[Religious Types 13] This Modern World

3 06 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

As I begin to write this installment, I can see the end of this series in sight. The tall tower toward which I have been moving toward looms close, and it seems only a few turns away. Still, there is important ground left to cover, so let me get to that.

I ended the last post with the notion that our present, modern and industrial, society may play a significant part in the alienation of folks like Jung and Dick from their own experiences. This alienation is more intense from what I take to be the alienation inherent to the operation of Introverted Intuition. While the alienation of Introverted Intuition always inhibits the forms it produces, in the modern situation facilitates their neutralization.

This, in turn, diminishes the forms of Introverted Sensation available to the greater community. Without being refreshed by Introverted Intuition, the forms of Introverted Sensation, too, become more rigid. Their repetition continue to reinforce communal ties, but cease to respond to the demands of the environment on the community. The communal forms then begin to lose their appeal to those whose primary functions employ something other than Introverted Sensation. They lack the connection to day-to-day living that would give them force and meaning to others. The very notion of there being concrete and specific forms suitable to communal living itself becomes suspect. Instead, what does become tolerated and acquire some support, are forms that are inherently vague and general.

Now, saying it in this way, I obscure the way industrial society supports this transformation. As industrial societies have developed, they have produced forms that suppress the role of place. There are obvious cases of this, like climate control which diminish the effect of climate on its human population, but the subtle cases need to be noted, too. As channels of distribution widen and become more secure, goods of all kinds can move freely between them. Local produce becomes global produce. On the intellectual level, this quickly leads to the diminishing of local intellectual culture. The bestseller is a bestseller in New York as well as in Reno.

That achievement isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it produces a network that privileges transportability. One key feature of this is the ability to mobilize people along and through these networks. Here the industrial technology allows those being transported to ignore most of what surrounds them in place, replacing it with a technological bubble. The more fully developed a region, the more fully integrated into this system its inhabitants becomes. When the system has developed as extensively as it has in the U.S., it gives birth to a sort of cultural world suited to it.

The existence of this cultural world isn’t particularly problematic in and of itself. It is quite natural. However, it becomes problematic as the extension of the culture gets mistaken for universality, when the roots of its broad distribution in enormous expenditures of energy, are elided. This, unfortunately, happens fairly easily. As the means for distributing this energy become less visible, so too does the culture’s dependence upon it. The success of the industrial system gets ascribed to its culture and the reach of that system is conflated with something akin to universality.

This cultural world of industrialism privileges an accompanying conceptual transportability alongside its technological mobility. In our contemporary moment, we see the clear fruits of this–national news, national television, national bestsellers, national movies, have undercut local varieties. Local culture gives way to local color, an image of difference that can be substituted for an engagement with place. Still, this process was at work in Jung’s period as it had been for at least a century of industrial expansion.

To speak in this milieu, Introverted Intuitives are likely to do so in ways that they sense are appropriate to it. The specificity of their vision, always experienced at odds with the face of broader cultural unity, seems downright unnatural in industrial society. The intuitive visions do not fit naturally into any quickly distributed channel. In order to share them, the Introverted Intuitive must give them a form that resembles those which can move through the industrial network. Since this is the essence of Introverted Intuition, a personal vision of the outside, they give up what they have to say in order to be heard. By being heard, they are only ever heard to say what everyone already expects.

To translate their Introverted Intuition, they will need to appeal to another function. Since the material is introverted, it will be their tertiary function that is most suited to the task. If that relieving function is Introverted Thinking, then the Introverted Intuitive will most likely translate the material into conceptual forms. If the relief comes from Introverted Feeling, those forms are more likely to be aesthetic. Since the relief function is rarely well developed, the final product is likely to depend on convention, upon ideas or images already entrenched. When those communal forms derive from adaptations to industrial life, the resulting public material is exceptionally vague. At its worst, it is pastiche (there is probably a lengthy post to be had on that alone).

Jung’s work provides a moderate case of this. While his private work is affective and aesthetic, his public presentation is conceptual, suggesting his relief function is Introverted Thinking. When he articulates his views, he relies on scientific concepts with which he is familiar, drawn from psychoanalysis and philological comparative mythology. He doesn’t share the specific images or practices he developed to deal with his experiences, but articulates a model based on broad categories derived from philological studies (e.g. puer, puella) which are inscribed within Freud’s notion of the unconscious.

Located at a privileged center in the industrial network, he has access to cultural forms that developed from all over the globe. He subsequently categorizes them according to the model derived from jury-rigging Freud and philology. Jung posits  the forms as universal, reducing many of the forms to his conceptual scheme, ignoring their historical genesis within a specific human ecosystems. Privileging modern conceptions of universality, he underestimates the importance of local traditions. Those local and less industrialized tradition are not directed simply toward the human community, but also toward the broader ecosystem of which they form a part.

At this point, Jungian psychology repeats the error of modern industrial thought. Unable to appreciate the material, ecological, roots of a tradition (including their own), Jungians simply catalog other traditions as if they were their own, according to the reflective categories that developed to suit the industrial modernity of which they form a part. They thereby suppress the specific histories and ecologies that gave birth to them and shaped their development.

If Jung’s misunderstanding remained simply a personal affair, I wouldn’t have much to write about and very likely might not even know of Jung. Instead, though, his work forms the basis for a whole network of overlapping forms of popular psychology and spirituality. What was mingled vagueness and insight in Jung, tends increasingly toward vagueness in this popular expression. I want to talk about this in the next post.

[Next Post in the Series: Restless Dreams of Industry]

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