Tag Archives: Jung’s comparative approach

The Mystery of the God-Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The ‘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 we know little about. As consciousness is a partial complex, it sees only partial processes; Jung saw the unconscious as a natural unity which contains the opposites within itself: causality/purpose, rational/irrational, sensual/spiritual are essentially subjective interpretations of instinctual functions.

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 foundation 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, how they function, 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 main one over others: thinking excludes feeling to record information; feeling represses thinking in the weighing of values. Accidental circumstances would find us paralyzed with indecision were it not for instinctual processes perceptible by means of 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 symbol-images, are projected into concrete experiences. Because life exists only in singular form, all experience is relative to the individual; but since social instincts are needed to co-exist with others, similarities are more apparent than differences to a collective method based on averages. Nature, however, has accentuated the reflective instinct in a self-aware animal; the unconscious directs consciousness to its instinctual needs through meaningful associations of emotionally charged ideas.

Conscious attention is attracted by the intensity of energy fluctuating between 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 one without the other would result in an unsustainable condition. Without a function to mediate their relations, culture would devolve into a ruthless competition for individual superiority measured only by the collective value of objects. 

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: a profound need for an individual animal who depends as much on himself as others for life. The idea of a single god is not just an ideal directing moral development but a natural image which compensates our split natures.

The functions designed to reconcile a dual orientation depend on conscious distinctions between the opposites to work according to nature. Obsession and devotion, compulsion and desire, healing and disease, are fluid, relative ideas; complex associations 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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