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Carl Gustav Jung and "Modern Man in Search of a Soul"
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2008-04-07 08:55:39
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Freud’s materialistic psychoanalysis divided the self into the id, the ego and the super-ego. Jung (1875-1961), who was his disciple for a while, would depart from its materialism and without wholly abandoning Freud’s theory of dreams would synthesize it with mysticism and religion thus giving us Westerners the first serious scholarly attempt to bring Eastern philosophical principle into the arena of modern Western thought. On the other hand, Jung’s is a return to the origins of philosophy in ancient Greece, to the kind of mysticism found in Pythagoras, overlooked by a civilization bent on materialism and rationalism and technological gadgets.

Jung’s original insight lies in a profound awareness of the powerful influence of myths and symbols on the human psyche; that while it is true that man makes symbols, it is also equally true that symbols make man. His works are too numerous to mention here. Suffice to mention here the most popular and accessible Symbols of Transformation (1911) which marks his split with his mentor and where he introduces his concept of the collective unconscious; Modern Man in Search of a Soul where he explores the spiritual-psychological destitution of modern man deprived of those symbols that give meaning to life; Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961), his autobiography which he began in 1957 and finished shortly before his death, a very personal account of his formative experiences, ideas and beliefs; Man and his Symbols (1964), which was published posthumously and is an attempt to explain his theory of dream symbolism to the layperson.

Jung divides the psyche into the ego, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. He uses the concept of the symbolism of dream which Freud advanced but he combines it with mythology, religion and philosophy which allows him to posit a universal unconscious that reveals itself in symbolic form via dreams, mysticism and religion. He discovered this universalism even in civilizations and communities which had had no contact with each other.

The key to Jung’s idea of a collective unconscious is found in the notion of “archetype.” Let us attempt a schematic exploration of this notion. Jung contends that the collective unconscious determines that our experience is conceived according to certain organizing principles which he calls “the archetypes.” There are many archetypes, too many, in fact, to be fully classified but there are some that affect the human psyche and our lives and destinies most powerfully. Jung outlines those. He notices that many appear in the context of religion which is fertile ground for the rise of symbols a basic underpinning in the rise and development of any civilization.

One powerful archetype is that of the journey. We are all on a journey from cradle to tomb. That may explain why Homer’s and Dante’s journeys still attract readers after many centuries. The have the nature of archetypes of the human condition. Another powerful archetype is that of the mother. For Jung this archetype is much more than a necessary biological relationship. It reflects a psychological need. Its significance, Jung tells us, lies in the fact that we all expect someone in our lives to fulfill the role of nurturing us and providing us with comfort in times of stress or crisis. What Jung is saying is that, within an evolutionary context, we all come into the world ready for a mother, to recognize and seek her. This need is projected on our biological mother. This in itself is no great surprise. It is observable even in the animal world. The uniqueness of Jung’s theory in psychotherapy lies in revealing the patterns of behavior people will exhibit when the biological mother has not fulfilled her archetypal role. One of the effects is that those individuals find themselves attracted to “mother-substitutes,” such as the army, the nation, the church, etc.

Jung invented the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” to distinguish basic personality types. People thing of this as obvious: some are shy and some are exhibitionists. But Jung’s explanation is much more complex. For one thing, it is not judgmental: he does not declare one better than the other. He declares the introvert personality as that whose ego is turned more toward the internal and unconscious, whereas extroverts are orientated towards outer reality and external activity.

The above distinction is crucial for understanding Jung’s notion of the self. The self is the master archetype; the principle by which we structure our lives. According to Jung, the self in a constant process of development and is fully realized when all the aspects of our personalities are equally expressed. Thus for Jung, to be overly introvert or overly extrovert is a sign of a basic developmental immaturity. As we develop and get older there is a tendency to balance out the different aspects of our personality. Jung also claims that only in death the self is most fully realized.

Junghian psychology has led to the development of highly accurate personality profiling, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and has contributed to the development of psychometric testing widely used nowadays in human resources departments for the assessment of the suitability of candidates.

However what remains most fascinating about Jung is his study or religion and the idea of God as being integral part of being human even when the existence of God is denied. Amid all the talk about the "Collective Unconscious" most readers are likely to miss the fact that Jung was a good Kantian. His famous theory of Synchronicity, "an acausal connecting principle," is based on Kant’s distinction between phenomena and things-in-themselves and on Kant's theory that causality will not operate among thing-in-themselves the way it does in phenomena. Thus, Kant could allow for free will (unconditioned causes) among things-in-themselves, as Jung allows for synchronicity ("meaningful coincidences").

Indeed, Jung's great Answer to Job, represents an approach to religion that is all but unique. Placing God in the Unconscious might strike most people as reducing him to a mere psychological object; but that is to overlook Jung's Kantianism. The Unconscious, and especially the Collective Unconscious, belongs to Kantian things-in-themselves, or to the transcendent Will of Schopenhauer. Jung was often at pains not to complicate his theory of the Archetypes by committing himself to a metaphysical theory -- he wanted the theory to work whether he was talking about the brain or about the Transcendent -- but that was merely a concession to the materialistic bias of contemporary science. He had no materialistic commitment himself and, when it came down to it, was not going to accept such naive reductionism. Instead, he was willing to rethink how the Transcendent might operate. Thus, he says about Schopenhauer: “I felt sure that by ‘Will’ he really meant God, the Creator, and that he was saying that God was blind. Since I knew from experience that God was not offended by any blasphemy, that on the contrary He could even encourage it because He wished to evoke not only man's bright and positive side but also his darkness and ungodliness, Schopenhauer's view did not distress me.”

The Problem of Evil, which for so many people simply denuminizes religion, and which Schopenhauer used to reject the value of the world, became a challenge for Jung in the psychoanalysis of God. The God of the Bible is indeed a personality, and seemingly not always the same one. God as a morally evolving personality is the extraordinary conception of Answer to Job. What Otto saw as the evolution of human moral consciousness, Jung turns right around on the basis of the principle that the human unconscious, expressed spontaneously in religious practice and literature, transcends mere human subjectivity. But the transcendent reality in the unconscious is different in kind from consciousness.

As Jung said in Memories, Dreams, Reflections: "If the Creator were conscious of Himself, He would not need conscious creatures; nor is it probable that the extremely indirect methods of creation, which squander millions of years upon the development of countless species and creatures, are the outcome of purposeful intention." Natural history tells us of a haphazard and casual transformation of species over hundreds of millions of years of devouring and being devoured. The biological and political history of man is an elaborate repetition of the same thing. But the history of the mind offers a different picture. Here the miracle of reflecting consciousness intervenes -- the second cosmogony [what Teilhard de Chardin called the origin of the "noosphere," the layer of "mind"].

The importance of consciousness is so great that one cannot help suspecting the element of meaning to be concealed somewhere within all the monstrous, apparently senseless biological turmoil, and that the road to its manifestation was ultimately found on the level of warm-blooded vertebrates possessed of a differentiated brain -- found as if by chance, unintended and unforeseen, and yet somehow sensed, felt and groped for out of some dark urge.” In other words, a "meaningful coincidence" or synchronicity. Jung also says that “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.

While Otto could understand Job's reaction to God, as the incomprehensible Numen, Jung thinks of God's reaction to Job, as an innocent and righteous man jerked around by God's unconsciousness. Jung's idea that the Incarnation then is the means by which God redeems Himself from His morally false position in Job is an extraordinary reversal (a "deconstruction") of the consciously expressed dogma that the Incarnation is to redeem humanity. It is not too difficult to see this turn in other religions. The compassion of the Buddhas in Mahâyâna Buddhism, especially when the Buddha Shakyamuni comes to be seen as the expression of a cosmic and eternal Dharma Body, is a hand of salvation stretched out from the Transcendent, without, however, the complication that the Buddha is ever thought responsible for the nature of the world and its evils as their Creator. That complication, however, does occur with Hindu views of the divine Incarnations of Vishnu.

Closer to a Jungian synthesis, on the other hand, is the Bahá'í theory that divine contact is though "Manifestations," which are neither wholly human nor wholly divine: merely human in relation to God, but entirely divine in relation to other humans. Such a theory must appear Christianizing in comparison to Islam, but it avoids the uniqueness of Christ as the only Incarnation in Christianity itself. This is conformable to the Jungian proposition that the unconscious is both a side of the human mind and a door into the Transcendent. When that door opens, the expression of the Transcendent is then conditioned by the person through whom it is expressed, possessing that person, but it is also genuinely Transcendent and reflecting the ongoing interaction that the person historically embodies. The possible "mere being" even of consciousness then becomes the place of meaning and value.

Whether "psychoanalysis" as practiced by Jung is to be taken seriously anymore is a good question; but he will surely survive as philosopher long after his claims to science or medicine may be discounted. Jung's Kantianism enables him to avoid the materialism and reductionism of Freud ("all of civilization is a substitute for incest") and, with a great breadth of learning, employ principles from Kant, Schopenhauer, and Otto. The Answer to Job, indeed, represents a considerable advance beyond Otto, into the real paradoxes that are the only way we can conceive transcendent reality.


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