At this very moment, September 2nd 2015, we have come together to celebrate an auspicious awakening, - the second year launching of Vancouver's
Adler University stellar 'Art Therapy' flag ship. We are inaugurating another journey of scholarly depth psychology into the realms of
'hands on', clinical,
collaborative explorations of, and contributions towards, human dignity and healing.
Exactly seventy years ago today (1945), aboard the battle ship USS Missouri, the official document was signed to mark the ending of World War II. It was declared
a day of prayer and high resolve regarding matters of international justice, peace and good will.
This moment in time, 2015, is shocking.
We are launching in the face of global, chaotic, rapidly changing energy flows, climates, and material economies. Launching our stellar vessel
of imagination we risk shuddering, even capsizing, under titanic waves of continuing industrial domination of nature, bludgeoning commercial neuroses, heavy handed
perpetual brandings, deluges of data, dumps of drugs, replete with surfeits of suffocating non-reflective “selfies”. Civic responsibility seems easily replaced with
an underlying assumption that affluence is considered a reward for hard work. Heading
right into these tumultuous seas we witness the physical plight of desperate asylum
seekers, surging migratory populations packed into unseaworthy boats. There are many desperate drowning deaths. The oceans themselves seem to heave and groan under their
own sufferings and over the loss and brutalizing of the creatures of their own depths. Currently, Canadians are faced with certain enforced silencing of long enduring
scientists, entwined with such a plethora of scandals and free-floating weasel words that some have suggested that "we are in a subtle darkening of Canadian life". There
is nothing particularly new in this roaring upheaval: it’s just more
This moment in time, 2015, is an awakening.
Teaching in Canada started for me in 1968 in what I consider the heart of Canada, - Manitoba - in the north end of Winnipeg School
Division Number One.
How fortunate! At the University of Winnipeg I also began to explore northwest coast First Nation child rearing practices. On June 1st. of this year (2015) I felt honored
to be present and alive, hearing Manitoba’s Justice Murray Sinclair, Ojibway First Nations lawyer, current chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation
Commission reminding us that the “cultural genocide” of Canadian First Nations is a Canadian problem. True reconciliation requires slow
transitional functioning, transitional
relating – reconciling worldwide grass-root voices speaking back to Titanic powers, a reclamation of human dignity, individual dignity, recognizing particularly the red robe of
missing and murdered indigenous women. “Canada at a crossroads.” Justice Sinclair invites each Canadian,
personally, actively, to be at the crossroads.
This crossroad moment in time and place, shocking and awakening, requires transitional functioning.
This necessary liminality between here and there, ever evolving and devolving, is where all peoples of the earth return to the great psychological spiritual
teachings required to engage the deluge. It’s the place of the scallop. Strung together scallops shells form a rattle used by passionate, masked West Coast Salish dancers. Rattling
they reminding us to participate in and contribute to the constant and generous flux of life. In Europe the scallop is used as a dish and small cooking vessel. It’s an ancient symbol
of pilgrimage, and recognition of the birth of Venus.
I am enlivened, both loving and loathing, Maggie Hambling’s 12 and ½ foot high stainless steel sculpting of a scallop shell unveiled in 2003 on the beach in Suffolk, England’s east coast.
This is a coast that has been much devoured by the sea and where huge swathes of land were taken over for World War II preparatory battlefields. Close by is controversial Sizewell
Nuclear power station. Maggie’s scallop sculpture is made to withstand ‘hundred - miles - an – hour’ gales from the North Sea. To sit in this carefully formed scallop center is to know,
with all our senses, the winds and the waves, the crunching of swirling tides on the beach pebbles, the changing gestures of beach/sea creatures and the strange cries of shore birds
and migrating flocks. In such a niche we converse with the sea, we feel the flight of wings and the flow of fish, roaring and minute changes. In our being we learn what neurophysiologists
are confirming – that symbols from the enlivening depths, just like dense micro diets, work systematically not just impressionistically. With deep feeling we begin to realize archetypes
as living forms of life, fundamental ordering forms and practices. We can become one with the steel piercing words - “I hear those voices that will not be drowned”. Hambling’s Suffolk
Scallop Shell has been defaced 13 times in 8 years. Why did she make it?
To honor the important twentieth century British composer Benjamin Britten, a man who influenced my education more than I had realized, a Suffolk man of creative and prolific brilliance
fused with traditional and conservative foundations. In the last two years his music has again flourished to celebrate the centenary of his birth. He and his partner, the tenor Peter
Pears, being conscientious objectors left England just before the war and sailed into Montreal across the Atlantic, thence to enter the United States. In Los Angles, Britten came upon
an E.M. Forster review of a poem by the 18th century Suffolk poet George Crabbe: it's the tragic story of a Suffolk fisherman so scorned by the smug villagers that he drowned. Upon
the discovery of this poem Britten knew two things: he needed to write an opera, and he needed to return to England to live and create where he belonged - on the coast of Suffolk.
He needed to write for, and out of, the geography and history of his own soil. So in 1941 he and Peter crossed the ocean once more, this time through the ferocious and deadly Battle
of the Atlantic.
To launch our Studio One boat we have just borrowed from Britten’s marvelous opera for local children, supported by adults. It is called
Noye’s Fludde, first performed in 1958 in the
very old Suffolk church of Oxford…physically a tight performance fit. Britten was building upon a 15th century mystery play from Chester. These so called mystery or miracle plays
were marvelous creations of local craft guilds. They would build four wheeled wagons and on them perform Bible and other stories. These traveling crafters’ theatres, educative art
forms, were taken to street corners, and market squares – we might call them early forerunners of our fringe festivals! Noye’s Fludde tells the story of the carpenter guild’s
construction of a marvelous boat into which all creature life was invited, perhaps even hustled, to be preserved throughout the deluge.
I am invoking this ancient myth and image of the saving boat as a well known metaphor of the 'church as ship' - the nave, the central passage of the great cathedrals, from the Latin
root 'navis', meaning 'ship'. Carl Jung understood that such a vessel is full of imagination, - stories, myths and masks to carry us across the dark waters. All cultures have such
mythological creations. We see Bill Reid’s wonderful jade and copper boat sculpting at the Vancouver International airport. The ship is a human construction. It can offer necessary
protection, and it facilities communication, commerce and cultural diffusion – and their shadows.
I am indeed invoking the great cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, as an example of a heritage thread revealing true healing values of ‘the arts’. Chartres is known as the mother of
the many cathedrals that seemed to erupt primarily in France in the early Middle Ages. Cathedrals were the hub of the town, hosting vigorous market and meeting places, seasonal festivals
and drama. But it is the Chartres’s teaching school I want to highlight. For students arriving from all over what we now call Europe and England, - walking, horse riding, sailing, - an
astonishing group of great teachers slowly developed a seven-year curriculum devoted to the Seven Female Liberal Arts, themselves under the tutelage of their mother, Wisdom or Sophia, all
for the purpose of supporting the well being of Nature…a thousand years ago! This seven part educational vessel, described as a three-part chariot with four wheels, was an enormous
effort to build and weave together Greek, Jewish and Christian depths, ancient Druid knowledge of land and healing, together with astronomy and new Islamic number and science. The
seven female liberal arts, representatives of deep cultural knowledge, are embedded in ecological awareness and a cosmology: they are associated with five planetary ‘wanderers’, and
the sun and the moon. The seven daughters have their associated colors - actually the colors of the rainbow. We rarely hear about these seven daughters grouped around their mother of
dewdrop Wisdom. I started to recognize some of them when I paused, and paused, and paused again at the threshold of the Royal Doorway of Our Lady of Chartres.
But we have dewy Wisdom and her daughters with us today, in this exceptionally well-curated rainbow Studio One, helping us to construct and then launch our stellar boat of salvation.
Through an ancient and mythological story we can imagine our work in art therapy as supporting individuals to find their own cradle, their own little boat, learning
that it has an inside, engaging with the nature of it, seeing it reflected in the mostly forgotten literature of the spirit, realizing that the words 'civility' and 'cradle' come
from the same etymological root.
Paradoxically such a process is a definite moving away from the collective mind-numbing mantra 'we are all one'. We have to differentiate in order to relate
ethically and substantially to the other. 'Dignity', after all, literally means ‘to become acceptable to one's self’. A most complex task.
The calming of the ocean can be terrifying. Some of us remember and must digest the feel of the shark fins as they glide under our flimsily inflated raft. Digesting anxiety of course,
confronts us with our addictive, life denying coping efforts. Newfound peace is terrifying. The serious work of play and creation is the antidote. It is a true and increasingly unfamiliar
work, not motivated by envy. It is the building of a psychological backbone. Of course humour is essential. It literally means 'a crack in ice'.