C.G. Jung’s Existential Split
in the Collective Unconscious
of Western man,
and Its relation
to Western Art
by Richard Toole
An overarching first principle, upon which this paper is based, is that: what is true about the musical arts is also true of the other art media as well. There are some purely inductive grounds for making this assumption, but the task of finding specific substantiating examples, from the literary and particularly the plastic arts, must be left up to somebody else; as my primary technical expertise is in the musical field, so it is from that field that most of my illustrations of the principle are drawn. For now, if the reader thinks that the various Western art mediums follow fundamentally different psychological paths, the word “art”, used constantly throughout the paper, must be taken with a grain of salt.
Also, this paper was written in 1976, or so, and many generalizations made about the Eastern mind set which I fear are much less true now (2017) than they were then. Nevertheless, there are insights suggested below that, in the most pragmatic sense of the word “metaphor”, are still true.
The numerous conclusions and projections made in this paper stem from but do not explicitly depend on the truth of this remark made by Carl Jung to Miguel Serrano in 1959:
“So far as I can see, an Indian, so long as he remains an Indian, doesn't think----at least in the same way we do. Rather, he perceives a thought. In this way, the Indian approximates primitive ways of thinking. I don't say that the Indian is primitive, but merely that the processes of his thought remind me of primitive methods of producing thoughts. Primitive reasoning is, in essence, an unconscious function which only perceives immediate results. We can only hope to find that kind of reasoning in a civilization which has progressed virtually without interruption from primitive times. Our natural evolution of Western Europe was broken by the introduction of a psychology and a spirituality which had developed from a civilization higher than our own. We were interrupted at the very beginnings when our beliefs were still barbarously polytheistic, and these beliefs were forced underground and have remained there for the last 2000 years. That, I believe, explains the divisiveness that is found in the Western mind.”
Since the East and West have become so much closer since 1976, and since the generalization suggested above was probably never true of EVERY SINGLE INDIAN in India, the statements above describing a racial stereotype must be taken with more salt; but the typification of an idealized “Indian” or “Primitive” mind set, as a paradigm, must be taken for what it is—a generalized description of a certain way of perception—a certain way that certainly does exist, and is practiced by many.]
Jung arrives at this idea as an element in his larger concept of the collective unconscious; the primitive mind set may be characterized as comprising a particular attitude toward childlike innocence and its place in the psychic anatomy of the individual. A pattern he identifies in Western man is that:
he characteristically is born an innocent child,
grows up with a loss of innocence, and then, if he expects to keep experiencing the world as something fresh and new,
he must forcibly REGAIN his innocence (instead of never losing it).
The career of a Christian, for instance, is defined by the steps he takes to regain the Garden of Eden lost to him by Adam. Indeed, the admonition of Jesus to Nicodemus, (“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”), seems to be an appropriately modern prescription for regaining a Paradise lost, but also seems embarrassingly like locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.
According to Jung, the Eastern mind is designed to work at all times at this basic level of innocent perception. Jung states that the Indian mind identifies the picture thought as the reality, with no verbal intermediary. It is the verbal intermediary that necessitates the split in consciousness from subjective to objective. Thus, the main point this paper will attempt to demonstrate, is that the element of conflict in Western art is a direct result of this split in the Western collective unconscious; and that this unique aspect of Western art (compared to the primitive art of almost all the rest of the world) is in many respects unhealthy and destined for a final reconciliation as the world society approaches a new level of psychic integration.
First, let us attempt a definition of psychic innocence as referred to in this context. It is actually not too hard to think of it in terms of psychic immediacies; when a child thinks of a puppy, say, he does not think the word “PUPPY”, he sees a picture, in his mind, of a puppy, probably the last puppy he saw; the child (and the Eastern man) thinks in pictures, he does not take the puppy impulse, translate it into verbal form, and then translate it back into a picture as the mature Western man most certainly does. Again, Jung points out,
“The gods of Tibetan Buddhism belong to the sphere of illusory separateness and mind-created projections, and yet they exist; but so far as we are concerned an illusion remains an illusion, and thus is nothing at all. It is a paradox, yet nevertheless true, that with us a thought has no proper reality; it is a nothingness.”
It would seem from this, then, that a child's thought of a puppy is not a thought of a puppy, but a PUPPY! Like the Eucharist at the Catholic altar, where the representations of the blood and body of Christ become in reality the transfigured blood and body of Christ, the thought of a puppy generates in a child (or a primitive) the subjective reality, PUPPY, rather than the objectified verbal reality “puppy”. This distinction is fundamental to the understanding of the difference between the way the Eastern and Western man experiences and creates a work of art; the Eastern man accepts the products of his mind, for what they are actually just symbols for, and he is satisfied with the symbols’ autonomous reality (there is no active distinction between the symbol and the reality), whereas Western man must always absorb the external image back into himself in order to substantially validate the experience. Hence, for instance, Western art is emotional where Eastern art is not, because the primary activity of Western art is internal (where the emotions are) while Eastern art is, by definition, external. Of course, this is a very broad generalization, but it describes an approximate dichotomous polarity that becomes more and more pronounced with the progressive accumulation of history.
Now, it is necessary to introduce one more socio-psychological concept before we can devote our attention exclusively to the art self; that concept is the opposition of matriarchal and patriarchal referential orientations:
A matriarchal society is one in which the concept of unconditional mother's love is all pervasive; one exists in perpetual peace with Mother Earth because, whatever one does or becomes, the conditions of that love are never infringed upon (this will naturally influence what one ultimately does and becomes); the tremendous significance attributed to Mary the Mother of Christ, in the Catholic Church, is a residue of this orientation. Nevertheless, we can see how God the Father becomes increasingly important, as European society responds to the fundamental consciousness split, culminating in Lutheran Protestantism and, possibly, the more recent Death of God Himself.
A patriarchal society places great emphasis on the expressions of worthiness, the Puritan ethic, etc. Patriarchal love is conditional in the extreme (kind of like Karma); it must be earned, and will only be returned for services rendered.
[It must be pointed out that this concept resulted in the idea of Hell as a place where one goes, not as a consequence of dying, but as a consequence of dis-serving the Father; it also resulted in Heaven.]
The concept of Heaven as the distant seat of the Godhead, and of Mother Earth, as an ever-present, ever-loving protectress, are fundamental keys to understanding the differing, somewhat opposing, psychological motivations of Eastern v.s. Western art.
There are some fascinating examples of how Eastern and Western art are different; one difference is to be found in the significance of the directions: up, (toward heaven) and down, (toward the bosom of mother Earth). The primary movement accents in Eastern dance are all downward— downward, establishing contact with the ground, the earth; the usual dance position, more often than not, is that of crouching, the knees bent. In Western dance, especially since 17th century ballet on, the accents are upward, accompanied by tremendous leaps and bounds; one can see the ballerina, arched on tiptoes, arms extended, aspiring to the Godhead. East—toward the center of the Earth, West—toward the stars.
In the case of so simple a musical concept as a scale, there is a dramatic difference between European and Indian music: tell any Western musician to play a scale and he will choose a tonic note and play seven notes in ascending order; an Indian musician will inevitably play a scale in a descending order! Furthermore, the names of the notes in an Indian scale correspond to various parts of the body starting with the head on down; the note corresponding to the feet (the most ignoble part of the body) is the highest note! For both the Eastern and the Western musician, the same psychological-theoretical response is elicited from the respective scales, but the opposition of the major referential orientations of the two is implicit in the scales’ reverse order; implicit in an opposition of dramatic forms, in a largely unlearned response to the meanings inherent in language. Clearly, then, the ascending motion, so firmly embedded in the Western consciousness as a resolution of tension, could be heard by any Indian (our idealized primitive Indian) as an anacrusis.
Now, we have three categories of collective unconsciousnesses in operation here, which, on a naturally (autonomously) evolved continuum, form a progression from the
primitive or tribal consciousness, to the
matriarchal orientation, to the
The matriarchal orientation has evolved smoothly and gradually from the tribal, and the patriarchal has evolved from the matriarchal, much like an individual progresses from the Freudian oral, to the anal, to the genital stages of development. As many psychologists have stated, if an individual becomes fixated at one stage, he will begin to engage in neurotic behavior patterns as a form of compensation for this lack of integration. Thus, if this theory has anything behind it, the Western man's collective unconscious as a non--integrated one, a fixated one, will tend toward a total cultural mind set plagued by neurosis. I maintain that the split in our collective unconscious has done precisely that.
So the two constituents of the split in the Western collective unconscious are the
primitive, tribal unconscious (in which perception of, in response to, nonverbal symbols is at a height of physicalization and is, for that reason, even less specific, in terms of cognition, than the matriarchal orientation)
and the verbally articulate patriarchal consciousness (in which experience is subjected to a hierarchy of artificially graduated validations); the verbalization resulting in a propensity to deny the validity of certain experiences and to hyper-validate others.
Western man's existential dilemma, then, is the problem with figuring out ways to reconcile this split with his own tendency to seek unity and ultimate equilibrium; harmony with the universe.
It is possible to take the concept of the split, between primitive consciousness and patriarchal consciousness, and translate it into Freudian terms. It is not generally understood, (by those who like to artificially pit Jung and Freud against each other), that Freud upheld a firm belief in a collective unconscious, no less than Jung, which he tried to explain as some process of hereditary implementation. Furthermore, “To the frequently presented 19th century ideal of an unconscious, Freud added a novel idea in distinguishing between two unconscious processes--the primary, or absolute, and the secondary, and preconscious—of fundamentally different character."
It is interesting to note, here, one of Freud's all-pervasive prejudices: Freud’s attitude toward the primitive, pictorial, element of his unconscious was that it was animalistic and therefore unworthy of expression—it must be constantly suppressed—sublimated by the cognitive consciousness. This is an understandable prejudice for a post-technological man to have, and, as we shall see, it is the primary artistic orientation of Western technological man as well. Freud distinguishes between the primitive, symbolic consciousness, and the higher, verbal consciousness, and, in describing the process of dreamwork displacement, he says:
“[When] one particular idea replaces another to which it is somehow related, there is a second [process] in which a verbal expression substitutes for the thought. In this case, a pictorial and concrete expression replaces a colorless and abstract one, with the advantage for the dream that a pictorial thing is capable of being represented. This pictorial language, which is not made with the intention of being understood, can nevertheless be translated like ancient hieroglyphics scripts."
The notion of a pictorial language as "not made with the intention of being understood" is in accord with the idea of a child's thought about the being a PUPPY! Freud does not mean that a picture is not understood, but that pictorial understanding is, by definition, not verbal—that the experience of understanding, or knowing, is not exclusively a cognitive experience. And yet, Western man, because of his patriarchal orientation NEEDS to understand cognitively. Accordingly, the constituents of the primitive, symbolic unconscious become the constructive material with which the patriarchal consciousness press its way to heaven, the ultimate affective reconciliation being a synergistic synthesis of the two into a perception of reality at once higher and lower than either one separately.
In this light, then, the basis of Freud’s theory of sublimation becomes much more clear. Substitute the word “physical” for the word “sexual”. As we know, Freud traced all animalistic impulses back to the sex drive; nowadays, however, as seen from a wider perspective, we must conclude that he used the term “sex” consistently, apparently unawares, as a metaphor for anything comprising the totally primitive, symbolic experience. Thus, we can see how all of Freud's tremendous insights, into the interplay of the unconscious and the subconscious, have their origin in an intuitive perception of the two psychological heritages—heritages even more distinctly separate than the conscious and the subconscious (which is, after all, simply in intermediate step).
The process of sublimation is precisely this reconciliation of symbolic impulses with the need for cognitive validity (rational consistency?). All of Western man's endeavors, then, must be intimately related to his need for getting these two discrete consciousnesses idioms in contact with each other; one might say, functionally, getting his mind in contact with his body. These endeavors include his social, philosophical, and religious doctrines, his scientific aspirations, and his art. Furthermore, the more separate these two consciousnesses become, the more urgent becomes the need for bringing them together again; this increasing urgency is a major feature in the history of Western art
Having proposed the existence of this existential split, having defined it, and having extended the definition to the thought picture to encompass the physical and the thought verbalization to encompass the mental, let us now turn to some examples of the split. The history of Western art music is a classic case of the schizophrenic condition, not only in terms to its relationship to its companion in the oral tradition, which naturally would tend to be more childlike, but in relation to itself as the body of philosophical thought. This history is a constant, restless ebb and flow of the Western artist’s struggle to strike a balance between his heart and his mind. The earliest examples of Western music, the Catholic liturgical chants, still retain the essential childlike innocence of their primitive Hebrew, Greek and Byzantine sources; but even the austerity of being written down seems to bear and implication related to the chant’s ultimate dehumanization; the complex rhythmic and melodic systems of Indian music never had to be written down until modern times: the Japanese Kabuki theater has existed for some 300 years with literally no change, and the Noh theater, though less popular, is two or three centuries older than that. It would appear then, that under conditions of social (or psychic) solidarity there is experienced no anxiety about the preservation of an oral tradition or, by extension, a temporal idea; the writing down of the chant, then, is not an expression of the solidarity of the chant, but rather an admission of its ultimate perishability in the face of a restlessness and need for change that is at the core of the Western idea of progress. The function of the existential split in the Western collective unconscious, therefore, is to perform the impossible task of achieving stability within an irresistibly evolving dynamic system. We want our verbalizations to stop the world from turning.
This conflict is expressed in the opening of Wallace Stevens Connoisseur of Chaos:
“A. A violent order is disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These
Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)”
Western man's basic distrust of his perceptions is neatly summed up in a line from Stevens’ Man with the Blue Guitar,
The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."
This is not a thought a child would have; he may experience it, but he would never think of that process as being less real than any other direct perception, because in the child the perception is the reality; but for the Western man, as expressed by T.S. Eliot:
“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow.
Since the original sin of writing down the chant, removing it from the Garden to keep from forgetting it, the Western musician has suffered the most extreme case of amnesia imaginable and is forgetting more every day. Between himself and, not just the common man and the serious musician, but, the very audience the serious musician has always performed for, small though it may be, the gap is widening all the time.
The musical elite and the man on the street have got so far apart, (particularly since the birth of the bourgeoisie transformed the Hellenistic rite into a capitalist commodity), that there is virtually no communication between them. The common man is becoming more and more common, the musical elite is becoming more and more elite (to the point of microscopic insignificance), and never the twain shall meet. Our concert halls and opera houses have become museums; never before has there been such a large number of years separating the contemporary audience from the audience the music was originally written for; I refer to the current popular interest in music written between 1750 in 1900. At first glance this phenomenon looks like a manifestation of the very solidarity so desperately needed, but, on closer inspection, one can see that even this ecology system has been invaded by the paranoia of technology. Violinists and pianists that play faster than humanly possible, singers who sing louder and higher than the human voice was built to sing, conductors the play sharper attacks, longer more impassioned rubatos, more this, more that, always more, something, anything to distinguish his interpretation from somebody else's interpretation. All these technicians are gradually buckling under the weight of their own technology, and sucking the very life out of the music they hoped to preserve. Again, Brahms is played on every concert not out of any reverence for eternal truths expressed in Brahms, but out of an hysterical fear of confronting the fragmentation and anxiety it has fallen to the contemporary composer to express, but not to offer a solution for.
We, You and I, Together,
Are involved in a conspiratorial collusion,
Enmeshed in the gears of a vicious mechanical tirade;
We arm ourselves against the surreptitious dissolution
Of the construct we value, not because it is worth anything,
But because it is all we have.
The having is enough.
Nietzsche has suggested, in The Birth of Tragedy, that the height of the Athenian Golden age was high not because of some great life affirmation, but from an hysterical fear of the downfall of a tremendous super--structure tottering on the brink. Thus endeth Die Gotterdammerung.
In Western aesthetics, we use the term, "art object”. In order to appreciate this term it is necessary to understand an apparently paradoxical aspect of the primitive/patriarchal dichotomy. The primitive orientation emerges from peculiarly physical sources, but reveals itself through symbols, bits of meaning which, though not necessarily rational, are still perceived on the proscenium of the mind, the imagination. The patriarchal orientation, though largely cognitive, exerts its influence in terms of physical reality; the highways of Rome and the freeways of Los Angeles are analogous accomplishments, and they fulfill the same psychological function. The race to the moon, which Freud would explain as a highly sublimated form of infantile sexual curiosity, is an example of an aspiration to the Godhead raised to such a pitch of frenzy so as to become ridiculous; however, this aspiration is in harmony with the cognitive man's search for his own identity outside himself; this is because, as we have seen, and Western man's thought has “no proper reality”, and must validate itself outside itself. In short, everything in Western man's universe is real except himself, whereas, for the primitive man and even, to a large extent, the matriarchal man, precisely the opposite is true.
And "art object" then, is a sort of bastard of empirical thought. The Western artwork, in order to be considered culturally valid, (and for that reason, valuable), must stand on its own as a rational document; hence, the emphasis, in Western art, not on what one says, but how one says it. There is, here, a rigidly enforced logic, not of meaning but of rhetoric. The perpetual battle of form versus content is the single most important distinctive feature of Western art, and a major substantiation of the claim that Western man's thought has no proper reality for him. Western art deals not with universals, but with the juxtaposition and superimposition of particulars; the meanings come from the stress of interplay, (we say, the holography, the diffraction of experience into ergodic particles); the climactic emotional catharsis so typical of Western art, and so atypical of Eastern art, comes from these particulars colliding in imaginary space, eventually canceling each other out.
The physicalization of Western art takes place in the arena of form. The symbolic meanings arise from the primitive imagination and are then validated by being put into contexts that heighten their meaning beyond themselves; but no matter how obviously truthful a statement, no matter how humanly honest the gesture, the Western man will reject it, if it does not function in a total architectural gestalt.
(It is interesting to point out that this orientation is historically cyclical, to a certain degree: each major cycle in the history of Western music, beginning with the chant, begins as an outgrowth of some oral, popular tradition, and then gradually becomes formalized to death until some new oral traditions steps in and the cycle starts over. The alarming part, and, as this paper will later claim, the hopeful part, is that these cycles have been getting, timewise, shorter and shorter.)
One reason, for the formal physicalization of ideas, is connected to Western man's problem with communication. With a conscious orientation as disembodied as Western man's, communication is very difficult:
firstly, because there are so many consciousness barriers between individuals (for instance, the way information is converted back and forth from a symbolic to a cognitive language, constitute one barrier; another is the simple fact that a person, out of contact with his own body, will have an even harder time contacting someone else’s.)
And secondly, because Western man does not experience himself as being effectual in his endeavors without seeing a physical response; gestures of love and goodwill must always be reciprocated. This is why, in particularly fanatic periods, art becomes propagandistic and the artist tries to “move the masses"; similarly, a piece of music written in private must be performed in public, a painting must be exhibited, a poem published, all to give the artist an artificial sense of potency and self-validation.
The communication in Western art is in the eliciting of a response. This aspect of Western art, this obligatory extroversion, is the Achilles' heel; it is the source of all the artistic vulgarizations we must constantly endure. Furthermore, this level of inverted autism is not only symptomatic of the fragmented consciousness, but is instrumental in perpetuating the split; for this reason it must ultimately bring about the disintegration of Western art as we know it.
How does form operate, and how does it evolve in relation to content in Western art? Let us take, for example, a cursory look at the most important aspect of musical form from the classical period to at least the first The 20th century I: the theme. The idea of discrete tunes as the material for serious music came from the oral tradition as a function of Rousseau's famous "return to nature”. From Wikipedia we read:
“Rousseau criticized Hobbes for asserting that since man in the "state of nature... has no idea of goodness he must be naturally wicked; that he is vicious because he does not know virtue". On the contrary, Rousseau holds that "uncorrupted morals" prevail in the "state of nature" and he especially praised the admirable moderation of the Caribbeans in expressing the sexual urge despite the fact that they live in a hot climate, which "always seems to inflame the passions".
Rousseau asserted that the stage of human development associated with what he called "savages" was the best or optimal in human development, between the less-than-optimal extreme of brute animals on the one hand and the extreme of decadent civilization on the other. "..
I do not believe Jung would say that the ”savage" mind set is the best or optimal stage of human development, but as far as a typification of the “primitive” Rousseau and Jung are in agreement. Clearly the appearance of the primitive in classical music must be thought of as the insistent, physicalized repetition of motivic fragments; the Apollonian transfiguration (Freud would say “sublimation”) of these animalistic bits into rational architecture is accomplished by the mind—the literal mind. Indeed, the structure of classical music has been much more the center of attention with composers and performers than the onomatopoetic content of themes. But the carnal drive behind the idea always rears its ugly head, grounding the music to a terrestrial core.
Thomas Mann depicts the intrusion of the carnal into the Apollonian context by painting for us choirs of heavenly angels, who, on closer inspection, are seen to have worms of death crawling out of their noses; behind the perfect columns of the Greek Acropolis, an orgy is going on. About Thomas Mann, and the opposition of the primitive/Apollonian mind sets discussed in Doctor Faustus, we read:
“The proximity of aestheticism and barbarism, of beauty and crime, is a second central element in Mann’s description of German culture which touches the fundamental role of art in society. Walter Benjamin has spoken of the fascist aestheticization of politics. Zeitblom says about one of Leverkühns major works, the Apocalypsis con figuris, that it had “a peculiar kinship with, was in spirit a parallel to, the things I had heard at Kridwiss’s table-round”, an inter-war circle in Munich that Mann describes flatly as “arch-fascist”. A few pages later, Zeitblom worries about “an aestheticism which my friend’s saying: ‘the antithesis of bourgeois culture is not barbarism, but community,’ abandoned to the most tormenting doubts. … Aestheticism and barbarism are (near) to each other: aestheticism as the herald of barbarism.”
It is interesting, the suggestion that aestheticism is the herald of barbarism. You might just as easily say barbarism is the herald of aestheticism, since the two mind sets circle each other in an endless oscillation from one extreme to the other. The point is that Mann must also be found to be in agreement with Jung, Freud, and Rousseau, about the existence of a primitive mind state that operates as an underlying motivation in all art. The only apparent disagreement is, “Which end of the declension do we start with?”
So, as we peer closer at this opposition of mind sets, let us look at the historical period of music wherein the style was largely a function of universally agreed-upon formal templates super-imposed upon which a wealth of carnal inspiration has been lavished.
The Sonata Allegro form is the most elaborate form handed down to us. It was pretty much established by Haydn, perfected by Mozart, and degraded by Beethoven. In a nutshell the sonata allegro form echoes the logical form of the syllogism: if A and B then C, or thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis.
In terms of thematic structure, the form goes:
Theme 1 (thesis), transition, Theme 2 (anti-thesis), transition, development (laboratory section—how many ways can we state a theme?),
Theme 1, transition, Theme 2, transition, ending.
The synthesis component is related to the key structure which is:
Theme:Thm1 trans Thm2 trans, closing, repeat, Thm1 trans Thm2 trans, closing,
Key: I (tonic) V(dominant) I (tonic) V(dominant)
Theme: Development, Thm1 trans Thm2 trans, closing, coda
Key: (all keys) I (tonic) I(tonic) I (tonic)
Thus, the reprise of the 2nd Theme in the tonic key represents a synthesis of the two opposing ideas—the 2nd Theme melody in the key of the 1st Theme. This form has a magical effect on thematic material that is consistently predictable from one piece to another. The form carries the brunt of responsibility for the aesthetic effect of the piece, and this was so all through the works of Haydn and Mozart. The thematic materials themselves were more or less taken from a library of hit musical gestures that did not necessarily originate in the individual mind of the composer, but, rather from the collective mind of the culture. Mozart’s music is said to be channeled directly from heaven because it flows so flawlessly and effortlessly down the river of time, straight from the mouths of angels who live in the cloud of the collective unconscious. The Requiem Mass, left unfinished at his death, does not suffer from its completion by a student of Mozart, because the music is already plugged into the form. Other unfinished pieces from later periods when sonata allegro was not the dominant form, like Puccini’s Turandot, and Bartok’s Viola Concerto, have not enjoyed such successful completions.
Sonata Allegro is an argument between opposing themes, one masculine (usually the 1st Theme, but not always), one feminine. The battle between Yin and Yang is played out in the form. As such it is a battle, not so much depicted by the onamatopoetic content of the themes, but rather, by the relationships between the themes—how the form is realized by the material. The dramaturgy of the music is to found in how the form pushes the dramatic action along irrespective of the relative value of the themes in the purely formal structure.
One of Beethoven's favorite games was to create expositions in which each bit had so much magnetic attraction it was impossible to tell which were the transitions until the repeat. Finally, Schubert, who based his art on the same forms as Mozart and Haydn, wrote movements two or three times longer than either Mozart or Haydn by sheer dint the magnitude of his thematic ideas. Wagner’s use of leitmotifs and Liszt’s idea of thematic transformation finally culminated in the thematic essays of Mahler and the ultimate logical extension in Schonberg, where not only every tune, but every single note had its own singular identity and discrete meaning. In short, there is visible, in this historical cycle, a progression from a highly formalized cognitive base to a culmination in a symbology much more clearly sprung from the primitive symbolic consciousness. Aestheticism is the herald of barbarism.
If we examine the relationship of theme to transition in three piano pieces, arranged in chronological order, perhaps we can see more clearly how form and content evolve in relation to each other, and how the relative values change in the minds of their composers:
The B-flat Sonata of Mozart, K. 333, begins with a very clear-cut theme divided into two complementary phrases, four bars in length, which we will call phrases a and b of Theme 1. These phrases further divide themselves in the complementary halves in a question-and-answer relationship to each other. Notice how this compound arsis thesis relationship creates an extreme solidity of this material; the repetition of the appoggiatura idea throughout phrase a, at intervals of about four beats, results in a feeling of, “Yes, this is the way things are, everything around us proves it,” but in phrase b the insistent repetition of twice as many appoggiaturas (m. 5 and 7) in half the time, separated by a meandering scale, creates a tension in two ways:
first, the rhythmic contraction is an analog physically to the speeding up of the heart, breathing, etc., and our bodies react accordingly, and
secondly, something repeated incessantly reminds us, psychologically, of hysteria—a condition which must call into question the rational truth of what is being said.
However, for the present, the positive ascent to the Godhead, in the form of a B-flat major scale, m. 8, and the closing off of the thought (re-descent) by an idiomatic cadence figure, m. 9, bring us back to a level of relative stability.
At this point the transition begins. Transition material, more often than not, is made of some significant melodic fragment of the main theme. In this case the appoggiatura of phrase a, and the 16th-note figures of phrase b constitute the material for the transition. Two aspects of Western musical form are inherent in this passage:
firstly, a transition is always supposed to convey the sense of movement (creation of perspective); thus, movement here is expressed by obvious rhythmic activity, again, a physical function;
secondly, the idea of thematic permutation for its own sake is a psychological variation, created to accommodate underlying harmonic alterations; this expresses how Western man searches for identity by constantly rearranging the physical aspect of his universe.
The alterations, in the shape of both fragments of Theme 1, used in the transition, are a recapitulation, in a heightened form, of the idea of hysterical aspersion cast on phrase a by its contradiction in phrase b, and, furthermore, the alternatives are expressions of Western man's failure to find that identity; what emerges from this hysterical questioning is not an answer but a new theme, a place for the cycle to start all over again.
What is being said here, is that the satisfactory answer to a question is one to which there can follow no more questions. A cognitive dissonance should be resolved in the physical harmony of the body. Physical pain and suffering are ameliorated by the assessment of relative values in the mind. Western man is sick because he attempts to cure his body with his body, and his mind with his mind. On the other hand, Eastern music never answers any questions because it never asks any. Moreover, we can see the split between mind and body, and their sublimated attempt to reach each other, very clearly represented by a few details of a Mozart sonata. Let us see if things get any better.
The opening of the Pathetique Sonata of Beethoven presents a more complicated view of themes in relation to form; in fact, messing with the form is what the piece is all about. Firstly, we begin with a slow French overture rhythm. The theme is developed over some 11 bars until an agitated allegro takes over. Now, many symphonies, string quartets, and other chamber music forms, begin with a slow section, which functions as an introduction—a kind of kick-off for the main theme. On hearing the Adagio opening, a classical musician’s expectation will be that: this is a slow introduction, which will bear no resemblance to any of the succeeding material, and will not be reprised. However, this opening becomes so long, and the Mannheim sigh that characterizes it, becomes so significant (by virtue of incessant repetition) that we decide that Beethoven must be violating the sonata form by beginning with a slow movement. Just about the time we have settled into the idea of a slow movement, the allegro intrudes, and we are caught between the idea that this fast music ought to be a 1st Theme, and the sense that, melodically, it is not characteristic enough, being composed entirely of stacked up chords—it sounds like a typical transition. Which is it? 1st Theme or transition? Only the repeat will tell.
The sudden rhythmic activity and the formal confusion tend to give this section a great deal of magnetic attraction; in fact, even more attraction than the main theme. Here, we have another major statement about Western man: that it is not the projected end that counts, but the process of achieving it; it is not what I say that is important, but what I went through to say it; not the mountain but the climbing. This, you will say, is precisely the psychic condition of primitive man, and must therefore represent the symbolic element in the psychology of Western man.
Yes, it would be but for the fact that Western man can never sustain this experimental mode long enough to get used to it. The pathos inherent in the Beethoven sonata is not so much in the lyric affectation of the first theme, which is a product of classical cognitive restraint emphasizing perfection of form and logical substantiation; the transition material, by virtue of its energetic dance rhythms, and it's simple, undignified melodic shape, springs directly from the oral, peasant tradition. Either of these two, exposed separately, would tend to create an integrated effect, but, juxtaposed as they are in violent contrast, each heightens the others effect—and the effect is not inherent in the material but in the JUXTAPOSITION of the disparate materials; the pathetic tune becomes more pathetic, the dance tune becomes more boisterous; the element that at first wants to be understood as an un-selfconscious life affirmation, must finally be understood as a cry of the body for liberation from the paralyzing clutches of the mind; the battle between mind and body is simply transported to higher ground. The animal magnetism of the passage comes to represent the primitive consciousness under stress, not release.
Even so, this magnetism, by virtue of it hedonistic, Dionysian character, might have been a step toward the a union of the mind and body, merely by calling attention to the split. However, what happens historically is that this magnetism, importance, of the transition material finally clarifies itself into a discrete particle in the anatomy of the thought—this until the effect of physical movement becomes the formalized language bit, loses its freshness and its psychological function, and begins to function as an element of form. The Romantic artist snatches defeat from the very jaws of victory, (as it were), puffing up his feelings to greater and greater heights of grotesquerie—thus approaching the primitive by inference, but never becoming satisfied with it, nor allowing its symbolic character to totally dominate his perceptions. At this point Freud comes in and tries to teach us, not how to integrate our primitive drives and perceptions, but how to suppress them! It is of paramount importance to understand that: the more rigidly primitive drives are suppressed, the more desperately they will seek an outlet.
For this reason, the music of Schonberg is some of the most civilized and at the same time, the most primitive music of the century. The “Menuett" from the Piano Suite Op. 25 is a good illustration of the fact that a primary function of suppression is compression. The piece is made of a series of a series; each melodic constellation is a different quarter of various permutations of the 12-tone row. The numerous cognitive subtleties, such as pitch selection, are of little relevance to this paper; suffice it to say that: anyone with the slightest familiarity with the 12 tone technique has an idea of the rigid discipline involved in choosing the pitch constituents of melodies and harmonies.
This discipline has important consequences, however, in relation to thematic formations. Theme, in this context, becomes almost exclusively a function of rhythm. The first four bars are dominated by a dotted rhythm repeated five times over a syncopated 8th-note figure in the left hand; this evokes the supple grace of the archaic minuet form which determines the gross structure of the piece. In bars 5 and 6, the left hand assumes melodic prominence over 32nd-note butterfly flits in the right hand. Bars 7 and 8 resume the dotted rhythm at the top of the pseudo-arpeggiated sweep, then see down to an a tempo on an augmentation of the dotted rhythm, in a low register, for two bars (measure 9 and 10). A single bar, (measure 11), in which the original dotted rhythm is played twice, leads back to the beginning.
Nowhere in this first section is there a repetition of a series of pitches in the same rhythm which would fulfill the definition of a melodic theme. Rhythmically, as has been pointed out, there are lots of repetitions, and certain melodic shapes are even approximately repeated (alto m. 1/1 and soprano m. 3/9, alto m. 5/2 and alto m. 6/2, etc.); but never is there a precise restatement of a tune. This effect gives the whole a rather amorphous, not-quite-there quality because we hear constant references to the theme, but never the theme itself; the idea is constantly transformed— rather like the pieces in the kaleidoscope which retain a tangible relationship to each other but never repeat a pattern.
So, whereas we understand repetition, in this context, as a heightened dissociation and fluidity, this fluidity is meant to give extreme independence (equal importance) to all the notes, and is very symbolic; it is possible to sense the liberated subconscious glide over the artifice like the latent content of the dream. But the transparent, insubstantial artifice is propped up by a hyper-rational, patriarchal, intelligent design. The compression of ideas is extreme, and it is possible to infer a degree of suppression proportional to it, whereas, in a classical sonata rhythmic and melodic transformation would occur separately, or at least later. Schonberg's music creates a perpetual state of transition at once and immediately. Compare this piece to a primitive form such as Balinese Gamelan, or Cambodian ceremonial orchestral music, and you will find in them an equal degree of rhythmic complexity and contrapuntal subtlety without, however, the feeling of personal suppression; on the contrary, one senses in this music a primitive communal freedom and simple serenity; a kind of integrated natural complexity virtually devoid of struggle, at least of a neurotic or existential kind.
Now, in citing examples of the existential split taken from the music of three of the greatest geniuses who ever lived, I hope the reader does not presume that I find this music in any way immoral or un-satisfying; naturally men as superior as Mozart, Beethoven, and Schonberg would reach some kind of philosophical reconciliation with the Western existential split, or any other obstacle in the path to enlightenment, in any cultural context. I am saying, though, that, no matter how great, no man could totally escape the influence of his cultural heritage. In the case of the artist, he can never keep from expressing the graces and the curses of his age. Furthermore, lesser artists, as lesser men, will not only succumb more easily to the social disease, they will help propagate the disease.
To summarize: the split in the collective unconscious of Western man is discernible in a variety of contexts ranging from:
a comparison of basic theoretical details of Western music,
to larger affective aspects of Eastern music,
in contradistinction to Western music, where the split can be seen, from the historical perspective, as gradually expressing itself— accumulating force, intensity, and, ultimately, speed of cyclical revolution; the split is best seen in specific works of art themselves and, finally, in the present social scene.
Now, how are we dealing with this problem? How are we trying to integrate these primitive impulses constructively into the fabric of our cognitive universe? How do we experience our primal origins without becoming barbarians?
Firstly, we are becoming more and more aware of the split. Many new revolutionary movements in psychology are recognizing neurosis as a psycho-physiological phenomenon, and are going directly to the source: the body, the brain, the glands, the diet, etc. A lot of new art, in all the media, is be created not to be beautiful, but to force the audience to experience life in new, non-rational ways; three-dimensional paintings, group participation musical compositions, and mechanical sculptures designed to be handled, are all efforts on the part of the artist to get some kind of tribal communion going between themselves, their performers, and their audiences. John Cage’s renunciation of personal involvement in the process of composition, is an effort to get his audiences’ thoughts to become realities instead of transmuting his thoughts into illusions. Instead of serving up platters of tunes and sublimated psychological garbage, to be consumed, digested, and defecated, the modern artist demands that his public join him in a communal experience in which the audience is just as important as he is. (Of course, men of any culture will respond negatively to any use of force, hence, the failure and alienation of modern art; naturally, an alienated man will produce alienated art, but inherent in this alienation is the plea for communion. (At least they are trying.)
Consciousness of the split has motivated mass cultural movements aimed at bridging the gap; these movements are extremely potent, and are yielding results we have barely begun to see.
The drug movement, for example, is all-pervasive among the youth of today, and is getting stronger all the time. Now, any drug produces an effect on the body, therefore making us aware of our bodies in unusual ways, but the habitual use of psychedelic drugs may heighten physical sensation, and promote the communal experience; the American Indian saved his use of psychedelic drugs for important tribal ceremonies where the communal experience was most sought; modern "pot parties" heighten the sense of the physical and the social in ways that traditional “booze parties" never could.
The sexual revolution is another manifestation western man’s efforts to revive and stimulate the senses. Sex, so long suppressed by society as a dark and dangerous drive, is being liberated from its role as a social institution, and is being reveled in, as an element of doctrine, for the pure sensual pleasure of it. The sex drive is beginning to be accepted as one of many primitive drives which demand expression and, furthermore, ought to be expressed.
The “Rock" movement, of such tremendous importance in the musical scene of the 60s, has risen from its previous role as a mere commercial commodity, and is attracting vast numbers of "serious" musicians, by virtue of its magnificent powers of life affirmation, and the joy of sexual joy stimulation inherent in the form. Some of the numerous tribal aspects of rock are:
1. its virtually unviolated oral tradition,
2. its development of tone color, ostinato, and sheer volume as a means of involving the body.,
3. its universal acceptance by way of a common voice for the masses, and
4. the fact that rock attracts other aspects of contemporary tribal life to it.
Vast numbers of fans attend concerts and festivals—they are all focused on the same rite—a musical ceremony that brings with it a message of sexual, moral, and psychological liberation—and usually vast quantities of dope.
One highly significant aspect of the more sophisticated genres of rock, especially since the introduction of multi-track tape recorders and involved electronic sound processing apparatuses, is that much of the effect of it is designed to be enhanced if the audience is stoned. Just as all artists of the past have expressed their life experiences in their art, the contemporary young artist, involved as he is in the psychedelic experience, has no choice but to represent that experience in his art. Psychedelic music has a certain style, such that any so-designed music, even when listened to straight, (if the listener is familiar with the psychedelic experience) will immediately evoke a type of perceptual orientation, which is either subtly or (often) fundamentally different from that of the past 200 years.
In contemporary avant-garde tape music there is great emphasis on altered perception, in the creation of musical environments which flow one into the other without the obsessive preoccupation with classic forms that so dominates the mainstream of music. These environmental experiments reflect an orientation tending toward the tribal for several reasons:
firstly, the musical gestures available to the electronic music composer are constitutionally different from musical gestures available, in any idiomatic way, to instrumentalists; the integrated analog circuitry of the electronic music synthesizer automatically creates rhythmic and melodic patterns more immediately recognizable as reflections of human physiology (body functions, groans, screams, quarks, heartbeats, etc.) than those it is possible to perform on traditional instruments, by virtue of their essentially digital construction;
secondly, the act of creating tape compositions is inherently more physical than writing music in the abstract; no matter how fully conceptualized a piece may be before the recording starts, in order to get a tape piece on tape, a tape composer must confront his sonic material full in the face, and make decisions in which his ears and his hand must contribute a part equal in importance to the contributions of his mind.
Perhaps the most important primitive aspect of tape music is that it forces the composer, to a significant degree, back into the oral tradition; this is not a universal rule, but for many tape composers the final product, the tape, is the composition (the puppy is the PUPPY); thus a repeat performance (new versions) are either impossible (in cases in which there never was a score) or of extremely tenuous validity (the new version will tend to be unlike the original, in large part, simply because electronic music synthesizers are extremely temperamental, and hardly ever produce the same exact sound two days in a row). All these factors force the tape composer and the tape audience into a level of perceptual immediacy one step beyond the normal perceptual orientation of classical music.
This Gestalt switch is in harmony with the popular philosophic trend toward mysticism, meditation and the occult. Although many significant artists of the past have been vitally interested in astrology, numerology, communication with spirits, and the like, not since the Inquisition has there been so universal an interest in abnormal consciousness states. All these attitudes must play a part in the creation of new art and categorically enhance the perception of works of art. The mind expanding character of op Art and the philosophical connection between meditation and environmental tape music are examples of this prevailing attitude.
The influence of Eastern thought on the West, not only in terms of philosophical-religious teaching but the art itself, is of overriding importance. The Indian influence, in particular, is all pervasive, again, in the society of the younger-than-30 generation; Indian rugs, tapestries, cloth, ornamental jewelry, etc., are to be found in every home; the Tibetan Book of the Dead, along with LSD and free sex, rank as primary constituents of the 60s “generation gap". Indian classical music is being assimilated into the Western musical consciousness through the performances, by Indian musicians, of the music in its pure form, through the presence of Indian instruments like the sitar and the tabla on rock albums, and through its essential philosophical and theoretical assimilation by jazz musicians like McLaughlin, Coltrane, and Corea, to mention only a few.
All these innovations cannot help but result in an eventual alteration in the structure of, not only the Western but, the WORLD collective unconscious.
The last and final point this paper will try to make is:
the split between the primitive in the patriarchal aspects of the Western collective unconscious has resulted in a psychological tension that not only dominates Western art but, in fact, is very close to dominating the entire world.
In this paper we have examined some broad historical manifestations of the split in the history of music, and have seen how specific pieces have displayed microscopic reflections of the macrocosm. We then saw how changing tides have given us grounds for some hope, not for art but for the world. As long as Western art continues to reflect the split, it will remain beautiful, exciting, powerful, but tragic; as long as the split persists in the collective unconscious of the artist, we must live in perpetual fear of annihilation which is the logical consequence of the split.
We, the artist, the statesman, the scientist, you and I, must all strive to find reality within and without ourselves. Only when we can validate all manifestations of psychic life in an integrated language will we approach an affirmation of life unmitigated by the clang of doom.
The eminent British psychologist, R. D. Laing, has spoken out in favor of the psychotic experience as one that is very valuable in establishing ways of validating one's inner life. In connection with this theory I quote an excerpt from the Memoirs of Hector Berlioz in relation to the premiere of his Requiem Mass:
“The day of the performance arrived, in the church of the Invalides, before all the princes, peers, and deputies, the French press, the correspondents of foreign papers, and an immense crowd. It was absolutely essential for me to have a great success; a moderate one would have been fatal, and a failure would have annihilated me altogether.
Now listen attentively.
Various groups of instruments in the orchestra were tolerably widely separated, especially the four brass bands introduced in the Tuba Mirum, each of which occupied a corner of the entire orchestra and chorus. There is no pause between the Dies Irae and the Tuba Mirum, but the pace in the latter is reduced to half what it was before. At this point the whole of the brass enters, first altogether and then in passages that challenge and answer each other--each entry being a third higher than the last. It is obvious that it is of the greatest importance that the four beats of the new tempo should be distinctly marked, or else the terrible explosion, which I so carefully prepared with combinations and proportions never attempted before or since, and which, rightly performed, gives such a picture of the Last Judgment as I believe is destined to live, would be a mere and enormous and hideous cacophony.
With my habitual distrust, I had stationed myself behind Habanek, and, turning my back on him, overlooked the group of kettle drums, which he could not see, when the moment approached for them to take part of the general melee. There are, perhaps, 1000 bars in my Requiem. Precisely in that of which I have just been speaking, when the movement broadens out, and the brass burst in with their terrible fanfare; in fact, just in the one bar where the conductor is absolutely indispensable, Habanek puts down his baton, quietly takes out his snuff-box and proceeds to take a pinch of snuff. I had never taken my eyes off him; instantly I turned rapidly on one heel, and, springing forward before him, I stretched out my arm and marked the four great beats of the new movement. The orchestra followed me, each in order. I conducted the piece to the end, and the effect which I had dreamed of was produced. When, at the last words of the chorus, Habanek saw that the Tuba Mirum was saved, said: “What a cold perspiration I have been in! Without you we should of been lost. “Yes, I know,” I answered, looking fixedly at him.”
This story exciting as it may be, is almost certainly a historical falsehood. (I recently discovered some slight grounds for musicological debate, on this score, but, even if something like what is described in Berlioz's narrative actually happened, the various physical inconsistencies in the story point, at best, to some gross exaggeration.) However, this story, as others Berlioz (perhaps all of us?) told, cannot be properly understood as a lie; on the contrary, the story is more valid than any mere fact, precisely because Berlioz imagined it so vividly he actually thought it was true! Puppy is the PUPPY!
There is a fashionable mystique that portrays artists (and scientists, professors and politicians, for that matter) as wild, neurotic, irrational--in other words, crazy. Is it possible to see these crazy artists as more fundamentally hooked-up to their primitive consciousness, their bodies, than the norm, and therefore as being subjected to a prejudicial, sometimes hostile, attitude by the normal, crazy, man on the street? Is it possible to see the tremendous upsurge of creativity during the past 20 years as a propensity toward the revalidation of inner psychic life? I think the answer to both these questions is “Yes.”