Saturday, December 29, 2012


I have just started reading Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche by Marie-Louise von Franz.  It is intended to be an application of C.G. Jung's theories, ideas and observations of the collective unconscious and how this impacts cultural movements (zeitgeist).  I can't lie my interest is definitely piqued.

To some extent I have always felt that it isn't really WHAT we believe in, but rather that we believe in SOMETHING.  This can be belief in religion, spirit, culture, tradition or science, what ever gives you purpose.  The author seems to support this idea, pointing out that history has demonstrated over and over that when a culture loses their belief or religion, the collapse of the culture or society is soon to follow.  As I see it this rise and fall of beliefs is a reflection of social evolution.  Von Franz points out that with out belief man becomes uncertain, confused and without direction.   Without religion man is unable to find meaning in life, without purpose he lacks initiative and the naivety to create and evolve, thus resulting in the collapse of social structure.

On a personal level I definitely been struggling with purpose.  I don't believe in any particular religion, and I don't dismiss the concept of a God or "higher" entity, though I would not say I believe in a deity that reigns over good and evil.  As for science, I like to think I am someone with grounded rational explanations for events, process, nature and creation.  Though to some level I can't help but believe that science is just another religion.   Theories and ideas tacked onto things to give them meaning, too remove the ambiguity.       So where does this leave me?  I'll tell you, it leaves me feeling unattached, meaningless and insignificant.  It's what started me on the journey towards connection to self and understanding of the world around me... and to this book.  

"As a women who has children is loved because she keeps the chain of her clan unbroken, so will you who tirelessly listen to us (as we recount our myths), be loved by the gods and honored by the human beings, because you keep the creation stories intact and everything that we make known" - the Gods to Kaiklo (mythology of Zuni Indian People).  
Jung suggests that as a society we carry belief, culture and the history of our ancestors in our unconscious.  This "instinct" is something we are born with.  When we lose touch with these "primal ideas" we become more agitated, tend to act for more impulsively and we are receptive to suggestibility, such as fashion trends, marketing, and lifestyle choices.   When analysed, those having little to no connection with their ancestry, appear to have large gaps in their subconscious.  These disconnected psyches often lose connection with their creative, passionate sides and experience a general loss in purpose.

On the other hand it seems that too much connection to the past can also have a negative effect on the individual as well as the masses.   Von Franz, uses Italy as a prime example.   The weight of the culture and ritual create a stagnancy and a slowing of evolution of lifestyle.

Now this brings up another idea that a friend recently posted on, Memetics, a theory developed in the mid 70's by Richard Dawkins.    Dawkins published The Selfish Gene in 1976 where he coined the term Meme, a unit of culture or information.   Dawkins argues that informational units are independent traits that are passed on from generation to generation, almost in the way of a gene or even a virus.  Dawkins theory included the concept of information being highly adaptive and competes for space in our brains and for the opportunity to be recalled and spread to other hosts.  Certainly with the development of the internet, information has found a new and rapid source of communication. \An idea, an image, a video can go viral (an apt term) overnight, reaching millions of hosts, making memetics a more relevant study than ever before and certainly mingles well with my current fascination in C.G. Jung's theories on belief.

And on that note, I'm off to delve deeper into my own self reflections, perhaps I shall find some enlightenment this evening.

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