ongoing, extreme trauma. Whether we have been materially affected or not, we are all swimming in the same collective trauma. Each of us has wounds – what I would call ‘inner fault-lines’. Even if we have done a lot of work on ourselves, these can erupt again if put under enough pressure. Part of the experience of outer trauma, such as we have all endured, is having those personal fault-lines exposed. Our dreams will also show the impact of the earthquake on our inner landscape. These reflections are offered to assist you to explore how we can truly care for our selves in the midst of these unprecedented events, by connecting with the deeper Self, enabling us to be much more conscious and alert to the needs of those who seek our assistance.
“In all chaos there is a cosmos,
in all disorder, a secret order.” (1)
The proposed topic for this evening was “Self-care in the Midst of Inner and Outer Fault-lines”. I am aware that you have plenty of experience looking after yourselves and your clients and I am also sure you are more than competent to do it, otherwise I doubt you would be working as Counsellors!! Especially in this climate! I am also aware you have had other people talking to you about how to take care of yourself and your clients when afflicted by trauma. And you will have received relevant supervision.
My focus will be a little different – I will try to explore how we can look after our essential and often wounded ‘self’. In other words how do we continue to walk on the particular path we are meant to be on, in the face of what has happened? And more importantly, how do we make sure we stay connected to the deeper Self – the Mysterious Other – God – Buddha, Christ, the Sacred Presence or by whatever name we give to that which resides in the depths of our being – and connects us to the Whole. Because if we are in possession of a deeper meaning – a ‘world-view’ – one which connects us to Something, Someone greater than our egos – we will cope much more easily with trauma – especially that caused by the eruption of inner fault-lines. And if we remain connected to this deeper Self we will be more able to care for our selves and those who come to us for assistance. However, if we have nothing greater than the perspective of our egos with which to evaluate our life and events outside of our control; or our world-view is too small – or our image of God is too infantile, the present catastrophe may well overwhelm us – for there is nothing Greater than ourselves to hold us in it.
I would like to begin with two quotations from Jung. One written at the beginning of his adult life, the other towards the end. The first is from The Red Book – a massive, illustrated ‘tome’ which has just been published – a highly personal record of his immersion and extraordinary journey into the unconscious; his discovery of the collective unconscious and the archetypal forces inhabiting it. This experience provided him with the raw material for all his subsequent theories: the cornerstone of which was his discovery of the psyche, at the centre of which is a religious function operating in the depths of each person’s interior. He writes in a way strangely reminiscent of the great vision in the Book of Revelation. (2)
“May the frightfulness become so great that it can turn (our) eyes inward, so that (our) will no longer seeks the Self in others but in (ourselves). I saw it. I know that this is the way. I saw the death of Christ and I saw his lament. I felt the agony of his dying, of the great dying. I saw a new God, a child who subdued daimons in his hand …” C G Jung The Red Book, P.254
The second quotation is from Memories, Dreams, Reflections which he wrote as he approached the end of his life, just before he died. They are the reflections of an old man reminiscing on the significance of his life and the journey it demanded of him.
“The decisive question is: are we related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of life. Only if we know that the infinite is the thing which truly matters, can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all sorts of goals which are not of real importance. Thus we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty.
The more we lay stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity we have for what is essential, the less satisfying is our life. We feel limited because we have limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy.
If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted. In our relationships to others too, the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness is expressed in the relationship. P.356
Likewise for us! The experience of so much death and destruction of archetypal and even apocalyptic proportions to which we have all been exposed, can prematurely precipitate and perhaps accelerate, questions such as the ones with which Jung grappled. The recurring earthquakes may cause us all to stop, take stock of what is important in our life, and perhaps more importantly, compel us to ask the deepest questions of all – why existence? Why my life? What is it for and what does it mean?
My sense of self, what my life was about and my connection to God was severely tested by the events of September 4. At the risk of inflicting yet another ‘earthquake story’ on you who have listened to hundreds of people’s stories, including your own! I would like to start with a short summary of what happened to me (at the outer level) during 4 September earthquake. I will then spend time reflecting on the inner significance of that event as an example of what can happen to each of us when our inner fault-lines erupt and our world-views are shattered. I find I can only speak from personal experience! The rest you can find in books! My hope is you might find an ‘echo’ within yourself which will take you more deeply into your own journey.
As I am sharing mine, I invite you to consider what particular fault-line, inner wound or ‘Achilles heel’, did you re-visit during the earthquakes? Or re-visited you! And more importantly, what if anything, enabled you to cope with it! And what is happening for you now?
At 4.35am on Saturday the 4th September last year I, like every one else in this city, woke in terror. You all know too well what happened – our city was struck by an unprecedented earthquake – magnitude 7.1 on the Richter scale – the beginning of a cataclysmic period of unprecedented destruction few of us ever dreamt we would experience.
At that moment, the world as I knew it simply disappeared. There was a terrible roar and our home shuddered and moved to such an extent I thought it was going to break up. I don’t usually collapse in a crisis – I respond quite well and then collapse afterwards!! (Part of a life-long defence against my particular fault-line about which I will say more later!!) But in that moment I did collapse. I was stripped of every capacity I previously had and plunged into a place of terror I never knew existed, both inside myself and in the outer world. It went on for a shattering 46 seconds which is a long, long time. (I figured it was as long as it takes an extremely competent runner to complete one lap of a 400metre track)!!
Over the next 24 hours alone we were all hit by 431 aftershocks and as I began these reflections on 21 February 2011 the Christchurch Quake Map website showed we had lived through 4,782 aftershocks. The weekend passed in a daze, compounded by the fact that the suburb in which I live had escaped any obvious damage. It just added to the surreal nature of the experience, knowing that not far from us streets were ripped up, buildings had collapsed, people’s homes were destroyed; power, water and sewerage facilities were out of action.
Our TV showed pictures of the devastation, but we had lost the sound. So we knew there had been a terrible catastrophe but we had escaped for the most part. I started to feel what I can only call ‘survivor guilt’ – my shock being more about what could have happened to our home – rather than what had happened. (We didn’t escape the 22 February!) Sleep was impossible and was to remain like that for about two weeks.
Allan and I decided to go out into the city on the Sunday – almost like an exercise to test the reality of what had happened – and at another level – to claim back our city and to join in solidarity with the thousands who flocked to the inner city that day doing just that. People of all ages, from all walks of life. Dazed and sleepless, bewildered and in disbelief. Children being pushed in prams and held in arms. People with mobile phones, cameras and videos – all trying to record and come to terms with what had happened. I found myself looking at buildings which had been part of my life since adolescence, as if seeing them for the first time, sensing a deep grief that many of them would not survive. It was as if a substantial part of my history and my life had disappeared in front of me and would never be the same again.
Later I was to feel an incredible sense of my own fragile mortality and the shortness of life, because the likelihood of being alive when the city was fully restored again seemed remote. Maurice Carter, a respected elder in the city, since deceased, simply said it would take at least 20 years for Christchurch to really recover because certain areas would have to be completely rebuilt for the 21st century. It felt like the end of an era and a portent for the end of my own life, too. On reflection, I now know that the clinicians would probably diagnose what I experienced as a mild version of PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder!
But what I was feeling was not solely about the outer devastation. It was something deeper and to do with my soul.
For the worst part of the September 4 earthquake experience was what I might call ‘loss of soul’ or ‘loss of faith’. I felt throughout that ordeal and for long months after, that any religious belief, philosophical container, knowledge or experience which would have earlier held me in the face of that sort of outer horror, had completely disappeared. Not only did the outer ground shift under my feet. My inner ground shifted and vanished too. I found myself without any container. My religious beliefs simply didn’t seem to ‘do it’ anymore. What had happened outside seemed too big to be held by my previous belief structure. Not even a fairly conscious faith informed by psychological understanding!! The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which has been part of my life for the last 25 years or so, had been severely damaged and was no longer available as an outer sanctuary in which to take refuge.
I was stripped and I was terrified. I felt like a small particle of sand floating in a vast, impersonal cosmos – my human plight seemingly of no interest to the mighty forces which create, sustain (and disrupt) creation as we know it. I was deeply afraid. Six months later I was able to articulate it more accurately: On 9 January 2011 I wrote in my diary:
4pm While resting … I suddenly became aware of my ‘smallness’ in the face of the universe and became very frightened. It was as if I was simply a speck (which I instinctively know I am) but that knowledge somehow terrified me causing me to profoundly doubt how could I have any purpose and/or meaning and how could there be any Other who was interested in me? It felt like that everything I had previously thought or believed; all structures which gave my life meaning … simply disappeared. All I could do – was simply allow those feelings to be there.
I remembered reading something about this by Teilhard de Chardin and later found it.
He wrote: “I felt the distress characteristic to a particle adrift in the universe, the distress which makes human wills founder daily under the crushing number of living things and stars. And if something saved me it was hearing the voice of the gospel guaranteed by divine successes, speaking to me from the depth of the night: “ego sum noli timere”- ‘It is I, do not be afraid’.John 6:20(3)
The purpose of sharing this is to show that what happens in the outer world has a corresponding impact on the inner. We are all connected – not only with each other – but we are connected to the very planet on which we depend for our existence – we participate in the same energies and are made out of the same ‘stuff’.
And in a mysterious way – due to the stage we are now at in our evolutionary journey towards consciousness, we now know everything in this vast universe, in which we float on planet Earth, is similarly connected. Consequently, recurring earthquakes of the magnitude to which we have all been exposed, can not only destroy our outer landscape, but can expose each of us to what I would call our inner fault-lines, which shake up the inner ground on which we stand upsetting our ‘normal’ psychic, emotional and spiritual stability. Like huge gaping cracks in our psychic edifice through which pours the disturbed, uncontained unconscious – inner liquefaction!!
Each of you will have your own way to ‘be with’ or interpret the deeper significance of what has happened to you over these last few months. Or you may be struggling to find one. Finding meaning in our lives is essential – a life lived without meaning is one of the deepest causes of emotional and psychological turmoil a human being can experience, as each of you will know. Jung puts it this way:
“For thousands of years the mind of human beings has worried about the sick soul, perhaps even earlier than it did about the sick body. The propitiation of gods, the perils of the soul and its salvation, these are not yesterday’s problems.
Religions are psychotherapeutic systems in the truest sense of the word, and on the grandest scale. They express the whole range of the psychic problem in mighty images; they are the avowal and recognition of the soul, and at the same time the revelation of the soul’s nature.
From this universal foundation no human soul is cut off; only the individual consciousness that has lost its connection with the psychic totality remains caught in the illusion that the soul is a small circumscribed area, a fit subject for ‘scientific’ theorizing. The loss of this great relationship is the prime evil of neurosis.” (4)
I still draw meaning from the symbols and rituals of the religious tradition into which I was born – Roman Catholicism – but in a much broader and deeper way than what I inherited – but at this stage in my life, the nature of that belief is vastly different and has been enriched by encounters with other religious traditions – both within Christianity and outside it. Especially Buddhism. Coupled with this I have some slight ‘smatterings’ of understanding about the extraordinary insights coming from cosmology, archetypal astrology and quantum physics.
However, what gives an even deeper insight into all these ‘smatterings’ of inter-connected disciplines, comes from my growing knowledge and experience of Jung’s discoveries of the depth sciences – especially the collective unconscious and the purposeful nature of dreams, symbols and religious rituals in the human psyche. So my processing of recent events is inevitably interpreted in the light of my own meaning ‘structures’.
I say this by way of sharing where I am coming from … not in any way seeking to impose that on you!! But all this seemed to disappear on the morning of 4 September! I struggled to find some foothold. I remembered I had heard an Australian Priest say: “God reveals himself to us in all the events of our life and the revelation is complete when we reflect on these events in the light of the scriptures.” (Gerald Manley – 1973) Those words have often returned to me.
But what event in scripture could inform the horror the earthquake had unleashed in me? I knew there was only one possibility. The silent cry on the Cross – Jesus’ cry to his Father “My God, my God why have you abandoned me”. The gospel writer, Matthew interprets the event this way:
“At that, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked the rocks were split … Meanwhile the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place and they were terrified and said, ‘in truth this was a Son of God.” Matthew 27:51,53
Except an earthquake didn’t cause his cry. In a synchronistic way, his cry, his surrender to death – this archetypal event at the level of the Spirit – caused an equivalent response at the level of Nature – an earthquake. These two poles – the world of the Spirit and the world of Nature – synchronistically (5) connected and impacted on each other. It was like the earth went out in sympathy – it paralleled the shocking nature of what was happening at the level of Spirit. Nature rebelled at what humankind was doing to its Creator. Christ crucified. Deicide. There are only a few references to earthquakes in the Christian Scriptures that I am aware of. I wondered, as I reflected, were the recent earthquakes connected not to Deicide – the death of the Son of God – but to Divine Matricide – the death of Mother Earth?
Was the earth in fact reacting to how we have exploited her over the last century? This may seem a rather far-fetched, esoteric or “New Age” hypothesis, an attempt to soften the experience – drag some meaning out of an event which many feel has no meaning – “after all” they say – ‘its just nature.” But if we have time I will share some personal experiences of synchronistic events which seem to suggest something deeper might be happening.
The forces we are dealing with are apocalyptic in nature and in some people a parallel experience registers in the psyche, threatening their psychic stability. It is totally unpredictable. There is nothing one can do about it. It is absolutely beyond our control. That is the worst feature. Not knowing when and how and with what force it is going to strike.
I have also had some prospective-type dreams which only ‘made sense’ in the light of both earthquakes and many of my analysands have had some extraordinary dreams as well. The outer chaos has acted in many cases, as a powerful and somewhat premature accelerant for change and increased consciousness. It is a bit like what happened the night of the September 4 earthquake. A record number of babies were born that night or the next day. Something like 23 in 24 hours as I recall. Like Mother Nature was making sure they all got out safely!
I think the same thing has been happening on the inner level. The birth of a new level of consciousness – a more inclusive world-view – is vital if people are going to be able to cope creatively with the outer threat to their current world views, be they religious or philosophical. And those of us responsible for the process of others need to be even more tuned to what is being demanded of each of us – otherwise it will visit us in the form of negative transference, counter-transference or inexplicable sickness and/or accidents.
The fact is that enough conscious individuals need to emerge – be born – if we and the planet on which we depend for our very existence are to survive. The medieval, metaphysical, dualistic world-view coupled with scientific materialism which has informed the collective’s world-view over the last two centuries, is dying. Needs to die. As does the current ego-driven economic rationalism plaguing our world, a philosophy which denies the existence of anything greater than itself: which is even insidiously infiltrating vocations like Counselling which take place at a soul level and cannot be quantified, evaluated or rationalized by market forces!
The old order has died in Christchurch. The new one has yet to be constructed. We are ‘in between stories’ as the cosmologist Thomas Berry said recently. Edward Edinger, using the Christian myth as a basis for a similar conclusion, once said that we were living in the ‘Holy Saturday of history’. (6) That’s what it has felt like to me as I have walked round the empty tombs of every major Church of every major religious domination in our city – and all the destroyed landscapes and other buildings which have previously held the history and the myth of this city. Two weeks before the 22 February quake I had a prophetic dream. (Dream)
I pondered the demise of all the Churches since the 22 Feb earthquake. I wondered how people will ever get to the spiritual and psychic truths behind these archetypal symbols if they are deprived of the outer rituals and liturgies in which these symbols are most profoundly encountered. I was grateful I had been brought up in a religious tradition and spent many years in a Religious Order – and lived its then somewhat monastic horarium in which these archetypal symbols had been embraced so intensely. For only now, can I begin to more fully appreciate the inner, psychic truths they embody – a living, dynamic process to be encountered within my own psyche.
But how, I ask does one come to this without the outer bridge to the interior which these archetypal symbols provide? For despite my knowledge, when the Cathedral closed after the 4 September, I realized how much it contained me. – against what? I do not know. But slowly and persistently, the earthquakes have collapsed the outer structure – to an extent that now the Cathedral may even have to be demolished – forcing me – reluctantly – to find even more deeply within, the inner meaning of these treasures which the outer structure and symbols contain. I feel I have been ‘shifted’ ever so subtly and at times violently, into a new level of consciousness, as if something has been waiting to be shifted for some time. The earthquake has somehow precipitated and completed it.
But I am ahead of myself … let me go back to last year … my dreams continued and by late October they were starting to show the impact the earthquakes were having on my psyche and on my physical health generally. They also showed that although I was being supported; my energy levels were much lower than I realized and a part of me was pushing me to do more.
Throughout this time I have had incessant questions – which brought about a sense of panic and increasing terror. I faced the deepest questions once again. Who am I? What is my purpose in this world? What meaning do I have and what meaning do I bring to the world? Has my existence a meaning? Is there a purpose to the vastness of the cosmos as we now know it? And if there isn’t what point my existence? Any religious, philosophical, psychological belief or system simply didn’t ‘cut it’ anymore. I felt suspended in a terrible place. At the same time as this inner destruction was happening, it was being mirrored outside. I watched all the places in Christchurch which held memories of my life, damaged or demolished. Both my past and my present ‘holy ground’ were being destroyed.
I faced into a dark void – a place which made me feel like a terrified child exposed to the impersonal forces of an uncaring and remote universe. Which reduced me at times to a state of terror and once of inconsolable sobbing. This was the vulnerable, fragile side of myself – the inner fault-line – which I was so afraid to own and expose – both to myself – and certainly to my colleagues. After all I’m supposed to be able to help others in this state! And a voice whispers in my heart – “Physician heal thyself”. I can’t”, I heard myself say.
I faced into an empty place – devoid of all meaning and purpose. At the same time I knew that these feelings were the only real ‘truth’ I could trust. All other systems, theories, beliefs were simply ‘translations’ of reality. Images. It took my Buddhist friend and colleague in Zurich to remind me, that the first commandment in the Old Testament forbade images! “I am the Lord Thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before Me”. I have attempted to live my life according to many ‘translations’ supported by many ‘images’ – all attempts to make sense of, create images of the Great Unknown, the Holy Mystery. She also spoke to me about the Void – or the Nothing that holds us behind all the images. As she spoke I was very aware that all the great mystics within Christianity had also written about the experience of the Nothing: Meister Eckhart; the unknown author of the Cloud of Unknowing; John of the Cross; Teresa of Avila and in recent times, Evelyn Underhill and Thomas Merton.
How did I cope? With great difficulty but primarily by clinging to what I knew ‘professionally’ and from previous experience – trusting, hoping – that the feelings were purposeful – even though I was terrified. That if I remained with them they would take me to a different place. I also trusted that whatever I needed would be given. It came in many different guises: my husband, a close friend, books, resting a lot more, just being with what was without wishing it would go away or ‘get better’.
I also found a strange solace by continuing to go to Mass – even though I felt bereft and strangely distant from it. It was the sacred music which contained me. And I remembered what Don Whelan Music Director of the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra had said not long after 4 September “Music, unlike art or buildings, is infinitely renewable.” Paradoxically, I felt quite calm when I was working with others. In hindsight I think because I was consciously working with what was happening to me, I was more able to be with others without my process getting in the way. Not that I didn’t succumb to some counter-transference issues once or twice!
11 September 2010
I read Bede Griffiths book “The Marriage of East and West’ – and realized that even though my belief structures had collapsed with the earthquake, there must be a Mystery behind all the forces of Nature. But how could there be – Nature was so huge. Then I realized that one self-reflecting human being was more significant than all of created matter because they knew it existed. And somehow something ‘clicked’. All that ‘stuff’ had an energy whose ultimate goal was human consciousness. All religious rituals, beliefs, symbols, images were attempts to ritualize, make conscious, come to grips with that inner process by which we are connected to the Whole – and within that painful evolutionary journey – become more and more aware of this Holy Mystery, this divine presence, Sacred Centre, the Nothing: the ‘Divine Milieu’ as the French Jesuit Paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin described it. (7)
So what was happening? It was not so much a fear that the earth no longer supported me as I initially felt, but more like an inner shattering of all previous world-views – all were reduced to rubble and found lacking. I was being forced, rather brutally, to look even more deeply inside – and more paradoxically, look outside – but in a new way.
For nights after the September 4 quake I had broken sleep punctuated with ongoing ‘after-shocks’ – each shock sending a rush of adrenalin through my body, causing extremely high blood pressure and a pounding pulse-rate. There was nothing I could do to stop it. In the beginning, nothing would comfort me or make me feel secure. There was a blankness and a silence in the face of Nature’s violence. I found myself reaching for my Mother’s Rosary Beads – the pair of Irish Greenhorn beads which I associate with her for as far back as I can remember. I held them in my right hand and tried to sleep. They were the only thing which gave me any sense of security. The fact that her hands had held these beads through her long years of life and journey into death, somehow said that if anyone was beyond time and space, she would be the one who would take care of me and keep me safe. I held on to them for about four nights.
My deepest experience has been that of profound silence in the face of something too big for me to comprehend – yet somehow I also knew I needed to let go ‘the need to know’. Even this 7.1 earthquake paled into insignificance before the might of planet earth itself, let alone the vast cosmos in which this solitary planet is but a speck of sand. What or Who is the Author of such vastness? And how can that Who or What be remotely interested in me? Does my life and does Life itself have an ultimate meaning and if it doesn’t, then what is the purpose of my existence?
These were the questions which uncovered the fault-lines in my own psyche – shattered the ways I had previously made sense of my life – and thrust me not into outer chaos, but inner. It was like an experience of cosmic agoraphobia. Too much space and too much of everything. At some point I thought of John Mattern, my first analyst. I remembered talking to him about being overwhelmed by the immensity of the universe.
He had said ‘you are allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the immensity of matter – and forgetting psyche’. At the time (1993) I didn’t really understand what he was saying.
But as I began contemplating my ‘cosmic agoraphobia’ I gradually became aware that the fact I was conscious of the immensity of what I was a part of, was actually of greater significance than the cosmos of which I was aware. I realized then, that human consciousness, was the crowning point of evolution – and that all matter – all that exists in creation – converged, and continues to converge in one direction only – the ongoing evolution of human consciousness. Towards what Teilhard de Chardin called the “Omega point”. The fear and the agoraphobia have not totally diminished, but somehow I know that being aware – being conscious of what I am afraid of is more ‘immense’, more significant than the immensity of matter itself which was threatening to destabilize me psychically and emotionally.
I was immensely comforted by Bede Griffiths’ book during this time. Phrases like Ultimate Reality, Mystery, The Vastness and the Void started to describe much more accurately what I was experiencing – more than any of the religious or psychological paths I had walked to date. He said things which I already knew, but didn’t. Like the paths were just that, paths. Not an end in themselves. That each great religious tradition was a face – an image of the Ultimate Reality which is finally beyond description.
That Jesus Christ embodied in his life and being the destiny of every human being viz the marriage within each person of the human and the divine. That in a unique way, he experienced the truth of the inner presence of the Divine Ground, that he called ‘Abba’ – residing in the depths of our interior.
Suddenly, without warning, being committed to Catholicism and my vocation as a Jungian Analyst, seemed to fall away. None of them ‘did it’ completely. Nor do I now think, they are meant to. They are all paths, symbols – ‘bridges towards an unseen shore.” But in the ‘falling away’ something different was returned. My particular religious tradition is still a valid path for me – even more so – despite all its human failures. I have simply seen a little bit further along the bridge than I used to, but I don’t yet quite know what it is that I have ‘seen’. I am also acutely aware that what I have ‘seen’ is still very elusive and can slip from sight.
While reading Richard Tarnas’ book Cosmos and Psyche (8) this afternoon and looking out into my garden, I became even more aware of the source of my ‘cosmic agoraphobia’ and the dualism still subtly lodged in my thinking. It was as if I was trying to come to terms with Something or Someone ‘outside’ of the Cosmos who was its source and who had created it. Set it in motion. An old, metaphysical, mechanistic, medieval world-view: instead of seeing that the cosmos itself is an unending vessel in which the Soul of the Universe resides and has been evolving into human consciousness over light years. Suddenly I looked outside differently. Not only was I physically part of what I contemplated; my soul, my consciousness, my ‘self’ was connected to the World Soul – the Unus Mundus which informed it all.
The inner fault-line through which this new awareness had been painfully born, somehow had its origin in the experience of a little girl – myself – whose mother had nearly died giving birth to my brother. Her near death had caused a terrible fear of abandonment – of death and loss – of floating endlessly in an alien universe, against which I defended myself by developing a life-long capacity to somehow cope with whatever life ‘threw at me.’ Somehow that two-and-half-year-old decided that her life’s task was to take responsibility, probably for everything! but especially for her mother – to ‘make it all better – or something terrible would happen’.
It was only when something ‘terrible’ did happen – totally beyond and outside my control or capacity to ‘make it all better’ – like a 7.1. earthquake!! that Something, Someone much greater could begin to break through. And in its dark, frightening, but somehow compelling presence, I returned once again to Teilhard de Chardin’s experience and found the same words tentatively rising in my heart as it did in his: “ego sum noli timere” – ‘It is I, do not be afraid’. John 6:16-21 (9)
In that moment I gave thanks for the faith of my ancestors, particularly my mother and father, who initiated me into Catholicism – the heart of which gives ultimate meaning to trauma, suffering – particularly of the innocent – and death. And I also give thanks for all those whom life has placed on my path – enabling me to find meaning in my life and support for my inner fault-lines!! And ramifications thereof!!
Finally – in the midst of my reflections I came across an extract from an anonymous letter written in the 15th century which seems to say all I have attempted to say – and more. I have entitled it “Thou Silent Cry.”
O deeply buried treasure, how wilt thou be unearthed?
O elevated nobility, who can reach thee?
O rushing fountain, who can drain thee?
O luminous radiance, power that breaks forth,
Hiddenness laid bare, security that is hidden,
assuring confidence, harmonious stillness in all things,
manifold good in the silence of concord,
thou silent cry, no one can find thee
who knows not how to let thee go. (10)
(1) Found on the home-page of the Irish Psychoanalytic website.
(2) “Now a great sign appeared in heaven; a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head with a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon … it stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the world with an iron scepter, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days”. (Revelation 12:1-6)
(3) Teilhard de Chardin’s The Divine Milieu P.76-80 especially p.78
(4) Carl Jung, Collected Works 10:367
(5) Synchronicity A term coined by Jung to designate the meaningful coincidence or equivalence
(a) of a psychic and physical state or event which have no causal relationship to one another.
(b) if similar or identical thoughts, dreams etc occurring at the same time at different places. Neither the one nor the other coincidence can be explained by causality, but seem to be connected primarily with activated archetypal processes in the unconscious. Jung writes:
“My preoccupation with the psychology of unconscious processes long ago compelled me to look about for another principle of explanation, because the causality principle seemed to me inadequate to explain certain remarkable phenomena of the psychology of the unconscious. Thus I found that there are psychic parallelisms which cannot be related to each other causally, but which must be connected through another principle, namely the contingency of events. This connection of events seemed to me essentially given by the fact of their relative simultaneity, hence the term ‘synchronistic’.
“It seems indeed, as though time, far from being an abstraction, is a concrete continuum which contains qualities or basic conditions that manifest themselves simultaneously through parallelisms that cannot be explained causally, as for example, in cases of the simultaneous occurrence of identical thoughts, symbols or psychic states.” (The Secret of the Golden Flower pp 142 following – modified) ….
“Synchronicity is no more baffling or mysterious than the discontinuities of physics. It is only the ingrained belief in the sovereign power of causality that creates intellectual difficulties and makes it appear unthinkable that causal events exist or could ever occur … Their inexplicability is not due to the fact that the cause is unknown, but to the fact that a cause is not even thinkable in intellectual terms”. (Ibid pp 518 ff)
Extracts from the Glossary of Memories, Dreams, Reflections, P.418-419 Collins Fount Paperbacks 1977
(6) Edward Edinger, P.119 The Christian Archetype
(7) After his horrendous experience of war through his chaplaincy in the trenches of the First World War, Teilhard de Chardin describes the process of evolution this way: “Seen from the viewpoint of our human experience and drawn to our human scale, the world is an immense groping, an immense enterprise, an immense attack; its progress is made at the price of much failure and many wounds. The sufferers, no matter to what species they belong, are the expressions of this austere but noble condition. They pay for the forward progress and the victory of all”. … “The Cross is the symbol of this arduous labour of evolution, rather than a symbol of expiation.” Teilhard de Chardin; Pensees Number 4
(9) The following is a contemporary reflection by Lionel Corbett on this process, reflective of Teilhard de Chardin’s insights in Note 6 above.
“… our emotional (and physical) suffering always contains an element of the divine. The archetype at the centre of our complex, no matter how painful, is this element, (the divine); so there is no escape from the numinosum (divine presence) at the core of our difficulty.
This is why the Self images which appear to us always contain elements of our deepest needs and fears. If the divine is never further away than our suffering, then our suffering becomes the beginning of our spirituality. Any attempt to develop spiritual techniques that do not penetrate and understand suffering, run the risk of avoiding the sacred itself.” P.51 Lionel Corbett, The Religious Function of the Psyche Brunner-Routledge 1996
(10) Sited by Dorothee Soelle in the frontpiece of her book The Silent Cry – Mysticism and Resistance, 2001 Fortress Press, Minneapolis
Joy Ryan-Bloore (High Dip Tchg, Dip Theol (Undergraduate), BA, Dip Analytical Psychology) is a Jungian Analyst and Psychotherapist working in private practice in Christchurch. In 1993-1997 she trained at the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich together with her husband Allan, and complemented her analytical training with body therapy. She has been a member of the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists since 1984; is a member of the International Assn of Analytical Psychologists; and an Executive Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Jungian Analysts. She has a particular interest in the inter-face of psychological and spiritual development and since her return from Zurich has facilitated ecumenical retreats and seminars for people in New Zealand and Australia, particularly in Melbourne and Perth. Earlier in her life she was a Religious Teaching Sister with the Sisters of Mercy working for 18 years as a primary and secondary school teacher in Christchurch. Her current work involves psychotherapy, and/or Jungian Analysis with specific attention to dreams; and supervision of Counsellors, Teachers, Spiritual Directors, Psychiatric Nurses and Social Workers.
Phone +64 3 389 6010 Email firstname.lastname@example.org