In the last year of his life, Carl Jung took on the project of expressing his core ideas and discoveries at a level comprehensible by the general public in his final book Man and his symbols. Ten days before his fatal illness, he completed his chapter to this work, which includes chapters written by his closest associates. In what were perhaps some of Jung’s final written words, he states:
“As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be anyone of us. Nobody can afford to look around and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself. But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worthwhile for each of us to ask himself whether by any chance his or her unconscious may know something that will help us. Certainly the conscious mind seems unable to do anything useful in this respect. Man today is painfully aware of the fact that neither his great religions nor his various philosophies seem to provide him with those powerful animating ideas that would give him the security he needs in face of the present condition of the world.” (p. 101)
Last week in my blog, Why BP?, I suggested that the core conflict expressed by the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is the battle between two primary instincts: hunger and self-preservation. Reason, the hallmark of consciousness, is colluding with and actually possessed by the unchecked, insatiable greed of the out-of-control hunger instinct in all of mankind. Esther Harding states, reflecting upon the hunger instinct, in her book Psychic Energy:
Modern man has sought to compass the whole of life with his conscious intellect, only to find that the power of the irrational life force has not been overcome, but has retreated to the unconscious and from that hidden stronghold exerts a powerful and often baneful influence on his life. The power of his primitive greed bursts forth in wars of aggression and manifests itself in asocial business practices, while the exclusive concern with outer satisfactions leaves his soul hungry and starving. For man cannot live satisfactorily, cannot be whole, unless he is living in harmony with the unconscious roots of his being. Yet, how can he be at one with himself while the barbaric impulses of unredeemed instinct continue to hold sway in the unconscious? It is just because the ideals we hold up before us do not represent the truth about mankind that the hopes of peace and progress they embody so constantly elude us. Yet we fear to admit this obvious fact and to relax our efforts at self-improvement, lest we fall again into chaos and barbarism.” (p. 84)
Bringing Jung’s challenge to the “single individual” to change and solve the problem of greed, requires that each and every one of us identify our own relation to greed within our psyches and in daily functioning. If we understand hunger broadly, as the instinct to consume, especially in great quantity, we might automatically associate it with the addictions: food, drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, etc. I suggest that we extend this energetically and ask ourselves, how do we spend the bulk of our energy? From this vantage point, we might ironically look at an obsessional disorder, such as anorexia, as an out of control hunger instinct, considering how much life energy is consumed by not eating.
We might view a fixation on reading as an insatiable hunger to consume words, facts, or fantasies to the exclusion of all other needs in life. Similarly, the insatiable attachment to constantly checking facebook, email, text messages, etc, is an addiction to consuming electronic connection, a barbaric dominance of the hunger instinct. We might view preoccupation with our physical appearance as a greedy monopoly on our daily energy for life. We could view dominating habits of complaining, being cynical, or judging, as acts of avarice feasting upon our energetic storehouse.
The possibilities for greed in our daily functioning are endless, and it requires conscious reflection on our part to take an honest energy inventory and face the truth of how we allow greed to dominate and control our lives. If we can reel in our attention from the greedy mirrors around us and tackle the shadow of our own greed, we can energetically change the world. This is the essence of Jung’s final guidance to us in how to change the world, which he acknowledged was in a very dangerous place. From the same chapter in Man and his symbols, he writes:
“Our intellect has created a new world that dominates nature, and has populated it with monstrous machines. The latter are so indubitably useful that we cannot see even a possibility of getting rid of them or our subservience to them. Man is bound to follow the adventurous promptings of his scientific and inventive mind and to admire himself for his splendid achievements. At the same time, his genius shows the uncanny tendency to invent things that become more and more dangerous, because they represent better and better means for wholesale suicide.” (p. 101)
As I stated last week, Mother Nature has taken the lead to restore balance now, and there is inevitable and obvious destruction in this healing process. If we can cap the greed in our own lives, we put ourselves in alignment with nature’s cure, and change the world!
If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.
Until we meet again,