A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations with the Unconscious — Book Review

Breaking Jungian Psychology Out of the Ghetto of Intellectual Containment

by Klemens Swib

Individuation, the blossoming of individuality, is one of the major themes of Jungian psychology. Jung’s empirical observations of his own and his patients’ interactions with the unconscious contents of the psyche led him to conclude that the concept of individuation was a key to understanding and making sense of this experience. He also recognized the self-realization derived from this phenomenon inevitably gave purpose and meaning to his own and his patients’ lives. Individuation constitutes a force that allows us to develop our potential as both individuals and human beings.

Jung’s empirical observations led him to conclude that the blossoming of individuality particularly occurred during the second half of our existence. I unequivocally agree. I would only ask: how can individuality blossom before the individual exists? Ergo, the synthesis of the individual may well constitute the essence of the individuation process in the first half of the human life cycle. I believe Jung implied as much when he wrote of the young sometimes needing to be caustically disillusioned of their fantasies in order to focus on meeting the demands of adulthood. Establishing one’s own ‘individual’ position and place in the world is definitely a Herculean task taken on by the young.

In any event, Jung did not attempt to write a general theory of individuation. He had too much respect for this dynamic, living and open-ended concept to prematurely limit it to a simple and sterile formula that prospective analysts could memorize and apply by rote. He did, however, leave a record of his own personal encounter with individuation. He did so in his posthumously published Red Book. He also hoped others would follow his lead and record their own experiences with this phenomenon. In this way, a consensus and perhaps even a general theory of individuation could eventually emerge. To that end, he encouraged his patients to document their own personal encounters with the individuation process.

In his book, A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations with the Unconscious (A Subjective Study of Science, Religion, and Consciousness)Evan Hanks has taken up Jung’s challenge. He has supplied us with a unique, retrospective take on his own personal individuation. It is his effort to make sense and deepen his understanding of the profound personality transformation emanating from that encounter — a subjective one as he indicates in his book title, and one that will undoubtedly deepen and extend our understanding of individuation. I will have more to say on Evan’s revolutionary and historic contribution to the study of individuation in due course.

Individuation not only transformed Jung’s personality and character but proved to be a primary source of his creative genius as well. Otherwise, he would not have attributed the genesis of most of his psychological concepts to ideas he originally formulated in the Red Book. The same applies to Evan Hanks. His experience of the individuation process opened up his own unique creative capacity. His metier lies in the realm of narrative poetry. Goethe is his heroic role model. Even a Philistine such as I can sense the beauty inherent in Evan’s poetry. Fortunately, he also included a descriptive, interpretive framework to support his poetic visualization.

“My head is crowded, night and day are one;                                                                     I search in vain the reasons for the things I’ve done.                                               The lion’s courage in my heart I thought was real                                                       Is now the frightened victim of the pain I feel.                                                               dark entanglement surrounds the steps I take;                                                             I stumble through the maze of each new choice I make.                                     Emotions once repressed have broken through their guise;                                 Faces once familiar I no longer recognize.                                                                       A strange force has turned around the world I used to know;                                 Right is wrong, the sun is gone, the stars are down below.                                 The mannequin of yesterday lies far behind me:                                                       The tattered remnants of a man who once defined me.”

At this point, I would be remiss if I failed to re-emphasize that Evan Hanks’ work is a retrospective effort to make conscious sense of a life-altering psychological transformation. It is a subjective effort, and there are times the reader may temporarily lose sight of the trail. With that said, this particular Philistine’s own incapacity for poetic visualization may be the ultimate source of this critique. If not, individuation is a mystery: a mysterious blossoming of individuality occurring in the second half of the adult life cycle, and one that gives meaning and purpose to an individual’s existence. Yet, it is an experience that is so profound, far-reaching and transformative that the uninitiated may not always be able to fully follow the writer’s effort to integrate it.

So, what makes Evan’s book a revolutionary and historic document? How will he deepen and extend our understanding of individuation? It all stems from the intensity of his poetic perception. That will ultimately provide us with the battering ram to break Jungian psychology out from the ghetto of intellectual containment it currently resides in and into the literary and civilizational mainstream.

In the first part of the chapter, An Objective Evaluation, Evan mercilessly and relentlessly exposed his perceived failings as a human being. His critique was so intense and visceral, it vividly reminded me of another powerful self-critique I had previously encountered in literature. In the Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky’s central character performed a similar searing, self-analytical deconstruction. There is no way around it. The persona and the maladapted and collectivist aspect of the ego must give way before individuality can blossom. I fully understand where Evan and Dostoevsky were coming from. However, this led me to wonder whether Dostoevsky documented any other aspects of his own encounter with the individuation process.

Dostoevsky’s very next major publication was, Crime and Punishment. Gone is the 40-year-old Underground man, and a university student of exceptional talent emerges onto the stage. Yes, there definitely was a lot more to the underground man’s self-flagellating character than one might first imagine. The new hero’s youthful character is attributable to his individuality which is just beginning to blossom. He lives in an era before the concept of the unconscious was fully elaborated. Thus Dostoevsky placed the struggle to individuate within a real-world temporal context. As Edwin Muir succinctly put it:

Dostoevsky wrote of the unconscious as if it were conscious; that is in reality the reason why his characters seem ‘pathological’.

His hubris and his poverty lead him to commit a morally reprehensible crime. This is a literary character you must remember; one Dostoevsky undoubtedly was using to make sense of his own encounter with the individuation process. Heinous as his crime was, he did not feel guilty over murdering the pawnbroker. He was a superior man — a future Napoleon in desperate need of ‘material’ sustenance — and he would perform many benevolent acts to compensate for his transgression. Yet, his action propels him into an unbearable world of suffering and pain. He doesn’t understand why. How could a superior human being, a veritable Napoleon, be tripped up by his own superior prerogative?

During the course of his mad meanderings, he meets his beaten-down anima projection, Sonya. She eventually helps him to admit defeat and accept his punishment. Only after he is imprisoned does his rehabilitative transformation begin. He finds his faith and then starts the long journey toward his own resurrection. The Jungian characters are all there: the shadow, along with the moral dilemma it inspires, the anima, the psychological change and turmoil of life-altering intensity. Dostoevsky had the genius to depict the life-altering, transformative state of mind of the individuate. Jung also experienced tremendous psychological turmoil during the initial stages of his own individuation. This turmoil led him to question his own sanity.

Connect Jung’s and Dostoevsky’s acknowledgement and understanding of the individuation process together, along with Evan Hanks’ and a host of other individuates’ accounts, and we are well on our way to breaking Jungian psychology out of the ghetto of intellectual containment created by mainstream academia and the psychological establishment. Evan Hanks’ pivotal role in the process makes his book, A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations with the Unconscious (A Subjective Study of Science, Religion, and Consciousness), well worth the read.

Klemens Swib is the author of, Dionysos Archetype of Individuation.

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Individuation (How Do You Catch a Wave Upon the Sand?)

I always loved the Sound of Music. I loved Maria especially because she was not a normal nun; not that nuns are normal, either — at least not from a natural perspective. But, I was raised with a very unnatural perspective which drew me to her warmly compensatory character.

Maria wasn’t normal in any way — not even as a seamstress. How I admired her practical and inventive conservation of existing resources (though the family was quite wealthy, she anticipated the short-sighted greed and waste inherent in the modern marketing concepts of built-in obsolescence) when she sewed the children’s play-suits from the drapes that shielded the Captain’s projections of a regressive developmental phase onto them — thus bringing the harsh conditions of an effete patriarchy into the open light of scrutiny.

Her selfless dedication to the task of balancing an emotionally estranged single-father family unit with her much-needed feminine side allowed the children to differentiate themselves from the negative spirit-image of a dictatorial, militant pre-WWII Austrian commandant saddled with the then-current cultural charge of molding an untamed brood of human primates into a tightly disciplined corps of paranoid, misogynistic aggressors. She keenly foresaw that, without her help, their innocent, unknowing little natures would unconsciously seize upon the compensations and later make them sick like the Captain.

As a youth, I couldn’t identify with what I interpreted as the sissification of the boys and the rote collectivization of the children in general by the uniforms they donned gleefully amid her light-hearted song. But, what good are uniforms if they’re not all the same? Though, I later began to connect with the evolutionary implications of separating from an obsolete spirit-father-complex, it seemed to me then that she was robbing Beelzebub to pay the Devil.

But, those were extraordinary times; change was in the air. Maria sensed that the children would need a positive unisexual group-identity in the social crisis to come. What appeared to my young mind as the boys’ “sissification” was actually an intuitive attempt to fortify a developing male ego and prepare it, not only for resistance to an exaggerated masculine zeal which led to a terrifying new age of nuclear warfare, but also for a monumental cultural transition that would turn existing ideas of gender equality upside-down.

Little did I know then that she was gently but surely guiding the boys and girls alike through a temporary stage designed to liberate them from the historical warrior-ego’s regressive authoritarian structure and open them to the new vistas of an ego-consciousness released from its primitive heritage. She intuited the apparently peaceful but rigidly enforced group conditions as an unconscious complicity to the Nazi extreme of unquestioned patriarchal duty which, due to the laws of instinctual nature, was bound to spiral out of control in a desperate attempt to destroy itself for the sake of humankind.

She smashed apart a petrified world of tradition, not with the club of vengeance, but with the ardent, soulful weapons-which-are-no-weapons of song, poetry and emotion — plus the instrumental accompaniment of the finest and highest-paid musicians Hollywood greed and nepotism could muster under the auspices of an egalitarian, commercially-driven form of instilled propaganda which believes in its fantasies such that it would float an overdone show-biz extravaganza off as a romantic representation of a stupefyingly horrific period of human history to make money off it.

Still, the smarmy, loose and sentimental story was enough to make it one of the greatest musicals ever. For, underneath it, Maria’s sturdy and unflagging sense of individuality not only freed the children from the monster of unchecked patriarchy, it transformed the very character of the monster itself.

She shattered the deeply entrenched values of convention by innocently and benignly, yet knowingly, methodically destroying the Captain’s engagement to the rich, haughty, self-absorbed socialite and wicked step-mother figure with a mature facade who sank his moody anima-possession, along with the children, only further into an over-idealized romantic and regressive steep of hierarchical oppression which had stunted emotional growth in men and women of all sexes for generations.

Though her own dark night of the soul (her sexual affair with the Captain was a source of deep torment) was sanitized for purposes of mass appeal, we know that she suffered much beneath her courageous pose of gaiety. We suffered that gaiety with her. But, what people cannot comprehend of the suffering of life cannot be thrust upon them all at once in raw form. How they would grieve! What first appeared as an ostrich-like optimism, later revealed a steady resolve to confront the ineluctible demands of psychic evolution head-on.

She not only lovingly coaxed a brute animal out of the darkness of instinctuality and into the light of soul and relationship, she rescued a regressive single-parent family from the dark throes of the most stultifying and inhuman regimentation — and she enlivened the spirits of a generation in despair. Plus, she had a great voice and was pretty, too.

One of the things I used to ask myself in my youth was how she ever got to be a nun in the first place. Hers was an exemplary tale of individuation which few students of human nature acknowledge.  How do you achieve such breadth of personality from such humble beginnings?  How do you embody the healing psychic processes of a generation lost in transition in one unfathomable screen performance? How do you solve a problem like Maria ? 

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Psychiatry vs. Psychology

My new therapist, Billem Thrice, has already awakened an unconscious religious conflict in me. A quick check of my hands and arms for “whacking injuries” and a blow into the breathalizer began our first session. After expressing misgivings about why I was there, he assured me it was “a normal reaction to therapy.”

He explained that it’s quite natural to repress fears of exploring deeply into the psyche. I’ll say — I sometimes sleep for sixteen hours a ‘night’, and all my covers are on the floor when I wake up. Also, I’ll buy food one day, and the next day it’s gone, and I don’t remember eating it. Anyway, I told him something’s not adding up.

He reminded me that he wanted to send a positive report to the judge. “Have you been attending Al-Anon?” Hello! Would I rather spend ninety days in a big steel cage with fifty other human animals — most of them agitated, highly aggressive males of the same gender?

He asked if I subscribed to a higher power. I thought of my subscription to Dr. Drowze’s periodical, Safe Medicine in an Unsafe World. “Frankly, we’ve got you stabilized neurologically…” he looked concerned, “we just can’t seem to get you over the hump behaviorally.” 

I told “Just Be” (that’s what he told me to call him) I did, indeed, hold to a higher power: The Lord God Almighty. “Which one?” he snapped, “Old Testament or New?” I blurted out, “New!”, though I really had no idea. “What denomination?” Denomination? I just said, “Methodist”, because my parents always said that’s what we were, but I’d never thought about it. “The United Methodist Church or The Free Methodist Church?”

As quickly as I answered, he pot-fired another question and just stared at me as if expecting an immediate response. ‘Free Methodist’ sounded reasonable, so I vollyed that. “Accent on faith or works?” he whizzed; I thought ‘faith’ sounded pretty good, so I yelled “Faith!”.

He surreptitiously peeked at a stopwatch he held under his chair. “Let’s try that again…” he gazed quizzically at it. “Something’s not right.” Then, he shrugged, tossed the watch aside, and looked back at the file on his desk.

“Anywhoo…” he studied it intently, “Where were we? Uh… any vague spiritual desires?” I told him I had some but couldn’t really say what they were. “Wait …” he scanned the file. “Oh, okay.” he murmured to himself.

“Sleep tremens, nightmares, anything like that?” I thought about this real scary dream where I’m driving at night, and I’m all over the road, and headlights flash by as cars carom to avoid me. But, as I reflected, I think it was that time I went to Taco Bell and woke up in my driveway.

“Mostly my dreams are pleasant.” I said. The only ones I remember are the kind of half-waking ones I have during the day. He said my medication seemed to be doing its job. “So… what do you think is the problem?” Hello! If I could even find my wallet and keys half the time, two big problems would be solved, and I could begin to knock out the smaller ones.

I told him I was worried about my dog, Rusty, though. He seems to sleep all the time. He looked skeptical, “Oookay… tell me about your ”dog, Rusty (he wiggled his fingers)  who sleeps all the time.” I told him about yesterday, when we fell asleep in the back yard as I was feeding him, and we both just snoozed right out on the hard stone patio for three hours — in a cold rain. “Jeezum!” he exclaimed.

I didn’t tell him how I’d fumbled with my medication and accidentally dumped a whole capsule into Rusty’s food dish and was too tired to take it out. I seem to be doing that a lot for the last whatever… I hope he’s okay. “Look, forget the dog.” he said curtly and squinted at the file.

I noticed a Ladies’ Home Girdle tucked inside it. It was open to Ask Suzie, in the Therapist’s Corner. “How often do you date?” Date? I read on Face Twerp that I’d almost picked up the girl in the drive-through window at the Taco Bell not long ago, but other than that, I couldn’t remember the last date I had. I still think I could have gotten one with her — had I been conscious.

I was on the verge of nodding off and then realized where I was, “Huh?” His pen was hovering over the magazine impatiently. “I’ll mark, ‘not very much.’ Are you able to maintain a coherent consciousness through your waking hours?” I said I was pretty sure I did, as far as I knew.

He slapped the file shut and appeared pleased. “Well… looks like you’re good to go. I guess we’ll see you next week.” I pulled out a twenty, “Twenty for a half, right?” He tossed me a half-bottle for the deuce, and I stumbled into a big potted plant, rather clumsily placed, I thought, right next to my chair. But, when I looked again, it was like fifteen feet away. “Careful, buddy!” he laughed. I aimed myself at the door and ”stepped over logs” into the hallway. Where was that stairwell?

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My New Therapist

I did it! It was a little scary, but I think I’ve navigated the “transference” from Dr. Drowze to my new therapist. He’s not exactly a real psychiatrist, but he’s pretty close. He’s also a part-time on-line adviser at Smart Tech.com. He got his associate degree in counseling there after spending an entire year in its fully-accredited on-line program.

He’s already juggling ASAP classes three nights a week for the county courts. The demand for counselors surged after Smurk Pharmaceuticals released new statistics on “the limitless opportunities afforded therapy-related enterprises vis a vis court-mandated drug and alcohol programs already fully funded by state and county governments.”

They’re not sure about the causal connections and stuff yet, but the preliminary figures look promising. All studies were “delimited to the lower socio-economic engine which drives all state and county governments via fines, taxes, and other such levies declared fit to collect by said institutions.”

Local governments furnish a lucrative and ‘bottomless’ market for ‘experience-oriented’ counselors, and cheap on-line degree programs for ex-addicts fill an increasingly threatening vacuum in conventional pay-therapy. “County agencies require P.C.’s [patient-consumers] to pre-pay, sometimes years in advance due to court backlogs, or face incarceration, eliminating the need for costly market reports.” studies concluded. 

Anyway, my new therapist is a fully qualified, “Fellow of Practical Behaviorism”. I know it sounds kind of hokey, but I saw the on-line exam, and it looked pretty complicated.

The test started with: “Name the most common co-efficient of black, tarry bowel movements.” Some classmates chided Billem Thrice, my new therapist, on Face Twerp for his answer: “The anus.” He later told me that due to the subjectivity of personality theory, “any answer could be right.” but added that technically, it was “de-hydration coupled with the over-ingestion of chocolate.”

The initial anamnesis went well, except for my right hand which now looks like a catcher’s mitt. The interview began with what looked like a checklist, jogging my memory back to the on-line test. His first question was: “Any black, tarry bowel movements?” I thought for a minute and couldn’t recall the last time I’d even inspected my bowel movement, let alone its color and texture.

“Do you know its causa efficiens?” I shook my head dumbly. “Internal bleeding, fella, and you could be in serious trouble!” This guy knows his shit, I thought. I grimaced when he said he would need “bodily evacua” specimens. “On second thought, let’s do that later; that’ll give me time to prepare the results first.” I sighed with relief. 

He glanced at the list and then back to me. “Do your current medications allow at least twelve clinically unresponsive hours per sleep period?” I thought about yesterday, when I passed out on the couch before it was even dark. “Sometimes more.” He nodded approval.

“When was your last seizure?” he was studying my pupils. I supposed he was checking for dilation (this wasn’t my first rodeo), until he said, “Hey… I can see myself in there, just real little bitty!” I searched my memory as far as it would go. “It’s been at least a month — I think…” Or was it two months — or two weeks — or yesterday? I had no idea. “Good enough.” he checked off on his notes.

He pulled my chart. “Looks like ole’ Dr. Drowze has you clicking on all cylinders! How’s that tic where your head jerks violently up and down? And the tongue swallowing thing, how’s that going?” I told him it was down to a brief but intense flurry right before I lose consciousness in the afternoon.

He checked “P.C. shows improvement”. I didn’t mention that I couldn’t say what happens after I take my medicine; but I did regain consciousness in my driveway the other night with empty Taco Bell burrito wrappers all over the floorboard.

His eyes darted back from the checklist to the chart to me. “It says in your file you owe Dr. Drowze a little dinero.” He eyed me suspiciously. I explained that it’d been bundled into an amortized payment schedule and if he looked at my available credit line, my account was in quite good standing — thank you. I wasn’t there to be bullied by a twenty-nine year old fresh out of Smart Tech. He thrust a packet of documents and a pen at me.

Okay.” I declared, settling the matter at once. You don’t have to hold my hand for everything; and I began signing the documents straightway. ”Just sign the highlighted spaces…” Huh, I thought: the young upstart is pointing at the great mound of papers, though I’m already signing them with no need for instruction…

Are you feeling okay?” he asked after about an hour, “You look a little pale.” I mustered up. “If I felt any better, it’d be illegal!” I quipped weakly as my fingers stiffened such that I couldn’t bend them; though I said this mainly to test his flexibility on the new drug regulations. “Just sign those papers and we’ll handle all that.” he said. “You should have that hand looked at by your health-team para-physician, though.”

I signed the highlighted spaces as he flipped the pages faster and faster. Wow! I hadn’t signed this many papers since I refinanced my house with Dr. Drowze and Associates at Smart Bank. My right hand was so puffy and swollen, my fingers were all cramped and knuckly. I convulsively stabbed at the pages, clutching the pen with one hand and my wrist with the other. My name was no longer legible. I pleaded for a break. “It’s just a little edema.” he assured, yet he kept staring at it.

I asked about the way my fingers were turning purple and throbbing. Was there a problem? I have anxieties about my body. He told me not to worry, rummaged around in his desk, and rattled several pill bottles. “You just get to your health-team para-physician.”

He looked cursorily at a vial and tossed it at me. “You signed that last waiver, didn’t you?” I was on the floor grimacing, and the pill bottle bounced off my face. “Sorry.” He got up and extended his hand but realized I was unable to take it and sat back down. “Ooo-kay, then. See ya in three days…”

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Opinon: New Drug Regulations Undermine Mental Health

The new prescription drug regulations are so confusing, I’m even starting to question my own mental health. Things are changing too quickly. But, there’s nobody I trust more for the inside “dope” than my old psychiatrist and friend, Dr. Abnorm Drowze. I called his office on the way to my new psychiatrist. His secretary explained that he was “addressing a possible systems over-ride.” She said Dr. Drowze seemed fixated on that lately. Anyway…

I’m going to a new psychiatrist because Dr. Drowze cut me back to ten minutes three times weekly from the fifteen minute, five-day “Work-Week Special”, for which I got a personal discount off the top because we’re friends. But, that’s not sufficient time to consider all the new medication therapies available, let alone sample their side effects. There are some really potent ones that haven’t even been approved yet — they’re supposed to be that good.

Dr. Drowze told me confidentially he could get me some (because we’re friends), but I’d have to pay him directly, cash-in-hand. “Times are tough right now.” he said. Already, he’s been forced to make us pre-pay with credit-cards on the way in. Because of that, he needs a security guard, too. I feel a little sorry for Dr. Drowze.

I miss his personally subsidized “stay-overs” too; when he wasn’t so busy as now. He’d slip us free samples, but you’d have to take them all before you left the building. That really helped; plus, he’d give you a five percent discount on all new prescriptions offered at the stay-overs, and the PDR study option was billed at half-price. He first offered the steep discounts right after his divorce. “Why not just give it all away?” Dr. Drowze opined. But, he’s more focused now. 

The cash register is out front like a movie theater, so that you pay before you go in. The ‘cashier’ (armed guard) requires “full, absolute physical surrender” of two credit-cards and a “federally approved” picture I.D.; not just a utility bill or something with your name on it like it used to be.

The new heavy-handed, uber-legislation now requires docs to “actually visually see a patient-consumer and hand-tender a fully authorized prescription.” Plus, the doc’s signature must be “legible”.

I’m suspicious of government controls, and used to be you could print your own prescriptions on-line, fill them out yourself, and scan them into the system on the way in when you pay, which makes more sense. That way you could  pick them up on the way out instead of having to wait in line. But those days are gone.

Dr. Drowze now requires vouchers for payment verification, and also how many prescriptions you’re up to. He’s still fighting the powers that be to maintain his “Twofer-Tuesdays” and “Threefer-Thursdays” health-promotionals requiring the stated minimums on those days. It’s cash up front, which is okay, because that program offered real savings. But now, you can’t even get ten percent off all prescriptions over five even after you’ve been taking more than five for at least a year. 

Some old-timers still tender their own hand-written forms to the pharmacy and just stand there expecting to have their prescriptions filled like before. It’s not like that anymore, though. Dr. Drowze says Big Brother is watching, and we may soon have our fingerprints scanned in addition to having our wallets confiscated at the door. 

He said new technologies enable consumers to over-ride the system with their Me-Phones. I remembered what his secretary said, but I was just joking when I remarked that he might be a little paranoid. I thought of the reverse irony in it. “It happens!” he shot back testily. I dropped it because it made his face turn red, but I still think it’s funny. I did feel kind of bad, though, that Dr. Drowze was so stressed. He’s afraid business will sink under the weight of the new regulations.

He said people had been skipping out without paying, too: known as “heal and haul”, in which insurance-poor consumers with high co-pays simply snatch their prescriptions and run out the door. That they even got past security seems to confirm Dr. Drowze’s suspicions of a systems over-ride.

Coincidentally, his collection office seems unable to track them, even with its automated tie-in to law-enforcement. “Someone on the inside could be over-riding that.” Dr. Drowze said. I heard that people were passing fake I.D.’s, and that was the real reason for the new requirements, but who knows?

Dr. Drowze says systems over-riding forces restrictions on the basic freedoms we all once took for granted. He told me off the record that the DSM V should consider a “Welcher’s Syndrome.” I would say to them: think what you are doing to the rest of us, you welchers!

Dr. Drowze says the way things are going, he may cover the box-office with this new, lead-lined Nauga-Board which shields against electronic signals and has a portal that opens when you key in your fingerprints. I imagined a fist coming out and punching my nose, like in the movies.

A camera would scan a quick facial-recognition, you submit your wallet, the portal shuts, you get your wallet back on the way out, after your information is processed into the new NCIC computer system, like a police cruiser.

I told him I had a dummy wallet if it came to that, and we both laughed. Then, he looked around cautiously and told me not to leave more cash in it than the visit costs — you won’t get it back! He cautioned about not trying to use monopoly money, either. The old system was allowing employees to cash the fake bills out by “a systems over-ride,” and take kick-backs from patients who “were out to get him”, and he’s having a new one installed.

If that isn’t enough, his full-timers, who’ve now been cut back to thirty hours a week, have organized and are demanding drive-through windows. I mean, you’re in a hurry to get to the drugstore so you can get your prescriptions and talk about dosage and side-effects later — instead of waiting in line feeling all antsy and stuff.

Some sessions have over fifty people, and if your name is Zibowitz, you’ve got a long wait. “It’s like when we stood in bread lines in the old country!” Zibowits complained. Dr. Drowze is considering a “privatized pre-verification form that is quite legal and could be filled out at home.”

He’s now wearing an ace bandage on his wrist, sometimes even a metal support-frame. I’ve talked to full-timers who say it’s hard on him. The post-therapy session is now run by an assistant so Dr. Drowze can get a jump-start on writing prescriptions and get consumers through more efficiently. I heard that one time he finished early and had his assistant pass them out before the bell rang.

“When that bell rang,” a seasoned full-timer piped: “we just automatically got in line, prescriptions already in hand — yet still waiting for them!” He chuckled warmly at the fond memory: “When we realized what had happened, it was like a jail-break! All we wanted to do was get to the drugstore and get home.” He said they were bemused in spite of themselves when Dr. Drowze explained that it was “only a bit of harmless conditioning.” The old fellow hooted about how they’d laughed at their own foolishness! “I’ll tell you something, though:” he said confidently, “Dr. Drowze is one helluva mind-bender.”

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The Other Side of Science

What we call “psychology” today is a science that can be pursued only on the basis of certain historical and moral premises laid down by Christian education in the last two thousand years. A saying like “Judge not that ye be not judged,” inculcated by religion, has created the possibility of a will which strives, in the last resort, for simple objectivity of judgment.” — Carl Jung.

It was not that long ago (maybe an hour in the life of a modern mind?) from the standpoint of the ‘million year old man‘ that consciousness was able to speculate an idea of objectivity. From that perspective, it was only a few minutes ago that it yielded the facts of subjective development sufficient to distinguish it; though the search for objective truth still doesn’t account for it.

Jung expressed the problem philosophically in terms of ideas having ”reality-significance”. We know that an objective reality exists, but consciousness can only infer it. His ‘subjective factor’ describes unconscious processes that the will to objective judgment has yet to address: “the necessary condition under which all thinking takes place.”

Let’s follow these empirical psychic facts back in time an hour or so (from the million year old man’s perspective) and look at some ideas contemporary with the logic which birthed the scientific method. They have reality-significance, but of a different kind than science dreams.

(From, Figures of Earth, the re-telling of a medieval folk-tale by James Branch Cabell in 1919, concerning ‘Manuel the Redeemer’, a folk-analogy of Christ: the unconscious, intuitive side of the collective value-judgments of the time. This conversation is between Manuel and the ‘Fire-Bird’, Zhar-Ptitza, a spirit-figure beyond the sensual ‘clay figures’ Manuel has fashioned from the conventional religious ideas that form his conflict.)

The frivolous question that Manuel raised as to his clay figures, the Zhar-Ptitza considered a very human bit of nonsense: and the wise creature… felt forced to point out that no intelligent bird would ever dream of making images.

“But, sir,” said Manuel, “I do not wish to burden this world with any more lifeless images. Instead, I wish to make… an animated figure, very much as, they say, a god did once upon a time — “

“… you should not try to put too much responsibility on Jahveh,” protested the Zhar-Ptitza… “for Jahveh made only one man, and did not ever do it again. I remember the making of that one man very clearly, for I was created the morning before, with instructions to fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven, so I saw the whole affair. Yes, Jahveh did create the first man on the sixth day. And I voiced no criticism. For of course after working continuously for nearly a whole week… no creative artist should be blamed for not being in the happiest vein on the sixth day.”

“Well, well, I do not assert that the making of men is the highest form of art, yet, none the less, a geas is upon me to make of myself a very splendid and admirable young man.”

“… To what permanent use could one put a human being even if the creature were virtuous and handsome to look at? Ah, Manuel, you have not seen them pass as I have seen them pass… in swarms, with their wars and their reforms and their great causes, and leaving nothing but their bones behind them.” 

“Yes, yes, to you, at your age, who were old when Ninevah was planned, it must seem strange; and I do not know why my mother desired I should make myself a splendid and admirable young man. But the geas is upon me.”

It may be today that these questions are more styled by biology, genetics, or evolutionary anthropology, but the ‘geas’ of Manuel is the psychic urge of an instinctual nature that proscribes its own laws irrespective of clime, culture, or common sense …

“The Zhar-Ptitza sighed. “Certainly these feminine whims are not easily explained. Yet your people have some way of making brand-new men and women of all kinds… otherwise the race would have been extinct a great while since at the rate they kill one another. And perhaps they do adhere to Jahveh’s method, and make fresh human beings out of earth, for… I have seen the small, recently completed ones, who look exactly like red clay.”

“It is undeniable that babies do have something of that look,” assented Manuel. “So then… do you think I may be working in the proper medium?”

“It seems plausible, because I am certain your people are not intelligent enough to lay eggs, nor could, of course, such an impatient race succeed in getting eggs hatched.  At all events, they have undoubtedly contrived some method or other, and you might find out from the least foolish of them about that method.”

“Who, then, is the least foolish of mankind?”

“Probably King Helmas of Albania, for it was prophesied by me a great while ago that he would become the wisest of men if ever he could come by one of my shining white feathers, and I hear it reported he has done so.”

“Sir,” said Manuel dubiously, “I must tell you in confidence that the feather King Helmas has is not yours, but was plucked from the wing of an ordinary goose.”

“Does that matter?” asked the Zhar-Ptitza. “I never prophesied, of course, that he actually would find one of my shining white feathers…”

“But how can there be any magic in a goose feather?”

“There is this magic, that, possessing it, King Helmas has faith in it, and has stopped bothering about himself.”

“Is not to bother about yourself the highest wisdom?”

“Oh, no… I merely said that it is the highest of which man is capable.”

 More on the other side of science here, or visit Amazon.

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The ‘Miracle of Consciousness’

It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all… to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22

(I owe the title of this post to Ruben Bolling, whose satirical cartoons I’ve long enjoyed.)

Heller’s observation illustrates an inescapable truth. Though he described it in what most would see as an extreme form, the general psychic facts of the human predicament confirm that most of God’s children do, indeed, revile their own natures such that their professed values will somehow turn into their opposites and yet they will still see them as ideals. How does it happen?

Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all.” It’s in the nature of the beast Bolling facetiously characterized as “the only animal that can be the master of its own destiny.

Beneath the literary license Heller and Bolling used to make their points lies a more complex psychological picture than truisms or cartoons express: not only can anybody do it — everybody does it. It doesn’t require brains (see the pigeons in the cartoon): an instinctual spirit-condition which, as Jung stated, is a primary one in which consciousness must actively mediate the contradictory impulses it perceives. Whether fate or choice (or maybe both?) dictates our decisions is a paradox neither science, philosophy, nor religion will resolve.

It merely required no character.” — an integral part of the subjective equation, but this is where the more complicated picture departs from the truism; such judgments are so relative to the individual, so personal, they generally land on those we don’t like or can’t understand for more intimate reasons than opinion or ideology: projections of subjective tendencies incompatible with conscious ideals.

char·ac·ter

ˈkerəktər/

noun

  1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.”

Even in its simplest form, character is defined as individual; but the psychic facts state also that we are products of human history. How we came to acquire these individual traits is a complicated evolutionary process as subjective as it is objective. Only knowledge of how the unconscious works can give us a sense of an internal opposite and how we perceive it — if we perceive it at all.

As a concept, Jung described projection as a primary function which design is to relate consciousness in two directions, an original psychic condition. Our entire human history can be seen in terms of the conscious dissolution of projections in the development of the individual as well as the species.

This idea is far-fetched only to the ego who believes itself to be outside the laws of nature. Biology long ago described it: “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” — the individual relives the developmental stages of the species in condensed form: an analogical concept that applies to psychology in the most profound ways.

Only an inflated and disoriented ego could conceive such an outlandish notion as the Christian idea that man was “not of this world” — a stage of development in which consciousness is still under the direct influence of mythic images and projects an internal reality onto an external one. Physics and astronomy proved its concrete impossibility; Jung, its psychic probability. Few conceived that the inner reality was of the same fundamental objective nature as the outer one.

But, many still live the unconscious ego-demands of the mythical image. I knew Christians in high school (living examples of the phylogenetic stage of symbolic medieval thought) who denounced me as a ‘natural man’ (I couldn’t fight the statement) — a contrast to their own ‘other-worldly’ spiritual desires which even then science (and an empirical psychology) had proved to be the products of its own imagination.

Science, too, is a product of human imagination. However far it may project itself, it will sooner or later come to understand that worlds are born from the forces of nature and not our contradictory notions of an anthropomorphic deity — whether as ideas of a concrete body or a body of concrete ideas. Even as its symbolism re-appears in the scientific imagination: ‘the God-Particle’, ‘the End of Science’, the ‘Theory of Everything’ — they remain the mythic image of an inflated ego which would know all the constituent parts of an objective reality yet little of its own or the whole or its effects on either.

You may read a synopsis of my book on Amazon. Also, I recommend John Ferric’s website, Jung2.org. Check out his Article Library for an interesting collection of Jung-related subjects.

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A Mid-life Perspective: Preface — Part III

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  – Genesis

This post concludes the main themes of A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious. Jung noted the above quote as a reference to the original bisexuality of the matrix of consciousness.

“Religious Images

Because it consists of a living history of our mental functioning, Jung wrote that any serious inquiry into the unconscious leads straight into the religious problem. This theme fully emerges in the second part of the book. As the poem proceeds, the intuitive side of religious ideas is explored. Job was the older anticipation of the individual who confronts the collective background to discover his or her own way; in so doing, a dialogue is entered into with the unconscious.

Job had achieved the material tasks of the first part of life. His faith, his connection to the Deity, was then tested through Jehovah’s bargain with Satan. The bargain represents the interplay of opposites: the deeper unconscious process which precedes awareness. Job’s sufferings comprised the circumstances which compelled him to reflect on, to make conscious, this inner exchange. According to the analogies of that time, Job’s afflictions were depicted physically; today we would interpret them as projections of psychic conflicts. If we take the concrete qualities out of the figures and translate them into ideas, as we might attempt to do with our dreams, we can begin to see how they analogize psychic processes.            

When we reflect on these stories, we may grasp their symbolic meanings by relating them to our own emotional conditions. Christ, as the Son of Man, was a later anticipation of development; an ideal image of the individual which emerged from the spiritual darkness and brutality of antiquity for the purpose of further transforming our animal natures. His crucifixion is a powerful analogy of the tension of psychic opposites encountered by one who turns inward, away from the material world, and begins to discern his/her personal values apart from prevailing views.

As with Job, it is no coincidence that the myth of Christ revolved around his crucifixion at the mid-life point. Today, the spiritual changes reflected in the tasks of individuation stand, too, as a prototype of development in a new age. Just as these tasks make demands on those compelled to confront them, so they reverberate in the collective unconscious. Psychic reality is coming to bear on our times.

Alchemy

Jung’s devotion to the study of alchemy was an attempt to illustrate it as a connective stage between our historical religious outlook and the emerging scientific one. Alchemy was the intermediate form of the two views that later diverged. Like those of theology, alchemical ideas were psychic projections, though less collectively developed and therefore more expressive of natural tendencies.

As a science, alchemy paved the way to our modern conception of the world, but as a philosophy it expressed the very ideas missing in a one-sided Christianity: the problem of opposition between spirit and nature; the “evil” of the material world, of the repressed feminine and its dark urge toward a re-orientation to matter – to Mother Earth and the body and all that the patriarchal myth rejected. Alchemy connected to the inner counter-pole intended to balance and direct a distorted conscious view.

Jung’s work parallels alchemical philosophy in that he sought a symbolic solution to the unconscious conflicts they represent today. The soul is a fact of emotional experience, a psychic reality. It can be seen as a natural function if we have some understanding of symbols. The symbolic view relies as much on feeling and intuition as thinking. For the intellectual standpoint, feeling is the opposed function designed to balance its orientation. The blinding of inner perception by an increasing outer-direction suggests the repression of confusion which occurs in any shift in perspective. Coming to terms with the soul means the development of emotions which would supplement the “masculine” rational viewpoint and relate it to the greater value of goals beyond its narrow focus.

********

The themes highlighted above are the core ideas of this book, and they carry something of the form of unconscious language with them. The analogies elaborating it are more circular than linear. Associations throng around the ideas to be explained as they compel attention, gradually becoming clearer with increased concentration. Images weave around and through one another to form deeper connections as they thread their opposing tendencies toward a uniform flow.

The compensating nature of the unconscious revolves around an objective organizing function which is presupposed, not only in dreams but in all natural processes. A subjective consciousness is filled out by its circular complexes of ideas; the urge to wholeness gives us a rounder and more complete picture of an inner reality which is just as objective as the outer one….”

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A Mid-life Perspective: Preface — Part II

“Everything psychic is pregnant with the future.” — Carl Jung

“Ego and Intellect

The identification of ego with intellect contributes to this problematic conception of nature. It long slumbered in Christian theology as identification with an otherworldly God and a disdain for natural life: an image of self-rejection – one of the reasons guilt weighs so heavily in traditional religious ideas. Both are compounded through this identity, the idea of a Deity now yielding to science as it dissolves the metaphysical projections. For all our rational knowledge, we remain driven by the repressed “natural man” who serves the sensual world of material desire – just as he did many thousands of years ago. He personifies the unconscious need for a wider psychological perspective than just an intellectual one – and the internal guilt we never came to terms with because we never understood the reasons for it.

The uneven advance of self-knowledge finds no adequate ideas that would relate us to the ancient symbols and their functions, their irrational truths repressed for lack of understanding. They sink back into the unconscious where they become hostile adversaries. Due to changes in consciousness, they resurface in different guise today, though we remain possessed by their “suprapersonal” powers – paradoxically more distant now than ever. As our relation to ourselves is no longer expressed in the old images, the humbling effects of a higher authority dwindle into vague personal beliefs with no real emotional experience to support them. The result is a “puffing up of the ego-sphere” and the “brutish egotism” to which Neumann referred: an exaggerated urge to individuality which has lost its relation to itself and the world.

From the scientific perspective, religious images are only fantasies. For the less developed intellect of the past, they served to influence thought’s exclusive tendencies. The objective trend today requires a new interpretation of the values they represent. The conflicts of the soul, the emotional tensions determining our deepest relations in the context of a greater whole, are projected onto fractional interests and ideologies with ever more threatening consequences.

Only the hard work of introspection can free the individual from the self-flattering and contradictory influences of ego. The recognition of a higher inner authority beyond will and intellect is a philosophical and religious process meant to bind us to humanity and our natural environment. For science to serve those greater purposes, its aims must be subject to a broader conception of psychic life.

Causality and Purpose

The causal thinking which orients our perception is opposed to the heavy, symbolic language of the unconscious. The one leads backward in time to a cause that produces effects, and the other leads forward to a purpose or goal without conceiving a cause. As a concept, the latter allows the thoughts, feelings, and intuitions evoked by images and symbols to shape themselves; to relate their associations to the pursuit of aims beyond conscious preconception.

Jung saw the idea of time as a primitive concept of energy, a gradient of potential, in that it flows forward in an irreversible way. This is an approximate analogy for his model of psychic energy and the reason time is capitalized in the text when referred to by the figures representing the unconscious. We can reverse it in our minds as in casual thought, but we should be aware that we are projecting subjective ideas onto the objective behavior of processes outside consciousness.

Each individual sees the world a little differently according to his/her personal interpretations: Jung’s “subjective factor”. He stressed that it is “one of the necessary conditions under which all thinking takes place.” We may agree on certain general ways of thinking, but this in no way relieves them of their subjective quality. It is conscious thought which subjectivizes the ideas we associate. The historical advance from collective thinking to individual differentiation accentuates this subjective influence. The tendency toward specialization and the proliferation of “isms” attests this movement. Though still veiled by symbolic mythical influences, the undeveloped seeds of individuality are gradually emerging through the dense fog of collective history – or at least attempting to.

The opposition between causal thought and the forward movement of the unconscious, along with the projection of subjective viewpoints, create contradictions in our thinking. When looking inward, one of the most perplexing ones is the backward flow of dream-images as they draw on past experience. This paradox reflects the double meaning inherent in unconscious imagery, just as it is the basis of the causal view. The opposites are still fused together in the unconscious; it is the discriminating effect of consciousness that splits the original image and reveals only the partial aspect of its focus. Only the two forms of perceiving combined can give us a wider sense of who we are beneath our one-sided presumptions.

Past, present, and future are a single dynamic process in the unconscious. One of the functions of dreams is to express this creative flow through analogies with present circumstances. Since analogies describe how different sets of experiences conform, dreams often express immediate concerns through memory-images. They reveal the conformities of past and present events, our reactions to them, and the anticipations of tendencies which shape our futures. Jung stated: “Everything psychic is pregnant with the future.”

Next post: Religious Images, Alchemy.

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A Mid-life Perspective: Preface — Part I

The world hangs on a thin thread; that thread is the psyche of man. How important is it to know something about it?” — Carl Jung.

Jung analogized the difference in time-perception between consciousness and the unconscious through the idea of a million year old man. How would the time-awareness of such a being differ from our more temporal viewpoint? How do we treat him; how does he react to the changes taking place today?

In my last post, I outlined the major themes of my book as stated in the preface. In the next three, I’ll offer the full text. These are the “facts of the case” for the million year old man as I understand them:

“The Human Animal

Civilization is a comparatively recent product when weighed against the immense stretch of time required for consciousness to emerge from the depths of instinctual nature. The beast tokens our animal ancestry, and the eons-long climb through the darkness of pre-history yet finds it just below the threshold of culture. As a symbol, it relates not only to our biological heritage through the body and its functions but to our sense of individuality, as it is through our bodies that we first experience ourselves as distinct and separate from others.

As humanity developed, the snake in the Garden evolved into Satan in the Old Testament, and both symbolize the opposition needed to distinguish conscious from unconscious. Each toddler repeats this contrary “no” stage in its development, and that opposition is a vital factor in the growth and consolidation of consciousness. It is a basic conflict between a “god-like” self-awareness set against a split-off instinctual heritage. The horns and tail of the Devil later became a graphic description of the animal urges repressed for their gradual conversion into the more humanizing social instincts embraced by Christian ideals.

As the newer myth took hold, the spiritual aim of building the soul, the personal relation to the Deity, sank beneath the weight of a still-developing and over-compensating collective ego, emphasizing the long, serpentine conflicts required for individual evolution. Psychologically and spiritually, ego-effects are a gauge of self-knowledge. Despite centuries of religious exhortation, they remain in much the same state now as in the past. The writer, Philip Wylie, described this idea as “the fatuous awe of the ape with the mirror.” The ape points not only to a stunted inner life but to regressive tendencies which both conceal and reveal the psychological dawn of those who would recognize and act upon their own inner opposition.

Nature and the Unconscious

This theme revolves around the image of the earth as a natural symbol of the unconscious. The earth and sun are the sources of all known life, suitable metaphors for the masculine and feminine forces which conceive it. Jung and Neumann have demonstrated that artifacts and symbols dating back to pre-patriarchal cultures intimately associate masculinity with light and consciousness, just as feminine images are associated with unconscious darkness and fertility: the earthly and the feminine, the creative matrix which bears and fosters the child of consciousness. Symbolically, masculinity refers to the heady principles of thought, the organizing of consciousness; the feminine principle dissolves separate tendencies to form emotional and physical relationships – properties of the soul.

The primitive mind long ago conceived the sun as spirit, reflecting processes which urged the coming of light to the dark, unconscious void of human origin. Earth and sun are psychological analogues for “feminine” relatedness — the oneness of the unconscious, the body, and the individual — and the dissecting, masculine character of consciousness. Together, they express the intermingling pairs of opposites and the penetrating form of their relationship. Male and female, spirit and matter, mind and body: all describe the two poles required for conscious orientation.     

Primitive sun-worship anticipated a Christian myth “not of this world”. Both signify the urge to distinguish conscious from unconscious, just as it is repeated in the individual. The movement away from nature toward an artificial fantasy-sphere is a projection of over-extension. Jung and Neumann suggested that the natural process of separating the two psychic systems has deepened into such a division today that we can no longer relate to our instinctual foundations – a kind of collective mid-life change in the centering and organizing processes of the psyche. Our intellectual inflation only accentuates our historical opposition to nature and the corresponding functions designed to relate us to earthly reality.

As the momentum of this drive toward conscious identity finds us alienated from ourselves, the unconscious attempts to re-orient us in the current swing by steering us back to itself, to nature and the earth, to our physical/emotional ground. The swing toward natural science describes a symbolic movement. The spiritual unfolding of our natures speaks only indirectly through its own language.

The creative spirit turns destructive when it is restricted to conscious aims and remains unconscious for too long, when a new stage is signaled. Our systematic abuse of the earth reveals an inner conflict: the oscillating poles of spirit and matter seek the undeveloped functions still in the sway of the old stage. The artificial environment we have created in the relatively short swing back to the material world exposes our Christian disdain for nature as a symbol of our animal heritage and a “god-like” ego which cannot accept its origins or its subjection to natural laws. We are literally poisoning ourselves and our children, even as exaggerated fantasies pursue grandiose notions of “conquering” space — still driven by an inflated and unanchored ego which sees itself as “not of this world.”

Next post: Ego and Intellect, Causality and Purpose.

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The ‘Doomsday Clock’ and the Midnight Transition

It is still three minutes to midnight,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists wrote… announcing an update to its famous Doomsday Clock, whose estimate of the risk of global catastrophe has been ticking back and forth since 1947… The time has not changed since 2015, however, when the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board last moved the minute hand, from 11:55 to 11:57. As the Bulletin’s somber, sometimes scathing public letter makes clear, that is not cause for celebration.” — The Christian Science Monitor.

In my recent post on the ‘Anthropocene Epoch‘, I tried to bring into relief a few ideas that point to the causes, effects, and purposes of the shift in values taking place today. They’re not simple; they represent fundamental changes in the way we’ve traditionally seen ourselves and the world.

I’ve quoted Jung, Neumann, and Wylie extensively in my attempts to accent the importance of tackling this transition with a mindset that inspects itself: one of the first steps in dissolving the projections that find our rational, outer-directed thinking increasingly unsustainable. Their ideas are well known; but here I’ll relate some of what I understand of them through the preface of my book:

Beneath our scientific preoccupations, we remain in the stage of psychological awareness reflected in our religious heritage. Behind the curtain of moral judgment lurk the split figures of good and evil: a model of how we relate to our unconscious natures. Jung has described how those ideas reflect the positive and negative poles necessary to produce psychic energy: the sliding scale along which consciousness fluctuates in its on-going efforts to define itself. Just as it forms the path of collective history, so in the growth of the individual… the repression of the unconscious required for ego to strengthen and develop now creates circumstances which signal the need for a new relation to it — to balance conscious direction; to relate it, make it relative to the counter-pole of inner development.

The inner counter-pole is a function of relation, not just in the religious sense of self-reflection and introspection, but for the individual to impact the world with creative reflections the group does not possess. This, as Jung has shown, is vital to understanding the unconscious demands that set the stage for changes in consciousness. Here, as stated in the preface, is a brief synopsis of the major themes in my book:

The Human Animal

Civilization is a comparatively recent product when weighed against the immense stretch of time required for consciousness to emerge from the depths of instinctual nature. The beast tokens our animal ancestry, and the eons-long climb through the darkness of pre-history yet finds it just below the threshold of culture. As a symbol, it relates not only to our biological heritage through the body and its functions but to our sense of individuality, as it is through our bodies that we first experience ourselves as distinct and separate from others….

Nature and the Unconscious

This theme revolves around the image of the earth as a natural symbol of the unconscious. The earth and sun are the sources of all known life, suitable metaphors for the masculine and feminine forces which conceive it. Jung and Neumann have demonstrated that artifacts and symbols dating back to pre-patriarchal cultures intimately associate masculinity with light and consciousness, just as feminine images are associated with unconscious darkness and fertility: the earthly and the feminine, the creative matrix which bears and fosters the child of consciousness. Symbolically, masculinity refers to the heady principles of thought, the organizing of consciousness; the feminine principle dissolves separate tendencies to form emotional and physical relationships – properties of the soul…

Ego and Intellect

The identification of ego with intellect contributes to this problematic conception of nature. It long slumbered in Christian theology as identification with an otherworldly God and a disdain for natural life: an image of self-rejection – one of the reasons guilt weighs so heavily in traditional religious ideas. Both are compounded through this identity, the idea of a Deity now yielding to science as it dissolves the metaphysical projections. For all our rational knowledge, we remain driven by the repressed “natural man” who serves the sensual world of material desire – just as he did many thousands of years ago. He personifies the unconscious need for a wider psychological perspective than just an intellectual one – and the internal guilt we never came to terms with because we never understood the reasons for it…

Causality and Purpose

The causal thinking which orients our perception is opposed to the heavy, symbolic language of the unconscious. The one leads backward in time to a cause that produces effects, and the other leads forward to a purpose or goal without conceiving a cause. As a concept, the latter allows the thoughts, feelings, and intuitions evoked by images and symbols to shape themselves; to relate their associations to the pursuit of aims beyond conscious preconception…

Religious Images

Because it consists of a living history of our mental functioning, Jung wrote that any serious inquiry into the unconscious leads straight into the religious problem. This theme fully emerges in the second part of the book. As the poem proceeds, the intuitive side of religious ideas is explored. Job was the older anticipation of the individual who confronts the collective background to discover his or her own way; in so doing, a dialogue is entered into with the unconscious…

Alchemy

Jung’s devotion to the study of alchemy was an attempt to illustrate it as a connective stage between our historical religious outlook and the emerging scientific one. Alchemy was the intermediate form of the two views that later diverged. Like those of theology, alchemical ideas were psychic projections, though less collectively developed and therefore more expressive of natural tendencies…

Visit Amazon for a general description of my book. See, also, this post for an example of the poetry.

(Note: the themes described under the headings contain only the first paragraph of elaboration.)

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World in Transition

A major shift in perspective accompanies today’s fast-paced super-highways of information. Jung’s and Neumann’s comparative studies of consciousness revealed patterns — evolutionary swings in its focus throughout history. They saw such shifts as reflections of unconscious organizing and centering functions. Their purpose is to re-orient us at certain critical stages to the more diffuse aims of spiritual and psychological development. Until recently, those aims were the province of religion and philosophy. That has changed. The beginning of the new stage is marked by a revolutionary discovery in the trend toward objective inquiry: the old metaphysical images proved to be the symbolic language of an unconscious psyche.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

As much of my effort concerns what I see as the increasing relevance of Jung’s work, this quote from the preface of my book is a continuation of my last post on the cultural changes taking place today. While it’s important to reflect on their origins and effects, this often reinforces the causal thought that only drags us further into the rut of conscious reasoning responsible for an increasing unconscious opposition — the more threatening the more we depend on it. Few took note in 1954 when Erich Neumann wrote:

Typical and symptomatic of this transitional phenomenon is the state of affairs in America, though the same holds good for practically the whole Western hemisphere… The grotesque fact that murderers, brigands, thieves, forgers, tyrants, and swindlers, in a guise that deceives nobody, have seized control of collective life is characteristic of our time. Their unscrupulousness and double-dealing are recognized — and admired. Their ruthless energy they obtain at best from some stray archetypal content that has got them in its power. The dynamism of a possessed personality is accordingly very great, because in its one-track primitivity, it suffers none of the differentiations which make men human.

A scant generation later, the dire conditions of WWII the New Science created but was also expected to save us from finds us in the wake of effects which threaten in different ways than the old ideological perspective of good vs. evil. That view is gradually giving way to a new stage of psychological awareness. The consciousness of today is more diverse and complex than ideological absloutes can sustain. Neumann:

Not only power, money, and lust, but religion, art, and politics as exclusive determinants in the form of parties, sects, movements, and “isms” of every description take possession of the masses and destroy the individual.

What “takes possession of the masses” is an expression of human need, though in unconscious forms so undefined and inarticulate that good and evil no longer express life as we once conceived it. The understanding of symbols, however — because they’re also individual and express personal needs — is relative to subjective interpretation (as if no one ever knew what religious thought was for). I stated in the preface to my book:

Our ideas of religion are changing, and there is no return to the old ways. Deep in the throes of unseen psychic forces, consciousness is being pushed in a new direction. The possibilities for further development hidden in the older ideas require a re-interpretation of the peculiar language of the depth from which they spring and the symbols it produces.

Not only are they changing in the West, but in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, too. It’s not really remarkable that Neumann’s observations on the greed and opportunism which for centuries defined the unconscious opposite beneath Christian ideals have finally become apparent to the rest of the world.

Beyond politics — the subjective clash of “isms” reflecting the opposed nature of unconscious regulating processes — what are the unseen forces pushing conflict in the Middle East? Radical extremism is a new awareness, not of its own religious history, but of the West and its exaggerated moral superiority; the underside of its professed principles: negative projections which bind opposed yet inter-penetrating ideas of progression and regression into mutual conflicts. But, the unconscious intent is to destroy such attitudes as repress its creative aims. When projected, they’re lived concretely.

The purposes revealed in the current forms of ideological idolatry can’t be seen through the lens of ego, reason, and belief. Listen to the “rational” solutions today’s leaders offer: they lead only deeper into conflict. The reasoning hasn’t changed — only the consequences.

Conscious focus on objectivity cannot reason itself out of its subjective prison without a sense of purpose beyond temporal desire. Whether some see progress only through a single aspect of their personalities or are completely consumed by spiritual regression makes little difference. The fact is: all will be drawn into the conflicts for their own material investments in them: the nature of a global consumerism. History attests its primitive collective nature.

I quoted Philip Wylie in my last post: “It is the individual of whom the mass is composed, and if he is of poor character, the group will have that quality… The individual represents the whole. To be changed, he must change himself.”

For a literary example of how one begins the psychological process of coming to terms with the unconscious, visit Amazon.

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