Author Topic: Wrestling with the Transcendent Function  (Read 7457 times)

Keri

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Wrestling with the Transcendent Function
« on: May 14, 2008, 10:54:23 AM »
Hello all,

I've been listening to John Betts' podcasts on Jungian concepts.  He has covered some basic terms, basic interpretation of fairy tales and dreams, and now has started on active imagination.  In his first podcast on that subject (done in Feb, but I'm just now listening to it), he mentions two things that caught my attention.

First, there have been about 75,000 requests or downloads of his podcasts!  I find that astonishing in itself.  Apparently there are a lot of people out there interested in this type of information.  I assume it's a mix of professionals and laypersons.

The second thing that Betts' podcast stimulated for me was a question . . . well, really two questions.  He was talking about the Transcendent Function, which Jung apparently wrote about in 1916, but didn't publish until 1957.  It followed his break with Freud and period of intense inner/personal work.  Betts describes it as a "tendency" of the conscious and unconscious toward wholeness.  I have some suspicion about the idea of a tendency toward wholeness, in general.  I mean, I like the idea, it appeals to me, but I'm suspicious that there is actually such a tendency.  I can believe there is something like a tendency towards Life, like some kind of fierce life-force, and that there is probably a tendency toward that precarious knife-edge between homeostasis and change (complexity), and maybe that there is even a tendency toward adaptivity, but the term "wholeness" is more nebulous to me.

So my questions are, 1) what is "wholeness" and do you think there is a tendency toward it, and 2) how is this tendency or transcendent function related to what you (Matt) are calling the superadaptive instinct?

If you'd like to move this second portion to a more open forum, feel free.

Love, Keri



Edited by Admin: I copied the relevant portion of this post to a new topic in order to begin a discussion of the transcendent function

-Matt
« Last Edit: May 16, 2008, 04:43:08 PM by Matt Koeske »
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

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

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

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Sealchan

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Re: Superadaptive instinct
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2008, 11:58:49 AM »
Regarding wholeness...I may share your intuitive skepticism here.  I would feel more comfortable with the notion that the statistical tendency of more focused functions tends to aim in a "balanced" direction rather than that there is some force of nature pulling us towards a wholistic unity.  I don't even like the idea of a Transcendent function as it seems to unnecessarily create this separate layer of behavior that needs explaining.  But I tend toward a reductionistic perspective so I may undervalue the utility of such a term for explaining the phenomenology of the psyche. 

I am always asking the question: "What aspects of the structure or function of the nervous system underlie this psychological concept?"  The Transcendent function is one of those I find it harder to fit into an answer to this kind of question.  Actually the notion of archetypes also has this struggle in me but it is bolstered by the massive utility of the fact that archetypes, or patterns, really do seem to provide specific structure to the psyches of individuals across time and cultures.  But when it comes to delineating a particular archetype, I find things get slippery.  One archetype runs into another until you wonder where one ends and another begins.  The labels become so arbitrary that they seem almost petty.  Without an array of myths and dreams to tie one's claim to a specific archetype to, archetypal definitions often come off as impractical abstractions.  Furthermore, the specific forms that archetypal images take upon themselves are as neatly tied to the individual's subjective experiences as they are to universal patterns as to seem arbitrary to prefer one or the other realm as the generative source of the images in question.  It is like sensation and intuition work so closely together that they really cannot be separated even while they seem they must be (that we have a preferential bias). 

I suspect that most efforts to catalog archetypes have met with intuitive frustration.  One has to choose some arbitrary frame of reference and work from that or inevitably feel that one has created an arbitrary and biased frame of reference.  Even the specific nature of the instincts is not precisely clear.

For me wholeness is a restatement of some system of equilibrium or homeostasis.  To be contained within a competent system of homeostatis is to feel one is directed toward a greater wholeness by the turns and tides of that energic system.




Edited by Admin: I copied the portion of this post relating to Keri's questions about the transcendent function to this thread

-Matt


« Last Edit: May 16, 2008, 04:42:54 PM by Matt Koeske »

Kafiri

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Re: Wrestling with the Transcendent Function
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2008, 08:01:27 PM »
Keri,
These two definitions are from the Jung Lexicon, you can find it on-line at:  http://www.psychceu.com/Jung/sharplexicon.html They may aid you in understanding the "transcendent function."  Bear in mind that many functions of our body, which is part of the psyche are "automatic" and totally "unconscious."  Your professional training certainly qualifies you to understand these physiological processes more than me; for example, we do not need to consciously tell white blood cells to find and attack infection sites.  Why not psychological functions also?



Quote

Transcendent function. A psychic function that arises from the tension between consciousness and the unconscious and supports their union. (See also opposites and tertium non datur.)

Quote
When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego's absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive. Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.[Ibid., par. 824.]

Quote
The tendencies of the conscious and the unconscious are the two factors that together make up the transcendent function. It is called "transcendent" because it makes the transition from one attitude to another organically possible.[The Transcendent Function," CW 8, par. 145.]

In a conflict situation, or a state of depression for which there is no apparent reason, the development of the transcendent function depends on becoming aware of unconscious material. This is most readily available in dreams, but because they are so difficult to understand Jung considered the method of active imagination-giving "form" to dreams, fantasies, etc.--to be more useful.

Quote
Once the unconscious content has been given form and the meaning of the formulation is understood, the question arises as to how the ego will relate to this position, and how the ego and the unconscious are to come to terms. This is the second and more important stage of the procedure, the bringing together of opposites for the production of a third: the transcendent function. At this stage it is no longer the unconscious that takes the lead, but the ego.[Ibid., par. 181.]

This process requires an ego that can maintain its standpoint in face of the counterposition of the unconscious. Both are of equal value. The confrontation between the two generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living, third essence.

Quote
From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. If, for instance, we conceive the opposition to be sensuality versus spirituality, then the mediatory content born out of the unconscious provides a welcome means of expression for the spiritual thesis, because of its rich spiritual associations, and also for the sensual antithesis, because of its sensuous imagery. The ego, however, torn between thesis and antithesis, finds in the middle ground its own counterpart, its sole and unique means of expression, and it eagerly seizes on this in order to be delivered from its division.["Definitions," CW 6, par. 825.]

The transcendent function is essentially an aspect of the self-regulation of the psyche. It typically manifests symbolically and is experienced as a new attitude toward oneself and life.

Quote
If the mediatory product remains intact, it forms the raw material for a process not of dissolution but of construction, in which thesis and antithesis both play their part. In this way it becomes a new content that governs the whole attitude, putting an end to the division and forcing the energy of the opposites into a common channel. The standstill is overcome and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals.[Ibid., par. 827.]

And,
Quote

Self-regulation of the psyche. A concept based on the compensatory relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. (See also adaptation, compensation, neurosis, opposites and transcendent function.)

Quote
The psyche does not merely react, it gives its own specific answer to the influences at work upon it.[Some Crucial Points in Psychoanalysis," CW 4, par. 665.]

The process of self-regulation is going on all the time within the psyche. It only becomes noticeable when ego-consciousness has particular difficulty in adapting to external or internal reality. That is often the start of a process, proceeeding along the lines outlined in the chart, that may lead to individuation.


The Self-regulation of the Psyche

1. Difficulty of adaptation. Little progression of libido.

2. Regression of energy (depression, lack of disposable energy).

3. Activation of unconscious contents (fantasies, complexes,
archetypal images, inferior function, opposite attitude,
shadow, anima/animus, etc.). Compensation.

4. Symptoms of neurosis (confusion, fear, anxiety, guilt, moods, extreme affect, etc.).

5. Unconscious or half-conscious conflict between ego and contents activated in the unconscious.
Inner tension. Defensive reactions.

6. Activation of the transcendent function, involving the self and archetypal patterns of wholeness.

7. Formation of symbols (numinosity, synchronicity).

8. Transfer of energy between unconscious contents and consciousness. Enlargement of the ego,
progression of energy.

9. Assimilation of unconscious contents. Individuation.


Consciousness and the unconscious seldom agree as to their contents and their tendencies. The self-regulating activities of the psyche, manifest in dreams, fantasies and synchronistic experiences, attempt to correct any significant imbalance. According to Jung, this is necessary for several reasons:


Quote

(1) Consciousness possesses a threshold intensity which its contents must have attained, so that all elements that are too weak remain in the unconscious.

(2) Consciousness, because of its directed functions, exercises an inhibition (which Freud calls censorship) on all incompatible material, with the result that it sinks into the unconscious.

(3) Consciousness constitutes the momentary process of adaptation, whereas the unconscious contains not only all the forgotten material of the individual's own past, but all the inherited behaviour traces constituting the structure of the mind [i.e., archetypes].

(4) The unconscious contains all the fantasy combinations which have not yet attained the threshold intensity, but which in the course of time and under suitable conditions will enter the light of consciousness.["The Transcendent Function," CW 8, par. 132.]
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
      -Eric Hoffer

Matt Koeske

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Re: Wrestling with the Transcendent Function
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2008, 11:11:37 AM »
Betts describes it as a "tendency" of the conscious and unconscious toward wholeness.  I have some suspicion about the idea of a tendency toward wholeness, in general.  I mean, I like the idea, it appeals to me, but I'm suspicious that there is actually such a tendency.  I can believe there is something like a tendency towards Life, like some kind of fierce life-force, and that there is probably a tendency toward that precarious knife-edge between homeostasis and change (complexity), and maybe that there is even a tendency toward adaptivity, but the term "wholeness" is more nebulous to me.

Keri, I agree with you about the "problem" of wholeness.  Although, I think even Jung would have said that the ideal of wholeness is a fantasy never attainable.  It is precisely the movement toward wholeness that Jungian individuation was oriented by.

But the term "wholeness" itself has a spiritualistic connotation (partially because of the way it has been bandied about by New Agey Jungians and partly because it connotes completion).  Any term that connotes completion in a psychological or spiritual journey is a siren toward which inflation rushes.  Yet again I reason why this website is called Useless Science and why I like to talk of the spiritual orientation as the Work.  Even individuation must, or is meant to, result in a state of individuatedness . . . also a completion or attainment.  One has become "individuated". 

But of course, what the Work tells us (repeatedly and often somewhat sadistically  ;)) is that the fantasized goals of great attainment are eventually washed away, depotentiated . . . and we go on as normal human beings still prone to all the same failings and foibles and, well, humanness.

So my questions are, 1) what is "wholeness" and do you think there is a tendency toward it?

I prefer terms like "interrelatedness" or "interconnection" to wholeness, but they are minor semantic edits.  It seems there is a logical problem of human psychology.  Namely, that psyche tends to compartmentalize or dissociate as information (especially overpowering and traumatic information) is perceived and processed.  There is also a self-organizing tendency (sleep and dreaming, most obviously) to psyche . . . but it seems frequently over-matched by the dissociating tendency of perception.

Behind individuation and Jungian movement toward wholeness, I see a more efficient way of organization our systems of memory/psyche/information.  The archetypal push (that Jung sees the transcendent function arise from) against dissociated egoism is, I think, an instinctual drive to reorganize, maintain, and make more efficient the system of psyche (and therefor, identity, ego, adaptability, etc.).  It isn't just that more and more psychic contents should be related to one another.  The process is more elaborate.  Certain contents that can be related will produce more functional thinking and behavior.  And the psyche also needs a system of valuation to rank and organize these psychic relationships.  If the valuation ranking is dysfunctional, the interrelation of psychic contents will also be dysfunctional.

Wholeness, then, is the ideal or fantasy of a perfectly efficient and adaptable psychic system.  But since there is constant pressure placed on the efficiency of this system (anxiety) to decohere, there is never a state of completion.  It is a living system, always adapting, always moving.  There is never any real stasis or final equilibrium . . . only an ongoing homeostatic process that is simply what life is.

The spiritualistic wholeness addicts in the Jungian community fail to fully understand this fact.  There can never be completion in the spiritual quest, because the psyche is never static.  As Jesus said (paraphrasing): the only completion (or way to conquer death) is death itself.  The spiritualistic imagination and disease is characterized by the desire for stasis while still alive.  That is the return to Eden, a heaven as perfect comfort.  This is simply not compatible with the state of living and being.  The conflict here leads to inflation, a fantasy of completion, a declaration that one has "arrived" at the static condition of Knowing.

But of course, Knowing is endless and dynamic.  Knowing (gnosticism) means to always be investigation, learning, constructing, revising . . . to always be driven by life force, libido.

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

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Matt Koeske

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Re: Wrestling with the Transcendent Function
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2008, 11:24:11 AM »

2) how is this tendency or transcendent function related to what you (Matt) are calling the superadaptive instinct?

I will write more about the transcendent function as soon as I get more time to do so.  For now, I'll just say that I find it woolly, and I feel it needs to be significantly redefined.  In fact, I feel the term "transcendent function" should simply be discarded . . . even though Jung had many intelligent and import things to say about it.  We need to build on that knowledge, but such building leads us to the rejection of the term which characterizes this psychic phenomenon.

My term, "superadaptive instinct", is not meant to be a replacement for the transcendent function, per se, although there is significant overlap.  I have come to increasingly suspect that the drive behind the superadaptive instinct is the complex self-organizing principle of the human psyche.  What I am stabbing (in the dark) at is an actual biological principle that "explains" (or grants a functional hypothesis for) why we individuate and how we form and reform ego and organize psyche.  Jung's transcendent function is not in any way an attempt to dig through into biology.  It's an observation of psychic phenomena that is drawn from dreams, fantasies, and myth/religion.

In contrast, I believe that whatever the superadaptive instinct may be is a true, materialistic life force that drives the individual toward adaptation . . . and is therefore heavily dependent (for its form and function) on the specific environmental conditions the individual lives in.  That is, it's not really "built" to make us into spiritual, transcendent beings, gurus, true believers, Knowers, etc.  It is simpler and less abstract than this.  It is just a function of systemic organization and maintenance that is driven toward organizational efficiency.  It is very much an instinct, because it applies drive or libido and compels thoughts and behaviors.

I remain uncertain that the term superadaptive instinct is the right one or that any term for this organizing principle is really functional (i.e., not misleading in very much the same way that Jung's transcendent function is a misleading term).  But for now, I'm using it as a place holder because (as Jung also saw) there is definitely something there to be named and investigated.


I have to take Leo to see Speed Racer now  (-)monkbggrn(-).  But I'll write more extensively on the transcendent function and why/how it should be revised (in my opinion) as soon as I get a chance.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

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Matt Koeske

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Re: Wrestling with the Transcendent Function
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2008, 04:34:28 PM »
Quote
When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego's absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive. Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.[Ibid., par. 824.]

Although Jung doesn't explain the transcendent function in this exact way elsewhere, I take issue with the notion that the ego "participates absolutely in both of the Opposites" (or attitudes).  I think that these depressions and break downs that lead to confrontations with the unconscious tend to be entirely the result of dysfunctional egoism (not of tension or conflict between ego and unconscious, per se).  That is, the ego, one's sense of identity and conscious will, insists on living in a way that is not conducive to psychic balance or adaptation.  Usually, this is a fractured or dissociated state in which instinctual libido cannot flow into conscious living.  I see it as a state of decoherence or impaired interconnectivity.  The psychic system is not efficiently organized, so libido bottlenecks and bogs down, cannot flow.

One doesn't have to consciously valuate the unconscious Opposite attitude to become depressed.  Depression form many (probably even most) people is at first mysterious.  Many depressed people feel that their bodies and personalities have let them down.  But the bottlenecking of libido can lead to dangerous build-ups . . . and these tend to result in rash, sometimes self-destructive behavior.  Jung would call the emotions that drive these rash behaviors and attitudes "affect".

What I suspect we are dealing with in these situations is a natural flowing source of energy like a river.  The ego (as culture often dictates) dams up the river in certain ways (or smaller tributaries of the main river) by compartmentalizing/dissociating or insisting on rigid beliefs that are not actually conducive to functional humanness.  The "antithesis" that rises up from the unconscious is the pressure of the flow of libido that has not been given enough channels to flow through.

At some point, this antithetical pressure might begin to seem appealing.  The depressive ego approaches the "just kill me already!" phase, because the feeling of loss and anxiety and confusion is too much to bear.  The individual loses a healthy sense of value for his or her life.  But the antithetical impulse from the unconscious is merely the result of the damming of libido . . . which was probably an unconscious egoic choice (although in the case of trauma, there may be more going on . . . perhaps as Kalsched suggests).  That is, the libido of the psyche is not truly aligned against the ego.  It only seems this way to the ego that clings to its old paradigms so rigidly (and terribly) that any threat to those paradigms is seen as an attack or violation.

Of course, there are also times in which we have split conscious attitudes and the unconscious appears to back on more than another.  We see this frequently in our dreams in which the dream ego feels some sense of conflict with another character.  Sometimes these conflicts are fairly cordial and the other is an intimate or family member or friend.  Sometimes it's a battle with a dangerous shadow figure (such as when we are consciously still completely opposed to the alternate attitude).  In these situations, what Jung called the transcendent function may produce the beginning of a synthesis.

The ball I'd like to run with here (and the beginning of my redefinition) can be found in this beginning of synthesis.  The so-called transcendent function is better called (in my opinion), the syzygy . . . as it is composed of two forces.  The first force is the attractiveness of the Other, the Opposite attitude or orientation.  As soon as that attitude stops becoming terrifying (the shadow) and begins to seem attractive, compelling, fascinating (even just a little), the transcendent function has begun.  Out of the shadowy Other, the animi are born . . . and they tend to emerge gradually.

You should have seen all the poetry I wrote about the Dark Woman in the years before I started my anima work proper.  She went from a seductress and betrayer to a Fallen woman who could be redeemed to a goddess misunderstood.

The other half of the syzygy is the hero, and there is (I feel) an exact accordance of the degree of attractiveness of the animi-Other with the degree of identification in the ego with the hero archetype.  This is why I frequently call this archetype the "heroic ego" . . . it is meant to be identified with.  Of course, there is instinctual libido and Otherness behind this heroic strength and drive . . . but we could see this as somehow conducted or inspired by a larger source of personality (larger than the ego).  This larger personality, the Self, is pushing to broken parts together, one with each hand.

Therefore, the inclination of the hero is to fight against the dissociation or blockage in the psychic system, and equally, to love and move toward the animi.  As I wrote in detail in the thread about the hero, this is why I feel that the characterization of the hero archetype as the dragon slayer or conqueror is psychically misguided.  The archetypal hero's job is to oppose decoherence to the psychic system (often embodied by the Demon of the complex), love the animi-Self unconditionally, and eventually sacrifice her or himself for the "cause" of this love.  I.e., the hero's libido and sense of power is not hers/his, it belongs and always belonged to the Self.  And when it is no longer needed, because the ego has accepted the love of the animi-Self, the hero must die.  To try to hold onto the hero after this time is to usurp the Self's libido.  It is done not for the Self or the whole psyche, but for the empowerment and protection of the ego position. 

This is why, at this turning point, if the heroic ego refuses to relinquish his or her power, the Demon possesses the hero . . . and what is believed to be heroic is actually Demonic (i.e., self-defensive, dissociated, static).  Of course, no one succeeds in short-circuiting the Demon without first failing many times and falling into Demon-possessed inflation.  But the instinctual libido trying to self-regulate the psychic system doesn't give up, so we will keep getting more chances.  Eventually, if we are honorable and lucky, we will figure out that we must accept the loss of the heroic libido.

Some of this is a bit abstract or mythological, but I think it is a much better way to talk about the transcendent function than the more conventional Jungian approach.  It puts a lot more flesh on the bone, in my opinion, and it leaves the theory a little less mystical and airy.  Also, the original concept of the transcendent function that Jung offered tends to make too rigid an intellectual paradigm for my tastes.  I.e., thesis, antithesis, synthesis . . . war of the Opposites, the mysterious rise of the Third Thing.  I know what he was on about, but that language is too arcane, too occult.

It's also not entirely accurate, even as metaphor.  For instance, Jung's notion gives way too much respect to the ego position in this paradigm.  The Third Thing, the result of undertaking individuation and doing the animi work is not in any way a 50/50 blend of old ego position and new/unconscious position.  I think we much more commonly experience these transformations as radical and not as even compromises.  Yes, there is plenty of the old ego in the new ego, but the result of individuation Work is not a bargain, no a business transaction in which each party makes the best profit they can.  More often, the ego is shatter, dissolved, and radically rebuilt.  The orientation we end up with bears more resemblance to the antithetical attitude than to the thesis or original egoic attitude.

That this happens is perhaps confusing if we stick to Jung's terminology, but seen in the terms I presented it above, it make much more sense and becomes logical and easy to anticipate.  Why then did Jung make this synthesis seem like such an even-handed compromise?  My guess is that this is due to his own struggles with inflation (both archetypal/heroic and egoic/Demonic).  Jung fought against his temptations of archetypal inflation mightily and frequently prescribed a "strong ego" and sense of groundedness with which to fend off these "anima temptations".

Sometimes we can buy a little time with this approach, but I think it is impractical.  We can't have our cake and eat it to.  If we are to learn, we must Fall, and to Fall is to suffer enormously.  We cannot sit down smartly at the table with the Self and broker a reasonable deal.  That is a transaction, not a myth, no a quest.  If we do not end up in the belly of the beast, we cannot learn how to be individuants.

What is regrettable about this is that Jung seems to have followed this more mythic (as opposed to business transactional) path . . . and yet he was disinclined (perhaps for obvious reasons) to prescribe it in his psychological theories .  My feeling is that he made too big a bogeyman out of inflation, probably because he was so ashamed of what it did to him.  Jung was constantly recommending to others that they allow the psychic contents to be non-literalized, to be mythologized so that it's narrative could play out.  Why then is inflation not treated this way in the Jungian method?  Instead, it is a very literalized bogeyman and massive moral failing against which the only defense is willful resistance and a strong ego.  Bullocks!

Jung deviated from his general approach on the issue of inflation and that (as he and all Jungians should know) is an indication of a complex getting tweaked.  I won't go into this more here, because I've written about it elsewhere and it would also require too much digression, but it should be kept on the table as we examine Jung's notion of the transcendent function.


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

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Matt Koeske

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Re: Wrestling with the Transcendent Function
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2008, 05:04:01 PM »
Quote
Once the unconscious content has been given form and the meaning of the formulation is understood, the question arises as to how the ego will relate to this position, and how the ego and the unconscious are to come to terms. This is the second and more important stage of the procedure, the bringing together of opposites for the production of a third: the transcendent function. At this stage it is no longer the unconscious that takes the lead, but the ego.[Ibid., par. 181.]

Here we see what I am calling the emergence of the heroic ego.  I disagree with Jung that the ego "takes the lead" here . . . and in fact, that he would say this is, I think, waves flag that points us back to one of his major theoretical mistakes and probably the root of his own Demonic inflation.  That is, what he is doing here is conflating the ego with the hero.  It is not the ego that takes the lead at this point, it's the hero with whom the ego begins to increasingly identify.  In fact, I would say that the hero no more "takes the lead" at this point that the anima or animus does.  As these halves of the syzygy approach one another, each becomes increasingly empowered and energized.  They really are the same thing split into two parts and are drawn to nothing more than their reunion.

I would even say that Jung's notion of ego leadership suggests a devaluation of the animi, who is (as emissary of the Self) much more likely to be calling the shots at this point than the hero.  The hero become increasingly compliant with the momentum of the animi-Self as the two approach each other, so it is incorrect to say that the ego is conducting anything.  If the ego feels it is conducting the process or "taking the lead" (and it often does . . . in this sense Jung is right), then it is delusional and suffering from inflation.  If this inflation is extreme enough, individuation will stall, the syzygy will not be reunited.

Quote
This process requires an ego that can maintain its standpoint in face of the counterposition of the unconscious. Both are of equal value. The confrontation between the two generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living, third essence.

This is Sharp's quote, not Jung's . . . but this is precisely the attitude I feel is counterproductive to the Work.  This attitude is the result of Demonic inflation.  The Demon of the complex loves to put on the hero's costume, but unlike the real hero, the Demon is always characterized by stasis, imprisonment, repression.  It is often very easy to mistake this for heroic honor.  The difference is that the demon restraint is ultimately self-serving, self-protective . . . and heroic honor's restraint is always used to protect the Other.


Quote
From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. If, for instance, we conceive the opposition to be sensuality versus spirituality, then the mediatory content born out of the unconscious provides a welcome means of expression for the spiritual thesis, because of its rich spiritual associations, and also for the sensual antithesis, because of its sensuous imagery. The ego, however, torn between thesis and antithesis, finds in the middle ground its own counterpart, its sole and unique means of expression, and it eagerly seizes on this in order to be delivered from its division.["Definitions," CW 6, par. 825.]

I simply do not see any such middle ground in my own experience or in the experiences of others I have had the privilege of observing.  It is not, in my opinion, that the initial compensation of the ego position by the unconscious is antithetical "in equal measure" to the Third Thing.  What I see happening is that the first glimpse we (as egos) get of this instinctual compensation (reorganizational impulse), is drastically misunderstood and shadowed.  It is foreign to the ego position and so initially seems destructive and terrible.  But as the Work proceeds this initial shadowed antithesis is not to be resisted by the ego.  Rather, it is to be valuated and enriched.  As we do this consciously, we invest the shadow figure (or shadow-animi) with new value that allows us to see its complexity, its other dimensions, it's worth.  But if we look back at our initial impressions, I bet that we will often see (in our dreams for instance) that even the initial shadow figure had many signs that hinted at its hidden complexity and worth to the ego.

This is certainly not always the case, but I would say that it frequently is.  When it is not, my guess is that this pure shadowiness is the product of an equally extreme and polarized ego position that adamantly refuses to see value in the Other.  I can definitely attest, on a personal level, to having been perceived this may by many people in my life, even though I had no ill intentions toward them at all.  If one or something, some dream or fantasy figure represents the possibility of change to one's ego, we should keep in mind that nothing is more terrifying than this.  The Demon hates nothing more than change, and so it will cast all of its darkness and terror upon any agent that potentially represents change (if the Demon in our personalities is quite powerful).

The complication with this is that the archetypal shadow (which is the initial representation of the Self, of the unconscious, of the instinctual libido) is not the same thing as the Demon . . . but the two get interwoven constantly.  Rather, the Demon gets projected onto the shadow in many cases, as if it were a sleight of hand.  It's a matter of self-defense.  The Demonically possessed ego projects its own terrible and oppressive Demonism onto the shadow . . . and thereby prevents it (at least temporarily) from ever becoming attractive and transforming into the animi.  [it is also worth noting that there is another common dream figure typically called the personal shadow, which is another sliver of the ego and not usually a darkened Self figure.  I won't be able to go into this here.]

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

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matt Koeske

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Re: Wrestling with the Transcendent Function
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2008, 05:34:42 PM »
The transcendent function is essentially an aspect of the self-regulation of the psyche. It typically manifests symbolically and is experienced as a new attitude toward oneself and life.

I'm more on board with this statement of Sharp's . . . especially the self-regulation part.  But the unavoidable confusion in this statement is a matter of the transcendent function "manifesting" at all.  Does it?  And it can only be detected in a new attitude?

It's no wonder that no one can ever really pin down what it is.  If we assume that the trans. function manifests in a new attitude toward oneself and life, we run the risk of perpetuating inflation.  I.e., ones attitude is seen as transcendent, as the Third Thing.  And of course, we do not truly have attitudes . . . they have us.  We ARE our attitudes . . . and so, if we have a transcendent new attitude, we must be transcendent personalities.  It's a slippery slope.

In my experience, "products of the Work" rarely manifest.  Sometimes we can make major changes that redefine the way we interact with others, the way we live.  But mostly, individuation's "attitudes" stay introverted.  How does one share them or communicate them?  Is it possible?  Not usually without trying to sell your myth to someone else, that myth in which you are hero-identified.  Few would be willing to buy . . . and perhaps most of those who are are only accentuating your delusion by believing it.

This points back to what I said above about not literalizing psychic phenomena (which included psychizing spiritual phenomena).  Myths like this can only be shared between people through the vessel of transference . . . and such vessels are Hermetically sealed and keep their contents safe from the intrusions of the world.  But we can't carry these transferences out into the world.  They are a software dependent on a specific hardware platform.

When we actually do the Work and feel ready to start emerging from our vessels of transformation, our chrysalises, we are always faced with a whole new problem: how do we share this experience with others.  This inability to easily share it sometimes makes us feel "initiated" and "chosen" . . . but this is just as much a Mark of Cain . . . and sometimes our feeling of initiation (in the Mysteries) is the expression of inflation (i.e., when we accept it as a reason not to interact with or relate to other people who hold different beliefs, worship different gods).

It is also worth noting that the Demon can easily hijack the sense of attainment in our new transcendent attitudes.  Therefore, genuine individuation events tend to conclude with feelings of new confusion and humility.  A sense of being adrift in larger (perhaps rougher) seas.  We think, "What the hell just happened?  Am I really different now?  I don't know."

When we have a confrontation with the unconscious and come out feel transformed, renewed, reborn, saved, enlightened, etc. . . . my first inclination would be to think this is bullshit.  We have either found a new tribe to accept us or we are inflated with the hero (i.e., the Demon has become a hero doppelganger, or we have given over the persona of the hero to the purpose and drive of the Demon).  Neither of these constitute real individuation.

Real individuation events conclude (or plateau, more frequently) with a new sense of smallness in the face of a world or a Self which is vast and complex.


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The psyche does not merely react, it gives its own specific answer to the influences at work upon it.[Some Crucial Points in Psychoanalysis," CW 4, par. 665.]

The process of self-regulation is going on all the time within the psyche. It only becomes noticeable when ego-consciousness has particular difficulty in adapting to external or internal reality.

Yes, and this is why the "function" here is not transcendent.  It is an always ongoing process of psychic organization, memory consolidation, systemic efficiency-improving.  What makes it acquire all of the trappings of a transcendent or mythic experience (numen) is the wrench thrown in the gears (unintentionally) by the ego, but the insistence on rigid, non-adaptive, dysfunctional conscious attitudes.  The system reacts to this disruption in its flow in a logical way.

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

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]