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Life Arts    H4'ed 8/15/14

Jung's View of Bottom-Up Change

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But today's Republicans tend to favor individualism. As a result, they may not be quite ready to undertake the psychological process of individuation.

However, we should also note that today's Democrats may tend to revile certain other kinds of people and other characteristics -- if the Democrats have not assimilated their shadow material.

In other words, when we have not assimilated our shadow material, we tend to project our shadow stuff on to other people inasmuch as we revile them.

So Jung cautions us about reviling certain other people, because we tend to project our shadow stuff on to them in the process of reviling them.

So instead of reviling certain other people for alleged shortcoming and deficiencies, we should learn to hate only the alleged shortcoming and deficiencies -- hate the sin but not the sinner.

Moreover, we should also practice this kind of careful discrimination on ourselves -- we should hate our sins but not the sinner. In other words, I should be able to recognize and acknowledge my serious shortcomings and deficiencies -- and hate them -- but without hating myself.

Now, Nietzsche serves as a kind of foil against which Jung develops his own thoughts about possible changes in values -- and changes in society. Thus far, I have explained only Jung's views about how we as individuals experience psychological change and development as a result of assimilating our shadow material. But his views about how changes in society take place are a bit more complicated.

Jung posits what he refers to as the collective unconscious in each person. So each person has the collective unconscious in his or her psyche. Like the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious contains a mixed bag of material, some of which can be quite dangerous. But the collective unconscious also serves as the source of the spirit of creativity.

In optimal situations, we tend to operate out of ego-consciousness. However, at times, we may operate out of the collective unconscious. As a result of being rooted ultimately in the collective unconscious, we are part of the human herd of animals. But the herd can at times turn into the mob. But can the mob ever be good? In the case of the French Revolution, Jung sees the mob as endorsing human reason, "one of the highest virtues of human consciousness" (page 1021).

In the following lengthy passage, Jung articulates his somewhat complicated understanding of how bottom-up changes occur in society, when they do occur:

"Now, it is surely true that our inferior function [in our own individual personal psychology] has all the qualities of mob psychology: it is our own [inner] mob, but in that mob is the creative will. The creative will always begins in the depths and never starts at the top (page 1021).

Time out. Doesn't he sound like he is articulating an argument against top-down efforts to produce changes in society by BIG government? Perhaps he's a Republican. But let's see what else he says.

"One could say that the seed really grows on the philosophical tree, and then it falls down to the ground into the mob; the mob surely is the fertile earth or the incubator or the dung heap upon which the creation grows" (page 1021).

Time out. Remember that because of the collective unconscious in each of us, all of us are part of the mob -- and therefore also part of the dung heap. Incidentally, the index shows that Jung mentions the French Revolution (1789) in seven different places (pages 118, 121, 1002, 1012, 1021, 1023-1024, 1101). But he does not discuss the American Revolution (1776), even though it provides a nice counterpoint to the French Revolution. The Declaration of Independence could be discussed in terms of seeds from the philosophical tree that fell down into the fertile earth in America and grew. In any event, Jung continues as follows:

"For the seed is not the tree and the seed doesn't make the tree unless there is the black earth: the black substance is needed in order to create something in reality. So, as the alchemists said, even the gold must be planted in the earth like the seed of a plant. It is indispensable that consciousness and the unconscious come together, that the superior or differentiated function comes together with the inferior or undifferentiated function, that the individual comes together with the crowd, with collectivity. Without that clash or synthesis, there is no new creation, nothing gets on its own feet unless it is created in such a way. The seeds can remain [on the philosophical tree] for a long time without growing if circumstances are unfavorable [i.e., not enough rain and/or sunshine]; certain ideas can hover over [hu]mankind for thousands of years, and they never take root because there is no soil [and rain and sunshine]. The soil is needed [as are rain and sunshine]; one could even say that the most creative impulses come out of the soil [with the help of rain and sunshine]. It is as if it were contributing the power of growth; at all events, it provides all the necessary substance for further development of the seed" (pages 1021-1022).

So this is Jung's view of how bottom-up change works, when it occurs. Granted, today's Republicans might be able to enlist certain selected points from Jung's statements to help advance their arguments against attempts to use BIG government to try to advance changes in society.

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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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