Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Magic Lantern Show

The philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, which we’ve been discussing for the last three weeks, was enormously influential in European intellectual circles from the last quarter of the nineteenth century straight through to the Second World War.  That doesn’t mean that it influenced philosophers; by and large, in fact, the philosophers ignored Schopenhauer completely. His impact landed elsewhere: among composers and dramatists, authors and historians, poets, pop-spirituality teachers—and psychologists.

We could pursue any one of those and end up in the place I want to reach.  The psychologists offer the straightest route there, however, with useful vistas to either side, so that’s the route we’re going to take this week. To the psychologists, two closely linked things mattered about Schopenhauer. The first was that his analysis showed that the thing each of us calls “myself” is a representation rather than a reality, a convenient way of thinking about the loose tangle of competing drives and reactions we’re taught to misinterpret as a single “me” that makes things happen. The second was that his analysis also showed that what lies at the heart of that tangle is not reason, or thinking, or even consciousness, but blind will.

The reason that this was important to them, in turn, was that a rising tide of psychological research in the second half of the nineteenth century made it impossible to take seriously what I’ve called the folk metaphysics of western civilization: the notion that each of us is a thinking mind perched inside the skull, manipulating the body as though it were a machine, and now and then being jabbed and jolted by the machinery. From Descartes on, as we’ve seen, that way of thinking about the self had come to pervade the western world. The only problem was that it never really worked.

It wasn’t just that it did a very poor job of explaining the way human beings actually relate to themselves, each other, and the surrounding world, though this was certainly true. It also fostered attitudes and behaviors that, when combined with certain attitudes about sexuality and the body, yielded a bumper crop of mental and physical illnesses. Among these was a class of illnesses that seemed to have no physical cause, but caused immense human suffering: the hysterical neuroses.  You don’t see these particular illnesses much any more, and there’s a very good reason for that.

Back in the second half of the nineteenth century, though, a huge number of people, especially but not only in the English-speaking world, were afflicted with apparently neurological illnesses such as paralysis, when their nerves demonstrably had nothing wrong with them. One very common example was “glove anesthesia”: one hand, normally the right hand, would become numb and immobile. From a physical perspective, that makes no sense at all; the nerves that bring feeling and movement to the hand run down the whole arm in narrow strips, so that if there were actually nerve damage, you’d get paralysis in one such strip all the way along the arm. There was no physical cause that could produce glove anesthesia, and yet it was relatively common in Europe and America in those days.

That’s where Sigmund Freud entered the picture.

It’s become popular in recent years to castigate Freud for his many failings, and since some of those failings were pretty significant, this hasn’t been difficult to do. More broadly, his fate is that of all thinkers whose ideas become too widespread: most people forget that somebody had to come up with the ideas in the first place. Before Freud’s time, a phrase like “the conscious self” sounded redundant—it had occurred to very, very few people that there might be any other kind—and the idea that desires that were rejected and denied by the conscious self might seep through the crawlspaces of the psyche and exert an unseen gravitational force on thought and behavior would have been dismissed as disgusting and impossible, if anybody had even thought of it in the first place.

From the pre-Freud perspective, the mind was active and the body was passive; the mind was conscious and the body was incapable of consciousness; the mind was rational and the body was incapable of reasoning; the mind was masculine and the body was feminine; the mind was luminous and pure and the body was dark and filthy. These two were the only parts of the self; nothing else need apply, and physicians, psychologists, and philosophers alike went out of their way to raise high barriers between the two. This vision of the self, in turn, was what Freud destroyed.

We don’t need to get into the details of his model of the self or his theory of neurosis; most of those have long since been challenged by later research. What mattered, ironically enough, wasn’t Freud’s theories or his clinical skills, but his immense impact on popular culture. It wasn’t all that important, for example, what evidence he presented that glove anesthesia is what happens when someone feels overwhelming guilt about masturbating, and unconsciously resolves that guilt by losing the ability to move or feel the hand habitually used for that pastime.

What mattered was that once a certain amount of knowledge of Freud’s theories spread through popular culture, anybody who had glove anesthesia could be quite sure that every educated person who found out about it would invariably think, “Guess who’s been masturbating!” Since one central point of glove anesthesia was to make a symbolic display of obedience to social convention—“See, I didn’t masturbate, I can’t even use that hand!”—the public discussion of the sexual nature of that particular neurosis made the neurosis itself too much of an embarrassment to put on display.

The frequency of glove anesthesia, and a great many other distinctive neuroses of sexual origin, thus dropped like a rock once Freud’s ideas became a matter of general knowledge. Freud therefore deserves the honor of having extirpated an entire class of diseases from the face of the earth. That the theories that accomplished this feat were flawed and one-sided simply adds to his achievement.

Like so many pioneers in the history of ideas, you see, Freud made the mistake of overgeneralizing from success, and ended up convincing himself and a great many of his students that sex was the only unstated motive that mattered. There, of course, he was quite wrong, and those of his students who were willing to challenge the rapid fossilization of Freudian orthodoxy quickly demonstrated this. Alfred Adler, for example, showed that unacknowledged cravings for power, ranging along the whole spectrum from the lust for domination to the longing for freedom and autonomy, can exert just as forceful a gravitational attraction on thought and behavior as sexuality.

Carl Jung then upped the ante considerably by showing that there is also an unrecognized motive, apparently hardwired in place, that pushed the tangled mess of disparate drives toward states of increased integration. In a few moments we’ll be discussing Jung in rather more detail, as some of his ideas mesh very well indeed with the Schopenhauerian vision we’re pursuing in this sequence of posts. What’s relevant at this point in the discussion is that all the depth psychologists—Freud and the Freudians, Adler and the Adlerians, Jung and the Jungians, not to mention their less famous equivalents—unearthed a great deal of evidence showing that the conscious thinking self, the supposed lord and master of the body, was froth on the surface of a boiling cauldron, much of whose contents was unmentionable in polite company.

Phenomena such as glove anesthesia played a significant role in that unearthing. When someone wracked by guilt about masturbating suddenly loses all feeling and motor control in one hand, when a psychosomatic illness crops up on cue to stop you from doing something you’ve decided you ought to do but really, really, don’t want to do, or when a Freudian slip reveals to all present that you secretly despise the person whom, for practical reasons, you’re trying to flatter—just who is making that decision? Who’s in charge? It’s certainly not the conscious thinking self, who as often as not is completely in the dark about the whole thing and is embarrassed or appalled by the consequences.

The quest for that “who,” in turn, led depth psychologists down a great many twisting byways, but the most useful of them for our present purposes was the one taken by Carl Jung.

Like Freud, Jung gets castigated a lot these days for his failings, and in particular it’s very common for critics to denounce him as an occultist. As it happens, this latter charge is very nearly accurate.  It was little more than an accident of biography that landed him in the medical profession and sent him chasing after the secrets of the psyche using scientific methods; he could have as easily become a professional occultist, part of the thriving early twentieth century central European occult scene with which he had so many close connections throughout his life. The fact remains that he did his level best to pursue his researches in a scientific manner; his first major contribution to psychology was a timed word-association test that offered replicable, quantitative proof of Freud’s theory of repression, and his later theories—however wild they appeared—had a solid base in biology in general, and in particular in ethology, the study of animal behavior.

Ethologists had discovered well before Jung’s time that instincts in the more complex animals seem to work by way of hardwired images in the nervous system. When goslings hatch, for example, they immediately look for the nearest large moving object, which becomes Mom. Ethologist Konrad Lorenz became famous for deliberately triggering that reaction, and being instantly adopted by a small flock of goslings, who followed him dutifully around until they were grown. (He returned the favor by feeding them and teaching them to swim.) What Jung proposed, on the basis of many years of research, is that human beings also have such hardwired images, and a great deal of human behavior can be understood best by watching those images get triggered by outside stimuli.

Consider what happens when a human being falls in love. Those who have had that experience know that there’s nothing rational about it. Something above or below or outside the thinking mind gets triggered and fastens onto another person, who suddenly sprouts an alluring halo visible only to the person in love; the thinking mind gets swept away, shoved aside, or dragged along sputtering and complaining the whole way; the whole world gets repainted in rosy tints—and then, as often as not, the nonrational factor shuts off, and the former lover is left wondering what on Earth he or she was thinking—which is of course exactly the wrong question, since thinking had nothing to do with it.

This, Jung proposed, is the exact equivalent of the goslings following Konrad Lorenz down to the lake to learn how to swim. Most human beings have a similar set of reactions hardwired into their nervous systems, put there over countless generations of evolutionary time, which has evolved for the purpose of establishing the sexual pair bonds that play so important a role in human life. Exactly what triggers those reactions varies significantly from person to person, for reasons that (like most aspects of human psychology) are partly genetic, partly epigenetic, partly a matter of environment and early experience, and partly unknown. Jung called the hardwired image at the center of that reaction an archetype, and showed that it surfaces in predictable ways in dreams, fantasies, and other contexts where the deeper, nonrational levels come within reach of consciousness.

The pair bonding instinct isn’t the only one that has its distinctive archetype. There are several others. For example, there’s a mother-image and a father-image, which are usually (but not always) triggered by the people who raise an infant, and may be triggered again at various points in later life by other people. Another very powerful archetype is the image of the enemy, which Jung called the Shadow. The Shadow is everything you hate, which means in effect that it’s everything you hate about yourself—but inevitably, until a great deal of self-knowledge has been earned the hard way, that’s not apparent at all. Just as the Anima or Animus, the archetypal image of the lover, is inevitably projected onto other human beings, so is the Shadow, very often with disastrous results.

In evolutionary terms, the Shadow fills a necessary role. Confronted with a hostile enemy, human or animal, the human or not-quite-human individual who can access the ferocious irrational energies of rage and hatred is rather more likely to come through alive and victorious than the one who can only draw on the very limited strengths of the conscious thinking self. Outside such contexts, though, the Shadow is a massive and recurring problem in human affairs, because it constantly encourages us to attribute all of our own most humiliating and unwanted characteristics to the people we like least, and to blame them for the things we project onto them.

Bigotries of every kind, including the venomous class bigotries I discussed in an earlier post, show the presence of the Shadow.  We project hateful qualities onto every member of a group of people because that makes it easier for us to ignore those same qualities in ourselves. Notice that the Shadow doesn’t define its own content; it’s a dumpster that can be filled with anything that cultural pressures or personal experiences lead us to despise.

Another archetype, though, deserves our attention here, and it’s the one that the Shadow helpfully clears of unwanted content. That’s the ego, the archetype that each of us normally projects upon ourselves. In place of the loose tangle of drives and reactions each of us actually are, a complex interplay of blind pressures striving with one another and with a universe of pressures from without, the archetype of the ego portrays us to ourselves as single, unified, active, enduring, conscious beings. Like the Shadow, the ego-archetype doesn’t define its own content, which is why different societies around the world and throughout time have defined the individual in different ways.

In the industrial cultures of the modern western world, though, the ego-archetype typically gets filled with a familiar set of contents, the ones we discussed in last week’s post: the mind, the conscious thinking self, as distinct from the body, comprising every other aspect of human experience and action. That’s the disguise in which the loose tangle of complex and conflicting will takes in us, and it meets us at first glance whenever we turn our attention to ourselves just as inevitably as the rose-tinted glory of giddy infatuation meets the infatuated lover who glances at his or her beloved, or the snarling, hateful, inhuman grimace of the Shadow meets those who encountes one of the people onto whom they have projected their own unacceptable qualities.

All this, finally, circles back to points I made in the first post in this sequence. The same process of projection we’ve just been observing is the same, in essence, as the one that creates all the other representations that form the world we experience. You look at a coffee cup, again, and you think you see a solid, three-dimensional material object, because you no longer notice the complicated process by which you assemble fragmentary glimpses of unrelated sensory input into the representation we call a coffee cup. In exactly the same way, but to an even greater extent, you don’t notice the processes by which the loose tangle of conflicting wills each of us calls “myself” gets overlaid with the image of the conscious thinking self, which our cultures provide as raw material for the ego-archetype to feed on.

Nor, of course, do you notice the acts of awareness that project warm and alluring emotions onto the person you love, or hateful qualities onto the person you hate. It’s an essential part of the working of the mind that, under normal circumstances, these wholly subjective qualities should be experienced as objective realities. If the lover doesn’t project that roseate halo onto the beloved, if the bigot doesn’t project all those hateful qualities onto whatever class of people has been selected for their object, the archetype isn’t doing its job properly, and it will fail to have its effects—which, again, exist because they’ve proven to be more successful than not over the course of evolutionary time.

Back when Freud was still in medical school, one common entertainment among the well-to-do classes of Victorian Europe was the magic lantern show. A magic lantern is basically an early slide projector; they were used in some of the same ways that PowerPoint presentations are used today, though in the absence of moving visual media, they also filled many of the same niches as movies and television do today. (I’m old enough to remember when slide shows of photos from distant countries were still a tolerably common entertainment, for that matter.) The most lurid and popular of magic lantern shows, though, used the technology to produce spooky images in a darkened room—look, there’s a ghost! There’s a demon! There’s Helen of Troy come back from the dead!  Like the performances of stage magicians, the magic lantern show produced a simulacrum of wonders in an age that had convinced itself that miracles didn’t exist but still longed for them.

The entire metaphor of “projection” used by Jung and other depth psychologists came from these same performances, and it’s a very useful way of making sense of the process in question. An image inside the magic lantern appears to be out there in the world, when it’s just projected onto the nearest convenient surface; in the same way, an image within the loose tangle of conflicting wills we call “ourselves” appears to be out there in the world, when it’s just projected onto the nearest convenient person—or it appears to be the whole truth about the self, when it’s just projected onto the nearest convenient tangle of conflicting wills.

Is there a way out of the magic lantern show? Schopenhauer and Jung both argued that yes, there is—not, to be sure, a way to turn off the magic lantern, but a way to stop mistaking the projections for realities.  There’s a way to stop spending our time professing undying love on bended knee to one set of images projected on blank walls, and flinging ourselves into mortal combat against another set of images so projected; there’s a way, to step back out of the metaphor, to stop confusing the people around us with the images we like to project on them, and interact with them rather than with the images we’ve projected. 

The ways forward that Jung and Schopenhauer offered were different in some ways, though the philosopher’s vision influenced the psychologist’s to a great extent. We’ll get to their road maps as this conversation proceeds; first, though, we’re going to have to talk about some extremely awkward issues, including the festering swamp of metastatic abstractions and lightly camouflaged bullying that goes these days by the name of ethics.

I’ll offer one hint here, though. Just as we don’t actually learn how to love until we find a way to integrate infatuation with less giddy approaches to relating to another person, just as we don’t learn to fight competently until we can see the other guy’s strengths and weaknesses for what they are rather than what our projections would like them to be, we can’t come to terms with ourselves until we stop mistaking the ego-image for the whole loose tangled mess of self, and let something else make its presence felt. As for what that something else might be—why, we’ll get to that in due time.


Marcu said...
Attention all fellow Green Wizards groups, I'm trying to find out what other groups have done that has worked well. Were there any things that may not have been such a great idea? I would really appreciate it if you could send me an e-mail at limitstogrowth1972@​​m if you run your own group and are willing to share your experiences with me.

My second request is for any people in Victoria, Australia who are interested in the Green Wizards​ group to please complete a really short survey [Link]. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

3/1/17, 1:20 PM

Shawn Sincoski said...
So happy to see that we finally arrived at Jung. Would never have guessed it at the start of this series, but here we are.

3/1/17, 1:44 PM

Eric S. said...
Hmm, I'm not quite sure how I haven't, it's probably just a matter of the context in which I typically encounter him (where he tends to take on a much more theological dimmension), but I'd never really thought about Jungian psychology in terms of evolutionary biology. That really sheds a different light on the nature of archetypes, and puts what Jung is talking about much closer to Dawkins' concept of the meme. I wonder if that trail can be chased back in the other direction as well, starting from evolutionary psychology and tracing that back towards theology? Some muddled thoughts to reflect on late in the day.

3/1/17, 3:00 PM

Cassiodorus said...
For any ADR readers in the Pittsburgh area, the Green Wizards of Pittsburgh invite you to join our local activities. Our next meeting will be on Sunday March 12 at the Phipps Conservatory to hear a lecture on worm composting. For more information, see the Green Wizards site:

3/1/17, 3:13 PM

Tower 440 said...
Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
Note – Change of Date and Time
The Spring joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 2:00 PM on Saturday, March 19, 2017. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat. Contact us at [email protected].
Our speaker will be Green Wizard Gene Ainsworth, the first member of Tower 440 to travel with a GWB&PA issued “passport.” (Email us for the template.) Gene will report on his People to People trip to Cuba, particularly his research and interviews with the Cuban People to learn about how they have coped with the difficulties, of the electrical grid, lack of utilities and refrigeration.
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

3/1/17, 4:37 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

"the idea that desires that were rejected and denied by the conscious self might seep through the crawlspaces of the psyche and exert an unseen gravitational force on thought and behavior"

Of course. I see this happens when people who are vehemently against some abstract notion get caught in lurid acts in public toilets! That lot are very strange people fighting inner demons for sure. I'm always wary of people who have outspoken opinions on certain matters - usually relating to bodily functions of one sort or another. I always suspected that deep down that lot don't much like themselves. I assume that is part of the Shadow?

I also assume that magic (as it is understood here in this context) tweaks and pokes the unconscious bits of a person (that would be the will wouldn’t it?)? You may be interested to know that part of my paid job is to work with people to accept and work with the world as it is rather than how they believe it to be and mostly that is about adjusting their narratives. And you know the really interesting thing is that there is a great sense of relief in the people when their narratives align more functionally with what is actually going on, but there is also a cost in that understanding and that involves a little bit of uncertainty for them, but then over time that fades as the new narrative becomes stronger. Dunno, it is complex to be sure.

I reckon I understood this week’s essay far better than the previous two.

Incidentally, I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write your book Retrotopia and I'm almost finished the book. I can hear the echo of your thoughts throughout most of the words and today I came across one very strong sentence: "The minority that still thinks that it gets some benefit out of progress." I just wanted to say how much I respect the fact that you speak every week to those people as it is perhaps more than I could do. Once in a blue moon! But it is worth it isn’t it. ;-)!

Gotta bounce, the sun is shining and there is manure to spread.



3/1/17, 4:51 PM

Justin said...
Fascinating. This one is going to take a few more reads to understand.

3/1/17, 5:12 PM

george darwin said...
archetypically excellent...series of articles. great job!

3/1/17, 5:16 PM

Matthias Gralle said...
Well, this part of will and representation is much easier to handle! Charles Taylor's book Sources of the Self, which I mentioned last week, though it takes a completely different route, also arrives at a somewhat similar point, where one sees that the unified, "interior" self is a construction of the last 1500 and especially the last 500 years in the West and not a universal constant.

3/1/17, 5:52 PM

Susan Roberts, MDiv, OTR/L said...
I learned about glove anesthesia in college while studying how to treat hand injuries in occupational therapy. Later, in graduate school at Harvard Divinity, I had a classmate who consulted me about a hand problem she was having. To my surprise it a classic case of glove anesthesia which occurred just after cheating on her girlfriend. Just like the textbook! So it hasn't completely disappeared - though this was now 30 years ago. I had to smile reading about it this week. Looking forward to,where this is going.

3/1/17, 5:53 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Schopenhauer's categories are still stretching my brain somewhat past what it will hold, but at least I can see where this is going. I'm going to have to find a good Jungian compendium: The Portable Jung Reader proved a bit impenetrable.

About blind Will ... on levels 3 and 4 there is also, besides the Will to Live, the Will to Experience, etc, a contrary Will To Stop The Pain which leads to either treatment, suicide, or Stoic philosophy (yes, I know there's more to stoicism that that!) and a Will To Give It A Rest. Much in evidence in the little representation I experience as sharing the place I have named "Home." Sensory input: a sensation of widespread soft pressure on what's been tagged as "my lap" accompanied by mild warmth and sensations hitting the eardrums that this representation (love the fox in the meadow image!) has given the tag "low rumbling, sounds like a motor."

Now demolish this ruthlessly - arthritic "mentality" surely needs lubrication!

3/1/17, 5:57 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Shawn, to my mind Jung is too often taken out of context. I've tried to put him back into a small part of his context here.

Eric, the role of evolutionary biology in Jung's work is hugely understated by his followers; read the man himself and you'll find the archetypes consistently presented as the subjective experience of instinct. Can you trace that back to theology? Depends very much on your theology...

Cherokee, adjusting narratives to fit reality is my main job, so we have that in common! Glad you're enjoying Retrotopia.

Justin and George, thank you.

Matthias, I got to the same place by reflecting on how people in non-Western and premodern societies write about themselves. I may give Taylor a read one of these days...

Susan, fascinating. It wouldn't surprise me if glove anesthesia was making a comeback, now that its sexual origins are scarcely remembered any more...

3/1/17, 6:07 PM

Matt Heins said...
Thank all the gods! It's Carl Jung to the rescue!

I am reminded of backpacking in rural Ireland 20 years ago - finally a signpost in English! I think I am actually understanding just a bit now, though I'm still waiting curiously to see where you're going with this. What passes for popular and academic ethics nowadays examined through the lens you've built sounds positively explosive.

My main intention in commenting tonight is to fulfill the "first reader" function that I see us ADR fans in by suggesting that when, as I hope, this series is published as a proper book, the introduction include some fairly heavy hints that this Jungian signpost is near. I think I get why Shopenhauer is the basis. But for whatever reason, his terms and whatnot were mighty difficult for this reader.

Interested to see where this goes.

3/1/17, 6:14 PM

LunarApprentice said...
Hmmm... Your post reminds me of some images I recall from Hesse's Steppenwolf, namely the handy-dandy set of pocket figures that denoted various aspects of one's "self", and the repeated admonition to not take oneself too seriously... that's almost a koan....

Presently, I'm picking my way through Dante's Divine Comedy (just getting into Purgatory), and now I can't help but wonder if Dante's characters might be usefully regarded as components of one's tangled mess of self; could Dante have intuited Schopenhauer's insight? Or am I off the rails?

I'm impatiently waiting for my copy of 'The World as Will and Representation'. Any suggestions for literature that illuminate Schopenhauer's perspective?

3/1/17, 6:14 PM

Candace said...
I think this helps me understand the experience of dissociative identity disorder (previously called Multiple Personality Disorder). Basically different configurations of will get stronger representations when encountering certain contexts. For me the idea of one "self" seems to come from reviewing memories and feeling like the experiences and thoughts happened to one "self" over time.

This series of posts definitely gets me questioning some of my ideas!

But then I also start to wonder how do wills tangle to get her and untangle? And how is it that I have memories? Why do I have a tangle of wills that share some memories, but I don't have the memories of another tangle of wills? Hopefully not getting too off track! Trying to get to reading some of Schopenhauer's work, looks like I'll need to read some Jung too!

3/1/17, 7:07 PM

Ray Wharton said...
Glove anesthesia is one of many conditions which seem uncanny to our culture because they break the mind body limit. But, if we set aside the mind body dualism for a tick, then glove anesthesia becomes a member in a much larger set of human conditions which as a whole are pervasive and common experiences. I will give an example from my own life, which I feel will help indicate the set in mind.

Sometimes I get stuck in a dysfunctional feed back loop, where I embarrass myself in relation to someone and then retreat from contact with them, leading to shame for dropping contact, reinforcing the pattern. There are many cases of this where by I have lost contact with a friend, or dropped off suddenly from developing a promising friendship. In some ways the pattern is a useful pruning habit, although less rude habits which would fill the obvious function can be imagined. The connection to the phantom hand only makes sense in the context of will. The body ought to still be able to move the hand, but the will to do so is frustrated by a clash of wills. Similarly I have the means to email, call, text, visit, or otherwise contact B***, L****, M***, J*****, S****, or M**** but the will to do so is... splashy and frustrated. The conscious mind, even seeing what is going on, doesn't right off the bat have the power to force it, and I doubt much good would come from it in half those cases. Three of those folks I do have to contact, and I have started the conscious pattern which will reestablish the will to do so.

My point being that a clash of inner wills, sexual repression vs sexual urge for instance, can lead to a faculty, Rosy Palm, losing power for getting caught in the conflict. Similarly the clash of self image with persona leads to the lose of power of a faculty of communication; an abstract faculty, not a bodily definable power, but something potentially just as useful. At present this glitch in myself tends to stay limited to the particular people who are directly linked to the conflict, with tolerably bleeding out ward into my general social life, but not too many years ago my entire social persona could go off line for a stretch.

This must be related to Kierkegaard's bit on 'purity of heart is to will one thing' and Zarathustra's observation that there are advantages to having but one most beloved virtue.

3/1/17, 7:32 PM

Mike said...
A Freudian slip - that's where you say one thing but mean your mother.

3/1/17, 7:33 PM

Kevin Warner said...
Hmmm. Monsters from the Id indeed. As a minor take away from this week's essay, this confirms to me how a sick society will encourage maladjusted behaviour in its own people. If "glove anesthesia" was a reaction to the widespread disapproval of masturbation in the 19th century, you wonder what late 21st century medicos will say about the widespread increase of eating disorders in girls since the 1970s and 1980s was all about.

You wonder too what life would be like in a society whose first priority for its people would be for to "Know thyself". Material like what is in this week's essay would be basic building blocks for young school kids to chew over and names like Freud, Adler and Jung would be once again familiar. Gawd knows what sort of ethical system would eventually evolve out such an effort.

3/1/17, 7:47 PM

Clarence said...
you asked me, a few essays back, to elaborate on a simple declaration about morals and their relation to stupidity. that statement, a distillation of many ideas and thoughts over quite some time (essentially, a sound bite) will require some deep effort. in the best of times, wrestling ideas out of the ether of the mind, tying them up with words and attempting to get them on the page is, to me, daunting. at other times, i don't write for a living.

to start, i believe morals inher. that is, as you encounter situations, your reactions may be successful or not. given enough encounters, you may find a reaction that is successful much of the time. this gives a guide to that and similar situations. you then have a rule that helps you function. build a big enough rulebook and there is the basis for your morals. morals, i believe, are not static but are changeable in response to many factors as long as you are aware of the greater world outside of your own experiences.

ignorance is lack of knowledge or experience. willful ignorance is stupidity. from above, someone builds a rulebook and follows it blindly, not because they can't see that there are situations which do not accord with the rules but because they do not want to see.

the above is simple and woefully short of what i see in my mind. i will await your next post to see if it is worth the effort to continue this line of thought.


3/1/17, 8:35 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Patricia, no need to demolish it. The representation "cat" is your perception of a particular loose tangle of will, which demonstrates the conflicted nature of will by wanting to go outside whenever it's inside, and then turning around and demanding to be let back inside the moment it's outside!

Matt, if I could figure out how to start from Jung I'd probably do so, because his way of talking about the will and its representations is tolerably easy for people to grasp. The problem is that when I do that, people assume that I'm just talking about psychology, and the division between mind and matter remains their default assumption.

Apprentice, why, yes, you ought to be thinking of Hesse just now, since Steppenwolf is the most Jungian of his books, and he was a close friend of Jung and did therapy with one of Jung's inner circle of students! As for helps to Schopenhauer, I don't know of anything that really helps; I'd say jump right in and take it a little at a time.

Candace, the relation between will and memory is complex, and Schopenhauer devotes some time to that. I'll see if I have anything to say about it as we proceed.

Ray, exactly. Glove anesthesia is simply a clearer example, since it breaches the fake boundary between mind and body, and because it involves something salacious and embarrassing.

Mike, funny. Yep.

Kevin, I'm pretty much convinced that nobody in America is sane about food. Still, that's a topic I'll discuss when I want ten thousand commenters screaming abuse at me because I disagree with their particular recipe for salvation via diet.

3/1/17, 8:41 PM

Ogrepat said...
Talking today (Well, yesterday) with a Japanese scholar of Buddhist philosophy, I'm struck by the close parallel between his description of "desire" as the urge to control something. Which sounds an awful lot like Schopenhauer's Will. Of course, Buddhist thought places Self; what seems to be being called the Witness here, behind desire/will.

We had a good time playing with the notion that the exercise of desire/will is what allows the Self to experience and perceive itself, which is itself desired.

3/1/17, 9:23 PM

Genevieve Hawkins said...
Interesting read! I am sure some elements of mistaking the shadows for reality go away with age or should, after any number of failed true loves and arch enemies. This reminds a bit of the Landmark forum, where they used the word Racket to describe those aspects of oneself that a person refuses to acknowledge. They'd start by asking someone something that they hated, that bothered them so much it made them angry just thinking about it. Very revealing exercise.
I'm sure there's still plenty of modern day example of glove anesthesia. I had an ex that said when a woman wanted to get pregnant, she'd reliably claim an allergy to latex...

3/1/17, 9:39 PM

patriciaormsby said...
The March 2017 Kanto Green Wizards will meet at the Asakawa Kompira Shrine on Sunday, March 5 starting from about noon. The Kompira monthly picnic (of which this is part) is potluck, so please bring something to share.
To get there, go to Takao Station on the JR or Keio line and exit through the south exit (which apparently means going through the Keio part of the station). The small mountain that Asakawa Kompira Shrine crowns is directly west of the station (in fact, the train tunnels under it). For a map and photos and more information in general, see: .
I am told that the Google map is practically invisible on small, hand-held screens, so it would be best to confirm the location before coming out. But nearly everyone in town knows where the Kompira Shrine is, so if you get lost ask. (It's not the prominent golden UFO thing --that's to the south of the station.)
Looks like we will have good weather for it!

3/1/17, 10:10 PM

sandy said...
Hi John Michael. Very interesting. Thank you. It's too bad Schopenhauer did not get more widely read sooner haha. Would it be correct to think of the superego as being the entity controlling the magic lantern? Or would the subconscious all-powerful I- god be a better representation to think about?

The concept of archetype is very useful when talking about mental projections. The wiki on Jungian Arch types is very interesting.

Here is a link to some other kinds of arch types arranged by category.

Here is a link to a rather long list of arch types. About 70 with movie listing of typical examples.

During this last presidential election cycle I noticed another mental health problem similar to glove anesthesia haha.

Helmet anesthesia- thought processes run by bigot bees and prejudice parrots. a modern politician, heh.

Pearce M. Schaudies.
Minister of Future

3/1/17, 10:45 PM

Mark In Mayenne said...
Can will exist without (the knowledge of) something to exert it on?

3/1/17, 11:50 PM

Scotlyn said...
Thanks for this.

The past few posts and what I see I have projected onto them has now made it clear to me that a "blind force/pressure" is everything I hate, therefore my shadow.

Here is what I have decided to do over the next six weeks - a Lenten vow if you will (the timing is foerunate).

Read and re-read Schopenhauer. Read and re-read the ADR posts and comments that have triggered this reaction. Reflect. Refrain from commenting.

(And yes, this last will count as a huge sacrifice indeed. I offer it up to any being who wishes to claim it).

I will let you know six posts from now (presuming it continues to be germane) how this bout of shadow-wrestling goes.

In the meantime, many, many apologies for the brow-beating. Nothing you or anyone else said deserved it.

Thank you and be well.

3/1/17, 11:51 PM

Mark Mikituk said...
Dear John,
I must congratutale you on your vulgarization of Jung! I've always found his writings pretty tough going, and the way you summarized what is some of his toughest concepts in a few paragraphs (admitedly simplifying things), was very impressive. It even helped me to get a clearer picture of Jung, and I have already read a lot of him.

3/2/17, 12:17 AM

JC said...
The only place where I read more or less the same explanation about how the mind works came from a source on the other side of the spectrum: Ray Kurzweil. The lingo was a bit different of course. Pattern recognition neural networks as the inner working of the images and triggers, neural decision engines that get input from experiences and hardwired biases that form the different wills in the mind. It's funny to see the two explanations next to each other.

What he also mentions is how the sense of self can be damaged. This can be seen in people with Cotard delusion, who can believe they or part of them doesn't exist.

3/2/17, 12:52 AM

KL Cooke said...
"A Freudian slip - that's where you say one thing but mean your mother."

I thought it was a fig leaf of the imagination.

3/2/17, 1:48 AM

Oleg Stroganov said...
I would really like to hear your take on emergence of hard drugs, which happened around the same time you describe in your post.

3/2/17, 2:17 AM

Zachary Braverman said...
Often when you take tangents, you give some hint as to where you're heading.

I wonder where you are heading with this in the overall themes of this blog.

I wonder, because while I am interested in almost everything you write, these past few weeks have lead to some pretty serious skimming for this particular reader. The difference between will and ego and self and whatnot, to me it's impossible to think these are not just merely games people play with words, words which have no actual antecedents in reality, and people playing the games arrive at whatever destination makes them feel most good about themselves.

3/2/17, 2:50 AM

Mark said...
A "loose tangle of competing drives and reactions" sums up my day to day existence quite nicely! You allude to something deeper underneath all that, in your final paragraph, and I look forward to that part of the discussion. A few posts ago you discussed three main philosophical traditions, including the Indian path which seems to me most focused on direct experience of the tangle as a way to go beyond it and to get in touch with the underlying presence (at least from what I've read of Krishnamurti and Maharshi and some others). It would be interesting to hear your perspective on the Indian path if you have time in future posts.

One of the challenges of self-inquiry, of trying to cut through the tangle a bit, is that tangle is dynamic and always changing, so an insight we have today can be forgotten tomorrow or lose its importance. It's like trying to cut through the layers of a particularly fast-growing and regenerative onion. For example, we might set out to meditate on and understand our own ego and shadow, and in doing so we develop a new ego of the serious meditator and spiritually-oriented person who understands their own shadow. Lots of blind-alleys and confusion on the inner journey, it seems. More recently I've come to just enjoy the ride, and see the good amount of humor in it. It's like walking through a gallery of fun-house mirrors - there might be a deeper sense of something on the other side of it, but there's plenty of entertainment to be had along the way.

3/2/17, 3:04 AM

nuku said...
Hi Chris,
You said “but there is also a cost in that understanding and that involves a little bit of uncertainty for them, but then over time that fades as the new narrative becomes stronger“.

My experience with drumming taught me that the transition between two rhythm patterns is always the tricky bit. It involves letting go of the old pattern while at the same time beginning the new one. It might be the same with changing one’s narrative.
Also, I found when learning a new rhythm pattern, the beginner always tries to play right to the beat, but as he builds confidence, he can vary his drumming, coming in ever so slightly ahead or behind the regular beat; that’s when magic can happen.

3/2/17, 3:10 AM

Phil Harris said...
This comment is in part leftover from last week - Schopenhauer in an evolutionary context perhaps seems a legit topic.

Humans seem to be in many measures ‘half-grown’, (which is something of a truism in animal behaviour studies, I understand). Which introduces a potential for flexible behaviour? By way of illustration I have a story not of humanity, but of one of our dogs when she was half-grown. There happened a very flexible moment.

She was very interested in our Guinea Pig sisters (grown-up) who lived in a hutch under an apple tree in the garden. We kept an eye on our puppy when she had access to outdoors because the nose took her into explorative enthusiasms. In one coming and going, however, to the car, or whatever, I noticed the puppy (she was really on the way to being grown up by this stage) was ‘out’. Help! The Guinea Pigs! I rushed round the corner. The nose had opened the latch, the mesh doors swung wide-open. There had it seemed been a ‘flexible moment’. The two sisters sat tight together looking out, both shocked and wet! It seemed that they could have been either ‘dinner’ or ‘puppies’. Rather wonderfully they were puppies.

Back to scientific determinism and consciousness studies. I am not sure whether this academic has over-simplified the argument, but it seems to follow. It could be ‘experience’ all the way up rather than turtles all the way down (‘who’ created ‘what’ and so on).

PS This week, being ‘British’ I have to be careful what I project onto ‘America’. (Smile)

3/2/17, 3:13 AM

Sven Eriksen said...
The image that comes to mind just now is of Piglet trying to ride Godzilla. "Oh, dear..."

3/2/17, 3:34 AM

nuku said...
I’m convinced the whole developed world is insane about food. Practically every mass general magazine here in NZ has a feature about food on the cover every month.
Maybe its as simple as being an unconscious expression of the way Consumer Society reduces people to their role as “eaters” of the products of industrial civilization? The distorted relationship between people and the all the “stuff” in their lives gets played out in the area of food, one of the 3 necessities of life besides air and water.

3/2/17, 3:48 AM

shrama said...
Dear JMG,

Okay, I have many, many questions but I will ask the one that is most pressing. Right off your description of the Shadow is inconsistent at first glance: calling it “everything you hate, which means in effect that it’s everything you hate about yourself” and also saying “Shadow doesn’t define its own content” appears contradictory. But I think I understand what you are saying. So, then it would seem from your description that the Shadow is a problem in human affairs only if we see in ourselves things that we hate. In the absense of self-hatred, the Shadow won’t be able to project anything onto others. The Shadow would still be able to marshall hatred when confronted by a real hostile enemy but that would not lead to problems such as bigotry. Thus if we end self-hatred, we end all hatred.

Would you agree with that conclusion? I don’t know, but to me that sounds unlikely, not that all of us would end self-hatred – that really is unlikely – but that even if one of us ended self-hatred, the person would feel no hatred towards anyone else without good reason.

3/2/17, 4:08 AM

Macando said...
Bravo JMG! I get hints of the "no independent self"
philosophy of the Heart Sutra in this thread. Is that
my imagination, wishful thinking, or LOL.... projection?


3/2/17, 5:14 AM

Danogenes said...
Michal, I am fascinated by this line of discourse. However, there seems to be a sudden bit of Platonic dualism that shows up in you ending. The shadows of our love and hates reminds me ever so much of the shadows in the cave. Now I know that Plato was relying on a concept of ruling forms but still, can't your analysis descend into the same area with a level of complexity. The form that casts the shadow is made up of both illusions and our own fears/ concerns driven by the will. It still has a bit of implicit duality, at lease to me, Thanks

3/2/17, 5:56 AM

William Zeitler said...
Methinks, your allegory of the Magic Lantern is quite similar to Plato's Allegory of the Cave in which shadows are projected onto the wall.

3/2/17, 6:11 AM

thefuturefarm said...
It is amazing the synchronicity of three of my favorite bloggers all stabbing the proverbial dagger in the self's back (JMG, Dave at, and Dave at howtosavetheworld). I was hoping JMG would take a different tact and find a real self. I will see if I can do any salvaging ;-)

I think the best place to look for what we call the self comes from neuropathology. First take a look at wills or desires. Many can be removed and no one would say, "that person has changed." A quadriplegic or someone like Stephen Hawking would probably still be said to not be a different person. So the wills in themselves are not what make the self, though I am not arguing they don't direct it or help for it. Next we can look at strokes and brain surgeries, a lot of areas of the brain a person can become damaged and still be considered themselves. Lose a little long or short term memory no big deal.

If, however, someone damages certain areas of their brain responsible for executive control functions almost without fail they will be said to be a different person. A lot of these people can even self report that they are no longer the person they used to be. They will respond to bodily urges differently. A married faithful wife or husband becomes suddenly promiscuous or the church choir lady is singing strings of four letter curse words. It seems these areas take our tangled web of desires/wills and integrate them with our memories. This is also why I think, you and Cherokee's jobs of getting people to have different stories can change the self. The control centers in the brain take the new stories from memory and through inhibitor neurons shut down certain desires/wills that don't fit the goals of the control centers with the caveat that the control centers can be overrun by strong desires like the need for food, water, etc.

I cutout a lot to keep it short. But any rebuttals to the brain's control centers being the seat of what we call self?

3/2/17, 6:47 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
@JMG - Food is today's no-win obsession, as cleanliness was 80 years ago, sexual purity was pre-Freud as per your vivid description above, and The Proprieties were earlier. The no-win obsession is defined by "You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game."

I came up with this while struggling with more weight than my bone structure was comfortable with and trying to untangle health from what the crazy culture was saying. At that time it was "Fat is NASTY and HORRIBLE!" But dieting ladies who pick at their salads were also mocked. Just so when my mother was young, uncleanliness was the greatest taboo, but the Lysol Ladies were rel4entlessly mocked. And so on and so on clear back to whatever the current obsession might be a thousand years ago. I got out of it be focusing relentlessly on health at all costs, and rejecting the rest of the stable-and-henhouse sweepings that were being peddled.

Then I also came up with the theory that this was the way society - not as a conscious agent, but as a blind force - kept women in line, by diverting us into that no-win game and discrediting us for our failure on either side of the nonexistent balancing point. You can't get anything constructive done while you're chasing your own cultural tail!

BTW - I credit my ex and his practice accusing me of of too much/too little assertion, which definitions always overlapped past the balancing point, with putting me onto this game. It seems to be readily played by anyone up to his, her, or its ears in toxic power plays - bosses, political parties (did you know I am now a Traitor To The Resistance by taking a standard-for-my-generation position on the recent election?)and ideologues in general. And the authors of Games People Play didn't seem to have mentioned it, except obliquely.

So is just the thing today's people have chosen to be insane about, and I think it's because it is not only abundant, but due to the well-documented arms race of the food industry as each company tries to attract more and more customers by loading their products with substances that feed the Will To Stock Up Against Famine. I am not looking forward to the next generation's obsessions.

3/2/17, 7:46 AM

John Michael Greer said...
Clarence, good. I'd encourage you to keep working on a clear presentation of your argument; very often, when something can't be expressed clearly, it's because it hasn't been thought through clearly -- one of the ways in which writing is a potent way of training thought!

Ogrepat, I thought that Buddhist thought denies the existence of an enduring self. Certainly, though, Schopenhauer's entire way of thinking was influenced by what he knew of Buddhism.

Genevieve, I'd say that what brings the Shadow under some degree of control is not age but maturity, which is of course not the same thing... ;-)

Sandy, nah, what Freud called the Superego is the internalized set of rules imposed by the parents in childhood. It has some influence over the magic lantern, but here again, there's no one in charge -- the lantern is pushed back and forth by different competing drives and reactions.

Mark, we don't know. All we know is that the one thing we encounter that doesn't seem to be a representation is will.

Scotlyn, I thought that something of the sort was going on. Kudos to you for recognizing it. The confrontation with the Shadow, in Jung's formulation, is the first great step toward individuation -- the process of becoming an individual, rather than a random concretion of blind forces -- and you've begun it.

Mark, thank you! "Vulgarization," btw, means something rather different than its French cognate, but I know what you're saying. ;-)

JC, fascinating. Yes, you can get there by neurological science, too.

Oleg, hard drugs were in common use well before then; consider laudanum (opium dissolved in cheap alcohol), which was in extraordinarily wide use across the Western world in 1800. What happened at the same time as the arrival of depth psychology was that drug use suddenly became a focus of moral panic -- thus laws were passed forbidding them, organized crime profited from them, and advances in chemistry led to more and more opportunities for a return of the repressed.

Zachary, if it's not meaningful to you, it's not meaningful to you. I've had similar reactions from regular readers about literally every series of posts I've done here. It does all tie in together, but some parts may be less interesting to you than others...

3/2/17, 7:48 AM

John Michael Greer said...
Mark, enjoying the ride is a useful habit! I honestly don't know enough about the various Indian paths to have an educated opinion on the subject; I've read some books on Vedanta, but it was a while ago.

Phil, "half-grown" is true in several senses. One of the things that sets human beings apart from most other primates is neoteny -- we preserve into adulthood certain habits of thought and action that are found only in juveniles in most other primates. Think of the way so many animals seem to settle into fixed patterns once they mature -- cats are particularly well known for this. The evolutionary twist that led to us, and quite conceivably to other intelligent creatures here and elsewhere, may have simply been a matter of not settling into a fixed pattern, and retaining that openness to learning.

Sven, good! Except that Piglet has been convinced, perhaps by Owl, that every movement Godzilla makes is his doing...

Nuku, I'm sorry to hear that New Zealand is also caught up in the craziness. Is there the same insistence that skeletal gauntness is a sign of good health, and anybody who doesn't look like an Auschwitz survivor needs to diet?

Shrama, okay, I see the confusion. The Shadow as an archetype is a dumpster, into which everything you hate most about yourself inevitably finds its way. The point is that everyone has one, but its exact contents differ -- sometimes drastically -- from person to person.

Macando, good! No, Schopenhauer knew as much as any European of his time about Buddhism, and it influenced him significantly.

Danogenes, it's hard to speak in English at all without falling into dualistic habits of speech. The nuances will become clearer as we proceed.

William, wouldn't surprise me a bit if Freud et al. had that in mind, too.

Thefuturefarm, sure, you can get to the same place via neurology. Here were taking a different route, which involves (among other things) pointing out that we don't actually know a thing about the brain as a thing-in-itself; all we know are our representations of the brain, filtered through the funhouse mirrors of our cognitive apparatus. It's very easy to slide back into the mind-matter dualism I critiqued last week, and treating the material brain as a thing-in-itself rather than a set of representations is one common way to do it.

3/2/17, 8:01 AM

wbricex said...
Thanks for this series of posts. Very interesting, but more importantly this has all been quite helpful, especially this most recent post. Keep up the great work.

3/2/17, 8:41 AM

jim said...
Let me share my experience of falling madly in love. Almost as soon as we met something just clicked for both of us. We were finishing each other’s sentences by the end of the night. But I clearly remember talking with her just a few days later, sitting there in a state of bliss when she said something (I forget exactly what) that startled the rational part of my mind and that part of my mind said “you know Jim, this is going to end badly for you.” But some other part of my mind said “SHUT UP, it is the journey not the destination!”. As I am sure everyone knows it was the non-rational part of my mind that won the argument. So I got my journey through heaven, purgatory and hell because both parts of my mind were right. That relationship caused me so much heart ache but it also made me far more compassionate for foolish humans, I can’t help be see myself in them now.

(on a side note AI researcher Marvin Minsky wrote a book call The Society of The Mind, that I think is compatible with the ideas you have been talking about.)

3/2/17, 9:14 AM

Gavin Harris said...
I wonder if TS Elliot is apropos here:

I’ve been freed from the self that pretends to be someone
And in becoming no one, I begin to live.

3/2/17, 9:21 AM

Ray Wharton said...
I am experimenting with how to represent these archetypes to myself for consideration. As film used different pigments to represent the colors to the eye, more or less clearly, I am looking through the compounds of my imagination for those which might give the Archetypes' image the right touch.

From the article take 'evolutionary biology' and the metaphors of instinct, but for quality control instinct needs to be given some touch stone to check that the concept from that category is applicable. As the touch stone Gregory Bateson's definition of information will be employed "A difference that makes a difference." Conveniently the presence of the word 'makes' in his definition represents an entry point for the will. Still however my ideas of human psychology are to cluttered a topic to do this work at present, so 'evolutionary biology' and 'information' will be taken out to the garden for this meditation.

A tobacco seed is the smallest thing, lacking any meaningful material weight against the tons and tons of soil and biomass in the garden. If you drop it on dirt finding it is inconceivable. But the tiny difference of its presence on the surface of warm moist soil makes possible a plant which in four months will be taller than I, and which thereby provides the material conditions for an evening cigarette for each night of the winter. The point is that a good tobacco seed, like all other seeds a farmer might seek, is valued foremost for its informational content, because the difference of it being in the right place will lead to a bigger difference of a crop where none would be with out the seed. Also, the soil rarely ever lacks for information, as every spot of ground has uncountable seeds ready to make their own difference. The difference I make, as a gardener, is most essentially one of interrupting some seed from making it's would be difference, and serving other seeds in their efforts. Weeding and watering. Then as a farmer I must harvest and turn the results of the garden into some kind of wealth.

As the tobacco plant is to its seed, the garden is to the gardener. So much of the substance of a garden is humanish, even when manifested by a plant. Apes and cole crops given opportunity to grow monstrous heads. Those cabbages are formed by neoteny, the bud keeps growing with out maturing to leaf or flower; great effort is made by the gardener to keep the plants from 'bolting' or growing up. Many garden plants, breed to be eaten would not compete outside of the protection of the gardener, some need even the gardener's conscious help to maintain their life cycles and generations. My peppers require guidance to complete their life cycle in this cold climate.

The Shadow is easy to see in the garden, it is weeds. That which grows here, but which does not contribute to the functioning of the greater symbiosis which brings together the cabbage, apes, tobacco, chickens, and peppers in a motley alliance. Some turn to devilish means to wage war on weeds, poisons most foul; and hate the neighbor whose field might carry the seed. The garden's ego is the gardener's ideal for the garden. The wise gardener composts or otherwise returns the weeds to the garden's soil, which is the source beyond summary; but sometimes they must be ferocious with the weeds. Some even spare the weeds which show the potential to contribute, to 'play ball'. But when they are choking out the carrots, well there is a place to be ferocious.

3/2/17, 9:22 AM

J Gav said...
Very interesting JMG! I particularly like the quite original Schopenhauer-Freud-Jung nexus. Detailed comments would be far too long so I'll keep it short. Fascinated by your use of the word 'metastatic' here, my mind has wandered a bit into the realm of cell biology and reminded itself of the fact that the 'brain,' as it were, of a cell, is situated in the cell wall and has very little to do with the nucleus. Perhaps no connection with the present topic.

Next week ethics? That's promising. I wonder if the name Spinoza might appear there in some way, shape or form ...

3/2/17, 9:24 AM

redoak said...
I've come to see that the primary qualitative difference between "philosophies" is the degree to which they take your last paragraph as their central theme. So many would be philosophers are distracted by the excitement of argument and system building. The simple and immediate problems are really the most difficult and perennial.

3/2/17, 9:31 AM

Alfredo Vespucci said...
Thank you so much for your blog, I love it and that's not a projection!

TRUMP! Lots of reaction to "him". A part of the shadow many don't want to be aware of.

I understand the Archetypes but what is the force that both creates them and projects them? Ok, survival and species propagation; both of these support the physical body.
In dreams we also want to survive and we are,in most cases, absolutely certain we have a "solid, real body".
That which projects, or some function of that which projects, the "body" in the dream might also be projecting the "body" in this real life.
As a humanity,we may be using up too much energy in the survival of the "body" and not enough on finding the projector, or at least finding out if there is a projector. We may find we are the projector , which would relegate the ego/body to the movie.

3/2/17, 9:35 AM

Sven Eriksen said...

Nah, you got it backwards. Owl is busy trying to convince Godzilla that the little entity catching a ride on him and nervously chattering in his ear, is who he really is, and that this field of giant lizard-ness that he experiences is some kind of nefarious "other"...

3/2/17, 10:31 AM

Mark Mikituk said...
re Vulgarization: oops! I had suspected that what I wanted was popularization, I just felt that vulgarization fit better. I guess that's what comes from living in France for too long; one prefers the vulgar to the popular ;)

3/2/17, 10:44 AM

James M. Jensen II said...
One aspect of the mind-body dualism that I've been afflicted with most of my life is the idea that perfection is theoretically achievable since (in this scheme) it's just a matter of making the right choices, which is something that is always possible given that my mind is in control of my body. So there's a lingering sense of "I'm not perfect, but I could have been."

Of course, Aristotle long ago recognized that our ability to choose is often compromised by both pain and pleasure. That's a common-sense insight that's all but impossible to square with the dualistic approach. It's also related to Aristotle's conception of virtue as strength (which is literally what "virtue" originally meant): like muscles, the virtues have to be developed from an initial state of weakness. Again, that doesn't make sense if mind is categorically different from body.

Speaking of ethics, I like your description of modern approaches to ethics as "metastatic abstractions" and "lightly camouflaged bullying." It seems most approaches involve picking a favorite intuition or two and starting a campaign to try to shame everyone else into compliance. The most obvious examples are the aggressive vegans, of course, but so are libertarians who constantly harp on the evils of taxation and regulation, and of course activists so offended by [insert thing here] that they will shout down the very people they're supposed to be defending.*

I wonder why it is that even professional ethicists seem to have a hard time with the idea that ethics is no more rational than anything else in nature, and can't be reasoned out from first principles without coming up with something ridiculous?

* I'm actually somewhat thankful for the right-wing freakout over transwomen in bathrooms. I'm quite sympathetic to transgender rights, but I have to say that about the only reason transgender rights hasn't been sunk by its own activists is that their opponents picked such a ridiculous hill to die on.

3/2/17, 11:08 AM

James M. Jensen II said...
On another topic, is one of the differences between Schopenhauer and Jung the fact that Jung posits the Self as the center/sum of a person's individuality? Jung's Self strikes me as a kind of ur-will that slowly organizes the masses of will into an integrated whole.

3/2/17, 11:10 AM

Eric S. said...
"the role of evolutionary biology in Jung's work is hugely understated by his followers; read the man himself and you'll find the archetypes consistently presented as the subjective experience of instinct. Can you trace that back to theology? Depends very much on your theology..."

My line of thought was that if you start from the evolutionary biology basis for memes, instincts, and so on, and then trace that into the idea of archetypes and especially their role in the development of mythologies, and then trace back to the ideas of will and representation you find that what we view as deities and other spirits are representations of forces that possess will. If you go off of the idea that the basic requirement for any sort of existence beyond the mere representation is the possession of will, and that everything except for the will itself is a representation hung on that shaky scaffolding, then you wind up getting down to the sort of basic theological arguments that Descartes was toying with. The question of whether those forces that we represent through various archetypes and mythic figures are internal aspects of the self or external forces acting upon the self becomes an irrelevancy, since the concept of both the self and the worlds inside and outside the self are representations. What matters is that such representations seem to act with some sort of will and therefore are representations of something that has some sort of root in the "thing in itself." Once you step beyond the idea of the representation of the self as a singular agent and view it, rather as a mass of swirling conflicting forces within a deep subconscious, the question of whether such forces are part of the self or something that transcends the self becomes an irrelevancy, all that matters is whether those forces possess will. It gets down to the same basic level where ontologists like Descartes placed thought, replacing "I Think Therefore I Am" with "it wills therefore it represents something other than a pure abstraction." Or I may be chasing my tail and confusing myself.

3/2/17, 11:13 AM

Jason Mierek said...
Dear Mr. Greer,

Been reading this blog religiously (only half a pun) for nearly ten years, and I've finally decided to come out of the woodwork and comment.

I've been a student of Buddhism, especially varieties that come from the Himalayas (I'd say "Tibetan" Buddhism, but that might unnecessarily ruffle the feathers of the Bhutanese, Lhadaki, etc. Buddhists), for over twenty years, and this post hit particularly close to home with its recognition that what we think of as "the self" is really just a collection of ever-changing "aggregates" (skandhas, Sanskrit; khandhas, Pali) including embodiment, feeling, sensation, volition, and the chattering filler we call "consciousness." This week's post helped me understand that notion, what the Buddhists called anatman (Sanskrit) or anatta (Pali) ("no-self"), from a different vantage point. Awesome! Like you said, what I think of as me, the thinker, the guy "in control," too often turns out to be like a teeny raft floating on a vast sea, the last one to know, as it were.

Also wanted to note that you are the 2nd person online I've read recently who has made the connection between Jung and contemporary neurobiology, rescuing Jung from the New Age, so to speak. That other person, who has been mentioned in these comments a couple times in the last few months, is Dr. Jordan Peterson at (for now at least) the University of Toronto. Well worth looking into, if you haven't already.

Lastly, I wanted to bring to your attention something I read via Reason magazine today (, on how a team of psychologists has found a substantial connection between personal guilt, refusal to change one's own behaviors, and moral outrage at an Other. After a decade of reading your blog and trying to catch my own BS with increasing frequency (G-d willing), I must admit that this article was something less than a revelation.

Anyhow, thanks and keep up the excellent effort!


3/2/17, 11:44 AM

thecrowandsheep said...
JMG, I know you enjoy a hearty tickle! I came across the following High Satire the other day which I take great pleasure here in sharing with the Archdruid, the forum and Humanity:

"Imagine a time when time is no longer imaginable. When the dances never need to end, when the lovers never need to die, when entropy no longer dominates. Imagine a world where we could explore with full scope, for as long as we wanted, every idea, every concept, every location. To dance with the stars, to dance with each other, to dance simply for the sake of dancing with no time limits. Imagine a world of radical life expansion, accompanying radical life extension. Imagine all the things possible. All the potential art, all the potential beauty, all the potential creation and ideation. What will life look free from the shackles of time? I doubt we could even imagine it with the right justice."

It occurs to me that perhaps entropy is sometimes treated unfairly? I can think of many unpleasantries that are, thankfully, also subject to entropy...

3/2/17, 12:21 PM

Robert Mathiesen said...
More T. S. Eliot, to the point of this series of posts:

"Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality."

-- his Four Quartets

3/2/17, 1:35 PM

Mike T. said...
I’ve been mulling over some of the notions in this essay and the previous ones. Since I’ve just started reading Bateson’s Mind and Nature, I tried to find the pattern which connects these tangles. Please pound me over the head if I’m off base here, but I’m getting the hunch that the tangle of archetypes in us, and the tangle of stories/narratives that we think with, are the limit on the will. And as you previously stated, it’s when the will is limited, that we experience consciousness. Without some of the things we consider hindrances, the will would just be, unchecked, and we wouldn’t experience anything at all?? I’m not sure how this will tie to the “something else” that should make its presence felt.

As usual, thank you for the thought provoking essays, and the voice of an elder that I otherwise lack.

3/2/17, 1:36 PM

William McGillis said...
Great post. Thrilled that you're bringing Jung into all this.

I have found the concept of the Shadow to be useful and vital.

In some other contexts (mostly neo-Jungian), I have heard the Shadow referred to as not only to what one hates, but also to the following:

a) what one fears, represses, and denies within oneself
b) any aspect of oneself that makes one feel threatened, vulnerable, or inferior
c) aspects of the self (I understand that this concept of "self" is itself open to question) that one's culture fears, represses, or denies

If I understand him correctly, Jung also points out that the Shadow also contains positive, valuable qualities or energies for one to interact with and integrate. (the Golden Shadow)

Not sure if these other associations relate to what you are exploring in these posts.


3/2/17, 1:41 PM

John Michael Greer said...
Patricia, oh, granted. Food's just a very easy target at the moment, since what I call the macroneurotic diet -- that is to say, getting obsessively stressed out about what foods you are and aren't eating -- is so common, and so obviously counterproductive.

Wbricex, you're welcome and thank you.

Jim, yep; been there, done that. It's a great way to see the multiplicity of the blind forces that constitute this thing we each call "myself."

Gavin, Eliot is always appropriate here.

Ray, "the Shadow is the weeds"? Not at all. The Shadow is always your shadow, the thing about yourself you can't stand and therefore hate and fear in others.

J Gav, nah, I'm not a great Spinoza fan. Watch for a handlebar mustache instead...

Redoak, I won't argue. It's because so many philosophers abandoned the questions that matter for the entertainments of abstract systems-building that philosophy has so largely become intellectual onanism in our time.

Alfredo, good. Yes, exactly; Trump is the Shadow of liberal America, the image of everything they refuse to see in themselves: their own sense of entitlement, their own insouciant attitude toward mere fact, their own class bigotries, all reflected back at them via a funhouse mirror painted orange on top. As for what projects the projections, Schopenhauer has an answer to offer: will, of course.

Sven, that'll work also. "Embrace your dinosaurhood!"

Mark, oh, I can be vulgar enough, too... ;-)

3/2/17, 3:27 PM

G E Canterbury said...
Hello JMG –
I received my printed copies of Merigan Tales in the mail. A handsome volume, and I enjoyed seeing my story “Eight Stars of Gold” accompanying the other stories in the collection with their various perspectives branching out from the common starting point of Star’s Reach. My vote for best title goes to Cathy McGuire – I continue to grin when I see “Elwus Has Left the Building”. Thanks for pulling this project together!
On the topic of the past several weeks, I keep coming back to the thought that I should be able to connect Gregory Bateson’s work into this, but can’t quite put my finger on how. The “will” concept does not seem to quite fit where Bateson was coming from, but he definitely did try to rethink the Cartesian body/mind split from first principles using a perspective of systems analysis and information theory; “mind” being not a separate perceiver localized “in here”, but a function of information being passed in feedback loops through a system. Schopenhauer’s representation concept sounds like something Bateson would have talked about in terms of distinct logical types and map/territory duality. But I can’t remember that Bateson ever mentioned Schopenhauer in his writing; I will have to dig out Steps to an Ecology of Mind and do some comparison/contrast. So far I have not read any Schopenhauer myself, but I have now put him on my list.
- Grant C.

3/2/17, 4:30 PM

Hubertus Hauger said...
I had to laugh, when I read about that glove thing. A funny sickness in a way. More so, as people abandoned it with haste, so that their inner punishment doesn’t become an outward one too. Thanks for that irony of life.

Also I am happy, that this writings I do swallow with ease. Just as you mentioned, it depends. How familiar I am with the subject, the less resistance I have to overcome in comprehending it. So I see, that I am well entrenched within that psycho-think. Using it. Living with it. So I could swiftly follow you.

Also I had some associations with your will and representation. Being German it comes in handy; "Wille … wollen … wallen … Welle … Wolle, i.e. will, wanting, floating, wave, wool." These expressions are connected, so I feel. Some moving, intermingled drive I hear out o fit. Gives me some sense of what I recognize in that will. Also but different that representation comes to me as image, "Bild" in German, like that projected image from the magic lantern. "Wille & Bild".

Some interesting shifting perspective that gives me.

3/2/17, 5:41 PM

Glenn Condell said...
Hi JMG, longtime reader, first time commenter. Apologies that this isn’t directly relevant to this week’s post but I am moved to write by a piece I just read in the Guardian, entitled 'No more 'death & taxes' – but do we really want to live forever with nothing to do?’ which is relevant to your ongoing ruminations here.

It is centred around a documentary called The Future of Work and Death, 'which explores the brave new world of “super-intelligence, super-longevity and super-happiness” The directors have 'interviewed scientists, futurists, philosophers, sociologists and anthropologists about the promise of a utopian world’. It seems primarily to be concerned with the estimated 47% of today’s workers whose jobs will have been technologised out of existence in the next 25 years, and ponders also the ironies in emergence of transhumanism - this juxtaposition generating the question in the title. The film is scheduled to be screened soon at the European Commission (pearls before swine?)

This may be of interest in itself, but what struck me were a few quotes from the notoriously progressophobic G.K. Chesterton which bookended the article:

“I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday simply because it is Thursday”, and more to the point, in the context of transhumanism,

“When men have come to the edge of a precipice, it is the lover of life who has the spirit to leap backwards, and only the pessimist who continues to believe in progress.”

I thought of your work immediately and wondered whether you might have discussed GKC in posts I had missed, so I sought the assistance of Dr Google. Although some commenters have mentioned him, you on a few occasions have only said in passing that you hadn’t yet managed to read much of him. Another relevant Chestertonian gem turned up in that search; a quip you have referenced, which was quoted by Avery:

'If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible. There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be restored upon any plan that has ever existed’

Chesterton’s scepticism seems a heathy, natural corrective to the zeitgeisty optimism of his contemporary HG Wells (though Wells himself seemed to have second thoughts about prrogress in his last work, Mind at the End of its Tether) An instance where being ‘reactionary’ seems preferable to the alternative.

I can’t resist a couple more that could almost have been coined by you:

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

Anyway, all this has persuaded me to put Chesterton near the top of the ‘to read' list. If you ever do get around to reading him and recording your impressions, well, I would enjoy reading that too.

3/2/17, 5:42 PM

patriciaormsby said...
I can relate to the idea of "projecting" in infatuations, of which I'm sure I've had a million, and I eventually learned to be very careful about what that sort of blindness can lead to--usually embarrassingly childish outbursts. In both of my marriages, I deliberately chose someone I was not infatuated with. (The first time, it still didn't work out, but I had no hard feelings.)

But all my life, I have never been able to relate to the idea of projecting in hatred. A while back some psychological guru in the media asked her readers to think of someone who, if he were dead or never existed, they would be much happier. I couldn't think of anybody! Not one! Not the guys who molested me, not Idi Amin (I never knew him).

The first time I heard about projection was when I was about six or seven. There was a girl in the neighborhood I'd never met and when I first encountered her, I was with a friend who warned me not to attract her attention. Well, I stupidly did, and I don't know what kind of family problems the girl had, but for no reason that I could determine, she came over and beat the holy living daylights out of me. (The last I saw of her, she was a sunny, delightful girl--I wish I knew how she was now!)

So I went home crying and told my mother I hated Terry!!! My mother told me that the only reason I hated her was that I was projecting something about myself onto her, and it meant I was very similar to this incredible bully. I had never beaten anybody up. I didn't have a negative self image (that came later).

I think when children are told palpable absurdities by people they trust deeply (another was that gravity exists because the Earth turns) and they can see the absurdity, they still obsess over it, thinking they must be wrong because their hero is so trustworthy otherwise. Of course, a child does not want to see anything negative about a parent. So I stifled it, but obsessed over it. (It wasn't until a university physics class mentioned that we are indeed a bit lighter at the equator that I finally put the latter to rest.)

It may be that I kept such a hawk eye open for any sign of projecting my negative self image onto others that it never had a chance to come out of its cave and wreak havoc. I really ought to thank my mother for this!

I do see how antics of the American left right now are like a punch to the stomach for me. Because that used to be me. I've been that foolish.

And to Alfredo, that is very insightful. Trump is just so American. It was when I realized that the "America" that I was frankly disgusted with, was just another hilarious culture like all the rest I've met, and deserving of the same respect, that I overcame a certain degree of antipathy. I can understand the rage my friends on the left are undergoing, because they are too immersed, and cannot step back and see it from my less involved point of view. And so your comment has probably given me more insight into the phenomenon of projecting the shadow than I've had previously.

3/2/17, 6:08 PM

Taraxacum said...
It's a little off topic for today's post, but I thought you might be amused to add to your collection of apocalypse trading cards. Enjoy!

3/2/17, 7:04 PM

Keith Huddleston said...
I am absolutely loving this this series on philosophy, but I smell a good post on food coming up!

I think history will show many -- certainly not all-- of our food allergies and food diseases akin to your description of glove anesthesia: a manifestation of a key neurosis of our time. My money would go on hyper-consumerism over-stoking the ego archetype . . .

Like glove anesthesia, I don't doubt that people feel symptoms, and even can get very ill, it's just that in a different cultural environment, it would be far different.

It's gotten to the point that I wonder if any gathering over 3 people can have a common meal.

3/2/17, 7:35 PM

Zachary Braverman said...
"If it's not meaningful to you, it's not meaningful to you."

I wasn't trying to presume to tell you what to write (I hate it when people do that; you don't like it, don't come to read it!).

I just figured that, since the past few weeks have been so far afield from your usual themes, a clue as to where you were headed would be helpful.

3/2/17, 7:58 PM

onething said...
Actually, it seems to me that one could over employ the theory of projection. Surely, not every time anyone sees something noxious, it is only because that thing is in reality a fault or desire inside herself. And, if the shadow is tied to instinct and archetype, then what is the function of the shadow in a clear-seeing person?

3/2/17, 9:05 PM

nuku said...
Re food insanity in NZ:
Here in NZ we seem to be spared the female ideal of gaunt thinness. Although various eating disorders centered around “being thin” are on the rise among girls and young women, one doesn’t see those disturbing concentration camp-like female images in locally produced advertising to the degree that they appear in the USA.
The fetish around food here is more about competing versions of the “healthy” diet (usually with a subtext of weight loss). The associated images are generally youngish women with long golden hair and airbrushed perfect skin. Words like “natural” and “organic“ get used a lot, which is consistent with the advertising fiction of a “clean green” New Zealand.
The healthy diet also has the subtext of “cures whatever ails you” and, as you mentioned, “happiness/salvation through diet”, all backed up with bogus quasi-science of course.
On the topic of the ego/self as a singular “it“ assumed to be the top dog of each human entity: there are many case studies in medical literature of multiple personalities residing in a single human, which directly contradicts the common assumption of “one human=one ego/one self”.
One book I read called “When Rabbit Howls” was written by a woman with close to 100 distinct personalities. The emergence of these personalties was triggered by extreme sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father starting when she was 1 1/2 years old and lasting into her 20’s. When she finally entered therapy in her late thirties, her doctor, who had never treated a multiple personality, started out assuming that the aim of therapy was to reduce all the multiples to one. But this would involve effectively “killing“ all the rest, an action the “collective of selves” wouldn’t accept. In the end, the personalities decided to live the woman’s life as a collective, keeping one personality as the “front” that faced the world most of the time.
This book deeply impressed me and since reading it I’ve aways felt that all of us humans are multiple personalities, multiple wills if you like, but mostly just showing one face to the world and to ourselves.

3/3/17, 1:56 AM

lordyburd said...
Dear Mr. Greer
This comment is only tangentially related to Schopenhauer's philosophy, but the title of your essay brought it up. For many years now I have been chewing over why so many transformative political revolutions reliably turn into something worse than the incumbent systems they replace (The revolutionary faith was very attractive to me once). You have dealt with this issue in your previous essays through whole-systems-thinking, but something was missing. That is, until I recently read George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' for the first time and became aware of how much self-deception by all the players goes into putting the square pegs of ideals into the round holes of reality.
Was orwell's use of the barnyard fable a projection which highlighted human behaviour in a way that a different projection, say, sober historical analysis would have missed?
In short, can a change in projections lead to otherwise unobtainable insight into reality or the thing-in-itself?

I recall in another one of your essays you say how JRR Tolkien's evocative language about mountain vistas completely changes how one apprehends mountains.

3/3/17, 3:31 AM

Myriam said...
I would like to know how one separates shadow projection from the evolutionary benefit of accessing the rage? How does one separate a projection (experienced as a perceived threat) from a real threat?

As a real life example I'm experiencing right now, it seems I have attracted the attention of a sexual stalker. He has surreptitiously videotaped me, dropped a pair of men's underwear a few feet in front of the library counter where I work, been caught by another library patron masturbating in the washroom moments after I served him, has tried to corner me when no one else is around, and so on. So far, he has not physically attacked me, though I remain on high alert for it.

Two weeks ago, at my second place of employment, he cornered me in a situation where I was not able to walk away. Standing very close to me, while ogling my body, he was asking questions about whether I would get more hours at the library. The vibes coming from this guy were beyond creepy.

This is where this series of posts becomes relevant. Something in me snapped, but some part of me remained in control of my response because I was at work, and all I answered was “I am NOT discussing my personal life with YOU!” and I turned away to serve another person.

However, I was absolutely not in control of my body, and I felt my expression showing full rage, disgust, contempt, revulsion, and fury. I could have, at that moment, ripped the flesh off his body. My fury was no doubt fueled by past experiences with groping, rape, abuse, and harm, and my response at that moment carried all the rage of a lifetime of those experiences.

There was a lineup and I shocked everyone of them frozen.

Is that a projection of my own desires to harm others? I have absolutely no wish to harm others intentionally that I know of. Or was this rage merely tapping into the evolutionary mandate to self protection?

I guess my question relates to the rage that is felt all around by the various groups in the USA right now. How much of that is shadow projection, and how much of that is a response to a real threat? And how to tell them apart?

I have to say I haven't seen that guy since, but I remain on alert.

3/3/17, 5:51 AM

Tower 440 said...
Well, oops!
Tower 440's meeting is at 2:00 PM on Sunday, March 19, 2017.

3/3/17, 6:41 AM

Chris Larkin said...
I’ve greatly enjoyed this line of articles. It articulates many thoughts I’ve had about other ideas of the self, perception, and the world around us, and the unease I’ve had about them. I often encounter those with a reductionist materialist mindset so extreme that it wraps around and becomes dualistic where the goal is to emancipate the mind from the body. That never aligned with what I encountered where being was instead a fragile mutable precious interplay both within and without.

Another thing I like about line of thought is that makes the use of representation as an active act of will. Plato’s cave, Descartes's demons, modern rationalists, and most other references to the unreliability of the senses treat it as something inflicted by either an outside force or flaw in design. Instead Schopenhauer has the will, while blind and dumb, trying its best to make sense of what is going on. It’ll never be truly successful, but doesn’t trivialize or mock that struggle. It’s not just victim of malice or circumstance that needs liberation.

3/3/17, 7:34 AM

Jay Moses said...
jmg- may i commend to your attention the work of baruch spinoza? while he lacked the vocabulary available to such luminaries as jung and freud, he took on and, in the view of many, thoroughly routed cartesian dualism hundreds of years earlier.

3/3/17, 11:27 AM

Patricia Mathews said...
BTW - in answer to my own statement that I'd hate to see the next generation's pet obsession - I think we are already seeing it. The Late Victorian one centered around Lust; today's "macroneurotic diet" ties into Gluttony --- and today? Pride & Wrath. In industrial-strength toxicity.

At it's worst, a friend's shrill and inane rant composed entirely of "(This political figure) IS a (everything except 'Poopyhead')" and at its best, another saying "We must resist this appointee to the death because he was (shock! horror!) WRONG on THIS ONE issue!"

Cue up appropriate music:

3/3/17, 12:01 PM

C.M. Mayo said...
Thank you for this one. I am very much looking forward to the next installment.

3/3/17, 12:11 PM

TerminalOne said...
A magic lantern needs a light source. I wonder if your concept of astral light you discussed previously on your other blog has some relevance in all this, being a magical light source, or a source of magical power. It's been a while since I read it.

3/3/17, 12:58 PM

J Gav said...
JMG - As concerns the moustachioed one you refer to, I imagine you are girded for the onslaught in comments. 'What? the Archdruid is a nihilist!?' etc etc. For my part, most of my philosophical reading has been in French so, as for Friedrich and ethics (morality), among other things, I remember this: "Ce qu'il y a d'essentiel et d'inappréciable dans toute la morale, c'est qu'elle est une contrainte prolongée." From Beyond Good and Evil. Bon Courage!

3/3/17, 3:03 PM

Michael Ervin said...

Really enjoying your taking us down a long and winding road to an eventual new insight into reality.
I usually have figured out by this time what your conclusion is but this time I am not so sure.
But it seems that we are getting closer and closer to a clear presentation of full blown non-duality.
I am looking forward as usual to the conclusion.
Thanks for all your work!

3/3/17, 3:40 PM

Cortes said...
I struggle with shadows and thank you for the challenges.

Meanwhile, here's a young woman who sings the song:

3/3/17, 5:45 PM

LunarApprentice said...
JMG, you wrote: "Ogrepat, I thought that Buddhist thought denies the existence of an enduring self..." From my Buddhist study, I came to understand not that the Buddha taught "there is no self", he actually taught "if you examine your experience closely enough, you will not be able to pin down anything that you can point to as a persisting self". Writings by Nagarjuna, i.e. his Mulamadhyamakakarika or Essential Verses on the Middle Way, give one a workout in how to examine one's experience , and self is one of many subjects of examination. (when I seriously studied it 20 years ago, it was too heavy a lift. I'm not sure when I'll tackle it again)

Also, the notion of a non-locatable self is not dogma, and Nagarjuna is clear that one shouldn't "believe" in no-self as an article of faith, or you'll really get wrapped around an axel.

Anyway, I hope this comment didn't too wrapped around an axel. ' sorry if I did.

3/3/17, 6:03 PM

Caryn said...
Hi JMG: Thanks for this. Yes, it was much more accessible and familiar to bring in the concepts of psychology this week. It also for me, helped clarify some of the ideas in the previous 2 essays. It's not there yet, (Can't wait for next week!) but beginning to coalesce.

I think Nuku is onto something with the description of multiple personalities. I've always thought I have several in me. I haven't been through any horrid trauma like the woman in his description, so mine are nicely relegated to 'facets' of my personality, but they're there nonetheless. I suspect they each have their own Shadows too, as I'm well acquainted with a number of Shadows, traits I dislike or despise in others and yet know I have as well. In my better moments - this awareness allows me to be accepting of others as well as to myself. In my less charitable moments, well, at least it pushes me to fight against the detested trait within myself.

@Myriam: This creep sounds very worrisome! Is it naive to ask, can't you tell the police or someone to help you? Even your co-workers, security guards at the library or someone? As to how it pertains to this discussion, in the most respectful and delicate way I can think of, if you don't mind my butting in: I don't see how a primal reaction to protect yourself, (useful rage) is NOT also a Shadow. Why can't it be both? Isn't that the(or one of the) purpose (s) of the Shadows? E.g.: My personal biggest Shadow is sloth. I have an irrational, well, hatred of it. Can't STAND lazy people whereas a lot of other ugly traits don't really bother me all that much. And: Most everything I have accomplished in my life, I'd put down to fighting against it within myself. I've been labeled Lazy since I was a small child and I have felt the tendency within myself. I've always thought it was best to know one's strengths and weaknesses, and as in the old Greek Tragedies: They are often one and the same. Your weakness IS your strength, Your strength IS your weakness.

Lastly: Another bit of thread to add to the tangle: Just another developing humans observation from my preschool class: Every day we sing some simple song, the days of the week song or the ABC Song 3-4 times in different voices: Angry voice, Happy voice, sleepy voice, sad voice, etc. It cracks them up every time! They loooove to come up with new ones and act out their different emotions or facets; unless they ARE actually feeling that emotion - then they refuse to join in that round. Maybe they are finding their own Shadows along with their facets?

3/3/17, 8:30 PM

Sharon Vile said...
Myriam, I too have a problem with the "hatred as a projection of our perceived negative attributes onto others" idea. Some people--like some inanimate objects--are a direct threat to our survival or well-being. Ones "hatred" for them is no more a projection of some aspect of ourselves that is our strong negative feelings about downed electrical wires. The difference between a person who threatens us and an object that threatens us is that a threatening person is not always something we can avoid, like a downed electrical wire. The threatening person very often requires that we respond in such a way as to extinguish the threat through some action of our own. Our response is not "hatred." I am one of those people who has a problem expressing anger (Mars conjunct Saturn in the natal chart). Some of it is repression, and some of it is just that the impulse to anger is not very strong in me (or so I think). Very often, when I have decided that the way to deal with a threatening or problem person is to display anger, I make a conscious decision to "act" angry. Sometimes, when meditating on calling an insurance agent or similar, I will make a conscious plan to "take a tone" with them. Yes, I'm irritated--but nowhere near as irritated as I "act."

I think a finer distinction is called for when it comes to discussing anger as a projection of the shadow self onto someone else. When we are forced to deal assertively or strategically with a person who is a realistic threat, we are not necessarily projecting our own shadow self onto him/her. What we're really doing is drawing on the psychic energy of the shadow self to launch an effective counter-attack. Maybe that psychic energy/power we can draw on comes from some deep sense of injury by someone else somewhere in the past--and, frankly, when I'm working myself up to counter-attack someone, I do find it useful to do a little brooding about past parallel situations/people, and build up a convincing narrative in my mind about the evil motives of the person I'm planning to slug it out with.

But I do have to say that neither the person I'm working myself up to attack, nor any of the people from my past who "done me wrong" are aspects of myself. To me, it's just silly to think you necessarily hate someone because they represent your "shadow self."

Now, maybe there are cases where this does come into play. Awhile back I was in a fast-food joint, and I felt a little contemptuous of one of the kids who worked there because just horribly spaced out and incompetent. Now THAT was a genuine case of projection. That kid was ME at that same age, and I do in fact have a deep disdain for my younger self. But, having objectified this due to thinking it over, I see there is no need for me to beat myself up for having been young once--or to mentally beat someone else up for being young now.

3/3/17, 9:11 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

I reckon you were correct to send Mr Carr back on the train to the Atlantic Republic - as from my point of view he would do more good there than hanging around the Lakeland Republic with the delightful Melanie.

As to the diet question, go on write the blog - you know you want to!!! Hehe! Just kidding, imagine the comments (look at the bones… Monty Python gag about killer rabbits) and what work would you possibly get done that week thus delaying instalments of future books to your patient readers? :-)!

As a mostly vegetarian who eats whatever once I'm off the farm, I generally base my diet at home around what is available to eat in the garden so there is a direct connection between what is growing and what can be eaten. And of course, what do you do with all of this produce when you have a surplus (my kitchen is full of apples at present...). I have a suspicion that a lot of diet beliefs arise because there is that level of disconnect in the general population on that matter. And of course as you wrote, there is a bit of schoolyard taunting going on too: "My diet is better than your diet and so you will get all manner of nasty diseases and die! So there!" I reckon there is definitely a bit of that going on too.

Anyway, my final word is that trouble has a new name: ADR - the diet week blog! Hehe!

And I know a few people who have the idealised sticky chicken body shape and they couldn't put in a long hard day's physical work if their life depended on it and then get up and do it again the next day.



3/4/17, 3:56 AM

Unknown said...
JMG, Tomxyza commenting about this series of posts. I have been working on greater introspective ability through meditation and other studies for 20 plus years. As my observer ability has increased it has become apparent to me that there is a force that moves me to action sometimes without any input from my mind/body. It has been a very interesting investigation because I have attempted to observe this forces origins without success. I can set up the space for it to come and do other things to assist it happening but I cannot command it. Also even when set up it does not always show up. I can also plan and force action with good success but it has a mediated quality and not the free spontaneous energy or character of other experience.

Your description of Schopenhauer's philosophy, if I am understanding it correctly, offers a very interesting explanation. The thought that what I experience on occasion is un-mediated will raises some very interesting possibilities. The idea that the often conflicted mixed up self I find through my self observation is the out growth of the interactions of different wills opens up some great new ways to understand and work with what I have found.

I am looking forward to where this goes in terms of actions and practices that one can bring to working with the self.

Thanks Tomxyza

3/4/17, 5:48 AM

Tidlösa said...
Survey proves Shadow projection:

3/4/17, 8:26 AM

LifeSMyth said...
This is a great analogy. I do some hand drumming so I can relate.

3/4/17, 9:13 AM

JP said...
@Tomyxyza: "As my observer ability has increased it has become apparent to me that there is a force that moves me to action sometimes without any input from my mind/body. It has been a very interesting investigation because I have attempted to observe this forces origins without success. I can set up the space for it to come and do other things to assist it happening but I cannot command it. Also even when set up it does not always show up."

I'm always a fan of scientific experimental investigations of this type.

There are several known sources, meaning "separate wills" of "movement to action without input from your mind/body."

For a simple example, I can use my own "mind/body" to set up future contingency actions that will potentially affect my "mind/body" in the future. As a very simple example, I can essentially instruct myself to wake up at a certain time from sleep if absolutely necessary as what amounts to an alarm clock function. I have not perfected this and it does not always work, but it works often enough that I will use it in conjunction with an alarm clock.

I should note that I have not trained myself in observation, so I do not know whether you, personally, would read this as "movement to action without input from your mind/body." However, is it something that I can do "now" that will potentially impact me "later" with no subsequent conscious action on my part. Essentially, it is something that I did to myself by setting up a contingency loop within my mind/body that definitely involves "mind/body" and not just "mind" or just "body."

I am also well aware of other definitely external "wills" that are definitely not part of my "mind/body" that can directly effect my "mind/body" ranging from the helpful, to neutral, to distinctly malicious and malignant. I should note that I do not engage in any experimentation regarding these, so I can not speak directly to you about my personal experience with them. I can point you to people who have written about their experiences.

In order to even begin speculating on the source and it's nature, you will need to give more detail as to the specific actions you are have experienced and the set ups you are using in order to "invite" it's assistance.

As in any other kind of scientific experimentation, details and context are critical to analysis. I may be able to offer some insight that could help you in your future investigations.

3/4/17, 10:02 AM

JP said...

"And of course, what do you do with all of this produce when you have a surplus (my kitchen is full of apples at present...)."

Even I know the answer to that one and I am definitely not a vegetarian farmer. In fact, I am essentially classic trained as an American consumerist cornucopian infinite growth infinite energy computer game playing future astronaut, with Pennsylvania Dutch/German heritage (from ages 0 to 19).

Me: "The milk is all."

College roommate: "All what?"

Me: "Huh? It's all."

College roommate: "I have no idea what you are saying."

Me: "It's ALL. We need to go buy more."

College roommate: "You mean that it's all gone?"

Me: "Yes. That's what I said in the first place."

College roomate: "You just said it was "All."

Me: "The "gone" is implied. Are you sure that English is your native language?"

Thanks to my heritage as demonstrated by the above-exchange, I am absolutely certain that the answer is to make and can applesauce and to make apple cider. If you don't want it the cider/applesauce, you can sell it to your Amish relatives at the local farmer's market for some easy cash.

3/4/17, 10:12 AM

Caryn said...
RE: Myriam and Sharon Vile posts, from what I understand so far: The self itself is experienced as a representation, the creep or threatening person is also experienced as a representation. Doesn't mean that you are real and the threat is not 'real'. Yes, it's still advisable to do something about it. Both representations are perceptions of something we see/know through a filter - doesn't mean there is nothing there at all. It just means we can't truly 'know' the thing as it really is, and that includes ourselves, Except will.

The will (or wills), the tangled mess beneath: we can't even perceive these accurately or know they're there except when they push up against something else - kind of like how astronomers cannot see black holes, but can tell they are there because of the behaviour of objects around them.

Is that right? Does that make sense?

I still think sometimes our Shadow is or can be the same as the threat. So, without using the filter of correct Shopenhauerian terminology: Hating the creep and accessing your useful rage against him is not mutually exclusive of having creepy tendencies yourself.

I once had an awesome therapist who would say, "Try it on, like a light gossamer shirt. Move around in it, ask yourself honestly if it fits and feels right for you, 'Do I have these despicable tendencies also?' You don't have to discuss this with anyone else. It's absolutely personal. If it doesn't fit - take it off. You never have to worry about it again. If it does fit - you know you have to deal with it".

3/4/17, 1:34 PM

Murdoch Matthew said...
I was in involved in Jungian psychology for several years. I was sent by my religious employer for three weeks of therapy with a famous Jungian psychologist and author to relieve me of my homosexual desires. I seemed to be possessed by the Puer Aeternus archetype. Shortly after, I met a receptive and attractive young woman and planned marriage. My therapist assured me that I could perform heterosexually if I'd just keep my wrists and thoughts straight.

My therapist was wrong about that -- I've never been femme but my thoughts were all boys. Further, I found that Jung's portrayal of the psyche bore no resemblance to how human psychology actually functions. My wife blew concepts of Animus and Anima out of the water one afternoon when she countered my explanations of them by declaring, "I am not an inside-out male." (We simulated marriage without actual bonding for ten years, accumulating five children along the way; then spent another eight years in therapy before deciding to separate. I then met a young man who's been at my side for 34 years, married since 2005.)

I've followed my former therapist, now in his 90s, through his many books. He helps people tell lovely, meaningful stories about themselves. Works for them. All our narratives are constructed and may be based on ideas as well as facts. I prefer to seek evidence-based theories.

JMG's placing of Jung in a different context from pseudo-mysticism is helpful. I've retained an interest in Jung despite his problems (as my husband has with Freud). JMG's explanation of Archetypes takes them out of theology. I've learned in 85 years just to take my feelings for what they are and do my best to do what has to be done in life. "The loose tangle of competing drives and reactions we’re taught to misinterpret as a single “me” that makes things happen." Indeed. As a formerly religious person, I've criticized the notion that our minds are pilots sitting behind the eyes and driving the body -- it's all body. Our consciousness is produced by the body (yes, largely in the brain, evidently), and "mind" and "soul" are stories we tell about the process.

It's amazing how deep the idea of animation goes in our culture. Genesis has God animating a clay figure to create Adam. Pygmalion has his animated statue (where did the necessary muscles and nerves come from?). Christianity has the body animated by the soul. All the superheroes who trade bodies and power reflect the idea that person exists apart from body.

Concerning this Archdruid thread, the thing is, It's all language. We code our experience in language, we remember in language, we communicate in language. And language is a very coarse screen for meaning. Words don't mean the same to different people, or even in different contexts. Everything is woven into narratives, fitted to preconceptions. Since Galileo and Darwin, we've learned to try to tie our narratives to evidence. But great stories retain their power, and appeal.

3/4/17, 2:15 PM

LunarApprentice said...
This comment is largely what my last comment should have been; Buddhist understanding of self nature is tricky business. Perhaps the clearest explanations are source quotes [if this is too much of a digression, I’ll take no offense if this is not posted]

The opening verses from Nagarjuna’s Middle Way read:

1.1 No existents [anything such as object or being we would think of having a ‘self’] whatsoever are evident anywhere that are arisen from themselves, from another, from both or from a non-cause.

1.2 There are only four conditions: Primary condition, objectively supporting condition, immediately contiguous condition and dominant condition. A fifth condition does not exist.
[e.g. consider the conditions underlying turning on the room lights: The power plant, distribution infrastructure and house wiring form the objectively supporting condition, flicking the switch is the objectively supporting condition, the physical processes of current flow and light emission are the immediately supporting condition, and “so we can see” is the dominant condition.]

1.3 If there are conditions, things are not self existent; if there is no self-existence, there is no other-existence.

To reference your other blog, these verses might make good fodder for discursive mediation.

3/4/17, 4:24 PM

Kevin Warner said...
In thinking over your recent essay, I realized that space-time must play a factor in this interpretation of Schopenhauer. If this was not so, then everything would be happening at once but if it acts as a filter or an under-laying matrix that is another matter altogether. It is space-time which gives context (a word I am valuing more and more lately) to what we call life as well as proof.
As an example, this self as representation did not exist a century go. A century from now, I will not exist but I do exist now (I think therefore I am!) so it is space-time which gives proof of my existence. I suppose that you could say that space-time is what brings order out of chaos and it is only in higher orders of thinking (or will) that people can deal with abstracts such as the past and the future.

3/4/17, 4:44 PM

David Smith in St Louis said...
So if the “I” is just a collection of competing drives with a dominant impulse always winning out and in the end and there is no such thing as the self, then what should I do? Could “the principle of sufficient reason” ever suffice as a practical guide to action?

If there is no “I,” then there is no “we.” I eagerly await your discussion of ethics.

Does the Will structure the world or is it merely the cause of the world? Being a structure and being a cause are of course not one and the same thing. Although a thing’s being both a cause and a structure is possible, the one does not necessarily follow from the other. (It is not apparent to me that a thing is a structure if and only if it is a cause.)

Does Schoepenhaur’s world even have an intelligible structure? (This is an ontological rather than an epistemological question.) If it does, then how is this structure present to beings such as us? And shouldn’t we (as philosophers) examine this structure and leave the cause of the world to the physicists.

If, on the other hand, the world manifested by the Will is not intelligible, then what of truth? (Now we are into epistemology.) If the world is not intelligible, then I’m not sure that such statements as “the will is the cause (or source or structure) of the world” have a truth value.

A more general question regarding S’ pessimism (which you have skipped over). Is the question of the meaning of life reducible to question of whether or not happiness is possible? If we are condemned to suffer (as S claims), then does it automatically follow that life either has no meaning or that meaning can be only found in terms of a struggle against the Will?

Old Kant, who had his own interpretation of the Will, would say that the meaningfulness of “doing the right thing” had nothing to do with happiness. You do the right thing even when it hurts and leaves you alone and vulnerable.


3/4/17, 7:55 PM

Peter Wilson said...
Something about Schopenhauer has been bugging me. Not in your writings and portrayal of him, but in some of his relatively doctrinaire beliefs that stemmed from his philosophy. For instance, he stated that the body and consciousness ended with death, with just the blind will continuing on. I find this negativity in other places too in his other writings. Perhaps its just the German, or the relatively rigid style of the times, or perhaps its simply true (and some of us don't want it to be), but it does jar a bit. I often wonder if he'd been born another hundred years later and had the benefit of some of the eastern teachings which had been brought to the west by then (Evans-Wentz etc), which expand on that side of his thought.

3/4/17, 8:41 PM

Cathy McGuire said...
Ah, I'm glad you've brought in Jung; I have been working with Jungian techniques and framework for decades. I am a bit confused about your linking archetypes to evolutionary patterns (am I really losing my memory so badly? I thought I remembered you didn’t accept evolution/progress), but the description of them as autonomous bits of the personality is right on. I’m glad someone mentioned “golden shadow” – since the Shadow is everything you reject in yourself (not just hate – also fear and despise), those who’ve consciously chosen rebellion or lawbreaking will have stuffed their “better side”, the law-respecting and/or tender part. So it’s not just “the snarling, hateful, inhuman grimace of the Shadow”… it only seems inhuman because we reject it. It’s an important part of ourselves, since Jung posits we are meant to become “whole”, not “good” – to integrate all the archetypes that move within us (obviously not perfectly but as well as possible.) And since you brought up liberals, may I say that liberal POVs are the Trumpsters’ Shadow – it goes both ways. Those on the right mock the liberals’ desires for inclusivity, equality, etc. but stuffed deep inside is their own yearning for that. (I live in a rural town; I’ve spoken with many where I’ve sensed this. And speaking with many liberals, I know we are aware of this shadow side… of course, many/most of my friends are Jungian students or therapists.) Shadow affects us all.

@Patricia – James Hollis has several small books that are excellent on understanding Jung’s concepts: “The Middle Passage” is good, as is “Creating a Life”.
@LunarApprentice: I’d highly recommend Helen Luke’s essays on Dante: “Dark Wood to White Rose” – they really place his story in a Jungian context
@G E Canterbury – Thanks, Grant! I enjoyed your “Eight Stars of Gold.”
@Myriam - My response is: your rage was protective and a good thing. And I would say many groups in the US are very correctly afraid of possible issues coming when bullies are in charge. And there is a way to tell – watch someone’s behavior. If they lie to you constantly, it’s not projection to think they are a liar. If they try to take rights away, it’s not projection to be afraid of more of the same. JMO. And my advice is to report the guy – don’t wait until he does try to harm you. (I had a stalker when I was 18, and he crept into the house- luckily was scared away. Not a fun experience.)
@OneThing – I agree that you can overdo the theory of projection… one thing Jung said repeatedly is that those we hang our projections on generally have a “hook” – ie: we don’t project the bully onto a timid, mild person… generally there IS some truth to our perception – it’s our emotional response (hatred, fear) that indicates that a portion of the response is projection. It can still be true that we have to set a boundary and say, “enough!”. We just don’t have to do it with hatred or contempt, is all.

3/4/17, 8:46 PM

Jo said...
Carolyn Baker suggests that in electing Donald Trump, America has in fact elected its own Shadow. All those dark, hidden and unacknowledged undercurrents have suddenly surfaced in the person of its president..

3/5/17, 1:23 AM

KL Cooke said...
"...the macroneurotic diet..."

You did it again!

3/5/17, 1:58 AM

mgalimba said...
I am perceiving a pattern of posts from women expressing that the Schopenhauerian philosophical construct has limited explanatory power for their particular lived experience. This is fascinating in the variety of very concrete experience being offered, from child care to sexual harassment to dancing. And of course, pregnancy and childbirth. In the bad old days this could very easily be dealt with by excluding women from philosophy due to their "hysterical tendencies." :) One of the small benefits of these otherwise rather difficult days for civilization is that we can see these contributions as beautiful, creative and fruitful contributions to the age-old philosophical questions rather than as deviant or unimportant.
As always thank you, JMG, for making this space to think together with, and in tension with, each other.

3/5/17, 9:07 AM

mgalimba said...
@Jo thanks for the awesome link!

3/5/17, 9:18 AM

LunarApprentice said...
Erratum: correct as ---- The power plant, distribution infrastructure and house wiring form the primary condition.

@ Cathy Acquire. Thank you for that recommendation; I'm feeling quite the gravitational pull towards Dante, but and need help assimilating him

3/5/17, 10:32 AM

Rudipherous said...
Extremely interesting so far. I had written off Schopenhauer as someone I didn't really need to get to in my (forever on hold) reading through western philosophy. Now you've definitely kindled my interest. So I can add him to my list of philosophers to read, though that doesn't necessarily make it any more likely I will ever get to him. (Primarily, it's health issues holding me back. Difficult focusing on extended material due to some chronic health problems, but still working on them.) Additionally, you've taken up the subject of psychoanalysis from an angle I don't remember reading about before. Once again I find myself thinking it is necessary to know everything, certainly history at the very least. I will need at least a million more years to cover all the ground I'd like to cover, intellectually. I am not optimistic this will ever get done! Hoping to by new reading glasses soon--the ones I have are inadequate--so maybe that will at least kick off a new wave of serious reading for me.

(Don't really like using this login to post. I guess I need to create some new accounts.)

3/5/17, 11:13 AM

Brother Guthlac said...
“who is in charge” as ecosystem of wills. Shadow and ego as “content free archetypes”. Ethos as character/texture of an ecosystem. Ethics understood as something other than bullying. With some of this actually hardwired in some sense. All in the context of causing changes in consciousness in accord with will. Good fun. In accordance with which will, if one may ask?

3/5/17, 12:08 PM

Rita said...
I think that humans crave limits. Different societies place different limits on human behavior. In some the body must be moved in very specific ways--I'm thinking of a book I read on the training of a geisha, every action, walking, opening a door, pouring a drink, etc. a careful performance. In others sexuality is strictly controlled. In others it is language--different vocabularies and honorifics to be used depending on who is being addressed. Western culture has thrown off so many taboos--fashion in clothing is chaotic, we openly discuss our president's penis size (and usage thereof), no one writes thank you notes, etc..

I wonder if a lot of our craving for limits is being projected onto food. We don't, unless we follow a traditional faith with food taboos, such as keeping kosher, have any food rules anymore. You can have ice cream for breakfast and all you can eat pancakes for dinner, eat Japanese one night and Mexican the next and, if you are in a big city, Ethiopian the next. So people are busy adapting or creating their own structure. I'm gluten free, I'm vegan, I'm paleo, etc. And food is so emotionally charged that any criticism of some one else's choice is a personal attack.

3/5/17, 12:12 PM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi nuku,

Yeah, exactly! The beat can vary. Exactly! I like the drumming metaphor a lot and it is very true.

Hi JP,

It is funny that you mention apple cider, but I'll put a link into a comment here tonight about that. Incidentally, the moons have aligned for you and I (I never explained which planet I was referring too! ;-)!), and since you wrote about the English language, I also plan to show you a proper definition of the much misused word: "busy".



3/5/17, 12:47 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Cathy -thanks for the reference. It's a bit late for "Navigating the Middle Passage" but I'll look up the author. Pat ...

3/5/17, 2:04 PM

Keith Hammer said...
I have just read Schopenhauers essay studies in pessimism I found it quite amusing. especially the bit about God being the God of all creation then surely he is the God of all possibilitys and if so why was it not possible to create a better world than this. I guess the only answer to that is its all just a work in progress.

3/5/17, 2:39 PM

Myriam said...
Thank you to those who have expressed concern. I have learned that the best way to deal with someone like a stalker is to put up a blackout curtain as complete as possible between us. Don't play his game, don't get emotionally engaged, take my wind out of his sails, fade away into the background. Calling the police, and getting a court order would have the result of strengthening the connection between us, not least because there is much emotion involved in the process.

I have the full support of both management teams, and when he comes in, I'm free to leave immediately. Someone else will deal with him, and in time, since fantasies need to be fed or they grow stale, he will move on. If he finds a way to escalate things, then I will call the police, but I'm hoping to avoid that.

In the meantime, other than at work, I forget him. He's not part of my life.

@Caryn "Try it on, like a light gossamer shirt.” The stalker shirt doesn't fit me at all, but I really like that way of exploring what's in my shadow. I can see other shirts that fit me beautifully. :-)

@Patricia “I would say many groups in the US are very correctly afraid of possible issues coming when bullies are in charge.” Thank you, that's the point I was trying to make. A real danger needs to be dealt with out in the world. It's knowing when there is a real danger that can be difficult. I think if I was obsessing or raging about him when he is not around I would have a good look at myself, but I'm not at all, and I'm hoping a good lips-curled, teeth-bared, deep-throated growl may be all that was needed.

3/5/17, 3:48 PM

Patricia Mathews said...
Keith Hammer - perhaps God made this a difficult world for the same reason game designers make their games and puzzles difficult - to give their characters and readers a good workout. What fun is there in the booklet titled "Easy, EASY Sudoku" for example? Or perhaps this is a training ground with levels up from the bunny run to Olympic level. Or perhaps we designed it ourselves collectively, and individually chose at what level to play the game?

3/5/17, 8:11 PM

KL Cooke said...
What will happen when the Singularity rolls around, and our minds with all their conflicts and contradictions are uploaded to machines?

3/6/17, 2:15 AM

. said...

From a Schopenhauerian perspective, one's 'lived experience' is a representation, not a reality against which to measure the fit of any epistemology. That becomes easy to grasp when you experience the kind of paradigm shift that makes you suddenly view a personal experience in a completely different light.

I'd suggest what can happen with women is simply that western women are by and large more likely than men to react negatively to the word Will being associated with our selves. That difference has nothing to do with biologically female experiences like pregnancy and birth. It has everything to do with socialization.

In our culture women have not been supposed to have a 'will to power'. That's why hierarchies among groups of women are often more covert and, frankly, tend more towards passive aggression, than hierarchies among groups of men. Men in turn suffer from equal and opposite distortions around the idea of power. See the likes of Dammerung for example.

The other thing that happens I think is that the words 'blind will' triggers associations with blind instincts. The religious sensibility of the past couple of millennia has repressed instincts as evil and associated women with them more so than men. That leads to either irrationally negative emotional reactions to the concept of instincts or irrationally positive ones and that affects men and women equally.

Some forms of feminism today, for example, exalt the idea that women are more instinctive and therefore more in harmony with Nature than men. They simply turn the value judgment that reason is good and instinct is bad on its head - which is of course just as irrational and harmful to human wholeness as the other way around.
Others, and this is part of post-modernism, exalt personal lived experience as a source of knowledge - as an epistemology, in other words - above the use of reason, logic and science. The latter are seen as male, patriarchal ways of knowing.

The effects of that epistemology, however, can be seen today in politics. If everyone's personal experiences are the only truth then how do human societies function when one person's truth conflicts with someone else's? It is in fact just as anti-social and destructive an epistemology as the kind of arrogant rationalism that simply dismisses personal experience if it fails to fit whatever abstract model is currently in vogue.

If women tend to have more difficulty dealing with Schopenhauer's idea of will, that shouldn't be dismissed as deviant, hysterical or unimportant but nor should it be put on a pedestal as creative, fruitful or beautiful.


3/6/17, 2:38 AM

Kevin Warner said...
Just a quick heads up. There is a story at the Naked Capitalism site called "Apprenticeship and the Rise of Europe" at
As JMG has talked a bit about this idea and made it part of his "Retrotopia" story I can say it is well worth the read to understand how workers were trained in this system in earlier times - and possible future times once again.

3/6/17, 3:54 AM

Cherokee Organics said...
Hi everyone,

If anyone is curious as to what a week's hard work looks like: Scary cable monster! I dare anyone to a work challenge should they attempt to use the word "busy" with me. My usual response to such silliness is "Busy doing what?"



3/6/17, 4:02 AM

chrisroy said...
A good self-defence class instills legitimate self-confidence, and pays for itself the first time you use what you learned...! I wish you good luck, and apologize for all the bums!

3/6/17, 6:03 PM

Cherokee Organics said...

Are peak oil and other environmental and sociological disasters such as climate weirding - the shadows of our Industrial society? If you accept those issues as a shadow of our industrial society then what do you reckon that says about the people accepting those issues as such? Dunno - in these matters I am out of my intellectual depth.



3/7/17, 2:09 AM

Natureorder said...
Long time lurker; first time commenter. This week's post was understandable but the first few posts truly hurt my head (mind? body?) What I am getting is that we are not who we think ourselves to be: stir-fry when we thought ourselves solid brick. And we act from different positions than we believe ourselves to be acting. Unless we are very, very aware and watching our actions carefully. Even then, we could be surprised. Like 13 urges in one person; which will take precedence at any given time without strict oversight.

3/7/17, 12:25 PM

Zachary Braverman said...
I wish I could send this directly to JMG. I thought of him the moment I read it:

It's about removing asphalt and going back to gravel roads because there is no money for maintenance.

3/7/17, 4:45 PM

mgalimba said...
Thank you for your comments. It is an unfortunate misconception that feminism is just for women, when so many men suffer just about as much under rigid patriarchal power structures. I believe you point towards that in your third paragraph.

3/7/17, 11:18 PM

Degringolade said...
John Michael

(As an aside, calling you by your name as I do I always have an inward smile: When I was a youngling, John was my name when I was being good, John Michael was my name when naughty)

Anyway....just wondering if you have had the opportunity to read Neal Stephenson's novel "Anathem". Nice piece of work and obliquely addresses a lot of the issues that you discuss here. I doubt if one would go to it as a philosophical textbook, but it is a pretty good read.

3/8/17, 6:25 AM

Unknown said...
I know this comes from an old post from 2014 but I was reading through archives and noticed that at this point you have been proven right. You weren't wrong just early.

"The first of my failed predictions has evaded my attempts to find it in this blog’s archives, but it appeared sometime in 2007 or 2008, if I recall correctly. I noted the skyrocketing price of oil, surveyed the claims then being made by other peak oil writers that it would just keep on zooming up forever, and argued instead that it would plateau and then decline over the course of the next few decades. I was, of course, quite wrong, but so were the people whose ideas I was challenging; the price of crude oil spiked up to just shy of $150 a barrel and then crashed at once, plunging to not much more than a fifth of that figure, before resuming a ragged upwards movement to its present level just north of $100 a barrel. The raw volatility of the oil market blindsided me, as it did many others; it was an embarrassing lesson, and one that’s shaped my efforts to estimate oil price movements since that time."

3/8/17, 12:35 PM

Nestorian said...
"...since every prophetic religion has roughly the same evidence backing its claim to divine inspiration as every other..."

I would just like to state, for the record, that this assertion is open to serious dispute. Based on my own research, the evidence for the veracity and divine inspiration of the Judeo-Christian scriptures is robust.

This is not really the place to argue the point, but I would encourage those of you who are so inclined to investigate my claim for yourselves.

3/10/17, 7:21 AM

Eric Hiatt said...
The nature of value must be understood before the nature of its objectivity/subjectivity can be understood. Its intuitively obvious that value, in itself, isn't apparently objective because there is nothing in the experience of value or subjective experience more generally that contains the logical elements – the tools of formal systems – required for objective thought, or processing more generally.

However, it's also possible that value is an “end product” of neurological processes and isn't able to feed back into them – or feedback into the Universe more generally. Consciousness could be floating on waves it doesn't touch, or may be the waves of the Universe itself. So it's quite possible that value, and conscious experience more generally, might not have an effect on the Universe. Consciousness might be a “final effect” or a “non-causal fundamental effect”. (Note that I'm skeptical of the concept of causality, but this is another hopelessly unresolvable complication as of yet.)

If we grant such a possibility, that it's not even possible for value to have an influence on the Universe, then what do we make of the following thought experiment: Imagine a Universe where consciousness is somehow nothing but pain for all self-aware conscious entities, and somehow this pain is known without a dichotomous reference to pleasure. Then another feeling arises – a feeling that “wants” the pain to stop. This, being a feeling, can not have a causal effect on the Universe. It just arises out of the void the same as pain does as an end product of the Universal machinery.

What we have here is not competing values, but different signals coming from different brain machinery calculating (or algorithmically manifesting) according to forces that correlate with values, but are necessarily blind to them. Imagine any entity in this pain Universe could flip a switch to end all the suffering, because there is nothing but suffering. In this Universe this would not happen because of the “desire to end it”. This feeling would be nothing more than a signal indicating about what's to happen. Of course, it's hard to imagine how our awareness of feelings could not somehow affect the Universe, but that in itself is a feeling, which is how you can escape that apparent paradox to consider this hypothetical.

Now, my intuition says that the value experienced in consciousness isn't arbitrary because that makes no evolutionary sense, which means the pain Universe could not exists unless constructed by a cruel super-intelligence, but presumably such an intelligence could not have evolved within a pain Universe itself. My point is that the desire to “end it all” might, quite reasonably, be the Universal machinery “trying” to end itself – and this could be a complete accident. I really don't mean “try” here either. I think whatever is happening could be essentially meaningless, but there also just happens to be good feelings within us that indicate the Universe itself is “attempting” to preserve the good. Perhaps this could happen without there being any will or god in the Universe whatsoever.

3/19/17, 9:40 AM

Unknown said...
"to stop confusing the people around us with the images we like to project on them, and interact with them rather than with the images we’ve projected"
This remark logical as it sounds, keeps me wondering, how do you interact with people, without projections or representations?

4/26/17, 1:30 AM