Last Updated on Sunday, 27 October 2013 20:37
Written by Wolfgang Giegerich
Not everything painful is a truth. But very often truth is painful. I consider it the job of psychology, of psychoanalysis, to try to bring out and say the truth. Of course I do not know whether what I will write here will actually be the truth; this is not for me to decide.
The Opposition of 'Individual' and 'Collective' Psychology's Basic Fault: Reflections On Today's Magnum Opus of the Soul
Reprinted with the permission of the publisher from Harvest: Journal for Jungian Studies, 1996. V. 42, No. 2, pp. 7-27.
Not everything painful is a truth. But very often truth is painful. I consider it the job of psychology, of psychoanalysis, to try to bring out and say the truth. Of course I do not know whether what I will write here will actually be the truth; this is not for me to decide. But at least I do know that it will be painful.
Let me begin with the motto of this lecture series, 'The rescue of one's own soul consists in the rescue of the world.' As the author of this statement I may be entitled to subject it to a self-critical reflection. And I must subject it to a critical reflection in order to dispel right from the beginning a possible misconception concerning my basic stance, and a possible expectation concerning the general line of thought for the following exposition that the quotation might have awakened. Listening to the sentence today, I am not happy with the word 'rescue' and the concern it expresses. To be sure, despite truly exciting new developments in the sciences and technology, there is enough in the world that urges upon us a desire for a rescue of the world: terrorism, starvation of millions, brutal social injustice and political suppression in many parts of the world, wars, millions of refugees, unemployment, epidemics, the stupidity of much of television entertainment, to mention only a few unbearable vexations. Nevertheless, as I see it there are two problems with the intention of rescuing. First, the idea is grandiose. Is not the mere toying with the wishful idea of rescuing the world hybris? Who are we to expect to be able to contribute something to the rescue of anything, let alone the world? Rescue, sotería, salvation, is a program of an order far too large, a program suitable exclusively for a sotér, a Saviour.
Secondly, it seems to me that the project of rescuing also contradicts the very impulse of psychoanalysis. One of Jung's analysands had the following dream. She was told to descend into a pit filled with hot material and submerge herself in it. She obeyed, with merely one shoulder left sticking out of the pit. Then Jung came by and pushed her all the way into the hot material saying, 'Not out, but through.' Aniela Jaffé tells us that when Jung reported this dream in a seminar he did so with obvious delight.' This is a very simple and clear illustration of the depth-psychological impulse. The psychological instinct vis-à-vis a predicament, a pathology, a symptom, inasmuch as it is a truly psychological instinct, is not to try to get out of it, nor to wish to 'correct' it. The soul's longing is for consciousness to enter ever deeper into the predicament, to the very heart of the matter, not because of a morbid masochism, but to keep with the alchemical insight that the mess we find ourselves in to begin with is the prima materia to whom the psychological eros and the entire Work are dedicated. In this sense, one might even say that it is not the world nor we who need to be rescued from the predicament; on the contrary, it is the predicament or the pathology itself that needs to be rescued or saved, in the sense of the Platonic demand to sózein tà phainòmena, to 'save the phenomena.'
The dream of Jung's analysand shows that the analyst's first allegiance is to the opus, and not to the wishes of the empirical person. We see that the dreamer's proclivity as empirical person or ego personality is to get out of the pit. But Jung does not lend her a helping hand with this dream. The implicit notion of psychotherapy underlying both this dream and Jung's delight with it is that psychotherapy is not a helping profession in the usual sense of the word. Its intent is not to set right, to cure, to better, be it the world or individual people. Such intentions are subjective wishes stemming from ourselves as ego personalities. There is of course nothing wrong with such goals. They are very natural and very human. And very often psychotherapy indeed has a curing effect. But as already Freud realized, the curing effect is a mere by-product (even though a desirable one) of the analytical work, not its immediate purpose. The immediate purpose of psychotherapy is 'analysis', that is, gaining cognition, doing justice to psychological phenomena by penetrating to their innermost core and by comprehending them. Thus, although wishes to be cured, to be free of one's symptoms, to improve and to grow are legitimate interests of ours, they are not the goals given for the project called psychology or psychotherapy. If, as a book title states, we've had a hundred years of psychotherapy and the world's getting worse - was it to be expected that it would become better? And more importantly, would such an expectation be a psychological expectation? No. Psychology has no stake in changing the world for the better, nor in hope, or despair. It has a job to do. This is its commitment. He who wants to enter the field of psychology must therefore cross a threshold, the threshold that divides our feelings, needs and desires from the 'objective' intentionality that is psychology's own.
Actually, my critique of the word 'rescue' in my sentence of several year ago does not imply a change of mind on my part. For I had not been speaking with my own tongue at the time. Rather, I had picked up a statement by Jung and tried to examine it on its own, not my, terms. And the title under which my lecture was advertised, 'The Rescue of the World', did not come from me either. It was the editor's doing. In the statement referred to, Jung had said (CW.10: 536) that the rescue of the world consists in the rescue ofone's own soul. So it was Jung who in this case brought the fantasy of rescue into play. All I tried to do was to put Jung's version of the relation between the rescue of the world and that of one's own soul to a mental test. And the result of this test was not a simple reversion of Jung's dictum. My answer to it was more complex. I suggested that Jung's statement could only become true if reformulated in the following way: 'the rescue of the world consists only to that extent in the rescue of one's own soul that the rescue of one's own soul consists in the rescue of the world.' In other words, given that we operate within a fantasy of rescue, neither the rescue of the world nor the rescue of one's own soul may claim priority. I tried to express the dialectic governing the relation between one's own soul and the world.
And with this key word, dialectic, as well as with my above comments on the difference between the 'subjective' intentionality of us people and the 'objective' intentionality of the project called psychology, I have given you a first indication as to where I stand intellectually and why I think that the simple opposition between 'individual' and 'collective' is psychology's basic fault. There is one more point that should be mentioned in order for you to have an idea of where to place me. My work as a psychologist is mainly inspired by a twofold commitment. Traditionwise, I feel committed to Jung, and systematically I feel committed to the task of giving an answer, my answer, to life, to our situation, to our reality. There is no real conflict between these two commitments. This is so because, as I see it, Jung himself felt committed to the same task of giving his answer to life and reality as they were conditioned in our 20th century. His entire oeuvre was the result of his wrestling with the problematic, indeed with the predicament that the modern situation had brought about for the soul. Even if there is no real conflict between my two commitments, there is a tension within the first commitment, within my feeling committed to and by Jung. The tension is between the letter of his written work on the one hand and the vision driving his thought from behind on the other hand. One could say that it is the tension between the manifest oeuvre and the latent magnum opus, between written doctrine and living project. I can characterize my relationship to Jung by saying that I try to measure the oeuvre against the opus or the doctrine against the vision and, where necessary, to defend the intentionality of the vision against the limitations of some of the formulations. In this way, I believe a deep indebtedness and faithfulness to Jung and a great freedom vis-a-vis any of his particular convictions can go together.
It needs no long discussion to agree that Jung, when he spoke of the process of individuation, did not intend to advance a one-sided individualism. Even though the telos of individuation is the development of the Self, the Jungian Self must not be viewed as solipsistic, nor set in contradistinction to mankind, or to the world at large. 'This self, however, is the world,' Jung once said (CW 9 /1: 46). About the archetypes he stated that they behave as if they belonged as much to society as to the individual (CW 10: 66o). And we only need to remember that with his theory of synchronicity Jung gave expression to his vision of a possible unification of psychology and physics, in order to realize that his thinking was trying to, and was able to, encompass both at once, the individual and the world as the collective, as well as the individual and the world as nature or cosmos.
Be it that later Jungians were not able to fully grasp this comprehensive notion of Self and individuation or that Jung's conception was not fully convincing to them or, a third possibility, that the way Jungian theory and practice had developed in fact did not support this comprehensive sense-at any rate, during the last decade or so there have been a number of voices within the Jungian field expressing a need to shift the emphasis away from individuation and to the world. James Hillman programmatically entitled one of his lectures 'From Mirror to Window'. Psychotherapy as it has evolved is seen under the image of the mirror because it takes place in the temenos, or the closed vessel, of the consulting room and predominantly works by means of self-reflection. Hillman wanted to break the mirror that returned the glance of the individual back to himself or herself, back to what is going on within oneself, and to open the window of the consulting room so as to allow us to perceive what is going on in the real world around us, the world with its beauty as well as its deformities, and to try again to ensoul this world. Psychotherapy was thus given a much wider scope. On the one hand, it was to attend directly to such close-by realities as public transportation, community politics, fashion, the architecture that we surround ourselves with and live in, and on the other hand, psychology was directed to the large-scale idea of an anima mundi, the soul of the world. In keeping with the concept of the anima mundi, a return to the notion of the cosmos, as opposed to the modern sciences' abstract notion of the universe, was demanded; in other words, psychology was given the task of working towards the development of a new cosmology.
The ideas that I sketched out very briefly, far too briefly, immediately speak to the soul: cosmos, anima mundi, ensouling the world. They simply feel good. They evoke deep longings and hold a precious promise. The only problem with them, I think, is that they are psychologically anachronistic or atavistic, as regressive as the World Council of Churches' idea of some years ago of Safekeeping the Creation. And this is why they even detract from the real psychological necessities of today and lure us away from the soul's real situation. Can a consciousness that has gone through the process of Christianization return to a notion of the world, the earth, nature as a locus of soul, a locus of theological or metaphysical significance? The very purpose of Christianity is to overcome this world, and the deepest longing of the Christian soul is for a new world. Christianity is a truly incisive event in the history of the Western soul. With it the veil in the temple was rent in twain 'from top to bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent (Matt. 27:51). This implies a revolution of consciousness. More than a revolution of consciousness - a real change, a real severing has taken place. There is no way back, just as there is no way back behind puberty to the innocence of childhood, or behind the Reformation and the French Revolution to a truly medieval frame of mind. Of course, we can always disown what happened, deny its reality. We can pretend that what happened was in fact not a psychological event as real as an earthquake, but merely a false opinion or deluded belief system on our part, a wrong human view of things, our lack of respect for planet Earth. False opinions or attitudes can be corrected more or less at will.
But such arguments are excuses. By means of them we can, to be sure, play 'Middle Ages' or even 'Paganism' in a way similar to how veterans replay the battles of World War II. This is always possible, but if more than a pastime, it is an escape.
2000 years ago it was said that the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father (John 4:21). The world as natural world does not hold anything sacred any more. We may deplore this, but this does not change the psychological situation. When in 724 Boniface cut down the Holy Oak of the Teutons, he presented us with an image displaying objectively that the transition from paganism to Christianity is literally an incisive event, with no return.
That this transition was not merely a mental change of attitude and belief, but also a full-fledged revolution really and irrevocably changing the status of nature is made clear in a passage from Chaucer, from 'The Wife of Bath's Tale'.2
When good King Arthur ruled in ancient days
(A king that every Briton loves to praise)
This was a land brim-full of fairy folk.
The Elf-Queen and her courtiers joined and broke
Their elfin dance on many a green mead,
Or so was the opinion once, I read,
Hundreds of years ago, in days of yore.
But no one now sees fairies any more.
For now the saintly charity and prayer
Of holy friars seem to have purged the air;
They search the countryside through field and stream
As thick as motes that speckle a sun-beam,
Blessing the halls, the chambers, kitchens, bowers,
Cities and boroughs, castles, courts and towers,
Thorpes, barns and stables, outhouses and dairies,
And that's the reason why there are no fairies.
Wherever there was wont to walk an elf
To-day there walks the holy friar himself
As evening falls or when the daylight springs,
Saying his mattins and his holy things,
Walking his limit round from town to town.
Women can now go safely up and down
By every bush or under every tree;
There is no other incubus but he,
So there is really no one else to hurt you
And he will do no more than take your virtue.'
Although written on a comical note, this text must nevertheless be considered a document that reflects the actual experience of a revolutionary historical change that has taken place concerning the logical status of nature or, we could also say, the nature of nature. There is a clear sense of a fundamental loss. What is lost (and irrevocably lost) is the natural world as ensouled, as animated, as spirited by all sorts of fairies, goblins, and little people. In nature you can no longer come across these spirits. Nature is no longer a place invested with autonomous meaning and appearing in a personified way, in actual figures. It no longer speaks. Chaucer's is one of very many testimonies to this fundamental change, just as there are countless reports by pre-Christian peoples and by folks little affected in their depths by the Christian revolution that in nature elves and fairies, spirits and the dead had actually been encountered. The Chaucer passage attributes this change to the influence of Christianity, which had in fact fundamentally changed the constitution or the logical status of the world. It had deprived people of the possibility to experience nature in the way that they had experienced it in pagan times, not, however, by blinding them, but by metaphysically depleting nature itself.
I do not see how after this change one could still seriously try to entertain the idea of an anima mundi. This idea is an archetypal truth, no doubt. But it is a truth that has its legimate place in ancient cultures. It is part of historical psychology. In our world it is wishful thinking, an expression of nostalgia. I fear that for psychology it has no more than that logical status which - and here I use a provocative comparison - soap operas have for the masses. It may be that the psychological task that we call the magnum opus remains the same throughout the ages. But what obviously does not stay the same is the level on which this task is set for us. Christianity catapulted the psyche onto a very different niveau, and it is on that niveau on which the psyche actually is today that we have to face our magnum opus. Today the psyche is no longer on the niveau of antiquity and of pagan psychology.
Of course, we should connect no value judgment with this observation. Whether this change is good or bad is irrelevant, inasmuch as it is real. It did occur, and thus changed the situation totally.
So it seems to be psychologically the wrong move to directly try to ensoul the world again, just like that, or to expect to experience nature again as divine. It would be a nostalgic re-enactment of a historical psychological situation. I cannot see how we could strive for a new cosmology, a new re-mythologization of nature. And we do not need a new mythology or psychology of nature either. Why? Because we already have our psychology of nature. Our real and legitimate psychology of nature is called physics, a term that here includes all natural sciences, just as our real psychotherapy of nature or the world is called technology. The psychological job that physics as the modern psychology of nature has is to prove that there is nothing divine in nature, no elves, nymphs or spirits. Nature is nothing but a kind of machine, a system of abstract, formal laws. This is the Christian soul's truth about nature. Therefore, to play the soulful cosmos against physics' abstract universe does not help the soul; it contributes to the neurotic split, prevailing in our modern situation. It is an act of splitting to set psychology and psychotherapy against physics and technology, just because physics and technology do not fulfill, our old ideas of what is soulful and what not, ideas developed formerly when the psyche was still at a very different niveau. The soul has emigrated from the cosmos and moved on to the universe. And, it would seem, it has not done so just as a joke or by mistake. As far as the natural world is concerned, all the passion of the soul seems to go into physics and technology. This is where the real action is. And it would seem to be a grave psychological wrong to withhold from that which is driven by so much soul passion the predicate psychological or soulful.
Of course I do not wish to suggest that what the world as physics presents to us is soulful in the same old sense of the word, and I do not want us to strive to discover this old kind of soulfulness in physics, because I agree it cannot be found there. This is the very point: the very meaning of soul and soulfulness has changed. The soul is no longer where it once was. And as painful as it may be, it is our job to follow suit in our thinking and acquire a new definition of what is soulful today by allowing ourselves to be taught by the real movement of the soul itself. It is our psychological job finally to own and acknowledge physics and technology as inalienable parts of our soul work. This would require that our consciousness undergo a revolution with respect to its categories and that we learn to see the soul where we least expect it and so far have loathed to see it. How else could the neurotic split be overcome? How else could what has been held cut off from the soul for so long be brought home? But we hold on to the old notion of soulfulness and therefore necessarily deny physics' view of nature as the legitimate expression of today's soul work, insisting in its stead on a new cosmology, a new conception of nature in terms of the anima mundi. We thereby deepen the split and disown an essential part of today's magnum opus.
In my view the road to the anima mundi is closed. Nature is 'out', at least in any psychological, theological, or metaphysical sense, and that it is 'out' is the very point of the message that our psychology of nature, physics, holds for us. Inasmuch as the attempt to re-mythologize and re-ensoul nature was a move away from Jung's emphasis on individuation, do I now with my critique of the world-soul simply return to the very psychology of individuation that world-minded Jungian colleagues tried to leave? I am afraid that the idea of the process of individuation, if critically examined, proves to belong just as much to a historical psychology as does the psychology of the anima mundi. Today, the real life of the psyche is not in the individuation process. It is somewhere else. The logical status of individuation is that it is psycho-logically obsolete, truly a thing of the past. This does not mean that the process of individuation does not exist or occur any more. It only means that even when and where it occurs together with the deep fulfilling experience of meaning, it occurs only as disconnected, disengaged from what psychologi cally is really going on in our age and as suspended within that self-contained bubble that we call our personal psychology.
Individuation has lost its metaphysical raison d'être in much the same way as had that old African chief whom Jung once asked about his dreams. The chief replied with tears in his eyes that in olden times chiefs used to have dreams, and thus knew whether there would be war or sickness, whether the rains would come, and where one should drive the herds. His grandfather had still dreamed. But since the white man had come to Africa, nobody had dreams anymore, Jung reports in his Memories.1 One didn't need dreams any longer either, because now the Englishmen knew everything! Jung added by way of commentary that the medicine man who had formerly negotiated with the gods or the fates and advised his people had lost his raison d'être. The authority of the medicine man had been replaced by that of the District Commissioner. Jung said that this man was not in any way an imposing personality, but rather a whining old man. Nonetheless, or perhaps for that reason, he was a visual and impressive representation of the subterraneously spreading collapse of an obsolete and forever irrevocable world.
So far I have merely claimed that, as far as its deeper psychological or metaphysical raison d'être is concerned, individuation is 'out', just as much as is the attempt to return to the anima mundi. Now I have to show that it is indeed obsolete.
What we are witnessing at present in our world is a gigantic revolution that makes the industrial revolution look harmless. In the entire economy a radical and extremely powerful process of restructuring, downsizing, of rationalization is going on. It is a process that renders hundreds of thousands or millions of employees redundant and assigns to those remaining ones the logical status of a collective manoeuvrable mass. Parallel to 'just-in-time' production, there is a tendency to 'just-in-time' employment ('MacJob'). In Germany, people with limited-term contracts are sometimes referred to as 'Durchlaufmaterial', which might be rendered as 'transit material'. The term is an allusion to the 'Durchlauferhitzer', the continuous-flow water heater, suggesting that as far as their status in industry is concerned, they are considered as an amorphous and continuously replaceable substance as is water, and no longer as so many human beings, each with their individual identity and personal dignity.
This is a process that is not the evil doing of individual managers. It is nobody's fault. It is a development that engulfs us with compelling necessity, and has to be likened more to an elementary force of nature than to a deliberate human act.
Of course, one might say that people had always been a manoeuvrable mass. Just think of the statute labor for feudal lords, of the slaves of antiquity or the masses who where forced to build the Egyptian pyramids. But the slaves or serfs were not real people in our sense. They did not have their freedom and their 'metaphysical' dignity in themselves: the Pharaoh, the King, their Lord more or less exclusively embodied and carried their dignity (majesty) and freedom for them. So the enslavement did not really happen to the self, to the 'metaphysical' core of humans. It only struck those humans who in this form of society represented what was merely 'empirical' or 'accidental' about human existence. But the process that today gives people the status of no more than a manoeuvrable mass happens precisely to people who are defined as having their 'majesty', we call it human dignity, in themselves, as a constitutional human right. This is what today gives this process a logical, not merely empirical, significance, inasmuch as it hits the 'metaphysical' self.
Empirically speaking, this process affects only individual people, even though they can be counted by the millions. But psychologically or logically it is to be seen as a symbolic expression and concrete visualization of a much deeper and otherwise invisible fundamental change in the status of humans as such. Above I referred to this process as a gigantic revolution. Now, when it is a question of comprehending its meaning, I can specify and say that it is a Copernican Revolution. Just as in astronomy Copernicus dethroned the earth from its hereditary position as the center of the cosmos and turned it into a mere satellite of the sun, so today the human being is dethroned. Not only individual people are being made redundant. This is only the literal truth. The psychological truth is that this empirical phenomenon tells us something about the fact that we humans are being made metaphysically redundant. The relation between the production process and the human being is reversed. The human factor is becoming secondary. Ideally, industry would like to be able to do completely without humans, leaving it to the welfare services to take responsibility for them, and to work only with robots and totally automated processes. Unfortunately, in empirical reality this is not possible. People are still needed to design and program the robots. But this empirical need for humans is only a tribute to circumstances, not an expression of the truth of the age. In truth, or psychologically, the human being has already lost its raison d'être, in the same way as Jung's African chief had. The economy is no longer there for the well-being of humans, but humans are there for the well-being of the production process and count only to the extent that they are needed for the advancement of production. It is expected of people that they accommodate to what the production process demands; they have to display the highest degree of mobility and readiness to retrain for new jobs. In this way it is brought out into the open that from now on humans, as a manoeuvrable mass or as transit material, have to be subservient to the objective needs of the production process, which is the only thing that really has a raison d'être because it is authorized by, and of course in turn subservient to, the supreme value of today, that of maximizing profit in the context of global competition. Much like the Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, profit maximization is the sun around which we humans today have been assigned to revolve, by no means because of the personal greed of those who profit from this profit, but because the Copernican Revolution has redefined the role of humans as mere satellites. And this sun is, just as for Plato, to agathon, the highest good, the summum bonum. It is the only, exclusive value prevailing today; it has no other values, no other suns, before or beside it. It is an end, nay, the end in itself. It is our real God, our real Self. This Copernican Revolution is not bloody, but what is happening because of it is terrifying. Its violence is logical or ' psychological, we could also say metaphysical. Compared to it, the French and the Russian Revolutions were cozy.
In such a context where the very goal of the process we find ourselves in is objectively to render the human being, and individual identity as such, metaphysically or logically redundant, the process of individuation has no place. To continue to advocate it is the wrong move. It entirely misses the point. The process of individuation is totally disconnected from what is really going on. Not individuation, but globalization is the soul's magnum opus of today. And globalization means the elimination of personal identity as something in its own right and the logical subjugation of everything individual under the one great abstract goal of profit maximization: profit must increase, but I must decrease. The process of profit maximization (together with the need for companies and individuals to stand up well in global competition) brings about the subjection of all of life, indeed of Being, under the logic of money.
Here it becomes necessary to remind you that with these statements I am not giving you my program. I am not describing what I think would be good and right and desirable and should be done. I am merely trying to formulate the program or logic inherent in the powerful 'autonomous' movement of the soul.
But this is a point where violent objections tend to stir in us, objections that apply just as much to my above assertion that psychologically or logically nature and the anima mundi are 'out'. The main objections are two. The first is based on the testimony of our personal feeling and experience. Very frequently, our personal feelings contradict my analysis. They refer to our dreams, to our inner experience such as it might occur in a deep analytical process or to the feelings aroused in us by nature. We may have experienced a deeply meaningful process of individuation. In nature we may have felt a divine presence. Both these kinds of experience may have come with an undeniable sense of reality and conviction that is not invalidated by any rational argument.
The second objection is of a more theoretical nature. It operates by means of the distinction between inner and outer, individual process and the collective life, a distinction that comes with a valuation. Psychology tends to side with the inner personal life, and disregard or depreciate objective social and economic development. All psychological importance is assumed to rest with our archetypal inner experience, our dreams, the imaginal, while what is going on in the world at large is regarded as part of the collective consciousness, which implies that it is of a psychologically more superficial nature and thus of less weight and meaning. From this standpoint one can agree that there is obviously the process of globalization that I described, but one would flatly deny that this process is today's form of the magnum opus. On the contrary, one would see in it a kind of defense against the real magnum opus of the individuation process, our being one- sidedly caught up in materialistic, merely external ego concerns devoid of any deeper soul meaning.
Both these objections, as mighty as they are, must be seen through as psychologically dangerous traps. Why is this so?
I will first look at the second objection. The opposition of one's inner life and collective consciousness, as generally understood and used, contains an equivocation or is the contamination of two different oppositions that should be kept apart. The one opposition is phenomenological and positive (positivistic). For it, there are two kinds of experience or two realms of experience. On the one side there are our dreams, feelings, and visions, which even if they are archetypal in nature, nevertheless are strictly individual and personal. To be sure, I can share them with others, but I also have to share them if I want others to know of them, because they can only learn from me what I experienced in my dreams. On the other side there are those processes that are publicly visible, common knowledge. So this opposition very matter-of-factly distinguishes between two realms of experience according to the source of knowledge or the locus of the experience.
The second opposition is one of feeling or valuation. As such it is not positive (positivistic). It requires a certain sensitivity. Phenomena are distinguished as to whether they are felt to be of deeper significance, more soulful, full of meaning, and to be a part of the true mysteries of the soul - or whether they seem to be more superficial and to have to do with practical workaday concerns, with one's orientation and survival in practical reality, with the human-all-too-human. Here the magnum opus of the soul has to be distinguished from the ordinary labours in the service of our ego needs and desires. Another formulation for this difference is the distinction between the archetypal and numinous quality of experiences versus the commonplace, rational, empirical, profane quality of life phenomena. This opposition assigns phenomena a different logical status according to their feeling value or their significance for the soul. Highly momentous political events may be of little soul significance, while deeply archetypal events may be very inconspicuous and go on unnoticed by the public.
In traditional Jungian psychology the positivistic and objective opposition of experiences exclusively accessible through the individual versus experiences belonging to the public domain has been confounded with the nonpositivistic and non-objective opposition of two kinds of statuses or feeling values we assign to, or withhold from, experiences. The status of a magnum opus, of an archetypal mystery of the soul, was reserved for individual inner experience, and by the same token what happened in the outer world of social, economic and political developments was denied such predicates. By definition it had to be psychologically insignificant, if not downright soulless.
But is this a priori identification of the numinous with the inner experience of the individual tenable? It is not, because it positivizes a distinction that cannot be positivized inasmuch as it depends on our original feeling appreciation vis-a-vis each new phenomenon. There is no a priori reason why the archetypal, why the magnum opus has to appear in the privacy of the consulting room or in some other alchemical vessel, and why it could not take place in the world out there, in what belongs to the public domain. Here I would like to introduce a phrase coined by Goethe: 'das offenbare Geheimnis,' the ,apparent (or blatant) mystery'. What Goethe had in mind was not a mystery or secret that had been revealed. He meant something that even though it is public knowledge remains a mystery. Perhaps one could say that precisely because it is in the limelight, it is not recognized as a mystery; it becomes the Stone rejected by the builders. The mystery character is obscured because the phenomenon is so exoteric, so apparent. The exoteric is the best concealment, the best shelter of the esoteric mystery of the soul. This parallels Jung's view that the ego, which allegedly and fictitiously is what is best known and most apparent, in reality is an unfathomably dark body (CW14: 129).
Indeed there are good reasons to believe that there has been a fundamental change in the history of the soul. I presented two stories suggesting this, the Chaucer passage and Jung's report about the African medicine man. This change is not only a radical rupture, it is also a reversion. At the time of the forefathers of that medicine man, the magnum opus came from inside. It occurred through dreams, visions, meditation. It was a situation where in order to become aware of the mysteries of the soul, it was best to go into some kind of seclusion, into the desert, become a hermit, a monk. But now, not only the Africans of seventy years ago, but also we in the Western world live under the new rule of the District Commissioner, who renders the world of the medicine man obsolete and irrevocable, and, as we know, the District Commissioner is not guided in his decisions by dreams, by meditation and other inner experiences. The change from medicine man to District Commissioner is a change of the locus of the soul, a reversal of the origin of inspiration, which no longer comes from inside but from outside. Now the real magnum opus takes place all around us in the tremendous public changes, in the globalization, rationalization and automation we experience today. This is the new locus of the movement of the soul, the present form of the mystery. And it is a real, an absolute mystery because generally we do not have the slightest inkling that, appearing so blatantly and so profanely, it could be a highly numinous archetypal process.
Here the first objection I mentioned above comes into play again. Especially if we follow the insight that the difference between the deeply meaningful and the psychologically superficial depends on our feeling appreciation vis-~-vis each phenomenon, is not the individuation process with its deeply moving imaginal experiences something that immediately comes with a sense of highest soul value and deep conviction, whereas the process of globalization is conjoined with a feeling of soullessness, meaninglessness? This is certainly so. But it also is a trap. Because whether our dreams and imaginal experiences come with conviction and rich feeling or not is not the question at all. Of course the experiences that are part of the individuation process are deeply moving and fulfilling. There is a sense of undeniable reality. But what we are here concerned with is the shocking, exacting insight that all these experiences together with the intensive feelings that they evoke belong to the world of the African medicine man in us, and that this world as a whole, that is, together with our personal feelings of its reality and fulfilling meaning, has been ruthlessly rendered obsolete through the advent of the District Commissioner, a District Commissioner who in our case is the overwhelming pull towards maximizing profit.
The narrator of the Chaucer passage and Jung's African medicine man were honest and humble enough to admit the obsolescence of the world of elves and dreams, despite their feelings of deep appreciation and meaning that this world evoked for them. They acknowledged that elves and dreams, as meaningful and fulfilling as they may be, now have the status of no more than, we might say, 'psychological antiques'. Antiques are invested with much soul value. But as antiques, they are known to belong to a world that is irrevocably gone.
We are not so honest and humble. All we want to see is our feelings, is that the images produced by the individuation process arouse in us deeply fulfilling personal feelings of meaning and conviction. Because we feel this, we insist that they must still be true. We refuse to raise the question of the actual logical status in which our experiences together with all the feelings they evoke stand. We refuse to acknowledge that the real development has overridden and constantly overrides the meaning of those experiences. The individuation process as a whole belongs to historical, archeological psychology. Its images are not unreal, but they, represent the reality of the past, of what, having once been at the forefront of life, is now historical in us. The images do not represent the reality of the present. Our whole personal psychology with all our feelings of meaning is 'sunken history', it is the collapsed or condensed and interiorized actual living conditions of former ages. By stubbornly insisting on our feelings of the deep meaning evoked by the individuation experience, we as modern people are, as it were, playing 'African medicine man' or 'shaman' - without, however, admitting that we are merely playing those roles. In a way, we are like tourists watching a show of tribal dancing or a shamanistic s6ance, and because we are deeply moved by it in our personal feeling, we take this feeling as a mark of truth, closing our eyes to the fact that we are witnessing a mere tourist attraction. To be sure, this show is the display of a former truth, but this display itself does not have the status of truth anymore.
The dreams of the real medicine men of old dealt with where the herds had to be driven, whether there would be war or illness, rain or drought. As Jung put it, they 'negotiated with the Gods' about the fate, the real (also political, economic) fate, of their whole people. There is nothing comparable in the individuation process of today. Generally the dreams in today's individuation processes, as archetypal as they may be, are nonetheless only of personal, private significance, which clearly shows that the meaning that they undoubtedly have is suspended, idle meaning, similar to the meaning of a personal hobby. It is a meaning that is there, but is no longer true, inasmuch as truth would imply a meaning that also encompasses, and does justice to, what is really going on in our modern world.
Jung recovered for our time the notion of the magnum opus or the symbolic life (about which he spoke to the Guild in 1939). He recovered it through his study of historical soul processes, such as those in the world of alchemy, and through his finding parallel processes in the personal analysis of his analysands. Because of this formal parallelism, Jung thought that the development going on inside those modern individuals was the same magnum opus. But I believe this was a mistake, a mistake concerning the order of magnitude. Jung's newly recovered insight into the reality called magnum opus is a precious notion, an invaluable discovery. We should retain, it- but we should withdraw the predicate 'magnum opus' from individual experience, to which Jung had still assigned it. Individual experience of the individuation process today no longer deserves this title. As part of our strictly personal psychology, it may still be The Work, the opus, rather than just an ego activity, but it certainly does not qualify as the Great Work. It is opus parvum, the 'little work'. It is part of our personal psychology and thus of an ultimately historical psychology. As such, it has both its own dignity and importance, inasmuch as our caring for the past we carry in us is always important, but its status is such that it can no longer be considered 'magnum'. The true opus magnum of today takes place in an entirely different arena, not in us as individuals, but in the arena of world affairs, of global competition, in the arena of the psychological District Commissioner, who in our case, as we said, is the overwhelming pull towards maximizing profit. The individual merely feels the effects of the opus magnum as those of a blind fate, but remains absolutely disconcerted, helpless, and dumbfounded as to what it is that is happening to him and why.
We can get support for the critique of the view of individual experience as a magnum opus from Jung himself. When Jung in his Memories explicitly refers to the Faust work as Goethe's magnum opus and when he sees his own work as a continuation of the work on the psychological problematic with which Goethe in his Faust and Nietzsche in his Zarathustra struggled, he himself sees the magnum opus as a non-individual, non-personal Work. Obviously, Goethe's drama is not a report about his personal individuation process. It is concerned with a soul problematic that is the problematic of the Western soul at large (even in Jung's view). The same applies to Nietzsche's Zarathustra. And of course the Medieval alchemical opus, too, was a decidedly cultural (Jung would have said 'collective') project, not a personal one, not one focussing on the individual development of the alchemist as this particular person, even though, naturally, in all three cases (alchemy, Goethe, Nietzsche) the person through whom the Work expressed itself figures in the particular 'colouring' of the result.
Psychology is incapable of seeing today's magnum opus, the opus of maximizing profit, as the soul's magnum opus of today (or rather, as one, namely the present, phase of that ongoing opus). Psychology feels it has to disparage it as a wrong development, has to deny its origin in the soul, deny that it is the present form of the soul's symbolic life. Why? Because of psychology's basic fault, which is that it operates with (and within) the opposition of 'individual' and 'collective.' The powerful dynamic of profit maximization in the context of global competition is neither individual nor collective (a term that, strictly speaking, denotes nothing else than a kind of plural of 'individual,' anyway. It denotes a "collection" of individuals). This dynamic has nothing to do with people. It is of an entirely different order. It is the logic of our reality, the logic or truth we are in (regardless of whether we are no more than the bewildered victims of this process or, as managers in industry or the like, active participants in, and contributors to, it). Of course, 'logic' is ' not in the sense of abstract formal Logic. What I mean is a concrete logic, a reality, a dynamis: psycho-logic. It is the real movement of the soul; it is the soul's life, which is logical life. 3
What I said about the dynamic of profit maximization has to be extended to psychological phenomena as such. Inasmuch as they, are psychological, they are neither individual nor collective. Those are the wrong categories. They simply do not apply. The soul may show itself in, and play through the lives of, individuals and collectives, but it is not itself something pertaining to the one or the other. With the opposition of 'individual' and 'collective', psychology still remains subject to the anthropological fallacy, i.e., to the assumption that the psyche is a part of humans, a kind of 'attribute' of the 'substance' called people, so that psychology would ultimately be about human beings rather than about the soul; it would be about what they feel, think and desire, about their imaginal experiences - generally, about what is going on inside them. Psychology would be a sub-division of anthropology.
But apart from the fact that such a conception of psychology is untenable for methodological reasons, it is also untenable in view of what we experience today. After all, it is the inherent telos and the very point of the process of profit maximization to radically render this conception impossible. This process is all around us, as our absolute; it is the medium or element of our existence, much like the air is the element of the human organism's existence, and it is the God to which we sacrifice what we hold most dear.
If, as we have seen, the telos and meaning of the opus of maximizing profit is to render people redundant, does this moment of the symbolic life not serve as our initiation into what I call the 'psychological difference', the difference between human and soul? Do we not have to acknowledge it as our psychopomp guiding us out of the anthropological or ontological fallacy dominating the present consciousness and into a new form of consciousness? More than 450 years after the Copernican Revolution in astronomy, the process of profit maximization today finally gives psychology (or consciousness itself ) a chance to experience its Copernican Revolution. As the human being is dethroned from the central place around which psychological life allegedly has to revolve, the psyche can finally in truth be recognized as what Jung tried to see it: as objective or autonomous psyche, or as I would prefer to say, as the logical life of the soul, a life that is its own end (even though it lives through us and needs us to give expression to it). Jung said that we are in the psyche, the psyche is not in us. For him the meaning of human existence was to express and represent the symbolic life; symbolic life was not there to serve people's ends and interests. I think this is what is indeed still happening today in the gigantic revolution I referred to, even if on a fundamentally different level.
But as long as psychology clings to the idea of the individual and the collective, we are blind to it, and while paying lip service to Jung's idea of the autonomous psyche, we reduce the psyche (which after ' all in reality is the truth we live in) to a kind of human appendix. By operating more or less exclusively within the fantasy of 'individual' and 'collective,' psychology necessarily presses all soul phenomena into these moulds. Stultifying itself, it forces its own thought to be and stay ontological (to be inevitably concerned with, and to systematically hold itself down on the level of, ontic entities and their states). Like a balloon tied to the hand of the child holding it, its notion of the soul and of psychological life is not allowed to fly. This notion is put under fundamental a priori restraints. It is tied to the notion of human being, or "people" and is subordinated to it. It, the notion of the soul and of psychological life, cannot be released into its own so as to be given the chance of becoming truly psychological.
Now there is no denying that the process of globalization and profit maximization is an absolutely brutal occurrence destroying much of what hitherto has been considered part of a soulful human existence. It violates all our values and expectations. Bringing about the total subjugation of all of life under the principle of money, it ruthlessly sweeps away much, if not all, of what used to give meaning to life. Thus it is not difficult to understand why it is seen as a wrong development and as one that psychology is called upon to compensate, e.g., with the personal individuation experience (if not downright to fight against). No doubt, this view is an honourable reaction. However, it is also misguided, for two reasons.
First of all, this reaction succumbs to the moralistic fallacy and has the character of a 'defense' in the psychoanalytic sense. It introduces a moral response (a condemnation) at a point where rather our establishing a conscious, knowing relationship to the phenomenon in question would be in place. Thus psychology here does more or less the same thing as what unanalyzed people generally tend to do with respect to the 'shadow': because it is 'bad,' they try to rid themselves of it or deny, repress it. But the shadow first of all needs to be acknowledged and investigated ('analyzed') without reserve, prior to any value judgment, in order to become fully known. It would seem to me that the global process we are faced with today first of all needs the same kind of response so that we may get to know what exactly the reality is we are faced with here and what its order of magnitude and its psychological significance are. The premature moral condemnation prevents impartial 'analysis'. It does not give the 'shadow' a chance. Thus it misses the very nature and reality of what it condemns. It fights not so much against this real'enemy', as it thinks and hopes to be doing; it rather defends against having to face it and becoming conscious of it (and possibly becoming conscious through it). But this means that it even misses out in moral regards, in other words, in its own field, because the much neededproper moral response is one that comes after an uncompromising acknowledgment and psychological comprehension.
What the moralistic defense is ultimately supposed to achieve, however, is to fictiously prevent the Copernican revolution we talked about, the shift to the full realization of 'the autonomous psyche'. Its purpose is a much more fundamental one than to defend against having to face certain unpleasant developments. It fights for something much bigger, much more radical. It fights to retain the very principle constituting the modern self-understanding of man; it fights to rescue the logic governing modern consciousness, its metaphysic of the ego, and conversely to ward off the insight into the fact that this metaphysic has already been overrun. By calling upon us to take a stand pro or con, the moral defense once more tries to call the 'responsible ego' to arms and thus to place itself into the centre, as if it were not too late. In this way it tries to supply the long obsolete anthropological fallacy with a (seeming) strength after all.
Now I come to the second reason why the view that the dynamic of profit maximization is a "wrong development" is misguided. From a psychotherapeutic standpoint the question forces itself upon us: could it not be that it is we who force this development into soullessness and meaninglessness precisely because we refuse consciously to acknowledge it as an authentic movement of the soul? Much as unacknowledged psychological conflicts may be forced to manifest in the symptomatic form of 'soulless' somatizations? By turning a deaf ear to what is happening and by withholding our appreciation from it, we deprive it of the possibility of being connected to consciousness. We force it down into the status of literalism and hold it there.
We must not dissociate ourselves from what is happening, whatever it may be. On the contrary, much as Jung said about God that He needs us for His becoming conscious, this process needs us, needs our heart, our feeling, our imaginative attention and rigorous thinking effort so as to have a chance to become instilled with mind, with feeling, with soul. It must not be left as something that happens totally outside of us and apart from our consciousness. It must, as it were, be reborn through the soul and in the soul: in our real comprehension, i.e., in us as the 'existing Concept' (Hegel).
Inasmuch as owing to our longstanding stubborn refusal we are very, very far removed from understanding what is happening to us in this process, for the time being we cannot even dream of a real comprehension. It is probably a task for generations to work towards a situation where this process has fully come home to consciousness. So what 'not withholding our feeling appreciation and thinking attention from this process' would mean for us today most immediately is that we allow ourselves to be affected, indeed, wounded, by it; that, even though it pains us, we let it into our hearts, opening ourselves to it. The task is to (keenly and intelligently, not emotionally = sentimentally!) suffer the fundamental loss this process inflicts upon us and to allow it to work on us, as a kind of chisel that objectively and factually, not merely subjectively, works off our inflated egocentricity and subjectivism,4 our personalistic mode-of-being-in-the-world and along with it the entire 'anthropological fallacy'. The consciousness, or real Notion, of the 'objective psyche' must be realiter and objectively acquired through a slow process of painful experi ences. It must be more than an "idea" or "representation" in our mind that we subscribe to. It must conversely have inscribed itself into us. We come to a real knowledge only by having 'learned the hard way'. Subjective under standing and agreeing is not sufficient.5 The statute of Zeus, páthei máthos (which might be rendered as 'conscious through suffering'), is still valid today .6
This article is a modified version of a presentation to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology, London, 2 May 1996. It was the last of a series of lectures on 'Collective Consciousness and the Individual -"The rescue of of one's own soul consists in the rescue of the world."'
1. Aniela Jaffé, Aus Leben und Werkstatt von C. G. Jung, Zurich and Stuttgart (Rascher) 1968, p. iii.
2. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, tr. Nevill Coghill, Penguin Books, 1981, pp.299f. I became aware of this passage through a paper by Heino Gehrts.
3. 1 elaborated this idea in my Animus-Psychologie, Frankfurt am Main (Peter Lang) 1994.
4. It is worth noting that I am not speaking here about a personal or subjective subjectivism. Regardless of whether I or you as private individuals are personally characterized by an inflated egocentricity or not, regardless also of how we subjectively feel, and what we think, about it, this inflated egocentricity and subjectivism is objectively the logical character of our being since it is the prevailing truth or logic of our age.
5. Just think of communism, whose being untenable had intellectually been seen through long ago, but whose objective collapse, in the economic reality 'out there' and as a form of the organization of a real, empirical society, was nonetheless necessary to truly drive this insight home. The alchemy of history makes conscious through factual operations (calcinatio, putrefactio, mortificatio, solutio, etc.) upon us as the prima materia, not through our trying to get rational insights. It brings about the real Concept, one that is not synonymous with 'what we imagine or think subjectively about the situation out there.' It is the unity of what we think and what has become apparent as having a real presence 'out there'.
6. Aeschylus, Agamemnon, line 187.
Reprinted from Harvest: Journal for Jungian Studies, 1996. V. 42, No. 2, pp. 7-27.