Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Soul of the Nurse in Santa Barbara beginning Oct 15

My myth classmate, Elizabeth Robinson, is teaching a four week course based on her doctoral work, The Soul of the Nurse, via Santa Barbara City College's Continuing Adult Education. The course meets four consecutive Wednesday evenings at SBCC's Schott Campus.

"Explore the essence of nursing with nurse mythologist, Dr. Robinson. Discover the origins of the profession and examine how societal, cultural, historical, and psychological influences continue to transform the role and the image of the nurse."

Elizabeth's work explores the history, mythology, and depth psychology of the nursing profession, and also explores how the image of the nurse has evolved and diversified over time. We all have ideas about the nursing profession and about the people who enter the field, but Elizabeth has shown that these ideas are archetypal in nature and therefore, deeply mythic. 

You can read more about Elizabeth's course here and be sure to watch the introduction video!

That's Elizabeth in the center, flanked by Rhonda Martinez (another Myth PhD) and myself.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Anpu/Anubis: Psychopomp and Guardian of the Dead

This is the short and twin paper that accompanied the one on Ma'at. It is interesting that I ended up with two deities so connected fuctionally.

Anpu/Anubis: Psychopomp and Guardian of the Dead

     In Greek he is known as Anubis and in the original Egyptian, Anpu, but it has been by the Greek designation the Egyptian god of the afterlife is known. The meaning of his Egyptian name is uncertain (van Voss 403). Depicted generally as a resting black canid, most likely a jackal, or as a jackal-headed man, Anubis is “one of the oldest funerary deities” and featured prominently throughout Egyptian literature of the afterlife (van Voss 403).
       Anubis may be best understood by his many epithets, such as Khenty-Imentiu, ‘foremost of the westerners’ indicating his leadership over Egyptian cemeteries, Neb-Ta-Djese, or ‘Lord of the sacred land’, and Tepy-Dju-Ef meaning ‘who is upon his mountain’ (Hart 26). These titles emphasize Anubis’ role as guardian of the buried dead. Anubis Imy-Ut, declares his role in mummification, as ‘he who is in the place of embalming’ (Hart 26).
       Religious scholar David White notes that “The domestication of the dog has been recently placed tens of thousands of years earlier than any other animal sharing the human races evolutionary journey,” it would seem reasonable that the earliest guardian of the human enterprise in life would become a guardian of the human dead (2392). White also observes that there were two canine gods of the afterlife in Egypt, “… jackal- or dog-headed Anubis of Cynopolis was considered to be the “opener” of the northern paths of the dead, which the wolf-god Up-uaut or Ap-heru of Lycopolis opened the southern paths” (2393). Egyptologist Jan Assmann does not mention the southern wolf but instead compares the Anubis jackal with the Thoth baboon and their connection to the journey of sun-god, Re:
"The jackal was the animal of the western desert in the Egyptian picture of  the world, just as the baboon belonged to the eastern desert. The “bas of the east,” the baboons, greeted the sun god at his rising, and in like manner, jackals towed the solar barque through the netherworld as the “bas of the west.” The jackal stood for the realm of the dead, which the sun good entered in the evening" (82).

       One of Anubis’ roles is that of psychopomp and mediator of judgment in the Egyptian afterlife. This can be seen as an echo of the dog’s herding function in human culture, Anubis herds the soul to the judgment chamber with its assessors and Ma’at’s weighing pans. In their guarding function, dogs occupy the space between the domesticated human world and the outside wild. Here, Anubis occupies the space between the living and the dead and safely guides the newly deceased to the otherworld. As Assman also observes about Anubis, “he was the god of the transitional zone between the world above and the netherworld; this zone was called the ‘holy land’ in Egyptian, and Anubis was its designated lord.” Functioning as psychopomp, Anubis occupies the same space as Hermes “the primordial mediator and messenger, who, in Karl Kerenyi’s words, always stands in ‘a middle between being and non-being,” who is “at home while wandering, at home on the road itself” (Avens 78). Anubis also wanders roads, but in a much more restricted way than Hermes, mostly limited to the pathways between the deceased’s dwelling and tomb, from the deceased’s tomb to the afterlife place of judgment, and from tomb to a place of watchfulness over the physical lands of the dead, the cemeteries.
     Classical historian Attilio Mastrocinque describes how Anubis was conflated with
Hermes in late antiquity:

        "In Egypt Hermes was identified with Thoth, the god of wisdom and the scribe of the gods. Later in imperial times, a new god, Hermanubis, was created in order to identify Hermes with Anubis, who prepared the dead for their travel to the netherworld. Like Hermes, both Thoth and Hermanubis hold a herald's staff" (3938).

     Egyptologist M. Heerma van Voss observes that Anubis was originally a ‘destroyer of corpses’ who transitions into an afterlife guide and the “embalmer of gods and men” (403). If the eating of corpses can be seen as a form of communion or sacred meal in pre-dynastic Egypt (Odajnyk, unpublished lecture), and if Anubis’ role originally came from this concept, then that consumption must contribute to the immortality of the deceased.  And in a sense, such a sacred meal is a form of immortality as the deceased flesh became part of the animal that ate it. That literal in-cor-poration (from the Latin in + corpus meaning ‘into + body’), is a way to ensure that Anubis has the deceased’s soul for transport; he delivers the deceased’s heart to the Hall of Two Ma’ats for judgment. As van Voss put it, “Anubis tended not only the physical well-being of the dead but their moral nature as well. He played a prominent role in the judgment hall of the hereafter (403-404). Because Anubis operates Ma’at’s scale in the ‘weighing of the heart’ ceremony, he acts as an engineer or scientist, making the actual weight measurement for the goddess.
       We see the Egyptians’ need for their physical body in the afterlife in the elaborate mummification procedures and tomb building. And during this period, Anubis evolves further into guardian, psychopomp, embalmer, and participant in final judgment. He becomes the embalmer, not just of human beings, but of the gods. In the Osiris cycle, Anubis is the god’s embalmer and from then on is usually depicted carrying Osiris’ flail. And Anubis may be the only member of the Egyptian pantheon that has a specific skill, which is reminiscent of only one Olympian god having skills and knowing a trade, Hephaestus, who was known as a smith and a skilled craftsman. Anubis is a mortician as well as a psychopomp. Jan Assmann notes:
"The god Anubis, for example, had a very specific function; one that is more unequivocally expressed than is the case with most of the other deities of the Egyptian pantheon. He is (like Osiris) a god of the dead and of the necropolis, though unlike Osiris, he was not the ruler of the dead, but rather the patron of embalmers, mummifiers, and mortuary priests. In contrast to the lunar intellectuality of Thoth, the solar-based royal rule of Re, the chthonic creativity of Ptah, or the celestial charm of Hathor, this specific complex of activities, qualities, and competencies is not easy to relate to the cosmic dimension. Anubis’s specific activities contributed to the success of reality – and in a most important way, considering the central role of the funeral in ancient Egypt – but these activities did not manifest themselves in nature" (81).

     Anubis’ role as patron of funerary activities made him the lord over the transition of life to death, that most important of boundaries for the Egyptians. In his cosmic dimension as a jackal that stood at the beginning of the sun’s underworld journey, Anubis is a force of nature that embodies that transition (Assmann 82).
Works Cited 

Assmann, Jan. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. Trans. David Lorton. Ithaca and London: Cornell U. P., 2001.

Avens, Roberts. The New Gnosis: Heidegger, Hillman, and Angels. Putnam, CT: Spring
   Publications, 2003.

Hart, George. The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. New York:
   Routledge, 2005.
Mastrocinque, Attilio. "Hermes." Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 6. 
   2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 3936-3938. 15 vols.

Odajnyk, V. Walter. Unpublished Lecture. Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, CA.
   March 20, 2007.

van Voss, M. Heerma. “Anubis”. Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 1.
   2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. p.403-404. 15 vols.

White, David. “Dogs”. Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 4. 2nd ed.
   Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. p.2392-2394. 15 vols.

Ma’at: That which is Straight

I wrote this for V. Walter Odajnyk's course on Egyptian Mythology during my third year at Pacifica's Mythological Studies program. I loved Walter's classes and was terribly, terribly sad to hear of his passing.

For this class on two occasions, Walter passed around a bowl full of folded slips of paper to determine which Egyptian deity we would present about (and then of course, write a short paper). Less creative than my classmates, I opted for PowerPoint presentations. No masks or costumes for me, though I did find a pattern and made a nemyss; I just never wore it during the presentations (I chickened out). The image below is from the
I drew Ma'at, the goddess with the single feather headband (in the first draw, I got Anubis). The fact that I'm an adjunct professor in an Administration of Justice department is just a cosmic coincidence, I'm sure.

Ma’at: That which is Straight

            The Egyptian word ma’at encompasses two ideas: the abstract concept of truth and correctness (maat) and the Goddess who personifies truth and order (Ma’at).  The concept of maat can be seen as balance, close to the Hindu concept of dharma.  On the balance idea of maat, historians Faraone and Teeter observe “Maat, in short, represents an elaborate and interconnected sense of truth and cosmic order in all aspects of life and cult. Each individual was responsible for maintaining maat through correct action and truthful speech” (187).
            “In Egyptian art Ma’at is portrayed in human form wearing a headdress with an ostrich feather attached to it” (Mercatante and Bianchi 90). In other depictions she is shown holding the feather in her hand, while in others, she is shown headless with the feather taking the place of her head.  In tomb depictions of the ‘weighing of the heart ceremony’ Ma’at is shown presiding over the procedure and it is just her feather in one side of the pan balance that is used to judge the newly-deceased’s heart. (Mercatante and Bianchi 90). Variant spellings of her name are Maa, Maet, Maht, and Maut (Mercatante and Bianchi 90).
            The goddess Ma’at was of immense importance to the Egyptian’s understanding of the universal order, most prominently exemplified by the course of the sun, Re throughout his daily journey. She is seen several times in Amduat panels decorating pharaoh’s tombs, showing the cyclical passage of the sun, Re, through the underworld during the course of the evening.  She is shown doubly in the first hour of the sun’s underworld journey, signifying totality and “guiding him on the way of darkness” (Abt and Hornung 25).  Ma’at is also seen in the second hour, the region of the netherworld, and her presence there guarantees order and balance in the beyond (Abt and Hornung 38, 40).  In the fourth hour, Ma’at is present as a reminder that “Whoever knows it (maat) is one with right paths” (Abt and Hornung 58-59).
            For students of myth or classical studies, the dual idea of an anthropomorphized Goddess and an abstract concept will be familiar in Hesiod’s story of Métis, the Greek goddess of truth. The comparison between Métis and Ma’at go further, and connects on so many levels that it seems certain that Ma’at is the prototype for Métis.  Egyptologists Faraone and Teeter have highlighted the similarities between the goddesses to show the connection, shown in the table below:

Table 1

Similarities in the Ma’at and Métis mythology cycles
·      Both Ma’at and Métis are goddesses of truth, righteousness, and order.
·      Both maat and métis are abstract concepts of truth, balance, rightness, and order.
·      Both Ma’at and Métis are closely connected to kingship, in the case of Ma’at, to the pharoahship itself and in the case of Métis, to the kingship of the gods, particularly to Zeus.
·      Both Ma’at and Métis are ‘eaten’ or ingested: Métis is engulfed by Zeus and Ma’at is offered in miniature as ‘food’ to the gods and to the king.
Source: Faraone, Christopher A. and Teeter, Emily. “Egyptian Maat and Hesiodic Métis”.
Mnemosyne. Vol. 57, p.177-208, 2004.

            An additional similarity reported by Faraone and Teeter is of the goddess’ names and it has been suggested in the past that an etymological link must exist. However, recent work in Egyptian phonetics “has shown that the Egyptian word maat was probably pronounced something like ma’art, a pronunciation that weakens the argument of phonetic similarity” (193).  Regardless of the phonetic difficulties, the story similarities are strong evidence of Egyptian influence on the Greek myth as Hesiod recounts it.
            It is difficult to express precisely the meaning of maat and the importance of Ma’at to Egyptian life, because the Egyptian language is one of ambiguity and nuance, with words often holding dual (or more) meanings.  For the ancient Egyptians, context is everything:

"Ma’at was more than just a goddess – she was the embodiment of an important concept for the Egyptians. The literal English translation of this concept would be “straight,” but depending on the context, it can mean right, true, truth, real, genuine, righteous, steadfast, and unalterable; there is no single word in English that embraces all the meanings of this term" (Mercatante and Bianchi 89).

     The idea of maat and the anthropomorphic embodiment of the concept are most important to the day-to-day existence of Egyptians in the running of the state, particularly in the person of the king. Ma’at is so closely associated with kingship that she is part of the Pharaoh’s coronation names: Hatshepsut was named Maat-ka-Re, “The Spirit of Re is Ma’at”, Amunhotep III was named Neb-Maat-Re, “Re is the Possessor of Ma’at”, and Ramses II & Ramses III were both named Wser-Maat-Re, “Powerful are Ma’at and Re” (Faraone and Teeter 186-191).
          Non-royal, or average Egyptians, were also expected to “be in Ma’at” or “be right in Ma’at” in the conductance of their daily lives.  A section of the Instruction of Ptahhotep deals with this theme, and this invocation takes on the format of the negative confessions of Ma’at’s forty-two assessors encountered in the afterlife.  While these statements are in the form of the negative confessions (“I have not…”) they can also be seen, and most likely were intended, as a prescription for righteous living:

                        I have come to you, my arms full of maat,
                        and no contrariness in my body.
                        I have not knowingly told a lie,
                        I have not coveted the belongings of another.
                        I have done maat for the lord of maat
                        and have calmed the Light-eye for its lord.
                        I have given divine offerings to the Ennead
                        and mortuary offerings to the ancestral spirits.
                        Open up for me, that I may enter into your midst,
                        I am one of you! 
                                                            (quoted in Assmann Death 60).

But as Jan Assmann points out in another work, “’Doing and saying ma’at’ did not bring men any nearer to god. Only in the Judgment of the Dead did the heart of the just prove worthy (or not) of swelling the ranks of those who would have congress with the gods in the afterlife. (Assmann Mind 239). Assmann’s writings on ancient Egypt also contain, unusually, comparisons with today’s society:

"Maat designates the idea of a meaningful, all-pervasive order that embraces the world of humankind, objects, and nature – in short, the meaning of creation, the form in which it was intended by the creator god. The present condition of the world no longer corresponds to this meaning. The difference manifests itself in the phenomenon of Isfet, “lack.”  Sickness, death, scarcity, injustice, falsehood, theft, violence, war, enmity – all these are manifestations of lack in a world that has fallen into disorder through loss of its original plenitude of meaning. The meaning of creation lies in its plenitude, which yields order and justice. Where all are cared for, no one is oppressed, no one commits deeds of violence against others, no one need suffer. Suffering, scarcity, injustice, crime, rebellion, war, and so forth, had no meaning for the Egyptians. They were symptoms of an emptying or estrangement of meaning from the world, which had distanced itself from its origin in the course of history" (Search 3).

Assmann’s commentary describes a culture that has fallen out of its myth and distanced itself from “that which is straight”, a very apt description of the “problem” as it has been formulated and discussed in many of my classes at Pacifica. For Assmann, the problem is formulated by asking the question, “How do re-establish ma’at in a world that is full of isfet?” 

Works Cited 

Abt, Theodor and Erik Hornung. Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat – A Quest for Immortality. Zurich: Living Human Heritage Publications, 2003.

Assmann, Jan. Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt. Trans. David Lorton. Ithaca and London: Cornell U. P., 2005.

--- The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs. Trans. Andrew Jenkins. Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 2003.

--- The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. Trans. David Lorton. Ithaca and London: Cornell U. P., 2001.

Faraone, Christopher A. and Teeter, Emily. “Egyptian Maat and Hesiodic Métis”. Mnemosyne. Vol. 57, p.177-208, 2004.

Mercatante, Anthony and Steven Bianchi. Who’s Who in Egyptian Mythology. NY: Barnes & Noble Publishing, 1998.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Losing Our Myths

I’ve just re-subscribed to the Chronicle of Higher Education (and I have no idea why I let it lapse, it feeds my brain in all the right spots) and have been enjoying a backwards read through my favorite section of the publication, The Chronicle Review, sort of The New Yorker for college educators (oh, relax already; I read The New Yorker, too).

Anyway, in the November 25, 2011 edition of the CR, Pitzer College sociology Professor Phil Zuckerman’s “Taking Leave of Religion” (subscription required) article describes a growing trend, apostasy. He writes that there isn’t a lot of research on apostasy or the leaving of one’s religion. He interviewed 87 apostates about why they became non-religious.

Quoting from The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s Religious Landscape Survey, he notes that 16% of Americans are religiously “unaffiliated” and 17% claim “none” as their religion. These numbers are significantly higher than in previous years. And one of Zuckerman’s predictions is that these numbers will continue to increase. [Geeky fan side note: he doesn’t mention how many Americans listed “Jedi” as their religion, but I checked the survey, and Jedi isn’t listed. It’s bigger in other countries, like in the UK.]

Zuckerman’s writes that what he learned in doing this research is that “Religion is not universal or necessary.” CG Jung wrote about the psyche’s transcendent function, which many people cite as a reason for religiosity, but this can of course operate outside of organized religion or any form of theism. During my years of mythological studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, there was often a conversation about “people falling away from their myths (religions)” and wondering what would replace that lost faith. Zuckerman is saying that we don’t need anything to replace them and in fact “many [non-religious] people prefer it that way.” More generally, though, from a mythologist’s point of view, a lot religion doesn’t have to be replaced by another religion or religious practice, specifically. We tend to talk more about another mythology replacing a lost religion, and not all personal mythologies are religious, but they do inform a personal worldview.

I know this where I should be prompted to write a lengthy explanation as to why I’m an atheist, but it’s really not so complicated: I’m a scientist and I’m a lesbian. I’ve found that while one is a profession and the other a biological feature, neither is compatible with being a Baptist (the religion on both sides of my family). Or religious. End of story.

I have a good friend at work who comes from a Catholic family, is sternly non-religious now, but has to deal with an overly-religious mother (and truly Irish Catholic, her mother is an Irish immigrant). I lent her my DVD of Julia Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” -- a one-woman staged monologue about her quest for religious knowledge. When she returned it, our conversation was full of some of the hilarious punch lines (“Have you READ that book?” “Deepak Chopra is full of shit!” At least the Scientologists know to give you a personality test before telling you about Xenu, the intergalactic overlord.”). Then there’s Sweeney’s impressions of her slightly dim mother, “This doesn’t mean you’ve stopped going to church now, does it?”

Interestingly, when I was out this morning getting a Los Angeles Times Sunday newspaper, I heard an NPR story that featured quotes from the current batch of Republican Presidential contenders and their supporters talking about President Obama’s war on religious freedom. I don’t want to go into all of the reason why I find the notion ridiculous, but check out the story if you’re strong of stomach and can handle the kind of reasoning that pushes why religious-based health charities should not fund contraception or that LGBT rights is the biggest threat to American religious freedom today. Going back to the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey, 56% of American adults who leave or switch their religious affiliation cite being “Unhappy with teachings on abortion/homosexuality” as a reason why they made the change.

All right, I’ve got to go and prepare for a daylong class I’m teaching in about a week. Be sure to check out Phil Zuckerman’s terrific list of 65 Songs for Atheists and Agnostics.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The passing of James Hillman

 We were all deeply saddened to learn of James Hillman's passing on October 27th.

The Somatic Studies students were resident at Ladera on Monday, Oct 31st, so they were the first students on site after the news of Hillman's passing. We held a circle before class started in the morning. As we gathered quietly in the sun, after a time, a few students read passages from works by Hillman. Chris Downing was there (who is teaching in the Somatics program for the first time), and she noted that James Hillman died 50 years after Jung and at the same age, at 85. Joe Coppin told us he had heard that Hillman wanted to be buried in the Jewish tradition, without delay, but also because "he wanted to be able to hear each handful of dirt hitting the coffin."

During the faculty and staff memorial on Nov. 3rd, it was mentioned that a larger, more public memorial would be forthcoming in early December. Check the main Pacifica website for that information when it's available. Pacifica Graduate Institute's tribute page to James Hillman can be found here. [January 8, 2012 Update: A 2-day tribute to James Hillman and his work is planned for March 3-4, 2012 at Pacifica's Ladera Lane Campus. Check here for further information when it's available. I will post separately about this event when I know more details.]

Below is the James Hillman quote I shared with my class once we had assembled. This particular quote was helpful when I was writing my dissertation on the Human Genome Project because it quickly became obvious that it was the "root metaphors and operational myths" that needed to excavation and examination. I am so grateful for the few times I got to hear James Hillman lecture while I was a Mythological Studies student.
            "The science fantasy with its reliance upon objectivity, technology, verification, measurement, and progress—in short, its necessary literalism—is less a means for examining the psyche than for examining science. Our interest lies not in applying the methods of science in psychology (to put it on a “sound scientific footing”), but rather in applying the archetypal method of psychologizing to science so as to discover its root metaphors and operational myths.
            Science is not soulless at all. It too is an activity of the psyche and of the archetypes in the psyche, one of the ways of enacting the Gods. By psychologizing scientific problems, methods, and hypotheses we can find their archetypal fantasies. For science, also, is a field for soul-making provided we do not take it literally on its own terms."

                                                —James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology (1975), p. 169

Links with more information:
James Hillman's obituary at the New York Times online
Pacifica Graduate Institute's James Hillman tribute page
Thomas Moore remembers James Hillman at The Huffington Post
Remembrance at The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture where Hillman was a founder

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On the Nature of Four: Jung's Quarternity, Mandalas, the Stone, and the Self

This is a student paper I wrote back in 2005 for Glen Slater's "Jungian Depth Psychology" course. Glen's course was/is part of Pacifica's Graduate Institute's Mythological Studies program curriculum. What is odd about this paper is that it's taken on a life of it's own on the internet. I uploaded it to a bulletin board a few years back and since then it has appeared on a number of websites without my permission. If you do a Google search using "Jung" and "quarternity" or "mandala" this piece pops up. On many sites, they attribute the author to a "Carbonek" which is a handle I used in a particular online community, and anyone familiar with Charles Williams' Grail cycle of poetry will recognize the name. Oddly, the versions I've seen online don't include Ellenberger in the Work Cited, which is a big omission. Below is the entire paper and all mistakes are mine.

On the Nature of Four: Jung’s Quarternity, Mandalas, the Stone and the Self

During a difficult period in his life in which he withdrew from his teaching position and devoted much of his time investigating the nature of the unconscious, Jung frequently painted or drew mandalas, but only learned to understand the mandala symbology many years after he had begun creating the images.   He understood only that he felt compelled to make the figures and that they comforted him, “Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is: “Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s eternal recreation”.  And that is the self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious, but which cannot tolerate self-deceptions” (MDR 195-196).
Mandalas are defined by Jung as magic circles, containing certain design motifs that he found to have a universal nature, across cultures and across time, whether they are the transiently created mandalas from Tibet, sand paintings from the American southwest, or illustrations from ancient, medieval, and Renaissance alchemical works. 
Jung believes that his mandalas were “cryptograms” of the state of the self as it was on the day the mandala was created.  Each mandala that he spontaneously created was different from their predecessors and the paintings were precious to him, he “guarded them like pearls” (MDR 196).  He also believes that mandalas appear in connection with dreams, chaotic psychic states of disorientation or panic (CW 9i 645) as they did in Jung’s own life, and that a function of the mandalas is to bring order out of chaos.  Edinger agrees, “Quaternity, mandala images emerge in times of psychic turmoil and convey a sense of stability and rest. The image of the fourfold nature of the psyche provides stabilizing orientation.  It gives one a glimpse of static eternity.” (Edinger 182).
Jung eventually came to believe that the mandala itself is an image of “squaring the circle” and as such could be called an archetype of wholeness (CW 9i 715).
Jung’s continuing practice of drawing and painting mandalas eventually leads him to understand them as symbols of the Self, that they are informed by archetypal forces in the unconscious that the artist is not aware of during the creation of the work. 
Working with mandalas, Jung eventually realizes that like the designs he was drawing, his own life had been a series of meandering paths that bent back upon each other and yet always led back to the center.  The mandala symbolically represents that path to the center, to individuation (MDR 196). Jung’s later practice of having his patients to spontaneously create mandalas is a prime example of Jung’s own explorations into the unconscious becoming effective tools in his psychiatric practice.  In “Concerning Mandala Symbolism” several mandalas painted by some of Jung’s patients are reproduced and his commentary on each shows the universality of the symbolism across the patients’ cultural differences.  He doesn’t go into the clinical details of the patients’ therapy but notes that “a rearranging of the personality is involved, a kind of new centering”  over time as the mandala-creating process continued. (CW 9i 645).  Jung’s reasoning for the similarity in mandala symbols created by his patients is that these symbols and images come from the collective unconscious and are therefore archetypes, or primordial images, which reside in each of us (CW 9i 711).
Jung also found that mandalas created by individuals often contain motifs related to the number four, which he terms a “quaternity”.  The symbol might be “in the form of a cross, a star, a square, an octagon, etc.  A form of this symbol is frequently found in alchemical texts as the “squaring the circle” or quadratura circuli (CW 9i 713). Jung thought that “squaring the circle”  was a “problem that greatly exercised medieval minds” and this was also a “symbol of the opus alchymicum because it breaks down the original chaotic unity into the four elements and then combines them again in a higher unity” (CW 12 165). However, Jung is not the first to write about the symbolism of the quaternity as Ellenberger reports:

“In France Fabre d’Olivet had previously written about the same subject in the nineteenth century.  However, Jung was certainly the first to relate it so closely to the process of individuation.  The mandala is a circular figure ornamented with symbols that is generally divided into four sections.  It is well known in India and Tibet, where it was used for centuries by ascetics and mystics to aid in contemplation” (712).

The fourfold symmetry of the quaternity eventually led Jung to study alchemical works and in these he found many examples, such the four main steps in the alchemical process: nigredo (black), albedo (white), citrinalis (yellow), and rubedo (red) (Henderson and Sherwood 5).  Alchemical processes have fourfold properties such as hot, cold, wet, and dry while all materials are said to be combinations of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. He found that even the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone had a four-fold nature, “The lapis is called a “sacred rock” and is described as having four parts (CW 9ii 143). Elias Ashmole, in his Theatricum Chemicum Britannicum, an 18th century collection of English alchemical texts, he even describes four different Philosopher’s Stones: Mineral, Vegetable, Magical, and Angelical, each with a different functionality (Edinger 264).
The alchemical arts have a dual nature, one which may be described as external, embodied and practical, and another which is internal, spiritual, and abstract (Henderson and Sherwood 7).  While there were certainly those who practiced alchemy in a physical way, that is, with laboratory equipment with the goal of transmuting a base material into gold (chrysopoeia), or developing an elixir of immortality (spagyrics), it is clear that the metaphor of a laboratory process was more valuable to alchemists as a way to describe what was a psychological and spiritual practice in an attempt to improve themselves as human beings (Henderson and Sherwood 7). Jung "sees a projection of the process of individuation in the steps performed by alchemists" and "devoted many years to the psychological interpretation of alchemical symbology" (Ellenberger 719). 
            Edinger also sees the alchemical association between self and the lapis, “The goal of the individuation process is to achieve a conscious relation to the Self. The goal of the alchemical procedure was most frequently represented by the Philosophers’ Stone. Thus the Philosophers’ Stone is a symbol for the Self.” (Edinger 261).
The study of alchemy was essential for Jung’s understanding of the way to the Self, “Alchemy … made it possible for me to describe the individuation process at least in its essential aspects” (CW 14 792). And Jung notes that while medieval alchemists didn’t discover the structure of matter, they did discover the structure of the psyche, even if they themselves did not understand what it meant (CW 14 150).   
            We find a wide spectrum of four-fold symbols and systems in religion, myth, history, science and culture. There are four winds (Boreas, Eurus, Notus, Zephyrus), four seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall), four directions (north, east, south, west), four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), four letters in the sacred name of God (YHVH), four ancient ages (gold, silver, bronze, iron),  and four medieval humours: sanguine (blood), choleric (yellow bile), phlegmatic (phlegm), melancholic (black bile) to name a few. DNA is composed of four nucleotide bases, there are sixty-four triplet codons in the genetic code, and twenty common amino acids as a result of translating the genetic code.
            Adding a fourth to an already established thee has a transformational effect. In geometry, a fourth point transforms the two-dimensional triad or triangle into a figure with depth, the cube and the tetrahedron (a form lapis).  As the mathematician Michael Schneider observes, “There are always four ways (another quaternity) to look at any three-dimensional structure: as points, lines, areas, and volumes, or as corners, edges, faces, and from the center outward (63).  Ellenberger notes that “The quaternity can appear as a geometric figure of square or sometimes rectangular shape, or it will have some relation wit the number four: four persons, four trees, and so on.  Often it is a matter of completing a triadic figure with a fourth term, thus making it into a quaternity” (712).  Jung searches for the quaternity when a trinity is encountered, “Jung over and over again in his writings returns to the alchemical question: “Three are here but where is the fourth?” (Edinger 189).  The completion of the quaternity is seen frequently in alchemical works, even whimsically, “All things do live in the three/ But in the four they merry be” (quoted in CW 12 125).
            One Trinity that was completed in the last century, with the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven (defined as dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII), transformed the Christian Trinity into a Quaternity, and one that Jung believes was achieved by the overwhelming insistence of the Catholic masses (CW 9ii, 142).  “… the quaternity is the sine qua non of divine birth and consequently of the inner life of the trinity. Thus circle and quaternity on one side and the threefold rhythm on the other interpenetrate so that each is contained in the other” (CW 11 125). Jung believes that this was the most significant religious event since the reformation (quoted in EJ 321).
            Another quaternity that Jung develops is that of the four psychic functions: sensing, thinking, feeling, and intuiting.  “The essential function of sensation is to establish that something exists, thinking tells us what it means, feeling what its value is, and intuition surmises whence it comes and whither it goes. (CW 6 983).  Sensation and intuition he terms irrational types with thinking and feeling are rational types. Jung diagrams the four functions in a basic symbol of the quaternity, as a cross with the irrational functions at right angles with the ration functions. Along with what he terms the two general attitudes, extroversion and introversion, Jung feels that these now eight types provide a useful framework for these psychological concepts (CW 6 987). Jung’s suggestion that his psychological typology could be compared with a trigonomic net or a crystallographic axial system suggests the lapis, or Philosopher’s Stone once again circling back to alchemical concepts (CW 6 987).
            During the years that Jung spends drawing and painting mandalas, he comes to understand that “the goal of psychic development is the self.  There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self” (MDR 196).  If there is one concept about the development of the self, of individuation that is important for those of us in the 21stcentury caught in a Cartesian-Newtonian notion of reality is that “there is no linear evolution” for this process; that the process is one of circling, rotating, orbiting, circumambulating around the center – we must square the circle. We must create our own mandalas and go where they lead us. As much as we might wish for a clearly delineated way, here is no straight line to follow: 

                        "From the circle and quaternity motif is derived the symbol of the geometrically formed crystal and the wonder-working stone. From here analogy formation leads on to the city, castle, church, house, and vessel. Another variant is the wheel (rota). The former motif emphasizes the ego's containment in the greater dimension of the self; the latter emphasizes the rotation which also appears as a ritual circumambulation. Psychologically, it denotes concentration on and preoccupation with a centre" (CW 9ii 352).

            The circumambulation Jung describes, the process of “squaring the circle” or “circling the square” has an uncertainty built into the journey: do we ever achieve individuation or is it a goal that is ever just out of reach? It is important to take the path that the mandala represents, to revolve around the center, to rotate near and around the center, and hopefully, move towards the self..  As Jung remarks “… the self is our life’s goal, for it is the completest expression of that fateful combination we call individuality…” (CW 7 404).

Works Cited

Edinger, Edward F. Ego and Archetype. Boston: Shambala Publications, 1992.

Ellenberger, Henri E. The Discovery of the Unconscious. NY: Basic Books, 1970.

Henderson, Joseph L. and Dyane N. Sherwood. Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis. NY: Brunner-Routledge, 2003.

--- The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 9. part i, 2nd edition. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1968.

--- The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 6, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971.

--- The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 12. 2nd edition, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1968.

--- The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 13, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983.

--- The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 14, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1989.

--- The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. 2nd edition.Trans. R. F. C. Hull. Vol. 7, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1966.

--- The Essential Jung: Selected Writings. ed. Anthony Storr. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983.

--- Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Revised edition. ed. Aniela Jaffe. Trans. Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

Schneider, Michael S. A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe: The        
   Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science. NY: Harper Perennial, 1995.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Pleistocene Rewilding: its not what it sounds like

Or, perhaps it is what it sounds like. The idea: "reinstituting ecological and evolutionary processes that were transformed or eliminated by megafaunal extinctions" (Donlan et al 661). The main reason for wanting to "re-wild" places that lost their megafauna (what scientists like to call large animals) due to various pressures is that since the demise of these animals, the ecosystems have been out of balance (Caro 281).

North American megafauna aren't available, but several authors have suggested that other species could serve as surrogates for the extinct animals, for example, endangered Bactrian camels for the camelids that used to reside here, or Asian elephants for the North American mammoth (Donlan et al 666-671).

Why am I interested in this when I'm not an ecologist, a vertebrate biologist, or a geologist interested in the Ice Age? I grew up visiting National Parks with my family and as an adult am a member of the National Parks Foundation and the Yellowstone Association. I visited Yellowstone National Park for the first time last year, heading up there the day after my PhD commencement. A really big attraction we have for Yellowstone is the chance to see larger animals -- and we did see quite a few, mostly buffalo, elf, deer, and moose. We did not see wolves, but overhead a lot of people talking about their sightings. Even though we don't seem to understand that our very presence in the park changes the behavior of the animals, we still want to go and get a glimpse of them. Here is my photo of a grouping of buffalo in the early morning:

Growing up in the Los Angeles area brought me into contact with the La Brea Tar Pits when I was about 9 or 10. The idea that mastodons, sabertooth cats, dire wolves, ground sloths, giant short-faced bears, and many other species used to roam the LA basin was one of my early educational experiences that showed me that the earth was a lot older than I was being taught in Sunday School.

I'll also point out that Homo neandertalensis went extinct around the same time as America's megafauna (though on different continents). The science isn't clear what happened to the megafauna or to the Neandertal, though we know part of the Neandertal genome survived in modern humans, thanks to some now obvious inter-breeding. Theories regarding Pleistocene extinctions vary from climate change to a large meteor/cometary impact. Some scientists are sure that humans didn't "overkill" the megafauna to extinction, though that theory has enough traction to be part of the rationale for rewilding programs.

I really can't speak to the idea of Pleistocene rewilding from a scientific standpoint; it's not my field. From a mythologist's viewpoint, there is something romantic about recreating the past in the present, in this case trying to recreate (or just approximate) an ecological system we have never seen ("we" meaning modern humans), one that existed 13,000 or so years ago. There is a little bit of a "back to the Garden" aspect in the idea of rewilding, even when couched in technical ecological concepts. There is a hubris in the thinking that we understand a natural system so well that we can tinker with it, even with all of the careful monitoring and pilot studies outlined.

While one of the papers observes that "Humans have strong emotional and cultural relationships with large predators and herbivores that began in the Pleistocene and have reached forward to contemporary times" it goes on to mention "ancient rock art, cars, and sports teams," but this seems to me to be a pretty thin argument (Donlan et al 666).  Continued loss of biodiversity is a tragedy most of us would agree impoverishes nature and would like to see reversed. That diversity may possibly be maintained in new environments, even if those species did not evolve there, but there are many uncertainties in such a rewilding program. Suggested reading is below and I do recommend spending some time with the rewilding idea and some of the counter-arguments contained.

Pleistocene Rewilding References and Links
The Rewilding Institute --  TRI has three broad goals:
1) To effectively integrate conservation biology and wildlands and wildlife conservation.
2) To provide a long-term, hopeful vision for conservation in North America.
3) To create a North American Wildlands Network Vision and a strategy to implement it.
You'll find even more resources and links at TRI's Resource page.
Pleistocene Park -- LiveScience story about a preserve in northern Siberia where a number of species have been re-introduced, and not just megafauna.

Rewilding Megafauna: Lions and Camels in North America?'s informative and well-rounded interview with Connie Barlow discussing the idea of Pleistocene rewilding (if the science papers bore you, read this instead). There are a lot of resources and outlinks on this page as well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Macs and the Trouble with Apostrophes and Quotation Marks

During the copy edit of my dissertation, I discovered a truly disturbing "feature" in Microsoft Word for Macs; none of the fonts have regular apostrophes and quotation marks. Instead of the little curly marks we are used to seeing, on a Mac, these marks are 'tick marks' (like the ones to the left there, see what I mean?).

Why is this a problem? I have a MacBookPro at home and an HP PC at work and I'd been toggling back and forth between both computers as I wrote my dissertation. This has led to a mixture of tick marks and quotations marks throughout my dissertation, much to the proof reader's annoyance. I hadn't actually noticed the difference. However, a cheat sheet for you Mac users out there is below:

True right quotation mark ( ” ): Shift + Option + [
True left quotation mark ( “ ): Option + [
True apostrophe ( ’ ): Shift + Option + ]
True reverse apostrophe ( ‘ ): Option + ]

Problem solved. Now, on to other issues.