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The Burning Bush

THE SYMBOLIC LIFE (Summer 2001)


One of the best examples of the relevance of the symbolic language of the psyche to our psychological development comes to us from the story of the Exodus. After a time of exile from Egypt and a new, more grounded life as a shepherd, Moses discovers the burning bush. This experience comes to him quite unexpectedly. Sensing this encounter as one of great importance, he honors it reverentially, and soon hears the voice of God.

This incident sets Moses forth toward his destiny as the leader of the people of Israel out of Egypt, to Mount Sinai, and on to the Promised Land. In the language of Jungian psychology, at the burning bush Moses encounters the call to individuation, his unique destiny and purpose.

The burning bush is a fitting symbol of this call for Moses. When last in Egypt he had become possessed with rage while watching an Egyptian overseer beating a fellow Hebrew. Out of this rage Moses killed the Egyptian, and was forced to flea into the surrounding wilderness in order to save his own life. Here Moses settles into a life more rooted to the earth, its plants and animals, including starting his own family. In the burning bush, Moses discovers a fire that burns, but does not consume, indicative of his now transformed anger. This fiery energy is not a threat to the organic life represented by the living bush. In this symbol they coexist. Now Moses is ready to go forward into life in a new way, not consumed by primitive affect, but able to channel his energies into the service of the greater purposes of life.

Spring has traditionally been a time to consider such transformative experiences. The miraculous events of Passover and Easter are celebrated during this season. Persephone returns from the underworld, and the vegetative earth governed by her mother Demeter is renewed and regenerated.

This spring we at Coldwater Counseling Center wish you a meaningful encounter with the symbolic world of the burning bush, either through renewed contact with the traditions of old, or in some new transformative way. Maybe your dog will talk, your moose will fly, or that which you most fear, rather than consume you, might bring you warmth and comfort.

Editor: Steve Galipeau

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