Carl Jung has written extensively about the value of the tension between opposites. He says:
Whatever attitude exists in the conscious mind, and whichever psychological function is dominant, the opposite is in the unconscious. …The repressed content must be made conscious so as to produce a tension of opposites, without which no forward movement is possible. The conscious mind is on top, the shadow underneath, and just as high always longs for low and hot for cold, so all consciousness, perhaps without being aware of it, seeks its unconscious opposite, lacking which it is doomed to stagnation, congestion, and ossification. Life is born only of the spark of opposites. -The Problem of the Attitude Type
Alchemy is an ancient practice based on the idea of separating materials, bringing them into proximity in the retort, and subjecting them to heat to see how they interact. The practitioners didn’t know, but they were inventing psychology. We now see that a dialog between opposites helps us to recognize the qualities of our reality.
The interaction needn’t be a conflict per se, but can rise to the level of a spirited dialog between perspectives, both of which serve to enlighten the other.
“The Opposites” have been recognized since the time of The Ancients. Taoism symbolizes this with the “Yin/Yang” symbol, differentiating masculine and feminine energies.
“Beneath the decent façade of consciousness with its disciplined moral order and its good intentions lurk the crude instinctive forces of life, like monsters of the deep–devouring, begetting, warring endlessly. They are for the most part unseen, yet on their urge and energy life itself depends: without them living beings would be as inert as stones. But were they left to function unchecked, life would lose its meaning, being reduced once more to mere birth and death, as in the teeming world of the primordial swamps. In creating civilization [humanity] sought, however unconsciously, to curb these natural forces and to channel some part at least of their energy into forms that would serve a different purpose. For with the coming of consciousness, cultural and psychological values began to compete with the purely biological aims of unconscious functioning.” -M. Esther Harding, Psychic Energy: Its Source and Its Transformation
When the rules and dogmas of civilization bind too tightly, we have no choice but to return to our Source to find answers to complex problems. The only choice is renewal.
Confluence ’23 will take a deep dive into our Collective Unconscious, with the hopeful expectation that some useful answers will emerge.
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” -Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
“The greater the tension between the pairs of opposites, the greater will be the energy that comes from them… And the less chance is there of subsequent disturbances which might arise from friction with material not previously constellated.” -Jung; On Psychic Energy, CW 8.
“As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be any one of us. Nobody can afford to look around and to wait for somebody else to do what [we] are loath to do [ourselves]. But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worthwhile for each of us to ask whether by any change his or her unconscious may know something that will help us. Certainly the conscious minds seems unable to do anything useful in this respect. ” -Jung, Man and His Symbols