In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins argues that God (probably) does not exist, and he associates belief in God with the childhood practice of having an “imaginary friend” (Dawkins 2006, p. 88). He advocates, as an alternative to belief in God, using science and evidence to develop useful models that replicate how the world works.
Although his argument has some validity, it is underpinned by a Western cultural premise that something is either real/exists or imaginary/unreal. This is a false dichotomy, created by the tendency in the modern Western mind to think in terms of simple opposites (Corbin 1972, p. 1). Imagination and reality are not alternatives, but imagination helps to create reality. This can be illustrated with three practical examples.
Illustration 1: Optical Illusion
In the picture above/right (published by Edward Adelson on a Wikipedia page), squares A and B are opposite colours – one is black the other is white. Can you see how this reality is created by your imagination?
Plebgate is a scandal that began with a politician (Andrew Mitchell) swearing at a police officer and having to resign. It then turned into the police investigating the honesty and integrity of its own officers (“plodgate”). On Wednesday (23/10/13), the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) showed that there is more confusion between fact and fiction in this story than in a good Dan Brown novel. For example:
- Three Chief Constables apologised for their officers’ actions – but the officers refused to do so.
- The officers claimed they had been accurate, but most others agreed they had misled.
- The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), and Chief Constables differed as to the charges that should be laid against the officers.
- The SIO disagreed with his own report, which he had signed as author.
- The way the SIO finalised the report’s conclusions was probably illegal.
- The Chief Constables disagree as to whether the report’s conclusions need to be reviewed.
How does mythology help explain this fog of confusion?
On the Sunday Politics recently, Andrew Neil called the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones an idiot, and made a circular motion pointing his finger at his own head to suggest Jones was crazy. You can see the 5 minute exchange using the BBC’s video clip (right, or at the BBC website).
To many viewers, it may have seemed a natural response for Neil to dismiss Jones as a crazy person. However, from the perspective of Jung’s analytical psychology, that would be to respond to an error with another error – because Neil allowed himself to get drawn into Jones’ black and white thinking. Also, there is something of potential value in Jones’ intensity of belief and breadth of support – because it suggests there is something else occurring at a much deeper, cultural level.
Films can be much more than entertainment – they also provide mirrors to understand ourselves and the society in which we live. For this reason, “Jungian” film analysis is popular because it provides deep insights into our individual and cultural maturity. In theory, this should help us to develop. However, there is a problem with much allegedly-Jungian film analysis because it has the opposite effect – it holds us back.
Jung said there are two ways in which one can use creative works to help our development. The first, which he called ‘psychological’, contributes very little to our understanding; the second, which he called ‘visionary’, is of significant value (Jung 1930, pp. 103-6).
Mythology and religion are apparently being used to improve the gaming experience and help increase the sales of computer games. Is this true? And, if so, is it a good thing?