Sunday, September 1, 2013

An excerpt from The Cycle of Life

From Chapter 3, The Puer and the Puella

Who are they, the young man and the maiden, the puer and the puella?

We easily recognize them in everyday confrontations with moody teenagers, when sexual desire competes with dark rage, the one setting the house on fire, the other breaking up the walls. Alternatively, and even worse, inexplicable withdrawal makes the earth quake in deadening silence.

There is beauty struggling with acne, and tender sensuality trying to contain awkward clumsiness. Eros and desire break through the face of insecure constraint, mercilessly exposing their blushing flare. Hope for the future competes with anxiety of failure and apocalyptic fears.

Thomas Coyle: Youth

Art and poetry, mythology, music and literature, abound with tales and pictures of the pain, suffering and sorrow of young Werthers, of hidden loneliness when the birds sing out of tune in a world without love, of trying to save the child in a world characterized by alienation and wicked adults, of the heights of falling in love, and then, the perhaps inevitable, yet barely possible climb out of the abyss of opaque emptiness.

When young and unfortunate Actaeon, Cadmus’s grandson, steals sight of the beautiful maiden goddess Diana, bathing undressed in the fountain, he becomes understandably speechless. Diana transforms him, as it were, from stag to stag, from having turned up unaccompanied at the party of the naked nymphs, to a stag with “antlers on his wet head.” And as he flees in fear, he wonders, “what to do? go home? to royal palace? hide in woods? shame blocks one, fear the other ...”

How painful is the conflict of youth, to be trapped between shame and fear! Shame blocks the regressive return to the safety of childhood’s royal palace, while slinking into the woods, where secrets of desire and the treasures of passion lie hidden, may be all too frightening. Eventually, however clumsy, the lad will have to overcome his fears and venture into the virgin forest, and the maiden will turn the stones to find and open up the mossy treasure shrine.

Serving as a narrow and dangerous bridge between childhood and the adult world, the puer functions not along the horizontal road of linear development, but attempts, rather, to unite what is above with what dwells below. “The horizontal world, the space-time continuum which we call ‘reality,’ says Hillman, “is not its world.” Furthermore, the puer is “weak on the earth, because it is not at home on earth. Its direction is vertical.” The puer has a “propensity of flying and falling.”

"Life", an original painting by Benjamin Shiff

The Cycle of Life is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Fisher King Press, and other online bookstores.


"Erel Shalit's Guidance Through the Journey of Life"
—Grady Harp (Hall of Fame, Top 50 Reviewer, Vine Voice)
Writing a review of the writings of Erel Shalit is daunting. How can anyone quickly distill the expansive and loving knowledge of this brilliant thinker and writer? The pleasure of reading Shalit's books (eg, ENEMY, CRIPPLE, BEGGAR: SHADOWS IN THE HERO'S PATH) is the absorbing of his manner of drawing us into his thoughts and speculations of Jungian individuation. He is a Jungian psychoanalyst in Israel but lectures throughout the world and the increasing acknowledgement of his many books indicates his level of importance in the community of psychology.

In THE CYCLE OF LIFE Shalit encourages the reader to reflect on all aspects of their time here on the earth, absorbing each of the stages of development of growing, but not dismissing the fountain of growth at the end of life. He early on gently shakes his finger at our contemporary thoughts of wanting to hide age: 'When cosmetics and plastic surgery mold a stiff and unyielding mask of youth, or rather of fictitious youthful appearance, old age cannot wear its true face of wisdom. By flattening our the valleys of our wrinkles, we erase the imprints of our character. Fixation in a narcissistic condition of an outworn mask silences the inner voice of meaning in our life.'

He divides his book into the stages of life and, of course, emphasizes the Jungian exploration of the second half of life (he reminds us that Jung is considered the father of the modern study of adult development). One of the selfless manners in which Shalit writes is his sharing of quotations by other writers - including Shakespeare's excerpt from 'As You Like It' - the 'All the world's a stage/ And all the men and women merely players etc'. He honors the words of colleagues alive and passed on, making sure that we the reader receive an expansive exposure to the interpretations of others.

But where Shalit blooms is in his compassion and this comes forward in the most needed spaces. He closes his book with the following: 'As much as we in old age reflect back upon what has been satisfactory in our lives, we need, as well, to bear our failures and foregone opportunities. Even if we have managed to walk our own individual path, having been fortunate to follow the road less traveled and found our way home to a sense of meaning in our personal quest, we need to carry the unanswered questions and unknown possibilities of the road not taken.' This is the soothing message he offers at the end of his insistence that we examine our lives as a whole. He is brilliant, he is warm, and we are the better for reading him. 

Rosh Hashana 2013
"Required Reading for all Travelers on Life's Journey"
—Dr. Arieh Friedler, Israel Adult Education Association
From the Bible to Shakespeare, to Carl Jung and to Erik Erikson, Erel Shalit's book, THE CYCLE OF LIFE poetically and informatively presents "the themes and tales of the journey". Shalit cites Jung who assured us that the journey entails BOTH the road we take and HOW we take that road, our conscious attitude. Likewise, as one sets out on the book's journey, s/he is aware of Shalit's profound understanding of the cycle of life. His expertise in Jungian psychology coupled with his vast personal experience in treating clients is apparent on nearly every page. It is HOW he presents the journey that makes this book both very enjoyable and very readable. Just as one feels that perhaps s/he is getting a bit lost in the psychological description of one of the stages in the life cycle, Shalit presents the reader with a poignant example from literature, Greek mythology, Eastern Philosophy, or from Jewish philosophy which illustrates and clarifies the issue for the layman.

As one of these laymen who is on the threshold of the last stage in the journey, I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who wants to understand his or her own life as an individual or as part of the universe. The book should be required reading for all those starting out on "the journey", for those who deal with people who are somewhere on the path, and for those of us who are at the last station but who still have the strength and the curiosity to understand how s/he has arrived at this point. All in all THE CYCLE OF LIFE is an outstanding publication by a brilliant writer.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review of Books, reviewer Peter M. Fitzpatrick
"The perspective of life as a cycle lived through its stages enables us to bring the archetypal and the personal dimensions together."
While Sigmund Freud mapped out the psychosexual development of children to puberty through the oral, anal, phallic latency and genital stages, Carl Jung expanded the study of human development through the second half of life. Jung also expanded Freud's somewhat materialistic focus on psychosexuality as the source of the unconscious to include a vaster world of archetypes that emanate from our undifferentiated Selves through symbolic forms. It is the child's slow separation from the Great Mother archetype that allows him to incorporate the powerful unconscious energies of this symbol into a developing ego. The next stage, the "puer," or troubled teenager, carries this process further, adding the "fire" of his or her growing awareness of Eros to the "dismemberment" of the "unconscious" contents of the archetypes so that the ego can use their energies. A successful transition to adulthood entails a completion of the ego's ascendancy. But the ego must learn to surrender its role as "king" once old age begins.

The author engagingly illustrates Jung's conceptions of the power of the archetypal forces that inhabit our unconscious Selves, showing how they are dual, with both grandiose and terrible aspects. In accessible language, he maps out how figures from the Bible, Greek mythology, and fairy tales contain eternal truths on the mythic level where the Self at the core of our being operates. He explicates the dangers of becoming stuck in a particular stage, and cites actual cases of individuals he has helped make the transitions in his clinical practice as Jungian analyst.

Francesco Albani: Diana and Actaeon

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