“It is still three minutes to midnight,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists wrote… announcing an update to its famous Doomsday Clock, whose estimate of the risk of global catastrophe has been ticking back and forth since 1947… The time has not changed since 2015, however, when the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board last moved the minute hand, from 11:55 to 11:57. As the Bulletin’s somber, sometimes scathing public letter makes clear, that is not cause for celebration.” — The Christian Science Monitor.
In my recent post on the ‘Anthropocene Epoch‘, I tried to bring into relief a few ideas that point to the causes, effects, and purposes of the shift in values taking place today. They’re not simple; they represent fundamental changes in the way we’ve traditionally seen ourselves and the world.
I’ve quoted Jung, Neumann, and Wylie extensively in my attempts to accent the importance of tackling this transition with a mindset that inspects itself: one of the first steps in dissolving the projections that find our rational, outer-directed thinking increasingly unsustainable. Their ideas are well known; but here I’ll relate some of what I understand of them through the preface of my book:
“Beneath our scientific preoccupations, we remain in the stage of psychological awareness reflected in our religious heritage. Behind the curtain of moral judgment lurk the split figures of good and evil: a model of how we relate to our unconscious natures. Jung has described how those ideas reflect the positive and negative poles necessary to produce psychic energy: the sliding scale along which consciousness fluctuates in its on-going efforts to define itself. Just as it forms the path of collective history, so in the growth of the individual… the repression of the unconscious required for ego to strengthen and develop now creates circumstances which signal the need for a new relation to it — to balance conscious direction; to relate it, make it relative to the counter-pole of inner development.“
The inner counter-pole is a function of relation, not just in the religious sense of self-reflection and introspection, but for the individual to impact the world with creative reflections the group does not possess. This, as Jung has shown, is vital to understanding the unconscious demands that set the stage for changes in consciousness. Here, as stated in the preface, is a brief synopsis of the major themes in my book:
“The Human Animal
Civilization is a comparatively recent product when weighed against the immense stretch of time required for consciousness to emerge from the depths of instinctual nature. The beast tokens our animal ancestry, and the eons-long climb through the darkness of pre-history yet finds it just below the threshold of culture. As a symbol, it relates not only to our biological heritage through the body and its functions but to our sense of individuality, as it is through our bodies that we first experience ourselves as distinct and separate from others….
Nature and the Unconscious
This theme revolves around the image of the earth as a natural symbol of the unconscious. The earth and sun are the sources of all known life, suitable metaphors for the masculine and feminine forces which conceive it. Jung and Neumann have demonstrated that artifacts and symbols dating back to pre-patriarchal cultures intimately associate masculinity with light and consciousness, just as feminine images are associated with unconscious darkness and fertility: the earthly and the feminine, the creative matrix which bears and fosters the child of consciousness. Symbolically, masculinity refers to the heady principles of thought, the organizing of consciousness; the feminine principle dissolves separate tendencies to form emotional and physical relationships – properties of the soul…
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…
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…
Because it consists of a living history of our mental functioning, Jung wrote that any serious inquiry into the unconscious leads straight into the religious problem. This theme fully emerges in the second part of the book. As the poem proceeds, the intuitive side of religious ideas is explored. Job was the older anticipation of the individual who confronts the collective background to discover his or her own way; in so doing, a dialogue is entered into with the unconscious…
Jung’s devotion to the study of alchemy was an attempt to illustrate it as a connective stage between our historical religious outlook and the emerging scientific one. Alchemy was the intermediate form of the two views that later diverged. Like those of theology, alchemical ideas were psychic projections, though less collectively developed and therefore more expressive of natural tendencies…“
(Note: the themes described under the headings contain only the first paragraph of elaboration.)