I attended a workshop on the individuation process in California over Mother’s Day this year. The workshop took place on the Ladera campus of Pacifica Graduate Institute with senior core faculty, Dr Robert Romanyshyn.
Professor Romanyshyn is a gifted teacher and masterful storyteller. The workshop is laced with story and spiced with poetry, visuals and music. Its alchemical opus circumnavigates the image, homecoming.
The essence of individuation, a term and image carefully amplified through the arts by Dr. Romanyshyn is original to the writings of C.G. Jung. Individuation is a journey home thinks Robert, and what it is not is shadow work or integration, a term associated with ego soul. The journey which is taken is not to do something external in the world. It unites one to something intimately carried central to the core of self, imaginal life, creativity and the emerging reflections of the soul showing each of us how we make sense and carry meaning fullnesses in an individual manner of inner making. One’s journey is a movement down and in to recover or uncover or discover who waits for us by the side of the road. Jung calls this way of seeing the world in conspectu mortis. One must look to the past so that life is not frozen in the past. Life is to be lived forward. My own sense for the workshop experience is one of reverie and this journey of reverie is the manner by which one will “dis” and “un” to “re” cover the meaning sense one carries in one’s own heart.
There are five guided meditations and should this workshop be offered again and you have the chance to participate, take it. In this brief essay I won’t share with you my entire experience of this weekend workshop, I will simply share with you one of my favorite reverie moments.
I find myself situated comfortably and readied to discover who it is that waits for me by the side of the road during the very first of our five reverie journeys this May weekend. It is a “what” before there is ever a “who”, something qualitatively conveyed, although the “who and what” both surprise me. For when this journey is under, taken, I am not on a road. I am on a cantilever.
I have had opportunity to see the construction of a cantilever bridge. The construction of one is underway when I first move to Arizona some fifteen odd years ago. And this is pretty much the way it is now in my reverie. I am standing on a cantilever that juts out into space where nothing is. I am to walk the narrow lever and I cannot imagine why because the path goes only so far and then there is nothing to walk upon.
Still, I am determined to walk this cantilever to the middle of nowhere. And where there is such will, help comes. Just at the step where the cantilever ends and my foot will come down, a path appears so that my foot comes down on something and not nothing. In stepping, the path grows, too. The construction of the bridge is juxtaposed the sole of my foot. There’s magic in this sole. And that magic is also the way psyche speaks. Psyche’s formations are mental images that often pun. I can’t help laugh. Just as the sole in my reverie has its own way of making the bridge appear, soul has its own way of making, too. That is thinking by analogy. A poetizing has just happened. Psyche's reflection is telling me I am now on a path where there is no path. I am entering a living vision formed between visible and invisible things. I will come back to this idea.
I don’t know if you know this but cantilevers are constructed from both ends toward a middle point where two very different yet equal and opposed sides are to come together in midair. And the thought occurs to me as I am walking along the cantilever that someone walks toward me from the other end guided by the same phenomenon. The reverie has provided me a vision and the vision connects the visible world and invisibles but also one still living who once lived, a companion, the one walking toward me, to one living now about to become heir to what must continue to live. Robert calls this a redeeming of the ancestor whose life ended but whose work of life continues to live and this is what waits by the side of the road for me to come. This working onward what it is to which I am becoming heir is what it means to live life forward in the sense that Jung means when he says “individuation.”
Become heir. And so, “air” imagines as my vision demands it. I can’t help laugh again. It is not even I reimagining this. It is the imagination of air itself, the breath of life that imagines and gives this image to me! The substances of psyche are in between matter and spirit, neither one nor the other. Therefore, I cannot now even say “bridge”. “Bridge” is a noun which names a material thing. And so, as Robert says, the noun must become a gerund in this instance; not bridge, bridging. And so the vision says to me my companion carries bridging power and my companion is this power; the movement does it. Cantilever movement is not first from one side and then from the other. It is movement toward the middle from both sides at once. The movement carries the suspension of movement literally. The movement is not literal but one of metaphor as well as a movement charged with suspense. Who is it I am to meet?
and I in the middle
a world above
a world below
take on an air.
Perhaps it says to me
you are heir to this middle power.
Waiting A Long Time
By the side of the road, waiting a long time to be recovered is a memory. It is the memory of my great grandfather. The memory pops into my head as if the visioning afoot has been given just enough surface to cause it to surface. I have always imagined the memory, in the times when it occurs to me, isn’t real but that it has psychic validity.
When I remember great grandfather he is walking into a room from one side of the room and I am walking toward that threshold from the opposite side of the room. I instantly stop. And the suddenness with which great grandfather appears to enter the room is such a shock to me in that instant, I almost topple over having lost my balance. I say almost because I don’t quite topple. I realize I am very close to the ground and this remembering leads me to believe I am quite small. My great grandfather lives to be 102 and I have no other memory of him so I imagine that the memory didn’t really happen but is something I pretend as a tot, having seen the only picture of him at the time in the family photo album. In that photo, taken at a distance, one cannot really make out his features. He is dressed beautifully in a black suit and top hat and he walks with a black cane.
In the memory I have of great grandfather he stops just over the threshold and waits for me. When I refuse to walk any further toward him, he smiles a big smile nods his head and carefully steps back out of the room guided by his cane. Now when he appears on the bridge and I walk forward to meet him, he gives me this same smile and nod.
One of my brothers is developing a family tree at ancestry.com. He provides a couple photos of great grandfather on line and I copy them into a hard file. Coming home from the workshop I decide the one photo that most resembles the great grandfather I meet in my memory and in my reverie I will try to restore since now in the badly deteriorated photo great grandfather's features are not recognizable. To my delight I am able to restore the photo and the face of my great grandfather is now visible.
Through this process of working with the restoration of the photo I discover something else of importance. My great grandfather, living more than a century, dies in 1953 when I am just slightly more than one year old. Chances are as a one year old I am just learning to walk and my memory is that of a real encounter literally. Of course, the psychic validity has always been there and in the imaginal dimension great grandfather is waiting a long time to tell me this. One can only imagine the air great grandfather brings to life and to which I am heir.