Dialogue with the Self


Dear Friends: I’m at our beloved mountain home. I’ve been so busy restoring the newly remodeled kitchen that there’s been little time for much else. So here’s a post within a post I wrote about this sanctuary four years ago.

Carl Jung said the Self is both our core and our circumference. Some think of it as our soul, the totality of who we are and who we have the potential to become. Jung called it the archetype of wholeness. In later years he referred to it as our god-image and connection to the Mystery some call God. Composed of the twin drives for self-preservation (i.e. masculine logos, represented in alchemy by the King archetype) and species preservation (feminine mythos/eros symbolized by the Queen), the Self shapes our ideas about what is sacred.

As the source of our irresistible compulsion to grow into our true selves and express our unique creativity, the Self is an ongoing, never-ending process. I see it as the psychological equivalent of the physical exchange of energy and information constantly occurring at the quantum level between the molecules of our bodies and between us and our environments. As I understand Jung, he suspected the energies of both processes, inner and outer, are united in one intelligent, purposeful, evolving collective unconscious, Force (as George Lucas named it), or Zero Point Field (as some physicists now call it), which promotes increasing order, health, and wholeness.

We associate the Self with six attributes: wholeness, centrality, unity, love, pattern, and the life-giving force. We grow conscious of its guidance by noticing these themes in the symbols and synchronistic events of our dreams and waking life.  Benevolent by nature, the Self calls our egos to their heroic destiny of merging with the indwelling Mystery. Our egos often reject its guidance, but it never gives up on us. The more we notice and respond to it, the more it responds to us.

The following story from one of my earliest blog posts illustrates the loving interaction that can take place between ego and Self:

I’m at my desk at the cabin looking out an east-facing window. The morning sun enters my backyard late because it has to rise above the mountain before its rays filter down through a thick tree canopy. Most of what I see is in shade but a patch of sun has highlighted the brilliant silver threads of a spider web between two branches of a buckeye tree. Grandmother Spider is busily checking connections, tightening threads, and hunting for tasty morsels that got trapped during the night.

Pursuant of how and why I love this place so much, this morning, I picked up Aion, Volume 9, ii, of Jung’s Collected Works, in search of symbols of the Self. In paragraph #356 he writes:

“The commonest of these images in modern dreams are, in my experience, the elephant, horse, bull, bear, white and black birds, fishes, and snakes. Occasionally one comes across tortoises, snails, spiders, and beetles. The principal plant symbols are the flower and the tree. Of all the inorganic products, the commonest are the mountain and lake.”

Spiders. Mountains. Trees.

When I entered the gravel road last night my arrival was heralded by a cawing black crow who flapped off toward the house. The first thing I did was feed the rainbow trout in our pond. Black birds. Fish. Lake. (Do you think a pond counts?)

Then I walked around the garden to check out the flowers. My treasured peonies are already spent, but the pink New Dawn roses and purple clematis are a-riot on the trellis, the hydrangeas look like giant blue and white powder puffs, the hostas are sending up tall bud-laden spikes, the astilbe have myriad pointed white cotton candy tufts, the golden daylilies are in full bloom, and there’s a  mound of pink petunias by the kitchen door. I don’t garden in Florida. It’s just too hot. But here I can have my flowers. Flowers.

Below Bear Pond and Shadow Brook there’s a small pasture and stable where my horse, Shadow, used to spend his summers. I’ve always had a thing for horses. And Shadow, well, he’s a subject for another post. Horses. By the way, bears are the theme of this mountain home. They’re all over the house.  But that’s another story too. Bears.

Speaking of bears, every summer for ten years I’ve come here with my sweet friend, a handsome golden retriever whose name was Bear. He passed on last August, but his ashes are in a white box with a label that says “Bear Raffa:  Forever Faithful” in a cabinet four feet to the right of where I sit. I cried when I entered the house without him last night. But this morning when I was still in that borderland between sleeping and waking, I heard his joyous booming bark. Twice. He’s glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m back.

Do I need any further reminders of how loved I am and why I love this place so? Not really, but such is the nature of the Self that I’ll probably continue to get them every day anyway. And night, too. Sweet dreams of the Self, my friends.

Image Credits:  Google Images.  “Serpentine Fire,” https://albaricoquenalmibar.wordpress.com/tag/la-india/

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched by Schiffer Publishing this October. For more information, subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.

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7 Responses

  1. Such a wonderful affirmation Jeanie of the beauty that surrounds us and is also within, always expending energy and growing in the day and night. The kitchen too going through its transformations, where nourishing food is made and people sit at the table. I’ve spent the morning laying stones in my aloe garden which is a feature in the garden. Back breaking work, still more to be done – another few days I reckon, but handling stones made me think of the philosopher’s stone. Thank you for this lovely post. Love, Susan

    1. Hi Susan, And so we continue on the same thread we followed after my last post about weeds in the garden. I’ve been thinking more about how noticing the metaphors enriches the connection between one’s outer and inner life. I think of it as nurturing the ego-Self axis, as Jung called it. He also called it the transcendent function. The ego has to choose to converse with the Self in the language of metaphor, the food that strengthens the connection.

      The “universe” drops these little crumbs on our path, like the crow who met me at the entrance to the driveway, or the stones you’re carefully and laboriously planting in your aloe garden, and then the ego has to notice what’s happening and look for the metaphor, and then comes another crumb and another connection. And the same thing happens with the images in our dreams. And each morsel is more food for the soul.

      This is an entirely different way of approaching one’s life…the path to the philosopher’s stone! 🙂 Thank you for our rich conversations. Love, Jeanie

      1. Thank you Jeanie for your lovely response! I love what you say about nurturing the ego-Self axis. The crumbs are so rewarding and food for the soul as you say ?

  2. You’re in your retreat again. During the Covid time since March, I’ve been looking for words for what it feels like to live here at this time and my latest name for my home is “shelter from the storm.” I amfortunate to be able to be outside and to rarely think about masks. Friends often pick up my Instacart food orders in town, and blueberries and organic vegetables are delivered weekly from a farm share. There are many flowers in the gardens and fields, some weeds, but nothing out of hand, birds singing out the open windows, butterflies floating by. Friends join me for tea on the back porch (with the Monarch nursery) or for a walk on the trails–or I go to their place for outdoor interactions. Since I read newspapers on line (no television), I know how hard the world is and pay close attention. I signed up to write postcards to potential voters, not telling them how to vote but encouraging them to vote. Also cards to support one local candidate for House of Representatives. Rumor is there are many tourists at Seneca Lake, so I don’t go to the lake now. My local son has a beautiful pond.

    Welcome to your sheltering place for as long as you can stay. I know you have a big autumn ahead.

    1. “Shelter from the storm” is a perfect analogy for those of us who have managed to find comfort and aid despite the political turmoil and need for social distancing. I feel that too. I think of this place as my sanctuary from the woes of the world, a place where I can rest in Mother Nature’s healing arms. Our little valley is a haven, a nest surrounded by gentle rolling mountains. You have found many soulful ways to nourish yourself in your shelter. I especially admire your political activism. It’s so important and helpful. I’ve been loving the wall of mothers in Portland! Such an inspiration. It’s good to see people finding ways to not only make the best of a difficult situation, but to actually add to the healing.

      Since I’ve been here we’ve spent most of our time putting things back in order in our new kitchen and making lists of things that need to be finished, contacting the people who will finish them, etc. At first it was stressful, but with our daughter and granddaughter’s help, things are now shaping up enough for us to have a friend over tonight, and another couple over tomorrow before we have to return to the next tropical storm/hurricane that is not threatening Florida!

      It’s good to see people finding ways to not only make the best of a difficult situation, but to actually add to the healing.

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