Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Yes! Judge the Book By Its Cover

Review of two collections: The Dream and Its Amplification, edited by Erel Shalit and Nancy Swift Furlotti, Fisher King Press. 2013. And Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way, edited by Patricia Damery and Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Fisher King Press 2012.

The ebullient cover art serves as the gateway to The Dream and Its Amplification. Howard Fox’s painting “A Giant Dream” draws us into a sumptuous, archetypal world of mountains, gargoyle-laden temples, to a bridge with a naked, giant sleeping with his head upon a fire truck. In the canal below, a man treads water as a mermaid speeds toward him in a motorboat.

Speculation abounds.  Who is the man in the water? Is the sleeping figure on the bridge a giant or a god? Who are the people lurking in the shadows of the temple – or is it a castle?
Surely this book cannot live up to such a cover. And yet, in essay after essay from Jungian analysts across the globe, it does, offering a hologram of perspectives, even as any given dream, if tended from different angles, can yield multiple meanings.

And meaning is very much at the core of this work. We follow Ken Kimmel into the world of the Maya Shaman, Ronald Schenk opens us to Gnostic myth, Gilda Frantz traverses the interplay of dreams and death itself. The latter brought me a great sense of understanding a peace, as she writes about the dreams that prepared her for the time when death would “call” upon a loved one.

Erel Shalit evokes an Israeli man’s dream of a handless Arab child. Beside the child, the Earth herself extends four hands severed from their limbs up through the asphalt, as if crying to all of us: when will we grow the hands –and the arms– we need to grasp each other across the barriers of ancient conflict?

This cry of the archetypal Feminine echoes throughout. I found myself returning to the mermaid on the cover in the speed boat (or is she a mermaid? We cannot see the end of her green body…a tail or a bit of clothing??) She hurries through the water to this drowning man…or is he simply out for a swim in the canal, and it is we ourselves who make crisis of it, rush to rescue, when perhaps what is needed is for us to stop the motor and allow ourselves to drift for awhile in our own reverie…?

I was familiar with Nancy Qualls-Corbett from her seminal work, The Sacred Prostitute (Inner City Books, 1988). How lovely to encounter her again in Redeeming the Feminine: Eros and the World Soul. She shares the dreams of a patient, a very hard-working, high-functioning woman, who, like so many of us, grew up with a mother who could not give the depth of love she needed in childhood. Her dreams are a descent into an ancient archetypal world that guides her, ultimately, to the discovery of her buried feminine nature. This opens in her a state of being that allows a new masculine energy to emerge and join with the conscious feminine. Qualls-Corbett goes on to weave the strands of individual healing into the wounded feminine of the great Mama to us all: the Earth.

Similar stories of transformation abound in what I consider a companion work, Marked by Fire, Stories of the Jungian Way. Though these volumes were published a year apart, I found them deliciously complimentary.

On this cover we encounter Barbara McCauley’s painting, Flight Into Egypt, a dream-like scene of a woman in a bright pink pants-suit sitting sideways on a grazing white horse. Behind her, in the mist, an enormous ghostly figure (a god? a man? a monster?). The woman looks directly out at us, seemingly unaware of the looming presence behind her.  In her eyes, a curiosity, a searching, even as her body rests in contemplation on a motionless steed.

Once again, the imagination soars: who is she? What is the looming vision behind her? Why doesn’t she turn around? What is that tall shape in the foreground – a giant flower? A pillar? A sign-post?.....

Again, the work lives up to its cover, nourishing us with essays by some of the same Jungian analysts who grace the pages of The Dream and Its Amplification, and many new ones, each offering riches.

I will close with a sampler. Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s Drunk with Fire is a fluid journey of poetry and prose that begins with Ms. Lowinsky’s frustrations with her mentor, C.G. Jung. This frustration is gloriously resolved with the publication of The Red Book. She writes, “He ‘outed’ himself as a poet and painter. He writes directly out of his vulnerability, working out his relationship with his soul in the depths of the mythopoetic imagination, just as I do.”

She proceeds to share an Active Imagination that is as entertaining as it is enlightening: a dialogue with C.G. Jung himself. At one point Jung takes on the energy of the trickster, morphing into Groucho Marx!

The humor is balanced with the profundity of the journey. Here is a soul’s awakening in the fullness of the human dimension. The poetry – inspired by dreams or images of waking life – shows us how the creative process can be endemic in making the soul whole.

I commend both of these beautiful books to you, as gifts for thoughtful friends, or an offering to yourself. They stand alone, but taken together, grace the reader with a cornucopia that invites the reader to call forth the thunderbolt of your own creative fire.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Clark-Stern, author of Out of the Shadows: A Story of Toni Wolff and Emma Jung, On the Doorstep of the Castle, and Soul Stories.

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