So, what else???

I haven’t really blogged too much about the settling in this side in Seattle…

It has been busy buying a new house, moving in, settling in to work and putting the finishing touches on the book. I have finished the index and sent in the final proofs on the book. I have seen the draft of the cover, which is a stethoscope that forms the outline of a human head, a nice representation of having to look past the technology to the person. I am not sure how long this next process will take, but I believe the next step is publication!

I have been doing a little painting. I have large, well-lit work space in the basement and the above photo is a detail of the first painting.

I have been learning about the national VA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, and I am going to a training put on by the office next month in Atlanta. There is a lot of overlap with my book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. There are potentially some great opportunities on the horizon!

As soon as I know more about when the book will be coming out, I will definitely post it here.

I have also been working on a draft of what could be an interesting book. I’ll be running a pilot of a class for Veterans using Joseph Campbell’s framework of the Hero’s Journey next month. I have been writing a draft of an outline for each session with various myths, movies, stories, and ideas. I’m really enthusiastic about it as it is bringing a lot of things together in a format that is different from a traditional therapy group.

That’s all for now…in honor of the blog earlier today on the review of the union of inner/outer wilderness, here is a photo of me and a tree…(the tangled branches represent my tangled thoughts, and the teleology of branches represent my seeking the truth, which appears to be mostly off to one side of my head).

Oh, yes! I also saw Rebecca Solnit speak a couple weeks ago. I should really do a blog on that soon…


Union of Inner and Outer Wilderness, Review of A Testament to the Wilderness: Ten Essays on an Address by C.A. Meier


This book is a collection of essays in honor of psychologist, C.A. Meier, and it includes Meier’s 1983 address to the Third World Wilderness Congress in Inverness, Scotland, entitled, “Wilderness and the Search for the Soul of Modern Man.” It is a nice, diverse overview of different perspectives on inner wilderness of Jungian depth psychology and its relation to outer wilderness of nature. It includes an essay on a Taoist parable of how imposing order on chaos and nature can lead to its death (“The Arts of Mr. Hun Tun,” by Mokusen Miyuki); two wonderful essays by South African soldier and writer Laurens van der Post (“Wilderness: A Way of Truth,” and “Appointment with a Rhinoceros”); various essays examining personal nature narratives and explorations of indigenous peoples’ relationships with nature; and an interesting ending of a poetic mélange called, “Nature Aphoristic (with an excerpt from Goethe), by artist and publisher, Sam Francis.

The foreword of the book is by Robert Hinton, also a psychotherapist as well as the editor and publisher of Daimon Press in Zurich, which is the publisher of the book. Hinton sets the tone for the book, reminding us of “the potential meaning – of crisis, both within and without: it can be tragic; and at the same time, it provides us with the possibility of renewal,” (xii). He invites us, if we are “willing and able to be open to it…it is often just the un-known, the un-planned, the un-expected, the un-familiar which can best teach us,” (xii).

Meier’s essay is based on the correspondence of the inner unconscious and the outer natural world and that disturbance of one, or over-emphasis of one, causes disturbances of the other. “Man is estranged from his soul, therefore from his own inner nature, by being lost in the outer world. Excessive interference with outer nature creates of necessity disorder of the inner nature, for the two are intimately connected,” (2). He draws on the writings of the Neo-Platonists, citing Poseidonius’ statement on “sympatheia ton holon [sympathy of all things],” and Porpyrius’ comment that “the soul, when it encounters the visible, recognizes itself there as it carries everything within itself and the all of things is nothing else than soul,” (3-4). He, is critical of an over-valuation of the scientific perspective on life, stating that we “try to learn more and more about those objects [of nature] and begin to analyze and dissect them, thereby eventually killing them…In other words, as the natural sciences developed, respect for nature as a whole disappeared,” (6). Meier argues that we must attend carefully and thoughtfully to “wilderness without – wilderness within,” and that if we ignore our inner wilderness, we will project these disowned dangers into the outside world and work out our inner conflicts through our relationship with the environment.

Miyuki’s discussion of Chuang Tzu’s Mr. Hun Tun or Chaos critiques the concept of the “machine heart,” and calls for balancing the yang control function of machines with the yin harmony function of the feminine. “If we are not to destroy ourselves as a result of the inhuman operation of the technocratic machine, we must cultivate the feminine functioning of the ego so as to let the Tao, or Self, take its course,” (34).

Laurens van der Post, in his essay, “Wilderness – A Way of Truth,” recalls a conversation he had with Jung in which he said that “the truth needs scientific expression; it needs religious expression and artistic expression,” (45). He thus sets up the need for having different, complementary attitudes and perspectives on nature. Van der Post tells a marvelous tale from the South African Bushmen of “The Great White Bird of Truth.” This story recounts how the community’s best hunter one day caught a glimpse in a rippling pool of a beautiful white bird flying in the sky. “From that moment on, he wasn’t the same. He lost all interest in hunting…One day he said to his people, ‘I am sorry; I am going to find this bird whose reflection I saw. I have got to find it,’ and he said good-bye and vanished,” (53). He traveled throughout all of Africa until he was at the end of his strength, as he watched the beautiful African sunset, he thought, “I shall never see this white bird whose reflection is all I know.” And he prepared himself to lie down and die. Then at that moment, a voice inside him said, ‘Look!’ He looked up and, in the dying light of the African sunset, he saw a white feather floating down from the mountain top. He held out his hand and the feather came into it, and grasping the feather, he died,” (54). He interprets this story as the tale of a person who is spiritually aware, is open to perceiving even a reflection of the truth, and is content with just one feather of the truth. This harkens back to the second part of Jung’s comments on the truth needing scientific, religious and artistic expression, “even then…you only express part of it,” (45). Van der Post stresses the ongoing need of adaptation and re-orientation of each generation to the truth of inner and outer.

Van der Post’s second essay, “Appointment with a Rhinoceros,” is well worth the read. Briefly it is his telling of a transformative encounter with nature in his homeland of South Africa after having been away from home for 10 years, including 3 years in a Japanese concentration camp. He says that his loss of connection with his “natural self” and regaining it in a sudden communing with nature, is an “illustration of one of the many paths we can travel in order to rediscover this lost self,” (124-125). It is a really marvelous essay about the healing of war trauma through nature as well as re-establishing the harmony of inner and outer. I plan to discuss this in a book I am currently working on using Joseph Campbell’s framework of the Hero’s Journey in working with veterans.

The book ends with Sam Francis’ aphorisms about nature. I’ll end this review with a few choice quotes from him. “Every detail of life is a perpetual blessing. Artists work to show this to everyone. It is an unremembered act of kindness and love to do this,” (137). “As William Blake said, what can be imagined is true,” (139). “Space and time are relative to matter, not imagination,” (140).

This is a short (142 pages) book that is very readable and presents a nice selection of perspectives on the relationship between inner and outer wilderness. It extends Meier’s work as well as the work of Jung. It is of interest from a psychological as well as an ecological perspective, and has a lot of fascinating narratives of personal growth in it, as well.

Coniunctionis.21: In A Silent Way


Music has been a bridge for me lately, it always is something that I rely on when I am in a big transition or when I have an inner chaos of turmoil. I think that the energy of music has the ability to connect to inner states, to serve as a mirror back that amplifies the inner state until it can be clarified, transformed or resolved in some sense. In this aspect, music is therapeutic. This is nothing new as music has long been associated with healing rites and rituals and as having the ability to bring together body and soul. While the roots of music and healing are in the sacred, we have lost this association in the modern world. For me, there are at least two levels to the transformative nature of music as it creates correspondences between inner and outer. There is the physical aspect of the music itself, and there are also the emotional and spiritual themes of the lyrics which can sometimes make sense of this often mysterious life we live. What I am going to write about in this column is purely instrumental music, Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way.”

In a Silent Way was released July 30, 1969 on Columbia Records. It was recorded in one session date on February 18, 1969 at CBS 30th Street Studio B in New York City. It was the first of Davis’ fusion, electric albums. For me, it combines the best aspects of the classic 1959 album, “Kind of Blue” and the dissonant 1970 album, “Bitches Brew.” In 2001, a three-disc box set was released, “The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions,” and this is what I first started listening to as I entered into a stage of transition moving back from New Zealand to the US. (Details about the album are taken from the Wikipedia entry for the album).

The Complete Sessions are 3.5 hours of music, while there are a few songs that I sometimes skip, in general I find that I can get seriously lost in this album – in a good way – the kind of being lost that is pleasant and soothing, and often I come out of it feeling kind of “found,” or at least more at peace. The original 1969 album consists only of two songs, as it appears on CD, “Shhh/Peaceful” (18:16) and “In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time” (19:52). The LP lists the songs as:


Side one

  1. “Shhh”/”Peaceful” (Miles Davis) – 18:16
    1. “Shhh” – 6:14
    2. “Peaceful” – 5:42
    3. “Shhh” – 6:20

Side two

  1. “In a Silent Way”/”It’s About That Time” (Joe Zawinul, Miles Davis) – 19:52
    1. “In a Silent Way” (Zawinul) – 4:11
    2. “It’s About That Time” (Davis and Zawinul) – 11:27
    3. “In a Silent Way” (Zawinul) – 4:14

What is apparent from looking at the song titles is the way that there is an introduction, an interlude of another song/theme and then a return to the starting point, transformed though after the journey through. As I write this, I do realize that is one of the reasons that I find this album so orienting and soothing for me. There is a lot of wandering, exploring and creating space, and yet there is this continual return. This is even more pronounced in the Complete Sessions which has 78 minutes of different versions of the core songs from the original album. Even in some of the most unstructured explorations, there is often still a simple, repetitive, bass line or a rhythmic click of a drum stick on the rim of the snare that provides an orienting anchor. It is this rhythmic element of the album that made it so conducive to the more modern remixes found on Bill Laswell’s 1998 album, Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis 1969–1974, which is where I first heard these songs, as well as on the 1999 multiple artist Panthalassa: The Remixes.

“In a Silent Way” features many great musicians who went on to have impressive careers themselves:

As I mentioned, I can really get lost in this album, the dissonant elements of the brass, guitar and sometimes electric piano and organ pull me out, like exploring interstellar space, or closer to Earth, like the darting fish of a coral reef. While the bass and drums, and sometimes other instruments, build a solid, repetitive structure, like the hidden pulse of galaxies or the rhythmic waves over a reef. These are the two images that I get when I listen to the music, space and the ocean.

What was interesting, recently, was a conversation that my wife and I had about the album. That is not surprising as I have pretty much left it in the CD player in the car for the past months. That particular day we were juggling a lot of things, working on buying a house being the primary thing, and Mary Pat said “this is the first time I like this album, all the chaotic dissonance is like my own thoughts with all this going on.” I was surprised she found the album primarily dissonant, because I could say it is dissonant just as easily as I could say it has a strong rhythmic foundation; or that is even quite open and simplistic even as it is possible to listen to the silence which structures the notes. It is interesting that we had listened to this album in different ways and even more interesting that she had found the dissonant elements soothing on that particular day, as that is something that I have been thinking about lately, the correspondence of inner and outer states related to music.

In a Silent Way, that is the name of the album. Even the name makes me think about this space between the notes, about what it is that is being communicated silently. This brings to mind what all the mystics end up raving about, the silence, the deep and profound meaning that defies words. For instance, Carlos Castaneda writes of “inner silence…a peculiar state of being in which thoughts were cancelled out and one could function from a level other than that of daily awareness…[and to reach this state practitioners]…devised endless ways to shake themselves…at their foundations in order to reach that state,” (The Active Side of Infinity, 103-104). Paradoxically, to reach this state of quietude may require some form of agitation or surprise, thus we have the surprising dissonant elements of “In a Silent Way,” that are required in order to reach the silence. Juan Mascaro in the introduction to his translation of The Upanishads, writes that the “silent voice of the Eternal is perpetually whispering in us his melodies everlasting,” (12). The way of meditation involves quieting the mind, coming to terms with desires, in order to listen to that silent voice. The way of the shaman, which is the way of many contemporary musicians, is to find the silence through the noise or dissonance, for instance the energized focus that can come after a punk rock concert.

There is something about finding music in the outside, that when it corresponds to the inside, brings about some transformation.

What is it that brings resolution of a state of inner tension? Reaching the inner silence. How is inner silence reached? Not always through a direct quieting of the mind, sometimes it is reached by getting shaken to your foundations. “In a Silent Way” combines a little bit of several paths: the dissonant shaking, the rhythmic repetition and the liberal use of silence. Lately, there is something about all these elements that speak to something within me. I find a sense of calm and purpose in the music, the structured elements help me feel focused, the dissonant elements help me to feel expansive, and the silence – I find myself in the silence, some calm, perhaps even the silent voice of the Eternal.