Friday, September 21, 2012

Unborn Again

Scott Bradley


I've been reading a paper by a psychologist, Wolfgang Giegerich, entitled The End of Meaning and the Birth of Man: An essay about the state reached in the history of consciousness and an analysis of C. G. Jung's psychological project (pdf). It was loaned to me with the teasing request that I sum it up for she who found it a bit too 'scholarly'. Similarly, I thought I might teasingly sum it up as: "huh?" Still, the overall thesis is clear.

Humanity has finally left the womb. Previous to the 19th century, human beings were typically born into a myth which provided meaning and a sense "in-ness". Consciousness remained essentially "unborn". With the "death of God", however, humanity was finally born into the cold "meaningless" world. Consciousness now has to stand up on its own two feet without mythological props and must find its "meaning" in itself.

Needless to say, this is an awfully broad brush stroke; a huge majority of the world's population is still born into a sustaining mythology and remains there, and is thus still unborn in Giegerich's sense. The 'truly born' are a small minority and are predominantly in the West. Nevertheless, it is my belief that this minority does in fact typify the humanity of the future. The West and its 'truly born' lead the way. This may sound like jingoism, but it is not meant to imply that this is necessarily a 'good' thing; consumerism is a good example of the global trend toward what the West has wrought. This applies equally to secularism.

Following this model, one would have to conclude that when a person is "born again" as a Christian, for instance, he is actually being unborn again. He has returned to the womb of myth so as to escape the cold, scary world of mythlessness and meaninglessness.

Giegerich's critique of Jung is on the whole quite negative. Jung, he tells us, chose psychology as his course of study not as a scientist, but as one seeking to restore meaning to his life. The concepts of the 'unconscious' and 'collective consciousness' are his invented means of restoring meaning, of being unborn again. Meaning, "in-ness", is found in the unconscious from which the West has effectively sealed itself off. This is certainly reflected in his commentaries on religious Daoist works of "inner alchemy", one of which I have critiqued here (The Secret of the Golden Flower). "His was a counter-factual recue project", Giegerich writes.

I, and most my readers I suspect, are at work on a similar project. So, I would guess, is Giegerich; it’s unavoidable. Yet he, and we, constantly attempt to return to “critical zero”; we try and not be “counter-factual”. We seek a way of “in-ness” (connectedness) while remaining resolutely out in the cold. It is no easy task.

Giegerich also makes the point that as long as we seek meaning, we in effect remain unborn; if we feel the lack, we are not truly born. I wonder, therefore, if humanity is or ever will be truly “born” in his sense. We are, after all, born into a world of connectedness. “In-ness” is a given.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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