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Reply To: The Beautiful, Hidden Harmony of Chaos,” with futurist Kristina Dryža”


A warm welcome to the Forums Kristina.

What a wonderful discussion this is you and Stephen are exploring and I would like to introduce another possible form of “chaos” which to me would represent an emotional “crisis” of one sort or another and to bring in the Jungian idea or concept of the: “Transcendent Function”; which I will leave a couple of descriptions below taken from Daryl Sharp’s Jungian Lexicon. But before doing that I want to briefly touch base on a couple of things that might help to clarify what I think is the connecting factor which would unite both your and Jung’s concepts relating to what not only Stephen alluded to; but also your idea of “harmonizing”.


“Returning the topic of chaos as precursor to creativity, my sense is that chaos, in the alchemical sense, suggests formlessness – everything swirling about, which can be especially disconcerting in terms of one’s personal circumstances – while creativity, in a sense, gives form to that formlessness

. . . or, at least, to a portion of that formlessness.”


“What I’m hearing in your response is how important it is to ground our mercurial function. To give it form, a vessel of containment. But paradoxically, the more we are an empty vessel, the more we can create a holding space for our own discoveries.

It begs us to ask, ‘Where is the sacred thread of ritual in my life? Where’s the emotional alchemy?’ Because venturing into the unknown can come at such an extortionate cost, we must know where the vessel is, which can contain the shattering.

It’s our duty to create this alchemical vessel – the temenos – the sacred container for our experiences.”


So I’m going to start with the idea of a “personal crisis” in which the individual flow of psychic energy has become “blocked” if you will; or put another way a situation or circumstance that the individual cannot consciously “resolve” that has created some sort of emotional chaotic turmoil which is causing a state of depression or extreme anxiety; and the psyche is at work attempting to unravel or sort out it’s meaning or resolution. So looking at the resolution of internal conflict as in say (depression) as described below one can see the connection with the (transcendent function) which I will leave a separate description afterward.


A psychological state characterized by lack of energy. (See also abaissement du niveau mental, final, libido, night sea journey and regression.) Energy not available to consciousness does not simply vanish. It regresses and stirs up unconscious contents (fantasies, memories, wishes, etc.) that for the sake of psychological health need to be brought to light and examined.

Depression should therefore be regarded as an unconscious compensation whose content must be made conscious if it is to be fully effective. This can only be done by consciously regressing along with the depressive tendency and integrating the memories so activated into the conscious mind-which was what the depression was aiming at in the first place.[“The Sacrifice,” CW 5, par. 625.]

Depression is not necessarily pathological. It often foreshadows a renewal of the personality or a burst of creative activity. There are moments in human life when a new page is turned. New interests and tendencies appear which have hitherto received no attention, or there is a sudden change of personality (a so-called mutation of character). During the incubation period of such a change we can often observe a loss of conscious energy: the new development has drawn off the energy it needs from consciousness. This lowering of energy can be seen most clearly before the onset of certain psychoses and also in the empty stillness which precedes creative work.[“The Psychology of the Transference,” CW 16, par. 373.]


Transcendent function:
A psychic function that arises from the tension between consciousness and the unconscious and supports their union. (See also opposites and tertium non datur.) When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego’s absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive. Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.[Ibid., par. 824.]

The tendencies of the conscious and the unconscious are the two factors that together make up the transcendent function. It is called “transcendent” because it makes the transition from one attitude to another organically possible.[The Transcendent Function,” CW 8, par. 145.]

In a conflict situation, or a state of depression for which there is no apparent reason, the development of the transcendent function depends on becoming aware of unconscious material. This is most readily available in dreams, but because they are so difficult to understand Jung considered the method of active imagination-giving “form” to dreams, fantasies, etc.–to be more useful. Once the unconscious content has been given form and the meaning of the formulation is understood, the question arises as to how the ego will relate to this position, and how the ego and the unconscious are to come to terms. This is the second and more important stage of the procedure, the bringing together of opposites for the production of a third: the transcendent function. At this stage it is no longer the unconscious that takes the lead, but the ego.[Ibid., par. 181.]

This process requires an ego that can maintain its standpoint in face of the counterposition of the unconscious. Both are of equal value. The confrontation between the two generates a tension charged with energy and creates a living, third essence. From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. If, for instance, we conceive the opposition to be sensuality versus spirituality, then the mediatory content born out of the unconscious provides a welcome means of expression for the spiritual thesis, because of its rich spiritual associations, and also for the sensual antithesis, because of its sensuous imagery. The ego, however, torn between thesis and antithesis, finds in the middle ground its own counterpart, its sole and unique means of expression, and it eagerly seizes on this in order to be delivered from its division.[“Definitions,” CW 6, par. 825.]

The transcendent function is essentially an aspect of the self-regulation of the psyche. It typically manifests symbolically and is experienced as a new attitude toward oneself and life. If the mediatory product remains intact, it forms the raw material for a process not of dissolution but of construction, in which thesis and antithesis both play their part. In this way it becomes a new content that governs the whole attitude, putting an end to the division and forcing the energy of the opposites into a common channel. The standstill is overcome and life can flow on with renewed power towards new goals.[Ibid., par. 827.]

So now we come to uniting these ideas with what both you and Stephen were discussing concerning what I would interpret as the chaotic/conflict/ resolution process of the the psyche’s ability to “harmonize” or create a symbolic image or connecting idea or thought that either “relativizes” or resolves the conflict or blockage that is causing the problem so the flow of psychic energy; (i.e. libido); can move forward and resume it’s normal function.

Here is what I would interpret as a Jungian/Campbell expression of this concept that one would utilize within the individuation process of alchemy or vessel say like in a temenos situation or within one’s personal dream-state of internal conscious/unconscious transformation.

My apologies if my description is a bit clumsy; and I realize this may not be exactly what you were alluding to earlier; but it struck me as relative to some of the general ideas you might be addressing and was curious as to your thoughts or impressions.

Again; a warm welcome here and thanks for your very insightful ideas.