The inescapable paradox of fire - of alchemy, of psyche, of intelligent living - consists in this double commandment: Thou shalt not repress / Thou shalt not act out. … Do not act out; do not hold in. A paradox. And a double negative that suggests a via negativa, a de-literalizing cancellation of both commandments. A mercurial escape form the exhausting oscillation between them. Instead of holding in or acting out, act in. Cook in the rotundum as one vessel was called, referring to both the container and to the roundness of the skull. Hold the heat inside the head by warming the mind's reveries. Imagine, project, fantasize, think. - James Hillman, Rudiments, in Alchemical Psychology
If one works with feeling-images it may well become apparent that one has entered a new realm of time that is little understood. A single dramatic theme can stand in the background of one's life for a whole lifetime, awaiting expression. The critical childhood traumas that psychoanalysis used to find are examples of this. In a similar way, individuals may have whole set of values in the background, waiting for expression. In subtle and little-understood ways these background propensities affect choice and behavior. These timeless propensities can wait forever, or come forth and change in short order. It is as if they can change only by coming through one's life. If the background tendency implies suicide, weird perversions, etc., we are inclined to keep them from expression. Yet when lived out in fantasy, they can change in a few moments. One woman was afraid she was homosexual because she wanted to look at women's figures. I suggested that she look all she wanted in fantasy. The inner wish to look went from legs to breast to her being cuddled like an infant by an older woman. She had been raised without a mother and really wanted to experience being mothered. The real meaning and drift of the inner cannot be understood until it is lived out in some way. Fantasy is safe. In it one can slay thousands, die, and be born again all in the space of a few minutes. The inner is permanent and timeless when unlived. When lived out it advances the individual through acts of a very well-conceived drama. The greatness of the inner plot may be apparent only when looking back on a lifetime of experience. - Wilson Van Dusen, The Natural Depth of Man
Mars insists we honor desire. Mars would say that pornography is a distorted expression of a perfectly pure desire for eros and exoticism. Let’s cook it back and give it fresh expression. Whenever we confront anything negative in our personal lives or the larger social world, we ask, “What did this want to be before it became toxic due to being suppressed?” - Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You
Emotional compulsion is often regarded negatively as a failure of control or a sign of irrationality. We might see it rather as the soul yearning for expression and tying to thrust itself into life. Sexual compulsion may show us where and to what extent we have neglected this particular need. Compulsion asks for a response from us, but we might be careful lest we simply react to the felt need. Some respond by advocating "free love," as though the best way to deal with the compulsion were to give in to it literally. This is the way of compensation, which doesn't solved the problem but only places us at the other end of it. The soulful way is to bring imagination to sex, so that by fulfilling the need at a deep level, the compulsion is brought to term.
We may try to keep the power of sex at bay through many clever maneuvers. Our moralism, for example, helps keep us clean of the mess sex can make of an otherwise ordered life. Sex education tries to teach us to avoid "venereal diseases" - the pathologies of Venus - by placing sex under the strong, white, Apollonic light of science. Yet in spite of all our efforts, sexual compulsion interferes with marriages, draws people into strange liaisons, and continues to offend propriety, morality, and religion. Its dynamic is too big to fit into the cages we make for it.
We are in a difficult position in relation to sex: we believe it's important to have a "healthy" sex life, at least within marriage, and yet we also believe that the tendency of sex to spread easily into unwanted areas - pornography, homosexuality, extramarital affairs - is a sign of cultural decadence or moral and religious breakdown. We want sex to be robust, but not too robust.
The man and woman standing in front of Priapus represents two common responses to sex: humor and anxiety. Sex is exceedingly human - bodily, passionate, often satisfyingly improper. Some theories of humor suggest that sex often provides material for humor precisely because it liberates us form the burden of propriety and the repression of passion. Sex also offers the rare gift of deeply felt, unreasoned joy, and laughter can sometimes be the expression of pure joy. On the other hand, perhaps because it is difficult to contain and mold into stable forms, sex can also bring with it considerable anxiety. Sometimes we laugh as a way of reassuring ourselves in the face of anxiety. It is the very potency of sex that suggests it is one of the most significant springs of soulfulness in modern life. - Thomas Moore, Soul Mates
When our sexual thoughts excite us toward new liaisons and new experiences, we may consider honoring these thoughts not by establishing new interpersonal relationships, but by being in life more sexually. A person can live erotically every minute of the day by valuing deep pleasures, beauty, body, adornment, decoration, texture, and color - all things we too often consider secondary or even frivolous. But to an Aphroditic sensibility, they are of primary importance and deserve our sincere attention. - Thomas Moore, Soul Mates
As a rule of thumb, it can be said that what we yearn for sexually is a symbolic representation of what we need in order to become whole. This means that sexual fantasies symbolically complement ego consciousness in a way that points us toward wholeness. Understanding the symbolic meaning of our sexual fantasies enables us to become less compulsive regarding them, that is, instead of being driven and possessed by them, our range of consciousness can be expanded by them.
The most frequent example of how a sexual yearning represents what is needed to bring us wholeness is the sexual desire of a man for a woman, and of a woman for a man. Images of a woman appear in a man's sexual fantasies because she represents his missing half, the other side of his personality to which he needs to relate if he is to be complete, and vice versa with a woman. Of course this is not to say that this is all that sexual yearning means. There is always the desire for physical release of tension, for the meeting of body with body, and for the closeness and intimacy with another person that sexuality achieves and expresses. But it is to say that in addition to these aspects of sexuality there is also a spiritual or psychological meaning.
Sexual fantasies are usually complex. We do not simply yearn for a woman or for a man, but have fantasies about the object of our desire in a particular way. There may be all kinds of romantic stories that accompany our desires, or there may be fantasies of seduction or rape. The possibilities of sexual fantasies are innumerable, and it is quite natural for people to have highly colorful sexual fantasies. If the content of these fantasies becomes too unusual, we call them "perversions," but it is too bad if this leads us to dismiss them out of hand; instead we need to understand why we have this particular sexual fantasy, that is, what the fantasy symbolically expresses.
Edward C. Whitmont, in his book The Symbolic Quest, gives us an example of how one man's unusual sexual fantasy represented symbolically exactly what changes he needed to undergo in order to become more whole. Whitmont's client came to him because he was incapable of having sexual intercourse with a woman until he had first kissed her feet. Naturally, this sexual fantasy was disturbing to him and he saw himself as perverted in some way. Analysis revealed that this man was unusually identified with his intellect and regarded himself as superior to women; accordingly he devalued the feminine side of himself and of life and cultivated an arrogant masculinity. In the act of kissing a woman's foot he had, symbolically, to Lowe his head. His sexual fantasies and desires thus forced the man to do symbolically what he had to accomplish psychologically in order ot become a more whole person: sacrifice the domination of his intellect, give up his masculine arrogance, and, as it were, worship what he had hitherto devalued. As long as he did not understand the meaning of his sexual fantasies, Whitmont's client was simply seized compulsively and driven to act them out. As he began to understand what his fantasies meant, and why he had them, he was led to a change of consciousness, and became both more free in his love making and more whole as a person. One could say that his sexual fantasy came to cure him of a maladaption of consciousness. The sexual fantasy was not an illness; he was one-sided and out of balance in his development and the sexual fantasy was produced by the unconscious to correct this.
Adol Guggenbuhl-Craig gives us another example. A student whom he once had as a client had gotten into trouble with the police because of a sexual compulsion to steal female underwear. One day, Guggenbuhl-Craig reports, his client came in to him triumphantly and read to him a passage from Goethe's poem Faust in which Faust meets the beautiful Helen: Faust, after a long search, finally meets this most beautiful feminine being in the world, only to have her disappear, leaving Faust standing there with her garment and veil in his hands. The young man concluded from this story that he was seized by a vision of the beauty of the eternal feminine image, which was symbolized by the feminine garment that so occupied his sexual thoughts. The object of his desire, ins short, was not woman as such but what woman symbolized to him: the eternal feminine with all of her majesty and numinosity. Like Faust, he had glimpsed somewhere a vision of this, but had been left with only the symbol of the garment in his hands. - John A. Sanford, The Invisible Partners
A special instance of sexual fantasy lie lies in the area of male homosexuality, and because homosexuality is so frequent among men these fantasies are worth some special comments.
To begin with, to refer to homosexuality as though it were a uniform phenomenon is misleading, for there are many expressions of male sexuality that we call homosexual that actually differ markedly. In general, we refer to homosexuality whenever a man has a sexual erotic desire another male, or for the male organ. Yet such desires may take quite varied forms. Some men are exclusively homosexual and have intimate relationships only with other men. But others marry, have children, and develop a satisfactory heterosexual life, yet are overwhelmed from time to time with what appears to be a desire for a homosexual experience.
IN the latter case, we often find that a middle-aged or older man has fallen in love with a younger man who has the attributes of a young Adonis. The young man who receives the love of the older man seem to embody in himself both masculine and feminine virtues. Typically he has a strong, virile body, yet he also has certain feminine attributes and graces that give him a beautiful, youthful quality; he appears as a young David, an Antinous, or a young god, rather than as a one-sidedly masculine person. Such a youth receives the projection of the Self, the image of wholeness in the psyche of the older man. Most men, as we have seen, project their missing half, the feminine easement, onto a woman. The man then represents the masculine side, and the woman the feminine side, of the masculine-feminine totality. In the instance we are now considering, however, totality is represented in the young man, who seems to include both masculine and feminine in himself. The actual young man is himself not this complete person; he is simply the carrier of the projection of the androgynous soul of the older man. In fact, when the two people get to know each other as human beings, they may be keenly disappointed in each other.
So there are some men whose other side, which represents wholeness for them, is not represented by a woman, but by this figure of the androgynous, divine youth. Mary-Louise von Franz writes, "There is the same idea in Persian teaching which says that after death the noble man meets either a youth who looks exactly like himself, … or a girl of fifteen, … and if he asks the figure who it is, then it will say ' I am thy own self,'"
A good example of this kind of homoerotic desire is found in Thomas Mann's novelette Death in Venice. Author Mann says of the aging Aschenbach, who has fallen in love with the youthful Tadzio, "His eyes took in the proud bearing of that figure there in the blue water's edge; with an outburst of rapture he told himself that what he saw was beauty's very essence; form as divine thought, the single and pure perfection which resided in the mind, of which an image and likeness, rare and holy, was here raised up for adoration."
Such a projection of the Self onto a younger man is possible because the Self image is typically represented for a man as either an older man or a younger man, as Marie-Louise von Franz has pointed out in her book The Feminine in Fairy Tales. This helps us to understand the strong bond that sometimes springs up between a young man and an older man. For the young man, the Self is carried by the older man, who represent the positive father, power, and the authority of the Self. For the older man, the Self is carried by the youth, who represents son, eros, and the eternally youthful aspect of the Self. Because these projections are so numinous, and the longing for a relationship with the Self is so great, the bond between them readily becomes tinged with sexuality, and becomes what we think for as a homosexual relationship. Indeed, the relationship does tend to become sexual, but at its core there is a longing for wholeness, and energy for the relationship is supplied by the deep need each of the men has to integrate into himself what the other represents.
As we have seen, we tend to long sexually for whatever it is that we lack in our conscious development. In the case of the older man who longs for the younger man, we usually find a person who has been too connected to the senex archetype, that is, too rigid, too aging, too caught up in the drive for power, or too intellectual. So the longing is for Eros, for the puer or eternal youth, in short for the spirit, in the form of a symbolic figure that compensates for the man's conscious one-sidedness and offers to bring the ecstasy of totality.
In other types of homosexuality the object of sexual desire may not be another male as such, but a yearning for contact with the male organ. Again, this may occur in a man who is married, or who has an otherwise normal heterosexual life, into which this homoerotic yearning intrudes form time to time. Often such as yearning represents symbolically a deep need for connection with the Self, represents by the phallus, symbol of the creative masculine spirit. Such a longing often intrudes into a man's consciousness when he feels particularly exhausted or fragmented, and needs the healing and synthesizing of his ego through a contact with the Self. It may also come as a compensation for too much exposure to the woman, both the woman within and the woman without, for man finds woman dangerous, and in order to maintain himself in relationship to her he must from time to time renew and consolidate his masculinity. - John A. Sanford, The Invisible Partners
EXCERCISE: Finding Eros This first part of this exercise each partner does individually. Locate an Eros-like image in your dreams. Begin by looking for whatever image naturally conforms to your idea of a god or a goddess, an angelic figure, or a prince or princess. Or you may use a dream image of someone you know who is very appealing to you. This is a fine path to take, however, you will often discover that the Eros figure is instead some kind of distasteful figure. Paradoxically, your inner Lover may first appear as an old hag, a rundown workhorse, a toad, or something equally repugnant. Do not run from this revelation. Turn and encounter whoever shows up. As fairy tales remind us, the Lover is often in hiding, wearing the cloak of the repugnant, waiting for the kiss that will release him or her from exile. In whatever way the Eros figure appears to you, work with it now. Draw it in your journal at least three times. Let it emerge more fully in each successive sketch. Or mold the image in clay with your eyes closed. Let your fingers spontaneously work the clay, with no concern for artistic prowess. Do this several times. Prepare yourself for a journey. The Lover is an image with the power to transform. Like love itself, Eros is complicated, contradictory, and paradoxical. Often as you tend to the Eros image, you will notice changes in its shape and form. This is a natural phenomenon. Allow for the Eros figure to shape-shift. As you depict the image, make sure to stop every ten minutes or so to witness the image as it goes through its changes. Do not get thrown off if the image changes in some way. Stay with it and keep focused. Sometimes the strangest or most difficult image conceals the Lover within it. Eros may live just inside the Beast. Be patient in tending this image. Do not get seduced into idealizing it, or making it into one of your long-lost lovers. This is not a matter of wish fulfillment or lover’s remorse. It’s the process of letting the revelation of the image come forward. Look for the first hints of the image revealing itself. Once you have a sense of the figure coming into visibility, allow a good deal of time to attend to it. This is extremely important. Do not rush to the next activities of the day or turn to your partner to share the news. Take a day, even two, to be with yourself and deepen your newfound relationship to the inner figure before you talk about it with your partner. Feel your heart open, and notice what opens further in the figure itself. You may want to continue with your sketches or sculpture, or you may read—or even write—a poem that captures the feeling of what is occurring. It is good to write your own poem to the figure. This is an age-old romantic tradition, and the dream figure of Love will respond to your offering. As in any new love relationship, bringing yourself fully to the process makes all the difference. When the Lover visits, open yourself to it, offering back what has been bottled up inside of you for so many years: your yearning to express love. - Stephen Aizenstat, Dream Tending
EXCERCISE: Tending the Sacred Marriage This exercise each partner can do individually. Identify one of your paintings, sculptures, or writings about the Eros image from step four. Put this in front of you and begin to tune in to the image. Do this at an emotional as well as imaginative level. As you do so, allow the image to animate. Allow the Inner Lover to attract another dream image that feels like its inner partner. What image is drawn to it in some way? Which dream image does this primary Eros figure call into appearance? Who comes alive to meet Eros? Once a complementary dream image presents itself, take the time to express it in art or writing, as you did the Eros figure. Repeat this several times. Let this new image grow into its vitality, just as the original Eros figure did. Once this partner figure has come fully to life, notice the interaction between the two figures. Notice how one figure evokes the other. It will help to spontaneously draw, sculpt, or write what you notice. Let this expression come through your hands into form without any contrivance. Let the dream enactment take on a life of its own. You will notice that as you repeat this exercise several times, the interaction gets more detailed. Do not make meaning out of this now. Appreciate that there is a dance between these two figures that has a rhythm, cadence, and an intelligence of its own. Just observe. You are witnessing the sacred marriage revealing itself through the expression of the images. After repeating the above three times, wait a day, then return to the images. Put your expressive works in front of you. Watch how they again come to life and interact. Notice how things continue to move, transmute, and evolve. Similar to relationships between actual people, the interactions between invisible lovers are dynamic and complex. Write down what you are observing. - Stephen Aizenstat, Dream Tending
EXCERCISE: Honoring the Third Body This exercise is to be done as a couple Identify the dream image or sensation that embodies the transcendent Third Body of your relationship. Look for an image from the dreams of either partner that seems to have a quality of timelessness about it. If you have children, do not mistake one of them for the Third Body. Do not literalize the image to any concrete, external thing. The root image of your relationship exists independent of mortal persons. When you recognize the Third Body and acknowledge it for itself, it will thrive. Give a name to the image of the Third Body. This is a process of openness and intuitive listening. There is no one right answer, just something that seems to come forward naturally from the figure. Develop joint activities in order to tend the image with your partner. For example, when you go on a walk in the woods, you might bring an offering of some sort—a piece of fruit, a flower, or a handmade weaving, or anything that feels appropriate can be used to honor the image. Offer it to the Third Body now. As Dream Tending continues between you, notice how your care for the transcendent image ignites moments of love between you. Take the time to talk about this with your partner. Set aside the business of life to have this conversation. Appreciate that you are feeding the Third Body of your relationship. Become tenders of your relationship’s soul by attending to dreams that respond to your work together. -Stephen Aizenstat, Dream Tending
An axiom of depth psychology asserts that what is not admitted into awareness irrupts in ungainly, obsessive, literalistic ways, affecting consciousness with precisely the qualities it strives to exclude. Personifying not allowed as a metaphorical vision returns in concerted form: we seize upon people, we cling to other persons. They become invested with repressed images so that they grow in importance, become idealized, idolized, while the psyche finds itself more fascinated, more glued and stuck to these concrete individuals than it would have been to the metaphorical persons that are at the root of the projection onto people. Without metaphorical persons, we are forced into desperate clutching literalisms.
Thus we are more obsessive and enslaved by the sublimated forms of culture than by the original metaphors. We are more pornographically sexualized than our sexuality, more aggressively power-driven than our ambition, more hungry and dependent than our needs, more masochistically victimized than our suffering requires. The literalisms into which we constrict our drives hold us faster than do the drives themselves. The obsessive literalism of our belief in other people holds us tighter than any personified totem or faiths. How quick others are to become angesl or demons, nymphs or heroes; how we expect - how they disappoint! Others carry our souls and become our soul figures, to the final consequence that without these idols we fall into despair of loneliness and turn to suicide.
By our use of them to keep ourselves alive, other persons begin to assume the place of fetishes and totems, becoming keepers of our lives. Through this worship of the personal, personal relationships have become the place where the divine is to be found, so the new theology asserts. The very condition that modern rational consciousness would dissuade us from - personifying - returns in our relationships, creating an animistic world of personified idols. … By means of personification my sense of person becomes more vivid for I carry with me at all times the protection of my daimones: the images of dead people who mattered to me, of ancestral figures of my stock, cultural and historical persons of renown nad people of fable who provide exemplary images - a wealth of guardians.They guard my fate, guide it, probably are it. … No longer is it a question of whether I believe in soul, but whether soul believes in me, grants me the capacity to have faith in it, in psychic reality….Psychological faith beings in the love of images, and it flows mainly through the shapes of persons in reveries, fantasies, reflections, and imaginations. Their increasing vilification gives one the increasing conviction of having, and then of being, an interior reality of deep significance transcending one's personal life.
Psychological faith is reflected in an ego that gives credit ot images and turns to them in its darkness. Its trust is in the imagination as the only uncontrovertible reality, directly presented, immediately felt. - James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology
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