Author Topic: Useless Science and Jungianism as Patient  (Read 3001 times)

Matt Koeske

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Useless Science and Jungianism as Patient
« on: January 14, 2008, 04:20:59 PM »


Matt,
I came to Jung by way of the "Men's Movement," which might better be called "Men's Work."  But, my point is that I am not a "professional," in any sense of that term regarding Jung.  From my position of an autodidact I see the Jungian community split into two, unequal parts; one, those who seek, or offer therapy, second, those like myself who are concerned with being as compassionate and as moral as I am capable of without ordered to by religion and traditional community. What I sought, and still seek, is to understand my own nature as clearly as I possibly can.  Jung provides me with the best possible methods and tools, that I have found so far, for accomplishing that task. What uselessscience does for me in furtherance of that task is to provide a venue where I might exchange methods and tools with others.  In the Men's Work one critical thing I have learned is the need for saftey; I must feel safe to engage in discussions.  And I do feel safe on uselessscience.  Another concept that emerged from Men's Work is about healing. Heal yourself then heal your family, and if you have any energy left heal the outer world.  But our culture does it completely backward, we are taught to go out into the world first, most often ignoring the wounds of our family and ourselves.  Jung's psychology is a psychology based on experience.  Unfortunately on other forums I have encountered people who might be very adept at using Jungian terms, ideas and concepts, but who seem to lack the underlying experience.  The William Stafford poem comes to mind here:

Hi Kafiri,

I was less coherent than I like to be in the previous post.  A lot going on for me these days, ya know  ;).  I had a hard time pulling my brain into a focused state.  I ended up leaving off feeling dissatisfied with what I wrote.  I can't promise I'll do any better this time, but, well, here goes.

One of the things I was most dissatisfied with was my choice of the word "professional" above.  Of course, I'm not a "professional" Jungian either, nor do I feel that particular credential should be given any special privileging in a discussion of Jungian psychology.  There is one thing that I respect, in theory, about Jungian certification: the fact that certified Jungian analysts must undergo analysis themselves as part of their training.  Ideally, that could produce some of the necessary experience that is (as you note) so important to a functional grasp of the psyche and the phenomena of the instinctual unconscious.  And, following from that, the practical experience of working as an analyst will provide a lot more experience to learn from . . . and much of this experience can only be derived from being an analyst.

But of course, the opportunity to learn from experience, as important as it may be, is not a tiny fraction as important as one's personal ability to learn from experience as it presents itself (as it always will if one takes a welcoming attitude).  And regrettably, professionalization, for all of its benefits in providing experience, also often has the deficit of turning some "lessons" into concretized dogma.  So to "learn" some lessons is to stop learning anything new about a phenomenon.  This is especially problematic in the fledgling and complex field of psychology.  In my opinion the best attitude to take toward the psychic is that of the perpetual student.  And of course, that is the ideal scientific attitude in general.

I think of myself as a strong advocate of alternative learning and autodidactism (when necessary).  If you recall, I used to run an alternative poetry forum, Foetry.com, that was specifically dedicated to challenging conventional academic assumptions about the way poetry is created, published, and taught.  Or at least that was my personal stance as administrator.  I think that same alternative, progressive spirit is alive and well as Useless Science. 

My main gripes with Jungianism are with the certified Jungian analysts and authors who have, to put it generally, allowed Jungian psychology to become an occult metaphysics instead of continuing to hone it with the scientific method, adapting it to new scientific data.  Related to this neglect or "mismanagement" is the lack of innovation in the field.  So much emphasis has been placed on the ways to interpret Jung or some other metaphysical literature that too few Jungians are asking how to improve and revise Jungian thinking.  Many certified Jungians have failed to carry on the creative spirit of Jung . . . or have mistaken creation (poiesis) for sand play and active imagination fantasizing.  But Jung himself was a radical innovator, a man (like Freud) who thought dangerous thoughts and disciplined himself intellectually in order to bring those thoughts into useful form.

One foundation on which I feel (as a poet and artist) strongly critical of Jungianism is this issue of innovation.  Too many Jungian writers have promoted a concept of "creativity-as-therapy" that is more functional at selling books to New Age audiences than it is as real psychotherapy.  I don't bemoan my life as a sometimes "starving" and failed artist, but I know all too well that creation (which is essentially innovative) is a dangerous game that claims the souls of most who dabble in it.  I can't help but look upon the common Jungian notion of creativity with a bit of disgust or at least frustration.

Creation, like any kind of deep living, is a suffering process.  A process of change and adaptation and failure and resurrection.  When an individual believes that all they bring forth is "Good" and that such creating has no consequences or demands no responsibilities, my immediate reaction is, "This person is a fool."  Fools that build societies (tribes) and gain power and numbers are dangerous.  Mostly, they are dangerous to those individuals who are real artists.

My current opinion of the "professional" Jungians is that they are not usually terribly foolish in this way, but have fallen ethically because they have been all too willing to cater to fools.  They ignore all criticism and have been inclined to produce the kind of tripe that many who cannot really understand Jung's original thinking very well will lap up.  They have served up fast food Jung and Jung-lite (with only one calorie!) and been content to make Jungianism a literary service that offers a mass-producible product to what amounts to a captive audience.

If I had to take an intuitive guess as to why, I would diagnose the Jungian mindset with a dissociation of the puer/senex mentality.  The Jungians tend to act out the puer only through the shadow (i.e., unconsciously) . . . and so never benefit from the particular gifts to consciousness the puer has to offer.  Innovation, for instance.  Innovation doesn't come from the senex polarity.  This, of course, started with Jung himself, who was somewhat ashamed of his own darker puerism and openly disparaged the puer when possible.  But at least Jung lived out much of his shadow puer qualities in his creative (and personal) life.  Without this puer shadow, he would have been a hollow man.  But Jung was an individual who (in his terminology) held the Opposites together, regardless of contradiction.  Walt Whitman (who I think shared many personality traits with Jung) wrote in "Song of Myself":

Quote
The past and present wilt - I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?


This could have come from Jung's mind just as well as Whitman's.  Jung also contained multitudes (the Opposites).  He wasn't of the same confessional nature as Whitman, so he didn't like to admit this "in so many words".  But he promoted it as an ideal of individuation.  But the Jungians have been afraid of containing multitudes, contradictions, shadow (especially the puer shadow).  So of course (as you say of cultures), the archetypal puer shadow lives their lives for them.  It keeps them chasing metaphysical clouds (in which their own tails are hidden) and mistaking play for creation while professing senex groundedness and disparaging inflation.  But only those who are willing to risk (and succumb to) inflation can create.  It is the "sin of knowledge" that make for the difference between gnosis and belief.

What I would like to see here at Useless Science are contributors who are devoted to gnosis and to thinking Jungian psychology forward.  What I have seen over the last two years is that (at least as far as the online Jungian community goes) there are very, very few individuals interested in this kind of gnostic project.  I have found this dismaying.

A complimentary problem relates to your question above regarding my statement about Jungian romanticism:
Quote from: Matt Koeske

I'm not satisfied with the romantic Jungian notion that the fields' ideas are generated in a vacuum or in individualistic isolation.
Matt, I do not understand this, could you rephrase it for me please??

The question I started asking myself after I heard nothing but a small breeze blowing in the online Jungian communities was: where are the Jungian analysts and authors?  Why aren't they participating in some of these online forums?  Why is no one stepping forward to contribute valuable insight and experiential knowledge to the mangle of popular thinking about Jungian psychology?

I started seeking out more recent Jungian literature and found that there is some attempt at innovation being made by the analyst-authors here and there . . . but I have found most of this unsatisfying.  It didn't remind me at all of Jung's dangerous and complex way of innovating or of the best of James Hillman, perhaps the most successful Jungian innovator after Jung.  Yes, these authors were drawing from their own experiences.  Mostly, they weren't blowing abstract theory out of their asses.  But they had almost universally embraced a more religious attitude and style.  It seemed to me that the core assumptions (dogmas, when unquestioned) of the Jungian tribe were accepted as fundamental truths (whether understood or not) . . . and the most "innovative" post-Jungian authors were primarily professing a personalized gospel constructed on this foundation.  These personalized gospels didn't really expand or progress Jungian thinking, because they were unable to (and generally not interested in) revising core tenets of Jungian thought.  That is, I found the more contemporary Jungian writing inadequately self-reflective as far as identity and membership in the Tribe of Jung was concerned.

Many of these writings were useful personally to me, because they inspired me to question (and keep questioning) any tribal affiliations I had with Jungianism that might be clouding my thinking and my understanding of the psyche.  But I worry that such writings only dig a deeper hole for Jungian psychology from the long term perspective.

So when I wrote about the Jungians creating/thinking in a vacuum or in individualistic isolation, I was deducing my analysis from the curious observations I had made regarding preaching/professing instead of innovating/revising and from the communication barrier between the online Jungians (who I take to be a decent representation of Jungian literature's lay audience) and the certified Jungian author-analysts.

True, too few good questions were being sent into the ether (intended for the "pros") from the lay Jungians.  But such good questions are not always phrased directly (and must be extracted out of emotional outbursts or critiques).  I felt inclined to ask things like: "Why is it that some of the core Jungian ideas are so bollixed by even the most sophisticated Jungian readers?"  and "Why has the question of whether or not Jungianism is a religion divided those confronted with it into an allegiance to a tribe of true believers tabooing the question on one side and a group of disgruntled (but poorly informed) detractors on the other?" and "Why do most of the "pro" Jungians show so little interest in the recent innovations of science?"  And of course, dozens of more specific technical questions of Jungian theory as either explanation of natural phenomena or praxis.

When these divisive topics came up, tribal warfare ensued . . . but never useful discussion.  And from these front lines where the fate of Jungianism is in flux and fading fast, how many "pro" Jungians were there arguing, pleading, or trying to explain?  None.  It seemed to me that this collective psyche of Jungianism (ripe for the study, I might add), was being ignored or disdained by the certified analyst-author community . . . in much the same way a person might try to ignore the advance of gangrene out of a fear of amputation.

This is why I think even a non-elite Jungian community like the one many of us met each other at can serve as a lens, a magnified petri dish of the Jungian collective psyche.  What I saw (and it initially surprised me) was a state of serious unrest, intellectual confusion, and rampant, unanalyzed (because it is tabooed) inflation "psychosis" manifesting to varying degrees and in varying ways.  I also saw a lot of selfishness or narcissism . . . which I was used to, coming from academia and artistic communities.  But what shocked me as I became introduced to it in the Jungian community is that it went undiagnosed and unrecognized (even more so than it does among artists, who generally know they are narcissists but don't really care . . . many Jungians by contrast are not only narcissists but also hypocrites).  The application of psychological insight had become little more than a tribal color to brandish, an affiliation to declare.  Jargon, lingo, quotation without comprehension. the tribalistic weaponization of analysis through projection.  But none of this language was being applied in self-analysis, introvertedly.  It wasn't being used, only worn.

So I had to start imagining what would happen if we could put Jungianism itself on the couch.  And this is what I did in my own introspective writings and thoughts.  In line with convention, I started asking Jungianism about its childhood . . . and as it turned out, many of the current problems in the psyche and behavior of Jungianism seem to have their roots in the father of this complex, Carl Jung.  We can't, of course, analyze Jung, and the attempts I have seen from others to do so have left me non-plussed.  But we can, I think, gain something from a mock-analysis of Jungianism.  After all, Jungianism doesn't know the personal ins and outs of the man, Carl Jung, any more than you or I do.  We have all absorbed Jungianism from the same sources.  So the myth of the man, Jung, is actually more important to this analysis than the man himself.

How have we constructed this myth?  Perpetuated it?  How have we been unconscious and irresponsible about doing this?  How has the myth made us, imprisoned us?

One of my gripes with the "solitary" nature of creativity in Jungianism today is that it appears to be modeled on the archetype of the Great Man . . . as modeled by Jung himself.  The Great Man is tempting.  S/he speaks with authority and vision.  S/he knows and does not believe.  But the bearing of this archetypal force of libido is no cake walk.  Everything doesn't come up smelling like roses.  The Great Man casts a Great Shadow . . . and if we look at the myth of Jung as it exists today, we see it split up into Great Man and Great Shadow.  The shadow side is carried as an effigy into the fray by still-disgruntled Freudians, by Richard Noll, and by various "giant-killers" of the "deconstructionist" bent.  The standard bearers of the Great Man tribe find this to be very annoying and have redoubled their efforts in apologetics and simple, old-school, ear-plugging. 

Of course, this is to state the thing as its extremes . . . and reality is more a matter of degree than pure type.  But I think it is very dangerous to assume that we can have any affiliation with Jungianism (for or against) and not be afflicted with this archetypal war over the myth of Jung.  We are all invested in the myth in some way.  I know I was . . . and still am, but I think a good bit more consciously after puzzling this out for a year or so.

I suspect that the inclination of the Jungian authors to create in isolation is "romantic", because it is done in unconscious emulation of the light aspect of the Great Man archetype.  There is a romanticized notion of the inspired genius, the culture hero who brings the new discovery to the tribe or finds the lost linchpin needed to reinstate tribal cohesion.  Many artists create this way (although many don't).  There is some necessity to romantic individualism when one is creating something totally unique or new.  Most artists never live up to the myth of innovation . . . and I think most who do have fallen into the myth unconsciously and come to function as conduits for its expression rather than conductors.  In my old field of poetry, romantic individualism is not only (surprisingly) rare (due to academicization and such . . . a long story) it is openly disdained and tabooed in the only remaining factories of poet-making, the universities.

I was an advocate of more romantic individualism when I was involved with the "Po-Biz".  But having gotten a very good picture of that kind of mentality and the society built around it, I see Jungianism as very different.  In Jungianism, there is a lot of aspiration to be like artists, like poets . . . but the understanding of the artistic life and the creator mentality is almost non-existent.  It exists only as a Disneyfied fantasy, entirely unrealistic and neutered of it many unpleasantries and its overwhelming darkness.

And not surprisingly, when we look at most scientific communities (i.e., fields), we see little to no such Disneyfication.  Sure, science has plenty of hubris and narcissism (as scientists are just as human as everybody else) . . . but this almost always works against scientific progress.  Science is about sharing data and discoveries.  There are many innovations, but they rarely come from "strokes of genius".  Rather, they are built incrementally, little pebble by pebble.  They are built along side testing, failure, and revision. 

Artists cannot fail very often and continue to survive.  For this reason, the best artists often have, not "genius", but a raging and skilled inner critic that helps them suss out what not to do while creating.  This is the real core of aesthetic sense.  Much learning must be done from adolescent and novice mistakes pre-publication/unveiling/showing.  This is what a poet knows all too well that the Jungians do not properly and widely understand (as victims of an unconscious puer attitude).  This is due to the fact that no one is placing artistic/aesthetic scrutiny on the creation of Jungian literature.  Meaning the puer/artistic side of the Jungian writer has no foil, no critic, no restraint, no Other . . . and not inspiration, therefore, to become conscious.

As it is, Jungianism stands between the pillars of science and art . . . and it leans heavily toward art in its sympathies.  We should recall, though, the Jung was often anti-aesthetic in his attitude . . . even as he showed a clear knack for both artistic skill and aesthetic sense in his active imagination creations.  And, as is better remembered by Jungians, Jung spent a great deal of time disparaging "rationalism".  But Jung disparaged both aestheticism and rationalism . . . while advocating science (and gnosis).  Essentially, Jung's stance is very complex, very multifaceted . . . much more so than the conventional Jungian (and anti-Jungian) stances.  "Complex" doesn't mean "correct", of course, but it does tend to make for great difficulties in emulation.

Behind the aesthetic limitedness of the Jungian mindset is the specter of active imagination.  To apply the paradigm of active imagination to artistic creation is to declare that consciousness must get out of the way of such creation entirely.  Consciousness, in that equation, is entirely negative.  But for both artists and Jungians, this is a foolhardy notion.  Yes, the ego can be a hindrance to more holistic thinking.  But it is consciousness that paves the roads for the expression of the instinctual unconscious.  Consciousness is the vehicle and the custodian.  The mechanic of instinctual expression.  Consciousness . . . differentiated here from egoic will.  The expression of the unconscious in the world is like a liquid that takes the shape of its container.  That container is consciousness.  Whatever has gone into constructing our egos, our identities, provides the form for the content of instinctual expression.  Instinct only expresses itself as complexly (and usefully) as it is allowed by its container.

Therefor, instinctual expression that "challenges" its container's form comes on initially as something demonic or reptilian, a vague, but terrible counter-Will.  When we perceive this Will rearing up from the unconscious, we can usually accurately conclude that we have failed to consciously build a sufficient container for the expression of a complex (i.e., natural) instinct.

The artist, perhaps more than anyone else, has the opportunity to work very closely with the instincts in the process of building adequate containers and conduits in whatever medium the artist practices.  The development of craft and eventually mastery is the product of the work between consciousness and instinct.  Humans have always done most of their great artistic creation in the name of building homes for the gods or passageways where the gods could enter into the material world.  But an artist must be responsible, must be present in the human/divine relationship with the instincts.  If the artist gets too lazy and starts to lose consciousness in the name of "worship" or inspiration, the artist as individual loses the ability to differentiate between the Will of the instincts and his or her own subconscious, egoic will.  This leads toward an inflation or self-deification, a state in which egoism is being projected into the instincts excessively.

In Jungian thinking, the ego can easily become devalued.  And sometimes the ego does need to be taken down a notch or two.  But to blindly devalue the ego is also to devalue the chance of developing individuated consciousness.  I.e., Logos, or the ability to effectively express the Self through a conscious language.  The development of Logos is the only thing we can do to assure (or improve the chances) that we are not deceiving ourselves with our spiritual and projective beliefs.

Active imagination is a fine (but perhaps overrated) method for breaking through into the unconscious, but the real work of individuation comes in in the way we respond to active imagination's phenomena.  We must still formulate a Logos in order to make use of the active imagination.  And if we fail to do so successfully, the expression of instinct will be misunderstood or usurped by being converted into egoic self-aggrandizement.  I feel that there has been too much Jungian writing that lacks the necessary self-criticism in this specific arena of developing a useful Logos for the expression of the rumblings of the instinctual unconscious.  The Jungians have too often taken up an irresponsible, puer attitude toward their own creativity, merely basking in the rush of inspirational excitement (numen) and throwing artistic craft and discipline out the window.

This is a very romantic attitude, because it places a great deal of significance on the mystical Other and devalues the egoic self.  But only an ignorant person would mistake that attitude for humility.  When the ego is so drastically eclipsed by the instinctual unconscious, we lose our sense of relational perspective and fall into identification with the Source of numinousness.  In this state we have no ability to effectively interpret or convey/communicate/translate the numen.  We fall into the blissful hell of the puer, where only the god exists . . . and no otherness.  It's a spiritualistic wasteland of disconnection.  And typically, it is accompanied by an attitude that oscillates between "feeling connected to everything" and feeling despairingly lonely and isolated.  Neither polarity is entirely valid, but either way, the ego lacks all gravity and mass.  There is nothing to anchor or channel instinct into genuine relationship or engagement.

One of the problems with the Jungian mentality is that it too often looks upon a state like this as an Eden, a land of bliss.  But any individual with some mass, some individuated consciousness, some processed experience would perceive this state as a doldrums lacking all sense of Otherness.  It would feel like (and is) imprisonment within Mother's skirts.  The reason puers "grow up" (when they do) is that they have come to see through this particular Eden and recognize that it is a prison more so than a heaven.  And so the puer Falls . . . Falls into consciousness (out of the exalted Maternal that buoys the puer's soaring and down into the primal Masculine, the new prima materia from which the alchemical work is extracted; see The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje for an excellent rendering of this all-important masculine, mythic transformation).  Which means that the gods no longer provide the land for the ego to live in.  The ego must provide or create the land in which the gods can and will want to live in.  Thus, in consciousness, we toil . . . but only in our estrangement (differentiation between ego and Self) can we truly understand and appreciate connection and the hunger for connection . . . and become responsible for the conscious maintenance of that connection.  Such maintenance is what I think of as a more mature/individuated, spiritual Faith.


In any case, going back to the beginning, why would I be interested in courting "professional Jungians" with Useless Science.  The way I am seeing it, these "pros" could be said to represent the consciousness of Jungianism.  They make the decisions that govern what Jungianism is and will be and will do.  But they are not in a position of absolute power, nonetheless.  They (like collective egos) are limited to action that interprets or expresses the collective or instinctual unconscious of Jungianism.  This means they are subject to all the normal egoic woes and pitfalls.  For instance, thinking that they don't have to acknowledge the "collective unconscious of Jungianism" or feeling that if such an unconscious exists, it is simply determined by and subject to the guidance of consciousness.  My "diagnosis" of the patient (Jungianism), is that it has become dissociated from its unconscious, its instinctuality.  It has (in puer fashion) sought to transcend its shadow, its baseness, its tethers.  Therefore, it has fallen into a complex.

The other half of this proposed analytical paradigm would be seeing the Jungian lay audience and online communities as a representation of the collective unconscious of Jungianism.  This unconscious exists in a state of chaos, lacking definition, driven by what Jung would call "affect", perhaps . . . although I would prefer to say that this force is more accurately described as instinctual urges that have not been brought into useful, conscious language (Logos), and so feel (to consciousness) more like unruly, chthonic gods conflictedly vying for power.  I.e., the psychic sensation that we Jungians often call the conflict of the Opposites.  The unconscious of Jungianism (i.e., the attitudes and beliefs and desires of its lay audience) is in this state of primal chaos because it has been neglected by Jungianism's consciousness.  That is, the real needs and desires of this unconscious lay audience have been neglected or treated irresponsibly.

What are those "real needs and desires"?  We have only to look at the online Jungian communities to make a huge leap in sussing this out.  I see a great deal of hunger for spiritual transcendence coupled to an equally strong desire to find Jungian tribes in which the spiritually hungry can justify their beliefs and chosen gods via collectivity and participation mystique.  Richard Noll attacked the Jungians (as a professional community of certified analysts) for making Jungian psychology a cult with Jung himself as the hero/god/savior at the center.  Noll even suggests that Jung intended to establish such a cult.  Jungian analysts, of course, could see that this idea was ridiculous.  After all, they had no intention of setting up a cult.  But they were, I think, largely short sighted in their attempts at introspection.  As pseudo-senexes, they would never indulge in such puer tactics.  But when you have exiled your puer, "he" doesn't leave the psyche; he merely operates without any conscious supervision.  In this case, the puer "cultist" behind the religification of Jungianism has done his thing in the Jungian lay community.  My hunch is that Noll was semi-consciously tapping into the general mythos propagated by this lay community.

My take is much more subtle than Noll's, mostly because I don't assign intentionality to the Jungian analytical community.  Still, I do see them as responsible for the prevailing attitudes in the lay community in various ways.  Sometimes Jungian authors have encouraged the tribalistic and neo-animistic attitudes of the New Age lay community directly in their literature.  After all, the orientation of Jungian authors is primarily therapeutic, and the easiest way to enact a psycho-spiritual therapy is through reattaching the sufferer to some kind of sustaining tribal Eros (a tribal mindset in which the instinctual unconscious is privileged at the expense of consciousness).  Thus, many of the "pet gods" of Jungianism (e.g., Kundalini and other eastern philosophies, spiritualized quantum physics, tarot, astrology, various occult mysticisms, etc.) have benefited from the "outsourcing" or "referrals" of Jungian analysts and authors.  These gods and belief systems provide tribal affiliations for existentially and instinctually disenfranchised modern people.  They help us realize we are not alone in the vast modern world, that there are many other seekers and hungerers.  This almost always makes sufferers feel better, because nothing "cures" like tribal Eros or participation mystique (just as long as the individual is willing to live with the constraints of a tribal mindset).

Of course, many of these spiritual and philosophical systems have dogmas and codes that parallel Jung's idea of individuation.  Jungians (starting with Jung) have been very accommodating to diverse forms of spirituality, concentrating on the archetypal similarities among them.  Since Jung, the Jungians have allowed the theory of individuation to succumb to the molds of these various, spiritual, proto-individuation systems.  There are two driving reasons for this that I can think of.  The most powerful one is that this makes patients feel better and often live happier, more fulfilled lives (therefore seeming to suggest that analysis was successful and has been validated).  The secondary reason is that this practice, which is a kind of evangelism-by-proxy, sustains the Jungian professional community, allowing it to spread, to publish its literature, to fund its institutes, and attract its clientèle.  If there is one thing that will always sell in the market of human interests, it's religion (or spirituality) . . . as spirituality is quintessentially human, is perhaps the archetypal form of human, instinctual expression on both the social and individual levels.  Modernism doesn't curtail the market for spirituality.  Quite the opposite.  It expands it through diversification . . . or what the PR industry would call "lifestyle marketing".

Unlike Richard Noll, I do not mean to imply that this "commercialism" is radically crass or manipulative, but I agree with Noll's impulse to bring this issue into consciousness for Jungians.  It seems to me that the Jungians have not adequately thought through the implications and repercussions of this evangelism-by-proxy method of therapy.  There is a disconnect between Jungian consciousness and the Jungian shadow where this issue is concerned.  For instance, is this "outsourcing" of spirituality and tribal matchmaking fully compatible with 1.) the core theory of Jungian individuation, and 2.) the existential problems of the modern?  In my opinion, no (on both accounts).  These attitudes are in conflict . . . and at a bare minimum, this conflict needs to be brought into consciousness and worked with.

Can we truly seek individuation AND "Our Tribe" at the same time?  I agree that we can desire both simultaneously, but I see these things as mutually exclusive (at least during the bulk of the Work).  As "evidence" of this exclusivity, we need only to look at the Jungian lay communities and seriously investigate the dangerous question: are the lay-Jungians professing Jungian ideas really individuating?  From what I have seen so far (and of course, in my personal opinion), the trappings of Jungianism have not assisted individuation for the majority of the people I've encountered in the online Jungian communities.  These people typically have next to know "individuation experience" or experiential understanding of the process.  Have they "progressed" or "healed" in some ways with the acquisition of Jungian jargon and beliefs?  Certainly and frequently, because these beliefs have served as an introduction to satisfying tribal affiliation, reducing the dread and sense of excommunication that the first stirrings of individuation awaken in us.  But this existential dread and estrangement is not, in these cases, being treated via individuation, but through a reconnection to tribal Eros.  To the degree that these lay Jungians still feel disconnected from or different than the (Jungian) tribal norm, they still have unprocessed existential dread or "individuation anxiety".  Thus, they must tenaciously cling to their new belief systems in order to ward off this "evil spirit".  Such clinging makes for totemic dogma and is therefore contrary to science or the scientific/gnostic method.

In addition to this problem, we have to be brave enough to ask ourselves if this Jungian tribal matchmaking-as-therapy is helping patients adjust to and cope with the Problem of the Modern . . . or merely insulating the sufferers of the modern with a kind of spiritualistic fundamentalism.  I.e., it fails to prove adaptive.  I don't mean to suggest that many or even all of us might not benefit from some kind of insulation or crutch from time to time.  We can't throw bleeding people in shark infested waters and hope they will learn to both swim and survive.  But I feel there needs to be a very delicate balance between encouraging individuation and bolstering the individuant's confidence and resolve in the face of individuation's torments and "natural disasters".  And I have been trying to ask: has this balance really been maintained (or even recognized often enough)?  Especially when there is such a compelling reason to keep up with the tribal matchmaking, evangelism-by-proxy (i.e., professional solvency and the gratitude of many), it must be acknowledged that truly encouraging individuation through therapy is a hard line to follow.  Individuation is not "therapeutic" in the conventional, linear sense.  That is, it doesn't relive anxiety and heal wounds progressively.  If it does so at all, it does so through a kind of circumabulation, a mythic rebuilding or reimagining of oneself into something more adaptive.

I would propose that the theory of individuation needs to be continuously built up and reexamined and revised.  Individuation needs to be understood as deeply and completely as possible.  One of the highest goals (if not The highest) of the professional Jungian should be the investigation of individuation as a thing or force or instinct.  So how much of this is evident in Jungian literature?  In my opinion, very, very little.  I have seen little to no progress since Jung in advancing our understanding of individuation as a natural phenomenon.  Most Jungian literature even demonstrates a regression in understanding of individuation as naturalistic since Jung.  Individuation has been allowed to turn into an occult god or totem that is talked about but not engaged with in a very substantial way.  The very notion that individuation is a natural, instinctual phenomenon has received very little investigative effort in the Jungian community.  Why do and why "should" we individuate?  What is this drive for?  These kinds of questions have been all but forgotten by contemporary Jungians (as the investigation of them proved to be too rigorous and so often disappointing . . . very much like the investigations of the Philosopher's Stone via the alchemical opus must have been).

I can't help but even intuit a kind of cowardice in the common Jungian position in which individuation as a process and a language is outsourced to previous spiritualities and mysticisms.  I disagree with this position and attitude, because I feel (as Jung also, at times, did) the modern psyche needs a new "spiritual" language.  The myths we have purportedly "lost" are not lost in substance, but have only become obscured by an inability to speak about them in a more modern language.  The Logos of human spirituality has not evolved for hundreds of years, and we continue to try to understand our spiritual lives and impulses with language this is at times millennia old . . . as if the world or culture we live in today had not changed (and changed radically) in that time.  Yes, as we are often fond of noting, "people do not really change" (at least not on such a small time scale . . . that is, human culture has been merely a blip in evolutionary time) . . . but culture is not fixed to this evolutionary timescale.  Culture and environment, being a massively complex system, can change quickly and catastrophically.  And what we need to remind ourselves is that language belongs more to culture than it does to biology.  It is the aptitude for language that belongs to biology, not its materialized form.

I believe that Jung's theories regarding individuation were a bold step forward toward the re-languaging of spirituality within the cultural context of the modern.  But they were only a first step, and a step founded more on intuition than on "hard data".  Since Jung, the legacy of the individuation theory has fallen back into more and more occult and metaphysical language.  Not only has this led to the untethering of the life raft that was Jung's original idea, it has also caused a greater muddying of the waters around the concept of individuation.  Mysticisms and stray bits of modernized language all hashing into one another . . . and no discerning Logos to bring this muddle into greater order and differentiation.  The arena of Jungian spirituality has become a swamp.

This is, I feel, the fault of the Jungian professional community . . . which now either doesn't recognize the problem (denial) or else recognizes it, but has not happened upon a functional or radical enough solution to it.  My intuition is that Jungians are facing a double bind here, because any movement toward promoting more rigorous, scientific investigations of individuation (i.e., a more "gnostic" Logos) would end up bringing in a critical consciousness into the puer, spiritualistic free-for-all that has become the established Jungian way.  Correcting this would inevitably disenfranchise many lay Jungians (and probably a number of professionals as well).  That would mean fewer paying patients and book-buying readers.  It would also mean that the standards of analysis would become more rigorous (if individuation assistance started to replace evangelism-by-proxy) and the analytic task more challenging.

But any issues like that would be long term concerns.  The first bridge to cross would be the reintegration of the unconscious and the conscious of Jungianism.  That is, the acknowledgment that attitudes and decisions made in the professional Jungian community have been in large part responsible for creating an "unconscious" of lay Jungians that are in many (albeit unintentioned) ways determining the conscious manifestation of Jungianism.

The spiritual hunger and disenfranchisement of this lay audience or Jungian unconscious is very real and not at all to be either dismissed or neglected.  It is, I believe, a core aspect of the Problem of the Modern.  It has collectively imagined the myth of individuation and the ideal individuant . . . but these things remain abstract, ill-defined, and very "animistic" (i.e., filled with unconscious projections of egoism).  It cannot imagine a new Logos that is suited to modernism and modern science . . . because the creation of such a Logos is really not at all the job of the instinctual unconscious.  The instinctual unconscious provides the transformative drives, the numinous goads, the natural complexity of systemic interconnection, but the ego is responsible for defining the most suitable Logos or interpretation (based largely on the yeas and nays rumbling up from the corrective/compensatory unconscious).

The archetype of the ideal individuant is rising up mythically from the Jungian lay unconscious, but as it cries out its Hosannas, it's messiah-hunger has gone unsatisfied in the Jungian consciousness being propositioned.  This is a reflection of the old Christian problem that Jungianism has inherited.  I.e., the self-deification taboo that has resulted from the conflation of the archetype of the ideal individuant with a god (Catholicism as Anti-Gnosticism).  So long as the archetype of the ideal individuant is tabooed in this way, the relationship of the individual to this archetype will be unhealthy.  At one polarity there is a greedy kind of over-identification with the archetype resulting in an inflation.  On the other pole, we see the totemic deification of the archetype that exalts or abstracts it so much, it cannot be reached or properly understood.  The latter often leads to the establishment of a fundamentalist, watchdog attitude toward the self-deification taboo, which constantly flirts with the danger of unconsciousness and irresponsibility for one's beliefs and actions (as "right and wrong" are unconsciously assigned to God, a being for which there is no functional differentiation from ego or shadow, because the self-deification taboo has forbade the kind of investigation that could lead to a healthy differentiation of this).  The former is at least as common in the Jungian mindset, perhaps (in part) because Jungian theory does not have a functional method for dealing with and working through inflation.  It cannot, because such work requires the precise definition of the archetype of the ideal individuant in order to differentiate it from the egoic desire for self-defense through "transcendence".

This is a Logos flaw in the Jungian system, and it results in (as you, Kafiri, and Bill Stafford have said) "following the wrong god home".  But rather than taking the typical Jungian tack of issuing a blanket aggression or disparagement of inflation (a kind of propaganda "war against terror" attempting to conceal the shadow through projection) I think it is healthier to look at the "epidemic" of inflation in the Jungian psyche as an indication of a real hunger that has merely become ill-expressed due to the lack of a sufficient Logos that can differentiate ego and Self.  Inflation is a sign that the Self is being valued (a step in the right direction), but that the ego can't tell where the ego ends and the Self begins.  That is differentiation error . . . and a matter of language.

I think that these rumblings from the collective Jungian unconscious need to be taken very seriously.  But they can't be treated with totemization or blind faith or dogmatic belief.  A more conscious method and language is called for.  I see Useless Science as a potential vehicle for expressing some of these rumblings in the unconscious of the lay community.  When the ego cannot maintain or create a Logos sufficient to relate healthily to the instinctual unconscious, the unconscious will send its procession of emissaries to broker an accord.  Jung's intuition proved very adept in understanding this procession of attaches.  The shadow bursts on the psychic stage with oppositionalism and perhaps some tricksterly undermining.  It doesn't offer the "Truth" directly, but it demonstrates that the position taken by the ego is dissociated into two polarities.  This helps us recognize that neither is right . . . and that a better way lies between them, through some sort of reconciliation or coniunuctio.  The heroic spirit (of individuation) drives with honor and courage toward the shadow's mirror.

After the hero gets close enough, s/he discovers that the movement toward the shadow is compelled not only by the conquering spirit of opposition, but by a kind of attraction to the mirror.  Enter the animi.  And this attraction eventually progresses to become a recognition of the Self as both partner and Other (i.e., the differentiation of the ego from the Self).

If we here at Useless Science continue to strive for consciousness and take careful responsibility for our thinking and expression, we may be able to tap into the great benefit of the Jungian unconscious.  But instead of merely dissolving into its boggy waters, we stand a chance of adding our devoted consciousness to the Work.  That is, if we can find a balance where we are able to criticize Jungianism without condemning it all out and falling into the unconscious role of Opposite, we add some impetus to the potential coniunctio between Jungianism and its estranged shadow.  I think that progressive change for Jungianism can only come from its unconscious, its lay community.

I'm not suggesting anything grandiose, such as that we here have the "Answers" to all the troubling Jungian questions.  It is not wisdom or truth that we and others like us in the lay community have access to, but an attitude that values change and is willing to take responsibility for its own thoughts and feelings governing such change.  Dissatisfaction, itching and burning at us, is our greatest asset.  The solutions to dissociations like the one in the Jungian psyche are not irrational or illogical (though they might first seem that way due to our prevailing prejudices) . . . but they are extremely challenging, requiring a lot of bravery and devotion, not to mention discrimination, to enact usefully.  But we minions of the Jungian unconscious (or shadow) do not have the power to determine consciousness.  All  we can do is try to influence it positively.

That is why I feel there is value in trying to reach a professional Jungian audience.  We could fall into unconsciousness and just become another Jungian lay tribe . . . and we could go to war with the other lay tribes over quibbles.  But that seems petty and wasteful to me.  Win, lose, or integrate, Jungian consciousness will not be affected.  Only intentions on the Jungian consciousness will prove meaningful for transformation.  And that means pointing the prow toward the professional community and building toward ramming speed.  Jungian consciousness will have to determine whether this sort of thing (if we or anyone else can manage to pull it off effectively) is perceived as a nuisance shadow or trickster hurling dung over the castle walls or as one of those mysterious strangers or messengers (of the line of Hermes) that it is best to welcome into one's home despite any misgivings.  That is, I feel, beyond our determination.  What we can do is strive for integrity and complex elegance in our thinking, conversing, and relating.  We can do our best to make our engagement potentially useful for Jungianism.

I believe this is best achieved by putting our desires for personal spiritual satisfaction or tribal Eros on the back burner.  Those things will never cook out of the broth, nor should they.  But they can force us off course.  That is, by "us", I mean we who are interested in encouraging progressiveness in Jungianism, regardless of our own individual quests for fulfillment.  As I have said numerous times in the past, I feel the urge to "give back" for all the Jungianism has done for me.  And the best gift anyone could give to this Jungian tribe is a shot of innovation.  If not revelatory, this could at least be some useful criticism and feedback.  Only people like us can channel this voice.  That is, only the Jungian unconscious can offer up this particular kind of compensatory force . . . and do so with the intent of healing or adapting the whole (as opposed to destroying or converting it).

I don't mean to suggest that I am on a mission to lug every analyst that can type a web address into a browser to Useless Science for interrogation or merely conversation.  I can't force them to come.  I hope only to make it worth coming for them.  I.e., Field of Dreams logic (If you build it, they will come).  So my intended goal is the proper intellectual architecture for such a gathering.  I want Useless Science to be the kind of place where the Opposites can come together without destructive explosions (such as the ones common in our previous community).  That is, I see my objective as the host and admin here as the building of a functional vessel for any kind of progressive, alchemical reactions.  As an individual member, I also seek to contribute as much to the creation of a good prima materia as I can . . . and perhaps more importantly, to the encouragement of others to do the same.  That is, to set high standards for the Work we do together, for our engagement and interaction and sharing and relating.  It's romanticism, of course.  High standards are always romantic.  But the key to any success in the Work is the imagination of the Goal.  The Work, in many ways, unfolds from the appropriate imagination of the Stone.  But also the understanding that we do not have the Stone to "disseminate" or sell or evangelize with.  We only have the meager opus and our devoted doodling in the lab.  Those doodlings are continuously improving the imagination of the Goal.  This alchemical lab work is the creation and constant revision of Logos, which is built on the principles of the scientific method (i.e., testing and the embrace of failure as a teacher).

For Useless Science, I prefer to dream big in this alchemical fashion.  It's a transference . . . and all alchemical vessels are built from transference.

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

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]