Transformation Tools

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Some psychologists think that powerful self-insights and transformations of the psyche require psychotherapy and a psychotherapist. Of course, this isn't true. As a matter fact, the business of knowing and healing thyself has been around several thousand years before anyone joined together the words "psyche" and "therapy" - long before there was even the science of psychology or western science itself.

Carl Jung is perhaps too easily overlooked. Because scientific psychology, as well as traditional psychoanalysis, tends to devalue anything vaguely mystical, spiritual, or "transpersonal," Jung's work becomes a prime candidate for scapegoating and neglect. Precisely because Jung focusses on dimensions of human experience that are not readily explained by or amenable to more conservative perspectives, I feel his work needs to be explained more fairly and accurately. Concepts such as synchronity, archetypes, the collective unconscious, and anima/animus are not just fascinating, but powerful in their ability to capture aspects of the psyche not fully explored in other theories.

The Symbolic Life

Almost anything can be a symbol, a bird, a tree, a word, a visual image, a sound, a smell, a hat stand or even some-one else's body. The word symbol derives from the Greek, meaning `to throw together'. Jung's use of the term symbol was very different from it's common usage meaning, and far closer to its Greek origins. Jung used the term symbol to mean that which at a given time is the best possible representation of something which remains essentially unknowable. This is a numinous experience which takes one beyond the obvious and establishes a paradoxical state of unity of the material and immaterial, when the apparently mutually exclusive realities of the physical and psychic worlds are `thrown together'. Such experiencestend to imbue the whole life with a sense of meaning.

"....one learns only by experience. No understanding is gained by memorising words, for symbols are the living facts of life."
CW vol 18 p 249 para 572

Using Symbols as Tools of Transformation

Transformation occurs when we use psychotechnologies for change. Humans have always created technologies for transformation. In our ancient histories (to some extent in our current one) sacred ritual and ceremony, initiation rites, storytelling and the passing on of knowledge and skills by oral tradition were technologies of transformation. These experiences awakened us, guided our exploration, supported us through the emptying and the birthing of our new selves.

Our current psychotechnologies include a whole array of arts and sciences for the body, mind/emotions and spirit. There are countless body disciplines and therapies such as yoga, Tai Chi, karate, dance and movement therapies, various types of body work, to name just a few that shift the energies in the body, support the release of old patterns, and help us to be able to live more comfortably in physical form. Approaches like biofeedback and autogenic training, help the body to be in a relaxed and alert state of consciousness.

Meditation techniques of many descriptions: Zen, Tibetan Buddhist, Transcendental, Kabbalist, Christian, etc., help put our minds and energies into a calm and heightened state of awareness.

And so too there are many different “objects” that are used to focus the transformation process. The Ennegram, Tarot, the Cross, Star of David, a Rosary or prayer beads, the I Ching, Runes, and others, are all used to help the individual along his (her) path to a more connected and fuller existence. The object itself does not contain the power of transformation, but rather the symbols help the individual to access those parts of Self that may be forgotten or unknown. They are used to awaken and make one aware. They are all useful. It does not matter so much which one you use (if you choose to use any), only that the one you use should have a deep resonance within you that you can feel. You may have to try several before finding one that “speaks” to you in a meaningful way. Direction from an experienced practioner in the proper use of any of these “tools” is advisable.

I experimented with several and settled upon the Tarot. It fits my way of learning (visual) and taps into my writing (story making) skills. There is enough variety to keep my interest piqued, enough history, cultural diversity, and philosophical intrigue to keep my mind active (as it likes to be), and it has the capacity to grow with me as I grow. The Light & Shadow Tarot is my deck of choice. However, I recommend the novice to start with the Aleister Crowley THOTH deck in order to gain a fundamental understanding.

Using a tranformational tool such as the Tarot can be a motivator, especially if you are lethargic, uninspired, and/or having difficulty staying on track. If anything, it provides an activity in which to engage other than those actions and behaviors that are not moving you forward, not helping you make the positive changes you say you want to make. Even if only for the short time you use the tool – that is time spent not stagnating or harming yoruself. With continued use and increased familiarity and knowledge, use of the tool will become a empowering, enlightening, if not enjoyable, rewarding process – even when the outcomes or revealations are unpleasant and difficult.

There are identifiable stages of transformation:
Awakening
Exploration
Emptying/Loss
Disintegration/Dark Night of the Soul
Birthing of a New Self/Life
Movement toward Integration
Coming into Fullness
and, the tranformational tool you choose can help move you to and process through each stage.

In the transformation process, we become artists and scientists of our own lives. In the transformed life, our perceptions are changed, we become whole-seeing and creative. We become playful and recapture the childlike qualities of being human. We let go of our denial and rigidity and open to flow.

The Transformed self has access to new tools, gifts, and sensibilities. Like the artist, it sees patterns, it finds meaning, and its own originality. Like a good scientist, the transformed self experiments, speculates, invents and relishes unexpected discoveries.

Awake to the impact of culture, the transformed self attempts to understand diversity with great curiosity and interest. It understands that diversity is the reality of endless human possibilities. The transformed self is a student of the bonds of community, yet it knows about realms beyond linear time and limitations. The transformed self is a visionary, imaging alternative futures and designing its own realities.

The transformed self is successful in the "stuff of life", and is co-creator of all that is transforming our world.


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