Whereas, in the course of the nineteenth century, the main concern was to put the unconscious on a philosophical footing, towards the end of the century various attempts were made in different parts of Europe, more or less simultaneously and independently of one another, to understand the unconscious experimentally or empirically.
The pioneers in this field were Pierre Janet in France and Sigmund Freud in the old Austria.
Janet made himself famous for his investigation of the formal aspect,
Freud for his researches into the content of psychogenic symptoms.
I am not in a position here to describe in detail the transformation of unconscious contents into conscious ones, so must content myself with hints.
In the first place, the structure of psychogenic symptoms was successfully explained on the hypothesis of unconscious processes.
Freud, starting from the symptomatology of the neuroses, also made out a plausible case for dreams as the mediators of unconscious contents.
What he elicited as contents of the unconscious seemed, on the face of it, to consist of elements of a personal nature that were quite capable of consciousness and had therefore been conscious under other conditions.
It seemed to him that they had ”got repressed” on account of their morally incompatible nature.
Hence, like forgotten contents, they had once been conscious and had become subliminal, and more or less irrecoverable, owing to a counter-effect exerted by the attitude of the conscious mind.
By suitably concentrating the attention and letting oneself be guided by associations—that is, by the pointers still existing in consciousness—the associative recovery of lost contents went forward as in a mnemo-technical exercise.
But whereas forgotten contents were irrecoverable because of their lowered threshold-value, repressed contents owed their relative irrecoverability to a check exercised by the conscious mind.
This initial discovery logically led to the interpretation of the unconscious as a phenomenon of repression which could be understood in personalistic terms.
Its contents were lost elements that had once been conscious.
Freud later acknowledged the continued existence of archaic vestiges in the form of primitive modes of functioning, though even these were explained personalistically.
On this view the unconscious Psyche appears as a subliminal appendix to the conscious mind.
The contents that Freud raised to consciousness are those which are the most easily recoverable because they have the capacity to become conscious and were originally conscious.
The only thing they prove with respect to the unconscious psyche is that there is a psychic limbo somewhere beyond consciousness.
Forgotten contents which are still recoverable prove the same.
This would tell us next to nothing about the nature of the unconscious psyche did there not exist an undoubted link between these contents and the instinctual sphere.
We think of the latter as physiological, as in the main a function of the glands.
The modern theory of internal secretions and hormones lends the strongest support to this view.
But the theory of human instincts finds itself in a rather delicate situation, because it is uncommonly difficult not only to define the instincts conceptually, but even to establish their number and their limitations.
In this matter opinions diverge.
All that can be ascertained with any certainty is that the instincts have a physiological and a psychological aspect.
Of great use for descriptive purposes is Pierre Janet’s view of the “partie superieure et inferieure d’une fonction.”
The fact that all the psychic processes accessible to our observation and experience are somehow bound to an organic substrate indicates that they are articulated with the life of the organism as a whole and therefore partake of its dynamism—in other words, they must have a share in its instincts or be in a certain sense the results of the action of those instincts.
This is not to say that the psyche derives exclusively from the instinctual sphere and hence from its organic substrate.
The psyche as such cannot be explained in terms of physiological chemistry, if only because, together with “life” itself, it is the only “natural factor” capable of converting statistical organizations which are subject to natural law into “higher” or “unnatural” states, in opposition to the rule of entropy that runs throughout the inorganic realm.
How life produces complex organic systems from the inorganic we do not know, though we have direct experience of how the psyche does it.
Life therefore has a specific law of its own which cannot be deduced from the known physical laws of nature.
Even so, the psyche is to some extent dependent upon processes in the organic substrate.
At all events, it is highly probable that this is so.
The instinctual base governs the partie inferieure of the function, while the partie superieure corresponds to its predominantly “psychic” component.
The partie inferieure proves to be the relatively unalterable, automatic part of the function, and the partie superieure the voluntary and alterable part.
The question now arises: when are we entitled to speak of “psychic” and how in general do we define the “psychic” as distinct from the “physiological”?
Both are life-phenomena, but they differ in that the functional component characterized as the partie inferieure has an unmistakably physiological aspect.
Its existence or nonexistence seems to be bound up with the hormones.
Its functioning has a compulsive character: hence the designation “drive.”
Rivers asserts that the “all-or-none reaction” is natural to it, i.e., the function acts altogether or not at all, which is specific of compulsion.
On the other hand the partie superieure, which is best described as psychic and is moreover sensed as such, has lost its compulsive character, can be subjected to the will and even applied in a manner contrary to the original instinct.
From these reflections it appears that the psychic is an emancipation of function from its instinctual form and so from the compulsiveness which, as sole determinant of the function, causes it to harden into
The psychic condition or quality begins where the function loses its outer and inner determinism and becomes capable of more extensive and freer application, that is, where it begins to show itself accessible to
a will motivated from other sources.
At the risk of anticipating my programme, I cannot refrain from pointing out that if we delimit the psyche from the physiological sphere of instinct at the bottom, so to speak, a similar delimitation imposes itself at the top.
For, with increasing freedom from sheer instinct the partie superieure will ultimately reach a point at which the intrinsic energy of the function ceases altogether to be oriented by instinct in the original sense,
and attains a so-called “spiritual” form.
This does not imply a substantial alteration of the motive power of instinct, but merely a different mode of its application.
The meaning or purpose of the instinct is not unambiguous, as the instinct may easily mask a sense of direction other than biological, which only becomes apparent in the course of development
Within the psychic sphere the function can be deflected through the action of the will and modified in a great variety of ways.
This is possible because the system of instincts is not truly harmonious in composition and is exposed to numerous internal collisions.
One instinct disturbs and displaces the other, and, although taken as a whole it is the instincts that make individual life possible, their blind compulsive character affords frequent occasion for mutual injury.
Differentiation of function from compulsive instinctuality, and its voluntary application, are of paramount importance in the maintenance of life.
But this increases the possibility of collision and produces cleavages—the very dissociations which are forever putting the unity of consciousness in jeopardy.
In the psychic sphere, as we have seen, the will influences the function.
It does this by virtue of the fact that it is itself a form of energy and has the power to overcome another form.
In this sphere which I define as psychic, the will is in the last resort motivated by instincts—not, of course, absolutely, otherwise it would not be a will, which by definition must have a certain freedom of choice.
“Will” implies a certain amount of energy freely disposable by the psyche.
There must be such amounts of disposable libido (or energy), or modifications of the functions would be impossible, since the latter would then be chained to the instincts—which are in themselves extremely
Conservative and correspondingly unalterable—so exclusively that no variations could take place, unless it were organic variations.
As we have already said, the motivation of the will must in the first place be regarded as essentially biological.
But at the (permitting such an expression) upper limit of the psyche, where the function breaks free from its original goal, the instincts lose their influence as movers of the will.
Through having its form altered, the function is pressed into the service of other determinants or motivations, which apparently have nothing further to do with the instincts.
What I am trying to make clear is the remarkable fact that the will cannot transgress the bounds of the psychic sphere: it cannot coerce the instinct, nor has it power over the spirit, in so far as we understand by this something more than the intellect.
Spirit and instinct are by nature autonomous and both limit in equal measure the applied field of the will.
Later I shall show what seems to me to constitute the relation of spirit to instinct.
Just as, in its lower reaches, the psyche loses itself in the organic-material substrate, so in its upper reaches it resolves itself into a “spiritual” form about which we know as little as we do about the functional basis of instinct.
What I would call the psyche proper extends to all functions which can be brought under the influence of a will.
Pure instinctuality allows no consciousness to be conjectured and needs none.
But because of its empirical freedom of choice, the will needs a supraordinate authority, something like a consciousness of itself, in order to modify the function.
It must “know” of a goal different from the goal of the function.
Otherwise it would coincide with the driving force of the function.
Driesch rightly emphasizes: “There is no willing without knowing.”
Volition presupposes a choosing subject who envisages different possibilities.
Looked at from this angle, psyche is essentially conflict between blind instinct and will (freedom of choice).
Where instinct predominates, psychoid processes set in which pertain to the sphere of the unconscious as elements incapable of consciousness.
The psychoid process is not the unconscious as such, for this has a far greater extension.
Apart from psychoid processes, there are in the unconscious ideas and volitional acts, hence something akin to conscious processes; but in the instinctual sphere these phenomena retire so far into the background that the term “psychoid” is probably justified.
If, however, we restrict the psyche to acts of the will, we arrive at the conclusion that psyche is more or less identical with consciousness, for we can hardly conceive of will and freedom of choice without consciousness.
This apparently brings us back to where we always stood, to the axiom psyche = consciousness.
What, then, has happened to the postulated psychic nature of the unconscious? ~Carl Jung, CW 8, Pages 178-181, Para 371-381
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