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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Psyche’s Postmodern Mirror

The Internet links us with other individuals and also a vast collective, bringing the idea of interconnectedness into our consciousness, and our homes. The Internet has replaced the atom as a cultural icon and signifies a new way of being in the world; it has no beginning, no end and no center (Brien, 1998, p. 278).

The interconnectedness of the Internet is very akin to Hillman’s notion of psychological polytheism and Andrew Samuels’s notion of the plural psyche:

The psyche as Samuels describes it is multiple, many, rather than singular or unitary. If we are venturesome enough, it is possible using Samuels’s “plural psyche” to think of the Internet as a kind of projection, or externalization of the psyche, or as a metaphor for psyche. The psyche and the Internet may be said to imaginally mirror one another. The psyche describes the inner world of the individual. The Internet can be imagined as a manifestation of the outer world of the collective. (Brien, 1998, p. 281)

Brien (1998) notes that the notion of plural psyche goes back to William James, Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung. Jung (1961/1989), for example, regarded the individual psyche to be multiple, not singular, but conflicted and in tension with itself and untidy. In discussing the individual psyche versus collective organization, Jung says of the individual psyche:

He will serve as his own group, consisting of a variety of opinions and tendencies—which need not necessarily be marching in the same direction. In fact, he will be at odds with himself, and he will find great difficulty in uniting his own multiplicity for purposes of common action. (p. 343)

For Samuels, Brien (1998) reports, depth psychology is is “not so much about the individual or things but about how these individuals or things relate to each other and how groups of these relationships again relate to other groups” (p. 281). According to Turkel (1995), only Jungian psychology and object relations “seem to have developed a theory and language which can help us to understand and come to terms with” the questions raised by the Internet (Brien, p. 280). Questions, Brien notes, such as how real and enduring is the interconnectedness of the internet? Is this Internet interconnectedness fully benign or is there a shadow side; and is this changing the way we think of ourselves and how we relate to others? The experience of being many selves is natural to the psyche. Brien notes that the terms that Jungian Analyst Andrew Samuels uses to describe the psyche have also been used to describe the Net:

Many selves are foci, “dots,” of psychic energy and so constantly moving, changing, transforming, and constantly bumping into one another, “interacting,” or linking up with each other . . . the interconnectedness is forever shifting as some connections are closed off, and others opened. And so the pattern of this Net/psyche changes; it too is never the same . . . . Net is not controlled or owned or dominated by any individual or organization, and according to Samuels, the psyche is similarly not governed by any one predominant power. There is no center to the psyche, just as there is no center to the Net. (p. 283)

The Internet, like the world today is a very postmodern place, being paradoxically both “highly connected” and “deeply fragmented” (Brien, 1998, p. 279). Hillman sees the psyche similarly. In 1975, Hillman wrote extensively about the polytheistic nature of the psyche in Re-visioning Psychology. A quick quote will whet our appetite:

Clinically, this polycentricity would be condemned as schizoid fragmentation, demonstrating the ambivalence of center that cannot hold. But mythically we might look for a God in the disease, perhaps Hermes-Mercury or the trickster. For schizoid polycentricity is a style of consciousness and not only a disease; this style thrives in plural meanings, in cryptic double-talk, in escaping definitions, in not taking heroic committed stances, in ambisexuality, in psychically detached or separated body parts.” (Hillman, 1992, p. 35)

The book’s original title “The Center Cannot Hold” (Hillman, personal communication, March 20, 2004) reflects this schizoid polycentricity too, Hillman himself being a master of this trickster style. Re-visioning Psychology (Hillman, 1992) is worth reading and re-reading, because this bricoleur takes many interesting and elusive excursions that might not be noticed on the first go round.

Postmodernism focuses on popular culture and is also interested in play. McLuhan shocked scholars because he considered mass media worthy of study. For the record, McLuhan, was a bricoleur as well. In 1962, McLuhan himself described his method:

he Gutenberg Galaxy develops a mosaic or field approach to its problems. Such a mosaic image of numerous data and quotations in evidence offers the only practical means of revealing causal operations in history. The alternative procedure would be to offer a series of views of fixed relationships in pictorial space. Thus the galaxy or constellation of events upon which the present study concentrates is itself a mosaic of perpetually interacting forms that have undergone kaleidoscopic transformation—particularly in our own time. (Grosswiler, 1998, p. 70)

McLuhan’s mosaic approach echoes van den Berg’s metabletics, my bricolage method and the study of play’s archetypal aspects through the “Kaleidoscope of Culture” similarly reflect McLuhan’s mosaic method.

Art historian John Walker “describes postmodernism in the arts as a ‘half-way house’ between the past and an unclear future” (Grosswiler, 1998, p. 158). Walker points out that postmodernism rejects one universal style in favor of a plurality of styles and hybrids, revives historical and traditional styles in quotations and parodies, permits ornamentation and decoration, values complexity, contradiction and ambiguity while rejecting simplicity, order and rationality; the blending of high and low culture or fine and popular art is favored in offering multi-layered readings and values referencing art to other works. (Grosswiler, pp. 158-159). Grosswiler notes that while McLuhan’s theory combines both modern and postmodern thinking, it leans more to the postmodern:

McLuhan . . . embraced a “plurality of styles” and “hybrid styles.” In fact, McLuhan assumed that the pluralism of acoustic space is textually richer; the whole notion of hybrids is central to the creative power of McLuhan’s critical media universe . . . . The retrieval of history and tradition, through “retro-style,” “quotations,” “collage,” “recyclings,” “parodies, “pastiches of old styles” is a theme that permeates McLuhan’s mosaic thinking. (p. 159)

Some of McLuhan’s books are rich mosaics, some of them mixed media creations (McLuhan and Fiore, 1967; McLuhan, 1970), full of images and texts interestingly juxtaposed. Grosswiler (1998), discussing McLuhan’s method explains:

McLuhan made it clear that relation is the key as he discusses the “mosaic” process of insight. He declared that media only have meaning in relation to other media. "In fact, (the ‘mosaic’) is the technique of insight . . . necessary for media study, since no medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with other media.” The whole process, or totality, is what McLuhan called a “galaxy,” which he equated with an “environment” that, again, is process-oriented and interactive. (p. 71)

McLuhan’s mosaic method not only looks at media in relation to other media but also sees social and media change as interrelated. With the Internet we are using electronic media to explore other electronic media. The use of hypertext allows literal linking and a “virtual thought collage” can be assembled on a web site, both linking within itself and also out onto the rest of the Internet, where it can interact with other cultural creations. The postmodern idea of intertextuality, “that every literary text or work of art relates to, alludes to, or comments on . . . various other texts or works” is relevant here. (Grosswiler, 1998, p. 160) This echoes “the fundamental ecological principle of connectedness that naturalist John Muir is considered one of the first to state: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” The original version of this phrase, from Muir’s 1869 diary is even more reminiscent of what we have been discussing: “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe “ (Muir, 2004, online). My dissertation as a web site, can literally be hitched to other things, creating its own Indra’s Net.

Although we have discussed the Internet with regard to the artistic method, the other component methodologies of the bricolage method are implicit as well. The dissertation as web site allows for a participatory experience, which is fundamental to the nature of play. The ability to move between subjects and proceed in a nonlinear mode, if desired, and the shuttling back and forth nature of hypertext echoes the hermeneutic aspect of the method, whereas the heuristic component can be seen in being able to have one’s own personal experience of the cultural creations and to experience the dissertation and beyond in whatever manner one sees fit. The ability to use images and cultural creations encourages play’s cosmic dimensions to shine through and deepen understanding while different metabletic moments and synchronicities may also give additional insights. And through the use of hyperlinks, encourages you, the reader to boldly go where I have not . . . and if you want, you can keep going and going, and going . . . .

One word of warning is in order: Be careful out there! Although the Internet is amazing in its scope, and gives us the ability to access vast amounts of information, there is no quality control, no guarantee of accuracy. With so much information, it is sometimes hard to find what we are looking for, and once it is found, due to the mercurial nature of the Internet, it may have disappeared the next time we go to look for it. The Internet can also be addictive—it is not uncommon to sit down for a few minutes, only to realize that hours have passed. True to its Hermes nature, there are also thieves and spies lurking, trying to steal information, or to keep track of where we are going.

Beware of popups, phishing and spam, as well as false web sites that are designed to make you think they are associated with some official agency or charity but are in fact just a scam. One last caution. This one come from Mary Poppins herself (Stevenson, 1964, motion picture), “you better use it carefully, or it can change your life.” It did mine, and you are looking at the result!

Now, let us get on to the task at hand and take a look at the Cosmic Setup, before we see what the Cosmic Game is all about. To do this, we will need to leave the printed page behind and visit my website:, either on the internet itself or in the archived version that is on CD.

NOTE: A complete combined reference list for the entire dissertation can be found in the “Odds and Ends” section of the website.

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