Monday, April 7, 2014

Tucson: Goethe and the Art of Seeing

After the Tucson lecture and workshop, April 4-5, 2014, Friends of Jung, Tucson, Arizona ,
The Environmental Crisis: Birth of a New Consciousness?
Goethe:"sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God"
Strasbourg Cathedral, from Wikipedia
I am home after a weekend with a great group of people in Tucson. The members and participants are a varied, informed group with great hospitality and depth. Thank you!

On Saturday one of the members asked a question that raised more questions. I had just related a story it is said Rudolf Steiner enjoyed telling, a story illustrating what Goethe called “disciplined imaginative observation.”

As a young man Goethe had an important experience at the cathedral of Strasbourg, using what he called art of seeing. He used this method not only to study plants but, in this case, the cathedral as well. After several days of climbing its tower over and over (to rid himself of vertigo) and sketching the cathedral from every angle, Goethe announced that the cathedral was incomplete. His friends studied the plans, then questioned him about how he knew. Goethe replied that the cathedral itself had told him. “I observed it so long and so attentively and I bestowed on it so much affection that it decided in the end to reveal to me its manifest secret” (Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Works, by Gary Lachman, p. 43).

The question in Tucson came from a man with a developed spiritual sense himself. Was Goethe communicating with the Spirit of the cathedral, or was he communicating with the Spirits of the designers and builders of this 800 year old cathedral?

I continue to ponder this question. Certainly for Goethe, and then for both Rudolf Steiner and Carl Jung, the imagination was a most important tool, imagination in concert, of course, with a disciplined thinking. For Jung this involved the development of the tool of active imagination. Steiner too saw use of the imagination in the style of Goethe’s art of seeing as key to meeting the world in any lively fashion. Truth resides in the meeting of the inner world and the outer, that liminal zone, or even, perhaps, as Jung would state, the transcendent. Is this zone humanity's growing edge?

Who told Goethe the cathedral was incomplete? He says the cathedral itself did, but is this personification of material that can only be reduced to the idea of individualized Spirit, given how mired in materiality we have become? What are your own thoughts here?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tucson: April 4-5: The Environmental Crisis: Birth of a New Consciousness?

On Friday evening, April 4,and Saturday, April 5, 2014, I will be presenting a lecture and workshop  to Southern Arizona Friends of Jung in Tucson, Arizona. The title of the weekend will be The Environmental Crisis: Birth of a New Consiousness. If you are in the Tucson area, consider joining us!

Common Bedrock of Jung and Steiner:

What Might Save Us
Lecture: Friday, April 4, 7pm
Presentation Cost: $15
Members: $10

Birth Pains: Goethe’s Approach to the
Psyche and to the Natural World

Workshop: Saturday April 5
9am to 1pm
(half hour brown bag lunch break)
Workshop Cost: $60
Members: $45

For more information about this workshop or to register with credit card, go to events

or pay at the door at 6:30pm


Casas Adobes Congregational Church, 6801 N. Oracle Road, Tucson. Park and enter near the office

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Drought: What We Need to Change

Sigh of Relief!
The courtyard pavement glistened in the early dawn this morning. I felt myself sigh with relief. The promised rain was beginning. It has steadily picked up. The weather predicts heavy rain today and tonight, even 6 inches before the current series of storms have passed over the next days.

And yet, we are in drought throughout California. Yes, our ranch irrigation ponds are in pretty good shape after the last deluge, 10 inches in a week, but the larger picture is much more dire. 2013 was the driest year on record in California. Again, on our ranch we enjoyed heavy rain in December 2012, and our irrigation ponds filled. But then the rains stopped, and they really did not start in any significant way until two weeks ago.

Last week I interviewed activist Charlie Toledo, Executive Director of the Suscol Intertribal Council, about the drought. She sits on several state boards and was a part of the early planning of the Napa Flood Control Plan in the early to mid 1990's. That four part interview can be read over this next week at More than anything else, what I take away from this interview is that our practices and plans, which continue to be of the dominion-over kind of mind-set, contribute to the worsening condition of our headwaters and watersheds.  While Charlie describes the atmosphere within the state boards to be serious and cooperative if also coming from different perspectives, she also fails to see any serious plans to re-establish riparian corridors, crucial to the health of waterways. Of the seven major headwaters in California, four are going dry.

Last weekend's seminar on the environment at the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco addressed the change of consciousness required of us at this time. (See two previous blogs on Drought is an outer issue, but it is an inner one as well. There are those feelings of entitlement that all of us have, revealed even in our lack of attention to what goes down the drain. But there is also that lack of awareness afforded by  intellectual development, industrialization, and scientific research which is out of balance with interconnectedness: there are also non-human presences here on earth with us who also have right-to-life. We are only one part of an interconnected community. And then there is the big question: Can we learn to live with them and not exploit them only for our own purposes?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Interview with Jungian Analyst Barbara Holifield: Moving in Depth and Dream of the Earth

Barbara Holifield
On February 22, 2014, the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco will offer the first of a series of eco-psychology seminars and workshops on the environment crisis. These workshops will be from differing perspectives but of one piece: the necessary crisis of consciousness in earth changes and what we can/must do. In this first workshop, Indwelling: Our Human Participation in the Dream of the Earth, analysts Barbara Holifield and Carol McRae will lead participants into active imagination states through drumming and authentic movement. Following is an interview with one of the seminar leaders, analyst Barbara Holifield. 

Barbara, could you explain what authentic movement is? How did you get in to it? Does it serve your own connection with the earth and if so, in what ways?

I began working with Authentic Movement, also known as Moving in Depth, in the mid 70’s. I was a member of a learning community at Prescott College in which we were exploring ways of bringing conscious awareness to the body, and to the psychological dimensions of body-based experience. During that time emersion in wilderness was the ground of much of our exploration.

Moving in Depth is a profoundly simple process in which one, in the presence of a witness, closes one’s eyes, and turning his or her attention inward, listens for felt sensation, emotion and the stirrings of imagination, allowing one’s self to move and be moved. One may move into deep stillness, very subtle or active movements of the experienced body. This approach, rooted in Jungian active imagination, is like a meditation based in the feminine principle: self-guided and aligned with one’s own inner knowing.

Whether one is moving or witnessing, a foundational aspect of the practice is a rigorous tracking of inner experience such that one becomes aware of the process of projection and re-integration of projection. This work, so integral to Jung’s Individuation process is also essential in clarifying the intersubjective field whether between persons or between persons and the natural world.

For me it is a practice in which I access the depth of my innermost, direct experience of s/Self and self in relation to other, including the more-than-human others of the earth community.

Could you talk about the split between humans and the earth and how indigenous peoples connected through stories and land?

There are many perspectives one could take to understand our culture’s disconnection with the earth: philosophical attitudes embedded in monotheistic religions, the way we have adopted our approach to science, the industrial revolution. However, as a Jungian analyst, I want to try and understand this dilemma from a psychological perspective.

When things go well enough developmentally, with the aid of a resonant caretaker/ mother we learn to lean into our joys, struggles and pains of living, we learn to embody life. In this there is an inner quickening as psyche indwells the soma, a process the poet John Keats’s described as soul making. From a developmental perspective we know this starts as life begins and goes on throughout the life cycle. The infant needs a resonant, compassionate witness to facilitate, what later becomes internalized and practiced, in the person, less a disconnect between body and psyche occurs when a person is faced with overwhelming affect.

It seems that people also need that resonant other, which is exemplified by the culture of Native Americans, to mediate the insistent power of the natural world, that union of what is beautiful and what is terrifying. It seems we need this to live in congruence with the reality of the land as it is given, less we disconnect or split from the earth when faced with the overwhelming forces of the land by withdrawing or alternately exerting our will to change it into something else. It is a developmental task. Native American and other indigenous cultures, through their stories, myths, rituals and ceremonies mediate between the person and our bigger body, the earth, connecting and reconnecting the person, their peoples, to the land. Our culture promotes an attitude of “getting away” or “rising above” or “defending against” or “winning the battle” with the natural forces in both our inner and outer worlds.

When recognized the land in turns reciprocates offering unimpeachable wisdom on living a life of dignity. And something is quickened between the person and the land in this kind of meeting…our stories en-soul the land. A bond is formed and there is an ongoing exchange of recognition and reciprocity between us and the land, and the land and us.

Can you say what you mean with the phrase: human participation in the dream of the earth?

Thomas Berry, a theologian dedicated to earth-human relations, poses that our hope for the future lies in our human participation with the dream of the earth. In this he points to an urgent need for revelatory experience that is accessed through our senses when we open to the sacred grandeur of Earth processes. He lets us know that this is ancient, rooted in shamanic times. This is the kind of space that opens when one is quiet, attuned to the breathing earth and earth community, listening, dancing, drumming. It is the mytho-poetic realm that is within us and between us and the natural world, quickened by dropping down into a realm of relating that is not solely rational.

Do you have a story of your own about how you have connected/reconnected with nature and land through story and myth? 

Recently, when I allow myself to be seen by a certain tree that lives on the ridge near me, I experience my humanness in a very distinct way. I become acutely aware of co-inhabiting this earth with many other species. I feel aware of the particular gifts and responsibilities of being a human other. I feel seen as having an intrinsic dignity and desire to be aware and responsive to co-inhabiting this earth with so many living others.

The stories told by the voices of contemporary Native American women poets carry me through the journey. For example this poem by the Chickasaw poet, Linda Hogan:
Skin Dreaming
Skin is the closest thing to god,
touching oil, clay, intimate with the foreign land of air
and other bodies,
places not in light,
lonely for its own image. 
It is awash in its own light.
It wants to swim and surface
from the red curve of the sea,
open all its eyes. 
Skin is the oldest thing.
It remembers when it was the cold
builder of fire,
when darkness was the circle around it,
when there were eyes shining in the night,
a breaking twig, and it rises
in fear, a primitive lord on new bones. 
I tell you it is old,
it heals and is sometimes merciful.
It is water.
It has fallen through ancestral hands.
It is the bearer of vanished forest
fallen through teeth and jaws of earth
where we were once other
visions and creations.
From the Book of Medicines, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis1993.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Interview with Jungian Analyst Carol McRae: Drumming and Ally Work

On February 22, 2014, the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco will offer the first of a series of eco-psychology seminars and workshops on the environment crisis. These workshops will be from differing perspectives but of one piece: the necessary crisis of consciousness in earth changes and what we can/must do. In this first workshop, Indwelling: Our Human Participation in the Dream of the Earth, analysts Carol McRae and Barbara Holifield will lead participants into active imagination states through drumming and authentic movement. Following is an interview with one of the seminar leaders, analyst Carol McRae, PhD. 

Carol, You approach the psyche in a particular way, using drumming and ally work. Could you say how you came to these practices? 

My shamanic emphasis with drumming and ally work began in 1979 with a dream of a snake jumping at my heart. I tried to deflect the snake, caught it behind its head. The next day I was to be diagnosed with breast cancer and I was afraid. I tried to find someone to help me understand what to do. I looked for help in an academic setting (through thinking) but found no help there. Further work with the dream in active imagination led me to direct conversation with the snake, who called herself Rosie. I have been guided by Rosie ever since. Drumming comes from work I did with a Lakota woman teacher at Rosie's urging. Ally work comes from the work of another Jungian Analyst, Jeff Raff, who has written The Practice of Ally Work.

Could you explain what you mean by ally work? 

Ally work is an extension of Jung's active imagination, which invites the unconscious to come forward to consciousness in whatever form it chooses. To find an ally, one develops this capacity of receptivity with a particular focus, that of finding an inner guide, a wisdom figure and connection to the Divine. Rosie is that figure for me.

How do you use drumming in this work?

I drum as the Lakota drum, at the rate of double the human heartbeat. This constant sound creates an altered state over time. From the state achieved, images, feelings, whole stories can emerge. A traditional shaman uses drumming to help her/him in journeying to the underworld, which bears a striking similarity to Jung's active imagination. The shaman goes deeply into this state FOR the healing of the patient she/he is helping. I go deeply into this state WITH the person(s) I am helping.

Who have been some of your important mentors along the way?

Rosie, of course, is a mentor, a teacher of the highest order. As with Jung's relationship with Philemon, his Ally, I discovered quickly that Rosie is not me. She knows more than I know and can teach me from her wisdom. Other mentors include Don Sandner, who I consider my spiritual father; Steve Wong, who taught me a combination of psychotherapy and shamanic practice; and Pansy Hawkwing, my Lakota spiritual guide.

What happens in ally work that is potent? How is it different from other ways of approaching the unconscious?

Ally work is particularly powerful because It calls up one figure to dialog with again and again. This figure may first appear in a dream as she did with me. The ally may also come forward in active imagination itself. By setting an intention or focus before opening to the unconscious, one can ask for an ally. Jeff Raff has outlined a helpful approach to this process in his book on ally work, which I use in my classes for helping people to find their own allies. As Jeff says, "An ally is a divine being, a face of God that is unique to each human being. Every one of us has an ally with whom we could live, but of course most people are unaware of this fact, largely because they have been cut off from the imagination." (The Practice of Ally Work, p. 3) Active imagination is a broader form of contacting the unconscious which is receptive to whatever emerges from the unconscious. Dreams offer invitations from the unconscious to become conscious of particular material which it conveys. Art and dance offer ways to express unconscious material without words and may lead to greater understanding of particular personal material if approached as active imagination, an invitation to unconscious material to come into consciousness.

Do you have stories that you would like to share about your own work?

My work with Rosie has had its dramatic moments, although much of it concerns my everyday learning. During my first vision quest, in this case a 24 hour time by myself in a forest, I had a particularly powerful experience with a woodpecker. For six hours he pecked on trees surrounding where I sat, moving in a clockwise direction beginning in front of me and ending six hours later in the same location at which point he was joined by a female woodpecker and flew away. I considered him a spirit guide (not an Ally, because he was a member of a species, not an individual like Rosie). Ten years later at a new home shaded by live oak trees, a woodpecker flew into a window in a direct line to where I was sitting and died. When I asked him why he had come (in active imagination), he said he had been sent to tell me to take this work seriously. I was to get up each night when I heard a bird song which imitated a woodpecker's pecking and go outside and speak with Rosie. I did this practice for about an hour each night around 3AM for three years. The woodpecker as a spiritual helper specializes in helping me get through difficult places. He opens a new space with his pecking.

Why do you think these approaches can help us in the crisis of the earth changes? 

This question is very important to me. I am very concerned about the crisis of climate change. It offers us both a horrifying possibility, the loss of much of the human race because we are destroying the earth system that sustains us, and an opportunity to develop a deep connection to the earth and a sustainable relationship to all that is in it. I feel ally work offers a way for everyone to feel a deep connection within themselves and to recognize all of earth and the beings on earth as related to them in a giant pattern of allies, our connection with the Divine. One of the major maladies of Western Civilization is loneliness, a break in connection with anything beyond oneself. Ally work offers a constant connection and a deep ongoing relationship. One is never alone again. Furthermore, the Ally, often an animal, connects one more deeply with the earth. Earth connection is what is lacking in our culture. We have thought of the earth as something to harness for our own purposes rather than a being to respect and relate to, to cherish even. All kinds of attention to the unconscious: dreamwork, art, dance, Jungian Analysis help to heal the split we feel between and within ourselves. For me, ally work, in particular, offers a way to heal and to dialog about what we can do to make this planet a sustainable environment again.

What advice do you have for those who would like to begin these kinds of work? 
I recommend reading Jeff Raff's book and doing the exercises he describes. This can lead you to a sense of deep connectedness. The process is not always easy. He describes the resistances that may come up at each stage. It helps to join— or form— a group of people committed to exploring in this way. You can share difficulties and discoveries together. I encourage you to keep at the process; it may take time to access the ally and to stay connected to Her/Him. It's worth the effort. Don't forget how connected we all are to each other and to the earth and all its beings.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dark Gifts of Drought

Pond Bottom, January 2014
Donald says that he remembers a year when the hills did not turn green. He was forced to pump water from the lower pond, which fills first and quickly, to the upper, much larger pond, to capture and save what rain water he could.

This has not happened in the 20 years that I have lived on our ranch, but I do remember drought years in the late '80’s, and some before in the mid '70’s. We were living in Marin County at the time, and the reservoirs went dry. We were put on water rationing, only 40 gallons per person per day. Large pipes were laid on the Richmond Bridge to bring water across the bay. We quickly learned to live an examined life when it came to water usage: to flush the toilet for solid waste only, to save grey water from the house to flush the toilet and to water outside plants, to plant only drought tolerant plants, to put on reduced-flow shower heads. We never let water run in the sink when we brushed our teeth or rinsed dishes. When it rained again, we continued some of these habits, but mostly, over time, many of us went back to our old ways.

We live in a Mediterranean climate in northern California. Our 20 to 40 inches of rain come between October and April. The rest of the year is dry. Native plants depend on this rhythm, with some species of oaks dying if they receive summer irrigation. In our farming, rain in the summer is a problem for the grapes, supporting mildew and botrytis. We depend on the reservoirs to provide water for the limited irrigation we do. Biodynamics practices have improved the soil enough that we can almost dry farm the grapes.

But what happens if there is only a few inches of rain in the winter? Besides the health of the trees and the increasing fire danger (this January day is a red flag day until 1 pm due to dry winds), what does it mean? Across the valley resounds the pounding of drilling rigs. Wells have gone dry and for some, there is not water for household use.

It is easy to fear the worse: this is global warming and this is how it is going to be. It could be part of the natural cycle of drought and then flooding, which often follows.

But we also know, droughts are intensified by the particulates of pollution. Rain simply doesn’t reach the ground. And the weather is becoming increasingly erratic everywhere. The pattern that we have depended upon may not be the pattern that sustains us into the future.

Dennis Klocek, philosopher, climatologist, and scientist, states that key to any shift in our relationship to the earth is acknowledgement of our vulnerability to the earth (Climate: Soul of the Earth, Lindisfarne Books, 2011.) Our old stance of dominion over and our work to subdue nature, seeing the earth as only a resource for our own use and not as a living being in her own right, has brought us to where we are now.

What changes come when we address the earth as She? How do our actions change if we consider all who also live on Earth, humans and animals, plants, and minerals, as living beings with rights to exist of their own?

Drought reminds me of the sacredness of water, of its importance for life, and of the ways that I have taken its abundance for granted. It is the dark gift of this time that I again become mindful of my relationship to water and to the Earth.

Are you also in drought? (or are you in another extreme weather situation?) What dark gifts have you gleaned from the situation? Are there changes that you have made in your everyday life?

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Environmental Crisis: What We Can Do

Some of the reasons I am willing to suffer knowledge of my participation in climate change.
When I think of the best approach to the issues we have created in our environment, I think of the old Buddhist adage: Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Detach from outcome. The problem lies in being so overwhelmed that we cannot show up to pay attention. Then we deny the truth, effectively participating in a horrible outcome! It is critical that we are not paralyzed into denial by our fear.

In the recently published Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics (Lindisfarne Books, 2013), Dennis Klocek emphasizes the importance of this "showing up." It is important that we acknowledge our vulnerability to the earth, he says, versus feeling in control and above it. "The only way I can turn my soul from existential guilt into the willingness to imagine my role in the Earth's destiny is through active imagination (110)."

On February 22, 2014, the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco will offer the first of a series of eco-psychology seminars and workshops on the environment crisis. These workshops will be from differing perspectives but of one piece: the necessary crisis of consciousness in earth changes and what we can/must do. In this first workshop, Indwelling: Our Human Participation in the Dream of the Earth, analysts Carol McRae and Barbara Holifield will lead participants into active imagination states through drumming and authentic movement. "We will allow what emerges to build on Thomas Berry’s idea that hope for our future lies in our human participation in the dream of the earth."

This workshop will be followed by on October 18, 2014, by The Spiritualized Earth and the Birth of the New Consciousness: Jung's Analytical Psychology and Steiner's Biodynamic Agriculture: What Might Save Us. I will present the common root of both and what Biodynamic agriculture offers.

This will be followed by a workshop on November 15, 2014, with a writing workshop, Wounded Earth, Wounded Psyche: On Solastagia and Nature Deficit Disorder,  in which participants will be encouraged to find language for what is unbearable and unfathomable.  This will be lead by four of us, poets Naomi Lowinsky, Leah Shelleda, Francis Hatfield, and by me, Patricia. Again, more about this later. 

These seminars are very reasonably priced ($35 for the first, $25 for graduate students) and are a really good way to gather with others in aligning to address what we can do.