Sum it up for me

Aion – Class 21 by Edward Edinger


The Reciprocality Principle

The reference to this is found in paragraph [355], where Jung speaks of the Self as being true complexio oppositorum. Paragraph [355]:

“[355] The self is a true “complexio oppositorum,” though this does not mean that it is anything like as contradictory in itself. It is quite possible that the seeming paradox is nothing but a reflection of the enantiodromian changes of the conscious attitude…”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Paragraph 355 – Carl Jung

“[355] The same is true of the unconscious in general, for its frightening figures may be called forth by the fear which the conscious mind has of the unconscious. The importance of consciousness should not be underrated; hence it is advisable to relate the contradictory manifestations of the unconscious causally to the conscious attitude, at least in some degree.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Paragraph 355 – Carl Jung

Now Jung is here referring to what I wanna underline by baptizing it a fancy name. It’s what I call the reciprocality principle and I think it’s important enough to warrant such a name because if you really understand how this works, it’s very valuable.

I’m using the word reciprocal as it’s used in mathematics. The reciprocality principle states that the Unconscious responds inversely to the conscious Ego. That’s the reciprocality principle and what I mean by that is this: we know that every number in mathematics has a reciprocal. The reciprocal of 5 is 1/5. To find the reciprocal one has to turn a whole number into a fraction, or into a fractional notation at least, in another words has to turn it into a double term. The reciprocal of 2/3 is 3/2.

See the idea is that reciprocality can exist only when 2 terms exist, so that a whole number has to be turned into a fractional expression. When one multiplies two reciprocals the product is always 1. That’s psychologically significant, I think. Now this is all relevant to the Ego’s relation to the Unconscious. The Ego’s relation to any particular psychological quality or content can be expressed in a fractional term and then according to the reciprocality principle the unconscious manifestation of that quality will be an inverse ratio or a reciprocal of the conscious manifestation.

Let me give you an example of that. I’ve put an example on the board. Let’s say we’re dealing with the quality of aggressivity on a scale of 10. So at 0, one would be total victim, total, quivering, knee-shaking, fleeing victim. At the other end 10, would be total aggressor, chasing, attacking, totally. Well, let’s say that our particular Ego is very much in the victim realm, let’s say he’s got an aggressivity fraction of 2/10. That means he’s very much a victim, he’s only got 2 out of 10 of an aggressive tendency. By this principle then, the Unconscious will have an aggressivity fraction of 10/2, in other words, if the Ego is very much identified with being a victim the Unconscious will have the aggressor constellated in it and will start chasing the Ego and the Ego, of course, will be running. Now we all know in observing animals that if one animal runs, if a cat runs, a dog will chase it. If the cat stops running and turns around, the dog suddenly stops and it might start running, you see. That illustrates how the Unconscious can work.

And this works not only within the individual, it also works with the individual’s relation to his environment. If I behave in very much of a weak, fearful victim role, here, at my desk, it won’t be long before this whole crowd will be after me, I can promise you.

That’s the way the Unconscious works and this is the way the transference and the counter-transference work too. So that if you have a patient who is very much identified with the victim, no matter how mild mannered and gentle you may think you are, if you’re alert, you’ll catch yourself bullying him or her, because that’s what’s constellated. And it works in all sorts of other qualities too. You see, characteristically a patient comes to see us because the patient is feeling sick, weak, or wounded, and then that constellates in the analyst the contrasting powers of health, power, healing, and as long as those things just remain carried by the analyst they don’t help the patient at all and the task is how to reverse those reciprocal fractions, to know how to hand over what’s been constellated in the analyst and how to hand it back to the patient. That’s not so easy to do. It’s easier said than done. But it’s a big help at least to know what’s going on and I think the reciprocality principle is helpful there.

I use that term rather than calling it reciprocity, because reciprocity carries ordinarily a different meaning: mutuality. It’s a different kind meaning for us.

The Uncertainty Principle

This is also referred to in paragraph [355], on page 226, top of the page, where Jung says:

“[355] Between the conscious and the unconscious there is a kind of “uncertainty relationship,” because the observer is inseparable from the observed and always disturbs it by the act of observation. In other words, exact observation of the unconscious prejudices observation of the conscious and vice versa.”

Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2, Paragraph 355 – Carl Jung

Now, Jung puts this term “uncertainty relationship” in quotes indicating he has a particular reference there and what he is referring to is the uncertainty principle nuclear physics that was first formulated by Werner Heisenberg. This principle stated that the position and velocity of a subatomic object cannot both be measured exactly at the same time, even in theory. That’s because any attempt to measure precisely the velocity of a subatomic particle, such as an electron, knocks it about in an unpredictable way so that if its velocity is to be measured, than the very act of observing it upsets its position. Or if its position is to be measured than that alters its velocity.

The idea is that the very act of observation of subatomic particles alters their condition, so that exact, objective readings are impossible. It means than the observer is drawn into the data he is observing and influences it in a unavoidable way.

Now precisely the same state of affairs pertains in our observation of the Unconscious. You see the Unconscious is altered by the process of observation. That means that there is no such thing as an absolutely objective piece of psychological data from the Unconscious, because in order to have observed that data, you as the observer had to have seen it, you had to have touched it and you’ve brought it back, and in the process of doing all that, you’ve put your fingerprints on it.
The Unconscious is altered by the process of observation, but the reverse is also true. Both the observer and the observed influence each other. Not only does the Ego influence the Unconscious when it observes it, but also the Unconscious, the Self, modifies the Ego by observing it, because the observation process is a two-way street. That may not be immediately evident to you, but it can be demonstrated with a lot of psychological data I assure you. There is an “Eye of God” aspect to the Self which observes the Ego just as the Ego when it reaches a certain level can observe the Self. So that’s what’s Jung is referring to in that reference to the “uncertainty relationship”.

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