Jungian and Catholic?
Part II

Chapter 3: Maritain's Dream


On the shore of the upper lake of Zürich at Bollingen stands Jung's tower. It had grown over the years as an expression in stone of Jung's own inner life. It was there in the midst of a simple life of chopping wood and drawing water that he was most deeply himself. And it was there I like to imagine that an old Frenchman came to talk to Jung about what he once called an unfinished dream of his youth.

This dream was not an ordinary dream, but a bold vision that had grown out of Jacques Maritain's life. He had been a student of science and philosophy at the Sorbonne, a convert to Catholicism, the recipient of a fellowship to study new developments in biology in Germany under Hans Driesch, and a rediscoverer of the riches of the thought of Thomas Aquinas. And in this journey he had experienced how deep were the divisions that separated the natural sciences from the metaphysics of St. Thomas. It was his dream to bridge this chasm between metaphysics and science by the restoration of a genuine philosophy of nature. This meant healing a breach that had begun three centuries before when the sciences of nature had discovered their autonomy and freed themselves from the confines of philosophy.

Maritain recognized that this liberation had been a necessary stage in their development, for they could not have reached full stature under the hegemony of a metaphysics and philosophy of nature still wedded to the handed-down fragments of Greek science. But he deplored its consequences. The sciences in the exuberance of their newfound freedom had thought that their victory over the science of antiquity was at the same time a dispensation from any need of a philosophy of nature or metaphysics. As a result, when they detached themselves from a scholasticism already grown corrupt and distant from St. Thomas, they could not free themselves from the need for some philosophical context in which to set their work. And so they took up with various rationalistic and materialistic bed fellows. And these unfortunate alliances have colored the history of science until today, as Jung well realized.

When Maritain, in the early years of the century, began to address himself to this separation, the mood of the sciences had already begun to soften. Its pretensions of total explanation had foundered with the demise of the old physics. Biologists like Driesch with his experiments with sea urchins were rediscovering affinities with Aristotle's notion of form, and scientists in general were becoming more conscious of the nature and limits of their own methods. But if science was moving towards the borders of metaphysics, it was an instinctive movement born more out of their implicit realism than any hope of finding a philosophy of nature. But the sciences needed philosophy, not as an essential ingredient in their own constitution, but as a way to deal with questions that arose out of their subject matter and methods, but could not be answered there.

It was Maritain who, under the tattered garments of scholasticism already in the first stage of a deep-reaching renewal, had discovered the possibility of a philosophy of nature that could serve the sciences well while being served by them in turn. In The Degrees of Knowledge he laid down the principles it would have to follow as he sketched a noetic topography in which the natural sciences could find their place, together with a philosophy of nature and metaphysics, and faith, theology and mysticism in the intellectual organism of the human spirit. This was a basic framework powerful enough to break through the shell of surrogate philosophies that the sciences had surrounded themselves with, philosophies often made over into the image and likeness of science that said only science could really know anything.

But there was another task that was equally important. The philosophy of nature had to be restored and take up its mediating position between the sciences and metaphysics. It was only a healthy philosophy of nature that could be the voice of metaphysics in relationship to the natural sciences. If the sciences had developed their autonomous, conceptual vocabularies in the explosive growth of 300 years, the old philosophy of nature had become mute. Thus, scientists drawn to the boundaries of their own disciplines by the inner dynamism of their work groped to develop a language large with ontological implications so that they could address themselves to the issues they discovered at this interface between science and philosophy. But they had no real awareness that they were at an interface and that beyond their own frontier there existed a philosophical world which could, in theory, view many of their own objects from an ontological point of view. The old philosophy of nature could not call to them, for it could hardly speak at all. It had been far too slow to recognize how encumbered it was with outmoded scientific positions. Indeed, still believing that the philosophy of nature and science followed the same method, it had responded to the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries by withdrawing from the sciences themselves. The philosophy of nature retreated to the security of its relationship to metaphysics, not realizing it needed the sciences as a vital and indispensable source from which to draw the nourishment it's life depended on. It became anemic, a pale appendage to metaphysics, and forgot that its whole nature was to be firmly rooted in both the world of metaphysics and the world of the natural sciences.

Maritain's beautiful blueprints for such a philosophy of nature have gathered dust. They were like Chesterton's dictum about Christianity: they had not been tried and found wanting, they had never been tried at all - with a few exceptions. The renewal of the metaphysics of St. Thomas which culminated in the rediscovery of the primacy of the act of existence in the years both before and after World War 11 had lent little of its vitality and energy to resurrecting the philosophy of nature. Maritain, himself, had produced a number of provocative essays on topics as diverse as Einstein's theory of relativity and evolution, but the press of his activities led him elsewhere.

But now Maritain is walking up the path to Jung's tower to sit with him before the fireplace and tell him his dream. is it possible, he asks, that Jungian psychologists with their wealth of experience of the depths of the soul could hold a conversation with the philosophers of nature who have studied this same soul through the centuries that stretch back 700 years to St. Thomas and beyond him many more centuries to Aristotle? Is it possible that they would have fascinating things to say to each other?

The obstacles to such a conversation taking place are so formidable that if we were to start enumerating them we would soon become so entangled and discouraged that we would never begin. The Jungian psychologists, for example, speak a very concrete language derived from their personal contact with the teeming images and emotions of the psyche, while the philosophical psychologists of the school of St. Thomas speak a very abstract tongue, and they both have difficulty in realizing that the other's language is real. So instead of immediately trying to enunciate the principles that demonstrate the possibility of such a conversation - a task undertaken by Maritain in his Degrees of Knowledge - let us start with the actual conversation itself, and reflect a little on its feasibility later.

For most of us snow is snow, but for an Eskimo there are more that 25 words for the different kinds of snow: pukak, a granulated sugar snow, mauya, a soft deep snow, ganik, falling snow, igluksaq, snow for building a house and so forth. But it would probably be easier for the leader of a camel caravan in the Sahara to understand an Eskimo talking of snow than for a Jungian psychologist and a philosophical psychologist to understand each other.

The Jungian psychologist has a distinctive vocabulary that has come from the terrain in which he travels. He speaks of archetypes, the collective unconscious, the anima and animus, the inferior function, and all these words are a condensation of many encounters with the psyche. They represent certain explanatory hypotheses derived directly from the concretely experienced material.

The philosopher of nature, in turn, speaks of matter and form, essence and existence, substance and accident. This austere language has its own roots in basic experiences like change, but what it tries to draw from these experiences are the explanatory principles that they seem to demand, even though these principles in themselves are not directly empirically observable. No one sees potency or act in themselves, but the acorn grows into an oak and not a canary. Aristotle reasoned it must have a capacity or ability for such a development, a capacity that does not actually exist, for then the acorn would be the oak already, and which is not just a general capacity, as if the acorn could become something other than the oak just as easily, but which is a very real capacity nonetheless, for this acorn can become an oak tree.

But what would our psychologists have to say to one another? The philosophical psychologist would be compelled to ask herself many questions that would wake her science from its torpor: Just what is an archetype? What is the inferior function, and why should there be one? What is the process of individuation, and what is the nature of the unconscious itself? These questions could not be posed without our philosopher of nature taking Jung's psychology seriously. It is the gift of Jung's to discover and explore this concrete world of the psyche and the philosophy of nature must receive its fruits. But once it has accepted Jung's results - not, of course, blindly and uncritically - it poses its own distinctive questions. It does not practice Jung's analytical psychology, but having received its conclusions, poses questions that, while they can be of great interest to Jungian psychologists, are not questions that can be properly posed from within Jung's psychology itself. Jung would never say, "Now, what is an archetype?" Instead, he would say, "I have, through my study of dreams and myths and religion, found commonly recurring motifs the world over, which cannot be explained by a process of historical transmission. There must be something in the psyche of man that brings about this state of affairs which I will, by way of hypothesis, call an archetype." Nor would Jung address the archetype in itself, but always and continually, see it in, relationship to its concrete manifestations. He realized that his science would be better called a phenomenology than an ontology.

In fact, so strong is this principle of staying within the orbit of what is directly suggested by the concrete material seen in the psyche, that Jung and his followers have the greatest difficulty in accepting the possibility that "What is an archetype?" is a legitimate question at all, or put in another way, even if it is an interesting question, they are reluctant to admit the possibility that it is an answerable one. These hesitations are deeply rooted in the history of science and the modern philosophy that Jung was heir to.

But let's grant legitimacy to the approach of the philosopher of nature, at least until we see what he will do with his questions. What does the Jungian psychologist have to gain from such a conversation? Why should he bother? It is simply because these questions grow out of the very texture of Jung's psychology, and if they are not answerable within, it, they form the vital context and boundary of it which effects, albeit indirectly, the life and direction and aspirations of this psychology. If a Jungian as Jungian cannot answer these questions, a Jungian as human being is almost inevitably drawn to them. This is similar to what we must say about the nuclear physicists who cannot answer ethical questions about the use of their discoveries by means of their physics, but must certainly ask and try to answer them as human beings. If the Jungian psychologist could accept the legitimacy of the question, "What is an archetype9" then she would find on the far frontier of her science, at the boundaries of what Jung called the psychoid, someone who is approaching this frontier from another direction, someone interested, like she is, in the deep questions of the soul.

What this amounts to is that the philosopher of nature needs a psychology like Jung's in order to discover what to apply his principles to. And whatever progress he will make could, in turn, pose intriguing questions for the analytical psychologist. If the analytical psychologist should catch even a fleeting glimpse of the inner nature of an archetype, it would have repercussions throughout his psychology and sharpen his sense of some of the ultimate implications of the archetypal images he meets every day. It irked Jung how easily people believed that they possessed psychological insight and could, therefore, dispense advice, but in another sense every psychologist is a philosopher inasmuch as the psyche, itself, is continually posing questions about the origin, goal and meaning of man. And it is the task of a genuine philosophy of human nature to try to answer some of these questions.

For Jung, an archetype was a hypothesis to explain the appearance of the same motif in many different places. Feminine figures, for example, appear in myths, fairy tales and dreams all over the world. This is hardly remarkable, but how these inner women act form highly distinctive patterns, some of which Jung has examined under the heading of the anima or soul. The anima, for instance, acts as the psychopomp or guide and gateway to a man's unconscious.

Another example. In many cultures there is a motif of a mountain at the center of the world, or a tree that is the world axis, rooted in the underworld and stretching through this world and reaching heaven. Whether the image is a tree or mountain or the center pole of a tent, the underlying meaning is of the interconnection between the three worlds and the possibility of communication between them. Let's say, then, there is an axis of the world or an axis mundi archetype that expresses itself in many ways and in many cultures. Jung was insistent that we distinguish the archetype from the archetypal image, that is, the axis mundi from whether it expresses itself as a tree or a mountain or a pole. Thus he writes in Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: "Again and again I encounter the mistaken notion that an archetype is determined in regard to its content, in other words that it is a kind of unconscious idea (if such an expression be admissible). It is necessary to point out once more that archetypes are not determined as regards their content, but only as regards their form and then only to a very limited degree. A primordial image is determined as to its content when it has become conscious and is therefore filled out with the material of conscious experience." (p. 79)

This would appear quite reasonable to a philosopher of nature, and he would be particularly interested when Jung goes on to describe just what the form of the archetype is like: "Its form, however ... might perhaps be compared to the axial system of a crystal, which, preforms the crystalline structure in the mother liquid, although it has no material existence of its own. This first appears according to the specific way in which ions and molecules aggregate. The archetype in itself is empty and purely formal, nothing but a facultas praeformandi, a possibility of representation which is given a priori. The representations themselves are not inherited , only the forms, and in that respect they correspond in every way to the instincts." (p. 79)

This language immediately introduces us to one of the most crucial points in the encounter between Jungian psychology and the philosophy of nature. Jung, starting from the wealth of images which he studied so intensively, was led inductively to the hypothesis of the archetype. The images appear as reflections of some underlying factor which Jung called an archetype. But it is of the very nature of Jung's method that this hypothetical archetype cannot be examined in itself. Jung's perspective is always from the vantage point of the concrete psychic image, and it is natural and inevitable and within the scope of his science for him to examine these images and formulate the notion of an archetype. But in virtue of his psychological science he is being led to the very boundary of his analytical psychology, and it is only if we grasp this movement that we will be in a position to fully appreciate what he is saying. When he says the archetype is "empty and purely formal" he means that from the viewpoint of psychic images there is no way in which we can speak of the nature of the archetype. The archetype, if it is to shape and form a myriad of particular images, cannot be identified with any particular one of them. But this does not mean that the archetype is empty in itself. That is not Jung's concern. And from another viewpoint the archetype cannot be empty, for it gives rise to a myriad of archetypal images. It has to be something in itself, "a facultas praeformandi", "a possibility of representation." This language is pregnant with ontological implications, but implications that are not the province of psychology to explore. What we have, then, is Jung being true to his distinctive method, but being drawn by that fidelity to the very borders of his science by questions rooted in his work but not answerable there.

We can observe this dynamism further when Jung writes: "...it seems to me probable that the real nature of the archetype is not capable of being made conscious, that it is transcendent, on which account I call it psychoid..." (The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, p. 213) And in Memories, Dreams, Reflections he asserts: "In Mysterium Coniunctionis my psychology was at last given its place in reality and established upon its historical foundations. Thus my task was finished, my work done, and now it can stand. The moment I touched bottom, I reached the bounds of scientific understanding, the transcendental, the nature of the archetype per se, concerning which no further scientific statements can be made." (p. 221)

It is as if Jung is saying, "When I reached the outer boundaries of scientific understanding I was at the very frontiers which touch on the transcendental, the nature of the archetype in itself, which cannot be spoken of scientifically." And Jung is right in feeling that his psychology cannot pass over this frontier. But does this mean the questions posed at this frontier can never be answered? Is there another science that can ask itself, "What is an archetype, and what does psychoid mean?" We have arrived at a decisive point upon which our whole conversation hinges. If we, a priori, say that the psyche can only be known by means of psychic images, then we cannot consider the possibility that there is someone on the other side of the frontier to talk to. This is a real and ever-present danger. Jung writes: "In my effort to depict the limitations of the psyche I do not mean to imply that only the psyche exists. It is merely that, so far as perception and cognition are concerned, we cannot see beyond the psyche. Science is tacitly convinced that a non-psychic, transcendental object exists." (Memories, p. 351) Science is tacitly convinced because it has an implicit realism. The images are real, and there must be a reason for them. But when Jung says that perception and cognition cannot see beyond the psyche, is he saying his psychology, in virtue of its method, cannot see beyond, or no one with any method can?

He continues a few lines later: "I have, therefore, even hazarded the postulate that the phenomenon of archetypal configurations - which are psychic events par excellence - may be founded upon a psychoid base, that is, upon an only partially psychic and possibly altogether different form of being. For lack of empirical data I have neither knowledge nor understanding of such forms of being, which are commonly called spiritual. From the point of view of science, it is immaterial what I may believe on that score, and I must accept by ignorance. But insofar as the archetypes act upon me, they are real and actual to me, even though I do not know what their real nature is. This applies, of course, not only to the archetypes but to the nature of the psyche in general." (p. 351-352)

We see how clearly Jung felt the movement to the foundations or frontiers of his science, but he was equally aware that he could not cross this frontier. But did he think that it was uncrossable in itself by any method? He continues: "Whatever it (the psyche) may state about itself, it will never get beyond itself. All comprehension and all that is comprehended is in itself psychic, and to that extent we are hopelessly cooped up in an exclusively psychic world. Nevertheless, we have good reason to suppose that behind this veil there exists the uncomprehended absolute object which affects and influences us ..." (p. 352)

Did Jung, enamored by his science of the psyche and the influence of Kant, think that being hopelessly cooped up in an exclusively psychic world was an intrinsic part not only of his science, but human nature in general, so that metaphysics and the philosophy of nature were impossible? I think he did. But at the same time he was driven by the realism implicit in his own science and an instinctive metaphysical sense that led him to speak of "the uncomprehended absolute object" and to have such a warm friendship with Victor White, and their friendship is a good example of the exciting possibilities and great difficulties that surround the conversation I am proposing.

What Jung is calling the transcendental or spiritual or psychoid object is precisely what the philosopher of nature attempts to deal with, though the word spiritual probably comes closest to how he would describe his object. What can the philosopher of nature make out of Jung's description of the archetype? He will reflect that while Jung calls the archetype empty, it is empty only from the viewpoint of the archetypal images. It is empty because it is not an image. If it were a particular image then it could not be the ordering principle for a whole order of images. The philosopher of nature has to struggle to give a face to the emptiness of Jung's archetype. He will reason that the very process by which Jung moved from a consideration of the archetypal images to his conception of the archetype says something vital about the psyche. Somehow Jung's own psyche must transcend the whole order of images in order to have the ability to arrive at such a conception. Somehow Jung's psyche must be psychoid or spiritual to conceive within itself the psychoid archetype.

And the very word archetype has rich associations for our philosopher. It recalls Plato's heaven of ideas or forms and how for him the things of earth were but pale imitations of them. And it brings to mind how Aristotle placed the heaven of the forms in the human mind and declared that the one and the same form existed in things in a concrete way and in the mind in an universal fashion. For Aristotle, form or essence became the first principle that made a thing to be what it is. When the first principle was the first principle of a living body he called it a soul, and concluded that there were vegetable souls and animal souls and rational or human souls. If the soul is the first principle of the living body, it is because it makes this living organism to be this kind of organism. It is the fundamental principle of activity that coordinates and directs all the processes of the organism. A tree has a tree soul that makes it to be a tree and coordinates and directs the rising of the-sap and the unfolding of the leaves and their photosynthesis, in short all the activities of the tree. The human psyche or soul is the fundamental principle of human life. It makes us to be what we are and it unifies and directs all the activities of the human organism from nutrition to sensation to thought. At death this unifying principle is lost and there is no longer anything to hold together and animate these processes, so they cease and the body disintegrates.

What can the philosopher of nature say about Jung's archetype? If it is psychoid or spiritual, it is, he reasons, because the soul itself is psychoid. The human soul is a form or an archetype and therefore the archetype is a partial reflection or refraction of the very structure of the human psyche. In other words, the way the archetypal images are related to the archetypes is analogous to the way the archetypes themselves are related to the archetype which is the soul itself. If the archetypes can be likened to a rainbow of colors, then the psyche is the sunlight from which they originate. And if the philosopher of nature gropes towards this conclusion through his consideration of the nature of the soul, Jung, following his own path, came to the conclusion that the unconscious itself could be called psychoid.



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