20/04/2009

The Anatomy of the Archetype


- A Critique of C.G. Jung and his impact on modern magical thinking.

“The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases. We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”
“Masses are always breeding grounds of psychic epidemics.”
- C.G. Jung

In this article an attempt of presenting the legacy of Jung as it has been inducted into the modern occult thinking will be presented. This means that there will be no distinctions made between the pattern of thinking of Jung himself, as clearly towards his death and the manifestation of the text Seven Sermons for the Dead to present a mature Gnostic vision of the world. This critique is as such aimed towards the heritage Jung left with the occult world and it is therefore by proxy an example of my own schooling in the discipline of psychology. First there is need to comment that in the scholastic environments in Europe C.G. Jung never had a great impact, as he had in large parts of the Americas. Rather the post war condition created a critical field of academic approach where critical theory, Marxism and hermeneutics of various kinds coloured the research. In terms of psychology Julia Kristeva and Heinz Kohut became more important than their psychoanalytical predecessors. Jung and his ideas became more popular with the mystical awakening in America in the 70s than amongst psychologists on the continent and his legacy lives on in the Americas and colours also psychotherapy in America as well as its continuations in the works of more mystical or religiously inclined therapists, such as Ralph Metzner and James Hillmann. In the case of the latter, this has brought Jungian reformed ideas of self realization out to the masses and a disappointing side effect is how these ideas have come to be assumed by people no matter how denigrated they might be – that a realization of self, no matter how, rude or afflicted it might be deserves realization. I would in the words of Jung denote this as a psychic epidemic, alongside with the neurotic libidinous world of mans veiled inner life.
The psychoanalytic ideas of Jung was and is a theory of the possible activities of the psyche or man’s inner life and Jung’s later search within the realms of Gnosticism and Alchemy led to Jung displaying a mystical or even occult format for psychological understanding. We have seen for quite some time a Jungian epidemic in the world of occult reflection that freely adopts Jungian terms and principles as living truths and ready realities fitting perfectly with a magical world view. The complexity of personality types, the alchemy of the unconscious, the rich inner life that replicate the themes found in the collective unconsciousness, the archetypes and the anima are the main foundation of Jungian psychology and it is typically modern in its constitution by its acceptance of the meaning in these terms on modern premises – and as such it cannot be an expression of timeless truths on the basis of its foundation. Assuming that modernity is expressing values that includes a rejection of the traditional world-view in the age preceding it (the renaissance) as being outdated a whole array of systems of meanings are born and over time developed into a system of sense and explanation resting on a quite different foundation. One example is the impact Jung has had on modern astrology and reduced it to an insecure and inaccurate pseudo-psychological tool for the understanding of man that does nothing to clarify but rather veils man in mystery and complexity to such extent that mans connectedness tends to be completely obscurated by meaningless details. Personally, I feel this development is a reflection of the dysfunctional basis of modernity where obscuration serves as distractions from a real investigation about our identity and our connectedness to all things. A natural consequence is that the application of this mode of thinking will not serve to clarify but to obscure and in the last instance the knowledge provided is distorted and coloured by a thinking that opposes a traditional magical world view. I believe this condition is partly due to the world spirit of modernity and secondary to the tendency of invalidate a given context with no epistemological concern. Let us take the word, that has infested the occult world mostly, Archetype.
Jung approached this term as a philosopher, by turning to Greece and thus finds a proper term to express an idea. Clearly philosophy is occupied with the genealogy of Greek words and how they can express philosophical truths in the contemporary society. The problem arises when people believes themselves capable of understanding the meaning of a thing or a term neglecting their limited knowledge of the subject. The term archetype is in our contemporary world used often when we do not actually know what we want to refer to and see that a wide word as ‘archetype’ can be used in order to induct a sense of reliability into our lack of knowledge. For Jung the archetypes were primal forms of consciousness found in religions, mythologies and concepts, by looking at comparative studies of religion he set out to find or rather locate collective archetypes and themes, such as the hero, the king, the father, the mother, the trickster, the wise one and so on. As such Jung saw the archetype to be an idealized model of concepts, situation, person of thing which were subject for replication throughout time and culture. We also have two subgroups to archetype, namely epitome and stereotype. The latter is usually a simplification of a type or category, as is the tendency with nationality and in-group/out-group labelling. An epitome is usually understood to be the very embodiment of an archetype, a type of perfection. In a linguistic sense the term refers to ‘a summary’ and is actually less complex and cruder even thou idealized in its summarized elegancy. If we look at the work ‘archetype’ itself it started to pop up in Europe in connection with fairytales in the middle of the 1500, in the sense of being the ‘first formed’. The word itself is of Greek origin and is a composite of ‘arkhe’ meaning first and ‘typos’ meaning model. It can also denote the mark left in a thing after it has been subject for a blow. This means the mark a club leaves in the head of a man is a ‘typo’ and the word can as such both refer to ideas such as the first man, Adam, the first woman, Eve and the first murder effectuated by Cain’s blow on his brother Abel. Nowadays the term archetype is seen in an uncritical use – and any pattern or factor that seems to repeat itself or reveal the innermost nature of a thing is referred to as ‘archetype’ or ‘archetypical’. Considering the root of the word, to mark something with a blow in order to create a form for perfect replicas the word would be subject to grave limitations. For Jung however the psychological archetypes described universal prototypes that were experienced to be so consistent that he could use this in interpreting the psychological make-up of a person. The fact that Jung perceived the concept of the archetypes to be a part of a greater complex is largely ignored in contemporary usage. The problematic factor with Jung’s psychology in this regard rests on the demand of universality of the archetypes, as a sort of baseline for human life and activity across time and culture. That learning changes the neurons in the brain and secure storage of this information in parts of the dna associated with memory seems to be a reasonable and true assumption, but to state that the archetypical categories are meaningful and useful across time and culture is a supposition I would proceed with carefully. The greatest critique against Jung’s psychology is the dualist stance that likes as a foundation for his thinking. This segmentation is predominantly modern – and in this I would also like to aim a critique against viewing the so called Manichaean world view as dualist and question if not this is a modern interpretation of a qualified monistic worldview. Likewise the segmentations into anima and animus to denote the male and female psyche easily turns into rigid categories that rather seek to conform the phenomena within the category rather than the dynamic expansion that would lead to a greater sense of connectedness that in the last instance will make such categories less important. This argument is sustained by Jung’s own conviction that the archetype was of a dualistic nature, both integrated in the inner life of the organism and in existence in the world as a timeless structure. Likewise in his comment about the significance of Buddhist and Tantrik mandalas where he states in the 12th volume of his Collected works on page 571:
“Mandalas used in ceremonies are of great significance because their centres usually contain important religious figures, e.g. Shiva or the Buddha. If, as surmised, mandalas symbolize a psychic centre of the personality that is separate from the ego, the high value placed on them is justified.”

Problematic is also the idea of Self and shadow expressed in his thinking. Self expresses the Self we acknowledge, while shadow express the negation of the ego, or in other words, the parts of our active self, or ego we refuses to acknowledge and thus it is deemed unconscious but nevertheless it do influence thinking and behaviour and colours our anima/animus.
Jung comments in his 1921 work about Personality types on page 10:
“Thinking in general is fed from two sources, firstly from subjective and in the last resort
unconscious roots, and secondly from objective data transmitted through sense perceptions.”
Observations like these remains as suppositions, - vague and unclear and I would argument that these objective data that is filtered through the senses are the very fabric of learning and thus this constitute a superior importance than the subjective and unconscious roots. In other words, Jung believed that evolution had formed structures in mans psyche that were already present at birth, so to some extent our anima/animus were already present in the form of a simplified blueprint. The esteemed psychologist and thinker B.F. Skinner on the other hand saw these structures as predispositions that needed stimuli – or external sensorial data to be triggered. Actually, Skinners’ views presents a more dynamic and rich attitude towards the constitution of man, as an organism with limitless dispositions, and at the same time open for being worked upon by society and creation at large. So, within the limits of the predisposition the many possibilities for each and everyone are far less rigid than what Jung suggested. Basically, Jung, like his teacher Freud expressed a deterministic and somewhat fatalistic view upon man, indicative of the neurosis and psychosis arising as a consequence of not conforming to the patterns already laid at your birth.
Jung considered ‘the shadow’ as an archetype and understood this to be a segment of the unconscious mind largely consisting of repressed experiences, perceived weaknesses and instincts related to shame, guilt and other categories imposed upon the western world by Christian morals and authoritarian control and condemnation from within the fabric of society. Jung associated the shadow as a faculty more close to animal instincts, a category that was triggered when the self experienced forms of stress and threat related to worth and integrity. Since Jung saw the shadow as irrational and instinctive it would kick in during confrontation and reveal aggressive and melancholic sides of the self. An important part in Jungian psychotherapy is to acknowledge and integrate these problematic aspects of one’s personality, the shadow, in ones conscious self. He saw for instance projection as an activity of ‘the shadow’, as projection is always a strategy of psychic defence and also this category of inner silent conflict was considered intimately related to creativity. Jung also suggested that ‘the shadow’ could consist of several layers in order to protect the self from direct confrontation with the persona, what we would understand to be the personality, the ‘I’ we recognize as being our self. Since the anima/animus archetype was understood to reside in all humans it would also indicate that males were predestined to solve inner conflict of a female nature and women inner conflicts of a male nature. It is in this interplay between anima/animus and the establishing of ‘the shadow’ we can understand this emphasize on father-daughter and mother-son relationships in psychoanalysis as it is here the strength of ‘the shadow’ often are established. In a way we might say that the successful integration of ‘the shadow’ makes man ready to acknowledge his anima, a process Jung described repeatedly as ‘a masterpiece’, when this was accomplished. This integration again rested on archetypes. While for the male and animus, the archetypes were less, the integration of the anima was far more complex as women were always confined to a host of different roles and accordingly the ordeals were harder and more difficult with the integration of the anima. These terms are originally from Aristotle, but we shall leave the inquiry into this maze alone for now, and rather focus in a few words on one of the many archetypes, the one of ‘the trickster’. This archetype can denote a man, woman, deity or animal which create confusion by deliberately challenging norms and expectations. Famous tricksters are the fox, Prometheus, Loki, the raven and Esu. They have in common a certain ambiguity and that they challenge of norms and pranks create a movement that often leads to positive results or a widening of knowledge. With this comes also the feeling of someone you cannot trust and as such the tricksters express the volatile and unpredictable factors in creation, in man, in relations and in things.
That certain themes are recurring in myths and societies across time and culture that denotes the existence of a cosmic and universal pattern is difficult to argue against, but this amazing phenomena to often lead to people in search for defence for a theory of point of view do stretch the categories too much and goes outside context and meaning for the theme discussed. In the last instance it can create an illusion of truth that rests on false premises. In our contemporary occult world, the word archetype is used to such an extent that the meaning has disappeared - and the term is readily available for a wide range of uncanny and uninformed opinions, by those who resort to Jungian terminology as labels to induce meaning in their meaninglessness. Especially is this evident in works with the ‘dark goddesses’ for the purpose of integrating ones ‘shadow’. This idea has been entertained to such an extent that in the contemporary occult world these ideas are now integrated in a apparently meaningful symbiosis – that serves no purpose other than giving strength to the illusion of a connection. As demonstrated here, the shadow is a segment of our self we deny to accept. It we seek to transpose these terms on a dark goddess, it would indicate that the dark goddess herself represents a condensed format of a counterpart to this dark goddess that she denies to acknowledge. Does this make sense? A dark goddess embodies in a perfect sense a composite – or complex – that might challenge the category Jung referred to as ‘the shadow’, and whether we make or break such relationship can be dependent on what level we recognize this category we deny to acknowledge for ourselves. But even such relationships have become subject for a form of ‘psychic epidemic’. People use these terms thinking they are self explanatory, just to reveal through interrogation that they are just terms filling the emptiness and insecurity with meaningless content.
In conclusion, when words and descriptions are used uncritically they are emptied for meaning. Today, the unconscious refers to whatever we do not know or refuse to accept, or to acts made by what we deem to be spontaneous or instinctive – this without ever questioning if there actually is a category of unconscious experience we act upon. Likewise, ‘the shadow’ is frequently associated with sexual matters, while these issues are actually more properly ascribed to the anima/animus complex. And archetypes... every man and every phenomena seems to express and archetype and this is all of a sudden used as a model of explanation that we use to excuse our lack of honour and character and in the same vein falls modern astrology. It is seen as a map of your psyche to explain why you are as you are and thus induce the fatalistic reasoning to why you do not have to do anything about your current estate. And it is in these consequences my critique of Jungian psychology and his grave impact on the ‘magical archetype’. By appealing to Jung a dualistic fatalism is at work, where you are already born a blueprint that is marked by a certain archetype and in the course of life your level of neurosis or psychic affliction is mediated by these principles. Rather that make a happy destiny happen and embrace luck man is falling back into excuses resting on false pretences and excuses by referring to their natal chart of shadows or inner conflicts or the unbearable challenges of their archetypical unfolding. For me that question severely if any archetypical blueprint is presented by see these questions are crucial. I see man born into a world that is marked by some level of social dysfunction. It is this dysfunction that establishes our ‘shadow’. This dysfunction is brought upon us by disruptive families, limited worldviews and religious control that dominate human life and organization with moral and dogmas – and this leaves imprints. These imprints are for the psychoanalysts seen as imprints on the psyche – but I believe, we are all born good and blessed, these imprints are social and they scar our psyche when we act upon this dysfunctional world. As such, we are never responsible for our scars, they are relationships possible to heal and from seeing the interrelationships’ and connectedness we can reach our full potential. The key is not resting within a slimy web of obscure and vile psychosis. The key to our fulfilment is out there – within the web of stars, our home and being and we need to reach unity, not fragmentation.