Comments on Jung’s Seminar about Zarathustra
A Psychological Look at Spirit (Part 2)
“Ye know only the sparks of the spirit: but ye do not see the anvil which it is, and the cruelty of its hammer” (Lecture VI, 9 June 1937).
As mentioned in Part 1, Nietzsche’s intuitive genesis presents a new picture of geist (spirit): the “sparks” produced when a hammer strikes an anvil representing the new (spirit) of his age (the Zeitgeist).
Nietzsche’s image reflects upon his keen observation that by the end of the nineteenth century, the educated European possessed or was possessed (1) by the tremendous ideas that shook the foundations of society. What appeared on the outside was that the leaders in scientific and philosophical research had adopted a “mechanistic” (e.g. scientific / materialistic) approach and conception to life. Though the philosophical approach of the previous Protestant religious tradition still predominated among the masses and in the more conservative halls of academia, Nietzsche saw more clearly than others that a new standpoint, an entirely new Weltanschauung (or “world view” / attitude) irrevocably and eventually predominate among the knowledge leaders. This new Weltanschauung in which intellect was the new “spirit” or, said differently, intellect replaced the old religious conception of spirit. For the centuries since Luther, an underlying psychological attitude guided collective and personal life giving an unconscious foundation to its morals and ethics. Now this era had ended.
Jung comments on this saying:
“[This was] the mistake of the 19th century, or the magic if you like to say so. We thought we were mighty magicians and could fetter the spirit in the form of intellect and make it serviceable to our needs … “ (Lecture VI, 9 June 1937).
The Nazi movement
When intellect replaces spirit, it undergoes a “deification” which I use not in the metaphysical or theological sense, but psychologically as meaning a personification of a dynamism in the unconscious. And when such an activation of the unconscious is not subjected to individual human reflection it expresses itself autonomously in institutions acting with compulsivity, a power-psychology, and not having an ethos of tolerance of other standpoints.
Jung eventually understood that when such an attitude replaces the traditional religious conception of spirit that eventually a conscious hubris results. The ego has left its place amidst humanity and inflates to grandiose size. And this too affected Nietzsche so that he didn’t consider or, more accurately put, was psychologically blinded to the destructive aspects of some of the ideas expressed in “Thus Spake Zarathustra”. These ideas possessed an enormous stickiness (2) indicative of the presence of an activated unconscious idea (archetypal) that the later Nazi movement adopted and which it would inculcate itself with and spread to others.
1. By “possessed” I mean that from the psychological standpoint, the scientific collective of this era were for the most part gripped by an unconscious drive of fascination (in German, Ergriffenheit, meaning “a state of being seized or possessed”). This drive, which served well to aid the new discoveries which would take place, created the psychic tension necessary to dethrone the old scientific models, for instance the theories of ether in physics or phlogiston in chemistry. When the underlying psychological basis for a model in any field of science or psychology no longer lays silent in the unconscious, individuals can then see new things about the world, and in the case of the scientific mind, the end of the nineteenth century generated a dramatic influx on new ideas about the material world. Consciously, the intellect leaders of the era would have said that the old models now longer fit the facts of life as they are now observed.
2. Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point” writes this:
Stickiness means that a message makes an impact. You can’t get it out of your head. It sticks in your memory” (p. 25).
Jung’s “self” is different from what is generally understood by the word “self”
The following quote from Jung is easily misunderstood:
“The possibilities of development discussed in the preceding chapters were, at bottom, alienations of the self, ways of divesting the self of its reality in favour of an external role or in favour of an imagined meaning. In the former case the self retires into the background and gives place to social recognition; in the latter, to the auto-suggestive meaning of a primordial image. In both cases the collective has the upper hand. Self-alienation in favour of the collective corresponds to a social ideal; it even passes for social duty and virtue, although it can also be misused for egotistical purposes”
(para. 267, Jung, C.G. (1966). “The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious.” In R.F.C. Hull (Trans.), The Collected Works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 7, pp. 123-241). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published in 1934.)
By “alienations of the self” Jung refers to the normal separation from the original unconscious wholeness present at birth. As the infant develops into a child the first of many “endpoints” is reached when a single conscious function (either sensation, intuition, thinking, or feeling) becomes the dominant way in which adaptation to life slowly replaces the participation with the mother’s psyche. In the teen years, a continuity of consciousness develops which one can recognize empirically - which we call the “ego” complex.
The development of consciousness, of which the ego is the center, facilitates social adaptation to other children, school, and home life, yet the cost is a loss of connection with the “self” - the psychic totality of conscious and the conscious. The effects of this “loss of connection to the self” normally resurfaces in the transition to midlife. For more on this see Jung’s article “The Stages of Life,” Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 8, pp. 387-403.
What is Emotion?
“I take emotion as affect; it is the same as something affects you. Emotion is the thing that carries you away. You are thrown out of yourself; you are beside yourself as if an explosion had moved you out of yourself and put you beside yourself” (Jung, CW 17, para. 46).
Jung distinguishes between emotion, as an involuntary, temporary, and chiefly unconscious behavior, and “feeling” (“F” on the MBTI) which he understands to be one of the two rational ordering functions, the other one being “thinking” (“T”). The feeling function is a value-based way of judging the perceptions brought to us either through sensation (“S”) or intuition (“N”).
Comments on “Jung’s Children’s Dream Seminar” of 1938-1939
Below I give my comments on two excerpts from Jung’s “Psychological Interpretation of Children’s Dreams.” Notes on Lectures given by Prof. Dr. C.G. Jung at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich, Autumn and Winter, 1938-39.
“The dream is, as you know, a natural phenomenon. It arises from no conscious effort. It cannot be explained by a psychology which is based on consciousness only. It … is quite independent of the will or desire, or of the intentions of aims of the human ego. It is an unintentional happening, like all the events in nature. … The difficulty lies in understanding this natural phenomenon” (p. 2).
RIW: This first sentence is very important for us to consider. What does Jung mean when he calls a dream a “natural phenomenon”? Certainly, a dream may be considered like other bodily functions, perhaps even as the “output” of one of its organs. For just as the heart, being the “pump” of the circulatory system, has its output of blood, one of the mind’s “outputs” is the dream. I hold that underneath conscious activity, the dream is continuously going on. But it is only when the force of consciousness is reduced, such as during sleep (when REM and its associated brain wave activity), that we become aware of dream and have the possibility to later remember his autonomously produced psychic activity. Dreams clearly relate to a natural functioning functioning. But what is / are its natural functions? The dream shows the imaginal matrix from which consciousness arises, the visual language that forms the creative and emotive forces that drive behavior as well as the counterpoint to the contents of consciousness.
“Whatever we have to say about [dreams] must be acknowledged as our own interpretation. … We are confronted by the difficult task of translating natural processes into psychical language. … Whatever meaning one ascribes to [dream] events, [it] must always remain a human assumption, and nevertheless, [one should] attempt to comprehend the underlying primary facts. One is never absolutely certain whether one is reaching this goal, but the uncertainty is partially overcome [as one] … observes … [the dream] offers an intelligent solution” (p. 2).
RIW: Underlying Jung’s words are his practice to first allow oneself to be moved by the imagery of our dreams. To “feel” a dream first gives back to its contents some of the original intensity they possessed while unconscious. One then amplifies the dream’s motifs using both personal associations and parallel material from humankind’s common experience. Lastly, comes interpretation, our own sense of what the dream means to us. An intelligent and sound scientific approach to the dream uses hypothesis, meaning that one’s idea of a dream’s meaning should always be kept flexible, waiting for the next alternative way of understanding it. This is the healthy “modicum of doubt” that Jung always taught his students to hold.