Genealogy is a sacred narrative of origins that forever marks our place in time -- a true quest for the fountain of life. Ancient shamanic stories describe a previous World Age in which a colossal tree dominated the celestial landscape, joining heaven to earth.
This master-narrative is the origin of the World Tree, and the Family Tree. Only mythic dissociation separates the Tree of knowledge from the Tree of immortal Life. In the unus mundus, they are one integrated tree.
This Tree of Life or mother-tree has its roots in heaven and its branches growing downward through genealogical descent, bringing life-giving function to the possibilities of life. It is an icon of the unus mundus, an underlying unified reality from which everything emerges and to which everything returns.
The family tree is a system of interactive complexity and emergence. Our own tree is a canopy of growth that connects us all the way to the stars and our aspirations while grounding us in our roots.
Our family tree is our map of the undifferentiated unconscious -- maps of relationships in the Land of the Dead, the co-existent underworld of shades. In the beginning, it is like drawing a map of the world on a sheet of paper with as little concept of our ancestors as the unknown seas and continents where they lived.
Over and over, we plot our course through the maternal and paternal lines of ascent that predispose our responses. The scintillae or soul-sparks of partial or incipient consciousness or insight in the ancestral field stir the imagination. They awaken the dormant, lifeless, and withered, expanding consciousness and renewing psyche.
These points of light, iridescent eyes, mimic the starry heavens or reflective surface of the sea with spontaneous amplification. They connect us with the animated soul of the world. As we focus, their numinosity and luminosity draws us toward pervasive meaning.
Our 'dead reckoning' navigation means charting a new course of relationship and conscious attachment through successive immersions. “We are affected by the seven generations that come before us and affect the seven generations that will follow.” according to Francesca M. Boring, Shoshone elder. It may actually include all our emotionally-charged generations -- the redeemed and unredeemed Trees in innate healing.
Milky Way; Mother's Milk
Once we embark on our mission, we find that like the heavenly constellations, we have family constellations to guide us. Hidden dynamics in a family can be worked with and healed through a process that has the power to shift generations of suffering and unhappiness. Our most pressing challenges are reflected in those of our ancestors and the genetic relationships and patterns among them.
This relatively brief therapy helps us develop intuition and insight while exhuming hidden solutions that restore the flow of love. We conceive a new perspective and circumambulate a variety of associative and interpretive treatments, clearing the emotional body with the balm of tears.
Over and over we ask what does this feel like? How does it continue to feel, or how do the feelings change and amplify over time, and what is it asking of you? Redemption of the psychophysical body lies in this direction -- redeeming spirit and soul, conscience and consciousness. To do so, we have to metaphorically dig up graveyards and excavate cities.
We gain a unique perspective to make new choices or follow unforeseen pathways. Emotional resolution of systemic entanglement is a powerful process that enables us to overcome patterns of behavior repeated in related families for generations, by bringing up the family images held in the unconscious mind. Such work on where we are stuck or feel pain is built around inclusion: the reconciliation among all parts of the self, our family, and our history.
In time, the stream of ancestors comes forward in a flood of imagery -- prevailing, enduring, haunting, mapping out hidden truths. We cannot escape the spirit of the depths who forces us toward the mysteries. Jung described not only 'possession' by the ego, shadow and anima/animus but by the transgenerational family history.
We can only find our right way with an eye fixed on the far horizon. Perhaps such 'dead reckoning' -- our own confrontation with the unconscious -- helps us navigate our imaginative journey. We calculate our current position from a previously unconscious position, to fix, and advance that position to the far horizons. Our attention flows toward an unforeseen destiny where meaning beckons beyond the bounds of consciousness.
Jung describes the horizon as a whole as the quaternity (four quarters of heaven)..."There are always four elements, four prime qualities, four colors, four castes, four ways of spiritual development, etc. So, too, there are four aspects of psychological orientation.....The ideal of completeness is the circle or sphere, but its natural minimal division is a quaternity." (Psychology and Religion: West and East,)
We have unconsciously sacrificed our ancestors, setting them adrift in the unconscious without mooring to the living, disheartening ourselves. Based upon the integrative process over elapsed time we trace our family tree through the islands and continents of the unconscious, a reality mediated by information patterns which in turn are constantly evolving.
The tree is the record of the multigenerational courses from the known starting point, and the known or estimated 'drift.' Along the way we find many lines -- grand dynasties that have gone extinct, “beginnings without continuations.” But, somehow, despite all odds our own line has passed through or culminated in ourselves and our own 'pioneering' work.
Paraphrasing Jung, we stumble through unknown regions, are lead astray by analogies, forever losing the Ariadne thread. We are overwhelmed by new impressions and new possibilities, and the worst disadvantage of all is that the pioneer only knows afterwards what he or she should have known before.
When we encounter the second and subsequent generations may have the advantage of a clearer, if still incomplete, picture. Certain landmarks on the frontiers of the essential have grown familiar. We now know what must be known if one is to explore the newly discovered territory.
Does our attention 'condition' the ancestral field? We learn to spot the most distant connections. We can unravel problems and give a coherent account of the whole field of ancestors, whose full extent we can only survey and 'know' at the end of our life’s work.
Thin Red Line
But, that map is a beginning, a framework in which later discoveries can be placed. What is confusing at first is clarified in a later stage of the journey. The family tree helps us establish a connection between the natural and sacred figures and our own psyche. Or, as von Franz notes, "Only if you look from afar, from a certain objective distance, do you realize that there is a pattern of wholeness in it." (Interpretation of Fairy Tales, Pages 6-7)
This special perspective or psychic viewpoint is a revelation of the soul, nothing short of the Holy Grail, whether as myth, bloodline, relic, or spiritual quest. We acquire depth in our attempts to heal ourselves. In 1949, Jung said, "Ultimate truth, if there be such a thing, demands the concert of many voices."
Family dynamics appear in individual therapy as well as in engagement with the family tree. They include repetitive patterns of interactions and significant events in the family history. Some suggest unconscious loyalties to previous generations leads to synchronistic repetition and unwitting reenactments of ancestral events and dates. The group functions ritualistically. Plurality becomes mimetic flow not just dissociative rupture. Intergenerational family identity is positively related to well-being.
We may find that our research uncovers more than we could ever imagine. The family tree operates as an alembic, a sacred vessel or temple of transparent walls that contains our pain, suffering, and confusion without judgment or analysis. Instead it offers us a rich array of stories. We can act out, play with, identify with and allow ourselves to be carried away by these ancestral stories – within a contained, ritual setting.
All of shamanism comes from one root -- the unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestoral spirits, responsive only to shamans. The ancestors and the pathos of the ancestral epic restore our soul. "The sin to be repented, of course, is unconsciousness." (Jung, Aion, Pp. 191-192.) We construct a unique history of the evolution of our own consciousness with the bodies of our ancestors and the body of myths as the phenomenology of this same evolution.
Our Tree returns us to the lived experience of events, imaginal connections, and metaphorical reality. Primarily through afflictions, symptoms, and phenomenology, imaginal mythology seeks the movement of the soul to a fuller awareness of itself -- a return to the origins, through memory, of one’s life story that goes beyond simple succession and co-existence.
Without hypostatizing the idea to some otherworldly plane, Jung suggested our primordial behavior is informed by archetypal images. This is the difference between a psychological and a metaphysical, "spiritual," or religious approach and worldview.
Jung implied "Sooner or later all the dead become what we also are," but that we know little or nothing about that mode of being, and "what shall we still know of this earth after death?" Still, he felt, "The dissolution of our time-bound form in eternity brings no loss of meaning."
Reification is also called concretism, hypostatization, or the fallacy of ambiguity or misplaced concreteness. Abstraction (abstract belief, metaphysical or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity. The issues of reification are usually philosophical or ideological. This is the error of treating something which is not concrete, such as an idea, as a concrete thing. A common case of reification is the illogical confusion of a model with reality: "the map is not the territory." Reification can also be an "as if" figure of speech, and actually understood as such, rather than literalized.
Jung saw consciousness as "essentially the psyche's organ of perception, it is the eye and ear of the psyche." Even the scientific view is still infused with unconscious myths and symbols, as "all that comes into our heads proceeds from the unconscious." (ETH Lecture II, April 27, 1934, pg. 98). Jung identified 'Psyche' as the unknown that we simply name 'Psyche,' therefore ambiguity has to be enough for us.
We can't concretize our ancestors into mythical metaphors, metaphysical statements or entities, etiologies, causal explanations, or name tags. But we can free them of unconscious 'dead weight' that affects our lives profoundly. Our felt experiences of them are real events but they are perspectives toward events which shift our attitudes and experience of events."The unconscious can move in every possible direction, even in time it can go forward and backward, because it knows no space." (Jung, Visions Seminar, Vol. I.)
We also discover ourselves as imaginal beings through rich intuitive resonances, metaphor, and personification, without over-identification with our subject ancestors, without insisting the subjective must be objective, without egoic, foolish, idiosyncratic, or superstitious interpretations. "For the understanding of the unconscious we must see our thoughts as events, as phenomena. We must have perfect objectivity." (Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 103)
Our ancestors may make what happens intelligible, but they don't 'happen' themselves. They reveal archetypal themes in history and the myth in the mess of ordinary lives. The mythic stories we embody in our own wounds are informed by all the figures in our Tree, not only the ones we believe most represent us.
Life is Short; Death is Sure
In the last analysis every life is the realization of a whole, that is, of a self, for which reason this realization can also be called "individuation." All life is bound to individual carriers who realize it, and it is simply inconceivable without them.
But every carrier is charged with an individual destiny and destination, and the realization of these alone makes sense of life. (Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Page 222)
It is the mourning of the dead in me, which precedes burial and rebirth. The rain is the fructifying of the earth, it begets the new wheat, the young, germinating God. (Jung, Liber Novus, Page 243.)
Our poetic approach is echoed by Csikszentmihalyi: “the poet’s responsibility to be a witness, a recorder of experience, is part of the broader responsibility we all have for keeping the universe ordered through our consciousness.”
This is the burden everybody has to carry:
to live the life we have got to live.
~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 515-516