Deconstructing and Reconstructing Individuation


The following reflections constitute a preliminary dive (or cannonball) into an area of Jungian thinking that is in very dire straits: the construct of individuation.  Why is it in dire straits?  The reasons are many, and I don't intend to systematically delineate all of them in these essays.  To name a few . . . because the Jungian individuation construct is flawed and does not work.  Because the individuation construct is mired in very woolly language and thinking communicable only to "believers".  Because the developmental and archetypal schools of Jungian thought have already moved on to reject or ignore or degeneratively redefine the individuation construct the classical school has always cherished and locked safely in its trophy case to gather dust.

These are perhaps strong accusations, although not truly original ones.  Some of the previous critiques of the individuation construct are quite valid, in my opinion.  But they commonly lead to a debunking and rejection of individuation as a useful psychological or psychotherapeutic paradigm.  Individuation has often been (to its critics) a piece or archaic, useless clutter to be tossed out during any spring cleaning of the Jungian household.  My perspective is different.  What I think we have here is no trophy or tattered antique.  Rather, it is an exquisite, but broken, instrument.  It must be deconstructed, taken apart, carefully cleaned and repaired.  But it can then be reassembled in a functional form.

To recast that analogy, it is as if the instrument of individuation was incorrectly assembled (and perhaps designed) by Jung and his early and more classical followers.  When it was wound up with the hope of spinning into some kind of perpetual motion, it quickly sputtered to a halt.  Since then, the classical true believers in the original assembly of individuation have insisted that it is really a great instrument . . . but with numerous qualifications.  It is-but-is-not X, Y, Z.  It is endless and has only a symbolic/imaginal conclusion.  As a movement toward wholeness, it is always growing and growing asymptotically.  If you are becoming frustrated with its lack of payoff, you simply aren't doing it right . . . although only a qualified Jungian can subjectively assess whether or not you are doing it right (payment for this assessment is much appreciated, although buying the book of said Jungian is the next best alternative).

There is a great deal of mystification and fluff padding the abundant failures of individuation to prove itself equal to the classical Jungian propaganda about its transcendent sublimity and incalculable worth.  Like any god who does not show at the designated time and place, individuation has become mythic, fantastic, arcane, and much abstracted and rationalized.  It's failures are always failures of the believer or pursuer and never of the paradigm itself.

I envision a work of scholarship that systematically analyzes the history and construction of the individuation construct, pulls together various ideas, quotations, social and historical contexts . . . a kind of critical biography of this Jungian deity.  Such a work is, I think, necessary.  But I do not intend to attempt it, certainly not in these essays.  I don't intend to attempt it in part because it is a massive task involving a great deal of tedious scholarly research that would be of minimal interest to me.  But more importantly, I won't attempt it because I have absolutely no expectation that there would really be an audience interested in such a work, no matter how "necessary" I feel it is.  More accurately, I don't think the audience that would be interested in a critical history and analysis of individuation would be very interested in where it would lead.

Where I think it would lead is to the death of a beloved god.  That death would have to be defended against and denied all the more forcefully and delusionally, driving Jungian thinking deeper and deeper into dysfunction, hypocrisy, and ineffective isolation (or occultism).  I do not want to serve that destruction and decline of Jungian thought (although it will probably get there eventually on its own terms).  If an author were to write the kind of historical critique I am envisioning, it would only be embraced by critics of Jungianism, providing more fodder for the condemnation and dismissal of Jung and his ideas.  Jungians would, I feel quite sure, be utterly unable to make any use of it.

As precedent (among many smaller examples) I give the Jung-bashing books of Richard Noll.  Noll's books did indeed stir up the Jungian community and definitely contributed ammunition to opponents of Jungianism.  They even had a subtle but seriously destructive effect on Jungianism, contributing to (although, of course, not originating) the splintering of the Jungian tribe into at least three schools in conflict with one another in complex ways, all diverging from a center.  Noll gave more embodiment to a characterization of Jung that many Jungians want to get away from, to distance their own Jungianism from.  But fleeing from this shadowy Jung and from a point of central convergence in Jungian thought that functioned as a core value system and "origin myth" has led many Jungians into self-conflict with their own Jungian identity.

Noll's books fueled this explosion considerably despite the fact that they themselves were very weak and often misleading in their anti-Jungian arguments . . . despite the fact that, literally speaking, most of Noll's implications and accusations were untrue, and provably so (as Sonu Shamdasani demonstrated in his own debunking of Noll's scholarship, Cult Fictions, 1998).  But if fallacious and antagonistically partisan pseudo-scholarship could wound (or aggravate an old wound in) the Jungian "soul", imagine how much more damage a completely logical, valid, and abundantly evidenced critique of a Jungian "god" would do.

If Jungians could not take any valuable lessons (e.g., some serious shadow examination) from the Noll debacle, how would they recover from a more accurate and penetrating assault?  Richard Noll made a mistake that Jungians should count as a great and miraculous blessing: he imagined that Jung was the weak link in Jungianism.  And if Jung were attacked as a charlatan, those who worshiped him would be defeated.  But Jung, despite his well-advertised shadow, is by no means the weakest link in the Jungian chain.  He even remains as strong as ever, despite brushes with various kinds of "sinfulness", with sexism, colonialism, antisemitism, and inflation.  Jung, the man, weathers these storms, emerging a little more ragged yet all the more impressive for his survival.  The weakest links in the Jungian chain, although they can be said to stem to varying degrees and in complicated ways from Jung's own complexes and personal equation, are those linked on by many of his followers and the creative, intellectual, and social choices they have made.

The Jungians (even the self-declared "post-Jungians") have not convincingly managed to improve upon Jung's theories and attitudes, even as various splinter groups have adopted many means of differentiating themselves.  No splinter tribe has moved along its chosen road without leaving some very valuable ideas and understandings behind.

My own desire is not to destroy Jungianism and Jung's thinking, but to build anew from its center.  That is, a new revisioning.  In this revisioning, various critiques of Jung and Jungianism will be implied.  But my goal is not to merely substitute a new god for an old one, say, to reject Jung's supposed "monotheism" for an alternative "polytheism" as was one staple of James Hillman's revisionism.  I am not, like Hillman, a disenfranchised, prodigal son setting off on his estranged road away from the realm of the father . . . the direction largely defined by that puer escape and defiance.  My goal is to contribute to a (substantially linguistic) repair of Jungian theories, not to their rejection or defiance.  I am not driven by seeking "difference" to father Jung's thinking.  I want to get the old instruments working again.  And this is not in the service of "resurrecting the Father" (at least not directly and intentionally).  It is not the "Father", but the tribe and its utility that I would like to serve.  I would like to see the Jungian tribe become survivable.  I don't care if we are good sons and daughters or prodigals.  What matters to me is that we learn to adapt and not die out.

There is something that Jung started . . . not as much a set of ideas as a set of valuations.  The expression of these valuations is not, for me, the alpha and omega.  It does not need to be purified of its taint and raised up to glory.  It is an ancestor that contributed DNA to us Jungians, and we seek to adapt and mutate and find fitness within our environment.  Our environment is not Jung's environment, and so there are new and other pressures upon us to adapt.

What I want to address and help illuminate is an individuation construct that actually works and is non-delusional.  As ambitious as that sounds, I have to confess up front that reconstructing individuation in this functional way requires the sacrifice of many conventional Jungian sanctities and precious dogmas.  For instance, the idea that individuation is a good in itself, that it is universally to be desired and pursued, that it leads to enlightenment and transcendence, that it saves, that it heals, that it betters the individual.  It is that fantasy of individuation that makes it attractive to most people, and it is this desirability that allows individuation to be commodified for a lay-Jungian, self-help audience and market.

To hear Jungians talk about individuation is to hear an evangel, the Good News of potential salvation through faith.  But individuation (as I will go on to construct it) is more of a heresy, or even sin, than it is a salvation of the individual.  Individuation is a Mark of Cain, not the blessing of the house of Abel.  Individuation is not the transcendent movement of the individual toward wholeness.  It is the excommunication of the individual from the "whole" state of participation and its mystique.

As I reconstruct individuation, the question that a good and obedient Jungian would have to ask is: "Why would I want this cheap and shoddy thing instead of the resplendent numen of classical individuation?"  And the only answer, dissatisfying though it may be, is: "Because it is more real and genuine than the resplendent numen classical individuation imagines."  This genuine individuation will simply not be attractive to most people . . . and it is not prescribable universally for our various modern ills.  Yet it is only this unprescribable, less desirable, and much harder won individuation that can be historically and psychologically studied and validated.

The path of individuation is not a chosen path, and it is not a path for the believer.  It is a path of compulsion, perhaps a "Calling", a path of last resort, a surrender to something destructive.  It does not reward faith with solace and fulfillment.  It can be brutal . . . and there is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, no treasure mythically awaiting the seeker.  What treasures individuation holds are created by the individuant, not found or won.  There is no manna.  What is gained instead is responsibility, duty.

Jung remarked that the individuation journey never ends while we live.  Only in death can it be completed.  That is too mystical and grand for my tastes, but I will offer a similar aphoristic bone as aperitif:  Individuation's a bitch, and then you die.

Individuation Credentials?

On what basis do I offer a revised individuation construct that (supposedly) contradicts the prevailing (largely classical) Jungian model?  My revision has very similar origins to Jung's original construct.  That is, it derives largely and initially from personal experience.  Jung's individuation model, although he felt it was corroborated by his patients' experiences, derives almost entirely from his own "confrontation with the unconscious" beginning around 1913 after his split with Freud.  This becomes especially clear now that we have the publication of the Red Book, Jung's individuation opus.  The material, characters and narratives of the Red Book serve very neatly to demonstrate the theory of individuation Jung proposes in his scholarly publications.  The attitude Jung prescribes to the would-be individuant is very much the same attitude he adopts in his Red Book experiment.  His scholarly characterizations of the unconscious, the anima, the mana-personality, the persona, the hero, the wise old man, the shadow, and various other staples of his theory all have clear foundations in the Red Book.  For more on this subject, the reader can peruse my essays on the Red Book here at Useless Science.

I don't mean to jauntily claim credibility for my revisions based on some kind of divine revelation or specious spiritual enlightenment or attainment.  My intention is to demonstrate that experience, although extremely important, is only useful in such a revisionary venture to the degree that its artifacts can be logically explained and argued for.  I will attempt to argue that the revised individuation paradigm I will propose is also better supported by texts (many of which Jungians are quite familiar with and have also depended upon for corroboration of Jung's theories), is "more archetypal", and is more elegant and logical than the conventional Jungian paradigm.  Still, there is a very distinct sense in which both Jung's and my individuation paradigms are highly personalized creative works emerging in the specific clothing of our personal languages.  As I will explain later, individuation as a whole owes its shape immensely to a very arbitrary languaging process.

From roughly the age of 16, I began to devote the lion's share of my mental energy to pursuing and understanding individuation.  It was not a whim, a psychedelic trip, a spiritual or philosophical flirtation.  It was an absolute immersion in what I now recognize to be a "Calling".  Although I had a conscious desire to seek self-betterment, to overcome ignorance and "unconsciousness", and (at the very beginning) to "attain" higher states of mind or soul, it never felt like individuation was optional to me.  It was individuate or die (this dire imperative was recognized and validated in tribal cultures, as I will explain in later installments).  This threatened death was both spiritual and potentially literal (in the form of madness and/or suicide).  The feelings Jung describes at the onset of (and during) his confrontation with the unconscious were extremely familiar to me, and they served as one of the primary attractors that brought me to Jungianism.  In Jung I saw a person who had experienced what I was experiencing and who had survived, managing to transmute the dismemberment and dissolution of that confrontation/Calling into more golden stuff.  I sought to walk in his footsteps and orient myself with his field notes.  I wanted to survive and heal from the same disease Jung suffered.

I owe Jung my life for this assistance, as I would have had no idea how to proceed without the initial container of his language and example.  I was familiar with other religious and spiritual traditions (and sampled them), but none of these helped keep my path "true" in the least.  Instead, they fed the looming madness that seemed to trail and taunt (and sometimes control) me.  Jung's language was a panacea, enabling me to find brief but essential moments of clarity.  It is out of gratitude for this "medicine" that I continue to consider myself a Jungian today (despite many deviations and heresies) and work in my shadowy, agonistic fashion to serve the "treatment" of the Jungian tribe.

Another identification factor for me with Jung was his response to the same kind of confrontation/Calling.  Like Jung, I did not merely want to endure and pass through this experience.  I wanted to understand it as thoroughly and accurately as I could.  Not everyone is (and probably very few people are) so analytically inclined.  Certainly, even as Jungianism centers around an "analytic community", most Jungians seem contented with religious artifacts, dogmas, and totems and do not also ask what these things are in themselves, what they are objectively.  But Jungian psychology originated (and was practiced by Jung) as a analytical enterprise.  And it was this analytical orientation that differentiated Jungian psychology from a religion.  Jung was (again, as the Red Book amply demonstrates) an astute and powerfully driven researcher of the "soul".  As much as he championed "experience" with the unconscious, he seemed more motivated by (and more adept at) the desire to know, verifiably, what the nature and artifacts of the unconscious really were.  It is this analytical, objective, and often rationalistic Jung that, in my opinion, has all too often been lost as a guide in Jungian and post-Jungian psychology.  But it is this Jung that is most responsible for Jungian theory . . . and it is this Jung that is, I believe, most extraordinary and rare.  By contrast, Jung the guru and/or spiritual adventurer was merely of a type, a generic personage who did not especially set himself apart from others of his kind.

As I undertook my own self-experiments, even from the first years of my Jung-illuminated individuation event, I began to pencil practical revisions into the margins of Jung's guide book, to note what "worked" and what didn't in the field.  It would be nearly two decades later that these notes were reconstructed into a theory of individuation.  For most of the interim, it never occurred to me that a "theory of individuation" was of any use.  Individuation, like survival in the wild, was a practical art.  My eventual desire to recast my experimental "field notes" into an intellectualized theory came about only because I tried to talk to other Jungians about the stuff of these field notes and found they had no idea whatsoever I was talking about.  Understanding eventually that my practical Jungianism was heretical, I felt a need to better formulate it and describe it as logically and clearly as possible.  Only then did I find myself wearing the shoes of a "revisionist".  Before this, I simply felt that my "revisions" and "heresies" were logical applications of Jung's own ideas and principles.

The stuff of my revisions will be laid out and argued in the following essays, but there is one general difference that I will set down here.  Much of my early individuation work was focused (like Jung's Red Book dialogs) on interactions with anima figures.  I have transcribed and commented upon the highlights of this anima dream series at the Useless Science forum.  This served as the mystical bedrock of my individuation event.  In more recent years, especially as I tried to have discussions with other Jungians about the anima and animus, I came to see that what I had long felt was a very elegant and purely archetypal encounter was largely foreign to many Jungians.  I started calling this stage of individuation in which the animi figure is discovered, engaged with, valuated or redeemed from the shadow, and then eventually initiates the (heroic) ego, the "animi work".  The animi work is (as I experienced it and only very recently found corroborating evidence for) extremely archetypal and should (like all individuation motifs) be traced back to the mythos of shamanic initiation, where the shaman's marriage to a spiritual spouse is a common factor of his or her initiation into full-fledged shaman-hood.

The animi work is also what a great many fairytales describe (typically those that end in marriages that endure "happily ever after").  The shamanic and folk (and alchemical) precedents of the animi work are substantial, but (as I found out) the animi work is not well understood at all among Jungians.  The reasons for this are complex and require careful analysis to explicate (this analysis will follow).  For now, I will posit two potential reasons why the anima work is not adequately understood through the Jungian paradigm of individuation.  First, as much as Jung and Jungians have indulged in the adoration and analysis of fairytales, the archetypal constructions that Jung most used and Jungians inherited tend to derive more from the heroic epics of great patriarchal civilizations, especially ancient Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian cultures.  I believe that the renderings of archetypes like the hero and the animi portrayed in fairytales stems from an even more ancient and pre-civilized source.  Perhaps the origin of these heroic archetypal fairytale motifs is the narrativizing of prehistoric shamans who explained (in song, poetry, dance, and theater) just what their spirits were doing in the other world while their bodies remained in the material world of their audiences and patients.

In other words, heroic epics and cultural myths (especially of the patriarchal cultures on which Western civilization was founded) are archetypally degenerate.  Jung did not adequately recognize this, and Jungians are the heirs of this distorted archetypal theory.  It has lead us to (often subtly but importantly) misread the very texts we have used to corroborate Jungian theory.  And of course there are many, as all our texts were written or redesigned in the historical, modern era.  They have been culturally recontextualized, and wherever this cultural recontextualization also served the promotion of a modern, patriarchal ego-ideal (like Gilgamesh or Heracles or Siegfried), distortions of the prehistoric shamanic archetypal structures and dynamics arose.  Many fairytales (even those rewritten in the last few centuries) do not suffer from serious distortions like these because they have never served as vehicles of promoting a cultural ego-ideal.  This is also why fairytales have just as many female as male heroes, while cultural myths and epics depict the journeys of only male heroes.

The second reason that the animi work is not well understood among Jungians is that Jung was extremely ambivalent about his own anima experience.  On one hand, Jung sets a stellar example of the kind of psychic awakening and development that can come out of valuatively engaging with the animi (as personification of the unconscious Other).  Not only did he write the anima dialogues that went into the Red Book, he rewrote them in fancier language and elegant calligraphy and accompanied them with detailed oil paintings.  Not many people would give so much time and consideration to their animi.

On the other hand, Jung spent more time "fighting off", rejecting, chastising, denying, and demonizing his anima during these engagements than he did wooing, valuating, loving, and learning from it.  He ultimately and definitively refused to be initiated by the anima.  And he developed a rationalization of a theory holding that the anima was both essential soul and wicked temptress that had to be approached while maintaining one's stoic autonomy.  This in spite of all he knew about the historical symbols like the alchemical Coniunctio or the hieros gamos.  It appears to me that Jung felt any "unions with the god/goddess" had to be conducted only intellectually and rationally so the ego could maintain its separateness and sanity and not become a victim to the "dark side" of the god.

Here it is absolutely essential to recognize that this attitude of Jung's (right or wrong, we will not argue for the time being) is utterly in defiance of archetypal mysticism, in which the human and the divine Other do in fact unite.  The Jungian method of individuation deviates in this essential factor from conventional mysticisms.  I cannot even begin to express how massive a difference this makes, and how dramatically it snowballs as Jungian theory is spun around this core of "anti-mysticism".  And again, I reiterate what I wrote above regarding Jung as more of a rationalistic, objective, "soul researcher" than a mystic.  The dressing up of Jung postmortem as a mystic or spiritual adept while downplaying (and often even forgetting) his rationalistic proclivities is an act done in bad faith.  It turns out Jung the rationalist dominated Jung the mystic once all the tallies are taken.  Jung the mystic is not a figment of the Jungian imagination, but the predominance of Jung the mystic in Jungian constructions of the founder is simply an unfortunate and self-deceiving wish fulfillment fantasy.

The period of individuation I call the animi work encompasses all of Jungian individuation.  It is not the end of the archetypal process of individuation.  Or rather, whatever we would like to call the instinctually organized process of post-adolescent psychic growth, adaptation, and development . . . Jungian individuation only makes up a small (but very dramatic and important) portion of it.  Moreover, one of the reasons that Jungian individuation is said to have no end or to be cyclical is that the deviations of the conventional Jungian paradigm from the archetypal animi work prevent the process from reaching its completion.  That is, Jungian individuation is habitual or like a complex in the sense that it is destined to fail again and again.

This is also to say that the animi work (and therefore Jungian individuation also, should it revise itself adequately) is a finite episode in the individuation process.  The languaging and relanguaging of the animi work can continue throughout life and until death.  But the event of the animi work itself is not only finite, its duration (when properly facilitated) is often fairly short (often measurable in months rather than years and definitely not in decades).  This brief duration corresponds to the nature of the animi work as a rite of passage or initiation.  How we understand, live out of, and dynamically language that initiation is a massive undertaking that will take years (probably decades) to come to any kind of fruition and usefulness.  But the event of initiation itself is like a scarification, a ritual wound struck once and worn ever after.

There's no sugar coating it.  The implications of this critique and revision are massive.  They suggest that the Jungian house of individuation is built upon sand.  The bad news is that this is, I fear, very much the case.  But the good news (not nearly as dramatic as the bad news, regrettably) is that the phenomenal artifacts of the individuation process Jungians study are very much the right ones.  There is just a fly in the Jungian individuation ointment, a poisonous element (based largely in the two factors just mentioned above).  I believe this "taint" or parasite can be extracted and that the Jungian "waters of life" will then be able to clarify.

Rationally, this revision doesn't ask that much.  To a non-Jungian, it is probably six of one, half-dozen of another.  The real challenge in achieving this clarification of individuation for Jungians, though, is relinquishing the habitual death grip on some very sacred cows.  Cows like "all heroic figures are inherently inflated", or "the anima and animus are always morally equivocal and must be related to with great caution", and most of all "Jung was the Risen Christ and messiah of the modern soul whose gospel is the way, the truth, and the life".

That is, I am arguing that the main thing standing between the prevailing Jungian individuation paradigm and theory and more accurate, more archetypal/historical, and more functional ones is a quasi-deification of Jung.  So long as we believe (even if only unconsciously, as is the case with many "post-Jungians") that Jung was a great mystic who had more or less the last word on individuation, Jungian individuation will flounder, and its waters will remain dark and unsustaining.  Additionally, Jungian individuation theory will remain highly esoteric, arbitrary, cultic, and incompatible with more scientific psychological methods and ideas.

The completion of the animi work is not the "master work" of individuation.  It is an initiating threshold that must be passed through in order to begin the so called Great Work depicted in alchemical mysticism.  So, to put it into those alchemical terms, the animi work (which again, encompasses and transcends all of Jungian individuation) is like the derivation of the alchemist's prima materia.  The culmination of this first and essential process is indeed the Coniunctio, but Coniunctio in alchemy is not a hieros gamos, not some transcendent and elating union of the conscious and the unconscious or of man and God.  Coniunctio, unequivocally, is death . . . the product of dissolution or dismemberment.  And it is followed by Nigredo, blackening, decay, putrefaction.

The skewing of Jungian individuation feeds the perversion and misunderstanding of the alchemical process, where, classically, union (of Sulfur and Mercury, Sol and Luna, or the heroic ego and the animi) is equal to death and NOT some kind of transcendent rebirth.  There is enormous misuse of the alchemical terms Coniunctio and Nigredo in Jungian parlance, and this misuse compounds the dangerous misunderstanding of individuation.

I will argue that the alchemical model is more functional than the Jungian.  The alchemical opus corresponds, like shamanic initiation and fairytale heroism, to the true individuation archetype (which I will generally call, the mysticism).  Alchemy is in fact an inheritor, a true heir, of the shamanic tradition (and no doubt some of its symbolism), as Mircea Eliade makes quite clear in The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structure of Alchemy.  It makes for a difficult situation.  Alchemical allusions and terminology have become signature Jungian affectations, no doubt contributing (along with many other Jungianisms) to a disconnect with other academic and scientific fields.  And yet, despite extensive research on Jung's part (much of it quite thorough if not terribly well organized), Jungian psychologization of alchemical symbols and processes suffers some fatal flaws.  It would be easier for a progressive, revisionary Jungian if alchemy were just a bunch of gibberish and Jung's psychologization of it fundamentally pointless.  Then alchemy and its extreme convolutions and complexities could just be set aside.

But as it turns out, alchemical mysticism or Hermetic philosophy depicted a crucial turning point in the history of human mysticism.  Medieval alchemy (like Jungian psychology) attempted to depict the archetype of mysticism in proto-scientific, quasi-material terms.  Alchemy, which mostly died out with the advent of modern chemistry, recorded the last episode of practical "soul work" in human history before the languaging of the soul fell into ruin.  Jung's valuation of alchemy showed intuitive prowess, but he was still a "modern man in search of a soul".  In search of, not in relationship with.  Jung's ideas suffer from the problem he addressed: reinventing the wheel that had for millennia been mysticism.

The alchemists also carried the torch of the shamanic mystical tradition and symbolism through much of the Christian era, even elucidating the initiatory and shamanic elements resident (but dormant) in the Christian myth.  Alchemy carried and preserved the "material soul" during these centuries of anti-material, Platonic Christianity, until it was relinquished to modern science . . . which regrettably suffered from an overly reductive, positivistic rationalism more directly inherited from dogmatic Christian theology than from highly imaginative and complexity-tolerant alchemy.

Revisioning the psychology of alchemy is a book-length project in itself, so later parts of this essay will only touch briefly upon the relationships between alchemy and individuation.  Additionally, the alchemical opus depicts a much more extensive process than Jung's individuation paradigm does.  This essay will spend much more time reworking the stages of individuation Jung and Jungians have most concerned themselves with than it will on the more esoteric and subtle facets of later individuation.

One last thing to clarify is that I do not, in criticizing Jung's theories, mean to air some kind of general disrespect.  I can think of no higher form of respect to pay Jung than the devoted attempt to build on the foundation that he laid.  It is quite possible to marvel at the accomplishments of the man while also disagreeing on some of the finer points.  That should go without saying.

During most of my 20+ years as a Jungian, I adhered mostly to the letter or Jung's ideas.  I know what it is like to accept and not reflect upon the many Jungianisms Jungians take for granted and do not analyze or evaluate.  It was only gradually that I felt forced to question these assumptions . . . as they began to show their flaws in practice.  If one does not attempt to apply Jung's individuation theory as a kind of quasi-spiritual, psychotherapeutic discipline, I suspect one will not stumble upon the seams and frayed ends of the theory.  But to live and practice individuation is to need it to be a functional instrument and languaging tool.  To take individuation as a totem or object of belief and projection and identity construction, one doesn't need an individuation theory to be robust and highly accurate.  Just as a religious believer doesn't need God to be perfectly defined and beyond reproach.  That's what rationalization and imagination are for.

When using Jung's works as a foundation, we are faced with a great deal of complexity and seeming (as well as actual) self-contradiction.  As frustrating as this is for a reader of Jung. I am sympathetic to the condition and construction of Jung's writings.  He was trying to language a complex, dynamic object (the psyche) in a way that connected ancient religious ideas and terminologies to modern thinking.  Jung's project was a languaging project.  Specifically, it was a psychologizing project.  I believe it was more a languaging project than, for instance, a religious or mystical or even philosophical project.  Jung meant to bring older (often archetypal) ideas about the human soul into a suitable modern dialect.  He was not necessarily trying to tell the world things about the soul that had never been known before.  He was trying to treat a kind of Orwellian wound in modern language that prevented us from being able to talk functionally and with sophistication about the soul.  It is in this sense that Jung was part of the romantic tradition of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But that languaging project was a vast and complicated undertaking, and psychology itself, though modern, was (and remains) in its "pre-paradigmatic" infancy.  Jung's project served the religious and mythopoetic imagination more than it did the rationalistic, scientific, post-Enlightenment, positivistic trend of modern thought.  But his modern intellectual means, his inherited language and culturally constructed selfhood was distinctly rationalistic, scientific, and post-Enlightenment.  We could say (in Jung-speak) then that he was seeking the solution to a union of perceived Opposites.  How does one manage to get archaic mythic thinking and modern scientific rationalism to play nice together?

I don't think Jung solved this problem, but I do think he made some very noble and enterprising attempts to formulate a modern language of the soul.  Sometimes, he did not deconstruct the language of the day well enough to recognize its arbitrary cultural constructions, its prejudices and unfounded assumptions . . . and other times he did not deconstruct older religious and mythic languages well enough.  In Jung's finished product (not a completion of a task, but simply the state of things when he died), many cultural artifacts, both modern and ancient, remain and remain relatively unreflected upon.

With only a few exceptions, Jungians have not engaged in the conjunctive soul-languaging task that Jung devoted himself to.  Instead, they found in some of his attempts comfortable and idyllic grottoes tucked away from the modern world where they could sip a bit from the sacred font.  And this is where most Jungians set down their roots.  But I think that these anti-modern grottoes of thought and language were for Jung more like weigh stations where bits and pieces of his thoughts paused briefly while he figured out how to bring them together and into motion with other thoughts.  This dynamic and ongoing reassociation effort has never been an important (or remotely conscious) thrust in Jungian thinking post-Jung.

A vaguely parallel effort has moved forward in recent years to connect Jungian thinking with postmodern academic theory.  I suspect that the desire behind this is to pick up some of the scraps that fall off the academic table (rather than say, attempt to innovate in either the liberal arts or social sciences . . . occasional declarations of such intentions strike me as overblown and fantastic).  Misguided though this effort might be on some levels, it may inject some languaging awareness into Jungian thought.  The struggle then will be whether Jungians can maintain a sense of Jungian selfhood and not be totally assimilated into postmodern theory and study.  I would prefer to see Jungians glean some languaging awareness from these fields without begging from them or risking assimilation and loss of selfhood . . . but it is hard for Jungians to break out of the habitual complex of oscillating between grandiose puerism and shame-ridden (shadow-identified) dejection.  The relationship with the puer in Jungian culture is home to serious malignancy.

Regardless of whether Jungians will start to pursue a renewal and continuation of Jung's languaging project en masse, that project will be (and has been) my own chosen path.  And what I have found in picking through the Jungian corpus is that Jung has done most of the preliminary work for us.  That is, he has established the prima materia necessary to select and distill from.  Jung's great strength as an intuitive thinker enabled him to sniff out the psychic material one would need to construct a viable, contemporary psychological paradigm.  He had his fingers in all the right cookie jars: myth, fairytales, religion, pre-modern/tribal culture, mysticism, dreams, creativity, art, imagination, spiritual disciplines, psychological pathologies, evolutionary biology, and what is now called complexity theory.  Jung was drawn to these areas and driven to valuate the psychic phenomena or data these realms of human thought and experience produced.  And he not only valuated them separately, but recognized the value of their interrelation.

Jung was a great valuator of psychic phenomenon, and I think it is this pattern of valuation that serves as the thriving root system of Jungian identity.  It is what draws people to Jungian thinking and what sustains the compulsion and numinousness of Jungian ideas and objects of study and wonder.  It is my attraction to and valuation of this same root system that leads me to consider myself a Jungian (even as I have many languaging conflicts with other Jungians).  The problem we face (as a Jungian identity group or tribe) is that we do not have a very conscious appreciation or understanding of our relatedness.  We do not very well understand this root structure of psychic valuation or pay much attention to its survival and growth.  Despite the powerful emphasis on the "unconscious" and the "depth" of the psyche in Jungian dialect, our eyes remain fixed on the manifest, egoic, and superficial constructions of Jungianism.  That is, the terms, beliefs, compulsive identity constructions, totems, taboos, and trends.  We speak frequently of God and gods, of soul and spirit and numen and "anima mundi", but we relate to these things only superficially and to the degree that they forge for us a collective sense of identity.  That is, we respond to their value, but the response is unconscious.  We feel the value of these things, but we don't know what it is we are feeling or why.  Our experience of these valued things is totemic and static, and the things themselves are related to only as language-totems, husks, informational constructs, signifiers loosed from what they signify.  This is the superficial stuff of our tribal identity construction, and we feel only the unconscious drive to preserve these husks, having no insight into the dynamic, complex objects these husks were originally meant to represent.

We remain in a state of fundamentalism, where the text must be preserved vigorously and at all costs . . . a kind of defense of the Word of God.  But we relate to this God only through the defense of its Word, not intimately, not as a dynamic, complex, living entity or system.  We have clung to static informational signifiers at the expense of the very "soul" we so adamantly chant about.  This is what happens when languaging doesn't remain dynamic and responsive to the living and growing complexity of the thing it is designed to express and describe.  Jung spent his life trying to language the soul, and that process was one of continuous evolution and change as he responded to the shifting and many-faceted complexity of the object itself.  We Jungians have spent our decades since engaged in the worship of mere snapshots of the process that Jung himself engaged in.  We have mistaken the text for the object, for the god itself.  And so, we have lost the god, the source of living, dynamic complexity.

Jung, I contend, was a better valuator of psychic phenomena than he was a languager or psychologizer or interpreter.  On a valuative and intuitive level, Jung grasped the relatedness and importance of his object of fascination and study.  But his languaging intelligence trailed behind.  His collected works leave us field notes and piles of loosely organized but relatively unanalyzed data.  Yet it is this languaging Jung that has been deified by Jungians . . . even by those Jungians that struggle with and attempt to reject father Jung, the tribal founder and demigod.  Rejection of a deity (which is usually substitution of one deity for another) is a form of religious behavior, and that rejection or criticism is chosen instead of some kind of relationship to Jung the valuator.  Jung the valuator remains hidden in shadow, a kind of alien or invisible being.

I am essentially saying that we have erected false idols, idols that serve the defense of the Jungian ego and identity construction and do not serve the Jungian tribal Self.  We do not have a communal relationship with the Self.  Our Jungian endeavors are largely determined by the desire to satiate our egoic wants.  The study and valuation of the soul has been eclipsed by our need to have the soul languaged in such and such a way . . .  so that we can feel secure in our adopted sense of tribal identity.

The genuine process of individuation is a psychic movement that would dissolve and reconstruct this state of selfhood.  It would dismember the inflexible and inflated self-interest of prevailing Jungian egoism and reorient the intentional drive of Jungian identity to the facilitation of the Self-as-Other.  Therefore, my critique and revision of Jungian individuation theory is directed not merely at bettering the understanding of the individuation phenomenon, but also at the treatment of the Jungian soul (or Self), which I feel compelled to respond to due to my valuation of it.

Individuation is always directed at this manner of project, is always devoted to the valuation of the Self system and the relanguaging of the Self in highly aware egoic terms (as a Logos).  To individuate is to feel this instinctive compulsion and to follow its organizational thrust until it is no longer truly "optional" or chosen.  For the individuant, the egoic facilitation of the highly valuated Self system principle has become the new seat of identity.  Individuation itself is a finite process of establishing this condition of devotion and responsibility to the Self-as-Other.  It is ultimately an ethical movement.

Go to Individuation, Part 2, "Wholeness and Selfhood"

C.G. Jung’s Red Book: A Critical Review

Although many Jungians interested in the publication of the Red Book have not yet had the opportunity to read it (especially due to the supply vs. demand and cost prohibitions . . . as of February 2010), a number of reviews have already appeared.  There has been something universally dissatisfying to me about these reviews.  They are not necessarily dishonest, but they strike me as inadequately far-seeing and insufficiently critical (in the analytical sense, not the oppositional sense).  Woolly thinking is not that unusual in the Jungian mindset, but some of this signature woolliness seems to be trickling out into the construction of the Red Book's publication in non-Jungian media, as well.  Of course, it makes for more interesting press if the publication of the Red Book is constructed as a "happening".

Although sobriety and restraint do not usually color my calling card, compensation certainly does . . . and I feel that there is some need for a compensatory review of the Red Book.  My previous reflections on the Red Book dealt with its psychology (and therefore Jung's psychology), but here I would like to provide a slightly more literary review of the text.  I will forgo the standard descriptions of what the Red Book is and how it came about (both the original and the newly published facsimile).  In other words, this is not a newbie's review of the Red Book.

One of the reasons I did not initially jump on the bandwagon of Red Book reviewing is that I find the Red Book nearly un-reviewable.  There is no such thing as valid universal criticism of texts.  Texts have to be placed into a context of purpose and the specific construction of their audience.  These don't have to be the ones the author assigns to the text, necessarily . . . but when talking critically about a text, it must be fixed and contextualized in some way.  One of the major problems with reviewing the Red Book is that it is ultimately impossible to say what this context should be.  Jung's own contextualization is complicated and rather vague.  Editor Sonu Shamdasani believes (and make a valid case in his introduction) that Jung intended the Red Book to be published . . . which would lead us to assume that the audience for the Red Book would consist of a combination of those interested in Jung's personal life and psyche (e.g., the audience for Jung's autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections) and those who practice or study Jungian analysis (who would presumably look upon the Red Book as a case study of an especially rich individuation process).  Related to and subsumed in these groups are those Jungians who are looking for a kind of paternal root and foundation to their own Jungianism, a touchstone.

It is this latter subgroup that pumps up the excitement of the "happening" and generates the tribal numinosity around the unveiling of the Red Book, although in my personal experience, relatively few Jungians are willing to admit how significant this factor is to them while also looking upon it psychologically and with an analyst's investigative fascination.  I noted this because I would describe this analytical fascination with the relationship between the Red Book and my own "Jungianized" psyche as my primary orientation (as previous posts in the Red Book Diary make clear).  At this point, I have been a bit surprised to see how many Jungians who obviously feel a numinous participation with the Red Book (and with Jung himself) seem compelled not to accept the shadow inheritance evident in the Red Book.  That is, arguably, the Red Book offers insight into the individuation process and into the "way of Jungian individuation", a kind of Jungian identity mysticism.  To the degree that such an identity mysticism is participated in through the Red Book, the shadow of this identity is also participated in (although perhaps unconsciously).  As Jung himself pointed out, every ego position casts a shadow, for to take any position is to engender its opposite or that which the chosen position neglects or opposes.

Therefore, to deny that there is a shadow inheritance for Jungians in the Red Book is to deny that the Red Book has anything to do with Jungian identity . . . which would be absurd.  The publication of this book would not be a "happening" if it had nothing to do with identity.  The book's numinosity for Jungians is essentially a factor of participation.  If the book proves to be numinous to non-Jungians, that too would be due to a willingness to participate in the book's identity mysticism.  Mysticism relates to Mystery (as in the Mystery religions), which is etymologically rooted in "initiation" . . . and an initiation is an identity transformation or reorientation based in participation with a group, tribe, god, or ideology.  Individuation itself can be seen as a generic mysticism . . . while Jungian individuation is a construction of that mysticism through "Jungian-approved" terms, ideas, symbols, and dogmas.

With that in mind, I would like to embark on a journey of contextualizations (and scrutinies of those contextualizations) for the Red Book.  We must first contend with the discrepancy between the way Jung contextualized the Red Book (as far as we can discern) and the way Sonu Shamdasani, the Philemon Foundation, and W. W. Norton & Company have contextualized its publication.  There has been much grumbling and some debate about whether the Red Book should have been published.  Aligned against Shamdasani are various Jungians who feel that the Red Book was too personal to have been published or that it was not really intended to be published, and Shamdasani's efforts to do so were violating on some level.

My position on this is fairly partisan: I definitely feel that the publication of the Red Book was legitimate and necessary (for Jungian psychology to have any chance at evolving).  The fear that the book will verify to the public that Jung was mad (or a Nazi or a this or a that) is if not absolutely irrational, entirely unimportant.  That is, anyone who feels the Red Book proves that Jung was insane already thought Jung was insane.  To the more balanced perspective, there ends up being no fodder whatsoever in the Red Book to corroborate a diagnosis of psychosis in Jung.  If anything, Jung's attitude (as narrator-persona of the Red Book) is extremely sober, Swiss, Christian, upright, and skeptical of/resistant to the fantasies his imagination regurgitates.  This is not to say that he remains unaffected during his psychic journey.  His reactions are very emotive and dramatic (melodramatic at times).  But they are largely the emotions of (to put it a bit too plainly, perhaps) a prude . . . and not a decadent of any sort.  Anyone who has been through an individuation event similar to Jung's (psychotic or otherwise) should be constantly struck while reading the Red Book with how defiant and resistant Jung's narrator persona is to the whole endeavor.  It is not unfair to say that Jung's narrator spends the majority of his attention and effort refusing, denying, resisting, and being disgusted by much of what has fantasies ask of him.  He is not a true supplicant, an initiatory sacrifice.   His "triumph" (and perhaps his personal goal) during the journey is in consistently maintaining some degree of detachment and non-compliance with the "unconscious".

It must be noted that this makes Jung a very odd mystic.  By the standards of mystical convention, Jung remains in some not insubstantial way unchanged as he undergoes his Mysterium, defying the archetypal "intent" of the transformative initiation process.  This is not to say that he is utterly unchanged, but he is definitely not utterly changed, either (as an initiate into some form of Mysteries would typically be or feel; rather Jung's transformation is more characterized by an increase in confidence and sophistication that comes from succeeding willfully at a task he had set out to accomplish . . . Jung is concerned primarily with reaching his own standard of achievement or attainment and does not allow the achievement to be define for him by the psychic forces he engages with).  Of course, there is a historical precedent in initiate figures like Christ, Buddha, and many others of temptation by some form of evil during the initiation or identity transformation.  And this temptation is (archetypally) to be resisted.  But Jung seems to treat the entire phantasmagoria of his process as a temptation.  He is immensely skeptical of the whole affair.  It is odd, as Jung was critical of what he saw as a Christianization of mythical pagan personages that lumped and reduced them all into the Christian devil.  And yet, in the Red Book, Jung's narrator is overtly concerned that most of the personages of his imagination are "of the devil".  Jung's stance is that of somewhat less "heroic" St. Anthony.

This attitude (one might even call it anti-Jungian) compliments the significantly Christian orientation of the Red Book's narrative.  Much of this narrative and the process it describes depicts Jung as a Christian trying to come to terms with a psyche that is either non-Christian or only perversely Christian.  The Jung of most of the published Collected Works (the Jung we are more familiar with) was less prudishly Christian where matters of the unconscious were concerned.  Yet, at the same time, some aspect of his Christian prudishness stuck with him.  He maintained throughout his life that some degree of egoic resistance to the power of the unconscious had to be maintained in a psychically healthy individual.  Jung may have outgrown the state of mind that carried him through the creation of the Red Book in various ways later in his life, but the Red Book very neatly depicts his own prescribed methodology for dealing with the "irrational" and numinous unconscious.  Jung demonstrates his method of what could be called the maintenance of a "strong or resilient ego" during periods of psychic transformation.

I found this demonstration fascinating (and troubling).  On one hand, Jung proves that this kind of ego-resilience can be achieved . . . and I would have thought it utterly impossible.  Now I (and every other Jungian) can finally see what he meant by this ego-preservation and strengthening.  On the other hand, there are two significant problems with this prescription.  First, it is still entirely impossible for the many millions of people who aren't Carl Jung or aren't equipped with the same degree and kind of temperament, will, intelligence, and perseverance he was (and so the method is still unprescribable, at least in a psychotherapeutic context).  Second, this fortification against and detachment from the psychic process of radical identity transformation does not come without repercussions and externalities.

As I wrote previously in the Red Book Diary, I am not satisfied with Jung's treatment of the soul and anima figures in the Red Book.  He never values them to the degree I feel is warranted.  The other side of this coin is that he overvalues the wise old man/patriarch figures of his fantasies, especially Philemon (he seems to eventually see through the previous ones after flirting with them . . . flirting being the most accurate term for his relationships with them).  One can speculate from this that Jung might have had either a father fixation or some significant homosexual tendency (or both).  We know he had such feelings for Freud at one point (as he himself admitted in a letter to Freud).  I'm not inclined to make too much of this or sensationalize it or displace it into our more homosexuality-perceptive postmodern cultural context.  It doesn't matter to me if Jung had a more or less latent homosexual tendency.  I don't think that is any kind of secret passageway into the true workings of Jung's personality.

But I do feel that his intellectual and quasi-erotic attraction to these powerful patriarch figures coupled with his seeming distaste for more emotive and "irrational" female figures says a great deal about Jung's psychic constitution.  It is the kind of thing that would stand out to an analyst who observed Jung as a patient.  What it "means" is hard to determine (perhaps impossible) . . . but it is definitely significant.  We note, as we don this lens, that although Jung remains thoroughly un-seduced by the anima figures in the Red Book (even as he had always characterized the anima as a seductress), he is repeatedly seduced by the patriarch figures.  With a number of these patriarch figures, he has a "morning after" epiphany and then provides a corrective to the previous episode.  But the female figures never penetrate Jung or get him to comply with most of their requests.  More importantly, perhaps, what they have to say and represent is generally not well understood by Jung.  Even when he dismisses them, he fails to see all of them or see through them . . . and they seem to be more genuinely Other to Jung's ego position.

Observing this, we are forced to ask why it is that Jung characterized the anima as so seductive when in fact he himself was substantially more susceptible to patriarch figures and their magical "Logos".  There is in this an easily detectable worm in the apple of Jung's anima theory.  It is even fair to say that Jung seems to have projected his seducibility onto the anima, when in fact it was the Logos-bearing masculine that muddled his mind and attracted his "irrational" heart.  As obvious as I find this conclusion to be in both the Red Book and (along side the Red Book) in Jung's Collected Works, I feel doubtful that many Jungians will leap to the same conclusion.  There are many Jungian tribal affiliations and identity constructs that would have to be seen through and deconstructed before this "obvious" conclusion can be made.  But I feel it is obvious to anyone who is not caught up in those Jungian identity constructs unconsciously.  When Jungians will be able to intelligently and constructively discuss this topic I don't know.

This latent "complex" in Jung's psychology and in his individuation model ultimately raises the question of whether this model (as portrayed in the Red Book) is the only valid one to pursue.  That is, is "Jungian individuation" really an adequate representation of archetypal individuation?  To say the least, I feel Jung's model deserves substantial scrutiny and is probably in need of revision.  I have addressed that somewhat in other installments of the Red Book Diary, and it is only tangentially important to this review, so I will leave it at this for now.

To return to the issues of contextualization, we know that Jung primarily created the Red Book to help signify and study his own individuation experience and engagement with the unconscious.  But he seems to have frequently used it as a touchstone in conducting some of his analyses with patients and more personal interactions with colleagues.  He relied on the Red Book for help in orienting some patients (and himself) to their own irrational and numinous psychic experiences.  He did not necessarily say: "See how I did this?  Do it like that."  But he did treat the contents of the Red Book like pure archetypal manifestations of psychic complexes and scenarios.  In some sense, then, he conducted his analyses (and his mentoring of other analysts) out of the Red Book (not just as a physical text but as an experience of "THE Psyche").  He therefore obviously felt the book had some value in this regard.

In my opinion, valuing the Red Book in this way is very much akin to valuing it as a relevant case study (of individuation).  That is, he does not seem to have directly prescribed visionary experiences out of the Red Book to his patients and colleagues.  Rather, Jung saw the Red Book as a modeling text not unlike, say, Faust.  It did not necessarily represent capital-T Truth, but it portrayed something with universal or archetypal elements that could readily be related to other people's experiences of certain psychic phenomena.  It is my opinion, therefore, that Jung (at least in part) contextualized the Red Book as a case study relevant to the study of the individuation process and the treatment of analysands.  If he also felt the Red Book was a mystical indoctrination text, this does not show as obviously in Shamdasani's reconstruction of the Red Book's history of usage.

And yet, Shamdasani and the publishers have not really positioned the Red Book as a more or less "scientific" case study.  They have promoted it as a numinous text that will revolutionize Jungian scholarship and perhaps mysticism itself.  The book is designed by the publisher and editor to function as a totem, a religious object with some kind of mystery embedded within that possesses transformative powers.  The totemization of the Red Book is quite evident also in the sheer size and cost of the book, in its devotee-perfect facsimile-plus-translation construction, and especially in the (to my mind) odd and excessive promotion of the book's publication with "viewing" and lecture events structured as if some mystical convergence of the universe had occurred . . . and everyone should be excited.  The dawning of the Age of Aquarius, perhaps.  Thus my calling the events of and surrounding the publication of the Red Book a "happening".

But these things encourage us to ask if the specific construction and presentation of the published Red Book is not a displacement (and perhaps even a misappropriation) of Jung's initial contextualization.  I don't mean to proffer a fundamentalist gripe regarding the "amorality" of misappropriating a text.  It is not at all uncommon for objects of art to be appropriated by various ideologies.  An artist even expects this (or should) to some degree.  To create art is to give birth to something the artist no longer fully controls (and perhaps exercises no control over whatsoever).  Although such appropriation can also occur with more academic and philosophical texts, the blatant acquiescence to appropriations evident in the Red Book's publication and promotion seem to make a definitive statement: this is an object of art more so than an academic text.

And this is the arena of conflict with Jung's original contextualization that we as both audience members and potential critics should be most concerned with.  What is it, really, that this object of art called the Liber Novus is representing, and what is this representation saying?  What is being represented is not as much a text created by C.G. Jung as it is an art object (and aesthetic/philosophical statement) coined from the psyches of Sonu Shamdasani, the board of the Philemon Foundation, Norton, and not insubstantially, the collective Jungian and quasi-Jungian imagination.  That is, to some degree (and sometimes very directly and materially in the case of donations to the Philemon Foundation or contributions of effort to its projects and organization) Jungians as a collective have licensed Shamdasani to melt down and reconstruct a Golden Calf, a "craven image", a totem from the numinous stuff of Jungian fantasy and longing.  We should not be deceived by the fact that the Red Book is a dedicated facsimile of the original or that Shamdasani's scholarship bolstering and cradling it is profoundly thorough and excellent.  The Red Book is still a Golden Calf, a totem . . . because that is how it has been position and conceived, and that is how it has been received and how it was intended to be received.

Golden Calf analogy not withstanding, I don't have any intention of playing Moses and chastising all the Jungian idolaters.  What was done, despite having some potential offensiveness to Jung's memory and some of the feelings of the Jung family members, was not a sin.  It is, though, a fascinating psychic phenomena well worth the careful investigation and analysis of Jungians all over the world.  Such analysis, at least publicly published, is it seems, still forthcoming.  It doesn't bother me that the publication of the Red Book has been a totemization.  On some level, I am actually happy to see this, because it provides Jungians a rather transparent psychic artifact, holds up a mirror to our tribal identity, tells us what we want, what we need, where our dreams and fantasies reside.  But my perspective is probably far more analytical than that of most Jungians (curiously so, since I am not an analyst . . . but not being an analyst helps enable me to maintain a slightly more distanced/less participative perspective on the Red Book publication as phenomenon).

But the choice to promote the Red Book as an art object inadvertently (I think) enters it into the realm of aesthetic critique.  Although many Jungians have pranced and brayed about Jung-the-artist, those who are more artist (or art critic) than Jungian remain nonplussed by this new "art discovery".  As well, they should be (says my own inner art critic).  No doubt Jung was a surprisingly talented artist (and a pretty good fiction writer) for also being a world-renowned psychologist and theorist.  But he was not and is not a true contributor to the history of modern art.  Which is absolutely fine, because he had no interest in being any such thing.  This isn't to say that some latent talent for art couldn't have been developed by Jung . . . if he had had a different personality.

In this artistic contextualization of Jung and his Red Book, we need not be concerned that Jung's inner visions will be interpreted by the ignorant and the non-believers (the "uninitiated") as evidence of his madness.  But there is certainly cause for concern that Jungians will foppishly parade themselves out into the modern world with their flies down.  The embrace of the Red Book's artistic contextualization merely demonstrates how profoundly naive and out of touch Jungians typically are where the modern is concerned.  Personally, I only feel a small twinge of shame about this.  Mostly, I find Jungian daftness endearing in the way an absent-minded professor might be endearing.  Like this fictional professor, Jungian naivete regarding the "real world" does not mean that Jungians are fools.  The "real world" is not so hot . . . and "perfect" adaptation to its conventions is by no means something Jungians have coveted or should begin coveting.  But there is still some degree of the Emperor's New Clothes phenomenon afoot here.

And I also wish that Jungians wouldn't have tried to reintroduce themselves (and their mystical founder) to the world in so naive a fashion.  Because I feel that Jungianism really does have something to offer the "rest of the world" (even the modern world) . . . and that it is more an issue of our habits, complexes, and blindnesses that prohibit this offering than it is the narrowminded stupidity of everyone else (who do not recognize the"true Christ" in their presence).  Jungians (who advocate such an opinion) are correct, I think, to place much importance on the publication of the Red Book.  The Red Book's publication can help revitalize Jungianism.  But the elixir belongs to and must be drunk by Jungians themselves, not the rest of the world.  The Red Book is not the Gospel . . . it is a potential wake-up call to Jungians alerting them to the fact that they have next to no grasp of their own psychic foundation and no conscious or constructive influence over the way they build on that foundation.

By making this event into a Golden Calf, Jungians tempt their own internalized shadow-Moses to stumble down from the real ecstasy on the mountain and be horrified with the abuses of "salvation".  But no one is that Moses in the flesh.  It is only a personage within all Jungians that roars out from depths within to say that we are on the wrong path, that we have lost the eternal flame, that we do not understand.  Like Prufrock's women who come and go talking of Michelangelo who tell him, "That is not it at all.  That is not what I meant at all."  It's an affective, perhaps even non-verbal voice from the Self that reacts to the ego position and indicates that we have "fallen from grace" and would do well to "get right".

But the publication of the Red Book beyond the Jungian tribe is not that important.  It does not "dare to disturb the universe".  It is not "Lazarus, come from the dead, come back to tell you all.”  And we Jungians are not Prince Hamlet.  We are merely an "attendant lord" in this whole unfurling Passion play . . .

one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

T.S. Eliot gives us a wonderful image when he compares the woman who tells Prufrock: "That is not it at all.  That is not what I meant at all."  He tells us that this revelation affects us "as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen".  That is, it projects and illuminates our complex (and our stuckness in it) outward into the publicly visible realm.  Outside of our own grandiose and Lazarus-like conceptions of ourselves, we are observing "the eternal Footman hold our coats and snicker".  We are revealing far more than we think we are.  And the objective, then, is not to become more expertly guarded, but to actually pay careful attention to what exactly it is we are revealing.  What may prove mildly embarrassing "publicly" is a vehicle for our own deeper reflections and possibly, our transformations.

But we have to be ready to look at ourselves, at our Jungianness and realize that although we may very well "have heard the mermaids singing each to each" . . . they do not sing to us (and did not keep singing to Jung, as the Red Book demonstrates).

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown.
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

I don't necessarily think Jungians are collectively ready to embrace their alchemical dissolution.  But the publication of the Red Book affords us a unique opportunity to become reacquainted both with ourselves as Jungians and with a more human version of our tribal founder.  In other words, the Jung we stand to discover (if we are lucky and willing to see) is not the Jung-as-Christ from his Salome and serpent vision.  Yet it is the Jung as true spiritual and psychological founder of our tribe and its identity totems.  We now have deep access to Jung's psyche, his complexes, his obsessions and egoic attitudes.  This Jung is a veritable Pluto of psychic wealth willing to pass on his inheritance to us . . . so long as we are not kneeling in a line with open mouths or upturned hands or ready to cross ourselves or shout hallelujah.

I do not mean to advocate disrespect, but the secret to creating the Philosopher's Stone is to learn to recognize the Philosopher's Stone on your own psychic dung heap.

The Red Book that C.G. Jung created was not an object of art (where art is a public consumable).  But the Red Book that Shamdasani and Co. have given us is.  Or rather, the phenomenon of the Red Book's publication they have given us is.  It's a kind of performance art . . . and it will not glorify Jung or Jungians.  But it is exquisite in the way it "throws the nerves in patterns on a screen" like some magic lantern.  And those illuminated and projected nerves are the nervous system of our Jungian tribe . . . which we have either forgotten about or never known.  These patterns await our investigation and communion like ancient hieroglyphs.  We will have to learn how to read a new language.  And the rest of the world will be as befuddled or misunderstandingly mesmerized by Jung as they have always been.

I think we are standing at the cusp of something new.  It may not be the Age of Aquarius.  In fact, it could very well be the beginning of the Jungian Ice Age and great extinction.  I only know, or feel, that it is an opportunity.  Nothing will be delivered.  Resigned to this inevitability, we have nothing left to us but to create.


Core Complex Psychology: Preamble

Wrestling with My Jungianism, a Preamble

What follows is an introduction to and overview of a revised Jungian theory of psychodynamics.  I consider it "under development", and although I feel positive enough about it to use its language to talk about the psyche, my relationship to it is complex, to say the least.  Much of this complexity has to do with my personal relationship with and attitude toward Jungianism.  For instance, it was never my intention to create a theory of psyche.  In fact, it was not initially my intention to be a revisionary or even a "post-" Jungian.  I simply was drawn to Jungianism for the useful tools it provided me in the understanding and "treatment" of my own psyche.  Since these tools were objects of practical application for me, issues of dogma, legacy, and even theory were of minimal concern.  I made small edits as I toured and used Jung's ideas, but thought nothing of them.  Most of these had to do with what I now call the animi work, and I attributed the flaws in Jung's anima and animus constructs to a dated sexism that he had also long fallen under the scrutiny of Jungians for (since the rise of feminism in the 60s and 70s).

Even as I had a fairly well developed (and recorded) conception of my anima work experience that was not altogether on the Jungian map, I assumed for years that what I had undergone was "entirely Jungian" and would be understood and embraced without anxiety by other Jungians if they had the opportunity to hear it out.  It was, in other words, not really a revision of Jungian theory, but another piece of data to add to the massive pile of similar data the anima theory was already reacting to.  It was a nicely elegant, very Jungian case study.

I would be lying if I said that I never had any interest in or attraction to innovation.  I am a poet (or was . . . it's complicated), and creation seems to drive me more than any other force.  But, like many Jungians, I came to Jungianism to find my tribe and to find healing through it.  Only in the last few years and since returning to Jungianism after nearly a decade where it played only a back burner role in my life did I start to recognize that my stance as a Jungian was unusual . . . and even in some ways radical.  With the creation of Useless Science and my ragged, spiraling brainstorms, investigations, and sermons, I pursued the innovator's path reluctantly.  It may not seem so due to my "verbal enthusiasm" (or vitriol, if you prefer), but I have pursued this path with great reluctance and much consternation, and I have proceeded thus for a fairly logical reason.  Namely, like so many others drawn to Jungianism, my dream was to find my true tribe, to find others like me, to find home and familiarity and a way to participate, an group-acceptable identity to participate through.  But I have found myself trapped between the practical drive to innovate and to pursue psychology with honesty and integrity on one hand and on the other hand to fit in and find fellows, companions, and collaborators who are enthused by the same mission I am.

It is an impossible place to be, especially for a compulsive innovator, a poet.  To give up innovation would be to assume a false self . . . and lose my soul.  That is not an option.  So I grudgingly follow my own path and agonize conventional Jungianisms.  There are two main reasons that I have taken such an agonistic tack in my attempts to contribute and survive.  Firstly and mostly, it is a matter of my complex or emergent personal myth, a kind of hero/scapegoat compulsion charged with instigation, innovation, and confrontation of unexamined norms .  Where my attempts to forge identity run into this archetypal dynamic, my gears grind and my anxiety increases "irrationally", but I also receive a turbo boost of drive (i.e., the survival instincts kick in).  This complex is my repeated undoing . . . and also my center of gravity, my engine.

The second main reason I persist agonistically is no doubt that I am scarred from my rather innocent fantasy of finding my true tribe in Jungianism.  Still, it would not be fully accurate to say that my agonistic writing is a product of bitterness due to my exclusion from the group Eros.  I know myself well enough to know that I would never be happy with the simple things I wished for.  To belong . . . it is an impossible dream for an innovator (see above re: losing my soul).  My relationship with Jungianism is more complex than this pop-psych diagnosis of bitterness.

My own diagnosis would be that I have projected into Jungianism a woundedness that is parallel to my own personal woundedness.  And this projection makes Jungianism a kind of clay or workable material through which I project the work on myself.  But this is no blind or utterly misguided transference.  It is the same kind of functional transference that successful analyses are based on . . . and it allows me to have empathy for the Jungian disease.  I have come to see Jungianism as if it was a living thing, a kind of ecosystem that suffers and struggles (with the modern and with its own shadow issues) and needs to find a way to adapt and evolve.  In this evolutionary survival process, I feel like a part of the tribe, a piece of the system . . . and a piece aligned on the side of survivability, adaptation, transformation.  An ally to the Self system's principle of organization.

In that role, I bring my numerous flaws and hold back the system with my egoic frailties, my selfishness and detrimental desires.  But I see the value in trying to work through these and find a way to contribute to the Self's ordering principle.  My fight with Jungianism, therefore, is primarily a fight with myself, a fight between my heroism and my Demon-beaten shadow.  And this kind of fight (as I have often noted on the forum) is one in which the heroic only manages to prevail if it can find empathy for the very shadow that is constantly tripping up heroic intentions.

Therefore, in my at times ferocious critiques of Jungian attitudes and ideas, I find myself caught between the heroic drive to contribute innovatively (and perhaps therapeutically) to the survivability of Jungianism . . . and the Demonic drive to chastise and punish the Jungian shadow (and my own Jungian-like shadow) for its weakness.  To the degree that I fail in my critiques by being too Demonic, I come to feel a deep regret for stepping on my own toes and on the toes of the heroic or adaptive drive of the tribe I feel linked into.  I have failed often.  But to be fair, it is a very fine line one must walk in this matter, because I remain utterly and rationally convinced that Jungianism needs to change some of its ways in order to make it in the modern world, in the future.  To make these changes, Jungianism will have to do its shadow work, look into its darkest mirrors, and stop pursuing and worshiping some of the things it currently holds sacred and unquestionable.  Healthy innovation in this case is critical by its nature, reformative . . . and some degree of passion, lamentation, and sermonizing is essential.  Such things cannot be expressed with cold dispassion, because the intent of the criticism is to spark adaptation and survival.  These are Eros issues, not intellectualisms.

As one of very few individuals who seems to be backing such a Jungian horse at this time, I must admit that I feel I have not done as well in my advocacy as I would have liked to.  My actions have not often matched my intentions.  Granted, heroic quests are not for real human beings . . . but I have no expectation to carry the tribe on my back.  I am more like a "concerned citizen" hoping to contribute a voice or a pair of hands to a just cause.  But I also have a citizen's outrage to bear, an outrage that belongs also to the tribe, to the Demonized Jungian shadow.  Balancing this archetypal/personal outrage with a desire to contribute to and help facilitate a tribal psyche is not an easy task . . . perhaps not even a human task.  Even in my repeated failures to find an ideal equilibrium, I suspect I manage to do this as well as anyone could.

Well, that's my preamble . . . and I have expressed, if nothing else, my consternation with my own theory-making.  But with that out of the way, I will proceed to the conception of a theory I have been calling Core Complex psychology . . . a moniker I am significantly dissatisfied with but have not been able to improve upon.  As a creative writer, I have always believed in the value of titles.  In my poetry, I have depended on the creation of titles to bring some degree of order to the formations that followed them.  But a title like Core Complex psychology feels like little more than a fog that obscures a conglomeration of some very complex archetypal psychodynamic weavings.


Red Book Diary – A Failed Individuation Journey?

I finished reading the Red Book this weekend (10/24/09).  There are many things I wanted to reflect on along the way, episodes for this diary.  I still hope to get to at least some of these.  By the conclusion of the book, there were so many thoughts stirring in me.  I found myself slightly cranky.  Not really disappointed . . . the feeling was deeper and more complex, something very difficult to process.  The crankiness or moodiness comes from the anxiety of being unable to build a bridge from affect to language.

I would like to use this unnumbered installment of the diary to reflect on these feelings (it is being written after the 3rd installment).  Many of my reactions in this post will be personal.  I don't want to do much (and ideally no) textual criticism here.  I want to try to suss out what the Red Book meant to me both before I read it and after, how I positioned myself in respect to it and how it has changed me.

As the perhaps provocative title of this post intimates, one of the key questions for me at the end of the book was: does this elaborate mystical fantasy of transformation that Jung indulges in and soldiers through amount only to a failed individuation?  I don't mean that it was "just an illusion" or that it was delusional, psychotic, or meaningless.  I mean that it depicts a genuine individuation event, but that event does not bear fruit or even achieve what it set out to.

To compare the process and goal of the individuation event recorded in the Red Book with my own theory of the individuation (or simply the anima work) process, the conclusion would have to be that, indeed, the Red book ultimately depicts a failed individuation.  It bothers me, though, to be inclined toward this conclusion.

It disturbs me in some way, and yet everything I've been writing over the past couple years or so predicted this.  All the criticism I've written of Jung's theories and of Jungian theories has suggested that Jung and Jungians do not understand the animi work, have not developed a theory that describes it to its completion or that makes sense of it as a whole, and have bungled or at least left dangerously unfinished a viable theory of individuation.  The precedent for these failures is evidenced in the Red Book . . . and that also (if it is possible to establish logically, and it may not be) suggests that my hammering on about the complexes of Jungianism (the Jungian tribe) being firmly rooted in Jung's own complexes is a more viable argument than I even assumed it was.  After all, those failures that are described or implied in the Red Book remain major dark spots in Jungian thinking: the anima, individuation, Christianity, dualism, spiritualism, the hero, the somewhat unseaworthy attitude toward science, patriarchal egoism, lack of adequate differentiation in the shadow, a narrowminded and prudish attitude toward inflation.  These are all elements of what I have been calling the Jungian Disease.  In the Red Book, Jung deals extensively with all of these things . . . and in my opinion, he fails to find a functional paradigm with which to understand them and grasp their interrelationship.

One of the reasons the outcome of the Red Book should not really be too surprising to me is that I have essentially developed my revisionary theories as a treatment of this very disease.  The larger struggle that remains where these theories are concerned is a matter of convincing Jungians to take seriously that they actually have a disease or complex like the one I have described.  It is no doubt much harder for certified Jungian analysts to pathologize themselves and their tribal affiliations than it was for me to pathologize myself as I struggled with the accompanying fevers and delusions of the Jungian indoctrination I fed myself on.  I have always been my own primary guinea pig in the numerous attempts at treatment I've experimented with.  Although I think I applied the Jungian treatment successfully and to significant effect, having to devise ways to treat my own residual Jungianness has been more of a creative and often divisive process.

I think I am over the hump on this leg of the treatment, but the real trick is to treat the specific "poisonousness" of my Jungianism without amputating that Jungianism.  Amputation of any poisoned organ of tribal affiliation does not generally work.  We merely take our disease to a new tribal affiliation until its poisoning manifests.  Then we blame that new tribal affiliation or ideology or religion and fly off to find something we haven't polluted yet.  But even in a cultural or tribal complex there is a fusion between personal and tribal complexes that is inextricable.  I don't mean to prescribe a kind of Jungian treatment by returning to one's original religion, necessarily.  After all, it is unlikely that any tribe or institution has the answers readily available to the problems of its own complexes.

If one, say, has some kind of "Christian complex", going back to the Church or seeking any kind of return to faith is not likely to resolve it, because the Church has no solutions for its real devils.  But the symbols of the tribe or institution can be revised, reworked, pushed to evolve.  It takes a dangerous and potent imagination and an ability to "live in sin" or violate tribal taboos, but it is possible.  The alchemists are a case in point.  They tried to treat the Christian complex they were born into (which was generally a devaluation of matter, instinct, soul, the body, and the feminine).  There is no evidence that alchemists wanted to refute their Christianity or even saw their Work as in opposition to the Christian tribe.

To the extent that the alchemists succeeded in their experiment, a treatment of the Christian disease was devised . . . but its application or regimen was so convoluted and strange that it could not be distributed like some kind of Communion wafer at mass.  In order for alchemy as treatment of Christianity to be affective, one had to become an alchemist and devise elaborate, mystical variations on the general understanding of the alchemical opus.  Each had to, in essence, write his (or her?) own Red Book in which a personal Logos was developed.  I.e., alchemy was a mysticism.  The result, though, was esoteric writing that did not make adequate sense to most others.  Those to whom it did have some resonance still had to recreate the alchemical experiment in their own ways.  It wasn't self-help.

In treating the Jungian Disease, one likewise must find some way, despite what may overtly appear to be heresy, to feel and perhaps still be Jungian.  I'm not sure if other Jungians must be convinced of this.  But it is a necessity of the participation mystique or transference to the totem of the Jungian tribe.  If one individuates, one must do so in association with a tribe.  The tribe is needed in order for there to possibly be an individuated relationship to it.  We cannot individuate in a vacuum.  Even individuation is ultimately all about Eros, about how the individual relates to others and to the tribe with which she or he is most deeply affiliated.  And the validation of that individuation is still determined by the tribe, not by the individual.  The tribe validates the individuant by making use of the individuant's individuatedness, innovation, or revision in some (conscious or unconscious) way.  That is, the tribe must itself form a relationship to the individuant in order for that individuation to be entirely valid.  And if a tribe has an excessively difficult time forming relationships to its individuants, the tribe will gradually begin to ossify and crumble.  That relationship is what allows tribes to be adaptive and survivable in times of environmental crisis.

As for Jung, although there may be many others of note, two tribal affiliations stand out to me.   The first is to a kind of 19th century, rationalistic medical science that believes in rigorous, detached thinking as a kind of patriarchal virtue.  The second is to German romanticism with all of its occult fascinations, its Christian and pagan mysticisms, its arcane metaphysics and spiritualisms.  Jung was no doubt an individuant from both of these tribes.  That is, he stood in relationship to them by also distinctly apart from them.  But he did not, I think, manage to find a way to stand equidistantly between them.  He stayed a bit too much within the opposing tribes participation mystique when he criticized the other.  As a modern, one who stands among but not truly within the innumerable tribes of modern society, Jung's individuation was not completed.  That is, he did not succeed at understanding all of his tribal affiliations to the modern and differentiating them in himself.  He accepted some of his cultural constructions as granted and true.  Perhaps greatest among these accepted constructions was the patriarchal myth of the great man who with individual power subdues chaotic nature and renders it usable to human hands, anthropomorphizes it, perhaps even commodifies it.

In the Red Book, episode after episode of visions pit Jung against the implications and seductions of this tribal affiliation of which he is significantly blind.  And episode after episode, he fails to grasp its impermanence, arbitrariness, and constructedness.  Sometimes he ends these encounters feeling he has failed to understand something, and sometimes he leaves them feeling he has conquered and forced a transformation.  But the inflation of those achievements soon fades, and Jung is back to an abject state of frustration and despair again.

With each failure to comprehend the apparition of the Grail that passes before him, he does generally learn something, sees through some subtle illusion, lifts some veil.  And in this process, he develops (at least the foundations of) many brilliant insights about the modern and about the ways humans deceive themselves.  Yet he prides himself too much on his differentiating cleverness and seems to think he can solve every puzzle, slice through every Gordian knot with the fast blade of his intellect (a Jungian might say, "thinking function").  Sometimes this causes him to leave an encounter or conversation feeling like he has comprehended something of the "Mysteries" only to recognize in the next episode that this comprehension was inadequate or even totally incorrect.

Jung, the narrator of the Red Book, is a devout and very extreme "thinking type" at the beginning of the book.  He has numerous encounters with characters that make him feel complex emotions and affects and beg him to feel his way through various hells and puzzles rather than think his way through.  He understands that he must, in order to follow the hunger of his Self and his instinctual process of individuation, somehow integrate or form a more developed relationship to his "inferior feeling".  He concocts many mystical rituals and anointing conversations with gods, souls, and wise men that are at least in part meant to lead him toward his inferior function.  But he never really gets there.  He is (in my opinion) continually distracted by patriarchal godhead and gods, great men, prophetic attitudes.  He wants so passionately to work on the masculine god image that he seems to completely misunderstand that the relationship with the soul/anima is the true vehicle for this "knowing of God".  The message of the anima work is that one must feel and love God or the Self before any gnosis can occur.  The union of ego and Self does not come in the arena of mind, and although Jung's soul figure does try to convince him that this work is about love (not knowledge or enlightenment or transcendence), Jung can accept this only abstractly and intellectually.  He cannot erotically and Erotically unite with the Self-as-anima because he keeps looking for a patriarchal god figure, something more egoic, more like him and not so Other.

The Jung at the end of the Red Book is no more in touch with his feeling than he was at the beginning.  In fact, he seems significantly less so, because not only do his soul figures become demonized and perverted by the end, he actually finishes the Red Book (as if this could somehow make sense or be the fruit born from all that went before!) with the Seven Sermons to the Dead.  The Sermons are pure metaphysics, Gnostic theology, hierarchies of form in the Godhead.  There is nothing feeling-oriented about them at all.  They are pure "thinking type" texts, the thinking function at its most transcendentally inflated and detached from the earth of its feeling.

To the degree that Jung conceived individuation as some kind of integration of the inferior function or the formation of a more valuating relationship to that function, the process recorded in the Red Book is an abortion.  Without doubt, the thrust of the book's mysticism is all about such an integration/valuation . . . but Jung never accomplishes this in a tangible way.  We cannot say that he has become either more feeling or more conscious of his feeling intelligence as complex and valuable by the end of the book.  He does peak somewhere along the way.  It seems like he is making slow progress and may eventually "get it".  But the last chapter (Scrutinies) marks a distinct retreat into thinking type inflation and devaluation of its other.

This seems to bring to mockery Jung's notion of the transcendent function.  I've always felt that this concept was, although not really incorrect, at least overly mystified and woolly.  Jung's Red Book fantasies portray much of the transformative mysticism, dance out the usual symbols of transformation, but for me the whole process of this mystical transformation stayed almost entirely within the realm (and the grip) of the thinking function.  As he was contaminated with the numinousness of these images he may have felt like he was transforming, but I could detect no real evidence that any transformation of perspective had occurred.

Of course, this is not to say that Jung's individuation process stopped with the journeys recorded in the Red Book.  He lived (I believe) more than 30 years after he stopped working on the Red Book.  Also, it has been my experience that individuation events (like the mystical hazings of the Red Book) become more meaningful as time passes and one is able to language and process the experience better and in more practical ways.  These transformations feel immense when they occur, but then we go back to our everyday lives and find that we have not become gods nor devised any significantly better living strategies.  The real grunt work is done after we detach from the breast of the numinous . . . even as it feels much more mundane and terribly slow and small.

But, despite the inevitability that Jung continued to individuate in ways after his Red Book experience, those flaws that mark his failure to individuate or adequately valuate his inferior function (and soul) depicted in the Red Book always in some way remained a part of his theories.  Even his late works like Aion and Mysterium Coniunctionis bear the indications that those wounds that remained exposed at the end of the Red Book were still bleeding and unhealed.

Jung notes in his unfinished epilogue to the Red Book that he turned away from the project when he discovered alchemy, whose symbol system better allowed him to make sense of his inner world.  And yet, I detect in Jung's alchemical writing the same kinds of mistakes and failures of valuation he made in the Red Book.  Actually, the Red Book is extremely alchemical even preceding Jung's alchemical studies.  It gets at least one of Jung's mistakes with alchemy correct.  Namely, it shows that the Nigredo comes after the Coniunctio . . . or that the Coniunctio leads directly to the Nigredo.  In most of Jung's alchemical writings, the Nigredo is made to seem like a primary state of loss of soul or depression from which individuation then can begin.  This is sometimes more implied than directly expressed by Jung, but as I have written numerous times previously, this is a grievous and unforgivable error . . . even if it is only implied.  It has enabled Jungians to see every depressive introduction to the archetypal or instinctual unconscious as a "Nigredo experience".  But the true alchemical Nigredo is in fact a rather advanced mystical achievement dependent upon enormous sacrifices and painful differentiations and revaluations and enantiodromias.  The Blackening stage of the Nigredo is actually the first forged state of the Philosopher's Stone.  It is not merely the initial dissolution or dissent into the Mercurial bath.

Jungians (who have continued to misuse this symbol in their psychology and metaphor making) have introduced and perverted a mysticism in service of an indoctrinating process.  It is, to me, not only an intellectual and scholarly mistake, but an ethical failure.

Of course, no true Nigredo is depicted in Jung's Red Book (or it wouldn't be a failed individuation process).  There are plenty of deaths and rebirths, descents and ascents, treks through desert and hell.  And aspects of the Nigredo are intimated in the symbols flashing over the pages.  But it never completely feels right to me.  Jung fails to valuate the Other (as anima) and join with it . . . so he cannot find the Coniunctio or truly understand that its sacrifice means both the sacrifice of his newly valued anima (which is to be valued above all other things if the Coniunctio is to ever have the teeth it needs to be a valid threshold experience) and of his newly emergent heroism.  And if there is no true Coniunctio, there can be no Nigredo . . . which is the product of the Coniunctio.

These failings that come under the captivity of the thinking function may also be directly related to one particular fact.  Namely, that the Red Book (though it mentions dreams occasionally) is entirely an active imagination exercise.  Its fantasies develop out of a fully conscious Jung.  And even if that consciousness is relaxed somewhat in order to allow fantasies to well up, the power of consciousness to translate and direct images is still significant.  I have always felt skeptical about active imagination as a provider of genuine individuation material.  And I say that even as a poet and artist myself.  So I know that the instinctual Self can find its way into art . . . as can our autonomous obsessions and complexes.  In my experience, the Self enters conscious creation only in unexpected ways.  We might devise an active imagination fantasy in which we make a token sacrifice in the hope of conjuring a god, and then the god shows up where we can capture or converse with it.

But in art, we cannot call the gods to action with our will or even our need.  We can only make significant openings in ourselves, set out the right kinds of feasts, show the right kind of hospitality.  And this is done through various convolutions and accidents and slips of control . . . abaissment du niveau mental.  The gods only appear in ways we do not dictate.  And it is quite likely that we will not recognize them at first, even that we will despise and reject them in the form they appear.  Jung makes use of the story of Philemon and Baucis, who invited the disguised gods into their humble home and cooked their only goose for these strangers.  He (or maybe something below the surface in him) is on the right track with this symbol, but what is not adequately expressed by Jung is that, in the city of our psyche, there is only one small voice of hesitant valuation, one little impoverished couple, one Philemon and Baucis.  The rest of us rejects the gods, cannot ever see the gods, and even probably hates the gods.

We cannot become the great valuators of the gods (the Self), knowing them, anticipating them, conjuring them with magic (Jung makes Philemon a magician with such powers!).  We have to settle for very subtle, very occasional signs that must practically be divined.  Even to grant bodies, voices, and personages to affective dynamics of the Self system can be to force captivity and therefore devaluation upon the gods.  Perhaps some relative innocent could get away with asking a god to take human form and join a conversation, but Jung was a genius, a man of extremely powerful intellect.  That brilliance leaves substantially less room for the gods to slip into the manikins Jung molds.

It seems to me that conducting a mystical transformation through active imagination is simply too precarious, involves too much control, too much ego.  This sort of thing must be done through dream work or through ritual.  I can see a creative ritual in which some monument or offering is erected ceremonially to a mystical encounter of the past.  And the Red Book claims to be that.  But it is just so difficult to give these dialogs and fantasies utterly over to the unconscious, especially for a modern, very brilliant, very knowledgeable, but very lopsidedly "thinking type" man like Jung.  He just exerts too much egoic power over the theater to allow it to put on the divine play.

And yet, he does surprisingly well, considering.  It does seem to me that the gods and the Self process slip onto and off the stage.  They can occasionally be glimpsed behind the figures in the fantasies they have been impressed into playing.  At least until "Scrutinies", in which the presence of an Otherness seems to finally disappear altogether.  Still, even before that, it seemed to me that Jung's narrator was able to assert too much control over the dynamics of the encounters, and his projected others only got to say what it was he was willing to allow them to say most of the time.

I am also speaking from a personal prejudice here, because I have had a very (strikingly) similar experience to that recorded in the Red Book, but mine was done through dream work.  I never trusted my own conscious imagination and intellect to lead me or conjure true encounters with my soul (even as I hungered to be able to have such sorcery at the time).  What I call my anima work experience took place in a dream cycle, and the anima figures had total autonomy . . . while even my dream ego belongs to the construction of the dream and not my conscious will.  In the inevitable comparison between this dream cycle and the Red Book, I can't help but see that the dream sequence depicted a much more elegant and less muddled construction of the anima work.  It took me many years to even begin to be able to language that experience functionally, but even from the middle of the dream sequence, I had learned to valuate my anima.  And I never experienced any sort of deception or dangerous seduction from these anima figures.  There was never anything I had to resist, to fight off from the anima in a "manly fashion".  (I did have one dream in which an impostor-anima tried to emasculate me, but a genuine anima figure arrived before this happened and told me I shouldn't submit to it.  Anima Work Dream #4, Coniunctio and Sacrifice).

It makes me think that the complexity and complication (and length) of the Red Book is largely a product of Jung's resistance to and lack of valuation for his anima or soul.  By this resistance, he devised hell after hell to traverse, grand puzzle and grand temptation after grand puzzle and temptation.  But there is no puzzle to solve, no dangerous temptation to resist in the anima.  One merely commits oneself to valuing this figure and process utterly, essentially falling "madly" in love with her.  And then one refines that love and valuation, stripping away selfishness and control of the Other, demand that the Other provide, save, or complete the ego.  The anima work progresses on the quality of the heroic ego's love for the anima . . . and concludes only when the heroic ego comes to see that the ultimate state of love is one in which the desire for the Other to be connected to or even within oneself is seen through and recognized as a desire for that Other to provide for the ego.  To love is to ask (or demand) no providence.  It is to facilitate the Other in its specific uniqueness and drive . . . and not blindly or out of unquestioning belief, but out of a deep knowing of the Other's needs and potentials.

At that point, the initial model of romantic love can segue into the facilitating, valuating love of the Self.  Therefore, the animi-as-romantic-partner and twin or soul mate is relinquished and depotentiated, as is the heroic sense of self that woos that kind of partner.  What seemed at first like it would be a glorious Coniunctio, a hieros gamos, becomes instead an acceptance that ego and Self are and must be in some sense divided and differentiated in order to fulfill the deepest love.  This division is not a distancing, but a sense that it is relationship (meaning a self and an other) that is the engine of the personality, not transcendence or becoming or oneness.

In the Red Book, Jung never stops crying out, "Save me, teach me, forgive me, anoint me, obey me".  But he is generally not very responsible with what he does and says to the representatives of the Self.  And he can imagine himself in the role of receiver or demander or thief or murderer (thief of another's life or soul) . . . but as giver, facilitator, intentional healer, as one who treats the other in an enabling or constructive way, Jung is significantly impotent.  This is at times pointed out to him by his soul . . . but he doesn't get it.  And eventually he becomes Demonic and powerful enough to intellectualize, pervert, and mystify the soul's voice, effectively neutering the functional and Self-driven Otherness in his psyche.

That description makes hims sound like a fiend . . . and I don't think that was the case.  In fact, what Jung devised incredible devious and sophisticated ways to achieve and rationalize, most people do without even thinking.  They don't suffer guilt for the murder of their gods.  They are so detached from ever valuating the Self or the Other.  Jung's battle with valuation of this Other was a testament to his sense of ethics.  But in the end, after winning many small but important compromises at the negotiating table, he was simply conquered by the Demon.  But at least he was conquered and did not freely give himself to the Demon with excitement and desire like most people do.  Those compromises he won allowed him to imagine and understand the processes of individuation and mystical initiation very thoroughly (although not completely) on a thinking level.  His contribution won from these compromises is extremely important, and it gives us a way into this citadel of Self.  It may only be a way paved with words and intellectualized thoughts, but it is a way.  And if one has a facility with language, an ability to not fall into transfixed fixed revery at big words and ideas but to put them to use, make them practical, survivable, adaptable, changeable, this tunnel Jung constructed is a great boon, a red carpet rolled out for us to stroll easily down, that ushers us functionally in.

It is more as a mysticism that Jung's psychology flounders.  As a psychology and an attempt at a science of soul, it offers great possibilities.  It is a wonderful foundation and first step, and as a science, it lends itself to being revised logically and as needed.  But as a dogma, as a fully elaborated way and model of individuation, what Jung left us is poisoned.  Not incurably so, at least I hope.  But it is infected.  And to the degree that we use Jungianism as a mysticism and not a science (which is considerable and, I think, even underestimated by those who claim to resist and dislike Jungianism's mysticisms), we perpetuate the Jungian Disease.

Still, I feel grateful for having some truly useful foundations and for having a diseased Jungianness to treat.  It is a great blessing to have something treatable at hand, because many indoctrinated Jungians are analysts.  They are better equipped than we tend to imagine for the treatment and even redemption of the Jungian tribal soul.  But our pride and poisoned mysticism clouds this for us.

I will leave this emotive response off here.  And although I only give the most fleeting valuation of the blessing of treatability the Red Book offers in the previous paragraph (after excoriating Jung for his devaluations of the Other in the many words preceding), I do want to reiterate that this treatability is what most stuck with me in the end.  Yes, the road ahead is intimidating . . . and I have little faith in the Jungian ability to diagnose and treat the Jungian complex effectively.  But the Red Book's depiction of disease illuminates the structure and origins of this disease.  It makes treatment possible and logical.  At this point, Jung and his personal demons no longer stand in the way of Jungian treatment of the tribe and the progressive revisioning of analytical psychology.  Now, only the Jungian demons we have inherited remain.  The battle with these demons has come down from the unreachable ethereal heavens and relcoated itself into our individual psyches.  We fight, therefore, with ourselves to effectively treat Jungianism.  And although these fights with ourselves are the easiest ones to lose . . . they also make victory a possibility.


Red Book Diary – 1

Personal Equations, Tribal Equations

My copy of Jung's Red Book arrived 10/14.  I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet, but I wanted to start compiling a journal of reactions, reflections, analyses, and so forth.  And I wanted to do this as I was reading rather than after . . . thus the "diary" descriptor of the post title.

First, confessions.  Although I remain suspicious and even rather worried that the publication of the Red Book will be made into a(nother) counterproductive phenomenon by the spiritualistic drive or disease of Jungians, that it will become a totem object that is placed on a pedestal or in a museum exhibit and not truly interacted with or employed at its deepest (and most tribal) levels . . . I also have a touch of the fever.  I'm not sure if it is exactly the same in my own case . . . but it isn't exactly different, either.

For me, the Red Book is also perhaps an object of transference representing a kind of Holy Grail (as author, Sara Corbett, of the New York times article on the Red Book's publication called it).  I'm not really sure what other Jungians want "their" Red Books to be.  A new touchstone that returns them to the source of their tribal religion?  A way to reach out and touch the robe of Jung the prophet?  A demonstration of Jung's mystical pedigree?  Another labyrinth of bliss-following to get lost in . . . now that the real world has encroached more and more?

Those are the cynical ways of looking at it.  I also have selfish motives (for the invitation of cynicism).  Primarily (in the selfish classification, at least) is that I have developed a fairly unique reconstruction of animi (anima and animus) process or work over the last 20 years . . . from the very beginning of which I had felt that the experiences I was recording and the interpretations of these experiences I was constructing were potentially a substantial contribution to Jungian psychology.  I knew enough about the Red Book (mostly from Memories, Dreams, Reflections) to suspect that it recorded a very similar set of experiences for Jung.

Part of that belief in an accord is a matter of transference that drove my own individuation process for years and indoctrinated me into the Jungian tribe in my late teens.  But there are also rational reasons for suspecting such an accord.  Namely, Jung's professional writing on the anima, it has always seemed to me, belies his deep psychic participation with that inner figure.  I always saw it as a strange expression of self-conflict that Jung would write so critically about the anima while also having devoted the many years and tremendous energies to an "anima project" like the creation of the Red Book (which is, of course, a much edited and revised text . . . as editor, Sonu Shamdasani's extensive footnotes superbly illustrate).

My own anima experience was not filled with all the "signature Jungian" conflicts and resistances that Jung's was.  My inclination was simply to dive right into the anima's gravity.  And that (a kind of falling in love, perhaps) never led to any delusion, psychosis, lapse of ethics, or other decay.  Delusion, psychosis, lapse of ethics, and decay (which I like to call the "dissolution experience" of individuation) were certainly my bedfellows at the time I was doing my anima work, but the anima never encouraged these things.  I now attribute those slips and temptations to the Demon.  But I was also much younger and less "socialized" than Jung during this process.  I was (properly, I believe) an adolescent.  It was not a "mid-life crisis" situation for me.  I say "properly", because I have since come to understand the animi work as a function of late adolescence . . . which is postponed until midlife for most moderns as well as in the confusion of the Jungian model (which is too spiritualistic, not naturalistic enough).

As I formulated my animi theory (in recent years) and tried to discuss it with Jungians, I found that they were not able to understand it.  It was foreign to them . . . and my deviations from Jungian doctrine were met with resentment.  Other than its basic foreignness, I came to see that the animi theory I was arguing for was upsetting to conventional Jungians because of a dangerous implication it made: that conventional Jungians were essential "not initiated", that their experience of the numinous unconscious has been non-transformative . . . any indication of transformation being a kind of facade or worship artifact of totemic objects.  This observation would have it that, for conventional Jungians, individuation itself is a totemic object . . . not a lived experience.

This possibility did not occur to me until I saw how put out and/or perplexed many Jungians were by my revisioned animi theory.  It seemed to me that this gut reaction was brewing away in some of them even as they did not recognize what it was about "me" that disturbed them.  But the deep implication of my revisioned animi theory is that, if my theory is correct, it follows that much of Jungian "mysticism" and individuation is a sham.  I have not yet found any evidence that would contradict my revision of anima theory . . . but it is hard to test.  As with Jung, my ideas on this did not come from textbooks, but from personal experience.  My personal creative and professional struggle has largely been a matter of trying to trust my own experience . . . and my interest in science, rationalism, and skepticism has extensively evolved out of my own (often Demonic) self-examinations, self-trials, and self-tortures.

Through all of that, I had more reasons to think and feel that my revisionary theories were credible and useful than the contrary.  When I realized a mistake, I revised my theory.  And I have revised my theory a lot . . . but through all of that, a thread of consistency has remained.  Many of the initial observations and interpretations of my anima work experience have held up, at least as foundations for more complex and "adult" theory-building.

The Red Book, therefore, represents to me a kind of opportunity to demonstrate 1.) the credibility of my theory for someone other than myself (and more importantly, for Jung, whose psychology, healthy and diseased, is the foundation of our Jungian tribal identity), and 2.) that my criticisms of Jung's and Jungians' anima theories, my claims that there is a "Jungian Disease" or complex that veils this issue for us, can be substantiated through the analysis of Jung's anima work text.

As for it being a kind of "Holy Grail", if the Red Book does lend itself to my transference projections, and I can make my arguments clearer through the use of this text, there is a chance of aiding a kind of "rejuvenation of the Father" who is fed from that Grail.  Not a return to fundamentalism, but a kind of alchemical reinvention of the "Old King" into the "New".  I of course don't mean a new totem or figurehead for the Jungian tribe, but a way of revaluating and revisioning Jungianism that is an effective healing or treatment of the Jungian disease . . . a Good Medicine.

It is hard for me to separate my selfish desires to be awarded some kind of identity and status by the Jungian tribe (in whose shadow I've found myself exiled) . . . where I mean basic acceptance and the offer of tribal rights or humanness, the right to survive within the tribe, not any kind of grandiose status . . . from my more archetypal and Eros-driven sacrificial drive to help rejuvenate the damaged Jungian system of valuation.  The former is an egoic desire, the latter a Self-driven reorganizational process which is more collective or tribal than personal.  The former addresses my own feelings of impotence without a tribal credentialing (or while dissociated from the tribe's Eros), while the latter is a potential movement of tribal Eros that I have been able to glimpse and find a way to participate in.  Even as there is a great deal of potential for alignment between these two drives, I have found myself in deep self-conflict over this issue . . . attempting to extract the egoic desires from the process so they don't too badly damage what seems to me to be a healthy treatment of the tribal Eros by the reoganizational and instinctual Self system.  And much more than I would have liked, I have failed to make this extraction and differentiation successfully.

Part of this is due to insurmountable odds and resistance of the Jungian tribe.  I work against participation mystic and tribal/totemic religiosity as an "agonist".  And this agonism constellates archetypal dynamics in the relationality between myself and other, more conventional Jungians.  The more resistance I meet, the more difficult it is to extract my egoic selfishness and derailing desires from the potential rejuvenating process I am glimpsing.  Perfect balance here is impossible, and my inability to be perfect (and feeling that I must be in order to make a useful contribution to Jungian tribal treatment) allows a space in me for the Demon to occupy.

So there is perhaps a bit of refreshment in this "Holy Grail" for me as well . . . in the sense that it gives me a task in which to be more useful to the tribe.  And here, with this text, all Jungians are placed on an equal footing.  Equalized by not-knowing.  We are all getting into some never really explored realm of our ancestral psychology here.  And I very strongly suspect that we will find our conventional interpretive theories and dogmas not adequate to the task of bringing Jung's experience recorded in the Red Book into better focus or transmuting the stuff of the Red Book into any kind of elixir for the Jungian tribe.

It isn't Jung that the Red Book offers a chance to reinvent . . . this chance is afforded to Jungianism.  If we will have to devise new ways and means of understanding the Red Book, this invention will also serve the larger reinvention of Jungian thinking.

But on the skeptical side, I doubt this will happen.  Jungians have shown themselves almost entirely incapable of functional self-reckoning or collective self-treatment.  It is a safer bet that Jungians will simply muddle the Red Book with their projections and fantasies, rendering it inert, sapping its soul, its reorganizational potential.  Still, I am hoping against predictability that this trend will somehow be overthrown.  And if such an overthrow is to occur, I would happily contribute whatever I could to the revolution.

This diary will collect my wanderings and wonderings about the Red Book.  I will attempt to reflect and analyze it in terms of both my own personal equation and the Jungian tribal equation.  I don't know what to expect.  I don't currently have great hopes that anything will come out of the Red Book for Jungians.  And I suspect that I stand to benefit even less.  But it is at least a viable opportunity to institute change.  The publication of the Red Book is a serpent's venomous bite on the Jungian tribal heel.  If it doesn't kill us, it will make us stronger.


Atheism, Jungianism, and the Jungian Problem of Religion (Part 2)

A Diagnosis and Proposed Treatment of the Jungian Religious Disease

The Symbiotic Jungian Relationship with the New Age

Some contemporary Jungians (e.g., David Tacey) have written books and articles stumping for a revised Jungian (and at times, human) perspective on religion.  Many Jungians find the association of Jungianism with New Age spiritualities not only dismaying, embarrassing, and unfortunate but also dangerous and potential destructive for Jungianism.  I agree with this position, but I have not seen enough fundamental differentiation of and from New Age ideas and obsessions, even in these Jungian critics, to really catalyze change on this front.  What I see in the Jungian unconscious regarding its religiosity and New Ageism is a much deeper, more pandemic issue of the Jungian shadow than is more widely acknowledged.  As is so often the case, when it comes to Jungian religiosity (and religious quackery) there are not "just a few bad apples".  The problem is systemic, and the draw of New Age thinking and spirituality is written into our souls.  It is not merely "those people over there"; this shadow is universally Jungian and we all contribute to it in some way.

In other words, I wish to point toward an internal source of this problem, and that source is the spiritual hunger that burbles within all of those people drawn to Jungianism.  It may be impossible to have it both ways, to have and cherish this hunger and also not have it lead to numerous perversions and delusional obsessions and misdirections.  At least some of this straying is inevitable . . . and I think the best we can do is to first acknowledge that this is our collective shadow for which we are responsible and then to try to more effectively analyze and understand our spiritual hunger.

Of course, it has always been known to Jungians (and Jung addressed this pointedly himself) that spiritual hunger is problematic because it leads (most of the time, even) to some form of delusion and/or self-demolition.  We use the term "inflation" most commonly . . . and in Jung's most detailed writing about the spiritual individuation experience (in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology), he even states that some degree of this inflation is inevitable in any individuation process where "the unconscious is assimilated".  But Jungian thinking on the issue of inflation has, if anything, regressed since Jung's important but still fairly vague reflections on the issue.  As I have bemoaned repeatedly since before the beginning of Useless Science, inflation is a terribly bungled issue in Jungianism . . . and it is reasonable to assume that this bungling is largely a matter of Jungians characteristically suffering from some degree of inadequately addressed and still unconscious inflation.  Most Jungian literature that address inflation (in patients, but never in analysts!) takes a very condemning stance.  Inflation is the Jungian bogeyman.  But we need to be able to look at it more constructively and talk about it more honestly and intelligently if we are to ever treat the Jungian shadow or the problem of our New Ageyness.

The issue of inflation is related to another facet of the New Age problem in Jungianism.  The superficial reason that Jungianism attracts so many religiously flaky and delusional people is that it offers an attractive system of valuation of unconscious contents, visions, and fantasies.  It promises awakenings and approvals of inwardness . . . and it delivers very nicely on that promise.  But the deeper (and rather less attractive) reason it draws so many New Agers is that the Jungian model of individual seems to lack (and generally does lack) a sense of systematic discipline.  There are very few if any observable markers that describe an individuant.  No one really knows what individuation is, even Jungian analysts . . . and so no one places any regulations or standards on it.  Jungian individuation is just another occult, tribal mysticism where learning the lingo and assuming the posture is indistinguishable from any "real" growth or transformation.  The Jungian language in which individuation is discussed (a notably mystical and religious one) is simply too vague and cannot set specific definitions on individuation.

So, wagging fingers at those crass New Agers and their hypocritical, delusional spiritualistic indulgences is utterly beside the point.  The real problem starts at the very core.  Notably, Jung and the Jungians have purposefully eschewed the construction of a unique and specific discipline around individuation.  Instead, they have encouraged misinterpretation and misappropriation of the concept by constantly comparing its motifs to those of spiritual disciplines and mystical practices.  I don't mean to suggest this "amplification" is absolutely inaccurate.  But individuation lacks the structure of many of these disciplines.

Also, instead of developing the concept of individuation in a more scientific way while using previous mysticisms and spiritual disciplines as data, Jungians have concerned themselves with marveling at the artifacts of individuation: active imagination fantasies, visions, unconscious-inspired artwork like mandalas, etc.  One off the most thorough studies of an "individuation process" comes from Jung's own writing in the essay "A Study in the Process of Individuation" (in The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious).  But this essay concerns itself largely with the interpretation of extremely abstract (and therefore projection-prone) paintings without significant effort to explain, in more scientific terms, what the patient who painted these mandalas was experiencing.  This sort of essay has set the precedent for Jungian "individuation studies" . . . and it is next to useless, a mere curiosity.  Granted, individuation is notoriously difficult to gauge or study . . . but I believe Jungians can do significantly better.  Once again, it all comes back to self-examination and shadow work.

In my experience, the presence of artifacts and fantasies of individuation are not an indication that individuation is actively engaged in.  Specifically misleading are fascinations with and visions of numinous objects, ideas, personages, and events.  This numinous affect makes for very compelling experiences, but there is very little indication that these visionary experiences lead to or are a significant part of the kind of systemic reorganization process that a successful individuation or psychotherapy might entail.  One of the most common forms of inflation in Jungian and New Age adherents is a conflation between numinous experiences and individuation events . . . and there is a tendency to believe that fantasizing about a thing is equivalent to the reality and presence of the thing.  But the spontaneous unconscious commonly presents its symbols in very dramatic, even grandiose, fashion.  Additionally, there is a correlation (in dreams and visions) between the affective intensity of an image or event and the vagueness of that event.  By "vagueness", I mean that there is not yet a viable Logos or egoic languaging for translating and understanding the numinous image.  This may seem counterintuitive.  In waking life, the intensity of something is usually directly related to its proximity.  But when it comes to unconscious contents, it is common for things that are "farther away" or not very well defined but which still contain powerful concentrations of affect (i.e., "complexes") to seem more overwhelmingly intense (perhaps because it is inadequately facilitated . . . in this case, languaged . . . affect that leads to disruptions and eruptions of the psychic system; think plumbing rather than, say, radiation).  As we develop a conscious language in which to understand these contents (and interrelate them in active memory systems), their affective intensity is diminished.  Affect, in this sense, is a pre-language.  It can tell us that something is valuable to us, but without a developed egoic language with which to translate and interpret it, we cannot know what the thing is or understand the complexity of our conscious relationship to it.

In my interaction with Jungians of New Agey persuasion, I've noted tremendous and stubborn resistance to languaging some of these affective phenomena.  Instead, they are worshiped . . . and the result is a kind of spiritual grandiosity that is devoted to separating those who "embrace" the affective object and those who "just don't get it".  In other words, tribal boundaries are unconsciously defined based on belief in these numinous objects and ideas.  The faculty of human intelligence that languages and narrativizes is devalued (sometimes as the disparaged "thinking function" . . . held to be valuatively inferior to the feeling and intuitive functions, specifically).  This inflated dynamic tends to make such believers into babes at the breast of an affective Great Mother figure.  The goal of this belief becomes the commitment to the providence of this breast.  To question any of this reality is "masculine aggression".  The chief externality of this dynamic is an unconscious shadow projection onto those who disagree with the cultic ideology or don't worship the "right" god.  All of the so-called "masculine aggression" is displaced in a passive-aggressive fashion onto these "infidels".

Of course, even if Jungianism has been religiously lax, it still (on the professional level) sees through and perhaps condemns that kind of cultic formulation.  But what has happened with many New Age Jungians is that when conventional Jungianism expressed skepticism and concern with New Age exploits, the New Agers parted ways with Jungianism.  It was just another breast to suck from . . . and if it doesn't give the milk that's wanted, some other magical breast will be set up in its place.  So the relationship of some of these New Age Jungians is basically parasitic.  They want and will take, but they will only take what they want . . . and they don't give back.  This will, of course happen, and it can't be prevented entirely.  The problem in this for Jungianism is a kind of codependency.  Many Jungians have been more or less happy to court and encourage New Age hangers on and watered down interpretations of Jungian ideas.  On the positive side, we sympathize with their spiritual hunger and perhaps with their suffering or brokenness.  On the negative side, the professional Jungian community needs an audience and patients in order to legitimize itself.  If Jungians distinctly cut off all the flaky New Agers and asserted a rigorous scientific discipline, they would lose many readers and patients.  So the symbiotic relationship of Jungianism and the New Age runs deep and roots down right in the heart of the Jungian shadow.  It is well and good to grumble about New Age misappropriations, but do Jungians really want to pay the consequences of a more scientific, rigorous, and therefore exclusive theory?

I think that as we proceed in our examinations of the New Age and of modern religiosity, we need to look very carefully at these issues.  They involve tremendously difficult ethical decisions and often serious gambles with fate.  Jungianism after Jung has become precisely what its customers have paid for it to be.  If it really were to reinvent itself, it would have to reinvent its customers.  It cannot exist while dissatisfying its customers.  But what are Jungians really devoted to: satisfying the desires of these customers or treating them and seriously studying the psyche?

That Old Nagging Question: Is Jungianism a Religion?

I have read numerous responses from Jungian analysts to this recurring question (or accusation) over the years.  Unanimously, these analysts dismissed the charge.  Jungianism is not a religion (chuckle, chuckle, scoff).  Personally, I'm not so sure about this.  Jungian analysis is well aware of its similarity to shamanism . . . and some Jungians have actively embraced shamanic ideas and symbols.  Shamanism is perhaps the oldest form of religion . . . a religion distilled to its original, tribal roots.  Claims contradicting Jungianism's religiosity on the basis of its scientific nature are spurious.  We cannot have it both ways . . . and our dedication to science and scientific methodology has been severely lacking for a long time (this issue is more complicated when it comes to developmental school/s of Jungianism, but I won't address that here).

Additionally, we have seen it as within our purview to support general religiosity, encourage belief in the paranormal (and perhaps even the supernatural), and stump for the valuation of an "ensouled world" or animi mundi.  More pointedly, it is well known that Jung advised Jungian analysts not to discourage patients from practicing and exploring their religions . . . and he even felt that many analyses (especially of those in midlife) required a return to a religious perspective of one kind or another.

But can Jungianism be a powerful religious advocate without promoting religions or religiosity?  Can we advise patients to "get religion" while also insisting that the Jungian method is not religious?  Can having a religiosity that is flexible and not well defined be the same thing as not being a religion at all?  We may benefit from a look back at the state of religion in the Roman Empire around the time Christianity was forming (1st century CE).  The religious "marketplace" was huge and diverse . . . and the attitude many people took toward religion was eclectic.  There were many similarities between that time and the modern New Age situation with religion.  "Monotheism" at that time was a Jewish idea (and considered radical and disturbing by many gentiles) . . . but even Judaism had numerous sects and divisions (many of which bore very little resemblance to the Judaisms of today).

In other words, the idea that to be a religion is to be monotheistic and specific/restrictive about beliefs and practices is a notion prejudiced by the monotheistic Judeo-Christian inheritance we in the West take for granted.  Monotheism and controlled belief do not define religiosity or religion.  Jungianism cannot weasel out of its religiosity on this argument.  That Jungianism as religious advocate offers people a welcoming way into religions and religiosity more so than it offers a final and unquestionable dogma to believe in does not really differentiate Jungianism from many of the old pagan religions in the 1st century Roman Empire.  The attraction of proto-Christianities during this period and the next few centuries was largely based on the success of Christian syncretism and its compatibility with various preexisting religions . . . from the worship of Dionysus to the elite state religion of Sol Invictus to Mithraism to Egyptian mysticisms and even including Judaism.  Judaism had many attractive elements to certain Roman gentiles: its personal and powerful experience of God, its proclaimed supremacy (as the only true religion), its focus on dietary laws and purifying the body, and its compelling history of persistence in the face of persecution, sometimes even bordering on and resembling "Dionysian madness".  Also, Jews were the "Other" in the Roman Empire, perhaps more so than any other people.  Yes, they were largely hated, but they were also enshrouded with intriguing mystery (perhaps we Americans might want to reflect on the relationship and fascination we have had with Native American spirituality inspite of the atrocious treatment of and prejudice toward these peoples we have also upheld).

Rather than unconvincingly avoiding our status as "religion", I think Jungians need to start facing and living up to the charge.  We have invited religious responsibility upon ourselves . . . and we need to have a more effective and honest way of addressing this responsibility.  Even if we are "only" awakening Jungian patients and readers to the unconscious, this is a religious process, and one that requires strong guiding principles and a continued study of how functional these principles (and the way we language them) are.  The personal integrity and professional ethics of individual analysts is not enough.  This is a tribal issue . . . and it is inherent in our Jungianism (not merely in our individual practices).

A related issue is indoctrination of patients (and readers, for that matter).  As I have written previously, indoctrination into a tribe can have "curative" effects on many people.  Dissociation (from the sacredness of community and from the sacredness of the instinctual Self) is enormously common in the modern world.  Most people just need to be part of something sacred, something where instinct flows through action (and sociality), where Eros binds people together into like-mindedness and like values.  Jungian analysis is typically good at promoting this re-tribalization.  It offers new gods to ponder and commune with, new experiences to value, and a sense of approval for any such indulgence.  Even if the Jungian tribe is abstract for most patients and readers, believing one is part of the tribe can still be effective.

Curiously, Jungian analysis can be more problematic for individuals who do not merely want to belong to a tribe, but who want the courage (and perhaps the tolerance) to be unique and independent regardless of which tribe they affiliate with.  Of course, we all want to be accepted for "who we are" . . . that is the line we will chant, at least.  But I question this truism.  Do we really want to be "who we are", independent, unique, separated on some level from our tribes?  I don't think so.  I think that most people (even most Jungians) want to find an identity that is connected to a tribal group that facilitates them.  This couldn't be a tribe that completely stifles their sense of themselves (or their Selves), but there is a notable difference between being accepted into a group for being "kin" and being accepted by groups as an "other".

The process of individuation often promoted (at least superficially) in Jungian psychology is more closely related to the latter.  To individuate is to become other to tribes and tribally-identified people.  I mean to say that we cannot accurately call the process of acquainting people with their unconscious and a new religious symbol system individuation.  It is more accurately a form of indoctrination, one that is similar to shamanic "faith healing".  That is, in many tribes, the shaman is responsible for addressing the diseases of tribe members who have fallen out of the sanctity of tribal Eros and cannot participate normally within the tribe.  The shaman her or himself is probably just such a person who has learned about the intricacies of the relationship between a self and a tribe first hand, and has therefore become something of an expert on the issue.  The healing the shaman performs in many cases is not a facilitation of individuation, but a return of the individual to a state of connection to tribal Eros.  Thus, a "soul retrieval" . . . a soul retrieved from the void and returned to the tribe and to functional collective living.

Various traumas can shake us out of our tribal connectedness for periods of time.  This tribal Eros is a transference phenomena . . . and when we suddenly wake up in the wilderness alone, we do not know who we are anymore or where our tribal kin has gone.  The shaman performs a ritual that helps guide the person back to this transference object.  But once the person returns, they are plugged back into the "Matrix" of tribal Eros.  This is not the same thing as individuation.  The process of becoming a shaman, on the other hand, is very much parallel to an individuation.  But we must note that the shaman is forever cut off from the unconscious access to tribal Eros and must always remain in a liminal space where the tribe is concerned.  This liminality is what grants her or him the magic or mana to perform the shamanic rituals.  But they can never again be a normal member of the tribe . . . for intimacy with the shaman is itself terrifying and alien (a transference phenomenon) for most tribe members.

The complication that arises when we try to map the shamanic/tribal paradigm to the modern world is a matter of the Problem of the Modern.  Specifically, tribal living is no longer very possible or very survivable.  We are all disenfranchised tribally speaking (thus the appeal of cults and clubs).  We are therefore always hungering to return "Home" to a tribal environment.  But the modern world doesn't permit this without some kind of repercussion.  That is, in general, modern tribes do not have access to many resources, so those who devote themselves entirely to these tribes must give up many of the resources the wider world offers.  Such devoted tribe members today must also greatly curtail their egoic strategies and diversifying ability to communicate and interact with people of various ideologies, persuasions, and tribal affiliations.  Tribes in the modern world are always in grave danger of going extinct.

Although our unconscious drive is to seek tribalism, consciously we might be able to conceptualize that drive and redirect it.  The conventional Jungian way to do this is to form an individual relationship to the instinctual Self (which Jungians call the collective unconscious . . . and its collectivity is its equivalency and archetype of the tribe.)  The collective unconscious or instinctual Self is not a substitute for others and relationality with those others, but it can be a significant substitute for contact with the sacred.  What we call sacred is what enables the flow of instinctuality.

The condition many individuals find themselves in in the modern world is one in which, despite unconscious drives, literal tribalism is unappealing.  What I believe happens with many of these individuals is that they stumble toward the individuation process with little or no guidance.  They might find ways (usually only if they have guides and mentors who are present and have enabled them) to make a few steps into that process . . . but they very, very rarely find a satisfactory way through and out of it.  Individuation is too complex and demanding for most of us to manage it alone.  Also, it is a work contra naturum . . . or more accurately (as I have put it in the past), it is Nature's Work Against Nature.  By that alchemical phrase, I mean that on one hand, individuation opposes our instinctual nature (which is to belong unconsciously to a nurturing tribal Eros).  Yet, on the other hand, the drive that catalyzes individuation and pushes it forward is equally an instinctual drive.  It is, in fact, the reconceptualization of the very same drive that pushes us to find and connect with our "True Tribe", our kin.

What individuation drives us toward (instead of a literal tribe of others) is the source of our instinctual imprinting, our archetypal potentiality or what Jung sometimes called the psychoid realm, where the ego can become acquainted with instinctual structures and principles of psychic organization that are not overly contaminated with the dysfunctional imprint of the outer environment.  These primary imprinting potentials or instincts or archetypes in themselves must be relanguaged and re-imprinted through the human ("egoic") faculties of conceptualization and narrativization.  Initially, they are concentrated complexes of "energy" or numinous affect with prelingual essences.  But these Self principles of organization can become refreshed and reactivated through a psychic diet of "Good Medicine".  That is, we must begin to feed ourselves on ideas, images, and "sacred" objects that provide functional hooks for instinctual imprinting.  As our diet improves, these affects will become better defined, forming symbols and personages.  A personage in the psyche is an indication that we feel familiar enough with the content to see "intelligence" or personality (ego) in it.  With adequate familiarity, these affective or instinctual personages can be engaged with and valuated by the ego (sometimes experienced or languaged as "integration" of these personages or their attitudes and perspectives).

There is a very good reason that a psychotherapeutic "talking cure" works: our species is dependent on languaging in order to revise its psychic system.  What we find in the advent of individuation is that some of the building blocks of this new languaging (or what I define as Logos) always existed in our memories on more "quantum" levels.  That is, we might have generally thought of a specific image or thing as a whole construct or complex . . . and that complex was tainted with dysfunctional imprinting potential.  But once that complex is broken down into parts (which are less familiar to us) . . . a parallel of the alchemical process of dissolution, those parts can be reassembled into functional imprinting Logos conduits.  This will initially be experienced as a numinous "self-organizing" process.  In fact, our dreams are always building and rebuilding connections for us.  But what we find at the beginning of individuation or healing is that these spontaneous restructurings of memory suddenly "click" for us and enable instinctuality to flow through them.  These images become numinously charged or soaked with instinctual affect.  They will probably go on to serve as building blocks for later, more complex constructions (for which the ego is also consciously contributing language).

Roughly halfway through a process of individuation (and some time after all of the stages of individuation "mapped" by Jungians), a major transition or threshold must be passed through.  There are many symbols and many languages that cluster around this threshold, many ways of seeing and understanding it, but I feel that the most important general shift at this stage is one from accepting the Logos and reorganization of languaging that the instinctual Self spontaneously offers to actively and consciously making, constructing, creating, and revising that Logos.  Alchemical symbolism seems to fit this transition the best, especially when a kind of "dual opera" is depicted, a First Opus and a Second Opus.  The Rosarium Philosophorum demonstrates this as elegantly as any alchemical text.  The signature alchemical symbols marking this transition are the Coniunctio-to-Nigredo shift into "blackness" or "first matter".  Something divided has come together into one out of sheer instinct and mutual longing for that oneness . . . and the energy of that attraction drove the entire process "automatically".  But now that that energy has dissipated, the quest and purpose is suddenly vague, the attractive and wondrous Other is no longer "there" to be felt and engaged with.

In alchemy this is considered the beginning of the work . . . that is, the beginning of the intentioned, egoic work, the discipline.  What came before and culminated in the Coniunctio was merely the precondition and preparation for this work.  It is in this alchemical tradition that I have often used the term "Work" to describe the intentioned Logos-creating process that is engaged in in partnership with the Self (which provides affective reactions to the ego's attempt to construct a viable Logos or Self-facilitating language in which to exist and adapt).  Regarding that ego/Self partnership or shared psychic objective, the onset of the Nigredo does not simply deliver it to the ego's desires.  The affective and instinctual source must first be found within the darkness of the Nigredo's wilderness.  It must be chiseled out of solid rock or excavated.  The "lesson" of the Nigredo is that the sacred or the dynamic organizing principle of the Self is not provided (for example, just because the ego is hungry and faithful).  The relationship to the Self comes only through the dedication to a process of active facilitation of instinct.  "Prayers" to the Self are no longer answered . . . for it is not the job of the Self to facilitate the ego (or "keep the ego together"), it is the ego's role in the psyche to facilitate the instinctual Self.

The Nigredo transition in Jungian psychology is not really understood or even recognized most of the time, because the Jungian process of analysis does not deal with this rather terrible threshold of initiation.  The Coniunctio in Jungianism is held up as an abstract and always distant goal, the phantom of a Holy Grail shining in the distance, an object of totemic longing and worship (or, alternatively, as a transferential merging with the analyst . . . an even greater interpretive error).  The Coniunctio of the alchemists is a parallel door to the return of an individual into the circle of tribal Eros.  But whereas the instinctual Self is projected onto the tribe in the state of tribal Eros or participation mystique (and is then sustained unconsciously and unintentionally through acceptance of and obedience to the totems and gods of the tribe), in individuation, the relationship between the ego and the Self is personalized . . . and the ego becomes entirely responsible for the well-being and maintenance of the Self.  That is an immense responsibility and very difficult to establish or maintain.  It requires a kind of heroic dedication to the Self's principles, a willingness and ability (which must be gradually learned) to take on the role of the Syzygy within the psyche.

There is no viable Jungian literature on the individuation process at or after this threshold because the Jungian method does not actually promote this event (the alchemical symbols that depict post-Coniunctio stages of the Work are misinterpreted by Jungians and misplaced into earlier, pre-individuated psychic states).  Jungians have discovered some of the artifacts of individuation . . . fantasies, fairytales, symbols, and so forth that are common parts of the paraphernalia of individuation . . . but these things are not woven into a structured system or theory.  So individuation itself as an instinctual, complex, and systemic "opus" is not actually studied by Jungians . . . only some of its artifacts are.  And these artifacts remain rather talismanic and poorly understood . . . perhaps in the sense that the discarded garbage of the distant past can become the cherished treasures of museums and archeologists.  Jungians have not yet reconstructed the thing itself from the artifacts it has discovered.  This is not necessarily due to some kind of moral failing.  It is much more likely that Jungians have not managed to piece together the individuation process because it is rarely necessary to understand this process when conducting an analysis.  Jungian analysands don't necessarily want or need to individuate.

And I am not advocating any kind of forced revision of Jungianism where individuation is insisted upon in analysis.  My concern is primarily with the ethical and scientific issues surrounding the Jungian "selling" of individuation.  It is important for Jungians to both know what is really going on with this process and to not misrepresent to patients the purpose of analysis.  I have very mixed feelings about the actual promotion of individuation.  I cannot ethically advocate a general promotion . . . but when it is desired by an individual, I think Jungian analysts should be prepared to help illuminate the process as much as possible.  Some people need to individuate in order to heal . . . and conventional Jungian analysis does not adequately prepare these people for this need or offer enough guidance through or understanding of it.

I digress on the subject of individuation because it relates specifically to our problem with religion . . . and, I think, could point to ways to better address that problem.  For instance, failing to differentiate individuation from tribal indoctrination is not merely a technical analytic failure.  It is also, on another level, a failure to understand the psychology of religion.  I would argue that the psychology or religion is primarily twofold . . . and it breaks down along the same lines as the Jungian indoctrination vs individuation issue.  Religiosity is driven by two main instincts: the instinct for sociality and the preservation of the sanctity of tribal Eros in a group (usually through the worship of gods or dogmas or the observation of tribal taboos) and the instinct for adaptation to environments hostile to our evolutionary adaptedness.  The latter adaptive instinct drives individuation, which is an adaptation to the tribally-hostile environment of the modern.  The medium of this adaptation is conceptualization or languaging or, if you prefer (although it is vaguer), consciousness.

In historical religions, there is commonly a tribal or social thread (composed of creeds, dogmas, taboos, totems, laws, etc . . . all of which serve the purpose of forging and preserving a tribal identity that every tribe member shares) . . . and a mystical thread (a core narrative that depicts the shamanic or heroic individuation quest where one individual finds a way to commune with the god of the tribe . . . and perhaps even founds the tribe on the basis of this communion).  The mystical aspect of religions usually resounds with individuation symbols and artifacts . . . and these can sometimes serve as models and guides for the "mystics" of the tribe.  More commonly, they are totemized and made into objects of worship for tribe members rather than models to emulate.

When Jungians advocate religious involvement, awakening, or return to their patients, it creates a slippery slope.  What is really being advocated: totemic worship, tribal conformity, and an obedience to dogma . . . or the individual mystical journey of individuation (using the symbolic artifacts of a religion's mysticism as stars to steer by)?  Obviously the first option could be difficult to merge with analytic work.  But the latter cannot be blindly and indiscriminately advocated.  That is, the Jungian analyst who advocates these things must truly understand the pitfalls of the process in order to help the patient navigate those pitfalls.  Not all mysticisms are alike or created equal.  Each has its own particular dangers.  Many religious mysticisms have been warped to some degree over many years of dogmatization (for instance, much Christian mysticism was considered heretical by the Church and prohibited from being considered "Christian").  Individuation events also tend to be highly personalized (not surprisingly).  So the possibility of individuating in precisely the same way a previous mystic in the tradition did is very unlikely.

Jungianism allows for the individuality of individuation by adopting a polytheistic religious advocacy.  But in this openness, it also opens the door to all the cumulative problems of various religions.  That is the price of egalitarianism and openmindedness . . . but again, are the Jungians truly aware of these religious problems?  Are they adequate critics of religion?  Perhaps critics is the wrong word.  Are Jungians adequate psychologists of religion?  Do we have to know what a thing is and how it works in order to prescribe it?

Generally, Jungians have felt such knowledge is minimally valuable.  They do not question the process as long as it seems to work.  Analysis is a creative and experimental enterprise, and it is important to always be open to learning and taking cues from the work, from the transference.  There is no valid psychotherapy without moments (probably many) of confusion, "irrational" intuition, guesswork, self-examination, and of course, error.  Human relationship is never perfect . . . and despite some analysts' efforts to refute this, analysis is a human relationship (and should be).  But can we be satisfied with not knowing, ethically speaking?  Is what we remain ignorant of allowing us a selfish form of bliss?  Just because something seems to work once or twice without the analyst understanding why or intentioning it, does this mean she or he is off the hook for ever trying to understand it or that it cannot be better understood?  Don't we have an obligation as scientists and investigators of the psyche to keep trying to understand?  Don't we hunger to know the Self?  Or is faith in magic synchronicities good enough for Jungians?  If so, can we charge our clients professional psychotherapeutic fees based on such qualifications?  If the qualification of Jungian analysts is that they are "true believers" in the magic of the psyche, does this result in the attraction and courting of analysands who want to go to a "faith healer", who want to believe in something magical? To the degree that this is the (perhaps unintentioned or unexamined) Jungian professional stance (among more classical rather than developmental Jungians, at least), can we be truly surprised or legitimately complain about the appropriation of Jungianism by the New Age?

I don't mean to entirely reject the notion that psychotherapy can be a "healing of faith", but should Jungians be promoting faith?  Is it perhaps possible for Jungians to be neutral and to work from a more scientific understanding that beneath the artifacts of faith, issues of sacredness and instinctual systemic functionality are operating?  These sorts of questions are very difficult to answer.  Many are perhaps unanswerable.  And although individual Jungians have chosen to grapple with a few (in the literature) from time to time, we have not made a serious collective effort to analyze these issues.  If the Jungian tribe was merely a tribe of believers, a religious order, or a kinship group, such analysis would not necessarily be important.  But the Jungian tribe is a tribe of analysts.  If we cannot or are not willing to analyze ourselves . . . not merely in individual training analyses, but as a tribe and as tribe members, have we truly made every effort to both assure our work with patients is as ethical as it can be and honestly say that we are focusing consciousness and energy on the dynamics of our tribe and the issues of its survivability?  Are we adequately treating ourselves as a group?  And if not, why is this our analytical weak spot, our shadow?

It is not only possible and essential to make such self-examinations of our tribalism (and its religiosity), it is also entirely within the purview of Jungian analytical theory as the confrontation with (and perhaps the "assimilation" of) the shadow.  We are already set up to do this self-analysis and shadow work . . . so we must ask ourselves why we have been "non-Jungian" in this refusal and hypocrisy.   By what rules did we pick the kind of Jungians we were going to be?  Conscious and ethically governed rules . . . or unconscious, complex-driven rules?

The last thing I would like to add and leave the reader with is the suggestion that, despite the oddity and scarcity of Jungian atheists, it may be precisely these Jungian atheists that are needed to bring self-examination, shadow work, scientific and intellectual rigor, and functional ethics back into modern Jungianism.  I don't mean me.  I am merely intuiting my way into a welling up of reactive shadow that is part of the Jungian tribal soul.  I mean that those of us with skepticism and ethical concerns all need to make a concerted effort to tap into this welling up of shadow constructively.  We cannot be ashamed or frightened of our skepticism, or our shadowy frustration with Jungian foibles.  Nor can we merely "act out" in rejection of these dubious inheritences (as it seems to me is quite common among those Jungians retreating into psychoanalytic ideas and splinter tribes).  There is intelligence and wisdom in this murking belch of affect.  There is value to be mined.  There is a muffled heroic Calling and the wounded moaning of the Jungian Self.  There is a great deal of work to do . . . and we cannot bask in the mystical wonderland of our puerism forever.  Something in us is dying while we flit off to entertain our soaring urges and blissful wonder.  While we go off to play in the psyche and its museum of artifcats, who will tend to the spiritual and instinctual welfare of the tribe?


Atheism, Jungianism, and the Jungian Problem of Religion (Part 1)

To proclaim religion is a "problem" for Jungianism to a Jungian audience is perhaps to assure the hackles of that audience are raised before any argument is even made.  That is a gamble I will take because this topic demands both provocation and intelligent consideration (the former will no doubt be inherent in my argument and the latter will hopefully emerge through and maybe even from my argument).

As I have asserted repeatedly over the last years, I am an atheist.  A Jungian atheist.  As a Jungian atheist I would make a nice case study or perhaps a specimen jar oddity.  I have stated briefly in previous writings that I feel Jungianism is actually fully compatible with atheism.  It is after all a psychology . . . intended as a scientific study of the psyche.  Jungianism is not a religion and should therefore have no conflict with secularism's refusals to believe in a literal God or in gods or other mystical of spiritual things.  But the study of psyche (as Jung often noted) is a study of phenomena without a declaration of what those phenomena literally are or are founded on.  That is, we cannot say what something like the anima is, but we can recognize this ordered phenomenon in many dreams, stories, and artistic creations.

Despite some desire to be provocative, I do not want to "cure" Jungianism of its tendency toward religiosity and even belief.  There has been a wave of secularist/atheistic writing in recent years (sometimes referred to as the "New Atheism", see also the "Brights movement") that has reinforced what I (and many others, even other atheists) feel is a very dated and at times even scientistic tribalist slandering of religion.  These arguments against the usefulness of religion do not treat religion as a complex psychological phenomenon, nor do they effectively and scientifically seek to study the mind that generates religion and religiosity.  That is, dismissive pseudo-theories have been given and dressed up in scientific garb (e.g., the theory that religion is a dangerous meme that takes over human brains and pushes the human species toward self-destruction . . . advocated by Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett).  But these are really only tribal arguments, propaganda pieces that are meant to sort Us and Them.  These scientific claims are very spurious and poorly thought out.  In fact, by disseminating these tribalistic dogmas, Dawkins, Dennett, and other atheists are simply engaging in the very same religious behavior as other religionists (albeit without an anthropomorphic godhead on their tribal seal).

I find myself being just as critical of this brand of atheistic tribalism as I am of other more conventional religions.  Of course, New Atheism doesn't have the significant history of mass atrocity behind it that the Western monotheisms do . . . and there is something to be said about that.  But the "problem" of religion in general is not an issue of irrationality or belief in things that are unreal or insubstantial.  The problem is that the tribalism surrounding religions can very easily negate a kind of universal or humanist ethics that the modern world and the human species are dependent on for their survival.  Tribalistic ideologies devalue otherness, and when otherness is devalued, the treatment of others is not governed by the same sense of ethics and empathy that governs the treatment of fellow tribe members.

The psychology of human religiosity is, far from being some sort of mistake or anomaly, one of the most fertile gateways into the understanding of the human psyche in general.  We are, as it has been so frequently stated in recent years, homo religioso.  But one of the critiques trumpeted by the new atheists is well worth considering.  Namely, that traditional views of and relationships to religion are no longer functional in the modern world.  That is, a literalizing view of religion and religiosity that remains intentionally ignorant of human psychology and human religious predisposition (not to mention human religious history) is not compatible with the demands modernism places upon us.  Simple belief is no longer the answer . . . and the (perhaps Catholic/Augustinian but probably much older and more intuitive)  idea that religiosity can be pursued in the modern world through "faith alone" is plagued by externalities.  Religiosity and the pursuit of knowledge are not incompatible.

The combination of religiosity and the pursuit of knowledge (small-g gnosis) in the modern world took an enormous leap forward in the theories and valuative attitudes of C.G. Jung, who was and still is seen as a "psychologizer" of sacred things by some, and a mystical prophet of a New Age religion by others.  For someone of my own persuasion, Jung's language was a clarion call proclaiming that religiosity could be pursued without the sacrifice of knowing or the abandonment of the pursuit of scientific methodology.  In this sense, perhaps he was a "modern prophet" . . . but a prophet of a modern religiosity, NOT of an ancient, tribal religion or mysticism.

One of my strongest continuing gripes with today's Jungianism is that it fails to be truly modern and to respond to the Problem of the Modern with which we are all presented.  Its doctrines and remedies have become regressive.  That is, it prescribes a romantic return to neo-primitive tribalism in the effort to "re-ensoul the world" . . . or rather, in the effort to bring a sense of the sacred back into the lives of disenfranchised modern humans.  And to be fair, this can, in fact, work . . . so long as we are able to find a safe tribal space, a kind of ideological "Tower in Bollingen" where we can be free of modernism's disenfranchisement and desacralization.

But I find this solution flawed and, for the majority of people in the world today, inadequate.  It does not treat the Problem of the Modern (one facet of which is the lack of the sacred in the modern system of existence) but rather fights to withdraw partially from it.  This solution strikes me as fairly selfish*.  It only works for the individual practicing the withdrawal (or for the withdrawing tribe, if the individual can attain membership).  It does not therapeutically treat the larger modern world and its construction of personality.  Sacredness is merely being horded into a kind of introversion or inwardness that exhibits no social responsibility . . . and that kind of anti-social inwardness is one of the major problems of the modern already.  It could be said, then, that this Jungian inrtoversion of sacredness is (albeit in a small way) contributing to the very Problem of the Modern it is supposed to present a remedy for.  Again, the issue of externalities of tribalism.

* in the Jungian paradigm, this period of introversion is supposed to be temporary, a necessary first step.  But the subsequent period or extraverting, or what I would consider taking responsibility for the maintenance of the sacred in the world, does not seem to ever develop.  There is, at least, very little Jungian writing that describes how such a process might work . . . and so the extraverting stage remains only as an abstract idealization, an intangible goal.

Many contemporary Jungians have recognized this tendency toward anti-social inwardness as a signature Jungian problem . . . and as a result we see both critiques of this trait in Jungian literature and propositions for "getting Jungianism out into the world".  I'm not sure we Jungians are ready to make any evangelical forays into the larger world at this point . . . and at the risk of appearing to contradict myself, I would recommend that we first spend some serious time and energy contemplating our relationship to modernism.  I wouldn't go so far as to call the attempts at "social theorizing" and interpretation of modern social trends in recent Jungian literature "embarrassing" (or rather, to the degree I find them embarrassing, I recognize the emotion as a product of my own at times uneasy relationship to my Jungianism), but they are not a very good representation of the best we Jungian have to offer the wider non-Jungian intellectual world.

And this is one of the arenas in which the conventional Jungian attitude toward religion and religiosity is a problem.  Even as we have inherited one of the most fertile valuative systems for the understanding and preservation of the sacred, our Jungian religiosity tends to strike the larger, modern, and much more secularly-influenced world as a rather cultic evangelizing.  We tell ourselves that we really don't care about this impression because we are "true believers" in the know about the soul . . . and because we are really only concerned with those who would answer the Call of the unconscious and be interested in such a return to religion.  But this attitude must be seen for its true immaturity, irresponsibility, and self-destructiveness if we Jungians are to every enter and eventually constructively influence the modern world (and the modernism in the patients our analysts treat).

Self-contentment with our "wisdom" and grasp or religion is at odds with our survivability . . . and we cannot sit back in an ideological stupor waiting (with utter certainty) for the big mothership to return and whisk us away to the paradise we so deeply deserve.  We have an intellectual and valuative legacy to uphold and perpetuate . . . and it is not merely a legacy of belief.  It is a scientific legacy of rigorous investigation, a legacy of "psychologization" (negative connotations be damned) . . . not metaphysics.  Perhaps we would rather be poets, crafting songs to the psychic Muse, wondrous odes to sanctity.  Yes that would be easier.  But this is a puer fantasy.  We are not the bards of the psyche.  That is a temptation that Jung himself decided to throw off . . . and although I feel he did so with a lack of refinement and full understanding, there is something to be said about his decision to pursue science instead of art.

Speaking as a poet who has put aside poetry to pursue Jungian psychology, I am well acquainted with the puer pitfalls lying in wait for those Jungians who would poeticize the psyche.  Even as a poet, I found this romanticism unacceptable.  Poetry today is no longer romantic in this sense . . . it is actually rather ruthless and embittered.  The kind of poeticism we Jungians have sought in our thinking and writing is a shoddily constructed fantasy that is neither good for our tribe or for larger human thought.  Poetry, real poetry, real art is a brutal enterprise, not a retreat into the childlike creative wonderland we have too often imagined it to be as we have reconceptualized it as art therapy and active imagination.  I am not criticizing the value of these creative expressions as therapy.  They help open the doors that must first be opened for healing to progress.  But speaking as an artist and not a hobbiest, the act of creation should involve the whole person, should be an ethical struggle, a painful labor mentally and spiritually . . . and not merely a revelation or mysterious vision.

Active imagination as Jungians so often conceive of it is a kind of tourism of the deep psyche . . . but real artists are locals who must live there in that economy.  If we would like to be artists, then I suggest we strive to be real artists and not tourists or analytical patients.  We have, perhaps, lost the paternal rigor and seriousness that Jung himself used as a guiding principle . . . and we are now caught up in the maternal fantasy of the puer, where everything seems possible and expansive, yet we only exist within the confines of a glass jar.

The pursuit or religion or spirituality, when genuine, is just as rigorous and dangerous as the creation of art.  By accepting a Catholic attitude toward faith in the numinous unconscious and its products, we indirectly cripple Jungian thinking, Jungian science.  I feel we should make greater efforts to keep separate the believer and the knower within ourselves . . . and not stifle our knower but allow it to pursue the psychology of religion and spirituality with all due skepticism.  Even as we might also choose belief.  I am not saying that we should ultimately settle for dissociation (as Jung himself seemed to) where on some level we "know" God, but on another level, we still seek to know.  Personally, I don't feel spiritually divided.  I see no contradiction between scientific naturalism and the devoted valuation of the sacred.  How I have resolved this personally is perhaps not universally prescribable.  Every individuation journey is by definition unique . . . and these journeys don't end in dogma, in belief, in the Holy Word unquestioningly accepted.  There is no One Truth awaiting us at a stage of "enlightenment".

The bitter irony of our problematic, dated, and simplistic Jungian relationship with religion is that we have not only failed to be adequate (and adequately modern) scientists in our brand of religiosity.  We have also failed spiritually to relate to and preserve the sacred.  Spiritually, we have been far too selfish and tried to hoard a "natural resource" of sanctity rather than use it to drive adaptation and progress in our existence and intellectual contributions.  We have, I would argue, misunderstood spirituality . . . which is not about providence.  It's about responsibility.  Spirituality isn't a declaration of dependence on a god but an acceptance of responsibility for the preservation and welfare of that god (or object or system of value).  This is fairly evident in the many spiritualities and mysticisms Jungians have studied and "Jungianized" . . . but this common knowledge is not very well put into practice in our Jungianizations of religion.

I am not proposing that we trade one god for another . . . say Jung for Freud or mysticism for materialism.  I am not advocating a tribalistic solution.  I am saying that we need to deepen and clarify our relationships to our gods.  It is in no way essential for Jungians to "become atheists", but there needs to be a greater awareness and acceptance of the perspective of a Jungian atheist in our thinking and investigating.  We cannot proceed merely with faith as our vehicle, not as psychologists.  Skepticism and self-criticism are also necessary . . . and not out of some ideological or tribal implementation of rationalism, but out of the instinctual necessities of survival and the ethics of valuation of the sacred.

We should, of course, continue the Jungian tradition of skepticism toward rationalistic materialism.  But we cannot merely hold science and rationalism in suspicion out of a tribal prejudice.  We need to turn a gnostic criticism both on modern science and on our own inclinations toward cultic and ancient religiosity.

Jung and Christianity

Although Jung's view of Christianity was certainly complex and at times somewhat blasphemous (e.g., in "Answer to Job"), he should be considered a "Christian thinker" perhaps at least as much as he should be seen as a "modern thinker" or a "neopagan thinker".  The imprint of Christianity is foundational for Jung, and this has gone underexamined by Jungians.  Much Jungian attention has been given to Jung's thinking on mysticism, Eastern philosophy, Gnosticism, occult and paranormal phenomena, etc. . . . but we seem to overlook the "less exciting" and New-Agey fact that Jung was writing largely within the Christian paradigm.  That is, in order to find value for these things that have become New Age staples, Jung had to contend with his Christianity and Christian mentality.  He addressed them as a "Westerner" . . . and that essentially meant (for Jung) "as a Christian" (or one who has grown up within the Christian symbol system).

There is no doubt that Jung stretched his Christianity very far (especially for a man of his time) . . . but it must be understood that he had a Christianity to stretch.  Christianity was a significant, fundamental factor in Jung's personality and thought.  What he created and proposed, he did in relation to Christianity.  When Jung wrote "Answer to Job", he was creating a personalized Christian theology.  It doesn't matter as much that it was "heretical" (by Catholic standards) as it does that this personal thinking about religion and God took place within the confines of Christian language and symbols, Christian imagination and fantasy.  In other words, Jung accepted the foundation of Christian symbolism in his psyche and (like the alchemists) sought to pursue his personal individuation journey within its boundaries (i.e., his use of Eastern and non-Christian symbols and ideas was made as a Christian thinker relating to these as "orientalisms").  He did not question the validity of that foundation.

Although Jung was critical of the Church in some ways (and especially of Protestantism), he was not truly a political critic or historian of Christianity.  For Jung, Christianity was largely a psychological phenomenon . . . not a social or institutional one.  He treated the Church and its symbols and dogmas as if they were spontaneous eruptions of the unconscious, as if they were dreams or myths.  He did not examine these texts as if they were constructions influenced by political and personal agendas.  But today, in the so called postmodern or post-constructionist era, this is how we examine texts.  We no longer accept that there are pure emanations of the unconscious that can be accepted as singular psychic artifacts.  We break things down to more quantum levels.

It is perhaps too much to ask of Jung that he should have done this, should have been more postmodern than modern (of course, psychoanalytic/Freudian analysis of texts is in the postmodern and Derridean DNA and prefigured literary deconstruction).  But for contemporary Jungians, the continued lack of sociopolitical scrutiny and deconstruction of religious and mythic texts is inexcusable and one of the many reasons we Jungians have failed the Call of the modern.  We have (unconsciously, for the most part) carried on Jung's tradition of viewing Christianity and Christian symbolism as pure/unconscious psychic artifacts and have not made any further attempts to deconstruct and scrutinize Christian ideas and symbols.

This is, I suspect, partly due to the fact that Christianity doesn't interest Jungians as much as neopagan, Eastern, and occult symbol systems do.  Therefore, we have largely ignored Christianity.  But such ignorance is dangerous, because Christianity is at the core of our Jungian DNA, driving the construction of many of the theories we have inherited from Jung and continue to advocate.  The attitude we have taken toward Christianity has served as the mold from which our attitude toward all religious ideas and texts has been coined.  Even as some postmodernism has slipped into the language of Jungians (most notably James Hillman and Wolfgang Giegerich and their advocates), we have still failed to turn the postmodern analysis these ideas connote on our own precious things and on the construction of our Jungianism.  Instead, we have used postmodern languaging merely for play and escapism (as it is also most frequently used in other academic areas, in my rather biased opinion).

I feel it's time to start deconstructing Jung's thinking (as well as our collective and personal Jungianisms) in relation to its cultural constructions and influences.  An excellent first step has been taken in this enterprise by Sonu Shamdasani (Jung and the Making of Modern Psychology: The Dream of a Science, 2004), whose scholarship has demonstrated that Jung's psychological thinking grew out of a specific intellectual milieu and context (and did not spring entirely from his own unique genius, as the Jungian myth has preferred to have it for decades now).  Still, to my knowledge, Jung's Christianity has not been so thoroughly analyzed.

Just as Shamdasani's contextualization of Jung's theory development has not rendered Jung entirely un-unique, I don't think a study and deconstruction of Jung's Christianity would entirely negate his  contributions to the study of religion and theology.  But it would, I suspect, be disruptive to Jungian tribalism, because it would help us look more squarely at our Jungian shadow.  A historical study of Christianity grants us a uniquely detailed peek into the construction of a world religion.  Yes, historical texts and artifacts relating to the construction of Christianity are scarce . . . but compared to any other major religion, there is a wealth of information from which we can draw general theories and make psychological observations.

Christianity (as we know it today and as Jung knew it) grew out a period of great turmoil and tribal splintering, a proto-modern collision of cultures and technologies.  Christianity can not be understood adequately within the cloak of its own myth and propaganda (as Jung and Jungians have typically sought to understand it).  What we consider Christian today is what survived and triumphed from a centuries-long, outrageously bloody battle among numerous pre-Christianities.  And the victor (eventually called the Roman Catholic Church) rose to its position not by the glory of truth and God's will, but by political intrigue and a willingness to ally itself with Roman military might, a willingness to allow this might to forcibly and physically wipe out its Christian competitors.  We still often react to such ideas as if they were ideological propaganda (an element of the preposterous "anti-Christian persecution" that many in the enormous Christian majority in Americ like to fantasize about and bemoan), but this is merely the product of our own desire to believe and an ignorance of the historical evidence that has long existed.  I recommend that anyone interested in the deconstruction and analysis of Christianity and its texts spend some time at the snarky (at times offensive) but thorough and well-annotated website JesusNever Existed.Com.  The author of this site, Kenneth Humphreys does have an agenda . . . but he has also managed to pull together a great deal of interesting and well-documented scholarship.  I must also admit that my own final step into self-branding as an atheist was due to my extensive reading of this site and the many books and articles it uses as sources.  Until that point (and in a very Jungian fashion), I had developed my own personal, very heretical Christianity.  But as I was able to historically deconstruct it, I realized that even that construction was problematic.

Most Jungians will not be able to stomach JesusNeverExisted.Com, and that is a shame, because the resistance  speaks to the problem of Jungianism as a religion rather than a science.  Still, we are, as Jungians, not obligated to be believers.  Our legacy is one of investigation and psychologization.  In our Jungianism, it is not faith that we must ultimately preserve, but truth or gnosis.  Our search for the soul is not one (collectively and professionally) that is meant to end in belief.  We have come to the soul not to worship but to observe, measure, contemplate.  And these things can be done in the name of also relating to the soul, valuating it.  Faith from a distance is not valuative, it is egoic and self-serving.  To experience a thing, we must seek to know it as it is in order not to colonize it and make it over into the image of our projection.

I would argue (in accord with Jungian thinking) that alchemy (a favorite Jungian subject) was a more spontaneous eruption of the Christianized unconscious (of the middle ages) than Christian doctrine was.  Alchemy was a reaction of the unconscious in an attempt to counterbalance Christianized consciousness.  This was, no doubt, the source of Jung's fascination with it.  Alchemy attempts to revivify the instinctual unconscious and the Self's organizing principle within (or at least not in direct opposition to) the Christian symbol system . . . and this is precisely why it is the most significant precedent of Jungian psychology.  The alchemical inheritance and the alchemical quest are the same as those in the Jungian paradigm.  We Jungians can no more ignore our Christian heritage than the alchemists could.

Jung saw alchemy as an intellectual heir of Gnosticism, and although this can be hard to establish at times, there is a very legitimate sense in which he was correct.  Gnosticisms were the main competitors with proto-Catholocism both before the Romanization of Christianity and for a century or so after.  These Gnosticisms should not, I think, be romanticized as the "great lost Christianity".  But what is extremely important to understand is that proto-Catholicism was powerfully influenced by these Gnosticisms.  Yet this influence was largely reactive and defensive.  Catholicism was constructed in relation to Gnosticism, and it was constructed intentionally as an "anti-Gnosticism".  As a result, many of the writings of the early Church fathers were devoted to developing anti-Gnostic dogmas and arguments.  The Catholicism we inherited was largely constructed, not as a "true Word from God", but as a system of arguments and propoaganda refuting and dispatching of Gnosticism and Gnostic ideas.

When Gnostic ideas disappeared (partially going underground and syncretizing with other deposed paganisms), it was not because "no one believed them or took them seriously anymore".  It was because the remaining Gnostics were persecuted and murdered and their texts burned (in fact, some of the "Christian Martyrs" adopted and sensationalized by the Church were essentially Gnostics).  That is, Catholicism went to a very severe political and military level to defeat its arch ideological nemesis.  The Gnostic texts we have today come from two general sources: either they were preserved by the Catholic Church fathers as objects for which Catholic counterarguments were made or they were hidden away by Gnostic-sympathizers and forgotten for over 1000 years only to be rediscovered in the 20th century.  Amazingly few texts survived the Catholic book burnings.  Gnosticism (and later, alchemy) are a part of the Christian shadow . . . and the Christian Shadow-Self.  They represent what the Christian consciousness most hates and fears.

Jung was a modern champion of the Christian unconscious who sought to do "shadow work" on the Christian shadow.  Jungian psychology of religion is significantly constructed by this position, but it has taken up the task without concern for the historical and cultural constructionism of Christian mythology.  As a result, the Jungian "hostility" toward and heresy for Christianity exists unconsciously.  To drive Jungianism toward the modern, we Jungians will need to begin taking a conscious approach toward our Christianity.  And to understand ourselves and our roots, we will have to look more closely at our own historical and unconscious relationship with Christian ideas and symbols.  We will need to analyze our own Christian construction.

I think we will find that, despite Jung's heretical positions toward Christian dogma, his limitations were Christian (or Catholic) limitations.  That is, when he failed to form an adequate (and adequately modern) psychological perspective on the phenomena of the unconscious, his failings were very much like the failings of the Christian consciousness as demonstrated by the dogmas of the Church.  I feel this Christian limitation is most notable in Jung's dualistic construction of the Self and other archetypes (as half light, half dark), his particular understanding and valuation of "faith", and in his treatment of alchemy.

Although many Jungians have continued the obsession with alchemy Jung initiated, they have regrettably approached alchemy entirely through Jung's own scholarship and perspectives.  As important as alchemy is to Jungian psychology (as both source and nuisance), Jung's psychologization of alchemy was significantly flawed.  I am not of the "purist" school (perhaps best represented by Adam McLean of the that holds that to psychologize alchemy is to misunderstand it.  This is, in my opinion, a religious attitude (and, of course, I am an atheist).  Everything can be psychologized.  There is no such thing as a pre-psychological artifact of the psyche.  We must be very careful not to reduce these psychic artifacts too severely and sloppily (as we see in many of the Freudian treatments of the contents of the unconscious), but psyche has structure and laws (albeit laws of systemic complexity that are hard to pin down).  Ideally, psychological language should be directed at knowing as much as possible about any psychic phenomena.  It is always under revision, never satisfied with totemism or the language of belief.  To assert that alchemy cannot be psychologized because it is pre-psychological and deals with mystical or spiritual truths is just another kind of reduction that limits the true complexity of alchemical symbolism.  That is, to "psychologize" something is to honor its inherent essence and complexity to the highest degree possible.  This is at least so, so long as the phenomenon being psychologized is given the benefit of the scientific method where the analysis of data is careful, thorough, "detached", and always under revision.


Differentiating the Shadow: Demon, Development, and Individuation

Why the Demon?

One other thing that occurred to me to question further in this construct of the Demon is what it is about us (humans) that makes us susceptible to this Demon and its possession of personality.  It's easy for this construction to sound very mythopoetic (using a term like "Demon", and all).  But I don't want this to be an abstraction that one must either believe or disbelieve.  It needs to be understood and understandable.  When I speak of Demonic "possession", I'm being colorful.  This is how it feels or seems to an observer (and to a sufferer who has begun differentiating the Demon).  But what really does Demonic possession mean . . . and how does it happen?  My guess is that this will make better and better sense the more we learn about the brain from neuroscientific studies.  The Demon is not only facilitated by our susceptibility to "mimetic" cultural indoctrination (which I don't see as innately insidious).  The introjection of the Demon must also be dependent on a psychic structure prone to rather hypertrophic self-protection.  What is it then about human personality that is so fragile and vulnerable that it would fairly easily give itself over to terroristic "protection"?

Infants and Affect

Of course, among all other animals our species is perhaps the one that produces the most helpless young.  Our babies are born essentially before they have finished developing in utero (compared to many other mammals).  For many years after birth, we are not very capable of survival or self-sustenance.  Even as adults, despite our ingenuity, we need others to help facilitate our survivability and confirm our validity and social contributions in a very powerful and tangible way.  That is, we can't just be parented for a few years and then released into the wild.  Throughout our whole lives we must rely on and relate to numerous others if we want to satisfy our self-interested needs.  The more we can successfully socialize with others, forming bonds and alliances and relationships of one kind or another, the more likely we are to be successful at "perpetuating ourselves" (both genetically and culturally).  The human ideal toward which our evolutionary process has driven us is one in which we are highly connected and related.  I think it is fairly likely and logical that our culture or the patterns of our sociality have co-evolved along with our genetics.

In other words, we have evolved a separated, non-material organ in our culture.  And as that organ has evolved and emerged, it has fed back into our biological evolution.  It is this co-developed environment in which we have adapted.  It is not in us like Platonic/Kantian/Jungian "pure forms", but we are biologically shaped as if we were meant to fit perfectly with this cultural/informational environment.  At least, mentally, we are . . .  (and when I speak of culture here, I mean something like original culture or tribal culture, not modern culture).  I don't know how this compares to other social or herd mammals, but our newborns take at least three years for their brains to "wire-up" and their synapses to be pruned to what is perhaps a most efficient state of functionality.  In that time, a massive environmental influence helps establish the individual structures of our brains.  That we would have vast and extensive "introjects" should not come as any surprise and would seem to be highly compatible with our scientific understanding of the brain.

The Demon seems to function like a program ("computer virus", perhaps) that hijacks the inevitable sense of helplessness and vulnerability which the ego forms around during our extensive childhoods.  That is, strategic self-protection and self-facilitation are the stuff from which the ego is made.  And so much of our personalities, our relationalities, are constructed during a period of severe disempowerment.  We learn so well what it is like to be weak and small and dependent on other, more powerful people . . . and therefore we learn first to develop a kind of empowerment that it based in this position of weakness, perhaps a kind of manipulation of others out of self-protection and self-enablement . . . or we fortify ourselves by flocking into more empowering identity groups.

But self-enabling, especially in infants and children, is also infused with Self-enabling or Self-facilitation.  The Self, I believe, represents a natural complex system that seeks to flourish and to flow into life, others, environment.  It is dynamic, adaptive and it genuinely requires access to connections, outlets, Eros.  The connectedness of a social/relational Eros provides avenues for the Self to be facilitated.  The ideal, I suppose, is for every individual to be engaged in a complex two-way (or multi-way) relationship with others and with the group or tribe.  The Self system in each individual does not want to be disenfranchised or cut off from others.  It needs to give and receive, to be a part of a greater whole as well as its own microcosmic whole.  That is the nature of our species.  It's a somewhat poetic, even slightly spiritualistic language to express it in . . . but there is a very legitimate and easily observed biological reality to this need to contribute to the group, to influence and be influence, to share one's sense of self and purpose with an adaptive survival task.  The dated, abstract term "libido", although it has fallen out of favor scientifically, is a metaphor for something complex ("quantum" or made of of unobservably small parts that by themselves do not add up to the whole they are part of) in the nature of dynamic, adaptive living that seeks (with a sense of "energy" or desire or drive) a functional state of organization that facilitates adaptive fitness for a group or genetic pool.  We don't understand what this is, but we can observe its effects (much like other complex, quantum behaviors in matter).  Psychologically, we need to call it something, even if that placeholder term is a poeticism.

The emerging ego personality mediates between the dynamic, "libidinous" Self-system (or principle of organization) and the environment and is co-constructed by these two powers.  The Demon is the introjected personality/attitude/intelligence/agent that represents environmental constructionism that is opposed to the Self's principle of organization (much environmental constructionism is necessary for the functional development and facilitation of the Self-system).  This is the major disagreement I have with Kalsched and numerous other Jungians and psychoanalysts.  The Demon is not of the Self, but is a kind of Anti-Self derived from the difficulties the Self has imprinting with the environment the individual lives in.  I think it is a terrible mistake to imagine that this Anti-Self is the "dark half of the Self" and has some kind of inherited existence in the human individual's psyche.  I see no cause to propose some kind of theological/metaphysical dualism as Jung does.  I also don't see the psychopathic evil that the Demon exhibits in some people as any kind of primal infantile rage or unchecked id (that strikes me as a prejudiced projection onto infant behavior that serves as a common component of the developmentalist/psychoanalytic fantasy of the infant).  That is, the actual infant's personality and affective-psychic existence does not innately give birth to the Demon.  The Demon does exhibit infantile qualities . . . but this kind of infantilism is abstracted from the more complex and systemic affect responses in an actual infant.  Those genuine infant affects are connected to a Self system that has other and more complex motivations.  in other words, I do not see infant emotions and desires as inherently self-damaging to the psyche or Self system.

Genuine infant rage, hunger, need, and other vulnerabilities cannot destroy or wound the Self system.  It is the imprinting or association with malicious environmental forces that makes the desires and hungers of the infant resound with Demonic, destructive presence.  I think it is a fallacy to see the obvious emotionality expressed by infants through the lens of adult emotional expression.  When an infant is hungry, cold, lonely, or scared and cries (even rages) terribly, I think this is merely the only languaging the Self system has available to the expression of its needs.  It is not trauma.  As adults, we have more "civilized" ways of languaging our desires and delaying their gratification.  Some of that linguistic filtering of pure affect can be championed by the Demon . . . the Demon can use shame and terror at times to bully the ego into repressing the expression of affect (affect is an expression of dynamic ordering in the psyche).  Our modern sense of adult, "civilized", affect-control is, I would argue, severely perverted.  We like to pretend that affect isn't there behind our expressions and actions, but it is just as present as it is in the wailing infant . . . and as Jung said, it will come out in diseases and neurotic complexes if it is not given a suitable language of expression (and the expression couched within these diseases is just as "divine" as it is infantile and "animal").  The lack of such a suitable language (resulting in symptoms of disease) is a sure sign that the Demon is clogging up the works of the Self system.

I do agree with the developmentalists and psychoanalysts that we have a kind of "infantility" in our psyches . . . or a more or less vague impression of an "inner Child".  I disagree, though, with the tendency of these analysts to reduce the psyche to this construct (which is as much fantasy projection as valid).  Instead, I would suggest that we have a culturally skewed lens with which we regard our own affect.  That lens encourages us to look at affect as if it were "infantile" (as it is easy for adults to associate pure affective response to infants).  But this characterization cannot be seen as scientifically valid.  It is only a metaphor.  Our affect, I think, remains foundationally the same throughout our lives (only a very small portion of which we spend as infants).  The so-called "infantile" affect is fundamentally the same in infants, children, adolescents, and adults . . . the same whether the adult is "individuated" and "psychologically mature/healthy" or extremely dysfunctional and "childish".  I think we have to stop thinking of affect in this reductive and prejudicial way . . . as inherently bad, problematic, or immature.  Affect is not a mistake, nor is it an expression of an "animalistic id".  It is simply what drives and organizes behavior.  If the affective Self is allowed to imprint with functional environmental factors, affect will be functional and adaptive and motivate both individual survivability and tribal Eros and ethics.  If the affective Self cannot imprint functionally with the environment, the Self system will be contaminated and perhaps dissociated (compartmentalized).  When affect is poisoned in this way (by Demonic determination and static introjection), we will experience a confusion between the sense of impulse and the functional achievement of the goal the impulse is directed at.  It is as if we disrupt our own functionality and survival success with our "neediness" . . . . behaving self-destructively when all we want to do is be and to function effectively.

The Demon will exhibit infantile rage and aggression as it is abstracted to an adult personality construct.  We could perhaps understand the infantility of the Demon as though it was derived from a construct of infantile vulnerability.  It is vulnerability looked at through a very long and distorting scope . . . a kind of telescope turned backwards, making the object seem much more distant and indistinct.  The Demon can never and will never approach its distanced sense of vulnerability.  It is constructed with the sole purpose of defending against this vulnerability.  But in the effort to differentiate the Demon from the Self, we must question whether this vulnerability is really as terrible as the Demon thinks it is.  I believe that the Demon's take on this abstracted vulnerability is severely paranoid.  It is hard to see this when looking at a person in the grip of their Demon (or when looking at our own Demon when it is highly empowered).  But one of the conventional experiences of individuation is the revelation that the things we are morbidly terrified of are not as horrendous as they seem from a distance.  Typically, many aspects of the functional Self-system (like the affect discussed above) are viewed by the socialized, adult ego with extreme prejudice.  The entire 19th century style conception of the Freudian id is a study in unscientific paranoia and cultural prejudice.  The hundreds of years of Christianized belief that we are creatures of "original sin" that must purify themselves by right faith and belief (or in later, more-humanistic materialism, right civilization) is not biologically sound.  Not only Freudian id constructs are subject to this cultural distortion, but Jungian theological dualism (polarization of archetypes), as well.

Individuation and the Demon

During the individuation process, many instinctual forces and patterns of organization are valuated, and valuated at the expense of the Demon and of tribal affiliations.  Much of this work requires making difficult ethical decisions and even some sacrifices of various social and relational benefits and protections.  These changes and sacrifices are made by "de-programming" constructions in the ego that are destructive to the functional operation of the Self system.  The constructed "agent" behind those Self-destructive ego programs is the Demon.  It is the force that resists individuaton's de-programming . . . and it can drive this resistance both by force of habit and by accentuating the fear we feel of change and transformation, fear of the new and the Other.  The newly adopted "ways of the Self" often seem very foreign and "irrational" to the ego.  But despite this sense of their irrationality, these Self-facilitating ego positions actually have a very strong sense of logic and purpose . . . one that is distinctly biological, material, instinctual, and dynamic.

We experience the process of individuation as an ongoing, revisionary, never-static valuation of Self principles.  This valuation not only unearths and integrates Self principles into egoic functioning, it increasingly languages them with an evolving language that is structured to best facilitate the Self.  We might experience this as going through transformations of attitude in which it seems like first the Self needs one things and later something completely different.  But it is our language (or Logos) that is transforming, not the Self, per se.  The Self changes and evolves as we continuously re-language it, but there is always a sense that on some level, the Self-system is much the same in infancy as it is in old age and every step in between (we might experience this is a shift from an unrealized potential to an ability to actualize that potential to a realization that the actualized potential is not really what we most need . . . and therefore the potential or Goal associated with the Self is redefined, the Self can be continuously re-conceptualized through the developing Logos).  It is the same, yet it is never static (like the Demon).  Of course, here we are talking about the construct of the Self that is personified as an archetypal agent.  If we look at the Self as a more detached principle, it evolves as the ego evolves.  Still, there is the sense that the Self always represents the same set of potentials and structures that we were born with (thus the feeling of materiality and biological substance to the Self).  I do not think there is a "True Self" to become.  Our selfhood is always a factor of our environment, memories, and choices.  But we work with a fixed set of inherent potentials, the "quantum" elements of personality.  There are always numerous possibilities for the expression and actualization of these potentials (which are not inherently "good" or transcendent, but merely morally and valuatively neutral ways of being which can be collectively constructed and reconstructed to various purposes).

The attitude promoted by the Self during progressive individuation is one in which the "horrors" of change/dynamism are not treated as very significant (at least not negatively).  The urging from the Self for the ego's reconstruction (including its initial dissolution) can be perceived as "demonic" or threatening to stability (and certainly the Demon will seize onto such fears and accelerate them).  And there is a very real danger to succumbing to dissolution urges . . . namely, that the Demon will find a way to take even more extensive control of the personality . . . and also that our social and relational lives will be damaged due to the introversion of libido (which is like stealing or killing a tribal/totemic god from the collective) and reorientation that dissolution demands.  But as many analysts have noted, there can be a surprising "answer to prayer" from the Self in dissolution's "darkest hours".  This "answer to prayer" is not likely to be anything like "salvation" or divine mana.  More commonly, the grace of the Self is delivered as an increased definition of the Syzygy.  That is, the hero and animi pair.  The hero is the thing that can survive the dissolution experience by devoting itself to the Self system's principles.  The animi is a prefiguration of the personified Self as it seems especially and numinously attractive to the heroic ego.  In other words, the grace the Self gives in the dissolution is the retooled erotic desire for the partner-Other (and the partner-Other's mirrored love for what is heroic and potential in the ego) . . . which stands absolutely against the Demonic force of stasis in the ("old") personality.  The young hero doesn't care so much about the deceptions and abuses of the Demon, because it loves the animi so devotedly that it (the hero) would gladly suffer and even die for that love.  As the Syzygy is potentiated, the Demon is depotentiated until it can seem (at least until the conclusion of the animi work) like no serious threat at all.  Of course, this heroic attitude toward the Demon is often short lived, as the Demon still has many resources and devices at its beck and call.  One of the mysterious patternings of the individuation process is the eventual union and depotentiation of the Syzygy (if the instinctual drive they represent is engaged with and facilitated), allowing the Demon to reestablish some control in the personality.  This is something the alchemists seem to have understood and captured symbolically in their Art (that Jungians have not yet managed to adequately understand, although they borrow and frequently misuse the alchemical language).  In alchemy, this is often called the Coniunctio, and it is followed by a Nigredo or Blackening . . . not (immediately) by any kind of redemption or resurrection in the psyche.

We can say of this post-Coniunctio Nigredo period that, as there is no viable Syzygy to counteract the Demon, the Demon will get its second chance at control of the personality.  The individual may experience this Demonic resurgence more poignantly than the original Demonic possession, not because it is more "severe", but because it is more acutely observed and consciously opposed.  Despite this consciousness and opposition, the individual is inclined to feel more or less helpless during the Nigredo to fend off the assaults of the Demon.  What felt like a "God-given" holy weapon against the Demon during the animi work has dissolved back into the abysses of the psyche, ungraspable by egoic hands.  I have written about this process elsewhere and won't revisit it in detail again here.  But my general theory as to why this "mythopoetic" development occurs is that the entire process is subject to the constrictions of the reorganization of a complex system.  A system that experiences a state change (symbolically, a kind of "birth-death") is not immediately capable of high level functionality.  All of its organizational resources were expended (as in birthing labor) in the process of bringing on the state change.  After this, a period of reinforcing the conditions of the new systemic state, a building up or re-toning of "muscle and durability", must take place.

The Coniunctio of the animi work functions as a kind of jump start of the instinctual Self system, and a surge of valuation for the Self spurts through the egoic attitudinal structure.  But there is much, much more work to do to dissociate the Self-system's dynamic instincts from the blackening they have long suffered under (even if that blackening was just recently recognized).  Essentially, the instinctual Self's principles of organization will need to be thoroughly (and continuously) re-storied in order for the ego to invest them with functional value and find a way to actualize them in the process of living in the world.  This newly discovered "ignorance" and "weakness" is an opportunity for the Demon to set up a competing firm on the other side of the street.  Generally, the Demonic wares for sale will not be so seductive as to throw the personality back to a pre-Coniunctio state . . . but they can easily continue to thwart full facilitation of the Self system indefinitely.

Moreover, as the heroic attitude is gradually rekindled and re-potentiated post-Coniunctio, the heroic ego will have to come to terms with the fact that it cannot reestablish its "youthful" task of fighting romantically against the Demon or for the redemption of its "true love" (the animi).  The Demon can now only be tolerated and relatively depotentiated.  To imagine that it can be conquered by the spiritual heroism that was activated during the animi work would be equivalent to imagining the ego could conquer the world/environment, subduing it and conforming it entirely to its narcissistic plan.  Such an attitude would be megalomaniacal . . . and would constitute a re-possession of the ego by the Demon (in hero's garb).  Such megalomaniacal inflation is actually common throughout the animi work as well as after . . . and represents the Demon's best effort to keep the personality static and under a severe super-egoic imprisonment.  I will discuss this problem more extensively when I have a chance to start working on the article about differentiating the true from the conquering hero.