Maria-Louise Von Franz video on Alchemy; Robert Johnson audio-tape on The Rainmaker ~The Phuzamoya Dream Centre Sunday, 26 April 2009
Maria-Louise Von Franz on Alchemy
The von Franz video was made by the same film crew that made “Matter of Heart”.
Though the content was interesting, the style of interviewing was rather stilted and uninspiring, and fairly obvious questions were left unanswered.
The discussion afterwards helped to clear up some of these.
The video focused on Maria Louise von Franz’s contribution to Jung’s work on Alchemy.
Her interest developed when she was 10 years old and she read how the motion of the sea converts resin into amber.
She spent a year trying to replicate the conditions of the sea and fantasized about the golden amber ball she would produce that would hold magic properties and be able to give her wise advise of what to do.
Maria von Franz first met Jung when she was 18 years old, as part of a school party invited by Jung to spend the day with him at Bollingen.
He was 58 years old and made an enormous impression on her.
Some years later, when she was at university studying Greek and Latin, she eventually had enough courage to write to him after having a significant dream she wanted him to interpret.
When they met she mentioned she was interested in undergoing analysis with him but she had no money to pay for the sessions.
He suggested she translate the ancient Greek and Latin texts on alchemy in exchange for their sessions.
And so their joint interest and knowledge of alchemy grew.
Maria von Franz referred to the “weirdness of the material‟ and that it is not at all well understood.
It is the symbolic meaning of the alchemical process that was so important for Jung and that paralleled his theories and ideas about the individuation process.
We are born with the raw material of our lives and it is incumbent on each of us through the way we live to build a ”resurrection body‟ (Christian) or “diamond body‟ (Hindu and Buddhist) – something eternal that will allow our individuality to endure.
Jung and Maria von Franz believe in life after death but it is up to each person to find or develop his/ her own belief and make this truly his/her own.
Maria von Franz wrote a book called “Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology:
Reflections of the Soul to highlight the importance of the processes of projection and reflection.
Inevitably, at the start of a relationship, a lot of projection takes place because we have no idea about who or how the other person is.
It is only over time that a more objective view of the relationship is able to emerge, which might result in true friendship or an acknowledgement that there is little of real substance in the relationship, even if it started with great promise.
Transference and projection are similar processes.
Transference is a term coined by Freud to describe the often very strong positive and negative feelings and beliefs patients have about a psychotherapist.
Patients often project hopes and beliefs that therapists are God-like and will miraculously heal them.
Or they may project on to a therapist the attitudes and reactions of a critical parent or authority figure.
Similarly, therapists project things on to their clients/patients.
This is called counter-transference.
When a therapist or analyst works with a person, it is very important to be aware that these processes are inevitably taking place and to be vigilant to their role in the therapeutic relationship.
A therapist or analyst, who accepts the God-like mantle projected on him or her by a client/patient without pointing this out and making the person aware of this tendency to shift personal power to others they see as more important or influential, disempowers the client even if there are positive results in the short-term.
Maria von Franz gave an example of how Jung was able to do this for a young woman who dreamt of him, God-like, in a field of wheat, carrying her as if she were a child.
By acknowledging that this actually depicted her own power, she was able to relinquish her child-like dependency on Jung to rescue her and tart growing into her womanhood.
Relationships where we have projected things that matter to us on to another person tend to be very powerful.
Often we project aspects of the God/Goddess archetype on to our partners.
This explains why one is unable to run away from these relationships even if they are violent.
It also explains the reason for conflict.
It is impossible for any person to meet expectations of being perfect or God-like.
According to Jung, jealousy is the greatest flaw of the human spirit and results in wanting to control and own another human being.
According to van Franz, he considered this a manifestation of evil.
It is those projections that cause disturbances or create problems for us that we need to pay attention to and reflect upon.
Reflection is a critical part of learning about our unconscious and engaging with our shadow.
Things that irritate and upset us about other people are usually unconscious unresolved aspects or a complex within ourselves.
To gain control, we have to really see and experience this aspect or complex in operation in ourselves.
This involves becoming acutely aware of the feelings and physical sensations associated with becoming or connecting with this aspect of our personality.
With this awareness, we are able to make a conscious choice as opposed to being in the grip of the complex and unaware of its existence.
Thus, troublesome or conflictual relationships offer us opportunities to learn more about ourselves.
It might be that what we have projected on to the other person is true.
This is not what is important.
What matters is our ability to engage with the positives and the negatives; to reflect honestly about how and when disturbing or problematic aspects manifest in our own lives; to take back the opposites into ourselves; and to forgive ourselves for possessing these traits.
Pardoning oneself is often the hardest thing for some people to do.
Maria von Franz explained that for Freud, the therapeutic relationship was all about transference and that was why, at the end of psychoanalysis, the relationship between the therapist and the patient/client had to be terminated.
Jung believed it was possible to form real friendships with some analysands once the transference and projections had been withdrawn and the relationship has been purified into a more objective relationship.
Maria von Franz described how she sometimes invited analysands out to a meal only to discover the therapeutic relationship was the only thing they had in common, whereas with others there was so much to talk about that the evening seemed far too short.
Regarding the creative process in its broadest sense, Maria von Franz believes the outcomes produced by women and men are not that different but that the process and motivation is.
For her, women’s creativity is motivated by love, whereas men tend to be more objective and have a genuine interest in the subject matter itself.
On their own, men often produce dry treatises; it requires the love of a woman to transform their work into something vibrant and alive.
Maria von Franz spoke about the square tower that she built for herself at Jung’s behest.
It became her sanctuary and the place she was able to immerse herself in while writing, much the same as Jung’s tower at Bollingen, where he would retreat to.
She built it square to symbolize reality.
In the I-Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, the square represents Earth, and is Ying, the feminine, which makes things real, while the circle represents Heaven, and is Yang, the masculine, which is potentiality.
Regarding her dreams, Maria von Franz mentioned how much she missed Jung’s skills at interpreting her complex dreams, which were even difficult for him to decipher at times.
He [Jung] would often tease her [von Franz] about what she would do one day when there was no Jung to interpret her dreams.
Sometimes he wistfully commented on how he wished he had a Jung to interpret his dreams.
Since his death it is not the same, but she is aware that by sharing her dreams with others as well as her associations to the dream images, she eventually is able to “get it‟.
It is very important to talk about a dream because the telling enables us to learn more about its meaning.
Regarding Jung’s terrifying vision towards the end of his life of the catastrophic destruction of much of the world as we know it, von Franz exhorted young people against their despondency and tendency to submit to what seemed the inevitable.
In “Answer to Job‟ Jung shows that by wrestling with God, it is possible to change the course of events.
Humankind might just be able to sneak around the corner and avoid total devastation of the planet.
Many youth use drugs to escape from their feelings of despair. This does not help the situation. They need to fight.
In dealing with people who are on drugs, Maria von Franz uses their dreams and other expressions of the unconscious to connect them with their own opposition to drug- taking.
Invariably the unconscious is opposed to drugs.
Were she to express disapproval or lecture a person on the negative consequences of taking drugs, this would immediately result in resistance.
She described how one analysand, who had never had a bad trip in the past when he had been using drugs initially, was tempted to return to this habit even though he had been drug-free for a couple of years.
When he tried it, he had a very bad trip and developed a frightening tremor that lasted for several months.
It was as if his body revolted.
He knew better and therefore when he consciously went against what he knew to be something he had rejected, it hit back at him.
This had not happened in the past when he was still ignorant and unconscious about his true feelings about taking drugs.
Jung was often asked why he never developed a formula or step-by-step process for dealing with people suffering from various psychological conditions.
His response was that each person was different, and presented a new tragedy.
There could never be a formula for working therapeutically with people.
It all depended on the relationship and understanding that developed between the analyst and the analysand.
Regarding the importance of alchemy in Jung’s work, which he saw as the culmination of all his endeavours, it was his realization that western civilization needed a new myth to replace the Christian myth.
For Jung and von Franz, alchemy is the complete myth for our society in that it includes three vital facets that are excluded by Christianity today.
Firstly, alchemy includes all aspects of the feminine, not only the purity of the Virgin Mary; secondly, it includes matter and sees it as animate and responsive to human thoughts and emotions, not simply dead and inert; and, thirdly, it faces the problem of the opposites in human nature rather than expecting flawed humankind to be pure and Christ-like.
It also acknowledges the opposites in nature and the world we live in.
Jung and von Franz believe that matter needs loving care and attention if it is to co-operate with you.
Craftsmen in the Middle Ages were very aware of this. A blacksmith would perform a ceremony each time he made a sword so that the metal would be strong and able to protect the life of the man bearing it.
In our daily lives we need to learn to relate to matter in this way and to become aware of how the unconscious communicates with matter.
It is not a coincidence when an object cannot be found or when things break down or go awry.
By becoming aware of these incidents and their meaning, we enrich and ease our lives.
The Rainmaker by Robert Johnson
We listened to this audio tape about the rainmaker, a story that greatly appealed to Jung.
There was a village experiencing a serious drought.
If it did not rain soon, all the crops would perish, with dire consequences for the inhabitants.
As a last resort the villagers decided to invite a famous rainmaker to their village.
When he arrived, he asked that a simple shelter be built for him some distance from the village and that he be given sufficient food to last him five days.
On the fourth day, it rained.
The villagers were over-joyed and dragged the somewhat bewildered rain-maker from his hut.
They kept thanking him for performing the rain-making ceremonies that had saved their village from near destruction.
For his part, he kept trying to explain that he hadn’t got to performing the ceremonies yet.
This was to happen on the fifth day.
When he arrived at the village he felt out of sorts and that was why he asked for a hut to be built where he could spend time in solitude to get himself right.
For Jung, this story encapsulates a crucial principle: Get things right inside yourself and the outer world responds.
The relationship between the inner and outer worlds is a duality we are all exposed to.
In the West we consider the outer world “real” while, in India, the inner world is “real”.
Robert Johnson discussed different ways we deal with this relationship between the inner world and the outer worlds (the duality we all live in)
- Mostly we are at odds with our environment and discontent with our outer world, eg. our age, our looks, our finances etc.
Our interior desires and visions do not correspond with our outer world.
This causes resentment, restlessness, discontent.
“Content” comes from the same root as the word “contain”, and refers to being held by the circumstances of one’s life and accepting to be there.
- 2. A reversal of the above – with the attitude that the outer world does not exist and so to consider the outer world an illusion.
This laid back, take-it easy culture that some people in the West have adopted results from a misinterpretation of Eastern texts.
The misinterpretation considers that our physical world illusory and that it does not exist, however what is intended and was lost in poor translations, is that the psychological, projected world does not exist.
- To appreciate that both the inner and outer worlds exist and can influence each other.
Robert Johnson sees prayer as an important way for this co-influencing to take place.
One form of prayer is to focus on improving circumstances for ourselves or for others if we are inclined to be less self-centred.
Prayer can also be non specific- asking for nothing but to be a vehicle for God’s will be done.
There is also contemplative prayer,
which engages with the process of making ourselves identical with the “god figure”, best exemplified by the mandala – a symbol of wholeness, everything is connected, all is one.
Johnson spoke of the Eastern Yoga’s path to self enlightenment and having a type of yoga to suite each temperament, viz. Gnana – Intellectual; Bhakti – Feeling; Raja – Intuitive; Hatha – Sensation
(In Jung’s model of the nature of the psyche – the circle symbolizes the totality of the psyche – and the four points of the compass stand for the four basic functions that are constitutionally present in every individual: thinking (N), feeling (S), sensation (W) and intuition (E).)
Although we constitutionally possess all four functions, it is always one of these functions with which we orientate ourselves and adjust for reality.
This is the “superior function” and determines the individual’s type.
The corresponding opposite function is one’s undifferentiated or “inferior function”, which lies wholly in the unconscious.)
Johnson also mentioned Karma yoga, which is about living consciously, with integrity.
He said that dreams were tempering devices that try to pull heresy out of one to restore the mandala (wholeness).
In response to various questions, Robert Johnson made the following observations:
- the Soul was an intermediary, an overlap between the inner and outer worlds.
the Third Eye was mandala-making because one looked at the world with one eye, not two eyes in duality. That is why it is called the “Eye of Enlightenment”.
“Enlightenment” was an act of Grace, but work was required to achieve this state.
Our inferior function was the key to wholeness. This is where we would find Dionysus, the God function.
(“The Greco-Roman religion of Dionysus brought forth symbols associated with a God-man of androgynous character who had an intimate understanding of the animal and plant world and was the master of initiation into their secrets.
The Dionysiac religion contained orgiastic rites that implied the need for an initiate to abandon himself to his animal nature and thereby
experience the full fertilizing power of the Earth Mother.
The initiating agent for this rite of passage in the Dionysiac ritual was wine, which was to produce the symbolic lowering of consciousness necessary to introduce the novice into the closely guarded secrets of nature.” (From Man and his Symbols – by C.G. Jung.)
Some examples relating to the superior and inferior functions are:
- law of inferior function: don’t try to earn your living with it.
most Jungians are intuitive – their inferior function is sensation.
don‟t tease a thinking person about their feelings, or a feeling person about their intellect….etc
the USA is an extraverted thinking culture as opposed to a country like Japan which is an introverted sensation culture.
There is a saying that the virtue of God will find its way through the soles of the feet (the inferior function).
The name “sole” has relevance as it is thought this is the only place the soul can leave and enter the body. All Gothic Cathedrals had two West towers, representing the soles of the feet of Christ.
The term “grow whole” has its root meaning in “grows holy”.