I'd like to welcome Alliance members to the August book club discussion of Deep Blues.  As a general structure I'll suggest we focus on Chapters 1 (Introduction) and 2 (The Genesis of the Blues) during this week, Chapters 3 and 4 during the 2nd week, Chapter 5 during the 3rd week, Chapter 6 during the 4th week, and Chapters 7 & 8 during the last week of the month.  Naturally, this will be a loose guideline and everyone is free to ask questions and offer reflections that don't necessarily fit into the chapter structure outlined above. 

The primary focus of the book is the interaction between psyche and the music of the blues. The music itself is about hearing and resonating with the pain, suffering, joy, or sadness in the voice of the blues singer. The understanding of the blues comes through the direct experience of the music rather than through the intellect. 

The word “blues” is derived from the term “blue devils” which referred to contrary spirits that hung around and created sadness.  I believe it is the capacity of the blues to speak at an archetypal level about universally felt experiences that give power to the blues for both the performer and the audience. 

Understanding the blues is similar to a perspective about images offered by Carl Jung - "Image and meaning are identical . . . the pattern needs no interpretation: it portrays its own meaning."  In light of this, my aim is to let the musicians speak for themselves as much as possible.  To facilitate our experience and discussion I plan to include links to audiovisual excerpts of blues performances to highlight the material being discussed. 

To kick off our discussion I'll offer a video, recorded in 1966, of Chicago blues great Howlin Wolf (aka Chester Burnett) who offers his definition of the blues followed by a performance of How Many More Years.  Howlin Wolf was a large, intimidating character who stood 6'6" tall, weighed nearly 300 pounds, with a deep growling voice. 


After viewing the Howlin Wolf video, I'd suggest we begin with our reactions to the Wolf's comments and offer some of our own personal experiences with blues music. 

I appreciate your participation in this discussion group and look forward to hearing your comments about blues music and the book Deep Blues during the coming month.

Warm Welcome,

Mark Winborn


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  • It looks like we're drawing to a close in this discussion  I want to close with a bit of discussion of how the blues and my book Deep Blues is related to my practice as a Jungian analyst and clinical psychologist.  This question has come up several times as I've made presentations about the book and it came up again last night during a presentation with the Friends of Jung group in Memphis, Tennessee.  For me, the blues is ever present in the work I do.  Certainly it is present in the emotions people bring to their sessions.  But it is present for me as part of my background of thoughts and feelings as I listen and interact with my patients.  At times, snatches of blues songs come to my mind during sessions.  Occasionally, I'll share those bits of my internal reverie with my patients, but most often it simply informs me about the nuances of the emotional terrain we are navigating in.  However, it is more in the implicit philosophy of the blues, which seems to have many parallels to Jungian practice and philosophy, that I find the blues most influential in my sessions with patients.  For example, the blues is focused around holding the tenion between various opposites like the sacred and the profane, there is a valuing of the darker, more difficult emotions (what Jim Hollis refers to as The Swamplands of the Soul), there is a tone of acceptance that balances out our tendencies towards heroic overcoming, there is a movement among archetypal themes, and there is a valuing of experiencing and expressing emotion rather than seeing emotions as symptoms to fix.  So listening to and playing the blues outside of my work as an analyst helps me remain grounded in the attitudes and values which I feel make for good analysis in the sessions. 

    I want to thank those who have participated in the discussion, particularly for sharing your own responses, thoughts, and experiences with the blues and other musical forms.  I very much appreciate those who also purchased the book. Finally, a special thanks to Bonnie Bright for inviting me to participate in this forum and for the work she does in creating this habitat for sharing ideas and experiences around Depth Psychology.

    Best Wishes,


    • Thank you Mark I have enjoyed reading . thinking, feeling and participating in this forum. I am going on 2 weeks holiday with my wife to the Flinders Ranges - an ancient mountain range in South Australia. I will take the book to finish reading it and I will take my harmonica!

    • Hi Mark and all--First I just want to thank you so much for the discussion on "Deep Blues"--both the book and the topic in general. I learned so much more about blues than I could have imagined, but more--I was motivated to actually experience them, and in a far more conscious way than ever before. 

      I really appreciate what you're saying, Mark about how the blues songs combined with internal reverie can inform you "about the nuances of the emotional terrain" you are both navigating, and more, how the blues seem to be a valuable vehicle for venturing into (or at least holding the tension) of the darker emotions and symptoms. When I really consider the direction our collective culture is taking and the increasing momentum with which we seem to be declining in so many areas, I feel deep concern that we will all need more and better ways to work with the dark emotions--both those presented by the external world and those that arise within.

      Now, thanks to this rich discussion, I have another tool to consider and a better understanding of how we might all be able to use it in times of increasing (and ongoing) crisis. I know I have much to learn, but thank you so much for the introduction and for opening the door for all of us. 

      Mark, I so appreciate you tending the book club so generously in August and wish you the best in your work.

  • This is very rich fare. I've worked my way through the videos and much of the discussion. Thank you, all. I was just struck by Mark's words above, "Jung's notion of psychic reality where he suggests that the events/actions/feelings etc which take place intrapsychically - on the planes of psychological and spiritual process - are just as 'real' and relevant as events occurring in our outer world, waking life."

    Ahah! I don't mean to be harping on my own work, but when I wrote Numenon, its content was real to me. Much of its content consists of write-ups of my meditation experiences, which felt as real as anything that happened in the outer world. I considered the book nonfiction. It began getting reviews and awards labeling it science fiction. Or fantasy. I was outraged. The book was nonfiction. Well, OK, maybe not really nonfiction, but not sci-fi.

    Then Mark says, "Jung emphasized the importance of externalizing these inner figures in a creative fashion - through painting, poetry, dance, movement, sculpting, etc. - as a means of deepening our sense of our own psychic reality and moving the dialogue with the unconscious into physical form/space."

    So that's why I write. Nice to know. Is writing in general an active engagement with the shadow, or does it have to represent some inner struggle?

    Here's something completely different. Let me back into this question. People have been talking about how they came to appreciate the blues, often as young people. I suppose that I listened to music as a teenager, but I don't remember it. Almost all of my non-school time was spent riding my horse or some other horse. My world consisted of natural sounds and my horse. I rode almost every day from age 13 to 18, then took it up again when I was forty. At age 67, I've just been fortunate enough to have probably the best horse I've ever owned come into my life. I'm very grateful.

    The reality of the horse person is very different from the bluesman/woman. It is physical, tactile, and rhythmic. The horse person's life occurs outdoors, often in nature. It involves interacting closely with a creature of a different species.  Horses  don't care about what you care about. At all. When you interact with a horse, you enter its reality and must learn to speak its language.

    The movie Buck, about Buck Brannaman, is the best introduction to life with horses I've seen. (Forget The Horse Whisperer, Seabiscuit, and Secretariat. They're garbage.)  Brannaman is one of the natural horsemanship trainers who has very deep roots in the field. Buck is a breathtaking movie and I recommend it to everyone.

    Rhythm of the horse's gait and body movements when riding can produce extremely powerful meditative, unitive, and ecstatic experiences. I've had all of them repeatedly. Unbelievably powerful bonding can happen with horses. That may be the most important thing about being around them. The bond is energetic and healing.

    Buck Brannaman in the movie, Buck, and his book, The Faraway Horses, discusses the hideous childhood abuse he survived and says that horses saved him. They saved me, too. I wouldn't have gotten past what happened to me without my horse.

    I'm wondering, Mark, everyone, how this relates to the blues, if at all. The horse's gait is rhythmic, consisting of strong beats when the animal's hooves hit the ground and spaces when all the animal's feet are off the ground. Horses have energy flows, chakras, the whole yogic thing, that are absurdly strong. (We've had horse acupuncturists out to help sick horses. The results are astonishing.)

    Extremely skilled horsemen/women have a shamanic quality. They enter a slowed down, but very precise, state of being. I've seen situations with horses where someone should have been killed, but they weren't, because of the state of the trainer and his/her absolutely fearless and calm demeanor and expert response. (See Buck.)

    The bluesman reflects one type of expression and reaching of the depths that often results in ecstasy.  How can interaction with a foreign species produce bliss? How can it heal? Are these realities related at all? What would a Jungian say about someone like Buck Brannaman? Or me?

    Another aspect of the shamanic reality

    • Sandy - you raise a number of interesting issues.  First of all, it makes perfect sense that you and Buck found solace/healing in your interactions with horses.  This falls right into the notion of unitary reality that I discuss in the book.  It is the experience of unitary reality - and experience field and knowledge field - constellated in such a way that the barriers between beings is blurred and a sense of shared experience (i.e. unity) is constellated.  It is the moving out of typical isolated individual experience that is in itself is healing. As Jerome Bertstein, in his book, Living in the Borderland, points out people who have been traumatized often retreat towards nature as for a sense of security and solace - and the sense of relationship with nature provides an avenue to healing. For example, we now know that just living in the proximity of a green space, like a park, increases the health and lowers depression/anxiety in those who live nearby, even if they never go in it.  It is the unseen interaction on an unconscious level that accounts for this.  So there are many ways to unitary reality - not just the blues.  Many of today's quantum physicists are now endorsing similar concepts - usually in discussing quantum reality.  

      As you point out there is something profoundly moving and embodied when it comes to rhythm - we feel it through our bodies - our bodies want to move - but we often move without having to think about it.  Perhaps this comes in the form of shaping our posture to become insynch with the movements of the horse, or perhaps it is simply our foot tapping unconsciously following the beat of the drummer.  Mickey Hart, drummer/percussionist for the Grateful Dead said, "In the beginning was noise.  And noise begat rhythm.  And rhythm begat everything else." 

      You question at the beginning of your comments was about active imagination.  Jung differentiated active imagination from daydreaming.  In his mind, daydreaming was free floating - without specific focus or direction.  For Jung, active imagination was a waking dream in which the individual trys to let go of control of all figures arising from one's imagination except for the actions/thoughts/feelings of the individual's own character in the fantasy (i.e. the dream ego).  So active imagination could be an engagement with shadow, it could be an interaction with a particular conflict, or it could be interactions with a wisdom figure, an inner guide, a trickster, a seductress, and the list goes on and on.  Most broadly Jung would consider active imagination as a dialogue between the individual's ego and the rest of their psyche.  In "Deep Blues" I give an example of active imagination which actually blends characteristics of active imagination and guided imagery using the song "Cypress Grove" by Skip James as the source of inspiration.

    • Hi, Mark and all!

      How time seems to get away. I intended to respond to your reply above and formulated a long and informative note about horses and healing, something I'm expert in. If this forum is open for a while longer . . .  I'll post it.

      I just started a blog tour, my first. Since last posting here, I've written maybe twelve essays and a bunch of blog articles. Phew. My back and wrists are pretty near done for from sitting in front of this computer. So this will be quick, for me.

      A blog tour, for those unfamiliar with them, is a way of promoting books and getting to know readers. We hired a company to organize it––thank God. The author writes a blog post or whatever the host blog desires. The host blog posts it on the appointed day and you respond to comments, thus making friends and influencing people. The company organizing my tour has me booked pretty near every day through November. Does this work to promote books? I have no idea.

      But! We're giving away a free Kindle Fire at the end of the tour on Dec. 1. A computerized lottery will assign the Fire. If you're interested in participating, it's free, and has no obligation. Someone's going to win it. Might as well be you. You can sign up by going way to the bottom of my blog tour page. Here's a link to the page: http://bit.ly/SQA7PC

      In case this thread is closed before I can post again, here are two films that may interest all of you:

      Buck, a documentary about Buck Brannaman. I'm writing about Buck again because the film is that good. It's is about kindness. Buck took his father's abuse and turned it into a gentle way of dealing with horses that's probably ten times as effective as older methods. He made it his life's work. He is the real horse whisperer who advised Robert Redford in the movie of the same name. If you'd like to watch a miracle, here it is. People were stunned and silent as they walked out of the theater when we saw it.

      Inside Job This is the story of what caused the 2008 financial meltdown that almost destroyed our country. The film won the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary. I think it's most important film since 2008, more important than ever in this election season. Inside Job is snappy, well photographed, and has a great sound track. It also presents advanced economics with graphics so that anyone can understand it. The meltdown was an exercise in psychopathology and bad economics.

      http://movies.netflix.com/Movie/Inside-Job/70139555 There it is on Netflix.

      I used to be an economist. I have a BA and MA in economics and am a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the international economics honor society. I was the economic analyst for Santa Clara County (southern Silicon Valley CA), and worked as an economist on a number of projects, including one with the RAND Corporation.

      It wasn't until I was pursuing a doctorate in economics at Stanford's Graduate School of Business and got into therapy that I realized that I hated economics. Not only that, I couldn't do the math. I backed out of the Biz School into my old job, as an economist. Eventually I worked my way into something I did want to do and got an MA in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling.

      All of Inside Job was disturbing, but the most disturbing part to me was that the math nerds won. When I was an economist, the trend in the profession was toward mathematical models and mathematical depictions of economic phenomena. At Stanford, the trend was a stampede. The economists more interested in social impacts and socially conscious behavior were barely counted as in the program.

      What Inside Job illustrates what happens when the mathies take over. You can build a perfect mathematical model of something that has nothing to do with the real world. That's what the economists who are interviewed in the film (big names, department heads of major universities, etc.) did.  A financial instrument can be proven to be risk free on a computer. Apply it to reality. Well, there's what happened in 2008.

      So, my pre-election sermon.

      Mark, thank you so much. Your leadership of the group was enlightening and––gentle. I like that. Your book is still making it's way to me. It's left NM . . .

      I'm going to go saddle my horse before it gets too hot.

      Pump Up Your Book Presents Tales From Earth's End Virtual Book Publicity Tour + Kindle Fire HD Give…
  • Speaking of "dancing in the streets" - this is one of my favorite images from my book [photograph by Tom Scott - copyright].  I love the way Tom captured the mirroring movement of the dancer's shadow on the sidewalk:


  • Barry - wonderful ideas, sentiments, and urging.  I couldn't agree more.  The analytic professional society that I belong to Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts has two meetings a year in the fall and spring.  At the fall meeting each year, I host an "open mic" night for 2.5 hours on the Friday evening of the conference.  This October will be our 9th consecutive year for the event. It's treated as like an old fashioned salon evening where anyone can share anything they want. I typically do some kind of music - often with several friends.  Others recite poetry (their own or that of others), short plays, monologues, satire, reading of fairytales,or show their artwork. It's rather magical, rich and moving to see these analysts and analytic candidates sharing their creativity.  Usually about 75%-80% of the membership shows up in the audience.  As you mentioned - it is about being moved by the moment - not a talent show or competition.   

    P.S. Received your book "Madness at the Gates of the City" today.  Thanks.  

  • Mark, I just started reading your book, and already I feel a sermon coming on (good sign - see below)!

    I'm thinking of the contrast between performance and participation. Most authentic African ritual involves full participation by most if not all members of the community. Indeed, this is very likely true for most indigenous cultures, including our own Western European ancestors. Greek tragedy, for example, seems to have evolved out of such participatory ritual.

    Very early in Western culture, of course, a sharp division evolved between the performers and the audience, whether in formal music and dance or in the Church (although Barbara Ehrenreich offers evidence in her book Dancing In The Streets: A History of Collective Joy, that pews did not exist in Catholic Churches before about the 14th Century - before that, people stood and danced in Church).

    That division between performer and audience was replicated by popular musicians in the 20th century, including Blues musicians, who, along with Jazz bands, played while people danced.

    In both Blues and Gospel, however, there is usually a give-and-take, call-and-response situation (not present in "Classical" music) that keeps that ancient sense of participation alive to some extent. At a less emotionally intense level, we find that same situation in countless "jams" happening every night across the country (especially in acoustic folk music circles and poetry cafes).

    This is where I come in. I think we have an innate, perhaps archetypal bone memory of the need for collective, participatory ritual. I'm not a musician, but I am a lover of the "Oral Tradition" of poetry and storytelling. For some 20 years now in the San Francisco Bay Area, I and many others have presented salons in which people are encouraged to recite (not read) poems and stories (and music) from the world's traditions. Ideally, in these evenings, a "poetic conversation" will develop in which one person's poem or story will encourage another person to offer something by the same poet, or on the same theme. The idea here is inspiration, not competition (at least in our conventional meaning of the word -- actually, some would argue that the word means "petitioning the gods together"). Each person's offering encourages someone else to offer something even more beautiful, or perhaps even darker. In our own way, I think, we replicate the call-and-response participation of the African-American Church.

    This is the direction that I hope public cultural events will move if American culture is to experience any real healing. In the meantime, the Bluesmen will enact the ritual for us all; but ultimately we all need to be up on stage. 

  • "I also believe it is important to be careful not to fall into idealizing the life of these individuals - lives that have often been marked by addiction, violence, and ruptured relationships."  And paranoia, plus various mental disorders.

    Absolutely. Some seem to have the sense that if they haven't suffered, they haven't attained the depth/height of those who have. In fact, most of suffering is just suffering.

    There's a counterpart to this, the "most abused person in the world contest", which is often played by those who have suffered abuse. "My suffering was worse than your suffering" and therefore I'm better than you.

    What's wanted is transcendence and health, neither of which these represent.

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