Thursday, 28 August 2014

Archaeology and the psyche: part nine ― psychological symbols

image: Steve Osborne
While I commonly use the word "symbol" inappropriately, there are times when symbol and sign should not be confused. The criterion for a
sign is that it should be understood and for a symbol that it express something that cannot be done easier or better in some other way.

The mandala was seen by Jung as representing the total self and it is a "natural" symbol to the degree that it can appear in dreams and visions of people who might have had no external contact with it. Although it must be part of our collective unconscious, its use by the mind is to refer to our personal unconscious. I have started to wonder
if it presents itself as a defense of the collective unconscious. When a friend and I were young, we had an "unofficial guru", a woman who had been a student of Paramahansa Yogananda. we frequently used to discuss spiritual matters as part of our quest for universal truth and we happened to be discussing something (which I cannot devolve) over lunch one day in a restaurant. At the same time, were we both taken over by something like a waking nightmare. My friend just broke down into tears, but I felt myself going unconscious and ran out of the restaurant. I found that moving fast lessened the effect and I spent the next half hour or so just running through the streets. Whenever I slowed down, the feeling of unconsciousness started to return but it also had started to fade as well. After recovering, we went to see our "guru" and told her about the experience and the question that had initiated it. She was furious, telling us that we were trying to contact something for which we were unprepared and that, actually, we had got off very lightly for our blunder. I began to understand the potential power of the human mind and many subsequent experiences reinforced that understanding. I am also far more careful about trying to contact the unconscious in such a direct manner.

Jung encountered many other examples of the quaternity that is expressed by the mandala image and tried to resolve the problem of the Roman Catholic Trinity by adding a fourth term such as the devil or the Virgin Mary to the equation. The subject is discussed and expanded upon in his Mysterium Coniunctionis, his seminal work on alchemy, the research for which had a profound effect on the development of his psychotherapy and his ideas about the mind. After wondering about Pythagoras ideas about three being the perfect number and representing deity, and the many examples of ancient Celtic triplism I have started to wonder if another term should be added to the trinity at all. Perhaps the quaternity is more an aspect of personal unconscious and the trinity an aspect of the collective unconscious. Also, is four what is really being represented by the mandala symbol? If it is understood as a balance of opposing forces then the meaning of the mandala is maintained. A cross can be seen both as having four limbs or two axes. In the Roman Catholic trinity, the Father and the Son can be seen as lying in opposition to each other, or apart, but the Holy Spirit is imbued by both and connects them in a new reality. To say that the Father both is and is not the Son defies the laws of classical logic, yet when we add the Holy Spirit as an included middle, then that new reality comes into existence. This is the basis of transdisciplinarity.

Transdisciplinarity came out of the complementarity problem in physics and, in particular, the double-slit experiment. While photon and wave can be seen as a duality, and thus defies classical logic but is true, nevertheless, an essential ingredient to complementarity is the observer which is also important in Einstein's theory. One of the more mystical-minded of theoretical physicists was David Bohm who said:
 "We have got to see that thought is part of this reality and that we are not merely thinking about it, but that we are thinking it”. (On Creativity, p. 141)
Bohm has been criticized by some other physicists because of his connections and friendship with Khrisnamurti who had also influenced other scientists, but I think that an essential question is are those critics introverts or extraverts?The Introvert is more likely to inhabit the Mythos part of my Mythos/Logos spectrum and the extravert the Logos end. There seems to be no realized middle. I have never heard of anyone who is equally introvert and extravert and because the two are ways in which a problem is first investigated then complementarity comes into the picture there as well. How can we both look inward and outward at the same time? About all we can do to resolve a problem most successfully is to have different sorts of minds looking it. We can, however, easily alternate between inductive and deductive reasoning and I fell into that in a natural way in my own research.

The sand mandala is first created and then it is destroyed. If we think of the mandala as opposing forces in perfect balance, then why the destruction? It is because the universe is in an ever changing state and is not static.

The contextual archaeologist looks at the relationship of a and b, while occupying the transdisciplinary T state from which a new reality emerges. However, T states are apparently infinite so it is not only possible but likely that a different archaeologist, viewing things from a different T state might well come up with a different reality or interpretation.  Sometimes, both interpretations can be later seen to be wrong or both wrong and right in the light of a third viewpoint. To imagine that there is an archaeological record that is separate from the observer is to refuse to look for other realities, so sometimes answers persist because they have become unthinking memes. A way to avoid this problem is to have different minds make their own connections without communicating about them with each other in this process.

Another way to look at the problem is when the same site is interpreted from two different theoretical viewpoints. I do not think that this has been done yet. Archaeology could become more elevated toward science, however, by setting up such experiments, but current archaeology resists looking at itself in such a manner, and apart from the postmodern view, the archaeologist stands apart from what is being studied.

This line of thinking is relatively new to me, and the quaternity/trinity aspect is only days old so I will likely modify things and develop the idea as time passes. I offer them here in a nebulous state because it would seem that more minds can only increase our understanding and I have no professional state to defend, nor political axe to grind which might give me a harmful and proprietary attitude about such matters. Was that not what the Internet was first designed to do? Perhaps I am just imagining that, and it was really just a propaganda and sales tool from the start.

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