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16th installment of Gary Lindorff's memoir, "Finding Myself in Time"

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Cultura come fatto sociale
(Image by (From Wikimedia) William Girometti  (1924–1998)    / Own work, Author: See Source)
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Note: There is one footnote in this installment.


If you follow the evolution of Jung's thinking about archetype, you see that what he was describing was something that straddled the implicate and explicate realms. His working concept of archetype is very protean and he was consistent in refusing to formalize a definition. He introduced archetypes as the psychic counterpart of instinct, the inherited potentials of various kinds of experience, such as our experience of tree, or star, or being chased, or trapped, or flying or falling or drowning, or the experience of fire in all its myriad forms, or cooking, or hunting, or birthing etc. with the emphasis on potential, or as a pattern or configuration that evokes a certain range or spectrum of organic or spiritual significance, such as encountering a god. [1] But Jung repeatedly clarified that an archetype is not an inherited image, it is the inherited potential for an image or experience. But because archetypes are not limited to the implicate or explicate realm, they continue to pattern our experience whether we are awake or asleep, but if we are going to follow Jung's lead, we have to realize that the unconscious is not unconscious, we are.The unconscious is also not a specific realm or place any more than you can get away with saying "the" conscious. Calling it "the" unconscious comes from the Freudian lexicon. Freud was trying to make psychology into a physical science, and when you read him you see that he was postulating psychoidal organs and systems, almost as if he was afraid of granting it any autonomy separate from the body. Jung's first big challenge in moving beyond Freud was tweaking some terminology that he inherited from his former mentor and teacher, such as libido (by which Freud meant sexual energy and Jung, psychic energy or life-energy), and psyche, by which the two men meant very different things. Also Freud frequently referred to the sub conscious, while Jung weened himself off that word in favor of the un conscious. Jung was not interested in reifying the unconscious or granting it material status, he was trying to liberate it from the physical sciences. But, most importantly, he saw it as the source and mother of consciousness, never its dumping ground. What he was always bumping up against was a language problem, a left brain problem, which he began to resolve by borrowing terminology from alchemical sources. Here he found an untapped reservoir of metaphor for the processes of individuation that he was observing in the dreams of contemporary humanity.

Artists and creative people experience the archetypes differently than people who are stuck in or identify with their heads and cling to a logical universe. To cut to the chase, people who have no argument with how I described the creative process and the role of the psychoid, will also have no problem with my liberating the unconscious from being defined as something that it is not, namely the not-conscious realm that is located beneath consciousness or, even more absurdly, that it is inside us.

Archetypes organize energy, or, to turn this around, energy constellates around archetypes. So, even though there is nothing beyond energy to "see", there is a patterning factor that acts as a lattice or grid that must be of psychic origin. But to say that archetypes are of psychic origin begs the question, where does the psyche come from?

I believe the psyche is so old that, like Jung speculated, at its deepest, psyche becomes soma, that is, it becomes indistinguishable from body and matter.


Now this is where I would like to elaborate on Jung's identifying psyche with soul. Psyche isn't exactly synonymous with soul, it is the age-old reflective capacity of soul. One might argue that the reflective soul is unique to humans, but it is hubris to imagine that humans are the only creatures who are reflective. Therefore it is naà ve to think that the psyche is exclusively human. The whole planet may be reflective for all we know! But right now I want to talk about soul, which isn't necessarily reflective.

It is obvious from what I have already said, that soul is much, much older than humanity. This gets tricky because when we are talking about soul on that primary or primal level we are talking about a vital energy that seems to belong to something whether organic or inorganic. It might be visible or it might just be sensed or it might just register as a feeling that some thing or some place is "awake" or more than normally present or charged with presence. Sometimes the soul of a place or a feature is so obvious that it is unnerving. A stone or a tree or an old gate or the turn in a path may exude so much soul that it seems to pull us out of ourselves, or tug at our hearts, and if we stay there it will begin to feel as if we are being held captive by an atmosphere, a feeling, a story, a memory, or a spirit. Not to confuse "soul" with spirits or ghosts. Soul is vitality. By vitality I mean life; not the textbook definition of life, but life as viable being. When something is alive in the sense of having soul it exudes being by which I mean its right to be there. When something communicates, what I described in my New Wasichu, Crossing as its "living", there is nothing that we need to do except give ourselves over to wonder, and move over to share the universe.

Martin Buber relates how it felt to him, as an eleven year old, to touch the mane of a horse at his grandfather's estate. He knew deep down that he was touching the life-force of the powerful animal, his favorite dapple-gray. He writes: "It was not a casual delight but a great, certainly friendly, but also deeply stirring happening. If I am to explain it now, beginning from the still fresh memory of my hand, I must say that what I experienced in touch with the animal was the Other, the immense otherness of the Other. . . .It was as though the element of vitality itself bordered on my skin, something that was not I. . .palpably the other, not just another, really the Other itself, and yet it let me approach, confided itself in me, placed itself elementally in the relation of Thou and Thou with me."(Buber's, I and Thou) What Buber experienced with the dapple-gray is what I experienced with a river stone at the age of 55. The Other, or Thou of the stone revealed itself to me during my second mushroom journey. When I first wrote about my encounter with the river stone, my language was very similar to Buber's. I also was deeply stirred by the stone's willingness to let me approach and touch it. Plant, stone, woodland brook, puppy, I submit that this kind of delight in discovering the Other, that quickens our own life-force, is commonplace with children. Children are always having what adults describe as "mystical" or "religious" experiences. The difference is that, for children, it is normal to encounter the Other, or Thou or soul, or God or Spirit; it happens many times a day. And if a child could be given the gift of complex speech and critical intelligence, on top of its own childish sagacity, acumen, lucidity and sensitivity, and was invited to give a Ted Talk, it would probably ask us, How did you get so stupid? Or, Can anyone please tell me how to avoid becoming so stupid?

But, back to us adults, it is easy for us to perceive the soulfulness of a place, but anything can possess soul: a landscape all the way down to a book or the tiniest stone or even a phrase in a song. This is not hard to grasp, is it? I never know if I am alone on the page. We of the Western World are so far behind the curve in recognizing the soulfulness of the world we inhabit I am afraid I am wasting my breath, making a fool of myself, talking against the wind, like baking bread that no one is going to share because they are already full, or the flour is too gritty! But being able to recognize the vitality and soul of places and beings and things (and let's not leave out sounds!) is only the very beginning of waking up and being truly alive to creation. Being blind to the soulfulness of the world we inhabit, we think we can go about changing everything and converting everything into a reality that suits our pinched awareness, and the magic that surrounds us withers away. What the Aborigines, with their Dreamtime and their songlines know, is where this narrative is tending. Without understanding soul we are living in a dead world that parallels the world of the Aborigines, with no intersection and no overlap. But if we were interested, if we were invested in our own soulfulness we would be imploring the Aborigines to teach us what they have learned over the last 60,000 years, before they disappear.

When I start working with the students shamanically, with dreams, synchronicity, ritual, how to sensitize to nature, journeying, opening their hearts etc. they invariably get all excited because things start to come alive, or the aliveness of nature comes closer. Everything, but especially in nature, becomes personally meaningful. As in The Alchemist everything is an omen, and they get inflated or even a little spooked. They think it is because of them that they cross paths with a certain person, in the sense that they made it happen or a bird in a bush, looking at them, is trying to tell them something and there is some truth to that! As they become more human, nature, the world notice and respond and it is a little like a love story or a honeymoon. (I remember my own honeymoon with shamanism!) But really what is happening is they are becoming lucid and they are just experiencing more intimately and intensely, what should be normal! They are entering into a love-relationship with the world. So that is another aspect of soulfulness.

But, to continue, some matter is more "alive" than other matter, and some energy lacks soul, so you might say it is "dead", or dormant. A boulder in the middle of a forest is relatively more "alive" than a block of concrete in the middle of a construction site. And, as I discovered when I was on the mushroom, river stones that are embedded in the stream are more "alive" than the loose round stones that have been worn smooth by centuries of being tumbled by the water. I'm not sure why this is.


This is where consciousness comes in. Scientists are way behind in understanding anything about consciousness. Consciousness doesn't stop existing just because something doesn't have a face or a nervous system! By tying their definition of consciousness to brain development, they blind themselves to the obvious, that consciousness can exist without a self or a brain. We are just now learning that the vast fungal understory of an old forest functions in sync with the surface biome, and biologists are beginning to whisper among themselves, that the forest behaves more like a gigantic brain (and therefore is intelligent), exchanging information, nutrients and vitality. And nowhere (thank god) do I hear them falling back on machine-metaphors to shed light on this symbiotic, impossibly complex relationship between species. Comparing the forest to a brain is a step in the right direction, but science still has a long way to go to catch up to what shamans have known for ages: a healthy brain functions like an old forest!

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Gary Lindorff is a poet, writer, blogger and author of several nonfiction books, a collection of poetry, "Children to the Mountain" and a memoir, "Finding Myself in Time: Facing the Music" Over the last few years he has begun calling (more...)

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