This week, through wikipedia fact-finding and other ways, I have found out two things. Firstly, the modern British movement of Drudism as a religious form of practice, is an anachronism of poor historical merit. What it communicates more is some cultic form of sentimentality with an ancient Britain, than a commitment to an historic British set of rites. It is as far detached from historicity as Greco-Roman wrestling is to the Grecians and the Romans (my second thing). I found out that Greco-Roman wrestling is a late 19thC invention with rules which alluded to the ancient practice of wrestling, but its codification is hardly Grecian or Roman, but more Napoleonic. What does this tell us? I think it tells us that a sense of commitment can be more important than an actual commitment to historicity; a symbolic adequation with an ideal means more than its actual adequation with the object, as Aristotle conceptualised knowledge to be. We do not ‘know’ that Greco-Roman wrestling is actually in fact, Hellenic/Roman, nor do we know that Druidic rites and practices are actually from an era of English prehistory. But it doesn’t matter, a mythology is created all the same.
Lately I’ve been reading Jung’s ‘Man and his Symbols’, which I understand is only actually partially written by him, and ‘approved’ sections are written by his disciples. Jung walks through what we might call the fundamental irrationality or non-rationality of the human condition. The symbolic nature of dreams, the role of archetypes and embodied psyches within our mind.
For the past few years, I’ve kept a private log of experiences, memories and other things. One of the things I try to do is write my dreams down as soon as I wake up. I realise the importance of writing dreams immediately, as after a while the memory of them soon fades, also it makes less sense, not to say dreams make any kind of sense in the first place. Jung points out that at wake, our recollection of dreams are already a form of interpretation. I often find that I have to put some chronological narrative to make my dreams explainable, and sometimes I have to impose more details than I remember just to give a sense of license and comprehension about a dream. This is hermeneutics already in process.
I find Jung’s approach to the mind interesting because of the deeply internal and subjective nature of dreams, archetypes and psyches. Jung points out a different view to Freud, the latter of which was keen to impose his own interpretations on Jung’s dream analysis sessions, but Jung admits that in his own analysis sessions with patients, he allows them to find a form of interpretation of dreams. Often one aspect about the dream state is that symbols, items and people have a meaning that is only accessible to the agent. There are things so personal to you that have meanings, even if the meaning is not apparent it is only up to the agent who has the conceptual vocabulary and the resource of her own memories to make sense of them.
In this way dreams seem like a private language, which, if I understood my Wittgenstein in any way (and I don’t), the presence of such conceptual terms that cannot be shared is impossible at worst, or meaningless at best. Are dreams an example of a vocabulary that is so personal only the agent can understand it? The presence of an unconscious is a puzzle for any given person, but the analysts would presumably think it is in principle comprehensible.
There were two other aspects that came to mind when I was reading Jung. One is the misunderstanding in his view of what people understood to be the archetypes. Jung does not want to say that there are universal structures and symbols in the mind that are present in all agents, as a metaphysical thesis. However if certain symbols are powerful enough to find presence in many minds (such as religious notions or personalities). What Jung took to be the archetype is the faculty that people have of approaching universal ideals in their own mind. This is the kind of difference that is present in Kant’s thesis of systematicity (or the constitutive a priori). To use Kantian terminology, the Jungian archetype is not constitutive of archetypes and the specific content of them, but is the regulative ideal, the principle of discrimination wherein specific archetypes lay. The presence of the same archetypes in people may be explained through another means than saying that the archetypes of something are a universal construct.
And finally, perhaps the most odd thing I thought was interesting was when Jung talks of an unconscious personality in men, of a feminine aspect. There seems to be some kind of revelation with unconscious psyches that are revealed in dreams or other ways. Personalities which have a presence in one’s mind, maybe as a replication of somebody else, or reflecting some significance to the agent. The unconscious personalities seemed an interesting notion to me, as when I practice piano I think of my old piano teacher still giving me instructions (and me ignoring them). Despite all the disagreements we had, I have internalised his teacher personality in my mind when I play. I suppose the same goes for the friend of mine who coaches me at Badminton: I’m always trying to think of the best shot and the best technique, thinking of drills and what I need to improve on.
Maybe its patronising to think of an unconscious female psyche imbued in my male mindset. Or maybe acknowledging it is some sense of agendered completeness. In the same way as I imagine my piano teacher’s advice and ignore it when I practice, the unconscious presence of gendered psyches may provide a source of gendered sympathy. To be honest I’m not really sure what to make of Jung. Due to the overwhelming nature of his subjective conceptions it seems hard to me that the material presented in Man and his Symbols be taken as serious psychology, however, as a form of understanding one’s own thoughts and the confabulations we make up in our everyday thinking, maybe it’s an interesting toolbox.