The cruciform diagram [see The Mythic Dimension, p.193] makes it evident that in this view of Jung’s “four functions” we are dealing with the claims and forces of two pairs of opposites; for as feeling and thinking are opposed, so too are sensation and intuition.
People aware only of the information of their senses, the most obvious actualities immediately present, may be disappointed or undone by unrecognized implications; whereas others, intuitive always of possibilities and implications, may be knocked down by a hard and present fact. In Jung’s view, based on his work with patients, each of us tends to favor in the shaping of his life but one of the two functions of each pair – sensation and thinking, for example, which would leave intuition and feeling undeveloped; and any activation of the unattended functions tends to be experienced as threatening and is resisted. Moreover, since the resisted functions are undeveloped – “inferior,” as Jung terms them – they are alien to the subject’s understanding both of himself and of his world, and whenever they do break through, they overthrow controls and with compulsive force take over: the individual is “beside himself,” out of control.
While I appreciate the value of the four functions as represented in the diagram, I react intuitively (!) to the implication of opposition between the pairs: it’s just as interesting to note that “feeling” and “thinking,” for example, while at opposite poles, are indeed connected by the line between them – drawn towards each other as much as away - and, indeed, it strikes me that whatever may be represented by the entirety of that line is perhaps worth considering. Also, it’s simple enough to embellish the mandala by circumscribing the “functions;” in other words, by drawing a circle through them, thereby linking all of them in an unending round and otherwise assuaging the opposing energies established by the two pairs of opposites.
Would this affect the aforementioned interpretation? Why is Jung convinced that we favor two of the four functions and not one or perhaps three, depending on the individual? In any case, the idea that the “inferior,” otherwise undeveloped functions are capable of breaking through and overthrowing our controls, such as they are, resulting in one’s becoming “beside himself” is a compelling explanation for why a non-artist - a student taking an elective course for instance – could become so frustrated, ostensibly by way of the unexpected dynamics of a creative schism, to resort to a fit of tears. And what in particular is it about the act of drawing that makes the frustration so acute versus, say, even painting or sculpting? Writing, conversely, never brings people to tears and nor does one find an incompetent musician breaking down in front of his instrument. Mathematics is perhaps the closest competitor to drawing in its ability to un-center the psyche into such a threatened, stymied condition. Does mathematics have anything in common, therefore, with drawing? Anger is another possible manifestation of such acute frustration and I’m not sure how much of that my brother has noticed in his students: it’s a good question for him.
Still, given the well-established therapeutic nature of visual imagery (which ultimately begets mythology) - the power to release, retain, arrest, synchronize, ground or otherwise balance one’s psychology - and the even more intensely dynamic subconscious and unconscious power accessed through the craft of creating visual imagery oneself, be it especially illustration or painting, one is perforce driven to acknowledge the particularly enervating, effective and intense dynamism of this creative act over perhaps all others. Writing perhaps releases psychic energies more gradually, more easily, with less demand placed upon the mind-body-spirit (or substitute intuition or inspiration for spirit) dynamic; one can write, after all, as one talks. One can even experience athletic activity as ineptly restorative (observe the glee of any clumsy child kicking a ball or an incompetent duffer hacking joyfully away at his golf ball). Visual art, conversely, requires, as my brother, himself an accomplished professional artist, has said, "a different form of communication" and it’s a far rarer skill, let alone talent, to be able to render images on paper with one’s hands. Photographers and filmmakers have a distinct advantage here and in the end as their creations are not completely, as is the case in drawing, the act of their own efforts. In drawing, it’s perhaps the challenge of rendering three dimensions into two that unleashes a surge of unconscious or subconscious energies. I can ask my brother if simpler, two-dimensional exercises – drawing geometric shapes and lines for example - ever evokes schism in students, or if it’s only during more intuitively difficult tasks whereby one’s mind is challenged to funnel and flatten the world onto paper that the real problems occur? Could it be that a student occasionally finds it an impossible shock to realize her once familiar pencil and paper, so benignly obedient day after day to her incidental scribblings and scratchings, have transformed into a seemingly intractable pair of threshold guardians at once denying entry to the acceptable completion of an assignment, (many students, after all, make their way successfully through academia by way of merely rote regurgitation of an instructor’s instructions), and inviting entry into heretofore unrecognized dimensions and depths of experience within and without?
One is compelled to ask what characterizes the students that come to wits end over the experience versus those that don’t; if every student came apart at the same point every semester, then we’d have an easy time discovering the cause. Perhaps my brother sees a pattern? And one wonders how close to the edge so to speak other students of equal artistic ineptitude (for lack of a more compassionate phrase) may be during the experience, during the attempt at assigned work; how much duress are they suffering in the same classroom, at the same tasks, confronting their challenges, their demons, be it on the paper or in their heads or both, perhaps only outwardly coping with their anxieties with more aplomb?
Another question: is it predictable then, from my brother’s experienced vantage point, observing as he does an endless cycle of artistic initiates enter his class more or less broadly dispersed between the poles, on the one hand, of enthusiastic, un-self-conscious self-awareness, self-compassion and sense of adventure, (regardless of skill level) and, on the other, dread and advanced defensiveness? And can they switch places at some point? How long does it take and by what particular means does it occur (what degree and duration of chemical heat for example?) whereby each type (and we’re all types) of student distills out, so to speak, according to their veritelos – according to their true nature - exactly as do the organic components in a chemical distillation column, each individual type boiling off, (with the potential to be effectively condensed and collected now in their purified state), at higher and higher temperatures, according to the laws of their molecular composition?
And what of Jung’s four “functions?” I’ve not attended one of my brother's classes, but I’m sure he must somehow negotiate the dynamics of sensation, thinking, intuition and feeling that likely begin to percolate from his students within the first few moments of each new class, each new admixture about to undergo creative and mythological distillation. After all, it’s not far-fetched to reconsider Jung’s mandala in mythological terms, by way of analogy with Campbell’s four functions of myth; namely 1) Awe = Intuition, 2) Cosmology = Thinking, 3) Sociology = Sensation and 4) Psychology = Feeling. Syncretizing in this way, one can perhaps begin to perceive the magnitude of life energies put into play in the introductory art classroom, (to say nothing of other creative experiences), and to recognize the volatile human biochemistry thereby established in the form of the Central Excitatory Mechanisms (CEMs), more or less dormant in each student, and the Innate Releasing Mechanisms (IRMs) presented, more or less capably, by an instructor.
It’s often tedious and of little lasting interest to tease apart, by way of historical linguistics or philology, the architecture of words with an eye towards a more deeply rare or compellingly archaic meaning, but I indulged myself with the word “teach” as it’s defined in my Random House Collegiate Dictionary and there I find a reference to an OE word, tǣcan, described as akin to TOKEN. Campbell has oft repeated the idea that there is no mythology without symbol; symbols are a mythology’s inherent aspect. Interesting, then, to find as part of a lengthy definition of “token,” the oft-occurring word “symbol” and, at its compelling terminus, the phrase: “See TEACH.”