Archetypes & Criticality

Archetypes & Criticality

Jung’s acausal theory of synchronicity was a step toward a complete theory of the symbol. Hogenson (2004) suggests symbolic systems obey the same rules of scaling as other systems. Symbolic systems can therefore be understood as exhibiting the characteristics of a power law distribution, which led to the discovery of fractals. Mandelbrot realized that the exponent in a power law defined a pattern of self-similar structure in the phenomenon under investigation that was “scale invariant” — fractal.

A power law means that there is no such thing as a normal or typical event, and that there is no qualitative difference between the larger and smaller fluctuations. Scale-free power laws reveal a lack of any expected size for the next event. Upheavals are not unusual. A big event need not have a cause. The causes that trigger a small change on one occasion may initiate a devastating change on another, and no analysis of the conditions at the initial point will suffice to predict the event. The famous example of the “butterfly theory” in chaos theory was understated, as the butterfly would be only one event that led to the hurricane’s emergence.

Jung described synchronicity as a juxtaposition of a psychic state with a state in the material world that resulted in the emergence of meaning and a transition in the individual’s state or understanding of the world. Emergence is a phenomenon associated with systems. Synchronicity is an aspect of the symbolic that exhibits a high degree of “symbolic density.” Tuning is crucial to reach a critical point in which any tiny event can trigger a huge upheaval. Sometimes criticality can be tuned by nature on its own. Each theme has its archetypes. Archetypes are universal concepts determining a probability field. All the most powerful ideas in history are rooted in archetypes.

When the density of symbolic activity reaches a steep pitch, a phase transition or a symbolic avalanche is precipitated and radically reorganizes the whole subjective/objective world. What counts in the critical state is the simple underlying features of geometry that control how influences can propagate. Fractals and power laws are at work in settings where the critical state underlies their dynamics. Fractals can be produced by chaos, but they also arise in processes of growth or evolution.

Dynamic phenomena manifest physical and energetic characteristics which are archetypal..Criticality is an archetype describing natural phenomena. Organizing criticality” occurs at a bifurcation or saddle point of crisis/opportunity. Thus, psyche is a self-organizing, self-similar domain. Most phenomena are smaller in their own right, but self-similar to the great events of the collective unconscious. The system reflects on or mirrors itself. The “objectivity of the psyche” is a self-reflective capacity, evident as modes of consciousness, then retrojected, somewhat modified, back into the psyche.

The symbolic world is characterized by phase transitions, that occur at the threshold of phenomenal transformation. An associative network shapes the psychic reality of the individual. Associative networks (gestalts), complexes, archetypes, synchronistic events and creative emergence become evident through a series of self-organized critical transitional moments that result in phase transitions within the symbolic system as a whole. They are the result of small symbolic developments that don’t stop. Small symbols add together into denser symbol sets with chaotic structure. Details are not important in deciding the outcome.

In the Journal of Analytical Psychology, Saunders, a mathematician, and Skar, a Jungian analyst, argue that the developmental forces usually thought to originate from the archetype arise instead out of the complexes, which are formed through self- organization in the brain/mind. In this view, the “archetype” is not something that forms the complexes; it is a class of complexes which fall into the same general category (Saunders and Skar 2001). Archetypes represent something as a state of self-organized criticality, an “iterative moment” of psychic synthesis. Archetypes are emergent properties of developmental processes.

Given that archetypes exist, how do they come into being and how the idea of archetypes can be aligned with advances in scientific thinking? Hogenson says the archetype does not exist, in the sense of being a discrete ontologically definable entity with a place in the genome or the cognitive arrangement of modules or schemas in the brain. Rather, the archetype, like the complex, is an iterative moment in the self-organization of the symbolic world in a critical phase change that radically reorganizes while maintaining its fractal, self-similar structure. The complex and the archetype are fundamentally structured like the symbol, only the archetype exhibits itself at the point where symbolic density transcends the carrying capacity of the complex and moves into a more collective realm.

The brain at rest or in expectancy holds itself in a state of self-organized criticality. Nature as a computational process is at the heart of self-organized criticality. Not all events in the physical world are predetermined with absolute precision, or causal results. Indeterminism is the concept that events (certain events, or events of certain types) are not caused, or not caused deterministically (causality) by prior events. It is the opposite of determinism and related to chance. Indeterminism has been promoted by the French biologist Jacques Monod (Nobel Prize 1965,), Werner Heisenberg (Nobel Prize 1932), and Murray Gell-Mann (Nobel Prize 1969). The physicist-chemist Ilya Prigogine (Nobel Prize 1977) argued for indeterminism in complex systems.

Chaos theory and its succesor theory, self-organizing criticality (SOC) have shown that large interactive systems perpetually organize themselves to a critical state in which a minor event starts a chain reaction that can lead to a catastrophe. Criticality describes a dynamical process, merely metastable, which is even now building toward the next set of catastrophic reorderings. Although composite systems produce more minor events than catastrophes, chain reactions of all sizes are an integral part of the dynamics. Furthermore, composite systems never reach equilibrium but instead evolve from one metastable state to the next. A system in criticality, however, offers no neutral ground. Once in it, you are of it, as we learn after catastrophe.

Jung saw archetypes as primordial patterns, common to all human beings, affecting the way we perceive, imagine and think, and by structuring psychic apprehension, influencing behavior profoundly (Stevens, 1982). They are paradigms, rules or schema: “active living dispositions, ideas in the Platonic sense, that perform and continually influence our thoughts feelings and actions” (CW 8:154)i. Jung imagined archetypes operating at the deepest level of the psyche, and originating in the collective unconscious. We cannot observe them directly; they are but general structures determining a probability field that encompasses a range of actual events, images and experiences (Jacobi, 1974; von Franz, 1975; Edinger, 1972). From the archetypes arise archetypal images (Jacobi, 1962)–universal symbols, myths and motifs.

Abrams and Primack write: “if we were to possess a transnationally shared, believable picture of the cosmos, including a mythic-quality story of its origins and our origins — a picture recognized as equally true for everyone on this planet — we humans would see our problems in an entirely new light, and we would almost certainly solve them.”

Our ancestors may have had as much native intelligence as we do, but being dead doesn’t make you smarter, so in retrieving their “wisdom” we may bog ourselves down in the undertow of outmoded thinking, swayed by emotional draw to archetypal fascinations, stereotypical superstitions, and magnetic symbolism. Yet, each person cleaves to their limited interpretations, conceptions, and overdrawn conclusions like a jealous lover.

Consciousness doesn’t mistake itself for a god; people do. Some cultures are still locked in worshiping their version of God, while others have reduced god to the personalistic level, wishing to be that through such memes as co-creation, LOA, and “intentionality”. The later is thinly disguised ego-aggrandizement. Whether that is possible in any sense or not, it is hubris, or spiritual pride, an addictive state of the ego that opens the door to self-deception, even in science.

Big Questions will always remain as our understanding is necessarily limited. We are receivers of revelatory downloads in symbolic and cognitive form that can change the paradigm. But we lack the capacity to “know” it all, which is reserved to the archetypal domain. Thus, the unified theory, which would be more than theory bacause it actually describes reality, remains elusive.

Professor Russell Stannard offers unanswerable questions that include:

“The brain is a physical object and many people liken it to an elaborate computer. But unlike a computer the brain is conscious.” What is consciousness?

Free will versus determinism: “Will a scientist be able to to predict what anyone does in the future? That doesn’t match with our decision to make a choice – it is the free will versus determinism question”.
“Why is there a world in the first place? Why is there something rather than nothing?”
“If the world was chaotic, there’s nothing to explain. Certain things happen and other things cannot happen because of the Laws of Nature. But why are there any laws at all?”
Is mathematics something human beings invented or something we discovered?

For all of us to be here, many many conditions had to be satisfied. The chance of life happening on earth, and satisfying those conditions were “practically zero”. We find ourselves in one of these freak universes.

How do you prove that there are universes other than our own?
Cosmologists are able to describe the tiniest fraction of a second after the Big Bang. There was neither space nor time before the Big Bang. Some theories do not require nor include a Big Bang at all, making it’s “cause” meaningless.
Does the universe go on forever? Where is its border and where does it stop?
No one knows what the smallest unit of distance or time is, or the length of a “string”.

We are appropriating for our own consumption a large and increasing fraction of the biological productivity of the entire earth. This is why we need to figure out quickly how to transition out of the current period of worldwide human inflationary growth as gently and justly as possible. Cosmology can help – by providing a model for this seemingly insurmountable task. The way that cosmology, and cosmic thinking, can help is to provide an accurate big picture of the universe that might motivate people to change enough, fast enough. Abrams and Primack argue that for the human race to take responsible and meaningful action, we must first agree on a common creation story.


~ by ionamiller on December 9, 2011.

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