Tag Archives: mythology

Symbols and Psychiatry

sncornskid051316

Corn snake, kco051316

Ten years ago this month, I had just retired my medical and DEA licenses, in search of better ways to inspire people regarding the mind and its potential.  A long-time student of symbolism, I write daily in my journal and regularly include references to astrology, mythology, religion, dreams, and other symbolic languages.  These universal concepts fall loosely into Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s idea of a “collective unconscious” and of “archetypes.”  As most people probably know, Jung was a protege of Sigmund Freud, father of modern psychiatry, whose The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, rocked the scientific world and initiated the field of psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

The following excerpts from my November, 2007 diary show how I play around with symbolism to help develop a deeper appreciation for everyday life.

ON PREDICTIONS AND FREE WILL

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 – I believe if the student fails, the teacher fails more, because the teacher is paid to teach.  The student (ideally), pays to learn.  This is why I’ve never believed in tenure and probably why I don’t believe in marriage or other chains on the future.  As an astrologer, I don’t believe in predictions either, but astrologers as a group would disown me for saying this.  They thrive on making predictions, and people expect them to do it, but no one can say that predictions are consistent with free will.

You have to be a free thinker to understand how limiting predictions are.

This moment, as I sit in my recliner on this beautiful sunny day, overlooking vast expanses of marsh and blue sky, I have access to all time, depending on my focus.  It can come as dream, memory, fantasy, association, feeling, impression, dimly or readily perceived.  A book once read is forever a part of my experience, because I have invested the personal effort to make it so.  A book once written is part of everyone’s experience, whether direct or indirect, as knowledge brought through on the verbal place is “thicker” and more physical than the more ethereal realm of imagination.  How can I know before I read a book how it will change my life?

PENELOPE AND UNDOING

Thursday, November 22, 2007 – I’m approaching my multiple goals in piecemeal fashion.  When everything seems to be at beginning stages, as now, or beyond my capabilities, I feel frustrated and at odds with myself.  Re-doing things makes me feel like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife in The Odyssey of Homer, who undid her father-in-law’s shroud every evening to avoid having to marry any of the moochers who invaded her home as soon as Odysseus stayed gone too long.

I used to think Penelope was a sap, but undoing is a matter of perception, and if you enjoy the weaving and undoing for its own sake, it is no longer a waste of time.  Here we have the clash of the results-oriented and the process-oriented approach.  Also apparent is the stated vs. actual purpose.  Penelope stated she wanted a shroud.  She actually wanted to stall for time, so the actual purpose was met.

She lived in a time when women were possessions, and we have that subversive belief still, although no one admits it.  Marriage is a testament to the people-ownership concept.  While presumably it’s a mutual ownership, no one expects men to be as faithful as women, although this is a generalization and less true than in the past.  In the great sexual shuffling of today, men and women seem equally unfaithful.

Probably few perceive the ownership attitude as clearly as I, the target of so many who want to own by any means available.  Insurance companies, government, bankers, stockbrokers, businessmen, acquaintances, friends, family, partners–all want an advantage and will look for or create excuses to cross the line of equality, move in and take over.

Am I bitter and cynical?  Yes.  I don’t like feeling this way, knowing it only hurts me to have this attitude.  Like it or not, I am a herald, of sorts, meaning I search restlessly for higher and more comfortable ground, especially mentally.  Those who would control will seek first to control the mind.

I can’t control my own mind, nor do I want to.  I like its free ranging ability and thrive on the little lessons obtained from every facet of my life.

How would I know about undoing if I did not live it, feel the emotions associated, know the practice from mythology and the term from psychiatry?

Unraveling a sweater – which I’ve already done once with this one because I didn’t like the stitch – brings many facets into play.

How would someone else handle it?  Who knows?  Most people would not attempt to knit a sweater at all, I suspect, and this is my contention with “most people.”

Nor will “most people” appreciate the value of the process as a means of showing how to solve problems, because this is my real purpose.  Rather than start over, I can adapt mid-sweater and potentially turn a mistake into a success.

SNAKES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Monday, November 26, 2007 – I’ve retired my medical license to become a New Age Profit . . . er . . . Prophet, for the Spirit of Capitalism.

I cut my fangs on Telluride politics and other stories from the Serpents of the Modern Caduceus.  What if there were two serpents in the Garden of Eden, and they ran the interlopers out, better to rest in peace without getting trampled?  Then they can bask in the sun of the Garden, eating of their favorite fruit, the apples from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Now that Adam and Even have departed in search of something better, the wise snakes may rest assured the tree won’t be cut down to build a house, to hold squealing brats who like to torture snakes for fun.  Minimal risk of getting eaten for supper or skinned for belts and purses.  Why, now that God has expelled these demons from Heaven, the snakes are ecstatic.

Unfortunately, the Garden of Eden isn’t quite as lively as when the humans were around.  They provided entertainment, if only by making God mad.  We snakes can make God mad without even trying.  All we had to do was show him how dumb his latest invention was, and he threw them out and has been moping around ever since, feeling guilty about over-reacting.  Now, look at the mess man has made of his lives.

All we said was “Wise up.”  We didn’t say do it the hard way.  No.  That was Adam’s choice, to do it the hard way.

We snakes wise up the easy way.  When our skins get too small, we shed them and slither on out to greater dimensions of girth and wisdom.

Yes, snakes are hated and feared, because we are so smart.  We see life from the ground up, and we know where our support and strength lie.  Our raw intelligence knows its own turf and doesn’t seek to intrude on that of others.  Snakes don’t go looking for trouble, unless it’s entertaining trouble that enhances our wisdom and gets a potential threat redirected into other dimensions, like hell on earth.

Psyche and Cupid Revisited

Dancer, by Carol O. Cole

Dancer, by Carol O. Cole

by Katharine C. Otto

Here’s a myth written by a man.

Venus, Roman goddess of love, sends son Cupid to skewer beautiful, mortal Psyche with one of his famous love arrows, so she will fall in love with some ugly old coot and age quickly. Unfortunately, Cupid botches the job, ends up sticking himself with one of his own arrows, and falls in love with his mother’s rival.

Next, he abuses his immortal power by lying to Psyche and her family. He has the oracle say her destined mate is a monster. She resigns herself to her fate, and her family abandons her on a mountainside.

Cupid marries Psyche and whisks her off to his mountaintop estate, far away from everyone she knows and loves, except him. She isn’t allowed to see his face. He buys her anything she wants, but he is not there for her. He comes home only at night, after she’s asleep, spends the night, and is gone by morning.

She’s unhappy with this arrangement. She communicates she is lonely, so he agrees to bring her sisters up for a visit. They fill her mind full of doubts and remind her of the oracle.

So, Psyche lights a lamp in the middle of the night and looks at him. Shocked by his beauty, her hand falters, and she spills a drop of hot oil on him.  He wakes up, is offended by her audacity, and runs home to Mama to have his burn cared for.

“Love cannot live where suspicion lies,” he moans, as he flies out the window, thereby getting the last word. Psyche is expelled from the mountaintop estate and must work for a living.

Venus takes advantage of the marital conflict and sets Psyche to work. She orders her to perform a number of inane tasks, but Psyche, being mortal, knows her limitations and is not afraid to ask for help. Even the ants pity her and help her sort a pile of small seeds, one of the endless meaningless tasks Venus inflicts. Finally, after ten years, Cupid rescues his wife from his mother.

Now, the testosterone-poisoned would have us believe that Psyche did something wrong by looking at her husband. You’re supposed to believe she didn’t trust him enough, so she ended up having to prove her love.

This is a con.

It wasn’t Psyche’s fault Cupid was a bad aim, abducted her under false pretenses, set unreasonable rules for her behavior, and wasn’t there for her except at night and on his terms. A lesser woman would have used that lamp to set fire to his bed.

Psyche knew this was Cupid’s way of saying “I love you,” but she was fed up with the lies, discovered the truth, and paid the consequences. Psyche was ultimately granted immortality too, so she and Cupid can live happily ever after.

Fortunately for her, she gets more freedom. We must suppose she is now allowed to see her husband in broad daylight, perhaps even have breakfast with him, and enjoy his company outside the bedroom. The myth doesn’t say how often Venus comes around, but Psyche’s mother-in-law issues are another story.

The point is that Psyche does the only thing she can do to avoid becoming a bitter old woman. She breaks the rules before they break her. She pays the price to earn fulfillment, happiness, and love. Good thing, too, since the alternative would make for a miserable eternity.

This is good for humanity as well, since the word “psyche” has come to stand for the human soul, the mind, and mental life. It is the basis of the words “psychiatry,” “psychology,” “psychic,” and others.

Psyche did us all a favor by daring to challenge the gods’ authority. She pushed the envelope, and pierced the veil of mortality. Her experience offers promise of light beyond the darkness, for those who have the courage to persist.