This symposium is an invitation to all people 55+ to step onto the path of late life and reorient ourselves from Hero to Elder, or from role to soul. The call of late life can awaken in us a yearning for something more, a longing to transcend a role, an identity, or a purpose and connect with something larger. It can invite us to cross a threshold and trade the image of youth for the depth of age, trade distraction for self-knowledge, reaction for reflection, information for wisdom, and a tight grip for an open hand. The themes and practices in this event are based on the forthcoming book The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul by Connie Zweig, Ph.D.
Thomas Moore (Keynote)
Rabbi Rami Shapiro
Conference Outline with Session Descriptions
Friday: Day 1: A Depth Psychological and Mythological Approach to Age
Who am I now? Shifting from Role to Soul: Connie Zweig
The passage into late life requires an archetypal shift, a changing of the gods. The ego’s lifelong identity of Doer disappears, and we enter a liminal time between past roles, identities, and values from the first half of life and an unknown future. It may feel disorienting and frightening, as if we’re on a tightrope without a net. “Who am I, if not a successful CEO, teacher, psychologist, mother?” If we continue to grip the Doer in the heroic mode, denying the call to shift from role to soul, we will not cross the threshold into a new beginning.
What sabotages the call of the soul in late life? The unconscious inner obstacles that I call the shadows of age: denial and attachment to youthfulness, the inner ageist, identification with image and with doing, emotional unfinished business, spiritual unfinished business, fear of death, and a loss of meaning and purpose. To uncover these unconscious obstacles, and to discover that age is now our curriculum, we need the tools of depth psychology, shadow-work, and contemplative practice. With guidance, the inner work of age becomes an initiation into Elderhood.
Explore your identity at a deeper level than your role or image.
Discover an internal obstacle to breaking your identification with role or image.
Keynote: The Fulfilled Elder: Thomas Moore
The key to a sense of peace and fulfillment in old age is to have been an Elder from the beginning and to remain young in later years. If you have really lived, accepted the opportunities life has given you, and fostered a relationship with the infinite that saturates you and your world, then old age, with all of its challenges, will feel like a blossoming. You will feel it even more as you present the story of your soul to others and offer them guidance.
Connect the imagination of aging with the actual lived experience.
Explore the spirituality that naturally can arise in old age.
Learn deep ways to leave a legacy, foresee the future, and be a good ancestor.
Describe how to be a noble teacher in old age.
Mythological and Archetypal Images of Old Age: Christine Downing
In Egypt even the gods grew old and died. Greek mythology offers us Oedipus who, having lived long enough to understand the meaning of his own story, becomes ready to die. And it offers us Baubo who, though old, dances with childlike exuberance while laughing at herself. Jung was right: our lives are more circumambulation than linear progression. We also need to turn to Freud’s Titans, Death and Eros, who teach us to honor both our longing for completion and our still vital attachment to life. And we need to turn to our own dreams.
Describe Greek archetypal images of age
Learn how the child archetype lives on in old age
Aging as a Hero’s Journey: Dennis Patrick Slattery
Joseph Campbell gained wide popularity with his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. He laid out a three-stage journey of Departure, Initiation, and Return. Christopher Vogler expanded it in The Writer’s Journey to 12 stages to serve as a guide for writers. This presentation revisions this template as the aging hero’s journey. I propose a new mythic geometry of the spiral, with “nodal moments” in the hero’s journey as s/he pilgrimages into Elderhood, a deeper, more qualitatively inward version of aging. As the Hero ripens into Elderhood, s/he needs to be distinguished from simply an elderly senior citizen.
Distinguish the original Hero’s Journey template from that of an Aging Elder’s Journey.
Define the difference between Elder and Senior Citizen.
Elder With An African Face: Wisdom and Aging in African Traditions: Clyde Ford
Africa is a huge continent with several thousand languages and diverse spiritual, mythological, and kinship traditions. The popular notion is that Elders in African traditions were universally revered, but this is not the case. This presentation surveys several traditions from both social and mythological points of view. Some African traditions that survived the horrors of the Middle Passage and the brutality of slavery are still prevalent among African Americans today and will be presented with their importance in terms of present-day calls for racial equity.
Describe two African traditions related to aging and wisdom, one that values aging and wisdom and another that does not.
Describe at least one African myth that demonstrates the importance of aging wisdom to the culture from which the myth arose.
Learn two ways in which West African traditions of aging and wisdom survived the Middle Passage.
Identify at least one way in which West African traditions of aging and wisdom are still found in some African American communities, and how those traditions regarding aging intersect with calls for racial equity.
Meeting the Inner Elder — Archetypal Image of the Self (Experiential): Connie Zweig
Like the Inner Child, we all have an Inner Elder, a hidden figure that is banished from conscious awareness but carries our intuitive wisdom, ethical guidance, and spiritual connection to a transpersonal source. Jung called this archetype the Two-Million-Year-Old-Man or Woman, the Wise Old Man or Woman, “the speaking fountainhead of the soul,” who appears in our dreams and myths. Our late-life shift from Hero to Elder requires cultivating a conscious relationship with the Inner Elder and beginning an interchange with him/her as part of this rite of passage. This guided visualization will enable participants to meet this inner figure and begin a dialogue of discovery.
Identify the inner voice or image of a guiding Elder within.
Saturday: Day 2: The Inner Work of Age
Completing Emotional Unfinished Business: A Life Review of the Unlived Life in the Shadow (Experiential): Connie Zweig
This experiential presentation explores how to do a traditional life review from the ego’s point of view and describes its benefits to older adults. Then we add the dimension of the shadow, or unconscious mind, in which the unlived life has taken place outside of conscious awareness. Participants learn a method to link the conscious to the unconscious life review, opening a window onto what was buried or sacrificed during our lives and what might, even now, be reclaimed and lived out. Note to participants: Please bring a pen or pencil and the largest piece of paper you can find.
Identify an early formative experience that shaped your later life.
Identify people with whom you have unfinished emotional business.
Define the difference between a traditional life review and a shadow life review.
Identify two gifts or talents that were buried in your shadow so that your personality could develop in the way that it did.
Name two ways that you can express those lost gifts now.
Completing Spiritual Unfinished Business: Reimagining the God-image in Later Life: Lionel Corbett
Based on Jung’s notion of the Self as the God within, an innate image in the psyche, this discussion will describe some of the ways in which our images of God might evolve over the full course of our lives, rather than being dependent on traditional doctrinal and dogmatic accounts of God. It will explore some of the problems associated with traditional theistic God-images and explain Jung’s alternative approach. It also will describe many symbolic manifestations of the Self and the ways they may be projected onto external savior figures or even onto people.
Identify the symbolic manifestations of the Self.
Compare Jung’s approach to the God-image with traditional images of God in the theistic traditions.
Compare Jung’s notion of the dark side of the divine with traditional benevolent God-images.
Further Psychological Type Development Later in Life: John Beebe
Early in life, the development of consciousness involves differentiating a dominant and an auxiliary function type, which enable our personalities to assume a type identity. During midlife, when our typology’s task shifts from adaptation to individuation, the third and inferior functions lead a new effort at wholeness. Mediated by anima or animus, shadow functions will come forward, and their relations to our dominant functions become critical. This presentation investigates personality changes that take place by opening up the entirety of our potential typology.
Describe how the second half of life differs from the first half with respect to psychological type development.
Identify the part of the personality that mediates our relation to the shadowy, defensive parts of our personality.
Describe the relationship between type development and what we think of as Elder wisdom.
Composting a Life: Soul-Making as We Age and Ready for Death: Cydny Urbina Rothe
As we age, we are asked to relinquish the primacy of our ego, to allow its permeability by the unconscious. Often, this is not something we willingly invite. It is experienced as a threat, breaking our known ways of moving through the world. The containers that have reliably held us begin to dissolve. And something unanticipated, beyond our will, enters our awareness. We feel the movement of energy from a deeper source guiding us. Aging and the certainty of death, coupled with its uncertain circumstances, is a reality that can facilitate these soul-making possibilities.
Learn how aging loosens the persona and fosters a deeper reflection on life’s purpose and meaning.
Explore the diverse ways one engages with the fact of one’s death.
Learn how the soul begins readying for death, whether or not this is held in awareness.
Day 3: Aging as Spiritual Practice
AGE: What the Buddha Taught: Anna Douglas
Buddhist teachings tell us that the potential for freeing the heart and mind does not depend on age. It depends on the training of mind and heart to abide in timeless awareness. It is best to begin this training long before you are ill or dying. Then, like a treasured friend, your own mind can accompany you through the challenges of loss, death, and the dysfunction of the body. The presentation offers a blend of contemporary research on mindfulness and aging with the ancient wisdom of the Buddhadharma.
Describe Buddhist spiritual practices for late life
Panel: Aging as Spiritual Practice
Moderator: Connie Zweig
Buddhist Practice and Age:Anna Douglas
Walking Each Other Home: Bringing Contemplative Awareness to Grief and Mortality as We Age:Mirabai Bush
We will discuss how to bring awareness and acceptance of death into daily life and the importance of grieving. We will explore practices from several traditions for letting go of fear and regret, cultivating loving kindness and compassion, and being with the dying.
Describe how to break denial about death and live with mortality awareness.
Identify spiritual practices that are specifically for late life.
Truth is One: Perennial Wisdom in Judaism and Vedanta: Rabbi Rami Shapiro
Truth has no adjective: There is no such thing as Jewish Truth, Hindu Truth, Christian Truth, etc. There is only one Truth. The languages in which Truth is spoken differ, but their differences reveal the richness of Truth, rather than competing truths. Religions differ only when they abandon Truth for sacred opinion and contemplative experience for tribal beliefs. Rabbi Rami will outline the central Truth of nonduality as articulated in Judaism and Vedanta Hinduism and invite you to find and take refuge in the same Truth in your own tradition.
Describe non-duality in Jewish teachings.
Describe non-duality in Vedanta teachings.
Mystical Christianity’s View of Aging with Wisdom: Robert Jonas
Spiritual teachers, East and West, have shared theories of human development, sometimes described as a gradual transformation from self to Self, or false self to True Self. This talk will explore the characteristics of the True Self in the Christian mystical (non-dual) tradition, emphasizing the works of Marguerite Porete (14th c.), John Ruusbroec (14th c.), St. John of the Cross (16th c.) and Henri Nouwen (20th c.).
Describe the True Self in mystical Christianity.
Compare psychological ego development in Fowler’s theory of faith development with other models.
Identify Christian spiritual practices for late life.
Thomas Moore is author of the bestseller Care of the Soul and twenty-five other books on the depth psychology of everyday life. He has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Syracuse University, as well as degrees in theology and in music. He has been a psychotherapist for over thirty years and frequently lectures for Jung societies, medical conferences, churches, and therapy organizations. His most recent books include Ageless Soul and Soul Therapy.
John Beebe is creator of the eight-function, eight-archetype model of psychological types. A Jungian analyst and past president of the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, he is author of Energies and Patterns in Psychological Type: The Reservoir of Consciousness and co-editor of The Question of Psychological Types: The Correspondence of C. G. Jung and Hans Schmid-Guisan. John has spearheaded a Jungian typological approach to the analysis of film and wrote the preface to a new edition of Jung’s 1921 book Psychological Types.
Mirabai Bush is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and served as Executive Director until 2008. Under her direction, The Center introduced contemplative practices into social work, higher education, law, business, environmental leadership, the military, and social justice activism. She has been teaching workshops and courses on contemplative practice in life and work for 45 years. She is co-author with Ram Dass of Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying and Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service; and editor of Contemplation Nation: How Ancient Practices Are Changing the Way We Live.
Lionel Corbett, M.D., trained in medicine and psychiatry in England and as a Jungian Analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago. He is a professor of depth psychology at Paciﬁca Graduate Institute and author of five books: Psyche and the sacred:The religious function of the psyche;The sacred cauldron: Psychotherapy as a spiritual practice;The soul in anguish: Psychotherapeutic approaches to suffering, and UnderstandingEvil: A guide for psychotherapists. He is co-editor of four volumes of collected papers: Psyche’s Stories; Depth psychology, meditations in the field; Psychology at the threshold; and Jung and aging.
Anna Douglas, Ph.D., is one of the founding teachers of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California. She has taught in the Insight Meditation tradition for over 30 years and offers ongoing psycho-spiritual mentoring for students. Most recently, she offers classes and retreats for those over 60 who wish to explore the spiritual opportunities of aging, illness, and dying. She divides her time between San Francisco and the Sonoran desert of Arizona, where she is the guiding teacher of Insight Meditation Tucson.
Beginning in 1987 and until her retirement in 2021, Christine Downing taught at Pacifica Graduate Institute in the Mythological Studies program. Her many books include The Goddess, Journey through Menopause, Psyche’s Sisters, Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love, Women’s Mysteries, Gods In Our Midst, The Long Journey Home: Revisioning the Myth of Persephone and Demeter for Our Time, The Luxury of Afterwards, and Mythopoetic Musings. Her essay, “Your Old Men Shall Dream Dreams,” in Preludes, is closely related to the themes of this symposium.
Clyde W. Ford was trained as a chiropractor and psychotherapist. He’s the award-winning author of 13 works of fiction and non-fiction. His 2000 book, The Hero With An African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa was described by Jonathan Young, of the Joseph Campbell Library, as “picking up where Joseph Campbell left off.” He is also author of Where Healing Waters Meet and, more recently, Think Black. He has been a guest on the Oprah Show, NPR, C-SPAN/BookTV and many other media outlets. He currently lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Robert A. Jonas, Ed.D., M.T.S., is author of Rebecca: A Father’s Journey from Grief to Gratitude, and two biographies about Fr. Henri Nouwen. His forthcoming book, My Dear Far-Nearness, explores the Christian Holy Trinity as three dimensions of consciousness. He is director of The Empty Bell, a contemplative sanctuary in Northampton, MA, whose website is a resource for contemplative Christians and for Buddhist-Christian dialogue. Trained as a psychotherapist, Dr. Jonas is now a retreat leader, author, video artist, environmental steward, and musician (Shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute).
Cydny Rothe is a Jungian analyst in Pasadena, California. The loss of her father at age 15 fostered a lifetime sensitivity to the imminence of death and a passionate interest in the moments around dying. She has led workshops on the body in psychotherapy, films through a Jungian lens, the unconscious in groups, dreams, racism from her perspective as a person of mixed ethnicity, and aging and death. She currently serves on the Task Force for Diversity and Inclusivity at the Jung Institute Of Los Angeles.
A Jewish practitioner of Perennial Wisdom, Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award–winning author of more than thirty-six books on religion and spirituality. He is an ordained Rabbi and holds a Ph.D. in religion from Union Graduate School. A rabbinic chaplain, a congregational rabbi, and a professor of religious studies, Rabbi Rami currently co-directs the One River Foundation, is a Contributing Editor at Spirituality and Health magazine, and hosts the magazine’s bi-weekly podcast, Essential Conversations with Rabbi Rami.
Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus in the Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and author, coauthor, editor or co-editor of thirty-one volumes, including poetry and a novel coauthored with Charles Asher. He has also published dozens of book and film reviews and op-ed pieces. He offers talks on biblical and literary figures, cultural mythologies, personal myth, and the creative process. His recent titles include An Obscure Order: Reflections on Cultural Mythologies and Mything Links: The Subtle Wisdom of Stories. He enjoys painting in acrylic and watercolor and riding his motorcycle through the Texas Hill Country with his two sons.
Connie Zweig, Ph.D., is a retired therapist, co-author of Meeting the Shadow and Romancing the Shadow, author of Meeting the Shadow of Spirituality and a novel, A Moth to the Flame: The Life of Sufi Poet Rumi. Her forthcoming book, The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul, (Sept. 2021), extends shadow-work into late life and teaches aging as a spiritual practice. Connie has been doing contemplative practices for 50 years. She is a wife and grandmother and was initiated as an Elder by Sage-ing International in 2017. After investing in all these roles, she is practicing the shift from role to soul.
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