End of Meaning
* Essay: Wolfgang Giegerich. 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 psychology project
Michel Bauwens, 2004:
For Giegerich, the search for meaning is both the cause and symptom of the loss of meaning which occurred in the 19th cy. It is a contradiction in terms as 'meaning' cannot be found, it has to be there as a pre=given, a result of our 'in-ness' in the world. It is that in-ness that we have lost. All the myths concur that the ancients were 'contained' between the heavens and the underworld, on a encircled earth. This feeling continued from the age of myth and ritual into the age of religion and metaphysics. Now the 'singular' individual is seen as the ultimate real, as the true center of the universe, with collectives seen as derivatives. Longing for meaning is wanting to go back to the former in-ness, and is in fact impossible. So we have to accept the logic of the new reality, the new in-ness. Symbols are only alive and pregnant as long as their meaning has not been extracted and explicated in a better way, then a new symbol or symbolic system can come up (for example, from polytheism to monotheism).
But what has happened now is that the whole of symbolic systems has been superseded. Meaning as such, magic, myth, religion, metaphysics, has been replaced by Man, consciousness, human existence as such. Man is no longer in any grand narrative; rather the narrative is understood to be within himself. He is the interpreting machine. Thus, symbols become signifiers, texts are to be read and interpreted, not to be believed in or entranced by. To be fully born is to be exposed to the world without intermediary. In this sense, animals are fully born very quickly, while premodern man remained metaphysically a child, looking upward. Man entered a mythologically charged world, where nothing was 'as is', a womb of meaning.
Man was born with Answers (questions came much later), provided to him by his culture. Now, conscious of his signs and language, he has finally been born as an adult, in 'metaphysical nakedness'.
- "God is dead", as Nietzche said, because the whole concept has become logically inoperative. This is no hubris, writes Giegerich, against Jung, because the immense power (technological) that we now have weighs us down rather than elevates us.
In the last instance, the loss of meaning is really a gain, like leaving the house of our parents. We have not lost 'Christianity', but sublated it because we have extracted its core from its inner trappings.
The previous achievements of mankind, freed of their obligatory veneration, can become true vehicles of our personal interest, but only in a historical sense, an inexhaustible treasure of riches.
Giegerich charges Jung with creating an unconscious which is the repository of all that been lost, and to declare it off limits and taboo to the intellect (which he chooses to view in its limited instrumental function), opting instead for a 'feeling experience', which is totally abstracted from the concrete historical situation (i.e. from the true logic of the soul). In this, he substitutes the private sphere of only personally significant dreams, instead of the problematic of the public sphere, which would require the intervention of the 'total man'. By declaring personal dreams as the crux of the matter, he condemned himself to insignificance, not attracting great minds as Freud did. Jung explicitely declared he wanted to leave the world 'as is', and only individuate individuals.
Jungianism in effect withdrew from the world and opted for the exaltation of a select few. What Jung does is to take the common inheritance of the past (all that was one 'above'), and to place it into the unconscious. But that very act makes it a private personal experience, ultimately trivial. Giegrich says that Jung refused to be truly born, and wanted to remain in the in-ness. He privileges the raw experience, abovethe refined, processed, working through. In Jung, the secondary, the unconscious, becomes the primary. He hypostasizes the unconscious, instead of seeing it as performative, existing through 'just in time' production. All the outside reality of his time, the technology, the arts, the philosophy, were not seen as expressions of the logical life of the soul, but put aside in favor of the inner symbolic life.
Because of this, it did not exert an influence on society! After explaining that Jung has two persona, i.e.
- "Kusnacht", as a scientific in his office, and - "Bollinger", the mystic
Giegerich says that what Hillman has been doing, is to abolish Kussnacht altogether. "Archetypical psychology" is the logical completion and not a reform/revolution of Jung! Thus both movements are attempts to avoid modernity, in order to avoid transformation.
From Premodernity to Modernity
- Premodern >< Modern
- the universal concepts, in which the concrete participates to get its reality >< the concrete indiidual is primary, the universal is a human construct
- subjugation to fate, nature, rulers >< emancipation
- pain, illness,and death are acceptable >< suffering is not acceptable, in feeling, if not in fact
- man is part of nature in which he ritually participates >< man is now in charge of the world and its preservation
- cult of ancestors and their wisdom >< idolisation of youth and its creativity/energy
- kinship >< technology (in vitro), makes blood relationships obsolete
- production as changing nature, 'natura naturata' >< creating artificial nature, 'natura naturans'
"Spaceflight and the looking back down to Earth is the technical objectification of the psychological fact that consciousness has now taken a position outside of itself and has become aware of itself and of man as consciousness."
This is the linguistic turn, the awareness that everything we are dealing with is first and foremost linguistic (semiotic).
The premodern man was 'in language', he was directly into meaning. Language itself was not an object of consciousness.
"This illimitable loneliness of man is only the metaphysical analogue of the empirici\al loneliness of the individual who has left his parents home to stand on his own feet. As such, it is the precondition for human fellowship, friendship, and love."
Giegerich distinguishes the psychic life, part of our biology ("the behaviour of the organism"), from the psycho-logical, which is by definition 'contra naturam'. Giegrich defines the transpersonal as the impersonal objective, the inner logic of the historical situation we are in.
"At the time when de Saussure (1906), had demonstrated that in the system of language, the function of signs is not determined by substrates of meaning, but by differences, Jung resurrected the idea of subsisting units of meaning: the archetypes."