Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Planets and Archetypes 12

Notes for Planets and Archetypes:

2. I have examined these several stages in the evolution of the archetypal perspective in the history of Western thought at greater length in The Passion of the Western Mind . For the Platonic doctrine of archetypal Forms and its complex relationship to Greek myth, see pp. 4-32. For Aristotle's contrasting view of universals, see pp. 55-72. For later classical developments, see pp. 81-87. For Christian, medieval, and Renaissance developments, see pp. 106-111, 165-170, 179-191, 200-221.

3. Cf. Aby Warburg's description of astrology as uniquely the meeting and confrontation point between the demands of a rational order, as in Greek science, and the myths and superstitions inherited from the East: between logic and magic, between mathematics and mythology, between Athens and Alexandria (Eugenio Garin, Astrology in the Renaissance , trans. C. Jackson and J. Allen, rev. C. Robertson [London: Arkana, 1983], p. xi). Aside from the historically inaccurate suggestion that myths were not fundamental to the ancient Greek sensibility, and the related assumption of Alexandrian or Eastern irrationalism, the description otherwise aptly renders the dialectical synthesis that brought forth the Western astrological tradition in the Hellenistic era.

4. An additional difference between Platonic and Jungian archetypes has been emphasized by classical Jungians (e.g., Edward Edinger, Marie-Louise von Franz), who regard Platonic principles as inert patterns, as compared with Jungian archetypes which are seen as dynamic agencies in the psyche, independent and autonomous. The problem with this simple distinction is that Plato's archetypal principles are of widely varying kinds, shifting in nature from dialogue to dialogue. While some are indeed inert patterns (e.g., the mathematical forms), others possess a spiritual dynamism whose epiphanic power transforms the philosopher's being and whose ontological power moves the cosmos (the Good, the Beautiful). Similarly, Plato's discussion of Eros in The Symposium suggests a psychological dynamism not unlike what one would find in a Jungian context (and, in this case, Freudian as well). There is more continuity between Plato's Forms and the ancient gods than the inert-pattern characterization would indicate.

The dynamism of universal forms becomes fully explicit in Aristotle, but at the expense of their numinosity and transcendence. In effect, Jung draws on different aspects of the Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions, integrating these in turn with Freudian-Darwinian instincts and Kantian categories. Jung does not, however, always keep these differing and overlapping aspects of archetypes in view or sufficiently distinguished, which has produced confusion and controversy in many discussions of Jungian archetypes in recent decades, as discussed in the next note.

5. When Jung made statements such as . . . in the symbol the world itself is speaking, or Synchronicity postulates a meaning which is a priori in relation to human consciousness and apparently exists outside man, it is clear that he had transcended the Kantian epistemological framework with its decisive division between subjectively structured phenomena and unknowable noumena (things-in-themselves beyond the reach of human subjectivity). Archetypes whose meaning could be said to exist outside man, informing both the human psyche and the world itself, were clearly not bound by the Kantian structure of knowledge and reality.

Yet in his own mind, as reflected in many statements both public and private, Jung loyally upheld the Kantian framework throughout his life, and never ceased insisting on its essential relevance and validity for his findings. The paradoxes, contradictions, and confusions of the Jung-Kant relationship deeply affected important dialogues in which Jung participated in the course of his life, and have riddled Jung scholarship for decades. (See, for example, Stephanie de Voogd, C. G. Jung: Psychologist of the Future, ˜Philosopher' of the Past, Spring 1977: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought, pp. 175-182; Barbara Eckman, Jung, Hegel, and the Subjective Universe, Spring 1986: An Annual of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought , pp. 88-99; as well as many contributions from Wolfgang Giegerich.)

Certainly Jung's continuing loyalty to Kant was biographically understandable, given not only the enduring effect of reading Kant and Schopenhauer (his entrance to Kant) in his youth, but also the cultural and intellectual context within which he worked throughout his life. From the beginning of Jung's career, Kant's thought provided Jung with crucial philosophical protection vis-a-vis conventional scientific critiques of his findings. Jung could always defend his controversial discussions of spiritual phenomena and religious experience by saying that these were empirical data revealing the structure of the human mind, with no necessary metaphysical implications. But as many commentators have noted, not only did Jung often make statements with vivid metaphysical implications and assumptions, but in addition the Kantian framework became less and less capable of assimilating the discoveries and theoretical advances of Jung's later work, particularly in the area of synchronicity and what he now called the psychoid (psyche-like) archetype that is seen as informing both psyche and matter, challenging the absoluteness of the modern subject-object dichotomy. As a result, his statements concerning these epistemological and metaphysical issues became increasingly ambiguous and self-contradictory. (See, for example, Sean Kelly's insightful discussion from the Hegelian perspective in Individuation and the Absolute [New York: Paulist Press, 1993], pp. 15-37.)


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