August 29, 2020

The tasks of every age differ, and it is only in retrospect that we can discern with certainty what had to be and what should not have been. (Jung & Bollingen Foundation Collection (Library of Congress), 1976, pp. 59, para 87)

The cobblestone road leads to and from a small village in India. It is wide enough for two people to pass each other, but if a wheeled cart comes along you must move to the side to let them pass. The pattern of hand-made bricks shows the impact of so many souls on it. I imagine listening carefully enough to hear the echoes of voices as they look into each other’s eyes and acknowledge the other as they pass on the road.

While in India, I noticed how evidence of history seems respected and cherished. It is quite different here in the United States where signs of aging (in the population as well as structures) are hidden. Perhaps I am romanticizing a simpler life, yet it does seem easier than how we live today.

The pollical conventions are over. Candidates are decided, and the campaign trails will be made. So many topics to take on those journeys: the pandemic, social justice, financial struggles, unemployment, and the protest movement across the country. When it is all over, and the election is decided, we too will retrospectively discern the should and should not of the outcome. It is our task as Jung described to compare history with the moment. The road of the future is being constructed today. It will be reflected upon when It arrives.

Imagine that you are walking on this narrow cobblestone path in this Indian village. There comes along another individual from the other end and your paths intersect. What is your fantasy about this stranger? Is this stranger a man or a woman? As you squeeze past each other, what are you thinking and feeling about this person? Do you see this person as friend or foe? Rework this fantasy with the other as a member of the opposite sex. Then rework it as the person is much older or younger than you are. Then recalibrate your fantasy assuming that this individual is totally on an opposing political belief system. Now reframe your fantasy assuming that this individual is from a quite different religious framework that is opposite of yours. Finally come up with a composite fantasy integrating all the above fantasies. This is your core fantasy about this encounter.

Now do this exercise in context of the present crisis. Assume that you must pass by an individual with the opposite end of the spectrum of your political, religious, racial, gender, socioeconomic and cultural framework. What is your core fantasy after you have squeezed past this individual and are looking back at the encounter? How do you perceive this fantasy? Is it consistent with your personal ethics? Now imagine that you were the other person and they were you: how does this change your fantasy? Now integrate both these fantasies; this is your Spiritus Rector – your guiding spirit. Align your path forward with the ethical and creative prescriptions of your Spiritus Rector. This is the conductor of the symphony of your response to the current crisis.

Our world is caught in the crossroads of competing Zeitgeists of a divided humanity. But we are on a narrow lane in the dark of the night and must accommodate the synthesize these opposing worldviews to constellate our Spiritus Rector of our times. Only time will tell how this may play out. We know some of the past examples: the two world wars, the Nazi movement, the allied collaboration, the peaceful transitions in India under Mahatma Gandhi and in South Africa under Nelson Mandela, in America under Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

Each one of us must search for our personal Spiritus Rector and as a society we will constellate a collective spirit. History will be judge of whether our Spiritus Rector is Numinous or Demonic. Each one of us must walk our ethical path and trust the universe. If we don’t, there will be no history to record.

Points to Ponder

  1. How do you reflect on the events in your life?
  2. How do you decide what had to be?
  3. What leads you to declare the undesirable?
  4. What long held ideas require respect? Which demand change?
  5. What is your fantasy about resolving the multiple global issues?
  6. What is your fantasy about the others’ prescriptions to resolve these global issues?
  7. What is your composite fantasy if you had to come up with a composite fantasy factoring in the other?
  8. How can you ethically implement this composite fantasy?

Photo taken in West Bengal, India.

Jung, C. G., & Bollingen Foundation Collection (Library of Congress). (1976). Psychological types (A revision / ed. Vol. 6). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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.

© Ashok Bedi, M.D. and Robert BJ Jakala, PH. D