“Man, like the other animals, is originally simply the puppet of instinct, just as the infant is. Unless he is moved by instinct, he remains passive, even asleep. When instinct is aroused he reacts precipitately, with a characteristic all-or-none type of reaction. He is aware, it is true, of what he does and of what happens around him. But he has no self-awareness: psychic images flit past in his consciousness, leaving little or no trace, no residue as it were, much as a moving picture flits over the screen. As long as the picture is being thrown upon the screen, it dominates the space; when the light goes out the picture disappears from the screen and leaves no trace upon it. Such is man’s consciousness before the ego develops.” ~M. Esther Harding, Psychic Energy, p. 209.
Dr. M. Esther Harding was one of Dr. Jung’s most accomplished and articulate followers. Trained at the London School of Medicine for Women and the University of London, she worked with him in Zurich before beginning her analytical practice in 1923 New York. Her classic book, Psychic Energy: Its Source and Its Transformation, is still an influential source for students of Jungian Psychology. Written during, and inspired by World War II, its purpose was to explore “what savage impulses, what ruthless monsters of the deep” lie beneath the cultured mask of consciousness, awaiting “a chance to seize the mastery and despoil the world!” ~Harding, p. ix.
As she explained,
“Until the first appearance of the works of Dr. C.G. Jung, the unconscious was regarded as merely the repository of forgotten or repressed experiences. In this there could be no answer to the problem of a world in the grip of a barbaric regression. But Dr. Jung discovered and opened to all explorers another aspect of the unconscious….and found there the sources of psychological life that produce not only atavistic [ancestral] forms but also the potentialities for new development.” (p. ix,x).
During a three year period beginning in 1913, Jung experienced an intrusion of the “savage impulses” and “ruthless monsters” of the unconscious that shook him to the core and turned his world upside down. As a practicing psychiatrist, he had a rough idea of what was happening to him, but instead of medicating himself to control his impulses and dull his pain as was the custom, he took a revolutionary approach. He decided to allow the monsters to have their say, to heed the messages they brought him in dreams and fantasies, and to interact with them by way of active imagination. The techniques and theories he developed, along with his transformation and healing, informed his work for the rest of his life and led to this important insight:
“Every civilized human being, whatever his conscious development, is still an archaic man at the deeper levels of his psyche.”~C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 128.
This archaic being dwells within each of us in the form of archetypes and animal instincts. The source of all our psychological energy, this being is not inherently evil any more than animals are. It is simply the natural expression of our psychic energy as focused solely on ourselves during our earliest phase of consciousness. As I noted in my previous post, I call this Epoch I: Physical Consciousness.
With family guidance and conditioning from societal institutions—education, religion, business, and government—this energy is gradually brought under a measure of control so that the child begins to create a mask, or persona, of acceptable attitudes and behaviors. If the persona remains unchallenged by inner (psychological) or outer (societal) forces, the child can, and often does, grow up to live out his or her life without evolving into more mature phases of consciousness. As Harding explained,
“A person whose consciousness has not grown beyond the state of the autos [Epoch I] can nevertheless undergo a process of development and refinement. The focus of his interest may shift from the more grossly physical to the aesthetic, and he may acquire all the subtleties of cultured appreciation; nevertheless, if his consciousness is oriented to the effects on himself only, he is still in the auto-erotic stage of development….
“Such a person will give the impression of being an egotist, but his egotism is not the result of a conscious determination to have his own way, of a will to power; rather it is due to his complete ignorance and unawareness of any aspect of the situation except such as effect him, or those with whom he is identified. Such a person does not realize that he is dominating his environment or demanding more than his share, and he would be amazed if he were to be made aware of the true nature of his attitude.” p. 208-9.
We all know people like this; we see them on the news every day. And if we magnify this situation from the individual to the collective, we see global implications in this observation from Harding:
“Up to the time of the rise of modern materialistic thought…the hypothesis that rational thinking could solve all the problems of the world was very widely accepted. But there remained the irrationality of man himself. If only man would act rationally, perhaps wars and depressions and insanity could be avoided; but unfortunately man does not seem to be any more capable of acting sanely now than he was a thousand years ago. We are still confronted with man’s own irrational behavior and the untamed forces within his psyche.” Harding, pp. 202-3.
Call me a dreamer, but can you imagine a future when Enhancing Self-Knowledge is a key plank in the platform of a presidential candidate? When the Department of Defense’s main priority is to defend us against the untamed forces within the psyche? America has been at the forefront of many of the world’s great advances; why not lead in promoting consciousness, the most valuable and life-enhancing advance of all?
Image Credits: Thanks to Lewis Lafontaine for the Jungian images.
Jean’s newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon as well as Kobo, Barnes And Noble, and Smashwords.