[Religious Types 17] Overlapping Pattern and Archetype in Jung

18 07 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

The last post gestured toward the complexity that can develop as archetype- and pattern-based approaches share a common content even as they put that content to different use. It lies beyond the scope of this little series to elaborate the full range of this complexity, so I want to focus on the way in which these approached become tangled together in Jung’s discourse. We’ll be revisiting much of the ground already covered in this series, but with a better sense of it.

Let us return to Liber Novus. As a work unto itself, it deploys figures that Jung himself recognizes as archetypal, as having roots in a cultural past that has been preserved and repeated. However, the arrangements that these figures take within his visionary experience are novel, without a common past. The novelty of the work does not derive from pattern-driven innovation, though. The material has a life of its own and Jung’s engagement with it is one of negotiation. The figures that arise over the course of his work make demands on him which he accedes to and resists in unequal measure.

It is tempting to identify the style of the work (the way in which he presents his experiences to himself, the novel organization of images and their oceanic connection to each other), the working of Jung’s conscious Introverted Intuition. The roots of that style lie elsewhere, though, in an appreciation for the influence of Jung’s shadow functions.

To understand what’s going on here, we need to keep in mind that archetypal and patterned forms of thought are developed, conscious modes for dealing with experience. Liber Novus, by contrast, is a work operating at the juncture of conscious and shadow modes of cognition. The clearest evidence we have for this is the way in which Jung finds himself subject to the demands of the beings he encounters in his visions. His inability to directly command or control them are evidence for their position outside his conscious sphere and, as we examine the ways in which they manifest, we can see more clearly how they speak through Jung’s shadow functions.

Jung, almost surely an INFJ, experiences the material in material that seems archetypal because two of his key shadow functions are Introverted Feeling and Sensation. The material does not behave precisely like an archetype because archetypes result from Introverted Sensation and Feeling applied consciously by individuals who have well-developed these functions. The concern for precise repetition that characterizes an archetype results from conscious efforts to control the content of experience.

Without the conscious effort to control the content, the functions repeat the past but without the specificity we attribute to the archetypal approach. The oceanic character of the visions, then, has less to do with it being interpreted through Jung’s conscious Introverted Intuition, than with the material being developed through a shadow function that is not rigorously controlled by conscious organization (cf. Hillman’s The Dream and The Underworld for one way of thinking about the conscious vs. the shadow mode).

(It’s worth observing, too, that the ‘oceanic’ and visionary tendencies of Introverted Intuition may have less to do with the function itself, than with the way in which conscious cultivation of it results in the underdevelopment of Introverted Sensation which results in a less rigorous effort to structure one’s relationship to the cultural forms of the past. This sense of detachment, from the shadow perspective already discussed, in turn helps foster the comparative attitude of Introverted Intuition. Separated from their own cultural forms, they more freely engage with those of others.)

To summarize briefly: Liber Novus shows Jung at work engaging the archetypes of his culture, but outside of the archetype-based thinking that preserved them. Those forms are instead animated by shadow functions that only resemble the archetype. The conscious self can cultivate a relationship with this shadow function and that relationship has a visionary character. The images, though archetypal in appearance, possess a freedom and dynamism that is alien to the material as approached through archetypes.

To understand this experience, to conceptualize it, Jung has recourse to his conscious faculties, manifested in his primary Introverted Intuition supported by his tertiary Introverted Thinking. To that end, he must compare his experiences to those of others, he must compare the image content to other images.

This process is severed from his visionary experience, which he preserves almost exclusively as a private experience. As such, he tends to conflate the vision and the archetype. Lacking deep facility with the archetype as a developed form, Jung’s studies of the archetype treat them almost exclusively as patterns with discursive meanings that can be made explicit. What gets lost in this is the vitality of the archetype, including the intensity of its ritual performance, its repetition. That approach conceals the social dimension of the archetype, its dependence on a community for its (re)production.

Even therapeutically, where direct engagement with a patient’s material bypasses some of the extravagances of the scholarly studies of mythology, the emphasis on the archetype as a psychological form relies overmuch on Jung’s personal psychological make-up. So much of Jung’s unconscious material appears archetype-like because of his typological make-up, not because of some basic shared register of unconscious images.

By contrast, Jung’s work on psychological type, from start to finish, rests upon pattern-based approached. The patterns developed by comparing the ways in which individuals approached their own experience. While it would surely be possible for Jung to identify individuals whose approach to their experience provided the basis for his account of a type, the type itself was understood to amplify and expand upon the specific experiences of an individual.

The strength of Jung’s typological model derives from more than just its consistent explication of pattern. It derives, too, from the identification of an object of study, namely an individual’s psychological experience. Whereas Jung’s archetypal approach is a mishmash of cultural and personal forms with a minimal differentiation of them, his typological approach fixes its object clearly and precisely.

As I have been demonstrating throughout this series, we can return to Jung’s typological work, deepen it, in order to revisit his work on archetype and the unconscious. While much of what lies within that work is too fraught with error to retrieve, we can revisit the subject of that work and make real, if much slower, headway through the material that fascinated Jung.

I have one last thing I want to do before I draw this particular discussion of Jung to a close. Having spent all this time thinking through the conflicts that mar Jung’s project, it’s only fair that I risk a little speculation as to how those might have been otherwise resolved. I’ve hinted at it sidelong, but I want to look it full in the face.

[Next Post in the Series: Another Way]




One response

23 07 2012
Overlapping Pattern and Archetype in Jung | Archetypal Garage

[…] work make demands on him which he accedes to and resists in unequal measure. Read entire post at: [Religious Types 17] Overlapping Pattern and Archetype in Jung « The Light House. < Prev Next […]

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