Of Pagan Gods, Divine Egos, and the Schism of Commercialism

Can you believe it? Black Friday is just around the corner, Christmas jingles are already flooding the airways, and the patriotic pandering to support the ever-flagging economy of the top one percent is gearing up for another festive season (i.e., high sales figures but disappointing profit-margins) to honor our material fixations in the cellophane guise of commercial-spiritual devotions.

Lest we forget the humbler and more hallowed origins of the season amid the frenetic frenzy of invented need-gratification, here are some little-known facts about the etymology of these treasured traditions:

Did you know?

That our traditional Thanksgiving dinner actually dates back to Julius Caesar? Shakespeare has immortalized the proletarian plea of Wimpy to Brutus, one of the powerful and wealthy ruler’s privileged inner circle: “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Some historians suggest that this was also the basis of the modern pay-by-installment system whereby one signs one’s entire life over to the one percent for the privilege of sharing (maintaining) its bounty and to offer its reward for good consumership: permanent Gold-Card Member of the Ninety-Nine Percent Club.

Though hamburgers were then a symbol of wealth and prosperity enjoyed only by members of the Roman senate on special occasions, they became plentiful enough that rotting surfeits followed the next century of Cesarean philanthropy to a vulnerable, war-torn Europe (Pax Romana), and annual celebrations were held to give thanks to those who shared their wealth and resources as welcome return for the wise but ultimately unsustainable and top-heavy guidance of an arrogant and self-serving ruling elite.

Did You Know?

That following an epicurean gala of “all the hamburgers you care to eat”, Roman senators “vegged out” on specially reserved stone couches in great stadiums (the prototype of today’s luxury “sky boxes”) to watch the Lions and Christians amid the dull, half-dozing revelry of inflated stomachs, mead-guzzling, and rude, noisome bodily emissions? The Lions still symbolize the old tradition, though somewhat less competitively today, and lite beer now eases the dispepsia of over-ingestion.

According to primary source documents, as a result of crude meat preservation, bacteria-laden overages, and the unrestrained excesses of the senators: “There were not a bare spote of grounde in the propinquity of the couches the size of a denarius wherein the Senators had not expunged some foule and variouse forme of excretium.”

Did you know?

That the tradition later re-emerged in the New World in more civilized form as Christianity gained momentum and spread its new gospel of love to a primitive, animal-like heathenry? Annual banquets were re-established — but this time, in accordance with the selfless creed dedicated to the service of humanity, the copious bounties of a devoted religious life were shared freely with the under-privileged in joyful anticipation of converting them and/or exterminating them and displacing them of their natural dignity along with whatever else the emissaries might deem proper return for the divine sacrifice of having to depend on savages in the name of God.

Did you know?

That our modern Christmas began as a pagan ritual marking the winter solstice? The shortest day and the longest night of the year translated to the ancient mind as a symbol of bitter hardship and deep depression, and this primitive heritage underlies the uncommonly high suicide rates which characterize the holiday season (compensation for the fantastic history of a divine ego which is yet subject to the laws of nature).

Intense outbursts of consumerism have replaced orgiastic sexual excesses, and boozy office parties and the suggestive lure of kisses under the mistletoe stand today only as fading silhouettes of the naked debauchery of our ancestors and convince us that the lowest forms of sensual greed, sexual or otherwise, have been magically transformed into lofty intellectual pursuits through repression and the pretense of belief.

Did you know?

That the jolly and venerable old St. Nick our children dream so wistfully of on Christmas Eve actually evolved from the ancient Norse god, Nikolai of the Twelve Engorgements? The terrible gifts he proffered were enslavement, abuse, and exploitation in return for the barest physical sustenance. He presided over the anonymous fates of humanity’s forgotten children whose self-serving mommies’ and daddies’ protective nurturing instincts had been overcome by the blind pursuit of immediate personal gain. Fortunately, they only comprise about one percent of the population.

His tragic, innocent victims were later euphemized as cute helper “dwarfs” by a wise ruling elite determined to improve humanity’s condition whatever the cost to itself; though a small handful of backward-oriented, bitter, and disgruntled naysayers of contemporary cultural enlightenment propose that unconscious aspects of the original image have morphed into a dangerous modern form of “managed mass deception” for the purposes of maintaining the run-away avarice of a wealthy, dissociated, and unregulated one percent.

Did You Know?

That no poor, pitiful, and unwitting beast of lower intelligence, human or animal (not even the adorable reindeer with its big brown expressive, almost human eyes), is off limits to the genetic inclination for usury and exploitation beneath the carefully staged benign, even pleasant, subliminally-induced commercial images of corporate media-interests which trigger the Pavlov-like response of sensual self-indulgence we’ve been conditioned to exhibit like automatons at the unconscious suggestion of the most transparent, pre-packaged advertisements?

Those familiar with Jung’s typology may note an introverted psychology in conflict with today’s extraverted culture. Continue reading for a serious look at how these tensions may lead beyond the projections and into a confrontation with the collective unconscious at mid-life.

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The Science of Psychology: When Subject is Object

One misconception of mainstream psychology seems inescapable: beneath the studies and statistics, for anything to be known there must be a perceiving subject. In the history of ideas, subject and object form a basic pair of philosophical opposites; the confusion between them is only magnified when the subject is an object of science.

Jung’s in-depth historical studies penetrated to the core of this problem, though his comparative method remains nearly as obscure today as it was a century ago. An understanding of it begins with the facts of perception and their unconscious projection.

As he showed in Psychological Types, the argument has always turned around the projection of more or less extraverted and introverted viewpoints. These two ways of seeing the world determine how we experience it. To get a clearer picture of their effects on psychology, Jung’s general description of how we perceive is important:

The introvert is “… oriented by the factor in perception and cognition which responds to the sense stimulus in accordance with the individual’s subjective disposition. For example, two people see the same object, but they never see it in such a way that the images they receive are absolutely identical. Quite apart from the variable acuteness of the sense organs and the personal equation, there often exists a radical difference, both in kind and degree, in the psychic assimilation of the perceptual image.”

Though the extravert’s accent is on the concrete world of objects, due to the subjective nature of perception, Jung’s description applies to both viewpoints:

“The difference in the case of a single apperception may, of course, be very delicate, but in the total psychic economy it makes itself felt in the highest degree, particularly in the effect it has on the ego.”

The scientific method began as the extraverted study of objects. Projections flowed only in one direction; repetition, verification, and prediction reduced the subjective effects of individual viewpoints to the extent that certain physical processes could be considered objective. Even so, Jung cautioned:

“We must not forget — although the extravert is too prone to do so — that perception and cognition are not purely objective, but are also subjectively conditioned. The world exists not merely in itself, but also as it appears to me. Indeed, at bottom, we have absolutely no criterion that would help us to form a judgment of a world which was unassimilable by the subject.” Perception means assimilation which mean judgment which means subjective. 

Jung explained that because of this subjective factor, “absolute cognition” is impossible. We are only as objective as our senses allow. Objectivity is relative not only to the limitations of the senses (even when artificially magnified) but to personal judgments about what we perceive and for what purposes. Beyond these unconscious pre-conditions, the mere accrual of information is “the effect it has on the ego.”

This is “… an attitude of intellectual arrogance accompanied by crudeness of feeling, a violation of life as stupid as it is presumptuous. By overvaluing our capacity for objective cognition we repress the importance of the subjective factor, which simply means a denial of the subject. But what is the subject? The subject is man himself — we are the subject. Only a sick mind could forget that cognition must have a subject, and that there is no knowledge whatever and therefore no world at all unless “I know” has been said, though with this statement one has already expressed the subjective limitation of all knowledge.

“This applies to all psychic functions: they have a subject which is just as indispensable as the object. It is characteristic of our present extraverted sense of values that the word “subjective” usually sounds like a reproof… brandished like a weapon over the head of anyone who is not boundlessly convinced of the absolute superiority of the object.” The freight train of objective science and its ego-effects have steam-rolled psychology into a glaring contradiction:

“By the subjective factor I understand the psychological action or reaction which merges with the effect produced by the object and so gives rise to a new psychic datum.” As surely as we identify images with things, they are are at once personal, collective, subjective, and objective. Here’s the stick dangling the apple in front of a scientific psychology:

“Insofar as the subjective factor has, from the earliest times and among all peoples, remained in large measure constant, elementary perceptions and cognitions being almost universally the same, it is a reality that is just as firmly established as the external object. If this were not so, any sort of permanent and unchanging reality would be simply inconceivable, and any understanding of the past would be impossible. In this sense, therefore, the subjective factor is as ineluctable a datum as the extent of the sea and the radius of the earth.”

A fact is a fact is a fact, right? Not until we have a wider conception of how relative they are to the medium perceiving them. Grandiose notions of a “theory of everything” will sooner or later stumble onto these limitations:

“By the same token, the subjective factor has all the value of a co-determinant of the world we live in, a factor that on no account can be left out of our calculations. It is another universal law, and whoever bases himself on it has a foundation as secure, as permanent, and as valid as the man who relies on the object. But just as the object and objective data do not remain permanently the same, being perishable and subject to chance, so too the subjective factor is subject to variation and individual hazards. For this reason its value is also merely relative.”

For an example of how Jung’s comparative method may be applied to find subjective meaning beyond the limitations of intellect, read more.

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The Hidden Language of Symbols

Jung’s historical studies are a sturdy, empirical foundation for uncovering the hidden meaning in dreams and fantasies. His comparative method produces real results and provides essential tools for interpreting the strange picture-language of unconscious functioning.

I remember my confusion when I first applied myself to his concepts. I could understand every word in sentences I couldn’t yet comprehend. For my causal thinking, even the notion of symbols baffled me. Many conceive them as signs or metaphors, but Jung discovered that symbols and the associations they give rise to are images concealing unconscious ideas.

Often, however, they’re embedded in an historical context which isn’t accessible by association. As Jung showed, the collective unconscious contains images of instinctual processes which are only partially translatable to consciousness. Its depth, like nature, is impersonal and inexhaustibly creative, and it works unceasingly to inform us of where we are.

As an example, I’d like to relate how I became aware of this symbolic language. In the course of studying Jung at mid-life, I was compelled to write a song, a parody of today’s culture. After going over it for months, it dawned on me that it had also created another picture beyond my intent.

Consciously, it was about our evolution; the fascination with technology, our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, growing obesity, and artificial viewpoints. I wanted to paint a satirical picture of future possibilities and like all psychic products, it can be read symbolically. Hidden in the song was an unconscious description of what was happening in me.

The end of the first stanza reads: “When all of nature’s circumstances quietly concur/Consider all the prospects which this process can incur.” Then the chorus: “My genes it seems got carried away with me!/ Help! I’m evolving into something I can’t see!/Is it fate or choice or probability/That’s turned me into what I seem to be?”

The second stanza goes: “My eyes are getting bigger from all the things I watch/From TV’s to calories to clocks./My body hair has yielded to my shirts and pants and socks/And all of these anxieties are thinning out my locks./My pelvic girdle’s widening, my girth is growing round/From the gravitational pull of sitting down./My legs are short and stunted, the circulation’s poor/As they dangle from the chair’s edge and never touch the floor.”

The third stanza: “My mouth’s become a cavern of enormous shape and size/From all the pull and pressure it withstands./My functions of ingestion are so greatly mechanized/That prudence must be practiced in not swallowing my hands./My arms are long and wiry from reaching out to grasp;/Their joints are more elastic I can vouch/From the constant craning motions for all the things I ask/To gratify my cravings without getting off the couch.”

The last stanza begins: “Well, nature’s got the best of me, I readily admit./Like some modern Humpty Dumpty, here I sit…” The conclusion describes a humanity which is consuming the world that sustains it. At the time, I had no notion that it also referred to the deeper process consuming me. Unaware of it, I projected it onto society, the body, even genes.

As I considered earlier dreams, I began to relate associations. I’d dreamed of a man pointing at me penetratingly, “It’s time for you to have a baby!” I thought I was crazy, until I read an alchemical parable of a king “who had a baby in his brain.” Psychologically, pregnancy and birth symbolize new psychic contents: my widening pelvic girdle, my growing girth, and the gravitational pull of the unconscious.

I thought of how the song depicted my legs, my emotional foundations: short and stunted, unable to reach the floor: the depth of an unconscious reality. As I compared and collated the ideas, they began to form a broader image.

The third stanza found me ravenous, consuming everything within reach, my arms exaggerated tools for grasping hands to feed the enormous cavern my mouth had become. Around that time, a friend told me: “I dreamed you were stuffing food into your mouth feverishly, eating everything in sight! It was crazy!”

Erich Neumann wrote that eating in dreams is an analogy for the digestion of unconscious contents. My friend’s unconscious had taken note of what was happening in me and described it in his dream.

The idea of self-consumption is expressed; the mouth as a cavern, an entrance to the dark internal depths, Jonah and the whale, the ancient idea of self-fertilization, the alchemical serpent with its tail in its mouth to form a circle: all symbols of nature’s transitional cycles. The core of these ancient ideas evolved into the ritual of Communion: the eating of Christ’s body and the drinking of his blood as the symbolic taking in of the spirit.

Another dream found me in the kitchen of a restaurant amid the rush of workers busily preparing meals. At the entrance, a man was was taking reservations. He looked at me uncannily, “You need to finish your art project!” He tossed me an egg which fell out of my hands and broke on the floor. There was nothing in it.

It was the Humpty-Dumpty of the last stanza, the egg of potential which, filled with personal experience and nurtured with devotion, brings the spirit to birth. “And all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty together again.”: a reference to the individual nature of coming to terms with the unconscious.

These processes are embedded in the history of symbols, and only when we understand their impersonal context can we connect with the personal realities they express.

Jung and Neumann meticulously described how symbols reveal the history of our functioning. Psychological knowledge and reflection can bring these realities into consciousness. The wider our exposure to ideas, the greater our ability to understand what’s working in us.

For an example of mid-life development and the symbolic elaboration of ideas using Jung’s comparative method, read more.

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The Land of Two Truths

James Branch Cabell’s, Jurgen and Figures of Earth, continue to occupy me. Because they derived from medieval folk tales and were worked by anonymous authors over centuries, the ideas in them contain symbols and analogies which have long been left behind in the modern search for objective truth.

Like alchemical philosophy, they revolved around natural processes outside conventional belief: aspects of inner life which dwell in “the land of two truths” beyond the dual thinking of traditional religion. Studies of symbols suggest that we’re entering a new phase of consciousness in which the repression of the unconscious that characterized centuries of Christian philosophy is slowly altering old ideals as its shadow begins to surface.

This process is revealed in shifting religious devotions, exaggerated dependence on science, technology and consciousness, the breakdown of traditional notions of marriage and family, obsessions with sex and violence and the more animal aspects of nature: signals of unconscious values in need of development.

Their tensions find us grasping at the certainties of fact and knowledge, along with more modern fantasies of technological diversion — not to understand the nature within but to further control it and repress it…

“Well, sir,” says Manuel, as he is entangled in the unconscious, “you may be right in a world wherein nothing is certain.” This reflective attitude is echoed by Jurgen: “You may be right; and certainly I cannot go so far as to say you are wrong: but still, at the same time — !”

The core of this unconscious creative realm was described by Jung as the symbol-making function. Goethe’s Faust descended into this void where, “There are no locks; no bars are to be riven;” Where, “Through solitudes you will be whirled and driven.” Manuel saw it, too, courtesy of Queen Freydis — down where the image-makers toil:

The magicians chanted strange, unintelligible verses in the dim obscurity of fire-light as they fashioned clay images. “What is the meaning of all this?” Manuel asked Freydis.

“It is an experimental incantation… in that it is a bit of unfinished magic for which the proper words have not yet been found: but between now and a while they will be stumbled on, and… will live perpetually, surviving all those rhymes that are infected with thought and intelligent meanings such as are repugnant to human nature.”

Manuel: “Are words, then, so important and enduring?” Freydis answers: “Why, Manuel… In what else, pray, does man differ from the other animals except in that he is used by words?” Like Alice in Wonderland, this world is reflected in opposite form and is upside down or backward from the conscious view because it compensates it. Manuel “… would have said that words are used by men.

“There is give and take, of course,  but in the main man is more subservient to words than they are to him… think of such terrible words as religion and duty and love, and patriotism and art, and honor and common-sense, and of what these tyrannizing words do to and make of people!

“No, that is chop-logic: for words are only transitory noises, whereas man is the child of God, and has an immortal spirit.

“Yes, yes, my dearest, I know you believe that, and I think it is delightfully quaint… But, as I was saying, a man has only the body of an animal to get experiences in, and the brain of an animal to think them over with, so that the thoughts and opinions of the poor dear must remain always those of a more or less intelligent animal. But, his words are very often magic, as you will comprehend by and by when I have made you the greatest of image-makers.

“… Manuel talked with Freydis, confessing that the appearance of these magic-workers troubled Manuel. He had thought it, he said, an admirable thing to make images that lived, until he saw and considered the appearance of these habitual makers of images. They were an ugly… short-tempered tribe, said Manuel: they were shiftless, spiteful, untruthful and in everyday affairs not far from imbecile: they plainly despised all persons who could not make images, and they apparently detested all those who could… What sort of models… were these insane, mud-moulding solitary wasps for a tall lad to follow after? And if Manuel acquired their arts (he asked in conclusion), would he acquire their traits?

“The answer is perhaps no, and not impossibly yes.” replied Freydis. “For… they extract that which is best in them to inform their images, and this is apt to leave them empty of virtue. But, I would have you consider that their best endures, whereas that which is best in other persons is obliterated on some battle-field or mattress or gallows…”

The strange personifications in this creative realm of unconscious activity are the conflicts of opposing tendencies inherent in our natures. What we perceive as deceptive, hostile, and even imbecile (especially in everyday life!), are the raw undeveloped material, the clay, by which human animals are fashioned. We may perceive only that which is best in them to inform our images of ourselves and take the virtues for our own, yet only nature dictates the mud of human predicament.

You may read more about the spiritual predicament of the modern mind here, or visit Amazon.

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Symbolic Thinking: Combining Two Realities

“Often tymes herde Manuel tell of the fayrness of this Queen of Furies and Gobblins… insomuch that he was enamoured of hyr, though he neuer saw hyr: then… made he a Hole in the fyr, and when he had spoke with hyr, he shewed hyr his mynde.Figures of Earth — James Branch Cabell.

Jung wrote of two kinds of thinking: the concentrated, directed kind which demands language for clarity and the fantasy-thinking which flows, like nature, through images. The differences between conscious thought and unconscious perception are most clearly revealed in the confusing language of dreams.

He later evolved his theory of psychological types to show the influence of the two ways of thinking and how they inform the differences in perception of what we so off-handedly and euphemistically refer to as “reality”. The antagonism between introverted and extraverted viewpoints is so subtle, it can’t be resolved by “normal” dialogue in our current form of consciousness.

Jung also demonstrated cultural swings, beyond the subtleties of individual types, in which the spirit of the times may be more or less extraverted or introverted according to shifts in the collective unconscious. He traced their historical ebb and flow through his psychological interpretations of religious conflicts and their gradual development through philosophy into science and rational thought. Beneath individual and cultural differences, Jung explained the empirical facts of two fundamental and contradictory psychic realities.

I cite this as psychological background for the writings of James Branch Cabell. A contemporary of Jung, extraverted critics classed his writings as fantasy and escapist, though what he described was a symbolic, literary example of Jung’s research material. In Figures of Earth, Manuel, a folk analogy of Christ, seeks the spirit, not in the conventional heavenly sphere but through the natural, earthly figures in the unconscious.

An obligation, a “geas”, has been conferred upon him by his mother (the unconscious) to fashion a clay figure of himself in the world until it is to his liking and then to animate it, make it real — his life’s work. In this inner journey, he meets the shadowy wraiths who will aid him in the fulfillment of his strange “geas” whom no one understands.

Through various sources, Manuel learns of Queen Freydis, who alone can animate the clay figures he has fashioned. She can be summoned only by magical incantation and only when the moon is full. She’s dangerous and able to change into frightening images at will, and these must be confronted and endured to catch hold of her in human form.

When Manuel has made the sacred fire from which she would appear according to the rites, a giant serpent leapt upon him, and he clutched it desperately. As he held it at bay, it changed into a monstrous black pig with great tusks “which possessed life of their own, and groped and writhed toward Manuel like fat white worms.” He recited the magic words per instruction.

“Now Manuel was grasping a thick heatless slab of crystal, like a mirror, wherein he could see himself quite clearly. Just as he really was, he, who was not familiar with such mirrors, could see Count Manuel, housed in a little wet dirt with old inveterate stars adrift about him everywhither; and the spectacle was enough to frighten anybody.” Suddenly, Manuel found himself “grasping the warm soft throat of a woman.”

“… do you take no thought for me,” says Queen Freydis, “who am for the while a human woman: for my adversary is a mortal man, and in that duel never yet has the man conquered.” She described her kingdom:

“… So do I tread with wraiths, for my lost realm alone is real. Here all is but a restless contention of shadows which pass presently; here all that is visible and all the colors known to men are shadows dimming the true colors; here time and death, the darkest shadows known to men, delude you with false seemings: for all such things men hold incontestable, because they are apparent to sight and sense, are a weariful drifting of fogs that veil the world… So in this twilit world of yours do we … appear to be but men and women.

“… I am Queen of all that lies behind this veil of human sight and sense. This veil may not ever be lifted; but very often the veil is pierced, and noting the broken place, men call it fire. Through these torn places men may glimpse the world that is real: and this glimpse dazzles their dimmed eyes… and this glimpse mocks… Through these rent places, when the opening is made large enough, a few men here and there, not quite so witless as their fellows, know how to summon us… when for an hour the moon is made void and powerless… and we come as men and women.”

The veil of the senses was rent large by Jung for those who would see beyond it by reflecting on their own images. With the knowledge he discovered and these earthly figures, you may glimpse such erstwhile contradictions in contemporary form, though it’s mirror may yet be a very frightening spectacle to a scientific philosophy caught in the senses, now without any religious values to support it.

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Re-thinking Science and Religion

In a previous post, I quoted Jung’s definitions of rational and irrational: part of his efforts to describe a natural, empirical ground beneath the mythic flight of our religious and philosophical history.

It finds us still chasing a natural reality – on earth as it was in heaven — still in a world of concrete thought. So anxious is it for certainty, it would make of the deepest realities only the dry artifacts of theoretical projections despite the most obvious contradictions in them.

Contradictions in our thinking, however, also produce symbolic reactions in the body (the unconscious) which sometimes violently reject the half-truths forced upon it — just as the long history of religious contention verifies.

As much as we may consider ourselves rational beings, deeper puzzles than stone gods and modern desires define who we are. You may sense the paradox in the space-age illusions which have replaced the old ones; the new astrology of a strangely alive material universe, still reflecting and recording our deeds, only now through the devious satellites of men: symbolic attempts to see living mysteries from a different perspective: the singularity of earth, nature, body, animal, individual.

These are the mysteries of psychic images working beneath consciousness, the paradoxical language of nature: circumstance, chance, and accident, and none are quite certain what to make of our vulnerability to them…

In a reference to Christianity, Joseph Campbell remarked that its hostility (its vulnerability) to nature was unique in the context of world mythology. Identification with intellect means the hostile influence of repressed emotion, and this bi-polarity will find us always in great conflict; though until you become aware of yourself to the extent that you question your sanity, your greatest conflicts will appear outside.

Jung wrote that the Western emphasis on the exclusive power of thought may hold some peculiar divine plan in the gradual unfolding of our natures; that we might discover something about that plan if we could account for the greater purposes behind our surface fascination with the material world and the devil’s banquet we’ve made of it.

The Pandora’s box of scientific object-ivity may eventually lead us to a closer, more realistic examination of our subject-ivity — but what it makes of our souls in the meanwhile is frightening to those who sense it.

I was born into the aftermath of WWII, and those dire conditions resulted in much thought on the circumstances which produced them — by a few for a while. As a child, I watched a panicked nation construct bomb-shelters in the event of nuclear war. Even the scientists were startled by what they’d unleashed, though few admitted that the seeds of destruction existed also in themselves as unconscious reactions to general conditions.

Then the civil rights movement exploded, and a confused and off-balance culture suddenly became aware of its conflicts on two levels. The enemy which was once only outside now appeared inside as well, and the clash of changing values suddenly burst through the tension. The ugly hypocrisy of race relations, coupled with an unpopular war, also formed the tipping point of a much wider dissatisfaction which captured young people everywhere.

The hippie movement that followed — an instinctive attempt to re-connect with nature — was the unconscious response of a generation saturated with the deep-seated religious hostilities it had inherited. A rigid Establishment with no ability to examine itself was so threatened by it that the young idealists’ radical notions of being “natural” were branded as products of drug-induced fantasy. Mind you, these were adult responses to children. The ideas were repressed for further absorption, even as the drug culture was subliminally incorporated by it for the same reasons…

Psychology has snatched a few crumbs of objectivity from the plate of science since that time — from the otherworldly fare of god-like fantasies it was called upon to digest: the circumstances and consequences created by literal, one-sided conceptions of a dual psyche which reflects life through images. But psychology, like science generally, dismissed religion as fantasy; though the mind it was charged to study, outside its own thought, was itself comprised of images and fantasies.

Science only fancied the more that it could extricate itself from the threats of its inventions by inventing even more novel things to occupy itself with — though its exclusive concentration on objects created problems which became only the more threatening the more objective the solutions. That the novel age of diversion were more revolving than evolving by-products of its destructive side, no one considered in the blinding glare of immediate gain.

The dark spirit-shadows (the earthly ones) lurking in the background went right on generating the same spiritual aims they always had — only the times and circumstances changed according to ego’s perception of itself. Psychology tagged along behind an objective science and assumed it could discover the depth of nature’s spirit, not by delving into the mystery, but by soaring above it with the same certainty the preachers used to avoid it. 

How will a rational science discover the mysteries of an irrational nature? Maybe you’d rather not think about such things, pursue your diversions while you can, and leave the burden for your children. On the other hand, if you feel a strange and uncertain anxiety about where the old dual morality is taking us, read more here.

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How Conscious Are We?

Philosophical ideas of what consciousness is have been debated for centuries. Wikipedia quotes Max Velmans and Susan Schneider: “Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience one of the most familiar and most mysterious aspects of our lives.” True, but we need empirical concepts to move the debate beyond philosophy.

Jung defined consciousness as “… the function or activity which maintains the relation of psychic contents to the ego.” He defined ego as, “… a complex of ideas which constitutes the center of my field of consciousness and appears to possess a high degree of continuity and identity.”

His association tests proved ego to be one among a number of complexes which range from dimly perceptible to wholly unconscious. As the central complex of consciousness, it relates only to contents with which it identifies. His concept of projection asserts that complexes of ideas not associated with its identity will appear outside it…

The accidental nature of life presupposes creative functions which correspond to it: instincts designed to anticipate fluid conditions. In another post, I cited Erich Neumann’s description of the “image-symbol”: the instinctual readiness to a given situation which is shaped by personal experience. It originates internally and is as much emotional as sensual.

Immediate awareness, however, is further confined to those images which excite attention: the measure of energy by which instinct compels action. Our initial responses are to images which reflect inner and outer conditions equally.

As physics illustrates, the reality beneath appearance is often counter-intuitive to sensual experience. Jung showed how the unconscious mediates psychic reality for purposes of development beyond conscious perception.

This example is of the pious priest, Abbe Oegger, taken from a story by Anatole France. Jung wrote that the priest was “… much given to speculative musings particularly in regard to the fate of Judas: whether he was really condemned to everlasting punishment, as the teaching of the Church declares, or whether God pardoned him after all.”

The priest concluded after much reflection that Judas was an indispensable instrument in the attainment of God’s work — still, he had great doubts. In his conflict, he prayed to God to give him a sign of His benevolence.

He felt a touch on his shoulder and was convinced that God had forgiven Judas. He resolved to go out into the world and preach God’s mercy. It signaled a new dimension of his personality; one he helped create by the attention he gave to the problem.

So why, Jung asked, was the priest so concerned with the legend of Judas? “We are told that he went out into the world to preach the gospel of God’s unending mercy. Not long afterwards he left the Catholic Church and became a Swedenborgian. Now we understand his Judas fantasy: he was the Judas who betrayed his Lord. Therefore he had first to assure himself of God’s mercy in order to play the role of Judas undisturbed.

“Oegger’s case throws light on the mechanism of fantasies in general. The conscious fantasy may be woven of mythological or any other material; it should not be taken literally, but must be interpreted according to its meaning. If it is taken too literally it remains unintelligible, and makes one despair of the meaning and purpose of the psychic function. But the case of the Abbe Oegger shows that his doubts and his hopes are only apparently concerned with the historical person of Judas, but in reality revolve around his own personality, which was seeking a way to freedom through the solution of the Judas problem. Conscious fantasies therefore illustrate, through the use of mythological material, certain tendencies in the personality which are either not yet recognized or are recognized no longer.”

Jung wrote that they usually turn around ideas which are incompatible with the conscious attitude “… whose conscious realization meets with the strongest resistances. What would Oegger have said had one told him in confidence that he was preparing himself for the role of Judas? Because he found the damnation of Judas incompatible with God’s goodness, he proceeded to think about this conflict. That is the conscious causal sequence. Hand in hand with this goes the unconscious sequence: because he wanted to be Judas, or had to be Judas, he first made sure of God’s goodness. For him, Judas was the symbol of his own unconscious tendency, and he made use of this symbol to reflect on his own situation — its direct realization would have been too painful for him.”

The priest was thrown back on himself for reasons far beyond his conscious knowledge. The images compelling his attention anticipated what he did. He was Judas in the sense that his unconscious personality was opposed to the collective ideas of God he’d been given.

When we reverse the mirror of thought through attention and reflection, it allows some of the mystery to appear through it. Which are the facts: hypothesis or experience? This is what separates gods and devils for those who would reflect on it.

The facts of Abbe Oegger’s experiences were precisely as they were when seen through the mirror of reflection. He did relate his problem to Judas, he did leave the Church, he did spread the gospel of God’s unending mercy. These are psychic facts beyond philosophical meanderings about Church doctrine: the subjective facts of a mind which took the meaning of its own existence seriously.

For a contemporary example of how the subjective mind may discover meaning in a world governed by collective notions of objectivity, continue reading.

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Metaphysics and Jung’s Psychology

I’m impressed by Wikipedia’s definitions — a model today’s psychologies might want to consider. It defines metaphysics as “a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world… notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.”

It sounds like what psychology and religion might be concerned with were they more attuned to the advancement of consciousness than cultivating subjective ideologies for purchase by consumers.

“Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as… natural philosophy.” Science is: “knowledge of, originating from epistemology. The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy.” After the eighteenth century “… metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.”

Etymology traces it through “Latin scoliasts” as “the science of what is beyond the physical” to the Greek “… science of the world beyond nature…  of the immaterial.”

It evolved from the Greek skeptics, “How do you know?” to “epistemology (how we know)… and this led to science (Latin to know) and to the scientific method (the precision of which is still being debated). Skepticism evolved epistemology out of metaphysics. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical inquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.

“Since the beginning of modern philosophy during the seventeenth century, problems that were not originally considered within the bounds of metaphysics have been added to its purview, while other problems considered metaphysical for centuries are now typically subjects of their own separate regions in philosophy… In some cases [italics mine], subjects of metaphysical scholarship have been found to be entirely physical and natural, thus making them part of science proper (cf. the theory of Relativity).”

Metaphysics then is the language of imagination, of the psyche. To think that anything could exist outside nature is an illusion with profound implications. There is no other reality; how human thought ever arrived at two distinct perceptions of it can be examined historically.

Because of the psyche’s fluid nature, we can’t observe ourselves with the same objectivity we apply to inanimate objects. The subjectivity of perception and thought, the unconscious exchange of projections, and the artificial conditions of test methods find psychological experiment to be so relative to unknown factors that it can be only superficially objective.

Jung transformed the studies of religion, philosophy, and epistemology into empirical activities; his method, however, derived less from experiment than the comparative study of ideas and symbols. The ever-changing flux of perception dictates that the only fixed reference-point by which psyche can be pinned down  is an historical one.

One of his basic assertions was that the psyche is the medium of all experience; with no perceiving subject there is only the timeless world of unconscious impulse. Natural functions translate psychic experience through images. To apply an empirical method to their study, they must be confined to that medium.

His subject was not what objects are in themselves, but the mind. There we have the possibility to understand the ideas we conceive: images reflect objects but also unconscious responses to them — their usefulness, our needs and desires for them — as well as reflections of the medium itself.

Jung’s psychology was the study of our mental functioning through images, not their literal forms. If you believe that only concrete objects can be real, you can’t conceive spiritual ideas as symbols of psychic functions.

The fantasy-thinking that led theologians in the Middle Ages to argue over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin was a formal stage of thought; it conceived ideas as concrete things, as many still do today. But, we can see how our thinking has changed since then. Jung conceived a new exploratory method for the age-old philosophical problem of fantasy vs. reality: a symbolic one.

He showed how the metaphysical world could be described empirically, just as natural science studies the material world. Since the unconscious is outside awareness, it’s a natural, objective reality no less observable than the external world. To understand its symbolic nature, however, we need broader concepts than conventional science can furnish.

Erich Neumann described the nature of them: “… the psychic image-symbol “fire,” as something “red,” “hot,” “burning,” contains as many elements of inner experience as of outer experiences. “Red” possesses not only the perceptible quality of redness, but also the emotional component of heat as an inner process of excitation. “Fiery,” “hot,” ”burning,” “glowing,” etc., are more emotional than perceptual images. We contend, therefore, that the physical process of oxidation, fire, is experienced with the aid of images which derive from the interior world of the psyche and are projected upon the external world, rather than that experiences of the external world are superimposed on the inner… In human development the object becomes disentangled only very gradually and with extreme slowness from the mass of projections in which it is wrapped and which originate in the interior world of the psyche.”

Jung’s method of disentangling ideas from objects was a great advance in our attempts to view ourselves with any objectivity. Neumann’s statement derived from in-depth studies of symbols and ideas, their evolutionary development, and how our perceptions of them compare and contrast over time: the only reference-point outside a given historical viewpoint.

Their studies provided a new perspective on epistemology, philosophy, and religion — based on empirical evidence. It’s no less scientific than black holes, the extra dimensions of string theory, or the parallel universes of theoretical physics. Wikipedia will be compelled to update its definition of metaphysics — when the rest of science catches up to Jung’s ideas.

For an example, based on Jung’s discoveries, of the analogical thinking required to come to terms with a symbolic reality, continue reading.

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An Historical View of Normalcy

Despite affectations of uniqueness, we’re all driven by intense desires to appear normal. This social instinct to conform is present from birth. It’s just a hint that you’ll suffer strange psychic disturbances at mid-life, when your individuality begins to emerge.

Don’t panic, this split in personality is natural. But, because it’s so little acknowledged, we must go far back in time to discover why. Young people may be astonished that this search for historical roots leads into the ancient world — of the nineteen-fifties.

The brutality characteristic of that time was recorded on crude black and white media transmissions through a “boob tube.” Brief but startling interruptions in the otherwise fantasy-based programming allowed viewers to tune into world events at the end of each day.

Euphemistically referred to as news, these horrifying glimpses into reality were successfully numbed by unconscious associations with the pleasant dream-world surrounding them. Viewers were quick to identify with the new carefully manipulated means of repression.

To redirect any reflection on the actual state of human affairs, “sit-coms” depicting outlandish exaggerations of collective behavior, accompanied by dubbed laughter at prescribed intervals, subtly informed a smooth flow into the newly scripted norm.

Fiercely competitive game shows stressed acquisition and entitlement to spur industry after a devastating world war — and to avert attention from the increasing threat of run-away destructive tendencies. Owing to the anxiety of the time, all desperately seized upon the new medium without compunction. This is not to be wondered at:

Contrasting with today’s highly educated specialist, a “general practitioner” slapped the newborn’s bottom in that distant age to jump-start its breathing. Judging from available records, since most infants’ lungs were then located in the chest cavity, we can only theorize that it was to accustom it at the outset to being hit by parents and strangers alike. The para-sexual practice was so prevalent, we assume it to have been a primitive birth rite associated with the reigning cult of violence.

No general instruction or education was provided for the care of the wee thing, and upon initiation it was thenceforth dispatched to the homes of inexperienced novices whose worst traits were only magnified by the confusion of having brought a living self-replicant into their private, inside-out social bubbles. The compulsion to tackle such a task without knowledge or preparation was happily accepted by all, along with a host of other irrational behaviors describing the history of that age.

The powerful symbolic significance of the child was unrecognized by the rude psychology of that era; its broader evolutionary function remained as unconscious as in the Anthropithecus Abnormalis of prehistoric times. Of course, we now know that the child is also a profound psychic image: each generation’s highest hopes doubled back against natural, regressive instincts for self-examination and reflection with the aim of higher development.

Relentless coaching was required to refute this, and the contradictions intended to reveal unconscious aims through reflection were subliminally absorbed by the infant to be channeled into the hostile and defensive reactions required to participate in the norm.

The pointless and frustrated squandering of vital energies dedicated to re-interpreting natural functions into embarrassing and inadmissible private “necessities” afforded effective early training for the grander cultural illusions awaiting the tiny initiate.

As determined as the efforts were, they failed to fully repress the drive to self-awareness behind the dissociated intellectual development of that day. Devious commercial marketing of all manner of useless gadgetry merged with a vast entertainment industry to siphon off the psyche’s increasing demand for personal and social consciousness. This only plunged the culture deeper into regression.

The natural, ape-like instinct for imitation was artificially managed to retard the much-needed reflection, and the child was alternately cajoled, hit and screamed at to ensure conformity to the mass madness. So advanced was emotional retardation in the boys, they yearned to hit others far beyond the attainment of physical maturity.

Many habitually struck their spouses, not just in retribution for the chimp-like traditions forced upon them, but to hone the competitive ruthlessness which drove the obsessive commercial machinery. Most were routinely whipped into submission from an early age to abet the general conspiracy of self-neglect required for an exclusive focus on commerce far exceeding need or comfort.

The primitive desire to hit and be hit was so conducive to the objectives of educators and parents and fitted so neatly into the collective program, none inspected the deep personal insecurities beneath the violent cycle of reaction and response.

Due to guilt-ridden projections, the imitative function bidding the youngsters practice the lessons they learned on each other was paradoxically punished. Authorities had also to rationalize the humiliations inflicted upon their own youth: unconscious retaliation for the still-living brute and the buried shame of ignominies required to mold a credulous and exploitable citizenry.

No reliable records exist of the girls’ reactions to these conditions. They were segregated into a far-off emotional world beyond psychic reach of the boys who later became the men who furnished the only reports we have. More objective assessments must discard them as too subjective: crudely egoistic caricatures of an early stage of development.

The split between the sexes was so deeply rooted, males often persisted in chiding one another long into adulthood for crossing the artificial sexual barrier when mating for purposes outside coitus.

Consonant with the lack of reflection and the blind acceptance of gender roles, moribund religious rituals deeply entrenched in a rigid patriarchy held any reconciliation of the sexual divide in strict abeyance.

As psychic images were then viewed as concrete things, the repressed urge to reconcile contradictory impulses and the consequent one-sidedness contributed significantly to the homosexuality which flourished in all genders. Appearance dictated that sexual differences existed only in the body, and causation was ascribed to dualistic notions of hereditary weakness and environmental circumstance as suited the typological bias of the investigator.

Unconscious fealty to patriarchal ideals with no compensating feminine image was so tightly woven into the fabric of society that the effete religious views were shrouded in superstition and forbidden any elaboration. It remained to be discovered that the goals of psychology were inseparable from spiritual development, and their separate inquiries remained at cross-purposes.

Beneath the religious cult was a morbid fear of nature which endured despite the grave consequence of destroying that which supported it. Mental functions were sensed as powerful demons just as they had been for eons.

The rote science of that era was so fixed on objects, symbols were declared meaningless across the psychic board. Any emotional advancement was thus stopped in its tracks. Because of the stoppage, the innate balancing function of spiritual values needed to guide the use of dangerous technologies metastasized into a compulsive greed for personal wealth and power.

For a more serious inquiry into collective ideals, visit Amazon.

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On the Religious Nature of Mid-Life

In a previous post, I discussed some dreams I experienced at mid-life; my transition from a rational, too-masculine thinking type to one who could feel the emotions designed to relate to a symbolic reality. I mentioned dreams of a religious nature that supplemented the ones which were the focus of that post.

I would like to bring the religious ones into relation with those: to show how the unconscious attempts to reconcile deeper psychic facts with the more recent ideas of Christian social development — and the modern truths of causal education. The three intertwine today, accentuating an emotional confusion which only compels us more certainly into an all-consuming collectivism.

The dream-series about dogs was interspersed with others which began to draw me to very old ideas. I’d moved into a “fixer-upper” and had some leaks repaired under the house. Afterward, I dreamed I was looking at the plumber’s bill. Below the list of repairs was a penciled illustration of Christ on the cross. I was struck by how beautifully it was drawn, and it occurred to me that I’d drawn it!

I was still in a rational mind-set, though; anti-religious — I couldn’t reconcile the contradictions of traditional belief intellectually. Even so, the dream described the spiritual nature of the psychic energy leaking out (wasted, unused) underneath consciousness: I had no real feeling-experience of the ideas the unconscious seized on to inform me where I was in life. I was being prepared emotionally for dreams which would further elaborate that initial theme: the image of a man struggling under the tension of opposites.

I soon experienced what I now call “the fall into the hands of the living God”: an emotional state so intense and frightening, I felt like I’d lost my mind; I held on tight. After a wrenching sleepless night, it took all my efforts to get through the next day. I went to bed that night exhausted from the mental tension. I was so overwhelmed, all I could think was to read the Bible! I — who was raised with it as a youngster yet compelled to dispute every word of it! “Somehow”, I found myself reading about Abraham and Sarah.

I put the Bible aside, wondering whether I would be able to sleep for the tension which still held me in its grip. As I lay there, preparing for another sleepless night, an image appeared in my mind’s eye: Arthur Ashe, the great tennis player, was playing tennis with a shadowy opponent! He was from Richmond, Va., my “hometown”. He’d died of AIDS from a tainted blood transfusion. A sudden wave of relief swept over me, the tension disappeared, and I fell asleep.

(Later reflection on the image yielded its ideas: tennis as a symbol of the back and forth exchange process with the unconscious, Ashe’s death from AIDS, a “sexually” transmitted “disease”: how I saw the “creative” process “afflicting” me; the blood transfusion, death, the transition of an old attitude and re-birth at mid-life — exactly what I was experiencing in the analogy!)

I recalled only one dream that night: a chimpanzee in a blue dress looked at me intently. “I’m Sarah.” it said. The dress was the same one a friend described a few years before, when he’d confessed to me that he wore it to bed with his wife. He’d struggled with that since he was five, too ashamed to tell anyone else. He was an engineer, a rational, thinking man whose male image had diverted vital feelings. They appeared feminine to him, just as the unconscious reflected it back through the lonely compulsion which bid him wear its image.

You remember Sarah, right? She was barren, couldn’t “conceive” (just like me). She was older, Abraham’s second wife (a reference to the second half of life). The Lord yet decreed she would have a child. I remembered the alchemical parable in which a “king had a baby in his brain.” His kingdom was dry and arid; to fructify it, the unconscious birthed a new image to re-direct his duties to it.

I related the chimpanzee’s primitive nature; I thought about Sarah and my friend’s blue dress (the color of the sky, of lofty patriarchal fantasies), the dogs who’d turned against me. It slowly dawned on me that these pictures were describing the age-old spiritual longing inside: the unconscious direction of my own soul, the psychic function meant to mediate what I thought I knew about myself but didn’t know: what my nature revealed outside my collective viewpoint.

The image of Christ is not just a faded, antique form of imitation in which an undeveloped and over-compensating ego once convinced itself that it had already accomplished our deepest intuitions. It’s a profound historical model which today describes the psychic conflicts endured by one who turns inward and sacrifices his/her personal desires for something greater than itself.

Read the story of how intellect is drawn into an exchange process with the unconscious through the gradual development of symbolic thought.

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Mid-Life: A Living Form of Dying (questions for atheists)

I recently read a post by Dr. Bud Harris concerning a discussion on life after death presented by the Asheville Jung Center. As Jung noted: there are questions which will never be answered; but, Dr. Harris pointed up the value of reflecting on such existential ideas as connect us with the “beyond”.

For Jung, death and the beyond represented psychological needs outside consciousness; unconscious perspectives over generations far exceeding our temporal awareness. Symbolically, they have little to do with actual death. The divide between belief and knowledge also contains connectors, though — facts of emotional experience. One question Jung asked was: why would the unconscious insist on such beliefs? Why is it important to consider things we can’t know?

The short answer is: they connect to a deeper level of being than intellect can achieve, and this feeling-level lends a more balanced view of life than one’s immediate conscious desires. Today, the commercially instilled need for instant gratification may prove a graver threat than the atomic bomb. Here is another perspective which may shed light on our relations to the past which also orient us to the future, our continuity:

In an earlier post, I related an exchange between Manuel and the severed head of Misery from James Branch Cabell’s, Figures of Earth, in which ideas of the soul were discussed; of immortality, human disregard for animals and the earth, and other such ego-based religious projections as describe the cross-purposes between man and nature.

As the conversation went,  Manuel explains to the head of Misery that he has an immortal soul. A concrete, literal-minded (think science) Misery wants to see it. Manuel says it can’t get out until he’s dead. The head asks how he, who has never been dead, can “… be certain as to what happens when one is dead?”

Manuel takes up the argument: “… there is about at any rate some persons a whiff of divinity… do you not find it so?” He feels the inner weight of beliefs which give broader meaning and purpose to his life.

“The head looked graver. “Yes, Manuel, most young people have a spark in them which is divine, but it is living which snuffs this out of all of you, by and large, without bothering Grandfather Death to unpeel spirits like bananas. No, the most of you go with very little spirit, if any, into the grave, and assuredly with not enough spirit to last you forever. No, Manuel… I never quarrel with religion, because it is almost the strongest ally I have, but these religious notions rather disgust me sometimes…

“Now you are talking nonsense, sir,” said Manuel stoutly, “and of all sorts of nonsense cynical nonsense is the worst.

“By no means,” replied the head, “since plainly, it is far worse nonsense to assert that omnipotence would insanely elect to pass eternity with you humans. No, Manuel, I am afraid that your queer theory, about being stuffed inside with permanent material and so on, does not very plausibly account for either your existence or mine, and that we both stay riddles without answers.

“Still, sir,” said Manuel, “inasmuch as there is one thing only which all death’s ravishings have never taken from life, and that thing is the Misery of earth — ” Misery allows the premise is indisputable and asks what he deduces from it.

“… I deduce, sir, that you, also, who have not ever been dead, cannot possibly be certain as to what happens when one is dead. And so I shall stick to my own opinion about the life to come.” The head replies that his “… opinion is absurd on the face of it.” Manuel:

“That may very well be, sir, but it is much more comfortable to live with than is your opinion, and living is my occupation just now. Dying, I shall attend to it in its due turn, and, of the two, my opinion is the more pleasant to die with. Thereafter, if your opinion be right, I shall never know that my opinion was wrong: so that I have everything to gain… and nothing whatever to lose, by clinging to the foolish fond old faith my fathers had before me…”

The severed head of Misery (an aspect of a dissociated intellect) can’t understand Manuel’s reasoning and questions him, but Manuel interrupts: “Ah, sir,” says Manuel… smiling, “in this world men are nourished by their beliefs; and it may well be that, yonder also, their sustenance is the same.

“But at this moment came Reeri (a little crimson naked man, having the head of a monkey) with his cock in one hand and his gnarled club in the other…”

Apparently, such heady ideas also summon up unconscious conflicts of a very primitive nature (our Devil is still crimson, though no longer naked). The repressed animal-spirit that holds the creative urge in one hand wields the threat of violence in the other.

You may not relate to such ideas, but you hear daily about this little crimson naked man (with the head of a monkey) on the news. An unconscious religion may yet be the strongest ally of misery — until we interpret the emotional reality beneath the beliefs.

Read more about how we may relate to such problems in a more productive way than current education bears.

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Relations Between Conscious and Unconscious: The Exchange Process

Jung once wrote that it’s not so important to interpret dreams as it is to experience them. This is especially so at mid-life, when one may feel the need to make conscious emotions out of the educational stages which fortify ego into a separate identity — one stable enough to overcome its sensual illusions and confront an objective reality inside.

While it’s instructive (and somewhat flattering) to work a dream into a form acceptable to intellect, nature works over centuries to produce even smaller fruits of Eden ripe enough to be ingested by the conscious part. They attain the clarity to appear as associable ideas only by the added energy of attention. That (somewhat figuratively) is how Jung’s energic theory describes the exchange between conscious and unconscious.

A dream doesn’t stop working when something valuable is discovered in it. At mid-life, it’s only the beginning of a process designed to form a relationship, just as two strangers might establish common ground. But, the figures confronting you inside are vital parts of you who want attention doubly on that account.

They’re sometimes comforting, but at other times, too, are very contrary — even hostile — especially when they want you to inspect needful things that you may have been taught were of no importance by a backward (causal) and collective ego-worship.

At such a point, I dreamed of a small white poodle busily re-arranging my house. As I watched, I became incensed. The damn thing set up a fan in my kitchen to draw outside air in through the window — in the winter! I screamed at it: “This is my fucking house!” Yet it went right on, paying no attention to my ranting.

I associated the black poodle of Goethe’s, Faust: the supportive instinctual form of the creative force of Lucifer (the Light-bearer) yet to shine the light of consciousness onto darker conflicts. I awoke anxiously but fell back asleep. The dream continued: the white poodle was in my bed stimulating me sexually!

I considered the color white, a reference to consciousness — the opposite of unconscious blackness. I thought about Jung’s premise that sexuality symbolizes creative nature in its most profound sense — an instinctual function of relationship. When I became hostile and screamed, it was the reaction of an anxious and defensive ego being re-arranged to make room for creative (fucking) processes outside its perception.

It portended intimate relations (the bed and the sexual stimulation) with this feminine poodle (the unconscious), to compensate a rational, too-masculine ego. I saw myself as an action figure, as I was expected to be in the outer world; an actor, a worn-out Sylvester Stallone: an aging, faked-up hero-idol clinging to a moribund masculine image.

Along with other dreams, I went back to it again and again over the next two years. That was ten years ago; I couldn’t describe it symbolically then as now. But — I felt it, intuited it; able only through devotion (conscious attention) and the aid of Jung’s ideas. When I’d experienced its emotions enough to satisfy the unconscious that I was ready to move on, it changed into my black lab who’d died years before. She’d come back in my dreams!

But, her friendly form didn’t last long. Over the next year, she became threatening, snarling, biting at me. Toward the end of that dream-series, I could only ward her off on my back, with my feet (my deepest conflicts), as she attacked me viciously.

In a later dream, I explained to a shadowy figure that she’d had a psychotic episode. I had more dreams about dogs turning “psychotically” against me. Over the next year, still more dreams embraced religious ideas, and they slowly bore their core meaning into my stubborn consciousness. The dream which tipped the scale found me shouting at an old, disheveled woman in a square with a dark pond surrounded by apartments: “You’re crazy!” I screamed as she stared uncannily.

My soul, which I had accepted was of so little importance in a world of men; of power, wealth and social striving, was sick — in full rebellion of the way I treated it. I felt sick. Well, I was — but not in the way I thought…

My dreams showed me that it wasn’t she or I who was crazy; I only thought the unconscious was crazy! It reflected back to me the way I was looking at it. I saw it as crazy — which it is in the sense that it’s irrational, beyond collective judgment.

Within a year, I was writing poetry, making emotions out of the strange dreams which continue to reveal who I am — outside the ego I identified with. Three more years of intense self-analysis, guided by my dreams and Jung’s ideas, found me constructing the symbolic tale of my own inner journey. It’s as profound and insightful as the figures which lurk behind it, and though it may appear strange to the rational mindset — it is a reality.

Along with my posts, the book is one small man’s effort to shine just a little new light on its mystery. Read more about the events leading to it here, or visit Amazon.

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