The Tiger and the Wind. The Magic Element of the Body in Therapy
Since time immemorial, man has intuited the infinite resources of unused energy in the remotest meanders of his own interior world. In the more primitive practices of psychic healing, appeal was made to the instinctive and spiritual potential of the body and the soul of the one attempting – through dreams, the pulsating rhythm of drums, dance, breathing exercises, magic gestures … in the attempt to free energy and enrich his own live — to draw from that “something else” permeating every ritual gesture as well as each everyday action.
Ceremony and ritual, body, movement, sound and breathing, points of juncture between body and soul. All are present in this description of the analytical and existential process of Laura. Through the impressive flow of her dreams, the messages which the unconscious reveals through the body, and the experience of “Holotropic Breathing”, forgotten and vindictive gods emerge, through suffering, from the obscure depths of the soul towards the light, are given attention, nurtured and venerated, thus entering onto the stage of life.
Pentesilea lays down her bow. The Emergency of the Feminine in Communication
The unconscious is nourished by images — images captured in the external world during the waking state, digested and transformed through dreams and consequently expelled to the exterior, in another form of images (art, cinema…) and in their turn catalyze interior images (dreams, fantasies). Those external images therefore exert the same influence as internal ones. Broadening the imaginal context, whether in art or in the therapeutic environment, implies “producing” consciousness, awareness.
The task of the psychologist in this here, similar to that of the artist, is therefore a “flowing” together with the one to whom aid is offered, of dancing the eternal dance of a concealing/revealing of the unconscious by means of the imaginal-symbolic and corporeal language, and capturing and freeing images and thoughts in order to imprison them once more in the “new word”. New-born words with the vital and evolutional drive of the spirit of time is expressed. In what way do words, thoughts, inspiration come to mind? The space of consciousness is perceived as analogous to “pulmonary void”. The experience of “inspiration” is one of breathlessness, a being put into contact with one’s own non verbal being. Void”, or emptiness and non-verbal essence are then the beginning of self-determination and constitute the necessary condition for the “complete” or “full” word, which is then the expression of any personal thought. Contact with that “interior void”, makes possible access to the origin, the “birth”, of words, as well as their “absence”, the essential passage of meditation. Only from the “emptiness of consciousness”, the “verbal vacuity”, therefore does the new and the true word emerge.
The Eclipse. Fragments of a Therapeutic Process.
The Medusa who “turns to stone” anyone venturing to gaze directly upon it, is an eloquent image for the paralyzing potential of the drug which traps and retains everything the dreamer struggles desperately to confront and destroy. The power of the interior universe of the dreamer, that female universe activated by the substance, is represented by the witch’s head with serpents for hair, which in dreams is reunited with the rest of the body. The divided female, turned evil, like the Gorgon, with tresses transformed into horrible serpents and teeth into terrifying fangs.
When we identify with our biographical Ego, life appears to us as arid and empty, lacking any meaning or contact with universal values. The resulting symptom is the natural response to the failure of the existential project centred on the Ego, “separateness”. The transpersonal psychological approach, which has its roots in the humanist model, directs attention in particular to the fragility and insignificance of human existence resulting from the separation from the Ego and the “self”, the interior spiritual centre which transcends the individual.
The transcending of temporal and spatial confines experienced in holotropic states leads to dis-identification with the body, the indispensable acquisition and essential stage for any spiritual process. This new perception of oneself, which is actually an overcoming of “limits”, carries along with it a deep sensation of freedom and the awareness (emotion, not rational) of a self no longer within the confines of one’s skin. No longer “separated”, a Self extended beyond the usual roles, embracing the totality of existence, a self perhaps for the first time “entire”, whole. And at the same time, paradoxically, “beyond the confines”.
This type of experience produces a sensation of “revelation” and is often charged with a “numinous” and sacred quality, and is perhaps (also) one of the more transformative phases of the interior journey. Once elaborated and integrated into the total personality, it remains one of those events after which one can truly say to “no longer be the same”, or to have become “inexplicably new”. The “truth” which ensures as a result o this new awareness is a profoundly “ecological” one, and as such would justify speaking of the creation of a new way of being which we might describe as being “ecological”. The experience of transcending spatial/temporal confines brings about awareness and meaning, rendering the person more capable of being in tune with nature and with his fellow human beings, as well as assuming his own existential task in that, once discarded and transcended the confines, the person will know and feel that he belongs to the totality.
Body Merchants, Soul Spoilers
The analogy between the essence of the prostitution which excludes any personal involvement in the relationship between the sexes and the essence of money is inevitable. As regards money, the question is never asked as to “what” actually “it is worth”, its quality is related exclusively to the quantity, just as a prostitute is never asked “who are you?”. And this is the most tragic aspect of prostitution: a body reduced to a means, flesh to merchandise, equivalent to any body. Love of objects which can be obtained with money is gradually transformed into the perpetual effort to control events, to the denial of the inevitability of death; it is transformed into the flight of persons and into that which “separates”: the contrary of eros — that is, its perversion. Money subsequently becomes a substitute for something which does not belong to the material world, a substitute for the relationship: a pseudo-falling in love, a false love story. Money and sex have always been, since the dawn of history, intimately bound, and sexuality in its most elevated expression is spirituality. Eros is at the root of all that which is creation and beauty, of all that which is divine: the Samadhi is the supreme expression of sexual energy. In the spiritual literature of the Orient, –in the Tantra, for example, — the divine is considered something extremely erotic and sexuality is rehabilitated within a sacred dimension, analogously to what had already occurred in many primitive civilisations. The practice of the Tantra, the philosophy of which expresses an unconditional assent to life in all its manifestations, has as its basic principle the belief in something considerably more elevated in human nature, the full realization of which is beatitude.
In recent years, there has been generally a tendency to recover, to re-appropriate in the religious sphere a feminine metaphysical figure endowed with sexuality, a figure which emerges in our dreams but also in art and literature. The figure of Mary Magdalene, for example, as she appears in the film, “The Da Vinci Code”, adapted from the author Dan Brown’s book of the same title. I consider these attempts — at times clumsy or even grotesque — extremely significant from the psychological point of view in that they reveal the need and a straining towards a profound transformation of the symbols of our times (“a metamorphosis of the gods”, as it were); a transformation, in this case, of the archetypical unconscious woman in us and the advent of her new metaphysical image. All this should obviously be of great interest to psychoanalysts. Could it be that this new image of Mary Magdalene as a more modern archetypical image of the divine woman be elected to unite with the trinity to complete the divine foursome? A Mary Magdalene no longer a “prostitute”, but in anew guise as a “bride of Christ”, a new female icon, one more adequate to represent the new emerging woman, sexually more complete, a woman tending to liberate the serpent underfoot.
The Art of Psychotherapy. The Therapeutic Space as a Sacred Space in which the Mysteries of the Soul are revealed
Before a work of art, or at the entrance of a sacred place — for example a sanctuary which has been frequented for centuries –, many experience common sensations: almost palpable feelings of inner peace and harmony, reverence, fear and trembling as though the very air were impregnated, not only with artistic beauty, but also all the projections, emotions, intuitions, prayers and values of generations of visitors who have contemplated that beauty and “breathed” in that atmosphere. However, what enchants at the same time confuses estranges, shakes the soul to its foundation and alienates. Rarely does one observe a masterpiece remaining unchanged, detached or indifferent. Apprehension, panic, terror, or else feelings of unity, expansion, which favour the access to an interior source of vital forces –for better or worse, something happens. The emotion and the joy which result from the contemplation of beauty lead us back to an ecstatic, expansive dimension and loss of confines, to that dimension of pleasure, union and fascination of the primitive fusion with Mother–Nature which is rooted in the prenatal experience. This sentiment of completeness which belongs to the boundless territories of the experience in the womb has its origin in that never completely cancelled remote past, when we were Everything and there was no lack from which any desire could be formed.
The aesthetic experience presents an intermediate space where our thirst for completeness and the nostalgia of that place of the soul pervaded with Pleasure, Beauty and Harmony can be ritualized. Paradisiacal ecstasy, fusion with the maternal body. In fact, the more famous a work of art is, the more it will have absorbed generations of projections of desires, aspirations, exaltations, becoming a living symbol and container of the divinities which from the collective unconscious tend to emerge and demand attention. Before the enchantment and the beauty of a place or a centuries-old work of art, we cannot avoid contact with the other reality underlying our common, consensual reality, or heeding its requests, and opening the door to its divinity, to its symbols and archetypes.
From Blood to the Rose. Human Evolution beyond the Family
What is the role of the family today, in this difficult and controversial world? Is it still possible to speak of “advantages of evolution” bestowed on human beings by virtue of their belonging to a family group? In an attempt to respond to that question, the author — through a comparison of the various psychological, philosophical and anthropological currents of thought, as well as a passing glance at esotericism and the examples of clinical cases –, offers a description and an interpretation in an evolutional key of the family and love in our times.
Sin and Virtue in the Age of Globalization
In this article, the traditional idea of sin is reviewed in a modern key in the light of more recent developments in Jungian and trans-personal psychology. The Devil is no longer the instigator of our more reprehensible acts; the responsibility for these instead lies in our own rigid egoistic limits, the thirst for power and dominion which separates us from others and the world around us. In the original meaning of the Greek term hamartàno, which derived from the art of archery, sin would be missing the target. What is the target not to be missed today? In times of globalization and the danger of ecological catastrophe, the target is a higher level of union, consciousness or awareness – “the Messianic time” or “the return of God on the earth”, as it is defined in the prophetic-spiritual literature and described in the Bible. From Fromm’s humanist point of view, the Messianic time could be considered the only possible response to the present crisis of humanity, an alternative to its self-destruction. Man can annihilate himself or, as Fromm suggests, progress towards the realization of a new harmony. The more intensely we embrace our interior nature, the more profoundly can we connect with what surrounds us; our integrity and our “healing” go hand in glove with the healing of our planet. Subsequently, “sin” means division , being separate, without and within ourselves. Sin divides us from ourselves, from the world, from the other. The basis of the unity of the human species is not that each man believes in an identical God, but that each man draws from the human resources buried in the depths of his soul and acts naturally with justice and with Love. The “x” experience defined by Fromm, the interior experience of dignity and strength, is possible only if we succeed in escaping from what Reich defines “the trap” which limits us and prevents us from living and places us on the outside tract. Only then can we find access to the exalting depth of our “Self” and realize our most ardent passion, the transparency of being and the living force. To our only and true selves. Tradition has called “Anima” that point of encounter between man and the Unknown, which Michelangelo has superbly represented in the Sistine Chapel. There where Union is possible and where the original meaning of the word “religion” is recovered, which is “connection”, not words, dogma or rules of behaviour, but authentic experience of the Encounter.
The Red Book of C. G. Jung.
Our era is characterized by violently contrasting drives and destructive and dispersive tendencies, but at the same time by a straining towards peace and harmony. Pollution and natural disasters, political tension and economic and social inequalities increase, terrorism has become rampant, but pacifist and ecological movements are also on the increase, as well as voluntary service, the turning to account of various cultural perspectives, the cult of Mother Earth and a certain critical attitude combined with the desire to change. Major crises, danger and disasters therefore, but also new prospective of great change. In the field of psychology – and in Italy in particular –, with the increasing “medicalizing” of psychology, consequently imposing an ever more authoritarian and limiting approach to the human psyche, the publication of the Italian translation of The Red Book of C. G. Jung leads us to a reflection on our personal and cultural limits and opens the way to research and the exploration of the interior world and the evolutional potential of man. In the Liber Novus, Jung shares with us his “nocturnal passage”, his struggle to liberate his spirit from the prison of conventional mental structures – an important stage in the development of human consciousness, from both the individual and collective points of view. The nucleus of this activation of psychic energy and the archetype of the Centre, defined “Self” by Jung are represented in his drawings of the mandala. These drawings offer an additional key to the comprehension of the genesis of his model of psychotherapy and confirm his position of precursor of a new psychology which could still have a more profound influence on the evolution of Western consciousness and social and intellectual history of this century than his canonical works.
Death which kills Death. At the Border Line of the Ego, between East and West
When we pose the question as to where we might find nature, or ask a believer where we might find God, the general tendency is usually to indicate something outside – outside the door, the window, the city. In any case, outside themselves. This is the expression of the illusion, the basic perception, which in philosophy is called duality and marks the birth of the present state of consciousness. It is also the source, according to some, of all human suffering. This objectivity – primary condition of the scientific method – when pushed to the extreme, reaches the point of eliminating the subject himself, as Edgar Morin observed. At the basis of the increasing suffering around us, we inevitably find the nostalgia for a complete, absolute and eternal happiness which is symbolized in Genesis in the myth of the “lost paradise”. We desperately search for happiness outside ourselves, certain that it exists somewhere, in a lost place: we search for it – in vain – in love, in matrimony, in power, in wealth, in drugs, in ideology, in religion. This suffering and this vain and desperate search for completeness is defined in the transpersonal sphere as the “lost paradise syndrome”. The “lost paradise syndrome” is created by a mirage, a basic deception: by the illusion of separateness which results in our perceiving of ourselves as separate from the rest of the world and which is the source of what is called “ the illness of modern man”; that is, the lust for power in relation to the world without being able to become truly himself the world. A serious error in evaluation, a “sin” in the Greek sense of “missing the target”, in which the Ego, instead of dying to “be” the entire world, ends up puffing itself up out of all proportion in the attempt to “possess” the world. Our epoch has seen the final consequence of this separation of the rational Ego and the primordial unity of Spirit and Nature, characterized above all by this loss – the loss of the “participation mystique”. In this article, the author analyses that state of consciousness called Samadhi – Sanskrit for “union with God” –, in which duality disappears and separated individuality is dissolved. In Samadhi the truth emerges through the renouncing of all the forms and the direct access to the only significance, an experience usually considered a union with God and represents the true dividing line between western psychology and the great Oriental psychological systems. The most radical and drastic of all the forms of death – the death which kills death and opens the door to ecstasy and freedom of a broader consciousness –, unites us once more with the lost paradise, going well beyond the “minor” deaths of a partial aspect of our personality accompanying our evolution/progress. The “death of the Ego” challenges all points of reference, moves the earth under our feet and makes the “world of the gods” appear on the horizon.
The Mystery of Golgotha. Between the Demons and Gods of Modernity
The author here analyzes the meaning of the crucifixion as it is interpreted in contemporary art and religious iconography, focusing attention on all on the archetypical psychic experience associated with the Christian symbol. Particular attention is given to the important contribution of Rudolf Steiner, in agreement with Jung and recent scientific developments. Not only men, but also the gods die. O is transformed into wooden, cement or stone figures, lacking “religious” essence. At times, they are reborn. The image of the dead Christ on the Cross, which prevails in our culture over any other religious icon, is emblematic and reminds us that for our collective consciousness, Christ has never risen again from the dead. The demons of our times, our contemporary terrifying entities are the bearers of death, but not a physical death as is often represented symbolically in art or as we tend to interpret it, but to a drama of death and rebirth in which the Ego encounters its own transpersonal destiny and entrusts itself to it. It is significant that in the clinical experience the symbol of Christ emerges at times at the culminating moment of the “spiritual emergence” as the promise of the evolutionary process and the crowning of a new and more profound personality. The mysterious power of the Symbol can, during this process, cause so powerful a fascination and reach such intensity as to cause the unleashing of the painful identification with Christ, his suffering and death. To complete the evolutionary process, the mystery of the Cross must be experienced, comprehended and assimilated by the individual as his own personal destiny. At this point, the projection is withdrawn and the individual is able to establish an individual relationship with the “Holy Ghost”; that us, with the eternal source of being. This, according to Steiner, is the important step in the direction of the overcoming of “Christ-centrism”, a step which is not made at the death of Christ as the individual does not become himself the “vessel of the divine”; instead a collective container — the Church — emerges as the sole link with the “message” and “vessel of the Holy Ghost”. The theory of Steiner, not unlike that of present-day scientists, makes a leap beyond the rational and delineates the characteristics of a vision in which we can perceive a way to regain dignity and the possibility that human inner life and spirituality can intensify in empathy, creativity and inspiration.
The Witches’ Hammer
According to the authors of the Malleus maleficarum, the curse of the witches, besides in knowledge of the invisible and supernatural world, also lies in a knowledge of the body and things of a sexual nature. As possessor of the fire of carnal passion and magic charms, the witch represents a threat, a subversive element in society. The pages of the “The Witches’ Hammer” reveal a symptom of a sexualpolitical- religious delirium which its authors hurl against their own shameful and unspeakable dreams and aspirations projected onto the female body. Consequently, it is the body of the witch, the object of their most unspeakable fantasies and desires, which must be burned – that body which incarnates an entire legion of demons-phantasms who ceaselessly assail the sleep of the Inquisitors.
The Cabala and the Global Crisis
The elements of Nature as a whole, with the exception
of human beings, function as if they possessed an innate
perception of the total entity of which they are a part:
healthy cells collaborate with one another within the
organism, reciprocally sustaining each other. If they did
not obey this natural order, the cells would enter into
conflict, behaving as if they were unicellular creatures.
When this disfunction occurs within an organism, the
resulting diagnosis is cancer: the cancerous cells struggle
to procure for themselves oxygen and nutritive elements,
causing their own destruction as well as that of the host
organism. One of the aspects characterizing the present
chaotic global situation is the interdependence of men
68 Virginia Salles
along with an ever increasing alienation. Human beings
continue to behave as though they were “separate” one
from the other, when actually we are all connected and far
more than we imagine. In the integrated system of our
global community, each individual must become aware
of the fact that our common destiny is strictly bound to
our comportment and our actions in relation to others,
in the sense that it is the entire world to pay the price of
our errors. The precepts of all the world’s religions and
the Cabala in particular rotate around the phrase, “Love
thy neighbour as thyself ” – a phrase which is not merely
a religious or ethical precept, it is a law of Nature, and
even more than that, a law of survival.
SOS SPIRITUAL EMERGENCY
The pain of soul between psychopathology and mysticism
From the pain- described by Oscar Wilde as “the supreme emotion of which man is capable”- we would choose to distance ourselves as quickly as possible; but it is through fear, bewilderment, and, most of all, from the self-recognition we are persuaded to engage in, in those moments of suffering, that our most precious wealth of knowledge, such as art or poetry, is born. We will find ourselves grateful, be it to life or fate, for having experienced such pain.
Elma’s suffering is one of the most enigmatic, and, I would say, fascinating of its kind.
Is there a link between her psychological condition, considered psychiatrically relevant, and the experiences described in spiritual-mystical literature? Clearly not, if we choose to acknowledge psychiatry from an exclusively traditional, positivist science approach.
But certain circumstances, such as those Elma experiences, force us to turn our attention to the abyss within, to gaze into the infinity behind every wound. They force us to carry on facing something we are finally able to see, and couldn’t recognize before, something that only now reveals itself.
Aldo Carotenuto and the Individuation
From the primordial concept of “sincerity” in Shakespeare, to the acute consciousness of
social roles in more modern authors, such as Pirandello, Jean-Paul Sartre, Guy de
Maupassant, James Joyce, and many more, the tension between the authentic self, and
the social masks, has marked the history of the modern world, and Carotenuto himself,
never escaped this contradiction in all its irony and laceration. On the one hand, the feeling
of imprisonment within the prestigious “mask”, created during his long carrier, of a
university professor, renowned psychoanalyst, and successful writer, on the other, his
more authentic and creative dimension, that “something that screamed inside him” and
asked for unlimited freedom.
From the Interior Desert Towards the “Promised Land”.
The Away Forward Individuation/Initiation
God11 asks of all of us, what he asked of Abraham: “go to yourself”. Inthe instant in which
this “call” comes, each of us is tragically alone, but all the more tragic shall it be to not
answer the call. Going to one’s self means finding the strength to face the crucial
questions of existence, those that are the hardest do not come from the ego (our habitual
“who?” questions).Questions that put us “back on track” in contact with that hidden
strength that underlies all of existence, a force that drives us to outdo ourselves, as we
knew ourselves (our ego). This is the real EXODUS – the archetype of evasion – the only
path that leads out of the desert of slavery.This escape from the interior desert towards the
“Promised Land” is archetypally symbolised by the Jewish people’s great adventure.
Ambrosia, the nectar of love
From the moment a parent gives a child cake or candy for the first time, accompanied by a
tender gesture, the act of eating is impregnated with affectivity, and food is charged with
meanings that go far beyond the nourishment necessary for our survival, it becomes
ambrosia: the “nectar of Love”, soul bearer. In the wisdom literature of various traditions
the strong link between nutrition and transcendence, between health and spirituality, is
emphasised. “I will bless your bread and your water, I will remove all sickness from you”,
says God to Moses in the book of Exodus. The relationship between food and religion, as
it is described in the sacred books, can be complicated and sometimes difficult to
understand. In the book of Leviticus (Old Testament) there is a long analysis of the
forbidden foods that are considered “blasphemous” and King David, in the Psalms, offers
important teachings for a healthy and spiritually correct diet.
Man and Nature. Nutrition, Breathing and Love
Beyond the material aspect our senses can perceive, nature in its relationship with man is
both process and result. It is the architect of its own evolution: all the parts interact
continuously with each other to favour “the evolutionary project”. According to the great
spiritual traditions and profound ecology, life is nothing but a continuous exchange
between man ‒ that tiny part that we collectively represent ‒ other living beings and the
universe. This continuous exchange between man and the universe is called nutrition,
breathing, but above all love. Some esoteric doctrines consider our planet “non-sacred”. A
planet, or rather its state of consciousness, separated from universal harmony: a place of
suffering because it is dominated by egoistic claims, by separateness rather than man’s
comprehension of his place within nature. The basic principles of this ancient wisdom are
not only based on the awareness of the close relationship between man and nature, but
mainly on the consistent communication between the external world and the internal world:
the concept of “planetary consciousness” ‒ the awareness of our destiny, not only as
human beings, but as part of something much broader that can be defined as “a general
Visionaries at the Heart of Modernity
The Soul with its imagination/creative vision, is that “cavernous repository of treasures”, as
described by St. Augustine. It is simultaneously confusion, fertility, and wealth. In the Soul
container, as in an alchemical forge, the images are “cooked” and transformed, and once
we receive them within ourselves we gain awareness, and carry forward the evolutionary
process, both individually and collectively. According to our spiritual tradition, only a few
men are truly “sitting on the bank of the river of life”; they see with their own eyes and
understand what is happening around them. All the others run back and forth busily, utterly
deaf and blind. Perceiving another reality hidden behind the veil of shared certainties, the
ability to tap into new elements, requires great courage and the ability to perceive
relationships and “constellations” previously unknown; it implies the abandonment of any
preconceived view of the world, of any shared vision, to dive into the depths of one’s inner
world. Each new vision is a direct encounter with the “Mystery” of Life, with the spiritual
power that operates within us.
Beyond the Pathology of Ego
The deep roots of these “soul’s diseases” should not be sought in the clinical field, among
traditional diagnosis manuals, but in the existential thirst that belongs to every human
being, a fundamental dissatisfaction, the need to venture into the unknown called “Ulisse
factor”. The inner world is vast and, as Foucault says “it devours those who are not strong
and prepared”, but if the madness somehow blinds us, the mad one, on the contrary, oddly
reminds us of each other’s own truth. In my clinical experience a significant number of
examined people diagnosed as psychotic, because they “hear voices” or “see spirits,” are
really just people who are experiencing spiritual labor. These states of consciousness
often represent an opening to a deeper existential dimension and are considered a true
“blessing”, a “kiss of God” from the spiritual Tradition point of view.