The Psychology of Carl Jung
To discuss the make up or function of human thought in our cosmological model represented astrologically requires some knowledge of Jung’s psychology. Plotinus deals effectively with the philosophical structure of the human psyche, including all the mystical implications, but the configuration and operation of our mental machinery is best understood by the noted psychologist Carl Jung.
At the very apex of the psyche is the ego, which is at the center of consciousness. Jung likes to think of consciousness as an island, and surrounding this island is a very large ocean that represents the unconscious. Stretching away from this island toward the deep is a shadow land Jung calls the personal unconscious. It belongs to the individual and holds countless forgotten experiences; it is formed from impulses, wishes, and subliminal perceptions. Memories can be recalled from this area either through dreams, fantasies, chance associations, or even direct recall.
Jung found that ideas tend to constellate around a center, or become associated with a basic nucleus. The constellating power of the nuclear element corresponds to its value intensity or energy. Jung called these ‘complexes.’ They often become the object of treatment during a period of mental illness, and are usually discovered through associations–such as the word association test. A complex may be conscious, partly conscious, or even unconscious. A complex can belong to the personal unconscious, or the collective unconscious–that realm of the psyche that belongs to all humankind.
The collective unconscious is the vast depth of the unfathomed ocean. It is the substratum from which our consciousness emerges. It cannot be defined because we have no knowledge of its boundaries or its true nature. All people share the same basic mental contents, and this is why Jung calls it the ‘collective’ unconscious. As the physical qualities of humans evolved from lower to higher forms of being, so also did the brain, especially that which we call the psyche. The development of the primitive psyche is something that we are all heirs to, and within this dimension are held the common objects that the evolving human mind shares from the dim and distant past. The contents of the collective unconscious are sometimes called primordial images, but they are more generally known as Archetypes. Jung believed they formed during the thousands of years that human consciousness was emerging from, or evolving out of, the animal state. The Archetypes have an enormous impact on the individual; they influence his relationships, form his mental and emotional outlook, and affect his destiny in ways seldom if ever known. The existence of the Archetypes is inferred from Jung’s study of his patients’ dreams. He discovered in therapy that the content of dreams is expressed as symbols from the unconscious. The coming to consciousness of the symbol is representative of the unconscious Archetype. The Archetypes come in many forms, not only from clinical material, but all the other cultural activities by which man expresses himself.
“The most direct expression of the collective unconscious is to be found when the archetypes, as primordial images, appear in dreams, unusual states of mind, or psychotic fantasies. These images seem then to possess a power and energy of their own–they move and speak, they perceive and have purpose–they fascinate us and drive us to action which is entirely against our conscious intention. They inspire both creation and destruction, a work of art or an outburst of mob frenzy, for they are ‘the hidden treasure upon which mankind ever and anon has drawn, and from which it has raised up its gods and demons, and all those potent and mighty thoughts without which man ceases to be man.’ The unconscious therefore, in Jung’s view, is not merely a cellar where man dumps his rubbish, but the source of consciousness and of the creative and destructive spirit of mankind.” 11
The archetypes have their own initiative and specific energy. They can interfere with conscious processes with their own impulses and thought formations, and come and go pretty much as they please. Like complexes, they can obstruct or modify our own conscious intentions. The Archetypes create myths, religions, and philosophies that influence and characterize whole nations and epochs of history. The universal hero myth always refers to a powerful man or god-man who vanquishes evil in the form of dragons or monsters, and liberates his people from destruction and death.
The archetypes are unique in that they can power-up, so to speak. Jung uses the term “libido” for psychic energy, and when an archetype ‘revs-up’ it takes on numinosity, and in some cases, luminosity. Jung uses these terms to describe the aura of great light and warmth that is attached to the archetypes when they become manifest in a strong human experience. When a numinous psychic event takes place, a large concentration of psychic energy centers around it. As energy constellates around the archetypal symbol, a complex of psychic contents takes form. Jung states:
“Psychic processes seem to be balances of energy flowing between spirit and instinct, though the question of whether a process is to be described as spiritual or as instinctual remains shrouded in darkness.” 12
Jung tends to think of the archetype as opposed to the instinct, and uses the example of a man ruled by his instincts with a man seized by the spirit. We can usually see the distinction between the two without too much difficulty. The archetype represents the “authentic” element of spirit, and when the archetypes have a distinct numinous character they “can only be described as ‘spiritual’, if ‘magical’ is too strong a word.” Thus, numinosity takes on a mystical aura about it.
One of Jung’s greatest discoveries was his theory of synchronicity. It might be more simply defined as ‘meaningful coincidence’. We have all had experiences that seemed unique and unusual, and we just chalk it up to chance. There doesn't seem to be any connection between events that come together to produce an unexpected outcome; we just call it coincidence. In some cases that is all it is, but in other cases the coincidence is meaningful or even profound. A single synchronistic event can change a person’s life forever. We are all aware of how cause and effect seems to determine just about everything in our lives. Science is the study of cause and effect, and has given us laws of nature that assure confidence, security, and understanding of the world around us. Causal laws are facts that explain why things are the way they are, but Jung is attempting to understand how certain events can be connected without a causal explanation. That is why he calls synchronicity an acausal connecting principle.
It might be helpful to illustrate the idea of synchronicity with an example. When Abraham Lincoln was a young man living on the frontier, he had a desire to obtain an education that would help him acquire a professional career. He had little hope that this would ever happen. One day a stranger came to him with a barrel full of odds and ends. The man was in desperate need of money, and asked a dollar for the barrel. With his well-known kindness Lincoln gave the man a dollar not really knowing what he was going to do with the contents of the barrel. Later, while clearing it out, he came upon an edition of “Blackstone’s Commentaries.” [Blackstone was a well-known jurist of the time]. It was the synchronistic acquisition of these books that enabled Lincoln to become a lawyer, and eventually embark on his career in politics.
There was one continuous line of causality working in Lincoln’s life stirring him to seek greater opportunities. At the same time the causal continuity in the life of the stranger who had come upon hard times crossed Lincoln’s own lifeline. The two lines of events had no causal connection linking them, but at a significant time the two lines came together in a synchronistic event that changed Lincoln’s life profoundly. Synchronicity seems bound up with the archetypes, and when the archetypes take on a “specific charge” they are raised to a supernormal degree of luminosity and become numinous. When this happens there is often a withdrawing of so much energy from other possible contents of consciousness that they become darkened and eventually unconscious. This might even create an imbalance in the psyche. The source of this power to affect the archetypes seems to be from highly charged emotions, intense feelings, or sudden inspirational flashes. The stage then becomes set for synchronistic events to unfold.
Jung found that the best instances of his theory were cases of ESP or extra sensory perception, parapsychology, numerology, and astrology. Jung believed he had found direct evidence for the existence of acausal combinations of events through the experiments of J.B. Rhine. 13 The experiment consists of an experimenter turning up a series of numbered cards bearing simple geometrical patterns. The subjects are asked to guess the signs as the cards are turned up. While the results varied, in many cases the results were distinctly above probability. The likelihood of success seemed to depend on how the subject approached the experiment. Eagerness and enthusiasm resulted in better results; lack of interest brought poor results. If the test subject was a strong believer in ESP, then the results were better than the results of those subjects that did not believe in ESP. As Jung says:
“Lack of interest and boredom are negative factors; enthusiasm, positive expectation, hope, and belief in the possibility of ESP make for good results and seem to be the real conditions which determine whether there are going to be any results at all.” 14
For Jung, the upshot of these experiments affirmed that “Synchronicity means the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state–and, in certain cases, vice versa.” 15
Through Jung’s research we now know that the individual psyche is not just a product of personal experience, but has an evolutionary history resulting in a transpersonal dimension manifested in universal patterns and images such as are found in all the worlds’ religions and mythologies. Jung further discovered that the psyche has a structure or ordering principle that unifies the various archetypal contents. The archetype of wholeness is the central archetype that Jung calls the Self. The Self is the supreme psychic authority and subordinates all else to it including the ego. It is the central source of life and the fountain of our being. It is represented through those symbols that indicate wholeness or completeness such as mandalas, circles, and most importantly the sun, which has been described as the “Window opening into eternity.” Plotinus’ system, as interpreted, represents stellar objects as holders of mind, and the ultimate spiritual source; we apprehend this structure as the macrocosm. Inherent within the human entity is the same Ideal structure that forms the essence of soul, or the microcosm. The One as object is an image or reflection of the soul as subject, as Mind they can merge and emerge one from the other in the mystical experience. It follows that within the human soul, with the One at the center, there should be found a source of great light in a solar image, although hidden in the shadows of waking consciousness. In death the soul immediately apprehends the light.
For Jung the best source for symbolic ideas is found in the historical records of medieval alchemy. The most important is the idea of the scintillae–the sparks from the Spirit of God. Jung compares the sparks to one of the archetypes, which is described as the Monad and the sun; they both indicate the deity. Psychologically, the Monad or sun is regarded as a symbol of the Self. As the archetype of the Self takes on numinosity it also takes on luminosity. The medieval alchemist Paracelsus had an idea of this when he said:
“And as little as aught can exist in man without the divine numen, so little can aught exist in man without the natural lumen. A man is made perfect by numen and lumen and these two alone. Everything springs from these two, and these two are in man, but without them man is nothing, though they can be without man.” 16
Jung recognizes this light as the lumen naturae that illuminates consciousness, and the scintillae are germinal luminosities shining forth from the darkness of the unconscious. Of this natural light Paracelsus went on to say that: “The sun is invisible in men, but visible in the world, yet both are of one and the same sun.” 17 The alchemist Dorn went even further to identify the source of this inner light, as he said:
“For the life, the light of men, shineth in us, albeit dimly, and as though in darkness. It is not to be extracted from us, yet it is in us and not of us. But of Him to Whom it belongs, Who deigns to make us his dwelling place . . . . He has implanted that light in us that we may see in its light the light of Him who dwells in inaccessible light, and that we may excel His other creatures; in this wise we are made like unto Him, that He has given us a spark of His light. Thus the truth is to be sought not in ourselves, but in the image of God which is within us.”18
Light is eternal and omnipresent, and while it diminishes in inverse proportion to the square of the distance, it sooner or later fills the entire universe. Light is life in a vehicle of divinity, and might be thought of as an expression of the One. We stand at the center of our own creation because at the center is the sun and the light of the One. We exist as a preordained Idea manifest within the Self. As an image of the One, so is the One an image of us; our minds manifest through the physical body as the One manifests through the body of the sun. Life is a solar idea. In Paracelsus the lumen naturae comes primarily from the ‘astrum’ or ‘sydus,’ the star in man. As he says:
“Indeed, man himself is an Astrum: not by himself alone, but for ever and ever with all apostles and saints; each and every one is an Astrum, the heaven a star . . . therefore saith also the Scripture: ‘ye are lights of the world’. Now as in the star lieth the whole natural light, and from it man taketh the same like food from the earth into which he is born, so too must he be born into the star.” 19
Psychological symbolism finds expression through the ideas of Paracelsus, and Jung speaks of him with due respect: “He beholds the darksome psyche as a star-strewn night sky, whose planets and fixed constellations represent the archetypes in all their luminosity and numinosity. The starry vault of heaven is in truth the open book of cosmic projection, in which are reflected the mythologems, i.e., the archetypes. In this vision astrology and alchemy, the two classical functionaries of the psychology of the collective unconscious, join hands.” 20
Astrological symbolism has been a foundation in human thought from the earliest of time, and astronomy became the basis for mankind’s first religions, now more formally referred to as Sidereal Theology. The Magi came bearing gifts for the baby Jesus heralded by a bright star; it is still celebrated in most Christmas festivals today. Mostly forgotten but still recognized, in Genesis God rested on the seventh day–Sunday.