Author Topic: Critique of active imagination  (Read 11450 times)

Matt Koeske

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Re: Critique of active imagination
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2013, 03:29:49 PM »
Mats, I find your analysis of Jung's Salome and Elijah active imagination very astute.  It is good to know that someone else out there interested in Jungian studies (and not simply a detractor like Richard Noll) has a major problem with Jung's constructions that were rooted in active imagination episodes like this.

I still struggle with some of your languaging (e.g., your unique use of trinitarian, complementarion, etc.).  These terms feel overly abstract to me, and I find myself having to constantly go back and try to grasp what you mean.  They are rooted in very complex assumptions and analyses and seem to emerge from a world view that may or may not be valid.  That is, the world view must constantly be reevaluated in the context of each argument.  It is not self-evident.

I also have my own world views (also potentially problematic at times) and pet terms, and where innovations are being made, this may be unavoidable.  My goal (only occasionally achieved) is to stick with "naturalistic" neologisms as much as possible.  That is, I want to make these complicated, multilayered term-concepts as tangible as possible.  And I strive to have every neologism and unconventional assumption move as close to familiar and as-transparent-as-possible territory as they can.  It is Jung's capacity to do this (also imperfect, but notable) that appeals to me and helps ground my own "Jungianness".

Jung, I think, was often better as a "phenomenologist" (generally defined and not referring to the philosophical school) than a "theorist".  That is, he was a great observer of phenomena and a fairly adept identifier and namer of complex patterns.  But his reasoning and use of data can be flawed at times.  For instance, he was highly prone to overusing anecdotal evidence and for not putting sufficient effort into falsifying his intuitive assumptions (instead looking selectively at data that might seem to corroborate his guesses).  Despite that, I still find him more compatible with contemporary science than Freud is.  Freud was more strictly a theorist (not a phenomenologist), and he was prone to making the more drastic scientific error of ignoring or distorting data for the sake of theory-preservation.  That, I suspect, is one of the reasons Jung became a "phenomenologist" . . . it was a reaction to a tendency in Freud that Jung found fault with.

But what I meant to say about neologism and original thinking is that I suspect everyone's neologisms and original theories are difficult to grasp for others,  I wrestle with my own languaging all the time, especially in the context of my participation in IAJS discussions.  It is extremely clear in those circumstances that I am working from original theories and making different basic assumptions about data than other IAJS members (Jungian analysts and scholars).  As the IAJS is a scholarly society, there is a heavy emphasis (a bias, in my interpretation) on academic styles of information evaluation and conveyance.

So, for instance, in academia, one is conventionally building on the arguments of others, using citations and references most of the time.  Announcing allegiances and declaring enemies.  Original thinking can be treacherous.  Original interpretations are OK, but they gain acceptability from being planted in a soil of references to other scholars (so that they can be understood as belonging a particular to a school or schools of thought).  And often there is little or no evaluation of the quality of that previous scholarship (i.e., in the humanities this is a significant issue, less so in the sciences).

As an "amateur" thinker, I am less impressed by citation for citation's sake and academic name dropping than I am by sound logic and evidence.  Probably I have a "problem with authority", but I mostly just find logic and evidence more reliable than authority.  In my experience, academics often prefer authority to evidence and logic.  It is part of the tribal dynamic of academia . . . particularly in fields that do not much rely on evidence based arguments (like the humanities).

In my school days I also quickly wearied from the use of neologistic "power words" in postmodern philosophy and literary theory.  As a poet (an unofficial but devoted "keeper of the language"), I took offense at the way complicated abstract terms were being unnecessarily substituted for more concrete, descriptive terms . . . and as an amateur psychologist I noted and found problematic the socio-psychological effect that using these power words had.  Namely, they tended to create cultic followings of acolytes who scorned anyone who did not use and admire the power words.  But, when pressed, these acolytes could often not give clear definitions of the terms and the theories behind them.  Even the highest ranking acolytes (not to mention the philosophers themselves, who were deemed above such revelation) could not explain their pet theories and terms clearly to a well-educated layperson and nonbeliever.  I recall Noam Chomsky once leveling similar criticism against academic postmodern theorists.  He basically said, either they are so much smarter than me that I am incapable of understanding them or they are full of shit . . . and as I am a relatively intelligent and highly educated person, chances are higher that the latter is true and not the former.

So, I saw tribal cults growing up in academia around these power words and the exalted thinkers that coined them . . . and I passionately disliked and objected to that.  Even if some of the theories are insightful and perhaps even valid and useful in certain ways, that is eclipsed for me by the shady way in which "truth" is manufactured in these academic cults.  It is a very small scale example of "Truth by Might".  Where those who are not embracing this "Truth" are bullied and assaulted by the faithful.  My suspicion is that this style of academic cultism or tribalism has spread for two main reasons.  1.) It appeals to the human instinctual inclination toward monotribal social structures and identity constructions, and 2.) It facilitates sloppier thinking instead of demanding the rigors of sound logic and valid use of data.  That is, it is easier to follow a charismatic leader and believe in the Word than it is to either carefully evaluate or construct sound ideas and theories.

I guess that is a long and digressive way of saying that I can be overly-scrutinizing of language, especially abstract terms that are not self-evidently descriptive.  I still bristle whenever I find myself using my neologisms or terms I have radically redefined.  When I can think of another way to say the same things, I usually go with it.  Over the last few years at Useless Science, I have whittled away many of the neologisms and abstract terms I coined as I meandered through my analyses and speculations.  A few remain (as well as a few classic Jungianisms) . . . like "valuation", "Demon", my unconventional definition of the "hero archetype".  I like Jung's terms anima, animus, Self, and shadow, because they are phenomenologically sound and steeped in a long history of observation.  They are not, for instance, interpretive.  They describe the phenomena they represent as they appear superficially and immediately (perhaps the Latin is a little problematic these days . . . yet the Latin doesn't have the baggage of soul and spirit and helps denote that anima and animus are more particular phenomena, not just extremely broad categories).

"Self" is a little vague and prone to confuse (conflated with small-s self), but it is not hard to differentiate this as an objective Self as if viewed from the outside (and not from one's own perspective).  I've never been able to find a more descriptive term . . . although I typically add some qualifications like "Self-as-Other".  "Shadow" is perfectly descriptive and simple.  As is my own coinage "Demon", although I am self-conscious about this when trying to talk to Jungians who are not used to this term and figure added to the Jungian "archetypal pantheon".  But I have become increasingly careful about using terms like "archetypal" and "unconscious", as there has been a lot of foggy thought behind them . . . and they are perhaps not sufficiently accurate as descriptors (especially unconscious).

Probably most scholars wouldn't wrestle with language as much as I do . . . but I've always been inclined to make a pretty serious affair of language.  If I ever stop caring so much, I will know the poet in me has finally died.  But I don't expect that to ever happen or be possible.


In any case, returning to Jung's imagined personages, I am less keen on Elijah than you are.  Jung somewhere called Elijah a prefiguration of Philemon.  He may be a "self of transcendence" . . . I'm not sure exactly what that would mean, but I have a problem with transcendence as a spiritual goal, so it may just be one of my semantic quibbles.  One of the quotes you cite from Jung is especially telling: "[Elijah] is the man with prestige, the man with a low threshold of consciousness or with remarkable intuition. In higher society he would be the wise man; compoare Lao-tse. He has the ability to get into touch with archetypes in others."

Jung is describing not the Self (as at least I would define the term), but his own ego ideal that later evolves into Philemon.  Jung is a little obsessed with "prestige" or what he later calls "mana" (as in mana-personality).  This may have been what originally intrigued him about Hitler.  He wasn't entirely without reservations about "prestige", but he was a bit of a sucker for it . . . than intangible, magical inner power that draws other people into one's own myth or complex.  Jung tended to see this as a mystical substance (mana) and not a sociological pattern or larger complex system.

I also see less inherent (psychological) conflict between Christian and pagan mindsets or attitudes than either you or Jung do.  In fact, I see Jung's polarization of these mindsets as a somewhat artificial dissociation particular to his own personality complex (although far from unique to him, of course).  In the Red Book (and continuing throughout his works), Jung seeks creative ways to reunite these dissociated aspects of his complex.  Therefore, in the Red Book he is trying to hurl his Christianity at what he feels are very pagan symbols and ideas.  It is a real battlefield for Christianity and paganism . . . and Jung doesn't want either side to win.  He wants to bring about some kind of synthesis and compromise.  He sees things in "paganism" (as he romantically and as a somewhat lapsed or dissatisfied Christian imagines it) that he feels Christianity has lost and needs to regain in order to be "whole" and healthy.

But he is extremely Christianized in his constructions of what is "pagan", and still associates paganism with darkness and the devil, with flesh and with both passions and deceptions.  In other words, it is what Christianity has repressed rather than what pre-Christians might have seen and felt themselves.  I see this less as "valid" than as a scenario Jung set up for himself in order to find some kind of personal transformation.  In fact, Christianity had always been extremely pagan in many of its manifestations.  Many lay-Christians were more interested in the saints or with Mary (who were more deeply infused with "pagan" ideas and themes) than with Christ and God.  The central Church may not have liked it, but practicing Christianity was always moving toward paganism.  The Church made innumerable concessions to this, choosing to control a core dogma more so than actual practice and belief.  That is, it would rather slap a saint's name on a bit of pagan worship than actually do away with that worship.

And of course, there is nothing more "pagan" than the Christ myth itself.  There are numerous pagan precedents to the motif of the godman from which the figure of the Christ is syncretized.   But I don't mean to go into that here.  My point is that, Jung saw Christianity as a theological matter (as a minister's son and an intellectual might).  It was a matter of Church doctrine and scriptures and texts, the arguments of the Church fathers, etc.  It was a very intellectual, textual Christianity, a Christianity of the Word and the Letter that had little to do with how Christianity was practiced and understood by many people.  It was a book-learned Christianity . . . and it characterized paganism as a defeated and debased opponent (history is written by the winners).

But such a Christianity is not substantial enough to really root down in the autonomous psyche for many people.  In that level of the psyche, Christianity is naturally "paganized" . . . and the "pagan" is not really repressed.  It functions as the lifeblood of faith and practice.  It is only among the clergy and theologians that there is such a vicious battle with paganism (one "paganism" usually wins through the manifestation of Freudian defense mechanisms and the "return of the repressed").

Jung always felt himself to be partly a "crude" Swiss peasant.  He recognized that theological Christianity was not enough for him.  It didn't stir his "pagan" psyche.  But as an educated minister's son, he was indoctrinated into the theological mindset and had to come at his "paganism" like a monk might come at the devil within (in purely theological trappings).

This is precisely the way the Red Book is set up.  Jung positions himself as a Christian prodigal son.  He is wholly enmeshed in a Christian paradigm and in the Christian imagination.  I think it limits his approach to what he envisions as a "pagan" unconscious.  He can only see it as opposite from his conscious Christianity and only from distinctly Christian spectacles.  He has no choice but to see anima figures like Salome and the Soul as "pagan" and to tar them with Christian prejudices against the other.

For Jung, that the prophet Elijah would hang out with pagans (and young women!) and serpents is shocking and disturbing.  This may be a function of Jung's repressive sense that the great man (the man of prestige) within him or that he was "destined to become" should be able to transcend darkness, paganism, sex and "the feminine" . . . perhaps in the way he strove to transcend his knowingly shameful relationship with young Sabina Spielrein (in his later correspondence with her, he is extremely "high horse", professorial, acting as a mentor, acting as if whatever happened between them only a couple years earlier was entirely imaginary and irrelevant).

It is hard not to see a likely connection between Salome and Spielrein.  He seems to treat them the same way.  He is both excited and disgusted by their desires to worship him.  He desires most of all to transcend them, to throw off his lust and romantic curiosities and become the wise old man who is righteous and not tempted.  My guess is that his deification fantasy played out much like his relationship with Spielrein . . . he succumbed in spite of himself, and he dissociated his ego ideal (Elijah, the man of prestige) who was supposed to be a man above any such "Falls".  It was Elijah he most desired, because Elijah was not susceptible to sexual seductions.  He was "above the flesh".

And Jung fantasized that if only he too could be "above the flesh" and be a Great Man, who has conquered the anima and taken her mana for himself he would be free of shame and feelings of loss of control.  It is a pretty straight forward battle with inflation where a Great Man figure, a transcendent figure, is constructed to compensate for feelings of smallness and weakness and shame.  The question we should psychoanalytically ask here is: what is this Great man supposed to be transcending?

For Jung I suspect it was his "subjugation" to superiors and father figures like Freud . . . but also to those compulsions and behaviors he (Jung) was himself susceptible to that made him feel less than superior and fatherly.  Like having affairs with patients or entertaining fantasies about deification.

Although Elijah in Jung's vision is not in himself a negative figure, I think he represents an unhealthy temptation for Jung, an "easy out" into inflation rather than a hard slog through the shadow and into transformation via intercourse with the Other (the original manifestation of which is the anima).  As backwards at it might seem (and no doubt seemed to Jung), he needed to have that anima intercourse in order to transform and grow and break out of his complex (his inflated identification with the Great Man as ego ideal).  Because it was a need and not just a desire, it dissolved away at his ego personality and perhaps made him susceptible to having an affair (or at least an improper relationship) with a young patient.  It may have continued to prompt his other future affair/s.

The anima always seemed to be pulling Jung down into his shadow because he so desperately wanted to transcend that shadow.  The shadow for Jung was a gateway to better psychic health.  But his grasp of this was not always sophisticated enough.  He sometimes seemed to allow himself "shadow indulgences" in the name of therapy without actually moving through and beyond the indulgent nature of these episodes.  It was as if he said, "A man needs a little shadow tomfoolery now and again to ground his humanness and stay sane."  He did say as much, but I think there is more to this than he acknowledged.  The point is not to muck about in the wayward swamps of the shadow and then return to the clean and proper world having gotten one's rocks off.  The goal is to learn sympathy and compassion for the shadow so one does not align one's ego overly much with the superegoic, shadow-punishing Demon that demands that the shadow be transcended.

Where sympathy with the shadow develops, the seeming need to indulge in bouts of shadow impersonation/identification dissolves.  Jung's "solution" created a vicious cycle of Demon-identification (and shadow abuse/disparagement) and shadow-identification.  But this cycle enslaves one to the Demon's power.  It is like a form of self-flagellation: the more one whips oneself for one's "impure thoughts and deeds", the more those impure thoughts and deeds gain power over the imagination . . . and therefore, the more one has to whip oneself.  That is how the Demon imprisons the ego.  It makes the ego both jailor and prisoner, torturer and tortured.

The anima is effectively the emissary of the Self that seeks to break down this cycle and install a more functional dynamic, evolving, homeostatic system.  The anima helps the ego understand that it need neither be nor hate and punish the shadow.  The shadow is not the ego's shame.  What is shameful is the Demonic cycle where one blames and beats the "other" which is inextricable from oneself.

Jung had a lot of insight into the shadow dynamic . . . but not enough.  He saw only that the shadow had to be given some care and tolerance, but not how this could effectively be done.  And he knew this "rationally", while in practice he despised his shadow and never stopped wishing it would just go away.

In the last section of the Red Book called "Scrutinies" Jung actually (i.e., in his fantasy) engages in a self-flaggelation verbally and in a sense "physically".  I was astounded when I read this the first time, because it was so consistent with my understanding of the Demon introject and never before had I seen Jung so "Demonized".  It was an eye-opening moment for me in which a lot of Jung's strangely self-conflicted ideas and attributes really fell into place.  Bit one needs to understand the Demon and its complex relationship to other psychic/archetypal features like the animi, the hero, the Self, and the personal shadow to be able to use this key.  To many, it might seem perfectly reasonable that Jung would self-flaggelate.  After all, his criticisms of himself are generally correct.  But his fantasy act is actually indicative of a Demonic "possession" and this makes perfect sense of why Jung seems to fail to "individuate" through the Red Book experiment.  He ends in identification with the mana-personality, which is a victory for the Demon over the Self.

To return to the pre-Philemon mana-personality, Elijah.  Although not as actively negative as Philemon (who actively exercises his power over the devalued psychic contents Jung called "the dead"), Elijah's flaw is manifested in (as a kind of dissociation) Salome.  She is like the wound he carries along externally.  He can only be a "man of prestige" and a great and wise prophet of God because he has her "held captive" in her role and in her blindness.  It as if he is only able to see because she is blind.  He has usurped her sight for himself.  Obviously I am interpreting, but I think it is fairly clear that Elijah is what he is because he is not what Salome has been made out as.  Rather, because the anima has been devalued into the blind Salome figure, Elijah can become the Great Man and Ego ideal Jung imagines.

Jung so strongly identifies with Elijah that he does not see or judge this.  He assumes she is some pathetic piece of baggage clinging to the Great Man that, as he is so great and above temptation, he tolerates out of pity.  He doesn't (yet) see that Elijah is a kind of dark wizard that has placed a curse or enchantment upon Salome to take her power for his own apparent transcendence.

Jung does come to understand this by the time he has revised Two Essays and reformulated his talk about the conquering of the anima to take her mana and the identification with the wizardly mana-personality that has "assimilated the unconscious".  I.e., I am not "reading my own opinion into" the Elijah and Salome images, merely using Jung's own interpretation as applied to some of the data he drew that interpretation form.  He might not cite Elijah and Salome just he does not refer to his own Philemon construction, but there can be no doubt that the dynamic of anima-conquering mana-personality is rooted in these personal images of Jung's.  And he is still dangerously sympathetic to the mana-personality even as he sees its flaws.  He has not gained much if any sympathy for the anima.  She is still troublesome but unshakable baggage for Jung.  Important as a "resource", but trouble as a "relationship".

But the theme that I see as implicit in Jung's Elijah and Salome vision is very conventional in folktales where a wizard (or Bluebeard) has abducted a princess or other young woman and holds her imprisoned in some tower or dungeon or unreachable place where he manages to somehow leach power from her.  The princess's imprisonment is directly linked to the empowerment of the wizard/mana-personality/Demon.  She is his "resource" as long as she is contained.  And the princess can only be freed and rescued or redeemed by the true hero, who is often humble and foolish and openminded/openhearted.  Not obviously a "Great Man" (like the wizard).

As her redeemer and partner, he "inherits the kingdom" and is raised up to (does not transcend) inclusion in the Self's principle of organization, acting as its facilitator.  But that motif never enters into Jung's constructions.  The anima is never redeemed in Jung's theories or personal life.  She remains a "slumming" indulgence, a "sometime whore" that he can always leave behind to return to respectable life.  That, it would seem, is Jung's and the privileged man's "right".  A very Victorian notion.  Compartmentalization of sex and spirit, righteousness and vice, heaven and earth.

Jung moved toward the treatment of this dissociation, but only far enough to imagine it as, at best, a harnessing of opposites with a temporary (rather Herculean) yoke.  He doesn't go all the way to the redemption of the fallen or the valuation or what has become devalued by the modern, patriarchal, and then Christianized mentality.  But as a kind of silver lining, he does not himself stand above the disease of his age.  He remains a paragon of the very modern spiritual woundedness that he made so many efforts to understand and treat in others and in the world.  And he seemed to fare a bit better in the treatment of others than in his own self-treatment in this regard.  Although I would say that he had swallowed an especially lethal dose of the poison, and that he managed as well as he did in his own self-treatment is remarkable and stands as an essential case study for future Jungian psychologists (should they care to look).


Ultimately, I recognize that where we make different interpretations from one another, we are engaging in our own unique work.  I see logic in either interpretation . . . and there is no shortage of arbitrariness to any such creative analysis.  I see that there is an impetus in my own thinking here that begins in a fairly critical position toward Christianity and Christian tenets (even many mystical ones).  I have no special love for either Christianity or paganism and tend to be atheistic and generally skeptical about all religious and spiritual endeavors and beliefs systems, preferring what many (spiritualists, at least) would probably consider a psychological reductionism.

In my approach, I take Jung's tendency toward psychologization of religion to a greater extreme (and what I feel are its inevitable conclusions that Jung resisted somewhat out of an admiration for theology that I in no way share).  In other words, I seek to construct an utterly "non-spiritual" system of understanding spirituality.  Not "non-meaningful" and certainly not debunking, but I mean to analyze spiritual behaviors and ideas to understand what they are composed of (human psychological predispositions and patterns of thought and behavior).  For me (as someone who used to be more conventionally spiritual as well as more conventionally Jungian), this analytical reduction has not relieved spirituality of its mystique and power at all.  But I recognize that for many others it might.

In psychologizing spirituality, I find it becomes (or reveals itself as) more complex.  I mean this in the same sense that zooming in to microscopic and even quantum levels of matter does not result in an understanding of matter that is "only quantum".  What one comes to see are many levels of complexity and emergence.  Neither the highest nor the lowest level is all-important.  What is fascinating is how all these levels are nested, subtly interacting with one another.

Where spirituality is concerned, I am interested in this nesting, in both its multi-level components and the way its higher levels emerge from its lower ones.  Where one disassembles a "magical machine", its original brand of "magic" may seem to be dispelled, but that can open the way to a deeper brand of magic.  Not one that projects an anthropic mind and intelligence into the design of things that have emerged complexly, but one that suggests an utterly different, non-human construction or behavior of systems.

Or to put it in more religious language, one might need to move beyond looking for the human-ish mind of God to begin observing the natural "mind" of God.  The mind that is not mind of a God that is not God.  From my perspective, science is looking for a deeper mystery than religion.  Where religion ultimately looks into a mirror, science strives to look into a void, into absolute otherness.  And (modern) science is not afraid to see otherness where religion has always recoiled from it at the most intimate levels.  I am speaking purely of spiritual hunger here, not ethics, sociality or any other function where religion clearly has something to offer that science makes no claims to (although that also opens up the danger of bungling such offerings, which science is able to avoid).

-Matt
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Matswin

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Re: Critique of active imagination
« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2013, 12:52:40 PM »
Christian theologists refer to their own theology as "trinitarian", that is, it is a theology centered around otherworldliness, i.e., the transcendental God. Therefore, a trinitarian mindset would motivate the individual to stand apart from the world. Jung, as we all know from his incessant harping, took exception to the trinitarian view of the divine and created his own "theology", where the fourth and earthly element is added to the trinity. This is the quaternity, and hence we could denote this theology quaternarian. These notions are used, for instance, by Lindorff  in "Pauli and Jung" (2004) where he compares Kepler and Fludd and argues that their respective attitudes represent the trinitarian versus the quaternarian. However, Jung's own favourite thinker, Gerhard Dorn (c. 1530–1584, here) warned against quartarius (the quaternarian god) whom he identified as the cloaked binarius (i.e., the devil). But Jung interprets this as a weakness in Dorn, and says that he remained stuck in a trinitarian, Christian, conception. Such notions are often used in alchemy. Mark Haeffner cites Thomas Vaughan (1621−1666):

"Thomas Vaughan in Anima magica abscondita:
  • The first principle is One in One from One. It is a pure, white Virgin, and next to that which is most pure and simple. This is the first created Unity. By this all things were made, not actively, but Mediately, and without this, Nothing can be made either Artificial or Natural. This is the Uxor Dei et Stellarum [Wife of God and the stars]. By mediation of this, there is a descent from One into Four, and an ascent from Three by Four to the invisible, supernatural Monas. The diameter line in the circle creates the Ternarius. The second principle is the Binarius which fell from its first Unity by adhesion to Matter, which rendered it impure. This third [principle] is properly no principle, but a product of Art. It is a various Nature, compounded in one sense, and Decompounded in another, consisting of Inferiour and Superiour powers. This is Magicians fire, this is Mercurius Philosophorum, Celeberrimus ille Microcosmus, et Adam. This is the Labyrinth and Wild of Magick where a world of students have lost themselves.
This is a cabalist view of the world, as being a process of emanation from divine unity. The third principle, the Ternarius, is the key to reuniting impure nature with the purity of divine unity. Thomas Vaughan again:
  • This Ternarius, being reduced per Quaternarium ascends to the Magicall Decad, which is Monas Ultissima, in which state quaecumque vult potes; for it is united then per Aspectum to the first, eternall spirituall unity." (Haeffner: Dictionary of Alchemy, pp.253-54)
When Jung struggles with both Christian and pagan notions in the Red Book, it probably reflects on his wish to unite Christian theology with a fourth and pagan element. Thus, in his scheme, if the binarius is conjoined with the ternarius, we arrive at the quartarius. Arguably, the binarius represents an attitude characterized by an unconscious form of wordliness, along lines of pagan religion. The pagan world was materialistic in the sense that worldly goods and gifts were viewed as boons of the gods. If a person had riches and beauty, for instance, it was a clear sign that he/she was both favoured and patronized by the gods. In the beginning of our era, pagan spirituality had run its course. Its degradation into materialism created a rebound in an extremely spiritual type of religion, namely Christianity. Worldly goods and chattels, or individual talent, weren't proofs that a person was favoured by God. All are equal in the eyes of God. In fact, "the last will be first, and the first will be last." The divine spirit did not remain in earthly things anymore, but had become transcendentalized. I hold that it is only on the surface that the Christian religion has pagan elements in it. Its theology is very transcendental.

I am sympathetic with Dorn in his suspicions about quartarius (i.e., the quaternity). Jung's quaternarian standpoint could be understood as the individual's return to the pagan and worldly mindset. However, this time he is endowed with an enlightened mind, that is, an advanced psychological consciousness. If the binarius represents unconscious pagan spirituality, the quartarius is its conscious counterpart. Jung, of course, has made immense contributions to the advancement of consciousness. According to Jung, only a strong and differentiated consciousness can withstand the tensions present in the quaternarian self. Anyway, it would explain why the ternarius cannot conjoin with the binarius to form quartarius and why Jung's Red Book project was a failure (if it is indeed correct, what you say). If the quartarius is the enlightened binarius, then Jung's view of the formation of the quaternity was misguided. The enlightened binarius is the serpent, in Jung's fantasy, who was defeated and whose head turned white.

Of course, Elijah, in Jung's terminology, represents the Wise Old Man, or the mana personality, so there is no contradiction in seeing the anima and the Wise Old Man as compensatory opposites, along lines of  Jung. So what I said earlier about it being self-contradictory, isn't correct. However, I maintain that Salome is the Christian woman who was present during Jesus's whole oeuvre. However, Jung has forgotten completely about her, and instead identifies her with the Salome who was the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas (cf. Shamdasani, Notes of the Seminar on An. Psych. Given in 1925, p.100). This is all the more curious as Herod's Salome was not a follower of Christ, which Jung's Salome says she is. Both Elijah and Salome, the disciple of Jesus, appear in Jesus's presence in the bible. (Elijah appears in the transfiguration on the mountain). The disciple Salome also appears in the Secret Gospel of Mark. (In early Christian tradition, there is also a Salome referred to as sister of Jesus.) So, contrary to what Jung says, it is not such a strange thing that they live together in Jung's fantasy.

In the crucifixion fantasy it seems like the pagan and Christian elements are conjoined, according to the quaternarian ideal. Jung turns into a pagan deity, encoiled by a serpent, while being worshipped as the Christ on the cross. This combination seems almost like a Freudian wish-fulfillment. Jung says that it signifies deification (p.106), that is, he is transformed into the quaternarian god, himself. In these lectures he is very brilliant, as always, but he misinterprets his own unconscious, which is a well-known problem. This, I hold, is not deification, but its very opposite. He is subjected to exorcism. The Christian woman exorcises the devil in him, which takes the appearance of a beastly pagan deity connected with the Mithras cult, which was the foremost pagan competitor of Christianity during the first centuries. Just as in Hollywood films, the demon is forced to come to the surface there to be faced and confronted. The possessed person temporarily takes on demonic features, before being liberated. During the procedure Jung is sweating profusely, which is a purgation symbol. It could signify how the evil spirit is driven out. After the exorcism, Salome has gained eyesight. This would signify that Jung's soul is no longer blind, that is, no more unconsciously Christian, but instead consciously Christian. This came as a result of driving out the pagan deity.

Mats Winther

Matswin

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Re: Critique of active imagination
« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2013, 08:55:27 AM »
I should say something about "complementation", too, since this is the only word that I have tentatively introduced to psychology (it already exists in genetics and elsewhere). I really think it is needful. It is defined here and there in my intellectual musings on my homepage. The psychoanalytic paradigm builds on "integration", that is, the making conscious of the unconscious. On account of its "worldly" emphasis,  Jungian psychology is centered around integration, too. In mythological language, the boons of the gods must be realized in worldly reality for the welfare of humanity. Although Jung and von Franz are wise enough to see the backsides of a consciousness that grows to overpowering dimensions, Edward F. Edinger has no qualms about it. He sees the phenomenon of integration as the royal road to salvation.

However, in theology (both pagan and Christian), there is also the opposite trend, namely that of giving sacrifice for the replenishment of the divine world. For instance, the Vedic sacrifice serves the purpose of keeping the gods powerful and nourished. Salvation is thus reversed. The devotee must give sustenance to the gods. Both Indra and Shiva must come down to earth to expiate their sin, in order to regain their vitality. In village Buddhism, the worshipper is involved in salvation of the deity by transferring merit.

Such naive albeit charming notions don't exist in Christian theology. Here the sacrifice to the nourishment of God comes to expression as a life of reclusiveness and rejection of the world. The cloistered contemplative sacrifices his (or her) worldly life and devotes his life's energy wholly to God.

According to Mesoamerican theology the gods gave rise to everything we see in the conscious world. Creation came into existence thanks to the sacrifice of the gods. They offered up their own life-blood for us, and their severed limbs turned into trees, mountains, maize, fruits, etc. Of course, such a movement cannot go on unilaterally. It threatens to exhaust the divine world, with the consequence that the universe can no longer run its course. That's why the sacrificial priests must always sacrifice their own blood, or the blood of the sacrificial victim, burn it on the altar or otherwise send it to the gods.

In full analogy with this, there is no way that the unconscious can be seen as a cornucopia, capable of an endless provision of goods, for integration with the conscious world. There must be a payback, a return on the investment, to keep the unconscious world alive. Thus, the notion of "integration" must be complemented with a notion that refers to the replenishment of the unconscious. This is not the same as anti-integration, because what has been established in consciousness must remain there. Conscious functions cannot be uprooted, short of going through psychic illness or a deterioration of the brain functions. So it is not the question of a regression to a former unconscious condition.

The gods can heal themselves. They can grow new limbs to replace those that were severed. They can restore their vitality. To this end they must drink ambrosia, as the Greek gods, or they must have recourse to the golden apples, as in Norse mythology. I have argued that the central idea in alchemy, namely the notion of circular distillation, refers to this very process of autonomous growth in the unconscious. The process goes on in a sealed vessel, known as the pelican. The alchemists say that one must take care not to add too much heat to the vessel. Some even say that the rays of the moon are enough, which signifies a faint light of consciousness.

In the mean time, the alchemist must give himself to prayer and meditation, and practice a reverential lifestyle. The conscious world that was created by the gods is only lit up by the moon, whereas the strong light of consciousness, the sun, has receeded. It means that the functions and content of consciousness remain the same. A regress has not occurred. But consciousness has dampened its light and the process of conscious expansion has come to a halt. This favours the unconscious process of restoration. It may grow new kinds of fruit. This is why the spirit of ternarius plays such a big role in alchemy. It is the key. The sacrifice is quintessential. The enlightened binarius is shut in as the serpens mercurialis in the retort. It is also what happened to Merlin in Celtic myth. The ternarius is reduced per Quaternarium and ascends to eternal spiritual unity.

Of course, such trinitarian notions don't speak to Jung. Jungian psychology has, to my knowledge, provided no proper interpretation of the process of circular distillation. The notions of integration and regression aren't sufficient to give it meaning. I have suggested the notion of complementation for this process. The unconscious, or the unconscious archetype, may undergo complementation, thus to grow new limbs. The unconscious tree can come to life again and bear new fruit. It is the complementary opposite of integration, corresponding to theology's sacrificial act for the boon of the gods.

Thus, contrary to what Jung says, there is no need for a severe crisis of consciousness, which includes the relative destruction of the individuant's conscious world, in order to uphold a relation with the unconscious. In fact, the world can be lit up by a much fainter luminary, another kind of consciousness. First is established the quaternarian consciousness, provisioned by the riches of the unconscious. Consciousness is reduced, having gone via the quaternity, to the stage of unio mentalis. Complementation occurs semi-autonomously, supervised by a trinitarian consciousness. The alchemists say that the spirit Mercurius will rise from the ashes inside the vessel.

Mats Winther

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Re: Critique of active imagination
« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2013, 07:28:46 AM »
[...]Jung, I think, was often better as a "phenomenologist" (generally defined and not referring to the philosophical school) than a "theorist".  That is, he was a great observer of phenomena and a fairly adept identifier and namer of complex patterns.  But his reasoning and use of data can be flawed at times.  For instance, he was highly prone to overusing anecdotal evidence and for not putting sufficient effort into falsifying his intuitive assumptions (instead looking selectively at data that might seem to corroborate his guesses).  Despite that, I still find him more compatible with contemporary science than Freud is.  Freud was more strictly a theorist (not a phenomenologist), and he was prone to making the more drastic scientific error of ignoring or distorting data for the sake of theory-preservation.  That, I suspect, is one of the reasons Jung became a "phenomenologist" . . . it was a reaction to a tendency in Freud that Jung found fault with.

But what I meant to say about neologism and original thinking is that I suspect everyone's neologisms and original theories are difficult to grasp for others,  I wrestle with my own languaging all the time, especially in the context of my participation in IAJS discussions.  It is extremely clear in those circumstances that I am working from original theories and making different basic assumptions about data than other IAJS members (Jungian analysts and scholars).  As the IAJS is a scholarly society, there is a heavy emphasis (a bias, in my interpretation) on academic styles of information evaluation and conveyance.

So, for instance, in academia, one is conventionally building on the arguments of others, using citations and references most of the time.  Announcing allegiances and declaring enemies.  Original thinking can be treacherous.  Original interpretations are OK, but they gain acceptability from being planted in a soil of references to other scholars (so that they can be understood as belonging a particular to a school or schools of thought).  And often there is little or no evaluation of the quality of that previous scholarship (i.e., in the humanities this is a significant issue, less so in the sciences).

As an "amateur" thinker, I am less impressed by citation for citation's sake and academic name dropping than I am by sound logic and evidence.  Probably I have a "problem with authority", but I mostly just find logic and evidence more reliable than authority.  In my experience, academics often prefer authority to evidence and logic.  It is part of the tribal dynamic of academia . . . particularly in fields that do not much rely on evidence based arguments (like the humanities).

In my school days I also quickly wearied from the use of neologistic "power words" in postmodern philosophy and literary theory.  As a poet (an unofficial but devoted "keeper of the language"), I took offense at the way complicated abstract terms were being unnecessarily substituted for more concrete, descriptive terms . . . and as an amateur psychologist I noted and found problematic the socio-psychological effect that using these power words had.  Namely, they tended to create cultic followings of acolytes who scorned anyone who did not use and admire the power words.  But, when pressed, these acolytes could often not give clear definitions of the terms and the theories behind them.  Even the highest ranking acolytes (not to mention the philosophers themselves, who were deemed above such revelation) could not explain their pet theories and terms clearly to a well-educated layperson and nonbeliever.  I recall Noam Chomsky once leveling similar criticism against academic postmodern theorists.  He basically said, either they are so much smarter than me that I am incapable of understanding them or they are full of shit . . . and as I am a relatively intelligent and highly educated person, chances are higher that the latter is true and not the former.
So, I saw tribal cults growing up in academia around these power words and the exalted thinkers that coined them [...]

You must take into account the economical perspective, as well. You won't be able to create a career in the humanist sciences if you refuse to chime in with the ruling ideas. Jung himself lost his status in academia after he began defending Freud, and after Freud had dissociated himself from Jung, he lost all his pupils, who turned to Freud instead. There's another important factor, namely the psychological. Most people are deadly afraid of free thinkers. They can create a quagmire of once firm ground. To me, personally, this is no big problem, because I am an intellectual myself. I can find my way in the marshland and am not deadly afraid of going astray. An intuitive intellectual is not strongly dependent on clear rules for thinking as he has mastered the art of thinking himself, to a degree. It seems like most people in academia, including the authors in journals, have not the intellect as primary function. That's probably why it's so hard to understand what they are saying, sometimes.

Arguably, that's why there is a strong tendency to embrace post-modern authors who endorse muddled and subjectivistic thinking, because it allows you to say almost anything, as long as it sounds intellectual. Post-Jungian thought repudiates the intellect altogether, and elevates fantasy. Thus, it cannot reform classical Jungian psychology, but only distance itself from it. A person who isn't endowed with a logical faculty, may instead ingest a lot of information, resort to name-dropping, create an abundance of citations, etc. I don't know how the land lies in the U.S., but in my country, the average doctor is incapable of thinking. He can only refer to the database of learning that he has acquired. This means that he cannot relate to the patient the way that Sherlock Holmes would do, that is, grapple with problems that he hasn't encountered before, and try to find a solution. Instead, the average doctor is perfectly helpless when his learning proves to be inadequate. He reacts like a computer that gets the wrong input. A computer only outputs ERROR on the screen.

It is very, very irritating. I overheard on the radio a lady talking about her rare disease. She had gone to 29 doctors, but nobody bothered to investigate her problem. Had they done this, they would immediately have discovered that her rare disease has a remedy. She refused to give up, although she told the story in a despairing voice. Only the thirtieth doctor bothered to investigate the problem and look it up in the manuals. So she got her medicine and she is now quite restored. Otherwise her life would have been destroyed. It's amazing, but there are a great number of people who function like this. There's just an ERROR print-out in their brain, if they come up against a phenomenon that they cannot immediately identify. The problem is that many a psychoanalyst is recruited from this category of people.

Most therapists are keen on learning methods of how to deal with patients. They want journals to publish articles with case histories of counter-transference issues and whatnot, so they can expand their knowledge database of how to deal with problems. This, I think, is more or less fruitless. It risks creating more confusion than it resolves. It's because such therapists cannot function like Sherlock Holmes. The majority of therapists seem to lack a rational function. This is also how the traditional "learned" person in academia functions. He has adapted to learning, but not to thinking independently. It's two very different things. Jung was well versed in both. That's why he was able to undergird his thinking with his enormous knowledge database.

The reason why I have developed a few ideas of my own, within the confines of Jungian theory, is only because Jungian theory isn't wholly traversable in my personal life. My unconscious sends out partly a different message. When looking into it, I think I have demonstrated that also Jung's unconscious was partly digressive. Nor am I able to swallow certain aspects of it, such as the pronounced Platonic aspect, and archaic notions such as synchronicity. I think my ideas, unlike post-Jungian psychology, are wholly compatible with Jungian psychology, but they are really revisions for my personal sake, that is, for the sake of my own individuation. I must revise, otherwise I go under. I would have done this work whether or not the Internet existed, that is, regardless if I can publish my ideas or not. I am, however, convinced that there are other people who have similar qualms about Jungian psychology, yet have a great appreciation of it, and they would probably benefit from reading my articles. I have now posted a new article on my homepage, here, which builds predominantly on my posts in this thread. I have also added a discussion about four other dreams, of which one by M-L von Franz.

Mats Winther

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Re: Critique of active imagination
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2013, 02:41:57 PM »
I began writing this reply about a month ago and did not finish it before going on vacation.  It is still not really concluded, and in spite of its lateness, I will post what there is.  I have also been working on a number of other things and didn't want to hold onto this one, even if unfinished, any longer.

-Matt

------


Many thanks, Mats, for your elaborations. 

Regarding Vaughn and Dorn on quartarius and similar terms, my quibble is that these are esoteric ideas that are not rooted in empirical or scientific data.  They may be very useful as interpretations of psychic and spiritual phenomena, but there has to be a prerequisite assumption and at least a handshake of faith to justify them.  Their usefulness as a lens into Jung's or a universal psychology seems to me limited by any audience's willingness to commit to that handshake.  As a generally faithless person, I'm rarely willing to begin observation of an object or phenomenon with that kind of assumption.  That is not to say that these terms might not be useful metaphorical tools (the necessity of such I do recognize, even in science).  But there needs to be (for skeptics like me) a preliminary argument that demonstrates why these tools are 1.) needed, and 2.) better than various other metaphorical tools for the observational task at hand.  And that argument needs to be largely free from abstractions and non-empirical assumptions.  I.e., we need to be convinced that the unique or at least unusual way the terms are being used is warranted by the special case of a particular data set.

For example, when Jung introduces his conception and term "anima", the discerning reader/evaluator requires both a logical argument for why the specific term is being used and also a demonstration of how specific data are illuminated by the employment of the term/concept anima.  Although I can no longer recall where, I am pretty sure Jung takes pains to do both of these.

Although I also have a deep interest in alchemy and Hermetic thought and imagery (mostly from a psychological angle), I can't help but feel stricken by the problem of alchemical esotericism and even outright obfuscation when trying to use alchemical ideas in modern (psychological) language.  From what I can discern, you make excellent and wholly logical use of these alchemical terms/concepts.  It is only the underlying assumption that the esoteric alchemical ideas are valid foundations for a modern, psychological argument where I remain unconvinced.  So, for me, an atheist, it is a little like hearing an argument that is founded on the assumption that God is real or that the Christian religion is true and right.

Jung, where trinity and quaternity are concerned, takes a similar approach (which you are obviously revisioning) and seems to argue that there is a particular "psychology" or attitude/mindset that can be associated with either a trinitarian or a quaternian symbol.  He enters willingly into theological debates on such matters, veering away form his psychological/more-empirical lifeline.  He justifies this by treating the trinity and quaternity symbols as naturally occurring archetypes innate to the human psyche/brain.  I have yet to be convinced that this is valid and that 3 and 4 symbols have an inherent, universal meaning.  Surely they have a "numinous" kind of effect as symbols that appear spontaneously, and I do think they lend themselves to interpretation in many cases.  But the interpretation, I think, needs always to be contextual.  There is a core logic to certain numbers (3 and 4 are some of the most clear).  3 has a beginning, middle, and end, and triangularity, while 4 lends itself to squareness and the neat division into halves of half of itself and to the delineation of physical spaces (as in the four directions).  But where Christian (or other religious) theological and alchemical interpretations of these numbers occur, I don't think universality can be assumed.

Therefore, I can't accept that Jung's thinking can be faulted for being "quaternian" or that Christian thought can be seen as either right or wrong based on its "trinitarian" conceptions.  Equally, "trinitarianism" does not inherently indicate for me "transcendentalism" or an orientation to otherworldliness (in these instances, threeness would be functioning as a sign given a specific, somewhat arbitrary meaning by a group of people and not a naturally occurring symbol with inherent, structural meaning).   I would need other, less abstract criteria to evaluate Jung's psychology or Christian thought.  This is where psychology would function to reduce arbitrary signs to psychological phenomena and attitudes (and perhaps to historical development in cultural contexts).

I'm not sure if that languaging issue is ultimately surmountable for me, but despite my reservations, I find the further extension of your arguments largely compelling and insightful.  It remains then merely a curiosity for me that you are able to derive logical and adept insights from what seems to me a foggy linguistic foundation of assumptions.  As long as your argument doesn't claim to be self-evidently true because one of your assumptions is self-evidently true (and I rarely see that happening in your writing), you avoid potential linguistic pitfalls.

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When Jung struggles with both Christian and pagan notions in the Red Book, it probably reflects on his wish to unite Christian theology with a fourth and pagan element.

Leaving aside the "numerian" analyses you provide for the time being, I think you are correct here.  At least, I would agree that Jung saw his imaginative efforts as some kind of amalgam of Christian and pagan . . . and that he sought to treat what he felt was an "imbalance" in the Christian mindset with a dose of a paganism he believed was repressed and devalued/demonized.  He is using Freud's repression model here with his own romantic tweak, as what has been repressed is a kind of "inferior function" that ends up being the seat of the god (or God) itself.  Jung's Red Book experiment is an effort of sorts to revitalize his Christianity with this repressed pagan element.  But Jung is profoundly suspicious of this "pagan", inferior element that lurks in the "unconscious".  He fully accepts that it has been relegated to this darkness because it is truly unfit for the righteous, Christian attitude.  He doesn't (as later, even more romantic, New Agers would) deem the repressed element somehow superior to the more-conscious Christian elements.  Rather, it is a curious missing piece that in itself is perhaps demonic and rightly suspect, yet is necessary to complete a fully functional attitude when coupled with the more-conscious Christian approach.  Without it, an individual (or world view) can continue on, but only with a gradually increasing emptiness or waywardness, a loss of soul.  And as that loss or wound accumulates, the desire and even need for this lost soul becomes increasingly charged with libido.

That libido swelling was also something Jung treated with suspicion, worrying that it needed to be handled very carefully so as not to explode or inflate and contaminate the ego.  It needed still to be mediated by a strong consciousness.

Never does Jung approach this like some kind of closeted pagan occultist.  As romantic (and volkisch) as he was, his Protestant rational side seemed to take precedence.  The Red Book experiment is filtered entirely through a Christian lens, with Jung constantly moaning in protest to every appearance of a "pagan" other like an old nun compulsively fingering a rosary as a talisman against demons everywhere.  He is extremely uptight and defensive, particularly when anima figures are around.  He basically has his fingers shoved into his ears and mumbles, "This is not happening.  This is not happening."  He gleans only the very slightest from his encounters with the anima, recognizing only very generally and in a detached way that these relational experiences are meaningful and should be transformative.  But he only gets to this idea after the fact, and only in an intellectualized and detached way (much of the Red Book is divided into alternating episodes of experience/interaction and private reflection/psychologization/philosophizing).  During his encounters he is a complete ninny, coming across even in his very slight acquiescences like a child with his fingers crossed behind his back as he emptily promises to do what he knows is right.

This all gives the impression that Jung's dissatisfaction with his Christianity is relatively unconscious.  He doesn't understand it and doesn't want to believe in it (just as in his childhood vision of God's church-shattering turd, he struggles to repress the thought for some time).  He is like a man in a flood creeping to ever higher, rapidly vanishing ground.  He does not choose to swim for another shore or hop in a boat.  He intends to wait it out all the while screaming, "My God, I'm going to die!"  And he is very adept at finding ever-higher ground and escaping the worst and deepest of the water.

But as a modern, non-Christian reader of the Red Book, I find his constructions largely "hysterical" and the dangers mostly self-imposed.  Nothing remotely sinister approaches Jung until well into the text and only after he has wailed on and on about how terrible that otherness is.  It reads to me like he is convincing himself of what he had always believed.  There is a regression of the anima in the Red Book as a result of this.  She becomes more marginalized, more determined to have Jung face his own shadow, and eventually she seems to have basically had enough and says she has to leave (along with a version of the shadow that is a bit like an aborted pagan Christ image for Jung).  But toward the beginning, when the anima figure is more robust, she offers Jung some truly useful insights and critiques (that he, of course, fails to take to heart and weasels away from).

Jung characterizes his own prudishness as Christian (and sees the others he encounters as pagan and demonic), but I suspect it runs even deeper than his Christianity and is a fear of otherness, which he blames for being seductive and violating rather than recognizing his own hungers and complexes.

My contention, though, is that the whole couching of the Red Book's relational experiences in a Christianized, pagan=debased and evil attitude is responsible for much of the eventual failure Jung experiences.  Even as he rationally and intellectually faults it, he embraces the Christian demonization of all things pagan . . . and is drawn toward that paganism entirely in spite of himself.  It "seduces" him, in his addled opinion.  He is an "innocent" being bullied by a greater power.  Never does he have a truly positive (or even neutral) portrait of these "paganized" others, and never does he experience his contamination with that "paganism" as truly revelatory and enlightening or positively transformative.  Instead, he "reasons" that he must be tarred with this shadowy paganism in certain (small) ways in order to become more "whole".  And that wholeness Jung sees as important, because he recognizes that his Christian righteousness is a sham.  Thus emerges the fairly crazy idea that one needs a dose of the devil to make the whole Christian cocktail work properly.  It's a kind of "exception that proves the rule" idea that self-servingly usurps that exception to mean the opposite of what it implies (namely, that the "rule" is flawed).

Jung's later writing is kinder to paganism and the pagan elements of the unconscious, but in the Red Book he is merely a lapsed Christian, a Christian who wants desperately to be good but is overwhelmed by and must acquiesce grudgingly to "pagan darkness".

In all this, Jung Christianizes his approach to the autonomous psyche and applies the lens of conscious = Christian, unconscious = pagan where I find this to be a false dichotomy.  It would be much more accurate to characterize the autonomous psyche as "natural" or naturalistic compared to the seemingly rational, scripted, algorithmic construction of conscious selfhood (i.e., conscious identity is largely made of verbal language, sets of beliefs and value-based response routines; it is not dynamic and complex like a natural living thing).

Jung largely buys into the conventional, Western Christianization of history that rendered "paganism" dark, bloody, corrupt, and sinful.  The Church's propaganda machine constructed this history and attitude toward paganism, but the actual history (which can only be gleaned through the almost absolute wall of Christian historicizing propaganda) seems to be much more complex and much less favorable to Christian salvation.  The rise of Christianity as a state religion of Rome and the first Christian emperors was hardly a matter of salvation, and there is no evidence that it bettered society or the lives of Roman citizens.  In fact we know that Christian power presided over the "decline and fall" of the empire and rise of the so-called "dark ages".  How much Christianity as a belief system is responsible for this is a matter of very complex debate, but state Christianization was verifiably used in the state oppression of other religions, the burning and demolition of pagan temples and libraries that housed much of the knowledge and thought of classical Greco-Roman culture, and the assault and often murder of probably hundreds of thousands of "heretics" who resisted oppression.  Science, medicine, and art suffered massive technical regressions under early Christianization . . . losses that were instigated and sanctioned by a Christian doctrine that actively discouraged any such pursuit that might seem to contradiction Christian "truth" and wisdom.  E.g., there is no need for scientific medicine because God determines all health and life.  All one needs is faith and humble obedience to the Church.

Much of the cultural "salvation" that eventually returned came with the Renaissance and saw the return of classical Greek and Roman (and Muslim, especially in the case of alchemy and metallurgy) knowledge that had been preserved by Muslims and regained indirectly through the Christian Crusades meant to annihilate and convert this "dark other".  Although Jung was a critic of Christianity in many ways, he never took a political or historical tack in his criticism.  He treated the theological writings of the Church Fathers like pure expressions of the unconscious, failing to see their social and political contexts and use (totally undisguised) in propagandizing.

What I mean to say is that "paganism" isn't just flesh, blood, polytheism, and decay.  It was high modern culture, science, democracy, philosophy, diversity, technology, and even (often neglected by Christian historicizing) complex systems of ethics (some of which Christianity adopted, none of which it "invented").  But Jung doesn't focus on this in constructing a largely "pagan" unconscious.  He accepts the self-justifying Christian prejudices and evaluations as objective fact about the psyche.  And that is a non-psychological, unscientific move.

Still, he was right in a sense that (for him personally), the autonomous psyche presents itself initially out of the personal shadow.  It rises up out of the filth, out of what has been devalued.  And for the Christian Jung, this was distinctly pagan, polytheistic, fleshy, earthy (the first layer of the repressed and devalued . . . as Jung seemed to be or at least think himself a Christianized Germanic "barbarian" by innate disposition).  Jung's insight on this point is quite strong.  Where I fault him is where he decided that what he saw and felt through his shadow was an accurate portrait of "the unconscious" rather than a distortion of the autonomous psyche created by Jung's own cognitive habits, self-constructions, and socialized prejudices.  Even with his wise introduction of the "personal equation" idea, he still didn't quite see through the shadow to the onbective Other.  Perhaps this was because he always remained a bit too hostile toward his personal shadow and a bit too likely to stereotype certain others (women, Jews, blacks, etc.) devaluingly.


You write:
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The pagan world was materialistic in the sense that worldly goods and gifts were viewed as boons of the gods. If a person had riches and beauty, for instance, it was a clear sign that he/she was both favoured and patronized by the gods. In the beginning of our era, pagan spirituality had run its course. Its degradation into materialism created a rebound in an extremely spiritual type of religion, namely Christianity. Worldly goods and chattels, or individual talent, weren't proofs that a person was favoured by God. All are equal in the eyes of God. In fact, "the last will be first, and the first will be last." The divine spirit did not remain in earthly things anymore, but had become transcendentalized. I hold that it is only on the surface that the Christian religion has pagan elements in it. Its theology is very transcendental.

As you might guess, I simply don't agree that your construction of history here is correct.  I am not an expert on the religions of pagan Rome, but I know they were diverse, and that Christianity arose in a period a massive religious diversity.  Christianity itself is a supreme syncretism combining elements of Mystery religions, Roman state religions like Mithraism and Sol Invictus, Egyptian death/rebirth religions, multiple forms of Judaism, and a dose of Hellenistic philosophy, particularly Cynicism (which deserves much of the credit for the "highly spiritual" anti-materialist ideas some forms of Christianity adopted).  I'm not sure it is accurate to call it "extremely spiritual".  It's proto-Gnostic and Cynic roots along with a neoplatonic devaluation of the body in favor of the mind/spirit give Christianity a very non-corporeal focus, divorcing it from flesh and world, lending it to forms of asceticism.  But all of these things are clearly inherited from pre-Christian (i.e., pagan) sources and are in no way original to Christianity.  And to look historically at early Christianity, institutionally, it was never ascetic and anti-world.  It functioned much like a modern corporation and accumulated enormous wealth . . . sometimes by converting rich people and getting them to donate their money, but also by less savory means like collecting certain kinds of tariffs (after Roman Christianization, non-Christians in the empire were taxed massively) and selling indulgences and (fake) relics.  Essentially, especially for the early Church salvation was for sale . . . and the Church was a business that commodified and exquisitely advertised its product in much the same way useless crap is sold to people today.

That's not to say that their weren't "spiritual" Christians.  There have always been many.  But the Church has notoriously used those individuals (and invented or reinvented many others) to hawk their wares and keep revenue coming into the Church coffers.  Some of these kinds of things were addressed (not resolved) with the Reformation, but we are talking over 1000 years of Christianity before that . . . and even after that there was a great deal of corruption and horrific levels of bloodshed in battling between Catholics and Protestants as well as witch burnings, inquisitions, and the various assaults on heretics and others of various kinds.  Although it isn't my favored brand of spirituality or mysticism, the Christian mystical vein did produce many spiritual and not a few highly ethical and good people.  But even a "good" person who allows himself to be exploited by a corrupt institution or for ultimately corrupt purposes is not a positive model in my mind.

It should also be noted that the Christian demonization of worldly possessions and earthly interests, historically speaking, was largely a form of propaganda used to control the poor masses and peasants that made up the majority of the Christian constituency.  Since Christianization presided over the destruction of a modern civilization, it destroyed a larger middle class of skilled and often educated workers (a large middle class is a mark of modern civilization and does not generally exist in premodern forms of society).  The vast majority of people in the Christianized world were extremely poor (especially after the large Roman military had largely dissolved and could not longer be sustained), and the Church happily encouraged that to allow wealth to be redistributed to Church officials.  While these poor suffered miserably, the Church grew larger and more powerful.  The condemnation of early things was a hypocritical doctrine.  That sacrifice was only made by the already destitute (and bamboozled and/or oppressed) and by a very few "saint-like" Christian mystics, ascetics, and monastics that (as above) were either used as posterboys for the Church or, if they were "off message" in any way or had anti-power politics, were accused of heresy and abused or killed.

So, in my opinion, it is not at all a matter that "the divine spirit did not remain in earthly things anymore".  Earthly things continued to be of enormous interest and desirability for those Christians empowered by the Church.  There was just a massive redistribution of wealth to the very few due to the destruction of a middle class.

Also noteworthy regarding the "extreme spirituality" of Christianity is the vicious war (both physical and propaganda) the Catholic Church waged against the Gnostics.  Gnosticism was a more specifically spiritual and anti-worldly variety of religion.  And it obviously appealed to many.  But it did not make for a lucrative business model.  While not fiscally empowering itself, it took revenue away from the Church.  The Church therefore set out to crush its "business" competitor.  There were many reasons given for this "necessity", but one was that Gnosticism encouraged too much asceticism and was often anti-institutional, discouraging members from giving all their money to a church.  In this sense, Gnosticism has to be seen as more loyal to the model of Christ in the gospels than Catholicism was (in early Catholicism, the poor must stay poor, but the rich can stay rich or even grow richer . . . as God ordains).  I suspect that some forms of proto-Gnosticism predated all the eventually Catholicized Christian institutions, texts and ideas, and that what would become the Catholic Church took the compelling ideas and figures and general story of Christ from these proto-Gnostics and commodified it for mass consumption and serious profit-earning.  That notion (dating forms of Gnosticism before proto-Catholicism) is not currently accepted in mainstream early Christian studies, but not because it can be disproved with evidence.  Only because that is the convention.  That is what the Church Fathers claimed (when constructing the pre-history of Christianity).

It makes more sense to me that proto-Gnostic forms of Christianity came first, and the great ire of the Church directed at Gnosticism in the 3rd and 4th centuries was part of a propaganda (and outright warfare) campaign to wipe out the most dangerous competitor that the Church had . . . dangerous because it laid (accurate) claim to being, or being derived directly from, the "original Christianity".  This is the theory of Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy in The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? (2001).  That book is flawed in a number of ways (references are often a bit dated and selective and the authors want to promote a New Agey neo-Gnosticism), but I find their basic thesis logical and compelling.  There is valid evidence for that thesis, just not conclusive evidence.  More importantly, there is no compelling evidence against it.

My point is that there are numerous historically evidenced reasons to question the Christian claim to being an "extremely spiritual" religion or at least for casting that term in a positive light.


Although I am obviously an extremely hard sell on anything remotely Christian, I find your idea of Jung's deification fantasy as an exorcism in (relatively loose) disguise very interesting and sensible.  I'm not sure it is the most accurate interpretation (as it is always dangerous to deviate from what a person says about or associates with his or her own fantasy or dream), but I like it.  Despite the images you point out, one possible strike against your interpretation is that Jung does not appear to be exorcized of this "demon" god. He continues to be just as drawn to and repelled by it . . . arguably until the end of his life.

Whether exorcism or deification, Jung seems to be something of a pawn or stand-in in this fantasy.  He is not permanently transformed.  It is not, for instance, a shamanic initiation fantasy in which the shaman's body is dismembered and reconstructed with pieces of iron.  Instead it is at best a temporary high that Jung neither comprehends nor draws transformative or inspirational meaning from.  That temporariness would seem to lend itself to your exorcism theory.  Although, it is also true that Mithraic (and other Mystery) rites like the Taurobolium were meant to identify the initiate with the god only temporarily.

Another potential flaw with your exorcism theory is that it takes a very Christian assumption that a pagan god is equivalent to a demon and is something that can and should be exorcized from a person.  As above, in pagan Mystery rites, the initiate's identification with the god was a specifically controlled, brief one.  It is different than say, the Christian Eucharist, which transubstantiates into the body and blood of Christ within the individual.  My sense here is that for the Christian, the believer is infused with Christ.  The "Christ" is not meant to "leak out" or be consumed and passed (although, like a drug, future doses may be required to keep the Christ-quotient in the individual high enough).  In Mystery rites, the initiate is meant to experience the god (through temporary identification and empathy) and be (lastingly) transformed by the observation and ecstasy of that experience.  That initiate does not go on feeling righteous because the god is in her or him.  Rather, the ecstasy with the god like a ritual wound enables the initiate to always remember the empathy with the suffering god.  In that sense, there would be nothing to exorcize.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Matswin

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Re: Critique of active imagination
« Reply #20 on: April 18, 2013, 11:06:59 AM »
If I should try to substantiate my ideas, and give them a scientific underpinning, then it would take a much, much, greater effort. I am not ready to do that. I have no scientific ambition, nor have I a wish to publish myself in a journal. I am more of a spiritual searcher. Thus, I have no other choice than to give "pointers" to what I mean, such as "quaternarian", "complementation", etc. I can't explain myself to the full, short of writing a book or two. There is a slight chance that my ideas will have an impact, anyway, if some ambitious author is inspired by my meditations.

There is a general agreement among historians that Christianity served to prolong the Roman empire by two centennia, or so, by creating a condordance under a new ruling idea. Yet again, there was something to live for and to fight for. So Christianity did not cause the demise of the Roman empire. In a sense, it served to prolong it to this day. The Catholic Church, especially, is very roman in kind, not only in its architecture, but also in its foundational spirit. Roman law survived into the 19th century.

The Middle Ages represents an age of introversion that has had an enormous impact on the Western psyche. It was during this epoch that our inner locus of control was firmly established. A westerner can have a projection and swiftly withdraw it. It is true that it  coincided with a decline in science and engineering, which represent extraverted knowledge. But this could not be avoided if inner development is going to take place. The Arabs continued with their science and learning during the Middle Ages, but look where they are today. Due to their constitutional psychology, they still remain with an outer locus of control. As a result, they seem unable to establish a democratic state. That's why they must instead resort to outer control, that is, rules that strongly regulate life.

Without having gone through the Christian epoch of interiority we could not establish our advanced level of civilisation. I've written about this issue in my article "Understanding European psychology - European psychology and its rooting in the interiority of Christian Middle Ages", here.

Jung expected to find a living pagan spirit in the collective unconscious. So, in his fantasy, he arrives at a dead volcano where he discovers a Druidic shrine. But the only living beings he encountered there were two Christian spirits, Elijah and Salome, the first of which had achieved transcendency. Arguably, the pagan spirit that he sought had already taken residence in his own head, through his capacious readings. 

I think that this gives us the correct image of Jung's psyche. If he is in conflict about being a Christian or a pagan, it is because he could not see that his anima was a Christian. She is the same spirit who was worshipped in medieval times, in the cult of the Virgin. But the pagan spirit represents his conscious insights and knowledge, which he expected to find ample living evidence of in the unconscious. 

I don't know why it gives rise to a conflict, and why he is being disturbed by the pagan images. If he is agitated about encountering a fearful pagan spirit, then he charges it with energy. He knew very well that energy is created through the conflict of opposites, and that it will activate the archetype. Thus, there is no better way to uncover the pagan archetype than to contrast it with the conscious Christian mind-set, that is, a modern moral consciousness, which Jung wholly acknowledged. By remaining true to the Christian conception, energy will be released when it is contrasted with unconscious paganism. After all, if a modern mind isn't disturbed by the pagan spirit, then it isn't pagan at all. At least, it has lost all its power, and what remains are only artefacts buried in the ground in a long since extinct volcano.

Mats Winther

Matswin

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