“In the modern era, the emergence of the separate rational ego, believing itself to be wholly autonomous, has in some cases led to pathological states of […] alienation” (Le Grice, 2016). In contrast to this, Vine Deloria Jr describes ‘participation mystique’ - the “idea that a strong […] psychic bond exists between […] peoples and various objects in nature” – something perhaps at best “a highly spiritual communication” but at worst, allegedly, an inability in people “to distinguish themselves from their natural environment” (Coppin & Nelson, 2017). It is interesting that western minds – ones borne of societies in which schizophrenia, for example, is most prevalent – consider such a thing as too much connection to the world around them even possible. Could it be, instead, that this arises because of the lack of a satisfactory cognitive framework for that connection? “The original experience of mystery was […] beyond understanding or articulation…” (Hollis, 1995); perhaps now the mind, positioned as the seat of consciousness, sees danger in such connection, and relegates it to a characteristic of the pejorative “primitive peoples” (Coppin & Nelson, 2017). As Camus (1965) said: “Beginning to think is beginning to be undermined […] The worm is in man’s heart. That is where it must be sought. One must follow and understand this fatal game that leads from lucidity in the face of experience to flight from light.”
My position, straddling cultures as I do, is that connection is in - and is nothing more complicated than feeling - the experience which Jung describes as giving “a colorful and fantastic aspect to the […] world” but which people now have perhaps “lost [..] to such a degree that we do not recognize it when we meet it again, and are baffled at its incomprehensibility” (Coppin & Nelson, 2017). Perhaps it has become incomprehensible because of our privileging of the aspects of it we have deemed desirable, and the efforts we each make to avoid the aspects of it we deem undesirable? This may be the essence of the conflict, for “thinking is derivative, a secondary process. We experience phenomenologically, as a felt movement of body and soul” (Hollis, 1995. From “…the ego’s narrow view of the world, the task is security, dominance and the cessation of conflict; from the perspective of depth psychology, however, the proper role of ego is to stand in a dialogic relationship with the Self and the world” (Hollis, 1996) – “to engage in a genuine dialogue with the unconscious” (Le Grice, 2016).
For me, this dialogue already exists, in feeling. The ego, the mind, needs to be re-integrated into the activity of feeling – it needs to be used to attend to feeling, and to the nature and course of any systemic evasion of feeling. Most “of life is a flight from the anxiety of being radically present to ourselves and naked before the universe” (Hollis, 1996), and this avoidance of “the dismal states of the soul becomes itself a form of suffering, for one can never relax, never let go of the frantic desire to be happy and untroubled, can never rest easy” (Hollis, 1996). As Camus (1965) wrote, the war “cannot be negated. One must live it or die of it.”
Camus, A. (1965). The Myth of Sisyphus, and Other Essays. H. Hamilton, London.
Coppin, J. & Nelson, E. (2017). The Art of Inquiry: A Depth-Psychological Perspective. Spring Publications; Thompson, CT.
Hollis, J. (1995). Tracking the Gods: the Place of Myth in Modern Life. Inner City Books, Toronto, ON.
Hollis, J. (1996). Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places. Inner City Books, Toronto, ON.
Le Grice, K. (2016). Archetypal Reflections: Insights and Ideas from Jungian Psychology. Muswell Hill Press; London/NY.
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health