Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

What is the myth you are living? - C.G. Jung

"Hardly had I finished the manuscript, when it struck me what it means to live with a myth, and what it means to live without one. Myth, says a Church Father, is 'what is believed always, everywhere, by everybody'; hence the man who thinks he can live without myth, or outside it, is an exception. He is like one uprooted, having no true link either with the past, or with the ancestral life which continues within him, or yet with contemporary human society. This plaything of his reason never grips his vitals. It may occasionally be heavy on his stomach, for that organ is apt to reject the products of reason as indigestible. The psyche is not of today; its ancestry goes back many millions of years. Individual consciousness is only the flower and the fruit of a season, spring from the perennial rhizome beneath the earth; and it would find itself in better accord with the truth if it took the existence of the rhizome into its calculations. For the root matter is the mother of all things."

It was a radical shift of ground from a subjective and personalistic, essentially biographical approach to the reading of the symbolism of the psyche, to a larger, culture-historical, mythological orientation, that then became the characteristic of Jung's psychology. He asked himself, "What is the myth you are living?" and found that he did not know. "So, in the most natural way, I took it upon myself to get to know 'my' myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks; for - so I told myself - how could I, when treating my patients, make due allowance for the personal factor, for my personal equation, which i yet so necessary for a knowledge of the other person, if I was unconscious of it? I simply had to know whet unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me, from what rhizome I sprang. This resolve led me to devote many years of my life to investigating the subjective contents which are the products of unconscious processes, and to work out methods which would enable us, or at any rate help us, to explore the manifestations of the unconscious."

Briefly summarized, the essential realizations of this pivotal work of Jung's career were, first, that since the archetypes or norms of myth are common to the human species, they are inherently expressive neither of local social circumstance nor of any individual's singular experience, but of common human needs, instincts, and potentials; second, that in the traditions of any specific folk, local circumstance will have provided the imagery through which the archetypal themes are displayed in the supporting myths of the culture; third, that if the manner of life and thought of an individual so departs from the norms of the species that a pathological state of imbalance ensues, of neurosis or psychosis, dreams and fantasies analogous to fragmented myths will appear; fourth, that such dreams are best interpreted, not by reference backward to repressed infantile memories (reduction to autobiography), but by comparison outward with the analogous mythic forms (amplification to mythology), so that the disturbed individual may learn to see himself depersonalized in the mirror of the human spirit and discover by analogy the way to his own larger fulfillment.

Dreams, in Jung's view, are the natural reaction of the self-regulating psychic system and, as such, point forward to a higher, potential health, not simply backward to past crises. The posture of the unconscious is compensatory to consciousness, and its productions, dreams, and fantasies, consequently, are not only corrective but also prospective, giving clues, if properly read, to those functions and archetypes of the psyche pressing, at the moment, for recognition.

-- Introduction by Joseph Campbell

Monday, July 21, 2014