"What is the human? . . .The myths in which our lives are embedded . . . are built deeply into character, often below awareness, so that they are essentially religious, matters of faith.'' --Gregory Bateson
The unconscious is not just evil by nature, it is also the source of the highest good: not only dark but also light, not only bestial, semihuman, and demonic but superhuman, spiritual, and, in the classical sense of the word, “divine.”
--Jung, They Practice of Psychotherapy (1953)
Our genealogy is our natural History. Our psychogenealogy is the natural history of our soul. There is another kind of primordial human in us that responds to a transgenerational approach to the family tree. Jung called it 'the two million year old man," the instinctive self, rooted in nature.
An integrated approach roots us in both past and present, as a common model for real life and consciousness that foster transgenerational bonds, transformation, and integration. Both Transgenerational Integration (TI) and genealogy are full of rich themes to explore, including family ties, legacies, parenting, matriarchy and patriarchy (Gaillard).
In The Undiscovered Self, Jung poses a challenge that is relevant to psychogenealogy in terms the urgency of recovering our ancestral heritage:
"We are living in what the Greeks called the right time for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science."
The Transgenerational Integration Movement is developing such awareness for both therapists and the general population. Part of that school of thought is an active psychological approach to genealogy and the ebb and flow of life itself, whether self-initiated or in the therapeutic relationship.
TI has its own genealogy rooted in the works of Freud, Jung, Fromm, and others. It also draws on established conceptual models from family therapy, including the genogram. It does not suggest a radical paradigm shift to different tenets or fundamental assumptions, say, about the nature of reality -- changing initial conditions and/or assumptions. It amplifies existing therapeutic channels. However, it helps account for errors and anomalies in the old or waning and competing paradigms and provides greater clarity and a higher information ratio.
All knowledge has gaps, and our self-knowledge is no exception. Climbing our family tree helps us fill in some of those gaps with myth, symbol, history, and immediate experiences of the power of presence and healing transformation. An occurrence can appear and be understood as a material event or a psychological experience, depending on the attitude, faith, and worldview of the observer.
We can take a liminal stance and engage in imaginal conversations with our ancestors. Psychology is a 'study of the soul,' so a psychological approach to our family tree means working that tree with a focus toward its effect on our soul, and honoring the 'transgenerational laws' that have been neglected in modern culture. The object of the psychological approach is the inside subject engaged with psyche.
To be engaged with the psyche, inevitably means to be engaged with the ancestors:
"There is one ego in the conscious and another made up of unconscious ancestral elements, by the force of which a man who has been fairly himself over a period of years suddenly falls under the sway of an ancestor." (Jung, 1925 Seminar, pg 38.)
"Therefore there are gates and walls, showing the aspiration is not to be dead and buried in the mandala, but to function through the mandala." (Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 265.)
Subject and psyche reflexively fold back upon one another fusing subject and object on the unus mundus or psychoid level. The family tree graphically represents this vast process, and merely hints at its complexity. At the psychoid (psychophysical) level the unconscious domain is the deep wisdom of nature -- our connective consciousness of nature and our nature.
In a way the collective unconscious is merely a mirage because unconscious, but it can be also just as real as the tangible world. (Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 40)
"As soon as one begins to watch one’s mind, one begins to observe the autonomous phenomena in which one exists as a spectator, or even as a victim." (Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 40.)
Genealogy is a reflexive discipline. Your family tree opens a vast inner realm of ancient, living symbols -- your ancestors. We yearn toward eternity, longing for connection. It begs the question, "are we comfortable in the presence of the disembodied?"
The Absence & the Presence
Genealogy is the domain of subtle bodies, neither this nor that. Now a presence it then eludes our grasp, shows itself and hides itself, reveals and conceals itself. Disembodied spirits are a conceptual category, rather than an ontological 'reality' or delusion from beliefs or religion. Ontology is a branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being, the essence of being. But ontology is only the study of anything under the aspect of its being, of what is involved in its existing.
In the psychological context, ontology itself is a mythologizing activity. It is not an ultimate but can have consequences: (1) Ontological security is achieved by routinizing relationships with significant others, and actors therefore become attached to those relationships. (2) Worldview implodes in Ontological Catastrophe. (3) Ontological anarchy insists no "state" can "exist" in chaos, that all ontological claims are spurious except the claim of chaos. In effect, chaos is life. All mess, all roiling energies, all protoplasmic urgency, all movement—is chaos.
What kinds of things actually exist? Meta-questions include: What is existence? and What is the nature of existence? We ask, "What is the nature of the universe?" or "Is there a god?" or "What happens to us when we die?" or "What principles govern the properties of matter?" The entangled nature of quantum entities provides a plausible theory for how our ancestors might 'appear' in our own very material psychophysiology.
Bateson names the connection between opposites with a paradoxical image borrowed from C. G. Jung, who in turn took it from ancient Gnosticism -- ''pleroma/creatura.'' This image implies the idea that the fundamental connection is not between two substances, mind and matter. Rather, mind is the pattern and fabric, texture and weave (pleroma) in all matter (creatura). This is the psychophysical essence of psyche, or soul.
We can try to ground our heuristics on firm metaphysical and epistemological foundations. The ontological argument claims to establish the real (as opposed to abstract) existence of some entity with some a priori 'proof.' In its general meaning, ontology is the study or concern about what kinds of things exist - what entities there are in the universe. Such questions are moot speaking of a dead or discarnate, and therefore, 'non-existent' being.
The basic question of ontology is “What exists?” The basic question of metaontology is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no. (Chalmers) But we don't need to answer or have faith in any ontology to pursue psychogenealogy. We don't need to believe in 'ghosts' for an epistemology of the sacred.
Metaphor is the logic of psyche. We have countless metaphors of appearance and disappearance. It doesn't matter that our ancestral spirits are discarnate, because they 'matter' in terms of psyche, which is indistinguishable from matter -- our matter. One effect of this is psychophysical symptoms rooted in transgenerational issues.
Spirits are not ontological or metaphysical facts, but imaginal realities. The psychological or therapeutic approach does not require ontological speculation or meta-questions. We perceive them as epistemological metaphors, or 'how we know what we know' and what it's 'like,' which awakens their psychophysical aspects.
We can explore metaphors. They act as a bridge, imaginative propositions, even epistemic intuition. They use a story or illustration to see alternative ways of looking at something. Every culture and religion uses these types of stories, analogies, and parables to improve understanding, make a point more memorable, and help us make positive changes.
The internal/external metaphor is foundational. Metaphors assist transformation. A metaphorical scheme effects a reorganization. Interrelating conceptual, perceptual, and biological metaphors enables a cycle of transformation. They are inherently irrational but unconsciously 'make sense.'
Much of our thinking is a matrix or complex web of metaphors. Emotive metaphors are feelings transformed into a metaphorical equivalent. It is sustained throughout the work and functions as a controlling image. Metaphors deepen the information. The questions used to develop a metaphor develop space not time.
A metaphor awakens conceptions with more force and grace than 'common' language. An epistemological metaphor is personal and unique, translating a feeling or thought into a form that can travel through time to its original.
Zhuangzi metaphorically puts forth three meta-questions or fundamental ques-
tions in epistemology: 1) as an epistemic subject, do I know I myself? 2) Among epistemic subjects, do I know others? 3) What can I know about the world?
Epistemology is a knowledge creation metaphor. References to virtual agency are metaphorical, beyond body, death, and social identity. Epistemological metaphors are a gateway to the subconscious, as are dreams, symptoms, and our family tree.
Content-free therapy can be done through metaphor, rather than through directly reliving trauma thereby avoiding re-traumatizing. Metaphors act as a means for the psyche to represent experiences of personal significance in symbolic ways. Metaphoric expressions are tied to some unconscious or implicit aspect of our experience.
Metaphor does something in relation to our understanding. Beyond rhetoric, metaphor is rooted in some quality of the world as it is. Metaphor functions like a dream or symptom in the sense that it simultaneously expresses material from different psychic levels -- topographical, structural, and dynamic.
Metaphor use and exploration gives us a way of linking our experiences across diverse times and situations. In genealogy, history uses veils as epistemological metaphors, reflecting the conception of reality dominant in each respective epoch.
Social Presence in Sacred Space
In our transgenerational work we can extend that self-inquiry, asking ourselves 'where do I feel that in my body', and 'how do I know it's happening when it happens' to develop dynamic images and metaphors of 'what it is like' for process work. It's a functional approach that is used because it works as a tool for exploring personal meaning, fundamental to insight-oriented psychotherapy.
Personifying is a way of making subjective experience, passionate identification, and indwelling images more tangible through conversation and relationship in symbolic form. Hillman (1975) called it “an epistemology of the heart, a thought-mode of feeling.” It imagines what’s inside, outside, and makes this content alive, personal, and even divine. Jung claimed that the inside is the outside, the outside is the inside; the claim is that psyche is matter and matter is psyche.
The scientific search for knowledge is the search for Truth and Beauty, appealing to both spirit and soul. To know facts is to survive; not to know, or to assess one's environment wrongly, is to lose the fight for survival. With the examination of the sources, nature, and accuracy of our knowledge, we begin to develop epistemic awareness, a more informed understanding of what we know and don't know.
We are faced with two serious epistemological problems: (1) How can we determine which facts are true? and, (2) How can we determine which facts are important? Our minds are the comparator and interface between the internal and external realities we navigate through.
Denial is a complex “unconscious defense mechanism for coping with guilt, anxiety and other disturbing emotions aroused by reality.“ Even skepticism and solipsistic arguments – including epistemological relativism – about the existence of objective truth, are generally a social construction.
Rebirth is synonymous with restoring the true history of our origins and integrating our transgenerational inheritance, somewhere between the loss of what we thought we knew and true self-knowledge.
The soul generates images unceasingly. The soul lives on images and metaphor, especially epistemological metaphors--how we know what we know. These images form the basis of our consciousness. All we can know comes through images, through our multi-sensory perceptions. So, this soul always stays close to the body, close to corporeality, to what "matters."
Jung's basic ideas about the unity of knowledge and existence are in principle synonymous with the Platonic tradition, alchemy, Qabala and Gnosticism. Plato treated the end product of the evolution of mathematical concepts, (a fixed system of idealized objects), as an independent beginning point of the evolution of the "world of things." This concrete form of philosophy was determined by the nature of Greek mathematics.
These philosophies seek to reconcile the actual condition with a hypothetical distant ideal, which expansively incorporates both personal and universal dimensions. It is an inward-oriented epistemology. By intuitive perception we can consciously reiterate the laws of Nature and mind which are equivalent to the archetypes themselves.
Going back to the question of fantasizing, if once the resistance to free contact with the unconscious can be overcome, and one can develop the power of sticking to the fantasy, then the play of the images can be watched. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Page 38.