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Posts Tagged ‘psyche’

I will be co-teaching a short course at Schumacher College this coming May on Psyche & Climate with my colleague Stephan Harding. It will be a unique opportunity and environment to explore the relationship between Psyche and Earth as it manifests in terms of climate. Here is a brief description of the course:

Explore the connections between the inner dynamics of the psyche and how these manifest outwardly as climate change. More specifically, we’ll explore the ways in which insights from Jungian depth psychology can help us to explore the roots of the climate crisis and to therefore act more effectively to do something about it.

You can find our more about the course by clicking here.

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The Great Mystery

cones

“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this direction, for they show that the nonpsychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them. Our present knowledge does not allow us to do much more than compare the relation of the psychic to the material world with two cones, whose apices, meeting in a point without extension – a real zero-point – touch and do not touch.”

C.G. Jung (CW 8, par. 418)

One of the most challenging problems to understand is the connection between psyche and matter. Psyche as realm of mind, thought, perception, idea, emotion, soul and spirit seems most un-matter like. Matter as realm of the solid, substantial, measurable, quantifiable seems far more predictable than psyche. Yet, here I sit at my laptop using my hands to type thoughts, ideas, and playful imaginings for you to read. In this act I become an embodied form of psyche. Psyche and matter, as seemingly disparate entities, unite into a visible whole. Of course, materialists will see no problem with this picture. For does not psyche arise as a complex emergent property from our bodily vat of biochemical substances? Is it truly possible that my humble ramblings are a result of solely a series of chemical reactions? I don’t deny that these reactions are taking place. What I do seriously question is that they are sufficient to explain ‘me,’ or any one else for that matter.

As I write, I am listening to a concerto by Bach. I find it astounding that one could describe this work of genius as merely the result of complex biochemical reactions. I believe that the interplay between psyche and matter is far more subtle than we recognize. There is still mystery here…

The psyche/matter, or mind/matter, puzzle has interested people for centuries. Jung witnessed connections between psyche and matter in his own life and the lives of his clients. His years of accumulated empirical observations led him to postulate the synchronicity principle as the interaction between events that have no seeming causal connection. Since our psyche is involved in experiencing meaning in these so-called ‘acausal’ events in the material world, we are immediately thrust into the realm of psyche and matter. Jung spent the latter part of his life thinking about this subject. He worked with the renowned quantum physicist, Wolfgang Pauli, on his ideas. He asked that we keep an open mind about synchronicity and that serious investigations be made on this topic.

There is richness in opening ourselves to questions about psyche and matter. Perhaps a deeper sense of meaning for our lives lies at the ground of this issue. The fact that the question of psyche and matter has entranced us for so long points to its archetypal nature. How does psyche arise from matter? Can psyche affect matter in some way? Is there something beyond psyche and matter? During these dark winter days, I encourage you to contemplate these intriguing mysterious questions. What will arise from within when you do?

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“… the moon, sublime, purposeful suddenly steps out over the peak, bringing the night to serene completion.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

We spent Thanksgiving at a colleague’s house. The food was delicious and the company and conversation were heartfelt. After dinner we went outside and gazed through a large telescope to view the moons of Jupiter and our own moon. It was quite moving to stand outside and view these celestial bodies.

I was reminded of Galileo and how science has evolved, since he first looked at Jupiter and its moons in 1610. Galileo’s observations supported the Copernican view of the solar system, not the reigning Church approved paradigm of Ptolemy, in which all planets were believed to orbit Earth. Galileo was tried for his heretical planetary views and forced to recant his observations.

We also had a chance to look at our moon. What a sight to see the craters of the moon in such detail. The surface of the moon has a rich diversity of light and dark regions. Galileo also looked at our moon and saw these features. This too upset those who believed the moon to be a perfectly smooth glowing sphere in space. So, again Galileo was in the proverbial doghouse for upsetting prevailing beliefs.

Such is the role of science in the world, for science often comes along and upsets a reigning worldview. Science has spent the past 500 years physically displacing us from the center of the universe. First, Galileo and others proved that we do not sit at the center of the universe, Kant came along to show that we are limited in how we know the world, Darwin came along to show we are not a separate species in the world, and finally Freud and Jung came along to show that we are not in complete control of our personal world. This is quite a series of blows to our place in the universe.

But I felt something completely different Thanksgiving evening as I gazed at the celestial sphere hovering above me. I did not feel small and displaced as I stared at the moons. On the contrary, I was filled with the wonder in the structures of our solar system, the wonder of our ability to build devices to look so closely at these bodies, and the wonder of our ability to construct theories that accurately predict the motions of the moons of Jupiter. If anything the past 500 years has shown how imaginative we humans are at building models of the universe. Our imagination is a precious facility that we often forget about in a world so focused on practicality. Galileo, Kant, Darwin and many others were filled with curiosity. Their curiosity and imagination led to wonder filled ideas about the universe. I am thankful for these two gifts: curiosity and imagination, may they continue to make us a creative part of the Universe.

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The Eternal Return

Hello,

Just a note to say that I will be returning to more regular posts after a few months hiatus. Coming up… how philosophy informs psychology…

Regards,

Jeff

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