Author: johnnyquest (page 1 of 12)

Deep Evolution Summary

Darwinian, or what I call biological evolution, has become one of the most powerful narratives and theories in terms of life in general, and of course human life. From evolutionary psychology to evolutionary economics and a plethora of other disciplines and usages, the basic idea of evolution has been applied everywhere. Its explanatory power ensures this will continue.

I do not dispute the power of this notion of evolution as it applies to life and everything that flows from it. I am not here to discuss biological evolution. There is little question that it is a powerful idea that explains a good deal. Evolution is hardly a completed theory, as if anything ever can be. I am not going to involve myself with the disputes and questions still facing biological evolution. I accept and embrace it as a useful theory that increases our understanding of biological processes including, at least to some extent, all the activities that humans participate in and occupy us.

Biological evolution is ultimately concerned with fitness – the ability to reproduce and pass on the elements of information to other people and to subsequent generations. Richard Dawkins, one of the most passionate advocates for the implications of biological evolution and the mindless march of information packets, extends the notion of fitness to ideas in the form of memes. It all still comes down to survival and fitness to pass on that information to others, and most importantly to future generations so that the information lives on in time.

Dawkins speaks of memes as units of cultural expression. Like genes, he sees them as mindlessly propagating and working to survive in a human host so that the successful memes, like the successful genes, work behind the scenes to make their human host more successful in reproduction and the spreading of those genes and memes. Dawkins is perhaps the most elemental in his notion of evolution – it’s always about fitness to survive and reproduce.

From the perspective of biological evolution, we are each here to pass along the information contained in our genes to subsequent generations to preserve that information. The value of the information is contained in its ability to produce fitness in the carriers of that information – each one of us – so that we can survive to pass that information along. The information is altered as fitness requires or rewards.

In the most extreme version of this story, the purpose of the information is to propagate that information – there is no higher purpose. In this version, everything that humans do, feel, experience, and think about is simply a byproduct of this process, or it supports the process in some way. It all comes down to fitness and survival. In the process of evolution, including the information and the containers in which it is found, from viruses and bacteria to humans, the information and the carriers of that information change to enhance their fitness and ability to pass on that information. Biological evolution is simply in service to that information and its preservation and is blind to any higher purpose. The information required to survive and reproduce is the coin of the realm and everything is in service to that.

I accept biological evolution, but not as being anywhere near complete nor sufficient to explain life, let alone human life. Biological evolution is ultimately all about survival, but I see that as only buying each one of us a ticket. It can in no way be considered the journey. The purpose of biological evolution is to keep producing tickets for life to embark upon the journey that I call deep evolution. This is the ultimate goal and purpose of life. Life is not survival, but is deep evolution – the expansion of consciousness, complexity, and novelty.

Deep evolution is related to biological evolution in many ways, but biological evolution is only a small part of deep evolution – necessary, but not sufficient. Biological evolution or survival is just the ticket, but deep evolution is the ride, that makes the ticket valuable.

Deep evolution is all about deeper meaning. In many ways, biological evolution, on its own terms, has no meaning apart from the circular directive that it carries on for its own sake. Humans have explored deeper meanings in life since recorded history, and well before, based on evidence like the art found in deep caves in France, from tens of thousands of years ago. It can be argued by those who stress biological evolution that everything humans do can be reduced to the survival enhancement imperative – even art and love. This becomes an argument at the level of axioms or first principles. At this level, no argument can ever be sufficient. The only thing you can do is to consider the evidence arising from those first principles and essentially work backward to determine your conclusions about those first principles.

For me, deep evolution and the deepest meaning of life beyond basic survival is axiomatic. I have gone down the road of accepting the opposite starting point and found it barren, essentially denying life and meaning. We all must decide for ourselves – each one of us as individuals. No outside authority can answer such a fundamental question for anyone else.

I will end this summary of deep evolution by giving credit to the two thinkers who I believe are most critical in understanding the position in which humanity now finds itself, as well as for the way forward.

Carl Jung explored and worked to integrate the broadest and deepest examination of humanity and our psyches from the perspective of meaning and deep evolution, as I use and define the latter term.

Jung touched on many critical ideas and subjects, but there is another great and important thinker who is now exploring the greatest challenge that we as humans face right now in our deep evolution. Jung inevitably covered the same terrain, but they used somewhat different language and I will try to unite their thinking as well as extending it.

Iain McGilchrist is the author of one of the most important books I have ever read – The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. His thesis is much too important and complex to be described briefly, but I will try here. He makes clear the greatest challenge we face right now for our own survival as well as the health of the psyche of each one of us.

He shows that each one of us are of two minds – the left and right hemispheres. This is not the pop psychology that claims that our left brain is the logical and rational one, while the right is the emotional and artistic one. His ideas of the divide between the two hemispheres are much more subtle and complex. McGilchrist makes a compelling argument, backed by a tremendous amount of science and research, that each hemisphere participates in all aspects of human thought and action, but that each one has a very different perspective.

The left hemisphere is the one dedicated to a narrower analytical view that does value logic, rationality and science in the process of reductionist thinking. It is invaluable and serves us well in our thinking, but it is has significant limitations. Above all, the left hemisphere is very prone to ignoring and denying its limitations. The left hemisphere is the emissary or servant to the right hemisphere, but in our modern culture and in many of us, the left brain sees itself as the master-  the ultimately true and most valuable perspective in thought and action.

The right hemisphere is more open and holistic. It is much more dedicated to the larger picture and perspective that is often lost and distorted by the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is more interested in the whole, in life and in living things, while the left is more concerned with tools, the parts of the whole in isolation, and with non-living things.

Both hemispheres are vital to a fully functioning human and society, but modernity elevates the left hemisphere to act as the master and McGilchrist makes a compelling case that this inversion of power and perspective is at the heart of our problems. I could not agree more. Nothing of the left hemisphere is to be ignored or denied, but it is the right hemisphere that gives us the truer and more human perspective on our lives and the reality before us. The right hemisphere is the rightful master of our minds and the processes involved in our mental life, which translate into and directly determine our existential life.

Jung explored the perspectives of the right hemisphere throughout history without explicitly describing them as such. McGilchrist’s genius is that he makes clear the issue before us and I find his ideas make sense of much of Jung’s ideas as well as virtually every aspect of our life in the modern world.

I was coming to similar conclusions on my own, but McGilchrist and his ideas have crystalized all this in my mind. I was getting the sense of this issue, but full credit goes to McGilchrist for making them explicit and much more powerful. I use different terms to describe these perspectives – ones that fit with much of Jung’s ideas. I term the perspective or world instantiated in the left hemisphere as Logos and that of the right hemisphere as Eros. I am using these terms in a much broader context than the ones they usually refer to. I do think they are more useful however, and more evocative of the reality and metaphors contained by the left and right hemispheres and the writings of Jung and McGilchrist as well as those of many others.

There is overlap of course – all boundaries are fuzzy and undetermined, but they remain useful.

I believe that the ascendancy of the left hemisphere or Logos was inevitable and necessary for the deep evolution of our species, culture and of our psyches, but that this dominance of the left hemisphere, of Logos, has gone too far and for too long. We are being overwhelmed and imperiled by Logos that is dominating Eros at the expense of our lives and the health of our psyches, of our culture and of our species.

I think this lens of Eros and Logos is the one that reveals the truth of our greatest challenges not only to survive, but to expand and enrich our consciousness, as individuals and as a species. I share the great concerns expressed by both Jung and McGilchrist and my goal is to explore and reveal the possibilities that lay before us. Logos is our servant and Eros is our master. The solutions will not be simple, nor are they obvious or even understandable at this time, but the central problem must be recognized and faced. Eros must rise and I am hopeful that it is doing just that and that it will continue to do so. The left hemisphere and Logos does not willingly give up its dominance – not out of malice but out of ignorance and blindness to the greater whole of reality. Logos cannot see what it cannot see and that is why Eros must rise to correct the errors and limitations of Logos. This process must occur in each one of us first and foremost in order for it to spread to the culture and our species.

I want to contribute to this process of healing and the restoration of balance and health in our psyches. I believe it is fundamental to our deep evolution – the ride and the journey that we are all part of. We are both agents of deep evolution and embedded in it. The way forward requires Eros to resume its position as master, with Logos as a vital and necessary servant and emissary.

The Beginning of Infinity

The Star Child from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

With that disappearance, he knew, even as Noÿs moved slowly into his arms, came the end, the final end of Eternity.

 —And the beginning of Infinity

Isaac Asimov – The End of Eternity

Never before has the world been so gripped in such….well something.

Just what that something is we can’t know because it’s early – too early to tell. Perhaps it’s always too early to tell.

The brief story that I never tire of is told here by Alan Watts, the greatest stand up spiritual teacher and I say that with nothing but respect.

It is the story of the Chinese farmer.

As Alan Watts concludes:

“The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity. And it is really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequences of the misfortune or you never know the consequences of good fortune.”

Every moment is an eternity and a waypoint. One can never be sure of the score and the process of existence and becoming rolls on.

Many of us now see humanity in the midst of a great change although that is always true in some sense. Personal change is the same. One year may seem like the last until one looks back and sees the watershed – the moment or period signifying a new stage or epoch.

There does not seem to be much question that we are in turmoil, individually and collectively, with powerful forces unleashed to upset whatever equilibrium we were experiencing. Regardless of how we will see these times from the perspective of some future, it is difficult to avoid the thought of that grip we sense as a sleeping innocent intuits the alarm clock on a quiet morning – no subtlety here.

We never know the nature of changes until sometime after the fact, but many of us feel the buffeting of violent storms and crashing waves. So many currents in our culture and species seem to be conspiring to bring about  disruptive change.

I’ve been considering these developments for some time now – years – but they are now impossible to avoid and so I am more formally exploring a thesis I have been considering. I have been looking for an overarching perspective or lens to try to make sense of our reality and the changes we are experiencing. I have sought the largest tent to relate  the largest number of features of life and existence and I have come up with the notion of an underlying process that constitutes the purpose of existence, as near as I can tell.

Meaning is, I believe,  the currency of the realm in life and meanings are ultimately found and seen in the connections of the features of our existence. The greater the connections, the greater the meaning, so I believe the greatest meaning can be found in that which unifies in the most compelling and comprehensive manner. My thesis is that of a unifying process connecting everything and I call that deep evolution.

Deep evolution is the ultimate process in our existence given where we are now. Our level determines the limits of our perspective. An insightful ant may understand the colony and if a genius, may conceive  a role for the colony in the life of the field and its inhabitants. But even an ant of extraordinary brilliance is unable to consider the geopolitical issues facing the country where the field resides. One is bound by certain limitations. And so are we. But both the ant genius and our human species do well to stretch our understandings to the limits of our abilities and perceptual perspective.

I am trying to do just that for our species. I suggest that from our level of understanding right now, the process of deep evolution, as I will describe, is a useful and for me the best way to understand our lives and our existence in the broadest and deepest context.

This website, mashupsoup.com will host ideas and reference material I run across that support, illustrate, explain, and explore my central notion of deep evolution. My more formal explorations and explanations will be at deepevolution.org. I will be starting this website very soon.

Very briefly, deep evolution is an extension of the idea of Darwinian evolution or what I call biological evolution. That traditional idea is a small subset of the greater idea and process of deep evolution. I will be discussing many important thinkers, but none greater, more important, or more wide-ranging than Carl Gustav Jung. His work and explorations, along with those of his students, has inspired my thinking more than anything or anyone else. I believe that deep evolution puts Jung into a context that makes clearer his importance for the culture and the species as a whole, as well as each of us as individuals. Jung does not need my assistance. Many people already know his importance for understanding our humanity, as well as our past and more importantly our future. But I hope to expand appreciation of Jung in more people and so encourage many more to discover Jung for themselves.

Deep evolution applies to us as individuals, as social structures and as a species – as above, so below. Deep evolution applies to all levels of existence, but it may not be the ultimate explanation, if we remember the limits of our genius ant along with our own. But we need to explore the space of our existence as completely as we can and I have found that deep evolution is a most valuable tool in that.

This is my second presentation of the ideas that have consumed me for years. I’ve been sitting with and exploring these ideas and am now ready to write about them. As Isaac Asimov wrote, and later David Deutsch borrowed as a title of a book, we are in all ways, and always, at the  beginning of infinity. That  is a  good place to be, and a good place from which to launch into becoming. And so it is with our deep evolution, that we become.

Yellow Submarine – Another Iconic Movie Turns 50 This Year

In 1968, 2001 A Space Odysseyy was released, and so was Yellow Submarine, a psychedelic mashup of music and animation in a groundbreaking film.

Esquire Magazine has an excellent piece on the film that remains fresh, partly due to the timeless music of the Beatles, but also to the timeless art of the animation. The bright colors and bold figures remain compelling.

The 60’s were a great time of an explosion in the possibilities of culture and humanity, but we can’t forget the turbulence and tragedy of those same times. We cannot lose hope now in our evolution.

Let’s celebrate our species, capable of such greatness and fun. And not lose hope of our potential, that as always, remains within us, impervious to the outside world in a fundamental sense. And yes, I am full of doubt as well.

 

 

 

Can Enough Ever Be Enough? Bonfire of the Vanities

Evolution is my gig – the biggest picture of the evolution of humanity and human consciousness. That’s why I’m here certainly, and I believe it’s why we’re all here.

The past one hundred years or more has been marked by enormous change, some good, some bad, some minor, some fundamental. I think the biggest evolutionary change over this period has been that of gender. Women’s roles in society have fundamentally changed as women have begun to claim their full birthright as human beings, and men have been dragged and pushed into changing as well. The role of gender in humanity was in need of a wake up, and we have seen that and this will continue.

Of course both women and men have both male and female aspects within them, as Jung clearly demonstrated. The changing roles of gender in our society makes this much easier to see within us and I have no doubt these evolutionary trends will continue. We have been a society dominated largely dominated by values associated with the masculine and that was and is unsustainable and profoundly imbalanced. This was likely a necessary and inevitable stage in our evolution, but we are moving on as evolution demands. These changes in the perception and understanding of gender are entirely healthy, although it will continue to be messy.

So this evolution of the masculine and the feminine will continue in interesting and complex ways. I see another great trend in our evolution on the horizon and I think that Trump is a harbinger of this. And this is the role of money, the economy and work in the world.

I was reminded of this by an article in The Guardian Generation Wealth: How the Modern World Fell in Love with Money.

 

 

Lauren Greenfield, a documentary filmmaker and photographer, explored the world of the super-rich and the insatiable desire for more and more. She has published a coffee table book documenting her photographs with commentary. She sees that, beginning in the 80’s, more and more people are worshiping the god of money and extravagance. She describes mind-boggling displays of conspicuous consumption, including go-go dancers hired for the coming of age of a 13 year old at his bar mitvah. She documents the madness that so many of us have embraced, because, yes, we cannot smugly sit back and tut tut the excesses of the mega-rich who own a dozen mansions around the world. Facing the reality of the enormous disparity in wealth , that is only accelerating, and seems to be celebrated by the Trump presidency, cannot deteriorate into a moral side-show. We cannot use this to soothe ourselves that we are superior to such people.

The book, and the documentary movie to follow, must be part of the call to all humanity that we must face the real issues of wealth, poverty, work, and the economy. Many of the people  Greenfield follow are not particularly self-aware. The time period of the book includes the financial meltdown of 2008 and many of the super rich lost a great deal, although many seem to have recovered. In one case, a poor down on his luck captain of wealth is forced to fly on a commercial plane with his family. His daughter asks, “Mommy, what are all these people doing on our plane?”

The rich are getting richer and the mega-rich are demonstrating the accelerating benefit of even more money. Clearly the path we are on is unsustainable and any such trend will not continue. Apparently some of these enormously wealthy people are starting to wonder at what point the rest of the world rises up against them in some way. We have a lot of work to do on our society, and as always, that begins within each one us. As much as I detest politics in general, there is no doubt that our society and the entire world are going to have to begin to address these issues, in a sincere and meaningful way.

In writing this, I am reminded of the wonderful book, The Bonfire of the Vanities , later a movie, by the  seminal journalist and writer, Tom Wolfe, who recently died. His work explored some great periods of disruption and triumph in our modern age. The book was published in 1987 and documented the personal excesses of the rich in New York in the 80’s, which again, Greenfield identifies, I think quite rightly, with the genesis of the current unbridled worship of money and status. Certainly that has been with us since the beginning of time, but as with the domination of Eros by Logos, it is the profound imbalance that is so important to recognize. Wealth and its accumulation are increasingly disconnected from any other human values. No longer do many of the rich and powerful feel any sense of noblesse oblige . I don’t see many Russian oligarchs or Wall Street mavens contributing to society or culture as Andrew Carnegie did. There are certainly some exceptions, but so much our age seems determined to be largely uncontaminated by deeper concerns and reflections – no where do we find this more starkly demonstrated than by Donald Trump.

The economy and the distribution of wealth must be examined and changed in the most basic ways. And yes, wealth is often “distributed”. In one of Kurt Vonnegut‘s novels, a character tells his son that somewhere, sometime, a great deal of money will exchange hands and his advice was to get yourself in the middle of that. So many of the rich have taken this to heart and do not add any real value to humanity. I have no idea how this new system, that will really serve all of humanity, can be organized and I am absolutely convinced that no one else does now either. I will only say that none of the “ism’s” of the past will be sufficient. To argue for or against anarcho-capitalism, crony-capitalism, free enterprise capitalism, communism, socialism, klepto-statism, the middle way-ism is to fight the last war and cannot succeed.

We will not survive on the path we are on, yet I am confident we will survive. I have no doubt our journey will be exceedingly tortuous.

 

Does Philosophical Thought Have to be Difficult?

This post is a comment I made in response to an essay by Grant Maxwell. As I indicate in the comment, I am currently in the midst of reading his book, The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View. Maxwell is a philosopher and this book is a very important one. It is spooky how he is covering a good deal of the same territory as my thinking, including many of the same thinkers, including Jung. Maxwell is a professional philosopher, while I am an amateur. This is clearly seen in our writing, but I am pleased to find someone writing so well about the very ideas I too think are so important for humanity. I will certainly be exploring Maxwell’s ideas and his book further – very important writing and thinking.

In the essay, Grant Maxwell wrestles with the problem that some people find his writing is not more accessible than they would like it to be. What is the responsibility of the writer to his various audiences? My response follows here and could just as well apply to Jung’s writing which also can be very demanding of the reader. Fortunately Jung has had many interpreters over the years and that continues, but it is always important to return to the source. I love to read many people on Jung, but I read Jung himself to gain my own understanding. And Jung, like Maxwell, and other great thinkers are worth reading and rereading.

Here is my response to Maxwell:

This cuts to the heart of philosophy if one is pursuing the subject to change thinking and our culture. And for me, why else engage in philosophy? I abhor puzzles for the sake of completing them. I’d rather read a challenging book, engage in an interesting conversation, listen to music, watch a movie or stare into space contemplating life – philosophy again. For me life has purpose and so does philosophy.

Philosophy is both process and product. The nearest comparison is found in law – another profession completely dependant upon language and meaning. Lawyers are also criticized for their arcane language, yet millions of dollars and enormous amounts of time can be spent to comprehend and then make judgements on language and meaning. It’s not simply a self-serving construct. Although lawyers have a lot more to answer for than philosophers.

I’m not unsympathetic to the arguments of Phil Tanney. Jesus Christ was a very influential philosopher, of sorts. But the world becomes more complex. Newtonian physics is well understood by many, and was a reasonable description of the world, for its time. Quantum physics is perhaps well understood by very few, and one can argue, by even fewer who may claim an understanding. I think it’s clear that the metaphysical implications of quantum mechanics have yet to be explored.

Are we to dismiss quantum mechanics because it has not been as clearly described and understood as Newtonian physics? The practical success of quantum mechanics would argue otherwise.

“You can’t blame most physicists for following this ‘shut up and calculate’ ethos because it has led to tremendous developments in nuclear physics, atomic physics, solid¬ state physics and particle physics.”

• Jean Bricmont, quoted in Zeeya Merali, “What is Really Real?”, Nature (2015)

This approach by physics, as a discipline, is a reasonable one, because there exists the field of philosophy, where there is a duty not to shut up, but to explore the deepest implications of existence with language as our ultimate tool of understanding. I can’t speak to the language of mathematics. For most people, higher mathematics is much less amenable to understanding than complex language.

That complexity can be both a bug and a feature. Plain speaking is important for instructions on assembling a barbecue, but in exploring the deepest questions of life, maybe not. It can be a disservice to make the complex too simple. Writing is an enormous challenge. It’s job is to communicate, but also to stimulate and inspire.

Can you really approach and explore the biggest ideas in a novel way and not be demanding of the reader? Sometimes more obscure words, or complex syntax is chosen over what one might chose for easier communication, but that easier communication may not lead to better understanding of complex ideas. Is the reader best served by facilitating an easier understanding, that may be wrong or incomplete, when thoughtful rereading is to be encouraged and ultimately necessary to give the ideas the justice and understanding they deserve?

Should we build a freeway through a national park, or a winding road that forces us to slow down, drive more carefully and consciously, and really absorb the scenery? The winding road is not specifically designed to slow you down, but simply follows the natural contours of the land. Building a multi-lane highway would do violence to the land, as well as to the experience. We’d travel much faster and more easily, but at what cost? We’d lose the value of the journey.

I am currently reading Maxwell’s The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View, and I never get the idea that he is trying to make his prose more obscure or technical. In fact the meta message could be that he trusts the reader to be persistent and intelligent enough to follow his thinking. Perhaps reading and rereading an important book, rather than plowing through ten others in the same amount of time, is more valuable. I think so.

I wouldn’t say that reading Maxwell is “easy”. I have a reasonable vocabulary, but given the material, I do not gloss over words when I have only an inexact idea of their meaning. Reading conventional material, one can infer meaning much more easily and a lot of books are like a bad joke – “that’s it? – that was the funny bit?”. Maxwell’s writing challenges me, but not excessively, and meeting the challenge is part of the reward.

There is great value in exploring important and really radical ideas. Should philosophy not be radical in some fundamental sense, using technical language that moves the reader beyond their status quo vocabulary and worldview? Using conventional language can make it too easy to dismiss big ideas by expressing them in ways that are less likely to force us to confront those big ideas in new ways. Or we can quickly come to the conclusion that our superficial understanding, is adequate, when the real problem is what we consider to be an adequate understanding of more demanding ideas. In a way, the message can be lost in the medium, or in the traditional patterns of narrative in the medium. Many simple words can have monstrously complex and personally embedded meanings that are impossible to see, when one remains in that limited world of those simple worlds – eg. “God”. The use of technical philosophic language can bring greater clarity if one is willing to put in the required effort.

Writing for clarity is difficult, because it’s not simply ease of comprehension – obviously. You have to do justice to the ideas and their complexity. It reminds me of Woody Allen’s joke – “I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace. It’s about Russia.”

If you ever try to write seriously, about a complex topic, it quickly becomes apparent how demanding it is. There are no shortcuts. This is more obvious when you’re writing to bring new ideas to the understanding of your readers. Even as an amateur philosopher (aren’t we all?), I try to keep in mind the guidance of Karl Popper – “Always remember that it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.” When you’re a philosopher, your product is your writing, so I appreciate the effort to make it as clear and as beautiful as possible – and that often precludes simplicity or easy understanding. I’m willing to work at it from my end as well, which is a requirement of the audience for any art form.

Nothing is Real, Except for Life

Boards of Canada

 

The Art of Dreaming

My primary thesis is that humanity, and each of us, is evolving with the rise of Eros over Logos. The latter has largely dominated for the last few hundred years in particular, and primarily over the past few thousand years. I believe we are entering a turbulent period where we will see many changes as Eros reasserts its power and strength. Logos will take its rightful place as a necessary and strong partner with Eros, rather than trying to dominate Eros. Both processes and approaches will be fortified by this divine marriage of the feminine and the masculine.

Woman’s consciousness is characterized more by the connective quality of Eros than by the discrimination and cognition associated with Logos. In men, Eros … is usually less developed than Logos. In women, on the other hand, Eros is an expression of their true nature, while their Logos is often only a regrettable accident.

[“The Syzygy: Anima and Animus,” Carl Jung Collected Works Volume 9ii, par. 29.]

This quote comes way from the excellent website by Frith Luton, a Jungian analyst living in Australia. She has a great deal of well organized information on Jungian concepts. I am working on my own posts on the major concepts in Jungian thought, but I give Frith full credit for informing me. You cannot understand Jung without knowing the major concepts and definitions he uses, but it is really not that complex to get started, although a few lifetimes would be required to digest everything Jung wrote. That is certainly not necessary, however – any sincere attempt to play with and understand the Jungian ideas is more fruitful than almost anything else I am aware of in psychology. Jung cracks open the bones and examines the marrow of our souls and psyche. It’s a lot more fun and helpful than reading a web article on “The Nine Keys to a Happy Life”.

Crap – digressing again. Where was I? Evolution – right. We are evolving and we need support and guidance for our souls, higher beings, deeper selves – whatever word you want to put on that part of you that yearns for meaning and the marrow of life that Jung exposed. Where do you find your purpose in life? Where do you find guidance from deep within yourself. Where does that voice within you come from that warns you that your boss is up to no good? Or that person you just met may the most important person you will ever meet? Or you were born to be an actor even though your parents and your boyfriend think you should go into engineering?

The unconscious is the reservoir of knowing that serves you in these ways and countless others. Jung considered that you had a personal unconscious and there is a collective unconscious that we can all tap into. Since Jung is central to my thesis, I’ll be talking about these a lot. Our personal unconscious and the collective unconscious are essentially an enormous library of ideas, thoughts, feelings, archetypes, myths, history, and possibilities that we all have access to, but how do we access them?

Art and dreams are both ways to access this unconscious material, in the invaluable process of making the unconscious, conscious, which Jung considered to be critical for our personal growth, and peace of mind. I cannot speak directly for visual artists, musicians, performers, or any other kind of artist, apart from a writer. If I am an artist, it is confined to writing, but I think the essential act of artistic creation is basically the same for all artists. And if truth be told, I think that we humans are all artists, or at least potentially so, if we apply ourselves.

I cannot really say where the words, ideas and emotions of my writing come from. I can wake up at three in the morning with ideas that force me to get up to record them. I will sometimes tell myself I am too tired and I will remember them in the morning, but my mind refuses to rest until I write them down. That can last an hour or more. Other times I will wake up restless and start reading something – perhaps from the day before, or I will randomly open another book. I can then feel compelled to make notes on what I am reading. I seem to think of things with my head, but not really. It is not like solving a logical problem at work, which is a more sequential process. But the creative process, in art, or anywhere, is poorly understood. I like that because it seems to have a magic that defies easy analysis.

So art can be a source of transmission from the unconscious to the artist. But the fun of art is that it does not remain with the artist – at least the artist certainly hopes not. The artist presents the piece and then the audience receives it with their own understanding. Hopefully a piece of art sparks something creative within the audience and something new is created. Art is a personal experience of the artist and of the audience.

I’d like to give an example of my interpretation of the cover art of a song I recently posted. This was a song I really liked when I was younger and I rediscovered it just a week or so ago – I think through my unconscious – I can’t even remember the exact path of it.

The song is by 10cc – Feel the Benefit and here is the post I made on it.

The cover art picture was by the brilliant team of Hipgnosis – who made some great cover art for music albums. I spent more than a few hundred hours listening to the music in my bedroom gazing at this art – not just this one for Deceptive Bends – to be clear.

Now I am going to give my interpretation of what I see and get from the picture above. This is not anything more than my personal understanding of what this means to me right now. I did not make these connections when I bought or listened to the album many years ago. Attractive half-clothed women have never required any more justification in my mind, and I am sure I was satisfied with that at the time, but now, with my writing and appreciation of Jung, I see much more.

I see a deep sea diver, fully suiting, carrying a limp, but alive woman. Presumably, he has rescued her from the depths of the water, since he is wearing the apparatus required to dive deeply. Deep water is a wonderful symbol for the unconscious – both personal and collective. The man went down there and found the woman and brought her up. She is obviously very strong to have survived without the suit that he required. I see the woman as representing Eros, in the Jungian sense. The man represents Logos. The woman is free of constraints and in her virtually natural state – almost naked – very exposed and vulnerable, yet again, obviously strong to have survived. She has a natural vitality that cannot be ignored, and certainly a sensual nature that is clearly exposed here.

The man is suited up, almost like a robot. His humanity is completely covered up and obscured by the suit, which is almost a machine – man made. He dived into the water, but was not really touched by it – certainly not as the woman was. He has saved the woman at some level, or perhaps he wants something from the woman. He may want and seek her vitality – her life force. He strikes me as caring, but I may be projecting more than I am seeing. The narrow window through which the man is able to see the outside world is very limited. In that suit, the man is almost entirely exposed to his own inner world (the world of ideas for Logos) and cannot see or perceive much past that small window. The woman, Eros, is exposed to a much greater knowing of the outside world than the Logos of man. But again, the man has saved the woman so he values her – Logo is not entirely cut off from Eros, from life. He may not know why he is attracted to Eros, but there is no denying it.

So that is what I receive from the picture. I’d be surprised if the artist had similar thoughts, or perhaps he did. That is irrelevant. Each viewer brings their own experience, thoughts, and feeling to bear on the art and creates their own meaning. There is no right or wrong.

A year ago, I probably wouldn’t have come up with the same ideas or notions of this. A year from now I might see something different. That’s art, which some might feel is intimidating or you might think I’m just making up silly ideas that the artist never intended – pure fabrication on my part. You could be right – I don’t care. Art does not require justification or explanation – ever.

But let’s move to dreams. Everyone dreams. You may not think so, but you do. You just may not remember them. Dreams are freaky and fascinating. They are mind-bending and creative and they arise within you. Their source is the unconscious – the personal and the collective. Their purpose? I think it is clear that they have the great purpose of informing and animating our personal growth – like art – helping to being the unconscious to consciousness. You live within this giant library of knowing, feeling, archetypes, myths, etc and dreams help to crack open a book or two, or three, every night. Life and biology are efficient and purposeful – to support our lives and our growth, since life without growth is stagnation and death. I will write a lot more about dreams but I am eager to try to spark some interest. It is never too soon to attend to your dreams. Jung believed that dreams do not tell us things we already know – there would be no point or advantage to that. Dreams are designed for discovery – like art.

Assume that dreams are trying to tell you something important and valuable for your life, but ultimately you must do the work of interpreting and understanding their meaning for you. Playing with a dream is fun, but a challenge. Write down your dreams as soon as possible. Try to record as much detail as you can – even minor details can be important to help in understanding. I am personally working with a Jungian analyst to help me in my process of individuation – the personal growth of a person leading to the discovery of the Self. I have written on this and will write a great deal more. Dreams are personal to you. Do not buy a dream analysis book and use that to understand the personal symbols. There are great archetypal themes and patterns in dreams, but assume nothing without experience and thought. Play with the dreams and your ideas about them. Hold the thought of a dream and perhaps you might dream some clarification in the near future. You will get better with practice.

Working with a Jungian is invaluable in understanding your dreams better. As you attend more to your dreams, you dream more and better – move vividly and more interestingly. It is as if your unconscious is responding positively to your beginning to listen more to it, which makes sense. Your psyche and unconscious are rewarding each other in the process of following dreams with greater interest.

To give you some idea how this can work, I am going to briefly describe an important dream for me.

I am in Portland Oregon for a meeting and I leave the course to do some touring. I am in a small car that seems conventional, but becomes a small hovering car – very cool. So I am zipping around exploring and follow a road for a while, but turn off into a garden shopping area. It is like a beautiful garden with a number of interesting shops. I head into one that is largely gardening materials – maybe no big surprise. I am zipping around in my cool little hover car, when a very large black dog comes bounding at me from the back of this store. The dog is not threatening, but is aggressively coming at me and comes behind me and clamps his jaws around the back of my neck so I am immobilized. I am in no pain or discomfort, but I cannot move my body or my head. The dog has me in his grip. I call to an older man at the back of the shop where the dog came from, but he ignores me. The dream ends with the dog clamped around my neck – just holding me.

At first, my analyst was concerned about the dog, but I made it clear that at no time was I afraid of the dog. He was concerned about my lack of fear, but I understood that the dog was not trying to hurt me – at all. I was never in any danger. We both came to the conclusion that my zipping around in a small hover car was sort of how I operate at times – moving from idea to idea and seldom sticking with something long enough to see it through. The dog was perhaps part of me, or part of something beyond me, that was telling me to ATTEND! Pay attention to what is before you. Do not allow yourself to be distracted! Stop and pay attention – this is for your own good. The dog was not there to hurt me or even to intimidate me, but to serve me.

Now this is a simple dream, but the image of that dog has stayed with me and I consider that dream and that dog to be a great teacher for me, that I am taking to heart. Attend! Pay attention! Stop succumbing to distractions that don’t serve you! Now that is a valuable dream. I have since had many others, but the elegance and force of this dream has stayed with me powerfully.

I cannot emphasize how important both art and dreams are to fuel and inspire our growth and evolution. Play with both of them. You can’t get it wrong. If you miss the message the first time, or the next, or the next, or for years, your unconscious and the collective unconscious will never tire of trying to bring important material to your awareness. Art and dreams are powerful, yet subtle. I see art as a form of cooperative dream between the artist and the audience member.

There are other ways we receive such information and knowing, but you can’t go wrong by starting with art and dreams.

 

The Collective Unconscious

Eros Rises – Feel the Benefit

Another great song from 10cc – I posted on them before. I’m not going on about interpreting this song except for the album cover showing a man (member of the band) carrying a woman up from the depths. I see this as Logos finding and carrying Eros up from the watery depths of the unconscious where she resides. She may be a little worse for wear, but she is alive and obviously strong to be rescued by a man who needed a deep diving suit to reach her. But don’t let too much analysis ruin the art.

Feel the Benefit

You went out on the street without your shoes on
You didn’t listen what your momma said
She said you won’t feel the benefit, won’t feel the benefit
And if we all went out without our shoes on
Tell me where would we be, where would we be
If all the people in the world lost their reason
What would we see, where would we be
If all the entertainers in the world lost their music
What would they play, what could they say
To pacify the crowd, to justify themselves
Won’t feel the benefit
You’re like a cloud behind the sun
Like the face behind the clown
You’re moving like the wrinkles in a frown
And you can never look back
A leaf that’s borne upon the wind
A cardboard suitcase in your hand
The wanderer soon returns
And finds the colour of the grass is just the same
On the other side of the tracks, oh no
Ooh when you smile it’s like a holiday
Ooh pack your bags and we can get away
We’ll float on a Queen down to Rio
There’s no need to shave
We’ll be stinking like rum in a punch
You can walk on the water
You can dabble in the mumbo jumbo
You can smoke a little ganja
Float like a cloud over Rio, Rio
You can ride with the Gauchos
Swinging your bolas in a red bandana
You can run with the devil
Takin’ your chances with Senorita
You can drink a lot of coffee in Brazil
But the bill is gonna make you ill
Feel the benefit
So, you can go out on the street and take your chances
But if you do, you better do it right
Or you won’t feel the benefit, won’t feel the benefit
Spin the wheel and take your chances
And your number might come up
Though the odds may be in favor of the house
If all the people in the world would say together
We’re all black and white, we’re all day and night
If all the people in the world could sing together
How would it sound, what would we feel
We’d all feel the benefit
Songwriters: Graham Gouldman / Eric Stewart
Eros rises and we will feel the benefit.

More Evolution Led by Art

From Vanity Fair magazine, comes another example of evolution in the world culture, brought to us by and through art. Haifaa al-Mansour is a Saudi film maker who is connecting with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein most famously, but much other writing as well, in al-Mansour’s latest movie. She found that she can relate to the pioneering spirit of a rebel like Shelley, living in a conservative culture that is only comfortable with women leading a very narrow life, largely determined by the masculine dominated culture. Contemporary Saudi Arabia seems worlds away from 19th century England, but essentially not so much. Rigidly structured societies that actively discourage, and prohibit individual and psychologically rebellious behaviors and ideas have many more similarities than differences. And often women are in the vanguard of the changes that help to free and heal men, as much as women, as the culture and society evolves.

I think men are often less aware of the cultural restraints on our human freedoms, so it often becomes the task of women to become conscious of those constraints and to push beyond them. I suspect too that men, more in touch with Logos, than Eros, consciously or unconsciously are more likely to believe that the rules of culture are logical, valuable as traditions, and important for stability. Since women tend to have more cultural restraints on their behavior, and they can see what men are permitted to do, without society falling apart, they are more likely to rebel against those cultural restraints. We all benefit from that process of evolution.

click on the graphic to go to the Vanity Fair article

Our lives are immeasurably enriched by art and by such artists, who rebel and explore more deeply. I believe art is as important as our DNA, and will be writing about that in the near future.

 

 

 

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