So, our Jung-Institut online seminar is the first of its kind I think.
(The Jung-Institut, being a bit more Swisss and old-fashioned than many Jungian organisations, has never been very tech-savvy; a running joke in the profession is that Jungians are perpetually inept in the world of technology – though this may apply to a combination of an older generation, plus the more counter-culture Jungians from California and elsewhere; but one learns to expect Powerpoint presentations to founder and collapse without notice. Therefore a webinar is as much to be expected at the Jung-Institut as, say, traversing hyperspace.)
The seminar, run by the brilliant Nancy Robinson (formerly of LA), is on Aion... lots of strange discussions of dark and light, good and evil, sacrifice, avoidance, reality and illusion...
Nancy keeps bringing all the strange tangle of images and discussions in Aion back to the psychological – which is obvious I suppose, but we're all terrifically lucky she does, because we are all tending to get swamped by the huge transcendental arguments twisting through the weird collection of materials that drive the book....
We were finishing up, trying to get back to several discussions at once at the end of the two-hour session; one of the other students, much younger, healthy and happy and recently married, and thus perhaps less aware of dealing with the more hopeless aspects of life, was saying: so, when we're talking about transformation we're thinking about moving from these images around Saturn to those around Jupiter – the Gnostic and alchemical and astrological imagination trying to distinguish life and joy, versus death, age and disintegration...
I jumped in, as I do (not, I hope, as much as I once did); because this was so close to the bone, so close to where I've been for months – okay, it's true, for years –
No, I said. Not enough. It's not always possible to get to Jupiter – but that doesn't mean there's no transformation.
Imagine an analysand who grew up in a disastrous family situation, parents who didn't take care of him, abusive or drunk or on drugs or whatever – and he grows up to be a conscientious, loving young father, deeply caring about his children and his wife, who reflects him as much as he reflects her. Transformation: he has suffered through something, but rather than carrying the damage forward he has reached a point where he can transform it into doing the best he can, into being in the world, into being happy, and knowing the value of that happiness, not taking it for granted, not greedily assuming it as his due.
(I have students who suggest this kind of image – the ones you can see growing into something remarkably whole...)
But imagine another, older, analysand, in the hospital, dying of cancer: you visit her regularly for a kind of analysis – not least because everyone else is gone from her life, there's no one taking care of her but the nurses, and she isn't their favourite patient. After a lifetime of hating her mother, she is reaching a point where she can set that aside, where she can breathe more easily, where she can almost have sympathy for her mother – but where, in any case, she knows that the hatred is just a burden she has made for herself, that she can lay it down.
That's for Saturn: melancholy, death, dissolution.
But it's still transformation: there isn't much time left, there aren't the resources or the people for her to have a happy life: yet she has reached something much greater, a larger space than she has had for years....
This kind of justification, this bringing darkness and loss into the conversation, has been a recurrent background theme for me in the seminar: and it's true, I can get a bit hot-headed when making sure it is said. Because, of course, it reflects my own feelings on ageing and illness.
Tonight I saw La grande bellezza, which, like Youth – both Paolo Sorrentino films – are distinctly melancholy, Saturnine. Not surprising, perhaps, that I overidentify with both.
I know I'm bringing something into the seminar that is true, and needed: and also something that has its own limitations and complex distortions; but also something that can move forward into an even larger understanding, that I only see periodically, in glimpses.
Yes, of course, there's too much Saturn in me, and in my life. That's hardly a surprise; as when Michael told me, years ago, that my blog was too whiny. Yes, I was furious at him when he said that, and we've never spoken since then; but even when he said it, I knew that there was some (only some!) truth to what he said.
But, as we turn the jewels and watch the different facets glint into our eyes, there are moments when a larger picture starts to become clear....