Jonah in the belly of the Whale
Sacrifice and New Beginnings
In the Eye of the Storm
An individual response to the Global Crisis
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.
Of course we all have an understandable desire for crystal clarity, but we are able to forget that in psychic matters we are dealing with processes of experience, that is, with transformations which should never be given hard and fast names if their living movement is not to petrify into something static. (Jung, 1967, p. 162)
Sunset is a process, not a static moment. In photography, there is the golden hour and the blue hour that describe to kinds of light available when the sunlight moves from being seen to beyond the horizon. When I took this photo, I remember how drastically different things look when there is not enough available light in the foreground. My eye is drawn to the light as it is reflected in the clouds. Most everything else is invisible.
Whether it is the issue of the pandemic or murder of George Floyd in the custody of police, I am in complete agreement with Jung’s idea of keeping both living and making them static. I hear the news from a variety of sources and how different issues can sound depending on what spin is put on the situation.
Our lives are a process and hopefully not petrified into something unchangeable. It is vital to have strength, endurance, and flexibility in our thoughts, feelings, behavior and spirituality more than ever. We have more information coming at us that in any other time of human existence. If we listen and use information productively, we can make ourselves and the world better. Each of us, and our humanity is a process not to be frozen or static.
With the twin crisis of the pandemic and George Floyd murder, it feels as if the Sun is setting on the American psyche. It is not a glorious sunset, but rather dimly lit. Actually, true to the image, we do not see the Sun, merely a memory of it. This dark sunset is preparing us for the dark night of the soul. It calls for a period of interiority, self-reflection, seeking the guidance of our Gods, read the emerging symbols of the collective unconscious and await an instruction for a New Direction: a new Beginning in our history and narrative as a young nation.
When the Sun sets, it is swolled by the darkness of the night – a symbol of the unconscious. An archetypal motif to depict this would be the story of the Jonah swallowed by the Whale, which is very applicable to the American narrative.
The book of Jonah in the Bible tells the story of a prophet who was commanded by the Hebrew god Yahweh to go to the city of Nineveh and preach so that the people there might be saved. Jonah, however, did not feel they deserved salvation and boarded a ship going in the other direction. When a huge storm came up, he admitted it was caused by his disobedience to Yahweh. The crew threw Jonah into the sea, where a great fish swallowed him. The fish spat him onto land three days later, and Jonah went to Nineveh.
After hearing Jonah preach, the king of Nineveh ordered his subjects to repent, causing Yahweh to spare them. Because Jonah was angry that Yahweh had saved so many wicked people, he left the city, hoping it would be destroyed. Yahweh decided to teach Jonah a lesson. First he caused a plant to grow to shade Jonah from the sun during the day; later he sent a worm to eat it. When Jonah expressed regret at losing the plant, Yahweh scolded him for taking pity on a plant that he did not make grow, while feeling no sorrow for thousands of people in Nineveh. Jonah is usually portrayed in art with the great fish or resting in the shade of the plant.
Analytically, I would speculate that symbolically, we may consider Mr. George Floyd recapturing the message of Jonah about the city of Nineveh – which would be the American dynamic. His sacrifice comes bearing the message that we need to mend our ways. The three days in the belly of the whale is the time for soul searching for our nation. Then like the Sunrise the next morning, we will rise again to claim our new beginnings. Like Jonah, Christ sacrificed himself on the Cross to redeem humanity.
Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish; Jesus will spend three days in the grave. Here, Jesus plays on the imagery of Sheol and in Jonah’s prayer. While Jonah metaphorically declared, “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,” Jesus will literally be in the belly of Sheol. Finally, Jesus compares his generation to the people of Nineveh. Jesus fulfills his role as a type of Jonah, however his generation fails to fulfill its role as a type of Nineveh. Nineveh repented, but Jesus’ generation, which has seen and heard one even greater than Jonah, fails to repent. Through his typological interpretation of the Book of Jonah, Jesus has weighed his generation and found it wanting.
Our twin crisis is an archetypal event. Fortunately, it has mythological resonance and resolution. It calls for Sacrifice, Self-Reflection, Repentance, Re-birth of the Sun after the dark night of the Soul. Now we have the Archetypal GPS. It is up to us a nation and people whether we follow that path and walk the walk. Will we return to our greatest ideal that guide our constitution?
James 2 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
Treat Everyone the Same
2 My brothers and sisters, you are believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So treat everyone the same. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. And suppose a poor man in dirty old clothes also comes in. 3 Would you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes? Would you say, “Here’s a good seat for you”? Would you say to the poor man, “You stand there”? Or “Sit on the floor by my feet”? 4 If you would, aren’t you treating some people better than others? Aren’t you like judges who have evil thoughts?
5 My dear brothers and sisters, listen to me. Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor in the world’s eyes to be rich in faith? Hasn’t he chosen them to receive the kingdom? Hasn’t he promised it to those who love him? 6 But you have disrespected poor people. Aren’t rich people taking advantage of you? Aren’t they dragging you into court? 7 Aren’t they speaking evil things against the worthy name of Jesus? Remember, you belong to him.
8 The royal law is found in Scripture. It says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) If you really keep this law, you are doing what is right. 9 But you sin if you don’t treat everyone the same.
These great principles became the guiding light of our constitution – however, even here we forgot the Women!
1776 NORTH AMERICA
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence
Second Continental Congress
Some Points to Ponder:
- What moments of the pandemic are alive for you today?
- How have you adjusted?
- What aspects have you anchored for safety or mental health?
- How have the protests affected you?
- In our twin crisis of pandemic and George Floyd murder, what is your self-reflection about what changes we need to make as a nation and individuals?
- What sacrifices we need to make to prepare for Re-emergence from the dark night of the soul?
- Like Jonah, do you feel that you are in the belly of the Whale?
- Do you have an image of what kind of an individual you would like to become once you are beyond this crisis?
- What is your fantasy about our nation once we have made sacrifices, change and new beginning?
Photo taken in Los Angeles, California
Jung, C. G. (1967). Alchemical studies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D