The nuclear power of the psyche

In my previous post my friend Brandon asked me a question that I believe merits a more detailed response. Since I didn’t find M.L. von Franz’s essay online, I typed the following excerpts directly from Man and His Symbols (Anchor Press, 1988), an introductory book to Carl Jung’s theories. No ellipsis added between unquoted paragraphs:




The psyche can be compared to a sphere with a bright field (A) on its surface, representing consciousness. The ego is the field’s center (only if “I” know a thing is it conscious). The Self is at once the nucleus and the whole sphere (B); its internal regulating processes produce dreams.

Since this psychic growth cannot be brought about by a conscious effort of will power, but happen involuntarily and naturally, it is in dreams frequently symbolized by the tree, whose slow, powerful, involuntary growth fulfills a definite pattern.

The organizing center from which the regulatory effect stems seems to be a sort of “nuclear atom” in our psychic system. One could also call it the inventor, organizer, and source of dream images. Jung called this center the “Self” and described it as the totality of the whole psyche, in order to distinguish it from the “ego,” which constitutes only a small part of the total psyche.

Throughout the ages men have been intuitively aware of the existence of such an inner center. The Greeks called it man’s inner daimon; in Egypt it was expressed by the concept of the Ba-soul; and the Romans worshiped it as the “genius” native to each individual.

The Self can be defined as an inner guiding factor that is different from the conscious personality and that can be grasped only through the investigation of one’s own dreams. These show it to be the regulating center that brings about a constant extension and maturing of the personality. But this larger, more nearly total aspect of the psyche appears first as merely an inborn personality. It may emerge very slightly, or it may develop relatively complete during one’s lifetime. How far it develops depends on whether or not the ego is willing to listen to the messages of the Self.

The individuation process is more than a coming to terms between the inborn germ of wholeness and the outer acts of fate. Its subjective experience conveys the feeling that some supra-personal force is actively interfering in a creative way. One sometimes feels that the unconscious is leading the way in accordance with a secret design. (pp. 161-162).

This relation of the Self to all surrounding nature and even the cosmos probably comes from the fact that the “nuclear atom” of our psyche is somehow woven into the whole world, both outer and inner. In ways that are still completely beyond our comprehension, our unconscious is similarly attuned to our surroundings—to our group, to society in general, and, beyond these, to the space-time continuum and the whole of nature. Indeed, many of our dreams are concerned with details of our outer life and our surroundings. Such things as the tree in front of the window… (pp. 207-208)
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Chechar’s note:

Exactly the tree of my garden in front of my window in the house I lived as a child gave the title to my 700-page psychological study Whispering Leaves.

Published in: on December 10, 2011 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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