Sep 23, 2012

A Critique of Rugged Individualism

Source: Curtis, Edward S. Indian Days of the Long Ago. Yonkers-on-Hudson: World Book Company, 1915. Page 84.
We think of ourselves as rugged individuals, in true Western form. We see ourselves as Egos encapsulated in earth-suits we call bodies. But we who have studied analytical and archetypal psychology know this is not true. Each one of us is composed of many Persons. Carl Jung called the process, whereby we integrate these Persons into a holistic Self, individuation. James Hillman advocated for allowing these Persons to remain fragmented in a circumferential multiplicity, thus preserving the supposedly polytheistic nature of human being. The idea of archetypes also includes the notion that we are not only many Persons, but many Beings, both human and non-human. We all carry the Microcosm within ourselves and this world does not contain only human beings.

Hillman attributes the desire to integrate into a central Self to the "monotheism of consciousness:"
...when the monotheism of consciousness is no longer able to deny the existence of fragmentary autonomous systems and no longer able to deal with our actual psychic state, then there arises the fantasy of returning to Greek polytheism" (Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology, p.27). 
We carry multiple Beings in our Souls because we carry each other and the world. The archetypes are all of us, all the myriad types and styles of Beings that compose our world, human and non-human. We really are the world and the world is us. The idea that we must integrate into a central and strictly human Self seems to be a desire to retain the Western sense of individuality and Ego, and the attitude of superiority of human over non-human.

The sense of individuality we possess  makes us susceptible to denying the sense of self to non-human beings:
For individuals in industrialized society, the sense of self is felt to be and understood to exist within the confines of that person. Further, the only beings that are assumed to possess this sort of subjectivity are humans; other beings, lacking this subjectivity, become an other and as such, are of lesser value. Moreover, any point of view which does understand nonhuman beings as possessing an individual self charged with spirit, soul and intelligence is dismissively accused of animism or of anthropomorphizing the outer world. Animism is defined by Freud as nothing but the projection of primitive man’s emotional impulses. As a result of that sweeping assumption, the whole of the highly complex, sensuous and intelligent natural world is reduced to mindless things, blank screens. But by declaring ourselves the only beings with intelligence and a sense of self, we have, in many ways, placed ourselves in a vulnerable position (Rocky Greene, What does the Individuation Process have to do with the Earth?).
This planet is not important just because humans live here, but because Life and Soul are here in all Beings. Many previous cultures have recognized and accepted this fact. Western society, in our emphasis on rugged individualism, i.e. self-absorption, have denied the sense of self and individuality to non-human animals. This will change in the Epoch of Soul.

2 comments:

Steve said...

This phenomenon also brings up (for me at least) the idea that I can do everything "on my own" & I don't need any help, etc. Heaven forbid I should ever ask for any help, after all, I'm a man, dammit! Unfortunately, this attitude pervades our culture where many still see themselves as islands unto themselves...

Really like that image at the top!

Zeteticus (Mark Dotson) said...

Isn't that a great picture? In the public domain, too.

Sad, but true. This notion runs red in my veins. I am a Westerner tried and true, but I recognize it as the wrong notion to entertain.

Mark

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...