Author Topic: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths  (Read 12566 times)

Keri

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Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« on: August 30, 2009, 08:40:36 AM »
We’ve discussed the Hero archetype a great deal on this site.  There are, I think, still differences in opinion among the members about this subject.  I came across something the other day that helped me understand the two different perspectives a little better.

I was watching the Mythos series, a collection of Joseph Campbell’s talks, on DVD.  In the section on Psyche and Symbol, he draws a diagram to describe his understanding of the psychic system.  I think this is not news to students of psychology, and I’ve heard Betts describe something similar.  I’ve reproduced part of that drawing here for discussion.



You can see the traditionally understood aspects of the Psyche and their relationships here.  Interestingly, you can see that one of the main ways for unconscious material to become conscious is via projections onto outside objects (people, animals, environment, etc.).  I understand that this is very well understood in the different schools of psychology, and do not think anyone here would disagree with that (and Kafiri would probably applaud loudly! (-)laugh(-)).

Of course, mythology and dreams also make this material (from both the “personal” and “collective” unconscious) available to consciousness.  Campbell describes mythology as the language of the Self speaking to the Ego system.  He says that it is the job of the ego system to learn how to read that language (which to me sounds like developing the Logos).  

The Personae system is unique to each culture, and is enforced by the “neighbors” (as in, “what will the neighbors think”), institutionalization of morality and social custom, the idea of natural moral laws, and the idea of transcendence.  Different cultures emphasize this to different degrees, but in “primitive” or more traditional cultures, the person is meant to identify with the persona (ie, someone is the warrior, is the shaman, etc.).

But then Campbell goes on to describe what he calls two different kinds of mythology, and I think this is where our differing emphasis on the qualities of the hero have come from.

He says the first kind is that of “The Right-Hand Path.”  This is the mythology of the village compound (perhaps what we have been calling myths, epics, etc).  It is specific to the culture.  It helps keep you fixed in the context of your world.  It helps you live as expected, live with dignity, respect, etc.

Then he says, “On the other hand, you may flip out!”  He calls this the mythology of “The Left-Hand Path.”  These stories (eg, fairy tales and the more global, less culture-specific, myths) help you when you have begun to develop a sense of incongruity with the right-hand path.  He says that one moves out into a realm of danger, where there are no rules.  People on this path may live a life of danger and creativity, but perhaps not a “respected” life, according to the culture.  This “left-hand” or “general” mythology is that of the Hero journey (or individuation), that which helps a person fulfill his or her own potentialities.

This distinction may not be news to anyone reading here, and may not completely help our discussion, because there is still room for debate about what the characteristics of that Hero are (eg, conquering vs vegetal/sacrificing, etc.), but it really did help me put it into larger context.

By the way, Campbell makes the point that neither path is better or worse than the other.  If the mythology is living and vital, it helps the people that it is speaking to, whichever path they are on.  It is not wrong to be on the right-hand path, as long as there is no incongruity.  From what I understand, it would result in a participation mystique with one’s society or tribe, which is pleasant and adaptive, as long as the environment is suitable.  However, our problem (the Problem of the Modern, as I understand from reading here), is that our environment of modern diverse culture is no longer very amenable to our desire for that tribal participation.  Therefore, there are more and more people feeling the incongruity.  Additionally, Campbell states that our mythology became fixed (at the time of the Bible), and so has not changed with our understanding of the world (our science).  This means it is not vital or helpful anymore.  

Actually, I find it interesting when I reflect on the fact that three of the major world religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) developed at relatively the same time in our evolutionary history.  I wonder if they were a response to that increasing sense of incongruity?  And though, in my humble opinion, these religions have become fixed and maladaptive, if you look at the way Matt has described the Gnostic tradition of Christianity (with the Christ as the example of the sacrificing and devoted Hero that one is meant to identify with, at least in attitude) or the alchemists’ rendering of the resurrected Christ as the Philosopher’s Stone, there may have been some adaptive value to them at the beginning.  I mention Christianity alone only because it is the one I have even a tiny bit of understanding about . . . I can’t speak about the others at all.  And, of course, there is Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., which I know even less about.

Anyway, I thought this might be helpful in future discussions of the Hero archetype.
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

Keri

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Re: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2009, 09:06:53 AM »
I think one of my current problems is that I thought one could "flip out" onto that left-hand path and then go back to the right-hand path, happily readjusted.  But this doesn't seem to be the case! ;D
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: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2011, 03:12:23 PM »
I believe the two paths are two sides of the same coin...whether one's personal journey and search for meaning benefits from the archetypal forms of their culture or finds those same forms problematic is a subtle difference.  Whether one's personal transformation is seen primarily as serving and preserving culture or denying or changing culture is itself a two-sided coin.

I see the Ego/Self distinction in a similar two-sided coin way...we see ourselves as existing moment to moment like a soul with responsibilities at any given time for what that soul's body does.  The moment-to-moment aspect is Ego but the bigger piece is Self.  However, the moment-to-moment aspect (Ego) invokes certain dimensions of the greater psyche (Self) and, thereby, determines the state of the psyche.  In this view the Ego has power (through the impact of the World) over the Self.  The Ego can force the psyche out of balance in spite of the Self's balancing direction.  But the state of the whole psyche also determines how the moment-to-moment aspect will arise and response.  In this view the Self determines the Ego and is the power in spite of the energies of the World. 

As I have been reading Eric Kandel's In Search of Memory I am gaining a better sense of the root energics involved in the mind/brain.  Long term and short term memory creates a kind of two-fold quality to our consciousness that may be behind the differentiation of Ego and Self.  Ego as the moment-to-moment "center of consciousness" and Self as the center of the psyche as a whole would seem to intuitively map to short term memories focus on the present and long-term memories' focus on the broader life experience.  If one identifies with one's long term memories as opposed to their daily experiences, something perhaps one tends to do as one gets older, one might think of themselves as a Self with an Ego (persona?) that oscillates like a busy bee through the day.  Perhaps, when one is younger one feels that one is bound more in the moment and that one's history is lost once it passes out of mind. Getting in touch with long-term memory requires holing up by one's self and reflecting on the past.  Then it would seem like the busy Ego must set aside time to get back in touch with one's greater life meaning (Self). 

As soon as one takes responsibility for the contents of their "non-Egoic" psyche (owns one's unconscious decisions?), one begins to have this two-sided view of personality.  The identification with short-term/Ego vs long-term/Self begins to become a matter of shades of grey. 

So I have begun to think of Ego, Shadow, Anima/us, Self as really various faces of one overall psychic order.  This overall order is co-created by the structure and function of the brain as well as the rules and expectations of the culture from its moral laws to its linguistic conventions. 

The trick to me in interpreting anything psychic one has to choose sides to fit one's own personal history, but, at the same time, always be ready to see the opposite way (style, history, interpretation) which is always also true.  Sometimes one can even choose to prefer that opposite (shadow, anima/us, ego/Self) when it seems advantageous.  This is the value of the trickster archetype which shows us that though we are biased the whole psychic reality is just flexible enough that if we are watchful we might jump the tracks of our own bias from time to time rather than remain in a predictable role.  It is then that we gain a more objective view of ourselves as a limited, but unique, expression of a deeper potential and that we all have our differing values in that context.  Our true free will is that we can, in those certain moments, jump the tracks of our typical behaviors.

Matt Koeske

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Re: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2011, 08:53:13 AM »
Well, this off the cuff thought is probably a product of my first of the day med load kicking in (sorry about that), but seeing that (fairly conventional) Jungian diagram of the psyche again brought up an alternative model/analogy in my mind.  An elephant.

At first I thought of the blind men and the elephant story with the ego sort of like the blind men and the elephant like the "objective psyche" or Self (as whole systemic personality).  But then I thought, actually, the ego is more like the trunk of the elephant.  It can't ever see the elephant (no eye in the trunk), but it is perhaps its most important and sensitive organ for interacting with the environment.  A trunkless elephant would not survive.  What an amazing organ it is!  The elephant is so dependent on it.  The trunk is an adaptation to the elephant's evolutionary niche.

My steroids are probably making me extra cranky, but I grow tired of the good old mandala diagrams of the psyche that Jungians are always drawing.  They are misleading in so many ways.  This is not meant as a critique of either Sealchan or Keri, of course.  There is a habitual use of mandalas and quaternities in Jungian psychic modeling that at first had a New Agey chic to it, but now (in my opinion) has become an obstacle to looking at the psyche less "philosophically/theologically" and more organically and withing the context of the evolution of complex dynamic systems.

For years now i have rejected the idea of persona.  Ego and persona are cut from the same cloth.  Persona is just a bit of ego that we are aware is not wholly representative of us.  It is not (as Jung tried to neatly claim) the opposite of anima/animus.  Also, the ego (as Jung and other Jungians have often suggested) is not the "center of consciousness".  It is immersed in psyche and very much characterized not my how much it "sees" or is conscious of, but by how little is sees and how limited its scope of languaging is.  Again, like the elephant's trunk.

There is another bad habit in Jungianism that implies (or flat out claims) that the expansion of "consciousness" through "ego-strengthening" is a positive form of psychic growth and progress (on a "spiritual" path toward greater enlightenment).  But the elephant's trunk is not characterize by how much it sees.  Rather, it is its extreme sensitivity and tremendous flexibility that enables it to facilitate the survival and adaptation of the whole organism.  I don't think the ego is meant to become "super-conscious" any more than the elephant's trunk is meant to develop vision.  The goal of a healthy, functional, and well-developed ego is capacity to use its great flexibility and sensitivity to the best possible survival benefit of the elephant.

As for the whole elephant as Self, there is a problem in the analogy, I admit.  It is the same problem that drove Jung to use the metaphor of the Self as both center and circumference of the personality.  This is a problem of representation or languaging in our conscious approach to the Self.  On one hand, the elephant is a whole, unified, complex system.  But there is also a more abstract "elephantic system" that uses the various cooridination of system traits of the elephant (coupled with its instincts) to adapt extremely well to its environmental niche.  This abstracted elephant is like what I call the Self system . . . it is the complex, systemic coordination of the all the various organs of the elephant into a whole thing designed to adapt to a specific environment.

Such a Self system is not "biological" per se.  It is based more in the laws of complex systems theory.  The Self, therefore, can be represented as a systemic organization principle . . . but that principle is equally defined and represented by a whole organism that operates by that principle of organization.  So, there is the elephant as objective animal and then there is "elephantness".  In the human psyche, these are both representable, sometimes together (as when the Self appears in a dream as animal" and sometimes separated (as when the Self is represented as a symbol of abstract complexity, a sacred geometry or mandala, etc.)  Being able to recognize the Self in both forms simultaneously is part of the Logos of individuation/the Work.

Gotta go to physical therapy now.  Sorry for no spell checking.

Best,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2011, 12:39:13 PM »
Now I can digest a good metaphor very easily...and Matt, does this qualify as one of your shortest posts?   (-)appl(-)

Now to translate to thinking...your definition for Ego might be derived from the following: "the elephant's trunk (Ego) is the most sensative and flexible part of the elephant (Self)".

How about the Ego is the most energic activity in the Self?  Or tying this into Eric Kandel's (In Search of Memory) explanation (up to what I have read and extrapolated from it) for how short and long term memory work, Ego is the most persistent (most energic over time) excitation (implies also inhibition) of short-term memory and the resulting engagement of changes in long-term memory that result. 

I think one distinction to make here is whether Ego is a system, an order, or is it a relative quality of some psychic activity in general as I have suggested in my memory explanation.  From a wikipedia summary of Daniel Dennett's views (I need to re-read his Consciousness Explained) I think he ties in consciousness to what is remembered (as does Gerald Edelman Remembered Present).  So how memory works in the brain is likely fundamental to understanding the Ego/Self dichotomy. 

What is conscious and, therefore, what is associated with Ego is whatsoever drives memory.  Now is there an intermediary order between the psyche as a whole and the world that we should call an Ego?  Or is the Self directly interacting with the world and its point of contact is always a "most sensative and most flexible" interaction?  Is the elephant's nose a fixed bodily organ with locality or is it a bodily state capable of being physically located almost anywhere in the elephant's body?  That is, is the Ego a part of the Self or is it a state of the Self?

Using such devices as a mandalic diagram is but one way of using a metaphor to intuitively grasp what is psyche.  By literally mapping concepts (inner persons) to a circular space (mandala) are we not creatively engaging the visual cortex and our facial recognition cortex and our linguistic cortex together to produce a picture of the relative qualities of psyche as a set of inner persons? The fact that the list of inner characters is short conforms to our short-term memory limitations to create a finite spectral set of parts to stand for (map to) an unknown whole?  Making that finite spectral whole into pairs of opposites (ego/Self, persona/Anima, etc) also reinforces the libidic content (through simultaneous "entertainment" of opposites) and makes it more powerful (greater libido) in our Ego consciousness (aka short term memory) thereby making it more amenible to long-term memory storage and later short-term memory recall and manipulation.

I've felt for a long time that the New Age is a re-engagement of intuition as a means to creatively re-express abstract concepts onto non-spiritual substances.  The result is the spiritualization (or abstract noumenizing to coin a term) of matter and the daylighting of spiritual matters into physical substances.  A short-attention span form of alchemy.  It doesn't matter so much what constellations or gems or Tarot card sets you use so long as the physical set or "deck" offers a "spectral" (diverse like the primary and secondary colors), "finite" (accessible or relatively accessible to short-term memory manipulation) array of parts which stand togther for a whole. 

To me the Ego is a Trickster, it is whatever part of the Elephant's body needs to be the nose.  The Trickster made the world and still doesn't get it.  That's why I have been eager to dissolve the distinction between ego and Self because I see but one order in the psyche with two faces.  The two faces are the two types of memory and the energic (neural impulse strength and frequency) flows that drive them.

To understand archetypes we need merely to understand the processing functions of the various cortical regions and through abstraction (aka mapping) to other cortical regions see what "new age" mappings might result.  This occurs when instinctually driven libido comes into conflict and yields a highly energized but static situation in the psyche.  This is when creative mapping takes place spontaneously in the cortex and eventually yields some kind of symbol, aka spectral whole which resolves the conflict through a remapping of the original issue onto a third context.

There I think I've packed in a good variety of my own private theories into a relatively (for me) cohesive and not too long post.  But does it make sense to anyone else...besides me...yet?  lol





Matt Koeske

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Re: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2011, 07:18:12 PM »
Now I can digest a good metaphor very easily...and Matt, does this qualify as one of your shortest posts?   (-)appl(-)

Cue Twilight Zone theme  (-)laugh(-).  I know, I'm kind of freaked out, too!  I will fail to duplicate this rare performance here, I'm afraid.


I don't follow everything you write here, so I apologize if I end up displacing or misinterpreting your ideas.  But it's an interesting subject and one that falls between our somewhat divergent paradigms, so I will proceed and do my best.


How about the Ego is the most energic activity in the Self?  Or tying this into Eric Kandel's (In Search of Memory) explanation (up to what I have read and extrapolated from it) for how short and long term memory work, Ego is the most persistent (most energic over time) excitation (implies also inhibition) of short-term memory and the resulting engagement of changes in long-term memory that result.

Depending on what you mean by "energic", I would agree.  I think energic is a misleading term, though.  It would be more accurate to say "most energy-consuming".  Or, as the evolutionary psychologists might say, most "energy expensive" cognitive trait.  That idea also meshes with neuroscience as far as I recall.  I.e., "ego" as something very likely related to the prefrontal cortex, is a big time energy hog (which perhaps makes the reparative/regulative process of dreaming all the more significant).

So, psychologically speaking, the ego (and attention demanded by it from the Self/whole psyche) requires a great deal of energy to run.  It is therefore arguably very inefficient.  It may even be the epitome of the "kludge-like" way our brains have evolved and are organized.  The so-called "Accidental Mind" that neuroscientist David Linden describes in his excellent primer of the same title. 

You have been keen in your theorizing to focus more on the "specialness" of the ego's function, whereas I (who tend to feel the ego is already prone to inflated descriptions and exaggerated importance) find the most interesting aspect of egohood its limitations, illusions/delusions, inefficiencies, and lack of robustness.  This is actually an area in which my thinking parallels that of modern psychoanalysts and developmental Jungians.  That is, the ego is a cognitive organ that needs the kind of attention (from the brain/body/Self) that an infant needs from its mother.  Egohood typically resounds with "infantile" qualities and limitations.  But I diverge from the psychoanalytic schools in the (more classically Jungian) feeling that the ego can "grow up" and develop into less of a Self-dependent child and more of a facilitating partner of the Self.

The very energy/resource expensive ego, despite its expense and limitations, would appear to be selected by evolution, though.  Of course, developmentalists would argue with that, but I feel pretty strongly that human egohood and its underlying brain functions were successful mutations for our species.  Either way, like the elephant's trunk, the human ego is very much a product of its environment.  It is shaped for human sociality the way an elephant's trunk is shaped for gripping tree trunks and lifting food up to the elephant's mouth.

I don't really understand the way you are connecting short- and long-term memory with egoic function . . . but I have previously expressed a belief that the ego is very much restricted by short term or working memory operations.  That is, the "conscious" ego or sense of thinking/processing we are aware of and try to direct is working memory constrained.  Many thoughts "just come to" the ego out of long-term, associative memory.  It doesn't manufacture them in the way it can manufacture the focus of thoughts in various circumstances.  I am personally more inclined to see these long-term memory "provisions" as coming from a psychic area/process that is closer to what Jung meant by "the unconscious".  I.e., it is autonomous.  Even if the conscious ego "calls" for a memory, that memory doesn't always appear or appear intact or accurately.  Consciousness is dependent on something "other" in the mind/brain to provide it with memories and thoughts that can then be manipulated like geometric building blocks in working memory.

In other words, I am entirely opposed to the idea that the ego is some kind of air traffic controller of thought telling all the thoughts where they need to go, actively organizing the mental system.  I'm not sure if your theory leans that way, but it sometimes seems to to me.  And that would be a place where we diverge.  My position is much more consistent with the cognitive science and neuroscience I've read (although I claim no expertise whatsoever in those fields) that focuses on the many illusions of perception and cognition and limitations to conscious thought that characterize our cognitive process.  It is an area in which Jungianism and neuroscience could find a bit of conciliation.


I think one distinction to make here is whether Ego is a system, an order, or is it a relative quality of some psychic activity in general as I have suggested in my memory explanation.  From a wikipedia summary of Daniel Dennett's views (I need to re-read his Consciousness Explained) I think he ties in consciousness to what is remembered (as does Gerald Edelman Remembered Present).  So how memory works in the brain is likely fundamental to understanding the Ego/Self dichotomy.

I agree that the function of memory in the brain is fundamental to understanding an ego/Self dichotomy, but I'm not sure I follow your abstract possible characterizations: system, order, or relative quality of some psychic activity in general.  For me, despite my willingness to bandy the term ego (or Self for that matter) about, when I speak of the ego, I am knowingly and decidedly speaking of a metaphor for a psychic process, or a placeholder name for a set of related psychic processes.  And that metaphor is based primarily in phenomenological observation (as opposed to localization) that may have little or nothing to do with the physical brain functions that enable the egoic process in the psyche.

So, the three categories you try to decide among all seem potentially descriptive of the ego (although also a bit too vague to really tell us anything about the ego that is not fairly obvious from the nature of the metaphor itself).  Is the ego a system?  Sure.  Phenomenologically, it is a consistent array or program.  Is ego an order?  Yes, of course, because it is not random and chaotic.  It specifically orders (or perceives/interprets the ordering of) the perception of thought by using a system of filters, reductions, symbols, and other representations.  The relative quality of some psychic activity category is not clear to me.  That is a loose enough descriptor to cover all kinds of psychic processes that I would not consider egoic.

I also don't see the ego as likely to be strictly localized in the brain . . . although it is a reasonable hypothesis to assume it draws significantly from the specifically human neocortex.  But evolution is rarely innovative.  It usually retools aspects of preexisting designs.  So I don't think there is an "ego gene".  But I do feel it is valid to talk about, describe, and study the ego psychologically, even if we know we are working with a metaphor or place holder concept, a variable.

I suspect that ego (and the evolution of the ego) is tied in with human sociality in a way that is ultimately inextricable.  It is a social psychic organ, not a personal or individual one.  That is, despite the "egotism" and significant self-centeredness that we typically associate with the ego, I see the ego as really a product of relationship and socialization.  This idea would be compatible with those theorists who suspect that human intelligence or "consciousness" arose from evolutionary increases in the capacity for social intelligence.  And I do lean toward that theory myself.

The more interesting question to me is: is the ego an emergent phenomenon, a kind of software that developed and develops in each person anew in order to take best advantage of the evolutionary hardware of the brain?  Actually, I feel very confident that the ego is an emergent phenomenon, so the question then is really: "how emergent is it?"

The developmental Jungians have had a number of things to say about this (although they often call the ego the small-s self and sort of blur the ego/Self differentiation that classical Jungianism suggests).  I tend to feel there is more to innateness and biology than these developmentalists do.  The ego is not merely an amazing coincidence that happens in every human being only as a product of socialization.  On the other hand, I also shy away from any kind of notion that there is an "archetype" or blueprint for the ego.  My hunch is that the relative consistency of the ego from one person to the next is the product of the specifications of a complex system (the human brain) that operates with a consistent dynamic (the Self principle) in a fairly controlled environment (human society).  The seemingly vast differences in human societies across cultures and eras is, I feel, much less diverse than it seems to us . . . because we are such cultural specialists.  We notice these fine differences and make very big deals out of them, but human cultures are much more consistent then they are different from one another.  As "anthropologists", we have to struggle to remove our culture-centric goggles in order to better understand the behaviors of the species. 

That is what sociobiology and evolutionary psychology are striving to do.  But they remain underdog perspectives in an intellectual culture still dominated by social constructivism and emphasis on cultural differences.


What is conscious and, therefore, what is associated with Ego is whatsoever drives memory.

I may misunderstand you here, but I have to completely disagree if I read this sentence verbatim.  Ego does not drive memory, and there is no evidence I can think of to support such a position.  I.e., we don't consciously make our memories.  And our tools or perception are extremely limited and rather shoddy.  We simply aren't equipped consciously to make, store, organize, and reorganize our memories.  That is a fantastically complex task, and there is no indication whatsoever that consciousness bound by working memory is capable of such complex and intentional organization.

I don't even think ego is all that responsible for perceiving the things that make it into memory.  Much of what is remembered slips untouched by the ego and only reappears to it "from within" (as in dreams).

In general, though, I'm not even sure memory is something that is "driven".  That is, memory shows various signs of being a self-organizing system without a central processor.  The "decisions" of memory construction are made on extremely minute (i.e., synaptic) levels . . . what I've been referring to as memory quanta.  Well, memory quanta are larger (and more phenomenological) chunks . . . perhaps large enough for us to identify them as coherent information bits.  Synaptic firings are much, much "smaller".

I am inclined to see the egoic sense of selfhood as a product of such complex emergences and self-organizing systems.  Again, what we are and the way we think have a kind of "accidental" quality to them.  I think we attribute far greater levels of design, simple organization, and control to our conscious minds than are really present there.  Confabulation, rationalization, attributions of order to non- and semi-ordered things . . . because the reduction of complex things into simpler things allow us to endow them with "folk physics" properties.  I.e., thoughts that can be moved around, that interact and transform as if by physical laws of motion.  I keep recommending Steven Pinker's the The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature to you.  It's dense, but very well written and fascinating.

I think Pinker (along with other language theorists who are focusing increasingly on the physical or folk physical substructures of language and thought) is onto something big.  It hasn't fully materialized in psychology yet (to my knowledge), because the people studying it most intensively are linguists.  The people thinking about this aren't thinking about ego and Self or in depth psychological terms.  We (depth psychology types) get caught up in big philosophical ideas and metaphors that make complex things seem more sensible and ordered.  But some of this small or quantum picture thinking is also needed in depth psychology, I feel.

That's maybe the main reason I am interested in science and in fields like evolutionary psychology.  It's that ability to look at what we ("intuitive types") usually miss: the "inferior sensation function", the tiny quantum ways in which thoughts (and organisms) are put together.  That is what "analysis" is really aimed at.  Analysis is not a philosophical ideology, but a capacity to focus on the elements of thought/psyche and their interconnections.  Freud tried to do this with "instinct" and Oedipal paradigms and infantile behavior.  Jung tried to do it with archetype theory.  But these are still big metaphors that tend to eclipse the smaller elements from which they are derived.


Now is there an intermediary order between the psyche as a whole and the world that we should call an Ego?  Or is the Self directly interacting with the world and its point of contact is always a "most sensative and most flexible" interaction?

I am not keen on the philosophical sounding abstraction "intermediary order".  I would be more concrete and say that there is the human brain and the environment of the human organism interacting . . . and their interactions have co-evolved through a kind of feedback system.  I.e., humans evolved to adapt to a social environment that was itself evolving along with human genes.  I would be willing to go along with ego as "mediator" for the individual organism in its natural environment.  But there are many such mediators in all species.  All kinds of adaptations (and on more complex levels, whole organs and instinctual behavior patterns) mediate between the individual organism and its environment.  That is behind the "selfish gene" theory of Dawkins.  I.e., the evolution of species is a matter of serving the basic "needs" or "drives" of genes to replicate themselves.  From the perspective of these individual genes, every trait is a way of mediating the interaction with the environment in a relatively favorable way (for the replication of those genes).

Complexity (as in the complexity of the human organism, the human brain and mind) is derived from simpler stuff.

Psychologically and metaphorically speaking, the Self cannot interact directly with the world.  The Self is a principle of organization (especially of the organization of the psyche).  The human organism is the complex, evolved system of traits that has been so very successful at surviving and adapting to its environment.  The ego is an emergent phenomenon that allows the cognitive interaction between organism and environment to be computed in terms of folk physics rules.  For instance, the ego allows the organism to have a simple physical model of being and thingness, an I to relate to a Thou.  Then folk physics notions like penetrability/resistance, similarity/difference, togetherness/separateness, within/without, and hundreds of others can be applied to the incredibly complex and abstract thing that is a self/Self.

The point of interaction between the organism and its environment is not a "most sensitive and flexible" organ, though.  It is a kludge, a workaround.  It breaks down and fails constantly (at least under modern environmental conditions).


Is the elephant's nose a fixed bodily organ with locality or is it a bodily state capable of being physically located almost anywhere in the elephant's body?  That is, is the Ego a part of the Self or is it a state of the Self?

In my opinion, the ego is not really a state of the Self, nor is it a part of the Self (unless we are defining the whole psyche as Self).  As an emergent phenomenon, it is other.  It functions as a mental organ, but it is not organic in a fully physical sense.  The Self system seeks homeostasis, which requires a kind of equilibrious relationship with the environment.  The ego emerges/develops to facilitate that relationship within the natural environment of human society.  I don't think the Self is all that concerned with the environment.  At least, that is what we see in Self phenomena in dreams.  The Self is not concerned with what the ego needs to defend itself.  The Self is concerned with maintaining homeostasis.  The ego often interprets this "drive" as a need for conformity or social acceptability and even influence or status in society.  Where such things can be achieved, it seems (and may often be the case) that homeostasis (limited anxiety and systemic destabilization) is served.  In other words, a coherent and positive image of selfhood is reflected back to the individual by the society s/he exists in.  This positive image also typically accords with some kind of survival success, perhaps reproductive, but also a success in helping maintain a social order in which the individual and/or his/her kin are fairly well facilitated and guaranteed of relative "fitness" and its benefits.


Using such devices as a mandalic diagram is but one way of using a metaphor to intuitively grasp what is psyche.  By literally mapping concepts (inner persons) to a circular space (mandala) are we not creatively engaging the visual cortex and our facial recognition cortex and our linguistic cortex together to produce a picture of the relative qualities of psyche as a set of inner persons? The fact that the list of inner characters is short conforms to our short-term memory limitations to create a finite spectral set of parts to stand for (map to) an unknown whole?  Making that finite spectral whole into pairs of opposites (ego/Self, persona/Anima, etc) also reinforces the libidic content (through simultaneous "entertainment" of opposites) and makes it more powerful (greater libido) in our Ego consciousness (aka short term memory) thereby making it more amenible to long-term memory storage and later short-term memory recall and manipulation.

I can't tell what you are proposing and what you are questioning in this paragraph.  What I can say is that the archetypal personage model I've been fiddling with (utilizing ego, personal shadow, hero, animi, Demon, Self, and Core Complex) differs in two important (and I'm sure many other minor) ways from the classical Jungian mandala split into opposites of conscious and unconscious (with unconscious split into personal and collective, etc.).  First, my model is not meant to be a model of the psyche or "whole psyche".  Rather, it is specific to a kind of theatrical play in an individuating psyche.  My theory is that these personages are vaguely recognizable in non-individuating psyches as well, but they remain mixed up with one another and muddled together with a lot of shadow.  They are also relatively inactive.  So, an "anima/animus", a term that implies animation, movement, life spirit, libido, soul, may not be very animated in a non-individuating psyche.  To be full-fledged animi, they have to be activated in the theater of individuation along with the hero, the Self, the shadow, and the Demon (and the ego has to be able to somewhat recognize and differentiate these figures).

The second important difference from the Jungian model is that my model is not really a model of separate personages, per se.  It is a model of complex interrelationship among these organs of individuating psyche.  So, it is not the characters in my model that are important, but the whole play on stage.  The narrative that involves all of them is the archetype . . . the "master archetype" of individuation.  I hold that the characters cannot be understood only as characters and only by themselves.  That is the major Jungian mistake in archetype theory.  It is alluring, because we tend to recognize these psychic forces as personages (that is a product of our theory of mind).  But this has led to a great deal of silliness and confusion and vagueness in Jungian archetype theory . . . it has led to a theory that doesn't actually have real applicability.  It neatly reduces a very complex interrelational dynamic, and that makes it easier for us to grasp (with our intuitive folk physics).  But what I think we are observing is not really "splinter psyches" or autonomous personalities inside our minds so much as a complex dynamic system in the process of a state change.

As I recently urged others on the IAJS list: it is time for Jungianism to fully enter the age of complexity.  The old language of archetypal personages and opposites is outdated . . . but the language of complexity is ripe and ready to be applied.  Some of this is already being adopted, but what I have seen is that the Jungians that do adopt complexity language use it to supplement classic (or developmental) Jungian archetypal language (as if it meant the same thing or merely amplified that old language).  Really, archetypal language needs to take a back seat to a language of complexity for depth psychology to truly progress and become fully modern.


I've felt for a long time that the New Age is a re-engagement of intuition as a means to creatively re-express abstract concepts onto non-spiritual substances.  The result is the spiritualization (or abstract noumenizing to coin a term) of matter and the daylighting of spiritual matters into physical substances.  A short-attention span form of alchemy.  It doesn't matter so much what constellations or gems or Tarot card sets you use so long as the physical set or "deck" offers a "spectral" (diverse like the primary and secondary colors), "finite" (accessible or relatively accessible to short-term memory manipulation) array of parts which stand together for a whole.

Again, I'm struggling to follow your language here, but I guess I partly agree.  I have a lot of problems with New Age languaging (which derives from Victorian occult languaging filtered through 1960s and 70s pop culture and then sold in instant form to capitalism . . . i.e., commodified.  The problem (as Jung and other Jungian critics of the original occult movements like theosophism have often asserted) is that the New Age languaging fails to be as functionally descriptive as the older symbolic languaging was in say, medieval times, or earlier.  In other words, moderns don't natively understand and speak symbolic language . . . so even when we learn some of it, we are highly susceptible to "orientalizing" and romanticizing such language, essentially conforming it to our modernist assumptions, habits, and desires.  And in that conformation, much is lost.  The naturalness of the symbolic language is lost.  The result is a tremendous increase in egoic inflation, a kind of appropriation by the modern ego (or, as I would say, the Demon) of affective and structural dynamics perceived from the Self system. 

In other word, the New Age language that gets so many moderns (including most Jungians) introduced to symbolic and spiritual thinking causes as much harm as it provides benefit.  It is not a "good enough" language (in the sense that psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott felt a mother had to be "good enough" for her child's ego to develop healthily) to really represent and welcome the Self into the modern environment.  My lingo for this is the development and constant refinement/improvement of a Logos, a languaging of the Self system's principle of organization and the vaulting-heroic ego/Self relationship.  I see this as a later aspect of the individuation process, post-animi work (to use the alchemical metaphor: post-Coniunctio) . . . although it is beginning to occur even with the start of the animi work.

I feel New Age and even Jungian languaging of the Self system's principle of organization is not "good enough".  Therefore my project (here at Useless Science or whatever I am studying and trying to understand) is a re-languaging project fundamentally.  I am a creative writer, a poet, a worker in the medium of language.  Many New Ager's and Jungians are "creative" and "intuitive" people.  But very few are what I would call "real artists".  I feel a "real artist" is a little more like a tribal shaman.  I.e., it is a vocational personality trait, a "calling".  That calling shouldn't be confused with any kind of inflated Christian or perhaps Indian/Eastern calling to God or inner enlightenment.  It is neither yogi/guru nor prophet.  Rather, it is a calling primarily to languaging itself.  Because we need "good enough" languaging in order to really be able to think about and relate to these things (i.e., complex dynamic systems like the Self).

What I mean to say is that it is not some kind of profound "spiritual vision" I feel I can and try to offer trough my writing projects.  It is a craftsman's dedication.  It is actually quite "aesthetic".  I am not "discovering some new truth", I am re-describing old truths in a language that is not oriental and exotic to moderns in the West.  That is, I am trying to do this.  I have no idea if I will meet with any success . . . but as it is a vocational drive, success of that kind is very secondary.  I will do what I will do because that is what I am compelled to do.  And I will manage to do it only as well as I am able to.

So, that is sort of rooted in what I had at first been calling a scapegoat and then a scapegoat/shaman complex.  It is not some kind of destined social role, but rather a relational frame through which I habitually and innately approach the Self.

Now, all of that quasi-spiritualistic mumbo jumbo sounds perfectly like other Jungian and New Age mumbo jumbo . . . but I have learned (especially from interacting with Jungian analysts and authors at the IAJS), that despite the similar sounding "spiritual calling" language, I have a radically different approach to the Self and to the Jungian tribe than other Jungians I've read and corresponded with seem to.  And (this at first surprised me) it was not some kind of spiritual visionary experience that differentiated me from other Jungians speaking in similar terms.  It was my vocational frame as a poet and creative writer, as an artist.  Jungians (starting with Jung) just don't understand art.  They don't adequately understand the artist/art/Other relationship or the psychology of creation.  And I think the lack of progress in Jungian languaging of the psyche has at least as much to do with this artistic lack as it does with, say, a lack of native (non-touristy), natural, and direct experience with the Self system that is being symbolically represented in dreams, religion, and art.

Another way of saying this is that Jungians have plenty of "religious experiences" that enrich their lives, but they don't do a very good job of interpreting and harnessing these experiences to a functional languaging or Logos project.  Instead of a truly creative and progressive languaging project, Jungians (like most New Agers) approach languaging traditionally and faithfully . . . as something sacred to believe in and be fed by.  It is a very Catholic approach . . . through faith alone (in the Word) is one "saved".  But the artist does not think this way.  The artist is compelled to translate the religious affects and ideas s/he has into a worldly or linguistic product (perhaps a model rather than a theory) . . . and ideally that translation is itself an act of faith and religious service to a Source.  Creation as faithful facilitation of the Self-as-Other. 

The New Ager (and the Jungian) says to his/her "god", "Feed me with your manna, and I will honor you."  The artist says, "I will make you a bridge into this world.  It may be a poor one, but I will put everything I am and have into it."  The believer petitions for the grace of God; the artist invites and hosts (even without expectation of acceptance) God into the world to be fed.

With Jungians, their greatest asset (valuation of a spiritual Other/God/Self/unconscious/etc.) also serves as their greatest weakness.  Jungianism (despite some claims to the contrary) is directed at being fed by the gods (i.e., the Jungian ego or identity is fed by the gods).  It does not well understand how to feed those same gods.  It is, in my opinion and experience, ego-centric in its religiosity.  And this shadowy egocentrism is concealed behind a lot of poetic and devotional language about Self, spirit, and soul.  But ultimately, people come to Jungianism to get their souls fed and healed.  No part of the Jungian program teaches them how to turn around and become a feeder and healer of the soul/Self.  It simply isn't a part of Jungian thought and literature . . . and this means that indoctrinated Jungians complete their religious journeys once their god provides something fulfilling to the ego.  From my perspective, this is not the end of the journey, but only the first opened door to the Self.  It does not constitute a really intimate relationship with the Self, the kind of relationship I call valuating and facilitating (or heroic) and which is founded on a devotional and dynamic Logos building and revising principle.

And one of the key (and largely misunderstood) things about that kind of Self-facilitating relationship is that it does not grant the ego some kind of "transcendence" or inflated worth or spiritual enlightenment.  It is a humble partnership, not a conduit where truth is delivered.  The only thing "delivered" is a subtle sense of gratitude . . . and indirectly, a more functional relationship to Otherness and change.  It is not even guaranteed to reduce suffering or win "mental health".  It is just something one does because one feels and knows that it is the right thing to do, that it is worth doing . . . and not only for one's benefit, but for the benefit of the Other.


To me the Ego is a Trickster, it is whatever part of the Elephant's body needs to be the nose.  The Trickster made the world and still doesn't get it.  That's why I have been eager to dissolve the distinction between ego and Self because I see but one order in the psyche with two faces.  The two faces are the two types of memory and the energic (neural impulse strength and frequency) flows that drive them.

Here again me have a major divergence.  In my experience, getting ego to work together in harmony with Self is never entirely or perfectly possible.  And most of the time, it is radically dysfunctional.  The trickster archetype is related to the shaman archetype.  They are both fringe members of the tribe.  But the shaman is concerned with healing the tribal soul, keeping it healthy and functional.  S/he is responsible for putting the tribal soul/identity/Self-relationship back together (because soul is volatile and is always getting "lost").  The trickster may make certain aspects of the "world" (or tribal identity) that are always breaking or become dysfunctional, but he (usually male, but not always) is more of destroyer or dissolver of culture.  The trickster energy is both feared and honored (by tribes).  Tribal ideologies (that are Self-aware enough to celebrate and allow the trickster) harness the culture-dissolving energy of the trickster to keep the tribal soul/identity supple and changeable . . . adaptable.  The trickster is related to the Self's capacity to dissolve and challenge the faux-solidity of ego.  In other words the trickster is a fragment or aspect of the Self system . . . and therefore the trickster, in my opinion, cannot be used as an ego figure.  Of course, in particular situations, an individual can act out and become identified with the trickster archetype or energy.  We see that wherever tribal communities form . . . and as we are no longer very well tuned into the rhythms of tribalism, tricksters are usually persecuted.

It takes a tribal "wisdom" and familiarity with the Self to be able to employ a trickster.  That is, to let a trickster constructively dissolve those aspects of culture and identity that become diseased and ossified . . . but prevent him from destabilizing the functional aspects of cultural organization.  Of course, in actual practice, we are rarely able to tell functional tricksterism from dysfunctional.

The trickster is also renowned for his appetites, libidinousness, and curiosity.  Even most tribal cultures found their cultural identity constructions on some kind of "control" of impulses (for the sake of mutual benefit).  The trickster has no control or desire to control such impulses.  That impulsiveness can destroy or "loosen" arbitrary norms.  So, for instance, Dionysus (as great loosener) has some trickster in him.  Even Christ (where he is turning tables in the temple and defying kin-based sociality) is part trickster and part shaman.  But, as with Christ (or Dionysus), identification with the trickster can easily become inflating.  Trickster is a volatile archetypal energy (like Mercurius in alchemy), a Self dynamic . . . not something the ego can control or determine.


To understand archetypes we need merely to understand the processing functions of the various cortical regions and through abstraction (aka mapping) to other cortical regions see what "new age" mappings might result.  This occurs when instinctually driven libido comes into conflict and yields a highly energized but static situation in the psyche.  This is when creative mapping takes place spontaneously in the cortex and eventually yields some kind of symbol, aka spectral whole which resolves the conflict through a remapping of the original issue onto a third context.

Still having a hard time grasping your language . . . but in general (and as you know) I am opposed to mapping brain regions to specific psychic phenomena like archetypes.  My suspicion is that such psychic phenomena derive their representations or images (as we perceive them) from a complex convergence of numerous coordinated brain regions and processes.  And then, these complex coordinations are filtered and translated and reduced through our habitual theory of mind . . . which causes us to see systems with certain traits as minds, agents, or thinking beings.


There I think I've packed in a good variety of my own private theories into a relatively (for me) cohesive and not too long post.  But does it make sense to anyone else...besides me...yet?  lol

Relatively cohesive, yes, but I feel these things you are touching on are all very big issues.  They demand extremely complex and detailed treatments.  They are not to be understood by simpler paradigms or extreme reductions.  I see them as analytically available only to language that allows for a lot of complexity.  In other words, the goal of theory for these psychic phenomenon (in my opinion) is not coherence, neatness, cleverness, reduction to strict laws or rules of thumb or perfect analogies.  In these arenas, I suspect theory must resist its habit to oversimplify and instead try to cope with and represent complexity.  This is why I call the present the "age of complexity" . . . and it is also why, despite my numerous criticisms and grievances, I consider myself a Jungian.  Jung was, relatively speaking (especially relative to Freud) a "complexifier" of psyche.  He sought to language psychic complexity without resorting to extreme and overly neat theoretical reductions . . . and specifically positioned his approach in contrast to that of Freud.  I embrace (and even extend) Jung's valuation of complexity in the psyche . . . and I think that is one of the most distinct differences between our respective approaches to psychological theory.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2011, 02:30:56 PM »
Okay, I will have to come at this again.  I continue to perceive that my private language is not presenting a clear picture to your, shall I say, more well-read language.  In some cases, even some of the arguements you are using to counter my thoughts are the same I would use to support them...so I will take some time and try and clarify.

I've got a Pinker book on my reading wish list...I'm sure it would aid in my clarifying my language.

Perhaps, one approach might be to determine where complexity does and does not come into play in the order that engages the psyche and the culture the psyche "knows" in.  It may come down to my intuition that there is no ego order, no emergent order that is ego or ego complex; that thought might define our difference in perspective, but I am not sure.


Matt Koeske

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Re: Right-hand and Left-hand Paths
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2011, 11:44:56 AM »
Okay, I will have to come at this again.  I continue to perceive that my private language is not presenting a clear picture to your, shall I say, more well-read language.  In some cases, even some of the arguements you are using to counter my thoughts are the same I would use to support them...so I will take some time and try and clarify.

I had a feeling this might be the case.  Sorry to misunderstand.  I don't know if my language could be described as "more well-read".  I suppose I am fairly well read in contemporary Jungian thought (enough to be comfortable and familiar with its dialects) . . . but really, I run into the same problem I've been having with "translating" your language into one I can dialog with that most of the Jungians on the IAJS list have had with translating my language into their more conventional Jungian languages.  The biggest difference is that, on the IAJS, these Jungians don't realize that they might be misunderstanding what I am writing.  They are locked into the paradigmatic language they use to "believe" the various Jungianisms they believe.  That is, there is a linguistic level at which these Jungians (and all Jungians, and everyone in regard to his or her chosen paradigm) do not analyze their assumptions and word/idea choices.  They "know" (the inflated Jungian term of choice for "intuit") what, for instance, "soul" means . . . or "psychoid" or "transference", etc.  Almost no Jungian terms are in a state of flux or worthy of deeper analysis and reconsideration for them.  One that is is "archetype" . . . that term is actually still being debated.  Among the major Jungian schools, "individuation" is given different takes and privileges, and another big one is self/Self.  Rarely, but occasionally, "the unconscious" is questioned . . . but not thoroughly enough in my book.

This is all frustrating for me, because I am constantly investigating and questioning the legitimacy of these terms and the ideas behind them.  But trying to bring that kind of analysis into the IAJS discussions has been fruitless.  It feels to me as if they just don't understand that theory-holding involves making assumptions, and assumptions involve leaps.  I try to figure out just where my leaps are and how viable they might be.  I try to come up with alternative ways of leaping . . . even if I ultimately rank them below my first choice.  My general approach to my own theorizing is one of perpetual falsification-testing.  As opposed to paradigm-buidling and promoting.  As I see it, the paradigms I am willing to favor (or at least tolerate) are those that emerge out of a rigorous regimen of falsification-testing.

I think (and I apologize if I am wrong about this), this is a difference between you and me, as well.  To me, it seems you are very paradigm-focused.  You are a theory builder always looking for ways or for pieces of data that can lend themselves directly to a paradigmatic structure or explanatory theory.  By contrast, I like to smash things with hammers, and over a period of time (were my smashing and rebuilding grows obsessively and exponentially), a number of structures survive my compulsive smashing.  My theories are the unintentional remnants of what I could not (yet) figure out how to destroy (or falsify).  That they yet have a sense of order is a wonder to me (as in my dream, Chinese Occupation, for instance).  It is an emergent order rather than the design of a thinker or paradigm-maker.  I experience "my theories" as "otherly" in this sense (my book of poems was similar in this regard . . . as the poem "A Mounting Song" sought to acknowledge and express).  It feels to me like I didn't make them . . . because I never set out to make them.  Yet, they show evidence of "design" (emergent order or self-organization).

I've come to learn that I am a bit of an oddity in this approach . . . compared to most theorists (including scientific as well as philosophical and creative theorists).

Although most Jungians are some kind of "intuitive thinker", and although I am also fairly fluid in my intuition, when it comes to thinking, languaging, and theory-building, I rely heavily on what might be called a kind of "inferior function" approach.  I am analytic in a fundamental way . . . not looking for the big sweeping concepts and skyscaping abstractions that neatly reduce everything to an elegant sense or order.  But rather, breaking every assumption down to its component parts and trying to understand how each block fits together with the next.

I'm not sure this is my "natural" way of thinking.  I feel like I was initially more like most other Jungians . . . but I became dissatisfied with the way that grand intuitive style of theorizing could become so self-serving (egoic and subjective rather than objective or focused on the object of study, the thing itself or other).  I saw myself making many intuitive style errors (and also noticed these same errors being made regularly by many Jungian writers).  I have since then tried to remedy this intuitive overreaching and laziness about the details (although not my laziness in general, unfortunately).  It was about the same time I started to become interested in science, politics, and history (instead of religion, spirituality, and philosophy, which were my original orientations).

It takes conscious effort and an ethical focus to be able to think in this non-intuitive way for me.  But I feel my thinking has greatly improved because of this effort . . . and the approach is now second nature to me and no longer feels foreign.  What I have noticed, though, is that the other Jungians I try to converse with do not typically adopt the kind of non-intuitive ethic I try to . . . and they do experience my thinking as extremely foreign and unusual.  I get a lot of projections that are poorly fitting . . . which makes me feel like they don't really see me with even a small degree of accuracy.

For instance, in the IAJS discussions, where I question "Jungianisms" (Jungian assumptions and linguistic habits that are normally taken for granted by Jungians) and invoke the value of a more scientific attitude toward some psychic phenomena, many members react by assuming I am some kind of science-bible-thumping uber-rationalist who, sadly, is completely ignorant of religious experience or spiritual thinking or knowledge of the "soul".  I constantly receive pedantic lessons from other members who assume that because I use the term "science" favorably in a sentence, that I must be benighted and have failed to understand classical Jungian ideas and values.

I have tried to explain to them again and again that I am not a scientist, I'm not even a scholar.  I am a poet, a creative writer, and my orientation is experiential and began with a very spiritual/intuitive approach.  It matters not at all.  They are unable to see this in me or understand my language (or my experience).

The point I mean to make is that I am sensitive to these kinds of misunderstandings.  I don't want to treat you and your thinking the way these other Jungians have treated me.  I want to try to understand what you are saying and where you are coming from.  Not that I expect or feel a need for us to agree about anything.  I do very much mean, though, to understand you and to understand why you are making the choices you are making in constructing your theories.  My desire is to dialog with you . . . and not with some false construct of you I might have based on my own personal prejudices.


There is one other complication I see in all this . . . and maybe it does have something to do with my attempt to immerse myself in contemporary Jungian thought and literature over the last few years.  As I have grown increasingly familiar with the debates and concerns of today's Jungians (as a product of this recent research), I have become accustomed to the particular arenas of debate that today's Jungian languaging define.  Some of these definitions are anchored by buzzwords or by old habits or by inter-tribal Jungian conflicts.  My assumption is that you probably don't know much about all this stuff (as you have never mentioned any of the Jungian literature or ideas that I have been exploring in recent years . . . like the Journal of Analytical Psychology, for instance).  Nor should you be.  I can't promote the worth of reading up on these sources.  In fact, I find them almost entirely disappointing and distracting from what I see as more important issues for Jungian thought.

I spend a lot of time reading these things in order to understand Jungianism as a culture or tribal identity in a particular environment and historical context.  It is, for me, an anthropological study rather than a feeding of my mind on literature that could be described as "Good Medicine".

But, even as an ad hoc anthropologist of Jungian tribalism, I have "entered into the field", immersed myself in the culture (as much as a non-analyst can).  My membership and participation in the IAJS is a kind of data-gathering experiment . . . like going to live with a pre-modern tribe in order to better understand how its culture works and is designed.

All this means that I do have a lens on the contemporary Jungian world and its thought that I suspect you do not have . . . and the problem with this is that it means much of my Jungian-critiquing language is couched and contextualized in ways that you can probably only guess at but may not fully grasp.  I.e., it makes my approach and criticisms more foreign to you.  And as that may be the case, I also need to try to refocus my dialog with you in ways that depend less on the context of that contemporary Jungian immersion that I have been experimenting with.  That contextualization just makes my comments on and attempts to understand your thought doubly problematic.

One contextualization I will cling to, however arbitrary, is the one that Useless Science (in my mind) is founded on.  Namely, that the point of dialog here is to get at something new, to create, to examine.  Useless Science is not a venue were opinions are merely to be held and proposed, but one where opinions are examined, challenged, tinkered with.  Works in progress are not only allowed here, they are favored and encouraged.  Experiments in theory-building are embraced.  Which means that critiques are embraced, as well.  This is something hard to achieve.  It is actually a bit of romantic idealism.  It's something that I note is absent form the IAJS discussions . . . where each individual party seems to already "know the truth".  Many arguments develop because every one individual "knows the truth", but those arguments are never creative and explorative . . . because no one there takes a truly experimental attitude (why experiment when one already "knows the truth"?).

It is one of the things that most disappoints me about the IAJS (and Jungian culture in general, as many of the members of the IAJS are the luminary authors and analysts of the Jungian world).  Arguments there devolve into pissing contests, ad hominem attacks, trading in logical fallacies (i.e., not understanding the "rules" of logical argument), and other fallacious and sycophantic appeals to authority (as opposed to attempts to present evidence, data, and logical argument).  Mostly, I feel that the majority of the members are not really participating in a "ready and willing to learn" mode . . . what I would call an "experimental" mode.  I think Jung's approach to theory-making was decidedly experimental (a text like the Red Book is an excellent example of the kind of radical experiments Jung was willing to engage in, in order to develop his understanding of the psyche, his own as well as the universal implications for a scientific psychology.

At Useless Science, the point is not that we should all believe the same thing or all believe disparate things and never consider what our fellows think or why.  The point, as I see it, is to place creative thinking about psychology into a relational and relatively open-ended and (ideally) catalytic vessel.  To make relational thinking and sharing a productive asset to each of us (and, if we are lucky on occasion, to others, as well . . . or to a field of thought).  Speaking for myself, I don''t want my theorizing and reasoning to be confined by my own unexamined assumptions, habits, delusions, and artificial barriers.  I know I have them (we all do), but I see a flicker of autonomy and value in my creative work and thought.  A homunculus, perhaps.  I want to set it free.  I don't want it to merely serve as a promoter for my ego.  I want my ego to figure out how to step aside and let the creative thinking emerge and develop to the best of its ability.

Useless Science is a vessel for a process rather than for a product.  It doesn't have a definite teleology . . . much as medieval alchemy, despite myths about the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir, etc., was really about process (solve et coagula).  The Goal is a stimulant to the process, yes, but we never really know if the Goal is real or obtainable.  It is an ideal (and a protean one at that) . . . and even placed figuratively at the end of a process (as its conclusion), its elusiveness actually serves as a perpetual energy to keep the process driven, to keep the low flame constantly burning under the vessel.  In my opinion, the worst thing that could happen is for that flame to be put out (say, because we have chosen to believe that we have arrived at the Goal, and are allowed therefore to "stop thinking/stop creating/stop processing").


Perhaps, one approach might be to determine where complexity does and does not come into play in the order that engages the psyche and the culture the psyche "knows" in.  It may come down to my intuition that there is no ego order, no emergent order that is ego or ego complex; that thought might define our difference in perspective, but I am not sure.

When you can, I hope you will expand on this idea.  I'm still trying to figure out what you mean.

Best,
Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]