Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Existential Crisis

As we have seen in Western culture, psychological development tends to significantly plateau with the specialised development of the 2nd band (middle) on the overall spectrum.

Unfortunately the very nature of this band is to define reality in an unambiguous discrete manner.

In dynamic terms, human development necessarily entails the interaction (to a degree) of all bands on the spectrum.

In earliest development these bands (and their corresponding levels) interact in a greatly confused manner (as neither proper differentiation nor integration has yet taken place).

So the first task is to gradually differentiate consciousness (from the confused interference of the unconscious) and this reaches its specialised development through the unfolding of the various levels of the middle band.

However though this does indeed represent a considerable achievement, it equally constitutes a major potential problem with respect to further progress on the spectrum.    

Thus the very nature of conscious specialisation is that that it tends to cut off access to the unconscious. Now whereas it is indeed initially desirable to reduce the interference of the undeveloped unconscious, unfortunately with conscious specialisation, access to the unconscious become more restricted and blocked.

Now the unconscious will try and combat this through projections emitted into experience. However these will then invariably be misinterpreted and reduced in a merely conscious manner.

Therefore, though the instinctive unconscious can remain highly active throughout adult life, it is comparatively rare for mature development to take place with respect to its use.

So we have the persistent anomaly in Western societies, where scientific and technological progress seemingly enables us to exercise ever greater control over the environment.
However in many ways these societies are in danger of becoming increasingly fragmented due to the loss of an overall holistic meaning (that emanates from the unconscious).
Also, because the unconscious is so misunderstood, people can easily fall victims to its vaguely understood promptings for meaning and becoming enslaved in various addictions e.g. power, money, sex, drugs etc.   

In many ways Science (with its firm roots in Mathematics) has now become the new world religion.
However the paradigm on which its is based is entirely confined to the (linear) rational understanding of the 2nd level. This limited understanding is then imposed on all other levels so that they can conform to this reduced thinking.

However we have got it very wrong, and the sooner we begin to realise how limited in fact is our vision of Science - and especially of Mathematics - we can then start to rescue our civilisation by steering it on to a more sustainable course.

For it has to be said that present understanding of Mathematics and Science is hugely unbalanced (and therefore lacking any true capacity for the integrated development of our world).

Let me once again briefly highlight the reduced nature of present scientific understanding.

Basically this envisages an external world that can be successfully analysed in a merely conscious manner.

However in truth, there is equally a holistic as well as analytic aspect to proper understanding of the physical world.

Likewise in terms of psychological interpretation, there is equally an unconscious - as well as conscious - dimension to understanding of this reality.

So clearly a more comprehensive scientific approach requires the marriage of both conscious and unconscious (in terms of interpretation) in understanding the world in both an analytic (differentiated) and holistic (integrated) manner.

However before this more comprehensive scientific worldview can be developed, significant development needs to take place with respect to the other bands on the overall spectrum (i.e. 3 – 7).

Traditionally these higher bands have been associated with the authentic mystical aspect of religious experience in advanced development of a spiritual contemplative kind.

Indeed in the respective traditions numerous accounts have been given of the varied stages of such development (with detailed accounts of the spiritual states that emerge).
The problem is however those such accounts are invariably couched in the religious symbols of the respective traditions from which they emerge. So a considerable translation problem can exist in attempting to successfully represent these insights outside their espective traditions.

What has yet been scarcely realised is that associated with such development are characteristic affective and cognitive structures (with a universal validity).

These structures can indeed be conveyed in a scientific manner. However it requires a holistic - rather than analytic - perspective based on the cognitive structures that unfold with such higher development.

So I intend to go into all of this in some detail in forthcoming blog entries (as I believe it is an extremely important area that remains all but neglected at the present time).

I have always freely admitted that my own ideas are based very much on personal experience.

Now many will immediately recoil at this. However without actually experiencing first hand, one cannot speak with any true authority.

We have plenty of derivative second hand accounts leading ultimately to a merely conventional view of everything!

Therefore I intend to speak directly from my own experience (and accept all the limitations associated with that position.)  
In any case this experience has been intimately related to the very task here of portraying the more comprehensive nature of science! 

In the traditional accounts the first step towards these higher spiritual bands (starting with the 3rd band) usually entails a degree of ascetic practice.

The true spiritual contemplative aspirant is likely to be especially sensitive to unconscious notions of meaning (from an early age).

One may notice therefore that all pleasure tends to be associated with an aftermath of disillusionment. So one gradually learns to appreciate that true meaning cannot be associated with specific phenomena.

Likewise in reverse one learns that facing up to more difficult situations (though painful at the time) can later be associated with a deeper sense of fulfilment.

So ascetic practices are generally designed to discipline one with respect to over-indulgence in short-term pleasures on the one hand and also undue avoidance of suffering (in dealing with necessary but distasteful activities) on the other.

Now this can also be very common in secular life. For example a professional athlete may be willing to undergo a very strict regime of discipline in pursuit of a worthwhile goal.

However the distinguishing feature in this developmental context is that the motive is directly spiritual.

One therefore does not directly seek some worldly reward but rather accepts that spiritual meaning is best served by such practices.

I had been heavily influenced at one stage of my life by St. John of the Cross and so will refer to him frequently in referring to the spiritual dimensions of “higher” development.

St John would refer to this transition as the active night of senses (and later of spirit). The senses refer to the more superficial concrete experience of phenomena (affective and cognitive). The spirit then refers to more deep rooted conceptual and volitional structures.
Now the use of night in this context entails the unconscious. So ascetic practices entail the active (i.e. conscious) attempt to negate normal attachments (and repulsions) from a spiritual motive. Thus, when successful, this leads away from identification with dualistic phenomena into the holistic nature of the unconscious (which because of its deeper more general nature appears as “darkness” to the conscious mind).

In spiritual terms this would be seen as the gradual erosion of the more superficial light (associated with immediate phenomena) in pursuit of a deeper unconditional spiritual light.

However just like someone entering a cinema finds it initially difficult to adjust to the dark, likewise the initial deepening of unconscious experience can seem very dark to the mind.

This new emergence of unconscious life is typically associated with an existential crisis.

If it happens in early adulthood, one will be at the stage where important decisions need to be taken regarding future career, studies, relationships etc.

However rather than welcoming such a challenge one may already feel deeply disillusioned with the status quo and seek a more authentic source of spiritual meaning (not provided through conventional expectations).

So this very process of feeling so alone and isolated can considerably accelerate entry into the unconscious darkness.

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