Author Topic: Individuation as Living in the World  (Read 7967 times)

Matt Koeske

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Individuation as Living in the World
« on: February 19, 2008, 02:26:37 PM »
I'd like to open this (desired (-)monkbggrn(-)) discussion with a passage from my nomination for Satan of Jungianism, Wolfgang Giegerich.

The article, "The Opposition of 'Individual' and 'Collective' Psychology's Basic Fault",  is from 1998, revised 2003(?), and appeared on the C.G. Jung Page: http://www.cgjungpage.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=141

I don't mean to say that I nominate Giegerich for the position of Jungian Satan (a thing I believe I've said on the site before) because he is "evil" or "wrong" or represents a great plague come to devastate the Jungian crop and population.  Like any great devil, his influence is much more subtle . . . and potentially (if neither believed in nor rejected outright, but reckoned with) very helpful.  This article is one of his more provocative and more readable pieces (thanks, Kafiri, for sending it to me!).  The gist of the provocation is this: Giegerich claims that the anima mundi and individuation itself are obsolete, no longer accessible, "psychological antiques".  He says that soul can no longer be found in Nature nor in personal individuation.  Giegerich claims that the place where soul exists today is . . . profit maximization and globalization!

One has to wonder with Giegerich if he is motivated largely by "goat-getting" and tricksterism . . . but he argues his positions with conviction and relatively no sense of humor, so I suppose he means to be taken seriously.  Still, I get the feeling that inside Giegerich's chest beats the heart of a mischievous child or imp.  The dark puer, perhaps . . . which is (in my opinion) precisely what Jungians need to spark them into growth and adaptation.

In this article, Giegerich never convincingly demonstrates that the modern soul is found in profit maximization or how, if that is genuinely the case, one might make some kind of social (or personal) use of the fact.  But Giegerich's genius (a very demonic variety) is not in providing useful answers to immense (perhaps unanswerable) questions.  His talent is to throw outrageous questions at our feet like angry vipers.  We can learn from Giegerich by how we react to his challenges.  His impishness drives us to think about things in ways we were not originally inclined to do.  Giegerich makes a good Jungian Satan because he does not himself stand against us (if we think that's the case, we have already failed his challenge), but because he demonstrates (perhaps not even with full intention) how we stand against ourselves in our favored Jungian beliefs.  We can't wrestle with Giegerich.  He's not really "there".  We must see-through Giegerich to our own conflicted ideas and do our wrestling within.  Giegerich's challenges (the best one's at least) help us differentiate what in our Jungian philosophies is belief and what is true knowledge or gnosis.

Another sublime demonism of Giegerich's role in the Jungian community is the phallic rudeness of his intellectuality.  He struts it all over the page like king of the roosters and practically begs us to take a shot at him.  If we grumble and slink away, we (should) know we have failed to be brave enough to earn our opinions and theories.  But if we stay, chances are we will get nice and bloodied up before the fight is over.  I think this is actually good for the Jungians, because we have become intellectually soft and fragile.  Giegerich's intellectual bullying asks us to put an inferior foot forward.  As good Jungians, we should understand that this is an invitation to grow, to become.  We have become lazy thinkers.  Segregated from academia and other schools of psychology, Jungians rarely get challenged . . . and have fallen into a doldrums in which they never challenge each other or themselves.  We become fatted calves ripe for sacrifice.  And we don't even realize this has happened . . . until someone like Giegerich holds the blade to our throats.

I don't think Giegerich's arguments hold much validity . . . but they are useful if engaged with.  And for that reason, I would like to open this discussion on individuation as living in the world (or how individuation relates to culture and collectivity, to the group as well as to the individual) with Giegerich's vipers at our feet.


See also Dolores O. Brien's comments: http://www.cgjungpage.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=747&Itemid=40
Greg Mogenson's reply: http://www28.brinkster.com/gregmogenson/giegerich.htm


Quote
All we want to see is our feelings, is that the images produced by the individuation process arouse in us deeply fulfilling personal feelings of meaning and conviction. Because we feel this, we insist that they must still be true. We refuse to raise the question of the actual logical status in which our experiences together with all the feelings they evoke stand. We refuse to acknowledge that the real development has overridden and constantly overrides the meaning of those experiences. The individuation process as a whole belongs to historical, archeological
psychology. Its images are not unreal, but they, represent the reality of the past, of what, having once been at the forefront of life, is now historical in us. The images do not represent the reality of the present. Our whole personal psychology with all our feelings of meaning is 'sunken history', it is the collapsed or condensed and interiorized actual living conditions of former ages. By stubbornly insisting on our feelings of the deep meaning evoked by the individuation experience, we as modern people are, as it were, playing 'African medicine man' or 'shaman' - without, however, admitting that we are merely playing those roles. In a way, we are like tourists watching a show of tribal dancing or a shamanistic seance, and because we are deeply moved by it in our personal feeling, we take this feeling as a mark of truth, closing our eyes to the fact that we are witnessing a mere tourist attraction. To be sure, this show is the display of a former truth, but this display itself does not have the status of truth anymore.

The dreams of the real medicine men of old dealt with where the herds had to be driven, whether there would be war or illness, rain or drought. As Jung put it, they 'negotiated with the Gods' about the fate, the real (also political, economic) fate, of their whole people. There is nothing comparable in the individuation process of today. Generally the dreams in today's individuation processes, as archetypal as they may be, are nonetheless only of personal, private significance, which clearly shows that the meaning that they undoubtedly have is suspended, idle meaning, similar to the meaning of a personal hobby. It is a meaning that is there, but is no longer true, inasmuch as truth would imply a meaning that also encompasses, and does justice to, what is really going on in our modern world. 

Jung recovered for our time the notion of the magnum opus or the symbolic life (about which he spoke to the Guild in 1939). He recovered it through his study of historical soul processes, such as those in the world of alchemy, and through his finding parallel processes in the personal analysis of his analysands. Because of this formal parallelism, Jung thought that the development going on inside those modern individuals was the same magnum opus. But I believe this was a mistake, a mistake concerning the order of magnitude. Jung's newly recovered insight into the reality called magnum opus is a precious notion, an invaluable discovery. We should retain, it- but we should withdraw the predicate 'magnum opus' from individual experience, to which Jung had still assigned it. Individual experience of the individuation process today no longer deserves this title. As part of our strictly personal psychology, it may still be The Work, the opus, rather than just an ego activity, but it certainly does not qualify as the Great Work. It is opus parvum, the 'little work'. It is part of our personal psychology and thus of an ultimately historical psychology. As such, it has both its own dignity and importance, inasmuch as our caring for the past we carry in us is always important, but its status is such that it can no longer be considered 'magnum'. The true opus magnum of today takes place in an entirely different arena, not in us as individuals, but in the arena of world affairs, of global competition, in the arena of the psychological District Commissioner, who in our case, as we said, is the overwhelming pull towards maximizing profit. The individual merely feels the effects of the opus magnum as those of a blind fate, but remains absolutely disconcerted, helpless, and dumbfounded as to what it is that is happening to him and why.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2008, 01:07:55 PM by Matt Koeske »
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Matt Koeske

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Re: Individuation as Living in the World
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2008, 01:33:20 PM »

The conclusion I came to regarding Giegerich's revisionism of Jungian thinking (in the thread "Wrestling with Giegerich") was that his zealous and unbending insistence that psychology has no "Archimedean point" or outside perspective from which to examine itself was the root of his theoretical fallacy.  Of course, on a very basic, perhaps superficial level, that psyche can only be perceived "by psyche" is a fact.  I merely don't see this as either 1.) severely limiting to the construction of a scientific psychology, or 2.) justifiable as an unquestionable, unexaminable dogma (as it seems to be in Giegerich's thinking).

There are two main reasons to reject Giegerich's fundamental (and fundamentalist) paradigm about "psychological negativity" (not including his overtly religious, thou shalt stance on the matter): 1.) although there my be an irremovable veil between human perception and the perception of that perception (and thought process) that confounds and limits our ability to "know ourselves" accurately, there is much that can still be discerned about psyche through the construction of an Other perspective on our egoic perceptivity.  We can, for instance, begin to understand our species' behavior by recognizing its more consistent themes or "archetypes".  That alone breaks through one wall of limitation: the perspective of the individual.  We can also compare and contrast our behavioral patterns to those of other species . . . which we accept are instinctual and biologically driven to behave that way.  Additionally, we can use the contemporary understanding of how evolution works as a lens through which to view our behaviors.  I.e., how might such and such a behavior have evolved?  What adaptivity did it provide?  Another useful "Archimedean point" would be contemporary neuroscience and other cognitive sciences that examine the nature of human perception and cognition.  For instance, these fields have brought us useful studies in the functioning of working memory, nodal brain structure, and the uncanny ability of humans to rationalize or "can" information to suit a certain belief or perception structure.

There are many more fine points that mostly have to do with the contributions of biology to the understanding of human psychology.  These small examples alone are enough to show Giegerich's dogma about the necessity of psychological negativity in a light that clearly exposes it as an untenable dogma.

2.) Giegerich's proposed negativity is also "spiritually" fallacious.  His rejection of an Archimedean point on the psyche is, I would argue, equivalent to a rejection of the instinctual Self, some kind of autonomous "whole psyche" that incorporates and transcends the so-called human ego (this attitude may be a product of Giegerich's postmodernist breeding, as the rejection of both the spiritual Other and the unconscious is a mainstay of postmodernism).  The core of human mysticism or spirituality is the movement toward and devotion to the Archimedean point of the Self (the god imago, as Jung sometimes called it) and the requisite depotentiation of the ego or the egoic perspective.  The reason we choose the spiritual path or the path of individuation is that we have begun to see the problems and deceptions that looking only through the lens of the ego provide.  We need a way to get beyond the ego, to see-through the ego, to see-through Maya, worldly illusion.  It could be reasonably argued that this Self-as-Other is itself an egoic construction with no genuine Otherness, and although I disagree with that opinion, I won't bother contesting it here, because Giegerich doesn't seem to make this claim.  He doesn't say that the Self is an illusion, a fabrication of the ego.  Instead, he lays down a lot of sloppy philosophical rhetoric about "psyche looking at psyche".  That is, as if the part of the psyche that consciously "looks" (the ego) is either the whole psyche or at least undifferentiable from the whole.

Not only the psychoanalytic tradition but also experimental science has been able to make a differentiation between the conscious or egoic thought process of working memory and the autonomous, "unconscious" or unintentioned human thought process.  It is easier to see the difference between ego and instinctual Self or unconscious (the "whole brain") than it is to see how the ego is integrated into that system and serves as an organ of it.  The dissociation of ego and Self is the fundamental, modern psychic condition . . . and many have argued, the fundamental human psychic condition itself.

In many other places on this forum, I have written about the instinctual drive of individuation, so I won't go into that as deeply here.  But suffice it to say that I see more similarity between the scientific/biological understanding of human behavior and thinking/believing and the spiritual/mystical language of ego/Self relations than I see similarity between Giegerich's dogma and either the scientific or the spiritual perspective on human thought and behavior (both of which are very firm about the Other, the Archimedean point from which human consciousness is perceived).  Therefore, in my opinion, Giegerich's revisionism fails the functionality test as a "psychology" (study of psyche), because it is occluded by excessive egoism.  And the principle trait of egoism (or egomania) is the rejection of Otherness.

Far from offering an improvement on Jung's original, equivocal stance on the lack of an Archimedean point from which to study the psyche (where essentially Jung makes that statement, but then goes on writing and thinking as if it was not really much of an obstacle; i.e., he assumes an Otherness from which to view psyche), Giegerich's revisionism demonstrates a step backwards.  We went from a puzzling conundrum in which the Opposites were differentiated by Jung (we can't know and yet we can know the psyche accurately) to a rejection of the antithesis for a dogma of the original thesis (we can't know the psyche accurately).  Like most egotistical, psychological acts or attitudes that devalue or attempt to deny the Otherness of the instinctual psyche, Giegerich's fundamentalism resounds of inflation.  Perhaps it is this inflation we are perceiving in the zeal and boldness with which Giegerich claims to dethrone Father Jung . . . and in the wild claims (e.g., the contemporary "locale" of soul is profit maximization) that are all shock value, but never explained or proven in the least.

Giegerich can't offer the Jungian world "Truth" (another inflated claim), but the Jungian world still needs a good (and devilishly clever) puer to hold up a mirror to itself.  The puer intellectual always challenges us to think differently than we have been.  Like many postmodernist philosophies, Giegerich's Truth exists only within the confines of its rhetoric.  He invites the reader into this web of rhetoric and challenges him or her to "survive".  "Go ahead," says the spidery puer, Giegerich, "out-think me if you dare!"  And, if he is a good enough web-builder, this will not be possible.  After all, it is his web, his trap . . . and it is built to suit his appetite.  It is not a construction that is meant to serve or welcome others.  There are two most common results of this favorite language game of postmodernist thinkers: 1.) the reader feels intellectually overwhelmed and rejects the whole construction, but with the side-effect of failing to understand or live up to the intellectual challenge, and 2.) the reader cannot unravel the intricacies of the web of language, but is susceptible to the lure of bedazzlement.  Things that we cannot understand easily (or at all) become webs that catch our projection of numinousness.  We see in their complicated systems, a way to transcend normal consciousness.  Most mystical or occult texts are constructed in this way.  They aren't meant to "make sense"; they are meant to overwhelm the mind and open it to "mystical enlightenment" . . . which is equally a form of indoctrination or conversion.

In other words, we can have a "negative" or a "positive" transference to the mirror-within-a-mirror spider webs like the ones Giegerich spins out of words and abstract Notions and declarations.  It is like the advancing marauder reflecting blinding flashes of sunlight into our eyes to disguise his band's numbers.  Thus blinded, should we run away, should we surrender, should we stand our ground and fight?  It's very difficult to see-through.  Giegerich's rhetoric can be deconstructed though, so long as we don't listen to his fire and brimstone sermons about the necessary negativity of psychology.  This is like a plug that keeps the balloon inflated and soaring.  Pluck it out and everything crashes to the earth.

The true value of Giegerich's flashy mirrorings and deceptions is that they demonstrate to us (Jungians) how deeply susceptible we are to the old puer trick of attacking with the rising sun beyond him.  Why don't the Jungians see-through Giegerich's arguments immediately?  Why are we so often either wooed or bothered (or both) by Giegerich's postmodernist prestidigitation?  Psychologically, (I propose) it is because we Jungians are more "puer" than we are usually able to admit.  We make ready-made victims for such an adept puer web-spinner.  We are like those insects that can't resist the scent and taste of the pitcher plant.  We are dying for a Fall.

More philosophically, though, we also fall for Giegerich's rhetorical traps because we, too (though less severely and less consciously) have rejected science as a valid Archimedean point from which to study psyche.  We have rejected biology too adamantly . . . and with it, spirituality, the Self-as-Other.  Jungian psychology has become an egoistic and egotistic psychology, at least significantly more so than Jung's original constructions intended it to be.  Jung's psychology was a Self-oriented psychology devoted to seeing-through many of the conventional ego shenanigans that undermined the philosophical, theological, sociopolitical, rationalistic/positivistic, and metaphysical ideologies of Jung's day.  Jung used the "Self-perspective" along with the scientific/biological/anthropological/Darwinian perspective to construct a position of Otherness from which to more accurately view the ego and the its favored concepts of psyche.

What Giegerich's web-spun, rhetorical snares can show us is not so much how Jung "erred", but how Jungians since Jung have erred, deceived themselves, and allowed Jungian psychology as a theoretic body to devolve and become maladaptive.  Giegerich's worth as a critic of Jung himself is, I feel, minimal, but as a critic of Jungianism, both directly and indirectly, Giegerich is almost the top rooster he seems to rhetorically dress himself as.


Quote from: Giegerich
By stubbornly insisting on our feelings of the deep meaning evoked by the individuation experience, we as modern people are, as it were, playing 'African medicine man' or 'shaman' - without, however, admitting that we are merely playing those roles. In a way, we are like tourists watching a show of tribal dancing or a shamanistic seance, and because we are deeply moved by it in our personal feeling, we take this feeling as a mark of truth, closing our eyes to the fact that we are witnessing a mere tourist attraction. To be sure, this show is the display of a former truth, but this display itself does not have the status of truth anymore.

So here we see a very sharp criticism of the Jungianism of today.  Giegerich is calling out our pseudo-shamanism and overly romantic mythologization . . . showing us (or at least begging us to self-reflect on) how culturally (and perhaps personally) detached we are from our "domesticated spiritual hobbies".  That is, I agree with Giegerich that the Jungians have domesticated, "colonized", and commodified individuation (and its various gods).  This commodification of spirituality or individuation is generally well seen by the Jungians in the more artificial products of the New Age . . . but not very well recognized in the "inner sanctum".  Although many Jungians have thought or even written about the problematic relationship with the more commercial New Age spiritualities (some rejecting, others embracing them), there hasn't been much genuine differentiation between the "bad" New Age and the "good" Jungian New Age ideas.  Mostly, sides have been taken through more or less intuitive judgment calls.  Jungian A likes astrology, but dislikes neoshamanism . . . and so feels astrology is a legitimate compliment to Jungianism, but neoshamanism "goes too far".  neither astrology nor neoshamanism is really being evaluated, analyzed, seen-through.  The differentiations are only pieces of tribal affiliation.

Many Jungians are "all-in" on New Age spiritual ideas . . . but absolutely opposed to scientific ideas relating to psychology.  Not only is this attitude not genuinely "Jungian" (in the sense that "Jungian" would mean in accord with Jung's thinking that made much use of the biology of his time), it even typically misses the guiding notion of Jung's multiculturalism and diverse interest in world spiritualities.  Namely, that Jungian psychology is not in a position to say whether these things are metaphysically true at all . . . but only to study them as psychic phenomenon.  They can be studied (and classified) as psychic phenomena, because they have common archetypal roots.  That is, they are various interpretations or expressions of singular archetypes.  In other words, the manifest trappings of these various spiritual beliefs are (by Jungian standards) to be seen-through and psychologized.  That means, essentially, not only related to archetypes and the psyche, but also to the "biology of the soul".  As patterns of behavior, these things are scientifically studiable.  But as things to be believed in, as metaphysical claims, these various spiritualities are not compatible with original Jungian thinking (a thing which Jung himself did not always uphold, it must be admitted).

But the contemporary Jungian has found so many things to believe in s/he is forgetting how to see-through, how to psychologize, how to exert a kind of scientific or gnostic integrity in the study of the psyche,  So when Giegerich comes along and claims that absolute negativity is the way and that there is no Archimedean point from which to study the psyche, the believer within the Jungian shell starts to salivate and excite.  The best defense many Jungians have against the seductions of Giegerich is that they are notably mediocre thinkers (as Giegerich himself has pointed out) and want nothing to do with complicated linguistic and intellectual challenges.  But these Jungians miss the opportunity to see-through their beliefs and dependencies that Giegerich's often outrageous claims afford.

That Jungians today are (as Giegerich says, and I concur) "tourists" of the soul, though, is a serious existential problem for any Jungian who is willing to think and has not just hopped on the magic bus for a radical trip to Believerland.  If we have even a tiny shred of integrity as Jungians (as opposed to devotees of Jungianism), then we must make some attempt to look such a claim square in the eye.  We must try to ask if this is true . . . or more functionally, why this is true.  And we should then consider why this may have happened and what we can do to remedy (or simply address) this problem of "spiritual tourism".

Giegerich's gauntlet throwing should make us question our favored constructions of individuation and ask (perhaps all over again), what is it for, how is it done, what place does it have in the world today?
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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Matt Koeske

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Re: Individuation as Living in the World
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2008, 01:55:14 PM »


Quote from: Giegerich
The dreams of the real medicine men of old dealt with where the herds had to be driven, whether there would be war or illness, rain or drought. As Jung put it, they 'negotiated with the Gods' about the fate, the real (also political, economic) fate, of their whole people. There is nothing comparable in the individuation process of today. Generally the dreams in today's individuation processes, as archetypal as they may be, are nonetheless only of personal, private significance, which clearly shows that the meaning that they undoubtedly have is suspended, idle meaning, similar to the meaning of a personal hobby. It is a meaning that is there, but is no longer true, inasmuch as truth would imply a meaning that also encompasses, and does justice to, what is really going on in our modern world.

This seems like an excellent place to start our new inquiry into the meaning and validity of individuation.  Although the numerous claims (from tribal communities or from those who have studied them) that dreams (at least the dreams of the chiefs and shamans) instructed the tribe on matters of material survival must be understood as anecdotal evidence only, their gist needs to be reckoned with.  The first question we should ask, then, is if our dreams and active imagination fantasies (as well as our artistic creations) are telling us how to survive or live more effectively.  Many Jungians would leap forward zealously and state that, yes, absolutely they do.  But I think we (as Giegerich does) need to differentiate between a feeling that our dreams are meaningful to us and enrich our spiritual lives or belief systems and a more concrete sense that dreams directly help us adapt to the world.  And by "world" here, I mean the modern societies in which we must exist and function . . . not the tribal "world" of our Jungian or New Age buddies, our online chat groups and dream forums.  Dreams (and dream work) may make us feel more "in touch with ourselves", but how might they be instructing us on how to make adaptive real world decisions?

It's a somewhat loaded question, I have to admit, because I don't really think dreams tell us which decisions to make, either "spiritually" or socially.  Still, I recognize that the differentiation Giegerich makes between dreams in pre-modern, tribal societies and dreams in our contemporary society is useful and valid.  Is Jungian individuation helping individuals who pursue it "live in the modern world"?  Or (as one of a number of alternatives) is Jungian individuation pushing its "individuants" to regress toward a more primitive tribalism that is not adaptable in the modern environment?

Giegerich claims that individuation is an antique, but I think it is more accurate (and more modern) to weigh the Jungian construction of individuation on a scale of adaptivity rather than a scale of obsolescence.  An idea or belief can become obsolete, but an "instinctual pattern of behavior" can only become maladaptive in the face of environmental change.  But Giegerich's chosen language (in which individuation is treated like a theoretic construct instead of a valid instinctual drive) manages to indirectly expose the problem with Jungian individuation.  Namely, how much is it an intellectual construct (that can become antiquated and commodified) and how much is it a biologically-driven instinctual force, a true "archetypal" necessity governing adaptation?

To look at this more deeply, we have to imagine our way into the analytic vessel where supposedly Jungian individuation is most commonly found.  One of the primary questions that comes to mind (when examining the validity of individuation . . . and please pardon me for leaping ahead a few steps; I'll try to recover the missing steps below) is what is the demographic or clientèle for Jungian psychotherapy today?  Are the majority (or at least a significant portion) of the analysands coming in for Jungian analysis today people who have no prior knowledge of Jungian psychology (or people who haven't gotten recommendations for a therapist through a Jungian or New Age grape vine)?  Or is the demographic for Jungian analysands largely composed of people with some kind of prior Jungian or New Age belief system?

I am assuming the latter (after all, when I sought or considered psychotherapy in the past, I felt I only wanted to do analysis with a Jungian, someone I felt could "understand me" and not "shrink" me).  Projections aside, there are a number of good reasons to suspect (and I have no data one way or another to confirm this) that the people most often attracted to Jungian therapy are people who respect or admire the Jungian belief system.  For instance, the exaggerations of Richard Noll aside, Jungian psychology is especially insular, being both non-clinical (i.e. non-medical) and non-academic.  Cultic, perhaps . . . but relatively insular, definitely.  Has this Jungian insularity been self-perpetuating over the years since Jung began his practice?  I.e., has it increasingly defined a particular demographic for its analysands?  I suspect it has . . . and perhaps it has even done this to a dangerously exclusive degree, but I am not in a position to say.

Again leaving Noll's "hysteria" aside as overly extreme, we should honestly ask ourselves what is generally going on not only in the Jungian training institutes, but in the analyses of non-trainees, as well.  What does the Jungian therapeutic method offer analysands?  Why might one be attracted to or impressed by Jungian analysis?  Is it really that Jungian analysis encourages "individuation"?

I don't think so (in general).  The Jungians have (to put it crassly, but not, I think, inaccurately) a desirable product to sell: the valuation or re-spiritualization of the unconscious.  The Jungian system does present us with what is essentially a "cure" for dissociation from our instincts (those "gods that have become diseases").  This cure will take if 1.) we believe in it (i.e., it is a faith cure), 2.) we are suffering from a dissociation from our instincts (most of us probably are), 3.) we don't have to change the way we live or behave radically in order to "reunite" with our instincts, and 4.) we don't need to or want to "individuate" substantially in order to heal (where "individuate" means differentiate ourselves radically from the collective and from our tribal affiliations and social identity roots).

I don't mean to skewer the Jungian method here.  Certainly, it is not limited absolutely by these criteria, and there is no doubt that the aptitude of individual analysts and patients can transcend these limitations.  My point is that, the Jungian analyst and analysand need not transcend these limitations in order to have a "successful analysis".  Or, in other words, successful Jungian analysis need not by any means lead to or succeed by individuation in the analysand.

The analysand might find the revaluation (or increased valuation) of the unconscious to be sufficient motivation to "feel better".  The valuation of the unconscious should not be sneezed at.  It is an essential foundation to individuation (in my opinion).  And as this valuation is awakened, numen rushes in to our beliefs.  And much as Giegerich points out (critically), with this numinous valuation of the contents of the unconscious, we might feel our lives become more mythic and profound . . . our very thoughts become heroic and transcendent.  But is this a state of being in which we are either 1.) truly living in the modern world, or 2.) benefiting the modern collective in any way?  Giegerich and I both agree that it is not . . . and to imagine either of these things is so constitutes a terrible lie, an act of Bad Faith that is distinctly dishonorable.

Despite its cynicism, we need to staunchly consider that the indoctrination into the valuation (even the worship) of the unconscious and its numen is a process that awakens a new kind of consumerism in the Jungian analysand.  That is, the indoctrinated Jungian is now not only a connoisseur and gourmet of Jungian analysis, but also ripe for the sampling of many spiritualities (that the New Age market generously stocks).  Eastern philosophies, neo-Gnostic Christianities, Kundalini yoga, neoshamanism, tarot, astrology, quantum physics, and so on and so on.  Each of these things becomes a sweet treat for the newly-valuated unconscious to nibble at.  Although it is undeniable that Jungian analysis and indoctrination feeds this market, how, we must ask, does it prepare its inductees and analysands for the kind of discrimination required to differentiate what is "true" and truly enriching from what is mere confection and unhealthy distraction?

In general, it doesn't.  Jungianism tends to advocate the all-candy diet of spiritualisms and mythic beliefs.  And what we end up with is a subculture of Jungians that are the spiritual and intellectual equivalent of Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me fame) on his all McDonald's diet.  But many Jungian analysands "feel better", right, so isn't that good enough.  Maybe, maybe not.  Many people love and crave McDonald's hamburgers, even though that love may be driving them toward an early grave.  I don't mean to say that all Jungian analysis is a sham.  It isn't.  But I think we should make a serious attempt to discern how much "satisfaction with the product" in Jungian analysis is the result of indoctrination, of awakening an appetite, or of introducing the analysand to his or her "new tribe" (i.e., worshipers of the numinous collective unconscious) . . . and how much is due to healing or resolution of destructive complexes and progressive, adaptive individuation.

It is no peculiarity that Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups have found the (somewhat commodified) Jungian method functional.  Religion or tribalistic belief systems can, no doubt, be substituted for other addictions and self-destructive patterns of behavior.  Sometimes this is simply the best an individual can do, and if there is now an "addiction" to either the tribe/support group or to one of its favored dogmas, well, that's better than being dead or seriously endangering others.  Indoctrination is a cure of sorts.  It can restore valuation of collectivity (both within and without).  Tribal Eros . . . and that's not something to cynically dismiss or look down upon.

The indoctrination method (of which I suggest Jungian analysis is frequently a highly sophisticated version of) is a tried and true method that can be genuine successful.  But it is not in any way an "individuation".  Very much the opposite, in fact.  And this would mean that Jungian psychology is in radical conflict with itself, dissociative conflict, even.  It draws its "raw material", its mass, from people seeking their True Tribe, people in need of a support system and a provident spiritual belief structure.  And yet, its core mythos and theoretic framework is individuation.  What I believe Giegerich is perceiving is that the largest part of the libido poured into Jungian psychology today is oriented toward tribalism, belief, support, reconnection with a group as a cure for the modern existential crisis or depression.  And this energy is not very often compatible with the rigor (and often enough, terror) of genuine individuation.

Individuation, therefore, has become, for Jungians, a mere idea.  And as an idea, Giegerich spots its antiquation . . .or its maladaptedness.  It takes a genuine and adept puer to be able to spot and challenge such a stance, because the spirit of the puer is dissatisfied with conformity, indoctrination, tribalism.  The puer is a romantic individualist . . . who falters not in too easily succumbing to normality and collectivity, but in an inability to relate to the group or live up to tribal initiation/indoctrination.  The puer soars above this connectivity and belonging, perhaps even managing to gain a perspective on its artificiality.  But this same puer also distances himself (or herself) from the instinctual drives for sociality and initiation.  But any true individuant has to work through the puer cycle of transcendence and Fall.  This is how initiation works, how individuation works.

With this thought, we should also question the attitude of Jungianism toward the puer.  Puerism is much reviled by most Jungian writers (Hillman most notably withstanding).  But the rejection or devaluation of puerism can be seen as ideally complimenting the "horizontal" preference for Jungian tribalism and indoctrination.  The upward soaring of the puer is derided constantly among Jungians, but behind this derision is the dreadful fear of and taboo against the Fall of the puer (not to mention defense against hypocrisy).  Jungians too infrequently understand the puer as a cycle of rising and falling.  Instead they imagine the puer as defined primarily by "his" foolhardy ascent.  But I can't help but look at this as suspiciously truncated.  The Fall of the puer is (as the Jungians "know" from mythology) the beginning of consciousness, the beginning of the initiation into a true individuation.  In a tribe that is primarily seeking support and belief and tribal cohesion, nothing is more terrifying than the descending puer . . . for in his Fall he has "failed the indoctrination", failed to belong to the tribe, failed to believe in the appropriate tribal dogmas and totems, failed to honor the tribal taboos, been exorcised from the tribal Eros, the participation mystique of belonging.  He may not have yet "seen-through" the tribal belief system consciously, but he has Fallen through into the potential for such an insight.  And that particular totem is what is most tabooed by the tribe.

We have to consider this along side what is probably the most common opinion of the Jungians from non-Jungian sectors (other tribes).  The Jungians are generally seen as flighty, misty-eyed, romantics . . . perhaps even naive about the "dangers of the unconscious" (as Freud said to Jung: "the black tide of mud . . . of occultism").  Jung and the Jungians are generally credited with the catalyzing of the New Age, which despite its many fans, has clearly become a fertile market that can easily be targeted by lifestyle marketing campaigns.  We could probably go further to say that the New Age market tends to be more gullible, less discriminating than many markets.  The New Age resounds with hungers: some spiritual, some narcissistic.  What I'm getting at is that the Jungians are not seen from the outside as especially mature and evolved wise old women and men . . . but for the puers that they truly are.

I believe it is part of the "condition of Jungianism" or the Jungian complex to hide from the puer Fall and initiation (into the individuation process) by putting on senex airs.  The cult of the wise old man and woman, the mysticism only attainable in midlife . . . these are puer fantasies of what wisdom is supposed to be like.  The conventional Jungian hostility for the ascending puer is, I feel, a shadow projection of a tribe that cannot recognize or accept its own ascending puer qualities.  Whereas the fear of and glee at the Fall of puers is something only ascending puers really feel.  "Initiated" people understand the puer cycle and respect it.  The senex disguise of the Jungians is a facade, a defense against the recognition of their own soaring . . . and an excuse for why they don't embrace the Fall more.  The attitude of many Jungians is that they are "beyond the Fall", past initiation and now contentedly basking in their wisdom and connectedness.  But this constitutes an inflation, the kind of inflation that can only be maintained while in the midst of the puer ascent.  I have written previously about the Jungian inflation as indicated in the conventional Jungian treatments of the animi work and the truncated interpretation of the Rosarium Philosophorum, as well as in the very Christian conflation between the heroic ego and the Self . . . so I won't go into those details here (although I intend to organize and expand these things for my proposed book project).

In the Jungian tribe, tribal coherence is maintained by totemizing and abstracting ("antiquating") individuation (i.e., raising up the heroic ego to become an untouchable and worshiped god).  By making individuation a mere idea and not a valid instinctual process, a thing of substance, the Jungian tribe member seeks to appease the angry individuation god with "good behavior" and various oblations (perhaps sometimes the sacrifice or scapegoating of real individuants or Fallen puers at the threshold of initiation?).  And if that god can be sufficiently appeased with these rituals, the tribe is spared from the real burden of individuation.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: Individuation as Living in the World
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2008, 02:42:04 PM »

But Matt, are you saying Jungians don't individuate?  I met a Jungian once, and she definitely individuated.

A Jungian, insomuch as s/he is human, can individuate . . . because individuation is a human instinct.  I suspect that the individuation instinct originally fed into tribal cohesion and group adaptability in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness.  And so, the tribal rites of passage (e.g., initiation into adulthood and adult responsibility) would have imprinted onto this instinct (or captured its animistic projection).  After initiation, the individual realizes that selfish concern and defense of the childish/adolescent ego is not as valuable a goal as the protection and sustenance of the tribe (i.e., self-protection is traded in for protection of the group).  We, of course, have no functional rites of initiation like this today.  But these rites, in my opinion, are not by themselves enough to determine individuation.  In fact, I suspect that individuation is a "modern phenomenon" (where "modern" could mean the era beginning with the Roman Empire, and very likely before that, with the creation of the great city-states).

But, like many Jungians, I think it is more accurate to compare shamanic initiation (dismemberment and rebirth) to modern individuation.  Not that individuants today are "shamans" with "mystical powers" (as the Jungian worship of the individuant god believes, albeit somewhat shamefully).  The similarity between modern individuants and shamans has to do with the lack of a tribal rite of passage to contain and direct the death-rebirth initiation process.  The shaman and the modern individuant are both "torn down" to more primal psychic stuff than the tribal initiates into adulthood would have been.  Instead of having a social institution that imprints on the individuation instinct and harnesses it for a fairly limited and protective role in the tribe, the shamanic dismemberment and rebirth is presided over by the Self, by the instinctual unconscious.  Many tribal shamans had to survive deadly illness or persevere in spite of debilitating injuries that prevented them from fulfilling a more conventional tribal role.  Jung thought it was a modern malady that the gods had become diseases, but this is a predicament as old as humanity itself.  The tribal shaman or medicine woman or man was an individual "sick with the gods" even before there was written history.  The tribal rites of passage (unless the tribe had specific rites for shamanic initiations) did not have a solution for such a spiritual (instinctual) sickness.

These medicine men and women were, I feel, token individuants for their tribes.  In other words, individuation, although similar to tribal initiation into adulthood and probably based on the same instinctual drive, is a "rite" conducted not by the tribal elders and the tribes institutions, but by the personalized (genetically unique and also speciesistic) instinct within the individual.  This instinct was conventionally projected onto ritual institutions of initiation and harnessed to the manufacture of tribal fitness and adaptability, but as tribes were splintered and mixed together with increases in population density (probably agriculture-driven), the initiation institutions gradually diminished.  Today, they are gone almost completely . . . and they are gone because we no longer have specific tribes to be initiated into.  In modern societies like America's, we have the "melting pot", the Multitribe.

The condition of modernism essentially means that we cannot be tribally initiated into the group, into modern society.  If we want to seek initiation, we must go inward into instinct and pursue individuation.  This means that, in order to connect to the tribal Eros we have been estranged from (by the modern), we need to relate innovatively.  We need to find unique and personal ways to contribute to the maintenance and fitness of the group, of society.  And the gateway to this innovative relationship to the group is disease.  Most commonly, depression . . . which is perhaps the "national disease" of the United States (and even the entire modern world).

My concern is that the Jungian system, far from guiding and encouraging individuation (adaptation to the modern), actually impedes such adaptation.  Like other New Age formulations of neoprimitivism, Jungian "individuation" tends to encourage adaptation to tribalism . . . which is perfectly fit for the environment of evolutionary adaptedness.  But not for the modern world.  This is what I thing Giegerich is intuiting (albeit "through a glass darkly").  Jungianism is not adaptive to the modern.  I would argue that the root of this maladaptedness is actually also its greatest strength.  Namely, the revaluation of the unconscious.  That is a necessary step, and a much needed cure for modern depression and spiritual malaise.  What this revaluation of the unconscious generates is a primitive animistic state . . . the meaningful or "symbolic" life that Jung recognized was missing in modern humans.  The problem is that tribalistic animism is not adapted to modern society and its densely populated, muddied multitribalism.

What we should be concerned about and driven to examine more closely as Jungians is whether we are encouraging maladaptedness in our tribal inductees.  Even as we reawaken a dormant sense of animism and meaning in them . . . are we sending them off like lambs to the slaughter?  Can we really say that Jungianism initiates analysands into the modern world?  I don't think so.  Jungianism helps turn on an inner light, but then crumbles . . . leaving its analysands in the dangerous position of being maladapted to the modern and awash in a primitivistic animism.  This remains an uninitiated state, and so it is hardly any wonder that puer inflation is par for the course in Jungian individuation.

Giegerich (like many others) balks at the idea that Jungian individuation is comparable to shamanic dismemberment and rebirth.  But he is, I feel, coming at this situation slantwise and missing the golden thread.  It's true that conventional Jungian comparisons between shamanism and individuation are ridiculous and inflated (more so than antiquated, I would argue).  But the problem with Jungian individuation today is that it is not enough like shamanic dismemberment and rebirth.  That shamanic experience is what a modern individual needs in order to individuate, and the truth is that this is terrible hard.  It's a process that leaves more cadavers than survivors.  And so it is no surprise that the Jungian tribe, jump-starter of the New Age, would not genuinely promote this kind of individuation.  It would be unmarketable.  I fear that the "elders" of the Jungian tribe, the analyst community has taken to the New Age and the clientèle (and audience) the New Age provides like an infant to the Mother's breast.  It has become dependent on this resource, and so long as it suckles, it can slumber and not face the Problem of the Modern.  It can go on indoctrinating and converting and selling its gods and totems and never develop a sense of true responsibility for helping its members and devotees adapt to the modern, never develop an awareness that its tribe is unfit and capable of subsisting only as a codependent subculture.  But this infantilism has steadily been corrupting its original direction as an innovative theoretical and therapeutic movement.  It has had to increasingly cater to a niche demographic, a demographic which is largely narcissistic and gullible.  Jungianism, in this act of codependent appeasement of its audience has lost its sense of mission.


Quote from: Giegerich
Jung recovered for our time the notion of the magnum opus or the symbolic life (about which he spoke to the Guild in 1939). He recovered it through his study of historical soul processes, such as those in the world of alchemy, and through his finding parallel processes in the personal analysis of his analysands. Because of this formal parallelism, Jung thought that the development going on inside those modern individuals was the same magnum opus. But I believe this was a mistake, a mistake concerning the order of magnitude. Jung's newly recovered insight into the reality called magnum opus is a precious notion, an invaluable discovery. We should retain, it- but we should withdraw the predicate 'magnum opus' from individual experience, to which Jung had still assigned it. Individual experience of the individuation process today no longer deserves this title. As part of our strictly personal psychology, it may still be The Work, the opus, rather than just an ego activity, but it certainly does not qualify as the Great Work. It is opus parvum, the 'little work'. It is part of our personal psychology and thus of an ultimately historical psychology. As such, it has both its own dignity and importance, inasmuch as our caring for the past we carry in us is always important, but its status is such that it can no longer be considered 'magnum'.

I would go beyond Giegerich here to say that not only is the conventional Jungian individuation not "Magnum", it is not even an opus . . . not Work.  Despite this, I still find Giegerich's belief that some psychic opera can attain to Greatness a bit overblown.  We can, I think, through genuine individuation, become responsible (accept responsibility) for the way our modern society functions, but the ability to change or transform society is not ultimately in the hands of individuants.  Even the primal individuants, tribal shamans primarily served tribal Eros and coherence, the healing of the tribe . . . and not as often the adaptive reorganization of the tribe.  The influence of individuation and individuants in the modern world is not, I feel, something governed by individual will or determined by the individuants themselves.  Individuation, as an instinct, is not guided toward Truth or attainment, but at valuation and Eros.  It offers us no magic power, no Excalibur, no golden crown.  These notions are fantasies of the uninitiated puer and spiritualist.  Modern individuation offers us the ability to diffuse the maladapted limitations of tribalism.  Instead of seeing one's tribe as those of similar beliefs or kinship (literal or symbolic), the modern individuant can recognize and embrace the kinship of others as human beings, as individuals who are united in a common, collective set of experiences . . . or even embrace kinship with life itself, regardless of species.

I don't mean to make that a grandiose "love for everyone and everything" (which is, I think, an inflated sense of Eros only possible within tribes or cults . . . and even then, probably artificial or superficial).  I mean simply an ability to valuate Otherness and accept that Otherness is viable and entitled to a "right to survive" equally present in all of Nature and its manifestations.  Individuation is a process of retooling the tribal sociality instinct to utilize plastic, conceptual human consciousness as a facilitator of valuated connectedness.  Within this increased, conceptual connectedness, we extend our moral umbrellas and humanize or valuate others and things we previously deemed (perhaps unconsciously) not entirely human.  If we look at the governments and institutions of power in the modern world today, the core problem is a disregard or devaluation of Otherness.  Impaired ethics.  An inability to recognize the potential of connectedness as a viable way of living and adapting.  That is a very abstract and generalized concept, I know . . . and not something we can remedy with only a new law or two.  I am talking about the maintenance of a complex system, the complex system of modernism . . . which (as Giegerich arrives at, also) is now global.

As an admirer of Noam Chomsky, I have noted that there is one most common question directed to him from the audience after he speaks publicly: "OK.  Everything sucks, but what can we do about it?  How can we change things?"  Chomsky typically responds with a number of simple, small suggestions about getting involved in activist causes.  On the social and political side of things, these suggestions, though seemingly underwhelming, are fine.  But on the psychological/instinctual side of things, individuants carry the same responsibility toward the group that they always have.  That is, to promote adaptivity.  In the way we live and act and relate, we can influence others.  It seems radically unlikely to me that an individuant could "get his or her Jesus on" and step in front of a podium or television camera and "bring a message to the world".  Again, it is not Truth that the individuant has to offer others.  It's instinct and Eros.  We can bring this into our one-to-one relationality.

The modern individuant goes through a stage (perhaps nearly a lifetime) of division from the Tribe, and experiences this as a terrible pain, as capital G Grief, as loss and loneliness.  If s/he can work through this, s/he will come to a recognition of the value of instinctual connectedness.  This also means a recognition that people need to transition toward greater adaptedness in order to live fit and healthy lives (in union with their instincts and in relative equilibrium with their environment).  Individuants will help bring the instinctual process back into modern living to the degree that they can.  They will feel a powerful, ethical, and Erotic obligation to do so.  They will encourage valuation, and when suitable, initiation.  To be initiated into ethical or individuated consciousness, is not just to accept some responsibility for the maintenance of tribal Eros; it is also to accept responsibility for becoming an initiator.  The drive for this is strong whether or not we have really undergone an initiation into the Work of individuation.  We have a powerful experience of an epiphany and think others should be converted to or indoctrinated into our new sense of self.  I see no good way to issue a blanket differentiation between conversion and healing, no code or philosophy or myth that will be universally understood.  The best we can do is to contemplate our experiences and record and share our discoveries.

As Jungians, we have a more distinct obligation to do this, since Jungian psychology is supposed to be founded on a scientific theory and is not a conversion religion.  But the Jungians remain a long way off from reinstituting scientific integrity in Jungianism.  And I have to admit that, looked at practically, the Jungians have much to lose by opting for that integrity.  Namely, the Great Mother and ever-provident natural resource that sustains the Jungian economy: the New Age marketplace.  I doubt there is much chance of the Jungians sacrificing this breast for the sake of honor and initiation.  But there is still a strong chance that the Jungian puerism that has fluttered upward and floated far above its shadow for this long will soon approach its Fall.  Increasingly marginalized and commodified and debased, Jungian psychology runs the very real risk of becoming a mere occult phenomenon itself, a hokey side-show religion.  We stand now at a divergence in the Jungian road.  Do we continue on this path toward tribal religiosity and maladapted neoprimitivistic animism and New Age narcissism, or do we take the off-ramp into the developing sciences like evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and natural complex systems theory, and try to reanimate the innovative scientific/gnostic spirit that Jung himself established?

The former option will eventually lead the Jungian puer to its Fall (it may have already begun to feel the tug of descent).  The latter would take tremendous courage and sacrifice and no little amount of humility and groundedness and long-term thinking.  Jungian psychology, the theoretical school that brought the idea of individuation into modern focus is now in a position in which it must individuate or perish.  It's capability to survive is, I suspect, a factor of how many members within the Jungian tribe have truly been initiated into modern individuation.  How much influence can these individuals assert?

So far, I have seen very little of this, and that is a disconcerting omen.  I can only hope that the individuation potential is in the community somewhere.  As I have said before, despite my criticisms and differences, I see the tribe of Jung as my tribe.  I want to see it adapt and survive, and will do what I can to fight for that adaptation, even as I worry that hope can't rationally be maintained any longer.  But I am a selfish altruist when it comes to my tribe.  My own survival (as a writer and one who fills a social role in the tribe) is also dependent upon the survival of the tribe.  I see this as an alliance of survivability.  It may be "selfish", but mostly, it is Nature.  Still, most of the Jungians I've encountered see Jungianism as a resource and not a tribe at all.  They look to it for nurturing and providence (of the symbolic life).  It doesn't occur to them to have a sense of obligation to the community that provides for them.  So long as that remains the norm, The Tribe of Jung will suffer from a depletion of individuants, a situation that, depending on your favored lens, will lead either to obsolescence or extinction.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]