At the bottom of the Stepwell
Archetype of Apocalypse and a New Beginning
In the Eye of the Storm
An individual response to the Global Crisis
May 17, 2020
Ashok Bedi, M.D., Jungian Psychoanalyst
Robert BJ Jakala PH.D., Jungian Psychotherapist
In a storm, the safest place is in the eye of the storm. My colleague BJ and I will share our daily reflections on this centering process from an Analytical perspective, sharing from the repertoire of our personal and professional experience. BJ is a psychologist and a photographer and will pick an image of the day that catches him in this collective crisis. I will amplify it from a Jungian Analytical perspective. We hope that this may offer you a baby step on the path to your own unique response to this chaos.
The circular movement thus has the moral significance of activating the light and dark forces of human nature, and together with them all psychological opposites of whatever kind they may be. (Jung, 1967, p. 25)
This circular stepwell was constructed about four hundred years ago to store rainwater. The steps go all the way down to the base of the well. The day I went the well was dry at its base, and I could walk to the bottom. However, historically, in the rainy season, people would carry their water containers to the level of the water, fill them up, then carry the water back up the steps to their homes.
I am in the depths of the pandemic and may be leaving the shelter in place that seems much like the stepwell. I can see the steps that lead out, but I cannot see all of them. As they turn up and to the left, they seem to disappear into the upper chamber. As I take a step up, I feel like I must think about what I am taking with me. What happened in the depths of the pandemic experience (this trip)? What do I value? What wounds will need healing? What container will hold/keep the experiences I have gained? How fast do I go up and out? I cannot see the world at the top. What will it look like when I bring the experience I have just had into the light?
(note: In a spiral configuration, the same spot of a circle is met, but from a different height. In some ways, it could feel like an encounter again but height or depth, light and dark are not the same.)
Presently, in the pandemic, we are at the level of water of the unconscious, getting enough water for our survival without submerging into its depths. Some of us and our loved ones will be dragged into or slide the depths of desperation or death. This is the Solutio experience. Desperation in terms of disease, fear, financial hardship, concern about loved ones in harm’s way, anxiety about our own health if you are an essential worker or a first responder in this pandemic.
Others will get the needed water supply and emerge outside the stepwell. This water supply is the nurturance and replenishment by the healing waters of the unconscious in terms of a guiding symbol, a new personal myth, discovering the well source of resilience, courage and altruism. As Nietzsche famously said, “If it does not kill you, it will make you stronger”. We may fine that vain of gold in our psyche and this may propel us to Sublimatio of Altruism and Service.
However, a significant reckoning will occur for most of us when we are past the pandemic. Then the recall of descent into this stepwell for survival will have to be processed. We may then truly process this experience with its trauma of loss and ecstasy of survival and mastery. But none of us will be left unscathed at the experience of the collective horror. Most of us will be traumatized to a greater or lesser degree. This pandemic is a collective archetypal event. Let us explore the archetypal dimension of this pandemic and the psychospiritual guidance we can get to navigate our path.
We have now entered the stepwell of the Archetype of Apocalyptic. Revelation gives us an archetypal glimpse into the experience of the Apocalypse and another scan of the post-apocalyptic new order.
7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Revelation: 20:7-10
This is the experience of the pandemic. The devil would be COVAD-19. The pandemic will leave its traumatic footprints on the collective psyche of human consciousness. We feel the helplessness and the trauma, feeling unable to confront the virus, which is both alive and not alive at the same time. Thanks to our CDC researchers, we now have a genetic map of this devil virus with its spike protein which it uses to penetrate human tissue. These spikes are also the doorway to creating the vaccine, since they have now isolated this spike protein and are able to inject it as an antigen into subjects who will then create antibodies to fight the virus.
The Revelation also gives hope of a new order, a new society emerging post-apocalyptic
Revelation 21 King James Version (KJV)
21 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
Here we have the message of hope and healing from the divine, archetypal realm. Post pandemic order will be a New Beginning, a “Tabernacle of God”, where we all have the virus testing, medication, vaccine and social, psychological, fiscal and medical support and a fair distribution of resources to heal and redress the challenges raised by the pandemic. True to our image of the Stepwell, we will receive freely from the foundation of the water of life.
Thus, the pandemic is the archetype of destruction and a new creation. This is the dance of destruction of Shiva and once the virus is destroyed via vaccination and damage contained, we will have the creation of a robust new order guided by the archetype of new creation by Brahma and his consort Saraswati. Once the new order, the New Jerusalem is established, this new order will be consolidated by the Archetype of consolidation of New order under the auspices of god Vishnu and his consort, goddess Laxmi – the patron goddess of peace, prosperity and spiritual abundance. (Bedi, 2007). Here is my favorite quote from Bhagwad Gita symbolizing the archetypal activation of the divine guidance – perhaps in form of a vaccine, new treatments, international fellowship and collaboration to confront this existential threat to our human civilization
Whenever sacred duty decays
And chaos prevails
Then I create
To protect men of virtue
And destroy men who do evil
To set the standard of sacred duty
I appear in age after age.
Bhagwad Gita, Chapter 4, para7-8
(“American/International Gita Society Bhagavad Gita- http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/gita/agsgita.htm,”)
Some Points to Ponder:
Where are you in the pandemic?
What gives you a sense of placement?
What do you take with your forward?
What do you want to leave behind?
What are you doing for yourself and your community?
What is your personal experience of the pandemic Apocalypse?
What is your image of life after the pandemic?
Do you experience the presence of the divine supporting and guiding you psychospiritually in this pandemic experience?
How do you feel this psychospiritual support?
How do you experience the spiritual hydration by the fountain of life in midst of the pandemic?
Photo taken in Gujarat, India.
[American/International Gita Society Bhagavad Gita- http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/gita/agsgita.htm]). Web Page.
Bedi, A. (2007). Awaken the Slumbering Goddess – The Latent Code of the Hindu Goddess Archetypes: BookSurge.
Jung, C. G. (1967). Alchemical studies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D.