ARAS Connections: Image and Archetype - 2020 Issue 3

ARAS Connections
Image and Archetype


by Thomas Singer

This edition of ARAS Connections marks two new milestones in the history of our publication.  This is the first time that all of the contents of an issue have been produced by our National ARAS Board.  Our Board has always been passionately committed to the mission of ARAS.  We are also much more gifted at exploring symbolic imagery than raising money, the usual function of most Boards.  The production of our video “On Taking a Knee” was a wonderfully collaborative exercise between ARAS staff and Board members.  The effort was led by Board member Deborah O’Grady, an accomplished artist, who combines music and image in a video that explores the symbolism of “On Taking a Knee” in response to the George Floyd murder and the outpouring of political activism and human outrage at senseless murder.  The video went viral on the internet instantaneously, perhaps because it expanded the cultural meanings and depth of the symbolic gesture.  It has been one of our primary goals to bring ARAS into the world and “On Taking a Knee”, along with The Book of Symbols, represents one of our most successful efforts at finding a way to connect our rather esoteric and inner researches with the painful realities of living in the modern world.  That ARAS has spawned creative collaboration among its staff and Board is not new as exemplified by the performance of their “Myth of the New World” by Deborah and fellow Board member, Melinda Haas, at the Dvorak and Ives Festival under the auspices of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in February, 2020.
This leads to the second milestone of this edition of ARAS Connections.  We have long considered expanding our exploration of the archetypal image into the world of music.  Melinda Haas has found the perfect and timely way to initiate this new direction of studying the symbolic in music with her discussion of a most unusual and haunting rendition of America the Beautiful by Anthony McGill, the principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic.  Melinda’s essay is something of a masterpiece itself in that she has revealed how McGill tapped into an entirely different level of emotional and symbolic reality by “changing only two notes and omitting a third."
And, finally, we have included my visual essay on “The Flood:  Using ARAS to Illuminate the Imagination.”  This essay was most recently presented at the Art and Psyche Conference in Santa Barbara in 2019.  It explores the multiple ways in which we are flooded at a time when the world seems engulfed in changes that threaten our very existence—from the pandemic to climate change to political polarization and upheaval.  The essay suggests we need modern-day arks such as ARAS to contain and preserve what is best of our civilizations.

America the Beautiful

by Melinda Haas

“America will never be destroyed from the outside…” Abraham Lincoln

“Germany’s past is a fractured past — with responsibility for the murdering of millions and the suffering of millions. That breaks our hearts to this day. And that is why I say that this country can only be loved with a broken heart.”    Angela Merkel

“The sun puts a veil in front of the universe, and nighttime removes it -- we get to see beyond.”   Sabra Field, Printmaker

This is a story of listening beneath our expectations.

After the Middle Ages, Western music began to mold itself into a more clear-cut tonal organization. The Western world was collecting into cities/states/countries, containing within borders, defining inclusion and exclusion. Thus, it is no surprise that, as a reflection of its culture, music was doing the same. What started out as tonal Modes in ancient Greek civilization slowly evolved into major and minor scales or keys, with a set order of tonal relationships – a specific ordering of half and whole-step intervals of sound. Where once a bard could sing his story without rigidly defined borders, there was now a firm inside and outside. Anyone "violating" the established scale was charting new territory, speaking a new dialect, changing the color of the landscape. And only a few did. The next 300 plus years of Western music unfolded from these established expectations.

In the middle of the Covid Pandemic, in the middle of the Black Lives Matter protests, one lone clarinetist made a small, quiet video that touched at the core of the symbolic nature of music, and at the core of America’s unmet expectations. He did this by changing only two notes and omitting a third, in his offering of “America the Beautiful.”  Please watch and listen:

He needed only one stanza:

O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And Crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

When he reaches “America,” he lowers the anticipated “E” to E-flat, a mere half-step lower. That simple change transforms “America The Beautiful” from the key of C major, to C minor. What we have always experienced as an uplifting anthem to the beauty and expansiveness of the land, becomes something dark, closed in, ominous. In order to remain in this minor key, when he gets to “grace” he again needs to lower by a half-step the “A” that we were expecting, to A-flat. Curiously, the words America and grace are the moments of the turn – from major to minor, from light to dark, from open to closed, from outward to inward.

As he arrives at the end, “From sea to shining sea” he confounds our expectations one final time. Instead of arriving squarely at home, on “C” on the word “sea,” he leaves us suspended at the end of “shining” with no resolution, no grounding; instead, trailing off into the air, incomplete.

America has turned dark, God’s grace weighty, the work unfinished.

Tucked into these two ‘wrong’ notes lies not only the history of Western music, but the history of America as well. With this new music, we are compelled to look into the dark. The amber waves of grain, the fruited plains, no longer glinting in the sun’s light. Now a shadow clouds their brilliance. It is the shadow of America’s attitude towards the dark, from its inception. The brown skin of the Native Americans, and the black skin of African slaves, did not fit into the major scale the European settlers were accustomed to. 

As with every symbol, darkness is many-sided. Our E-flat leads us into the multivalence. ‘Dark’ seems to be the word of the hour. Yet it is most often used to infer the negative of ‘light’. As Jungian analysts we often speak of bringing something ‘up’ out of the unconscious/ out of the dark, into the light. Perhaps that language doesn’t always serve. There is much to be learned and gained and felt from staying in the dark until our eyes are acclimated so that we can actually see in the dark. Think of the beauty we would miss if we didn’t see the night sky, or hear an owl, or a Chopin nocturne, or wrap ourselves in a deep rich maroon shawl as the season turns. Indeed, where would we be as humans without seeing our history painted on the walls of the Lascaux Cave?

It may seem that we have strayed far from Mr. McGill’s E-flat. But not really. He brings us face to face with our unconscious expectations. We expect to live our lives in the light, in the white. We expect to be uplifted and self-congratulatory upon hearing one of our patriotic songs. We even expect to keep the shadow from bothering us, under wraps, out of the light. Shadow is merely a suggestion of the dark. The E-flat unleashes what is beneath -- all the sadness and dark beauty that is memorized not in the open fruited plains, but in the dense forests, in Native American burial grounds, in the sound of Nina Simone’s voice singing “Sinner Man.”

There is a deep scar that runs the length and breadth of America, way beneath the wild-fires’ scorched earth, from sea to shining sea. It is the scar of the American soul. The pain of that wound is excruciating. We are terrified, terrified of feeling. Were we to feel we would have to carry all the sadness more consciously. We prefer the unfeeling scar tissue that forms over the wound. We can remain protected, defended. But there is a trade-off -- we then also don’t feel the excruciating beauty of the purple mountains, or of a Schubert sonata, or the stars in the azure vault of the night sky.

Our work is unfinished. We are never fully “home.”

Illustration: “Island in a Sea of Stars,” woodcut by printmaker Sabra Field

Melinda Haas started her formal musical life at age three in New York City. Her music education encouraged improvisation as well as classical training. Her first career as Modern Dance Accompanist was an extension of that background. After many years playing for the Martha Graham and José Limón Companies, among others, she turned to Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, becoming first a Clinical Social Worker and then a Jungian Analyst. She has been in Private Practice in Manhattan, and more recently also in Vermont, for many years. In addition to her analytic practice she teaches and supervises in New York and Vermont. She has presented papers on music and Jung at the International Association of Analytical Psychology Congresses in Barcelona, Montreal, and most recently in Vienna, at Art and Psyche conferences, and a pre-concert lecture for the LA Philharmonic.  Her essays are published in Music and Psyche: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Explorations, (eds. Ashton and Bloch). She is past President, and still actively involved in the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, ARAS.

The Flood: Using ARAS to Illuminate the Imagination

by Thomas Singer

Table of Contents
Part One:  ARAS and the Illuminated Imagination
Part Two:  The Flood
Part Three:  The Ark and The Treasure

Part One:  ARAS and the Illuminated Imagination

In this essay I want to show how ARAS and its way of exploring symbolic imagery can be both a source and vehicle for the Illuminated Imagination.  

ERANOS   Illuminating the Imagination of World Mythologies

ARAS itself originated in the urge to illuminate the imagination of the early circle of scholars from many different disciplines that gathered around Jung at ERANOS to probe the mysteries of myth and psyche.

Those of us drawn to ARAS seek to illuminate both our own imaginations and, hopefully, in the process, to learn more about how the creative imagination of all the different cultures of the world have contributed to and been enriched by symbolic imagery.

An ARAS inspired illuminated imagination of the flood is my theme in this paper and, of course, it centers around water—how it is contained in rivers, lakes and oceans and how it periodically overflows its natural and/or manmade boundaries in floods.

But, I am equally concerned with water as symbolic of energy or libido and the other kinds of “flooding” that we are facing in multiple ways in contemporary life. Jung wrote in his 1936 essay Wotan:

An archetype is like an old watercourse along which the water of life has flowed for centuries, digging a deep channel for itself. The longer it has flowed in this channel the more likely it is that sooner or later the water will return to its old bed. The life of the individual as a member of society and particularly as part of the State may be regulated like a canal, but the life of nations is a great rushing river which is utterly beyond human control... …. Political events move from one impasse to the next, like a torrent caught in gullies, creeks and marshes.

Rather timely, isn’t it???

Read The Flood: Using ARAS to Illuminate the Imagination in its entirety here.

Thomas Singer, MD, a Jungian psychoanalyst, has been involved with ARAS since 1991.  He currently serves as President of the National ARAS Board and has been active in creating ARAS Online and editing ARAS Connections.


On Taking a Knee: A Special Video on Symbolism from ARAS

In response to the breathtaking, turning-point events of the past several weeks, ARAS has produced a special video exploring and amplifying the symbolism of "On Taking a Knee". We hope that our video broadens your understanding and responsiveness to this historic moment.

Deborah O’Grady, fine art photographer and video artist, is a frequent collaborator with orchestras, including the Saint Louis Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the United States Navy Band, creating video projections for live symphonic performance. From 2006-2008, O’Grady traversed the Navajo Nation to create projections for the oratorio "Enemy Slayer" in collaboration with Mark Grey and Laura Tohe.  She continued her collaboration with Tohe in Code Talker Stories, creating portraits of the World War II Navajo Marines. This collection is in the Albuquerque Art Museum. O’Grady’s fine art photography examines the landscapes of the western United States using recorded myths and stories as her map. Recent landscape work looks beyond human impacts, to find nature's strength and resurgence, in response to the climate crisis.