Sunday, October 26, 2008

Journeying with Jung 22



A Note of Personal Identity:

The famous New Zealand novelist and short story writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) has said rather wisely, and if you read even a potted biography of her life you will see why, that we all seem to have hundreds of selves.  These, Jung, would have termed our sub-personalities.  From even a brief perusal of her life, one can infer (on very little evidence on the part of the peruser, I admit) that she had deep concerns about the stability of her own identity. Jung would have said that she had failed in the task of individuation or in the task of integrating those sub-personalities into an overarching whole, that is, in integrating the personality (cf Dr. Anthony Storr). Here is what she said, having read the plethora of books then coming out in quick succession on psychoanalysis:

What with complexes and supressions, and reactions and vibrations and reflections - there are moments when I feel I am nothing but the small clerk of some hotel without a proprietor who has all his work cut out to enter the names and hand the keys to the wilful guests.  (Hayman, 218)

I have already discussed the fact that Jung sought in his therapy to reunite the scattered fragments (=sub-personalities) into an integrated whole in the immediate post before this one.

A Note on Jung's Reading of Philosophy:

Admittedly, Jung was no philosopher, though he was widely read in the subject.  Like us all, I suppose, we take from philosophers  ideas that back up our own contentions, beliefs and opinions.  Indeed, Jung was bold enough to say that he called himself a Kantian. "Epistemologically, he wrote, "I take my stand on Kant," that "Kant allows man the power to assert a metaphysical truth," and he went on in one letter to contend that he had been expressing Kantian epistemology in psychological terms.  However, Hayman is correct where he points out that Jung had tried, and probably failed on philosophical grounds, to out-manoeuvre Kant by claiming that psychology can "unite the idea and the thing without doing violence to either." (See ibid., 219) 

Kant had been arguing along the following lines.  We can know only what we experience, but yet we can conceive of transcendental ideas which he called 'things in themselves' or 'concepts of pure reason' or noumena as opposed to phenomena, tangible and visible things that exist in space and time.  He distinguished between pure and practical reasoning and when he did so he was differentiating between the kind of thinking based on experience (practical)  and the type of thinking that consists in making logical connections between concepts (pure reasoning).

Bridging the gap between Religion and Science (In this case Psychiatry or Analysis)

Here is where the Kantian influence worked upon Carl Gustave Jung.  As a young boy he had been brought up by a strict Protestant father who was a minister in his church and this Paul Jung was quite a severe enough man, at least from his photos and from his son's account of him.   According to Carl, his father had ceased to look for reasons for his belief and preferred instead to state his faith as dogmas only - he had told his young son who was preparing for his confirmation that he knew absolutely nothing about the Trinity and that they would skip that section of the catechism.  That action badly disappointed the young boy who went on to state that his father probably had lost his religion and was only going through the motions.  On the one hand then Jung had begun to despise organised religion as represented by his father and he spoke often about 'the depressing results of doctrinal oppressiveness.' (See Hayman, 219)  His second daughter, Gret, who was born in 1906 was quite surprised to learn that her father had believed in God at all because he was forever making fun of theologians. On the other hand the young boy was much captivated by the lively spiritual world of his mother and of his mother's people, the Preiswerks - they lived in a world alive to the spiritual and even the occult.  Hence, doctrine was seen as cold and forbidding and 'depressing' and 'oppressing'.

Also Jung was open to the world of the psychotic and listened with interest and compassion to his patients in the asylum.  In this approach he succeeded in winning the confidence of his patients to a greater extent than his fellow psychiatrists.  Hayman is interesting here and makes good clear sense and one can see immediately how this gives a good background or context to Jung's desire to bridge the noumenal and phenomenal worlds:

If a woman said she had been on the moon, he not only listened but chatted as she had been visiting a country that interested him.  In his theorising, as in his clinical practice, he accorded factual status to mental events.  He argued the reality consists of  'a reality in ourselves, an esse in anima.' (Ibid., 219)

Now Jung makes a leap that Kant could never have consented to.  From nowhere, almost, he asserts that this 'esse in anima' is a phenomenon rather than a noumenon which Kant would have held.  From Jung's stand-point all mental events are actual phenomena.  It is at this point that we see Jung talking about God as a psychological phenomenon, which I must admit appeals quite readily and fundamentally to me.  Here is Hayman again on Jung's abuse of Kantian thought:

Kant would not have wanted his name to be used in support of the phrase 'psychological fact' and the habit of treating fantasies, visions, dreams and hallucinations as if they were empirically real.  Jung sometimes said that there are 'two kinds of truth', but they do not correspond to Kant's pure and practical reason.

For Jung, an image of God is a 'psychic fact', and in this way disguises a noumenon as a phenomenon, though the image is not grounded in time or space...  (Ibid., 220)

Losing Touch with Spirituality:

The loss of connection to the spiritual was for Jung the malady of the twentieth century.  The general neurosis of our age was seen in "the senselessness and aimlessness of our lives" (ibid., 217)  Simplistically and almost continually contrasting primitiveness with modernity, he kept on reminding his audiences and his readers that in losing touch with their spirituality, they had paid too high a price for any progress they had made.

 

He never stopped feeling nostalgic for the kind of thinking that had extirpated from the West by rationalism, materialism and scientific progress.  he loved the pre-Newtonian idea of a unitary world with a coherent divine intention behind it...

What troubled Jung was not so much a dissociation of sensibility as dissociation of spirituality.  Finding that people were looking only at the cerebral cortex, the nervous system and the digestive tracts, he wanted to heal the sickness  in the modern soul by persuading us not to forget that the savage side of our nature is still there.  If he had confronted his own madness without breaking under the strain, he could probably reconcile other people with the most disruptive parts of their nature.  (Ibid., 223-225)

Jung's Terminology:

Jung was syncretistic and eclectic to say the least in his use of sources - taking ideas and concepts from wherever he wished if they were useful in his therapy and in his theorising on it.  He borrowed ideas from all over - Plato, St Augustine, St Thomas, Kant and Nietzsche to name but several.  The idea of archetype he had got, he says, from St Augustine and is quite confusing as regards what he got from Kant  and Plato with respect to this same concept.  I'm at one with Hayman in finding Jung's philosophy quite muddled, but given that he wasn't a professional philosopher I can forgive him somewhat in that.  Jung had originally used the term 'primordial image' instead of archetype and the former term he had borrowed from Kant.

It's also interesting to see that his idea of the collective unconscious had been prefigured in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche who in Human, All Too Human wrote that 'asleep and dreaming we traverse the thought of earlier generations...We still reason in our dreams in the way primeval men reasoned when they were awake." (Quoted ibid., 227)

Jung never did succeed in sorting out his philosophical and terminological muddles.

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