Modern World Sequencial Alignment
Our overall goal is relating symbolism to popular culture and we therefore need to explore the question of the relation between stages of the various sequences. Assuming the commonality of stages in cyclic sequences, are the same stages occurring at the same time everywhere in the world? Or, might different cultures be out of sequential "alignment" in their cycles? Might this be a major factor in the cause of such catastrophic events such as wars?
Obviously, each individual is moving through a personal sequence of stages. But what of the generations these individuals are part of? At any time, there are three generations in a culture. Does this mean that there are three major sequences in effect at one time? Does this mean that the three generations possess a connected sequential relationship? If so, the young generation might be the "child" where the main issue is separation from the "mother" which is the previous generation. The middle generation might be the one where "initiation" or "battle with the dragon" is the key issue. The older generation might be the one involved with Campbell's "return" of the hero, a return to the unity of the original state inside the mother.
The alignment of sequence stages on a world scale is obviously an important question. Is there an overall world sequence which influences aligment of the smaller sequences of nations and even civilizations? Some of the key research in this area has been done by the well-known and influential political scientist Samuel Huntington. His brilliant book The Clash of Civilizations (New York, Touchstone, 1996) is much more than a book on political science. In many respects it is really about the practical application of symbolism to world cultures. Here Huntington sees a change from power structures based around nations, states and various ideologies to one centering on entire civilizations. The era of the domination and cross cultural connection of ideologies he sees evolving into an era of dominant civilizations. The great coming duality of the world is one between the western cultures and eastern cultures and represented by Christian and Moslem religions and beliefs.
Interested readers are urged to read this visionary interdisciplinary perspective on the future of world order and see how the concepts of symbolism find application on this larger scale. There is most certainly a correspondence between symbolism and civilizations and alignment of symbolic sequences. One of the crucial questions that Huntington brings up is evolution of world organization from multi-polar to one based on a symbolic duality.
It is here, in proposing a duality, that Karl Marx may have proven a visionary in The Communist Manifesto (1848). While it is obvious that Marx and Engels were wrong in many ways, they were also right in many ways. Writing in Dissent (Winter 1998), Shlomo Avineri notes that they were wrong when they predicted massive polarization between two great classes within particular cultures. For the most part, this has not taken place in the advanced industrial societies. However, the polarization did take place on a global scale between capitalist and proletarian nations. The class struggle within nations has really become an economic struggle between nations. As Shlomo notes, "If Marx and Engels's analyses are mostly invalid for the advanced nations today, they have been vindicated by the facts of globalization-the sweatshops of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with their child labor, their horrendously unsanitary working and living conditions, and their lack of minimum-wage laws and basic social welfare networks."
Understanding trends in world sequence is obviously important to our smaller focus of understanding the symbolism of American popular culture. We need to return to focus on American popular culture, though, because of the size of the topic and the fact that much new territory is being explored. In this sense, it is more advisable to take something in our own "neighborhood" and examine it before looking outside and beyond. However, in exploring the symbolism of American popular culture trends such as the evolution towards duality on a world scale cannot be ignored and may very well be part of the large cycle controlling the overall destiny of America and mankind.
We return to the question of the alignment of sequences with the perspective that it may depend on the context one is using. Whether the context is the world, a major civilization in the world, a culture or a nation. An argument can be made that sequences in particular cultures are more likely to be aligned than sequences between cultures. For example, it is more likely that Americans might be passing through a separation stage than both America and India would be passing through this stage. In fact, one could construct an argument that alignment of groups of people under a particular cyclic sequence is itself one of the major defining elements of a particular culture. This is not to say that cultures possess sequences which are always in alignment. In fact, social and cultural conflict within culture may be a function of misalignment of sequence. In fact, problems within a particular culture (just as war among nations) may be the result of higher degrees of misalignment of sequences. One can suggest as a general matter the degree of sequential alignment within cultures should be greater than outside the culture.
The Synchronicity of Popular Culture
Whether one buys into the above examples of broad based synchronicity in the past and the present, synchronicity may be one of the true "hidden" keys to understanding symbolism. But like symbolism in general its fate has been to become more of a "metaphysics of the night" than a "science of the day." This is so because synchronicity has found most of its association to individual events of parapsychology and has rarely been considered in the context of culture.
But the concept has tremendous potential within the emerging study of the symbolism of popular culture. In fact, it is perhaps the key concept that others cluster around. Symbols, both contextual ones and contentual ones, may in fact appear based on the concepts of synchronicity rather than causality.
In this scenario, a particular symbol of content appears at the same time as its corresponding symbol of context. Similar to the example we gave of context aligned with content in a film, the setting expressing the inner state of the film hero, there is a symbolic alignment based on the principlies of synchronicity in popular culture. The alignment is a vertical one and contains the following concepts moving from the general to the specific, from unconsciousness to consciousness:
- Contextual Symbol (Nature)
- Contentual Symbol (Culture)
- Personal Psychology
- Collective Psychology
The film director (or creative force behind a film if it is in fact the driector) may consciously match context and content. We maintain that in the great works of art, content and context alignment is more unconscious than conscious. The right context will envelope the story rather than being thought out. The correct context in fact is the real "hidden" sub-text of the story.
In popular culture, a similar type of process of symbolism is at work with the matching of contextual and contentual symbols. Rather than a particular contextual setting, though, as in a film, the context could be the matching of a particular symbolic system (such as genre) with contentual symbols that have a correspondence to this genre.
For instance, assume the overall cycle is at the beginning and dominated by the feminine archetype. The sequence under this archetype might be the problem of separation from the mother. Contextual symbols would be feminine types of times, places, space, qualities and elements such as night, valleys, inside, the color blue, and water and earth. Contentual products in popular culture which would appear at this time might be horror and gothic genre films with a devouring mother or feminine "dragon" in them. Films such as Alien. Books such as the Ann Rice novels.
Linear time is horizontal and manifests within a horizontal structure. Simultaneous time, on the other hand, is vertical and manifests within a vertical structure. Sequence is horizontally linear and synchronicity is vertically non-linear.
The conjunction between linear time and simultaneous time forms the shape of a cross. The true symbolism of the cross is in the shape and not the sign that the shape represents. The cross has been viewed as a sign (the "sign of the cross") but it is really a symbol of the depth and horizontality, of the intersection of linear and non-linear time. In this respect, the simultaneity of depth may be the true meaning of "depth" psychology.
The verticality of simultaneous time connects contextual and contentual symbols moving through sequence. As we have argued, the sequence adheres to archetypal patterns. The true meaning of synchronicity may be that archtypal patterns align vertically at the same moment in time.
The Trance Of Causal Content
The symbol of the cross is the context in which a symbolism of popular culture needs to be built around. The concepts of verticality and horizontality need to be the background without either one dominating. Similar to dualities of symbols, they can be considered as dualities of the the contextuality of time.
But content is a type of trance or "filter" through which the world is seen. Not only in structuring the understanding of the present but of formulating the past but of visualizing the future. The trance is not only on contentual symbols, the increasing "thingness" of the post-modern world, but of the causal connections between things. The paradigm of history is structured on causality and understood in blocks of time. It may offer a unique and new perspective to look at history from the perspective of simultaneous events rather than linear events.
In the same way that a new perspective might be gained on overall history, a new view might be gained on popular culture and the simultaneous appearance of particular contentual symbols (or products) within it. Looking at history and culture from a "vertical" rather than
"horizontal" perspective may show startlinbg new relationships and clusters of events and objects that were previously "hidden" from view.
Synchronicity And Sequence
Childhood is truly a magic time when context has yet to differentiate from content. The internal world is the external world and internal events magically are played out by external events.
It may be relevant that Jung's first experiences of synchronicity were when he was a child during this magic time of life. His "magical" experiences of synchronicity may have therefore been experiences relating to a period of development rather than a particular personality. Granted that the particular personality was perhaps more open to the magic of the time than most but might all young children experience more of a synchronistic than causal world? Might synchronicity or acausal time in fact represent the first conception of time for mankind?
In this interesting idea, synchronicity (acausality) be part of a symbolic sequence which is related to both personal and historical development. Similar to Erich Neumann's argument in The Origins and History of Consciousness, there may also exist an archetype of time that moves from simultaneity to causality. If this is in fact the case, the two concepts have symbolic correspondence to unconsciousness (simultaneity and synchronicity) and consciousness (causality and linear). Just as historical and psychological development evidence a general movement from unconsciousness to consciousness, the understanding of time may demonstrate a movement from acausality to causality.
In The New God Image (Chiron, 1996) Edward Edinger suggests that the psyche goes through six stages (sequences) on the way to individuation. The stages he suggests are:
- Hierarchical Polytheism
- Tribal Monotheism
- Universal Monotheism
As Edinger notes, in the initial animism stage, the autonomous objective psyche is experienced in a diffuse way. "The primitive psyche experiences autonomous spirits everywhere: in animals, in trees, in places, in rivers. The whole surrounding environment is animated ... with what we moderns would call a projection of the autonomous objective psyche...an elemental psychology is immersed in the environment and surroundings, and therefore it experiences that immersion as an animistic activation of its surroundings."
Synchronicity may be the dominant conception of time during the animistic period of history. This period may correspond to a particular stage of psychological development. As evolution moves away from this stage, it may move toward a linear and causal conception of time.
The possibility exists that synchronicity is far more than a paranormal or abnormal experience confined to particular moments and particular types of people. Rather it may be a symbol for an entire period in human development. The brief encounters adults have with it not messages from a strange world beyond but rather glimpses from a common past world. It is a past world of nature that the development of adulthood and culture has forced us to forget and put behind us so consciousness can grow from unconsciousness. So that we might leave the world of nature and enter the world of culture.