Friday, October 12, 2018

Jungian Views on Aging Pt. 7: Squaring the circle

This is a continuation of an edited series of a talk by Lionel Corbett. To read the entire series, start here.
The square is an expression of quaternary; firmness, stability, honesty, integrity. “Be square with me.” “He’s a square.” An image of organization and construction. It’s like a brick; it refers to matter, earth, and rationality. It’s an old image of the order and stability of the world. It has four elements, four seasons four stages of life, the four corners of the earth… so it’s an image of God manifesting in matter, in creation. It may also represent, I think, death; fixed, as opposed to the dynamic circle of life and movement. Because the square has limits it represents form, and permanence, and stability.

The circle is often an image of the sun, of heaven, and perfection, and of the Self in its more impersonal aspects. It corresponds to an ultimate state of oneness, whereas the square, I think, more represents the plurality of man, without any inner unity. And the Tai Chi, of course, says there’s always something of the masculine in the feminine, and something of the feminine in the masculine, and so on. The circle is also an image of time in the sense of cyclicality, recurrence, birth and death, infinity, eternity, also of time - because it has no beginning and no end - time enclosing space. Timelessness, no beginning and no end, and also of spacelessness since it has no above and no below.

So you see why circle and squares were ancient images of divinity. As the sun, the circle, was masculine, but as the soul it was feminine and maternal. So the circle in fact can be both, sometimes, depending on the context. The dream picture also has a sun/moon image, see that crescent at the bottom is a moon. Jung says whenever an unconscious content becomes conscious this is the equivalent of a coniunctio; solis et lunae, an equivalent of a sun/moon conjunction. So this is constantly, many different ways imaging the coming together of these different aspects of consciousness, emphasizing the masculine and the feminine, the eternal and the temporal, the spiritual and the physical, in all these different images.

Squaring the circle, which is what happens here, is an alchemical preoccupation about the relationship between the circle, which is a cosmic symbol of heaven, and the earth, imaged as a square. It’s an image of how you unite the opposites into a higher synthesis, where the opposites don’t opposite anymore, where they now synthetically somehow a unity. Their idea was to obtain unity of the spiritual life and the material world. For Pythagoras the circle itself was an image of the soul, and, in the hermetic tradition, the alchemical tradition, that square with the circle in the middle was an image of the Anima Mundi, the Soul of the World. To have an image of the soul, the soul of the person, and the soul of the world... you see how many superimposed images of apparent opposites joined together in an attempt at synthesis. It’s a profound mandala of the joining of all these opposites.

Jung also wrote about this squared circle as being an image of salt in the alchemical literature. It’s a double totality symbol; the circle represents non-differentiated wholeness, and the square discriminated wholeness. In alchemy one meaning of salt was soul, used by the alchemist to mean soul; understanding and wisdom, and relationships if the salt has lost its savor, and so on. So, it means relationship, understanding, and soul. Christ sometimes in the Christian tradition is spoken of as the salt of wisdom, that which makes wisdom, and so on.

The triangle is an implicit triangle, it’s missing on this side. There’s clearly an implicit triangle. You see there’s a figure missing… on the man’s left side there’s a missing figure, and guess who belongs there. The base of the triangle is between what should be the two human figures. The triangle in alchemy was an image of man, it was an image of soul, body, and spirit. A triangle in a circle is an image of forms held within the circle of eternity.

When it’s pointing upwards in alchemy it was an image of fire going up; an image of ascent, and the urge to get up from below. A circle within a triangle within a square, if you can imagine that, is an image of the relationship; the triangle between the square and heaven as a circle, how those things are brought together. So that, I think, is reflected here as well. If you finish the triangle I think you’d put the dreamer’s head down there, and finish the triangle, and then you’d have an image of the relationship between humanity at the bottom and divinity at the top. That, of course, is what is called in Jungian psychology the “ego-Self axis.”

Continued in part 8.

See also:
Ego-Self axis

Jungian Views on Aging, by Lionel Corbett

Friday, October 5, 2018

Jungian Views on Aging Pt. 6: Hermaphrodite vs. androgyne

This is a continuation of an edited series of a talk by Lionel Corbett. To read the entire series, start here.
Now what I want to do is go through the individual themes in the dream. First of all, the image of androgyny; the masculine and feminine Godhead. The Godhead here is half male and half female, or both really. Of course this is an image of what Jung calls the coincidentia oppositorum, the opposites unite. Often imaged as the union of heaven and earth, of king and queen, masculine and feminine, but the opposites come together without any conflict.

In alchemy, of course, the Great Work consisted in the production of the perfect androgyne, and was often symbolized by male/female figures, the two faced king and queen, or the red man and his white wife. You notice the head of the man has a red tinge to it. The alchemical opus, according to Jung, is the individuation process; producing the philosopher’s stone represents, in fact, the realization of the Self, or all the opposites united. Eliade says that hermaphroditism is an archaic form of divine bi-unity. If you look in the mythology, particularly with the creation mythology of many cultures, the initial divinity is bi-sexual. There are lots of images of that in mythology and religion and shamanism: there’s image of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, in Cypress, wearing a beard; in Persian mythology the god of time is androgynous; there are pictures of African and Egyptian gods that are bisexual; Zeus is often dressed as a woman; the Chinese god of night and day is androgynous; and in the Kaballah the divinity has male and female aspects, and, of course, the Tai Chi symbol from Taoism also expresses the same idea. In Hindu mythology Shakti and Shiva are depicted as half and half female, and so on. Christ, in the Christian tradition, is also imaged as an androgyne. Astrologically we find the idea in Gemini, the twins, and in Plato’s Symposium he writes that man was originally created in the form of a sphere, two bodies and two sexes.

Importantly, the hermaphrodite and the androgyne are not the same. In the Visions seminars Jung writes that the hermaphrodite precedes individuation, so this is an androgyne, not a hermaphrodite. What’s the difference? According to Charles Ponce the hermaphrodite is an image of masculinity and femininity drawn in a sexual body, but the androgynous is an image of the archetypal realm in the subtle body; with differentiated consciousness. In other words, conscious bisexuality.

The hermaphrodite is unconscious, with an emphasis on genital sexuality; the androgyne is an image of differentiated consciousness. So, the hermaphrodite would be the image of the unconscious union of opposites that you start with; the fetus, the human fetus of course; the baby eventually has masculine and feminine aspects too but is undifferentiated and is unconscious. Here, in late life, is the achievement of androgyny, where that process occurs; instead of being physically and sexual it occurs in consciousness. You see the difference, the differentiation and the awareness. [James] Hillman also points out when he’s talking about Dionysus that he was a bisexual god, and one of his main representations was as a child. So his idea in the “Myth of Analysis”, the ultimate goal of psychotherapy is the wholeness of consciousness, undivided into spirit and matter.

[Edward] Eddinger points out, interestingly, that consciousness, entymologically, means the same as coniunctio. Coniunctio of course in Latin means “joining,” joining together. But consciousness means “con scire”, knowing with. So, knowing, the Logos aspect, and the “with” implies witness or relationship, or Eros. So consciousness is in fact an image of coniunctio, of joining together, of uniting, of Logos and Eros, or masculinity and femininity. It seems that when you unite Logos and Eros, the male and the female, that’s how you make consciousness, which is what you have to do in late life.

Also, I’ve found in Stan Grolf’s [sp?] work the experience of androgynous consciousness during LSD trips, particularly when people were re-experiencing their original birth. Very interesting because what LSD does, of course, is simply amplify what’s in the psyche. It doesn’t make something new happen; these drugs are amplifiers for mental processes. That will be more evidence that this androgynous type of consciousness, where male and female are united and joined in an unconflictual way, exists as a potential in the human unconsciousness. In Grolf’s words, it’s part of the map of the unconscious; it belongs there. Apparently, this archetypal potential was activated in our dreamer when it was necessary for her in order to help her further her development. It’s like the Self is saying, “Look, this is what you have to do next.”

Continued in part 7.

See also:
Philosopher’s stone

Jungian Views on Aging, by Lionel Corbett

Friday, September 28, 2018

Jungian Views on Aging Pt. 5: Initiation into the different parts of the life cycle

This is a continuation of an edited series of a talk by Lionel Corbett. To read the entire series, start here.

In a paper written last year by a man called Cole who said that there is a hidden catch in criticizing prejudices about old age. If you emphasize a healthy old age and you say “Well, lots of old people are healthy, and that’s wonderful,” you perpetuate an unconscious dualistic attitude. What you imply is that healthy old age is good, and sick old age is bad. It’s very dualistic, and he says: How do we imbue sickness and death and decay and those ill old people with moral and spiritual significance? How can we say old people who are demented and ill and decrepit are still valuable, and still meaningful, not just say that only the well old people are what we want. We don’t want to have a dualistic attitude. So, that’s what I think this dream is really all about.

There are no social provisions to help you into this transition. There’s a lot of turmoil, a lot of ambiguity, and you don’t know how to do it. We know from pre-technological cultures the importance of initiation into new parts of the life cycle, and the rites of passage that they perform are to help people move across the threshold. They seem very primitive but the rites of passage perform very profound social and psychological functions. They are not a coincidence. We don’t have anything like that to take us into old age. We also don’t have anything like it to take us into adolescence very often, or any other part of the life cycle. But the point about these ceremonies is to protect the emotional health of the individual, and of the society to make sure that people keep developing. What you do is you integrate the biological necessity, the social necessity, and the psychological necessity to keep moving through the life cycle. That’s what these rites of passage are for in primitive cultures. We don’t have them and that’s why people get screwed up at developmental epochs, like adolescence, and moving into old age, and so on.

In our culture we don’t have anything like that to help us get into old age. In her early sixties our dreamer has this dream, and I’m going to suggest that this is an example of what Henderson calls in his book on initiation “autoinitiation,” where the Self motivates from within. The Self knows, perhaps, that there’s some difficulty about moving into this threshold period, and if nothing happens she may regressively stay psychologically into mid-life because of her anxiety about the future. So this image from the Self comes up to initiate her. It’s a symbolic impetus, if she takes it seriously. In that way she can reconcile her own consciousness with what Campbell calls “universal will.”

I think this dream is a miniature initiation ceremony. It represents the re-uniting of a divine unity, and the re-establishment of a state of totality; it reflects the state of affairs prior to the creation of the individual, when there was no differentiation, and this state, prior to the creation of the individual, is now regained but this time with the addition of consciousness. She’s brought into relationship with an image of divine unity, which is one of the things that initiation does. It reveals the sacred to you. While she’s related to the sacred she can transcend the personal, and, at the same time she can emphasize her individuality.

It puts her existence in relation to the eternal, it puts the death idea into a new perspective. A psychological transformation is often imagined in dreams as death and rebirth imagery. It illustrates a point of [Mircea] Eliade, that initiation always gives death a positive value. His phrase is that “death prepares for new birth into a mode of being not subject to time.” So this emphasizes to her the transitory nature of chronological time, but images for her an ongoing relationship to sacred time, and to eternity.

It initially reminded me of a statement in the Gospel of Thomas: for every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven. Now, this was not intended as a sexist remark, it was intended to point out the need to develop an androgynous consciousness, this bisexual consciousness. The other thing the dream said, if you remember, is that one head is male and one is female. The Gospel of Thomas also reports Jesus saying that the kingdom of God is not a physical place, and doesn’t occur at the future time, but is found inside the individual. So the kingdom is actually an image of transformed consciousness. Jesus says that when you make the two one – when you make the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below,”(all these images of uniting) and when you make the male and female one and the same – then you will enter the kingdom. You will enter this place of transformed consciousness.

The Gospel of Thomas also points out “if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” So if you don’t get out the inner potential, that inner potential will turn toxic and kill you. This is a clear image of the necessity to bring into the world as much of the potential of the Self as possible.

There’s a nice comment in Lao Tze that amplifies this as well. He says, “He who knows the male and yet keeps to the female becomes like space containing the world. As space containing the world he has the Eternal Cow, which leaves not, and he returns to the state of infancy.” There again you hear the necessity for becoming both male and female in your consciousness, and how that returns you to a state of infancy. Here we have an image of a miniature model of the individuation process completed, and also a mandala of aging, I think. This is the answer to that criticism; this is how we imbue age with considerable significance.

Continued in part 6.

Jungian Views on Aging, by Lionel Corbett

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

Jungian Views on Aging Pt. 4: The Fruit of Psychological Life is Meaning

This is a continuation of an edited series of a talk by Lionel Corbett. To read the entire series, start here.

Jung said that things don’t happen for no reason in nature; there wouldn’t be such a thing as longevity unless it had a meaning for the species. He said the fruits of biological life are children, but the fruit of psychological life, especially in late life, is meaning. What old people have to do is make meaning and make culture, make new ideas, not compete with the young. They have a different responsibility, and their fecundity is a spiritual fecundity and the production of new meaning, not competing with young people. It’s very important because our culture the first part of life requires competitiveness and assertiveness; making family, making social status, productivity, and so on. But there are huge pressures towards conformity so it’s very difficult in late life to say “Well, I’ve done all that now. I’m going to stop doing that and I’m going to sit down and see what it all means.” Because the tendency is not to encourage introspective values, and the cultivation of inner life, and contemplation and so on. These things are not valued in the culture and it’s hard to go against the tide of the culture. If we want that to happen we have to make that happen; that would be one example of making culture.

Another thing is to develop wisdom. The Psalmist says “so teach us to number our days that we may get us a heart of wisdom.” In other words, it takes a long time to get wise, to get smart. Jung also wrote that the natural end of life is not senility, it’s wisdom. Now, it’s very hard to define wisdom. He said it’s becoming who you are, aligning your conscious life with the stream of inner images so that the inner and the outer, and your conscious synthesis of the two, become one person. It just means developing the wholeness of the personality and becoming who you are, really. He also points out that the antidote for suffering is wisdom, that bitterness and wisdom tend to exclude each other. So the more wise you are the less you’ll be bitter and the less you’ll suffer.

Other writers have written differently on wisdom; [Heinz] Kohut has written about wisdom being the acceptance of your limits, renouncing unmodified narcissism. [Erik] Erickson, of course, wrote that wisdom is the detached yet active concern with life itself in the face of death. His idea is that you want to convey to oncoming generations your sense of life’s integrity and fullness and meaningfulness. In spite of it being in the face of death, it’s still worth the while. You have to convey that idea to oncoming generations, that’s his idea of integrity, instead of despairing and saying it’s all not been worthwhile.

The best definition actually, which first I thought was the most naive definition, is the definition of Meister Eckhart, but it’s the hardest of all to achieve. His definition is that wisdom consists in doing the next the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it. I find that’s probably the most profound definition but the hardest thing, because usually what you have to do next is some crap that you don’t want to have to do. So that’s very hard to get to. But if you do get to it, then it has a certain meaning that we’ll perhaps come to.

The next point is the development of spiritual values. Here I don’t mean adherence to some kind of traditional religious creed or belief in dogma or anything like that. I’m not excluding that but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the search for meaning and values, and an attempt to understand the depth of experience, and to transcend preoccupation with the personal and the local. That’s very important. If the traditional religion that you grew up in or acquired does this for you then that’s fine, but if those myths don’t have the original energy that they had then you still have to confront the meaning of life and death and good and evil and suffering and loss. How do you do that? That is the pursuit of spiritual meaning, of the spiritual life. So whatever your concept of divinity is some kind of rapprochement, however it manifests in your life, is very important. In Jungian terms we call this contact with the Self. A relationship with the Self in late life is absolutely imperative; if this doesn’t happen old people become bitter and full of self-pity. The dream is about how this is done, one way that this is done.

The series continues in part 5.

Jungian Views on Aging, by Lionel Corbett

Friday, September 14, 2018

Jungian Views on Aging Pt. 3: Finding meaning and developing unused potential

This is a continuation of an edited series of a talk by Lionel Corbett. To read the entire series, start here.

Early in life – because of the demands of work and marriage and school and so on – only a part of our personality is able to come into the world but at some point the rest of the personality presses for recognition, and any unused talent that we haven’t used so far can be started to be developed. The development of unused potential is one of the main developmental tasks. That’s why having as broad as possible a cultural and educational base in young life is very important. The best thing you can do to help somebody into old age is to give them a reasonable childhood and as broad an education as possible, because then later on in life they can start to pick up threads that they may have started but had to drop earlier in life.

This is not only important in terms of things like playing the piano, but also things like unused psychological functions. This is referred to in Jung as the development of the inferior function. I’m sure most people here are familiar with typology so I won’t go into details but people who’ve been good at being sensitive to people’s feelings - good at relationships, good with children, feeling tasks - might find it important to start being involved in a discipline that requires abstract thought, rigorous thought. People who’ve always been very good at abstract thought and logical thought might start to work more on interpersonal relationships, and their neglected feeling side. Down to earth, here and now, practical people (sensation types) might take an interest in things like mythology and religion that are more dependent on intuition. And intuitives, who’ve always been interested in ideas and possibility and living in the clouds, might benefit from taking up something like gardening or photography or something which is much more hands-on and down to earth.

The second important task is simply the development of meaning; to look back on one’s life and say “What does it mean?” When you think about your life there are lots of thematic contents that seem to recur because we have complexes, we have neuroses, and because we have neuroses we keep doing the same thing again and again. So we have patterns in our life. When we look back and we think about all our suffering and our relationships and sacrifices and struggles we can get, first of all, a sense of identity by looking at them all. But then, by looking at the kind of patterns that we’ve weaved, in the sense of life as a tapestry, we can start to understand a little bit more about the meaning of our life. Then we can start to understand what is the relationship between what’s happened to me in the world and what I’ve done, and what I’m like on the inside, and what’s the inner/outer connection. How has what’s happened to me on the outside be the same as what’s happened to me on the inside? This is called by Gerhard Adler the synthesis of nature and consciousness; consciousness finally discovers what this particular nature was all about.

Of course, psychologically sophisticated people in the Jungian community will start to see mythic themes in their own lives, having been repeated, and then one is able to locate one’s life against the wider cultural background. But this process, which is called Reminiscence Therapy, is not an easy process. It’s very difficult. Initially, when you try and do this with people the memories are very disjointed, or they’re very meaningless, and the discovery of a sense of process and the discovery of connections between the events might be very difficult. Often all the events seem isolated and meaningless, especially if there’s a great deal of bitterness in the person’s life. A great deal of guilt and grief can get stirred up, and, when they start to look back and they see the discrepancy between promise and achievement was enormous, they may feel actually worse. So this is not a process to be undergone lightly. It can, in fact, make people worse and it can lead to despair, but when it’s successful then it leads to accepting of life without excessive regret. The capacity to let go of goals that cannot be achieved, and the refocusing of energy on what is attainable and on further development, as in this dream.

Continued in part 4.

Jungian Views on Aging, by Lionel Corbett

Friday, September 7, 2018

Jungian Views on Aging Pt. 2: Continued development in age

This is going to be a continuation of Lionel Corbett's talk on aging from a Jungian perspective. There will be several more parts. (Here's part 1.)

It’s clear that as we get older there are a series of different demands that society makes on us, our bodies alter, and constant adaptation is required. Interpersonal relationships change their quality; our career interests and our avocational interests all change. The problem is how do we move out of mid-life into old age? How do we accomplish that transition?

As you go through different stages of the life cycle there are new circumstances in each stage. And development always requires two things: it always requires that you relinquish something, that you let go of something; and that you learn something new. If you think of it, the baby has to let go of the bottle and the diaper, has to relinquish that, and learn all the new tasks, and that is true with every stage and the transition into old age is no different. You have to relinquish certain things, and you have to learn certain things.

In the last 20 years there’s been a considerable increase in vigor and longevity in people over 65. It used to be thought that if you plotted vigor against age that it was just a straight line down but this vigor curve isn’t a straight line down, it’s more rectangular. Between 65 and 85 vigor is well preserved, and declines only very slowly, and then it tends to decline rather rapidly after the age of 85. It’s that 20 year period, which is as long as childhood and adolescence, that’s very important.

It’s not a period of remorseless decline; certain functions decline, many functions do not decline, and especially in the psychological realm and the spiritual realm continuous growth occurs, and this growth and development makes very exacting demands on the personality. It’s not easy to do it properly.

Because we don’t know very much about the developmental psychology of late life what clinicians do in particular is they take criteria that are good for mid-life and they apply them to old people in terms of normality. That would be equivalent to judging middle aged person as if he or she was an adolescent. The developmental necessities are not the same, and it might be fine for a 50 year old to be going into work every day and struggling still but for an 85 year old to be going to work for 8 hours a day may mean something quite different, it might in fact mean that he or she is quite neurotic. So they tend to use norms that are not relevant to the age, and they don’t know how to guide people into age appropriate behavior.

Now, because the culture over values youth and under values age the unconscious assumption is that what you’ve got to do to be good in old age is constantly behave like a young person, so you have lots of television ads telling you about old skin and young skin, but of course age spots are not on the skin, they’re in the psyche. If you think that you constantly have to behave like a young person, what happens is you get developmental arrest. You get stuck constantly trying to behave like a young person and you avoid what I’m going to talk about, which are the developmental tasks of late life.

What happens to you in old age is partly a function of what happened to you in youth and middle age. If you’ve always been character disordered and peculiar, you’ll likely to be character disordered and peculiar in late life. People say that if you want to be a nice little old lady you have to start when you’re sixteen. I want to go through the developmental tasks of late life but I want you to understand that they represent ideal goals. It’s like the idea of individuation; nobody can quite do it, but it’s something that one can think about as an ideal goal. It’s impossible virtually to attain all of these.

(For part 3 go here.)

Jungian Views on Aging, by Lionel Corbett

Monday, September 3, 2018

Quote: The Supreme Meaning of Death

The spiritual climax is reached at the moment when life ends. Human life, therefore, is the vehicle of the highest perfection it is possible to attain; it alone generates the karma that makes it possible for the dead man to abide in the perpetual light of the Voidness without clinging to any object, and thus to rest on the hub of the wheel of rebirth, freed from all illusion of genesis and decay.

Life in the Bardo brings no eternal rewards or punishments, but merely a descent into a new life which shall bear the individual nearer to his final goal.

But this eschatological goal is what he himself brings to birth as the last and highest fruit of the labors and aspirations of earth

~Carl Jung; Commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead; Psychology and Religion, Pages 524-525
The Supreme Meaning of Death ~Carl Jung

Friday, August 31, 2018

Jungian Views on Aging Pt. 1

This is going to be another series of posts, like The Cat series. This one is a series of excerpts from a lecture from the Jungianthology Podcast on aging, and I just had to post it. It's an exploration on the importance of aging - it's vital place as the time during which we find meaning and develop our connection to the Self - by Jungian analyst Lionel Corbett. I believe that dreams tell us things that are true, and this dream is telling us something true about a time of our lives that is totally denigrated and, quite honestly, reviled. It's so important that this significant period of our lives be rescued from the garbage heap that we as a society have tossed it on.

Also, school has started once again so I can't promise that there will always be regular updates to the blog, but I'm going to try to post something every Friday.

Jungian Views on Aging
The dream occurs when the dreamer is in her early 60’s:

A Voice informs me that it is now going to teach me about the process of aging. An illustration appears before my eyes. It represents the rejuvenated Godhead. Underneath it, live, is the head of a very old man. A connecting line is drawn from the old man’s head to the divinity. The illustration is black on white, a sketch. The illustration is a sketch but the head is alive. There is an outer elongated square and an inner circle. At the bottom of the inner circle is a crescent. Out of the crescent arises two heads on long necks that look almost identical. I know they share the same body, which is not shown. The Voice explains that this is an abstract of the rejuvenated Godhead. The right head represents the male aspect and the left the female aspect. The two heads are in absolute harmony with each other. There is something esoteric about them. They look like spirits, somewhat ethereal. I perceive their facial expressions as aristocratic, blithe, somewhat curious, unemotional. They do not look authoritative but the Voice is. The top of their heads is shaped like an indented crown with three prongs that I can see on each head. The old man looks quite ordinary and sort of earthy. The Voice explains that in our society we still do not understand the process of aging. The purpose of our maturation is to enable the Godhead to rejuvenate. If we could only understand that. When we are born God is old; when we grow old, God becomes young; and when we die, God experiences rebirth. And this goes on and on, but not in the sense that the Godhead is feeding on us, but the whole thing is rather a natural process which is not yet too well understood. It is absolutely essential that, particularly in old age, we do not lose or have lost our connectedness with the Godhead for otherwise we not only deprive God of our share in His rejuvenation, but may actually disturb the cosmic ecology which, in turn, affects us. Ideally, so the voice says, we gain wisdom as we grow older, but only few people do. I understand wisdom to be a conglomeration of life experiences, a priori and acquired knowledge, and the awareness and acceptance of one’s inner child. To accumulate knowledge per se is not all that important; what is important is that we are connected with the Godhead or the Divine, and let it live within us, even though it is also outside of us. Belief in a cosmic Supreme Being or Power constellates the inner child and thus furthers the divine rejuvenation process. If we ignore the divine element, it sinks into itself and ceases to be conscious of itself. As we grow older we often lose the child, and as we lose the child we are apt to simultaneously sever our ties to the divine. There was also some indication that the birth and the death process are actually the same except that as little children we seem to be contained in the Divine element, whilst in old age we are apparently expected to be a container for the Divine element.

The dream, just by itself, is simply amazing, even without any interpretation; it fairly clearly expresses why aging well is so important. To age well - to connect with the Divine - is to allow It to experience the rebirth and rejuvenation that is so vital, not only for ourselves but society as a whole. In fact, I would say that this is a part of the sickness of our society; it's both a symptom and a cause. We don't value meaning, we don't value the unconscious, or the Divine, and now we're paying the price. Everything from psychological illness to the ecological annihilation of the planet is a result of our collective inner imbalance, but by reclaiming the true purpose of aging we can actually stem the tide of self-destruction.

And, just as importantly, we reclaim an intrinsic part of ourselves.

(Continued in Pt. 2.)

Jungian Views on Aging, by Lionel Corbett

Thursday, August 16, 2018

"I wish I had loved more"

What will you regret most at the end of a long life? Like many people, the Rev. Lydia Sohn was curious so she posed a simple question to a man in his 90s.

"Do you wish you had accomplished more?" she asked.

"No, I wished I loved more," he responded.

The answer was just one of the poignant, beautiful and haunting responses Sohn received when she interviewed a handful of her oldest congregants and their friends at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Arcadia, California.


They also wished they had taken more risks to be more loving — both in being more open about their feelings for new people and being more affectionate with those already in their lives. The wished they'd listened better, had been more empathetic and more considerate, and spent more time with people they loved, she noted.

"It's quite illuminating that when you get to that age, the things you long for the most, the things that make you happiest are those close relationships with family and friends," Sohn said.

The elders' answers here were a surprise to Sohn, who had read about the "U-bend" theory of happiness. The research found people's psychological well-being generally dipped in their 30s, reached a bottom in their mid-40s, and then rebounded after 50.

But the 90-somethings she interviewed contradicted those findings. They reported being the happiest from their late 20s to their mid-40s, when their children were still at home, their spouses were alive and the family lived together.

Sohn, who is in the middle of that whirlwind time right now — she's married with a small child, has a full-time job, and she and her husband would like to have another baby — was a bit incredulous.

"These are definitely the most stressful times in my life… Weren't those the most stressful years [for you]?" she asked the elders. Yes, they told her: "It's stressful and chaotic, but so wonderful and fulfilling."

The lesson here seems to be: Enjoy the chaos of right now, Sohn said. Yes, babies are fussy, children take over your life, teens are moody, the commute is taxing, the days are hectic, work is crazy and free time seems to be non-existent — but savor every minute. People measure happiness differently when they assess themselves in the moment than when they think about life retrospectively, Sohn said.

She uses the elders' perspective as a reminder to appreciate everything she has now.

"One thing I've learned to ask myself is: What will I miss about this time of my life when it's all gone? Then all of a sudden, things become so much more wonderful," she said.
- A. Pawlowski, “'I wished I loved more': People in their 90s reveal their biggest regrets”

I often jokingly tell people how I can’t wait until I’m retired so I can finally catch up on all the video games and books and such that I don’t have any time for now, with work, school, and working on my Jung stuff. But what if, hidden in the hectic craziness of our busy years, are the very best years of our lives?