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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

A Study of Symbols


Van Eenwyk (1997) explores the dynamics of symbols in depth. He could explore other dynamics, as anything that the psyche produces reflects its dynamics (p. 109), but symbols are a good choice because they are very complex and have their feet in both worlds, consciousness and the unconscious, and mediate between them by participating in both (p. 111). Symbols are liminal, occurring between individual and environment. They are “interfaces not only “between synchronic and diachronic dynamics, but between psychic structure and personal experience, between past and present, order and chaos” (pp. 88-89). Since symbols are produced by the psyche, their dynamics will reflect the dynamics of the psyche; because we cannot observe archetypes directly, we observe symbols. The same is true of strange attractors, as Stewart (2002) notes: we cannot observe them directly, only their observables. Van Eenwyk tells us that symbols are transformers, they “transform the process of perception” (p. 102), helping the psyche to “form itself by drawing it to perspectives and experiences that promote growth” (p. 85). As they transcend categories, symbols take us to places that are difficult to define. They are “stargates that point beyond themselves” (pp 70-71) and have compelling influence on us as “they mobilize our psychic energy” (p. 90), and thus they lead us through life, and as Jung believed, symbols give us access to and expose us to what is absent in our lives, which is not easy because it “involves a descent into the unconscious, a ‘dark night of the soul’ on the course of the ‘hero’s journey’. In short it is an encounter with the shadow” (p. 85). Van Eenwyk elaborates: “When the ego gains access to the unconscious through symbols, the unconscious gains access to the ego. Thus begins the process of fragmentation, dismemberment, and chaos” (p. 115). Again, we hear in Van Eenwyk's description four familiar cosmic play, death-rebirth pattern.

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