I suppose this section of the forum is long overdue . . . and far too late in the coming. It was never my intention to create a new psychological theory. Even in the tribal splintering that led to the foundation of Useless Science, it didn't occur to me that I would ever be working outside of the Jungian tradition. But over the last couple years, my flailing attempts to wrestle with and generally "agonize" Jungianism has spawned enough non- or quasi-Jungian material to justify my conscious effort to better organize and communicate it. To the casual reader of this forum, it must seem as though my wild accusations and digressive ramblings are half-mad babble . . . especially because I have continuously revised my thinking and many of my positions since the beginning of this site. To the more avid and careful reader (I love you
!), my "body of work" must seem so scattered and un-formulated that my half-mad, digressive babble probably seems much more mystical and complicated than it really is.
My hope is to start moving toward elegance . . . and this hope is partly born from a grudging acceptance that I will never be a conventional or acceptable Jungian (even if I continue to posture and claim the title of Posterboy for the Jungian Good Son). I can only also hope that my decision to start writing some of my posts within a growing context of my original thought is not merely an act of arrogance (or that it is at least a "healthy arrogance"). It may take some months (maybe years) before I am able to transcribe and rework enough of my developing theories to warrant a separate category for them, but I have developed them in my head, my un-posted writing, and scattered willy-nilly throughout this forum well enough to see it as reasonable to create such a category. By rough estimate, I'd say that I have written at least 2000 standard pages of text developing, describing, and refining my theory over the last two years. I have been fairy negligent (maybe lazy) in this writing by sticking to a very informal, blogger-like approach. But this has gone on long enough that I think I have done my ideas a disservice . . . and so I'd like to start making them more communicable.
I don't have an official name for my psychological theory. I don't really have a fully developed theory of psyche. What I have is a basic theory of the psychodynamics surrounding individuation . . . but a great deal of other applications can be extrapolated from this. For instance, I have a pretty well-developed theory of literary interpretation (at least of archetypal texts). I also have a dream theory that is at least as sophisticated as (although not radically different from) other Jungian dream theories. I have a theory of more esoteric, post-individuation attitudinal development (which I've called the Work). And I have rough and far from complete theory-ettes of personality development, psychopathology, mind/brain coordination, and cultural "evolution". Many of these and other extrapolated theory-ettes are threads I am only very marginally interested in developing. My point of focus has always been individuation and the transformation of adult personality, and it is only on this subject that I suspect I have anything to contribute.
I have labeled this forum "Core Complex Psychology" for lack of a better moniker. The basis of my theory is a psychic structure I have been calling the Core Complex. I see the Core Complex as characterized by a set of interrelated but differentiable "archetypal" dynamics that all share a quality of representability as common psychic phenomena. In other words, these dynamics all show up frequently in dreams, in myth, folktale, religious texts, and art. They could also be seen as showing up in culture in other forms, but there they are, I feel, diluted and confused with other, more or less unrelated phenomena and patterns of organization. The key "players" of the Core Complex are the Self, the Demon, the ego, the personal shadow, and the Syzygy. The Syzygy is composed of hero and animi (and not anima and animus as in more conventional Jungian thinking). All of these personifiable dynamics are very specific in my theory . . . and I have been constantly differentiating them from other similar terms in conventional Jungian thinking. Although we cannot always say with certainty that a specific psychic phenomenon should be classified as the Demon or the animi, I believe we can differentiate with much more precision psychic phenomena by using this relatively streamlined system. In other words, you won't see me writing about an "Athena archetype" or a "Zeus archetype". The five (or six, depending on how you count the Syzygy) basic archetypes of the Core Complex are the fundamental categories into which I feel the representable phenomena of individuation are best categorized.
I do want to make very clear that I do NOT think that these archetypes of the Core Complex are innate structures. Rather, they are abstract categories (derived mostly from Jungian ideas and studies) that can be used as a helpful tool or paradigm for understanding extremely complex psychic processes. They are metaphors. I do not think there is some conglomerate of neurons that founds the Demon or the Self. Nor do I accept Jung's idea that archetypes are some kind of "pure forms" that order the psyche in an a priori fashion. The psychological and physiological processes that give rise to these archetypal representations are enormously complex and do not take on what we would think of as form until they are represented (as condensations or symbols). They are not "whole" as we would understand wholeness consciously or egoically until they are rendered as symbolic representations. What lies beneath archetypes, then? Quanta. The components of a complex system that are too small or simple to be identified as "agents" in the way we are compelled to understand agency or identifiable wholeness.
As for the term Core Complex, itself, I remain somewhat dissatisfied with it. It's vague and it sounds like a lot of other psychological terms that mean very different things. But it is the most accurate descriptor I have yet conjured. Whatever this theory should be called, I feel strongly that it must be generally descriptive and very simple. Supposedly Jung intended his psychology to be called "Complex Psychology" . . . even as the less descriptive analytical psychology managed to stick in English translation. What Jung meant by "complex" and what I mean by "Core Complex" are not exactly alike. But they are not entirely dissimilar. The Core Complex is not merely "a complex" in the psyche, it is The complex. It is the psyche (or the individual psyche's specific structure) as it represents itself or as the ego can make sense of it as a whole (which is typically a kind of complex narrative at best and a set of predefined strategies and laws at worst). I see the Core Complex as constructed in much the same way that Jung saw complexes as structured . . . i.e., with "polytheistic" personages. In the narrative of interaction among these personages, identity is constructed and personality as a survival-oriented, adaptive system is developed and exercised. Within the Core Complex, there is usually some degree of "pathology" or dysfunction . . . and when this pathology is severe enough, it will color and seem to reduce the scope and complexity of the entire Core Complex. In this perspective of reduction, "complexes" are more commonly understood by Jungians and psychoanalysts. I share with Jung's (somewhat inconsistent) orientation toward these complexes or "diseases" that they are a kind of peep hole into the whole psychic system. The "disease" of such complexes is in large part a matter of reducing the whole of personality to an extremely confined and simplified ("imprisoned") dynamic or sense of organization. As these diseases of the psyche already serve to constrict the Core Complex, I see no reason to further pathologize them and "shrink" psyche even more with overly-reductive theories.
We could say that "God" is just as much in a grain of sand as in the whole cosmos. And perhaps it is in this spirit that I will argue that the Self is experienced as "within" the Core Complex, even though it could also be said to encompass all of the psyche. This makes more sense (and loses some of the mysticism of Jung's "center-and-circumference" characterization), when we understand the Self as non-local and as a principle of organization (rather than a thing or entity). This principle itself is representable, and since it is both dynamic and structured, it can be perceived (by the ego) as an agent or intelligence. I do not think that "beneath the mask", the Self is an intelligence, though. It would be more accurate to say that "we" (the egos) are the intelligence of the Self. The Self is a complex principle of organization that is housed in a system that has also developed an "agentic" theory of mind or projective intelligence as an organ through which the biological Self system negotiates survival and adaptation with the unique human environment we call culture. In other words, because there is otherness and because our survival depends so much on our relationality, the ego develops or emerges from the complex psychodynamics of the Self system. I will discuss this in much more detail when writing about the ego and the Demon.
One of the (at least seeming) oddities of the Core Complex theory is that, despite its very poetic, Jungian-sounding components, it is completely compatible with contemporary scientific understanding of the brain and of our evolved biology. This is not an easy claim to substantiate, and it may take me some time to be able to do so (and I suspect I will never succeed in a way that would satisfy a neuroscientist). But I have developed the Core Complex theory specifically to fit with scientific, biological understanding of human physiology, cognition, and behavior. In that endeavor, I have been very vigilant about not conforming scientific data and theories to my Core Complex paradigm (as is, for instance, a distinct problem in psychoanalytic and other psychological theories). I have used my very general knowledge of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and complexity theory as an "Archimedean Point" from which to analyze the data of psychic phenomena collected by Jung, other Jungians, and myself. I mean to use science rather than belief to cull and understand psychic data.
This is not to say that I see material science as infallible. Not at all. All scientists are also human beings and subject to human psychology and its distortions. My best solution so far has been to use only the very general and widely agreed upon aspects of scientific theory and research in the fields related to psychology. I remain suspicious of fringe and "scientistic" theories. Also, in the field or neuroscience there remains very little wholistic knowledge of the brain as a complex system. I feel that many psychologists (and especially psychoanalysts and developmental Jungians) have misused or mis-analyzed scientific data to bolster their non-scientific theories. Scientific studies and citations can be used in psychological articles and books like power words and propaganda . . . and too little scrutiny of this abounds today in our field. I approach this psychic material not like a scientist, nor like a true believer of one tribal dogma or another . . . but rather, like a linguist or rhetorician. I am interested in what is really being said in what is being said. I want to explore the subtext with my eyes open. I am very consistently a skeptic and non-believer . . . and I apply this vigilance to texts and language as rigorously as I can manage to. I don't want to read a "meaning" into texts, planting some paradigm there that I had previously constructed. I merely want to observe the way the bones of psychic texts cohere . . . what is the logic of the way they tend to fit together? What I call "my theory" is based on these relatively assumption-free observations. I don't want my preconceived assumptions to clutter the analysis of the data. I don't claim to have perfect "scientific" detachment from the psychological data, but I seek to construct mental tools that will account for my projections and attachments and factor them out of my conclusions as much as possible. This is a tall order, of course, but I think I succeed fairly well at it.
Therefore, I place a lot more emphasis on logical argument and transparent sense-making than I do on the spurious use of citation, credential bullying, and name dropping. Credit where credit is due . . . that I agree with. But I feel a writer must always ask how and why citations and quotations are really being used. We cannot merely hide our sketchy ideas behind the cloak of academicism and convention. I seek a higher standard that is not subject to the dangers and delusions of the academic, professionalistic mindset. And yet, at the same time, I am admittedly not good with citation. Even though I have been dedicating myself to Jungian scholarship over the last few years, I don't read with citation in mind . . . I read with desired understanding of phenomena in mind. I read like an analyst, not like a scholar. Or perhaps I read like a creative writer. Everything I take in is processed and cooked together with with I have previously read and contemplated. I come away from most Jungian books non-plussed or merely with an emotional or affective reaction. Usually only what makes sense to me sticks with me on an intellectual level (also what strikes me as clearly flawed or wrongheaded).
So I remain torn between my own scholarly ineptitude and what I think is a genuine valuation of the scrutiny of professionalistic academicism. Ultimately, I see my efforts to understand governed by a philosophy very much in line with the scientific method (if not always with science as it is practiced). That is, how do we validate assumptions about data? I seek to validate or invalidate my own assumptions as scientifically as possible. I factor negations, contingencies, and margins of error into my hypothesizing. I have followed what abides by the logic of this scientific method and been quite ruthless with disposing of my "darlings" that did not pass muster. At this point, I think my limitations (and the limitations of my theory) are primarily those created by my own ignorance (inadequate data), and not those of delusion, ideology, or a distorted sense of logic (although it took a great deal of work to get to this point). Taking into account all of the data I have so far had access to, the theory of the Core Complex is a sound and very reasonable hypothesis. But my ignorance is vast, and I fully expect to be making continuous revisions as long as I am still able to think. This has at least been the trend thus far . . . although I feel I am at a point with this particular theory where my general assumptions will no longer be disproved by further data collection. If they are, then they are, and I will start over as needed.
What I mean to say, although the term strikes me as preposterous and fanciful, is that I am a philosopher, not a psychologist. In this disposition, I am not utterly alone among Jungians. Arguably, James Hillman and Wolfgang Giegerich are also more philosophers than psychologists . . . although both are certified Jungian analysts. I don't share many of their philosophies, but I do have some things in common with them. I don't really know what a "Jungian philosopher" is . . . and my immediate reaction is that I definitely don't want to be one of those
. Yet, I refuse to make any false pretense about being either a psychotherapist or a scientific or academic psychologist. I am neither and don't aspire to be.
Sometimes, I intentionally vague up this identity stance and say I am just a "writer" (which I accept as true and accurate, but know to be somewhat misleading or meaningless). It has been a neurotic preoccupation of mine to continuously question myself: on what authority do I speak, claim, reason, prognosticate, assert, or create? I have no nicely palatable answer to that question. To say personal or inner "experience" sounds too esoterically mystical (but isn't entirely untrue). To say "intelligence" or "genius" is rather preposterous, as it is clear to me that many of the thinkers I criticize are far more brilliant than I am. Perhaps most accurate (but equally, the most grand in its own unique way) would be to say my authority (what there is of it) derives from my integrity as a thinker. I am humbly equipped and prone to affective reactionary responses, but my obsessive compulsive nature (or wound?) keeps me going back over my thoughts and reactions again and again. I am the consummate eater of shadow, like a poor fool who gradually grinds up coal with his bare teeth in the hope of one day shitting diamonds. Or is that it? Maybe he grinds that coal just because he can't stop grinding it. It's a compulsion.
But however unattractive this disposition is, it works quite nicely as a philosophical engine. I'm not sure I convey this odd kind of integrity . . . especially to those I offend with my contrariness, atheism, and moralistic reactionism . . . but it is the impetus driving my theory-development. Logic used at the expense of credential brandishing is not unlike magic or wizardry. We have evolved to evaluate information much more by the sense of authority that accompanies it than by its actual substance. This is usually a sensible and functional way to evaluate information. But when possible, the most accurate way of evaluating information is testing it apart from any tribal affiliation it might have attached to it. This is rarely possible. There is simply too much information to process. We rely on authority as a valuator. And yet, for whatever reasons (both knowable and mysterious), I have never been satisfied with authoritative valuation. Even as I respect and must usually accept it, I reserve a bit of atheism, reserve a margin of error. And in taking this somewhat skeptical attitude, I've come to see that a great many "truths" we commonly accept are very deeply flawed. Of course, we have all made many such observations . . . but normally, we make these observation about others, other ideas, other tribes, other beliefs. Rarely do we apply this skepticism to our own tribal affiliations and beliefs or assumptions.
The same agonism that emanates from me in regard to the various ideas and tribes I've critiqued is a mere phantom of the agonism I turn in on myself. Some might think this is a self-brutalization . . . and at times it seems so to me also. But it also has helped me enormously in developing and refining my theories and in the analysis and evaluation of information. I can only hope to demonstrate this in my writing (for obviously the claim is worth nothing, less than nothing as it merely attracts due skepticism). Trying to come out of the closet and admit that I do indeed have a theory and hope to work on organizing it is a step toward the demonstration of this claimed legitimacy and integrity. The task is more heroic than possible, but even if it's unattainable, it is the best I can do to try.
I'm not sure yet how to organize this section of the forum or how it might self-organize. Coherence and elegance would be ideal, of course, but I suspect I will use it to work on rough drafts, notes, and outlines of writing projects. As always, feedback is appreciated.