Friday, January 22, 2016

DANGERS AND TREASURES OF THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS...January 22, 2016

A good number of people are aware that the work and writings of C.G. Jung were very helpful to me during my rather frightening mid-life transition some thirty years ago. In those confusing times some of the writings of Jung happened into my circle, and in them I found a voice that seemed to speak richly  of the 'hope of light in the darkness'. This of course is a central archetypal kind of theme in the Bible as well. But the ways I had been taught to understand and use the Biblical material had not let me see the parallel  message and experience there. Only afterward did I see the threads of hope I saw in Jung's work, often including much Biblical reference, were there all along in my own heritage, just buried to deep for me to access.
During the intervening years in my work as licensed  'clinical professional counselor', ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, Hospital and Hospice chaplain and as a science/math teacher for high school freshmen at risk, Jung has continued to challenge and inform me. This has been in the most comprehensive and specific ways of any writer or journal-er of my acquaintance. I have come to see Jung is speaking of collective realities that do not just pertain to the individual but regard the whole of life and humanity. He is not the only one who has ever addressed the whole.  I am very grateful for the work and legacy he has left. He is presently being reevaluated in light of his family publishing what is called Jung's Red Book six years ago. It is a painstakingly recorded account of his most personal experiences with what he coined the Collective Unconscious. It is giving a new insight into the origins of his most creative written works and fresh insights into his most private life.

Here I simply wish to share one of the insights of Jung that is so relevant and timely to our times of extreme cultural transitions in America and world wide. He made clear that the content of the Collective Unconscious when it occurs as direct personal experience is both a gift beyond measure but also, depending on the level of human consciousness that receives it and perhaps fate, a great and threatening danger to the survival of the individual, the human species and of the planet. One place where this danger is described by Jung is in his close observation of the life and genius of Friedrich Nietzsche- German philosopher 1844-1900. Friedrich Nietzsche was a very rare genius of his day who apparently made unprecedented contact with our human Collective Unconscious content and whose ego unfortunately in the end was overwhelmed by it. He did what Jung so warned himself and others of..... to not identify personally with the mesmerizing numinous content of the Collective Unconscious. To do so causes first an unconscious inflation of the ego , of one's too high an estimate of his conscious self, to the extreme of thinking of oneself as, or nearly as, God which can result in total insanity. Anyone who visits a psychological ward at a hospital would hear those who do not just talk about God and Jesus intently but truly think they are such. More functional people are under the same kind of unconscious influence and are our cultures' megalomaniacs. This can sometimes be seen tragically happening with highly charismatic celebrities, public leaders, politicians and dictators. Rare ones like Nietzsche, their ego-  both as strong, creative, genius and tender as it is- has been completely lost, drowned eventually in the flood of the Collective Unconscious which represents all that is and can be. But Neitzsche was able to leave behind some of what he discovered in the depths.

Jung entered his years(roughly 1915-1930) of the Red Book experience fully aware of this danger and he took precautions. He had an objective trusted person to debrief with after each encounter and he had a strong daily routine of family life and of seeing several patients. (He gave up most of his teaching and professional posts during these years.) He says he often, to retain sanity, reminded himself that he "was only Carl Jung who lived at 330 See Street in Kusnacht, Switzerland and he repeated aloud the names of his wife and children." And he wrote it all down , commented reflectively on it and embellished it all with calligraphy and paintings(The Red Book or Libra Novis as it exists now.) He had to keep clear that the themes and figures of the visions or fantasies, though a part of him and his psyche, were 'more than' and 'other than' his personal conscious ego. Such experience would be what lies at the foundation of all formal world religions as the experience of a 'voice of God. ' Yet these religions arrived powerfully in the past   without the objective understanding we can have of them now through the arrival of depth psychology erupting, with its proofs of the Unconscious, with Sigmund Freud at the beginning of the twentieth century. His personal experience and objective description of such natural phenomena of the collective human psyche is central to Jung's very unique contribution to human knowledge. Knowledge based in recorded experience that I suspect has only yet been barely appreciated and benefited from. His seminars on Nietzsche show how he recognized and understood the genius of that man's work. I've tried to read Zarathustra a few times. It is a highly creative and predictive lens into the evolving human situation or our times.



A strong collective danger, in times of major transitions, that is always possible is that a large narcissistic fearful part of a culture can identify with such a megalomanical genius leader and live through him, by following without critical challenge, vicariously his self perceived 'god almightiness', the long awaited hero who will save us all.  This part of the collective culture will be unconsciously drawn to such a person as if by a strong magnet. The result can be  a Hitler type of collective phenomenon. Or maybe now there are dangerously a good number of such "I am god" persons around the globe that others are attracted to give their unquestioning full allegiance . Only some critical mass of advancing human consciousness can prevent this from happening. Is there enough of that in America and the world right now is a big question mark. Our civic institutions, churches or or Sacred texts taken as specific answers can't save us from such a tragedy, only some critical mass of individual human's evolved capacity for just enough suffering consciousness can be the new and necessary savior. This is what Jung was getting at and warning of as best I can understand him. It strikes me as likely a most timely contemporary voice out there at our very critical historic moment. *I apologize for getting so serious without warning. It would be comical if not so real. So even the most serious issues have some humor attached. :) Here is a letter from Jung on the influence of Nietzsche, written shortly before  Jung's death:

To the Rev. Arthur W. Rudolph
Dear Sir, 5 January 1961
It would be too ambitious a task to give you a detailed account of the influence of Nietzsche's thoughts on my own development.
As a matter of fact, living in the same town where Nietzsche spent his life as a professor of philosophy.
I grew up in an atmosphere still vibrating from the impact of his teachings, although it was chiefly resistance which met his onslaught.
I could not help being deeply impressed by his indubitable inspiration ("Ergriffenheit").
He was sincere, which cannot be said of so many academic teachers to whom career and vanity mean infinitely more than the truth.
The fact that impressed me the most was his encounter with Zarathustra and then his "religious" critique, which gives a legitimate place in philosophy to passion as the very real motive of philosophizing.
The Unzeitgemiisse Betrachtungen were to me an eye-opener, less so the Genealogy of Morals or his idea of the "Eternal Return" of all things.
His all-pervading psychological penetration has given me a deep understanding of what psychology is able to do.
All in all Nietzsche was to me the only man of that time who gave some adequate answers to certain urgent questions which then were more felt than thought.
Max Stirner, whom I read at the same time, gave me the impression of a man who was trying to express an infinitely important truth with inadequate means.
Over against him the figure of Zarathustra seems to me the better formulation.
Those are the main points I could mention about Nietzsche and his influence on my own development.
If you have any further questions and if their answer is within my reach, I am quite ready to cope with them.
Sincerely yours,
C.G. Jung



*http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-lachman/why-jung-is-important_b_2664409.html

Friday, January 1, 2016

GOD WAS NEVER PERFECT.... December 31, 2015


This triggers a laugh because it places an unexpected contradiction before us. It is a contradiction with much truth. It is worthy of a healthy  laugh that our Good Book is so full of the opposite. Yet there is I think something here that the general public, religious and non religious alike, still must learn about that which is God. By God I think we are conscientiously cornered to say it must be what is everything. I mean where everything that is, has been or can be , is located in potential. But my hunch is that in that original everything is included  "racism, sexism, homophobias , violence and sexual frustration" along with some things worse. This would fit why all our  religions about God and gods, along with the facts of human history, are full of this kind of disappointments.

It seems likely  now the more conscious human species is  where what is truly good and what is truly bad has to  be sorted out.  And with advancing human consciousness this has become far more complex than most of us have let ourselves acknowledge. It  has now become the task for finding potential answers from  an expanding human consciousness. There is not a God back there somewhere which was only good and perfect. God evolves into a humane, responsible and loving consciousness only to the extent that the conscious human creature does.  This has never yet happened in any  consistent collective way, ever. It is true that untold numbers of us glimpse such a discriminating consciousness in our 'image of Jesus'...who  was, by the way, human from all reports. But we still then turn right around and say Jesus is the same as a perfectly good eternal creator God that existed always before.(The eternal God must surely be 'perfect' in the sense that it is Whole , including within it  all that is , known and unknown,  but not as a clearly differentiated  morality or ethics. That requires far more consciousness than must have been  present at the beginning).

I see the clinging  more orthodox images for God  as most likely a gigantic  post-modern blockage  of an ever evolving revelation  of God. It appears we humans are going to have to find our way and the courage to question some  outgrown images of God if we are to achieve what we apparently are  assigned  to accomplish. This is where evolution is now.

So it seems  to me we humans, or at least a great number of our species, must give up there ever having been any past perfect God, or as perfection being the quality of  the ambiguous  'mind' present when creation began. That quite a-moral powerful presence at most must have had  a dream of  being a fully  loving self and  creating a lovingly conscious species . But all our evidence points that such mature effective  love was not a completed perfection then or even  fully imagined. And that same somewhat  conscious  creative  'mind' either intuited  from the start or later painfully  learned that only the increased consciousness of the creature, combined  with the hazy dream of the creative God mind,  could make either of these dreamed for  ' intertwined consciousnesses' become a reality. The beginning was at best  a dream for mature effective love  to be  realized as the natural character of life  and  being in the real world. If we humans  can manage to give up the flawed  notion of a past perfect God, without caving into the absurdity that there was no mind at all, then we are more likely to help  usher in the level of consciousness needed to keep evolution moving  toward love of  the planet and each other rather  than our present observed trajectory  toward  destruction of both self and the planet.

Surprisingly this  view of an  imperfect and evolving  God does not have to  limit or reduce a sincere person's  respect for  God. Looking for God  has had my attention for  as long as I can remember , deep into my childhood.  I  now have the impression  that God, for the unimaginable and unspeakable reality that name is used by humanity, is on the brink of  being accepted more for what God actually is and not our insistence of what  it be. And the emerging image of God  is something that remains  the most astonishing mystery of  life. The metaphor I imagine is of God being very relieved and  far more connected to humanity  to finally be appreciated for it's less than perfect but still most essential birthing aspect of all of reality, truly the  Great Mother. For love is basically accepting, valuing  and  trusting one for what he, she or it actually is and not for what we have insisted in our  human egotism  the other be. Also, I'm imagining that God has suffered mutually along with all the human suffering the world has ever known, searching along with  sincere humans to find a way to bring the  world to  a place where effective earthbound love is the natural ruling virtue of life. That wins my forever sincerest  respect. I am moved with a profound empathy for that which we call God. I'm recalling that even Jesus, on whom many have projected their positive inner  image of God, at the end asked his friends to call him their friend not master. He wanted mutual  empathy not worship. Only mutual relationships have any hope of being matured loving ones. This surely includes the Sacred-Human relationship.  The presently evolving post modern image of God, rather than diminishing God,  brings a higher and more honest appreciation of that bed rock psychological  reality. I am full of hope  there is a collective leap in human/divine consciousness  happening in our present time  regarding the meaning of God and the mutuality and interdependence between God and Human.

I'm unsure how the  quote in the picture stimulated me to this reflection but it did. Or why I would be attempting to describe such an idea on New Years Eve? Must have been the pasta and lite beer. :)