Notes on A Mid-Life Perspective

As a follow-up to the last post, I would like to share some background on the development of my book. Though it revolves around my experience, the personal aspects are more general than specific. It was conceived that way to highlight, not my personality, but the process of coming to terms with the unconscious. In that sense, the figures formed from the conversations, though intertwined with the personal shadow, provided the doorway to the collective unconscious.

That process began in a very curious way. Goethe’s Faust was behind it, as I’d been enthralled with it since my early twenties; and no wonder, for it worked in ways I couldn’t conceive as a young man. By the time I was “in the soup” as Jung called it, at mid-life, I was fortunate to have both Goethe’s wisdom and Jung’s psychology to turn to. That transition, which really hit at thirty-five, hit hard for many reasons.

Not the least among them was the discovery that I was introverted in an extraverted world — not just a lost soul unable to conform to the mainstream. At forty, after five particularly destructive years of evading the process, something had to change. Slowly, as I quit fighting and yielded to it, it turned creative. All this was absolutely instinctive, as I had no real idea what I was fighting.

My intense study of Jung’s work began at that time, and I was relieved to find that I wasn’t going crazy. I began to pay close attention to my dreams, and they (and Jung) began to impress upon me that my rational thinking was “blocking my view of the universe” as John Nash once put it. That, of course, for a non-mathematician, is the symbolic world of unconscious emotion I’d long defied in my identification with the intellect.

Very soon, I was seized with a compulsion to draw, something I’d done in my youth though had left far behind in adulthood. The illustrations foreshadowed the process and came out of an intense two-week period of concentration in which I couldn’t wait to get home and work at the images which emerged. I was so consumed by it, I saw black ink lines super-imposed on the road when I was driving. When the final eight pictures were finished, I was released and went back to my study of Jung.Notes on a Mid-Life PerspectiveNotes on a Mid-Life Perspective

Illustrations.evan_html_47c6bd47.jpgAs repressed feelings surfaced at night, unable to sleep for the tension, I’d pull out my yellow legal pad and write; the only thing that seemed to relieve me. Certain things flowed out in an almost spontaneous verse which seemed very foreign. Some of the poems were of an older style, others had a feminine, emotional quality, and yet others were deeply critical; and moreover, each appeared in its own handwriting and in the third person. This went on for six years or so, and I began to see connective threads in them as I studied Jung.

The poems multiplied, and I sorted them according to handwriting and subject. If you’d asked me then what I was doing, I couldn’t have told you. I stumbled along, studying in my spare time and writing off and on when the tension became more than I could bear. Along with the poems, my dreams began increasingly to revolve around religious and philosophical questions. I had little idea what was happening; I only knew something had taken me over.

Five years years later, as the process gained momentum, the poems I saved were about sixty pages. I had dreams that I was carrying them, and unkown figures were asking me about them. It slowly dawned on me what I was being driven to do all those years, and one dream shed particular light on it: I was walking from an underground railway station into the dawn of day, carrying my papers, and a strange man was walking beside me. He looked down at them: “What’s that?” he asked curiously. I replied: “It came from the dark.” He nodded approval.

A year later, I “sold my soul to the Devil” and applied myself consciously to the task. That was seven years ago. I can’t and don’t take credit for the depth of the ideas; for they did, indeed, come from the dark — from my dreams. I did, however, work around them to the best of my ability, for the unconscious accepts nothing less when one is drawn into this journey.

Neither can I take credit for its originality; for it, too, comes from a place where only gods may dwell — and they are not all quite human. I can take some credit for devoting my heart to it, though in retrospect, even that seems dubious. But, whatever we may have been taught about conscious and unconscious, man and nature, science and religion, I did learn this: things are not as they appear.

https://www.createspace.com/4648701

A Subjective Study of Science, Religion, and Consciouness

A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious

Leave a Comment

Filed under Psychology

A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations with the Unconscious

For those interested in new interpretations of old ideas, this post announces the publication of a new book, many years in its development. If you choose to read it, if you’re interested in the relations between conscious and unconscious, between man and nature, science and religion, it will be among the most original books you’ll ever read. It will likely upset your ideas of what your mind is for, just as it upset mine when I was forced by my own illusions (and those I inherited) to come to terms in some way with the unconscious.

It’s well known that new and original ways of looking at things take time to sink in, at least for those revolving around the self-flattering notions of who we think we are — or should or would be. Centuries-old religious assumptions convince us even today that we can be who we “should” or would be, simply by believing it. This is the age-old way of ego, and most will remain convinced of its illusion as a defense against the unconscious — or, if you prefer, a God who makes demands on us and not just a comforting image of wishful thinking in times of despair.

The scientific view is equally convinced of this same illusion, having inherited it as duly as one is born with eyes and ears. Though, with no conception of a Deity but only an unconscious will to power, it seeks to “conquer” an external nature without taking serious note that she also works within; and dangerously so, for the double-sided hubris of humanity has been recorded since before biblical times. The artificial reality we’ve spent millennia to achieve has become so toxic today, however, the current form of education will not much longer support it…

Based on the psychology of C. G. Jung and inspired by Goethe’s Faust, this book is a poetic description of the change in perspective accompanied by the mid-life transition. For many, it will be only an odd curiosity. But for those who are deeply moved by this process, to confront the strange, symbolic figures which lead into the collective unconscious, this book will serve as a living example of the ideas and emotions encountered when an exchange, a dialogue, is entered into with the other side.

The subtitle, A Subjective Study of Science, Religion, and Consciousness, reflects the spiritual character of the philosophical depths to which these figures point; for as Jung wrote: because the unconscious consists of a living history of our mental functioning, any serious inquiry into it leads straight into the religious problem.

This problem is grounded in the opposites, and old religious ideas of good and evil still form the foundations of our world-views, whether we accept them consciously or not. They’re how we secretly see ourselves; how we relate to a greater whole both within and without, formed over centuries of intense concentration on the puzzling contradictions of subjective thought.

A major shift in values marks today’s fascination with science and technology, and the emotional and spiritual functions it ignores and represses only multiply the contradictory circumstances we create. The wisdom required to comprehend them is not accessible to the blind quest for rational facts — as if they alone would reconcile the inner division which is our fate.

Lacking an orientation to the inner counter-pole of unconscious tendencies, we can only relate to them through the old concepts. But, these no longer suffice the complexity, the subtlety and diversity, the relativity, of the changes taking place in consciousness today. Without serious re-examination of our repressive view of nature and the psyche, it only leads us deeper into the hidden snares threatening from the darkness of our illusions and misunderstanding.

Knowledge has become a substitute, a compensation, for wisdom. The paradox is that the wisdom we need is secreted away in the knowledge we’ve repressed: the undeveloped soul of a human animal who yet sees nature as an antagonist and cannot accept the double laws of her demands. As a return for that, we have become our own greatest problem — and nature’s as well.

This book isn’t a remedy for this problem. It’s a way to identify and accept it; to find new ways to confront it; to enter a new psychological stage in nature’s ceaseless urge for development.

For more information: https:// www.createspace.com/4648701

A Subjective Study of Science, Religion, and Consciouness

A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious

Leave a Comment

Filed under Psychology

Fantasy’s Mirror

This path was laid with stones toward a dark descent –
Unnoticed by the men for whom that world was meant;
For the last gasp of deities is centuries long
And echoes still the haunting past of a dead god’s song.
The twin-image he created out of earthly dust
From another Eden by a mortal god is thrust;
The rotted timbers of the mythic cross are shaken
And the mighty god himself has been forsaken –
All the truths a treasured faith had once revealed
Scattered by a new wind across a barren field.
A baleful gaze appears above a strange horizon
At the soldier kicking through the rubble in the sun;
Keen mind alert to threats amid the ruin
Of the searing conflict by the fearful god begun.
The soldier’s eyes had been reduced to narrow slits
From centuries of peering through a microscope;
Reducing whole realities to little bits
In his confused attempts a larger truth to grope.
He sent scapegoats to the moon to pierce desires
That existed once where lifeless craters sit;
The swords once forged by true believers’ fires
Sharpened into rockets by his war-wizened wit…
Earthly fears are all that’s left for men’s half-mortal lives –
The real horrors of the Son’s truths lay strewn behind.
The only one afflicting man that still survives
Is the guilty half-reality within his mind.
That guilt was a mighty god indeed who forged the fate
Of men who slew it with the two-edged sword it gave;
And now they stand alone before an unknown gate
Waving it triumphantly above the dead god’s grave.
Though one edge dulled by all the truths it severed
The other edge is sharper than it’s ever been
That they might cut away the guilt that long endeavored
To seek immortal truths beyond the thoughts of men.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Poetry

Symbolic Thought and Emotional Energy

“Through scientific understanding, our world has become de-humanized. Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional participation in natural events, which hitherto had a symbolic meaning for him. Thunder is no longer the voice of a god…” Jung wrote this in 1961:

“No river contains a spirit, no tree means a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom, and no mountain still harbours a great demon. Neither do things speak to him nor can he speak to things… His immediate communication with nature is gone forever, and the emotional energy it generated has sunk back into the unconscious.”

He wrote, too: “Since energy never vanishes, the emotional energy that manifests itself in all numinous phenomena does not cease to exist when it disappears from consciousness… it reappears… in symbolic happenings… At least the surface of our world seems to be purified of all… irrational admixtures. Whether, however, the real inner world of man — and not our wish-fulfilling fiction about it — is also freed from primitivity is another question.”

“Numinous” describes the pull of unconscious energy to the symbols which appeal to it: the strange attraction of a work of art or the uncanny feelings excited by certain dreams — or our fascination with things. It has a compelling quality, and compulsion is a feature of instinct, the functioning of an unconscious nature…

For example: no one would deny the attraction between the sexes. Not only do we not deny it, we’re generally in hot pursuit of it. Even the most rational are subject to it. Stephen Hawking wasn’t turned on by Marilyn Monroe’s intellect. Whether conceived biologically or whether also reflecting psychological and emotional demands depends on a symbolic understanding.

Over the centuries, religious denial of this particular instinctual demand proved to be an ideal which was unable to match the power of its attraction. An historian once wrote that the moral code of the Quakers never kept them from doing what everyone else did; it only kept them from enjoying it.

This is the other side of the biological picture — at least for those who would be conscious of it: a spiritual/psychological side which is difficult for literal thought to acknowledge. The purposes of instinct were traced by Jung through his historical studies of religious and philosophical ideas. What they represented even fifty years ago has changed and continues to change.

Psychologically, Jung saw sexuality as a function of relationship; not just a biological drive to maintain the race. We’re not in danger of becoming extinct for lack of numbers, however it may appear to the evolutionary standpoint. Instinct isn’t blind, it’s unconscious; we can’t see it but through its effects. We may have created a separate reality for our own purposes, but instinct will always counter it with unintended consequences which inform us of the reality we can’t see.

The psychic side is more emotional than sensual. Religious devotion was once the medium through which the unconscious informed us of its aims toward a “higher” symbolic understanding; to lift us beyond animal instinctuality, to become human. Though as we have evolved, the world we create today as much reflects the inhumanity, split thinking, and instinctual cravings as the one Christ sought to enlighten. The balancing of our natures is effected by an unconscious counter-pole: a devil we mostly dismiss as superstition, though we remain subject to those old dual interpretations.

The conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, science and religion, is a reflection of how we think and feel — inside. Scientists dismiss emotion as fantasy, preachers can’t incorporate its knowledge into their fantastic dogma, psychology can’t interpret either, philosophy is out-dated before material truth, and culture seems more divided today than at any point in history. The confusion only increases with each partial, contradictory answer.

The reasons for the conflicts go deeper than the split reflections of the conscious mind. As Jung has shown, the nature of the unconscious is fluid and ever-changing, and it relentlessly pursues its own purposes. We may want more certainty than that implies, yet it’s this tension of doubt and uncertainty which drives us on toward a more diffuse awareness of who we are.

The value of myth and religion is to consider life in terms of symbols. Only these express the deeper conflicts in an animal become conscious of itself through the tension of its own dual nature. The purposes of this mystery are not determined by the animal, but are its burden. Through the mystery, we are fortunate enough for functions which enable us to relate to it. But, only if the symbols are re-interpreted to reflect changes in consciousness will they make any sense.

There’s no other way to release a concrete perception from the darkness of compulsion and the world of the senses, strive as science and psychology may to understand their nature through fact and statistic. The denial of the spirit today for the sake of material progress in a world of objects where symbolic fantasies become reality is now at the expense of the reality that sustains it.

But, consciousness must attain a certain level of strength and stability to face its inner opposite, even to see it as part of itself. This is only possible through the experience and endurance of inner tension and the symbols it produces. When the tension explodes out into the world, it is fantasy become real, and the emotional energy released can be destructive if it hasn’t contributed to its purpose; namely, the urge to inner development.

The “higher” state of intellectual enlightenment today is an illusion. That a concrete fact can be a truth and an illusion at the same time is a great paradox to a thinking split off from its own nature. And yet this nature continues to create circumstances which we neither know nor care to think about except in terms of immediate benefit.

We don’t have to perceive the wind or thunder as the voice of a god to know it is a power we can’t see or control. We won’t ever again conceive concrete things as spirits in the literal sense. Yet the way we relate to things today, the importance we accord them, the way they control us, does speak to us — symbolically. But only a small, bare whisper does it sound; easily drowned by the din of science and technology and material progress, and all the rest of the fear of god that makes us strangers to ourselves.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Self-development

Psych-Team Six: The March of Democracy

This post is dedicated to the selfless and unheralded service rendered by the anonymous individuals who devote their lives to America’s internal security. Within the Secret Services, the most secret and unheralded of them all are the ones known as Psych-Team Six.

We know about the killing of Bin Laden, drone strikes, and other “black ops” which maintain our nation’s physical security amid the throes of international terrorism. We’ve heard of CIA interrogations at “black sites” where “black tactics” extract “black intel” —  testaments to the American civil rights movement and its practical contributions to modern military methods.

What you’ve probably not heard of are the secret squads of “psychic interventionists” who protect our nation’s mental boundaries and the psychological stability we take for granted in our politicians. Behind the fan-fare, our public servants are subject to conflicts and pressures which would quickly turn the average mind into an unconscious welter of contradictory statements and double-talk such as would cast grave doubt on their veracity and sincerity as spokespersons for actual thinking people.

The psychological nether side of the exaggerated posturing required for holding office is a complicated picture. Our pols are in constant danger of developing split personalities in which the public persona is distinctly disparate from the private individual, paradoxically discernible only by everyone but themselves, their constituents, and the tens of millions of hangers-on who unconsciously identify with the nebulous and intentionally deceptive word-concoctions they pass off as principles.

These opposing sides of the personality inevitably lead to clashes in which each partial emotional complex must refute and repress the other. This can cause serious gaps in the application of the outlandish judgments required to undermine, minimize, and otherwise disparage the falsely touted representative government of the many for the gain of the few under the penalty of incarceration which describes the democratic process.

Those responsible for maintaining the nation’s apparent logic and credibility in the face of all contradictory evidence conduct their own “black ops” anywhere they are called upon to do so: the Oval Office, Air Force One, Congressional men’s rooms – the so-called mobile “black couches” designed to safe-guard the most sensitive and classified material of all: the dark unconscious motives of the guardians of the free world.

Remember a little thing called the Cuban Missile Crisis? Thanks to Psych-Team Six and eight hours of intense black couch therapy, the only thing that got fired was Kruschev’s big red vodka face, and little Nikita tucked his tail.

How about the fall of Communism? Even though the Soviet Union was already moribund from a top-heavy Communist party favoritism and the impossible problems of oppressing the entire population of one of the largest countries on earth while hoarding everything for itself…

Not to mention the black-hole of Afghanistan and the egotistical over-estimation of its own power which led to a prolonged, exhaustive, too-expensive, and unsustainable attempt to subjugate an indigenous people who had been fighting guerilla wars against invaders since the beginning of time…

And even though its once-feared Politburo found itself face-to-face with yet another Utopian ideal turned into its opposite by normal human behavior and elected a president who was semi-reasonable and intelligent; who perhaps foresaw the catastrophe of Communism and its demise and so reached out to the West in an attempt to finesse the greed which was their downfall and establish profitable relations with the free-market magnates of a new global economic paradigm who were amassing fortunes even greater than entire countries — it was Ronald Reagan who tumbled that godless wall.

But, I project; few realize it was also the call of Psych-Team Six to duty (along with brain-storming reps from dozens of P.R. consulting agencies) that propelled the Reagan administration into the history books and its heralding of a new world order with the power of the mightiest weapon of all: The Word.

“Tear down that wall!” resounded around the planet, echoing an invincible Christian-based moral supremacy which was only beginning to reveal the strength of its ideals — while also proving the value of having a somewhat stiff and aging but adequate actor as a mouth-piece (and metaphor) whose humble Hollywood roots had prepared him for the greatest role of a career which can only be measured in dog-years. 

Though the undisputed nodder of the free world (the first, by the way, to become prematurely orange while in office) got the credit, it would never have come to bear were it not for the unsung heroes of Psych-Team Six. 

The toppling of the godless dictatorship of a global super-power is only one of its many contributions to what would otherwise be a chaotic, mixed-up world bereft of the most basic Christian values we take for granted: where one percent of the world’s population might conceivably have lorded its desires for wealth and power  in unprecedented luxury over the other ninety-nine per cent who languished in abject poverty. America has much to thank them for. 

But, this elite psychological squad of counter-terrorists refuses to rest on its own selfless laurels. Yet another terrifying giantess of godless world domination looms in the face of Christian, democratic ideals: Red China.

It is indeed a frightening reality of the modern world that one of the deepest, most insightful philosophical traditions ever produced in the course of human history has devolved into the deceitful manipulation characteristic of a rudimentary, over-regulated, state-mandated capitalism in its basest form.

The vast and methodical re-collectivization of it citizens and the stunting of creativity resulting from it have narrowed its once prolific overview of universal human values to only one tiny squirt of mental energy leaking from it: the worship of the wan.

Just as the yearn for the yen, the desire for the drachma, the penchant for the peso, have brought once great cultures to their knees and exposed the frail and all-too-human ideal to be not much more than the side-wise serpent of ego and the projected need to exploit others, so it is with the Big Red Industrial Machine and its relentless manufacture of cheap, useless products fit only for a world which would greedily consume them like hot-cakes to compensate the perilous psychological needs their own consumption belied.

But, again I project. This too will pass into the annals of history as another failed attempt to manipulate and deceive the natural human spirit borne from the Christian, democratic ideal.  Psych-Team Six will then hang its hat on history for all the world to see.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Humor

Exploring New Concepts: The Body’s Reality

From the old scourges of religious inquisitions to the later philosophical materialism to a headier modern science and its excavation of deep-space where gods were once wont to roam, there’s little doubt that our perceptions of reality are changing.

The difference between past and present states of consciousness seem of little note but to a few isolated thinkers who fight their own minds (and bodies) for a symbolic truth which would put our futures into perspective.

The distinctly human capacity to turn mental fantasy into physical reality (notwithstanding the assumptions of psychiatry) is as obvious and concrete as… well, cement; though some more philosophic natures may wonder which is the realer reality: the world of nature and the body or the mind’s fantasies realized upon them?

From the sacrificial rites of Communion to the state-management of sexual union, the line between sane and insane, between quirky and quixotic, merges and converges in the no-man’s land beneath the surface of conscious knowing: the so-called unconscious psyche. It is there where nature’s secrets shape human realities.

So says Marty “Little Bit” Moore, a self-described visionary, who is not only a bit of a self-touted eccentric but a self-proclaimed scoundrel as well. His latest book (self-published), Tinkering With The Self, is the stark manifesto of a self-inspired unconventionality which is beginning to attract a cult following — mostly among self-absorbed, rural hipsters of the sensation type with a scantily-concealed penchant for scatology.

In it, he differentiates between the human world of cognition and a more diffuse and natural animal awareness. He states that the latter simply “is” and is self-generating (as well as self-expelling), while the former must be constantly and rigorously maintained with great conscious effort. Though, he says, they are inextricably intertwined within the deeper self, they must be separated out in that same dual self to arrive at any semblance of an objective view of our behavior.

Intrigued by his philosophy, I met with Dr. Moore to get a glimpse of the “self” behind the frozen, commercial image smiling enigmatically from the mass-produced jackets of the tens of books he has proffered out of the back of his van in shopping malls near and far.

His tireless efforts to spread his self-styled gospel have taken him from his small hometown of Maynardville, Tenn. to such exotic cities as Paris and Rome (Tenn. and Ga. respectively). I caught up with Dr. Moore at the Lonsdale Baptist Help Center in Knoxville as he wrapped up another hectic day of book-signings. He was “trying to get a jump on business” as he pre-signed them and stacked them in his van.

I pulled out my lap-top to jot notes as we sat in folding chairs behind the bare cinder-block structure. “All life begins and ends with the individual body and its concrete manifestation in corporeal space.” he began. I pressed “Enter” at the end of the line on the screen as he continued:

“All self-awareness begins with the body’s image, it’s psychic manifestation in time.” As I continued to type, the words just ran off into the margin and disappeared. I pressed “Enter” again. Nothing happened. I pressed it again and again as he proceeded:

“That is precisely where the problem of the human condition begins…” The more I pressed “Enter”, the more words disappeared beyond the margin as my laptop began to delete every word following the one I typed before it– each after the other into oblivion. I hit “Insert”. Nothing.

I punched the “Backspace” button repeatedly in frustration, and the words reappeared in the correct format for an instant, and then suddenly the screen went blank. Frantically, I stabbed at the “Page Down” button as Dr. Moore went on, “What consciousness perceives…” Several blank pages flew by, and the words I typed reappeared — only jumbled up, some outside the margin, some inside. I single-clicked.

“You see, images are what consciousness perceives, and in that sense the objects we see are really semi-imaginary — representations of the world through a psychic medium…” I double-clicked for functions I’d intended to place on my dashboard but had been distracted from by the constant formatting problems. “Goddammit!” I muttered as I banged keys randomly.

“Man and nature, mind and body, male and female, dark and light: all are constructive metaphors for the conscious discrimination of ourselves through the opposing poles of psychic energy which define who we are…” Flustered and embarrassed, I suddenly realized I was there in actual space and time — with a real live someone else watching me. I closed my laptop, trying fiercely to maintain my composure. “Could you repeat that?

“Thought and emotion are as opposed as…” Before he could finish, I flung my laptop to the pavement in a delayed but uncontrolled fit of rage and watched with animal pleasure as it shattered into pieces. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief: Wheew…” I looked at him. “I mean, Goddam! You know?” It was like I saw him there and everything, but I didn’t really care what he thought or felt, I was so angry.

Calmly, Dr. Moore leaned back, peering at me quizzically, and crossed his legs. Upon lifting his leg, a prolonged, high-pitched squeal emitted from his pants, as if air were slowly being let out of the pinched end of a balloon. A sudden breeze blew from behind him at that instant and a pungent odor hung in my nostrils; though as quickly it held me, it let go. I threw my arms up as if to ward off a blow and then chuckled despite the initial shock. He laughed:

“Eloquent the inspiration words may bring/Stirring syllables through lofty lecture halls may ring;/But the Word, too, soon must fade and thought grow grey/As restless spirits from the body steal astray./Somber sermons stunt the soul with heady brew./Some may drowse or fidget, hearts may weary grow;/ But laughter peals and stirs the heart anew/When nature’s music toots out from below.”

Something in me was deeply moved, though I had not the sophisticated primitivity to express it at will.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Humor

Jung’s Theory of Complexes

The idea of complexes is so well established today, it’s passed into everyday speech. Alfred Adler long ago introduced the idea of an inferiority complex, and most of us know what is meant by it. It works together with its opposite, and an over-compensating facade of superiority conceals it.

An unconscious complex describes one of those curious blind-spots in our personalities that only others may see. Those who know us may have to tip-toe around them, because we’re unconsciously sensitive to them. They evoke defensive reactions when triggered and often result in the anger that masks our fear of them — the surest sign of a weak spot, that we’re not in control.

Along with many of Jung’s concepts, his theory of complexes seems only half-acknowledged as a fundamental building block in understanding how our minds work. Psychology fancies having gone beyond those basics, even as it never really understood their implications. His ideas have flown past its heady view of itself in a yeah-we-know-all-that-old-stuff pat rejection and a let’s-move-on attitude peculiarly suggestive of a hidden agenda.

Jung’s discovery that we connect with our deepest natures through religious and philosophical ideas is more and more obscured by a scientific mentality focused on the material world. Psychology moves only further away from the psyche through a technological faddism blinded by the glare of disparate tid-bits of statistical and technical knowledge. The science charged to make sense of the immaterial nature of the mind is unable to see through the concreteness of data, measurement, precision instruments, and all the rest of the bandwagon of rational thought.

Part of the problem is the lack of an empirical concept of the unconscious. That there could even be psychologies today which don’t acknowledge an unconscious psyche is itself a study in complexes. There are no ways to see it directly as one would view molecules under microscopes or brains through electronic scans; but there are other objective ways to infer its heavy influence on how we think and feel.

Jung’s study of complexes began with his association tests.  A subject’s one-word response to a stimulus word was timed and recorded. Delays in responses to certain words, lack of memory of them, and other disturbances of what would normally be a simple exercise in word-association prompted him to look closer. Inappropriate responses (those against instruction), facial expressions, body movements, stammering, habitual repetition of the same words — all these reactions were beyond control of the will.

The emotional roots of the disturbances could gradually be identified by honing in on the stimulus words and their patterns. The ones causing the disturbances revolved around certain general ideas that hung together in a meaningful way. Over the course of a hundred words or so, a picture emerged to a skilled observer. The more knowledge of the subject, the more targeted the trigger words, the more information revealed.

All pointed to concealed, semi-conscious, repressed, and/or completely unconscious contents which revolved around decisive issues in the subject’s life. Jung wrote in The Symbolic Life:

“A complex is an agglomeration of associations — a sort of picture of… a psychological nature — sometimes of traumatic character, sometimes simply of a painful and highly toned character. Everything that is highly toned is rather difficult to handle… It is simply an important affair, and whatever has an intense feeling-tone is difficult to handle because such contents are associated with physiological reactions, with the processes of the heart, the tonus of the blood vessels, the condition of the intestines, the breathing, and the innervation of the skin… it is just as if that particular complex had a body of its own, as if it were localized in my body to a certain extent…”

The implications of these processes go far beyond mere Freudian slips or even “little man syndromes”. Who would need a clearer picture of the mutual effects of mind and body? That the psyche would send forth signals through the body, symbols, of its own life through its own ideas in an unconscious effort to translate to consciousness what it was feeling, or the feelings it had repressed? Jung:

“… a complex with its given tension or energy has the tendency to form a little personality of itself. It has a sort of body, a certain amount of its own physiology. It can upset the stomach. It upsets the breathing, it disturbs the heart — in short, it behaves like a partial personality. For instance, when you want to say or do something and… a complex interferes with this intention… your best intention gets upset by the complex, exactly as if you had been interfered with by a human being or by circumstances outside.”

Regardless of how consciousness interprets itself, its “own” ideas, or its will, there are facts of psychic life which appear as outer circumstances and events  – but which are not. It would seem that psychology today is interested more in how it can relieve the symptoms of being human — of subduing, hiding from, the mystery of life rather than trying to understand it. Jung wrote:

“All this is explained by the fact that the so-called unity of consciousness is an illusion. It is really a wish-dream.  We like to think that we are one; but we are not, most decidedly not. We are not really masters in our house. We like to believe in our will-power and in our energy and in what we can do; but when it comes to a real show-down we find that we can do it only to a certain extent…”

Watch the daily news for the real show-down.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Psychology

Is There Order In Disorder?

Hot off the therapist’s desk! The latest news in psychological distress! 

Straight from the shelf of the newest research on the self, here is a practical guide to some of the less publicized disorders of the day. Study them carefully. If you have any of the symptoms below, you may need professional help:

1. Object-Worship Syndrome.

This insidious and often undetected spiritual disease is characterized by the irrational and compulsive desire for objects well exceeding need, practicality, or comfort. Once confined to a relative few suffering from the life-dominating disorder known as “shopaholism”, it has recently burgeoned into a form of self-rejection that many short-shrifted shrinks hope may soon become a general condition. Even more level heads fear it may already be.

Though the only effective treatment, so-called “necessity-therapy”, is prolonged and expensive, financial records show it be highly effective in gradually reducing the feasibility of excessive expenditures. Oddly enough, those in lower income brackets tend to respond to treatment much faster than their more affluent counterparts.

According to experts, its subtle effects range far beyond the most publicized examples of the routine trampling deaths of dozens every Black Friday or the days spent by human herds huddled on store sidewalks for the newest My-phone. Ambitious, under-employed therapists say its meme-like properties are now metastasizing into the very tissue of society.

Symptoms include manic glee (usually associated with winning the lottery) over the acquisition of the most banal material items or even such less hands-on product-derived experiences as the electric exhortations of tourists excitedly awaiting entrance to wax museums and their weird, mortician-like models of celebrities unconsciously luring them to confront their own moribund imaginations.

Some have suggested that the new criteria are too broad; that under its guidelines, the psychiatric community would itself qualify for treatment if its fixation on the body and the assumed material causation of the unconscious emotional entanglements called spiritual life were taken into account and understood as natural psychic phenomena.

2. Future-Awareness Inhibition Disorder.

Otherwise known as the “live-each-day-as-if-it-were-your-last” complex, this debilitating condition, left untreated, soon progresses into a complete incapacity to foresee the painful consequences of repetitive past behaviors.

Symptoms include an obsession with novelty and progress as a compensation for reflection, leading to retardation of the normal learning process and the semi-conscious fabrication of contrived crises as an unconscious response to psychological stagnation and its piling-up of unused energy, in turn facilitating the confusion of fantasy-urges with reality. The reduced capacity for practical problem resolution is comparable with that of Acute Adverse Attention Deficit Disorder (the dreaded “Triple-A” of elementary education).

Critics cite the behavior of Congress as clear evidence of normalcy, in addition to the precedents established by the entirety of our civilized history from Nebuchadnezzar to Napoleon to the Industrial Revolution to the habitual over-consumption of fried foods and the steady sales of one-ply toilet paper.

3. Oughtism.

This form of mental derangement describes the reflexive responses of the autonomic nervous system to the unconscious emotional effects of commercial advertising. The recent FDA acquiescence to pharmaceutical lobbies in the form of television ads aimed at the general public for prescription drugs which yet require medical diagnosis and dispensation has been seen by some as the uber-reach of an unregulated free market capitalism and its zeal to mass-manipulate an already paranoid mistrust of the body and its natural functions as an exploitable hangover of historical religious conditioning for the purposes of increased sales. 

The American Psychophysical Association, however, has seen such a dramatic increase in office visits owing to public demands to cure them of the perceived burden of their bodies, they offered no objection to “treating” them for the contrived conditions instilled in them through the manufactured fears of being sick and the placebo-effects of medical attention.

Even the open admission of documented side-effects of the drugs themselves, which more often than not are more damaging than the conditions they are designed to treat, failed to dissuade the average medical consumer when said side-effects were recited by a pleasant but authoritative voice as an incidental aside at the end of the ads.

To the targeted consumer, they appeared as reasonable alternatives to the irrational dread of the possibility of the probability of disease which had been subliminally implanted via repressed religious ideas symbolic of an inherited disgust by the human head of its animal body except when eating, having sex, or in some cases going to the bathroom.

4. Bipolar Sit-Com Syndrome.

Here, we plunge into the very bases of split personality. Trivial as they may appear on the surface, television sit-coms reflect a human condition which is indiscernible to all but the most trained and disciplined professional eye.

Statistics revealing the enhancing effects of laugh-tracks (regardless of program quality) have long been substantiated. Recent studies, however, have stumbled upon an extraordinary insight into the infectious nature of human behavior.

When sit-coms were viewed by subjects without laugh-tracks, no signs of amusement were registered.  When the responses to “dry” sit-coms were compared with those viewing popular horror films, many were practically identical.  Gesticulations of disgust and expressions of repugnance occurred with the same frequency in both groups. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em:

When laugh-tracks were added to horror films, subjects reacted with outbursts of laughter at the same rate as sit-com viewers, though tachycardial measurements recorded fear-responses comparable with those witnessing a gruesome car accident. The louder the laugh-track, the more pronounced the subjects’ fits of levity, despite the grisliest blood-letting in the scenes they watched.

Sometimes known as “laughing out of the other side of your face”, the paradoxical production of elevated dopamine levels significant enough to induce euphoric hilarity when viewing brutal acts have led some researchers to theorize a connection between aggression and religious zeal, though others contend that history does not bear the conjecture out.

5. Depression Du Jour:

This ambiguous, catch-all condition denotes the displacement of happy feelings by sad ones. Often accompanied by a process of disillusionment similar to that experienced in childhood upon the discovery of Santa’s mythical nature, research has tied it to the dissolution of projections and the sudden influx of psychological “downers” significant of reality-recognition.

What were once considered stages of consciousness are now seen as crippling impediments to social adjustment as the uneven development of individuals heightens feelings of alienation in increasingly anonymous aggregates of ever more diverse populations over-spilling crowded city centers into cramped and congested urban sprawls and their mixed-use zoning of multi-purpose dwellings stuck incongruously amid a dizzying maze of parking lots and strip malls.

Psychologists on the web cite this trend as a major factor in the meteoric rise in popularity of the anonymous, self-seeking social sites on which they advertise.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Humor

Science And The Decline Of Religious Belief

Anyone interested in depth psychology is familiar with the idea of declining spiritual values. It seems undeniable to many (like myself) raised in the religious atmosphere of a generation ago. Whether they praise it or lament it, the reasons for it were a vital concern to Jung. Evidence supporting some of those ideas were explained throughout his volumes. But as much as anything, he described changes in perception.

Sunday mornings still find religious services filling the airways. Mega-churches and T.V. evangelists may be replacing smaller communities of worship and their humbler counterparts as populations become more mobile and anonymous, but in many ways the religious spirit seems as prevalent as ever.

So how does the idea of change necessarily translate into decline? Is it only a subjective fantasy? The biased claims of a few agnostic egg-heads airing their egos? The projections of those wrestling with the declining devotion of their own faltering faith or the intuitions of far-seeing minds deeply concerned for humanity?  Much depends on which side of the problem you see it from.

The Bible remains the world’s best-seller, and politicians’ lip-service to God is as mighty as yesteryear; though, who doesn’t question their sincerity as they parade church attendance amid the fan-fare of flash-bulbs, flag-flying, and fanny-patting? But, isn’t that the public they have to appeal to? Aren’t they just reflecting popular demands?

Political correctness has tempered rhetoric in the face of increased diversity, but don’t most people still believe in their religion with the same intensity of a generation ago? Haven’t there always been critics of the Church? Though that once grand institution has broken apart into multitudes of little ones, doesn’t that mean an increasing differentiation, a more nuanced perception; the dim glow of a new dawn on a dark, centuries-old collective horizon?

Panderers, preachers, and pulpiteers may be falling from the heavens like little Lucifers as they descend to the earthly needs represented in their sexual exploits — but, haven’t they always done it? Hasn’t it just become more public as individuals muster strength to oppose the power of the clergy? Isn’t it the same old inflated self-image; the all-too-human frailties which have always signaled a vulnerable nature beneath the super-human ideal? A new fight on a new psychological frontier? 

The idea of a decline in belief wasn’t even an issue a generation ago. Whether it’s a positive or negative remains undecided. One man’s god is another man’s devil, but one thing is sure: an unknown still drives us, still prods us forward in both the inner world and the outer one. We may not choose it or even believe it, but isn’t that what history is? The slow coming to awareness of a greater reality relentlessly forced upon us which yet defies any comprehension beyond the scant knowledge of its parts?

 So confusing is the subjective nature of this mystery; so convincing our powers of rationalization, that nothing seems certain to an honest mind but the certainty of others. Collective perception may be broader in some areas, yet more constricted in others; the distorted mirrors of our contradictions (don’t pretend you don’t see them) and the diversions which only lead away from them are a false security in the face of this darker reality.

On one side are the mega-churches and their glitzy, show-stopping re-makes of the same old ideals, unchanged for centuries. The personal relation to God seems only more impersonal through them. Is it bigger, better, and more improved, or only more diluted through the charisma of mega-personalities and their deceptive appeal to the modern belief in the higher power of its own illusions? Another denial of the unseen changes pushing from within?

On the other hand, churches are driven to compete with a science which refutes the old truths with each new datum. It, too, just gets bigger and better. It’s no wonder they’re at odds; as institutions, neither can afford to confess to the littler motives of the maintenance of their influence and power. In a clash of one-sided reasoning, they trade barbs like hostile brothers or a stale-mated Congress, neither side bothered with the task of serving a greater good beyond its own partial concerns

What they believe is plain enough; not words, but their relentless zeal defines it. Where is the humble soul in search of a truth which can acknowledge the other side of its own? If the new mass media and its fractional competition to attract believers for its sponsors is the higher power we’re looking to for solutions, we’re lost. If you think we’re not, watch the news and see for yourself the buying and selling of partial truths in a manipulated mass market of unconscious emotions. It’s what media’s all about.

As drastic as changes may appear in the last generation, institutions remain unable to see them as coming from anywhere beyond circumstance, the competition with rivals, and their own willful objectives. The tangled knot beneath the facade and the unintended consequences attending it yet insist upon a greater reality beneath them. Is the tangled knot a newer, darker deity? The unintended consequences, the off-spring of one-sided views? 

Jung outlined a science of the mind through the study of its history — religion, philosophy, and science; a real psychological inspection of ideas and their origins, development, and effects. His method was empirical, though not strictly rational. His comparative studies were a new way of looking at ourselves, of seeing subjective truths within the context of a greater reality which everyone senses but none can explain.

The relativity of values is a more difficult reality to locate than any material truth. The physical model of the atom as an analogy of the unfathomable and penetrating depth of the smallest unit is a hint of Jung’s discoveries: physics has revealed a strange quantum world beneath the apparent cosmic one, just as the universe of institutional ideals is a different one than the inner realities of the smaller particles which make it up, the individual. 

Jung’s symbolic view elaborated the contradictions between two ways of seeing truth in terms of an internal opposite: feeling/thinking, the repressed spiritual side of science and the searching, thoughtful side of religion. Awareness of this dual nature signals neither the decline of religion or the advance of science, but a different way of looking at both in which each is relative to the other.

For an interesting statistical look at the changing religious beliefs in America, see this link:  http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

Leave a Comment

Filed under Self-development

Archetypes, Dreams, And Numbers

A while back I posted a few ideas on archetypal images and animals. I mentioned the death of a close friend which precipitated my experiences. I’d like to share the events surrounding that, as they were important in later connecting me with Jung’s studies on symbols. The number symbolism was extraordinary in that it expressed personal circumstances through archetypal associations.

My friend and I had traveled and worked together for years before he died in a car “accident” at twenty-six — a single car collision in which he hit a telephone pole late one night while driving alone. I say “accident” for these reasons:

For months before it happened, I had such oppressive feelings of death that I interpreted them as a portent of my own. How I was never able to piece them together was a mystery afterward. I had two dreams in those months which attempted to clarify to me what was going on inside both of us.

In the first dream, I was in a desolate country looking up at an old run-down house on a hill. I knew there was something foreboding in it, and I ran up the hill in a panic and through the front door. Lying on the floor was a dead man. Though I didn’t recognize him, I ran to his body and knelt over him with a sense of urgency. As I leaned over, he suddenly sprang up to my face, eyes wide open, leering:  ”April fool!” he exclaimed, and I woke up with a start.

In the second dream, my friend and I were in an old van we’d traveled around in years before. He was driving as we passed over a bridge, and he lost control of the steering wheel. The van began to jerk erratically from side to side. I found myself hanging onto the open passenger door and jumped off. Again, I woke with a start.

In retrospect, a least some of what the dreams expressed was self-evident, though I was unable to relate them to my friend’s impending death. Instead, they found me still somehow trying to prepare for my own, even up to the dream I had the night he died.

That night I dreamed I was sitting in a clearing in a forest. Dozens of small, furry animals approached from the surrounding trees, and suddenly they were upon me. Rabbits, squirrels, puppies, and kittens leapt all over me, licking me with excitement. I was so ecstatic, I was shaking and trembling, half trying to fend off their swarming affections. I cried out in my own excitement, “God is coming!

I went back to sleep, only to be awakened by a loud bang which seemed to come from the corner of the ceiling behind me — early in the morning. Well before dawn, I heard an urgent knock on the door, and the police informed me that my friend was dead. It was March 29, and he was buried on April 1, April fool’s day.

That March 29, I looked at the empty six-pack he’d brought over the afternoon before, when we’d watched a basketball game before he left. My eyes were drawn to the serial numbers on the pack. They were all elevens and thirteens. I thought about other numbers, our phone numbers and addresses — all added up to thirteen. My friend was born on June 11, and I somehow associated thirteen with his death and eleven with his life. Some of the numbers had been in place as long as a year before.

My wife and I drove to his mother’s house in Virginia to be with his family and prepare for the funeral. We slept in his old room that night.  Though I wasn’t religious, I was inexplicably consumed with the three days between the death of Christ and his resurrection. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought of the dream I’d had about April fool’s.

I was convinced I needed to see my friend in the funeral home at “four” in the morning, “exactly” three days after he’d died; to be alone with him before the service. I called the funeral home. They were gracious enough to consent to it at that very inconvenient hour.

As my wife and I prepared for bed, I went to set my friend’s alarm clock to be at the funeral home at four. It was 10:30. The clock was one of those old ones with the numbers that flipped over on four separate cogs, before the modern digital ones. When I picked up the clock to set the alarm, the numbers suddenly flipped to 11:56. I saw the five and the six as eleven, though I didn’t know why, and it half appeared as 11:11. It flipped back to 10:31. I thought something was wrong with the clock.

I said to my wife: “Look at this…” and I picked up the clock without touching any controls. It suddenly flipped to 11:58, which I saw as 11:13, five and eight adding up to thirteen. It flipped back to 10:32 as I set it back down, and we both looked at it. Suddenly, the cogs (which kind of resemble eyes, for those of you who remember them) flipped to 12:01, tilted half-down. I saw thirteen as the “eyes” seemed to stare at the floor. 

We both thought how curious it was as the clock flipped back to 10:33. We even watched it intently, but it seemed to be working again as it flipped the minutes. We went to sleep, and I had a dream:

It was dark and raining as I approached the railroad tracks near the funeral home in my friend’s small town. The arm came down, and the red light flashed — a train was coming. The red light flashed the number two (a symbol of opposition, division), and I felt panicky and woke up. I thought about the clock, and it suddenly dawned on me that my friend was telling me that he was here in his old room: the eyes of the clock at 12:01, staring down. He’d passed over the midnight hour. I called the funeral home and told them I wouldn’t be there.

The emotions I experienced that night needed no clarification. There was much more to the numbers than I’ve related. They appeared again at crucial times in my life long afterward. But, one experience my wife had a couple of years later put the numbers into perspective.

My friend’s name was Bill. My wife had a dream in which a voice said emphatically, “13/11 is Bill.” The next day, doodling on a piece of paper, she happened onto the configuration, “13- 1-11″. Indeed, when you put the one and three together, they form a “B”.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Psychology

Internet Psychology In A Post-Orwellian World

Several years ago, as I began to peek out from the shell of my own mid-life process of coming to terms with the unconscious, I sent an article to Psych Central to see if they might be receptive to actual psychological concepts over the one-sided assumptions describing much of what I’d read on the site. Maybe “they” were just restricted by their education, as Jung’s work seems but barely noted by the average psych curriculum taught in universities today.

This was how it began:

“I would like to draw the reader’s attention to Carl Jung’s On Psychic Energy, the first chapter in his eighth volume, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. In it, he examines the bases of the two general concepts by which the psyche interprets the world: the causal, mechanistic view and the energic or final viewpoint.

 The causal view, Jung wrote, “… conceives an event as the effect of a cause, in the sense that unchanging substances change their relations to one another according to fixed laws.”

In the energic viewpoint, “the event is traced back from effect to cause on the assumption that some kind of energy underlies the changes in phenomena… The flow of energy has a definite direction (goal) in that it follows the gradient of potential in a way that cannot be reversed… The concept, therefore, is founded not on the substances themselves but on their relations, whereas the moving substance itself is the basis of the mechanistic view.”

He goes on to explain the two concepts as the logical reversal of one another. One points backward in time to a cause, and the other points forward to a goal or purpose without positing a cause: the difference between the concrete perception of things and the psychic reflection of images.

Though the viewpoints are mutually exclusive, a compromise has resulted in which an event is conceived “as partly causal, partly final – a compromise which gives rise to all sorts of theoretical hybrids but which yields, it cannot be denied, a relatively faithful picture of reality. We must always bear in mind that despite the most beautiful agreement between the facts and our ideas, explanatory principles are only points of view, that is, manifestations of the psychological attitude and of the apriori conditions under which all thinking takes place.”

The fusion of concrete perception with the reflection of images brings personal complexes into play. The “beautiful agreement between facts and ideas” is where we interpret a set of facts based on only one viewpoint. The dual nature of psychic energy requires two viewpoints for its elaboration. The final concept yields a different set of facts bound to an equally objective reality beneath the causal assumption: it follows the flow of life-energy toward an unknown future — to see what the psyche has to say about it.

We know that physical and mental processes influence one another – who has not awakened from a dream with heart pounding and body drenched with perspiration? Yet current knowledge does not permit us to say how this connection occurs. The mysterious process by which  neurological impulses or chemical reactions become psychic images to a perceiving consciousness is beyond our ken. That being said, it is impossible to assign primacy to one or the other.

So far as Nature is concerned this is a dynamic process only artificially dissected for purposes of inspection by a subjective observer. These classifications do not exist in Nature but are projections of the qualities of consciousness: to dissect and discriminate, to organize thought. Since the biologist assures us that all life is purposive, the energic viewpoint has emerged as a valuable explanatory principle.

Aside from the fact that the physical laws of energy do not account for the phenomena of life or how the living organism transforms energy, the body’s impulses must also contain a psychic aspect; otherwise it would be impossible for an image to be produced by them. To assign primacy to one or the other then becomes a value judgment – the projection of a subjective bias by the observer.

Yet most of natural science conceives physical processes to be primary – unjustly, for it cannot be substantiated…”

And so it went, the point being to challenge popular assumptions that physical processes cause emotional disorders and can be effectively treated with drugs — and to stress the need for the concept of an unconscious psyche which might make such assumptions relative to an equally empirical (but misunderstood) set of facts. I sent it in and received an immediate reply that a review would determine if it “would be a fit” with the Psych Central community. 

In retrospect, I was impatient. After waiting three weeks, I sent an e-mail saying I guessed my post wasn’t a fit. I received an inexplicably quick reply from a woman named Candy (at least, I hope it was a woman. How would this sound? Opening soon in theaters everywhere: A Man Called Candy). As rude and dismissive as her reply was, it was slightly better than being ignored completely (that tack was employed afterward — I never heard from her again).

I sank into a deep depression. Was I so egotistical that I thought my own experience of a “psychic reality” could possibly outweigh the objective studies of the most learned internet elite committed to solving the riddles of human subjectivity (coincidentally making a boat-load of cash while convinced they were performing a service to humanity) through scientific evaluation?

Was Jung all wrong? Had my own spirit deceived me in a post-Orwellian world of secretly manipulated misinformation in which no truth would be accepted outside its tightly constructed reality? Was the intense work I’d dedicated myself to for years only the “empirical” illusion of a crack-pot Swiss psycho-spiritualist — with the accent on psycho?

In the depths of despair, alone and vulnerable with nowhere to turn, I had a vision: I was on my knees before a dark abyss when suddenly a bright light shone above me. Magnificently illuminated in a flowing white robe, a divine figure descended. He stood haloed before me holding out his great, sinewy Michelangelo-like hands in a gesture of grace. As the light grew even brighter, the image became discernible. It was Mel Gibson.

Behind him, in a paradoxical shadow of brightness, stood the ancient figures of Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, and Yul Brynner in those old Egyptian costumes from The Greatest Story Ever Told (remember how little Edward G. Robinson was?), which our modern cinematic sensibilities now see as ridiculous even as we struggle for meaning in a disaffected, alienated, computer-generated world of unreality devoid of any semblance of the life depicted in those old Hollywood sets (remember the eye-liner they put on little Edward G. Robinson? Was he real or what?).

I sobbed with ignoble shame — but I knew in my heart that a truer image of what we could be lay within those somber caricatures of by-gone years…

Actually, I just made all that up. What really happened was that I was put off by Candy’s response and decided to start my own blog.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Psychology

Guilt, Consciousness, And Individuation

Guilt is most commonly associated with a kind of “parental” conscience which shapes our relations to others. In the sense of Webster’s definition, it’s a: “Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong or having failed to do something required or expected.” It’s a vital factor in social development. As Jung described other collective instincts, it’s a function of relationship.

Since consciousness has evolved the dual capacity of perceiving inwardly as well as outwardly, guilt has also the dual function of connecting us to an inner reality, to our unconscious natures. The conflict between the two realities, though a catalyst for development from birth, usually doesn’t intrude into consciousness until mid-life, when nature has decided that we’ll expand (and contract, too: a great paradox) our horizons to balance the outer-direction of the first half. The idea of guilt then becomes a philosophical and religious one.

It doesn’t matter how spiritual you thought you were before this transition; even if you were profoundly devoted to the forms you were taught, they were only vague templates of the ideals and beliefs of others (along with the unconscious corruption of them). The pull of individuation is a more intimate, personal confrontation with those collective forms; a coming to terms with the deeper personality beneath parental conscience.

Maybe, though, you were irreligious, an atheist (maybe even a gaytheist!); at either extreme, you’ll be confronted with your guilt on some level for the process to become conscious. I don’t mean to sound like a preacher, but I can tell you this: for anyone with flighty, grandiose ideas of what individuation is, it will charge you with your own guilt. It’s the link designed to make you think. Nothing motivates, consciously or unconsciously, quite like guilt, and we usually spend more time evading it than trying to understand it.

Joseph Campbell illustrated the connection between guilt and ritual. Just as the unconscious psyche concentrated primitive man’s energies through rituals in preparation for a hunt, they were also performed afterward. Early men instinctively worshiped the animals they killed for sustenance, not just because they needed them, but because they felt the unconscious guilt for having to kill them. The killing and consuming was a necessary “evil” of life; the ritual: a check on the instinct to kill, a regulating function. 

Campbell explained that the living experience of the ritual neutralized the unconscious guilt associated with consuming the blood of another’s life-force. Nature takes only what it needs to provide for and preserve herself. That was the function of guilt and ritual then — before the story of the Garden symbolized its effects on the more conscious plane of a religious problem.

Edward Edinger, in Ego and Archetype, wrote: “Consciousness as a spiritual principle has created a counter-pole to natural, instinctive animal function. Duality, dissociation, and repression have been born in the human psyche simultaneously with the birth of consciousness. This means simply that consciousness in order to exist in its own right must, initially at least, be antagonistic to the unconscious… The innate and necessary stages of psychic development require a polarization of the opposites, conscious vs. unconscious, spirit vs. nature.

“The myth of the fall expresses a pattern and a process… that one must go through in one form or another with every new increment of consciousness… being bitten by a snake… has the same meaning that the succumbing to the temptation of the serpent in the Garden of Eden had for Adam and Eve; namely, that an old state of affairs is being lost and a new conscious insight is being born.”

Further on, Edinger confirmed Campbell’s insight in a reference to the blood of Christ and its significance in the ritual of communion: it’s “… the covenant-sealing quality which binds man to God… it cleanses from sin… releases one from unconscious guilt. Also it is said to sanctify which, psychologically understood, would suggest the introduction of the sacred or archetypal dimension into personal consciousness.” This must surely be one of the reasons guilt weighs so heavily in our religious history. It relates us to the sacred, an analogy of individuation through the figure of Christ.

But, what does this mean in terms of the modern transition from the old religious viewpoint to a scientific one? To the “new conscious insight being born” today? Erich Neumann in his book, Depth Psychology And A New Ethic, wrote:

“This split between the world of ethical values in the conscious mind and a value-negating, anti-ethical world in the unconscious which has to be suppressed or repressed generates guilt feelings in the human psyche and accumulations of blocked energies in the unconscious.  Naturally, these are now hostile to the conscious attitude, and when they finally burst their dams they are capable of transforming human history into an unprecedented orgy of destruction.”

The guilt gives us a hint as to why there would be a “value-negating, anti-ethical” world lurking beneath our loftiest ideals. When the “polarization of opposites” reaches a level of tension that must release its energy (think WWII), it’s orgiastic nature reflects our own unconsciousness. We seem constantly to be on the verge of such eruptions of instinct. Watch the news: you’ll see that most of our “public” servants’ energy is spent trying to resolve the threats of dangerous group conflicts. This is but a slow, instinctual form of progress which can’t match the exponential trends of technology today. Neumann:

“The guilt-feeling based on the existence of the shadow is discharged… in the same way in both the individual and the collective… by the phenomenon of the projection of the shadow. The shadow, which is in conflict with the acknowledged values, cannot be accepted as a negative part of one’s own psyche and is… transferred to the outside world and experienced as an outside object. It is combated, punished, and exterminated as the “alien out there” instead of being dealt with as “one’s own inner problem”.”

From the standpoint of the old religious ethic (and, too, the newer scientific one, for the purposes of the old ethic are not yet understood), the shadow, the guilt, the separation from our instinctual natures was repressed. Its acknowledgment was symbolized as a “pact with the Devil” — one through which Goethe’s intuition foreshadowed our modern predicament in Faust.

Depth psychology has exposed the snake-bite, the guilt, which is the gateway to the secret anxieties of individuation. We know instinctively that all-out war cannot resolve our conflicts, but we don’t understand why but through the guilt we feel after the deed is done. That’s its purpose.

But, only the individual feels guilt. The group will always be attached to its own ideal until enough individuals conspire to change its perception of it. Its effects may be compounded through aggregates of those who feel the same way, yet it always remains to be dealt with as “one’s own inner problem”.

Though the modern intellect has lost its rituals for its own high ideals, we’re still in the grip of its unconscious design. It is as Goethe portrayed Faust’s emotional confusion at the on-set of a new stage of awareness:

“He asks of heaven every fairest star,
And of the earth each highest zest;
And all things near and all things far
Cannot appease his deeply troubled breast.”
 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Individuation