FREUD AND DEPTH PSYCHOLOGY
A few decades ago, the word psychology was hardly heard except in discussions between philosophers, moralists, and students of religious techniques devised to purify and sanctify the lives of a relatively few individuals. Psychology was a matter of University study. Medical science paid but little attention to it. Mental troubles, hysteria, insanity — once attributed to "occult" causes of demoniac "possessions" — were mainly considered incurable diseases, and the individuals afflicted by them were branded as outcasts, and at times, as criminals. Sanity and rationality were seen as marks of the divine in man and as the individual was believed to have "free will" and to "own" his mind and feelings, to lose mental balance and self-control meant to more or less deliberately forego one's divine nature, becoming prey to animal or devilish forces. In most cases the insane were treated accordingly.
During the last century, ideas as to the nature of man, which had been unchallenged for ages, began to be sharply questioned. The materialistic philosophers of the German school questioned them on general grounds, seeking to prove that all the activities of the human soul and mind can be reduced to and explained as the products of bio-chemical, material processes. More specifically, psychological phenomena came under the scrutiny of the men whose task it was to heal the sick. Diseases on the borderline between the purely physical and the psychological — and
particularly all forms of "hysteria" — had attracted the attention of investigators since the time of Anton Mesmer at the end of the eighteenth century. The series of varied attempts to cure these diseases eventually led to psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud.
Since then, modern psychology has become divided into several branches: most basically, the "experimental psychology" of college laboratories along the line of Behaviorism and the study of primary phenomena of attention, reflex-action, association of ideas, etc. — and the various types of "psychotherapies" seeking to cure the diseases of the mind and inner life of man. What we shall mainly discuss are the kinds of psychotherapy which are not specifically occupied with the cure of acute forms of insanity, but whose basic aim is rather to bring the men and women of our chaotic age to a greater sense of health and sanity (psychological, moral, and mental) and a more vibrant realization of their
inner powers. The types of disturbances which these psychotherapies attempt to cure is essentially produced by the maladjustment of individuals to their surroundings — to family, school, friends, society. They deal with the basic conflict between the individual and the collective, between the ego and all that is not the ego, thus, the "outer world."
Such a conflict is absolutely basic in human nature, and in human nature only. It is man's privilege to become individualized out of the herd, the tribe, the social-religious community in which he has been born. It is man's privilege to feel himself "separate" as an "I," an ego having unique characteristics. It is his privilege, and it is his tragic burden or responsibility. It makes of him a god, or a devil.
All psychotherapists, from Freud on, are essentially occupied with the ego — with the way the ego develops, matures or fails to mature, crystallizes along social patterns of acquiescence or rebellion, transforms itself by overcoming its limitations, and, in rare cases, becomes part of a larger spiritual integration. Each school of psychotherapists, however, takes a particular approach to the problems of the ego, and ordinarily emphasizes one type of disturbance at the expense of the others. This is so largely because the psychologist fails to grasp the entire human being as an organic whole, and especially because he has no way to directly picture to himself the structure of this whole.
Astrology steps in here; for, in the birth chart, the astrologer has a means to study the over-all pattern of a person's functions, faculties, and drives. He can study the blueprint of the total personality, as well as the general schedule of its unfoldment from birth on. He can therefore deal with the whole person, rather than with only one or two of the
fundamental urges and activities contributing to the growth of the consciousness and the ego — or to their malformation and eventual destruction. However, the type of psychology featured by most astrologers and astrological text-books is, as a rule, quite unable to live up to these possibilities. It is a type of psychology still based on the works of Ptolemy and Aristotle — a "classical" type steeped in ancient religious and ethical
concepts, and as yet little touched by the ferment of ideas which Freud and his successors let loose upon the modern world.
Freud is not a unique phenomenon. A basic correlation exists between the attitudes to life which were promoted and popularized by Darwin and by Freud. For in these two pioneers, we find the expression of a profound rebellion against the "classical" reliance upon the intellectual and rational
factors in human nature based upon the explanations given by religious theology and eighteenth century rationalism to account for biological and
psychological phenomena, for the genesis of natural species and of the individual egos of human beings. Whereas classical and religious psychologists believed in a God-given soul, and biologists in the separate creation of each species of life-entities by God, Darwin and Freud gave up the concept of such a creation "in the heights," and sought to picture a progressive, evolutionary unfoldment of species and egos "from the depth." Thus was born "depth psychology" — a psychology which daringly plunges into the subconscious depths of the human soul, an evolutionary psychology of the ego.
What Darwin and Freud sought to destroy was the so-called Platonic concept of a "spiritual" world of Ideas or Archetypes prior to the "physical" world of material organisms. These Archetypes, being direct "Emanations" from the Universal Mind and its Divine Hierarchies, were not considered to be "evolving," They were said to have been created complete and perfect. Evolution was to be found only in the material world: a slow attempt by physical (and psychological) organisms to ever more closely approximate the ideal patterns which constitute "Reality."
On the other hand, "classical" psychology is based on the assumption that man is a "divine soul" operating in a more or less close association with a material body and an earth-conditioned "personality." Every person is a "child of God"; or, in more philosophical terms, he is, first of all, a spiritual entity, whose essential structure and function are established as an Archetype before birth, and will be perpetuated after the death of the body. This spiritual entity is the "real" self; and to it belong the spiritual attributes of will, character, discrimination between good and evil, morality and rationality, and mental creativeness. These attributes are in constant conflict with the desires and passions of the earth-bound body and psyche.
During the Victorian Age, mankind, having found itself suddenly in possession of tremendous material powers, faced a generalized increase in the virulence of the conflict between spiritual attributes and personal desires for self-aggrandizement and self-gratification — especially as the power of the religious and social restraints of the past also was vanishing under the blows of intellectual criticism. The results were obvious: moral statements and high-sounding ideals were contradicted at every step by the "facts of life." Human beings tried increasingly to lead two lives at once. Neuroses, psychoses and cases of split-personality multiplied. The danger was becoming social as well as personal.
Something had to occur. Just as osteopathy and surgery had to develop at a time when occupational malformations and accidents
multiplied with the spread of the machine age and of artificially confining office-jobs, so psychotherapy (the healing of the personal, earth-conditioned soul or "psyche") had to discover techniques which could alleviate the generalized state of mild insanity featured by the civilized and mechanized city-dweller of the post-Victorian Era. When a person, as a result of some deep inner conflict and fear, finds himself compelled to repeatedly perform actions, not only against his so-called "will," but without knowing he is performing them, classical psychology ceases to have any practical meaning. If I do not know who I am or what I do — then, for all practical purposes, the term "I" has lost its significance. The person under hypnosis is in such a condition; but so also is the man with a "compulsion neurosis" — only to a lesser degree. Classical psychology settled the issue by declaring the man "insane," the spiritual entity within him having "left the body."
However, when the borderline between sanity and insanity becomes crowded by millions of outwardly normal citizens, the problem cannot be dismissed so summarily. The problem of sanity and rationality — nay more, the meaning of will, of personality, of ego — has to be re-formulated. The formulation cannot be a black-and-white judgment on the basis of consciousness-or-nothing. It must admit gradations of greys: unconscious, subconscious, semi-conscious, part-time conscious. . . perhaps consciousness of varying degrees of brilliancy and pervasive power; in some cases, consciousness gaining access to realms beyond the normal range of even "white light" — could we say ultra-violet consciousness?
Such a "scale" of consciousness suggests the existence of an evolutionary process; a process of growth from the roots up, an emerging from the depths. The individual "I," instead of being seen as an a priori,
archetypal Self — as some "pattern of perfection" transcendent to organic life on earth — begins to be understood as the end-result of human living, as a victory to be won, as the result of a slow effort at integration and individualization (or "individuation"). And this effort may be abortive, as
may birth. The "I"-consciousness may be born healthy, or it may emerge from the dark, unconscious depth of instinct malformed and twisted by frustrations and pressures of all sorts.
The emergence of ego out of instinct occurs through the years of childhood — it may even be conditioned by prenatal causes! The diseases of the will and the mind, and the "predisposition" to psychological shocks and moral-pathological breakdowns, must therefore be traceable to what occurred during the very early years of life. The psychiatrist should therefore go back to these beginnings of individual selfhood, just as the
Darwinian naturalist particularly studies those remnants of the fossilized past which show new forms of life emerging from older species. The naturalist and paleontologist seek their clues from fossils deeply embedded in ancient rocks brought to the surface of the earth by cataclysmic occurrences or by long ages of erosion. The depth-psychologist must also find his way down to the depths, to the earliest layers of childhood consciousness — or take advantage of psychological eruptions and cataclysmic crisis in the "soul's" growth which will bring to the surface long forgotten memories of shocks and frustrations.
Normally, however, conscious recollections of the mind already deformed by strain or fear can be of no real help to the psychologist eager to probe the contents of the area between unconscious instincts and the first glimmers of ego-consciousness. The ego resists this probing as much as a child would resist re-entering the womb that has conditioned its very structure. However, every morning as one awakens, he experiences anew this process of emergence of consciousness out of unconsciousness. At this "threshold phase" of mental activity, the type of conditions which prevailed in babyhood tend to be reproduced. We call these conditions "dreams." As we dream every morning, we are again babies struggling to emerge from the womb of instincts into the problems of ego-consciousness and ego-adaptation to our complex environment. Thus by learning to understand the world of dreams, we also become acquainted with the attempts which consciousness has made and is constantly making to assert itself and to deal with the power of instincts.
The instincts have power. They are life in action. Their power is what the psychologists call libido or psychic energy. As the ego finds its way in the world of family and society, it encounters conditions which challenge the expression of the libido. It tries to become adapted to these conditions, and in so doing, it often has to repress instinctual energy. As a result, conflicts are generated. Repeated conflicts and repressions cause tenseness, rigidity, and congestion in the growing structures of the consciousness. These are what the psychologists call "complexes," and these in turn condition the future adaptation of the ego to new experiences during adolescence and through youth. As it loses its spontaneity and flexibility, the ego becomes set, crystallized, and
encumbered with defense-mechanisms — like a turtle with a shell — or develops one-sided aggressive attack mechanisms — like a tiger or rattlesnake. If confronted by a strong shock, the ego becomes the victim of its own unyielding mechanisms. Neuroses and psychoses develop, leading to pathological conditions and diseases.
In order to cure these disorders, the psychotherapist must find their original causes. He must "reduce" the ego crystallizations or "complexes" and set free the psychic energy which they have deviated and dammed. This is a kind of "soul surgery" or psycho-osteopathy; and this is what Freud attempted. Freudian psychoanalysis is essentially a psycho-surgical technique. It uses dream-analysis as a means to uncover hidden symptoms. It forces the ego back into the threshold state of emergent consciousness (child consciousness) and helps the person do what he failed to do in childhood.
Space here is not sufficient for a detailed study of the Freudian technique. I have only isolated some of the basic features of it, features most strikingly symbolized in Freud's birth-chart.(1) The chart graphically illustrates Freud's descent into the depths of the psyche — scalpel in hand! The scalpel is, of course, Mars, symbol of steel and cutting tools — Mars which is found at the very root of Freud's chart, and "moving backward." Generally speaking, such a retrograde planet represents a life-function which is turned inward. In the same way the surgeon cuts inward, Freud seeks to reach the deepest layer of the organism to free what has become twisted or congested, crystallized or festered.
When caught in the grip of a "complex," the libido turns destructive. When normal desires are frustrated, they become psychic abscesses causing
auto-intoxication. Freud's retrograde Mars is at Libra 4°, at the point of the chart which represents the mother (and in some cases, the father). This Mars typifies the mother-complex, or Oedipus-complex, which is so basic in psycho-analysis. Libra is the Sign of emergent social consciousness — just as Aries symbolizes the emergent personal consciousness. And Mars alone in the lower hemisphere of the chart — pitting its power against that of all the other planets which surround the zenith — reveals a terrific strain within Freud's soul. Graphically, the planetary pattern is that of a down-pointing triangle — almost a drill!
The planets above the horizon are all within the square formed by Neptune-Jupiter in Pisces and Moon-Saturn in Gemini. And the Sun, at the center of the grouping, forms semi-squares to Jupiter and Saturn — quite a potentially stressful pattern. Saturn, in the house referring to introspection, confinement, retribution, or karma suggests that Freud indeed assumed a heavy burden. On the other hand, however, Saturn is on a
degree symbolized by "bankruptcy" and the start of a new life of
opportunity. Freud was of Jewish ancestry, and in a peculiar way, his birth-chart contains more than a hint of the deep pessimism and will to expiation of self-sacrifice which characterizes the Jewish spiritual tradition. His explorations into the depths of the human soul started a movement of thought which has yet to find its complete fulfillment. But his ideas also stirred a great deal of poisonous thought-substance, released many psychic "toxins," led to many abuses; and all this arousal of the depths became Freud's spiritual responsibility. Every great teacher must bear the burden of the misuse of his teachings by ignorant, unwise or greedy followers!
Freud opened a door. His disciples Carl Jung and Alfred Adler each gave to psychoanalysis a different direction. Adler — also of Jewish ancestry — represents essentially a tendency opposite to that of Freud (thus, complementing it). Jung, heir to the deepest spiritual tradition of Germanic Europe from Paracelsus to Goethe and to the free and integrative life of the Swiss people, presents a basic transformation of the implications and purposes of psycho-analysis.
Freud dealt with soul-surgery, Adler with the social welfare of maladjusted individuals. Jung is a modern type of "spiritual Guide"; his goal, the ever more inclusive integration of the personality — of the evolving human psyche.
1. Another chart in use in Europe has recently been reproduced in America giving Scorpio rising. It remains to be conclusively seen which chart is correct.
Astrology and the Modern Psyche