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Contact with Jung: Essays on the influence of his work and personality

P.W. Bridgeman has stated: ‘The structure of nature may eventually be such that our processes of thought do not correspond to it sufficiently to permit us to think about it at all. . . . The world fades out and eludes us. . . . We are confronted with something truly ineffable.

We have reached the limit of the vision of the great pioneers of science, the vision, namely, that we live in a sympathetic world in that it is comprehensible by our minds.’

As this quotation indicates, scientific research into the external world is leading to results less and less easy to comprehend, and may eventually exceed the limits of rational, human comprehension.

In response to this dilemma, Jung’s vision of the internal world of the psyche has opened a new vista via the symbolic experience of the irrational.

The irrational correspondence of rational events, or synchronicity, may eventually help to unify into a new cosmological order the dichotomy between man’s rational, scientific, and irrational, religious world pictures.

How symbolic correspondence may unify the rational and irrational into a new order I shall attempt to sketch by describing two fields which symbolic reality may rescue from their rational deadlock.

These fields are the experience of religious reality and the scientific aspect of soul and matter.

When my interest in Jung’s work was first aroused, I was concerned with problems of psychosomatics.

In response to my groping attempts to interrelate through correspondence homeopathy and alchemy, Jung had written in a personal letter: ‘There is also the possibility … of synchronicity, which basically is nothing else than a mere specifically formulated aspect of correspondentia which we know to have been one of the elements of the medieval interpretation of nature. It is thinkable, and there are facts pointing in this direction, that an archetypal situation configurates itself also through bodily events. . . .’ This verified my own impression.

I vaguely felt that physical illness was concretely related to the patient’s life history.

Yet what exactly was the relationship?

At the same time, I was puzzled by the implication of the so-called homeopathic remedy ‘pictures’ which I had studied and tried.

In these ‘drug pictures’ psychosomatic interaction is demonstrated, but in a way that at first deepens rather than solves the riddle.

The clinical scope of drugs is depicted by drug pictures of different personality types, e.g. Sulfur, Silica, Gold, or Snake Venom personalities.

In these drug personalities individual psychological traits are combined with typical physiological or constitutional characteristics.

One might say that chemical and biological traits are linked in meaningful coincidence with psychological patterns.

But there is no rational explanation for this coincidence.

Thus, medical science looks upon these homeopathic concepts as superstitions. oddly enough, the drugs ‘work’ when used according to their pictures. This makes the matter even more puzzling.

I was struck further by the analogy between these homeopathic drug personalities and the alchemistic ‘personifications’ of substances.

Even more surprising is the impressively close correspondence between the actual therapeutic scope of the homeopathic drug personalities and their medieval alchemical’ signatures’.

For instance, the ‘gold’ personality is deeply depressed and predisposed to cardiac disturbances in the homeopathic description.

The medieval alchemical signature of gold associates with the heart and the sun as life principle.

The symbolic picture, ‘lacking the sun of life’, fits both descriptions.

To take another example, the homeopathic ‘sulfur’ personality both physiologically and psychologically initiates but does not finish, is a Jack of all trades, restless, and full of impulses, irritations, and inflammations.

This corresponds closely to the alchemical description of sulfur as millererum artifex, fiery initiator of life, and source of corruption and

Thus the homeopaths and the alchemists use similar symbolic pictures to describe the same physical and psychic traits, in spite of being separated by several centuries.

Furthermore, these symbolic pictures are verified by clinical experience. (For a detailed exposition see The Homeopathic Recorder, Brattleboro, Vermont, November 1947, February 1954, April 1959, June 1959.)

Is this ‘nothing but’ projection of psychic contents?

In my view it is rather symbolic perception, which should be clearly distinguished from projection in the clinical sense.

The alchemists’ visions are often symbolic perceptions of what we may call the ‘spirit in matter’, even though undoubtedly psychological projections do abound.

To accept symbolic perception of this sort as valid means that such archetypal visions may represent, not only the projection of psychic contents into ‘dead’ matter, but also the epiphany of a formative pattern which appears in both matter and psyche, uniting them in meaningful coincidence.

Our clinical concept of projection might then be a special, distorted instance of this wider principle.

Symbolic experience expresses the unknown by analogies to the known and also, in Jung’s words, ignotum per ignotius, the unknown through the even more unknown.

It can help us to grasp irrational relationships between qualities of matter and psyche which rational thought cannot explain.

Comprehension is promoted by means of image rather than abstract concept.

The possible importance for a science of tomorrow of a conceptual approach in which symbolic analogy is taken seriously cannot be measured yet.

With our hypothesis that symbolic analogy points to objective reality, to unknown dimensions of configurating power that encompass mind and matter, we tum now to the religious experience.

Here, also, the question arises, is the symbol only a psychic image or does it participate in a metaphysical reality?

I believe that Jung has hinted at the latter answer in speaking of the symbol as ‘an expression of something supra-human and only partly conceivable’ and ‘ranking below the level of the mystery it seeks to describe’.

The hypothesis of a concrete dimension of being of pervasive form patterns, from which symbolic experience emanates, would re-establish the transcendental reality towards which man’s religious search has always been striving.

Man’s disconnection from spiritual, transpersonal guidance constitutes the most urgent problem of our time.

In past ages a connection existed by virtue of participation mystique, whereby men functioned in mythological and magical dimensions.

As the effective reality of the mythological dimension diminished and the rational function emerged, men attempted to comprehend religious imagery rationally.

Literal rationalization of religious tenets invited rational rejection of the same tenets.

Thus, scholasticism, renaissance, and enlightenment led from a rationalization of religion to a cleavage between science and religion.

Jung’s work demonstrated clearly that the religious instinct is a fundamental psychic drive.

The emergence of archetypal imagery during the individuation process is a unique experience for those who have undergone it.

The imagery implies a transpersonal goal of  holeness, a metapsychological mystery, valid, seemingly, even beyond the confines of personal death; as incomprehensible rationally, yet as real, as the sub-atomic realm, where energy and mass become indistinguishable.

If the symbolic approach can be accepted as touching transpsychological reality, it means to overcome our ,:q.Jn .. H,,,baJL starvation by bringing us in touch again with that life-sustaining and directing guidance which in all ages and cultures has been called divine.

By putting the archetypal messages to the rational test of psychological understanding and actual life, we ‘experimentally’ satisfy the needs of the critical mind.

The gap may thus be bridged between providential guidance and rationally verifiable experience.

Comprehending the universe and life by means of symbolic analogies which point to the ultimate operating patterns binding the rational and the irrational, the psychic and the material components of reality, may be the most important task before us.

Therein lies the monumental importance of Jung’s work, which provides the stimulus and vision for the healing of western man’s split between faith and reason. ~Edward Whitman, Contact with Jung, Pages 201-206