The Pandaemonium of ImagesJung's Contribution to Know Thyself
"It is not possible to speak rightly about the Gods without the Gods." -Iamblicbus
1. Jung's Daimones
When we inquire into Jung’s contribution to our culture, one virtue appears to me to stand out. Jung gave a distinct response to our culture's most persistent psychological need-from Oedipus to Socrates through Hamlet and Faust:-Know Thyself. Not only did Jung take this maxim as the leitmotif of his own life, but he gave us a method by which we may each respond to this fundamental question of self-knowledge. It is to this how, the art or method of proceeding with oneself, which is as well the grounding impetus within all psychology, that we can especially learn from Jung. So, the angle 1 wish to develop here is Jung’s psychological method as his most valuable gift to us.
You may remember how this began: it is told by Aniela Jaffe in Jung’s autobiography. Jung was deluged by "an incessant stream of fantasies," a multitude of psychic contents and images." In order to cope with the storms of emotion, he wrote down his fantasies and let the storms transpose themselves into images.
You remember also when this took place: it happened shortly after the break with Freud-so much so that Stanley Leavy has suggested that the Salome in the vision which 1 shall soon come to is none other than a disguised Lou Andreas-Salomé, and the Elijah none other than Freud. At this moment in his life Jung was spiritually alone. But in this isolation he turned neither to a new group, nor to organized religion, nor to refuge in psychosis, nor to security in conventional activities, work, or family: he turned to his images. When there was nothing else to hold to, Jung turned to the personified images of interior vision. He entered into an interior drama, took himself into an imaginative fiction and then, perhaps, began his healing-even if it has been called his breakdown. There, he found a place to go that was no longer Vienna, figures to communicate with who were no longer the psychoanalytic circle of colleagues, and a counsellor who was no longer Freud. This encounter with these personal figures became the first personifications of his mature fate -which is also how Jung speaks of the personifications we meet when we interiorize to Know Thyself. It was in this time, during which the dove-maiden spoke to him in a crucial dream, that Jung found his vocation, his psychological faith, and a sense of personality. It is from this point onward that Jung becomes that extraordinary pioneering advocate of the reality of the psyche.
We have looked at how and wben, now the what and wbo. What was the content of the first visions and whom did Jung meet? The autobiography says:
In order to seize hold of the fantasies, 1 frequently imagined a
steep descent. 1 even made several attempts to get to the very bottom … It
was like a voyage to the moon, or a descent into empty space ....
1 had the feeling that 1 was in the land of the dead.. . the other
world.... 1 caught sight of two figures, an old man with a white beard
and a beautiful young girl. I summoned up my courage and approached
them as though they were real people, and listened attentively to
what they told me.'
I cite this passage in detail because it is the key to the method, we can take it as an instructor's manual.
The figures whom Jung encountered were Elijah, Salome, and a black
serpent. Soon Elijah transformed into Philemon, of whom Jung says:
Philemon was a pagan and brought with him an Egypto- Hellenistic atmosphere with a Gnostic coloration.... Philemon and other figures of my fantasies brought home to me the crucial insight that there are things in the psyche which 1 do not produce, but which produce themselves and have their own life.
The cosmos brought by Elijah, Salome, the black serpent, and Philemon -this "Egypto- Hellenistic atmosphere with a Gnostic coloration"-was the very one that could sustain the act which Jung was performing I can hardlystress this enough: the figures whom Jung first met and who convinced him of the reality of their psychic being by extending to him personal relations with the powers of the psyche, these figures derive from the Hellenistic world and its belief in daimons. (Daimon is the original Creek spelling for these figures who later became demons because of the Christian view and daemons in positive contradistinction to that view.
Jung's descent to the land of the dead" presented him with his spiritual ancestors, who, through Jung, ushered in a new daimonology and angelogy.
Know Thyself in Jung's manner means to become familiar with, to open oneself to and listen to, that is, to know and discern, daimons. Entering one's interior story takes a courage similar to starting a novel. We have to engage with persons whose autonomy may radically alter, even dominate, our thoughts and feelings, neither ordering these persons about nor yielding to them full sway. Fictional and factual, they and we, are drawn together like threads into a mytbos, a plot, until death do us part. It is a rare courage that submits to this middle region of psychic real" where the supposed surety of fact and illusion of fiction exchange their clothes.
Just to remind us what a radical, shattering move-theological, epistemological, ontological –Jung’s personifying was, let me merely pronounce the usual judgement upon -daimons that is part, of our Western religious psychology. Whether Eastern Church or Roman, whether Old Testament or New, whether Protestant or Catholic-daimons are no good things. They are part of the world of Satan, of Chaos, of Temptation. They have been written against by major Christian theologians down through the centuries, associated with the cult of serpent worship in the midst of Christian Europe, and they are, according to the authority of Matthew’s Gospel the source of possession, sickness, and magic.
Who indeed are these figures that they should be so menacing? If we look into the world before and parallel with the rise of Christianity-first to Homer, then to Plato and the dramatists, then to Plutarch, Plotinus, lamblichus, and then to the Renaissance-the daimones' were figures of the middle realm, neither quite transcendent Gods nor quite physical humans, and there were many sorts of them, beneficial, terrifying, message bringers, mediators, voices of guidance and caution (as Socrates' Daimon and as Diotima). Even Eros was a daimon.
But the dogmatic crystallization of our religious culture demonized the daimons. As a fundamental component of polytheistic paganism, they had to be negated and denied by Christian theology which projected its repression upon the daimons, calling them the forces of denial and negation. Thus Jung’s move which turned directly to the images and figures of the middle realm was a heretical, demonic move. His move into the imagination, which had been forced upon him by his fantasies and emotions, had already been prejudged in our religious language as demonic and in our clinical language as multiple personality or as schizophrenia. Yet, this radical activation of imagination was Jung’s method of Know Thyself.
Briefly, let us look at the question of introspection in order to recognize just why Jung's approach to Know Thyself is radical, not only philosophically and theologically, but also to see it as a new, important step in psychology.
When you or I attempt to know ourselves, what are the ways we might proceed? We can ask others. We can take tests: projective ones of our inner fantasies (Rorschach), inventory ones of our psychological contents, comparative ones, like intelligence tests, that rate our faculties and skills in relation with standards drawn from other persons. We can remember we can associate backward and downward into the forgotten and repressed. We can look at our deeds, and to what we have made of what we have been through -biography. ' We can free our true selves 'from our daily selves by altering our state of consciousness, whether in the manners suggested by Plato in his four kinds of mania, or in modem methods of release therapies. We can love: for, as some hold, only in loving is our self made visible and knowable. (This last implies that you cannot fully or ever Know Thyself, but only reveal thyself, we can be known, but not know.)
This diversity of answers betrays a premise of archetypal psychology, that is, there are a multiplicity of answers to all major, archetypal, sorts of questions, depending upon the God and the mytheme which informs our answer, whether detached and Apollonic, abstracted and Satumian, a God of love or Dionysian release, of Heroic deeds or Hephaestian artifacts. There seems no single way of knowing thyself, even if psychology has favoured the method of introspection.
Introspection is intimately tied with the history of psychology. Perhaps modem psychology arose out of the introspective tendency and is an objectification and systematization of the attempt at a detached observation of consciousness. We can find roots of introspection already in Plato: in the Meno, for instance, and of course in the behavior of Socrates. We find introspection as the method in Augustine's Confessions. And we find introspection to be at the base of modem philosophical psychology from Descartes 'inspectio, to Locke and Hume, and to Husserl. Here I am leaving quite to one side religious introspection in spiritual disciplines, pietism, examination of conscience, and the like.
Modern introspection as a method begins with Kart Philipp Moritz (1756-93) who moved the pietistic method of self-observation into an Enlightened science. The method culminates in the work of Oswald Kulpe and the Wfirzburg School. To know thyself, to know the soul, one observes its associations, the way it wills and it remembers, its manners of perceiving, sensing, tasting, feeling, and especially the ways of its cogitation, its pure, imageless thinking modes.
Now the great bankruptcy of this method-and it was bankrupt else it would not have yielded sway so easily to behaviourism on the one band and to psychoanalysis on the other-is that introspection remains closed into the rational soul. It is ultimately solipsistic. We never get out of our private feelings, thinkings, willings, rememberings. It remains primarily an investigation of the tonalities of ego-consciousness. And where it reappears today, whether in Merleau-Ponty, in Eugene Gendlin, " or in Roger Poole, " introspection remains an inspectio of the Cartesian ego. Or, in the mythological terms of an archetypal psychology, this method is an ego enactment of Apollo-Helios.
So what of the depths? Can we inspect them from above and in sunlight? So, it cannot help but be a sunlit detaching observation even when it tries most to focus upon gut-feelings. Hence the feelings that emerge appear in conceptual language, words like anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, hostility -abstractions shorn of imagery. The actual idiopathic body is smoothed and formulated into nomothetic words representing that body. This subtle substitution of actual feelings by conceptualized feelings dried-out in ApolIonian sunlight results from the Cartesian process of introspection. Or must we not, like Jung, descend into them? When you or I struggle with a crucial confusion, is it possible to introspect to the root of the problem? Can one introspect the bottom of despair or the source of anxiety? Turning inward, we draw a blank.
Writers know they cannot introspect their characters. Their scenes come of themselves and their figures speak, walk in and out. With few people is a writer more intimate than with his characters and yet they continue to surprise him with their autonomy. Besides, they are not concerned with 'me' but with the world they inhabit and which refers to me, the introspector, only obliquely. The act of turning to imagination is not an act of introspection: it is a negative capability, a willful suspension of disbelief in them and of belief in oneself as their author. The relativization of the author-who is making up whom, who is writing whom-goes along with the fictional mode-in the course of active imagination one wavers between losing control and putting words in their mouths. But Introspection will not solve even this problem, only the act of fictioning further. Introspection simply returns one to the literalism of subjectivity. We have taken the notion of subjectivity so literally that we now believe in an imaginary subject at the beginning of each sentence who does the work, a subject pre-fixing each verb. But the work is done by the verbs themselves, they are fictioning, actively imagining, not I. The action is in the plot, inaccessible to introspection, and only the characters know what's going on. As Philemon taught Jung: you are not the author of the play of the psyche.
Moreover, and more important than the act itself, wbo is doing the introspection? Is it not the same old ‘I’? How can we introspect this introspector? How can we relativize the observer and move deeper than the subject who is trying to know so as to discover a psychic objectivity that is not determined by the 1?
For psychic objectivity, or what Jung calls the objective psyche, we require first of all psychic objects, powers that relentlessly obstruct the ego's path as obstacles, obsessions, obtrusions. And this is precisely how Jung speaks of the complexes as Gods or daimons that cross our subjective will.
Complexes do not respond to worry, to searching parties, to naturalists
with tags and labels. The 'little people" (as Jung called the
complexes) scurry into the bush the moment one's attention is turned
toward them. Likewise, they cannot he found by just letting-go, as
if they would come up the moment we lie down. Relaxed, body-referent
introspection is conceived still in the language of will. (Besides,
an image or body-sensation that is an illustration of what we are
already experiencing in consciousness is merely an allegory; it is
merely the same known content depicted in another medium.) The complexes
in the deep have their own body and their own will, and this is not
bound to the ego's by laws of compensation. Therefore, humanistic
therapies never get below the human in man, nor can they leave his
subjectivity. The entire existentialist procedure of man's choosing
by making up his mind after searching himself or sinking into himself,
is based on an introspection that omits the little people. Their points
of view are given often only when not asked for, as the visitations
or interferences beyond ego-consciousness. Can we summon angels? Do
they obey the principle of compensation?
Perhaps this is why Nietzsche, Dilthey, and Jung are each severely sceptical of the value of usual introspection. Dilthey insisted that introspection would never suffice to grasp human nature, but that history would. Nietzsche wrote: Immecliate self-observation is not enough, by a long way, to enable us to learn how to know ourselves. We need history, for the past continues to flow through us in a hundred channels. If we translate Nietzsche's and Dilthey's 'history' into 'collective unconscious’, we approximate the position of Jung in regard to Know Thyself.
Know Thyself, here, means to know the unconsciousness of history, and particularly how it is at work in the 'l', the 'objective 'introspector itself. As long as this I is the historical ego, unconsciously reflecting the history which formed it and which its continuity would uphold, all that we discover in our introspections will be shaped in our own historical image. I will he forced to believe that the figures whom I encounter are parts of' me,' projections of 'me.' I will rightly assess them as mere phantoms, shadows which I have cast, and I will disdain them.
But thereby I will miss that opening step into Know Thyself which these images of myself-in-them afford-for they are, first of all, my shadows depicting my historical situation. They offer the opportunity of recognizing history's hundred channels (like Junh's Siegfried and his Biblical images) that are actually determining my consciousness.
Of prime importance here is recognizing that these little people do come from the land of the dead. Like Jung's Philemon and Salome, they are legendary personages of history, showing culture at work in the channels of the soul. The land of the dead is the country of ancestors, and the images who walk in on us are our ancestors. If not literally the blood and genes from whom we descend, then they are the historical progenitors, or archetypes, of our particular spirit informing it with ancestral culture.
After this historical recognition-the image as ancestor-there is the experience of the claim that images make upon me. This is the moral moment in imagination. Imaginational morality is essentially not in my judgement as to whether the daimons I behold are good or bad, nor does it lie in the application of imagination (how I put what I discover from images into life's actions). Rather this morality lies in recognizing the images religiously, as powers with claims. Jung puts this ethical question in the same chapter we have been quoting. He says:
"I took great care to try to understand every single image ... and, above all, to realize them in actual life. That is what we usually neglect to do. We allow images to rise up, and maybe we wonder about them, but that is all. We do not take the trouble to... draw ethical conclusions. . . It is equally a grave mistake to think that it is enough to gain some understanding of the images .... Insight into them must he converted into an ethical obligation .... The images ... place a great responsibility upon a man. "
Here Jung attributes the moral moment to the responding ego, whereas I would psychologize the question further, asking why does the moral question arise at all in his mind after the encounter with images? Possibly the moral concern is the result of the encounter itself and so enters Jung’s narrative at this juncture. As these imaginal figures bring a sense of internal fate, so they bring an awareness of internal necessity and its limitations. We feet responsible to them and for them. A mutual caring envelopes the relationship, or, as this situation was put in antiquity, the daimones are also guardian spirits. Our images are our keepers, as we are theirs.
From the outside, the appearance of the daimons seems to offer ethical relativity: a paradise of seductions and escapades. But this fantasy of ethical relativity betrays a consciousness that is not yet inside the imaginal world, that does not Know Thyself from within its images. In other words, the question of ethical relativity which raises its head whenever one speaks of a " pandaemonium of images" and a plurality of Gods is answered by the dedication which the images demand. It is they-not we-who demand meticulous crafting into jewelled idols; they, who call for ritualized devotions, who insist they be consulted before we act. Images are the compelling source of morality and religion as well as the conscientiousness of art. And, as we do not make them up, so we do not make up our response to them, but are 'taught' this response by them as moral instances. It is when we lose the images that we become moralistic, as if the morality contained within the images becomes a dissociated, free-floating guilt, a conscience without face.
When an image is realized-fully, imagined as a living being other than myself-then it becomes a psycbopompos, a guide with a soul having its own inherent limitation and necessity. It is this image and no other, so that the conceptual questions of moral pluralism and relativism fade in front of the actual engagement with the image. The supposed creative pandaemonium of the teeming imagination is limited to its phenomenal appearance in a particular image, that specific one which has come to me pregnant with significance and intention, a necessary angel as it appears here and now and which teaches the hand to represent it, the ear to hear, and the heart how to respond. There is thus revealed through this engagement a morality of the image. Psychological morality which derives from the imaginal is no longer a 'new ethics' of shadow integration by means of that same old Kantian ego and its heroic wrestlings with abstract dualisms. The ego is no longer the place where morality resides, a philosophical position that had wrested morality from the .imagination thereby demonizing it. Instead, it is the daimon who is our preceptor, our spiritus rector.
Here Carl Gustav Jung and Elijah-Philemon reenter. As the autobiography
In my fantasies I held conversations with him [Philemonj, and he said things which I had not consciously thought.... He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but in his view thoughts were like animals in the forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air.... It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche.
This method of active imagination which Jung inaugurated in modern psychology is an answer to the classical question of introspection at such a profound level that it changes the image of human being, of the psyche, and what Know Thyself essentially means. Before Freud, knowing thyself in psychology meant to know one's ego-consciousness and its functions. Then with Freud Know Thyself extended to mean knowing one's past personal life, a whole life recalled. But after Jung, Know Thyself means an archetypal knowing, a daimonic knowing. It means a familiarity with a host of psychic figures from geographical, historical, and cultural contexts, a hundred channels beyond my personal identity. After Jung, I cannot pretend to know myself unless 1 know the archetypes-'The conception of them as daimonia is therefore quite In accord with their nature, says Jung. And I meet these peculiar creatures both as images in the imagination and as the archetypal patterns moving within my consciousness.