Author Topic: The Complementarian Self  (Read 15408 times)

Matswin

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The Complementarian Self
« on: March 11, 2011, 12:12:32 PM »
The Complementarian Self

Abstract: The self, representing the wholeness of the psyche, has in different guises functioned as a role model for the individual, throughout history. In the Christian era, the ideal of the spiritual individual who is morally perfect (Jesus Christ), through its very one-sidedness, created a reversal of its spirit into materialism. Psychologist Carl Jung, renounced the ideal of perfection and proposed an ideal of completeness. The consequences are no less deleterious. The traditional spiritual ideal must cofunction with a this-worldly (quaternarian) ideal of spirit, following the principle of complementarity as defined by physicists.

Keywords: self, psychic structure, complementarity, C.G. Jung, trinitarian, quaternity, transcendence, Christ.

Read the article here:
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-73784/compself.htm

Mats Winther

Sealchan

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2011, 06:49:10 PM »
I think that I agree with your basic premise and I have some further musings to share...

For me I can see the dichotomy of the goals of completeness vs perfection.  They are, I think, two sides of the same coin.  They constellate different material in the unconscious.  I think that the ascendancy and spirituality of the trinity reflects a process in time whereas the completeness approach to self knowledge has a more eternal association.  When I think of Jung's dream of Uriah I see a dream character, Uriah, who is ascendant, but, in the due course of time, destined for a fall.  And so I see in this a cyclical time pattern of the successive rise and fall, inflation and deflation of the ego.  There is a progression here that is lacking in the Sultan who sits in balance presumably beyond the realm of time.  

It may be that if you load the completeness and perfection ideas with eternity and time respectively, you can then elaborate the complimentarity of the two principles into a slightly more complex archetypal pairing that might lend itself to further comparison to physics in the form of the incompleteness theorem.  And if you see how this correspondence extends the intuitive field of meaning then perhaps you can reverse the application and reveal how fundamental concepts in science are shaped by archetypal patterns themselves (in the mode of Jung and Pauli's collaboration on synchronicity).  Oh, and there might be some connection from the incompleteness theorem to why Jung could not bow all the way...
« Last Edit: March 11, 2011, 06:59:21 PM by Sealchan »

Matswin

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2011, 01:47:05 AM »
But Uriah was located beyond the temporal sphere, whereas Akbar was located in the middle of the clockwork. But intuitively I see your point, that Uriah is destined to return, similar to Quetzalcoatl or Christ, who will return in the Second Coming. I understand the trinitarian longing after transcendence, ascendancy as you call it, as an inner urge to transcend the worldly, in order to cleanse the self of all particulars. This notion did not appeal to Jung, whose notion of the spirit depended on experience. He rejected the view of Juan de la Cruz, namely that the soul shall be brought to stillness, in the dark night of the soul, to leave room for the infusion of God's spirit.

Speaking of Pauli, I remember that he discussed an image of the self that first appeared in dreams, which constituted a complicated clockwork that extended in an extra dimension. If anybody is acquainted with his writings on this three-dimensional self image, please recount it here. It could have something to do with a complementary self, as he was very much into complementarity.

Mats

Matswin

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2011, 03:44:31 AM »
In the article I try to explain why the self ideals have been so different in
history, and why there is this strong tendency to imitate it (for instance, the
'imitatio Christi'). It has to do with the fact that eiter side in the
complementary model is a viable wholeness, in itself:

Jung followed the completeness ideal, and he liked to think of himself as a
modern Merlin. Krishnamurti (a very Christlike person, but nothing like the
historical Jesus) followed the transcendental ideal. Both individuals had a very
different view of things. Krishnamurti, refuted any psychological, inner,
evolution or "becoming", and said that any movement away from inner emptiness
is an escape. Despite their mutual irreconcilability, both perspectives carry a
great deal of truth, because it is the truth about the self. (Remember the
principle that either of the two sides in the complementary model is a
functioning wholeness, in itself, although it doesn't suffice to describe
reality.) Both persons, believing that they had found the right path to the
self, tried to realize the self, not knowing that the self is complementarian
(complementary).

What does this mean? It means that both persons, while they were right, they
were also utterly wrong, because their vision of the self does not include its
complementary. Krishnamurti manifested a Christlike ideal, while Jung, to a
degree, manifested a modern Merlin. While they both represented a vision of the
self that is a wholeness in itself, it fails to epitomize the whole truth about
the self. To the extent that they identified with the self, they also estranged
themselves from its complementary opposite. To manifest the self is to become
alienated from the self. Jung observed that the saintly practice of 'imitatio
Christi' alienated religious devotees from the self of completeness. History is
replete with tragic victims of 'imitatio Christi'. On the other hand, the
'imitatio Merlini' among modern paganists, would alienate the subject from the
self of transcendence, the consequences of which I discussed above. The
conclusion is that it is a mistake to throw out the complementary opposite,
because it inevitably leads to identification with the self. However, this topic
is very paradoxical. I don't claim to have wholly understood it.
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-73784/compself.htm

Mats Winther

Matswin

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2011, 03:04:07 PM »
I have now expanded on Pauli's vision of the world-clock, which Jung analyses, and added a new chapter. Please read and comment.
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-73784/compself.htm

Mats

Sealchan

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2011, 05:54:48 PM »
Modern physics has certainly taught us the notion that it may simply be the case that phenomenon cannot be reduced to a single rational expression but may consist of two complimentary but rationally irreconcilable expressions or descriptions.  In fact, having had this possibility held up to those who have taken the time to understand the complementarity principle will now have a new intuitive idea to apply to other realms as you have done here with Jung's and Pauli's numerology of the Self. 

My take is this, that if you see this sort of thinking as highly intuitive and then consider, "How is it that intuition is perceiving similar patterns in very different subject matter?" you get to asking questions about how the brain works and how the brain makes the world even when the brain is perceiving the world.  So when you looked at Pauli's dream that Jung analyzed and brought up the problem of 3 and 4, I thought immediately of a theory I sketched out just recent on this site here:

http://uselessscience.com/forum/index.php?topic=638.msg2330#msg2330

What this does is to bring up a possible neural grounding for why 4 is often a way to describe a whole.  It potentially provides the ground upon which 4 is to be declared as an archetypal pattern; that is, because it is a re-usable pattern that the conscious function of intuition "can apply" in coordination with the neural architecture underlying color differentiation (at a certain level).  By reducing the archetypal pattern to a brain architecture/functional specification you get the following:

1.  An explanation for why 4 as a numerical archetype of wholeness seems like a consistent (true) perception that is not simply subjective wish fulfillment

2.  A perspective from which to establish the validity and limitations of such a view on the archetype

3.  A perspective from which to reconsider the validity and limitations of the physics theories that also partakes of the archetypal quality of 4 as whole

Now if intuition can apply a pattern of 3 as whole in a similar fashion then you can establish the two systems as complimentary if you establish that each one is equally valid yet differently constructed by the funciton of intuition.  If you rationally trace out each theory they may easily conflict because they are, after all, based on the irrational perception of intuition, and like sensation, the perception functions of consciousness are not concerned with establishing a system of interconnected truths so much as they are concerned with establishing so called facts of perception.

So if my theory or another like it is true of the archetype of 4 as whole, then there is established a physical, inhereted ground for the archetype that is as dynamic as its various conscious images have shown.  This lends validity to the idea of archetypes scientifically.  At the same time, any scientific theory that happens to posit a four-fold system suddenly comes under suspicious because we can also see how the function of intuition as a brain architecture/function plays a role in creating or prefering this configuration.  To my mind, then, we have complimentarity between an objective role of 4 as archetypal pattern of the psyche and a subjective role of 4 as whole in casting our scientific and other perspectives on wholes in terms of 4.  The subject/object view is, perhaps, the highest order complimentarity and it saturates so-called objective science when that science applies intuitive, abstractions to nature.  I think this is what Pauli was arguing in his portion of the book he wrote with Jung on synchronicity.

So with this you can deconstruct such scientific ideas of the "four forces of nature" because you can start with a simple skepticism.  Are there really four forces?  Well, as soon as you look at the nitty-gritty, or what I would call a sensation-type attitude, you see that there are really five forces but two were "united" a relatively long time ago.  The more you look the more you can deconstruct the relevance of the archetypal pattern of 4 as whole as either coincidence or "subjective" influence of the intuitive function.  This brings in the complimentarity of intuition and sensation which may see the same phenomenon but produce very different perceptions from it; both equally valid (true) yet different.

Of course, then you also have the cultural overlay which amplifies the archetypal and also gives images and ideas energy by virtue of their historical existence.  Jung can then find support for his archetypes (or consistent intuitions) by examining archetypal images from different cultures from different times.  What he is "really" doing, as an Intuitive Thinker, is to delineate universal ways in which the brain works to perceive "unconscious patterns" through the function of intuition.




Matswin

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2011, 09:14:11 AM »
Your argument builds on the notion that we are archetypally predisposed for seeing things, for instance, in terms of trinitarian or quaternarian wholenesses. But is this enough to explain why people devote their whole lives to the trinitarian spirit, by becoming Buddhist monks, etc.? Does a perception of reality in what regards the wholeness of life, motivate a person so strongly? I would argue that such a thinking is lopsided toward consciousness, because it only predicts that our predispositions of perception will determine our cognition in certain ways. But an analysis on Jungian lines would put more emphasis on the unconscious, namely that we are affected by "thoughts and feelings" developed through the millennia in the unconscious. Therefore I would tend to see the complementarian self as constitutional, that is, the "completeness-self" and the "oneness-self" are both constitutional. It would better explain why people can passionately devote their whole lives to such ideals, as they are driven by an age-old unconscious force. However, it is possible that I overestimate the constitutional factor, and that we are, in fact, a more "sociological" species than Jungians generally believe.

Mats Winther

Matswin

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2011, 06:41:49 AM »
I have now enhanced the article as I believe it has great relevance to alchemy. The hermaphrodite in alchemy is reinterpreted in terms of the "complementarian self". It differs from Jung's understanding of the end goal of alchemy as the realization of the conjunct conscious and unconscious — the integrated self. Instead the hermaphrodite, or the 'lapis philosophorum', is the result of a largely autonomous process that occurs relatively independent of the ego. If this is correct, the ego need not undergo the radical transformations that Jung portrays, involving a psychological crisis, or severe depression. The renovated self, as such, as the wonder-working 'lapis', will influence the ego, as an after-effect. This reinterpretation, however, does not refute Jung's view of alchemy, but it affects the most important aspects, namely how to view the relation with the unconscious, and the way in which the spiritual journey is accomplished.

The added alchemical section is here:
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-73784/compself.htm#rebis

Mats Winther

Sealchan

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2011, 03:15:22 PM »
Your argument builds on the notion that we are archetypally predisposed for seeing things, for instance, in terms of trinitarian or quaternarian wholenesses. But is this enough to explain why people devote their whole lives to the trinitarian spirit, by becoming Buddhist monks, etc.? Does a perception of reality in what regards the wholeness of life, motivate a person so strongly? I would argue that such a thinking is lopsided toward consciousness, because it only predicts that our predispositions of perception will determine our cognition in certain ways. But an analysis on Jungian lines would put more emphasis on the unconscious, namely that we are affected by "thoughts and feelings" developed through the millennia in the unconscious. Therefore I would tend to see the complementarian self as constitutional, that is, the "completeness-self" and the "oneness-self" are both constitutional. It would better explain why people can passionately devote their whole lives to such ideals, as they are driven by an age-old unconscious force. However, it is possible that I overestimate the constitutional factor, and that we are, in fact, a more "sociological" species than Jungians generally believe.

Mats Winther

Archetypes help to allow unconscious contents come into consciousness.  So if one has a need to relate to a whole which, like God, one cannot face directly but only through an intermediary due to its vastness, power, etc..., then the archetype can allow lidibo to flow (through consciousness) by virtue of the fact that it provides a "handle" on the whole.  Re-presenting a whole in terms of a finite number of varied parts might be what allows consciousness to handle the whole (through differentiation).  The handle allows the lidibo to be manipulable or potentially so, so that the ego can "handle" it. 

The original source of the libido as I see it is the body and the collective.  Both of these "sources" are of the unconscious as they are housed outside the conscious system, which is itself is, presumably, housed in the neural behavior of the brain.  The bodily instincts as they impact the nervous system and the outer demands of society that require individual needs to be met on collective terms are themselves autonomous energy systems.  These autonomous energy systems guide and drive the individual even as the individual attempts to resist or engage these energies and it is these energy systems which have been developed through the millenia, not anything in the neural firings of an individual's brain.  Therefore, one may assume that some great portion of what is referred to as the collective unconscious actually is "housed" in these realms.

So I might actually agree (although in a different context) that the passion (aka "libido") is best seen as coming from the unconscious, but for that passion to be at all available to consciousness, it must be made palatable/digestible/relatable to consciousness.  Archetypes of the collective unconscious arise when the conscious system cannot resolve a path to a need.  A conflict results in either one's relationship to society (persona) or to one's inner world (animi).  The perceptive function of intuition may generate, along with the differentiated knowledge of the sensation function, images which are of typical patterns that, in and of themselves, are the hallmark of intuition.  I think Jung has spoken along these lines at times regarding intuition as a function which perceives the unconscious (from Wikipedia's Intuition (knowledge) page)...

Quote
In Carl Jung's theory of the ego, described in 1921 in Psychological Types, intuition was an "irrational function", opposed most directly by sensation, and opposed less strongly by the "rational functions" of thinking and feeling. Jung defined intuition as "perception via the unconscious": using sense-perception only as a starting point, to bring forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious.

So to summarize, the individual, in order to be inspired (energized), must successfully relate to the energies available in the psychic realm.  These energies are sourced in the unconscious, but to be made available/useful/enjoyable by the individual the ego must be able to handle those energies and to do so requires, at the least, a symbolic relationship to those originally unconscious energies.  The symbol bridges the conscious to the unconscious.  A comparative analysis of symbols reveals common patterns across time and culture.  My idea is that these common patterns are the specific structures that the conscious function of intuition "uses" (as part of its objective character) to produce contents of consciousness.  These patterns are what Jung has come to call the archetypes.  My belief is that it is the very framework of the sensation function's sculpting of the cerebral cortex that is also the palette from which intuition works.  By re-mapping the sensation function's own cortical maps, intuition is able to create perceptions that have the qualities of sensation but imply "truths" that are not about sensory stimulation but about ways to order what is otherwise beyond the scope for consciousness to handle.  This is akin to how deeply embedded in our human language is metaphor. 
 




Sealchan

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2011, 03:26:47 PM »
However, it is possible that I overestimate the constitutional factor, and that we are, in fact, a more "sociological" species than Jungians generally believe.

What I continue to find is that Jung's most profound ideas are few but too many to easily juggle in the mind all at once.  I too tend to ignore the social realm vs the inner realm at times or vice versa.  It is just hard to keep a good balance of all of these ideas, yet they all have something to contribute to most discussions of things psychological.  By having these kinds of discussions with others who have a good grasp of the concepts (such as yourself) I learn to "juggle" better with Jungian ideas.  So thanks for the back and forth so far!

 I think that Jung himself in his various writings swerved and swayed tending to leave things out in one essay but to address them adequately in another essay...as if he could never quite get all his own concepts all together in a room at one time.  Perhaps he needed to update his glossary in the back of Psychological Types more often!

Matt Koeske

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2011, 05:03:15 PM »
Hi Mats,

I've spent a great deal of time studying and thinking about the Rosarium, and although it is nearly pointless to suggest that there are "correct" or perhaps even "superior" interpretations of its symbolic emblem sequence, I think there is some value in sharing a few of my thoughts (some of which differ from yours and also from Jung's).  Although Jung's scholarly knowledge of alchemy was very robust (far surpassing my own, for instance), I think he made some important interpretive errors in his efforts to psychologize alchemy.  I would locate the crux of this problem with Jung's individuation model.  I agree with Jung that there is a deep parallel between his individuation model and the alchemical opus.  But what Jung didn't seem to fully grasp (perhaps because he wanted to see alchemy as unconscious projection or not consciously realized) is that the the richest and most complex renderings of the magnum opus (as in the Rosarium sequence) are more sophisticated and complete than his individuation model.  Perhaps extensively so.  Therefore, when Jung psychologizes alchemy, he only grasps as much as his own individuation model allows him to.  He does not, for instance, base or even revise his individuation model on the alchemical opus.  He sees the parallel and assumes that individuation is the "archetype" with alchemy a pre-psychological manifestation of it (an archetypal image of the individuation process).

Most Jungians (oddly enough) don't read alchemical texts; they just take Jung's writings (and the writings of von Franz, Edinger, and others) on faith.  As nearly impenetrable as some of these writings are, this is a regrettable error.  And it is odd because Jungians have traditionally been inclined to investigate other original texts that meant a lot to Jung . . . say, the I Ching or numerous cultural myths and folktales or other occult and mystical texts (Gnostic gospels, Kabbalism, etc.).  I never bothered to read alchemical texts until I rejoined my Jungian roots about five or six years ago.  Getting alchemy from the horse's mouth can allow us to form a somewhat different picture than Jung did.  In any case, I believe you were at one point involved in Adam McLean's alchemy group, so I suppose I'm preaching to the choir.

One of the greatest and most costly errors in Jung's psychologization of the magnum opus is the conflation between "chaos" or massa confusa or (psychologically) "undifferentiated consciousness" and the alchemical prima materia and Nigredo.  In most of Jung's renderings, the alchemical process begins with "undifferentiated" prima materia or may even begin in a "Nigredo" of depression, anxiety, and confused collapse of the ego.  But it is much more traditional in actual alchemical writing to locate the Nigredo after the Solutio/Coniunctio.  The Coniunctio is the process by which the prima materia is derived, and this prima materia is a "black, blacker than black".  Prima materia/Nigredo is not some common depression or mental breakdown that Jung's patients might have experienced before they came to him for analysis.  Rather, it is the first manifestation of the Lapis (the black stage of the black, white, red progression).  Therefore, the derivation of the prima materia is a Great Work in itself.

What we see here is an error of psychologization on Jung's part.  His familiarity with depression and ego-dissolution seemed to eclipse his ability to read the actual alchemical texts that portray the derivation of the prima materia as perhaps the single most important (and most difficult) task of the opus.  If the prima materia is not properly derived, the opus (what is in the vessel) must be scrapped, and the alchemist must start from the very beginning.  A couple years back I started a topic in this forum that establishes this argument: The Alchemical Nigredo.

Another component of this psychologization error of Jung's is the conflation of the Coniunctio with a transcendent "hieros gamos".  But in alchemy proper, Coniunctio is death and utter destruction that derives the blackness of the prima materia.  In Jungian thought, Coniunctio and the later stages representing the white and red stones or elixirs (depicted by the hermaphrodites in the Rosarium sequence, emblems 10 and 17) are muddled together (and all because of Jung's exaltation of the hieros gamos, perhaps assisted by his post-heart attack vision of the marriage of Tifereth with Malchuth).

I see in Jung's psychologization a kind of unresolved inflation that ultimately undoes the kind of mystical work alchemy attempts to describe.  Jung was quite aware of this inflation, but had a very inadequate (and "un-Jungian") approach to dealing with it (an approach he unfortunately prescribe for everyone).  He felt that inflation had to be "heroically" beaten back and down by the strong ego.  The "weak" ego, would fall into inflation and suffer its delusions.  He himself practiced what he preached, I believe (especially after reading the Red Book), but this practice led to a kind of dissociation which prevented Jung from understanding the alchemical opus in its entirety and ultimately stunted, even invalidated his individuation model (even as the data he constructed his model from were all quite valid and patterned or interrelated as he generally intuited).  I believe this inflation has persisted in the Jungian model of individuation and the Jungian approach to the psyche.  I see it as part of a "Jungian disease" or cultural complex.  One aspect of this complex in the Jungian usage of alchemy is the tendency to equate the alchemical opus with a form of spiritual attainment or enlightenment.  That is, to place romantic and transcendent goals of ego "deification" upon alchemical symbols and stages.

But wherever there is inflation in Jungian thought and behavior, we can reliably predict that a "heroic" compensation will also be hunkered down battling it.  In this case, where transcendent, inflated goals are associated with alchemical stages, there is always the declaration that these attainments are either impossible or purely figurative.  The inflation is defused in this way, or at least that's the intention.  But I think what is really happening is that the unprocessed inflation is preventing the (individuation) process from progressing, and this observed lack of progression is rationalized in Jungian thought by making these stages "unattainable" or purely symbolic.  The underlying problem is the Jungian notion of the Self as a unification of ego and unconscious, as a kind of Christ figure or godman.  Where Jung wrote of the Self in this manner, the Self fails to be a true Other to the ego.  The ego thus "attains" a kind of "Selfhood".  But of course, wherever Jung begins to paint such a picture, he quickly counters with a defusing of the manifesting inflation.  But at least Jung struggled mightily with this.  Most Jungians take this sort of thing on faith, and never face the inflation of the Jungian disease at all.

But instead of a "state of egoic being or attainment", I think the rather grand hermaphrodite emblems in the Rosarium sequence (10 and 17) can be seen less inflatedly as complex attitudes toward the Self-as-Other and even toward Otherness in general.  One of the problems in Jung's psychologization is the association of alchemical Gold with "consciousness", a thing which Jung placed enormous value on.  But I would argue that the Gold in alchemy represents not "consciousness", but valuation.  That is, the assignment of value to something not-I.  That assignment requires consciousness, yes, but valuation is not equivalent to consciousness.  If we shunt our Jungianism aside a bit and try to see the magnum opus of alchemy as a complex process of valuation rather than "consciousness-raising" or enlightenment, we can depotentiate the inflation of the Jungian disease much more sustainably.  The symbolic process of transmuting base metals into gold (or more accurately, Philosophical Gold) through the use of a "Projection" of the Philosopher's Stone is a process of assigning value to what has "fallen" or appears base.  This "fallen" thing is most commonly associated with Earth, matter or "Body" in alchemy.  Alchemy is a process of re-valuating Earth/matter/Body (or in slightly more modern terminology, instinct).  The art that perfects nature is the valuative art, and the creation of the Philosopher's Stone is the creation of the valuative attitude, which is eternally self-sustaining once established (i.e., it's like "riding a bike", becomes a kind of "muscle memory").

In Rosarium emblem 17, "The Demonstration of Perfection" (where in alchemy-speak, "perfection" is what the Art does to redeem and celebrate Nature and is equivalent to what I mean by valuation) displays the core components of the valuating attitude (or Philosopher's Stone capable of transmuting base metals into Philosophical Gold).  As the concluding emblem from the "second opus" of the Rosarium sequence (the final three are, I feel, best understood as the sustainable attitudes needed to do the Work, but not part of the sequential process, per se), this emblem portrays the Red Stone/Elixir and must be contrasted with emblem 10, which depicts the White Stone/Elixir, in order for us to adequately understand its symbolism and why the alchemists saw this as a later stage of the Work.  Below on the left is emblem 10; on the right is emblem 17.  I will only go into what I feel are the most important differentiations instead of doing a complete analysis.

        
 

Areas of similarity:
Winged Hermaphrodite
Cup of three serpents on left/one "un-cupped" serpent on right
Tree on left/lower ground
Bird on right/higher ground
Standing on pedestal

Areas of contrast:
Kind of Wings: The "first opus" concludes with angel or dove wings, denoting a "spiritual" movement, or a movement driven by and ultimately exalting "spirit".  The "second opus" concludes with dragon or bat wings, denoting a chthonic movement, or a movement driven by and ultimately exalting "instinct" or "Nature".

Nature of Pedestal: complimenting the progression from "spirit" to "instinct" (or more precisely, the relocation of "spirit" or intelligent agency from the spiritual or divine to to earthly or Nature, sometimes described as the reinfusing of extracted spirit into Nature/matter), is the change in pedestal.  The crescent moon pedestal in emblem 10 floats off the ground.  The three-headed serpent in emblem 17 is the ground (is not only "earthly" and grounded, but is a part of the Earth mound itself).  The self-devouring chthonic trinity in emblem 17 can be interpreted in numerous ways.  One way that I find most useful and appropriate would be seeing this symbol as a symbol of sustainability.  It eats itself but also regenerates itself.  It's cyclical, self-sustaining Nature, a soil that devours the life it gave birth to, only to give birth and consume again and again.  The alchemist at this stage founds his or her attitude on this chthonic, instinctual energy of the body/Earth.  The alchemist of emblem 10 founds him or herself upon the transcendent, spiritual valuation of "Luna", the daughter of the Philosophers, an extraction of spirit from "base" matter.

Jung wrote an interesting essay ("On the Nature of the Psyche," CW 8 ) dealing with the relationship of spirit and instinct that gets at this very issue, but ultimately fails to fully understand that spirit is not an opposite polarity from instinct, but actually a more "anthropomorphic" or egoic interpretation of valuated instinct.  It is easier for us to value the complexity and agency of instinct when we call it spirit or God than it is when we locate that instinct in the earthly or animal.  But in order to valuate the Other (i.e., the Self-as-Other), we must continue to make essential differentiations between self and Other, between ego and Self.  The instinctual aspect of the Self is not "spiritual" or "intelligent" in the way we think a mind can be.  Instead of anthropomorphic intelligence, there is complexity, a natural condition from which intelligence can emerge (as in humans).  To know the Self objectively (a thing conditioned by the drive to valuate the Self) is to see through "spirit", which is tainted with ego and therefore not entirely Other.

Clothing: The naked lunar hermaphrodite has been stripped bare of previous egoic associations and assumptions.  Spirit extracted from matter is divested of its previous material clothing.  But in emblem 17, the hermaphrodite is clothed in the colors of the Work (red and white).  Naked, "sublimed" spirit is re-infused into a new material gown.

Kind of Fruit on the "Tree": The moon and sun trees bear 13 fruits each (as 1+3, where the singular fruit sits atop two columns of six fruits each).  This can be seen as the "fertility" of the work, perhaps the products of the valuative act of "projection".  What grows is what we valuate, and the alchemist of the White Stone valuates the Other as spirit, while the alchemist of the Red Stone valuates the Other as more "instinctual" (where the sun fruit is associated with the purified Philosophical Sulfur, associated with agency or volition; perfected, this would equate to something like natural self-organization or "energy" or libido/life force . . . which is not seen as wholly spiritual, but also as natural).  The Red Tincture (which we can see as the blood dripping from the serpents' bites and also from the pelican's breast) is the Sulfuric coloration of "spiritual libido" with natural/earthly drive and organization.

At least as important as what is growing on these trees is their relative location to the birds on the right.  As the birds on the right are elevated over the trees on the left, we could interpret this to mean that the bird symbols are meant to be exalted more or given a greater importance or valuation in the complex attitude being represented.

Kind of Bird: The crow or raven in emblem 10 is a symbol of the Raven's Head or Nigredo, the blackened prima materia that is the first manifestation of the Stone.  So even as the White/Lunar stone has derived its color through the Albedo process, what is exalted in this attitude is the Blackening, the derivation of the prima materia, the essential accomplishment on which the entire opus is founded.

The pelican in emblem 17 is feeding its nestlings with blood from its own breast.  It is a kind of Christ-like self-sacrifice, but also a motherly act.  What we valuate, we feed with blood from our own breast.  This may have a sacrificial quality to it, but the act is ultimately self-sustaining (and we can see the parallelism between this image and the three-headed, self-devouring earth serpent.  The pelican here (also a symbol for the alchemical vessel) bases its reciprocating, sustainable valuation on the natural process of cyclical, dynamic life force that drives all life in Nature.  But whereas the sustainable natural life force drives and founds the overall attitude (under the feet of the hermaphrodite), in the exalted form of the pelican, it is practiced consciously toward others.  The valuator "contains" the other in a vessel of dynamic valuation, enables the other to grow and become.

The form of conscious valuation in emblem 10 is that which distills everything to its essence (prima materia) so that it can begin to "be born".  So, it is as if, in emblem 10, I am seeing "you" as one who can be born.  I'm allowing you to "be" what you can be.  But in emblem 17, I am nurturing and feeding "you" with my valuation.  And that nurturing feeds the body/instinct as well as the spirit.

Addition of Lion in #17:  The lion in emblem 17 is the major incongruity.  The lion is often a symbol of animal/instinctual life force in alchemy, but it is a life force that can devour or dissolve.  Therefore, it is also associated with the acid that dissolves metal into prima materia.  That dissolution not only breaks down, but it binds together in solutio that which has been differentiated.  So the "instinct" behind the lion is sexual in a way.  Dissolution is desirous, erotic union.  As the lion is lying down and placed behind the hermaphrodite, we can assume that the erotic/dissolving animal drive that originally catalyzed the process is now "behind" it.  In a sense, the "ferocity" of the lion has been subdued or depotentiated, but it may be more accurate to say that it has become effectively utilized and organized in the complex system of the attitude emblem 17 depicts.  Everything in the pantheon of images we see in emblem 17 acts as an organ in the dynamic, self-sustaining system of the valuative attitude.


I have now enhanced the article as I believe it has great relevance to alchemy. The hermaphrodite in alchemy is reinterpreted in terms of the "complementarian self". It differs from Jung's understanding of the end goal of alchemy as the realization of the conjunct conscious and unconscious — the integrated self. Instead the hermaphrodite, or the 'lapis philosophorum', is the result of a largely autonomous process that occurs relatively independent of the ego. If this is correct, the ego need not undergo the radical transformations that Jung portrays, involving a psychological crisis, or severe depression. The renovated self, as such, as the wonder-working 'lapis', will influence the ego, as an after-effect. This reinterpretation, however, does not refute Jung's view of alchemy, but it affects the most important aspects, namely how to view the relation with the unconscious, and the way in which the spiritual journey is accomplished.

I'm not sure I can agree with you that the alchemical Philosopher's Stone is "a largely autonomous process that occurs relatively independent of the ego".  There is a powerful autonomous element to the process (the "Nature" that alchemy meant to "perfect"), but seen psychologically,  it is the ego, I think, that is being reorganized . . . not as, but by the Work itself.   That is, the ego is not the product of the Work, not equivalent to the hermaphrodite or Stone, but the ego is utterly transformed by its participation in the Work.  Additionally, the ego does not intentionally and willfully "perfect nature" or consciously dictate the process of transformation within the vessel, but through its participation in the Work, the ego accesses or is "tinctured with" the valuative attitude.  Something does come into consciousness . . . even though the bulk of the participation in the process involves (symbolically) keeping a steady heat burning beneath the vessel.  More importantly, I don't think this development of the valuative attitude can occur without conscious effort or some kind of discipline.  It isn't like a typical dream that we can have an forget about at not real loss to our well-being . . . or some other autonomous bodily process . . . digestion, heartbeat, etc..

This Work may not be entirely chosen, but it must consciously be accepted.  And success with it is rare and difficult.  Happy accidents are not enough, because the Work requires massive devotion.  Alchemical "vessel tending" is, I think, called a Great Work for a very good reason.  It is equivalent to birthing and raising a child successfully ("well-enough") or creating a work of art that serves as a kind of conduit through which the artists Self is conveyed.  Like Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass or Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (to name a couple American Great Works that seem to qualify).

If we take away the "radical transformation of the ego", we are essentially removing the aspect of archetypal initiation, that is, the "mysticism" that underlies both alchemy and Jung's individuation model.  I have to admit that this is the aspect that interests me the most.

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

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Sealchan

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2011, 06:09:00 PM »
I have now enhanced the article as I believe it has great relevance to alchemy. The hermaphrodite in alchemy is reinterpreted in terms of the "complementarian self". It differs from Jung's understanding of the end goal of alchemy as the realization of the conjunct conscious and unconscious — the integrated self. Instead the hermaphrodite, or the 'lapis philosophorum', is the result of a largely autonomous process that occurs relatively independent of the ego. If this is correct, the ego need not undergo the radical transformations that Jung portrays, involving a psychological crisis, or severe depression. The renovated self, as such, as the wonder-working 'lapis', will influence the ego, as an after-effect. This reinterpretation, however, does not refute Jung's view of alchemy, but it affects the most important aspects, namely how to view the relation with the unconscious, and the way in which the spiritual journey is accomplished.

The added alchemical section is here:
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-73784/compself.htm#rebis

Mats Winther

So are you saying that the conscious involvement of the individual is as a by-stander and that the individual cannot impact the development of their own psychology?

Matswin

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2011, 12:39:20 PM »
Matt, (true to your habit you write half a book). I concur partly with your critique of Jung's understanding of alchemy. Certainly, there is an inflational component in Jung's version, how he sees the conjunction as the united conscious and unconscious. It requires that the ego is dissolved in the unconscious, to unite with the Self, a demand that very few people are psychologically capable of, or are prepared to go through. In that case alchemy is for a tiny little élite only. How many Jungians have lived through such an extreme crisis at the very border of schizophrenia? This is ultra-elitism, the alchemist as daredevil, who recklessly dives into the unconscious to do battle with the dragon. I don't think this is the proper view of alchemy.

In my reading, however, the alchemical gold, the achieved coniunctio in the form of the hermaphrodite or the lapis, represents the reformed Self, as such. It is the wonder-working Stone that can heal the soul, the body and the world. Thus the ego is indirectly affected by the transformed Self, that has emerged in the unconscious thanks to a process of Nature, with a helping hand from the Art.

Sealchan, in a sense the artifex is an "active bystander", who provides the right conditions for the Stone to grow out of Nature, by itself. Salomon Trismosin (Splendor Solis) says in the Introduction and in the First Treatise:

"[Quicksilver] is a material common to all metals; but it should be known that the first thing in nature is the material gathered together out of the four elements through Nature's own knowledge and capacity. The philosophers call this Material Mercury or Quicksilver. It is not a common mercury: through the operation of Nature it achieves a perfected form, that of gold, silver, or of both metals. There is no need to tell of it here: the natural teachers describe it very clearly and adequately in their books. On this the whole art of the Stone of the Wise is based and grounded, for it has its inception in Nature, and from it follows a natural conclusion in the proper form, through proper natural means [...]
For this one must decoct and putrefy it after the manner and secrets of the Art, so that by art one affords assistance to Nature. It then decocts and putrefies by itself until time gives it proper form. Art is nothing but an instrument and preparer of the materials - those which Nature fits for such a work - together with the suitable vessels and measuring of the operation, with judicious intelligence. For as the Art does not presume to create gold and silver from scratch, so it cannot give things their first beginning. Thus one also does not need the art of Nature's own secret to possess the minerals, since they have their first beginning in the earth [...]
Through the secrets of the Art they can be made rapidly and manifested complete, born from temporal matter through Nature. Nature serves Art, and then again Art serves Nature with a timely instrument and a certain operation.

I think it is obvious from the above that the process is highly autonomous (it "decocts and putrefies by itself"), but that it must constantly be nourished with the fiery element, because the salamander thrives on fire. I don't mean to say that the artifex leaves the decoction alone and goes away to see to his other interests. He is always present, but in a more passive way than how Jung portrays it. I think the artifex' attitude is more like that of the Christian mystic. Piety plays a big role, I believe. It is this attitude which provides the fiery element, symbolic of the energy that goes back into the unconscious. To this is added meditations in some form.

Mats Winther

Sealchan

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2011, 08:28:06 PM »
Quote
Sealchan, in a sense the artifex is an "active bystander", who provides the right conditions for the Stone to grow out of Nature, by itself. Salomon Trismosin (Splendor Solis) says in the Introduction and in the First Treatise:

I think I can appreciate this...I have been doing some writing and reflecting and remembering and have found that for me, when I used to visit the Pacific Coast as a child and a younger man I would spend hours digging in the sand where a coastal stream would spill out onto the shore.  I think I found something spiritual in this work and I likened the flow of libido to the flow of the streams water.  However, the conscious attitude was towards guiding that stream the stream would usually defy it to some extent if not completely undo the will of the "stream-worker".  In a lot of ways you have to know how the stream flows over rock and sand and choose carefully where you dig and where you move the rocks...then the stream does the rest of the work for you.

I'm sure there are many other analogies that involve the conscious will listening to the world and recognizing that the consciousness is really a small part, but if it chooses at just the right moment and in the right way, great changes can take place.  Or a small act can later have a great impact over time so long as that act/choice is committed to.

Matt Koeske

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Re: The Complementarian Self
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2011, 12:41:21 PM »
Matt, (true to your habit you write half a book).

Mats, it's partly habit and partly that I do have an unwritten book on this subject.  It's hard to condense a thesis like this.  Anything involving alchemy is not going to be simple, but I'm especially interested in the relationship Jung and Jungianism have with alchemy.  Jung is the great promoter and modernizer of alchemy, yet at the same time has contributed most to solidifying some important and rather large misunderstandings.

As I feel is often the case with Jung, intuitively, he sniffed out the important pillars of alchemy (where it was relevant to psychology and especially to the archetype of individuation or mysticism).  But intellectually or in his psychologizing interpretations, me made some errors.  These errors seem at first "academic", but although they are small in size, they occur in linchpin areas and have systemic repercussions.

I think that understanding and figuring out how to remedy these errors in the Jungian psychologization of alchemy is perhaps the most direct pathway to a rather alchemical rejuvenation of Jungian thought, an "elixir" for the Jungian disease.

And I don't mean to fault Jung too heavily.  Actually, I think as a pioneer (essentially THE pioneer) in the modern psychologization of alchemy, Jung accomplished a great deal and understood alchemy profoundly and deeply.  The real problem is that Jungians following Jung have been extremely thickheaded and disciple-ish.  They have neither expanded nor corrected Jung's vision of alchemy.  Von Franz deserves a great deal of credit for the time and energy she devoted to alchemy, but she would never be able to seriously deviate from or question the master.  She was true blue, especially to the more mystical, late Jung.  An excellent "soldier" perhaps, but a bit narrowminded (in retrospect, this is especially evident).  Edinger, in his own way, is even worse.  He had a slightly different approach but remained a true believer.  At least von Franz was working with Jung directly on alchemy as a kind of "co-pioneer" and has an excuse for sticking with Jung's program.  Edinger, despite also having a good mind, fails to think independently.  I find his alchemical writing the most disappointing, because I feel he of all people should have known better (as he devoted so much study to alchemy without having to answer directly to Jung).

There has been a massive failure of imagination in Jungian thought where alchemy is concerned.  Nowhere else have Jungians remained so blindly slavish to the master.  And I suspect this is so, because Jungians still don't really understand that or how Jung's individuation model is flawed.  They don't realize the difference between individuation and initiation or a true mysticism.  And so there is no criteria available to reevaluate Jung's individuation model.


I concur partly with your critique of Jung's understanding of alchemy. Certainly, there is an inflational component in Jung's version, how he sees the conjunction as the united conscious and unconscious. It requires that the ego is dissolved in the unconscious, to unite with the Self, a demand that very few people are psychologically capable of, or are prepared to go through. In that case alchemy is for a tiny little élite only. How many Jungians have lived through such an extreme crisis at the very border of schizophrenia? This is ultra-elitism, the alchemist as daredevil, who recklessly dives into the unconscious to do battle with the dragon. I don't think this is the proper view of alchemy.

I don't know.  I don't think alchemy is just some belief system for the masses, a la Christianity.  It is a genuine mysticism, and its roots stretch back to common ground with shamanism (see Mircea Eliade's The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structure of Alchemy.  I suspect that the alchemical opus is originally derived from the archetype of shamanic initiation.  One thing common to all forms of mysticism and to initiation in general is the dissolution/dismemberment/devouring of the ego.  I don't think this aspect of mysticism can or should be disposed of.  In fact, one of the greatest flaws in Jung's individuation model is that he does not call for a true dissolution of the ego.  Instead, he recommends the maintenance of a strong ego, an ego that takes up a position against the "chaotic and devouring unconscious".  This is the form of ego he demonstrates (true to his claim) in the Red Book.

Jung wanted his ego to be touched and somewhat affected by the "unconscious", but not destroyed or dissolved.  He feared the ego-loss of madness that he saw in the schizophrenic patients he tended to at the Burghölzli.  Always the doctor (whose identity is opposed to that of the patient), Jung devoted himself to resisting madness.  Yes, he feared the Red Book would make him look mad in the eyes of some of his more critical colleagues (and he may have been right about their potential interpretation), but the Red Book does not read like the rantings of an insane person.  Jung as protagonist is always the outsider, always wrestling with and often condemning the autonomous Otherness he encounters in his visions.  The Red Book is the work of an experimental rationalist, not a genuine mystic.  And I think it is all the more valuable to psychology and especially to Jungianism because of this . . . although only if it can be recognized as such.

I think you are conflating archetypal themes when you say "This is ultra-elitism, the alchemist as daredevil, who recklessly dives into the unconscious to do battle with the dragon".  The mystical or shamanic hero is not the same as the dragon-slaying solar hero of proto-modern patriarchal civilizations.  The shamanic form of heroism is found more in the capacity for ego dissolution and reconstitution, a giving over of ego to (as in your Splendor Solis quote) "Nature".  "Nature rejoices with Nature; Nature conquers Nature; Nature restrains Nature".  NOT "ego or will conquers nature".  Dragon slayers don't rely on Nature to slay dragons.  They slay by will and by might.  The saying of pseudo Democritus is a statement of nature's dynamic, self-organizing complexity from before there was a complex dynamic systems language.  It has nothing to do with human heroism or alchemical daredevilism.

Perhaps the kind of alchemist you are describing is the Faustian variety.  Jung, of course, also took issue with that kind of reckless and power-mad "heroism" (although he was also fascinated by it, and I would argue also a bit possessed).  I think Jung's personal quest for selfhood involved a lifelong struggle with his inner Faust or his inner Nietzsche/Zarathustra.  He saw the dangers and evils of this figure, but the transcendent solar "mana" tempted him.  His vision of heroism was colored by this personal struggle, and I don't think he ever managed to differentiate the conquering egoic hero from the shamanic or ego-dissolving hero.

My point is that I don't think ego-dissolution is something one can choose or embrace willfully and with intentional "daring".  Dissolution is always thrust upon the ego by some Other, by some devouring force like the alchemical Green Lion.  No one can master it.  It dissolves all Gold.  There is a difference between reckless adventuring and vocation or Calling.  Calling begins in dissolution that is not chosen, in disease, in undesired passage into death.  Spiritual adventure is a hunt for glory, a desire to see the ego triumph over its supposed opposite, something wild and brimming with unbridled appetites.

So, I agree with your criticism of that attitude, but I think you cast your net too wide and fail to make an important distinction that is actually quite evident in the archetypal literature and data of mysticism, religion, and heroic narratives.  It is not "elitism" to survive dissolution . . . and one does not survive by will (as Jung seemed to prescribe and attempt to demonstrate).  It is by Nature that one survives.  Survival of initiation's devouring or dismemberment is a mystery, even to the survivor him or herself.  There is no trick to it, no skill, no heroic might.  If there is anything at all beyond "grace", it is faith and a willingness to surrender and self-sacrifice for the sake of an Other.


In my reading, however, the alchemical gold, the achieved coniunctio in the form of the hermaphrodite or the lapis, represents the reformed Self, as such. It is the wonder-working Stone that can heal the soul, the body and the world. Thus the ego is indirectly affected by the transformed Self, that has emerged in the unconscious thanks to a process of Nature, with a helping hand from the Art.

It's a pretty complicated issue.  Some of the blending of themes in your brief description here may add to the complication.  I prefer to make certain distinctions to help a psychological language form around this.  For instance, Coniunctio is not equivalent to the hermaphrodite that represents the Stone.  Coniunctio is the final point of the Solutio at which separate "essences" are merged into one singular substance, a prima materia that is utterly black.  That is, where no sign of light or life or consciousness is present.  "Solar will" is destroyed, essentially canceled out by complete merger with "Lunar will".  Two agencies: one that represents egoic selfhood's drive to promote and sustain itself, and one that represents the Otherness constellated by the singular drive of egoic selfhood.  All of the ego's drive has been redirected at the representative of the Other (typically the animi).  Instead of self-sustenance, there is Other-valuation.  And the fulfillment of that redirected drive is death or depotentiation.  Coniunctio.  Which is also a conception.  Something is being quietly gestated and will later be born: the filius philosophorum.

Another distinction I would prefer to make is between Gold (even the Philosophical Gold) and the lapis.  The lapis is what the alchemical opus seeks to create . . . and then this lapis is what transmutes base metals into Philosophical Gold.  It valuates.  Valuation is a subjective act, a conscious assignment.  Value is not inherent as a property of a thing, it is always relative to a subject.  This is why I equate the Philosopher's Stone with the valuating attitude and not with some kind of reconstituted Self.  The Self is always there, but before the dissolution, the ego cannot really approach it or valuate it or recognize it as a distinct Other.  The alchemical Work enables the ego to develop a valuative attitude toward the Self and to begin languaging the Self or finding egoic terms that enable the Self to be manifest or understood.

Languaging doesn't significantly change the Self (which is "Body", Nature, instinct), but it can radically restructure the ego, which is essentially a language construction.  The Self in my thinking is not a "union between conscious and unconscious", nor is it a product of the Coniunctio, nor Philosophical Gold, nor the Philosopher's Stone.  I think alchemy is a process that reorganizes the ego's approach to the Self.  The Self is something that needs to be valuated like any autonomous Other.  The alchemical Work is a work on Nature or on Body/Matter that means to redeem this Matter (which had fallen onto the dung heap due to Platonic Christianity's attitude toward instinct, matter and the body).  The "perfection" of Nature is not literally a "spiritualization of Nature" or any kind of restructuring of Nature.  Rather, it is the valuation of Nature, the addition of the conscious, human, valuating attitude to the understanding of Nature . . . not through some kind of conquering and demeaning "rationalism", but through a deep and celebratory recognition that to truly understand Nature in the most sophisticated way is to see it as "intelligent", complex, alive, essential, something that must be sustained and protected.

Notably, this is the very same attitude that comes out of tribal shamanism.  We live in and as a part of complex natural systems.  And we have the power to damage them, but also the power to sustain them.  Consciousness does not make us the enemies of Nature, but its wards and its custodians.  The "Art" of this stewardship is more than some casual helping hand in a process that can go on well enough without us.  To develop the valuating or Self-facilitating attitude takes more than casual and fleeting interest.  It is a devotional and self-sacrificial process.  It is more difficult to develop this valuating attitude than it is to conquer nature of construct a transcendent spirit.  The facilitation of the Self requires that we know with great precision the difference between ego and Self, and that requires a dissolution of the ego, which teaches the individual the arbitrariness of the ego relative to the objectivity of the Self.

I agree in part that the alchemical process (or its psychological equivalent) is highly autonomous, but the tending of the vessel in which the Work is transforming as Nature dictates is no small or casual act, but a monumental and absolute sacrifice and devotion.  As analysts well know, containment or mothering or functional mirroring is the true art of analysis.  It's not dictating or giving assignments.  The metaphor of containment is nowhere better expressed than in the symbolism of the alchemical vessel and the prescribed alchemical attitude toward the tending of that vessel.  What seems relatively simple (Child's Play and Women's Work) is actually something that can only be derived from the convoluted process that alchemy describes.  It may seem insubstantial, because it is less an act than an attitude, but the development of that vessel-tending, valuative attitude is extremely difficult and utterly demanding.

It's the downplaying of this attitude that I object to and which doesn't at all accord with my own experience.

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

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