Saturday, February 22, 2003

Notes for February 20 Class - "Readings in Jung's Analytical Psychology"

In considering the relationship between the conscious mind and the unconscious, we might well begin with this quote from Jung:

"The conscious mind moreover is characterized by a certain narrowness. It can hold only a few simultaneous contents at a given moment. All the rest is unconscious at the time, and we only get a sort of continuation or a general understanding or awareness of a conscious world through the succession of conscious moments. We can never hold an image of totality because our consciousness is too narrow; we can only see flashes of existence. It is always as if we were observing through a slit so that we only see a particular moment; all the rest is dark and we are not aware of it at that moment. The area of the unconscious is enormous and always continuous, while the area of consciousness is a restricted field of momentary visions." [Jung's Collected Works, Vol. 18, Para. 13]

If we accept Jung's view, our level of certainty of knowledge is immediately diminished. Whatever we think we know is always and necessarily only a partial knowledge. What we can see is limited and, as we shall see, highly conditioned by the living context that we are. Our responsibility then is to work to increase our consciousness to the degree possible through education, dialogue, self-reflection, and a careful consideration of the ways in which we make decisions, hold values, influence others; indeed, by the ways we live our lives.

Some key ideas from our reading of de Laszlo's Text:

Jung, especially in his later works, focused on the symbolic expressions of the human spiritual experience. He observed, described and collated spiritual experiences in (a) imaginative activities of the individual and in (b) the formation of mythologies and religious symbolism in various cultures.

Archetypal symbols, that is to say, archaic imprints emerge from the deeper recesses of the psyche and are carriers of the process of individuation. Individuation is the inner experience of psychic growth of the human person and is frequently reflected in a series of symbolic images seen in dreams. Jung has given us a fairly complete exposition of such a dream series in his book, Psychology and Alchemy. Generally speaking the process of psychic growth we call individuation is characterized by an individual's movement from a state of conflict to a state in which he/she experiences greater freedom and unity of personality. Conflicts and problems are not left behind or resolved and solved. Rather, the individual learns to grapple more creatively and to engage fully in the issues and both his/her personal and collective lives.

Symbols are extremely important in the unfolding of the psychic process because through symbols the individual accesses new energy and new life. Symbols arise spontaneously and cannot be conjured up or manufactured. Archetypal symbols emerge from from the collective unconscious, the source of energy and insight in the depths of the human psyche which has been operatingfor aslong as records are available. The activity of the collective unconscious in the human psyche always has and still does aid, encourage, enable, even force spiritual development in the individual. (By spiritual, Jung does not mean the religious devotion to a dogma or creed. Rather, he is pointing to a certain vitality and self-reliance that develops in the person when he/she discovers the source of treasure that lies within the psyce. For a keener understanding of the differentiation Jung makes between religion and a personal religious attitude, see pp. 506-20. As long as the individual seeks answers or meaning or absolute authority outside him/herself, those goals remain elusive. Individuation is the seeking and the partial discovery of the treasure within, partial because individuation is lifelong process that has no clear conclusion or completion other than death.)

"Archetypes, so far as we can observe and experience them at all, manifest themselves only through their ability to organize images and ideas, and this is always an unconscious process which cannot be detected until afterwards." [de Laszlo, p.103]  When archetypal images appear to the individual, they have a numinous character.  Almost everyone has had such experiences, but they are extremely difficult to talk about or to communicate to another.  The experience of an archetypal image brings with it an unshakable, even if uncommunicable certainty because it is the image itself that conveys meaning.

Like instincts, archetypes influence consciousness by regulating, modifying and motivating conscious contents.  Consciousness develops and resides somewhere between the instinctual world of nature and the archetypal world of the spirit.

Jung has demonstrated that the individuation process follows a general unfolding that is characteristic and somewhat universal.   There is a chaotic assortment of images that slowly changes into well-defined elements and themes: (1) chaotic multiplicity and order (2) duality (3) opposition of light and dark, upper and lower, right and left (4) union of the opposites in a third thing (5) quaternity (square, cross), rotation (circle, sphere) and (6) finally the centering process and a radial arrangement that usually follows some quaternary system. The centering process is the climax of the process and is therapeutic. Examples of dreams that illustrate this final process can be found in the "great clock" dream of Wolfgang Pauli's (Jung's Collected Works, Vol. 12) and in a dream of Jung's, his "Liverpool" dream which he recounts in Memories, Dreams, Reflections.