Author Topic: The "Mana Personality" and Jungian Inflation  (Read 9888 times)

Matt Koeske

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The "Mana Personality" and Jungian Inflation
« on: April 23, 2007, 03:55:23 PM »
An extended passage from Jung's Two Essay on Analytical Psychology, "The Mana-Personality," (p. 228-34).  Emphases added.  Comments to follow.

Now when the anima loses her mana, what becomes of it? Clearly the man who has mastered the anima acquires her mana, in accordance with the primitive belief that when a man kills the mana-person he assimilates his mana into his own body.

Well then: who is it that has integrated the anima? Obviously the conscious ego, and therefore the ego has taken over the mana. Thus the ego becomes a mana-personality. But the mana-personality is a dominant of the collective unconscious, the well known archetype of the mighty man in the form of hero, chief, magician, medicine-man, saint, the ruler of men and spirits, the friend of God.

This masculine collective figure who now rises out of the dark background and takes possession of the conscious personality entails a psychic danger of a subtle nature, for by inflating the conscious mind it can destroy everything that was gained by coming to terms with the anima. It is therefore of no little practical importance to know that in the hierarchy of the unconscious the anima occupies the lowest rank, only one of many possible figures, and that her subjection constellates another collective figure which now takes over her mana. Actually it is the figure of the magician, as I will call it for short, who attracts the mana to himself, i.e., the autonomous valency of the anima. Only in so far as I unconsciously identify with his figure can I imagine that I myself possess the anima's mana. But I will infallibly do so under these circumstances.

The figure of the magician has a no less dangerous equivalent in women: a sublime, matriarchal figure, the Great Mother, the All-Merciful, who understands everything, forgives everything, who always acts for the best, living only for others, and never seeking her own interests, the discoverer of the great love, just as the magician is the mouthpiece of the ultimate truth. And just as the great love is never appreciated, so the great wisdom is never understood. Neither, of course, can stand the sight of the other.

Here is cause for serious misunderstanding, for without a doubt it is a question of inflation. The ego has appropriated something that does not belong to it. But how has it appropriated the mana? If it was really the ego that conquered the anima, then the mana does indeed belong to it, and it would be correct to conclude that one has become important. But why does not this importance, the mana, work upon others? That would surely be an essential criterion! It does not work because one has not in fact become important, but has merely become adulterated with an archetype, another unconscious figure. Hence we must conclude that the ego never conquered the anima at all and therefore has not acquired the mana. All that has happened is a new adulteration, this time with a figure of the same sex corresponding to the father-imago, and possessed of even greater power.


Thus [the man who wins self-mastery by freeing himself from “the power that binds all creatures” (Goethe)] becomes a superman, superior to all powers, a demigod at the very least. "I and the Father are one"—this mighty avowal in all its awful ambiguity is born of just such a psychological moment.

In the face of this, our pitiably limited ego, if it has but a spark of self-knowledge, can only draw back and rapidly drop all pretence of power and importance. It was a delusion: the conscious mind has not become master of the unconscious, and the anima has forfeited her tyrannical power only to the extent that the ego was able to come to terms with the unconscious. This accommodation, however, was not a victory of the conscious over the unconscious, but the establishment of a balance of power between the two worlds.

Hence the "magician" could take possession of the ego only because the ego dreamed of victory over the anima. That dream was an encroachment, and every encroachment of the ego is followed by an encroachment from the unconscious[…].  Consequently, if the ego drops its claim to victory, possession by the magician ceases automatically. But what happens to the mana? Who or what becomes mana when even the magician can no longer work magic? So far we only know that neither the conscious nor the unconscious has mana, for it is certain that when the ego makes no claim to power there is no possession, that is to say, the unconscious too loses its ascendency. In this situation the mana must have fallen to something that is both conscious and unconscious, or else neither. This something is the desired "mid-point" of the: personality, that ineffable something betwixt the opposites, or else that which unites them, or the result of conflict, or the product of energic tension: the coming to birth of personality, a profoundly individual step forward, the next stage.

The immediate goal of the analysis of the unconscious, therefore, is to reach a state where the unconscious contents no longer remain unconscious and no longer express themselves indirectly as animus and anima phenomena; that is to say, a state in which animus and anima become functions of relationship to the unconscious. So long as they are not this, they are autonomous complexes, disturbing factors that break through the conscious control and act like true "disturbers of the peace." Because this is such a well-known fact my term "complex," as used in this sense, has passed into common speech. The more "complexes" a man has, the more he is possessed; and when we try to form a picture of the personality which expresses itself through his complexes we must admit that it resembles nothing so much as an hysterical woman—i.e., the anima! But if such a man makes himself conscious of his unconscious contents, as they appear firstly in the factual contents of his personal unconscious, and then in the fantasies of the collective unconscious, he will get to the roots of his complexes, and in this way rid himself of his possession. With that the anima phenomenon comes to a stop.

That superior power, however, which caused the possession—for what I cannot shake off must in some sense be superior to me—should, logically, disappear with the anima. One should then be "complex-free," psychologically house-trained, so to speak. Nothing more should happen that is not sanctioned by the ego, and when the ego wants something, nothing should be capable of interfering. The ego would thus be assured of an impregnable position, the steadfastness of a superman or the sublimity of a perfect sage. Both figures are ideal images: Napoleon on the one hand, Lao-tzu on the other. Both are consistent with the idea of "the extraordinarily potent," which is the term that Lehmann, in his celebrated monograph (Mana, 1922), uses for his definition of mana. I therefore call such a personality simply the mana-personality. It corresponds to a dominant of the collective unconscious, to an archetype which has taken shape in the human psyche through untold ages of just that kind of experience. Primitive man does not analyse and does not work out why another is superior to him. If another is cleverer and stronger than he, then he has mana, he is possessed of a stronger power; and by the same token he can lose this power, perhaps because someone has walked over him in his sleep, or stepped on his shadow.

Historically, the mana-personality evolves into the hero and the godlike being, whose earthly form is the priest. How very much the doctor is still mana is the whole plaint of the analyst! But in so far as the ego apparently draws to itself the power belonging to the anima, the ego does become a mana-personality. This development is an almost regular phenomenon. I have never yet seen a fairly advanced development of this kind where at least a temporary identification with the archetype of the mana-personality did not take place. It is the most natural thing in the world that this should happen, for not only does one expect it oneself, but everybody else expects it too. One can scarcely help admiring oneself a little for having seen more deeply into things than others, and the others have such an urge to find a tangible hero somewhere, or a superior wise man, a leader and father, some undisputed authority, that they build temples to little tin gods with the greatest promptitude and burn incense upon the altars. This is not just the lamentable stupidity of idolaters incapable of judging for themselves, but a natural psychological law which says that what has once been will always be in the future. And so it will be, unless consciousness puts an end to the naive concretization of primordial images. I do not know whether it is desirable that consciousness should alter the eternal laws; I only know that occasionally it does alter them, and that this measure is a vital necessity for some people—which, however, does not always prevent these same people from setting themselves up on the father's throne and making the old rule come true. It is indeed hard to see how one can escape the sovereign power of the primordial images.
Actually I do not believe it can be escaped. One can only alter one's attitude and thus save oneself from naively falling into an archetype and being forced to act a part at the expense of one's humanity
. Possession by an archetype turns a man into a flat collective figure, a mask behind which he can no longer develop as a human being, but becomes increasingly stunted. One must therefore beware of the danger of falling victim to the dominant of the mana-personality. The danger lies not only in oneself becoming a father-mask, but in being overpowered by this mask when worn by another. Master and pupil are in the same boat in this respect.

The dissolution of the anima means that we have gained insight into the driving forces of the unconscious, but not that we have made these forces ineffective. They can attack us at any time in new form. And they will infallibly do so if the conscious attitude has a flaw in it. It's a question of might against might. If the ego presumes to wield power over the unconscious, the unconscious reacts with a subtle attack, deploying the dominant of the mana-personality, whose enormous prestige casts a spell over the ego. Against this the only defense is full confession of one's weakness in face of the powers of the unconscious. By opposing no force to the unconscious we do not provoke it to attack.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2007, 04:41:48 PM by Matt Koeske »
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Matt Koeske

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Re: The "Mana Personality" and Jungian Inflation
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2007, 05:12:46 PM »
Although there is a great deal of insight in this passage from Jung, I also see a lot of equivocation . . . not to mention a few things that I feel inclined to disagree with.

As for the equivocation, it is difficult to conclude from Jung's oscillations around the "mana-personality", whether he feels this mana (from the "conquering" of the anima) is truly attainable for the ego or if this attainment is only ever an inflation psychosis.  He seems to eventually conclude that the anima is replaced by the mana-personality and that the mana-personality must then be depotentiated through a sacrifice of ego power or any attempt by the ego to take credit for this mana-potency.  Thus, all rights to psychic potency are given over to the unconscious.

I don't really disagree with this conclusion, but I find the foundation on which it was built to be rather shaky.

The issue of inflation is a huge issue in the Jungian mindset.  In my opinion, the ability to understand and defuse the inflation is of near absolute importance to the individuant.  In an even "more opinionated opinion", I have found that inflation is perhaps the most distinct and common personality trait among the Jungians I have encountered online (myself included).  This inflation trait is not a purely Jungian characteristic, of course, it is something that attaches itself to all pursuers of mysticism, spirituality, or enlightenment.

But why are we Jungians so inclined to wallow in the mire of inflation?  I am concerned that Jung helped us get into this mess, but did not offer an effective means of extraction.  We can see this negligence even in the passage above where Jung wrote:
Quote from:  C.G. Jung
Against [the possession of the mana-personality or inflation] the only defense is full confession of one's weakness in face of the powers of the unconscious. By opposing no force to the unconscious we do not provoke it to attack.

Sound's like a simple trick of willpower, no?  But what Jung is really asking here is no less a sacrifice than Jesus asked of his followers.  Namely, the world and all of our connections to it.  This cannot be achieved with a mere act of will . . . and this impossibility is demonstrated in Jung's equivocation (which is even more disconcerting and perhaps even demonic in his preceding chapter on "Phenomena Resulting from the Assimilation of the Unconscious" (p. 139-55)).  It is no wonder that the Jungian mindset is embroiled with inflation.

The generic prescription Jung normally offered for dealing with the inflation resulting from contact with or "assimilation of" unconscious or archetypal contents was . . . resist it with ego-fortification.  This prescription seems to me entirely ineffective . . . and the fact that it was prescribed by Jung (always in too few words), borderline criminal.  How do we manage to achieve a "willed will-lessness"?

I would like to explore inflation in more detail on this forum.  I hope others will also express their opinions on this matter (as this topic would be best addressed with dialog . . . i.e., we need to get it out of the closet in a major way).

To begin with (a response to the passage from Jung quoted above), I would like to a closer look at two of the pillars of Jung's argument: the idea of mana and the idea of "conquering the anima".

I am just going to open the floor on these issues for now (as I don't have enough time to get into them in detail today).  So I will merely fire off an intuitive volley.

I disagree with Jung's notion of mana in this situation.  I am concerned that this entire notion of "winning mana" through the individuation process (or the Work, as I prefer to call it) is wrongheaded.  The belief (and it is very common among the mystically-inclined) that the Work involves a gathering of mana or psychic potency is illusory.  This mana-currency or mystical libido is, in my opinion, the equivalent of the foolish alchemists' desire for material wealth through gold-making rather than the "worthless stone" that the true Work actually seeks to forge.

This illusion of mana is created by contact with the numen of the Self . . . which feels replete with such potency to the ego.  The greedy ego desires to commandeer this potency in order to fortify its egoic positions, ideas, and strategies.  It is a misappropriation of the numinousness of the Self to the ego's own will and sense, or story, of selfhood.  Jung seems to recognizes this (at least marginally) when we writes:
Quote from: C.G. Jung
But why does not this importance, the mana, work upon others? That would surely be an essential criterion! It does not work because one has not in fact become important, but has merely become adulterated with an archetype, another unconscious figure.

Why then speak of mana in this way at all?  if the feeling of self-importance and power over others is a delusion, why not chuck the whole concept and start over with different foundational ideas and terms?  The fact that Jung does not do this is, I think, telling.  It demonstrates his own self-conflict on the issue.

Beyond Jung's personal self-conflict (or perhaps behind it) is the problem that Jung is actually entirely incorrect in the statement quoted above.  The misappropriation of "mana" does frequently have a power over others.  And this is why inflation is so difficult to shake.  In our egoic "theft" of the Self's numen, we can often deceive others into the belief that we (our egos) are in fact mana-personalities.  That is, the archetype is activated, and to the degree that we can put on the mask of the shaman or guru (always best accomplished when we utterly believe in our own delusion), we can also activate that archetype for others who are guru- or Self-seeking.  The donning of this mask tends to draw discipleship to it.  And, as Jung deftly notes, this archetype (the mana-personality) is truly a master/disciple archetype . . . and (I would add) not at all an archetype of the person devoted to the Work, which I will (still imperfectly) call the "adept".

In so much as one puts on the mask of the mana-personality, one comes into direct conflict with the adept-ego (which, as Jung notes, is the personality that surrenders its power and willfulness to the unconscious process of individuation).  As the archetype of the mana-personality is actually a singular master/disciple archetype, the relationship between the master and the disciple polarities of this archetype will be unconscious.  Thus, those who fall into such an archetypally-driven relationship will not be interacting consciously or "learning", but merely abiding by the participation mystique that defines this archetype.  Increasing discipleship, then, becomes only increasing unconsciousness.  The person possessed by the mana-personality delusion will not be able to encourage his or her disciples to ever break away or find their own Selves, because this master draws his or her mana from the unconscious sacrifices of potency made by his or her disciples.

I will have to end here for now . . . but this is an issue that deserves a great deal more attention.  It is, I think, also very much connected to the idea of "conquering the anima" . . . although there are many ways this can play out (not all of which appear as overtly misogynistic as Jung's formulation does).

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

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]