Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Carl Jung and Gerald Heard: Instinct, Evolution and the Enlargement of Consciousness

"Nothing estranges man more from the ground plan of his instincts than his learning capacity, which turns out to be a genuine drive towards progressive transformations of human modes of behavior. It, more than anything else, is responsible for the altered conditions of our existence and the need for new adaptations which civilization brings. It is also the source of numerous psychic disturbances and difficulties occasioned by man's progressive alienation from his instinctual foundation, i.e., by his uprootedness and identification with his conscious knowledge of himself, by his concern with consciousness at the expense of the unconscious."

"The result is that modern man can know himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself - a capacity largely dependent on environmental conditions, the drive for knowledge and control of which necessitated or suggested certain modifications of his original instinctive tendencies. His consciousness therefore orients itself chiefly by observing and investigating him, and it is to its peculiarities that he must adapt his psychic and technical resource."

"This task is so exacting, and its fulfillment so advantageous, that he forgets himself in the process, losing sight of his instinctual nature and putting his own conceptions of himself in place of his real being. In this way he slips imperceptibly into a purely conceptual world where the products of his conscious activity progressively replace reality."

-- Carl Jung --
("The Undiscovered Self")
Gerald Heard
In his magnus opus, first published in 1939, "Pain, Sex and Time," philosopher Gerald Heard traces the evolution of man's consciousness, and the attempts he has made to evolve or dilate consciousness beyond the ordinary and limited  self-consciousness of the human ego, to a higher acceptive consciousness that is, Heard asserts, mankind's evolutionary imperative.

Yet, as this next evolutionary step will necessarily be psychological rather than physical, Heard points out that a conscious effort is needed to evolve consciousness beyond the current self-conscious state typical of the species in this epoch. Historically, he notes, pointing to past efforts to raise consciousness, this has been the exclusive domain of esoteric teachings and mystery schools. In reading his account of the historical attempts that were made to evolve consciously, one wonders, how Heard (who passed away in 1971) would interpret the widespread interest in conscious evolution that has been exhibited at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

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In reading Heard, one is struck by the similarities of views he shared with Jung. But while Jung asserts that "modern man can know himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself," Heard notes that a much greater effort is required to achieve a far greater result.

"If we are to advance through the evolution of consciousness beyond self-consciousness," he observes, "to reunite consciousness now divided into the self-conscious and the sub-conscious, and so bring about a new and single quality of awareness and being, there is required of us a peculiar and rare quality of attention. It must be intense but without effort and strain. It must be that over-plus of evolutionary energy which we call curiosity, and the German tongue calls Neugier, the new appetite, raised to what Plato called illuminating wonder."

"Indeed," he notes, "because we are now so deeply prejudiced in favour of the assumption that it is only possible for one real experience to be presented to us, and that can only be the world of common sense, the necessary state of mind required for enlargement of consciousness must be one which is even without expectation."

"We are waiting," he points out, "for an experience of which we have no conception from the past, and that being so, any clear expectation must distort or even completely inhibit a radically new awareness."

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