Tag Archives: the guiding principle of instinct

Image, Symbol, and Function

Because a limited will only partially creates our conditions, the deeper effects of our actions are shrouded by the veil of conscious intent. We also react to inner circumstances which are just as real as the outer ones, unseen by the fascination with the sensual and concrete. What we see and what we can’t see are determined by the concepts which shape our perceptions. A different… view is required to grasp the effects of the psychic reality we can’t see: a symbolic one.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious

Four hundred years ago, the facts of a heliocentric universe were empirically established. Though the science of the time proved it beyond doubt, it was not generally accepted for several generations. 

Two centuries ago, Darwin introduced another idea which shook collective views — one still not accepted by many: that the human animal is a product of natural history and not ego-assumptions. His intuitive ideas of adaptation through form and function, natural images previously distorted by religious projections, were confirmed scientifically by observation and comparison.

A hundred years ago, Freud introduced clinical evidence of an unconscious mind. In contrast to prevailing medical views, he applied his observations to the subtle complexities of the psyche.

Fifty years ago, Carl Jung established a body of empirical facts which proved that our views of ego-consciousness are dangerously over-estimated. One of his most important contributions was the idea of symbolic thinking. His in-depth studies of symbols followed directly from his own psychic experiences, and through them he discovered a wealth of information previously hidden in the peculiar language of the so-called primitive psyche.

That the unconscious was seen as primitive in the negative sense was due not only to Freud’s influence in the early years of psychoanalysis but to the role generally ascribed to consciousness. The mind of that time couldn’t imagine that thought was not its own arbiter. Freud showed clinically that it wasn’t — at least not in ‘neurotics’. Psychology was for those who were ‘sick’ or had special weaknesses. Jung challenged the assumption by proving psychic experience to be relative to the individual — often contrary to social labels and expectations.

Freud’s philosophy, while acknowledging an unconscious mind, considered it a kind of crude inheritance which modern man would soon overcome by a superior intellect. He theorized ‘archaic vestiges’ as primitive relics which consciousness had outgrown the need for; though the conflicts they created couldn’t be denied.

As a result, concepts of unconscious mental functioning were slow to develop. Our egocentric notions of who and what we are were again threatened. Though men have always thought they knew what they were doing, yet they haven’t — the very idea of an unconscious psyche contradicted it.

Our views of ourselves have been forged mainly by such inflated self-opinions. An honest examination of history confirms our possession by them. Unbiased observation and evaluation by those who thought outside that mold has provided overwhelming evidence for it.

As Jung’s historical setting required a model that grew out of medical pathology, the conflicts of development were initially seen as ‘diseases.’ They were certainly outside the collective norm of the time, but that they might be the inner demands of a transitional stage of consciousness had yet to be conceived.

Without concepts of unconscious psychic functions — their opposition and their purposes — how else could the seeds of inner development appear to a collective ego based on causality but as diseases? Jung showed conclusively that the psyche is purposive as well; causality only half the picture.

Today, the material philosophy of an objective science is the possession of all — while consciousness remains the creation of an instinctual psyche whose symbolic language has evolved for the purposes of Nature; ego but another idol in the dark strivings of a human-like animal who would have ‘god-like’ qualities, yet for two thousand years has been unable to see through the curtain of its own subjective image enough to truly pursue them.

Jung wrote that sooner or later we’ll discover that consciousness has evolved for higher purposes than itself; obscured in the analogies of ‘primitive’ images which are forward oriented but require reflection to perceive. The guiding principle of instinct, in outright opposition to ego’s own over-valuation, now works against us with the same fury of our resistance. 

We can no longer pretend that we know who or what God is. Because we rarely reflect on anything beyond ourselves, that opposite now confronts us. What are the dual purposes of ‘god’ and ‘devil’? The modern task of consciousness is to reflect on the images that would orient us to a bi-polar inner reality and not the literal and one-sided ego-fantasies we’ve so far constructed in the outer world; to reflect on why we’re here and for what.

You may read a review of my book here.

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