“From the Four Corners of the Earth”~ Jung’s words on avoiding our souls

From the Four Corners of the Earth”~ Jung’s words on avoiding our souls 

As you may know, I’ve been reading my way through the works of Jung that I can afford or obtain. It’s a slow thing, because I do not wish to rush the experience. I take time over each page, and sometimes I stay with it for quite a long while. Things sometimes leap off the page at me and I make a note or put in a little page marker.

The other night, the following struck me from The Earth Has a Soul (a collection of his writings on Nature, technology and modern life)

People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet, learn theosophy by heart, or mechanically repeat mystic texts from the literature of the whole world – all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their souls. Thus the soul has gradually been turned into a Nazareth from which nothing good can come. Therefore let us fetch it from the four corners of the earth- the more far-fetched and bizarre it is the better!” (Carl Gustav Jung Complete Works 12, para 126)

Now all of the things he describes are excellent things, and beneficial disciplines in and of themselves. But used as a means of evading and avoiding the soul-work we are called to do, they’re little different from losing yourself in drugs, drink or a myriad of other activities people indulge in to keep from the moment when they must face their own soul.

I’d like to share one of my own poems as a coda to this section from Jung’s works. I’ve spent a lot of my life on the edges and even the very fringes of all manner of philosophies and faiths and among the seekers of this western world, there is a powerful emphasis on wisdom coming from somewhere other than home. Like Jesus being treated shabbily in his own home town, most prophets and prophecies are seldom honoured initially in their places of origin.

My kind of wisdom

Just because my kind of wisdom

Doesn’t wear buckskin,

Isn’t hung with feathers,

Isn’t decorated with crystals

And isn’t inscribed with runes and sigils,

It doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Just because my kind of wisdom

Doesn’t require mastering

An arcane language,

Higher mathematics

Or a degree in theology,

It doesn’t mean it isn’t deep.

Just because my kind of wisdom

Doesn’t ask me to stand

On one leg for years,

Beat myself with whips,

And starve myself half to death,

It doesn’t mean it hasn’t cost.

Homespun, home-grown, homemade:

You know, from somewhere far off,

It might look as exotic as yours.

Guest posting

I have contributed a guest post about the creative life over at Journey of Life found at the link below:

http://controlyourdestiny.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/when-the-wells-run-dry/

I’m rather proud of this one so please go and read and comment too. I hope it helps explain the hiatuses in the life of a creative soul and perhaps some clues about the whys.

Soul food, mind candy and comfort eating…

When I am under stress I turn to various forms of comfort.

I often return to books I have loved and read over and over again. For some, this can be children’s books. Many people return to books like the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings and various others. Books we know and love are safe and predictable in a changing world. I used to have nightmares that the makers of the film version of Lord of the Rings were going to change the story to fit Hollywood better; this is not so silly as it sounds. One of my favourite books is Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman; the film version was an utter travesty.

Some books I read at times like this are not fiction. I read Lark Rise to Candleford, my collection of herbals and even sometimes recipe books. I go back to poetry I haven’t read since I was an undergraduate, and to poetry that has been my constant companion much of my life. These books are part of my soul food collection. They feed my soul, to stop it starving. Other soul food books are ones that come my way from time to time and I rarely read again; they are the ones that spark thought and meditation and sometimes anger and upset. But the iron ration soul food books are the ones that are falling apart.

I also like mind candy. I like candy floss and seaside rock from time to time; and so my tastes in books and other entertainment can seem banal. I like a good “Boys’ Book”: you know the kind, the rollicking adventure with cardboard characters, high octane action, and implausible but compelling plot. Basically, beach reads for those who hate chick lit. They’re light and unsatisfying and after a few they all seem the same. But like candy floss, they don’t fill you up and they taste nice for a while. I wouldn’t recommend a diet of them; they don’t feed anything deeper and they rot your mental teeth.

Comfort eating is a harder one to describe; sometimes it’s books you have read before but usually it’s books by authors you like but haven’t read. I have read about half of all Dickens; but not all. Like Shakespeare, Dickens’ stories have become a part of national identity and have a comforting predictability running through. Jane Austen  novels  are comfort food too, though they stray into soul food too. You’ll know comfort books by their solidity; often great chunks of literature, swimming with a rich gravy of pithy wisdom, and laced with just enough spice to tempt a tired palate.  

I have a collection of books that I go back to and when they wear out, I buy another copy. I don’t put them all on the same shelves or even in the same room. They are different genres, different eras, different needs, but I know where they are. I recently misplaced my copy of TS Eliot’s The Four Quartets and I’m still mildly anxious about where it might be; thankfully I have a copy of the complete poems, but that neat little volume was so handy to stick in a bag.

If only I could get a handle on my real eating habits when under stress. When I am depressed, I eat for comfort, but when I am stressed enough, I stop eating  for days. There doesn’t seem to be a middle way. And since I am usually either stressed or depressed, my body doesn’t quite know which way is up sometimes.

There has to be a better way. Maybe I should start “eating” books more…