Monday, May 23, 2011

Carl Jung: Consciouness and the Psyche

Carl G. Jung
In his essential guide to mankind's psyche, "The Undiscovered Self," the pioneering Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung expounds on the preeminence of the individual psyche and consciousness, and discusses the challenges that the psyche and consciousness present to both science and religion.

"The structure and physiology of the brain furnish no explanation of the psychic process," Jung observes. "The psyche has a peculiar nature which cannot be reduced to anything else. Like physiology, it represents a relatively self-contained field of experience to which we must attribute a quite special importance because it hold within itself one of the two indispensable conditions for existence, namely, the phenomenon of consciousness. Without consciousness there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists as such only in so far as it is consciously reflected and consciously expressed by a psyche. Consciousness is a precondition of being. Thus the psyche is endowed with the dignity of a cosmic principle, which philosophically and in fact gives it a position coequal with the principle of physical being."

"The carrier of this consciousness," Jung notes, "is the individual, who does not produce the psyche on his own volition but is, on the contrary, preformed by it and nourished by the gradual awakening of consciousness during childhood. If the psyche must be granted an overriding empirical importance," he notes, "so also must the individual, who is the only immediate manifestation of the psyche."

The psyche, Jung observes, is devalued by science because of its own subjective characteristics, which is not amenable to statistic analysis, and by organized religion which discounts the validity of the psyche if the individual does not ascribe to its particular dogmas.

"One other remarkable fact (about the psyche) deserves mentioning," Jung notes. "This is the common psychiatric experience that the devaluation of the psyche and other resistances to psychological enlightenment are based in large measure on fear - panic fear of the discoveries that might be made in the realm of the unconscious."

Of course, such fear (along with rampant desires that are impossible of fulfillment) is the substratum of the human ego, which, as such, separates the individual not only from religion, but ultimately severs the ties of the individual to human society, ties that Jung sees as being of paramount importance, unless one is sheltered from such isolation by real religious insight based on experience rather than mere belief.

"Often the fear is so great," Jung observes, "that one dares not admit it even to oneself." "Here," he notes, "is a question that every religious person should consider very seriously, (as) he might get an illuminating answer."
[Jung, "The Undiscovered Self," pp. 59-61]

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