Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Muse of Inwardness

The Sister from Below is delighted to announce the publication of

by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

We’ve volunteered, ecstatically volunteered, to place these illuminated rectangles between ourselves and the world. How eagerly and expensively we buckled, surrendered the immediacy of experience, the tactile facts of our being, to a battery–operated autocrat. I ponder the spiritual helplessness, the puncture at the hub of us, that facilitated such a happy vassalage…The way…literary art responds is not by attempting to compete with it…Literary art responds by remaining steadfastly itself…, by honoring its responsibility to inwardness…—William Giraldi in Poets and Writers  Sept/Oct. 2016
The Rabbi, the Goddess and Jung, a book of essays written in tribute to the depths and the riches of Jungian Psychology—how it helps us get the “word from within”— enters the world at a time when most of us get the word from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, when the suck of all those e–mails demands our response before we write down that dream or take time to listen for the still small voice of the soul. As William Giraldi says, we are in thrall to our “illuminated rectangles.” I was moved to read his passionate defense of inwardness. I think it is not only literary art that needs to remain “steadfastly itself,” but Jungian Psychology, which does the subversive work of countering the dominant culture, honoring the “word from within” and the practice of tracking the dream. As Jung tells it in The Red Book, being a slave to “the spirit of the times” can annihilate the soul. A descent to the “the spirit of the depths” can release the spiral serpent of wisdom and creativity.

A powerful example of creativity in the service of inwardness can be seen in the paintings of Jane Zich. Her magical painting “Visionary 3” graces the cover of The Rabbi, and she tells me, just won First Place in an exhibit titled “Introspection” put on by the Marin Society of Artists. Apparently there are others who value such soul work.

The essays in The Rabbi seek to create a sanctuary for the soul, to demonstrate the ways in which cultivation of one's inner life creates sacred space. Admitting that this is not an easy practice in our hectic, fearful times, I seek to show how the word from within orients—whether it comes as gift or disturbance, guest or ghost, riddle or revelation. It may force a confrontation with one’s worst fears. It may visit in nightmare images, such as the enormous spider with hairy legs and eight baleful eyes that appeared in a dream, come to warn, it would seem, of the perils facing human nature and Mother Nature.

It is essential, especially in difficult times, to make space for what the Kabbalah calls “the beyond that lies within—” the still small voice of the Self, the long view of the wisdom traditions. In this collection of poetic, visionary essays, I tell stories of the Lady Tree who showed up when I was six, and has wandered in and out of my life, revealing her Goddess nature. Active imagination enables me to work out unfinished business with ancestors including my father and Jung. Dreams introduce me to my spirit guides, and to a dancing rabbi who insists I study Kabbalah. And that scary spider turns out to be Grandmother Spider, a creator goddess who has the power, if we recognize Her, to help us reweave our relationship with earth.

Here’s a foretaste of the book:


Dreams pave the way for life, and they determine you 
without your understanding their language.[1]

A long time ago, when I was a candidate at the San Francisco Jung Institute, I dreamt a large lion prowled the Jung Institute Library. He told me he loved me. He told me he would eat me. That’s a good summary of my story. For I have, indeed, been devoured by the fierce, wild energy of the living psyche as Jung understood it. Leo is my sun sign and my rising sign, astrologically. That lion is part of my nature.

It sounds painful to be eaten by a lion, to be torn apart by great teeth, to do time inside the dark gut of a predator. But what better description for how it feels when life forces you to surrender your conscious intent, throws you into the chaos of not knowing who you are or where you are going? Jungians—borrowing from alchemy—call this “the nigredo,”—the dark night of the soul. It happens in most people’s lives and in most long Jungian analyses. It has happened, many times over, in mine.

I have learned, as in the famous story Martin Buber tells about himself, that I didn’t have to account to God or my analyst for why I wasn’t Moses, or for that matter, Jung. I had to account for why I wasn’t Naomi. On the way to becoming myself, I came to see that though the library was my true habitat, I wasn’t a big idea person, a great thinker and theorist. It was my calling as a writer and as an analyst to bring ideas into the living flesh of personal experience in a poetic way.

It’s not enough to figure out your calling, your true nature. You have to know what time it is in your life. I was certified as a Jungian Analyst in my 50th year. An intense period of study and psychological work—of being digested by the lion of my own nature—had come to fruition. It was time to reclaim my writing life, which had been put aside while raising my family, developing a practice, and becoming a Jungian Analyst. So proclaimed my Muse, The Sister from Below.

Now, in my 70s, I am informed by the chorus of inner figures who bring me word from within, that it’s another kind of time in my life. Time to lie down with the lion and reflect on the journey; time to express my gratitude for the gifts of the Jungian Way—access to dreams and inner figures, access to the source of the word from within—my own wild and fierce creative spirit. It is harvest time—time to gather the fruits of my work and offer them as soul food to my community.

To that end, I have organized nine of my uncollected essays in this volume. As I’ve worked with these pieces—written over a period of fifteen years—I’ve been amused to see how the living symbols in my psyche have engaged and possessed me over the years. The Rabbi shows up early and shifts forms dramatically. So do the Goddess, the Lady Tree, and Jung. Words are magic, and getting the word from within is a spiritual practice, as are wild leaps into poetry.

Most of these essays were first published in Psychological Perspectives and the Jung Journal. One is a chapter in a book I co–edited with Patricia Damery, Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way. These are stories of my Jungian way, as an analysand, as an “apprentice to the alchemist”—Jung’s term for the process of terminating an analysis—as a dreamer, a tree and goddess worshipper, a conflicted Jew, a conflicted Jungian, a mystic and a poet. I offer them to you, dear reader, in the hope they will support your own practice of getting the word from within.

[1] C.G. Jung, The Red Book, p. 233.