This is Post 8 in the ‘Mandala of Love’ book blog series.
Students of Carl Jung’s ideas will be aware that he associated the four physical elements (Earth, Water, Air, and Fire), and the four perceptual-psychological functions (Sensation, Thinking, Feeling, and Intuition-Volition). These four perceptual-psychological functions are usually arranged as a mandala, like a compass rose, with the rational-discriminative functions of Feeling and Thinking forming an opposition across the horizontal axis at West and East; and the perceptual-creative functions of Intuition / Volition and Sensation forming an opposition in the vertical axis at North and South.
On a superficial level Sensation, Thinking, Feeling and Intuition-Volition are egoic functions – the four primary functions by which individuals know and relate to their experience, and construct their identity. Jung, however, named these the Four Functions of Consciousness. Fully aware that these four functions are, in essence, four aspects of the Divine, he presented a rich and compelling analysis of how the potential for Consciousness and self-realisation is, sadly, usually unrealised, and how the same four functions give rise instead, to the various styles of limited egoic consciousness, each with a particular style of unconsciousness that goes with it.
Inherent tensions in the Creative Process
The axes of the mandala symbolise apparent tensions, or oppositions, that exist inherently in the soul – especially the tension between desire (Volition) and the practical limitations (Sensation) on our manifestation of what is desired; and the tension between the thoughts and feelings, which arise in connection with this. Jung showed that, in general we fail to perceive our world holistically, as we might perhaps, if we were fully conscious in all four functions. Instead, we tend to develop a one-sided perception where only one or two out of the four functions predominate, and the development of the remaining functions is neglected.
Shadow – a failure to embrace the Opposites
The recognition of the way in which the two most undeveloped functions of Consciousness inevitably create an area of unconsciousness or shadow, so that a person tends to be reactive, unconscious, and unethical in the aspects of life that correspond to these shadow functions, was a profound revelation to Jung. His mandala map of the four functions consistently showed that the most unconscious and dysfunctional shadow was always related to the function that directly opposite across the mandala from the most developed function. Indeed is was as if the more apparently powerful and seemingly effective the heroic ego consciousness was, the deeper would be the shadow in the complementary function on the other side of the mandala of the psyche. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.
Egoic Consciousness is inherently flawed
In effect Jung was showing us that egoic consciousness is inherently flawed. Because the unconscious shadow is an inevitable counterpart to egoic consciousness, it became clear that psychological development initially requires a process of acknowledging, accepting and working with that which we would rather disown. Also, if this line of innerwork was pursued, great rewards could be found, since the shadow led to work with the contra-sexual archetypes, and ultimately to the wholeness of a true self rooted in Consciousness. I shall be returning to the contra-sexual archetypes – the inner feminine in men, and the inner masculine in women – in a later book section blog post.
The Shadow places us in social and cultural danger
Jung’s understanding of the way a psychological shadow is, given the mandala structure of the psyche, an inevitability in ordinary egoic consciousness, was of huge practical value in his psychotherapy practice. The work to raise his clients awareness of this shadow would usually take precedence in the first phase of their psychotherapy. He recognised, of course, that the shadow was also of huge cultural importance. A culture that does not have ways of understanding and maintaining a collective vigilance in regard to its shadow, is a great danger to other cultures – and is in great moral danger itself.
Shadow – that which is disowned and projected
It is of the nature of the shadow that it is projected, that is, psychologically disowned, and instead perceived in others. Whenever we find ourselves experiencing hatred, something undeveloped or unconscious in ourselves is being projected. This psychological mechanism of projection is an unconscious defence against recognising an aspect of ourselves that we would rather not identify with. We see the same mechanism of projection occurring collectively in cultural groups and nations. Whenever a nation feels a need to initiate a war, there is very often an internal violence or trauma in that culture that it would rather not acknowledge. The images of external enemies provide a very convenient way of avoiding the internal incongruities, or the internal pain.
Mandala-Wisdom – a guide to our Ethical Blindspots
As he came to understand the psychodynamics of the mandala archetype, Jung felt a huge sense of excitement and purpose, because he was also coming to an understanding of how evil comes into the world – how religious values, art, high culture, and humanitarian sentiment, do not necessarily protect us from our ethical blind-spots, and may even propel us into them. He saw that without the willingness of individuals to become fully conscious, and to recognise and integrate their own shadow, whole nations could fall into evil – as he witnessed in two world wars, and the subsequent Cold War.
Jung’s understanding of the mandala archetype, was inseparable from his understanding of the dynamics of four ‘Functions of Consciousness’, and of the process of an individuals ‘individuation’, or evolution towards wholeness – towards, psychological maturity, ethical functioning, and self-realisation. The four functions provided the basis for Jung’s well-known eight-fold system of psychological types, and brought a flood of insights. I hope in this book to be able to share some of the insights that Jung’s mandala-form model of the psyche has given us – profound ways of understanding how the psychodynamic complementarity of conscious and unconscious processes affect personality, relationships, and culture.
Wholeness, Integrity, and Ethical Consciousness
To understand Jung’s mandala we need to understand the fact that the four quadrants of the mandala are not just just symbols of the four egoic functions, but of the fundamental functions of Consciousness – or four aspects of the Divine. In my book, and in these book blogs posts, I shall be building on this understanding, and presenting the four functions as four doorways into spiritual self-inquiry. One of my main aims is to provide you, the reader, with sufficiently deep familiarity of the four functions, so that you have a map for your journey and can identify the shadow areas of your psyche, which are undermining your ability to rest as Consciousness. Ultimately it is this capacity to rest as Consciousness that allows us to move towards wholeness, towards personal and relational integrity, and towards ethical functioning.
© William Roy Parker 2017