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.
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.
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, 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?”
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”).
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. 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”.
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.”
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.
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
Death and Rebirth - Trauma and Recovery
The myth of Isis and Osiris and travels in Egypt
A presentation by Rosemary Harper
Thursday 3 April
St Mary’s Parish House, Cn Merviale and Peel Sts,
Members and concession $5; Non-members $10
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.
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.
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.
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.
A conversation betweenRobert
Johnson and J. Pittman McGehee
Documentary film with discussion
Facilitated by Anna Conaty
Thursday 1 May, 2008,
Thursday 5 June
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”
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.
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.JungEducationCenter 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
The Philosophy of
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,
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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,
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.”
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.”
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.
author, Arthur Versluis, is Professor in the College of Arts & Letters at MichiganStateUniversity, 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.
C.G. Jung Institute (ANZSJA)
and clinical supervision
NOW AVAILABLE AT
ROBINA ON TUESDAYS
4th Australian Festival of the Animals
A weekend retreat in a beautiful valley with like-minded
people 11-13 April 2008
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: pbvm.org.au/pscmanly
Cost: $190. Closing Date for registration– 9 May
Australian Association for Psychological Type, Inc. Qld
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
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 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
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,