NON-CAUSALITY AS A UNIFYING PRINCIPLE OF PSYCHOSOMATICS-SULPHUR


NON-CAUSALITY AS A UNIFYING PRINCIPLE OF PSYCHOSOMATICS-SULPHUR. The concept of causality, namely the linear association of phenomena by cause and effect, has always been an unquestioned logical category; in scientific work, especially, it seems to us the only possible and thinkable one. To satisfy our scientific logic-the causal relationship of events has to be established before we can reasonably assume an understanding of the phenomena in question.


AUTHORS NOTE-I believe I should say this before I give you this rather long and formidable paper. It consists of two parts. The first part deals with the general application of a scientific principle-which I think is as important as Copper-nicus revelation-introducing an entirely new approach in natural science. We seem to stand on the threshold of a similar time. It is very, very difficult for us to comprehend, who stand at the very dawn of this time, and who have to strain our poor brains to find out what it is all about.

The first part is an explanation of this principle, which has risen from atom physics and psychology. The second part applies it to a well-known drug. Sulphur, and shows how the symptomatology of the remedy, as well as the personality and constitutional type, seem to fit into a very enlarged pattern and fall almost automatically into line.-E.W.

The concept of causality, namely the linear association of phenomena by cause and effect, has always been an unquestioned logical category; in scientific work, especially, it seems to us the only possible and thinkable one. To satisfy our scientific logic-the causal relationship of events has to be established before we can reasonably assume an understanding of the phenomena in question.

Thus we ask whether physical disorders are caused by mental ones or vice versa. We ask why a potency acts, why a similar drug removes a condition which it can cause; whether prescribing on the basis of symptom similarity removes also the “cause” of these symptoms, namely the “illness.” In attempting to find a logical order in the maze of symptoms of our Materia Medica we have to ask such questions as what causes the “ragged philosopher,” Mr. Sulphur, to have eczemas, and why that same Sulphur constitution should also be characterized by varicose veins and an aggravation from heat? What causes what, and how so?.

At best, these questions prove unanswerable. But, actually, they involve us in more and more illogical paradoxes. The very law of similars itself is such a logical paradox when looked at in terms of causality. That, seemingly, cause and effect could be reversible-such as emotional states causing organic conditions or organic derangements causing mental disorders-seems equally bewildering. More or less despairing of ever finding satisfactory answers, we have embarrassedly stopped asking such questions.

That the very mode of reasoning which we have come to take for granted may itself be a barrier toward a real understanding of the phenomena of life does, not even occur to us.

Astounding as this may sound, it is precisely the conclusion with we seem to be confronted by modern scientific insights. Non- causality, as a scientific principle suitable for a better understanding of nature, has been advanced by the exactest of all sciences, physics, and more recently also be analytical psychology.

W.Heisenberg1 who introduced the so-called “uncertainty principle” into physics expresses himself as follows:.

In the statement that whenever we know the present exactly in every respect, we can predetermine the future, it is not the conclusion that is wrong but the premise. As a matter of principle, we cannot ever exactly recognize the present.

The basis for this statement lies in the fact that, in atom physics, the very process of observation itself has been found to disturb and thereby change the course of the events which are to be observed. One may determine with approximate exactness either the course or the impulse of an electron but not both; the accuracy of determination of the one diminishes in relation to the gain of exactness of the other. Never having had a firmly exact premise from which to deduce an effect, the laws of energy had to be formulated in a different way by quantum physics.

Thus we may understand Plancks statement that the law of causality has finally failed us in its application to the world of atoms. The arrangements of energy quanta and the phenomena or radio-activity are defined by modern physics as causeless phenomena, namely, a priori basic arrangements. Statements about the electrons cannot be made on a linear cause and effect basis, for instance, by deducing a certain action as effect from a given course and energy charge.

Rather, the laws of atom physics are expressed in terms of a generally descriptive statistical probability which lists courses, energy charges the actions as coordinates on equal levels instead of subordinating action as an effect to courses and charges as cause. Thus, a totality of a phenomenon, namely, an indeterminable number of electrons, shares on a statistical basis in the known qualities, some having the expected courses, others the energy, others the action, etc.; it is undeterminable, however, in what way a given individual electron may express the general statistical law in which it shares.

Each individual case is an unpredictable instance of a totality of a general law of arrangement under which phenomena are related to each other, not as cause and effect, but individually and unpredictably expressing different aspects of that general law.

In a recent essay2 C.G. Jung, referring to the above facts of physics, states that.

…since the connection of cause and effect turns out to be only statistically valid, namely, only relatively true, the principle of causality is only relatively usable for the explanation of natural phenomena and thereby implicitly presupposes the existence of one or several other factors necessary for explanation. That means that under certain circumstances the connection of events is of a different nature than causal and thereby demands a different principle of explanation.

This different non-causal principal Jung terms “synchronicity.” He defines it as “the timely coincidence of two or several events which cannot be causally related to each other, but express an identical or similar meaning.”3 He remarks that in the macro-physical world we would but look in vain for non-causal events simply because one cannot even imagine occurrences not causally related. On the other hand, in depth psychology experiences with the phenomenon of synchronicity kept accumulating from year to year in the form of the observation of coincidences of inner subjective psychological states with objective outside events, meaningfully related to each other in such a way that their merely “accidental” association became a statistically determinable improbability.

These coincidences can generally take the form of the coincidence of an endopsychic condition of the observer with a simultaneous objective outer event that directly corresponds to his psychic content (an example of this is the story quoted later on) or with an event that takes place outside of the observers field of perception (for instance, the burning of Stockholm coinciding with Swedenborgs vision of it) or as the coincidence of a psychic state with a corresponding not-yet-existing future event which can be verified only subsequently. For brevitys sake we have to omit the numerous observed instances which Jung quotes as examples.

Jung refers to J.B. Rhine as having established reliable starting points for the investigation of the synchronicity phenomenon through his statistical experiments with extrasensory perception at Duke University. In these experiments various persons tried to predict the cards that were about to be drawn from a deck. Then they succeeded in predicting a series that was yet to be laid out in the near future (up to several weeks) and, finally, a mechanically thrown dice was influenced by wishing for a certain number.

Jung comments that these experiments prove that to a certain degree the psyche can cancel out the factors of time and space and that the motions of inanimate bodies can be influenced psychically.

Since distance in no way affected these experiments, the idea of a transmission of energy had to be discarded. Moreover, as Jung points out, the concept of causality does not hold, since we cannot imagine how a future event could “cause” an effect in the present. Thus, one has to assume, at least provisionally, that improbable accidents of a non-causal nature, namely, meaningful coincidences, have entered into the picture.

Jung goes on to state that in the course of his investigations of the collective unconscious he ever and again came up against connections which he could not explain as merely incidental groupings or accumulations, since the connections of these “spontaneous coincidences” expressed a common meaning in such a way that their accidental concurrence would represent a statistical improbability. (For the Rhine experiments the statistical improbability has been figured out from between 1:250,000 up to 1:289,023,876 millions.).

In giving characteristic examples from his own vast experience he warms that nothing would be accomplished by an ad hoc explanation, since the could mention a great many such stories which in principle are no more surprising and incredible than the irrefutable Rhine experiments and which would show that every case calls for its own different explanation, a causal explanation, however, being inadequate in each instance.

One example out of the many he gives we shall render in his own words:

My example has to do with a young patient who, in spite of the efforts we both made to overcome the resistance, continued to remain psychologically inaccessible. Her difficulty lay in the fact that she always knew best about everything. Her excellent upbringing had provided her with a weapon ideally suited for this purpose, namely, a sharply polished, Cartesian rationalism with a concept of reality that was “geometrically” beyond question.

After several fruitless attempts to temper her rationalism with a somewhat more human common sense, I had to confine myself to the hope that something of an unexpected and irrational nature would happen to her, something that would succeed in breaking the intellectual retort into which she had sealed herself.

I was sitting opposite her one day, in order to listen to her flow of rhetoric, with my back to the window. She had had an impressive dream the night before in which someone had given her a golden scarab (a costly piece of jewellery). While she was still engaged in telling me this dream, I heard something behind me gently tapping on the window. I turned around and saw that it was quite a large flying insect which was beating against the window pane from the outside in the obvious effort to get into the dark room.

This seemed to me very strange. I opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as if flew in. It was a scarabaeid, cetonia aurata, the common rose bug whose green-gold coloring most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab.

I handed the insect to my patient with the words: “Here is your scarab,” This experience punctured the hole we had been looking for in the thick armor of her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance. The treatment could now be continued with satisfactory results.

In summarizing his concept Jung admits that synchronicity represents a highly abstract, not readily visualizable (unanschauliche) entity. He points our that, since the meaningful or intelligent behaviour of low forms of life which have no brain and even of lifeless bodies falls within its scope, it forces us to abandon the concept of a psyche a associated with the brain.

Rather, we seem to deal with a formal or formative factor of meaningness, independent of any brain activity, which expresses itself equally through lifeless things, body and psyche. (This again is in complete agreement with the conclusion of atom physics, as expressed by Schroedinger, that form not substance is to be the fundamental concept underlying the dynamism of matter.) Thus we may come to understand the psychosomatic interplay as but one instance of synchronicity, namely, of the non-causal expression of a formative or meaningful element, rather than as a cause and effect interrelation.

Jung goes further to add that the fact of the “absolute knowledge” that characterizes the synchronicity phenomenon-a knowledge which includes future and space-distant events and which is not transmitted by any sense organ-suggests to us the existence of a per se meaning of a transcendental nature that “exists in a psychically but relative space and corresponding time, namely, in a non-visualizable space-time continuum”.

His conclusion is that, in view of the mutually closely supporting findings of atom physics and psychology, it becomes necessary to add to out basic categories of scientific thinking causelessness or synchronicity in addition to the categories of space, time and causality. Just as absolute unformed and indestructible energy relates to its perceptible manifestation in space and time, so relates the principle of non-causality, namely, the inconstant indeterminate contingency, expressible only symbolically through analogy, similarity and meaningfulness to the constant determinate relation of cause and effect.

The two approaches along causality and non-causality are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary. The nature of the phenomenon, not arbitary choice, determines which of the two applies. In the realm of macrophysics and our consciousness of the daily observable happenings, the concept of causality holds.

On the other hand, in the subatomic sphere, in the realm of the unconscious and in the very activities of the life processes, causality ceases to be applicable and has to be replaced by the principle of inconstant, non-causal connection through synchronicity or meaningfulness.

How does this principle of “meaning” actually and practically enter into the observable life and psychic processes? The spontaneous, discontinuous occurrence of “bundles” of events analogous to the quanta of microphysics represents a phenomenon, the biological and psychological expression of which G. R. Heyer compared to the effects of the “field” of physics.4.

A field is described as a kind of tension or stress which can exist in empty space in the absence of matter. It reveals itself through the fact that material objects that happen to lie in the space which the field occupies respond to its forces in a characteristic way. This response is determined on the one side by the type of the field (for instance, the different patterns of iron filings in a unipolar and a bipolar magnetic field), on the other hand by the characteristic responsiveness peculiar to the object (for instance, a magnet needle responds mechanically with deflection, a neon tube with a light phenomenon to the same electric field. A piece of wood will not respond at all). Thus, the field is a kind of a transcendental entity never directly observable which we know only through the peculiar behavior of the objects which it affects and through which it manifests itself.

Similarly, the transcendental “meaning” underlying the synchronistic occurrences manifests itself to us only through the objects which it affects and which, each in their own and characteristic way, give it expression. Thus, whenever a “field of meaning” arises in the course of living existence, or, perhaps we might say, when ones course of life passes through a “field of meaning” this field manifests itself through events on various levels (for instance, psyche, soma), all of them in their own different fashion giving expression to that same formative factor.

Borrowing a mathematical terminology, we may say that the synchronistic occurrence of X1 X2 X3, etc., namely, meaningfully associated analogous phenomena in psyche, soma, outside nature, etc., not only postulates the directly unknowable transcendental factor x but also offers us a way to at least approach it indirectly by establishing through a process of abstraction the common denominators of X1 X2 X3, etc. Obviously, also, the concept of the “field of meaning” is itself but an attempt at symbolic representation of something unvisualizable that can never be directly observed.

What Schroedinger says of the atom model equally applies to out concepts here:

The pictures are only a mental help, a tool of thought, an intermediary means… from which to deduce a reasonable expectation about the results of new experiments…. We plan them for the purpose of seeing whether they confirm the expectations- thus whether the expectations were reasonable and thus whether the pictures or models we use were adequate. Notice that we prefer to say adequate, not true. For in order that a description be capable of being true, it must be capable of being compared directly with actual facts. That is usually not the case with our models.5.

In the following, a comparatively brief example is given of how the above concepts, hypothetically applied, might enlighten us about the scope of the “field of meaning,” with a partial manifestation of which we are familiar in the symptomatology of our drug Sulphur. In attempting to abstract a “common denominator” from what we consider but partial manifestations of the “field of meaning,” that is from the mental, constitutional, physiological, chemical, etc., known qualities of the drug, in addition to whatever other material we may glean for amplification from other sources, we follow the purely descriptive enumerative method which already Hahnemanns genius anticipated and which now has been adopted also by modern physics.

The understanding of the broader formative law of the field may enable us to anticipate the nature of events to be expected-on the basis of statistical probability, however, but not specifically for the given case; similarly, we may, after recognizing a certain drug picture in a patient, anticipate a Possible scope of further symptoms that might arise, without being able to predict specifically for the given case which of these possible symptoms he is actually going to have, if any at all.

Moreover, mental and physical symptoms being synchronistically, not causally, related, they may substitute for one another and thus one may appear to be able to cancel the other. Thus we get a first glimpse of an understanding how also illness and “similar” drug energy as synchronistic entities of the same “field” sharing a functional likeness, may perhaps substitute for one another and thus functionally cancel each other.

It is not intended, before an audience such as this, to waste many words about the well-known details of the symptomatology of Sulphur. In synthesizing these details into a meaningful relation we may describe a constitution which is prone to stagnation: slowed circulation, insufficient oxidation within the cell and delayed elimination; on the other hand, however, we have also to describe its extremest opposite of turbulent impetuosity: increased circulation, ebullitions, active congestions, inflammations, states of increased, exaggerated oxidations and combustion, tissue breakdown and neurovegetative overstimulation.

Into the first category we may place all the symptoms of toxemia, offensiveness of skin and discharges, lack of vital reaction, suppressed and relapsing states, air hunger, poor appetite with increased thirst, the venous, abdominal and general plethora, obesity, ptosis and degenerative states, as well as the improvement from motion.

Into its opposite belong the classical ebullitions of heat, burning, itching, tissue breakdown, poor nutrition and assimilation, the weak, empty, all-gone feeling, the hyperthyroid, tuberculous, catarrhal, hyperpyretic and inflammatory states, as well as the general and nervous hypersensitivity, the aggravation from heat, the desire for high caloric and spiced foods-to name but a few typical symptoms.

We find that an analogous pattern of polar opposites characterizes also the mentals and the personality type. One group of Sulphur patients are rather non-intellectual people, often of the labourer type, heavy, earthy and prosaic; swarthy, rough or obese. They may even be mentally quite dull, slow and disinterested without any introspective tendencies, concerned only with the material and physical facts of everyday life. Psychologically, they could be classified as belonging to the extroverted, sensory type, a type whose main adaptation is by means of the perception and orientation through the physical senses of the immediate material facts.

Their opposite is the extreme mental type, the philosopher, scientist or impulsive artist, concerned only with problems of mind and spirit, of art and philosophy, worrying about who made Good, bubbling over with new ideas, impatient, nervy and restless, even psychologically itching and burning, driven himself and driving everybody else, inspiring, enthusiastic, an inventive genius full of initiative, poor in execution, unreliable and unstable. Disorganised and confused, they are utterly oblivious of things physical and material which they also are not too capable of handling properly.

They are careless, unkempt and dirty. In short, this is the type of Herings “ragged philosopher.” Living in a realm of imagination and always having to reform the world, they also lack real introspective ability and critical evaluation of themselves. Psychologically, they represent an extroverted intuitive type, whose main adaptation is through the ability to “smell out,” as it were, the invisible possibilities inherent in a situation; they are the polar opposite of the sensation type, blind for the material things that are of today, always perceiving hunches and ideas of what might be tomorrow.

Thus far goes our own immediate knowledge of the person who manifests the Sulphur “field.” If we are to fathom its “meaning,” we need other manifestations on different levels in order to abstract a common denominator. One source of such information offers itself to us in the experience of this same entity as a purely psychological phenomenon as we find it reflected in the alchemistic concepts of Sulphur.

Contrary to general popular opinion which considers the alchemists simply as charlatans or, at best, as but primitive pioneers of modern chemistry, C.G. Jung has conclusively demonstrated that the alchemists were the psychologists of their day, searching for a synthesis of human knowledge. Their truest practitioners were seeking the “philosophers stone,” the mysterious “lapis” that symbolized the total man. Analytical psychology describes this total man as the “self” whose phenomenology coincides exactly with the rich and varied symbolism to be found in alchemical literature and in the affiliated pagan, diagnostic and Christian writings.

In working with their materials, the alchemists unconscious psyche reacted in calling forth concepts, images and visions which the alchemist projected upon his substance-namely, ascribed it to the substance as its quality. Whereas, to the modern chemist these Fantasies are absurd and meaningless, for the analytical psychologist they refer to definite formative elements of the unconscious psyche; since these are to be found not only in the alchemists Fantasies, but also in the average dream material of people of out own time, they are meaningful and practically applicable for the diagnosis, interpretation and treatment of contemporary psychological problems.

Edward C. Whitmont
Edward Whitmont graduated from the Vienna University Medical School in 1936 and had early training in Adlerian psychology. He studied Rudulf Steiner's work with Karl Konig, later founder of the Camphill Movement. He researched naturopathy, nutrition, yoga and astrology. Whitmont studied Homeopathy with Elizabeth Wright Hubbard. His interest in Analytical Psychology led to his meeting with Carl G. Jung and training in Jungian therapy. He was in private practice of Analytical Psychology in New York and taught at the C. G. Jung Training Center, of which he is was a founding member and chairman. E. C. Whitmont died in September, 1998.