The Mythic Imagination and the Personal Life Story
Betsy Hall, Ph.D., LCSW
Carl Jung argued that since the Western world lacks a unifying cultural myth, individuals must turn to the personal myth for meaning, guidance, and a sense of belonging. The word “myth” has undergone a reversal in meaning between ancient and modern times. Whereas myths were once thought of as sacred stories that reveal essential truths about the psyche and the world, common modern language has reduced myth to signify untruths or lies. This lecture sought to recover an ancient sensibility about myth and asserted that a mythological re-visioning of personal life stories and events creates meaning, healing and transformation.
Through lecture and discussion, participants learned how relationships, events, and stories of the past can be re-visioned as mythological experiences. Viewing individual experience through the aperture of mythology leads one to discover soul within moments of suffering and triumph. Historical accounts and old fixed storylines become translated into sacred healing narratives, which reveal inner truths and provide opportunities for personal transformation. Through the creation of a personal mythology, the solitary self finds connection between inner and outer realities, between the deep psyche and the world. Dr. Hall shared how mythic re-storying liberates personal and cultural history from the reductionism of fear, judgment and pathological explanations.
Jung, Cosmology, and the Transformation of the Modern Self
Richard Tarnas, Ph.D.
The limits of our cosmological imagination define the limits of our existence: Do we live in a disenchanted, mechanistic, purposeless universe as a randomly produced oddity of isolated consciousness, or do we participate in a living cosmos of unfolding meaning and purpose? The modern mind has long assumed there are few things more categorically distant from each other than “cosmos” and “psyche.” What could be more outer than cosmos? What more inner than psyche? Are they not informed by fundamentally different kinds of principles, the one objective, the other subjective? But developments in many fields, from depth psychology to philosophy of science, now oblige us to recognize that cosmos and psyche are in fact deeply intertwined. Our understanding of the universe affects every aspect of our interior life from our highest spiritual convictions to our most intimate daily experience. Conversely, the deep dispositions of our interior life fully permeate and configureour understanding of the cosmos. On Friday evening, drawing on the insights of Jung and others, we will explore the evolution of the modern world view and the forging of the modern self, which have affected everything from contemporary religion and psychotherapy to U.S. foreign policy and the global ecological crisis.
Continuing with the ideas introduced in the Friday evening lecture, Dr. Tarnas deepened this analysis in the Saturday Workshop. Additionally, three overlapping topics were addressed: the nature of archetypes as that concept has evolved from Plato to Jung and beyond; Jung’s concept of synchronicity, which challenged the disenchanted world view and became a major focus of his own psycho-spiritual practice; and the categories of “masculine” and “feminine,” taking into account the more complex nature of those terms and of the human psyche than the simple, classical Jungian polarity suggests.
Mysticpoetics: Writing the Alchemical Self
Jennifer Phelps, MFA
there should be more witnesses at the edges of the self
where everything is both…
the part that wasn’t ready
stayed inside a little longer
and the part that was ready to be something
came forth –
~ Brenda Hillman
Jennifer Phelps asked the audience to consider… “How can poetry be viewed through a Jungian lens? Jennifer shared the Bay Area poet, Brenda Hillman’s interest in Gnostic beliefs and alchemy to show the alignment of her poetry with Jung’s psychology. The connection between these two minds intersects in this ancient practice and in the element of the unknown that can never be explained or proven by a rational mind. By looking at the practice of alchemy and tracing Hillman’s poems through her successive books, one might see how her poems illustrate an alchemical process of transformation.
Jung & Peruvian Shamanism
Deborah Bryon, Ph.D., BFA & LPC
Deborah Bryon guided the audience into the world of Peruvian Shamanism as it relates to Jungian ideas of the personal and transpersonal. Working with a Mesa is a form of active imagination similar to the prima materia in Jungian Psychology. When Mesa stones are “cooked,” they become a method for psychological development and healing. As in Jung’s individuation process, the goal of working with a Mesa is transformation. This occurs through a purification process of raising conscious awareness, which the Shaman refers to as shifting from “the personal” to the “mythic or archetypal” level. As in alchemy, the stones are the prima materia that is transformed as the Shaman’s capacity to hold energy or power increases. In addition to the medicine bundle, information was also presented on shamanic levels of perception as they correspond to Jungian Psychology.