The Spirit speaks in a poetic way, but the man understands it literally. ...The richest understanding of the sacred becomes available when the metaphorical and the literal are brought together without denying either kind of truth...
Archetypal psychology is a ground for an aesthetic, phenomenological approach
to genealogy -- the fertile earth in which we can plant our family tree. Our ancestors are on-going living residents in our psychological life that continue to enrich, animate, and inspire us in their enduring significance.
Cosmic process provides the potential for life. The life-world is always there as the background of all human experiences. All the living world is aesthetic. Deeply felt aesthetic experiences are very likely to also be numinous. The aesthetic is a way to receive, process, and deal with coherent information.
Even largely unconscious flowing information elicits physical responses. The "pattern which connects" is beauty, and the beauty of our connectedness is revealed graphically in the full flowering of our genealogy with its incorporation of the eollective tree -- the archetypal World Tree. At its root is the archetypal drama of our origins.
Like the sea or the sky, the tree or forest is a kind of archetype of the foundations of the world. Because it reflects our inner and outer reality, genealogy becomes a means of access to insights about the deep nature of both personal and collective reality.
Our genealogical chart is a shorthand of minimal graphics -- we are born; we mate; we die. It is a vast treasure of subconscious symbolism, wisdom, collective and self-knowledge that is the enabling of life. We are products of the aesthetic process of evolution, embryology, and life experience. Our bodies exhibit aesthetic proportion and so does a balanced mind.
Our family tree focuses and expands the field of our attention. Genealogy is a metaphor of primary process with the full intensity of literal truth. Where lines meet dead ends or brick walls, the charts also represent emptiness.
Presence of Absence
The figures of absence inform us with their paradoxical presence. Absence of something is the negation of a presence as ‘non-presence.’ Many figurative strategies confront the notion of absence, and address the aesthetics of absence. For example, a spectre, phantom or absent figure is an archetypal representation of the presence of an absence, distorted shape (anamorphosis, a form of perspective) as uncertain presence.
Our untraceable lines remain profoundly unconscious in the silent margins from which the last known member of a lost line speaks. Such lines of descent do not enclose us but disclose our essential nature. They reflect and map out our embedding in the natural world, intricate in its elegance -- our very aliveness. Seeing with the eye of the heart gives us a very personal sense of the vastness and beauty of nature and our inherent place in it, and how we are sustained by it.
The genealogical aesthetic emerges somewhere between imagination and rigor as an ecology of souls, a self-organizing biophenomenon, the dynamics and functionality of interrelationships. We can apply ecological hermeneutics to explore our interpretations of disclosure and concealment -- in an imaginal sort of ecological intercorporeality.
Genealogy arouses and enlivens real psychological phenomena, with attention to bodily responses and emotional awareness enhanced by imagination.
Archetypal symbolism is an aesthetic experience, as is symbolic interaction with our ancestors, the archetypal background, and primal states of consciousness of the life-world. We interact through the meaning of symbols, by interpreting and reacting. We each have symbolic meaning to be revealed. Symbols bridge the gap between perceptual reality and and what we understand.
James Hillman’s aesthetic approach to dream images translate directly to genealogical imagery as scene, as context, as mood. Certain ancestors spontaneously suggest a place that we dream into, we enter into and in turn are embraced by it. Hillman noted the image doesn’t lead somewhere else like a story.
We can find nowhere to go but more deeply into the image. The images do not become pinned down by any particular interpretation, are never literalized into any single fixed concept or "meaning. Instead we return, drawn again and again to an experiential "living in the image," with new meanings potentially emerging over time as we go "more deeply into the image."
Hillman’s approach to image is deeply rooted in the work of the French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard. The image is a free expression created not from pressure but from play, not from necessity but from inventiveness -- the way we engage and embrace the world. Imagination is more than the stuff-sack of trauma; it is the cradle of renewal, a genesis, rather than effect. Imagination mobilizes the potencies of transformation.
In his Poetics of Space, Bachelard says, "By the swiftness of its actions, the imagination separates us from the past as well as from reality; it faces the future. To the function of reality, wise in the experience of the past, should be added a function of irreality, which is equally positive. Any weakness in the function of irreality will hamper the productive psyche. If we cannot imagine, we cannot foresee."
Our self-reference rests on a perceptual dimension of presence-openness not ‘closed’ within any conceptual system. As long as the images are not trapped in a single meaning, they continue as an animating, enlivening presence. You will quickly discover the ancestors various aesthetic preferences. These are forms, styles and archetypes that are inherent in their makeup. Aesthetic satisfaction validates the process.
Joseph Campbell said, "The object becomes aesthetically significant when it becomes metaphysically significant." Clarity is the "aha" quality -- privileged 'moments of grace.' Transient moments of grace and transformation put meaning into aesthetic arrest and creativity that is an intuitive awareness of the required action. The innocent viewer is stopped dead in their tracks and has no choice but to stare in awe at their relationship with the living world.
Aesthetic engagement is active engagement with the (genealogical) process -- engagement with the element of beauty and systemic wisdom. Aesthetic arrangement and metaphorical thought squeeze out the real meaning and value of our experience and the comprehensive properties of our relationships through 'wise relating.'
Like art, genealogy is significant life activity and a way to access systemic wisdom and connectiveness. We cultivate inner beauty in the life-changing play of our own natural history. Information is the stuff of relationship and the living world of context, relevance and integration. The conjunction of the spiritual and aesthetic is a Royal Marriage -- a grand synthesis of wholeness, our frail and mortal selves, revealed in their beauty over the epic panoply of history and myth.
If your life has not three dimensions, if you don't live in the body,
if you live on the two-dimensional plane in the paper world that is flat and printed, as if you were only living your biography, then you are nowhere.
~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 972.