The ‘Disease’ of Consciousness

Jung saw neuroses as psychic conflicts that occur when consciousness strays from its unconscious nature. That purposely open-ended concept has since been twisted by the subjective aims and assumptions of modern medicine into so many stylized disorders that manuals are needed to account for them.

The tendency of science is to attack problems logically, though Jung conceived conscious life as an irrational process of coming to terms with a pre-existent psychic reality. When the subjective mind focuses on its own thought, it can get so lost in itself that an emprical picture looks like fantasy — self-search becomes self-delusion. The psyche is not the object of study today, but the data itself — the individual, a mere by-product of an impersonal science:

Energy is produced by tension or friction between two opposing poles. As are all energic processes, body/mind is an unconsciously regulated unity governed by natural law; how and where they converge is an unfathomable mystery that can’t be known. As consciousness is a partial complex, it sees only partial processes; Jung saw the unconscious in terms of its dual nature: causality and purpose, rational and irrational, sensual and spiritual are subjective interpretations of an unconscious life-continuum.

However mystical it may appear to a science based on method and causality, Jung studied unconscious effects also from a goal-oriented perspective. Their dual nature and the relations between opposites prompted him to consider the data from both angles. He found that each was unfixed; relative to the other but also individually conditioned — a considerably more complicated picture than the standard medical view. 

His comparative approach was distinctly psychological, and the empirical facts he established can change the way we see ourselves. Once acquainted with them, there’s nothing mystical about his concepts. What was once only speculative philosophy, he arranged into an empirical outline circumscribing the relations between psychic opposites and how we perceive them, not the causal effects of concrete objects in space.

He saw psychic functions as having specific energies. His studies showed that we identify primarily with one function over others: thinking excludes feeling to record information; feeling represses thinking when weighing values. Accidental circumstances would find us paralyzed with indecision were it not for instinctual processes perceptible through inner images: spontaneous self-representations of unconscious reactions as supplements to the conscious view.

The identity of image and object is designed for quick response in the external world. Because of the need for immediate action, only a part of the total image is perceived at a given time. The focus necessary to respond to fluid conditions is complemented by subliminal emotions which fuse into the image of object and circumstance and are reflected back after the fact.

Memory associations, along with intuitive fantasy images, are projected into concrete experiences. Because life exists only in singular form, all experience is relative to the individual.

But, since the psyche consists also of collective/social instincts, similarities are more apparent than differences to a general method based on averages. Nature, however, has accentuated the reflective instinct in a self-aware animal; the unconscious compels consciousness to its directives through complexes of ideas.

Conscious attention is attracted by the intensity of energy fluctuating among functions according to changing needs. Collective reactions are also intensely personal, and their relative nature determines perceptions which orient in two directions. 

A concrete external orientation can’t readily discern things from ideas, and the unconscious pushes its ideas across the threshold of awareness via symbol-images. With reflection, personal associations attach to them as a measure of the energy compelling attention. The deeper we explore, the more pronounced their religious and philosophical character. Despite what material science tells us, it’s an irrational function with the dual purpose of reconciling the conflicting needs of self and other.

Jung’s studies revealed the religious function to be as basic as the biological imperative. All human endeavor points to its lifting of thought toward moral reflection. These two poles of instinct are so inextricably intertwined that the further back into history we look, the less distinguishable they are. “Food for the soul” is a shadowy slip of their deep alliance.

It reflects not only biological functions as seeds of psychological ideas but the intuitions which carry them forward. Long expressed in the idea of a trinity, it proceeds from a single unconscious idea and then splits into partial images as a developing mind reflects on it. 

Pairs of opposites dictate the moral relations between self and others. The idea of a personal soul as mediator of inner images is a natural function of wholeness and reconciliation, an inborn urge for conscious unity: one of the most profound needs of the human animal. The idea of a single god is not just an ideal directing moral development but a natural image which compensates the split nature of consciousness.

The psychic functions designed to reconcile our dual orientation depend on conscious distinctions between the opposites to work according to our natures. Obsession and devotion, compulsion and desire, healing and disease, are relative; unconscious ideas which are more emotional than intellectual. Only their symbolic content can tell us whether our assumptions are subjective diversions or natural functions.

For a poetic exploration of the symbolic relations between the opposites, visit Amazon.

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Commercialism and the New Philistines

Commercialism has destroyed literature… Criticism has been eliminated, for who will pay for it? The publisher, and the newspaper which lives on his advertisements, wants every book to sell…” — Aleister Crowley, 1923

With today’s further commercial leveling down of ideas in mind, I offer this parable from the foreword to James Branch Cabell’s, Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice, 1919:

“The Judging of Jurgen

Now a court was held by the Philistines to decide whether or no King Jurgen should be relegated to limbo. And when the judges were prepared… there came into the court a great tumblebug… With the creature came pages, in black and white, bearing a sword, a staff and a lance.

This insect looked at Jurgen, and its pincers rose erect in horror. The bug cried… “Now, by St. Anthony! this Jurgen must forthwith be relegated to limbo, for he is offensive and lewd and lascivious and indecent.”

“And how can that be?” says Jurgen.

“You are offensive,” the bug replied, “because this page has a sword which I choose to say is not a sword…. lewd because that page has a lance which I prefer to think is not a lance… lascivious because yonder page has a staff which I elect to declare is not a staff. And finally, you are indecent for reasons of which a description would be objectionable to me, and which therefore I must decline to reveal…”

“Well, that sounds logical,” says Jurgen, “but still… it would be no worse for an admixture of common sense. For you gentlemen can see for yourselves, by considering these pages fairly and as a whole, that these pages bear a sword, a lance and a staff, and nothing else whatever; and you will deduce, I hope, that all the lewdness is in the insectival mind of him who itches to be calling these things by other names.”

The judges said nothing… But they that guarded Jurgen, and all the other Philistines, stood to this side and to that side with their eyes shut tight, and… said: “We decline to look at the pages fairly and as a whole, because to look might… imply a doubt of what the tumblebug has decreed… as long as the tumblebug has reasons which he declines to reveal, his reasons stay unanswerable and you are plainly a prurient rascal who are making trouble for yourself.”

“To the contrary,” says Jurgen, “I am a poet, and I make literature.”

“But in Philistia to make literature and… trouble for yourself are synonymous… I know, for already we… have been pestered by three of these makers of literature. Yes, there was Edgar, whom I starved and hunted until I was tired of it: then I chased him up a back alley one night, and knocked out those annoying brains of his. And there was Walt whom I… battered from place to place, and made a paralytic of him: and him, too, I labelled offensive and lewd and lascivious and indecent. And then later there was Mark, whom I frightened into disguising himself in a clown’s suit so that nobody might suspect him of being a maker of literature. I frightened him so that he hid away the greater part of what he had made until after he was dead, and I could not get at him. That was a disgusting trick to play on me, I consider…”

“Now, but these three,” cried Jurgen, “are the glory of Philistia: and of all that Philistia has produced, it is these three alone, whom living ye made least of, that to-day are honored wherever art is honored…”

“What is art to me and my way of living?” replied the tumblebug, wearily. “I have no concern with art and letters and the other lewd idols of foreign nations. I have in charge the moral welfare of my young… and trust with St. Anthony’s aid to raise them to be God-fearing tumblebugs like me… For the rest, I have never minded dead men being well-spoken-of.  No, no, my lad: once whatever I may do means nothing to you, and once you are really rotten, you will find the tumblebug friendly enough. Meanwhile I am paid to protest that living persons are offensive and lewd and lascivious and indecent…”

Then the Philistines who stood to this side and to that side said in indignant unison: “And we… are not at all in sympathy with those who would take any protest against the tumblebug as a justification of what they are pleased to call art. The harm done by the tumblebug seems to us very slight, whereas the harm done by the self-styled artist may be very great.”

Jurgen now looked more attentively at this queer creature: and he saw that the tumblebug was malodorous, certainly, but at bottom honest and well-meaning; and this seemed to Jurgen the saddest thing he had found among the Philistines. For the tumblebug was sincere in his insane doings, and all Philistia honored him sincerely, so that there was nowhere any hope for these people.

Therefore King Jurgen addressed himself… to submit to the strange customs of the Philistines. “Now do you judge me fairly,” cried Jurgen to his judges, “if there be any justice in this mad country. And if there be none, do you relegate me to limbo or to any other place, so long as in that place this tumblebug is not omnipotent and sincere and insane.”

And Jurgen waited….”

Times may have changed somewhat between then and now, but one thing is certain: the tension between individual and culture is at the core of creative conflict. It’s what separates us from animals. Will we be animals with human potential or only egos with animal desires?

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The Hottest New TV Shows You’ll Never See

“The deed is one thing; the image of the deed is quite another, and the wheels of causality do not roll between the two.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

The new fall line-up is here. How and why certain shows are chosen over others is a very complicated process involving everything from random questionnaires to very precisely targeted focus-groups — even the latest psychiatric techniques (with the exception of drugs) for guiding those who occasionally over-indulge their individuality back inside the safety of the norm.

Their effectiveness isn’t precisely quantified as yet, for they in turn rest upon a considerably more complicated process: the unconscious complexes of network executives and their speculations on the whimsical emotional projections of the collectorate they pander to.

Because you and I, as the unknown ‘quantum variable’ in every decision made for our collective consumer needs, have such limited personal choice in what we see and don’t see, here are some new pilots that sailed over network heads:

What’s My Dysfunction?

This amusing re-take on the sixties game show, What’s My Line? puts the fun back in dysfunction. Charismatic host Burf Burford mocks and mediates a panel of distinguished celebrities who compete through a series of questions to guess the peculiar mental afflictions of weekly guests. The pilot narrowly edged out two close contenders:  a new sit-com, I’m With Stupid, and singing competition, American Idle, for a studio audience screening.

Response was tepid. The majority felt that, while it was slightly amusing, it made light of mental illness and evoked discomfort — mostly about family members and neighbors. The sensitivity of the subject hit ‘too close to home’. In separate interviews, however, men described it as tedious and boring compared to reality competition shows like, Naked Bachelorette, and Nude Bridal Wars, and lacked spontaneity. Execs nixed it in favor of Bared And Scared, and its proven recipe of educational content and emotional intensity.

Dr. Do-Little

He talks to animals but not the kind you’re thinking of. This farcical re-mix of the old My Three Sons motif features a modern-day psychiatrist/dad struggling to raise three offspring in the wake of a divorce. In the pilot, Dr. Abnorm Drowse is faced with the sole custody of marital fruits which have suddenly morphed into rotten teen-age couch-potatoes.

To top it off, they’re all precocious girls with very different notions than the authoritarian, patriarchal values their dad was raised with. All his psychiatric training and experience go hilariously awry as he tries helplessly to confront feminine puberty from the male perspective in the modern computer age. These ironically spell his demise as both parent and professional, and Dr. Dad soon discovers that the only prescription for self-esteem  is self-medication!

Christ On A Crimson Crutch

This irreverent look at conventional religion follows the antics of self-anointed sojourner and bhuddistic metaphor, Howie Greeve, as he wanders aimlessly across the country in search of a lost spiritual ideal. His quirky mixture of introverted/extraverted tendencies leads not to spiritual salvation, however, but to a comical series of gaffes and guffaws in the ‘drive-through’ relationships he encounters on his way.

Clumsy attempts to appeal to wider viewing audiences through the marriage of the adolescent road trip theme with the more mature search for the soul was not enough, however, to warrant a thumbs-up from either focus group. Most outside New Jersey felt that it was not a true picture of travel Americana but a circus-like caricature of commercialism and the fast-food communities that dominate even rural life around interstate exits.

Madam President

This edgy new sit-com troubled network execs from the start. Studio audience response was split fifty-fifty; that is, until the last scene which introduces the surprise theme of this social experiment. The new POTUS is not just any female politician; there’s much more behind her interest in the LGBT community than political correctness and minority voter appeal. In fact, “she” puts the ‘T’ in LGBT, and not only did no one know — not even her husband — the crazy fall-out sends her PR agency scrambling to re-define sexual equality in a new post-gender age!

Though the final scene dipped approval ratings slightly, this in itself was not enough for execs to cancel it. Most women found it delightful; however, it was noted in tape reviews that many of the men who expressed distaste had ‘laughed a little too hard’ during the screening for it to be canned altogether. While considered too controversial to be aired this fall, it was put on the back burner as a possible replacement for ‘clunkers’ which bottom out before spring re-runs.

Einstein’s Ghost

Nerdy social outcast and computer whiz, Ned Bungler, has a secret weapon when it comes to the over-bearing emotional compensations of school bullies. His personal spirit-guide is not just any old imaginary friend but the world-famous physicist who proved that space and time are relative. He communicates to Ned through his My-Phone, and you’ve never seen death, science, and the space-time continuum through such a foggy, fun-filled lens. It’s the new counter-intuitive, double reality of psychic inter-facing in the digital age: asocial networking!

… and the wheels of causality do not roll between the two.


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Personal Conflicts and Cultural Ideals

Our notions of mental health are as much cultural as medical. Not even doctors are immune from the spirit of the time, and unconscious assumptions grounded in material philosophy, statistics, and causality artificially conceive the idea of disorder apart from any concept of development. Jung showed empirically that they’re inseparable.

Life’s transitions are the conflicts of individual development. Though steadily gaining momentum into mid-life, Erich Neumann demonstrated that what we see as the stages of life are the ‘fits and starts’ of a continual process which is present from the beginning and becomes conscious only at certain critical points.

Whatever you’ve been taught by those who benefit from your lack of knowledge (and theirs, too), transitional problems aren’t ‘diseases’. You may feel like they are as a result of having had no instruction about their underlying purposes; though, as Jung suggested, their design is to compel inner attention. The tension between individual and culture is a basic psychological conflict which aim is development. How else can we perceive an objective inner nature through a collective lens which sees the unconscious, if it sees it all, as regressive?

Confronting unconscious demands is a difficult task for anyone, but doubly so for the extraverted mindset today. We’re conditioned to see material and social needs as foremost. Psychic conflicts outside that ideal are symptomatic, partly because inner development is strange and confusing to it. Who hasn’t asked themselves: ‘what’s wrong with me?’

But they appear this way also because we’re causally oriented. Causes are plenty for those who look for them — but, without a concept of unconscious purpose, there is only a backward picture of the most defining aspect of psychic energy.

Though the unconscious guides most through life’s transitions with relatively little friction, if one can’t repress the conflicts and they become consuming, one is “in the soup”, as Jung referred to it. If not channeled into social ideals, it’s a ‘disorder’. The fact is, though, fewer and fewer are able to repress them today — a sign that our unconscious natures are coming into increasing opposition to cultural direction.

The biblical statement puts unconscious ideas into perspective: “Thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth; so is every man who is born of the Spirit.” Beneath the persona, we’re not just prisoners in dark and lonely cells of existential angst, but profoundly individual beings with psychological needs intended to relate us to ourselves, too. Our most intimate problems are our relation to the inner spirit. Nature has set a high premium on this function in the only real carrier of life: the individual.

The spiritual function is not rational. Some concept of the psyche’s irrationality is needed to understand the purposes of symbolic ideas. It’s no coincidence that unconscious intuitions of humanity’s future from a developmental perspective, ‘life after death’, are major factors in religious philosophy. Without such guiding ideas, ego exists only for itself in present-time.

Despite conscious illusions, the most basic statements about how the psyche works reveal that we don’t know who we are: it’s a process of becoming, and the more preconceived, the more elusive is self-knowledge. Undeveloped aspects of the personality revolve around complexes of ideas. If we can’t relate to them, they remain split off and acquire an energy which leads to problems we don’t understand and can’t control. Dissociation is a natural condition not confined to pathology.

Jung showed that the conflicts created by split-off complexes are attempts at healing which work through the least developed function. It’s the bridge to the unconscious, and it has a spiritual, philosophical character. That these conflicts are considered diseases is a revealing statement about the atrophy of the religious function today. That it’s conceived this way by a psychology which sees itself as science is further testament to its misunderstanding. The religious function may now be obscured by the scientific perspective, but it in no way implies that we’ve outgrown the historical enigma of what it means to be human.

Jung stressed its psychic reality, and consciousness is not its arbiter. To pretend otherwise is fantasy. It’s the source of evolution and the cornerstone of religion, and its everywhere but in the intellect. How do we evaluate an objective psyche so far beyond our comprehension that all humanity before us conceived it as a god? We would do well to reconsider our contemporary notions of spirit and compare them with those historical intuitions which were much closer to psychic truth than our present rationalism.

The concepts to do that are here now. We can no longer conceive the old fantasies literally. The mind of the past lived a different world than we know today. Though the fantasy-symbols were carefully manipulated to maintain power, on earth where it really counted, all were in some way devoted to a higher power and a distant future however fantastically conceived

Science has filled the black hole of projection which once created the gods, the ancient image of potential which so long ago intuited conscious development. It has extracted from that image only the intellectual part which would make grand an uncertain earthly creature so afraid of its own unconscious nature, it views its own development as a disease.

Read more about symbolic ideas and development, or visit Amazon.

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Science, Psychology, and the Subjective Mind

More and more studies, while not disproving altogether Woody Allen’s theory that the brain is the second most important organ, continue to amass evidence to the contrary. In a paradoxical twist, new psychological theories suggest that what we think about a disorder may outweigh any ‘real’ effects of the disorder itself. In fact, what we now consider abnormal may soon be the new normal.

Modern diagnostics are so advanced that if there is even the latent possibility of a disorder, or the need or desire for one, it will be detected. This has raised new queries about the viability of science in the evaluation of mental illness; indeed, on its possible invention.

This re-visioning of therapy has prompted concerns over an alleged industry bias against the individual disposition. Critics charge that scientific credulity and impersonal assessment methods, along with the projected “symbol-complexes” of practitioners, make diagnosis “psychologically irresponsible if not negligent.”

Statistics show that a modern explosion in available treatment methods parallels “diagnostic over-reach”, leaving some to wonder if part of the problem might be a too-subjective classification system fitted to an ideal norm which is “ultimately unattainable, even as it depicts an average”. Within such contradictory confines, they argue, “the individual appears as a mere aggregate of eccentricities.”

Though the majority of consumer self-reports showed perceptions of progress after the suggested minimum of twelve sessions, those who underwent further treatment showed actual recovery rates similar to those with none at all. Many conditions deteriorated with extended treatment, prompting some to call for a revaluation of criteria.

Insiders confide that most consumers are presumed cured upon the declaration of bankruptcy and/or the reinstatement of driving privileges; though such later-stage variables as ‘high-school sweetheart syndrome’, ‘second-family delusional disorder’, and ‘transitional self-medication malaise’ were considered ‘pre-fixed norms’ and not included as ‘dispositional factors’.

Follow-up studies by legal firms representing insurance companies and maxed-out family members, however, found that ninety percent returned to therapy within a year. Recidivism rates compared with penitentiary internment, leading some experts to propose a “revolving door of therapy-addiction as a substitute for healthy narcissism.”

Crime rates, likewise, varied little between control groups — with one exception: those who underwent treatment before incarceration, when released, tended to commit more heinous crimes than those without therapy. In the system, even those in such informal programs as “Bibles Behind Bars”, “Inmates Need Mates, Too”, and “No Means No” were less violent than those who’d received formal therapy.

New theories are emerging which question the uncritical piling up of statistical data in support of industry interests. Along with Shamanism, Eye Rotation Therapy, and Dr. Wayne Dribble’s PBS snooze-fest, many are casting off the mantle of rational, scientific investigation for more holistic models of wishful thinking and the power of suggestion. One such intriguing model was conceived by Dr. Abnorm Drowze, the “irrational rationalist” of the Institute for Modern Solipsism:

Psycho-physics begins with the subliminal dynamics of the human dialogue. ‘Psycho’: ‘crazy’  – and ‘physics’: Greek for ‘out there’, combine the science of energy economics with a paradoxical process of ego-inflation designed to free the authentic personality from the false narrative of standardized therapy.

“At the core of Psycho-physics is the concept of projection. Certain feelings and intuitions confirm it to be psychologically meaningful; however, it cannot be scientifically proven to actually exist. Its subjective nature makes it relative to the individual in all cases.

“Since it is recalcitrant to objective appraisal, it’s seldom employed as a tool by method psychologies. These only ensure that its negative effects continue to work unconsciously. The evaluation of one subjective mind by another assumes the nature of a value judgment. The eo ipso assumption that such phenomena apply to the consumer alone, for example, leads to quite arbitrary conclusions and is therefore scientifically untenable, not to say intellectually unethical. The very definition of projection cricumscribes a universal function irrespective of education, social standing, or professional estimation.

“Equability demands its application also to the practitioner’s evaluation of so-called objective test results. For instance: Damitol is prescribed to a depressed consumer to raise flavinoid levels on the assumption that a chemical imbalance is the root cause. This view sees the body as having turned against itself, when in fact it has turned against the mind. Psychologically, this means the mind has turned against itself and speaks by proxy for a neglected body-image which is largely unconscious. The assumption of physical causation is only one side of the mind-body connection and reflects a split consciousness in conflict with its animal behavior. Such instinctive processes betray our dual natures and, when misconstrued, appear ‘crazy’ to practitioner and consumer alike.

“Quite natural self-protective instincts compel the consumer to react adversely to such implied judgments. A ‘knot of projection’ ensues in which consumer and practitioner each unconsciously think the other is ‘crazy’. Which carries the greater value? Both are unhampered presuppositions. The assumption that one outweighs the other is yet another subjective value-judgment.

“The practitioner’s projections will in fact self-replicate in direct proportion to the authority-complex. The principle of negative sums clearly states that the practitioner’s assumptions will not only exceed the consumer’s but cancel them out entirely. The result is that the judgment ‘crazy’ is unilaterally projected onto the consumer, the body’s chemistry, the test results – even onto the treatment. This is not a good thing.

“The therapeutic process often bogs down under the weight of this unspoken dialogue. Progress devolves into a ‘conspiratorial illusion’ which, more often than not, results in a stagnant state of mutual compensation and projection and leaves little hope for resolution.” 

 This is the point where psychology ends and the spiritual journey begins.

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A Cultural Mid-life Crisis?

Though we generally think of mid-life as an individual process, as a universal function, it applies to cultural changes as well. The similarities are notable, and Jung’s, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, highlights the parallels.

Regarding the conversion of opposites at mid-life, Jung wrote: “Just as before… disorders arose because… opposing fantasies were unconscious, so now other disorders arise through the repression of former idols.” The shift in focus over the last generation is undeniable; but increases in consciousness also depend on unconscious conditions:

It is of course a fundamental mistake to imagine that when we see the non-value in a value or the non-truth in a truth, the value or the truth ceases to exist. It has only become relative. Everything human is relative, because everything rests on an inner polarity; for everything is a phenomenon of energy. Energy necessarily depends on a pre-existing polarity, without which there could be no energy… Therefore the tendency to deny all previous values in favour of their opposites is just as much of an exaggeration as the earlier one-sidedness.

The point is not conversion into the opposite but conservation of previous values together with recognition of their opposites. Naturally this means conflict and self-division. It is understandable enough that one should shrink from it, philosophically as well as morally; hence the alternative sought, more often than conversion… is a convulsive stiffening of the previous attitude…. the symptoms, the rigidity, the narrow-mindedness… are unpleasant, not to say harmful; for their method of espousing a truth or any other value is so inflexible and violent that their umannerliness repels more than the truth attracts, so that the result is the opposite of the intended good. The fundamental cause of their rigidity is fear of the problem of opposites…”

Though religious fanaticism is an age-old euphemism for the fear of change, its cultural significance has declined since Jung’s time. The swing toward natural science continues to gain momentum since the so-called Age of Reason in the seventeenth century. But, as Jung noted, any conversion has its consequences. The rejection of religious values inherent in the shift toward science, however, is governed by the same general fear of inner opposition as the old extreme…

The brutality of the French Revolution which followed that lofty precursor of western rationalism continued unabated into the twentieth century. Jung wrote during WWI (remember? the War to end all Wars?): “…the rational attitude of culture necessarily runs into its opposite, namely the irrational devastation of culture.” A brief footnote in his 1943 revision reads: “As present events show, the confirmation did not have to wait very long.

“…one or other basic instinct, or complex of ideas, will invariably concentrate upon itself the greatest sum of psychic energy and thus force the ego into its service. As a rule the ego is drawn into this focus of energy so powerfully that it identifies with it and thinks it desires and needs nothing further. In this way a craze develops, a monomania or possession, an acute one-sidedness which most seriously imperils the psychic equilibrium.”

The shift from metaphysics to an “objective” science is the new monomania. Technology, media, and the atrophy of a collective value-system contribute to a paper-meche individualism while denying the subjective factor; contradictory unconscious tendencies whose energy exceeds intent appear only as conscious exaggerations. Ego-values subvert common goals and dissolve group-identities into anonymous aggregates – for those ambitious enough to exploit them. They’re beginnings of a new reality, but to understand what it points to requires a dual perspective  of unconscious functioning:

“The passion, the piling up of energy in these monomanias, is what the ancients called a “god,”… A man thinks he wills and chooses, and does not notice that he is already possessed, that his interest has become the master, arrogating all power to itself. Such interests are indeed gods of a kind which, once recognized by the many, gradually form a “church” and gather a herd of believers about them. This we then call an “organization.” It is followed by a disorganizing reaction which aims to drive out the devil…” The conversion into the opposite “… that always threatens when a movement attains to undisputed power offers no solution of the problem, for it is just as blind in its disorganization as it was in its organization.”

The decline of the Church means evolution, and it moves forward of its own accord. Only self-examination dissolves the projections of unconscious gods onto the ideologies that shroud the real personality. The seeds of their solutions begin with those who find meaning in their self-division; and our “bipolar” natures also provide symbolic solutions beyond conscious ingenuity. To think we would “cure” this condition only adds to the conflicts. Jung wrote of today’s misunderstanding of the psyche:

No matter how beautiful and perfect man may believe his reason to be, he can always be certain that it is only one of the possible mental functions, and only covers that one side of the phenomenal world which corresponds to it. But the irrational, that which is not agreeable to reason, rings it about on all sides. And the irrational is likewise a psychological function…”

This is surely the reason we were cursed with the “disease” of spiritual conflict: to explore the meaning and purpose of development; not just as individuals but as contributors to our evolution. Will we seek solutions to the excess energy of unconscious functioning through yet more technology?

The threat of extinction — the greatest power science owns — may force us to come to terms with it sooner rather than later. The development of unspeakable instruments of destruction implies reason and intent. This must be apparent to a psychology devoted to discovering how our minds work; that’s its business — isn’t it? Or maybe the business is part of the problem.

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Nature’s Child: Progress vs. Development

Why hast thou stolen into thyself, thyself?” — Friedrich Nietzsche

It may seem odd in this age of technology that anyone would suggest the idea of regression amid such fast-paced progress as we’ve seen in the last century. But, not only are the two ideas relative, together they form a complementary process in which neither works without the other. Psychological functions are paired in opposites designed to balance each other. Throughout centuries of shifts in conscious development, progress in one area means decline in another. Jung wrote:

The child motif represents not only something that existed in the distant past but… something that exists now… it is not just a vestige but a system functioning in the present whose purpose is to compensate or correct, in a meaningful manner, the inevitable… extravagances of the conscious mind. It is in the nature of the conscious mind to concentrate on relatively few contents and to raise them to the highest pitch of clarity. A necessary result and precondition is the exclusion of other contents of consciousness…” which is “… bound to bring about a certain one-sidedness.”

Jung saw the child motif as an aspect of the spirit archetype. As a primordial image, it still functions regardless of our views on science and religion — or, in more general terms, rational and irrational – at a given point in history. Science means progress in the spirit of our times, but it also carries with it a dangerous underside. It’s a flattering image for all who identify with it; but if history is any guide, identification with a single function leads to disaster. Despite our most storied achievements, it remain our Achilles’ heel:

Since the… consciousness of civilized man has been granted an effective instrument for the practical realization of its contents  through the dynamics of the will, there is all the more danger, the more he trains his will, of his getting lost in one-sidedness and deviating further and further from the laws and roots of his being. This means, on the one hand, the possibility of human freedom, but on the other it is a source of endless transgressions against one’s instincts. Accordingly, primitive man, being closer to his instincts, is characterized by a fear of novelty and adherence to tradition.”

But, as progress in one direction means regression in another, a kind of primitive fear still lurks in re-interpreting the religious function as opposed to simply dismissing it as fantasy against the literal truths of science. Obsession with novelty in one sphere compensates the fear of it in another, and though much is admirable in the technical creativity celebrated today, it makes for a perilous illusion of a darker psychic reality.

Erich Neumann’s description of the dissociability of the personality reads like a who’s who of the contemporary individual: ”This betrays itself in many ways… as a technologist he may be living in the present, as a philosopher in the period of the Enlightenment, as a man of faith in the Middle Ages and as a fighter of wars in antiquity — all without being in the least aware how, and where, these partial attitudes contradict each other.”

Superstitious beliefs in conscious unity often impede personal awareness, yet multiplied by seven billion the contradictions become evident in conflicting ideologies and the ceaseless speculations of political experts on cable news. Solutions are generally superficial opinions based on immediate causes and effects which have little to do with the wider development of personality suggested by Neumann. The military man may be a man of faith and even a scientist, too — all his knowledge filtered through a subjective philosophy rooted in the pride of personal identification. Jung:

But our progressiveness, though it may result in a great many delightful wish-fulfilments, piles up an equally gigantic Promethean debt which has to be paid off from time to time in the form of hideous catastrophes.” Nature decrees that the “fore-thinker” owes something back to the unconscious for the fire he stole…

The symptoms of compensation are described, from the progressive point of view, in scarcely flattering terms. Since, to the superficial eye, it looks like a retarding operation, people speak of inertia, backwardness, skepticism, fault-finding, conservatism, timidity, pettiness… But inasmuch as man has, in high degree, the capacity for cutting himself off from his own roots, he may also be swept uncritically to catastrophe by his dangerous one-sidedness.

The older view… realized that progress is only possible Deo concedente [granted by God]… The more differentiated consciousness becomes, the greater the danger of severance from the root condition. Complete severance comes when the Deo concedente is forgotten…  it is an axiom of psychology that when a part of the psyche is split off from consciousness, it is only apparently inactivated; in actual fact it brings about a possession of the personality, with the result that the individual’s aims are falsified in the interest of the split-off part. If, then, the childhood state of the collective unconscious is repressed to the point of exclusion, the unconscious content overwhelms the conscious aim and inhibits, falsifies, even destroys its realization. Viable progress only comes from the cooperation of both.”

As I quoted Jung in another post, the narrow door of inner confrontation is enough to frighten most people away — but how on earth could it be more frightening than the world spectacle confronting us today?



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Science, Religion, and Psychology: A Depth Perspective

At the end of my last post, I referred to what modern science and psychology are selling. For those interested in a more poetic expression, this excerpt begins on page 123 of A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious:

Divided thinking leads at last to conflicting goals:
To the two-way mirrors in the depth of all men’s souls;
Reflecting dual minds in which the opposites prevail
Yet only one can be observed through the conscious veil.
Even in the lofty labs of science this exists
Its subjective basis proven by the physicists:
The uncertain observations Heisenberg asserted
Were the limitations of their minds their thought perverted;
Though even these do not reflect the dark uncertain forms
Imposed by thought’s restriction to objective norms.
The conditions of the soul determine what men seek
The probable statistics are a modern double-speak.
What natural reality makes any sense at all
Without a concept of the purposes inherent in it?
Life would never have arisen on this earthly ball
Without the spirit everywhere apparent in it.
The faithful picture of the world such concepts have defined
Still are psychic products with conditions of their own;
And symbols weave their purpose through the conscious mind
In the secret depth to which itself remains unknown.
The uncertain relativity of modern science –
The deepest of realities the mind has yet discerned –
From the smallest particle to planetary giants
Reflects as well its two-way mirror when the glass is turned.
Such ideas are not conceived as psychic intuition
Though perceived to be the ground reality requires.
Even physics can’t escape the basis of cognition
Revealing inner aspects of the knowledge it acquires.
Through these secrets half-described in man’s imagination
Spirit, too, participates in matter’s dark foundation.                                             Nature’s secrets are elusive as her properties require –
Most of all within the matter of the soul’s desire.
The truths in her images the scientists have won
Lead below the world of things inside a deeper one.
Faust said long ago, “Two souls are dwelling in my breast” –
Now a proven fact the oldest atom will attest.
At the same time as Einstein a Swiss psychologist
Informed objective science of the very thing it missed:
The subjective factor – provable empirically –
Was a psychic analogue for space-time relativity.
This factor hides a deeper law than instruments reveal
For the law of man’s being is a factor he must feel…
Alas two psychic truths are dwelling in his head
Based on opposition like the physicists said.                                                                       “Each is feign to leave its brother,” just as Faust opined;
And one denied the other for the concepts it divined.                                                     The older one — the matrix men’s awareness can’t concede –
Is the very god-likeness their consciousness decreed
As an image of themselves and the wonders they begat
Perverting their own reason as a price for that.
A deeper opposition yet resides within
The partial values in the minds of thinking men:
Like salesmen they construct a future shopping mall
At the same time hoarding weapons to destroy it all…
Men are only objects in these dark imaginings;
Themselves reduced to ciphers in a world of Things.
What man if he had ever drunk from spirit’s well
Could quench his thirst with the technologic brew they sell?
Are the scientific prophets merely profiteers?
What human soul has been enhanced by their inventions?
Strange desires cloud the lens through which this science peers:
The subject of the object now confuses its intentions;
Though men are left to struggle with the same old human fears
As once claimed Eve’s and Adam’s and the snake’s attentions.
No problem is beyond this objective human quest
Except the small subjective one in a man’s own breast;
Yet still all forms of superstition will suffice
To convince him of his distance from his own inner vice.
This same collective border Christianity constructed
Repels a man from seeking what his nature has to say.                                             Though now it’s on the other side of heaven life’s conducted
It has still the same objective to explain the world away                                             And only understand enough to serve the greed created
By the hallowed histories of pious people long since gone;
Driven still by inner forces Nature arbitrated
That science and religion both have turned their backs upon…
For this man to free his mind he must consider things
Quite the opposite the paradigm instilled in him;
For the intellect inflames a man with waxen wings
Soaring far beyond the nature being willed in him.
This will is not his own and not obsessed with other men
But strives below the known to seek a world within;
For the re-creation of an older mystery
And he is only driven there by hard necessity.
He views his thinking through the glass of self-importance;
The wonders he beholds are mystical possessions.
They bewitch and stupefy in mythical accordance
With the ancient laws established by a man’s obsessions.
A man must have a counterweight to these Platonic spheres
Like giant shadows crouched behind his small and modest fears.
He loves these fears too in his own clandestine way:
Such is the bargain struck by men who cannot pray.
He barters spirit-life for dark and fleeting pleasures
To flatter only Image’s obsessive measures.                                                                       But a man who cannot pray must worship nonetheless
The gods of his disorders whom his fantasies confess.
Such are the idols of a space-age mythology
Until recently the ones the heavens once concealed;
Now the orphans of a modern-day psychology
Yet not much less divine and not much more revealed.
For gods have ever issued from this psychic netherland
In any form interpreted to make men understand
That a greater spirit hides within the human mind
Than by science or the intellect will ever be defined.
But the prophets of today are focused on the brain
Able only to connect with what they touch and see.
No man yet has seen a god in the physical domain                                                         Except the demons lurking in the body’s chemistry.
The gods are demons now to this enlightened man
Whose only world consists of what his thought can understand.
The psychic history on which his life is based
By the shining light of Consciousness is now erased.
What was once a sacred sphere by which this man was graced
Has been reduced to symptoms and by chemicals replaced.
What once were ancient deities have now become disease –
Their double-nature no objective science can appease.
How could such a troubled culture now have come about
But that its egotism turned its thinking inside-out?
Denied the things its own spirit thundered long ago
For self-deceptive mysteries its science couldn’t know.
A bi-polar syndrome underlies the Western mind
For these neglected opposites are moving to the fore;
Just as they comprise the nature science has defined
So also do they form the nature scientists ignore.
They force a man inside himself though willed or not;
They urge him to consider things his modern mind forgot.
They sometimes even make him pray though on a thinking level
Not the least discernible from praying to the Devil…

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Spirit and Water

The Hebrew word for the ark, teba, occurs only twice in the Bible: in the flood narrative and in the Book of Exodus, where it refers to the basket in which Jochebed places her son, the infant Moses… In both cases teba has a connection with salvation from waters. It is made of “gopher” wood, a word which does not appear elsewhere in the entire Bible, and is divided into qinnim, a word which always refers to birds’ nests elsewhere…” — Wikipedia

The association of spiritual salvation with water, arks, baskets, gophers, and birds in this biblical context is not so strange as it may appear. In another post, I referred to Brian Greene’s, Elegant Universe. In it, he cited the four dimensions orienting us to physical reality: three in space, “left-right” (say, a street address), “back-forth” (an intersection), “up-down” (a floor number); and time, or “future-past” (my weekly sessions with Dr. Drowse).

Though Einstein demonstrated how time and distance make events relative to the observer in the external world, Jung described the internal conditions of the psyche — with all the qualities of spatial dimensions but in the form of symbolic ideas designed to orient us inwardly. Left-right, back-forth, up-down, future-past are subjective coordinates which make the perception of reality relative. What if I showed up to Dr. Drowze’s office at the wrong time?

The quote from Wikipedia is an example of water’s relation to spirit, and the association of gophers with birds’ nests is striking. It may be readily seen how an ark or basket might represent conscious refuge from the waters of untamed instinctuality; or that a Celestial God was once needed to guide us out of them. But, how does the blind rodent burrowing under the earth connect to the bird soaring above it?

This special instance of biblical symbolism even described both as having the same spiritual function. But, weren’t we in a different stage of development then? Modern culture, whether seen through the eyes of preachers, pundits, or politicians suggests that we may have forgotten that a serpent was also needed to circumscribe the original human condition: “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…”

In general psychological terms, Jung saw water as a symbol of psychic energy; but in a religious context as spirit — or more specifically, unconscious spirit. Symbolically, a flood or deluge is a powerful influx of unconscious energy, and it’s natural that consciousness would seek refuge from a force more powerful than itself. Jung’s empirical studies, however, show a different picture than the traditional one of a “Spirit” from above:

… while from below comes everything that is sordid and worthless. For people who think in this way, spirit means the highest freedom, a soaring over the depths, deliverance from the prison of the cthonic world, and hence a refuge… But water is earthly and tangible, it is also the fluid of the instinct-driven body, blood and the flowing of blood, the odour of the beast, carnality heavy with passion.” Faust echoed civilized man’s recurrent plea, “Wherefore the stream so soon run dry and I again thus thirsting lie?” Jung elaborated it:

The unconscious… reaches down from the daylight of mentally and morally lucid consciousness into the nervous system that for ages has been known as the “sympathetic.” This does not govern perception and muscular activity like the cerebrospinal system, and thus control the environment; but, though functioning without sense organs, it maintains the balance of life…” Hmm. Dr. Drowse didn’t say anything about that.

“In this sense it is an extremely collective system, the operative basis of all participation mystique, whereas the cerebrospinal function reaches its high point in separating off the specific qualities of the ego, and only apprehends surfaces and externals — always through the medium of space. It experiences everything as an outside, whereas the sympathetic system experiences everything as an inside.” Joseph Campbell described the snake as a symbol of the cerebrospinal system, connecting it to consciousness. Jung:

The unconscious is commonly regarded as… a fragment of our most personal and intimate life — something like what the Bible calls the “heart” and considers the source of all evil thoughts. In the… heart dwell the wicked blood-spirits, swift anger and spiritual weakness. This is how the unconscious looks… from the conscious side. But consciousness appears to be… an affair of the cerebrum, which sees everything separately and in isolation, and therefore sees the unconscious in this way too... Hence it is believed that anyone who descends into the unconscious gets into a suffocating atmosphere of egocentric subjectivity…” Dr. Drowse showed me that in his diagnostics manual.

True, whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see… his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation… This confrontation is the first test of courage on the inner way, a test sufficient to frighten off most people…” I think Dr. Drowse forgot that part.

“The meeting with oneself is… a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well… For what comes after the door is… a boundless expanse of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad. It’s the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic nervous system, the soul of everything living begins…” 

Well, I can tell you that this confrontation is no easy sell today, and I’m no salesman. But, you can peek behind the curtain of what modern science and psychology is selling you — right here.

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The Image of the Black Dot

In my last post, I discussed the black dot, or circle, and the role it played in mathematician John Nash’s psychosis, along with Hippolytus’ description of the Gnostic idea of the indivisible point. For those who may be interested, I’d like to share my personal experience of it:

Around age three, I dreamed I was tucked up inside the head of an adult body, peering out through the eyes. The little me watched as the body walked by itself, away from town. At the outskirts, my eyes were drawn to a vacant lot on the left, the last sign of civilization before a wild and forbidding mountainous terrain stretched out before me. It had no man-made structure on it but was filled with a great mound of excrement, and flies began gravitating to it.

More flies swarmed, covering it completely. Their cumulative buzzing created a deep, reverberating hum (scroll the comments to Sue Dreamwalker) which fixed my vision on the horizon. Suspended like a distant planet just above it hung a small black dot, barely visible through the trees. I was mesmerized by it as the hum pulsed in me.

Suddenly, it was right before me, blanketing my vision. Frightening, paradoxical feelings about time and eternity, life and death, and the incomprehensible nature of existence seized me. I was struck by how small it was at first and how large and overwhelming it suddenly became.

Jung called it a complexio oppositorum: it contained the opposites within it. For years, I was almost too afraid to think about it for the dread it evoked. Like a cautious animal, afraid yet curious, I circled around it in my mind, drawn to its ineffable mystery. Its dizzying complexity scared me, filled me with awe; but beyond its stark paradox, I was unable to discern any personal meaning in it.

It hung there through the years; not only on the horizon of my childhood but on the horizon of my future as well. After a divorce at thirty-five, I sank into a profound depth as black and unconscious as my dream prescribed in the dawn of my awareness…

Years of evasion found me with other men lost in the same transition. We drank together, commiserated, carped, and criticized; none of us any more aware of a mid-life change than the so-called “crisis” of aging men trying to retrieve a lost youth via sports cars and younger women.

The deeper psychological purpose of mid-life regression, though, is a symbolic journey through history: an unconscious description of the psychic reality beneath the social one which governs the first half of life. Fantasies of death and finality swept over me in a sea of emotion. Like my youthful dream, I felt trapped inside my head, isolated and alone. My adult body was walking itself away from town.

One night, a voice in my head whispered to me as I was dozing off, “You’re going down.” Suddenly, the black dot was upon me. Its irresistible force pinned me to the bed. Such a tension gripped me that it took all my might to remember where I was and observe what was happening in me. That state persisted through the night and into the next day, and I went to work driven by an exhausted attempt to release myself from it.

For weeks, the image of the black dot persisted. I knew intuitively that my efforts hinged on the few Jung books I’d puzzled over years before and had begun to read again. Slowly, I set about studying what was going on inside me.

I read of an alchemist in the sixteenth century whose dream depicted that same black dot hanging above the horizon, just as I’d seen it in mine: the black sun of alchemy, the dark core of inner illumination. I read as many ideas as I could find from those driven to record the mysteries of the same process I was in.

The Hebrew conception of Adam as the Original Man, the Gnostic idea of the indivisible point, Democritus’ atom, the alchemists’ soul-spark, the big bang, black holes: all contain historical reference points that establish the archetypal context of psychic experience.

It was Jung’s work that precipitated a spiritual experience beyond any collective god-concept. That is the archetype: its conscious insignificance makes it smaller than small, even as its unconscious influence makes it greater than great. To Jung, I will always be grateful for the opportunity he provided in my confusion.

Goethe said it eloquently in Faust: Mephistopheles (Faust’s shadow) discovers Wagner (his intellect) in his laboratory busily working to create life in a tube (!). He succeeds, but the little homunculus in the retort flies out and hovers illuminated above them. Mephistopheles makes plans with it for a great journey; but Wagner is excluded. “And I?” he asks. The little life he thought was his own creation responds:

 ”Well, you                                                                                                                                          Will stay at home, most weighty work to do,                                                                    Open the parchment-sheets, collect                                                                                      Life-elements as the recipes direct.                                                                                        With caution, fitting each to other. Ponder                                                              The What – to solve the How still harder try;                                                                  While through a little piece of world I wander                                                              To find the dot to put upon the i.”

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Science and Psyche: The Paradox of Consciousness

I’m as impressed by science and technology as anyone. Tremendous focus and organization are required to achieve the astounding changes of the last century. Think about it: as a boy, my grandfather saw Indians squatting across the river waiting to trade deer-meat with his father. As a teenager, my father remembers soldiers returning from WWII teaching the town-folk to form lines at the theater to relieve the mob-like clamor at the box-office.

The age of the scientific method has seen the organization and consolidation of consciousness accelerate exponentially. There is, however, a big downside to it: the conscious mind tends to identify with what it’s focused on. When it does, it’s susceptible to possession by contrary unconscious factors. If history teaches us anything, it’s how easily conscious intent is changed into its opposite.

It’s natural to think highly of our achievements, but pride and self-awe are such subtle vulnerabilities that gods (along with a little belief and reflection) were once needed to remind us of their consequences. Consistent with such ideas, Jung described ego-consciousness as only one complex among many in the mind’s constitution, and unconscious complexes influence it beyond perception.

Some years ago, I read The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene: an informative, well-written book which discussed how the universe works compared to the quantum world. Scientists can accurately predict the movements of planets, but on the sub-atomic level, they can’t predict how particles behave (unsettling, I know). They appear in contradictory form — as particles and waves, depending on the type of experiment.

Position and velocity, for instance, can’t be measured at the same time, and the concept of complementarity describes a “duality paradox” where the mode of observation determines the data. Einstein wrote: “We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena…”

In Jung’s collaboration with German physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, they agreed that psychology and physics had something in common: when one thing is viewed, its complement, or opposite, is obscured. Both sciences proved empirically that even under the most rigorous conditions, observation is relative to the psyche.

When a thing becomes consious, it changes according to the way we see it. It’s no longer objective in the sense it was before we became aware of it. As an object of thought, it’s incorporated into the psyche and becomes subjective. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Einstein’s relativity, Jung’s subjective factor: all describe the nature of cognition.

Instruments minimize subjective influences under controlled conditions; though they’re considerably magnified under natural ones. Often more important than the knowledge itself, the psyche prescribes what we see and how we see it. Add to it the egocentric qualities of individual complexes, and you can imagine how difficult it is to observe ourselves with any objectivity.

How we interpret and apply knowledge is as fundamental as its acquisition. The deeper we look, the more perception contrasts with reality, just as the attempt to reconcile general laws of the universe with those of quantum mechanics show.

You might remember A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar: a biography of the mathematician, John Nash. He ostensibly “cured” his schizophrenia through sheer willpower — at least, that’s how the Hollywood movie-version depicted it. The book tells the real story behind the conscious fantasy.

I saw an interview with Nash on PBS, where he was asked to summarize his experiences. He shrugged, as if it made no sense, and said he was left with this image: his “rational thinking had blocked my view of the universe.”

Nash’s psychosis became evident to his wife when she found him busily painting large black circles on the walls in his study. Though it seems bizarre, its symbolic content becomes more comprehensible when viewed in its historical context. The deeper meaning hidden in the black circle which grew so large to Nash that it overwhelmed him, was examined by Jung:

The black dot is an archetypal idea similar to the Greek atom. Jung showed its relation to the Jewish-Christian idea of Adam as a symbol of wholeness, the Original Man. The Greek historian Hippolytus described the Gnostic idea of this indivisible point in the second century A.D.: “This point, being nothing and consisting of nothing, attains a magnitude incomprehensible by thought… this mustard seed which grows into the Kingdom of God.” Physicists’ theories of black holes and the big bang derive from this prototypal image.

Jung described it as the symbol of a profoundly unconscious organizing function which seeks to unify the personality, something like a primitive god-image; it appears during periods of disorientation: the psyche’s response to a dissociated consciousness.

For Nash, it symbolized not only the split condition his rational mind created but also the healing factor which would gradually guide him back over some thirty years to his emotional foundations.

Nash’s proclivities left him with a vulnerability as extreme as his talent. Not all are predisposed to such creative, hard-to-reconcile differences, but his example highlights the increasing value of a science of symbols.

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Archetypal Dreams

Jung saw dreams as objective statements by the psyche about itself. There’s no question they express a different reality than the waking mind sees. Despite claims by certain materialists that they’re residual neuronal activities of a re-charging brain, those who sense meaning in them know they contain information about life they couldn’t otherwise know.

Reflection on a dream unearths a complex web of associations, and moods can change perceptibly even with no understanding. Their compensating role was an early discovery of Jung’s and presupposes an unconscious balancing function aimed at unity or wholeness.

Their apparent personal level is a paradox: beneath it, instinctual patterns of behavior shape the most intimate private needs around the pre-existing forms required for the regulation of development. Who chooses his own growth?

Though Jung outlined the general process, how the personal grows out of the impersonal and the role dreams play in mediating it to consciousness is a deeply subjective mystery. From day-dreams and nightmares to gods and devils, what may appear as fantasy is a ceaseless stream of symbolic creative activity aimed at consolidating the personality for the fulfillment of  its destiny.

“Archetypal” describes our functioning as a species. Historical associations give context to personal conflicts, and primitive images sometimes depict graphic violence and/or sexuality mixed with profound spiritual and philosophical ideas with little or no personal experience behind them: the reason Jung stressed the value of religious symbols — only history provides their reference points.

Since they come from the “old brain”, they often appear disgusting or repulsive. Their organic aspects are a reality modern life will avoid when possible. There are men who can’t bear to see their own children born. When I was a child, men weren’t even allowed in the delivery room. Nature appeases no whim of man in the creation and maintenance of life — including weakness, disease, and death.

Consistent with our earthly natures, biological urges reflect the dark regions of prehistoric religious functions. We worry little about such living paradoxes in the frenzied pace of life today, though unconscious diversions contribute to our anxieties. By the middle years, we may feel such dreams as frightening, hostile, even as an “alien will”.

They may appear startling and bizarre. As a teen, I dreamed of a naked woman, arms open, raised as if to a deity, an erect penis protruding between her breasts. I thought I was crazy. Only much later did I read Erich Neumann’s assessment: the developing masculine principle was emerging from the unconscious matrix of the creative feminine.

Their depth is as philosophically sophisticated as it is primitive. Contemplation leads far beyond the brute world they often portray: analogies which embrace the whole of man’s development, and they change shape as quickly as thought pursues them. There’s no doubt they’re inherited ways of perception for anyone willing to inspect them.

Jung and Neumann, along with many others, have documented them — much to the chagrin of modern science: tangible proof that we’re conditioned by factors extending back to the animal world, inconceivable without an orientation to history.

Jung established a comparative model to interpret this history. All of science depends on its symbols but lacks the knowledge to understand them. I read of a team of anthropologists studying cave paintings in France. They wasted untold resources searching out aboriginal peoples who would tell them what the symbols meant. This is backwards, for the knowledge was never conscious. As my last post implies: what do such assumptions say about the scientific intellect?

Who’s ever had an archetypal dream will sense its profundity — if he/she doesn’t dismiss it as too foreign and incomprehensible for reflection. Emotion dictates, however, that it can never be completely repressed. Of course, it is foreign; its perspective is far from the contemporary one. The more convinced one is of an artificial truth, the more frightening nature’s images appear. Archetypal dreams have very different notions of life than our conscious appraisals.

While going through the youthful process of separating from home, I had a dream in which a voice stated: “I am my father, my father is me.” I was having conflicts with my father, and it helped me to understand the projections we were trading — but I had no knowledge at the time that it echoed almost verbatim a religious idea straight out of Egyptian mythology.

Such dreams are of a still-living psychic history — regardless of what we think or believe. The emotions they evoke feel divine, leading some to believe that God speaks directly through them. They’re almost always misinterpreted by those anchored in certainty, ego-security, and fear of the unknown. They derive from an unconscious authority outside any culture or belief and tend to isolate and confuse those who experience them — however…

If you trust collective assumptions to make moral decisions for you; if you trust the direction culture is taking to forge a sane future for your children, then beware these unsettling voices in the stillness of your soul — they mean inner conflict. If exposed to enough of them that you question the culture you live in – you may be deranged.

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