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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jung and me

A brief comment on the ten page article SS stuck in a link on the upcoming publication of the Red Book, Carl Gustav Jung's diary of his spiritual life.

It is absolutely AMAZING that this article makes absolutely NO mention of probably the MOST important element of Jung's biography : the fact that he was part of an extended family of Protestant pastors, his own father being one.
I will get back to this point.
I will probably NOT read Jung's diary. For the simple reason that I consider reading OTHER PEOPLE'S spiritual diaries to be a waste of time.
Jung had his life. I have mine. And NO ONE, absolutely no one, can offer any kind of spiritual mentorship IN A BOOK.
My life "journey" greatly parallels Jung's. I too have "descended" (or risen ?) into madness. I am intimately familiar with it. Once it terrified me to contemplate this fact. No longer. Madness is a fundamental part of the human experience.
It does not weaken or destroy us. But... being afraid of it severely hampers our ability to reap as much "wealth" from it as we could.
Twenty years before Carl Gustav had his experience (1913), Daniel Paul Schreber had his (1893). And he too, wrote a diary. It's called "Denkwurdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken", loosely translated as "Memoirs of a Nevropath", (commented by Freud in "Five psychoanalytic Case Studies"). The book is a detailed, albeit almost incoherent, account of Schreber's persecution by a God with whom he has a voluptuous relationship. Schreber's madness started with a prescient dream in which he "thought" how tempting it would be to be a woman being penetrated, and during orgasm.
"The Interpretation of Dreams" by Sigmund Freud (1899) contains many highly detailed accounts by Freud of his own particularly rich dreams. Freud, too, was very worried about being or going mad. It obsessed him. The book in its own way, is Freud's diary of his spiritual search.

So... the connect with Protestant pastors ?
Jung's theories, and his way of presenting them, are a resurrection of Catholicism's unbelievable intuition about the importance of iconic thought vs. abstraction.
The Catholic Church's cult is/was filled with pictures, pictures that tell a story. Beautiful pictures. And... the very idea of transsubstantiation is an attempt to harness "pagan" magic into the Christian religious experience.
PROTESTANTISM is extremely hostile to all of this. Iconoclasm... initially refers to the breaking of images, and when the Protestants went on rampages through the European countryside, they tore apart the "idols" (i.e. pictures and statues...) in the Catholic churches.
Symbolism is a... WEAKENING, and a rationalisation of mystical experience, which can conventiently become logical and rational. But... with a definite loss of power.

I am neither Jungian nor Freudian at this point. I have my own point of view on all of this. I do not believe in the collective unconscious. What I do believe is... that our language carries within it all the seeds of our ancestor's history, and the history of their/our ideas. When we speak, and think, this history reactualizes itself and makes its influence felt. I also see the attempt to "interpret" our dreams as a dangerous tendency to extend the realm of interpretation, an ever dangerous activity, into areas that would best be left... as untouched sanctuary.

I recommend Robertson Davies "The Deptford Trilogy", book 2, "The Manticore", for a very very perspicacious attitude towards Jungian (and/or Freudian...) psychoanalysis.


Thai said...

Deb, I think you are going to have to guide me through a bunch of this; remember I come from a world of erector sets.

I think I follow about 90% of what you're saying but as you know in bridge building (and medicine): off by an inch, off by a mile.

SS said...


Glad you "liked?" the article. What a beautiful post. I need to comment at length, give me some time.

One has to love Thai looking at his son's innocent smile. He must resemble his father I would guess as his head shape has very masculine qualities.


Thai said...

SS, do you perchance know this blog?

I came across it years ago and was fairly impressed though I never once engaged them in conversation. I completely forgot about it until today when I read Deb's post and something about it sparked a memory- philosophy (which again I know nothing about), Jung, etc...

I am trying to remember why I cam across it and I think it had something to do with Berkley- or was it Brad DeLong? Or both? I can't remember anymore... I think he was a philosophy PhD student from UC Berkeley who took a position as a professor of philosophy in Singapore (or something like that)...

Anyway, let me know if you find it interesting/enjoyable at all.


PS- We are a group of manly men in my family ;-)

SS said...

Trying to put my thoughts together on your very perceptive post. Images? Chateaubriand in Le Genie du Chrtienisme has a similar insight. But in thinking about it, the at the time considerably more civilized - the early cities were in Babylon at least, those of civilizations in contact with ours and in the desert - the religions of the semites, Juadaeism and Mohamedism were both shorn of images, clearly so in the case of the latter and I believe for the Jews as well who seem to have no images in their rites. Was this the effect of desert civilizations where the image itself was presented in great simplicity in their surroundings or the psychic nature of the peoples adopting them? When the Aryans took their culture into the Indian sub-continent and the indigenous peoples there, the result wan a great plethora of religious image and color as in the West. Only Persia's zoroastrianism seems to break this pattern for the Aryans. Is this again the desert. Russian and Greek orthodoxy seem to follow the pattern of religious imagery, Byzantium too although a mixture of Turkic and Aryan peoples were probably at play there.

Was the nomadic Aryan psyche this childlike image conscious and affected being, whereas the semites were not? A good case could be made for his child like nature, quick to anger, weak in self-control but strong in imagination and fantasy.

One can see from the limited pictures the Times conveys how rich Jung's imagination could have been. Like Bosch, Eckhart and other largely Germanic how different these pathways of the mind from my own.

More later.


Thai said...

Deb, I happened to see this as I was reading and thought you might be interested


Debra said...

On the issue of effectiveness/ineffectiveness of cognitive memory exercises for the elderly, I have to point out that ALL of the studies CANNOT take into account or quantify the effects of... the test situation itself and the fact that in "experiments", people are having individualized attention paid to them.
Getting attention = stimulation.

On the subject of monotheism, a few salient facts : the mother of all monotheism is Judaïsm. Theodore Roszak makes the perceptive comment that the people who were to eventually band together to become the Jews were profoundly shocked by the pagan cults, and reacted intensely over the idolatry question, which is THE MOST IMPORTANT question in Judaïsm.
In their minds, an idol was a big STATUE/IMAGE that people bowed down in front of, probably, and that made them do all kinds of crazy things, like human sacrifice, even...
You will agree with me that this definition of idolatry is an extremely basic, simplistic one, and incidentally, the Jews themselves developed a thought which considerably fleshed out the idolatry question.
For example... these days, we might say that... Wall Street is an idol, or...filthy lucre is an idol, even though we have no big statues or images of money that we bow down in front of.
The best definition of idol that I have (the greatest Jewish rabbis have it too, Jesus has it..) is... that which, in your pursuit of it, allows you to forget that your greatest treasure is in relations with others.
It is a pretty comprehensive definition that allows us to see that the idol question is independent of... images.
The... Bible can be an idol, can't it ?
The... Constitution ?
A text can be an idol in the same way as an image can be, right ?

Thai said...

True. This is just one study written up in a popular science mag that I forwarded as a friendly FYI, nothing more.

Alzheimer's is a vast subject

SS said...

@ Thai,

I did enjoy the drawings and especially the use of color; they are reminiscent in that of the small glimpse of Jung's drawings in the tims, sharp color contrasts in both but these seem like the optimistic, flip side.


SS said...

@ Deb,

There's room in your insight for a major book on imagery and religion but not for me, my visual imagery is too abstract to catch what's going on.


Thai said...

I am glad.

That just seems to be their/his (or hers) latest post.

He?she/they deal with philosophical "stuff" on an ever changing basis all the time- most of it way above my head of course ;-)

Debra said...

I know I sound pompous to you, Thai, but I'm not attacking. I swear.
I like to think, and I like to argue.
I'm a Protestant Jew who wishes she could be Catholic...

Debra said...

I'm intrigued, Thai. Just WHAT am I saying that you don't understand ?
It seems to me that the words are all simple, everyday words, and I try to define the way that I'm using them so it's clear.
Your discussion (with Hell or here ?) about metaphor is right along these lines : is conservation of energy a METAphor, or is it REALLY something else ? Are words.... symbols, or... THINGS ?
For fun, let's look at the central rite in Christianity, the communion celebration.
Catholicism insists that Jesus himself is physically present in the wafer, and that the wine really IS his blood.
Protestantism insists that... the wine and the bread are SYMBOLS of his blood and his body.
Protestantism is... more rational than Catholicism. But... less magic. And less demanding on our capacity to believe. Maybe... the LESS you expect people to be able to believe, the LESS they really CAN believe ?
And... I remember all the little grape juice vials that were handed out in Communion in the States in the Protestant churches. And... the bare, austere churches, with crosses with no tortured bodies of Jesus on them to REMIND you that he had been there. (Well, Protestantism CHEATS on this one, because Bach's music is certainly magical, and direct experience, isn't it ??? But for forms sake, no one will talk about idolatry.)
To me, Protestantism is a businessman's cult.
What I'm saying, you can get a feeling for in the writing of James Joyce, an ambivalent "lover" of the Catholic Church, if ever there was one...
He loved the ceremony, the ritual, the magic involved in the Catholic rites.

Thai said...

Deb, remember SS asked us to respect his wishes to not discuss this topic with him.

I am happily discussing it with Dink and would love to include you in that conversation but any continuation of this conversation on this post's thread is really unfair to SS as he would get all the emails...

I tell you what, I will create another Post titled "Not for SS" and we can continue the conversation in that thread's comment section- fair?

SS, I hope this is acceptable to you?

SS said...

The title is really a bit "insulting" you could have called it on zero sums or something but it is really your choice.

Thai said...

Sorry, insult truly was the result of unintentional thoughtlessness and you are absolutely right to point this out.

I sincerely apologize

It shall be called zero sum

Debra said...

What topic are we not to comment on ?
This is MY post, and not SS's, by the way...

Thai said...

Can't talk about "is conservation of energy a METAphor, or is it REALLY something else ? Are words.... symbols, or... THINGS ?"

For if things then conservation of energy applies.

We can take it to another post

Debra said...

Are you guys SURE that you have REALLY kissed and made up ???
And SS, are you really ALLERGIC to Thai's somewhat... "monomaniac" angle on the way things work in our "bas monde" ?
I, for one, would rather make Thai toe the line by demonstrating, in a perfectly rigorous manner, exactly HOW the conservation of energy applies to love...
And I hate EXCLUSION in any way and form. We have already been over this subject on yoyo.

SS said...


Thanks for being so nice. Thais views seem to me nihilist so really impossible to discuss but like Yo that seems to be all he wants to discuss. I'll leave it to you to try and decide what to do.

It's a bit like Hell (or Yoyomo for that matter). I enjoyed his insight and he corrrectly analysed the crash of the market. But he was stuck, couldn't let others really share their richness and couldn't move on, we are not all hommo economicus. We have shared a lot of very rich things here but now seem to be stuck in zero sum-nihilism. I would like to move past this but if others are stuck there I'll move on. I can't go over that again and again and again, it seems to me to deny the purpose of life. Come back with some wisdom Deb, Thai, Dink?

note: if you want me to let it go I will but I can't say I'll participate with the same enthusiasm, I really have little to say on the subject that I haven't said already and I think it will take us into nothingness.


Thai said...

Oh, now I understand!

SS- on an ABSOLUTE basis it is nihilistic, I couldn't agree more.

But please also understand that my views on even this have a very strong element of "the emperor has no clothes".

This is because from a human race perspective, evolution has already made most of the decisions for us. Opening all of them all over again is a complete waste of energy and neither the most expedient way to get to where ever we want to go nor even likely to get us there.

To aptly quote Pinker: "Show me a relativist at 30,000 and I will show you a hypocrite".

I play with erector sets- remember?

I am a builder that likes permanence- remember?

But I am not such a builder as to love that permanence to the point of true permanence, e.g. death.

I do see where change creates progress, I also do see where it destroys (the Yin and Yang of Shiva the destroyer so to speak- which I might add you have a VERY strong flare of as you yourself seem aware).

Don't over read into me.

On an absolute level- "yes"- I am a nihilist. But I fly aircraft at 30,000 feet not uncommonly so I really chose absolutism in the nihilism a long time ago ;-)

I hope this makes sense

Thai said...

Or put another way I use the tools of nihilism to understand the world.

I use my absolutism (e.g. template) to make of it what I will.

I truly believe we create our own reality.

Thai said...

And SS, it is not all I want to discuss at all

I love discussing different perspective.

It is where people take the stand that one is right and the other is wrong that I can take some issues with.

For saying something is wrong and needs changing requires absolutism and this requires first deciding what you want to accomplish in the first place and where you are trying to go.

So for instance when you frame the health care debate in moral terms, then I have to ask "whose morality?"

I love different views of the world and that is the honest truth

Debra said...

Thai, I rarely understand what you are saying on this subject, and this time is no exception.
But... I HAVE decided that... LIKE ME, you are somebody who is interested in complexity, and I like that.
I do... NOT believe that evolution has decided things for us a long time ago.
Ironically enough, I think that there is something about... THIS KIND of extremely deterministic belief (incidentally it is important not to confuse DETERMINISTIC with NIHILISTIC, they are not the same thing) that is very similar to the delusions that mad people have : i.e. seeing "meaning" all over the place, and not being able to NOT see meaning all over the place.
I will reiterate that I BELIEVE that we humans have the GREATEST DIFFICULTY in getting a grasp on our individual freedom, and on chance (not predestined) phenomenon.
These aspects of our world are foreign to : 1) our desire to explain everything to make sense of it and 2) our desire to control everything about our existence.
And... SS, I think Thai refers to his theory because it is what he "uses" to understand his world. It is a good "tool" for him.
It is not YOUR tool, and not mine either.
But... I have always been interested in trying to translate theories (as far as is possible...) into other theories to see how they fit and don't fit.
I occasionally get impatient with Thai for not sharing how HIS theory says what I say, for example.
But then, Thai, maybe you are... lazy, (like me) or you feel insecure about MY theor(ies), so the work doesn't get done ?

Debra said...

And don't worry, SS.
I have no intention of letting Thai get stuck in his rut.
But I don't think that Thai is really all THAT stuck in a rut if he can put in links to little blogs that have artsy cartoon philosopher characters in them.

Thai said...

SS, let us please move one to a different topic.

But can you explain a little of your philosophy to me as we move along, these are new to me and I am at a very novice state.


PS- a little harsh on the greek elders ,no?

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