On Archetypes as Solipsistical Dream Figures
“I am as resolutely determined to defend the independence of Vermont as Congress are that of the United States, and rather than fail, will retire with hardy Green Mountain Boys into the desolate caverns of the mountains, and wage war with Human Nature at large.” —Ethan Allen, in a letter to George Washington
“I can upset his Blackstones, his whitestones, his gravestones, and his brimstones.” —Ethan Allen, arguing a case in court
Reverence for the more imposing figments of one’s own Imagination, particularly when such are encountered during psychedelic visionary extravaganzas and perhaps wear wings or have sparks coming out of their ears, is the certain mark of infantile occultism and that species of intellectual pretense which substitutes categorization for judgment and analysis.
Unfortunately, Thoreau’s neurotic inability to get off his ass and wrestle with a few angels, which led to the “pantheistic” grandiosity of his lesser prose and poesy, has led some to assume that solipsism naturally leads in this direction, and produces a squeamish inability to deal with people as they are, and to substitute an ethereal system of perfect and unobtainable “idealizations” in the place of one’s actual experience and feelings. This is not solipsism, but an escape and a repression of it, by way of “transcendentalism” (sublimation) and “pantheism” (displacement), and what was good in Thoreau—his solipsism—was forever at war with these other tendencies, which find their expression in masses of virtually indigestible sentiments separating one brilliant flash of light from another.
We are misled also by the example of Carl Gustav Jung, who knew nothing of solipsism (or of philosophy in general) but whose exquisite sensibility and admirable honesty and courage as a reporter of his own impressions and ideas made him into a kind of Homer of the Psyche, an artist, and a great categorizer and typologist—of which there is only one kind: the fellow who first tells the world in a straightforward manner what it “knew” all along. Jung is a very strange case. I know of no other intellect so powerful which is at the same time so devoid of penetration. He is like a great general without a shred of politics in his make-up, or like a (perhaps this is it)…a great sociologist whose chosen territory is that well-known demographic favorite, Unconsciousmindsville, M.T.
It seems almost unbelievable that Jung could have been aware of synchronicity, much less have been the person to first precisely describe it and give it its modern name, without also making the obvious inference that here was evidence of the solipsistic hypothesis, which would perfectly explain the “who” the “where” the “what” and the “how” of the whole business and save all appearances, yet he did not do so.
In attempting a pragmatic combination of the concepts of synchronicity and the denial of the externality of relations, we are therefore beset by certain habits of mind which have become attached to both concepts through (yech!) the history of ideas and the personal quirks and fallibilities of the dead personalities who first originated or gave a clear expression to the ingredients of our mix, as if we had to bake a chocolate cake in a world in which flour was invented by and was mostly used and packaged by a sect which hated chocolate, and chocolate invented and supported by a sect which hated cake.. If a philosopher has had the bad (or good) manners to disappear, we should assume that he has outlived his usefulness, and we should kick his ideas around as we would the kit of a fallen enemy, looking for what is of use to us. Respect for dead people is a worthless emotion, but a proper regard for the utilitarian value of certain ideas, no matter what scoundrel or coward first took them to hand, is a sane and sensible attitude to adopt in agonic wars over ideas as much as in wars over real estate on the battlefield—and I think we should all know by now which is the most desperate and unforgiving war.
So—let us congratulate Thoreau for his solipsism without feeling in any way constrained by his tastes or his “sentiments,” and likewise, let us not hesitate to take what is good from any psychologist, since we believe that everything is psychological, without requiring of the psychologist that he understand what he describes, in terms of any consistent epistemological theory.
The independence of awareness from any particular personality, locale, or form of sensory organization is demonstrated to us every night in our dreams when the blind see, the deaf hear, the crippled walk and we take up the strands of relationships with people we firmly believe we have known for a long time and yet have never seen “on earth.” There is not one shred of epistemological difference between that “state” and the state of awareness or consciousness you are “in” right now. Yet, until a few years ago, when all self-respecting philosophers and psychologists started taking LSD (those who have not, to my way of thinking, have sufficiently demonstrated their fraudulence, to the extent that they should be disgraced on the quad in some kind of public ceremony and officially transferred to the Sociology Department), it was taken for granted that visionary experience was nothing more than some kind of trivial oddity, limited in quality and complexity by the quality and complexity, the personality and the I.Q. of the reporter, so that, for example, a low grade moron could never see in his visionary experience a scene of such complexity and intricate organization as the City of New York spread out before him, although any imbecile can see such a scene by taking an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building.
We now know that the assumption was false. We can demonstrate its falsity. As with the primitive savages of the Amazon, so with Carl Gustav Jung. The content of visionary experience is no more limited by I.Q., personality, or previous personal experience than is any other kind of experience. The antakarana has no I.Q. Such things as the personality and the I.Q. and sensory deficiencies determine, or are synchronistic with, the story of one’s life, but do not limit the potential experience of the individual. Any savage may be flown to New York. Any moron may gaze at the stars. Any professor of psychology may take mescaline sulfate (1 milligram per 2.2 pounds of body weight is sufficient) and break out of his perception routine.
How well he understands what he sees is another matter. As with the savage, so with Carl Gustav Jung.
The archetypes are those figures which appear in ordinary life, art, dreams and visions and are taken to be models of a group, classics of the genre, standard roles, perennial embodiments of a certain theme, furtherers of the plot.
They are clichés, in other words, hackneyed clusters of characteristics which any simpleton in the theatre will instantly recognize when they appear on stage, and yet, for all of that, convey in their speech and actions and relations with each other such a range of ideation and emotion as to satisfy the requirements of any dramatist’s intent or any audience’s expectations. It is efficient to have “good” represented by a white hat and “bad” represented by a black hat, and to merely switch the identification around every now and then is merely a trick, for the effect depends on the comparison, and any dramatist who depends on such switches can say little more than “you can’t judge a book by its cover” over and over again, which, on examination, reduces to an even further weakness and is no more than the conventional truth that care should be taken in predicting particulars from generalities.
Without some standardization of images, there could be no standardization of words, which are just the abstract labels given to certain impressions or classes of impressions. Those impressions which have the characteristics we categorize as belonging to a “living being” or “entity” and which play a persistent and/or decisive part in the story of one’s life, myth, book, memory, drama, history, dream or whatever are “the archetypes.”
To the occultist, of course, they are “more” than that, in the sense by which occultists mean “more,” that is to say, the paranoid sense of “having (quantifiable, physical) power.” Since the ludicrous illogic of “ethereal mechanics” is a topic I have dealt with elsewhere, I will try not to waste much time on it here, but proceed on the assumption that, since everything is psychological, everything is psychological.
Thoreau’s problems with Emerson were not due to his solipsism, but to his countervailing tendency to escape from the immediate into abstract idealizations. He did not take Emerson seriously enough. If he had, he would never have attempted to compete with him in Emersonian terms, or envied him his field of success, but would instead have concentrated on the differences between himself and Emerson, to discover by that means what role was going unplayed at that time. This he finally did, but he did it with much unnecessary pain—all in consequence of thinking that there was something “out there” to squabble over. If Thoreau had had LSD, he would have had conversations with (Holy Cow!) Emerson in the same condition of sensational glory and mythic grandeur (mixed with humor) any experienced tripper would now feel if he found himself in the same situation. Thoreau knew that such was the way he “ought” to feel about it, but his false ideas about the moral “requirements” (no vain competition, “perfect” love, etc.) of such a “noble” state of mind got in his way, and so he only got his epiphanies in the company of vegetables.
I have a living hero also—Nabokov. As a philosopher, I am required to look down on everyone, but as an artist, I look up to several, and the greatest of these is the American from Russia who lives in Switzerland. Without dope, I think any meeting I had with Nabokov would be of little profit, because I would have to play an inferior role for a change, and I would probably not play it with any grace. With dope, however, I am sure I would enjoy the experience for what it was. I could be impressed and amused at the same time, and instead of worrying about all kinds of foolish questions, I could probably amuse my hero also without violating either the truth or my role. Why? Because tetrahydrocannabinol makes me, as a personality, more aware of my solipsism, more conscious of the scene as “internal,” less deluded. And that is all that is necessary, if you want to figure out how to play your role.
It puts things in their place.
The archetype you live with is the one that will tell you the most, in words and deeds, about the kinds of games you are playing, the drama in which you are engaged, the story you are writing. This is in contrast to the assumption made by most occultists, that the archetype they can learn the most from is the most difficult to locate, being found only in comets, Himalayan caves, or “vibrational frequencies” which, for some reason, they always find it difficult to locate on their meters. It is, of course, not easy to accept the notion that your wife (for example) is your most important archetype if you happen to dislike the woman, but it is true nonetheless, and your dislike of her should tell you not only that your drama has little to recommend it, but in exactly what way you have gone wrong, and how you should change and what you should give up in yourself, what the price is—indeed, everything about the subject.
Role confusion is a terrible thing. For a solipsist, one might say that role confusion is the only “metaphysical” difficulty, and it is interesting how much sexual role confusion is being produced, in a seemingly independent development, along with the prevailing “Cosmic Mind” occultism which has become the prevailing Weltanschauung of our era. They are related. Transcendentalist occultism tends to encourage people to “rise above” their circumstances instead of directly confronting their circumstances as the living contents of their minds. Instead of cherishing the differences which exist, and using them to make an efficient division of role, the occultists despise the differences which they can only understand as some mechanistic division of space or power or labor which cause (they think) quarrels and strife, and which can be escaped only through their elimination and the hopeful future restriction of consciousness to some featureless blob. Mystics do not cry for unity. Occultists cry for unity. Genuine solipsistic mystics call for greater and clearer divisions as did Jesus Christ. Clear divisions are always complementary. Strife and confusion go hand in hand. Even rivalry is pleasant if it is clear what the rivalry is about, and what the rules are, and which side you are on, and it is only when rivalry is so defined that it can become the penultimate noble game of life, the agonic contest and the highest art…upon which everything beautiful and good in our civilization is founded.
I have had the company of several wives and dozens of mistresses, and I have never failed, in retrospect, to find a perfect match between wife and life. What was wrong with her either was or showed what was wrong (or right) with me. The trick is to see it when it is happening, so that the insight will help to further the drama rather than merely serve as the basis for a sterile criticism later.
Does it make any difference if it is turned around?
Not really—in fact, if there is any difference it consists in the greater willingness of women to see their husbands in this light, and I think much of female discontent is exactly the discontent of Thoreau: the original impulse which is good and genuinely mystical, finding no acceptable cultural expression, is debased into romantic idealizations and vague unfulfilled longings for “something” grand and meaningful “above” rather than in the actual experience of everyday life.
If you look for what is meaningful in the other person, you may also find something grand, or you may be able to make something grand out of what you find, or you may find out what it is in yourself that restricts your life to pettiness and drudgery, and thereby escape it. To merely cast about for something impressive is always futile. Life is a dream, not a department store, and meanings are the keys to the treasures thereof. As on psychedelic trips, and as in psychoanalysis, when you discover a key your reaction will almost always be, “but I knew that all along!”
Yes, you may have “known” it, but for some reason you were unwilling to “buy it”, to use the insightful colloquialism. Truths are only obtained by giving up lies. Every truth has a price which increases daily. The great “mistakes” of our lives are really those times when we have preferred to lie to ourselves and others rather than to have and express the truth.
Can I offer any practical advice on how to get good archetypes and keep them?
1. If at all possible, meet your next prime archetype on an acid trip. One of the most important tasks I see ahead for the Neo-American Church is to provide the proper setting (parks and “houses with many mansions”) wherein people may seem to “find” but actually create each other. Every village should have such a place close by to which the unmatched may go every week to trip and, when the time is right, “come down” hand in hand with someone they were born with.
Mile after dusty and muddy mile of rocky road traversed by non-psychedelic couples is “short cut” by this means, and you begin your journey together at the point most (happy) non-psychedelic couples strive for—in a feeling of absolute “rightness.”
When I say “trip” in these pages, I am not referring to casual nibbles of the supreme sacrament—such as one or two of the weak doses now (1974) circulating—but “death-rebirth” doses, which for the average person requires 500 micrograms and up, or at least 10 “hits” taken after at least three days of abstinence.
One’s motto should be: If you throw enough shit against the wall some of it is bound to stick. The amount of fakery and lies in this area of experience is incredible since it is considered a mark of manhood in some circles to be able to boast of having taken hundreds of trips in as many days. The fact is that after the third day, daily (or every other day) “tripping” has no effect at all and many small trips do not by any means “add up” to one big one.
2. Never trip without your prime archetype, unless you have decided that it is time for a change, in which case tripping without your prime archetype is exactly what you ought to do. Any relationship which has become destructive or wearisome and yet seems impossible to terminate on account of “external” circumstances or infantile emotionality may be conveniently dispatched by this means.
3. Avoid tripping exclusively with your prime archetype. To do so can lead to social claustrophobia. The ideal setting is midway between being completely open (as in a public park) on one hand, and tight shut on the other—parties extensive enough so that a few people will be strangers to you, but sufficiently intensive so that most of those present will know each other well enough to feel sympathetic and protective from the start.
Within the illusion of space-time, advice about how to trip is the only advice that matters. Your life, as you live it now, has been absolutely determined circumstantially (or perceptually or existentially) by choices of repressive mechanisms, the lies you chose to tell yourself as your were “coming down” from your last death-rebirth experience, be it last week or how many years ago you were born. Some are “born of woman” and some are “born of themselves,” but, whatever the case, the few hours immediately following your decision to be “one of the boys—or girls” again are so enormously crucial that nothing that could possibly happen later is even in the same league with it.
To the skeptic, to whom these words seem overblown, I advance the suggestion that he read what I have said again, nine hours after taking 500 micrograms of LSD. They will seem to him then to contain a truth so sacred that he will perhaps wonder how anyone could have dared to put it on paper.
As for the archetypes of myth and art, of stage and screen, (which seem to the non-solipsistic to have an overbearing influence on their tiny lives because they rule that fearsome external monstrosity, organized society at large, which they mistakenly believe to be the dog while they themselves are the tail, instead of the other way around) I know of no arguments half so effective in convincing those mired in the dismal swamps of sociological determinism of the error of their fundamental assumptions than getting stoned (even on marijuana) while watching a few hours of ordinary television programs.
T.V. is an entirely different experience for the stoned than it is for the unstoned, as is every other form of dramatic art.
If you were watching T.V. in one of your ordinary nighttime dreams, what kinds of things would you expect to see there?
Why, obviously, you would expect to see little dreams within the dream which would be expressions, just like everything else in one of your dreams, of your tensions, repressions, wishes, fears, and characteristic mechanisms of defense.
Most of the stories produced would be infantile and regressive.
T.V. is, mostly, infantile and regressive.
Most of the stories would have themes directly related to your immediate problems and recent experience.
(There is only one way to demonstrate this—watch and see for yourself.)
Most of the stories would relate, at another level of “abstraction”, to the classic themes of intra-psychic tension in general: the Oedipus Complex, Sibling Rivalry, the Primal Scene, and the standard strategies of progressing through the various stages of libidinal organization. Every method for denying the finality of death would be played through again and again.
Conflicts would be “solved” by combining contradictory wishes, which under more rigorously consistent circumstances, would be mutually exclusive.
As you made “breakthroughs” in your understanding of yourself, the content and quality of T.V. would instantly and radically alter.
Again, this can only be demonstrated by experience.
What is the fundamental “message” of T.V.—or of dreams and dramas in general? It can be nothing other than the demonstration of its own nature. All these things are saying, always, again and again, “you are dreaming, you are dreaming, you are dreaming…”
When that message is grasped, you have eliminated the duality of life and dream. Both are “transcended.”
It is only at that point that (for very good reasons) the “you” that is everything will permit the “you” of your personality to create—rather than just imitate and watch and decide when to clap and when to boo, or to turn to this or that channel. Great art and solipsism (however disguised or perverted) are always related. Every artist worthy of the name thinks of himself as “God.”
But there must be a “catch” to all this, otherwise why doesn’t everyone see it?
Yes, there is a catch. If what you wish for is not the truth, but rather demonstrations of randomness, mechanical causation, impersonality, and organic and societal determinism, that is exactly what will be served up! In such a case, your only hope is “the return of the repressed.” If you pay attention, you will see that even in these demonstrations, a continuous series of “little slips” will occur—strange “coincidences”, bizarre (in terms of your epistemology) twists, a peculiar refusal, on the part of what and who is nearest and dearest to you, to behave according to statistical probabilities or “self interest.”
If you can remember what “doesn’t fit” (a rare talent) you will learn despite yourself.
Much of what one sees on T.V. and in one’s dreams is what is on the way out (of one’s “personal” life—one’s personality life) and it is very important in the analysis of drama, as it is in the analysis of dreams, not to become overly attached to any one syntactic form. At times what you see is a warning, at other times a good example, sometimes a “who,” sometimes a “where,” sometimes a “how” and sometimes a “what”. To “get it,” you have to be aware of all these possibilities, and you must allow yourself to be led, to “follow it up,” rather than play the part of a critic who, having made an a priori decision that what he is seeing means such and so, blames the author for being untrue to a vision which was not his in the first place. All labels should be tentative.
The ubiquity of some figures in the media at large, and the absence of others, is, of course, always a tip off to the general condition of the Psyche. I intend to deal with this subject in future papers, but, as a sort of stimulant and also as a reminder of how comedically amusing this kind of thing can get if you follow it to its logical conclusions, I’ll end this paper by asking the reader to ponder the following question:
Why is it that King Kong atop the Empire State Building, a fantastic but uninspiring figure from a conceptually trashy, badly acted, cheaply produced, dated and all-around third-rate motion picture, has a seemingly secure place in the media-world, where he appears regularly in cartoons and references and a variety of imitative guises, while Ethan Allen, the hero of Ticonderoga and an American original if there ever was one, a veritable fountain of quotable “one-liners” and the leading figure in dozens of amusing and dramatic episodes all of which, one would think, fit perfectly into the great American mystique of individualism and irreverence, is almost totally ignored?
Why are no T.V. series or movies made about Ethan Allen, although 27 shows have been made about (to leave King Kong aside for the moment) “Billy the Kid,” a disgusting murderer who killed mostly from ambush?
If the reader can answer this question, he is well on his way to understanding not only America but himself.