Overweening Generalist

Friday, August 19, 2011

Paideuma: Continued Cogitations and Concatenations

I sent an email to the U.C. Berkeley Anthropology Department asking one of them to call me with the correct pronunciation. I'll let you know, because obviously, I mean...who isn't fascinated by this stuff? (Don't answer that.)

Joseph Campbell was also influenced by Adolf Bastian, who thought there were Elementergedanken, "elementary ideas" in humans, and something called Volkergedanken, or localized "folk" examples of those elementary ideas at work. To some of us, Bastian seems like a very early - a prefiguration - of contemporary sociobiology/evolutionary psychology.

Carl Jung turned Bastian's Elementergedanken into "archetypes of the collective unconscious." Quite a move. Very creative. I applaud Jung, because he's taken a pretty cool idea from Bastian and made it into a Wiggy Idea, the kind of idea that has all kinds of non-ordinary intellectually-minded folks all worked up. Jung takes what seemed like rational ideation and tweaks the metaphor a bit, so that by the time he's done with it, it's somewhere in an obscure subliminal abyss. But if Bastian's original thinking was correct, it was what phenomenological sociologists call "the seen but not noted world," a world that is simply taken-for-granted. And therefore, Jung's move - possibly influenced by Freud's theory of the unconscious - seems more articulated, possibly "truer" than Bastian's metaphor.

Mircea Eliade called this level of unconscious processing "hierophanies."

So: Jung's archetypes in the collective unconscious. Pound took Frobenius and made paideuma into the "tangle or complex of the inrooted ideas of any period."

Currently, acting as a cartographer for these sorts of ideas, I think of Jung's level as a more basic case for the entire human race, probably since the early Neolithic at least; paideuma seems relatively more mutable historically. If Wilson calls paideuma "the semantic unconscious" then I see semantics as changing from culture to culture and from each language's constant shiftings under a collective social weight, as humans try to make sense of the world and themselves over time.

Jung seemed to have an even deeper level, the "psychoid." This was the unseen aspect of archetypes, and inhered in all vital matter, anything organic.  Jung said it was like electromagnetism, or aspects of energy or light that we cannot see, but nevertheless it "is there," like infra-red light. The psychoid level was (is?) something like a bridge between matter and life...But I'm getting carried away.

Turning to current neurobiological research, Professor George Lakoff's semantic "frames" are "part of what cognitive scientists call the 'cognitive unconscious' - structures in our brains that we cannot consciously access, but know by their consequences: the way we reason and what counts as common sense." - p.xv, Don't Think of an Elephant!

What I wonder about the deeper aspect of Lakoff and his colleagues' work: how well do these ideas work cross-culturally?

Mark Turner, a cognitive literary theorist (or at least that's what he seems like to me; I'm not sure how he's labeled himself), has some ultra-persuasive (to me, at least) things to say about how stories are FAR more basic to our lives than most of us have ever realized, much less dreamed. He writes in his book The Literary Mind, "Story as a mental activity is similarly constant yet unnoticed, and more important than any particular story." (p.13) There's that...thing again: something that seems so basic that we can't notice it!

At this point, many of you FFUIs, NMIs* and other types of thinkers have part of your brain saying, "Yes. These kinds of ideas always were pretty damned mind-blowing," while other bits of neural circuitry are telling your conscious brain, "Just how 'real' are these ideas? Could they just be the kinds of things that very creative humans come up with, even if they are not ordinarily recognized as 'artists'?"

I know what you mean.

To further confuse matters for some of you who really like these Wild Ideas (I'm obviously one): read about Anthony Wallace's idea of the "mazeway"!

It seems to me we all have to fight back this influx of knowledge about the blooming buzzing confusion of other levels of "reality" all around us, and indeed, "in" us. We want to assume we are in control. I know I catch myself thinking that the me that is thinking is the One and Only Really True Me. Alright, but...

Go to a horror movie. You're sitting in the dark theater, or your dark living room, comfortable. You "know" it's only a movie. And yet you (probably) will react, physically, to the goings-on on the screen. What part of you "forgot" it was only a movie?

Robert Anton Wilson, who was as fascinated about these ideas as I am - maybe more so - was reviewing one of his favorite films, King Kong, in a 1977 edition of New Libertarian magazine. RAW had written extensively about King Kong, in surrealistically humorous ways, in Jungian terms, and other modes. He loved that film! He writes of King Kong (we not even talking about a psychopathic slasher hiding behind the curtains here), "Once again, officially tabooed insights into the nature of our society are made palpable and admitted to consciousness by the dream-dark atmosphere of the movie theatre."

So: one avenue for investigation of these vast, permeating invisible levels of some sort of "reality": movies! See one soon, and keep in mind what stirs from..."below?"

* = New Monastic Individuals

[Get a load of the acting from "We're millionaires boys! I'll share it with all of you!" So bad it's good!]

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