Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why Do We Stigmatize Suicide, But Make Celebrity Out of Mass-murder?

Why do we stigmatize suicide and quietly brush it under the rug, but make instant-celebrity out of those who commit serial killings and mass killings?

The following is an attempt to provide one possible perspective.

Mass killings and serial killings are an attack on our public identities--specifically, our public identity's sense of safety. But our public identity is constantly bombarded with similar attacks. "You're not sexy enough, not successful enough." And even for those that have found success, one can always aspire for more. That's the healthy thing to do!

Our public identities are so used to the deluge of experiences and prescriptions waiting to be completed, that it is not too disconcerting for us to add one more worry to our check-lists.

But suicide is an attack on our private identities.

THAT, we cannot tolerate. In fact, embedded within our exaltation of competitive markets as the crowning achievement of civilization is the assumption that, privately, we are all imperfect and depraved. The trick of competition is that we are to never make our imperfection public. To do so is to throw away our marketability, i.e. our market-ability--our ability to compete and survive in the market.

Suicide, the ultimate public statement of the vulnerability of our private selves, is an outright challenge to this dogma. Vulnerability is the negation of competition, and so public vulnerability is strictly forbidden in a competitive marketplace.

In the words of Andrew Harvey, "The authentic rebel of love would have to let himself be penetrated and broken open by love. This would be a devastating experience—devastating to the tidy brutalities of the false [public] self."

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Why Socialism? -- The Problem with Economic Markets

“Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.” - Goethe

From its inception, capitalism in the West internalized the Protestant leaders’ emphasis on humanity’s “total depravity.” It is thus one of the deeply-ingrained assumptions of Western capitalism that goodness and excellence are to be found outside of the human sphere--goodness is achievable only through non-human, institutional means.

Nobel-prize-winner Muhammad Yunus’s belief in “social businesses” seems more far-fetched than Michael Albert’s “participatory economy,” in this regard. At least Albert recognizes that such a structure is achievable only with the elimination of economic markets, which exist only as a way of thinking, i.e. an insistence that we use structures which prioritize the non-human over the human--numbers over language, digitally-recorded contracts over face-to-face agreements, global markets over grassroots democracy.

‘Celebrity’ is such a structure. First used to mean “famous person” in 1849, ‘celebrity’ is a decidedly non-human category. It is a creation of mass-media that cares nothing about the humanity of the celebrity, i.e. serial-killers can be celebrities as easily as saints. The only requirement seems to be the single-minded pursuit of perfection--whether it’s the attempt to save the world or the attempt to commit the ‘perfect murder’.

Were the early Protestant leaders correct that with the Fall, humanity is in a state of “total depravity” and should seek excellence only through non-human structures such as economic markets? Or is it possible that they were mistaken, and as the Eastern mystics propose, excellence is to be found through balance rather than through the pursuit of perfection?

Why Socialism? Perhaps we should be asking "Why not?"

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Moving Beyond Capitalism

The 20th century has been the century of capitalism and its expansion. But capitalism is only the “end of history” as a dead end. People fear the words ‘socialism’, ‘anarchism’, and ‘communism’ because they believe these words represent a move backwards, a desire to destroy everything that economic markets have built. There may be those that feel this way, but this is not necessarily correct. The desire to erase capitalism must be differentiated from the desire to move beyond capitalism.
History is best visualized not as a line, but as a series of pendulum swings between opposing positions. Society exists in a constant state of tension between opposing ideas. The French Revolution was a collision of the medieval idea of a Great Chain of Being where the aristocracy rules over the peasants with the Renaissance idea of equality. In the 1850’s Abolitionists in the United States did not argue that slavery should be made illegal only in new states, but argued that all slaves should be freed as soon as possible. Social change occurs not through the accumulation of minor variations from the status quo, but through intentionally pursuing the opposite of what the existing paradigms say. As Goethe put it, “Progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.”
The contribution of capitalism was the creation of a new structure of communication--an economic globalization of which markets are just the bare-bones structure. The longer we stay stuck in this skeletal structure, the drier and more brittle the structure becomes. We must start to flesh it out. We must learn from the globalizing process that economic markets created. Give credit where it’s due--economic markets have encouraged more cross-culturation and travel between different nations than ever before in the history of the world. The process of globalization is an accomplishment that we should credit capitalism for. But, as Wolfgang Giegerich remarks, “this process needs us, needs our heart, our feeling, our imaginative attention and rigorous thinking effort.” “It must,” Giegerich continues, “be reborn through the soul and in the soul,” by which he means we must not forget anything that capitalism has taught us about trade, about product-promotion, about resume-building. We must learn from these language-experiments, but we must not allow their practice to become brittle or stale.
Socialists and anarchists absolutely must learn to view their positions not as descending from capitalism, but as transcending it. It is essential for any post-capitalist vision to maintain the significant increases in worldwide communication and ability to relocate that capitalism has started.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tom's Official Cloud Atlas Review!

"The boundaries between noise and sound are conventions," aspiring composer Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) writes in a letter to a loved one. "One may transcend any convention, if only one can conceive of doing so." Cloud Atlas, enormous in its ambition, asks the viewer transcend the boundary between entertainment and art. Is this too much to ask of Americans?

The story covers 6 separate plots: 2 in the past, 2 in the present and 2 in the future. Each plot uses its own specific style of language. Goethe wrote that “progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution.” In flipping back and forth between the styles of the different periods, we see that while the sophistication of technology and language may change, the richness of life depends not on one or other, but on the interaction of both--on our ability to use language to connect us to our world and each other.

Tom Hanks plays a primitive, Zachry, whose language, despite communicating effectively within the sphere of his tribe, is not elaborate enough for him to understand certain things about himself and the natural world. He does not always have the words to communicate what he feels inside, and so those feelings become repressed, are mixed together with his survival instincts, and projected out in the form of the devil figure Georgie (Hugo Weaving), who advises him to give up--look after his own interest rather than attempting further communication.

Book publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) represents the polar opposite end of the spectrum. His mastery of the English language allows him to explain anything whatsoever that may happen to him, but he inhabits a world that he is unable to engage with. His attempts at communication, despite perfect style and delivery, all come up empty. We first encounter him at an upscale publishing industry party, wondering “Why would anyone want to become a book publisher?” He lives in a world in which language sets up new boundaries--in the form of hierarchical systems of law--as much as it has broken through old ones faced by Zachry.

Real progress--the kind that increases happiness--occurs when language helps us engage with the world and each other. False progress seems to do this, but its application is uneven. Boundaries are broken, but only for an elite few. We use language to define the boundaries between us as much as we use it to transcend them.

Tying both poles together is the story of Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae)--a cloned slave-worker from the future. A resistance movement covertly takes the depressants out of her daily soapsac, and she gradually starts to question the rules she and the other clones live by. After going to great lengths to take over a broadcasting station, the resistance puts out Sonmi-451’s transmission to give society the evidence that fabricants are no different than purebloods.

In the climax of her story, Sonmi states: “Our lives are not our own, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future. Death, life, birth--everything is connected.”

A life is more than just the sum of the subjective emotional states the individual has experienced. Home and work are our lives’ two recurring dreams in that objective thought never takes place within either. In addition to these states of split-consciousness (home and work, public vs. private, male-female, servant-master, weak-strong, etc.), there is an objective, unified existence that we can experience also, if we so choose.

Real progress is the process of language bringing about a richer world. Language alone allows us to perceive the world from someone else’s perspective. And when we succeed in communicating our perspective to someone else, a new door opens for us both. We all benefit, both live richer lives, both become more human.

One recurring theme in Cloud Atlas, as with most any action film, is the struggle for survival. “The weak are meat, and the strong do eat”--society tells us over and over that this is the defining rule of our existence. But we also learn there is the hope of an alternative.
Just as primitive humans learned to view nature objectively, rather than expressing their subjective emotional states, so too modern humans are learning to view our own lives objectively, as parts in a greater narrative. “To be is to be perceived--to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other.”


Thursday, November 08, 2012

A Cloud Atlas is the Territory!

This is a poem inspired by the themes in the film Cloud Atlas.
(Post's title is a play on Alfred Korzybski's phrase "the map is not the territory".)
Language is a castle in the sky,
owned by no one,
growing new towers with each new subject that enters.

In conversation, magic! a tower appears!

a horseman passing by a grave,
or perhaps the snot-green sea.

through metaphor they move from mind to mind,

resurrecting echoes of the past,
a mother’s love, a culture’s majesty

And in that ever-mysterious moment,

when I first learn to see through your eyes
I briefly escape my own mind’s walls,

and surrounded instead by culture’s castle,

observantly, I notice the castle rising,
propelled by the breath of giants.
Looking forward to reading the novel!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

Update 12/4/12: Please also see for my more thought-out review of the movie.

What makes a movie work, makes it feel fresh? Conversely, what feels cliche, and just rehashes previously covered ground?

Taking an obvious (and given Disney’s recent acquisition, somewhat timely) example, why has Star Wars remained so relevant? Sure, it got everything right--the accent of C3PO, the music, the back and forth between Han and Leia--all that grips us in the usual way of the popular fads that come and go. And yet Star Wars never really left. There was something deeper about the effect that it had on many of us. Perhaps it was the way Darth Vader so perfectly embodied the theme of the struggle with evil--the temptation of giving in to our dark side that rules in the name of order.  Although Darth Vader was the undeniable “bad guy,” he also claims to represent “order”, flipping the traditional role of the “villain as outlaw” on its head. Sometimes, the rulers are the villains. In all of film, the character of Darth Vader best expresses the truth “power corrupts”.

So, “power corrupts”. Where do we go from here? I see Cloud Atlas as a far-reaching exploration of some possible answers.

Specifically, Cloud Atlas is a story of the soul in action. 

Unlike most movies that delve into history, Cloud Atlas tells the story of the voiceless--the African slave, the residents of a nursing home, the artificially intelligent slave of the future--those who have been "otherized" and “exiled from the civil world.” "To know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other.”  Cloud atlas explores the inverse side of the statement “power corrupts,” showing us the point of view of the victim. If power corrupts the ruler, what does it do to the ruled? And digging even further, how can one use his or her power to be redeemed?  

When Adam decides to help Autua on the ship, he loses his role as oppressor, and for the first time perceives a slave as a human. Soul is moving through him.

Cloud Atlas is smart enough to recognize that “all individuals are created equal” is not the “end of history,” as some have claimed. No, indeed, the work of the soul goes on, whether we see it or not. If you don’t believe me, observe neurosis (soul from below) and the process of economic globalization (soul from above). These processes exist independently of the conscious goals of individuals. What else but soul can be responsible?   

However, Cloud Atlas does not stop at modernity. Or perhaps, it realizes that we can only understand our present age if we are shown where we could be headed. In New Seoul, which is built above the mostly-flooded ground of old Seoul, we encounter a people who again face the same situation as Autua--voiceless, powerless, dehumanized--except Sonmi is not human. (Much like the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica) Sonmi is a clone/computer hybrid (called a Fabricant in this story)--an organic body with a computerized mind. Is her story therefore different from Autua’s? Cloud Atlas does not back down from this question.

Tying it all together is the story of Zachry. The entire development of soul through the rest of film is personified in his character.

Zachry takes for granted that his instinctual reactions--to stay hidden, to murder the stranger, to kill the sleeping enemy--come from a power greater than himself. Not so for modern humanity. We would not make this mistake. We look inside first for all explanations of behavior, whether it’s to the brain through “learned behavior” or “repressed complexes”, or “unconscious archetypes.” However, trapped by our inward-looking, ego-centered bias, we become oblivious to the work of the soul. Zachry has not yet fallen into our ego-centered trap, and so is transformed by Meronym. He is open to new experiences in a way that we are not, and so her soul begins to act through him.     

It’s interesting Roger Ebert titled his review “Castles in the Sky.” I have just been reading Wolfgang Giegerich, who writes, 
“We remember Goethe’s statement that it was not he who made his poems, but that they made him. The creative person, in his creating, is building castles in the air, and is used by them for their need to become produced... ‘By its colorful tunes the lark blissfully climbs up into the air.’ Creativity means to trust the air, its absolute negativity, as the only ground upon which, as well as the only stuff out of which, great cultural works can be created.”  [ Giegerich. What is Soul? p. 184 ]
The Cloud Atlas Sextet can be interpreted as its own separate character that “needs to become produced.” Perhaps the characters in each era are “creative” in the sense that Giegerich talks about, that they are capable and willing to become the mediums for great works. They are the capable and willing builders of castles in the sky.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Soul Exists As Language: Introduction to Giegerich's Use of the Term "Soul"

    We moderns have no right to the term soul... Human existence is... only finite and a product of biological evolution... There is no room for the term soul. Of the original body-soul pair, only its one side, the body, has remained. ...
    The word psychology, properly translated, means “logos [account] of the soul.” The use of “psyche” instead of “soul” is a new import into scientific language, an artificial and abstract technical term and is clearly inspired by the wish that arose during the 19th century to avoid the traditional word and to cleanse psychology from all the above-mentioned metaphysical, religious overtones and feeling associations and implications of this word: to sterilize psychology. Or, to put it positively, it is inspired by the wish to get the subject of psychology a priori
into a scientific, positivistic straightjacket. [ Giegerich, Wolfgang. What is Soul? pp. 15-16 ]
    What ultimately had made psychology so attractive to many people at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century is the (of course usually unacknowledged, if not systematically denied) promise of learning the secret of the soul. The desire to get to know and understand the soul is the secret driving motivation behind the existence of the whole field, even if the field itself avoided the word soul. It amounts to a deception and self-deception to pretend that what people wanted to know through psychology was the dry facts established through tests, statistical evaluation of opinion polls, and experiments. ...
    Inasmuch as psychology is a
modern field of study and as such is grounded on the truth of modernity, it inevitably starts out as a psychology without ‘soul’. How then can the notion of soul come back into a field into whose very definition soul-lessness is built, and come back into it precisely as its root metaphor? ... But conversely: how can we want to do psychology if we have renounced the notion of the soul? ...
    One might want to see this terrible dilemma as our Scylla and Charybdis. But that image would suggest that we would have to try and see how to get somehow through these two monsters in between them, in other words, how to avoid them. But sneaking past them is precisely not the solution. Rather, we have to give both of them their due. They are not monsters, not dangers to be avoided by us, but our teachers, helpers. Precisely in their simultaneity--and Scylla Charybdis always appear together--that is, in their negating each other, they show us the way.
    The “psychology without soul” prevents us from ontologizing the soul as an existing mysterious entity. The soul must not be positivized. It does not exist. But this does not at all mean that it is simply nothing, a word to be struck off from our vocabulary. Paradoxically, the argumentation of Fr. A. Lange [ that psychology should be without soul ] itself stays stuck in the metaphysical, ontologizing mode of thinking that it wants to depart from. That he has to eliminate the soul altogether indicates the fact that he unwittingly [shares] the metaphysical belief in the soul as a substance. The only difference between metaphysics and Lange’s position is that the former affirms the idea of a substantial soul, while the latter denies it. It is as a matter of course that for us the soul is not a positive fact, an entity, or substance. As long as you view it as a positively existing entity, you have to dismiss it. ... To be sure, by having rid himself of the object of metaphysics, his thinking is no longer metaphysical. But because he only negated the metaphysical object while retaining the thinking in terms of thing-like entities, his thinking has become positivistic. ...

If, however, the negation is allowed to go all the way... the logic of the metaphysical substance then suffers a sublimation, distillation, a determinate negation, rather than its wholesale annihilation (elimination). The soul, instead of being dismissed, has in itself become logically negative. This is the effect and achievement of our Charybdis.
Therefore, let me here stress this once more, ... we do not conceive [the soul] as a thing-like object, a natural being or essence, a metaphysical substance, an entity, “the ghost in the machine.” It is not set up by us as a subject and invisible agent or stage director behind the scene. Nor is it viewed as a component or compartment of man and as having a substrate (such as the body, the human organism). We do not even say, “there is such a thing as soul,” “soul exists.” The use of the definite article (our speaking of “the soul”) must therefore not be taken literally. It seems to imply that a factual existence of the soul is posited and that it is set up as a substance. We must therefore always keep in mind that the talk of “the soul” is figurative speech, merely part of the rhetoric of psychology. It is a mythologizing, almost personifying, manner of speaking. When using it, we always have to imagine quotation marks around the expression. This means that we are required to think when we use the phrase, have to use it thinkingly, in other words, we must not fall for the seductive force of the mythological personification. If we took it literally and nailed it down to what it says, the wording “the soul” would be incorrect, even illegitimate. We use it it nonetheless because we are speaking, expressing ourselves, in language, and because the use of nouns conforms to the structure of our language... It would be far too cumbersome to always express oneself correctly here (psycho-politically correct), because this would make an unidiomatic use of language or constant qualifications and warning necessary. Political correctness always wants to solve the problems it finds externally and mechanically, by substituting “correct” names for “bad” ones. An exchange of labels. Psychology, by contrast, must put the burden of “correctness” on the mind, its having to provide the proper understanding for the same old names it uses, thereby following the ways of language itself which has always put new wine (new meanings) into old bottles (old words).
The gift to us of the idea of a psychology without soul is that it protects us from ontologizing or reifying the soul as a second entity besides the body. And conversely, the gift to us of our Scylla, i.e., the old metaphysical notion of the soul, is that it allows us to preserve the phenomenon that we as psychologists are truly interested in, namely the notion of soul with (1) its sense of value, importance, indispensability, (2) with its sense of mystery and otherworldliness (even if of course only a metaphorical otherworldliness), (3) with the fact that it makes a claim on us, immediately involving our subjectivity, our deepest essence, and (4) as something without substrate and not identical with any functions of the biological organism...
    If we take both our Scylla and our Charybdis together, we arrive at the idea of a logically negative autonomous or objective soul, where “negative,” on the one hand, and “autonomous or objective,” on the other hand, seem contradictory. Jung’s and alchemy’s idea that the major “part” of the soul is outside the body can now be understood to mean for our modern psychology that its notion of soul has logically cut itself loose from, and made itself totally independent of, the traditional body-soul pair and thus also from/of the human being as substrate personality altogether. Soul has become sui generis [ Giegerich. What is Soul? pp. 20-25 ]

   The soul exists only in language, but it does exist there! The structure of language is such that whenever we use language as thought (as opposed to communication), for instance, in religious ritual, in the creation of art, when we study psychology, etc.--there, we discover the work of the soul.
    However, Giegerich goes on to explain, as soon as the ego takes charge, soul-work ends. In the past, this problem did not come up, because “ego” is a modern construction. For pre-modern man, the concept of “ego” was unnecessary because individual identity was inseparable from ritualistic life, whether religious or tribal. They took for granted that certain behaviors (specifically rituals) arise communally. Not so for modern humanity. We look inside first for all explanations of behavior, whether it’s to the brain through “learned behavior” or “repressed complexes”, or “unconscious archetypes.” Trapped by our inward-looking, ego-centered bias, we are oblivious to the work of the soul.
    The work of the soul goes on, whether we see it or not. Giegerich points to neurosis (soul from below) and the process of economic globalization (soul from above) as the most visible manifestations of soul today.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Material Expression of Love

Are you attracted to people with money / power? If you had money or power, would you use it to enhance your own popularity?

But you can’t just love someone because he or she is rich. That’s too boring and simple. Love has to be more meaningful than that.

Hmm, but that’s what Marx was writing about when he says that money “confounds and confuses all things.” Attraction based on material power is vulgar and boring, but based on spiritual power is the essence of love. Love is spiritual in essence, which is to say that it should be built from the abstract, not from material considerations.

But Giegerich says that’s what Incarnation is about, too--the transition of God from spirit to matter. [ Technology and the Soul ] What does the Incarnation in this sense mean? Is love, too, seeking a material, rather than abstract, basis?

Could the realization of socialism be called the material expression of love, and thus the completion of God’s project of Incarnation? Marx calls socialism, which for him implies the elimination of money, the realization of “man as man.” But is socialism not also the realization of “love as love”?

Should other people’s sexual practices be kept separate from their public identity as a general rule? It seems to me, yes. In general, it should be considered improper to discuss other people’s sexual practices (which is separate from sexual orientation or gender-identity). A person’s sexual practices (i.e. their sexual identity) should belong to the private individual and be made public only by individual autonomous choice. Otherwise, love as attraction based on material power/influence creeps back in.

The Incarnation of God, i.e. the material expression of love, can only be fully expressed on the social level. (As Carl Jung tells us, the Jesus in the Gospels is more God than man.) Because on the individual level, due to our individual differences, the distribution of love’s power can never be equal--i.e. some people’s bodies have predetermined material advantages compared to other people’s. On the individual level, love based on material power is disastrous and leads to inevitable jealousies. But on the social level, the material expression of love (i.e. the realization of Socialism) is achievable and sustainable.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On the Over-reliance on Symbol and Image

Symbols are only meaningful when they produce some real benefit. The danger is that symbols  become substitutes for life-experience, rather than serving their purpose of guiding us to richer experiences.
Stephen Wolfram is doing ground-breaking work on this topic by using computers to model how simple rules can describe the behavior of complex systems. The field is called “Computational Irreducibility.”
Examples of computational reducibility and irreducibility in the evolution of cellular automata. The first two rules yield simple repetitive computationally reducible behavior in which the outcome after many steps can readily be deduced without tracing each step. The third rule yields behavior that appears to be computationally irreducible, so that its outcome can effectively be found only by explicitly tracing each step.
From his book, A New Kind of Science:
“In traditional science it has usually been assumed that if one can succeed in finding definite underlying rules for a system then this means that ultimately there will always be a fairly easy way to predict how the system will behave. “Several decades ago chaos theory pointed out that to have enough information to make complete predictions one must in general know not only the rules for a system but also its complete initial conditions.
“But now computational irreducibility leads to a much more fundamental problem with prediction. For it implies that even if in principle one has all the information one needs to work out how some particular system will behave, it can still take an irreducible amount of computational work actually to do this.” [ pg. 739 ]
Why is this significant? It’s about our entire approach to science--is what matters the symbols and equations? Or the scientific thinking that those tools are designed to enrich?

First a little history:  In the second half of the 19th century, James Maxwell’s successful implementation of advanced, formal mathematics in the theory that light was just a part of a bigger spectrum had led to the discovery of X-rays and radio waves. By the turn of the 20th century, the mathematical community was left feeling invincible. Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead were working on the crown jewel--Principia Mathematica, which would compile all logical truth into one axiomatized system. Their attempt ultimately failed, as Kurt Godel logically and formally proved with his Incompleteness Theorem. Godel showed that even with the basic axioms of arithmetic [ the Natural Numbers and two operations of addition ( the rule a+0=a ) and multiplication ( a*0=0 ) ], there are holes even in these axioms--true statements that cannot possibly be proven. The axioms imply the vast majority of true statements in this system , but not all. Hence Incompleteness.

For any field of logic, there are two systems at work: 1. the rule that manufactures all possible statements; 2. the rule that manufactures all possible proofs. The assumption traditionally was that there would be as many correct proofs as there were true statements. Godel proved this could not possibly be the case in traditional arithmetic on the natural numbers.

Computational Irreducibility takes it a step further, claiming that sometimes, the idea of formal proofs is completely unnecessary and meaningless. Wolfram is claiming that often, worrying about proving the truth of statements from the axioms is pointless to begin with! Proofs are only meaningful when they provide us with shortcuts. Otherwise, the behavior of the system is computationally irreducible, and the proofs are just as complicated as recreating the whole system, and therefore meaningless as predictors. In this way, Computational Irreducibility represents the completion of what Godel started--thought freed from its over-reliance on symbol.

The task of our age is to free thought from symbol and image--not just in mathematics, but in religion, economics, politics, etc.--preferably without violence and nuclear bombs, but it could always come to that, if we fail to find another way.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Poetry

The act of poetry is always ultimately rooted in our behavior. To try to separate them completely--to keep poetry confined within the realms of emotions and images--in the end, would be to kill poetry, the fundamental goal of which is to translate our behavior into an insight, which can change the original behavior.

There are steps that must come in between, however. The complete process is:
1. Behavior to Emotions
2. Emotions to Images
3. Images to Thought / insight

Analysis of Sylvia Plath's poem, "Daddy":

"You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe"

This line is about emotions to images. Sylvia feels the black shoe formality of business and economics is wrong for her.

"In which I have lived like a foot For thirty years, poor and white, Barely daring to breathe or Achoo."
Behavior to emotion. feeling Suffocated.

"At twenty I tried to die And get back, back, back to you. I thought even the bones would do. But they pulled me out of the sack, And they stuck me together with glue."
Behavior to emotion. Why did she try to die? Because of nostalgia for her father. To get a response--any response--from him.

"And then I knew what to do. I made a model of you, A man in black with a Meinkampf look And a love of the rack and the screw. And I said I do, I do."
Insight leads to behavior. But this section is really about translating that behavior into emotion and image. "Meinkampf look and a love of the rack and the screw--pretty much says all you need to know about how she felt about her husband.

"So daddy, I'm finally through. The black telephone's off at the root, The voices just can't worm through. If I've killed one man, I've killed two."
Here we have images into thought. Slvia has killed the internal images of the men in her life. They no longer own her.

"There's a stake in your fat black heart And the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you. They always knew it was you. Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through."
Back to emotion into images. Sylvia's life is a village, that had been ruled by her father until the villagers ended his tyranny.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Giegerich, Marx and Benjamin: Integrating Economics and Religion

I recently discovered the writings of Wolfgang Giegerich, and I want to share some thoughts.

Giegerich argues that the task of the present age is to help the soul move from its old home within inner religious experience, to its new home in the economy, science, art and all of culture. What is Giegerich talking about? I actually find it a surprisingly intuitive argument: just as the medieval mystic is gripped by an inner experience of God, modern humanity is gripped by the internet, television, and the nuclear bomb. Giegerich identifies the goal of maximizing economic profit as the most obvious expression of the shift that is occurring.

I believe this transition is precisely what Karl Marx describes as the transition from capitalism to socialism.

Marx, tragically, is unaware that the shift to socialism corresponds to a new birth of the soul. But he did foresee that the shift is taking place, and he understands that it is our job to create the conditions for it to be successful. As psychologist Erich Fromm observes:
"[Marxism] is the realization of the deepest religious impulses common to the great humanistic religions of the past... provided we understand that Marx, like Hegel and like many others, expresses his concern for man's soul, not in theistic, but in philosophical language."

Do not think that this transition happens mechanically or automatically. There are those who argue that soul should remain within individual experience, where tradition expects it. Giegerich would disagree. The question that must be addressed is, “Could we share soul with others or not?”

In formulating an answer, Giegerich quotes Chaucer writing in 14th century medieval England:
“But no one now sees fairies any more.
For now the saintly charity and prayer
Of holy friars seem to have purged the air.”
We are going through a similar transition today, claims Giegerich.
“[Profit maximization] is all around us, as our absolute; it is the medium or element of our existence, much like the air is the element of the human organism's existence, and it is the God to which we sacrifice what we hold most dear.”

Giegerich's idea that the economy is an expression of the soul challenges the traditional, orthodox Christian conception of "soul".  In the Christian tradition, shaped by the image of the Holy Spirit inhabiting the believer, the soul is seen as a kind of mediator between the individual and God. Combining this with the doctrine regarding the judgment of souls, it doesn’t make sense to speak of a “shared soul.”

However, as bridges are built with Eastern religious traditions, ideas are slowly changing. For instance, the New Age movement commonly talks about “soul groups” or “soul families”. The idea of soul as a shared experience is thus catching on.

Giegerich is more academic in describing the soul. Stealing from Wikipedia:

The major goal of this approach is to redefine the notion of psychology (the logos of the soul) as it has emerged as a discipline in Western thought. ... Giegerich argues for a shift in focus from the individual, whose very definition has changed radically throughout history, to a focus on “the soul.”... Accordingly, in Giegerich’s theory, the idea of soul does not function as some kind of objective or empirical substrate producing psychological phenomena. Rather it is the logical structure of thought as which any phenomena, viewed psychologically, exist. ... What is an expression of the soul? Anything of cultural significance—art, science, politics, social and political phenomena—in other words, any place that thought and mind have made an appearance. The interiority that is spoken of is the essential logical structure of such phenomena.

Unfortunately, many people are oblivious to the life of the soul, stuck in the cycles of addiction that economic hierarchy creates. Blind adherence to tradition and excessive wealth concentration combine into a sea of conformity.  

Thus Walter Benjamin, whose writings interpret Marx through the lens of Jewish mysticism, tells us to “wrest tradition from the conformism that is seeking to overpower it.” Without the efforts of people to organize with an urgency that values the strengths of our soul’s past, the soul’s transition could just as easily tear our culture, or our world, apart.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is the profit motive completely "bad"?

The orthodox religious traditions in the West would keep the individual as the center of life experience. Capitalism is a radical rejection of this principle, in that the dynamic of the profit motive has nothing to do with people. The profit motive moves the center of life experience outside of the individual. In this sense, capitalism has transformed us from holistic individuals of past ages into... something else.

Donna Haraway proposes that the machine that drives capitalism has made us all into “cyborgs,” “fabricated hybrids of machine and organism.” She elaborates on what this might mean:
“Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein's monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden; that is, through the fabrication of a heterosexual mate, through its completion in a finished whole, a city and cosmos. The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust... Cyborgs are not reverent; they do not re-member the cosmos. They are wary of holism, but needy for connection- they seem to have a natural feel for united front politics, but without the vanguard party. The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.”

She also characterizes cyborgs as “committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity... [and] no longer structured by the polarity of public and private.”

It is the intersection of the public and private spheres of life that most interests me. I believe what’s “bad” about our economy is not the profit motive itself, but the way we define profit and property in general as being exclusively personal or totally public, with little to no space in between.

I wrote in this earlier note on Facebook:
Individually-owned private property distorts the concept of private life, which properly refers to the land and tools of a group, such as the local community, tribe, or clan--not to single family units or individuals. Defining “private property” to mean “individually-owned” degrades private life, which is dynamic and rooted in culture, into the statistical, legalistic category of "personal".

Does the profit motive dissociate us from our intuition and force us into rationalizations? Yes, of course it does. And of course this is bad. But does it recenter human experience to be outside of the individual? Yes, and this is good.

As far as where we go from here... co-ops are the future. They are what cyborgs would do.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Diagramming the Psyche - a picture of Jungian terminology

The following definitions are ordered roughly in order they appear in the picture. (courtesy of Daryl Sharp's Jung Lexicon - )


The extraverted "I," usually ideal aspects of ourselves, that we present to the outside world.
The persona is . . . a functional complex that comes into existence for reasons of adaptation or personal convenience. [Definitions," CW 6., par. 801.]
The persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.["Concerning Rebirth," CW 9i, par. 221.]
Originally the word persona meant a mask worn by actors to indicate the role they played. On this level, it is both a protective covering and an asset in mixing with other people. Civilized society depends on interactions between people through the persona.
There are indeed people who lack a developed persona . . . blundering from one social solecism to the next, perfectly harmless and innocent, soulful bores or appealing children, or, if they are women, spectral Cassandras dreaded for their tactlessness, eternally misunderstood, never knowing what they are about, always taking forgiveness for granted, blind to the world, hopeless dreamers. From them we can see how a neglected persona works.["Anima and Animus," CW 7, par. 318.]
A psychological understanding of the persona as a function of relationship to the outside world makes it possible to assume and drop one at will. But by rewarding a particular persona, the outside world invites identification with it. Money, respect and power come to those who can perform single-mindedly and well in a social role. From being a useful convenience, therefore, the persona may become a trap and a source of neurosis.
A man cannot get rid of himself in favour of an artificial personality without punishment. Even the attempt to do so brings on, in all ordinary cases, unconscious reactions in the form of bad moods, affects, phobias, obsessive ideas, backsliding vices, etc. The social "strong man" is in his private life often a mere child where his own states of feeling are concerned.["Anima and Animus," ibid., par. 307. ]
The demands of propriety and good manners are an added inducement to assume a becoming mask. What goes on behind the mask is then called "private life." This painfully familiar division of consciousness into two figures, often preposterously different, is an incisive psychological operation that is bound to have repercussions on the unconscious.[Ibid., par. 305.]


The totality of all psychic phenomena that lack the quality of consciousness. (See also collective unconscious and personal unconscious.)
The unconscious . . . is the source of the instinctual forces of the psyche and of the forms or categories that regulate them, namely the archetypes.[The Structure of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 342.]
In general, the compensating attitude of the unconscious works to maintain psychic equilibrium.
The unconscious processes that compensate the conscious ego contain all those elements that are necessary for the self-regulation of the psyche as a whole. On the personal level, these are the not consciously recognized personal motives which appear in dreams, or the meanings of daily situations which we have overlooked, or conclusions we have failed to draw, or affects we have not permitted, or criticisms we have spared ourselves.[The Function of the Unconscious," CW 7, par. 275.]
Jung attributed to the unconscious a creative function, in that it presents to consciousness contents necessary for psychological health. It is not, however, superior to consciousness; its messages (in dreams, impulses, etc.) must always be mediated by the ego.
The unconscious is useless without the human mind. It always seeks its collective purposes and never your individual destiny. [C.G. Jung Letters, vol. 1, p. 283.]
Consciousness should defend its reason and protect itself, and the chaotic life of the unconscious should be given the chance of having its way too--as much of it as we can stand. This means open conflict and open collaboration at once. That, evidently, is the way human life should be. It is the old game of hammer and anvil: between them the patient iron is forged into an indestructible whole, an "individual."[Conscious, Unconscious, and Individuation," CW 9i, par. 522.]

Peronsal Unconscious:

The personal layer of the unconscious, distinct from the collective unconscious.
The personal unconscious contains lost memories, painful ideas that are repressed (i.e., forgotten on purpose), subliminal perceptions, by which are meant sense-perceptions that were not strong enough to reach consciousness, and finally, contents that are not yet ripe for consciousness.[The Personal and the Collective Unconscious," ibid., par. 103.]

Collective Unconscious:

A structural layer of the human psyche containing inherited elements, distinct from the personal unconscious. (See also archetype)
The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind's evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual.[The Structure of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 342.]
Jung derived his theory of the collective unconscious from the ubiquity of psychological phenomena that could not be explained on the basis of personal experience.
The collective unconscious-so far as we can say anything about it at all-appears to consist of mythological motifs or primordial images, for which reason the myths of all nations are its real exponents. In fact, the whole of mythology could be taken as a sort of projection of the collective unconscious. . . . We can therefore study the collective unconscious in two ways, either in mythology or in the analysis of the individual.["The Structure of the Psyche," CW 8, par. 325.]
The more one becomes aware of the contents of the personal unconscious, the more is revealed of the rich layer of images and motifs that comprise the collective unconscious. This has the effect of enlarging the personality.
In this way there arises a consciousness which is no longer imprisoned in the petty, oversensitive, personal world of the ego, but participates freely in the wider world of objective interests. This widened consciousness is no longer that touchy, egotistical bundle of personal wishes, fears, hopes, and ambitions which always has to be compensated or corrected by unconscious counter-tendencies; instead, it is a function of relationship to the world of objects, bringing the individual into absolute, binding, and indissoluble communion with the world at large.[The Function of the Unconscious," CW 7, par. 275.]


Primordial, structural elements of the human psyche.
Archetypes are systems of readiness for action, and at the same time images and emotions. They are inherited with the brain structure-indeed they are its psychic aspect. They represent, on the one hand, a very strong instinctive conservatism, while on the other hand they are the most effective means conceivable of instinctive adaptation. They are thus, essentially, the chthonic portion of the psyche . . . that portion through which the psyche is attached to nature.["Mind and Earth," CW 10, par. 53.]
It is not . . . a question of inherited ideas but of inherited possibilities of ideas. Nor are they individual acquisitions but, in the main, common to all, as can be seen from [their] universal occurrence.["Concerning the Archetypes and the Anima Concept," CW 9i, par. 136.]
Archetypes are irrepresentable in themselves but their effects are discernible in archetypal images and motifs.
Archetypes are, by definition, factors and motifs that arrange the psychic elements into certain images, characterized as archetypal, but in such a way that they can be recognized only from the effects they produce.["A Psychological Approach to the Trinity," CW 11, par. 222, note 2.]
Jung also described archetypes as "instinctual images," the forms which the instincts assume.
Psychologically . . . the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way, the prize which the hero wrests from the fight with the dragon.[Ibid., par. 415.]


Hidden or unconscious aspects of oneself, both good and bad, which the ego has either repressed or never recognized.
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. ["The Shadow," CW 9ii, par. 14.]
The realization of the shadow is inhibited by the persona. To the degree that we identify with a bright persona, the shadow is correspondingly dark. Thus shadow and persona stand in a compensatory relationship, and the conflict between them is invariably present in an outbreak of neurosis. The characteristic depression at such times indicates the need to realize that one is not all one pretends or wishes to be.

The shadow is not, however, only the dark underside of the personality. It also consists of instincts, abilities and positive moral qualities that have long been buried or never been conscious.
The shadow is merely somewhat inferior, primitive, unadapted, and awkward; not wholly bad. It even contains childish or primitive qualities which would in a way vitalize and embellish human existence, but-convention forbids! [Psychology and Religion," CW 11, par. 134.]
An outbreak of neurosis constellates both sides of the shadow: those qualities and activities one is not proud of, and new possibilities one never knew were there.

Jung distinguished between the personal and the collective or archetypal shadow.
With a little self-criticism one can see through the shadow-so far as its nature is personal. But when it appears as an archetype, one encounters the same difficulties as with anima and animus. In other words, it is quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil.["The Shadow," ibid., par. 19.]


The inner feminine side of a man. (See also animus)

The anima is personified in dreams by images of women ranging from seductress to spiritual guide. It is associated with the eros principle, hence a man's anima development is reflected in how he relates to women. Within his own psyche, the anima functions as his soul, influencing his ideas, attitudes and emotions.
The anima is not the soul in the dogmatic sense, not an anima rationalis, which is a philosophical conception, but a natural archetype that satisfactorily sums up all the statements of the unconscious, of the primitive mind, of the history of language and religion. . . . It is always the a priori element in [a man's] moods, reactions, impulses, and whatever else is spontaneous in psychic life.["Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious," CW 9i, par. 57.]
As an inner personality, the anima is complementary to the persona and stands in a compensatory relationship to it.  Hence the character of the anima can generally be deduced from that of the persona; all those qualities absent from the outer attitude will be found in the inner.
The tyrant tormented by bad dreams, gloomy forebodings, and inner fears is a typical figure. Outwardly ruthless, harsh, and unapproachable, he jumps inwardly at every shadow, is at the mercy of every mood, as though he were the feeblest and most impressionable of men. Thus his anima contains all those fallible human qualities his persona lacks. If the persona is intellectual, the anima will certainly be sentimental.["Definitions," CW 6, par. 804.]
So long as the anima is unconscious, everything she stands for is projected. Most commonly, because of the initially close tie between the anima and the protective mother-imago, this projection falls on the partner, with predictable results.

Jung suggested that if the encounter with the shadow is the "apprentice-piece" in a man's development, then coming to terms with the anima is the "master-piece."["Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious," CW 9i, par. 61.] The goal is her transformation from a troublesome adversary into a function of relationship between consciousness and the unconscious. Jung called this "the conquest of the anima as an autonomous complex."
With the attainment of this goal it becomes possible to disengage the ego from all its entanglements with collectivity and the collective unconscious. Through this process the anima forfeits the daemonic power of an autonomous complex; she can no longer exercise the power of possession, since she is depotentiated. She is no longer the guardian of treasures unknown; no longer Kundry, daemonic Messenger of the Grail, half divine and half animal; no longer is the soul to be called "Mistress," but a psychological function of an intuitive nature, akin to what the primitives mean when they say, "He has gone into the forest to talk with the spirits" or "My snake spoke with me" or, in the mythological language of infancy, "A little bird told me."[The Mana-Personality," CW 7, par. 374.]


The inner masculine side of a woman. (See also anima, Eros, Logos and soul-image.)
Like the anima in a man, the animus is both a personal complex and an archetypal image.
Woman is compensated by a masculine element and therefore her unconscious has, so to speak, a masculine imprint. This results in a considerable psychological difference between men and women, and accordingly I have called the projection-making factor in women the animus, which means mind or spirit. The animus corresponds to the paternal Logos just as the anima corresponds to the maternal Eros.[The Syzygy: Anima and Animus," CW 9ii, pars. 28f.]
The animus is the deposit, as it were, of all woman's ancestral experiences of man-and not only that, he is also a creative and procreative being, not in the sense of masculine creativity, but in the sense that he brings forth something we might call . . . the spermatic word.["Anima and Animus," CW 7, par. 336.]
The animus becomes a helpful psychological factor when a woman can tell the difference between the ideas generated by this autonomous complex and what she herself really thinks.
Like the anima, the animus too has a positive aspect. Through the figure of the father he expresses not only conventional opinion but-equally-what we call "spirit," philosophical or religious ideas in particular, or rather the attitude resulting from them. Thus the animus is a psychopomp, a mediator between the conscious and the unconscious and a personification of the latter.[Ibid., par. 33.]
Any of the aspects of the animus can be projected onto a man. As with the projected anima, this can lead to unrealistic expectations and acrimony in relationships.
Like the anima, the animus is a jealous lover. He is adept at putting, in place of the real man, an opinion about him, the exceedingly disputable grounds for which are never submitted to criticism. Animus opinions are invariably collective, and they override individuals and individual judgments in exactly the same way as the anima thrusts her emotional anticipations and projections between man and wife.["Anima and Animus," CW 7, par. 334.]


An automatic process whereby contents of one's own unconscious are perceived to be in others.
Just as we tend to assume that the world is as we see it, we naïvely suppose that people are as we imagine them to be. . . . All the contents of our unconscious are constantly being projected into our surroundings, and it is only by recognizing certain properties of the objects as projections or imagos that we are able to distinguish them from the real properties of the objects. . . . Cum grano salis, we always see our own unavowed mistakes in our opponent. Excellent examples of this are to be found in all personal quarrels. Unless we are possessed of an unusual degree of self-awareness we shall never see through our projections but must always succumb to them, because the mind in its natural state presupposes the existence of such projections. It is the natural and given thing for unconscious contents to be projected.["General Aspects of Dream Psychology," ibid., par. 507.]"
Projection means the expulsion of a subjective content into an object; it is the opposite of introjection. Accordingly, it is a process of dissimilation, by which a subjective content becomes alienated from the subject and is, so to speak, embodied in the object. The subject gets rid of painful, incompatible contents by projecting them.[Definitions," CW 6, par. 783.]
Projection is not a conscious process. One meets with projections, one does not make them.
The general psychological reason for projection is always an activated unconscious that seeks expression.["The Tavistock Lectures," CW 18, par. 352.]
It is possible to project certain characteristics onto another person who does not possess them at all, but the one being projected upon may unconsciously encourage it.
It frequently happens that the object offers a hook to the projection, and even lures it out. This is generally the case when the object himself (or herself) is not conscious of the quality in question: in that way it works directly upon the unconscious of the projicient. For all projections provoke counter-projections when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject.[General Aspects of Dream Psychology," CW 8, par. 519.]
Through projection one can create a series of imaginary relationships that often have little or nothing to do with the outside world.
The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one. Projections change the world into the replica of one's own unknown face. In the last analysis, therefore, they lead to an autoerotic or autistic condition in which one dreams a world whose reality remains forever unattainable.[The Shadow," CW 9ii, par. 17.]
Projection also has positive effects. In everyday life it facilitates interpersonal relations. In addition, when we assume that some quality or characteristic is present in another, and then, through experience, find that this is not so, we can learn something about ourselves. This involves withdrawing or dissolving projections.
So long as the libido can use these projections as agreeable and convenient bridges to the world, they will alleviate life in a positive way. But as soon as the libido wants to strike out on another path, and for this purpose begins running back along the previous bridges of projection, they will work as the greatest hindrances it is possible to imagine, for they effectively prevent any real detachment from the former object.["General Aspects of Dream Psychology," CW 8, par. 507.]
The need to withdraw projections is generally signaled by frustrated expectations in relationships, accompanied by strong affect. But Jung believed that until there is an obvious discordance between what we imagine to be true and the reality we are presented with, there is no need to speak of projections, let alone withdraw them.

Shadow projection and anima/animus projection:

The shadow is a shallower layer of the unconscious than the anima/animus, and so shadow projection is more easily withdrawn than anima/animus projection.
"Nature is conservative and does not easily allow her courses to be altered; she defends in the most stubborn way the inviolability of the preserves where anima and animus roam. Hence it is much more difficult to become conscious of one's anima/animus projections than to acknowledge one's shadow side." [Aion, par. 16]
The projection of the personal shadow generally falls on persons of the same sex. On a collective level, it gives rise to war, scapegoating and confrontations between political parties. Projection that takes place in the context of a therapeutic relationship is called transference or countertransference, depending on whether the analysand or the analyst is the one projecting.

Self / God-image: 

The deepest layer of the collective unconscious; the archetype of wholeness and the regulating center of the psyche; a transpersonal power that transcends the ego.

As an empirical concept, the self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in man. It expresses the unity of the personality as a whole. But in so far as the total personality, on account of its unconscious component, can be only in part conscious, the concept of the self is, in part, only potentially empirical and is to that extent a postulate. In other words, it encompasses both the experienceable and the inexperienceable (or the not yet experienced). . . . It is a transcendental concept, for it presupposes the existence of unconscious factors on empirical grounds and thus characterizes an entity that can be described only in part.["Definitions," CW 6, par. 789.]
The self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness. ["Introduction," CW 12, par. 44.]
Like any archetype, the essential nature of the self is unknowable, but its manifestations are the content of myth and legend.

The self appears in dreams, myths, and fairytales in the figure of the "supraordinate personality," such as a king, hero, prophet, saviour, etc., or in the form of a totality symbol, such as the circle, square, quadratura circuli, cross, etc. When it represents a complexio oppositorum, a union of opposites, it can also appear as a united duality, in the form, for instance, of tao as the interplay of yang and yin, or of the hostile brothers, or of the hero and his adversary (arch-enemy, dragon), Faust and Mephistopheles, etc. Empirically, therefore, the self appears as a play of light and shadow, although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united.[Definitions," CW 6, par. 790.]
The realization of the self as an autonomous psychic factor is often stimulated by the irruption of unconscious contents over which the ego has no control. This can result in neurosis and a subsequent renewal of the personality, or in an inflated identification with the greater power.
Experiences of the self possess a numinosity characteristic of religious revelations. Hence Jung believed there was no essential difference between the self as an experiential, psychological reality and the traditional concept of a supreme deity.

It might equally be called the "God within us."[The Mana-Personality," CW 7, par. 399.