A Lab for Personal Growth and Individuation
Context - The World of Symbols and Individuation
The basic question would be - why a lab using symbols? Why not a straight personal growth lab?
Before we get there, let us first look at the word symbols and their connections with us human beings, then look at the idea of individuation and → THEN come to this basic question...
All of human existence is surrounded by symbols. Symbols speak to us from everywhere – from nature, through dreams, through stories, fairy tales and fantasies, advertisements, films…the list could go on and on.
Symbols, metaphors, similes and the like are intertwined and interwoven with the voices of human processes. Be they processes originating in roles, in one's concept of one self, the in body, or from one’s spiritual or cosmic identity, or the identity of human collectives – symbols readily provide a way of articulating that which is unarticulated and making the invisible visible. As Carl Jung, the acknowledged architect of Analytical Psychology, puts it - "an examination of Man and his Symbols is in effect an examination of man's relation to his own unconscious".
A few axioms about the world and language of symbols can be offered as follows -
Symbols shape the "real world" lives we had - The language of symbols is at the origin of all languages, including those that we use to define great principles that govern the day-to-day world. In other words, mathematics, alphabets, signs, figures and letters – in short, everything that enables us to name and classify living creatures and inanimate objects, to organize the “real world” according to our concept of it – are based on the language of symbols. However, the uniqueness of this language is that it lies deep within our identities – both individual and collective – and is so deeply rooted in the “memory of these identities” that we all speak this language without often even realizing it.
Symbols are living and dynamic - The language of symbols is also the language of life in all its forms. It is the language that is used each night by men and women in their dreams, and it is also used by anything that dreams, breathes, hopes, loves and struggles – in other words, lives – here on earth in human form. It is a receptive and living language, which is continuously incorporating thoughts, ideas, new concepts and new forms of life, which is sufficiently flexible to stretch into the past and towards the future, and sufficiently malleable to assume all the appearances of visible and invisible, real and imaginary life.
"Symbols R Us" - Beneath the tip of iceberg that is the face we present to the world and to ourselves, is a vast entity that is us and is ours. Psychologists have termed this the "unconscious" - whether personal or collective. The belief of the institution of the Symbols Lab is that this unconscious and non-manifested entity holds significant resources for our unfolding and growth.
Let us now look at individuation …
Jungian psychology speaks of individuation as a process of psychological integration, having for its goal the development of the individual personality. Behind this is the observation that in the process of living their lives, human beings seem to become “dividuals” – their essential nature gets divided, fragmented and scattered. By beginning and fostering a process of re-integration of the fragmented and scattered parts, human beings can claim more of themselves and thus enhance their capability to live their lives with a sense of wholesomeness, conviction, and dignity.
One of the deeply self reflexive ways of doing this is to work consciously with symbols that invite themselves to our life spaces. Thus, by consciously working with symbols (a.k.a Symbols Work), we can open the door to the following steps in our search for exploring our identity, personal growth, and individuation.
- Articulating the unarticulated
- Seeing the invisible
- Owning the disowned
- Acting the withheld
- Embodying our spirit
Offerings of the Symbols Lab
- The Symbols Lab offers a setting for people to explore their selves through the medium of symbols.
- The Symbols Lab is intended to cut through the hegemony of every-day language and have the potential to help a person communicate with themselves and express themselves in a way that "cloaks to suggest" rather than "cloak to hide".
- The Symbols Lab is designed to help participants make conscious their personal unconscious processes and to simultaneously help them acquire awareness of larger life forces operating around us in the form of universal (or collective) unconscious processes.
Through the above intention, design and offering, the Symbols Lab is ultimately designed to be a setting to experience and explore the symbols that each one of us has been born with, has grown with and seem to be living with. It is also simultaneously a setting to explore symbols that we have either not chanced to encounter or not chosen to encounter in our life and living spaces. This experiencing and exploration would be with a view to encounter the "energy of life" that is present in various symbols and configurations of symbols, with a further view to enable a greater owning up of oneself and generate new action for living.
How will the offering of this Lab take shape?
Over the period of the lab, the participants and the group would, through a series of semi structured experiences (using resources such as the Tarot, I'Ching, Dream Amplification, Active Imagination, Mandala work, and Mythology), experience some/all of the following –
- The nature of their personal relatedness and expression and the nature of the inhibitions and doubt associated with their being, as well as the founts of their evocation.
- Deep awareness of their personal shadow (the fragmented and unintegrated aspects of their “selves”), the route to assimilation the shadow, also of their masculine / feminine identities (animus and anima, as Jung puts it), and choices to be currently made in the process of their personal growth and individuation. In other words, the participants would involve themselves in identifying their individual directions and their "first steps" to a sense of wholesomeness, aliveness, dynamism and vibrancy of their Being -> this awareness will involve dream amplification work integrated with Tarot work -> an extremely potent combination of deep symbolic work.
- Identification, choice and amplification of their own personal symbols of transformation - through processes typically involving creative visualization, work with Mandalas and the concept of "universal shapes", the participants would create their own personal symbols that would be their psychic guides and meditative reference points to guide and inform their growth as they take their next life steps. Through this process, the participants would also learn what it means to and how to visualize their personal transformative symbols from time to time.
Beyond the lab, a virtual space would also be kept alive (through a blog / social network) to help the participants continue to explore their worlds of symbols in the company of kindred souls.
In all these above experiences, symbol work would tend to lead to invited explorations of probabilities. Participants would tend not have overt control over the symbols that they work in this lab with. For e.g., much as one has no overt control over the dreams their psyche throws up, they are not likely to have overt control over the tarot cards they choose for their explorations. Thus, the element of faith in covert processes of the psyche would be a significant ingredient in the vibrancy of the lab, and this would be invited in the participants.
This program is for personal growth. It invites people who are willing to engage in deep exploration of the way they live and for those that seek to generate new modes of being and becoming in their life spaces.
Prior exposure to or familiarity with Symbols work
It is NOT required for a prospective participant to be previously acquainted or familiar with symbols work.
There are no specific eligibility criteria for entry to this lab. It is open to all adults who find an inner response to the statement above under the title "For Whom". It must be noted that this lab is likely to have a diverse set of participants - with some who may have had previous personal growth lab experiences and some who may not have. It is the belief of the directors of the lab that this diversity has potential to be a significant infrastructure to the explorations of the participants.
Note for Sumedhas Interns in Process Work
Sumedhas interns who attend the Symbols Lab will have two opportunities simultaneously. First, they would have the opportunity to continue their initiated work with themselves, and explore more of their processes and unfolding. Second, they would have an opportunity to simultaneously learn the assumptions, axioms and approaches underlying symbols-work and the way this work can be taken forward by them in the larger canvas of process-work.