The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung // An Antidote to Materialism

As a consequence of reading The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung, I’ve ordered three more of his books and sat here staring at the wall for roughly the amount of time it would take to read the entire book two times over. This is not a book for literary escapism.

This book is not a cure, but the first dose in a treatment for materialism.

What is materialism? Political materialism is believing the country’s infrastructure matters more than its culture. The consumerist variety sells you on collecting more “things” than moments. The materialistic view of science is that nothing exists except matter.

Jung starts with man’s struggle against the society, the State, and religion. He describes the state of the individual as they exist in opposition to the abstractions of the collective. In the modern Western culture, the State takes the highest seat in the dominance hierarchy.

Instead of the concrete individual, you have the names of organizations and, at the highest point, the abstract idea of the State as the principle of political reality…

Carl JungThe Undiscovered Self

The Collective Unconscious Creates The Ideal

If you believe as Jung argues, that the unconscious is more real than the conscious, you don’t want a culture based on consciousness created value system alone. Even if you are an atheist, and you believe that God is a projection of the unconscious values, you want a culture built on those values because they are the concentrated projections of the highest ideal.

The beauty of fictional and mythical stories is that you can and integrate parts of the hero in your own character. This is much more difficult to do with real people, in part because of the polarized value systems in the culture. It’s not obvious who the heroes are.

A Person Should Strive for the Ideal, Not be the Ideal

Is Donald Trump a hero or a villain? The answer is the difference between heaven or hell depending on who you ask. Questions of judgment are a confirmation of individual values, not a creative place (like the darkness of the night sky to project unconscious values) to create them.

Because the world is imperfect, we use myth and drama to create portrayals of the ideal and give us some direction to go in improving it.

The World is Not The Ideal

The story of the hero’s journey calls you to follow your own hero’s journey, to create that path on your own. The story of a good citizen in 2006 was some asshole literally calling you, telling you to “vote or die.” Governments are realities based in the world. They can not offer you more than the world. They can only threaten to take you out of it. Without myth or projections of the ideal through the unconscious, we are left to projecting our virtues on the State. When you elevate a real person to the status of a hero, you take on their flaws and stunt your individual development, because you’re aiming at something imperfect already.

The moral responsibility of the individual is then inevitably replaced by the policy of the State (raison d’etat). Instead of moral and mental differentiation of the individual, you have public welfare and the raising of the living standard. The goal and meaning of individual life (which is the only real life) no longer lie in the individual development but in the policy of the State…

Carl JungThe Undiscovered Self

You could tell the story of history with a newsfeed and the updates on the latest #UnintendConsquences. The consequence that comes with shifting away from a myth and religion appears to be the break down of individual responsibility.

Oh, whats that? I just got an update!

Week Ahead: You Might Offload Responsibility, But Your Freedom and The Meaning In Life Are Comming With It In 2019.

The irony is that as western governments aim to protect minority group rights and tend the social welfare; the smallest minority, the individual disappears. Even if you are a part of a particular identity group, even if you agree with their platform, the group can only consist of de-individualized people lead by the radical individualists. And even if you are one of these rare individualists, the story of the great man in history, the consequence of leading the tribe is that you lose your identity to the formless crowd of followers you represent.

A million zeros joined together do not, unfortunately, add up to one.

Carl JungThe Undiscovered Self

Not Ideal, but Good Enough

A full critique of democracy is outside of the scope of The Undiscovered Self, but it is painfully true that mob mentality is a fatal flaw of the democratic system. But Jung doesn’t aim to solve the struggle of the individual with solutions for the collective. This is not a political book. Because the system that provides order to the society can’t be fixed the way you fix a broken car, the culture is made of individual people. People do not go in to get fixed, we have to grow and evolve.

Jung doesn’t offer ideological solutions with vague idealist notions of hope or change. He sees the threat facing the West and dispenses with the treatment plan.

If Not Materialism, Then What?

Political materialism is believing the country’s infrastructure matters more than its culture. The consumerist variety sells you on collecting more “things” than moments. The materialistic view of science is that nothing exists except matter.

Man does not live on bread and reason alone. People don’t reason their way into every value they have. We inherit them, or we feel our way into them, then find a reason to justify it after.

In view of this uncomfortable situation the question is heard again and again in the west: What can we do to counter this threat from the East? Even though the West has considerable industrial power and a sizable defense potential at its command, we cannot rest content with this, for we know that even the biggest guns and heaviest industry with its relatively high living standard are not enough to check the psychic infection spread by religious fanaticism.

…We are faced, not with a situation that can be overcome by rational or moral arguments, but with an unleashing of emotional forces and ideas engendered by the spirit of the times…

Carl JungThe Undiscovered Self

The Antidote: Self-Knowledge

Take Religion Seriously

[T]he antidote, should in this case be an equally potent faith of a different and nonmaterialistic kind, and that the religious attitude grounded upon it would be the only effective defense against the danger of psychic infection.

Carl JungThe Undiscovered Self
Take Yourself More Seriously

Here we must ask: Have I any religious experience and immediate relation to God, and hence that certainty which will keep me, as an individual, from dissolving in the crowd?

To this question there is a positive answer only when the individual is willing to fulfill the demands of rigorous self-examination and self-knowledge. If he follows through his intention, he will not only discover some important truths about himself, but will also have gained a psychological advantage: he will have succeeded in deeming himself worthy of serious attention and sympathetic interest. He will have set his hand, as it were, to a declaration of his own human dignity and taken the first step towards the foundations of his consciousness — that is, towards the unconscious, the only accessible source of religious experience.

Carl JungThe Undiscovered Self

Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.

Carl Jung