Monday, August 27, 2012

The Muse of Crater Lake

"Marked by Fire"
A Story of the Jungian Way in Geological Time

What does a “story of the Jungian way” have in common with a quiet lake in Southern Oregon? I find myself musing about this as I sit in a rocking chair on the terrace of Crater

Lake Lodge looking out at the mandala of Crater Lake—a jewel of a lake with constantly changing hues of blue—a mystery of a lake cupped in a rocky rim, without slopes down to its beaches, without streams bringing it water, without the look and feel of most lakes—and yet it is so lovely it takes one’s breath away.

What created this astounding beauty? The collapse of an enormous volcano: 7,700 years ago Mount Mazama erupted—blew its top—fell into itself leaving an enormous hole—a caldera. Mount Mazama was a powerful and sacred presence to the native peoples who lived in its vicinity—as imposing as Mount Shasta still is to this day. Its fall must have been a catastrophe for the world around it, for the people and the animals. There are Indian legends about the battle between the Chief of the Below World and the Chief of the Above World, which culminated in the fiery explosion of the Above World Mountain.

The origin of this magical lake required a later eruption, which created Wizard Island and sent lava to seal the bottom of the caldera. Because of this wizardry, thousands of years of snow and rain created the deepest lake in America, with the purest water in the world and the most amazing vicissitudes of blue.

In our human lives we have our own versions of this archetypal pattern—one world’s catastrophe is another world’s birth. An illness, a death, a wounding in love, a divorce, the loss of a homeland, a war, a financial disaster can be the catalyst that collapses our known world—it seems like the end of everything. We are in crisis, beside our selves, lost in the void, destitute, desperate, in agony, sick to death. We can’t imagine a future.

If we are lucky and mindful, if the gods are with us, a surprising turn of events may create a new space for our lives—a caldera for our deepest nature. What this enchanted lake has in common with many stories of the Jungian way are its fiery origins and the unexpected magic of its becoming. In the stories told by the contributors to “Marked by Fire” you can read many versions of this pattern of devastation and transformation.

As I rock and muse on the terrace of the beautifully renovated Lodge, I consider the fiery spirit of the political times we are in: bitterly divisive battles over the governance and future of America, destructive and dangerous firestorms lit by the climate change deniers, women’s rights repealers, New Deal destroyers, immigrant harassers, public education desecrators. American values I thought most of us shared are threatened; the earth itself is at risk.
What a relief from all the rancor and the rage it is to hang out with the spirit of the depths in this most American of institutions—a National Park. On this terrace there are at least 20 rocking chairs and people line up waiting for their turn to sit and rock and contemplate this mystery—the bowl of the sky touches the bowl of the lake and one feels held in a perfect circle, enraptured, enchanted.

The Muse of Crater Lake has many things to teach us. For example, it takes the craggy fire blasted walls of the world that was to cup the fluid waters of what dreams within us. What remains of the Old Chief of the Above reflects on itself in deep waters.
The soul of America can be seen in these waters that mingle ancient rains and snow falls with the latest arrivals. The spirit of America can be heard in the stories told by the ranger about the eccentric and fixated William Gladstone Steel, who saw the lake in 1885 and understood its spiritual power. He made it his life’s work to transform this sacred spot into a National Park. He was a gadfly on the body politic for 17 years before he achieved his goal. As the Park Ranger said to a little boy named Abraham, “You too can make your dreams come true.”

The muse of Crater Lake reminds us that the word caldera is Spanish for cauldron. In the heated cauldron of our own lives and in the geological life of the earth amazing changes are possible. A drive around the rim of the lake shows us many vantage points from which to marvel at how the old and the new, the hot and the cold can co-exist, how on a warm summer day you can still see banks of snow tucked in among the lava rock.

You can join your fellow Americans on bikes, in cars, on the trolley sent out by the Lodge, among those who need canes and those who are lithe and buff, to marvel at the cerulean lake, the azure lake, the baby blue lake, the turquoise lake, the deep indigo lake. You can hear a father tell his young son the story of the life and death of Mount Mazama and the genesis of Crater Lake, and ask, “Isn’t that crazy amazing?”

In the booklet, Crater Lake: The Story Behind the Scenery, put out by the National Parks about Crater Lake, from which I gleaned science, history and legend about this place, there is a dedication, “to all who find Nature not an adversary to conquer but a storehouse of infinite knowledge and experience linking man to all things past and present.“ If you change the word Nature to Human Nature you could say the same things about the human dimension we call the Jungian way, a worldview we need to cultivate in our dangerous times.

If you’d like to contemplate the geological story of a place that’s been profoundly “Marked by Fire,” I highly recommend a visit to Crater Lake. The Lodge is a lovely hotel right at the rim of the lake.

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An Invitation
 October 7, 2012
2 - 5pm 

If you’d like to contemplate the human version of the story please become a donor and attend the “Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way” event at the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco! Your donation supports the Institute's work of the psyche, making it possible for people to have Jungian analysis through the low cost clinic, for candidates to be trained in analytical methods, for international students whose countries do not have Jung Institutes to study here, for public programs to be offered to the general population, including the programs of the Friends of the Institute and to ensure our international Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche continues to reach around the globe.

The Donor Event will be on Sunday afternoon, October 7, from 2-5 pm at the C.G. Jung Institute in San Francisco. Three contributing analyst authors will read from their highly personal and unique stories: Karlyn Ward from Mill Valley, California; Chie Lee from West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, and Jacqueline Gerson from Mexico City.

Come join us and hear these powerful stories of three women from three countries whose lives were changed by the teachings of C. G. Jung. For more information, contact Collin Eyre at 415-771-8055 extension 210 or e-mail Collin at to make a donation and reserve a seat at this exciting Donor Event.

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