“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…