WORD - Dr Edith Wallace
|This talk was found amongst Edith’s papers after she died and we thought it an important discourse on the value and significance of words by a Jungian who placed so much emphasis in her life work on the revealing power of images. It was written in 1974 and given for the C. G. Jung Foundation for Analytic Psychology, but we have no record of where it was presented or how or in what context .It has been slightly edited for clarity. It was prefaced by the following instructions.|
Use of the Word
Since my approach is built on experiencing first and then taking a closer look and talking about it, it would be helpful if some of you would try one or two of the following exercises and bring the result to the first seminar session.
With strict economy, no more than one sentence, with possibly one word:
Transcribe any one of the above into a short poem or a "Haiku."
For some of you a poem or Haiku may arise spontaneously, often while your attention is on something else, but you have it in mind to write. What happens at such moments?
Try to search for just one word, the "right" word for you in your descriptions. Again: what happens, what happens to you when you take the time to search for the “right" word?
From Echoes of the Wordless 'Word’ ed. Daniel C. Noel
Allan Watts quoted on p.IX:
( the metatheologian) must be a poet, not just a versifier, but a master of images - (a parabolist, allegorist, analogist, and imaginator)
p.11 The Greenland Eskimo Kilime told Rasmussen (from Paul Radin, "The Literature of Primitive Peoples", Diogenes, 12 Winter 1955, pp. 5-6:
all songs come to man when he is alone in the great solitude. They come to him in the wake of tears, of tears that spring from the deep recesses of the heart or they come to him suddenly accompanied by joy and laughter which wells up within us/ we know not how, as we ponder upon life and look out upon the wonders of the world around us.
Then, without our volition, without our knowledge, words come to us in songs that do not belong to everyday speech. They come to us with every breath we take and become the property of those who have the skill to weave them together for others.
p.12 Eskimo Poet: "All my being is song, and I sing as I draw breath."
p.13: all sources are in the end mysteriously dynamic like the sources of rivers, which are not said to "begin" but to "rise".
From: Correspondence with Jung, quoted in H. L. Philip, Jung and the Problem of Evil, pp.12-13, London, Rockliff 1958; description of the Unconscious, in which Jung makes explicit the imagery underlying the idea of source:
It is the source of all sorts of evils and also on the other hand the motherground of all divine experience and - paradoxical as it may sound - it has brought forth and brings forth consciousness. Such a statement does not mean that the source originates, i.e., that the water materializes just in the spot where you see the source of a river; it comes from deep down in the mountain and runs along its secret ways, before it reaches daylight. When I say: "Here is the source," I only mean the spot where the water becomes visible. The water-simile expresses rather aptly the nature and importance of the unconscious.
p.25, Goethe: It is not given to us to grasp the truth, which is identical with the divine, directly. We perceive it only in reflection, in example and symbol, in singular and related appearances. It meets us as a kind of life which, incomprehensible to us, and yet we cannot free ourselves from the desire to comprehend it.
p.26: In Psychology of the Unconscious Jung concluded:
Language is originally and essentially nothing but a system of signs or symbols, which denote real occurrences, or their echo in the human soul." Such a reticulated web of sounds or printed images bears no necessary correlation with the occurrences or the echoes. Like Ophelia, however, man is crazed with echoes, which he attempts to answer. The most haunting echo in his soul is the sense of lapse, or separation from an original unity, a. unity which he has sometimes called by the name of God. Crazed as he is, man can no longer conjure up that participation which he senses he once experienced. So he, like Ophelia, turns pathetically to language in the nostalgic hope that it might again occasion consonance.
In the Beginning was the Word.
Let me state first of all that I am aware that "the Word" in the Gospel according to St. John means the Way, the Truth, the "beginning of all things, the Lord, the Creator of the world, and I had not meant to use "the word" in that sense.
I did ask myself: Is the first thing in creation that presents itself to us a word or an image, or maybe a kinaesthetic experience or just an itch. The word seemed something more advanced to me. For Jung himself everything is preceded "by the "primordial image", and I will give you some examples of what he says on the subject later.
It also occurred to me that we use and misuse words all the time. We use them, not as I think they were originally meant: for communication, but we use them for separation all too often. We use them as a smokescreen: as long as I am talking they won't see who I am and I do not need to feel uncomfortable. Silence can be anxiety provoking, especially when we feel on shaky ground. For adolescents in search of themselves in therapy for instance ‘no words’ can be too uncomfortable to be endured. In such instances it is better to fill the space with words, because under such circumstances any word can be a kind of bond. Just like we may use an obvious phrase not so much for what we are saying, but as an expression of feeling. For instance in a kind of New England way, the person who pulls up in his car on the road to stop beside someone who stands beside a car with a flat tire and says: "Got a flat tire?" [ such statements have been called ‘presymbolic’] – It sounds silly when you hear it cold, but it says more than the phrase or can, without .stating a feeling directly, without saying "I am sorry" which might be embarrassing for both. Or as another example this magic formula that we seem to have to use in our troubled times: "Have a good day!"
Psychologists are well aware today, that we can hide behind words, and also that there are other ways of expressing oneself and communicating, maybe more direct ones, sometimes easier ones. As you know I like to and have used them myself. But since our method is basically 'verbal* and since articulation means consciousness it behoves us to take a second look at verbal expression, and also to try and use the word in the best possible way. Before we can use words to communicate again, we must take a closer look at the use of words and make an effort to use words right, search for expressing what we mean like the poet does. I believe most of us need to be more conscientious with the use of language - not only for the sake of human relationship but also for sharpening our perception to begin with and our articulation, which is a measurable manifestation of consciousness.
[This is why I sent out those leaflets with exercises. I want to emphasise, that we are doing something here together which will be in statu nascendi, a state of being born, therefore needs careful handling, in other words, this is not the time for criticism, but for protecting and nurturing.]
Words can be used for an exercise in perception, because we cannot adequately describe what we have not perceived. And such an apparently simple exercise can lead us deep inside and on a path to the creative source. (I wish to apologise to the poets among you, and I hope I am not doing to you what the questioner did when he asked the man with the long beard, whether he slept with his beard above the covers or under the bedcovers. The discipline of the artist is a form of concentration and 'meditation' which leads on the same road without the 'exercises' that I am talking about here.)
Exercise 1 Nevertheless: say what is the Sun, the Moon, the Earth; say it descriptively, elegantly, precisely, say it emotionally: a) personally, b) dramatically, state things in such a way that you make an affective impact.
One cannot talk about the use of words without talking about the poet. Loren Eiseley speaks of the poets (Invisible Pyramid):
It is useless to characterise them (poets) as dealers in the obsolete, because this venerable, word-loving trait in man is what enables him to transmit his eternal hunger - his yearning for the country of the unchanging autumn light. Words are man’s domain, from his beginning to his fall.
And before this, about man: "long ago he cunningly devised language to reach across the light-year distances between individual minds."
p.124 “The true poet is born wary and is frequently in retreat because he is a protector of the human spirit."
Language implies boundaries. A word spoken creates a dog, a rabbit, a man. It fixes their nature before our eyes; henceforth their shapes are, in a sense our own creation. They are no longer part of the unnamed shifting architecture of the universe. They have been transfixed as if by sorcery, frozen into a concept, a word. Powerful though the spell ' of human language has proven itself to be, it has laid boundaries upon the cosmos.
In the attempt to understand his universe, man has to give away part of himself which can never be regained - the certainty of the animal that what it senses is actually there in the shape the eye beholds. By contrast, man finds himself in Plato's cave of illusion. He has acquired an interest in the whole of the natural world at the expense of being ejected from it and returning, all too frequently, as an angry despoiler.”
Jung puts essentially the same thought in these words: (Transformation; Symbolism of the Mass, p.289/90):
One can be - and is - just as dependent on words as on the unconscious. Man's advance towards the Logos was a great achievement, but he must pay for it with loss of instinct and loss of reality to the degree that he remains in primitive dependence on mere words. Because words are substitutes for things, which of course they cannot be in reality, they take on intensified forms.
This rupture of the link with the unconscious and our submission to the tyranny of words have one great disadvantage: the conscious mind becomes more and more the victim of its own discriminating activity, the picture we have of the world gets broken down into countless particulars, and the original feeling of unity, which was integrally connected with the unity of the unconscious psyche, is lost. S.P. p. 15 & 19
And on the question of "image" and "word" Eiseley and Jung seem to be agreed also. Eiseley says it in his own poetic language (p. 141):
Once again, in the night, as I traversed a vast plain on foot, the clouds that coursed above me in the moonlight began to build into archaic, voiceless pictures. That they could do so in such a manner makes me sure that the reading of such pictures has long preceded what men of today call language. The reading of so endless an alphabet of forms is already beyond the threshold of the animal; man could somehow see a face in a shell or a pointing finger in a cloud. He had both magnified and contracted his person in a way verging on the uncanny. There existed in the growing cortex of man, in its endless ramifications and prolonged growth, a place where, paradoxically, time both flowed and lingered, where mental pictures multiplied and transposed themselves. One is tempted to believe, whether or not it is literally true, that the moment of first speech arrived in a starburst like a supernova. To be sure, the necessary auditory discrimination and memory tracts were a biological preliminary, but the ‘invention’ of language - and I put this carefully, having respect for both the biological and cultural elements involved - may have come, at the last, with rapidity.
Jung states it very clearly and very definitely in many places that the primordial image precedes the word. (On the Rel. of Anal. Psych, to Poetry: )
But the mythological figures are themselves products of creative fantasy and still have to be translated into conceptual language.
That is the secret of great art, and its effect upon us. The creative process, so far as we are able to follow it at all, consists in the unconscious activation of an archetypal image, and in elaborating and shaping this image into the finished work. By giving it shape, the artist translates it into the language of the present and so makes it possible for us to find our way back to the deepest springs of life. (This is my concern and that is why I am giving you all these quotes)
Psychological Types : The primordial image is the preliminary stage of the idea; its maternal soil.
Further, and this may take us a step further:
The idea is conceived also as a fundamental, a priori existent factor. It possesses this latter quality from its antecedent, the primordial, symbolical image. Its secondary nature of an abstract and derived entity it receives from the rational elaboration to which the 'primordial image is subjected before it is made suitable for rational usage. In as much as the primordial image is a constant autochthonic psychological factor repeating itself in all times and places, we might also, in a certain sense, say the same of the idea, although, on account of its rational nature, it is much more subject to modification by rational elaboration, which gives it formulations corresponding with the spirit of the time.
Here belongs also Gerhard Hauptmann's saying: "Poetry evokes out of words the resonance of the primordial word."
The last quote from Jung leads us to some recent research, compiled and presented by Robert Ornstein in his The Psychology of Consciousness. As he demonstrates, experiments have shown fundamental differences in the functioning of the two sides of the brain. The left side of the brain, which controls the right side of the body also controls, what Ornstein calls "our normal waking consciousness". It involves analysis, it makes it possible for us to differentiate objects and act upon them. The concept of causality, linear time and language are the essence of this mode - and this, of course is where it is relevant here. The right side of the brain is specialised for seeing things as a whole ('holistic mentation'). Its language ability is quite limited.
Today it is necessary to incorporate evidence that the linear, verbal-intellectual mode of knowing is not the only mode available to man.
Scientific articles may be as orderly and well reasoned as the scientist can make them. "The entire process, however, is not exclusively linear and rational. Scientific investigators act on personal knowledge, biases, hunches, intuition. It is the genius of the scientific method that the irrational thought becomes translated into the rational mode and made explicit, so that others can follow it.
Anais Nin, in The Novel of the Future, says something of a similar nature in more intuitive language:
A new kind of absolute is in sight, which, although it contains a refusal of what we logically call logical intelligence, is an elevation of the subconscious of man into a position of power and magnitude and surreality.
William James, The Variety of Religious Experience:
Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question, - for they are so discontinuous "with" ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.
They all seem to say the same thing – such a diverse collection of witnesses: Jung, Robert Ornstein, Anais Nin and William James!
The word has fallen into discredit, and yet we Work with verbal techniques. Before we discard them and seek to liberate emotion in nonverbal ways it behoves us to take a closer look at the use of the word. In therapy f.i. the word that liberates, that redeems or transforms like in the fairy tale. He who has the right word is freed from bondage and the same holds true psychologically.
And yet there is a poet who can say: "Words confine, when what I want is to escape." (Wiesel, One Generation After p.40)
It is true, something gets nailed down, we have made a commitment. This presupposes that we do use the word well, not just the right "form” which is one of the writer's concerns, but an expression of something that comes from the depth that confronts us with a truth which had been hidden. It is truly a responsibility to use words well.
Articulation is consciousness. It seems that man with all the opportunities given to him- her is also given all the pitfalls. All the riches we are given can be squandered and misused, and so it is with the word. It is a psychological rule that we do not act - for change - until we are pushed against the wall, until we are cornered. Today we are in desperate straights, having misused and are still misusing all our natural resources. Most of us city dwellers can not do too much about that. But we can all try not to misuse words, not to squander that 'natural resource'.
We do it for emotional reasons; we talk too much, when we need to siphon off emotion. As you all know, it is so much easier to say something in many words, rather than with an economy of words. Disraeli once wrote to a friend: "I am writing you a long letter, because I do not have the time to write you a short one." But then we are squandering the fire which Prometheus long ago stole for us from the Gods. We are squandering precious energy. We live violent lives rather than loving ones.
Some instinct tells us that something is wrong here and we revert to "non-verbal communications", but that is not the only solution. We were given” the word" which is spirit, and I believe we must use it right. Then we establish contact with the source, and we put the fire to good use. In the human evolution it was a tremendous event, when human beings used language for the first time. There may be something to be learnt from a look at history and the evolution of language. I can see a parallel to the creative act with words, the arising of words.
Eiseley quotes one prominent linguist who would "place the emergence of true language at no more than forty thousand years ago.” He himself accords it a much longer history, a longer preparation surely until finally the human brain was sufficiently developed to make it possible for man to name things and thereby move one step away from the animal and. come a. step closer to the Gods. We pay for this development and its joys as Prometheus paid for stealing the fire from the Gods.
Eiseley talks about this, Jung talks about it. (We have moved away from instinctual connections and lost our bearings; we have lost an initial wholeness). I believe we are reaching for even closer contact with "the Gods" (for want of a better word) and we could call our age "The Age of The Agony of Animal Man", and we have all the signs of the 'Agony ’. Man in pain will hit out in violence - or sit and endure the pain to get beyond it. This sitting to endure the pain can be Zen, can be meditation, it is certainly a most important ingredient of the creative process: complete concentration on the ‘aim’ or subject at hand - to the point of obsession, and when nothing will move. It is painful, it is agony! I consider it part of the "descent" Jung talks about so often.
The descent into the depths will bring healing. It is the way to the total being, to the treasure which suffering mankind is forever seeking, which is hidden in the place guarded by terrible danger. This is the place of primordial unconsciousness and at the same time the place of healing and redemption, because it contains the jewel of wholeness. It is the cave where the dragon of chaos lives and it is also the indestructible city, the magic circle or temenos, the sacred precinct where all the split off parts of the personality are united. (Anal. Ps. p.201)
The world's most beautiful truths are of no use until their purport has become an original inner experience with each of us. It is not enough to say things for them to be understood, and the experiencing of them will still go on for generations. But there is no other road than this one which appears to us to descend into the shadow of the valley; it is our chance of climbing to daylight again on the further side.
We are in utter darkness. But it pays to sit with it and bite through I assure you!
Eiseley thinks that in the end language "burst through" like a "starburst, a supernova, it "may have come at the last with rapidity. And this is what happens in the creative endeavour. At least this is my experience. I would say: once we are in it, it flows. There may be stale moments when we have to start all over again and overcome black spots, leap gaps, but they become shorter with our 1) capacity to stay concentrated, 2) experience that something will happen which gives us 3) confidence, trust in the process - the advantage of exercising once capacities. In the beginning I often ask myself: why am I exposing myself to this again! but in the end I always know, and I can even recommend it. I would encourage stealing fire from the Gods - and maybe we are only taking what might be ours by right - if we are made in the image of God as it is claimed.
It is agreed by who have dealt with the subject that the emergence of language is a most important, a liberating and imprisoning event in human history.
You may remember Helen Keller's first experience of the 'word’: the famous passage in her autobiography, which is so rich in language that it makes these beginnings she describes even more miraculous. It was the great day, when all sign-meaning was eclipsed by the discovery that a certain datum in her limited sense-world had a denotation, that a particular act of her fingers constituted a word. One day her teacher took her out for a walk - and there the great advent of language occurred:
She brought me my hat and I knew I was going out into the warm sunshine. This thought, if a wordless sensation may be called a thought, made me hop and skip with pleasure.
We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over my hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten - a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that in time could be swept away.
I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me.
Of course this makes us pause. What is this "something forgotten" -this "returning thought"? What is the preconscious experience? Can it be an image with her or is it an ancestral memory of language, from the collective unconscious, in the way in which we may dream in languages we never knew or studied and yet we "understand" in the dream maybe "remember" them. Whatever it is, it is also a miracle - as eve the title of the play indicated.
S. I. Hayakawa, the author of Language in Action says: "The meaning of words are NOT in the words; they are in US.”
This is a very important statement. If we could remember this, it could, have a liberating effect. I believe we would use words more freely and yet more succinctly and sincerely, also probably more originally, if we could remember: it is me who is speaking - in many instances. Of course we are afraid of self-revelation; the guards would be up, consciously or unconsciously.
About Poetry Hayakawa says: "Poetry, which condenses all the affective resources of language into patterns of infinite rhythmical subtlety may be said to be the language of expression at its highest degree of efficiency.
And it has been said that poets and scientists could be called the "window-washers of the mind." Again H. "Words are, as has been said from the beginning, the essential instruments of man's humanity. This book asks the reader to treat them as such.”
We will go into what is meant by "poetry" in the second talk, here now I want to bring you some evidence both of the use of poetry and what some writers and poets have to say.
Jack Leedy is a "poetry therapist" and the editor of two books on this subject; he says: "Poems like dreams are another royal road to the unconscious.) We live in prose, and dream in poetry."
(And this reminds me of the woman who is told, that she is speaking "prose", a fact, which impresses her greatly and provokes the exclamation: "Here I have been speaking prose all the time, and I never knew it!)
If we want to express it in different words: poetry uses the carefully chosen word, and so gets us in touch with the unconscious; our effort at it builds a channel to the self.
Leedy quotes a "poem" as an example of how one man expressed his feelings at getting in touch with his own uniqueness in the workshop experience:
Until now, the words
I spoke were hollow,
and fell on barren ground
so that I doubted
I had spoken
From time to time I heard
a few others speak
with the voice of the sea
and the wind,
and I quickened my pace
my voice -
the words -
I will speak
and some will hear,
but mostly I
my own voice,
will sound my own sound -
a deep bass.
And others will sing
and the Universe
This is one side, one aspect of writing, of using words freely, are my _words, which is the best beginning, and which is what we want to do here. It is a beginning. There are two other sides which we must consider. I have talked about one already: 1) the responsible use of the word, and 2) - and these two are connected - the feeling of helplessness about expressing some things some emotions even in words.
Kazantzakis has given voice to both these points (p. 435):
I reflected that if today's creative artist formulated his deepest inner presentiments with integrity, he would aid future man to be born one hour sooner, one drop more integrally . . .
Writing may have been a game in other ages, in times of equilibrium. Today it is a grave duty. Its purpose is not to entertain the mind with fairy tales and make it forget, but to proclaim a state of mobilization to all luminous forces still surviving in our age of transition, and to urge men to do their utmost to surpass the beast.
The man who writes has an oppressive and unhappy fate. This is because the nature of his work obliges him to use words; that is, to convert his inner surge into immobility. Every word is an adamantine shell which encloses a great explosive force. To discover its meaning I you must let it burst inside you like a bomb and in this way liberate the soul which it imprisons.
(This points the way to a very different way of listening also, and it seems to express to me how carefully we must or could choose our words, so that they truly become this "shell" to both express and hold in our emotions, this is a very subtle thing and could be immensely therapeutic. So it is not just: give expression and explode, but: give such true and careful expression that you get your point across without having to explode and then having to pick up the pieces.)
Once there was a rabbi who always made his will and tearfully bade farewell to his wife and children before he went to the synagogue to pray, for he never knew if he would emerge from the prayer alive. As he used to say, "When I pronounce a word, for instance Lord, this word shatters my heart. I am terror-stricken and do not know if I shall be able to make the leap to the following words: have pity on me.
O for a person able to read a poem in this way, or the word massacre , or a letter from the woman he loves - or this Report by a man who struggled much in his life and yet managed to accomplish so very little. "
"Father, what name do you give God?" asked the Abbe.
"God does not have a name," the dervish replied. "He is too big to fit inside names. A name is a prison, God is free."
"But in case you should want to call Him," the Abbe persisted, "when there is need, what name will you use?"
The dervish bowed his head and thought. Finally he parted his lips
"Ah! - that is what I shall call Him. Not Allah, but Ah!"
This may give you a feeling about the word that imprisons, the" shell" its necessity, and also that sometimes our helplessness to say what we wish to express in words - this is quite true, and that is why I like to paint: one can say things in colour and form which cannot be said in words. However the person used to using words and impelled to do so may express it, as Dorsha Hayes had done in two poems which will be familiar to many of you because they were published in the Club Bulletin (No 35 Vol 7, Nov. 173):
APPEAL TO THE LOGOS
What have I said that's worth the saying
though I have labored hours to say it right?
What is this Force that comes like praying,
comes imperative and late at night?
Alone and still, the heart fills up,
becomes an overflowing cup
that must be poured like molten metal
and a form, enduring, that will testify —
To what? — to all I cannot settle
that in my solitude demands outcry?
0 Lord of Words, before I'm dead ,
may I yet know what must be said?
And in a lighter vein, but equally to the point of our subject:
I hear the sparrow greet the day
with " cherp". He has no other way ,
no song. There's nothing he can say
but " cherp". He keeps it up, devout.
I have so many words, yet doubt
that I can equal his display.
Here today, however, let us make the effort to find a word . . .
There is also the story of a master speaking to his disciples every morning. One day he gets onto the rostrum and a little bird comes and sits on the windowsill and begins to sing and the master lets it sing while he keeps quiet. After it has been singing for a while it flies away. And the master says to his disciples, 'This morning's sermon is over’ “.
Speech is what characterises humans. Yes we can also train animals, to learn words, but we feed the words. I am sure the animal can understand, and without the need of words. I have felt what Dorsha expressed: there were many occasions when I wished I could have expressed my feelings by wagging a tail instead of with the words given by convention.
However, this cannot and must not deter us from finding the "right word, because it may bring us closer to a higher nature which is our prerogative as human beings, our search, our longing: to be "united", whole.
As witnesses more poets: to begin with Shakespeare (Midsummer Night’s Dream):
The poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven
And so imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the Poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothings
A local habitation and a name.
From the agony about words, when they become inadequate, to giving "airy nothings" a "name".
Maybe Archibald MacLeish has found his own form of solution when he says:
A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit
As old medallions to the thumb
Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges w/here the moss has grown -
A poem should be wordless As the flight of birds ...
A poem should not mean
I should like to go a step further: A poem should not be written with a meaning in mind, but it can still convey meaning and hold a “message". (This is the difference between 'prose' and 'poetry'.) This is the way in which we want to make use of "the word" here. Open yourself to the word that comes from the depth and then look at it or listen to what it says to you. 'Someone’ has said it who is not the you you know and yet may be more deeply you, in which case you may want to know about this 'being’ more than you know now. The word has built a channel to the "treasure hard to attain".
Now let us take a look at the influence of outer impressions. I know from my own experience that visual impressions must" sink into some kind of reservoir from which they may arise quite without my doing in a painting. A poem may also arise after having been impressed by a visual image and a mood.
However there are, I believe, differences with the use of the word. It is a little like with psychology: everybody thinks he is a psychologist because psychology deals with the human condition in which we all find ourselves, arid which we need to puzzle over. We all use words, arid so we use them often too easily and mostly too quickly. We react much faster with the word, don't give the impression a chance to sink down and. come up again on its own accord from the "source".
This seems to be expected of us in conversations.We ‘ react’ other than respond as human beings.
Writers know that if you talk prematurely about something conceived you may lose it, talk it away. It needs to be contained in the alchemical vessel to make the cooking transformation possible. There is a threshold between conscious and unconscious, and it is difficult to get contents from the unconscious across that threshold - like the difficulty we have sometimes in remembering a dream, it slips away, though we woke up with a distinct image. I might add to this that we also need to translate from one language - that of the unconscious, which is not 'ordered' in the sense of the conscious language - into that 'ordered' language of the conscious. We not only translate from image to language, but also from jumble to sequence. I am sure, you have all had the experience, of not being sure which part of the dream came first - this is often brought to me in the consulting room - but you need to put in some sequence, and in fact, this sequence becomes important in understanding the drama, and with it the message of the dream. The more adept we are with this translation - and this does not apply only to the dream, it is also the ‘channel-building’ I talk about — the closer we may come to the source. Getting a hold of the initial vague feeling about a thought, hanging on to it, having an idea or thought come through and then putting a word to it, all this is channel building and consolidates the contact. You see why I am reluctant to talk about such things, unless and until you have experienced them. Because the value of it is in the doing, and if you have too many of my ideas you can then turn it into an intellectual exercise. We do this almost as a protective devise, because this way we have crutches, and we do not have to experience the agony when nothing will come. We must experience that and get beyond it, because it gives us a chance to get over that threshold, our own threshold, which stands between us and the 'other’. I am expressing it purposely this way. As you can see if we allow breakthrough we also invite demons, arid for some there is danger. But even demons can be talked to, if we know that and if we, the ego personality stands on firm ground. (Dr. von Franz tells a story about herself and the "burglar" in her lonely cottage in the mountains, and how she overcame her fear.)
So please try not to make the process an intellectual exercise. Allow things to happen, but be very alert and present. Simply give yourself the "time", the "hesitation" before you speak the "recep tivity", the "listening in". Even: don't do any censoring, let what will come up, put it before you and see what it says to you. Some of us are always ready with a good title, or an idea. Take it seriously, and then may come the work.
You may feel thoroughly self-conscious by now. This is the self-conscious process, and there are other ways. Again - we must be alert to different ways also. It may be that when you don't look or listen all of a sudden things begin to come up, to happen. Something was constellated already, and we may have constellated it through our own concentration. This second way may precede the self-conscious process. Once it starts coming we need to be alert and catch, because the fish have a way of swimming away.
If I want to schematise, one could describe the whole process somewhat like this:
Step 1) Concentration on the aim, which may be a line of a poem, describing a sunset or an experience, with an -economy of words, but the most fitting ones. Or concentration on a question.
NO "doing"; in your mind, with your voice or with your pen.
Step 2) Now leave it alone. This is a difficult moment because you are at the mercy of 'inspiration ’ (we call it that) and there is nothing you can "do" at this moment except just keep your aim or question in mind, keep really concentrated on it - in the back of your mind, and go about your business, knowing full well, that now you cannot, and in fact must not "do" anything. I mean: just don't lose it but go about, your business otherwise.
Step 3) Then when it comes up from the depth, just whatever, be alert to it again, catch it and put it down,, unless you have learnt to hang on to it and sort before you put it down.
Step 4) The conscious effort of sorting, organising, putting into "shape- and yet the knowledge of "shape" comes from the unconscious to ("unconscious form sense"). Now for the first time we may use a critical sense - never before this step because we might destroy a growth process which takes place in the womb as yet.
Will all those of you who are poets and waiters forgive me, for you do not need to know these things you use the contact you have to begin with. However my aim is to help establish or foster this contact with the creative "fountain of life". And as psychologists, as Jung describes it (On the Rel.of Anal.Psy to Poetry, p.78):
We must interpret, we must find meanings in things, otherwise we would be quite unable to think about them. We have to break down life and events, which are self-contained processes, into meanings, images, concepts, well knowing that in doing so we are getting further away from the living mystery. As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition. But for the purpose of cognitive understanding we must detach ourselves from the creative process and look at it from the outside; only then does it become an image that expresses what we are bound to call "meaning".
I described the nascent work in the psyche of the artist as an autonomous complex. By this we mean a psychic formation that remains subliminal until its energy-charge is sufficient to carry it over the threshold into consciousness. Its association with consciousness does not mean that it is assimilated, only that it is perceived; but it is not subject to conscious control, and can be neither inhibited nor voluntarily reproduced .
Jung talks about the "autonomous complex" in the unconscious that can be observed. But it also a contact which the child still has, and which operates as the child in man, the child creator, the spontaneous - as Neumann puts it: "that man from whom the period of child hood experience, which takes this openness to the transpersonal for granted, has not departed.”
Two examples as far as the child is concerned:
1) Mother to her son: " Alright, let me explain to you. A symbol is a word you use in place of another."
"Why would I do that?" is the child's response. ( Elie Wiesel in T he Oath p.21) You see, the child still understands the language of the unconscious directly, and so does not need the "translation* which we use for understanding and for making the contact which we call a symbol, the only way in which there can be contact and understanding for us, the 'symbol’ creates the bridge, which the child does not need The other example is of a very different nature
2) A shattering question a child once asked: "How did they find the exact words to put in the Bible?" This quote is followed by the observation: "This, of course, was asked under the influence of some Sunday school teacher, who had casually said that everything in the Bible was true."
Here we have the child being confronted with having to match truth and words.
THE USE OF THE WORD
Now I want to say something about the use of the word. I may repeat myself in my attempt to drive a point home, trying to reach you somewhere.
Question: there are things which cannot be said in words. Does this mean that there are areas in the center of our being which have no words, but other means of being expressed? like colour and shape or just touch. We do live and operate with two halves of a brain, even though according to modern research the functions are strictly separated. There are - anatomically and physiologically bridges from one side of the brain to the other.
All art is meditation. Waiting for the right word is of the same quality.
Let me give you an exercise 3: Try to express something in "body lan guage" f.i. an emotion in a gesture or a dance. Then tell us about it, or describe it. Then transcribe it into poem or Haiku - we will con centrate on Haiku next time, when I will give you a short introduction to Haiku.
This time we are not saying we want to express in body language or in shape - three-dimensional or otherwise or colour or in song without words, but we do want to express in words, however in the most succinct way sometimes in the most precise way. Not Just "talk", not repetitions, wasteful words, coming from the surface, mechanically used. No " cliches" but our own words, fish them up as if you were letting a bucket down into a well. The truth is simple; a simple word from the right source will express truth. Balking in simple language may help us to reach the truth. Simplicity and sincerity is what it takes and I suggest here we start such a task by using words simply, sincerely and do just that conscientiously.
When we have to describe we must choose our words carefully. 'What precedes the wording is observation and perception, (s. Dr. Hamilton "I want to see the patient walk through that door, when you describe her/him." A Vignette)
And where are we when we have words inside but cannot or do not wish to bring them out?
This is all very fine, but sometimes words will take over and com up rambling and unbidden. What kind of a phenomenon is that? At this point the controls have broken down, the dam against emotional or other flooding and free association against our will is taking place. These are “conditioned" words. If we would catch them, we might catch a complex. It is a mechanical reaction which gets us away from the source, probably because something has scared us, we blow up a smoke screen. My good friend Marlow, Conrad's narrator expressed it: "... though I seemed to have lost all my words in the chaos of dark thoughts I had contemplated for a second or two beyond the pale. These came back, too, very soon, for words also belong to the sheltering conception of light and order which is our refuge."
Granted, sometimes we need to take refuge. If our aim is the "treasure hard to attain" we might try a moment of silence and see if we can stand the onslaught, if such it be.
Or - and here I am offering another solution- use words differently can best demonstrate what I mean by two examples. The first one comes from Ornstein's book on Consciousness, as a demonstration of an expression of the side of the brain which has only a very limited use of verbal expression; the non-lineal side. It is a quote from a description given by Trobriand. Islanders: But the Trobrianders do not describe their activity "lineally; they do no dynamic relating of acts; they do not use even so innocuous a connective as and. Here is part of a description of the planting of coconut. "Thou-approach-there coconut thou-bring-here-we-plant-coconut thou-go-thou-plant our coconut. This-here-it-emerge sprout. We-push-away this we-push-away this-other coconut-husk-fiber together sprout it-sit together root."
According to Malinowski, all Trobriand Speech is "jerky", given in points, not in connecting lines. ( Dorotsky Lee, Freedom & Culture, Prentice-Hall 1959)
But we do not necessarily have to go to a primitive culture to find examples of direct and spontaneous description. Here is an example of an experience that was very moving and revealing to a young woman who partook of a workshop where several art media, were offered for smaller groups. She reported to the whole group - a large one - her report was recorded, and here it is verbatim:
I went to the clay working group, the modelling. Strong in me was the need to explore the notion of descent into the chaos, particularly because it was something very strong in my mind for the last month. So, as I was working with the clay and making like a mountainside and feeling how it was going down, and going down into places I would be afraid of going, with precipices and dark caves stuck in deep, scary ways down, feeling it - and as I was working with my hands, then after a little while it was as if the clay took over. What I saw, feeling my way down around the precipices, there were ROOTS, all of a sudden there were ROOTS going down!
I am sure I do not have to comment; this speaks for itself. I have chosen this as a demonstration to show how much can be expressed in even almost clumsy words, when it comes from the right source.
Words are meant to establish communication, and we were all quite moved by this testimony. Often, however, we get inappropriate responses because the' mechanism in action is a trend on which the would be listener may be, as it happened to me in a New England grocery store. My question: "Are these juice oranges?" - Answer: "They are the only ones you are going to get!" and he did not mean, there is only one kind, because there were also eating oranges. He was on a •moral' trend.
Here is an exercise 4: Watch how well you have listened, how seriously you are responding, reaching out, "communicating”. You may say, but of course I do that. Try to apply it also internally. Have we listened to the inner demand and tried to respond 'seriously'? This was:
There is something that we are inclined to do: there is an internal process going on, we half pay attention to it. Something happens that is arresting, or a thought (or word.) wants to come through and we half hear it. If at this moment we could be arrested, could stop we would catch something and change direction. However, we go on automatically. It can happen f.i. when we are reading. A sentence, a statement stimulates a response, the beginning of a thinking process, but we are reading a book? So we go on reading (automatically, mechanically) and chances are that now we do not catch what we read either, we are distracted, something shuts out the reading. And that part is as it should be because we are meant to catch our own process.
To repeat: today we are aware of occasions when no word seems to be able to express the experience. The frustration of it has been expressed in many places. However, my contention is, that 'words', language, talk are used too sloppily, too mechanically to be able to convey true meaning - or true feeling. We can try to make words meaningful again by paying a different kind of attention to the word. Here also one can make some subdivisions:
a) simple declarative words to describe an object, a situation, facts.
b) describe an experience which includes emotion.
c) symbolic, poetic, 'intuitive ’ use of the word.
A poet bears me out, (Wiesel, the Oath p.78)
All has been said, I can only repeat .... In the beginning there was the word; there no longer is. We no longer say 'light' to simply name it, but to replace it; we say 'love* not because it is present, but because it is not. Every creation, on the individual level, implies a void, that is to say a gap, a sin, a failure. Doomed to repeat himself, man resorts to language for atonement.
What I mean here by "the beginning" is the primordial, where everything begins, and we truly need to re-establish contact with the primordial source. But I would also like to repeat that talking about it is no substitute for the immediate experience, or to quote Jung (Psych .& Lit. p.87):
Although he (the psychologist) should never abandon his claim to investigate and establish the causality of complex psychic processes - to do so would be to deny psychology the right to exist - he will never be able to make good his claim in the fullest sense, because the creative urge which finds its clearest expression in art is irrational and will in the end make a mock of all our rationalistic undertakings.
We have come a ways since, because we don’t seem to mind the irrational so much anymore and I believe Jung helped us do that.
Unconsciousness and misuse of words can go together. The fancy word covers, but does not uncover.
So, when I talk about the creative process I try to talk about my own experience, direct or indirect. I have learnt to look over my own shoulder without being too much distracted by it.
No "style" will come from "fancy”, complicated words, but from how deep the contact is. Then we may accomplish an individual style because of who we are and because we are in touch with who we are, the "self” the creative source, in fact then we are (I AM) And we start by allowing to come up what may, by being "ourselves" whether we like it or not, by listening. Thoreau said it in these words: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music that he hears however measured or far away.”
When we observe what happens when we come up with an idea, or a poem, or grope for words, when something of a creative nature happens we can learn about the creative process and the contact with the creative source, we can learn what such endeavours do to us and for us. Why it is said that all art is meditation, and why we reap the same benefit from it: we establish contact with the source and we build channels. It may also tell us something about meditation.
Not exteriorising the word, "brooding" on it, letting it ripen in the womb of the temenos.
When Dr. von Franz talks about creation myths, she says in her introduction that this material of creation myths "describes processes which are very remote from consciousness.
She also tells that in many creation myths creation is connected with something dying. When we create something, something dies to make way for the new, the old dies, but also one might look at it this way: we may be obsessively concentrated on that one thing and everything else falls by the wayside - it is temporarily "dead". (Like some adolescents, buried in a book. Their mother calls: come and set the table, but they don't hear, they don't move, they are, as we say "lost to the world", lost to the world of one kind of reality.)
In folklore and mythology of primitive societies the tales tell that man never invented any craft or skill, it was always brought down from the Gods. We have lost this connection, this knowledge of what "inspiration" means. We are in a position today of saying I have done it all, look what I have done - we become identified with what we can produce and we pay for it with inflation and accompanying depression. If we could say from the beginning - and many artists do because they know - that we depend on - call it "divine" inspiration we would not have to go through a process of disidentification, detachment. This is where we have lost roots. And it is with the development of language that man has lost direct contact with nature, lost communication with an immediate knowledge and understanding. Today we are seeking to regain this kind of immediacy by all kinds of "non-verbal" attempts.
What I am proposing here is that if we restore the word to its original position of meaningful communication we can use verbal techniques - ways to much greater advantage and do not need to become dumb or wild. And I am not saying that non-verbal techniques or ways are of necessity 'dumb’ or 'wild ’, far from it, and there is a place for the non-verbal - I may remind you that painting is my medium - but I also know that in some "encounter groups the nonverbal encounters are done as mechanically as we can use words -human beings have a tendency to fall into the mechanical, we all do it, because that is the way we are built, and if such mechanisms were not at work in us, where would we be? With anything that is done in this mechanical way only, non-verbal or verbal, nothing is gained. And I am saying here: if words are used non— mechanically brought up from the depth with meaning, much is gained, and we need not resort to non-verbal means, just because they are non-verbal . We may need many moments of silence before we are ready for the meaningful word and we may need many images to bring meaning home to us, to translate it into words.
It is not: we should discard words because we have lost touch and can only find touch and feeling and meaning by actually touching another person.
Exercise 5: Try to establish touch with another person with one word! The moments of actual touching may be necessary and precious, but not as the most effective way of life, the only way of real contact and "principle of therapy". *his may mean using words non-logically. I believe that we must cultivate the word and restore it to meaning and use it for communication filled with feeling.
In the Memphite text of the mummy-god Ptah, we are told that it was the heart of God that brought forth every issue and the tongue of God that repeated what the heart had thought:
Every divine word came into existence by the thought of the heart and the commandment of the tongue.
W/hen the eyes see, the ears hear, and the nose breathes, they report to the heart. It is the heart that brings forth every issue and the tongue that repeats the thought of the heart. Thus were fashioned all the gods.
The heart is here associated with creative conception and the tongue with creative realisation. There is no conception without involvement of the heart, no realisation without form-giving articulation. In primitive thought the word is the essence of the thing and it has great power. I have chosen two fairy tales to illustrate this.
The POWER and the MAGIC of the WORD.
We can wound with the wrong word, we can redeem with the right word. These two fairy tales come to mind:
Rumpelstiltskin, the little man with the name that - he thought -no one could guess, and the sorcerer's apprentice motif of "Sesame open up" in All Baba and the forty thieves.
Rumpelstiltskin is the story of a poor miller's daughter who is married "by the king, "because her father, the miller promised that she could spin straw into gold. She is helped by a little man - because of course she can do no such thing - in the three nights in which she has to turn straw into gold. The first night she pays him with her necklace, the second night with the ring on her finger, but the third night she has nothing more to give, so she promises her first born in case the king should marry her, as he had promise", but she never quite believed in it. But after the third night the king did marry her and after a year she gave birth to a child. Then the little man appeared and demanded his due, and even though the Queen promised him all the riches of the kingdom, he said: "No, something alive is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world."
That statement could possibly put him on a level with the devil; at this point he is certainly a devilish power with whom the miller's daughter had made a pact without knowing what kind of power she had been dealing with. So far through the tale the girl seems to be without will and unconscious. First her father boasts about an accomplishment she does not have; nevertheless she has to go to the palace and is forced to perform. (Maybe she did have powers which she was unconscious of - it won her the king in marriage.) Things have been stirred up but not sufficiently. Since then she makes a promise to a power she does not know, and hoping that circumstances will help her not to have to keep such a promise - a kind of wishful thinking and uninvolvement. Once the child is born she is in a different position; now she cannot help but be involved in life, and in a more alert and conscious way. ( It is her third opportunity, the third time usually means business! now there is no more wish left, there is no further chance, this is it!) When the little man appears to claim his due she is desperate. Then he pities her and gives her three (!) days' time: "if by that time you find out my name, then shall you keep your child."
Now this is very interesting if we look at it psychologically. The girl had a helper whom she must pay, but she does not know who he is, she is unconscious of this underground force. On the positive side he belongs to the family of the Kabiri, unseen, creative dwarf-gods, hooded and cloaked manikins who are kept hidden in the dark cista, but who also appear on the seashore as little figures about a foot high, where, as kinsmen of the unconscious, they protect navigation, i.e. the venture into darkness and uncertainty. In the form of the Dactyls they are also gods of invention, small and apparently insignificant like the impulses of the unconscious but endowed with the same mighty power (El gabir is "the great, the mighty one.")
As one of the Kabiri he is a helpful force, and here he is a help to conscious awareness. (He also has the capacity to turn straw into gold.)
Our point here: You don't know the name, and you don't know what force you are dealing with (positive and negative) and no matter how much you pay, in the end you are in his power, unless you learn his name.
The Queen sends out a messenger, but for the first two days he only comes back with names which are to no avail." On the third day the messenger came back again, and said: "I have not been able to find a single new name, but as I came to a high mountain at the end of the forest, where the fox and the hare bid each other good night, there I saw a little house, and before the house a fire was burning, and round about the fire quite a ridiculous little man was jumping; he hopped upon one leg, and shouted: "Today I bake, to-morrow brew. The next I'll have the young Queen's child. Ha! glad am I that no one knew That Rumpelstiltskin I am styled."
You may imagine how glad the Queen was when she heard the name! And when soon afterwards the little man came in, and asked: "Now, Mistress Queen, what is my name?" at first she said, "Is your name Conrad?" "No." "Is your name Harry?" "No." "Perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin?"
"The devil has told you that! the devil has told you that!” cried the little man, and in his anger he plunged his right foot so deep into the earth that his whole leg went in; and then in rage he pulled at his left leg so hard with both hands that he tore himself in two.
He has gone back to the earth. The Queen here sounds very different from the young Miller's daughter, wiser, more knowledgeable about dealing with the little man. The moment she knows his name he loses his power over her. That is the importance of "naming" something correctly. Knowing the name means consciousness. And here knowing the name saves the child.
Now for the second tale. I said the "open Sesame" is the motif of the sorcerer's apprentice. You may be able to start things because you have watched the master, but unless you do know the magic words or the proper order of the words you cannot stop the magic (in this second tale it is again knowing a name, and an unusual one). Again, this is awareness and perception. You can learn from the master only with the utmost alertness and a clarity of perception (also without interference from extraneous emotional sources) which may transcend the present state of our development. This is what a master can do, but we have to grow into the use of the magic!
To refresh your memory about the tale: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is the story of two brothers, one wealthy and one poor (a frequent motif). The poor one, Ali Baba earns a living by gathering fuel in the forest. And that is where the story starts. One day when Ali Baba was loading his three asses he "beheld approaching a troupe of forty horsemen. Since he was afraid of them he hid himself and his laden animals in the "bushes and climbed up a tree to see what was going on.
"The men, laden with booty, rode to a neighbouring rock face, where their captain cried out, "Open, O Sesame!" and a wide doorway appeared in the face of the rock. They entered, and it closed. Presently it opened, they came forth and departed. So, Ali Baba approaching the rock face, pronounced the same spell ..." I am quoting this verbatim because of the economy of language.
Now Ali Baba found all kinds of treasures and he helped himself to as much as he could load on his animals and went home "to his wife". She wanted to measure and weigh, but being poor she has to borrow scales from Ali Baba's rich brother Kasim. The sister-in-law gives her the scales, but she smears the pan with suet and wax to find out what is being measured. Then Kasim wants silver and gold too, he finds out from Ali Baba how to get it, but he goes alone. He remembers "Open Sesame" and enters the cavern, which closed while he was within, and forgetting the spell, he called "Open, O Barley!" so the door refused to move. This is the part of the tale that interests us here: the right word is lost and with it the magic spell. In fact, when the robbers return they find him and cut him in half, hanging one side outside and the other half inside. So that when the body is removed it /oust have been done by someone who knows the magic spell. Now' the search is on, and it gets to be an involved Arabian tale, which we do not need to follow here in all its detail. The thieves and their captain are killed, "and for years the household prospered on the treasure, which Ali Baba, his sons, and his sons' sons, ever after, could draw in secrecy from the cave."
Kasim has the wealth but not the magic. After his death the poor brother inherits all the riches, to which he comes initially by knowing the “right words ", the magic formula that will open the door to the riches stored underground.
In the beginning things are not right. The goods are stolen and only the forty thieves and their captain have access to it. Because Ali Baba, the poor brother, is working in the woods he comes upon a secret. He finds the key to the treasure, because the magic words are a kind of key that opens the cavern. This is available to future generations also in the end. Ali Baba is aware of danger, when he sees the forty men, of whom he knows as yet nothing, so he hides and observes and listens -carefully. This provides him with the magic formula.
Kasim , the wealthy brother - a shadow aspect, if you wish to name it so -, used to riches which came to him by inheritance and marriage, is brash and brazen. Where there are riches they are for him, and he has only got to go and get them, not considering danger - in fact he becomes just another thief.
One could look at this from a superficial moral point of view, but we want to look at it from a psychological one. For some of you who have been through the inner process or are involved in it, and maybe started it at a moment of crisis which proved to be the beginning of change you may find your own parallel.
There is a basic law involved in the behaviour of the rich and that of the poor brother. The rich has been favored, had things come to him easily - you might even think of him as representing the superior function which can make us sail through things, while the hard-working brother could be looked at as representing the inferior function and its troubles through which, however, we are "saved" in the end, if salvation and integration are synonymous. He has the right attitude - he also puts himself out of the way - and he finds "the right word" which becomes the key to underground riches.