I Walk the Lines
IN A SIMILAR VEIN
Because You’re Mine,
I “Walk the Lines”
But if you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself.
–Carl Jung, CW 11, Page 556, Para 906.
“I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant ancestors. It often seems as if there were an impersonal karma within a family which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which fate had posed to my forefathers, and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished.” — Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
“The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself; indeed, we should be fully born when we die.” –Erich Fromm
Because You’re Mine, I Walk the Lineage
Genealogy uses historical, phenomenological, and psychological methods. By “walking the lines” backward in each of the tangled branches of our Family Tree, we can engage layers of multidimensional imagery.
Our family tree emerges from each couple and their own respective networked lines of ancestors and their interpersonal relational interaction. Metaphorically, we walk in their footsteps in a ‘magical’ circumabulation of our ancestral field. The principle involves making a clear and conscious connection with the ancestors and the idea of oneness. ‘Walking the Way’ is a form of deep veneration.
Genealogy clears a walkway through the ancestral landscape. It is a comparative phenomenology of the imagination with an openness to Being. This is a hermeneutic phenomenology (description and interpretation of meaning), an empirical, transcendental, or psychological phenomenology of lived experiences and themes. Here, “transcendental” implies everything is perceived freshly, as if for the first time, without assumptions.
We immerse ourselves in the cosmic wisdom of matter, in the immanence of indeterminate, enigmatic, mysterious phenomena and its own language — open, visionary, poetic, aesthetic, erotic, sensuous, spiritual, transformative, vocational. We can’t decide if it’s the right or only path until we travel along it but it informs our genealogical search at every point. One key to achieving that understand is establishing context.
Hermeneutics refers to the liminal nature of Hermes as an interpreter and soul guide (psychopomp) who connects heaven and earth, the realm of the living and the dead. He guides the soul into dreams and the dead to the underworld. The alchemists’ defined the prima materia as the “land of the dead.”
Jung describes Hermes as, “the arch-authority of Greek alchemy. He is “Hermes Trismegistos” (thrice-greatest Hermes), and is identical with the Egyptian Thoth, the god of learning. Hermes was a leader of souls, a god of revelation and understanding, connected with the human mind, and also the source of dreams.
He was actually the god of the unconscious, and the being who determined the human intellect.” (ETH, Alchemy, Lecture XI 11th July, 1941, 224-231)
Jung said he wasn’t well-versed in philosophy, but “had to make use of philosophical concepts to formulate my findings.” Phenomenology brings to light what would otherwise remain hidden and helps us interpret what it means to exist in the world. Phenomenology becomes hermeneutical when its method is taken to be interpretive, rather than purely descriptive as in transcendental phenomenology.
Hermeneutic phenomenology enables access to subconscious phenomena and provides a means of interpreting our experiences of personal learning journeys. We acknowledge the complexity of a lived experience and subjective validation of it as an integration of our thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and experiences.
Meaning is encoded in cultural symbolism deposited and mediated through myth, religion, art, and language. In a prolonged engagement with a topic, such as genealogy, language itself is an appearance of being — a means of being manifest and ‘seeing’ meaning.
With deep questioning of the phenomena, we become attentive to how things appear and speak for themselves, including the ancestors, connecting with the visceral world of attunement, resonance, and sensation. Sympathetic resonance includes physical, emotional, aesthetic, and intuitive responses, not just the verification of cognition.
The moment of vision embodies authentic temporality, illuminating the full meaning of the present in terms of our fate, our mortal future, with a simultaneous retrieval of our past heritage. Language and storytelling have a narrative function that ultimately return to the question of the meaning of being, the self and self-identity.
“…[T]here is a thinking in primordial images, in symbols which are older than the historical man, which are inborn in him from the earliest times, and, eternally living, outlasting all generations, still make up the groundwork of the human psyche. It is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with these symbols; wisdom is a return to them.” (Jung, CW 8, Pages 399-403.)
Evocations of remembrance embody the essential nature of the sensuous radiance of absence. The far greater and darker regions of the unknown give way to becoming, transforming emotional experience. The archetype is not “in” a person but “between” them, within the imaginal space that opens, for example, in evocative moments between ourselves and our ancestors with a sense of presence and place.
At all events wisdom cannot be taught by words. It is only possible by personal contact and by immediate experience. (Jung, Letters Vol. 1, Pages 559-560.)
A narrative reports the life of a single individual, while a phenomenology describes the collective meaning of lived experiences, of a concept, or a phenomenon. Life themes are divided into subthemes describing different dimensions of the process of understanding connected by the guiding theme “narrative.”
Our approach is phenomenal or qualitative rather than analytic. When phenomenology informs narrative analysis, the image is allowed to speak through form, stories and intuition. There is no predetermined framework of meaning. The comparative approach usefully challenges taken-for-granted understandings. Rooted in philosophy, it studies conscious awareness of the world as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view.
Emotion As Epiphany
Phenomenology is an experiential approach to subjective experience. “Experience” (being or existence) is a complex concept — an “in-relation-to” phenomenon. We can approach our ancestors with phenomenology, and also reflexively consider what we bring to the process from our own perspective and worldview.
As in the case of dreams we must stick as closely to the image as given as possible. Image is the primary phenomenon of psychic life, mytho-poetic imagination, and the prima materia of the phenomenology of the soul.
The phenomenal field focuses on perceptions, feelings, and “how one feels right now.” The intergenerational field is a phenomenal field. Hillman referred to soul’s self-expression as, “what we are really, and the reality we live, is our psychic reality, which is nothing but …the poetic imagination going on day and night.” (We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World Is Getting Worse, p. 62)
He sees death as a permanent resident of the psyche, and Thanatos as a mode of soul-making: “loss of soul, not loss of life, should be [the analyst’s] main dread.” Hillman advocates the development of a conscious philosophy of death. He argues that death and life are not psychological opposites and that “…any act which holds off death prevents life” (Suicide and the Soul, p. 61).
“We cannot slay death, as we have already taken all life from it. If we still want to overcome death, then we must enliven it. Therefore on your journey be sure to take golden cups full of the sweet drink of life, red wine, and give it to dead matter, so that it can win life back.” (Jung; The Red Book; Liber Primus; Page 244.)
With the phenomenal approach, Mircea Eliade identified “the sacred” as a kind of independent variable—unchanging and timeless even though manifest in completely different times and cultures. “Pure” phenomenology describes the intentional objects of consciousness.
Human experiences are phenomena — what they experienced and how they experienced it, in holistic and embedded or qualitative perspectives. Hermeneutics renders the object accessible to interpretation, opening new possibilities. Naturally, we have to take account of our own bias, conceptions, and assumed truths into the interpretative activity involved.
We must distinguished interpretation from explanation and causes, focusing on a description of reasons. There is no firm boundary between the dimensions of description and interpretation. Deeper understanding demands more complexity-sensitive ways of thinking and a method that allows interpretation, exploration of dynamics and processes, and involvement of the context.
Presence & Absence
We synthesize the lived-experience from comparative transformations. General psychological structure is deduced from the psychological constituents of the experience. Constituents are context dependent and are necessarily part of the whole structure.
The purpose of this procedure is grounded in the phenomenological concept of parts and wholes. The meaning units are transformed using imaginative variation within the phenomenological attitude and psychological perspective to elucidate their essential psychological meanings.
The eidetic nature of the data or mental image, not necessarily derived from an actual external event or memory, is brought forth through the imaginative variation. We can create and explore eidetic images as a way of coming to terms with transgenerational and traumatic life events.
The phenomenological concept of presences and absences is an important one to use with imaginative variation. Explicit data can reveal implicit meanings [subtext] without them being concretely expressed. During the transformations, we can “see” the explicit meanings, and also uncover the implicit meanings.
Imaginative variation gives us a “sense of the whole.” In this way, the descriptive phenomenological approach is more comprehensive than mere empirical approaches in the natural attitude. This is justified through understanding that what is “present” often implies or indicates an “absent” quality.
In the phenomenological approach, each transformation describes what the meaning unit expresses psychologically without any interpretation or assumptions about its “truth.” The phenomenological approach represents different approaches, from focus on rich description to those more informed by interpretation.
We describe how it was experienced and understood from the subject’s point of view without explanation of “why” it was experienced in the way it was. The phenomenological attitude of the researcher in the psychological analysis of the data is what makes the results both phenomenological and psychological.
We can reduce the information to significant statements or quotes and combine the statements into themes. Then we develop a textural description of the experiences of the persons (what participants experienced), a structural description of their experiences (how they experienced it in terms of the conditions, situations, or context), and a combination of the textural and structural descriptions to convey an overall essence of the experience.
We can describe what all participants have in common as they experience a phenomenon (e.g., grief is universally experienced). The basic purpose of phenomenology is to reduce individual experiences with a phenomenon to a description of the universal essence, to “grasp of the very nature of the thing.”
There is only one method: the comparative method. There are five core approaches to qualitative research: narrative study, a phenomenology, a grounded theory, an ethnography, and a case study. At the fundamental level, the five differ in what they are trying to accomplish with their foci or the primary objectives of the studies.
Exploring a life is different from generating a theory or describing the behavior of a cultural group. Narrative is both a method and phenomenon of study. Individuals are enabled and constrained by social resources, socially situated in interactive performances, and how narrators develop interpretations of the multileveled context of a life. A first-person psychological perspective is sought so that an empathetic position can be adopted.
In genealogy we are gathering data through the collection of their stories (biographical study), reporting individual experiences, and chronologically ordering (or using life course stages) the timeline and meaning of those experiences. Restoring them means re-storying them, reframing them with sensitive descriptions and imaginative variation.
We need to collect extensive information about each ancestor, and to have a clear understanding of the context of the individual’s life. It takes a keen eye to identify in the source material gathered the particular stories that capture the individual’s experiences. Narrative study tells the story of individuals unfolding in a chronology of their experiences, set within their personal, social, and historical context, and includes the important themes in those lived experiences.
Narrative inquiry concerns stories lived and told. A phenomenological perspective of the mind acknowledges consciousness as the most fundamental life-quality that coexists with the body. A person is regarded as an embodied consciousness. People know one another’s consciousness through their physical bodies. This means that we know our own consciousness by reflection but cannot know the consciousness of the other except through the body.
Three-dimensional narrative inquiry space includes the personal and social (the interaction); the past, present, and future (continuity); and the place (situation). This story line may include information about the setting or context of the participants’ experiences. Beyond the chronology, we might detail themes that arise from the story to provide a more detailed discussion of the meaning of the story.
Tracing the Path
‘Walking the lines’ is a ritual situated in the imaginal landscape suggested by our genealogical ascent which leads into our collective ancestral past. Along the path, or circuits of ancestral nodes, the secret meaning of life is discovered. Our ancient path of pilgrimage is rich with meaning and is a powerful tool for seeking soul and spirit in a movement toward transcendence. Perhaps facing our mortality inspires us to live more fully.
The main quest in the oldest myths is for immortality. We search for immortality. We cannot know anything final about that and all the possible means of ‘living’, but many strive for germline immortality, an ersatz-immortality in their offspring. The immortality of the soul is concerned with personal identity, not just in conscious and unconscious states, but in mutable conditions and alternating states of being.
Embodied & Disembodied Soul
In the Phaedo, Plato describes an immortal soul. Thus, while the natural body and the experiential mind are merely phenomenal clothing of the ontological soul, the latter is immortal as a living entity. Aristotle distinguishes between ontological and experiential soul.
As Danish physicist Niels Bohr quipped, “A Great Truth is a Truth the opposite of which is also a Great Truth.” In the paradoxical nature of reality, immortality remains largely a concept and source of ontological argument. For example, Buddhism does not conceive of the soul as ultimately real.
Perhaps the latest version of the soul describes a field ontology and a functional dualism (mind/matter). Our form emerges from a primordial field of consciousness/energy (groundstate) in which we remain embedded, and to which we return.
This zero-point field has many names. That field is the energetic “void”, or “vacuum”, the space of the “ether”, the subtle but ultra-powerful energy potential. The Heart Sutra tells us that, “Form is not other than Void, Void is not other than Form.” This implies that our human form is not other than void, and biophysics shows this to be true. This notion differs from survival of personal identity (self-movement) or soul, but is a conservation of primordial information.
Jung contends the archetype of rebirth and resurrection is a metaphorical experiences of [ego] death as a metaphorical precursor to five forms of rebirth:
1. Metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls.
2. Reincarnation, human personality is regarded as continuous and accessible to memory; re-birth in a human body.
3. Resurrection means a reestablishment of human existence in an incorruptible carnal or subtle body after death.
4. Rebirth within the span of individual life. Renovation, renewal or total rebirth of the essential nature (transmutation).
5. Indirect rebirth via participation in death-rebirth, the rite of transformation. (Jung, CW 9I, para 200- 205)
Experiential psychology is not pure ontology, and relies mostly on the rebirth experience and the truth and beauty of intuition for transformation. We have to be content with its psychic reality. Natural transformation processes announce themselves mainly in dreams. There is a contrast between phenomenal and noumenal, experiential and eternal, relative and absolute, biological and ontological.
Psychologically, immortality is the attempt to grant distinct ontological status to the symbolic self, to deny the finality of organic death. In other words, it is a denial of death. Soul beliefs, discreetly or indiscreetly, transform the ontology of creativity into an immortality ideology.
James Hillman shifted Jung’s conversation from individuation to “soul-making,” a way of seeing and reflection that makes meaning possible. “By soul I mean, first of all, a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing itself.” He describes five things about the nature of soul as the imaginative possibilities of nature: the soul (1) makes all meaning possible, (2) turns events into experiences, (3) involves a deepening of experience, (4) is communicated in love, and (5) has a special relation with death (Hillman, 1977, p. xvi; Hillman, 1976, pp. 44-47).
Hillman’s anima mundi is at home in the ‘real’ world — the imaginal realm where real world spirit regains its zest and vision, addressing our sufferings after transformation. In the everyday, the best of the “unfathomable, multiple, prior, generative highly intentional and necessary” archetypal world of both the “noumenal” and the “phenomenal” manifests itself in the everyday tribal and familial context. Family history is transformed into myth.
Facts & Artifacts
In terms of ontological wholeness, immortality of one’s being expressed in the continuance of one’s proper name or even dynasty falls short of the unconscious belief in life after death. Immortality is an organic philosophical desire for life that should always be lived. It is a religious desire for another life, affirming an act of faith in a transcendent existence, or renewal without end of what is here in this world. This is the difference between cosmic pantheism and theistic (theosophic or transcendental) ontology.
Von Franz notes, “The analysis of older people provides a wealth of dream symbols that psychically prepare the dreams for impending death. It is in fact true, as Jung has emphasized, that the unconscious psyche pays very little attention to the abrupt end of bodily life and behaves as if the psychic life of the individual, that is, the individuation process, will simply continue. …The unconscious “believes” quite obviously in a life after death.” (von Franz (1987), ix.)
Like the shamans of old who ascended and descended the archetypal World Tree, genealogists can “walk the tree” — “The Big Tree” or the “World Family Tree” — from one end to the other, or “up” toward the past and then back “down” to the present on another line. Timelines help us arrange the numerous names and events that take place simultaneously and sequentially.
Some family trees will look like stumpy, dead sticks with a few twigs, while others will shared vast underground connections and vigorous thick growth, like as a yew tree. Within the Family Tree and World Tree, people are either connected by “bloodlines” or through marriage. Bloodlines can include adoptions and illegitimacy, either acknowledged or unacknowledged. Ancestors are only those from whom you directly descend, though cousin lines may share blood.
Family is the midwife of the soul. Jung reminds us that the source of unifying images which animated our ancestors and linked them to Mystery are generated by the symbol-making function we all possess. The same mysterious dream place gives birth to those mediating images which arise when we encounter the mysterious Other, the animated presence in our lives.
The family is the primordial psychophysical initiatory vessel or vehicle of our destiny — the archetypal family and biological self. Family births us, develops us, procreates us, and buries us. Regardless of the pain and travail it may create for us, family is the grail within which the sacred nectar of our physical and psychic DNA is carried from the lips and organs of one generation to the next.
Long lines, about 13 generations back lead into medieval times. “Walking the path” means you MUST visit every profile in both paths, no shortcuts. We find ourselves walking the lines and paths around and up to legendary figures, and further back, purely mythic characters — liminal entities.
Three modalities — resonance, depth and numinosity — describe the presence of that autonomous Other which we call soul and an experiential psychic connection to the Other, and a sense of self grounded in a transcendent order. Those images are conduits into the natural world, with its specific tribal mythos, and assist in later moving the community members into a world beyond mortality.
Genealogy is a sort of psychic archaeology where we dig up the dead with their own information and ‘advice’ — hidden historical crumbs and clues, synchronicities, and intuitions. Genealogy reveals complex behaviors of distributed systems. Naturally they lead backwards to origins vastly different from the kinds of practices present in different time frames.
Genealogy is an archaeology of the individual and a therapeutic art — optimally coordinated interpersonal synchronicity and optimized subsequent interactions. Similar personality traits align in rapport and return with greater simultaneous coordination. The interaction of pairs displays complementary simultaneous coordination. Coherent emotional charge states converge under effective conditions after an interval of time.
Archaeology of Knowledge
The archaeological level is what made an event or a situation possible. Archaeology and genealogy alternate and support each other. Archaeology is structuralist. It tries to take an objective neutral position and it avoids causal theories of change.
Foucault calls it, “the union of erudite knowledge and local memories which allows us to establish a historical knowledge of struggles and to make use of this knowledge tactically today.” (Genealogy and Social Criticism, p.42)
The genealogical side of analysis tries to grasp the power of constituting a domain of objects. Genealogy uncovers the creation of tangible objects. A society institutes the role of medicine man and gives him special privileges. Then we establish and institutionalize this practice, the psychosocial role of a “medicine man.”
Treading the Path
Walking a path is symbolically a spiritual practice, a pilgrimage, like walking or tracing a labyrinth — a contemplative spiritual exercise of circumnavigating a sacred path. We turn back to our center, to our origin, by a devotional path. A walk through the World Tree or a walk in the labyrinth is a cosmic journey through the heavens.
There is no right or wrong way; we have to enter and follow a path with presence. Our attitudes, focus, experience, consolation, and reflection may shift each time, or as we follow path. Traversing the labyrinth brings us into wholeness with all parts of our being. When we walk the labyrinth it recreates a very ancient expression of thanks and remembrance of the divine in all things. So does the family tree, expressing our completeness outwardly.
Like labyrinth, your genealogy has one way in and one way out — you. Such an initiation, shifting perspectives, awakens the knowledge encoded within. Walking the labyrinth and walking our lines share a spirit. The circuits of the labyrinth pattern and genealogy share the same meaning — a maze of ancestors, and a way to meander through them — spiritual umbilical cords.
We walk a labyrinth by stepping into the entrance and putting one foot in front of the other. After traveling through all the paths and windings, the walker comes into the center – the six – petal rosette – the rose line, a symbol of the Holy Grail. Like walking the labyrinth, genealogy can be an exercise in self-healing. Both are journeys to the center and back out again to the ordinary world.
Seeking the Ancestors
Our genealogy is a sensorium of multisensory informational content. Relationship paths connect you to closest blood relationships via a given ancestor through several families, via either parent, male or female, or combinations thereof. There can be many relationship paths to the same ancestors.
Collapsing the space between us, each ancestor, or avatar of our descent, touches us with an imaginal poem that is a product of their embedding in our ancestral history – layer after emerging layer of our augmented reality. They begin to talk to us in many ways: ambiance, serendipity, synchronicity, personal, contextual, instructively and artistically.
The image of the World Tree invites us to explore the vertical or depth dimension, while Family is the most prominent landmark on the horizontal plane of relational otherness. Family mediates this world and its essential, phenomenal reality and can enhance or dampen, devastatingly, our interaction with this dimension of psyche. The family seeds imagination.