by Wayness Tamm-Clattuc
In his reply to the previous article, “A Dervish” wrote this:
“It is interesting to see how so often in these posts there is a high-up tone in the begining. Then in Mr. Andersen’s terms ‘it all went straight to Hell.’ This shows by itself the parallel Sufi contention. Sufis say that in any setting with particular people at a particular place and time, immediate stupidity in one form or the other always baffles the work of the Sufi. All three things at once have to be “right” for any progress to happen, in other words.”
Here A Dervish refers to the interesting phenomenon of the shadow, which brings up the even greater problem of free will.
There is always a nice intention to begin with — and then things get complicated. On balance, we [analytical psychologists — BW] say that this is the great human moral and creative problem. It is such a very great problem because furthermore, on our social side, personal moral autonomy is the heart of the matter in our western culture at least. And, this is still so even as our culture begins to enter upon global supersession.
Also, the insistence on free will flies right straight into the face of the daily facts, that we all mainly do operate on “automatic pilot.”
It is just necessary, that “high-up” stuff is simply too hard to maintain, it is like continuously flexing a bicep. After all, if one cannot relax emotionally and mentally, then there is a neurosis and everything is just impossible. And then everyone in the vicinity starts in mowing their grass, about “how irresponsible” one is. Nevertheless, free will is a perfectly human conception in itself and so it still remains important as a human problem, because of course the other ethical systems such as confucianism also have something to say about personal responsibility.
We all know what that’s like!
There I am, living life everyday with all of my little ad hoc arrangements in place, the little fibs and dodges and payoffs that are just necessary to live after all, and bingo! Here I am, plunged right into the hot soup. Naturally, if it’s bad enough, there’s always a terrific scandal and everyone rushes right in with the TV cameras to “wash my head,” as the Swiss say.
Ones errors and outright evil in fact are also a tremendous source of comfort to the onlookers, and they can be curiously empowering even to ones victims.
The fact is that it all gives others “permission” to let go, often in a very selfrighteous way. This in turn lets us know that there is something very powerful indeed at work in all of the scapegoating and name-calling, because of course it is usually all by people not a whit better off than we are. It seems to me now that the psychological facts are these:
Here I am, living along and getting along, accumulating some nice blame and resentments (“who does she think she is?”) AND money and promotions (“who DOES she think she is?”) along the way, and then — somehow — I am found out, and the picnic begins.
Well, I may have left THE letter (while absolutely intending not to) right on top of the pile on my desk, or an angry spouse has finally had enough, happens upon the phone-number in a jacket pocket and calls my husband or wife, or the taxman sends a routine letter, only it’s about some really dodgey transactions this time. So you see it is not only Sufis or analytical psychologists, who all at least think they are doing “the work of the Lord,” who suffer.
It’s the “somehow” at work in this all, the shadow.
It can be both the greatest evil, and as well an immense profound opportunity. I would say that in fact it is right when the shadow puts the cane into the bicycle spokes and we go bang! onto our heads for stitches to the ER that free will can even begin. “Free will” to analysts is a function of greater consciousness. And, no, I am not arguing that we should let off people from for instance legal responsibility because of a neurosis or other mental illness. At stake after all here is my analyst’s shadow’s need to show off that I am just as “tough” as everybody else! And so I say to you now that the very meaning of life is in the balance in this butcher shop, and the meaning of the perpetrators’ lives too, certainly if it is a bad enough case.
I am no fan of the death penalty, but it should be obvious from what I am saying that in fact to fail to kill someone off for their murders and other heinous crime is, perhaps, to cheat them out the meaning of their life, just as the victim is thus further cheated. Of course, a real cynic and someone really in touch with their own dirt could say that that’s just the ticket, namely to lock up one of these sociopaths and let them try to live with what they’ve. Just live with it.
That would be the real punishment of course, at least supposing your typical sociopath ever snaps out of the cloud of solipsism, but it does also cheat the onlookers out of their needed catharsis — and, possibly, the guilty obligation to come to terms with the dark side of their social needs, in this case for the death penalty. This is why the judge in a famous Zurich sex-murders case said to me, “I am glad I am not a priest or a consulting psychologist…all I have to do is to put this big fellow away on facts for forty years or whatever it is, that’s all he gets out of me….”
Dr. Jung always said that the shadow wasn’t merely “evil,” although naturally human collectives have always tended to say this about it. Especially in religions, the devil is all that doesn’t integrate easily with the message, the image, of the divine figures and the positive god(s). By positive I here mean all that is taken to be “good” in whatever religious and ethical system you have.
So when A Dervish refers to “stupidity” as he did above, or to whatever the ruled-out trait may be, he is pointing right at the heart of the creative problem. This always comes to a head whenever the shitcart gets kicked over by anybody on the rag that day, and it simply means that over time the suppressed content is growing in energy.
Always, it contains a demand for a new solution, a re-solution actually and which almost by definition is first of all tearing down the old thing.
Here, I want to be careful. “The solution” in our extraverted western and American setup is usually viewed as a matter of Mr. Dick Cheney or President Truman or someone deciding to drop an atomic bomb on The Foreigners, or else electing Mrs. Clinton and bringing in women’s rights (to bomb these same handy foreign-looking people!)
Or else, I have had some bad dreams, go to the analyst….
There, everything is made clear, and so I go straight home and divorce my husband or throw my wife and the tomcat out of the house. One-two-three…bombs away! Unfortunately, after awhile, rearranging the livingroom and moving the canary continuously out of reach of the cat just won’t do it anymore, not when the real demand is for a new inner attitude.
Needless to say, all of this is taking place over the long migration of life through the world, and it seems to be a consensus of human wisdom in different cultures that, with age, people do become more resigned. I do not mean they “give up,” and not just in a hopeless way in the nursinghome such as suggested temporarily by our baby boom “youth culture.”
Broadly, life seems to consist first of all in plenty of unconscious living with plenty of nice dirty episodes thrown in, and which are not at all “all” bad for everybody involved all of the time. This sows the seeds of memory, good and bad, and if one is fortunate as I was there is in it all too, somewhere, the memory in childhood of the priest saying “free will.” In short, this first half of life altogether supplies us with plenty of furniture to later move about in different ways, in our minds.
Needless to say, this point if not before is when real free will and responsibility first of all even can become a real possibility. It is then the sometimes heartbreaking task, of just deciding without any more evasion to sit right down in the dirt to look at ones story as it really is. And, where possible, to make amends. Of course, now, the very real fear of despair and shame can still drive people off from the work. For after all it does seem as though by now that there is so very little one can even “do” anymore.
But I am glad to tell you that some among the Sufis do now (through the tools of active imagination first taken up psychologically by Dr. Jung, during World War One) offer new dimensions to thoughtful people, in which to work on the struggle with these same things, “to make the world new.”
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 4 July 2008]