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Paranoia – When the line becomes blurry

Betsssssy 11/365: Shower Paranoia via Flickr

In most schools of psychology, paranoia is a disorder where one holds a belief that one is being persecuted, the victim of a conspiracy or in some kind of danger when, in fact, they are not.

Excessive anxiety or fear are thought to be two contributing factors to paranoia but there could be additional spiritual and transpersonal factors which mainstream psychiatry almost entirely overlooks.¹

Among analytical psychologists, paranoia is believed to be sometimes accompanied with inflation, in which the ego overly identifies with archetypal contents.

Within pop culture and the media, the term might not always be used correctly because some hold naïve views about or blatantly conceal shady personal and political agendas.²

Some pundits have been saying that we live in a “culture of fear,” especially during the Reagan and Bush eras. Apparently a wealthy and powerful few manipulate the media to try to generate just enough social paranoia to justify political acts (like war) or to boost sales for products that alleviate fear-related issues.

These critics maintain that the rich and powerful do not want to create too much fear. If they did, society might become paralyzed or chaotic, which definitely would not advance political agendas and corporate profits.

Reality, however, is often far more complex and open-ended than tidy conspiracy theories, making this view seem simplistic (but not unworthy of consideration).

Turn to 2017 and the persistent reality of global violence. The “culture of fear” theme is quickly losing ground to more recent tropes like Fake News, Climate Deniers, and Russian Spying. These are the latest media bad guys. And in a few years, there will undoubtedly be a new trendy list of public villains for popular news outlets to explore and discuss ad nauseam.

Sometimes actual cases of paranoia develop in highly intelligent, prominent personalities.

For instance, the Austria–Hungary (now Czech Republic) born mathematician, logician and philosopher Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) starved himself to death in later years. Fearing that his food would be poisoned, Gödel wouldn’t eat anything that his wife didn’t prepare for him. After his wife was hospitalized for six months, he refused to eat and simply wasted away to die.

Kurt Godel via Flickr

In 1978 the New Wave band Devo released a popular song “Too Much Paranoia.” And in the realm of the paranormal, some believers in extraterrestrial mind control wear tin foil hats to apparently block evil aliens from controlling people through ESP.

To outside observers, wearing tin foil hats seems a pretty clear case of irrational behavior arising from paranoia.³

¹ See

² See and

³ Not to say that ETs necessarily do not exist. Probably nobody knows for sure. But to think that tin foil would protect a person against meddling ETs with advanced technologies seems absurd.

Related » Corruption, Devo: Too Much Paranoia French TV 1978, Melanie Klein, Politics


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The Furies – an early attempt to outline a core dynamic?

The Remorse of Orestes or Orestes Pursued by t...

The Remorse of Orestes or Orestes Pursued by the Furies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Furies were ancient Greek avengers usually personified as three ugly, old women carrying torches and covered in snakes. Typically seen as three sisters – Alecto (The Unresting), Tisiphone (The Avenger) and Magaera (The Jealous) – the Furies are the offspring of Gaia and Uranus or, depending on which myth you subscribe to, Nxy (night).¹

In Greece the Furies were also called the Erinyes. The Erinyes mostly punished people within families for their ill deeds on Earth.

The Romans adapted the bulk of Greek myth to suit their own purposes and mindset. The Roman poet Vergil depicts the Furies in the underworld, where they torment the wicked. Although vicious, the Furies mete out just punishments to those who have sworn false oaths.

Night of the Furies

Night of the Furies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see myths like this as primitive or prototypical attempts to understand some basic dynamics of what later would be called the “collective unconscious.”² The old saying what goes around comes around comes to mind. In other words, we can fool others, we can fool ourselves, but sooner or later we have to pay for our bad choices.

¹ According to variant accounts, they emerged from an even more primordial level—from Nyx (“Night”), or from a union between air and mother earth. »

² Not to imply that this term is adequate. The Jungian James Hillman rightly points out that the idea of the unconscious is just another concept, another myth. And better understandings of how the mind works in relation to All That Is most likely will come in the future. See James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis.



Compensation is a psychological term that was first introduced by Alfred Adler in Study of Organ Inferiority and Its Physical Compensation (1907).

Adler understood compensation in terms of underlying feelings of inferiority. In order to cope with the pain of feeling inferior, the psyche develops beliefs at the opposite end of the psychological spectrum. That is, it ‘compensates’ by feeling superior to other people. Hence the now familiar idea of the inferiority-superiority complex.

By 1907, Adler was part of Sigmund Freud‘s inner circle. And so was C. G. Jung. In that year Jung also wrote about the idea of compensation:

In 1907 Carl Gustav Jung notes the pathogenic complex posses a quantum of libido which grants it a degree of autonomy that is opposed to conscious will. Though this dynamic has a pathological cast, it conveys the essence of what Jung termed compensation; namely, the capacity of the unconscious to influence consciousness.¹

However, Jung wouldn’t name compensation as such until 1914.

In “The Importance of the Unconscious in Psychopathology” (1914), he introduced the idea, saying, “the principal function of the unconscious is to effect a compensation and to produce a balance. All extreme conscious tendencies are softened and toned down through a counter-impulse in the unconscious.”²

We can see that Jung’s view of compensation, as compared to Adler’s, is geared more toward the idea that the psyche strives to achieve balance and integration.

In fact, Jung believed the psyche has a natural tendency toward balance and integration. If a particular attitude becomes extreme, Jung believed that therapy and close attention to dreams could help to amplify repressed or underdeveloped psychological contents.

On several occasions Jung says that his own particular brand of therapy is essential to this process. And he believed that he had successfully analyzed himself in this regard. But, at the same time, Jung didn’t try to sell potential clients on his views. If an ardent churchgoer, for example, was satisfied with what Jung may have taken as a skewed perspective, Jung would let the person be. Apparently Jung only intervened when clients’ old systems and attitudes lead to neurosis (or psychosis) and help was requested.

This latter claim might, however, be a bit exaggerated, in keeping with the tendency of some Jungians to elevate Jung as some kind of new prophet for modern times. There are also accounts where Jung was quite brash and bold, surprising and even shocking his clients. Perhaps they had asked for his help. But whether or not he was, at times, playing the the ‘wise guru’ and on a bit of a power trip remains open to debate.³

¹ See Peter Mudd »

² Ibid.

³ Although married to Emma Jung, it seems Carl had sex with at least two of his clients, Sabina Spielrein and Toni Wolff, which certainly wouldn’t wash in psychiatry today. See »

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Four Noble Truths

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first...

Dhamekh Stupa, where the Buddha gave the first sermon on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to his five disciples after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. Also seen behind the stupa in the left corner is the yellow-coloured spire of Digamber Jain temple, dedicated to 11th Jain Tirthankar, Shreyansanath, known to be his birth place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Four Noble Truths are the core of Buddhist teaching, said to have been outlined by the Buddha in his first discourse at Benares. They are as follows:

  1. All of life is suffering (dukkha)
  2. The cause of suffering is wrongful desire, craving or thirst (tanha)
  3. Suffering can be overcome by eliminating these causes
  4. The method for eliminating suffering is outlined in the Eightfold Path.

This differs from the Christian view of suffering. Christians, particularly Catholics, tend to make room for a positive view of some forms of suffering, regarded as a means towards purification in preparation for everlasting heaven. While neurotic suffering is not accepted and unnecessary suffering is to be avoided, the Catholic saints do not try to eradicate unavoidable “holy suffering,” which they believe should be patiently endured.

In some cases extreme suffering is welcomed as a blessing by the Catholic saint. St. Faustina Kowalska, for instance, embraced holy suffering because she believed she was instructed by Christ that it would maximize her heavenly reward. The depth psychologist C. G. Jung had something similar (but not identical) to say in his treatment of alchemy. For Jung suffering was a necessary kind of ‘smelting,’ as it were, for soul making—or rather, self making.

Again, the Buddhist understanding of suffering is very different from that of both Jungian theory and Christian theology. Buddhism sees all suffering as bad and something to be avoided, whereas mystical Christians see some types of suffering as a valuable experience leading toward purification and a heavenly reward beyond all human imagination. Jung’s take on suffering isn’t quite so grand as the Christian view. It’s more focused on psychological development within this life, and doesn’t really speak to the afterlife.

The Buddhist view of suffering and its solution also involves a supposed realization that we have no individual self. To most Christians and Jungians, alike, this view is simply misguided.

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Individuation Process

Original Statue of Carl Jung in Mathew Street,...

Original Statue of Carl Jung in Mathew Street, Liverpool, UK (1988). Made of plaster, it was vandalised and replaced in 1993 - Rodhullandemu via Wikipedia

Individuation process is a phrase coined by C. G. Jung to denote a life-long process of self realization. For Jung, the goal is not necessarily the riddance of evil and Christian perfection, which he sees as a somewhat skewed approach, but rather, ‘wholeness.’ Jungians – that is, followers of Jung – strive to know themselves and to become fully responsible for their actions.

Individuation entails an increasing awareness of various personas and primordial/inherited impulses that can obscure but are also a part of the self. The individuation process is said to move through various stages, symbolized and possibly aided by esoteric systems such as kabbala, alchemy and the Tarot.

Jung says that individuation gives us a new perspective on the cultural relativity of social norms. Although one may become more introspective and even ‘removed’ at some point in the journey, this hopefully does not end up in mere neurotic withdrawal (and this is a point where much debate could arise).

Instead, individuation gathers instinctual and social forces into a greater, more expansive sense of self. In contrast to individualism, individuation ‘sees through’ social norms but, at the same time, doesn’t entirely reject them. In fact, Jung often seems to say that a successful life is one that adapts to society—at least, in some way (another point where much debate could arise).

To compensate for the guilt that comes from being different or from partially leaving social norms and expectations behind, the individuating individual feels that she or he must create something of value to atone for his or her departure. Jung, in a rather authoritarian manner, says society has the “right” and “duty” to judge the individual harshly if she or he does not produce such a compensatory work.

Jung’s view here seems to limit compensatory works to material objects that can be perceived through the five senses—that is, the ‘great compensation’ must be something that everyone can understand. In his Collected Works Jung jokes about Tibetan Lamas sending him positive thoughts from some remote hill station. But Jung doesn’t pursue the idea much further.

Not surprisingly, Jung rarely displays genuine appreciation for the idea of spiritual intercession and the transfer of sin. But he’s not totally out in left field here. His work on alchemy and the psychological dynamic of transference provides a glimmer of hope. Jung concedes that personalities may mysteriously intermingle. But that’s about it.

For deeply prayerful and contemplative people,  Jung may be seen as not totally “wrong” but definitely at a kind of kindergarten level with regard to the subtle dynamics of the spiritual life. The American guru Ram Dass implied as much in his work, and it’s likely that other contemplatives in diverse faith traditions would see it this way too.¹

However, Jung was often feisty and quick to respond to a challenge. Were he alive today, he’d probably retort that contemplatives are absorbed in, or identify with, a particular archetypal reality without being able to appreciate other perspectives. And in some instances, this too seems valid.

¹ In a recent article about David Cronenberg’s film A Dangerous MethodJim Slotek describes the Jungian idea of synchronicity as “Jungian spookiness.” But for contemplatives around the world and throughout history, meaningful coincidences are often seen as evidence of our essential interconnectedness and, in the largest sense, God’s plan. And for Catholics and other Christians, they could be evidence pointing toward the “mystical body of Christ.” As Colin Wilson once put it, they’re healthy, not scary.

Related Posts » Faeries, Karma Transfer

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Jung, Carl Gustav

Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung via Wikipedia

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and man of letters whose cultural impact is second only, perhaps, to that of Sigmund Freud.

While Freud is cited in most scholarly textbooks and dictionaries about society and culture, Jung is only mentioned in some. That’s probably because Freud, with all his limitations, was the first to systematically conceptualize the so-called unconscious aspects of the psyche—at least, Freud was the first to do so on a grand scale.

Jung, on the other hand, was at one time Freud’s favored disciple. As such, his model of the unconscious, as useful as many may find it, builds on Freud’s work.

Another reason Freud might still be more popular than Jung is that Freud speaks to a level of awareness that most members of 21stC culture — or at least, visible culture — can appreciate. Freud still hits, as it were, because his theory reflects the status quo.

However, from the perspective of those who envision the spirit as something different from culture and nature, it appears that not a few people confuse the idea of grace with mere biochemical or sensory impulses. For example, if a long distance runner has only experienced endorphin rushes, or if a canoeist has only delighted at the aesthetics of nature, these people might not understand that grace is something entirely different from biochemically or naturally induced pleasures. So Freud makes sense to these people because, arguably, they haven’t experienced anything else that would demand a better and more complete explanation than Freud’s theory can afford.

From the spiritual person’s vantage point, on the other hand, Freud may have some valuable insights but he’s also terribly reductionist. Along these lines, Jungians will usually say that, as a visionary of sorts, Jung’s full impact is yet to be seen. Mankind just has to catch up with Jung’s forward looking insights. But until that time, Jung will always be number two to Freud. (The jury’s still out on this, of course).

In his early days, Jung distinguished himself with his work in developing a word-association technique, finalized in 1906, which apparently identified unconscious complexes.

In 1907, Jung visited Freud and quickly became part of Freud’s inner circle in the newly arising school of psychoanalysis. As Freud’s protégé, Jung began to formulate his own theories, especially in relation to the libido.

Fearing his professional differences with Freud would rupture their mentor-mentee relationship, Jung withheld his ideas until 1914, at which time he publicly split with Freud. After that, the two never spoke again.

From 1913-1919, Jung underwent what he envisioned as a creative illness. He minimized his activities and generally withdrew from society. During this period he explored the collective unconscious in a somewhat pioneering and (apparently) controlled flight into the psychological underworld.

Jung apparently maintained his mental balance with the help of family ties, dream representation, inventive play and by developing the psychotherapeutic technique of active imagination. After recovering from his creative illness and returning to daily life, Jung began to make significant and lasting contributions to psychiatry and, more generally, to the history of human thought.

In the 1930’s, some controversy arose mainly because Jung headed the International Psychiatric Association, an organization that was funded by the Nazis in Germany. In his memoirs, Jung recounts that he was compelled to make a difficult ethical choice, deciding it best, in the long run, to work at advancing the field of psychiatry within the existing totalitarian political conditions in which he found himself. Scholars and writers still debate the ethics of his choice, their secondhand opinions being formed in hindsight.

Regardless of one’s take on Jung’s level of involvement with the Nazi’s, his work on synchronicity and numinosity are nothing short of groundbreaking. And his innovative work on personality types directly influenced the Myers-Briggs model (and its many offshoots) which are still used today. Moreover, Jung later openly criticized Nazi Germany, likening its sinister powers to the activation of the Teutonic Wotan archetype.

According to Jungian legend, at the time of Jung’s death, his favorite tree at Kusnacht was struck by lightning. And around this time, Jung’s old friend Laurens van der Post dreamed that Jung appeared to him saying, “I’ll be seeing you.”

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Bohr model of the atom

Bohr model of the atom via Wikipedia

Moksha is the most noble aim in Hindu and Jain religions. Moksha is the soul‘s liberation or release from the bonds of karma.

Sankara (700-750 CE) envisions the liberated person (mukti) as having no individuality, because he sees individuality as an illusion. In his system the liberated soul realizes its complete identity with the Godhead.

Ramanuja (1055-1137 CE), however, envisions the soul as individual but also dependent on or “resting within” the Godhead.

C. G. Jung champions the Western ego and questions Sankara’s interpretation by rhetorically asking how a person realizes they’re liberated if they no longer exist–i.e. who would be there to experience the liberation?

One reply could be, or course, that the focus or orientation of liberated consciousness shifts from the personal to the ultimate. By way of analogy, consider the Bohr model of the atom. An electron leaps from one shell (quantum level) to another when its energy increases. But it remains an electron. And so it could be with consciousness. Although the scope of conscious awareness increases with liberation, consciousness remains as such.

Ironically, this is the view that Jung, himself, advances. As the Jungian ego expands to learn about and assimilate the archetype of the self, petty desires and difficulties give way to larger concerns.

This is just one example of how Jung’s thought, as insightful as it was, often reveals analytical contradictions. Jungians, however, say that Jung’s approach thrives on the tension and potential synthesis of opposites. For most Jungians, contradictory elements are not really ‘opposites’ but potential complementaries.

Search Think Free » Samsara, Sannyasa, Shadow

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