Psychology & The Materialistic Nightmare

Freud and Jung gave us the depth psychologist as artist. Let’s flip the coin here and consider the work of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), a renowned painter, known as the father of abstract art. Kandinsky gave us the artist as depth psychologist. He discovered and taught something key to our discussion: We must live a life from our deep interior, because only then will we connect with our essential identity, and be able to live a life we can truly believe in.

Kandinsky understood much about the mind. Inlcuding suffering born from the fragility of the human mind caught in the dark, materialistic marriage between science and commerce.  As he put it long ago, in words that ring mightily true today:

The all-important spark of inner life today is at present only a spark. Our minds, which are even now only just awakening after years of materialism, are infected with the despair of unbelief, of lack of purpose and ideal. The nightmare of materialism, which has turned the life of the universe into an evil, useless game, is not yet past; it holds the awakening soul still in its grip. This feeble light is but a presentiment, and the soul, when it sees it, trembles in doubt whether the light is not a dream, and the gulf of darkness a reality.


What is the nature of the materialistic nightmare and how did it arise?

Science has played a significant role in laying the foundation for the materialistic nightmare.

“Scientism” is the excessive belief that the scientific method is superior to all other methods of knowing.  Paradoxically, scientism is a religion. Its religious dogma is that material reality is the only reality, that brain is mind and that the surface thinking-mind is the only mind worth valuing.  It insists that only what can be perceived by the senses and measured is real.

Many great scientists, who understood the Creative Imagination and who had deep inner lives, including Pauli, Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrodinger, don’t agree. Nevertheless, the social consciousness has become infected with the idea that material reality is the last word. Although a relatively small numbers of people today understand science and the scientific method, most people, without realizing why, including people of faith, unconsciously accept the science-based view that material reality is the only reality that exists here.

The effort to reduce psychology to biology and neurology is just another narrative within the materialistic nightmare. Science can no more understand the depths and innermost nature of mind and soul than a squirrel can understand a mortgage agreement.


Depth Psychology, like art, has its problems today. Both are unrecognized and unappreciated for what they truly are.

The word psychology originally meant “logos of the psyche”—i.e. self-knowledge.  Depth psychology is the deep mind pursuit of the self-knowledge we need to become who we truly are. It’s a response to the call to “Know Thyself”. 

Depth psychology works to unveil what’s hidden from the view of surface mind. And in doing so, to open the way to the experiential knowledge that takes us into our deep interior, into our innermost essence. This vision is neither a science vision nor an unscientific vision. It’s a beyond science vision. It’s a vision clamoring to be heard from the wisdom of our collective soul.

Renowned depth psychologist James Hillman tells us more about this. Here he’s riffing on the ideas of Heraclitus, who Hillman viewed as the first depth psychologist:

…the depth dimension is the only one that can penetrate to what is hidden; and since only what is hidden is the true nature of all things, then only the way of the soul can lead to true insight.

Our mission demands that we hear and heed the call out of the materialistic nightmare and into the deep interior of life. Not only for ourselves, but so we can be of genuine use to others.

If we’re stuck in our surface thinking-mind, then we’re trapped in a conditioned, false self-image, cut off from who we truly are. Then we can expect to feel alienated, uncomfortable and bummed out. In the same way that we can expect to feel hot if our house is on fire.

  © Dr. James A. Manganiello 2021