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  • Diagrams: Finding out in the Oregon desert

    Carl Jung relates the story, in a larger context concerning transformation, of an old man, reputed to be a sorcerer, who sought refuge in a cave, “seeking to know what it was that he did not know, but which, he felt certain, was always happening. After meditating for a very long time on that which is beyond meditation, he saw no other way of escape from his predicament than to take a piece of red chalk and draw all kinds of diagrams on the walls of his cave, in order to find out what that which he did not know might look like. After many attempts he hit on the circle. ‘That’s right,’ he felt, ‘and now for a quadrangle inside it!’ - which made it better still.” [1] 

    Is it fair to invoke Jung and Euro-tales when considering indigenous rock paintings, red ochre on black desert basalts in the Great Basin? It is a lingering question I will always consider. Yet Jung’s concept of the underlying structure of human consciousness – and the unconscious – offers for me one avenue to deeper understanding of predicament: to find out what that which he did not know might look like.

    To the degree the human mind is a part of a naturalistic, animated universe, the stone, the ochre, the image reveal presence immemorial through the mind and hand of the painter.

    [1] Selected from Concerning Rebirth (1950) in C. G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Bollingen, Princeton University Press, 1959.  p.129 para 233.

    Diagrams: Finding out in the Oregon desert