Through a Jungian Lens
Individuation and Self-Consciousness
Shadow and Light on the Journey Robert G. LongprĂŠ
Through a Jungian Lens
Individuation and Self-Consciousness
Shadow and Light on the Journey
©Robert G. Longpré Editor and Publisher Retired Eagle Books
A Journey of Soul on a Prairie Rail Line Through Images and Words "... whatever reality may be, it will to some extent be shaped by the lens through which we see it." - James Hollis, 1993
Dedicated to my mother and her life-mate, Jack.
Robert G. LongprĂŠ July, 2011
Introduction Introduction This book series began as a challenge. The challenge was to create a book of at least thirty-five photographs within a thirty-one day period of time. This is the SoFoBoMo challenge, a challenge in which completion of the project is its own reward. I took part in the 2009 SoFoBoMo challenge and somehow managed to complete two books within the time frame. I again took part in the challenge in 2010 and finished the third book in the series that I have come to call, Though a Jungian Lens. This year I again have decided to return to the challenge and produce a fourth book in the series. The challenge for me was to find enough photos that suggested the presence of shadow in relation to light while standing on an abandoned rail line on the Canadian prairies. The use of shadow and light is an attempt to track the growth of consciousness in the human psyche over the period of a lifetime, a blend of Developmental psychology and Jungian psychology. From a book of Carl Gustav Jung’s called “The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious,” I will bring his ideas of the shadow, the personal unconscious and consciousness. I also draw on post-Jungian writers as well as from other sources as I present the images here. I invite you to read this with an open mind, open to the possibilities rather than assumptions that limit consciousness. Enjoy this small journey of soul.
Robert G. Longpré July, 2011
Part One â€“ Dawn
Before the hint of light appears, there is only darkness, and in the darkness there is no sense of anything but the darkness. There is no awareness, just an all encompassing darkness. Out of the darkness, a thin sliver of light begins to bring shape and form. And with that thin sliver of light, there begins to be a separation from the darkness. Within the womb of a mother, a promise of life is present though that life has yet to be born, yet to be possessed by a soul which will merge with the body. The foetus floats in darkness, waiting. The soul is part of the darkness, waiting. Both wait for that moment of time when light will become present signalling the beginning of life, the beginning of consciousness.
â€œConsciousness grows out of an unconscious psyche which is older than it and which goes on functioning together with it or even in spite of it.â€? (Jung, CW 9i, par. 502) The darkness out of which a newborn infant and the soul that has claimed the infant is the collective unconscious, something that contains all that is, all that has been and all that is yet to be. With birth, a separation from the collective unconscious, a journey is begun, one in which both infant and soul will seek to discover themselves as inner beings and as participants in a wider world of objects and others. Crossing into life, both body and soul, mind and soul begin with no sense of identity, of meaning, of purpose. This is a journey that will end with a return to their starting point, a return home to darkness and the collective uncounscious.
Of course, it takes time for an infant to make anything at all of the light. Light has no meaning other than it is only in the realm of light that the infant becomes aware of its basic needs. The only sense of self is that of hunger, discomfort or pain. Over a period of months a sense of separateness from others begins to develop. Mother is separate. And with that awareness of separateness comes a desperate need to be connected again. The journey has begun.
As the sun rises, as we walk from the sunrise forward into the day, shadows stretch before us. We see the world before us as a magical place with colours that are rich and vibrant as though they are alive. We discover the world as we walk forward from the dawn, the birth of a day; we discover the world as we walk forward from the moment of our birth. We discover a world filled with shadows, with mystery and magic.
Shadows serve as contrast to the glaring light of new found consciousness. Shadow frames this new sense of self and the world. As we move forward into life, into the day, we shift our focus from the framed light to a world that appears to be all light. The world of things, people, activity and function take away our sense of the world being a magical place. The way forward seems straight forward with relatively easily managed shifts as we grow to adulthood.
Part Two â€“ Approaching Noon
Shadows shorten as one approaches the moment when the sun is highest in the sky. Shadows are banished as we categorize, classify and contain the world of our senses. We define our world, we control our world and we understand the world that is exposed in the bright light of day. We build our world in this light to serve us, to define us. Yet, we lose the magic of childhood that allowed us to talk to invisible people, to believe in monsters, ghosts and fairies. We become students, friends, employees, lovers and parents over the growing years, growing into the light, into consciousness. The path before us continues to follow the track that stretches before us with no obstacles in the way. It all appears to be straightforward.
This first half of life lacks the full range of colours that are found at the edges between light and darkness. Here in this time, all is understandable and rationally explained. We construct theories to define our as yet, unknowns believing that science and intellect will yield answers for everything. We ignore that which is present but not seen in the fullness of daylight. And behind our minds, our bodies instinctively take us forward towards a place we deny exists.
The only mysteries remaining are those of relationship, of love. In spite of our belief in reason, we are pulled into a different mystery. We accept this pull and even revel in it as long as we feel we are in control, that we are fully aware. The approach of noon, of midlife promises us even more certainty, answers for unasked questions.
We deceive ourselves about the mystery and claim that we are consciously choosing and fully in control. And that, the failure to admit the hidden shadows in full daylight, results in confusion as relationships shatter and are left in ruins. Beyond any logic we can find, we watch as relationships begin to crumble, broad hints that all is not as it seems in the light of day. We find others not behaving with the logic we have come to embrace. Even the world seems to have fallen off the rails at times, ignoring what we perceive to be natural laws.
And so, we retreat from the edges of these unknown spaces and places that we believe are about our personal weakness, our personal failings. If only the road ahead could be defined and controlled would we safe and secure. Yet, we get distracted, even as the fullness of the light of day is almost upon us â€“ distracted by the scenes appearing at the sidelines of our journey forward into a still undefined future.
Part Three – High Noon
It’s as though the shadow has disappeared as we stand in the middle of a life’s journey. We don’t know that we are at the midpoint as we think we have almost become immortal. We have raised families, we have succeeded in careers, we have mastered ourselves. Should anyone ask, we confidently know who we are. Yet for all of our certainties, we begin to see that the way ahead is blurring at the edges, becoming indistinct in contrast with the certainties we have constructed for ourselves.
We watch in dismay as the wheels begin to fall off our carefully laid plans. We canâ€™t find any thing or reason to explain what we sense is happening to us. With power, position, family and property all should be perfect. Yet somehow, it isnâ€™t and we find that we are not really at ease with ourselves and with others. Something is missing though we seem to have everything that we have ever wanted, having even more that what we want.
There are hints that appear even though there are no shadows, of something more for us. Dreams present us with images and sensations, calling us to consider the possibilities that canâ€™t be seen in full daylight. Though the images appear they are not trusted as they only seem to appear in sleep and are thus reduced to irrelevant nonsense. And so, we become more frantic to fill an emptiness with more â€“ more stuff, more people, more experiences â€“ more, more, more!
Part Four – Late Afternoon
A curious thing happens as we cross the threshold of noon, of midlife; we begin to return to a world in which shadow again becomes present whether we accept that fact or not. We find ourselves at a crossroads. Do we admit these shadows as belonging to our world or not? Too often the reappearance of shadow sends us scurrying into a wasteland of frantic denial. We seek to recover the certainties of an earlier time when life was straightforward and simple – what you saw was what you got. Fast cars, fast sex, fast food, fast vacations, and vicarious adventures defined as reality – these are just some of those things we use to desensitize ourselves to the presence of the growing shadows that dog us at our heels.
For those who dare to confront the shadows, to admit their existence and presence, it isnâ€™t much easier. One enters into a world where there doesnâ€™t appear to be a way forward. Our outer world lives seem to lose meaning. We find ourselves wondering about our relationships, our careers, our purpose in life. We look at those with whom we have filled our lives and wonder at how they have become strangers. We struggle with our careers wondering what we ever saw in them as now, they leave us feeling hollow. We even question our selves. Who am I? However, beneath all of the confusion, the uncertainty, the shadows lies our unique purpose and meaning to be rediscovered, reinvented. We gradually learn to trust ourselves in relation to the shadows present both in the outer world and our inner worlds.
The self – the sense of “I” is challenged almost to the breaking point. One is left to confront the growing shadows or flee into a different darkness. Alcohol and other addictions are the typical strategies we use to flee the shadows which despite one’s best efforts only grow longer as the days and years pass. For those too stubborn to retreat, the terrain of the shadow world becomes a bit less frightening as the mythical monsters of the shadow world are defeated and then welcomed into an expanded relationship.
The work of bringing the shadows into relationship with the self allows one to finally come to a realisation that the shadows are an integral part of who one is in actuality. Rather than reducing one to being lesser in the presence of shadow, life becomes curiously fuller and even golden. It is as if one gets a treasure, a treasure of connection to something bigger than the self and that in the connection one is richer than had ever been thought to be possible. No wonder this period of life has since words have been formed by humans, been called the â€œgolden years.â€?
Part Five â€“ Sunset
Late in midlife one begins to accept that one is mortal, that the body will return from where it had come. The setting sun draws us like some beacon to come forward into a different place, a different space, a different time. The setting sun is more than a premonition of a darkness to come, it is also a promise of something more. Instinctively we know that with sunset and darkness, there is a dawn waiting to be born, to be reborn. In spite of the apparent logic of a beginning and end that is symbolized by a set of rail tracks, we â€?knowâ€? that days follow each other as do seasons and years. We see ourselves in the images of generations passed that we might possess as well as in the faces of our children and grandchildren. There is no sense of finality, just that of some sort of transformation. As we approach the sunset of our own lives those who have finally accepted the truths of their being creatures of shadow and light hear a promise that is not given in words, but given none-the-less, that like a phoenix, out of our ashes, the dust from which we grew into the light, we will re-emerge transformed.
We have tried to give names to this transformation. We speak of heaven, of nirvana and angels and all manner of forms for paradise. As we move closer to the coming night, we embrace fully what remains of the day. Our relationship with our self, others who are intimately connected to us, to our communities and the world at large is transformed into a relationship that honours the darkness found in each part as well as the light. We embrace the whole. No more is it about heaven and hell or good and bad. Sunset promises us something that will emerge through the embrace of opposites that keeps us mortal. The pull of the setting sun has transfixed us for as long as we have existed as a people. All over the earth, we are drawn to stop and look with awe as the sky is transformed and as the final golden rays paint the landscape into scenes of paradise. We see others around us in shades of shadow and golden light and know that somehow the real essence of these people has , for a moment, been revealed.
And, we see ourselves without the warts and scars that have been our preoccupation in the past. We see our spiritual and soulful self. We see that we are holy and a piece of the treasure that is promised in the setting of the sun. And in seeing this, we realise that the body we use will soon blow as seeds in the winds and find new soil from which again to start a new existence. And so, we are armed to face the transformational fires of the end of life and consciousness.
As the darkness gathers, we are drawn towards it to a tunnel of light that others canâ€™t see, a different light. And so, we lay still with the last glow of light as darkness begins to wrap around us. And as we lie waiting on the rail bed which strangely continues into the darkness, we begin to see other forms of light begin to appear, a different way of being, a different consciousness.
Again, we are at the crossroads, the threshold of a different journey that is about to begin. We leave the path of life as a human, a path we followed as if on a rail track. We turn instead to a different path, one that lies behind the darkness, behind our understanding of time, place and space. Our current journey comes to an end.
This is the fifth book in the series, Through a Jungian Lens, and the fourth book created as a challenge through SoFoBoMo – the Solo Photo Book in a Month challenge. All rights to this book, the text and the photographs are reserved by the author, Robert G. Longpré in accordance to national and international copyright law. Any use of the text and photographs contained are subject to the approval of the author with the exception of those uses permitted under copyright law. Robert has enjoyed a long career in education and in counselling in Canada before retiring to find a new way of engaging with the world with a number of publications to his credit over those years. Robert is currently engaged as a university lecturer in China and in a small practice as a psychotherapist using both face-to-face and at-distance methods which use Jungian Psychology as the foundational approaches to counselling. For those who are interested, Robert maintains a blog site that is also called, Through a Jungian Lens, a site that blends both photography and Jungian Psychology. There are more than 900 entries on the blog site with new entries being posted almost every day.
Web: http://rglongpre.ca/jungianlens E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org © Robert G. Longpré
Blending photography and Jungian Psychology at Through a Jungian Lens