I have spent a great deal of time staring at the ':' blink on my clock trying various openings for this paper. Really it is quite simple. I want to write about my attempts to give language to my depression.
It was suggested to me to stay small, to focus, to master one little corner of psychological thought. Depression itself was too large a task. I tried just staying open to whatever came up in my mind but ended in a hopeless confusion. I tried exaggeration of the depression and just fell asleep. This paper was going nowhere.
I sat unshaven on a couch in my sunken apartment and just stared
into a molding cup of coffee. Eventually I tried combining Focusing (Gendlin,1981)
with the path of the Wounded/Healer (Sanford,1977; Toussulis,1986), staying
with what seemed to be the worst of 'All this depression.'. I camped outside
the whole sense of it without sinking or going into the thoughts, feelings,
sensations. I kept a guiding beacon on the wound, the worst of it, the
essence. Click. Shift. Image:
Dwelling for a moment with the image I felt its density, an oppressive
heaviness forcing me down, a leaded layering of folded weight. I thought
"...a gloomy place in the Underworld, which lies as far distant from
the earth as the earth does from the sky; it would take a falling anvil
nine days to reach its bottom." (Graves, 1960 pg. 36)
The OED defines depression as "...being pressed down, the action of lowering or the process of sinking, the condition of being lowered in position, reduced in force, activity, intensity, pitch." The images interpenetrate; the man stares at the anvil falling in the molding cup of coffee. He too was pulled down and we all fell together. Someone looking down from the receding rim kept up our mantra "Stick to the image, stick to the image, stiiick toooo thuuuuu immmmmmmaaaaaage..." ( Jung CW 16, 320 ).
Just what was the image I was suppose to stick to? The words 'a man stares into a molding cup of coffee', the 'visual image' as I remember it, the feelings and ideas that made it up? I asked the man staring into the cup what images he saw. "No-image." he replied. I asked why he was staring."I'm not staring, I'm remembering." I asked what he was remembering and he said " Not yet, not yet....but look.". I looked and saw to my horror the outcrop patches of browns, blacks, whites, green. This putrification was my doing. I let the cup rot. Memories of relationships I had let rot came to mind. Plans to start that restaurant, to be that philosopher teacher, to play music, to be a commercial artist, to finish that letter to.., oh God, everything I touch rots.
It is interesting to note here a part of the epic of Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian hero who sought to escape death. Gilgamesh, after many heroic trials had finally reached the personage who could reveal to him the secret of immortality. All he need do was stay awake, a task he failed. His sleep was chronicled by 7 loaves of bread. Upon awakening he denied he was asleep for any great amount of time, but his lie was revealed by the molded bread. (Eliade, 1967). Thompson (1981) speaks of Gilgamesh's discontent with the limitations of being mortal, "He goes to the edge of space to look behind the edges of time, to gaze into the mystery of time before the Flood, the time before this world epoch began." (pg. 201) One is reminded of the putrifactio
of the alchemists; " Not only have his labors died, but what he thought to be most essential has blackened and died."(Flanagin, 1983 pg. 22)
But perhaps I have moved too far from the image. After all, the molded bread of Gilgamesh was only the fifth of seven loaves. It is rather inflated to think everything I touch rots and magical to believe it rots because of my withdraw of attention. No, the truly putrid is more subtle and to follow its spore is to see death as but one of the players. Before Gilgamesh's labors end in total ruin he has many trials, one of which is going "...through the long darkness of a tunnel where he was without light for the twelve double hours of the day." (Thompson, pg. 201).
Just how to follow the spore, to stay with The-worst-of-it became
a major preoccupation.
I used all my senses to continually track the Image. The hunt took me across a variety of terrain which includes a dream which I recount here in part:
"I leave the loft and go in search of the class that was just held
there. The class is in a ditch in the earth. The teacher reaches into the
dirt in the side of the ditch and extracts a large black snake. Someone
wonders if its poisonous. He holds it as if it were."
This dream image particularly struck me as rather ambiguous and rather alchemical. The word Alchemy is from Al-chem, the black, the land of Khem, the black soil of the Nile, the fertile soil which gave life to the people of Egypt.(Toussulis) Eliade furthers the obstetrical nature of alchemy and mining in The Forge and the Crucible(1978) , the bringing forth of the metal which is buried in the dark womb of mother earth. A third factor brought out is between the miner
and the mined, the divinity that is involved in revealing where the metal lies. We are now nearing the middle of the Wounded/Healer Archetype, Asklepios, Apollo and the Temple of Delphi. But before stepping right up to the Pythia (the oracle) and asking questions I want to restate the inscription of this temple "He who wounds, also heals".
One interpretation of this phrase comes from Jung who said that the gods of the ancient have become the diseases of the moderns. Part of the this is that what we suppress may harms us and part of the statement is a clue to the path of recovery. The god who sends the disease is the source of the cure.
Another aspect of the phrase "He who wounds, also heals" is its ambiguity. Is the snake in the dream poisonous? He holds it as if it were. A friend of mine that works at the zoo said that to work with wild animals you have to act like your willing to kill them. M. von Franz(1980) comments on the temptation of Eve, "Knowledge is either poisonous or healing...One has to have a double attitude about it, the teaching of the felix culpa ."(pg.51). Some kind of inflated manic energy came with my move into the realm of ambiguities. Not being sure if the image was going to help me to achieve my own ends (extraction of gold from its darkness) or drag me into ruin (imprisoned in Tartarus) introduced an unknown subjectivity in our relationship. This led me to generalize about others. I stopped (for awhile) the habit of automatically sympathizing and empathizing with others. Instead I pretended (with playful intentions) to Not understand what they felt or said. Guggenbuhl-Craig suggests this shift on a more permanent basis to stay open and in shakeable relation to others. " The senile 'I know, I know' must become the Socratic 'I don't know.'"(pg.153).
The difference was phenomenal. I moved from fearful reactive introverted
intuitive-thinking to curious playful extraverted intuitive-feeling. I
felt like I was playing out an archetypal roll of the fool, an iconoclastic
idiot. I have been inflated and manic before and know it doesn't last long
and my fire is soon extinguished in an Icarian sea of pain and loss. I
also knew that I was moving closer to something Archetypal, and needed
to proceed with caution. Tripp (1970) reminds the Delphi reader that Apollo
wasn't always the god of Delphi, and that it is universally agreed that
he had to kill a monster, named Python, to establish the temple. Delphi's
alternate name is Pytho and the priestess Pythia. The priestess sat on
a tripod near the omphalos (navel), said by some to be the belly button
of the world(Toussulis), and uttered ambiguous, cryptic prophecies. I returned
the image of The Man and the Mold.
Perseus: What do I do with all this energy, this power to strip off the personae of those around me, to expose their fictions? Image: Look into the cup.
Perseus: The Mold! Snakes mold, shed their skins, just like I have. Image: Keep looking.
Perseus: No, No, I don't need to. I understand now. The caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within!
Image: Then fly away and don't ask me what to do.
Perseus: O.k, O.k., what?
I couldn't look long before I was again confronted by the darkness in my life, the stench, the rot, the mold. What energy and powers I possessed or was possessed by left and I returned to my normally introverted self, overly concerned about the approval of others and my inability to manifest.
Avens (1984) writes that meaning is something subjective, that meaning is something that we give to an image, while the image itself is "unfathomable and polymorphous in nature." Hillman and Jung speak to how the gods approach us via our wounds, our inferior functions, our weaknesses, our complexes. We have defended all other areas against them (Toussulis). So I
just kept stirring,( a key phrase for how to inhabit coagualtio).
How to stick with an image that produced and demanded so much energy became a concern of mine. I was reminded that whatever the image is, it is (at least partially) embodied. (Toussulis) I began to explore what I did with energy. A fellow student gave me a paper on character types and body armoring, specifically the rigid-hysteric character (Menis, 1986). I became fascinated by observing how I dissipated charges and disengaged and went unconscious in interactions with various people, cutting off eye contact, laughing, cringing, attacking, and generally coping with uncomfortable feeling.(Keleman, 1981; Lowen, 1975) I was reminded of the necessity the Alchemists mentioned in keeping the container hermetically sealed and alarmed at the leakiness of my own vessel(Edinger,1985).
I found that work with images, allowing images to form for tensions, emotions, troubles etc. and then staying with them has increased the degree of emotional intensity I can sustain. Jung spoke
of the symbol forming function of the psyche, its ability to synthesize pairs of opposites in a symbol. The symbol, being both conscious and unconscious, keeps the libido from regressing into the unconscious, breaking "... the pull of the primordial abyss..."(Jacobi, 1959 pg. 99). Hillman sees symbol and image as one, and to stay with the image is to unfold the unconsciousness of the image.(1972)
I mean by 'staying with them' also keeping them at a distance. This
is somewhat similar to Gendlin's suggestion when a whole felt sense is
focused on to not go inside. When I did go inside, the feeling, the tension,
the charge, the life, died. This again had something to do with working
out the boundaries between myself and the Image.
"BEING ESSENTIATES" M. HEIDEGGER
In the tradition of the Shambhala Warrior (Trungpa, 1984) I chose to stay as close to the "nowness" or being present to the present as I could staying within the limits of sticking with the Image. The not-now, the past and future are kept but as viewpoint from the now (Hillman, 1983c). Being present with the image meant attending to the image as it appeared. Avens (1984) states that " Essence appears when we pay attention to phenomenon, when we take them to heart." (pg. 35) He goes on to say that taking to heart is allowing things to be as they are. Ponce (1983a) also points out that: .
" things are right as they appear in each moment and that what the
moment brings is right... for it is the manner in which we receive ourselves
that determines whether we grieve of sing, whether what we hear in ourselves
is a cacophony or a melody, whether in that moment we stumble or we dance."
Similarly, Avens (1984) interprets Hiedegger,"Meaning is in the shape of things, a pre-conceptual togetherness of man and the world (Dasein)." (pg. 36).
As I walked the through a showing of the Impressionist I found myself drawn to a painting by Gustave Caillebotte, The Floor Scrapers(1876). Even further I was drawn to a curled scraping on the bare floor and along its edge a perfect single stroke of white, a lash of light from the balcony doors. I returned from the moment and the thought crossed my mind of how love can't get small enough, and the slow love of Image. (Metis, 1986; Hillman, 1983a). Pars pro toto (a part can stand for the whole as in holographic pieces).
I returned to the Image of the Man and the Mold. No impressionist show this. Hopper comes to mind except that between the man and the mold is...wait, I see the below the white furry mold and those light green patches slick black mounds. Ancient burial grounds (sic) in this coffee.
I let the image read over my shoulder as I skimmed through Edinger's book on Alchemy (1985). I immediately went for the worst of it, Mortificatio and was extremely disappointed. There was more there on rebirth than on death, growth rather than decay.
Some-things in the image were not yet dead. Dying, yes, but not quite finished rotting. It is that lingering area right before death. The call here is one of limitations and weight, a falling of a heavy material that has not quite finished falling. The weight here is that of lead.
In human bone production, lead is the material that goes the deepest
before blood production. It is the last decay. (Hauschka, 1983) The planet
to which lead has its mythological source of origin is Saturn. Saturn is
often seen as the bringer of limitation, hard work, self-denial and self-
discipline (Greene, 1976). Saturn as Kronos, father of Zeus, was banished
by his son to Tartarus. If that is where he now resides, a call from Saturn
may require sinking very low, a nine day fall. Most astrology seems to
relate the inactivity and limitations of Saturn to fear. (Greene). Ponce(1983a)
unfolds Saturn/Kronos as Liberator, Devourer, Vanquished. All seem to recognize
Saturn as an agency of limiting, suppressing, repressing and redirection
of energy and spontaneity. Graves writes that :
"The later Greeks read 'Cronos' as Chronos, 'Father-Time'.... (H)e
is pictured in the company of a crow, like Apollo, Asclepius, Saturn,...cronos
probably means crow... an oracular bird, supposed to house the soul of
the sacred king after his sacrifice." (pg. 38)
Toussulis furthers this binding image by saying that Kronos is found
in all boundaries set for us and that it is from boundaries, containment
and lead that gold is made, that the ego is allowed to establish its own
form. The operation here is more that of coagulatio ; a process, we are
informed by Edinger, that turns things into earth, that coagulates and
Ego: You remind me of a woman I once knew. She intrigued me and yet told me very little about herself, though she said she was an open book. She would say "Warmer,colder, closer, farther" but no more. I commented once that if this was all she did I would project all over her. She thought this was fine.
Image: To complete the coagulatio one must keep stirring, keep churning.
While the image is essentially a mystery and unknown, we may ask
where the image fits in the Mundi Imaginalis (World Imagination). We might
ask what the image's mythopoetic physignomony, its face, who the image
is. (Avens, 1984). Ponce suggests a comparison of the outer and inner astrology,
where the image fits between its extended significance in the zodiac and
our own personal variation from this. I had my astrology chart done to
see where Saturn and I sat. The astrologer avoided Saturn and continually
directed my attention to Pluto, Hades. They all lived in the same place
as far as I was concerned and so I returned to the image.
Apprentice: Why all this mold and slime in my way of looking directly into the darkness? Isn't Hades the Faceless One?
Image: The greatest darkness is hidden in the light. Darkness and
light are ways of seeing. As for the faceless one, how can you ask to see
his face? Would you ask a legless man to see his leg?
I dreamt that night about a an old woman's home:
In the middle of the floor was a hole. She said she had purchased
the house from an old guru and the hole had something to to with one of
his projects. I went to the hole and placed a rug over it and sat on it
in prayer. I was soon filled with an energy but I didn't know what the
energy was for.
Again I felt I was getting close to something powerful. I felt a great deal of energy in almost every aspect of my life. The one absent area being that of action. As in the dream, my hole was in my floor, my ground. I thought of Neumann's Father spirit inflation (1954), the inflation of the mind where action is left behind with the body, where one castrates oneself, one's impulses, for the ideal, the spirit, the Father. This seemed to me quite like the story of Kronos. His father, Uranos is a king of literalization. He acts out every impulse, continually spread over Gaia (mother earth) never allowing her children out of the bowls of the earth. Kronos, aided by Gaia, castrates Uranos with flint sickle and throws his father's genitals into the sea by Cape Drepanum.(Graves).
The castration of impulse is sin qua non to discipline and limitation.
In this sense it is a primitive form of reflection, a redirecting of the flow of energy, libido. There is a call here for creativity, for a seeking of a new channel of expression. In this sense, Kronos castration of his father is of the same order as Yahweh's "Let there be light." for it is the first act of a being who can do other than darkly act out its impulses.
Kronos commits the same mistake as his father, and refuses to allow the children of his feminine companion, Rhea, to fully be. They are consumed, eaten, swallowed whole. To me this was another warning of inflation. That I was full of ideas and wouldn't let any of them come to birth corresponded too closely to my own life. My process is to get an impulse and idealize it, to creatively spin fantasies and spawn greater and greater towers rising up and up above the darkness of the sea of pain and strife and darkness. Towers of Babel. Before the towers never reach Heaven, or even successfully complete above flood line, I find my workers all speaking different languages and dispersed to the four corners of the earth, the task unfinished. And again, I was feeling the energy and power of perception take hold of me. This time it was not so extraverted. It was like discovering introverted or centroverted sensations. By looking around at objects and just allowing them to be, I could feel them inside of me. I could feel the brick walls' brickness, the pillows' pillowness, the toasters' toasterness. Still not sensing the personality of this visitation, thinking it was again in some way mine, I went back to the story of Kronos and his fall. I recount it in part here as told by Ponce: .
"Zeus asked the Titaness, Metis (Wise Counsil or Insight), to aid
him in the administration of the emetic to his father. After swallowing
Kronos vomited up Zeus' brothers and sisters - the Olympians who from that
time forward would reign from above, if not from the sky itself." (1983a.
I took this to mean stick with the image, keep looking inside for
it is insight that releases the Olympians. I couldn't myself stare into
the cup for any length of time. It was too incongruent, to sickly grotesque.
Rick: I want confrontation with the deepest levels of soul. Image of Man and Mold: The deepest level is the one you are on, deep is a viewpoint as much as a place or direction.
Rick: Issac won the angel's blessing in one night.
Image: And this is your desire?
Image Where don't you feel blessed?
Rick: Stop dragging me into the mold.
Image Where do you wish to wrestle?
Rick: Where do you wish to be wrestled with?
Image: Our problem?
Rick: I'm not sure yet. I still don't feel comfortable paradox.
He stares, the cup molds. The relationship between them, man and
rot, reminds me of Camus' The Plague (1947) where the plague infested town
of Oran is an setting for several characters and their relationships to
rot, to the plague, to that tension between an individual and death. This
is a new octave of Gilgemesh in his search for immortality. First the mold
dashes his hopes of immortality. Life is, Death is and that's that. The
molding cup just molds and that's that. But the man who stares at the molding
cup, what is his relationship to the mold but " a confrontation of this
irrational and wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human
heart."?(1955, pg 16) Or is this again my own absurdity? It is interesting
to note that by his own admittion doctor Rieux in The Plague could not
cure but only diagnose.
Dicardo: So whats the problem Doc?
Rieux: I'm afraid its not just one problem.
Dicardo: But its just one image.
Rieux: Dicardo, I don't know how deep the infection goes, but its got
a hundred gnawing voices. Its like looking right into the Styx. Dicardo: So what can I do?
Rieux: I don't know, but I'd suggest you get to know about them. They look
like their sure as hell going to get to know you.
Dicardo: Like The Hundred Handed One. It is a Titan who guards Tartarus.
Sort of an undifferentiated complex archetype.
Rieux: Maybe. I sure wouldn't call it simple.
The molding cup is stared at, and the anvil continued to drop. I started dialogue with the Inner Horde. Aunts, uncles,
sisters, mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, brothers, fathers,
priests, grandfathers, great grandfathers-----demons, devils, friends,
enemies, girlfriends, bullies, monsters, chimera , dragons, snakes--- Boards
of directors, boards of critics, bleacher's full of fans. Once the forum
was cleared, beings arrived from all five corners of the imagination. I
eventually asked the Hundred Handed One to scoop them up for awhile, to
clear a passage for the anvil to drop. It seemed to just bubble and stew
in a pit above my stomach. I regressed into old negative patterns of behavior;
procrastinations, smoking, eating. This imaginal relation started getting
too real, drawing me deeper into a obsessional track were I believed that
to know the image (in a way that had eluded me) was to be released from
Richard: Who are you?
Image of man and mold: I resent that. You've been with me for months, you know a great deal about me. Look into the cup.
Ri: There's nothing I want to see. You remind me of Narcissist in search of his own image.
Image: You search. You identify yourself with depth not yours.
Ri: Yes, and I no longer feel that the depth is yours. Mold is rather interesting but not particularly deep. Staring is boring. Image: So too is your own inactivity.
Not an ending of the relationship I had hoped for, mutual disgust
and disappointment. But I find myself saying the same things about it that
I do with other ended relationships, "Well, I'm glad its over but I'm glad
I had the experience." and " I sure learned a lot.", as if learning and
experience are adequate compensations for the pain of disappointment. Still
I will grant the image one last dialogue.
Ri: Is there any thing else you would like to say? This may be the last time we ever talk to each other.
Image: We're not completely separate yet.
Ri: No, but we cannot live in the real world together.
Image: You never did ask what kind of mold grew in my cup.
Ri: That's true. Would you like to tell me?
Image: No, I guess not.
Ri: Well, I've nothing more to say.
Ri: How long?
Image: Just a second.
Ri: Just a second then...Goodbye.
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