So, you ask, what does that have to do with the idea and image of a merry-go-round? Here is the connection. Go back in your mind to your childhood excitement of riding the merry-go-round. In my experience, the merry-go-round was located in the center of the theme park, and I could hardly wait to pull my folks to that magic place of music, vibrant colors moving and flashing, lively animals bobbing up and down in their circular, never-ending pursuit of one another, the chariots, the mythical creatures I could fantasize in my activated imagination, the excited kids rushing to claim their favorite creature -- mine, the noble white horse who had been waiting for me since our last adventure, weeks, months, or a year ago.
Suspended in space and time, I rode my gallant horse in adventures of my mind while scenes of the old, boring world of familiar people and irrelevant objects floated by my eyes that were trained on mythical far-away places shaped by my white horse that could easily outrun Trigger (Roy Rogers), Champion (Gene Autry), and Topper (Hopalong Cassidy). What fun, what excitement, what grand stories raced through my mind as the world whirled by, caught up in its distractions to the drama of a heroic call to what was really important in my enchantment.
And what is really important? Alas, here I return to the idea of enchantment and the warning Lewis extended. I just described how as a small kid I fell into he enchantment of a merry-go-round. But think about that. I believe each of us is vulnerable to enchantment because we long for something big, meaningful, worthwhile, hopeful, deep, ultimate, adventurous -- something on which we want to orient our lives.
What is really important? What is your attention like no-other? Of course, to be clear, sometimes our hobby invites our interest, if not even a goodly amount of our time and our money. Sometimes, it is our religion. But hobbies and religious practices are not necessarily enchantments.
If enchantment means to be under the power of a spell that directs our minds with commanding force, which is the way Lewis and I are using the word, then most hobbies and even our religious practices do not usually hold that level of either fascination. They might attain that measure of influence over our lives, but not typically so. The basic distinction is this: I hold an attitude and I direct my behavior toward my hobby and my religious practice: an enchantment holds me.
To use the language of depth psychology, an experience of enchantment is wholistic in the sense that my ego is under the spell of the enchanting force. My lifestyle, the way I think, the way I use my time, the way I see the world -- all of these are shaped by the enchantment. On the extreme end of such enchantment, we find fanatics, ideologues, fundamentalists. These people are not insane with a mental illness. What is the difference? With enchantment, the spell may be broken; with mental illness, psychotherapeutic care is necessary to restore the sane balance of healthy cognition, emotion, sensations, and behavior.
Here is an example. A young man in his late twenties was referred to me by a political professor in a neighboring university. My contact with the professor was only that the young man talked out of turn in class in an attempt to deal with the subject of UFOs, unidentified flying objects or unidentified aerial projections as sightings are most often described currently. I asked that the young man call my office for an appointment which he did with the reason given that his professor told him I would be someone he could talk to about UFOs.
As an aside that I think is important, the professor in his own research had come across a paper by Carl Jung in which Jung reflected on the phenomenon of UFOs. In a little booklet published in English in 1959, under the title, "Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies," Jung was 84 years old at the time, only two years before his death in 1961. And yet Jung's research was true to form and incredibly timely. Presented in Jung's Collected Works, Vol. 10, paragraphs 589-824, the reader will be impressed with the Swiss psychologist's summation of the data at his disposal and his assessment of the meaning of UFO's for his time -- and ours.
Here is an excerpt taken from paragraphs 785-787, in which Jung offers his opinions based upon the data available to him in the 1950's.
The only thing we know with reliable certainty about UFOs is that they
possess a surface which can be seen by the eye and at the same time
throw back a radar echo. Everything else is so uncertain that it must
remain for the time being an unproven connector, or rumor, until we
know more about it. ... Their movements indicate volition and psychic
relatedness, e.g., evasion and flight, perhaps even aggression and
defense.... we are left only two hypotheses: that of their weightlessness
on the one hand and of their psychic nature on the other. This is a
question I for one cannot decide.
Then, moving toward his conclusion in paragraph 789, Jung suggests a third possibility:
... that UFOs are real material phenomena of an unknown nature,
presumably coming from outer space, which perhaps have long been
visible to mankind, but otherwise have no recognizable connection with
the earth or its inhabitants. In recent times, however, and just at the
moment when the eyes of mankind are turned towards the heavens,
partly on account of their fantasies about possible space-ships, and partly
in a figurative sense because their earthly existence is threatened,
unconscious contents have projected themselves on these inexplicable
heavenly phenomena and given them a significance they in no way deserve. ...
Then, at this point, Jung makes a profound psychological observation:
... The meaningful connection is the product on the one hand of projection
and on the other of round and cylindrical forms which embody the
projected meaning and have always symbolized the union of opposites.
So, after that extended quote by Jung, I return to the merry-go-round. By this point you yourself may well have put together this enchanting connection of the theme park's "merry-go-round" and the round, cylindrical objects we see in the sky in some strange as-of-yet not understood process of enchantment by which we psychically extend our search for wholeness. This comes at a time of dark despair when the unity of humankind is threatened by political ideologies, and our planet itself is threatened by human destructive acts.
And yet, we are coming together as we look upward at the symbols of wholeness that beckon us to look for the deeper meaning of our existence.