This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Simpson and Dr. Weber April 7, 2010
For the first of many centuries life seemed to matter. The gods watched over us and everything was sensible and explainable. Then the great thinkers began tearing at what it meant to be sensible, what was really explainable, and soon there was not even gods. The beginning of the twenty-century was akin to a troubled birth. A unanimous psychic scream raged across the world. For the first time man1 had lost his direction. With the revolutionary ideas of painters, poets, musicians, philosophers, gardeners, professors, madmen, and kings looking to the absurd nature of man and trying to cling to metaphysical apron strings the world was upside . To
better understand the nature of this shift in western convention of the early twentieth-century one must look to; the consciousness theories of Jung, the absurd revolts of Camus, and the painted nightmares of Dali. The first change of vital importance is that of how man views himself. Jung used Psychoanalysis to explain the soul of man, giving insight to a forgotten self (Jung, Basic Writing 107). This unconscious was an undercurrent of psychic force that man is unable to access (37). This notion that man was not in control shook the old tradition of man being a rational thinking creature (44). No longer could man hide even in his own head. Jung as well wrote on how man can be evil and more importantly that every man creates some evil with even every good act (Mod. Man in Search Soul, 199). He says, ³Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing that is good can come into the world without directly producing a corresponding evil´ which breaks the belief that man could be innocent or blameless. Just as ³there is no sun without shadow«´ (Camus, Sisyphus 123) so is no deed without consequence. ³This is a painful fact,´ he goes on to say, man is no longer in control or even good (Mod. Man in Search Soul, 199).
I will use man in the tense of mankind, and use male pronouns for ease and continuity.
Then Jung challenged the world¶s convention on the source of god-given truths. He introduces the collective unconscious (Jung, Basic Writing 108), stating that it is the originator of basic archetypes. A psyche shared by all humans as ancient as the Earth itself pulls away conventions of meaning in life and removes the individual from society and creates a collective mind set (118). This can ³crush´ the soul and displace man in the society so carefully constructed for him (119). At the same time Jung was pulling the soul apart, Camus was defining it for us. He laid out the theory of the absurd (Sisyphus, 11). The idea defines the inability to make meaningful connections with others; I am not a tree, a dog, a pen, not even another person. Man creates and separates himself form his own. This ³absurd universe´ sounds ridiculous (12), but this call to consciousness herald the ³awakening´ of the mechanical man (13). The people began to think about whom they were, why did they exist? Camus speaks at length on the crimes of man. How is it that a man can kill logically and be justified but kill for passion and be imprisoned (Camus, Rebel 3)? He speaks on how can one justify the murder and enslavement of ³seventy million´ people without it being wrong. He explains al length how man has to find to except these facts through an ever widening definition of the absurd (5). He begins with the principle of indifference whereby man can justify murder by it not mattering; he says, ³If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance.´ Though nihilistic in practice, this reasoning entices if not invites ridicule. How is everything possible? Because by eliminating our values, our creeds, we become empowered to anything. We just accept what happens and decide not to care about it.
This chipping at mankind¶s soul makes him seem all the more insignificant and mechanical. Making man merely a vessel to carry out the tasks of living for no reason; doomed to repeat our mistakes over and over again, doomed to be free. Locked in time, between future and past, man is destined to never cease his labor of living (Camus, Sisyphus 121). What of God and the absurd? How is it, Camus asks, if God is all-powerful can there be evil (Camus, Sisyphus 56)? If we are free is God truly omnipotent? Camus strikes the pinnacle of arguments against the church. Questioning translations and misinterpretations, citing conflicting stories and parables, even science becomes childish and utterly useless. Attacking the very essence of a god tumbles the entire faith! Evolution is pale in comparison. Before this man could justify his actions by a deity (Camus, Sisyphus 57), but what ground can one stand on if no hierarchy of morals truly exist (56)? In one swift move of a pen, a strike of a type hammer, Camus negated all that man had held sacred. The freedom to live is stripped by the loss of eternity (57). Man is a ³slave without hope of eternal revolution, without recourse to contempt,´ removing the reason for even trying to revolt against the fruitless and meaningless world. The artist who best exemplifies these phenomena of change is that of Salvador Dali. He paints his inner being onto the canvas. When one looks on The Temptation of St. Anthony they know right from the start this is not a literal work. Here we are transported to a new world that is given essence by the neurotics of Dali¶s mind. We are taken to a place where elephants can be one-hundred-and-fifty feet tall, nude women ride on their backs, and St Anthony seems to be the only one who stands against them .
What does this mean? Does it mean anything? Or a better question, should it mean anything? Jung states that: On the basis of these conclusions and for the purpose of ascertaining the meaning of the dream, I have developed a procedure which I call ³talking up the context.´ This consists in making sure that every shade of meaning which each salient feature of the dream has for the dreamer is determined by the associations of the dreamer himself (Jung, Basic Writings 367). So as a dream it can only be truly unraveled by Dali himself. This does not stop everyman from trying to determine what it could mean. The mind begins to turn over in its wrinkles what it has to say about each individual. The absurdities of these worlds however continue to separate us from truth. One could say that each elephant represents a sort of authority; religion, science, government, and in the distance war. The horse could be the white horse of the Christ mentioned in Revelations. The wasteland could be the depraved soul of man, arid and dead like Camus describes in The Myth of Sisyphus. All of which tempt St Anthony to make a choice to join the abominations or die in the desert clutching his cross, his last shred of humanity²imagined or created for him it is all that holds him together« Is that interpretation true? To one it could be the truth, but the absurd separate man from sharing it. If Dali was to resurrect from the dead and tell the world its meaning we would be no closer to truly understanding it just as no one can understand one another (Camus, Sisyphus 13). Yet man is a member of the collective unconscious, an ocean that unites man¶s basic ideas of the world trough inborn lessons (Jung, Basic Writings 287). Man has stored deep inside his personal
consciousness archetypes that come from outside himself. These traditions are changed over time by culture but man retains there basic meanings (288) and shares these common views. What does all this amount to? So humans cannot experience and fully know each other but we share a consciousness that allows us to share in these emotions? This is the very problem that mankind is faced with in the beginning of the twentieth-century, what does it all mean? It means change. Simply put the turn of that century marked the end of innocence. Darkness sweated over man and now there was nowhere to hide. Psychic pain had always played itself out in secrete, but now the darkness of man¶s soul was unmasked (Jung, Mod. Man in Search Soul, 203). This revolution in man¶s conscious grew out of World War. Modern man was forced to find his own worth, and found himself politically and morally like anyone else. Man finds his worth and more importantly he cares about it. He decides that he must find morality for himself, with or without a god (Camus, Rebel 98). When man weights nothing and hate against love and freedom; nothing and hate are found lacking (99). Camus finds that wisdom such as politics and religion is uncomfortable if not unbearable, while Surrealism is comforting. In art we find meaning and wisdom in a form that is not based on logic. One finds, as one often does, that religions, logic, and conformity offer a freedom (Camus, Sisyphus 54). They relive the weight of the shadow in the heart of man. The weight of these psychic forces cannot be supported by man¶s conventions and set him aside from generations past (Jung, Mod. Man in Search Soul 203). These ideas are destructive; "Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.'' (Dali 1929). Just as existentialism and psychoanalysis are destroyers, but only to what holds man back from defining himself, from being free.
Thus man is left with nothing. He is original, cannot connect with others, and is alone. Or is he? Camus states that man is separated from one another, but Jung states that we share a common bond in our unconscious. Can we be both together and apart? We may not be able to make a meaningful connection with another completely, but we share a common existence. Our essence however is created from the same collective. What connects us is in our psychic performances, or play (Jung, Basic Writings 331). The universe is either ³sterile or futile´; the struggle of life or simply existing is reason enough to carry on (Camus, Sisyphus 123). The absurd is what connects man after his conception (21). What makes these men different from their predecessors is their defiance of reason. Man no longer has to be logical, man is not logical. Jung, Camus, and Dali exemplify the loss of tradition. Man is free and no longer a servant to any but his own will. Dreams, emotions, and the mind they are contained in are not rational, thusly neither should we force it to be. These three show that when religion and reason fail man turns upon himself, and these internal eternal struggles risked tearing the world apart. Though creativity, though psychic play, man frees himself. This change, this rebellion by the collective, this Promethean denial of meaninglessness, this is what it meant to be change. This is what signals the transformation of modern man, his stand against the will of nothingness.
Work Cited Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Trans. Justin O'Brien. New York: Vintage, 1991. Print. Camus, Albert. The Rebel, An Essay Man in Revolt. Comp. Anthony Bower. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956. Print. Jung, C. G. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. Trans. W. S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, 1985. Print. Jung, Carl G. The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung. Ed. Violet S. De Laszlo. New York: Random House, 1959. Print. "Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.'' -- Salvador Dalí, Declaration, 1929.