Brahms’s Requiem: “All Flesh is as Grass”

As I age I think more about death, especially as I see relatives and friends dropping away. I am blessed with good health and with genes that indicate continuing longevity, so I am not morbid about myself in these ruminations.

I still feel the absence of my father, my sister Diane, my life-long friend Fred Pape, and, quite recently, Uncle Harry whose oft-repeated phrase suddenly popped into my head at the proper occasion: “take it easy.” To indulge and assuage these thoughts and feelings I listen to music: most often Chopin and Grieg, occasionally Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff to evoke my mother.

I recently ‘discovered’ liturgical music, primarily the Mozart “Great” Mass in C Minor and his Requiem; and, the Stabat Mater of Pergolesi. Although I will never tire of them, I play them less often now, as I can conjure elements of each in my head when I wish. What I most recently have discovered that my favorite “classical” composer, Brahms, also wrote a requiem, about which more below.


A requiem is an act or token of remembrance. The word is from the Latin requies, ‘rest’, as in requiescat in pace—‘rest in peace’.

The “act or token” is most often conducted as a Christian ceremony in recognition of someone’s death (also groups of people).

The “act” in church is often accompanied by music written specifically for remembering the dead. In this setting, the requiem takes the form of a liturgical mass.

Simply stated a ‘requiem’ is an occasion to remember someone upon his or her death, and to wish her or him a peaceful “rest.”

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) wrote a magnificent piece of music for such an occasion, Ein Deutsches Requiem (1868), “A German Requiem.” And, even though he used text from the Old and New Testaments of the Lutheran Bible (in German, not the traditional Latin, hence the “German” in the title), it was not written to be performed in church, although there is nothing to prevent this. Nowhere in the text of the vocal portion of the music is there mention of Jesus Christ as is required for a liturgical mass.

He did use “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” of chapter 3, verse 16 of the Gospel of John (King James Version cited here). But, as he told conductor Karl Reinthaler, “As far as the text is concerned, I confess that I would gladly omit even the word German and instead use Human; also with my best knowledge and will I would dispense with passages like John 3:16. On the other hand, I have chosen one thing or another because I am a musician, because I needed it, and because with my venerable authors [the Old and New Testaments] I can’t delete or dispute anything. But I had better stop before I say too much.” (Source).

Before discovering this piece, I was unaware that Brahms had written what could be termed ‘religious’ music. In researching this article I found he was not formally a religious man, but has been described as a ‘humanist,’ a term and concept I find almost abhorrent. I hasten to add I am not a member of any church or religion, and do not proselytize anything. I have written elsewhere on this, so will refrain from explaining further.

Nonetheless, I find that the second movement of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, “All Flesh is as Grass,” grabs me and moves me as well as any of the liturgical music mentioned above. I perceive Brahms having been inspired by a power greater than man, just as with Pergolesi, Bach, Mozart and countless others who have written liturgical and secular music.

Here is the translated text of the second movement of Ein Deutsches Requiem, “All Flesh is as of Grass” (Source):

1 Peter 1:24
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.

James 5:7
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandmen waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

1 Peter 1:25
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.

Isaiah 35:10
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

The words speak for themselves. The music contains a death march, but ends in the glory indicated by the words.

einstein-visualized reversed.jpg

So, I think of those who have departed, immersed in music which celebrates death, becoming spent of sorrowful emotions and filled with strength for the journey which continues.

Posted in Being Old, Essays, Family, Music | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


No, I don’t mean being well-dressed and -coiffed, or never having violated any social code. These are the connotations with which I imbued the word when I was a youth. What I mean now is being true, as in…

FPS-318497_1zThis above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82

Why am I bringing this subject up here and now? A house guest, a young woman, left her book in our living room, forgetting to pack it for her trip back home to San Jose, California: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by don Miguel Ruiz. Despite it being a best-selling book in a realm I’m interested in, I hadn’t heard of it nor of don Miguel.

As I read through it, I was instantly familiar with the “Toltec” words and phrases. This is because I had read all the books of Carlos Castaneda, the first one being, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. I had not known, or had since forgotten, that don Juan Matus, the Yaqui brujo who takes Carlos as his student, was inculcating him in ancient Toltec traditions. Now I am indelibly reminded.

One of the words and concepts I have retained from Castaneda’s books is that of “impeccability.” Paraphrasing don Juan Matus in Castaneda’s books (from memory), “a warrior must be impeccable; he must conduct himself with impeccability.” This word and concept is the first and “most important” of the “Four Agreements” which don Ruiz puts forth in his book. He states it thus: “Be Impeccable With Your Word.”

Impeccable comes from the Latin pecatus, and means “without sin.” A sin is anything you do which goes against yourself. Everything you feel or believe or say which goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself…

Being impeccable with your word is not using the word against yourself… Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself…

Looking at  everyday human interactions, imagine how many times we cast spells on each other with our word. Over time this interaction has become the worst form of black magic, and we call it gossip

There is more, with plenty of advice on how to live correctly. Fundamentally, if one is true to oneself, one will not be false to others, just as in the advice cited above from Hamlet. The remaining three of the “Four Agreements” are: don’t take anything personally; don’t make assumptions; always do your best.

"The Wisdom of don Juan Matus" Xreiazomai Community

“The Wisdom of don Juan Matus”
Xreiazomai Community

Carlos Castaneda’s teacher, don Juan Matus, has much more to say about being impeccable, and carries it into extra-ordinary life, the life of a warrior and a sorcerer—but still within the same Toltec framework within which don Miguel Ruiz operates. Here are but a very few of the instructions and admonitions given by don Juan Matus to his student Carlos:

The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything either as a blessing or as a curse. A warrior must be impeccable.

Impeccability is to do your best in whatever you’re engaged in. A warrior always makes sure that everything is in proper order, not because he believes that he is going to survive the ordeal he is about to undertake, but because that is part of his impeccable behavior.

Impeccability is nothing else but the proper use of energy.

Part of being impeccable for a warrior is never to hinder others with his thoughts. The hardest thing in the world is for a warrior to let others be. The lets them be and supports them in what they are; you trust them to be impeccable warriors themselves. If they are not then it’s your duty to be impeccable yourself and not say a word. Every effort to help on our part is an arbitrary act guided by our own self-interest alone.

The only freedom warriors have is to behave impeccably. A warrior is a prisoner of power; a prisoner who has one free choice: the choice to act either like an impeccable warrior, or to act like an ass. He cannot act in any other way but impeccably. To act like an ass would drain him and cause his demise.

The self-confidence of a warrior is not the self-confidence of the average man. The average man seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness.

A warrior is never under siege. To be under siege implies that one has personal possessions that could be blockaded. A warrior has nothing in the world except his impeccability, and impeccability cannot be threatened.

A warrior cannot be helpless, or bewildered or frightened, not under any circumstances. For a warrior there is time only for his impeccability; everything else drains his power, impeccability replenishes it.

Don Juan’s lessons to Carlos include what it is to be a sorcerer, who must also be impeccable, but he or she will not be a “prisoner” of that impeccability. These lessons go far beyond what don Miguel presents in his small but valuable book on “The Four Agreements.”

It is pleasing to know that a friend of my granddaughter, she who left her book behind, is already studying in a realm which can lead her to be a warrior, or even a sorcerer. In Castaneda’s later books it is the women he meets who are the most powerful sorcerers.

“The Four Agreements” is a worthy primer for young people who may wish later to read more deeply into the Toltec tradition, as presented by Carlos Castaneda in his books.

A compilation of all don Juan Matus’s teachings to Carlos Castaneda can be viewed here, at the site of Rick Mace.

Posted in ancient traditions, indigenous magic, Meso-American tradition, Toltec tradition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Haiku as an Approximation of Reality

I opened a book I hadn’t read in years, “The Tao of Physics” by Fritjof Capra. As I read the initial pages I was moved to write this:

haiku-verticalI see the same words I read years ago
I understand more than I understood then
The years have been a good teacher

If I read this book ten years from now
Will I understand even more?
Or should I read another book?

Don’t seek an answer
Accept knowledge as it comes
The wise do not force

The third stanza is in the form of a haiku, but it is not a true haiku, something I regret, often, when writing in this form. The discipline of limiting a thought or impression to seventeen syllables is compelling to me, and I tend to forget that the essence of this form is to present ‘reality’ in an indirect, non-linear way. The above poem is too direct.

Here is what Capra writes. I have edited this passage only to eliminate words which I feel are not essential to the message:

Taoists use paradoxes in order to expose the inconsistencies arising from verbal communication and to show its limits. This has passed on to Chinese and Japanese Buddhists who have developed it further. It has reached its extreme in Zen Buddhism with the koans, riddles used by many Zen masters to transmit the teachings. In Japan, there is yet another mode of expressing philosophical views, extremely concise poetry used to point directly at the ‘suchness’ of reality. When a monk asked Fuketsu Ensho, ‘When speech and silence are both inadmissible, how can one pass without error?’ The monk replied:

I always remember Kiangsu in March—
The cry of partridge
The mass of fragrant flowers

This form of spiritual poetry has reached its perfection in the haiku, a classical Japanese verse of just seventeen syllables which is deeply influenced by Zen.

Leaves falling
lie on one another;
The rain beats the rain.

When eastern mystics express their knowledge in words with the help of myths, symbols and poetic images, they are aware of the limitations imposed by language and linear thinking.


Here is a definition of the haiku form of poetry:

Haiku (俳句) is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:

1. The juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji (“cutting word”) between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.
2. Traditional haiku consist of 17 on (also known as morae), in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5.
3. A kigo (seasonal reference).

There is a common, although relatively recent, perception that the images juxtaposed must be directly observed everyday objects or occurrences. (Source).

Upon completing my first reading of this book, I wrote this:

To be self-conscious,
The Universe created
Man, who now asks, ‘why?’

Again, this is not a true Haiku, but I review it here to observe, in public, my perceptions of some time ago.

I have many books, in English, about the history of haiku and its ancient masters, especially Basho, Buson, and Issa.


01963von a leafless bough
a crow is sitting—autumn
darkening now


the evening breezes
the water splashes against
a blue heron’s shins


“the peony was a big as this”
says the little girl
opening her arms

(Issa is noted for his humor and whimsy)

The nature of eastern spiritual or philosophical thought (or ‘way’ is probably better) is to avoid abstractions, focusing on ordinary everyday things. I wrote these some years ago:

hiking God’s garden
lavender, forget-me-nots
myriad green lives

moon’s full face follows
summer traveler through the hills
brown from sun’s long kiss

horseshit pile on path
reminder of plainspoken
one preceding me

These words speak more directly to me of reality than the millions of words uttered and written by the great philosophers. Yet, I still read them.

one’s contradictions
should be carried carefully
like a basket of eggs

You can read the book in its entirety here

Posted in Essays, Haiku, Poetry, reality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part IIa

From the Red Book

From the Red Book

If you had read Part I of this two-part article, you were undoubtedly expecting “Part II” to appear here without the little ‘a’ attached. The reason for this incomplete follow-up is that I still have more reading and thinking to do.

Nonetheless, I have something to say after having spent seven days reading and taking notes from Jung’s books, including some of The Red Book, and also from books about Jung or influenced by Jung.

A brief, preliminary report:

  • C.G. Jung was born in 1875,  a gifted shaman in a culture which did not recognize such talents and abilities as useful or, probably, even proper. He hid his talents and proclivities from others.
  • He lived in a Swiss town where his family was, economically and socially, relatively poor. As a schoolboy he was perceived as different and socially excluded.
  • At around age eleven he gained a sudden insight, due to overhearing his father express concern for young Gustav, which broke him away from his childish pursuits and attitudes. He began a life of scholarship and inquiry concerning both the world at large and the nature of his own internal processes.
  • Around the same time Jung became aware of two personalities residing within him, which he later labeled “personality no.1” and “personality no.2”–his outer and inner selves, roughly speaking. 
  • Around the time of his confirmation in the Lutheran Church (his father was a minister), he was struggling with the concept of God, whether he might have blasphemed, and what God might want of him. He came out of this feeling he had discovered an aspect of God which the church was ignoring or had overlooked, and that he had a special insight.
  • He was ambitious and needed to excel and be influential in life, but was uncertain as to the best path until he fixed, first, on medicine, then psychology, then psychiatry.
  • He married a wealthy and intellectually gifted woman; this solved his issue with poverty and, I assume, to an important degree with respect to his social standing.
  • He became an acknowledged “number two” to Sigmund Freud which got him on the road toward the professional recognition he sought.
  • He developed, independently from Freud, his own views and work goals that he carefully and assiduously cloaked with the name of “science”.
  • Upon breaking with Freud he was ready to pursue, internally (i.e., inside himself–his “personality no.2”), the ideas, feelings, and insights he had gained from constant self-examination and from clinical findings in his patients. The Red Book was a result of this pursuit.

What am I trying to accomplish here?

crazy-egg4I’ll answer this in summary form, then offer a small essay on how I arrived at this point.

    • Will the dream content (“material”) arising from the collective unconscious, in dreams and otherwise, be similar in people from widely different cultures and geographical settings, e.g., Borneo vs the Siberian tundra?
    • Is psychology a science? Is psychiatry a science? Does it matter either way? Which of these disciplines did Jung practice? What is the difference between them?
    • In that the unconscious cannot be understood by rational analysis, how can we trust what has been written and otherwise explained about it, by anyone?
    • In that Carl Jung was a specific “type”, in his own system of psychological typology (INF-“Idealist, Healer, Counselor”, per Keirsey), is being one of these types more conducive to achieve an understanding and/or integration of one’s unconscious?
    • Must I analyze my dreams to successfully integrate my conscious mind with my unconscious, to individuate?
    • In that I am “type” INT (“Rational, Architect, Mastermind”, per Keirsey), will I be able sufficiently to understand what Jung experienced and taught?
    • Is it fair or proper to call Jung a “shaman” as I have done at the beginning of this article?

Also, I need to better understand the nature and function of the anima in men and the animus in women.

One of the characteristics of my “type” is that I need to make sense out things–how does it work; will it work? I am already convinced that there is no rational “sense” to the workings of the unconscious, particularly the part that Jung labels “collective”. Yet, what  Jung writes makes sense to me Perhaps it is the intuitive faculty we both share that bonds me to him and his views of man-in-nature.

Please stay tuned for “Part IIb”, the conclusion of this quest.

How I got to this point

jung-red-book-dragon-jungcurrentsUpon learning of the The Red Book through some reading last year, I felt compelled to learn more about it, especially about the images it contained. I found many of the images on the Internet. I needed to make my own book, feeling that the real one would not be available to me, so I copied and printed the larger-size images and put them in a binder. This was pleasing but not satisfying. I started to fantasize about buying the book via the Internet, but found the price and shipping charges prohibitive.

A short time after this, late last year, I was walking with my friend Eric on Drottninggatan (“Queen Street”) after having had our semi-regular fika and conversation in downtown Stockholm. I was telling him about my current obsession when I suddenly remembered that I had actually seen The Red Book in a shop further up this street some months ago, before I had learned about it in my reading. We found the remembered bookstore (Vattumannen), and there was the book prominently displayed on a high shelf. I was allowed to view it in the presence of an employee. After a few minutes of carefully turning the large and heavy pages, I knew I had to have the book even though it cost 1,500 Swedish Crowns (around $230).

2013-02-25 gröndal-06

The Guest House in Gröndal

This still wasn’t enough. I needed to be with the book, alone, for a significant period. I needed to experience, possibly, some of what Jung experienced during his plunge into his own unconscious. I thought of my friends near Uppsala who had once before allowed me to use their guest house for a writing retreat. They readily agreed and I scheduled my week for a few months later.

Prior to the “Jung retreat” I began re-reading many of my books which were about Jung. or influenced by Jung. But I discovered I had no books by Jung, except for Seven Sermons for the Dead which is also included in The Red Book and Answer to Job, an early work. Something I saw recommended two of his last books: Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a memoir dictated to and edited by an associate; and, Man and His Symbols, containing articles by Jung and other psychologists. I bought them and started reading his memoir a week before the retreat.

2013-02-25 ron in gröndal with sheri and svanteI made many marginal notes and underlinings in the memoir before my week of retreat, but didn’t finish the book. I brought the memoir, and all the other books I felt relevant to my interest in Jung, to the guest house and began to make notes from it in a large notebook. The further I read in the memoir, the more I felt it was the right thing to prepare me for The Red Book. After I finished it, I quickly re-read Colin Wilson’s biography of Jung, Lord of the Underworld, looking for some perspective on the memoir. I now saw Wilson’s biography of Jung as superficial in many respects, and that it wasn’t quite complete. I felt, therefore, there might be some value in augmenting Wilson’s observations with my own.

As I read through the Introduction to The Red Book, again making notes, I saw that the writer of the Introduction viewed it desirable to first read Jung’s memoir. I now saw that I had made the right decision to preempt my planned reading of The Red Book by continuing to read the memoir to completion. 

By the end of my planned stay in the guest house, I hadn’t quite gotten to read the last portion of The Red Book, the part that contains the English translation of Jung’s words in the book. So, I reckoned I would choose another time, at home, to do this reading.

From all my reading in the guest house, I felt much better qualified to understand anything that would follow in my studies of Jung, in and out of The Red Book.

I decided to read the other book, Man and His Symbols, to further prepare me for the remainder of the reading in The Red Book. It already is answering some of the questions I have formulated.


ADDENDUM, posted one day later (13 March 2013):

Upon further consideration, there will be no “Part IIb” to this multipart, too-lengthy essay on Jung’s Red Book and his other writings. Here’s why:

I am using my rational faculties to suck up facts and opinions in an orderly attempt to understand a non-rational, non-orderly thing: the human unconscious, or the right brain (or right lobe of the brain), or the subjective mind—and the contents of this entity: dreams, visions, nameless/unnameable things.

This exercise of my rational faculties, which are inherently strong and well-developed over their 76 years of use, is presenting a barrier to the exercise of my non-rational faculties—those presumably found in the areas hypothesized and inadequately named, above. I need to develop this area of my ‘self’ in order to perform the creative writing I keep telling myself I want and need to do.

I’ve learned enough through Jung, and life, to know there is a reservoir of stuff waiting to be tapped for my creative writing—and greater fulfillment in life.

I harken back to an insightful poem I wrote seven years ago:

Intellect & Soul

My intellect has been
My shield and my sword

My soul, retarded by this protection,
Has gained its voice over time

Now Soul says to Intellect:

I will not submerge you
I still need you as a partner

If you can relax and allow it”

Posted in Archetypes, Carl Jung, Consciousness, Instinct, mind, Philosophy, Psychology, Rational, Religion, The Self, The Unconscious | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part I of II

I will spend one week alone in the country, in a comfortable guest house lent to me by a friend living near Uppsala, Sweden, reading and immersing myself in the book by the renown psychologist Carl Jung, Liber Novus (Latin for ‘New Book’), or The Red Book as it is presented in English. I’ll explain more fully, below.

I intend to take notes and write whatever may come to mind during this happening, but I cannot predict the outcome—I don’t know what to expect by my diving into the psyche of Carl Jung.

The worst case is that I may have a psychotic break. If this should happen, my friend and her husband live close by in the main house. Also, I will send a text message to my wife in Stockholm every evening informing her of my status.

Why would I even contemplate such a possible outcome? Here is an edited excerpt from Wikipedia’s listing on The Red Book:

Carl Gustav Jung was associated with Sigmund Freud beginning in 1907. Their relationship became increasingly acrimonious. When the final break came in 1913, Jung retreated from many of his professional activities for a time to further develop his own theories. Biographers disagree as to whether this period represented a psychological breakdown. Anthony Storr, reflecting on Jung’s own judgment that he was “menaced by a psychosis” during this time, concluded that the period represented a psychotic episode.

Jung referred to the episode as a kind of experiment, a voluntary confrontation with the unconscious. Biographer Barbara Hannah, who was close to Jung later in his life, compared Jung’s experiences to the encounter of Menelaus with Proteus in the Odyssey. Jung, she said, “made it a rule never to let a figure or figures that he encountered leave until they had told him why they had appeared to him.”

About the Red Book, Jung said:

Carl Gustav Jung, 1875 – 1961

The years… when I pursued the inner images, were the most important time of my life. Everything else is to be derived from this. It began at that time, and the later details hardly matter anymore. My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me. That was the stuff and material for more than only one life. Everything later was merely the outer classification, scientific elaboration, and the integration into life. But the numinous beginning, which contained everything, was then. (Source)

So, I expect an adventure—an internal one which I cannot describe until I may experience it, and even then may not have words sufficient to communicate it to others. But I will try.


I have been reading about Jung, and reading some of his works (translated, of course, from the German), starting around 50 years ago when I was in university (Berkeley, California). I became superficially aware of his theories of archetypes and the collective unconscious and felt he was on to something. But, I was not pursuing a career in psychology and let the interest lie until I might be able to pursue it later.

Near the end of my career I became aware of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological profiling instrument for normal people, based in Jungian psychology. A consultant to my hospital performed this profiling for my management team to help us deal with some communication problems. It worked.

As I prepared for retirement from employent in the middle of my 66th year, intending to return to management consulting which I had occasionally done in my 40-year career, I attended a workshop to become qualified to administer and interpret the MBTI. I was successful.

In the ten years since I stopped being an employee and having more discretionary time than ever before, I have read several more books by and about Carl Jung (see next section), and have written three articles which mention or focus on his findings and teachings:

In Preparation for the Seven Days


Before I go on retreat I will re-read all the books I have collected by and about Jung and his theories:

That’s it.

I intend to post a subsequent article, Seven Days with Carl Jung, Part II of II, about whatever I realize from this inner adventure, within the limitations of mere words on a page.

Wish me luck.

Posted in Archetypes, Consciousness, Psychology, The Unconscious | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

In Praise of German Culture

My father was a Germanophile even though we haven’t any family history rooted in the Germanic peoples, except for a Dutch ancestor who emigrated to Nieuw Amsterdam in the 17th Century.

Conrad Harpending Pavellas (1913 – 2000)

Dad belonged to the German Club at the University of California, Berkeley, where he attended in the mid-1930s. He studied the language and culture of Germany, primarily of the 18th and 19th Centuries. He was horrified by the rise of National Socialism (Nazis) after World War One, but never gave up his love of the language (he spoke hochdeutsch), and of the literary and musical heroes of previous times.

What brings these memories to mind is a recent reading of the Introduction, by Thomas Mann, to Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian. In it Mann recounts other works by Hesse, including the one that guaranteed Hesse the Nobel Prize for Literature, Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game.” Mann writes this in the Introduction to Demian (in 1947):

German? Well, if that’s the question, this late work together with all the earlier work is in indeed German, German to almost an impossible degree, German in its blunt refusal to try to please the world, a refusal that in the end will be neutralized, whatever the old man (Hesse) may do, by world fame: for the simple reason that this is Germanic in the old, happy, free, and intellectual sense to which the name of Germany owes its best repute, to which it owes the sympathy of mankind.

Both Hesse and Mann were opposed to Germany’s role in the two world wars. Their writings reflected, explicitly in Mann’s books, their horror of war and of their despair toward fellow Germans who fomented it. They suffered deeply from the disrepute Germany gained from these wars.

Johannes Brahms
(1833- 1897)

A reminder of the large role Germany and its German-speaking neighbor, Austria, have had in the development of Western culture is in my current reading of Johannes Brahms: A Biography, by Jan Swafford.

Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined art for which Johann Sebastian Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by Joseph HaydnWolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honour the “purity” of these venerable “German” structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by diverse figures such as Arnold Schoenberg and Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms’s works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers. (Source).

Swafford’s biography of Brahms echoes the above quote, which is from another source, in that Brahms was ever-mindful of the legacy imparted to him by Bach and Beethoven, the Germans, and Haydn and Mozart, the Austrians—plus the influences of Franz Schubert (Austrian) and Robert Schumann (German), the latter being his mentor and champion. He “heard their footsteps” behind him.

Ludwig van Beethoven is so well known and regarded that I feel he must stand, for anyone, as the exemplar of German genius in the musical realm, although some will argue for Mozart. Some have said that God spoke through Mozart (I say this, especially when experiencing his Great Mass in C Minor); others have said that Beethoven felt God and he were on equal footing.

In summarizing the influence of German and Austrian composers, I look to some data.

Classical Archives lists 60 composers as “the greats”, of which fourteen, or 23%, are Austrian or German. My own list of great or notable composers from these two countries shows twenty-three names (please click on the image for clarity):

German-Austrian composers

To be sure, there were great composers from other countries during the 18th and 19th centuries: Bohemia (Czech Republic), England,  Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, and others. But none, in my view, can match the influence the Austrians and Germans had on the development of man’s most sublime art, music.

German literature, including poetry

I believe my father wanted to learn German, in large part, to read the great writers of the 18th and 19th Centuries in the original. These are the names I remember him talking about and quoting from:

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832)
Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)
Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(1749 – 1832)

Goethe was a German writer, artist, and politician. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, and over 10,000 letters written by him are extant, as are nearly 3,000 drawings. (Source).

Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last years of his life, Schiller struck up a productive, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. They frequently discussed issues concerning aesthetics, and Schiller encouraged Goethe to finish works he left as sketches. This relationship and these discussions led to a period now referred to as Weimar Classicism. (Source). The words in Schiller’s Ode to Joy were used as the text for the last, choral movement of Beethoven’s greatest work, his Ninth Symphony.

Heine was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder (art songs) by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. Heine’s later verse and prose is distinguished by its satirical wit and irony. His radical political views led to many of his works being banned by German authorities. Heine spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris. (Source).

Rilke was a Bohemian-Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude, and profound anxiety: themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditional and the modernist poets. He wrote in both verse and a highly lyrical prose. His two most famous prose works are the Letters to a Young Poet and the semi-autobiographical Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. He also wrote more than 400 poems in French, dedicated to his homeland of choice, the canton of Valais in Switzerland. (Source). I wrote an article about, and quoted from, his Letters to a Young Poet.

Now to the Philosophers

I find that reading what others have said about any given philosopher provides me more understanding than if I read the original works—in English, of course.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
(1844 – 1900)

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves a questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries. (Source)

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 –1860) was among the first of the 19th century philosophers to contend that the universe is not a rational place. Schopenhauer developed the philosophies of Plato and Kant, emphasizing that in the face of a world filled with endless strife, we ought to minimize our natural desires for the sake of achieving a more tranquil frame of mind and a disposition towards universal beneficence. Often considered to be a thoroughgoing pessimist, Schopenhauer in fact advocated ways — via artistic, moral and ascetic forms of awareness — to overcome a frustration-filled and fundamentally painful human condition. Since his death in 1860, his philosophy has had a special attraction for those who wonder about life’s meaning, along with those engaged in music, literature, and the visual arts. (Source).

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) synthesized early modern rationalism and empiricism, set the terms for much of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy, and continues to exercise a significant influence today in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and other fields. The fundamental idea of Kant’s “critical philosophy”, especially in his three Critiques, is human autonomy. He argues that human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all our experience; and, that human reason gives itself the moral law, which is our basis for belief in God, freedom, and immortality. (Source).

Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel
(1770 – 1831)

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), along with J. G. Fichte and F. W. J. von Schelling, belongs to the period of “German idealism” in the decades following Kant. The most systematic of the post-Kantian idealists, Hegel attempted to elaborate a comprehensive and systematic ontology from a “logical” starting point. He is perhaps most well-known for his teleological account of history, an account which was later taken over by Marx and “inverted” into a materialist theory of an historical development culminating in communism. (Source).

Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) is most readily associated with phenomenology and existentialism, although this identification is subject to qualification. His ideas have exerted a seminal influence on the development of contemporary European philosophy. They have also had an impact far beyond philosophy, for example in architectural theory, literary criticism, theology, psychotherapy,  and cognitive science. (Source).


Try to imagine what our lives would be like if any number of the above-named men had not been born. Through them our world has been made more beautiful and, for many, more understandable.

Let us take heed, therefore, of Thomas Mann’s cry to understand “the old, happy, free, and intellectual sense to which the name of Germany owes its best repute, to which it owes the sympathy of mankind”.

(L) Hermann Hesse; (R) Thomas Mann
(1877 – 1962); (1875 – 1955)
(; (

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Jung’s Archetypes and the Quantum Sea

While in university I electively read from Carl Gustav Jung’s works to learn about the collective unconscious and the archetypes which populate it. It seemed a mysterious, hidden world that Jung propounded and I wasn’t sure if this was science or mysticism, or something in between. But I wasn’t a student in psychology, so I let the matter rest.

After university, I continued to read widely and learned about Jung’s concept of synchronicity. I had a good feeling for this concept and became more conscious of “coincidences” that might well fit under or into Jung’s definition. At age 75, I am no longer surprised in experiencing, more and more often, instances of synchronicity.

Many years after university, a consultant to the hospital I was then managing offered to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to my management team. It was a useful exercise and instrument for self-knowledge and team building, among other benefits. I was so impressed with the instrument’s utility I later attended a course to become qualified to administer and interpret the MBTI. Since the “types” in this instrument are personality types as described by Jung, his other work came again to mind, including the concept of archetypes.

Now that I have retired from employment and engaged in creative writing, I see where a greater understanding in the use of archetypes for my characters might advance me in this realm. So, I looked into Carol S. Pearson’s approach, and purchased her book to learn about the mix of archetypes within me. She uses twelve archetypes, as seen here in her “index”, to help a person understand his or her stage of development (click on all images for clearer definition):

stages of archtypal development

 (Source: Pearson, Carol S., Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World)

Finally, after doing a recent Internet search for more sources on archetypes, I came across the article which provides the basis for the remainder of this article: Archetypes, Neurognosis and the Quantum Sea, by C. D. Laughlin, published 1996 by the Society for Scientific Exploration in its Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 375-400.

A Physical Basis for Archetypes

The author, with many references to the relevant literature, hypothesizes that archetypes have a basis in one’s physiology, in the physics of the human structure, one that is shared among all humans. I quote in full his abstract of the article:

C.G. Jung left a great deal of ambiguity surrounding the ontological status of the archetypes and the collective unconscious. He did so because of the inadequacy of the science of his day. Modern developments in the neurosciences and physics — especially the new physics of the vacuum — allow us to develop Jung’s understanding of the archetypes further. This paper analyzes the salient characteristics of Jung’s concept of the archetype and uses modern biogenetic structural theory to integrate archetypal psychology and the neurosciences. The paper reviews some of the evidence in favor of direct neurophysiological-quantum coupling [the author’s term] and suggests how neural processing and quantum events may interpenetrate.

Beginning the Conversation on The Archetypes

Carl Jung reported on universal patterns in the ideation and imagination in his patients, in myth and other literature, and in his own experience with dreams and other ideations. He asserted that humans have instinctive structures which are ancient, transpersonal and transcultural. His earliest definition of these structures was “an independent constellation of primordial material inherited from the distant evolutionary past”, as written by Laughlin. Here is what Jung wrote:

[The] personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the collective unconscious. I have chosen the term “collective” because this part of the unconscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals. It is, in other words, identical in all men and thus constitutes a common psychic substrate of a suprapersonal nature which is present in every one of us.

Jung later named these structured “archetypes”. His conception and definition of archetypes evolved over his lifetime, which Laughlin incorporates into the development of his thesis.

The following is an edited version (mine) of Laughlin’s article. I take responsibility for any errors in transcription.

Archetypes as Evolutionary Structures

Human archetypes are the result of the evolution of the structure of the human psyche. Jung emphasized that the archetypes are part of human inheritance. They are extraordinarily stable and enduring structures that form the fundamental organization of the psyche, that arise anew in every human incarnation, and that are akin to the instincts.

The archetypes may have changed during our evolutionary past, but in their present form they encode the recurrent experiences of human beings over countless millennia and across all cultural boundaries. In some instances the archetypes encode recurrent experiential material from our pre-hominid animal past.

Archetypal structures underlie all recurrent, panhumanly “typical” ideas, images, categories, situations, and events that arise in experience. They contain no inherent content, but exist “at first only as forms without content, representing merely the possibility of a certain type of perception and action”.

Archetypes may manifest as “a priori, inborn forms of ‘intuition”‘. And as the instincts impel us to act in a distinctly human way, so do the archetypes impel us to perceive and understand the events we instinctively respond to in a distinctly human way. For Jung instinct and archetype are two sides of the same unconscious functional coin:

(T)he archetype or primordial image might be described as the instinct’s perception of itself or as the self-portrait of the instinct, in exactly the same way as consciousness is an inward perception of the objective life-process. Just as conscious through the archetype determines the form and direction of instinct. –Jung

Thus the archetypes may be characterized as being instinctual “meaning” and the collective unconscious as containing both the instincts and the archetypes; this system represents a panhumanly universal phenomenon.

Most discussions of the archetypes, including Jung’s, tend to emphasize a handful of relatively dramatic forms; e.g., the Wise Old Man, the anima and animus, etc. These few forms are those that arise in dreams and myths, whereas most archetypes mediate the very mundane functioning of cognition and activity in everyday psychological life. The total range of archetypes is the source for human beings everywhere of typicality in experience.

[This reminds me of Plato’s Theory of Forms which attempts to account for abstract notions such as “the good” and “fear”, or recurring patterns such as “leaf”.–RP]

Archetypes and their Transforms

Jung emphasized that we cannot understand the archetypes directly. All we can know are the archetypal images and ideas that arise in the symbolism of our own experience, or that we deduce from the ideas and images found in texts and other traditional symbolic forms. The archetypes are not material that was once conscious and somehow lost either in early childhood, or in some archaic hominid age. Rather, the archetypes have never been conscious during the course of either ontogenesis or phylogenesis.

These perpetually unconscious archetypal structures lie behind and generate the symbolism that is so essential to all mythological and religious systems. The archetypes produce such distinctive and universal motifs as the incest taboo, the unity of opposites, the King, the Goddess, the Hero, and so on.

It is clear in Jung’s treatment that actual engagement with the archetypes is a dynamic and developmental process, involving both the assimilation of archetypal contents into consciousness and, as a consequence, the transformation of the archetypes themselves. “We must bear in mind that what we mean by ‘archetype’ is in itself irrepresentable, but has effects which make visualizations of it possible, namely, the archetypal images and ideas”. (Jung).

Oedipus and the Sphinx (Source:

Archetypes As Transpersonal Experience

Jung’s whole approach, whether in the consulting room or in his own spiritual work, was essentially phenomenological. The archetypes are not merely theoretical concepts, but are derived from direct empirical observation of patterns in our own experience. We know the archetypes, not by merely thinking about them, but by experiencing their myriad activities in the arena of our own consciousness and then reflecting upon them.

What makes the activity of the archetypes distinctive in human affairs is the sense of profundity and numinosity that commonly accompanies their emergence into consciousness. Their numinosity is derived from the fact that they store up and are conduits for affective and libidinous energies from lower levels of the psyche. So numinous and transpersonal are the symbolic eruptions of archetypal processes that the experience of them may lead to fascination and faith, and even to states of possession and over-identification with the imagery.

Archetypes in Development

The archetypes are not solely an adult phenomenon. They are present from the beginning of life and, indeed, are the only foundation of childhood psychic development.  Another way to say this is that the ego is the result of the archetypes coming to know themselves. Jung was aware that a child’s experience is thoroughly archetypal: The child’s psyche, prior to the stage of ego-consciousness, is very far from being empty and devoid of content. Scarcely has speech developed when, in next to no time, consciousness is present; and this with its momentary contents and its memories, exercises an intensive check upon the previous collective contents.

It is the unfolding collective unconscious and its nascent archetypal structures that produces the highly mythological contents of children’s dreams. Eventually this unfolding landscape of archetypal material engages in a developmental dialogue with the emerging conscious ego that becomes the essential process of individuation.

Birdman the Heirophant

Archetypes As Organs

The archetype is as much an organ to the psyche as the liver is to metabolism. And as organs, archetypes develop during the course of life. The archetypes express themselves in emerging consciousness as images and ideas, and these transformations are actively assimilated into the conscious ego in such a way as to produce feedback which constrains further transformations. The process by which the ego assimilates essentially transpersonal, panhuman material gradually lessens the mysterious and numinous qualities of archetypal eruptions.

Indeed, the process of assimilation may become so active that the ego over-identifies with and feels responsible for producing these materials. Those of us who have spent time in spiritual movements may recognize the common phenomenon of individuals who over-identify with and personalize essentially transpersonal experiences.  For Jung, this over-identification of ego with transpersonal experience may also account for certain dynamics of psychosis.

The Ontological Status of the Archetypes

Jung was unable to scientifically reconcile his conviction that the archetypes are at once embodied structures and bear the imprint of the divine; that is, the archetypes are both structures within the human body, and represent the domain of spirit, but the science of his day could not envision a non-dualistic conception of spirit and matter. (My emphasis—RP).

Jung did not intend to produce a dualism between psyche and the material world, for he held that these are but two aspects of the same reality. The archetypes, as structures, are also a system of limitations upon human experience. That is, they not only cause thoughts, images and actions, they are sets of limiting factors on the general range of experiences that may arise within the consciousness of an individual.

Jung was more inclined to think of the archetypes in biological terms in his earlier writings, while being more inclined to speak of the spiritual dimension in his later works. He early-on wrote that the archetypes are “ever-repeated typical experiences” that are somehow impressed upon the materiality of the body that they had been “stamped on the human brain for aeons”.

The Archetypes in Summary

The archetypes produce all of the universal material in myth and ritual drama. Archetypal experiences tend to be numinous and transpersonal in their impact upon personal development, for they are the eruption of archaic and timeless meaning into the personal world of the ego. They are archaic in the sense that they have evolved over long periods of time, and are timeless in that they arise anew in the experience of each passing generation bearing recognizably similar patterns.

Beginning the Engagement with Modern Physics

(This where we cannot avoid using terminology which is new to most readers here—RP)

The Archetypes As Neurognosis

As it stands, Jung’s account of the archetypes does not allow a clear and easy engagement with modern physics. Biogenetic structural theory however introduces the concept that the archetypes are structures within the nervous system. Of course we have used our own (modern) terminology in developing these concepts.

According to biogenetic structural theory, a principal function of the higher processes of the human brain is the development of each individual’s cognized environment. The cognized environment is the total set of neurophysiological models that mediate all of an individual’s experiences. The cognized environment contrasts with an individual’s operational environment which includes both the actual nature of that individual as an organism and the individual’s external world. As discussed here, the concept of the operational environments has been extended to include the quantum sea. The primordial, biological function of the cognized environment is the adaptation of the individual organism to its operational environment by making sure that the world of experience is adaptively isomorphic with the world of reality.


When we are speaking of the functioning of neural structures in producing either experience or some other activity unconscious to the individual, we use the term neurognosis. This usage is similar to Jung’s reference to archetypal imagery, ideas, and activities that emerge into, and that are active in consciousness.

All neurophysiological models develop from nascent models which exist as the initial, genetically determined neural structures already producing the experiences of the fetus and infant. When we wish to emphasize the neurognostic structures themselves, we tend to mention structures or models. The neurognostic structures correspond to Jung’s archetypes. Although much attention was given to relatively dramatic archetypal imagery in his writings, Jung actually believed that there were as many archetypes as there are species-wide, typical perceptions. Jung’s reference to the essential unknowability of the archetypes-in-themselves also applies to neurognostic structures in our formulation.

hyperbolic orthogonal dodecahedral honeycomb (

Neurognostic Development 

And, as with Jung’s understanding of the archetype, neurognosis also applies to the genetically conditioned processes of development of neurognostic structures. In a certain sense the archetypes are indistinguishable from the instincts. Neurognosis, too, refers to both the initial organization and function of neural models, and to the genetically channelled processes of their growth and development, especially in early life. The entire course of what Jung would call “individuation” is highly influenced by neurognostic processes.

 The Evolution of Neurognosis

Unlike Jung’s uncertainty in the matter, we have concluded that neurognosis (the archetypes) has changed over the millions of years of our species’ phylogenesis. We are forced to this conclusion due to:

  1. the evidence of dramatic encephalization found in the fossil record of our extinct ancestors, and
  2. the fact that social variation in the development of a system of fundamental, evolutionarily derived structures (i.e., culture) appears to be the primary mode of human adaptation.

The archetypes as structures mediating intuitive and symbolic knowledge are undoubtedly located in the areas of the nervous system that appear to have evolved most dramatically during the course of hominid encephalization and that produce the distinctly human quality of mentation, learning, communication, and social action characteristic of our species today.

Culture and Neurognosis

Neurocognitive development is exquisitely ordered by processes inherent to the growth patterns of the organism -an ontogenetic “package” that reflects the path of evolutionary change characteristic of the horninids. There is no such thing as the development of neural tissues that is not constrained and guided by lawful, genetically linked processes. (Emphasis is mine—RP)

Development is never totally plastic. The organism must be biologically “prepared” to learn something. That is, the neurognostic structures (i.e., archetypes) must be in place, be of the correct structural configuration and developmentally mature enough to begin to model the aspect of experience they mediate. If the neural tissues are not in place, the organism is “contraprepared” for learning, and thus cannot learn structure or function of the processes mediating experience. (Emphasis is mine—RP)

Human Blastocyst Division (

The Transcendental Nature of Neurognosis

The organism (or Self) is part of the individual’s operational environment. And the organism includes the neurognostic structures (or archetypes) themselves. The archetypes then are always transcendental relative to an individual’s consciousness Jung laid special emphasis upon the essential unknowability of the archetypes. He was saying in effect that there exists a zone of uncertainty in our knowledge of our own unconscious processes, of our archetypes and of our own Self.

Jung faced a dilemma that biogenetic structuralists faced until quite recently, a problem Laughlin has called the “quantum barrier.” It refers to our inability to reconcile what we know about how the brain and consciousness work with accounts by modern physics of quantum reality existing as “wave functions” that are only “collapsed” when “measured” that is, that the act of observation somehow has a determinant effect upon how the quantum world materializes in our experience.

Jung and the Copenhagen Interpretation

The so-called Copenhagen account is problematic. It presumes a schism between experience and reality. It establishes a fundamental dualism between consciousness which operates in a mechanical universe and reality which is organized as a quantum universe. By contrast, the experience of a contemplative person (including Jung) is one of a continuum of increasing subtlety from awareness of form (termed rupa mindstates in Buddhist psychology) through the awareness of the energies that make up experience, but without form (the arupa mindstates), to the experience of the Plenum Void (the nirvana awareness). There simply is no disjunction between the experiences typical of everyday and the experience of the Plenum. There is a continuum of experienced subtlety differing in degrees of materialization and level of structure. Experience thus parallels the range of organization of the world from the level of the quantum to the level of gross matter. (Emphasis is mine—RP)

vacuum gluon field of quantum chromodynamics,
Derek B. Leinwber (

(Please click on the image and wait a bit for a dynamic view)

The Physics of the Vacuum

There are, of course, other interpretations of quantum mechanics now available in the literature. Jung had no access to these alternative interpretations, and for most physicists practicing even today, the Copenhagen account  is merely quantum mechanics.

However, there are certain developments in modern quantum physics that are making it possible for us to better model the dimensions of quantum interactions, specifically with regard to consciousness: the current work on the physics of the vacuum. The entire universe is a monad of energy of various densities. There exists a structure of underlying “zero-point” energy that permeates the universe, even pervading the most complete vacuum—a quantum sea as it were.

In the modern view empty space or vacuum is never truly particle or field free, but rather is the seat of continuous virtual particle-pair creation and annihilation processes, as well as so-called zero-point fluctuations of such fields as the electromagnetic field.

Originally thought to be of significance only for such esoteric concerns as small corrections in atomic emission processes, it is now understood that vacuum fluctuation effects play a central role in large-scale phenomena of interest to technologists as well.

The Quantum Brain–an Hypothesis and Discussion

Increasing interest in the relationship between the brain and the “sea” of zero point energy permeating the universe  indicates an increasing concern for the question of how the neurocognitive processes that mediate consciousness may also influence and be influenced by events in the quantum sea. Neurognosis operates not only at the level of the organization of neural cells into neural networks, but also at the quantum level by penetrating to and being penetrated by events in the sea.

Neural networks may be “prepared” (see above) to operate as transducers of patterned activity in the quantum sea. Transformations of neural activity may produce transformations in the structure of the sea, and vice versa. Thus local causation based upon biochemical interaction among neural cells may be transformed into non-local causation based upon biophysical activity between cells and the sea.

There are several avenues of research into possible mechanisms that have led a number of serious scholars to consider processes that mediate brain-quantum interaction. For example, Evan Harris Walker  has suggested that the quantum phenomenon known as “tunnelling” may occur at the synapse. “Tunnelling” occurs when an electron penetrates a barrier that classically is impenetrable.

Quantum Mechanics on the Macro Scale
Sherwin Yu (

Others have attempted to demonstrate “coherent” effects in cell membranes related to weak external electromagnetic fields whose effects cannot be attributed to heating the system. “Coherence” is a central concept in quantum physics and refers to events correlated over time or space. Events in the sea may produce coherence, say, in membrane activity across the entire expanse of a neural network, or that the activity across a neural network may produce coherence in the vacuum energies beyond the organism. This picture makes it possible to contemplate a continuum of levels of structural organization from the cognized environment down through and into the structure of the quantum sea.

Recognition of the importance of coherence follows in the wake of research into the paradoxical Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen experiment (EPR). They demonstrated that once two parts of a quantum system are separated, they continue to act as a correlated unity no matter how far they travel from each other. EPR-type systems confound commonsense notions of local causation, for there exists no clear mechanism by which the two parts can “interact”at a distance. It is Laughlin’s presumption that this wholism is somehow mediated by the structure of the quantum sea.

There is now evidence pointing to the importance of electromagnetic oscillations at the cellular level that are not merely caused by changes in the ambient temperature. Herbert Frohlich has hypothesized that coherent oscillations (similar to the so-called “Bose-Einstein condensation“) in certain protein structures may be triggered by a common, low energy electromagnetic field, and thus may provide a mechanism for information storage and retrieval over a wide expanse of organic tissue, an inherently quantum process.

Such electromagnetic fields may function in many types of cells, including neural cells, to control physiological processes. Frohlich has also suggested that highly polarized membrane components may be deformed by external electromagnetic fields. It is now known that natural and man-made electromagnetic fields have effects upon biological processes.

One possible mechanism is the soliton. Solitons were first discovered in the nineteenth century as a property of water waves in canals. Waves propagate down a canal at a constant speed and are the result of equilibrium between the tendency of the wave to peak and its tendency to disperse. The wave reaches a steady state in its trip down the canal.

Electromagnetic solitons are energy waves that are related to quantum field excitation and that propagate in a non-linear, steady-state fashion with very little energy loss from one point to another in a system. Theoretically, solitons may encode a great deal of information in a small space with little energy expenditure. Frohlich and others have suggested that solitons may be integral to the functioning of membranes, or have linked soliton waves with cellular functions.

Microtubule Schematic

Another plausible biophysical mechanism of direct consciousness-quantum sea interpenetration is to be found in the coherent properties of microtubules. Microtubules form a protein latticework of cylindrical pathways in the cell that are known to be involved in regulating and organizing the activity of the cell. The ordered water molecules within the hollow core of these microtubules may manifest a property of “super-radiance” and much like a laser, transform incoherent electromagnetic energy into coherent, non-linear photon pulses within the tubule. Such a pulse would also be a kind of soliton in that it might propagate without energy loss and with little energy requirement. This picture of electromagnetic activity in the structure of the cell is consonant with the suggestion by Fritz Popp and his colleagues that the regulation of cellular organization in biological systems may be accomplished by a coherent pattern of biophoton emission.

Although there has not yet been a definitive demonstration of direct neural-quantum sea interaction, the evidence is sufficiently suggestive to prompt some authorities to hypothesize that brain-quantum sea interpenetration may operate something like a “quantum computer”. That is, information and computations may be organized within the pattern of coherent quantum activities. These computations may be detectable by neural networks and used in higher order processing. It does seem possible on the strength of parapsychological and ethnographic evidence that information exchange of a broader kind may be occurring between the conscious brain and the quantum sea. And it is clear that Jung may well have agreed.

Conclusion: Archetypes, Neurognosis and the Quantum Sea

The concept of neurognosis (and Jung’s archetype) refers not only to the initial organization of the brain during pre-and perinatal life, it also refers to the total pattern of coherent quantum activity represented in all of the neural networks in the brain. We may find that there are a number of mechanisms operating at the sub-cellular level by which the structure of the sea is transduced into patterned neural activity, and vice versa. So we may speak of neurognosis as mediator of the structure of the quantum universe and the structure of the individual consciousness.

But caution must be exercised here in order to avoid very common conceptual traps spawned by phenomenological naivete and over-zealous use of technological metaphors for how the human brain works. These are traps with which Jung was all too familiar. One such trap is the view that consciousness is the product of computations. This is a view peppering the cognitive science and artificial intelligence literatures, and is generally the product of reified computer models of how the human brain works. Another trap is the tendency to reduce consciousness to the quantum mechanical level; i.e., consciousness is quantum coherence of a specific kind.

Another of these traps is the notion that the brain operates like a radio receiver, picking up “spiritual” signals that come wafting in from outside the body. This is just one more version of the mind-body dualism that Jung wished to avoid. The brain-as-receiver notion reflects a basic principle in the evolution of technologies. We humans have a long history of building one thing to do another thing. For instance, we will fashion baskets and pots to hold seeds and carry water. In more modern times we build “hardware” to run “software”. But the body and brain do not work that way. The brain is not “hardware” that requires the inputting of “software” in order to operate. Most of the evidence we have on the physiology of the brain suggests that the activity of neural structures (the “hardware”) mediates aspects of mind and consciousness (the “software”). With respect to the brain, the “hardware” is the “software”. We can simulate the behavior of a duck and end up building an airplane that actually flies, but the airplane tells us almost nothing about the duck.

The essential attributes of consciousness described by various contemplatives, and available to anyone trained in techniques of mature contemplation—attributes such as intentionality, conceptual-imaginal knowing, the granular quality of sensation, the structure of internal time consciousness, emotion, etc.—-may be modeled within the phase space defined by

1. the functional dialogue (i.e., patterns of entrainment) between pre-frontal and sensorial cortex,
2. the functional dialogue between left and right cortical hemispheres, and
3. the functional dialogue between the cortex and specific subcortical structures.

Within this functional field arises the shifting, changing network of neural cells that mediate consciousness. Our experience of the world occurs as a selection for “designation” by the neural systems mediating consciousness among the eigenstates available in the local environment. Laughlin’s view is that this “designation” occurs at every level of structure from intracellular structures sensitive to quantum coherence through to the most complex level of neural network integration.

Odysseus in front of Scylla and Charybdis
Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741 – 1825)

Jung’s genius was in steering a course between the Scylla and Charybdis of mind-body dualism—that is, between experiential relativism on the one hand and physical reductionism on the other. It was clear to Jung that an individual’s experience is both structured by processes universal to the human psyche, and the manifestation of individuation

In some ways all humans are alike, in some ways some humans are alike, and in some ways no humans are alike. Jung was able to integrate these various points of view into a single perspective on the activities of the human psyche. And where he had scientific or solid phenomenological data to back up his views, he reported them. But where the data were not forthcoming in the science of his day, he often remained purposely self-critical, ambiguous and incomplete in the formulation of his ideas. He was quite conscious of the pitfalls of over-systematized thought, and fully intended his approach to be a dynamic and open-ended course of inquiry.

So it was with his notion of the archetype. He insisted that the archetype is not merely another word for the physiology of the image or thought. While it included the physiological basis of knowledge, the concept was intended to run deeper -deep into the instincts and beyond, outward into the universal ground of existence. The archetype exists as the intersection of spirit and matter. We are now beginning to understand in a scientific way how this intersection might be possible, if by “spirit” we mean the order of the quantum sea.

Human experience becomes the localized instantiation of the universal—the transcendental— through the medium of neurognosis. And neurognosis is precisely the local embodiment of the structure of the sea, and at the same time the structures mediating consciousness.

By application of archetypal psychology, and by the current rendition of the biogenetic structural notion of neurognosis, we can see that by implicating neural structures in the mediation of various aspects of consciousness, we do not necessarily imply a reduction of the phenomenon to its neurophysiological foundations. For instance, certain experiences of unity with the Godhead may be mediated by structures in the temporal lobes, such an analysis need not imply a reduction of transpersonal experiences to neurophysiology. Among other things, to reduce these experiences to their neurophysiological foundations begs such questions as the profundity of insight, or the causation-at-a-distance that may accompany such experiences.

On our present account, this kind of analysis may further clarify our picture of how neurognostic, or archetypal structures in the human brain may transduce insights pertaining to the universal structure of the quantum sea. Each human brain may indeed prove to be a microcosm that contains like the proverbial mustard seed, or the more modem hologram -all the wisdom of the ages, requiring only the optimal conditions of development for each person to individuate into a sage.

(This is the end of my excerpted and edited version of Dr. Laughlin’s article)

Final Note:

In high school science we went through the history of failed theories: phlogiston, for one.

As I read here about the “quantum sea” I was reminded of the failed theory of the “Aether”. The aether was supposed to be a medium necessary to transmit light through the emptiness of space, much as air transmits sound. It needed to be both rigid and fluid. It needed to be rigid to transmit transverse light waves, but it needed to be fluid so that the planets could pass through it.

So now we have the hypothesis of a much more refined and defined “quantum sea”, but still a hypothesis.

Will it stand up to the test of time?

In any case, we see now that Carl G. Jung was a savant, as well as a scientist. He foresaw a scientific rationale for the archetypes which were, early on and to some degree still, dismissed by many scientists as unmeasurable “mysticism”.

And, meanwhile, Jung’s archetypes continue to fascinate and continue to be useful in understanding man.

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