Edmund Husserl’s theory of phenomenology proposes that belief posits the reality of its object. Through this assertion, he announced something commonplace and unquantifiable as the very functional utility of consciousness. As the intentional faculty of perception, Husserl’s phenomenology poses an observable and quantifiable reception of consciousness, and advances a delimitation upon the essential function of consciousness as an acausal, fantastical mode of experience. But the excess of meaning left behind by the fact that Husserl does not necessarily ascertain a censorship upon the content of perception, implies that intentionality as such is its paramount defining principle. So, the subjective becomes the real, and reality is conceived to be a by-product of observation. Belief in that sense is the intentional quality of consciousness when it partakes into a conscious as well as unconscious consideration of its reality, and through inference we might say it also creates that reality, for itself. But one could ask how can intentionality be a factor in unconscious perception? The ambiguity lies in the inferential system, where the unconscious perception is to be understood as a positive function where only the (truth-) value of the content is negative (or in terms of psychology, repressed).

Now, the above statement can be understood fully in light of the fact that reality of the consciousness is a product of its continuous imagination; in other words, if reality is a representation of the contents of these units of consciousness (intentional acts) then reality is in effect, phenomenology of its being. We must now begin by explicating the statement with the gained intent: In the moment of believing, you create the object; but the creation of the object precludes a recreation of its context, that is, the reality of the object cannot be separated from its existence. Existing, paradoxically, is always pre-existing. Creation in that sense is an illusion created by the infinity of ‘beingness’. So, creation is actually recreation, and belief is a representation of the presentation, of a reality. However, ‘belief’, ‘reality’ and the ‘object’ cannot be separated in the order that we have done here, or any order at all. ‘Belief’ is in fact synchronicity of these ‘events’, and this is the aspect which must be enquired of ontology.

Now, we could apply the derived logic to deduce the phenomenal intent of this observing principle. And we must begin by looking at the relation between self-consciousness and its product: individuation, and then we can perform the explication of meta-consciousness. God is a transcendent being by definition and at that, a necessary one. Though, regarded a metaphysical concept, its conception is purely phenomenological. Metaphysics nor ontology, require a supreme intelligence since they are solely concerned with resolution of the dichotomies of appearance and essence, existence and emanation, respectively. Phenomenology on the other hand already escapes any such dichotomy by choosing the proper frame of reference – consciousness or more aptly, psyche. And it is through phenomenology that the psychic personality exists; as it passively posits a reality that is continuous with itself, it actively pursues the self which is positing. Since psyche cannot become conscious of its own contents, phenomenology of the self is actually a reality through which creation of an object takes place. This object is the image of God that resides in the psyche. The Self worthy of pursuit is God – quintessence of objectivity & transcendence that is concurrent with the Self. Belief in that respect is a continuous willful creation of the God-reality. In that way, one can say that God is synonymous with the Self. By this situating of God in psyche, as the self also begins an individuation of the psychic image. So, God is the ontic value of existence inasmuch as it is the transcendent factor of psychic imagination. Since, psychic phenomena cannot be separated from the somatic epiphenomena a lá the phenomenology of the self, existence per se is transcendent and its corresponding functionary is phenomenology of the divine.

Another approach to the divine figure and its apparent insufficiency could shed more light on this phenomenology of the self. This approach is a more existential and an empirical one – incapable of falling into the uncertain trap of metaphysical ratiocination, is the fact of death being an absolute negative factor in drastic contrast to absolute positive that is, the transcendent factor of imagination. Death posits a negative reality function in the life equation, requiring a reversal of logic. If phenomenology of the divine presides over the phenomenology of the Self, then death presents quite a unique problem as a singular event which threatens to actively cease existence, taking out the phenomenology aspect completely out of the picture. As a negative vacuum, it confronts the positivity of the God-function, and thus forcing the psyche to forego the event of death altogether. It is as if psyche transmigrates the self beyond the vacuum point by locating the divine there itself. The specifically hermeneutic quality of concepts like heaven, hell, afterlife point to the fact that it is through this inductive process that the psyche gains cognition of this singular aspect of death. In other words, since psyche is a positive vacuum (though it’s full of contents, it cannot become conscious of itself unless it creates an image of itself i.e. God as the substitute for the Self) it performs its required function of positing a reality beyond death anyway. Thus, the dichotomy of creation & destruction, birth & death are contraries in phenomenology of the self, but actually projections of God-reality. Afterlife in fact, perfectly encapsulates the totality of existence – its true transcendent quality and gives God another layer of meaning and importance. In that respect, the Eastern doctrine of reincarnation pertains to be a more faithful representation of this phenomenology.

C.G. Jung defines God in one of his letters: “This is the name by which I designate all things that cross my willful path, all things that upset my subjective views, plans, intentions and change the course of my life, for better or for worse”. As James Hillman properly announces, Jung makes the important distinction between God-image and God per se, when he answers to John Freeman of BBC “I don’t believe, I know”. God, for Jung, in contrast to faith-based systematic thought, was a rock in his path, an unwilling encounter which upset his plans “for better or for worse.” God, here, is a purely psychological intervention of the collective into the ego. So, Jung, whose undertaking of the impossible task of knowing God is his attempt to confront the recurring motif of an object whose reality corresponds with his reality and that of society as a whole. Setting aside the numinous quality of such a confrontation, Jung tries to dissociate the image of the self from the God-image, illuminating their irreconcilable nature in the process. When Jung traces the depth of the self, he must chase the origin of God-image; when tracing the God in his own mythical existence, he chases archetype of the godlikeness of his self. So, theoretically speaking, Jung cultivates a vision of a reality pre-existing his belief i.e. a reality beyond his willful creation. Thus, Jung not only hypothesizes God as an epiphenomenon of the phenomenology of the self, but also infers the meta-psychic existence of a Self. This ‘objective occurrence’ is the quintessential condensed collective psyche which cannot be reduced, transferred into active consciousness. That is, the Self might be a hypothesis but only in the manner that it is always outside psychic phenomena. Even God and the thus inferred and re-named ‘causal’ self are mere projections from the collective unconscious qua the Self.

It is no wonder then that Jung realizes the utter futility of the individuation process; Jung, in his actual quest to find the Self must reconcile with its unattainability, but most importantly he understands the inefficacy of psychology qua phenomenology of the self, as if reality as the content of consciousness is mere epiphenomena and thus beyond grasp. Here, one is bound by necessity to rephrase Jung’s assertion that individuation is for the “lucky” as individuation is for the transcendent. Therefore, Jung’s later act of concluding the individuation process in the anticlimactic step of differentiating unconscious contents from conscious ones is a reformative one, aimed at recalling man’s function as a social being who must imitate the social values. But like Jung, one must carefully read the projection he is throwing by rendering his lifelong inclusive study of the Self as concluded. Therefore, Jung on his accord is recoiling from the meta-psychical nature of reality and denying absolute center – the Self as the singular-yet-continuous, the ineffable-yet-explicating, the contentless-yet-content-creating, as the unit of enantiodromia par excellence.


Notes and references:

  1. “…an intentional relation (where consciousness is consciousness of X) is an intentional relation of believing when the intention assumes a previous familiarity with an intentional object (with X as a possible object of cognition), or vice versa; in this way, consciousness always “believes in” the object toward which it is directed.” Carlos Sanchez, “The Nature of Belief and the Method of Its Justification in Husserl’s Philosophy” Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, vol.7 ed.2 (2007).
  2. Carl Jung, Answer to Job (1952), “We cannot tell whether God and the unconscious are two different entities. Both are border-line concepts for transcendental contents. But empirically it can be established, with a sufficient degree of probability, that there is in the unconscious an archetype of wholeness which manifests itself spontaneously in dreams, etc., and a tendency, independent of the conscious will, to relate other archetypes to this center. Consequently, it does not seem improbable that the archetype of wholeness occupies as such a central position which approximates it to the God-image.”
  3. Carl Jung’s letter to The Listener (as a supplement to his statement in the BBC interview mentioned in the next footnote), January 21, 1960 p.133. The Uncertaintist. https://uncertaintist.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/jung-on-god.pdf
  4. John Freeman and his team filmed the interview at Jung’s house at Küsnacht (near Zurich, Switzerland) in march 1959, it was broadcast in Great Britain on October 22, 1959. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBYEFX2dqpM
  5. Carl Jung, Letters, vol.1, p.44.
  6. Jeffrey C. Miller, The Transcendent Function, p.3, “Jung eventually came to believe that one cannot individuate, that is, one cannot become the person he or she is meant to be, without conversing with and coming to terms with the unconscious. The transcendent function is the primary means through which that reconciliation is accomplished.”

2 thoughts on “Phenomenology of the Divine: Husserl and Jung

  1. Pingback: Repost: Phenomenology of the Divine: Husserl and Jung – The Dog Walks

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