Tag Archives: analytic psychology

Zeitgeist, Autumn 2016

z2-MakeAmeriKKAGreat

Whoever the “rapist of Persephone,” whether it be Cephisus or Dionysus–and the Eleusinian Mysteries were carried out near the river Kephisos, indicating a link between the two gods–the disordering attack must be reexperienced and lived through, else the redemption of soul will not progress. The way is as much through chaos and death as it is through ecstacy and joy. (Nathan Schwartz-Salant, Narcissism and Character Transformation, p145.)

But, when the narcissistic structure escapes its trial, and the public figure soaks up the larger-than-life projections, projections based in the similar refusal or resistance to soul-making regression, then there is no depressive breakthrough, there is just the steady march to psychzoid splitting.

z2-howtoz2-GOPoops

W.H. Auden:
Patriots? Little boys,
obsessed by Bigness,
Big Pricks, Big Money, Big Bangs

z2-Crone-Power

Without a blow to inflated phallic pride no wisdom is possible. – Eugene Monick

z2-systemfailure

There’s a lot of trending collective identifications streaming wildly about as the USA aims to land its messy electoral democracy on the landing strip November 8. I ask myself what the point of my own research (into folk political economies cast under the light of archetypal psychology,) is when I also sense that it is almost pointless to reveal my abductions under the current circumstances.

That the potential battle of all against all is fantasized by ‘white nationalist manly types’ as arriving at an extremely violent battle of all against all, at a literal civil war, because this is the only way the joined forces of global finance, Democratic and GOP party establishments, non-white races and ethnicities, feminists, so-called social justice  warriors, cultural marxists, environmentalists, may be finally defeated, stitches together a prospective tyranny of what is, by definition, a minority.

Practically, then what? Psychologically, might such warriors actually contemplate being killed for such a cause?

I remind myself that those with the time to fantasize always are pointing at the conflict between different utopian wishes for be-all and end-all social engineering. On a blog I have been visiting for over a decade, the ethos of its main commenters decries the utopian dreams of Mrs. Clinton ‘and her kind,’ without any ability to sense that all anti-utopias are nevertheless prescriptions for utopian engineering.

Those utopian dreams are, obviously, projections. The infantile /nobody is going to tell me what to do anymore/ is joined in our body politic with the masculine’s damaged feel for its lost potency.

So it seems that the ultimate fantasy is to return to manly swordsmanship. Not in the least incidentally, this mimics the dream and aims of another ripping collective of damaged men, daesh/ISIS.

‘obsessed by bigness, big wins, “winning so much winning will become boring.” Tyranny of the chaotic masculine, of the paradoxically powerful impotent tiny men, would beckon, except this collective thrust is about to be turned back.

Whether this particular collective complex will turn back into its self enough to own this new trial, and to begin to individuate, is the deeper question.

Numerous complex specifics of the current societal context in the USA aren’t supportive of this psychological shifting in the underlying currents.

(To me, there are significant questions about whether the archetypal framework for understanding conspecifics of collective change can actually do developmental duty here.)

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It’s a Simple 1G Maneuver

I forget in what book or article I first read that flying and flight and airplanes often resonate with the sensibility of the archetypal puer aeternus.

To learn second hand about the puer aeternus is to find out lots about it’s, apparently, inevitable morbid, suicidal side. For example, from the linked essay:

The Puer’s main pursuit in life is ecstasy, many times at the expense of everything else.. This can be externalized in a highly symbolic fashion in fascination with flying or climbing mountains. Many Puers hang out on ski slopes and racetracks. Many are drawn to drinking, gambling, pornography and drugs to get that rush.

A big chunk of the literature of the problem of the puer brings to the front the several varieties of dark, two-dimensional prospects on offer for the indeterminate “many.” (But, not all, of course–although the Analytic Psychology doesn’t traffic in actual evidence aimed to make this distinction.) Still, what about the rest of the puer population? We muddle down the middle between ecstasy and obligation.

It occurred to me puers may well love to pilot commercial airliners. Presumably, this is where ecstasy is dependably experienced.

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The Individual Problem

Carl Gustav JungFriedrich Hayek
Carl Gustav Jung and Friedrich Hayek.

I had occasion to contribute to the Jung-Circle discussion group the following cut from The Symbolic Life, and, with it, this comment: “It would be a worthwhile study to investigate the definite, and considerable, overlap between Jung’s suppositions and those of the Austrian school of economics, (Hayek and Von Mises.)”

Together with these illusions goes another helpful procedure, the hollowing out of money, which in the near future will make all savings illusory and, along with cultural continuity, guaranteed by individual responsibility. The State takes over responsibility and enslaves every individual for its own ridicu­lous schemes. All this is done by what one calls inflation, devalua­tion, and, most recently, “dilution,” which you should not mix up with the unpopular term “inflation.” Dilution is now the right word and only idiots can’t see the striking difference between this concept and inflation. Money value is fast becoming a fiction guaranteed by the State. Money becomes paper and everybody convinces every­body else that the little scraps are worth something because the State says so. (C.G. Jung; Psychology and National Problems (1936) The Symbolic Life

My comment was unrefined. Actually, given the essential psychologizing move at the first order of Austrian Economics, and, the explicit radically empirical posit of classical Analytic Psychology, their conceptualization of human behavior depart from each other right at their beginning. They are similar in their anti-scientism, in their view of the inherent limits to quantification, and, in their broad thrust favoring individuality in response to their dissimilar foundational conception of the dichotomy, individual/collective.

Allegiance to Praxeology, (the deduced axioms of human action in Austrian Economics,) is behaviorally subject to archetypal analysis. The psychology of the person who is in the grips of their belief in this particular axiom-driven system is interesting. Jung would likely have found attachment to the praxeological system, for which, as Hayek asserted, empiricism and facts are of no import to be particularly laden with unconscious features.

Ironically, and pun intended, the Praxeology could be said to be about inflation.

Criticism of the basic, and partly shared, dichotomy at the center of each system, were of no interest to Hayek, von Mises, or Dr. Jung. Although, to the latter’s credit, the evolutionary, intrapsychic, core structural supposition, the collective unconscious, is a ‘social’ conception. The two frameworks are opposite one anther at this level of genetic supposition.

(coda) C.G. Jung:


Can there be an optimism of austerity?

Instead of “optimism,” I would have said an “optimum” of austerity. But if “optimism” is really meant, very much more would be required, for “austerity” is anything but enjoyable. It means real suffering, especially if it assumes acute form. You can be “opti­mistic” in the face of martyrdom only if you are sure of the bliss to come. But a certain minimal degree of austerity I regard as benefi­cial. At any rate, it is healthier than affluence, which only a very few people can enjoy without ill effects, whether physical or psychic. Of course one does not wish anything unpleasant for anybody, least of all oneself, but, in comparison with other countries, Switzerland has so much affluence to spare (however honourably earned) that we are in an excellent position to give some of it away. There is an “optimum” of austerity which it is dangerous to exceed, for stands a devll, and behind every poor man two.

Since “optimism” seems to have been meant, and hence an optimistic attitude towards something unpleasant, I would add that in my view it would be equally instructive to speak of a “pessimism” of austerity. Human temperaments being extremely varied, indeed contradictory, we should never forget that what is good for one man is harmful for another. One man, because of his inner weak­ness, needs encouragement; another, because of his inner assurance, needs the restraint of austerity. Austerity enforces simplicity, which is true happiness. But to live simply, without regret and bitterness, is a moral task which many people will find very hard. (Return to the Simple Life; 1941; The Symbolic Life)

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The Spark of the Opposites II.

Carl Jung

How to hold the tension of the opposites?

Following from the everyday experience of conflict, or dissonance, or intense ambivalence, Carl Jung doesn’t treat experiential matters like this often. The basic reason is a little bit below the surface of this typical statement from Aion,

“Most people do not have sufficient range of consciousness to become aware of the opposites inherent in human nature. The tensions they generate remain for the most part unconscious, but can appear in dreams.”

With this statement, we’re no longer in the realm of the everyday sundry betwixt and betweens.

The core opposition in Analytic Psychcology is consciousness/unconsciousness. To ask ‘how to hold the tension of opposites’ strikes me as a modern request for a “self-helpful” instrumental technique, as against the energetic, (what for me is a libido or hydraulic,) model given in the classical version, and in Jung’s understanding, of the psyche. In this latter model, the problem is extant in an energized intrapsychic field of energy. This field is the territorial locus for the complex compression given in the intrapsychic confrontation between the known, nascent self-knowledge, and, the unknowable.

Although Dr. Jung does not use the term tension of the opposites much, and does not offer any ‘self-help’ on the ‘how,’ there are several detailed treatments scattered in his writings.

First, Two Essays In Analytic Psychology, (CW 7; 4th ed. 1966) is much about the opposites.

This example clearly shows that it does not lie in our power to transfer “disposable” energy at will to a rationally chosen ob­ject. The same is true in general of the apparently disposable energy which is disengaged when we have destroyed its unser­viceable forms through the corrosive of reductive analysis. This energy, as we have said, can at best be applied voluntarily for only a short time. But in most cases it refuses to seize hold, for any length of time, of the possibilities rationally presented to it. Psychic energy is a very fastidious thing which insists on fulfil­ment of its own conditions. However much energy may be present, we cannot make it serviceable until we have succeeded in finding the right gradient.

This question of the gradient is an eminently practical problem which crops up in most analyses. For instance, when in a favourable case the disposable energy, the so-called libido, does seize hold of a rational object, we think we have brought about the transformation through conscious exertion of the will. But in that we are deluded, because even the most strenuous exer­tions would not have sufficed had there not been present at the same time a gradient in that direction. How important the gra­dient is can be seen in cases when, despite the most desperate exertions, and despite the fact that the object chosen or the form desired impresses everybody with its reasonableness, the trans­formation still refuses to take place, and all that happens is a new repression.

It has become abundantly clear to me that life can flow forward only along the path of the gradient. But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites; hence it is necessary to discover the opposite to the attitude of the conscious mind. It is interesting to see how this compensation by opposites also plays its part in the historical theories of neurosis: Freud’s theory es­poused Eros, Adler’s the will to power. Logically, the opposite of love is hate, and of Eros, Phobos (fear); but psychologically it is the will to power. Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking. The one is but the shadow of the other: the man who adopts the standpoint of Eros finds his compensatory opposite in the will to power, and that of the man who puts the accent on power is Eros. Seen from the one-sided point of view of the conscious attitude, the shadow is an inferior component of the personality and is consequently repressed through intensive resistance. But the re­pressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a ten­sion of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its un­conscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. (L76-78)

The tension of the opposites, in being sparked, is unbidden. In the classical view, it is not subject to the ‘how’ given by our modern self-help view. Thus, to be in the psychological problem so sparked is to be in a situation for which a fruitful appeal may be made to an analytic relationship–through which the working creatively or waiting creatively through the (variously) phantasy/symbolic/dream/actively imagined material, is the means of holding material energized in the ineluctable terms of this gradient.

The problem of opposites, as an inherent principle of hu­man nature, forms a further stage in our process of realization. As a rule it is one of the problems of maturity. The practical treatment of a patient will hardly ever begin with this problem, especially not in the case of young people. The neuroses of the young generally come from a collision between the forces of re­ality and an inadequate, infantile attitude, which from the causal point of view is characterized by an abnormal dependence on the real or imaginary parents, and from the teleological point of view by unrealizable fictions, plans, and aspirations.

Elsewhere Jung states “the opposites condition each other.” The youthful conditioning movement (or energetics, libido,) settles out the persona, distills the egoic first person, and, next may confront the repression of the Shadow.

Here the reductive methods of Freud and Adler are entirely in place. But there are many neuroses which either appear only at maturity or else deteriorate to such a degree that the patients become incapable of work. Naturally one can point out in these cases that an unusual dependence on the parents existed even in youth, and that all kinds of infantile illusions were present; but all that did not prevent them from taking up a profession, from practicing it successfully, from keeping up a marriage of sorts until that moment in riper years when the previous attitude suddenly failed. In such cases it is of little help to make them conscious of their childhood fantasies, dependence on the parents, etc., although this is a necessary part of the procedure and often has a not unfavourable result. But the real therapy only begins when the patient sees that it is no longer father and mother who are standing in his way, but himself-i.e., an unconscious part of his personality which carries on the role of father and mother. Even this realization, helpful as it is, is still negative; it simply says, “I realize that it is not father and mother who are against me, but I myself.” But who is it/in him that is against him? What is this mysterious part of his personality that hides under the father and mother-imagos, making him believe for years that the cause of his trouble must somehow have got into him from outside? This part is the counterpart of his conscious attitude, and it will leave him no peace and will continue to plague him until it has been accepted.

Acceptance.

What youth found and must find outside, the man of life’s afternoon must find within himself. Here we face new problems which often cause the doctor no light headache.

The transition from morning to afternoon means a revaluation of the earlier values. There comes the urgent need to appreciate the value of the opposite of our former ideals, to per­ceive the error 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. Not a few of those who are drawn 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. Changes of profession, divorces, religious convulsions, apostasies of every description, are the symptoms of this swing over to the opposite. 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, when the counterparts of the conscious virtues and values were still repressed and unconscious. Just as before, perhaps, neurotic dis­orders arose because the opposing fantasies were unconscious, so now other disorders arise through the repression of former idols. It is of course a fundamental mistake to imagine that when we see the non-value in a value or the untruth in a truth, the value or the truth ceases to exist. It has only become relative. Every­thing human is relative, because everything rests on an inner polarity; for everything is a phenomenon of energy. Energy nec­essarily depends on a pre-existing polarity, without which there could be no energy. There must always be high and low, hot and cold, ete., so that the equilibrating process–which is energy–can take place. Therefore the tendency to deny all previous val­ues in favour of their opposites is just as much of an exaggera­tion as the earlier one-sidedness. And in so far as it is a question of rejecting universally accepted and indubitable values, the re­sult is a fatal loss. One who acts in this way empties himself out with his values, as Nietzsche has already said. (214-215)

Acceptance and recognition, and, in that order. Again, there is not in the classic perspective any explicit ‘self-help’ advice. Holding is how, and this may mean allowing for the problem to stay, for it to be sticky and to be stuck to it. The underlying energetic circumstance demands the ego with its charge, or libido, to appropriate more than enough consciousness to enter into relation/relatedness with the charged opposite, accept, recognize, and, equilibrate at a higher key.

Because the classic and ensuing revisions of the model of the psyche of Analytic Psychology is problematic in light of modern psychology, in backing away in the direction of common situations of psychological conflict, be these the stuckedness given by conflicts of emotion, cognition, aspiration, it is easy enough for me, grounded in models of adult learning, to comprehend the similarity to how change comes about in experiential learning, where the phase of resolution describes our effectiveness in either adapting our self to the circumstance, or, altering the external circumstance to our self.

***

Numerous teaching stories, the koan, and aphorisms that drill right to the tense middle. My favorite is an aphorism of Rumi.

What is essential is not important,
what is important is not essential.

There is no way to penetrate this aphorism’s value without feeling and experiencing the tension between essential and important.

When Shams, Rumi’s mentor and beloved, was killed, for Rumi, Shams was gone only in one respect. In the working through the opposite between lover and disappeared beloved, his mature mystic outlook was evoked; love in this case growing despite the profoundly frustrating loss of the beloved’s incarnate being. (And, so Rumi’s mysticism offers a yoga of the opposites, of loss and recognition.)

My own experience is that holding the tensions is an everyday opportunity. Anytime we sacrifice our weak or strong preference, we’re “there” holding for a moment the tension of the opposites. Sometimes it can be helpful to understand what the experience is like by working back from the one-sided beginning or ending. The answer, nevertheless, is given by feeling through the experience–or at least this is my suggestion here.

Putting acceptance before recognition is a subtle insight. This means that the first move in the direction of both greater consciousness and toward distant resolution is to accept the intense frustration, and do this for the sake of being able to then accept the weak formations one may apprehend at the very start. Later, when something like clarity is born in a process of creative working/waiting through the tension of the opposites, the hint of resolution comes to become persistent enough to recognize, and, this recognition comes to comprise a foundation for a new attitude.

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The Spark of the Opposites I.

Holding the Spark of the Opposites

(First part of two; reworked from an response offered to Jung-Fire, an email discussion group mostly about Analytic Psychology and Carl Jung. These two parts are in response to the question, how do you hold the tension of the opposites?)

Your question is interesting to me because it points in the direction of a practical answer. After all, we know what it is to hold and experience tension. There are common experiences for which a person finds themselves between or betwixt two competing poles. There are also common ways to describe the genre of such situations.

For example, one wants something but can’t have it. One has a problem or challenge but doesn’t really want to meet it. One prefers an easy route and also knows the route is necessarily not easy.

What is meant by experiencing the opposites? A practical answer is rooted in the experiential, and by reflection on experience.

Holding the opposites is a common experience of being human. Yet, those experiences are mostly different than the experience implied by holding the tension of the opposites given in a situation of individuation; individuation being a conspecific of development in the framework of Analytic Psychology.

Let’s consider this first part to be concerned with the normal, common kinds of experiences.

There are many examples and the several I’ll pose address the question indirectly by implicitly asking what does the experience feel like? The “how” is an answer given by thoroughly sensing what the experience feels like.

Say, you’re driving and somebody else on the road makes an idiotic move, and you find yourself being angry. I might in fact mutter ‘you idiot!’ yet, after all, I’m driving, capable of such moves myself, and, my emotional reaction soon enough passes. There: in the middle, and this would be different from the one-sidedness of speeding up and coming next to the other driver and glaring or, umm, raising a digit in protest.

What does it feel like, for example, to estimate almost instantly, the pressures surrounding bursting through the end of the yellow light?

Another basic form of holding opposites is anytime we find our self having to do something we don’t want to do, but, going “through” our objection to then do it.

A ripe example of this is being on either the delivering or receiving end of a romantic break-up. Being on the receiving end is ripest of all because quite often the severing of attachment leaves one in the predicament–again in the middle as it were–between desiring to remain attached and, often suddenly, having this desire absolutely frustrated. This can be very concrete: wanting versus abruptly this desire no longer being able to be fulfilled.

What is this experience?

In reflecting upon what the experience of this kind of tension is, there are several basic descriptive categories. So, our report about our experience could note the experience feels like being pulled in two seemingly mutually exclusive directions. We might then be able to describe what the emotional or affective content of this experience is; we can name its features. Similarly, we can describe cognitively dissonant, or ideational, conflict. Such conflicts are inflected or otherwise weighted by energetic emotions.

Being in the middle is an energetic situation or position.

The psychological problem evoked by this being in the middle, and this middle having come upon us, constitutes resistance of some sort.

There can be resistance to fate, or denial of the actual situation. One can be in the middle–between the fate we’d prefer, and the fate we’re delivered to. The former fate in effect being the movie we’d like to sit through, the latter being the movie we can’t escape.

Asking again, what does this experience feel like? As we develop clues, and better, about this, we come to understand the various processes which take the general form: equilibrium/disruption/tensile conflict/resolution/equilibrium.

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Jung – God Is Fate Its Self

C.G. Jung


Synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers. I define synchronicity as a psychically conditioned relativity of time and space. ~ C. G. Jung

Over the past few years, as I’ve been drilling into the phenomena of constitutive fortuity, I’ve set in the background Carl Jung’s conception of synchronicity. As concept it shares background space with each and every rationale pertinent to how people explain fortuity, or, in common parlance, serendipity. I’ve set myself to catalog these explanatory rationales.

Even deeper in the background is my own investigation of Jung’s opus, and, along with his work, much of the development one discovers in taking in the larger opus of Analytic Psychology. Given my intense curiosity about the nature of humans, Jung has earned an investment on my part second to none, and first, in the top rank, against only Gregory Bateson and Thelonious Monk and Rumi. Yet, I’m not at all a so-called Jungian.

But, this is also the least of it. This in retrospect, and this would be retrospectively in looking backward toward my mid-life crisis/carnival twenty years ago. At that time, the decade the dream journal marked; the stoned slog through the literature and poetry; the deployment of the falling symbolic bones; and staggering synchronic encounters; added up as an elegant lantern and wholly useful map of my own inner territory. Oh, and much was unbidden and terrifying too.

This is different than the numerous other cases, each of which falsifies the global Jungian premises. (My own case verified my own case!) In short, individuation cannot exclusively be a matter of running only the Jungian model. This being the case, psyche is obviously much more ‘pleromatic’ than Jung was able to either conceive of, let alone encompass, in his decidedly looking-to-the-19th century system. Still, be that as it may, the Analytic Psychology is a very fine, and refined, autopoietic ‘constructivistic’ framework and methodology, and naturally lending itself to the aspirational, artistic, soulful, yin temperament.

As my pal Alice O. Howell put it, it’s about squaring the circle and relativizing the ego. She also pointed out God is a verb–a spectacular and sharp modernization of Jung; and, this goes along with the Jungian Brewster Beach’s pointed naming of the stone, God Is Fate.

However, in noting this, it was moments after my mid-life crisis had turned into a mode of grown-a-bit receptivity to friendship and love, that I had an enlightening aperçu, brought on by realizing I wasn’t living in a Jungian cosmos. The cost levied wasn’t any fall at all, instead was an appreciation that as the marabout proffers, there are infinite ways to journey home.

As a practical matter, my indebtedness is mostly to Marion Woodman. (Carl Gustav Jung ended his worldly journey June 1, 1961.)

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Animus and Anima



click for large version

Anima and Animus (S.Calhoun, 2010)

More ARK, albeit two frames here are layered and treated via software. (chosen, appropriated frames: using Dreamlines; hat tip to Leonardo Solaas)


This ARK art came together while I was revisiting original sources for understanding the concept of the Collective Unconscious in the Analytic Psychology. In other words: I went to confirm my sense was correct, and it was. It was as simple as I thought it was. (I was moved to do so by observing unnecessary elaboration and subsequent projection of this elaboration.) I did a little more scouring around the secondary literature, all the time keeping in mind the basic rock-bottom conception, the Collective Unconscious is that which is neither conscious, or, is “of” the personal unconscious.

Jung’s development of his psychology makes its sea change upon this concept. The Collective Unconscious is the source for the primordial patterns, the archetypes–and, well, so it went and goes. At the same time, the concept–taken as a proposition–is marvelously and completely circular. Most of Jung’s extrapolations made from his fundamental concept have been stripped away, yet, at the end of Jung’s day, this is the basis for his being a holist, a subjectivist, and, a meta-relativist. …sort of a Swiss William James; and given by this it can said Jung was a kind of proto-post-modernist too.

This is easily rendered: there is no knowledge not darkened and come to be provisional by virtue of its ground in the (evolutionary!) Collective Unconscious. One notes the implicit circularity implicit here.

(Among my gleanings was a fine paper by George Hogenson, The Baldwin effect: a neglected influence on C.G. Jung’s evolutionary thinking. Journal of Analytical Psychology; 48:2001)

For a certain type of intellectual mediocrity characterized by enlightened rationalism, a scientific theory that simplifies matters is a very good means of defence because of the tremendous faith modern man has in anything which bears the label “scientific.” Such a label sets your mind at rest immediately, almost as well as Roma locuta causa finita: “Rome has spoken, the matter is settled.” In itself any scientific theory, no matter how subtle, has, I think, less value from the standpoint of psychological truth than religious dogma, for the simple reason that a theory is necessarily highly abstract and exclusively rational, whereas dogma expresses an irrational whole by means of imagery. This guarantees a far better rendering of an irrational fact like the psyche. Moreover, dogma owes its continued existence and its form on the one hand to so-called “revealed” or immediate experiences of the “Gnosis” for instance, the God-man, the Cross, the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception, the Trinity, and so on, and on the other hand to the ceaseless collaboration of many minds over many centuries. It may not be quite clear why I call certain dogmas “immediate experiences’ since in itself a dogma is the very thing that precludes immediate experience. Yet the Christian images I have mentioned are not peculiar to Christianity alone (although in Christianity they have undergone a development and intensification of meaning not to be found in any other religion). They occur just as often in pagan religions, and besides that they can reappear spontaneously in all sorts of variations as psychic phenomena, just as in the remote past they originated in visions, dreams, or trances. Ideas like these are never invented. They came into being before man had learned to use his mind purposively. Before man learned to produce thoughts, thoughts came to him. He did not think he perceived his mind functioning. Dogma is like a dream, reflecting the spontaneous and autonomous activity of the objective psyche, the unconscious. Such an expression of the unconscious is a much more efficient means of defence against further immediate experiences than any scientific theory.The theory has to disregard the emotional values of the experience. The dogma, on the other hand, is extremely eloquent injust this respect. One scientific theory is soon superseded by another. Dogma lasts for untold centuries. The suffering God-Man may be at least five thousand years old and the Trinity is probably even older. (C.G. Jung; Psychology of Religion East and West; pp45-46)

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Mining Under the Common Ground

Separate truths
It is misleading — and dangerous — to think that religions are different paths to the same wisdom [excerpt Boston.com April 25, 2010] Of course, those who claim that the world’s religions are different paths up the same mountain do not deny the undeniable fact that they differ in some particulars. Obviously, Christians do not go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muslims do not practice baptism. Religious paths do diverge in dogma, rites, and institutions. To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”

This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.

The gods of Hinduism are not the same as the orishas of Yoruba religion or the immortals of Daoism. To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously the beliefs and practices of ordinary religious folk who for centuries have had no problem distinguishing the Nicene Creed of Christianity from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism from the Shahadah of Islam. It is also to lose sight of the unique beauty of each of the world’s religions. Stephen Prothero is a religion professor at Boston University. This article is adapted from his new book, ”God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter.”

This essay of Professor Prothero is amazing in a bad way. My criticism is simple: there’s a substantial and subtle literature concerned with the claim he’s arguing against, yet none of it enters into his argument. This huge hole swallows the glib attack he issues in this essay, an attack careless in its presentation of categories and domains, and, an attack launched against more than a few straw men.

It’s as if Prothero feels he can fool the discerning reader. Normally I would dig some and see if the author is through-and-through a charlatan. Here my guess is that he isn’t, but not from anything found in his intentionally misdirected essay.

He writes here about very intriguing questions. In comparing religions with one another, in what ways does this show similarities? What are those similarities about? Should the evidence show that some, or all, religions overlap in particular ways, are there, then, valid generalizations to be inferred from the specifics of any overlap?

Furthermore, such an inquiry about common features is itself framed by a variety of disciplines, and each brings different interpretive and discipline-bound practices to bear on the question. Outside of this there is also a worthy literature brought forth by non-academic experts, and, as well, there is also a long history of this very inquiry. One aspect of this history is that it evolved from the point where specific religions come into contact with each other, and thus was evoked by the curiosity of some religious persons about the possibility of commonality. This comes about long before the frameworks of modern academic disciplines existed.

It is also obvious: there is a fundamental issue begged by any theism, no matter how particularized a theism is in practice or by a its founding assumptions. This is simple to articulate: if there is a God of “All” is not this God then a God of all spirituality, irrespective of whether a particular spirituality is granted primacy or is heretical? In other words, if God of this sort does in fact exist, this God would ultimately be the God of religionist, heretic, and atheist alike. From this, if this is true, one would expect commonalities.

There are four modern perspectives, among many, which frame different possibilities for important, maybe crucial, inquiries into commonality. One is the Analytic Psychology, given by Carl Jung. Here spirituality is viewed as a phenomena of introspective consciousness. From this, (largely) personal religious experience and development is the nexus for an inquiry into, as-it-were, possibly like-minded objectives of self-realization. There is in this, a prospect that human consciousness, as a matter of its psychological constitution, in specific keys lights upon objectives that are similar or identical, yet only does this in the precise domains where this phenomena may exist, and this is located within these precise domains in specific religious traditions.

Two is the integral perspective on human development, given its most detailed elaboration by Ken Wilber; (and Wilber’s elaboration following mostly from the thoughtful work of Jean Gebser.) Integral thought expands the nexus of inquiry along a spectrum of developmental lines. Similar to Analytic Psychology, it is encumbered by fundamental assumptions about the universal nature of human aspiration. Taken as an outlook, (and “in-look,”) the Integral perspective provides a loose framework for investigating procedures for self-realization–procedures embedded in particular instrumentalities found in different spiritual and religious practices.

Third is anthropology, a modern discipline geared toward differentiation of human phenomena. Commonalities would be rigorously qualified and vigorously contested as a matter of methodology, yet, the idea that commonalities could be universal would remain a worthwhile anthropological hypothesis. This is especially so if such a hypothesis is unfolded in the context of evolutionary anthropology. Here the framing starts from the idea that religions may be dramatically different, but that human nature is not also wholly different.

Fourth, and is the argument posed by Frithhof Schuon, and echoed by a specific ilk of traditionalists and (somewhat) outsider experts, such as Mercea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Jacob Needleman, Rudolph Steiner, and others. Schuon described the over-arching aspect (and nexus for inquiry,) in the title of his book, The Transcendent Unity of Religion. I going to gloss the deep subtlety of Schuon’s argument and suggest his philosophical perspective basically holds this: where there is religion, there is also found a domain of aspirational practice where experience of the deep relationship between man and divine cosmos necessarily abides the idea that the cosmos is set up to evoke this relationship. It could be said the nexus of inquiry that necessarily follows from there being a God of All, is such–that a universality of religion in this aspirational domain is necessarily entailed by this primary assumption. Thus, given that there is a God of All and everything, we might expect to find similarities ordinated by God’s, if you will, “set up.”

(Schuon is superior to Karen Armstrong, with respect to being a source for beginning an inquiry at the abode of this nexus.)

***

Prothero doesn’t introduce any of these four vectors for inquiry into his didactic essay. For me, in not doing so, his argument is damaged out of the gate. If we break down the entire spectrum of human religious behavior, it could be incumbent upon an investigator to account for the behaviors oriented around the idea of the unity–in precise domains–of some/most/all religions.

But Prothero is mostly disingenuous in employing straw men and his attempt to wrangle an argument out of several category errors, the most grotesque of which is found in his silly statement, “To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously” (yada yada.) Since the point of finding similarity is to differentiate similarity from that which is dissimilar, there isn’t any ground to be gained by pretending that subtle arguments for similarity revolve around thinking different Gods (or theisms,) are said to be the same. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who think this, its just that this is a definitive straw man.

(To the side of all this there is a contest of theisms. The ripe question for proponents of a distinctive theism within the context of the various Ambrahamic religions is simply enough, for example, ‘do you, as a Christian mystic pray to a different God than the God the Muslim prays to?’ In this the possibility of a negative answer holds another variation on the prime question about sameness and similarity. On the other hand, this is another way of wondering to what extent God owns a home team!)

The meta-inquiry is one concerned with a description, differentiation, and conceptualization of domains of human religious behavior and phenomena. This would work to tightly qualify the domains and then sort out apparent similarities. For me, anthropology, especially given the lens of an evolutionary framing, is the least inflicted by confirmation bias and tautological precepts. Still, Schuon and Dr. Jung opus, at a minimum, are worthwhile for their sophistication and depth, even if there is (for me) no slam dunk.

As it clearly appears when considering the fundamental question of the Divine Will as with other major instances of metaphysical exposition and spiritual expression, Schuon’s esoteric perspective can be best characterized as a science and discipline of objectivity that situates each reality at its own adequate ontological level and within its overarching metaphysical or cosmological context. In doctrinal as in methodical matters, Schuon’s thrust lies in a lucid perception of realities that considers both their metaphysical and archetypical meaning as well as the specificity of their plane of manifestation. Thus, in pure metaphysics, the esoterist avoids the pitfalls of confessional, anthropomorphic, and moralist expediency and sublimity by focusing on the dimensions, modes, and degrees of the theophanic unfolding of the Real. He does not confuse metaphysical realities with their partial or distorted contours as envisaged through human biases, nor does he project the limitations of human moral categories onto the Divine Order. At the same time, he perceives the roots of all spiritual, aesthetic, and moral phenomena in the Supreme, and he accounts for their meaning on the basis of the Divine, thereby describing the multileveled and multifaceted Unity of Being. In spiritual matters alike, esoterism reaches to the essential through the veil of superimpositions and accretions, while elucidating the partial legitimacy of mystical emphases, excesses, and subjective or collective detours. As such, esoterism is nothing less than the most direct and comprehensive language of the Self. jean-Baptiste Aymard-Patrick Laude, Frithof Schuon, life and Teaching; 2004 SUNY Press)

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Is Bubba Really Gone?

I’ve been feeling my way around vampires because the Jung-Fire group has also been doing so.

Whilst descriptions of vampires varied widely, certain traits now accepted as universal were created by the film industry. Where did vampires originate? Well, nearly every culture has its own undead cretures which feed off of the life essence of the living but ancient Persian pottery shards specifically depict creatures drinking blood from the living in what may be the earliest representations of vampires. In the 1100s English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of various undead fauna. By the 1700s, an era often known as the Age of Enlightenment, fear of vampires reached it’s apex following a spate of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and the Hapsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734. Government positions were created for vampire hunters to once-and-for-all rid man of this unholy scourge.

Even Enlightenment writer Voltaire wrote about the vampire plague in his Philosophical Dictionary, “These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.” Movie Myths 101 – Vampires (Amoeblog)

Vampires occupy a class of folkloric beings termed revenant. In this class are all the varieties of beings believed to have returned from being dead. (Ghosts are revenants.) Revenants, as mythologem, have ancient origins. Their genealogy, (given by anthropology and literary history,) is woven in the folklore of almost every culture.

***

I was moved to do a little digging, in the phenomenological moonlight.

The vampire is one of the representatives of a phenomena part-and-parcel with any ‘folk’ skepticism a person would have when is believed the soul persists beyond bodily death. In Christian terms, a revenant is a work-around. The piper is paid, yet the rules are different than the normative rules for succession into the next life. Revenants are outliers in relation to the normal redemptive scheme. It’s important to understand the revenant is not a formalization, is not part of the strict cast of characters. The revenant–as work-around–is a strain of necessary superstition, is in a sense an archaic adjunct in the folk scheme of life and death.

A vampire lives forever under particular conditions, but our human night is their day. This inversion suggests also an inversion of the christological mythologem.

Yet, this can go beyond a Christian antithesis. It is possible, maybe likely, that wonderment over the finality of death. goes back beyond paganism, penetrates beyond proto-religion, goes back even before the organization of a spirit world. And, maybe even is among the most primitive of all social-existential phenomena; expressing as it does the base quandry, “Is Bubba really dead?”

I take this up in this way to highlight the archaic of a (kind of) archetype. Buried in this quasi-archetype is a very primitive, primeval layer.

From this, I wonder about the brute opposition in these same primal terms: here today, gone tomorrow, yet gone where? I can imagine how mysterious both would be if we, with modest imagination, consider how death was dealt with intrapsychically, long before the mystery was organized and concretized by proto-pagan artifice.

This development would suppose the development of a chain of being as a response to the mystery of mortality. Moreover, this would be a response given by skepticism: ‘is Bubba gone-where did Bubba go?’ This is all prior to the conceptions of salvation, purgatorial penance, damnation. Also, in supposing that the dead could manifest a near semblance of ‘the living,’ or otherwise manifest a phantasmal form, the particulars of types of revenants fit in culturally distinct ways into Preternatural–worlds behind worlds–cosmic, vertical schemes.


Edvard Munch – Vampire

The pagan layer is persistent. Belief in the work-around of the revenant is inflected with the revenant’s mercurial nature, and this seems to be an important aspect of their alternative myth of resurrection. Vampires are worrisome, unpredictable, and, the vampire’s activities could be glossed as: bugging, tormenting, fooling, tricking, gaming, messing around with, the living. After all, vampire and ghost and spectral phantasm, are also kin.

The revenant provides a kind of gnawing reminder: the ‘vertical’ world itself isn’t in the thrall of the light-bearing beings, ‘the angels.’ Revenants are profane. They exemplify in different ways, negative models.

Archetype is darkened, manifest in human enactment of a particular feeling tone, in precise ways, from specific contexts. Vampire, in the imagination, is an archetype of evil, but only from specific perspectives. The Benedictine Calmet sharpened his axe in antipathy to revenant denizens in accordance with his Catholic perspective. Three centuries earlier, the infections of plague, came to be understood in terms committed to explain the spread of death to be a damnation. At that time, the idea was: the dead were able to cause havoc even though ‘they appeared dead.’ Again, in the context of communities dealing with vast contagion, this response is in accordance with the timely intrapsychic ground. The contagion’s agents of punishment were the ubiquitous dead.

Archaic prototypes may infuse attempts at explaining what had befallen the community. Calmet leaned on, railed against(!) the archaic precedent.

So, why the fascination with vampires today? I don’t know anything about the cultural details. I enjoy the tv serial, True Blood, but this isn’t because I get a charge from vampires. I can’t analyze the trend in any Jungian way because I’m not a proponent of Jung’s collective unconscious.

I do note several rough features of today’s, in effect, multi-media vampire. One, he or she is often a very energized erotic figure. Two, often vampires are sorted out into good vampires, bad vampires, and ‘tweener’ vampires. Taking True Blood as an example, it seems to offer ambiguous morality tales. These take place within a decidedly supernatural cosmos, but much of the primitive vampire is not appropriated.

However, the focal point of the ongoing narrative seems to be how living and undead refract one another’s light and dark. Supernatural conceits don’t matter. In this drama, human and vampire are much closer to being two sides of the same coin. There is then, in at least this example, a humanization of the vampire. This would stand against demonization. Humanity inflects profanity.

The contemporary vampire may even be–all too human. This vampire is often a libertine, with sex* subsuming blood lust. Sometimes, as is the case with Bill from True Blood, he is ambivalent, conflicted, a tweener vampire between worlds, yet not able to transcend the vampire rules. Here is the post-modern turn: vampire as loose, identity mashup, This vamp reflects the chancy play of cosmopolitan identity. And, he or she may be more at home in the intoxicating nights’ cape, than in the tightening days’ cape.

Short of any fascination with vampires, the most common way the idea is entertained is when people speak of having their energy glommed onto and sucked by vampire-like pests. In this what’s left of either the token of the irredeemably fallen or the magical explanation for contagion, is: energy-sapping neediness.

The mercurial-work around able to defeat bodily death and enlightened eternal being is a more subtle layer of the undead.

Dr. Jung wrotes in the chapter Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon, (in Alchemical Studies.)

Paracelsus, like many others, was unable to make use of Christian symbolism because the Christian formula inevitably suggested the Christian solution and would have conduced to the very thing that had to be avoided. It was nature and her particular “light” that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

(Jung earlier in the chapter speaks of the limits of the adept’s “daymind.”)

Archetype possesses the mechanics of refraction in the splitting of dominants and subordinate into further aspects. I’m going to recombine my rough intuitions and suggest the vampire is a subaltern figure–so the contemporary vampire imago stands “outside,” even when the currency of our day’s edgy, camp Vamp, is more the lip-sucking idol, is more sensitive, is more bourgeois. Remember, the contrast between primitive instrumentality and modern character is as stark as that between night and day.

As a practical matter, the attraction to the vampire at least seems to be a worthwhile anecdote to religious neuroticism; does not, as Jung put it, ‘conduce to the very thing that has to be avoided.’

It was nature and her particular NIGHT that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

*Most psychoanalytic criticism related to vampires focuses on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Maurice Richardson, in “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” says: “From a Freudian standpoint—and from no other does the story really make any sense—it is seen as a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. Phyllis A. Roth finds Bram Stoker’s neurotic fear of sex and women to be the clue to his novel’s popularity; it allows readers “to act out” their own “essentially threatening, even horrifying wishes,” based in the “lustful anticipation of an oral fusion with the mother”. Judith Weissman concurs: “The vampire, an ancient figure of horror in folk tales, undoubtedly represents in any story some kind of sexual terror . . .”. Others, like Christopher Craft and Andrew Schopp, regard vampire literature as a disguised opportunity, as Schopp says, “for acting out socially prohibited roles, and for reconfiguring desire”. p54:Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture, Mary Y. Hallab, SUNY Press 2009 Amazon

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Steve Beyer on Jung’s Collective Unconscious

For me, Jung’s conception of the collective unconscious is not essential to a comprehensive perspective concerned with how it is symbols, meaningfulness, and evocative patterns are necessary to, and featured in, human personal and social generativity.

Beyer, in his fine overview, gently presents an obvious critique. I’ve excerpted below Beyer on James Hillman.

The Collective Unconscious

Just how many archetypes are there? There appears to be no constraint on their number or nature. Steven Walker, a scholar of comparative literature sympathetic to Jung, says that “the list of archetypes is nearly endless.” There can be an archetype for just about any possible human situation, it seems; and conversely each archetype can produce an indefinite number of archetypal images. And apparently we can make up archetypes at will. Is there a solar penis archetype? That seems surprisingly narrow for a fundamental a priori category of the imagination. A few minutes thought can yield a dozen archetypal possibilities, from masculine generativity to magical control of the weather. In the endless list of archetypes, how do we decide?

And if the person who has produced the numinous image gets to decide with which mythic motif or fairy tale situation it most clearly resonates, then it is not clear why we need to postulate transcendental archetypes of the collective unconscious at all.

Psychologist James Hillman faced this issue squarely, and he chose to eliminate the noun archetype altogether, while preserving the adjective archetypal. The problem, he says, is that Jung moved “from a valuation adjective to a thing and invented substantialities called archetypes… Then we are forced to gather literal evidence from cultures the world over and make empirical claims about what is defined to be unspeakable and irrepresentable.”

But we do not need to take the idea of the archetypal in this reified sense. Any image can be archetypal, Hillman says; it need only be given value — archetypalized or capitalized — by the person experiencing it. “By attaching archetypal to an image,” he says, “we ennoble or empower the image with the widest, richest, and deepest possible significance.”

This view informs Hillman’s approach to dreams, which is not hermeneutic, as it is for Jung, but rather phenomenological or, in Hillman’s term, imagistic, image-centered. “To see the archetypal in an image,” he says, “is not a hermeneutic move.” He thus sees little value in traditional amplification. “Hermeneutic amplifications in search of meaning take us elsewhere, across cultures, looking for resemblances which neglect the specifics of the actual image.” Instead of asking how an image is related to an archetype, the patient begins with and concentrates on images in all their multiple implications — a process psychologist Stephen Aizenstat calls animation, “entering the realm of the living dream.” The idea is to personify the image, ask it questions, interrogate its purposes, engage it as a teacher — even identify with it and question its meaning as one’s own. Hermeneutics is replaced by imagination.

By all means, read the entire article over at singingtotheplants.

Hillman’s heresy is mostly on the money for me.
(more…)

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One in Ten Thousand

Sara Corbett, writing in the Sunday New York Times Magazines, tells the story of the publication of Carl Jung’s most prominent, heretofore unpublished, work, The Red Book. The Holy Grail of the Unconscious

Seeing the article trumpeted on the magazine’s front page, then slowly taking in photos of several two page layouts, and then, finally, reading the article carefully, made for an unanticipated pleasure on a Sunday afternoon.

Although the story is a good one, here I’ll highlight the author’s summary of part of Dr. Jung’s long (1975-1961) life.


Carl Jung founded the field of analytical psychology and, along with Sigmund Freud, was responsible for popularizing the idea that a person’s interior life merited not just attention but dedicated exploration — a notion that has since propelled tens of millions of people into psychotherapy. Freud, who started as Jung’s mentor and later became his rival, generally viewed the unconscious mind as a warehouse for repressed desires, which could then be codified and pathologized and treated. Jung, over time, came to see the psyche as an inherently more spiritual and fluid place, an ocean that could be fished for enlightenment and healing.

Whether or not he would have wanted it this way, Jung — who regarded himself as a scientist — is today remembered more as a countercultural icon, a proponent of spirituality outside religion and the ultimate champion of dreamers and seekers everywhere, which has earned him both posthumous respect and posthumous ridicule. Jung’s ideas laid the foundation for the widely used Myers-Briggs personality test and influenced the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous. His central tenets — the existence of a collective unconscious and the power of archetypes — have seeped into the larger domain of New Age thinking while remaining more at the fringes of mainstream psychology.

A big man with wire-rimmed glasses, a booming laugh and a penchant for the experimental, Jung was interested in the psychological aspects of séances, of astrology, of witchcraft. He could be jocular and also impatient. He was a dynamic speaker, an empathic listener. He had a famously magnetic appeal with women. Working at Zurich’s Burghölzli psychiatric hospital, Jung listened intently to the ravings of schizophrenics, believing they held clues to both personal and universal truths. At home, in his spare time, he pored over Dante, Goethe, Swedenborg and Nietzsche. He began to study mythology and world cultures, applying what he learned to the live feed from the unconscious — claiming that dreams offered a rich and symbolic narrative coming from the depths of the psyche. Somewhere along the way, he started to view the human soul — not just the mind and the body — as requiring specific care and development, an idea that pushed him into a province long occupied by poets and priests but not so much by medical doctors and empirical scientists.

That’s a fairly good recap.


“Venus” figurine. Est. 35,000 years old.

I’m looking forward to receiving another visitation from Dr. Jung.
(more…)

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Denying the “Other”

The present day shows with appalling clarity how little able people are to let the other man’s argument count, although this capacity is a fundamental and indispensable condition for any human community. Everyone who proposes to come to terms with himself must reckon with this basic problem. For, to the degree that he does not admit the validity of the other person, he denies the “other” within himself the right to exist – and vice versa. The capacity for inner dialogue is a touchstone for outer objectivity.
Carl G. Jung The Practice of Psychotherapy CW 16


But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth, if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. It is necessary to, consider separately these two hypotheses, each of which has a distinct branch of the argument corresponding to it. We can never he sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

First, the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. Its condemnation may be allowed to rest on this common argument, not the worse for being common.

Unfortunately for the good sense of mankind, the fact of their fallibility is far from carrying the weight in their practical judgement, which is always allowed to it in theory; for while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.
(more…)

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Down from The Wall

Back in the eighties, I was working the front, retail, lines of the record business, managing a record department in the back of a book store in Middlebury, Vermont, home to Middlebury College. I was a long haired jazzer, whose musical boat had departed the mainstream currents in the early seventies. Even then, I marveled at how easily mobs of college kids marched to the beat of the mass culture drums.

I more than witnessed the Michael Jackson phenomena as it first broke in 1979, and crested with Thriller in 1982. What I know of his music came from incidental exposure. At the peak of his musical popularity, his music was not considered hip. However, even then, his artistry was praiseworthy even in my aficionado’s biased terms simply because it was Jacko who seemingly single-handedly turned back soul music’s disco infection.

In many respects, Jackson’s musical revolution was exhausted by 1987, the year of his LP/CD Bad. By then he was the most successful entertainer in the world. He wasn’t finished entertaining, but his second career of serial re-creation and lurid lifestylin’ eventually overwhelmed his musical bona fides as the centering force of his persona. He became cultural cannon fodder; his genius reduced to ferocious chapters of topping the previous chapter of strange.

It is the distressing norm should any celebrated figure morph into iconic stature, that its basis is the hook for massive magical participation of both fan and anti-fan, of sympathy and antipathy. There is no right mind able to support willfully doing this consciously. So, when it is said that the icon reflects something of this participation, it would be most accurate to say that the icon reflects cultural unconsciousness without any mercy whatsoever. Alas, in such a phenomenology of ‘cultural activity’ the evident whipsaw cuts both way, and never to a satisfying, terminal, abreaction for the iconic subject or his or her minions.

And minions is the right term: the king of pop mightily favored his loyal subjects. To unglue the cultural mass from Jackson simply brings into relief shared symptoms. It seems no episodic detail of his life was not a comment on symptoms writ large: in the bubble, neverlands, shapeshifting, carving away bodily features, dangling infants, comforting sleep partners, unlimited discretionary income, and, forcing a family out of surrogates and sexual compulsion. It matters not that Jackson’s own compulsions were chaste, its the compulsion. Above all there was our golden wish: to turn back the clock and never grow old.

When asked what I thought, last week I said, “Michael Jackson was one of the strangest people ever peopled,” (to use Alan Watt’s trope.) I have credible people I can ask, but no one has nailed where Jackson’s psychological makeup vectors in any armchair diagnostic take.

Given my archetypal prejudices, it is certainly obvious that no conventional or generic character-logical version of the psychology of the Puer Aeturnus fits Jackson very well. Except, it must fit someway!

Nevertheless, the Puer facets offer clues. It’s easy enough to place provisionality in the terrain of his complex. This feature is always a hallmark of persons who strive, and sometimes realize, their own world. It’s never a perfect world, yet its a better world. But, this world can scarcely be inhabited. It, then, also may be the case that the ‘other’ world fortune and magnification buys is a solitary, barren, and finally, tiny world.

We don’t really wish to be left alone on throne or cross or couch. I read today that Michael deeply wished to be royalty. How revealing. For what is the King but the loneliest creature in the kingdom? Our culture, with its harsh and fickle and always unconscious loyalties, only appoints figure heads–only crowns with a thorny embrace the gilded imago personified by charismatic celebrity. Short of royalty, those so elevated are our figure heads, literally left alone but to our own cruel devices. In the austere mythologem, the consequence of christological aspiration in this context of our collective complex is necessarily tragic.


Then it struck me: the last narrative chapter of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

Beside the well there was the ruin of an old stone wall. When I came back
from my work, the next evening, I saw from some distance away my little price
sitting on top of a wall, with his feet dangling. And I heard him say:
“Then you don’t remember. This is not the exact spot.”
Another voice must have answered him, for he replied to it:
“Yes, yes! It is the right day, but this is not the place.”
I continued my walk toward the wall. At no time did I see or hear anyone. The
little prince, however, replied once again:
“–Exactly. You will see where my track begins, in the sand. You have nothing
to do but wait for me there. I shall be there tonight.”
I was only twenty metres from the wall, and I still saw nothing.
After a silence the little prince spoke again:
“You have good poison? You are sure that it will not make me suffer too
long?”
I stopped in my tracks, my heart torn asunder; but still I did not understand.
“Now go away,” said the little prince. “I want to get down from the wall.”

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ANYONE WHO THINKS DIFFERENTLY…

These are all scattered excerpts from Jung’s book “The Undiscovered Self: The Dilemma of the Individual In Modern Soceity.” Jung rarely talked about politics in his work. In fact I’m quite sure this was the only time he did, only in reference to his individualism (so for those of you looking for a book centered around politics, this isn’t it). DevilsAdvocate55 (YouTube)

Actually in the collection of essays, Jung Speaks, Dr. Jung is much of the time concerned in various ways with the problem of current events, unconsciousness and group psychology, thus with politics. Similar writings are found in other collections. Then, taking the analytic and main psychologically focused works in total, n those volumes often the problems of the personality are set against the problems of collective psychology, so their import may also be ramified in politics.

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Inner Situation

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THE ANTIGONE COMPLEX

I don’t have a harsh judgment to levy against Hillary Clinton in the aftermath of her answering the question about, implicitly, her tenacity in the face of long odds and about party unity at the end of the process. There’s a reason for my being circumspect.

It’s that the incident takes a specific psychological form and consequently its reasons are psychological.

If someone answers a question you’ve posed to them in a way that promotes your thinking to yourself, “I can’t believe he had the thought, let alone spoke it, and in doing so spiked his own self interest!” it is likely that this answer is affect-laden and its dominant is subjective. In suggesting this, such an answer is against other possible answers, including rational, well-rehearsed answers. (The question Hillary was asked about when she thought the nomination would be decided was not in any way a question from left field.)

More remarkable was when she wrapped up with this:

“Um you know I just I don’t understand it.”

Again, this kind of answer fits into a usual form: one understands why people share the page they’re on together, and, for those that don’t, the question begged is: ‘how do I understand their position?’ In this second aspect, there is an implicit Theory of Mind conundrum; how are other perspectives in other minds to be understood? There’s nothing about those who disagree with Hillary–about her remaining in the race–that is hard to understand, so she gives away something at work in her depths in pretending she doesn’t understand.

A question is: How could she have answered and met the twin objectives, one, to justify her remaining in the race against diminishing odds, and, two, to support confidence in party unity irrespective of who should become the nominee?

The psychological question then is: what are the types of internal psychic (or cognitive factors,) that will tend to diminish a person’s ability to firstly stand outside the mystique of their subjective perspective and secondly respond with enough objectivity to meet objective-type goals?

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PLEASE WALK YOUR RIGHTEOUS TALK

Steve Hardy at Creative Generalist has done a valuable capture from Caterina, in turn captured from a presentation by Intuit’s Keoki Andrus. Moreover, comments to the post of origin elaborate a fuller itemization. Here’s two of the lists compiled by Steve.

Seven Deadly Deficiencies
1. Contempt for others
2. Obsession with self
3. Commitment dysfunction
4. Inflexible mindset
5. No productive focus
6. Unrelenting pessimism
7. Embraces Dilbertian views of leaders

Eight Ways to Wipe Out High Performers
1. Work overload
2. Lack autonomy (micromanagement)
3. Skimpy rewards
4. Loss of connection
5. Unfairness
6. Value conflicts
7. Let low-performers ride
8. Create an environment of fear, uncertainty and doubt

These are ways to wipe out colleagues and subordinates regardless of the ‘height’ of their performance. I, or anybody, could add to these lists. The deadliest deficiency in my experience is hypocricy, talking up commitments and principles while walking them down, right out of existence.  #2 Obsession with self,  is especially destructive when it is paired with deficits of self-knowledge.

This latter pairing can result in very annoying, hypocritical, behaviors. The ready example, because I’ve been subjected to the behavior so many times, is when someone presents for approval a strength that is actually a weakness. If I had a dime for every time a piss-poor listener tried to get me to acknowledge that they are a really good listener, I’d have a lot of dimes.

(For the record, I can be a good listener but it takes a big effort on my part!)

It is a common aspect of the positive face people wish to present that people elevate some of their weak characteristics. Yet, it is also my experience that the hunt for validation is often a red flag. In other words, people don’t need to be reminded of what your best qualities are; they should be self-evident and speak for themselves.

As an old timer, this subject always brings to my mind the great work of Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, and, also, the framework concerned with the problem of the Personaprovided by C.G. Jung; see CW7, |Two Essays on Analytic Psychology|. Between the two the continuum between typical eruptions of self-deception and horrid narcissism is brilliantly covered.

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ORGANIZED THROUGH THE BORDERS

A fascinating paper: The Structure of Consciousness – Liminocentricity, Enantiodromia, and Personality (John Fudjack, 1999). If you find the title tantalizing, go for it. Need more perfume?

In earlier articles we have also shown how liminocentricity is [1] utilized as an explanatory device in music theory; [2] used in Indian myth to help us ‘pull ourselves up by our bootstraps’, according to Mary Doniger O’Flaherty; [3] appears as a metaphor for ‘God’ in the work of Plotinus; and [4] operates as a principle of organization in the mandala in general, and in the figures of the Enneagram and Dzogchen mandalas in particular.

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COMPLEX PSYCHOLOGIES

My own sense is that C.G.Jung’s lifework becomes mostly phenomenological and echoes his Jamesian roots profoundly in its last stage, when his alchemical inquiry moves into peculiarities of soul-making unable to be encompassed by a dualistic psychology of complex and transference. (It is in this last stage that Jung’s psychology truly becomes paradoxical and justifies the essence of ‘irrational facts’.) This crossover finds a place in the post-Jungian universe firstly through James Hillman.

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