Development through Alternation

4.2 Number and time

Anthony Judge

The concern with alternation cycles arises because of a collective need to obtain a more conscious awareness of integration in a developing world system. It is therefore appropriate to take account of the insights of psychoanalysis. Marie-Louise von Franz, in pursuing the work of C G Jung and linking it to modern physics, makes points which bear a strong relationship to the distinctions made by Fuller. She presents material indicating the fundamental role which number plays in ordering both the psyche and matter.

"Taken as rhythm or dynamism, three thus introduces a directional element into the oscillatory rhythm of two, whereby spatial and temporal parameters can be formed. This step involves the interference of an observing consciousness, which inserts a symmetrical axis into the two-rhythm, or else "counts" the latter's temporal and spatial succession. In terms of content the number three therefore serves as the symbol of a dynamic process....three signifies a unity which dynamically engenders self-expanding linear irreversible processes in matter and in our consciousness (e.g. discursive thought)" (47, pp. 103-106)

Her remarks, citing Jung, clarify further the limitations of single-answer or dualistic thinking:

" the level of one, man still naively participates in his surroundings in a state of uncritical consciousness, submitting to things as they are. At the levewl of two, on the other hand, a dualistic world....image gives rise to tension, doubt, and criticism, nature, and oneself. The condition of three comparison denotes insight, the rise of consciousness, and the rediscovery of unity at a higher level...But no final goal is reached, for "trinitarian" thinking lacks a further dimension; it is flat, intellectual, and consequently encourages intolerant and absolute declarations." (47, p.l24-125)

This suggests again that, despite the necessity of answers formulated in such modes, they are not sufficient at this time. The difficult step across the "incommensurability" between three-fold and four-fold thinking is effectively a progression from the infinitely conceivable to finite rezlity "based on the inclusion (no longer avoidable) of the observer in his wholeness within the framework of his processes of understanding" (47, p. 122). Citing both myths and sets of physical constants von Franz notes: "The fact that mankind's repeated attempts to establish an orientation toward wholeness possess a quaternary structure appears to correspond to an archetypal psychic structural predisposition in man" (47, p. 115).

For von Franz, a fourfold approach appears "to constitute the fundamental minimum means for subdividing and thus classifying the circle or wholeness" (47, p. 121). "Two pairs of opposites, a quaternion, are required to set up a bodily unity" (47, pp. 1 27). Below four the perception of wholeness is partly unconscious. As soon as the unconscious content enters the sphere of consciousness it has already split into four basic modes of awareness. "It is perceived as something that exists (sensation); it is recognized as this and distinguished from that (thinking); it is evaluated as pleasant or unpleasent (feeling); and, finally, intuition tells us where it came from and where it is going" (47, pp. 1 21). As a minimum condition, if they are not incorporated into an "integrated" approach, they must necessarily be projected onto competing approaches in the environment, with all the intellectual and institutional consequences for any harmonious integration. Such a fourfold approach is a necessary requirement for comprehending any "meta-answer".

The significance of a quaternary attitude is evident, whether for any human and social development programme or arising from it:

"Instead of proclaiming absolute dogmas, a "quaternary" attitude of mind then develops which, more modestly, seeks to describe reality in a manner that will - if it is based on archetypal concepts - be understandable to others. One remains simultaneously aware of the fact that assumptions of the unconscious do indeed reflect outer or inner reality, but also that they are transformed, through their passage into consciousness, into constricted, time-bound language." (47, p.26)

The step to a fourfold approach to the world problematique was beyond the impotence of mental processes revolving about "intellectual theorizations" into those which partake of the creative adventure of "realizations in the act of becoming" (47, p. 131). Von Franz cites Ferdinand Gonseth's advocacy of a quaternary outlook which would no longer involve "the summary and brutal coercion of one variant over another, but the play of identifications and differentiation, agreements and complements, limitations and expansions, a game which can lead to dialectical synthesis, built up in four rhythms." (48, p. 583)