Hi everyone. I want to thank Bonnie Bright for the invitation to participate in this online book Club, and hope that I can follow in the footsteps of last months author, Dr. Eril Shallit, to provide what I hope is a meaningful discussion about the underpinnings of my book, Field, Form and Fate and to continue the explorations into the domain of psyche and spirit.
The idea for this book began back in 1996 when my interests into the confluence of matter and psyche began to take shape- In addition to C.G. Jung’s ongoing work into the workings of psyche and Self, it was the world of the New Sciences of Emergence, which provided the necessary next step in this work. Ervin Lazlo, considered by many as the worlds foremost systems theorist was presenting in our annual conference in Assisi, Italy when he made the following comment in response to questions about archetype and form, when he said, “Field precedes Form”. As discussed in the radio interview with Bonnie Bright, I suddenly had the theoretical, archetypal and mystical backdrop I had been missing. Be it the emergence of symbols in dreams, or the espression of behavior in life and relationship, each appears as an expression of the field from which it was generated. It was, as Lazlo said, the archetypal field that is omnipresent, and from this matter and experiences emerge. Then when looking further into the workings of fields, I found not only biological but archetypal validation for the reality of innate, pre-formed, and it was the constellation of these which generated the form and dynamics which filled individual and collective expression.
This book represents my research and discoveries into the nature of fields and a discussion of how it is that these non-material fields, express their dynamics within the material domain- Such are the ways of psyche and the ways of the psychoidal.
Now more than thirteen years after the publication of that book, I remain deeply interested in the workings of these fields, and how it is that an understanding of the patterns established from these can move the individual into a meaningful relationship with life and the archetype and so too into a relationship with those non generative archetypal dynamics.
I hope that you find this work of interest and that you will take time to read the first 70 or so pages in this book within the next two weeks, and I will respond to the general themes emerging from these. Please feel free to post any questions or comments you may have in the meantime.
Very much looking forward to meeting each and every one of you through this on line forum.
Hi Michael! Welcome to the Book Club, and thank you so much for being willing to take time this month to tend this group. I'm not sure if everyone here realizes it, but each of our book club authors this year has agreed to take this on free of charge and with a willing heart to share their work and bring something of value to the online community here. I'm so grateful to be a part of all of this in whatever way I can, and encourage everyone to participate at whatever level you can and keep an open mind about expectations. Even Michael, I know, is traveling in Italy this month to present to Jungian and depth psych groups there on this work, so I, for one, will take what I can get and relish the reading and interaction all the more.
Meanwhile, Dr. Conforti's work has been some of the most profound I have encountered in my short but intensive career. While I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the remarkable and deeply thought-provoking content, I also greatly appreciate how true the work is to Jung's ORIGINAL ideas--some of which have been appropriated, re-interpreted, and re-formed over the years--as many theories tend to be. So much Jungian psychology has drifted toward what I now blatantly think of, thanks primarily to Michael's work, as "projection." By projecting our subjective understanding onto an image--a dream image or anything else--we put ourselves on a dangerous path which may cause us to miss what the objective psyche--as Jung labeled it--is literally bending over backwards to convey to us. It is so critical to look at the "nature" of a thing--what is natural, what is not natural, what is missing....
I'm currently enrolled in two of Michael's certification programs--the 9-month Dream Patterning and the 2-year "Archetypal Pattern analysis." Both programs focus on teaching participants how to look at an image and understand--by remaining true to the image--what is universal and far-reaching meaning is in our lives. After all, the image shows up for a reason--and that reason can become obvious if we will stay true to the absolute laws of nature that must be obeyed. Michael often encourages the group to "take it slow" and pay attention to the threshold or beginning image of a dream. If you truly look at the core structure of any image, there are incontrovertible laws that cannot be ignored.
However, this is becoming controversial in the depth psych world because many therapists and practitioners now encourage clients to apply subjective experience (what does it remind you of? What do you associate?)--which, while not all bad and can sometimes provide interesting material--can also completely subsume the indisputable laws associated with any given image or archetype and render them useless if we don't pay attention or if we neglect to look at them altogether.
What do you all think about the subjective view of an image in the face of the objective or incontrovertible image conveyed by psyche? What are the pros and cons? (Hint--read far enough in Field, Form, and Fate and you'll definitely see some points to make an argument). BTW, I also recommend, if you have time, to read Yoram Kaufmann's "The Way of the Image" concurrently with Field, Form, and Fate. I'm probably beating Michael to the punch because it's one of the first books Michael recommends for students in his programs and is highly enlightening on this topic...
Hi everyone. Well--with the addition of over 30 members to the Book Club with the start of March, I'm a bit surprised by how quiet the group is. We have so little of Michael's time and for this month only--let's take advantage and get this discussion started! Perhaps you can take a moment and post something from a page or sentence that has created some kind of response for you: emotional, surprising, stimulating curiosity or a question---This will give some great fodder for Michael and for others in the group to respond to.
I'll start: at the bottom of page 20, Dr. Conforti defines a pattern as "a coalescing of multiple trajectories into a singularity." On page 21, he goes on to talk about the 'presence of spirit in matter", conceiving matter "not as an isolated or frozen event in space and time, but as the psyche's attempt to present in symbolic form the face of an archetype." Each form, then is "an expression of an archetype which draws and entrains us into alignment with it."
What strikes me then, is this: If an archetype can "entrain" us--that is, impose itself on us and cause us to change direction or align with it--perhaps even "possess' us, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN to each of us individually--or more, as a culture? What fields or archetypes are entraining each of us--and all of us--at this moment? And what do we do about it?
Thank-you for getting this going, Michael and Bonnie. I am out of town this week, at the memorial for James Hillman at Pacifica, followed by intense dissertation research. I can't wait to dig into Michael's book, which has long been on my priority list, and will be featured prominently in my dissertation. I can't wait to ask Michael questions. As soon as I get through a rough patch of outstanding research, in the next day or two, I will be actively participating. Thank-you so much, Bonnie, for giving us the opportunity to dig into Michael's amazing work.
Regarding eternal motifsa and innate ordering processes...
All that assumes a shape, design, and a pattern in the world, does so because of the presence and activation of an underlying, archetypal field of influence, seeking emergence in the personal and collective domain. From the beauty of a flower, to the form of a home, and to the those musical tones which bring us to our knees, all emerge as expressions of innate , a-priori archetypal fields. This is the domain I have been interested in for the past thirty (30) years and the theme I look at throughout this book.
In this regard, when we come to appreciate the intrinisic beauty and harmony of all that exists in the world, we hopefully become interested in what nature is showing, and teaching us through these images. To respect them in their own right, is an act of reverence. Here to we begin to see that the work of understanding and appreciating images is not so much a process of needing to project our own ideas and needs onto an image as it is to allow the image to express itself in it's own way. Like a child whose nature begins it's journey of expression from the first day of life- our job as parents, uncles, aunts, godparents, and teachers is to understand the intrinsic nature of that which draws our attention and that which is presented to us by the Self.
This book was a joy to write, and I hope that it opens some doors for you as well. What thoughts are occurring to you as you contemplate the intrinsic nature of images?
My deepest appreciation to Bonnie Bright for her work in creating this wonderful forum for all of us to talk about the profoundity of Jung's work. --Michael Conforti
Hello Michael, great to have you aboard the DPA.
I received your book yesterday - I am UK resident living in Nottingham, in the East Midlands of England. I started reading Field, Form and Fate today, and reading through Patterns in Psyche and Nature, I have two questions to address to you, and the rest of the group:
Hope all is well with you and yours. In trying to find a place to enter the conversation, I noticed that I was procrastinating b/c of my lack of intellectual knowledge regarding the emergence of form. Thank you for asking what thoughts are occurring as I contemplate the intrinsic nature of images, so I can engage.
In doing this, I noticed that my experience with this topic is developing in stages as I age and that my ability to be with this profound reality is intimately connected to the inferior function, experiences in nature and dream work. Waiting to write gave me the space to remember how I began to notice the emergence of and alignment to archetypal forms in daily life, including my private practice. Like you archetypal forms in nature first caught my attention as a child, and has profoundly impacted my choice in career and key relationships including who I choose to study with....:)
Your example of how the archetype creates its influence as if throwing out a high powered radio signal was used by a mystic I followed in the 90s. It is an excellent metaphor for what is actually going on and as you state, individual recognition does not matter. If one is in the grip of an archetypal indentification (Bush-post 911 and the Hero Archetype), Aphordite (celebrities) can one 'notice' this if one can find enough consciousness or self awareness to own one's shadow projections? I find the political scene and/or Hollywood to be a wonderful backdrop for the study of archetypal events, individual and/or collective projections.
This radio metaphor also reminds me of the Tabula Smaragdina where it is stated 'as above, so below.' No matter what translation of this ancient document one reads, they all agree that things above are like things below and vice versa. Coleridges ideas of primary and secondary imagination also comes to mind in terms of the emergence of Art forms.
To piggy back on Deborah's question "how do we deal with the unknowable aspect of the archetype as opposed to the representation of the archetype" could you please mention something about projections, archetypal identification and the impact on the individuation process?
I have not read the author's book in particular, but I am familiar with a lot of the emerging material on fields and archetypes. Perhaps Dr. Conforti may use some of my analysis here as a jumping off place for some of the ideas in his book, or if not him, perhaps one of you that is currently reading it.
I wanted to address this point in particular: "What do you all think about the subjective view of an image in the face of the objective or incontrovertible image conveyed by psyche? What are the pros and cons?"
So, in classical Jungian thinking, the unconscious is composed of archetypes which are basically something equivalent to forms in Platonic philosophy. Since I have a degree in computer technology, I'm going to drop a bit of analogy on you guys that hopefully you will patiently endure. When programming first came into play, it was all procedural, meaning you told the computer what to do step by step. As people began to write longer code, it became evident they were repeating themselves, so they decided to abstract out certain elements in programming into a generic definition which they referred to as an object. Hence, object-oriented programming was born. The funny thing about abstracting things out, though, is you can do it recursively. You can abstract the abstraction, and so on. At some point, you just have to decide to write code and try to use the RIGHT amount of abstraction balanced by what you want to get done. There are no rules to this. It is more of an art.
Contrast this with the more familiar example of words and definitions. If you look in a dictionary a word has a specific canonical meaning. Modified by context it means something else, and in poetry, well, chuck the dictionary out the window.
The philosopher Wittgenstein wondered whether there was such a thing as a private language--that is a language only one person could understand. He dismissed this notion, but it comes up rather frequently in philosophical discourse.
Why have I taken you on this tour of these seemingly disparate matters? Well, an archetype is a lot like a word, or a lot like an object in programming. It is an abstraction that is taken to be the basic building block. Plato gives us an idea of the endpoint of abstraction in his conception of the Form of the Good. It is the form from which all other forms hail. So, in some sense, we might be able to say that an archetype, if viewed from a sufficient level of abstraction, blurs into nothingness, or everything, or God, depending on what you want to call it. It might very well become "consciousness itself".
If this is so, and I suspect it probably is, our views of archetypes are all subjective in a sense. In other words, since our perspectives are all narrow, we are only relating to and seeing a portion of the archetype, rather like a flashlight reveals only portions of where the ray pierces the darkness. If someone tells me that they have a mother, I know what they mean by the word, but I don't exactly know what they think of when they say it. If I'm going to try to talk to them at an archetypical level, I first have to understand their own language where the archetype is concerned before I can translate it into something more "objective". Further, I can't really tell them "objectively" what their archetype ought to be. They have to be willing to adjust their own flashlight to see the thing from a different angle. What that angle is is going to evolve. I may or may not recognize it from objective definitions of it, but I will probably understand how they "got there".
So, I think the objective side of archetypes are handy as a "general road map" but I think one has to be willing to go into uncharted territory to try to understand what is going on internally in an archetypical way. There is, in a sense, a "private language" in the experience of an archetype, but if you take the time to understand the person, you can "sorta" see how they got there.
I too would like to understand the dynamic that comes forward in that type of woman. I have seen this in my practice also. I will have the book on Monday and look forward to a "rich" read.
I think my comment and question piggy-backs on earlier discussions regarding how we deal with the unknowable aspect of the archetype as opposed to the representation of the archetype. It seems to me that by again turning to science to help us understand field and form, a turn-back to Jung and away from Hillman's deconstruction of reified psychological concepts, then we again find ourselves using the ego to know what is other. Using the ego of course privileges that mode of consciousness, perhaps to the detriment of imagination and experience, as Hillman posits. Is there a way to have it all?--to use science without constricting imagination? I have a feeling, Michael, that you have managed this--that the unified field is numinous and imaginative in your own internal experience of it .
Because internet is tone-deaf I want to begin my reply with an assertion that I feel compelled to challenge the idea that human sacrifice is something we should not judge, not the person who posted. Cheryl--no offense meant in challenging your post-- none at all.
I have to confess that it is a bridge too far for me to cross to envision human sacrifice as "a joyous return." I think of myself as an open-minded person, but, when it comes to human sacrifice...I am willing to categorically pronounce my opinion that our journey out of that abyss is a good thing--sometimes evolution works. I am glad and relieved that traditions of human sacrifice are no longer sanctioned and no longer regarded within the sphere of the holy. I hope that one day animals too are freed from violence, and that the human animal is able to evolve out of genocide, torture, and murder.
I am doing research on human sacrifice and from what I can surmise, there were scapegoats who died--whether or not they were ready to move out of their lives, on to a blissful return. I don't see that the practice can be romanticized as something that people eagerly lined up for, anticipating bliss. Sacred death ceremonies, as held in Eleusis, so far as we know (very little), did not practice human sacrifice. Something occurred that was mystical (and symbolic)--that alleviated the fear of death. These traditions were distinct from traditions of human sacrifice.
Human instinct points us towards life--even in deep despair people often hold on tenaciously to their lives. Life is a beautiful gift, even if death is okay too. Sacrificial cults often demanded the death of children-- children. If human sacrifice is a good thing because death is a good thing--can we then say that genocide is okay because it affords the opportunity for a joyous return? Is what is happening today in Syria and Africa, for example, okay because death is okay?
I don't think we need to judge our ancestors, who had distinctly different values and worldviews, in order to say that the practice of human sacrifice was bad. I don't judge them--I am just happy to not be them.
Just returned from four days of lecturing in Rome. There is great interest in Italy in these issues of archetypal fields and the objective nature of psyche and images. So now I need a day of rest and will then will jump into these discussions and questions. I will say that the caliber of questions is excellent and do hope that we can continue looking at the issue of the generation of form-which is the central theme in this book.
When we look at an archetype or an archetypal contellation, say the Puer or Puella, or the Great or Negative mother or father, we are looking at a field of influence and meaning contaning certain stable, highly regular aspects to it- These are pattterns, as are the patterns we find in fairy tales, Hasidic and Biblical stories and the c making of all great literature and movies. There is a sense of wonder and awe we look at these patterns which have been with us from the beginning of time, and exist as innate, a-priori eternal motifs- as the archetypes within the collective unconscious.
Jung was onto this and so taken by the discoveries of these universals, that he dedicated mroe than 50 years of his life looking into these images and expressions of psyche.
In many ways, this work is a sort of archetypal ethology- a study of those universal tendencies. Human creativity is a workign with the elements of the world, like a great chef who goes to the market to buy all these wonderful ingredients, and then who goes into the kitchen to make a meal which reflects the individual creativity of the individual their culture, and all that makes this person who they are.
Looking forward to getting some rest so that I can engage the wonderful questions emerging in this discussion group,
Dear Dr. Conforti, when you have recuperated from your travels and immersion in Rome, I look forward to reading your responses to the group, and I have these questions to add and thank you for offering your time here on DPA!
Do you have any ideas about applying Jung's tension of the opposites to archetypal field theory?
I ask this because there seems to be a sense of agency implied in your discussion of archetypal fields, and of your citing of Gary Zukav’s statement:
"Fields alone are real. They are the substance of the universe." on page 50 of Field, Form, & Fate: Patterns in Mind, Nature, and Psyche.
Do the fields interact with one another outside of us? And perhaps, conversely,
Do archetypes have conflicts within our lived experience?
Would you say that there is a collective intelligence in the field? One that organizes for the greater good, somehow?
Regarding your fascinating discussion of Jung's concept of the psychoid, on pages 50 and 51 of Field, Form and Fate,
The following two films which I saw in my late teens, seemed to really open the experience of the psychoid realm - the very eerie and ambivalent aspect of it, that is!
The horror of a very negative and self destructive iterative field that (as I remember it) was suggested in a very dramatic way in Roman Polanski's film The Tenant -
The field seemed to live in the apartment building and found amplification to the extreme with in the actions of the tenants of a particular apartment.
And for a possible exploration of the tension of opposites playing out in field theory, what comes to mind is the movie Solaris, especially the 1972 Russian film. This is my recall of the movie:
In the original version of the Russian film Solaris, the planet which the cosmonauts are orbiting seems to have taken a numinous grip upon the psyches and physical experiences of the personnel in orbit, in a very disturbing but also liberating or even emotionally comforting way, yet it's field of influence seemed to be mainly iterative to the degree that the cosmonaut would opt to go and live on or in the planet's actual physical and psychical dimension, forever vanishing from human contact. He would be subsumed by the archetypal experiences given to him by the field of the planet...it seemed, and completely give over to it. This could be seen as lost in a fantasy, or fulfillment of one's path of resonance and heart's desire?
Some crew members did everything they could to get out of that planet's orbit and return to Earth...and their efforts were often thwarted or reversed by events that seemed to emanate from the planet itself as it entered their psyches and experiences on board the space station. A very interesting movie!
Although I saw the movie in 1978 or so, I still have these recollections of it. The recent 2002 Hollywood production of it did not seem as impactful to me although I enjoyed George Clooney!
Dr Conforti, do you have any commentary on my ramblings? If you have already discussed these ideas below in your books, please forgive my ignorance – I have read part of Field, Form, & Fate: Patterns in Mind, Nature, and Psyche and Yoram Kaufman’s The Way of the Image, but I am a bit distracted with thesis writing at the moment, so I may have missed some relevant answers…
Thank you for your fascinating work...
And Yoram Kaufman's great contribution via his elucidation of the "Orientation of the Image"...