The Cycle of Life
Themes and Tales of the Journey
"The art of life is the most distinguished and rarest of all the arts."
-C.G. Jung, CW 8, par. 789
In the first half of life, the task of the young traveler is to depart from home, to step out into the world in search for his or her adventure, to find his or her own individual path. However, in the second half, we find ourselves on what often amounts to a very long journey in search of Home. In many a tale, the hero, for instance Gilgamesh, sets off on his road to find life’s elixir, while other stories, such as the Odyssey, revolve around the hero’s long and arduous journey home.
This archetypal journey of life is constantly repeated along the never-ending process of individuation. We find ourselves returning to this venture repeatedly, every night, as we set out on our nightly voyage into the landscape of our unconscious. Many dreams begin by being on the way, for instance, “I am on my way to …,” I am driving on a road that leads into the desert …,” I am walking through one room after the other in a long corridor-like building …,” “I am walking towards my office, but it looks different than in reality,” “I walk on the pavement and on the opposite side of the street someone seems to follow me …,” “I go down into an underground parking…,” “I am in my car, but someone I don’t know is driving,” or, “I have to go to the place from where I came ...”
Prominently, we are familiar with the journey of Dante, who at the very beginning of his Divine Comedy finds himself “Midway along the journey of our life.”
I. The Journey
- Stages and Seasons
- Jung’s Stages of Life
- All the World’s a Stage, and a Stage of Life
- Being on the Way—A Way of Being
- Hermes and the Journey: Being on the Way
- Backward and Forward
- The Crossroads
- + more
II. The Child
- The Child in the Mirror
- Psychotherapy and Childhood
- The Divine Child
- From Divine to Human
- Eros, Psyche and Pleasure
- + more
III. The Puer and the Puella
- Between Shame and Fear
- Wine, Spirit and Fire
- Prometheus—the Thoughtful Thief
- + more
IV. The Adult
- King on Earth
- Boundaries of Reality
- Celestial Jerusalem—Terrestrial Jerusalem
- The King who Refuses to Die
- The Dried-up Earth
- The Limping Ego
- The Empty Shell
- + more
V. i. The Senex
V. ii. Homage to Sophocles
V. iii. The Last Chapter: Self and Meaning
- Ancestral Roots
- An Oak and an Acorn
- We Are All Beggars, Are We Not?
- A Book in Order
Painting by Benjamin Shiff
A magnificent book for all interested in the journey of life
by Lori Goldrich, Jungian Analyst
It is with great pleasure that I review Erel Shalit’s marvelous book. To begin, I feel so moved by the synchronous events that led to his finding of the book’s cover, or “face.” Benjamin Shiff’s painting “Life” and the meaning he gives for this marriage of book and painting are quite exquisite. “The candle’s soft light of life is poised against the painful inevitability of burning out. Yet, as long as they burn, there are shades and colors; there are the distinct faces of transient existence, and there are those of obscurity, hidden in distant nature; there is a lyrical melancholy, as well as a tense harmony…Only an unlit candle will never burn out. A fully lived life extracts the awareness of its finality.” These words are like pearls for the journey he takes us on in The Cycle of Life.
Erel Shalit truly succeeds in describing the different stages of life in a way that keeps the reader interested and engaged. The weaving of psychological and theoretical perspectives from Freud to Klein to Winnicott to Neumann to Jung, and others, along with the wisdom from various disciplines including philosophy, literature, religion, and myth, is presented in such a way that both clinician and layperson can deepen in experience and knowledge. I especially appreciate his discussion of how the focus on archetypal images and experience can release the energy that lives in the deeper stratas of the psyche to assist in the transformation of psyche, body and spirit.
I also want to share a personal delight while reading Erel’s book. I always enjoy exploring the precise meaning of Hebrew words, and I so enjoyed his inclusion of this for select words and names. It “makes the connection between word and image comparatively close.” It is also reflective of the depth of attention he brings to his writing.
Erel Shalit has written a truly magnificent piece of work. It is a book for all those interested in the Journey. At the beginning of his book, he offers us the image of the “river” and writes from Plato, “While the river preserves its identity, it is incessantly moving and changing, simultaneously being and becoming.” As I read his book, I can truly experience the being and becoming on the journey of life.
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