|Public Domain painting for NASA, by Donald David|
This post is dedicated to Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake on February 17, 1600 for telling the truth.
If we were conscious of the spirit of the age, we should know why we are so inclined to account for everything on physical grounds; we should know that it is because, up till now, too much was accounted for in terms of spirit. This realization would at once make us critical of our bias. We would say: most likely we are now making exactly the same mistake on the other side. We delude ourselves with the thought that we know much more about matter than about a “metaphysical” mind or spirit, and so we overestimate material causation and believe that it alone affords us a true explanation of life. But matter is just as inscrutable as mind. As to the ultimate things we can know nothing, and only when we admit this do we return to a state of equilibrium. This is in no sense to deny the close connection of psychic happenings with the physiological structure of the brain, with the glands and the body in general. We still remain deeply convinced of the fact that the contents of consciousness are to a large extent determined by our sense-perceptions. We cannot fail to recognize that unalterable characteristics of a physical as well as a psychic nature are unconsciously ingrained in us by heredity, and we are profoundly impressed by the power of the instincts which can inhibit or reinforce or otherwise modify even the most spiritual contents. Indeed, we must admit that as to cause, purpose, and meaning the human psyche, wherever we touch it, is first and foremost a faithful reflection of everything we call material, empirical, and mundane. And finally, in face of all these admissions, we must ask ourselves if the psyche is not after all a secondary manifestation-an epiphenomenon-and completely dependent on the physical substrate. Our practical reasonableness and worldly-mindedness prompt us to say yes to this question, and it is only our doubts as to the omnipotence of matter that might lead us to examine in a critical way this verdict of science upon the human psyche (C.G Jung, CW, Vol. 8, §657).
I see this as a very important passage of Jung’s writing. He is commenting on the emphasis of Western thought on materialism, and why we should not be surprised that it has come to be this way. For centuries, during the Middle Ages, the balances were tilted in favor of spirit, to the exclusion of matter. The message Jung is conveying here is that reality is inscrutable, mysterious. We go through periods of compensation after experiencing extreme views, such as materialism. We go from one extreme to the other trying to untangle the web of truth, but both poles are deeply enigmatic. And of the ultimate things, like God, we can know nothing. When thinkers admit these truths, perhaps then equilibrium can be found. This current age of post-materialism I have deemed the Epoch of Soul, since the metaxical nature of Soul is equilibrium. This period has already dawned. We are gradually edging into balance. It may not seem like it with all the political turmoil we are experiencing, but this is normal for such a period of tectonic shifts.
The following is not a reductionist statement by Jung when he tells us that the psyche itself is a “secondary manifestation-an epiphenomenon…completely dependent on the physical substrate.” Jung, unlike James Hillman, makes a distinction between psyche and soul. In one passage, he says,
I have been compelled, in my investigations into the structure of the unconscious, to make a conceptual distinction between soul and psyche. By psyche, I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious. By soul, on the other hand, I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a “personality”. (Psychological Types, Collected Works, Volume 6).
So, in essence, the Anima and Animus archetypes are what Jung means by “soul.” Psyche is the entire sphere of psychic activity. James Hillman does not differentiate between the two, but uses them interchangeably as “a deliberately ambiguous concept resisting all definition in the same manner as do all ultimate symbols which provide the root metaphors for the systems of human thought” (Suicide and the Soul, p. 46).
A conceptual outlook concerning these matters can quickly lead us into a trap. Our language limits us when discussing such things. Jung clearly believed the psyche, with its archetypes, was very closely tied to physical matter. His writings concerning the archetypes make it clear that he considered them the psychic correlates of biological instincts. Above, he says, “We cannot fail to recognize that unalterable characteristics of a physical as well as a psychic nature are unconsciously ingrained in us by heredity…” Evolution produced both our biological as well as psychic instincts (the archetypes). The only reason we speak in dualities is because of the extraordinary difficulty of writing about what I call Animatter. Actually, the process of evolution produced human-being-theres, in the sense of Heidegger’s Dasein. These being-theres are animaterial, interrelated creatures that possess several modes of presence, one of which happens to be physical, one of which happens to be psychic. I close with this passage from Jung:
Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing (CW, Vol. 8, §418).