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Life Arts    H4'ed 4/15/15

Sherry Salman's book DREAMS OF TOTALITY is worth engaging with (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Next, Jung urged at least certain people in the second half of life to undertake integrating material from the collective unconscious into their ego-consciousness. However, for understandable reasons, Jung does not urge everybody in the second half of life to undertake integrating material from the collective unconscious. In this respect, he does not recommend that one size fits all.

Nevertheless, he does seem to urge all people in the second half of life to integrate the shadow contents from their own personal unconscious into their ego-conscious inasmuch as they possibly can. In this way, they can stop making unconscious projections onto other people.

On page 71, Serrano quotes Jung as saying (in Latin), "'The Self is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.'"

But if the Self is a circle, it has a perimeter, a boundary. But if its circumference is nowhere, then its boundary is nowhere, which is understandable if its center is everywhere. In short, Jung-the-trickster envisions the Self as being something like an ever-shifting trickster in one's unconscious. But if the Self in one's unconscious is something like an ever-shifting trickster, then it will be full of surprises for those of us who follow Jung's advice to commune with ourselves and engage in what is known as discernment of spirits within our psyches.

I am belaboring this because Sherry Salman's subtitle states "Where We Are When There's Nothing at the Center." As elusive as Jung's Self may seem, I would argue that it represents something, not nothing. Ah, but can it seem to us at times that there is nothing at the center? Sure. No doubt about that. However, when we have such an experience, it does not mean that we have no Self in our psyche. It just means that we have not yet learned how to commune with the Self in our psyche.

Concerning communing with oneself, Anthony de Mello, S.J. (1931-1987), the Jesuit spiritual director and author from India, recommends the daily practice of down-time reflection and awareness. This kind of quiet meditation and reflection on one's day usually does not involve the kind of malignant nostalgia that Sherry Salman criticizes.


In any event, Sherry Salman interprets Jung's statement that the Self is a dream of totality to mean that "there are no totalities or conditions of wholeness" (page 3).

But if there are no conditions of wholeness, then Jung wasted a lot of time and effort urging individual persons to undertake the process of psychological individuation in the second half of life -- including the process of integrating shadow contents.

Nevertheless, Sherry Salman points out, correctly in my estimate, that dreams of totality usually arise from the psyche (and the imagination) as a result of an experience of distress. She characterizes the human psyche as proceeding through "the 'call and response' dynamic of generating images or totality in response to chaos or distress" (page 12).

On the one hand, she claims that "the inability to dream of totality -- to mobilize processes of integration and creative imagination -- is a catastrophe" (page 4). She considers such an inability to be a catastrophe because she emphasizes the importance of the imagination (see the index for specific page references).

Concerning the importance of the imagination, William Lynch's book THE IMAGE INDUSTRIES (1959) strikes me as still worth reading today.

On the other hand, she claims that "our dreams of totality can be inclusive and also exclusionary" (page 9).

In addition, she claims that a dream of totality can lose its charm (page 9).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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