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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Psychology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *