Tag Archives: the current cultural transition

Jung on Transition

The transition from morning to afternoon means a revaluation of the earlier values. There comes the need to appreciate the value of the opposite of our former ideals, to perceive the errors in our former convictions, to recognize the untruth in our former truth, and to feel how much antagonism and even hatred lay in what, until now, had passed for love. — C.G. Jung

This is as true for the current cultural transition as it is for the personal one at mid-life. The individual tends to a more spiritual attitude in the second half of life; and though the cultural shift today may seem to be headed in the other direction, major psychic changes involve a conversion of opposites. One pole compensates the other in the same general process:

Much, indeed, can be attained by the will, but… it is a fundamental error to subject our own fate at all costs to our will. Our will is a function regulated by reflection; hence it is dependent on the quality of that reflection. This… is supposed to be rational, i.e., in accord with reason. But has it ever been shown, or will it ever be, that life and fate are in accord with reason? We have on the contrary good grounds for supposing that they are irrational… that in the last resort they are grounded beyond human reason.

I often wonder who reflects on such ideas as life or fate today. Life is — what it is. The philosophical reflection meant to distinguish self from other, to mediate the dual realities of subject and object, is lost to a mind that sees only a concrete world of things, and creativity is valued mostly for those aims. Personality development can’t keep pace with an obsessed intellect, and an opposed psychic reality, reflected in the mirror of ideological conflict, finds our relations no more rational today than a thousand years ago. Life is what it is; but, what about the other side of conscious reality: the one that created itself and us with it?

The irrationality of events is shown in what we call chance, which we are… compelled to deny because we cannot in principle think of any process which is not causal… whence it follows that it cannot happen by chance. In practice, however, chance reigns everywhere, and so obtrusively that we might as well put our causal philosophy in our pocket… Hence reason and the will that is grounded in reason is valid only up to a point…”

That point lies somewhere in the incredible violence we see on the news every day. Is it the repressed emotional reactions to the changes taking place today; the inertia of unconscious history? Though the hotbox in the Middle East did not arise by mere chance, we’re left to rush from one fire to the next in a flailing attempt to control the chance events created by decisions made centuries ago. A new world disaster is waiting to be ignited by similar ‘chance’ accidents.

Not a few of those who are driven into the conflict of opposites jettison everything that had previously seemed to them good and worth striving for; they try to live in complete opposition to their former ego… The snag about a radical conversion into one’s opposite is that one’s former life suffers repression and thus produces just as unbalanced a state as existed before…

All discord begins with the individual: how we engage the world, as persons or groups, reflects inner conditions. The existential uncertainties that once urged spiritual reflection and the need for moral perspective have been replaced by an illusory faith in the very rationalism that seems only to hasten our demise. Consciousness is the new religion, science the higher power.

On the other side of the rational Western faith, the regressive religious fervor in the Middle East shapes unconscious reactions; we confront the same primitive tendencies we fancied we’d mastered along with the material world. All are ruled by the inner anxieties of change and an uncertain future. Legions the globe over unconsciously seize upon this or that ideology to release their particular inner turmoil: collective images of the confusion rooted in the individual.

Those stable enough to resist being swept into the violence of radical ideology suffer the crosses of personal anxieties and compulsions to a degree unknown in the past: commercial consumption, economic disparity, static political parties, animal cruelty, gay rights, abortion, over-worked hair. You name it, we suffer from it; science, psychology, enlightenment and all. Ready-to-wear ideologies beckon compulsively for those unable to look into themselves.

That our own irrational natures, and not just chance and accident, might be portending the mid-life transition of an entire civilization may seem a distant idea. Yet, what we see today in the death-obsessions of increasing pockets of fanatics are not only inner symbols which circumscribe the passage from one stage to the next, but concrete realities enhanced by the worldly fixations of an advanced primate who can’t see into the strange psychic world it half created.

The other side of that strange unconscious psychic world seems to be the only reality science denies. Is that logical?

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