May 22, 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.
Every creative man knows that spontaneity is the very essence of creative thought. Because the unconscious is not just a reactive mirror-reflection, but an independent, productive activity, its realm of experience is a self-contained world, having its own reality, of which we can only say that it affects us as we affect it—precisely what we say about our experience of the outer world. And just as material object are the constituent elements of this world, so psychic factors constitute the objects of that other world. (Jung, 1956, p. 185)
PREQUEL-Today’s entry is the image and write up I sent to Dr. Bedi yesterday afternoon. He did not receive it, and sent an email telling me. So, I forwarded the email I sent, and as an ensuring measure, I sent it to him as a completely new email. He never received any of them. He called me this morning to find out what happened to yesterday’s entry. I explained what I did and told him I thought “Psyche” has a sense of humor, because I was hesitant about my write up yesterday because it came out of a dream, I had two nights ago. We discussed the situation and decided to give yesterday’s entry, the dream, and amplification in today’s blog.
DREAM-I was with a group of people at a lakeside setting. I do not remember any familiar faces when someone asked me a question. I have no idea what the question was. My response was a giant surprise. I turned to answer only to look at another me. I felt present in both bodies and engaged with both at the same time. I remember feeling out of ordinary time and space but there were no external changes. Then suddenly, both of us are floating on a raft with our lower legs in the water. He looks at me and nods backwards to tell me, “let’s go for a swim”. I decline, and he falls over backwards into the lake. When his legs come out of the water, they reveal him as part fish or “merman’. I react with, “what the…?’
I, as the other me, am underwater swimming up to nibble on some dangling toes to entice someone to join me. It does not happen. So, I look at the surface of the water from below and realize from the other side “reality” is distorted. The view from underwater does not let me see much. Most of what I see is blurred, deformed, or ill-shapen.
I, as the surface me, am visually searching for the me underwater. I do not find him. I wonder what happened. His voice tells me, “I am dissolved into the collective. I am the water and everything it in. I am the surface and everything above it. I am part of the collective. So are you.”
The dream gave me two vital pieces of information. One, the unconscious may not see the world the way my ego does. My bias has been that the unconscious saw what I saw. Then, when I was looking for a quote for the image, Jung gave me the words for what I had dreamt. He explains it so clearly, and somehow my personal view overrode his idea for all these years. Second, I am part of the collective. Prior to this dream, I held myself as an observer “of” the collective, and not as an observer and participant “in” the collective. Just like the dream, I am both.
Yesterday’s blog-This image was taken when I visited the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is part of the landscape/scenery near the outdoor café. Sometimes when I am walking around with my camera, objects “say” take my picture, please? This was such a moment. I walked by this large bolder and it seemed to be “calling me”. As I turned to see what had “whispered”, the shapes, textures, and colors gave me a “look” that said, “I’m ready. Are you?”
I certainly admired its similarity to deep space. The longer I looked, the more I saw. I knew this image would reveal more to me, but I did not understand the value of it until this morning when I found the quote from Jung (above).
I can look at the image and identify characters, faces, shapes of familiar things. However, today I came to realize those are all projections. It is what I see from my vantage point and life experience. My findings reveal more about me than about the blue boulder. So, I made myself stop the treasure hunt of familiarity and imagination to begin admiration of what it offers: variations of tones and hues, cracks and crevices, lines and curves, blotches and depth. I want to know its world, and what is offers. Then I can have a dialogical relationship with it, not just my monologue with it. It is much like the unconscious Jung describes, “not just a reactive mirror-reflection, but an independent, productive activity, its realm of experience is a self-contained world, having its own reality…” (Jung, 1956, p. 185).
The dynamic of the pandemic presents a troubling situation. The virus is independent in a world of its own. Its purpose is to find a host so it can replicate. It does not see the world the way we see it. It affects our way of life, and we are trying to stop it. It is part of the collective, although not a favorable part, its presence can be instructive to our values in/of life. The irony of this time is we must stop life as we knew it in order to have a future. We must be in the moment and be conscious of ourselves, the environment we are in, and the environment we are part of. The social distancing dynamic is about safety with separation. Life before this seemed more about safety in attachment. Distortion can happen from each side of separation and attachment. Our challenges are here. We are facing them, they are facing us.
Each one of us lives in material and spiritual realms. Our material experience is the experience of consciousness or our Ego. In the Spiritual or the Unconscious realm, the center of our spiritual core is the Self or the Soul. Our spiritual core is connected to the consciousness of the cosmos, the flow, the Brahman consciousness. This spiritual core is transcendent, atemporal and aligned with the wisdom of the Universe since the dawn of time. It is both alive and beyond life. It carries the potential for consciousness when it meets the appropriate degree of Complexity. In this manner, our core Self is similar to a virus! When it finds a host in the material world, it claims enough complexity to become a live human. This levels the playing field. It reminds us; both that we are unique spiritual beings in human incarnation and yet we are akin to a virus that has found a host to replicate. This confronts our Hubris and Narcissism. It implies that we need to treat our environment with respect if we hope to keep replicating and survive. Otherwise, like a virus, we would go into the dormant state till the environmental milieu is optimal for our reclamation of a new complexity to emerge as some future version of us! The Merman within is reminding us that if we do not communicate with it on its term, we will lose that Yoking with our Spiritual selves. At this point, perhaps clarifying what is a virus really will help us put this discussion in perspective in this excellent article in Scientific American (Villarreal, August 8, 2008)
Further research by Stanley and others established that a virus consists of nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) enclosed in a protein coat that may also shelter viral proteins involved in infection. By that description, a virus seems more like a chemistry set than an organism. But when a virus enters a cell (called a host after infection), it is far from inactive. It sheds its coat, bares its genes and induces the cell’s own replication machinery to reproduce the intruder’s DNA or RNA and manufacture more viral protein based on the instructions in the viral nucleic acid. The newly created viral bits assemble and, voilà, more virus arises, which also may infect other cells.
These behaviors are what led many to think of viruses as existing at the border between chemistry and life.
Another way to think about life is as an emergent property of a collection of certain nonliving things. Both life and consciousness are examples of emergent complex systems. They each require a critical level of complexity or interaction to achieve their respective states. A neuron by itself, or even in a network of nerves, is not conscious—whole brain complexity is needed. Yet even an intact human brain can be biologically alive but incapable of consciousness, or “brain-dead.” Similarly, neither cellular nor viral individual genes or proteins are by themselves alive. The enucleated cell is akin to the state of being braindead, in that it lacks a full critical complexity. A virus, too, fails to reach a critical complexity. So life itself is an emergent, complex state, but it is made from the same fundamental, physical building blocks that constitute a virus.
Perhaps, we humans are viruses that have attained a certain degree of complexity and we are viruses in relationship to the planet that we need to replicate. Our Spiritual Souls are the primary units in the Collective Unconscious. This is our Merman core. It has now returned to the Ocean as in BJ’s dream. It is calling upon the Conscious parts of us to pay attention to how we are perceived by the Unconscious- in peril, unless we pay urgent attention to matters necessary for maintaining our complexity, replication and peaceful coexistence with each other and the environment.
As I was asking the question of the Unconscious as to the optimal attitude for our maintaining our survival and complexity in the Collective, I asked for guidance from a the Sacred Scriptures. Here is the instruction I got –
Matthew 25:40 New International Version (NIV)
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
My Merman is instructing us that it is crucial for our material and spiritual survival in throes of the pandemic that we treat the least of our brothers and sisters as we would treat Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Moses and Mohamad and the God of your understanding.
Some Points to Ponder:
Find familiar shapes or “things” in the image. What are they?
Discover the image from its perspective. What does it show you?
image, what do you see, feel, etc.?
How does your ego, your unconscious, and the collective engage?
How do you interact with a dream that is puzzling?
What imprint has the pandemic made?
If your Inner Merman and Mermaid were to look at you from your unconscious depths, how would they see you?
How do you see you inner Merman and Mermaid?
How do you treat the least of your brothers and sisters?
How active are you in self-protection?
Photo taken on the Dali Museum grounds, St. Petersburg, Florida
Jung, C. G. (1956). Two essays on analytical psychology: Meridian Books.
© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH.D.