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The C. G. Jung Society of Queensland
Newsletter April - June 2008
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The C.G. Jung Society of Queensland

 

 

 

Newsletter                                                                         April - June 2008, No 55

 

 

President’s Letter

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

Re-Visioning Melancholy: Weaving Threads

 

 

 

M

y eye was caught by a headline in the February 27 issue of the Higher Education supplement of The Australian: Sadness has a direct line to the soul. Melancholy is an essential part of being human, argues Eric G. Wilson. It headed an extract from Eric Wilson’s recently published book Against Happiness: in Praise of Melancholy[1].

 

Eric Wilson laments that, with our obsession with happiness, we are annihilating melancholia, forgetting sadness, which is an essential part of a full life, and therefore threatening the existence of the creative impulse. While not being against joy and happiness, Wilson argues that “the happiness industry” devalues part of what it is to be human – to feel longing, nostalgia, discontent with the status quo, and sadness in the face of suffering.

 

In this, his thinking is in the vein of the polemically contentious* post-Jungian thinker James Hillman. Wilson’s work has a similar mould-breaking energy to Hillman’s. In his Re-Visioning Psychology[2], Hillman asserts that the modern attitude to a diagnosis of depression points to “our culture’s addiction to a manic superficiality…” (p.25) and “...through depression we enter depths and in depths find soul. Depression is essential to the tragic sense of life.” (p. 98)

 

Wilson, on the other hand, distinguishes melancholy from depression. While clinical depression, he says, causes apathy and lethargy in the face of sadness and suffering, melancholy generates deep feeling which is used and transformed into artistic creation. Lack of contentment leads us to struggle to make something of what is turbulent in us – the turbulence cries out for form and expression. He says:

 

“Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?”

 

Synchronistically, this article appeared not long after I had been having a discussion with a friend about nostalgia, and its Portuguese cousin saudade in which I proposed that nostalgia and longing are the yeast for much of literature, art and music, the prime example being Marcel Proust’s monumental A la recherche du temps perdu (variously translated as “”In Search of Lost Time” or “Remembrance of Things Past”).

 

The word “nostalgia” is made up of two Greek words – “nostos” meaning “to return home” and “algos” meaning “pain”. Mario Jacoby, prominent Swiss analyst associated with the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, writes of nostalgia in his book The Longing for Paradise: Psychological Perspectives on an Archetype[3]. Although he devotes part of the book to analysing the longing for Paradise in terms of the infant / mother relationship, he says that ultimately “longing expresses a desire to overcome one’s own self-alienation, to achieve consonance with one’s own wholeness.” (p. 9)  Nostalgia as homesickness “means a longing and need to ‘come home’ to selfhood from the foreign land of self-alienation”. (p. 13)

 

Wilson speaks of melancholy in the artist arising from awareness of the passing of beauty (and indeed, in the face of human mortality). He gives as an example the poet John Keats who “consistently transformed his gloom, grown primarily from his experiences with death, into a vital source of beauty. … Melancholia over time’s passing is the proper stance for beholding beauty.”

 

As I weave together these threads gleaned from my recent readings, conversations and thoughts, I find another – the concept of Amor Fati, to love one’s fate, so beautifully presented to us at our February meeting by Kaye Gersch. It seems to me that melancholy, longing, nostalgia, saudade, because they are part of being human, are therefore part of our fate, to be accepted as such, not to be fought against but to be transformed creatively into expressions of the soul.

»

Weaving threads also seems to be a theme of our programme so far this year. In February, the Fates spun their threads in Kaye Gersch’s talk. In Doctor Robert Schweitzer’s presentation in March we saw the threads that link concepts in indigenous healing in South Africa and Western therapeutic practice. In April, Rosemary Harper will weave her story of trauma and recovery with threads of Egyptian mythology. And in May and June, Anna Conaty will lead a viewing and discussion of the documentary Slender Threads – a conversation between Jungian analysts Robert A. Johnson and Pittman McGehee. And again the theme of fate enters our offerings for the year, for “slender threads” is the term that Johnson uses to denote the forces of destiny that shaped him.  Unusually, we shall carry this presentation over two meetings – May and June. I look forward to seeing you there.

 

Anne Di Lauro


 

 

Upcoming events at the Jung Society

 

April 2008

Death and Rebirth - Trauma and Recovery

The myth of
Isis and Osiris and travels in Egypt

A presentation by Rosemary Harper

 

 

Thursday 3 April 2008, 7:30 – 9:30 pm

St Mary’s Parish House, Cn Merviale and Peel Sts, South Brisbane

Members and concession $5; Non-members $10

 

 

In attempting to assimilate and heal a traumatic event in my life, I turned to myth. From here I began reading Jung and Jungian writers and oriental religious ideas. Strangely enough, because of impaired attention span, memory and concentration, these writings were all I could handle.


This presentation of the myth of Isis and Osiris tells a story of death and resurrection, of love and devotion, of sacrifice and rebirth. I see rebuilding the psyche after trauma in this light.


I recently travelled to
Egypt with my family. There, the presence of the ancient gods is everywhere, in the land itself, in the River Nile, in the temples and tombs.


Jung talks of Gnosis, "knowing" in an experiential way. I aim to present the group with a "gnostic"
experience, by storytelling, showing pictures of the
Egypt we found and relating this to Jung's writings.

 

 

Rosemary Harper has a BA, a Diploma of Social Work (Sydney) and a Master of Social Work (Qld). She has worked as a Social Worker since 1966 in both Australia and Canada, and completed her Masters Degree at the University of Queensland in 1991. Her last position was with the Veteran's Counselling Service in Lismore NSW, where she worked with traumatised Vietnam Veterans for 9 years.

 


 

 

May and June 2008

 

Slender Threads:

A conversation between Robert Johnson and J. Pittman McGehee

 

Documentary film with discussion

Facilitated by Anna Conaty

 

 

 

Thursday 1 May, 2008, and

 

Thursday 5 June 7:30 – 9:30 pm

 

 

St. Mary’s House, Cn Merivale and Peel Sts, South Brisbane

Members and concession: $5; non-members $10

 

 

“It is an audacious notion to put forth in this age of science and wilful determination that one’s existence is somehow inspired, guided, and even managed by unseen forces outside our control. Whether called fate, destiny, or the hand of God, slender threads are at work bringing coherence and continuity to our lives. Over time they weave a remarkable tapestry.”

Robert A. Johnson

Prologue to “Balancing Heaven and Earth”

 

R

obert A. Johnson, noted lecturer, author, and Jungian analyst has introduced millions of people to the thoughts of C.G. Jung through his books “He”, “She”, “We”, “Inner work”, “Owning your own Shadow”, etc. In this engaging and revelatory set of interviews with Houston analyst J. Pittman McGehee, Robert Johnson explores the range of his work and life experience and traces the “slender threads” that have led him along his path.

 

We shall view and discuss selected portions of the interview over two monthly meetings – May and June.

 

 

 

 

 

Anna Conaty is a Clinical Social Worker and a Registered, Board Certified Art Therapist. She is currently working with Queensland Health CYMHS at Evolve Therapeutic Services, and teaching a class at University of Queensland. Before moving to Brisbane with her partner, Anna was active in the Outreach Program of the C.G. Jung Education Center in Houston, Texas. She has worked closely with Pittman McGehee doing research in Jungian studies and comparative symbolism, and supporting the Institute for the Advancement of Psychology and Spirituality through recording/reproducing his lectures.
 


Book Review

 

 

The Philosophy of Magic

Arthur Versluis

 

 

In Galway city, Ireland, last year, I found a marvellous second-hand bookshop. Charlie Byrne’s is situated near the old Spanish Arch area of the city. Full of nooks and crannies, and with comfortable seats here and there, it is a great place to spend a few hours. Thick with the almost-religious atmosphere of intense book-browsing, it was the perfect place to find “The Philosophy of Magic” by Arthur Versluis  (Arkana, 1986).

 

I have just re-read the book for this review, a review I hesitated to offer the newsletter since the two references to Jung in the book accuse him and psychology in general of reductionism and ego-centrism, in Versluis’s view, the great fault of the modern world.

 

“....the essence of all traditional religion and magic lies precisely in the apprehension of that which is beyond and above the merely physical or psychological. To drag traditional metaphysics into the realm of the ego and the physical is to rob it of all power and value, forcing it in effect to affirm that which it must deny: the ultimate existence of the illusory ego.”[4]

 

Further on, he writes:

 “In the beginning of ritual, ego is host. At the end of a primordial ritual, ego is seen to be the illusory guest, subsumed to the heavenly realities. In this lies the fundamental difference between modern —especially behavioural— psychologies and traditional magic and alchemy.  For in nearly all modern psychological models, the ego is given a pre-eminent place — the ‘goal’ is not transcendence, but merely establishing a kind of balance in which the ego is always host. Even the Jungian psychological model posits the ‘archetypes’, which are the closest modern concept to that of the celestial realm, in the ‘collective unconscious’ — that is to say below the conscious mind rather than above it. In other words, nearly all modern psychological systems posit the inversion of the traditional triadic hierarchy....modern psychological systems exalt —and condemn— ego, in primordiality, it is transcended.  In all traditional teachings, ego is recognized as, at best, a guest of the host: Mind.”[5] 

 

Despite the criticisms of Jung and of psychology, to me this short book provides an excellent —if intense— introduction to and overview of alchemy. The author helps the reader to sense a great deal of what one might call the psychological outlook of the medieval alchemist and magician. Versluis counters the modern view of the alchemist as a solitary and naive chemist with the view of the alchemist as a transformer of soul to the highest possible spiritual evolution (similar to the eastern concept of enlightenment) within a cosmology shared and understood by all true alchemists, not only those in the historical western civilisation but in every traditional culture.

 

For him, spiritual development through magic and alchemy is only possible and properly understood within a traditional religious structure. His book is an attempt to take the reader inside that traditional philosophy or world view. Religion, alchemy and magic all have the same aim, enlightenment, but all have degenerated into superficial and perhaps dangerous processes which cannot individually achieve their goals.

 

“A common modern assumption has been that magic and alchemy were at best merely haphazard collections of superstition compiled by people ignorant of the rational, physical laws, when in fact magic and alchemy are based on suprarational laws and principles of which modern man is in general unaware.”

Versluis makes a determined effort to show us what some of those laws and principles are. He examines the relationship between man and the stars, the use of tables of correspondence, the symbolic meanings (very much in a Jungian sense) of objects commonly used in magic ritual and the true inner transformation sought by the alchemist. For example,

 

“...for the alchemist, all is composed of, and is a reflection of Mind and Consciousness, and there is no dilemma whatever in speaking of combining Mercury, Sulphur and Salt, because these are an empirical description of the basic conscious principles of which the universe is a mirror. The modern mind seeks to divide ever further in order to understand; the alchemist seeks to unite, to find the underlying principles of harmony, and to follow them back to their Source in Mind.”[6]

 

And “the central premise of alchemy is not to delineate a mere division of the elements, but rather to describe the levels and aspects of consciousness of which matter is just a reflection.”[7]

 

Many of the book’s descriptions of the alchemical process fit well with a Jungian understanding of alchemy as therapy although no such link is made. Although Versluis states that a protective religious culture is necessary for alchemy to work and that such protection is not available in our modern world (except, he writes, in Tibet), I imagine that Jungians would counter that view, at least with reference to the Jungian sub-culture.

 

The author, Arthur Versluis, is Professor in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University, holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has published numerous books (of which this seems to have been his first) and articles. Religion and traditional spirituality seem to be a specialist area for him.  Google his name for more information including www.arthurversluis.com . The book will be available in our library. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

 

Frank Coughlan


 

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Bulletin Board

 

Imagery Festival

4th Australian Festival of the Animals

A weekend retreat in a beautiful valley with like-minded people 11-13 April 2008

Camp Bornhoffen, Numinbah Valley, Gold Coast Hinterland.

5 pm Friday 11 April to 1 pm Sunday 13 April.

Cost $290 includes accommodation, meals and all workshops (materials for drum workshop extra).

(EARLY BIRD SPECIAL EXTENDED for Jung Society members: $240)

Contact Frank: frankcoughlan@fastmail.com.au, ph: (07) 3356 1127; mob: 0403 910 145. www.deepimagery.com.au

 

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Intensive Journal®Life Context Retreat, 17-18 May 2008 led by Kate Scholl

Presentation Spirituality Centre, Manly, Queensland

 A program of exploration and integration through Journal writing based on the work and writings of Ira Progoff.
Information:
Phone: (07) 3396 3290 ; Email: pscmanly@qld.pbvm.org.au; Web: pbvm.org.au/pscmanly

Cost: $190. Closing Date for registration– 9 May

 

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Australian Association for Psychological Type, Inc. Qld Branch

Archetypes and the Beebe Model: a workshop presented by Andrew Gibson, ISFP.

May 6 (pm) and 7, 2008. Register by 2 May. Members $85; non-members $115

Brisbane location given upon registration.

Contacts: tnrigby@squirrel.com.au; Anne@RussellSynergies.com.au




 

 

About the C.G. Jung Society of Queensland

 

The C.G. Jung Society of Queensland is committed to furthering awareness of and reflection upon the writings of the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). The Society promotes an understanding of Jung’s work through the exploration of its psychological and spiritual applications to the individual journey and interpersonal relationships, and by considering the ways in which Jung’s writings and ideas can contribute to the healing of modern society.

 

The Society does this through offering monthly presentations, occasional workshops and small groups, all of which are open to both members and non-members.  Monthly presentations are normally held at 7:30 pm on the first Thursday of each month, from February to December, at St Mary’s Church Hall, corner of Merivale and Peel Streets, South Brisbane. The venue is within walking distance of the Cultural Centre bus station and South Brisbane train station. Off-street parking is available in the churchyard.

 

Established in 1982, the Society is a non-profit and non-professional association.  The Society’s events are attended by people of all ages and all walks of life.

 

Members of the C.G. Jung Society of Queensland are entitled to:

 

             reduced admission fee to monthly presentations and workshops

             use of our library of Jungian books

             our quarterly newsletter

             New service: advertising of members’ workshops, if deemed appropriate by the editor,

                 to the Society’s membership by e-mail

 

Annual membership fee (Jan-Dec 2008): $35 ($25 concession/student/pension; $50 couples/family; $12 newsletter only)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C.G. Jung Society of Queensland - Committee for 2008

 

President                               Anne Di Lauro                      3511 0167            dilauro@ozemail.com.au

Membership Secretary      Frank Coughlan                  3356 1127            frankcoughlan@fastmail.com.au

Committee Secretary         Monica Sharwood              3847 3077            monicasharwood@optusnet.com.au

Treasurer                              Brendan McMahon            0402 583 701       klarex@powerup.com.au

Librarian                                                Marie Sinclair                      3371 1285            mbs03@bigpond.net.au

Newsletter editor                 Anne Di Lauro                      3511 0167            dilauro@ozemail.com.au

Committee member           Michele Clear                      3379 5049

Committee member           Anna Conaty                         3876 0996            ajconaty@hotmail.com

Committee member           Stuart  Douglas                                                    stuart.douglas@bigpond.com

Committee member       Helen Royle                                          helencroyle@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

C.G. Jung Society of Queensland, 74 Camp St., Toowong, Q 4066. Tel: 3371 1285

http://cgjungqld.tripod.com




[1] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

* Hillman says in his introduction to “Re-Visioning Psychology” that he will write with “polemical contention” and that for light “we must strike steel on flint and provoke irritating sparks”.

[2] Harper, 1975.

[3] Boston, Sigo Press, 1985. (Available in the C.G.  Jung Society of Queensland library).

[4] A. Versluis. p8

[5] p28

[6] p110

[7] p108

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