Thursday, April 7, 2011

Your Neurosis, a Low-Intensity Religious Experience*

“Jung’s studies and work led him to conclude that the unconscious is the real source…" Robert Johnson

Jungian psychologist and author, Robert Johnson writes about many things in his book, Inner Work. Most importantly he details the value of the ‘inner world’ of individuals. The inner world as he describes it follows along the ideas of his mentor psychologist Carl Jung who defined the term: the ‘secret inner life we all lead, by day and by night, in constant companionship with our unseen, unconscious self." Johnson, like Jung, makes considered value of these associations, the conscious, the unconscious, dreams, rituals and something he calls active imagination.

“Jung’s studies and work led him to conclude that the unconscious is the real source of all our human conscious… reasoning, awareness, and feeling. The unconscious is the Original Mind, the primal matrix... Every feature of our functioning consciousness was first contained in the unconscious and then found its way from there… The conscious mind reflects the wholeness of the total self… this [is] a storehouse of raw energy assimilates into the personality… the true depth and grandeur of an individual human being is never totally manifested until the main elements of the personality are moved from the level of potential (meaning more at ‘possibility’) in the unconscious… [to] the level of conscious functioning.”

Jung observes about the inner life: the unconscious, when in balance with the conscious mind lives in relationship to one another. However the disaster in this view is that the modern world has completed “the splitting off of the conscious mind from its roots in the unconscious.” Thus all the forms that nourished earlier generations such as dreams, vision, ritual, imagination and religious experience are lost, dismissed by the modern mind as base or superstitious. What’s left? Many seek to fill the void with a ‘conscious consumerism,’ fed by big business, they fixate on the physical, the external, material world.

Still the inner world strives to make itself known. Many have contact with this form of knowledge through the recollection of dreams. While dreams are not taken literally in Jung’s view, they are, however, powerful imaginings and symbols pointing the way; thus the dream is a portrait of the dreamer. They are influential reporters of our behaviors, whose origins are from within. And “curiously people resist their good qualities even more emphatically than they resist facing their negative qualities,” writes Johnson. Dreams “constantly speak to us about our beliefs, and attitudes.”

Moving from dream work to the place of ritual is part of the process Jung describes as a function of making the unconscious individual. Ritual is a most important tool with great energy to bridge the difference between the paradox of opposites. It ties our divided selves together. In the West, Johnson says, there is a great urge to make everything abstract, to use intellectual discussion alone in substitution for concrete, direct, feeling experiences. When emotions are registered physically and concretely, they register at the deepest places of the psyche.
Another important point Johnson brings up is that of common sense. While imagination is a useful and valid part of conscious reckoning;its content and origin are produced uniquely within the self. Many conduct themselves without common sense. Not everything one imagines is to be acted upon. Some things are just for contemplation. Through thoughtful consideration, the distinction between the active and contemplative becomes apparent.
The Hindu master Sri Aurobindo once said, “Why is it that when people first relinquish the world (worldliness), the first thing they relinquish is common sense?” Courtesy and respect of others remain important community values.

* As for Neurosis, Jungian analysis sees this as a situation where unconscious motives are expressed in ways that do not directly serve the person; they may actually be detrimental imbalances to the self. How? For more information: This is a long discussion contained within the book, Inner Work by Robert Johnson, and also many prior references by Carl Jung in his writings.

No comments: