Einstein once said that it is not that our answers are necessarily wrong, but that our questions are not big enough. It was this spirit of discovery and inquiry, coupled with an intimation of a grand world existing outside of our ordinary awareness, that has paved the way for others to ask big questions about what is happening in the universe.
The presence of unseen forces often generates movement in both the inner and outer world. In the domains of psychology, organizational dynamics, politics, and education, we search for effective responses to these important shifts by drawing on what is within our perceptual field. We reflect, consider, react, create laws and reforms, and yet the persistence of the world’s intractable struggles (e.g. war, hatred, failed peace efforts, addictions, abuse, etc.) shows that our attempts to address these issues are unsuccessful and insufficient.
Shifts within both the individual and collective domain express movement within the psyche. Approaching these shifts from the perspective of archetypal dynamics shapes a different form of inquiry to such events. Our questions change, and we begin to ask, “What is the meaning of this event? From what archetypal constellation is this movement occurring?”
C.G. Jung first brought this archetypal perspective to our understanding of the individual personality, and later to the movement of psyche in the world. “As above, so below” goes the ancient alchemical adage, and so too in the dynamics of the individual and collective psyche. Both are governed by the Self, and even the world’s greatest tragedies such as the Holocaust and other genocides can be understood as a collective possession by an archetype. In these examples we see the archetype taking hold of the individual and society, holding them captive within ITS orbit, making them enact ITS mandates, and serving to eclipse individual functioning.
On the global stage, most political leaders and policy makers tend to rely on their own conscious perspectives to understand and respond to groundswells that are generated from a domain that is essentially archetypal. However, there are a few individuals who understand the power of the collective unconscious as the true source of these dynamics. François Mitterrand, former President of France, was one of those world leaders who understood something essential about what drives the mobilization of forces – in this instance war – in a collective setting. In Memoir in Two Voices, co-authored with Elie Wiesel, Mitterrand explains that from the onset of war “…civilization had evaporated and lawlessness took over. …War lays waste to every social structure and unleashes a whole range of primal urges.” (Pg. 112).
Our understanding of individual and collective dynamics points to the futility of examining global issues and developing social policy from the perspective of an ego-driven psychology. In contrast, Jung’s perspectives on the Self and the objective psyche, combined with discoveries from the new sciences, lead to greater discernment of the archetypal roots of these issues and the creation of interventions based on the specific meaning of these psychic movements. In this blog, I will be addressing global and personal concerns from this archetypal perspective. I hope that you will find my reflections interesting and relevant to your lives, and I look forward to your responses.