Exploring Spirituality from a Post-Jungian Perspective

And just like that, money, fame, power and beauty are worthless… Mother nature’s message to us all:

“You are not necessary, The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember you are my guests not my Masters.

Wampanoag Nation or ‘People of the Dawn’

This is the sort of weltanschauung I set out in my new book, Exploring Spirituality from a Post-Jungian Perspective: Clinical and Personal Reflections (Routledge 2023).

Jungian analysis has many facets and, in some schools, is taught as a Developmental model (which extends Jung’s ideas to include those of Michael Fordham, Donald Winnicott, John Bowlby and Melanie Klein – see my Jung: The Basics (Routledge 2019)).  Other schools forefront what is known as Jung’s Classical approach (predominantly taught in the Zurich trainings).  (The London scene includes all facets of Jungian psychology and uniquely has five separate trainings.)

People often veer towards Jung and Jungian psychotherapy/analysis because of the inclusion of the spiritual dimension.  This was very much my own rationale in wanting to expand my psychotherapy training to include spirituality which had been my raison d’étre from an early age.

Like many, (seekers globally and perhaps particularly in indigenous communities) the Yanomami tribe in Brazil glean their wisdom via spiritual journeying and dreaming (which can be facilitated by exploration in Jungian analysis).  David Kopenawa (a shaman from the Yanomami community in the Brazilian Amazon) relates his story as he is concerned we will all perish if action is not taken to reverse the damage mankind is doing to the planet.  Kopenawa had to travel far and wide beyond his community in an effort to resist the incursions made by gold prospectors, loggers and cattle ranchers cutting down swathes of the ancient, untouched Amazon forests.

In stark contrast to our Western materialist frenzy which has caused the havoc and destruction to the earth, the Yanomami destroy all the personal belongings of a person when they die which means there is none of the egregious clamouring to inherit when a person dies.  The Yanomami see possessions belonging to a deceased as carrying the imprint of the person which will cause sadness to their loved ones.  Destroying these objects is part of the mourning process for them.  Kopenawa:

“We think it is bad to own a dead man’s goods. It fills our thoughts with sorrow.  Our real goods are the things of the forest: its waters, fish, game, trees, and fruit.  Not merchandise!  This is why as soon as someone dies we make all the objects he kept disappear.  We grind up his bead necklaces; we burn his hammock, his arrows, his quiver, his gourds, and his feather ornaments (2013 pp.330).

Kopenawa forces us to think about many Western ways we take for granted.  For instance, he was taken to a museum in Paris and shown the remains of early indigenous people preserved alongside their arrows and tools and beads which would normally have been destroyed.  Kopenawa was angry to see beings and their belongings so disrespected for our entertainment.  Later he talks of visiting New York (where Kopenawa had been invited to speak in defence of his people) and not being able to fathom the discrepancy between the rich at the centre of the metropolis and the poor at the outskirts.  From his perspective it was truly an alien way to live.  He notices how disturbed his sleep and dreams are in a city; how people rush around looking at the ground without making eye contact with each other. He cannot help but notice the pollution, the roaring of the noises at every turn, the adrenaline fuelled and empty way of life which has become normalised in the industrialised West.

David Tacey (academic and public intellectual in Australia) encapsulates his own concerns:

“[i]t may be easier for us as a nation [Australia] to approach the task of resacralizing through environmental and social ecology …  ecology almost looks like a pragmatic and secular activity, and devotion to the needs of the environment may not cause the same embarrassment that devotion to the spirit would generate.  Through ecology we attend to the most urgent practical issues in the world, and yet, within the practice of ecology there is the romantic and mythopoetic impulse, eros itself, engaged in its vital task of binding, weaving and connecting us to the other.  Through ecology we strive to heal the world and ourselves, to transcend the contemporary condition and link our souls vitally to the soul of the world (2009 pp. 139-140).

Man’s connection with animals (and New Physics)

Finally, I want to touch on man’s connection with animals which I wrote about elsewhere (2020) and which I am now expanding into a new book on our connections with animals which should be out in 2025/6. In the 2020 chapter I touch on how we are connected with animals and the universe through multiple systems (such as psychology, symbols and spirituality making links with the New Physics).  Many of us have experienced uncanny connections with our pets and I suggest these are not random.  We are connected by energy fields known variously as Morphic Resonance (Sheldrake 2009 and 2011); the Akashic Field (Laszlo 2004); the Implicate Order (Bohm 1980/2002); or holograms (Talbot 1991).  These approaches all help us understand our connections with animals as well as each other.  They show us how we are linked on subtle levels so that it is no wonder we affect each other and cherish time we can spend with animals.  For children it may be a first experience of loving and learning about responsibility to another creature.

Many of us may have experienced inexplicable phenomena with animals.  How do they know when their owners are about to arrive home?  Because they do.  How do they know when their owners are ill?  It is well known dogs can detect when their owners are sick and have even saved lives by alerting the owner to seek medical attention. For example, the animal is drawn to a changed smell in an area where cancer has not yet been medically detected. Or when they intuit an owner is about to have an epileptic fit.  It is worth quoting biologist Rupert Sheldrake who cites an impressive anecdote from his research:

“[the dog] can sense, up to 50 minutes before, that I am going to have an attack and taps me twice with his paw, giving me time to get somewhere safe.  He can also press a button on my phone and bark when it is answered, to get help, and, if he thinks I’m going to have an attack while I am in the bath, he’ll pull the plug out” (2011, p.196).

Anna Breytenbach in South Africa is an extraordinary sensitive who has become an animal communicator creating a communicative bridge between human and non-human animals.  She tells us:

“By connecting with our intuition, we can engage in meaningful dialogue and remember how to hear the subtle messages from those whose space we share in our lives and our natural environment. Coming from a place of respect and reverence for all life, we can learn to understand our wilder relatives, honour their truths and live in greater harmony” (See https://www.animalspirit.org/ accessed 14th September 2020).

The world of Jungian analysis can be applied as much to personal and relationship worries as to artistic, spiritual and political concerns.  There are practitioners with interests and experience across many different disciplines.  And, in these post-Covid times, it may be accessed worldwide with online sessions.

References

Bohm, D., (1980/2002) Wholeness and the Implicate Order.  London and New York: Routledge Classics.

Kopenawa, D. (2013) (with B. Albert) (Trans. Elliott and Dundy) The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman.  Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Laszlo, E., (2004) Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything

Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Sheldrake, R., (2009) Morphic Resonance: The Nature of Formative Causation, Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.

Sheldrake, R., (2011) Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: The Unexplained Power of Animals, London: Arrow Books.

Tacey,D. (2009) Edge of the Sacred: Jung, Psyche, Earth.  Einsiedeln; Daimon Verlag.

Talbot, M., (1991) The Holographic Universe. London: Harper Collins.

Williams, R. (2019) Jung: The Basics.  London and New York: Routledge.

Williams, R. (2020) “Our Connection with Animals and the Universe: Psychology, Symbols, Spirituality and the New Physics” in (Mathers (Ed.) (2020) Depth Psychology and Climate Change: The Green Book.  London and New York: Routledge).

Williams, R. (2023) Exploring Spirituality from a Post-Jungian Perspective: Clinical and Personal Reflections.  London and New York: Routledge.

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