The International Society for Psychology as the Discipline of Interiority
July 2015 Issue
Now Accepting Online Registration at ISPDI website.
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Greetings to you all!
Most likely you will recognize the image above from the myth of Actaeon and Artemis. This particular representation of Artemis slaying Actaeon is dated c.a. 470 BCE. Almost two and a half millennia later, working with the concepts of PDI and keeping in mind Giegerich’s interpretation of the myth in The Soul’s Logical Life, we can understand it now in preparation for our conference as the “hunt” for “Interiority, Truth, and Psychology.” The myth of Actaeon and Artemis is, writes Giegerich, “…the myth of the Notion, and as such the notion of Truth—and the notion of true psychology.”
The image on the vase, then, is an astonishing pictorial representation of Truth “slaying” ego. Actaeon reaching up to heaven (negativity) can be seen as the ego’s interiorization into itself, the result of (and precondition for) “seeing” naked Truth. The hunting dogs represent the natural outward looking, empirical, intentionality of the ego bending back on itself, resulting in the uroborically enclosed dynamic of interiority, which is the prerequisite of psychology as the discipline of interiority. I think it’s a very good image to use for inspiration as we begin reflections for the conference less than a year away.
Saying this, I am happy to formally announce that registration is now open for the next ISPDI conference May 14th—16th 2016. You can find the details by going to the website www.ispdi.org, or clicking on the link above.
Also, please consider sending in a proposal for the conference. Deadline for submissions is September 15th. For more information check the website or contact the executive committee.
We are very pleased that David Miller, Pamela Power, and Greg Mogenson will be Featured Guest Speakers.
This will be the first ISPDI conference in the US, and we are hopeful that many of you who were not able to make the trips to Berlin in the past will be able to attend the conference this time around.
And we are very excited about the location! We managed to secure Serra Retreat, a Mediterranean-styled mansion built in1905 that has been an ecumenical Franciscan retreat since 1943. The location is near Malibu, California and the building is nestled between the mountains and the Pacific, with apparently beautiful, unobstructed views of the ocean. I’m quite sure that this special location will help us all as we contemplate the depths of “Interiority, Truth, and Psychology.”
Also we are pleased that with this location we are able to offer a very reasonably priced program. The prices you see on the registration form include food and lodging, which makes this more economically priced than the Berlin conferences. Although the rooms are not the Crowne Plaza (no TV!), they are very much in keeping with the style of Serra Retreat as well as being pleasant and comfortable, with the choice of single or double occupancy. For those living in the area, there is also the possibility of attending the conference and commuting.
There are a good number of rooms at Serra Retreat but nonetheless space is limited so I suggest you try and book as early as you can to avoid disappointment.
The second item I want to draw your attention to is that the last three editions of the Journal of Analytical Psychology have included PDI content. These include two articles by Greg Mogenson, a short piece by Marco Heleno Barreto, and an article by Wolfgang Giegerich. All excellent readings that I urge you to look at. Of course we’ll always be grateful for the ongoing support from Nancy Cater and Spring Journal, but it’s also now good to see a major Jungian journal in Europe paying some attention to the development of psychology as the discipline of interiority.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both Samina Salahuddin and Josef Kalicun for their excellent work designing and putting out our newsletter.
Also a thank you to those members that have written articles and essays for the newsletter, giving us all a chance to learn from your efforts. Your work here is very much appreciated!
In closing, I want to say I look forward to meeting up with many of you again at the next conference in Malibu. It is a pleasure for me to continue to meet like minded people on this journey of psychological discovery.
With best wishes,
On the level of modernity, for psychology, initiation must not be confused with the time-honored cultural institutions of this name. Initiation now means one’s being initiated through one’s absolute-negatively interiorizing the phenomenon one is dealing with into itself and thus releasing it into its spirit and truth. This is how today, how in psychology, the dead letter can come alive with spirit, how the spirit Mercurius can be freed from its imprisonment in the physicalness, literalness of “the matter” (Wolfgang Giegerich, 2012, What is Soul, p. 321).
The Logic of the Psychological Difference
It is natural for us to focus on the psychological difference from our side of that difference. Accounting for the psychological difference is, after all, essential for the practice of PDI. And indeed, an understanding of the psychological difference ultimately frees the soul phenomenon for its self-expression through our participation in reflection. At the same time, it frees us from a neurotic, inflated agenda that is not ours as human beings, thus allowing us to be “just that.”
However I've been intrigued by the possibility of considering the psychological difference from the other side. What might the psychological difference represent in the history of the logical life of the soul? What might it represent as part of the unfolding dialectic or dance of consciousness?
I find several phenomena to be extraordinary because they seem to represent an unexpected and hard to explain emergence. These include the origin of the universe itself, the rise of self-perpetuating biological life, the experience of a self (and self-consciousness) and finally, the emergence of a consciousness that includes an awareness of the nature (and transience) of its own structure. .
A Dialectic of Difference
Giegerich says that soul “ is to be defined as the "psychological difference"--rather than merely being "different from" something (the way everything is different from anything else). It is the soul's very nature to be in itself difference, to be different from itself.” (Giegerich 2012, 80)
What we understand to be the psychological difference is a recent development in the history of consciousness. Difference itself, however, is not. Without reflection, there cannot be soul. Without difference, there can be no reflection, for there can be no points of view, no "third dimension" or depth that can be thrown into focus between subject and other.
Difference is so fundamental a part of reality that we take it as much for granted as we do the chairs we are sitting on. In physical reality, difference is implicit. Without difference of place, there is no space. Without difference between one state and another there could be no change, and thus no time. Without difference in energy levels, there is no atomic structure, no flow of heat, no stars.
In biological life, without difference there would be no evolution because there would be nothing for selection to act upon. There would be no species. Difference is expressed in the different viewpoints of an individual animal and its species, or a species and the ecosystem as a whole. With the development of biological life, difference that had been implicit became embodied—specifically, in the DNA code. Each animal is biologically an individual. Of course these differences are unconscious. The individual animal carries difference and lives it, but cannot reflect on it.
The next development is the embodiment of difference in the formation of a self (the difference between self and other). We cannot definitively state how the beginnings of a sense of self and of self-consciousness developed in certain social animals (particularly primates). However a plausible evolutionary account goes something like this. For these species, the ability to survive and flourish depended increasingly on social cooperation—to gather and share food, watch for predators, and so on. Each individual animal developed “arrangements” with particular other individuals. This required both a sense that all individuals were not the same (“this one grooms me, that one is hostile, that other one seems indifferent”) as well as a sense of the individual persisting over time (last time we gathered, that one let me eat some of her food). Experiments have even suggested that some animals such as chimps and dolphins have a sense of the “mind” of another individual—they can keep track of what another animal has seen, what it “believes.” All of this means that the animals start to see other individuals in the group as “selves” in some rudimentary sense, although we can't directly know what the quality of that experience is.
The thesis here is that when we get to proto-humans and a sufficient level of cortical complexity (the cortex being a marvelous symbol of reflection, folded in on itself), this “self detector” function begins to be turned back on the individual's own being. Seeing one's self as “my self.” Add to this rudimentary but expressive language, and something like a psychological individual begins to function. It must not be coincidental that the growth of culture and differentiated social structures comes along with this. With individuality comes the need to replace the instinctual roles of the animal world with culturally defined and supported ones.
Here we need to distinguish between empirical and logical individuality. In the ancient and medieval world, although people existed empirically as individuals (differing physically, in personality, in the many details of social relationships) these differences were not the focus of society or of the framework of religious or other ideas by which people lived. People were defined by their social and economic roles. There certainly were individuals who had a more differentiated sense of self: the great philosophers, poets, and artists--but for the society at large, the idea of the individual was not in the forefront.
The emergence of the modern individual, however, represents difference becoming psychological. Difference enters not only individual but also cultural consciousness, and as alienation becomes a central preoccupation--politically, philosophically, psychologically. Marx saw the alienation of the individual from his or her work as a consequence of early industrial modernity. Freud saw the alienation of the ego from the deep instinctual drives, particularly sex. Jung saw the alienation of the modern individual who "no longer had a myth" and sought to restore wholeness through connection to the unconscious. The existentialists believed that only by squarely and radically facing alienation could the individual hope to create the only meaning that was possible.
The concept of the psychological difference represents the latest emergence in this dialectic. It enables the distinction between what we experience as individual human beings and the actual logic as which we now exist. Put another way, the psychological difference offers the possibility of reaching not the subjectivity or self-consciousness of the individual or the external “objectivity” of the positive world, but self-consciousness of consciousness itself (which is another way of saying soul, the logical life of which is “self-expression, self-representation, self-portrayal.” (Giegerich, 2012, p. 44)
To summarize, the dialectic of difference seems to include the following moments:
1) implicit or ontological difference (emergence of the physical world)
2) embodied difference (emergence of life, biology, DNA)
3) self-consciousness, emergence of a self (individual)
4) consciousness of difference (alienation)
5) consciousness of the structure of consciousness (the psychological difference)
The Dance of Emergence
In What is Soul? Giegerich quotes the biologist Hubert Markl's statement that living beings "dance upon the lifeless." (Giegerich 2012, 27) Giegerich goes on to explain that life is real, but invisible and intangible. It is not a thing, but a movement, something negative.
Life is an example of an emergent property—something unexpected, and apparently not reductively explainable by the laws that apply to an earlier state. In terms of dialectic, an emergent property represents a negation and a sublation of the preceding state. Life is not something that is added to non-life. Life is a new logic “danced upon” non-life. It seems to me that the five moments of the logic of difference above represent emergences and sublations of this sort.
As life dances upon non-life, consciousness dances upon life. Currently the “hard problem of consciousness” is defined as finding an explanation of “what it's like to experience” the color red, for example. “Red is experienced when a certain wavelength of light hits the retina, travels through the optic nerve, and is processed by the brain” would be an example of a reductive explanation that falls short. Similarly, an explanation that says the activation of certain brain regions or cohorts of neurons in a certain way is associated with consciousness does not explain the experience of consciousness itself.
The dialectical dance idea explains why reductive explanations cannot reach the experience of an emergence such as consciousness. If we are looking at a logical movement (negative) no amount of positive details can reach it. At best they can provide correlations.
Next, I began to wonder whether there are common characteristics that might expressed in these emergences. I believe there are at least three: exploration of possibilities, differentiation, and virtualization (or “logification”).
Looking at biological evolution, for example, the idea that evolution has a specific goal has been refuted by Stephen J. Gould and others. (The psychological difference would be enough, anyway, to impel us to reject the idea that humans or our particular structure of consciousness was the goal evolution was aiming for.) However what evolution does is “try everything it can think of” (not consciously of course), compete for every niche, explore the space of possibilities. Differentiation and specificity are in play when structures are adapted to specific environments. Finally, logification can be seen at several stages: the encoding of molecular structure in the form of DNA instructions, the supplanting of “hard wired” instincts by learning mechanisms and then by culture, and, I would argue, the ongoing digitization and “algorithmicization” of information and cognition in modern technology. The point isn't that evolution itself aims for these things, but rather, that these things are inherent in the logical life finding where it can “dance.” The teleology here is logical, not physical.
These processes of exploration, differentiation, and virtualization can be found in Giegerich's writings as well. In What is Soul? final chapter, Giegerich speaks of “the two opposite purposes (directions, teleologies) of the soul.” (Giegerich 2012, 317) While Giegerich is speaking specifically about the soul's purposes for humans, I would suggest that they apply to the existing consciousness, regardless of how central humans might be to it at any given moment. The purposes given are “initiation into soul as well as representation and celebration” and “emancipation from soul or individuation and consciousness.” (Giegerich 2012, 318) The heartbeat of consciousness as it were is the reality of its coming home to itself and (followed by? no logically simultaneous!) its “pushing out” in a new differentiation (and individuation in the general rather than the special Jungian sense.) I would suggest that this dual movement of the soul is also a way of characterizing the impetus for the dialectic of emergence.
This process may cast the emergence of the modern individual in a different light. When I hear that “the individual is logically obsolete” I try to acknowledge but set aside my human emotional reactions and first look at what the individual as we have known it embodies. Just as the virtualization of the instinctual into the cultural increased the freedom of representation available to “the dancer”, the emergence of the fully modern individual greatly amplified and diversified the capacity for reflective consciousness. It did this by greatly speeding up the transmission and “mutation” of ideas, the process of invention and innovation, and the resulting technology for communicating and manipulating information. Most of all, however, it did so by privileging individuation and differentiation.
However, the psychological difference tells us that this “hyper-individuality” is at the service of the dialectic of the soul, not of the individual. The capacity gained by the “emancipation” of the individual moves into a new phase of initiation—seen from our side as “profit maximization” and “medial modernity.” The purpose of this dual movement of initiation and emancipation is, Giegerich suggests, that “the soul within itself [can] distance itself from itself, maybe in order to possibly at a later date arrive at a new unity with itself on a “higher” (or “lower,” “deeper,” more “fundamental”) level. (Giegerich 2012, 322)
Consciousness at Large
“But wait, there's more,” as the TV pitch man says. If the individual is obsolete, has been or is being sublated, what might the next or emerging moment for difference look like? If the human individual in its present form is no longer adequate, what will come to carry difference, differentiation, “individuality”?
We face formidable limitations here. First of course is the aphorism variously attributed to Niels Bohr, Yogi Berra, and other worthies that “prediction is difficult, especially about the future.” A more fundamental problem is that if the very structure of existing consciousness is changing, how can we possibly use it to assess itself? Is not the epistemological rug already pulled out from under us before we even begin?
It is here that the psychological difference comes to our aid and enables us to make a modest but perhaps helpful effort. Why is the psychological difference so important for any attempt to understand (post) modern phenomena? It brings the realization that modern soul and the modern individual are not the same. There is no reason to assume that the work by which soul creates itself in new forms has ended. The dance has not ended.
One clue is that the individual and "individuality" are not the same. The modern individual may well turn out to be a transitional container for a more comprehensive and differently structured consciousness that I'll call "consciousness at large."
Let's look again at the logical movement seen in emergence and see how it might apply to the latest shift in the structure of consciousness.
Just as evolution “investigates” and tries to fill every possible niche, and genes “try” every possible combination, the Web (as Giegerich points out in his essay on it in Technology and the Soul) is absolutely “open” in that every connection (link) is in principle equally possible: “The Internet is absolutely indifferent to the images or ideas presented in it.” (Giegerich 2007, 319)
As a medium for free-floating and “viral” ideas the Web has essentially embedded our human consciousness and culture into itself, and ideas (“memes” to use Richard Dawkins' term) now compete to fill every niche. It is the Glass Bead game under the control of a computer chess algorithm that relentlessly searches out every possible move in every position.
This logical movement can be seen in ever increasing specialization. Where there might have been one general niche, there are now dozens—not merely found, but actually created. Thus new business plans spawn at an accelerating rate and successful ones disrupt whole industries in a matter of only a few years (for example, Uber vs. taxis and AirBnB vs. hotels).
There are a number of examples of logification (or virtualization):
(Note that Giegerich in his essay on the World Wide Web also uses the term logification and provides other characterizations and examples.)
These suggestions of exploration, differentiation, and logification suggest, perhaps not surprisingly that the new emergence is still in its early stages. Having been “emancipated” from soul in the earlier phase of the human individual, consciousness is now being initiated into a new phase.
From our individual, ego point of view, we can perceive these developments as at best distraction and fragmentation, and at worse, loss of control and a runaway process headed toward some sort of precipice (the “technological singularity”). There have been many well-meaning attempts to resist or contain the effects of these technologies on our consciousness. On the pragmatic level, we do need to “push back” as individuals and as communities and work out our own arrangements, a modus vivendi. After all, we are still individuals with our egos (just as we still have hearts, lungs, and brains). We pursue our goals and try to make sense of our lives. For all our floating in the clouds, we still live on the earth and are subject to physical constraints.
The effort to “come to terms” with the new reality attempts to answer the question “How is the shift in our consciousness affecting us or society? What can or should we do about it? However the psychological difference can prompt us to ask a different question: “What is consciousness at large starting to look like? How does it work? I have been able to offer only a few observations and suggestions here.
So far as we know, we human individuals are still the only loci of self-conscious reflection. The machines, vast, powerful, and incredibly complex as they have become, still haven't “become conscious” as far as we can tell. (I hope to have more to say about AI in a future paper on the Turing Test in relation to the psychological difference).
Maybe, though, we've been asking the wrong question. The question may not be “when will computers become conscious?” but rather, “what will consciousness become as the process of relentless “logification” not only proceeds, but accelerates?”
The possibility of an emerging new structure of consciousness may mean that even the psychological difference may come to exist in a different form from one carried by persisting individuals. In the not too distant future "Individuality" may be created ad hoc rather than residing in separate, fixed persons. (Is that not the upshot of what has already happened to personae, to identity, even to such supposedly firm categories as gender?)
It may be that the difference itself will be created "just in time" in the next dances of soul-making.
Meanwhile, on the human side of the psychological difference, I take some comfort in the possibility that while the human individual may be obsolete, consciousness itself is not … although empirically it may be entering a perilous phase indeed.
Giegerich 2007. Technology and the Soul (Collected English Papers, volume II). New Orleans: Spring Journal Books.
Giegerich 2012. What is Soul? New Orleans: Spring Journal.
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International Society for Psychology as the Discipline of Interiority