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Life Arts

Robert Moore's Theory About the Structure of the Psyche (Review Essay)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) July 18, 2011: Robert Moore of the Chicago Theological Seminary has worked up a Jungian structural account of the human psyche. If somebody else has formulated a competing account of the human psyche that is as comprehensive as his account, I am not familiar with that competing account. But let's consider two famous accounts of the human psyche or soul.

In Plato's dialogues the Republic and the Phaedrus, we learn about a three-part account of the human psyche or soul:

(1) the rational part

(2) the desiring part

(3) the spirited part (Greek, "thumos")

The spirited part of the psyche or soul is the basis for our flight/fight/freeze response. It is also the basis for the agonistic psychodynamism that Walter J. Ong, S.J., of Saint Louis University delineates in his book Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (1981), the published version of Ong' 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University.

After the conceptual construct of the will emerged historically in Western philosophic discourse, Thomas Aquinas worked with a four-part account of the human psyche or soul:

(1) intellect (= the rational part)

(2) will (i.e., rational appetency)

(3) the concupiscible appetites (= the desiring part)

(4) the irascible appetites (= the spirited part).

Vernon J. Bourke of Saint Louis University, who did his doctoral studies of Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy at the University of Toronto, studies the historical emergence of the conceptual construct of the will in his book Will in Western Thought (1964).

In an English course that I took from Ong at Saint Louis University in the fall of 1964, I first heard of Bourke's book Will in Western Thought when Ong took the time in class to praise it, as he occasionally praised other books in class. Later on, I studied Bourke's textbook Ethics (1951) in a philosophy course in ethics. (I will mention it below because in it Bourke discusses the four cardinal virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins.)

In another English course I took at Saint Louis University in the 1960s, I first heard of Erich Neumann's book The Origins and History of Consciousness (1954), which I read and reread several times over the years. In his big collection of essays titled Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture (1971), Ong sums up Neumann's Jungian account of the eight stages of consciousness in one paragraph-length sentence:

"The stages of psychic development as treated by Neumann are successively (1) the infantile undifferentiated self-contained whole symbolized by the uroboros (tail-eater), the serpent with its tail in its mouth, as well as by other circular or global mythological figures, (2) the Great Mother (the impersonal womb from which each human infant, male or female, comes, the impersonal femininity which may swallow him [or her] up again, (3) the separation of the world parents (the principle of opposites, differentiation, possibility of change), (4) the birth of the hero (rise of masculinity and of the personalized ego) with its sequels in (5) the slaying of the mother (fight with the dragon: victory over primal creative but consuming femininity, chthonic forces), and (6) the slaying of the father (symbol of thwarting obstruction of individual achievement, to what is new), (7) the freeing of the captive (liberation of the ego from endogamous kinship libido and emergence of the higher femininity, with woman now as person, anima-sister, related positively to ego consciousness), and finally (8) the transformation (new unity in self-conscious individualization, higher masculinity, expressed primordially in the Osiris myth but today entering new phases with heightened individualism -- or more properly, personalism -- of modern man [and woman]" (pages 10-11).

When was the last time you wrote a paragraph-length single sentence as complicated as that one, eh? In any event, Freudians refer to the integration of stage eight as ego-integrity, and Moore refers to it as the optimal self system.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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Don't confuse ego-integrity with moral integrity. ... by Thomas Farrell on Monday, Jul 18, 2011 at 8:24:43 AM
I was always interested in Jung's careful distinct... by Peter Duveen on Wednesday, Jul 20, 2011 at 10:45:21 AM