Inner Work

I cannot remember how long Robert Johnson`s `Inner Work` has languished on my bookshelves unread. It is surprising since I think his autobiography, `Balancing Heaven and Earth: A Memoir of Visions, Dreams and Realizations` is the most remarkable text of a dream infused inward (and outward) journey since Jung`s own `Memories, Dreams, Reflections`- engaging, magical, humble and wise. Meanwhile, his short book on what Jung called the shadow (that part of our self, in our personal unconscious, that we repress, hold at bay) is consistently illuminating, not least in reminding us that its contents represent not only those aspects of ourselves that we would rather forget for their presumed negativity but for those dimensions of ourselves seen as too great to handle, from which we shy away. Our shadows hide gold as well as scrap metal!

I presume that this was, in part, because the book is partly a manual - a how to book - from which INFJ`s instinctively recoil. We intuit or we die! We do not figure it out - least of all in stages and least of all with our internal, spiritual lives!

That prejudice aside, it is a beautiful book. Lucid in its accounts of the fundamental tenets of Jungian dream psychology and, yes, deeply informed with a practical and experienced approach to addressing both dream interpretation and active imagination. You cannot imagine anyone taking up this text with committed seriousness and not divining a better relationship to their inward dynamics. How to treat of those myraid `persons` who make up their selves and whose competitions and conflict need continuous negotiation. Also, how to accept that ultimate invitation towards the weaving whole, the seamless fabric, that is their true self.

I did, however, have two quibbles.

The first was with an excessive `individualising`. Yes, the focus ought to be on how we adjust our own inner dynamics, take responsibility for them,live them out; but, we live with and towards one another and an essential dynamic in finding our wholeness is in dialogue with others and in that dialogue touching a depth of mutuality that redeems. Too often the Jungian emphasis on `individuation` leaves the `other` real only in so far as it plays a part in my play!

The second is related to this. The figures we encounter in imagination may not simply be parts of my unconscious, however collectively shared, they may not be simply eruptions from below (or within) but may be revealtions from without (and above). Not every saint we encounter might be a dimension of `my` wholeness but a revelation of a wholeness that transcends, including a much greater dimension than my `self`. Johnson`s world remains `bifurcated` - a physical world onto which is projected an inner `unconscious` world rather than a wholly conscious world with different dimensions, levels of meaningful being.

Nevertheless as a practical guide to dream and imaginative work I cannot think of a more compelling guide, wise and humble in equal measure.


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