I arrived around midnight. The flight had been delayed for several hours. When I got to the hotel I found my reservation was mislaid, and there was no free room. My suitcase and I had no choice but to set out in the bleak night for a hotel with available room. After about an hour and a half I finally succeeded—a fleabag room in a rundown hotel. The room, on the top floor, was immediately next to the large electrical motor that ran the lift. Who could sleep next to that?
I didn’t want to sleep anyway. I had imagined the moment of laying my eyes on it ever since I could remember. I took my street map in hand and went in search. No matter where I went I couldn’t find it, only a fenced-in park that always ended my route. Surely the map must be old or badly drawn, I thought. Finally, about three a.m., in this sleeping city, I looked for a place to sit and recoup. I saw a light just ahead, the warm glow of what must have been the one taverna open in all of Athens half way to dawn.
I sat at an outdoor table, ordered a birra, and threw my head back. There it was on the hill in front of me, bathed in the whitish-orange streaks of spotlights, burning its way into my brain. No wonder I kept missing it. I had forgotten that the word acropolis derives from two conjoined words meaning, “high place.” Rightfully so. In my mind the acropolis reflects one of the high moments of our Western civlization, the birth of free choice. At least the struggle for free choice, no matter how imperfect that struggle might have been.
The next day, little sleep or no, I headed out to the first locale on my list. The temple of Demeter at Eleusis, modern Elefsina. A bus ride took me there in about 45 minutes, and then a pretty raven-haired, olive-skinned girl directed me along the streets to the sanctuary’s remains.
I spent the day wandering the archaeological site. It’s a massive space, with a view to the water and with the (at least) twenty-five century-old ruts from the wagon wheels carrying initiates to it still visible in the stone slabs forming the ancient road to the ancient entry. Once inside, I lingered long at the Kallichoron Well. Was I perhaps unknowingly waiting for the Greek woman who walked past and merely said to me—in English, “that’s where she grieved for her daughter”? Yeah, grieved.
At the signal for the site’s closing, I walked out the large entrance gates. In a quiet mood from the enormity of what happened there those thousands of years ago still working in me, I looked up. The signage of the restaurant just outside the sanctuary said it all. The restaurant was named “Slow Food.”
Why bother with Jungian psychology and Jungian analysis? It is a long, slow and often painful process. There are faster methodologies. With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy you can retrain your thinking to live a happy and prosperous life. The reductive approach of Psychoanalysis—by reductive I mean explaining present suffering as mistaken suffering held over from past causes, does work. Understand the past and “poof” the suffering can be gone. There is some validity in both approaches I have come to accept after nearly forty years practicing as a Jungian analyst. Sometimes pain is just too much, and what relief to get rid of it. The birth of personal freedom in the face of misery is no small matter, and the hell with theoretical niceties. But those forty years have taught me something else: the value of the kind of free choice that comes out of the slow food articulated so eloquently by C.G. Jung.
In his most recent book Pocket Jung (I write on the eve of his eightieth birthday—ample proof that the good don’t always die young) Inner City Books’ General Editor and Paragon of Mischief, Daryl Sharp, starts off quoting one of my favorite from C.G.:
[T]he individual will never find the real justification for his existence and his own spiritual and moral autonomy anywhere except in an extramundane principle capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors. The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world. For this he needs the evidence of inner, transcendental experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass. (Sharp, p. 7; Jung, “The Undiscovered Self,” Collected Works, vol. 10, par. 511.)
Choice—freedom, is, finally to life at depth, a necessary but not sufficient condition. Psychology typically understands choice as freedom from, freedom from distorted thinking, freedom from repeating the pain of the past. For Jung, however, choice and freedom are not finally described until freedom from becomes freedom to. Freedom to become anchored in and the servant of, as Jung says, an extramundane principle, a transcendental experience. True, we must be free enough to entertain the reality of the extramundane and the transcendental. But, in the last account, meaningful freedom only emerges when our freedom serves something bigger. This something bigger and the way to it is the subject of Jung’s entire scientific research and heartfelt authorship. That way is indeed slow food.
I know of no other person, outside of the first generation of Jungians (Marie-Louise von Franz, Barbara Hannah, E.A. Bennett, Liliane Frey-Rohn, Gerhard Adler, C.A. Meier, Rivkah Kluger, to name a few … I’d also include Edward Edinger and Marion Woodman in this list), who has done as much to make Jungian psychology available to the wider public as has Daryl Sharp. His Inner City Books has navigated the treacherous waters of economic survival and respect for the individual so rare in today’s corporate universe. We Jungians are all small potatoes in the megalith of a profession increasingly dominated by insurance companies and the half-baked practitioners who kiss butt with quick pseudo-fixes, appealing on paper to the quantitative mind. Daryl’s ear to the individual voice of the small author has given the Jungian soul a chance to express itself, to place its words within the grasp of the intelligent layperson, words which otherwise would have withered without a hearing. Thanks to the books Inner City has published, it is clear that the spirit of Jung’s work and all it entails lives on and with a living platform.
As Athens was working its way to sunrise that night when I was moved by the sight representing to me the birth of the struggle for choice, and as the sanctuary of Demeter the next day reminded me of the slow and difficult road in birthing that choice to a meaningful service for life’s greater dimension, so Jung’s work has stared existence in the face at its deepest roots. As Jung tirelessly demonstrated, choice is given its dignity through the something bigger of transcendence, meaning, and service. Thank you Daryl for your role in preserving that legacy.
And, Happy Eightieth Birthday most esteemed friend.