JULY: Patricia Damery and Naomi Ruth Lowinsky: Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way.
“This life is the way, the long sought after way to the unfathomable which we call divine.” C.G. Jung, The Red Book
Each of us has a story about how we found our way to Jung, or to Depth Psychology. Often it is a story about a life crisis: something or someone has died, the old structure falls apart, life as we knew it doesn’t work anymore. We are disoriented, confused, depressed. And then, something surprising happens, something new is born-- in a dream we discover a room in our house we never knew was there. These life altering experiences are our personal versions of Jung’s “confrontation with the unconscious” which he recorded in The Red Book. His courage has encouraged us all.
When Mel Mathews of Fisher King Press asked us to collaborate on an anthology, we knew we wanted a collection stories about the lived experience of the “Jungian Way.” We invited Jungian analysts and teachers to write personally about their own soulful paths, and how the fire marked them. The people we chose were able to do just that, following that trail of mystery Soul presents. Marked by Fire is the result.
We are pleased to be able to converse with you who are members of the Depth Psychology Alliance’s Book Club about Marked by Fire. It is our hope that you’ll feel inspired to reflect on your own life journey, and to share some of it with us.
Marked by Fire is divided into five sections. During our four weeks together in July we plan to focus on each section. We have four groups of questions for you which we will present at the beginning of each week. They correspond with the structure of the book.
We’ll likely add more questions as our conversation sparks them.
Please read the first three stories by Patricia Damery, Jerome Bernstein, and Claire Douglas, all of whose writings come under the Section Heading: The Might of the Earth.
The land is alive, sacred and essential in these stories. Patricia Damery awakened to soul on the farm where she was raised. Jerome Bernstein, a city boy, had an experience of merger with the land when he began working with the Navajo. Claire Douglas credits a farm she had in Oregon with saving her soul. That terrain nourished and cultivated her, and helped her find her circuitous way to Jung.
Question: Has the Earth spoken to you on your own soulful path? Are there riddles you have been required to “live”? Have the ancestors of the land upon which you live influenced and/or helped you? Do you have an early memory or dream that foreshadows your life’s concerns and passions?
Hi Patricia, Naomi, and all. What a lovely introduction to a remarkable book! Thank you so much for the vivid and powerful imagery to launch us into the reading.
I have only just begun, but finding myself halfway through Patricia's essay that starts the series, I am profoundly touched by the very personal sharing. In the wake of reading about your own experience, Patricia, of burying the powder tin "treasure box" in the yard--and the correlation with Jung's own play with the mannikin in the face of his family situation--I find myself remembering flashes of my own experience hiding "treasures" and acting out stories in the sandbox and in strawstacks with figurines made from things I found in nature. Some of these are things I haven't thought of in years and I'm finding this experience of remembering back to be very moving.
I look forward to finishing the essay tomorrow and just can't wait to see what the rest of the book holds. Truly the reading is like a journey--very compelling. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope others of you are experiencing your own re-discovery of childhood and with it, not only our vulnerability and innocence, but also our amazing creativity and capacity to adapt and be. I encourage everyone to take a few moments and share what you can of this feeling here in this space this month....
Thank you, Bonnie,
Reflecting on this childhood activity after reading Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections brought riches in a number of ways. First, it reminded me of doing it, and the importance of the activity to my child self in holding anxieties and tension I could not consciously take on. "Unpacked" later, the memory brought renewed confidence in the unconscious and in the language of the psyche in seeing Jung also engaged in such an activity as a child. I think this dual function is a theme throughout many of these stories: the spiral aspect of experience. Each round of reflection serves in various ways, brings new vistas.
Dear all, I just got the (e)book and hopefully can start reading today.
Great subject to philosophize about...
Welcome! We are glad you joined us!
In these personal stories, synchronicity plays such a role! In my own story, the synchronicity of turning completely black in the hot springs the night (or early hours) of the manitou dream signaled a descent of the beginning of my own personal analysis. For Jerome Bernstein, his dream of receiving the "Robe of Consciousness" from Grandpa, the kiva chief, the night after Jerome attended the Bean Dance, preceded the actual event. Both experiences brought a numinous sense of merging with land and sky and people, which I think of as manitou. Do you think there is a relationship between being open to noticing synchronicity (although in these cases both Jerome and I were kind of knocked on the head by it!) and this numinous experience of being at-one with everything? Are these times we are most open to guidance from the Self? What has been your own experience?
I'm still back with your first question Patricia: has the Earth spoken to you. I grew up mostly in cities. But for a couple of years my family lived in what seemed like country to me, the outskirts of Princeton NJ. There was a meadow with willow trees. There was a swinging bridge that led into enchanted ivy woods. There was an oak tree with a low branch I could climb up on, sit on. She took me into her lap. She imprinted her deep rooted nature into me. She taught me about soul and earth. She was magical, the goddess, before I knew anything about the goddess. I have spent much of my life understanding on different levels what that that oak tree taught me when I was eight.
Second Week: When Fate Becomes Destiny and Winter Roads
This week we would like you to read the next two sections. In When Fate Becomes Destiny we are invited into two very different childhood landscapes. Gilda Frantz and Jacqueline Gerson both have access to the highly imaginative and passionate children they were. But Frantz’ early life was chaotic and unprotected while Gerson’s childhood in Mexico was warm and loving. In their essays we can see the luminous and challenging paths of their becoming themselves—the fates they had to suffer, the destinies they claimed.
Question: How would you describe your own childhood? Is there an image that comes to mind that tells a story that shaped you. E.G. Gilda Frantz’ story of being sent alone on a Greyhound bus to live with her father (p.40) Or Jaqueline Gerson’s story of praying as a child that her parents would let her study dance (p.48)
In Winter Road Jean Kirsch and Chie Lee tell stories of pilgrimages that take us to China, although in very different ways. Kirsch finds guidance and fatherly mentoring in the ancient Chinese book of divination, the I Ching. Lee came from a difficult history in China to find her way to Los Angeles, and to Jung.
Question: These women’s absent fathers heavily influenced their own soulful paths. Has an absent parent, or a too intrusive parent, influenced your soul’s path? Does a memory from your own life come to mind?
Yes, the earth has definitely spoken to me, and does so daily, if I listen. Sometimes I notice a rustling when I am thinking something, and it is an awareness in something besides what I think of only as my own psyche, a confirmation, perhaps. When I am in tune with the earth, I feel larger. There is a quiet joy within me, like my heart is humming. It happens in cities as well, but it is harder. There is so much noise, and that distracts me from hearing the earth's voice, which usually is pretty subtle. Heat, though, is not subtle, nor are storms, or winds. Sometimes it takes sledge hammers to get our attention.
Hi Patricia and Naomi,
Thanks so much for your guidance in the reading--and though I haven't finished the book by a long shot, I have to also express my gratitude for the beautiful work you have done in bringing it together. I have read the first three essays--(for those of you who haven't yet, they are very quick, easy and compelling reads!--I could hardly put the book down in the middle of each).
Patricia--I think I mentioned it, but yours was so poetic and beautifully articulated. It awakened so many memories in me about childhood and dreams--and childhood dreams. This image of the manitou, for me, led me deeper into some Mystery--THE Mystery, perhaps--that feels like it's hovering on the edge of my awareness and I'm looking forward to engaging more with this "thing" that is presenting itself to me, partly through your wonderful writing.
Meanwhile, Jerome Bernstein's story of how he came to work with the Navajo, and the power of his dreams in that process--as well as Claire Douglas' reminiscing of her own journey with the healing center in Oregon and the powerful imagery from nature which she integrated so well were both very touching and enlightening.
Patricia, I've noticed in all three essays I've read so far how each of you have credited so strongly your own discovery and experience of Jungian analysis with putting you on a path that has led you to where you are now. I wonder if either or both you and Naomi would share anything more here about what your own Jungian analysis has meant to you in your own life.
Thanks again to you both for sharing. Really powerful work.
Thank you, Bonnie, for you kind comments. My Jungian analysis formed a foundation for me for which I am most grateful. In Farming Soul, I wrote about its demise, its limits, but there was so much positive for me before the end of the work. Everyday I feel the impact of that time with my analyst. I really learned something about not being overcome with what Jungians call complexes, and, over time, I was able to extract myself from what can so easily obscur relationship to larger parts of myself. Working with "shadow" early on, those parts I would rather not claim about myself, was a kind of distillation and it goes on and on! Each time, each cycle through, a kernel of mySelf settles out. My analyst was so patient for so many years, and I have internalized his patience with me around these "shadow" issues. I want to be whole, to accept myself as I am, not to try to rid myself of less than perfect traits. I think the years going over and over experience by experience with my analyst formed something within me about the process. It allowed me to learn to not be so identified with the complex. That was the healing; that was actually the cure.
I have a question for Patricia. In your story you talk about how when you offered up one of the bigger dreams of your life in a seminar group, Edward Edinger had little to say about it, nor was it analyzed in your analysis. Some time after that, Joseph Henderson told the same seminar group that individuation does not begin until personal analysis ends. So you were left to live with the mystery of this powerful dream. I read Farming Soul in which you talk candidly about your 18-year analysis and the conflict involved. What did you think/feel when Dr. Henderson made his remark about individuation not beginning until personal analysis ends? I'm curious as to whether or not you agree with that statement.
Also, your big dream coincided with your skin turning black in the hot springs which also marked the beginning of an intense nigredo stage characterized by acute depression. While mainstream psychotherapy seeks to pull someone out of depression, it seems that you embraced it as a necessary component to becoming whole. What would your advice be to someone in the nigredo stage of the alchemical transformation process?
Thank you! I love not only this book, but Farming Soul and Naomi Lowinsky's The Sister From Below. They are two of the most powerful and compelling books I have ever read.
I am glad that both Naomi's and my books have hit meaningful cords for you. On your first question, When Dr. Henderson made this comment, I was not sure that I believed it; I found it disquieting. I was still in a phase with my analyst in which I had a great deal projected onto him, and needed to. But as I healed, the comment came back to me, and in later years has actually been a comfort. I don't know if it is universally true, but for me, ending personal analysis was critical to continuing my path. To have stayed would certainly not have been an individuating impulse. I have needed to be on my own, to hold, to find larger perspective, to make sense of life. If I still relied on mentors, analysts, spiritual teachers, or consultants, (and it was very important that I could for a good long period of time,) I would never have had to deal with my own authority, as lonely and uncomfortable as that process is.
On your second question, enduring the nigredo is our salvation. When someone is in such a state, it is important to get an analyst, a mentor, a spiritual teacher who has been through such an experience and to work with them. It is the kind of thing we most often need help with.This may sound the opposite of the last paragraph, but it is not really. That early work almost always needs an other, and then, there comes the time when one's other is inner, and the work is directly with the unconscious. I think this is what Dr. Henderson was referring to.