What’s the point of the Figure of Eight?
(See 30th November 2011 and related posts…)
It’s a model that sets out to depict the workings of a whole human being, from inchoate other-than-conscious psychic mechanisms operating in the dim interior through to what we might imagine to be ‘waking consciousness’; when we work our way through the diagram we can learn to make multiple connections.
Much of life is pure imagination. We imagine, for instance, that coming to terms with the self—presupposing that there is only a single unified self—is done in the top circuit and we leave the bottom half of the Figure of Eight in the lap of the gods, or somewhere like that—probably pretty uncomfortable …
The top circuit is the realm of ego-consciousness which can ‘know’ nothing but ego-concerns deriving from the world we imagine we live in, responsive only to words which are a very dubious tool.
In The Undiscovered Self, on which this post is largely based, Jung points out that we confuse ‘self-knowledge’ with the feeble understanding created by our conscious ego-personalities—that which is generated, in my terms, in the top half of the Figure of Eight.
Anyone who has any ego-consciousness at all takes it for granted that they know themselves. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the [other-than-conscious]… and its contents… (paragraphs in italics are from Jung’s book)
Common or garden ‘self-knowledge’ is measured by what we imagine we know of ourselves in a social context, ‘not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden…’ in psyche and anatomical structures. We live out of both of these but have no systematic contact with either which is strange considering how closely we are tied into our body; maybe not quite so strange as far as the psyche is concerned since, though it has a label attached to it, it completely escapes our grasp.
Ordinary self-knowledge is about the way we are in a social context; it depends on our interactions with other people and what they reflect back at us. There’s no theory that will get us into what might be called ‘self-knowledge’, especially theories that stake a claim to universal validity; the individual always eludes the universal application of theory.
The distinctive thing about real facts is their individuality… the real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule… absolute reality has predominantly the character of irregularity…
We are irregular; our proper self-knowledge depends not at all on external influences; it is unique and singular. That is the only rule there is. In the end what’s there ‘can neither be known nor compared with anything else’.
There can be bold provisional outlines of human categories as in the Enneagram and this does constitute a kind of knowledge; but many are fooled by what’s there into thinking that it depicts definite human ‘types’. Understanding the way a particular human specimen functions is a matter of forgetting about ‘types’ and studying unique Multiple-I manifestations.
…scientifically the individual is nothing but a unit which repeats itself ad infinitum and could just as well be designated by a letter of the alphabet…
But something else is needed for understanding:
…the unique individual human being… stripped of all these conformities and regularities, dear to the heart of the scientist, is the supreme and only real object of investigation…
There are only two movements—inwards & outwards: go down deep into the darkness within and you begin to become aware now of a self-something that has always been there solely for you, ‘the same’, constant through all the days of your life; you can take whatever it might be back into your past as far as you can remember… (as I write, just at this moment, I have gone back to a dark winter evening in 1943! I check to see that it is the same central core of being then as now, though it was a different ‘I’); go outwards and you will come eventually to the distant galaxy where the external conditions of your life are manipulated for you by the Power Possessors, the small exclusive club of around five hundred people who imagine that they run the world and perhaps do till now. Things being as they are now…
…the goal and meaning of individual life (which is the only real life) no longer lie in individual development but in the policy of the State, which is thrust upon the individual from outside and consists in the execution of an abstract idea which ultimately tends to attract all life to itself…
Since 1958, when The Undiscovered Self was published, the State itself has become subject to the talons of Global Capitalism: in England, for instance, it would be impossible to renationalise the railways because of external regulatory strictures imposed by the Global Capitalist Power Possessors.
Of course, those who imagine that they are ‘in charge’ are ‘slaves of their own fictions’; we who elect those who imagine they are ‘in charge’ are slaves of our congruent fictions.
How to Break Out of the Great Fiction? How to Tell Your Own Unique Story?
The more the individual joins itself to the mass, the more the Great Fiction takes hold.. Then it is taught in schools and becomes an unquestionable reality. ‘Democratic Responsibility’ pre-supposes that the individual willingly sink itself in the same fictional process.
Then the mass throws up a leader ‘who almost infallibly becomes the victim of his own inflated ego-consciousness…’ The individual acquiesces in the maniac dictates resulting from the leader’s subscription to the Great Fiction.
Those who strut about on the world stage and whose voices are heard far & wide seem, to the uncritical public, to be borne along on some mass movement or on the tide of public opinion and are either applauded or execrated…
But, either way, they are not doubted; their reign is simply considered to be part of the way things are. Anybody who is intelligent or game enough to step outside thraldom to question the pre-suppositions on which the whole fraudulent system is based is severely mocked: Noam Chomsky, for instance, becomes described as the ‘great American Crackpot’. But, much to the relief of politicians and the swindling rich, the vast majority have neither his guts & energy to keep tabs on the system, nor the energy to keep up with events.
Is There a Simpler Way to Realise the Scope of the Fraud that Binds Us?
Could it be done in one fell swoop? With an economy of effort? Only if we somehow step right outside the system.
…it is possible to have an attitude to the external conditions of life only when there is a point of reference outside them…
William Blake: Without contraries no progession…
Religions claim to offer such a transcendental possibility but they have mostly become compromised by association with a state apparatus, or else they have adopted some born-again political standpoint. Worse, by sticking to their guns, they have encouraged devotion to, and therefore dependency on, a Mister God; the individual loses self that way.
...the individual will never find the real justification for existence, spiritual & moral autonomy, anywhere except in an extra-mundane principle capable of revitalising the overpowering influence of external factors…
But no conventional external power will do to repulse ‘the lie which has become the operative principle of political action…’; we need ‘…the evidence of inner transcendent experience which alone can protect us from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass…’
Intellect is not powerful enough to keep us out of the lie. And employing it is, in any case, only to use one Centre: feeling, instinct & moving Centres need to be harnessed too. All our human faculties need to become engaged.
Most of all beware the parties of the Right who claim to be acting against what they call the State and on behalf of ‘the individual’ when all they are doing is to disappear their bid on behalf of the moneyed classes under ‘privatisation’; when everything becomes secretised—for that is the intended consequence of privatisation—there will be even less public accountability than there is now. When they talk of ‘the individual’ we should understand that they mean not the unemployed or the volunteer unwaged well-qualified slaves who are threatened with loss of benefits if they refuse to sweep floors, but the very rich individuals who can award themselves big pay rises and bonuses for doing something they should be doing out of personal commitment.
Maybe we might claim that the Twentieth Century was that of the Common Man…
…that he is lord of the earth, the air and the water and that on his decision hangs the historical fate of the nations. This proud picture of human grandeur is unfortunately an illusion… In reality man is the slave & victim of the machines that have conquered space and time… ; he is intimidated and endangered by the might of the war technique which is supposed to safeguard…
Lost in lies and confused by the mystique of smooth-tongued, liberal, high-sounding political explanation—of the workings of the money markets, for example—human beings become an enigma to themselves. Unable to comprehend the smokescreen of words, they lack the criteria for self-judgement and self-assertion.
If you have read so far, you have chosen to focus your brain on the result of my brain focussing on certain issues that are currently of interest to it. How do both our brains do this? There is a certain something inside of us, hidden away in our dark squelchy recesses and spreading itself throughout our planetary being that keeps us at it; the correlation between whatever it is and the brain itself is at the moment (and probably forever) impossible to comprehend. ‘The structure & physiology of the brain furnish no explanation of the psychic process…’
Consciousness We Take for Granted like a Fish With Water; it Seems to Bathe Us in Being
Without consciousness there would be no world; 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…
In pure consciousness one may escape from the fraudulence of the invented world of commerce, from all the lies of the existing socio-economic system. In pure consciousness, everything can be returned to Nothingness, the start of a journey backwards (or forwards) to something more human in scope—something else, something other than what has been known in the past.
Consciousness is outside the statistics; if anything it is a zero-state which nourishes us constantly, providing we enter into a contract always to return to its simplicity after forays into the so-called ‘real world’ for a spot of action, relating to somebody, filling a hole in the ground, writing a book, making the dinner, teaching…
Rather than being something wrapped up in religious dogma, what people call psyche, the soul, is nothing other than individual consciousness truly focussed and accepted for whatever it is—sunlight on green fields in early spring, awareness of stars & moonlight, a simple taking of all such things into the self, pondering them, making them into an inner something-or-other that informs Being. When soul or psyche is conceived as something other than this, something spookily allied to what is fancifully imagined to be ‘Divine’, capable of being ‘saved’ it is removed pronto from the scope of human understanding; it becomes a meaningless sound-bite.
The problem for systems like orthodox psychology (literally ‘soul-study’) and academic philosophy is that the more the complexity of individual experience dominates attention
…the more practical, detailed & alive will be the knowledge derived from it… the objects of investigation… become more complicated and the uncertainty of individual factors increases… and the possibility of error… academic psychology is scared of this risk and prefers to avoid [it]…
Psychologists, for the most part, prefer to reduce things to simple linear cause and effect. Fact is that if ‘soul’ is the province of green fields, clouds, stars & moon it becomes as complex as the universe itself; better for psychologists, they might agree, to earn their bread by reducing life to something abstract & easily measurable.
The paradox is that ‘…as understanding deepens the further removed it becomes from knowledge…’ because it becomes so attached to Being. Understanding on its own is the great subjectivity; knowledge is restricted to the nuts & bolts. Green fields, clouds, stars & moon as part makeup of my soul, my Being, is the great subjectivity. Science does not deal in how something like the immediacy of haiku can express ‘soul’:-
under a silver sun
Subjectivity is the objective nature of the inner Being, theoretically untouchable by exterior forces. I will be me untouched by the exterior world of A Influences…
It is time we asked ourselves exactly what we are lumping together in mass organisations [in the great illusion of LinkedIn connections, for example…] and what constitutes the nature of the individual human being—the real one, not the statistical [invention]. This is hardly possible except through a new process of self-nourishment…
Something is required to help us stand up against ‘the suffocating power of the mass [which] is paraded before our eyes in one form or another everyday in the newspapers…’ and so on.
And This is the Central Point of Jung’s Little Book
Resistance to the organised mass can be effected only by people who are as well-organised in themselves and in their individuality as the mass is in its own organisation…
Individuality could be construed as the natural state of the human psyche without all the encumbrances imposed by education, mass media and general upbringing. What is ‘the natural state of the human psyche’? It is ‘a certain jostling together of its components’, but it has a quite alarming propensity to lose itself in identification with the ‘ten thousand things’ alluded to in Buddhism. To aid the true assertion of individuality, some organising principle is required in the first place, something more than capable of persisting. A meticulous disidentification from all A Influences.
Above all, let’s not abandon soul or psyche to some quasi-religious limboland; let’s not leave it dangling in the clouds but bring it down to earth where it belongs. Psyche, the home of green grass, stars & moon, sunlight & ticking clocks.
Words, Words, Words…
The great problem we have to face is in the Word which was, so it is said, in at the beginning of all things and one supposes always will be loafing around in this New Age of enhanced ‘communication’ in which there is a general failure to engage in it. What is at the bottom of our Being is completely word-free: ‘green grass, stars & moon, sunlight & ticking clocks’ exist there without the need for verbal expression and so does ‘psyche’. The words just get in the way.
No one seems to notice that the veneration of the word, which was necessary for a certain phase of historical development, has a perilous shadow side. That is to say, the moment the word, as a result of centuries of education, attains universal validity, it severs its original link with a divine person…
So ‘Church’ & ‘State’ become entities in themselves, abstractions, which, like all abstractions, have no existential basis in reality whatsoever; it’s just that apparently sane & sensible people use them in discourse as though they had practical meaning & consequence and we fall in with their ignorance.
Jung goes on:-
…belief in the word becomes credulity and the word itself an infernal slogan capable of any deception. With credulity come propaganda and advertising to dupe the citizen with political jobbery and compromises and the lie reaches proportions never known before in the history of the world…
Communication is supposed to draw people together but more often than not words sow suspicion and distrust. Politicians rely on the uncertainty in words to keep us in thrall. When those of the Right prate about ‘individual choice’ they rely on our attaching their sloganising to ourselves, because we’d so like to be able to make choices, when, of course, the only individuals who can really exercise choice are those with stacks of money and ‘power’—supporters of the Right, the Power Possessors.
Another paradox Jung points out is that when human beings set out with positive intention to exercise their drive to learn about the world and its contents it simply becomes a matter of adapting to things that so-called civilised society considers to be of value. So the very process of learning leads us more and more unquestioningly away from instinct towards what other people value—the conduct of war, the making of money, worship of the Crown or the System and so on. We identify all too readily with such surface knowledge; consciousness comes to operate there at the expense of all the things that nurture the unmeasurable other-than-conscious.
We come to imagine that knowing oneself is about becoming conscious of self—how we think, what words we have at our disposal, how we relate to others and so on.
…consciousness therefore orients itself chiefly by observing and investigating the world around us and it is to its peculiarities that we feel we must adapt our psychic & technical resources…
Investing Our Energies Thus We Forget Our Selves
We substitute our own conception of our selves, our invented being, the picture we have of us, all of that which we imagine to be uniquely ours for ‘real Being’—what Gurdjieff calls Essence.. Thus we slip ‘imperceptibly into a purely conceptual world where the products of conscious activity progressively replace reality…’ We no longer relate to things and people and circumstances but to our reductionist version of ‘reality’…
We invent ourselves and seek to sell what we have invented on the world’s stage for money or Kudos or medalhood. The organisations we subscribe to and the mass movements we support are invented to keep us calm & comfortable in the face of our fear of ourselves. To get rid of it (or at least suppress it) we project our inner fear in to criminals, terrorists, alien cultures and political systems: at the end of the 19th Century it was The Yellow Peril; by 1918 it had become The Red Menace which lasted till around 1990; now it is Al Kaida—there always has to be some outside objectification of a threat to our existence when the real threat is inside us. The process is sustained by the political system in whose interest it is to ‘keep the rabble in order’ (Chomsky). The more intangible the culprit on to which we are encouraged to project our own inadequacies the better: Al Kaida is more slippery than ‘Moscow’; even more sophisticated is ‘The Deficit’ which has suddenly come to the aid of the party.
The fact is that, unless a psychopath declares war, the enemy is always within; it is our own fears and uncertainties; it is our own feeling of responsibility for past & present inhuman subjugation by ‘Empire’, for example; it is the suppression of the latent criminal that is in all of us. Worst of all it is our failure to recognise our acquiescence in the Global Capitalist Conspiracy to defraud humanity of health, wealth and well-being. The detestable lie of ‘present pain = future gain’. As a little boy, I remember a politician called Stafford Cripps saying more or less this—around 1947—sixty years on and they still sell us this lie…
When the evil we choose not to recognise in ourselves is projected on to the ‘other’ (unfortunate Iran is the current scape-goat ‘other’…) we make matters considerably worse.
[It just] strengthens the opponent’s position in the most effective way, because the projection carries the fear which we involuntarily and secretly feel for our own evil over on to the other side and considerably increases the formidableness of the threat… our lack of insight deprives us of the capacity to deal with the evil [in ourselves]…
We prefer to localise the evil in individual criminals or groups of criminals while washing our own hands in innocence & optimism and ignoring the general proclivity towards evil. It’s no good trying to take steps to tinker with bits of our being without facing up to the evil within; it overrides everything we try to do. In the UK there’s currently an absurd A Influence discussion about the nature of Happiness inspired by our millionaire prime minister who presumably intended his initiative to divert attention away from the misery he is causing ordinary folk. Without facing up to the evil within nothing of any consequence will come out of discussing the abstraction Happiness.
The Bottom Part of the Figure of Eight
From such heady and remote considerations it is salutary to feel the shift of energy as you take yourself now right down deep inside; to listen to the sound of blood flowing in your veins, to be aware of your limbs and inner bodily structure—all that sustains your presence on the planet, the only objective reality there is. Feel the planet under you revolving in space at thousands of miles an hour. All the rest is invention—invented as it is, it might just as well have been invented in some other way; perhaps a way more supportive of human welfare and well-being and you can conceive it thus any time you choose.
It is a reversal of conventional wisdom to suppose that the life of the psyche constitutes objective reality while the outside world is a subjective invention but it is worth working on. What are the implications?
In contrast to the subjectivism of the conscious mind, the [other-than-conscious] … is objective, manifesting itself mainly in the form of contrary feelings, fantasies, emotions, impulses and dreams, none of which one makes oneself but which come upon one objectively.
This is a severe challenge to the conscious ego which considers itself so important and goes about its business with a subjective unconcern, building castles in the air, subscribing to newspaper mythologies, listening with open mouth to profound ‘economic analysis’ on the radio, being beguiled by celebrity spin of all kinds set up to divert our attention from the enemy within…
A Influences build a self-sustaining invented world; whoever subscribes to such a world uncritically has forgotten self in a sinister web of words. To claim ‘consciousness’ for the puny purchase one has on invented ‘reality’ is to choose to relegate oneself to a very minor league.
True Consciousness is being alive to all possibilities whatsoever; to understand the invented world and to embrace psychic objectivity.
So Who on Earth Possesses True Consciousness?
Who knows? It’s maybe just an idea.
We are not conscious, for example, as Jung says, ‘…of the fact that every individual is a cell in the structure of various international organisms and is therefore implicated in their conflicts…’
It is useless to pretend to self-awareness if we choose to let its pursuit be circumscribed by a denial of the influence of the conspiracies of the Power Possessors.
So what is ‘self-knowledge’? The willingness to thoroughly explore psyche; the proper harnessing of the energy that’s there, its whole force both constructive and destructive, the recognition that all the energy of the psyche has a positive intention for us when we stop projecting and identifying.
O we can wait no longer
We too take ship O soul
Joyous we too launch out of trackless seas… Walt Whitman
Jung’s little masterpiece ends just at the point where one might have expected some guidance to help us out of our Great Fictions. I like to think that the Figure of Eight might help.