Breath & Blood

by Iona Miller, 2016
Genealogy is a recorded history of a person or family’s descent from an ancestor or ancestors. Soul is spiritual or emotional warmth, force or evidence. These combine so that knowing your roots and connecting with family are good for the soul. Our ancestors are also symbols. Jung noted, “If one accepts the symbol, it is as if a door opens leading into a new room whose existence one previously did not know.”(Liber Novus, Page 311)

“I Am. Lo, I Am Alive”
Genealogy is a written testament to the endurance of the archaic — a historical epic of the flesh made word. Healing of the mind and body was practiced in prehistoric times and a vital part of it involved maintaining a living connection with the ancestors.

“Psyche” is Greek for soul, life, and breath; so psyche is Nature itself. Jung reminds us “nature is not matter only, she is also spirit,” — the Great Mother. If we repress nature, animals, creative fantasy, and the “inferior” or primitive side of humans, we depreciate the earth and lose our connection with nature and divinity.

Jung told Ira Progoff that, “individuation is the natural process by which a tree becomes a tree and a human a human.” He said that consciousness can just as well interfere with the natural growth process as aid it. We do not have a sense of living history.

Incorporating wisdom from the depths of the psyche, spans the archaic, natural, primordial, or original. Dissociation from our ancestors is unconscious dissociation from nature, our nature and the world soul. Rituals, such as genealogy, can help us reconnect, to awaken both spirit and nature to a new life — spanning modern and archaic.

This quest for self is the yearning for soul and the healing power of nature. Jung believed when we touch nature we get clean, that natural life is the “nourishing soil of the soul.When we search for our ancestors we search for soul. The collective unconscious is the well of souls.

When our soul is touched, we know what we are here for. Our whole purpose and destiny is just to be. We do not need to lose the mystery by pretending to a knowledge that we do not have. If we just stay with the process, living the soul, our genealogy unfolds with our life’s journey and meaning. The streaming continuity of life becomes clear in our lineage. Our ancestral legacy is the ancestral continuum or ancestral field.

We can listen to the voices, feelings, sights and experiences of our ancestors. The land of the dead is the country of our ancestors. The images who walk in on us are our ancestors, ordinary and extraordinary. Genealogy is a tangible path to the soul and the sacred. In genealogy we have to go through the personal to get to the transcendent. Genealogy is a living mythology organically relevant to living the organic form and participating in myth.

Return of the Feminine
Unlike paternal line genealogy of inheritance, social norms and the Father Archetype, contemporary genealogy fully embraces the feminine, and the infusion of maternal lines and qualities into the family tree that speak on behalf of life.

The life value of the facts are related both to everyday and eternal images. The return to the Feminine is not focused on transcendence, but on the embodiment of the sacred, in life and in relationships. The grandmothers of our family tree embody the Mother Archetype.

The unification of the body, sexuality and emotions with the spirit heralds a return from striving to being. Myth is the transcendent in living relationship with the present — the life wisdom that lives within us and is bound in our body. Myth points the way beyond the phenomenal field, and this role is demonstrated in the roots of our genealogical lines, where we find families of gods and goddesses.

Joseph Campbell explored three major themes of the sacred Feminine:

1) Initiation into the cosmos and nature; immanence and eternity, and thus existing outside the bounds of ordinary, lived experience.
2) Transformation; guiding the life cycle from birth to death.
3) Inspiration; the deep, felt sense of the aliveness and energy of all life.

On the simplest level, the Goddess is the Earth. On the next, archaic level, She is the surrounding sky. On the philosophic level, She is Maya, the forms of sensibility, the limitations of the senses that enclose us so that all of our thinking takes place within her bounds—She is IT. The Goddess is the ultimate boundary of consciousness in the world of time and space.
(Joseph Campbell,
Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine)

The Incredible Lightness of Breathing
Breath is life — the life-giving presence. In Latin, Hebrew and Greek, ‘breath’ means ‘soul.’ When we breath we derive sustenance from the world around us. The breath of life is the symbol and medium of vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing and inspiration. On a cosmic level, breath symbolizes the spirit and the vital breath of the universe. In this way, to breathe is to assimilate spiritual power.

Breath is a symbol of freedom, quest, direction, and delivery. Inhalation and exhalation symbolize the alternating rhythm of life and death, of manifestation and reabsorption into the universe. In L’Air et les Songes, Bachelard notes that breathing is connected with circulation of the blood and with the important symbolic paths of involution and evolution.

There Will Be Blood
Blood and bloodline is of central significance in genealogy. Where Breath is flight, Blood is the ties that bind — relativity, heredity, bloodlines, and self-realization — life, sex, and death. Blood is the fiery ‘water’ of our body’s rivers, always in motion, ceaseless in its circulation.

When we feel most alive, when we experience passion, jealousy, or other overpowering emotions, blood rushes through our veins, we breathe faster, our cheeks redden. Blood impresses the imagination, stimulating all sorts of beliefs beyond the rational — for example, drinking blood for regeneration. Globally it represents not only heritage, but life force itself, as the element of divine life that functions within the human body.

Blood has carried extraordinary symbolic power since Neolithic times with the cyclic mysteries of the goddess and menstrual taboos, reflecting the magical meaning of women as sources of life, symbols of Eros and fertility, and the magical meaning of blood as vital fluid.. The “knot of Isis” funerary amulet placed at the neck of the deceased symbolized “the blood of Isis.”

In ancient Greek medicine, each of the four humors became associated with an element. Blood was the humor identified with air, since both were hot and wet. And blood means kin from common ancestry. Eliphas Levi called blood “the great arcanum of life” and, “the first incarnation of the universal fluid; it is the materialized vital light. Its birth is the most marvelous of all nature’s marvels; it lives only by perpetually transforming itself, for it is the universal Proteus.”

Archetypal beliefs, fantasies and notions concerning the significance of blood are among the oldest surviving concepts from the earliest days of human existence. Symbolically, blood is bonds, promises, responsibility, sacrifice, collective will and has many religious connotations. Childbirth and death often involve blood. Wars have been fought in the name of bloodlines. Blood rituals symbolize death and rebirth. Body piercing is also a blood ritual.

The notion that “life is in the blood” gave rise to its presumed divine nature, a gift of the gods. Dream meanings of blood include life, fluidity, passion and that which sustains us, but also emotional pain and hurtful things. Blood is said to have magic powers and it is also associated with a variety of irrational notions, including blood brotherhood, “royal blood,” blood vengeance, “pure blood,” blood baptism, “bad blood,” bloodshed, and blood guilt.

Depth Approach
A Jungian approach to genealogy is not a requirement for practice, but it is a valid approach with its own coherence. Archetypal psychology is a legitimate ‘ground’ for an aesthetic, phenomenological approach to genealogy.

Depth Psychology can help us explores the hidden parts of human experience with a deeper rather than reductive view. Looking beyond the surface level we find currents that run throughout our lives and those of our ancestors, connecting us and communicating greater meaning through imagery, dreams, and archetypal patterns.

The depth orientation brings a new lens to our transgenerational issues we may have overlooked. The ancestral field connects us with something larger that our everyday selves, raising what was unconscious into conscious awareness. Symbolism is the practice of representing peoples, places, objects, and ideas by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.

A psychological approach is a trustworthy framework for understanding a more holistic genealogical process, with a clear sense of humanness or personhood, and irreal and quasi-real experience — intangibles produced by psyche itself.

Our genealogical lines are ours alone, although we share some of them with others. When we begin our genealogical adventure, we enter our own exclusive path. As Jung suggests, “You can enter only into your own mysteries.” How do we explore the depths of our reality and experience, seeing underneath that which appears on the surface?

Campbell noted, “Whenever a knight of the Grail tried to follow a path made by someone else, he went altogether astray. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s footsteps. Each of us has to find his own way, and this is what gives our Occidental world its initiative and creative quality. Nobody can give you a mythology. The images that mean something to you, you’ll find in your dreams, in your visions, in your actions — and you’ll find out what they are after you’ve passed them.” (Joseph Campbell, interview by Joan Marler, Yoga Journal, Joseph Campbell Foundation)

Our ancestors are like intangible assets that lack physical substance and usually are very hard to evaluate. They are not constituted or represented by a physical object and their value is not measurable. But we can feel and even assess it despite lack of physical presence.

Modes of Apprehension
A depth approach addresses the feelings, significant dreams, and imagery that are naturally aroused in the self-discovery process, and describes the nature of synchronous events. Grounded theory has a particular conceptual and methodological foundation that doesn’t reduce what it means to be human, embodied or incorporeal.

We need to separate our constructions from a delusory interpretation of the facts of reality, as available to experience. How can we integrate different theories relating to the basis of reality?  No shortage of comparisons and correlations between spiritual notions,metaphysical ideas, and scientific theories has been made.

The normally unconscious functional layer of perceptional and emotional variants are only psychologically transcendent but by no means “transcendental,” i.e., metaphysical. Perfectly normal people can have visions in certain moments. The heart of the labyrinth is the heart of all life; it is the womb of creation, rebirth, regeneration and metamorphosis. A labyrinth is a scrambled mandala.

In an idealist worldview, we act on the world through consciousness and, therefore, actively know and shape our world. In contrast, in a realist view, the world acts us and we react. Both perspectives tend to assume a dualist subject/object separation and directional relationship between person and world that does not exist in the world of actual lived experience.

We can describe at least three functional aspects of consciousness and focus of attention that relate to personal and collective conscious-unconscious phenomenology and models of reality — the way we perceive it, the way we imagine or interpret it, and the unified ground underlying existence.

1) Personal self-awareness fused with direct sensory experience and emotion (awake and aware of surroundings).
2) a fusion of imaginal memories, myths, dreams and conceptual interpretations of experience.
3) Non-dual unity and totality; the universal, suprapersonal or global aspect of dimensionless abstraction, we call “Consciousness,” or God in potentia.

A descriptive phenomenological method helps us grasp previously unrecognized assumptions regarding meaning — the means to understand subjective matters. The psychological approach is neither idealist nor realist, but intimate. Like ourselves, most of our ancestors had a lifeworld, place and home that hold people and world together.

Place is a ontological structure of being-in-the world because of our existence as embodied beings. We are “bound by body to be in place.” And the same holds true in the inner life. As with lifeworld and place, home as experience presupposes and sustains a taken-for-granted involvement between person and world. This bond is largely unself-conscious, and the phenomeno­logical aim it to make that tacitness explicit and thereby understand it.

There many challenges in life, from catastrophes (war, famine, plague, disasters), to loss of autonomy, major illness and disabilities, to involuntary displacement‑-the families’ experience of forced relocation and resettlement, metaphorically a forced journey and starting over or rebuilding. Our ancestors faced them all, mostly without modern conveniences.

The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understanding that we can never know what evil may not be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, and what good may very possibly lead to evil. ~Carl Jung, CW 9i, Para 397.

The life­world includes both the routine and the unusual, the mundane and the surprising. Whether an experience is ordinary or extraordinary, however, the lifeworld in which the experience happens is normally out of sight. Each of our ancestors had their space in their landscape and in our genealogical descent. That place serves as the condition of all existing things –“To be is to be in place.”

Typically, we do not make our experiences in the lifeworld an object of conscious awareness. Rather, these experiences just happen, and we do not consider how they happen in context. The natural attitude is to take the everyday world unquestioningly for granted. Inner and outer dimensions normally unfold automatically.

Phenomenology is the interpretive study of human experience. The aim is to examine and clarify spontaneous human situa­tions, events, meanings, and experienc­es, including personal impact, urgency, and ambiguity. We bring our own style to the process. It is an innovative way for looking at the person-environment relationship and for identifying and understanding its complex, multi-dimensional structure.

Conscious­ness was not separate from the world and human existence. A primarily aesthetic, poetic enterprise need not attempt to achieve a degree of rigor and epistemological clarity like natural scientists. We have no need to “objectify” the human being, but to adopt a qualitative, interpretive approach and to explore environmental and inherited issues. Phenomenology is one style of qualitative inquiry that involves symbolic interaction as its conceptual and methodological foundation.

As in conventional genealogy, we should apply trustworthy and reliable protocols to our practice. Humanity and the environment are an indivisible whole we can describe phenomenologically. Three phenomenological methods include: (1) first-person phenomenological research; (2) existential-phenomenological research; and (3) hermeneutical-phenomenological research.

Once we ourselves are rooted in this fertile earth of the deep unconscious, we can plant our contemporary and traditional Family Tree with its potentially vital forms and structures and listen to souls being born in the future. The Tree grounds us in imaginal space. We learn to “stand our ground” in the deep interiority of the psychological field with new vigor.

Dreaming the Earth, and Earthing the Dream
We can activate the deep knowing of the psyche as it is nourished and animated by intimacy with the natural world. Research suggests that interconnectivity manifests in our deep psychic bond with the earth, its creatures and plants, and the cosmos as a whole. Evidence of this interrelationship arises in our personal lives in dream images and synchronicities, and in the powerful and visceral sense of engagement we feel with the natural world.

In the beginning, the ‘earth’ was void and without form: “You have got to accept what the unconscious produces, and you have to understand its language. It is Nature, and it has to be translated into human forms.” (Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 359-364)

Joseph Campbell described four functions of myth:
(1) to help us through life passages, with ritual (baptism, marriage, initiation, job entry, funerals);
(2) to make connections with mysteries of the universe (spirituality, religion, arts);
(3) to explain the workings of nature (lightning, seasons, floods, birth, death); and
(4) to provide a way we find a place in the social community (family, clan, caste, ethnicity, social class, subculture).

Ovum Mundi

The longing for our origins is a metaphorical longing for paradise.
The primary myth, the seminal idea, is of our origins The egg is the universal symbol of the
archetypal phenomenology of the child’s birthThis embryo of the universe has been called the world egg, formed by light itself, The Primordial Being is hatched from the serpent-entwined Cosmic Egg. This proverbial ‘Orphic Egg’ was the source of the generative power of the entire universe.

In mythology, eggs stand for the earth, the life, or the seat of the soul. They indicate the presence of the Goddess, “whose World Egg contains the universe in embryo.” In India, Egypt, Greece and Phoenicia the creator and mankind emerge from the Cosmic Egg. The egg is commonly considered as a symbol of fertility, the rebirth of nature and wholeness. In Sufism the central goal is the rediscovery of the root of one’s being through reintegration with the entirety.

Eliade insists that the egg never loses its primary meaning, but “ensures the repetition of the act of creation which gave birth in illo tempore to living forms. …the egg guarantees the possibility of repeating the primeval act, the act of creation…In as much as it is linked with the scenarios for the New Year or the return of spring, the egg represents a manifestation of creation.” This golden egg is the most Divine being on the whole earth and from this primeval Immortal golden embryo springs the fountain of Immortality.

The world egg or golden embryo born of cosmic being or the cosmic womb is a global theme. Egyptian language implies “egg” is naturally related to “goddess.”  The words “userit,” “netrit,” “hen-t,’ and “shepsit,” all  mean “goddess” and use the egg hieroglyph as a determinative. 

The cosmic egg of the Egyptians was also identified as Osiris, symbolizing life, death, renewal, rejuvination, rebirth, or immortality. As unconscious, Osiris is the paradoxical life/death ground where integrative impulses arise. His epic ordeals mirror our own.

We cannot speak of Osiris (Wasir) apart from the rejuvenating processes of Isis (Aset), who complements and completes him. He was called “the Great Egg” — “the only egg” — and was lauded as “thou egg who becometh as one renewed.”

From the viewpoint of the ground we are refreshed each and every nanosecond of our existence. Human beings weave imaginal tales about the nature of nature, their experience and dreams. We still stave off our fears of death with hopes of eternal life when the existential fact remains that it is impossible for us to leave the sacred source field that undergirds both our corporeal existence and our potential immortalization in the virtual field, the groundstate of continuous creation.

The sarcophagus of Seti I depicts Osiris as “bent round in a circle with his toes touching his head…” Phoenician cosmogenesis says, “From the union of [Desire and Darkness] were born Aer (air) and Aura (breath)…This couple then produced the cosmic Egg, in conformity with the intelligible spirit.”

Life comes from life. The egg, the universal germ of creation, with all its potency for transformation and its circular containment, is a mandala, a magic circle, a microverse.

Greek philosopher Epicurus described the cosmic egg as a circular band. “The All,” he stated, “was from the beginning like an egg,” and the pneuma as serpent winds around the egg in a tight band as a wreath or belt around the universe. This circle without beginning or end is a symbol of the parents of the world, portrayed in their equal stature as the original unity.

This ancient symbol of the Orphic Mysteries –the serpent-entwined egg — signified Cosmos encircled by the fiery Creative Spirit. The egg also represents the soul of the philosopher; the serpent, the Mysteries. At the time of initiation the shell is broken and one emerges from the embryonic state of physical existence which is the fetal period of philosophic regeneration.

This germinal point is something great. Before our body is born of our parents, at the time of conception, this seed is first created where human nature and life dwell. The two intermingle forming a unity. Myth suggests: “In the state before the appearance there is an inexhaustible breath.” Before the parents beget the child, the breath of life is complete and the embryo perfect.

Jung’s incantation cries, “Oh light of the middle way, enclosed in the egg, embryonic, full of ardor, oppressed. Fully expectant, dreamlike, awaiting lost memories. As heavy as stone, hardened. Molten, transparent. Streaming bright, coiled on itself.” (The Red Book; 53).

Alchemy describes the “Philosophers’ Child,” “Child of Wisdom,” “ Child of the Egg” or homunculus, born symbolically in a retort which represents the human Heart. Chinese Taoist alchemy calls it the “immortal foetus,” “embryo of the Tao,” “seed pearl” or “starseed embryo.”

In The Book of the Dead, Wallis Budge describes the primitive credo concerning the cosmic egg of the ancient Egyptians in these words:
“[In the beginning] nothing existed except a boundless primeval mass of water which was shrouded in darkness and which contained within itself the germs or beginnings, male and female, of everything which was to be in the future world. The divine primeval spirit which formed an essential part of the primeval matter felt within itself the desire to begin the work of creation, and its word woke to life the world, the form and shape of which it had already depicted to itself. The first act of creation began with the formation of an egg out of the primeval water…”

Paradise Myth
The search for our origins expressing a “longing for paradise.”

The spirit of God moves upon the Face of the waters — the embryo. Jung noted that Simon Magus considered the Garden of Eden a symbol or metaphor for corporeal uterine life. The fetus is surrounded by waters.

If paradise is the womb, then Eden is the placenta and the river branching into four is the umbilical with two arteries of breath and two veins of blood. Magus claims Moses allegorically referred to the cave/womb as The Garden from which in time we are expelled, as the Fruit of the Tree of Life.

[P]aradise is the uterus, and the Garden of Eden the navel. Four flows emanate from the navel, two air- and two blood-vessels, so to speak, through which the growing child receives its food, the blood, and the pneuma.” (Children’s Dreams Seminar, Pages 365-367.)

The world navel is a symbol for Paradise, as Eliade (1991) tells us. “Paradise, where Adam was created from clay, is, of course, situated at the center of the cosmos. Paradise was the navel of the earth and according to a Syrian tradition, was established on a mountain higher than all other” (p. 16).

In biological terms, this mountain is the pregnant body of the mother and her navel as the center of the world, the connection between Heaven and Earth. The umbilical cord is the container for the river (water of life) that flows into Paradise or the womb, thereby nourishing it. Biologically, we can also compare the act of physical love and female orgasm (water of life) to the river flowing out of Paradise, leaving behind the egg that generates new life at conception.

The serpent in our archetypal tree is the unconscious with its painful, dangerous interventions and frightening effects. Though totally unconscious, it has a wisdom of its own that is foundational to our origins. But the path of knowledge is painful and bitter. The unconscious is not a separate sphere, but found in all things at all times. The soul has its own internal sources of knowledge.

Elemental Earth
The physical and chemical constituents of our bodies are the elemental earth in us. Here our acorn can grow into the oak it was meant to be. The future is affected by what we imagine. The challenge today is to sustain the vivacity of our culture and carry it into the future, maintaining a reciprocal relationship with nature, and connection to the ancestral past.

Consciously practiced, genealogy is a way to get in touch with the ground of being. It forms a great feedback loop between our present and our origins from the middle ground of imagery states that is our birthright. Interacting with one’s genealogy becomes a rite of passage with three phases: severance (deciding to participate), threshold (entering uncharted territory), and incorporation, (literally, “to take on the body,” having gained new insights).

Our search is for our origins. Our lines take serpentine twists and turns mirroring the genetics of our DNA. Genealogy dignifies our existence as numinous, not merely derivative or reactive, nor is it prescriptive in any one-approach-fits-all manner.

“When the unconscious intrudes into spaces of consciousness, it is automatically split into its pairs of opposites.” (Jung, Children’s Dreams Seminar, Page 408.) Symbols mirror the nuclear family union of gender opposites and reconciliation in new birth. Images, like the union of opposites, cannot be willed.

“What takes place between light and darkness, what unites the opposites, always has a share in both sides and can be judged just as well from the left as from the right… the only thing that helps us here is the symbol….with its paradoxical nature it represents the ‘third thing.”  (Jung, CW 13, pp. 134)

The Kingdom of Heaven is within ourselves. It is our innermost nature and something between ourselves. The Kingdom of Heaven is between people like cement.” (Jung, Visions Seminar, Page 444.)

Recognition of soul images and incorporation into awareness is an ongoing process. In The Red Book, Jung notes, “Because I sink into my symbol to such an extent, the symbol changes me from my one into my other …I have interpreted these images, as best I can, with poor words.” (Pg. 250.)

Jung cautions, “The dead who besiege us are souls who have not fulfilled the principium individuationis, or else they would have become distant stars. Insofar as we do not fulfill it, the dead have a claim on us and besiege us and we cannot escape them.” (The Red Book; Appendix C; Page 370)

Jung advised the incorporation of death into one’s lived experience. In The Red Book, he says, “The knowledge of death came to me that night, from the dying that engulfs the world. I saw how we live towards death, how the swaying golden wheat sinks together under the scythe of the reaper like a smooth wave on a sea beach.

Our ancestors are permanent living residents in our own psychological life that continue to enrich, animate, and inspire us in their enduring significance and embodied meaning. Bringing them back through remembrance is also a recollection — a re-collection and differentiation. Tacitly welcoming us across the years, they have aesthetic and psychological qualities — subtle bodies clothed with the presence of our deep memories.

Our thought is constrained and impaired if we think in terms of partial derivatives (time- and space-bound effects) instead of full function. The capacity for objective inner experience remains latent. We gradually develop “an eye to see and an ear to hear.” We dialogue with figures of the soul. Their radical otherness, activities, and words affect us as they move with their own intentions.

Aesthetic Genealogy
Genealogy reconnects us with nature and our own nature. It is an aesthetic interaction in which both the Greek chorus of ancestors and ourselves are the medium that makes art of life’s remnants.
It is a tool we can use to change ourselves by turning into more of ourselves.

The evolutionary function of the aesthetic sense drew us toward conditions that made for survival and reproductive success and repelled us from conditions that impacted longevity and fertility negatively. Existence and the world are eternally joined as an aesthetic phenomena.

What we think and feel and the intensity of aesthetic engagement, is proportional to the depth of its unconscious content. Its imaginative texture cannot be fixed in meaning. Yet it is capable of moving us psychologically away from the temporal (human) present and towards the universal (divine) or archetypal constant. So, aesthetics is a form of transformation.

Genealogy forms both the aesthetic space or context as well as the figurative content in an authentic expression of the human condition through the ages. Genealogy is the basis for a configuration, re-configuration, and aesthetic appreciation of our life story. Genealogy is a ‘mirror’ of aesthetic engagement in the materially based image.

Addressing the needs of unconscious life is fundamental to aesthetic
appreciation. Implied inner needs drive the initial intention to physically create our genealogical image and to act this out imaginatively.
We raise the ancestors who carry meaning and value to consciousness from the labyrinth of unconscious form production and creative instinct.

The aesthetic paradigm is admittedly not the only approach, and it may be philosophically romantic, but it embodies a certain eros — felt-experience or love toward the family — known, unknown, and unknowable. Eros connects body and soul with vitality and passion born in the blood. Vivid libidinal participation connects our heart to the heart of the universe. It binds the ordinary and nonordinary worlds together by creating symbols of transcendence.

Genealogy becomes a homage to the power of love in our very creation. We heed the ancestors when we receive, listen, and contain. In that sense, genealogy becomes a temenos, or sacred space, the sanctuary of our holy grove — the magic circle of extended family. The self-realizing motion performs the transformation. Our ancestors are a revelation. We need to reveal, not just know ourselves. Self-realization is self-revelation.

We have to accept that our genealogical ‘dead ends’ will remain unknown, will remain the ‘road not taken.’ We can relate to the blunt facts of our genesis and stop there as the genealogical ‘realists’ do, cutting off the fictional, legendary and mythic elements, but we may do so at our own psychological peril. A myth is not a dream; its archaic images and memories constitute a world.

Aesthetic appeal is certainly a big part of the lure of genealogy that supersedes dry ancestral recording, analysis, and interpretation. The aesthetic approach does not rule out other perspectives on genealogy, which can be pursued as we are moved to do so.

But the archetypal approach probably makes the most ‘sense’ of the roots of our mythologically-based lines, and permits depth exploration without literalism,  concretization, or symptomatic concretization. For example, when Native American cultures say they get their ancestral wisdom, ceremonies, guidance, and direction from the ‘womb at the center of the universe,’ they refer to the sacred Feminine.

Jung echoes such ancient sentiments: “For him who looks backwards the whole world, even the starry sky, becomes the mother who bends over him and enfolds him on all sides, and from the renunciation of this image, and of the longing for it arises the picture of the world as we know it today.” ( The Sacrifice; CW 5; Par 643.)

The archetypes are an aesthetic stimulus with their own properties and appeal, among other things. So is our aesthetic response to their symbolism and experience. The mythic is an expression of the larger whole. We often fail to realize that other fascinating possibilities exist.

Heuristic Method
Creative outpouring is the entrance to self-actualization. It is heuristic, preparing us for deeper understanding.
In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules, learned or hard-coded by evolutionary processes. Like archetypes, they help us  function without constantly stopping to think about the next course of action.

We find or discover things by experience and experiment. It stimulates interest in further investigation. As a problem-solving strategy, the heuristic method allows us to discover something for ourselves, to discover answers on our own and learn more about ourselves on our own.

A psychophysical approach is the secret behind the aesthetic experience. The ancestors feed the aesthetic formation of our living form. Aesthetic knowledge enables the psychological phenomena to link the body to the world.

Creativity points the way to the numinous, a high-voltage elemental force. Incubation brings new insights into ourselves and the ancestors. In our initial attempts to encounter the numinous with the emotions instead of with the body, we must expect indirect, rather than direct knowledge, and therefore be satisfied with intimations, allegory, implications, and transformations.

Psychic tensions accumulate and stimulate our imaginations to form images embodying their emotional essence. This process is the dynamic agency behind both individual fantasies and forms of cultural expression.

Aesthetic Intuition
Genealogy offers direct traditional testimony that archetypes as aesthetic universals lie at the roots of the collective unconscious which Jung insisted was not a mystical idea. Our invisible connections go down deep, and to go deep is to go backward.

Our aesthetic response, a psychic sensuality and sensitivity, to phenomena is the source of the immediate apprehension that Hillman describes as ‘soul-making,’ subjective interrelation. Reflection makes consciousness, but only love makes soul.

It means leaving our solid footing and carrying every question into deeper waters, rather than dragging ‘the invisibles’ out of the underworld and back into the daylight world. They may ‘come up’ spontaneously if we have no desire to control the outcome.

Poiesis, as creative act, is the death and re-birth of the soul. We constantly to re-form ourselves with ‘soul-making.’ Poiesis is integrative affirmation always emerging into form. The naturally therapeutic process evokes the emotions and experiences that give life a deeper meaning. It evokes the ancestors.

Psychological faith begins in the love of images, and it flows mainly through the shapes of persons in reveries, fantasies, reflections, and imaginations. Their increasing vivification gives one an increasing conviction of having, and then of being, and interior reality of deep significance transcending one’s personal life.(Hillman, James, Re-Visioning Psychology, p. 50)

The symbol is a means of guiding thought out into the Unseen and Incomprehensible. Ancestral images remain largely ambiguous and are never precisely defined nor fully explained. They appear and are created in dreams, ritual, and art.

We know now there are neural correlates to aesthetic experience, including contemporary genealogical practice. Its effects include spontaneous appearance of intuitive forms and symbolic visualizations of what cannot be directly known. An aesthetic response to perception fosters notions of reverence, symbolism, and role relationships — aspects of ancestor devotion.

We open to the aesthetic depths of the world, in addition to the physical, social, linguistic, and spiritual modes. Spiritual here is a concept with a voice independent of formal religious structures with essential mystery underscoring its meaning, It has a deep resonance with key elements of religious practice.

The image now exists as an external presence, outside the maker and, at the same time, is temporarily inhabited by a part of the maker. Images are actively imagined internal feeling states now embodied within this external image. The image is both a statement about and a depiction of what was formerly an invisible and largely unconscious inner state. It can be understood in several ways at many levels of meaning.

At root, traditional genealogy is an archetypal activity, recapitulating and extending humanity’s oldest activities. The aesthetic response is an ethical response — a response of the heart — that values the ancestors and the genealogical history. Genealogy is thus an archetypal order, an aesthetic construction, and a virtual map of the personal and collective unconscious, reflecting a principle of totality and primordial origins.

A Forest of Family Trees
Cosmic process provides the potential for life. The life-world is always there as the background of all human experiences. All the living world is aesthetic. Deeply felt aesthetic experiences are very likely to also be numinous. The aesthetic is a way to receive, process, and deal with coherent information.

Pattern is the ultimate “stuff” of reality. Without intent to do so, the patterns of our genealogical structures endure and then disintegrate. This occurs at all levels of explanation. The key is the integrity of the pattern, not the “substrate.”

Even largely unconscious flowing information elicits physical responses. The “pattern which connects” is beauty, and the beauty of our connectedness is revealed graphically in the full flowering of our genealogy with its incorporation of the eollective tree — the archetypal World Tree. At its root is the archetypal drama of our origins, externally validated by sources of recognition and resonance.

Like the sea or the sky, the tree or forest is a kind of archetype of the foundations of the world. Because it reflects our inner and outer reality, genealogy becomes a means of access to insights about the deep nature of both personal and collective reality. The ancestors are transcendent in their value if not their appearance.

Our genealogical chart is a shorthand of minimal graphics — we are born; we mate; we die. It is a vast treasure of subconscious symbolism, wisdom, collective and self-knowledge that is the enabling of life. We are products of the aesthetic process of evolution, embryology, and life experience. Our bodies exhibit aesthetic proportion and so does a balanced mind.

Our family tree focuses and expands the field of our attention. Genealogy is a metaphor of primary process with the full intensity of literal truth. We can be inspired by lived relations with those energies on an ongoing basis…not just as a paper trial. Where lines meet dead ends or brick walls, the charts also represent emptiness.

Presence of Absence
The figures of absence inform us with their paradoxical presence — the dead or missing parent, the grandparent never met, the unborn and miscarried. Absence of something is the negation of a presence as ‘non-presence.’

Many figurative strategies confront the notion of absence, and address the aesthetics of absence. For example, a spectre, phantom or absent figure is an archetypal representation of the presence of an absence, distorted shape (anamorphosis, a form of perspective) as uncertain presence.

Our untraceable lines remain profoundly unconscious in the silent margins from which the last known member of a lost line speaks. Such lines of descent do not enclose us but disclose our essential nature. They reflect and map out our embedding in the natural world, intricate in its elegance — our very aliveness. Seeing with the eye of the heart gives us a very personal sense of the vastness and beauty of nature, our inherent place in it, and how we are sustained by it.


The genealogical aesthetic emerges somewhere between imagination and rigor as an ecology of souls, a self-organizing biophenomenon, the dynamics and functionality of interrelationships. We can apply ecological hermeneutics to explore our interpretations of disclosure and concealment — in an imaginal sort of ecological intercorporeality.

Genealogy arouses and enlivens real psychological phenomena, with attention to bodily responses and emotional awareness enhanced by imagination.
Archetypal symbolism is an aesthetic experience, as is symbolic interaction with our ancestors, the archetypal background, and primal states of consciousness of the life-world. We interact through the meaning of symbols, by interpreting and reacting. We each have symbolic meaning to be revealed. Symbols bridge the gap between perceptual reality and and what we understand.

James Hillman’s aesthetic approach to dream images translate directly to genealogical imagery as scene, as context, as mood. Certain ancestors spontaneously suggest a place that we dream into, we enter into and in turn are embraced by it. Hillman noted the image doesn’t lead somewhere else like a story.

We can find nowhere to go but more deeply into the image. The images do not become pinned down by any particular interpretation, are never literalized into any single fixed concept or “meaning. Instead we return, drawn again and again to an experiential “living in the image,” with new meanings potentially emerging over time as we go  “more deeply into the image.” Hillman suggests that images acquire autonomy and operate according to their own will, similar to gods.

Hillman’s approach to image is deeply rooted in the work of the French phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard. The image is a free expression created not from pressure but from play, not from necessity but from inventiveness — the way we engage and embrace the world. Imagination is more than the stuff-sack of trauma; it is the cradle of renewal, a genesis, rather than effect. Imagination mobilizes the potencies of transformation.

In his Poetics of Space, Bachelard says, “By the swiftness of its actions, the imagination separates us from the past as well as from reality; it faces the future. To the function of reality, wise in the experience of the past, should be added a function of irreality, which is equally positive. Any weakness in the function of irreality will hamper the productive psyche. If we cannot imagine, we cannot foresee.”

Our self-reference rests on a perceptual dimension of presence-openness not ‘closed’ within any conceptual system. As long as the images are not trapped in a single meaning, they continue as an animating, enlivening presence. You will quickly discover the ancestors various aesthetic preferences. These are forms, styles and archetypes that are inherent in their makeup. Aesthetic satisfaction validates the process.

Joseph Campbell said, “The object becomes aesthetically significant when it becomes metaphysically significant.” Clarity is the “aha” quality — privileged ‘moments of grace.’ Transient moments of grace and transformation put meaning into aesthetic arrest and creativity that is an intuitive awareness of the required action. The innocent viewer is stopped dead in their tracks and has no choice but to stare in awe at their relationship with the living world.

Aesthetic engagement is active engagement with the (genealogical) process — engagement with the element of beauty and systemic wisdom. Aesthetic arrangement and metaphorical thought squeeze out the real meaning and value of our experience and the comprehensive properties of our relationships through ‘wise relating.’

Like art, genealogy is significant life activity and a way to access systemic wisdom and connectiveness. We cultivate inner beauty in the life-changing play of our own natural history. Information is the stuff of relationship and the living world of context, relevance and integration. The conjunction of the spiritual and aesthetic is a Royal Marriage — a grand synthesis of wholeness, our frail and mortal selves, revealed in their beauty over the epic panoply of history and myth.

“If your life has not three dimensions, if you don’t live in the body,
if you live on the two-dimensional plane in the paper world that is flat and printed, as if you were only living your biography, then you are nowhere.”

~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 972.

“dziadzia” English translation
dziadzia {noun}
dziadzia {m} [child.l.] (also: dziadek, dziadzio, dziadunio, dziadziuś)
grandpa {noun} [child.l.]dziad {noun}
dziad {m} (also: starzec, stary, staruszek, starszy człowiek)old man {noun} dziad {m} (also: przodek, antenat)
ancestor {noun} dziad {m} [pej.] (also: żebrak)
beggar {noun} dziad {m} [arch.] (also: dziadek)
grandfather {noun}
Dziadzia is the Americanized Polish word for grandpa, which in Polish is dziadek or dziadziu.


~ by ionamiller on March 22, 2016.

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