Jung’s Mysticism Re-examined

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, and every other living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Because it contains our living history in symbolic form, Jung wrote that any serious inquiry into the unconscious leads straight into the religious problem. What he meant is not exactly what Stephen Hawking imagined as “knowing the mind of God” through the study of matter. It can’t be defined or measured as precisely as physicists might prefer; and though it can be described empirically, Hawking’s ideal is an intellectual makeshift with no psychological foundation to support it.  

Jung’s postulation of a variety of different but equally valid psychic realities based on his types studies, the subjectivity of consciousness, the collective spirit of the times, the unconscious basis of perception, the symbolic nature of the psyche, and the accidental and irrational realities of life make the study of the mind (and God) a very uncertain business. 

Behind Jung’s empiricism were experiences and intuitions which led to his study of symbols. Because it was based on a comparative view of history, it doesn’t really look like science to the standardized formula of observation, experiment, repetition, and verification of the physical model. But, as he showed, it’s the only way we can observe ourselves outside the subjective limitations of a fluctuating and relative ego bound to its own time and place. 

Unconscious complexes analogize our functioning through symbolic ideas, and Jung’s work was in many ways a conceptual attempt to relate the emotional processes which push them into awareness. Emotions in general, and religious ones in particular, are based on different needs than thought alone can evaluate. Without some feeling-sense of how the psyche works, some concept of our irrationality, we’re stuck in the intellect with no relation to the psychic forces which drive and maintain us.

Consciousness has changed considerably since the last generation of religious authorities instructed a believing flock on its accountability before God. Though lacking psychological knowledge, conscious devotion along with a philosophical mindset maintained the functional requirements with which nature outfitted us to contend with ourselves. But, the old metaphysical projections were not just static reflections of conscious development at a given point in time.

Ideas of divine heritage were not only symbols of how we once conceived ourselves but images of what we would become. The unconscious contains our history as well the seeds of our futures. Today, the old symbols are a frightening revelation of an ego so enamored with itself that it would willfully and knowingly destroy all that would sustain it and its children while still maintaining the god-given right to do so.

Otherworldly (conscious) fixations, along with our self-appointed stewardship of the earth reflected in the above quote, have become crimes against nature of cosmic proportion. Today, we’re contending with everything and everyone but ourselves.

The intuitive wisdom of the past was too subjectively and concretely conceived to apply to our modern conflicts. The new objectivity, however, is as literal and collective as the old view, though values have shifted to the material world — and with it, new forms of destruction.

The soul, the old religious prototype of the individual’s relation to a greater (natural) reality, now lies buried beneath statistical averages and social norms: the only truth the rational viewpoint can connect with. The contemporary cult of the commercial mass-man reflects an inner disorientation, and no objective science can replace the soul’s value. 

The history of our mental functioning was the focus of Jung’s work. To discover new meaning in the old symbols requires a psychological, spiritual model. In a culture driven by scientific materialism, the history of who we really are is repressed and denied to such an extent that we no longer recognize our animal natures; though, our world predicament still tells the ancient story.  

Self-confrontation was once the basis of religious conversion: the first-half charge of youth to forge its place in the world was eventually driven to reflect on a reality greater than its struggle with the external environment. The wisdom of the ages provided the reference point for that transition. Today, there are no ages of wisdom to submit to, no greater realities to accept or convert to. The new truth is a pre-packed conformity, marketed as progress, devoid of the history which alone informs where we are in our development.

The old road map no longer reflects the topography of inner life. Our GPS vision can’t pinpoint the intimate personal by-ways of the compulsions, phobias, crippling depressions, lurking anxieties, and over-consumption which now belie the soul’s repression. Understanding the changes in consciousness, especially in the last century, is more important with each new technological advancement.

The scientization of the soul can’t tame the beast in us any more than could the subjective half-truths of the former view. The soul doesn’t care about logic, statistics, or light-years. It’s function is the emotional stability of the individual. As Jung remarked: a million zeroes don’t add up to one.

The alien face of an objective history now stares back at us through Nietzsche’s dead god, the backward self-deception of commercialism, the needy diversions of technological obsession — “disorders” in those whose unconscious natures can’t and won’t be reconciled to a cultural norm which only accentuates them.

Below the material, the metaphysical, the new intellect’s subjective objectivity, the dark mirrors of the soul seek the reflection of conscious light. Modern examples of the spiritual/emotional processes behind Jung’s symbolic view hold little value for the narrow commercial focus of psychology today.

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The Spirit of the Times

Jung’s model of the psyche was a basic one with an immense body of empirical material behind it. It often requires going back to fundamentals to re-think the misconceptions he strove to clarify. Even more so today than in his time, an object-focused perspective has difficulty connecting with the subjective nature of knowledge he advanced.

The discoveries of depth psychology: our animalness, our bisexuality, and the inherently religious character of the psyche — all of which knowledge is supported by the respective disciplines — are only loose, dissociated facts until we can incorporate them into a meaningful whole. Today’s specialized sciences are so exclusive that it’s easy to lose sight of the psychological implications of all our knowledge. One of the tasks of psychology is to give our search a human direction.

What Jung saw as scientific materialism in the twentieth century — a counter-swing away from the Church toward natural inquiry — only gains momentum into the new millennium as commercial interests attempt to enhance and exploit our fascination with things and technology in ever more deceptive ways.

Just as an unconscious worldly spirit worked through alchemy to balance an otherworldly religious perspective and guide it back toward earthly reality, the new viewpoint swings toward the opposite extreme. Symbolic disorders have a spiritual aspect, though more often than not treated with medications — projections which, if not in theory at least in practice, are designed to relieve consciousness of its spiritual confusion. What were once religious problems between man, god, and nature are now conflicts between man, his culture, and his own nature. 

A neglected soul imparts little wisdom to an intellect bound to the senses, and the universal mysteries once projected into religious ideas have fallen back into the personal psyche. As Jung showed, consciousness can in no way contend with such powerful instinctual forces solely on its own devices. Though we would be superhuman, animal tendencies yet make us inhuman, and we treat others as such without knowing it.

Jung saw the image of man as being pre-determined. Just as every seed contains its future form, each is compelled toward what nature intended it to be. From the very dawn of self-consciousness symbolized in the story of Eden through our evolution into civilized societies, natural instinctive processes have guided our development. The idea of being “made in the image of God” was a symbolic intuition of it, intended to carry forward that distant seed of reflection. 

Psychologically, the energy needed to produce consciousness is generated by unconscious conflicts between contending stages of development. Every child is outfitted with the forms corresponding to their progression. On a deeper level than parental instruction, these archetypes support and prepare the developing mind and push it through its evolutionary history into the contemporary stage — or thereabout.

The process of becoming self-aware condensed in the story of Eden was felt as disobedience (or opposition) to the law of unconscious wholeness. It reflected a capacity for choice, for weighing possibilities beyond animal instinct. As it grew, it gradually split the psyche into two separate systems. As the myth says, it was initiated not by a god but by the conflicts of conscious choice amid opposing impulses symbolized by the snake. It requires an earthly spiritual function to mediate instinct in a split mind, and all choice is relative to it. Images of space and other worlds still describe our dissociation from nature’s inner reality.

As we evolve, we identify with certain functions which signal new stages of development. New forms supersede older ones, though the old functions don’t disappear. The original Adam (consciousness) who emerged from the blind world of nature constitutes a profound spiritual conflict — one we can no more outgrow than the mind can outgrow the body.

The soul as mediator of spirit, of instinct, in its consciously developed form is a religious function which took centuries to define. Though it was a form of consciousness, intellectual understanding wasn’t necessary to connect with it even a century ago. The development of thought has outpaced the older form of consciousness, and today we need psychological tools to understand who we are beneath the blind misdirection of subjective focus.  As we once bowed to God as an image of unity, of unconscious wholeness, so we yield to natural laws.

In The Origins and History of Consciousness, Erich Neumann addressed the uneven psychological development of the modern individual: “This betrays itself in many ways — for example, 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.”

We’re products of nature. Beneath the illusion of conscious unity, we live on in old philosophical assumptions which have passed unexamined from generation to generation: symbols which would define the split in our natures. The scientific materialism of today is too deeply opposed to the symbolic view to facilitate reconciliation. Its truth is in need of its opposite. The door to that opposite was opened by Jung’s comparative method, and we need to swing it wide to contend with the dangerous extremes produced by an unconscious nature.

For an idea of the emotional processes which lead back into the symbolic world of reflection, read more here, or visit Amazon.

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Natural Science for an Artificial Consciousness

I recently quoted Erich Neumann’s observations on the “mass man” and related them to the social-commercial mindset which has been so carefully cultivated since his time. Just as there are historical reasons for what’s happening today, there are also hidden purposes which lend perspective to the unconscious processes behind the causes.

To say that mainstream psychology has not only failed to address what may be one of the most defining cultural transitions in human history, but actually contributes to its unconsciousness, might seem a harsh statement. But as much as Jung cautioned against giving too much weight to technique and statistical evaluation, current trends confirm his concerns:

There are reasons for the increase in psychological disorders in the last fifty years that reach far below the surface god-likeness of the medical persona, the subjective nature of psychological diagnosis, and psychiatry’s unvarnished partnership with the pharmaceutical industry.

Jung defined two kinds of science: the rational, statistical kind more designed for a concrete world of objects and the subjective, symbolic kind which is relative to how we perceive it. To establish a verifiable science of the inner world of perception required the comparative reduction of ideas to their common properties: instinctual patterns he called archetypes. His was a science of philosophy: a means of accessing unconscious values never before conceived. Here are some empirical facts as Jung described them in, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche:

This discussion is on the “… scientific, but purely rationalistic conception of the unconscious. When we speak of instincts we imagine we are talking about something known, but in reality we are talking about something unknown. As a matter of fact, all we know is that effects come to us from the dark sphere of the psyche which somehow or other must be assimilated into consciousness if devastating disturbances of other functions are to be avoided.

“… just as a person can repress a disquieting wish and thereby cause its energy to contaminate other functions, so he can shut out a new idea that is alien to him so that its energy flows off into other functions and disturbs them.” The process I would draw attention to is the increasing repression of the religious instinct. Science and religion today are at odds as never before, and that conflict is certain to have disturbing effects.

“… Under these circumstances, the unconscious seems like a great X, concerning which the only thing indisputably known is that important effects proceed from it. A glance at the world religions shows us just how important these effects are historically. And a glance at the suffering of modern man shows us the same thing — we merely express ourselves somewhat differently.”

Though the jargon of “mental disease” has changed since Jung’s time, his message has not: “Three hundred years ago, a woman was said to be possessed of a devil, now we say she has a hysteria. Formerly a subject was said to be bewitched, now the trouble is called a neurotic dyspepsia. The facts are the same; only the previous explanation, psychologically speaking, is almost exact, whereas our rationalistic description of symptoms is really without content. For if I say that someone is possessed by an evil spirit, I imply that the possessed person is not legitimately ill but suffers from some invisible psychic influence which he is quite unable to control. This invisible something is an… unconscious content beyond the reach of the conscious will.”

Jung’s argument was a response to the prevailing Freudian idea of “mother-fixation” which conceived the problem of ego and instinct in terms of “infantile dependence” on the mother — a literal idea which shows the ego’s disdain for its subjection to natural law. It’s the cold teat of technology, the unconscious pabulum of political ideology, and the projection of a too-child-like psychology onto things which now trades on our most intimate desires.

Jung described it as an unconscious longing, “… an insistent demand, an aching inner emptiness, which can be forgotten from time to time but never overcome… It always returns… A good deal can be conjectured, but all that can be said with certainty is that… something unconscious voices this demand independently of consciousness and continues to raise its voice despite all criticism.

“… The primitive mind has always felt these contents to be strange and incomprehensible and, personifying them as spirits, demons, and gods, has sought to fulfil their demands by sacred and magical rites. Recognizing correctly that this hunger or thirst can be stilled neither by food nor drink… the primitive mind created images of invisible, jealous, and exacting beings, more potent and more dangerous than man, denizens of an invisible world, yet so interfused with visible reality that… spirits… dwell even in the cooking-pots.”

This, Jung called the natural psyche: the still-living instinctual source of our life-energy. “Our world, on the other hand, is freed of demons to the last trace, but the autonomous contents and their demands have remained. They express themselves partly in religion, but the more the religion is rationalized and watered down — an almost unavoidable fate — the more intricate and mysterious become the ways by which the contents of the unconscious contrive to reach us. One of the commonest ways is neurosis.”

Modern notions conceive it only negatively; a projection of guilt, a peculiarly religious attribute: ”A neurosis is usually considered to be something inferior… from the medical point of view. This is a great mistake… For behind the neurosis are hidden those powerful psychic influences which underlie our mental attitude and its guiding principles… Materialism and mysticism are a psychological pair of opposites, just like atheism and theism… two different methods of grappling with these powerful influences from the unconscious, the one by denying, the other by recognizing them.”

Science and religion are not adversaries but complimentary ways of looking at life. So fixed is this duality in the intellect, even for psychology, that a living example of coming to terms with the unconscious would be outside its rational purview.

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What’d Ya Get for Christmas?

“I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, and therewith I, they say, bring joy. Now of the joy I bring to the mother let none speak for miracles are not neatly to be caged in sentences, nor is truth always expedient. To the father I bring the sight of his own life, by him so insecurely held, renewed and strengthened in a tenement not yet impaired by time and folly: he is no more disposed to belittle himself here than elsewhere; and it is himself that he cuddles in the small, soft, incomprehensible and unsoiled incarnation. For, as I bring the children, they have no evil in them and no cowardice and no guile.” Figures of Earth — James Branch Cabell

Not long ago, I wrote a post about the commercialization of culture and its deeper psychological effects based on Erich Neumann’s insights. After seeing an advertisement by Target in which the words “What’d ya get?” were repeated ad nauseam for the reinforcement to our children of what Christmas is really about, I was reminded (post vomitus) of the stork’s soliloquy in Cabell’s, Figures of Earth:

“I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, when I later return, to those that yesterday were children. And in all ways time has marred, and living has defaced, and prudence has maimed, until I grieve to entrust that which I bring to what remains of that which yesterday I brought. In the old days children were sacrificed to a brazen burning god, but time affects more subtile hecatombs: for Moloch slew outright. Yes, Moloch, being divine, killed as the dog killed, furiously, but time is that transfigured cat, an ironist. So living mars and defaces and maims, and living appears wantonly to soil and to degrade its prey before destroying it.”

Were it that time and living the only things that soil and degrade. For Cabell, such ideas were much too vague and convenient to let the real truth of the matter escape unspoken:

“I bring the children, stainless and dear and helpless, and I leave them to endure that which is fated. Daily I bring into this world the beauty and innocence and high-heartedness and faith of children: but life has no employment, or else… no sustenance, for these fine things which I bring daily, for always I, returning, find the human usages of living have extinguished these excellences in those who yesterday were children, and that these virtues exist in no aged person. And I would that Jahveh had created me an eagle or a vulture or some other hated bird of prey that furthers a less grievous slaying and more intelligible wasting than I further.”

So, “human usages” (conscious intent) were the ultimate source of the stork’s disillusionment. An old allegory of Christ as well as the instinct for reflection, the stork (like any animal) symbolizes the laws of unconscious nature which “have no evil in them and no cowardice and no guile.” The openness of children is a source of wonder but, like animals, being still under their direct influence, they’re also easily manipulated by those “intelligent” enough to deem them useful for their own ends.

It’s difficult for young minds to conceive life outside the all-pervasive web of commercial deception defining today’s culture; just as it was for my generation to think outside the cult-like religious beliefs of my youth. The narrow views of yesterday, however contrived and self-centered, held one big difference: most were guided by higher values than unabashed material gain.

Though the “particle in the mass” has ever been manipulated for the wealth and power of an elite, there was, historically at least, some purpose behind “human usages” that still reflected the urge for development. However unconsciously, nature herself managed the conflicts between individual and group that pushed humanity forward: Neumann’s centroversion.

“… we prefer to call the sub-man who dwells in us moderns the “mass man” rather than the “group man,” because his psychology differs in essential respects from that of the latter. Although the genuine group man is for the most part unconscious, he nevertheless lives under the rule of centroversion… a psychic whole in which powerful tendencies are at work, making for consciousness, individualization and spiritual growth… in spite of his unconsciousness, in spite of projections, emotionality… the group man possesses… creative powers which manifest themselves in his culture, his society, his religion, his art, customs, and even in what we call his superstitions.

“The mass man lurking in the unconscious of the modern, on the other hand, is psychically a fragment, a part-personality which, when integrated, brings with it a considerable expansion of the personality, but is bound to have disastrous consequences if it acts autonomously.

“This unconscious mass component is opposed to consciousness and the world of culture. It resists conscious development, is irrational and emotional, anti-individual and destructive.”

This collective beast is cultivated outright today, and the “elite” political and corporate interests reaping the immediate benefits not only encourage these qualities but live them. It began with the careful management of consumption in the minds of children, the first to absorb the effects of the powerful new tools of that part-personality called intellect: science, technology, and mass media which took control of our culture in the fifties: the “candied pap of television”, as Philip Wylie phrased it.

Today, we sacrifice our children to a new brazen god who is more opposed to consciousness than any idol history has yet borne in the human mind. You may not live to see the extent of the destruction — but your child will.

Where are the living examples psychology fancied it would provide for the growth of human consciousness? Though it’s a roundabout way which is often opposed to the under-philosophy of today’s technical facade, it is possible to re-connect with the values that reflect our children’s future instead of unthinkingly devouring it in the frenzied consumption which once was Moloch’s, today transfigured by the irony of time.

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Gnosis, Diagnosis, and Prognosis

Psychogenic disturbances, quite unlike organic diseases, are atypical and individual. With growing experience one even finds oneself at a loss in making a diagnosis. The neuroses, for example, vary so much from individual to individual that it hardly means anything when we diagnose…“ Jung —  The Practice of Psychotherapy.

Jung’s inner experiences enabled him to recognize the need for broad concepts which could include ideas about what we don’t know of the psyche. His concept of the unconscious was open-ended enough to leave room for the mysteries and not shut them out with preconceptions.

Though his approach was intuitive, his method was empirical. The breadth of his concepts allowed him the flexibility to see connections between assumptions and facts, certainties and mysteries. The medical field knows that symptoms are natural attempts at healing, yet many professionals still treat psychic symptoms as if they were organic:

“It is generally assumed in medical circles that the examination of the patient should lead to the diagnosis of his illness, so far as this is possible at all, and that with the establishment of the diagnosis an important decision has been arrived at in regards to prognosis and therapy. Psychotherapy forms a startling exception to this rule: the diagnosis is a highly irrelevant affair since, apart from affixing a more or less lucky label to a neurotic condition, nothing is gained by it, least of all as regards prognosis and therapy.”

The psyche speaks a symbolic language which tends forward, and its hidden aims and purposes are often misinterpreted, if they’re even considered. Causal, statistically-oriented medical psychologies dismiss them as too fantastic and subjective to be of value; and that’s a problem: its language generally appears in intimate personal images which naturally reflect individual circumstances. The personal aspects, however, are only the surface of a deeper level which forms the historical background of an impersonal psychic context.

Regardless of accidental or unique circumstances, we will respond to them in distinctly human ways. Instinctual functions give shape and form to the personal images, and the disparity between the forms and the direction and content given them by the conscious attitude decides the conflict: if consciousness is tending in a direction which deviates from its natural functioning, then the unconscious creates negative consequences. Jung demonstrated this process empirically.

It’s an illusion that psychological diagnosis can be objective in the medical sense, as it presupposes a knowledge of the individual it can’t possibly have at the outset. Psychiatry in particular still operates under the tangled assumption that psychic problems can be successfully treated through drug therapies which alter brain chemistry:

“Nor should we gloss over the fact that the classifications of the neuroses is very unsatisfactory, and that for this reason alone a specific diagnosis seldom means anything real. In general, it is enough to diagnose a “psychoneurosis” as distinct from some organic disturbance — the word means no more than that… The Greco-Latin compounds needed for this still seem to have a not inconsiderable market value and are occasionally indispensable for that reason.”

If they were only occasionally indispensable in 1945, today this exclusive dialect of disease is the oil in the engine of a profession so closely bound to it that conscious norms (and “market value”) are their most basic criteria; though, as Jung stated, because of the relativity of individual values, Normal is more a social concept than a psychological one.

The collective orientation not only smuggles ethical value judgments into “sick” and “diseased” vs. “normal”, it believes this unconscious “morality” to be objective. But, it’s the knowledge of symbols and the work of reflection that circumscribe the natural values the psyche attempts to reveal through its symbolic language. The focus on scientific objectivity, if it sees it at all, sees the subjective factor as irrelevant, though it not only conditions our thinking as absolutely as any so-called objective factor, it is itself an “objective” factor in the psychological sense.

Jung has also suggested that a “neurosis” contains the seeds of a profound urge to individual consciousness beneath collective values. The conflict becomes an unconscious attempt to drive one inward to reflect on an inner nature which has been neglected or misunderstood. The ethical implication is that “neurotic” behavior is unacceptable to a prescribed norm and perceived as “bad” in keeping with our unconscious interpretations of life (and nature, too!) in terms of right and wrong.

Jung showed “neuroses” to be objective responses to psychic conditions beyond the moralistic valuations of consciousness: subject to an unconscious reality. Who is more or less driven to seek this greater reality consciously is one of nature’s great mysteries. The profound mystery of our current “neurotic” conflicts are signals that nature is calling us to pay attention to her. 

Accordingly, they represent functions which have been deprived of their natural expressions and seek their aims “in a wrong form” — misinterpreted because the symbolic language of the unconscious is not understood. To understand a “neurosis” is to break its form apart by reflecting on the symbolic ideas it contains and relate them to the associations the unconscious further provides to elaborate its aims — an intensely personal task.

Though the conflict is acted out concretely, symbolic behaviors describe natural functions that have a far different meaning than appears on the surface. At the deeper levels, it’s usually a religious or philosophical one, because that’s the historical form in which the unconscious expresses its urge to consciousness. How many psychologies would themselves qualify as neurotic if viewed from this natural perspective? How does a culture measure it’s own sanity by its own artificial criteria?

Continue reading for an example of the symbolic process of re-connecting to the psychic depth below the collective values which describe our current cultural neurosis.

 

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Commercialization and the New Mass Man

“In the course of Western development, the essentially positive process of emancipating the ego… from the tyranny of the unconscious has become negative. It has gone far beyond the division of conscious and unconscious… and has brought about a schism between them; and, just as differentiation and specialization have degenerated into overspecialization, so this development has gone beyond the formation of individual personality and given rise to an atomized individualism.” — Erich Neumann, 1954

So wrote Neumann in, The Origins and History of Consciousness. In Appendix II, Mass Man And The Phenomena of Recollectivization, he elaborated:

“Whereas on the one hand we see ever larger groups of overindividualized persons, there are on the other hand ever larger masses of humanity who have detached themselves from the original situation of the primary group… Both these developments tend to lower the significance of the group as a unit of persons consciously or unconsciously bound together, and to exalt the mass as a conglomeration of unrelated individuals.”

In a previous post, I discussed The Hidden Persuaders (1960), in which Vance Packard detailed the commercialization of psychology for the exploitation of consumers in the interests of business and industry. This rude use of the lowest levels of self-knowledge has only deepened the schism he and Neumann saw taking hold of contemporary culture many decades ago. The opportunistic cultivation of our recent identification with science and the material world is both cause and effect of deeper processes which only magnify our fixation on things. Neumann:

“… while the clan, tribe, or village is as a rule a homogenous group descended from a common origin, the city, office, or factory, is a mass unit. The growth of these mass units at the cost of the group unit only intensifies the process of alienation from the unconscious. All emotional participations are broken down and… exist only in a narrowly restricted personal sphere.”

The “overindividualized person” whose emotional relations are weakened is carefully conditioned to identify feelings with material substitutes, abetting a process as symbolic as it is destructive. It’s a big a payday for mainstream psychology, though, just as it is for the business interests it has come to serve. The more alienated we are, the more we feel the unconscious pressures of emotions designed to orient us to an inner reality we can never grasp without bringing them into consciousness.

The unconscious naturally attempts to direct us inwardly (where the problems are centered), and this finds us increasingly obsessed with ourselves; though, with no understanding of its deeper purposes, the self-urge remains stuck in the narrowly personalistic forms described by Neumann and re-appears as an egotistical self-interest.

When the anxieties compensating our self-neglect are misunderstood, we look to the experts. But, few psychologies today speak to why, or as Jung said, “for what purposes” we feel troubled. No less than anyone else caught in the collective spirit of our times are psychologists immune from their effects.

But, don’t tell me they don’t know the problems are emotional; the facade of knowledge needed to compete for consumers precludes them from looking outside the medical paradigm and into the dark, uncertain mirror of psychic images. Though they reflect our deepest natures, symbols don’t make sense to the rational intellect of today.

This literal re-visioning of our world-view by science and technology reinforces the mass emotional manipulation which began in Neumann’s and Packard’s time, and our subjective realities are more and more subverted by media to maintain the unconsciousness which supports commercial interest-groups. But, artificial substitutes offer only illusory satisfaction. Neumann:

“As has long been observed, in the place of a group… there now appears a mass unit like the State, a purely nominal structure which, in the manner of a concept, comprises a variety of different things, but does not represent an idea that springs as a central image from a homogenous group. Romantic attempts to revalue or to reverse this development necessarily result in regressions, because they take no account of its forward tendency and misunderstand its connection with the historically positive evolution of… consciousness…

“In our culture there has been a steady… undermining of the psychological foundations of the group which expresses itself in mass-mindedness, in the atomization and conscious internationalization of the individual. One result of this expansion of consciousness is that, regardless of conflicting national ideologies, every modern consciousness is confronted with that of other nations and races and with other cultures, other economic patterns, religions, and systems of value… the original group psychology… becomes relativized and profoundly disturbed…

“The global revolution which has seized upon modern man and in whose storm center we find ourselves today has, with its transvaluation of all values, led to a loss of orientation in the part and in the whole, and daily we have new and painful experience of its repercussions in the political life of the collective, as well as in the psychological life of the individual.”

This was 1954, and the first generation conditioned by mass commercial media has spawned a new one so immersed in its technology today that it can’t think outside it. This is the new norm to which mainstream psychology would adjust us.

Jung and Neumann have provided the conceptual foundation to connect with nature’s symbolic language. Much intellectual information has been supplied, and yet examples of the poetic state of mind which would allow us to experience the emotions in it are few.

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Of Pagan Gods, Divine Egos, and the Schism of Commercialism

Can you believe it? Black Friday is just around the corner, Christmas jingles are already flooding the airways, and the patriotic pandering to support the ever-flagging economy of the top one percent is gearing up for another festive season (i.e., high sales figures but disappointing profit-margins) to honor our material fixations in the cellophane guise of commercial-spiritual devotions.

Lest we forget the humbler and more hallowed origins of the season amid the frenetic frenzy of invented need-gratification, here are some little-known facts about the etymology of these treasured traditions:

Did you know?

That our traditional Thanksgiving dinner actually dates back to Julius Caesar? Shakespeare has immortalized the proletarian plea of Wimpy to Brutus, one of the powerful and wealthy ruler’s privileged inner circle: “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Some historians suggest that this was also the basis of the modern pay-by-installment system whereby one signs one’s entire life over to the one percent for the privilege of sharing (maintaining) its bounty and to offer its reward for good consumership: permanent Gold-Card Member of the Ninety-Nine Percent Club.

Though hamburgers were then a symbol of wealth and prosperity enjoyed only by members of the Roman senate on special occasions, they became plentiful enough that rotting surfeits followed the next century of Cesarean philanthropy to a vulnerable, war-torn Europe (Pax Romana), and annual celebrations were held to give thanks to those who shared their wealth and resources as welcome return for the wise but ultimately unsustainable and top-heavy guidance of an arrogant and self-serving ruling elite.

Did You Know?

That following an epicurean gala of “all the hamburgers you care to eat”, Roman senators “vegged out” on specially reserved stone couches in great stadiums (the prototype of today’s luxury “sky boxes”) to watch the Lions and Christians amid the dull, half-dozing revelry of inflated stomachs, mead-guzzling, and rude, noisome bodily emissions? The Lions still symbolize the old tradition, though somewhat less competitively today, and lite beer now eases the dispepsia of over-ingestion.

According to primary source documents, as a result of crude meat preservation, bacteria-laden overages, and the unrestrained excesses of the senators: “There were not a bare spote of grounde in the propinquity of the couches the size of a denarius wherein the Senators had not expunged some foule and variouse forme of excretium.”

Did you know?

That the tradition later re-emerged in the New World in more civilized form as Christianity gained momentum and spread its new gospel of love to a primitive, animal-like heathenry? Annual banquets were re-established — but this time, in accordance with the selfless creed dedicated to the service of humanity, the copious bounties of a devoted religious life were shared freely with the under-privileged in joyful anticipation of converting them and/or exterminating them and displacing them of their natural dignity along with whatever else the emissaries might deem proper return for the divine sacrifice of having to depend on savages in the name of God.

Did you know?

That our modern Christmas began as a pagan ritual marking the winter solstice? The shortest day and the longest night of the year translated to the ancient mind as a symbol of bitter hardship and deep depression, and this primitive heritage underlies the uncommonly high suicide rates which characterize the holiday season (compensation for the fantastic history of a divine ego which is yet subject to the laws of nature).

Intense outbursts of consumerism have replaced orgiastic sexual excesses, and boozy office parties and the suggestive lure of kisses under the mistletoe stand today only as fading silhouettes of the naked debauchery of our ancestors and convince us that the lowest forms of sensual greed, sexual or otherwise, have been magically transformed into lofty intellectual pursuits through repression and the pretense of belief.

Did you know?

That the jolly and venerable old St. Nick our children dream so wistfully of on Christmas Eve actually evolved from the ancient Norse god, Nikolai of the Twelve Engorgements? The terrible gifts he proffered were enslavement, abuse, and exploitation in return for the barest physical sustenance. He presided over the anonymous fates of humanity’s forgotten children whose self-serving mommies’ and daddies’ protective nurturing instincts had been overcome by the blind pursuit of immediate personal gain. Fortunately, they only ever comprised about one percent of the population.

His tragic, innocent victims were later euphemized as cute helper “dwarfs” by a wise ruling elite determined to improve humanity’s condition whatever the cost to itself; though a small handful of backward-oriented, bitter, and disgruntled naysayers of contemporary cultural enlightenment propose that unconscious aspects of the original image have morphed into a dangerous modern form of “managed mass deception” for the purposes of maintaining the run-away avarice of a wealthy, dissociated, and unregulated one percent.

Did You Know?

That no poor, pitiful, and unwitting beast of lower intelligence, human or animal (not even the adorable reindeer with its big brown expressive, almost human eyes), is off limits to the genetic inclination for usury and exploitation beneath the carefully staged benign, even pleasant, subliminally-induced commercial images of corporate media-interests which trigger the Pavlov-like response of sensual self-indulgence we’ve been conditioned to exhibit like automatons at the unconscious suggestion of the most transparent, pre-packaged advertisements?

Those familiar with Jung’s typology may note an introverted psychology in conflict with today’s extraverted culture. Continue reading for a serious look at how these tensions may lead beyond the projections and into a confrontation with the collective unconscious at mid-life.

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The Science of Psychology: When Subject is Object

One misconception of mainstream psychology seems inescapable: beneath the studies and statistics, for anything to be known there must be a perceiving subject. In the history of ideas, subject and object form a basic pair of philosophical opposites; the confusion between them is only magnified when the subject is an object of science.

Jung’s in-depth historical studies penetrated to the core of this problem, though his comparative method remains nearly as obscure today as it was a century ago. An understanding of it begins with the facts of perception and their unconscious projection.

As he showed in Psychological Types, the argument has always turned around the projection of more or less extraverted and introverted viewpoints. These two ways of seeing the world determine how we experience it. To get a clearer picture of their effects on psychology, Jung’s general description of how we perceive is important:

The introvert is “… oriented by the factor in perception and cognition which responds to the sense stimulus in accordance with the individual’s subjective disposition. For example, two people see the same object, but they never see it in such a way that the images they receive are absolutely identical. Quite apart from the variable acuteness of the sense organs and the personal equation, there often exists a radical difference, both in kind and degree, in the psychic assimilation of the perceptual image.”

Though the extravert’s accent is on a concrete world of objects, due to the subjective nature of perception, Jung’s description applies to both viewpoints:

“The difference in the case of a single apperception may, of course, be very delicate, but in the total psychic economy it makes itself felt in the highest degree, particularly in the effect it has on the ego.”

The scientific method began as the extraverted study of objects. Projections flowed only in one direction; repetition, verification, and prediction reduced the subjective effects of individual viewpoints to the extent that certain physical processes could be considered objective. Even so, Jung cautioned:

“We must not forget — although the extravert is too prone to do so — that perception and cognition are not purely objective, but are also subjectively conditioned. The world exists not merely in itself, but also as it appears to me. Indeed, at bottom, we have absolutely no criterion that would help us to form a judgment of a world which was unassimilable by the subject.” Perception means assimilation which mean judgment which means subjective. 

Jung explained that because of this subjective factor, “absolute cognition” is impossible. We are only as objective as our senses allow. Objectivity is relative not only to the limitations of the senses (even when artificially magnified) but to personal judgments about what we perceive and for what purposes. Beyond these unconscious pre-conditions, the mere accrual of information is “the effect it has on the ego.”

This is “… an attitude of intellectual arrogance accompanied by crudeness of feeling, a violation of life as stupid as it is presumptuous. By overvaluing our capacity for objective cognition we repress the importance of the subjective factor, which simply means a denial of the subject. But what is the subject? The subject is man himself — we are the subject. Only a sick mind could forget that cognition must have a subject, and that there is no knowledge whatever and therefore no world at all unless “I know” has been said, though with this statement one has already expressed the subjective limitation of all knowledge.

“This applies to all psychic functions: they have a subject which is just as indispensable as the object. It is characteristic of our present extraverted sense of values that the word “subjective” usually sounds like a reproof… brandished like a weapon over the head of anyone who is not boundlessly convinced of the absolute superiority of the object.” The freight train of objective science and its ego-effects have steam-rolled psychology into a glaring contradiction:

“By the subjective factor I understand the psychological action or reaction which merges with the effect produced by the object and so gives rise to a new psychic datum.” As surely as we identify images with things, they are are at once personal, collective, subjective, and objective. Here’s the stick dangling the apple in front of a scientific psychology:

“Insofar as the subjective factor has, from the earliest times and among all peoples, remained in large measure constant, elementary perceptions and cognitions being almost universally the same, it is a reality that is just as firmly established as the external object. If this were not so, any sort of permanent and unchanging reality would be simply inconceivable, and any understanding of the past would be impossible. In this sense, therefore, the subjective factor is as ineluctable a datum as the extent of the sea and the radius of the earth.”

A fact is a fact is a fact, right? Not until we have a wider conception of how relative they are to the medium perceiving them. Grandiose notions of a “theory of everything” will sooner or later stumble onto these limitations:

“By the same token, the subjective factor has all the value of a co-determinant of the world we live in, a factor that on no account can be left out of our calculations. It is another universal law, and whoever bases himself on it has a foundation as secure, as permanent, and as valid as the man who relies on the object. But just as the object and objective data do not remain permanently the same, being perishable and subject to chance, so too the subjective factor is subject to variation and individual hazards. For this reason its value is also merely relative.”

For an example of how Jung’s comparative method may be applied to find subjective meaning beyond the limitations of intellect, read more.

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The Hidden Language of Symbols

Jung’s historical studies are a sturdy, empirical foundation for uncovering the hidden meaning in dreams and fantasies. His comparative method produces real results and provides essential tools for interpreting the strange picture-language of unconscious functioning.

I remember my confusion when I first applied myself to his concepts. I could understand every word in sentences I couldn’t yet comprehend. For my causal thinking, even the notion of symbols baffled me. Many conceive them as signs or metaphors, but Jung discovered that symbols and the associations they give rise to are images concealing unconscious ideas.

Often, however, they’re embedded in an historical context which isn’t accessible by association. As Jung showed, the collective unconscious contains images of instinctual processes which are only partially translatable to consciousness. Its depth, like nature, is impersonal and inexhaustibly creative, and it works unceasingly to inform us of where we are.

As an example, I’d like to relate how I became aware of this symbolic language. In the course of studying Jung at mid-life, I was compelled to write a song, a parody of today’s culture. After going over it for months, it dawned on me that it had also created another picture beyond my intent.

Consciously, it was about our evolution; the fascination with technology, our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, growing obesity, and artificial viewpoints. I wanted to paint a satirical picture of future possibilities and like all psychic products, it can be read symbolically. Hidden in the song was an unconscious description of what was happening in me.

The end of the first stanza reads: “When all of nature’s circumstances quietly concur/Consider all the prospects which this process can incur.” Then the chorus: “My genes it seems got carried away with me!/ Help! I’m evolving into something I can’t see!/Is it fate or choice or probability/That’s turned me into what I seem to be?”

The second stanza goes: “My eyes are getting bigger from all the things I watch/From TV’s to calories to clocks./My body hair has yielded to my shirts and pants and socks/And all of these anxieties are thinning out my locks./My pelvic girdle’s widening, my girth is growing round/From the gravitational pull of sitting down./My legs are short and stunted, the circulation’s poor/As they dangle from the chair’s edge and never touch the floor.”

The third stanza: “My mouth’s become a cavern of enormous shape and size/From all the pull and pressure it withstands./My functions of ingestion are so greatly mechanized/That prudence must be practiced in not swallowing my hands./My arms are long and wiry from reaching out to grasp;/Their joints are more elastic I can vouch/From the constant craning motions for all the things I ask/To gratify my cravings without getting off the couch.”

The last stanza begins: “Well, nature’s got the best of me, I readily admit./Like some modern Humpty Dumpty, here I sit…” The conclusion describes a humanity which is consuming the world that sustains it. At the time, I had no notion that it also referred to the deeper process consuming me. Unaware of it, I projected it onto society, the body, even genes.

As I considered earlier dreams, I began to relate associations. I’d dreamed of a man pointing at me penetratingly, “It’s time for you to have a baby!” I thought I was crazy, until I read an alchemical parable of a king “who had a baby in his brain.” Psychologically, pregnancy and birth symbolize new psychic contents: my widening pelvic girdle, my growing girth, and the gravitational pull of the unconscious.

I thought of how the song depicted my legs, my emotional foundations: short and stunted, unable to reach the floor: the depth of an unconscious reality. As I compared and collated the ideas, they began to form a broader image.

The third stanza found me ravenous, consuming everything within reach, my arms exaggerated tools for grasping hands to feed the enormous cavern my mouth had become. Around that time, a friend told me: “I dreamed you were stuffing food into your mouth feverishly, eating everything in sight! It was crazy!”

Erich Neumann wrote that eating in dreams is an analogy for the digestion of unconscious contents. My friend’s unconscious had taken note of what was happening in me and described it in his dream.

The idea of self-consumption is expressed; the mouth as a cavern, an entrance to the dark internal depths, Jonah and the whale, the ancient idea of self-fertilization, the alchemical serpent with its tail in its mouth to form a circle: all symbols of nature’s transitional cycles. The core of these ancient ideas evolved into the ritual of Communion: the eating of Christ’s body and the drinking of his blood as the symbolic taking in of the spirit.

Another dream found me in the kitchen of a restaurant amid the rush of workers busily preparing meals. At the entrance, a man was was taking reservations. He looked at me uncannily, “You need to finish your art project!” He tossed me an egg which fell out of my hands and broke on the floor. There was nothing in it.

It was the Humpty-Dumpty of the last stanza, the egg of potential which, filled with personal experience and nurtured with devotion, brings the spirit to birth. “And all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty together again.”: a reference to the individual nature of coming to terms with the unconscious.

These processes are embedded in the history of symbols, and only when we understand their impersonal context can we connect with the personal realities they express.

Jung and Neumann meticulously described how symbols reveal the history of our functioning. Psychological knowledge and reflection can bring these realities into consciousness. The wider our exposure to ideas, the greater our ability to understand what’s working in us.

For an example of mid-life development and the symbolic elaboration of ideas using Jung’s comparative method, read more.

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The Land of Two Truths

James Branch Cabell’s, Jurgen and Figures of Earth, continue to occupy me. Because they derived from medieval folk tales and were worked by anonymous authors over centuries, the ideas in them contain symbols and analogies which have long been left behind in the modern search for objective truth.

Like alchemical philosophy, they revolved around natural processes outside conventional belief: aspects of inner life which dwell in “the land of two truths” beyond the dual thinking of traditional religion. Studies of symbols suggest that we’re entering a new phase of consciousness in which the repression of the unconscious that characterized centuries of Christian philosophy is slowly altering old ideals as its shadow begins to surface.

This process is revealed in shifting religious devotions, exaggerated dependence on science, technology and consciousness, the breakdown of traditional notions of marriage and family, obsessions with sex and violence and the more animal aspects of nature: signals of unconscious values in need of development.

Their tensions find us grasping at the certainties of fact and knowledge, along with more modern fantasies of technological diversion — not to understand the nature within but to further control it and repress it…

“Well, sir,” says Manuel, as he is entangled in the unconscious, “you may be right in a world wherein nothing is certain.” This reflective attitude is echoed by Jurgen: “You may be right; and certainly I cannot go so far as to say you are wrong: but still, at the same time — !”

The core of this unconscious creative realm was described by Jung as the symbol-making function. Goethe’s Faust descended into this void where, “There are no locks; no bars are to be riven;” Where, “Through solitudes you will be whirled and driven.” Manuel saw it, too, courtesy of Queen Freydis — down where the image-makers toil:

The magicians chanted strange, unintelligible verses in the dim obscurity of fire-light as they fashioned clay images. “What is the meaning of all this?” Manuel asked Freydis.

“It is an experimental incantation… in that it is a bit of unfinished magic for which the proper words have not yet been found: but between now and a while they will be stumbled on, and… will live perpetually, surviving all those rhymes that are infected with thought and intelligent meanings such as are repugnant to human nature.”

Manuel: “Are words, then, so important and enduring?” Freydis answers: “Why, Manuel… In what else, pray, does man differ from the other animals except in that he is used by words?” Like Alice in Wonderland, this world is reflected in opposite form and is upside down or backward from the conscious view because it compensates it. Manuel “… would have said that words are used by men.

“There is give and take, of course,  but in the main man is more subservient to words than they are to him… think of such terrible words as religion and duty and love, and patriotism and art, and honor and common-sense, and of what these tyrannizing words do to and make of people!

“No, that is chop-logic: for words are only transitory noises, whereas man is the child of God, and has an immortal spirit.

“Yes, yes, my dearest, I know you believe that, and I think it is delightfully quaint… But, as I was saying, a man has only the body of an animal to get experiences in, and the brain of an animal to think them over with, so that the thoughts and opinions of the poor dear must remain always those of a more or less intelligent animal. But, his words are very often magic, as you will comprehend by and by when I have made you the greatest of image-makers.

“… Manuel talked with Freydis, confessing that the appearance of these magic-workers troubled Manuel. He had thought it, he said, an admirable thing to make images that lived, until he saw and considered the appearance of these habitual makers of images. They were an ugly… short-tempered tribe, said Manuel: they were shiftless, spiteful, untruthful and in everyday affairs not far from imbecile: they plainly despised all persons who could not make images, and they apparently detested all those who could… What sort of models… were these insane, mud-moulding solitary wasps for a tall lad to follow after? And if Manuel acquired their arts (he asked in conclusion), would he acquire their traits?

“The answer is perhaps no, and not impossibly yes.” replied Freydis. “For… they extract that which is best in them to inform their images, and this is apt to leave them empty of virtue. But, I would have you consider that their best endures, whereas that which is best in other persons is obliterated on some battle-field or mattress or gallows…”

The strange personifications in this creative realm of unconscious activity are the conflicts of opposing tendencies inherent in our natures. What we perceive as deceptive, hostile, and even imbecile (especially in everyday life!), are the raw undeveloped material, the clay, by which human animals are fashioned. We may perceive only that which is best in them to inform our images of ourselves and take the virtues for our own, yet only nature dictates the mud of human predicament.

You may read more about the spiritual predicament of the modern mind here, or visit Amazon.

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Symbolic Thinking: Combining Two Realities

“Often tymes herde Manuel tell of the fayrness of this Queen of Furies and Gobblins… insomuch that he was enamoured of hyr, though he neuer saw hyr: then… made he a Hole in the fyr, and when he had spoke with hyr, he shewed hyr his mynde.Figures of Earth — James Branch Cabell.

Jung wrote of two kinds of thinking: the concentrated, directed kind which demands language for clarity and the fantasy-thinking which flows, like nature, through images. The differences between conscious thought and unconscious perception are most clearly revealed in the confusing language of dreams.

He later evolved his theory of psychological types to show the influence of the two ways of thinking and how they inform the differences in perception of what we so off-handedly and euphemistically refer to as “reality”. The antagonism between introverted and extraverted viewpoints is so subtle, it can’t be resolved by “normal” dialogue in our current form of consciousness.

Jung also demonstrated cultural swings, beyond the subtleties of individual types, in which the spirit of the times may be more or less extraverted or introverted according to shifts in the collective unconscious. He traced their historical ebb and flow through his psychological interpretations of religious conflicts and their gradual development through philosophy into science and rational thought. Beneath individual and cultural differences, Jung explained the empirical facts of two fundamental and contradictory psychic realities.

I cite this as psychological background for the writings of James Branch Cabell. A contemporary of Jung, extraverted critics classed his writings as fantasy and escapist, though what he described was a symbolic, literary example of Jung’s research material. In Figures of Earth, Manuel, a folk analogy of Christ, seeks the spirit, not in the conventional heavenly sphere but through the natural, earthly figures in the unconscious.

An obligation, a “geas”, has been conferred upon him by his mother (the unconscious) to fashion a clay figure of himself in the world until it is to his liking and then to animate it, make it real — his life’s work. In this inner journey, he meets the shadowy wraiths who will aid him in the fulfillment of his strange “geas” whom no one understands.

Through various sources, Manuel learns of Queen Freydis, who alone can animate the clay figures he has fashioned. She can be summoned only by magical incantation and only when the moon is full. She’s dangerous and able to change into frightening images at will, and these must be confronted and endured to catch hold of her in human form.

When Manuel has made the sacred fire from which she would appear according to the rites, a giant serpent leapt upon him, and he clutched it desperately. As he held it at bay, it changed into a monstrous black pig with great tusks “which possessed life of their own, and groped and writhed toward Manuel like fat white worms.” He recited the magic words per instruction.

“Now Manuel was grasping a thick heatless slab of crystal, like a mirror, wherein he could see himself quite clearly. Just as he really was, he, who was not familiar with such mirrors, could see Count Manuel, housed in a little wet dirt with old inveterate stars adrift about him everywhither; and the spectacle was enough to frighten anybody.” Suddenly, Manuel found himself “grasping the warm soft throat of a woman.”

“… do you take no thought for me,” says Queen Freydis, “who am for the while a human woman: for my adversary is a mortal man, and in that duel never yet has the man conquered.” She described her kingdom:

“… So do I tread with wraiths, for my lost realm alone is real. Here all is but a restless contention of shadows which pass presently; here all that is visible and all the colors known to men are shadows dimming the true colors; here time and death, the darkest shadows known to men, delude you with false seemings: for all such things men hold incontestable, because they are apparent to sight and sense, are a weariful drifting of fogs that veil the world… So in this twilit world of yours do we … appear to be but men and women.

“… I am Queen of all that lies behind this veil of human sight and sense. This veil may not ever be lifted; but very often the veil is pierced, and noting the broken place, men call it fire. Through these torn places men may glimpse the world that is real: and this glimpse dazzles their dimmed eyes… and this glimpse mocks… Through these rent places, when the opening is made large enough, a few men here and there, not quite so witless as their fellows, know how to summon us… when for an hour the moon is made void and powerless… and we come as men and women.”

The veil of the senses was rent large by Jung for those who would see beyond it by reflecting on their own images. With the knowledge he discovered and these earthly figures, you may glimpse such erstwhile contradictions in contemporary form, though it’s mirror may yet be a very frightening spectacle to a scientific philosophy caught in the senses, now without any religious values to support it.

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Re-thinking Science and Religion

In a previous post, I quoted Jung’s definitions of rational and irrational: part of his efforts to describe a natural, empirical ground beneath the mythic flight of our religious and philosophical history.

It finds us still chasing a natural reality – on earth as it was in heaven — still in a world of concrete thought. So anxious is it for certainty, it would make of the deepest realities only the dry artifacts of theoretical projections despite the most obvious contradictions in them.

Contradictions in our thinking, however, also produce symbolic reactions in the body (the unconscious) which sometimes violently reject the half-truths forced upon it — just as the long history of religious contention verifies.

As much as we may consider ourselves rational beings, deeper puzzles than stone gods and modern desires define who we are. You may sense the paradox in the space-age illusions which have replaced the old ones; the new astrology of a strangely alive material universe, still reflecting and recording our deeds, only now through the devious satellites of men: symbolic attempts to see living mysteries from a different perspective: the singularity of earth, nature, body, animal, individual.

These are the mysteries of psychic images working beneath consciousness, the paradoxical language of nature: circumstance, chance, and accident, and none are quite certain what to make of our vulnerability to them…

In a reference to Christianity, Joseph Campbell remarked that its hostility (its vulnerability) to nature was unique in the context of world mythology. Identification with intellect means the hostile influence of repressed emotion, and this bi-polarity will find us always in great conflict; though until you become aware of yourself to the extent that you question your sanity, your greatest conflicts will appear outside.

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 that plan if we could account for the greater purposes behind our surface 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 — but 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 panicked nation construct bomb-shelters in the event of nuclear war. Even the scientists were startled by what they’d unleashed, though few admitted that the seeds of destruction existed also in themselves as unconscious reactions to general conditions.

Then the civil rights movement exploded, and a confused and off-balance culture suddenly became aware of its conflicts on two levels. The enemy which was once only outside now appeared inside as well, and the clash of changing values suddenly burst through the tension. The ugly hypocrisy of race relations, coupled with an unpopular war, also formed the tipping point of a much wider dissatisfaction which captured young people everywhere.

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 the drug culture was subliminally incorporated by it for the same reasons…

Psychology has snatched a few crumbs of objectivity from the plate of science since that time — from the otherworldly fare of god-like fantasies it was called upon to digest: the circumstances and consequences created by literal, one-sided conceptions of a dual psyche which reflects life through images. But psychology, like science generally, dismissed religion as fantasy; though the mind it was charged to study, outside its own thought, was itself comprised of images and fantasies.

Science only fancied the more that it could extricate itself from the threats of its inventions by inventing even more novel things to occupy itself with — though its exclusive concentration on objects created problems which became only the more threatening the more objective the solutions. That the novel age of diversion were more revolving than evolving by-products of its destructive side, no one considered in the blinding glare of immediate gain.

The dark spirit-shadows (the earthly ones) lurking in the background went right on generating the same spiritual aims they always had — only the times and circumstances changed according to ego’s perception of itself. Psychology tagged along behind an objective science and assumed it could discover the depth of nature’s spirit, not by delving into the mystery, but by soaring above it with the same certainty the preachers used to avoid it. 

How will a rational science discover the mysteries of an irrational nature? Maybe you’d rather not think about such things, pursue your diversions while you can, and leave the burden for your children. On the other hand, if you feel a strange and uncertain anxiety about where the old dual morality is taking us, read more here.

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