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Jung Spider

one spider was harmed in the making of this paper.
a spider gave his life so that I could write this final.
a bottle of jack daniels with nipple on it.

p.s. can an a priori experience be a priori since the a priori experience itself is an experience. its kind of like deja vu. the immediate experience of having experienced this before.

"Image and Reality"

Pacifica required that I go to therapy. Getting myself to do this took a long time. I did not want to go. Maybe this is odd for someone studying to be a therapist, but I was afraid. Knowing that very few people understood me, I had gotten good at taking care of myself. Would the therapist think I was crazy? Would she want to cure me of all the things that made me who I was? Finally, in an act of discipline, I pulled myself together enough to make an appointment. I made it through my first appointment and scheduled a second. Also, through a new strength and---again---through an act of discipline, I had even done some homework. I noticed that this had been the longest span of time in my life that I had not been depressed or ill. These were good things, but they also kind of scared me. I worried that half of me was dying. Do I grieve the death of my sadness? What parts of my shadow do I want to fight for? I was also scared of getting too happy too soon and slipping back into sadness.

While driving to this second appointment, I took a sip from my coffee. Something felt strange in my mouth. Solid but light, a little crunchy…probably bigger than the grinds that would be at the bottom. I took it off my tongue and looked at it. It was a spider: big, brown and dead. I threw it out the window, but could not get the feeling off my tongue. I had the visceral sense of having killed something. I also had a rush of thoughts about what it meant. What did it mean that I had killed my spider on the way to therapy? What did it mean she had died by coffee?

This was like a dream in waking life. Just like for a dream the question arose: did the image come from within or without? Did I manifest the spider as a symbol of my
fear? Or, did some force outside of me speak to me through this symbol as an omen? In this paper, I will consider the question of where images come from: are they from an objective plane, from a subjective psyche, and is there a difference between within and without? I will explore what this image means to me from my own consciousness at the time and also the unconscious feelings that it stirred to the surface. I will then explore the importance of this symbol as the bridge between the dualities of inner and outer, subjective and objective, imagined and real. Carl Jung integrated these dualities by placing image as a mediating third. He entered the and as well as the or: what is the truth between all these poles? He posited analytical psychology as a symbolic sight that could look through shifting images and maybe see something that was left unchanged.

Jung described a surrender to trusting the unconscious that came after parting from Sigmund Freud. At that time, he said of his work with clients:
My aim became to leave things to chance. The result was that the patients would spontaneously report their dreams and fantasies to me, and I would merely ask, “what occurs to you in connection with that?” or “how do you mean that, where does that come from, what do you think about it?” The interpretations seemed to follow of their own accord from the patients’ replies and associations. I avoided all theoretical points of view and simply helped the patients to understand the dream-images by themselves, without application of rules and theories. (Jung, 1989, p. 170)

What occurs to me in connection with that? How do I mean it? Where does it come from? To me, the spider is the one who weaves between this world and the underworld. She is my magic because magic comes from the truth of being able to hold both the light and the darkness. I have seen my strength as being able to travel between these worlds without fear and as being able to go with others as they have to hang out in their dark places. I think that I am less afraid than most. Because of that, depression/death/darkness is not my shadow. Nor is happiness: they are both very conscious to me. The shadow is “the inferior part of the personality; sum of all personal and collective elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life…” (Storr, 1983, p. 422). Part of my shadow is normalcy, the mundane, what I took to be uninspired, predictable life. I was beginning to express these things; they both enticed me and scared me.

In nutritional symbolism, coffee relates to control and it tends to be over-used by the over-controlling. I mentioned that I had willfully become disciplined. I had got a chair and table to type at (rather than sitting on the floor), I was learning to write literally instead of in metaphor, I was not crying anymore, and I was going to therapy. I felt a solidness that was unfamiliar and which bordered on rigidity. My shadow self of normalcy was coming to the surface. I was worried that, through making myself do what I was told, I might not be listening to the magic. I worried that, if I chose to step all the way into this world, I might lose my ability to travel between. I worried that, by taking control, I had killed the spider.

In terms of self and shadow, I had a view of if one, then not the other. Through my fears around this image, I showed the rift in my self-structure symbolized by me putting the sacred and the profane, the eternal and the immediate at odds. It seemed that Jung took it to be the human condition to feel at odds with one’s self, and the human path to see that we are fully all of our parts and their transcendence. He gave a description of his two personalities and said that this “play and counter play between personalities No. 1 and No. 2 . . . has nothing to do with a ‘split’ of dissociation in the ordinary medical sense. On the contrary, it is played out in every individual” (Jung, 1989, p. 45). Perhaps Jung’s gift was that he took it to be play and counter play rather than seeing the two personalities at odds. When we put the two at odds, we run the risk that, eventually, one will win and the other will lose. I saw myself projecting this duality in the way I considered the spider image. In my view, there seemed to be a self and an other. In this way, information became directional: it was either me creating this image, projecting my fears out into the world, or an other—the universe, god, whatever—trying to tell me something.

These bivalent questions seem primary to the consideration of images and dreams---where do they come from, and how should we consider them? The way that these questions have been addressed in the course of modern thinking was outlined in the article, Psychic imaging: a bridge between subject and object by Paul Kugler (as presented in The Cambridge Companion to Jung, Ed. Polly Young-Eisendrath, 2006). Kugler described ways of thinking that resulted in a general distrust of images (pp. 71-78). Images were either seen as copies (of copies) of some absolute, primary thing as in the thinking of Plato and Aristotle (pp. 72-74). Or they were seen as reflections of an ultimately subjective human experience that could never refer to anything other than itself, like in the conclusions of Hume (pp. 77-78). Either way, the result was a reality that could not be trusted.

My experience of the spider in the coffee was of disruption. It was something unexpected and foreign on my tongue. Images that create numinous experiences tend to seem foreign as they are so outside of the world as it has been defined. “The images, when they arrive, may evoke in us a negative feeling of such power that we feel invaded and overrun by an alien force, or a positive feeling of being healed or blessed by a life-changing vision” (Young-Eisendrath, 2006, p. 300). Though that may be what it feels like, Jung suggested that images were not merely a connection or a communication between two worlds endlessly separate, but a window to a reality where these two worlds are one. “By placing imaging as the mediator between subject and object, Jung opened up a new understanding of imaging and its role in creating our sense of psychic reality…Jung formulates his view of imaging as a mediating third position” (p. 83).

In that sense, the spider is not dead. The spider image itself has become the thread between the seemingly endless two. Regardless of whether the spider was alive or dead, the fact that I had an image at all should be heartening because it relates to integration---not just connection---between two worlds. In having that image, my soul and life were not separate. Rather, my soul was speaking to me directly through this world. The divine and the mundane were not separate. In Jung and religion: the opposing self (as presented in The Cambridge Companion to Jung, 2006), Ann Ulanov said, “the new discipline of depth psychology enables us to study the importance of our immediate experience of the divine which comes to us through dream, symptom, autonomous fantasy, all the many moments of primordial communication” (p. 297). In that sense, image showed that the divine was in this world. That image and reality, God and humanity, conscious and unconscious were not different, or at least were not mutually exclusive.

Ulanov said that personal image and fantasy had taken the place of religious imagery. The energy of humanity had shifted away from being organized around symbols out side of the self and we are now seeking individual centers through personal image and fantasy. She said that depth psychology was a “way of exploring and acknowledging the fact that the nature of our access to God has fundamentally changed. Our own psyche, which is a part of the collective psyche, is now a medium through which we can experience the divine” (p. 297).

As we try to surrender to image, as Jung suggested, the dualistic thinking still wants reality testing. It wants to know if the image can be trusted; it wants to be right. It is worried that, if the image is not of God, might it lead us astray? I think that Jung agreed that there is no way to know if image is real in the sense of corresponding to some objective absolute. However, he thought that image was as real as it got. He said in a letter in 1929 (as sited in The Cambridge Companion to Jung, 2006), “I am indeed convinced that creative imagination is the only primordial phenomenon available to us, the real Ground of the psyche, the only immediate reality” (p. 79). Perhaps the fear that image might be wrong and even dangerous came out of duality as well---came out of the belief that there is good and evil which got internalized to our self structures. Jung argued that psyche was neutral and that the only dangerous forces are those which arise from repression. In The practical use of dream analysis (as presented in Anthony Storr’s The Essential Jung), he said:

The unconscious is not a demonical monster, but a natural entity which, as far as moral sense, aesthetic taste, and intellectual judgment go, is completely neutral. It only becomes dangerous when our conscious attitude towards it is hopelessly wrong. To the degree that we repress it, the danger increases. But the moment that the patient begins to assimilate contents that were previously unconscious, its danger diminishes. (Storr, 1983, p. 181)

Image does not come from within or without, but rather from both. However, it does have something to tell us. Through the fusing of the inner and the outer, subjects and objects, image can “…induce consciousness to think beyond itself” (Polly Young-Eisendrath, 2006, p. 84) or, perhaps beyond what it thinks to be itself or has assimilated at this time. Like the “play and counter play” (Jung, 1989, p. 45) Jung mentioned between his dual personalities, what is being suggested, as stated by Ann Ulanov, is a “coming into conscious relation with the unconscious” (Polly Young-Eisendrath, 2006, p. 297). “Something is there that we did not know was there. Something is happening inside us and we must come to terms with it” (p. 298). Ulanov suggests an attitude of “…willing engagement. A process of sustained communication develops out of which both ego and Self emerge as more significant and conscious partners” (p. 301).

As I brought myself to the linear, solid, describable parts of the world, the event of this image was asking me to see that magic is in that world, too. The ominous symbol that the spider was dead came partly out of the conscious fear of killing something in myself, and also related to some unconscious understanding coming to the surface. What was dying was my thought that the spider was needed. I was afraid that---without the spider---the two worlds could fall apart. With the eruption of this symbol, I was being shown that connection was always there and was not bound by my control or understanding. What was in my control was my choice to relate to it. I could choose how I saw this symbol that was itself neutral.

My consciousness at the time could have taken control of the image and made it something solid rather than something in play. I could have become afraid, made things either-or again, and then repressed one or the other. At first, this is what I did. I felt frustrated by a constantly shifting, ever arbitrary world and wanted something to feel real. I was afraid that I was getting further away from the sublime, not closer. This fear reminded me of a powerful depression of the last six months where nothing felt real. I had been in a place very similar to Hume’s subjectivist conclusions where everything felt self referential and uninspired. However, after the death of the spider, the feeling I came to was a sacred I don’t know. A feeling that there was a meaning and a connection out there/in me that I could not grasp. And this I don’t know was more numinous than anything I had felt in a long time.

This discussion of image brought me to considering reality and what can be trusted. It brought up the question of what is real. In The practical use of dream-analysis (as presented in The Essential Jung, Storr, 1983), Jung said, “but what is real, what actually exists, cannot be alchemically sublimated, and if anything is apparently sublimated it never was what a false interpretation took it to be” (p.181). It seemed that for Jung the primary dichotomy was not between true and false, but between the known and the unknown. With the play between these two favoring one and then the other, each asking the self to hold more of both. However, the two point towards a singularity, which Jung felt in the world of image. A singularity that may seem to mediate between the two and which may seem to mirror itself endlessly, but which, itself, remains unchanged: forever totally both unknowable and known.

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