This essay reviews the literature on cross-disciplinary influences on the genesis and development of Jung’s psychology, with particular emphasis on current researches by the Assisi Conferences into archetypal fields and field-directed phenomena. This multidisciplinary investigation into the dynamics of psychic-physical phenomena builds upon and expands Jung’s initial investigations into the interconnectedness of psyche and matter.
As an analyst and as a scholar, Jung “was intent on moving the boundaries between the known and the unknown” (Meier, 2001, p. xxviii) in order to shed light on psychic-physic phenomena, that is, psyche and its manifestation in matter. As has been discussed in preceding essays, Jung “moved the boundaries” by looking to other disciplines, principally those within the human sciences, but also to the natural sciences for parallels to his clinical observations which would help to support, amplify and expand his psychological investigations (Jung, 1969b). In 1930, Jung was actively crossing the boundaries between the disciplines of religion and science with his involvement in the Eranos Conferences and in his many-year friendship with Wolfgang Pauli, the physicist. As was true of psychology, inherent in the process of new physics was the interactive influence of observer upon observed.
Jung (1969c) eventually collaborated with Pauli on an important paper dealing with unitary reality (On Synchronicity), but other than this work, and references to micro-macro reality contained in other writings, Jung let go of this contemporary avenue to psyche, concentrating instead on alchemy and the alchemical process as analogies to the manifestation of psyche into matter and unitary reality. The science of micro-physics was still too new and Jung too advanced in his life to go deeper into yet another field of knowledge. He did prepare the ground for this new work, but left to those who would follow the challenge of bridging the disciplines of psychology and new physics to form a more thorough understanding of the unitary nature of psyche and matter (Jung 1954; Meier, 2001; von Franz, 1975).
A particularly fertile ground in which Jung could plant the seeds of his evolving ideas concerning the religious function of psyche and its purposefulness or teleological function was the Eranos Conferences, an annual international “meeting of minds” from across the disciplines. It was here that Jung’s ideas were cultivated and influenced by the cross-fertilization of ideas from like-minded individuals whom Corbin proclaimed as “Heretics of the World” (Wasserstrom, 1999, p. 222). Formed to bridge the wide chasm that existed between the differing conceptions of religion and spirituality in the East and the West early in the century, Eranos promoted dialogue and the cross-germination of ideas across the disciplines.
Jung was not the founder of the Eranos Conferences; Olga Frobe-Kapteyn was. Jung did, however, plan and present at the yearly programs over his almost two decades of active involvement. Contrary to his written sentiments about desiring not to be “thrust…into the foreground,” (Jung cited, Jaffe, 1979, p. 183), it would be safe to say that Jung’s interests were Eranos’. In other words, just as a good sailor uses the wind’s force to propel his craft along the direction he chooses to go, Jung’s specific interests harnessed and guided the creative energies of the participant-presenters – a cross-reference of the Eranos programs with his writings during his involvement bears this out. It also would be safe to say that it was not power, control, or prestige that motivated Jung in this, whatever anecdotal evidence exists to the contrary (McLynn, 1999). By the time of Eranos, Jung had made a name for himself and was engaged in analytic work with patients, lecturing, writing, and traveling to far-flung lands in pursuit of comparative material for his researches into psychic phenomena. Rather, Jung’s strong investment in Eranos was firmly grounded in his desire for collaboration with like-minded individuals (Jaffe, 1979; Lammers, 1994).
Earlier in this document it was mentioned that Jung was strongly influenced by William James. An advocate for the phenomenological approach to psyche around the turn of the century, James, like Jung, sought to understand the “phenomenal possibilities” of religious experience. Because of his approach and subject matter, James’ work, like Jung’s, was in James’ words “too biological for the religious, too religious for the biologists (Perry, 1935, p. 199). For this reason, both men were isolated from the very communities with which they wanted to communicate. Jung was hungry for collaboration (White, 1982). Jung first sought it out in his association with Freud, and, although he fostered a circle of psychological adherents and colleagues such as von Franz and Neumann, he looked outside the field of psychology for working relationships with like-minded associates - Richard Wilhelm, then Wolfgang Pauli, and, finally, Victor White. All of these relationships were fruitful in their own way, but all came to an end either through differences in ideology, as in the case of Freud and White, or because of untimely death, as with Wilhelm and Pauli.
Eranos may have been Frobe-Kapteyn’s child, but it was Jung’s opportunity to meet, discuss, and work along with a group of “savants,” to use Eliade’s (1988, p. 139) term, in a receptive environment. Quoting Confucius, one participant described the conference in this way, “Friends gather at a well-tended place and with the help of friends prepare a path for humanity” (Helmut, cited, Jaffe, 1979, p. 187). During Jung’s involvement, religionists such as van der Leeuw, Corbin, and Eliade, and the classicist-mythologists Kerenyi and Zimmer were among the notable religious scholars presenting papers at Casa Ascona, the Italian estate where the Eranos Conferences were held (McLynn, 1996; von Franz, 1975; Wehr, G., 1988). In an essay on Eranos, Eliade (1960) acknowledges depth psychology’s, and therefore Jung’s, considerable contribution to bringing “about the most dramatic confrontations” (p. xviii). Eliade (1960) credits “depth psychologists, orientalists, and ethnologists interested in the history of religions as those who have most successfully achieved rapproachment and even collaboration” (p. xviii). Jung certainly benefited from the associations he made at Eranos, as did other conference participants during the two decades of his active participation. Eranos provided a platform for Jung’s developing ideas on psyche, and fostered some important collaborative relationships (Adler, 1984; Jaffe, 1979; Jung 1973; 1975; 1976; von Franz, 1975; Wasserstrom, 1999).
Jung (1965) wrestled with the phenomenon of religion throughout his long life. This personal and professional struggle is reflected in his mature work, wherein he makes his most articulate statement concerning the synthesis of psychology and religion (Jung, 1965; 1969a; Homans, 1995). Jung’s monumental undertaking concerning the psycho-religious, which Jaffe (1984) describes as “a progressive interpretation of the numinous by which man is consciously or unconsciously filled, surrounded, and led,” coincides with his Eranos experiences, and there can be little doubt that his developing ideas concerning the religious and psyche during this time were influenced by the associations fostered at these conferences (Barbosa da Silva, 1982; Jaffe, 1979; Jung, 1973; 1975; von Franz, 1975). Interestingly enough, there appears to be little direct reference to Eranos and its significance to the development of Jung’s work either in Jung’s copious writings or in the many works about his psychology, the exceptions of any consequence being Jaffe (1979), von Franz (1975) and Progoff (1973). However that may be, the strong current of mutual influence that exists between Jung and other Eranos participants, namely the religionist-mythologists Coburn, Kerenyi, and Zimmer, and less visibly so Eliade (Barbosa da Silva, 1982; Eliade, 1988; von Franz, 1975; Wasserstrom, 1999) can be traced in these scholars’ writings, Jung’s (1973; 1975) published correspondence, and pieced together from a variety of other sources as well (Wasserstrom, 1999). The impact of this broad group of historians of religion on Jung can be seen in two interrelated areas: 1) Jung’s increasing refinement of the synthetic methodology he employed to grasp the depth and complexity of psyche, and 2) Jung’s reliance on the skill of these scholars of Eastern and Near-Eastern religio-philosophical studies for their knowledge of particular and universal myths, symbols, and rites. Their knowledge proved invaluable to the deepening of Jung’s work on the archaeology of a religiously structured psyche and is an influence traceable in his writing Wasserstrom 1999).
Jung never left science behind in his investigations into the religious function of psyche. Science and the empirical method structured his explorations into psychic phenomenon even after he let go of the more formal language of the scientist so discernable in his early writings and gave head to the creative powers of the unconscious which directed his middle and late work. Even as he was pursuing the esoteric subject of alchemy, for example, and drawing analogies between these early chemist’s attempts to turn base metal into gold and the process of individuation, Jung was involved in ongoing dialogue with the physicist Pauli (and to a lesser extent with Einstein) about the parallels between the discoveries of physics into the sub-atomic world of energy and those of depth psychology into the world of psyche (Jung, 1973; 1975; Meier, 2001).
Jung’s involvement in the interdisciplinary discussion of the confluence of psyche and matter prepared the ground for those who followed. One of these is Conforti, who has developed Jung’s initial insight concerning archetypal fields (Meier, 2001; Neumann, 1989) into a theory of archetypal fields or archetypal field theory. Conforti, a Jungian analyst, continues Jung’s tradition of cross-disciplinary investigation into psychophysical reality. Conforti’s study of quantum theory, chaos theory, and dynamical systems theories provides a scientific language for describing the primary and fundamental nature of matter, and also provides a framework from which to understand the nature and processes of psyche. These and other new science theories are the working models for archetypal field theory. They provide a “rational” structure for grasping the “irrational” sphere of psyche and its contents, the archetypes. Recall that archetypes are autonomous, pre-formed forces of energy outside space-time; they exist within the objective psyche and both support and structure behavior toward a teleological purpose. The language one uses to talk about such abstractions as archetypes often becomes convoluted and contorted, twisting and turning in an attempt to understand what is ultimately unknowable (von Franz, 1988) - until now. Philosophy, religion, and the “soft” sciences have provided much of the framework for understanding archetypal processes. Archetypal field theory adds specificity to these other ways of knowing by employing the language of new physics and the new sciences.
Quantum theory suggests that the universe is a living interconnected whole in the process of continual creation and transformation. Chaos theory has its own kind of “loose order.” It addresses the complexity and unpredictability inherent in systems over time, but also suggests that behavior is probabilistic in the short term. Chaos theory provides a model of nonlinear processes in which “attractors,” the relevant variables of a system, provide fixed points of stability. Opportunities for change occur when a force equal to or greater than that of the system moves it to a “bifurcation point,” a delimited region where behavior jumps from one type to another. Movement is often from simple patterns to complex and unpredictable ones. The principle of “self-organization” concerns order inherent in systems. The opposite of chaos theory, the theory of self-organization suggests that chaotic and unpredictable systems move to simpler and larger patterns (Marshall & Zohar, 1997). Replicative or dynamical systems theories concern the recreation of organisms and systems through replicative processes that unfold from an underlying field. Information necessary for this purpose is contained within the system, with the system itself subordinate to the morphological field out of which form eventually emerges (Conforti, 1999; Csanyi & Kampis, 1991; Laszlo, 1993; Lowry, 1999). The potential for novelty or evolution in form exists in systems that are open (Conforti, 1999; Csanyi & Kampis, 1991) while closed systems are refractory to change (Laszlo, 1993).
Quantum theory, which stresses the essential wholeness and dynamic potential of all things, and which is characterized by interconnectivity, duality, indeterminacy, non-locality, and probability, provides a mirror in which the archetypal processes of the objective psyche are reflected (Conforti, 1999; Peat, 1987). Just as Jung understood the philosophical-mystical writings of centuries past as correspondent to the objective psyche and the archetypes, Bohm (1988) understood the broader implications of quantum theory by using “the language of the mystics” whereby paradox is reality and the pursuit of wholeness (a continual process of change and transformation) is the quest. In the language of quantum theory, the “irrepresentable” elemental particles of the microphysical world are paralleled in the macrophysical world of “irrepresentable” archetypal phenomena, exemplified by synchronistic occurrences outside space-time (Jung, 1969c; Morariu & Card, 1998).
Research in electromagnetic force and fields provides a somewhat imperfect, although understandable enough metaphor for the archetypal field in Conforti’s (2001) field theory. Thus, just as “our most intimate interaction with matter is made possible by electromagnetic force” which binds elemental states to form matter (Fagg, 2001), we experience the force of the archetype or archetypal field through its energetic influence on phenomena around us. “Matter is the material face of the archetype,” Conforti (2001) says, while the archetype can be understood as the energetic component of matter. This interpenetrating of disciplines - all underlain and supported by the creative principle of the archetype - points to a single new paradigm of an ordered and unitary universe wherein fields are the basis of all life. (Conforti, 1999; Fagg, 2001; Marshall & Zohar, 1997).
Expanding upon Bohm’s statement that “quantum physics is using the language of mystics” (Bohm, 1988), Fagg (2001) suggests that the realization of form from fields of energy, as evinced in meaningful relationships (parallelisms) across disciplines, portrays an “aesthetics” of “beauty, simplicity, and symmetry in nature” brought forth especially in mystical religious traditions and the new physics. They are, he says, evocative of “reality seeing with the eyes of love” (Fagg, 2001). This idea of “reality seeing with the eyes of love,” is, I believe, the powerful essence of Self, the central archetype which guides the individuation process. For this reason, the alchemical symbol of the hierosgamos or sacred marriage, which “points to the union of opposites and the birth of new possibilities” (Sharpe, 1991, p. 42) seems a fitting one for the joining together of the religious and physics. “The royal marriage occupies such an important place in alchemy as a symbol of the supreme and ultimate union,” Jung (1982) writes “since it represents the magic-by-analogy which is supposed to bring the work to its final consummation and bind the opposites by love, for ‘love is stronger than death’ ” (p. 198).
Archetypes, as fields of energy, cannot be known in and of themselves; we only can know the activated archetype through its manifestation in human experience, that is, in the process of projection. In other words, we know that archetypes exist because we can observe them in the forms they embody, such as dreams or ideas, and we can experience the influence of their force or field within our relationships as evinced by the affective charge elicited in the relational interaction.
For much of his life, Jung believed that the mysteries of psyche could not be truly understood because of the apparently closed nature of consciousness itself; in order to understand the unconscious psyche, we must use our consciousness, which is a part of psyche. There is, therefore, no point independent of psyche from which to observe it (Jung, 1933; 1954). This was a strange view for Jung to hold based on the hermeneutical-phenomenological approach that he used, i.e., an intuitive method that enables the researcher-interpreter-therapist to transcend ego-consciousness in order to apprehend the ontological dimension of reality or the archetypal. Jung’s confusion regarding this is likely based on two things, first Jung’s imperceptible shifting from the “objective” language of the scientist to the subjective language of the religious (Jung, 1965), and second, his lacking full understanding of the method that he employed (Brooke, 1991). As a consequence of his collaborative work with Wolfgang Pauli on the nature of synchronistic phenomena, however, Jung (1982) modified his view that “I am entrapped in the psyche and that I cannot do anything except describe the experiences that there befall me (p. 124) because psychology “lack(ed) the Archimedean point outside and hence the possibility of objective measurement" (Jung, 1954, p. 88). The new discoveries of the quantum world inspired Jung (1954) to write that
this strange encounter between atomic physics and psychology has the inestimable advantage of giving us at least a faint idea of a possible Archimedean point for psychology. The microphysical world of the atom exhibits certain features whose affinities with the psychic have impressed themselves even on the physicists. Here, it would seem, is at least a suggestion of how the psychic process could be “reconstructed” in another medium, in that, namely, of the microphysics of matter (p.89).
In this passage, Jung suggests at least two things: first, that there exists a parallelism between psychology and physics - within the subatomic world of particles, the observer participates in creating what he is observing, while in psychology, the mind observes itself observing itself, with the result that the conscious psyche’s investigation is influenced by this interaction. This equivalency of psychic and physical processes suggests a unitary world wherein distinctions between matter and psyche are irrelevant (Jung, 1969c). Second, Jung suggests, building on this last point, that physics may itself become a psychology, or at least may help make possible a deeper understanding of psyche and its partnership with matter within the whole of a unitary universe.
The significance of archetypal field theory - that information is embedded in fields; that form emerges from out of these fields; and that this information is converted into matter - is enormous, especially in light of the many national, cultural, and ethnic conflicts occurring world-wide. By enabling us to read the stable archetypal pattern out of which behavior (form) emerges, this approach offers new avenues for change. Pattern recognition has utility in analyzing situations in families, education, business, and government. The significance and applications of archetypal field theory will be discussed in Part II of this essay next month.
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- Submitted by Stephanie Buck