At the Close

Close calls and setting captives free

How to claim the lessons of the past year? The images that have been challenging me these days point to the themes which held sway in this life throughout the year: the looming reality of “almost getting hooked” and the unexpected “release of captives.”

Brushes with death, if they do not petrify, can open us to recognize the proximity of death.  Life and death are intimately entwined regardless of our collective attempts to deny death its due.  In September, a blown engine upon take off made the prospect of a plane crash into the heart of Brazil an experience which walking away from left me shaken to the core.

Can it be but a perilous journey to the hidden castle?  And is it necessarily malicious intention behind the various contraptions the wounded king springs into our path? I’m ever aware that the emergence of defenses often relies not on any conscious decision, but instead upon an instinctual origin. And to what end?

The ghosts of our past often get locked away deep in the caverns of our being. And along with the repressed we can anticipate finding an even greater collection of latent realities carried from the furthest reaches of our ancestral inheritance.  A stiffening of attitudes, even those taken in the name of health, traps these energies, which then must wait for a redeemer to release them from their hell.

Jung relates a fascinating tale in Memories, Dreams and Reflections of his house filling with spirits at the pitch of the creative fever when he wrote his Seven Sermons of the Dead.

Around five o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday the front doorbell began ringing frantically…but there was no one in sight. I was sitting near the doorbell, and not only heard it but saw it moving. We all simply stared at one another. The atmosphere was thick, believe me! Then I knew that something had to happen. The whole house was filled as if there were a crowd present, crammed full of spirits. They were packed deep right up to the door, and the air was so thick it was scarcely possible to breathe. As for myself, I was all a-quiver with the question: “For God’s sake, what in the world is this?” Then they cried out in chorus, “We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought.” That is the beginning of the Septem Sermones. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 190-1)

Can we acknowledge the hostages we hold captive?  Can we honor that setting the captives free is an important threshold experience in the process of individuation?  As Jung notes, “From that time on, the dead have become ever more distinct for me as the voices of the unanswered, unresolved and unredeemed.” (The Red Book, p.346, n.78)

Author: Richard Reeve

I'm the Senior Director of Development at Panthera, a global conservation organization committed to stemming the population decline of cats in the wild. I enjoy rural living with my wife Judith and our two children in the Catskill Mountains of New York.