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Syntonic Counter-Transference

Watch Over me

Watch Over Me by stonethestone via Flickr

In 1957 the psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, Michael Fordham, forwarded the term “syntonic counter-transference” (SCT) to describe a kind of transference where the analyst enters into a “primitive identity” with the analysand. With SCT the analyst apparently senses the patient’s unconscious feelings, usually at the same time as the patient. However, sometimes the analyst picks up on the patient’s feelings before the patient becomes aware of them.

A somewhat mysterious idea that is difficult to verify, SCT raises questions that figures like Stanislav Grof and C. G. Jung have looked at within their respective schools of transpersonal psychiatry and analytical psychology.

One problem with SCT arises if the analyst becomes grandiose, falsely believing he or she arrives at the truth of a dynamic before the client does. The potential for abuse relating to a dysfunctional relationship and misplaced trust in the analyst is arguably no small matter. To counteract this issue, responsible therapists speak of a “therapeutic relationship” where doctor and client learn something from each other while maintaining emotional objectivity. But this is the ideal, of course. It’s a well known fact that Jung, himself, had an affair with Sabina Spielrein, one of his clients.


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Tankha

Tanka painter by Leon Meerson

Tanka painter by Leon Meerson

Tankha are Tibetan and Nepali Buddhist artworks said to assist in the quest for liberation. The visual themes are almost always religious in some fashion. Wikipedia explains:

Thangka perform several different functions. Images of deities can be used as teaching tools when depicting the life (or lives) of the Buddha, describing historical events concerning important Lamas, or retelling myths associated with other deities. Devotional images act as the centerpiece during a ritual or ceremony and are often used as mediums through which one can offer prayers or make requests. Overall, and perhaps most importantly, religious art is used as a meditation tool to help bring one further down the path to enlightenment. ¹

Here are some examples:

English: Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting of ...

Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting of a mandala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tibetan Buddhist Namgyal monks preparing the K...

Tibetan Buddhist Namgyal monks preparing the Kalachakra mandala within the pavilion, under thangkas of Padmasambhava, Kalachakra, Lord Buddha, Kalachakra Mandala, and White Tara, prayer area, main shrine, Verizon Center, Washington D.C., USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting

English: Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Buddha Amitabha in Tibetan Buddhism, tradition...

Buddha Amitabha in Tibetan Buddhism, traditional Thangka painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The Bhavacakra (Sanskrit; Devanagari:...

The Bhavacakra (Sanskrit; Devanagari: भवचक्र; Pali: bhavacakka) or Wheel of Becoming is a symbolic representation of continuous existence proces in the form of a circle, used primarily in Tibetan Buddhism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vajravarahi mandala

Vajravarahi mandala (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description at en.wikipedia.org: "I took ...

Description at en.wikipedia.org: “I took this photo myself in September 1993 and am happy for it to be freely available. John Hill 02:45, 28 January 2007 (UTC) I am sorry – in the original name I gave the date as 1994 by mistake – it was taken during our trip to Tibet in 1993. John Hill (talk) 00:48, 9 January 2008 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: 14th century Tibetan thangka painting...

14th century Tibetan thangka painting of the Mandala of Vajravarahi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Art shop in Kathmandu, Nepal

Art shop in Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Painted Bhutanese Medicine Buddha mandala with...

Painted Bhutanese Medicine Buddha mandala with the goddess Prajnaparamita in center, 19th century, Rubin Museum of Art Bhutanese art is similar to the art of Tibet. Both are based upon Vajrayana Buddhism, with its pantheon of divine beings. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the above we can see the visual diversity of the Tankha. The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung was particularly interested in their mandala qualities. Jung likened the tankha to circular shaped Christian art that he felt was pointing to the same, or a similar phenomenon—the self.

“I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp 195 – 196.

The reason I say “similar” is because Jung, at some points in his Collected Works and Letters, argues that Christianity differs from Eastern religions. The upwardly skewed symbol of the cross, he felt, indicated an upward bias. Jung once said that Eastern yogis, lamas and saints were “at bottom” of the spiritual change we see in the West.²

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thangka

² I included this quote (and its reference) in an essay for my doctoral studies. The essay, however, is not online, and probably buried deep in a cardboard box. I will find it… soon. :)

Related Posts » Buddhism, Karma, Mandala, Metempsychosis, Moksha, Reincarnation, Samsara


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Tantra

Tantra BH 2007 - Jai Kartar + Carina by Siri Amrit Singh (Alexander Czajkowski)

Tantra BH 2007 – Jai Kartar + Carina by Siri Amrit Singh (Alexander Czajkowski)

Generally a tantra is a spiritual text, “thread,” rule or path with a related discipline. There are many different types of tantras within Hinduism and Buddhism. Most paths share the belief that apparently male and female energies combine to transmute ordinary consciousness to a higher level of spiritual awareness. In Hinduism the right hand path refers mostly to meditation on Siva’s relation to Shakti. In the left hand path, a complex series of rites are performed by an equal number of male and female aspirants. These rites culminate in sexual union in which the male does not ejaculate because semen is believed to contain mystical power, especially when spiritually united with the female’s Shakti.

English: Original Statue of Carl Jung in Mathe...

Original Statue of Carl Jung in Mathew Street, Liverpool, UK. Made of plaster, it was vandalised and replaced in 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

C. G. Jung was interested in the ideas of tantra and monastic celibacy, saying that monks sacrificed the worldly activity of ordinary sex for a rich inner reality. Critics of the idea that sexuality should be sacrificed for a deeper (or higher) spirituality argue that sexuality has been unjustly debased through the years. Some feminist critics also say that many who devalue sexuality never had sex based on genuine love between equal partners. This may be partly true but it also reduces the many sided issue of celibacy into some kind of misogynist hangup. Many saints and yogis, alike, paint a very different picture with regard to the necessity of celibacy in advanced stages of God realization.

Related Posts » Bauls, Chakras, Kundalini, Shapeshifter, Yoga

On the Web:


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TekWar

Shatner, William – TekWar (1990 PB) uploaded by sdobie
via Flickr

TekWar is a series of science fiction novels, TV shows and made-for-TV movies created by William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek) portraying a disturbing vision of mankind’s technological future.

Although the books imply that Shatner is the author, after some time it came out that they were ghost-written by science-fiction author Ron Goulart.

In TekWar dark warlords enslave the population through the distribution of a mind-altering drug in a corrupt society. What’s novel about this drug is that it’s entirely digital. A microchip.

Good and bad characters fight information wars on an advanced internet, connected directly to the mind. Users wear special headgear and information is externally displayed in holographic images.

So instead of computers merely receiving viruses through the web, as we have today, enemy hackers can literally kill each other through the neural interface.

While the idea of “killing thoughts” may seem unique to science fiction, similar non-technological myths of killing at a distance appear in voodoo doll, witchcraft and evil eye lore. And some mystics and shamanic practitioners believe they are mystically “killing” the lesser aspects of other people’s personalities through a kind of inner, transpersonal “slamming,” for lack of a better word.

English: William Shatner photographed by Jerry...

William Shatner photographed by Jerry Avenaim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the claims of these mystics and shamans are true,¹ to me it would seem to involve a kind of unclear, gloomy or possibly hellish underworld that one hopefully would be able to rise above. But as long as individuals identify with this kind of dynamic (i.e. I’m the big, important psychic warrior and you just don’t understand...)² they’ll probably remain stuck there.

On this point the psychologist Carl Jung stressed time and again that so-called archetypal forces are powerful, transpersonal and sometimes volatile. The key, Jung said, is to not identify with any of them. And I think this is an important precursor to enjoying a higher, heavenly bliss that just can’t be found in a shadowy and tumultuous psychological underworld.

¹ (a) The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo claimed to assist the Allied Forces in WW-II by virtue of his meditation, and at a distance. (b) Mircea Eliade in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy notes that some shamans take up a different vocation if their culture doesn’t recognize them as such, which seems to suggest that, for some, their commitment to this practice is only as deep as their ability to make a living out of it.

² Jung called this inflation. And Joseph Campbell further delineated different types of mythic involvement with concepts of Mythic Dissociation, Mythic Eternalization, Mythic Identification, Mythic Inflation, Mythic Subordination.


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Theodicy

Showdown Between Good and Evil by

Markus Aaron Brechbiel – Showdown Between Good and Evil via Flickr

Theodicy is a theological term describing attempts to uphold God‘s absolute goodness and power with the presence of evil in the world.

In Christian theology evil is often seen as a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation. Most Christians accept as an article of faith that God permits evil for some greater good, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (see Isaiah 55:8-9).¹

One school of thought, stemming from Irenaeus and popularized by John Hick, argues that evil is permitted but not caused by God.

Why, one might ask, would a benevolent and all-powerful God permit evil?

For the Irenaean school the answer lies within the idea of “soul making.” A soul freely choosing to abstain from evil is of greater value than one automatically avoiding evil. The free and virtuous soul better glorifies God than would a sinless automaton.

Although evil may ravage, test and torment good souls living on earth, the true goal of our finite, earthly life is to be made worthy of eternal heaven.

According to this view, evil acts as a crucible. Souls not succumbing to but ultimately resisting evil are purified and strengthened towards the good. Evil, then, is necessary. It acts as a kind of “hammer” that pounds out the soul’s impurities.

Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas, in keeping with the final winnowing of the Apocalypse (Luke 3:17, Matthew 3:12), writes

God permits some evils lest the good things should be obstructed.

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo...

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps this means that God allows evil to grow with the good because trashing evil too soon could cause some collateral damage, which might be permitted in military ops but with God, must be kept to zero.

Another argument, influenced by Plato’s idea of the Forms, is given by St. Augustine. Augustine sees evil as a privatio boni—the absence of good. Because God is good, Augustine says, evil must be where God is not present. So God doesn’t create evil. It’s a choice.

Needless to say, not everyone is happy with this argument. Some, usually religious believers, see it as self-evident while others, often atheists, say it’s philosophically unsatisfying. And somewhere between these two extremes, Carl Jung believed that if God knew how we would choose, and created us in the first place, it’s a joke to say that we are responsible for evil.²

¹ Although in some Catholic homilies, I’ve heard variations of this belief. For example, one priest claimed, I think facilely, that God wants us to be happy all the time. In so doing, he seemed to overlook and trivialize another basic Christian belief—namely, that there is value in some forms of suffering. God may wish us to be happy all the time in heaven. But life on Earth is anything but heaven 24/7.

² I think a problem with Jung’s argument is that he’s viewing the issue from the perspective of linear time, which according to Einstein’s relativity theory, doesn’t really exist. This is a surprising error on the part of Jung, because he was aware of the latest scientific developments, well before the time of his death (1961). I think Jung also displays a dash of human arrogance. Perhaps with more humility he might have found more answers.

Related Posts » Fatalism, Felix culpa, Hick (John), Providence

On the Web:

  • A humorous video presenting the Irenaean theodicy:


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Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on ...

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Formally known as the Bardo Thodol (Tbtn: bardo = liminality + thodol = liberation), The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the popular name for a collection of Buddhist texts, coined by their first translator, W. Y. Evans-Wentz.

While some joke about the Book of the Dead as if it were a dark, brooding document, Buddhists would probably say this attitude comes through ignorance and projection.

Believers see it as a kind of spiritual guidebook, designed to direct souls at the point of death to the best possible reincarnation. A lama, friend or guide usually sits over the death bed and reads the book to the dying or recently dead person.

Contemporary readers will likely be struck by the Book of the Dead’s practicality. Deceptive spiritual lights, enticements and other misleading phenomena the departed soul will encounter are described as things to be avoided, not unlike a road map for a large, unfamiliar city or a trekking guide for a tricky mountain pass.

Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on TBD completely dismisses Carl Jung’s psychological interpretation.

Jung’s introduction betrays a misunderstanding of Tibetan Buddhism, using the text to discuss his own theory of the unconsciousness.¹

It seems that whoever wrote that was pretty defensive about their beliefs. Jung’s archetypes, after all, transcend space and time so a Jungian analysis of this type of phenomena doesn’t seem inappropriate.

In music, the Beatles were apparently influenced by The Psychedelic Experience, a manual based on TBD by Timothy Leary et. al. The line “it’s dying to take you away” from The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour was also based on a hippie mix of drugs and TBD.²

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardo_Thodol

² Ibid.

Related Posts » Buddhism, Demons, Myth


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Transference

Freud - Exploring the unconscious mind by Enrico

Freud – Exploring the unconscious mind by Enrico

For Sigmund Freud transference is a psychological dynamic where mostly unconscious ideas and feelings associated with past figures or events are displaced onto current figures or events, thereby distorting current relationships.

Charles Rycroft notes that Freud initially saw transference as inappropriate and an unfortunate aspect of the psychoanalytic relationship. But Freud later recognized it as an unavoidable and, in fact, useful aspect of psychoanalytic therapy.¹

While the narrow definition of transference refers to distortions generated by the patient and thrust onto the figure of the analyst, counter-transference refers to distortions created by the analyst and falsely attributed to the patient, these also based on past experiences.

C. G. Jung‘s view of transference emerged from the Freudian school but includes the concept of the collective unconscious and extends to the borders of the metaphysical.

For Jung, transference is positive and negative, making it a significant interpersonal factor among friends, coworkers, lovers, family and marriage partners. On the plus side, transference is a special type of projection that may link human beings in an almost mystical bond of meaning.²

English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...

Group photo in front of Clark University Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. Photo taken for Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts publication. (Wikipedia)

While at the extremes transference may exhilarate or enslave, according to Jung it is a natural dynamic in which the psyche strives for genuine individuality and wholeness. Jung calls this quest for individuality and wholeness the individuation process.

When projections are made conscious and stripped away, Jung believes individuals are faced with the task of relating in a more mature, realistic manner. This arguably is a never-ending process by virtue of our inherent human limitations.

In pop culture the idea of projection appears in Bruce Cockburn’s song “Tell the Universe” (2006):

You’ve been projecting your sh** at the world
Self-hatred tarted up as payback time
You can self destruct–that’s your right
But keep it to yourself if you don’t mind

Image via Tumblr

¹ A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1977, p. 168.

² Today it’s becoming increasingly common to talk about other people’s “energy.” Some believe this can transfer and linger, especially from intimate contact like sex (See, for instance: https://38.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mczlk8Accw1qer5v4o1_1280.jpg. But the term “energy” might be misleading. Sensitive people might perceive not so much energy, but rather, a spiritual environment (technically called numinosity).

Related Posts » Future of an Illusion, Lévi-Bruhl (Lucien), Participation Mystique, Psychoid,  Syntonic Counter-Transference, Unconscious

 

 

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