Monday, February 1, 2010

Clinical Perspectives: Body and Archetype Presentation

Body and Archetype was presented on January 20th 2010 at The Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT. Luanne Sberna, Presenter. Luanne Sberna is a Dance Movement Therapist with a private practice in Burlington, VT.

This paper is a brief overview of some areas of my own study and explorations over the years. Therefore, it does not present any one particular theory about body and archetype, rather it is a conglomeration of various perspectives on this topic.

There are many levels of exploring and understanding body and archetype. We can look at them through the lens of anatomy and the evolution of the human body; we can look at them through the lens of individual physiological and psychological development; and we can explore them from the perspective of symbolic, mythological and cultural representations. I will attempt to condense such a broad topic into a glimpse at each of these areas, which are not, of course, discrete, but overlap, before we explore with our own bodies.

Jung spoke of a “psychoid” level of the psyche, located in the unconscious, that “functions as a kind of transformative interface between psyche and matter” (Chodorow, p. 44), or mind and body. Early in his career as a psychiatrist he learned to attend to the symbolic meaning of unconscious movements by his patients. This helped him to understand and communicate with those who were too withdrawn to speak. He even developed the word association test to explore the physiological changes that occur during activation of psychological complexes. This is what evolved into the lie detector test used by criminologists. However, what Jung was interested in, was the emotional, affective core of archetypes. In other words, the interface of mind and body, including their relationship to archetype.

In the realm of exploring the connection between mind and body/myth and archetype, the groundbreaking work of J. Nigro Sansonese, a physicist, mathematician, scholar, and yogi practitioner, stands out. He writes in The Body of Myth about the foundations of myth in the trance states of early shamans and yogis whose awareness was directed inwards through their esoteric practices. He says:

"When sensations, emotions, and thoughts have been eliminated, suppressed, or simply ignored, the awareness of the meditator turns naturally upon the 'resting voltage' of the CNS [Central Nervous System] (among other things). And here one might plausibly respond, "So what?" The only reply is that one first must practically empty out one's own awareness to see just what is then revealed. Samyama is immersion in the object of the trance to the exclusion of all else, and the result of onepointed immersion is realization. ..intense concentration on the resting voltage of the CNS blossoms into spontaneous realization of the meaning that pervades one's own biology." (Sansonese, p. 34-35).

For example, Sansonese feels that through the yogic practice of learning to control the heartbeat, the yogi must first be able to isolate out the vagus nerve from the "complex of neural sensations in his chest." (Sansonese, p.35). [The vagus is: "The longest and most branched cranial nerve, the vagus (meaning "wanderer") has sensory, motor, and autonomic fibers that pass to the lower head, throat, neck, chest and abdomen; these are involved in many vital body functions, including swallowing, breathing, heartbeat and the formation of stomach acid." (Parker, p. 82)] He theorizes that from this ancient practice myths such as that of Perseus and Andromeda developed. In that myth, Perseus rescued Andromeda who was chained to a rock in the ocean as a sacrifice to the Kraken, or sea monster. Perseus wears a goatskin garment over his head and chest which is called the Aegis of Athena, and uses the head of the Gorgon (Medusa), from which serpents writhe and hiss, to turn the monster to stone.

To simplify Sansonese's ideas, we can view the sea monster, whose tentacles reach deeply into the viscera, as a description of the struggle with the vagus nerve (i.e., difficult to master because of the nature of it's functions, therefore the body's need to protect itself). The head of Medusa fits a description of the brain with its 12 cranial nerves, and the Aegis of Athena can be seen to describe awareness of the vagus nerve which has its start in the center of the skull and wends its way into the thorax. (Sansonese, p.36) Thus, we can begin to see the connection not just of mind and body, but of body, archetype and myth, with archetype originating out of some fundamental biological-somatic experience.

Sansonese's first axiom (see Addendum for remaining five axioms and his theory of the Three Worlds) is that "A myth is an esoteric description of a heightened proprioception" Proprioception, also known medically as stereognosis i.e. body knowledge or visceral feeling, called "internal touch," by the author is how we sense our bodies. In fact, he points out that "the greatest portion of the hard wiring of the brain functions to link the nervous system internally. Perhaps a hundred trillion synapses (neural junctions) tie the brain together. In theory, therefore, an indenumerably vast neuroanatomical potential for internal awareness is in place." (Sansonese, p. 21) Again, Sansonese sees these awarenesses as the foundation for myth. Therefore, we could say the archetypes of mythology have their roots in the experience of the body during trance states, which were probably more commonly sought and experienced in earlier times; and that myths were stories that passed down the knowledge of this experience.

Other examples from mythology that Sansonese cites include the story of Sisyphus pushing the stone uphill only to have it roll back down again. This process he equates with the repetitive process of respiration: inhalation and exhalation. In Homer and Hesiod Sisyphus is called Aeolides, son of Aeolus, Greek god of the winds. Aeolus kept the four winds in a bull hide sack, which could be representative of the the lungs or chest cavity. The sibilance of Sisyphus (siss=inhale, phus=exhale) represents the sounds of inhalation and exhalation. In yoga placement of breath in different parts of the body is a signifcant part of the adept's practice. Could not the wanderings of Odysseus, son of Sisyphus, represent the "'esoteric' places of the breath?" (Sansonese, p. 49). And Odysseus' plowing with ox and ass yoked together when playing the fool to avoid having to defend Helen may represent thoracic breathing and nasal breathing: the totality of respiration. The egg shaped cap he is said to have worn while plowing "indicates that meditation on such a sound involves proprioception of the dome of the skull, perhaps of the meninges, the membranous tissues that encase the cerebrum." (Sansonese, p. 51)

Sansonese is actually expanding on the work of Jung, Joseph Campbell and Stanley Keleman, among others, who have looked to reconnect depth psychology with the body. Of Jung's work, Sansonese says:

"The concept of the archetypes had come to Jung primarily through an exhaustive analysis of dreams reported by his patients in psychoanalysis, so the logical place to look for them was within the brain. But that would have meant for Jung the necessity of advancing a theory of the precise relationship of archetype to dream and sleep--in other words, of mind to body. Jung speculated that archetypes might be genetically encoded in our nervous systems, but he went no further in spelling out the structural connections. As a psychiatrist, he was more interested in understanding the role the unconscious and its archetypes played in individual human behavior than as sources of myth."(Sansonese, p. 6)

Of Campbell's work, he says:

"Campbell was also more biological than Jung. He recognized that the precise biological locus of the archetypes was the Achilles' heel of Jungian psychology. Where, apart from dreams are these potent archetypes to be found? Here again, myth provided answers that Jung had neglected. The more ancient the myth, the more often do parts of the human body play an explicit role in the myth. ADAM'S RIB is the best example; the Egyptian myth of SET AND ISIS is another. In Campbell's work, the brain is only a part of the body, no more paramount than the liver, kidneys, or spleen in rationalizing human behavior...myth is about the 'war between the organs of the body.' With each bodily organ, he seems to say, is associated an archetypal reality or state of consciousness, and it is with the integration of those states of consciousness, leading to happiness and 'self creation,' that the metaphors of myth concern themselves."(Sansonese, p. 7)

An example of this relationship of myth and archetype to body is discussed in a slightly different way from Sansonese' by Campbell and Stanley Keleman in Myth and The Body. First of all, they say that the hero's mythical journey is a myth about embodiment. "It shows us how to learn the lessons of our embodiment as we overcome obstacles, challenges and changes." (Keleman, p. 45). And further in the text: "Our creation myth is also the myth of our biological evolution...there is another aspect to the creation and evolution myth--that is, the coming into existence of the body's subjectivity. ..myth is about the birth and evolution of the body's inner subjectivity...embyrogenesis is cosmogenesis; the birth of the body is the birth of the inner emotional cosmos...from the moment of our conception, the organizing of past somatic images is available to us as a guide for being in the world of the present....The different bodies of our history-personal and impersonal-are in our dreams. Myth presents us ...with the body images of various ages and eons. The complex of somatic images gives our present somatic image an organization and dimension, a structure that has duration...Mostly we are in touch with the surface body, because perception is mostly a surface phenomenon. That doesn't mean that the other bodies aren't there.” (Keleman, p. 29) Notice that this impersonal body, the organizing of past somatic images sounds like an aspect of the collective unconscious!

Keleman developed somatic therapy for over 40 years. He believes that "our somatic structure determines how we perceive the world. It determines that we be in the world in our particular way." (Keleman, p. 32) He guides his clients to explore their patterns of gesturing or postures in conjunction with dreams or waking experiences, and to experiment with them somatically, exaggerating or altering the body’s patterns . As this is occurring, perceptions change. For example, he says, "The person, after changing his somatic stance, has a whole new set of associations from which he is deriving meaning. All of a sudden he is a participant in a the dream...On this basis...if you inhibit yourself from responding to emotional, bodily information, you get one kind of world view. If you let yourself respond, you get another kind, because you have altered your experience of your self in the world." (Keleman, p. 32)

Let us look more closely at how Keleman and Campbell feel that myth reflects the inner, somatic experience. To begin with they describe three temperaments as theorized by William Sheldon in his theory of constitutional types that are based on the embryological layers of the body.

ENDOMORPHIC TYPE: (Metabolic type). The hormones of digestion and respiration are dominant. It is oriented toward nurturing and intimacy. Linked to the myths of the founders of agricultural communities.

ECTOMORPHIC TYPE: Neural hormones and organs of sensation predominate. Oriented towards collecting sensory information. Linked to the myths of scholars and ascetics.

MESOMORPHIC TYPE: Hormones of action, large muscles and bone predominate. Oriented towards action. Linked to the myth of the warrior.

We are each a combination of all three types, with these various archetypes dominant at different times.

In an analysis of the myth of Parsifal and the Holy Grail, the authors demonstrate the psychobiological process of individuation as a movement through the integration of these three constitutions. They also singled out the Grail legend because they feel that it exemplifies the dilemma of trying to live up to society's images of what you should be versus what is authentic. Though the two may overlap at times, they point to the theme of the Wasteland in the Grail Legend as representative of the inauthentic life that even in the middle ages was the norm. People were "professing beliefs they didn't have, they were marrying people they had never seen before, and professing and trying to experience love...Representatives of the spiritual life in the church were not really people of spiritual format of any kind. The whole thing was a fake. The discontinuity between nature and the image of society was so radical that the thing was in dissolution, and within two hundred years it had broken up...How can one bring the Wasteland back to life again? By being someone with what the Middle Ages called a gentle or noble heart, a person of deep and rich sensibilities to live authentically....out of the spontaneity of compassion, and honesty. This would restore the world, it would be fruitful. This is to eat from the Tree of Life again." (Keleman, p. 38) In other worlds to be living not just automatically, but also somatically.

So on to Parsifal and the changing body of the hero. This is a story of a trinity: "the reappearance of the endomorph hero integrated with the ectomorph and mesomorph." (Keleman, p. 46). A story about becoming a complex and authentic individual, and as Jung might say, about integrating opposites.

As a youth Parsifal is attracted by the knighthood. This image is an outside influence, what he "should" do. Thus, he is living by an image, which is the ectomorphic function. As he lives out the warrior code in the world, he is engaging the mesomorphic function. When Parsifal's brother refuses to kill him towards the end of the story, he is shown compassion. This re-integrates the endomorphic function which he’d abandoned earlier to become a knight. To summarize, the three bodies (endomorphic, mesomorphic and ectomorphic) of Parsifal become integrated through Parsifal's volitional effort. In other words, "...experience stimulates deep bodily truths, truths that urge us to form a personal self." (Keleman, p. 64)

The authors state that "the integrity of our somatic process is like the snake...Not because it sheds its skin, but because when it moves, it is continually changing shape. And with each undulation, its body image shifts. The constantly shifting body image is its somatic psychic organ...You have the same configuration with three tissue layers. They express energy, action, information. They represent surface, middle layer and inside - endo, meso, ecto. They retain their shape while they are involved in changing shape. We experience and perceive at the same time...Both messages are part of our somatic consciousness." (Keleman, p 61)

Of Parsifal, as long as he didn't trust his visceral responses he was proceeding by "shoulds." He had to learn to have heart, to be empathetic and compassionate, to trust himself. "Parsifal intuits [about his first experience at the Grail Castle when he didn’t ask the question “what ails the king?”] that he responded differently from what he felt inside. Then he becomes faithful to his body's inner process...Since he worked on becoming an adult from inside, from his own bodily process, he becomes the Grail." (Keleman, p. 62-63)

Keleman issues a warning that:

"The body has become a victim of its own imaging process gone haywire...We live in two realms: the realm of direct experience and the realm of representative images. Being able to live in both realms and being able to conduct a dialogue between them is the very nature of somatic existence. There is no duality then--only a recognition of different realms. What has happened is that we have mistaken one realm for the other; and in so doing, we have lost touch with the body. The image-not the body-has become our direct experience... Originally, they expressed a way of knowing what was going on inside of us, of relating to our inner experience...Now this function of the brain has been idolized to such a degree that we have lost sight of its source...We are in love with the images in our body's mind; we do not know the body itself directly...the body distances itself from its own emotional and somatic experiences..." (Keleman, pp.20-22) .

Perhaps this is the warning of the myth of Narcissus and relates to the forbidden the worship of the golden calf idol in the Bible.

This image making is also related to myth making in response to the experiences of the body. Keleman goes on to explain how this process works: "Experience is part of the body's self-organizing process, a pattern of response by which the body knows what it is, and what it is on the way to becoming. In that sense, the flux of experience as emotions, movement, sensations, creates an anatomic image in the brain of what is going on or what has already happened...The basic experience of the body is its pulses, which organize multiple realities in layers of expanding and gathering; of fullness and emptiness. This process generates two times: the time of the event and the time of the response, of encoding the event. The duration of the event and its organizational imprint, which is the present and the past, take place in the same person. We maintain in our tissue the actual event, and an organization of an image of the event. Out of one event we have organized the experiential and the symbolic...When we begin to be intimate with the pulse and quality of somatic experience, we begin to appreciate this experience as myth, outside of subjective time; as myth that forms internal knowing. As we learn to live again from our organic responses, the soma grows itself, deepens its feeling and images. In this way we grow a maturity out of the Wasteland." (Keleman, pp. 22-23).

Thus, from Sansonese through Campbell and Keleman, we move from myth as a descendent of the experiences of ancient mystics being passed on in symbolized form, to myth as also representative of the human quest, individuation. They speak to the archetypal nature of somatic experience as something that evolves phyllogenetically as well as ontogenetically, and to its partnership with our image making abilities.

In addition to Keleman, other practitioners of somatically-oriented therapies explore this interface of action and myth, body and archetype. Outstanding among them was Judith Kestenberg, M.D., a developmental psychiatrist who for decades identified and researched the movement patterns of development at her family therapy center on Long Island.

Kestenberg's work, which is part of the foundation of training for Dance-Movement Therapists such as myself, is a profound body of knowledge that provides tools for therapeutic assessment and intervention. She identified the developmental rhythms and patterns of movement that each human experiences, what we could also call archetypal patterns of development. Penny Lewis, a Dance-Movement Therapist and Jungian analyst who founded the Antioch Graduate School program in Dance-Movement Therapy in the 1970's, delineated the parallels between archetype, myth and these human developmental movement patterns in Theoretical Approaches in Dance-Movement Therapy (published under the name Bernstein) and expanded on this in Creative Transformation: The Healing Power of the Arts and other published works. The role of dance-movement therapy has been to observe and utilize the way these rhythms are transferred from their physiological zone of origin (the mouth for oral stages, for example) to the body at large (rocking, biting, tapping, etc.), and the themes that they represent not just in our childhood development, but in the adult body-mind. In a therapeutic context, if the therapist is observant of which developmental movement patterns, i.e. archetypal patterns, are activated, she can assist the participant in working through the struggles of that complex not just in "mind," but also in body. In other words, awareness of the movement patterns presented provides volumes of information about the transference and the developmental/archetypal themes that are dominant in the participant's life, perhaps hindering their growth and healthy emotional and social functioning. And it is through movement, somatic engagement, that individuation can occur most authentically.

Kestenberg used psychobiological language to name these stages of mind-body development, starting with Oral Libidinal, to describe the sucking rhythm of a nursing infant and how these rhythms may manifest in children and adults. However, each stage represents not just a physical body rhythm but, like Keleman's description of the symbolization of experience, also represents something happening psychologically, emotionally, viscerally to us: experience and learning, embodiment and the symbolization of our experiences. From that comes (or not in some cases) adaption to our inner and outer worlds. This can be seen as another framework for describing body archetypes.

In her deepening of Kestenberg's original work to include the mythical/archetypal as well as other developmental perspectives, Lewis uses Erich Neumann's terminology to correlate developmental rhythms with mythical stages of human development. Neumann is a Jungian author on the stages of human development and archetype. An example of the complexity of and relationship of mind to body movement and developmental rhythms might be the person who impatiently sits in a meeting tapping their fingers on the table. This is an Oral Sadistic (or biting) rhythm which corresponds to the beginning of teething and then biting in infancy. Psychologically, we could say it corresponds to the growing awareness of separateness from the object, of body boundaries, of an awareness of self and other, in mythological terms, a separation from symbiosis with the maternal watery matrix, the beginning of ego. Differentiation! So, if something at that business meeting triggers some need to be separate from something in that experience or something that experience symbolically represents, the body reacts archetypally we might say, even if the conscious mind is unaware of that need, or only vaguely aware of some irritation. Perhaps if there is something more powerfully drawing an individual to successfully separate and establish a separate self, they may act out that biting rhythm in other ways--biting sarcasm, for example, biting off more than they can chew, etc. As you can see, we have many verbal expressions of these various states.

Let us look at another example. Have you ever noticed that with some people, as we hug them we might use an Oral Libidinal rocking merger rhythm, but with others or in certain situations we use a back patting Oral Sadistic separating rhythm! In the enthusiastic, pumping of an extreme handshake, we may be engaging a more Phallic (Outer Genital) rhythm which suggests ego based activity, pride in our work, a higher level of autonomy, "the birth of the hero" or magical warlike phase of the ego (Lewis, p. 245).

There are many different stages in development that have corresponding rhythms, and each of these rhythms has corresponding developmental/archetypal themes attached to them, which of course are intertwinable and dynamic rather than static throughout our lives. Kestenberg has noted what she terms libidinal and sadistic aspects to each rhythm. These simply mean either that a drive is being discharged, when the rhythm is sadistic or that it is related to need gratification when labeled libidinal (in adults we expect to see a greater proportion of libidinal to sadistic rhythms "stressing subtleties of indulging pleasurable need gratifications over aggressive-sadistic discharge." (Lewis, p. 151).

In addition to those rhythms just presented, the other developmental rhythms in order of their appearance are: Anal rhythms of squirming and twisting (libidinal) and straining and releasing (sadistic) which correspond with the polarization of the world into opposites and the separation of the world parents where the internal ego is gaining dominance, or in developmental terms, the practicing subphase and subsequent rapprochement. Then there are Urethral rhythms of flowing (libidinal) and darting, run-stop-go (sadistic) during which the toddler is moving into the operation of tasks and decisions, of the capacity to experience the pleasure of letting go and to stop and start suddenly, to achieve object constancy and the capacity for whole self object (good and bad) representation; Inner Genital rhythms that are gently undulant and wavy (libidinal) related to the development of inclusive, receptive behavior and identification with the mother/caregiver, and the presence of which in adulthood, for example, in men can reflect their level of integration of the inner feminine (anima). There is the other inner Genital Sadistic rhythm of large undulant transitions between tension and release (sadistic) which aids in the development of orgiastic states and during childbirth; Outer Genital (phallic) libidinal patterns of movement such as leaping which accompany identification with the masculine, the differentiation between action and word thinking, and for women represent integration of the inner masculine or animus, the Outer Genital (sadistic) rhythms of jumping and poking which involves the ability to move with and control physical aggression. With the Genital rhythms we are moving through Neumann's archetypal Phallic-Chtonic stage of ego development to the Magical Warlike Stage of Ego which brings us up to about age 5. Here we have relational development as well as opposition to the mother for the sake of ego development and ego activities dependent on body experiences. Finally, from a movement perspective the full genital orgasmic rhythm develops. (Lewis, p. 153)

It's important to remember that these are not arbitrary delineations but rhythms observed over years of longitudinal research with children (and their families) from birth and in a variety of settings and situations. Also, it is important to note that these developmental rhythms are accompanied by increasing range of use of space, of body shaping, of effort and motor control which I've left out for the sake of brevity. However, these aspects of movement are also part and parcel of their archetypal nature. Overall, developmental movement patterns may compose the dynamic ground of archetypes of human experience, influencing the development of image making and myth just as the somatic experience of yogis described by Sansonese can inform mythmaking.

Finally, let us turn to affect and its relationship to body and archetype. Jung said that "psyche and matter are 'two different aspects of the same thing.’” (Chodorow, p. 44). He felt that emotion was the bridge between psyche and soma, instinct and archetype, and that archetypal experience includes both image and affect (i.e. a psychic and somatic state). For Jung, affect was both a “psychic feeling-state and a “physiological innervation state.” (Chodorow, p. 46) Quoted in Chodorow’s Dance Therapy and Depth Psychology, he discusses the relationship of emotion in relation to an archetypal experience:

“In their original form, archetypes are images and at the same time emotions. One can speak of an archetype only when these two aspects coincide...It is a great mistake in practice to treat an archetype as if it were a mere name, word or concept. It is far more than that; it is a piece of life, an image connected with the living individual by the bridge of emotion.” (Chodorow, p. 46)

In other words archetypal complexes manifest not just in the mind and thought, but also in the body vis a vis emotional states, somatic symptoms and behaviors.

Chodorow goes on to cite various theorists, including Darwin, who identify certain affects as innate. Jung viewed these innate patterns as having “their origin in the depths of the primordial unconscious.” (Chodorow, p. 62) A contemporary Jungian analyst, Louis Stewart, who had been a former teacher in a nursery and kindergarten program based in the arts, found through his research on the relationship of affects to play, that affect motivates and is transformed through play. Continuing his studies he came to incorporate and modify other perspectives on affect to develop a theory of archetypal affects. The archetypal emotions and their life stimuli are:

Affect Stimuli

Joy (Enjoyment-Ecstasy) Relationship to the familiar

Interest (Interest-Excitement) Novelty

Sadness (Distress-Anguish) Loss

Fear (Apprehension-Terror) The Unknown

Anger (Irritation-Rage) Restriction of Autonomy

Contempt/Shame (Dislike-Disgust Rejection


Startle (Surprise-Startle) The Unexpected

(Chodorow, p. 77)

Stewart views the archetypal affects of Joy and Interest as the

“energic, affective source of libido...He suggests that the senses and remaining five primal affects amplify each other and that the senses may have been the early precursors of the primal affects. To illustrate: ...touch is central to experiencing the impact of loss; our constant longing is for the embodied presence of the one we miss. Fear has to do with our response to the unknown. The sense of hearing seems to be a direct link to that intangible realm. Anger has to do with protecting oneself...seeing is central to our ability to identify the threat and protect ourselves against it...Contempt/Shame has to do with an evaluative response that finds others or ourselves unacceptable, unworthy. Similar to the affect Contempt, the sense of smell evaluates the external ‘other;’ similar to the affect Shame, the sense of taste evaluates something within oneself..Together smell/taste forms a bi-polar sense that is presumably related on a primal level to the rejection of noxious substances, from without and within...Startle is the affect of centering, orientation and re-orientation; it is our response ot the unexpected. On the instinctive body level, the kinesthetic and proprioceptive senses keep us centered and oriented.” (Chodorow, p. 81-84)

Furthermore, in relation to body archetypes,

“the dynamic expression of Joy is play, and the dynamic expression of Interest is curiosity, each of the crises affects has its own expressive dynamism that has evolved with the human species...Sadness is expressed and transformed through rhythm and rhythmic harmony. Fear is expressed and transformed through ritual... Anger is expressed and transfomed through reason, primitive and differentiated. Contempt/shame is expressed and transformed through relationship.

Another aspect on the affects and their expressive dynamisms can be seen in the universal games that have been played since antiquity in every part of the world (Chodorow, p. 92)”

Chodorow reflects that “Stewart’s theoretical synthesis is original, provocative, stimulating and deeply grounded in the experience of the body.” (Chodorow, p. 94) If you have any doubt as to the veracity of that statement, don’t just think about a feeling, but allow yourself to experience it and see what happens!

The ideas presented above demonstrate many of the ways to explore the theme of body and archetype, but in no way represent all of the possibilities for doing so. However, this is where we end for now. In doing so, let us return to where we started, with Jung and the connection of mind, body (which is matter) and archetype. Jungian analyst Michael Conforti picks up where Jung left off in his exploration of quantum physics and psychology and “extends Jung’s theory of archetypes by suggesting that individuals are embedded in specific archetypal fields, which become represented by and embodied in matter over time. What is manifested is highly consistent behavior structured by an archetypal pattern....We know that the “royal road to the unconscious” can be traveled not only by way of the dream or the complex, as Freud and Jung believed respectively, but also by way of matter...All is connected. Within a unitary reality, psyche and matter are complementary aspects of the same fundamental wholeness and must be studied together to achieve a deeper understanding of consciousness and of psyche as a totality.” (Buck, 2010)


Buck, Stephanie. Analytical Psychology, Science and Religion, Part II: Archetypal Field Theory and the Confluence of Psyche and Matter. Burlington, VT:, 2010.

Chodorow, Joan. Dance Therapy and Depth Psychology, The Moving Imagination. New York: Routledge, 1991.

Kelemanm Stanley. Myth & The Body, a colloquy with Joseph Campbell. Berkeley, CA: Center Press, 1999.

Lewis, Penny. Theoretical Approaches in Dance-Movement Therapy , Vol I. Dubque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 1986.

Parker, Steve. The Body Book. New York: DK, 2007.

Sansonese, J. Nigro. The Body of Myth: Mythology, Shamanic Trance and the Sacred Geometry of the Body. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1994.


I. A myth is as an esoteric description of a heightened proprioception.

In other words, myths are stories about the shaman’s and yogi’s experiences of their bodies while in trance.

II. The organizing principle of extended myth is recapitulation. The structure of an authentic myth is pleonastic ("the use of more words than necessary to denote mere sense (as in the man he said): REDUNDANCY (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition).

"In raja yoga, for example, the entire body is susceptible to the most refined control, but practically speaking, that most often comes down to controlling the heart and breath, so myths tend to describe a limited number of things over and over, albeit with an amazing fertility of invention; and the same action/proprioception is described again and again. within a single myth. The various episodes of a myth are often a stringing together of identical set pieces.

Narrative details are drawn from the culture at large and are chosen primarily for their value in assembling elements such as heroes, animals or weapons crucial to an esoteric description of meditation." (Sansonese, p. 66)

III. There are three categories of myth: esoteric descriptions of the first, second and third worlds during meditation.

IV. The proper nouns of authentic myth are two kinds

a) mantras derived from the phons

b) words descriptive of the practice of meditation

V. The ethical component of an archaic mythicoreligious system derives from the attempt to control reincarnation.


I. STEREOGNOSIS: The source of visual proprioception or "feeling"

(the First World) Proprioception of sympathetic and parasympathetic systems

The body below the nostrils associated with taste/gustation, touch/feeling

Emotions are proprioceptions of the first world

The fluid world of the fetus who can hear its own internal states, almost entirely proprioceptive as eyes, ears, nose and mouth are plugged.

By using the breath (spirit) one can reenter the fluidity of the first world, reencountering the Great Mother-the anthropomorphism of feeling.

In myth: Hell, Hades, The Pit, the Infernal Regions.

Ruled by Hades, but more typically described by a female deity: Persephone, Hera (daughter of Rhea-the flowing one),Thetis, Dionysius

Examples: Hera's chariot only can travel as far as the sea's horizon: the limits of perception which defines the nervous-system sea (the cosmos that contains the seed of all things).

Hera represents a general bodily warmth associated with the heart (seat of emotion) and the genitalia

Hephaestus (her son): respiration from the abdomen, reaching no higher than the sinuses, perhaps samana of yoga (diaphrammatic breath). Recapitulates Sisyphus

Dionysius: anthropomorphized taste.

proprioceptions of the thalamolimbic regions in the center of the brain and their neurological connnections to chest and abdomen.

II. PERCEPTION: Principally sight, hearing and smell, but all externally

(the Second World) derived sensation

Region between brow and mouth

An island in the midst of fluidity (first and third worlds)

The world of objects and things that is an arena of ceaseless and inexorable change.

In perception the soul finds no peace, only death &suffering.

The disjunctions of perception from cognition stereognosis are described esoterically by mythic wars and myths of the son rising up (perception) and killing the father (cognition)

Warfare is an apt metaphor for describing the subliminal pain of perception, the source of which lies in the complex structure of the numerous bones dividing the cranium from the jaw and ringing the jaw roughly at the level of the eyes, ears and nose

In myth: Purgatory, The Narrow Way, The Sacred Gate, an Isthmus the many perilous Straights of myth, an island bound below by the first world sea, vale of tears

Ruled by Poseidon or any male deity associated with light: Ares, Hermes, Phoebus Apollo

III. COGNITION: Chiefly thought, intellect, or the sixth sense.

(The Third World) The head above the brow

The sky as sea

In myth: Heaven, Mount Olympus, Svarga (Hinduism), Paradise (Islam). Also described as a mystic sea: the sea of thought bounding the island of the second world from above, Eagle

Myths related to love and war.

Athena's spear is a description of the spikelike nasal bone at the bottom of the glabellar bone.

Ruled by Zeus, but closely associated with Athena

Zeus as description of a proprioception of the highest processing center of the brain, the neocortex (in the CNS hierarchy)

The blow of Hephaestus' ax releasing Athena from her father's brow is a description of the breath striking the bottom of the frontal suture.

Individual thoughts and conceptual processes are proprioceptions of the third world (Sansonese, p. 69)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ms. Sberna,

    Thank you for sharing your impressions of my book, The Body of Myth, with members of the C.G. Jung Society of Vermont. (The publisher, Inner Traditions, is a Vermont company, by the way, located in Rochester.) You might usefully consult Judith E. Kovach's monograph on "Contemplation in Movement: the Significance of Walking in Zen Meditative Practice [kinhin]," Master's Thesis, UCLA, 1990. Ms. Kovach, whom I had the good sense to marry, was for many years a modern dancer who reoriented herself later in life to the academic side of the subject of dance and religion after training in Noh drama and bugaku.

    My debt to Carl Jung enters primarily in my appreciation of the importance of myth in particular and of religion in general, as well as the attention he paid to the esoteric element in antique culture. His editorship of the Eranos series of lectures was a signal contribution to reuniting us with our past, from which I benefited enormously.

    At the same timer, I must confess that, insofar as mythology is concerned, I am not a Jungian, the chief reason being that I have long been convinced that psychoanalysis (of whatever stripe) has not much to contribute to the question of the why of myths - Why are there such things? - as it does to the admittedly interesting question of to what uses they have been put by subsequent generations. That comes down to claiming that the psychodynamics of mythopoeisis are secondary in understanding it. The psychological state critical to understanding the why of myth is, not to put to fine a point on the matter, that of salvation of the soul. The reason that myths from all over the world are important or that they should hold any interest for human beings many thousands of years after they were composed is that they are about the knowledge of God. Knowledge of man is knowledge of God. That is the source of their timeless appeal. There is really no simpler or more accurate way of putting it.