chapter  1
7 Pages

The Disintegration of Consciousness

Thus it is understandable that the text returns to the protecting figure of the ‘enclosing circle’. It is intended to prevent ‘outflowing' and to protect the unity of consciousness from being split apart by the unconscious. Moreover, the Chinese concept points a way towards lessening the disintegrating

effect o f the unconscious; it describes the ‘thought-figures’ or ‘separate thoughts’ as ‘empty colours and shapes’, and thus depotentiates them as much as possible. This idea runs through the whole of Buddhism (especially the Mahayana form), and, in the instructions to the dead in the Tibetan Book o f the Dead, it is even pushed to the point o f explaining favourable as well as unfavourable gods as illusions still to be overcome. It cer­ tainly is not within the competence of the psychologist to establish the metaphysical truth or falsity of this idea; he must be content to determine wherever possible what has psychic effect. In doing this, he need not bother himself as to whether the shape in question is a transcendental illusion or not, since faith, not science, has to decide this point. We are working here in a field which for a long time has seemed to be outside the domain of science, and which has therefore been looked upon as wholly illusory. But there is no scientific justification for such an assumption, for the substantiality of these things is not a scientific problem since in any case it would He beyond the range of human perception and judgement, and therefore beyond any possibility of proof. The psychologist is not concerned with the substance o f these complexes, but with the psychic experience. Without a doubt they are psychic contents which can be experienced, and which have an indisputable autonomy. They are fragmentary psychic systems which either appear spontaneously in ecstatic states and, under certain circumstances, elicit powerful impressions and effects, or else become fixed as mental disturbances in the form of delusions and hallucinations, thus destroying the unity of the personality.