Psychology and Art

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I should first try to define art. Simply put, it is any creative act, anything being brought into existence for the first time. This does not require something to be completely original, novel, nor previously totally unobserved. We are a collection of influences, be it through music, books, or society in general. Therefore, when we produce something, it will inherently have some some hue that is not entirely our own. For example, I would certainly consider a collage a piece of art. Each individual element may be completely unoriginal, but the arrangement of the pieces in time and space, as a whole, qualifies it as a work of art and a product of creativity. As is music. Millions of songs have (and will have) the chord progression of G,D,C, but that core of similarity does not disqualify them as unique constructions.

Art is an etching in spacetime, showcasing the unique nature of some particular moment. When you listen to a song, or gaze upon a painting, some part of you is transported back to that special time when someone’s skills and dedication had that oh so rare of union with the muse. Signed and dated in that very moment, to be shared with the world. The production is a summation of the cultural and the personal which speaks to something in all of us. A meeting of the known and unknown that could only come into existence through that very moment. When that song takes you back seven years, gives you goosebumps, or inspires you to keep going, that is special. That is the transfer of psychic energy, or libido.

“What is essential in a work of art is that it should rise far and above the realm of personal life and speak from the spirit and the heart of the poet as a man to the spirit and heart of mankind.”

Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

Art is the outcome of the unconscious reaching up through consciousness. There lies a latent psychic energy in the unconscious, and the artist has the ability to withstand its surge. But not only to withstand, the artist must harness, mold, and personalize. He must not be overwhelmed by the flood of the unknown, and must be able to direct the energy into something that speaks to the shared traits of humankind.

Not everyone has the constitution to venture into these depths and come out unscathed. However, those bold heroes that manage to do so leave their mark on the world. For the deeper one is able to go, the closer he gets to the core of our existence. That commonality we call the human condition. Those parts that lie within us, regardless of where we were born, how we were raised, or what god we believe in. Those blissful moments which are always counterbalanced by those in the depths of despair. By venturing here, the artist wins access to this most intimate part of our being. By venturing here, the artist can heal, move, and transcend.

Part of the artistic creation we understand. This part draws us in and allows us to relate. A common rhythm that fills us with a sense of attraction. But extraordinary art pairs this unifying feature with a coloring that only the artist could create. It blends that which is familiar with the unique and foreign. We can feel that unconscious layer in the art, shared by us all, drawing us in. The attraction of a symbolic representation of an archetype which extends from the collective unconscious. Then the artist reaches out, and meets this energy in his own consciousness. This is where he styles, shapes, and forms something that only he could. Adding an outer layer that personalizes and stamps the creation for the rest of time.

It is clear art connects us. It is a great unifier, across time, space, language, and tradition. In fact, art has the ability to transcend any barrier we construct, as some piece of it lives in our shared collective unconscious. It may not arouse the same feeling in me as it does in you, and it most certainly means something different to both of us than the person who created it, but the fact that it stirred something inside all of us, that is what makes it art.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 5/22/2020

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The Archetype of Food

“From food all creatures are produced,
All creatures that dwell on earth.
By food they live
And into food they finally pass.
Food is the chief among beings,
Therefore they call it the panacea.
Verily he obtains all food
Who worships Brahma as food.
For food is the chief among beings,
Therefore they call it the panacea.
All creatures are born of food,
By food they continue to grow.
Creatures feed on it, it upon creatures,
Therefore it is called food.”

Taittiriya Upanishad 2.2

“Transformation for the body cells through food intake is the most elementary of animal changes experienced by man. How a weary, enfeebled, and famished man can turn into an alert, strong, and satisfied being, or a man perishing of thirst can be refreshed or even transformed by an intoxicating drink: this is, and must remain, a fundamental experience so long as man shall exist.”

Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness

Let’s travel back to the times of our hunter gatherer ancestors, and focus on the availability of calories. Let’s also not forget that this lifestyle carried on for hundreds of thousands of years, making it extremely influential in shaping our Homo sapien biology and psychology. The consumption of calories was undoubtedly more difficult in those times, and was likely often an issue of life and death. It is quite possible groups would go weeks and even months without substantial sources of food. This is the environment where are our connection to food developed. Food was not an implied part of our everyday schedule, it was not a treat, it was not something we could purchase, it was literally life itself. The ticket to the continuation of life. Every calorie we consumed bought us more time to find the next meal. It was the drive to life. Think about the psychological representations that were created during this time. Whatever instincts are, this would be the environment in which they developed. If one group had an instinctual drive to seek and consume food, they would have an advantage over those who didn’t. We are certainly descendants of those humans with a developed instinct for food identification and consumption.

“There is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, they are patterns of instinctual behaviour.”

Carl Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Instincts come from inside of us, they are a part of us. Archetypes come from the collective unconscious, also a part of us. To illustrate their relationship, think of a pair of attractive magnets. Put one magnet on you, representing your instinctual drives. The opposite magnet resides on the the archetype. The instinct then essentially pulls you toward the representations of the archetype. The archetype is the reward which the instinct seeks. We should also clarify the difference between archetype and the incarnation of the archetype. For this, visualize a submarine surfacing from the ocean. As it breaks the surface there is a coating of water surrounding the submarine. Pretend that we could give this coating of water a particular color and make in non transparent, so we actually can’t even see the submarine, just the outer colored coating. The submarine is the archetype, and the colored coating is the incarnation of the archetype. We only perceive the outer coating, but the entity giving it psychic energy or meaning is the submarine that we are unable to see.

The archetype of food is so intimately connected to our human instincts, an undeniable attraction. This attraction is at the level of the archetype; the submarine that we are drawn to, but do not perceive. I am concerned with today’s coloring of the archetype of food, its current incarnation. We are inundated with things claiming to be food, drawing on our instinctual drives, but not rewarding us with the type of nourishment that created these deep connections. When companies label things as food, they are hitching a ride on psychological realtionships that humans formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, the “food” that is most easily accessed today does not adequately nourish the body, energize the body, nor satisfy the body. This incarnation of the archetype has become far removed from the qualities that originally formed the instinct-archetype connection. Instead of creating nutrient dense foods, we made calorically dense food. Instead of seeking satiety with food, we created addiction manifesting food. Instead of finding value in the health and wellness created from food, all value was placed in the taste of food.

These are only a few of the problems with the archetype of food. Therefore if our food decisions are left unconscious, we will continue down the path of the chronic disease epidemic we are currently experiencing. Food is the major input of information we give to our body on a daily basis. It is information that generates billions of cellular decisions downstream. It is an essential part of the blueprint our cells use to create our body. Food can no longer exist outside of medicine. It can no longer solely be an instrument of the nutritionist. It must be an integrated part of everyone’s healthcare. Until we can change what food means to us as a society, we must individually become conscious of the food we are consuming.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/28/2020

Thoughts for the Weekend

A few things I’ve been thinking about…

1) The mark of a great thinker is not the stature of his ideas, but the flexibility of his mind to change them

2) The reCAPTCHA click so we know you aren’t robot thing. Does anyone else find it ironic that through our proving we are not a robot we are training the robots? With the most recent version where we are forced to click images of cars, crosswalks, stop lights, etc., we are oh so diligently training the visual systems of automated vehicles. Not really taking a side on this one… it is just kind of funny.

3) Gods are real. All of them. Odin, Jesus, Shiva, Vishnu, Zeus, etc. They were, at the very least, at some point a projection of the psyche. If you tell me that’s not real, then you are telling me motivation, anxiety, rage, and other all the other elements of our psyche aren’t real. Just because something fails to exist in material form does not make it not real.

4) Something like the Selfish Gene Theory for the psyche. Is archetypal appearance in myth a mark of longevity or prevalence of structures of the psyche (collective unconscious)?

What are you thinking about?

PS: For anyone interested in archetypes or the collective unconscious. I have made a page listing explanations for people to become familiar with the ideas. Those pages will be updated as I come across more information. I’m still very much a beginner here, so feel free to learn with me.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/24/2020

What is the Collective Unconscious?

This is certainly not an exhaustive resource, but I will add to it as I come across useful references. Of course for the best understanding, reading Jung’s writings in full context is second to none. New additions will be to the list added at the top and typed in bold. CW = Carl Jung’s collected works

Update May 21, 2020: Added quotes from Erich Neumann’s The Origins and History of Consciousness and On Divination and Synchronicity by Mary-Louise von Franz.

  • “Now I propose to use the hypothesis that the collective unconscious is a field of psychic energy, the excited points of which are the archetypes, and just as one can define neighbourhood relationships in a physical field, so one can define neighbourhood relationships in the field of the collective unconscious.” – On Divination and Synchronicity, Marie-Louise von Franz
  • “So we can now go on with our definition and say the collective unconscious is a field of psychic energy, the excited points of which are the archetypes, and that field has an ordered aspect which is dominated by the number rhythms of the Self” – On Divination and Synchronicity, Marie-Louise von Franz
  • “In the collective unconscious all archetypes are contemporaneous, and exist side by side. Only with the development of consciousness do we come to a graduated hierarchy within the collective unconscious itself.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness
  • “Archetypal images are operating in every man and appear spontaneously whenever the layer of the collective unconscious is activated.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness
  • “It is as though the world of the unconscious were, in effect, an extension of the numinous, as though the inconceivable multiplicity of its aspects had been divided up into the separate figures of the collective unconscious, in order to become experienceable for the ego, either successively or in the aggregate… the collective unconscious is split up into the pictorial world of the archetypal images, and the same line of development leads to the fragmentation of the archetypes themselves.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 321 
  • “The original unity breaks down into a solar system of archetypes and symbols grouped round a nuclear archetype, and the archetypal nexus of the collective unconscious comes forth from the darkness into light.” –  Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 326
  • “The world of symbols form s the bridge between a consciousness struggling to emancipate an systematize itself, and the collective unconscious with its transpersonal contents.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 364
  • “The instincts and the archetypes together form the ‘collective unconscious’” – Carl Jung CW vol 8 par 277
  • “From the unconscious there emanate determining influences which, independently of tradition, guarantee in every single individual a similarity and even a sameness of experience, and also of the way it is represented imaginatively.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 118
  • “the sediment of all experience of the Universe of all time, and also an image of the Universe that has been in the process of formation for untold ages.” – Carl Jung, quoted in Wisdom, Madness, and Folly by John Custance
  • “A second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does develop individually but is inherited. It consists or pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic elements.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 90
  • “The contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness, and therefore have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to heredity.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 88
  • “The collective unconscious expresses itself in archetypically formed ideas.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 45
  • “The collective unconscious is but an incapsulated personal system; it is sheer objectivity, as wide as the world and open to all the world. There I am the object of every subject, in complete reversal of my ordinary consciousness, where I am always the subject that has an object.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 46
  • “Discerning persons have realized for some time that external historical conditions, of whatever kind, are only occasions, jumping-off grounds, for the real dangers that threaten our lives. These are the present politico-social delusional systems. We should not regard them causally, as necessary consequences of external conditions, but as decisions precipitated by the collective unconscious.”  – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 49
  • “As a rule, the standpoint of the unconscious is relative to the conscious attitude.” Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 77
  • “If there is already a predisposition to psychosis, it may even happen that the archetypal figures, which are endowed with a certain autonomy anyway on account of their natural numinosity, will escape from conscious control altogether and become completely independent, thus producing the phenomena of possession.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 84
  • “The pathological element does not lie in the existence of these ideas, but in the dissociation of consciousness that can no longer control the unconscious. In all cases of dissociation it is therefore necessary to integrate the unconscious into consciousness. This is a synthetic process which I have termed the ‘individuation process.’” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 83
  • “Accordingly, the therapeutic method of complex psychology consists on the one hand in making as fully conscious as possible the constellated unconscious contents, and then on the other hand in synthesizing them with consciousness through the act of recognition. Since, however, civilized man possesses a high degree of dissociability and makes continual use of it in order to avoid every possible risk, it is by no means a forgone conclusion that recognition will be followed by appropriate action.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 84

This is a living document. Will update as I come across more information. New additions will be added to the top of the list and will remain bolded until the next addition.


See also What is an Archetype?

-Ryan; Last updated 5/21/2020

Latest writings:

What is an Archetype?

This is certainly not an exhaustive resource, but I will add to it as I come across useful references. Of course for the best understanding, reading Jung’s writings in full context is second to none. New additions will be added to the top of the list and typed in bold. CW = collected works of Carl Jung

Update May 21, 2020: Added quotes from Erich Neumann’s The Origins and History of Consciousness and On Divination and Synchronicity by Mary-Louise von Franz.

  • “The structural elements of the collective unconscious are named by Jung “archetypes” or “primordial images.” They are the pictorial forms of the instincts, for the unconscious reveals itself to the conscious mind in images which, as in dreams and fantasies, initiate the process of conscious reaction and assimilation.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness
  • “In the collective unconscious all archetypes are contemporaneous, and exist side by side. Only with the development of consciousness do we come to a graduated hierarchy within the collective unconscious itself.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness
  • “Archetypal images are operating in every man and appear spontaneously whenever the layer of the collective unconscious is activated.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness
  • When instincts are centrally represented, i.e., when they appear as images, Jung calls them archetypes. Archetypes take the form of images only where consciousness is present.; in other words, the plastic self-portrayal of instincts is a psychic process of a higher order. It presupposes an organ capable of perceiving these primordial images. This organ is consciousness, which on that account is associated with the eye, light, and sun symbols, so that in mythological cosmogony the origin of consciousness and the coming of the light are one and the same.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 295
  • “It is as though the world of the unconscious were, in effect, an extension of the numinous, as though the inconceivable multiplicity of its aspects had been divided up into the separate figures of the collective unconscious, in order to become experienceable for the ego, either successively or in the aggregate… the collective unconscious is split up into the pictorial world of the archetypal images, and the same line of development leads to the fragmentation of the archetypes themselves.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 321 
  • “The original unity breaks down into a solar system of archetypes and symbols grouped round a nuclear archetype, and the archetypal nexus of the collective unconscious comes forth from the darkness into light.” –  Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 326
  • Again, just as the digestive system decomposes food into its basic elements, so consciousness breaks up the great archetype into archetypal groups and symbols which can later be assimilated as split-off attributes and qualities by the perceptive and organizing powers of the conscious mind.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 326
  • “The kind of experience we shall have is prescribed by the archetypes, but what we experience is always individual.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness p. 349
  • Jung defines the archetypes as being the nuclear dynamisms of the psyche. Each archetype is also like a mass of dynamic energy.” – On Divination and Synchronicity, Marie-Louise von Franz
  • The archetype could therefore be defined as a structure which conditions certain psychological probabilities” – On Divination and Synchronicity, Marie-Louise von Franz
  • Since our most basic psychological structure is formed by the archetypes which means generally collective patterns of behaviour, we all tend to react in the same way in certain situations.” – On Divination and Synchronicity, Marie-Louise von Franz
  • “If one knows enough mythology one can make a completely consistent web from every great archetype to every other great archetype. There is always a legend or a saga which links up two archetypes in a new form, and it is a tragedy people do not realize that.” – On Divination and Synchronicity, Marie-Louise von Franz
  • “Just as conscious apprehension gives our actions form and direction, so unconscious apprehension through the archetype determines the form and direction of instinct” – Carl Jung CW vol 8 par 277
  • a primordial image that is “instinct’s perception of itself, or as the self-portrait of instinct” – Carl Jung CW vol 8 par 277
  • “The instincts and the archetypes together form the ‘collective unconscious’” – Carl Jung CW vol 8 par 277
  • “Just as the archetypes occur on the ethnological level as myths, so also they are found in every individual, and their effect is always strongest, that is, they anthropomorphize reality most, where consciousness is weakest and most restricted, and where fantasy can overrun the facts of the outer world.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 136
  • “a group of related or analogous psychic phenomena” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 114
  • contents of the collective unconscious, primordial images, mythological motifs
  • “The archetype is essentially an unconscious content that is altered by becoming conscious and by being perceived, and it takes its colour from the individual consciousness in which it happens to appear.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 7
  • “There is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, they are patterns of instinctual behaviour.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 93
  • “All ages before us have believed in gods in some form or another. Only an unparalleled impoverishment of symbolism could enable us to rediscover the gods as psychic factors, that is, as archetypes of the unconscious.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 50
  • “Archetypes are complexes of experiences that come upon us like fate, and their effects are felt in our most personal life.” – Carl Jung, CW vol 9i, par 62
  • “As organs of the psyche’s structure the archetypes articulate with one another, like physical organs, and determine the maturation of the personality in a manner analogous to the biological hormone-components of physical constitution.” – Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness
  • Definite forms of the psyche, present always and everywhere

This is a living document. Will update as I come across more information.
See also What is the Collective Unconscious?

-Ryan; Last updated 5/21/2020

Latest writings:

Synchronicity I

Synchronicity was a concept developed by Carl Jung. Through his many writings it has been defined in a variety of ways, most generally, synchronicity is an acausal connecting factor. We create a logical casual progression of the vast majority of things we perceive. The soccer ball moved because it was kicked. The apple falls because of gravity. The man took a job because he needed money. We see things take place in our world, and our conscious brain assigns the most logical train of causation, or story, to the event. This process is absolutely necessary. The world is infinitely complex and has required us to develop a way of reducing its complexity. We learn through associating groupings of patterns and simplifying them to a level that is useful for our survival in the world. The story is a way to symbolically encode trains of causation into things we can remember and utilize in our life. We do not need to understand the intricate biochemical processes of carbohydrate metabolism, but we are significantly benefited from understanding the abstract notion of causation that eating a strawberry gives us energy. Casual relationships are everywhere in our life, and they are what our sense making apparatus was designed on.

So with a good understanding of causality, let us return to its antithesis, synchronicity and acausality. Synchronicity can be seen when some outer aspect of life (observation of some event in the world) evokes some inner personal meaning. The connection of outer event and inner meaning can have no logical causal connection. For one exists in the realm of space and matter and the other in the realm of the psyche. The example I like to use for this is Déjà vu. For those that have never experienced Déjà vu, it is a profound sense of already having lived through a situation that is immediately occurring. In my experiences with this phenomena, it typically only lasts a few seconds, and I am overwhelmed with the feeling that whatever just happened has happened before. It is a visceral feeling, a knowing that you have had this experience before in another time or another place. It is the feeling that something has happened before, while logically knowing it has never happened before. This acausal connection of outer occurrence and inner reality is the structure of synchronicity.

Synchronicity is a difficult idea to wrap your head around. We have only barely sketched its borders, and I want to leave it fairly open at this point. I will conclude with a personal description of synchronicity in my life. The first part of this story was described in a previous post, but the synchronicity didn’t click until a few moments later.

I was walking outside, down a path that I had traveled more than 100 times. Suddenly, an epiphany. One of those curious thoughts or realizations that fundamentally alter the way you view the world, or I should say, they way you perceive your experience. I saw a tree, then I saw its trunk, its bark, its texture, its border, its repeating structure, its carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and electrons. Aligned in cosmic symmetry, the only way it could possibly be. The journey of those particular molecules had undoubtedly been incredible. Just as I was a product of my many ancestors, so was the tree. It was the genetic product of an interstellar journey spanning billions of years. The tree was at one point a seed, the seed of a tree before it. Just as I was a son of a father, who was the son of his father before. This was the epiphany. A profound sense of gratitude for the sheer impossibility of my existence along side the existence of this tree. The unimaginable history required in order for me to be here, experiencing this tree. Then the synchronicity struck, forcefully and beautifully elegant. Not seconds after these thoughts cleared my mind, my grandfather drives by in his truck. Right in front of me, no more than 30 feet away. Down the street perpendicular to the one I was walking along. He turns, smiles, waves, and continues down the road. The literal embodiment of my ancestors. An incarnation of the father archetype. I had made this same walk hundreds of times, but I have never seen my grandfather there. My grandfather doesn’t even drive much these days. The outer reality of his passing by was layered over my inner epiphany. This cemented the idea of synchronicity in me forever.

Synchronicity will be a common theme in my posts. I believe there is a deep and profound beauty in it. Hopefully this is enough of an introduction that you may see the patterns of synchronicity in your own life. It might just be the signposts of your path.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 4/12/2020

Previous post discussing synchronicity.