Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Beyond the "Fringe Archaeology" — part six: what lies beneath

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The Damsel of the Sanct Grael
(Holy Grail) 1874
The key to a successful trucking business is in keeping the vehicles in top condition. I have friends who were in the gravel business and this was told to me more than once. The good craftsman or mechanic also takes very good care of his or her tools. How would we apply this idea to archaeology? The most important tool of the archaeologist is not a trowel or a resistivity meter, but the mind. It is this tool which actually creates the "archaeological record" out of the bits and pieces of archaeological evidence.

The most basic division of the mind is into two parts: the conscious, thinking, mind and the unconscious (or subconscious) mind which not only contains the things we have forgotten or repressed, but characteristics of us as human beings. At its deeper levels, it contains instincts and perceptions that we cannot even translate into words or pictures. At the meeting place of these two minds we have dreams, imagination and symbols that seem significant to us without a clear understanding of why. The unconscious has a compensatory function to the conscious — quite a few discoveries have been made through revealing and symbolic dreams, although little credit is given to this agency in any subsequent scientific papers. Science, after all, is about what can be observed and measured and the unconscious is called as such because it cannot be fully observed and measured. In a sense, the only evidence is gives us is anecdotal and symbolic: we see only an apparency of something else and we cannot measure that.

It is the interpretation of the material evidence which is the main function of the archaeologist, but those of us who are most comfortable working with the material, are those most likely to scoff at any psychic agency, and in an extreme case might even deny the very existence of an unknowable part of the mind. Such a person is an extravert. Jung says:
"Now, when orientation by the object predominates in such a way that decisions and actions are determined not by subjective views but by objective conditions, we speak of an extraverted type. If a man thinks, feels, acts, and actually lives in a way that is directly correlated with the objective conditions and their demands, he is an extravert. His life makes it perfectly clear that it is the object and not his subjective view that that plays the determining role in his consciousness. Naturally he has subjective views too, but their determining value is less than that of the objective conditions. Consequently, he never expects to find any absolute factors in his own inner life, since the only ones he knows are outside himself." (Psychological types)
All of us are either extraverted or introverted and these qualities might be expressed weakly, moderately or strongly. When the extravert suffers exhibits extreme mental illness it might manifest itself as narcissism, sociopathy, or psychopathy. These are the sort of people for whom most of us feel little sympathy. We are not seen by such people as individuals so much as part of their own environment. Being incapable of looking inward at all, they cannot, of course, look inside another person and usually only project their own, unexamined, personality onto others. The introvert, on the other hand, is more likely to express any serious mental illness with depression or a bi-polar disorder. We find it much easier to sympathize even if we do not fully understand the condition. The introvert, at least, can see us as independent human beings.

My favorite extravert was a scientist. Wolfgang Pauli was not so strong an extravert that he was completely incapable of self examination. He was no psychopath. Some have called him "the conscious of physics" because of his strict adherence to proofs. He had some problems of which he was aware and this brought him to Carl Jung. Apart from their doctor/patient relationship, they soon became friends and Pauli could relate to Jung's interest in the mind and contributed much to the latter's thinking through his knowledge of theoretical physics. Jung, like myself, was an INFJ, while Pauli was an ENTP. Extraverts and Introverts are often drawn together as opposites can attract. Sometimes, the extravert/introvert relationship is described as "ideal", but I do not think this indicates that such a relationship is always very easy. There can certainly be a lot of fire, though.

As the extravert is a materialist, field archaeology would be commensurate with that sort of personality, but far less so, would be theoretical archaeology which deals more in philosophy than material science. What percentage of field archaeologists are extraverts? I don't know and I doubt that many field archaeologists would be curious enough about the subject to study the matter. The absence of any such study is almost proof, itself, of the extraverted nature of most field archaeologists.

What happens, then, when an archaeologist takes on a "fringe subject" like King Arthur? The identification of Arthur's castles in the legends would be one valid area of interest as it provides a reality from the pages of legends. If an archaeologist was interested in Homer's Odyssey, then Odysseus' sailing itinerary might be of greatest interest. Again, it would be the conversion of part of a legend into fact. When asked about myths or alchemy, the extraverted field archaeologist might think about how both of these are primitive attempts at science.

Jung's extensive research into alchemy was very much at the core of his development of his psychological theories, but it was not a study of the transmutation of metals — turning lead into gold. The alchemist's patron might have thought so, but the alchemist was really interested on his own transmutation into a higher state of being. Jung's major work in this study was Mysterium Coniunctionis. Jung's wife, Emma, was deeply interested in the Arthurian legends and her unfinished work, The Grail Legend was brought to its published state by Marie-Louise von Franz.

Emma Jung defined the Grail Maiden as the anima of Perceval and points out that she is also Perceval's kin. The subject takes on some archaeological interest where Emma discusses its incest aspect and gives examples with the ancient Egyptian god-kings and also refers to the alchemical symbolism of "the King and Queen celebrated an incestuous hieros gamos (divine marriage)." (p.177ff).

The above excursions into Arthurian romances and alchemy is not discussed much in archaeology despite the influences on history because is is all "of the mind" and is not material evidence. Yet, the strongly expressed extravert would be the most susceptible to having their interpretations of the material influenced by their own unconscious because of its compensatory function which seeks to find a balance between the conscious and the unconscious. I have seen interpretations of archaeological evidence that seems to me strongly influenced by the unconscious, perhaps some things from a forgotten legend, or an expression of personal psychology that shares the same archetypes that we find in myths and legends. These stories persist, successfully, because of their importance to the psyche. The extravert can easily forget the source, or can dismiss it completely because it is not material. Human agency can be neglected in archaeological writing and, as I mentioned in yesterday's post things can seem to change themselves in such writing. The archaeologist should endeavor to discover what lies beneath — not just the material below the grass in a field, but the far more active material that lies beneath the archaeologist's own consciousness.

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