The Cycle of Life
Themes and Tales of the Journey
by Erel Shalit
“the art of life is the most distinguished and rarest of all the arts.”
-C.G. Jung, CW 8, par. 789
In the first half of life, the task of the young traveler is to depart from home, to step out into the world in search for his or her adventure, to find his or her own individual path. However, in the second half, we find ourselves on what often amounts to a very long journey in search of Home. In many a tale, the hero, for instance Gilgamesh, sets off on his road to find life’s elixir, while other stories, such as the Odyssey, revolve around the hero’s long and arduous journey home.
This archetypal journey of life is constantly repeated along the never-ending process of individuation. We find ourselves returning to this venture repeatedly, every night, as we set out on our nightly voyage into the landscape of our unconscious. Many dreams begin by being on the way, for instance, “I am on my way to …,” I am driving on a road that leads into the desert …,” I am walking through one room after the other in a long corridor-like building …,” “I am walking towards my office, but it looks different than in reality,” “I walk on the pavement and on the opposite side of the street someone seems to follow me …,” “I go down into an underground parking…,” “I am in my car, but someone I don’t know is driving,” or, “I have to go to the place from where I came ...”
Prominently, we are familiar with the journey of Dante, who at the very beginning of his Divine Comedy finds himself “Midway along the journey of our life.”
A partial list of topics explored in The Cycle of Life include:
I. The Journey
Stages and Seasons
Jung’s Stages of Life
All the World’s a Stage, and a Stage of Life
Being on the Way—A Way of Being
Hermes and the Journey: Being on the Way
Backward and Forward
II. The Child
The Child in the Mirror
Psychotherapy and Childhood
The Divine Child
From Divine to Human
Eros, Psyche and Pleasure
III. The Puer and the Puella
Between Shame and Fear
Wine, Spirit and Fire
Prometheus—the Thoughtful Thief
IV. The Adult
King on Earth
Boundaries of Reality
Celestial Jerusalem—Terrestrial Jerusalem
The King who Refuses to Die
The Dried-up Earth
The Limping Ego
The Empty Shell
V. i. The Senex
V. ii. Homage to Sophocles
V. iii. The Last Chapter: Self and Meaning
An Oak and an Acorn
We Are All Beggars, Are We Not?
Paperback: 200 pages (est.)
Publisher: Fisher King Press; First edition (June 21, 2011)
Dr. Arieh Friedler, Israel Adult Education Association, reviews The Cycle of Life:
Required Reading for all Travelers on Life's Journey
From the Bible to Shakespeare, to Carl Jung and to Eric Ericson, Erel Shalit’s book, The Cycle of Life poetically and informatively presents “the themes and tales of the journey”. Shalit cites Jung who assured us that the journey entails BOTH the road we take and HOW we take that road, our conscious attitude. Likewise, as one sets out on the book’s journey, s/he is aware of Shalit’s profound understanding of the cycle of life. His expertise in Jungian psychology coupled with his vast personal experience in treating clients is apparent on nearly every page. It is HOW he presents the journey that makes this book both very enjoyable and very readable. Just as one feels that perhaps s/he is getting a bit lost in the psychological description of one of the stages in the life cycle, Shalit presents the reader with a poignant example from literature, Greek mythology, Eastern Philosophy, or from Jewish philosophy which illustrates and clarifies the issue for the layman.
As one of these laymen who is on the threshold of the last stage in the journey, I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who wants to understand his or her own life as an individual or as part of the universe. The book should be required reading for all those starting out on “the journey”, for those who deal with people who are somewhere on the path, and for those of us who are at the last station but who still have the strength and the curiosity to understand how s/he has arrived at this point. All in all The Cycle of Life is an outstanding publication by a brilliant writer.
Grady Harp reviews The Cycle of Life:
Erel Shalit's Guidance Through the Journey of Life
Writing a review of the writings of Erel Shalit is daunting. How can anyone quickly distill the expansive and loving knowledge of this brilliant thinker and writer? The pleasure of reading Shalit's books (eg, ENEMY, CRIPPLE, BEGGAR: SHADOWS IN THE HERO'S PATH) is the absorbing of his manner of drawing us into his thoughts and speculations of Jungian individuation. He is a Jungian psychoanalyst in Israel but lectures throughout the world and the increasing acknowledgement of his many books indicates his level of importance in the community of psychology.
In THE CYCLE OF LIFE Shalit encourages the reader to reflect on all aspects of their time here on the earth, absorbing each of the stages of development of growing, but not dismissing the fountain of growth at the end of life. He early on gently shakes his finger at our contemporary thoughts of wanting to hide age: 'When cosmetics and plastic surgery mold a stiff and unyielding mask of youth, or rather of fictitious youthful appearance, old age cannot wear its true face of wisdom. By flattening out the valleys of our wrinkles, we erase the imprints of our character. Fixation in a narcissistic condition of an outworn mask silences the inner voice of meaning in our life.'
He divides his book into the stages of life and, of course, emphasizes the Jungian exploration of the second half of life (he reminds us that Jung is considered the father of the modern study of adult development). One of the selfless manners in which Shalit writes is his sharing of quotations by other writers - including Shakespeare's excerpt from 'As You Like It' - the 'All the world's a stage/ And all the men and women merely players etc'. He honors the words of colleagues alive and passed on, making sure that we the reader receive an expansive exposure to the interpretations of others.
But where Shalit blooms is in his compassion and this comes forward in the most needed spaces. He closes his book with the following: 'As much as we in old age reflect back upon what has been satisfactory in our lives, we need, as well, to bear our failures and foregone opportunities. Even if we have managed to walk our own individual path, having been fortunate to follow the road less traveled and found our way home to a sense of meaning in our personal quest, we need to carry the unanswered questions and unknown possibilities of the road not taken.' This is the soothing message he offers at the end of his insistence that we examine our lives as a whole. He is brilliant, he is warm, and we are the better for reading him.