Author Topic: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?  (Read 14506 times)

flowerbells

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Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« on: August 15, 2012, 12:25:22 AM »
Hi, everyone.  Last month I bought a deck of Tarot cards.  I also bought a book that purportedly discusses Jung's alleged interest in them.  (I regret I don't know where I put the book, so can't name it at this time.)  Amazon.com shows several books claiming to discuss Jung and the Tarot.  The one I have has a lot about the Tarot and how to use the cards, and almost nothing about Jung.  The index has maybe 5 references to Jung, and none of them are substantial in any way, neither in content nor length.

The cards have images that I suspect may be archetypes, and I'd like to know what to do with them.  Does anyone have a way to make the cards practical?  In Europe, according to [that book] Tarot is used as a game.  Apparently in Europe, or at least some countries there, Tarot cards and the Tarot are not "worshiped" as a lot of people here in the United States (and elsewhere no doubt) tend to do.

Anyone got any clarification about Jung and Tarot cards, and how to use them the way he did?

flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2012, 12:45:53 AM »
 (-)appl(-)I don't know how to edit my post, if it's possible to do so once it's published.  So I will tell you I have found the book I referred to.  It is intriguingly and rather deceptively :o called [italics] Tarot as a Way of Life: A Jungian Approach to the Tarot [italics closed].  It has 8 references specifically to Jung, and I did not find any of them very helpful.  The Tarot deck I bought is the one that I understand is most often used, namely the Rider Waite 78 card deck.

Matt Koeske

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2012, 05:23:09 PM »
I'm no authority on tarot, but there is a great deal of what could be called "archetypal" symbolism in the Rider-Waite deck (and most other decks).  The tarot symbolism is quite rich.  As for a "Jungian interpretation" of tarot symbolism, anything that purports to be definitive should be treated with enormous skepticism. 

Tarot symbolism develops and becomes especially complex when two or more cards are interpreted or analyzed in relation to one another. But the level of symbolic complexity means that there is a great deal of creativity and variation possible in any interpretation.  In general, this capacity for both complexity and "slack" is what makes divination systems compelling (for the human mind).  I sometimes refer to such things as "projection texts", because the aspects of the texts themselves that we tend to notice or emphasize are the ones that have those "synchronous" hooks for our complexes and obsessions.

It is part of the selective perception phenomena.  We are drawn to perceive that which resonates most with our expectations, desires, habits, beliefs, etc., and to ignore/miss/conform that which is odd/other (unless it startles or threatens us).  But if you take just about any three tarot cards (from the traditional decks and their variations especially) and try to interpret them as a whole narrative, you'll find that there are innumerable possible constructions of that narrative.  There is just so much going on in each card.

Such interpretation also works better with the traditional decks that have a lot going on in each picture as opposed to some decks that might purport to depict "the anima" or "the shadow" in specific cards.  That should be attributed to the higher degree of symbolic complexity in decks like the Rider-Waite.

To be clear, when I write about interpretation above, I mean symbolic or "literary" interpretation, NOT divination.  There are many Jungians interested in both phenomena (Jung included), but my own interest is in the psychology of the perception of symbols/meaning and in the psychology of the mental apparatus that is prone to confabulate divination.

On a more aesthetic note, I find tarot symbolism fascinating and some of the tarot art very interesting, compelling, and beautiful.  Some tarot symbolism has appeared in my poems and in my dreams.  I own a number of decks (chosen for their artwork), but I do not "divine" with them or consult other oracles (like many Jungians do with the i Ching).  It's one of my crotchety, "un-Jungian" traits.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2012, 11:15:38 PM »
Matt, thank you for your explication of how you view Tarot cards.  A friend of mine has used them a lot, again, not for divination, but so far we have not gotten together so she can tell me what she does with them.  She says it may "sound weird," but that they have helped her tremendously.  What do you do with your deck/s?  I suppose one could create short stories with them.  I haven't tried that yet, but would be quite interested in how you use them.

Matt Koeske

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2012, 09:28:12 AM »
I haven't actually looked at those decks for a couple years.  But hopefully this conversation will encourage me to take them out again.  My kids might find them interesting, too . . . as long as I can explain how they are a bit like Pokemon cards  :D .

I was mostly interested in them for the study of their symbolism.  I didn't lay them out very often (in whatever that traditional cross-like pattern is called), although I found that they became more interesting when I did.  Although these instances never proved to be especially insightful for me, I did enjoy the way potential narratives could unfold.  Once I did a "reading" for an equally skeptical friend of mine just to show him how the symbolism could be employed.  Of course, I already had some insights into his personality, so reading the symbols in order to elicit that was not hard.

It never interested me to learn much about how the cards were "supposed" to be interpreted.  I didn't like that kind of restriction, and my grasp of symbolism is fairly advanced, so I didn't feel it was necessary.  I don't like interpretive equivalencies.  Meaning is always highly contextual in my experience (one of my concessions to postmodernism, I suppose).

As a pretty experienced self-analyzer and dream worker, I didn't feel like the tarot readings had anything to add for me, but it is a great symbol set to be familiar with.  The autonomous psyche hungrily grabs on to many of these tarot images.  They are very evocative.  I can certainly see why people might find tarot readings helpful (and again, Jung himself practiced divination, especially with the i Ching).  But ultimately, I find dream work the most functional source for reformative self-reflection and -analysis. 

Dreams are like tarot readings, but designed perfectly for the individual dreamer and are much more effective at getting the ego out of the way.  When one reads the tarot cards for oneself, there is a much higher chance of egoic "contamination".  That is, those things that consciously preoccupy us the most tend to take precedence in our perception over other things that we may need to take a better look at.  It's one of the ways it is easy to fool oneself with tarot, with any divination practice, or even with active imagination.

The ideal is to commune with and listen to the voice of the Other/Self.  But only dreams guarantee that communion (with the possible exception of lucid dreams).  It is very easy to deceive or distract oneself when the conscious mind is active . . . and the somewhat disguised and inflated ego is then mistaken for the Other/Self.  We convince ourselves we are following "God", when we are just following some idealized form of our own ego.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2012, 10:35:09 AM »
Matt, what you are saying makes a lot of sense.  How does one become familiar with symbolism?  I was a German major in college, focusing on German literature.  My professors used to talk about symbolism in this literature, but they never told us how they knew about it.  I was too young and inexperienced to ask them.  And I guess I didn't want to appear ignorant or stupid. They just assumed all the students understood what they were talking about!

Robert A. Johnson in Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth cautions against things like dream dictionaries.  He says that each person needs to interpret their dreams personally, if you will, rather than saying something pre-determined by someone else.  But the Jungian therapists I worked with knew about symbolism, I could see that.  They did not tell me straight out what something symbolized, but knew how to ask questions to lead me into figuring it out.

Keri

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2012, 12:22:26 AM »
Hi, Marian! 

Sorry I haven't properly welcomed you yet.  My family and I just moved to another state, and we are unpacking, starting school (son in 2nd grade) and soccer, getting up to speed with new jobs, reuniting with old friends, etc.  I do actually have more free time now than I have had in the recent past, but, ironically I suppose, I find I have less time to be online now that I'm actually being a functioning member of my family.  But I've been pleased to read your posts and explore your blog.  So, welcome!

I, too, have a somewhat difficult time with symbols.  I do not always see the many layers and implications of symbols, but I do find that I am drawn to some more than others.  I have really benefitted in this regard from doing dreamwork with Matt.  My personal symbols have nearly all come from my dreams, and they have evolved and become even more rich and complex over time.  Some archetypal symbols, like those found in the tarot, have also shown up in my dreams. 

I agree with Matt that dreams seem, for me, to be the best vehicle for communication with the Self/Other.  I've tried active imagination at various times, but it always feels somewhat inauthentic to me.  Maybe I'm not doing it right, or maybe I'm just not very good at getting my ego out of the way, but that's how it seems to me.  On the other hand, my dreams are dense/rich with symbolism and feel very "authentic."  And they do not hold back any punches!  There is certainly still opportunity to deceive myself or gloss over uncomfortable things when I'm working with my dreams, but it's much more difficult for me to do this than with other mechanisms (eg, active imagination, therapy, writing).  Perhaps if I were an artist I'd feel differently, but my dreams are one of the few things in my life that feel truly creative.  And personal associations to the images in our dreams seem to be the key to finding the meaning.  If you're interested in reading more, Matt wrote a bit about what he sees as limitations to active imagination here when he was discussing Jung's Red Book.

But the tarot cards are beautiful.  I have the Universal Waite set.  I've only ever had one reading done for me.  This was back in 1998 and a friend of mine asked to do one for me while we were hanging out drinking wine one night.  She asked me to think of a question and then she did the reading.  The significator card (whatever that means! (-)smblsh(-)) for me was The Fool, and that symbolism has figured prominently in my inner life, especially since I started my dreamwork here.  However, it's a complex symbol with multiple layers and not something that I would have appreciated nearly as much without Matt's input.  I've carried the card around with me for a long time, but again, never really grasped the deeper meanings until they were explained to me.  But it did speak to me on some level all this time.

Anyway, welcome and thanks for your ideas and input and energy!  (-)howdy(-)

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

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

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

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

flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2012, 02:32:18 AM »
"My personal symbols have nearly all come from my dreams, and they have evolved and become even more rich and complex over time.  Some archetypal symbols, like those found in the tarot, have also shown up in my dreams." 

Hello, Keri!  Thanks so much for your warm welcome! 

Could you explain what you mean by "personal symbols"?  Also, would it be possible for you to explain or give an example of "layers" in a symbol?

I tried to put in your above quote as an inserted quote, but it put in your whole post.  Matt explained how to do that, but I didn't quite catch on....do you think you could try to tell me how?

Also, why is this site called "Useless Science"?  That intrigues me (of course it does!) because I have "composed," if you will, a personal definition of Christian Existentialism, which in my own case I call Spiritual Existentialism for want of a better word.  I distilled down the Summary in the book Existentialism and Religious Belief by David E. Roberts, (1959) Oxford University Press.  In it, I write:

1.  Existentialism warns against worshiping science.

a)  Science is dehumanizing.
b)  Scientific method alone is not sufficient to explain the nature of existence.
c)  There are some things we cannot understand by either of:
1)  pure rationalism & logic
2)  our experience
d)  Humans are free, unique, self-transcendent, and diverse.
e)  This warning against science is a mission to save life, through corrective resistance,          
from the following things:
1)  pure rationalism and logic
2)  pure functionalism, including money and business

The above words are distillations from Roberts' chapter, "Summary."

Thanks for visiting my blog.  Were you able to read or enjoy  my dream story?  I have also written a longer story, but have not yet created (beyond the dream), an ending.  I have typed the first page, using my dream journal, and have sent it to my brother an an online scientist friend who said he wants more stories from me!  I asked them if it's worthwhile enough to finish it.  It seems dorky to me.

One more thing -- since I wrote these two stories, I either do not dream as much or as often, or else I don't remember my dreams.  This may or may not be a good thing.

Marian



flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2012, 02:46:15 AM »
Keri and Matt, I'm interested to read Matt's comments on the Red Book, but don't know where to find them.  By the way, I searched [Jung Red Book] in google images and found amazing pictures.  Wow! Jung was a wonderful artist.  I also see him as a mystic, based on his art.  I think at this point attempting to read it would scare me!

Matt Koeske

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2012, 02:53:15 PM »
How does one become familiar with symbolism?

There are many books in many different traditions, and there has always been a steady stream of Jungian articles (mostly in Jungian professional journals like The Journal of Analytical Psychology and Spring).  There is definitely value in these more academic texts, but I ultimately feel that learning about symbolism is best taken up as a hands-on endeavor . . . an apprenticeship even.  Dream work with experienced companions or psychotherapists is very helpful as well as educative.

I suppose I started to learn about symbolism in high school, and the idea that images and metaphors could express so many things by subtle association greatly intrigued me.  I started writing fiction and poetry around the same time, always with some kind of devotion to mysterious inner objects and feelings that I wanted to illustrate and explore.

These inner objects were symbols, yet I had to unlearn the conventional symbolic equivalencies (e.g., red = passion, etc.) as I grew as a writer and creative thinker.  Those equivalencies always seemed hollow to me . . . and the dream dictionaries that Johnson and many Jungians decry can fall into that hollowness.  Although, I did start exploring symbolic texts with the help of dream dictionaries (as well as Jungian theory).  As long as they are not treated like divination guides, I think this is fine.  The best dictionaries can be very helpful in giving a reader a feel for the traditional histories of symbolism in various cultures . . . but they often to fail to give reasons for why such and such a symbol was prominent in such and such a culture.

They shouldn't (and can't effectively) be used in serious dream work, because what Jung called the collective unconscious is not really the symbol-maker for dreams.  To use his terms, the personal unconscious would be more responsible for shaping and personalizing the images.  If we want to identify elements of dream symbols as rooted in the collective unconscious (a term I don't really like to use), I think we would do better to look at general patterns of organization and dynamic trends in symbol formation rather than "Platonic images" or blueprints.  But that gets into some pretty advanced archetype theory (one of many areas my ideas tend to diverge significantly from conventional Jungian ones), so I'll leave it there for now.

After one cuts one's teeth on real dream work, one is likely to find that "textbook" symbolic equivalencies like one finds in dream dictionaries cease to hold many insights.  You asked Keri about "personal symbols", but I'll give my 2 cents here (with apologies).  These personalized symbols are the ones that self-organize in our psyches.  They are heavily influenced by our personal experiences, attitudes, and memories, yet are also deeply infused with "archetypal stuff".  That "archetypal stuff" gives them a sense of otherness and numinousness.  These symbols can work like talismans for the individual (but we should never assume that that talismanic affect is universal).  In the presence of such symbols, the individual communes with both the sacred and the terrifying.  The symbols generate affect.  Jung would say that they are connected to complexes (which typically have archetypal cores or roots).

This also gets us to symbolic "layers" (again, apologies for intruding).  Part of the numinous affect that these personalized symbols have manifests as complexity and mystery.  When we look at or think about these personal symbols (that emerge or self-organize spontaneously in our psyches), we cannot "see through" them.  They hold unknowns . . . even as we can understand or interpret aspects of their meaning and contextualize their significance.  Some kind of autonomous, beating heart remains concealed in them, and this helps compel us to relate to the symbols rather than simply interpret them.  They are not messages, but messengers.  They promise interactions, not answers.

We might also resonate with symbols in this way that don't emerge from our own psyches but feel as if they could have, as if they were lost pieces of our souls.  That common perception may have influenced the Jungian theory of the universality of archetypes or the notion that because archetypal symbols often have very powerful and personal effects on various individuals, archetypes are fundamentally the same everywhere (and must therefore have a biological aspect).  That's another complex and much debated issue.  The resonances one might feel with certain symbols need not mean that something archetypal is biological and universal, though.  It might only mean that the symbol seems to offer a language that pulls together a number of complicated or complexed feelings into a condensed object, and that object gives illuminating expression to the relationship among these feelings and memories.

For Jung, the most exciting thing about these complex, layered symbols was their potentially universal/archetypal core.  For me, the most fascinating aspect is the way the various elements of the symbol self-organize into a symbolic complex.  I see less a blueprint within symbols and more a coordination of "quantum" bits of memory, language, representation all governed and continuously reorganized by specific principles of organization.  A symbol is like a living thing in this way, a complex dynamic system . . . not because it has a "soul" inside that animates it, but because it is dynamic, adaptive, reactive to its environment and to various stimuli.

The symbol lives because it has usefulness and meaning in the larger system of the individual mind, because it aids the efficient self-organization of cognition and selfhood, acts as a star in the structuring of a solar system, a point of gravity that exists in relationship to other massive bodies.  As the motion and development of this "galactic" psychic space progress, the environment changes, and this elicits adaptive responses in the symbols "located" in this space or gravitational array.  So symbols are bound to change throughout one's life.  They shed some associations and acquire others.  Sometimes they depotentiate or die out (like old stars).  Sometimes they merge with other local symbols (or with newly forming symbols) to form amalgams.

What we can gather from this (despite the overly cosmic metaphors) is that symbols are made up of many associated things (or what I sometimes call memory quanta), that these things are in flux and can change, that the organizational force or principle behind any given symbol is primarily adaptive and it adapts to a larger meaning-making system.  The dynamic symbols have to function as useful footholds that facilitate, propel, and direct efficient thought and sense of identity (although we do not usually control what obsesses us or has power over us . . . we don't create symbols, but are created, as personalities, by them).  Our symbols define us because they construct our minds and our styles and habits of cognition, reaction, and perception.

Symbols resonate with us because they reflect how we are "put together".

Despite the inherent familiarity and ready-made affect, symbols typically seem arcane to us when we first start analyzing them.  They seem to speak a foreign tongue.  My guess is that this foreignness or arcaneness of symbols is due to their dynamic, complex natures.  Symbols are languagings, but the languages we deal with consciously are composed of more static and typically simpler elements.  Our verbal languages are reductive placeholders meant to facilitate quick communication with "good enough" approximation.  The language of symbols is not for the conscious mind and its working memory.  These symbols function as relatively fixed (but not static) systems that facilitate the rapid relaying of verbal language from one point to another.  It's as if verbal language needs to leap form symbol system to symbol system to have enough energy to get from Point A to Point B.

The implication in this metaphorical structure is that we do not really create our thoughts and even our sense of intentionality (and free will) is significantly illusory.  Our intentionality is vague and fairly weak, but the symbolic memory complexes help direct it and bounce it along to find fruition.  Despite the heavy use of poeticisms in these reflections, the gist of what I am trying to express is fully compatible with what we know about the brain and the activity of neurons and synapses.

With some symbolic analytical experience under our belts, it begins to become clearer that the symbols we encounter that first feel very totemic or talismanic (i.e., whole but impenetrable or with mysterious cores) are made up of logically self-organizing memory quanta.  My personal experience has been that this observation is best facilitated by and may even require intensive dream work.  Dream work is not only personally therapeutic, but can (at advanced levels) teach us a great deal about the structure of thought and memory.

Some of the observations and reflections I'm spewing out here are likely to seem very arcane, but after engaging in serious and careful analytical dream work for many years, I think much of this begins to make more sense.  It is much the same as exploring a particular natural environment for a long time and in great detail.  At first everything seems to blend together in a jumble of chaos, but as one observes the environment bit by bit, one begins to understand how the ecosystem is operating and what roles the various animals and plants, insects, bacteria, landscape, and climate play in the whole system.  One begins to see that such systems are dynamic organizations of many elements, but that the organization is logical and not truly chaotic.  It is, more accurately, complex . . . just as what was once called chaos theory is now called complexity theory.  There is order, but it takes a kind of "naturalist" approach to begin comprehending it.


Robert A. Johnson in Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth cautions against things like dream dictionaries.  He says that each person needs to interpret their dreams personally, if you will, rather than saying something pre-determined by someone else.

There is a bit of a disconnect in Jungian thought (in my opinion) regarding the personal approach to dreams and the archetypal.  Jung paid lip service to the value of the personal, but he was most fascinated by the archetypal, and his bias shows through in the imbalance in his emphasis.  To this day, I feel Jungian dream analysis continues to focus on archetypal aspects at the expense of personal ones (and ranks archetypal symbols higher than personalized symbols).  This is part of a legacy that reacted against Freud's "personalization" in dream interpretation, although I think Jung misused "personal" in relegating it to Freud's obsessions.

For me, the dreamer's personal associations house the bulk and body of the dream, whereas the recalled dream images and narrative themselves are only a tip of the iceberg or entry point.  The personal associations, carefully elicited and analyzed, go much farther in demonstrating how the mind/brain actually works and is structured.  But they can at times "demystify" dreaming a bit (although only slightly).  That demystification might not sit well with many Jungians or with more casual dream interpreters who hold more romantic attitudes about the numinousness of dreams.

And I'm not saying that dreams aren't numinous and often profound.  I am merely skeptical about worshiping them.  They (and the minds that produce them) are "animals", complex living things that are not spiritual entities but quite natural, and therefore highly structured, consistent, and logical.  I don't think that the tendency of dreams to speak "surreally" should be met with any romanticization or obfuscation.  That is merely the inevitable natural language of complex, dynamic thought.  It is not "irrational" or absolutely different from "rational" thought and languaging.  It merely gives up definiteness and stasis for complexity and dynamism.

In genuine dream work, the elicitation of personal associations tends to offer up the bulk of the "interpretation" in itself.  I.e., dreams mostly interpret themselves.  We merely have to keep in mind that a "dream" is not only what we remembered after waking up.  It is also the complex cognition that gave rise to those memories . . . and that cognition is often reconstructable through personal associations.

Taking this approach to dream work, one begins to get a personal, hands-on feeling for how symbolism works (it is a matter of associations and resonances that organize contextual meaning).


My recommendation is to look at some of the public dream work done on this forum.  There is a bit more in a forum topic made available to anyone who requests or is clearly interested in doing some dream work here, but that forum is not publicly viewable.  Dream work requires a certain amount of privacy and safety, a hermetically sealed vessel, because it is bound to unearth volatile emotions.  But we decided to make some of the dream work public just to give interested members a taste of how we do and value dream work here.

Useless Science was actually started by a group of dream workers who met on another forum and were looking for a space to do dream work that was a little more intense and little more private.  The "public" and more intellectual/academic end of the site was also something of particular interest to me, so I developed that as well. 

The public dream work forum can be found here: http://uselessscience.com/forum/index.php?board=26.0.

The most active members in the dream forum all have different styles.  My own is, not surprisingly, expansive, but may be overwhelming.  I wouldn't recommend emulating it precisely, but if nothing else, I do a very thorough job of eliciting and analyzing personal associations.  Regrettably, I also tend to reflect, digress, and generally think out loud in my dream work write ups, as I am interested in studying the psyche and not merely in therapeutic self-analysis.

I guess Keri doesn't currently have any dream write ups in the public forum, but I think she has a real knack for dream work, zeroing in on the key associations and allowing the dreams to unravel themselves into a more conscious language . . . and without all the dizzying bluster of my own gigantic write ups.

I'm not sure how illustrative my write-ups will be for how I would interpret and understand symbols and symbolic layering. Probably, illustrations would work better in guided contexts, but oh well.


One last thing I should add regarding symbolism and especially dream work is that, although one does not need an encyclopedic knowledge of traditional symbols to proceed successfully, it is extremely helpful to have a functional working model of the autonomous psyche and a language in which to express some of its complexity, character, and subtlety.  These can actually be lacking in some Jungian and purportedly Jungian dream analyses.

I have developed what have so far proven fairly useful languaging tools for dream symbol analysis, especially for dreams that demonstrate individuation motifs.  This isn't to say that the model I am working from is the "correct" one (or that there is a correct one), but I do try to adapt it to the data (dreams I've worked with) themselves.  I.e., it is not a theory in search of data that fit it, but a set of general expectations that I have compiled over the years from the careful observation of and work with dreams.

It has never been a goal of mine to have a dream interpretation theory, but over time something like that has self-organized.  It remains always in flux and oriented to the data.  It may also not be correct to call it a "theory" at all, because it is not meant to be universal or even really explanative.  I've had a lot of experience with and paid a lot of attention to individuation motifs, symbols, and figures, and dreams that swerve into this territory make more sense to me than ones that don't. 

It is more important, overall, to have a sense of dream logic than a brain full of dream symbol meanings.  Most of dream work is observation, and I have come to feel that "interpretation" should be avoided as much as possible.  Dreams don't have to be interpreted.  They say what they mean.  Where it is not clear what they mean, it is usually best to declare the unknowns and to avoid forcing them into preexisting interpretive notions.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2012, 05:38:17 PM »


Matt, thanks for your intensive explication of your views on dream theory.  I haven't had dreams to remember ever since I had 9 of them on about 9 nights, and wrote them all down.  Several of them were long an complex, and with the shorter ones in general, I did associations and analyses.  With two of the longer ones, I wrote or am writing into short stories.  You may have read the first of the two on my blog http://jungianblog.blogspot.com/

You wrote:  "...once called chaos theory is now called complexity theory. "  I did not know that, and am sooo....ooo glad to hear the change of name/terms.  I worked in offices for a while, and the idea of chaos theory seemed to be, as I heard two women discussing in the elevator once, "Nobody here knows what they are doing."  It also was interpreted to mean total disorganization of their minds and workspaces.  This was pure nightmare (in waking reality, not dreams) to me, as I tend to be focused and organized in both my thinking and particularly so of my workspace.

Keri

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2012, 12:46:25 AM »
Dear Marian,

Sorry to take so long to respond . . . I’m definitely glad Matt wrote sooner.  I just wanted to add a couple comments.

Perhaps if I were an artist I'd feel differently, but my dreams are one of the few things in my life that feel truly creative.

I should probably clarify this.  I don’t mean that I feel that I create my dreams.  I mean the process of working with them feels like a creative endeavor.  Working with these images and symbols and associations (that seem to come from some autonomous or Other place) allows me to try to “create” meaning and understanding.  It is a collaboration that is more meaning-filled than “truth”-filled.  This is what I think of when Matt uses the term languaging or discovering/creating the Logos.  Though I suppose my understanding of it, as I've just described it, is rather more selfish than truly developing the Logos.  I think that the true creative process would not only develop the Logos so that my ego feels that life is meaningful, but actually helps "facilitate the god['s]" existence.



You asked what I meant about "personal symbols" and Matt wrote about the way that he views symbols.  I have found over the years that the way he describes them is both accurate (ie, consistent with how I’ve experienced them) and useful for me.  For example, he writes that the various elements of a symbol self-organize into a complex “living” thing that is dynamic and adaptive and responsive to its “environment” (meaning our experiences and personal associations, including, in my opinion, our local physical environment to include the brain/neurotransmitters/etc.); that a specific symbol might resonate with a specific individual because of its usefulness in self-organization and selfhood or identity; and that a symbol can act as a point of gravity that exists in relationship to other massive bodies in our personal galaxies, etc.

I’ll give you a personal example.  In my dreams, a university professor (more or less) has had various roles and incarnations.  He, though always male, is otherwise different in each dream (over a period of years).  He does have some archetypal qualities (ie, he’s sometimes kind of like a “wise old man,” or sometimes kind of like an authority or demonic figure, or sometimes kind of like a lover).  But the whole is actually personal and changing/evolving and never perfectly archetypal.  He changes as I pay attention to my dreams.  I can try to understand what this is in me or what relationship I/my ego have/has to this, but I can never see the whole picture.  I can never understand the full complexity.  But I know when he shows up in a dream that I am somewhere in the vicinity of a complex or constellation of meaning, even if I don’t fully understand it.  To use Matt's terms, he is a “gravitationally massive body” in my own galaxy, and his interaction with the other lesser and greater masses there has both meaning and influence.  My “working with” and paying attention to my dreams is (ideally) not about trying to control them or push for some specific outcome.  It is just to try to understand, to try to relate and find meaning in my own life.


And then this discussion of finding meaning brings me to the second part of your post from 8/17:

. . . I have "composed," if you will, a personal definition of Christian Existentialism, which in my own case I call Spiritual Existentialism for want of a better word.  I distilled down the Summary in the book Existentialism and Religious Belief by David E. Roberts, (1959) Oxford University Press.  In it, I write:

1.  Existentialism warns against worshiping science.

a)  Science is dehumanizing.
b)  Scientific method alone is not sufficient to explain the nature of existence.
c)  There are some things we cannot understand by either of:
1)  pure rationalism & logic
2)  our experience
d)  Humans are free, unique, self-transcendent, and diverse.
e)  This warning against science is a mission to save life, through corrective resistance,          
from the following things:
1)  pure rationalism and logic
2)  pure functionalism, including money and business

The above words are distillations from Roberts' chapter, "Summary."

Just some brief thoughts (not having read the book, so I apologize and obviously feel free to disregard if you like).

- I guess I would warn against worshipping anything, science or otherwise.

- I don’t find science dehumanizing.  I think I understand where this impulse or feeling comes from, but in truth, I’ve always been more in awe after learning more about something than before.  I think I’ve written this elsewhere, but this story is illustrative of what I mean.  I was at an amazing natural history museum with my child this past year.  We were reading about parasites and other tiny creatures.  How even bees have their own tiny mites and so on.  We were fascinated.  The degree of detail in each tiny little living thing and the intricacies of the relationships (and even the dedication and love shown by the scientists who endeavored to understand these things) were awe-inspiring.  A woman walked by us, read the sign briefly for a couple seconds, and said something along the line of, “Oh, isn’t God wonderful?  The things He thinks of!”  It just floored me.  I feel that she totally missed the point.  That she was completely unable to really understand the true glory of life because she actually SIMPLIFIED it (by ascribing it to some beautiful mind) rather than really try to understand the detailed interrelationships that took place over millennia.  I felt sorry for her and sad that I had to try to explain what she meant to my son.  Now don't get me wrong, I can see the irony in this - that I would feel bad for her - as I tell you this story.  Here I am saying that I look for and find meaning in the details, the science, the relationships, etc., but yet I am prone to depression, anxiety and existential crises.  I know my life would be easier and probably happier if I could simply believe in God and my own inherent right to be alive, etc.  But just because it’s not easy for me does not mean that it’s not correct (for me).  It does make me less prone to argue my points . . . it’s difficult for a depressed atheist to make a strong and convincing argument for the meaning of life, just as it’s difficult to hear about Jesus’ love from a depressed, or even worse, hateful, Christian.  And what I mean to say from all this is that I find this (ie, science, knowledge of the natural world including the natural environment of the mind, etc.) helps me feel connected and part of something larger and grander and meaningful, even if those things are ultimately "only" quantum bits that have come together in a complex way.

- I think true complexity is not possible to completely comprehend.  I don’t feel that this means we shouldn’t keep trying to understand what we can of it, nor do I feel that we need to invoke some other force or principle simply because we don’t understand.  I don't feel that our striving to understand detracts from the mystery of life at all.

- I’m not sure that humans are as “free” as they think they are from either their biology or from their interdependence on the ecosystem within which they live.  I struggle with this concept of free will.  I feel we have a lot of “say,” much of which is dependent upon our culture and our early life experiences, but true free will I’m not so sure of.

- I don’t really understand what is meant by the term self-transcendent.

These are just my personal thoughts on the topic.  I do want to comment more in the other thread on How Can Christianity Progress? as soon as I get a chance.


And you also asked this question:

Keri and Matt, I'm interested to read Matt's comments on the Red Book, but don't know where to find them.

Did you find the link?  Here it is again:

If you're interested in reading more, Matt wrote a bit about what he sees as limitations to active imagination here when he was discussing Jung's Red Book.

 . . . any text that is blue is actually a link that you can click on that will bring you to the correct spot.  In this case, it brings you to the essay Matt wrote on his blog.  Do you see the little blue here in the quote above?  Click on that.

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

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

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

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

flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2012, 08:57:04 PM »
Dear Keri and Matt,

Thanks, Keri, for your response and the link to Matt's Red Book Diary.  I am reading through it gradually, now, and wanted to make a Comment, but can't sign in there.  So I will comment here.  If someone wants to move it over there, fine. Just please let me know if you do.

Quote
The precedent for these failures is evidenced in the Red Book . . . and that also (if it is possible to establish logically, and it may not be) suggests that my hammering on about the complexes of Jungianism (the Jungian tribe) being firmly rooted in Jung's own complexes is a more viable argument than I even assumed it was.

This makes tons of sense to me, Matt.  I've noticed in many areas and disciplines, as well as in various groups, associations, clubs and what have you, that the originator's personality affects (or infects) followers.  In 19th century originated groups I can think of two that fit this model.  One is the piano, and piano teachers.  Not all of the piano teachers, but a lot of them practice "outside-in" music, not psychologically developmental music.  Such teachers tend to be harsh and even punitive. When I was teaching developmental music as a piano teacher, my insurer, State Farm, asked me if I hit the kids!  This was a standard question for piano teachers in the 1970's and 1980's.  I don't know if it still is, but the liability rates were higher if the teacher hit the kids.

Another example of the affecting or infecting of the followers of 19th century leaders to this day is Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science Church that I was an active member of for 11 years.  I do really feel that many Christian Scientists put her on such a high pedestal, so to speak, that it amounts to worship. They try to imitate and emulate her in their lives, poring over her writings for how to behave, and keeping secrets from others, even those new to Christian Science.  I do not mean to trash the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, as much of what she has written is very valuable to me.  But there are too many sycophants in the church congregations and leadership, in my opinion.

Quote
I have essentially developed my revisionary theories as a treatment of this very disease.  The larger struggle that remains where these theories are concerned is a matter of convincing Jungians to take seriously that they actually have a disease or complex like the one I have described.

I'm not clear about what you mean here, Matt.

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the tribe must itself form a relationship to the individuant in order for that individuation to be entirely valid.  And if a tribe has an excessively difficult time forming relationships to its individuants, the tribe will gradually begin to ossify and crumble.

This may also apply to a marriage-as-tribe-of-two.  In my 2nd marriage, I tended to be dependent on a very macho man.  He liked to think of himself as an aide to women, showing and teaching how to do male things like working on a car, carpentry and stuff.  He also encouraged me to do interesting and beneficial things I never would have thought to do before I met him.  He gave me lots of power and strength by his teaching and showing, but I surpassed him with my -- if you will -- courage and strength to that point in my life.  The relationship began to crumble, like you said.

I like your description of the Jungian true-believers, sycophants, or whatever one may call them, as a or the "tribe."  It is for this reason I am not wanting to affiliate myself too closely to the Jungian writings themselves.  In looking at some of the splendiferous art that Jung has in the Red Book, it sorta scares me.

Quote
The message of the anima work is that one must feel and love God or the Self before any gnosis can occur.

By gnosis do you mean "Intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths" [freedictionary] or do  you mean the esoteric type of knowledge sought by the Gnostics specifically.  And now that we're on that subject, I thought I might find something worthwhile in Gnosticism at one time, and went to a Gnostic Sunday service, if that's the right word.  It was so like Catholicism I was quite put off.

Quote
Also, it has been my experience that individuation events (like the mystical hazings of the Red Book) become more meaningful as time passes and one is able to language and process the experience better and in more practical ways.  These transformations feel immense when they occur, but then we go back to our everyday lives and find that we have not become gods nor devised any significantly better living strategies. 

This is the first time here that I have read of "significantly better living strategies."  It is precisely because of this goal that I am interested in Jungian thought, dreams, and whatever active imagination I have achieved with Jungian Art Therapy and my own recent dream short stories.












Matt Koeske

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2012, 10:36:13 AM »
Quote
I have essentially developed my revisionary theories as a treatment of this very disease.  The larger struggle that remains where these theories are concerned is a matter of convincing Jungians to take seriously that they actually have a disease or complex like the one I have described.

I'm not clear about what you mean here, Matt.

Hi Marian,

I didn't see your post until a few days ago (and I've been  bit swamped at work and home the last couple weeks).  Apologies for the slow response.

What I call the "Jungian disease" is fairly complicated.  Using this term is a "knowing poeticism".  That is, I am looking at a set of superficially diverse and seemingly unrelated phenomena about Jungianism and calling it a "disease" in order to 1.) group it into something singular and interrelated, a pattern, 2.) draw attention/conscious reflection to it, and 3.) suggest that it is modifiable through some kind of "treatment" and that this makes it easier to approach for Jungians, many of whom are trained psychotherapists and therefore "experts" in the treatment of psychological diseases.

As far as I know, I am the only Jungian who would call these related phenomena a "disease" or who has recognized this whole pattern as a singularity (although many Jungians and non-Jungians have noticed the various symptoms individually).  In essence, I am making a creative diagnosis and proposing a way to move forward in Jungian thought, suggesting a potential path that a "progressive Jungianism" might take (beginning in self-analysis).

I won't go into the details of my diagnosis due to how extensive the analysis and pattern recognition are.  I have been concocting an idea for a book for a number of years now that I'm calling "Memoirs of My Jungian Disease".  The idea is to explain this diagnosis while grounding it in my personal observations and self-analyses (as a "diseased Jungian") . . . and then to propose ways of treating that disease.

As above, I see Jung's personal complexes as the "genetic code" this disease developed from.  My feeling is that Jungian failures to understand exactly how Jung's complexes worked and affected his thinking and behavior have meant that the disease was inherited by Jungians as a side effect of their Jungian indoctrination.  This is another reason that psychoanalytic techniques would, if properly applied, prove useful to the treatment of the disease.  I.e., it is an unconscious or subconscious habit that has psycho-logical structures that can be understood psychoanalytically.

As for the "disease" itself, perhaps the most predominant symptom is a kind of self-righteous inflation . . . not unlike the "spiritual disease" that afflicts many spiritual seekers and seekers of enlightenment, transcendence, and various peak experiences.  The primary result of this symptom is a relational impairment that throttles various aspects of the self/other relationship for Jungians.  In short, Jungians have a very "monotribal" sense of identity, which means (if that monotribalism manifests unconsciously and unintentionally) that strict lines are drawn between an Us and a Them. This strict differentiation prevents sufficient interaction between and mutual influence of the Us and the Them.

In more Jungian terms, the designated Them are the objects of shadow projection.  They are scapegoated and discounted.  Regrettably for Jungians, the Them tend to be healthier and more functional in the modern environment (which I call "polytribal" or made up of many different part-tribes, none of which is whole unto itself).  I see most of Jungianism's problems as stemming from its unconscious, simplistic, and compulsive monotribalism and its unintentional march toward a kind of romantic monotribal ideal.  In this compulsion or complex, Jungians lose their capacity to be psychological (i.e., to think analytically about the psyche, their psyches, as objects).  Instead, they fall into what Jung liked to call abaissement du niveau mental (a lowering of the threshold of consciousness) and "participation mystique".  Participation mystique is, I feel, the natural state of premodern monotribal sociality.  Jung reserved the term for "primitives", but I think it is just the natural, default, habitual sociality for our species.

There is an inherent problem in Jungians (who are supposedly "psychologists", psychotherapists, and those interested in psychology) becoming un-psychological.  It makes them non-adaptive as a tribe and dysfunctional as a "school of thought" or intellectual organization.  We might say that being un-psychological means that Jungians live in "Bad Faith", because their psychological-ness should largely define them (as it did Jung).  We might also call this (to use a term Jung also liked) a "loss of soul" for the Jungian tribe, because that "Bad Faith" works to dissociate Jungianism from its tribal "soul" or sense of healthy, adaptive, survivable identity.

Therefore, the "treatment" for the Jungian disease is a kind of "soul retrieval" . . . a shamanic work that tries to re-mythologize the narrative of Jungian selfhood (as in "the talking cure").  So, it is as if Jungians have the tools of treatment at their disposal, but they are wearing blinders and can't see where to apply these tools.  That blindness is a complex and it is a facet of the Jungian disease.


I like your description of the Jungian true-believers, sycophants, or whatever one may call them, as a or the "tribe."  It is for this reason I am not wanting to affiliate myself too closely to the Jungian writings themselves.

When I first started using the term tribe to describe modern groups like Jungians, it was another "knowing poeticism" touched with hyperbole, but the more I read and thought about human sociality, the more I came to feel it was simply an accurate and scientifically viable term.  Still, "tribe" by itself is something of an abbreviation and can still engender confusion.  What I mean by tribe is "monotribe" (a term I have been using increasingly), and not merely "monotribe", but "modern monotribe".

I am seeing a monotribe as a social group that survives and adapts in a given environment as a whole or a kind of super-organism.  It is "one", and the sense of identity constructed within this group is characterized by a singular notion of what is OK and what isn't behavior- and identity-wise (although different subgroups, like children/adults or men/women, have some different standards).

A premodern monotribe is more like the traditional tribe that most Westerners only know through the eyes of anthropologists.  Even the most reclusive and non-technological monotribes still surviving today are probably not to be considered as true premodern monotribes because they have been irreparably transformed by their contact with moderns (even if they strive to preserve their tribal cultures against modernism).  The truth seems to be that these monotribes have overlapping environments with modern polytribes, so there is competition for certain resources.  The fact that modern polytribes outcompete monotribes in these overlapping environments leads to specific cultural developments in the monotribes.  The best known examples in the U.S. are, of course, the Native Americans and the construction and constriction of their reservations . . . not to mention the identity-altering history of white atrocity, aggression, and theft.

As much as many Americans romanticize Native American cultures and ideas, those cultures and ideas continue to struggle mightily just to persist in the environment shared with and affected by moderns.

By modern monotribe, I mean to differentiate a kind of social group from more traditional monotribes.  A modern monotribe lives almost entirely in the modern environment and is composed entirely of modern individuals.  Modern individuals are polytribal, i.e., they have affiliations and allegiances with many groups and subgroups (from their families to their nations and many beyond and in-between).  But a modern monotribe is different than most polytribes because it seeks (albeit more or less unconsciously) to restore some sense of premodern monotribalism where a singular sense of identity and belief accounts for all one needs to identify oneself or believe.

That striving can never be fulfilled entirely because the modern polytribal environment does not support it.  Modern monotribes, therefore, tend toward fundamentalism and seek to repeal various aspects of modernism.  This is an effort at the employment of the traditional human adaptive technique of manipulating one's environment to fit the tribal identity rather than adapting the identity or behavior to fit the environment.  Often this effort in modern monotribes is harmless enough, but where a monotribe gains too much power, this regressive fundamentalism can become extremely dangerous to the modern environment.  We see this writ most large in the 20th century totalitarian movements like Nazism, fascism, and Stalinism.  Many millions of "others" were killed so that various monotribes could experience the "pure" environments they desired.

Christians rarely like to think of it like this, but early institutional Christianity (Roman Catholicism) operated in exactly the same way.  It proved to be the world's most successful modern monotribe, and it achieved this through a combination of ideological concessions (to various pagan traditions and ideas) and the brutal repression and destruction of those who would not "convert".  To this day, Christianity is the primary model of modern monotribalism we are all familiar and infused with (believer or non-believer).

But today, modern monotribes don't compete as well as polytribes, and their power has been reduced.  It still remains to be seen whether the advanced modern world will be able to avoid sliding back into a monotribal fundamentalism that disrupts the environment for everyone.  There are strong modern monotribal movements in American (almost always with a Christian ideology at their base) that would love to conform all others to their ways of seeing the world.

I would like to be clear, though, that I do not see "monotribalism" as a pejorative in general, nor do I mean to completely negativize monotribal inclinations in modern individuals.  Monotribalism is something that I think we all need on some level in order to be completely healthy and functional individuals.  It is an instinct and a fundamental structure of human identity construction.  It would be pointless to try to eradicate or to overly condemn this instinctual predisposition.  The problem I think we should address is how to adapt this instinct to the modern environment.


As with many social adaptations in our species, I suspect this adaptation would have to come through some kind of reconceptualization rather than through a genetic mutation.  That reconceptualization process began or became reignited with Enlightenment humanism and the modern humanistic philosophy of the individual as the unit of most significance in society.  That is, the idea of the individual as entitled to various rights, as inviolable, worth protecting by the state, worth promoting and nurturing.  This humanistic idea conceptualizes that in the "tribe" of individuals, all are equal and all are valid and fully "human".  That is, everyone is an Us.

As long as we conceptualize everyone we interact with as an Us (rather than a Them), we are likely to treat them respectfully and sympathetically and not violate or abuse their "rights".  That is fairly Utopian, but our species has actually done surprisingly well with this philosophy, which may have once seemed logically impossible to institute.  Of course, this modern humanistic "equality" is easier shouted about from pulpits than practiced in the street, and there are innumerable obstacles (our genes being one of the largest).

But just as people are predisposed to make radical differentiations between an Us and a Them and to dehumanize the Them, we are equally predisposed to feel sympathy and empathy, to cooperate (usually strategically or via reciprocal altruism), to care for those in need.  We have genetic hurdles to get over, but we also have all the right tools to build a healthier modern, polytribal world.

It would probably seem much easier to many people to just do away with monotribalism altogether.  Once you recognize the flaws of monotribalism, it can be difficult to recognize the more subtle positives.  The primary one I can think of is that the human personality or sense of identity (which is what each individual needs to operate well enough in order to be socially and evolutionarily functional) is structured monotribally or around a sense of oneness or integrity.  That is there is, I believe, an overarching organizational principle to identity construction that promotes integration and inter-association of parts into one complex system.  I think the basic principle of psychic health is homeostasis (or homeorhesis, as some prefer to specify).  The singular organizational principle of the individual psyche is one that seeks a homeostatic "flow".

We can recognize this when we think about the things that thwart our sense of selfhood.  Anxiety is the primary one.  Our psychic and physiological systems are designed to incorporate a certain (not insignificant) degree of anxiety, but where anxiety levels reach too high (for whatever reason), our systems start to de-cohere and crash.  Anxiety is the disruption of homeostatic maintenance in the psychic system.  Where we seek to adapt to increases in anxiety, we seek more coherence and homeostatic flow . . . that sense of everything we are coming together in an integrated and functional way.  That means being adaptable within our specific environments (and the primary human environment is culture).

Jung's idea of the Self as a kind of organizational principle of the psyche is very apt here, I think.  Jung sought to understand this phenomenon of the Self psychologically (for the most part).  But in Jungianism, the Self is more a totem of identity construction than a psychological (or even spiritual) object.  What I mean is that the Jungian concept of the Self is not really about understanding (psychology) or serving (spirituality) this autonomous object/other, it is about a group of Us's differentiating themselves from groups of Them's by what they worship and extol.  So in Jungianism, it is conventional to proclaim the virtues of the Self and praise its wondrousness and meaning, but what this really serves is the establishment of tribal identity.  There is no relationship with an Otherness in the Jungian construction of Self.  Jungian Self-talk is merely an affectation or manner of self-presentation that helps Jungians identify as Jungians and helps them identify other Jungians and know who might be a non-Jungian.

This totemic usage of Jungian concepts like Self and individuation is (not surprisingly) unrecognized and unacknowledged by Jungians.  But this is how tribal identity construction (and its characteristic "participation mystique") conventionally operate.  That is, it is "taboo" (in a tribe) to look into the psychological and more mundane makeup of any tribal identity totems.  Part of being a member of a monotribe is defending these totems.  The only members of monotribes who are granted the right to modify the tribe's identity totems are shamans, and because they alone are burdened with this duty, shamans (and their methods) are themselves tabooed.  Shamans, that is, are granted totemic status in the tribe and are not "seen through".

This is why traditional shamans wore incredibly elaborate costumes and masks.  These shamans are (for their tribes) who they appear outwardly to be: workers of divine magic and persuasion.  My suspicion is that the emergence of tribal shamanism was a very clever "workaround", a kind of social technology that allowed monotribes to adapt to changes in their environments without realizing that they were altering their core sense of tribal identity to do so.  The tribal shamanic system has many failsafes built in so that tribe members do not have to be burdened with seeing through their identity totems.

The tribal shaman was responsible for developing creative technologies that adapted tribal identity on one hand with a core principle of organization (the Self system) on the other.  The shaman or shamans had to make the tribal identity work, and the art of shamanism is partly an art of "ethical" deception and misdirection, a "performance" that symbolically works to restore the soul.

This was later recaptured in ancient theater (e.g., in Greece), and even to this day we "know" (even when we don't consciously know) that partaking in a performance or recitation of a healing narrative "restores the soul" and keeps us feeling fully "human".  This is all the more effective in a monotribal environment where identity is more strictly controlled and less variable. There aren't an infinite number of ways to "restore soul" in a premodern monotribe (like there are in modern polytribalism).

But although that stricter determination of monotribal identity feels oppressive to most moderns, we suffer the opposite problem of "soul" being much more nebulous, ethereal, and intangible.  It is hard to "fix" that mercurial "soul" in a modern individual whose sense of selfhood is extremely polytribal and lacks any strong sense of singular organization or integrity.  The demand on a modern individual to find a novel technology that "restores soul" is enormous.  The tendency is to gravitate toward monotribalism, because monotribalism feels more "soulful", more integral, and approximates the sense of wholeness or oneness we seek.  But modern monotribes (unlike traditional ones) are not self-sufficient and independently sustainable.  They are not their own super-organisms adapting to and surviving within a specific environment.  Even the most robust modern monotribes exist only at the expense of the modern polytribal life support system.

For instance, it is only because some members of a modern monotribe have wealth acquired through modern means that a monotribe can be (temporarily) maintained in a modern environment.  In psychotherapies (which are often quite monotribal), the occupation of psychotherapists can only be maintained with support from insurance companies or state subsidization. Original psychotherapists like Freud and Jung were depended on very wealthy patients, many of whom became great patrons of their doctors.  Christianity established itself in exactly the same way (i.e., by converting wealthy people who funded the Church).

Traditional monotribes are not subsidized like this.  My hypothesis is that this self-sustaining singularity of traditional monotribalism was reflected in the core sense of tribal identity . . . that this allowed tribal identity to make a good reflecting pool for Self.  And therefore, the natural human equation is that the tribe IS the Self and vice versa.  Only with modernism is the concept of Self abstracted and individualized, because tribes could no longer be self-sustainingly whole.  And so the sky god who lives mysteriously above it all becomes the new model for the Self . . . and people are forever looking up into the sky or into some immaterial beyond for the tether of their identity.  And they aren't really finding it . . . not unless they happened (coincidentally) to live in a monotribe.

But what happens then is that the individual (with his or her abstract, anthropomorphic, individualized notion of God) keeps looking for God and the orientation of selfhood in the model s/he expects to be valid and never realizes that the "relationship with God" is ultimately dependent on living and finding identity within a monotribe.  It is not "faith" that "redeems the soul" in these situations, it's society . . . monotribal society.  And one's God is only as valid and as functional (or "powerful) as one's tribe is in the larger environment.  As a result, no differentiation is made between the promotion of the tribal God and the promotion of the tribe as a social entity.

That is what we see in the U.S. with the relatively new political interests of Evangelical and fundamentalist Christian groups.  Any pretense that Christianity was about a kind of introverted "faith" is thrown out the window.  Christianity is about establishing oneself and one's tribe socially, about obtaining tribal power and influence to control one's environment.  And this is all entirely in line with the instinctual predispositions of human sociality.  It is not "salvation" through faith, but genes doing what they were meant to do.  But the particular expression of these genes is at odds with the modern environment.  Either the environment will have to give in to that archaic expression of the genes or the expression of the genes will have to be adapted to the environment.

Jungians are in the same predicament, except they have essentially no power or influence on any modern front.  The struggle for Jungianism, then, is the struggle with extinction.  It is "dying out" and will eventually vanish if it cannot find a way to adapt.

I would rather that it didn't.  I still see value in Jungianism, but that value is consistently diminishing as Jungians blindly follow their habits and complexes and do not seek to modify their identity, beliefs, and attitudes in functional ways.  The Jungian tribe has splintered into sub-tribes and each of these is shooting farther in its own direction away from an integral core.  From the perspective of this core, these Jungianisms are each "diluted" in their particular ways.  This is a natural process.  Jungianism is like a species that is no longer adaptive in its environment.  But various mutations have some chance of surviving in their respective new environments.  So the old species dies out while the new species become creatures of their new environments.

I'm not opposed to this in general, but I feel that in the case of Jungianism, there are core elements that have been lost that are still valid.  In fact, those lost elements of Jung's approach to the psyche are actually the most modern and robust ones . . . and they have been lost because of Jungianism's penchant for monotribalism and its component negligence of its "tribal soul" and identity.  Jung had the preliminary workings of a recipe for adaptation of the monotribal sociality instinct to modern polytribal society.  He also had a number of personal and cultural resistances and complexes that hindered the fuller development of this recipe.  The recipe was actually like a kind of antibody Jung developed against these complexes that didn't come to full fruition.  That is, I think it worked fairly well for him (as a self-treatment), but it did not become something reproducible that others could adopt.  It did not, in other words, become a "technology" modern society could use.

This is why I would prefer to bring back the "Jungian disease" as a disease.  We need to get back to the project of developing the necessary antibodies.  But, understandably, Jungianism today is more concerned with alleviating the symptoms than with treating the cause.  It seeks to live "symptom free", but not necessarily "well".  It's a short term solution, and not a very good one at that.


By gnosis do you mean "Intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths" [freedictionary] or do  you mean the esoteric type of knowledge sought by the Gnostics specifically.  And now that we're on that subject, I thought I might find something worthwhile in Gnosticism at one time, and went to a Gnostic Sunday service, if that's the right word.  It was so like Catholicism I was quite put off.

It's interesting that you felt (modernized) Gnosticism was like Catholicism.  Originally, they were the bitterest of enemies.  I lean to the (minority) opinion that something like "Gnosticism" (or variations of proto-Gnosticism) was the first form of "Christianity", and that what eventually became Roman Catholicism was in many ways a reaction to and against Gnosticism.  It is conventional in early Christian studies to see this reaction in the opposite way (Gnosticism as a reaction to Catholicism), but I feel that is based too much on "history being written by the winners".

My use of small-g gnosticism is definitely closer to "intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths", except I don't hold that there are such things as "spiritual truths" and "intuitive apprehension" is not the medium I would promote.  Science is a small-g gnostic methodology, also, albeit one that is generally unconcerned with spirituality and other intangibles.  For me, the gnostic impulse is very generally that drive to know rather than believe  In that pursuit, one takes whatever means necessary to differentiate knowledge from belief and to falsify beliefs that have no logical or objective bases.

I see that as fully compatible with psychology's investigation of psychic phenomena as objective rather than subjective.  That is, a psychologist can never fully trust a belief or intuition, but must always keep asking, "But why did his or her or my mind construct that image/idea/feeling in that particular way?"  There are no "truths" among psychic phenomena, only representations with logical structures.  The psychologist and the small-g gnostic sacrifice the comfort of "truths" in the pursuit of knowing . . . which interestingly is a lot like a spiritual discipline or faith.  The gnostic is always pursuing the object/other in order both to know it and to allow it to be autonomous, to be what it naturally is, not to usurp it.  This becomes an ethical stance, perhaps a focused version of scientific ethics in research methodology.

The gnostic doesn't have to sacrifice the valuation of the object/other.  That valuation has only to be recognized as a psychic phenomenon itself.  Value is attributed; it is a relational and subjective quality, not an inherent and objective one.  It is essential to the relationship with the object/other, but not to the object/other itself.  In other words, we could say that one's faith is not essential to God itself, but it is essential to one's relationship with God as a medium of valuation.  But where faith becomes more about the believer's needs than the object, it can actually impair the valuation of object.  That, in a very small nutshell, is why I am an atheist.  I have found belief (at least in my case) to stand in the way of the valuation of what many would call God.  So belief for me was a sacrifice made in the name of my "faith" or insistence that the valuation of the object/other was the most important thing to pursue (as opposed to, say, my identity as a believer or any sense that my identity was "saved" or protected by my beliefs).

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

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

flowerbells

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Re: Tarot cards, Jung, and what on earth?
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2012, 11:15:24 AM »
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meant that the disease was inherited by Jungians as a side effect of their Jungian indoctrination.

Yes, this makes good sense.  And I understand what you mean that professional Jungians have been indoctrinated.  When I was in grad school of Education, it was clear to me that the intent was to indoctrinate us/me.  I thwarted this by taking class notes in two columns: one, what the professor wanted to hear and believe, and the other with the truth as I understood it.  The result was in depth learning of the subjects.

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Therefore, the "treatment" for the Jungian disease is a kind of "soul retrieval" . . . a shamanic work that tries to re-mythologize the narrative of Jungian selfhood (as in "the talking cure").  So, it is as if Jungians have the tools of treatment at their disposal, but they are wearing blinders and can't see where to apply these tools.  That blindness is a complex and it is a facet of the Jungian disease.

The same is true for many therapists and workers in the mental health field.  They are surrounded by people who could treat their own dysfunctionality, but fail to take advantage of this assistance because they feel they are above it, or would be stigmatized if they did.  The field of Education is similar.  Teachers and Educators frequently stop learning new and personal things as soon as they get their degrees.  The rhetorical question is, how can these people expect to relate to their clients or students, if they themselves do not experience counseling or learning (respectively).

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I am seeing a monotribe as a social group that survives and adapts in a given environment as a whole or a kind of super-organism.  It is "one", and the sense of identity constructed within this group is characterized by a singular notion of what is OK and what isn't behavior- and identity-wise (although different subgroups, like children/adults or men/women, have some different standards).

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Modern individuals are polytribal, i.e., they have affiliations and allegiances with many groups and subgroups (from their families to their nations and many beyond and in-between).

I've see this type of behaviour in different religious/philosophical groups or tribes, where an individual behaves in character with the particular group they are in, thereby splitting themselves into strange personalities.


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