Author Topic: Stray thoughts on rationalism, types, and the Jungian problems with feeling  (Read 3452 times)

Matt Koeske

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A few months ago, I reread Jung's Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.  In my opinion this is one of Jung's best and most important books.  It's Jung in his "prime".  I think Jung receded a bit too far into himself for the writing of some of his later works like Aion, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Synchronicity, and Flying Saucers.  Not that these books lack profundity, but they seem to me texts that Jung allows to slip into projection as he explores ever inward into himself.  "Archetypes", by contrast shows us a Jung who was making a more determined attempt to connect his ideas to an audience in a more scientific manner. 

The problem with some of those later texts is that their descent into personalized spiritualisms encourages the breed of Jungian that most wants to guru-fy Jung.  Because these texts are less overt, they are more open to interpretation/projection.  They can often mean whatever the reader wants them to mean.  They resemble Jung's "Seven Sermons" in this sense.  As far as I'm concerned, Jung had every right in the world to express himself as he did in these books . . . but there is a certain damage to the Jungian mindset that resulted from this.  As many Jungians gravitate to Jung because they are seeking a "new religion", it is not surprising that these texts are some of the most appealing to this breed of Jungian.

But the scientific approach is partially relinquished here.  Jung and other Jungians may decry the "rationalism" of the age . . . but rationalism doesn't have to be narrow-minded and exclusive of things psychic (as Jung himself proves).  But to relinquish rationalism as a mode of expression is to relinquish the capacity to valuate on a scale that incorporates both self and Other.  The value of rationalism or the scientific method is that it attempts to circumvent the excessive relativity of the ego, and ideally, to look upon things (including the ego) from the perspective of Nature . . . or, we might say, the Self.

I'm speaking, of course, of the potential of rationalism . . . not its standard interpretation and application (the flaws of which Jung illuminated).  I'm saying that rationalism is the effort to see non-egoistically . . . and in this sense accords with the progress of individuation.  Rationalism is the component of thought that allows us to differentiate between what is and what we want something to be. 

It is not a "thinking function" style of perceiving.  The Jungian thinking function is the abstract categorizer.  To the thinking function, everything is "as if".  The thinking function, in my opinion, is the main function behind spirituality . . . and so it comes as no surprise that spiritualities are filled with abstract categories and definitions, geometric patterns and paradigms and hierarchies.  Insomuch as these forms of spirituality are the pursuits of the thinking function and "thinking types", we might expect them to devalue the "feeling function".

In my experience, this feeling devaluation can be recognized in the unconscious valuation of thinking function paradigms and abstractions.  That is, the differentiating qualities of the feeling function hardly come into play.  Feeling is not conscious.  Numinousity is equated with "truth".  The equation of the numinous with the true (i.e., the confusion of the value of a thing with what a thing is) is the hallmark of unconscious, undifferentiated feeling.  Feeling is, in this incidence, totemized.  It can only be appreciated from afar, as a totem or deity.  It cannot be utilized consciously or incorporated.  The very notion of such conscious utilization is taboo and seen as offensive by this kind of "thinking type" spiritualist.

This formulation above is, of course, in great contrast to the typical Jungian notions (Jungian notions more so than Jung's own notions).

But this is a spiritual problem . . . perhaps THE spiritual problem.  That is, it is the spiritual problem of the thinking type spiritualist.  As feeling is increasingly incorporated into consciousness (i.e., taken responsibility for), the undifferentiated valuation of abstract categories and paradigms is decreased.  We begin to see how much our ego-desire has colored our abstract ideas.

I believe the valuation principle of the feeling function is structured on a self/Other dynamic.  As feeling becomes more conscious, valuation is increasingly applied from the perspective of the Other or with increased consideration of the Other.  We learn to consciously consider the impact of our valuations on others.  That is, we learn how our valuations are exclusionist and become more aware of what has been excluded . . . and how arbitrarily such exclusions were made when feeling was largely unconscious.

The development of feeling, then, is the recognition of the relativity and arbitrariness of abstraction.  It differentiates the me-ness from the is-ness in our abstract categorizations.  This pushes us away from belief (insomuch as belief is an acceptance of valuation without consciousness) and toward Justice, the principle of whole-minded differentiation with the emphasis on what is or what is universal "right" or best rather than on what appeals to us.

I don't think this requires the adoption of rationalism . . . but it is compatible with rationalism, as anything that dismantles the arbitrariness of the abstracting thinking function is compatible with rationalism.  The functions that contradict thinking are the cognitive tools that help us differentiate selfishness, self-imposition, or egoic anthropomorphization from actuality.

All of this leads into my belief that the Jungian thinking function is maybe better described as the "ego function".  Feeling, sensation, and intuition are cognitive inputs from the Other or the Self.  They arrive like gods from the autonomous unconscious.  We don't control them . . . we interpret them through the "thinking" or ego function.

I think this can lead to the abstract paradigm of Jung's typology system insomuch as the individual ego awards these unconscious inputs with different values.  Therefore, in my opinion, the "thinking type" is a person who strongly favors the abstract, egoic style of thinking and has developed the ego as one might develop a muscle, by working out with it.  I also suspect there is a genetic factor involved here that leads to varying degrees of ego-thinking intelligence (IQ) . . . and of course a cultural factor that favors certain styles and applications of intelligence in specific sexes, races, classes, etc.

It's not surprising then that highly intelligent people are often the most neurotic . . . and why you see many "thinking types" gravitating toward intellectual forms of psychotherapy like Analytical Psychology and Psychoanalysis.  These highly intelligent "thinking types" also struggle mightily with individuation, as individuation is essentially a process of shifting valuation from the ego onto the Self.

This assassination of Jungian typology may be a heresy . . . but I believe typology needs to be further scrutinized.  My first reaction to the types Jung proposed was an intuition that detected something was not quite right . . . but the types can be very useful if used abstractly and generally.  It took me many years before I was able to start formulating my intuition into a critique and counter-position.  Although I am by no means "certain" that my counter-position as expressed is itself "true" . . . I believe it is a useful starting point for a more thorough analysis of the substance of these types (as it poses questions that demand satisfactory answers).  Jung himself admitted that the types are abstract categories . . . but many Jungians fail to differentiate.

This failure can lead to a kind of over-emphasis on these abstract prisons in which we are inclined to cage people.  In my experience, the Jungian typologies have been used (by Jungians) to do more harm than good.  As abstract "as-ifs" they can help us value other, less familiar forms of thinking and recognize that other people who do not construct their realities exactly like we do can still have valid realities.  But they can also be used as excuses to justify our own ignorance and blockages and as "reasons" to dismiss alternative forms of cognition.  Jung himself was rather unfriendly to the feeling function (his "inferior function" which he "feminized") and allowed his characterization of it to channel his unconscious sexism and prejudice.

He even said his Salome anima was blind "because she does not see the meaning of things" [MDR p.182].  But perhaps she was blind because Jung himself was blind on the feeling level.  It would then be no wonder that he was "distinctly suspicious" of her [MDR p.181].  Jung did not relate here in MDR how later in the vision he had, Salome wanted to worship him as Christ and be healed by him.  It would appear Jung had some uneasy feelings about this.

But this is (although somewhat grand) what the anima/animus always wants from the ego: valuation and "healing".  Also, the Christ figure typically plays into this stage of the anima work.  The anima is "in love with" the "Christ within", i.e., the ego that is devoted to the Self or the alchemical New King.  It is her love that draws the ego in this direction . . . but this is not a pull toward self-aggrandizement, but a calling to the cross for the ego's self-sacrifice.

This is depicted in the alchemical opus with the coniunctio followed by death.  But the Christian mythos and its self-deification taboo complicates this issue in a way that was, it seems, less obscured in earlier manifestations of the Mystery religions' death/rebirth rite, which allowed the identification with the god to be a mask briefly put on and then taken off through the ritual.  Christianity, though, is deeply mired in the inflation guilt (since it dissociates this inflation and provides no ritual or philosophy with which to work through it). 

With the destruction of Gnosticism (as part of the dissociation mentioned above), this self-deification shadow was left unresolved until the alchemists took up the old Gnostic torch and devised a mythos that re-incorporated the Feminine (the goddess that brings along the dying/reborn vegetation god of the Mystery religions as her consort) and processed ("transmuted") the inflation shadow by differentiating the Old King from the New King.  Alchemy then, is the symbolic healing/completion of Christianity . . . which Jung recognized on many levels, but perhaps not on the level of the Christ figure itself (with which he still associated the psychotic inflation that provides the dark numen of the self-deification taboo . . . without the "cure" for this inflation via the alchemical process).

But this is best left to another topic and time to explore.  I mention it here in the context of Jung's thinking/feeling dichotomy, because this work with feeling points to the resolution of the inflation through "moral" differentiation.  That is, the ego wants to harness the "Christ within" in order to be empowered in its egoism, so that the dove will descend and the words "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased" will echo through the skies.  The feeling intelligence is the one that can see the immorality of this usurpation and recognizes that these worldly/ego desires actually have to be sacrificed in order to approach the Self cooperatively.

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

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]