from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Thursday, 3 April 2014

four pathways

This is by artist Basma Kavanagh, on this site: As far as I can find out it's creative commons licensed, but since I'm not sure I may replace it with an image of my own
This blogpost is, in a way, a thin slice of a much bigger work, but I return to this aspect over and over, my personal and professional passion being to do with conscious relationship in its many forms. I've a book on all this in the writing.

My view is that everything is consciousness, everything is relationship. My conviction is that we can only know and love Other to the extent that we know and love ourselves. This seems an increasingly urgent task to me, and one that I address in every aspect of my life and work, albeit not necessarily overtly, and to a greater or lesser extent (that extent being down to the nature of the piece of work, but coloured also of course to the extent that I myself am living it). 

Conscious relationship and interconnectedness, with a particular emphasis on our relationship to the natural world and the other-than-human, will be the subject of a talk I'm giving at Prof Max Velmans' 'Consciousness Café' in Totnes in June.

I've long felt that the Jungian view of the four human faculties, and what we can learn from knowing our relationship to them, is an extraordinarily useful tool (and of course I'm also aware of the dangers of pigeonholing).

I'll speak of them in a moment, but I'm fascinated too with the way this idea interacts with other shamanic and/or esoteric ways of relating to the four elements, directions and seasons; something I draw attention to when we work in the little Bronze Age stone circle on my Dartmoor megalithic day, 'Ground of Being' (due to be resuscitated soon), and sometimes use in my individual mentoring work.

For now, I thought I'd just outline the four 'types', or functions, according to Jung (there is MUCH written on this, including in my own first book Riding the Dragon, so it's a very brief resumé).

The idea is that most of us have one highly-developed function; one or two less so, and one relatively unconscious. Our work here, we might say, from this perspective is to further develop the less conscious faculties. I have found that the least conscious faculty is also, as Jung and Jungians suggest, our 'doorway' into insightfulness, or enlightenment (not suggesting one arrives 'there', wherever 'there' is; simply it makes good practice).

One of the best summaries I've come across is from Elaine Aron, a Jungian therapist and writer working in the States.

She says: 'According to Jung, there ar four functions of the conscious mind, four ways of approaching the world. Each function is one kind of intelligence, and everyone has a specialty or dominant function... Intuitive types listen and look, process all the subtleties unconsciously, the start making intuitive leaps beyond the information given. The opposite of intuition is sensing [ie using the phsyical senses]–process the "surface" of information by simply seeing and hearing attentively. Compared to intuitive types, sensing types spend less time reflecting on what they see and hear and more time noticing what's actually present. They don't intuit additional possibilities. What they see is what is [ie the material world]. Magicians rely on them–they don't wonder so much how a trick was done. They prefer to read directions, follow recipes, want "just the facts"...

'The other two functions, thinking and feeling–also opposites–have more to do with the reasons for our decisions than how we process information... The thinking function uses abstract principles or theories as rules for decision-making. The feeling function is not about deciding emotionally, but about evaluating the human, personal impact, which includes the emotional impact. "Thinkers" and "feelers" can be equally compassionate (or selfish), but how they help can differ: A feeling type might first pick up an injured child and comfort it; a thinking type might review the rules of first aid and decide whether to call 911 [999]. WE need both types of responses in the world.' (see

More anon.


  1. Thanks for this interesting post, Roselle. It's beneficial, I think, to separate out and consider individually those four functions — intuition, sense perception, thought, feeling — as you have done. And, of course, they are all interwoven and related. Although we certainly see people with dominant functions — the intuitive type, the über-rational type, the emotional type and so on — others seem to have more of a balance of functions (Leonardo or Goethe or the Dalai Lama, for instance, who show both artistic and scientific leanings). As you say, all is consciousness and relationship, and the relationship between intuition, sensing, thought and feeling, and between ourselves and the Other, is dynamic, symbiotic, fluid and complex (in a good not difficult way). For example, thoughts and feelings influence and produce each other; intuition can spontaneously arise from sensory perceptions; etc. More and more it seems to me important to try to cultivate a balance of these qualities, in a Zen or Buddhist kind of way.

  2. Robert, thanks for your lovely response. I like what you say about how in the end the one becomes the other, and v v - yes. The yin/yang symbol, of course, illustrates this with the 'eye' of the one in the other.

    Yes - I'd agree that a da Vinci, or an equivalent, has probably one way or the other, and maybe over several incarnations, brought about an internal balance and integration of these qualities (however they're viewed or 'measured'). This is also, perhaps, the definition of a 'Renaissance Man', and it seems to me it is a significant task - THE task (of individuation), some would say.

    It's also interesting, and Jung wrote widely and deeply on this, that from a psychological perspective, what you are saying about separating out is mirrored in the psycho-alchemical process: picked out from an amorphous undifferentiated mass we take the first steps towards individuation, separative consciousness, the development of the ego; but the process, to be complete, requires the giving of the integrated Self back to the whole...

    I've written at length about how the Grail quest motifs mirror this for our time, as have many better qualified than I am; and there's much more to say, isn't there? - Thanks for entering into the conversation - I value that very much.


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