Thursday 28 April 2022

Where are universal 'inner worlds' such as the 'dwat' or 'collective unconscious' located? - and can we participate in them, as well as observe them?

A question that recurs to me, is how top conceptualize (visualize, imagine) the 'location' of inner world concepts. The ancient Egyptians had a core and vital concept of the 'dwat' or underworld, where lived gods and the dead. Every living being had dealings with the dwat, and indeed it was the ultimate reality. 

Yet it has become very difficult to imagine the reality of something with such properties as the dwat - something which is 'inside' everybody, and yet also everywhere. 

A more recent example is the collective unconscious of Jung; a realm of universal archetypes, which is supposed to be accessed in dream and artistic creation, to be expressed in myth, and to emerge during insanity. 

I found it very difficult to imagine how the collective unconscious was supposed to work - where it was located, how we could get access to it...

Such difficulties are compounded when one wants to add that each of us as individuals are capable to changing the content of the dwat, or the collective unconscious. It is easier to imagine merely observing a kind of diffuse sea of mythic archetypes and gods floating around and doing things - of coming to 'know' the contents of such inner worlds or underworlds. 

But that you or I might potentially alter this collective reality; and to do so my some 'inner' act of ours, such as thinking... well it seems difficult to imagine even how such a thing might work (leaving aside the secondary issue of whether it is possible or plausible). 

I find, when pressing on this problem; that the whole thing has a tendency to become very abstract and detached, and unconvincing to myself. 

My conclusion is that there are very deep and difficult-to-eradicate assumptions in my way of reasoning that block a kind of basic human understanding, which was once widespread. 

For instance, it brings-out the extent to which we moderns almost 'cannot help' imagining our thinking as going-on in our brains and inside our skulls - with no possible way of really interacting with any kind of universal domain.  

It also brings-out the corresponding assumption that thinking is cut-off from the world; so that we cannot imagine our own thinking affecting the world... Except, maybe - in a crude sci-fi sort of way - as something like a 'telepathic beam' of 'thought energy' that affects matter (which we don't believe actually happens, or else it would be detectable and measurable). 

It seems, it feels, 'obvious' that the contents of 'my' thinking is something cut-off from the world; such is the nature of our alienation.

And yet I can recall young childhood when it seemed equally obvious that my thinking could be known to others, and that it could affect the world. For example, fear on my part could attract the attention of bad beings, bad events - and in that sense could make things happen. 

Or my secrets could be 'read' by others - I could not contain them 'inside my head', even when I wished; but they could only remain secret if I was able to 'forget' them.

Thus in early childhood, I naturally understood the way in which all Men (and god/s, spirits, angels, demons, the dead etc) could indeed be both within and also everywhere - albeit I could only envisage this as a passive and one-way process. 

I could not imagine - or believe - that I myself could, by my own thinking, affects this 'collective spiritual underworld'; including affect it for the better

I am talking here of the way of thinking variously termed positivism, materialism, scientism or reductionism; and the problematic phenomenon I describe above is what Owen Barfield called RUP - meaning the Residue of Unresolved Positivism which modern Man has as a deeply-ingrained habit; and which is so very difficult to eradicate even among those who - theoretically - fully-recognize the incoherence and evil of positivism. 

It is not too difficult to detect RUP in other people; but a far more difficult/ impossible prospect to eradicate it from our-selves. 

My best guess and hope for doing so is to try and re-discover, learn and extend ways of thinking that correspond to the 'animistic' thinking of ancient history and early childhood - that is, a world populated by intentional, conscious, living Beings - in a web of relationships. To try and translate the positivistic conceptions into these terms. 

But I still tend to 'feel' this in a passive fashion; and have not succeeded in achieving a way of understanding that corresponds to the active and creative engagement of the individual with The World that is Final Participation.    

Although I believe Final Participation is real, and I recognize when it is happening/ has happened; and it is a major aim in my life - it is certainly a disadvantage Not to be able to think-about or conceptualize it in a way that I find both convincing and comprehensible. 

Work yet to do...


Todd said...

Dr. Charlton:
I have an acquaintance or two who believe that particular substances, natural or unnatural, are helpful in discovering this state. And that the experiences stay with you.
Orthodox Christianity would say that such substances are evil, and not to be used.
What is your view on the use of such substances in trying to approach the 'dwat'?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Todd - From your questions over the weeks, I really don't think you yet understand the difference between Original and Final Participation; and why they are in several respects opposites. Without such understanding, all efforts will lead away, not towards. What Barfield and Steiner (and myself) are advocating is Not something that is, or has been, part of the mainstream of spirituality - whether Eastern or Western.

Todd said...

Dr. Charlton,
Understood. I've been wanting to get some Barfield and Steiner on that subject. I'll peruse your archives for some likely titles. Barfield seems intriguing. I do wish to understand the distinction better.