by Iona Miller, 2016

Alone, Yet Not Alone

Living With the Time You Have Given Me



“The core of the individual is a mystery of life, which dies when it is ‘grasped.’ That is also why symbols want to keep their secrets; they are mysterious not only because we are unable to clearly see what is at their bottom.” (C. G. Jung, Hans Schmid-Guisan, The Question of Psychological Types)

Mental Time Travel
In nature, we look up and see the past, stars and galaxies millions of years old; then we look down and see the past in the earth, in the bones of dinosaurs and the dust of ancestors, and fossils.
Time is the raw material of creation.

Ancient mythology has much to teach us about grief and mortality. The Mesopotamian myth, the Descent of Inanna is the earliest written goddess tale. It  begins with listening:  “From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below.”

In Sumerian, the word for ear also means wisdom. Because she seeks wisdom, Inanna is called to listen to the Great Below, the realm of dream, death, depression, and the unconscious. Without knowledge of loss and mortality, engaged individuation, and compassionate mirroring, she is not whole.

Deep within the  unconscious darkness something new is being born, and Inanna cries out from this pain of giving birth. She returns to life — lost, humbled, and displaced. We descend into the redeeming darkness, making that walk, not because we want to, but because we must.

All descents provide entry into different levels of consciousness and can enhance life creatively.  All of them imply suffering.  All of them can serve as initiations.  Meditation and dreaming and active imaginations are modes of descent.  So too are depressions, anxiety attacks, and experiences with hallucinogenic drugs.” (Perera, 1981)

In many ancient myths, descent is an integral part of the Great Feminine Round of Life and Death. We are mortal and vulnerable. We live in a world of catastrophe and chaos, personal loss and social threat. We are thrown down
by chaotic defensive furies, such as rage and greed. We are helped up by the dynamics of rebirth. Miraculously, we find our way to life again.

Self-Referential Memory
Our ancestors are our past and our transcendental future. Autonoetic consciousness is the human ability to mentally place ourselves in the past, in the future, or in counterfactual situations, and to analyze our own thoughts.

Semiotics & Symptomatics
Our sense of self affects our behavior, in the present, past and future, and our sense of ancestral metamemory, including memory, physiological (unconscious) memories (spinal cord and ganglia) and embedded tissue memories, unconscious  motivation, unconscious conceptualization, and aesthetic unconscious (art, myth, and dream).

Jung said, “The unconscious has no chance of coming into the conscious unless the conscious makes a hole for it to come through.” And that hole or portal is our genealogy — our family tree, a site of potential transformation.

We are each the sentinel who guards and keeps watch on our end of the lines that are anchored by the genealogies of gods and goddesses which have passed into the ‘collective unconscious.’ First and foremost our genealogical quest is informed by multidimensional, autonomous psyche.

Mute Signs & Voiceless Speech
We should be confidantes of our own mysteries and ancestors. We must cross our own Acheron, or river of woe and pain to reach that psychological underworld. We plunge from raw life into the encounter with the powers of darkness. We follow our chthonic serpentine lines back through primal generativity and fertility.

Jung claims, “The serpent shows the way to hidden things and expresses the introverting libido, which leads man to go beyond the point of safety, and beyond the limits of consciousness, as expressed by the deep crater.” (1925 Seminar, Page 102

Our ancestors guide us on our journey, handing us along, one by one to their forebears. We ritualize the science and art of parting. We step into the mythological plot through the world of the afterlife immersed in our hordes of ancestors, without being fictionalized ourselves.

We retrieve the treasure, ‘hard to attain,’ whose presence we suspected in the dark prima materia — self-knowledge. The treasure is variously symbolized in myth and fairy tale as a ring or golden egg, white feather, coat of many colors, fountain of youth, elixir of Life. We gain experiential knowledge of all known realms by
confronting, or identifying with subterrestrial, terrestrial and cosmic energies.

Jung suggested that the assimilation of the objective and subjective collective unconscious is achieved by realizing both the outer and inner meaning: 1. concrete actions and 2. subjective thinking and feeling as purely inner experience, or experience via the subject (inwardly lived).
“Undeveloped, therefore archaic, symbolic, ambiguous, phenomenal, irrational, actus purus naturae, can only imperfectly be formulated and grasped intellectually, projected.”

The symbolic unconscious content is “not exclusively valid either (1) for the outer or (2) for the inner realm, but for both together, that is, for their operating together.” “The core of the individual is a mystery of life, which dies when it is ‘grasped.’ That is also why symbols want to keep their secrets; they are mysterious not only because we are unable to clearly see what is at their bottom.”

Paraphrasing Jung, genealogy helps us “to come to those hidden and unopenable symbols, in which the seed of life lies securely hidden like the tender seed in the hard shell.” (Jung, Han Guisan Schmid, Page 9)

Autonoetic Consciousness
Episodic memory is identified with autonoetic consciousness, which gives rise to remembering in the sense of self-recollection in the mental re-enactment of previous events at which one was present. While Jung’s approach was largely scientific, he also spoke of
“living” knowledge as opposed to “scientific” knowledge.

Autonoetic consciousness is distinguished from noetic consciousness, which gives rise to awareness of the past that is limited to feelings of familiarity or knowing. Noetic consciousness is identified not with episodic but with semantic memory, which involves general knowledge.

We all divide our experience into time categories; the difference is simply how. The transcendental future time perspective affects philosophical problems of personality, the process of self-knowledge, the formation of value orientations and life course of constructing identity.

Inroads in Mental Time;
Feeling & Conscious Awareness of Subjective Time

Mental time travel, or chronesthesia, is the brain’s use of memory to think about the past, present, and future… a form of consciousness that allows individuals to think about the subjective time in which they live and that makes it possible for them to “mentally travel” in such time. But is memory distorted, constructed, or confabulated? How can we know who we are if we don’t know where we’ve been?

Remembering and knowing do not correspond with degrees of confidence in memory. Nor does remembering always control the memory response. The transcendental future is ’subjective time’ that can be called a belief in some future Utopia.

The latest dream of immortality is paradoxically couched under Transhumanism, an overcoming of limited organic nature with technology and designer bodies. The outer universe becomes subjective, from the outer reality the person emerges in what the scientists call reality. The outer universe become the subjective controllable reality.

People often have firm ideas related to a transcendental future but notions of ‘new time after death’ [or its absence] remain controversial, being rooted in faith. It is an aspect of worldview with behavioral imperatives, prohibitions, values, and consequences. The transcendental future encompasses different events that include divine judgment, reunion with loved ones, eternal life, achieving oneness with nature or cosmos.

Transcendence is existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level. It encompasses the time from the imaginal death of the physical body to infinity. It may include goals, such as reunion with deceased loved ones, reincarnation, eternal life, avoidance of damnation, and elimination of poverty, suffering, pain, and shame. It signifies belief in something larger than life, including immanent or transcendent beings beyond the self.

Out of Time
Transcendental future is a time perspective – a personality trait that describes how often a person imagines one’s afterlife with positive or negative attitude, intrusions, retrieval, shuffling, fluency, distinctiveness, and false recognition. Transcendental Future Time is one of the dimensions of subjective time and is related to individual beliefs about the time period after physical death. It partitions the psychological future into pre- and post-death time frames, transcending life and living.

An `extraordinary’ time perspective, one that partitions the future into pre- and post-death time frames. The `transcendental-future’ extends from the point of imagined death of the physical body to infinity, yet may influence present behavior.

Related to numerous psychological variables, the transcendental-future is a component of, but not synonymous with, many religious beliefs. From the perspective of the transcendental-future, behaviors often seen as irrational, such as suicide, extreme heroism, and excessive tithing, are transformed into rational behaviors expected to lead to fulfillment of transcendental-future goals.

People think or imagine themselves in a transcendental future context with positive or negative thoughts. The importance of transcendental future to well-being has yet to be studied, but many issues have already been assessed in clinical hypnotherapy with its timeline excursions, spontaneous and suggested, past and future, and with ancestors.

Making Your Time Matter
At a certain point in anthropological time the human brain had developed to the
level that people became aware of time and of their own existence. Together with the ability to imagine one’s future a new kind of mental stress also appeared – awareness of the inevitability of death. To allay this stressor, our early ancestors came up with a myth – a belief that death must be survivable. Today the bigger part of people’s beliefs has been passed on to them by their ancestors through religion or philosophy

Chronesthesia, or mental time travel, is a mental ability to be aware of one’s past or future. Studies have been conducted to map out areas of the brain that may be responsible for mental time travel, which include the left hippocampus and posterior visuospatial regions which are are involved in past and future event construction, neural differentiation. The right hippocampus, right frontopolar cortex, and the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex are involved in future event construction.

The elaboration phase, unlike the construction phase, has overlap in the cortical areas comprising the autobiographical memory retrieval network. The left hippocampus and the right middle occipital gyrus were significantly activated during past and future event construction, while the right hippocampus was significantly deactivated during past event construction. It was only activated during the creation of future events.

Episodic future thinking involves multiple component processes: retrieval and integration of relevant information from memory, processing of subjective time, and self-referential processing. The ventral medial prefrontal cortex and posterior cingulate cortex are the most activated areas when imagining future events that are relevant to one’s personal goals than to unrelated ones. This shows that these brain regions play a role in personal goal processing, which is a critical feature of episodic future thinking.

We can’t technically travel through time (yet), when we think of the past or the future we engage in a sort of mental time travel. This uniquely human ability to psychologically travel through time arguably sets us apart from other species. Researchers have recently looked at how mental time travel is represented in the sensorimotor systems that regulate human movement. It turns out our perceptions of space and time are tightly coupled.

Engaging in mental time travel (a.k.a. chronesthesia) resulted in physical movements corresponding to the metaphorical direction of time. Those who thought of the past swayed backward while those who thought of the future moved forward. Chronesthesia may be grounded in processes that link spatial and temporal metaphors (e.g., future= forward, past= backward) to our systems of perception and action. “The embodiment of time and space yields an overt behavioral marker of an otherwise invisible mental operation,” explains Miles and colleagues.

The ability to remember the past and imagine the future can significantly affect our life decisions and scripts. Scientists refer to the brain’s ability to think about the past, present, and future as “chronesthesia,” or mental time travel…the neural correlates of mental time travel and  metaphorical “travel.”

“Mental time travel consists of two independent sets of processes: (1) those that determine the contents of any act of such ‘travel’: what happens, who are the ‘actors,’ where does the action occur; it is similar to the contents of watching a movie – everything that you see on the screen; and (2) those that determine the subjective moment of time in which the action takes place – past, present, or future,” Tulving told

‘Supernatural’ is a word that conjures spine-tingling feelings of mystical awe, fear, and joy. Does it exist as a concept, or as a phenomenon, however, among all peoples? What does it mean as a cultural construction and as a response to reality? What is its relationship to religion and spirituality, to experiences of ghosts and ideas about gods? What part of the ineffable world that informs cosmologies is captured by the term ‘supernatural’, and what is distorted or left out when we use it? Why is it such a contentious term in anthropology, vigorously condemned by some, championed by others, and blithely used by the rest?


~ by ionamiller on March 22, 2016.

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