Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Amplifying Unconscious (Part 4)

Originally posted on January 18, 2011

However plausible this idea may be in beginning to explain a number of mysteries in psychology and philosophy, it does face a significant obstacle: It doesn’t jibe with the “scientific” world-view of the mid-20th century. I put “scientific” in quotes because really the true spirit of science is not hampered by looking at things it can’t readily explain. The problem might also be framed as one of world-views or paradigms in transition. (I’ve written on my website about some of those transitions.) The old world-view is materialistic and does not admit of mind as a relevant reality in its explanatory system. Of course, the emergence of quantum mechanics and subsequent theorizing in this field begins to challenge that assumption, but it hasn’t made a more definitive breakthrough.

Still, a new idea offers a lever: Paradigms do change, they have changed, and they may—no, probably will—change again. This concept of the amplifying unconscious is based on a notion that psychic energy is not to be too quickly dismissed. I don’t doubt that we haven’t yet worked out the details of how it works, but as I noted in making the analogy to electricity in the previous blog (Part 3), that doesn’t mean that it cannot be worked out.

Paradigms are fundamental assumptions—often they’re part of a world-view that is consistent with such assumptions. But our world-view is itself in transition, containing significant residues of the traditionalist world-view, a good deal of the modern world-view, some loosening by the post-modern world-view, and perhaps, dare I say, opening to a new or post-postmodern worldview which synthesizes the previous paradigms: We co-create reality, and this can be seen not just as an agent that de-constructs social and conceptual norms, but that dares to co-construct new ones!

Critiquing the modern worldview as “scien-tistic”—that’s when the superficial expressions of science are so over-valued that they are taken as cues for morality (what should be) as well as descriptions of reality (what is). There’s a mixture of deep philosophic sub-types here. There’s a logical fallacy involved in the idea that certain things don’t happen because they “can’t” happen, because there’s no explanation for it happening, because we haven’t figured out how to explain its happening—yet. Critiqued, it suggests that if we can’t fully explain something in terms of what we know, then it is fruitless to explore what we don’t know. While claiming to be scientific, this kind of thinking, were it exercised when scientific thinking was a lively tool for investigation, would have stifled the process. Instead, we need to open in a more innocent fashion to the mysteries of the cosmos. If people back then were to apply the idea that we only explore that which fits their  world-view—and most of them did, alas—the progress of scientific exploration would have been quite slow—and it was. Those who did make progress had to leap a bit into the unknown and, more, the forbidden, and ridiculous, the impossible and the inconceivable.

There are a number of insufficiently unexplained phenomena that deserve to be explored with greater respect, including synchronicity, hypnosis, intuition, inspiration, some dream phenomena, and psychosomatic illness. I suspect that the concept of the amplified unconscious helps make a conceptual bridge to dynamics that operate between and through the mind and dimensions of existence (sometimes called “psychic”) that have been around forever (think “shamanism”) but haven’t fit into most established (think “Western”) worldviews.

Irreducible Mind

Alluding again to this important recent book with that title by Kelly, Kelly and Crabtree, this rather extensive exploration (over 800 pages!) addresses a number of themes: It questions a number of metaphysical assumptions currently popular—and in so doing alludes to the breakthrough perspectives of Alfred North Whitehead and other process philosophers, for whose work I must confess I feel a deep sympathy. That a post- postmodern psychology needs to question basic philosophical assumptions should not be surprising. When folks talk about “paradigm shifts,” this doesn’t refer to a change in fashion styles, it talks about very basic ways of perceiving and interpreting what the world is about.

Irreducible Mind has a subtitle, Toward a psychology for the 21st century, but I would note that our concept also goes beyond psychology and blurs the boundaries among the fields that are known as psychology, philosophy, or spirituality. Indeed, I think this new notion of the amplifying unconscious has implications also for education, child-rearing, sociology, politics, and so forth. If the underlying assumptions are half-valid, my reading of it in some ways is simple: If we aspire to love and generate positivity, and clarify and rectify the muddy mixed-messages we give to our sub-conscious minds, and turn away from negativity, we may generate an escalation in positive production of valuable fruits of our creativity that begins to catch up with the escalation of information and other components of our civilization. (Teilhard de Chardin called it the noosphere, a play on the idea of the biosphere, only an extension that includes all communications of sentient beings with each other. Recognizing the reality of this generally imperceptible dynamic, its world-wide prevalence and the growth of its intensity, supports the emergence of a field that explores the nature of this noosphere.)


This is the phenomenon of “meaningful coincidence.” There is no way this can happen in actuality according to the modern world-view. It would require the inclusion of the idea that there are external, mysterious forces at work that help to arrange things. It’s close to a belief in Fate, or God’s Grace, or the activity of Guardian Angels—and these have no place in the dominant currents of 20th century thought. Perhaps, though, they should be brought back into 21st century paradigms, because I strongly suspect that this is very much part of what the amplifying unconscious uses to support its goals.

As mentioned earlier, this amplification of psychic attitude can be positive, negative, or seemingly neutral—although that feedback circle just entrenches beliefs—however elevated, despicable, or merely dull-ing they may be.

The Role of the Person

There’s a fine balance implied in this theory: How much should the person try to direct his or her own life? My hunch is that there’s a balance between taking responsibility and also surrender to the “flow.” The individual must recognize the flow of directed or non-directed personal intention and psychic energy. Positive results seem to correlate with desires to learn more about what brings positivity into the world, and to be willing to change and change again, changing for the better. Indulging in negativity needs to be recognized as creating mini-Frankenstein’s monsters who may be more powerful than their creator—and this might be a helpful component of the growing trend towards social and emotional intelligence.

More, the individual may learn from this theory that a desire to learn and change, to develop positive goals and to seek to work towards them, that these directions require many elements: People need to be prepared to gradually let go of that which bogs or drags them down. They need to learn finer discriminations in all this, such as the difference between surrendering and using this excuse to avoid taking responsibility for what needs to be addressed. Other skills are needed too, and indeed, the development of all relevant skills for Loving, Faith-ing, and Responsible-ing can be a lifelong personal journey.

There needs to be a sharper awareness that only awareness can save us. Thinking we can avoid being aware of our choices, settling for symbolic rather than substantial effects, or deluding ourselves that we can get away with folly, all needs to be recognized as common-enough temptations that are part of the aforementioned lifelong journey.

Finally, speaking of that journey, part of the game is learning to recognize our strengths and use them, learning to recognize our weaknesses and either delegating or compensating for our weakness. There’s a need to develop a more flexible and up-to-date mythology or spirituality that may nevertheless draw on certain traditional sources.

Finishing this section, what I’m suggesting is that understanding the nature of the amplifying unconscious means that we have to shift to a more humble commitment to keep learning, keep encountering, keep expanding our perspectives. Psychology also thus becomes morality.

Primary Process

A friend pointed out that there have been some such as Dr. Pinchas Noy who have explored similar phenomena from the perspective of what Freud called “primary process.” I have just skimmed his 1969 article and looked over another more recent one titled “Where do melodies come from?” My answer is: The Axis of Inspiration, what is alluded to in kundalini yoga as the subtle energy nature of the psyche, a system that has access to “higher” wisdom. Yes, Dr. Noy, the muse, indeed! But I will ponder and I hope dialogue further. I would rather learn something new than wallow in the illusionof “being right.”


One implication of recognizing the nature and pervasiveness of activity of the amplifying unconscious is that it changes our paradigms of the individual’s capacity for control to being more needful of finding ways to harmonize peacefully with self and others. The ideal may involve a mutual combination of positive will and effort and surrender—contrary qualities a century ago, but really quite compatible and even necessary in balance in the new century.

This thesis may also serve as another way of resolving what the contemporary philosopher Ken Wilber calls “the pre-trans fallacy,” a tendency to confuse trans-rational experiences and viewpoints with certain elements that might better be recognized as pre-rational. Perhaps we can learn to honor and properly use our rationality, and build through and beyond it to reclaim the best of the pre-rational potential while yet not falling prey to the pitfalls of that world-view.

Another implication is, in the words of an expressive arts therapist and fellow psychodramatist, Andrea Offner, “Verbal interventions often have limited access to the inside of anyone’s skull. It is in the fields of the Arts, where non-verbal communication has full voice, that we begin to experience worlds that we have not previously been aware of. The processing of these experiences occur in different neurological regions than words do, offering a more powerful and certainly "less-defended" doorway into alternate views. The 21st century esoteric, psycho-spiritual approaches have the most likely possibility of provoking cognitive leaps when they are steeped in music, ritual, drama, and other traditional forms of expression.”

Further implications will be considered. This material is provisional, almost the opposite of definitive. I think we’re at the beginning of what may be a fruitful avenue of exploration. I’ll doubtless have second and third thoughts and write further on this theme in a later blog. This will be built up partially in response to your comments to the previous parts of this series in the blog.  I am open to specific critiques and if I find your ideas useful, would you like me to include it and your name and city where you presently reside? So I might write: Editing (date): (your name) suggested (your idea, my editing), and I thought (my reaction.)

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