The following are sample writings by Cedrus N. Monte.
The secret is that only that which can destroy itself is truly alive.
C. G. Jung1
I. At the Threshold of Psycho-Genesis
The Paradox For some of us, if not for all, meaning in life periodically finds its way through a piercing and deadly darkness. Hopelessness and despair can descend like a toxic cloud, even in the midst of a joy-filled life, a life of spiritual discipline and intent, and dedication and commitment to conscious growth. Dark moments can strike like a sudden, rending eruption from mysterious and subterranean places. Without warning, the crust of a forever-healing wound, or an old insidious trauma is torn open unexpectedly, and we bleed again. We feel that we have entered into the abyss, body and soul. In the darkest of these times, nothing - no word, no prayer, no loving gesture, no therapeutic intervention - reaches the mark. Everything is lost, crumbled and gray, pointless - our life hopelessly flapping in the maw of a terrifying yet welcome annihilation. How do we find our way through these darkest of spaces? Jettisoning a way out is impossibly dangerous, a too-heroic feat for this tenuous and precarious state of being. Remaining at this threshold of pain feels intolerable. And yet, given the grace of enough psychic ground, by staying with the intolerable dissonance we can once again restore our faith and experience the rare jewel of equanimity. Here, at an unfathomable but fecund threshold, something can change, something new can come forth. Faith that arises at points of near-unbearable suffering is a faith born by sustaining absolute paradox. Those who endured the Holocaust and the devastating events of the Third Reich have been able to communicate the profound meaning and acceptance of this paradox and provide us with unprecedented teachings. Innocent suffering in the Holocaust, as in Christs innocent suffering, has helped to redeem humanitys ignorance and lack of true compassion. The unparalleled gift of such understanding shows us how to survive trauma of inexpressible dimension. In testimony, in his Letters and Papers from Prison, Bonhoeffer writes:
Others have also offered insights, quickening to paradox as a means toward spiritual and psychic regeneration. Robert Sardello at the School of Spiritual Psychology suggests that the explosion of the first atomic bomb traumatized our consciousness as a planetary people. Considering this situation, Sardello reflects:
According to Sardello, our task in facing the threat of total annihilation is to find a way to regenerate our world, both inner and outer, psychic and physical, through the power of love born not of existential security but of the inescapable presence of annihilation. Here, as well as in the example of Holocaust survivors, the presence of a lethal, traumatizing condition prompts and demands the emergence of an even greater vivifying force. A traumatic condition begs a bio-psychic genesis, an instinctive and spiritual arising of new life. Finding new life through the profound acceptance of death is the paradoxical solution. In paradox, we stand at the threshold of lifes resurgence. Holding fast the divergent reigns of painful dissonance, we enter realms of deeper healing.
Sites Within Paradox: Hydrothermal Vents and The Black Madonna
SITE ONE: HYDROTHERMAL VENTS
In 1991, a crew of marine biologists had the unprecedented opportunity to witness the birth of a deep-sea hydrothermal vent. Hydrothermal vents, originally discovered in 1977 in their advanced state of development, are one of the most toxic environments on the planet, emitting lethal concentrations of hydrogen sulfites. The vents arise through volcanic activity at the meeting place of the Continental Plates, known as the Mid Ocean Ridge, where the earths crust is formed. Here, in the lethal environment of the vents, scientists have discovered extraordinary sites of what some consider to be bio-genesis, the spontaneous emergence of new life. At a depth of 8,600 feet, where there is no light for photosynthesis, new species of subterranean flora and fauna spontaneously arise in prolific numbers and thrive in the toxic environment through the process of chemosynthesis. Vent organisms are unique to their geography and their habitat. They are found in no other location. Since vents were first discovered, over three hundred new species have been identified, and every expedition discovers more. Speculation as to how vent life arises ranges from ideas about dormant larva ignited by the superheated water that follows volcanic action, to inter-planetary cross-fertilization from comets and meteors that have entered the earths orbit. 4
SITE TWO: THE BLACK MADONNA
In approximately A.D. 797. St. Meinrad was born of royal parentage in Central Europe. In 822 he was ordained as a Benedictine priest, eventually becoming a hermit six years later. Ultimately, his hermitage was founded as the Einsiedeln Monastery, which now lies within the borders of Switzerland, and is dedicated to the Black Madonna, the Virgin Mary. A universal phenomenon, the Black Madonna still lies within the sphere of mystery. There are an estimated 400 shrines to the Black Virgin, yet she remains little known, a subterraneous figure even within mainstream Catholic cosmology in which she is firmly rooted. As will be more fully explained below, the Catholic Church has little explanation for her blackness, except to surmise that the figures have been long exposed to candle soot and therefore darkened. Seen from a psychological and historical perspective, however, the Black Virgin is an archetypal figure of pre-Christian origins and has always been black. She carries the dark pole of the feminine archetype. As such, the Black Madonna is the religious expression of one aspect of the Godhead, revealing its dark, unconscious, mysterious and unpredictable side.St. Meinrads initial approach into the realm of the Black Madonna began with his hermits journey, delineating the religious expression of his desire for greater intimacy with the unconscious or the Unknown. To establish a hermits refuge, St. Meinrad traveled deep into a dense and virgin forest: the dark and mysterious aspect of the unconscious, the Black Madonna in vegetative form. Soon after establishing his refuge, St Meinrad was confronted by an overpowering multitude of spectral demons that arose from the forest. To these fearful figures, he surrendered completely, lying prostrate in prayer and terror on the ground. After a long time, an Angel of deliverance appeared out of the east, and the demons were dispelled.5 At the threshold of unpredictable and utter demonic destruction, a redemptive, fecund beginning presented itself. Through his prayerful surrender to the demons of the dark wood, St. Meinrad plumbed the darkest depths of the unconscious - existential terror and a sense of total abandonment - out of which new life, a new beginning, emerged. Here in the dark wood the hermit built the first edifice of what has now become a foremost point of pilgrimage to the Black Madonna. Like Bonhoeffer, St. Meinrad survived the trauma of Gods abandonment, in and with God.
SITES ONE AND TWO PARALLELS
In both situations above, new life appears at the threshold of trauma and destruction: volcanic eruptions generate toxic vents where bio-genesis occurs; and St. Meinrads life-threatening confrontation with demons brings about a spiritual birth, an event of psycho-genesis. Hydrothermal vents present a biological correlate or analogue to the psychic reality represented by the Black Madonna. At vent sites, bio-genesis occurs in total darkness at the ocean floor, and lethally toxic material is transformed into fuel through chemosynthesis. In the realm of the Black Madonna, we plumb the depths of our being where we confront and transform the toxic psychic substances of fear, betrayal and profound uncertainty. As a result, we are presented with the opportunity for vital and creative growth.Observation of toxic hydrothermal deep-sea vents and recognition of the archetypal nature of the Black Madonna may offer us vital clues for undertaking the soul task that Sardello proposes. In these examples we find that life, i.e., love expressed at instinctual and spiritual levels, can thrive in spite of, and even more importantly, because of, what formerly we believed would bring about a total absence or annihilation of life. In the ecosystem of hydrothermal vents, life thrives and flourishes through symbiotic relationships where chemosynthesis takes place. The tube worm, for example, takes in hydrogen sulfite (H2S) and brings it down into a large sac filled with bacteria. The bacteria then process the H2S and give the worm energy. The tube worm is able to detoxify a deadly substance by bringing it to its symbiont, the bacteria. A cooperative process breaks down and transforms a toxic substance into fuel for survival.
The Black Madonna has been compared to personages in other cultures and spiritual traditions, including Persephone of the Underworld, Kali, and Isis.6 These are goddesses or deities whose rule lies within the dominion of surrender, death and rebirth. From the perspective of the ego, they are lethal forces. But without yielding to this composting and transcendent energy, no transformation is possible and therefore no renewal of life-force. As archetypal energies within the psyche, what these personages accomplish is the breaking down and transmutation of toxic substances, thereby fueling soul growth. Psychically toxic substances, like the hydrogen sulfites that originate deep within the bowels of the earth through volcanic activity, are primitive and primal energies which erupt into consciousness - fear, pain, pride, rage, envy, our intolerance - which can be converted into fodder for spiritual regeneration. Primitive energies become transformed not by denying them, but by working them into new life through heightened consciousness; that is, by fully acknowledging them, as St. Meinrad acknowledged the spectral demons of the dark wood when surrendering himself in full prostration on the earth. Only when we are willing to fully and deeply acknowledge the presence of these dark forces can the Angel - our redemption - come.
Darkness and the Imago DeiThe Black Madonna is revered in many shrines and cathedrals of Western and Eastern Europe. She has existed there for centuries. It is only from the middle of this century that the Black Madonna has been present in the United States, the figures of which are descended from the Virgin at Einsiedeln in Switzerland.7 The darkness of the Virgin is enigmatic. Different sites of the Black Madonna offer different stories for her blackness. The story within the tradition at Einseideln describes the original figure of the Madonna as needing restoration when long-standing candle soot had accumulated on the white skin of the Virgin. Gustafson, in The Black Madonna, includes a first person account given in 1799 by Johann Adam Fuetscher, ornamental painter and restorer. Fuetscher states that the statue of the Madonna he received for restoration was blackened by intensive exposure to church candles, but that beneath the soot was white, flesh-colored skin. Cryptically, and without explanation, he notes that in his restoration, he painted her black, that is, as the statue had appeared when originally it came to him for restoration. He does not say why his restoration is to black rather than white, flesh-color. He goes on to say that over the black pigment he painted in eyes and some color for cheeks and lips, but that when the statue was viewed by church members they firmly requested that she be painted completely black, thus requiring Fuetscher to paint over the eyes and other areas on the face to which he had lent a rosy color.8 Clearly, in her darkness, the Madonna gave something to her petitioners that she could give in no other form. Marie-Louise von Franz offers another explanation for the Madonnas blackness, one that encompasses the archetypal and pre-Christian dimensions of this special figure. Von Franz explains that statues of the Black Madonna, including that of Einseideln, were always black, being original descendants of the Egyptian goddess Isis and her child Horus, who in the Late Roman Empire played an important role. Wherever the Roman Empire spread, the Isis cult rooted; and there you find statues of the Black Madonna. She goes on to say:
Given the peoples response to the restoration of the Black Madonna at Einsiedeln, it seems apparent that the official church image of the Virgin was incomplete. The people, then, provided necessary compensation for the Virgins incomplete state in their request for a completely black skinned Madonna and Child. Whatever the explanation for the Black Madonnas presence, apparently it is the very blackness of the Virgin that gives special hope to those who come to her. She is able to encourage and sustain those who seek her certain solace precisely because of her darkness. Within the nature of her being, she holds the paradox: in and through darkness lies a fertile resurgence of life. No doubt, it was the reassurance of this experience that people fervently sought by having her returned to her blackened state. The presence of the Black Madonna fulfills a collective need within the psyche. Her presence informs us that we can, and must, fully embrace the darkness of the unpredictable and unknown. While a thrashing torment may accompany the hopelessness and despair of a profound rupture in our connection to what we know, exactly at this juncture a penetrating vision of faith, and new life, comes into being. The Imago Dei, the image we have of God, is not only what we, from our egoic stance, perceive as good. As Bonhoeffer and Sardello explain, we must open wide enough to believe in the goodness and love of God, even when we can perceive no good or loving God in which to believe. As the fecundating and dark side of the feminine Godhead, the image of the Black Virgin helps us to endure and survive this dilemma, born of piercing and deadly uncertainty. As a counterpart in the natural world, bio-genesis at hydrothermal vents gives precedent to the psychically regenerative nature of the Black Madonna. It presents an apparently impossible yet living paradox: in the most lethal environment - in chemicals more toxic than deadly cyanide, under the crushing weight of water that measures five thousand pounds per square inch (enough to liquidate a tank), at the junction of near-freezing deep-sea waters and volcanic vent-waters reaching up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, in pitch-black darkness where no photosynthesis is possible - plants, spaghetti worms, sea dandelions, orange sea stars, crustaceans and a litany of others spontaneously arise and thrive. Indeed, new life forms manifest and proliferate as abundantly as on any coral reef found in the ocean. On this point scientists agree: through vent life, a new vision of the world is brought to light. An event of this magnitude cannot be ignored or left fallow, neither in the outer world of nature nor, by analogy, in the inner world of the psyche. Vent discoveries have prompted interdisciplinary scientific approaches which are mutually focused on the possibility of global detoxification and the discovery of new medical remedies. Greater understanding of the archetypal dimensions of the enigmatic Black Madonna may direct us to similar resolutions at the level of the psyche, both personally and collectively.
The New Vision: The Threshold of Psycho-Genesis St. Meinrads experience in the forest when confronted by spectral demons describes the daunting nature of an intra-psychic, depth-psychological journey often referred to as The Dark Night of the Soul, or The Night Sea Journey. In this inner journey, one plumbs the depths of a spiritual nigredo, mining a possibly more profound sense of faith. Comments made by marine biologists and other scientists about the experience of their adventures and discoveries in relation to hydrothermal vents are remarkably parallel to the nature of this journey into the deeper layers of the psyche. C. G. Jungs pioneering observations on the nature of the personal and collective unconscious aptly define these subterranean realms in psychological terms. One method by which he describes these realms is by comparing the maturation of the individual personality and the development of consciousness to alchemical processes found in ancient texts on Alchemy. In the alchemical opus, the true beginning of the journey commences when the "matter" turns black. One alchemist writes, "When you see your matter going black [in the alchemical retort], rejoice: for that is the beginning of the work."10 By comparison, Jung postulates that getting to a state of psychological wholeness means - at least for starters - confronting our own blackness: pride, greed, envy, fear, alienation. Without this first step, we cannot find true light, the inner gold. In addition to facing a personal experience of darkness, one fundamental task in applying Jungs analytical psychology in our own lives is to open to the mysterious and often terrifying depths of the unknown, and through it to an experience of the numinous, to the touch of a transcendent force. Through the grace of the numinous, the transcendent enters our lives and brings us to a new level of consciousness. Only then do we find the inner gold of which the Alchemists spoke, a condition of which is referred to here as psycho-genesis. The journey through the unknown to wholeness is no ordinary journey. It requires unending courage and willingness to endure what often seems impossible to bear. An experience of the numinous arises not only from ecstatic-filled light, but just as often from the mournful darkness of isolation and despair. The following comments are made by vent explorers. One could make the same or similar comments about the perils, and ultimate riches, of The Night Sea Journey, the psychological dimension of the alchemical opus. Theres no template for this research. Most of the work here has to be newly engineered The abyss is no normal laboratory The trip to inner space [deep sea waters] in many ways is more treacherous than a trip to outer space. The pressures are enormous Each trip [down to the ocean floor] is an opportunity to discover previously unknown life. It is a slow trip, but one brimming with excitement You travel down through the inky blackness of the deep sea and you get to the bottom and you see this growth of life. Theres [sic] thriving communities. Theres so much activity going on. Its like no place else in the universe. Each and every dive we find something and discover something that weve never, ever seen before One of the real challenges of working in the deep sea, and one of the reasons its so exciting to us, is it probably represents the most extreme environment on the planet, particularly when were dealing with hydrothermal vents. Our appreciation for how little we know about life on Earth has really been manifest since the discovery of the vents Within all creation myths of the world, the Imago Dei brings new life into existence. In considering our present "creation myth" of hydrothermal vents, the possibility of bio-genesis transpires even under the most lethal conditions. As vessels of the divine spark, it is also our nature to bring new life into existence through the development of the psyche into fuller and greater consciousness. This hard-won development necessarily includes an acceptance of death. Death itself brings us to a fuller experience of life, not from the standpoint of the ego, but from the standpoint of spiritual growth, where we surrender our smaller will to the mystery of the Unknown. A full acknowledgment of death prompts us to the procreative possibility of bringing new soul life, a deeper love, into the world. Those like Bonhoeffer who have experienced extreme trauma with a profound understanding of what they have endured, found their way to an unfathomable faith which grew from an incomprehensible abyss of demonic chaos and destruction. Their spiritual legacy is a beacon to the world, their innocent suffering a redemptive act for the collective. In our day to day lives we, too, are confronted with the challenge of redemption whenever we are overcome with a personal experience of trauma, or a sense of alienation and despair. Bio-genesis in the toxic environment of hydrothermal vents reflects, in the natural world, the possibility of a psycho-genesis generated by accepting, and transforming, toxic sites of our personal experiences of darkness.
Epilogue After years of living a life of growing consciousness and simple spiritual devotion, one would think that the path of life becomes easier to navigate, that an inner light will radiate at the flick of a switch. This is not my experience. Nor, I am convinced, is it the experience for many other people of similar circumstances. Only by grace have I been spared the personal and direct experience of horrific traumas - natural catastrophe, personal holocaust and genocide. Yet, by the very fact that I am alive and therefore not without wounding, I am vulnerable to the periodic visitations of a quietly eruptive and deadly darkness, to the terrifying chaos of complete uncertainty.
Experiences of despair and loss of connection - even after breakthrough, life-changing events, extensive analysis, and a profound sense of communion with the forces of nature and spirit - have led me to believe, and growingly accept that my own path leads me repeatedly on pilgrimages to the inner shrine of darkness, not because I am morally deficient, not because I am depressed, and not because theres some form of enlightenment or personal maturation that I am just not "getting." Rather, I am led to the shrine of darkness because, in spite of a desire to consistently experience the peace and happiness of a certain spiritual liberation, the mournful face of God abides within me and wants to be seen, and loved, through my eyes. At this shrine I have learned to love when I experience nothing to love.
Sadness, I need
your black wing.
So much honey in the topaz
each ray smiling
in the wide fields
and all an abundant light about me,
all an electric whir in the high air.
And so give me your black wing,
I need sometimes to have the sapphire
extinguished and to have
the angled mesh of the rain fall,
the weeping of the earth
Now I am missing
the black light.
Give me your slow blood,
spread over me your fearful wing!
Into my care
give back the key
of the closed door,
the ruined door.
For a moment, for
a short lifetime,
remove my light and leave me
to feel myself
trembling in the web
receiving into my being
Pablo Neruda 1
II. The Mournful Face of GodIn the bittersweet of Nerudas poem, we are reminded of a primordial longing for darker places, spaces where we can rightfully mourn, feel our sadness, our grief and despair; a place where we can let ourselves experience, without shame or guilt, the sense of abandonment and wretchedness we encounter in the wake of our wounds, in the recognition of others wounds, in receiving "the weeping of the earth." Neruda honors these places, acknowledging that this, too, is a necessary part of life. We are reminded that this mournful face of God, the shrine of darkness, is a holy place, a place that makes whole, and heals. True to the paradoxical nature of spiritual and conscious life, the wounds we bring to this shrine are both the suffering and the redemption. Through them, we are pierced and torn apart; but without them, we would not have the opportunity to forge a forgiving and compassionate response. We would not have the opportunity to make love conscious.
If we turn away from experiencing these darker places, seeking, as Neruda says, only the all "abundant light," "the electric whir in the high air," we risk denial of the vivifying dimensions of the underworld: surrender, vulnerability, death - the composting and transformative agents of regeneration and new life. If we turn away from these darker places, we risk great danger and damage. By turning away from experiencing our own sadness and darkness, we risk extensive projections which can lead, ultimately, to the persecution of individuals and groups left at the mercy of a striving, solar-polarized consciousness. We risk self-righteous scapegoating, sexism, racism, genocide and other atrocities of marginalization, such as the tyranny of poverty and lack of education.
More often than not, those who frequent the shrine of darkness, making offerings to "sister sadness," carry or acknowledge something to which the collective remains blind, something that is trying to become conscious through pilgrimage to these darker realms. Those who frequent this shrine often carry the collective shadow. If they are fortunate, they realize that this is the case. They realize that their sadness, their profound grief, is not only personal, but collective as well. If they do not have this awareness, those who frequent this shrine may suffer the greater torments of being over-shadowed by collective denial and feel that they, solely, are to blame.In pilgrimage to the shrine of darkness, something is attempting to come into fuller consciousness. Through pilgrimage, the rites of mourning are asking to be lived; death is seeking to be fully embraced as part of life; the dark sister, the dark feminine, is asking to be honored. It is not the wholesale eradication of suffering that we must heroically achieve, but the humble understanding that suffering is inseparable from life.
The pilgrimage into the realm of the dark feminine is not without sacrifice. As in any encounter with the unconscious, with the Unknown, the ego suffers a blow. Because the descent is not without cost, there is a desperate avoidance of these subterranean realms. We delude ourselves into believing that by avoiding the encounter, we can avoid existential chaos.
Perhaps one of our greatest misperceptions is that correctly following the spiritual path, "getting it right," will put an end to suffering, to existential chaos. The fantasy is that if we can only know the final and definitive formula to ceasing eruptive visitations of suffering, we will be able to reach the goal: We will have, once and for all, gained peace and freedom, and never have to face suffering again. The mournful face of God requires that we take another look at that fantasy.In the previous chapter, Robert Sardello describes the explosion of the atomic bomb and the ensuing holocaust as a mythic event. From this perspective, what arises is a global creation myth of vast and collective proportions which requires the human psyche to continually engage in the renunciation of certainty and, therefore, in the continual encounter with death, impermanence and chaos. To re-create ourselves, physically and psychically, we must pay homage to this reality. The depth encounter with uncertainty must be accepted if we are to understand this creation myth and its instructive potential. Uncertainty, chaos and impermanence cannot be denied; it is our perception of these phenomena that needs re-focusing. Ancient teachings have already revealed the truth of impermanence long before it was brought so undeniably and irrevocably into collective consciousness through the atomic blast. Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher, Pema Chodron, offers insight into the experience of uncertainty and impermanence, helping to realign our perception. She says, "If were willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation."2 She continues by noting that turning "your mind toward the dharma [spiritual teachings] does not bring security or confirmation. Turning your mind toward the dharma does not bring any ground to stand on. In fact, when your mind turns toward the dharma, you fearlessly acknowledge impermanence and change and begin to get the knack of hopelessness." 3 "Hopelessness means that we no longer have the spirit for holding our trip together We long to have some reliable, comfortable ground under our feet, but weve tried a thousand ways to hide and a thousand ways to tie up all the loose ends, and the ground just keeps moving under us."4
While Chodron is not suggesting that life is hopeless, she does offer that if we do not include chaos, death and impermanence in our lives we will be denying the intrinsic nature of life itself. We will once again be rejecting what is referred to here as the mournful face of God, the dark feminine, and our suffering will not disappear but will only be compounded.
Chaos and The Dark Feminine In Addiction to Perfection, Jungian Analyst, Marion Woodman, refers to the dark feminine when she says, " what we now call the unconscious is in psychological reality a consciousness that has simply been underground for too long. In alchemy there is the concept of the Deus Absconditus (male), the hidden god in matter. But the unconscious also includes the Dea Abscondita, The Black Madonna..."5 She continues by describing how this dimension of the psyche reveals itself, how we are to recognize its very particular manifestation or expression.
"Inner dynamic or process," "creativeness rather than creation" - these are essential conditions of the Dea Abscondita, and by their very nature demand interaction with the uncertain and impermanent, with flux and chaos. The dark feminine side of God does not act through the rule of law, nor through rigid control; rather, it acts through the quality of wisdom and the profound ability to engage the unpredictable and the unknown.
In October of 2000, Dr. Marvin Spiegelman presented a lecture at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. He spoke of the Virgin Marys various apparitions to children in France, Portugal and Yugoslavia. Spiegelman points out that Marys message to those to whom she appears has become increasingly insistent on our need to pray to her. He understands this as the urgent need to honor the feminine, not only within analytical psychology, but also in the world-at-large. Perhaps even more urgent now is to recognize the dark feminine, the Black Madonna or Dea Abscondita, whose intrinsically earthy nature has been left fallow and uncultivated for far too long.
Denial of Darkness: Experiences in the Psyche When we do not consciously recognize the dark feminine, we place ourselves on dangerous ground. Denial of darker realms contributes to a profound betrayal of life, especially when the denial turns itself into projection - into one person, onto one people. Within the psyche of those betrayed, toxic projection can twist and drive, wrenching itself into despair, rage and even terror. For those who have experienced betrayal at these levels, for those who have been over-shadowed by the trauma of individual and collective denial, the betrayal can become a horrifying and bottomless abyss, an abyss which is experienced as the demonic and raging core of ones very own being. This experience can arise within those who have been radically marginalized and brutalized, forced to carry the projection of a malignant shadow that is not theirs, personally, to bear. This is experienced in the survivors of genocide, in sexual abuse, child abuse, sexism, racism, and maleficent oppression of all kinds which implant a life-threatening sense of shame, simply for being who one is a woman, a defenseless child, of a different belief, or just different. At extreme states, massive betrayal of innocence, against one person or against one people, can become massive trauma, turning the mournful face of God into a monstrous one. This is a monster which fiercely defends against further betrayal by destroying any threatening approach or experience, including that of being loved or feeling whole. The individual who has been so brutally betrayed cannot risk further violation. Even if the approach is genuinely loving and caring, that love is experienced as perilous and must be destroyed at all costs. It makes one far too vulnerable, and therefore at great risk of further betrayal. It is understood by those so violated, mostly unconsciously, that experiencing this level of vulnerability must be vehemently defended against, even at the cost of suicide or other forms of destruction aimed at self-dissolution. Those who have been traumatized at these levels are continuously re-traumatized, through encounters with others, and by isolation from others. They live in a bleak and terrifying no-mans-land. A necessary response to this experience of trauma is the painstakingly slow dismantling of a self-protective impulse which has become aberrant, cruelly annihilating any approach of healing or love. With patience, and grace, the internal experience of love can be restored, at least well-enough. Without it, the damage of betrayal can remain indefinitely, leaving the individual to relive again and again the terror of a raging disintegration. It is not within the scope of this brief paper to enter deeply into the psycho-dynamics of trauma. There are others who have done this with exceptional skill. Among them are Jungian Analyst, Donald Kalsched, who describes the phenomena in his opus, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit. For the scope of this paper, it is sufficient to say that in working with trauma we are often working with the horror of marginalization imprisoned within both body and mind. We are working with the deadly denial of the dark feminine. As individuals and as a collective, we are being traumatized by a world view that leaves no room for the mournful face of God. We are told by many indigenous cultures, including the Hopi of the American Southwest, that we must begin in great earnest to address and embrace what we are here referring to as the dark feminine. If we cannot, the world as we now know it will be lost to us. If we cannot mourn, if we cannot feel an authentic and profound sense of compassion and sorrow, for ourselves and for others, for all sentient beings including this planet, our losses will be even greater than they are now, spiritually, environmentally, psychically. Pema Chodron describes the nature of this particular spiritual path in the following passage from her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. She is quoted at length because she describes so well, in her particular terms, how the mournful face of God, the dark feminine, can bring us to the deepest experiences of an indestructible love, the very healing necessary for our traumatizing world view.
Sightings and Celebrations of the Dark Feminine In the first section of this inquiry, the phenomenon of deep-sea hydrothermal vents describes one site of the dark feminine. Through what other sites can we directly engage this dimension of the psyche? How do we "pray to her" as Spiegelman suggests we must? Where are the spaces and places we encounter uncertainty creatively, bringing depth and darkness to its rightful place of honor within the continuum of consciousness? Where can we find the inspiration that will allow us to enter the field of uncertainty and learn to move with it, rather than against it? And where do those marginalized find recognition and respect in the world? Below, are only a few examples, by no means exhaustive, that might help address these questions, and that acknowledge Her presence. DAY OF PARDON 2000 In honor and celebration of the millenium, the Catholic Church issued a public apology for acts which encouraged and condoned centuries of cruel and abusive treatment against countless peoples. The apology asks forgiveness for deeds enacted which have violated the rights of those marginalized and made to unwillingly sacrifice their lives and their cultures by becoming scapegoats, carrying the shadow for the unrelenting collective. In referring here to this unprecedented apology, it is not to say that all is now well and redeemed. It is to say, however, that we are presented with a significant gesture suggesting serious reflection on the atrocities committed, atrocities that were once ordained and considered acceptable. This apology has the potential to prompt the creative chaos of an expanded vision, and to encourage the new growth in consciousness that arises as a result. Although the apology may not reach many ears initially, it is a prayer that, hopefully, may quietly and pervasively enter the listening heart in decades to come. Below is an edited version of the prayer, asking Gods forgiveness for sins committed throughout history by the "sons and daughters" of the Church. 8 This was the central act of the Day of Pardon on March 12, 2000 and was an integral part of the Mass celebrated that day in St. Peters Cathedral in Rome.9
JESUS OF THE PEOPLE In an another celebration of the millenium, the National Catholic Reporter, a Missouri-based weekly newspaper, launched a worldwide search for an image of the contemporary Jesus. It was to be a bold new image that best represented a new vision of Christ. The response to the search was global. There were 1,678 entries from 19 countries on 6 different continents. Judging the competition was Sister Wendy Beckett, a British Roman Catholic nun and world-renowned art critic. For first place, Sister Wendy chose Jesus of the People, a painting submitted by Janet McKenzie from the United States. The most obviously striking feature of the painting is that Christ is black - perhaps African, perhaps African American, perhaps Caribbean it is left to the imagination of the viewer. Surrounding the central figure of Christ are cultural icons outside those we have traditionally come to associate with Jesus. On one side of Christ, McKenzie places the yin-yang symbol of the East; on the other, a sacred feather representing the indigenous peoples of the world. These elements arise from cultures and philosophies which have been severely marginalized in a world dominated by the prejudices of Western Civilization. Bringing these elements together, including Christs darkness of skin, reveals a vision which includes the neglected, rejected and denied. McKenzies image of Christ gives us the opportunity to acknowledge what has too long been crucified, made invisible. The following comments are excerpts from a newspaper article about McKenzie and her painting, Jesus of the People. The article is quoted at length to illustrate the range of reactions in response to her image of Christ. You will note that while many welcome this image as long overdue, others do not.
It is clear that a collective nerve had been struck. The image carries profound impact. People are compelled to respond. That the painting was actually selected as the winner is already telling. It was not overlooked, or over-ruled. It was found to be timely: a Jesus of the people, todays people. Like the Black Madonna of Einsiedeln, this image of Jesus is sorely needed in the collective. The greatest synchronistic element within the painting (in relationship to this paper) is something the viewer can never know until informed. Though not directly evident, it can indeed be sensed, as the reference in the newspaper article suggests. The model for Jesus of the People was not a man. The model was a woman, a black woman. Here, symbolically and literally, Christ is not separate from the dark feminine. They are inextricably one. The new Christ consciousness is inseparable from the feminine side of God, and furthermore, from the dark feminine side. To recall Woodmans words, " what we now call the unconscious is in psychological reality a consciousness that has simply been underground for too long." The return or the second coming is, therefore, "the emergence of the feminine side of God, which has been gradually taking shape for centuries in what we call the unconscious." With her extraordinary painting, Jesus of the People, McKenzie reflects, visually, Woodmans far-reaching notions on the dark feminine. BUTOH: DANCE OF DARKNESS The word Butoh has been translated into Dance of Darkness. Butoh is a Japanese dance form that emerged out of post-war Japan, which includes the experience of nuclear holocaust. It was founded by Tatsumi Hijikata, with the first performance given in 1959. Although its roots can be found in the oldest Japanese folkloric traditions, Butoh recognizes influences from post-war European movements, most predominantly, German Expressionism. Although one can make attempts to describe Butoh according to these categories, conclusive classification is not possible. Ultimately, the dance of Butoh arises outside convention, outside form, outside any prescribed approach. It is, at its most authentic, a protest against those very elements. Butoh has been viewed by some as a search for a new identity, a way of establishing meaning for a society that had directly and unmercifully experienced a profound breach in their personal, cultural and existential reality. It is considered by its practitioners to be an exploration into the unconscious, into the realm of imagination and shadows. Movement in this art form does not typically focus on depiction, nor is it choreographed in the usual way, i.e., shaping movement from the conscious level. Movement intentionally begins and continues from the inner recesses of the psyche. The focus is on tracking the immediate metamorphosis of psyche through movement. The discipline in tracking the psyche in this way is then ritualized or formalized into performance. In Butoh, the intention is to follow, through movement, an internal psychic image to the conclusion of becoming the consciousness of the image itself. You are no longer moving like a river, for example, you become, as closely as possible, the consciousness of river. This approach encourages an experience of the primal energies which animate and nourish the very core of our being. In this regard, it is an opportunity for an experience of the numinous which, as Jung says, "is the real therapy and inasmuch as you attain to the numinous experiences you are released from the curse of pathology " 11 One well-known Butoh performer, Min Tanaka, traveled the entire length of Japan, dancing each day. His idea was to feel the difference in the ground at different places. He called the experiment Hyperdance. He said, "I dance not in the place, the dance is the place." 12 Another practitioner describes Butoh in the following way, "The Butoh dancer tries to capture the subtleties of the soul, understanding that dance is the movement of the soul accompanied by the body. The soul is not there for others to like it. It is there to express what it has to express The only requisite [for Butoh] is to not lose faith or hope; to pursue dreams and grab them strongly in the body, like a beautiful treasure that keeps us alive. Once there, it begins to wake up and move the world of emotions and feelings." 13 If we can consider Butoh to have arisen, at least in part, out of the mythic event of nuclear holocaust, if we can consider it an attempt, conscious or unconscious, to make meaning out of that mythic event, we might postulate that the discipline of Butoh can help restore psychic wholeness within the reality of that global myth. To be related to the mythological is to be in touch with the whole-making and ordering principle of the psyche. Marie-Louise von Franz describes an occasion of this occurrence when speaking of Fijian Islanders:
Butoh potentially gives us the rare opportunity to delve philosophically, somatically and psychically into one of the most profound "creation" myths in the history of humankind, and to help restore meaning within the individual and collective psyche as a result. For our spiritual evolution as a collective, and possibly for our very survival, there is a great need to develop a psychological technology, a "skillful means," that will more deeply connect us to the experience and understanding of the feminine, especially the dark feminine, which includes the body and its relationship to consciousness. Butoh bases its teachings firmly and squarely on the feminine in that it seeks and fosters "Gods inner dynamic or process God in his creativeness rather than in his creation "15 Butoh, therefore, has the potential to strengthen the awareness and integration of an aspect of the psyche that has been underground for far too long. IN ANALYTICAL WORK, IN THE ANALYTICAL WORLD: PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
I would like to conclude this paper by referring to experiences taken from my own life (which in this instance include my experiences as a Jungian analyst) where I have most intensely felt the presence of the dark feminine, and the very difficult lessons that may come when interacting with this archetypal energy. It is my hope that, in addition to the sightings of the dark feminine listed above, the ensuing story will help answer for the reader, as it did for me, some of the questions I pose at the beginning of this section: Where are the spaces and places we encounter uncertainty creatively, bringing depth and darkness to its rightful place of honor within the continuum of consciousness? Where can we find the inspiration that will allow us to enter the field of uncertainty and learn to move with it, rather than against it?
Upon starting my training at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, I had the following initial dream. I was 40 years old at the time.
I finished my training at the Institute without having analyzed this dream. It was simply there as the guiding star, in all its magical splendor, left intact by the wisdom of my analyst, to unfold according to psyches own sense of timing. As you will see in the story that follows, this dream unfolded precipitously a few years after my training when I recommenced my analytical practice in the United States. After living, working and training in Switzerland for 11 years, I decided to return to the U.S. I knew it would not be an easy re-entry, for several reasons, including the prospect of practicing in a country that was so very different from the mentality and culture in which I had been formally trained. In addition, I would be moving without financial resources, except the very minimal. I was uncertain as to where I would return. For the first few weeks, I traveled along the West Coast - roots since early childhood - to see what place felt right. One morning during my travels, I had a dream which determined my final direction:
As soon as I woke up, I realized that I had to go to Taos and investigate. I had lived in Santa Fe in the late seventies and early eighties and was familiar with Taos. I had visited several times, but I had never lived there. The city of Santa Fe, with all its cosmopolitan sophistication, is a world apart from the town of Taos, which is well over a mountainous hours drive north, and is quite isolated. After two weeks of exploration in Taos I decided, with great trepidation, to follow what my unconscious seemed to be directing me toward: I moved to Taos, and started a practice. It was more challenging than I had ever anticipated. To explain, I will begin by briefly describing the most salient aspects of Taos. Taos Valley stands at about 7,000 feet (over 2,000 meters), with mountains reaching to an altitude of over 13,000 feet (almost 4000 meters). The town of Taos has about 6,500 inhabitants, most of whom are Hispanic, some being direct descendents of the original Spanish Conquistadors who came in the middle of the 15th century. The second largest population group is represented by those who are referred to in New Mexico as Anglos ("white" folks); and the third largest population is American Indian, the Tiwa nation from Taos Pueblo. The approximate percentage breakdown is 45%, 35% and 20%, respectively. Of the percentage of Anglos, there is a small number actively interested in Jungian psychology, and smaller still who are able to afford analysis. The Hispanic and Tiwa population have their own firmly-rooted spiritual traditions. To further define conditions in Taos, I quote from a recent Economic Newsletter for Taos County: "Average weekly earnings in the Taos economy were almost a fourth less than for the entire state. Unemployment rates were triple the national figure. Major income supporting social welfare declined. All in all, the boom characterizing the national economy in the past few years has bypassed Taos." As you can imagine, the challenges of starting a practice in Taos from ground zero have been extreme. In spite of the mystique and manna of Taos, which Jung himself discovered (and contributed to) when he came to visit the Pueblo in the 1920s, the difficulties have been spiritually bone-breaking. I have worked in earnest to develop a radical sense of trust. In the process, I have experienced high and physically painful states of anxiety, my legs literally collapsing from under me. In the midst of this sense of urgency, however, I have also been acutely conscious of an invisible though vital awareness to sustain me. I discovered this awareness, most particularly, in the parking lot of some rag-tag little store on a bitter-cold day in the middle of winter, wondering for the 10th consecutive month how I was going to buy the next bag of groceries (let alone pay the rent). I almost stopped short as I understood in the deepest strata of my being how a person could be driven to homicide (a great surprise, since suicide had always been the prior fantasy in times of chronic crisis). I realized how impotent one can feel in this persistently hopeless situation, and how any act, even an act of violence (which is statistically high in Taos County), can relieve this sense of utter powerlessness and desperation. I realized I was not separate from this except for an invisible though vital awareness. Upon reflection, I began to realize the nature of this awareness. It had arisen from seeds planted long ago, and was now bearing fruit. The awareness I refer to can best be described by saying that, at rock bottom, I realized there was within me the ability to love, even when I thought there was nothing to love. I realized within me the ability to contain absolute paradox, if only for brief moments at a time. As intermittent as it may be, it has been this awareness that has quietly and bravely accompanied my experiences of hopelessness, rage and confusion, and which has kept me from utter despair. In significant part, the awareness I speak of has arisen directly from the gut and soul of analytical psychology; that is, from the opportunity and privilege to search within myself with a ruthless honesty, guided by the wisdom and genuine respect of another person, an analyst who has come through the experience of the same intensively tempering journey. Along with pure grace, it has been the gut and soul of analytical psychology (as opposed to the endless academic and bureaucratic training requirements) that has provided the kind of moral strength needed to endure the rending forces of paradox, and to be sufficiently open to the creative chaos of a vital life. The experiences I have encountered in Taos have solidified my belief that a crucial factor in the development of the psyche is a continuous and visceral experience of what is required to mine ones essential creativity, and what it means to endure the painful dissonance of existential chaos. This visceral experience serves as the ground of being held within the dark feminine. Conditions have improved for me in Taos, both personally and professionally. However, after surviving the infamous first years of initiation, (people introduce themselves by the number of years theyve lived here), I am uncertain I will remain. Being here, however, has provided opportunities to live the awareness I have gained beyond my wildest imagination. I have suffered, but in the process I have been driven to the core of what I personally understand analytical psychology and its practice to be. I have also been exposed to a profound experience of the dark feminine. My initial dream upon starting analysis in Zurich was a shimmering and numinous mystery. Little did I realize that the Black Madonna in this early dream would come to life so vividly in Taos. Nine years later, the red shoes in my dream about Taos - shoes I associate with Dorothys red shoes in the Wizard of Oz which she must don in order to return home - have brought me to a spiritual home, a place where I would, indeed, learn acutely and critically about the Black Madonna who had come to life at the beginning of my analytical journey. My initial dream has come full circle in Taos, and has shown me the terrible beauty of the Black Madonna, the Dea Abscondita.
The examples represented by the The Day of Pardon, Jesus of the People, Butoh, and my own personal story demonstrate different experiences that can help equalize an imbalance of power, both at the intra-psychic level where heroic, solar consciousness can dominate, and at inter-psychic levels in our relations with others where the willingness to vulnerability can generate trust and, ultimately, true intimacy and healing. If the essence of these experiences and others like them were more widely admitted into the realm of consciousness, it might be easier for those who frequent the shrine of darkness to find the inherent redemptive power that lies there. They would be able to recognize that it is not necessarily a personal deficiency that drives them to the shrine, but a natural need to recognize the Dea Abscondita, The Mournful Face of God. It is only when the dark feminine is not recognized that She is tormented, through us. When denied, She disappears from our conscious life only to become an unconscious, unquenchable and destructive drive to disavow all suffering, at all costs, to no avail.
...And so give me your black wing,
I need sometimes to have the sapphire
extinguished and to have
the angled mesh of the rain fall,
the weeping of the earth
Cedrus N. Monte, Ph.D. dipl, is a Diplomate Jungian Analyst, graduate of the C. G. Jung Institute-Zurich. Her research into synchronicity and the creative process is published in the anthology, Images, Meanings and Connections: Essays in Memory of Susan R. Bach. (Daimon), and was funded by the Susan Bach Foundation. Her most recent research, Project Soul Dance: Accessing the Unconscious through Movement, is also funded by the Susan Bach Foundation, and is an inquiry into the relationship between psyche and soma through the study of Butoh, a Japanese dance form.
Cedrus Monte, Ph.D. Dipl., is a Jungian analyst trained at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.
© Cedrus Monte, all rights reserved up to and including the present date