Monday, 18 January 2016

Understanding the ancient Celts and their art: the psychology of early Celtic art, part eight

"Celtic Unconscious"
John Hooker, digitally adapted from a photo by Gun Powder Ma
That Carl Jung deliberately kept away from studying the Celts in dereference to his wife Emma Jung, and that she studied the Celts from within the framework of the Arthurian Romances has isolated the protohistoric Celtic La Tène art from psychological studies. George Santayana, in The Life of Reason (1905) said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". I believe that those who study early Celtic art without being attentive to the Celtic unconscious are in danger of projecting contents of their own unconscious mind onto the subject.

No one who studies Celtic art denies its "magical" component. This aspect is especially observable within the Plastic Style with its hidden images and anamorphosis; the reference to the Celtic use of metaphor in their speech by Diodorus and my observation of their use of "variations on a theme" in Coriosolite coin design all add up the inescapable fact that it was the collective, rather than the personal unconscious that was being targeted by the artists. Jung used both the dream imagery of his patients and his techniques of active imagination to access the unconscious content.
"As most people know, one of the basic principles of analytical psychology is that dream-images are to be understood symbolically; that is to say, one must not take them literally, but must surmise a hidden meaning in them. This ancient idea of dream symbolism has aroused not only criticism, but the strongest opposition. That dreams should have a meaning, and should therefore be capable of interpretation, is certainly neither a strange nor an extraordinary idea. It has been known to mankind for thousands of years; indeed it has become something of a truism. ... It is an especial inconvenience that one cannot recount a dream without having to add the history of half a lifetime in order to represent the individual foundations of the dream."
Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 5: Symbols of Transformation: Chapter 2, Two Kinds of Thinking, (Kindle Locations 651-655; 669-670). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
The last sentence in the quote shows the method by which the consciousness must deal with the revealed unconscious content and we might then surmise that the unconscious is also using the past in the original formation of the imagery that is later interpreted. In sessions with his  patients, Jung noticed that the earliest memories evoked contained more archetypal imagery of the collective unconscious rather than things forgotten or repressed from their personal unconscious. This is certainly to be expected if only because early experiences have little of a personal past behind them.
"The collective unconscious is a part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from a personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition. While the personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents which have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness, and therefore have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to heredity. Whereas the personal unconscious consists for the most part of complexes, the content of the collective unconscious is made up essentially of archetypes."
Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, The Concept of the Collective Unconscious, (Kindle Locations 991-996). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
The biggest problem with the above quote is the reference to heredity as this implies a Lamarckian belief held by Jung which has been recently emphasized by Ritske Rensma in: Analytical psychology and the ghost of Lamarck: did Jung believe in the inheritance of acquired characteristics?. As far as I can see, there are only two avenues which could be pursued to resolve this problem: the first being epigenetics (its relevance to Lamarckism is still a matter of some controversy). The second avenue is religious, but I am not speaking about Intelligent Design's efforts to use epigentics as justification, but the belief in any sort of transmission through rebirth. Particular to the ancient Celtic belief is Metempsychosis. Jung says:
"Metempsychosis. The first of the five aspects of rebirth to which I should like to draw attention is that of metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls. According to this view, one’s life is prolonged in time by passing through different bodily existences; or, from another point of view, it is a life-sequence interrupted by different reincarnations. Even in Buddhism, where this doctrine is of particular importance— the Buddha himself experienced a very long sequence of such rebirths— it is by no means certain whether continuity of personality is guaranteed or not: there may be only a continuity of karma. The Buddha’s disciples put this question to him during his lifetime, but he never made any definite statement as to whether there is or is not a continuity of personality."
Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Forms of Rebirth (Kindle Locations 2200-2206). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
The question of the continuity of personality has been answered by the Dalai Lama with the subject of "the clear light" and it is both common sense and is demonstrable that much of our personality is formed through the experiences of our current life, as would the personality of any future life be formed through its experiences.

So this is the background information. Tomorrow, we will apply it to the study and studies of the Celts and their art.

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