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Meeting Inanna et al. under the tree

Two weeks ago, while the police and media were (as they still are) busy counting corpses of suspected drug pushers, a hundred or so people from different sectors, with varied interests, affiliations, careers and goals in life—myself included—were “somewhere out there” exploring the Jungian depths, so to speak, getting deep into our selves (two words, those)—and our Earth.

I put aside my media hat for the nonce and went back to my original field of training—psychology. It was good to be with my Ateneo graduate school classmates from way back: Rose Yenko and Dido Gustilo-Villasor with whom I had sat in classes under Fr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ. Rose and Dido are among the prime movers of the Carl Jung Circle Center (CJCC) which, together with the California-based Pacifica Graduate Institute, organized this year’s “Salubungan on Depth Psychology: Our Psyche, Our Earth.”  Salubungan means a meeting or encounter, and the natural process used during this particular gathering was “Ang Kwentuhan sa Ilalim ng Punongkahoy” or storytelling under the tree.

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The conference, like the previous ones, hoped to bring to a wider public the understanding of depth psychology which Carl Gustav Jung espoused. Depth psychology is an approach to therapy that explores the subtle and unconscious aspects of the human experience. CJCC uses a multidisciplinary approach that draws on literature, philosophy, mythology and the arts; “moving towards wholeness is seen as the process of bringing to light what has been unknown in one’s personality—thoughts, feelings, memories, archetypal projections—so that the person can understand and integrate them, allowing for a transformation in consciousness. Depth psychology also looks at the ways the unconscious expresses itself in society and culture, and how culture affects the psyche.”

That last sentence should give us pause, especially these days as earthshaking global and local events unfold and we end up discombobulated.

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CJCC and Pacifica Institute’s Salubungan was a fruit of their shared mission of “animae mundi colendae gratia,” Latin for “tending soul of and in the world.”  So they served up an array of persons engaged in depth psychology turned storytellers. Sharing their knowledge and experiences were psychologists and psychotherapists, social scientists, dream tenders, myth experts, artists, filmmakers, musicians, environmentalists, peace workers, academics, healers, poets, and a babaylan’s great grandson who showed a captivating documentary on his ancestor. The participants came from varied disciplines and involvements— seekers, sojourners in the heart of the world.

And so, who is Inanna? At a book sale, I happened to find a book titled “Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer” by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. I bought the book, hoping to learn about this woman in ancient myth and her stories that, I thought, must form part of feminist literature. I was also attracted by the book design and the photographs of clay tablets that date back to 2000 BC. Well, I did not begin to read it until the Salubungan conference where her story was told and interpreted to us by a Pacifica professor who had the same book that I had.

Dr. Maren Tonder Hansen, whose area is “psychological uses of myth, women’s spirituality, psychological play, and dream analysis,” told the story of Inanna, the liberating goddess of Sumer. An ordained minister, mother of three and wife to Pacifica founding president and chancellor Steve Aizenstat (psychotherapist, dream tender), Hansen spoke about how, even after 4,000 years, Inanna continues to inspire and be a model not only to women but also to men “with her soulful quest for wholeness, authentic power, and depth of experience, how her various experiences evolved into her embodied understanding of the sacred mysteries of life.”

Like the Roman myth of Ceres and the Greek myth of Demeter who bravely descended into the underworld to seek justice and deliverance for their respective captive daughters, so did Inanna as part of her spiritual initiation, to test her feminine powers. It is an amazing story that is echoed in myths and nonmyths (even in biblical stories) with archetypal characters that inhabit our collective unconscious.

While writing this piece, I reached out for Jungian-trained psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola-Estes’ book, “The Gift of Story” (she wrote “Women Who Run with the Wolves”) where she says: “Stories that instruct, renew and heal provide a vital nourishment to the psyche that cannot be obtained in any other way. Stories reveal over and over again the precious and peculiar knack that humans have for triumph over travail. They provide all the vital instructions we need to live a useful, necessary and unbounded life—a life of meaning, a life worth remembering.”

The salubungan/encounter theme brought a smile on my face because one of my books has the title “Human Face: A Journalist’s Encounters and Awakenings.” And I couldn’t help thinking that I have not really strayed far from my original field of discipline which is psychology, but as a journalist-storyteller I have journeyed on, on roads both well and less travelled. And was the richer for the encounters or salubungan along the way.

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Yesterday, AdvoCafe opened its latest branch (main) on Mendiola-Concepcion Aguila St., beside College of the Holy Spirit.  Founded by Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and Assisi Development Foundation president Ben Abadiano, AdvoCafe is a social enterprise that supports indigenous peoples’ (IP) projects for sustainable living. Fair trade is its operating principle. All profits go to IP initiatives. AdvoCafe is an effort toward Zero Extreme Poverty in the Philippines by 2030. Come, have a cup.

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TAGS: Carl Jung Circle Center, Inanna, myth, Pacifica Graduate Institute, psychology, Salubungan
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