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Old Friday, July 29, 2005
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Default Individual And Culture

INDIVIDUAL AND CULTURE
MOHAMMAD AJMAL

When we consider the relation between Individual' and Culture' we must be cautious about the mischief the word 'and' can make. It is a truism which still may need to be repeated that individuals compose cultures and that culture is a word which describes a set of complex interrelations between individuals. This set of interrelations involves proximity and distance in space and time, in economic class and status. But as a matter of fact we do tend to think of culture as if it were a person distinct from an individual. Even when we think of our culture, we are prone to personify it, give it individuality and feel as if it were an entity apart from us. It is very largely this tendency in us which makes us formulate hypotheses like that of the group-mind. Why do we tend to give personality to culture? The main reason is that we tend to project our 'self' onto culture, and remain mere appendages to this person. The concept of 'self' is the central theme of Intensive Psychotherapy, and it is from the point of view that I will discuss the relation between individual and culture.

CULTURE

Philosophers have discussed the nature of man both in its divine and diabolical aspects. Some, for example, Plato, have attempted to indicate the degree of the depth to which man can sink and also to describe the ideal-limits which he can approximate. Plato's 'Philosopher-king' and Spinoza's God-intoxicated Man' are two outstanding conceptions of ideal-limits which a man can strive to reach.

The conception of ideal-limit about human nature is derived from the ideal-limits in Nature which, according to Broad, have three characteristics:

- There is generally no lower limit to such series. There is a concept of a perfectly straight line, but there is no concept of a perfectly crooked line.
- When we have formed the concept of an ideal-limit we find that sometimes it is analysable and sometimes it is not.
- We could not reach the concepts of these ideal-limits unless we had the power of reflection on the series and of recognising the characteristic which is more and more adequately, though still imperfectly, realised in the higher members of the series.

These three characteristics apply to the ideal-limit of human nature: 1. although we can conceive of a 'normal man', we cannot conceive of a perfectly abnormal man; 2. the concept of a normal man is to some extent analysable; and 3. when we reflect on this series, we see the presence of those characteristics in the more normal members, although imperfectly.
The only discipline today which not only deals with the dynamics of the diabolical and the divine in man, but also appreciates the necessary relations between the two is Intensive Psychotherapy. The main tenet on which this discipline is based is that man is essentially creative. The basic theme which runs throughout Depth-analysis is not adjustment, but love. 'Adjustment to environment' is an ideal derived from the assumption that society or culture is morally and intellectually superior to the individual. The concept of the 'group-mind' entails the consequence that group possesses greater wisdom and a more subtle and stable moral fibre than the individual. Herbert Spencer, and in our own time Professor Waddington, detected a direction in the growth and development of the human species and have maintained that the individual ought to live in accordance with this direction which is determined by our capacity to adjust ourselves to environment. But there is a huge non-sequitur in the argument that because human evolution is unfolding in a direction, and therefore we ought to mould our lives in accordance with this direction. Moreover, it is quite doubtful whether there is such a direction. Adjustment is no longer the category which governs the concept of normality in Depth-analysis. One may be very well-adjusted in an authoritarian society and yet abnormal from the depth-analysis point of view. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, quite a few inmates of mental hospitals joined the Nazi Party and became well-adjusted. This does not mean that they had become normal by succumbing to the allurements of the symbols of power and destruction.

It is quite true that in our conceptions of ideal-limits we are greatly influenced by the archetype of the new man of our own age. This archetype or configuration has expressed itself in all ages in one form or another. The 'new-man' seems to be the ever-elusive goal for all generations to cherish and to pursue. He recedes into more distant future the closer one gets to him. But he perpetually goes on beckoning to us to move on and on, determining and designing a more or less definite shape and structure out of the future as the indeterminate and diffused end of the temporal dimensions.

Therefore, the conception of the individual which intensive psychotherapy works on is that the font of one's thoughts, feelings and actions is love and creativity. By love' is meant not amorous emotions, but care. The 'ideal' individual is one who, in the words of Jung, has attained "individuation." This, he says, "has two principal aspects: in the first place it is an internal and subjective process of integration; in the second place it is an equally indispensable process of objective relationship. Neither can exist without the other. . . ." Both these aspects can be characterised as love'. For one who seeks internal and subjective integration loves his own talents, abilities and potentialities of growth and expansion. He loves not only his positive, but also his negative attitudes. He cares for his negative attitudes in the sense that he assimilates them in his consciousness and attempts to canalise (channelise) their energy to the supreme task of fulfilling his vocation. Such a being loves not only himself but others in the sense that he is capable of entering into personal relationship with his fellow beings and of fostering their growth. This is the ideal-limit of the growth of an individual. Whether the culture to which an individual belongs encourages or thwarts the individual in the loving realisation of possibilities, this seems to be the ideal-limit he is trying to attain. It means that one can assess and evaluate cultures in the light of this ideal-limit. Some cultures are nearer this limit than others, but the criterion of the value of a culture is the individual: the kind of individuals a culture produces is the criterion of its worth.

The degree to which a culture realises this ideal-limit can be ascertained by the nature of the symbols it employs to reinforce its institutions. Symbols carry the emotional or numinous energy of the individuals composing the group and evince the constellation of forces operating in a group at a particular time in history. In Nazi Germany the symbols which cast a spell of fascination over the Germans were not 'Christ as a child' or 'Virgin Mary' but the 'Swastika' and the 'Wotan'. The primitive and archaic ideas of racial superiority and the inherent devilishness of the nearest out-group could be emotionally supported only by a 'collective regression' to the pre-Christian symbols. Thus Nazi Germany had a culture which did not tolerate the growth of the individual in the sense in which we have conceived of him as an ideal-limit. The ideal-limit for the Germans was the 'Nazi-type' which crusades against evil and breeds death and destruction on the Jews. Love and creativity were abandoned and tabooed.

This is an example of one culture which had developed symbols to express its peculiar psychic situation at a particular stage in history. But we can find symbols in every culture which represent its attitude towards this ideal-limit. Are we aware of the symbols of our own culture, which express our own psychic condition today? There are some symbols which, according to this ideal-limit, a culture ought to have. If it is dynamic and vital a culture must have the 'child' as one of its basic symbols for the child expresses not only a fresh birth, but also infantile possibilities of development. A child is not only infantile, but also childlike; he or she has that 'seriousness at play' which is the goal of all mature development: intense but relaxed concentration, insatiable curiosity, readiness to be surprised and eagerness to explore, to seek and to experiment. If we are a newly-born culture, does the 'child' play any part therein? Have our artists and literary writers, our myth-makers and dreamers expressed the 'child-archetype' in any of its forms in their creative work? We cannot smother the child archetype without in some way surrendering our freedom and responsibility to others. A closed society has no place for the child who carves out his own destiny from a 'blooming and buzzing confusion'. I cannot understand why in our culture -- unless it is for the reason that we are doomed to remain patriarchal, authoritarian and closed -- Id-i-Milad-un-Nabi is not celebrated with intense and wild jubilation and merry-making. For what could be more significant and numinous for a Muslim than the birth of our Prophet?

Again, we have no symbol analogous to the crucifixion in Christianity. Crucifixion, if I understand it aright, is a symbol of universal love, affirming individuality against social tyranny, and symbolising self-realisation. It emphasises the need for withdrawal from social life in order to contact our genuine desires and goals. It represents an existential angst -- the need to experience one's loneliness, to feel that one is the carrier of one's life and not a mere derivative of social life. The individual who is crucified is a person who is set for a serious reckoning with himself in order to be reborn.

Of course, we have individuals' in our culture who are too ready to defy and flout social values. But such individuals are more in the nature of the son-lovers of the great mother than genuine individuals. They are irresponsible and immature, creating illusory storms in empty tea-cups. But as soon as it is a question of a real encounter with the social forces they cower and shrivel back in the womb of the great mother. They masquerade as heroes, but their approach is primarily negative. They are anxious to play with ideas, but without committing themselves to them. They have what Kierkegaard calls an aesthetic attitude, as opposed to the moral attitude of the real individual'.

In his book, Islam in Modern History, Wilfred Cantwell Smith criticises the role of intellectuals or its absence of in the religious and social movements of Pakistan. He castigates and provokes our intellectuals, but does not tell us why they do not feel committed to any religious or social movement. He does not see that they are irresponsible 'son-lovers'; suffering from what David Riesmann calls 'the nerve of failure'. They have swallowed Western liberal values, but are afraid of testing them out in this country lest they should fail. However, this possibility of failure, defeat and crucifixion are no part of our spiritual resources. We regard history as both significant and decisive, regard community as sacred and important, yet there is scant provision for defeat and disaster in our faith. Fright, therefore, holds back the Muslim intellectual from venturing forth and texting in reality; basically this is the 'fright of failure'.

INDIVIDUAL

To talk about the individual in relation to culture' generally means three things:

(1) Individual' can mean what in mythological terms can be called the son-lover, the irresponsible 'Don Juans" of a culture. They prattle and sparkle a great deal without committing themselves to any definite set of values. Their sweet and adorable appearances are a glamorous facade, but it is more froth than substance. They defy social values and live safely on the periphery of danger, but they bolt as soon as they come in precarious proximity to it. They fight cultural values without having assimilated them or comprehended their significance. "Implicit in this stage," says Erich Neumann, "is the pious hope of the natural creature that he, like nature, will be reborn through the great Mother, out of the fullness of her grace, with no activity or merit on his part.... Masculinity and consciousness have not yet won independence, and incest has given way to the matriarchal incest of adolescence. The death ecstasy of sexual incest is symptomatic enough of an adolescent ego not yet strong enough to resist the forces symbolised by the great Mother." Such an individual's defiance or denial of social values, or any values for that matter, is more in the nature of self-immolation. His is a negative protest, for the more he protests, the more he yields to the guiles of his culture. These 'son-lovers' are individuals, but have no individuality; they are neither integrated nor have their personal relations outgrown the narcissistic stage.

(2) The second kind of individual is the one who breaks his dependence on his family by being initiated into his culture -- another but larger mother in which he is completely contained. He the average individual, moderate in his attitude. He does not transgress social and cultural norms but lives by them for they are the only sanctions of life he has. He grows and develops in grooves set by his culture, and his inner peace and security depend on conformity to the customs, mores, and attitudes of his culture. He feels secure because for him these embody ancient and repeatedly tried wisdom. The individual accepts the authoritarian father, and through him acquires ideas like social ambition, fame, pride of birth, feelings for his tribe, clan or nation, hope of future riches, and social position. This individual has some consciousness, but most of his life is spent in a 'participation mystique' with the other members of the group. His relations are unconscious and institutionalised. He uncritically accepts, like a person hypnotised or infatuated, all his cultural institutions or institutional symbols. Whether he loves or hates, competes or struggles for success, his initiative and energy are confined to the moulds and forms laid down by the culture he belongs to. Such an individual invests most of his energy in his persona. In less complex societies, people can easily live with their personas but in highly differentiated and technically advanced cultures the persona, or what Erich Fromm calls marketing orientation, can cause intense neurotic pain and suffering.

(3) The third kind of individual, who is the theme of this paper, is what mythology call a hero Freud calls the 'genital' character and Jung calls the 'individuated' person. Such an individual is an 'accident' par excellence in the sense that his personality owes its uniqueness to a socially uncommon set of circumstances. The unusual circumstances which mould the personality of the hero are known in mythology as the miraculous birth of the hero. It seems as if the web of cultural traditions and values had an undetected and unaccounted for cleft or crevice from which emerges the unusual habitat which moulds and rears the hero. In mythology the miraculous birth of the Hero stands for his basic independence. It means that the Hero because of his unusual upbringing is perpetually exploring and seeking 'roots'. This exploration leads to an ardent curiosity about the foundations of the traditions and values of his culture. His attempt, therefore, is to conquer the darkness of the unconscious and to live by the light of consciousness. He tries to live by the light of consciousness in the full realisation that the unconscious is the fount of his energy. This realisation engenders in him a feeling of the 'self', which is different from the ego-consciousness. This 'individuated' person is the 'ideal-limit' referred to earlier.

The 'individuated' person combines in himself two opposite kinds of masculinity. One is the phallic masculinity, which for Freud and Wilhelm Reich is the epitome of humanity. This is the masculinity which reaches its peak development in a full-blooded orgasm. The second is the solar masculinity, the higher masculinity which "is correlated with light, the sun, the eye and consciousness." That Freud ignored this important distinction (which was first made by Bachofen and later incorporated into analytical psychology by Erich Neumann) is evident from the fact that in his description the genital character of determinism occupies the central place. The scientific attitude is an expression of the genital character and there is no reference to arts or creativity. In fact it seems as if Freud's genital character passively suffers determinism and does not proffer bold and challenging hypotheses founded on the perception of new relations. Freud's normal man does not take risks about truth; he observes, but does not experiment. His knowledge is Spinoza's second kind of knowledge. But the individuation to which Jung refers as the ideal-limit, emphasises both kinds of masculinity, genital and solar. Jung's normal man creates positive values and productively exploits his phantasy in the formation of new hypotheses. Both artists and scientists can combine in themselves those two strands of masculinity. The aim of intensive psychotherapy is to unite these two forms of creativity.

The dangers inherent in technological change have been described very well by Dr. Sailer: The individual is threatened with becoming a robot. We, who have lagged behind in the race for technology, as Dr. Hamiduddin has pointed out, have been more concerned with the subtle nuances of religious institutions and religious experience. This indeed might be a blessing in disguise, for as we are balancing on the verge of considerable industrial endeavour, we can derive spiritual sustenance from our religious orientation which we change and transform in a manner that may avoid the unconscious transition to the 'marketing orientation' which is the bane of a modern industrialised society. We can succeed in this only if we try to incorporate into our culture symbols which represent individuality.
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