Thursday, 14 April 2016

A prolegomenon to Jungian archaeology: part six

I can think of no better lead graphic for this episode than Goya's "The sleep of reason produces monsters" from his Los Caprichos series.

Jung developed a technique he called "Active Imagination" and one of the methods that he used on himself and on some of his patients was the drawing of a mandala which often encompassed the quarternity. As this was also an archetypal representation of the psyche that was not derived from Indian mysticism, rather that Indian religion, being inward-looking, accessed it, it served as stimulation of the contents of the unconscious.  Jung also used dream imagery as that, too, brings images from the most accessible parts of the unconscious. The rhythms of the shaman's drum and the rhythms in composing poetry can also generate such imagery to mention just a couple of many examples.

If we apply this to archaeology we might think that, as the collective unconscious of today contains the same things it did in the distant past, then by just looking at some creative and symbolic object from the archaeological past, we might be able to reconstruct something of the meaning understood by its creator. Thus we might start thinking about some method of archaeological psychometry. Unfortunately, this is a double-edged-sword. We would not know if our resulting interpretation was right, or that a design that had some analytical basis to its creator coincidentally mimicked and stimulated something in our own unconscious resulting in the interpretation of the object being, in reality, the interpretation of our own unconscious content. As Freud said: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar". Nevertheless, the idea has captured imagintion in being applied to dream imagery.

You might have heard about August Kekulé's discovery of the structure of the benzene ring through the dream imagery of the Ouroboros, but look at the main article more carefully, as the chemistry section provides no interpretation. The key is the alchemical/magic term sigil " modern usage, especially in the context of chaos magic, it refers to a symbolic representation of the magician's desired outcome." You might also want to read the article about chaos magic as well, especially for its postmodern context as I will be referring to that later. In the case of Kekulé, he plays the role of the magician. His unconscious was delivering various patterns to him in his dream state and these coalesced into the collective unconscious symbol of the Ouroboros. That the benzene ring took that form is akin to, but not exactly, synchronicity which was the collaborative fruit of research by Jung and Pauli. While we can view the benzene ring as reality, it is also a symbolic representation of reality. In fact, some quantum physicists and transdisciplinarity in general views reality, itself, as illusory, at least in its exceptions to classical logic.

I have experienced the same thing myself. During my research into the Celtic boar symbol, I had a dream in which I had entered a hut. In the centre of the hut was an old and very hideous witch stirring a cauldron over a fire. She looked like something from Macbeth, but she was (I much later realized) the Crone archetype (See, also, Reimagining the Self: The Sage, the Wise Old One, and the Elder). The crone than looked up at me in disgust and transformed into a wild boar with its brush raised just as it is in the Celtic boar symbol. The crone and the boar represented the end of part of a cycle. Being a cycle, it would of course repeat; the cauldron was also the situla and the grail, symbols of regeneration and resurrection. The meaning of the boar became realized, and that meaning was later backed up by more evidence. For another personal example see my three-part series "My house" (also using the Goya print), about a dream generated by my spending three months living at the Dolese Mansion in Oklahoma City. Just click on the "Newer Post" link at the bottom of each blog to follow it.

Now if you think that all of the above was strange then you are in for a severe shock with what comes next. The study-subject of Lore consists, in part, of finding previous used elements and their origins in the tales. You might look it as an archaeology of legends, digging through ever deeper strata.  Postmodernism not only looks at the topic of study but its "re-presentation" as text. In an interdisciplinary manner I have (briefly) exposed for you one of the strata in Alexandra Warwick, The Dreams of Archaeology. Within this paper you will see a veritable smörgåsbord of current archaeological memes. How many can you spot?

There are a few chestnuts, like the references to Marx and antiquarianism, and the extremely warped view of the nineteenth century and Victorianism where modern archaeology was actually created through its synthesis with geology by John Evans, and his application of seriation (variously misattributed to both Flinders Petrie and Pitt Rivers by different authors), but I must especially point out the references to colonialism: when I returned to England after a more than thirty year absence television seemed full of moralizing indoctrination about the evils of colonialism. What surprised me the most about all of this was that the rhetoric style was identical to what I had been fed as boy at school in praise of such people as Cecil Rhodes (my school was on the grounds of his old house and its remaining pillars served as the design for the school badge where every pillar represented a human virtue (none of which, it later appeared, had been expressed by Rhodes). I finally understood George Orwell, but I also realized that this fervour was nothing more than a collective consciousness example of Jungian Enantiodromia. It was a massive exhibition of a neurosis, and one of the most surreal experiences of my life.  So have fun with that paper and I will be back tomorrow.

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