Psyche as a self-organizing system and its spiritual significance

Sudeep Adhikari


One of the most profound ideas of Carl Jung can be found in his rendition of dynamic and relational nature of human-psyche. As soon as we recognize the relational-dynamics to be the intrinsic feature of human-psyche, we can safely move in the direction where psyche has to be viewed as a self-organizing system. The concept of psyche as the self-organizing system can be arguably traced back to the work of German Psychologist/Physiologist/Painter, Carl Gustav Carus. However, the deeper psychological implication of this concept was first fully realized by Carl Gustav Jung.

In his book “Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche”, Jung has outlined two approaches that can be employed for the studies of physical/mental events. According to Jung, any physical/mental event can be viewed under broader paradigms of mechanism and energy, such that their resultant approaches can be termed mechanistic and energetic respectively. Mechanistic paradigm is based on delineating associated causality that governs the evolution of the system, whereas energetic paradigm is more concerned with system’s finality, where the concept of energy is “abstracted from relations of movements”. Hence the primary philosophical shift is evidently from “substantial to the relational”, “atomistic to the holistic” and from “static to dynamic”.

Under the new light, our knowledge of external/internal world is also the result of constant relational inter-penetration of causal and the final approaches. To understand the system at its totality, we must be aware of both of its causal and final sides; a strict adherence to only one type of approach will further create recurrent problem of “error of misplaced concretism” and other metaphysical loops. Without unwarranted ambiguity, here we can relate the faculty of “Thinking” to be more dominant in case of  mechanistic approach and the faculty of  “Feeling” to be more dominating in case of energetic approach.

However, it is to be carefully noted that “feeling” and “thinking” do not happen in isolation, thus rendering our psyche with more fluid and plastic characteristics. To have the complete understanding of our psyche, we need to be aware of constant interaction between the two approaches; the material and the relational, and the inertial and the dynamic. If we do not incorporate the energetic approach, which relies on the fundamentals of relations and interactions, our psyche will be synonymous with Cartesian “mind”, an epiphenomenon, devoid of any intrinsic legitimacy. Psyche as a self-subsistent meaning-creating system can only be understood when it is viewed as a self-organizing system.

Reality then cannot be viewed as an isolated event, standing apart from our psyche at its own right. It is a process under constant evolution and involution, forming an inter-connection with our psyche, in a dynamic-relational manner. Above all, we are the meaning-creating organism; we create reality and churn the meaning out of it. The whole systems of ethics, art, science, philosophy and religion can then be viewed as the offshoots of our psyche, self-adjusting and self-organizing amidst the ever changing flux of material-spiritual monads.


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We don’t abide in isolation, we create relationships and, further recreated by them in a dynamic and non-linear sort of way. Meanings and value-systems, in the similar way are not the platonic ideals, but the very fabric of processorial nature of our psyche. “The meaning of life” or “the value of existence”, if we try to resolve causally, will leave us with many schools of philosophy and nothing more. On the other hand, we need to retort these questions energetically, as a rhizome or a process. A question is always identical with the questioner and the answer is not its crystallization to a particular idea, but the shape of ever-growing/ever-changing web of relationships between interrogation and the interrogator.

Meanings are not isolated events; they are created, recreated, erased and repainted continually. It is the attainment of that self-regulation/organization, a homeostasis between the questioner and the question; not the solution of the problem, but the inadvertent inter-penetration of problems with the Being. In the strict causalistic sense, there is neither sense nor meaning of the mysterium called “Life”.

If we keep proceeding in the direction partially lighted by the beacon of causality, we will never reach the answers to our questions relating to “meanings of life”,” sense of existence”, “existence of god” or the “origin of ethics”. There are no answers because, we are the answers. These conflicts can be resolved but can never be answered, because we are the very answers we are seeking. There is no answer to look outside. We live the answer in the very process of life we are embedded in. The very process of “living life” is totally indistinguishable from the “meaning of life”, which we are habitually trained to find inside the tautological net of philosophical abstractions.

The writer is a structural engineer by profession. Also a poet, he writes regularly on philosophy, religion, science, psychology and popular culture.