Not quite ikebana

Let's just say that ikebana -- or kado, the way of the flower -- is something I'd like to pursue more deeply, beyond the paper I'm writing for my Inner Awareness class. This is an attempt to echo the traditional New Year's arrangement, which would normally consist of bamboo, pine, and budding or just barely flowering plum -- three materials that have special significance in the dead of winter. Having no plum, I found that my mahonia had started to put out buds in wonderful cascades. Even though the greens are different textures, they're all roughly the same shade, which makes the composition a bit monotonous. I can see how plum blossoms would really make a difference.


This is also not ikebana, but it is the arrangement that got me started thinking that I'd like to learn more about ikebana:


I love having a class where I can play with plants as part of the process of writing a paper.

All the love in the world

I’m finishing up my 5th quarter in Pacific Graduate Institute’s program leading to an M.A. in what they’re now calling “engaged humanities.” The most difficult class this quarter has been “The Psychology of Compassion and Tolerance.” My final discussion post reflects how it has expanded my understanding:

This quote from Marie-Louise von Franz (1978/1980) sums up the meaning of this course for me: “In this world created by the Self we meet all those many to whom we belong, whose hearts we touch” (p. 177). Here is the true goal of individuation: The drive toward wholeness is not a selfishly motivated desire to attain whatever heights our fate might have in store, but the longing to join at the deepest possible level with our eternal companions. I understand now so much better what Jerry Wennstrom said at our residential session, “True individuality is a one-on-one relationship with that mystery.... Marilyn [Jerry’s wife] and I were nothing, and in that nothing, we could be together.” In the ego’s surrender to the Self, we find not only our true selves but all the love in the world.

Franz, M.-L. von. (1980). Projection and re-collection in Jungian psychology: Reflections of the soul. Peru, IL: Open Court. (Original work published 1978)

End of Quarter 4

I am now halfway done with my M.A. Humanities degree at Pacifica Graduate Institute and figure it's way past time to post synopses of some of the work I've been doing. For the quarter just finished, I did research into cultural misappropriation and drew a mandala representing my process of responding to social justice issues. I also wrote these two final papers:

Finding Grace in the Concrete: Little Marlene Redeemed

Joseph Campbell once observed, “Eternity is in love with the forms of time.” In the strange fairy tale “The Juniper Tree,” concrete objects are crucial to the transcendent experience that redeems a little girl from following in her mother’s overly materialistic footsteps.

Making Room for Domestic Ritual

Because the home is such an integral reflection of the Self and its path to individuation, transition events within a dwelling deserve as much attention as other life events, with rituals of healing, belonging, and celebration. Ritual can also honor domestic space as a collection of rooms where the soul grows, through everyday activities such as family meals. When designing a ritual for home use, begin by framing the purpose of the ritual. Then, find a suitable space and meaningful objects. Call for the participation of whatever deities, spirits, or values are most meaningful to the occasion, in recognition of the unifying story that brings the participants together. As an example, I present the house farewell conducted for my parents before they moved from their home of 51 years into a senior complex.

End of Quarter 1


Today marks the end of my first quarter in the M.A. Humanities program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. The final papers that I turned in for my three classes are a good indicator of the breadth of this program:

Incoherence in the Cloud: Flexibility and Vitality in Social Cataloguing

The Egyptians were not confounded by their religion's proliferation of gods, overlapping iconographies, and relative lack of detailed myth stories. Likewise, the lack of an externally imposed categorization scheme need not obscure the layers of significance on a social cataloguing Web site such as If there is a lesson to be learned from the balance between disorder and order achieved by the Egyptians in their religion, it is that the process of maintaining order is never-ending and requires the attention of the highest personages. Social cataloguing Web sites must invest in the work of software engineers, information analysts, and psychologists. These skilled professionals tend the temple fires behind the scenes at social cataloguing sites, constantly revising the applications that build tag clusters and other mechanisms for bringing coherence to the tag cloud.

Spiritual Rebirth Revealed: The Virgin in the Burning Bush

By combining natural vegetation with transforming flame and the sign of the divine taking on human form, the Virgin of the Burning Bush icon, a type that originated at the St. Catherine Monastery at Mt. Sinai, personifies the essential spiritual journey, in which the material world and the unseen, spiritual world may be discovered to be intertwined and interdependent. The hope and promise for each pilgrim on this journey is the possibility of being reborn as a unique and individual Self, allied with the divine wisdom and energy that powers the universe.

Identity, Fidelity, and Initiation in "The Wild Swans"

The task and trials of the heroine in Hans Christian Andersen's story The Wild Swans can be read as an extended rite of passage that concludes with her embracing a new role as wife and queen. Her success comes through the attainment of the ego strength of fidelity, described by Eric Erickson as part of his model of identity versus role confusion as the key crisis of adolescence.