The Conscious Perception of Opposites

“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 in the first half of life, 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.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

The world today is in crisis. Though the Western mind has pursued it unaware for millennia, it has now created a dangerous tipping point. As we continue to live out the unconscious myth of God-likeness, so we make illusions of our highest ideals. We don’t know what Nature’s purposes are, but the conscious assumption is clear: “We would be as Gods”; whether knowing good and evil is not so certain.

The unconscious counter-pole (the inner value) which defines what we do that we don’t know we’re doing is a recent insight that goes deeper than ego and intellect. That we’re driven to subjugate nature is plain: it’s the law of ego-compensation, and all our creativity and resources are devoted to it. That it threatens to destroy us, we’re coming to understand but lack the self-knowledge to stop it.

It’s not as if the warning signs appeared out of nowhere with modern technology. The primitive nature of our destructive capacity is only brought into relief by it. But, if we would indeed be God-like in our self-appointed dominion over the earth, a more comprehensive view of life seems worth the effort.

Historically, we’ve given much lip-service to the biblical parables that describe the roots of our problems. Man’s hubris is a major theme of myth and religion. Ego-inflation is a dangerous form of possession. Intellectually, we may know that, but without higher values, ego is blind to itself.

Whatever truths the old religion holds, the contradictions are too transparent for modern sensibilities. Maybe the old adages only echo the hypocrisies of the past. But, if we reflect on our history with the new insights available, we may relate to some of the old truths we’ve left behind. Jung’s discussion of this parable from the Koran is found in his, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, from which the following quotes are taken:

The story concerns Moses’ life-quest for meaning, as he related to his servant: “I will not cease from my wanderings until I reach the place where the two seas meet… though I journey for eighty years.” They reach their ostensible goal only to discover that a mishap has occurred. Moses said: “Bring us our breakfast, for we are weary from this journey.

But the other replied, “See what has befallen me! When we were resting… I forgot the fish. Only Satan can have put it out of my mind, and in wondrous fashion, it took its way to the sea… Moses said: “That is the place we seek… and they went back the way they had come...”

We get an idea here of how the unconscious operates. Leaving things behind is a motif that expresses the progression and regression involved in the stages of development. Consciousness can’t see beyond its own state, and the end-purpose appears first as Satan — but later proves to be indiscernible from the God-image:

And they found one of Our servants, whom we had endowed with Our grace and… wisdom. Moses said to him: “Shall I follow you that you may teach me for my guidance… the wisdom you have learnt?

“But he answered: “You will not bear with me, for how should you bear patiently with things you cannot comprehend?”… Moses said: “If Allah wills, you shall find me patient; I shall not… disobey you…” He said: “If you are bent on following me, you must ask no questions… till I myself speak to you concerning it…”

“The two set forth, but as soon as they embarked, Moses’ companion bored a hole in the bottom of the ship “A strange thing you have done!” exclaimed Moses. “Is it to drown her passengers that you have bored a hole…?

Did I not tell you,” he replied, “that you would not bear with me?”… “Pardon my forgetfulness,” said Moses. “Do not be angry with me…“ They journeyed on until they fell in with a certain youth. Moses’ companion slew him, and Moses said: “You have killed an innocent man, who has done no harm. Surely you have committed a wicked crime.

Did I not tell you,” he replied, “that you would not bear with me?” Moses said, “If ever I question you again, abandon me; for then I should deserve it.

They travelled on until they reached a certain city. They asked the people for some food, but they declined… There they found a wall on the point of falling down. The other raised it up, and Moses said: “Had you wished, you could have demanded payment for your labors.

Now the time has arrived when we must part,” said the other. “But first I will explain those acts… which you could not bear with in patience… Know that the ship belonged to some poor fisherman. I damaged it because in their rear was a king who was taking every ship by force.” (Elsewhere, Jung described how a fisherman happened upon them, rescued them, and took them to the city.)

As for the youth, his parents are true believers, and we feared lest he should plague them with his wickedness and unbelief. It was our wish that their Lord should grant them another… more righteous and more filial.

“As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys… whose father was an honest man. Your Lord decreed… that they should dig out their treasure when they grew to manhood. What I did was not done by caprice. That is the meaning of the things you could not bear with in patience.

For a modern, poetic experience of the confrontation with the opposites from a psychological angle, click here, or visit Amazon.

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The Mystery of the God-Image

God goes on working as before, like an unknown quantity in the depths of the psyche. We do not even know the nature of the simplest thought, let alone the ultimate principles of the psyche. Also, we have no control over its inner life. Because this inner life is intrinsically free and not subject to our will and intentions, it may easily happen that the living thing chosen and defined by us will drop out of its setting… even against our will. Then perhaps we could say with Nietzsche, “God is dead.” Yet it is truer to say, “He has put off our image, and where shall we find him again?” The interregnum is full of danger, for the natural facts will raise their claim in the form of various isms which are productive of nothing but anarchy and destruction because inflation and man’s hybris… have elected to make the ego, in all its ridiculous paltriness, lord of the universe.” – Carl Jung

As consciousness evolves, so do our notions of the deity. Science has exposed His heavenly abode as an intensely violent process of destruction and creation which, though beautiful to behold from a distance, is so inimical to life as we know it that it took the mystery of Nature to round out a special sphere for its evolution. So perfectly ordered is it, so unfathomable, that only the idea of a deity can express it. But, never mind that:

Science is a function of intellect; a uniquely subjective form of objectivity which views life in rational terms. So dissociated is modern thought that God has all but disappeared; a de-personalized consciousness has no feeling for the mysteries of a higher inner power. ‘Intelligent design’ is the new impersonal God of Intellect; material reality filtered through secret ego-images, just as the older spiritual truths were. To re-vision a truer image of life is to incorporate both:

The masculinity once ascribed to Him is no longer tenable. Our genetic make-up dictates that at least a partial aspect of the god-image exists in a man as woman and in a woman as man. Our tenuous identification with gender is based on the preponderance of only one chromosome out of the twenty-three in each cell. A more objective assessment asserts a bisexual nature. Without a concept of the sexes as psychic functions, we lack the tools to balance our natures.

Gene-comparisons of humans and primates have proven to be nearly identical — another aspect of the deity which is as animal as it is human. Egocentric notions of consciousness and deep-seated hostilities toward nature are an affront to life. The technological achievements of the last century require a reappraisal of our relations to animals and our mutual environment.

The role ascribed to genes has shifted the old view, but what we don’t know about them is likewise a god-like quality — another aspect of the elusive spirit which is innate in the very sinews of the body. Considered psychologically, their ultimate purpose and meaning in the heart and soul are beyond objective evaluation.

Matter has been shown to be unimaginably active on the subatomic scale; as if it, too, were animated by a living force. Life exists in the very fabric of the universe — waiting for the proper conditions to become manifest. Our notions of organic and inorganic are incomplete.

The recent reference to a “God-particle“ as a complete physical picture of the universe describes the mystery of psychic wholeness and scientific hubris in two succinct words. Consciousness can only infer a whole from its parts, and physical descriptions relate only to material reality. Without psychological insight, such focus only further alienates us from the human condition.

We have little sense today of the god-image as a function of relationship. Our psychological history is as dead as a textbook. The living psyche is viewed as an animal in a zoo. Self-knowledge is not just biology, anthropology, or the flight of consciousness. Our animal, religious, and philosophical history is who we are.

Objective science only accentuates the profound conflicts ego has always had with this image. The functions defined by our history are as alive in the psyche today as they ever were; the medieval star-gazer, the primitive beast-killer, are still-living realities. We readily see these qualities in ourselves if we’re honest.

As irrational factors, accident and chance comprise another partial aspect of the deity. Our interactions in the world, how we differ, conform, for what purposes and motives, in what unknown circumstances, and with what unforeseeable consequences, are how the spirit works unconsciously.

History shows conflict to be the way of development. To decipher the projections of inner conflict onto outer circumstances is to re-connect with another image of the deity. The major problems today come less from without than within, our survival as a race threatened largely by ego-concerns: compensations as natural and objective as the laws regulating the universe.

Jung’s comparative approach is the only science which describes the living vitality of the psyche’s historical reality. Its language is as old as life and comes straight from the only source of the deity with which we have direct contact: the creative unconscious. The picture of who we are is hidden there. Jung discovered a way to access it; perhaps at a time when we need it most.

For an example of how Jung’s work may be applied personally, click here.

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The Law of Opposites

“Today, our… natures are reflected in division, diversion, disorientation, suggestibility, a longing to adhere to a cause or “ism” or to be contained within the security of a social, political, or religious system which no longer serves the aims of psychic development. Traditional symbols and their interpretations are quickly losing relevance, and the older orientation becomes increasingly ineffective as a check against our animal natures. The “beast within” must be re-interpreted to stimulate a new image which would more adequately express the changing relations with the unconscious. Without its symbols to attract consciousness to goals beyond its own desires, the deeper designs of instinct are projected onto external circumstances and often lead to the violent acting out of what is ultimately a psychological/spiritual conflict.” — A Mid-Life Perpsective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

The world today is a very dangerous place. All perceive themselves as reasonable in the bubbles of their personal lives; yet even those who may legitimately lay claim to such a lofty notion will be forced to admit an all-consuming participation in the destruction of the planet. Collectively, we’re the greatest threat to our own survival, and it would seem important to understand why we’re doing what we’re doing. Without those insights, we can’t stop. To that end, I return to the intuitive ideas in Philip Wylie’s, Essay on Morals, published in 1947:

… Jung’s theory of the law which governs instinctual activity… he calls the “law of opposites” — taking the phrase from Oriental philosophy, which has assumed for thousands of years that man obeys compulsions of Nature rather than the immediate dictates of his reason and will.

“The “law of opposites” is nothing more (or less!) than the hypothesis that compensation, complement, and conservation operate subjectively just as they do in the objective world. For every instinct put to conscious use by man — or society — there exists a potential force, equal, opposed, and unconscious, unless the individual (or the group) recognizes the dual nature of instinct.

Our antagonism to Nature is an historical given — it’s a force greater than we can conceive; to protect ourselves from its destructive effects requires tremendous effort. But, our fears and inferiorities in the face of it have produced unconscious ego-reactions that have spiraled out of control. Those compensations form the split that defines the opposition of our inner natures. Wylie:

In physics, this compares with the simple law of action and reaction and resembles the thermodynamic concepts… in psychology, this is a much subtler postulate to catch on to — and far more difficult for Occidental man because he has been brought up to imagine no such law could possibly exist. He believes he is reasonable and when his behavior is otherwise, shrugs it off either unexplained or labeled “irrational.”

 ”We are barely beginning to perceive “opposites” empirically… But nowadays we do know (for example) that the consuming love of a mother may become a hateful instrument for the ruin of her beloved. We have found out that intense pacifism at home abets scornful militarism abroad. We may soon find out… that a nervous militarism at home destroys the liberty it was designed to protect… These are examples of compensations along several levels of instinct.

But that for every prompting we obey, the risk of opposite result is set up, few Western men are willing to consider in relation to themselves. It shakes every pretension… To a pragmatic, positvistic, materialistic “civilization” it proposes — for instance — that orientation toward objects has put the whole subjective nature of society in jeopardy. We may go mad — or be mad.

But, a subjective mind can’t measure its own “madness” objectively. That “we are barely beginning to perceive “opposites” empirically” is in itself an insight. That consciousness is in conflict with itself and its own nature (and always has been in some projected form) is psychologically indisputable today in the light of Jung’s discoveries.

Contemporary man does perceive to some degree that what he calls “ethics” or… “morality,” or, perhaps, his “social science,” must now “catch up with material power and know-how.” But he hardly conceives that his current subjective chaos is the inevitable consequence of a psychological law of compensation — that he is paying in world-wide hostility, rage, frustration and fear for his long, conscious concentration on objects, at vast cost to any realistic awareness of, dedication to, or even development of, his subjective life.

The only way a subjective mind may glimpse it’s own objective nature is by the consequences of its actions. If we can’t admit them and rationalize them away, we make victims not only of ourselves but of all life — a sad testament to Nature’s experiment of a conscious animal.

(For a real wake-up call, visit Peter Jeanmaire’s website. Click on Englisch and read the two pdf articles. If you prefer to ignore our prediament, don’t click here.)


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Statistics and the Subjective Mind

The individual is the only real carrier of life.” — Carl Jung

The undeniable fact that the body is regulated by nature, along with the absurd idea that humans had otherwise freed themselves from the bondage of instinct, dominated psychology throughout most of the last century. That view loosely fit together certain facts while ignoring others. Such self-inflated notions were not seen as projections of a split condition — nor are they much more acknowledged today.

The complicated nature of its own subjectivity pushed psychology to statistical measurement in an attempt to apply the scientific method. The idea was that emotions could be studied rationally — like objects. The studies did reveal certain strained facts, though many were based on assumptions which only obscured the very processes they tried to illuminate. Fundamental questions as to how the mind worked were thought to have been answered.

But, the scientization of the psyche quickly turned into a paradox. Because the material view saw physical processes as primary, it was forced to concede certain euphemistic ‘drives’ and ‘reflexes’; though because consciousness was no longer presumed to be subject to natural laws, instinct was denied. Observations were unconsciously influenced by subjective assumptions that had been argued for centuries but which history was also refuted.  

Statistics would resolve the contradictions by providing objective data, though it lacked the concepts to evaluate the unconscious processes which influenced their interpretation. Appraisals, based on biology and rationalized by ego, conceived the psyche as secondary, yet consciousness as somehow primary — with no real evidence to support either.

To separate mind and body for purposes of examination was necessary, but its literal conception created contradictions which could only be seen in terms of either/or but not both. What was philosophical speculation was thought to be objective — each partial truth supported by a partial fact.

Notions of free will, self-determination, and the independence of consciousness coexisted with the primacy of physical processes with no functions to mediate them. It was as if thought ruled itself, and the body was a separate entity that intruded only under pathological conditions.

Depression, obsessions, compulsive behaviors, and their origins and effects were treated as physiological problems, since no unconscious mental processes were admitted into its view. Instinctive psychic functions were reduced to biology. The partial explanations piled up with no threads to connect them.

Since the unconscious psyche wasn’t directly observable and expressed its reality through diffuse and contradictory images, logical methods could not be applied to inner experience. Science knew only a causal, material truth; religious ideas became mere fantasies. Unaware of the symbols hidden in its own images, it was fixed on a consciously conceived external reality.

Pre-conceived rationalizations filled the void of projection; all contrary evidence was dismissed, theory accepted as fact. The semi-conscious images beneath the assumptions — the historical nature of all things psychic — were ignored.

The psychological relations between image and object were invisible to a concrete science; the projected inner experience reflected in religious images rejected as meaningless. It was the mind/body equation in symbolic form. Without a concept of unconscious functioning, image and object formed an irreconcilable pair of opposites, much as Aristotle and Plato argued.

Jung showed that the causal viewpoint was only half the picture; that the two worlds of experience couldn’t be evaluated in the same terms. Religious images contained descriptions, not of external reality, but of an objective inner reality that subjective interpretation can only approximate.

He described the fundamental problem with the statistical view: if there are a hundred pebbles, and the average weight of each pebble is .5 grams, there may not be a single pebble which weighs .5 grams. If there is, it’s no less an exception, and the exception becomes the rule. The focus is on the sameness of the pebbles, though it is nowhere apparent; more importantly, their differences disappear. Thought distorts the natural picture to conform to its preconceptions.

In this sense, statistics is an extension of our historical way of thinking. Christ represented a collective ideal, a model Christians strove to emulate. He seems to have been the only pebble in the lot which conformed to this picture (a profound symbol of the individual), yet viewed concretely, he appears only as an inflated, inhuman ideal, an image of conscious desire.

Statistics establishes standards which may broadly orient thought, yet the ideals they represent remain collective assumptions which not only do not acknowledge individual qualities, they devalue the human nature beneath them. The reality of the exception is a universal truth as well: the subjective sense of identity through which we all operate.

In psychology, statistical evaluation is subject to unknown factors in addition to the increasing welter of known ones which must be excluded for the purposes of isolating those for study (the nature of consciousness). The selection of which factors to observe is an assignment of value by the investigator. Value judgments are personal, emotional prejudices which are then infused into the studies.

Interpretations are further removed from objectivity, not just because of their isolation from a living context and the guise of subjective value-judgments, but the unconscious factors inherent in the initial assumptions. Though they may yield certain facts in a prescribed and limited way, they give little information about how we experience life as individuals. 

Statistics lead back to standardized formulas which only reinforce our collective natures and ignore individual truth. Such a model is the most unachievable by the average it was meant to reflect; the psyche fades into the background — lost in the paradox of rules, exceptions, and false ideals.

Click here for information about my book.

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Science and Religion in a World of Confusion

The emotional confusion generated by… a major shift in values is only enhanced today by a profound lack of introspectionThe “suprapersonal factors” embodied in religious images are intended to orient us inwardly; to center and protect us from being swept away by mass contagion. 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.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious

It seems undeniable to anyone raised in the religious atmosphere of a generation ago that cultural values are changing. Whether praised or lamented, the current transition was an integral part of Jung’s work; what he described were historical changes in consciousness.

Sunday morning religious services still fill the airways; but, as mega-churches replace smaller communities of worship, and populations become more mobile and anonymous, religious devotion takes on a similarly impersonal character. 

The Bible remains the world’s best-seller, but does it reflect the personal values we espoused fifty years ago? Who doesn’t question the contradictions science has raised in its literal view of religious symbols? 

Political correctness has tempered public conversation in the face of increased diversity, but don’t most still believe in their religion with the same intensity of a generation ago? Though once-traditional spiritual views continue to splinter into increasingly diverse factions, doesn’t that mean further differentiation, a more nuanced perspective? A new dawn on a centuries-old collective horizon?

Panderers, preachers, and pulpiteers fall from the heavens like little Lucifers as they yield to their more animal natures — but, hasn’t that always been so? Isn’t it just more publicized as we tear away the veils of fading idols? Isn’t it the same old inflated image revealing human vulnerabilities to the natural facts beneath our ideals? A new struggle on a new psychic frontier? 

One man’s god is another man’s devil, but one fact still remains: an unknown deity drives us relentlessly forward — more compelling in the changes today than centuries of reflection have kept pace with. We may not choose it or even believe it, but isn’t that what history is? The slow coming to awareness of a psychic reality which defies comprehension beyond the rational knowledge of its parts?

So confusing is the symbolic nature of this mystery; so convincing our powers of rationalization, nothing seems certain to an honest mind but the false certainty of others. Objective knowledge has replaced subjective wisdom as the ultimate truth. Modern diversions only obscure the mystery further, hiding the dark face of inner reality.

On one side are the commercial mega-churches and their glitzy re-makes of the same old story, little changed. The personal relation to a deity seems only more impersonal through them. Is it a new improved product they sell or a diluted one — an unconscious image of belief, an indirect appeal to their own egos? Only another facade of certainty amid the unknown changes pushing from within?

Conversely, churches are driven to compete with a science that refutes the old truths with each new datum; it only gets more sophisticated. It’s no wonder they’re at odds; as ideologies, neither is aware of its own subjective bias. In the unconscious conflicts of one-sided ideals, they trade barbs like hostile brothers (or a stale-mated political process), neither bothered with the task of a greater good beyond its own partial concerns. 

What they believe in is plain enough; not words, but an irrational zeal defines it. Where is the humble soul in search of a truth which acknowledges its own inner opposite? If today’s consumer mindset and its object-philosophy are what we’re looking to for solutions, we’re in trouble. The buying and selling of partial truths and the mass marketing designed to manipulate unconscious emotions is not the way to consciousness. 

As ominous as the cultural changes have been in the last generation, we remain fixed on rational argument, cause and effect, and its literal view of events. Is the confusion beneath the facade a dim perception of a newer, darker deity? The unforeseen consequences, the off-spring of an irrational nature? 

Jung laid the basis for a science of the psyche through the study of its history: religion, philosophy, and science; a real psychological inspection of ideas, their origins, development, purposes and effects. His method was empirical, though not strictly rational. His comparative approach was a new way of examining our subjective natures within the context of an objective reality. Many sense the contradictions, though none can explain them.

The relativity of values is a more difficult reality to locate than any material fact. The scientist’s model of the atom as an analogy of the unfathomable depth of the smallest unit hints at Jung’s discoveries: physics has revealed a strange quantum world beneath the surface, just as the universe of institutional religious ideals hides a subjective truth. 

Jung’s symbolic view elaborated the nature of these opposed realities in terms of an unconscious opposite: thinking/feeling, rational science vs. the irrationality of a spiritual reality. Awareness of our dual natures signals neither the decline of religion nor the advance of science, but a new way of looking at both in which each becomes relative to the other.

For an interesting statistical look at the changing religious beliefs in America, see this link:


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Transitional Stages and the Types Problem

A momentous shift in values is taking place today. Dwarfed by the fascination with technology, the wisdom of the soul sinks under the weight of concrete knowledge. Science and religion have become adversaries; the individual, a mere tool for powerful interest groups. Our dual natures are increasingly brought into relief by ideological and political conflicts, the split in our personalities reflected back to us as in a mirror.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

In his, Psychological Types, Jung traced the symbolic aspects of religious and philosophical ideas to illustrate the historical opposition between two ways of relating to the world: extraverted and introverted. The primary value placed on the outer world of people and objects describes the extravert’s perspective, and the accent on the inner responses to them orients the introvert. While Jung’s description of the types problem in this example is presented as a projection of the poet’s own inner conflict, the cultural parallels are unmistakable.

Carl Spitteler’s, Prometheus and Epimetheus, shows how closely intertwined the processes of individuation and cultural transition are. Jung described the image formed in the poet’s imagination as a uniting symbol, a product of unconscious fantasy aimed at reconciling opposing tendencies. Only a profound existential conflict creates it.

The ancient Pandora bears the magic symbol: “… Pandora’s heavenly gift brings evil to the country and its inhabitants, just as in the classical myth diseases streamed forth to ravage the land when Pandora opened her box.” This is the perceived ‘disease’ of unconscious nature — a far deeper reality than the artificial persona of conscious ideals:

To understand why this should be so we must examine the nature of the symbol. The first to find the jewel were the peasants… They turned it about in their hands “until… they were utterly dumbfounded by its bizarre, immoral, illicit appearance.” When they brought the jewel to Epimetheus for examination, “his conscience… hid itself under the bed in great alarm...

Like a crab goggling wickedly and malevolently brandishing its crooked claws, Conscience peered out… and the nearer Epimetheus pushed the image the further Conscience shrank back with gesticulations of disgust. And so it sulked there silently, uttering not a word… in spite of all the king’s entreaties…” Jung:

Conscience evidently found the new symbol acutely distasteful. The king… bade the peasants bear the jewel to the priests.” Spitteler: “But hardly had Hiphil-Hophal [the high priest] glanced at the face of the image than he shuddered with disgust, and crossing his arms over his forehead as though to ward off a blow, he shouted: Away with this mockery! For it is opposed to God and carnal in its heart and insolence flashes from its eyes. 

The peasants then brought the jewel to the academy, but the professors found it lacked “feeling and soul, and moreover it wanted in gravity, and above all had no guiding thought.” In the end the goldsmith found the jewel to be spurious and of common stuff. On the marketplace, where the peasants tried to get rid of it, the police descended on the image and cried out:

“Is there no heart in your body and no conscience in your soul?  How dare you expose… this stark, shameless, wanton piece of nakedness?… And now, away with you at once! And woe betide you if the sight of it has polluted our innocent children and lily-white wives!

Jung’s interpretation was weighty, indeed: “The symbol is described by the poet as bizarre, immoral, illicit, outraging our moral feelings of the spiritual and divine; it appeals to sensuality, is wanton, and liable to endanger public morals by provoking sexual fantasies. These attributes define something that is blatantly opposed to moral values and aesthetic judgment because it lacks the higher feeling values, and the absence of a “guiding thought” suggests the irrationality of its intellectual content… Although it is nowhere stated, it is obvious that the “image” is of a naked human body — a “living form.” It expresses the complete freedom… and also the duty to be what one is… a symbol of man as he might be, the perfection of moral and aesthetic beauty moulded by nature and not by some artificial ideal.

Note Jung’s reference to the “higher feeling values” of collective consciousness as distinct from the primal emotions driving the natural psyche: the affliction of civilized man from the unconscious viewpoint is the disease of consciousness, an anticipation of wholeness which lies at the heart of projected conflict. Jung:

To hold such an image before the eyes of present-day man can have no other effect than to release everything in him that lies captive and unlived. If only half of him is civilized and the other half barbarian, all his barbarism will be aroused, for a man’s hatred is always concentrated on the thing that makes him conscious of his bad qualities…”

Five thousand years of civilization, two millennia of Christian moral ideals, and a century of objective science have barely touched the barbarian in us. He is our connection with the spirit of nature, with earthly reality and all its inhabitants. As we destroy them for our own desires, we also destroy ourselves.

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A Science of Religion or a Religion of Technology?

Centuries of spiritual idealism which sought to develop the soul have instead convinced us that we have only to believe in it to achieve it – for those who can still believe. For those who can’t, a new ideal of material progress now discards the too-taxing task of looking inward as not worth the effort.

Media-driven thing-obsession and near compulsive consumption divert vital energies… advanced technologies draw us further outside ourselves and into devices. Instant access and constant exposure to the subliminal effects of marketing and advertising cultivate unconscious emotions so paradoxical that what is meant to emancipate and connect also finds us dependent and alienated — our most personal and intimate needs indistinguishable from carefully instilled, pre-packed desires.

A struggling clergy, unable to translate the older values into contemporary terms, cannot defend its views in the face of rational argument. Literally interpreted, religious symbols not only don’t make sense to a science based on observable facts, they appear ridiculous and even silly. Worn half-truths and a declining relevance find modern mega-churches resorting to the same impersonal strategies driving business and political interests: mass commercial appeal. Science and religion have become adversaries competing for consumers; the individual, an insignificant statistic buried under the anonymity of target groups, market niches, and sales pitches.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

In a previous post, I quoted Jung’s definitions of rational and irrational. One of his most important contributions was the empirical picture he sketched of the symbolic (irrational) reality behind the mythic flight of Western religious history.

It finds us still chasing an inner paradox — but with the same literal perspective of centuries ago. So anxious is consciousness for certainty, the deepest mysteries of existence are now the arid artifacts of intellect. The open contradictions in the former view have been replaced by more obscure ones.

The new contradictions, however, remain the same unconscious compensations which violently reject the half-truths of conscious reality, and our long history of ideological conflict attests the fact still today.

As rationally as we may see the world (and ourselves), deeper contradictions than stone idols and material objectivity define us. You may sense the paradox in our space-age illusions: gods no longer record and reflect human deeds. Conscience (individual accountability to a higher power) is replaced by the watchful eye of satellites: a distant, artificial perspective which has dissolved the old deities and now takes their place. Such are the mysteries of psychic reality…

In a reference to Christianity, Joseph Campbell once remarked that its hostility to nature was unique in world mythology. Identification with the intellect evokes the negative side of repressed emotions, and this bi-polarity will find us always in profound conflict. Until we become aware of our inner natures such that we can question our own sanity, the greatest threat to humanity will be in the projected conflicts of collective ideologies.

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

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

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

The civil rights movement exploded; a confused and off-balance culture began to perceive its conflicts on two levels. The shadow-image before seen outside now appeared inside, and the clash of changing values suddenly burst through the tension. The ugly ego-hypocrisy of race relations and a divisive war formed the tipping point of a deeper problem which captured young people world-wide.

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

Since that time, psychology has snatched a few crumbs of objectivity from the plate of science — from the otherworldly fare of the gods it was called upon by its own nature to digest. Its rational conceptions, however, seem not to have allayed psychic conflict but only increased it (to its own benefit). Religious symbolism, the objective foundation of consciousness, is now conceived objectively as useless fantasy…

And science only fancies the more that it can extricate us from the threats of its inventions by even more novel creations to divert us with (mainly for profit); though its fealty to the material world creates psychic consequences which are the more threatening the more objectively its solutions are conceived. That the technological age could be a by-product of our Christian hostility to nature, few consider in the blinding glare of material progress.

The dark, earthly shadows lurking in the background go right on generating the same old compensations — only the times and circumstances change to reflect ever more sophisticated repressions. Psychology tags along behind an objective science, assuming it can discover the depth of nature’s spirit, not by experiencing its mystery, but by soaring above it with the same certainty the preachers use to avoid it.

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Culture in Crisis

“Western culture, whose crisis we are experiencing today, differs from all others known to us in that, although a continuum, it finds itself in a continual process of change… The conventional division into classical, medieval, and modern is wholly fallacious… deeper analysis will show a picture of Western man in continuous movement and counter-movement, but moving steadily in a direction fixed from the very beginning: the emancipation of man from nature and consciousness from unconscious.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins And History Of Consciousness, 1954.

Since the beginning of time (or our conscious construct of it), our attempts to emancipate ourselves from the harsh reality of nature is understandable; but, recorded history is mostly humans in violent conflict with each other. That aspect of our inner nature remains unchanged since the first of days, and neither science nor religion can make sense of it without deeper understanding of the psychic facts behind it.

In a previous post, I sketched out some ideas that may seem random but which “hang together in a meaningful way”, as Jung phrased it. What appear as random ideas are associations to functions which, with knowledge and reflection, form a wider picture than conscious perception alone can see. Jung showed how only the symbolic view which perceives its own subjectivity can reconcile what logic sees as a paradox.

For a broader understanding of Neumann’s statement, I offer an overview of the empirical facts associated with the crisis we now find ourselves in. Though this crisis has been relentlessly (and unconsciously) pursued since Adam and Eve consumed that fascinating fruit which divorced us from our own natures, it’s clear that if we continue in this direction with the same unreflecting abandon, if we can’t come terms with our destructive tendencies, our loftiest dreams will become even more nightmarish than they already are.

Based on Jung’s and Neumann’s work, this excerpt is taken from an earlier post, though I think it bears repeating. It 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… 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… 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… 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 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.”

 From: A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

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Psyche, Science, and Subjectivity

Each individual sees the world a little differently according to… 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… advance from collective thinking to individual differentiation accentuates this subjective influence. The tendency toward specialization and the proliferation of “isms” attests this movement.” – A Mid-life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

The spirit of the times shapes our assumptions early and generally determines what we see as real and unreal.  Just as thought has developed over centuries, we spend our lives in a fog of belief without really being able to distinguish personal realities from the collective illusions we inherit. Honest people will spend their entire lives learning about themselves.

One assumption of the current scientific belief-system is the idea that we can observe psychic life objectively. Group-identification offers a fixed orientation, a sense of certainty; yet however desirable these may be, they remain wishful compensations for a dream-like interior world of images which is anything but fixed. It’s a shadowy, chaotic realm of uncertainty so foreign in appearance and structure to consciousness, it’s often repressed — even considered meaningless.

But, there are established principles which afford a rough outline of the interior world. I’m convinced that one of the reasons Jung’s work is not more widely accepted is that his concepts are too opposed to our traditional views of how consciousness works. His discoveries are as disturbing and startling as Galileo’s findings were to the Church.

One of the empirical descriptions Jung established was of a purposive psychic system designed to orient us to the unknown, the unpredictable – a world of nature affecting us as much from within as without. Rationalism in this sense can be seen as a defense against the irrational — yet still projected onto an objective nature much as it was centuries ago.

Like anything psychic, the subjective factor has a dual nature. As relative as it may be, without it we’re not much more than herd animals led this way and that, not by governments and media so much as the unconscious instinctual forces working through them. Below consciousness, an individual nature is set against a collective inner world of images which is superimposed on a concrete reality.

This deeper conflict is governed by an instinctual principle which contains the opposites within itself. It shows all the qualities of the will and intention of consciousness, though it works below awareness. Conceived as spirit, it reflects ideas which gravitate around the psyche’s demands on consciousness: where concrete reality meets a symbolic one. It’s impossible to make sense of its truth from the perspective of things and bodies and their perceived effects on one another.

Our reductive thinking is balanced by psychic processes which aim forward. They channel the opposites into a uniform flow, a natural gradient. Viewed the other way around, the conscious capacity for focus compensates the blind will of instinctual nature and allows the sun of individual choice and creativity to peek through its unconscious cloud. It also illustrates the struggle with an objective will which is presupposed in any natural process of development.

Our history is the result of mental functions shaped by a psychic reality which corresponds to an objective outer one, though mirrored in symbolic form and often opposed to the conscious way of thinking. Changes such as the last century has seen reflect new stages of awareness. Though acted out on a physical stage, we evolve according to psychic patterns. On the surface, history is great personalities, wars, and the founding of civilized institutions; but underneath, it’s the gradual coming to awareness of the objective will of nature conceived in all living things.

These are at least partial truths which factor into all activity, and where we’re not conscious of them is where our vulnerabilities are hidden. Our self-images are double-sided, and exaggerated tendencies point to undeveloped functions. In large things and small, an inflated consciousness sees only itself as the vehicle of change, and only then in its positive aspects. Negative ones are always caused by others — yet we, too, are those others.

Though we’re fascinated by our own creative thought and how we’ve changed the world for our biological comfort and convenience, we’re little more aware of our psychological functioning — why we do what we do — than our ancient Greek counterparts. In some ways, we’re surely less aware. The dark wisdom of a mythic psyche lies unseen behind the modern conscious reality, dimmed by the glare of science and knowledge.

But for each perceived gain, a Pandora’s box of negative consequences ensue. Do we will our destructive tendencies? Of course not, yet an objective nature works in us to compensate our conscious choices. Destructive consequences are signals of imbalance, misconception, and unrealistic thinking. Considered solely from the causal viewpoint, each attempt at a solution only brings another set of dangerous consequences with it.

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The Soul as a Function of Relationship

Projection is a fundamental mechanism of the psyche, a strategy derived from the fact that what is unconscious is projected… Jung has written that “the general psychological reason for projection is always an activated unconscious that seeks expression… Projection is never made; it happens, it is simply there. In the darkness of anything external to me I find, without recognizing it as such, an interior or psychic life that is not my own.” —  The Middle Passage, James Hollis.

The nature of conscious focus requires unconscious functions to translate this dark interior life to it. Beyond the intellectual understanding of the concept, projection is so relative to individual perception that only the most intimate experience can describe its effects. Jung’s work was devoted to organizing these subjective experiences into an empirical picture; his studies of how the psyche expresses itself seem especially important today:

… since the soul, like the persona, is a function of relationship, it must consist in a certain sense of two parts — one part belonging to the individual, and the other adhering to the object of relationship, in this case the unconscious… in relation to the activity of consciousness, the contents of the unconscious lay the same claim to reality on account of their obstinate persistence as do the real things of the external world, even though this claim must appear very improbable to a mind that is “outer-directed.”

“It must not be forgotten that there have always been many people for whom the contents of the unconscious possess a greater reality than the things of the outside world. The history of human thought bears witness to both realities. A more searching investigation of the human psyche shows beyond question that there is in general an equally strong influence from both sides on the activity of consciousness… psychologically, we have a right on purely empirical grounds to treat the contents of the unconscious as just as real as the things of the outside world, even though these two realities are mutually contradictory…

The two systems comprise a complementary or compensatory relationship. The diffuse and undifferentiated nature of unconscious reality not only indirectly influences a more selective consciousness, it creates the energy for its activities. The conscious mind acts; what are its deeper purposes in relation to the unseen reality behind it? Science, however objectively it works in the external world, without psychological concepts, can only be a partial picture of its conscious intent. Jung wrote: “…to subject one reality to the other would be an altogether unjustifiable presumption.

The danger today is that consciousness has created circumstances which can’t be understood without knowledge of the unconscious purposes behind them. For that, we need empirical concepts neither religion, philosophy, nor material science can supply. We’ve reached a stage of dissociation from our natural state such that the unconscious is in open rebellion. But, the problems are always caused by others. Who are these ‘others’?

The peculiar reality of unconscious contents gives us the same right to describe them as objects as the things of the outside world. Now just as the persona, being a function of relationship, is always conditioned by the external object and is anchored as much in it as in the subject, so the soul, as a function of relationship to the inner object, is represented by that object; hence she is always distinct from the subject in one sense and is actually perceived as something different.

In the same way as a man who surrenders entirely to the outside world still has the world as an object distinct from himself, the unconscious world of images behaves as an object distinct from the subject even when a man surrenders to it completely. And just as the world of mythological images speaks indirectly, through the experience of external things, to the man who surrenders wholly to the outside world, so the real world and its demands find their way indirectly to the man who has surrendered wholly to the soul; for no man can escape both realities.”

For those who perceive the soul, Jung wrote, it’s ambivalent, even demonic “because the inner object, the suprapersonal, collective unconscious with which she is connected as the function of relationship, gleams through her. The unconscious, considered as the historical background of the human psyche, contains in concentrated form the entire succession of engrams (imprints) which from time immemorial have determined the psychic structure as it now exists. These engrams are… function-traces that typify, on average, the most frequently and intensively used functions of the human psyche.

Jung described psychic ambivalence as “borderline phenomena” afflicting those devoted to either the inner or outer world. The so-called normal individual, he wrote, “knows nothing of these cruel enigmas. They do not exist for him. It is always only a few who reach the rim of the world where its mirror image begins. For the man who always stands in the middle the soul has a human and not a dubious, daemonic character…

Yet, it is just these ‘normal’ individuals who are the disaster humanity has become for the world today. Conditions have changed dramatically in the last century. A neglected inner world, whether perceived or not, now supports an entire industry dedicated to relieving ‘normal’ individuals of the unconscious ambivalence designed to dissolve our projections. We can’t say what’s normal today. The idea is so subjective, so relative, changes in consciousness so diverse and fast-paced that what was ‘true’ for the last generation is false for the modern one. 

That “no man can escape both realities” is evident in our fascination with the material world and the unconscious response to it. We are as primitive in self-knowledge as we are sophisticated in the knowledge of objects. A sense of spirit, one of the “most frequently and intensively used functions of the human psyche” has become unconscious — only to re-emerge as dangerous ideological obsessions, compulsive consumption, and bi-polar projections so one-sided that human life can’t be described as normal but through its own projections.

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The Search for Subjective Truth

“I tried to give expression to the process as it formed in me. I followed the unconscious directives without preconception as to where they might lead, allowing them as far as possible to create their own picture. The result was both a story and an example, an analogy, of Jung’s model: a description of how psychic energy flows toward unconscious aims through the elaboration of ideas.” –  A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious

Jung began his empirical investigations of the psyche over a hundred years ago. He’d long been drawn to philosophy and religion in accordance with the spirit of the times and his upbringing. While he was intellectually inclined, his father was a country pastor who believed devoutly in man’s service to God; his mother leaned toward the occult and even held seances.

As a psychiatrist at the turn of the last century, he saw an increasingly scientific world-view coming into open conflict with a religious outlook that had changed little over centuries. He was intuitively drawn to balance the schism and so began the task of reconciling a rational scientific method to an irrational psychic reality. It was largely misconstrued — and no wonder:

Science was in full swing. The fruits of its method had gained rapidly since the Renaissance. New ways of thinking excited inquiring minds as never before, and rational science split from philosophy. Once the printing press freed knowledge from the clutches of the Church, and hungry souls peered beyond its veil, thought began to expand at exponential rates. So long had the natural mind been repressed by other-worldly fixations, nature became an oyster to be devoured in the sauce of a thousand new discoveries.

Jung’s intellectual breadth straddled both views at a time when a major shift in consciousness was altering the way we see the world in unprecedented measure. His studies afforded him a wider historical perspective than the narrow rational approach of his clinical contemporaries.

A rigorous empiricist, he applied his comparative method to all things psychic. Myths, artifacts, dreams, art, and literature concealed unconscious processes invisible to the causal eye. Jung condensed his knowledge of symbols into core ideas and concluded that experience is shaped by pre-conscious forms which reflect psychic functions. Such ideas weren’t new, but his empirical studies laid the groundwork for concepts which went beyond philosophical speculation.

He introduced his landmark theory of psychic energy in 1912. His, Symbols of Transformation, caught the new reductive psychology off-balance. It traced the flow of unconscious energy forward through symbolic ideas which compensated the causal method of medicine.

He saw causality as applicable only up to a certain point. Beyond its limitations, a prospective, goal-oriented viewpoint is necessary to discern the unconscious purposes of our motives. His ideas separated him from the more subjective biases of his mentor, though he later remarked that his psychological education began not with Freud but with Nietzsche.

He illustrated his efforts to reconcile a statistical, personalistic psychology with the historical facts of its nature through changes in philosophical and religious ideas. Below ego’s temporal perspective, they reflected inner conditions which compensated consciousness. The objective orientation of the modern intellect is only the most recent addition to an animal psyche with its own innate demands. 

His, Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, amplified the model he advanced in 1912. Based on the laws of energy and the unconscious clash and cooperation of the opposed forces underlying its production, his adaptations of physical laws to psychology were verifiable and predictable — but in a way logical thought was not accustomed to.

Symbolically, the facts of psychic opposition are projected in many forms: gods and devils, conflicts between the sexes, instinct and reason, the individual vs. society, progression/regression, and on through religious wars and ideological and political disputes. The compensating structure of conscious/unconscious reverberates in every human activity. These opposites reflect the dual nature of psychic energy. 

Because the unconscious puts a premium on the development of the individual as “the only real carrier of life”, an increasing subjectivity accentuates certain functions to the exclusion of others. Jung outlined them in his, Psychological Types. Cultural changes reflect shifts in consciousness that can be compared historically to show trends in development.

Jung traced conditions which initially appeared as basic social structures but gradually dissolved into personal qualities. The enslavement of the masses in antiquity for the advantage of a privileged few was only one phase in a fluid process of psychological differentiation which re-emerged centuries later in the individual as a subjective function. The bias of type and attitude proved to be a new stage in the evolution of consciousness.

Just as a privileged few enslaved those subject to their tyranny, the preferred individual function grew focused enough to repress other functions. It expanded the creative abilities of individuals to contribute to cultural advancement. As consciousness sharpened its ability to focus, however, it also narrowed. The new gain in focus began to repress a more diffuse spiritual instinct. For every gain, something was forfeited.

Jung showed how instrumental to human development the unconscious force of the Christian message really was: the idea of the soul, the psychic stability of the smallest unit, the real carrier of life. It took root over centuries as a subjective function — the not-so-conscious task of the individual in its most recent form.

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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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