Complementaris Mundus

a complementarian metaphysic


Abstract: Many phenomena in the realm of psychology are unapproachable to science. It calls for a complementarian metaphysical model according to which the universe is both spiritual and material. But it is not experiential as a dual universe. Depending on the conscious viewpoint of the observer, it is either spiritual or material (scientific). Yet, neither of the models will suffice as sole explanatory model. This follows the principle of bipartite complementarity as defined by quantum physicist Niels Bohr. The metaphysical nature of the unconscious archetype is discussed. Postmodernist “re-enchantment of the world” is criticized.

Keywords: spirit, transcendental, science, complementarity, double realism, metaphysics, archetype, unus mundus, psychoid, Spinoza, Plato, C. G. Jung.


Aristotle (384-322 BC) believed that ‘form’, as immaterial factor, is indwelling in things. Unlike in Platonism, it does not transcend the worldly object. Science has found that material particles, like the electron, are not to be viewed as tiny material marbles. The electron is more akin to a software program of inbuilt natural laws. These govern the electron in its interaction with other particles. So it is programmed to respond in a certain way and “knows” how to behave. In a similar way, a tree knows how to grow and interact with the environment. It seems that Aristotle was right in his contention that objects carry their form within themselves. This defines the scientific paradigm. The material universe, all by itself, knows how to behave. Its form is inbuilt into its very fabric. This explanatory model, which began to take shape during ancient antiquity, meant the demise of Poseidon as begetter of earthquakes and tidal waves.

Yet, Platonism has today renewed its prominence. It builds on the idea that substance, which is inert, is transcended by its form. It is more helpful to view the psyche in Platonic terms, rather than keeping to the Aristotelian and scientific paradigm. On this view, the psyche cannot be pinned down by science. Accordingly, M-L von Franz said that Jungian psychology isn’t strictly scientific, but carries a likeness of Taoism. It cannot be fitted into the scientific paradigm because science is Aristotelian, whereas the archetypal notion is indebted to Platonic philosophy. It cannot be pinned down in scientific terms. Theorists have long grappled with the archetypal notion, yet it’s hard to make sense of it in terms of science, as science always gravitates toward a reductionistic understanding. A scientific account cannot do justice to the archetype as autonomous carrier of meaning. Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that the psyche functions as if there were archetypes (cf. Winther, 2011a, here).

It seems that the archetype in its foundation transcends the natural world. This notion resonates with Platonism. Although it is wholly experiential, it is transcendental in the sense of not being explainable in terms of natural science. Despite the fact that it’s deducible from the empirical facts of reality, the archetypal foundation cannot be empirically explained. Following the scientific explanatory model of cognitive science, it is indeed possible to interpret our spiritual notions as innate metaphors, i.e., as laws of ideation built into the neural system (cf. Winther, 2014a, here). Although cognitive science could provide an important scientific platform for the archetypal concept, it cannot account for the teleological and autonomous experience of the unconscious archetype, since it is being represented in reductionistic terms. To account for the totality of the unconscious phenomenon, we must change our point of view to a spiritual, transcendental, or even Platonic position.

Teleology and projection

The notion of projection is central to psychology. It coincides with a Platonic manner of thought, and therefore the scientific-minded person has difficulties understanding it. The notion that the “inert” object of projection derives its form from outside, is an extremely important factor of reality, and it has been well-known for a century. Yet the average citizen lacks a proper understanding of it. Projections are generally dismissed as “misunderstandings” that are easily rectified. On the other hand, the empirical notion, and the notion of natural laws, are generally accepted. This lopsidedness can be rectified by adopting a complementary metaphysic. It implies that the world is governed by two independent paradigms, the Aristotelian and the Platonic, the physicalistic and the transcendental. This does not mean that science could have nothing to say about the psyche. Rather, it means that science can only provide a reductionistic explanation that, taken by itself, leads to a skewed picture of the psyche.

The solution to the problem of scientific inadequacy in psychology is to realize its indebtedness to the Platonic paradigm. Instead of making fruitless attempts to reconcile with science, psychology ought to accommodate to a spiritual or Platonic view, and to develop this perspective. The problem is that the scientific and causal model is incompatible with (1) the teleological explanatory model and (2) the transcendental view of form as something being projected onto the object. These are essential to psychological thinking and the concomitant archetypal notion. In psychology, when deliberating a phenomenon, it is not essential to understand what it is, as such, or what its causal agent could be. What matters is its telos (purpose). The nature of the anima, [1] as such, and the causal factor behind it, are of little interest. Psychology focuses on the purpose and the meaning of the feminine dream figure. We interpret dreams as a goal-oriented processes that aim at achieving something, for instance, some form of compensation or realization in consciousness. What is it for? — this is the central question of psychology. It contrasts with the scientific way of thought. Rationalistic thinking at its worst is when people conclude that “I had this dream because I ate so much last night”.

Thus, the archetype is goal-oriented and has its “cause” in the future. Its purpose and its meaning is what defines its existence, and this should be the focus of our interest. But this is a hard pillow to swallow for the scientific-minded person, who also has a problem understanding projection. Should a man develop a mother transference, the rationalistic intellectual would likely find the explanation in the fact that the female object of projection has the same hair colour and hairstyle as the patient’s mother. That would suffice as explanation, since the hair is the causa agens. But this would mean that he has not grasped the notion of transference as a goal-seeking process. Any hook for projection will do. The mother can be projected on a cow.

A psychologist could harp on the notion of shadow projection endlessly; the rationalist will never quite get it. When a person is subjected to unfounded accusations it is likely that a shadow projection has occurred. The rationalist is bound to find the explanation in a trivial circumstance. For instance, he could argue that the injured party had a morose facial expression. This should explain the projection. Had the recipient of projection only kept up his appearance, such little “misunderstandings” needn’t occur. So the victim is the causal agent and he is the one who should pull himself together. If everybody just kept smiling, shadow projections would never take place. This is causal reasoning according to the scientific model, and is how most people think in our rationalistic and causalistic era. In connection with social strife, this is also how politicians and columnists typically understand projection, namely as “misunderstandings” that can be rectified with information. It is becoming more common these days that the moral burden is put on the victim’s shoulder. It accords with the archaic custom of scapegoating, which is anti-psychology.

The archetype is a goal-seeking purposive process that transcends consciousness with regards to its meaning. Since it is unexplainable in terms of physicalism and causalism, it transcends the physical world. It is both goal and ‘meaning’, and must therefore be regarded as spiritual (mental). At any particular point in time, it can escape both detection and conscious grasp. We cannot know whether it is transcendental in the sense of Platonic forms; but it is evident that the archetype is future-transcendent (or time-transcendent), i.e., it is a teleological and not a causal process. It draws the psychological process towards itself. Should the goal be reached the archetype will seemingly vanish, due to having been consciously integrated. What remains is its conscious manifestation as well as an abstraction of its significance and meaning.

To interpret the archetype in terms of self-organizing complex system is unconvincing, since such entities are neither goal-seeking nor carriers of meaning. Thus, Van Eenwyk’s (1997) argument is unconvincing since it is a causal explanatory model that fails to account for the teleological nature of the archetype. If neither the psyche nor the archetype is regarded secondary to matter one cannot expect to bolster this view by searching an explanation to the nature of the archetype in material science. That’s why notions of self-organizing systems, along lines of Ilya Prigogine, et al., is not a traversable path. If we are going to explain the archetype along these lines, we would have to repudiate Plato’s and Jung’s definition of archetypal nature, and instead provide a new and physicalistic definition. An archetype functions as a psychopomp; a guide that leads the individuant into the future. It already has a purpose from the onset and awaits the individuant at the goal. Although it can wane and wax, it is remarkably resilient. It can keep returning from early childhood onwards, throughout a person’s life, and keep repeating its message in order to draw the individuant to itself.

Unus Mundus

Jung variedly implanted the archetype, as such, in the “brain structure”, or in our constitution as the counterpart of instincts. He finally settled on a metaphysical solution according to which the archetype resides in a psychoid domain as an entity of preexistent meaning (cf. McCoy Brooks, 2011). The advantage of this metaphysic is that it warrants a realistic view of unconscious manifestation. After all, should innate archetypal factors be material in derivation, it would mean that psyche is secondary to matter. If so, it is difficult to defend a notion of psychic reality. Yet Jung’s metaphysic is a variant of Kant’s transcendental idealism, which is today obsolete, logically and scientifically indefensible (cf. Wiki, here).

Thus, Jung created a metaphysic according to which psyche and matter are, in essence, the same thing. This foundational level he termed the psychoid layer or the unus mundus (a scholastic term). This is where the archetype-as-such, resides. Accordingly, the psychoid archetypal layer has given rise to both the physical and psychic realms, which are equally real (cf. Wiki, here). It means that the psychic element is not secondary to matter as it has not risen from matter. As a consequence, the psyche cannot be equated with neural signalling, as it was there from the beginning, along with the foundational archetypes. Bertrand Russell has created a formally similar worldview in his version of neutral monism (cf. Stubenberg, 2013). The psychoid layer reveals its presence through the phenomenon of synchronicity. It implies that a mental and a physical event are coincident, that is, they are determined by the same preexistent archetypal ‘meaning’. The psychoid is viewed as the common denominator of the mental and physical spheres. However, the synchronistic theory, connected with the psychoid notion, has been of little use and is lacking in empirical veracity (cf. Winther, 2012a, here).

Jungian psychology is founded upon a worldview that coalesces the psychic with the material on a metaphysical level. Although it doesn’t quite follow scientific criteria, scientific results are quite tangible, and thus it cannot be renounced as philosophy or superstition. Despite this, critics complain that theory is muddled, complicated, and to some extent self-contradictory. In fact, its very metaphysical foundation is paradoxical. Whereas science is founded upon matter alone, Jung founded his psychology upon a conjugate of psyche and matter. He believed this notion to be paradigmatic. Jung had a life-long preoccupation with the problem of opposites, as evident from his frequent use of the terms complexio oppositorum, coniunctio oppositorum, and coincidentia oppositorum. The human Self, too, is viewed as a complexio oppositorum. Regrettably, he tends to reinterpret the concepts of philosophers and alchemists to accommodate their ideas to his worldview. Jung misrepresents Cusanus’s notion of coincidentia oppositorum (cf. Winther, 2015, here & Henderson, 2010). I put forward an alternative to the unitarian model, namely the Self as complementarian and the universe as bipartite (“semi-monist”) in the complementarian sense: Complementaris Mundus as opposed to Unus Mundus.

The romantic regress

The romantic eccentricity of Jungian psychology is reminiscent of Neo-Paganism. In the pagan world, spiritual reality was always proximate. The worldly and the spiritual were close and coalesced. With Christianity, a transcendentalization of spirit occurred, as it was moved away from the sublunar realm, with the tragic consequence that we, in the modern world, have become obsessed with materiality and abstract concepts. (It has, however, hurried on scientific advancement.) Jung’s remedy to today’s materialism was to “imbue the world with spirit” (re-enchantment). Since we understand today that the gods aren’t responsible for the unfolding of the natural world, modern man must instead realize the omnipresence of the psyche. Nevertheless, the course of worldly events shall be looked at through the lens of synchronicity, which means that the psychoid realm is behind the unfoldment of events. This thinking institutes a metaphysical connection between the divine and our psychic life and how it has been conducted. This is really an archaic way of thought in modern guise, inducing a regressive movement back to the pagan mindset.

The remedy for this regress is not simply to adopt scientific stringency in terms of causal explanatory models. Rather, the teleological notion ought to be confiscated from the realm of gods and goddesses. We should be able to interpret teleology in terms of time-transcendence, or future-transcendence. This runs counter to Jung’s metaphysic of absolute transcendence, the unus mundus. According to such a view, there is indeed room for notions of faith and final cause (teleology), but only following a change of conscious outlook. Accordingly, the spiritual mind is no longer engrossed in the scientific and causal world. Our inner Self really harbours two distinct attitudinal aspects, a worldly and a spiritual. Also the universe consists of two alternative realms; a spiritual and a temporal; but we cannot partake in them simultaneously. There is no way in which we can combine these experiences of existence, because they are mutually exclusive. Yet, Jung tries to amalgamate them. I contend that his coalesced metaphysic incites a regress to pagan thinking, since it is akin to the coalesced worldview of paganism, in which the gods were always nigh. The gods (= the archetypes) gave rise to the world. They keep reaching into material existence, affecting the events on earth (= synchronistic events + dreams). Thus, synchronicity stands for divine intervention. It is merely an advanced and conscious way of living in a pagan universe.

I suggest an alternative version of archetypal ontology. The notion of the archetype as spirit means that morals and ‘meaning’ are indeed intrinsic to the universe. Spiritual meaning has not the biological systems as its origin. It implies that spirit is real, yet only from the viewpoint of a transcendental complement. Spiritual notions remain figurative as long as the world is looked at through the lens of science. Contrary to this, Jung’s metaphysic coalesces matter and psyche at the most fundamental level. Accordingly, psyche and matter are both reduced to “the meaning of number” (vid. von Franz, 1974). Thus, ultimate archetypal reality is also ultimate reality of matter. It is, in spite of expectations to the contrary, a curiously reductionistic model. It is no wonder that it fails to arouse enthusiasm. The notion of spirit mustn’t merely be understood in the metaphorical sense. It is real and it represents another worldview than the physicalistic. Although mutually exclusive, they are compatible under the aegis of complementarity. Hence, the universe is double-sided — a worldview which coincides with the structure of the Self (cf. Winther, 2011b, here). It implies that we may look at the very same universe using our spiritual vision —alternatively to perceive it with worldly eyes, but not really at the same time.

The science of the anima

When looking at the archetypal phenomenon through the worldly lens, we may perceive the genetic and epigenetic factors formative of the archetype (such as the anima [1]), although the phenomenon cannot be accounted for in its entirety. After all, science cannot explain its many characteristics, such as volition and telos. It is only capable of explaining how something functions, for instance, how electrons operate. Since the anima has autonomous spiritual telos, science cannot explain what the anima is, as such. Even so, science is capable of explaining why the majority of Western population has an anima psychology, and why this development never took place in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, anthropological science can contribute to the science of the anima.

Carl Jung, who thought highly of the Chinese, made the observation that they lack the anima psychology characteristic of Western man. Today, this lack in the Chinese psyche is more conspicuous than ever. The relation between the sexes is predicated on the classical proprietary marriage, which functioned finely in traditional culture. However, society has more and more adopted Western ways of personal freedom, which means that there are no strict rules of conduct to follow anymore. In consequence, the lack of genuine passion between husband and wife leaves them in a void. I watched a TV documentary where young couples admitted to having no notion of romantic love. This experience, which to many a Western youth is truly dramatic and life-changing, is perfectly unknown in China.

Handsome young couples experience a lack of passion, with detrimental consequences for sexual life. Why did they marry then? Because the Chinese only know of one form of relation between the sexes, namely classical proprietary marriage, which is like starting a business together. As a consequence, young Chinese couples today have to attend courses where man and woman learn to relate. This is because the relation lacks regulation and animation from psychic structures in the unconscious. Anthropologists say the same of sub-Saharan people. Promiscuity among young Africans is a big problem since it causes epidemics of venereal disease. There is today a call among African youth to remain faithful. The reason why faithfulness is not spontaneous is because the tendency to fall deeply in love is lacking. According to white people working in the area, the attachment between the sexes isn’t as strong as among European youth. It seems that Jung was perfectly on the spot in his ethnic evaluation of anima-animus psychology. European Middle Ages saw the rise of the hero archetype (knight) and the anima archetype (virgin). Still today, Hollywood films revolve around the same theme.

The above discussion around the scientific view of the anima versus the experience of the anima as spirit illustrates that science can only contribute up to a certain point, from which it must give up its aspirations. The spirit is capable of manifesting in the world but cannot be explained in worldly terms. The spiritual (trinitarian) paradigm is a worldview of faith. It relies on a different psychic function than our modern-day rationality. However, it does not bespeak religious privatism according to which a person’s spiritual worldview is merely a private affair whereas secular science is responsible for the explanation of the world. My argument is that science is only capable of explaining spiritual phenomena up to a certain point, from which our spiritual consciousness must take over.

The notion of the autonomous archetype is indispensable. It presents itself as ‘autonomous divine being’ that doesn’t think much of the human subject’s worldly ambition. In my personal experience, it seconds worldly abandonment for a life in the spirit. A couple of weeks ago I awoke in the middle of the night by a voice calling my name twice. I wasn’t startled at all, but remained wholly calm. Just then the moon came wandering out of the trees and shone right into my room. I was awakened so that I could revere the presence of the “moon goddess”. This is the anima. In Amerindian culture, an experience of this sort would certify that the subject belonged to the totem of the moon. However, it should be understood as the call of the spirit. It wants the subject’s full attention while insisting that it is real, has autonomous will, and eternal life. It doesn’t give a hoot about science.

Spiritual versus religious consciousness

The notion of a life in the spirit mustn’t be identified with the religious standpoint. There is a dark side to religion, pertaining to ambivalent human nature. A true spirituality would serve to counteract the regressive movement toward an archaic religious standpoint in modernity. Paganism is paradigmatic of the religious standpoint, due to conflation of sacred and profane. The spirit is always nigh and resides in material objects, too. Events of the world are understood as the workings of celestial beings. Comparatively, modern transcendental religion, due to processes of institutionalization and routinization, has hemmed in the divine. Religion serves to close the door to divine autonomy, once and for all. Worldly life is governed by religious law, as in Islam, where people are enjoined to eat certain religiously untainted food and to wear the prescribed clothes.

Religion leaves no room for spiritual enlightenment, because everything is already cut and ready in the worshipper’s life. Also in Protestantism, it is considered uncouth to talk about one’s encounter with the supernatural. The divine revelation has already taken place, two thousand years ago. Today, we only need to occupy ourselves with material things and how to provide food for the needy, etc. Alternatively, we must take care not to urinate in the direction of Mecca. This is modern religion. It is all about quenching the autonomy of the spirit, nailing it to material regulations, how to conduct oneself, etc. Compared with medieval times, inspired prophetic voices have become silent, because nobody believes in them anymore. Thus, the last source of genuine divine inspiration has been quenched, which accounts for the barrenness of modern religion.

The religious personality tends to be self-serving and prone to ego-inflation. That’s why one should beware of socializing with such people. Among Jungians, the qualitatively pagan worldview has instilled in them the unhealthy notion that ego is at one with the world. Subjective life has a counterpart in the material events that occur in the outer world, through the workings of synchronicity. It is a conceited frame of mind, at best. The worldly and “complete” personality is elevated as Self ideal, whose dark and light qualities the believer gives expression to, in an attempt to imitate “completeness”. It is a form of surreptitious self-aggrandizement with sinister moral repercussions. The overblown personality is prone to stigmatizing other people as dysfunctional or degenerate. However, a morally ambivalent person is not “complete”, because moral ambivalence is evil. The pagan cultures were very cruel. The following type of ritual is characteristic of paganism. The Celts elected a ritual king who was given the name of the god-man Hercules.

At mid-summer, at the end of a half-year reign, Hercules is made drunk with mead and led into the middle of a circle of twelve stones arranged around an oak, in front of which stands an altar-stone; the oak has been lopped until it is T-shaped. He is bound to it with willow thongs in the ‘five-fold bond’ which joins wrists, neck and ankles together, beaten by his comrades till he faints, then flayed, blinded, castrated, impaled with a mistletoe stake, and finally hacked into joints on the altar-stone. His blood is caught in a basin and used for sprinkling the whole tribe to make them vigorous and fruitful. The joints are roasted at twin fires of oak-loppings, kindled with sacred fire preserved from a lightning-blasted oak or made by twirling an alder- or cornel-wood fire-drill in an oak log. The trunk is then uprooted and split into faggots which are added to the flames. The twelve merry-men rush in a wild figure-of-eight dance around the fires, singing ecstatically and tearing at the flesh with their teeth. The bloody remains are burnt in the fire, all except the genitals and the head. These are put into an alder-wood boat and floated down a river to an islet; though the head is sometimes cured with smoke and preserved for oracular use. His tanist succeeds him and reigns for the remainder of the year, when he is sacrificially killed by a new Hercules. (Graves, 1997, pp. 125-6)

Clearly, pagan regress is a dangerous thing. Unconscious archaic shadow psychology undoubtedly awakes, and it will soon come to dominate public consciousness. Jung understood Nazism as resurrected pagan cult — “Wotanism”. Soon enough, they took up the practice of human sacrifice. In contrast to the pagan worldview, spirit is really separate from matter, but not in the way of dualism. According to a complementarian model, these worlds do overlap at some point, although spirit remains largely transcendental to the scientific mind. We can partake in either the temporal or the divine universe, depending on conscious standpoint. Both sides of the Self are equally true. However, should a person aspire to attain the spiritual Self, he must needs reject the worldly Self and its futile habits. Only then, when he has opened his spiritual eye, will he be able to experience interventions of the divine. Comparatively, according to Jung’s metaphysic of unus mundus and synchronicity, spirit continually intervenes in the world, as it did in pagan civilization.

Many Christian mystics have argued that the contemplative must abandon the worldly or false Self for a true Self closer to God. This coincides with Eastern mystical teaching. A recurrent notion is that the spiritual pilgrim must abandon the “ego”. Of course, the ego cannot be abandoned, as such. However, it should be greatly toned down, whereby a change of heart takes place in personality. This could be understood as a change of Self ideal. Although the ego is in some sense intact, it now bask under another sun. Formerly it was the worldly sun, but now it is the spiritual sun. Thus, the Self has changed its face. It takes an effort to open one’s eyes to the celestial world, present in the here and now. Dreams are valuable inroads of the divine. However, what people denote as synchronistic experiences are just a trickle. One should abandon all superstitions, because they keep us bound to a world which is pagan in kind. Instead, we ought to adopt a standpoint that is either truly scientific or truly spiritual. So it’s either or, although one should remain flexible enough to alter one’s mindset.

Animism is the belief that nature is animated with celestial beings that take their abode in nature, in trees and springs, etc. Today, the notion of spirit is often used in the metaphorical sense. According to the psychological paradigm, it is a projection of the unconscious psyche upon the things of nature. So we may “see” spirit in nature although it isn’t there. However, according to the religious paradigm, spirit is a metaphysical reality transcending nature. It goes beyond our natural ways of perception and cognition. Comparatively, the Gnostics and the alchemists maintained that spirit is scattered in nature as soul-sparks, or scintillae, which are metaphysically real (cf. Winther, 2013, here). In alchemy appears the idea of fishes’ eyes (‘oculi piscium’). Eyesight signifies vague conscious awareness (cf. Jung, 1977, pp. 48-56). According to Dionysian mythology, the soul-sparks are remnants of the fallen deity. The notion appears also in Kabbalah and in Stoicism. So there is a residue of spirit in nature, scattered everywhere, although it remains largely transcendental. A diminutive portion is imprisoned in matter and may only be observed if we listen very carefully. This is where the two realities overlap. In a way, it is a middle course between animism and religion. Therefore it is questionable whether the alchemical quest is really translatable in Jungian terms, that is, as the integration of the unconscious in order to attain the Self as a coincidentia oppositorum. This is a projection of the psychological paradigm. Jung viewed alchemy as proto-psychology; as Jungian psychology in the making. Arguably, the alchemists just wanted to gather the scintillae scattered in nature.

The spiritual standpoint mustn’t be confused with the religious. The gist of my argument is that spirit and matter must be disentangled. They ought to be seen as two different realms of equal reality-status. Such a separation runs counter to the postmodernist Neo-Pagan message that aims to imbue the world with spirit, by recourse to sophisticated psychological theory. The spiritual paradigm also runs counter to the religious ideal that champions godly rule on earth. The religious paradigm, and the one-sided rationalistic and reductionistic paradigm, both strive after hegemony. The trinitarian spiritual model, as manifested in contemplative praxis, depends on the curtailment of ego and worldly engagement. It is anti-narcissistic as it aims at ego deflation by recourse to piety and long-suffering. Such an unassuming attitude, unlike the model of completeness, opens the door to the spirit and grants it autonomy. Whereas it is antithetical to the religious standpoint, many a scientific person would acknowledge its allure. It’s not that the average scientist cannot tolerate ideas of an extramundane cause of the universe. To experience the divine in the personal sphere is not in disagreement with a scientific attitude. Unlike religious people, scientist must have an open attitude to any phenomena.


The idea builds on the scientific principle of bipartite complementarity. Certain phenomena in the realm of psychology are scientifically inexplicable. It calls for a complementarian metaphysical model according to which the universe is both spiritual and physical. However, it is not experiential as a dual universe. Depending on the conscious viewpoint of the observer, it is either spiritual or material (scientific). Yet, neither of the models will suffice as sole explanatory model. Thus, a complete worldview can only be achieved by having recourse to both models. I loosely associate psychology and science with the Platonic and Aristotelian paradigms, respectively. According to the Copenhagen school of complementarity, neither of the two complementary models of a phenomenon will suffice as a standalone model. Although either one can account for most of the empirical facts, there will be a remainder that is inexplicable. To account for the remainder, the complementary model (that is, the alternative model) must be applied.

Scientists have found that the Aristotelian paradigm, namely that of laws inbuilt into nature, is inadequate in the world of quantum phenomena. To account for this “remainder”, the obverse Platonic paradigm must be applied. It’s as if the observer “projects” his inner notion of order onto the phenomenon, which causes the quantum wave to collapse. It’s as if a spiritual order outside the natural phenomenon, transcendental to the worldly object, is responsible for its manifestation in reality. Thus, spiritual reality at some point overlaps worldly reality. A remarkable example of this is Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment (cf. Wiki, here). Depending on how we choose to observe a distant galaxy whose light has bifurcated through gravitational lensing, light must “decide” whether it has travelled as wave or as particle, and then instantly relate this information backwards in time, throughout millions of years. Experiments have verified that this is how it works, as if “retrocausality” belongs in nature. This is where the Aristotelian scientific model breaks down, because it is obvious that the light phenomenon is not self-governed. It is as if it exists in an eternal now governed by transcendental laws. On account of such findings, physicists have begun to think in Platonic terms. Some even speculate that the universe is a software simulation, created by a higher intelligence (cf. Wiki, here). However, according to this view mental activity is algorithmic, which is implausible (cf. Winther, 2014b, here). Moreover, we shouldn’t abandon one monist perspective for another, but must have recourse to both, in complementarian fashion.

M-L von Franz discusses St Thomas Aquinas’s (1225-1274) contribution to epistemology. He argues that there exists an entity in the mind that is necessary for us to be able to perceive anything at all. Aristotle’s notion of spiritual order, the nous poiétikos, is present not merely in the physical cosmos but also in the human mind. Thomas took the modern step of introjecting the notion of order, realizing that the terms we use come from our own minds. He went even further and asked why our own minds produced such ideas of order, and this he attributed to the nous poiétikos. Thomas Aquinas withdrew the projection of “spirit” on the world and argued that, in part, it is a question of our own mental operations, for there is no meaningfulness unless we see it. He argued that we need a mind, an inner configuration of spirit, in order to be prepared for the world. Thus, he took the older concept and cut it in two, saying that in part the nous poiétikos was not in the cosmos but in the human mind, and the other half was the Wisdom of God (cf. von Franz, 1980, lecture 7). This is similar to Plato’s epistemological principle.

The traditional scientific model, according to which laws in matter guide the world, is insufficient to account for all natural phenomena. Scientists have been forced to include the observer, and his inner nous poiétikos, to account for phenomena. It has given rise to the notion of complementarity. This illustrates eminently how the Platonic paradigm has made an inroad into the Aristotelian and scientific paradigm. They are complementing each other. There seems to be two autonomous and largely standalone aspects of reality, the ideational and the temporal. They are interdependent in that they intrude into their respective realms, to a degree. Yet, paradoxically, there is only one world. The above Taiji diagram describes the relation excellently. Whereas science has found that the mental world makes an inroad in the quantum world, the opposite movement is central to Christian theology.

It is reasonable to make use of the principle of complementarity also outside physics. Niels Bohr has in the Gifford lectures, 1948-1950, suggested that theologians make more use of the complementarity principle (vid. Bohr, 1999). Physicist and science historian Abraham Pais says: “Complementarity can be formulated without explicit reference to physics, to wit, as two aspects of a description that are mutually exclusive yet both necessary for a full understanding of what is to be described” (Plotnitsky, 1994, loc.cit., p. 73). The most difficult problem to resolve is the nature of faith as counterpart to rational scientific intellect. The gist is this: the nature of the archetype can never be uncovered by science, as it lacks foundation in materiality. The archetype abides in a spiritual complement to the temporal world, and its existence can only be verified by a spiritual consciousness. One might argue that its revelations are as diverse as the number of individuals. But I’m not so sure of this, considering the uniformity of contemplative and mystic experience. I believe that a scientist, who has reached the limits of scientific understanding, would feel wholly at peace were he to experience the underlying spiritual foundation of worldly phenomena. After all, scientists have already accepted the complementary explanatory model. Arguably, it boils down to this, namely to accept a complementary view and to abandon our obsession with a unitive worldview.

Evidently, faith and reason collide. In his scientific mode of being the modern individual has no grounds for belief in angelic or transcendental beings of any sort, that can have an impact in his/her life. Yet, in the transcendental mode of being, into which he could enter with a little effort, he would experience invasions of transcendental autonomous will. Such a conversion is postulated by Søren Kierkegaard, according to his “leap of faith” (cf. Wiki, here). Yet, it is not possible to translate these experiences into scientific language and give evidence to them following rules of science, namely as replicable experiments. The complementarian perspective allows us to abandon the hegemonic standpoint, i.e., the fundamentalist perspective according to which either the scientific worldview or the religious is seen as unrivalled (cf. Winther, 2012b, here). We may also leave behind the unitive view of faith and science, which is an indefensible position. The standard argument against the notion of spirit is that it’s unscientific; but this is exactly what I am arguing. It is almost wholly outside the scientific paradigm. The notion is functional on the condition that we close our scientific eye and open our spiritual. There are two different ways of looking at reality. They are both truthful, provided that we avoid mixing them together. Only the spiritual paradigm can account for Platonic form and archetype-as-such. It is fruitless to search for an explanation solely in scientific terms. It must be complemented with concepts of meaning and teleology.


Ouroboros Ouroboros. Emblematic serpent of ancient Egypt and Greece represented with its tail in its mouth continually devouring itself and being reborn from itself. A Gnostic and alchemical symbol, Ouroboros expresses the unity of all things, material and spiritual, which never disappear but perpetually change form in an eternal cycle of destruction and re-creation. (Encyclopædia Britannica)

This image from alchemy seems to illustrate a spiritual (winged) principle that unites with its counterpart in circular dependency. It corresponds to the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol (above). The first known appearance of the ouroboros motif is in the Egyptian “Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld”, 14th century BC. In an illustration, two serpents, holding their tails in their mouths, coil around the head and feet of an enormous god, probably representing unified Ra-Osiris (cf. Wiki, here).

Rubin's vase Rubin’s vase. There are two aspects of reality. A complementarian metaphysic is definable neither as monism nor pluralism. Can there be a metaphysical foundation consisting of two (or more) irreconcilable ontic aspects, which however are interlocked and dependable on each other? Both are required and neither is eliminable. It is as if the world emerges in between them. This is for metaphysicians to work out.

The doctrine of double truths

In medieval times, following the advances of science, there emerged a scholastic theory of “double truths” — one for faith and another for reason. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas attacked this idea and argued that there is no double realism: God is the author of all truth whereas the aim of scientific research is indeed the same truth. Thus, there can be no fundamental incompatibility between the two. Provided we understand Christian doctrine properly and do our science well, we will discover the one and only genuine reality. But we cannot find the one truth — only God knows that. It is hubristic to think that we are capable of knowing the one truth about God and his creation. It would imply that we are capable of being equally enlightened as God. The whole point about complementarity is that we may combine two seemingly irreconcilable models. Thus, Aquinas was right in his assertion that there is no fundamental incompatibility between the two. Nevertheless, there is a “double truth”: one for faith and another for reason, mutually exclusive yet compatible. So the universe is double-sided, a worldview which coincides with how I have sketched the structure of the Self, namely as bipartite (cf. Winther, 2011b, here).

Thus, we must heed to both worldviews, since neither of them will suffice as sole explanatory model. We may, however, combine Aquinas assertion that there is one Higher Truth (associated with God) with the doctrine of double truths. God’s universe is experienced either through the eyes of faith or science. There is indeed one truth — but only to God. We mortals can only experience the universe in two mutually exclusive ways. The universe behaves as if there are two truths. Nevertheless, it retains its unity, since neither model is sufficient in itself. By way of illustration, there is also a double truth about Jesus. Science views Jesus Christ as an historical person — a mere human — namely the gifted religious preacher and healer from Nazareth. The contributions of scientific scholars are relevant. Yet, according to faith, Jesus Christ is the person seated at the right hand of the Father. The contributions from theologians are relevant, too. Thus, both views are correct: (1) Jesus as mere human, and (2) Jesus as God — two standpoints that are mutually exclusive. Yet, they are combinable provided that we reason in terms of complementarity. Complementarity says that there is one phenomenon that comes to expression in two different ways, depending on the observer’s frame of reference. Complementarity in Christology is a plausible notion. Since it rhymes with the dogma of the hypostatic union, theologists have reasoned in such terms, also.

Baruch Spinoza

It could be educational to compare complementarian metaphysic with Spinozism. Spinoza’s philosophy is strictly monist, arguing that every single thing or event in the world of extension is corresponding to an idea in the universal mind. Since idea and finite modus of extension (individual natural form) represent two different aspects of the same thing, mind and nature are wholly parallel attributes of the one and only underlying substance, which is impersonal God. This concept is what underlies psychophysical parallelism in later philosophy; the theory that mental and bodily experiences have no causal interaction, but occur in tandem with each other (cf. Wiki, here). God, unlike individual things, possesses both unlimited extension and unlimited intellect. Moreover, the divine also possesses an unlimited amount of attributes. However, from the human perspective, there are only two ways in which we can conceive of the world, either as temporal or as spiritual (mental). Charles Jarret says:

[Spinoza] maintains that a thing can be conceived as actual in two ways: insofar as it is related to time and place or insofar as it is contained in God. The distinction is set out in V p 29s. To conceive a thing in the latter way is to conceive it as actual or real, but not, it seems, as temporal or as in time. It is to conceive it ‘under a form of eternity’ (sub specie aeternitatis). To conceive of it in the former way is simply to conceive of it as existing in time (sub duratione) and, if it is physical, as in space or as having spatial relations. The distinction between these ways of conceiving a thing is thus quite like Kant’s distinction between a phenomenon and a noumenon.
    The most important difference in their views, however, is that Kant holds that we can have no real knowledge of noumena and that none of our a priori concepts, such as the concepts of substance and of causality, can be applied to noumena. Spinoza, on the other hand, maintains that we do have real knowledge of noumena, or things as they are in themselves. This includes knowledge of the existence and essence of God, the sole substance, as well as knowledge of God’s causality. (Jarret, 2007, pp. 170-71)

Of course, according to Spinoza, there are no Kantian things-in-themselves, since every single entity is really a modus or affection of God and thus has no independent existence of its own (cf. Nadler, 2013, here). Spinozism has much in common with Jung’s model, most notably the postulate of an underlying substance which has as attributes psyche and nature. However, in Spinozist monism the one substance is wholly intellectually attainable, whereas Jung’s unus mundus is defined as transcendental in the absolute Kantian sense. Comparatively, a complementarian metaphysic does not rely on an underlying neutral substance. Neither mental nor physical events are secondary, but are each other’s complements. Thus, from the physicalist standpoint it appears that the mental is secondary. However, from the spiritual vantage point, it is evident that it’s the other way round. Yet, regardless of vantage point, the observer will encounter phenomena that are inexplicable from a monist perspective, whether physicalistic or spiritual. An example of this is Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment (above). What Spinozism has in common with complementarian metaphysic is the two different outlooks on the world. There are two equally viable and equally realistic cognitive models, which are interchangeable — to conceive of the world sub specie aeternitatis or sub duratione. However, in a complementarian metaphysic psychophysical parallelism has an either-or relation.


A complementarian metaphysic could harmonize with a Christian/Platonic outlook. It is neither monistic nor dualistic, but a combination of both. According to Spinoza there are two ways of looking upon the world, the eternal (divine) and the temporal. From a complementarian standpoint, these views are irreconcilable. Yet, the world is still one. Analogously, light is one phenomenon, despite the fact that it’s defined by two irreconcilable models. A light wave travels through space, not as a ‘thing’ but as a ‘potential’. It is only at the moment of detection that it turns into a worldly thing, namely a shower of photons. The light wave, as such, cannot be empirically detected. It exists outside time as a potential. Nevertheless, it does exist in some way, but not in the same sense as the photon. In the words of Heisenberg, it is “standing in the middle between the idea of a thing and a real thing”.

On this view, the divine has another kind of existence that corresponds to the wave function as world-transcending potential. After all, it becomes ‘real’ only when observed. It is called the “collapse of the wave function”. In a similar way (but not the same way), the divine remains a potentiality until the subject, by turning to faith, actualizes the invisible potential. To the conscious believing subject, God is real, and this reality can manifest in his life. Should he adopt a scientific perspective, God becomes invisible. Should he choose to see things sub specie aeternitatis, which is the Christian perspective, then God becomes visible again.

The archetype, in the sense of Platonic Form, is preexistent according to the spiritual paradigm, but not according to the scientific paradigm. According to scientific consciousness, the notion of a preexistent archetype appears irrational and unscientific, since it cannot be empirically verified. Yet, according to a spiritual worldview, which is founded upon our innate function of faith, there are no doubts about its veracity. I hold that human beings are double-natured in this sense. According to this view, there is no conjoint psyche and matter in the background of existence. There is no psychoid layer associated with synchronicity. The theory of the unitive or integrated model of the Self and the universe is disputable. According to an alternative complementarian model the universe and the Self have two sides. Nevertheless, they remain a whole. In spiritual matters, I hold that we can only attain a limited success within the scientific paradigm, which we ought to endorse fully.

At the limits of science, we have to remove our scientific spectacles and put on spiritual ones, to begin to see the universe differently. Therefore we should endorse the spiritual paradigm equally much as the scientific paradigm, although they are mutually exclusive. According to this dual and complementarian worldview, the spirit retains its transcendent nature. It cannot be observed through our scientific spectacles. Thus, the pagan worldview remains an historical artefact. In the pagan universe spirit and matter were highly commingled. It is connected with a naive frame of mind, which may lead to an obsession with archaic ideas. Esoteric tradition, Neo-Paganism and New Age, do not present a solution to the problems of the modern world. The Aztecs, Celts, and the Mycenaeans, are very inspiring and interesting to read about, but the way back to this childlike age is barred. Still, there are people, especially in the Third World, whose psychic economy is truly animistic. Jung and von Franz asserted that medieval people still exist in the European population. Arguably, people of many different frames of mind would be capable of adopting a complementarian worldview.


© Mats Winther, 2013.


1. See ‘Anima and animus’, Wikipedia article. (here)

The anima is the term for the “soul complex”, which is a complex that personifies the soul. When a person is said to lack an anima, it doesn’t mean that he lacks a soul. It means that he lacks a modern soul complex, a personification of the soul which is a carrier of its mythologems. Instead the mother archetype will carry this role. It would mean, among other things, that the myth of the knight out to rescue the virgin is not presently active in the unconscious.


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