Author Topic: The Modern Myth: Free Will  (Read 11005 times)

Sealchan

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The Modern Myth: Free Will
« on: September 28, 2007, 09:10:00 AM »
I find myself coming into a realization this morning, that what we all take for granted especially in a democratic society, is that we identify ourselves as having free will.  But what exactly is free will and if we are organic creatures of physical shape and conforming to physical law, what room is there left to be free?  Are we not simply a product of biology, our parents, our society and our incidental experience?

Free will stands as the numinous symbol of our collective age.  The great evil in the world is the dictator and those who are not free.  Yet even so any one of us may choose to acquiese, conform, rebel, or flee that oppression.

In my work with dreams I am finding that the concept of free will is a core, central theme.  It seems we must catch up with and come to know this Trickster once and for all...

Kafiri

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2007, 02:33:34 PM »
Sealchan,
Sorry, but I must question your use of the term "myth."  Did you intend to use it as most "moderns" do; meaning a fiction, an illusion or delusion?  Joseph Campbell defined four functions of myths, they are:


 A. “ The first function of a living mythology, the properly religious function, in the sense of Rudolf Otto’s definition in The Idea of the Holy, is to awaken and maintain in the individual an experience of awe, humility, and respect, in recognition of that ultimate mystery, transcending names and forms, ‘from which,’ as we read in the Upanishads, ‘words turn back.”
B.  The second is the cosmological, “...to render a cosmology, an image of the universe, and for this we all turn today, of course, not to archaic religious texts but science.”
C.  The third function “...is the enforcement of a moral order: the shaping of the individual to the requirements of his geographically and historically conditioned social group”.
D.  The fourth and most vital, most critical function of a mythology, then “is to foster the centering and unfolding of the individual in integrity, in accord with d) himself (the microcosm), c) his culture (the mesocosm), b) the universe (the macrocosm), and a) that awesome ultimate mystery which is both beyond and within himself and all things:

         Wherefrom words turn back,
         Together with the mind, having not attained.”

Campbell, quoting Loren Eiseley, says that we, as individuals, are on our own:

   “...there is no way by which Utopias - or the lost Garden itself - can be brought out of the future and presented to man.  Neither can he go forward to such a destiny.  Since in the world of time every man lives but one life, it is in himself that he must search for the secret of the Garden.”


Did you truly mean myth, or perhaps something else???
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Sealchan

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2007, 03:10:33 PM »
As a long time fan of Joseph Campbell I mean it in a positive sense.  Thanks for clarifying this.  Campbell tells a story about a radio interview he does where the whole time his interviewer is stuck on the idea of myth as metaphor meaning myth is a lie.  I certainly believe that myth is no lie! 

I also see a culture's mythology as its most descriptive quality.  A symbol, as Jung defined it, is the best representation for something otherwise not fully understood.  It is a half-grasp on something numinous and important that is vital to a collective's consciousness but is not as differentiated as it could be.  I see "free will" as the primary symbol of our "modern myth" and all perspectives vitally linked to the idea of "freedom" are a part of that mythic view.  The new institutions that are established based on this principle are, in part, mythically oriented in this sense.  We cannot scientifically prove what the nature of free will is or even prove that is exsts in a definitive way.  Yet we justify killing people over it because it feels right.  This is not meant to be a criticism, just a perspective.  I would agree that we are all entitled to defend our lives if another seeks to take it.  This is implied in the idea of freedom as well.  I, too, am held within this mythic perspective.

Perhaps it is inherently difficult to see the myth of one's own age as it is a kind of assumed truth.  Many authors including Campbell have wondered at whether our own society has a myth any more.  Campbell describes a lack of ritual and a rise in unguided behaviors especially of teenagers.  I've simply come to the conclusion (with perhaps some hybris) that "free will" although not in itself an image, is a term which holds the role of the symbolic in the modern, Western, democratic, free market collective.

So if you think about how important free will is in understanding science, constitutional/representational government, the free market, you begin to see what a core "idea" free will is.  But can anyone truly resolve the logical philosophical difficulties in the old question of the relationship of free will and determinism?  How many of today's political, legal and philosophical debates participate fundamentally in lack of objective and shared understanding of free will and what it implies?

We may, in fact, live in a time where meaninglessness is plentiful and sacredness is hard to come by.  But I suspect that this is the legacy of a masculine-separative style of conscious development that our Western culture has produced and, as a result, we have now perfected our sense of egoic isolation in a separative-masculine way.  We are held, for better or worse, numinously by the idea of the individual's free will and the individual's rights and responsibilities. 

I certainly value this perspective, but I think this is an inherently separative perspective and, for all its strengths, it also contains its weaknesses.  The connective-feminine now needs to come back and balance this.  To some extent the imposition of government policy or the governmentalization of industry is a move in this direction.  Also a recognition of a multicultural collective, a model of multiple intelligences (per Gardner) and Jungian psychological typology are movements back toward the goal of completeness that is associated with the connective-feminine.

In today's headlines we can see a need for a more "connective" approach to the pricing of gasoline.  Too few drain the libidic resources to too many in their isolated greed.  We can wait for market forces to provide the balance but I think we tend to shy away from more conscious, active responses because of our "free will" bias.  We leave the collective to unconsciously save us in the sense of Adam Smith's invisible hand which magically guides the marketplace toward what we would, in retrospect, supposedly considere the ideal way to act economically for the benefit of the collective.

Kafiri

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2007, 09:56:53 AM »
Quote from: Sealchan

As a long time fan of Joseph Campbell I mean it in a positive sense.  Thanks for clarifying this.  Campbell tells a story about a radio interview he does where the whole time his interviewer is stuck on the idea of myth as metaphor meaning myth is a lie.  I certainly believe that myth is no lie! 

I also see a culture's mythology as its most descriptive quality.  A symbol, as Jung defined it, is the best representation for something otherwise not fully understood.  It is a half-grasp on something numinous and important that is vital to a collective's consciousness but is not as differentiated as it could be.  I see "free will" as the primary symbol of our "modern myth" and all perspectives vitally linked to the idea of "freedom" are a part of that mythic view.  The new institutions that are established based on this principle are, in part, mythically oriented in this sense.  We cannot scientifically prove what the nature of free will is or even prove that is exsts in a definitive way.  Yet we justify killing people over it because it feels right.  This is not meant to be a criticism, just a perspective.  I would agree that we are all entitled to defend our lives if another seeks to take it.  This is implied in the idea of freedom as well.  I, too, am held within this mythic perspective.

Sealchan, you have focused on something that has been rattling around my psyche for some time now.  I am going to join Matt's posse who are willing to criticize Jung when it appears he erred.  Let me begin with a quote that ties into what you wrote in the quoted passage just above:

Quote

...A truly living symbol compels unconscious participation and has a life-giving and life-enhancing effect.  If the unconscious factor is a common or widespread one, then the symbol touches a chord in every psyche an is a symbol of importance.

Symbols of this latter kind, woven into the mythic structure, are the functional motivators of culture.  Every culture therefore lives by myth.  Or, if the myth remains mostly unconscious, the culture is lived by its myth.  This latter is the case in all primitive and most modern cultures.  Their myths go unidentified because they are considered to be 'truths,' 'self-evident facts,' 'scientific facts,' 'common sense,' 'universal values,' or are quite unconscious.
Gerald H. Slusser, Jung and Whitehead on Self and Divine, from the collection of essays, Archetypal Process, Self and Divine in Whitehead, Jung, and Hillman, p. 78.


Quote from: Sealchan

Perhaps it is inherently difficult to see the myth of one's own age as it is a kind of assumed truth.  Many authors including Campbell have wondered at whether our own society has a myth any more.  Campbell describes a lack of ritual and a rise in unguided behaviors especially of teenagers.  I've simply come to the conclusion (with perhaps some hybris) that "free will" although not in itself an image, is a term which holds the role of the symbolic in the modern, Western, democratic, free market collective.

This is the same thing Jung says in his autobiography:

Quote

...But in what myth does man live nowadays?  In the Christian myth, the answer might be, 'Do you live in it?' I asked myself.  To be honest the answer was no.  For me, it is not what I live by.  'Then do we no longer have any myth?'  'But the what is your myth-the myth in which you live?'  At this point the dialogue with myself became uncomfortable, and I stopped thinking. I had reached a dead end.

C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 171

Quote from: Sealchan

So if you think about how important free will is in understanding science, constitutional/representational government, the free market, you begin to see what a core "idea" free will is.  But can anyone truly resolve the logical philosophical difficulties in the old question of the relationship of free will and determinism?  How many of today's political, legal and philosophical debates participate fundamentally in lack of objective and shared understanding of free will and what it implies?

We may, in fact, live in a time where meaninglessness is plentiful and sacredness is hard to come by.  But I suspect that this is the legacy of a masculine-separative style of conscious development that our Western culture has produced and, as a result, we have now perfected our sense of egoic isolation in a separative-masculine way.  We are held, for better or worse, numinously by the idea of the individual's free will and the individual's rights and responsibilities. 

I certainly value this perspective, but I think this is an inherently separative perspective and, for all its strengths, it also contains its weaknesses.  The connective-feminine now needs to come back and balance this.  To some extent the imposition of government policy or the governmentalization of industry is a move in this direction.  Also a recognition of a multicultural collective, a model of multiple intelligences (per Gardner) and Jungian psychological typology are movements back toward the goal of completeness that is associated with the connective-feminine.

In today's headlines we can see a need for a more "connective" approach to the pricing of gasoline.  Too few drain the libidic resources to too many in their isolated greed.  We can wait for market forces to provide the balance but I think we tend to shy away from more conscious, active responses because of our "free will" bias.  We leave the collective to unconsciously save us in the sense of Adam Smith's invisible hand which magically guides the marketplace toward what we would, in retrospect, supposedly considere the ideal way to act economically for the benefit of the collective.

That old "Invisible Hand, great choice Sealchan, and you indirectly make my point-what if Jung and Campbell were wrong?  It is not that we have no myth, but rather, there is an unconscious myth that is "living us?"  Jung seems to assume that because we are no longer living the Christian myth we are mythless.  What if behind the Christian myth, and most other myths in Western culture there is a larger, far older, more fundamental unconscious myth buried deep in the recesses of unconscious Western psyche?

In struggling with these thoughts over the past months and years, I come, time and time again, to one myth that offers clues that seem to explain much of both the carnage and progress in the world today.  This myth is:  "The Chosen People."  The myth of people chosen by God is more than 5,000 years and is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian cultures, and is also fundamental to Islam.  The common thread is, of course, monotheism.  Can you see this unconscious myth alive and operative in the world today?  I think that, as Jung and others, have said, that we are in a kairos, a time for metamorphosis.  This old myth no longer serves us well, and we need to bring it to consciousness and allow a new myth more suited to the modern world to emerge. Can we use our consciousness to examine the old symbols, and allow them to mellow to signs of where we have come from?  And, in the process allow a more humane future.  And, dear Sealchan, such a conscious decision is based on free will.

I understand that is in intuitive, ala Matt,  speculation on my part.  I certainly invite all of you to help me think this through.
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Keri

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2007, 04:43:38 PM »
Dear Kafiri,

I think you are on to something with the "Chosen People."  Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, The Story of B, Beyond Civilization, The Book of the Damned, etc.) would call it a meme that determines our Vision, and which causes us to be seemingly unable to change our path even though it is often recognized as destructive.  He believes the meme in "our" culture (meaning the common-to-all-"civilized"-peoples culture) is that we believe we know "The One Right Way" to live.  And because it is the One Right Way, we cannot change it, even if we wanted to.  But, because we are not perfect (because of original sin/free will), we are doomed to screw up this One Right Way.  But, we must simply throw up our hands, because what can be done?  The Way has to be preserved, and we're bound to just keep screwing it up, so why bother getting excited about it?  And this underlying meme or vision is largely unconscious, which does not allow it to be examined.  And, in fact, every time Quinn does try to bring it into the open, it "tweaks people's shadows," (to use a phrase of Matt's :)).  It turns out to be something very difficult to discuss and have a conversation about.

Yours, Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina

Sealchan

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2007, 08:26:45 AM »
We are like containerless motes whose government is merely corrupt and uncaring like some Bad Mother who relates to us via a logos-mad bureaucracy.  We band together in gangs (chosen people/countries) because we don't really see ourselves as part of a whole that we can trust.

Our ability to work together in a collective endeavor in such a way that does not threaten individual human rights at the world level (United Nations) is a measure of the health of the one world collective psyche.  Concentration of economic resources with the few unchecked is, perhaps, the most naked way in which the lack of containment of the masculine-separative style of conscious development is shown. 

Again, I am no Marxist.  I believe that freedom to compete, to win or loose, is a vital part of a society.  But I cannot see there being a need for absolute freedom to compete as separate individuals.  No one, except some mad James Bond movie evil villian, needs a kajillion dollars.  Allowing this is more likely a sanctioning of an addictive power complex by the powerful.  Marxism is in our shadow, but a swing over to the shadow is not the right way.  We need to become more intelligent about all of this and think about the welfare of the whole planet even as we allow for individual excellence to be rewarded in kind.  I also appreciate the efforts of the John Galt's of this world...






Sealchan

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2007, 12:27:02 PM »
So how should we proceed, Kafiri, Keri?

How do we establish what is the myth of a culture and make a case?  Is filling out Joseph Campbell's four functions enough?

I could see in the idea of the chosen people, the Jewish covenent with Yahweh, then the teachings of Jesus that there is much that underlies Western moral and political ideology.  I think Joseph Campbell has made the point that the Judeo-Christian emphasis on the individual and his or her responsibilities to God and vice versa (rainbow, Jesus, etc) form the mythological basis for the modern sense of human rights. 

How do we go about daylighting/unearthing what might be the mythology of U.S./Western modern culture?

And how, do I get this thread moved into the correct part of the forum?  lol  I think I have the instructions lying around here somewhere...

Kafiri

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2007, 10:06:20 AM »
Sealchan,
I think we "look" around us, and see where we can discern manifestations of "The Chosen People."  For example, as recently as the 19th century the American concept of "manifest destiny." And I think we try to acknowledge both the "light" and the "dark" aspects.
Quote

In February 1899, British novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem entitled “The White Man’s Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands.” In this poem, Kipling urged the U.S. to take up the “burden” of empire, as had Britain and other European nations. Published in the February, 1899 issue of McClure’s Magazine, the poem coincided with the beginning of the Philippine-American War and U.S. Senate ratification of the treaty that placed Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, and the Philippines under American control. Theodore Roosevelt, soon to become vice-president and then president, copied the poem and sent it to his friend, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, commenting that it was “rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.” Not everyone was as favorably impressed as Roosevelt. The racialized notion of the “White Man’s burden” became a euphemism for imperialism, and many anti-imperialists couched their opposition in reaction to the phrase.



The White Man’s Burden
         by Rudyard Kipling


Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go send your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child

Take up the White Man’s burden
In patience to abide
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit
And work another’s gain

Take up the White Man’s burden—
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah slowly) to the light:
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
“Our loved Egyptian night?”

Take up the White Man’s burden-
Have done with childish days-
The lightly proffered laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold-edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Kafiri

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2007, 11:11:01 AM »
As a follow-on to my post above I offer this example, from Robert Bly, as a subtle manifestation of "Choosenness:"
Quote

In 1904 Max Weber set up a new tower from which one could survey the battleground of acquisitive energy versus Christianity.  He constructed a brief essay, known in English as the 'The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.'  He argued convincingly that the so-called Protestant revolution had a lot to do with giving Christians permission to throw themselves wholesale into business.

Max Weber's thesis, which historians uniformly praised as sound and brilliant, embodies a deep irony.  Protestants adopted, in effect, Catholic Church practices to further the very acquisitive capitalism that the Catholic theologians had fought for centuries to restrain.

The Methodist sect has its root in a 'Method' that John Wesley developed to help some Christian young men become successful businessmen through austere, monkish practices.  The young men were to expect little sexual release(such restraint is parallel to the accumulation of capital), and to set out their day in time units-so much time for exercise, so much time for Bible reading, so much time for planning the next business move, and so on. They were to be frugal and develop ethical will.  Becoming a businessman was a 'calling.'  Becoming wealthy as a result  of this method was considered a sign that you were one of the elect.  Puritan businessmen, in brief, directed toward the accumulation of wealth the ascetic lives that Catholic monks had developed through many  earlier centuries directed toward the divine.

Weber's essay set everyone's hat on backward, and all sorts of details became clear, such as the possibility that our Puritan ancestors came to Plymouth Rock to do business without being pestered by the Catholics.  Of course, we know that many Puritans were profoundly dedicated to the examination of conscience, and that is to their credit.  But for some, becoming wealthy was a sign that God had chosen you to become one of the elect, so wealth quieted the conscience somewhat.   In our time, this monkish asceticism has been twisted into a business frame, altered into the fourteen-hour days that young lawyers and stockbrokers in New York have to give to their employers if they want to be promoted, or even stay in the firm. 
My underline.
Robert Bly, The Sibling Society, pp. 150-151

Here is a link to the Max Weber essay "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism:"  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/WEBER/cover.html

Does not our culture look to those who are celebrities, or wealthy as somehow "Chosen?"  We seldom look behind the fame or wealth to see what kind of human being the person is. 

"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Matt Koeske

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2007, 01:35:40 PM »

Interesting conversation!

[apologies for the ramble below . . .]

My take on the issue of whether the myth lives us or we live the myth goes something like this:

I think we have a very strong sociality instinct (much stronger than we often realize) . . . and I think that this sociality instinct is not specifically an instinct for all forms of human society, but only for what I've been referring to as "tribalism".

This tribalism is defined by a few basic qualities.  For instance, a limited quantity (probably below 200 members . . . especially when we consider that our brains have evolved to be able to "remember" about 150 others before resorting to stereotyping).  Also, a self/Other ideology in which tribal purity/identity is strictly defined.  Thirdly (and this is not meant to be exhaustive), a sacralization of tribal cohesion, making it the most important ideology or totem for the tribe and all its members.

My working theory is that, in our ancestral, tribal environment (environment of evolutionary adaptedness), human sociality operates almost entirely by instinct.  That is, unconsciously.  I see (in such an environment) the expressions of religion, myth, belief, dogma, ritual, etc. as some of the archetypal images that emerge and are found to be numinous by the tribe.  Archetypal images being the egoic perception and interpretation of instincts.

Totemized tribal cohesion, then, is the best recipe for survivability for a tribe (and its members) in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness.  Because this is the fundamental instinct to human sociality (a radically social species), there is an immense instinctual pull in all of us for tribalism.  When I seem to disparage tribalism, I mean in no way to disparage this instinct or prescribe some kind of super-ego repression of it.  There is a lot of good in this tribal instinct.  Eros/connectedness, for one.  Empathy (our ability to think projectively and see how we are like others).  Basic morality.  Cooperative development.  Etc.

When I criticize "tribalism", I am criticizing "neo-tribalism", which I see as an attempt to return to this state of unconscious, fundamental sociality at almost any cost.  That is to say, the return to tribalism is granted so much (ideological and numinous) importance that the neo-tribalist very easily convinces him or herself that the return is worth the expense of anyone and anything deemed "Other" by the tribe.

I see this behind most totalitarian movements, and especially the catastrophic neo-tribalist movements of the 20th century like Nazism, fascism, and Stalinism.  I also see the rise of Christianity in exactly the same way.

So the real problem with the return to tribalism (after the Fall into modernism) is that it demands the sacrifice of Otherness.  Those deemed Others are not granted group or individual rights or recognized as fully human.  As these Others are pushed outside the realm of moral privilege, they are effectively dehumanized or scapegoated.  This is a ritualistic tribal process that allows the tribe to purge or radically mistreat the dehumanized Others.

We cannot return to pure, instinctual tribalism without also losing our modern, conscious sense of morality.  That is, the morality of humanism that encourages us to believe that all human individuals deserve equal rights and equal social worth as individuals.  Instead of the tribe being the most important social unit, the individual is granted that privilege in modern humanism.  We can decry the "overemphasis on the individual" in modernism (and it does have repercussions) . . . but the fact of the matter is that this is a significantly more "moral" system, as it allows for equality among all individuals regardless of their affiliations.  Essentially, humanity reinterprets the tribal sociality instinct through consciousness so that all human individuals are part of the tribe and deserve the rights of tribal members.

Why then did we leave the Eden of tribalism?  I think this is a matter of survival and adaptation.  Our species possesses the raw tools to conceptualize and innovate . . . and to think in far longer (more strategical) terms than other apes.  What we know from both archaeological and recoded history is that it is an undeniable fact that the "fittest" societies for human survivability and reproduction are modern societies.  The human population today is enormous compared to prehistoric days.  Our global population has been generally growing (with the possible exception of the Dark Ages when Christianity came to power) ever since homo sapiens evolved.

This isn't a value judgment about what is the best kind of society . . . I am speaking in purely evolutionary terms.  I think it is as simple as this: as human society approaches modernism, human sociality increases in evolutionary fitness.  But it isn't "simple" from the value perspective of human individuals.  Tribalism (being an instinct) has never died (or come remotely close to dying) . . . it has merely been reinterpreted through the human organ of consciousness.

Consciousness, in my view, is an instinct "super-adapter".  The demands on consciousness are very small in the tribal environment.  In fact, in the tribal environment, too much consciousness in an individual can prove to be dangerous to tribal cohesion.  Consciousness, in a sense, is a form of cognitive super-plasticity.  In a state of relative "unconsciousness" we do not apply much plasticity to the interpretation of our instincts.  When unconscious, we are "in thrall" to our instincts (and our religious systems will represent this as being in thrall to powers, ancestors, or gods that demand very strict and specific behavior).

The notion of free will is connected to the measure of plasticity in our consciousness.  We are "free" to interpret our instincts through consciousness in non-fundamentalist ways.  We are even free to try to ignore, to repress, or to not act on our instincts (but if we fall into unconsciousness with too much repression, we will act out our instincts unconsciously and more or less fundamentalistically).

In my view (and this is just rewording Jungianism for the most part), instincts "desire" to be actualized.  They are largely behavioral goads.  We might have some free will in interpreting them, but we do not have any power over turning them on or off with consciousness.  When we thwart the actualization of our instincts, we experience anxiety.  Also, what we call consciousness (the ego) is not as powerful nor as large as we generally "feel" it is.  Our thoughts and feelings, for instance, are not created by consciousness . . . they are merely observed by consciousness (sometimes as archetypal images).  Which means that we cannot entirely keep instinctual goading out of our thoughts and feelings (even as we can keep them out of our behaviors to a larger degree).

One of the cognitive principals of consciousness is that it "invents" reasons that bring order or meaning to data . . . when those reasons and order are not necessarily present.  Part of this invention can be the assignment of conscious volition, or rationalization.  In other words, we can be goaded into various thoughts and feelings by our instincts and come up with rationalized reasons why we invented these thoughts and feelings consciously and rationally.  This is one of the many ways in which we tend to be significantly less conscious than we believe we are.  Which is to say, free will, as it is commonly conceived, is itself much more determined by instinctual, autonomous cognitive processes than we recognize consciously.

Sometime the "cults" of free will are actually the least "free" . . . because absolute belief in free will only means that we have become unconscious of the autonomous cognitive process.  This kind of (typical) "ego-maniac" believes s/he creates her/his thoughts . . . and this belief and its contents (dogmas, totems, taboos, etc.) will actually be governed by fundamental (not interpreted through much plasticity) instincts.  The "cult of the will", is just another form of unconscious tribalism (as Nazism clearly demonstrated).

Therefore, we come to the very interesting predicament of human consciousness and free will.  That is, the greatest "freedom" or plasticity of consciousness in interpreting instinct is afforded only through the recognition and valuation of the autonomous, instinctual cognitive process.  Free will is developed through the limitation and differentiation of the ego (rather than through its "reckless expansion", which only leads to unconsciousness).

Only through this differentiation can an individual truly make "free" or highly plastic interpretations of instinctual, cognitive urgings.  Otherwise, the ego doesn't really know why it thinks and does what it thinks and does . . . it merely develops a rationalization (which is itself an autonomous process).  So, to be "free" is to recognize that the ego is part of the human cognitive toolkit.  It is a plasticity tool.  Seen cynically, the ego will always be enslaved to the Self . . . and can only win partial freedom through consciousness (which is a consciousness of its own enslavement!).

An important question then is, "Why plasticity at all?"  The potential benefits of this plasticity of consciousness are enormous . . . as this plasticity allows us to be super-adaptive to changes in our environment (through skills like conceptualization and innovation).  So long as consciousness uses its plasticity to effectively channel instinct, our species can make adaptations to environmental changes or problems in "non-evolutionary" time.

But is the egoic "margin of error" worth these benefits?  Evolutionarily speaking, absolutely and without doubt.  We like to think of ourselves as having lost Eden, Fallen, radically screwed up (by becoming modernists).  But we are evolutionarily or genetically successful now more than ever before.  We don't really "screw up" as often as we think . . . because we tend to act in accordance with our instincts almost all the time, whether we realize it or not.  If we didn't, we would have probably died out as a species.

What we face now as an "externality" of our social evolution is not (directly) extinction.  It is stress, depression, ennui.  This is a small price (for some and by no means all) to pay from the perspective of our genes (which succeed at replicating themselves like never before).

But we now face something utterly different (than just the supposed loss of our myths).  I call this new thing the Problem of the Modern.  The Problem of the Modern is a massive environmental change unlike any environmental change faced by any species ever on this planet.  It is more complex than "overpopulation" (but similar in many ways).  Now we are being challenged not only by overpopulation and excessive competition over limited resources, but by our ability to self-exterminate on a species-wide level.  We have it in our power to prevent this, but we are in a state of self-opposition, because our ability to prevent disasters (and maybe even reverse some of the damage we have already done) is dependent on our ability to become more conscious (or dependent on a higher percentage of us becoming conscious).

It's easy to see this in almost every environmental (e.g., ecosystem disrupting) problem we face today.  There are usually solutions . . . but only if we can get some or many people to deprioritize their immediate desires (for wealth or comforts and conveniences).  People have to learn that the short term gains are not worth the long term losses.  Why is this so hard?  Because instinct pulls at us so powerfully, and the easiest way to respond to instinct is unconsciously or "non-interpretively".  That's the path of least resistance.  While consciousness is difficult, energy-consuming, and extremely fragile.  I think we should even consider the possibility that consciousness as we experience it is something like a partially-evolved trait.  Even in the modern world it seems that high-level consciousness is not naturally selected for at a very high rate.  Relative unconsciousness has many advantages.

But our modern societies and cultures have been built with some measure of consciousness or long-term strategization included.  The "flaw" with this long-term design is that these modern societies only work at maximum efficiency when the individuals of the society participate in the group with consciousness.  A simple example in our culture: a democracy operates at peek efficiency only when the vast majority of voters have not only shown up to cast their votes but also researched or adequately evaluated and understood the policies of the candidates.  But because these things don't happen sufficiently in the United States, people end up constantly voting against their (and often, the majority of the population's) interests.  In other words, functional democracy depends significantly on effective dissemination  (and comprehension) of valid and useful information.  This is why the "founding fathers" of our country believed the newspapers would be able to keep the government in line . . . a kind of checks and balances system outside of government.

So, all we need to do to find a clog in the democratic plumbing (by no means the only one, of course) is look to our institutions of information dissemination: the media and the education system.  Both are very much under siege today by what we might call "ideological interests" . . . or people that stand to make a significant profit from the control of information.  In order for the American voter to "outsmart" these ideological interests trying to control information to improve profit-making, s/he often has to actively seek out alternative media and education avenues.  That requires not only a great deal more time and effort, but a much higher demand on self-reflection.  That is, in order to see the way powerful interest manipulate various aspects of society, we are required to be able to conceptualize the system of complex (usually economic) causality.  In other words, to know the "truth" politically-speaking, one cannot merely trust the institutions of information (as they are not regulated very well or "guaranteed" to be free from the manipulation of private interests).  One must instead "Follow the Money".

This kind of investigation requires high-level conceptualization and the ability to think innovatively or counter-tribally.  To think differently than the group requires a great deal of conscious effort for us.  We are largely conformist by nature (due to our good old tribal sociality instinct).

What this example seems to imply is that consciousness is self-perpetuating and that the demands on consciousness tend to increase exponentially.  That is, if Individual A figures out how to manipulate the system of government (or any group system), Individual B needs to learn the trick of A in order not to be manipulated.  This escalates competition dramatically.  We end up with a kind of intra-species evolutionary arms race.  But it isn't really, below the surface, Tribe A competing with Tribe B for the same, limited resources.  It is actually (on a more fundamental level) unconscious humanity competing with conscious humanity.  That is, the demands on human consciousness are increased radically due to the modern, non-tribal systems of society.  The individual has to be able to process and make effective use of enormous amounts of information.  If an individual fails to do this adequately, that individual can become the resource (or tool . . . or even slave) of another, more consciously manipulative individual (or group).

I see the Problem of the Modern as a kind "phase transition anxiety".  Human consciousness is under severe pressure to adapt to the modern.  What the 20th century should teach us is that, when enough people cannot "become conscious" and effectively process enough information, other people can use information to manipulate them into unconscious, tribalistic behavior . . . even making a kind of tribal, ideological militia out of them that will do the bidding of the powerful interests.  The fascist movements of the 20th century didn't operate on terror alone, but also (and perhaps even more significantly) on propaganda.  It might even be accurate to say that tribal purging was used to even greater effect than pure terror.  It wasn't only dissent that was purged in these regimes, but the gene pool (in which information evaluation skills may have been greater than average).

People are most susceptible to this kind of manipulation where the tribal sociality instinct is both strongest and most unconscious.  The famous recipe for wide-scale population control (as was so brilliantly exposed by Orwell) is the fabrication of an enemy.  Feeling we have a formidable enemy, a wholly alien Other who wants to overpower us, jumpstarts our tribal sociality instinct.  That is, the highly competitive and dangerous environment of evolutionary adaptedness that demanded the evolution of a powerful instinct for tribal cohesion needs only to be recreated (in reality or through propaganda) for us to feel the huge gravity of tribalism.  It is a kind of group fight/flight response.  Us vs. Them.  The Chosen People and the Infidels.

We can see this kind of thing going on today with (among others) the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Another interesting example that comes to mind (because it might seem so innocuous) is the movie Independence Day (of course there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of movies that operate the same way).  Evil aliens invade Earth . . . and in order to survive, humanity must "tribalize" and unify against this invading Other.  And in that movement toward tribal cohesion, instinct fires up its engines and we feel the adrenaline rush of camaraderie, heroism, the war-drive, fight or flight.  In other words, the characters (and the audience, vicariously) are kicked into an instinctual mode of sociality that it maximally survivable.

And, in addition to this, we (the audience) are asked (compelled, really) to see the tribal cohesion as kind of positive human connectedness.  Petty differences among individuals (like race and class) are overcome so that a larger, more threatening enemy can be faced.  And it all seems completely valid and justified (because that's the way Hollywood blockbusters work).  But even deeper than the "Hurray!  We are all coming together as one!" melting pot theme of the movie lies a more fundamental truth: such unification requires a formidable enemy.  The power of tribalism over individuals is dependent on the introduction of an enemy.

I don't mean to issue a blanket criticism of our tribal sociality instinct.  This is just the way we are.  Films like Independence Day or The Lord of the Rings are specifically designed to hit us right where we live (or else they are channeled products of the unconscious that "speak instinctually" to us).  The problem with this instinct is that it is highly manipulable when we are not conscious of it.  And not only manipulable, but extremely dangerous.  This is an instinct that can be fairly easily "weaponized" . . . and there is no doubt that the greatest power in our species is in its sociality, its ability to pool and organize its aggression and drive and productivity.  Our evolutionary success is more dependent on our ability to form complex, large-scale societies than it is on any other faculty.

The question then is how do we become responsible for our sociality?  Like every other responsibility, it is achieved through consciousness.  But our collective efforts stand against the interests of power . . . which has long since realized that the greatest ready-made weapon that can bolster and enable power is human tribalistic sociality.  In order to de-weaponize sociality and not give or sell it away to power interests, we have to be able to first recognize that it is immensely dangerous (when "wrongly" used).  It is a shadow recognition.

I think we should imagine our unconscious sociality instinct as if it was a loaded gun lying openly around our house.  But instead we fall into thoughts of wanting to belong, to be endorsed or supported or protected by the group.  Those are normal human desires, of course, and I don't mean to prescribe some kind of asceticism (which I think would be impractical and irresponsible to do).  But we would do well to apply long-term, conceptual thinking to these desires and to try to figure out what the satisfaction of these desires is worth.  Is our embrace by the group worth a few casualties?  Should other people have to suffer so we can feel one with the tribe (we don't always recognize this cost, because these "sacrifices" are Othered and dehumanized or discounted)?

It is just as much a trap, I think, to ask people to be all-embracing and give up every ounce of their selfishness.  Self-interest is just as instinctually necessary as sociality.  In fact, self-interest on an unconscious level often serves as the vehicle of tribal sociality.  Only in sociopaths is self-interest taken to a level of true anti-Otherness.  By upholding too much unconditional "peace, love, and understanding", we are only repressing our instinctual self-interest.  That is, we are becoming unconscious of the way our self-interest operates rather than actually exorcising it.  This unconsciousness allows individual self-interest to be harnessed to a tribal ideology or usurped by other manipulators.  That's how cults operate.

The only ethical solution is to become conscious of the instinctual urge and try to negotiate a deal with the instinct, finding it what it needs without succumbing unconsciously to what it wants.  So what would be an ethical differentiation between what our sociality instinct needs and what it merely wants?

I think that at the core of our sociality we need Eros.  We need to connect or engage with others . . . not only for evolutionary or social success, but for individual wellbeing.  We seem to have evolved for collectivity.  We are not singular beings.  Our psyches are collectives or complex systems.  Being human is being more than the sum of our parts.  Even our identities do not mean anything except in the way they relate to other people and things.  That is, our identities are relative, not absolute.  And as ego-personalities, we must also define ourselves in relation to the instinctual unconscious (and our unique, genetic predispositions)  . . . which we experience as both collective and Other.

So at the core of sociality is this barely distinguishable "relationality" . . . which we might consider to be the principle that requires separated points or polarities in order for energy or libido to flow.  That is, seen in terms of libido, there is either relationality or non-existence.  Therefore we could say that, as individuals, we need to be able to channel libido, to allow libido to move through us.  To belong to a tribe or to relate through an affiliation is the easiest way to do this, but it comes at the compromise of some autonomous identity.  Therefore, when one is for whatever reason separated from the group, one might feel like a substantial part of one's identity is missing.  One does not know how to "be" without the group affiliation.

The process of individuation moves toward a redefinition of identity where the individual sheds many of his or her group affiliations and replaces them with affiliations to the instinctual unconscious.  This would become more necessary as group affiliations cease to effectively channel libido from the instinctual unconscious into the group.  Or, seen another way, when the group doesn't want the libido from the individual because it is too individualized.  If the group wants apples and the individual has oranges, the individual is in a bind.  Can an orange tree produce apples?  Probably not.  Certainly not apples as good as a genuine apple tree can produce.

This scenario is more common in the modern environment.  In modernism, we usually do not have only one affiliation, because there is rarely one all-encompassing tribe.  The attempts to establish all-encompassing tribes in large populations always lead to tribal purgings in order to limit diversity.  So we have learned to live as conglomerates of affiliations.  We belong to many tribes today . . . but our selves are divvied up among these affiliations (with some affiliations accounting for larger portions of our selfhood than others).  This sense of division places a lot more weight on the ego as center of identity.  The ego is the affiliation manager "on the floor".  Instead of getting to live in the group through a specific role to the degree that we would once have, we now have to conserve and portion out our libido or Eros energy.  This could be another way of saying (as Jung did), that we run the risk of becoming dissociated or overly fragmented, our various affiliation identities segregated from one another or irreconcilable.  Libido isn't flowing through our whole identity as efficiently as it needs to . . . and we are liable to break down, become depressed.

There are two solutions to this, and we are liable to find them both compelling, even simultaneously.  They might even appear to be one and the same to us from some perspectives.  The first solution is to "find our tribe" . . . that is, to find the one tribe in which we feel we can get our libido flowing.  This may indeed work for that purpose . . . but only at the sacrifice of many other tribes and avenues of identity (an example of this would be the AA/support group/12 step approach).  One must take on the tribal attitudes and dogmas, totems, and taboos.  This might feel great, at least for a while . . . until one starts to recognize that one has portions of identity that are not met by this one tribe.  Then the process of dissociation could start over.  Also, single tribalism in modern society is not very practical.  It requires joining a cult (either "in the flesh" or at least ideologically).  There is no one tribe or cult today that can encompass all the diversity of modernism . . . which means that belonging to any such tribe will place one in opposition to numerous Others.  I personally see this positioning inside one tribe to be unethical as it forsakes social responsibility for what amounts to pure selfishness (this is every bit as valid even when the one tribe the individual belongs to espouses all kinds of peace, love, and understanding philosophies).

The second solution to dissociative depression (Eros/libido breakdown) is individuation.  The Eros goal of individuation is to restructure identity so that it can exchange libido with other individuals or groups directly (rather than through affiliations).  That is, the individuant is her or himself a polarity that, as a whole entity unto itself, interacts with Others and with groups.  The Eros relationship, then, is by necessity conscious.  Of course, this situation brings a whole new set of relational problems, because most groups (especially those that are exceedingly cult-like) do not interact well with individuals . . . or even recognize individuals as valid entities.  Individuals are typically demonized or at least held to very severe standards of participation.  That is, they are tabooed or marked because they exhibit (as they must) Otherness.

But (without going into it in much detail here), I also believe that individualism is the primary (if not only) source of innovation and revision in human social systems.  Social systems need innovative individualism in order to adapt to the most severe changes in environment.  If they can't adapt, they will fail . . . and adaptation requires change, which requires consciousness and Otherness.  We can see the immense resistance to innovation in the general policies of the United States today (especially with the Bush administration).  The Bushites might not want to accept innovation because this would require them to limit their power or curtail their greed somewhat . . . but they are able to motivate and tribalize half of America (with various anti-modern, tribal-cohesion propagandas) to keep them established in power.  But the real clash in ideologies between the Bushite neocons and the so-called "liberals" is a matter of shorter-term thinking vs. longer-term thinking.  The Bushite worldview is very limited.  It discounts the externalities, repercussions, and long-term effects of its instituted policies.  It doesn't understand complex systems (like ecosystems and inter-species dependency).  It doesn't believe in long-term solutions . . . to such a severe extent that its ideologies can often seem rather childish.

You can always come back, but you canít come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2007, 10:39:25 AM »

To turn back to modern myths, I believe the core modern myth is the same myth that has predominated for millennia now.  This is the myth of the individuant: social reformation through individuation and symbolized by an individual being.  This is the myth behind Christianity and also the myth behind many Eastern religions and philosophies that place emphasis on the transformation of the individual.  Christianity has been a long and rather ugly trial run with this myth.  I don't mean to suggest that the mythos of Christianity is inherently ugly . . . but the misappropriation of that mythos has definitely been very destructive.  What we are still struggling to understand today is that the Christian mythos of the godman or ideal individuant was and is highly susceptible to misinterpretation and manipulation.  There are no doubt many reasons for this.

For instance, individuation continues to be poorly understood.  What does it involve, what does it mean?  Even Jung left the issue shrouded in so much darkness that the details of individuation are still left in a state of extreme uncertainty among Jungians . . . and this uncertainty is even greater outside Jungian circles.  Jung, I think, made the same error that was made in Christianity (and capitalized upon by self-interested powers in the Church).  That is, he made individuation out to be a search for God, a kind of religion or spiritual quest.  But when God (or indenture to God) is made out to be the goal of individuation, we run directly into the problem of the totem object or totem parent.  When God or the Self is totemized in a belief system, we are projecting the human sociality instinct into that totem.  God becomes the totem of tribal cohesion . . . and the worship of God is the sacralization of the tribe.  That is, the totemized God "desires" tribal cohesion for his minions above all else.

When we don't pursue the dangerous transformation/differentiation of individuation that compels us to approach the Self individually (i.e., heroically), we tend to see the Self as unapproachable (i.e., totemic).  The Self is seen as collective, "out there", not within oneself, not individualized.  We maintain a "sacred distance" from the Self, because the approach is tabooed.  This sacred distance is just another phrase for unconsciousness or an unconscious relationship with the Self.  In that state of unconsciousness, we typically behave tribally.  We become convinced that our own egoic self-interest is also in the interest of God . . . and this is not usually "wrong".  That is, it wouldn't be wrong if we lived in the tribal environment.  Unconscious "self-interest" tends to be primarily conformist (to tribal standards) while resisting otherness of all kinds.  We often believe we are "in control" by the way we define ourselves in contrast to those deemed Others.  "I don't behave like those Others, therefore I am my own person."  If the relationship to God is totemic and unconscious, we feel that God sanctions our prejudices.  And in the tribal environment, this kind of attitude would probably aid group survivability.  If God backs you in everything you do naturally/unconsciously, you are "tribally fit".

In the Christ myth, Jesus brings the message of individuation . . . which is that the Kingdom of Heaven is within and the individual must give up his or her tribal affiliations in order to find that Kingdom.  The individuant prioritizes the conscious relationship with the Self or the instinctual unconscious over the unconscious affiliations with tribes.  To the individuant, the most useful and valuable identity (and wholeness) derives from within, not from without (via affiliations).  The Christ myth tells an allegorical story about what happens when the individuant makes this decision to prioritize the instinctual unconscious over tribal affiliations.  The individuant is destroyed by the tribe (as a scapegoat) and reborn as a distinct (and therefore alien) entity.  This is a very dramatic take on initiation.

The "meaning" of the story is to cast the modern myth (individuation) as a conflict between the individual and the tribe and to suggest that the benefits of individuation are worth the sacrifice of tribal affiliation.  This is more or less the Gnostic interpretation of the story . . . and the so-called "Gnostic Gospels" did not get into the business of preaching the Word, converting, and institutionalizing Christianity.  But the texts that became canonical for the Church very specifically make use of the Christ myth as a "recruitment" story (not unlike Independence Day).  And, of course, this technique was used to disseminate Christianity across Europe and is still a staple of Christianity today.  Recruitment is euphemized as "salvation".

Despite a lack of certain evidence (to make either interpretation without doubt), I think this strange misappropriation dynamic gives credence to the notion that the original ideas and perhaps stories (orally transmitted?) of the Christ myth came from proto-Gnostics (who meant Christ to serve as the model for individuants or initiates) and were only later adopted (and misinterpreted) by literalizers who had a more tribalistic ideology (Freke and Gandy offer such a theory in the Jesus Mysteries . . . but portray it as more evidence-based than it really is).  At least it seems psychologically unlikely to me that the individuation philosophy inherent in the Christ myth developed after the religion had been tribalized.  We also know that this individuation myth had existed for some time prior to Christianity in the symbolism and rituals of the pagan Mystery religions.  So we can only make guesses as to whether the adaptation of the Christ myth to tribalism was a matter of unconscious syncretism or conscious misappropriation (or semi-conscious misinterpretation/revision).

The question that is insufficiently asked or examined is: why was the Christ myth so "easily" appropriated by tribalists?  One of the most important and earliest actions of institutionalized Christianity was to establish the nature of Christ's divinity (the council of Nicaea in 325 CE demonstrated how absurdly conflicted this issue was).  The establishment of the divinity of Christ is the destruction of his use as a model for mortal individuation . . . it is the establishment of a taboo against individuation.  The self-deification taboo.  Christ (and then the apostles and later the saints) was effectively raised to the status of a god . . . and it was made clear the the proper form of relationship to Christ was worship.  This totemized the Christ figure and abstracted him.  It helped discourage Christians from recognizing the (individuated) ego as the go-between for heaven and earth . . . effectively preventing direct communication between the ego and the Self.  Such communication was now mediated by the Church through the tribal (and rather archaically tribal at that) rituals of confession and communion.  Those tribal rituals hardly evoke anything related to individuation.  Confession dissolves all the power of the Self to influence the ego and all the power of the ego to respond to the Self (the priest-posing-as-God becomes the surrogate Self).  Communion is an archaic god-eating ritual that is meant to unify the tribe through the consumption of the power that could potentially disrupt tribal cohesion (i.e., individuation).  "Transubstantiation" is Church-speak disguising what is (on a ritual and symbolic level) an act of repression (of the individuation impulse).

Of course, as rituals of tribal cohesion, confession and communion can be very powerful, very moving . . . and distinctly bonding.  But true individuation or ecstasy rituals (like perhaps the Mystery initiations) would allow the individual to experience the god directly (only governing the space and duration of the experience . . . in other words, providing containment for it, an alchemical vessel).

I suspect that the tribalization of the Christian mythos was greatly aided by the prominence of the Christ or heroic godman image in the unconscious . . . that had no doubt arisen and differentiated itself along with the steady rise of modernism (we know, for instance, that there were many "Messiah cults" around the turn of the Common Era . . . and that 1st century Romans had become increasingly transfixed by solar hero-gods like Mithras).  I mean to say that the archetype and symbol of the godman belongs to modernism and not to tribalism.  Although there are parallels between the tribal shaman and the godman, these figures should be differentiated along such lines as these: the shaman is a token individuant whose ultimate role is to preserve or heal tribal cohesions, whereas the godman is a figure who liberates individuals from their own imprisonment in darkness/unconsciousness.  The history and development of institutional Christianity can be seen (even from its earliest textual origins) as a tribalist movement where the dogmas and doctrine enforced by the Church were always overtly tribalistic and anti-individuation (or anti-gnostic).  Recognizing this trend is as straight-forward as "following the money" in contemporary society.

Jung, to his benefit, upheld the myth of the Anthropos/godman/individuant in many ways, even serving as its (and Gnosticism's) champion in the realm of modern intellectuality.  But I think Jung tended to err when it came to evaluating Church dogma . . . which he did not sufficiently differentiate from pure myth or fairytales or other products of the instinctual unconscious.  As much as Jung promoted individuation and the myth of the individuant, he also promoted religion and religiosity without (in my opinion) adequately differentiating the instinct for individuation (or mysticism) from the instinct for tribal cohesion.  He did differentiate religion from "creed" . . . which seems at first to be the same thing.  But Jung failed to understand that "creed" is driven entirely by the human instinct for sociality and is every bit as "archetypal" as religion.  Jung externalized/extraverted or projected creed, dissociating it from its instinctual basis.  He did not clearly see that the individuation myth makes more complex use of the relationship between sociality and individuation.  That is, the Christ myth casts this conflict as a brutal and bloody "Passion" ending in the death of the individuant (and the loss of the provident, tribal God . . . who has "forsaken" the individuant on the Cross).  I'm not saying Jung wasn't aware of this.  Of course he was.  But this sacrifice of the tribal God (a kind of functional loss of faith or atheism) does not play a role in the Jungian individuation schematic . . . and I think we need to ask why this is.  That is, the sacrifice is usually portrayed by Jungians as an illumination of what was once dark and chaotic . . . and this seems psychologically inaccurate to me.  This aspect of the Christ myth is more about crucifixion than illumination.

Jungian individuation is primarily directed at finding God or religion.  It is a method of detective work that tries to detect where the hidden God (deus absconditis) is hidden.  Jung says that this God hides in our complexes . . . and (Jung) gives us some advice on differentiating this God from our neuroses.  Thus, freeing God.  But that is not a rebirth after death to the tribe as the Christ myth portrays.  Finding the hidden God (within oneself, as Jesus said of heaven) is not the same thing as embracing the sacrifice of dependency on that God.  And this distinction is very muddled in Jungian thinking.  The distinction is there, at least in Jung's own writing . . . but it is not made explicit or comprehendible enough.

As a result, Jungianism has fallen into the same tribalistic trap that Christianity was so susceptible to.  God, as the Self, becomes totemized.  The Jungian "goal" is to detect the hiding place of God and then worship at that totem, the all-providing collective unconscious.  It is a selfish objective: find the buried treasure and then live eternally off of its endless wealth.  In Joseph Campbell's thinking, this is expressed by the mantra "Follow Your Bliss."

I don't mean to suggest that either Jung or Campbell didn't understand individuation . . . merely that "find the hidden God" or "follow your bliss" are at best misleading recommendations to individuants.  The individuant can try to keep her "eyes on the prize", but every step closer to that prize shows the previous conception of it to be radically flawed.  The prize itself (or our conception or desire for it) can become a prison.  The best way, then, to keep the prize "solvent" and numinous, is to totemize it, keep it at a sacred distance.  In this totemization, issues of faith never need be addressed.  The gods will never ask one to change, to make dangerous sacrifices.  The totemic god merely asks the individual to keep the devil behind him or her.  This devil is the scrutinizer of faith.

I feel inclined to fault Jung, Campbell, and the Jungians for their evasion of practicalities of individuation.  They excel at the vast, sweeping myths, but the Jungian system doesn't really tell an individual adequately how to individuate.  The process is cloaked in the mystique of its byproducts . . . mandalas, dreams, active imaginings, the magic of the transference between analyst and patient.  Jungian individuation never becomes (and never claims to be) a discipline.  There is a general acknowledgment that individuation is challenging, that it requires small sacrifices (of some of our delusions) and the acceptance of the shadow, but the gloss on individuation common in the Jungian attitude ends up (perhaps unintentionally) amounting to its portrayal as another kind of "salvation" and not really a creation (in the alchemical sense of the Art of transmutation).

We should recall that Jung expressed a great deal of skepticism about his own "artistic" abilities and saw (or at least portrayed) his creative paintings and writings as a kind of anima-driven run-off.  There is no doubt that Jungians continue to use creative therapies and encourage things like mandala drawing in their patients.  But it is not entirely clear what these mandala drawings ultimately mean.  I think of the series of mandalas painted by one of Jung's patients that are printed in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious in the essay "A Study in the Process of Individuation".  Are they supposed to chart a kind of organized transformation in the Self?  Do they portray a series of changes in the ego's attitude toward the Self?  Are they imaginings of a goal that is constantly changing?  Are they spiritual fantasies concocted by the ego (maybe fantasies of the "ideal ego") or "truths" channeled directly from the Self?  Jung (wisely) stops trying to interpret them after his patient leaves analysis (the remaining ones were collected later) . . . but these latter ones are included in the essay nonetheless.  For aesthetic reasons?  So that we may attempt to derive meaning from them (with even less to go on than Jung had)?

Mandalas and other creative works may very well be products of interactions with the unconscious . . . but is that an end in itself, this communion?  More importantly, how do we differentiate between this kind of creative communion and the worship of a totem?  What about the value of questioning the totem, seeing through it?  What about "mystical union" and its aftermath?  Or is the Jungian prescription to come to a worshipful stance toward the unconscious and then stop?  How is the prescribed relationship of the ego with the unconscious different than the relationship of the believer with God?  How is the unconscious different from God (for the Jungian devotee)?  Is the attitude of the Jungian toward the unconscious still one of prayer for providence?  Does Jungianism have a prescription for atheists?  If not, might this suggest that Jungianism could be a religion itself?

Jung once wrote that he never had a patient whose problem wasn't in some way resolved by the need for a (new) religious attitude (can't find exact quote, so I may have botched this a bit).  Alcoholics Anonymous takes a simplified version of Jungianism to construct a similar attitude toward overcoming alcoholism.  There are many varieties of the "support group" that helps cure individual problems with tribal cohesion or the Eros of indoctrination.  And for many people, these techniques seem to work.  As long as one can belong, one can be healed . . . so alienation is treated as a disease for which the cure is reassimilation into the group (the redefinition of one's group role in such a way that the group will accept it).  The group (the sociality instinct) takes the place of the god within.  That is not compatible with individuation.

Jung's construction of the Self is just as equivocal as the Christian construction of Christ.  It is God?  Is it the "deified human"?  Is it the "true personality"?  Or is it a suprapersonality, something wholly Other?  In Aion, Jung tries to compare and contrast the Self to Christ.  He seems to conclude that Christ is the Self, but the devil or Antichrist is also the Self . . . or that the Christ figure is missing the element of evil.  I'm not sure this makes any sense (although, I find the whole book muddled).  What Christ (as constructed by Church-driven Christianity) seems to be lacking from my perspective is not best described as "evil".  What Christ is lacking is humanness . . . and that is extremely ironic for a godman, a human incarnation of God.  So I am disinclined to see the "problem" of the Christ figure as absence of darkness.  The problem is that this figure who should be divine and human is only divine.

So this confusion in Jungian thinking complicates the Jungian individuant's approach to the Self.  It promotes inflation as the individuant is forced to keep asking, "Am I capable of this?  Is this my goal?  Or is this a deity to bow down before?"  If we bow down before a deity that is partly egoic (i.e., human), are we not bowing down before our own egoism?  And if we refuse to recognize the egoic/humanness in this divine figure are we becoming unconscious of our projection of egoism onto God?  That is, when we are caught up in this conundrum of Christ's humanity-and-divinity, we are caught up in the conflation between ego and Self.

For this predicament, Jung prescribes much the same thing the Church always had: repression.  "Fight the devil.  Keep him at bay."  That is, Jung felt that the ego must resist the inflation, continuously remind itself that the inflation was a delusion.  Get thee behind me, Satan!  And there we go cutting off the shadow of the divine again.

I am suggesting that a better approach would be the more thorough differentiation between ego and Self.  In my opinion and construction, the Christ figure is not the Self . . . but the human capacity to relate intimately to the Self.  This is borne out in the alchemical symbolism that equates the lapis philosophorum with Christ (which Jung made such a point of in his writings).  There is some confusion in Jungian thinking (although Jung does sometimes differentiate this properly in his own writing) between alchemical Gold and the Philosopher's Stone.  The Philosopher's Stone is not Gold (according to the alchemists).  The Philosopher's Stone is a substance (a "stone that is no stone") created by the alchemist with the help of God and/or Nature that is applied to ("projected" onto) base metals like lead and thereby causes a transmutation of those base metals into gold.

In other words, the lapis is a "go-between", a medium, a translator.  It takes the chaotic substance or urgings of Nature (the instinctual unconscious, in more psychological terms), differentiates this chaos into spirit, soul, and body (or Sol and Luna) . . . which is something like a differentiation between ego and Self in my terminology . . . and recombines these elements within consciousness (i.e., allows the ego and Self to work together even as they remain differentiated).  Seen in this way, the lapis is a capacity.  We could call it an archetypal capacity (I have been calling this archetypal capacity, Logos).  It is not a material thing or being, per se.  It isn't a "personality" (true or otherwise) or identity (like the ego), because it doesn't contain human wholeness.

Likewise, the Christ figure is a capacity (and was identified with the Logos by the Gnostics . . . thus my use of the term).  That is why the Stone and Christ can be parallels.  But we can no more become a "Christ personality" than we can become a "lapis personality".  What we can do with this Christ capacity is transmute our unconscious nature into conscious nature.  In this sense, we "incarnate" the Self, bring the instinctual unconscious into the material world and the act of living . . . but instead of doing this through unconscious projection (the fundamental human sociality instinct), we do it consciously or super-adaptively, through the willing and aware ego.

But when we are trying to repress the inflation and honor the self-deification taboo, we are caught up in the conflation of the ego and the Self.  That is, we are trying to see "personality" or identity (ego) in the Christ/lapis figure.  Whether we repress this attempt to see ego identity in the Christ or not is ultimately irrelevant (and so I see Jung's prescription of repression for inflation as useless).  The temptation to see egoic identity in the Christ figure needs to be overcome . . . and sometimes this can only be done by "trying on" the identity to see that it doesn't fit.  The moment the ego tries to slip into a Christ-like identity, it feels the "hell fire" of that Procrustean Bed.  It cannot experience full humanness inside such an archetypal box.

By comparison, the Self (the emergent nature of the complex system that is the instinctual unconscious) is much more a "personality".  It has many identity traits . . . because it is built from our genes.  It is both "collective" (carrying the traits of the species or numerous species and one's ancestors) and unique (in that its specific combination of traits is unique . . . with the possible exception of identical twins).  But all of this identity is too vast, too complex (as complexity in nature is always expressed).  The ego can only do its best to "translate" this elemental identity complex of the Self into an egoic sense-of-self.  The capacity to do this without sacrificing natural uniqueness (those parts of ourselves through which libido wants to flow) is symbolized by the Christ/lapis.  Such translation requires an alchemical transmutation.  But both the prima materia and the transmuted Gold are the Self.

I don't mean to suggest that this goes against Jung's notion of the Self (except in the same sense that Jung's notions of the Self can fall into conflict with one another).  The problem that I see is not that Jung was "wrong" on this issue, so much as it is that Jung was not adequately clear on this issue.  Jung can be his own worst enemy (but then, aren't we all?).  In my opinion, he tends to give numerous, somewhat conflicting portrayals of many of his key concepts.  I'm not sure these are actually fundamental self-contradictions in most cases.  Rather, Jung looked at something vast and complex like the Self in a slightly different way every time he wrote about it.  The problem with this "variable perception" of Jung's is that it results in the "construction" of a variety of Jungs.  There are, for instance, scientific/rationalistic Jungs, spiritualistic/mystical Jungs, theological/religious Jungs, medical/therapeutic Jungs, philosopher/pundit Jungs, academician/researcher Jungs . . . and so on and so forth.

I actually find the multiplicity of Jung's personality intriguing and endearing (for its "naturalness") . . . and I had no trouble recognizing and accepting the many Jungs even when I first started reading his writing (in my late teens) . . . although I have since come to value some of these Jungs' thinking over others.  For instance, the mystical metaphysician Jung is intriguing as a personality . . . and I like that he has this human capacity . . . but as a thinker, this Jung is a few steps behind the more "scientific" Jung (that realized the Self and individuation were instinctual things).  The "scientific" Jung was a brilliant thinker, because he was able to see through egoism into the spiritualistic and mystical and recognize its naturalness, even its materiality.  The "mystic" Jung merely speaks the same mystic-speak that many other mystics have and will always speak.  It isn't "wrong", but it's a muddy language, a language that can really only be properly understood by other mystics.  Whereas "scientific" language allows a wider range of people to understand the content of the ideas.

But what I came to realize after my hiatus from and then return to Jungianism is that Jung's multiplicity and complexity is ultimately destructive to the wellbeing of his ideas.  It requires the Jungian reader to be somewhat Herculean in the discernment and differentiation department.  What we typically do is forget or ignore all of the Jung that we cannot most easily relate to or comprehend.  Regrettably, this is always bound to construct our own personal Jung inadequately.  More people respond to the numinous, mystical Jung than to the more mundane, scientific Jung.  Or rather, it is the nature of the mystically-desirous personality to ignore contradictions to the beloved mysticism (just look at the way people interpret the Bible selectively yet consider their interpretations absolutely valid).  Whereas it is the nature of the scientific/rationalistic personality to reject anything that smacks of mysticism.  This leads to the scientific personalities rejecting Jung wholesale, while the mystical personalities embrace a very expurgated Jung (expurgated of much of his science and rationalism).

As I've come to investigate this phenomenon more and more (both through interaction with other Jungians and through the re-reading of Jung's texts through this lens), I've become increasingly concerned about the futurity of Jungian psychology.  To be honest, I am inclined toward pessimism . . . primarily because the vast majority of Jungians are of the mystical, non-scientific persuasion.  It isn't that these "spiritualistic" Jungians are bad or wrong.  I merely see them as half-right . . . just as I see the would-be sciency Jungians as half-right.  But the sciency Jungians have been largely purged from the Jungian intellectual community.  I'm not sure if this was the doing of the spiritualistic Jungians or if it was more of a conscious exodus on the part of the scientific Jungians.  All I know is that the impression of the spiritualistic Jungians I've gotten since my return to the Jungian community is that, given the option, they would happily participate in the purge of scientific Jungianism.  They see no value in it.

My pessimism about Jungian psychology's future existence is in large part a result of seeing that the spiritualistic Jungians radically outnumber the scientific Jungians.  And as that appears to be the case, any attempt on behalf of a "synthesist" like me to find a functional coniunctio of science and religion in Jungian thinking can only be perceived (by the vast majority of spiritualistic Jungians) as an assault from the shadow.  I have been asking myself more and more frequently: "Who does Jungianism really belong to?  Do the scientific types really have any claim to its heritage anymore?"  It seems impossible and invalid to make the claim that scientific Jungianism is the "true heir" of Jung.

I only know or feel or believe that a Jungian theory (or gnosticism) that can unite Jungian spirituality with Jungian science seems to me an excellent, accurate, and useful theory of the human psyche.  A better theory than any I have yet come across.  That is the only real reason I am pursuing it.  But I have found the pursuit itself to be a kind of individuation process, a Passion in which the dependence on the old, tribal, totemic, Jungian God had to be lost, the taboo against any fundamental critique and revision of Jungian thinking had to be overcome.  I've been finding this process painful but worth it (much as I have found individuation on a more personal level to be).  It has been, with very few (but much appreciated) exceptions, thankless.  Very much a Useless Science.  Seen from the sanctity of ideological opposition, my attitude and project must seem demented and belligerent.  I have given up hope of resolution, of a "meeting in the middle" with the Jungian community and mindset.  I continue on simply on the basis of what I think is right . . . proceeding, creating, analyzing, revising in response to my own ethical and intellectual standards.  Out of a strange sense of honor.

I don't know where this will lead.  But it's in this predicament, in this journeying without a map, that I ultimately feel most genuinely oriented or "directed".  Not knowing, but doing.  Maybe I am living the myth as the myth lives me.

But the fact that such a project seems so alien to the contemporary Jungian mindset is itself an indication of how far Jungianism has strayed from the functional road of individuation . . . strayed into a neoprimitivist tribalism with a totemic God to protect.  That totemic God is the essence of the tribal cohesion behind the Jungian/New Age spiritualistic mindset.  It is perhaps bound up in the ideology that deifies or spiritualizes (i.e., totemizes) the unconscious.  Therefore, any attempt to "see through" this God or the totemization of the unconscious will be perceived as threatening to the sanctity of the Jungian tribe.

I have no spiteful interest in dismantling the favored religion and dogmas of Jungianism; I am merely trying to look at the tribal mindset of Jungianism in a longer-term way.  I believe this totemic tribalism, this spiritualization of the unconscious, will result in the demise of Jungian psychology.  I believe this, because I can see that such spiritualism in not adequately adaptive in the modern (information-rich) intellectual environment.  What I want is to see the tribe I have belonged to and still care about find a way to adapt and fend off extinction.  But this adaptation will require innovation and revision.  To the degree that the Jungian mindset is tribalistic, such innovation will appear as heresy or even nihilism.

But I don't personally see this as heretical, nihilistic, destructive, or violating.  To me, it is a matter of what has to be done in order for Jungian psychology to survive and adapt to an environment that it has grown too regressive for.  Any offense that the "mutant" Otherness of such a revisionary project causes is regrettable, but ultimately irrelevant.  I have wanted to try to divide the personal reactions from the philosophical, revisionary project . . . but this is really beyond my control.
You can always come back, but you canít come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Kafiri

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2007, 12:09:07 PM »
Sealchan,
Was "thinking" of you this morning; or, was I?
http://www.thymos.com/tat/self.html (-)brainout(-)

Cheers,
Kafiri
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Sealchan

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Re: The Modern Myth: Free Will
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2007, 01:18:56 PM »
Quote
Sealchan,
Was "thinking" of you this morning; or, was I?
http://www.thymos.com/tat/self.html 

Cheers,
Kafiri

lol  Thanks for the link.  It is a nice summary of the issues/questions "I" am considering.  I have read some of it but will come back for more...