Essay—Towards Synchronicity (Issue 26)

Summary—Towards Synchronicity discusses the notion of holistic thinking as embodied by Gestalt and Jungian psychology—emphasizing the whole as more than the combined parts—ultimately offering the openminded reader a perspective that is hopefully greater than the sum of the paragraphs.

Psychology is a branch of metaphysics directed towards the study of mind and soul, and the attendant relationship to functions of the body.  Gestalt psychology is an approach developed to understand the process of perception—based on the notion that holistic perception is not derivable strictly from the sum of the elements.  The approach was formulated in 1912 as a reaction against the prevailing mechanical approaches.  Gestalt psychology emphasizes present experience, rather than those of early childhood, with the intent of heightening awareness and thus facilitating a more natural harmonic balance.

Field of Dreams.  Gestalt psychology grew in part from physical field theory.  The British physicist Michael Faraday first postulated field theory in 1844 as a way of describing the interactions of gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces occurring within so-called fields.  For instance, the seeming solid atom is formed from the interaction of electromagnetic forces and elementary particles.  Consider for a moment an atom the size of a baseball field.  The nucleus would be a grain of sand at the center, with even-smaller electrons whirling about the field—thus serving to create the holistic atomic phenomenon.  In other words, the everyday physical world as we know it is nothing more than a puppet show put on for our benefit by the forces of nature.

Towards Primordial Infancy.  The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a one-time friend of Freud—who founded analytical psychology and introduced the groundbreaking notion of the collective unconscious.  The collective unconscious contains the accumulated feelings, thoughts and memories shared by all humanity.  According to Jung, it is composed of archetypes or primordial images that manifest themselves symbolically in religion, myth and dream.  Jung went so far as to say that his life story was the self-realization of the unconscious.  Jung describes the four primary archetypes of the collective unconscious are the persona, anima, shadow and self.  The persona is the outward face, the anima is the essence of the female sex, the shadow is the essence of the male sex, and the self is the stabilizing, holistic archetype.

Fear and Indifference.  Anthropologists use the term misoneism to describe the fear of change afflicting modern man.  But at the same time, evolution depends on our ability to affect positive change.  And so the most obvious way of overcoming misoneism is to gain the historical perspective—which according to Jung is found in the collective unconscious.  Reconnecting with our past enables us to remember who we were, so that we can know who we are to become.  Unfortunately, the notion of evolution reveals another affliction of modern man—profound indifference.  Why bother evolving when there is money to be made and women to be conquered?  To paraphrase Jung—Modern man has acquired the willpower to carryout his work proficiently without recourse to chanting, drumming or praying.  He is able to translate his ideas into actions without a hitch, while primitive man was hampered by fears and superstitions at each step along the way.  Yet in maintaining his creed, modern man pays the price in a remarkable lack of introspection.  He is blind to the fact that, with all his rationality and efficiency, he is possessed by powers beyond his control that keep him restlessly on the run.

The Domain of the Everyman.  The persona-archetype is the public mask or façade revealed during the course of socialization.  It embodies our need to conform and plays a central role in our survival.  Problems arise in individuals when the persona becomes overly significant.  Jean Wahl captured this perfectly in his 1949 book, A Brief History of Existentialism—In order that we may truly exist, rather than remain in the sphere of the things-seen and things-used, we must quit the inauthentic sphere of existence.  Ordinarily, due to our own laziness and the pressure of society, we remain in an everyday world where we are not really in contact with ourselves.  This everyday world is what Heidegger calls the domain of the Everyman.  In the domain of the Everyman, we are not conscious of our existence.  And an awareness of ourselves is only attainable by traversing certain experiences like that of anguish, which puts us in the presence of the background of Nothingness from which Being erupts.

Yin and Yang.  Yin, or the anima-archetype, is the primordial image of a woman characterized by virtue, stillness, simplicity and security.  Yang, or the shadow-archetype, contains the deep-rooted essence of man’s basic animal nature.  It houses our need to achieve, conquer and take risks.  The shadow represents the best and worst in man, and presents a huge moral challenge in the coming to know the darkside.  Those failing to meet the challenge may achieve civility, but do so at the expense of creativity, insight and emotional depth.  Those rising above the Everyman are rewarded with the shadow’s awesome power.  As Edgar Allan Poe said—Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence—whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of minds exalted at the expense of general intellect.

The Realization of the Self.  While archetypes reside in the collective unconscious, the ego along with perceptions, thoughts and feelings exist in the conscious mind.  The ego is the lighthouse of the mind—constantly selecting the consciousness or unconscious component most worthy of its ever-shifting awareness.  The mature ego is able to realize the persona, anima and shadow individually—and then in aggregate, thus giving rise to the holistic self-archetype.  The self is the inner guiding light, which is completely different from the outer conscious ego.  According to D.H. Lawrence—Everything that can possibly be painted has been painted, every brush-stroke that can possibly be laid on canvas has been laid on.  Then suddenly at the age of forty I began painting myself and became fascinated.

The Atomic Model.  In its basic Jungian form, the collective unconscious coincides structurally with the atom.  The shadow balances the outward face of the persona in the same way that the protons in the nucleus balance the orbiting electrons.  And similarly, the holistic self-archetype compares metaphorically with the holistic atomic phenomenon.  Just as the atomic phenomenon is itself indeterminate until observed—the self comes into existence only as a result the ego’s awareness.  It then follows that the term self-awareness takes on ontological significance in that the self is created metaphysically during the sustained act of awareness.  By the same token, organizations have the unconscious need for security in protecting value, the unconscious need to take risk in creating value, and the unconscious need of the corporate persona to project stability in the face of uncertainty.  Organizations that pay awareness to these three archetypes individually and then in aggregate make possible the realization of organizational synchronicity.

I Dream of Monte Carlo.  Jung believed that dreams facilitated an impartial, spontaneous realization of unvarnished natural treasures held within the collective unconscious.  And given that uncertain events often have protracted unconscious histories, dreams could be perceived as useful in foretelling such events.  Dreams also serve us existentially in the same way that watching movies fortifies our minds with new experiences.  Correspondingly then, Monte Carlo simulation provides the same function for corporations as dreams do for individuals.  Specifically, Monte Carlo simulation is an open-form uncertainty aggregation algorithm that serves to animate the forecasting process—which thus provides an intelligent look at the complete range of outcomes.  It is a metaphysical telescope that brings the unconscious closer to consciousness—and the future closer to the present.

Conclusion.  Individuals deny the unconscious, organizations deny uncertainty, and society denies the metaphysical.  The fundamental truth we have overlooked to this point is that we ultimately possess the ability to choose our own existence.  When we place our faith in the everyday physical world, we are effectively choosing the nonexistence of the Everyman—nothing more than a cake of ice on a summer day.  One is presently reminded of the story of Flatland written in 1881 by the Shakespearean scholar Edwin Abbott.  Flatland, it seems, existed in two spatial dimensions rather than the usual three.  Not only were Flatlanders incapable of comprehending the third spatial dimension—but they in fact became totally enraged at the very notion of it.