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Category Archives: On Psychology

The disillusioning effect of the encounter with one’s own shadow, the unconscious negative part of the personality, is always to be found in cases where the ego has lived in identification with the persona and the collective values of the period. That is why this encounter is, as a rule, particularly severe and difficult for the extravert, since by nature he has less insight into his subjectivity than the introvert. The naive self- illusion of the ego, which has more or less identified itself with everything good and fine, receives a severe shock, and the undermining of this position forms the essential content of the first phase of the analysis.

-Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a new Ethic, p.78)

 

Responsibility for the group presupposes a personality which has become conscious of its shadow problem, and which has come to grips with this problem with all the forces at its disposal. The individual must work through his own basic moral problem before he is in a position to play a responsible part in the collective. The realisation of one’s own imperfection which is involved in the acceptance of the shadow is a hard task in which the individual is required to free himself from the absolutism of his pleromatic fixation as well as from his identification with collective values.

-Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p.93-4)

 

 

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“Making good”, as understood by the old ethic, with the attendant repression of evil and obedience to convention, is often enough no more than an easy way out, which shirks peril and clings to established security. Yet “where peril lies, grows the remedy too”, and the voice of the new ethic, or so it seems, is determined to accept both peril and remedy at the same time- since the one is not to be had without the other.

This in itself makes it perfectly clear that the way of the new ethic is anything rather than a “way of making one’s own life easier”. Quite the contrary. To surrender the moral certainty about good and evil provided by the old ethic, stamped as it was with the approval of the collective, and to accept the ambiguity of the inner experience is always a difficult undertaking for the individual, since in every case it involves a venture into the unknown, with all the danger which the acceptance of evil brings with it for every responsible ego.

-Erich Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic, p. 108)

If we offend against “history” by removing documents and representations from their cultural context, we hope to compensate by correlating our archetypal investigation with a “psychohistory,” that is to say, with the stages in the development of the human psyche. Taking the development of consciousness as the decisive phenomena of human history, we arrive at an arrangement of the phenomena that does not, to be sure, coincide with the usual sequence of historical events, but makes possible the psychological orientation we require.

The old interpretation of history as a straight line, leading from prehistory through antiquity and the Middle Ages to modern times, is no longer accepted. It has given way to a historical consciousness that looks upon the various coexistent and successive cultures as individualities and not as links in a continuous chain. This view makes it possible to do justice to the individual character of each culture, but it is also a symptom of the decline of the ordering principle that had hitherto enabled European, Christian mankind to regard itself as the culmination and climax of human development. Once the idea of a universal mankind, embracing all the multiplicity of cultures, religions, and historical epochs, came within the scope of men’s minds, the naive Western view of history for which the Near East was quite secondary, while Asia, America, and Africa merited scarcely any attention, became untenable.

With the discovery of the collective unconscious as the common psychic foundation of mankind and with the insight that the relation of consciousness to the unconscious determines the character of a cultural phase or of a culture, modern man has gained a new point of orientation. The development of consciousness, from almost total containment in the unconscious in primitive man to the Western form of consciousness, has been glimpsed as the central factor in human history as a whole. For this orientation, the various cultures are merely phases in this basic trend of psychic life: the development of consciousness, which, without being the conscious goal of the individual cultures or of human culture as a whole, can be shown to be operative in every culture and age.

The tendency toward the light, which C. G. Jung once called human heliotropism, has in the long run proved stronger than all the forces of darkness that have striven to extinguish consciousness. In the broad view, epochs seemingly characterized by a regression of consciousness may almost always be recognized as transitional stages necessary to further development.

For the psychological study of human history, the primordial era refers then to the time when the unconscious was predominant and consciousness was weak. The modern era signifies a time of developed consciousness and of a productive bond between consciousness and unconscious. In other words, the normative development of the individual from containment in the unconscious to the development of consciousness presents an analogy to the collective development of mankind. In the system of coordinates representing psychohistorical development, later periods may therefore, as we said, represent an early state of consciousness and early epochs a mature level. Thus, for example, the relatively late monuments of the monolithic culture of England and France are psychologically much “earlier” than the Egyptian monuments that preceded them by thousands of years. And in an epoch of modern history, regressive collective tendencies may appear, which threaten to annul the arduously acquired development of the individual and the individual consciousness, and to bring back an earlier stage of human history.

Erich Neumann (The Great Mother, p. 89-91)

“A psychic depression, for example, is characterized by an abaissement du niveau mental, by a loss of libido in the consciousness, expressed in lack of enthusiasm and initiative, weakness of will, fatigue, incapacity for concentration and work, and in “negative” contents, such as thoughts of death and failure, weariness of life, suicidal leanings, and so on. Often, however, this psychic process also becomes visible; that is to say, it appears in the familiar symbolism of the light, the sun, the moon, or the hero being swallowed up by darkness in the form of night, the abyss, hell, monsters. A deep psychological analysis then reveals the irruption of an archetype, e.g., the Terrible Devouring Mother, whose psychic attraction is so great because of its energetic charge that the charge of the ego complex, unable to withstand it, “sinks” and is “swallowed up.”
A contrary movement may be represented symbolically as follows: the hero devoured by the monster cuts off a piece of its heart and so slays it. This symbolic process corresponds, on the image plane, to a conscious realization. A corresponding process takes place on the plane of consciousness when, through the “splitting up of the archetype,” the ego achieves a rise to consciousness; that is, consciousness comes to “understand” parts of the archetypal contents and incorporates them in itself. When this happens, the ego is strengthened and consciousness broadened. Consciousness not only recovers from the archetype the libido it had lost to it, but in addition takes new libido from the “split-off” or “cut-off” part of the archetype by “assimilating,” i.e., digesting, it.”
-Erich Neumann (The Great Mother, pg. 27)

Consciousness is always attached to masculine symbolism and in the arts some of the oldest symbols or representations of it are the knife and the lamp…the light shines and so shows, illuminates what is…the knife cuts, dissects, opens up…again revealing what is and allowing it to be integrated…digested. And, if one contemplates this they can come to a deeper understanding of Consciousness itself.

When moments like these occur, and as the tales speak, the “hero” can be male or female, has to be devoured, so to speak, we have to fall into the darkness. But in that darkness which is supposed to be scary and dangerous there arises consciousness, the lamp and the knife, and the ability to break down the experience and incorporate it into one self. So doing, in my experience, which I still go through from time to time, decreases the amount of time spent in that state and relieves it of its most “negative” characteristics. That is to say that while I will feel a need to be alone and may have thoughts of failure, suicidal leanings do not truly emerge or take over. Slowly I come back to myself and recover the vitality I had temporarily lost. However, I also do not run from the experience, I seek out a quiet space to be alone and allow myself to go through the process.

It also appears that these states can be aroused by lack of balance. As in a person being too Extraverted or too Introverted. For each have their specific dangers and therefore can lead to a devouring of consciousness or disintegration of the personality.

“The third type of hero does not seek to change the world through his struggle with inside or outside, but to transform the personality. Self-transformation is his true aim, and the liberating effect this has upon the world is only secondary. His self-transformation may be held up as a human ideal, but his consciousness is not directed in the narrower sense to the collective; for in him centroversion expresses a natural and fundamental trend of the human psyche, which is operative from the very beginning and which forms the basis not only of self-preservation, but of self-formation as well.
We have followed the birth of ego consciousness and of the individual all through the archetypal stages whose climax was reached in the hero’s fight with the dragon. In this development a constant increase of centroversion can be detected, tending toward consolidation of the ego and the stabilization of consciousness. It gives rise to a standpoint, indeed a rallying point, from which to combat the dangerous fascination of the world and the unconscious–a fascination that lowers the level of consciousness and disintegrates the personality. Both attitudes types, introversion as well as extroversion, can easily succumb to this danger. Centroversion, by building up the conscious ego and by strengthening the personality, tries to protect them and to counteract the danger of disintegration. In this sense, the growth of individuality and its development are mankind’s answer to the “perils of the soul” that threaten from within, and to the “perils of the world” that threaten from without. Magic and religion, art, science, and technics are man’s creative efforts to cope with this threat on two fronts. At the center of all these endeavors stands the creative individual as the hero, who in the name of the collective–even when he is a lonely figure standing out against it–molds it into shape by molding himself.”
– Erich Neumann (The Origin and History of Consciousness, p.220-1)

In this we can come to see the importance of the age old imperative to “know thyself.” As in to grasp the inner workings of your mind and consciousness. But also the need, the necessity, to build up things outside of one self. One, given more power over the other, leads to disintegration due to the weakness of the opposing and equally important other half. In today’s present we, generally, over value the extrovert. This can be seen in the overall powerful fear of being alone. It is easier to be with someone who takes us away from ourselves. And when we are young, as I experienced myself, it is painful and scary being alone. Now, of course, I almost enjoy it more than being with people (it changes, fluctuates). But people like that seem to be few and far between. And there is also, for the Introvert, the weakness that comes from spending too much time with one self and being weak or fearful when it comes to losing one self. As in, to loosen up and go with the flow as an Extrovert might say. But again, doesn’t the ancient Greek saying: Know Thyself, still speak to both the extro and introvert? Can you know thyself if you haven’t both lost your self to society and found your self forever renewed within?

Here is a passage from Jung’s Red Book and it deals with this problem:

“The tension of the future is unbearable in us. It must break
through narrow cracks, it must force new ways. You want to cast
off the burden, you want to escape the inescapable. Running away
is deception and detour. Shut your eyes so that you do not see the
manifold, the outwardly plural, the tearing away and the tempting.
There is only one way and that is your way; there is only one salvation
and that is your salvation. Why are you looking around for
help? Do you believe that help will come from outside? What is to
come is created in you and from you. Hence look into yourself. Do
not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other
ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfill the way that is in you.

Oh, that all men and all their ways become strange to you!
Thus might you find them again within yourself and recognize
their ways. But what weakness! What doubt! What fear! You will
not bear going your way. You always want to have at least one foot
on paths not your own to avoid the great solitude! So that maternal
comfort is always with you! So that someone acknowledges you,
recognizes you, bestows trust in you, comforts you, encourages
you. So that someone pulls you over onto their path, where you
stray from yourself and where it is easier for you to set yourself
aside. As if you were not yourself! Who should accomplish your
deeds? Who should carry your virtues and your vices? You do not
come to an end with your life, and the dead will besiege you
terribly to live your unlived life. Everything must be fulfilled.
Time is of the essence, so why do you want to pile up the lived
and let the unlived rot?”
– Jung ( The Red Book, p.308)

solitudinus

A psychic depression, for example, is characterized by an abaissement du niveau mental, by a loss of libido in the consciousness, expressed in lack of enthusiasm and initiative, weakness of will, fatigue, incapacity for concentration and work, and in “negative” contents, such as thoughts of death and failure, weariness of life, suicidal leanings, and so on. Often, however, this psychic process also becomes visible; that is to say, it appears in the familiar symbolism of the light, the sun, the moon, or the hero being swallowed up by darkness in the form of night, the abyss, hell, monsters. A deep psychological analysis then reveals the irruption of an archetype, e.g., the Terrible Devouring Mother, whose psychic attraction is so great because of its energetic charge that the charge of the ego complex, unable to withstand it, “sinks” and is “swallowed up.”

A contrary movement may be represented symbolically as follows: the hero devoured by the monster cuts off a piece of its heart and so slays it. This symbolic process corresponds, on the image plane, to a conscious realization. A corresponding process takes place on the plane of consciousness when, through the “splitting up of the archetype,” the ego achieves a rise to consciousness; that is, consciousness comes to “understand” parts of the archetypal contents and incorporates them in itself. When this happens, the ego is strengthened and consciousness broadened. Consciousness not only recovers from the archetype the libido it had lost to it, but in addition takes new libido from the “split-off” or “cut-off” part of the archetype by “assimilating,” i.e., digesting, it.

-Erich Neumann (The Great Mother, pg. 27)

Sometimes I wonder what we think about books and quotes and “thinkers” and concepts or ideas.

Take this quote for example:

The Greek word φιλόσοφος is put together from σοφός and φίλος. A σοφός is someone who understands something, who has reliable knowledge in a particular area, who understands the matter at hand and who enacts an ultimate decision and law-giving, φίλος is friend,φιλόσοφος someone whose Dasein is determined through φιλόσοφία(Philosophy): not someone who pursues ‘philosophy’ as a matter of general ‘education’, but someone for whom philosophy is the basic character of the being of man and who, in advance of his age, creates this being, lets it originate, drives it forward. The philosopher is someone possessed of the drive and inner necessity to understand beings in the whole, φιλόσοφία , φιλόσοφεῖν(to philosophize) does not mean science (research within a delimited region of beings and with a restricted problematic), nor is it primary and fundamental science, but is an openness to the questioning of being and essence, wanting to get to the bottom of beings and of being as such. In short, the philosopher is the friend of being.

– Heidegger (The Essence of Truth, p.66-67)

Where is this thought?
And I don’t mean physically within your brain or physical being.

Where does it lay within the whole of what can be thought?

I mean thinking and thoughts take us places. We travel, by ultimately coming to conclusions based on our more or less immediate reactions and our interpretation of our, much too personal, gatherings of experience.

But if we can actually take a moment to ‘look back’ upon our decisive moments of answer creation…to experience Religio, so to speak, and become religious. Then we could see more clearly where we’ve come from and therefore see more clearly into where we are in the present.

That right there is a travelling. And even φιλόσοφία could here be said to be the way to seeing Being and Man. Ie. the Philosopher notices what is essential in the being that is undergoing the experience of religio. And then seeks to establish the –how–it comes to be by its “law-giving”.

And contained herein is a possible path into the essence of φιλόσοφία.

In short, in the above passage, I see a way to the beginning of thought. To seeing the whole of thought so as to see how it is best done. And to seeing the importance of History and of being historical.

If we can come look and see, we shall notice that every concept or idea or institution is invariably attached to man, him or herself. To his/her actual being.

Therefore History can not be accomplished without someone actually becoming the being that is capable of thinking, and therefore being, the way that can create history. Either in the form of a book or in a more direct physical action.

The same applies to all “systems” of thought. Ie. the institution of science. It requires a person to be a particular way. Although science is not the way to look-back, religio, nor the way to seeing Being, as a whole, φιλόσοφία.

This then can also become another train of thought into the depths of the essence and Being of Man. What is the essence of Man? What allows him to become able to have or take on “other” ways of being?

 

And even later, through Psychology, we can even make a trip to a distinction between the sexes, by seeing how Feminine and Masculine development differs substantially in how they tend to comport themselves to the overcoming of Fear.

The great, to some extent ultimate, task posed here is that of understanding fear in all its forms as an instrument of the self. Fear of the unknown and of all that is ego-alien turns out to be fear of the unknown aspects of “one-Self” and of “one-Self” as the unknown. In this sense the transformation process of becoming one-Self again and again embraces new unknowns, indeed, ever-new worlds of fear-inspiring unknowns.

In development through the archetypal stages, the individual must overcome fear with each transition from one phase to another, which, of course, always means the new phase of an existence unknown until that time. In this context we cannot take up the various ways in which men and women overcome fear, nor can we address the striking and as yet not well understood fact that the manner in which the ego overcomes fear is symbolically “genital,” i.e., is coordinated with the specific form of the genitals. Thus the male form of overcoming fear is active, intrusive, and pugnaciously heroic just as the typical form of fear appears as “castration” fear. Conversely, women’s fear is the fear of rape, and her way of overcoming fear is not actively heroic but passively heroic, accepting and incorporating it in her surrender to fear.

– Neumann (Fear of the Feminine, p.278-9)

With all of these possible places to go, all this seemingly infinite ability to travel; to imagine, combine and create, why do we still remain stuck in a singular way? Where is our Heroic tendency towards conscious, continuous development? Why do we not see all the possible ways one could think or exist? Why do we destroy that which we fear and do not understand? Isn’t the real point to travel freely through all thoughts, to never stay too long in one view as things should be in consciously constant flux to remain, even remotely, tied to reality?

 

solitudinus

Psychoanalysis is a technique to cure excessively suffering in-
dividuals ofthe unconsciously misdirected desires and hostilities
that weave around them their private webs of unreal terrors and
ambivalent attractions; the patient released from these finds
himself able to participate with comparative satisfaction in the
more realistic fears, hostilities, erotic and religious practices,
business enterprises, wars, pastimes, and household tasks
offered to him by his particular culture. But for the one who has
deliberately undertaken the difficult and dangerous journey be-
yond the village compound, these interests, too, are to be re-
garded as based on error. Therefore the aim of the religious
teaching is not to cure the individual back again to the general
delusion, but to detach him from delusion altogether; and this
not by readjusting the desire (eras) and hostility (tkanatos) — for
that would only originate a new context of delusion-but by ex-
tinguishing the impulses to the very root, according to the
method ofthe celebrated Buddhist Eightfold Path: 

Right Belief, Right Intentions, 

Right Speech, Right Actions, 

Right Livelihood, Right Endeavoring, 

Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. 

With the final "extirpation of delusion, desire, and hostility"
(Nirvana) the mind knows that it is not what it thought: thought
goes. The mind rests in its true state. And here it may dwell
until the body drops away. 

Stars, darkness, a lamp, a phantom, dew, a bubble,
A dream, a flash of lightning, and a cloud: 

Thus we should look upon all that was made. "

Joseph Campbell : The Hero with a Thousand Faces