At the table
When I sit at the able and the cutlery and glasses gleam
When the napkins are folded white
When the chair scrapes the floor just right
And my skirt rustles on the seat
Neither brocade nor velvet, nor cotton or silk
But a soft and pliant fabric
Like the wished for comfort of the soul
In love with God
That is when I know I will have found you
To earn a seat at that table
Requires the silence of the self
Quiet as a proverbial mouse
All potentia, possible movement, thought, desire
All probable outcomes
Held as softly as a breath before beauty
Suspended in time until the hand reaches out
And issues the invitation
Come, sit at my table
On the right side of the hand of God
And you, my friends, will have already gathered
Each sitting at the place of honor
For there are no contradictions
At the table God sets
For those who seek
The narrow path
In Projection and Re-collection in Jungian Psychology, Marie Louise von Franz writes about the Self’s social function. She states that it is in the very structure of the Self to provide a place where each person “gathers around him his own ‘soul family,’ a group of people not created by accident or by mere egoistic motivation but rather through a deeper, more essential spiritual interest or concern: reciprocal individuation.” (1978, p. 177).
I was struck by the notion that in the very essence of the Self, there is provender for those who travel the narrow path of individuation, the very act of engaging in that process brings us into the deep community of one’s fellow travelers. The Self provides the structure around which we can find sustenance, companionship, respite and inspiration. This is the motif of the King Arthur’s Round Table, the table at which Christ sat at the Last Supper. Not only does this table image symbolize the re-membering of our psychic projections, it also reflects that we need to be in the company of others on the same quest.
Jung states: “In this world created by the Self we meet all those many to whom we belong, whose hearts we touch; here “there is no distance, but immediate presence.” (Jung in von Franz, ibid). That is what emerges as we participate in the Assisi Community and in the von Franz study group, in the Depth Psychology Alliance and other worthy groups. Whether physically present around a ‘real’ table at conferences, or gathered around our telephone lines, the Self is the organizing principle that brings us together. Our meal is rich, our time precious. Thank God for that!
Von Franz, Marie Louise (1978). Projection and Re-collection in Jungian Psychology. Chicago: Open Court.
A moment ago
The sun was shining
While we watched
The pounding rhythm of feet
Sweat and water
Tears and laughter
Sharp pains in the side
A moment ago
They stepped over the finish line
Raised fist high
Saw loved ones
Flashed a smile of victory
A moment ago
The Beast unleashed
Memories of planes and buildings,
Drones and wedding parties,
A litany of horrors
A wail of pain
All it takes is one moment
To change life into death
Death into despair
And in the midst of tragedy
The unimaginable kindness of strangers.
I am a member of a collective garden, where about 20 of us work together to grow food, educate ourselves on sustainability, practice organic farming methods and generally have a good time. We have weekly work parties and also opportunities for solitary work. I have spent many hours observing nature and what she has to teach me about archetypal patterns. I have learned to look through the eyes of a pattern analyst.
At an early spring work party I saw one of our members broadcasting seeds over a bed and thought that this was the expression of the archetypal field of cultivation. This was the expression of the development of consciousness, no longer reliant on mere opportunism for gathering food, cultivating requires conscious engagement and knowledge of the processes of growth, maturation and harvest to ensure survival.
Except I was wrong. This person had used all the seeds for the entire season on one half bed. What would grow in this spot would be a cacophony of differing greens, salads, chard, basil, arugula, all competing for space, nutrients and attention. Instead of careful planning, timely planting and harvesting, this would be a short lived harvest.
Of course nothing terrible happened. We bought more seed to plant as planned and we will watch and see what happens in this bed, harvest and eat the tender young shoots and wonder what they might be. It will be an experiment and a reminder that if you don’t know what you are doing, just ask someone.
I realized, however, that what I thought I saw being revealed was not what was being told. Following my training, I looked at this as though it were a dream. I so, what would this dream image be telling me about the dreamer? I really understood what I have been studying for some time about fields and dreams. That is, a field can only be expressed through form and form shows us what the field is. As Dr. Conforti has said many times, “every story has a picture and every picture has a story”.
I will leave it to the reader to formulate thoughts about what is being revealed by this image. But for me, the most pertinent learning was about the nature of the reality of the psyche and its relationship to matter, that is, us. What I witnessed in the outer world, when seen as a dream revealed the field in which this person was embedded. This is the discipline that looks at all behavior as the explication of a field or archetypal pattern. We are all unconsciously expressing our inner life, complexes, blind spots and it is our great task to bring them to consciousness.
The theory is proven by the lived experience. I can look at how I move through the world, how I show up at the garden, in my office, in the kitchen as though it were a dream. What would that reveal to me about my life now? If I am driving down the street and realize that I am not paying attention, where am I going unconscious about how I navigate the world? If I dream I am driving and not paying attention, is it not revealing the same issue. I was reminded of what
Jung wrote in Memories, Dreams and Reflections, “our unconscious existence is the real one and our conscious world a kind of illusion, an apparent reality constructed for a specific purpose, like a dream which seems a reality as long as we are in it. (Jung, p. 324).
Jorge Luis Borges poignantly expresses the human relationship to Psyche the short story: The Circular Ruins. In the story, the old man is tasked with creating a man through his dreams. Over time, he dreams a man who becomes a wise man in another village. The only element which knows the true nature of the man is Fire. One night, a great fire consumes the village and the man is bereft that his creation will know that he is an ephemera because the fire will not consume him. This is the ending of the story:
“First (after a long drought) a remote cloud, as light as a bird, appeared on a hill; then, toward the South, the sky took on the rose color of leopard's gums; then came clouds of smoke which rusted the metal of the nights; afterwards came the panic-stricken flight of wild animals. For what had happened many centuries before was repeating itself. The ruins of the sanctuary of the god of Fire was destroyed by fire. In a dawn without birds, the wizard saw the concentric fire licking the walls. For a moment, he thought of taking refuge in the water, but then he understood that death was coming to crown his old age and absolve him from his labors. He walked toward the sheets of flame. They did not bite his flesh, they caressed him and flooded him without heat or combustion. With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he also was an illusion, that someone else was dreaming him.” (http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jatill/175/CircularRuins.htm)
What I understood from my work in the garden and as a pattern analyst is that whether we are the dreamers or the dreamt ones, we still have work to do. The earth awaits our seed, the time for harvest will come.
Jung, C. G (1961). Memories, Dream, Reflections. New York: Random House.
Surprised by God at my Table
For the past twenty five years, my ex-Catholic husband and I have celebrated the Passover with a Seder, the ritual telling of the story of Exodus which is accompanied by special food, wine and story. I have presided at Seders with five people and with over 150 people. I have sat next to the very old and the very young, but I have never sat next to God. Or rather, God never revealed Godself to me.
It wasn’t an apotheosis, there were no rays of light or angels singing, no drama or bells or whistles. What happened was simple, profound and mysterious. I looked around our table of eight adults and realized that this was the first time in all these years that there were no children present. At that moment, the tears flowed from a deep well of sadness and I was aware of the presence of a deep and powerful mystery. As Marie Louise von Franz says in the Way of the Dream: “God is that which sweeps us off our feet, overwhelms, inspires reverence, awe, fear and a sense of something greater than ourselves”.
What I understood is that the story of Exodus is a living reality in our souls. It is an archetypal movement from the ego’s slavery to complexes and collective values that kill the soul to liberation through pain, suffering and exile. This is when the God sat at my table, when I realized that this mysterious journey of the soul has to be told to us over and over again, starting when we are children. We need to know from the beginning of our growing awareness that life is cruel, unjust and difficult. We need to know that there is oppression and evil in the world that is out to destroy us. And, we need to know that there is a way out of oppression into a new land of milk and honey, the way is hard, yes, but it is known and we are in good company.
While the children may not understand the profundity of the story during the first part of life, the repetition and the rituals prepare the way for the task of the second part. What we understand later in life, is that the oppression is internal, the complexes are our Egypt, the slave masters that bind us to impossible tasks in their possession. To leave Egypt is to leave the world behind and enter into the desert exile, and endure suffering in our encounter with the God.
James Hollis, in his lecture at the Assisi Institutes’ In Search of Soul and Spirit seminars, reminded us that the task of the second part of life is to find our personal authority in relationship to that which is greater than ourselves (April 1, 2013). His description of the process of coming to a more mature spirituality mirrors the Exodus story. We get stuck by the archaic fears of our childhood, the complexes that keep us frozen and sabotage the ego’s forward movement. To become a mature adult, to find our souls, we must go through the desert to get to other side. There we reclaim our selves, finding greater courage, resilience and strength, we learn that by facing our fears we can be guided by the dust storm during the day and the pillar of fire at night. We are not alone, there is a greater force that can guide us if only we take the first step out of bondage.
Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor