Durga: encountering the demon of ignorance

Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia
Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon, Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 US public domain via Wikimedia

In the above image we see Durga Mahishasura-mardini, the slayer of the buffalo demon. The painting is by Raja Ravi Varma- 1910 (via Wikimedia, US public domain).

In becoming aware of the supreme Self, we are likely to behold the demons and shadows of the individual self. Carl Jung believed that an encounter with the demon or monster represented an archetypal stage in the process of individuation. He says, “the initial encounter with the Self casts a dark shadow ahead of time.” In mythic terms the shadow may present itself as a monster, a demon, a darkness or a drought. Here is the full quote from Jung’s Man and His Symbols:

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Zombie Apocalypse: a symbol of collective transformation

 Gajda, Tegning af en Zombi. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Gajda, Tegning af en Zombi. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

What cannot be worked through at the conscious level is often worked through at the unconscious level, in dreams and fantasy. cf. Carl Jung  (CW 5, para 4-45). When encountering that which we cannot dream, we confront the limits of sense.

Film and art may present an unconscious attempts to work through collective transformation at the limits of reason and sense. In zombie movies and the growing zombie apocalypse movement, we may be seeing an attempt to dream ‘apocalyptic’ change.

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Madhu and Kaitabha: mankind possessed by shadows

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Vishnu Vanquishing the Demons Madhu and Kaitabha, Folio from a Devimahatmya (Glory of the Goddess), India, Madhya Pradesh, Chatarpur, circa 1775 Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. LA county Museum. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the in the image above, we see a watercolor paining of Purusha (as Vishnu) Vanquishing the Demons Madhu and Kaitabha.

This is based on an ancient story from the Bhagavata Purana. In the story, the demons Madhu and Kaitabha steal the Vedas and hide them in the nether regions. The Vedas are said to be the eyes of Brahma, without them he is blind. So, Brahma appeals to the supreme Lord (as Purusha) who resides in Yogic meditation. Purusha awakens from his meditation and becomes Hayagriva, the horse headed God. He battles the demons, kills them, and restores the Vedas to Brahma.

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Samudra Manthan: divided cosmos reflects inner polarity

Samudramanthana, the Churning of the Ocean. 19th Century, India. at the British Museum of Art. US Public Domain via Wikimedia
Samudra manthana, the Churning of the Ocean. 19th Century, India. at the British Museum of Art. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

The image above is a watercolor of Samudra manthana, the Churning of the Ocean. The British Museum provides a description of the image:

“This event took place during the second incarnation of Visnu as Kurma, the tortoise. The painting shows Visnu seated on the top of Mount Mandara, here represented as a pole. He holds a discus, sword, conch and lotus in his four hands and has a golden nimbus around his head. Around the pole is wrapped the snake Vasuki. On one side the snake is pulled by the gods and on the other it is pulled by the Danava’s. On the shore of the ocean are the objects which have emerged during the churning, which include Laksmi, Varuni, the conch, the elephant mount of Brahma, Airavata, Surabhi the wish fulfilling cow and the vessel holding amrita which bestows immortality on the drinker. A crescent moon is shown in the top left corner of the painting. The painting is surrounded by a black border.”[1]

From an archetypal perspective, Vishnu is an image of the Self.  The central pole may be seen as the axis mundi. The axis mundi is the world pole which offers a connection between the three worlds or three states of consciousness. The snake is wrapped around the pole, an image of the instincts– both lower and higher. The gods and demons churn the great sea of milk by pulling on either ends of the snake. This image may be seen as representing the synthesis of Self.

Jung understood the importance of such polarity in churning the ocean of consciousness. He understood that such polarities reflect the polarities of our own inner world. Jung says:

“How else could it have occurred to man to divide the cosmos, on the analogy of day and night, summer and winter, into a bright day-world and a dark night-world peopled with fabulous monsters, unless he had the prototype of such a division in himself, in the polarity between the conscious and the invisible and unknowable unconscious?” (Carl Jung, CW 91, para. 187)

Reference:

  1. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1)

Siddhartha & Mara: meeting the shadows at the door to the unconscious

FireLanceAndGrenade10thCenturyDunhuang
First illustration of Fire Lance and a Grenade, 10th Century, Dunhuang. From the book “The Genius of China”, Robert Temple. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

In the image above, we see Buddha obtaining enlightenment. Dark shadow figures assail Buddha from the upper right hand corner, while attractive female figures seduce Buddha from the lower right-hand corner.

The image itself suggests enlightenment. The Buddha holds his left hand in his lap, palm facing upwards. Fingers from his right hand touch the earth. This posture is called the Bhumisparsha mudra, as the earth touching or the earth-witness gesture. This gesture implies that the earth (or eternal) is the witness to enlightenment.

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