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A dialogue between Jung and Jyotisha

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Excerpts and reflections on 'Personal Equation'

The idea of Personal Equation is older than Jung but it is the Jungian lens which makes its meaning and applicability more precise. Perhaps, it is finally, us, here, the astrologers who are capable of delivering its truth.


In Jung’s own works, the idea of Personal Equation first shows up in Volume 1 Psychiatric Studies in the essay - The Reaction-Time Ratio In The Association Experiment - where Jung writes, “Considering the great differences in the times, it means little that the times measured are all somewhat too long. All of us who have worked with a stopwatch know too that it functions with only limited precision, since the stopping mechanism does not always hold the second-hand at the exact place it was at when the button was pressed. There are also certain variations in the personal equation that can influence the measurement. In spite of numerous imponderables, we can still, at least in my experience, assume that the measurements are accurate to approximately 1/5 second, i.e., 200 σ. This small disadvantage has not so far had any adverse effect on our experiments.”


Initially the idea of Personal Equation was an obstacle to the Association Experiment, and it eventually became quite a critical point of therapizing the interaction between the Analyst and the Analysand. The term disappears then reappears in the Psychological Types - a text that Jung wrote during some of his toughest years - after the break with Freud and his own years of inner-turmoil. It makes sense for the idea of Personal Equation to resurface in this manner after such a prolonged period of contemplation of the nature of one’s own person(a).


In Psychological Types, Jung Writes, “This aim goes beyond the purely empirical by means of the concept, which, though it may have general and proved validity, will always be a product of the subjective psychological constellation of the investigator. In the making of scientific theories and concepts many personal and accidental factors are involved. There is also a personal equation that is psychological and not merely psychophysical. We see colors but not wave-lengths. This well-known fact must nowhere be taken to heart more seriously than in psychology. The effect of the personal equation begins already in the act of observation. One sees what one can best see oneself. Thus, first and foremost, one sees the mote in one’s brother’s eye. No doubt the mote is there, but the beam sits in one’s own eye—and may considerably hamper the act of seeing. I mistrust the principle of “pure observation” in so-called objective psychology unless one confines oneself to the eye-pieces of chronoscopes and tachistoscopes and suchlike “psychological” apparatus. With such methods one also guards against too embarrassing a yield of empirical psychological facts.”


He further adds, “But the personal equation asserts itself even more in the presentation and communication of one’s own observations, to say nothing of the interpretation and abstract exposition of the empirical material. Nowhere is the basic requirement so indispensable as in psychology that the observer should be adequate to his object, in the sense of being able to see not only subjectively but also objectively. The demand that he should see only objectively is quite out of the question, for it is impossible. We must be satisfied if he does not see too subjectively. That the subjective observation and interpretation accord with the objective facts proves the truth of the interpretation only insofar as the latter makes no pretense to be generally valid, but valid only for that area of the object which is being considered. To this extent it is just the beam in one’s own eye that enables one to detect the mote in one’s brother’s eye. The beam in one’s own eye, as we have said, does not prove that one’s brother has no mote in his. But the impairment of one’s own vision might easily give rise to a general theory that all motes are beams.”

Jyotisha only helps in understanding the ‘Personal Equation’ as objectively as it can, but ultimately as long as we are on Earth the preferential consciousness, the Moon, remains in one name, shape, or form. Until and unless one is enlightened enough to access the non-dual states of being at which point the psyche speaks in the language of love based transmissions and not dichotomous and dualistic languages, our Masters make the effort for the students, as they still reside in the realm of duality.


It was in an attempt to show the need for the Psychological Types framework which is one of the foundations works for the whole Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. We, Jyotishis, have something far more sophisticated. It is so sophisticated that the imprudent surgeon of the Psyche will butch it. It requires as much if not more study than a medical student aspiring to be a brain surgeon.


In the Type Differences Essay Jung demonstrates, “Type differences should also be borne in mind when we consider the long and perilous struggle which the Church from its earliest beginnings waged against Gnosticism.”

All of this was a demonstration of the ‘Personal Equation’, in the Jyotisha terms it is the Chandra or the Moon, or more appropriately - Manas (Old English gemynd ‘memory, thought’, of Germanic origin, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘revolve in the mind, think’, shared by Sanskrit manas and Latin mens ‘mind’).


In the fourth paper named Psychological Typology of The Four Papers On Psychological Typology, Jung again emphasizes on the ‘Personal Equation’, he writes, “Last but not least, it is an essential means for determining the “personal equation” of the practicing psychologist, who, armed with an exact knowledge of his differentiated and inferior functions, can avoid many serious blunders in dealing with his patients.”



In the Essay titled, ‘A Review Of The Complex Theory’ from The Structure And Dynamics Of The Psyche (Volume 8, CW) - Freud’s theory is a faithful account of his actual experiences during the investigation of complexes. But since such an investigation is always a dialogue between two people, in building up the theory one has to consider not only the complexes of the one partner, but also those of the other. Every dialogue that pushes forward into territory hedged about by fear and resistance is aiming at something vital, and by impelling the one partner to integrate his wholeness it forces the other to take up a broader position. He too is impelled towards wholeness, for without this he would not be able to push the dialogue deeper and deeper into those fear-bound regions. No investigator, however unprejudiced and objective he is, can afford to disregard his own complexes, for they enjoy the same autonomy as those of other people. As a matter of fact, he cannot disregard them, because they do not disregard him. Complexes are very much a part of the psychic constitution, which is the most absolutely prejudiced thing in every individual. His constitution will therefore inexorably decide what psychological view a given observer will have. Herein lies the unavoidable limitation of psychological observation: its validity is contingent upon the personal equation of the observer.



In the essay titled On The Nature Of The Psyche from The Structure And Dynamics Of The Psyche (Volume 8, CW), under the sub-section called General Considerations and Prospects’, Jung notes : “The problems of analytical psychology, as I have tried to outline them here, led to conclusions that astonished even me. I fancied I was working along the best scientific lines, establishing facts, observing, classifying, describing causal and functional relations, only to discover in the end that I had involved myself in a net of reflections which extend far beyond natural science and ramify into the fields of philosophy, theology, comparative religion, and the humane sciences in general. This transgression, as inevitable as it was suspect, has caused me no little worry. Quite apart from my personal incompetence in these fields, it seemed to me that my reflections were suspect also in principle, because I am profoundly convinced that the “personal equation” has a telling effect upon the results of psychological observation. The tragic thing is that psychology has no self consistent mathematics at its disposal, but only a calculus of subjective prejudices. Also, it lacks the immense advantage of an Archimedean point such as physics enjoys. The latter observes the physical world from the psychic standpoint and can translate it into psychic terms. The psyche, on the other hand, observes itself and can only translate the psychic back into the psychic. Were physics in this position, it could do nothing except leave the physical process to its own devices, because in that way it would be most plainly itself. There is no medium for psychology to reflect itself in: it can only portray itself in itself, and describe itself. That, logically, is also the principle of my own method: it is, at bottom, a purely experiential process in which hit and miss, interpretation and error, theory and speculation, doctor and patient, form a symptosis (σύμπτωσιϛ) or a symptoma (σύμπτωμα)—a coming together—and at the same time are symptoms of a certain process or run of events. What I am describing, therefore, is basically no more than an outline of psychic happenings which exhibit a certain statistical frequency. We have not, scientifically speaking, removed ourselves to a plane in any way “above” the psychic process, nor have we translated it into another medium. Physics, on the other hand, is in a position to detonate mathematical formulae—the product of pure psychic activity—and kill seventy-eight thousand persons at one blow.



In the sub-section named, On The Concept Of The Archetype from the essay Psychological Aspects Of The Mother Archetype, from The Archetypes And The Collective Unconscious (Volume 9, Part I, CW), Jung notes : “But I am an empiricist, not a philosopher; I cannot let myself presuppose that my peculiar temperament, my own attitude to intellectual problems, is universally valid. Apparently this is an assumption in which only the philosopher may indulge, who always takes it for granted that his own disposition and attitude are universal, and will not recognize the fact, if he can avoid it, that his “personal equation” conditions his philosophy.


He further adds, “During the century and a half that have elapsed since the appearance of the Critique of Pure Reason, the conviction has gradually gained ground that thinking, understanding, and reasoning cannot be regarded as independent processes subject only to the eternal laws of logic, but that they are psychic functions coordinated with the personality and subordinate to it. We no longer ask, “Has this or that been seen, heard, handled, weighed, counted, thought, and found to be logical?” We ask instead, “Who saw, heard, or thought?” Beginning with “the personal equation” in the observation and measurement of minimal processes, this critical attitude has gone on to the creation of an empirical psychology such as no time before ours has known. Today we are convinced that in all fields of knowledge psychological premises exist which exert a decisive influence upon the choice of material, the method of investigation, the nature of the conclusions, and the formulation of hypotheses and theories. We have even come to believe that Kant’s personality was a decisive conditioning factor of his Critique of Pure Reason. Not only our philosophers, but our own predilections in philosophy, and even what we are fond of calling our “best” truths are affected, if not dangerously undermined, by this recognition of a personal premise. All creative freedom, we cry out, is taken away from us! What? Can it be possible that a man only thinks or says or does what he himself is?


In the essay titled, The State Of Psychotherapy Today from Civilization In Transition (Volume 10, CW) : Jung notes, “I need hardly say that technique is necessary up to a point—we are all sufficiently convinced of that. But behind every method there stands the man, who is so much more important because, irrespective of his technique, he has to arrive at decisions which are at least as vital to the patient as any technique however adroitly applied. It is therefore the duty of the psychotherapist to exercise self-knowledge and to criticize his personal assumptions, whether religious or philosophical, just as asepsis is obligatory for a surgeon. The doctor must know his “personal equation” in order not to do violence to his patient. To this end I have worked out a critical psychology which would enable the psychiatrist to recognize the various typical attitudes, even though the Freudian school asserts that this has nothing to do with psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is evidently a technique behind which the human being vanishes, and which always remains the same no matter who practices it. Consequently, the psychoanalyst needs no self-knowledge and no criticism of his assumptions. Apparently the purpose of his training analysis is to make him not a human being but a correct applier of technique.”


In an Editorial published in 1933 (Civilization In Transition, Volume 10, CW), Jung notes, “The differences which actually do exist between Germanic and Jewish psychology and which have long been known to every intelligent person are no longer to be glossed over, and this can only be beneficial to science. In psychology more than in any other science there is a “personal equation,” disregard of which falsifies the practical and theoretical findings. At the same time I would like to state expressly that this implies no depreciation of Semitic psychology, any more than it is a depreciation of the Chinese to speak of the peculiar psychology of the Oriental.”


In the essay titled, Fundamental Questions Of Psychotherapy from Volume 16 of Collected Works of C.G. Jung, ‘Practice Of Psychotherapy : Essays On The Psychology Of The Transference And Other Subject’, Jung writes, “So it happened with Freud: his pupil Alfred Adler developed a view which shows neurosis in a very different light. It is no longer the sexual urge, or the pleasure principle, that dominates the picture, but the urge to power (self-assertion, “masculine protest,” “the will to be on top”). As I have shown in a concrete instance, both theories can be successfully applied to one and the same case; moreover it is a well-known psychological fact that the two urges keep the scales balanced, and that the one generally underlies the other. Adler remained as one-sided as Freud, and both agree that not only the neurosis, but the man himself, can be explained from the shadow side, in terms of his moral inferiority. All this points to the existence of a personal equation, a subjective prejudice that was never submitted to criticism. The rigidity with which both men adhered to their position denotes, as always, the compensating of a secret uncertainty and an inner doubt. The facts as described by the two investigators are, if taken with a pinch of salt, right enough; but it is possible to interpret them in one way as much as in the other, so that both are partially wrong, or rather, they are mutually complementary. The lesson to be drawn from this is that in practice one would do well to consider both points of view.”



In the foreword to Erich Neumann’s ‘The Origins And History Of Consciousness’, Jung writes, “No system can ever dispense with an overall hypothesis which in its turn depends upon the temperament and subjective assumptions of the author as well as upon objective data. This factor is of the greatest importance in psychology, for the “personal equation” colors the mode of seeing. Ultimate truth, if there be such a thing, demands the concert of many voices.”



Michael Fordham’s, Technique in Jungian Analysis : In commenting on that paper, Plaut links Jung's use of the term 'personal equation' with the modern analyst's use of 'style': and considering that to some extent modern psychologists and modern physicists discover that they function in similar ways where subjectivity and objectivity are concerned, it is interesting to learn also that Jung's favored term was coined by the astronomers at the Greenwich Royal Observatory in I 796.


As Alfred Plaut tells, “Fordham (ibid.) writes about the analyst's 'style', which is individual and ultimately incommunicable. We also know that Jung used the term 'personal equation' in order to express the analyst's personality as an important factor that influences all his psychological observations. Few analysts are aware of the fact-and we have no evidence that Jung was conscious of it, that the personal equation has a history that began in 1796 at the Greenwich Royal Observatory and reached its climax some 70 years 1ater.” (Pg. 292)

He further adds, “At any rate 'personal equation' in Jung's usage emphasizes an analyst's constant predisposition rather than a particular counter-transference.”


To which Fordaham replied, “To approach the subject of antecedents: the term 'style' is not new-it can be found in the literature and papers that have been written on it (cf. Rosen 1961). I meant to use it in an ordinary sense, and it was evidently precise enough for Plaut to understand what I meant, though he used it in ways that I did not intend. No doubt it will be used and given meanings not thought of by me and I may object. His linking it up with the personal equation and personality seems to me unwarranted, because I think the personal equation is the stuff of one analytic relationship; but, all the same, if he finds it useful it will be interesting to see the results of his thoughts.” (Reply To Plaut’s Comment)


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