Authors Posts by Gary S. Bobroff

Gary S. Bobroff

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Gary S. Bobroff is an author, workshop leader and a Jungian and archetypal coach. He presents the depth of Jungian approaches in an engaging, accessible and visual-oriented form. He is the developer and facilitator of Archetypal Nature and the founder of JungianOnline.com connecting clients with Jungian-oriented therapists worldwide (via phone or Skype). He is the co-facilitator of the Synchronicity & the Archetypal Feminine video series. He has a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from the University of British Columbia, Canada and Master's degree in Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Andrew Harvey called his book, Crop Circles, Jung & the Reemergence of the Archetypal Feminine “an original masterpiece.“ - GSBobroff.com

“There was a lot about the Dude that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And a lot about where he lived, likewise. But then again, maybe that’s why I found the place so darned interestin’.” – The Stranger

The Big Lebowski is cinematic perfection carved from archetypal oppositions. It is The Dude versus The Man throughout; the prototypical anti-authority figure versus a series of archetypal Fathers and Kings. Nearly a century ago, Antonia “Toni” Wolff observed a pair of binary axis in the psyche; two essential oppositions that constitute a significant part of human personality. One of these primary tensions is between our draw to community and away from it, toward freedom. We know toward which of these poles The Dude swung.

Our most beloved movies are the most archetypal ones.

The greatest movies are always archetypally true and The Big Lebowski gets its true-to-life color from fanning out a bright rainbow of authority figures. From the chief of police of Malibu (“a real reactionary”), to the fellas down at the league office, to Mr. Lebowski and Walter, the film is driven by the Dude’s interaction with power figures. These characters–many of whom are based on real life friends of the Coen brothersare all archetypal King or Father types: men who are deeply invested in their own authority (“this aggression will not stand”); men who are strongly opinionated about right and wrong (“the bums will always lose!”); and men whose identity comes through attachment to community (“three thousand years of beautiful tradition”). As the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers would no doubt attest, these men are also about doing for; whether it’s for their “quiet little beach community” or their country, they want to be of service. At the same time, these are men who are unconsciously driven by shadow power drives (“shut the fuck up Donnie!”). The Father-King is often compelled to make things right and even to use force to do so (“mark it zero!”). Are they wrong? “You’re not wrong you’re just an asshole.”

El Duderino epitomizes of the opposite archetype: he hates authority (and is completely disconnected from society and worldly values (“’Dude . . . uh, tomorrow’s already the tenth.’”); he’s the eternal boy, more brother-type than Father figure for sure. And even if he’s unconscious of it, there is something of the trickster in him, a measure of the clown. We give the title ‘Seeker’ to this way of being, but no one word title could ever properly sum up an archetype (certainly not this one). The Seeker is a little more in touch with his Feminine side – he’s comfortable with the “feminine form” and the “natural zesty enterprise.” This archetype is the Lover too and The Dude is most certainly that.

What’s an archetype Walter? An archetype is a primordial pattern that (usually unconsciously) guides how we create our lives. As with birds and their nests, your archetype suggests your modus operandi, the way you want to roll through life, the parts of life to which you are drawn and the ones which automatically repel you (“the fucking Eagles man!,” “do you have to use so many cuss words?”).

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that this is one of the ways that the “whole darned human comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself.”

LebowskiThe Big Lebowski is constructed out of these mirrors of opposition in the human DNA; it’s a study in deep archetypal contrasts. This is made visually explicit when the Dude encounters Mr. Lebowski’s wall of awards and plaques–“Are you a Lebowski achiever?” The movie is about authority (“get your own fucking cab!”) and the exchange of it (“her life is in your hands Dude”), who deserves it and who does not (“he doesn’t approve of my lifestyle and I don’t approve of his”). The authority figures initiate all of the action–the Dude only abides. He is an anti-hero; the movie is not about what he does (“fuck it”). The movie happens to him.

“Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude.”

As happens in many naturalistic (and psychologically healthy) folktales of the anti-hero form, our protagonist (“and I’m talking about the Dude here”) succeeds by going with the flow, by being guileless and in harmony with events, by being in accord with the Tao (“is that some kind of Eastern thing?”).

Have no doubt this is a story about “what makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?” There’s The Dude’s way and everyone else’s modes of assertion and control–they can be very un-Dude. However we do get shown some good sides of his opposite archetype; Walter, for one, shows its cellular-level loyalty and devotion to a brother. And in the end The Stranger shows us the mature form of the King: he knows The Dude is different from him and he doesn’t understand him, but he isn’t envious or rejecting. The Stranger sees The Dude’s good qualities–you could maybe even go as far as to say he blesses him. Or that could be just, like, my opinion, man.

 “The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”

Lying behind much of the way we talk about the inner life today is the work of the Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung. He revolutionized how we discuss dreams and archetypes and gave us our words “introvert,” “extravert” and “synchronicity.” However, what made him a true psychological pioneer was that he looked inside himself in a way that is still unique today.

#1) Dreams

From earliest beginnings of human civilization, we have considered dreams a doorway to the soul. Jung saw that they showed us parts of ourselves that were being rejected by our waking consciousness: strengths unexpressed and shadow figures run amok; qualities that we were missing about ourselves; and desires that we’d rather not acknowledge. The mission of dreams was to balance us, to compensate for our often one-sided attitude toward life and lead us to integrate what we need for health and growth. We know today that dreams can have messages for us that are not only psychologically relevant, but even biologically urgent, relaying information about illness. Jung introduced the term “wholeness” to describe the aim of the unconscious: the further filling out of ourselves; an increasing completeness in the unique being that we are.

#2) Personality Types

Jung saw the differing pathways in our personalities. He observed that some people got energy from interacting with people, while others were drained by it. Introvert or extravert, intuitive or sensate, thinking or feeling; he described these differing forms as Psychological Types and they led to today’s MBTI categories. In normalizing different kinds of personality, Jung helped us to get over our natural biases against other types.

While he recognized variety in human personality, Jung believed that there was no one-size-fits-all approach to therapy. He saw each individual as having a unique blueprint for growth, an untold inner story, and he knew – from his own experience – that one man’s medicine is another’s poison.

 “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.” – C. G. Jung

#3) Archetypes

Jung also saw that the unconscious sometimes conveys information beyond the personal. He saw that the dreams of his patients sometimes echoed mythological motifs from far-flung foreign cultures. He saw the action of peoples’ lives following forms depicted in Greek tragedy. He discovered ancient, even timeless, pathways that energy flowed into: toward some things and away from others, attracted to some things, repulsed by others. This level of the psyche is beyond the personal and Jung called it the collective unconscious.

“I thought of Jung as a noetic archeologist, [he] provided maps of the unconscious.” – Terence McKenna

The collective unconscious shows us eternal, dynamic qualities in our nature: they are alive and timeless. One of these archetypes is our inner opposite sex figure and soul guide–what Jung called the Anima or Animus. We encounter it both in our dreams and when just the right person walks up to us and we fall in love at first sight. Even though we experience this figure through others, but it is ultimately up to us to integrate it for ourselves.

Once we’ve learned to recognize these archetypes, we see them throughout classic literature and film and even in modern sitcoms. However, we may not really discover them for ourselves until we’ve been battered and bruised and are wondering how we got into this mess (again). Usually we need a little help to gain sight of these figures in our own lives.

“You don’t see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it.” – Robert Stetson Shaw

#4) Synchronicity

Jung’s psychology is only really understood when it is a lived experience, and nothing exemplifies this more than the mystery of synchronicity. Jung coined the term synchronicity to refer to extraordinary moments when outer happenings reflect inner states. What we see in such a coincidence of events is a meaningful interplay alive in our reality. The notion that there’s a deeper principle actually operating in the world can be frightening to people from a culture that believes that it’s the only conscious force in the universe. Yet at the same time, discovering that there’s more going on can be experienced as a profound relief. In order to get through our resistance to such experiences, it helps to hear others’ stories and share our own (and you can do so here). Incorporating the meaning of these experiences for ourselves requires something authentic from us – a real inner change, the genuine achievement of a new attitude.

It is addressing life in the present that cleanses and heals a festering wound.  Jung never tired of saying this.  After the past is explored, additional inquiry into yesterday does not lead to further healing.  A change of attitude into the present does, and this change of attitude is exactly the business of a synchronicity.” – J. Gary Sparks, At The Heart of Matter

#5) Our Inner Life is Real

Tending to the unconscious, to dreams and to the inner voice are the acts that define Jungian psychology, but it’s not just the act that’s definitive, it’s the attitude. Jungian psychology recognizes that we’re more than just our ego and that there is more to the psyche than just the conscious mind. With this in mind, engagement with the inner voice is pursued not as a form of inner housekeeping, but rather in the humble service of the development of a relationship with an intelligence present within us but greater than our own. Committing to that service means relating more deeply to our inner nature; its only end-goal is the whole-bodied, whole-hearted, full blossoming of who we really are.

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 Synchronicity means Seeing A Heart-Shaped World

“Where love rules there is no will to power.”– C. G. Jung

You notice a funny thing when you look at the evidence for the extension of consciousness–the mind operating beyond the body: the presence of feeling.   Throughout the results of scientific experiments with people and animals looking at telepathy or other similar phenomenon, emotion is a discernible quality.

The Evidence highlights Emotion

Biologist Rupert Sheldrake (who loves designing scientific experiments to challenge the skeptical prejudices of his colleagues) has shown: that some dogs do know when their owners are coming home and demonstrate it on video; that people can feel when being stared at 60% of the time (watch the discussion with Morgan Freeman here); that telephone telepathy, knowing who’s calling, happens more often with people we’re emotionally close to (here); that family members demonstrate above average ability at card-guessing with each other, and that twins are best at it–and ironically those who don’t believe it’s possible score below average [here]!

Throughout each of these, emotion plays a role: dogs are emotionally connected to their owners and excited for their return, we feel creeped out by being stared at, and people that are close emotionally are far more likely to have an experience of consciousness as a shared field.

Feelings in Synchronicity

Both Sheldrake and the pioneering Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung noticed the statistical reality of ‘beginner’s luck’ and that with the loss of emotion came a change of luck: “a certain affective condition seems to be indispensable.” And as with beginner’s luck, feeling (whether it is conscious or unconscious) also seems to be an indispensable condition for synchronicity. Synchronicities are moments where outer events and inner states come together in meaningful parallels that are too explicit to explain away: we were just talking about someone and they call us; we break up with someone and we run into them all over town; we feel it in our heart when someone we love needs us, or is in danger; and visions of a relative who just has passed away are surprisingly common. So often at the center of those experiences is a big wad of authentic bodily–experienced feelings: love, hate, care, yearning, longing, wanting, wanting to protect. Our heartstrings seem to be the pathways that draw these experiences into our lives.

How can we understand the presence of emotion in the mystery of the extension of consciousness? To do so means radically reconsidering the way we understand our world; it might mean having to give up what you think you know. Our culture teaches us to pride ourselves on always having the right answers and leaves us ill-prepared for handling something that challenges us entirely. But previous cultures were able to consciously recognize this quality of the world and they designed whole systems of living around them.

Ancient Chinese Secret

To the culture in ancient China that produced the I Ching and the philosophy of Taoism, the world was a field in which our sincerity and inner state was tied in with the flow of events in the outer world. Taoism means “the way,” “the way of Nature,” and to this culture, synchronicity was an obviously present reality. They knew for themselves that by reflecting and working with our inner emotional truth, we became better able to move with the Nature’s flow.

“The art of life is more like navigation than warfare, for what is important is to understand the winds, the tides, the currents, the seasons, and the principles of growth and decay, so that one’s actions may use them and not fight them.”

– Alan Watts

Today our culture can consciously recognize this force. But it requires breaking through the overly-Masculine bias in us that has us reflexively seeing the world as a collection of objects, rather than as a “communion of subjects” (Thomas Berry). Synchronicity means that sometimes the world is the subject and we are the object. The Chinese saw this inter-subjectivity as living in Nature and the world as a balance of Yin and Yang, Feminine and Masculine and the metaphor of the sacred marriage is an especially appropriate one for our time. Today our dried-out, over-rational and too-linear Masculine consciousness is being winked at by something mysterious, curving and purposive–a force responding to our feeling connections with each other and breathing new meaning into our leaves. This archetypally Feminine energy is a mystery to us because we’re used to seeing the world through a Masculine lens of over-simplifications:

As a rule the specialist’s is a purely masculine mind, an intellect to which fecundity is an alien and unnatural process; it is therefore an especially ill-adapted tool for giving rebirth to a foreign spirit. But a larger mind bears the stamp of the feminine; it is endowed with a receptive and fruitful womb which can reshape what is strange and give it a familiar form.”

– C. G. Jung, Introduction to The Secret of the Golden Flower

Synchronicity calls us to exercise the “fruitful womb” inside ourselves: to hold such experiences in our mind is one thing, to hold them in our heart is something else. In this way, it falls to us to bring this wedding into being in our time, to birth the new energy, to come to embody the archetypal Feminine in the world and know in our hearts that “where love rules there is no will to power.”

When we come together to explore this new view and the questions that it brings, I invite you to consider that many of the answers may lie somewhere that you don’t expect. It is beautiful and satisfying, and even world-changing, to realize that Nature responds to the feeling connections we make with each other; we are living in a heart-shaped world! However it is something even more to be that heart! Peace.

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What if I told you that something is pulling us toward a more meaningful future? What if I told you that what’s driving us isn’t our past wounds or our family history but something that wants us to become all that we can be? Bigger still, what if I told you that your ego’s story about who you are, should be or should’ve been, is also not what’s driving you? 

The Psyche Is Present and Future-Oriented 

When we watch our dreams closely over a long period of time, we see in the patterns a larger evolution unfolding. As we integrate something the dream world has been trying to tell us (either consciously or unconsciously), time and again, we see a corresponding evolution in the next phase of dreams. Internal evolution into greater forms is what Nature does with us through dreams; we are always being pulled toward a future that’s bigger than we could ever imagine for ourselves. The future wants to make us more whole, to flesh us out on the inside, to bring more of our character to life in the world.

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Carl Jung “Cosmic”

The recognition of this force in us is part of what makes the psychology of Carl Jung different from most other schools. Nearly every other method focuses primarily on listening to the concerns of the ego or the past: only Jung’s approach points us toward an unfolding future goal within us. When we feel connected to the stages of growth in the greater story that’s unfolding, we experience our life as meaningful.

Perhaps the most astonishing way in which this unfolding can come into our lives is through experiences of synchronicity: where events conspire to mirror inner images and meaning breaks through into the outer world.  When this happens, the calling remains the same: to re-examine our attitude to the world in the present; how are you being called to bring more of who you are into the world?

“. . . it is addressing life in the present that cleanses and heals a festering wound.  Jung never tired of saying this.  After the past is explored, additional inquiry into yesterday does not lead to further healing.  A change of attitude into the present does, and this change of attitude is exactly the business of a synchronicity.”

– J. Gary Sparks, At The Heart of Matter

Don’t Let Ego Get In The Way

One of the ways that we most commonly miss connecting this process is through the ego. Simply by insisting that our own story is the only true one, we can repeatedly avoid seeing the evidence to the contrary. The ego wants to maintain its view of the world and hold onto its comfortable attitudes, and in doing so it blocks us from changing our attitude about the world and we remain stuck. The biblical story of Moses and the Pharaoh exemplifies such rigid ego insistence. Without connection to Nature’s deeper voice in us, we grow too big for our britches. “Without that communication, the ego tries to set up its own kingdom.” – Marion Woodman

We can express this ego inflation in positive or negative ways. Positively, we can color experiences through the lens of what we want to be true, imagining that the world is giving us what we want (when something deeper is often afoot, synchronicities are not always a blessing [article link]). Negatively, we can insist on our ‘bummer’ story and ‘know’ that we’ll never get what we want.

The courageous act is one that places the ego’s attitude at risk. In challenging, not just how we think about the world, but how we feel about it, we come to discover the truth that we’re really living thought. In letting go of the old attitude, we can choose to listen for the larger voice in us. Instead of seeking to successfully solve symbolic puzzles, the goal then becomes one of the heart: successfully living a new attitude. Rising to meet this challenge asks more from us than just rational analysis, we are required to participate with the whole of who we are. In this way, we can understand what Jung meant when he said that “we don’t solve our problems, we outgrow them.” And is this also not the call of the mystic’s path?

Plugged Into The Big Questions

We can interpret the fact of synchronicity into spiritual or religious forms and call it Grace or something else, but we can’t shut the door on our knowledge–today we know that this force exists, it is a fact of Nature and we can’t pretend it away. Clearly, it’s the same force that the ancient Chinese writers of the Tao and the I Ching were observing, wrestling with and relating to. Objectively something exists in the world that wants us to grow into greater forms–what would you call that?

(Be careful not to put it into a too small a box with your answers, there’s good reason to suppose that such a force might be bigger than our power to ever comprehend it).

The much more important question however is can you plug yourself into that fact (without inflating up and thinking you own it)? There’s a joy in making that connection, when you can. 

Participating consciously with reality of the mystery of dreams and synchronicity means no longer settling for comfortable over-simplifications. They call us to full-bodied and whole-hearted participation and no other substitute will suffice.  You will be challenged to face your blocks to getting the most out of life and to construct an attitude of genuine, dynamic connection to the source. Here’s a hint: the path is within you.

We’ll be exploring the mystery of synchronicity and the evidence for the extension of consciousness in the work of Rupert Sheldrake online this fall – come join us!

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