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CONCERNING THE TWO KINDS OF THINKING
IT is a well-known fact that one of the principles of analytic psychology is that the dream images are to be understood symbolically; that is to say, that they are not to be taken literally just as they are presented in sleep, but that behind them a hidden meaning has to be surmised. It is this ancient idea of a dream symbolism which has challenged not only criticism, but, in addition to that, the strongest opposition. That dreams may be full of import, and, therefore, something to be interpreted, is certainly neither a strange nor an extraordinary idea. This has been familiar to mankind for thousands of years, and, therefore, seems much like a banal truth. The dream interpretations of the Egyptians and Chaldeans, and the story of Joseph who interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, are known to every one, and the dream book of Artemidorus is also familiar. From countless inscribed monuments of all times and peoples we learn of foreboding dreams, of significant, of prophetic and also of curative dreams which the Deity sent to the sick, sleeping in the temple. We know the dream of the mother of Augustus, who dreamt she was to be with child by the Deity transformed into a snake. We will not heap up references and examples to bear witness to the existence of a belief in the symbolism of dreams. When an idea is so old, and is so generally believed, it is probably true in some way, and, indeed, as is mostly the case, is not literally true, but is true psychologically. In this distinction lies the reason why the old fogies of science have from time to time thrown away an inherited piece of ancient truth; because it was not literal but psychologic truth. For such discrimination this type of person has at no time had any comprehension. From our experience, it is hardly conceivable that a God existing outside of ourselves causes dreams, or that the dream, eo ipso, foresees the future prophetically. When we translate this into the psychologic, however, then the ancient theories sound much more reconcilable, namely, the dream arises from a part of the mind unknown to us, but none the less important, and is concerned with the desires for the approaching day. This psychologic formula derived from the ancient superstitious conception of dreams, is, so to speak, exactly identified with the Freudian psychology, which assumes a rising wish from the unconscious to be the source of the dream.
As the old belief teaches, the Deity or the Demon speaks in symbolic speech to the sleeper, and the dream interpreter has the riddle to solve. In modern speech we say this means that the dream is a series of images, which are apparently contradictory and nonsensical, but arise in reality from psychologic material which yields a clear meaning.
Were I to suppose among my readers a far-reaching ignorance of dream analysis, then I should be obliged to illustrate this statement with numerous examples. Today, however, these things are quite well known, so that one must proceed carefully with every-day dream material, out of consideration for a public educated in these matters. It is a special inconvenience that no dream can be recounted without being obliged to add to it half a life's history which affords the individual foundations of the dream, but there are some few typical dreams which can be told without too great a ballast. One of these is the dream of the sexual assault, which is especially prevalent among women. A girl sleeping after an evening happily spent in dancing, dreams that a robber breaks open her door noisily and stabs through her body with a lance. This theme, which explains itself, has countless variations, some simple, some complicated. Instead of the lance it is a sword, a dagger, a revolver, a gun, a cannon, a hydrant, a watering pot; or the assault is a burglary, a pursuit, a robbery, or it is some one hidden in the closet or under the bed. Or the danger may be illustrated by wild animals; for instance, a horse which throws the dreamer to the ground and kicks her in the body with his hind foot; lions, tigers, elephants with threatening trunks, and finally snakes in endless variety. Sometimes the snake creeps into the mouth, sometimes it bites the breast like Cleopatra's legendary asp, sometimes it comes in the role of the paradisical snake, or in the variations of Franz Stuck, whose pictures of snakes bear the significant titles "Vice," "Sin," "Lust." The mixture of lust and anxiety is expressed incomparably in the very atmosphere of these pictures, and far more brutally, indeed, than in Mörike's charming poem.
The Maiden's First Love Song
What's in the net?
But I am afraid,
Do I grasp a sweet eel,
Do I seize a snake?
Love is a blind
Tell the child
Where to seize.
Already it leaps in my hands.
Oh, Pity, or delight!
With nestlings and turnings
It coils on my breast,
It bites me, oh, wonder!
Boldly through the skin,
It darts under my heart.
Oh, Love, I shudder!
What can I do, what can I begin?
That shuddering thing;
There it crackles within
And coils in a ring.
It must be poisoned.
Here it crawls around.
Blissfully I feel as it worms
Itself into my soul
And kills me finally.
All these things are simple, and need no explanation to be intelligible. Somewhat more complicated, but still unmistakable, is the dream of a woman; she sees the triumphal arch of Constantine. A cannon stands before it, to the right of it a bird, to the left a man. A shot flashes out of the tube; the projectile hits her; it goes into her pocket, into her purse. There it remains, and she holds her purse as if something very precious were in it. The image disappears, and she continues to see only the stock of the cannon, and over that Constantine's motto, "In hoc signo vinces."
These few references to the symbolic nature of dreams are perhaps sufficient. For whomsoever the proof may appear insufficient, and it is certainly insufficient for a beginner, further evidence may be found in the fundamental work of Freud, and in the works of Stekel and Rank which are fuller in certain particulars. We must assume here that the dream symbolism is an established fact, in order to bring to our study a mind suitably prepared for an appreciation of this work. We would not be successful if we, on the contrary, were to be astonished at the idea that an intellectual image can be projected into our conscious psychic activity; an image which apparently obeys such wholly other laws and purposes than those governing the conscious psychic product.
Why are dreams symbolic? Every "why" in psychology is divided into two separate questions: first, for what purpose are dreams symbolic? We will answer this question only to abandon it at once. Dreams are symbolic in order that they can not be understood; in order that the wish, which is the source of the dream, may remain unknown. The question why this is so and not otherwise, leads us out into the far-reaching experiences and trains of thought of the Freudian psychology.
Here the second question interests us, viz., How is it that dreams are symbolic? That is to say, from where does this capacity for symbolic representation come, of which we, in our conscious daily life, can discover apparently no traces?
Let us examine this more closely. Can we really discover nothing symbolic in our every-day thought? Let us follow our trains of thought; let us take an example. We think of the war of 1870 and 1871. We think about a series of bloody battles, the siege of Strassburg, Belfort, Paris, the Treaty of Peace, the foundation of the German Empire, and so on. How have we been thinking? We start with an idea, or super-idea, as it is also called, and without thinking of it, but each time merely guided by a feeling of direction, we think about individual reminiscences of the war. In this we can find nothing symbolic, and our whole conscious thinking proceeds according to this type.
If we observe our thinking very narrowly, and follow an intensive train of thought, as, for example, the solution of a difficult problem, then suddenly we notice that we are thinking in words, that in wholly intensive thinking we begin to speak to ourselves, or that we occasionally write down the problem, or make a drawing of it so as to be absolutely clear. It must certainly have happened to any one who has lived for some time in a foreign country, that after a certain period he has begun to think in the language of the country. A very intensive train of thinking works itself out more or less in word form; that is, if one wants to express it, to teach it, or to convince any one of it. Evidently it directs itself wholly to the outside world. To this extent, this directed or logical thinking is a reality thinking, having a real existence for us; that is to say, a thinking which adjusts itself to actual conditions, where we, expressed in other words, imitate the succession of objectively real things, so that the images in our mind follow after each other in the same strictly causal succession as the historical events outside of our mind.
We call this thinking, thinking with directed attention. It has, in addition, the peculiarity that one is tired by it, and that, on this account, it is set into action only for a time. Our whole vital accomplishment, which is so expensive, is adaptation to environment; a part of it is the directed thinking, which, biologically expressed, is nothing but a process of psychic assimilation, which, as in every vital accomplishment, leaves behind a corresponding exhaustion.
The material with which we think is language and speech concept, a thing which has been used from time immemorial as something external, a bridge for thought, and which has a single purpose—that of communication. As long as we think directedly, we think for others and speak to others.
Speech is originally a system of emotional and imitative sounds—sounds which express terror, fear, anger, love; and sounds which imitate the noises of the elements, the rushing and gurgling of water, the rolling of thunder, the tumults of the winds, the tones of the animal world, and so on; and, finally, those which represent a combination of the sounds of perception and of affective reaction. Likewise in the more or less modern languages, large quantities of onomatopoetic relics are retained; for example, sounds for the movement of water,—
Rauschen, risseln, rûschen, rinnen, rennen, to rush, ruscello, ruisseau, river, Rhein.
Wasser, wissen, wissern, pissen, piscis, fisch.
Thus language is originally and essentially nothing but a system of signs or symbols, which denote real occurrences, or their echo in the human soul.
Therefore one must decidedly agree with Anatole France, when he says,
"What is thought, and how do we think? We think with words; that alone is sensual and brings us back to nature. Think of it! The metaphysician has only the perfected cry of monkeys and dogs with which to construct the system of the world. That which he calls profound speculation and transcendent method is to put end to end in an arbitrary order the natural sounds which cry out hunger, fear, and love in the primitive forests, and to which were attached little by little the meanings which one believed to be abstract, when they were only crude.
"Do not fear that the succession of small cries, feeble and stifled, which compose a book of philosophy, will teach us so much regarding the universe, that we can live in it no longer."
Thus is our directed thinking, and even if we were the loneliest and furthest removed from our fellows, this thinking is nothing but the first notes of a long-drawn-out call to our companions that water had been found, that we had killed the bear, that a storm was approaching, or that wolves were prowling around the camp. A striking paradox of Abélard's which expresses in a very intuitive way the whole human limitation of our complicated thinking process, reads,—"Sermo generatur ab intellectu et generat intellectum."
Any system of philosophy, no matter how abstract, represents in means and purpose nothing more than an extremely cleverly developed combination of original nature sounds. Hence arises the desire of a Schopenhauer or a Nietzsche for recognition and understanding, and the despair and bitterness of their loneliness. One might expect, perhaps, that a man full of genius could pasture in the greatness of his own thoughts, and renounce the cheap approbation of the crowd which he despises; yet he succumbs to the more powerful impulse of the herd instinct. His searching and his finding, his call, belong to the herd.
When I said just now that directed thinking is properly a thinking with words, and quoted that clever testimony of Anatole France as drastic proof of it, a misunderstanding might easily arise, namely, that directed thinking is really only "word." That certainly would go too far. Language should, however, be comprehended in a wider sense than that of speech, which is in itself only the expression of the formulated thought which is capable of being communicated in the widest sense. Otherwise, the deaf mute would be limited to the utmost in his capacity for thinking, which is not the case in reality. Without any knowledge of the spoken word, he has his "language." This language, considered from the standpoint of history, or in other words, directed thinking, is here a descendant of the primitive words, as, for instance, Wundt expresses it.
"A further important result of that co-operation of sound and sign interchange consists in the fact that very many words gradually lose altogether their original concrete thought meaning, and turn into signs for general ideas and for the expression of the apperceptive functions of relation and comparison and their products. In this manner abstract thought develops, which, because it would not be possible without the change of meaning lying at the root of it, is indeed a production of that psychic and psychophysical reciprocal action out of which the development of language takes place."
Jodl denies the identity of language and thought, because, for one reason, one and the same psychic fact might be expressed in different languages in different ways. From that he draws the conclusion that a "super-language thinking" exists. Certainly there is such a thing, whether with Erdmann one considers it "hypologisch," or with Jodl as "super-language." Only this is not logical thinking. My conception of it agrees with the noteworthy contribution made by Baldwin, which I will quote here word for word.
"The transmission from pre-judgmental to judgmental meaning is just that from knowledge which has social confirmation to that which gets along without it. The meanings utilized for judgment are those already developed in their presuppositions and applications through the confirmation of social intercourse. Thus, the personal judgment, trained in the methods of social rendering, and disciplined by the interaction of its social world, projects its content into that world again. In other words, the platform for all movement into the assertion of individual judgment—the level from which new experience is utilized—is already and always socialized; and it is just this movement that we find reflected in the actual results as the sense of the 'appropriateness' or synomic character of the meaning rendered.
"Now the development of thought, as we are to see in more detail, is by a method essentially of trial and error, of experimentation, of the use of meanings as worth more than they are as yet recognized to be worth. The individual must use his own thoughts, his established knowledges, his grounded judgments, for the embodiment of his new inventive constructions. He erects his thought as we say 'schematically'—in logic terms, problematically,' conditionally, disjunctively; projecting into the world an opinion still peculiar to himself, as if it were true. Thus all discovery proceeds. But this is, from the linguistic point of view, still to use the current language, still to work by meanings already embodied in social and conventional usage.
Excerpted from Psychology of the Unconscious by Carl Gustav Jung, Beatrice M. Hinkle. Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted December 21, 2004
This is the first book Jung wrote to establish himself as an independent thinker, rather than a student of Freud. Jung was to pursue, and wrestle with, some of the themes in this book for his entire working life; other themes and concepts that appear here he later revised or dropped. The book appears, heavily revised, in the Complete Works as 'Symbols of Transformation' but it is well worth exploring the earlier edition, infused with a confidence in progress and rational understanding of the psyche that the disasters of the First World War would subsequently put to shame. I think this book is a fine example of the unique combination of articulate 'scientistic' rationality and quasi-metaphysical wackiness that typifies Jung at his best. I enjoyed it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.