The High and The Low

If it is Sunday, we have the morning news programs to watch. Sunday’s news still has no worthy solutions to our World’s problems – this is depressing causing a loss of psychic energy, which at my age is serious. I am currently in the process of watching The Physics of Light which has brought me again to Einstein’s equation E=MC2. In an earlier DAMan Blog post, The mathematics of faith, I explored how Einstein’s concept of energy might be transformed into Jung’s psychological concept of energy (Atom and Archetype : The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958). This subject has been with me for some time now and when I woke this morning, I observed myself continuing to analyze what I had been reading during the night – Colin Wilson’s Chapter Seven Doubts and Reservation in his book C.G. Jung: Lord of the underworld.  This blog entry will begin to examine Wilson’s thought on psychic energy.

I first started reading Wilson’s book on “December 22, 1988 in Beijing” and finished it then writing on the last page, “12/31/88 21:26 Beijing alone on New Year’s Eve, SAS.” I recently re-discovered Colin Wilson and am excited about his work and this morning awoke working through what his reservations regarding Jung’s thought. Wilson begins suggesting that Jung is a romantic, which is not a criticism in that a romantic is “a person who feels that the world is full of meaning – that discovery and adventure lie around every corner… The romantic recognizes that the problem lies in our own limitations, in the narrowness of our senses. So when a romantic also happens to be a realist, he is likely to devote a great deal of his life to the search for meaning – which is synonymous with self-transformation. Jung was such a person…” (124). The idea of self-transformation is Jung’s central concept of individuation, (here explained by Murray Stein) which can be compared to Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization, which Wilson also explores and we will tackle in a future DAMan Blog entry.


In line with Wilson’s first book, The Outsider, Jung can be added to the list of writers – “including H. G. Wells (Mind at the End of its Tether), Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Harley Granville-Barker (The Secret Life), Hermann Hesse, T. E. Lawrence, Vincent van Gogh, Vaslav Nijinsky, George Bernard Shaw, William Blake, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky and G. I. Gurdjieff – that Wilson explores “effecting society and society’s effect on them” (Wikipedia). Wilson wrote The Outsider, his first book a world-wide best-seller at the age of 24 in 1956, and in his book on Jung we have another book modeled after this first one – Wilson says he is always writing on the same subject – romanticism, which peaked from 1800 to 1850 and was we need to note “partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution”(Wikipedia).

Wilson begins his reservations addressing Freud and Jung’s concepts of the unconscious, Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious, and the role of archetypes. Wilson does not deny these ideas but instead questions how Jung arrived at their reality (126). Wilson then turns to the question we are focusing on in this post, “How does neurosis arise?” Besides Jung’s Theory of neurosis, there is Karen Horney’s extensive treatment in her magnum opus Neurosis and Human Growth: The struggle toward self-realization. Wilson, however, chooses to use Pierre Janet idea of abaissement du niveau mental (adnm), which is “a lowering of the mind threshold”, a psychological energy concept Jung also made use of and that we are investigating.

Janet’s work influenced many of the giants in the then evolving field of depth psychology, like James, Freud, Jung, Adler, and many later psychologists like Horney and Abraham Maslow. In varying degrees, the focus is on individual psychological health, however, we need to also focus on how our insane society (Fromm), industrial capitalism, impacts  individuals as we struggle with the challenge to establish the empathic global community (Rifkin). In discussing the psychological health of mass shooters , the sanity of our industrial society is not even in the mix – just listen to how mental health is being addressed in the media and then go deeper and consider how business schools are not addressing the sanity of what they teach. The sanity of our society in not being discussed, after all, aren’t we exceptional? Zizek asks and interesting question, why is it easier for us, Hollywood,  to imagine the end of the world than to imaging the end of capitalism (The perverts guide to cinema)?

Stephen Aizenstat, President of Pacifica Graduate Institute, makes three points about depth psychology moving us into a deeper understanding of an empathic global community: “It is that which lies below the surface of things, in the unconscious; 2, It has to deal with the activation of the human imagination from which myths and stories arise – here we have Wilson’s Outsiders; 3 We are all asked to see the social, political, economic, realities that face us. We are asked to look at these issues with a particular eye – a way to see, a way of being. It is seeing deeply into the structure of our institutions” (Youtube). A question to consider, which candidate for president of the U.S. is practicing depth psychology? May I suggest Bernie Sanders comes closest?

What is depth psychology?

So, Wilson’s view of psychological health is a matter of “psychological-tension”, which requires “a sense of motivation and purpose.” If psychological tension is lowered, from conditions of boredom, illness, depression, this constitutes abaissement du niveau mental and can result in one falling prey to fears and anxieties that a healthy person would not be subject to. What Wilson next writes made me understand experientially what he was proposing. Remember, I awoke in the middle of the night to read Wilson writing: “We experience a lowering of our mental threshold during the night, and we are all familiar with the experience of waking in the early hours of the morning and beginning to worry about all kinds of things” (128). How true this is for me and when psychological-tension is lowered, I tell myself to put these issues aside since in the morning my energy will be renewed with many important things-to-do, one important one for me is writing about this.

This simple model of Janet’s has additional stages like “a narrowing of attention,” which is followed by “a sense of monotony,” which leads to further lowering of mental energy needed to live fully. At 71 years with son Aaron 20 a NDSU junior and daughter Annah 17 a senior in high school, we often discuss their studies and reminding me of my days as a UND student. I wonder where does their motivational energy comes from having to sit, often passively in class, and then to hide away somewhere alone reading and writing. I think to myself, I could never do that again, I would never want to live my life again – just want to get through this one, to see if there is another side.

At first, this stressed me, thinking about what Aaron and Annah have yet to endure in order to prepare for their lives. However, is there really any difference in what they are doing and what I am doing? I am coming closer to death and am working just as intently on this as they are on preparing for life. So, why when I wake in the night is my mental energy lower? I am anxious about the future but at 20 I do not remember feeling anxious – it seems I just studied my way forward. Here I am 50 years later, with three academic degrees, a fun teaching career of 40 years, a solid marriage, some money under the mattress, and now engaged in writing about it all.  So, why are you anxious in the middle of the night and also at times during the day – just do it, Steve! Carl Jung speaks about death suggests, it is as important an event as our birth and it needs to be prepared for. However, we still need to get closer to these anxieties.

Carl Jung speaks about Death

Colin Wilson‘s, The High and the Low, interviewed by psychologist Jeffrey Mislove addresses an unfolding-processes of anxiety that needs tracking. There are several threads to track in this interview and we will focus on Wilson saying that for “the outsider salvation lies in extremes.”

Wilson suggests that his middle-of-the-night anxiety needs a process of working these states of despair and panic through. His approach is much the same as mine in using a journal to get them written down and then thought into. What he realized is that there are two Colin Wilsons that can be called upon to address these anxieties in order to catch the adrenaline energy before it gets a hold and pulls one down. It was the Outsiders that achieved this control by putting themselves in a crisis situation – in  other words, “salvation lies in extremes.”

Wilson’s idea this that our psyches are comprised of two persons – one our real-you and the other our robot-you. His idea is that the robot-you often has the percentage of engery at 49/51% in his/her favor. Boosting one’s psychic energy to 51%, puts your real-you in charge. The robot-you is a worm’s eye, the subjective untrue view that deprives one of feeling meaning in life – the neurosis in life. In order to move beyond a balance of 50/50% energy levels, one needs a bird’s eye view, which is the true-view that provides meaning in life. Wilson says “one has to pull back and look at life through a wide-angle lens and as soon as this is done one goes into a state of optimism.” When a person is in a crisis situation, the real-you is at 51% and one is excited with meaning in life – a state of optimism.

Wilson disagreed with Maslow’s position that states of optimism, Maslow’s peak experiences, cannot be willfully induced. Wilson suggests, “It is a matter of inner strength creating the peak experience at will and then putting them alongside the experience of despair?” The path is to develop a working relationship among your selves, a Stan and Laurel exchange. Wilson insists that “peak experiences are the norm, it is a perception. It is more than thus acknowledging this depth but is the possibility of something greater, it is realizing in our own depths we possess an enormous reservoir of energy that we are unaware of.” This is the experience of the romantics – “The inner becomes outer and the outer becomes the inner.” Steven A Scherling

Colin Wilson – The High and The Low

Stan Laurel Infectious Laughing

To be continued…

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1 Response to The High and The Low

  1. Pingback: Trump’s Ode to Joy | Dialectic Analytical Man

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