Psychological Types in the Grocery Bag Industry

I faced the perennial question of ‘paper or plastic?’ once again as I stood in the checkout line at my local Food Arcade. I use both types of bag depending on domestic need (I’m bisacksual), and I happened to select paper on this occasion. As I received the printout from my 99% Club Lead Card (down-graded from my Platinum Card of twenty years ago), I felt the disapproving glares of customers behind me.

The bag-boy sullenly packed my groceries. The cashier eye-balled me with solemn judgment. A man in line piped, “Dude! Save the trees!” and the young girl holding his hand looked up at him, “Does that man hate our eco-system, daddy?” Publicly abashed, I thought about it on the way home. Had my environmental footprint turned me into one of those eco-terrorists I’d read about?

As a boy, I took paper bags for granted; though I still have vague memories of the parchment bags my mother used in the fifties. But, parchment became too expensive for a throw-away society’s created need to buy ever more of the flimsy products which exponentially increased industry profits and left in the wake of its greed the obsolete values of quality and pride once governing the manufacture of a decent product for a reasonable price while at the same time conserving finite resources… 

But, I saw a commercial that said we have more trees now than ever. What about the biodegradability of the paper bag? I heard, too, that it takes twenty-five thousand years for a plastic bag to decompose. I thought about the millions of tons of plastic debris washed onto the world’s coastlines; but also of the vast tracts of baby pine trees sentenced to death in carefully cultivated industry graveyards where all life-forms which might interfere with quick commercial growth have been exterminated.

More confused than ever, I contacted Handel der Sachs, C.E.O. of Grocer’s Choice Unlimited, the world’s top supplier of grocery bags. He said that ‘paper or plastic?’ was the theme of this year’s corporate convention. “We’ve seen a lot of controversy in the bag business over the years,” he said. “The hand grip on the paper bag, for instance, is a sensitive subject for most retailers. Have you ever seen retailers offer both the bag with the hand grip and the one without it?”

I admitted I hadn’t. “Of course you haven’t; you never will. These ideological sub-divisions were mapped out long ago. One can still see examples of it in the old papyrus bags of antiquity. Some of the bags unearthed in Egyptian tombs had hand grips and some didn’t, depending on the beliefs of the reigning king and the merchants serving him. In most essential aspects, the entire history of the grocery bag industry was founded on efforts to mollify these two antithetical ideologies.”

I wondered how the plastic bag had evaded the controversies of the paper bag. “Owing to the schism caused by the hand grip on the paper bag, ” he explained, “the hand grip on the plastic bag was integrated with its conception and was inherent in it. Only that and advertising appeals to the green movement and its fear-based nonsense about “diminishing resources’ allowed it to compete with the paper bag.” It made sense.

He suggested that the hand grip controversy may even have been fueled by the old “Bag Czars” of the mid-twentieth century as a P.R. stunt. “Their ruthless zeal forced the conflict into the forefront long before the Supreme Court ruled that the matter of hand grips was to be decided by the market…. but it never was, and the commercial bag industry remains polarized.

“Some customers provide their own personal hand-totes in an attempt to avoid the conflict… but,” he added, “I strongly advise against it. The average private tote has more bacteria than a construction site Port-a-Potty.” I quickly ruled out the private tote option — however, the question of ‘paper or plastic?’ stubbornly persisted.

He went on to explain how the division rose naturally out of the business itself: “These values run deep in the veins of the individual merchant — they always have — and the split between the two camps has only intensified over time.” My head was spinning. It seemed the more I searched for answers the more complex became the questions. “But what about ‘paper vs. plastic’?” I groped, “What does the data say?”

He looked pensive. “Our own independent study, ‘Eco-system Toxicity and Bio-degradation’ has confirmed what many scientists have long suspected: the pollutants and contaminants inherent in generating and maintaining our current consumption-system require a baseline toxicity level for every product generated by that system; each has a similar effect on the environment — regardless of composition, biodegradability, production quality, or end-use.”

The study revealed an “apparent bio-degradation” which was neither less nor more impactful on the environment than so-called “open bio-degradation.” I was stunned. “So you mean it doesn’t matter which bag I use; its net effect on the  environment is the same?” I couldn’t believe it. “That’s correct.” he said. “The law of quantitative equivalence demands it; the old qualitative analyses only served to obfuscate it…”

He went on, but I could no longer hear him. I was already overwhelmed by more information than I could process. Far outweighing my confusion, however, was the profound sense of relief that humanity’s future rests securely in the hands of science merged in partnership with business and technology to serve the needs of the global community. The issue of ‘paper or plastic?’ suddenly seemed small in comparison.

Is the world too complicated? Where is our perspective on modern values?

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Alchemy: Intellect in Transition

The modern shift from a traditional religious view to an increasingly scientific one drew Jung to alchemy. He saw the psychological aspects of metaphysical symbols as vital counterweights to the literal truths of science in confronting the dangerous challenges of nuclear technology. Why it’s important is rooted in the historical nature of our mental functioning.

His studies led him back to a time when science and religion were not mutually exclusive. Natural philosophy was the unconscious gradient for development in an inquiring medieval mind driven to new ways of thinking about itself and the world.

As many alchemists were invested in the religious and philosophical side of their work, psychic processes were projected into physical analogies. Jung’s in-depth studies of medieval symbolism were an important advance in how we conceive the creativity of the religious factor, its symbolic forms, and their projection onto concrete reality.

For Jung, alchemical philosophy formed a natural continuity in the shift from religion to science. Intuitive ideas pushed it outside Church dogma; less collectively developed and more expressive of natural tendencies. New forms of centuries-old conflicts took shape in a new transitional phase. Modern science now find us at the crossroads of two opposed realities: the causal, material world of the senses and the unconscious psychic energy specific to inner development. Natural law tells us consciousness is relative to both.

Transition means conflict, and the unconscious psyche is ceaselessly engaged in presenting traditional problems in new guise. But, as natural philosophy showed, the depth of relation to an unconscious nature lies far below a dualistic Christian philosophy. It’s not surprising that the medieval search for subjective truth reflects modern conflicts; the new scientific world-view is as collective as the religious one. This psychological translation by Jung of an obscure alchemical allegory expresses it:

“The more you cling to that which all the world desires… you are Everyman, who has not yet discovered himself and stumbles through the world… For desire only burns in you in order to burn itself out, and in and from this fire arises the true living spirit which generates life according to its own laws, and is not blinded by the shortsightedness of our intentions or the crude presumption of our superstitious belief in the will.”

Jung added: “The unconscious demands your interest for its own sake and wants to be accepted for what it is. Once the existence of this opposite is accepted, the ego can and should come to terms with its demands. Unless the content given you by the unconscious is acknowledged, its compensatory effect is not only nullified but actually changes into its opposite, as it then tries to realize itself literally and concretely.”

The mystery of the psyche isn’t a convenient subject (or object) in a scientific age overwhelmed by the vast accrual of technical knowledge. Nature’s wisdom speaks through broad analogies, whether in religious parables or dreams. Its dark uncertainties mean development. Jung examined the thief, a shadow-figure of unconscious individuality:

“The thief… personifies a kind of self-robbery. He is not easily shaken off, as it comes from the habit of thinking supported by tradition and milieu alike: anything that cannot be exploited in some way is uninteresting — hence the devaluation of the psyche. A further reason is the habitual depreciation of everything which one cannot touch with the hands or does not understand.”

The modern techno-commercial market mentality would steal for itself the very foundations of individuality, negating centuries of spiritual effort. Subjective experience is sold back to us through projected emotions which consume more and more of the energy reserved for inner development. Mass ideological conflicts mask a lack of introspection:

“Anyone… who thinks in terms of men minus the individual, in huge numbers, atomizes himself and becomes a thief and a robber to himself… infected with the leprosy of collective thinking…”

Alchemy described the symbolic function of relations between a “masculine” consciousness and a “feminine” unconscious as the “arcane substance”: a mysterious psychic design which mediates the opposites on ever higher levels. The earthly human form was “hermaphroditic and even feminine.” It wasn’t the transsexual image of today but a single body with two heads, male and female, a symbol of spiritual consciousness:

“Because the arcane substance always points to the principal unconscious content… its nature shows in what relation that content stands to consciousness. If the conscious mind has accepted it, it has a positive form, if not, a negative one. If on the other hand the arcane substance is split into two figures, this means that the content has been partly accepted and partly rejected; it is seen under two different and incompatible aspects and is therefore taken to be two different things.”

Alchemical philosophy was an unconscious response to a one-sided Christian philosophy — too collective, otherworldy, and inflated to accept a natural reality: the hidden opposite of earth’s little god. Jung wrote:

“It is the age-old drama of opposites, no matter what they are called, which is fought out in every human life. In our text it is obviously the struggle between the good and the evil spirit, expressed in alchemical language just as today we express it in conflicting ideologies.” The opposite, through concentration: “becomes “fixed” through the mystery… in which the extreme opposites unite, night is wedded with day, and “the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female neither male nor female.” This apocryphal saying of Jesus from the beginning of the second century is indeed a paradigm for the alchemical union of opposites.”

Continue reading for an example of the living process of coming to terms with the opposite.

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The Devil’s in the Details

In Christianity, the mystery of coming to consciousness irepresented as the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden. Jung described the serpent as a symbol of nature’s transformation in a twilight half-human which gradually came into opposition to itself. It didn’t happen suddenly.

Myths contain an ambiguous wealth of unconscious information which can’t be explained discursively. The psyche is a diffuse organ of perception whose wider perspective is supplemented by the focus and detail of consciousness. Beyond rational science lies an irrational pre-history of sensory, emotional, and intuitive functions that point back to a remote past — but, also to the future: the psyche is is a mysterious continuum in which past, present, and future co-exist outside our conscious conception of time. 

In its most urgent sense, the function of life is adaption to immediate reality, though the value of memory-images confirms that an orientation to the past is indispensable for it. But, time-awareness implies possibilities as well. As myths also portend collective tendencies, dreams sketch out possibilities for individual development; it’s how the unconscious deity of wholeness reflects our fate — pardon the subjectivity.

Jung demonstrated how the snake symbolizes instinctual wisdom: the winding by-paths of earth-bound existence, the frightening hidden nature of an animal reality which strikes suddenly from unseen places, the forked tongue of a dual nature which deceives as it yet speaks the truth. As we evolved, so did the image — into a part-human figure as did older animal deities which described the dawn of humanity.

Over the many centuries of evolution depicted in the Old Testament, the serpent reappeared as Satan, much as the Sphinx symbolized the humanization process in Egyptian mythology. It seems crazy to me today that as a youth I was instructed to believe literally in such a mythical figure as had the tail, horns, and hooves of an animal yet to realize its full human potential; though, I see it in myself and the world, still.

For many, it’s difficult to identify anything real in it. To the rationalist and the atheist, it’s merely silly. To the politician and the preacher, it’s more a tool for manipulation. But, even the true believer is coming to doubt its significance in an age of literal material truth. A major shift in consciousness finds it mostly in the museum of outdated fantasy — diffused back into the unconscious — waiting to be re-defined. But, historical analogy is essential for a sense of the symbolic blueprint of unconscious functioning.

In the biblical context, snake and devil condense into one idea the opposition required to accept or reject; to choose amid a world of possibilities in a human prototype slowly awakening from a dreaming instinctual awareness. Expulsion from the garden signified that fateful split from unconscious nature, its secret relations eloquently and poetically portrayed as the drama between god and man.

The last collective image describing the dark side of our natures is that figure of the Devil. Whose mind doesn’t respond to the leering mythical half-beast’s evil grin, the long arrow-headed cat’s tail, the beastly horns, the cloven hooves? These attributes demand to be reassembled in a new way to form any meaning in the strange guise they present. He’s now the scattered and undefined anxiety of fear, chaos, confusion, and projected hostility in the new dawn of an uncertain technological future.

The horns of this fading fantasy figure equate with the forked tongue, and both point to a dual nature: the fork in the head, a form of awareness, though a primitive one; the tongue, an ancient reminder of an opposed consciousness which would question even a god (a property the snake possessed, too, in the ancient trinity of animal, man and deity) — and at the same time, the earthly opposite of the Word of humanity’s highest aspirations.

Someone once told me of a dream he had of this very picture of the devil, its tail twitching like a cat’s tail as it grinned eerily in its sphinx-like repose. It’s this cat-like, feminine quality of repressed emotion which the unconscious seized upon to inform him of his dissociation. The arrow-head on the tail was the piercing depth his unconscious nature intended to point out his rational misconceptions of himself.

The Devil’s unconsciousness is symboled by his dark nature, though his defining color is red. Erich Neumann described redness as instinctual excitation; and the sensuality of material desire now bids our loftiest scientific minds to uncover all its depth — in concrete form. The beast would become human — but it needs the assistance of other psychic functions. Goethe expressed something of the sort in the witch’s kitchen when Faust was in need of a magic potion to make him fall in love: “It’s true the Devil taught her how to do it. And yet the Devil cannot brew it.”

His hooves describe the instinctual foundations of herd-like collective instincts which can easily overpower the freedom of the individual. Jehovah’s commands, however, forbade the eating of herd animals with split hooves, reinforcing the idea of dissociation, but also the need for union which the myth of the garden decreed was the central theme of an individual spiritual life.

These ideas lie in the images as symbolic pointers to our division and the need for a spiritual reconciliation. The depth psychology which unearthed this new way of looking at our histories has only recently been established. The science of it is not yet recognized. 

For an example of how this associative process works below the surface of consciousness, continue reading or visit Amazon.

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Science and Technology: The New Dogma of Repression

“Whether primitive or not, mankind always stands on the brink of actions it performs itself but does not control. The whole world wants peace and the whole world prepares for war…” — Carl Jung

It’s been a century since Jung introduced his theory of psychic energy. It seems little more acknowledged today than then. His psychological adaptation of the laws of physical energy appears as arbitrary to scientific thought as do religious figures or the philosophical paradoxes that occupied minds long ago.

In terms of psychic energy, however, the objective study of things presupposes a subjective fascination which is inseparable from human use and intent. The purposes and direction of a nuclear technology now charge a young psychology with guiding us out of the religious and philosophical cul-de-sac a dissociated intellect proffers in a new atomic age.

What scientists saw as Jung’s mysticism was a new philosophy of science and religion; a comparative history of consciousness with a conceptual view of psychic functioning that stretched the limits of causal thought. His intuitions of humanity’s dark side drew him beyond rational method’s surface applications; for, the “method enjoys greater intellectual recognition than its subject.”

A new dogma of objectivity replaces the old religious one; its images dissolved into a dark, fathomless universe of impersonal and unspeakably violent cosmic forces. Where did the emotional energy we invested in the projections go?

“The matter now seems turned about; the Devil’s in the house and can’t get out.” As Goethe’s Faust echoed two centuries ago, a stark new heavenly mirror stares back at us from a timeless eternity. But, it was Jung who brought a metaphysical religious philosophy down to an earthly psychic reality:  

“… the psyche is so infinitely diverse in its manifestations, so indefinite and unbounded, that the definitions of it are difficult if not impossible to interpret, whereas the definitions based on the mode of observation and on the method derived from it are — or at least should be — known quantities. Psychological research proceeds from these empirically or arbitrarily defined factors and observes the psyche in terms of their alterations. The psyche therefore appears as the disturbance of a probable mode of behavior postulated by one or the other of these methods.”

He stated that “everything depends on the method and its presuppositions and that they largely determine the results.” The method itself is “disturbed by the autonomous behavior of the psyche…” The partial nature of thought can never anticipate instinctive processes; they’re “really unconscious” and will always defy conscious description. 

Allowing the material he observed over decades to form its own picture, Jung postulated his theory of types: sixteen fundamental “realities” in which each can be considered as valid as the others. He emphasized that it was only one of many possible (or “probable”) modes of observation — and again, Goethe’s words echoed in the background: “It’s been a fact of ancient date that men make little worlds within the great.”

He stressed that in practice no classification appears in ideal or abstract form. All things psychic are protean, shifting. They disappear and reappear according to their own laws; one of the reasons psychology is, in the final analysis, more philosophical than scientific. But, such a fluid view allows a timeless psyche to express itself. To relate to this reality on its own terms is to enter a dark world of uncertainty:

“Fear and resistance are the signposts that stand beside the via regia to the unconscious, and it is obvious that what they primarily signify is a preconceived opinion of the thing they are pointing at. It is only natural that from the feeling of fear one should infer something dangerous and from the feeling of resistance something repellent. The patient does so, the public does so, and in the end the analyst does so too… this view naturally conceives the unconscious as consisting of incompatible tendencies which are repressed on account of their immorality.”

But, unconscious compensations presuppose objective functions. Hidden in the religious guilt and the philosophical reflection which would bind together two opposed realities are the images designed to supplement our preconceptions: the dark side of the mental inheritance which makes consciousness relative to a greater mystery. Thanks to an inherited morality and the threat of extinction behind the new technology, we now procreate exponentially faster than we kill each other; though the compulsions for both have not been appreciably altered by either.

The facts of unconscious compensation are a fundamental discovery that lies at the heart of human conflict: the role of consciousness, will, choice, emotion, perception, the Deity; all the ways we relate to ourselves and the world. The depth of human functioning so transcends conscious morality that no statistics, studies, or standardized methods will reveal its unconscious influences on our behavior. 

Psychologically, the incompatible tendencies which disturb our ideals are the most objective appraisals we have, just not quite yet in serviceable form. The new “objective” dogma still sees them in moralistic terms, however: disease, disorder, defect, pathological, and sick are the new good and evil of today’s self-estrangement — and the labels only stick further into the open wound of our religious history…

For an example of how Jung’s energic theory can be applied to the mid-life search for meaning, read more or visit Amazon.

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New Study Links Sleep to Delayed Gratification

“Sleep can have a striking effect on consciousness.” – Ignatius Gestalt

This profound insight is only one among a litany of startling new discoveries by Ignatius Gestalt, recently appointed “fix-man” at Genes-R-Us, the latest of the “new-rological” advertising agencies to attract corporate attention. His studies confirm it and more, and the world of commercial group-think is taking notice:

“The traditional marketing paradigm is yesterday’s news. Experts agree that our conclusions will have sweeping effects on the global consumer-system. While casual observation would assume that end users don’t buy much when they’re asleep,” he chafed, “no one bothered to investigate how the soothing bath of somnambulism could be re-purposed to induce them to buy more than they could possibly need — or even want.”

The principle is a logical extension of the crude commercial advertising of the last century which, too randomly dependent on the irrational factors of individual quirk, was blindly limited to specific target-groups. “This hit-or-miss approach, while still highly profitable, was far less than ideal.” he explained. “Modern neuro-technology will soon serve the unique needs of each customer in the intimacy of the home sleep-setting without the cumbersome intervention of conscious activity.

“Patents are already in the works to serve today’s ‘omni-consumer’ whom the old ‘shot-in-the-dark’ market psychology left confused and adrift amid the chaos of conscious choice. Our advanced neurological approach would release the energy of pent-up anxieties for more creative pursuits than the tedious and mundane physical chores once required for life’s maintenance — that’s what tech support’s for. The new science of technology tells us that the body’s primary function is sensual gratification; its utilitarian value obsolete.”

He dished up the nuts and bolts of modern neuro-tech’s bold new applications: “Recent advancements in the electrode now allow us to track the subconscious wishes of consumers via non-invasive skin implants — decorative ‘ecto-versions’ will also be available — and coordinate them with a grid of compatible products. A personalized marketing inventory would then be specifically tailored to individual need. Upon waking, a printout of the end user’s deepest existential concerns would be instantly available in material form. 

“If certain retailers or brand-names are confirmed in advance, the consumer-mark could simply press the call-in button on his/her ‘Night Register’ and the products would arrive by door-step drone on the following business day. If a more hands-on need gratification is preferred, starred, prioritized outlines would conveniently provide directions to the nearest fulfillment center for the catering of his/her most profound desires. It will revolutionize the way the market has approached advertising in the past.”

A ‘Super Saver Plan’ would be assigned to each subscriber, identifiable by Social Security number and a customized ‘Buyer Status’ profile. ‘Consumer Options’ would deliver notices of impending sales events and other such crucial considerations. Depending on economic circumstances, lower-cost alternatives would appear according to that individual’s available credit-line.

“It’s a whole new concept based on the expanding spirit of the ‘ultra-individual’ in today’s culture.” he crowed. “The very sphincter of society is gripped by this ultra-spirit, and the credit service industry must be intimately partnered with theoretical science and applied technology if it is to continue to serve the changing demands of human evolution in the twenty-first century.

“Its impact on the quality of family life will exceed even that of the T.V. dinner.” he avowed. “The notion that we could actually experience what we buy — as things in themselves far beyond any utilitarian vantage-point — and share those experiences with our families was inconceivable outside the context of today’s insights. Modern psychological investigations suggest that we are what we buy. What more personal way to connect with our families and friends than through the shared identification with the products we love and adore?”

Credit reports or ‘Consumer Indices’ would no longer be the sole province of anonymous ‘powers’ but openly shared as consumer and retailer work hand in hand to maintain the credit he/she works a lifetime to enjoy. “If you‘re just starting out as a credit-service variable,” he assured, “consumer counselors will work to establish immediate credit with an eye toward creating options for the future.”

Each step in the construction of the consumer’s ‘market ontology’ would be uniquely fitted to ‘life-style differentials’ as his/her ‘Personal Concierge’ blinks real-time appraisals of market conditions and the availability of products from the nightstand. A convenient off-sensor will deactivate the system when the consumer’s energy level is low and reactivate it according to the psycho-galvanic ennervations of his or her own custom, statistically-derived wake-sleep cycle. 

“Commercial psychology has labored under a negative persona in the past, largely a product of subjective bias; but, thanks to a new empiricism, it’s no longer shameful to admit that we’re subject to brain processes outside conscious control. Shoppers now have the objective evaluations needed for informed decision-making — to take control of their own consumption. 

“The future is now. If we don’t take advantage of the opportunities this new knowledge offers, the earth’s resources will only continue to be squandered by our children and grandchildren. For contemporary culture to accept the filthy end of the evolutionary stick now would only be setting them up for failure.”

If you’re searching for a way out of the modern maze, you’ll need a map. Jung furnished one. Read one small example of where it may lead.

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Jung on the Religious Factor

In Psychological Types, Jung traced the development of Western theology from the East-West schism in the eleventh century to Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation in the 1500′s to such a proliferation of isms today as would rival the world’s entire mythological pantheon. Add a legion of political ideologies and as many personal beliefs as there are hairs on the Cosmic Cow’s body, and you get an idea of evolution’s tendencies. 

Historically, religion is so intimately bound to individual development that the idea of the soul was an integral part of its philosophy. That’s changed. Reality falls short of ideal in all human behavior; today, however, the pretense has been dropped altogether, and the church is more a social-commercial institution than a path to spiritual communion.

A new collective ego-ideal now replaces the older view, and the idea of a higher spiritual authority once presupposed by the soul yields to the science-fiction of objectivity and its shadow-side: the lures of commercial need-invention, social marketing, object-identification, and sensual gratification. But, below these relatively unconscious reactions to the cult of reason, where do the real changes originate?

Jung wrote in The Practice Of Psychotherapy“The positive meaning of the religious factor in a man’s philosophical outlook will not… prevent certain views and interpretations from losing their force and becoming obsolete, as a result of changes in the times, in the social conditions, and in the development of human consciousness. The old mythologems upon which all religion is ultimately based are… the expression of inner psychic events and experiences… they enable the conscious mind to preserve its link with the unconscious, which continues to send out… primordial images just as it did in the remote past.

“These images give adequate expression to the unconscious, and its instinctive movements can in that way be transmitted to the conscious mind without friction… If, however, certain of these images become antiquated, if… they lose all intelligible connection with our contemporary consciousness, then our conscious acts of choice and decision are sundered from their instinctive roots, and a partial disorientation results, because our judgment then lacks any feeling of definiteness and certitude, and there is no emotional driving force behind the decision.”

Psychologically, divine (or numinous) refers to the unconscious feelings that attract consciousness to instinctive movements toward development. Despite its negative connotations, instinct means natural functioning, and “animal” and “divine” are two opposite poles of an age-old psychic continuum. Without a sense of the symbolic function that would reconcile conscious contradictions to psychic reality, inner conflicts are projected onto external situations.

When enough people project enough unconscious emotion into ideological differences, they more closely resemble animals than divine beings. Somewhere in between the two lies a divine animal, and the general extremes require an individual function to mediate them. We know how the unconscious group mind reacts to them.

“The collective representations that connect primitive man with the life of his ancestors… form the bridge to the unconscious for the civilized man also, who, if he is a believer, will see it as the world of divine presences. Today these bridges are in a state of partial collapse, and the doctor is in no position to hold those who are worse hit responsible for the disaster. He knows that it is due far more to a shifting of the whole psychic situation over many centuries, such as happened more than once in human history. In the face of such transformations the individual is powerless. The doctor can only look on and try to understand the attempts at restitution and cure which nature herself is making.

“… the unconscious produces compensating symbols which are meant to replace the broken bridges, but which can only do so with the active cooperation of consciousness. In other words, these symbols must, if they are to be effective, be “understood” by the conscious mind… A dream that is not understood remains a mere occurrence; understood, it becomes a living experience.”

Intellectual comprehension and emotional experience are different forms of understanding. The soul is a function of relation to both worlds; when it loses value as a guiding idea, the loss is compensated by an exaggerated certainty and a dangerous over-confidence in consciousness: the “partial disorientation” to which Jung referred:

“I therefore consider it my main task to examine the manifestations of the unconscious in order to learn its language. But since, on the one hand, the theoretical assumptions we have spoken of are of eminently historical interest, and, on the other hand, the symbols produced by the unconscious derive from archaic modes of psychic functioning, one must… have at one’s command a vast amount of historical material; and secondly, one must bring together and collate an equally large amount of empirical material based on direct observation.

“… I have come to the conclusion that the most individual thing about man is surely his consciousness… but that his shadow, by which I mean the uppermost layer of his unconscious, is far less individualized, the reason being that a man is distinguished from his fellows more by his virtues than his negative qualities. The unconscious, however, in its principal and most overpowering manifestations, can only be regarded as a collective phenomenon… and because it never seems to be at variance with itself, it may well possess a marvellous unity and self-consistency, the nature of which is at present shrouded in impenetrable darkness.”

As a thinking function, science must repress emotion — and with it, a great deal of what is personal and individual. When the soul is twisted into an impersonal object without a history, the individual’s creative attempts at solutions to inner problems is lost to the collective. The dialogue between them — a mirror of exchange between conscious and unconscious — is shut off.

The commercial deception and manipulation; the political double-talk, violence and ideological greed, the exaggerated certainty of the new extraversion: are these the spiritual legacy the Sons of Abraham will leave for their children?

Read a poetic example of how this inner dialogue begins.

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Superpsychologimysticexpialidocious

Jung’s general ideas on therapy seem especially appropriate today in light of so many forms being available. Whether or not many are based on hit-or-miss assumption is unclear, as what is presented as deduction is often selectively pre-arranged to reiterate the premise. Aristotle introduced the idea of a “petitio principii” in 350 B. C.; but philosophical sophistries aside, there are other factors to be considered. Jung wrote in The Practice of Psychotherapy:

“Each of them rests on special psychological assumptions and produces special psychological results; comparison between them is difficult and often well-nigh impossible… Objective appraisal of the facts shows… that each of these methods is justified up to a point, since each can boast not only of certain successes but of psychological data that largely prove its particular assumption.”

But, consciousness is a partial complex; relative to inner conditions. Without a concept of unconscious psychic functioning, processes outside it can only be seen as physiological. Hazy notions of “drives” and “reflexes” euphemize the instinctual psyche, and the projection of subjective ideas onto objective data results in logical contradictions:

“Thus we are faced… with a situation comparable with that in modern physics… where there are two contradictory theories of light… Contradictions in a department of science merely indicate that its subject can be grasped only by means of antinomies — witness the wave theory and the corpuscular theory of light. Now the psyche is infinitely more complicated than light; hence a great number of antinomies are required to describe the nature of the psyche satisfactorily. One of the fundamental antinomies is… psyche depends on body and body depends on psyche. There are clear proofs for both sides of this antinomy, so that an objective judgment cannot give more weight to thesis or antithesis…

“The existence of valid contradictions shows that the object of investigation presents the inquiring mind with exceptional difficulties, as a result of which only relatively valid statements may be made… the statement is valid only in so far as it indicates what kind of psychic system we are investigating.”

That two psychic systems co-exist in the human head should be apparent to anyone who’s ever looked inside his/her own — a mystery which is profoundly expressed in dreams. It’s a vast and fluctuating continuum of body/mind that Jung showed to be scientifically uncertain territory; where the precision of the concept must replace direct measurement:

“Since the individuality of the psychic system is infinitely variable, there must be an infinite variety of relatively valid statements. But if individuality were absolute… if one individual were totally different from every other individual, then psychology would be impossible as a science, for it would consist in an insoluble chaos of subjective opinions. Individuality, however, is only relative, the complement of human conformity or likeness, and therefore it is possible to make statements of general validity, i. e., scientific statements. These statements relate only to those parts of the psychic system which do in fact conform, i. e., are amenable to comparison and statistically measurable; they do not relate to that part of the system which is individual and unique. The second fundamental antinomy in psychology therefore runs: the individual signifies nothing in comparison with the universal, and the universal signifies nothing in comparison with the individual.”

Here lies the inconsistency in those methods founded on averages and statistics: where the individual coincides with the universal can’t be assumed any more than where body becomes mind. How does therapy proceed from such logical contradictions?

“When, as a psychotherapist, I set myself up as a medical authority over my patient and on that account claim to know something about his individuality, or to be able to make valid statements about it, I am only demonstrating my lack of criticism, for I am in no position to judge the whole of the personality before me. I cannot say anything valid about him except in so far as he approximates to the “universal man.” But since all life is to be found only in individual form, and I myself can assert of another individuality only what I find in my own, then I am in constant danger either of doing violence to the other person or of succumbing to his influence.” 

Considering some therapies today, the danger is more for the patient than the therapist: “If I wish to treat another individual psychologically at all, I must for better or worse give up all pretensions to superior knowledge, all authority and desire to influence. I must perforce adopt a dialectical procedure consisting in a comparison of our mutual findings. But this becomes possible only if I give the other person a chance to play his hand to the full, unhampered by my assumptions. In this way his system is geared to mine and acts upon it; my reaction is the only thing with which I as an individual can legitimately confront my patient.”

Freudians, Behaviorists, and Eye Rotation therapists may want to leave off here: “Any deviation from this attitude amounts to therapy by suggestion… Suggestion therapy includes all methods that arrogate to themselves, and apply, a knowledge or an interpretation of other individualities. Equally it includes all strictly technical methods, because these invariably assume that all individuals are alike. To the extent that the insignificance of the individual is a truth, suggestive methods, technical procedures, and theorems in any shape or form are entirely capable of success and guarantee results with the universal man — as for instance, Christian Science, mental healing, faith cures, remedial training, medical and religious techniques, and countless other isms. Even political movements can, not without justice, claim to be psychotherapy in the grand manner.”

Jung’s method is a way of asking the questions we need to ask to arrive at a discourse with ourselves. Those who already have answers have no reason to ask questions. It’s a symbolic process that begins with self-reflection.

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Psychiatric Evaluation

I recently secured an internal memo from the offices of the psychiatric journal, Concrete Visions, titled: ”New Market Perspectives on Medication Therapy.” Concerned, I paid (literally) a visit to the editor, retired psychiatrist and maven of market research at Meds For Heads Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Abnorm Drowze, for clarification. He offered me a seat on the couch in his office.

“Relax.” he insisted firmly but affably. He nestled into an over-stuffed leather chair with a notepad. There was no back on the couch, and I was kind of tired so I leaned back. It was curiously juxtaposed to the chair such that he was behind me. I read from the memo:

“Unilateral efforts by the American Psychiatric Agglomeration to boost office visits through discount prescription drug offers have over-extended ad-dollar ratios anent the recent sales stasis, prompting pharmaceutical execs to consider more consumer-friendly strategies. One proposal is to scale back professional jargon to make it less intimidating.”

Dr. Drowse pondered his notepad. “Any history of neurocognitve dissonance?” he asked nonchalantly. I don’t know why, but he stared eerily into my eyes and asked if I was on medication. I wondered if recreational drugs counted. “No.” I continued:

“The recent market revaluation has sparked heated debate in the scientific community, from the Society for the Obfuscation of Science to The Psychiatric Council for Free Will and Market Control. Will corporate interests restructure the entire medical paradigm?” He asked how I felt about it. (?) Well…

“I spoke with Spin It E-Zine science editor, Ima Loade, and she wondered if science could maintain its credibility without masking basic information in an esoteric vernacular. She insisted that dead languages and foreign neologisms were important deterrents to lay comprehension, as well as crucial reminders of the tedious and repetitive detail required to assess statistical minutiae. She felt it was essential to preserve the emotional dissociation needed for objectivity. She also likened it to working one’s self out of one’s job.” He peered at me curiously; I returned to the memo:

“Consumer advocates are questioning scientific integrity even as professional organizations from The Need-Invention Conservators to Protect Ur Pet With Brand-Name Pharma are increasingly concerned that the commercial collusion of science and industry might be seriously undermined.” I waited.

“Have you considered therapy?” I had to admit he was among the most pleasant men I’d ever met. Of course I’d considered therapy. Who hasn’t? “No.” I replied. “Perhaps you should.” He looked disappointed and sad. I tried to clear my head even as a certain hotness began to invade my body.

“Meanwhile, The Center for the Control of Psychic Epidemics is warning of a critical gap between drug production/quality and prescription output. Docs from Bangor to Brussels are bracing for catastrophe as health consumers world-wide demand more effective meds.”

He gazed off as if into an invisible world. “Frankly, I wonder if you might have some cortico-medullary fragmenting going on.” He chortled in a mock German accent, “Tell me about your id ven you vere a kid…” My brain was swimming. Don’t let him get inside your head, I thought. Though I broke into a psycho-galvanic sweat, I was determined to expose this fraudulent miscarriage of the public trust.

Just then, a wave of anxiety flooded me. He appeared as deeply concerned for me as a loved one. Was he a greedy corporate underling enticed by subjective motives to believe, much like a religious zealot, in the only apparent materiality of an unconscious mind/body duality which exceeds rational description — or was he a profound mystagogue inhabiting a future consciousness far beyond the paradoxes of mortal thought? Confused, I continued:

“What began as a simple questionnaire on the social network, FaceTwerp, by an anonymous undergraduate student in pharmaceutical biology is now threatening the very foundations of scientific double-speak.”

Dr. Drowze stated matter-of-factly: “I’m afraid that poor young man had non-bizarre delusions accompanied by a flattening of affect which only exacerbated latent pre-social tendencies. I treated him myself. In fact, you exhibit similar symptoms. Have you checked your genetic history?” He suggested a DNA analysis, an MRI, and an Animal Metaphor Test to start with — followed by “ascending medicinal therapies to ensure psycho-neuronal viability into the future.”

I knew enough about psychology to know that if you only thought you had delusions you probably didn’t, but if you did you wouldn’t know it, and if you didn’t know it then you probably had them. I worried, too, that even if I didn’t have them now, I might get some later. I also knew enough about genetics to know there was nothing you could do about it (outside self-medication) without professional help. He looked at me pitifully. I was gripped with fright. “Do you think there’s something wrong with me?”

He looked at his notes, “Hmm…. that’s difficult to assess at this stage of consultation. Do you think there’s something wrong with you?” He looked worried. I thought of the argument I’d had with my wife the night before. Had I over-reacted when I slammed her into the wall and knocked her down the stairs? I felt woozy as I continued reading from the memo that suddenly seemed like an unfair and outlandish indictment of a thoroughly respectable and professional gambit for profit.

“The questionnaire asked students to rate the effectiveness of the meds required for college entrance. While most admitted they were comfortable with the dosages designed to repress tension and allow them to be more effective social participants, many complained of vague feelings of unease; a few had unhappy dreams. Some even reported frightening anxieties. FaceTwerp allowed them to exchange ideas, and many wondered if their prescriptions might not be strong enough.”

It was like he was peering deep into my soul. “Tell me about your support system.” He appeared aloof and detached, objective, though with a piercing empathy. My fists clenched angrily. They felt like striking him. “I’ve got plenty of friends!” I blurted defensively. He was as cool and unfettered as an autumn breeze peeking over his horn-rimmed glasses. “Do you?” I stared at the floor in shame. “No.”

My false posture drained out like one of those toilet tanks in a Winnebago. I felt deflated but somehow relieved. I thought about my deodorant. How effective was it? He handed me a prescription with a printed bill attached. (How did he do that?) “Fill this immediately.” I felt a mix of confusion and gratitude. He looked at me with genuine compassion. “We’ll continue our conversation next Tuesday at three.”

Is psychiatry for you? This could be why.

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Jung on the Function of Symbols

Culture has changed in the last fifty years as in no comparable period in history. The religious perspective of the last century, indeed centuries, is quickly losing relevance for an increasingly material viewpoint. Media technology now serves and promotes a commercial thing-orientation as calculated and contrived as it is self-serving — and self-alienating.

Beneath the changing viewpoints lies a major shift in cultural values (in case you haven’t noticed). The social networking craze is only one small example of how unconscious effects turn conscious desires into their opposites. Though electronic devices bring the world to our fingertips, they alienate as much as they connect.

(I watched a young couple in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day spend most of the meal texting. Whether they ate or talked — maybe a quarter of the time — their phones were either in their hands or right next to their plates as ready as the silverware.)

The new technological reality is purely artificial: a commercial fantasy-world where relationships are secondary; emotions pre-packed, pictured, profiled, and projected. But, the partial focus required for its manipulation is an unconscious recipe for disaster. Few concede any personal contribution to it; but multiply it by several billion, and it’s easy to see how half the world’s animal species have disappeared since the 1970′s — of those still extant at that time.

The critical thinking which once threatened Church control need no longer be suppressed; merely diverted by subliminal ego-appeal — or simply ignored. A pre-arranged conformity curried to exploit mass consumers is the new norm. A compulsive herding process now begins to replace the values which have taken eons of human sacrifice to evolve. That’s not just personal judgment. The individual struggle for consciousness which has historically directed human evolution is quickly becoming the caricature of a manufactured individualism as collective as it is self-centered.

Jung showed empirically how human behavior is rooted in instinct — natural functions designed for a natural world. ‘Instinct’ and ‘compulsion’ are perceived only negatively — who accepts the idea of being subject to natural laws? Though conscious reality is no less real than its ‘objective’ counterpart, because the first is subject to the latter, conflicts and contradictions occur when they come into opposition.

Any intense interest has a compulsive (instinctual) character. Though its end-effects are as much creative as destructive, our ideas of compulsion are mostly negative descriptions of the mysteries of psychic life beyond our understanding. And if you don’t think our behavior is beyond our understanding, you don’t keep up with world events.

Jung explained compulsive behavior as psychic functions lacking the form and purpose for which nature intended them. When, for instance, the energy specific to symbolic understanding is too literally conceived, an unconscious opposition can give the loftiest ideal a destructive character. Only the symbol can direct the energy of opposed impulses toward a unified flow. Jung:

“… the symbol presupposes a function that creates symbols, and in addition a function that understands them. This latter function takes no part in the creation of the symbol, it is a function in its own right, which one could call symbolic thinking or symbolic understanding. The essence of the symbol consists in the fact that it represents in itself something that is not wholly understandable, and that it hints only intuitively at its possible meaning. The creation of the symbol is not a rational process, for a rational process could never produce an image that represents a content which is at bottom incomprehensible.”

This is the religious instinct: a vital function of  value and relationship specific to our natures. It’s the first clue of the symbolic side of our commercial, social obsessions. The collective over-valuation of literal fact and the aversion to symbolic needs is balanced by an increasing egotism: the exaggerated effects of a decline in inner value which only deepens unconscious opposition.  Jung:

“… to settle the conflict, it must be grounded on an intermediate state or process, which shall give it a content that is neither too near nor too far from either side… this must be a symbolic content, since the mediating position between the opposites can be reached only by the symbol. The reality presupposed by one instinct is different from the reality of the other… This dual character of real and unreal is inherent in the symbol. If it were only real, it would not be a symbol… Only that can be symbolic which embraces both.

“The rational functions are, by their very nature, incapable of creating symbols, since they produce only rationalities whose meaning is determined unilaterally and does not at the same time embrace its opposite. The sensuous functions are equally unfitted to create symbols, because their products too are determined unilaterally by the object and contain only themselves and not their opposites. To discover, therefore, that impartial basis for the will, we must appeal to another authority, where the opposites are not yet clearly separated but still preserve their original unity.

“It would… be pointless to call upon consciousness to decide the conflict between the instincts.  A conscious decision would be quite arbitrary, and could never supply the will with a symbolic content that alone can produce an irrational solution to a logical antithesis.

“… Thus, besides the will, which is entirely dependent on its content, man has a further auxiliary in the unconscious, that maternal womb of creative fantasy, which is able at any time to fashion symbols in the natural process of elementary psychic activity, symbols that can serve to determine the mediating will.”

For more on the analogical thinking which would re-establish a sense of inner value, continue reading or visit Amazon.

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DSM V: The Final Frontier

By the year 2050, it was beginning to dawn on humanity that it had a deeper working knowledge of outer space than its own inner nature. The uncertainty attending the shift in perspective produced strange effects within a generation. A crippling stasis gripped cultures world-wide. Medication therapies no longer allayed symptoms which had steadily ballooned over a century.

Irrational obsessions and compulsive urges of the weirdest subjective varieties were pandemic, threatening the very fabric of human relations. The sovereign sanctuaries of home and neighborhood transformed into violent hot-boxes of emotional projection seemingly overnight. Ongoing armed conflicts dotted the world map.

Disaffected loners and accumulations of like-minded tribal personalities choked law enforcement, fueling its own guarded paranoia. Entire governments were insolubly locked in petty dispute. Divorce statistics soared with birth rates, even as traditional marriages plummeted and same-sex partnerships splurged. The heavy burdens of civilization called psychiatry to task. 

The year: 2070. We join Capt. Abnorm Drowze aboard the Starship Innerguise, deep in inner-galactic space. The crew’s mission: to locate the most elusive and mysterious form of matter ever conceived. Psychiatry wouldn’t survive without it; indeed, life as mankind had hitherto known it now appeared so irrational that half its world was estimated as unassimilable by reason.

Science called it “the God factor,” and it would furnish the first truly objective reference point for human nature. The neurosciences knew it involved chemical interactions in the brain; they could see them light up on the scans. But, psychiatry needed something more tangible than an electronic game-show to confirm it. It would go in search of the mysterious substance and justify body-psychology once and for all… 

The elusive “God-tissue in the fabric of matter” was a promising theory in the early 21st century — psychiatry flourished. Later studies, however, attributed its short-lived success to scientific credulity and the stiff resistance to self-examination. Its apparent objectivity, they avowed, only contributed to a global epidemic of pathological symptoms such as humanity had never seen — except in the general relations which constituted its entire history. The old gene-structure no longer immunized against these new mutations of discontent. Could psychiatry redeem itself?

This fifth incursion into the subjective mind by the APA-backed interest-group, Diagnostics and Social Mediocrity, was heralded by an incredible virtual reality trip through the brain in which the team of explorers “lived” its inner workings first-hand with the aid of computer game programs. Microscopic technology was now able to shrink thought to minute proportions; to experience brain-biology in its most elemental form. 

“Shrinks Shrink Thought!” the Washington Compost headlined. The virtual program was given the moniker, Starship Innerguise, and Dr. Drowze was the first choice to helm the ambitious project. “Once we identify it, we’ll know a lot more.” he assured at the press conference amid great fan-fare.

The “Dream Team” sailed comfortably through the cortex and frontal lobe but experienced turbulence in the parietal lobe. The ship was tossed rhythmically, frightening the crew. Once into the cerebellum, they came under direct attack by “androgynes”. Capt. Drowze ordered deployment of the ship’s deflective shield. “The eerie figures changed shape at will and flew at us without let.” he relayed once they’d re-established communications with the cortex. “It was crazy!”

The deflective shield bounced the team back into the frontal lobe just in time to dodge the disintegrating effects of the intense emotional images. Hostile neurons fired into the craft like missiles. The control room had meantime piled up with print-out data-sheets, and the crew had difficulty maneuvering around the great heaps of information. “Rational assessment became a liability.” Capt. Drowze later adjudged. The world waited expectorantly as the team dared the limits of human experience.

Tech-Dr. Norm L. Persons was manning the deflective shield when the team lost its way. “I couldn’t describe it. The data-sheets showed equilibrium, but the ship was in complete chaos.” Some suffered schizophrenic reactions before the shield was activated. Even a few minutes under such pressurized conditions can shatter the ego, leaving it porous and vulnerable to psychotic influences.

The official investigation concluded that the team was not sufficiently prepared emotionally, and the dangerous images quickly subverted their aims when they strayed into the cerebellum. “It was like it was just waiting for us.” said one crew-member. “Even Capt. Drowze’s emergency self-medication kits wouldn’t make it go away.”

When the team was deluged by the unsavory wraiths, it took the decisive reality function of Capt. Drowze to bring it back to focus. “Dammit, man! Activate the shield! We’re looking for a real thing!” He later described the tense moment: “Look, all I knew was, we were looking for a real, concrete object and those androgynes were determined to stop us. We needed to get out of there — and fast! The direct experience of psychotic processes does things to one. If not treated immediately with a stringent regimen of medication therapy buttressed by concrete concepts, it can have mind-bending consequences.”

The rest of the team remains quarantined in the laboratory, undergoing the de-sensitization process which has become a practical reality-gauge for science in recent decades. Capt. Drowze remains unshaken by the daunting experience, though he did admit that “it had a somewhat harrowing effect vis-a-vis current psychiatric theory.”

Once out of quarantine, the team is expected to resume normal activities, though members will be closely monitored and tested every six months to “make sure whatever that thing was in there doesn’t metastasize.” Radiation therapy has been proposed should behavioral complications arise.

While a thorough projection of the data is years away, preliminary signals are that much has already been learned. A digital photon enhancer translated electro-chemical reactions in the cerebellum into photographs which were then collated to simulate the images experienced by the crew during their ordeal in that distant netherworld. The team was so traumatized that no one, not even Dr. Drowze, was able to retrieve memories of the event. Was it a dream? They relied on the pictures to reveal what had gone on in there.

“We saw something in those pictures –” Dr. Drowze pondered, “something we’d never seen before. It appeared real to all of us, though we can’t be sure at this point.” He seemed doubtful that even Eye Rotation Therapy would abet them under such conditions. “This is not comorbid with anything we’ve seen in the cerebro-spinal system.” He looked deeply pensive. “Someone has suggested that perhaps we saw God.”

He admitted laughing at the hubris of it at first but has since reconsidered. “Whatever it was in those pictures definitely appeared to be carbon based. Whether or not it was God, only the data can tell us.” He admitted he felt safe back in his office as he fondled the pictures beamed back from the cerebellum. “You know…” he mused, gazing at the worn photos, “the brain is a fascinating thing.” He chuckled, “It does strange things to a man.”

Step outside the science for a real journey into the unconscious.

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Does Abstract Science Equal Concrete Psychology?

“Concretism sets too high a value on the importance of facts and suppresses the freedom of the individual for the sake of objective data. But since the individual is conditioned not merely by physiological stimuli but by factors which may even be opposed to external realities, concretism results in a projection… of these inner factors into the objective data and produces an almost superstitious veneration of mere facts…”  Carl Jung — Psychological Types.

Jung defined concretism as: “the antithesis of abstraction… The actual meaning of concrete is “grown together.” A concretely thought concept is one that has grown together… with other concepts.” His phenomenological approach was an extension of a philosophical phenomenology generally described as “the study of subjective experience.” But, it was his comparative historical approach which defined his concepts, and his studies of primitive psychology laid the empirical foundations:

“Primitive thinking and feeling are entirely concretistic; they are always related to sensation. The thought of the primitive has no detached independence but clings to material phenomena.” Primitive consciousness, for example, is drawn into the object to such an extent that it “does not experience the idea of divinity as a subjective content.” Hmm.

The primitive mind is so mesmerized by the immediacy of sensory reality that perception is indistinguishable from thought. Jung wrote that thoughts simply “happen” to the primitive — just as dreams happen in the modern mind. The psyche arranges the raw material of perception into patterns which, as science and religion show, reflect specific functions. Today, consciousness is confronted with the task of distinguishing inside from outside on a higher level.

Though modern sensibilities might take offense at such comparisons, without them it’s impossible to determine where we are (and where we’re going) in our development. By observing how the psyche has worked over thousands of years, Jung was able to establish an outline of its natural functioning.

“In civilized man, concretistic thinking consists in the inability to conceive of anything except immediately obvious facts transmitted by the senses, or in the inability to discriminate between subjective feeling and the sensed object.” That the most sophisticated abstract thinking could be concrete at the same time is one of the paradoxes of psychic reality.

The primitive idea of divinity as an external object is closely enough related to the idea of a heavenly god (or the conception of god in matter to which Stephen Hawking referred) to get some sense not only of our psychological development but the opposed nature of the functions dictating it. The most basic one relates us to our environment: sense-perception — and scientific preoccupations reveal as much about our unconscious relations to nature as abstract thinking reveals about our relations to ourselves.

“Concretism… falls under the more general concept of participation mystique… Just as the latter represents a fusion of the individual with external objects, concretism represents a fusion of thinking and feeling with sensation, so that the object of one is at the same time the object of the other. This fusion prevents any differentiation of thinking and feeling and keeps them both within the sphere of sensation…

“The disadvantage of concretism is the subjection of the functions to sensation. Because sensation is the perception of physiological stimuli, concretism either rivets the function to the sensory sphere or constantly leads back to it. This results in a bondage of the psychological functions to the senses, favouring the influence of sensual facts at the expense of the psychic independence of the individual. So far as the recognition of facts is concerned this orientation is naturally of value, but not as regards the interpretation of facts and their relation to the individual.”

Jung here brings into focus the subtle relationship between subjective reality and objective science. The profound opposition in our natures is a fundamental psychic condition, and there is stark evidence of it in everything we do. Only now, with the accelerated advance of technology, are we discovering that the mere recognition of it is not sufficient to interpret its consequences.

Narrow the window of time from several hundred centuries to the last fifty years, and you may get a picture of the trajectory of a highly developed intellect which is unable to distinguish itself from the objects of its attention. What may be seen from one perspective may be invisible from another and, though it’s always been, the last century shows the one-sidedness of consciousness to be an increasing threat not only to itself but to all life.

The value of the individual is presupposed by nature. Just as she formed collective instincts to serve life’s purposes, she also placed a premium on the creative instincts of the individual to achieve them. Jung wrote: “Nature cares nothing for the individual yet prizes the individual above all else.”. The paradox of our opposition, “factors which may even be opposed to external reality”, demands more than that we simply follow the lures of science and technology like herd animals. Our inability to see through its illusion is killing us — and everything we touch.

But, how to begin? Continue reading.

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Psyche, Symbol, and Science

“… the science of psychology is still in its infancy… the empirical material, the object of scientific investigation, cannot be displayed in concrete form, as it were… The psychological investigator is… obliged to make use of an indirect method… to present the reality he has observed.” – Carl Jung, Psychological Types.

Reality. Our notions of what that word implies have changed considerably over the last hundred years. The current fascination with objectivity and the material world would seem to have created a new image of it, and few events in our history so startlingly conspired to make us re-think our former religious views than those of a century ago.

WWI served notice of an exponential trend in our development: as science and rational thought gained momentum, a primitive collective nature asserted itself on a broader scale. The isolated study of matter produced an unparalleled means of destruction, and it wasn’t coincidental that the sudden increase in consciousness accentuated instinctual tendencies.

At that time, Jung was defining an empirical psychology which could make sense of a psychic reality. But, as conventional science immersed itself in the search for objective truth, the split in our natures widened:

Within three decades, the projections of an intellect bound to the senses formed a stark new image of humanity: World War II and an Iron Curtain symbolized ego’s increasing dissociation from its emotional foundations. It was also no accident that these developments paralleled a decline in religious values:

“Only insofar as elementary facts are… amenable to… measurement can there be any question of a direct presentation. But how much of the actual psychology of man can be experienced and observed as quantitatively measurable facts? Such facts do exist, and I believe I have shown in my association studies that extremely complicated psychological facts are accessible to quantitative measurement. But anyone who has probed more deeply… than that it should confine itself within the narrow limits of the scientific method, will also have realized that an experimental method will never succeed in doing justice to the nature of the human psyche, nor will it ever project anything like a true picture of the more complex psychic phenomena.

“But once we leave the domain of measurable facts we are dependent on concepts, which have now to take over the role of measure and number. The precision which measure and number lend to the observed facts can be replaced only by the precision of the concept… One has only to take the concept of “feeling”… to visualize… the variability and ambiguity of psychological concepts… And yet the concept of feeling does express something characteristic that, though not susceptible of quantitative measurement… palpably exists. One simply cannot resign oneself… to a mere denial of such essential and fundamental phenomena… In this way an essential part of psychology is thrown overboard.

“In order to escape the ill consequences of this overvaluation of the scientific method, one is obliged to have recourse to well-defined concepts.” For Jung, it was only through a symbolic mode of observation based on empirically derived concepts that psychology could bridge the disparity between conscious and unconscious. His definition of abstraction clarified the problem:

“Abstraction is an activity pertaining to the psychological functions… in general… Abstract thinking singles out the rational, logical qualities of a given content from its intellectually irrelevant components.” Science is a thinking activity which excludes feeling; and as a general attitude, it lacks empathy. An advanced technology capable of mass destruction without having to see or feel its effects is a dangerous tool in the hands of a dissociated intellect.

“… I also associate abstraction with the awareness of the… process it involves. When I take an abstract attitude to an object, I do not allow the object to affect me in its totality; I focus my attention on one part of it by excluding all the irrelevant parts… my interest does not flow into the whole, but draws back from it, pulling the abstracted part… into my my conceptual world… “Interest” I conceive as the energy… I bestow on the object as a value, or which the object draws from me, maybe even against my will or unknown to myself.”

But when the object of study is ourselves, we need a way to conceive how and why the unconscious is so often opposed to our intent. Whose humanity lives in the dark shadow-projections, the “ill consequences of this overvaluation of the scientific method”? Symbolic realities aside, there are quantitatively measurable facts which suggest that our alienation from ourselves only deepens with ego’s independence. War is a lot of things, but it’s also a business — and business is booming.

Psychology, too, is a booming business — like the science of weaponry, medical technology, or any other human need offered up to the underside of commercial exploitation. The science of objective data has not only done little to improve the conditions of the human soul, it’s tricked itself into believing that it’s outgrown the need for one. The shadow-effects of ego are observable only through concepts which presuppose them. Without them, they don’t exist — and yet…

Trying to subject the mysteries of an unconscious reality to the conscious will of a dissociated culture (conventional psychology’s conception of disease) may be good business for some — for now; but, like an advanced technology in the hands of an alienated ego, it only increases our confusion.

For an example of the symbolic process that leads back to the unconscious values beneath modern assumptions, read more here, or visit Amazon.

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