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Psyche, Science, and Subjectivity

Each individual sees the world a little differently according to… personal interpretations: Jung’s “subjective factor”. He stressed that it is “one of the necessary conditions under which all thinking takes place.” We may agree on certain general ways of thinking, but this in no way relieves them of their subjective quality. It is conscious thought which subjectivizes the ideas we associate. The… advance from collective thinking to individual differentiation accentuates this subjective influence. The tendency toward specialization and the proliferation of “isms” attests this movement.” — A Mid-life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Other Side of Science

What we call “psychology” today is a science that can be pursued only on the basis of certain historical and moral premises laid down by Christian education in the last two thousand years. A saying like “Judge not that ye be not judged,” inculcated by religion, has created the possibility of a will which strives, in the last resort, for simple objectivity of judgment.” — Carl Jung.

It was not that long ago (maybe an hour in the life of a modern mind?) from the standpoint of the ‘million year old man‘ that consciousness was able to speculate an idea of objectivity. From that perspective, it was only a few minutes ago that it yielded the facts of subjective development sufficient to distinguish it; though the search for objective truth still doesn’t account for it.

Jung expressed the problem philosophically in terms of ideas having “reality-significance”. We know that an objective reality exists, but consciousness can only infer it. His ‘subjective factor’ describes unconscious processes that the will to objective judgment has yet to address: “the necessary condition under which all thinking takes place.”

Let’s follow these empirical psychic facts back in time an hour or so (from the million year old man’s perspective) and look at some ideas contemporary with the logic which birthed the scientific method. They have reality-significance, but of a different kind than science fancies.

(From, Figures of Earth, the re-telling of a medieval folk-tale by James Branch Cabell in 1919, concerning ‘Manuel the Redeemer’, a folk-analogy of Christ: the unconscious, intuitive side of the collective value-judgments of the time. This conversation is between Manuel and the ‘Fire-Bird’, Zhar-Ptitza, a spirit-figure beyond the sensual ‘clay figures’ Manuel has fashioned from the conventional religious ideas that form his conflict.)

The frivolous question that Manuel raised as to his clay figures, the Zhar-Ptitza considered a very human bit of nonsense: and the wise creature… felt forced to point out that no intelligent bird would ever dream of making images.

“But, sir,” said Manuel, “I do not wish to burden this world with any more lifeless images. Instead, I wish to make… an animated figure, very much as, they say, a god did once upon a time — “

“… you should not try to put too much responsibility on Jahveh,” protested the Zhar-Ptitza… “for Jahveh made only one man, and did not ever do it again. I remember the making of that one man very clearly, for I was created the morning before, with instructions to fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven, so I saw the whole affair. Yes, Jahveh did create the first man on the sixth day. And I voiced no criticism. For of course after working continuously for nearly a whole week… no creative artist should be blamed for not being in the happiest vein on the sixth day.”

“Well, well, I do not assert that the making of men is the highest form of art, yet, none the less, a geas is upon me to make of myself a very splendid and admirable young man.”

“… To what permanent use could one put a human being even if the creature were virtuous and handsome to look at? Ah, Manuel, you have not seen them pass as I have seen them pass… in swarms, with their wars and their reforms and their great causes, and leaving nothing but their bones behind them.” 

“Yes, yes, to you, at your age, who were old when Ninevah was planned, it must seem strange; and I do not know why my mother desired I should make myself a splendid and admirable young man. But the geas is upon me.”

It may be today that these questions are more styled by biology, genetics, or evolutionary anthropology, but the ‘geas’ of Manuel is the psychic urge of an instinctual nature that proscribes its own laws irrespective of clime, culture, or common sense …

“The Zhar-Ptitza sighed. “Certainly these feminine whims are not easily explained. Yet your people have some way of making brand-new men and women of all kinds… otherwise the race would have been extinct a great while since at the rate they kill one another. And perhaps they do adhere to Jahveh’s method, and make fresh human beings out of earth, for… I have seen the small, recently completed ones, who look exactly like red clay.”

“It is undeniable that babies do have something of that look,” assented Manuel. “So then… do you think I may be working in the proper medium?”

“It seems plausible, because I am certain your people are not intelligent enough to lay eggs, nor could, of course, such an impatient race succeed in getting eggs hatched.  At all events, they have undoubtedly contrived some method or other, and you might find out from the least foolish of them about that method.”

“Who, then, is the least foolish of mankind?”

“Probably King Helmas of Albania, for it was prophesied by me a great while ago that he would become the wisest of men if ever he could come by one of my shining white feathers, and I hear it reported he has done so.”

“Sir,” said Manuel dubiously, “I must tell you in confidence that the feather King Helmas has is not yours, but was plucked from the wing of an ordinary goose.”

“Does that matter?” asked the Zhar-Ptitza. “I never prophesied, of course, that he actually would find one of my shining white feathers…”

“But how can there be any magic in a goose feather?”

“There is this magic, that, possessing it, King Helmas has faith in it, and has stopped bothering about himself.”

“Is not to bother about yourself the highest wisdom?”

“Oh, no… I merely said that it is the highest of which man is capable.”

 More on the other side of science here, or visit Amazon.

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A Mid-life Perspective: Preface — Part II

“Everything psychic is pregnant with the future.” — Carl Jung

“Ego and Intellect

The identification of ego with intellect contributes to this problematic conception of nature. It long slumbered in Christian theology as identification with an otherworldly God and a disdain for natural life: an image of self-rejection – one of the reasons guilt weighs so heavily in traditional religious ideas. Both are compounded through this identity, the idea of a Deity now yielding to science as it dissolves the metaphysical projections. For all our rational knowledge, we remain driven by the repressed “natural man” who serves the sensual world of material desire – just as he did many thousands of years ago. He personifies the unconscious need for a wider psychological perspective than just an intellectual one – and the internal guilt we never came to terms with because we never understood the reasons for it.

The uneven advance of self-knowledge finds no adequate ideas that would relate us to the ancient symbols and their functions, their irrational truths repressed for lack of understanding. They sink back into the unconscious where they become hostile adversaries. Due to changes in consciousness, they resurface in different guise today, though we remain possessed by their “suprapersonal” powers – paradoxically more distant now than ever. As our relation to ourselves is no longer expressed in the old images, the humbling effects of a higher authority dwindle into vague personal beliefs with no real emotional experience to support them. The result is a “puffing up of the ego-sphere” and the “brutish egotism” to which Neumann referred: an exaggerated urge to individuality which has lost its relation to itself and the world.

From the scientific perspective, religious images are only fantasies. For the less developed intellect of the past, they served to influence thought’s exclusive tendencies. The objective trend today requires a new interpretation of the values they represent. The conflicts of the soul, the emotional tensions determining our deepest relations in the context of a greater whole, are projected onto fractional interests and ideologies with ever more threatening consequences.

Only the hard work of introspection can free the individual from the self-flattering and contradictory influences of ego. The recognition of a higher inner authority beyond will and intellect is a philosophical and religious process meant to bind us to humanity and our natural environment. For science to serve those greater purposes, its aims must be subject to a broader conception of psychic life.

Causality and Purpose

The causal thinking which orients our perception is opposed to the heavy, symbolic language of the unconscious. The one leads backward in time to a cause that produces effects, and the other leads forward to a purpose or goal without conceiving a cause. As a concept, the latter allows the thoughts, feelings, and intuitions evoked by images and symbols to shape themselves; to relate their associations to the pursuit of aims beyond conscious preconception.

Jung saw the idea of time as a primitive concept of energy, a gradient of potential, in that it flows forward in an irreversible way. This is an approximate analogy for his model of psychic energy and the reason time is capitalized in the text when referred to by the figures representing the unconscious. We can reverse it in our minds as in casual thought, but we should be aware that we are projecting subjective ideas onto the objective behavior of processes outside consciousness.

Each individual sees the world a little differently according to his/her personal interpretations: Jung’s “subjective factor”. He stressed that it is “one of the necessary conditions under which all thinking takes place.” We may agree on certain general ways of thinking, but this in no way relieves them of their subjective quality. It is conscious thought which subjectivizes the ideas we associate. The historical advance from collective thinking to individual differentiation accentuates this subjective influence. The tendency toward specialization and the proliferation of “isms” attests this movement. Though still veiled by symbolic mythical influences, the undeveloped seeds of individuality are gradually emerging through the dense fog of collective history – or at least attempting to.

The opposition between causal thought and the forward movement of the unconscious, along with the projection of subjective viewpoints, create contradictions in our thinking. When looking inward, one of the most perplexing ones is the backward flow of dream-images as they draw on past experience. This paradox reflects the double meaning inherent in unconscious imagery, just as it is the basis of the causal view. The opposites are still fused together in the unconscious; it is the discriminating effect of consciousness that splits the original image and reveals only the partial aspect of its focus. Only the two forms of perceiving combined can give us a wider sense of who we are beneath our one-sided presumptions.

Past, present, and future are a single dynamic process in the unconscious. One of the functions of dreams is to express this creative flow through analogies with present circumstances. Since analogies describe how different sets of experiences conform, dreams often express immediate concerns through memory-images. They reveal the conformities of past and present events, our reactions to them, and the anticipations of tendencies which shape our futures. Jung stated: “Everything psychic is pregnant with the future.”

Next post: Religious Images, Alchemy.

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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 venison 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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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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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. Subject and object form a basic pair of philosophical opposites in the history of ideas; the confusion between them is only magnified when the subject is an object of science.

Jung’s work penetrated to the core of this problem, though his comparative method remains almost as misunderstood today as it was a century ago. An understanding of it begins with the facts of perception.

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 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, right? Not until we have a wider conception of how relative they are to a perceiving medium. 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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