Will to Power

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That life itself is dependent upon, if not made from, the opposition of forces, the fight. The pitting of two drives against one another, and the necessity of declaring a winner.

Take the tectonic forces coming together at a fault. One side eventually slides under, accompanied by a shaking of the foundation; one side eventually rises above and remains there until some colossal force is strong enough to overturn what has already been decided. If this fighting of wills is removed, if all is equalized, you lose all movement, all change, and all life. The pervading will is not all that emerges from this confrontation, it subjugates the lesser, making it part of a new whole. And the denigration of the lesser will, that is so common and easy to come to, only comes from man’s misplaced shame of man. An obvious devaluation of a part of the whole, an opposite required for the other. This has blossomed into an all out declaration of war on losing, as they have attached the experience of suffering to the loss itself in some cleverly misplaced equalization. In the name of suffering, they claim, we must protect, nay prevent, the losing entity from even becoming. Do not be fooled, this is an incorrect aim, as the existence of the winning drive presupposes a losing drive, and therefore each is equally required. The subjective devaluation of the lower is the root of the desire to remove it at all costs. With this removal, you do not remove potential, you simply strip out the surface level incarnations of the underlying drives. Now these drives compete at levels outside of our awareness. Life as we know it stagnates, our “life” is no more. 

A legal organisation, conceived of as sovereign and universal, not as a weapon in a fight of complexes of power, but as a weapon against fighting, generally after the style of Dühring’s communistic model of treating every will as equal with every other will, would be a principle hostile to life, a destroyer and dissolver of man, an outrage on the future of man, a symptom of fatigue, a secret cut to Nothingness.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, Second Essay: “Guilt,” “Bad Conscience,” and the Like, aphorism 11

Look around. Everything you experience is the successor in a long and brutal fight against time. Our organs, our consciousness, our ideas, all are current manifestations of a block of marble that has been chipped, formed, and forced into existence by eternal competition. You do not go from single cells to incredibly complex organisms unless there is an underlying, pervading will. A will to do things better, to acquire better, utilize better, be better, a will to power. This is operating at a level we are not privy to, we only perceive its manifestations. We have the ability to observe and hypothesize, but our observations are never enough to infer original utility. At best, we are able to make judgements about an entity’s current utility, and even that is only a minutely educated guess. For example, take the mitochondria that exist inside almost all of our cells. These cellular substructures are the primary producers of ATP, the preferred energy currency at the molecular level. So we can look at the mitochondria, and many scientists have, and have a decent understanding of what its function currently is, that it acts as the power plant of the cell (obviously much more complicated, but not the point here). If one looks into their history however, their role has drastically changed. The prevailing idea is a theory of endosymbiosis, stating that mitochondria previously existed as free living, single celled organisms. And at some point these individual entities were taken into another cell (endosymbiosis). A particular strong piece of evidence for this theory is that mitochondria contain their own, unique set of DNA, that is different from the germ line DNA found in the nucleus of our cells. So certainly their role has changed, their utility has changed over time, and there has to be some underlying drive for these processes to occur. The will to power continually seeks to express itself in any way that increases its leverage. Our current observation, a snapshot in time, is the mitochondria existing inside the cell, serving a larger purpose, or larger drive. This tells us nothing about the way that entity was used in a time before. We should certainly project this idea into our future. Our institutions, the demonstrators of power, are not confined to the role and ideology they serve today, and it is unlikely they serve the ideology they were initiated upon, even if they claim to do so. They, like the mitochondria, are always ripe for subjugation by a stronger, underlying force.

Everything, anything which exists and which prevails everywhere, will always be put to new purposes by a force superior to itself, will be commandeered afresh, will be turned and transformed to new uses; all “happening” in the organic world consists of overpowering and dominating, and again all overpowering and domination is a new interpretation and adjustment, which must necessarily obscure or absolutely extinguish the subsisting “meaning” and “end.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, Second Essay: “Guilt,” “Bad Conscience,” and the Like, aphorism 12

It should be emphasized that the will to power has no conception of “good” and “bad.” These subjective judgements are only overlaid at a much higher, more superficial layer. A thing does not exist to be “good,” it only exists, or it does not. And in that interpretation, it may even be plausible to say, that to be, or to exist, in itself – is “good.” The environment or society or space of reality existed in such a way to allow anything that exists to come about, and now, we play a role in what shapes are allowed to form next. We do not have the option to not play, we are involved with both our action and inaction. If you do not act with intention, you will be subjugated by the will of another. When we do not pay attention to what is actually going on, if we refuse to look a layer deeper, then we allow our institutions, our customs, our culture, to be carried away by forces that have no connection to our sense of “good,” and to be manipulated by that objective will to power. That drive that can and will take any form presented, any form that allows it to increase its influence and tighten its grasp. Look under the hood, boldly venture one layer deeper. There are incredible forces at play, and we are only beginning to see the bubbling over of the many atrocities that brew under a stagnant, repressive, and reactive society.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 6/9/2020

Resistance: That War Within

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I stumbled upon a perfect metaphor for life last night: Do the dishes now, they never get any easier. If you have a dishwasher, you blessed soul, maybe this is not as obvious. However if you are like me, you have spent considerable time working with a kitchen that does not offer the 5-star amenity of a dish washing machine. The lesson is that washing the dishes never gets any easier. In fact, the job gets increasingly worse (through multiple dimensions) every second you decide not to wash them. First and foremost, the unwashed dish takes up physical space in the sink! This might not sound like a huge deal, but let me assure you, the resistance to cleaning the dishes exponentially increases as the available sink space decreases. You quickly lose that ability to rotate and turn the big pot because the stack of plates at the bottom of the sink does not leave you enough room between the plates and the faucet! And because you left the pot sitting for 3 days, that once savory tomato meat sauce seems to have become one with the metallic outer coating of the pot. You need to maneuver the pot at the perfect angle just to have the required arm leverage to scrape off the gunk. But those plates and cups at the bottom of the sink shut that down. Now you have to move the big pot aside, and start cleaning the small stuff first. You need that space (and all your will) to separate those day old demons from that pot.

The extensions of this situation are endless. You have to deal with your problems, or they continue to grow. Ignoring the issue only grants it time to mutate and become more formidable. It never goes away, the dish fairy isn’t coming, it’s just there, looming. What takes up physical space today (in the sink), will take up mental space tomorrow (the knowing that you still have to wash the damn dishes). And literally every second you wait, you compound the problem. The dishes are physically harder to clean, and you allow the problem to occupy mental real estate for a longer period of time. The real kicker is the negative feedback loop. The harder the job is to complete, the less likely we are to attempt the job. So we put it off, the mental and physical energy required to complete the task grows, and the likelihood of our doing the task decreases in response. It is at some point you will cross the point of no return. That point at which you aren’t going to clean the dishes, it’s just too far gone. Now you require an anomaly event to shake you free from your cementing state. Someone is coming over to your house, maybe a hot date. This external stimulus of energy is the only way you are able to break the mold that has solidified in the sink and in your head.

To abstract a bit further, this is the simply the way resistance works. In order to do something, anything, you have to say no to everything else. And that’s no easy task. Essentially you have endless possible options, and you have the job of eliminating all but one. So resistance is a vital and useful tool. Imagine you are at the center of a sphere, and you have to move towards some point on the surface of the sphere. Pretend that each location on the surface represents a different mode of action. So you select that particular point (your goal) and start moving, like an arrow to its target. You have to resist all the forces vying to push and pull you towards their own preferred location. Without this resistance, you would have no defined direction. However the thing about life is that you actually never get to the surface of the sphere, you just keep getting closer. For example, think of an arrow traveling to a target. We can say that along the path of the arrow, there is some amount of time for the distance between the arrow and the target to be halved. As the arrow gets closer to the target, the time it takes for it to cover half of the remaining distance becomes infinitely shorter. If we can continually adjust the time scale (infinitesimal time) the arrow will never reach the target. We just keep getting closer, the distance to the target decreases, the halfway point is closer to the starting point (and the target), and the time it takes to get to the halfway point is less. If you grant me this mental exercise, you see that the arrow never hits the target, it just gets infinitesimally close. So moving back to our sphere, we never get to the surface. If we keep traveling in the same direction, honoring the same resistance, we might get something like the shape below (ignore the labels. The 3D representation is the important part, and shoutout to whoever created this. I couldn’t access the actual website for some reason).

And now allow me to really extend the metaphor. Clearly the above deformed sphere does not look like a balanced, versatile, or well-rounded, if you will, object. It has some prominent features, but is also seems disjointed. Does this not happen to us when we get locked on to one specific target? It continues to get easier to move in the direction we are going, while also becoming more difficult to go against the grain. Our resistances become entrenched, and we grow one-sided. This is Newton’s First Law, this is inertia. So if resistance are those forces that keep us on the straight and narrow, they are also the key to expanding our horizon. In order to become something you aren’t, you have to do things you haven’t done. This will inevitably feel uncomfortable as we have a natural tendency to do what we are good at and what we are used to, for good reason. But if we want to grow, develop, become balanced and dynamic, we are forced to return to that resistance with new intentions.

That resistance becomes your compass. It is a screaming red flag warning, “LOOK OVER HERE.” It is the signal beacon of an opportunity to fight the dragon and to steal the fire. It is the portal to becoming something you are not.

It’s not easy or obvious. As we have already stated, that resistance serves an essential purpose and you first must simply be able to recognize and acknowledge the feeling itself. Maybe today that resistance is a little too much to bear, and the dishes are going to stay dirty, for now. But if you can just identify that feeling, that repulsion, you are on the right track. Once you can see it, you have the ability to use it as a tool. You don’t have to start with the big pot. Start with the small plates and cups at the bottom of the sink. Make the next step just a little easier for yourself.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 5/26/2020

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

Consciousness: Through the Lens of Split Brain Experiments

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Where are you? That thing that is the doer, where is that located?

Our brain is divided into to hemispheres, left and right. These hemispheres are connected through a bundle of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. This structure allows for information exchange between the two halves of our brain. This, it turns out, is very important as the individual hemispheres of our brain complete separate tasks, then share the information with the other half. The specific tasks that are carried out by each hemisphere are conserved in most people. That is to say, there are some exceptions to these rules, but the work is typically divided the same way across different peoples. As a brief example of this, examine the figure below.

This list could be longer and more detailed, but the important distinctions are: each hemisphere receives different visual inputs, controls different sides of the body, and that speech and language are confined to the left hemisphere.

A treatment for the most severe and uncontrollable epilepsy is to cut the corpus callosum. This is a last line measure (no response to anti-seizure medication and other treatments) to limit the spread of the electrical activity of epileptic seizures. While cutting the corpus callosum did not completely stop the seizures, it relegated them to the half of the brain they originated in, no longer being able to spread to the other hemisphere via the corpus callosum. I will leave the ethics of this procedure for others to debate, but to the impartial observer, this procedure shed light on some peculiar aspects of consciousness.

Let’s walk down the logical progression of cutting the corpus callosum. No communication, no information exchange between the two hemispheres. Each hemisphere only receives visual input from one visual field. For those that are unaware, if you stare at a dot in the middle of the screen, images to the left of that dot are located in your left visual field, and vice versa. Therefore, observing a word in the right visual field goes to the left brain. This means the person could say the word out loud, as the speech and language centers are also in the left brain. They would also be able to move their right hand if, for instance, they were asked to draw the word presented to them. So far, pretty normal. Now, let us walk down the path of presenting a word to the left visual field. The visual input is sent to the right hemisphere of the brain. When asked what word was shown, the patient says nothing. The visual input, stored in the right brain, has no pathway to the speech and language center in the left brain. The patient cannot represent the information in words or speech, as these two pieces of informations are located in opposite hemispheres, unable to communicate. However, when asked to close his eyes and draw with his left hand, the patient is able draw a picture of the word. I recognize this probably sounds very confusing. Watch the video below for a visual explanation.

Split brain behavioral experiments

So with this basic physiologic understanding, let’s jump to the fun part, its implications for consciousness. For this discussion it may be helpful to invoke a particular definition of consciousness. In the words of philosopher Thomas Nagel, “an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something that it is like to be that organism—something it is like for the organism.” This assertion is made in his paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” For example, as soon as we say, “if I could perceive via echolocation, I would understand how a bat negotiates its surroundings,” we assign some level, or type, of consciousness to the bat. It has consciousness because there is something that it is like to be the bat. This definition of consciousness is a decent starting place. While it does not violate any of my intuitions, or directly contradict my developing notion of consciousness, it does not offer much insight either. The obvious thing we must extend from this definition is that consciousness is no one thing. You and I can both be conscious, as can the bat, but there are clear and obvious differences between these incarnations of consciousness. There are levels to the game, so to speak. This goes against the materialist and rationalist tendency to discretize and demand a concrete form of things. Through this definition we are clearly allowing consciousness to take on different forms, while also retaining some element of commonality. In my own interpretation of this idea, consciousness is the awareness of what it is like to be.

Back to the split brain experiments. If we apply the above definition of consciousness to the split brain patient, we are forced to assign individual consciousness to each hemisphere of the brain. As seen in the video, when shown different words in each visual field, the cognitive processes are distinct. The left hemisphere knows the he visualized a hammer, while the right hemisphere knows he visualized a saw. Both are 100% correct, both are 100% convinced of their perceptions, and both are completely unaware of the other.

What does this do for our understanding of consciousness? For me, it shows that consciousness is differentiated from the body, while also being dependent upon it. It is detached, but receives input from the body. I visualize it as a little entity floating right above my head. It takes inputs from inside the body as well as outside, welds them into a coherent story, and then poses as the all mighty conductor of volition. It incorporates all the stimuli of the senses, the inner psychic drives and images, our history, our place in the group, our place in society, our direct environment, possible future outcomes, and possible ramifications of those outcomes. A complex data mining, data combining, and narrative building machine.

So when we split the brain, the direct bodily inputs of consciousness obviously change. It is clearly like something to be the experience of the left brain, and clearly like something completely different to be the experience of the right brain. When we split the brain, we create another instance of consciousness. We introduce another way to be, and consciousness is there for its interpretation. For it is always there, always a level removed from direct perception. Thinking about split brain as a splitting of consciousness may be a helpful visualization, but in reality we aren’t splitting consciousness, it is just there, aware of whatever inputs are available to it.

I would like to close with a bit of a thought experiment. As this post was started, where are you? That thing that is the doer, where is that located? Before I really started thinking about consciousness I would have immediately answered that question: I am in my head, of course. My thoughts have drastically changed since.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 5/16/2020

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The Drumbeat of Change

Now you see that the hope and the desire of returning to the first state of chaos is like the moth to the light, and that the man who with constant longing awaits with joy each new springtime, each new summer, each new month and new year – deeming that the things he longs for are ever too late in coming – does not perceive that he is longing for his own destruction. But this desire is the very quintessence, the spirit of the elements, which finding itself imprisoned with the soul is ever longing to return from the human body to its giver. And you must know that this same longing is that quintessence, inseparable from nature, and that man is the image of the world.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Is that feeling of yearning a simple disapproval of our current situation, or does it emerge from something deeper, as a manifestation of a drive we have labeled progress? It is easy to appreciate the teachings of those enlightened ones; the complete acceptance and appreciation of each and every sacred moment. But this is not the teaching of our culture. This is not what draws today’s society forward. It is this antithetical idea of progress and change that define our world. I, for one, do find those moments of bliss and weightlessness to be quite compelling, but I cannot claim to be driven by the pursuit of peace and oneness. No, I seem answer to that call of progress and growth more readily. I want to be better today than I was yesterday, and I remain content with this strategy. However I readily admit, as Nietzsche states, our drives seek to philosophize in their own regard.

“Returning to the first state of chaos” must be something like the dissolution of ego consciousness, the dissipation of tension, that realm before opposites, unity. What if our yearning is a much deeper drive. A drive for reunification with the whole. I do not see this as a drive for death, or a “death instinct,” but something more along the lines of some part of us wants to reach that ultimate connectedness. Whatever we are, whenever we are, we are only the current manifestation of an intricate history. There must have been a beginning, with that an end, and every circle ends in the same place it started. It must be plausible then, our desire for change is the manifestation of a drive seeking to reunite with the beginning. Of course, only to be found through the end.

If this were true, certainly that drive would feel imprisoned. Only knowing its dissatisfaction with the current situation. Only knowing that change is its singular hope of resolution. Of course, it would not know what changes to make, or even what it desires, only its discontent. It is no more than a vector directed in a particular orientation, without regard to what surrounds. It does not have direct access to our conscious volition, so we are not necessarily privy to its goals, or even its existence. However, it obviously lies beneath those levers that play on the level of our conscious awareness. It finds solace in the constant comparisons we make between one another. Objectifying why someone else has a better situation than us (our future self included). Wanting this or that, never quenching, only leading to the next this or that. This is the drive playing puppet master to the grass always being greener.

The drive is not mischievous. It does not plot for our demise, push us towards misery, nor a mindset of perpetual inadequacy. These all occur at the level of consciousness, much downstream of the drive itself. It is our duty to channel this libido (psychic energy) into something that improves our lives. The only comparison deserving of our commitment is the comparison to who we were yesterday. That is the only manifestation we should allow this drive to take. Let it push us to ever so slightly better versions of ourselves. To small changes over a lifetime that amount to becoming who we are. Complete your circle on your terms.

Best explorations

-Ryan; 5/14/2020

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Food Rules 2: Eat REAL Food

Why we need Food Rules

Preface
Food is the greatest vehicle through which we expose exogenous (outside the body) substances to our body. What we ingest is no more than chemical information packets that direct our cellular machinery to behave and operate in specific ways. Food is the primary language we have to communicate with our body, and communication (information exchange) is key to a thriving ecosystem. 

Everyone has dieted and everyone has failed. Food choice is a psychological game that we are not well equipped to deal with. Unless we educate ourselves on what is really going on, we are severely disadvantaged in an unfair fight. A big part of this is changing the language we use to describe the food we eat. This is not a diet. Diets are temporary and don’t work. We must focus on small changes that can be implemented for the rest of our lives. We wont’t be listing foods you “can’t have.” When you mentally tag a food as something “I can’t have,” you have just lost a battle in this realm of psychological warfare – there is always that small part of us that wants only what we cannot have. This is not about counting calories or joining a Facebook group for the newest fad diet. Food can get complicated and even tribal, so we will attempt to remove the extraneous information and focus on the things that actually make a difference. These are a a few simple rules to help you change your relationship with food. 

Rule 2: Eat REAL food. If you have to question if it’s “real food,” it’s probably not. 

Our bodies were not designed for environments where food is plentiful. The behavior and functionality we developed was shaped by the absolute necessity to acquire energy in a world where that energy was scarce and fleeting. We carry the same biology and psychology with us today, however we are inundated with calorically dense, easily accessed, unending supplies of food. The intricate reward systems that were crafted to help us find and acquire the energy of life are still very much alive and functioning. The problem is that in our modern food environment, these systems that underly our decision making processes no longer lead us to a productive and healthy life. 

Our immediate job in this modern food environment is to realize those moments of bliss experienced while eating some sugar soaked dessert are not serving your organism as a whole. It is activating a particular reward pathway in the brain. Setting off a brilliant electrical display – the perfect pattern in the perfect rhythm of time that we interpret as perfected happiness. That is the very moment were everything else, the pain, the anger, the hunger, the to-do list, all fade away. It is so obvious why so many of us comfort ourselves though food. But it only last a moment. Just as mysteriously, the fleeting feeling of bliss fades as the food passes from our mouth to the later stages of our digestive system. Simply clearing mouth real estate to make room for the next bite that will assuredly set off the same beautiful sequence of events. 

The mouth pleasure is not the problem. The problem is what now masquerades as food. Food is, and always has been, that which we consume from our surroundings to nourish our energetic requirements. Think of food as an idea, a symbol. This symbol that has taken many forms throughout time. It has imbued roots, flowers, berries, organs, muscles, eggs, hamburgers, laboratory constructed hamburgers, grain, and even shelf-sustainable-indestructible-conglomerations of sugar and fat with the life sustaining force that we identify as food. 

Throughout our existence food has been sacred. It is that which allows us to move through time and space. It becomes the body. Somewhere along the way we have lost the life-sustaining dimension of food. In our blistering pursuit of reward pathways in the brain, we have disregarded those aspects of food that nourish the body as a whole. We must reconnect to those life-giving qualities of food. 

The easiest way to do this is to eat REAL food. That stuff on the outer rim of the the grocery store. If it doesn’t look like it came from the earth or from a creature that once inhabited the earth, it was most likely engineered for shelf life and reward pathways in the brain. When you eat plants and animals from the earth you are trusting that most masterful engineer, Mother Nature. That engineer that crafted the intricate harmony of life itself. She understands food goes beyond mouth pleasure. She understands that what is eaten becomes the body, for that cyclic interdependency is her law. 

Thanks for reading.

See related:
Food Rules 1
The Archetype of Food

Best explorations

-Ryan; 5/3/2020

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

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We Are Our Addictions

“We must never forget that the crooked paths of a neurosis lead to as many obstinate habits, and that, despite any amount of understanding, these do not disappear until they are replaced by other habits. But habits are only won by exercise, and appropriate education is the sole means to this end.”

Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search for a Soul

What if we are our addictions? Playing passenger to drives that ultimately direct our lives. As terrifying and helpless as that might sound, I think we retain some control over how those addictions actually manifest. Certainly we have uncontrollable factors in our life that shape our tendencies. By right of birth, some are thrown into horrific living conditions and exposed to endless trauma, and much less are fed from a silver spoon their entire life. These things that lie outside of our control most definitely play a role in forming those initial addictions. The initial drives that initiate our journey. However, I must make the claim that we can maneuver these addictions, or rather, direct the addictions to other physical manifestations. I suggest we dedicate our energy to aiming our addictions rather than trying to remove addiction itself.

One of the most identifiable aspects of consciousness is our understanding of time. We operate on a 24 hour cycle that continually repeats. Therefore a primary task of consciousness may be the need to fill those waking hours with some sort of engagement. We must direct our awareness somewhere. Most of you will be familiar with the way some basic computer programs works. For example, they could take a task that is repeated ad nauseam and streamline the process. Or they could take a set of variables and determine values in order to create a specific optimized output. If we have a goal of filling our waking hours with awareness of something, addictions would easily develop as a tool to help this drive. Addictions could act as a highly powered computer program, running rampant, trying to direct our waking hours to some object or activity. When we are addicted to something, we simply want to spend more time doing whatever that activity may be. So not only do addictions help solve the current problem of what do I do now, they also have this lurking power to populate our futures. As the addiction program runs, it becomes more powerful. It becomes harder and harder to pull away from whatever it is driving your towards. Over time, it has an exponential effect on our awareness and can become all consuming – even increasing the bounds of consciousness by sacrificing sleep.

Sex, drugs, alcohol, money, competition, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There are endless things to which we can be addicted, and most people would ascribe an overall negative to being addicted to any one of those items. But here is the idea: All of the above listed addictions (plus those not cataloged), are downstream, or on the surface, of the addiction itself. The computer program of addiction is operating behind the scenes. The constant obsession with Instagram is just the surface level output of some impressive evolutionary machinery. I think we are much better equipped to change to output of the machinery rather than to tackle the machinery itself.

I do not want to emphasize a score keeping mentality, or a ‘my addiction is better than yours’ attitude, but I think most people would agree that in today’s society, an addiction to exercise is more productive than an addiction to alcohol. I think we may also agree that a moderate addiction is better than a severe addiction. For instance, an addiction that compels two hours of my awareness per day is less damaging than an addiction that compels ten hours per day. For argument’s sake, we could make a correlation between the strength of the addiction and the amount of time we spend on the activity. Going back to the original premise, if we are our addictions, it would be beneficial for us to have eight different two hour addictions rather than two different eight hour addictions. This would be something like keeping the strength of the addictions at bay. This allows us to retain some level of defense, as the presence of many addictions make it difficult for any one addiction to spiral out of control.

In closing, this is not to make any moral judgements. For instance, on a moral level, I am not convinced an addiction to exercise is any more virtuous than an addiction to alcohol. However, we have to play by the rules of our society. From the perspective of society, an addiction to exercise is much preferred to an addiction to alcohol (not to mention the obvious preference of your body). So in a way, this whole theory is about structuring our addictions to align not only with ourselves, but the society we live in. This theory also implies the ubiquity of addiction. It is something every single one of us struggle with. With this understanding, hopefully we can push back against the stigma associated with addiction. In the above paragraph I am arguing for MORE addictions! Taken out of context, that would be read as totally outrageous. Clearly, I am using the word addiction in a different light than it is commonly used today. We need to stop condemning the idea of addiction and start progressing on how to live and work with ourselves. Meet reality on reality’s terms. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I am certainly no professional. I just enjoy thinking about difficult problems, and trying to come up with approaches that get us to a better place. If we are not free to develop new ideas about old problems, we get to keep the old problems.

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-Ryan; 4/23/2020

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A New Psychology

Preface: This will be my first post digging into Nietzsche. Nietzsche is incredibly deep and it is easy to spend hours on one passage. However, there is usually a point when it clicks. A point when I understand (on some amateur level) the profundity of his ideas. So don’t feel inferior if you have to read his quotes five times for some intro level of understanding, you are in good company. And it is well worth your time. So let this stand as my simple interpretation. It should by no means be considered the only interpretation nor a correct interpretation.

All psychology so far has got stuck in moral prejudices and fears.” – Nietzsche

Nietzsche believed we had not even come close to honestly broaching the spectrum of psychology. That we have only been playing on the surface of an ocean with tremendous depth – “insofar as it is permissible to recognize in what has been written so far a symptom of what has so far been kept silent.” He states, “A proper physio-psychology has to contend with unconscious resistance in the heart of the investigator.” This approach to psychology depends on the reciprocal nature of the opposites. It requires a temperament that treats the “wicked” drives with the same care and righteousness displayed to those “good” drives. This view is a complete and total acceptance of evil, of suffering, and of all that would fall under the ever-changing umbrella of ‘bad.’ “If, however, a person should regard even the affects of hatred, envy, covetousness, and the lust to rule as conditions of life, as factors which, fundamentally and essentially, must be present in the general economy of life (and must, therefore, be further enhanced if life is to be further enhanced) – he will suffer from such a view of things as from seasickness.” Here, Nietzsche warns this understanding is not to be taken lightly. For he is asking us to level what we have grown to assess as good and evil. Unification of opposites is no small request! However, if one can come to terms, it provides a new arena for advancement and understanding of the psyche. 

Speaking from a perspective of appraisement, good deeds must stand in contrast to evil deeds. There is simply no ground on which to discriminate good if one does not maintain the the polarity, evil. I would like to make this idea more concrete. First, examine yourself. Your emotions. How do you currently feel, right now? Comfortable, tired, restless, joyful, depressed, excited, etc. Now consider how you felt 24 hours ago. Realize there is some sort of line connecting how you felt yesterday to how you feel right now. This is not to say you can’t dramatically change moods or you can’t remain relatively emotionally constant, but to point out the connection of your emotional states through time. Now realize this line does not only connect the two simple states you identified 24 hours apart. It connects the continuum of emotional states you exist in from moment to moment. If you were somehow able to assign a number to your overall emotional state every hour, with 0 being the absolute worst most horrible, depressed state imaginable, and 10 being pure bliss, you could construct a table of values. Then if we connected those discrete points you would have a crude visual representation of the emotional ride you had been on for the last 24 hours. It might look something like this.

Visualization of emotional status throughout a day

Now take this same idea and extend it over two days, a week, a month, a lifetime. We are simply zooming out from the above graph.

Visualization of emotional status over an extended period of time

The y-axis of ‘Emotional Rating’ is completely unique to you. My graph may have a value of 10 at some point in time because I had a great night of sleep (big sleep guy). Another day my 10 might be because a loved one’s cancer went into remission. And maybe your 10 is simply because you were able to have a hot meal today. Our emotional states are completely relative to our experience and perceptions. They are subjective. There is also a concept of emotional inertia or momentum. This is the idea that it is easier to make a ‘good’ choice after a previous ‘good’ choice; likewise it is easier for a ‘bad’ choice follow a prior ‘bad’ choice. In our graph this would be represented as an event’s likelihood to affect our rating. If your are currently at a 10, some minor annoyance may not have the emotional valence to drop you down to a 9. So you keep cruising right along at 10. On the other hand, if you were trending down from 7 to 6, that same minor annoyance may shoot you down to 3. Graphically, this is giving weight to the derivative of our emotional rating curve. 

This is a laborious explanation in order to drive home the point that your present state is unique, incredibly complex, and also relative. Here is the pay off of this exercise: Think of another person. Maybe in your house, maybe across the world. Now realize their “Emotional Rating” graph is equally complex and unique to them, but also connected to yours through time. At every point along your graph, billions of people are experiencing their own unique drama. Your particular rollercoaster of a graph is built from your range of emotions but it is only the smallest slice of the world’s emotions. We each exist at every point in time, holding space in another’s world. When we are at a 10, having the day of our lives, there are millions of people across the world experiencing 0’s, trying to see just the smallest of touch of hope. Fighting to feel the tick back up the scale.

Let’s close with a return to Nietzsche and an abstraction of our graphs. Nietzsche claims when we approach psychology from this perspective, “we sail right over morality.” Now imagine our graph, but the y-axis is no longer ‘Emotional Rating.’ Now the 0 and the 10 simply represent any pair of opposites. For example, 0 = ‘Good’, 10 = ‘Evil’ , and all numbers in-between represent the spectrum of possibilities between the polarities. You could do the same exercise, assigning values to different aspects of your experience. The unifying principle remains. While you may be experiencing a 10, someone across the world is experiencing (at the same time!) a 0. This is why we all exist for each other, we hold space for each other. We hold the 10 while someone else is experiencing the harmony of 0, hoping to one day experience the 0 ourselves. The existence of the 0 requires the existence of the 10. Good requires evil. In this new psychology we must appreciate and equally value the complexity and different requirements of our existence. We cannot favor the 0 nor the 10, good nor evil. In this way, “we sail right over morality.” The psychologist who “makes this sacrifice…will at least be entitled to demand in return that psychology shall be recognized again as the queen of sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist. For psychology is now again the path to the fundamental problems.

All of the above quotes come from aphorism 23 of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, Walter Kaufmann edition. Thanks for reading.

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-Ryan; 4/16/2020