Monday, December 26, 2011

News from the Muse: The Muse of Fire

Marked By Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way

This life is the way, the long sought after way to the unfathomable which we call divine
—C.G. Jung, The Red Book

Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way is a soulful collection of essays that illuminate the inner life.

When Soul appeared to C.G. Jung and demanded he change his life, he opened himself to the powerful forces of the unconscious. He recorded his inner journey, his conversations with figures that appeared to him in vision and in dream in The Red Book. Although it would be years before The Red Book was published, much of what we now know as Jungian psychology began in those pages, when Jung allowed the irrational to assault him. That was a century ago.

How do those of us who dedicate ourselves to Jung’s psychology as analysts, teachers, writers respond to Soul’s demands in our own lives? If we believe, with Jung, in “the reality of the psyche,” how does that shape us? The articles in Marked By Fire portray direct experiences of the unconscious; they tell life stories about the fiery process of becoming ourselves.

A Word from the Sister
The publication of “Marked by Fire” is exciting. I want to share a portion of Naomi's essay in the collection, especially the part where I show up and play a pivotal role. I hope you’ll want to read more....
Drunk with Fire
How The Red Book Transformed My Jung

Support me for I stagger, drunk with fire. . . . I climbed down through the centuries and plunged into the sun far at the bottom. And I rose up drunk from the sun . . . The Red Book
There has been a breach between C. G. Jung and me. How could that happen? I had no idea who I was until I met Jung, nor had I had a decent conversation with my soul. Jungian analysis showed me my way into the world, and into my inner life—it opened the door to the poet I'd left behind in my childhood. But when I encountered Jung's suspicious attitude toward artists—so like a Swiss burgher—the poet in me was offended.

Enter The Red Book. When I sat down with that enormous tome on my lap and leafed through its gloriously illuminated pages, its visionary poetry, its astounding paintings and mandalas, my heart opened to my illustrious ancestor—all was forgiven. I felt vindicated. Jung, as I'd always suspected, was a closeted poet.

What is this Red Book? During a difficult time in his life, after his break with Freud, Jung was deluged with powerful images and visions. He wrote them down and painted them. He created a strange and beautiful book—bound in red leather—to hold them. It looks like a medieval illuminated manuscript. The Red Book was not published, even after his death, because of concerns that its wild, prophetic tone would cause people to dismiss Jung as a mystic or a madman. When it finally came out in 2009, it surprised the Jungian world by creating a media sensation and selling out its first printing

With the publication of The Red Book my Jung has been transformed. He is "outed" as a poet and a painter. He writes directly out of his vulnerability, working out his relationship with his soul in the depths of the mythopoetic imagination, just as I do. In The Red Book Jung reclaims his soul—or rather she reclaims him. She appears to him and becomes his guide. She is an inner figure with a mind of her own. This honoring of the voice from within, which Jung would later call active imagination, is one of his greatest gifts to me. Instead of ignoring or dismissing voices that speak to me from within, Jung taught me to listen and to engage in dialogue with them. When "The Sister from Below" began speaking to me, telling me she was my muse, my soul, my writing life took off....

When Jung implores, "Support me for I stagger drunk with fire," I feel a tug and am deeply moved. Why is this? They are wildly poetic words—in the Dionysian mode. They take me down to that primal level of religious feeling—worship of the sun, our source. I know the states he describes. To be drunk with fire tells it all—the creative ecstasy—at once wildly enlivening and demonic—fire as Dionysus, fire as Shiva, fire as Pele. Certainly being a poet can mean being drunk with the sun from the bottom of time. One finds oneself climbing "down through the centuries" pursuing a word, an image, a phrase of goat song.

It has been essential for me to write directly out of the experience of being in other realities, rather than describing such states from a safe distance. In The Red Book Jung contains his intense and overwhelming experiences by writing them down, by painting them. I recognize that urge. I have shelves and shelves of journals in which I've worked to contain my own fire, to follow inner figures, to work with poems and with dreams, to dive below the surface of the times to what is moving in the depths. And I always feel better, more grounded, more real to myself after I do.

Enter, the Sister from Below. She's got an idea:

Why don't you take your own advice? Do an active imagination with Jung, now that you feel this warm glow of kinships libido for him? Imagine you two are sitting by the primordial fire, as he puts it in The Red Book:
An old secret fire burns between us. . . . The words uttered at the fire are ambiguous and deep and show life the right way. . . .
[We] will respect the holy fire again, as well as the shades sitting at the hearth, and the words that encircle the flames.
This makes me nervous. Jung is the master of active imagination. Is it hubris to invoke him? But I have learned to listen to the Sister. So I sit down, with my notebook. Jung, I discover, is reluctant. He is not at all sure he wants to engage in this exercise...

Marked By Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way

Volume 1 - Inaugural Edition, Edited by Patricia Damery and Naomi Ruth Lowinsky. Available Spring 2012

Contributors to Marked by Fire: Jerome Bernstein, Claire Douglas, Gilda Frantz, Jacqueline Gerson, Jean Kirsch, Chie Lee, Karlyn Ward, Henry Abramovitch, Sharon Heath, Dennis Patrick Slattery, Robert Romanyshyn, Patricia Damery, and Naomi Ruth Lowinsky.

Paperback & eBook editions - Advance Orders Welcomed

Product Details
Paperback & eBook editions: 150 pages (estimate)
Large Page Size Format 9.25" x 7.5"
Publisher: Fisher King Press; 1st edition (April 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1-926715-68-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-926715-68-1

Saturday, December 17, 2011

News from the Muse: The Muse of the Dark

The Muse of the Dark

For Behold, Darkness Shall cover the Earth
(Handel's Messiah)

We are approaching the winter solstice. I always fight the dark—resisting its dark embrace. I don’t like getting up in the morning when it’s still dark. I don’t like going home from work in the evening when it’s already dark.

And yet, if I slow down and listen more deeply to myself, there is a yearning to descend into the dark—to crawl into a cave and ruminate, to vegetate. After all, I love the night. I love sleeping, dreaming. I wrote a poem about longing for sleep.


I am crawling around the edges of you
longing for you
sweet sleep
that my grandson fell into this evening
as I walked him and sang
and his head hung heavy
on my arm

why do you hold yourself back from me
you were my first love
you wrapped me up in my mother’s dark
knew me before I knew light
filled me with all I’ve become

my oldest familiar
open your doors to the streaming stars
let lions loose to dance in the sky
and those who are gone
let them return
to speak my name

for everything that’s lost
is found in you
and everything changes
its shape

rock becomes a giant lizard
flame leaps from the rock
becomes word
becomes snake
becomes backbone

only you can wash away
the day’s bile
this one I’m arguing with
that one who rubbed me
the wrong way

lead me down into your secret pools
rub oils into my body
take my muscles in hand
and smooth them out

O sleep
lay your big blue weight
upon me

(first published in crimes of the dreamer)

Sleep is a god, a healer, a magical realm. Then why is the dark time of the year so difficult?

We are a culture addicted to light—the sun’s daily cycle no longer controls us. We live in electrical light, fluorescent light, virtual reality, on Facebook and Twitter, we work, shop, answer e-mail 24/7. We are lost to the wisdom of cycles—the cycle of the day, the cycle of the year, what Bear knows when she crawls into her cave. Of course, I’m no more interested than you are in giving up my illuminated nights. I love watching “Mad Men;” I love reading in bed.

However we pay a heavy price for all this light. How do we get our down time—time for our thoughts to meander, time to play, to pray, to muse, to remember, to forget, to re-create ourselves? How do we nourish the cave dweller in our souls, the moony dreamy eyed poet? Here’s a poem about that.


You can’t trick gold
out of the Black Sun

Nor diamonds
out of virtual space

Your wild ride
from coast to coast—

over dayglo towers
that know no night
that see no dreams
that limit you to what
can be found
on a laptop—

has screeched
to a halt:

Snake on the trail!
Is it a rattler?

You must shed old skin
Rub your irritation
all over some big rock

Sit in the dark
not knowing
your next life

When she comes around that mountain
Will you sing?

It is so hard for us to sit in the dark, not seeing, not knowing our next life. It is, however essential. When Jung built his tower at Bollingen he wanted no electrical light. And at Tassajara, the Buddhist retreat, there is no electrical light. I was at Tassajara once. I remember the dark pull of the night—so grounding, so profound. I felt attached to the earth and to myself. Daybreak was an epiphany. Trees, flowers, our cabins, the river, emerged into being as if for the first time. The world was reborn.

In Grace Cathedral to hear the Messiah I am pulled into the dark of that deep cavernous vault, pulled by the music I’ve known since childhood and its magical evocation of the Christian mystery.

The Cathedral is filled with people. They’ve added rows and rows of metal folding chairs behind the pews to accommodate us all. We’ve turned off our cell phones, disconnected ourselves from hectic brick and mortar shopping, from manic on-line shopping. We sit together in that dark cave, yearning for something ancient and sacred. Human voices call out to the divine for comfort, for meaning, for illumination as they have since the Shaman chanted.

Behold, I tell you a Mystery....we shall all be chang'd...
(Handel's Messiah)

Approaching the winter solstice I am glad to be among others engaged in this ancient ritual of the dark time.Below the Judeo-Christian strata we find the Old Religion—call it Pagan or Goddess religion—we find the myths that honor the natural cycles of sun, moon and earth, the myths of descent. Persephone went down into the underworld. So did the Innana. Betty Meador, a Jungian analyst who has devoted herself to Innana titled one of her books Uncursing the Dark.
In it she writes:
The myth discloses an archetypal pattern of opposites. On the one hand, the woman descendant is the highly civilized culture bearer; on the other hand, at the bottom of the underworld, she is the single human animal, separate and alone...

I hope in this season you'll take time to tend your soul and your animal nature, that you'll burrow down below the noise, the endless demands for activity and consumption, the addiction to light of our culture. I hope you'll find your own way to pay homage to the cycles of the natural world—the power of the night, the cave, the dream, the moon. Do so and you'll glimpse that mystery of transformation; perhaps you'll feel changed, reborn. Here’s a poem about that.


Long ago when night was your familiar
You knew the moon and the moon knew you
I mean carnally
Those stories about sex with the devil are about this

You knew the moon and the moon knew you
Joy from the sky made a music in your body
Those stories about sex with the devil are about this
Moon penetration stars awakening

Joy from the sky made a music in your body
Lion arose horse flew
Moon penetration stars awakening
Something from forever loved you for a night

Lion rising horse flying
Roots of the tree reach up into the sky
Something from forever loves you for a night
And the moon sings

Roots of the tree reach up into the sky
Branches touch down into earth
The moon sings
Naked you are and flying

Branches touch down into earth
I mean carnally
Naked you are and flying
Rooted in the night your familiar
(first published in The Pagan's Muse)