It was a joy to interview Dennis Slattery for the Jung Society of Utah blog, where this post originally appeared.
While much is said about the soul’s wisdom and capacity for creativity, it is important to remember that “archetypes always have a shadow,” Dennis Slattery said. As a teacher and a mythologist, he’s seen how vital it is to be aware that the soul also has the capacity for foolishness and destruction–that “the soul in its creative capacities can wreak untold horrors” through violence, war, and addiction. “Creativity is not always for the good,” he said.
However, once we are aware that this shadow side exists, we may begin to learn from it and develop greater awareness. A way of going about this creatively is to explore one’s own personal myth, which is something Slattery has helped countless people with during his 40 years as a teacher. Through the study of mythology and through writing about our own stories, he’s found that the creative process teaches us a great deal about cultivating presence and consciousness.
Slattery said he continues to be surprised by “the unbelievable stories that are unfolding inside each individual.” In his classes and writing workshops, he is “constantly blown away by the narratives that are unfolding in people. I could do this for 100 years and I’d never hear the same story twice.” A particular kind of magic happens when people share their personal narratives. “When someone has the courage and the voice to express their story in a small group setting, it immediately animates other people’s stories,” he said. This happens through mimesis, a term first used by Aristotle to describe the “interior transformation that takes place in the audience by means of what’s taking place externally in front of them on the stage.” Slattery described mimesis as “a creative act because you have to let the work in and be willing to be changed by it. If not, it will be ineffectual.”
“People want to be heard and they want to have their story witnessed,” Slattery said. Through that sharing and witnessing, “everybody in the room has their consciousness affected; by and large enhanced, strengthened even. One individual’s story becomes a communal story at the very same time it’s uttered. To me, that’s one of the great mysteries of being a human being–having that story. Part of it is by one’s own design, but I think there’s something deeper working. The narrative that one carries is also being cultivated by what Jung called the collective unconscious. Then it’s shaped by history–one’s own temporal being in the world–but at its core there is something collective about it. My sense is that’s what we truly listen for–that collective connection with other people.”
Exploring and sharing one’s personal myth provides “a way of resonating the universal in and through the particular,” Slattery said, especially when it’s done with an attitude of openness and allowing. “So many people live a full life and then die never having been presented with this mystery–that they’re living originally a part of a larger narrative construct that cuts across races, ethnicities, countries, and is universal in its presence. That to me has been one of the great gifts in studying the humanities and working in depth and archetypal psychology–that it’s highlighted that one of the basic tenets of what makes us human is our narratives. It has the capacity to make us more humane.”
During his Friday evening lecture, Slattery will discuss ideas about what creativity is and what it evokes in us that “the audience can test that against their own experience of their own creative processes and products.” He will provide a written exercise to help audience members explore their personal myth, and will leave time to answer questions. “We’ll have fun with it,” he said. Because myth, depth, and creativity often fall by the wayside in our fast-paced culture, “we have to cultivate it among ourselves. That too is a joyful project.”
Don’t miss this enlightening evening with Dennis Slattery!
Lecture: Friday, November 16th
Time: 7:00-8:30pm (doors open at 6:30 with mingling, music before and after)
Location: Library Downtown, 210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Cost: free (please become a member)
Includes 1 free CE