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1Oct/090

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?

1Oct/091

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 AlchemyWebsite.com) 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.

19Sep/090

(IAJS) I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member . . .

Last week I faxed in my application to the IAJS.  The International Association for Jungian Studies.  Their website is http://www.jungianstudies.org/.  I don't know very much about the IAJS, but their About Us page and Constitution intrigued me.  The gist of what intrigued me:

About the IAJS

The IAJS exists to promote and develop Jungian and post-Jungian studies and scholarship on an international basis. The IAJS is a multidisciplinary association dedicated to the exploration and exchange of views about all aspects of the broader cultural legacy of Jung's work and the history of analytical psychology. Through the development of Jungian and post-Jungian studies, the IAJS aims to aid the understanding of contemporary cultural trends and the history of psychological and cultural tendencies. For example, the association promotes:

  • Scholarship relating analytical psychology to the arts and humanities, social sciences and philosophy as well as clinical, methodological and theoretical research
  • The application of the concepts of Jungian and post-Jungian analytical psychology to literature, theatre, film and media studies, religious studies
  • Applications in medicine, physics, and the philosophy and history of science
  • Practice-based research in education, culture, therapy and the arts

and . . .

Membership is open to those from any discipline, artistic or cultural practice, including analysts and psychotherapists, with an interest in Jungian and post-Jungian studies at a scholarly level.

All members shall have equal voting rights.

I should also mention that the application is merely a monetary payment to join and requires no other qualifications.  The membership includes (I think) access to the IAJS Journal and a members-only web forum that sounded interesting.

I had read about the IAJS in some book or article discussing the history of Jungian groups and factions (I don't remember precisely where anymore) . . . but I get all my acronyms muddled.  My interest in the history and development of Jungian sub-tribes is tangential.  I am definitely fascinated by what might be called an analysis of the Jungian psyche or the psyche of Jungianism.  Jungian history is one of the best sources for relevant "case studies" . . . but it seems to me less fecund than a thorough study of the literature.  In other words, I don't feel capable of "diagnosing" or adequately understanding the Jungian psyche based solely on its tribal splintering and migrations.  Reading, for instance, the works of Marie Louise von Franz next to the works of Michael Fordham will give a much deeper impression of the difference between their two ideological schools . . . or reading the articles published in Spring next to those in the JAP.

What most fascinates me about the macro perspective of the Jungian psyche and tribe is that it is like a large "dysfunctional" family.  The in-fighting and splintering is mostly irrational on the surface, but the core ideological differences among Jungian schools speak, I feel, to the complexes constellated in many members that belong to those schools.  I even suspect that the draw of a particular Jungian to a particular school (or ideology) is due to an innate magnetism between the complex of the individual and the complex of the school.  Yes, this doesn't seem to give Jungians much credit.  But it is a very Jungian (classically Jungian, at least) notion to see behavior as significantly governed by complexes or unconscious, somewhat unintentioned forces.  All the Jungian splinter tribes have one thing in common, though . . . a very complex and somewhat problematic relationship to the lingering specter of the Father, Jung the man (and Jung the ideological founder).

This issue of the personal Jung (as each of us variously defines that figure) is still enormous and potent in the Jungian psyche.  I know I have grappled a great deal with what my personal Jung has meant to me.  It has been the object of significant reflection for me ever since I first started reading Jung's writing.  I don't think most Jungians would deny that this personal Jung is extremely significant to Jungianism . . . but I still feel the personal Jung (as it exists for each of us and in each of the Jungian splinter tribes) has been inadequately dealt with from an analytical (as well as a patient's) persepctive.  That is, a lack of adequate understanding and coming to terms with the relationship we and our schools have to the personal Jung of our fantasy continues to plague Jungianism and reinforce its splintering (and perhaps its stumble toward extinction).  Part of this issue is the implication it has for the Jungian individual's definition of his or her individualism vs. his or her tribal identity.  I would even argue that a failure to come to terms with the personal Jung is one if not the greatest obstacle of individuation in a Jungian.

And when I use that vague expression "come to terms with", I would, for instance, see the near-worship and deification of the personal Jung of some classical Jungians as an inadequate solution . . . and also the too proud disregard and "post-Jungian" separatism of developmental/psychoanalytic Jungians for their personal Jung.  In the latter case, that separatism looks to me like an unresolved and repressed shame at the flaws and eccentricities of the Father.  This is especially telling as it is typically coupled with a return to the First Father, Freud (or to post-Freudian ideologies and analysts).  In that I see the same old Freud(ian) vs. Jung(ian) psychological battle that drove the initial split between these two thinkers.  There is, in my opinion, nothing progressive about the psychoanalytic turning of many Jungians.  Not because psychoanalysis is "regressive" (which it may or may not be, depending on your perspective) . . . but because the particular fascination that developmental Jungians have with psychoanalytic ideologies, preoccupations, and theories seems to me more driven by a kind of unresolved "father complex" than by scientific rationality and integrity.  In other words, I don't feel that developmental Jungians are evaluating psychoanalytic ideas with anything like a neutral lens.  Their complex is tainting the data . . . and there is too much desire to escape from Jung's imperfections and challenges into the seemingly welcoming arms of Freud (the arch-excommunicator and chastener of Jung).  If that complex could be resolved first, then (and only then) could psychoanalytic idea be truly and scientifically evaluated by Jungian analysts and scholars.

Perhaps most odd and disturbing in all of the tribal splintering of Jungianism is that some essential (and in my opinion extremely valuable) quality of Jung's thinking (and perhaps also of his person) is lost to all the splinter tribes.  I can't say exactly what this is.  I won't pretend to have the answer . . . and in fact, I think the answer is not a matter of fundamentalist mining of the Word of Jung, but somehow in a new and creative reinvention and reanimation of the spirit of investigation and valuation that drove Jung.  I am in favor of exploring this and trying to contribute to this creative act.  But it is very arbitrary.  I merely sense, intuitively, that something of the "soul" of Jung and his ideas has been lost to contemporary Jungianism.  I doubt Jungians ever really "got it".  We Jungians, in my interpretation at least, have come of age with a deep-seated failure complex we do not understand and can barely even recognize (it pains us so much to look in its direction).  There is a sense in which we have "failed the father" . . . and from this sense of failure, two major trends or constructions of personality have arisen: on one side, a devotional worship of a whitewashed Father Jung to whom we can be Good Sons and Daughters through starry-eyed obedience . . . and on the other side, a tendency to blame the father for failing us, for not providing enough sustenance or by setting an improper, even an immoral, example.

The spirit of Jung that seems to have little to no influence on how the Jungian splinter tribes construct their identities is that of Jung the struggling individual/individuant, half rationalist, half mystic, mired in self conflict.  This is the Jungian spirit that clawed its way through innovation and defiance of tradition and totem.  Along that road, Jung himself made many friends and many enemies.  Along such roads, many things are broken . . . and other broken things are found and repaired.  One thing we can know for certain about such an individuating road is that it is never ending.  It is always moving on, turning, getting turned around, finding its way out of the woods and back into the woods, evolving in a spiraling fashion, gradually, toward an unknown destination that will probably never be found.  Circumambulating, as Jung himself might have said (albeit with the Latin spelling, no doubt).

This is a path, an alchemical path, of toil and uncertainty, error and perseverance.  But we shouldn't mistake this for some kind of "mystical journey" . . . not only that.  It is also the steady path of the scientist who continues to study, observe, collect data, propose theories based on those data, and revise those theories as more data are collected and analyzed.  To never assert absolute truths, to never stop searching, to never be satisfied with concretizing as-ifs, falling into "metaphysics" (as Jung always asserted he did not . . . with inconsistent honesty, perhaps).  As this mystical/scientific spirit of Jung is the most noticeably absent in the Jungian tribes (yet appeared so evidently in the founder's work and attitude), it seems to me that this absence should be a major focus of our investigation and treatment of the Jungian collective psyche.

I don't know (nor does anyone) what the contents of this path would entail if Jungians could find it today.  I do feel, though, that it is not these contents, not a specific ideology or truth that defines such a path.  It is something much more like a spirit or attitude, a way of being or orienting.

I'm not sure if the IAJS is capable of moving toward such an attitude . . . and I hold out no hope or expectation on that account.  But their constitution denotes a step in the right direction.  Specifically, marrying academics to analysts in the development of Jungianism . . . or interbreeding analysts with non-analysts.  I don't think there is any particular school of academic thought that is ripe for rejuvenating Jungian progressivism and innovation . . . but I have been concerned that a relatively holed-up analytic community has driven Jungian thinking toward an inbred and cloistered orientation to both the larger world and the psyche.  Part of that world and psyche is the individual who lives in it.  The modern individual . . . with whom Jungianism is not adequately acquainted (occupying itself, as it does, primarily with those individuals drawn to the quasi-cultic, neo-tribal retreats of Jungian thinking).

There has been a lot of talk (bluster perhaps) among Jungians in the last couple decades especially regarding the need for Jungians to address the larger modern world, the social world.  Maybe this is as necessary as it is made out to be.  But I see a serious flaw in this mountaintop yodeling.  Namely, the Jungian personality is not and has never been a true part of modernity.  When I read Jungians championing "social" concerns or griping about the overemphasis on the individual in classical Jungianism, I can't help but see this as evidence of a kind of adolescent naivete.  That is, it seems to me like the right wing pundit or vegan environmentalist or born-again Christian that rears up to "collectivize" the personalities of so many adolescents.  Ideology eclipses wisdom.  It is all about tribal identity . . . not philosophical comprehension of the complexity of living.  Jungians are not really fit yet to be good social critics or philosophers.  We do not have a sufficiently developed or modern philosophy or language with which to understand sociality in the modern, global world.  We cannot speak of this world without having lived enough in it . . . and Jungianism has always been significantly devoted to not living in the world modernity has given to us.  We have sought the world of meaning and soul.  The "symbolic life".  We know the ins and outs of the psyche pretty well, but the intricacies and vastness of sociality are things we moved away from in our development as Jungians.

And I am not criticizing this movement inward or "other-ward".  We have tried to move (with varying success) toward an essential wellspring . . . and it is a wellspring I have also sought and which I also value greatly.  My criticism of Jungian "sociology" is that it is premature and poorly devised.  We have not finished our quests inward yet . . . and to turn outward now is merely an escape from the dire challenges within we have not yet devised any solution for.  We are not "expanding" our Jungianism, but turning tail from the Self and from our deeper shadow.  It is, specifically, the shadow of our tribalism, of our own family, our cult, our religion that we have turned away from.  It is no coincidence that the turning toward "worldly concerns" has coincided with a turning away from the psychology of our own tribal shadow.  Of course, we haven't completely or irrevocably turned away from our tribal shadow.  There have been a number of books and articles addressing the superficial history of our tribe and its splintering.  What we have not yet found the courage to face is the psychology of our tribalism, our complex.  We have not analyzed this aspect of ourselves enough, nor have we made any peace with our appetites and demons and fears within the Jungian shadow.

Our turning "outward" is, therefore, a puer maneuver of avoidance and false transcendence.  We are still susceptible to such puerisms because we have never come to terms with our puer-ness, never accepted it.  Jungians are still puers running away from their haunting reflections . . . and most recently, we have run into "the world", were there are innumerable hiding places and distractions.  I am not recommending that those of us who identify to some degree as Jungians forsake the world and ignore social issues.  I am suggesting that in our concern with and addressing of social issues, we cannot move forward as JungiansAs Jungians, we are not yet ready.  We are not "mature" enough, not yet "initiated".  There are other much wiser and more experience social perspectives than ours.  As human individuals, we might be able to utilize these as tools.  As Jungians, the best we can hope for now is to learn something about ourselves by the contact we have with these other social perspectives.

New interest in "the world" does, though, offer us Jungians a wonderful possibility.  It allows us to recognize ourselves as children, lost, confused, curious, overwhelmed.  There is a magnificent possibility here to learn something about ourselves.  But we can't bring our faux-senex fantasy of "elder wisdom" and "individuatedness" to this enterprise.  Rather, we are left with an opportunity to unlearn . . . and to reexamine and reconstruct what "individuatedness" even is in the modern world.  We Jungians are not Alexander the Great's army, conquering, colonizing, and acculturating the modern world.  We are somewhat dazed monks who have just crawled out of the monastery where time has had no meaning.  Our eyes haven't even adjusted to the sunlight.  We are starting over, trying to adapt and survive.  We are not bringing the Holy Gospel.

I don't fully share the notion of the IAJS and many other Jungians that this is an "exciting time for Jungians".  This is a time of great trial and transformation . . . and the odds that Jungianism will be snuffed out at this threshold are far greater than those of our triumphant return to the world or to intellectual prominence.  I appreciate the enthusiasm . . . but I am very leery of the lack of humility and self-comprehension.  It is not so much that we are stepping out of the dark catacombs into the light.  This period would be better seen as stepping out of the catacombs into the Colosseum and all its terrifying gladiatorial chaos, psychopathic Caesars, and bloodthirsty fans.  One thing that worries me, something we have never really learned to do or succeeded at . . . is knowing how to survive.  I sympathize with my fellow Jungians on this account.  It has never been one of my strong points, either.  But I recognize its tremendous importance, and I do not underestimate the challenge it presents.

My hope is that the IAJS has enabled itself to come to see the mirror the modern world holds up to Jungianism by opening the door to cross-pollination of analysts and non-analysts.  Getting to better know others can help us better know ourselves as we learn to see through the others' eyes.  The diversity that an open door policy like the IAJS has toward its membership could be "democratically troubling" . . . but I also see such a move as an essential first step for Jungian adaptation and survivability.  And I hope this will be a fertile path.  Should I have the same concern as Groucho Marx, that any club that would have me as a member is not worth belonging to?  Certainly I have crawled out of even more "democratic" dens.  But in those old haunts as well as in the IAJS, I am bringing the attitude that every club, group, family, or tribe is what its individual members make of it.  Every part goes into the sum, and every individual should have a consciousness about their role as a participant.  I have been kicked out of other clubs in the past, mostly for having this attitude that a member of any tribe should not only be individually self-concerned but also concerned for the whole . . . or, in more Jungian terms, for the soul of the tribe.

I could equally echo President Kennedy in saying we should "ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."  I am fairly suspicious of nationalisms . . . but when it comes to belonging to a tribe, I believe we should not see that tribe as a Mother-Protector that can enable our egoic desires and successes in the world.  The tribe to me is more of a child or ailing elder who must be nurtured and cherished by the able individuals who compose the tribe.  Consciousness is not collective.  It can only come from individuals.  In my opinion, it is the greatest contribution to a group than anyone can make . . . problematic as it may also be.

-----> Discuss or Comment at the Useless Science Forum

30Apr/090

Differentiating the Shadow (in Jungian Theory): Demon and Self

Inflation, the Demon, and the Hero

It was very clear that the forces in the personality these irredeemable  figures represented were not beneficial to or interested in the co-existence of the other parts of the personality.  It seemed natural to call this figure the Demon . . . and adding this categorization to my study of dreams helped significantly to clarify some of the muddiness that clustered around "shadow figures" that conventional Jungian interpretation would flag but then bog down around.  But as I analyzed these Demonic images, more complexities and mysteries arose.  For instance, the general categories listed above were not the only things defining the Demon.  Also essential to defining and understanding this figure was its relationship to other archetypal figures in the psyche (the "archetypes" or agents of the Core Complex).  Al;though the Demon hated and sought to oppose the hero at every turn, often the Demon was able to impersonate the hero, putting on the heroic costume as a kind of doppelganger while still enforcing Demonic control and terror-driven stasis in the psyche.  This Demonic hero-impersonation always leads to that perennial bogeyman of Jungianism: inflation.

Inflation has always been fascinating and motivating to me as a psychological phenomenon.  I had suffered from it, and yet I also felt something Demonic discouraging the inflated sense of selfhood and purpose I had felt (especially in late adolescence).  At some point in my mid to late twenties, I realized that the shame I felt discouraging me from an inflated identification was itself the cause of my temptation to identify inflatedly.  The more I felt terrible about being inflated, the more I was in danger of falling headlong into the inflation.  Depotentiation of inflation for me came with the gradual acceptance of my more unique and at times "heroic" qualities and achievements.  When I desperately wanted to believe in the presence and value of these qualities and achievements but couldn't (out of shame) commit entirely to their acceptance and valuation, I was significantly more inflated.  Of course, I didn't have the concept of the heroic I now work with, and the absence of this construct made any inner work significantly more difficult and painful.  It all seemed to work exactly the opposite of what I had imagined . . . and what I had imagined was much the same as what Jung and other Jungians had also imagined.  The Jungian prescribed "remedy" for inflation is the building up of a strong ego that can resist the temptation of archetypal identification that inflation prompts.

But this doesn't work in practice . . . and the fact that it doesn't have practical applicability is (I suspect) not admitted and realized among Jungians because a great sense of shame and anxiety about the issue clamps down on the Jungian imagination.  Jungian inflation is an untouchable wound.  But not being a trained Jungian while partaking (with significant diligence, I might add) of my own experimental "self-analysis", I had no tribal conformity to adhere to.  I noted the connection between resistance to inflation and its increase long before I understood what was happening.  Differentiating the concept of the Demon helped me realize much more deeply how inflation worked.  By contrast, since this topic is taboo among conventional Jungians (as applied to their own tribal identity), Jungians have grown pathologically suspicious of the hero (who, in much Jungian conception is rather Demonic and inflated).  The hero has become a casualty (collateral damage) of the Jungian disease because it is so mixed up with the Demon.  But as the Demon is not differentiated in Jungianism, Jungianism must adhere to the muddy Jungian concepts of the hero, the Self (and animi), and the shadow.

From doing my own inner Work, I came to see that the differentiation of the Demon is no minute and esoteric matter.  It is one of the cornerstones and fundamental definitions of individuation (and one that is portrayed widely enough in fairytales that Jungians should have spotted it).  It doesn't take a wild speculative theory to see the Demon . . . we have to therefore question the failure of Jungians to identify it adequately.  The logical and likely conclusion is that Jungians do not see/differentiate the Demon adequately because of a complex that colors the whole Jungian tribal mindset.  Consciousness of the Demon has been exorcised in Jungian thinking.  It can sometimes be touched on as "archetypal shadow" or "archetypal evil", but in these characterizations, the Demon is made overly abstract and is disowned.  It is not the (personal) "shadow" that is the primary ethical problem of the individual (as Jung sometimes seemed to suggest); it's the problem of the Demon that is at the core of our internal ethical struggles.

The Demon and the Personal Shadow

Along that line of thought, not only does the hero/Demon relationship play a major role in the understanding of individuation, healing, and identity, the relationship between the Demon and the personal shadow must also be adequately understood.  Not only are the Demon and the shadow not the same psychic phenomenon, any conflation between them is likely to result in increased dysfunction in the personality.  The Demon, I've found, plays a very distinct role in relation to the shadow.  The Demon's terrorizing, abuse, and totalitarian control is largely directed at the personal shadow (and at the ego through the personal shadow).  The personal shadow, therefore, is partially defined by its susceptibility to the Demon's tyranny.  The part of our personality that caves to the will of the Demon is the personal shadow, our weakest link, our deepest, most delicate vulnerability.  Understanding this also helps us understand the Demon/hero relationship and the inflation Jungians associated with the hero.  For, as the shadow is the weakest link in our identity or sense of self, the hero is the strongest.  This heroic strength should not be confused with fortification or thick-skinned sturdiness.  Rather, the hero is that attitude of the ego that is aligned with the Self system's dynamic, adaptive principle.  It is an integrative, flexible, resilient strength that characterizes the hero.

But when the heroic attitude slips from Self-facilitation into personal shadow condemnation and censoring, we could say that the Demon has impersonated the hero and inflation has set in . . . or that we have given over heroic rights and costuming to a Demonic urge.  During any individuation process, heroism (especially as it emerges "fresh" and hasn't been seasoned much) will be lost time and again to Demonic impersonation.  The more we devote ourselves consciously to the heroic attitude of Self-facilitation, the more we are identifying with a particular stance that has a clear negation or opposite position.  It is one of the great pitfalls of heroic inner work and healing.  We find the personal shadow gets in the way of our progress.  The personal shadow just can't become heroic, can't be whitewashed and redeemed or converted into more stellar and brilliant stuff.  The temptation is to hate it or deny it in the name of "progress" and "healing" and "unraveling the True Self".  But those things can only come (to the degree they are possible and at all valid) with the kind of shadow work that valuates, accepts, and manages to grudgingly love the personal shadow.

I should note here that I am biasing my description of the Demon/personal shadow relationship with a decidedly heroic perspective or hero-aligned ego position.  That is, this perspective is one that develops only when individuation is actively engaged in.  It should be said that it is at least as likely that an individual will have no conscious sense of differentiation regrading either the Demon or the personal shadow.  In this case, the Demon (to the degree that it is empowered in the personality) will likely be perceived as an ego ally, a sense of discipline, a code to live by.  The individual will not realize that this code helps repress and torture what is weak in them (the personal shadow).  Such an individual has no functional sense of the personal shadow . . . and if we do not know our weakness, we will not know what the Demon is really up to in the psyche.  Instead of coming into conscious conflict with the Demon (and realizing that the personal shadow is a part of the ego, a part or potential part of identity), the personal shadow will be unconsciously projected onto others and the ego will compulsively take up the Demonic attitude toward these shadowed others.  This is essentially what passes for "normal" psychology in our modern society.  In other words, "normal" modern society is distinctly Demonic . . . more on this below.

Of course, loving or even just tolerating the personal shadow can be very hard, especially when the personal shadow protects itself against the Demon's wrath by toadying for it (seemingly "betraying" the heroic ego).  We so desperately want to be shadowless, but there is no growth in this fantasy.  To be shadowless is to be "perfect", and "perfection" is static . . . and that which is static in the psyche is Demonic.  What is Demonic is in conflict with the dynamic ordering principle of the Self.  Which brings us to the next important, defining relationship of the Demon.

The Demon and the Self

The Self as Tribe

The Demon and the Self are the two opposing powerhouses in the personality.  Lest I make it seem like I am just as guilty of the dualism I criticize Jung for, I wish to clarify this claim.  Although, archetypally or based on common representations of Demon and Self, we can clearly see that a great conflict in the psyche exists . . . when we delve more scientifically or rationally into the figures of Self and Demon, we must ask what these figures are actually representing.  It makes no sense that God and the Devil are battling for control over everyone's individual soul.  That's a poetic metaphor.

There are two great powers in the psyche, though, that we can say with rational and logical justification are often in conflict: socialization and individuation.  Socialization is the force exerted on the individual (and the individual's personality) from without, from others, from the tribe, the society, the civilization, the family, the peer group the individual lives within and is related to.  It doesn't seek to make one an individual, but to (at best) make one socially useful and acceptable.  In a tribal society that we might assume reflects the environment of evolutionary adaptedness for our species, socialization of individuals would be done in a way that makes the tribe most survivable . . . and we might expect that the various ceremonies and rituals and taboos that arise around the tribal identity have clearly survivable significances.  Without trying to construct a neo-primitive fantasy of Utopia, we could say that the instinct for individuation (or for individualism or self-interest) is brought into close accord with the instinct for tribal survivability and group Eros.  The cultural expressions of the tribe will help orient the individuals toward the valuation of the group Eros.  In other words, the cultural artifacts that govern the passage into adulthood would be "designed" to associate the Self with the tribe for every member.  If we all have a shared vision of the Self (God), we all facilitate the Self in the same goal (generally, survival and all it entails).

Without digressing too much into theories of "cultural evolution", I will just state that it is my opinion that we moderns no longer live in a society or culture in which the individuating instincts can functionally accord with social organization.  There is too much complexity and diversity in modern culture for it to function as one integrated survival system . . . certainly not one in which the minds of every individual are largely aligned in purpose with the mind of the tribe as a whole.  I.e., survival and success for each individual is not only NOT guaranteed in the successful programme of modern civilization, it is often seen as contrary to modern civilization's viability (by those best served by the form of modern civilization).  That's where the still lingering idea of "social Darwinism" comes in.  Survival of the fittest . . . and extinction for the "unfit".  This is the mantra of the powerful and has been for ages.  It is only in some "primitive" tribal societies that truly egalitarian social structure (in which the group interests and the individuals' interests are aligned) can be achieved (if still imperfectly).

As we live in a society in which collective organization does not guarantee survival for individuals, it seems to fall to contests of status to fill this role.  But status is a limited natural resource.  Only so much valuable status is available . . . and status would be meaningless if everyone could have their desired share of it.  I'm not saying that tribal societies are status-free . . . but in such societies, both the lamed and incapable hunter and the chieftain can eat and have shelter (if anyone can eat and have shelter) . . . and probably reproduce.  There is in many tribal societies a sense of valuation for tribal Eros or egalitarianism . . . a sense that every member is valuable and worth protecting.  It is not low status that can sever the individual from the protection of tribal Eros.  Only excommunication can do that . . . which probably comes about due to the failure to respect tribal taboos.

The Demon as Modern Cultural Introject

If we imagine that the relationship of the individual to the tribe in a tribal society is patterned on the ego/Self relationship . . . and remains adaptive and survivable in the same form that a modern individual's ego/Self relationship would remain adaptive and survivable . . . then we must also ask what replaces the symbol of the Self in modern society where the "tribe" protects only the self-interest of those with high enough status and not the all its members.  It is, I would argue, very much the same thing that happens when a child has a terrible and abusive parent: some distorted parental imprint eclipses the healthy and functional instinctual ordering principle of the Self and stimulates traumatized, dysfunctional behavior.  In the case of the abusive parent and in the case of the modern status-driven society, the disfigured imprinting that eclipses and distorts the ego/Self relationship is the Demon.  Psychoanalysts might therefore call the Demon an "introject", something taken into the personality from the environment that becomes constructed as a representation of psychic structure within the personality.  I don't really disagree with the idea of introjection applied to the Demon, but I feel that it does not do justice to the complexity and all-pervasiveness of the phenomenon.

A specific abuser or traumatizing parent might serve as a haunting introject that the Demon will manifest as for a specific individual, but the presence of the Demon in the individual's personality goes well beyond the re-traumatizing perpetrator figure.  What is also happening is that all socialization and environmental influence is being channeled through a figure that is traumatizing.  This, of course, eventually leads to a disturbance of the individual's sense of reality . . . or equally, we could say that the individual's connection to tribal Eros is damaged, and some part of them is severed from others, identified as an untouchable.  This low-status personal shadow type figure becomes the main seat of identity in many trauma sufferers . . . or else identity is stitched onto the terrorizing Demon, and the ego champions Demonic self-destruction.  Usually a bit of both occurs.

Trauma, especially early and severe trauma while the personality is forming, and most especially trauma involving an abusive parent, does not create the Demon, but it makes the Demon incredibly powerful, terrible, and characteristically "Demonic".  But the Demon is present in all of our psyches to the degree that our socialization does not facilitate our instinctual will to survive, adapt, commune, and flourish.  Commonly, the Demon in non-traumatized people (as well as in trauma victims) can be discerned as a kind of super-ego, a voice for the collective standards to which we are supposed to all individually aspire.  The Demon controls the personality by pointing out and punishing the personal shadow . . . for it is "common sense" that all resistance to the personal shadow will make one socially successful and help one obtain status in our society.  By refusing and hating the "bad", we become the "good".  That's the logic of it, at least.

But the Self resists this pruning and movement toward "ideal" stasis and conformity in the psyche.  Such Demonic pruning is not conducive to instinctually driven equilibrium with environment.  It cannot adapt, because (as well-pruned as it is), alternatives are cut off.  Eventually, this creates a build up of pressure in the psychic system, and the whole system of personality begins to fracture or grind to a halt (depression or some other psychological disease).  It is as if the Demonic ordering principle takes advantage of our powerful drive to seek and hold tribal Eros in order to quash "excessive" dynamism in the personality.  The Demon's idea of a perfect personality is one entirely composed of static, abstract laws where no conscious deliberation or assessment of options and potentials is necessary.  For every X, the answer is Y.  The system is automated by static routines that operate the same way regardless of circumstance or environment.  There is no regard, therefore, in such static routines for anything Other.  The Demonic system seeks to operate as if Otherness did not exist . . . and where Otherness interferes with this plan, it is attacked by the Demon.

The Demon as Meme

If this (very brief and incomplete) portrayal of the Demon is valid, we must ask why it is that so mechanistic and destructive an "introject" would have so much power over us.  It seems like a characterization out of a fairytale (and for good reason) of some villain beyond humanness.  In my struggle to understand why the Demon functions the way it appears to, I came to see that this sense of inhuman, perhaps "evil" orientation in the Demon is due precisely to the fact that the Demon is not specifically human or organic.  It is not a true "intelligence" or sentient life form.  It is NOT an instinctual archetype in the sense that the Self is.  It is not a complex, dynamic, adaptive, living system.  It IS a principle of organization, but this Demonic principle is based on information, not material.  The Demon is the informational, non-physical stuff of culture fed back into the individual's living, psychic system.  Perhaps even more descriptive than the term introject is the term "meme".  The Demon can be seen as a kind of super-meme.

This will sound strange to anyone who has read my railings against mimetic theory.  Have I changed my mind about memes?  Not really.  The Demon is a special case.  Also, my main gripe against memes is the characterization by some mimeticists that suggests (even if figuratively) that they are self-motivated and "seek" to perpetuate themselves.  This strikes me as an egoic projection and as un-biological.  Memes are not self-motivated, insidious, invading, viruses seeking to propagate.  All of those "agentic" characteristics are supplied by our theory of mind . . . and they belong to our biological psychic systems.  Moreover, memes often serve the function of human agents and the will (both conscious and unconscious) of these agents.

In the case of the Demon, the wills of various human agents (or "powers") have become so diverse and complex that they are introjected into individuals as a kind of emergent form.  It seems very likely that we have evolved to be cultural conduits and sponges.  We are inherently tuned into culture-, peer-, and tribe-driven information.  Regardless of consciousness, we are empathic, conforming, and tribal by nature.  We are not only these things, not only herd animals, but these sociality instincts are enormously powerful in us.  It is logical to assume that we have evolved such a susceptibility to cultural influences and transmissions because such influences and transmissions were adaptive and survivable in our environment of evolutionary adaptedness.  Culture once served and facilitated instinctual drives . . . so our susceptibility to cultural "memes" was part of our functionality and adaptivity.  It was a function of our sociality that made us, as a species, especially survivable.  Strength in numbers . . . but no mere "ordinary" survival strength.  Our species' unique set of assets has allowed our sociality to go beyond basic survivability and perpetuation to extreme inventiveness and re-creation of environment.  But invention and innovation in the name of tribal survival and success has led to emergent social phenomena like agriculture, wealth, increased population density, extreme status distribution, and a discord between resources and the need and desire to possess them.  We evolved, I think, for the Self to imprint on the tribe, on the collective . . . but unpredictable (to the evolutionary process) emergence has led to the construction of societies that are inadequate vessels for our projection of the Self . . . even as they also function to perpetuate genes even more effectively than tribal societies can.

As a result we are torn.  We instinctively introject or imprint with socializations and organizational structures that are incompatible with functional psychic, dynamic organization.  The instinctual Self system submerges and is clogged with foreign imprinting symbols.  Anxiety increases as the Self system malfunctions.  The Demon develops intertwined with the Self, originally indistinguishable.  Only gradually, through the process of individuation, can the flawed imprint of psychic organization that is the Demon be disentangled from the functional Self system.  That individuation process must extract (differentiate) all of the stultifying tribal associations to dysfunctional social institutions.  This is extremely painful, because it requires the relinquishment of umbilical connections to tribal Eros . . . which we need in order to feel human and function properly.  But the Demonic aspects must be differentiated from the Self aspects in the personality in order to heal and enable/facilitate the Self system and its instinctual, complex ordering principle.  The commitment to such differentiating Self-facilitation is what I consider heroic and is the attitude around which archetypal symbols of heroism collect.