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The question of opposites has been a key concern of philosophy through the ages. One of the central contributions of Carl Jung was to show how this philosophical concern was also a psychological concern. While Jung's analytic psychology was a dynamic psychology based around dualities, the concern of opposites came to occupy much of his time toward the end of his life. It was especially important to his research into alchemy and in his last major work Mysterium Coniunctionis which was subtitled "An Inquiry Into The Separation And Synthesis Of Psychic Opposites In Alchemy."
Jung's Mysterium is possibility the most difficult to understand book he ever wrote. Yet its theme is stated accessibly on the opening page as an inquiry into opposites:
"The factors which come together in the coniunctio are conceived as opposites, either confronting one another in enimity or attracting one another in love. To begin with they form a dualism; for instance the opposites are humidum (moist)/siccum (dry), frigidum (cold)/ calidum (warm), superiora (upper, higher)/inferiora (lower), spiritus-anima (spirt-soul)/corpus (body), coelum (heaven)/terra (earth), ignis (fire)/aqua (water), bright/dark, agens (active)/patiens (passive), volatile (volatile, gaseous)/fixum (solid), pretiosum (precious, costly;also carum, dear)/vile (cheap, common), bonum (good)/malum (evil), manifestum (open)/occultum (occult;also celatum, hidden), oriens (East)/occidens (West), vivum (living)/mortuum (dead, inert), masculus (masculine)/foemina (feminine), Sol/Luna."
Although duality is the origination of opposition, Jung notes that the polarity is often arranged in a system of four as a quaternio or quaternity. In this way, Jung observes that the two opposites cross one another such as in the four elements or qualities in moist, dry, cold and warm or the four directions of the four seasons. The quaternio is behind the symbolism of the cross.
The system of opposites consists of thousands of opposites but all are based around the key oppostions Jung mentions at the beginning of Mysterium Coniunctionis. These opposites are in perpetual conflict within nature, culture and the life of the individual. During the conflict one becomes dominant for a period then gives way to the dominance of the other. The movement between dominance forms the basis for the dynamics of cyclic movement, the key movement within the system of symbolism.
Each individual contains these opposites. In this sense, each harbors neurosis to a certain extent as well as an artist at a particular time. Each western psyche contains pieces of the eastern psyche. The psyche becomes a battleground of the waring forces and over dominance into consciousness by one of the opposites always means a repression into the unconsciousness of the other. Just as light is needed for darkness so to is darkness needed for light.
One of the main arguments of this investigation is that duality and opposites have far-ranging significance in all parts of life and are not contained simply within biblical ideas, ancient concepts of philosophers or speculations from a rather esoteric-sounding book by Carl Jung. Rather duality plays itself out around us everyday in culture.
In fact Jung pointed out in a number of places this duality of culture. In Psychological Types (1921) he wrote about this back and forth swing of a culture using the poles of introversion and extraversion as the key dualities:
"No culture is ever really complete, for it swings more towards one side or the other. Sometimes the cultural idea is extraverted, and then the chief value lies with the object and man's relation to it; sometimes it is introverted, and then the chief value lies with the subject and his relation to the idea."
In the former case (extraversion), Jung observed that the culture takes on a collective character while in the latter case (intorversion) an individual character.
Jung's research suggested that introversion and extraversion are the major attitudes or orientations of one towards life. As such, they are not to be confused with Jung's four psychological types of feeling, sensing, intuition and thinking. Attitudes suggest a philosophy while types suggest a personality contained within this philosophy.
Examples of Cultural Duality
One of the main arguments of this investigation is that the attitudes of introversion and extraversion express themselves in the symbols of popular culture such as products. This will be explored at extended length in the following chapters. For now, a few examples are offered.
The first example explores duality in film, a key product of popular culture. The second example explores duality in the psychoanalytic movement, a core theory of modern culture. Neither is meant to be inclusive but rather to merely suggest an approach to seeing duality as expression of symbolism in culture.
The duality system of symbolism is apparent in the symbolic system of film, probably the most popular and powerful symbolic system ever invented. A movie can be viewed symbolically as a duality between a vertical system existing in space and a horizontal system existing in time.
The vertical duality in space is between the context of the film represented by its setting in time and place and the content of the film represented by its characters and their dialogue, actions and objects. The context represents all of the qualitative aspects of the film that make subtle and invisible contributions to its overall mood. A night scene suggest a particular symbolism by itself without any words or actions from the characters. In effect, it underlies psychological states of the characters. In inside scene says something very different from an outside scene.
The horizontal duality in time is between the beginning of the film and the end of the film and is symbolized by the psychological state of the hero at the beginning of the film and his or her state at the end of the film. Context is a symbol for unconsciousness and unity while content is a symbol for segmentation and consciousness. In this sense, the psychic movement of character is either from the context of unconsciousness to content of consciousness or the reverse movement from content of consciousness to context of unconsciousness. From feminine to masculine, introversion to extroversion or the reverse of this.
Drama involves a movement from one state at the beginning to its opposite at the end of the film. The greater opposition provides the foundation for greater drama. For example, the movement from an unconscious state to an unconscious state has less drama than the movement from an unconscious state to a conscious state. Or, the movement from sadness to pity less dramatic dynamics than the movement from sadness to happiness. The more oppositional the beginning and ending states of the hero, the more potential fro drama. Interestingly enough, the image of these two dualities together form a cross whose true symbolism might be the relationship between time and space.
The analogy of symbolism to film has particular relevance if one accepts the possibility that heros aren't simply on the screen in darkened theatres but are all around us in the world off the screen and outside of history and books. It has the greatest relevance when one sees the hero as both culture and ultimately oneself and accepts the possibility that each of our lives is a type of film. Frank McConnell in Storymaking & Mythmaking suggests this possibility saying:
"You are the hero of your own life-story. The kind of story you want to tell yourself about yourself has a lot to do with the kind of person you are, and can become. You can listen to (or read in books or watch in films) stories about other people. But that is only because you know, at some basic level, that you are-or could be-the hero of those stories too."
The action of the film is really the battle between those dualities of content and context, consciousness and unconsciousness, life and death. The hero is the ego consciousness battling these forces. The film is one of the best symbols for the individual life.
2. Duality of the Psychoanalytic Movement
The battle dualities is probably given its most dramatic and visual symbolism within the context of modern film. But the battle between the dualities pervades all parts of culture. One interesting idea is to revision the early years of the psychoanalytic movement as a duality battle between the forces of consciousness and unconsciousness with the two opposites appearing in the symbols of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
To view the psychoanalytic movement in symbolic terms is to see it as an expression of the collective psyche of the times. In this sense, the movement was not so much created by Freud and Jung as it was an outward manifestation of an inner symbolic process. In effect, Freud and Jung became types of mediums for receiving something rather than creators sending something.
Certainly there were a number of fundamental differences between Freud and Jung that suggest a symbolic duality at work during this time. Apart from their specific theories, there was a significant difference in their linguistic style which mirrored major differences in perspective. Jung's was a language of ambiguity; Freud's, a language of precise description. In a 1952 letter to Professor Werblowsky, from Selected Letters of C.G.Jung edited by Gerhard Adler, Jung explained the need for this ambiguity:
"The language I speak must be ambiguous, must have two meanings, in order to do justice to the dual aspect of our psychic nature. I strive consciously and deliberately for ambiguity of expression, because it is superior to unequivocalness and reflects the nature of life. My whole temperament inclines me to be very unequivocal indeed. This is not difficult, but it would be at the cost of truth. I purposely allow all the overtones and undertones to be heard, partly because they are there anyway, and partly because they give a fuller picture of reality. Unequivocalness makes sense only in establishing facts but not in interpreting them; for 'meaning' is not a tautology but always includes more in itself than the concrete object on which it is predicated."
In contrast to Jung's purposeful ambiguity, Freud's style was systematic and technical. Jung was vague but more comprehensive while Freud was specific but less comprehensive. The difference can be related to the difference between content and context. Freud was a contentual thinker while Jung was a contextual thinker.
Jung wrote in a number of places about his many differences with Freud. One of the more revealing is in Modern Man in Search of a Soul published in 1933. Here in the essay "Freud and Jung - Contrasts," Jung characterizes a capstone aspect of Freudian psychology as a need to be taken as a science. Jung notes that this is an impossibility and that we "can't make statements about psyche today which are true and correct...(The) best we can achieve is true expression...which consists of giving form to what is observed." Every psychology, Jung said, "has the character of a subjective confession."
The symbolic duality is very evident in Freud's concept of repression and Jung's concept of expression. In "Freud and Jung - Contrasts," Jung considered Freud's analogy of sexual repression to water piled up behind a great dam. As Jung noted, for Freud, being caught in old resentments against parents causes a "damming-up of life energies." However, for Jung, repression recedes as soon as the way to development is opened. Self-development within the Freudian system seemed to Jung like "paddling about (in a) flooded country." Jung asked what is the use of this?
One of Jung's major works, Psychological Types, explores how opposites manifest in personality traits and temperaments. The major oppositions and attitudes toward life are between those of introversion and extraversion. In a broad sense, one can view Jung and Freud as symbolically representing the conflicts of Jung's introverted personality opposing Freud's extraverted personality. In fact, Jung was involved in showing that the main trends of the psychology of his age regarding the Freudian and Adlerian schools were based on these opposites. For Jung, Adler's system was founded on introverted attitudes and Freud's on extraverted ones. As the Jungian scholar C.A.Meier notes in Soul and Body, " Jung believed, and I think he was correct, that the Freudian and Adlerian points of view actually can be explained on the principle of extraversion and introversion."
And importantly, Jung came to see Freud as a type of symbol for the dying Victorian age. Jung's attempt to place the symbol of Freud in a historical perspective is most evident in the essay "Sigmund Freud In His Historical Setting" from Jung's book The Spirit In Man, Art, and Literature. As Jung notes, "The historical conditions which preceded Freud were such that they made a phenomena like himself necessary." The end of the Victorian age that Freud symbolized was to Jung "an age of repression, of a convulsive attempt to keep anaemic ideals artificially alive in a framewrok of bourgeois respectability by constant moralizings." Jung notes that these were the last collective ideas of the Middle Ages.
The greatest symbolic duality for Jung was finally between consciousness and unconsciousness. It is between these two polarities that the components of analytical psychology find their true duality. "All consciousness separates," Jung said in Civilization in Transition, "but in the dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night." It is within this perspective of consciousness separating from unconsciousness that the split of Jung and Freud needs to be revisited. Once this basic underlying duality becomes a context for viewing the psychoanalytic movement, perhaps the symbolic meaning of psychoanalysis will fully emerge.