Friday, April 8, 2011

Jung, Art and Dreams

"In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order." ~Carl Jung

Sigmund Freud published his book The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900 in part because he believed Twentieth century man was on the threshold of a new era akin to a new enlightenment age. Two world wars and numerous occasions of genocide proved him wrong on that score, but in one respect he was right. Man is a complex being, and dreams can be a tool for getting below the surface of our conscious minds.

Carl Jung took this initial research a step further, applied a different approach. Jung proposed that the human psyche is "by nature religious" and continued to pioneer dream analysis. Some, building on Freud, attempted to define images in dreams the same hard and fast way that a dictionary defines words. Jung widened this window to something beyond all that.

Jung also offered up the idea that making art has therapeutic value, helping bring resolution to emotional stress and disruption. I remember, for example, when I returned to Ohio after witnessing a disturbing level of police violence in the May Day protests of 1971 that I completely lost myself in drawing images in my sketchbook which attempted to release the bad energy within me. It was a more than unsettling experience and the sketchbook helped assuage my pain and inner confusion.

In 1957, at the ripe old age of 81, Carl Jung decided to set down in writing the story of his life. This book, which is in front of me as I write this, was titled Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It begins...

My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious. Everything in the unconscious seeks outward manifestation, and the personality too desires to evolve out of its unconscious conditions and to experience itself as a whole. I cannot employ the language of science to trace this process of growth in myself, for I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem.

What we are to our inward vision, and what man appears to be sub specie aeternitatis, can only be expressed by way of myth. Myth is more individual and expresses life more precisely than does science. Science works with concepts of averages which are far too general to do justice to the subjective variety of an individual life.

When you are 81 how will you begin your life story? What will you have learned about life and your self that you would like to share? Then again, why wait till you're 81?

Have a great weekend.

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