Due to renewed interests and cultural influence, I have been reluctantly persuaded into the world Carl Gustav Jung. As far as new age ideals and 'woo-woo' mysticism go, this man doesn't fall short in his misinterpreted content. That being said Carl Jung was actually a very practical man, never stepping beyond the confines of scientific inquiry, and the first to admit there was always more to learn. If you are not familiar with Carl Jung or have heard little about him, let this blog act as a short introduction into a few of his most interesting, far-out ideas.
This man was a pioneer in the field of psychoanalysis, working alongside Freud to formulate questions we still pursue, spiritually or scientifically, today. In this entry of the blog, I will be discussing three of his ideas; active imagination, the transcendental function, and synchronicity.
If you search this term on the internet, you will most likely see it defined as the following: "A cognitive methodology that uses the imagination as an organ of understanding." This cognitive exercise rightfully dubbed 'active imagination' represents itself in multiple philosophical, religious, and spiritual traditions. This is likely how Jung became interested in the methodology, as he attained inspiration for his psychology in the literary works of our aforementioned ancestors. In European tradition, imagination was thought to serve as an organ of the mind, transcending any personal experience as a means to express the innate creativity of the artistic soul.
For Jung, Active Imagination was a meditation technique, wherein the contents of one's unconscious (the processes in the mind which occur automatically and are not available to introspection) are translated into images, narrative, or personified as separate entities. Active Imagination was a conscious act, serving as a bridge between the ego and the unconscious. This sort of psychological bridging was one of Jung's main areas of interest (you will see more of this in the next topic of discussion), along with the process of individuation.
Jung explained that the origin of the active imagination sprung from the desires and fantasies of the unconscious mind, which ultimately want to become conscious. He also spoke on the practicality of the concept, as one should when discussing esoteric matters, claiming the imagination as a tool that can be used for visualizing unconscious issues in the subject by letting them act themselves out.
Active imagination can be done through visualization, automatic writing, or other artistic activities such as dance, sculpting, etc.
However, many 'post-Jungians' considered active imagination in light of danger, with the potential to be put to nefarious purposes and promote psychopathology. Without the proper tools of interpretation, Jung himself argued that the patient could be carried "too far from reality". Thus giving a potential explanation to the downfall of the genius Friedrich Nietzsche; who, near the end of his life, fell to his knees in the middle of the road empathizing for a nearby horse's pain.
Much of Jung's later work was a comparative analysis between the active imagination and the process of individuation represented throughout cultures. He proved that through mythological structures one could interpret their dreams/imagination and be led towards a stronger sense of self.
Jung argued that in times of conflict or unknown depression, both the conscious and unconscious sides of a person could be seen at a standstill, calling for a unifying act between the two. This act is what he named the 'Transcendent Function'.
The first step of the transcendent function is to correctly interpret the message of the unconscious. This can be done via dreams or active imagination. Jung preferred the latter due to the difficulty that is the act of interpretation.
After a successful interpretation of the unconscious content in its truest form; the meaning must then be understood by the subject. Once the subject has successfully understood the message communicated archetypally via dreams/imagination, originating from the unconscious, the following question arises. How should one consciously incorporate the unconscious content into the ego?
This second step, the incorporation of the unconscious into the ego, can be seen in combination with the final process. It is the ramp one uses to board the plane of transcendence. If one has an ego that is both fortified enough to prevent total destruction from unconscious realizations, yet receptive enough to incorporate the unconscious message, this middle ground where the conscious and unconscious mind meet gives rise to the transcendent function and provides a new power, attitude, and set of goals for the subject in the process.
This concept may be one of the most mind-boggling to conceptualize in the alternate universe that is Jung's abstract ideas. Popularized by the great Terence Mckenna and the psychonauts of the 1960s, synchronicity attempts to give an explanation to the paranormal.
Jung's explanation of synchronicity can be interpreted as follows: the connecting principle for events of meaning that have no apparent causal relationship. The unexplanatory explained. This is the most well-known attempt at a description of the governing dynamic which underlies the whole of human experience and history that is social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Among discussions with physicists Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, Jung believed that there were parallels between synchronicity and quantum mechanics.
Essentially, Jung thought of life, not as a series of random events, but rather an expression of a deeper order; further supported by his work on the archetypes and the collective unconscious.
Perhaps this could also be used to explain the tendency of significant thoughts to arise at critical moments in time. For example, while Darwin was working on his own theory of evolution, a naturalist and explorer Alfred Wallace came to the same conclusion hundreds of miles away in his own expedition of the Galapagos, eventually unifying his work with Darwin to publish 'On the Origin of Species'.
This condensed explanation of three key ideas Carl Jung pursued is smaller than a grain of sand on the beach that is psychoanalysis. As you can see, it is a beach that encompasses all other aspects of the world and attempts to give an explanation to subjects previously left unarticulated. As mentioned before, Jung was a brave pioneer in this field and left many avenues unexplored for future generations. Although my analysis of the three ideas was brief (to say the least); if you found interest, I encourage you to dive deeper into the unknown and discover the seemingly bottomless depths of the human psyche.