The Subject of the Unconscious

Descartes said, cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am”…

Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan discusses the importance of the thought process that Descartes went through to get to his conclusive statement: “I think, therefore I am.” He explains that it is the act of doubting that leads to the conclusion that one is thinking: “by the virtue of the fact that I doubt, I am sure that I think”.4 Lacan tells us that a central theme in the thought of Sigmund Freud is also “doubt”. Lacan says:

“In a precisely similar way, Freud, when he doubts…he  is assured that a thought is there, which is unconscious, which means that it reveals itself as absent. As soon as he comes to deal with others, it is to this place that he summons the I think through which the subject will reveal himself. In short, he is sure that this thought is there alone with I am, if I may put it like this, provided, and this is the leap, someone thinks in his place. [He continues his thought] It is here that the dissymmetry between Freud and Descartes is revealed. It is not in the initial method of certainty grounded on the subject. It stems from the fact that the subject is ‘at home’ in this field of the unconscious. It is because Freud declares the certainty of the unconscious that the progress by which he changed the world for us was made.” (Book XI)

While Descartes centers his inquiry on the subjectivity of the one who is thinking, Freud focuses on the deeper subjectivity emanating from the unconscious. In doing so he recognizes two distinct focal points of subjectivity: the ‘I am’  and ‘the subject.’ This subject within is a subjectivity that is larger and more vast than the speaking and thinking subject which declares “I am”. It is a subjectivity not directly accessible, but known only through dreams, free association and active imagination. It is the ‘subject of the unconscious.’  We might call this subjectivity ‘the Self.’

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Is ‘God’ Dead?

“Let us pray to God to be free of ‘God’.”  –Meister Eckhart.

We exist in a shifting ground, and outworn symbolic notions need to be re-imagined. Outer, worldly, changes provoke a response from human beings, and this response takes place as a shift in the collective psyche. This shift is not a quick and sudden shift, but instead a slow and gradual shift, as people begin to rethink and re-imagine their relationship to each other and life. Some of this shift in thinking takes place consciously and some of it unconsciously. The unconscious cultural shifts can be interpreted though our collective beliefs, fashions, images, and sayings.

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Let us become seers

Nagas procession at Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, 1998 by Stefania Zamparelli, via Creative Commons
Nagas procession at Kumbh Mela, 1998, photo taken by Stefania Zamparelli via Creative Commons (OTRS)

“The artist is a seer, a becomer.” -Gilles Deluze.

Let us all become artists of our lives. Let us become seers.

As we open to the divine within life as it appears within a moment we become seers. As we place our attention on the present moment and feel into our sensations and emotional truth we become seers.

In seeing we become aware of the aesthetic dimension of being. By opening to the aesthetic dimension of a given moment we expand awareness to perceive the divine within life.

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Immanence and Embeddedness

Alchemical conjunction, 1500s US Public Domain via wikimedia
Alchemical conjunction, 1500s US Public Domain via wikimedia

There are two basic views of the divine. The first perspective sees the divine as transcendent to life; the other sees the divine as immanent to life. The word transcendence is from the Latin transcendens meaning  “surmounting, rising above.” The word immanence is from the Latin immanere meaning “to dwell in, remain within.” Transcendence views the divine beyond; Immanence views the divine within. Self-realization is the simultaneity of both of these perspectives. Immanence and transcendence form a core dialectic of the Self.

We see such a realization in Vedanta, where the self is the self of every being, and yet is beyond any individual being– as the supreme Self.

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Carl Jung and the Deep Truth

Mandala from 18th century with Christ, US Public Domain via wikimedia
Mandala from 18th century with Christ, US Public Domain via wikimedia

In the image above we see Christ at the center of the mandala. This may be an image of immanence.

In the Mysterium Coniunctionis (CW 14), Carl Jung speaks of immanence as a deep alchemical truth. He speaks of “the secret immanence of the divine spirit of life in all things” (CW 14).

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