‘…the only real danger that exists is man himself…and we know nothing of man – his psyche should be studied because we are the origin of all coming evil…’ Carl Jung
Henry wrote to me this morning and told me that Nietzsche said we are guided by our own depth, and when we respond to this, we are living our myth. However, he warns us against large ideas. Nietzsche, that is. There is a danger that the insight will come too soon to understand itself. This is what Henry wrote to me this morning.
Henry was the director of the Jung Center Houston in 1995 when I went to work there. It was a time when the curriculum offered a ten-week course on the Collected Works of Carl Jung. (They don’t offer this anymore and not because the current director would oppose. If anything, I’m sure Sean, the current director, would delight to see such an addition; it’s just not a popular subject, and the classes would not fill).
There was a visible enthusiasm to talk soul and mythology and dreams and fairy tales. There were so many then who wanted to know why we did the things we did. And when Marion Woodman said with authority, ‘Unconscious means unconscious,’ we wanted to know what that meant and how to get there: what was this road into the unconscious? What was a complex? What was shadow work? What is the psyche? Is there a God? What is the nature of evil?
Probing these questions, studying material that could help us understand who we are, was plentiful and extensive. These courses were challenging and undiluted. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those were the golden years.
Lawrence Hillman, James Hillman’s son, once told me that his father said to him: ‘When you have a problem, make it really big so you can see it.’
I can’t think of anything bigger than close proximity to a war to illustrate his remark.
So, here’s what troubles me today; profoundly so.
It got all stirred up last night when we took in five more people, three of whom are suffering from noticeable trauma, psychological fragility, and an edginess that we are simply not qualified to handle. They have requested to be placed elsewhere. The best we can do at the moment is to offer them a private flat in the town that sits empty most of the year. It belongs to a family member of Stefan’s who has graciously offered to help us out. Still, I don’t know if they will take it and I don’t under any circumstances think this is the best solution long-term because I believe they need a more advanced level of care.
So this war. How did we get here? I’m sure there’s not a shortage of historians who can tell us how we got here politically, but how did we get here spiritually and psychologically?
As I see it, our civilization has put itself at the top of the food chain and thus set off a catastrophic state of affairs leading to acute narcissism, consumerism, restlessness, hyper-anxiety, melodrama, and obsessive rationalization, to name a few symptoms. We live in a world that seeks to intellectualize fairy tales. Ritual is awkward for us, and we don’t understand what it means to live a symbolic life.
We place everything on the outside of ourselves and are surprised when there’s a crisis.
But indeed, there is a crisis. And up until now, for example, the three suffering souls who arrived last night had been contained within the borders of their everyday lives until war aggressively forced them into a situation that is now untenable for them.
In point of fact though, it’s no different from the shooter who emboldens himself one weekday morning, armed and prepared to kill as many as possible. There is a war going on inside of him too, I assure you.
So, what is inside of us? We’re so compulsive about what we eat and the supplements we take; about what we look like and how we age and if we get enough exercise, if our Instagram life is successful, if we have a plethora of FB friends, and on and on, but who is it that inside of us? Whose life are we living?
‘…Today everyone asserts his own personality and strives to live a full life as an individual. But these efforts lead not to a full life but to suicide, because, instead of realizing his personality, man only slips into isolation. For in our age, mankind has been broken up into self-contained individuals, each of whom retreats into his lair, trying to stay away from the rest, hiding himself and his belongings from people and people from him. And, while he accumulates material wealth in his isolation, he thinks with satisfaction how mighty and secure he has become, because he is mad and cannot see that the more goods he accumulates, the deeper he sinks into suicidal impotence…he has split off from the whole and become an isolated unit; he has trained his soul not to rely on human help…’ The Brothers Karamazov/Fyodor Dostoevsky/1879
To live our myth yet not to let it overtake us. To always be prepared to practice humility. And the only way I know how to do this is to remain in service to others, even the ones that really get on my nerves. I am actively and consciously in relationship to something larger than myself. Some bigger story, something wiser and something timeless.
I should have been a Methodist preacher…like Henry!
Saturday, we are all going on a day trip to Sandomierz and having pizza on the way home. We have hired transportation that can seat twenty-six, and we’ll add two more private cars to absorb the rest.