Saturday, 28 November 2009

Thow away Jung!

"When you observe the fact without knowledge, then you can learn...

So I have to throw away not only Freud and Jung, but also the knowledge which I have acquired about myself yesterday."

J. Krishnamurti in "Meeting Life" Page 57

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Meaning of Self-knowledge

Notes and quotes from the final chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self" The meaning of Self-knowledge.

The unconscious is not inferior and merely negative. It contains potentialities of great dynamism. Whether these potentialities if realised tend towards construction or catastrophe depends upon the attributes of the conscious mind.

The spiritual transformation of mankind cannot be hurried or held up. It will not come to fruition in a single generation. Individuals who have been transformed will influence others. Not by persuading or preaching but by the "fact that anyone who has insight into his own actions, and has thus found access to the unconscious, involuntarily exercises an influence on his environment." (page 76)

The unconscious "compensates the attitude of the conscious mind and anticipates changes to come." (page 77)

"All our social goals commit the error of overlooking the psychology of the person for whom they are intended and - very often - of promoting only his illusions." (page 79)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Notes and quotes from Chapter 6 of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self" Self-knowledge

The unconscious is our only accessible source of religious experience.The 'God' experienced is an "anthropomorphic idea whose dynamism and symbolism are filtered through the medium of the unconscious psyche." It is doubtful that this is the same God spoken of in metaphysics and theology.

"The unconscious, if not regarded outright as a sort of refuse bin underneath the conscious mind is at any rate supposed to be of "merely animal nature." In reality, however, and by definition it is of uncertain extent and constitution, so that overvaluation or undervaluation of it is groundless and can be dismissed as mere prejudice." (page 64)

"Self-knowledge, as well as being highly unpopular, seems to be an unpleasantly idealistic goal, reeks of morality, and is preoccupied with the psychological shadow, which is normally denied whenever possible or at least not spoken of." (page 66)

"Nature, as we know, is not so lavish with her boons that she joins to a high intelligence the gifts of the heart also. As a rule, where one is present the other is lacking and where one capacity is present in perfection it is generally at the cost of all the others." (page 66)

Man is capable of terrible acts but we do not see the evil in ourselves, it's always other people that do these things. Each of us has a share of human nature and therefore has the capacity and inclination to do evil things. Our human nature means that we are always potential criminals. Projection of evil onto another strengthens the other because the fear we feel for our own evil is also projected. What we call evil is lodged in human nature as the equal and opposite to 'good'. Denial of evil in ourselves leads to further unconscious dissociation in man.

The unconscious communicates with us through spontaneous ideas, intuition and hunches.

"fear of the evil which one does not see in one's own bosom but always in somebody else's checks reason every time." (page 71)

The individual is a constituent part of society and organisations which are the sum of their parts. They too always see the evil in the opposite group.

Attempts are made to level out social contrasts by applying idealism and ignoring the individual and group shadow. To be ideal is impossible - it goes beyond human capacity. We need to acknowledge imperfection in our human relationships to create real cohesion and a strong society.

"Insight that dawns slowly seems to me to have more lasting effects than a fitful idealism, which is unlikely to hold out for long." (page 74)

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Philosophical and Psychological Approach to Life

More notes and quotes from Jung's "The Undiscovered Self". Chapter 5 The Philosophical and Psychological Approach to Life.

Our ideas/philosophy of life only change when conditions are radically altered. New ideas cannot simply be dictated by the external situation they must also take into account man's biological needs and his inner situation.

Most of the religions express a world view appropriate to the Middle Ages and take no account of the mental developments since then. As a result there is a gulf between faith and knowledge - a symptom of split consciousness. As the individual so the society of which he is a member.

The legacy of the Christian epoch is the "supremacy of the word".

"People think you only have to "tell" a person that he "ought" to do something in order to put him on the right track. But whether he can or will do is another matter. The psychologist has come to see that nothing is achieved by telling, persuading, admonishing, giving good advice." (page 55)

Preservation of the species and preservation of the self are two fundamental instincts which often come into conflict. According to Jung it is probable that all man's psychic functions have an instinctual foundation. It is the learning capacity of man that causes modifications to instinct. Jung proposes that learning capacity is based on an instinct for imitation the nature of which is to disturb other instinctive activities and modify them. The learning capacity takes man away from his instinctual foundation. He then identifies with his conscious knowledge of himself resulting in disturbances and difficulties.

Separation creates conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith.

"There is an unconscious as a counterbalance to consciousness." (page 59)

"Conscious deliberations, uncontrolled by any inner opponent, can be indulged in all too easily." (page 60)

"The religious person, so far as one can judge, stands directly under the influence of the reaction from the unconscious. As a rule, he calls this the operation of conscience. But since the same psychic background produces reactions other than moral ones, the believer is measuring his conscience by the traditional ethical standard and thus by a collective value." (page 62)

"Here we must ask: Have I any religious experience and immediate relation to God, and hence that certainty which will keep me, as an individual, from dissolving in the crowd?" (page 62)


Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Individual's Understanding of Himself

Notes on and great quotes from the fourth chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self".

"Man is an enigma to himself" (page 31) Since he lacks criteria for self-judgement the psyche remains one of Nature's secrets. While the psyche can be disturbed by processes in the brain it is not a secondary function dependent only on biochemical process. It has a non-reduceable nature and holds within itself the phenomenon of consciousness.

"Consciousness is a precondition of being."

The individual is a manifestation of the psyche and is an exception to the statistical rule. Both science and Church regard individuality as egotistic obstinacy. This is ironic since the core symbol of Christianity is the individual way of life of a man (the Son of Man) which is regarded as the "incarnation and revelation of God himself".

Instincts, the foundations of the psyche, are found in the unconscious. They are ineradicable and their numinous quality arouses fear and impedes self-knowledge. Talking about the medical psychologist Jung says: "At first he will apply principles based on general experience, but he will soon realize that principles of this kind do not adequately express the facts and fail to meet the nature of the case. The deeper his understanding penetrates, the more the general principles lose their meaning." (page 36) Seems to reflect my experience with yoga teaching too!

"there is the natural cowardice of most men to be reckoned with, not to mention morality, good taste and - last but not least - the penal code. This fear is nothing compared with the enormous effort it usually costs people to help the first stirrings of individuality into consciousness, let alone put them into effect." (page 38 - 39)

" Let [society] band together into groups and organizations as much as it likes - it is just this banding together and the resultant extinction of the individual personality that makes it succumb so readily to a dictator." (page 39)

Jung examines the Churches wish to use mass action in spite of their care being the salvation of the individual soul disregarding the axiom that "the individual becomes morally and spiritually inferior in the mass". (page 40)

"If the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption." (page 40)

"The inner man remains unchanged however much community he has. His environment cannot give him as a gift that which he can win for himself as a gift that which can win for himself only with effort and suffering." (page 41)

In a favourable environment there is a tendency to expect everything to originate from outside - effortlessly. In a mass-movement there is security, no need to think, to make decisions, to take responsibility. This easily can lead to tyranny and spiritual and physical slavery of the individual. Even if an institution still takes some account of the individual it may be compelled to adopt immoral and ruthless behaviour if it comes into conflict with the organized State.

"Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself." The dissociated individual needs a directing and ordering principle. Ego-consciousness is unable to take on this role while it is unaware of unconscious factors.

"The religious impulse rests on an instinctive basis and is therefore a specifically human function. You can take away a man's gods, but only to give him others in return." (page 46)

Instinct is specific and irreducible, it is older than the body's form. Our conscious activity is rooted in instinct. This is suited to an archaic mode of life but not the the present. Remolding of such primordial patterns of ideas is required to meet the challenge of the present.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Position of the West on the Question of Religion

Notes on the third chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self" which was first published in 1957. Jung was writing at the time of the rise of the communists states and the iron curtain. In this chapter Jung is writing specifically about the response of the West to socialist dictatorships but what he has to say is equally explicable to current world events.

Regarding dictator states "only one possibility remains, and that is a breakdown of power from within, which must, however, be left to follow its own inner development. Any support from outside at present would have little effect, in view of the existing security measures and the danger of nationalistic reactions." (page 24)

"We know that even the biggest guns and the heaviest industry with its relatively high living standard are not enough to check the psychic infection spread by religious fanaticism. The West has unfortunately not yet awakened to the fact that our appeal to idealism and reason and other desirable virtues, delivered with so much enthusiasm, is mere sound and fury. It is a puff of wind swept away in the storm of religious faith, however twisted this faith may appear to us. We are faced, not with a situation that can be overcome by rational or moral arguments, but with an unleashing of emotional forces and ideas engendered by the spirit of the times, and these, as we know from experience, are not much influenced by rational reflection and still less by moral exhortation." (page 25)

According to Jung the antidote to emotional forces is a potent faith of a different and non materialistic kind. Such a faith does not exist in the West. The problem with the Churches is that the creeds are today based more on belief than inner experience. When belief collides with knowledge it it no match for it. Jung argues for a symbolic interpretation of Christian mythology. If the creeds are interpreted symbolically rather than literally then there is no conflict with knowledge.

As I read this chapter I was reminded of an incident in the life of Gandhi which seems to illustrate how a potent faith can stand against emotional forces. At the time of partition in the Indian subcontinent there was much sectarian blood letting. Gandhi went to stay in the Muslim quarter in Calcutta. When a Hindu mob demanded that he leave Gandhi refused saying that they could kill him if they wished but that he would not leave while one Muslim remained afraid. The mob dispersed and the killing in Calcutta ceased.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Knees again

My knees have been giving me a bit of bother on and off throughout the last year. At a yoga day just over a week ago I aggravated the left knee by going into maricyasana from a sort of half squat (didn't do the pose that way on the right!). I decided to take a rest from postures that involve flexing the knee combined with external rotation as that causes me pain. It seems that fate had other ideas. Last week some electric sliding doors tried to kill me. My left hand and arm were struck as the doors suddenly closed. I was spun around and then the door caught me on the right side of my forehead. So now it seemed weight bearing on head and hands were out too. The list of postures available for practice was rapidly diminishing. A little voice in my head suggested that this might be a good opportunity to explore (or continue to explore) the relationship between the foot, ankle, knee and hip.

Over the years I have heard many yoga teachers advise students experiencing inner knee pain to put something like a folded sock or a small sponge behind the knee as you flex it to "keep the joint open" whatever that means. This doesn't help me and I feel that it isn't really addressing the problem - just trying to get around it. Another option sometimes adopted is to not do the movement at all. That would avoid the pain but not help the body to wholeness. Wouldn't it be better to find a more intelligent way of working so that you don't need to resort to tricks or avoidance? After all I want my practice to inform my daily life. So using pain as a feedback mechanism I continue my exploration. I have had glimpses of understanding. To summarise - the ankle, knee and hip work as a team. There is a relationship between them that must be respected. When I respect relationship I can flex and rotate in a pain free way (and it's OK that the knee is not on the floor!) when I don't, when ambition takes over then there is pain.

I remembered a poem that I read years ago. It was by Swami Sivananda and was about pain being a great teacher. I couldn't find the poem but here are a few quotes from Sivananda on the subject:

Pain is an eye-opener

Pain is thy silent teacher

There is no teacher like pain

Monday, 16 November 2009

Religion as the counterbalance to mass-mindedness

Here is my summary of the second chapter of Jung's "The Undiscovered Self"

It is in the state's (i.e. those who manipulate the state) self-interest to remove the individual's dependence on anything but the state e.g. religion. But religion is more about the individual's psychic attitude and not directly social and physical conditions. Religions give a reference point outside of social and physical conditions which enables the individual to exercise their judgement.

Jung differentiates between religion and creed, defining religion as the relationship of an individual to God and a creed as a confession of faith in a collective belief. Creeds have codified their views, customs and beliefs and externalised themselves to such an extent that the external point of reference has become of minor importance.

"It is not ethical principles, however lofty, or creeds, however orthodox, that lay the foundations for the freedom and autonomy of the individual, but simply and solely the empirical awareness, the incontrovertible experience of an intensely personal, reciprocal relationship between man and an extramundane authority which acts as a counterpoise to the "world" and its "reason"." (page 15)

Man, as a social being, cannot live without ties to society but the individual needs an extramundane principle to relativise the influence of external factors. Where the State has taken the place of God doubts arise which the individual represses so as to avoid conflict with the majority resulting in overcompensation and fanaticism. The purpose of religion is to maintain psychic balance. Ritual and magic have an important psychological effect. The State as God doesn't give the individual protection against his inner demons and hence "he will cling all the more to the power of the State, i.e., to the mass, this delivering himself up to is psychically as well as morally and putting the finishing touch to his social depotentiation."

Real and fundamental change can only come from personal encounters which touch the inner man.


It's wyrd how everything I read or hear at the moment seems to be about self-knowledge! Yesterday I picked up Awareness Through Movement by Moshe Feldenkrais and started to read the preface. The opening words, which I have chosen for today's Little Pearl, are "We act in accordance with our self-image. This self-image - which in turn, governs our every act - is conditioned in varying degree by three factors: heritage, education, and self-education."

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The plight of the individual in society

The only Jung that I have read previously are his "Seven Sermons to the Dead" in "The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead" by Stephan Hoeller. Recently in a bookshop my eyes were drawn to his "The Undiscovered Self" a small book that looked eminently readable. I have now gotten around to reading it and here is my summary of what Jung has to say on "The plight of the individual in society" (chapter1).

The individual is at risk of psychic infection as a result of limited self-knowledge and subject to levelling down as a result of scientific rationalism.

Psychic Infection
An intelligent, mentally stable stratum of the population stops the spread of extreme ideas. This stratum is dependent upon national temperament and education and is influenced by political and economic factors. But "Rational arguement can be conducted with some prospect of success only so long as the emotionality of a given situation does not exceed a certain critical degree. If the affective temperature rises above this level, the possibility of reason's having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies. That is to say, a sort of collective possession results which rapidly develops into a psychic epidemic." (page 2) This happens because in most of us self-knowledge is limited to knowledge of the ego, that is to knowledge of the conscious. The unconcious is not known. As a result of limited self-knowledge an individual can easily be swayed by fanatic outside influences and what Jung calls psychic infections. In the state of "collective possession" the ideas of fanatics and extreminsts appeal to the collective irrationality. "The mass crushes out the insight and reflection that are still possible with the individual." (page 2)

Levelling Down
Any theory based on experience is statistical and formulates an ideal average which does not necessarily exist. Reality consists of exceptions to the rule. It is the unique which characterises the individual so there can be no statistical based theory to self-knowledge. Understanding an individual requires a free and open mind and putting aside all knowledge of mankind in general, knowledge of which is based on statistics.

"The positive advantages of knowledge, work specifically to the disadvantage of understanding." (page 6)

With a statistical world view everything is levelled to a conceptual average displacing the individual and replacing his moral responsibility with the policy of the state. As a result the individual becomes uncertain of her own judgement and delegates responsibility to the collective.

"The individual is increasingly deprived of the moral decision as to how he should live his own life, and instead is ruled, fed, clothed and educated as a social unit, accommodated in the appropriate housing unit, and amused in accordance with the standards that give pleasure and satisfaction to the masses." (page 8).

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

November 11th

From Poppies
The earth on which we live is our earth - right? It is not the British earth, the French earth, or the German, Russian, Indian, Chinese, it is our earth on which we are all living. That is a fact. But thought has divided it racially, geographically, culturally, economically. That division is causing havoc in the world... It is our earth on which we are all living but we have divided it - for security, for various patriotic, political, illusory reasons, which eventually bring about war.

J. Krishnamurti in "On Nature and the Environment" page 73

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Yoga with Anne Sunday workshop

The last Yoga with Anne Sunday morning workshop for 2009 will be on 29th November. The workshop will be at Poole Yogashala from 10 to 12.30 and the cost is £15. The workshop is restricted to 8 people to allow for a more personalised learning experience. There are still places available. Contact Anne to book your place.

The dates for the first few Sunday morning workshops in 2010 are 10th January, 14th February and 21st March.

Mark's new website

Mark now has his own website. Its domain name is On it you can find information about Mark and his yoga classes in Poole, Dorset plus an article about Yoga and the Martial Arts

It has a similar layout to the Yoga with Anne website. Although I took my website as a starting point the creation of Mark's website was not without its hitches! (read all the gory details) While building the website I've learnt a bit more about handling images efficiently which I will incorporate into my own website.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Recently there has been a significant increase in the cracking of joints in class. I've noticed the same thing in previous years as Autumn takes hold and other teachers that I have spoken to have also heard the same thing! So I thought a little investigation would be in order. Here is more information about three causes of noisy joints which I think of as snap, crackle and pop.

The kneecap (patella) is a lens-shaped bone embedded in the tendon of the quadriceps femoris. On it's underside is a ridge which articulates with the thigh bone (femur). As the knee bends and straightens, the patella slides within a slot on the femur called the trochlear groove. The patella moves in many directions within this groove to provide efficient, frictionless movement up and down, side-to-side, rotational, and tilting.

Structural alignment and muscular weakness or imbalance may cause the patella (kneecap) to track improperly on the femur (thigh bone) during movement, leading to pain around the kneecap. Bending and straightening the knee can realign the kneecap. This may be accompanied by a snapping sound as the kneecap slides back into its groove. For more information about the patellofemoral joint and the structure of the knee visit (This website also has information on the joints of the hip, foot, ankle, hand, shoulder and spine.) You can find strengthening and stretching muscles for the knee at

The crackly noise many of us hear when we move our head is called crepitus. It can occur in any of the synovial joints and is caused by bone rubbing against bone or roughened cartilage when an arthritic joint is moved.  Perhaps it should be called decrepitus!

The is the sound that set me off on my quest to find out why joints seem to be noisier in the autumn. I have spent some considerable time trawling the web without finding the answer. There's a lot out there about cracking your finger joints (not a good idea) and also about why joint pain increases with a drop in air pressure and increase in humidity (there is general agreement that the later really does happen; no 'scientific explanation' as to the cause and differences of opinion as to why it happens. It seems that a change in atmospheric pressure affects the synovial fluid in a joint causing it to expand and press outwards. Where through wear and tear or arthritis there is less or no cartilage to provide cushioning the fluid presses on pressure sensors in the joint which registers as pain) but not about non-deliberate popping.

Based on the little snippets of information I gleaned here and there, putting two and two together and hopefully making four, this is my explanation of what is happening when we hear a popping noise in a joint. When atmospheric pressure drops the pressure within the synovial fluid drops and gases that were in solution in the fluid come out of solution and form a gas bubble. Any sudden increase in pressure e.g. from bending a joint, causes caviation, the collapse of the gas bubble, which is accompanied by the familiar popping sound. The same process happens when someone deliberately cracks their finger joint only there it is the pulling apart of the bones that causes the decrease in pressure and bubble to form. In the same way that you cannot immediately crack your fingers again so it is with your knees and other joints. After caviation has occurred it cannot happen again until another bubble has formed.

How yoga may help
According to ayurveda autumn and early winter is the season of Vata, the quality of air and ether (think of windy autumn days). Dry skin, cracking joints and poor circulation are a result of vata dominance. Just what we experience at this time of year. Yoga has many exercises for the maintenance of healthy joints.

There are the pawanmuktasana series of exercises from the Bihar School of Yoga.
"The word pawan means 'wind' or 'prana'; mukta means 'release' and asana means 'pose'" Swami Satyananda 
So literally these are the wind releasing poses. The first past of the pawanmuktasana series are the anti-rheumatic group and are "simple, gentle and comfortable" movements for the joints. The pawanmuktasana series are described in Asana, Pranayama, Mudra and Bandha by Swami Satyananda.

From the Himalayan Institute come the Joints and Glands exercises of Swami Rama. These exercises, outlined in Swami Rama's book Exercises for Joints and Glands: Gentle Movements to Enhance Your Wellbeing,  systematically go through the body from top to toe exercising and massaging almost all of the joints and glands.

Regular performance of such exercises may help delay the onset or slow the progression of degenerative conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism or stiffness and help counter muscular imbalances which lead to improper patella tracking (the snap and the crackle) but I can't see that they will override the laws of physics so I guess we will still experience the 'popping' in the joints when the barometer falls.

... and Clunk
For some of us certain movements always cause a clunking sound. This is caused by tendon friction rub. The sound is caused by a tendon or other fascia rubbing against bone. The sound has been described as two pieces of leather being rubbed together. Lying on your back on the floor and making a circle with one leg results in a clunking sound in most people. It happens when the iliotibial band, tensor fascia lata, or gluteus medius tendon slides over the greater trochanter or less commonly when the iliopsoas tendon catches on the anterior inferior iliac spine, the lesser trochanter, or the iliopectineal ridge during hip extension. Causes include leg length difference (usually the long side is symptomatic), tightness in the iliotibial band on the involved side, weakness in hip abductors and external rotators, poor lumbopelvic stability and abnormal foot mechanics (Overpronation). Yoga poses which stretch the tight muscles will help.