(Werner Zurfluh, Part I)
My research into the more mystical aspects of fairy tales led me to the work of Werner Zurfluh, an intriguing explorer of consciousness. The majority of his previously-published German-language works are available on the internet in html format (unfortunately little of it translated into English, and the translations are of substandard quality). Though he is very well-versed in the literature of mysticism, meditation and eastern philosophy, and despite the fact that his works are heavily annotated, the power of what he says in his writings comes from the fact that it is based on his own inner experiences, and does not rely on anyone else’s authority. A large portion of the text consists of extracts from his journals.
Zurfluh, as a child, was prone to Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), or what is also called astral projections, and he had many of them until he was a young adult. During his student years, he noted that due to the stress of intellectual work these experiences stopped and his internal experience became confined to "conventional" dreams. He resigned himself to the situation and later began occupying himself with Jungian interpretation of his dreams. With time, however, he came to the conclusion that this was the wrong way to go about things.
Zurfluh's main theme, in almost all of his published writing, emphasizes the importance of striving for personal experience of those states of mind called dreams (especially lucid dreams), astral projection, and OBEs. Because of his own background as a biology teacher and due to several years of study at the Carl Jung Institut in Switzerland, he spends a lot of his time arguing against the tenets of mainstream materialistic science and psychology, including depth psychology. He is critical of today's science because of its inability to work with, acknowledge, or even entertain the possibility of anything that cannot be measured with state-of-the-art instruments (in spite of the fact that "science" acknowledges all sorts of things now that could not be measured as recently as a decade ago), and he faults depth psychology for still falling into the Aristotelian trap of analysing and categorizing internal experiences in ways that kills them and makes them empty shells like so many mounted butterflies.
In his works he sites hundreds of pages of dream-, lucid dream- and OBE experiences that show a progression over time (many years, in fact). At first he utilized the standard sort of Jungian analysis on his dreams, and the symbols and sequences yielded exactly the type of results a Jungian analyst would expect. But with time, and by applying the lessons these experiences were teaching him, he began to understand that these "internal" experiences are, to a surprising extent, subject to the "observer effect". When he was expecting content that lent itself to Jungian analysis, that is exactly what he got.
But once he had spent more time simply observing, and putting his efforts into being as aware as possible in whatever state of consciousness he happened to be, the nature of his experiences changed dramatically, and he began to understand that these states are not just subjective (i.e. just going on in your head), nor purely objective (i.e. something you are perceiving which exists outside of you), but a subtle interaction of the two. Fact is, he says, sometimes the things one encounters in these experiences are astral beings. They might be other people journeying in those worlds, or other kinds of beings which have been called spirits, elementals, genies, djinn, demons, angels, fairies and many other things throughout the ages. It's not appropriate to treat these like some aspect of yourself, as many depth psychologists might advise, because then you will not really find out what they wish to communicate to you.
So, rather than torture the symbols of dreams for hidden meanings -- using the logic of the material world to analyze and interpret otherworldly experience -- he determined that it was more important to make every effort possible to maintain the continuity of ego (Kontinuierlichkeit des Ichs) while entering the "realms of the night," as he calls them. One must, as much as possible, maintain an awareness of one's own identity, as well as an awareness of the otherworldly nature of one's state of consciousness when one leaves the ordinary waking state. This seems paradoxical to those who have not had this experience: being "awake" while one is asleep. His techniques encompass both what is known as astral projection, and what dreamworkers refer to as working with hypnagogic imagery.
(Next: Werner Zurfluh on fairy tales)