Joseph Campbell is of course one of the most prominent students of the great Carl Jung. He wrote a book on the archetype of the hero, a book that did quite well. Once, my philosophy teacher asked me, “what is a hero?” I am still working on that question to this day, so I will soon be spending more time with Mr. Campbell.
One night, Mr. Campbell gave a wonder-filled lecture at the Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids, near to my home there on Oak street, nestled between the bells of three churches. I had been reading quite a bit of Jung, even while discovering Socrates and philosophy. We had taken up the question of natural right, or what is just by nature, as distinct from what is legal. There are of course, unjust laws, and the just by nature is our way of saying what it is that guides the legislators when they are making laws, trying to avoid making unjust laws, or laws with implications that result in injustice. The question is of course very difficult. But it is simply self contradictory to say that right and wrong are only matters of opinion with no truth behind. Everyone believes that some are unjust, so that to be human is to have opinions about justice and injustice that one believes are true. Again, at its root, all modern thought is self contradictory. It is especially so when these imply that it is unjust to believe in justice.
Back to Joseph Campbell. After the lecture, when all the questions were asked, and everyone had gone home, I was honored to be taken by Mr. Campbell into the room behind the altar, as he packed up his papers, preparing to leave. I had of course been wondering how my new discovery of natural right would interface with the thought of Jung.
There are in Jung two different thoughts on the fundamental philosophic things, and I wonder if he ever thought it out. On one hand, his thought and all of analytic psychology are based on the assumption that wholeness is good. To integrate the archetypes is good for us, or healthy for the soul, while if we ignore these things and the things of self knowledge, ignore the unconscious, never throw a penny in the fountain, this is not healthy for the soul. First, to integrate the shadow, we cease faction with the shadows outside and admit to ourselves the parts of our nature and character that we do not admire. In Christianity, this is penance, and is guided by the law. It is the seeing of the splinter in one’s own eye.
The integration of the shadow opens the way to romantic love, and the drama of the hero begins. Jung calls this enterprise the integration of the anima or soul, as in “Your my soul, and my inspiration,” from the popular song. The anima turns out to be a mediator toward the archetypes and the highest enterprise of their integration, the things concerning what Jung calls the archetype of the “self,” meaning our true selves. This is the child and the wise old man.
In the room behind the altar, Mr. Campbell, after quite some argument, finally assented to the idea that if wholeness is the human good or the good for man, there must be an objective basis to ethics. Jung calls himself a “subjectivist,” following Kant, as though the archetypes are categories that account for the similarity and meaning of the many myths. I suppose I had confused the ego as subject with the self as subject, in trying to understand German subjectivism.
Another part of the thought of Jung is that wholeness, and even God, is a coincidence of opposites, both good and evil, so that again, natural right will slip away. The just and unjust, the argument suggests, will be united in a whole that is “beyond good and evil.” This is not to be taken lightly, even by us ethical objectivists. An impenetrable mystery of the Bible will always be that God made that rebellious angel, allows all this unbelievable stuff to occur, and even “gave into the hearts” of those ten kings, “to do his mind and to do one mind and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the sayings of God are made complete” (Revelation 17:17).
The hero participates in all things human, and in order to overcome the villain, must conquer this within himself. It may be a lesser achievement if he conquers this outside himself, and like Arthur, is extinguished with his opposite Mordred.
In our psychology, the new Socratic psychology, we hold that justice and virtue are the health of the soul, while injustice and faction are the illness and disease of the soul, at least at this level. The Socratic discussion of faction in the first book of Plato’s Republic comes to mind.
In addition, there is a hierarchy of the parts of the soul and the priorities, a hierarchy that is by nature or natural. When we subject what is higher, like wisdom, to what is lower, like bodily pleasure or money, we disrupt the parts of our own soul, leaving a discord rather than a harmony. Injustice, like stealing, is usually a result of inflamed desire, so that the desire for money is held by us in action to be more important than our concern for others, or to love God and our neighbor. To steal from me is then basically to say that your having that 20$ for dope is more important to you than my friendship, or my right to property, etc. There are not, in this philosophy, universal laws that are always literally true: One might steal medicine from a stingy doctor to save a dying child. It is not that the Mosaic prohibition is wrong, but it is a matter of priorities. All ethics, in choice, is a matter of priorities, and these priorities have a basis in an objective natural hierarchy. One should, if there is time, find another way, but if it comes down to it, one must choose the life of the child over the universal law, and hope he grows up to become a good kid who helps others, rather than a bad kid who hurts others.
The ends of wealth, honor and wisdom correspond to the three parts of the soul, and these to the three parts of the polity: the money-makers, the noble, and the wise. The benefit of Socratic psychology is that the archetype at the root of politics is the nature of the soul. It is in order to see justice in the soul that Socrates, in Plato’s Republic, undertakes the attempt to found a city in speech.
Aristotle describes three right regimes and three perversions of these. In the right regimes, the part that is the ruling element aims at the common good, while in the bad forms, the ruling element aims at its own apparent self interest, at the expense of the other classes, and of the whole city. So tyranny is the worst, while genuine Kingship, which is very rare, and genuine aristocracy, which is also rare though not unknown in history (as in the Knights of the Round table) are the best forms of constitution. It is not impossible, too, for the few rich to rule, as they are the able administrators, especially if these are educated by the wise and honor those truly noble. We have what Aristotle, in his politics, calls polity or politea, a constitution which, devised wisely, throws the few rich and the many poor who vote into a legislature, where powers are balanced, to hash out the common good in each instance, so that neither class is fleeced.
To conclude, then, when Joseph Campbell admitted that the thought of Jung- and indeed the entire aim of psychology at the knowledge and cultivation of the health of the soul- implies an objective ethics and natural right, modern psychology finally escaped the subjectivism of German philosophy and the ethical relativism that once seemed to be the only conclusion to be drawn from the many cultures and the undesirableness of the absolutist claims of opinions that had pretended to be objective knowledge. Rather than imply that there is no truth, the falsity of the absolutism of medieval tradition requires that there be a truth, and that opinion can be improved by the pursuit of knowledge. The possibility of mistakes implies that there is truth. The unhealthiness of faction and the possibility of the health of the soul implies that there is ethical truth, and these are the philosophical bases of psychology.