Katie SanforD, MA, MFC

Jungian Analyst

 

Healing the split between nature and spirit

The Serpent and the Cross

Healing the Split through Active Imagination

 

THE SERPENT AND THE CROSS

Healing the Split Through Active Imagination

Katie’s book, The Serpent and the Cross - Healing the Split Through Active Imagination, published in her 89th year, records 30 years of intense inner work portrayed through 62 archetypal paintings and related dialogue.

The healing transformation of the “mother wound” within the feminine psyche documented in this series of paintings was published with the help of her daughter Lynette Walker, without whose insistence and help this book would never have materialized.  Dean Collins, who passed away before publication, provided the creative vision, technical expertise, and labor of love needed to prepare the paintings for publication.

EXCERPTS FROM THE INTRODUCTION

In my early thirties, I was struck with a debilitating illness for which neither medical science nor years of depth psychology provided an answer.  As a last resort, I went to the Jung Institute in Zürich, hoping to make some meaning of my life before I died.  In the midst of my despair, I had a dream stating that the cause of my illness was that the threshold of my unconscious was exceptionally low.  This dream was most helpful.  I gave up seeking outer solutions and committed myself to exploring the archetypal energies assaulting my psyche.  For me, individuation, the process of bringing the unconscious shadow qualities to consciousness and integrating them into the personality, was a lifesaving necessity.  To be responsible for my own wholeness, I had to integrate my inherent shadow qualities that I had forgotten, repressed, or never known.

Through temperament or circumstances, the struggles faced within the individuation process are uniquely personal.  This rather obvious fact hit me when, after years of analysis striving to plumb the depths of the inner world, I suddenly realized that I did not need to go deeper into the unconscious: I was already there.  My task was to find my way out of the archetypal realm and into the world of outer reality; however, I needed to validate the psyche’s underworld domain in order to launch my journey into the mundane world.  To function in the outer world, I first had to make sense of the somewhat strange inner landscape of my particular psychic orientation.  My experience in this regard has been most valuable as I work with others who find themselves struggling to find the way out of the depths and into life.

The paintings and commentaries I share here are pictorial interactions through which I attempted to relate my fragile ego to the archetypal forces that flooded in on me.  The paintings, with their related dialogues, helped contain the chaotic incursions from the unconscious and provided symbolic images that I could meditate upon and, over time, integrate.

*     *     *

These paintings have helped me pull myself from the grip of an unconscious archetypal identification into life.  As a lifesaving undertaking, these images and related commentaries demonstrate the transformative power of active imagination and illustrate how I experienced this conscious inter-action between ego and archetype within my own individuation process.

The first twenty or so paintings focus primarily on a developing relationship with the animus, the unconscious masculine energies and potentials behind the female personality.  Many of the subsequent symbolic images have to do with the archetype of the Mother, the feminine foundation of a woman’s personality.  I believe the sequence of these paintings supports the notion that developing a more differentiated animus function is the very hub of the feminine individuation process.  The repetitious archetypal themes that appear in my paintings and dialogues are almost inevitable when working through any deep psychic issues.   As Jung reminds us:

“The serious problems of life are never fully solved.  If ever they should appear to be so it is a sure sign that something has been lost.  The meaning and purpose of a problem seems to lie not in its solution but in our working at it incessantly.  This alone preserves us from stultification and petrification.”

JULY 1959

The serpent approaches and is received by the archetypal feminine. The cross within her body bridges the opposites of sun and moon, the masculine and feminine principles. The instinctual life, represented by the serpent, is included within the implied suffering of the cross.

June 1959

The figure of the human women portrayed in these paintings represents the ego’s role within the drama. Here, with eyes closed, she holds between her hands the fire and light emanating from the unconscious, self-renewing uroboros, or ring-shaped symbol of wholeness, below. This was a time of incubation.