Author Topic: The solar phallus  (Read 6664 times)

Matswin

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The solar phallus
« on: October 25, 2012, 10:28:25 AM »
Concerning the innateness of the archetype and the metaphysical reality of the psyche. I hold the view that the Jungian metaphysical grounding is uncalled-for. It works anyway. The archetype of the unconscious behaves as if it were an autonomous entity. This is all we need to know. On account of this, the psyche must be regarded as real. Until further notice, reality must be accepted as it presents itself. Thus, there is no need to build a metaphysical philosophy surrounding the psyche in order to magnify it as a reality in itself. Jung develops a strong metaphysical argument, which is uncalled for. The genetic grounding of the archetype is not really in dispute. Genetic heredity, in the weak sense, can hardly be disputed, since we are in every way conditioned by our genetic constitution. However, Jung wished to explain how the archetype manifested independently in individuals, without regard to outer influences. The unconscious archetype, as such, is defined as the unacquired predisposition of the archetypal image. Jung has often returned to the case of the "solar phallus man" who was an inmate at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital in Zürich (cf. Jung, Symbols of Transformation, p.101ff & p.157ff). He believed that the sun had a phallus, responsible for the creation of the wind. Similar notions occur in mythology. Jung exemplifies with the Mithraic liturgy.


Currituck sunset (Edupic).   

He seems to think that this case is a convincing example of archetypal heredity, but it is not very compelling. After all, everybody has seen the solar phallus. The unconscious psyche is bound to take what it sees and forge it according to our animistic predisposition. The result surfaces as dreams and fantasies. The sun is a phallic force that penetrates the waters of mother Earth and impregnates her. Fantasies of this type can occur independently in individuals, without recourse to an innate predisposition for a particular solar phallus archetype. What is innate is the animistic process of thinking, and the way in which fantasies continue to develop in the unconscious as archetypal complexes.
http://home7.swipnet.se/~w-73784/animism.htm

Mats Winther

Matswin

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Re: The solar phallus
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 02:12:54 PM »
Jung's patient said that if the head moves from side to side, the sun's phallus moves with it. This is a fact of nature. When one's visual point of view changes, the streak of light follows suit.

This is supposed to be Jung's preeminent example of archetypal heredity, and the beetle event the preeminent example of synchronicity, according to Jung himself. It isn't much. A hundred years have passed, and this is still regarded the best evidence. It is high time to discard the synchronistic notion and the metaphysics underlying the archetypal notion. Although the archetype is a very useful notion, including the hermeneutics connected with it,  the archetype, as such, is untenable.

Mats Winther

Matt Koeske

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Re: The solar phallus
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2012, 11:10:48 AM »
There has been a(nother) recent discussion on the IAJS list about the nature of archetypes.  There is still a great deal of debate among Jungians.  From what I've seen there are three very general camps in this debate.  There is the classical school, which takes a fairly "religious" view of archetypes, is primarily concerned with their metaphysical qualities and numinousness.  That position blends in pretty comfortably with archetypalist notions that are more mythopoetic and metaphorical than metaphysical, but share the same kind of valuation with the classical position (to the degree that it is not worth differentiating them, in my opinion).

Then there is the developmental school that is primarily concerned with locating archetypes as such in early childhood development (in the mother/infant relationship) at the expense of the genetic inheritance angle that Jung himself so emphasized.  I don't find their arguments all that compelling.  They mostly oppose a biological or nativist view of archetypes . . . which I interpret largely as self-defense and self-promotion of the "developmentalist tribe", which insists on making convenient shadow enemies out of "arrogant innatists".

The misrepresentation of these opponents is extreme, as I have tried to explain to some of the developmentalists on the IAJS.  I can only take from their characteristically defensive reaction to this (what was largely a series of citations demonstrating they were mischaracterizing their evolutionary psychology opponents), that here the developmentalists are more agenda and identity driven than intellectually.  That is a shame, because the developmentalists (mostly the SAP and their Journal of Analytical Psychology) are the most intellectual and academically inclined Jungians there are.

The third group, of course, is the "nativist" group.  They are relatively small, mostly consisting of Anthony Stevens (Archetype Revisited: An Updated Natural History of the Self) and more recently Erik Goodwyn (The Neurobiology of the Gods: How Brain Physiology Shapes the Recurrent Imagery of Myth and Dreams).  These fringe Jungians see the many parallels between Jung's archetype theory and modern evolutionary psychology.  I think those parallels are well worth exploring and definitely should be noted by all Jungians, but there are some fundamental weaknesses in the nativist Jungian approach.  For instance, they are unable to demonstrate convincingly why a Jungian archetype theory is more viable than, say, evolutionary psychology's theory of mental modularity (as they are similar but not the same; in fact, they are competitors).  Maybe Jung got to this territory first, but subsequent Jungians did nothing to colonize and develop it, and the evolutionary psychologists re-discovered that territory and re-languaged that discovery.  They also proceeded in a more scientific and systematic way that renders intuitive Jungian ideas mostly obsolete.

The Jungian nativists have also not yet succeeded in showing how the archetypal patterns many Jungians are familiar with are truly instinctual and adaptive . . . as they would need to in order to argue convincingly from genetic inheritance.

Jung himself used very poor, almost always anecdotal examples to bolster his archetype theory . . . as you note.  It's too bad he didn't have a very keen grasp on how to use evidence, because I think his theory is actually a lot stronger than examples like the solar phallus man indicate.

What I find most intriguing and still most viable about Jung's archetype theory is Jung's floundering but also quite brilliant attempts at developing a language of complexity and speaking about phenomena like emergence, attractors in complex dynamic systems, and self-organization.  Regrettably, he never fully complied with his precocious intuitions here, and insisted on a more metaphysical and somewhat theological construction of archetypes, using concepts that seemed at times to suggest inherited and Platonic blueprints of complex ideas, and also reducing complexity to a "conflict of opposites" that could only be resolved in a third "transcendent" thing.  But the dynamic, autonomous forces of the psyche are much more complex than this polar metaphor can portray.

Equally, Jung's idea of a "psychoid" realm between mind and body (poles, again) is a very metaphysical interpretation of the nature of emergent complexity that derives from much simpler subsystems and elements.  That kind of metaphysical thinking and the typically religious (faith-based and defensive) way Jungians protect and preserve it has clouded and stalled Jungian psychological progress in the investigation of the psyche.

These are ultimately the wrong metaphors, even though they were contrived logically and in good faith.  And the insistence of preserving these metaphors at the expense of more scientific observation and reasoning has led to a doldrums of Jungian thought.

My current position on archetypes is that they should be understood as categorizations that we semi-arbitrarily attribute to complex arrays of phenomena.  There are no "archetypes as such" that organize or cause archetypal images as we perceive them.  Rather, there is a complex interplay of dynamic systemic structure and elemental interaction in which relatively consistent and predictable points of attraction self-organize . . . particular patterns of "flow" in a dynamic system that emerge and act as structures that then feed back into the system, affecting its emerging self-organization.

But I do not mean to equate these attractor points with archetypes as such.  I think the archetypal patterns and personages we perceive are overlaid on these attractors or interpreted from them, and these interpretations themselves are fairly consistent and predictable because they are characteristic of our (genetically inherited) mental apparatus.

For instance, where our minds perceive/intuit force, especially complex or changing force, we interpret this as "agency" or intelligent will and intention.  We are disinclined to see complex dynamism as unintentioned and self-organizing.  We inherently formulate a representation of a mind or personality that embodies the complex dynamism and assigns it a kind of conscious (yet typically still mysterious and other) intention.  From that, we get the archetypal personages like animi, shadow, Self, etc.

But these personages are automatically and unintentionally confabulated by our brains as reasonable, condensed, symbolic representations of complex systemic attractors that seem to apply particular force to our own senses of identity.  That sense of identity is one of the structural factors in the organization of the complex dynamic system of the psyche . . . albeit a relatively static factor, whereas the autonomous factors tend to be dynamic.  In essence, our sense of self is like a stone plunked down in a stream that can influence but doesn't create the current and the dynamic flow of water throughout the stream.  What's more, our stone can become dislodged and relocated, or it can even erode or crumble over time and pressure.  And we interpret all of this as if it were a theater of personalities and often conflicting wills, which we are in relationships with.

But seen from a more macro perspective (which is the psychologist's prerogative), these archetypal personages are instances in a much more complex narrative, where the entire narrative can be seen as "archetypal" and more easily identified as a complex dynamic system.  For example, we can look at a particularly robust folktale, which might revolve around a hero's journey.  It is a convenience to call the hero/protagonist, a shadow or Demon figure, an anima/animus figure, and so forth . . . "archetypes".  But it is more psychologically accurate to see all of these figures and their actions and interactions as part of a singular archetypal pattern (that has a finite number of variations).  Each figure is not really a full personality or a "splinter psyche", but actually functions as an attractor point in a complex dynamic system's self-organization . . . each is its own particular "tide pool", or rather, structural point at which a tide pool might form.

In other words, one of the most fundamental problems in Jungian archetype theories is that Jungians keep looking for a cause or blueprint for something like the anima, something that would Platonically give rise to a characteristic anima figure.  But the anima figure is a creature of (complex) circumstance and not caused by either genetic (or "divine") inheritance or cultural construction, but rather by a convergence of interacting dynamic systems.

This convergence, as in the folktale heroic narrative, is often the product of a particular trend in the organization of the personality, one we might call an "individuation event".  The individuation event is a reorganizational movement, and its reorganization is limited and structured by various typical factors.  For instance, for an individuation event to "take", it has to prove adaptive for the individual in certain ways (even if potentially non-adaptive in others or in other environmental circumstances).  Also, the individuation event is limited by the necessity of perpetuating (and usually expanding) the dynamic efficiency of a dynamic psychic system.  That is, a limiter of the organization is the movement of the living dynamic system of the mind/brain toward a homeostatic (or homeorhetic) equilibrium that is more efficient and robust. 

But for this more robust organization of the system to emerge, significant, even catastrophic change is often required, where old structures of the system might collapse.

One of my gripes with prevailing Jungian archetype theories is that they insist on not differentiating "archetypes" that are "archaic and typical" but not necessarily complex and dynamic from those that are.  I think these are two different sets of phenomena.  Where we look at the archetypal narratives (usually with a heroic core) that produce typical personalities, we are looking at representations of the organizational phenomena of individuation events.  But where symbols are not part of these dynamic narratives, they might derive from other means like cultural habits or mental habits.

There can be overlap between the dynamic archetypal symbols and the more conventional, static symbols.  We could for instance look at a symbol like a color (red) or a number (7) or even a particular animal (wolf) or mythic creature (dragon).  I don't think we need to look at complex dynamic self-organization to account for the symbolic history of these things.  Cultural inheritance and basic logic are usually enough.  Symbolism is logically assigned to these things.  They needn't arise from inherited mental blueprints nor from the mythic interaction of mother and infant.

But any of the examples above (and many more) can find its way into a complex heroic narrative and take on archetypal significance as part of a represented individuation event.  They are not dynamic in themselves, but they can be moved in a current they are caught up in . . . and they can help give that current structure or influence its patterning.

Still, the color red or number 7 or a wolf or dragon is not of the same ilk as an animus figure or a heroic narrative.  These basic symbols are not themselves dynamic elements.  They have "mass" but not "force" and need to be motivated and organized by some kind of dynamic system to have influence on an individual's mind.

Even a symbolic object as replete as the snake requires animation and organization in a narrative circumstance and doesn't hold a dynamic meaning inherently.  Even if it is valid that primates have an innate fear of snakes (and other potentially venomous creatures), that by itself is still only a static bit to be caught up in a dynamic narrative.  It would be more accurate (although of course still highly poetic) to say that the snake has a very significant "mass" and "gravity" that limit how it can be incorporated in dynamic narratives more than, say, a rodent or a shrub . . . and much of that mass is due to its venomousness, the fear of which could have genetic precursors.

But Jungian thought is often sloppy about its taxonomies, and this prevents Jungian archetype theory form developing more precision.  It often seeks a singular generative theory of symbol, but in this hope and assumption, it confuses (at least) two distinct data sets with one another.  As a result, it cannot formulate fully functional theories about those data.

A more fundamental (and more scientific) rethinking of Jungian assumptions is required than any of the schools of archetype theory are seriously considering.  It has to do with how we look at data, not how we interpret them.  This means that any progress is both easier and more difficult than it currently seems to many Jungians.  Easier, because, once differentiated, the data sets that contribute to archetypal phenomena make much more sense and are more approachable and studiable.  More difficult, because what Jungians are most opposed by is not the complexity or inconsistency in the data but their own habitual assumptions about those data (assumptions which are not yet under revision or investigation).
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Matswin

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Re: The solar phallus
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 09:33:44 AM »
Thanks for the comment. I am in dire need of input. Jung's archetypal notion depends on the transmission of acquired traits, which was anathema in his own time (except in the Soviet union, during a time). The latest findings in epigenetics show that acquired traits are passed on to subsequent generations - at a surprisingly high degree and at a high pace, to boot. Jung knew nothing about this. It can undergird the notion, forwarded by Jung, that our medieval history has forged our modern mentality. I discuss this effect of the medieval era here. According to recent findings, human evolution has been moving at breakneck speed in the past several thousand years (Dunham 2007, here. See also article here). Today, we are quite different from people living even a few thousand years ago. The new findings also show that the human genome in the different continents have diverged and continue to do so. It is evident that there are different variants of psychic structure in humankind, and that psychic structure changes within the time frame of a couple of thousand years.

It is also evident, as you point out, that the findings of chaos theory, such as the phenomenon of "strange attractors" can contribute to the understanding of archetypal determinants. We know today that nature, especially biological nature, makes use of fractal geometry. We only need a little seed, in the form of a very simple algorithm, that is repeated recursively, to create a very complex structure. Arguably, diverse psychic structures could emerge from simple seeds, too. 

Still, this is in the way of reductive science. It views the archetype as secondary to the physical world. Jung aimed to elevate the archetype as a reality in its own right. That's why he created his metaphysical system where neither psyche nor matter takes precedence. However, his system smacks of 19th century idealistic philosophy. Hegel's philosophy relies on the existence of absolutes, embodied in a World Spirit permeating reality. Hegel's dialectic was characterized as a three-step process, "thesis, antithesis, synthesis". As you point out, Jung was overly fond of this thinking.

Jung failed in his attempt to establish the reality of the psyche. The modernized variant of 19th century metaphysical cosmogony didn't work. His synchronicity notion has proved useless, and his Platonic metaphysic is obsolete. Nobody claims to understand it. M-L von Franz fails in her attempt to clarify it. Her Number and Time, is abstruse. Of course, much of Jung's theory is immensely valuable, but nobody seems to have lived through his programme of individuation: from the shadow, via the anima and the wise old man, to the self. To my knowledge, nobody claims to have followed this path. Jung's notion of self, which is extravagant and out of proportion, has created a backlash to pagan beliefs.

Carl Jung, in old age, realized that people had not been able to adopt his system. Towards the end of his life, he said: "I have failed in my foremost task – to open people's eyes to the fact that man has a soul, there is a buried treasure in the field, and that our religion and philosophy are in a lamentable state." He also had a vision, or dream, in which he saw the whole earth scorched, and only a part of China had survived. Of course, according to Jung's view, the Chinese already employed the synchronicity notion, and the Tao would correspond to Jung's transcendental layer of 'absolute knowledge'. This could be the reason why only the Chinese could be rescued from annihilation, in the dream.

I have tentatively suggested that there is a way out of this dilemma. According to the complementarian notion, the above physicalistic explanations of the archetype are wholly adequate. It is a standalone view of reality which is unobjectionable. Nevertheless, it needs to be complemented by another standalone view of reality, which is equally unobjectionable - a world in which the psyche and spirit take precedence. In this way, both psyche and archetype have acquired reality status, in a complementary fashion. If the archetype is secondary to matter in the worldly paradigm, it is viewed as primary in the spiritual paradigm. Thus, there are two different ways of looking upon reality, both equally good.

This is borne out by the perspective of the unconscious psyche, which aspires at independent reality status. Figures of dreams insist that they are real. When people are about to die, a dream might express that now its time to travel to the Otherworld, as if existence would continue there. The unconscious is adamant about this seemingly naive and animistic perspective. It is as if the unconscious psyche views itself as an independent reality in itself. From this perspective, the archetypes are "entities of psyche", i.e., they have a light of their own, and a degree of free will. They correspond to psychic deities, in a sense, which is the picture that mythology relates.

According to the complementarian view, this worldview is wholly adequate in itself. To view the archetype as autonomous psychic being is wholly sufficient, and there is no need to undergird it by recourse to abstruse metaphysics or reductive physicalistic science. If psyche is viewed as real ontic substance, then it follows that there can be entities of psyche, which are endowed with psychic qualities, such as a relative degree of consciousness and free will. That such psychic entities exist is as self-evident as the existence of stones in the materialistic paradigm. Thus, by applying a complementarian metaphysics the quandary can be elegantly solved. Although the physicalist perspective is retained, the psyche is granted a proper reality status in a complementary aspect of reality. Thus, there is no need to create an awkward conglomerative metaphysic of matter and psyche, which Jung has attempted.

The three models that you present are founded upon either the physicalist paradigm or Jungian conglomerative metaphysics. The former has the advantage, as you point out, that it is academically inclined and intellectually sound. The latter has the advantage that it endows the archetype with ontological reality status, which is quintessential to Jungian psychology. However, it is intellectually awkward and has occasioned a regress along neo-pagan lines.

The complementarian solution dispenses with the 19th century type of conglomerative metaphysics and separates the spiritual paradigm from the worldly paradigm, allowing reality status to each. However, it is characterized by an exclusive disjunction, that is, "one or the other, but not neither nor both." They are not parallel in time, and it's not possible to live in both realities at the same time. Thus, one has to make a choice. It is borne out by the nature of the self, which is complementary: one side of me is a worldly, highly curious and scientific person, eager for knowledge. Another side of me is a reclusive who would like to cease this strife and go live in a grotto on a mountain slope above the clouds.

I do not only speak for myself. I know that this double-naturedness is prevalent. It is not considered diseased. Rather, it is viewed as worthy of imitation. Roman emperors were typically very dutiful and ambitious bureaucrats (although we hear only of the mad emperors, like Nero). After having ruled the world they abruptly decided to withdraw to their humble little country estate where they would devote themselves to growing cabbage. At least, this was the ideal. They said they enjoyed their "otium cum dignitate", and the preserved letters contain trivial matters of how they enjoy their little garden, etc. It is a remarkable shift in attitude, which is not uncommon in human nature. How is it possible, if we don't have recourse to a complementary aspect of self? The twofold self is associated with a twofold worldview. It cannot work with a monistic worldview, on lines of Jung's neutral monism. Nor does it square with the physicalistic monism of the materialistic scientists, or the idealistic monism of the philosophers.

Arguably, Jung misinterpreted his youthful experience of having two personalities (No.1 and No.2), as related in his autobiography. He came to understand No.1 as ego and No.2 as self. In my interpretation they represent two complementary aspects of self, of whom one remains in the shadow. Personality No.1 was more extraverted, characterized by no-nonsense, whereas his No.2 personality was more introverted and emotional. Jung's unitarian self is a 'complexio oppositorum', characterized by a strong inner tension. The Jungian self combines the worldly personality with the spiritual. It is what has motivated Jung's metaphysical system that attempts to combine two mutually exclusive worldviews. If No.1 and No.2 are viewed as complementary, it would mean that they could change place: No.2 takes precedence and No.1 ends up in the shadow. This cannot occur in Jung's model, while No.2 represents the one and only wholeness, whereas No.1 is viewed as a kind of outgrowth on the psychic tree, known as the ego. On a complementarian view, the psyche can experience a reversal, whereby No.2 takes over the role as ego ideal. However, it would give rise to a much different ego, much toned down and less expansive.

Is this a satisfying solution? Philosophically minded people will perhaps argue that it is an easy way out, and that it is not to the taste of people who would like to live in a unified world. But the nub of the matter is that they may continue to live in a unified world, it's only that they must decide whether to belong to the one paradigm or the other, however, without rejecting the alternative paradigm. Science and faith ought to be viewed as parallel worldviews that aren't quite self-sustaining, in themselves, and therefore must be brought to completion by their counterpart. As a consequence, their respective paradigmatic status is maintained despite the fact that religious and scientific truth is relativized. A scientific worldview cannot take into account moral, spiritual, and psychological factors, as reality is portrayed without relation to the human soul. It means that the scientific paradigm is not quite adequate as a worldview on its own.

For example, according to the biblical creation story, history before man can be summarized as five days of divine creation. The authors of the Pentateuch conveyed the spiritual truth, since history only begins at the moment when we become aware of God. So remarkably important is this event. God sees himself through his relation to man, and so mankind mirrors God. The notion that man was created in the image of God relates an important truth. Had they written about the historical and geological truth, things would get the wrong proportions. So the world is whole, after all. Neither the human personality nor society can manage without both aspects of reality, the sacred and the profane. I have written about these issues in The Complementarian Self (here) and Critique of Synchronicity (here), etc.

Mats Winther

Matswin

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Re: The solar phallus
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2012, 01:00:15 PM »
Why did Jung endeavour to create a compound of science and an irrational philosophy with roots in vitalism and Platonism? The essential problem is that the scientific paradigm studies nature and its laws as wholly independent of the human soul. Prior to this, people thought that calamities would happen if they had kicked over the traces, for instance. So there was a connection between the soul and the universe. The autonomy of the material world is central to science. There is no magics anymore. That's why science is unfitted for matters pertaining to the human soul, as it can only relate to the world objectively. The subjective relation is equally important, which means that the spiritual paradigm is not obsolete. Science can take us a long way towards an understanding of the world and the human condition, but in the end it proves inept since it cannot take into account moral, spiritual, and psychological factors, as reality is portrayed without relation to the human soul.

Carl Jung was painfully aware of this problem, and the concomitant loss of wholeness and meaning. That's why he tried to restitute the soul's relation to the world. Thus, he puts the new wine of psychology into old bottles. Due to synchronistic factors, an aircraft may crash, if one of its noteworthy passengers has not lived up to the demands of individuation. This was Jung's belief. It is formally similar to the old scheme of divine punishment. It's time to abandon this timeworn idea. Complementarity is a paradoxical principle invented by Niels Bohr. In the Gifford lectures ('Causality and Complementarity', 1948–1950), he suggested that it be used outside the field of quantum physics. In my view, the sacred and the profane ought to be viewed as two mutually exclusive worldviews, both of which are largely complete. If it is correct that the human self is twofold and complementarian, then it should be possible to uphold both worldviews. Psychology should be described in profane and scientific terms, void of superstition. Psychology may also be accommodated in a spiritual and trinitarian universe, where it always stands in relation to God and the world. Such a relation can always be taken up, so to speak.

But these worldviews cannot be mixed. The modern individual with an advanced consciousness cannot maintain a conglomerative worldview, since he has been deprived of the unitarian naiveté, characteristic of historical mankind. It is natural for the modern individual to relate to a scientific worldview. He is also capable of taking up a sophisticated trinitarian belief involving contemplation, simplicity, and reclusiveness. I know for certain that many intelligent people find this idea attractive, to go live in retreat and lead a simple life for a time. One must make up one's mind, for the time being, whether to live in a profane or a spiritual universe. Is this a satisfying solution? In quantum physics, certain theorists have expressed the view that complementarity is a provisional solution. They are expecting something better in the future. But the complementarity principle seems unshakable.

Mats Winther

See also: Berry, R.J. (1997). 'God's Book of Works 1997–1998', ch.2. Gifford Lectures. (here)

Starcrosser

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Re: The solar phallus
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2012, 05:45:41 PM »
Which way is the ivory tower?  ::)