(Quotes) The Problem of Consciousness

Excerpt from The Structure and Dynamics of The Psyche, by Carl Jung.

The psychic life of civilized man, is full of problems. We cannot even think of it except in terms of problems. Our psychic processes are made up to a large extent of reflections, doubts, experiments, all of which are almost completely foreign to the unconscious, instinctive mind of primitive man.

It is the growth of consciousness which we must thank for the existence of problems. They are they Danaän gift of civilization. It is man’s turning away from instinct – his opposing himself to instinct – that creates consciousness.

Instinct is nature and seeks to perpetuate nature, whereas consciousness can only seek culture or it’s denial. Even when we turn back to nature, inspired by Rousseauean longing, we “cultivate” nature. As long as we are still submerged in nature, we are unconscious; and we live in the security of instinct which knows no problems. Everything in us that still belongs to nature shrinks away from a problem, for its name is doubt; and wherever doubt hold sway there is uncertainty and the possibility of divergent ways.

And where several ways seem possible, here we have turned away from the certain guidance of instinct and are handed over to fear. For consciousness is now called upon to do that which nature has always done for her children – namely, to give a certain, unquestionable, and unequivocal decision. And here we are be set by an all to human fear that consciousness – our Promethean conquest – may in the end not be able to serve us as well as nature.

Problems first draw us into an orphaned and isolated state where we are abandoned by nature and driven to consciousness. There is no other way open to us; we are forced to resort to conscious decisions and solutions, where formerly we trusted ourselves to natural happenings. Every problem, therefore, brings the possibility of a widening of consciousness, but also, the necessity of saying goodbye to childlike unconscious trust in nature. This necessity is a psychic fact and of such importance that it constitutes one of the most essential symbolic teachings of the Christian religion.

Every problem forces us to greater consciousness, and separates us even further from the (symbolic) paradise of unconscious childhood. Every one of us gladly turns away from his problems. If possible, they must not be mentioned, or better still, their existence is denied. We wish to make our lives simple, certain, and smooth, and for that reason problems are taboo. We want to have certainties, and no doubts – results and no experiments – without even seeing that certainties can arise only through doubt, and results only through experiment.

The artful denial of a problem will not produce conviction. On the contrary, a wider and higher consciousness is required to give us the certainty and clarity we need.

When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness. We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness. But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer. As I have already said, we must even indulge in speculations. For, in treat treating the problems of psychic life we perpetually stumble upon questions of principle belonging to the private domains of the most heterogeneous branches of knowledge. We disturb and anger the theologian no less than the philosopher, the physician no less than the educator.

There are no problems without conciousness. We must therefore put the question in another way and ask, “How does consciousness arise in the first place?” Nobody can say with certainty; but we can observe small children in the process of becoming conscious. Every parent can see it if he pays attention. And what we see is this: when the child recognizes someone or something – when he “knows” a person or a thing – then we feel that the child has consciousness. That, no doubt, is also why in Paradise it was the tree of knowledge which bore such fateful fruit.”

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