Episode 158 – The Phoenix: Life’s Transformative Fires

Apr 8, 2021

The splendid-feathered phoenix lives for hundreds of years builds its own funeral pyre, sets it on fire, and rises from the ashes after three days. The phoenix represents long life, conscious acquiescence to death, and assured regeneration. The fiery alchemical process of calcinatio leaves behind a white ash equivalent to salt, that which cannot be burned: life, soul, and Eros.

The phoenix is usually depicted ascending in its joyful solar plumage of red, orange, and gold, indicating that when one is purged of instinctual drives, affective intensity, and egotistical desires, fire is experienced as divine illumination. The resurrected phoenix constructs an egg from the ashes of its former self and deposits it on the altar of the sun god—an acknowledgment of the regenerative connection between the ego and the Self.

 Here’s The Dream We Analyze:

“In this dream, my father, who passed away fifteen years ago, had come back to visit. He seems well but somewhat less warm than he used to be, and not as demonstrative; taller and paler than I remember. We all go to some sort of train station in Amman, which does not actually exist, and hop on a light-rail train suspended high above the city. My father, eldest sister, and brother go ahead of us; and myself, my disabled brother, and his driver are in the compartment behind them. No sooner had the train started to move than I look down and see ancient ruins that apparently were recently excavated. The view is breathtaking; an entire ancient city so well preserved; so beautiful as to rival any ancient ruin on the planet. I notice one or two temples fashioned in the image of gigantic feline heads. I also notice the tasteful lighting that adds a lot to the experience as the evening darkness descends. I wonder how this is here, in the middle of the city, and worry a bit about this lovely ancient ruin being overrun and perhaps damaged by people and tourists. For the moment, there were only one or two people down there that I could see. As I look further I remember that I have been in this place before. We get to our destination and my siblings and father want to go down below and walk. I tell them that I will push my other brother’s wheelchair and take him to the car with the driver.”

 Resources

Learn to Analyze your own Dreams:  https://thisjungianlife.com/enroll/

References

Edward Edinger. Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy, https://www.amazon.com/dp/0812690095/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_PXR5RHSZDH31GA722MW3

7 Comments

  1. Maxine Bowden

    I’m listening to this episode. In many ways I totally love this. In 2019 my husband had a hemorrhagic stroke. I was thrown into caregiving. One thing Joseph said is that we can welcome these kind of experiences if we realize it can lead to a refining and rebirth. I have been a bit of a puella. But I’ve been really kicking against the difficulties of this new life. A year has passed and things are deeper and richer but still exhausting and never what I would choose. It’s not helpful, I don’t think, to say we should walk into this easily. It’s much, much more complex than that. Telling your truth, even as it transforms, is so important! ❤️

    Reply
  2. Maxine McCleery Bowden, LMFT

    Hi, I really enjoyed this podcast. My husband and I are finding ourselves in the middle of the fire after he suffered from a serious stroke in December 2019. I had just retired from work at an agency offering therapy to children and families. I also had a very small private practice. After his stroke I became his caregiver. This has been a very, very difficult process for both of us. It is very easy in our culture to just expect women to lay their lives down for the love of their spouse. But my experience has been it is just not as easy as that. Too often the complexities of retaining your own being and not being subsumed by this caregiving is more than I can express. The story of the man who willingly just gave up his life for his wife who was experiencing dementia was difficult to hear. I struggle, I get angry, I get exhausted. We have to talk and reevaluate and talk again. And attend to our dreams and talk some more. This is very, very hard work. Please understand that. We don’t want to jump into heroics. It’s way more complex than that. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Deborah

    I relate to this episode because I feel that after losing my son- I must transform myself. Unlike the Phoenix I did not choose the fire of transformation but was rather thrown into the fire with no choice but to change. Seems life is like that.

    Reply
  4. Mia

    loved this episode! I’m curious if you have a reference or resource on this particular version of the story the Phoenix?

    Reply
  5. Donna

    “there are years that ask questions and years that answer”
    Zora Neale Hurston

    My favorite quote now at age 66, seems to fit in with this episode. How I wish sometimes that I didn’t have to experience the fires of Phoenix, and how profoundly grateful I am that I have. Sometimes there are no words to describe the beauty and suffering of our experience.

    Reply
  6. Mustafa

    I spontaneously applauded when you finished your story J. Being a physician, father and someone in a troubled relationship…I connected and felt it to be therapeutic! Thank you!

    Reply

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