Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Nearly 6 a.m. I skipped over the section in The Portable Jung on “Analytical Psychology and Poetry” and will probably skip the sections on synchronicity and maybe “Answer to Job,” although come to think of it, reading it now will surely be very different from whenever I read it first. When I finish “Individual Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy,” which is pretty interesting, I will have remaining only “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man” and “The Difference Between Eastern and Western Thinking.” The Spiritual Problem is taken from Modern Man in Search of a Soul, which is where I came in, back in 1970 when I found it in England, or was it in Switzerland. That is a long loop to close.
But, as so often, I am feeling a different feeling in the background, one of futility and perhaps self-deception. Although I choose not to give in to it – to give it the reins, so to speak – I am aware that it is there, lurking. Nothing new.
F: Say, Dr. Jung, since I can ask you that, would you talk to us about the roots and the significance of habitual feelings like that? Is it a personal peculiarity of mine, or is it universal, or is it somewhere in between, and what does it mean to us?
CGJ: I will answer perhaps a slightly different question.
F: That’s fine. I know you have a reason.
CGJ: You carry around with you a gnawing uncertainty that fixes upon this or that specific aspect of your life, but refers to your life in general, and that uncertainty is – who am I really? And this, though it may not be talked about, is part of the human 3D condition, because so much of who and what you are must always remain unknown to yourself. You may construct a shorthand definition of yourself – indeed, life compels you to do so – but self-examination will demonstrate the difference between the shorthand and the reality it tries to encapsulate.
Most of your life proceeds unknown to your consciousness. You think you know that, but you don’t, really. It is an accepted concept – an idea – but until an idea connects to emotional reality by way of experience, it remains only an idea.
Freud’s contribution to Western psychology was to remind it that, in fact, psychology was something other than careful observation of rational processes. In other words, he demonstrated that irrational processes such as dreams had an effect on normal conscious life –which should not have been the case, if rationalistic theories of human life had been true. Indeed, we could say that before Freud the West had no psychology any longer – having rejected the psychology implicit in the Catholic world-view – and had in fact backed itself into the reductionist dead-end that said there was no transcendence because there was no abutment to the bridge leading from life.
F: That is clear to me, but may I translate?
CGJ: Of course. That is part of your function here.
F: I take that to mean – that bit about the bridge and the abutment – that the dead-end was, that since there was supposedly nothing beyond time and space and the physical world, there was nowhere, finally, to anchor any values, any idea of transcendent meaning.
CGJ: No, and neither could western man return to the medieval faith he had outgrown, or perhaps we should say that had been removed from the realm of possibility for him because of developments in the human psyche partly caused by physical changes and equally causing such changes. There was no going forward with materialism, but there was no going back either.
F: The gods never reinhabit the dwellings they abandon, you said somewhere.
CGJ: That’s right. Archaic forms may be regarded as yesterday’s modes of thinking, inappropriate to changed conditions.
F: I just thought of a somewhat ridiculous example, actually.
CGJ: And of course you know which are “your” thoughts and which arrive from unknown sources.
F: Touché. The analogy that came to mind is the old Dick and Jane readers for schoolkids. They were designed to describe familiar things to children so they would know how to recognize and spell the words. But spellers describing a rural world ceased to be helpful when the times moved on and kids were mostly growing up in cities or suburbs.
CGJ: Not so bad an analogy, and all the better for being simple. The words had not changed, but in one sense you might say that the children had changed, because the environment that shaped them, with which they interacted, was too different for the same intermediary images to have the same effect.
So. Most of your life is inaccessible to your conscious awareness, and always will be. No matter how much you learn about the world, about yourself, just so much more of your psyche will remain hidden from you.
Hidden, you say? Do you mean it is fleeing from being seen? No. Hidden in the way the back of your head is hidden from you, no matter how fast you may whirl to try to see it! Hidden, in the nature of things. And if you will think about it you will see why this is so.
F: It is actually hidden mostly even to itself, isn’t it?
CGJ: This time it is I that must ask you to expound upon that insight, for the sake of those listening. But yes, that is the idea.
F: Well, it just came to me, the non-3D world of interconnected souls and their larger beings must be vast, and continually changing, and therefore much of it must be inaccessible from any given part of it. Who can be large enough, who can have a large enough flashlight, to see it all clearly, or even dimly, really? It may be that what is seen beyond a certain periphery is an idea of more, rather than actual shapes however dim.
CGJ: That is a perfectly acceptable description of the situation, within certain limits. If you take what I described as the personal and the collective unconscious, and reinterpret them as your local and your extended connections to the great mind that is both very close and very transcendent, you get a good idea both of your human ability to access the infinite – for you do connect, and you can and do, receive guidance and assistance from the non-physical world – and, equally importantly, you get a clearer sense of the smallness of the human ego next to the half-suspected vastness of the self as it applies to any given person.
F: Yes, that image does make it clear. On one end, us with a tin pail on the seashore, and on the other end, the whole ocean.
CGJ: Only do not allow this proper sense of proportion to tempt you into discouragement because you cannot fit the ocean into the pail. That is the difference between quantity and quality. A pailful of seawater contains the same essence as the rest of the ocean around you. (And if different parts of the ocean beyond your sight are different in essence, or aren’t, that need not concern you except theoretically. There is no practical use in weighing the total amount of salts in the ocean.)
Besides, you carry that seawater in your veins, slightly modified to provide you a space suit to wear outside the ocean.
But the point of the analogy is only to reinforce what I said all along, only in a new way that may be clearer in this new context: The ego is valid, it is appropriate, it is needed by the individual for him to establish and maintain a place in the world around him. Where it goes wrong is in identifying what the ego can know or experience as all that matters, all that is “real” and needs to be given proper consideration.
As long as the ego recognizes its proper place in the scheme of thing it will be a proper mixture of legitimate pride and legitimate modesty, and all will go well. When it swells in self-importance, this is –
Well, let us say merely that any divergence between reality and one’s conception of reality is likely to lead to problems.
Now I have not forgotten the question on the floor. It may be answered various ways, but perhaps the simplest is to say, yes, you are right to suspect that your own view of yourself is inaccurate, but it would be even more correct to see it as partial, as necessarily partial (in both senses of the word) because you are living it from the inside and receive only glimpses from the exterior. But this is not to say there is anything wrong or undesirable or even capable of correction is this. That is just the way things are. There is a reason why you are the inadequately informed nerve center of that particular 3D being, you know! If the world wanted or needed or could accommodate an impartial ego running the mechanism, no doubt it would find a way to provide one.
Understand, to say that no one can fully understand his own being is not to say that blissful ignorance or conscious (or unconscious) self-deception is just as good as careful attention to what may be known. Integrity always pays its own rewards.
F: And there is our hour. My thanks.
CGJ: It was a productive question, you see. Any sincere question will connect to material of value to many others.
F: I do see. Till next time.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015