Today I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, Özgür Önal. I have been following Özgür for a long time and got inspired by his interest in Jung’s work and his synthesis of Jung and Sufi mystic thinking. So, we came together one night, with many questions in my head. The intention was one article which resulted in 6 articles around the topic of Jung and shadow work as you can see in the titles below.
How do you do shadow work on yourself?
Can shadow work help with depression?
Before starting, I would like to introduce Özgür to you;
So let’s just jump into the intriguing world of Jung.
How did Jung differ from Freud?
The aspect that differs from Freud’s legacy is actually the spiritual dimension. Jung explored the deeper layers of the psyche’s unconscious part. Those deeper layers are the parts of me that reach my ancestors, my culture, my geography, and gradually the universal patterns that shape and touch all of us as human beings. He postulates that there might be a dimension that fundamentalist positive science can’t analyze much in the human psyche. He talks about the value of the immeasurable.
At first glance, it might appear as it contradicts the foundation where the academy and science are built, which says that everything must be measured and proven to be considered true. In Liber Primus Prologue section of his book called “Red book”, he wrote this;
“The spirit of the depths has subjugated all pride and arrogance to the power of judgment. He took away my belief in science, he robbed me of the joy of explaining and ordering things, and he let devotion to the ideals of this time die out in me. He forced me down to the last and simplest things. The spirit of the depths took my understanding and all my knowledge and placed them at the service of the inexplicable and the paradoxical. He robbed me of speech and writing for everything that was not in his service, namely the melting together of sense and nonsense, which produces the supreme meaning.“
The point of criticism from Jung’s statement is subjectivity. Science wants repeatable results obviously. It wants to be able to get the same result when we repeat the same technique with a certain prescription.
What Jung is trying to say is that the scientific style of thinking, which wants to measure everything, to repeat the same scientific result, wants to solve some problems and offer help to people, Jung’s answer probably would be; ‘There is a lot of control here. In some parts of life and psyche, there is a force that we have no control over, so to speak, we are entering the field where it does not belong only to us, which is the transcendent function of life.
In Jungian thought, there are two centers of the human soul. There was only one center in Freud’s thought by the way. The first is the archetypal self, the second is the ego-self. Jung probably was the first one to name it in modern psychology. That’s the reason why it’s so valuable.
In the lineage up to that time, psychology sees man as a separated individual from life and all beings.
In Jungian thought, I can say “Yes, I am separate from everything in one way” This is the center of my separate side, the center of consciousness, “the ego”.
The other center is not the separate one, the center where I connect all the life around me and gradually the whole universe. It is the center of the unconscious, “archetypal-self” inside me. In a sense, I am both divine and worldly at the same time.
In Sufi thought, there is the metaphor of the Tuba tree. Humans are kind of symbolized with the tree metaphor. Now let’s take the fruit and tree as two symbolic concepts representing part-whole relationships.
It would be wrong if the fruit of a tree would say ‘I am not a tree’, Because, the fruit has a tree inside as a potential in its seed.
But also it would be wrong if the fruit would say that ‘I am tree’. Because the tree is gigantic compared to a simple fruit. Fruit is the tree and not the tree at the same time. Man is independent in one aspect, dependent in another. There is such unity in the creation of life. As a human, I am whole existence and not whole existence at the same time. I am part of it and I have a strong relationship and communication with it. Jung is the first person in the scientific domain to name those concepts, to open them up for discussion and controversy.
In Jungian thought, it is known as very healthy if these two centers talk to each other. The more my part that is separate from existence and the part that is not separate talk to each other, the more I become aware of my unconscious parts. My blind spots, the shadow side that I miss and ignore in my life. The more I connect with my unconscious parts, the more I open up to new possibilities. This is the “individuation” in Jungian terminology. My shadow lights up thanks to this conversation between my conscious and unconscious parts. So I grow up psychologically and transform from the inside. This is so different from the “motivational change” which is also equally normal and healthy once we need this.
Jung also put forward the methods of establishing continuous communication between the conscious and unconscious like “active imagination”, some association methods for interpreting the symbolic structures of dreams. Robert Johnson describes those methods very well in his book “inner work”.
Jung where to start, which Jung book to read first?
What Jungian archetypes are?
“Archetypal self” and “archetype” are two different concepts belonging to the same knowledge domain. It is useful to define the two separately and bridge again to understand what an archetype is.
The center that we call the “archetypal self” is the one central spot of my soul, opening to existence. The more I am aware of it, the more consciously my ego is in communication with it.
My relationship with the archetypal space is first to my unconscious, to my family unconscious, to the unconscious of my culture, and from there to the unconscious of the whole existence…
The dream world, for example, is a symbol space, there are meanings beyond geographies, and these become common. To interpret symbols- the archetype is also a symbol, it is necessary to look at it layer by layer.
For me, what this symbol means, what it was in my family, means that I look at all the meanings layer by layer, in a way, to shed light on my experience and the symbol space.
There is a trinity in Sufi thought. The material realm (madde alemi)- is the physical world we live in. The “meaning realm” (mana alemi) is the unseen, the other world. The ‘representation realm” (misal alemi) is the symbolic realm that connects the first two realms. Dreams, some products of mythological dimension like folklore, fairy tales, symbolic stories are some examples of products of this bridge realm. This is exactly the same reason why many wise and mature people and communities in history have used stories, parables to convey the wisdom of their lineage.
As you enter the realm of ‘representation’, it becomes easier to interact with those symbols and bring wisdom to life. Because they have a transformative aspect. This is a kind of a common language of the human psyche beyond any grammatical languages we use every day.
Let’s open the archetypes.
When I say archetypal, it is the space of symbols that belong to the deeper layers of the unconscious…
In Jungian thought, the archetypes are innumerable and endless. That means the symbols are endless. Not just character archetypes. In the time we live in, modern archetypes are used in every field. In general, the character is understood when the word archetype is mentioned, but in fact, the “well”, “star”, “sun” are some archetypes for example.
What exactly is the archetype: not a symbol, not a character?
For example, there are terms of the archetypal note, archetypal sound… Is it the things we see in patterns over and over again?
What they point to is some bits of information from the source, belonging to the timeless realm.
Where noah’s ark was found?
Let’s take the story of Noah’s ark. This is a well-known common story in many of the sacred books. We do not know exactly when and in which geography this ark survived the flood. Today we are still looking for this ark in some parts of the earth’s geography as archaeologists, historians, and anthropologists. A common point of all these efforts is to find a physical ark ruin in one mountain or at least find small remains from the ark to prove the truth of this story.
Here is a ship archetype.
During the Great Flood, there was this ark that contained and saved living things, survived the great flood, awakened to a brand new era, all life outside the ship perished and only those on the ship survived and continued to live.
The tale of 2 seas
Another example is the motif of “the place two seas meet”. There is a powerful story behind it. It requires a wider time to get into the details, but for now, just take it as an example mythic motif.
From the materialistic mindset point of view, who only likes to measure and analyze something, you have to find Noah’s ark physically somewhere in the world to know If it’s true or not. It has to be historical truth, otherwise, it is not true.
“Noah’s Ark” or “the place where the two seas meet” are still being searched, and not found currently. Some chose to believe it as a just historical reality and continue searching the ruins, some others hated the story and its religious context because of the uncertainty and the lack of scientific base. But actually, can both sides be missing the essence of the story?
What happens if we refuse an archetypal story coming from a collective consciousness? This is what I care most about.
Jung opens another door for us. Beyond finding them physically, Can you find them elsewhere? Can we try to reflect a story on our lives? This is precisely the introduction to symbolic thought. Then we have to ask:
“If not in any geography of the world, then where is this ship? Where are these two seas?
In a very interesting place actually. sometimes at the moment, in what is happening here and now, sometimes inside my psyche as a part of me.
What does this symbolic story want to tell me symbolically? What is happening at every moment? Which part of me can be the ship symbolically? or which part of my life can it be? We can derive more questions around my inner world.
Everything you see has two meanings; what you can see with your eyes and what you can’t see.
It reminded me of Ibn Arabi’s saying, “Do you exist, you are afraid of disappearing?” Because if I’m going to believe what I don’t see, it makes me question believing in what I see. It invites you to a very free space where all idols are destroyed, all reality is shattered.
This is exactly how archetypes appear before us. This is how we should interpret them. Just like interpreting dreams. If you went to a Jungian therapist and said that you saw Noah’s ark in your dream, he would probably ask you: “What part of your soul might this be, what might it indicate in the events you are experiencing these days.? It’s like an aspect of you.
Let’s come back to “Noah’s ark” as a motif. What was the thing you were taking shelter in at some point in your life? When was the last time someone took shelter on you? This is the story of containment, retreat, salvation, and protection.
This is how the archetypes come into our lives and operate their transformative function if we allow them to operate. Not only with their physical realities in the material world, but also with their transcendent meanings, messages and questions, we can experience them. Needless to say, a mythical story can be a historical truth at the same time. That’s fine. Life is a whole and can have multiple complementary faces.
How do those stories flirt with you? What motifs strike you more than others when you hear an archetypal story? There are much deeper meanings behind them that they point out in a blurred scene. We understand those deeper meanings as much as our relationship with our unconscious parts.
Talking about what our eyes do not see but our hearts do, is not a topic Jung had talked about for the first time. But definitely, he brought this conversation to another public where human psychology meets with spirituality.
Our conversation with Özgür continues.
As I have already mentioned, this article is part of an interview series about Jung and shadow work with Özgür Önal.
You can also be interested in these articles below,
How do you do shadow work on yourself?
Can shadow work help with depression?
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