Jung made the distinction between the personal dream and the big dream, noting that, while the personal dream helps us maintain day-to-day psychic balance, the big dream concerns universal human problems and occurs during critical phases of life. We will explore the images, symbols, and callings stemming from dreams that appear at critical junctures and that reveal our place in the cosmos. We will see how numinous dreams of nature and cosmos help us transcend the polarities behind our alienation from nature, our selves, and one another. Participants are invited to share dreams containing archetypal and cosmic motifs.
The workshop provides a deeper examination of the ideas presented in the Friday night lecture.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thodol, is a manual or guide for the 49-day period between a person’s death and their next rebirth. Written in Tibet in the middle ages, it describes the entities and experiences that await all of us in the bardo, or the in-between. Many strange and scary things happen in that intermediate phase, and it is best, from the point of view of the text, to be prepared. In fact, if one is prepared enough, the moment of death can be the most opportune time to achieve liberation. This occurs when you can see what is happening, including the most terrifying images, as aspects of your own mind.
Jung writes that the Bardo Thodol makes “clear to the dead man the primacy of the psyche, for that is the one thing which life does not make clear to us. We are so hemmed in by things which jostle and oppress that we never get the chance, in the midst of all these ‘given’ things, to wonder by whom they are ‘given’. It is from this world of given things that the dead man liberates himself; and the purpose of the instructions is to help him toward this liberation. we … learn from the very first paragraphs the that ‘giver’ of all ‘given’ things dwells within us. This is a truth which in the face of all evidence, in the greatest things as well as in the smallest, is never known although it is often so very necessary, indeed vital, for us to know it.” (vol 11: 514)
Why does Jung say this is vital? Because this exploration of the in-between has the capacity to liberate us in this life, long before the body dies.
Our lecture will include a brief history of the Bardo Thodol and then a symbolic exploration of its other reality. We will look at it compared to the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Jung’s own opus of the undiscovered country, The Red Book. Finally we will ground it in our daily lives as a useful and inspirational tool that has something to say to everyone. Fantastic images will accompany the lecture.
Our workshop will make it clear that The Tibetan Book of the Dead is not just for the dead! Using Jungian tools to decipher the text we will see just how and when we can act to change our patterns of behavior during the critical “bardo” or in-between phases of experience. Our extra time will give us the opportunity to dive into the intricate and beautiful images – to purely appreciate them, to understand them a little better, and as a way to understand ourselves or our patients. Bring your bad habits and your imagination!
The American psyche has typically been seen as narcissistic. Indeed, we readily identify with the heroic, the good, and the brave. However, these noble portraits cast a long shadow. In this Friday evening lecture, Dr. West will supplement a Jungian exploration of this complex reality with slides and discussion about the works of a contemporary European artist, Anselm Kiefer. In Kiefer’s work, we experience an active engagement with the tension between destruction and creation. The ability to embody a union of opposites emerges from a strong and flexible consciousness that can hold such a paradoxical position. Consciousness that has developed this strength and flexibility is supported as one works through the dynamics of exhibitionism and grandiosity, ultimately forging a healthy narcissism: an embodied self-esteem, a rooted sense of values, and a capacity to tolerate vulnerability and limits. We witness these dynamics and developments within Kiefer’s work. With these developments, an individual – and a community or nation – can work to engage in an effective dialogue with primal forces that carry the potential for both apocalypse and epiphany. With these strengths, we deepen our capacity to confront and suffer the tragic personal and historical realities in which we participate.
In the Saturday workshop, we will turn to a more in depth discussion about how individual and collective trauma underlie the development of character structures. Again, with reference to the work of Anselm Kiefer, we will see how these images evoke a shudder, a chilling recognition of the devastation left by the eruption of the primal force of destruction. In this context, Dr. West will clarify how, in terms of the development of character structures, three differentiated sets of archetypal images underlie three distinguishable relational patterns. These archetypal forces are met and mediated by consciousness as it progressively develops. When this development proceeds effectively, three differentiated forms of healthy narcissism emerge. However, when defenses rigidify this process, archetypal forces accrue and eventually erupt. Dr. West will consider how the collusion of these archetypal fields, met by a defensively rigidified and polarizing consciousness, can cast us into repetitive personal crises as well as irresolvable global confrontations.
Our lives course with stories – stories that run through us from ancestors, stories we tell others and tell ourselves, and stories of which we are unaware and thereby tell us. We will reflect on the role these stories play in the shaping of our lives, and how they invite us to greater consciousness of what invisibly informs the visible world.
Please bring writing materials as together, in a mixture of lecture/discussion and interactive exercises, we will put some narrative flesh on the bare bones of our histories.