Visiting Scholars Lecture Series: 2007
Bryan Wittine, Ph.D. The Dark Night of the Soul: Psychological and Spiritual Perspectives
The term “dark night of the soul” was used by Christian contemplative St. John of the Cross to describe periods of intense suffering in which mystics feel that God has abandoned them and that their inner life of prayer has collapsed. In contemporary depth psychology, the term is sometimes used to describe periods that are central to the journey of individuation. During these periods old ego-identifications break down and old values no longer hold true. Losses of loved ones, illnesses, and career setbacks are ways such periods might begin. Very often, however, dark nights have no apparent cause. In the midst of great achievement and success we begin to feel dissatisfied, empty, meaningless, purposeless, lost, alone in a wilderness. There is no life, no growth. Something essential is missing. We gradually come to realize that there is nothing we can do to improve our lot. We cannot get ourselves moving. We have to wait … and wait … Through this process we become increasingly aware of our source and dependence on the Self, our deep center of being and awareness.
During this seminar we review parallels between experiences of the mystics and contemporary individuals. If we honor these periods as times for opening to our deepest longings, we might come to appreciate life’s greater meanings and find a more fulfilling relationship with Mystery.
Bryan Wittine, Ph.D., M.F.T., is an analyst-member of the C. G, Jung Institute of San Francisco in private practice in Marin County and San Francisco. He is co-founder and former academic chair of the graduate program in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. He is currently writing on depth psychotherapy as a path of inner realization.
Maureen Murdock, M.A. Making Meaning of Myth and Memoir
Memoirists are our contemporary mythmakers. The popularity of memoir in our culture today reflects the universal desire to find meaning in the mystery of our lives and to understand our unconscious choices, actions, and dreams. Myth owes its longevity to its power to express typical human emotions that have been experienced throughout successive generations. Memoir owes its popularity to its ability to portray these same enduring feelings in a contemporary individual's life. Both myth and memoir arise from the human need for connection. Myths use symbols and gods and goddesses to explore such themes as heroism, betrayal, the search for the mother/father and the beloved. Memoirs explore the very same themes in the stories of our every day lives. We will use the myth of Demeter and Persephone as a lens to explore the mythic themes in our own lives. Please come prepared to write.
This seminar includes discussion of mythic themes and of the elements of memoir writing, and includes writing exercises to begin the process of writing memoir.
Maureen Murdock, M.A., M.F.T., is a depth psychotherapist and past Chair of the MA Counseling Psychology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. She teaches in the Depth Psychology Program at Sonoma State University and has taught in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program for the past 17 years, where she received the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1995. She has written a memoir about her mother's struggle with Alzheimer's—Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory—which is also a reflection on the nature of memoir writing. She is the author of three internationally published books: The Heroine's Journey; Fathers' Daughter: Breaking the Ties that Bind; and Spinning Inward: Using Guided Imagery with Children. Murdock is the editor of Monday Morning Memoirs: Women in the Second Half of Life.
David Tresan, M.D. Amor and Psyche Revisited
Amor and Psyche is a myth that appears in the earliest extant novel in the western world (145 A.D.). In his book Metamorphoses, subtitled the Golden Ass by Augustine 200 hundred or so years later, Apuleius, the author, relates the tale of Amor and Psyche as an entertainment, a pacifier, as it were, told by a babysitting Crone to distract and quiet a crying girl whose caravan has been hijacked by a band of bandits and ensconced in a hidden cave. How is he, Apuleius, privy to this scene? He, himself, is the protagonist of his own book, a picaresque novel in which he visits the various religious activities found in the Mediterranean basin in the 2nd c. AD. In this particular episode, ensorcelated and transformed into an ass by a witch, Apuleius witnesses the happenings in the cave as a silent beast.
So much for the setting and framework of the tale. Told seemingly as a sop for the imagination, certainly not given the fanfare and gravity of a serious Platonic myth meant to convey universal truths, this charming story was taken most seriously nonetheless by Eric Neumann as a disquisition on the development of the feminine. His telling of the tale and his commentary stand as a classical example of Jungian archetypal research.
The hope in this seminar is to examine the tale ourselves, to test Neumann’s thesis, but more importantly to see what more may be found not so much concerning the development of the feminine but concerning the development of psyche itself, for, as will be seen, the story marks the turn, once and for all, from the mind and life of antiquity to that of modernity. At the same time, the nature and function of myth itself will be a matter of interest.
David Tresan, M.D. is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Mill Valley and San Francisco. His abiding interest lies in the history of ideas and science, the evolution of consciousness, the psychology of the transcendent, and, most importantly, clinical work. He has recently written on religion, neuroscience, and aging in various reviews and papers. This New Science of Ours; A More or Less Systematic History of Consciousness and Transcendence appeared in two parts in the Journal of Analytic Psychology (2004).
James Preston, Ph.D. Death and the Transformation of Consciousness
At the core of religious experience is the confrontation with mortality. Every religious tradition addresses the wound of death by weaving a tapestry of hope to counter a profound sense of loss. Every culture orchestrates the process of grief differently, providing rituals and ceremonies intended to heal the torn fabric, the chaos that death unleashes in our ordered worlds.
This seminar is intended to elicit the symbolic dimension of the death experience and to explore the many ways in which the encounter with death can bring about a profound transformation of consciousness. A variety of mystical traditions have employed the death metaphor to provide a way into higher levels of consciousness. The seminar will draw on insights gleaned from a cross-cultural and comparative study of death symbolism and the rich literature on near death experiences. Particular attention will be given to an understanding of the American way of death as it has evolved in the early part of the new millennium.
James Preston, Ph.D. has taught for over thirty years in the State University of New York as Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Religious Studies Program, and is the author of numerous books and articles in symbolic anthropology and religious studies. He has conducted fieldwork on Hinduism in India and among Native American Catholic populations in the United States and Canada. Dr. Preston is particularly interested in the interface between psychology and anthropology and the nature of religious experience.
Jacqueline Thurston, M.A. Sacred Images from Ancient Egypt
“Thousand of years ago in ancient Egypt, feminine deities in concert with divine masculine figures governed the cosmic mysteries of life and death.”
In the spring of 2006, I spent four months living and working in Egypt as a Fulbright Scholar. This seminar gathers together photographs, writing and insights into provocative figures from the cosmology of ancient Egypt. The deities within this pantheon are startling complex in their symbolic form and metaphorical content. In part, my presentation explores how the sacred feminine is inextricably intertwined with the sacred masculine. Because I had access, granted by the Supreme Council of Antiquities, to tombs rarely opened to the public, some images have not been reproduced in classic texts. Within the context of the presentation, there will be an opportunity for journal writing explorations. Finally, in the spirit of the philosophy underlying the Fulbright exchange, I would also like to share stories of my encounters with university students and with individual Egyptians who befriended me and made my entry from modern Egypt into Egypt's past possible.
Jacqueline Thurston, M.A., is an artist, writer and Professor of Art at San Jose State University where she taught for decades a graduate seminar, Image As Icon, that explored memories and dreams as potential sources for works of art. Professor Thurston is twice the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and is a former Fulbright Scholar. Her work is in major public collections including the Library of Congress, SMOMA, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Bibliotheque Nationale. She has an interest in the interface between art and psychology and has given many presentations on the nature of the creative process from an artist’s perspective to psychoanalytic societies including the C.G. Jung Institute, the Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute, the American Institute of Medical Education and the International Federation for Psychoanalytic Education.