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Reading the Signs of the Times: Jung Zoom Study Group 28th April 2020

In preparing for the upcoming Jung Zoom meeting, a number of subjects have been jostling for my attention. It is impossible to fix on only one issue to study. It is a shape-changing time. An inherently restless time. So, rather than wresting something into an order that it resists, here are my current preoccupations.

1. Mortality and the fear of death.

I can recommend two books on this subject, from very different perspectives. First, “Being with Dying” by Roshi Joan Halifax. I have reviewed this book on The Therapists Bookshelf. One concept that Roshi Joan unpacks is the notion of a “good” death, and other ideals around death. She attended the dying during the AIDS epidemic and her experience can educate us in the current situation. The second author is Irvin D. Yalom, in “Staring at the Sun: overcoming the terror of death”. As a psychotherapist of many years, Yalom accompanied many people in their fear of death and/or dying process. He has an existential foundation and here is an interview with him on the subject.

2. How can we utilize the changes that covid-19 has enforced upon us as conscious evolutionary change? Here is an article that explores this notion: “Covid-19 as Quantum Phenomenon” by Martin Winiecki.

3. The necessity for all of us to be or become visionaries. I wrote this short paper, “Are you living a visionary life?” a few years ago when I was deeply moved by the necessity for all of us to exercise our visionary faculties. At the time I was planning a full day workshop on the subject, but never got around to running it. Perhaps now is the time?

4. Our education mitigates against visionary thinking. The Book “The Maiden Tzar” by Marion Woodman and Robert Bly focuses on this, as does the DVD series “Men and Women”, on which the book is based.

5. The principal of “chaos-order-chaos” as essential to change. My Master’s thesis was based on the idea “that chaos theory posits the existence of chaos, followed by integration at a higher level, followed by chaos.” This is a big subject in itself. I believe this is where we are situated now, that is, in a period of chaos moving towards a new order of integration at a higher level. Can we all contribute to that new integration?

Are you Living a Visionary Life?

The dictionary defines a visionary as a person who is “thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom”. The dictionary then adds a few more possibilities; to be inspired, imaginative, creative, inventive, insightful, ingenious, enterprising, innovative, perceptive, intuitive, far-sighted, prescient, discerning, penetrating, sharp, shrewd, wise, clever, talented, gifted, resourceful…

Yes, undoubtedly, but I believe there is more.

C. G. Jung viewed visionary capacities as a particular manifestation of the creative life. He made a distinction between creativity arising from our personal psychology, and a form of creative thinking that arises from the collective unconscious. The creativity from the conscious, expressed by the poet for instance, “gives us a greater depth of human insight by making us vividly aware of those everyday happenings we tend to evade or overlook” (CG Jung, CW 15, para139). It is a distillation of life that we can all, to some degree, relate to.

The second mode Jung described as a visionary mode of creativity. The visionary mode, which arises from “the hinterland of man’s mind…bursts asunder our human standards of value and aesthetic form” CG Jung CW 15, para141. This latter form of creativity, the visionary mode, is not personal for Jung, is not a “symptom” or evidence of the personal life, but “allows us a glimpse into the unfathomable abyss of the unborn and of things to come” (ibid). These glimpses pass the limits of personal psychological understanding, where the ego has no footing. In Jung’s terms, this introduces us to the realm of The Self, and the wellspring of wholeness and innovation. We see already that the visionary perspective will be oriented to the big picture rather than personal preoccupations.

One of the great strengths of Jung’s work is that he cautions us against an inflation, which can all too easily arise when the ego identifies with the non-ego state of the Self. This is an important point, which I will apply in a practical way later. A counter to this possibility of inflation is our relationships; our connectedness with others, including our connectedness with the forces of nature.

Let me explain. Firstly, “until we have a reasonable idea of where we are going, we are unlikely to get there” David Korten, p1. This requires a penetrating understanding of the present, a broad view of everything that is going on, a visionary perspective, which is not based on a belief in the viability of prevailing paradigms, but a questioning of them. 

Visionary goals will be collective, rather than personal. A visionary will be looking beyond personal short-term gains or the short-sighted public policies of any current government or organization. This perspective was taken by North American first nation grandmothers. These grandmothers took the role of the preservers of the future, and were/are occupied with understanding current trends that need to be corrected before their full disaster unfolds. They are protecting the wellbeing of their children and grandchildren. The protection they are concerned with is environmental, social, economic, spiritual and psychological, that is, health on all levels. This is the visionary perspective.

The visionary perspective “seeks for as many of us as possible to live decent lives far into the future, without interfering or compromising the ability of others to do the same” p 2. In their book, Good News for a Change: Hope for a Troubled Planet, David Suzuki and Holly Dressel (Suzuki & Dressel, 2002) express this visionary perspective. They believe that by applying the insights arising from a visionary perspective, we “are not only increasing our chances for survival…they are helping us discover deep forms of satisfaction and joy” p4. In other words the benefits are psychological, social and spiritual.

One aspect of a visionary attitude focuses on community. By community I mean understanding the local conditions in which you live, being committed to staying there, and understanding that environment on all levels, and contributing to and being part of that community. This kind of commitment leads to sustainability, and I mean the sustainability of human psychological and spiritual life as well as economic and social stability. Sustainability is based on being aware of local conditions, and responding to them, rather than imagining there will be a policy that comes to us from some “expert” far away. We are our own local experts. We rely on the hard-won experience of elders that define what makes the local area and conditions unique.

A community needs a broad consensus from everyone who lives there. This enables people to work together, rather than divisively, where none are the exploiters or the exploited. There are common goals, and this leads to a sense of security, prosperity and belonging. Local self-sufficient communities are a buffer against the larger forces of national and global policies and events.

Suzuki, David, & Dressel, Holly. (2002). Good News for a Change: Hope for a Troubled Planet. Toronto: Allen & Unwin.

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