Man and Nature.
The psychosomatic Self as archetype of the third millennium
It is undeniable that in the last years of our century modern science has undermined the old deterministic-mechanistic image «making room for qualitative, indeterminate, relativistic, catastrophic, dynamic phenomena, far from equilibrium, upsetting the scientific reason that established science dichotomies such as philosophy - science, subject – object (knowing subject – known object), cause – effect, space – time, wave – particle, necessary – unnecessary, the existent – the non-existent» (Spano, 1993). A new perspective has been affirmed, a conceptual constellation summarized in the idea of complexity characterized by the need to study the phenomenon no longer in its formal abstraction and in its operational description, but in its existing singularity and in its dialectic with the world. A new study approach to vital and social phenomena based on the understanding of the interactions at the root of the phenomena linked to the study of organizational and disorganizing feedbacks, on the recovery of chaos and the unpredictable aspect fundamental to understand the logic of order that more than a new method is represented by complexity. According to Edgard Morin: «[...] Complex thought must satisfy numerous conditions to be such: it must connect the object to the subject and its environment; it must consider the object not as an object but as a system / organization that poses the complex problems of the organization; it must respect the multidimensionality of beings and things; it must work / dialogue with uncertainty, with the irrational; it must no longer disintegrate the world of phenomena, but try to account for it by mutilating it as little as possible» (Morin, 1988).
In this regard, complexity opens up to a new epistemology centered on the possibility of tackling unconventional problems that exclude any predefined discipline, but through a rich interdisciplinarity allows access to the “unpredictable”, as a foundation for understanding the order of reality. If in the first instance, complexity may look like disorder, confusion, uncertainty, the underlying logic becomes the possibility of identifying the laws, the hidden rules in the chaotic game that make ordered systems emerge from the tangle of reality. Man can dialogue thanks to a multidimensional thought, with the world establishing a one-to-one relationship between two apparently separate worlds, the biological and the cultural, nature and man, which in fact are representative of the same unity. Morin rightly spoke of “uniduality” to indicate the relational logic open to the contemporary understanding of the biological and the cultural, and underlined that this complementarity is specific to the human phenomenon.
Incidentally, by examining the concept of “uniduality” in relation to man, it is evident that the latter, in the course of his cultural evolution, has often placed himself more as a supporter of the cultural order to the detriment of the biological one and vice versa, so much so that, even today, at the beginning of the third millennium, the emphasis on organic is often opposed to the primacy of culture. Consequently, one thinks that in proposing man as a summary of the “uniqueness” mentioned above, one wants to operate more according to a criterion of project ethics than of factual reality. This criterion excludes from the study of man the unconscious dynamics that determine his areas of consciousness, including culture. In fact, if we do not start from the fundamental observation that in the modern meaning of depth psychology every conscious act of man is the result of precise unconscious choices, we cannot even understand that the cause-effect criterion on which rational thought and consequently culture are based, is a particular aspect of a more “open” logic, with a circular scope, defined as the logic of the unconscious. In other words, this means that the unconscious is more archaic than consciousness and that from the study of it and its logic, we can understand the reason so frequent in man and his culture to split what in the reality of the world presents itself as undivided. Recovering the aspect of what depth psychology defines as unconscious in the study of man, his biology, his culture, means operating in the direction of complexity. The study of unconscious phenomena overcomes the distinction between subject, object and environment, because the model of the unconscious stands as a common humus between these realms of reality. Furthermore, by imposing a dialogue with uncertainty and irrationality, it confronts itself more than with the object itself, with the multidimensional system / organization of beings and things and as such is capable of “reading” the phenomenal world and its aspects in a global perspective (Fromm, 1979).
It is curious that in the new epistemology of complexity, the problem of the unconscious and its dynamisms is kept on the sidelines rather than evaluated as a possibility of constructively expanding the conclusions offered by science, philosophy and sociology, thus contributing to the birth of that interactive model between levels and spheres of different realities linked together by the multiplicity of specific points of view. Maybe, the main reason for this conceptual marginalization must be found in the hybris of consciousness, unable to grasp the meaning of existence except by making use of the permanent principles and values shared by the scientific or philosophical community to which it belongs, forgetting that the world of life, which is our world itself, obeys a circular and synchronic logic, of which the cause-effect criterion, typical of rational thought, represents only a particular case.
Man has often abused his thinking: rather than using it to approach wisely to the knowledge of nature, he has pretended in the name of the autonomy of science, to sacrifice a large part of what constitutes the reality of the world for us, offering us in exchange mathematical schemes whose only advantage is to help us to manipulate matter on its own level, that of quantity. The experience of a fatally desecrated nature has seen the emergence of the realm of mechanization and of the machine as centers of human existence, with the consequence of making the human intellect unable to reflect on itself and on the role of its technological creations. However, in the last decades of our century depth psychology has ventured thanks to Freudian psychoanalysis and Jungian analytical psychology, into the study of man and his relations with nature and the world trying to overcome that image of a fragmented universe given by the developments of the scientific knowledge (Freud, 1923) (Jung, 1934). In this perspective of disenchantment, in which Western scientific thought celebrates its limits and measures all its powerlessness in the face of the project of an omnipotent control of the world, it is precisely the psychology of the depth that has recovered the symbolic and contemplative perspective founded on impersonal intelligence and on the metaphysical transparency of things, necessary to recover the cosmological value of reality. If with Freudian psychoanalysis every human manifestation, as well as every gnoseological result, can be read as a manifest discourse referring to a latent discourse that holds its meaning, with Jungian analytical psychology the theme of the timelessness of the unconscious, of its relationship with the numinous aspect of archetypes and of the relativity of conscious life and of the Ego strongly emerges. C.G. Jung claims «The ideas that conquer, the so-called true ideas, have something special in them: they arise from an atemporal region, from an ever-existing being, from a primordial psychic ground on which the ephemeral spirit of the single individual grows as a plant that bears flowers, fruit and seeds, withers and dies. Ideas come from something that is bigger than the single person. We are not the ones who produce the ideas, it is rather the ideas that form us» (Jung, 1929). Therefore, alongside the personal unconscious, container of the vicissitudes and the troubles of the Ego, the collective unconscious comes forward as a “place” for the action of archetypes, preformed structures of the psychism, germinal background of humanity, capable of conditioning the Egoic consciousness orienting it in the direction of a project with a super-individual value.
The archetypes - a term that Jung borrowed from late Hellenic philosophy - indicate the original model of the forms of which sensible things are simple copies. They can be compared to “primordial images”, or to “pre-existing forms of learning” or to “congenital conditions of intuition” and represent a constitutive part of the psychic structure of the individual, able to configure and animate the materials of individual experience as if they were of invisible nodal points. They can be compared to the «crystal system in mother water, without it having a material existence. This need appears primarily in the way of crystallizing the ions and then the molecules. The axial system determines the stereometric structure, but not the concrete form of the individual crystal, and the archetype, just like the crystal, has a core of invariable signification which always determines the mode of manifestation, although not its concrete form» (Jung, 1938-1954).
The collective unconscious, as a totality of archetypes, is the sediment of all the experiences lived by humanity since the beginning of its history, not a dead sediment, but a living system of reactions and attitudes, a source of instincts and creative potentialities. It can be seen as a continuum of psyche and matter, in which the highest psychic images and representations are located at the ultraviolet pole, while at the infrared pole the psychic processes are translated into somatic processes (Jung, 1927-1931). The ultraviolet and infrared poles are terms naturally used on an analogue key, as a model of thought to express the psyche-matter continuum representing the totality of the spectrum.
This model of the psyche-matter continuum is similar to the most recent concepts developed by relativistic physics and quantum mechanics to describe the reality of atomic particles, and as claimed by authoritative researchers, the experience of the continuum would be at the basis of our modality of relationship with the world.
In fact, as David Bohm recalls, we could ultimately say «that there is an underlying foundation on the one hand within the matter, on the other within the deep layers of the unconscious […] a single, equal background that has a larger size of both» (1980). A real energetic ocean that binds everything existing in a unitary code. This energetic ocean would materialize in the material events of life, and in man would become manifest in his body and in his consciousness. The consequence of this model would permit a sort of unconscious space-time continuity between all the phenomena of existence, from which would emerge, as if from an ocean, more or less vast, individually separated islets made up of the single materialized forms of life up to the very conscience of man, which would qualify as the subtlest aspect of this materialization.
Therefore as the theorists of Princeton's Gnosis recall, if every “form” of the living world is a state of consciousness, or rather if each form represents a precise moment of “cognition” (Maturana, Varela, 1987) towards the stimuli of its environment, the process “autopoiesis” of living systems can be affirmed as such by arising from an indistinct energetic humus, a real Unus Mundus (Jung, 1990) that exists beyond the psyche and the objective matter and also outside the space-time categories. Just as there is no separation between psyche and matter on the level of the unconscious, so there is no separation between man and nature, because both obey the rule of the continuum mentioned above. Consciousness is able to grasp only some aspects of the continuum, those that on the collective level constitute the goal of science. Therefore, the knowledge of the natural world, investigated by science, constitutes only a part of what man is able to perceive as the complexity of reality escapes a study method which by its own prerogatives, excludes the possibility of using rules on which the logic of the unconscious is built. Physical science is not an adequate description of nature, it is a portrait made by an observer from a particular angle and with precise visual limits, who chooses data on the basis of the arbitrariness of his own subjectivity. Of course, it offers us a relative description of the order of the world, but not a true understanding of it. It completely neglects to study the way in which the relationship between man and nature is linked to the roots of the unconscious, not only collective but also personal, because to what qualifies as unconscious – literally “not known” – cannot be attributed any logic able to be known by consciousness. Just as chaotic phenomena have a behavior that is not purely random but shows an order at a deeper level, so the unconscious, as a logic that binds living systems into self-organizing networks whose parts are all interconnected and interdependent, presents an order that consciousness can begin to glimpse only when it knows how to place itself beyond the logical rules on which reason has built its domain of reality. In other words, it is necessary to enter the realm of analogy and symbol (Frigoli, 1993), a specific method of the unconscious, to overcome the reductive spirit with which science describes the representable, because it is only from the constant comparison with the Beyond that the sensible data acquire meaning. Just as the conscious and the unconscious are complementary to each other, in the individual psychic life and in the game of their representations the code of reality is increasingly defined, so in a certain sense science and symbolism represent the interdependent but necessary aspects to understand the relationship between Man and Nature (Nasr, 1977). The study of symbols does not deal with the particular behaviors of nature, just as science does not deal with the fundamental interpretation of natural knowledge - both are necessary for a concise vision of the world. But the relationships are not reciprocal: in fact, while science cannot even begin without analogy and symbol, so fundamental in the creative process of the working hypothesis, symbol and analogy do not presuppose any scientific principle for the validity of their conclusions. Therefore, the analogy and the symbol can render a service of high value to scientific doctrines, illuminating them with a deeper meaning, beyond the generalizations and theoretical constructions imposed by their work. Regardless of the depth with which today one penetrates cosmic space or the atomic nucleus, explores the genetic code or speculates on the value of life and death, the recourse to the rules of analogy and symbol can structure reality according to a plan of conjunction between modern sciences and purely metaphysical doctrines, the only ones capable of contemplating the realities that transcend any cosmic manifestation.
«All the developments of modern scientific knowledge take place horizontally, in the sphere of corporeal and material existence, even if it is galactic matter, and therefore do not affect the other planes of existence at all» (Nasr, 1977). But if we want to grasp that synthetic knowledge of the world, which refers us to the recovery of the archetypal aspects that can be traced in existence, we need to deal with what arises as Infinite and Absolute. «The knowledge that is interested only in the material world actually turns to the indefinite, or at least to its quantitative aspect, to what the Hindus call the “cosmic labyrinth” or Maya and the Buddhists Samsara. Although legitimate like any other knowledge, this form of science turns out to be fruitful only when cultivated in the bed of a discipline that hinges on the Absolute and the Infinite and which therefore, thanks to this immutable center, can locate and define the periphery and the relative to which the modern sciences are addressed» (Nasr, 1977).
Once again it is the use of the archetypal dimension that is considered as a possible solution to the void and nihilism experienced by modern man. If the archetype is seen as the supersensible principle of order that presides over things, and if its action extends beyond ordinary space and time, philosophically speaking, it represents the principle of unity present to itself and operating. in reality. Therefore, if man's conscience was used to understand the multiform symbolic aspects of shapes, colors, images of everything that surrounds us, it would enter into a relationship with the archetype of unity, experiencing on itself at the same time its own immanence and transcendence. «To teach that the tree symbolizes the multiple states of being, or that the mountain is the symbol of the cosmos, or the sun is the symbol of the intelligible principles of the universe, does not in any way mean diminishing the discoveries of botany, geology or 'astronomy. But if nature is to regain meaning, if man's confrontation with nature is to be spared from the calamities that are looming today, symbolic knowledge must be presented not as a poetic fantasy, but as a science linked to ontological root of things» (Nasr, 1977).
The archetype of unity and order in analytical psychology is defined as the Self. As a factor of order, the experience of the Self corresponds to the center of the totality of psychic life, which simultaneously embraces the consciousness and the unconscious, just as the Ego is the center of the conscious mind. In this perspective, the individual Self must be understood as the state of contemporary awareness, both of material events and of the respective mental images of them, in a vision of continuity without fragmentation (Jung, 1991). On the collective level, this individual experience of continuity is resolved in an agreement between man and nature, such as to recognize in the latter the extroverted aspect of one's own introverted totality. If what is interior appears as representative of the external world and if the latter condenses into the interior experience of man, the emotional and cognitive barriers of the ordinary Ego cease to exist and human consciousness experiences its own dimension of universality.
In terms of information theory, the Self can be considered the psychosomatic event equipped with only neg-entropy (Brillouin, 1959), in the well-known comparison of Fantappiè, when he describes the stone thrown into the pond and the waves of it that rise to indicate entropic phenomena, the psychosomatic Self would represent the unexpected event. In fact, if we throw a stone into the pond (cause), and film the whole thing, we will see the waves rise as an effect of the stone. Now, reversing the film, we will observe waves in the pond, which converge tumultuously towards a center from which a stone would splash out. The latter would constitute an unexpected event with respect to the tumultuous motion of the waves converging towards a center, and it can rightly be compared to the sudden appearance of the Self when the consciousness of the Ego is oriented towards the center of its own unity. If in the light of what has been mentioned, it seems sufficiently clear to us that the Self is the archetype of totality, the attribute of psychosomatic is meant to underline that it is a factor of order both of the images of psychic life and of the needs of the instinctual life of the body. Therefore the psychosomatic Self represents that factor of order, that sort of chaotic attractor (Mandelbrot, 1987) (Gleik, 1989) presents in the iconography of the curves of chaos, which summarizes in itself, as a vital center, the need for the form to condense so much from the matter-psyche energetic continuum. specific individual man (the body), as well as the possible states of his consciousness (the psyche). As an ideal “center” it is able to summarize all the biological phylogeny and the contemporaneity of psychological states.
Precisely because of this summarizing totality of phylogeny and the symmetrical psychological experience occurring at each step, the psychosomatic self appears more as an ideal destination, described in religious or mystical images, than a real experience usable by the Ego. The reasons are easily understood since the totality of the psychosomatic Self is beyond ordinary space and time, to the point that only a supersensible experience can vaguely describe its effects.
Despite this limitation, the psychosomatic Self is anything but transcendent compared to the normal experience of the Ego. It manifests itself individually and collectively with symbols of wholeness such as the circle, the square, the colors, the sounds, etc.; it appears in dreams as an allusion to reasons of rebirth and transformation. It is presented collectively as an appeal to all that is “mysterious” or “magical” and “irrational”. It finds itself in the collective need of the demand for religiosity and the search for the “natural” as a balance of man, of ecological respect for the environment; it is highlighted in the modern holistic trend that seeks to propose a global vision of the world on several levels; in short, it is found in all the current emotional and scientific experiences that propose reality as constituted by a complex macro-micro-system with a unitary value. As a program of integration between man and nature, if the dialectic is to continue on a more harmonious basis, without the environment becoming alien to man or the latter to the environment, it is necessary a profound conceptual revolution capable of integrating modern scientific knowledge with the science of symbols and analogies, the only ones capable of carrying out the vital function of restoring man to his right home in the universe. But to achieve this transformation it is necessary, rather than resorting to the logic of information that operates only at the level of consciousness, to recover the knowledge of the unconscious world, because it is there, in its roots, that the most ancient truths and the eternal symbols of life.
Therefore only through a slow but constant process of individuation, which can recover the hidden meaning of our origin, is it possible to ensure that the individual Self takes on the value of a beneficial wave of collective change, such as to allow man, with the conquest of his true totality and centrality, to assume the almost divine function of guarding the natural world. «Clearly understanding the virtue of Heaven and Earth is what is called “The Great Root” and “The Great Origin”. Those who can, are in harmony with Heaven and know how to give a just order to the world. They are those who live in harmony with men» (Chuang–Tzu, 1977).
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*Diego Frigoli – Founder and promoter of the ecobiopsychological thought. Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Director of the ANEB Institute – School of Specialization in Psychotherapy. Innovator in the study of the imaginary focusing on the symbol in relation to its dynamics between the individual and the collective knowledge.
Translated by Raffaella Restelli – Psychologist, member of the British Psychological Society (UK), Ecobiopsychological Counselor and expert in ANEB Psychosomatic Medicine. Linguist in ANEB Editorial area.