Author Topic: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.  (Read 23919 times)

Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2008, 12:47:09 PM »
Did Jung understand the concept of memes before Dawkins gave the name?

Meme is a term set forth by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene.[/b]”  Dawkins describes memes as units of cultural transmission which “propagate themselves in the meme pool by ...a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation(p. 192).  Dawkins posits that memes replicate themselves in exactly the same manner as genes, “We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we can have the power to turn against out creators.  We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators."

"Imitation" is the key here.

Quote

Human beings have one faculty which, though it is of the greatest use for collective purposes, it is most pernicious for individuation, and that is the faculty of imitation.  Collective psychology cannot dispense with imitation, for without it all mass organizations, the State, the social order are impossible.  Society is organized, indeed, less by law than by the propensity to imitation, implying equally suggestibility, suggestion, and mental contagion.  But we see every day how people use, or rather, abuse, the mechanism of  imitation for the purpose of perdifferentiationtation:  they are content to ape some eminent personality, some striking characteristic or mode of behavior, thereby achieving an  outward distinction from the circle in which they move.  We could almost say that as a punishment for this the uniformity of their minds with those of their neighbors, already enough, is intensified into an unconscious, compulsive bondage to the environment.  As a rule the specious attempts at indivdifferentiationtation stiffen into a pose, and the imitator remains at the same level as he always was, only several degrees more sterile than before.  To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.
C. G. Jung, Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious, found in "The Portable Jung," p.103.

Dawkins and Jung seem to be describing the same thing; IMO they are.  And, again, IMO they are both correct.  It is interesting to listen to people natter about Jung, and speak of change and individuation, while conforming to collective standards.  The old psychological adage certainly applies here:  "Listen to what they say, but look to see what they, in fact, do."  Is it possible to achieve, or even work toward,  individuation while mired in the collective, or is it mere rhetoric? One of Shakespearianperian tales, "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2008, 11:42:21 AM »
Dawkins and Jung seem to be describing the same thing; IMO they are.  And, again, IMO they are both correct.  It is interesting to listen to people natter about Jung, and speak of change and individuation, while conforming to collective standards.  The old psychological adage certainly applies here:  "Listen to what they say, but look to see what they, in fact, do."  Is it possible to achieve, or even work toward,  individuation while mired in the collective, or is it mere rhetoric? One of Shakespearianperian tales, "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

As I've mentioned a few times previously, I also feel that Jungian individuation is often a sham.  It seems to more closely resemble an indoctrination process to me.  On the other hand, I think that individuation itself is instinctually driven (albeit, not powerfully enough to automate it unconsciously . . . perhaps in part because there is no available environment which can directly imprint upon the individuation instinct, no institutional models, no naturally occurring conditions; therefore it is more likely that individuation is an attempt of the human organism to adapt to a modified environment, a retooling of other instincts in the general interest of achieving fitness).

There is a great deal of concentration on the numen in Jungian thinking, and I suspect that this is the stumbling block we Jungians face.  Numinousness is not enough.  Faced with it alone, we still don't really come to an understanding of things.  The obsession with numinousness only totemizes the experience of the unconscious.  Jungians have a problem with seeing this numinous beacon in the distance and immediately falling to their knees to worship it (i.e., it is feared as much as admired, but ultimately treated as toxic, like any god of old).  They don't pursue the beacon.

They should.  Pursuing the beacon, trying to reach and understand it, that will lead to individuation.  The distant worship of the numinous totem only breeds conformity and inflation (when worship is mistaken for knowledge of the thing).


I think one of the signs that Jungian individuation is not all its inflated "propaganda" makes it seem to be is that there is no counseling or support group/literature for "individuants".  Instead, there is the romantic fantasy notion that after one has so many years of Jungian analysis (and demonstrates a "progression" . . . or indoctrination), they can be "released" happily into the modern world and live in it in a perfectly adaptive way.  They have "arrived".  That is lunacy.  In an individuation that is actually progressing, the problems of adaptation hardly cease after the individual moves into a healthy and functional relationship with the Self.  Rather, a whole new set of problems emerges . . . and although the individual might have a stronger foundation because of the inner Work done, s/he will, I think, find that there are no real answers to the problems of being an individuant living in the world.

That is, individuation (real individuation) means (most of all) a conscious separation from our tribal affiliations.  This is eventually followed up by a conscious attempt to reconnect to groups and affiliations, but without the veil of "participation mystique".  In other words, the individuant seeks reconnection, because connection (or Eros) is instinctually driven and a necessary part of being human.  But s/he must now (having become conscious of his/her affiliations and aware of the realities of difference between self and Other) facilitate participation without the full sense of "mystique" and it's transference fantasy of the unity of multiple others.  We do not feel the same things, think the same things, believe the same things . . . and we don't have to in order to participate, even to participate intimately.  The individuant doesn't believe in the fantasy of sameness, but valuates Otherness.  Or, in other words, individuation is a matter of replacing the limited and less adaptive Eros medium of affiliation with the new, highly plastic and adaptable medium of the individuated and conscious ego.

Mystical participation is a transference phenomenon, a shared fantasy that is, I believe, conducted by the sociality instinct.  In tribes, we are more fit and survivable than we are alone "in the wild".  The sociality instinct compels us toward conformity ("imitation"), because conformity is the best recipe for making tribes survivable in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness.  But as we no longer live in such an environment, conformity (especially the conformity of large masses) continuously shows its dark and dysfunctional side.  I think this is made all the worse by the fact that our modern societies lack effective institutions for initiation into adulthood and its component sense of social responsibility.  We don't have institutions that treat and respect the "soul", in other words.  We only have institutions of indoctrination, each of which indoctrinates members only into its tribe.  But there is no institution for helping instill a wider sense of responsibility to fellow individuals.

There is only individuation, the individual process . . . and it has not, in my opinion, been formally and functionally understood and studied yet.  Jungians have staked a claim to "individuation", but they have also helped ossify and totemize it, concealing its fantasy images from non-members (i.e., those not willing to speak the Jungian language and participate in the Jungian tribe's belief systems) like a dragon hoarding the gold it can never spend.  And this is why "heroes" slay dragons.  Culture heroes, that is.  They return the hoarded gold to the people who can use it as functional libido to live through.

Another suspicious aspect of Jungianism's relationship to individuation is the fact that it rarely if ever reflects on the possibility that it has misunderstood and badly mismanaged the "preservation of the individuation journey".  Most of the time, Jungians assume that they are the rightful keepers of the "eternal flame" of individuation.  There is hardly ever any concern about the validity of this claim or any attempt to investigate knowledge beyond the assumed Jungian omniscience (especially where science is concerned).  Or, when the sciences or other philosophical systems are tapped, they are mostly made over to conform to the pre-established Jungian beliefs and unquestioned righteousness.

The only notable, common deviation from this pattern in modern Jungiana is the unusual marriage many Jungians have made with object relations theories.  To a much smaller extent, a few Jungians have embraced postmodernist philosophical ideas (Giegerich, Hillman, and a few others).  Although I think it's a healthy thing for Jungians to try to learn from another psychotherapeutic theory (object relations), I worry that the appropriation of object relations concepts and language has come as a result of a serious lack in Jungian theory.  And, more importantly, Jungians have turned to object relations theories to supplement Jungian theory instead of doing the grunt work of revising and developing Jungian theory (which has always had a paucity of theory regarding child and early ego development).

My concern is that this appropriation demonstrates an inability to think theoretically, a kind of wound of "heroic" self-confidence that's required to innovate.  And even though object-relations is a post-Freudian psychology, it is certainly much more "Freudian" than Jungian psychology is.  So, to put Jungianism on the couch (where I think it seriously needs to go), we have to ask of it why it has retreated back toward its "father".  Has the prodigal son come back home?  Has he failed to find his own answers away from the father?  I don't think this is a fantasy that Jung himself would have desired for his psychology.

I don't mean to say that object relations theory is wrong or bad . . . but I worry that the relationship Jungianism has with it is dysfunctional.  I admittedly know very little about object relations, and (as is often the case with me), my negative reaction is to its language.  I find it overly-pathologizing and overly-apt to reduce all psychological experience and development to infant and early childhood paradigms.  The thing that appealed most to me about Jung's writing and thinking when I first got interested in them was Jung's hesitance to pathologize many psychological phenomena that Freudians and other schools of psychology saw as "abnormal" . . . and also his desire to open up the development of the psyche to a legitimately "adult life".  Jung's general deviation from the investigation of child psychology is certainly rooted in his reaction to Freud and a desire to differentiate himself from Freud's reductively infantile psychology. 

I have made my best effort to continue in this Jungian trend of seeing psychic "normality" as a very broad and diverse spectrum of phenomena and supporting the notion that adult individuals can partake in an adult psychology and psychic development that is not reducible to and entirely explicable by childhood psychology.  I have been seeing psychological development in individuals as a matter of interactions between self (as well as Self) and environment.  And we live in and evolve in numerous different environments.  To name a few basic ones: the infant's environment in close proximity to the mother, the parental environment of early childhood (in which the father's participation is also important), the early-through-adolescent peer environment/s, the adult/socially responsible environment, the parenting environment, and perhaps the environment of "mortality" and physical decline.

In each environment, we have to build and revise ego adaptively in order to function.  And at least through late adolescence/early adulthood, we know that the brain is continuing to grow and "rewire" itself.  I think that the assumption (based in psychoanalysis and its descendants) that the entire scope of human psychology is infantile is presumptuous and perhaps distinctly unscientific.  Yes, many adults exhibit infantile attitudes and behaviors, but this may not be merely "the way it is".  This could have a great deal to do with our social structure in the modern world being in distinct conflict with the instinctual sociality of homo sapiens that evolved in and for the tribal environment of evolutionary adaptedness.  In any case, I think we should try to evaluate the functionality of human behavior less on cultural grounds and more on evolutionary/biological grounds.  Too much of our cultures is arbitrary.  It is slippery trying to apply wrong and right, good and bad based on any one culture's standards . . . especially the instinct-dissociated standards of modern, industrialized cultures.

Individuation is a matter of adult (post-adolescent) psychology.  I think we should exercise caution when applying infant and child paradigms to adult psychology.  At the same time, we should recognize that such things as libido, desire, self-defense, a "sense of self" (confidence and security and dignity, or cohesion), pleasure-seeking/pain-avoiding, appreciation of comfort and reduction of anxiety, etc. are not unique to infants and small children, but are common traits of animals, young and old.  What infants and small children add to this is extreme helplessness and vulnerability (making the prolonged parenting role in humans all the more important).  But helplessness is not unique to children, of course . . . nor should feelings of helplessness be considered infantile, I think.  It takes no imagination to recognize that the adult environment of modern society is constantly facing us with our own impotence on various levels, and often forcing us to feel like children (e.g., when we are treated like children by those who have more power than us, usually in workplace environments).


Jung's ideas opened many doors for me psychologically because they didn't dismiss or shame many supposedly "abnormal" psychological states and experiences.  Looking at these things without unnecessary shame helped me tremendously to investigate (rather than repress and fear) them . . . and these investigations are what led to all of the transformations in my self and life that I now consider to be the root of my identity and sense of being.

So, I'm concerned that a return to more-Freudian terminology and perspectives like those coming from object-relation theories, will and has been allowing shame and undue pathologization to creep back into Jungian thinking.  If "pathologizing" is too severe a term for much of object-relations terminology, perhaps "dehumanizing" is more accurate.  But the result of shaming is very much the same.  The psychological definitions of "abnormal" are exaggerated, and "normal" psychology is too rigidly and minimally defined.  It is a resurgence of superego thinking that is being foreshadowed here, and this will help breed conformity and lack of innovative adaptation (as is often the case with these tribalistic, specialized language systems in academia).

This kind of enforced conformity was a notorious aspect of Freud's original dogmas.  I stand with Jung in opposing that kind of conforming trend that seeks to make a psychology into a belief system instead of an adaptive, scientific investigation of psychic phenomena.  Of course, object-relations is nowhere near as dogmatic (as far as I know) as Freudian psychoanalysis . . . but I will happily remain rather sensitive to this potential.

What concerns me more is that the interest many Jungians have in object-relations theories derives from an acquired taste for dogmas.  Without intending to cast any genuine criticisms of object-relations theories, they seem every bit as unscientific and untestable/unfalsifiable as Jungian theories do (understanding that both systems are primarily therapeutic and practical, not theoretical).  That is, both psychologies are metaphorical language systems . . . and neither seems terribly interested in refining the accuracy of the metaphors they use to talk about the psyche.  Dogmatic languages run away with themselves.  We fall in love with our paradigms and lose touch with the things they are meant to describe.  When this happens, all philosophies become belief systems, systems of belief in a certain language or dialect.

I would personally rather see Jungians trying to better understand the concepts and terms they already have (unconscious, Self, individuation, archetype, shadow, anima/animus, etc.) rather than acquiring more abstract, metaphorical jargon that means to describe just as unknown things.  The short list of Jungian terms in parentheses above is a small example of a core set of terms, all of which (in my opinion) are inadequately understood and under-investigated by Jungians.  What I see is an ossified religion grown up around these and similar Jungian terms that taboos any further development and investigation of the phenomena they are meant to describe.

Regardless of whether my intuitive quibbles with object-relations thinking and terminology hold any water, I think it is perfectly valid to ask of Jungians why they have moved away from the mysteries left right at their doorstep to participate in mysteries advertised many miles away.  I see in this a failure to understand and appreciate the wealth the dragon of Jungianism wallows upon.  If we are too ashamed or incapable of utilizing this Jungian "prima materia", how can we manage to functionally utilize this other quasi-exotic metaphorical system?

Is, for instance, the Jungian interest in object-relations helping Jungians understand Jung's original ideas any better (even if that better understanding leads to revision or rejection of Jung's ideas on logical grounds), or is object-relations a distraction from Jung's (too challenging?) ideas?  I have tried to use some language from evolutionary biology and a little from neuroscience to help clarify and reconstruct Jungian terms in a viable fashion.  But my intention is to make sense and use out of Jung's thinking.  I'm not trying to steer away from Jung's ideas in favor of a new "biologism".  What I'm trying to add to Jungian concepts is an elucidation of the potentials inherent to those concepts as Jung (complexly and ambiguously) proposed them.  I'm just trying to hold a lens up to his diffuse light to try to focus it, and the lens I'm using is modern biology.  I'm am intentionally trying to avoid a new language as much as possible.

I see the potential extinction of Jungian psychology in the Jungian interest in object-relations theory.  Jungian psychology could eventually be replaced by a Jungianesque object-relations school . . . and although perhaps such a school could generate functional therapists, there would still be a failure, in this event, to understand and develop (make adequate use of) Jung's original ideas. 

I continue to see value in Jung's ideas.  They need to stay viable and modern and take account of new data, but they aren't ready for absolute retirement or replacement.  The path of Jungian thinking has not been completed, and to think it has is hubris.  There is still more potential in Jung's ideas, but it can only be tapped if Jungian thinking stays adaptable and open to the constant influx of relative data.  That is, Jungian psychology needs to be a living, adaptive system in order to remain fit, to survive.

I think that is still possible . . . but we have become our own worst enemies.  If we continue to see the obstacles we face as Jungians as outside ourselves, we will "die out".  But if we realize and accept that we ourselves (as Jungians) must change, must "evolve" and adapt, then I think we stand not only to survive, but to innovate and contribute to psychology even beyond our tribe.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2008, 01:19:37 PM »
Matt,
As always you make a great argument, and IMO you are spot on.  I want to address individuation a bit then move back to the main theme of this thread.  First, I am in complete agreement with you when you write:
Quote

I think one of the signs that Jungian individuation is not all its inflated "propaganda" makes it seem to be is that there is no counseling or support group/literature for "individuants".  Instead, there is the romantic fantasy notion that after one has so many years of Jungian analysis (and demonstrates a "progression" . . . or indoctrination), they can be "released" happily into the modern world and live in it in a perfectly adaptive way.  They have "arrived".  That is lunacy.  In an individuation that is actually progressing, the problems of adaptation hardly cease after the individual moves into a healthy and functional relationship with the Self.  Rather, a whole new set of problems emerges . . . and although the individual might have a stronger foundation because of the inner Work done, s/he will, I think, find that there are no real answers to the problems of being an individuant living in the world.

IMO opinion this represents the "insanity" that many Jungian engage in.  I use Einstein's definition of insanity here:
Quote

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, (attributed)
US (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955)
Found at:  http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/26032.html

To send "adapted" people back out into an ill, dysfunctional culture is abuse!  David Tacey, provides the proper frame of reference:
Quote

Jung was the original anti-psychiatrist, who designated society as mad.  He was not concerned with repairing broken lives to fit into an insane social order, but had to reverse the directions of psychiatry and argue that society was mad and as such, individual madness is to be expected as a product of a more general madness.
David Tacey, How to Read Jung, p. 103

Joseph Henderson, provides a hint about the relationship between culture and individuation:
Quote

According to theory, there is the essentially unknown influence of the Self as the central archetype.  Jung describes the ego's right attitude toward the Self as having 'no definable aim or visible purpose"(fn. omitted). What initially promotes a tendency to seek an intelligible goal is our egoistic identification with whatever religion, philosophy, art form or social organism influenced us from early years and thereafter became an ego-ideal.  In the process of conscious individuation this preformed structure becomes inadequate, so that the personality, instead of being supported or enriched by it, feels isolated or abandoned.  Then the individual may conceive an original image existing independent of previous cultural influence, which becomes the true model or symbol of what he or she hopes to realize.  Such a symbol precludes the exclusive use of known cultural forms; it has to come into being from an intensely personal experience, but cannot be traced to any known categories of experience or knowledge.   It is unique.  Hence I think we are allowed to call this kind of symbol psychological in the truest meaning of the word; it makes possible specific knowledge of the nature of the human psyche.(Italics in original). My underline.
Joseph L. Henderson, M. D., Cultural Attitudes in Psychological Perspective, p. 83.

And, of course, this bring me back to my area of interest; the intersection of culture and psychology.  Only rarely does one get even a hint that the Jungian process of adapting the individual to the insanity of Western culture is wrong.  Hillman tried, in We've Has A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy, and the World's Getting Worse.
Quote

There is a decline in political sense.  No sensitivity to the real issues.  Why are intelligent people - at least among the white middle class - so passive now?  Why? Because the sensitive, intelligent people are in therapy!  They've been in therapy in the United States for thirty, forty years, and during that time there's been a tremendous political decline in this country.

Ventura:  How do you think that works?

Every time we try to deal with our outrage over the freeway, our misery over the office and the lighting and the crappy furniture, the crime in the streets, whatever - every time we try to deal with that by going to therapy with our rage and fear, we're depriving the political world of something.  And therapy, in its crazy way, by emphasizing the inner soul and ignoring the outer soul, supports the decline of the actual world.  Yet therapy goes on blindly believing that it's curing the outer world by making better people .  We've had that for years and years and years and years: 'If everybody went into therapy we'd have better buildings, we'd have better people, we'd have more consciousness.' It's not the case.

James Hillman and Michael Venture, We've Has A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy, and the World's Getting Worse, p. 5.

And those of us who do not "do" therapy, but attempt to resolve our own issues by studying Jung and Jungians are led down the "rabbit hole,"  when we, mistakenly, try to use Jungian concepts to adapt to this screwed up culture.  Hillman is absolutely correct here.

Now, climbing down off one soap-box and stepping up onto another one, I return to the theme of this thread.

Matt, you should probably sit down for this (-)laugh2(-).  But believe it or not I have found a Jungian using neuroscience!!  I hope he has not been burned at the stake!  And, more importantly for me, his article supports my idea of how cultural stuff gets into our psyche. Let my cut right to the chase here, and provide the quote from Soren Ekstrom,:
Quote

Memory and the New Unconscious
To Joseph LeDoux (2002), of New York University’s Center for Neural
Sciences, the discovery of synaptic plasticity means that many psychological and
behavioral functions are mediated by cells joined by synapses and working
together. A fairly universal mechanism is, in other words, responsible for how
most memory is formed (LeDoux, 1998). The highly dynamic process of synapses
being changed by experience can also be said to be responsible for our sense of
self. Who we are, our individual self, is thus to LeDoux (2002) the result of what
he calls “the particular patterns of synaptic connections in an individual’s brain
and the information encoded by these connections” (p. 3).
LeDoux concurs, however, that much of how what happens to our experiences
occurs without our explicit awareness. What makes us the individuals we
are belongs mainly in this latter category. Distinction thus has to be made between
two aspects of the self. Only the first, explicit aspect, involves self-awareness
(p. 27). By contrast, the implicit self is “all other aspects of who we are that are not
immediately available to consciousness, either because they are by nature
inaccessible, or because they are accessible but not being accessed at the moment”
(pp. 27–28).2

In practical terms, then, findings about synaptic change restate depth psychology
in terms of how conscious and unconscious memory is being formed.
Since the production of synaptic connections can be viewed as part of the process
of encoding information into memory, what we learn from our experiences is
stored for future reference. But how well this storage is organized and retained
depends on a variety of factors, not the least emotion or affect. Like attention and
arousal, emotions must be viewed as playing a central role in how certain experiences become dissociated and hidden, as it were, or reinforced and available for long-term use (Wilkinson, 2004) .
Memory, then, can be defined as “the way the brain is affected by experience
and then subsequently alters its future responses” (Siegel, 1999, p. 24). A person’s
experiential history, his or her learning, is thus reflected in the structure of his or
her brain.

For members of useless I will attach the entire article.  For visitors you can access the article at:  http://www.junginstitute.org/pdf_files/JungV7N2p15-34.pdf

This provides evidence, IMO, of how so much cultural material gets into our psyche.  Unfortunately, a great deal of it today is crap.  And understanding how the cultural material unconsciously influences our lives, again IMO, is a huge part of "The Work."

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

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2008, 04:11:50 PM »
And, of course, this bring me back to my area of interest; the intersection of culture and psychology.  Only rarely does one get even a hint that the Jungian process of adapting the individual to the insanity of Western culture is wrong.  Hillman tried, in We've Has A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy, and the World's Getting Worse.
Quote

There is a decline in political sense.  No sensitivity to the real issues.  Why are intelligent people - at least among the white middle class - so passive now?  Why? Because the sensitive, intelligent people are in therapy!  They've been in therapy in the United States for thirty, forty years, and during that time there's been a tremendous political decline in this country.

Ventura:  How do you think that works?

Every time we try to deal with our outrage over the freeway, our misery over the office and the lighting and the crappy furniture, the crime in the streets, whatever - every time we try to deal with that by going to therapy with our rage and fear, we're depriving the political world of something.  And therapy, in its crazy way, by emphasizing the inner soul and ignoring the outer soul, supports the decline of the actual world.  Yet therapy goes on blindly believing that it's curing the outer world by making better people .  We've had that for years and years and years and years: 'If everybody went into therapy we'd have better buildings, we'd have better people, we'd have more consciousness.' It's not the case.

James Hillman and Michael Venture, We've Has A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy, and the World's Getting Worse, p. 5.

Although I suspect the situation is more complex than Hillman paints it, I do think there is something to the need of individuals to bring aspects of their "individuation" experiences into the world . . . including the madness (dissolution) of these experiences.  One of the reasons I tend to be pretty "confessional" about my experiences with the Work is that I noticed that no one else talks about these things.  Even at Kaleidoscope (the Jungian forum where Kafiri, Chris, and I met) there was much posturing among many members about the fruits of their "enlightenment" or individuation, but no shop talk about what these experience felt like or how one managed to integrate them into a livable personality.  Of course, as you and I both came to suspect, probably this was in large part due to the fact that theirs were not real experiences of individuation (the Work), but were merely individuation fantasies (in which one imagines the goal of the Work and constructs this fantasized goal as an attractor).  Approaching that goal is entirely different from fantasizing it . . . and we find we have to make many detours and humbling modifications along the way.

That's the thing about these enlightenment fantasies.  They are not practical.  Not livable.  They can only exist as esoteric and mystical knowledge inside one's fantasy.  But this knowledge cannot be applied to material living.  As Hillman bemoans, this need for practicality (what he calls the "outer soul") is not sufficiently addressed in Jungian analyses.  As I mentioned above (and elsewhere, I think), there is too much emphasis on fantasy in Jungian analysis.  Active imagination exercises, dream interpretation, therapeutic play . . . these things are fine and not to be disparaged, but they are merely introductions to the unconscious, signposts pointing down the rabbit hole or little potions labeled "Drink Me".  Fantasies, even archetypal ones, are not substitutes for the Work (even as fantasy is a constant companion of those individuants engaged in the Work).

I worry that the over-valuation of fantasy in itself (instead of seeing fantasy as a tool or vehicle for some kind of practical movement or healing) is a major distraction and obstacle in Jungian thinking and therapy.  And one that opens the flood gates for the influx of a lot of New Agey fluff into the Jungian mindset.  This aspect of Jungian thinking is a kind of enantiodromic reaction to other psychologies and sciences that reject all psychic phenomena as "meaningless fantasies".  Jung was a great champion of the meaning of these phenomena, and that valuation is one of the great attractors to Jung's thinking for me.  But these fantasies, I feel, are like alchemical prima materia.  They are raw stuff that needs to be actively transformed.  Dwelling too much in these fantasies (however much creative libido they might offer) is a classic puer pursuit, an ethereal soaring.  And it should thus come as no surprise that the Jungians are so strongly identified with the wise senex and are so disdainful of the puer (which is the fundamental personage of the Jungian shadow).

All that said, it is a serious and perplexing problem, this trying to bring the inner world of the Work into extraverted practice in the world.  Hillman might grumble about a "Lack" in this department, but even if we agree with him about this Lack, what really can we do?  Hillman is, like any clever puer thinker, swift-minded enough to recognize the problem of his own imprisonment, but not truly grounded enough to do anything about it (or, in this case, to offer any really practical advice on reform).  Hillman's lament still lingers entirely in the conceptual realm and is voiced like some snippet of conversation form Waiting for Godot that is followed by the stage directions, "they remain motionless".  I have wonderful puer conversations like this with a good friend of mine frequently, and I enjoy them and their creative energy, even if they never dare lead to any active reform.  But these kinds of thoughts never have to cope with the complexities of real world functionality.

Hillman is a great valuator of fantasy and archetypal images, but not really the most practical thinker, not a "sensation type", to use the Jungian terminology.  But I'm not sure I can really contribute any practicality of note to this "project".  All I have ever been able to think of is that sharing my experiences of the Work with others (in practical terms) could potentially help others valuate their inner experience in a way that they better recognize its outer applicability.  Even if that recognition is only to say, "Hey, this wasn't a complete waste of time.  I know it's worth something", that's a movement in the practical direction, I think.

One of the reasons I called this site Useless Science was that I am very much oriented to exploring the practicality and applicability of the Work . . . and know all too well how extremely difficult it can be finding a true usefulness for our fantasy laden explorations of Self.  It makes for its own asceticism, I think.  I don't mean to say that our inner Work is "fake" or produces no genuine effects.  In my experience, it produces rather enormous effects.  But finding a way to integrate these effects, these transformations of one's perceptual and valuation systems, into a relating/socializing personality requires a rigorous and humbling discipline.  Individuation (real individuation) creates more relational problems than it solves . . . as would logically be the case with an individuation or differentiation of oneself from the collective or tribe (in a radically social species like ours).  The more "individuated" one is, the more fundamentally alien to the (as Jung called it) "mass man" . . . and the more aware of this alienness as it would likely be perceived by the Other.  This alienness is a real and serious problem of the Work . . . and it may have had something to do with the hermeticism of the Hermetic Art.

A more readily acknowledged (at least by Jung himself) complication of individuation is that the movement toward "wholeness" is not at all a movement toward perfection or empowerment or "charisma"/influence over others, but a greater incorporation of shadow.  Yes, this includes some "light shadow" aspects, but mostly it is a putting on or swallowing of darkness.  In my experience, the integration of shadowy darkness is a trait that is generally only appreciated by others who have swallowed as much darkness in their constructions of identity.  But many people do not appreciate complexity of this sort in others.


As far as the "decline in political sense" Hillman mentions, I think this is directly related to the power of propaganda today and the orientation of the public education system.  The mainstream media in the U.S. are very right-wing, and they pump out (sometimes not so subtly) tainted news 24/7.  More and more alternative media outlets have developed, but they don't have the big bucks and the power to reach huge numbers of viewers (most alternative media outlets are print and radio media, not TV, due to limitations of wealth).  And then we have to consider the concept of labor in America today.  It's radically dysfunctional.  Long hours, limited vacations, multiple jobs per person, fascist working environments with pampered elites and near-serf-like underlings.  No Labor party and dwindling respect for and consciousness of unionization.  Massive downsizings.  Corporations with carte blanche to abuse whoever they want (workers, potential competition, the environment).

Jungians tend to look for some kind of psychological cause, some rogue archetype "driving" these modern developments, while ignoring the material causes.  How information is purchased, controlled, and employed is, in my opinion, a much bigger factor in "decline in political sense" than some movement of the so-called "Collective Unconscious".  Control of information is an even more significant factor than distribution of wealth.  I would say that the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth in America (like skyrocketing CEO salaries while middle class jobs no longer afford the same standard of living as they did 30 years ago) is a product of the way information is being controlled.  So, even if there has been a decline in political sense, how to be politically conscious and active is a vast conundrum.  I've spent periods of time trying to stay generally current on real news, trying to keep an eye on what's really going on in the world and especially in the U.S., and it's incredibly difficult.  The amount of information that an individual who strives to be politically conscious has to process is immense (where politically conscious would mean knowing what is really going on in politics, understanding the motivations of power and the actual effects of political and corporate decisions, being able to evaluate sources of information).  It requires extreme dedication.  And what I've found is that, even if you can and will put in the time to find and process this information, it tends to leave you in a state of misery.

The most dedicated activists will tell you that you can, as an individual, "make a difference" . . . and that's not entirely false.  But it's a massive, heroic task for any individual.  The task essentially requires the individual to raise consciousness and convince others . .  to be an "enlightener" and culture hero.  I don't think we are usually up to this level of heroism.  We have other, more selfish motivations to contend with.  I admire political activists who actually make a difference and find a way to fight the good fight, but so many activist efforts are easily quashed by those with power.  Or, even worse, by people who are being victimized by power who "blame the messenger" instead of the real culprit.  Of the various forms of activism, I have the most faith in that which is information oriented.  I see the battle for the human mind (and soul) as an information war.  But we have to be well-informed in order to be effective informational activists.

Maybe we are experiencing a "loss of soul", but our souls are being leached away by an assault of tainted or spun information.  That is, language.  In an Orwellian fashion, the power elite in America have been waging their war for dominance by attacking and manipulating language.  To control the language is to control people.  The only way I can see that we can fight for the preservation of our souls is to strive to be conscious of the way language is being used and can be used.  We have to process all the spun information thrown at us effectively.  And this requires some kind of individuation, because the way to know what language/information that has seeped into you is false or poisonous is to know yourself and be able to differentiate yourself from these informational affiliations and "authoritative sources".  In other words, we have to adapt by becoming better information processors, by becoming aware of how information constructs us.  And if we don't regulate this construction, those who seek to have power over us will regulate the information to their profit.  It is becoming a clear matter of survival.  The modern environment is demanding better information processing from individuals.  Those who fail are manipulable, recruitable for "causes" that they may not actually find ethical.  Voluntarily enslavable.

When we fail to process the onslaught of modern information effectively, we tend to fall into a tribal, belief dynamic.  Instead of becoming our own authorities on information processing (or being able to assess and scrutinize reliable sources of information), we accept totems that dictate "truth" to us.  This is easy to see today in the way many Christian Evangelicals (including those who are poorer and disempowered) continue to support the totemic doctrines and empowerment of super-wealthy, incredibly self-interested, neocons and corporate elites.  This represents a complete failure to process information effectively.  The neocons are neither good representations of Christianity, nor functional advocates for the working and middle classes.

It is, I feel, a failure of understanding for Jungians to assume there is an unconscious psychological or "archetypal "cause to this sort of thing (other than human nature operating as usual, albeit in an extreme environment).  That notion is itself a failure to process information effectively . . . and it neutralizes the impact of those Jungian who believe it.  What's more, are the analysands coming out of Jungian analysis better information processors than they were going in?  Have they learned how to adapt to the modern environment any better in this sense?  Generally not, I think.  In fact, the stereotypical Jungian analysand has been "softened up" for propaganda of certain kinds, because they have been taught how to be "open to the unconscious", receptive, to allow fantasy and imagination to flow unchecked and unquestioned.  They have not necessarily acquired any new discipline or discrimination.

Not only this, but as I have noted before, there is inadequate vigilance and self-examination among Jungian analysts regarding the possibility that Jungian therapy is healing-by-indoctrination (and is therefore a kind of faith-healing for those who would believe in the "magic" or the gods only . . . non-believers are "incurable").  Many accusers and opponents have claimed that Jungianism is a religion or cultic practice, and Jungians have been pretty much unanimous in protesting and rejecting this accusation.  But why have Jungians not made more of an effort to say, "Yeah, well, it is true that Jungian analysis is like a religion in certain ways.  Is this harmful?  What might the effects of this religiosity be?  What other, non-religious alternatives might work, and how?"  I know that was my reaction when first reading Richard Noll's diatribes against Jungianism, even as I recognized that he was a crank and a lousy scholar.

Noll was wrong.  Jungianism is not consciously and secretly a religious cult of self-deification.  But unconsciously, this inclination does seem to exist in the Jungian shadow.  Noll provided Jungians with a great opportunity to investigate this shadow and try to address it constructively.  As far as I can see, Jungians have massively failed to rise to this challenge.


And those of us who do not "do" therapy, but attempt to resolve our own issues by studying Jung and Jungians are led down the "rabbit hole,"  when we, mistakenly, try to use Jungian concepts to adapt to this screwed up culture.  Hillman is absolutely correct here.

I don't really have a good concept of whether those who have been indoctrinated through Jungian analysis are "better off" than those "lay-Jungians" who aspire to study and incorporate a Jungian psychological philosophy but without therapy . . . or vice versa.  As much as I have a number of gripes about official Jungian doctrines and practices, my experience of Jungians in the online community is that many of them could really benefit from a good therapist . . . and are not entirely functional people.  But my guess would be that those indoctrinated through Jungian analysis have a somewhat different set of issues to contend with (that analysis has not prepared them for or has actively distracted them from).
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #19 on: July 25, 2008, 04:38:16 PM »
Now, climbing down off one soap-box and stepping up onto another one, I return to the theme of this thread.

Matt, you should probably sit down for this (-)laugh2(-).  But believe it or not I have found a Jungian using neuroscience!!  I hope he has not been burned at the stake!  And, more importantly for me, his article supports my idea of how cultural stuff gets into our psyche. Let my cut right to the chase here, and provide the quote from Soren Ekstrom. . . .

This provides evidence, IMO, of how so much cultural material gets into our psyche.  Unfortunately, a great deal of it today is crap.  And understanding how the cultural material unconsciously influences our lives, again IMO, is a huge part of "The Work."

Over to you Matt.

Thanks for the article.  I hadn't read this one yet.  Memory is the most fascinating issue in neuroscience now.  David Linden (author of The Accidental Mind) is a memory specialist.  What neuroscientists are calling "memory" is pretty much equivalent to what depth psychologists mean by "psyche".  The main difference is that psychologists have studied the observable psychic phenomena of the brain (and have constructed a notion of psyche and its "organs" and dynamics based on these observations), whereas neuroscientists have been studying the brain (and cognitive science that deals with more concrete and specific studies of cognition) as numerous scientifically or artificially separated elements or specimens and have been building the construct of "memory" out of the ever-increasing elemental and interrelational complexity they have observed in brain functions.  But the complexity of neuroscience and the "depth" of depth psychology are heading to a point of intersection.  Ekstrom seems to see this, too, which is a good thing for Jungian thinking and literature.  Although his construct of memory is still more based in "recall" and storage than in complex systems that lead to the emergence of "cognition".  I think Linden, the neuroscientist, actually has a more complex and robust notion of memory than Ekstrom, the depth psychologist does.  And this is probably due to the fact that Linden has no real use for the concept of "psyche".  Ekstrom is still trying to differentiate and preserve both memory and psyche . . . and perhaps limiting both to some degree because of this.  Linden is beginning to discover the depths of "psyche" through the study of memory's complexity.  He and other neuroscientists have been putting together the jigsaw puzzle of memory/psyche bit by bit, and now clear patterns are starting to emerge.

I like the direction Linden is going, because it offers some hope that eventually, neuroscience will develop a rich, "psychic" construction of memory, but on a material basis rather than an abstract one.  I have been wondering recently (before you posted this) whether the term "unconscious" would soon become obsolete . . . being replaced by "memory".  It seems to me that "unconscious" is not entirely accurate, not accurate enough to be scientific.  I like the term poetically speaking (and memory lacks the connotation of unknowable complexity), but I don't think the so-called unconscious is really inaccessible to conscious.  Nor do I think that consciousness is really so distinct from the cognitive process that we are not aware of or immediately focused on.  I see vast webs of interrelation with a shifting point of focus.  The main differentiation I can see is that "consciousness" is a particular kind of lens that can focus only at a fixed distance.  It cannot focus too microscopically or too macroscopically . . . but the brain still processes and utilizes information on these broader scales.

So, the analogy I would use is that, we can still "see" the microscopic and macroscopic information in our cognitive process, our "memory", but we can't see it "in focus".  It's blurry, undefined . . . and must be somehow reconstructed into something at the right focal length.  This reconstruction is done conceptually, analogically, through language, through as-ifs.  There are two "outer" levels of information in our brains (in my imagined paradigm): the quanta of memory that have no complex function in and of themselves, but interrelated, serve as the building blocks of the memory process; and potential patterns of complexly interrelated sub-systems of memory.  These two levels of unfocusable memory could even be seen as corresponding to Jung's constructs of the Sensation function and the Intuitive function respectively.  The Feeling function could correspond to the "charge" or "glue" that gives the interrelation of memory quanta and complex memory subsystems its variable strength.  And this may relate in some abstract sense to neuronal action potentials and synaptic connectivity.  The Thinking function is (as I have repeatedly proposed), really the narrative egoic function that helps construct (or at least perceive) thoughts, beliefs, and other mid-level/focusable memory complexes out of the variably charged interrelations of memory quanta and complex subsystems.

To reiterate my past criticism of Jung's thinking function construct, I think he based it on his own ego orientation without understanding how culturally constructed (19th century, protestant, middle class, postivistic, masculinist, etc.) it really was.  This Thinking function was Jung's socialized ego-orientation.  Although I respect Jung's intuition in constructing these four functions out of observable psychic phenomena, I completely reject the application of these functions to psychological typology, as I feel that Intuition, Feeling, and Sensation are unconscious, autonomous, cognitive functions (or rather, metaphors for unconscious, autonomous, cognitive functions).  But as modes in which the brain behaves, in which memory forms, or the brain "cognates", these Jungian functions still have some usefulness (even if the terms assigned to these functions have proven to be somewhat antiquated and inaccurate).  Perhaps we could propose a revision such as: Constructive Narrativizing (Thinking), Variably Charged Interrelationality (Feeling), Complex Potential Pattern Organization (Intuition), Quantum Information Deconstruction or Differentiation (Sensation).

I don't mean to suggest these clunky terms in reality.  The nice thing about the metaphorical terms that Jung used for his functions is that they are relatively simple, common terms and have established connotations that encourage us to feel our ways into their meaning.  But the cumbersome neologisms I listed above (without much reflective thought on the matter of naming) are closer to describing the cognitive processes behind the metaphors, I think.  The poetic task of choosing useful revised names for these functions is not a small one . . . and perhaps impossible (since the goal is to find terms that are relatively simple and intuitively comprehendible, while also being accurately descriptive of the things signified).


As for the construction of memory, I agree completely that "culture" is a huge factor.  The primary factor, if we understand "culture" to be all the information we perceive and process from outside the individual self.  And both psychology and neuroscience tell us that the individual self is significantly a cultural creation.  That is, the self with which we perceive, to which we relate new information is itself the construction of previous information.  There is no self differentiable from the information and experience we have learned and perceived.  But I would say that although we are constructed by these perceptions and by this cultural, "outer" information, this construction is constrained by the "hardware" of our material, cognitive systems.  This hardware is on one hand universal to the species, and on the other hand constrained by the unique genetic structure of each individual.  But these predispositions, both individual and speciesistic, form the nature of the Instinctual Self.  And this Instinctual Self sets conditions on perception, attitude, and behavior.  It is a factor in how we interpret and integrate our experience of culture.  If we construct ourselves/are constructed by culture in a way that is not conducive to the adaptation of the Self to the environment, we will begin to experience anxiety (feedback from the Self that opposes our organization or self-construction).

I see the Self (as many other Jungians do) as the principle force behind systemic organization in the individual.  It doesn't actively "build" the system of selfhood (the "personality"), but it compels the building process toward functional and efficient organization, an organization that is adaptive to the environment in which the organism exists.  Our identities or egos, the medium between Self and environment, are in some ways like the bacteria that live inside us.  These bacteria, like the useful bacteria in our digestive systems come from outside (i.e., "culture"), but they help us digest and survive our environments.  On the other hand, some of these acquired bacteria can be harmful and may even break down the functional, living system of the individual being.  This is similar to the meme theory that this thread initially addressed . . . except the bacteria analogy is, I think, more accurate than the virus analogy that some memeticists like to apply.  Our useful bacteria coexist symbiotically with us.  We need them in order to survive our environment.  Viruses are more destructive intruders.  The virus analogy of memeticists is constructed (I feel) with a prejudice against certain kinds of ideas.  Namely, meme-advocates like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett use the virus analogy to compare religious and other ideas that differ from the philosophical totems of their tribes to malicious foreign invaders that damage and may even seek to destroy the host-systems (people).

But it seems to me that, despite its obvious evils in practice, religion is more like a "good bacteria" that we can host while it also adds to our survivability.  What's more, like many of these bacteria we host in the material sense, there is a high likelihood of co-evolution.  There is, then, I would propose, another "poisoning" factor that makes religion destructive or dangerous/immoral.  This factor or these factors are, I suspect, enormously complex "emergences", that cannot be pinned down to a specific meme or egoically identifiable idea.  I feel that the mimeticists I have read grant far too much "mystical" power to individual memes . . . and that they arrive at this form of mysticism through the ignorance of complex systems.  That is, they ignore systemic complexity in their construct of these potent individual memes.  I suspect that the true power of ideas and information is the product of numerous interrelated factors, many of which are not distinctly cultural.  The memes are not themselves possessed of volition.  They are not the motivators.  They are only the husks or vehicles through which various wills interact and fall into some kind of systemic order.  The mysticism of mimetics, as I said initially in this thread, is in the attribution of something like volition to memes (which is scientifically untenable).  Genes, yes, we can understand that they have a kind of volition or libido: a will to reproduce themselves.  There is no provable or really even viable parallel with ideas.  To say a meme or idea has a "will of its own" is merely a metaphor or poeticism . . . not a scientific statement.  It doesn't describe something that is, only what something "is like" based on the anthropic perspective.  This notion suffers from the egoic fallacy.

I'm trying to make a differentiation between the fact (that neuroscience supports) that "culture" constructs memory or psyche/personality and the mimetic poeticism that the quanta of cultural information ("memes" if you like the term) actively and willfully construct the psyche as a byproduct of their own self-interest and "will".  Not only are memes volitionless, mimetic theory tends to cloud (if not entirely miss) the relevance of biological structures that precondition the construction of psyche.  The mystical "will", then, is really the libido behind instinctual living . . . NOT some magical element of volition in the ideas or quanta of culture themselves.  Memetics, seen in this light, is just another form of magical animism, where a totem is imbued with agency and mind.  In this case, the totem is not a material object or being, but an abstract idea.  The underlying animistic process, though, is the same . . . and it is preconditioned by the ancient, biological trait of our species that we call "theory of mind".

So, yes, we get a lot of "cultural junk" in our heads, and sometimes this junk can seem malicious.  But what is dysfunctional in these situations is the system of self-organization . . . how we integrate and use that "cultural junk".  Blaming the junk is, for me, very much the same think as blaming the archetypes.  It is the principle of self-organization we have upheld that makes junk junk or allows us to be "ruled by junk".  It's like having a crappy filing system.  Junk builds up on your work desk until you can't do the work you need to do efficiently (adaptively).  Individuation is an attempt to create a more complex and efficient filing system.  This attempt is instinctually driven by the necessity of survival and adaptation to environment.  If our filing system is dysfunctional, we feel anxiety, a kind of negative reinforcement from the instinctual Self that effectively says, "Change!  Reorganize!"  Successful reorganizations are met with "approval" from the Self in the form of reductions of anxiety/increases in pleasure or feelings of equilibrium.  These positive reinforcements tend to manifest as symbolic fantasy images, numinous images of The Goal or "snapshots" of elegant organizations (e.g., mandalas, sacred geometries, etc.).

Ultimately, what I'm getting at is that I think we have to reimagine ourselves not as "beings" or individuals or agents or souls, etc, . . . but as complex living systems.  "Health" is a matter of adaptive organization, fluid interrelationality of parts.  But also plasticity, functional "redundancy" and failsafe systems, the ability to reorganize easily, lack of systemic rigidity.  Part of this fluidity is creativity, innovation, constructive conceptualization . . . a rejection of excessive and arbitrary rules to ordering.  The ability to recognize and actualize potentials.  One of the main intuitive objections of people on the spiritualistic end of the spectrum (who tend to hold that the human being is a special, semi-divine or inspirited creature and not a "soulless animal") to materialistic, scientific constructions of humanness (as a kind of machine or at least animal not all that different from other apes) is that the "human soul" is reduced to nothing.  The mechanized human with its conditioned responses and near lack of free will.  This is why Darwinism is so aggravating to the spiritualistic ideal of humanness.  But what we are starting to see now is that human beings (and other animals and many other things that are not even conventionally considered "alive") are not literally or metaphorically reducible to machines, but to complex systems.  And these complex systems are to be found not only in lifeforms but in all aspects of nature.

In fact, it is technically erroneous to say that humanness can be "reduced" to a complex system, because the complex systems that we are are actually much more complex than the egoic or anthropic (spiritualistic) notion of humanity.  Spiritualism is a simplification or reduction of natural complexity.  What this means or can potentially mean is the the precious numinousness attributed to the human soul or the "divine spark" in human cognition does not have to be lost as we move to a more scientific model of human nature.  Complexity satisfies our hunger for numinousness.  In fact, metaphorical representations of complexity are often signifiers for the numinous, and always have been throughout human art, culture, and spirituality.  What this means to me is that there is a viable science-religion Coniunctio.  "Faith", as the Catholic Church has long proclaimed, is not "all", is not the route to relationship with "God".  Belief is ultimately a superfluous component in human spirituality.  And that leaves us a distant beacon of light with which to steer ourselves gradually out of unconscious tribalism.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #20 on: July 29, 2008, 01:35:24 PM »
Quote from: Matt Koeske

So, yes, we get a lot of "cultural junk" in our heads, and sometimes this junk can seem malicious.  But what is dysfunctional in these situations is the system of self-organization . . . how we integrate and use that "cultural junk".  Blaming the junk is, for me, very much the same think as blaming the archetypes.  It is the principle of self-organization we have upheld that makes junk junk or allows us to be "ruled by junk".  It's like having a crappy filing system.  Junk builds up on your work desk until you can't do the work you need to do efficiently (adaptively).  Individuation is an attempt to create a more complex and efficient filing system.  This attempt is instinctually driven by the necessity of survival and adaptation to environment.  If our filing system is dysfunctional, we feel anxiety, a kind of negative reinforcement from the instinctual Self that effectively says, "Change!  Reorganize!"  Successful reorganizations are met with "approval" from the Self in the form of reductions of anxiety/increases in pleasure or feelings of equilibrium.  These positive reinforcements tend to manifest as symbolic fantasy images, numinous images of The Goal or "snapshots" of elegant organizations (e.g., mandalas, sacred geometries, etc.).


Sorry Matt, but I think you are off base here.  It appears to me that you are blaming the victim.  And, of course, this begs the question - How or why did our "filing system" get so dysfunctional?    I turn to sources outside of Jung and Jungians for insight into this issue:

Quote

The reality of our Judeo-Christian culture is of course far different.  A primary purpose of Judeo-Christianity has not been to move us toward a community where teachings of someone like Jesus - simple and necessary suggestions for how to get along with each other - are made manifest in all aspects of life, but instead to provide a theological framework for a system of exploitation.  Easy as this is to say, not many people say it(at least not in public).  It is more convenient for exploiter and exploited alike to pretend their parasitic relationship is Natural, ordained by God.  It is easier to believe in a logic that leads directly from original sin to totalitarianism. . . . (p. 78).
. . .

I have long since come to understand the reason school lasts thirteen years.  It takes that long to sufficiently break a child's will.  It is not easy to disconnect children's wills, to disconnect them from their own experiences of the world in preparation for the lives of painful employment they will have to endure.  Less time wouldn't do it, and in fact, those who are especially slow go to college.  For the exceedingly obstinate child there is graduate school.

. . .

Take the notion of assigning grades in school.  Like the wages for which people later slave - once they've entered 'the real world' - the primary function of grades is to offer an external reinforcement to coerce people to perform tasks they'd rather not do. . . .

. . .

. . .Systematically -  inherent in the process -  direct personal experience is subsumed to external authority, and at every turn creativity, critical thought, and the questioning of fundamental assumptions(such as, for example, the role of schooling on one's socialization) are discouraged.  (pp. 102-103)
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words.

So to blame people whose psyche's have been so manipulated, so perverted by the dark, unconscious aspects of Western culture is to miss the point entirely.  A great deal of the courage and reflection involved in "The Work" is finding and exposing the "fundamental assumptions" that allowed one to be exploited for purposes that have nothing to do with their own well-being. And is it not easy to see how, despite the rhetoric used, our culture is becoming more totalitarian each day.  And the totalitarianism only succeeds because of our dysfunctional "filing system."  And is this not also the critical failure of Jungian therapists, who seek the adaptation of their clients to the culture?
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Matt Koeske

  • Management
  • *
  • Posts: 1173
  • Gender: Male
    • Useless Science
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #21 on: July 31, 2008, 12:35:02 PM »
Sorry Matt, but I think you are off base here.  It appears to me that you are blaming the victim.  And, of course, this begs the question - How or why did our "filing system" get so dysfunctional?
 
. . .

So to blame people whose psyche's have been so manipulated, so perverted by the dark, unconscious aspects of Western culture is to miss the point entirely.  A great deal of the courage and reflection involved in "The Work" is finding and exposing the "fundamental assumptions" that allowed one to be exploited for purposes that have nothing to do with their own well-being. And is it not easy to see how, despite the rhetoric used, our culture is becoming more totalitarian each day.  And the totalitarianism only succeeds because of our dysfunctional "filing system."  And is this not also the critical failure of Jungian therapists, who seek the adaptation of their clients to the culture?

I don't disagree, Kafiri.  It wasn't my intention to blame individuals for not having perfectly adapted psychic "filing systems" from the get-go.  I meant merely to look at individuation as a reorganization-of-self process.  But individuals are not to blame for falling into "disorganization".  It is, as far as I can see, an inevitability.  It is an inevitability of modernity's non-instinctual, information deluge . . . but it is also, I suspect, an inevitability of complex living systems in general.  Systems break down (and we may even be able to look at libido as an organizational force, a force that drives living systems toward more efficient states of organization).  There are no perpetual motion machines that are absolutely self-sustaining.  There is input and output, consumption and waste.  And when the environment in which the complex adaptive system must survive becomes non-conducive to fully functional living, the equilibrium or homeostasis of the system is disrupted.  Enough of this disruption and the system "fails".

If the system is not to fail under these conditions, then it must find a way to adapt to the changes in environment.  This adaptation requires some level of reorganization of the system.  We are now living in an extreme environment to which we are not well-adapted (even if it is an environment of our own construction . . . or at least our own waste).  There are some individuals who can "adapt" successfully to this environment by manipulating it so they are insulated from its problems.  This is done primarily through the pursuit of wealth and status or through the indenturing of oneself to individuals of wealth and status.  But these "adaptations" generally compromise much of the experience of humanness, especially the aspect of humanness that is empathetic and socially- or Other-conscious.

A human individual who severely lacks empathy or respect for others is a sociopath . . . and our society has created a niche (or niches) for sociopaths, essentially rewarding sociopathic behavior by allowing sociopaths to have positions of power in social hierarchies and by encouraging borderline personalities to embrace more sociopathic tendencies in order to achieve power and status.  In addition to the things Derrick Jensen had to say about schooling children in the quote above, all children are presented with a number of sociopathic models to aspire to from very early ages.  For instance, children are often led to or asked to believe that "leadership" is a matter of manipulating others . . . rather than relating to them or striving for a sense of personal ethics and modeling those ethics in the way one behaves.

There is no sense in which the ancient Christian (and pre-Christian) notion that in order to lead, one must serve others . . . in a democratic sense of becoming a facilitator of their effective social organization (as opposed to a dictator of their obedience).  The lust for power and status is not going to disappear from our species, but we have to ask why we have allowed for the construction of society that facilitates this rather than discouraging it.  Of course, the humanist political philosophies that are behind our system of government try to place some regulations on power, but power-seekers have managed to utilize barely-regulated (and ever-deregulated) industry to evade and dismantle the constrictions democracy places on their ambitions.  We might say, in light of this, that humanism is not self-sustaining as a law.  It must be an active and conscious philosophy in order to have a significant effect on social systems.

And yet, what we see in schools is a dominant belief that humanist ideas cannot be taught to children.  This belief was something that (of all people) Dr. Seuss attacked in his children's books, demonstrating that children could indeed understand humanist (or what we sometimes call "liberal") values today.  The popularity of his books persists, but the attitudes of "educators" have not really been noticeably modified.  Rational humanists like Noam Chomsky are demonized and painted as extremists, when in fact they have very basic, humanist philosophies (e.g., the notion of protected and equal human rights for all individuals).  People like Chomsky are philosophically (at least on paper) much more like the so-called "Founding Fathers" of the United States than the empowered elite of today are.  Of course, our Founding Fathers had a foot in both the humanist and the elite camps, but since their time, American ideals have become increasingly dissociated in a way that severs any connection between philosophical humanism and the ambitions/behaviors of the elite.  So humanist jargon is gutted (e.g., in the claim that America is "bringing democracy" to the foreign countries it invades and terrorizes) . . . while elite ambitions and control of wealth have soared to extremes that would have sickened the humanists who founded this country's political philosophy.

I would again suggest that the dissociation between humanist and elite/sociopathic ideas and values plays out on a battlefield of language.  That's why humanist philosophies can be gutted and misused so despicably (and with such little public notice).  Control the language and you control people's minds.  Alternatively, to save our minds (or souls), we must fight to have creative say over our language.


In any case, my objection to the meme idea of viral ideas is primarily a matter of (as I have said many times now) attributing volition to ideas themselves.  Certainly people in power exert will that would encourage the manipulation and misinforming of many others.  I just don't see ideas as self-motivated, even metaphorically.  Memes are tools of volitional beings (us), we are not the tools of memes.  But, of course, some of us are made into the tools of others via manipulation . . . and the medium of this manipulation is "mimetic" (usually, it's language).  My concern is that if we strike out "against bad memes", we run the serious risk of missing the real culprits (who have constructed and disseminated these memes).  As soon as we get our fingers around the neck of one of these "bad memes", it will evaporate and another meme (a "new wrapper" for the same manipulation) will pop up to replace it, forcing us to start over.

In other words, it's not the meme, it's the message (or intention) behind it.


Although I don't mean to "blame the victim" for the construction of the modern (dysfunctional) ego, I do think that dysfunctional egoism is universal in modern society.  And this essentially means that in a very significant way, there is no one at all to blame.  It is the environment that necessitates this . . . or more accurately, the disconnect between the environment we live in and the one we are instinctively adapted to/in which we evolved.  So, yes, the powerful ideologues behind things like children's education and the corporate workplace are the agents of damage to the individual's psychic system/organization, but even these agents are products of an environment which we all contribute to in variably dysfunctional ways (generally without knowing how our actions and beliefs will effect the complex environment that we ask to sustain us).

In other words, I feel that if we could (through some Utopian coup or totalitarian, tribalist reformation) "change society", we would still have the problems of the human ego to deal with.  A massive totalitarian movement like Roman Christianity managed to set back modernization at least 1000 years, but it ultimately failed to recreate primitive/prehistoric tribalism.  The evolutionary path of human culture is, I believe, necessitated by our biology and by the place our species can fit into the earth's ecosystem.  We will keep creating modernism (without conscious intention) no matter how many times we nearly destroy ourselves or murder huge portions of Others in the global population.  Barring absolute extinction, we will always come back to this point, which I call the Problem of the Modern.  This is the point where, essentially, "consciousness" is being compelled by survival necessity to adapt itself to the facilitation of instinct in the modern environment.  If we can manage to make this adaptation of instinctual ethics and empathy to immense, modern social structures, we stand a chance of adapting as a species to the new environment we have constructed.  If we cannot retool this thing we call the ego to be Other-oriented (as well as self-oriented) on a sufficiently collective level, we stand a good choice of either going extinct or getting caught in an endless loop of "failing the Problem of the Modern" (as we already did at the advent of Christianization).

No one is behind the infliction of the Problem of the Modern upon us . . . but it is still up to us to take responsibility for the Problem of the Modern on an individual level.  To claim that it is anyone else's problem or fault is to fail to understand the predicament.  The solution to the problem is individuated consciousness or a genuine sense of responsibility for Others and for the environment.

Additionally, I suspect that a retooling of the ego (such as we see in individuation) is somewhat written into our genetic structure.  This is why we see initiation rituals in tribal societies, rites which encourage and sanctify passage from a state of adolescence or childhood (self-absorption) to adulthood (social responsibility).  Our egos were built to "die" and be reorganized.  The instinctual drive that compels this reorganization is what I have called the super-adaptive instinct.  It is no wonder (considering this psychological precedent) that a profound interest in rebirth and afterlife is a universal aspect of human myth, religion, and folktale.

So, again, we cannot blame any one for the fact that our species has evolved a brain that must be (at least) "twice born".  The big problem we face is that this second birth or reorganization of our psychic systems is an incredibly complex and even unwelcomed affair in the modern world.  We are not merely adapting to a small, tribal, kin-based collective, but to a massively diverse and densely populated super-complex, extravagantly-informational, social system.  The degree of plasticity and functional conceptualization modernism requires of us is itself "unnatural".  Add to this predicament the fact that our societies are no longer structured with functional systems of initiation or rites of passage.  This precipitates the perpetual adolescence and "sociopathic" selfishness that characterize our society.

But I split from classic Men's Movement thinking (that laments the loss of initiation in modern society and seeks to restore it in a more or less tribal fashion) in that I suspect we cannot really be initiated into modern society in a neoprimitive, tribalistic way.  We are not actually being (or cannot be) initiated into a tribe, but into a state of individuated consciousness that is non-tribal.  Part of this change of modernism involves the impossibility of our instinct for social responsibility functionally imprinting on the huge modern collectives.  In a tribal society, the tribe could essentially take the place of the Instinctual Self.  I.e., the Self could imprint on the tribe (as the central system of organization) or vice versa.  In the modern situation, the Self cannot be conflated with the social collective (especially since our modern social collectives are not very well adapted, not very functional).  As a result, the experience of the Self is a more conceptual venture . . . but in this, it is also more direct, less characterized by social containers and signifiers.  And the Eros of connectivity to Others this conceptual Self encourages is itself more conceptual.  It is this conceptual quality that allows our empathy to be extended to a more diverse set of Others.

We are now connected to others not by "blood", not even necessarily by belief, but by sharing a conceptual sense of individuality, a sense of self that is in many ways universal.  We are sharing the experience of being individuals in the modern world, the experience of being human.  And it is post-Enlightenment humanism that seeks to assign rights to this conceptual sense of individuality, to designate this being as valuable and worthy of protection.  It is, I think, the individuation process that seeks to valuate (and enrich) this conceptually conceived individual being that is both unique and universal at the same time.


As for Jungian therapists encouraging adaptation to modern society in their patients, I'm not sure they do.  This was a major theme in Freudian and post-Freudian analyses, but Jungians are a little more pie-in-the-sky from what I've seen.  I don't think Jungians like the term "adaptation", for instance.  Still, there are some Freudian remnants to Jungian analysis.  One of these that I've noted is the Jungian attitude toward inflation.  Jung started the tradition of making inflation the bogeyman of the individuation/therapeutic process.  He basically recommended "conscious resistance" as treatment of inflation (i.e., repression).  I don't think this is an effective or healthy way to approach this common side-effect of doing inner work that involves archetypal phenomena . . . and a recommendation of repressing a common psychic phenomena is a notable oddity in the Jungian method (which usually valuates all kinds of fantasy and psychic elements).  Without going into this issue too deeply here, I will at least say that, although inflation is a very complicated thing to deal with, it deserves its own mythos, it's own narrative, too.  Without such a narrative, it cannot be addressed effectively and eventually depotentiated.  In order for some complex or condition to transform in the psyche, it must be "storied".  And that which is repressed is not adequately storied.

Take, for instance, the Christian devil.  This character is used as a kind of "attenuator", even a bottle stopper, for many of the repressed elements of pagan, pre-Christian civilization.  Instead of relating to this wealth of psychic (and instinctual) material directly or consciously, it all becomes a giant genie in a bottle.  Pop the cork out of the bottle (i.e., investigate or valuate or "succumb to" the devil), and you are flooded with Plutonian wealth and instinctual complexity.  In Jungianism, inflation is used like the devil is used in Christianity.  Jung's advice is, "Do whatever you can to keep the cork in the bottle!  If the cork is dislodged, well, you better start praying."

This is a superegoic attitude toward the unconscious . . . and Jung was by no means immune to this perspective.  In fact, his great compromise (with Freudian, superegoic repression/demonization of the unconscious) was to "allow" the unconscious to be "good and evil" simultaneously.  God is both Light and Dark.  I would revise this to say that the unconscious is neither good nor evil.  It is natural, and human egoic consciousness is responsible for dissociating it (and all of nature) into a good and an evil half.  This arbitrary and relative perspective is not based on "truth" or scientific observation, but on what seems to be Other to the ego (or to the dogmas and totems the tribe worships).  What is Other is associated with evil.  It takes individuated consciousness to begin to valuate and "redeem" Otherness from the prejudicial projection of evil.  In this dichotomous complex/neurosis, Jung has actually fallen into extreme self-conflict with his own theories.  Hypocrisy.  We shouldn't, in my opinion, be fooled by the brave rhetoric of "balancing the Opposites" and accepting that evil belongs with good in a sense of human wholeness.  We should, rather, question the dissociation of these Opposites is even necessary or functional.


In any case, we should (I think) ask of Jungian therapy what world it is actually preparing its patients for.  Is the Jungian notion of the "real world" a very useful or accurate one?  In my experience, Jungians and political consciousness don't mix well.  Jungians are generally liberal . . . but they are also fairly a-political and detached from social realities . . . not to mention being tribal and neoprimitive by inclination and ideology.  If Jungians have a tribalistic sense of sociality, can they really appreciate and understand the complexities of modern living adequately?  From what I've seen, tribalistic attitudes toward sociality breed fundamentalisms or cultic/totemic orientations.  It is the "humanistic perspective" that Jungians (who have always been anti-Enlightenment in many ways) do such a poor job of comprehending and cultivating.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Kafiri

  • Registered Members
  • Posts: 120
  • Gender: Male
Re: Hey Matt, this "meme" is for you.
« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2008, 08:32:55 PM »
Quote from: Matt Koeske


I don't disagree, Kafiri.  It wasn't my intention to blame individuals for not having perfectly adapted psychic "filing systems" from the get-go.  I meant merely to look at individuation as a reorganization-of-self process.  But individuals are not to blame for falling into "disorganization".  It is, as far as I can see, an inevitability.  It is an inevitability of modernity's non-instinctual, information deluge . . . but it is also, I suspect, an inevitability of complex living systems in general.  Systems break down (and we may even be able to look at libido as an organizational force, a force that drives living systems toward more efficient states of organization).  There are no perpetual motion machines that are absolutely self-sustaining.  There is input and output, consumption and waste.  And when the environment in which the complex adaptive system must survive becomes non-conducive to fully functional living, the equilibrium or homeostasis of the system is disrupted.  Enough of this disruption and the system "fails".  Well said Matt.  What comes to mind is huge number of species that have disappeared from earth since it first supported life.

If the system is not to fail under these conditions, then it must find a way to adapt to the changes in environment.  This adaptation requires some level of reorganization of the system.  We are now living in an extreme environment to which we are not well-adapted (even if it is an environment of our own construction . . . or at least our own waste).  There are some individuals who can "adapt" successfully to this environment by manipulating it so they are insulated from its problems.  This is done primarily through the pursuit of wealth and status or through the indenturing of oneself to individuals of wealth and status.  But these "adaptations" generally compromise much of the experience of humanness, especially the aspect of humanness that is empathetic and socially- or Other-conscious.  Matt, I do not see this as adaptation, but the problem itself, a maladaptation.  Isn't it interesting that this is primarily an issue of "Western culture?  From where I sit, these people are not living a life, instead an unconscious myth is living them; that myth is "The Chosen People."  Nowhere is it more at large than here in the USA.  Yesterday on Daily Kos, there was a review of Russell Bank's new book "Dreaming Up America", (thought the title might appeal to your Dream folks here).  Here is a quote from the book:
Quote
American objections to and mistrust of international organizations like the League of Nations and the United Nations are connected to the fact that in our minds we already have all the partnership we need through our special relationship with God.

You can read the review at:  http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/8/3/1752/53972



A human individual who severely lacks empathy or respect for others is a sociopath . . . and our society has created a niche (or niches) for sociopaths, essentially rewarding sociopathic behavior by allowing sociopaths to have positions of power in social hierarchies and by encouraging borderline personalities to embrace more sociopathic tendencies in order to achieve power and status.  In addition to the things Derrick Jensen had to say about schooling children in the quote above, all children are presented with a number of sociopathic models to aspire to from very early ages.  For instance, children are often led to or asked to believe that "leadership" is a matter of manipulating others . . . rather than relating to them or striving for a sense of personal ethics and modeling those ethics in the way one behaves.

There is no sense in which the ancient Christian (and pre-Christian) notion that in order to lead, one must serve others . . . in a democratic sense of becoming a facilitator of their effective social organization (as opposed to a dictator of their obedience).  The lust for power and status is not going to disappear from our species, but we have to ask why we have allowed for the construction of society that facilitates this rather than discouraging it.  Of course, the humanist political philosophies that are behind our system of government try to place some regulations on power, but power-seekers have managed to utilize barely-regulated (and ever-deregulated) industry to evade and dismantle the constrictions democracy places on their ambitions.  We might say, in light of this, that humanism is not self-sustaining as a law.  It must be an active and conscious philosophy in order to have a significant effect on social systems.No where is this more evident that the expansion of corporations power by equating corporations with "natural persons" and the rights attendant therewith under the 1st, 5th and14th Amendments to the Constitution.

And yet, what we see in schools is a dominant belief that humanist ideas cannot be taught to children.  This belief was something that (of all people) Dr. Seuss attacked in his children's books, demonstrating that children could indeed understand humanist (or what we sometimes call "liberal") values today.  The popularity of his books persists, but the attitudes of "educators" have not really been noticeably modified.  Rational humanists like Noam Chomsky are demonized and painted as extremists, when in fact they have very basic, humanist philosophies (e.g., the notion of protected and equal human rights for all individuals).  People like Chomsky are philosophically (at least on paper) much more like the so-called "Founding Fathers" of the United States than the empowered elite of today are.  Of course, our Founding Fathers had a foot in both the humanist and the elite camps, but since their time, American ideals have become increasingly dissociated in a way that severs any connection between philosophical humanism and the ambitions/behaviors of the elite.  So humanist jargon is gutted (e.g., in the claim that America is "bringing democracy" to the foreign countries it invades and terrorizes) . . . while elite ambitions and control of wealth have soared to extremes that would have sickened the humanists who founded this country's political philosophy.

I would again suggest that the dissociation between humanist and elite/sociopathic ideas and values plays out on a battlefield of language.  That's why humanist philosophies can be gutted and misused so despicably (and with such little public notice).  Control the language and you control people's minds.  Alternatively, to save our minds (or souls), we must fight to have creative say over our language.


In any case, my objection to the meme idea of viral ideas is primarily a matter of (as I have said many times now) attributing volition to ideas themselves.  Certainly people in power exert will that would encourage the manipulation and misinforming of many others.  I just don't see ideas as self-motivated, even metaphorically.  Memes are tools of volitional beings (us), we are not the tools of memes.  But, of course, some of us are made into the tools of others via manipulation . . . and the medium of this manipulation is "mimetic" (usually, it's language).  My concern is that if we strike out "against bad memes", we run the serious risk of missing the real culprits (who have constructed and disseminated these memes).  As soon as we get our fingers around the neck of one of these "bad memes", it will evaporate and another meme (a "new wrapper" for the same manipulation) will pop up to replace it, forcing us to start over.

In other words, it's not the meme, it's the message (or intention) behind it.Rest your fears Matt, I will convert to memes yet!!!  Your cosmetic change from virus to bacteria notwithstanding.  And, now I have "hypermimesis" in the arsenal, it is only a matter of time; did you watch the video??  If not, no dessert for you tonight.


Although I don't mean to "blame the victim" for the construction of the modern (dysfunctional) ego, I do think that dysfunctional egoism is universal in modern society.  And this essentially means that in a very significant way, there is no one at all to blame.  It is the environment that necessitates this . . . or more accurately, the disconnect between the environment we live in and the one we are instinctively adapted to/in which we evolved.  So, yes, the powerful ideologues behind things like children's education and the corporate workplace are the agents of damage to the individual's psychic system/organization, but even these agents are products of an environment which we all contribute to in variably dysfunctional ways (generally without knowing how our actions and beliefs will effect the complex environment that we ask to sustain us).

In other words, I feel that if we could (through some Utopian coup or totalitarian, tribalist reformation) "change society", we would still have the problems of the human ego to deal with.  A massive totalitarian movement like Roman Christianity managed to set back modernization at least 1000 years, but it ultimately failed to recreate primitive/prehistoric tribalism.  The evolutionary path of human culture is, I believe, necessitated by our biology and by the place our species can fit into the earth's ecosystem.  We will keep creating modernism (without conscious intention) no matter how many times we nearly destroy ourselves or murder huge portions of Others in the global population.  Barring absolute extinction, we will always come back to this point, which I call the Problem of the Modern.  This is the point where, essentially, "consciousness" is being compelled by survival necessity to adapt itself to the facilitation of instinct in the modern environment.  If we can manage to make this adaptation of instinctual ethics and empathy to immense, modern social structures, we stand a chance of adapting as a species to the new environment we have constructed.  If we cannot retool this thing we call the ego to be Other-oriented (as well as self-oriented) on a sufficiently collective level, we stand a good choice of either going extinct or getting caught in an endless loop of "failing the Problem of the Modern" (as we already did at the advent of Christianization).

No one is behind the infliction of the Problem of the Modern upon us . . . but it is still up to us to take responsibility for the Problem of the Modern on an individual level.  To claim that it is anyone else's problem or fault is to fail to understand the predicament.  The solution to the problem is individuated consciousness or a genuine sense of responsibility for Others and for the environment.

Additionally, I suspect that a retooling of the ego (such as we see in individuation) is somewhat written into our genetic structure.  This is why we see initiation rituals in tribal societies, rites which encourage and sanctify passage from a state of adolescence or childhood (self-absorption) to adulthood (social responsibility).  Our egos were built to "die" and be reorganized.  The instinctual drive that compels this reorganization is what I have called the super-adaptive instinct.  It is no wonder (considering this psychological precedent) that a profound interest in rebirth and afterlife is a universal aspect of human myth, religion, and folktale.

So, again, we cannot blame any one for the fact that our species has evolved a brain that must be (at least) "twice born".  The big problem we face is that this second birth or reorganization of our psychic systems is an incredibly complex and even unwelcomed affair in the modern world.  We are not merely adapting to a small, tribal, kin-based collective, but to a massively diverse and densely populated super-complex, extravagantly-informational, social system.  The degree of plasticity and functional conceptualization modernism requires of us is itself "unnatural".  Add to this predicament the fact that our societies are no longer structured with functional systems of initiation or rites of passage.  This precipitates the perpetual adolescence and "sociopathic" selfishness that characterize our society.  As far as I can tell this is also Jung's position.

But I split from classic Men's Movement thinking (that laments the loss of initiation in modern society and seeks to restore it in a more or less tribal fashion) in that I suspect we cannot really be initiated into modern society in a neoprimitive, tribalistic way.  We are not actually being (or cannot be) initiated into a tribe, but into a state of individuated consciousness that is non-tribal.  Part of this change of modernism involves the impossibility of our instinct for social responsibility functionally imprinting on the huge modern collectives.  In a tribal society, the tribe could essentially take the place of the Instinctual Self.  I.e., the Self could imprint on the tribe (as the central system of organization) or vice versa.  In the modern situation, the Self cannot be conflated with the social collective (especially since our modern social collectives are not very well adapted, not very functional).  As a result, the experience of the Self is a more conceptual venture . . . but in this, it is also more direct, less characterized by social containers and signifiers.  And the Eros of connectivity to Others this conceptual Self encourages is itself more conceptual.  It is this conceptual quality that allows our empathy to be extended to a more diverse set of Others.  Yes, quite often there a somewhat "bogus" initation ceromony of some kind attempted, but people always went back to their culturally mandated lives.

We are now connected to others not by "blood", not even necessarily by belief, but by sharing a conceptual sense of individuality, a sense of self that is in many ways universal.  We are sharing the experience of being individuals in the modern world, the experience of being human.  And it is post-Enlightenment humanism that seeks to assign rights to this conceptual sense of individuality, to designate this being as valuable and worthy of protection.  It is, I think, the individuation process that seeks to valuate (and enrich) this conceptually conceived individual being that is both unique and universal at the same time.


As for Jungian therapists encouraging adaptation to modern society in their patients, I'm not sure they do.  This was a major theme in Freudian and post-Freudian analyses, but Jungians are a little more pie-in-the-sky from what I've seen.  I don't think Jungians like the term "adaptation", for instance.  Still, there are some Freudian remnants to Jungian analysis.  One of these that I've noted is the Jungian attitude toward inflation.  Jung started the tradition of making inflation the bogeyman of the individuation/therapeutic process.  He basically recommended "conscious resistance" as treatment of inflation (i.e., repression).  I don't think this is an effective or healthy way to approach this common side-effect of doing inner work that involves archetypal phenomena . . . and a recommendation of repressing a common psychic phenomena is a notable oddity in the Jungian method (which usually valuates all kinds of fantasy and psychic elements).  Without going into this issue too deeply here, I will at least say that, although inflation is a very complicated thing to deal with, it deserves its own mythos, it's own narrative, too.  Without such a narrative, it cannot be addressed effectively and eventually depotentiated.  In order for some complex or condition to transform in the psyche, it must be "storied".  And that which is repressed is not adequately storied.

Take, for instance, the Christian devil.  This character is used as a kind of "attenuator", even a bottle stopper, for many of the repressed elements of pagan, pre-Christian civilization.  Instead of relating to this wealth of psychic (and instinctual) material directly or consciously, it all becomes a giant genie in a bottle.  Pop the cork out of the bottle (i.e., investigate or valuate or "succumb to" the devil), and you are flooded with Plutonian wealth and instinctual complexity.  In Jungianism, inflation is used like the devil is used in Christianity.  Jung's advice is, "Do whatever you can to keep the cork in the bottle!  If the cork is dislodged, well, you better start praying."

This is a superegoic attitude toward the unconscious . . . and Jung was by no means immune to this perspective.  In fact, his great compromise (with Freudian, superegoic repression/demonization of the unconscious) was to "allow" the unconscious to be "good and evil" simultaneously.  God is both Light and Dark.  I would revise this to say that the unconscious is neither good nor evil.  It is natural, and human egoic consciousness is responsible for dissociating it (and all of nature) into a good and an evil half.  This arbitrary and relative perspective is not based on "truth" or scientific observation, but on what seems to be Other to the ego (or to the dogmas and totems the tribe worships).  What is Other is associated with evil.  It takes individuated consciousness to begin to valuate and "redeem" Otherness from the prejudicial projection of evil.  In this dichotomous complex/neurosis, Jung has actually fallen into extreme self-conflict with his own theories.  Hypocrisy.  We shouldn't, in my opinion, be fooled by the brave rhetoric of "balancing the Opposites" and accepting that evil belongs with good in a sense of human wholeness.  We should, rather, question the dissociation of these Opposites is even necessary or functional.


In any case, we should (I think) ask of Jungian therapy what world it is actually preparing its patients for.  Is the Jungian notion of the "real world" a very useful or accurate one?  In my experience, Jungians and political consciousness don't mix well.  Jungians are generally liberal . . . but they are also fairly a-political and detached from social realities . . . not to mention being tribal and neoprimitive by inclination and ideology.  If Jungians have a tribalistic sense of sociality, can they really appreciate and understand the complexities of modern living adequately?  From what I've seen, tribalistic attitudes toward sociality breed fundamentalisms or cultic/totemic orientations.  It is the "humanistic perspective" that Jungians (who have always been anti-Enlightenment in many ways) do such a poor job of comprehending and cultivating.  Makes one wonder why doesn't it?


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