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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Carl Jung on the Artist and images of the Collective Unconscious





Lecture 9

Questions and Discussion

(In a previous discussion the point was made by Dr. Jung that the modern artist turns from the outer object to the inner, that is, to the images of the collective unconscious.

In order to give examples of what he had said, Dr. Jung brought some photographs of the work of a sculptor who for a time had been a patient of his.

Though it is difficult to give an account of the discussion of these pictures apart from the pictures themselves, so much of general application was said that it is worthwhile making the attempt.)

Dr. Jung: These sculptures are an effort on the part of the artist to express an experience of the collective unconscious.

When one gets an intuition of the collective unconscious, if there is any creative power in the individual a definite figure is formed, rather than that the material comes through in a fragmentary form.

It is true that it may come in this latter way, and usually does in dementia praecox, but if the creative faculty is there one tends to shape the material so that one could say that the normal form of contact with the collective unconscious is its appearance in the single form, and that when one is assailed by an inrush of fragmentary pictures, as in dementia
praecox, there is disease.

When an artist has a figure from the collective unconscious, he at once begins to play with it esthetically, and usually makes some concretization of it as a monument, etc.

This artist, as you see, had a love of the human figure and allowed his imagination to play around that.

He got into his neurosis through the painting of a fresco, an order that came to him from a Protestant church.

He was free to choose his own theme, and what he chose was the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.

He began to make a composition and succeeded very well in grouping the apostles on either side, leaving the middle space open for the Holy Ghost.

Then he could not make up his mind as to how he wanted to represent the Holy Ghost.

He rejected the conventional symbol of the fire, and fell to speculating on what the Holy Ghost was like after all.

While he was digging in his mind for the Holy Ghost, he stirred up the collective unconscious and then began to have wild nightmares and various other forms of terrors, so that by the time he came to me for treatment, he had forgotten all about his original quest of the Holy Ghost.

While with me his task was to get the collective unconscious figures into plastic form.

As you noticed, the first figures are of gods with mouths open and dead eyes.

The libido is being sucked back into the unconscious.

Then he thought that these relatively simple things were inadequate, and so he began the figures that show the terrible complications.

Finally he reduced these to an extraordinarily demoniacal figure closely paralleling one of the demon gods of Java.

This then was the Holy Ghost to him. I later lost track of him.

Dr. Ward: Had he ever had anything which he called a religious experience?

Dr. Jung: Oh yes, these contacts with the collective unconscious were his religious experience and were understood by him in that sense.

In this connection it is interesting to remember that Luther came to the conception of the dual aspect of God.

He conceived of the manifest God and of the concealed God, the latter being a symbol of the evil forces of life.

In other words, Luther was so impressed with the power of negative forces that it was necessary for him to preserve them to the deity; then the devil played only a secondary role between the two forces.

Mr. Aldrich: If this was the artist’s negative conception of the deity, what was his positive conception?

What were the figures he completed on the fresco?

Dr. Jung: These were more or less conventional representations of the apostles.

Like all introverts, in his conscious he tended to remain academic.

(There were a number of written questions and the remainder of the hour was given over to them.)

Mrs. Evans’ questions: “Is there not a pull or urge from each of the pairs of opposites that we have, and is that not necessary to preserve our balance?

For instance: a person is both good and bad, generous and stingy, obstinate and yielding.

Would the urge from only one of those opposites destroy him morally and physically?

“Are good and evil both necessary to the development of the individual personality? (Psychology of the Unconscious [1919 edn.], page 121.)

“In the middle, between the opposites, is there not inaction, a stationary condition without growth?

Would that be the Nirvana so longed for by the Eastern mystic in his contemplation?”

Dr. Jung: This question, in order to be properly answered, involves a discussion of the pairs of opposites in a comprehensive way.

Is it the wish of the class that we pause to do that now or postpone it for a later lecture?

(It was voted by the class to postpone the discussion of the pairs of opposites to a later meeting.)

Miss Corrie: In an earlier lecture you spoke of reversing the mental machinery in order to be a passive observer of dreams.

In a later lecture you say that watching the unconscious is only a perceptional connection and the worst possible attitude.

I do not understand the distinction.

Is it that you would have been adopting the night attitude by day?

Dr. Jung: The two lives do not belong together.

When I said that I reversed the machinery in order to watch, I did not mean that it was merely for the purpose of watching.

The purpose was the assimilation of my unconscious material, and the only way to achieve this is by giving the material a chance to come through.

When one assumes a perceptional attitude toward one’s unconscious, an attitude often to be observed in certain intuitives, one makes no effort to assimilate the material into the personality.

There exists no moral relation then between the observed material and the personality.

But if we observe in order to assimilate, it is an attitude that calls for the participation of all our functions.

Nietzsche made the esthetical attitude the foremost attitude of man, and the intellectual attitude can also be like this, that is, one can simply think about life without ever living.

One is not in the process, not even one’s own process.

For the sake of consciousness we have had to step aside from life and observe; in other words, we have had to dissociate, but necessary as this process is in the evolution of consciousness, it ought not to be used as it is today as a means of keeping us out of life.

Our effort today should be the double one of consciousness plus a full participation in life.

The common ideal of today is work at all costs, but many people simply work and do not live.

We cannot depreciate the ideal of work, but we can understand that it is valueless when it divorces one from life.

Miss Henty’s question: “Cannot the inferior functions be developed without such an overthrow of the superior functions as you described last time?”

Dr. Jung: Can you lift water up from the bottom of a falls without loss of energy?

You have to have energy in order to activate the inferior function, and if you don’t get this energy away from the superior function, whence is it to come?

If you leave all your energy and will in the superior function you slowly go to hell—it sucks you dry.

Normal people are those who can live under any circumstances without developing protests, but there are certain people in whom various conditions of life develop a protest.

Take for example the effort to live a rounded life; it is most expensive.

Today to bring up the inferior function is to live, but we pay dearly for it both in mistakes and in energy.

Sometimes it is not our choice—the inferior function takes us unawares.

Such a situation presented itself at the time of the spread of Christianity two thousand years ago.

The spiritual values had at that time sunk into the unconscious, and in order to realize them again, people had to go to tremendous lengths in the repudiation of material values. Gold, women, art—all had to be given up.

Many even had to withdraw into the desert in order to free themselves from the world.

Finally they came to the point of giving up life itself, and they were confronted with the arena and with being roasted alive.

All this came to them through the growth of a psychological attitude.

They were sacrificed because they undermined the most sacred ideals of the time.

They threatened the disruption of the Roman family by their theological disputes.

They refused to consider the Emperor divine.

The effect they had on the collective viewpoint was similar to that produced today when anything is said against the god of Western Europe—Respectability.

We today are also looking for certain other values.

We seek life, not efficiency, and this seeking of ours is directly against the collective ideals of our times.

Only those who have energy enough, or who have been gripped in spite of themselves, can go through this process, but once in it you have to bleed for it.

It is a process that is going on all over the world today.

Mr. Robertson: What forced people into this attitude two thousand years ago?

Dr. Jung: People could see no other way of meeting the extreme to which paganism had led.

The reversal of attitude which Christianity induced took the juice out of the literature and the art of the time. According to the philologists, everything of value disappeared then; only a faint flame remaining burning in Apuleius.

But as a matter of fact, it was simply that the main stream of creative power left the channel dug by antiquity and sought a new bed.

A new literature and art grew up, of which Tertullian is an example.

The libido went over into spiritual values and an enormous change took place in human mentality in three hundred years.

These collective movements are always hard for the individual to sustain.

They grip people from the unconscious without their being able to know what has happened to them.

Thus the literature of those days was full of a sickish sentimentality—the spark had gone from the conscious standpoint and was buried in the unconscious.

These people in the early Christian era were unaware of the general movement contemporaneous with them.

They could not realize they were Christians, yet they were seeking initiation into all sorts of mysteries in search of the thing Christianity was offering.

They could not accept it because of its origin in the hands of despised peoples.

Most of the troubles of our times come from this lack of realization that we are part of a herd that has deviated from the main currents.

When you are in a herd you lose the sense of danger, and this it is that makes us unable to see where we deviate from the deep currents of collectivity.

Miss Hincks: When you were speaking of bringing up your inferior function, did you mean the one in the unconscious?

Dr. Jung: Yes.

Miss Hincks: I understood you to mean that you had developed your intuition in contradistinction to your thinking.

Dr. Jung: No, I meant to place feeling in opposition to thinking.

As a natural scientist, thinking and sensation were uppermost in me and intuition and feeling were in the unconscious and contaminated by the collective unconscious.

You cannot get directly to the inferior function from the superior, it must always be via the auxiliary function.

It is as though the unconscious were in such antagonism to the superior function that it allowed no direct attack.

The process of working through the auxiliary functions goes on somewhat as follows: Suppose you have sensation strongly developed but are not fanatical about it.

Then you can admit about
every situation a certain aura of possibilities; that is to say, you permit an intuitive element to come in.

Sensation as an auxiliary function would allow intuition to exist.

But inasmuch as sensation (in the example) is a partisan of the intellect, intuition sides with the feeling, here the inferior function.

Therefore the intellect will not agree with intuition, in this case, and will vote for its exclusion.

Intellect will not hold together sensation and intuition, rather it will separate them.

Such a destructive attempt will be checked by feeling, which backs up intuition.

Looking at it the other way around, if you are an intuitive type, you can’t get to your sensations directly.

They are full of monsters, and so you have to go by way of your intellect or feeling, whichever is the auxiliary in the conscious.

It needs very cool reasoning for such a man to keep himself down to reality.

To sum up then, the way is from the superior to the auxiliary, from the latter to the function opposite to the auxiliary.

Usually this first conflict that is aroused between the auxiliary function in the conscious and its opposite function in the unconscious is the fight that takes place in analysis.

This may be called the preliminary conflict.

The knock-down battle between the superior and inferior functions only takes place in life.

In the example of the intellectual sensation type, I suggested the preliminary conflict would be between sensation and intuition, and the final fight between intellect and feeling.

Dr. de Angulo: Why cannot the main battle take place in analysis?

Dr. Jung: That can only happen when the analyst loses his objectivity and becomes personally involved with the patient.

In this connection it can be said that the analyst is always in danger of intoxications through his unconscious.

Suppose a woman comes and tells me I am her savior.

While consciously I may know perfectly well she has made a terrible projection upon me, unconsciously I drink it up and possibly swell to tremendous proportions.

Mrs. Keller’s question: (This question as originally presented was lost. The problem concerned was in connection with the will.)

Dr. Jung: It cannot be said that the will of man is like a stone rolling downhill.

What is true is that through the will you can release a process, say a fantasy, which then proceeds on its own course.

There are two ways of looking at will.

That of Schopenhauer, for instance, who speaks of the will to live and the will to death in the sense of an urge to life and an urge to death.

I like to reserve the concept of will for that small amount of energy that is disposable by us in consciousness.

Now if you put this small amount toward activating the instinctive process, the latter then goes on with a force much bigger than yours.

The libido of man contains the two opposite urges or instincts: the instinct to live and the instinct to die.

In youth the instinct toward life is stronger, and that is why young people don’t cling to life—they have it.

The libido as an energetic phenomenon contains the pairs of opposites, otherwise there would be no movement of the libido.

It is a metaphor to use the terms of life and death; any others will do, so long as they show the opposition.

In animals and in primitive peoples, the pairs of opposites are closer together than in so-called civilized peoples, hence both animals and primitives part with life more easily than do we.

A primitive can kill himself just for the luxury of haunting an enemy.

In other words, because of our dissociation, the pairs of opposites are much further apart.

This gives us our increased psychical energy, and the price we pay is one-sidedness.

When the pairs of opposites are close together, the individual changes easily.

He passes quickly from a mood of expansion to a mood of death.

We have now come into a discussion of the pairs of opposites.

Is it the wish of the class to discuss this problem at the next meeting? (It was so voted by the class.) ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Pages 71-77

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