Stage 2:

The second stage of the project involves a historical reconstruction and philosophical extraction of the conceptions of wholeness underpinning Jung’s and Deleuze’s work.

Researcher Christian McMillan contributes the following notes and ideas (in ‘working papers’) as part of an on-going engagement with the second stage of the project:

Esse in Anima: The problem of Grounding between Jung and Deleuze

These notes began as an essay on the abstract conceptions of the ‘whole’ in Jung and Deleuze. However the essay became a collection of ideas as it emerged that the central thread of the first half of the essay required greater clarity. Nonetheless they have may still have value in their current form.

The notes begin with a critical appraisal of the ‘grounding’ of psychic experience in terms of the ‘gap’ or fracture between the psyche and psychic experience. Jung and Deleuze’s ‘Kantianism’ can be contrasted in terms of how both deal with the problem of ‘constitutive finitude’ (or correlationism) that was opened up in Kant’s critical philosophy between conditions of possible experience and sensible intuition. I suggest that despite evidence which indicates Jung’s preference for a transcendent ground or whole to close or reduce the gap between psyche and psychic experience (reducing the psyche to a transcendental subject whose form guarantees the unity and identity of the psyche) his novel rendering of esse in anima might gesture towards an ‘un-grounding’ internal to the structure of cognition.

Whilst the main themes of these notes may appear abstract with respect to logical and ethical implications of holism, it is in the explication of potential unseen or implicit subjective presuppositions that inform underpinning conceptions of the ‘whole’ that ethical problems may first be discerned. It was for this reason that the thought of Jung and Deleuze was considered apposite to this project given their focus on the location and kinds of syntheses proper not to a ‘subject’ but to that which is beyond the subject; psyche, transcendental field etc. The grounding of experience as representation and identity may have negative ethical implications if the process of grounding merely accounts for the form of the Same. In terms of holism, a ground as a transcendent guarantor of identity in experience only allows that to emerge which remains in its image and therefore devalues the ‘new’. The ‘identity’ of the psyche (Jung) and the subject (Kant) can be critically examined through Deleuze’s post-Kantian lens.

Further comments on Stage 2 (for references see ‘about’)

This project will provide an in-depth explanation and comparison of concepts of wholeness in the work of two influential twentieth-century thinkers in this area: the Swiss depth psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) and the French poststructuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1923-1993).

Philosophy: philosophers likely to benefit from the project are those interested in the metaphysical logic underpinning concepts of the whole. For these philosophers the project will present a new perspective and set of connections as a result of its comparative exploration of the views of a depth psychologist and a post-structuralist philosopher, as well as its retrieval of pre-Enlightenment esoteric thought in relation to the topic of holism. This will result in a more grounded sense of how the whole is being conceived in a practical field (psychotherapy). The contrasting ethical inferences drawn by Jung and Deleuze will spur more urgent general reflection on the question of the ethical implications of holism. Another main group of philosophers who could benefit from this project is those specialising in the thought of Deleuze, in particular his attempt to articulate a philosophy of pure immanence.

What is the nature of the underpinning concept of ultimate wholeness?

  • How does the concept relate to the multiplicities of experience?
  • And are there links between a particular concept of ultimate wholeness and the ethical    valuations attaching to holistic thought?

In order to address these questions, this project critically compares the work of Jung and Deleuze. Each of these bodies of work, in different ways, profoundly engages with and is crucially underpinned by a concept of wholeness. Focusing on these two concrete examples will allow a deep and richly textured account of holistic thought to emerge, as well as of its reception and implications. The comparison between the two thinkers will ensure that the perspective of each is critically tested. Jung has been chosen because of his explicit and focal engagement with the problem of wholeness and his extensive influence on large areas of contemporary holistic thought, such as holistic therapy, spirituality, and ecology. Deleuze has been chosen because of the atypical nature of the implications he draws from his concept of wholeness, his significant disciplinary, ideological, and situational differences from Jung (despite important similarities and appropriations), and his influence on radical political activism.

For Jung, psychological wholeness was the goal of individual development (abetted where necessary by therapy), and in his later work he theorised that the wholeness whose realisation was aimed at was not just psychological but included also the world beyond the individual psyche: psyche and matter were considered two aspects of a single underlying reality which he referred to as the unus mundus or ‘one world’ (Jung 1955-56, pp. 533-543). The metaphysical implications of this viewpoint, which Jung elaborated in collaboration with the physicist and Nobel laureate Wolfgang Pauli (1952), are currently being debated among scholars of Jung (Main 2013; Mills 2013; Atmanspacher & Fuchs 2014; McMillan 2015). With its emphasis on the problem of wholeness, the present project will bring fresh historical, philosophical, and depth psychological perspectives to those debates, which in turn will advance understanding of holistic thought.

In particular, the project will discuss the ethical implication that, for Jung, failure to realise wholeness is likely to lead individually to pathology and collectively to mass-mindedness and totalitarianism (Jung 1957). Interestingly, at the same time as Karl Popper (1957) was identifying holistic thought as leading to totalitarianism, Jung was identifying holistic thought as part of the protection against totalitarianism. This issue in Jung’s thought has been broached in publications by the Principal Investigator (e.g. Main 2004, 2014a) but needs to be more deeply interrogated vis-à-vis critical alternatives, such as that provided by the work of Deleuze.

The project will also explore the suggestion that Jung’s concept of wholeness, with its attempt to respect both secular and religious perspectives on the human condition, can be understood as a form of panentheism – a recently influential view of the divine as both immanent to the world, in a way that would be unacceptable to traditional theists, and transcendent to the world, in a way that would be unacceptable to pantheists. This promises to be a fruitful perspective on Jung’s work, which as well as illuminating his concept of wholeness and his psychology of religion, could help to make better sense of both the filiation and the influence of his holistic thought. In particular, it helps to understand the significance for Jung, as well as for his collaborator Pauli, of various holistic thinkers of the pre-modern Western esoteric tradition (Jung & Pauli 1952; Cooper 2006; Main 2010; Hanegraaff 2012) – a tradition whose continuation and transformation into the modern period are crucial for understanding contemporary holism (Hanegraaff 1998).

Deleuze’s fundamental philosophical preoccupation was to articulate a philosophy of pure immanence – a view of reality which was unitary but did not underpin its unity by explicit or implicit appeal to anything transcendent. Deleuze argued that appealing to transcendent realities or conditions to ground a unitary view of reality was tantamount to attempting to preserve an aspect of one’s existing identity by placing it beyond change – a manoeuvre with, for him, totalitarian implications. Like Jung, Deleuze valued holistic thought positively as a preventer of undesired political consequences. However, Deleuze’s holism was immanent rather than, as appears to have been the case for Jung, both immanent and transcendent. Again like Jung, Deleuze engaged deeply with holistic thinkers from the Western esoteric tradition (Kerslake 2007, Ramey 2012). However, the thought of the esotericist most influential on Deleuze, namely Giordano Bruno, was, untypically among esotericists, more pantheistic than panentheistic. In other words, Deleuze, while sharing Jung’s positive valuation of holism, linkage of the absence of holism to undesired political consequences, and appeal to holism within esoteric thought, differed from Jung on his precise concept of wholeness and hence also on the logical and ethical implications of holism. One consequence of the difference, as one of the present investigators has recently demonstrated in an in-depth study (McMillan 2015), is that Deleuze’s philosophy of pure immanence can be used to mount a fundamental critique of Jung’s concept of wholeness. Whether this critique is answerable, either by refining Jung’s thought or by challenging Deleuze’s assumptions, is another question that will be addressed by the present project.

In explicating Jung’s and Deleuze’s individual concepts of wholeness, probing the assumptions from which the claimed ethical implications of these concepts derive, and then staging a critical dialogue between the two concepts, this project will above all help to determine some of the thinking explicitly or implicitly underpinning contemporary holistic thought. The project will also help to determine what ethical conclusions might most reasonably be drawn from such thought. Concurrently, understanding of some of the fundamental holistic tenets of the thought of both Jung and Deleuze will also be enhanced.


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