I’ve been reading “The Red Book,” Liber Novus, which is actually a combination of writings but mostly a big work, previously unpublished, by Carl Jung. It has with it a lot of writing by other people as editorial notes, translator’s notes, and an introduction long enough to be a short book of its own. I’ll be quoting from it in this post, and probably another couple in the future.
The first part of the book is the original writing from Jung, which is calligraphic, and in German mostly I believe, and is “Illustrated” with many pictures, mandalas and symbols he chose to put in it. Beautiful.
Rhea White might have called it his own personal Exceptional Human Experience Autobiography. If Jung had lived today, he’d have a blog like Psiche, but given he was far more brilliant than I’ll ever be, probably something extra.
I find it fascinating, prior to even diving into his own intentional archetype work — “active imagination,” he called the process of allowing the mind to present images, beings or landscapes, and interacting with this — to read about how his involvement in this came about, and a kind of overview of his thinking on these things, and some of his comments about it.
It’s also interesting to see that a century later, here I am sitting at a laptop computer using the internet, something not even conceptualized in his time, although it may be the closest thing to the realization of the “collective unconscious” since that funny little thing we call “reality” — and many of the same realizations, and issues, have come, or gone, and stayed obnoxiously present, in my life and experience as similar things which he was going through as well. Honestly, the correspondence between my own weird internal life and his is rather validating in some respects.
I have read a little bit (online) from Jungian analysts. Though I am a fan of Jung himself, I am not on the same page with the whole J.A. sector; I don’t understand it. I don’t mean that I can’t wrap my brain around the sometimes abstract or complex nature of it. I mean that when I experience this archetypes work over the years, and then I read some essay by someone in that genre, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that whatever they are talking about, it is not borne of these experiences, it is not the voice of insight from experience talking, but rather, armchair intellectualism gone amuck.
Usually I see in such people a wish to be able to tell others what their experiences mean; a side-effect of psychoanalysis as a goal I assume. Most psychoanalysts in my view would be better served by more living and less thinking, and figuring out what their own experiences mean first. Jung actually attempted this very thing, which is what makes him a brilliant forerunner in the whole genre, and not one of the endless armchair orators. I’m reminded of a story I once read where Shakespeare comes back into a college classroom as a student studying, of all things, Shakespeare, but has no idea what on earth the teacher is on about. The pontificating ‘advanced analysis’ of what his work ‘really meant’ is, rather like religion, much more about the endless fractal of self-pleasure an intellectual can engage in and not about the spirit of the thing at all.
Also, there is this bizarre idea that an archetype is a pre-defined ‘thing’. Like items on a store shelf. The concept that literally everything is an archetype, an identity, “an arbitrary collection of consciousness assigned a form,” but that some of these collections just happen to be profoundly manifest (e.g. Jupiter, or ‘Father’) that makes them exponentially more powerful, it’s not seen like that. They talk about archetypes like there are “some” of them. Like discrete things. It’s so incredibly limited and separated and discrete-ized, and then you add to that most of them only do this stuff as part of dreaming, not in consciously mildly to fully autonomous inner workings… and you realize they’re just people thinking about the idea. Poorly.
Jung had what I consider certain pre-conceived notions about psychology and divinity, and so a great deal of his experience was forcibly stuffed into these models especially early on. Yet even he quickly and repeatedly outgrew some of those models and was forced to reconsider “what it all means.” He had a great deal of self-education in areas like mythology, as one of several examples, which showed up in his imagery as well. Or perhaps it shows up in all our imagery; he was just educated enough to recognize the roots of commonality. In some respects, his role as a psychoanalyst, and intellectual, and scientist, forced certain boundaries upon him that hapless proletarians like my friends and I are blessedly unbothered with.
In other respects, it is his role in those areas that forced him to attempt to approach this with some degree of organization, and documentation, and with the hope of better understanding. I imagine that was exceptional in his day. I don’t think it so much is today. Or perhaps it is ‘statistically’, but as the internet has made the world so small, we see enough of it, and read enough of it in school, to consider this normal. If we have this today, my friends and I, it is maybe in part because this seems intuitively obvious to one who has even half an intellectual bent; we have all heard of the combination of “science and magic” and have the benefit of the personal explorations in such from people who have gone before, including Jung himself. Plus, it is a way of externalizing the internal, of being able to objectify it later and not simply forget it or be lost in the inner-abyss, and perhaps in small part a way of constantly trying to reassure ourselves that we are not crazy.
Some of the writings I’m most influenced by that I feel affect these experiences, such as Jane Roberts and Aleister Crowley and William James and Edwin Steinbrecher, have surely added at least a century worth of insight to the fortunate descendents like me. I did not have to reinvent the wheel. Better still, the definition of that wheel was vastly more open to individual experimentation and interpretation by the time I arrived at it. Though I imagine in another century from now, humans might be even more understanding than we are today. We can only hope.
Taking his cue from William James, among others, Jung contrasted directed thinking and fantasy thinking. The former was verbal and logical, while the latter was passive, associative, and imagistic. The former was exemplified by science and the latter by mythology.
Accepting and interacting with the irrational of the imaginal realm, and then documenting it, and then evaluating it — literally while within it, symbolically while outside it — seems rather normal now, though it was a novel and utterly brilliant step forward in Jung’s day. Getting to the point where one maintains a firm stance in ‘the real world’ while simultaneously learning to take seriously what happens internally, and not just write it off as ‘just imagination’, seems part of the growth that everyone doing this work runs into. That the important part is the experience/interaction, the sharing of energy, he understood.
Everyone, he claimed, had this ability to hold dialogues with him- or herself. Active imagination would thus be one form of inner dialogue, a type of dramatized thinking. It was critical to disidentify from the thoughts that arose, and to overcome the assumption that one had produced them oneself. What was most essential was not interpreting or understanding the fantasies, but experiencing them. This represented a shift from his emphasis on creative formulation and understanding in his paper on the transcendent function. He argued that one should treat the fantasies completely literally while one was engaged in them, but symbolically when one interpreted them.
Some of his ‘cosmology’ that shaped his experiences — or their understanding — I find curious, and often there is a sort of “genre in common” with some of my own experiences. This is something Jung studied and I do not — the relationship of all people in this realm, of the collective unconscious; which also relates to the relationship between man and nation, for example. This has parallels in Jane Roberts’s work, though from a different perspective. I find such topics huge and fascinating but frankly beyond my interest and probably beyond my intellect. The ‘symbols in common’ in places are interesting though.
In Jung’s fantasies, a new God had been born in his soul, the God who is the son of the frogs, Abraxas. Jung understood this symbolically.
I had an Inner Guide who was my brilliant teacher and yet also, while a man in form with me, something akin to a giant frog in his true nature. It is difficult for me not to see the ‘inner guide’ as being easily cast in a ‘god/soul’-role if someone had a different mental model than myself–especially one like Jung’s. And what are the odds of a man/frog/god showing up in two people so separated by time, space and much philosophy? In his drawings I see on occasion other little elements. I guess we all have our own private Tarot.
My own introduction from medical-model skeptic to something more real on the inside was via a decade of study of hypnosis; trance states fascinate me. This eventually led to spontaneous experiences across a spectrum, probably related to Kundalini, and then a many years study related to psi, and the ‘archetype’ stuff folded in before, during and after that primary focus, but dominantly was allowed in my psychology at all, because of the work with trance and psi. I called my blog Psiche to combine both the Psyche of psychology and the Psi of connectedness with the universe and others. Apparently Jung had a little bit similar progression. And I often feel like the lone ranger with this stuff, though I know I am not. Similarly, Jung was not alone in the world with this study and experience-set, though his comments indicate he often felt so.
As indicated, Jung had had extensive experience studying mediums in trance states, during which they were encouraged to produce waking fantasies and visual hallucinations, and had conducted experiments with automatic writing. Practices of visualization had also been used in various religious traditions. … the fifth of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola … Swedenborg … psychoanalyst Herbert Silberer … Ludwig Staudenmaier, a professor of experimental chemistry; published a work entitled Magic as an Experimental Science. Staudenmaier had embarked on self experimentations in 1901, commencing with automatic writing. A series of characters appeared, and he found that he no longer needed to write to conduct dialogues with them. He also induced acoustic and visual hallucinations. The aim of his enterprise was to use his self-experimentation to provide a scientific explanation of magic. He argued that the key to understanding magic lay in the concepts of hallucinations and the “under consciousness”, and gave particular importance to the role of personifications. Thus we see that Jung’s procedure closely resembled a number of historical and contemporary practices with which he was familiar.
On occasion, some of the archetypal exploration leads to serious (though temporary) destabilization and re-stabilization in a new center, because the entire concept of “I” — the identity — is so demolished; because the concept of the “Self” as a vastly larger and multitudinous entity arises, and figuring out what is I, vs. Other, vs. Both, and how does I exist through that other and vice-versa, is an entire study and experience and issue, wholly apart from [though inextricably entwined with] whatever the topics one might be working on directly in meditation. Much of Jung’s experience also included this.
In 1921, the “self” emerged as a psychological concept. Jung defined it as follows: Inasmuch as the I is only the center of my field of consciousness, it is not identical with the totality of my psyche, being merely a complex among other complexes. Hence I discriminate between the I and the self, since the I is only the subject of my consciousness, while the self is the subject of my totality: hence it also includes the unconscious psyche. In this sense the self would be an (ideal) greatness which embraces and includes the I.
Yet even these profound allowances for archaic and original speech across abysses of meaning fail to approximate the destabilizing experience, in and through language, to which Jung testifies.
That exploration of this … internal and supernal cosmology, for lack of a better way of putting it, becomes the whole work — with everything else being subsumed as a part of that really, and it being a seemingly cyclical process — is something he apparently accepted as well.
The realization was that the self is the goal of individuation and that the process of individuation was not linear, but consisted in a circumambulation of the self. This realization gave him strength, for otherwise the experience would have driven him or those around him crazy.
Jung encountered other ‘identities’ that were part of his ‘self’ but separate from what he knew as his ‘I’. It is possible that in all people (him, me, and you) existing paradigms determine how we evaluate these.
Then I came to this, “Perhaps my unconscious is forming a personality that is not I, but which is insisting on coming through to expression.” I don’t know why exactly, but I knew to a certainty that the voice that had said my writing was art had come from a woman …
Regarding some of his “inner identities”, sometimes it sounds to me like he was going through the changing of inner guides, or perhaps it is simply ‘other identities’, who knows what cosmology works.
Jung… would converse with him [Philemon] in the garden. He recalled that Philemon evolved out of the figure of Elijah, who had previously appeared in his fantasies: Philemon was a pagan and brought with him an EgyptoHellenic atmosphere with a Gnostic coloration … It was he who taught me psychic objectivity, the reality of the psyche. Through the conversations with Philemon, the distinction was clarified between myself and the object of my thought …
He called these seemingly wiser identities “dominants” in some places.
He realized that much of what was given to him in the earlier part of the book (that is, Liber Primus and Liber secundus) was actually given to him by Philemon. He realized that there was a prophetic wise old man in him, to whom he was not identical.
One of the most important realizations I’ve come to over the years, is pointed out plainly here regarding Jung’s observations as well: that the identities one works with, even if they are clearly a part of or influenced by one’s own paradigms, or myths or collective consciousness, still these have a degree of autonomy and existence outside one’s mind as well; they are not merely imaginative constructs that we invent; they are more like existing constructs that our imagination allows us to interact with. There is imagination which comes from our intent, from the “I”; and then there is an entire world where we have our input, but a vast amount of energy beyond our sense-of-I also has its own input, and we meet and interact there; it is as “ontologically real” as what we consider reality.
Jung called it the ‘collective unconscious’; Corbin called it the ‘imaginal realm’. I call it the inner world when talking to myself, but I understand that it is my imagination+intent that opens a doorway inside me, into that dimension, which is much vaster than I can comprehend and seems to contain direct access to the energies of the universe, although my only way of experiencing these, with the sense-of-I and the body I have right now, is via symbolic interaction and conversation.
The boundary between the imaginational and imaginal is rather fuzzy and it is literally a developed skill and art to learn to stay there; to maintain your own autonomy while allowing the-others’ autonomy; to be shocked, astounded, grossed out, effused, and other surprise emotions from the interaction; all this without getting lost in the experience like a dream, yet also without pulling back to controlling the experience like a daydream. The former is being swept away by the river, and the latter is standing on the shore thinking about it; learning to walk the fine line of control and allowance to stay in that ‘imaginal realm’ actually takes practice. Crazy people think it’s all autonomous and happening ‘to’ them; people unable to allow this for themselves, may think it’s all imagination; and they’d both be right, because they are both lost; the goal is a whole world that bridges and encompasses both of those.
When you get one level of interaction down, a more complex level seems to arrive, challenging you yet again.
One needed to pay particular attention to these dominants. Particularly important was the “detachment of the mythological or collective psychological contents from the objects of consciousness and their consolidation as psychological realities outside the individual psyche.” This enabled one to come to terms with activated residues of our ancestral history. The differentiation of the personal from the nonpersonal resulted in a release of energy. These comments also mirror his activity: his attempt to differentiate the various characters which appeared, and to “consolidate them as psychological realities.” The notion that these figures had a psychological reality in their own right, and were not merely subjective figments, was the main lesson that he attributed to the fantasy figure of Elijah: psychic objectivity.
If it weren’t for psi, precognitive dreams and visions to be exact, Jung might never have arrived where he did experientially. But as anybody who works these areas knows, the first and often most major ‘experience’ related to opening your awareness is amazing amounts of ‘convenient coincidence’ as I once called it, or synchronicity. Jung invented the use of that term for this:
In 1952, through his collaboration with the Nobel prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Jung argued that there existed a principle of acausal orderedness that underlay such “meaningful coincidences,” which he called synchronicity. He claimed that under certain circumstances, the constellation of an archetype led to a relativization of time and space, which explained how such events [as precognitive dreams] could happen.
One of the things in the inner world is that polarities are the same thing; I’m told that is Binah in the QBL. When we ‘merge’ with an archetype, and even interaction is a small degree of that, we are uniting opposites: the part of us un-integrated with that energy, for a new result. This is much of the work, no matter what the topic of focus. And this means wading through all the parts of self that are not-I to begin with, absorbing them and exploring them, enlarging the I, becoming the ‘fuller’ self. This generally results in substantial personality changes, in my experience. (It also results in substantial changes in experiential reality, though these do not always happen at the same time.)
The basic issue discussed here was how the problem of opposites could be resolved through the production of the uniting or reconciling symbol.
The goal in this period was one of conserving previous values together with the recognition of their opposites. This meant that individuals had to develop the undeveloped and neglected aspects of their personality. The individuation process was now conceived as the general pattern of human development. He argued that there was a lack of guidance for this transition in contemporary society, and he saw his psychology as filling this lacuna.
Jung noted, that this process had three effects: The first effect is that the range of consciousness is increased by the inclusion of a great number and variety of unconscious contents. The second is a gradual diminution of the dominating influence of the unconscious. The third is an alteration in the personality.
At such moments, the factors suppressed by the prevailing attitudes accumulate in the collective unconscious. Strongly intuitive individuals become aware of these and try to translate them into communicable ideas. If they succeeded in translating the unconscious into a communicable language, this had a redeeming effect. The contents of the unconscious had a disturbing effect. In the first situation, the collective unconscious might replace reality; which is pathological. In the second situation, the individual may feel disorientated, but the state is not pathological.
Blessedly, Jung was brilliant enough to see this as a path of personal evolution, and his psychotherapy views were shifted as a result:
Out of his experiences, he developed new conceptions of the aims and methods of psychotherapy. Since its inception at the end of the nineteenth century, modern psychotherapy had been primarily concerned with the treatment of functional nervous disorders, or neuroses, as they came to be known. From the time of the First World War onward, Jung reformulated the practice of psychotherapy. No longer solely preoccupied with the treatment of psychopathology, it became a practice to enable the higher development of the individual through fostering the individuation process.
One interesting thing I note is that Jung did not seem to treat his patients as if he were the wise one who knew everything and they were the subjects with some problematic label attached. He worked with them in conjunction with his own experiences, and often respected them greatly apart from that work. That alone shows quite a difference in how ‘therapy’ was approached by him vs. many in today’s world. He saw that this powerful archetypal work was part of personal evolution, but that these same elements showed up in the therapy for severe neuroses as well.
…”the reason why the involvement looks very much like a psychosis is that the patient is integrating the same fantasy-material to which the insane person falls victim because he cannot integrate it but is swallowed up by it. “
Jung eventually realized, it appears, that much of what we consider insanity or madness is, like I said in Bewilderness, less an issue of the perceived other-world being crazy, as it is an issue of a psychology being unable to integrate and ‘deal with’ perceived other-worlds, other-beings, etc. He realized that the underlying basis of much of what was officially insane was probably a shared world or experience; but the personality itself was having some extreme problem in how it was reacting to it or dealing with it.
In 1912, in Transformation and Symbols of the Libido, he considered the presence of mythological fantasies-such as are present in Liber Novus-to be the signs of a loosening of the phylogenetic layers of the unconscious, and indicative of schizophrenia. Through his self-experimentation, he radically revised this position: what he now considered critical was not the presence of any particular content, but the attitude of the individual toward it and, in particular, whether an individual could accommodate such material in their worldview. This explains why he commented in his afterword to Liber Novus that to the superficial observer, the work would seem like madness, and could have become so, if he had failed to contain and comprehend the experiences.
I also found it interesting that his copious reading often seemed bent toward finding the larger-picture of these experiences and corroborative accounts and parallel processes around the world regarding them. I see this in some small part as the attempt to ‘find validation’ that I expect we all go through. He simply succeeded at it far better than most. One way that he “dealt with” the likely science-as-social-paradigm reaction to his work was by not talking directly about his work at times but instead talking about all the parallel things, and the work in general, not personal.
With his seminars on Kundalini Yoga in 1932, Jung commenced a comparative study of esoteric practices, focusing on the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Patanjali’s Yoga sutras, Buddhist meditational practices, and medieval alchemy; which he presented in an extensive series of lectures at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.The critical insight that enabled these linkages and comparisons was Jung’s realization that these practices were all based on different forms of active imagination -and that they all had as their goal the transformation of the personality-which Jung understood as the process of individuation.
Talking about the process of inner-world work in general:
Visual types should concentrate on the expectation that an inner image will be produced. As a rule such a fantasy-image will actually appear-perhaps hypnagogically-and should be carefully noted down in writing. Audio-verbal types usually hear inner words, perhaps mere fragments or apparently meaningless sentences to begin with … Others at such times simply hear their “other” voice … Still rarer, but equally valuable, is automatic writing, direct or with the planchette. […] For some people, Jung noted, it was silnple to note the “other” voice in writing and to answer it from the standpoint of the I: “It is exactly as if a dialogue were taking place between two human beings … ” This dialogue led to the creation of the transcendent function, which resulted in a widening of consciousness. This depiction of inner dialogues and the means of evoking fantasies in a waking state represents Jung’s own undertaking in the Black Books.
There, he depicted the method of eliciting and developing fantasies that he later termed active imagination, and explained its therapeutic rationale.
He initially was a little too left-brain for all this… I know the feeling. There was a lot of resistance. He changed.
Up to this point, Jung had been an active thinker and had been averse to fantasy: “as a form of thinking I held it to be altogether impure, a sort of incestuous intercourse, thoroughly immoral from an intellectual viewpoint.” He now turned to analyze his fantasies, carefully noting everything, and had to overcome considerable resistance in doing this: “Permitting fantasy in myself had the same effect as would be produced on a man if he came into his workshop and found all the tools flying about doing things independently of his will.”
And he undertook what I call archetype work fully.
From December 1913 onward, he carried on in the same procedure: deliberately evoking a fantasy in a waking state, and then entering into it as into a drama. These fantasies may be understood as a type of dramatized thinking in pictorial form. In reading his fantasies, the impact of Jung’s mythological studies is clear. Some of the figures and conceptions derive directly from his readings, and the form and style bear witness to his fascination with the world of myth and epic.
The separation of self and other is the crux of this, and sometimes that complicates dealing with reality. I think this is commonly run into by shamans and high-psychics as I call them (people highly intuitive; this is not the same measure as people necessarily good at intentional psi, I might add). In my words, I would say that most of the evolution or “individuation” as Jung called it, is obtained by the interaction (merging, to various degrees), with everything that is ‘other’ (opposite), and integrating that into the larger personality. This means accepting it unto yourself, making it your own so to speak. There are some hazards and side effects of grasping pieces of a gigantic, super powerful field of energy, and integrating it. In a perfect world, you regain your equilibrium, your personality changed but your center-of-I-ness restored in a slightly larger collection of energy, and move on.
Here, he differentiated two layers of the unconscious. The first, the personal unconscious, consisted in elements acquired during one’s lifetime, together with elements that could equally well be conscious. The second was the impersonal unconscious or collective psyche. While consciousness and the personal unconscious were developed and acquired in the course of one’s lifetime, the collective psyche was inherited.
The problem is perspective. If you take on a radically different perspective, and attempt to carry that perspective into this one, that is not the same as taking on a given energy and carrying it. The perspective can really mess up how you relate to reality as we know it.
Jung wrote that it was a difficult task to differentiate the personal and collective psyche. One of the factors one came up against was the persona-one’s “mask” or “role.” This represented the segment of the collective psyche that one mistakenly regarded as individual. When one analyzed this, the personality dissolved into the collective psyche, which resulted in the release of a stream of fantasies: “The treasures of mythological thinking and feeling are unlocked.” The difference between this state and insanity lay in the fact that it was intentional.
A lot of “god-like” and “you are the chosen one” stuff comes from this area, in my experience. Having a degree of droll and sense of humor about it, rather than taking it literally, seems to help combat that particular side effect.
In the beginning of his developing in the inner-world’s direction, it was precognitive experiences in the 8 months leading up to the outbreak of World War II that first got Jung thinking on a lot of this, in ways that traditional psychoanalysis, which thought it could explain your dreams, couldn’t handle.
It is important to note that there are around twelve separate fantasies that Jung may have regarded as precognitive:
1-2. OCTOBER, 1913 Repeated vision of flood and death of thousands, and the voice that said that this will become real.
3. AUTUMN 1913 Vision of the sea of blood covering the northern lands.
4-5. DECEMBER 12, 15, 1913. Image of a dead hero and the slaying of Siegfried in a dream.
6. DECEMBER 25, 1913 Image of the foot of a giant stepping on a city; and images of murder and bloody cruelty.
7- JANUARY 2,1914 Image of a sea of blood and a procession of dead multitudes.
8. JANUARY 22, 1914 His soul comes up from the depths and asks him if he will accept war and destruction. She shows him images of destruction, military weapons, human remains, sunken ships, destroyed states, etc.
9. MAY 21, 1914 A voice says that the sacrificed fall left and right.
10-12. JUNE-JULY 1914 Thrice-repeated dream of being in a foreign land and having to return quickly by ship, and the descent of the icy cold.
(One can’t see #8 without thinking of Seth and ‘probabilities’. – pj)
As a psychiatrist I became worried, wondering if I was not on the way to “doing a schizophrenia,” as we said in the language of those days … I was just preparing a lecture on schizophrenia to be delivered at a congress in Aberdeen, and I kept saying to myself: “I’ll be speaking of myself! Very likely I’ll go mad after reading out this paper.” The congress was to take place in July 1914-exactly the same period when I saw myself in my three dreams voyaging on the Southern seas. On July 31, immediately after my lecture, I learned from the newspapers that war had broken out. Finally I understood. And when I disembarked in Holland on the next day; nobody was happier than I. Now I was sure that no schizophrenia was threatening me. I understood that my dreams and my visions came to me from the subsoil of the collective unconscious.
At this moment, Jung considered that his fantasy had depicted not what would happen to him, but to Europe. In other words, that it was a precognition of a collective event, what he would later call a “big” dream. After this realization, he attempted to see whether and to what extent this was true of the other fantasies that he experienced, and to understand the meaning of this correspondence between private fantasies and public events.
And this leads to the part that I think is what separates individuals like me from grand visionaries like Jung. My entire model and experience is based on me. I know that there are correlates with others, with religion, with the occult, with mythology, with psychology, and the degree to which I care is usually measured by the degree to which I am feeling insecure about my sanity on any given day and would like ‘validation-by-corroboration’. It would truly be a massive, many-persons, many-lifetimes undertaking to even begin to comprehend how this utterly amazing, mindblowing, lifechanging, ineffably confusing process and experience might relate to more than one person at a time.
To try and figure out what the commonalities are and what they might mean or how they relate. To see how the dreams and imaginal workings of individuals relate to the destiny of a nation and the psychological evolution of a species. To put it all together, not just on an individual scale which is difficult enough, but on a mass-scale. So understanding of psychology, and politics, and the very future itself, is part of the equation.
he proclaimed the psychological processes that accompanied the war had brought the problem of the chaotic unconscious to the forefront of attention. However, the psychology of the individual corresponded to the psychology of the nation, and only the transformation of the attitude of the individual could bring about cultural renewal. This articulated the intimate interconnection between individual and collective events … the deep subliminal connections between individual fantasies and world events-and hence between the psychology of the individual and that of the nation. What was now required was to work out this connection in more detail.
This is what Jung was actually trying to do, to begin. A global scope, a species scope of it all. My mind boggles, frankly. This is why he was a genius, and not just another person doing archetype work and writing it down. I have no interest in following those footsteps but I respect the hell outta the effort.
In these sections, he attempted to derive general psychological principles from the fantasies, and to understand to what extent the events portrayed in the fantasies presented, in a symbolic form, developments that were to occur in the world. In 1913, Jung had introduced a distinction between interpretation on the objective level in which dream objects were treated as representations of real objects, and interpretation on the subjective level in which every element concerns the dreamers themselves. As well as interpreting his fantasies on the subjective level, one could characterize his procedure here as an attempt to interpret his fantasies on the “collective” level.
About the book itself, the introduction says of the chapters:
… they begin with the exposition of dramatic visual fantasies. In them Jung encounters a series of figures in various settings and enters into conversation with them. He is confronted with unexpected happenings and shocking statements. He then attempts to understand what had transpired, and to formulate the significance of these events and statements into general psychological conceptions and maxims. Jung held that the significance of these fantasies was due to the fact that they stemmed from the mythopoeic imagination which was missing in the present rational age. The task of individuation lay in establishing a dialogue with the fantasy figures-or contents of the collective unconscious and integrating them into consciousness, hence recovering the value of the mythopoeic imagination which had been lost to the modern age, and thereby reconciling the spirit of the time with the spirit of the depth.
I respect very much Jung’s insistence on attempting to be rational and scientific about a process most irrational and mystic. I agree completely.
The work on the unconscious has to happen first and foremost for us ourselves. Our patients profit from it indirectly. The danger consists in the prophet’s delusion which often is the result of dealing with the unconscious. It is the devil who says: Disdain all reason and science, mankind’s highest powers. That is never appropriate even though we are forced to acknowledge [the existence of] the irrational.
I’ve said before that I am sometimes disturbed and confused by the fact that when I write, the sense of I seems to have a variety of energy sitting in on it, some of which would not be “I” in other moments. I wonder sometimes if when I am blogging about something that is an actual conversation, sometimes which I am having at the moment, or a memory of something I am only recalling at the moment, if this is not my creative writing, my art, instead of true spontaneous spirituality, to which I’m attributing it. Then I get lost in the possible overlaps between those.
Jung was a painter, and he had his own version of this issue:
He recalled that he received a letter from “this Dutch woman that got on my nerves terribly.” In this letter, this woman, that is, Moltzer, argued that “the fantasies stemming from the unconscious possessed artistic worth and should be considered as art.” Jung found this troubling because it was not stupid, and, moreover, modern painters were attempting to make art out of the unconscious. This awoke a doubt in him whether his fantasies were really spontaneous and natural.
On hearing from a contemporary who was doing similar inner-exploration work, he had the wise advice:
I would not want to say anything more than telling you to continue with this approach because, as you have observed correctly yourself, it is very important that we experience the contents of the unconscious before we form any opinions about it.
People often consider Jung some kind of student-of or offshoot-of Freud. This is very inaccurate. The introduction explains why at some length. Jung himself pointed out, as this was happening even during his own time, that this was ridiculous and that all his primary influences were different people and that he’d been involved in such work long before (and around) encountering Freud, with whom he initially found commonalities (as he did with others) and with whom he later felt was on a path that wasn’t the answer. In traditional psychoanalysis, “interpreting dreams” was a big deal and was done analytically and via a lot of deductive reasoning, and this would go for ‘conscious dreaming’ as well. Jung came to a different perspective thanks to his inner work.
Here, he contrasted Freud’s analytic-reductive method, based on causality, with the constructive method of the Zurich school. The shortcoming of the former was that through tracing things back to antecedent elements, it dealt with only half of the picture, and failed to grasp the living meaning of phenomena. Someone who attempted to understand Goethe’s Faust in such a manner would be like someone who tried to understand a Gothic cathedral under its mineralogical aspect. The living meaning “only lives when we experience it in and through ourselves.” Inasmuch as life was essentially new, it could not be understood merely retrospectively. Hence the constructive standpoint asked, “how, out of this present psyche, a bridge can be built into its own future.” This paper implicitly presents Jung’s rationale for not embarking on a causal and retrospective analysis of his fantasies, and serves as a caution to others who may be tempted to do so. Presented as a critique and reformulation of psychoanalysis, Jung’s new mode of interpretation links back to the symbolic method of Swedenborg’s spiritual hermeneutics.
As a last note for today, because I have to do some work now, I’ll add that Jung, like I and most others I know, had a compelling urge to project, to physically manifest, the symbols and experiences and identities and landscapes and events and more, outside of him; to make it real. The Red Book is itself a testament to exactly that effort, of course, with all the calligraphy and illustrations. Eventually though, even that wasn’t enough. He literally built an ancient-style stone tower to represent this for himself.
“Words and paper, however, did not seem real enough to me; something more was needed.” He had to make a confession in stone. The tower was a “representation of individuation.” Over the years, he painted murals and made carvings on the walls.
Now that is what I call manifesting it into your reality!