Author Topic: Neumann inspired outline of the process of conscious development  (Read 3072 times)


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What follows is the current sum total of my view on the nature of conscious experience as a spiritual developmental process.  These ideas are largely based on Erich Neumann (primarily in The Origins and History of Consciousness) but definitely diverge in many ways from anything he has explicitly or, perhaps, implicitly said.

Original uroboric consciousness = unconscious

We start off not being able to descriminate much of anything nor be self-conscious.  But of course we are designed to learn and so we probably begin to develop aspects of basic consciousness even in the womb.

Great Mother

As a symbol for that from which we (consciousness) come, the Great Mother and all the symbols that surround her are expressions of this great powerful source of being that gives rise to forms, nurtures them and takes them back again.  Beyond personality the waking world mother might stand in this role as the physical analogue to the psychic reality.

Great Father

A symbol for that which drives us to both separate from and reunite with the unconscious (Great Mother) as well as persist against this other inner psychic force as a particular spirit being.  The Great Father represents our self-creation and the power to both separate from the unconscious yet be overcome by that separation. 

Fragmentation of the Parental Imagos

As learning progresses and differentiation breaks down the potencies of the world as concept and experience, the unconscious becomes expressed by a gradually increasing set of characters expressive of older more powerful beings (though of gradually diminishing power) and same age beings with whom one may struggle but not always be overcome.  Characters become friends or enemies.  The shadow develops as one embraces particular conscious strategies.  The anima/us emerge out of the parental imagos into more and more same age figures.

At this point one develops the wound whether out of the inner necessity of psyche or based mainly on the traumatic experience of the outer world.  The response, always in an important way subjective, becomes the dark, unexamined kernel of one's later ego-conscious development as a system apart from the unconscious from which one has emerged.

Fragmentation of the Peer Imagos

As the parental titans diminish in the inner myth, the peer characters that one embraces or battles become more complex.  Having developed some kind of typical constellation of psychological functions to use to adapt to the inner and outer worlds one gradually finds that rather than struggle and negotiate with one's signficant others (shadow/animi) one has more subtle interactions with a variety of friendly or unfriendly characters.  The ego becomes part of a team and/or battles a team as the differentiation of the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious grows ever more self-conscious and open-minded. 

It miraculous circumstances one realizes the miracle of one's own existence and the great loneliness that this can also imply.  Coming to realize that one shares this with other beings one has relationships with peers that begin to grow to the level of significance that only one's parents had previously.  The power and loneliness of existence become a matter of self-consciousness and there is a lack of orientation that is both liberating and oppressive.

As the historical tale of the ego becomes self-known it gives rise to the possibility of integration.  Also, younger characters emerge as a result of a recognition of new attitudes and new beginnings in ego experience.  Cycling through periods of progression and regression one can perceive the resolution of problems with new thirds, new born beings that represent new centers of ego consciousness.  One realizes that one's nature is some increment beyond death and one can begin to dare to question one's self in ways that will allow for potentially profound transformation.

Orientation in the whole psyche

Eventually self-awareness reaches a point where one becomes aware of one's own place within one's greater psyche.  The archetypal themes of the hero's journal are experienced time and again and the power struggles against the others of the inner world become more often mutual teaching/learning sessions and negotiations.  A map of the realm begins to form and one has the sense that one is contained within some ultimate higher container.  The power of the ego crests as it realizes that it has in view something of the whole horizon and that it will take one's whole life and being to visit it all if this is, in fact, possible.

As one establishes a comfort level with independent being one begins to see oneself in a larger pattern of cycles of life and death.  Finding ultimate meaning grows in significance as one reflects on not just what one has accomplished but with how one has accomplished.  One now has the strength to undertake questions and problems that shake the foundations of one's ego structure.  The wound can now be contextualized in a way that allows the ego to undo itself without fear of absolute annihilation.

The willing diffusion back into the whole

Neumann doesn't talk about this and I can only speculate but my fairly reliable intuition and my understanding of some of the teachings of the world's wisdom traditions suggest that as part of the process of accepting the limits of the physical world, one must come to reliquish all hold on the physical world and allow one's accumulated powers to pass on from one's self back into the inner and outer worlds.  This is a process of the willing acceptance of the inevitable.  In the symbology of the psyche I would expect that the images of wholeness or Self would tend to constellate, more and more, the particulars of one's life into a grand image of the eternal and objective nature of psyche. 

Being ready to die, one teaches that one's subjective perspective is ideal.  Your attitude enlivens the dullest of truths as you demonstrate a deep heartfelt sincerity to your every action.