Showing posts with label Dreams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dreams. Show all posts

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Demon is a Liar

"Jung was a student of Nietzsche’s, and he was also a very astute critic of Nietzsche. He was educated by Freud. Freud started to collate the information that we had pertaining to the notion that people lived inside a dream. 

It was Freud that really popularized the idea of the unconscious mind. We take this for granted to such a degree, today, that we don’t understand how revolutionary the idea was. 

What’s happened with Freud is that we’ve taken all the marrow out of his bones and left the husk behind. Now, when we think about Freud, we just think about the husk, because that’s everything that’s been discarded. 

But so much of what he discovered is part of our popular conception, now—including the idea that your perceptions, your actions, and your thoughts are all informed and shaped by unconscious motivations that are not part of your voluntary control.

That’s a very, very strange thing. It’s one of the most unsettling things about the psychoanalytic theories. The psychoanalytic theories are something like, ‘you’re a loose collection of living subpersonalities, each with its own set of motivations, perceptions, emotions, and rationales, and you have limited control over that.’ 

You’re like a plurality of internal personalities that’s loosely linked into a unity. 

You know that, because you can’t control yourself very well—which is one of Jung’s objections to Nietzsche's idea that we can create our own values.

Jung didn’t believe that—especially not after interacting with Freud—because he saw that human beings were deeply, deeply affected by things that were beyond their conscious control. No one really knows how to conceptualize those things. 

The cognitive psychologists think of them as computational machines. 

The ancient people thought of them as gods, although it’s more complicated than that. 

Mars would be the God of rage; that’s the thing that possesses you when you’re angry. It has a viewpoint, and it says what it wants to say, and that might have very little to do with what you want to say, when you’re being sensible. 

It doesn’t just inhabit you: it inhabits everyone, and it lives forever, and it even inhabits animals. 
It’s this transcendent psychological entity that inhabits the body politic, like a thought inhabiting the brain. That’s one way of thinking about it. It’s a very strange way of thinking, but it certainly has its merits. Those things, in some sense, are deities. But it’s not that simple.

Jung got very interested in dreams, and he started to understand the relationship between dreams and myths. 

He was deeply read in mythology, and he would see, in his client’s dreams, echoes of stories that he knew. He started to believe that the dream was the birthplace of the myth and that there was a continual interaction between the two processes: the dream and the story, and storytelling. You can tell your dreams as stories, when you remember them, and some people remember dreams all the time—two or three, at night. I’ve had clients like that. They often have archetypal dreams that have very clear mythological structures. I think that’s more the case with people who are creative—especially if they’re a bit unstable at the time—because the dream tends to occupy the space of uncertainty, and to concentrate on fleshing out the unknown reality, before you get a real grip on it. So the dream is the birthplace of thinking. That’s a good way of thinking about it, because it’s not that clear. It’s doing its best to formulate something. That was Jung’s notion, as of post-Freud, who believed that there were internal censors that were hiding the dream’s true message. That’s not what Jung believed. He believed the dream was doing its best to express a reality that was still outside of fully articulated, conscious comprehension.

A thought appears in your head, right? That’s obvious. Bang—it’s nothing you ever asked about. What the hell does that mean? A thought appears in your head. What kind of ridiculous explanation is that? It just doesn't help with anything. ‘Where does it come from?’ ‘Well, nowhere. It just appears in my head.’ That’s not a very sophisticated explanation, as it turns out. You might think that those thoughts that you think...Well, where do they come from? They’re often someone else’s thoughts—someone long dead. That might be part of it—just like the words you use to think are utterances of people who have been long dead. You’re informed by the spirit of your ancestors. That’s one way of looking at it.

Your motivations speak to; your emotions speak to you; your body speaks to you, and it does all that, at least in part, through the dream. The dream is the birthplace of the fully articulated idea. They don’t just come from nowhere fully-fledged. They have a developmental origin, and God only knows how lengthy that origin is. Even to say, ‘I am conscious…’ Chimpanzees don’t say that. It’s been something like 3 million years since we broke from chimpanzees—from the common ancestor. They have no articulated knowledge, very little self-representation, and very little self-consciousness. That’s not the case with us, at all. We had to painstakingly figure all of this out during that 7 million year voyage. I think some of that’s represented and captured in these ancient stories—especially the oldest stories, in Genesis, which are the stories we’re going to start with. Some of the archaic nature of the human being is encapsulated in those stories. It’s very, very instructive, as far as I can tell.

I’ll give you just a quick example. There’s an idea of sacrifice in the Old Testament, and it’s pretty barbaric. The story of Abraham and Isaac is a good example. Abraham was called on to actually sacrifice his own son, which doesn’t really seem like something that a reasonable God would ask you to do. God, in the Old Testament, is frequently cruel, arbitrary, demanding, and paradoxical, which is one of the things that really gives the book life. It wasn’t edited by a committee that was concerned with not offending anyone. That’s for sure.

So Jung believed that the dream was the birthplace of thought. I’ve been extending that idea, because one of the things I wondered about deeply—you have a dream, and then someone interprets it. 

You can argue about whether or not an interpretation is valid, just like you can argue about whether your interpretation of a novel or a movie is valid.  

It’s a very difficult thing to determine with any degree of accuracy—which accounts, in part, for the postmodern critique. But my observation has been that people will present a dream and, sometimes, we can extract out real, useful information from it that the person didn’t appear to know, and they get a flash of insight. That’s a marker that we stumbled on something that unites part of that person that wasn’t united before. It pulls things together, which is often what a good story will do, or, sometimes, a good theory. Things snap together for you, and a little light goes on. That’s one of the markers that I’ve used for accuracy and dreams, in my own family.

When I was first married, I’d have fights with my wife—arguments about this and that. I’m fairly hot-headed, and I’d get all puffed up and agitated about whatever we were arguing about. She’d go to sleep, which was really annoying. It was so annoying, because I couldn’t sleep. I’d be chewing off my fingernails, and she’d be sleeping peacefully beside me. 


But, often, she’d have a dream, and she’d discuss it with me the next morning. We’d unravel what was at the bottom of our argument. That was unbelievably useful, even though it was extraordinary aggravating. I was convinced by Jung. 

His ideas about the relationship between dreams, mythology, drama, and literature made sense to me, and his ideas about the relationship between man and art. 

What happens in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is that the main character, whose name is Raskolnikov, decides that there’s no intrinsic value to other people and that, as a consequence, he can do whatever he wants. It’s only cowardice that stops him from acting. Why would it be anything else if value of other people is just an arbitrary superstition? Well, then why can’t I do exactly what I want, when I want? Which is the psychopath’s viewpoint. Well, so Raskolnikov does: he kills someone who’s a very horrible person, and he has very good reasons for killing her. He’s half-starved, and a little bit insane, and possessed by this ideology—it’s a brilliant, brilliant layout—and he finds out something after he kills her, which is that the post-killing Raskolnikov and the pre-killing Raskolnikov are not the same person, even a little bit, because he’s broken a rule. 

He’s broken a serious rule and there’s no going back. 

Crime and Punishment is the best investigation, I know, of what happens if you take the notion that there’s nothing divine about the individual seriously. Most of the people I know who are deeply atheistic—and I understand why they’re deeply atheistic—haven’t contended with people like Dostoevsky. Not as far as I can tell, because I don’t see logical flaws in Crime and Punishment. I think he got the psychology exactly right. Dostoevsky’s amazing for this. In one of his books, The Devils, he describes a political scenario that's not much different than the one we find ourselves in, now. There’s these people who are possessed by rationalistic, utopian, atheistic ideas, and they’re very powerful. They give rise to the communist revolution. They’re powerful ideas. 

 His character, Stavrogin, also acts out the presupposition that human beings have no intrinsic nature and no intrinsic value. It’s another brilliant investigation. Dostoevsky prophesized what will happen to a society if it goes down that road, and he was dead, exactly accurate. It’s uncanny to read Dostoevsky's The Possessed—or The Devils, depending on the translation—and to read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. One is fiction and prophecy, and the second is, ‘hey, look—it turned out exactly the way Dostoevsky said it would, for exactly the same reasons.’ 

It’s quite remarkable. So the question is, do you contend seriously with the idea that, A, there’s something cosmically constitutive about consciousness? and B, that that might well be considered divine? and C, that that is instantiated in every person? And then ask yourself—if you’re not a criminal—if you don’t act it out? And then ask yourself what that means. Is that reflective of a reality? Is it a metaphor? Maybe it’s a complex metaphor that we have to use to organize our societies. It could well be. But even as a metaphor, it’s true enough so that we mess with it at our peril. It also took people a very long time to figure out.