I keep being assailed by the delight and depth of our conversation—truly worthy of the name of our forum! I only regret not being able to answer all the salient points that have been provoked by my little piece. But I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Stephen’s wonderful condensation of what was brought up by the term “archetypal psyche” and “collective unconscious”—the latter in particular, as Stephen mentioned, being rather out of touch with our present reality. Of course, to put it even stronger, one can say that this critique extends to the whole of Jungian psychology, which strikes most readers outside its sacred circle as right down reactionary or ideologically backwards.
Although I don’t want to open a can of worms or get off topic, we can point to the existence of Jordan Peterson as a prime example of where you might end up if you were to swallow Jungianism whole, that is, without putting Jung himself in the alchemical fires of critical transformation: a staunch defender of Capitalism’s status quo and its grotesque hierarchies of power. I don’t want to develop this line too much further but only to answer aloberhoulser’s plea to anchor this piece to the historic NOW present—our current hierarchies, with their grotesque inequality and double standards, very much resemble the hierarchies of the ancient Indian caste system. THAT is the background of my essay in terms of its relevance TODAY. Of course, the lowest of the low today are unmistakably immigrants, especially brown-skinned immigrants, not just here in the USA, but also all over the world. Poor immigrants today have effectively become our very own “untouchables,” whereas the shudra are easily homologous to the African American community and the BLM movement, which Malcom X would have characterized as he did the Civil Rights movement: a kind of “slave revolt.” James Baldwin was fond of this redefinition of a protest movement by a group of the population not considered true citizens.
There is no doubt to anybody with a clear sense of history that there is nothing “natural” or “biological” about the existence of such hierarchies, including our own, but that at each moment in history there have been powerful mythologies that have sanctified them to make us believe that they are “divinely ordained,” or ordained by “Nature” as apologists of the status quo would have us believe today—since Science plays the role of the “divinely ordained” for most modern people.
This brings me back to Stephen’s wonderful paraphrase which I think is worth repeating:
“If I understand correctly, you are saying that a living mythology isn’t something one believes in, like choosing a religion today, but is experienced simply as “what is” – part of the warp and woof of a culture – what a member of that culture knows to be true, perhaps akin to the way we experience gravity or know the world to be round.”
This is exactly the way people have experienced the workings of the global capitalist system up to now. And of course, this mythology, which largely constitutes our true mythology, has held on for many decades, even centuries, at the price of untold violence and bloodshed—forms of violence which are now resurfacing within the continental USA as if they were familiar strangers.
Nevertheless, today we are experiencing a tectonic shift in the collective psyche that is truly unprecedented. Such moments of “crisis,” when the system itself is made to feel, to realize once again, its own brittle ideological foundations—the fact that the divinely ordained itself is ordained by the human, all too human “nature”—we are at the same time witnessing the sign of a new mythology struggling to be born in freedom. Perceptible only when we dare to delve in the contradictions of what is, unafraid to sift through the rot of the system and to take a stand against it, can we speak of true mythology in the making. This is what gives me hope and keeps me going in the face of so much despair and suffering and literal bloodshed.
It is important to underscore the fact that this sense of hope cannot stem from “what is” in the self-consciousness of our present age, that mode of apologetics that would have us “naturalize” the fatal contradictions of our global system, even as it tramples on the lives of the majority of the world population—a fact, once again, in spectacular display with this pandemic in the USA.
The hope I’m speaking of is rather like a message in a bottle which has been sent from the future of what could be, from what is not-yet here: a new Rising Dawn illuminating a future form of collective consciousness.
It is just as Marx put it in a wonderfully psychological way (a quote that has been ringing in my ears for the last few days):
“Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production.” (Preface of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy)
This may seem like an obvious insight but it is quite true that what a person thinks of himself or herself—our own “personal mythology,” or, as Stephen pointed out, the many idiosyncratic religions we might choose in a whim—that these “myths” are mostly false narratives we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel good, and to justify our actions—or to cover up what we truly believe in. (Imagine trying to understand the Trump phenomenon based on what Trump thinks of himself!)
Our actions speak louder than our words, indeed, for these actions often speak of a set of ideas that are quite different from what we “officially” believe. On the other hand, our true beliefs, the level of true mythology, is often far from our lips and their faithful service to our ego consciousness. And as Marx points out, the same is true for the entire collective and its prevailing mythologies.