“A major shift in perspective accompanies today’s fast-paced super-highways of information. Jung’s and Neumann’s comparative studies of consciousness revealed patterns — evolutionary swings in its focus throughout history. They saw such shifts as reflections of unconscious organizing and centering functions. Their purpose is to re-orient us at certain critical stages to the more diffuse aims of spiritual and psychological development. Until recently, those aims were the province of religion and philosophy. That has changed. The beginning of the new stage is marked by a revolutionary discovery in the trend toward objective inquiry: the old metaphysical images proved to be the symbolic language of an unconscious psyche.” — A Mid-Life Perspective: Conversations With The Unconscious.
As much of my effort concerns what I see as the increasing relevance of Jung’s work, this quote from the preface of my book is a continuation of my last post on the cultural changes taking place today. While it’s important to reflect on their origins and effects, this often reinforces the causal thought that only drags us further into the rut of conscious reasoning responsible for an increasing unconscious opposition — the more threatening the more we depend on it. Few took note in 1954 when Erich Neumann wrote:
“Typical and symptomatic of this transitional phenomenon is the state of affairs in America, though the same holds good for practically the whole Western hemisphere… The grotesque fact that murderers, brigands, thieves, forgers, tyrants, and swindlers, in a guise that deceives nobody, have seized control of collective life is characteristic of our time. Their unscrupulousness and double-dealing are recognized — and admired. Their ruthless energy they obtain at best from some stray archetypal content that has got them in its power. The dynamism of a possessed personality is accordingly very great, because in its one-track primitivity, it suffers none of the differentiations which make men human.”
A scant generation later, the dire conditions of WWII the New Science created but was also expected to save us from finds us in the wake of effects which threaten in different ways than the old ideological perspective of good vs. evil. That view is gradually giving way to a new stage of psychological awareness. The consciousness of today is more diverse and complex than ideological absloutes can sustain. Neumann:
“Not only power, money, and lust, but religion, art, and politics as exclusive determinants in the form of parties, sects, movements, and “isms” of every description take possession of the masses and destroy the individual.”
What “takes possession of the masses” is an expression of human need, though in unconscious forms so undefined and inarticulate that good and evil no longer express life as we once conceived it. The understanding of symbols, however — because they’re also individual and express personal needs — is relative to subjective interpretation (as if no one ever knew what religious thought was for). I stated in the preface to my book:
“Our ideas of religion are changing, and there is no return to the old ways. Deep in the throes of unseen psychic forces, consciousness is being pushed in a new direction. The possibilities for further development hidden in the older ideas require a re-interpretation of the peculiar language of the depth from which they spring and the symbols it produces.“
Not only are they changing in the West, but in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, too. It’s not really remarkable that Neumann’s observations on the greed and opportunism which for centuries defined the unconscious opposite beneath Christian ideals have finally become apparent to the rest of the world.
Beyond politics — the subjective clash of “isms” reflecting the opposed nature of unconscious regulating processes — what are the unseen forces pushing conflict in the Middle East? Radical extremism is a new awareness, not of its own religious history, but of the West and its exaggerated moral superiority; the underside of its professed principles: negative projections which bind opposed yet inter-penetrating ideas of progression and regression into mutual conflicts. But, the unconscious intent is to destroy such attitudes as repress its creative aims. When projected, they’re lived concretely.
The purposes revealed in the current forms of ideological idolatry can’t be seen through the lens of ego, reason, and belief. Listen to the “rational” solutions today’s leaders offer: they lead only deeper into conflict. The reasoning hasn’t changed — only the consequences.
Conscious objectivity cannot reason itself out of its subjective prison without a sense of purpose beyond temporal desire. Whether some see progress only through a single aspect of their personalities or are completely consumed by spiritual regression makes little difference. The fact is: all will be drawn into the conflicts for their own material investments in them: the nature of a global consumerism. History attests its primitive collective nature.
I quoted Philip Wylie in my last post: “It is the individual of whom the mass is composed, and if he is of poor character, the group will have that quality… The individual represents the whole. To be changed, he must change himself.”
For a literary example of how one begins the psychological process of coming to terms with the unconscious, visit Amazon.