Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Christmas Myth: Taking Back the Child-God

Article by Mariann Burke, author of Advent and Psychic Birth and
Re-Imagining Mary: A Journey Through Art to the Feminine Self

In Christianity the Advent-Christmas Mystery celebrates the historical birth of Jesus through the mythological imagery of Virgin Birth, Cave, Star, and the Child-God. Feelings of renewal related to the winter solstice and the ancient Saturnalia festivals find echoes in our own family reunions, gift-giving, and general merry making on New Year’s Eve. The circular “return” to primordial Origins for renewal has given way to linear history with its goal of unlimited progress. Yet the soul’s language is circular, as Frances Hatfield writes in her poem “The Soul’s Geometry” from The Book of Now: Poetry for the Rising Tide:
 We are not traveling a straight line as thoughts do.
 A circle is a line that went looking for itself.(1)                    
This “looking” is a soul hunger, a return or remembering beyond history still slumbering in the unconscious of those who crowd churches on Christmas day, many who do not believe in Virgin Birth, angels, etc. and have lost the imaginative power to see reality in the mythic world which these images reflect. We want to feel, to surrender ego momentarily in the imaginal world of music, poetry, and ritual of remembrance made present. Back in 1936 C.G. Jung suggested what he felt each of us needs and longs to remember, “In the last analysis most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instinct, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us.”(2)

It is this remembering as the profound meaning of the Incarnation and the essence of some religions that makes Advent and Psychic Birth as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1993. While the literalists take the Christmas myth as history, and the doubtful seeing the cracks in the whole Christian myth still enjoy the artful Nativity story and its magical mystery, many atheists, taking science and materialism as guide while dismissing angels and stars, still hunger for the communal sense fostered by living myth. In Jung’s view Christmas rituals and the Christ Child image speak to our longing for rebirth, that is for greater awareness of our innate divinity, and they are a “religious necessity only so long as the majority of people are incapable of giving psychological reality to the saying: ‘Except ye become as little children…”’(3) Exploring the Child-God mythic image and its powerful psychic energies latent within us, we participate in the emerging myth or spirituality of the 21st century and beyond.

In this article, I want to offer a few meanings of myth, the Child-God and the imaginal world in which they are experienced. Why focus on these topics? Years ago in church settings during discussions of Advent and Psychic Birth, a number of people questioned my use of the phrase “Christian myth.” Comments ranged from, “I was taught that myth is pagan and false” to “Myth is less than history for history consists of ‘real events’ and is therefore true.” Over the years thanks to the influence of Joseph Campbell and others we have a better idea of how mythology affects our lives. Yet Jungian analyst James Hollis has recently published two books on myth saying that he senses a need “out there.”(4) I hope that you will explore these topics more fully than is possible here, using resources listed here as well as others readily available. It is a sad commentary on the spiritual hunger of our times that expressions of soul or imaginal experience have been overshadowed by the reams of ego-based information that can overwhelm us. The word, “mythological" is a stumbling block for many who either dismiss it as old fashioned or fear it as “pagan.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Audrey Punnett and The Orphan: Hosted by the Idaho Friends of Jung

On January 22-23, 2016, the Idaho Friends of Jung is hosting
The Orphan: Alone yet at One with Oneself in the World
presented by Audrey Punnett, PhD

Date: January 22-23, 2016
Time: Lecture, Friday, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm; Workshop, Saturday, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Location: Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 6200 N Garrett St, Boise, ID 83714

This salon is based on Dr. Audrey Punnett’s recently published book, The Orphan: A Journey Towards Wholeness. The lecture will focus on the experience of being alone while being at one with oneself in the world. Dr. Punnett will use excerpts from her book to illustrate the connection between psyche and spirit through the archetypal image of the orphan. The workshop will expand on this topic by using excerpts from the film of the fish tale, Finding Nemo with group discussion about the individuation journey as initiated by the death of Nemo's mother, Coral.

Audrey Punnett, PhD, is a licensed psychologist, certified child, adolescent and adult analyst graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich and a member of the C.G. Jung Institute of San Francisco where she is past chair of the Infant, Child & Adolescent Training Committee (iCAT). Dr. Punnett has published in peer-reviewed Journals and she teaches nationally and internationally. Dr. Punnett is an Associate Clinical Professor, UCSF-Fresno, Department of Psychiatry and maintains a private practice in Fresno, California.

Fisher King Press publishes an eclectic mix of worthy books including 
Jungian Psychological Perspectives, Cutting-Edge Fiction, Poetry, 
and a growing list of alternative titles. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Welcome Contribution to the Mysteries of Advent

Mariann Burke’s Advent and Psychic Birth does true justice to a great tradition. The author describes Advent as a remembrance and ritualistic preparation for the birth of the historical Christ. She notes, however, that if Christmas is solely a revival of an outer event, it will sooner or later loose its inner significance for the soul.

It is not by accident that the birth of Christ is celebrated around the winter solstice. The author draws attention to the historical links between Christmas and the ancient Saturnalian festivals, held in Rome during the second half of December. They can be understood as a revival of yet older traditions that focused on bringing the ailing sun back to life. The people of archaic cultures had no access to modern astronomy and could never be sure if the sun would regain its strength for the coming year. Hence it needed the help of humans to guarantee the continuity of life, as witnessed in Jung’s conversation with Pueblo Indian who claimed that without their religious practice, the sun might never rise again.

It is precisely this uncertainty that provides Advent with a new significance. If we just follow the outer rituals, without ever questioning the meaning of the birth of God in man, our soul will hardly access the full implications of the tradition. The author reminds us that Advent is a time of darkness. Not only the waning sun possesses an ominous significance, but also the first texts of this cycle begin with the destruction from the Great Flood. They also describe cataclysmic events of the future, and advocate us to remain awake during the night, for we do not know when the master will arrive. The liturgy of the second Sunday focuses on liminality, a time of betwixt and betweens. It is devoted to John the Baptist and his time in the wilderness, a psychological space outside of the norms of conventionality. On the third Sunday there are hints of a new baptism, implying a spiritual rebirth destined for humankind. The fourth Sunday celebrates the union of the Holy Spirit with the human Mary, a meeting of heaven and earth, a joining of opposites in preparation for the emergence of a new image of God and man.

With the help of alchemy and convincing case material, Mariann Burke shows us that the symbols and ritual drama of Advent awaken us to our deeper self. We too are exhorted to accept those dark, exiled, repressed components of the psyche. When we immerse ourselves in those ‘dead’ regions of the soul, we might loose our bearing, at least for a while. We begin to confront hidden desires, fears, or anger, but we can also watch out for signs of new symbol. We learn to be open to the creative potential of the unconscious, often manifesting in images of pregnancy, birth, or the appearance of the Divine Child.

This book is a welcome contribution to the mysteries of Advent. It encourages us to participate in the transformative process of death and renewal. It suggests that the soul needs to die and be reborn so that life blossoms in new and surprising ways. Mariann Burke’s book is a testimony to the wonders of revelation, a story that features the ongoing interaction between the human and divine. It can also help us to weave together the broken threads between Christianity and the older nature religions. Advent celebrates a time to anticipate the soul’s striving for wholeness.
John Hill, Jungian analyst, author of At Home in the World: Sounds and Symmetries of Belonging

Title: Advent and Psychic Birth
Author: Mariann Burke
Paperback: 172 pages
Publisher: Fisher King Press (Dec 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1926715993
ISBN-13: 978-1926715995

Fisher King Press publishes an eclectic mix of worthy books including 
Jungian Psychological Perspectives, Cutting-Edge Fiction, Poetry, 
and a growing list of alternative titles.