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Category Archives: On Seeing

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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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

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 activately heroic but passively heroic, accepting and incorporating it in her surrender to fear.

But always and independently of any of its forms, overcoming fear represents a specific form of integration in which something alien to the ego, some piece of Not-I, is recognized and realized as one’s own. Thus the man experiences the Terrible Feminine in its character of anima and transformation as belonging to his own psyche, just as he experiences the maternal and elementary character as “his own,” and only after assimilating all these aspects of the feminine will a man attain to his own authenticity as a human Self that is male and female simultaneously. Only when the “pure masculinity” of the patriarchy has been overcome through this process of transformation does a man overcome the fear in which his “pure masculinity” screened itself from the otherness that appeared symbolically as feminine. The same holds true for woman and her fear of the Masculine, which she has only concealed by her identification with the animus world demanded by the patriarchy.

In this experience of transformation the human individual becomes conscious of the relentless power of the Self, which recasts all phases of development as well as all ego-conquests of the outer and inner worlds into aspects of Self-realization that manifest from the very beginning as automorphism, as a tendency at work in the psyche. When the personal Self that manifests as a fear-inducing world assaulting the ego from within and from without is integrated, not only the one who fears and the one who overcomes fear but that which arouses fear can be seen as belonging together. Just as the good and evil gods in Bardo Thodol are one and turn out to be only projections of an underlying third thing, here we are led to experience the unity of Self and world. Destiny in its unity of inside and outside that arouses fear from without and from within turns out to belong to humankind and to be the living experience of the personal Self. World events appearing from outside as much as inner, fear-inducing phenomena of the psyche prove to be disguises of the Self. Inner and outer realities that at first appear strange and hence frightening are later experienced and “unmasked” as belonging to one’s very own authentic being, and thereby lose their foreign as well as their fearsome character. In this transformation the ego experiences that it belongs fundamentally to the Self, and that, in the form of the ego-Self axis, this “belongingness” has determined the entire development of personality on a new level. When the ego grasps the degree to which the Self directs fear and uses it as a “tool for transformation,” it also experiences itself embraced by the Self’s demand for transformation. In this way, however, the ego unmasks its own annihilation through fear and recognizes it as a process of negation brought about by something unfamiliar that proves itself to be one’s most essential nature, and one gains a paradoxical security in the Self that creatively forces the ego into continual transformation. As the ego becomes the transparent exponent of the Self, this agent of transformation, the Self, becomes one’s most treasured essence that remains fearlessly creative throughout all transformations. Only in this way does fearlessness arise for the ego that no longer clings to itself but rather in transformation surrenders and devotes itself to the Self as to its “own.” Thus the ego-Self axis becomes humankind’s guarantee of a creative existence, i.e., of an existence of transformation. Despite this ego-Self unity, however, the opposition persists in which the ego, as a smaller part, is subjected to a Self that is existentially superior to and more than a match for the ego. This means that the ego must necessarily continue to experience fear. Fear disappears only when the ego has come to that stage of the conquest of fear in which the human being’s sense of security lies in existing not only as an ego but, in a mysterious and numinous way, also as a Self that guides the personality through all ego-phases and turns all of the ego’s fear-constellations into stages of transformation in which existence reveals itself as an unending metamorphosis of aspects of the creative.

– Neumann (The Fear of the Feminine, p.278-281)

But the earliest dawn is still prior to the birth of light out of the darkness, and a wealth of symbols surrounds it.

The form of representation peculiar to the unconscious is not that of the conscious mind. It neither attempts nor is able to seize hold of and define its object in a series of discursive explanations, and reduce them to clarity by logical analysis. The way of  the unconscious is different. Symbols gather round the thing to be explained, understood, interpreted. The act of becoming conscious consists in the concentric grouping of symbols around the object, all circumscribing and describing the unknown from many sides. Each symbol lays bare another essential side of the object to be grasped, points to another facet of meaning. Only the canon of these symbols congregating about the center in question, the coherent symbol group, can lead to an understanding of what the symbols point to and of what they are trying to express. The symbolic story of the beginning, which speaks to us from the mythology of all ages, is the attempt made by man’s childlike, prescientific consciousness to master problems and enigmas which are mostly beyond the grasp of even our developed modern consciousness. If our consciousness, with epistemological resignation, is constrained to regard the question of the beginning as unanswerable and therefore unscientific, it may be right; but the psyche, which can neither be taught nor led astray by the self-criticism of the conscious mind, always poses this question afresh as one that is essential to it.

The question of the beginning is also the question “Whence?” It is the original and fateful question to which cosmology and the creation myths have ever tried to give new and different answers. This original question about the origin of the world is at the same time the question about the origin of man, the origin of consciousness and of the ego; it is the fateful question “Where did I come from?” that faces every human being as soon a he arrives upon the threshold of self-consciousness.

The mythological answers to these questions are symbolical, like all answers that come from the depths of the psyche, the unconscious. The metaphorical nature of the symbol says: this is this, that is that. The statement of identity and the logic of consciousness erected upon it have no value for the psyche and the unconscious. The psyche blends, as does the dream; it spins and weaves together, combining each with each. The symbol is therefore an analogy, more an equivalence than an equation, and therein lies its wealth of meanings, but also its elusiveness. Only the symbol group, compact of partly contradictory analogies, can make something unknown, and beyond the grasp of consciousness, more intelligible and more capable of becoming conscious.

-Erich Neumann
(The Origin and History of Consciousness p.7-8)

An old Chinese adage says, “For one who watches a person through a narrow crack, the person he sees becomes narrow.”

In other words, by watching with a narrow view, one cannot obtain to the authentic reality.

Or, taken even further:

When one heeds not the whole, the Open, the being or beings one attempts to see become narrowed, limited, concealed, by the very looking that assumed it could see. And if one is unaware of all this, how can what one sees, the judgment one feels they have a right to, be taken seriously? If one simply assumes, and doesn’t take the time to question and look into what “seeing” is or how it comes to be, how can what one thinks they see be taken as real?

Whoever has traced the history of an individual science finds a clue in its development for understanding the most ancient and common processes of all “knowledge and cognition.” There as here it is the rash hypotheses, the fictions, the good dumb will to “believe,” the lack of mistrust and patience that are developed first; our senses learn only late, and never learn entirely, to be subtle, faithful, and cautious organs of cognition. Our eye finds it more comfortable to respond to a given stimulus by reproducing once more an image that it has produced many times before, instead of registering what is different and new in the impression. The latter would require more strength, more “morality.” Hearing something new is embarrassing and difficult for the ear; foreign music we do not hear well. When we hear another language we try involuntarily to form the sounds we hear into words that sound more familiar and more like home to us: thus the German, for example, transformed arcubalista, when he heard that, into Armbrust. What is new finds our senses, too, hostile and reluctant; and even in the “simplest” processes of sensation the affects dominate, such as fear, love, hatred, including the passive affects of laziness.

Just as little as a reader today reads all of the individual words (let alone syllables) on a page–rather he picks about five words at random out of twenty and “guesses” at the meaning that probably belongs to these five words–just as little do we see a tree exactly and completely with reference to the leaves, twigs, color, and form; it is so very much easier for us simply to improvise some approximation of a tree. Even in the midst of the strangest experiences we still do the same: we make up the major part of the experience and can scarcely be forced not to contemplate some event as its “inventors.” All this means: basically and from time immemorial we are —accustomed to lying. Or to put it more virtuously and hypocritically, in short, more pleasantly: one is much more of an artist than one knows.

In an animated conversation I often see the face of the person with whom I am talking so clearly and so subtly determined in accordance with the thought he expresses, or that I believe has been produced in him, that this degree of clarity far surpasses my powers of vision: so the subtle shades of the play of the muscles and the expression of the eyes must have been made up by me. Probably the person made an altogether different face, or none at all.

-Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil: Natural History of Morals sec.192)